Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Gratitude

In the deep mid-winter | 3 Haikus

buzzing ears open
for business this frigid day
listening to nothing

wind howls
through cracked walls
a baby cries

travelers
missing in action
full stop

Real Winter. We haven’t had it here in Eastern Pennsylvania for several years. Now it seems to be making up for lost time.

This morning I set things up to make a big pot of spiced red lentil soup. I also used my SAD ‘happy light’ to help with my mood. Best of all, I decided not to race out early this morning (with D driving) for a blood draw before 9am.

Not a bad beginning to what promises to be a gusty, sun-shiny day, with the temperature plummeting tonight. Not many birds were out for their early morning suet feast.

Beginning this week, I’ll see three of my doctors, one a week, to find out what my blood tests, MRI, and other tests to my feet and legs are adding up to.

In the meantime, I’m finding out when my feet don’t hurt. It’s all about music! Playing the piano instantly takes my mind off the pain. So does walking in the house or working in the kitchen with my new headphones, listening to direct-feed music, babbling brooks and birds, or anything else remotely musical. Thanks to our daughter and her husband for the birthday headphones.

Best of all, I have no pain when I’m sitting at my computer writing poetry or posts for you.

Until next time, I’m still
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 January 2022
Photo found at houstonchronicle.com

My Great MRI Adventure | New Year’s Eve 2021

In knee-high socks
And ortho shoes she trips
The light fantastic

Light as a feather
Music spins through soft earphones
To another world

Silencing all noise
Beauty fills every fiber
Of her weary soul

I’m lying on a long, narrow table. A long capsule slides almost silently over my body.

I’ve been up since early in the morning. D is sitting in the waiting room. I’ve been told more than once that the MRI will take 15-20 minutes. My name is called. I’m ushered into a small room with a closet. I answer a barrage of questions I already answered online and in the waiting room. The woman helping me is kind.

She tells me how to put on the two gowns lying on the bench, and where to lock my clothing and belongings. The only things I’m allowed to wear are my knee-high socks and one other piece of clothing I will not name.

I emerge draped in two huge gowns.

I’m directed to a barber-shop like chair obviously made for people larger than I. I can’t lean back or touch the floor with my feet. I sit up straight and hold still while the pacemaker team disengages Lucy Pacemaker and makes sure they can monitor my heartbeat/arrhythmia while I’m having the MRI. This takes at least 20 minutes. I’m happy to say that everyone who worked with me treated me as the Queen I am, for which I was most grateful!

Finally, I’m escort by a female nurse to the MRI room. The male technician who will be in the room with me the entire time has me change my anti-Covid mask for their mask (not as nice as mine). He also has me leave my changing room key on the table. The nurse and technician help me onto a very narrow table.

As fast as lightning, the technician inserts ear plugs, adjusts my head, puts a large cushion beneath my legs and knees, glues and tapes stuff onto my chest to monitor my heartbeat, puts a finger clip on my right thumb, and a rubber ball in my left hand. I’m to squeeze it if, at any point, I’m not comfortable. If I squeeze it for any reason, the MRI will be terminated and rescheduled.

Finally, sheets are pulled up; my feet are positioned just right and strapped down so they won’t fall off the narrow table. The technician assures me that he’ll be in the room the entire time, ready to help me. Then he disappears somewhere behind my head, and the capsule starts sliding over my body. I decided early on to keep my eyes closed and practice relaxation breathing. I was not prepared for either the noise or the heat.

Nor was I prepared for the cacophony of diverse sounds that bounced around me. Sometimes there were lengthy pauses; sometimes only a few sounds. Other times it was like being caught in crossfire that didn’t want to end. I wasn’t prepared for this strange mixture that had no rhyme or reason.

However, somewhere along the way I thought about drum beats I’d heard when D and I were on sabbatical in Kenya. Instead of angst, I had a bit of curiosity and interest, though I was still shocked by the diversity and clamor of this strange machine.

Suddenly it was done. The young man and my nurse helped me back to my barber-shop chair. The nurse handed me a bottle of water which I drained to the last drop. Lucy Pacemaker was returned to being in charge of my heart. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and have D drive me home.

Thanks for visiting today! For 2022, I pray you and I will grow as truthtellers, no matter how difficult or dangerous it becomes.

Happy New Year!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 December 2021
Image found at wfmt.com

choices I don’t want to make

If you had gently hinted
just one short year ago
that today would find me
lost and bereft
I might have laughed

On the other hand….

To say my situation is
better than so-and-so’s
misses the point altogether
while denying reality
screaming in my feet

How to live with this
malfunction on the outside
and agony on the inside
challenges my educational
upbringing and experience

Daily and nightly reminders
pile on unavoidable witness
to the slow decay of this body
still struggling each day with
choices I don’t want to make

I haven’t posted regularly for what feels like an eternity. Actually, it feels like hanging in midair, waiting to find out how this will play out. Peripheral Neuropathy. My new ‘friend’, though I still don’t know the full picture. The day after Thanksgiving I’ll have an MRI with the hope that my neurologist will learn something new or at least helpful.

My focus today is on what I enjoy doing. Unfortunately, my feet like to remind me of what I don’t enjoy. Nonetheless, my new curriculum is interesting. Bottom line: What would I like to do right now? What brings me joy, so that I don’t even notice what my feet feel? (For example: looking at David’s Longwood Garden Photos; playing the piano, riding my indoor bike.)

In addition to two books I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m also reading a book by Mims Cushing (who lives with this disease) and Norman Latov, MD, her neurologist. Title: You Can Cope with Peripheral Neuropathy: 365 Tips for living a full life. It’s a bit dated, but the self-help pointers are ageless.

Bottom line: I feel myself becoming a ‘different’ person–not so driven, more laid back, grateful for small gifts of each day and for you.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 November 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, December 2015

absent without leave

absent without leave
my mind wanders aimlessly
searching for anchors

solid reality
is hard to come by these days
drifting on breezes

the doorbell rings
abruptly interfering
with today’s daydreams

A cheery young man delivers my mail-order packages. I’m happy to have them, though I would have loved being interrupted by something more spectacular.

Something like this would do:

Two weeks ago I was feeling my usual morning reluctance to get up from my breakfast seat by the window, and get on the rest of the day. Suddenly I heard a great commotion outside. A large flock of blackbirds had invaded our feeders and our backyard, gobbling up whatever they could find. Males fought for seats at the bird feeder, while females and younger blackbirds scoured the yard for whatever they could find.

This went on for several minutes. Suddenly a large male took over the feeder just outside the kitchen window, opened his great beak, and let loose a masterful ‘conkeree’ louder than loud! King of the Castle? Maybe. At any rate, without a moment’s hesitation the whole herd took off into the trees before disappearing into the wild blue yonder. I was mesmerized!

Thank you kindly for your visits in the last few weeks. I’m still learning to live within my physical means. So far, three things bring me great joy: playing the piano, reading, and writing. In addition, I’m learning to be content with what I’m able to do on any given day. Definitely a step in the right direction.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 November 2021
Video of male red-wing blackbird calls found at YouTube

The Meeting with My Parents

Diane and Elouise standing by the Savannah River
20 Nov 1993, the day after meeting with my parents

On 19 November 1993 I met with my parents in Savannah, Georgia. A gift to myself on the eve of my 50th birthday.

It took 1 ½ years to prepare for the meeting. It wasn’t a declaration of war. It was an attempt to see whether my parents and I could begin talking about my childhood. Put another way, could I hold my own viewpoint without trying to change my parents’ viewpoints?

The biggest unknown was how my father would respond. His habit was to talk over and down at me.

Now I’m in Savannah. My father is sitting directly across the table from me, with my mother next to him. I’ve asked a pastor we all know to be present. He convenes the meeting and turns it over to me. David is on my left hand; my sister Diane is on my right—both instructed not to talk or try to argue on my behalf.

I read from a single-spaced, 1 ¼ page statement. Here’s the heart of what I said about the way my father punished me as a child and teenager.

The spankings were abusive. I was very small; you were very big. I had no power; you seemed to have all the power. The spankings happened regularly for most of my growing-up years. They were terrifyingly predictable. I dreaded nothing as much as I dreaded being spanked. Worst of all, the spankings were administered in a way that shamed, humiliated, and silenced me. . . .I have been lost for most of my adult years. Lost in a sea of shame, humiliation, and fear–fear of opening my mouth and saying directly to you what I need to say: I did not deserve to be shamed, humiliated, and silenced.

Though my parents were in this together, my mother wasn’t in the room when I was being punished. My question for her was simple: What was it like for you when I was being punished? Where were you? What was it like to hear us crying and pleading? She didn’t remember hearing anything.

From my father, I wanted one thing: an apology for the way he shamed, humiliated, and silenced me. I asked for an apology, which was immediately denied. Thankfully, getting an apology wasn’t my goal.

There was one unexpected disruption during the meeting. My father abruptly walked out of the meeting, left the building, and sat in his car. We could see him through the window. No one said anything. It was my meeting. I waited several minutes. Then I signaled to David to come with me for moral support. We stood on the sidewalk beside the car while I talked with him for a long time. Eventually he agreed to come back and finish the conversation. I was astonished and relieved.

After this meeting, D and I visited my parents (in Savannah) on several occasions. I always had a list of questions to ask. I learned a lot from these informal conversations, though my father was clearly set in his ways and unwilling to change. Still, these conversations were a gift I hadn’t anticipated. Not surprisingly, many of my father’s rough ways reflected my grandfather’s unpredictable, harsh beatings of my father. A sad legacy.

Thanks for stopping by today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 November 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser on 20 November 1993; Diane (on the left) and I are at the Savannah River waterfront.

My overflowing cup

My calling is to die
In daily increments
With mega doses of reality
Served up on weary plates
Of hyper-healthy veggies
And dreams never to be
Lived in this lifetime

Stumbling through each day
I resist the truth that my feet
Have already lived out
Their guaranteed lifespan
Of hiking and dancing
Or even strolling by the river
Come to carry me home

Looking into my shrinking world
I wonder what I’m missing
While my overflowing cup
Stubbornly splashes drops
of joy and beauty
I never hoped to experience
This side of heaven

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 November 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, 10 September 2021

What females do not deserve

We don’t need fancy degrees
Or positions of so-called power
To agree on one thing:

In today’s downhill avalanche
And dismissive coverup of truth
About women and girls of any age
Soul-searching is quickly dismissed
In favor of shameful, angry blaming
Of women who dare speak
Their own minds or
Live their own lives
Despite the cost

Females of any age do not deserve to be shamed, humiliated, or silenced.

Nearly 28 years ago, on the eve of my 50th birthday, I said to my father: “I did not deserve to be shamed, humiliated, or silenced by you.” I wish I could say that making this statement fixed everything for me as a woman. It did not.

Instead, as an adult professional, I still had to live with sometimes brazen attempts to shame, humiliate or silence me. For example,

  • Disgruntled students who didn’t approve of my gender or my approach to teaching and learning sometimes filed written complaints with my dean or the president of the seminary.
  • In my work with and in the seminary dean’s office, my value was sometimes measured by my willingness to go along.
  • My questions weren’t always welcome, especially regarding university decisions that impacted the seminary.

Bottom line: Most of my paying jobs involved a significant degree of holding back, keeping my mouth shut and my emotions under wrap. Sadly, the same was sometimes true in churches I attended, especially regarding issues of concern to women and children.

My decision to meet with my parents in 1993 was costly for our entire family. Would I do it again? Yes. My life today would not be what it is without this tough family work. In some ways, it became my fulltime job, the underpinning of my professional and personal life. As I’m able, I’ll be posting about this from time to time, drawing on written notes I made years ago, and correspondence with some family members.

Thank you for the privilege of sharing some of my life with you. Next Friday I’ll have tests on my feet and legs. Hopefully I’ll learn more about what can and cannot be done to alleviate the pain. Peripheral neuropathy stinks!

Thanks for stopping by,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 October 2021
Quotation found at thewei.com

I go down to the shore | Mary Oliver

Vernon River and Marshland, Georgia, USA

This short poem by Mary Oliver has been haunting me for over a week. My comments follow.

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall—
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.

Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings, p. 1
© 2012 by NW Orchard, LLC
First published by Penguin Press 2012

Compact. To the point. No nonsense. Nothing but truth.

That’s how I want to be. Not just in my writing, but in my ability to ‘hear’ what the sea and the sky, trees and birds, clouds and thunder are saying with their busy, if not always lovely work.

The last few months have offered several opportunities to say with Mary, “Oh, I am miserable.” Or better, “Growing older is much more daunting than I dreamed it would be.” Right now I’m inundated with forms to fill out for an appointment with a new doctor next week.

It would be nice to have a shore close by, with the sea “rolling in or moving out.” Or even the Vernon River of my childhood with its 24-hour cycle of ebb and flow.

On the other hand, every morning when I go down to our kitchen I’m greeted by birds, squirrels, chipmunks, flowering shrubs, trees, clouds, wind, rain or sunshine — all with work to do. Whether I feel like working or not. Whether I’m happy or not. Whether the sun is shining or not.

Thanks for stopping by today. And dare I say, in my lovely seashore voice, of course: “Excuse me, I have work to do.”

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 September 2021
Photo of the Vernon River and Marshland found at ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

The Funeral

Sitting near the back row
Like a spectator at a show
I didn’t want to see just now
I look on wondering
How soon my short time
On this weary earth be over

The atmosphere is charged
With memories and the beauty
Of one man’s life well lived
As the world slowly fell apart
At its seams spilling the life
We’re called to nurture

I wonder what today’s generation
Feels as stalwart towers of
Strength and kindness crumble
Under the indignities of old age
And aching desires for more than
This world can possibly offer

What we have done we may never
Know with this exception that
Life as we thought it would be
has often become a race for fame
and glory if even for one minute
on an electronic device or poster

The distance from this life to the next
Is less than a heartbeat or breath away
With or without fanfare or our
Determined attempts to impact
This world saturated with lonely
Children and teens and aging adults

The most telling marks are made
By everyday giants who know how to
Listen and love and wait patiently
For vines to ripen and grapes to fall
Into the hands and hearts of lonely
Human beings looking for a friend

Thoughts after attending today’s funeral service for one of our church friends. Born in 1934, Harold knew how to listen, wait, and keep showing up to do whatever needed to be done. Always without fanfare.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 August 2021
Photo of table grapes found at growingproduce.com

For Today and Tomorrow | Psalm 121

The last several weeks have been a roller coaster ride. Up one day, down the next. Hot/cold. Content/discontent. Causes known and unknown such as unresolved health issues, political moves of the unhelpful kind, war and destruction, plus the sinking feeling we’re stuck in old patterns that leave the future of this planet in the hands of the next generation.

This morning D and I went for a walk. The air was warm, humid, and heavy with the sound of cicadas. Just drawing a breath felt like the beginning of the end. As we were walking home, the words of Psalm 121 popped into my head. It’s one of several Psalms I memorized as a child. That would be in the King James Version, of course!

Here it is, slightly updated by me. The Psalm invites me to do something besides ruminating on how I feel or what I think about what’s happening in and all around me.

I lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help.
My help comes from You, the Holy One who made heaven and earth.
You will not suffer my foot to be moved; You keep me without drifting off to sleep.
Indeed, You who keep all creation shall neither slumber nor sleep.
You are my keeper; You are the shade upon my right hand.
The sun shall not smite me by day, nor the moon by night.
You will preserve me from all evil; You alone shall preserve my soul.
You will preserve my going out and my coming in from this time forth,
and even for evermore.

No promise of rose gardens, or an easy coast from this life to whatever comes next. Instead, I’m reminded that I owe my full allegiance to our Creator, and that whatever comes next, I won’t be abandoned.

Good words for a mixed-up world full of anxious people everywhere. Including me.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 August 2021
Photo of hills in Judea taken by David Shankbone; found at wikipedia.com

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