Why Two Days Changed My Fussbudgetness.

Lucy, from the comic strip Peanuts, was often referred to as a fussbudget. Over the past few years I have become a fussbudget, my heart traipsing around the landscape of complaint, unbelief, and fear. Recently I described it to someone as brooding. I can’t seem to nail down a solid description of my state of mind. Needless to say, my silent grump grump aint helpful to those in my proximity.

Then two days, one right after the other, a couple of weeks ago, shook me out of my inward sourpuss self. May 17th two of my children decided to take a giant leap…out of an airplane. Be honest, what do you think of first when skydiving come to mind? Exactly. What if the chute doesn’t open? I don’t see this thought as pessimistic, but realistic. Planes have wings to keep humans up there in the wild blue yonder, unless some zealot or deranged person uses one as a missile of mass human destruction. My son and daughter fell to earth with hardly a thud, safe, exhilarated, and the determination to do it all over again. (They’re adults, what can I do? I know what I can do… Give them an Applebee’s gift card for their birthday next year. Yes, they jumped on our dime right into their bucket list.)

The next day my longboarding (i.e. big skateboard for riding hills, not do stunts) daughter took two of her brothers to surf a local neighborhood. She was merely 3 to 4 inches off the ground and fell to earth with a thud. She dropped and rolled, but in the dropping she sustained quite a blow to the basil part of her skull. 911 was dialed, and an hour or so later she was in a medically induced coma for a closed head injury. She had a basil fracture, broken cheek bone, but no other broken bones. There was hardly a scratch on her otherwise. Barbara and I were beside ourselves with concern as the first twenty four to thirty six hours were a roller coaster of emotions and worry as the doctors came and left with assessments.

I said short prayers to God.

Not today. No funeral today God. Help!

            Other people said the longer prayers. Lots of people said the longer prayers. Our entire family is grateful for the longer prayers, and all sorts of other support through this reality. Today our daughter is in a state of the art rehab facility called Mary Free Bed in Grand Rapids Michigan. Today she is. Today she is the same captivating daughter after her chute didn’t open on that hill. Today she is a self-proclaimed “safety nerd” as she deeply regrets not wearing a helmet. She is not finished healing, but is coming along much faster than predicted.

Thank God.

That is the reason I am writing about these two days. This is why I confess to the world and God my own fractures. Just because we are human, we flake out sometimes. Come on, admit it. God went looking for Adam and Eve in their nakedness. Why would God not look for us? I know this opens up the Pandora’s Box of why many things don’t make sense, all the way from 9/11 to a weak baby chick not surviving. I, for one, need to hop off my little private, arrogant self, and admit I have a lot less control than I thought.

Today, I thank God for those who continue to hold us through prayer, presence, and embraces. Life is mysterious. God is mysterious. So, if you find yourself in a fussbudget frame of mind, that’s okay, no judgement here, but consider the possibility of coming out from hiding. God is looking for you, along with some human humans.

Prayer:

God, thank you for all the loving people in my life. You show up when they show up, whether I admit it or not. Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Amen.

 

Her Cupped Hands

Leaned on the pane
are the outside edges
of her hands, pressed.

Light from without
dispelled at her will
to see inside of me

the dimmed refract
of loves shadow lens’
concave mystery.

Leaned on the pain
are the outside edges
of her hands, massaged.

Her light quartered
into the chambers
of constant flex

of cardio compulsion.
She feels the bleeding
coming in and going out.

For Barbara

Tuesdays With Morrie

“The most important thing in life is to give out love, and to let it come in.” Morrie Schwartz

I cried when I finished reading Tuesday’s With Morrie by Mitch Albom. Yesterday morning at 6:00 I closed the book, leaned on my knees in the padded rocking chair and sat in silence. I’ve seen the movie, but the words written were well timed as I come to the close of the winter of my discontent.

As Morrie Schwartz’s body relinquished its rights to the debilitating effects of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, his spirit/soul gained strength and momentum. One of Morrie’s college students, Mitch, reconnected with him after a sixteen year absence. Mitch began flying from Detroit to the east coast to visit his professor every Tuesday. The memoir captured their often poignant conversations about life, death, and the space between.

When was the last time you had a poignant conversation with someone, your spouse, a friend, a relative, or a complete stranger? When did you make eye contact or embrace with the freedom of knowing trust and grace? Humans are designed for connection, relationship, and community, are they not?

I signed off Facebook, the ‘ultimate’ social endeavor, over the Christmas rush (I deliver for UPS). I signed back on in January, to delete my account later after I realized it affected my real time, in house relationships. I was distracted, unfocused, and longed for affirmation and ‘likes’ to underline my existence. By the way, this isn’t a wagging finger at anyone who Facebooks, no. Someday when I am on the other side of this ‘reboot’ of my life I will return to social media of this sort. Not as an escape or some sort of pseudo therapist, but to connect in a healthier way.

Some of you know my real life is full, full, full…of, well, life. My comrade and love Barbara and I keep working at being on the same page with all these children around. I keep falling off the page. She has been in the trenches as I go off to the Big Brown UPS. It’s a culture we chose with little knowledge as to how stretching and challenging it would be. As with any challenge we were brought to our knees on many levels. There is lots of baggage sitting around to trip over. Sheesh.

So, we are looking over our own baggage to see what we can do to get on the plane with just a carry-on. This involves self-examination. As Socrates aptly said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” So, this winter acted like a white cocoon as I prayed a little, thought a little, and got (and am getting) some help from a counselor, a class, and always from Barbara, who knows me better than I do.

So, back to the book at hand. Listening in on Morrie and Mitch’s conversations woke me up to the possibility of deeper relationships and re-engaging. Quite honestly, I would rather stay in the cocoon sometimes. Retreat and withdrawal come naturally to me. I even had it out with my writing and told it to leave and not to let the door hit it in the ass on the way out.

I found that I had a form of ALS of the heart. I wasn’t nurturing the God given relationships right here, right now. All the distractions, work, and activities didn’t do a thing for what really matters…the heart. Ask Morrie, he will lay it out for you. His aphorisms and quotes from poetry will engage you. Even this agnostic “lifer” relinquished to engaging with God.

I will end with an excerpt.

“Love is so extremely important. As our great poet Auden said, ‘Love each other or perish.’”
Mitch wrote it down.
“Love each other or perish,” Morrie said. “It’s good, no? And it’s so true. Without love, we are birds without wings.”

Blessed Be The Binding That Ties. (New Year Schtuff.)

I’ve been running silent for weeks now. Like a submarine drifting below the light and foam of the tips of waves, my words echo in this steel hull of a brain. I say little, even to myself.

Barbara and I purged yesterday. Tossed out of our room so far are three kitchen bags for goodwill and a large black bag of “Why are we keeping this?” While Barbara sang her made up song about purging I reset books amongst other things. I didn’t organize them. I consolidated the three different areas of books in our bedroom.

The short stack sits on a simple one drawer desk, where about a dozen reside for easy access. Against a wall is a four story bookshelf made of time darkened cherry wood. No vacancy there. In our walk in closet books line three long wall shelves crowded together, bindings out.

As I said, I didn’t organize them, which used to be one of my favorite putzing past times. I simply made sure they fit properly in the spaces provided. A handful of them were purged, plucked out with the attitude of “I will never consider turning these pages again.”

The remainder is resting quietly with nothing to say until the pages turn. I feel like a book on a shelf, and it isn’t a pleasant feeling, especially as a New Year pulls on my bindings. I call myself a writer, and when that dad burn memoir is published I know eventually the binding will be silently standing at attention getting no attention. That is what most books do.

I don’t want to be “that” book. Who would? So, today I start counseling again. My name is Jerry, and I need help. There are times when the pages get stuck together and we need help peeling them apart, don’t you think? No pity party here, just determination to read between a few lines and change the story line.

I want to begin writing worn out religious words minus the cliché ambience they sometimes hold. Words like forgiveness, restoration, redemption, and that old bugger repentance to bring the plot points of this life some resolution this side of the Way Over Yonder. I will say “I’m sorry.” I will say “How can I help?” more. I will engage in the small talk and the large talk. I will see my wife more. I will see my children more.

God help me. God grace me. Good God show the way.

I suppose this is a New Year’s Resolution…What the heck…How about New Year’s Revolution?

God help us all to be open books in a way which makes the world a bit brighter this year.

Happy Belated New Year!

 

No Poem. No Memior. Just Pasted Thoughts Of Large Adoptive Family Shtuff.

When life gets more real and raw, sometimes the answer suspends in mid air just out of reach. In my head I gather facts and history. The moment to speak is now and all that comes out is stuttering and behind the eyes a fear of no answer, grasping at air.

The raccoon is dead and we drive past without blinking. I often tell whoever is with me, “That’s a weird place to take a nap.” Or about the car in the median after a blizzard, “That’s a funny place to park.” There is a context in which each scene lies and I neither take the time or energy to investigate. Animal control comes to scoop up a carcass. The State Police slows traffic as the tow truck pulls the vehicle out.

But the scenes in a family, of which I am part, come with the context included. Each scene touches another like the beginning of rain on a glassy pond, the expanding circles from each impact cross over one another. It’s my choice to absorb the context of the situation.

I am often oblivious to the context of little (or BIG) extended plays of power and their struggles. What is a pulling on a toy between two children in my view is exactly what it is: Power struggle. I don’t see or choose to invest the time for the context of each child’s history in this family of adoption. My worn-thin wife, who chooses to embrace the context and operate out of it, is emotionally stretched thinner. I often find her parked in the median. It’s my choice to investigate the contextual framework for the big picture. She saw me drive on by too many times.

So history repeats and the expectation for help, or at least her hope for validation is weak. I don’t blame her. It’s a set up and I set it up for her. I understand men and women are wired differently. Men lean toward boxed and compartmentalized containment, while women integrate and thread all the aspects of life more naturally. There are advantages to both paradigms at times. They can also appear as dead animals on the edge of the road when placed side by side.

Honestly, I know people who live holistically, who have seemingly seamless transitions from one facet of life to another. Barbara, my wife, is one of them. When I consider the two paradigms as mentioned, I would rather move closer to my wife’s “whole pie” perspective than her sidle up to my “one piece at a time” mentality.

I suppose all marriages feel this anomaly tug on each end of a frayed rope, at least any marriage of consequence and extended history. Then enter children and the differences increase in volume as parenting seeks solidarity. Then enter adoption…

To be continued…

In the mean time, Anne Lamott handed me a compressed effective prayer…Help!

Any adoptive or blended families out there…here’s a shout out to you!

Increase. A poem of lines.

Could it be a rivulet for sweat,
the crease just below the stem?
Maybe that is where thoughts
collect at the back of the neck.

I find myself running my finger
along it east to west.
I stare at elderly linear divots,
gullies which underline their

retention pond of experience.
Many years they’ve kept their chin up.
Maybe that is why the creases
increase, line upon line.

Maybe that is why thoughts spill,
and the neck, like a downspout, carries.
If so, I pray for more chin-ups
and memory catching indentations.

I hope when we hug each others neck
we are able to read them with fingertips
on inverse bumps of brail
and exchange thoughts.