Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Name is Lisa

Okay, so MY name isn't Lisa; it's Trish. I saw this video about a year ago or so, and just now found it again through a link on It is a video about a thirteen year old young lady who is living with her mother with dementia. It is well worth the six or so minutes it takes to watch. I think that being twenty-six years old and having a parent with dementia is hard; I can't IMAGINE being thirteen and having to see it. It gives a bit to think about, what with the reversal of roles, and the frustration and pain that comes from having a loved one with this horrible disease. Again I will say, it is WELL worth watching.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Church Conflict (Class; not life!)

I mentioned before that I am taking "Church Conflict: From Contention to Collaboration" for J-term. I maintain that it is an interesting class, and one that I trust will be deeply valuable for the ministry of all who are taking it.

For this class, we were asked to think up an image or idea on the first day that explains how we think of conflict. Everyone shared their idea, and they were great. I would like to share my "image" of conflict:

Conflict seems like a football game in January. There are people around who are screaming, people who are just sitting there watching, and people who have laryngitis and can't speak at all. But, even the person with laryngitis leaves a mark because their breath can be seen in the cold air. Additionally, some people are there because they LOVE football, and some people are there because they love someone who is playing. There are also coaches, referees, cheerleaders, hecklers, and everyone else. That is one image in my mind of what conflict is like.

Some of the other images were likened to elastic that stretches out, a fire that consumes, groups with a pile of weapons and ammunition, and a circle, to name a few. They were all very interesting. Even the ones I do not necessarily "get" are interesting because it helps me see more how the person thinks. I enjoyed sharing that time.

At the end of the first day, we were given an "assignment," and that was to go home and think about an image or idea for "collaboration." When class met back the next day, we went around the room again and we all "spoke ourselves present" by sharing our image. Again, I was incredibly interested to hear these ideas that ranged from a team working together, to the weapon piles being turned from being pointed at people to being turned at an issue that needed addressing. I would also like to share my "image" of collaboration:

Collaboration is like a smile. There are many things needed to smile. A person needs to be able to feel an emotional response like joy, happiness, contentment, etc in order to feel like smiling. There are people in the world too depressed to smile. Also, there needs to be the cognitive capacity to smile. There are people in the world with dementia or brain injuries who no longer know how to smile, or who have brains who don't register emotions. Their brains and muscles are not collaborating to bring a smile to their faces. And there are people who have had certain types of stroke who cannot smile because their brains won't tell their muscles what to do. Smiling takes a lot of collaboration. And, a smile is often contagious. Smile at someone else and see them smile back. Similarly, when we go forth ready, willing, and able to collaborate, others are likely to respond in like fashion.

We have also shared our personal histories with conflict. These stories are often touching, and most certainly deserving of respect. People come from different places regarding conflict. Many of these places are still hurting and are scarred over. But, scar tissue is a part of the learning process. It often protects us from new wounds in the same place. Christ has his own scar tissue in his hands stretched out to embrace all of humanity. These places of past pain remind us that Christ is with us, even in the pain, messiness, and grief of everyday life. Scars help us remember that we too, can work to embrace others.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Some thoughts

Today is Ma's birthday. She is 69 years old. I wrote a letter "to" her, but will not be sending it to her because I'm not so sure she can read anymore, and because it's also very long; longer than her attention span these days.

All my siblings and their significant others (except Oldest Brother and his family) and I went to celebrate with her at the SuperMax last Saturday. We spent about an hour or so with her. She asked BiL who he was, and she called Howard by my name once. I can't believe how much I hate dementia.

My J-term class is going on right now. It started today. The class is called, "Church Conflict: From Contention to Collaboration." It seems interesting, and I've been continuing to work on my personal goal of talking more in class. Each time I spoke up, the professor made some sort of remark about how well I put whatever I said. I wonder if it's because she somehow knows about my goal to talk more... Then again, sometimes I do actually say decently intelligent remarks.

Other than that, right now, I am so incredibly tired that I can't even hardly see straight. I guess I've had an emotionally exhausting couple of days. My childhood home is on the market, and someone looked at the house this past weekend and really likes it. I am thinking about all the things that will need to be done if he buys it. I'm thinking about what that will mean if this person buys it. And I can't help but think I'm overreacting because it's not like I even want the house to stay in the family. There is just a lot of symbolism behind a home you lived in for 24 years, especially through all the things my family has been through. I'm tired. I wish, that just for a little while, things in my family could be like they are in other "normal" families. But in saying that, I start to thinking that I am being a big whiner, and that this is what my life and my family's life is like right now. Put on the big girl underpants and deal with it already.

I think I'm going to go to bed so that I can wake up rested and a bit more chipper in the morning. I don't even care that it's only 7:00 p.m. Goodnight.

Monday, January 12, 2009

"Peace Like a River"

The book, "Peace Like a River" has graced my bedside table for a couple of weeks now, and I just finished it tonight. I enjoyed reading this book, not only for its story, but also because I've been to several of the places in which the book is set. It's set in Minnesota and North Dakota, and those states being what they are to me, I am excited to read about them and about places in the states I've at least driven by.

Anyway, I enjoyed the book for the most part, but it really got me thinking about the hymn, "When Peace Like a River." It goes,

"When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll,
whatever my lot
thou hast taught me to say
it is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet
though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ hath regarded
my helpless estate
and hath shed his own blood
for my soul.

He lives, oh the bliss
of this glorious thought
my sin not in part but the whole
is nailed to the cross
and I bear it no more
praise the Lord, praise the Lord
Oh my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day
when our faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
the trumpet shall sound
and the Lord shall descend;
Even so it is well
with my soul."*

The book is set in the 1960s and deals with a father, his two sons, and his daughter. The oldest son, Davy, who is 16 at the beginning, ends up shooting two local bullies (who were bullies to the extreme). The other son, Reuben, is 11, and the sister,Swede, is 9. Anyway, along goes the book, and Davy escapes jail before sentencing after his trial. So, the family goes in search for him, all the while contending with police, FBI people, and others who come across their paths, including a shady character or two.

Life is not easy for them, but they have love and faith. The father, especially, is a faithful man who seems to even have performed some miracles; though he himself would never say such a thing.

The book has ups and downs, but it got me to thinking about grief. I placed myself in the book, and found out that I did not like a part of it. I identified with one of the characters a bit more deeply because we share an experience that was not the EXACT same, but aspects of it were very similar.

My thoughts over one occurrence in the book brought up grief from long ago. It's not insurmountable or even all that troubling; it just is. I got to thinking about how I am of the school of thought that people never "get over" their grief. It ebbs and flows with new grief tapping in to old grief, all the while bringing it back to the surface. Professionals say that it takes over a year for life to be "normal" again after the loss of one who is close. I agree, and on that note, find it odd that society seems to think that people who have suffered the death of a loved one need to "get over it" in a matter of weeks. I would like to think that deep down, they know this is not the case, but I would like to see grace being extended in more tangible ways regarding grief.

Anyway, so back to the hymn... The first two verses speak of trials and Satan's coming against people, but that Jesus is present with us. I like these words. They don't say, "Get over it." To me, they say, "Sometimes, life is going to suck, but Christ 'regards!!!' us even in the murkiness of it all." To me, these words also say that we can be in the thickest grief, or even depression, and have faith in Christ's never-failing presence. That doesn't make things all better, but it can be a comforting truth. After all, the verses don't speak of what WE have done, but instead of what Christ has done for us. WE don't have to be Sunshine Susanna's in order to be loved, forgiven, or worthwhile. It is GOD IN CHRIST who has come to and for us; stipulating nothing, but rather coming and giving freely.

And what of this "peace like a river?" Rivers can be peaceful, but they can also be violent and dangerous. But they are still rivers. Life is like a river, in many regards. Sometimes it is wide and calm, while other times it seems too narrow with rocks just below the surface. But in hope, may we trust that Christ is in the boat with us, suffers the same tosses that we do, and remains present regardless.

*Text: Horatio G. Spafford
*Tune: Philip P. Bliss

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Thoughts on "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

Don't read this post if you don't want the plot for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" spoiled for you.

YS and I went out tonight because the two of us don't get to hang out together as often as we'd like. I met her at her house this afternoon so we could decide what to do. We decided to go to dinner and then go see, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

YS and I went to eat at a Chinese buffet that also serves sushi. I gave J a sushi kit for Christmas and he made some the other day. I saw the pictures of it and got a hankering for some sushi, so YS and I went to a place that has it.

The movie, though, is what I want to talk about.

The story begins in the early 1900s and is about a man who is born an old, old man who ages backwards. Sure, he comes out all small like a baby, but he has cataracts, arthritis, and a host of other "old people" maladies, but he looks old, even. His mother dies shortly after giving birth, and his father is so upset by his new son's appearance and her death that he takes the baby with the intention of throwing it into Lake Ponchartrain. Thankfully, a police officer hears the babies cries and the father runs off and puts the baby, with a little bit of money, on the steps outside of a nursing home. A black woman who works there takes him in, because she can't have her own children. She says that her sister had the baby, and didn't want him because he was white. So, she took him in. He fit in well his early years because as he grew up, he looked like a very old man. He was confined to a wheelchair and had glasses and the like. However, he acted like a little boy. He was innocent and didn't know about life and the like. He even made friends with a granddaughter of one of the patients at the nursing home.

As he continued to get older, his appearance continued to get younger. And he realized what was happening. In so realizing, he found out that as he got younger, those around him got older. He had to experience the death of people close to him who lived in the nursing home. "Normal" little children don't have to deal with this grief because most kids do not look to be in their 80s and they don't live in nursing homes. He learned at a young age what grief is.

When he looked 70 something, he began working on a tugboat. He wrote to his little friend from the many ports in which he found himself. Eventually, he met a woman and had an affair with her. It didn't last long, but he had fallen in love. When she left, he was sad, but was able to get on with his life.

Benjamin eventually went back home and met up with his friend again. Her name was Daisy and she had grown to be a woman. However, he still looked 60 and she was in her twenties. The time was not right.

Life continued on for Benjamin. His appearance grew younger and his body grew stronger all the time. Finally, when he was 49, Daisy was 43 and the time was right. They fell in love and had a child of their own. They had met in the middle of their lives to make a new one. But Benjamin knew that he would continue to regress, and so told Daisy to find a real father for their little girl. After all, she "couldn't raise the both of them." So, he left one night, after having sold the things that had the most monetary value in his life. He left the money with Daisy and their little girl.

Time progressed. Life went on. Daisy didn't hear from Benjamin. Until one day, she got a call to have her come back to the nursing home where they had met. Child Protective Services had found the VERY young Benjamin wandering around. He appeared to have dementia. It was an odd thing, seeing this young boy exhibit those symptoms; very disconcerting. But, Daisy visited him every day. She calmed him when he was agitated, held him when he was sad, and was present with him, even in his confusion. And, in one of the last scenes, you see a very old looking Daisy holding the infant Benjamin Button and she says, "He looked up at me with a look that told me he knew who I was, and then closed his eyes as if to sleep." Benjamin died, a very old man who looked very young.

The thing that struck me most about the movie is that it made me think more about how we lose people in different ways. Sometimes we grow apart simply because our interests change and the common bond isn't there anymore. Sometimes that horrible thief, dementia comes and robs our loved one of any memory of us. Sometimes, a person recognizes that their presence will soon become unhealthy and so leaves. And the interesting thing, at least to me, is that often, one person does not wish to give the other one up. It simply happens, adding all the more to the grief. What love Daisy showed in caring for Benjamin, even until the end. She had loved this man intimately, and now held him as if she were his mother. How sad, and yet how reminiscent of what that vile culprit, dementia does. It takes the one we have known and reverts them so they no longer know us, and in some ways, we no longer know them.

But love is always there. Even when Benjamin did not know much about even who he was, let alone those around him, Daisy loved him. Their face to face relationship ended in the same place it started. Their lives had come full circle with HER being old and HIM being young. They had experienced many things in each of their lives, and in their lives together. They had met in the middle and shared years together, until life took them apart.

I don't really have a grand theme to tie this all together. I had many more thoughts about the movie while I was watching it, but now I am tired and need to stop blogging. I recommend the movie. I hope I didn't ruin it for anyone. Goodnight.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


So, I was reading some news today,and I came across this article regarding Roland Burris and his battle to be sworn in as Illinois' new Senator. Roland Burris previously held the position of Illinois Attorney General. Our embattled governor, Rod Blagojevich, has tried to appoint Burris to President-Elect Barack Obama's Senate seat, a move that has been wildly unpopular since his arrest as one who tried to SELL said seat. I blogged before about Rod Blagojevich and how crooked he is, so that doesn't need to be reiterated here.

What I'm writing about today is that the race issue is surfacing with Mr. Burris' attempts at holding the senate seat. State Democrats have said that they did not think Blagojevich should even try to appoint someone in light of the charges against him. It would be a candidate that no one could trust because of the situation surrounding the appointment. For the most part, I think that is true. Democrats state that race is definitely not the issue surrounding their rejection of Burris' nomination. The article I mentioned earlier quotes Burris as saying he did not think race was the issue. What irks my bubbles is that many reporters are still playing this, despite everyone's FLAT OUT DENIAL that race is the issue. While racists often aren't forthcoming in their ideas about their prejudice, I honestly do not believe race is the issue here. What IS the issue is corruption that has plagued the state of Illinois for DECADES. What also angers me is that the article states that the reason Burris was rejected is that he doesn't have the proper credentials. He does not have the Illinois Secretary of State's signature on his papers. What I think is important, but was oh so conveniently left out of the MSN article, is that the Illinois Secretary of State is Jesse White; a black man.

I think that if reporters want to play the race card, they need to present all the facts. Jesse White seems like an honorable man. No "License for Bribe" scandals have surfaced under him, and I've not heard of any other corruption. Additionally, he supports young inner-city kids to keep them off the street. I don't know if he still does this, but he used to have the "Jesse White Tumblers," a group of inner-city Chicago kids who could come and learn gymnastics to keep them off the streets, out of gangs, and away from drugs. He seems to care about at-risk youth, and that should be commended. The point is, he has actively worked at making life BETTER for black people. To say that he is not interfering BECAUSE of race to keep a black man out of political office is a slap to the face. Mr. White does not NEED me to stick up for him, but I think that it is important to at least let my two or three readers know a few more of the facts regarding this issue.

I hope you all walk away a little more well-versed in Illinois politics. Ha. And I always thought I wasn't political.