Friday, December 15, 2006

STRANGE QUESTIONS OF THE DAY

Why are trucks that are at least three times the size of my first apartment called "semi" trucks?

Why do I put on elaborate eye makeup in the summer time, only to go out with giant sunglasses on?

What makes a pastor "the VERY Reverend"? and does it require whiter socks?

Why aren't there condolence cards for the elderly for things like loss of memory, loss of teeth or loss of continence?

Why isn't sexy lingerie made in size 24XX?

Do any of you have curious questions this Christmas time?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I DON'T THINK WE'RE IN KANSAS ANY MORE

I am exhausted. My dad's memorial reception was yesterday. It was really nice. Not large. Maybe 40 people. I talked for 20 minutes about my dad's life. Then others came up and talked. It was really interesting to hear things about my dad I'd never known or forgotten. Like, I'd forgotten that he could draw a perfectly straight line with his pinkie finger.

Many old friends from Covenant Players came. It was nice to see them, now that I'm no longer excommunicated. (long story, only part worth telling is that it's done).

My mom appreciated everything and that made it just right. Small world event: turns out her pastor knows one of my pastors from their mission days together.

A curious event: While I was talking I noticed a woman come in and sit down. She was dressed in very casual, worn clothes, with a mane of wild hair that poured out of a head scarf. I did not recognize her and neither did anyone else. The deacons, who prepared an excellent spread for us, told me that she had walked into the kitchen and said "I'm looking for the Messiah". The deacon told me that when someone walks into a church and says this, one must not be caught unawares. Turns out that the church is putting on a performance of The Messiah next week. So the woman left. Then came right back and said "Well, the stories are just so good, I want to listen". And she did. And ate. And ate. And ate for two solid hours. One of the deacons told me that it was possible she was from one of their N/A groups. None of us minded. And we all certainly hoped she got enough to eat and had a lovely evening's post prandial rest.

My Covenant Player friend, Mark came, but his wife was sadly at home with a cluster headache. I ask please for prayers for this wonderful man. He's on a waiting list for a lung transplant. I wrote about him on 9/17 in "Goodbye/Hello". (I'd link it, but I don't know how to do that yet).

After the reception I invited a bunch of folks back to my mom's for pizza. I told her about this after I'd done it. It worked out fine. She was exhausted as well, but we didn't let her lift a finger. My husband and I got home at 10:00 to find a puddle of water under our broken water heater. This on top of the day starting with having to call the gas company out to fix a gas leak on our meter regulator.

Then today. One of our dear friends from pre-school called. Told me that another parent friend from pre-school had been killed in a terrible auto accident last Monday and his wife delivered their 4th child the next day. I have not been able to process this news yet. So surrounded by adversities petty and large am I, currently. It has given me pause as well as an extraordinary case of heartburn.

God is great and God is good. All I can do with this now is to wonder at what blessings are going to come from all of these things. Because I know they will. And I know they do. Whether we recognize them or not. They do.

But right now, I think I need to sleep because my left lower eyelid is twitching like it's fit to be tied. Makes me feel like the crazy Chief of the Surete in the Pink Panther movies.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

LIFE AFTER DEATH

I've lost people in my family before, but none so close as my dad. I forgot what a physical experience it is. What a reminder of how connected we all are.

I thank all of you who supported me and my family with your prayers and kind comments. It was a great blessing to me and my mom.

I'm climbing back in the saddle and getting on with the business of getting on. Ben had his Halloween tricks and treats. I brought my mom home with me for several days in the first of many regular visits to come. She was able to attend, for the first time, Ben's Grandparents' day at school. It was a lovely time. And we're getting our picture in the paper.



We've started planning my dad's memorial. He wanted a party and not a service. My mom's church is blessing us with beautiful accommodation.

And Ooh Blah Dee, Ooh Blah Dah, Life Goes On, Braagh.....

And all this was just fine until Monday morning when the phone rang. It seems that I completely forgot my son's parent teacher conference appointment this morning at 7:30. I never forget things like this. I then demonstrated where the expression "dissolved into tears" came from. No longer can I pretend to be handling EVERYTHING. The jig is up! There's a month's worth of paperwork stacked on my desk and my guts are in such a knot that I gauge the distance between myself and a bathroom every minute of the day.

Yup, life goes on. And with a big hole in it now. I know it'll get better. It's the getting through that's the trouble. Ooh Blah Phooey!!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

GOOD NIGHT, SIR


Ralph D. Van Cleave, may he rest in peace. My dad died this afternoon. May our sweet Lord have mercy on his soul.....
Peace

Sunday, October 29, 2006

WHAT WILL YOU BE THIS YEAR?

Halloween is nigh. Seized with a need to detach momentarily from impending family matters of gravity, I am sent down memory lane to wax nostalgic over Halloween costumes past. It's a twisted road for sure, as I'm sure yours is as well. But here are some of my Hallows Eve choices (all as an alleged adult):

Mundane choices:
Gypsy (clothed)
Dorothy from Wizard of Oz (with red high tops for shoes)
Princess Leia (with bagels for hair buns)
50's TV Mom

My favorites:
Minnie Mouse biker chick (with a tattoo of Mickey......when I worked at Disney)
Wearing a periwinkle unitard with kotex pinned all over, I went to a party as Picasso's blue period.

What have you dressed as for Halloween....???

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

HANGIN' ON

I was going to go to yoga this morning. Was all dressed in my sweats, ready to do my 90 minutes of Bikram after dropping Ben off at school. I'd put if off for two days already. Just as we were about to leave, the phone rang. It was my mom.

"Your dad's probably not going to make it another couple days. Thought you would want to know". And yes, I would.

Ran to change. Dropped off Ben. Filled up with caffeine and gas and drove to my parents' place. My dad had indeed failed remarkably since I'd seen him a couple weeks ago. He's now lying in a hospital bed, no food for almost 8 weeks, a bare skeleton just covered with skin, can't take water any more, can't talk, yet he's aware of everything around him as far as we can tell.

The hospice nurse told us that he's never seen anything like this. Never seen anyone hang on so long, not eating. They had figured, in their weekly meeting a couple weeks ago, that he'd have been gone long before this.

That's my dad. My mom's exhausted and this is so hard for her. But we had a great visit today. Had one of those kind of talks that clears the air of old moldy cobwebby issues and makes the space between us so much sweeter. That is most definitely a gift from my dad. Probably wouldn't have happened if he had, indeed, passed a couple weeks ago.

God does work through him too, no doubt.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

DAILY GIFTS

Awake again, to my surprise.
What's this? Another day?
In the same room, same body, same life
to while the hours away.

What should I do with this new gift?
Fill it, pass it, waste it, or create?
Perhaps a combination of those all
would sufficiently compensate.

I look back on my collection
of days, weeks, months and years
and see patterns, pockets, trends
of various paths with laughter and tears.

Here's the child so early broken
by others' cruelty and abuse.
Then simultaneously occurring
joyful play and friendships to amuse.

So many versions I can't count
or remember all so well.
Just that some lifted up to heaven
while others skirted boundaries of hell.

All remembered as my dad lies dying,
filled with useless, hurting shame
that he's not worth the gift of Jesus
and the grace given in His name.

Then I realize as I wake,
with another jolt of surprise
that I likely wonder to myself
if even I am worth that prize.

Yes I know, it's not about earning,
or working hard, as if grace is pay.
That it's a gift given at great cost
for us all, each and every day.

But like my dad, though I am closer,
I doubt sometimes that it's for me.
That the story of it's giftedness
is a cover up, you see.

And so my dad will pass so soon,
and I can't help him now.
And never could or never would
not that he'd listen anyhow.

But my prayer is this,
that Jesus himself will be there when he dies
and let him know he's welcome too,
then carry him up to heaven's skies.

And when it's time for my life's gift
to meet his own appointment with death
I hope my dad and I'll be there
to help him with his first eternal breath.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

DON'T FORGET TO VOTE


With election time fast approaching, thought I would share with you what my polling place looks like. Perhaps it resembles yours as well.

Don't forget to vote in November. And bring your umbrella!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

WORD SOUP

A moment of levity is called for. Today I feel a rare rhathymia. And in spite of the ostrobogulous doings of the PCUSA and the world in general, and my encounters with the orgulous. I would fleer at it all, but fear I might be accused of aspectabund. I must retire now before I become an ultra-crepidarian bablatrice. With flagitation I wish you all a sychnocarpous Sunday.

(with thanks to "Weird and Wonderful Words" edited by Erin McKean)

Monday, August 28, 2006

LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE, a poem (by me)

Life is the path my body chose,
when born back on the day
I entered this human time zone
and started to find my way.

Yet every night I practice death,
and every time I nap.
And every time I commit a sin
and fall in Satan's trap.

It's like walking up a mountain trail,
steeper steeper as I go
with the weight of my humanity
causing me to travel slow.

And when the sweet wind brushes by
kissing my skin with whispers sweet
I get a whiff of God's true promise
urging a change of path for my feet.

I change as if blind and tapping
a red tipped cane of love
and try so hard oh try to stay
the course so dearly paid by blood.

And failing this daily I tire
and once again drift away
to practice the nightly petit morte
until my final day.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

DYING A LITTLE EVERY DAY

My dad went on medical hospice this week. The nurses and volunteers are leaving pamphlets around my mom entitled "It's time to let them know it's OK to leave". Or some such. I, quite frankly, am quite put off by highly skilled and sensitive strangers telling us what we can obviously see for ourselves and have every right to deny.

My dad is not a Christian. My mom and I are. The obvious observation: YOU'VE HAD ALL THIS TIME, WHY HAVEN'T YOU BEEN WITNESSING TO HIM 24/7 FOR THE LAST, WHO KNOWS HOW MANY YEARS!!!!! Well, she said quietly, folding her hands politely in her lap, you'd have to know the fellow to understand. It's not like it hasn't been tried. With disastrous results. But before you form a negative opinion based on this, consider, as I have:

My dad survived the depression. He grew up in what we would consider today, poverty. But my late aunt, his sister, told me many many times of stories of how happy their life was then. How their mom would pack up picnics and they'd go out and play for hours with nature as their toys. My dad told me of the great fun he had with his Uncle Art. How on Halloween they'd go to farmers' houses and push the outhouse back a few feet, then wait for the farmer to come out in the dark and AHHHHHHH! Wicked fun, yes, but as much fun as anyone could have now on Nintendo, and with fresh air involved. Aunt Vera also told me of times that my dad would take her beatings, without a word between them. She is waiting for him in heaven and I'm jealous, because I miss her and I miss him and have for the last few years.

My dad is a WWII hero. As a child, I would tell people about how my dad was a "freighter pilot" in the war. He was actually a fighter pilot. He flew missions over France and Germany. He earned a purple heart and was sent right back out again. He didn't have enough recorded kills to enter his name in the official annals, but he was still a hero. On one mission he felt a sudden "WHOOSH" upward of his plane. When he landed, the crew found an artillerly shell stuck up, unexploded, in the middle of the plane's body. Another time, his plane was in for service, so he took his lieutenant's plane up. The seat was such that it caused him to have to hunch over to fly. In the dogfight, he felt a rush of wind at the back of his neck. When he landed, he felt unearned sweat at his neck. When he rubbed his hand across, a gush of blood covered his hand. A bullet had grazed his neck. If he had been sitting upright, he would have been killed. That's what got him the purple heart. He flew in the Battle of the Bulge. Every time his group went up, only half would return, until it was down to just he and his best buddy. They both went to their CO and requested to stop. Each feared the other would be killed in the next sortie. So they were given leave. They headed to the French Riviera for R & R. The pilot got lost and took them over the Italian Alps into enemy gunfire. They managed to turn around and head back for some much needed rest. I have the key to his hotel room in Nice.

Years after his gift to our country's freedom, in the midst of battling his Parkinsons disease and macular degeneration, he turned to my mom, his lifetime sweetheart, and asked "How does it feel to be married to a murderer?". This question comes from the horrific experiences he lived through in WWII. Experiences he has never fully shared with us, because he says they're too hideous. For many years, I made it a practice to call my dad on Veterans Day and thank him. Because he is one of the reasons I have such a cushy, blessed and comfy life.

Now he's dying. He wasn't a perfect dad. He was a royal pain in the ass to my mom and me so much of the time. Because of his obsession with excellence. If it wasn't perfect, it had to be thrown out. I learned from him the benefits of being an autodidact. I watched him read book upon book, and then try and try to create from what he'd read. Sometimes with failure and many times with brilliant success. He showed me that fearlessness pays. More than it doesn't.

My folks lived in Hawaii for several years (I was born there) and my dad fell in love with tree ferns and orchids. Back in Reseda, he built a greenhouse to grow them. And they would die. I can't remember how many tree ferns he went through. The orchids didn't die, but they wouldn't bloom. For years. My dad fed them. He misted them. I think he even played music for them. And they would not bloom. Until one day, he walked into the green house and I heard him yelling. I asked him what he was saying. Being too young to know, he didn't tell me till years later. He had cussed them out. Said "You either grow or I'm throwing you in the trash". Within a month they exploded with blooms and bloomed for years afterward.

My dad's dying. I don't know what I will do without him. He always fixed everything. He always knew what to do. He was my hero. He's been dying by inches from the evil Parkinsons disease for more than 10 years. Now he has esophogeal cancer added to his dance card. And every day of his life he wakes up and does as much as he can. If he complains, it is with humor. He is walking this hideous path with more grace and dignity and humor than any Christian man I have ever known. But my dad's dying. And I'm not handling it well at all.

Friday, August 18, 2006

WHAT A WEEK...

Quotidian Grace's post yesterday about Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian, along with petty grief in my life from my son's school and it's profoundly mean spiritied parent association leadership has drained me of energy and spirit. Oh, yeah and then there's the continuing challenge of my dad's cancer, my not being able to get up to my mom to help often enough, plus his Parkinsons, going blind, etc. etc. Yet there is good news this week too. The blessing of employment for me, in an apparently exact answer to prayer (though not the nature of work I wish for, but everything else), Praise God!! Like someone said to me once, long ago, you gotta take the sweet with the bittah...

I'm led to set down another miracle that happened to me. Yet another car miracle. And they don't stop here.

This one happened in my early 30's. I'd been away from the church for about 5 years and living quite the secular life. I had my own business doing bookkeeping and accounting for individual clients and on motion pictures in the entertainment industry.

One morning, I was driving to a client's office on Sunset Boulevard. I always drove through Trousdale Estates from Coldwater Canyon in the San Fernando Valley. It's a winding and pretty drive. Plus you miss freeway traffic and street traffic, if you leave early enough. And I always did.

I came out from the short cross on San Vicente to Sunset, past the old Hamburger Hamlet, and as I drove onto Sunset I saw an unusual action playing out in front of me. Way, way down the street, a sports car was driving at extremely high speed, back and forth, across the street. Huge plumes of smoke billowed out from under it as it careened at at least 80 m.p.h., back and forth, back and forth. I was transfixed.

My first thought, "They're filming a movie on Sunset". I looked for the road blockades always present with filming on a street like this. There weren't any. And the car was moving towards me. I'd been driving slowly down Sunset all this time, thinking that it must be a movie and I would be stopped by a blockade and police any time to wait till they got the shot. There was no movie.

This was a real car, driving a real 80 or more m.p.h. back and forth across the street. Real smoke billowing out from under it. Coming right toward me. Now I could see it was a Datsun 240Z. I pulled my, brand new happened to be, Mazda 626 to the right side of the road. There was no street close by to turn off to. I was trying to take off my seat belt and climb over to the sidewalk side of the car to get out. The car was closing on me, fast. It had stopped going back and forth across the street and had changed to a head on trajectory with me.

I saw that it was aimed right at my passenger door. I could not undo the seat belt in time. It was going to hit my door straight on. I then felt the same calm that I had felt on the freeway at 16 when my Toyota died in the 3rd lane. I knew that I had to hit the horn. But at the exactly right moment. My hand rose and poised over the horn and, like when I was 16, I experienced a slowing of time. As the 240Z was about to hit my passenger door, with me just on the other side, I knew it was time. I slammed on the horn. I can still see the man's face in the eyes of my memory. He was a man of about 60. Extremely red faced with no expression in his eyes. At the exact moment I hit the horn, his eyes opened, he looked directly at me and his hand came up on the wheel and turned it. He missed my car by maybe an inch.

I started my car up and drove to my client's buildling at 9000 Sunset Blvd. I parked and when I got out of the car, the calm left me and my legs turned to jelly. I went up to the office and started to work. It calmed me to work. I was the only one there, so I enjoyed 5 minutes of a good cry before I started to work.

The company's receptionist came in about 45 minutes later. She came into my office and said "You can't believe what I saw coming in here this morning".

"What's that, Rhonda?", I asked.

"On Sunset, there was a 240Z sitting up on top of a station wagon. An ambulance was taking a body away, all covered up. Obviously THAT guy didn't make it."

I realized that instead of crashing into me, he had crashed into an empty station wagon. I knew then as I know now that God was still watching over me, even though I was living an apostate life. Amazingly, I continued in my apostasy for another almost 20 years. (our time).

My mother told me today about a Bible study friend whose brother, a former Christian, died last week, an atheist. Or more likely, agnostic. Because you can't blame God for bad stuff if you don't believe in God, after all. My mom and her friend wondered if you get to heaven if you are a lapsed Christian. Thinking of this experience above, I lean toward God's mercy, here and hereafter. But, bottom line, I'm not really sure either. We can only have faith in this. Belief requires physical proof, and I now question belief more profoundly than faith. Proof is easy to manufacture. And lie about.

Sometimes it's all a head scratcher. Even when you know what you should believe. And have faith in what you can't believe.

Friday, August 11, 2006

ANOTHER MIRACLE

Something about me and cars calls the Lord powerfully to lend His hand.....It's definitely on my list of questions for when I meet Him in person....

This one happened when I was on tour with Covenant Players in Tacoma Washington. I had spent the evening at a friend's house and had been given our touring van for my transport. It was midnight when I left to go back to our host's home.

If you've no experience with cities built around bodies of water, let me enlighten you. All the streets in a city built around a body of water are built in relation to that body of water. Except Seattle (another story). Which means that they do NOT lie in logical north/south, east/west directions. Check out some city maps.

Unfortunately I had not written down directions to and from our host's home. I had driven to my friend's house in the daylight and now it was dark. I got lost. Really, really lost. I realized this about 5 minutes out on my drive home.

Fortunately there was a full tank of gas in the van. Sitting at a red light, after about 3 fruitless turns, I prayed. "O.K., God, I'd like to get home safe and sound. I have no idea where I am. I have a full tank of gas. I'm just going to drive and when I feel it's time to turn, I'm going to turn. Please guide my turns and get me home safe. I'm perfectly happy driving around all night if need be. Thanks and amen".

The light turned green and I started out. Without looking at street signs (which at that point were meaningless anyway) I just made turns when I felt like it. I was happy, relaxed and calm. After about 5 minutes I actually recognized where I was and 2 minutes later was parked in front of our housing. 20 minutes later, sound asleep, after a grateful "Thanks" prayer.

To this day I still have trouble claiming the promise of Jesus and calling on it in times of trouble. I pass harsh judgements on what would be considered "trouble". At 21, my troubles had yet to escalate to what they are today, over 30 years later. Yet, when things do get truly nasty, I will remember this time and the relaxed, confident and loving feeling I had when I made this prayer. And I can then do it again.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

MIRACLES
Pastor Andy Wilson of La Crescenta Presbyterian Church preached today about the purposes of God's discipline and punishments (plagues in Egypt as example and Hebrews 12:7-11). He talked about his belief that God does indeed work miracles and punishments through the lens of his earthly creations. I myself have always viewed the "supernatural" as being natural with a push, either from God or Satan. That either will use the clay of our physical matter, but not necessarily following the rules of our current understanding of physics.

I want to set down some of the miracles that I personally have experienced. Some might view them as logically explainable. I assure you that I was there. I am of skeptical mind. And none of them have an explanation in ordinary terms.

The first happened before I was born. My grandmother grew up without a mother for the major part of her childhood. Consequently when she became a mother herself, her parenting skills were virtually non-existant. She had lots of love. No shortage there. But practical matters eluded her. Thus, when she and my grandfather (who I never met) moved with her infant daughter (my mother) from Missouri to El Centro, California, in an open automobile....in summer....it did not occur to her to shade my mother from the sun. A severe sunburn ensued, resulting in extreme dehydration. It was a miracle my mother lived through that. Only to experience the second "close call".

After settling into El Centro life, my grandmother packed a picnic and went to the great outdoors to enjoy a meal. Twenty minutes after having swaddled my mother in a blanket, my grandmother's picnic was disturbed by my mother screaming at the top of her lungs. My grandmother picked her up and not knowing what else to do, unwrapped her blanket. Caught by the teeth in the blanket was a baby rattlesnake. It had not bitten my mother directly, but some of the venom had dripped on her skin. She carried that scar for many years.

My first miracle that I remember happened when I was 16. I was driving east on the 101 from Agoura Hills to Reseda on a Sunday afternoon after a wedding. I was in a dress, pantyhose and low heels. My car was a Toyota Corona that I had been given when my father bought my mother a new car. I was in the third lane. There was considerable traffic and quite a few semis on the road. I was going about 65 when my car started to slow. It did not occur to me to put the car in neutral. Cars behind me began to honk as I went from 55 to 45 to 25 to a dead stop just before the Canoga exit. Uphill to the Canoga exit. In the third lane. Sitting dead in the water, so to speak. I was terrified. But at some point soon after stopping, a very strange calm came over me. The cars and semis whizzing around me did not seem to be going all that fast. I opened my door, got out and started to push my car. Uphill. To the freeway side shoulder of the onramp. I crossed over two lanes of traffic, pushed the car onto the small space between the onramp and the slow lane, got my purse out of the car, locked it up and walked down the onramp. Farrells Ice Cream Parlor used to be there. I walked past Farrells, still feeling this odd calm, to the gas station pay phone next door. I went into the booth, pulled out a dime and called home. I felt the calm all through the ringing of the phone. When my father answered the phone, the calm left me and I broke down into tears.

When the car was finally returned and parked in front of our house, on flat ground, I tried to push it up the street. I couldn't budge it. At all. I tried. And I had sneakers on at the time, not slippery low heels. Plus the ground was flat and not uphill. I know you're thinking, like myself, "adrenaline rush". But that calm I felt was so soothing and so peaceful. It was palpable. Like a presence blanketing me. I believe it was God.

It turned out that what had happened to the car was the needle in the carburetor that regulates the gas flow, broke off and fell to the bottom of the chamber. Thus no gas was able to flow. I was told that this was an extremely rare thing for a Toyota to experience. After it was supposed to be fixed, my mother took me to pick it up. On the way home, smoke poured out the back and I was pulled over by a police officer who said I could not drive the car in this condition. It was not fixed. After what I had been through, my temper heated up. My mother followed me back to the mechanic. I marched up to the manager. He was with another customer and said I had to wait. Something about this experience boldened me, and I, in no uncertain terms, let him have it right then. The customer he had been talking to, took off. My mother later told me that she was astonished at how strong I had been with the mechanic. It's an ability that has served me well in other instances and one I would not have at all if not for this experience.

There are more.