Category Archives: Rave

Random thoughts about COVID-19

Listen to Tony

Listen to whatever Anthony Fauci says. He’s likely the leading expert in this right now. He is the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had friends and family ask my husband, (who works at NIAID) what he thinks about COVID-19, what he advised them to do. His response has been, “listen to Tony”. As of this afternoon, Dr. Fauci is saying don’t go to restaurants or bars or other crowded places, and of course wash your hands and don’t touch your face.

Also:

“You know, I would prefer as much as we possibly could,” Fauci responded. “I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, March 15, 2020

Our next crisis might be clogged sewers

Update:UK’s sewage system in danger of gridlock from toilet paper substitutes

With all the panicked toilet paper hording, many people have resorted to buying facial tissues and at least one Facebook friend posted a photo of dinner napkins she bought when she could find no toilet paper. I even heard that one newspaper printed 8 blank pages for emergency toilet paper. Other Facebook friends are discussing what to do when all the paper in the house is used up (take a shower for #2 was one response). My immediate thought is don’t flush those facial tissues or napkins or paper towels. Hell, don’t even flush “flushable personal wipes”.

King Arthur Flour is out of flour

Of course. The hoarders bought up all the flour in stores, but I never would expect the king of flour to run out of flour! But it has. I can deal with no TP but I really need to bake bread. If not for eating, to deal with anxiety.

I deleted my Facebook app

I had a meltdown Friday night after spending the past couple days and several hours on Friday reading articles people posted on Facebook. I was convinced I was going to die and not live to see my retirement date or sit on the brand new deck or in the brand new “lodge” in warm weather. I would tell you what the articles were, but I don’t want you to have a meltdown too. Listen to Tony…

Facebook is not all bad

I did see some amusing things on Facebook today after I recovered from Friday’s meltdown*. My favorite was someone who’d just cleaned out their deep freezer after 20 years: “Threw out old frozen foods, the freeze dried remains of two budgies and ten betta fish, and found where the good glass containers were hiding.” I told them that they should use this as the first line in a short story or novel.


*just because I deleted my app does not mean I am not reading Facebook sometimes…

Ten things I like about me

…in no particular order…

  1. My sense of humor — it is quirky and sometimes dark.
  2. I can still see the world through a child’s eyes and can be childlike (more often than adultlike, I fear)
  3. My cooking. I really like the food I make, at least most of the time
  4. My writing. While not as good as some, I feel that I write well and it is something I love to do.
  5. I like how I set out to ensure my kids became readers and they did. I have no doubt it had a lot to do with seeing me read, having me read to them and talking about books with them from a young age.
  6. The Illinois-shaped birthmark on my inner right calf.
  7. I treasure my values and the fact that I continue to strive to be a better person, morally and ethically, all the time.
  8. I like that I have an open mind about many things, except maybe certain foods — like I don’t want to ever (knowingly) eat a bug.
  9. I like that I can identify more birds than the average human.
  10. I like that I raised (okay, helped raise) two outstanding humans. When I dismiss it as genetics, they both assure me that it was much more than that.

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

When my book group read Big Little Lies a couple years ago I was a little embarrassed how much I enjoyed the book. I even enjoyed the HBO adaptation (and am rewatching it with Dean). Because I’d read Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty books kept being recommended to me but I resisted until last fall when I read Moriarty’s The Last Anniversary.

After that I made sure to check for Moriarty’s books on sale at Amazon on a daily basis and was rewarded on February 4th when it was on sale for $2.99 ((maybe I need to revise my reading challenge to allow for deeply discounted books?)). I downloaded it and read it within a week.

Moriarty’s books are definitely plot-driven ((until a former intellectual-snob neighbor made a derisive remark about plot-driven books, I assumed all books were plot-driven, otherwise why read them?)). She often begins  her books with the ending, but just enough of the ending to make you keep reading in order to find out what happened. In Three Wishes she begins the book with a scene at a restaurant in which a pregnant woman is stabbed in the abdomen with a fork by another woman at her table. The book then goes back and tells the story from the beginning. The author throws in the occasional viewpoint of a stranger.

I definitely loved this book and I don’t care that it is not high literature. It was a fun book to read and I plan on reading as many of Liane Moriarty’s books as I can. I already have four or five on hold at the library.

In which Arthur and Benedict bring me JOY!

As some of you know, my mother died last August, three days after my 60th birthday. She’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years before she died, and I suspect she’d had it for even more years before the diagnosis.

I stopped sleeping well about two or three years ago – waking up at night worrying about my mother and feeling guilty that I was not helping out more. After her death, the feelings of guilt stopped, but other worries took their place, so I continued to wake up at night worrying about this or that – work, the election, and other things I don’t want to discuss here.

Whether or not it was the general feeling of anxiety, grief over my mom’s health and death, or a by-product of not sleeping, I must have been in a state of situational depression for some time. Not that I always felt unhappy – but I never felt completely happy and some things that used to interest me didn’t interest me anymore – birds, reading, cooking…

I’d vowed to get back into reading – especially books that interested me. Most of the books we’d read for book group were fine, but only a few really caught my attention and made me want to stay up reading them all night. Two of those books were about men of my general age who for different reasons discovered new things about themselves in the course of the books. One book was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and the other was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

Cover of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. A man sitting on a sofaAmazon recommends books based on books you buy and in March a book called The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick was recommended and was on sale for $1.99 so I purchased it. It looked like something I would like, but I didn’t start reading it until last week. I liked it immediately and early in the morning on July 11th I was halfway finished with the book. Sitting on our back porch, I put the book down, took a sip of coffee, looked out through the screen at the bird-filled backyard and I felt something I’d not felt in a very long time. I felt JOY! All Caps with an exclamation point and bold font JOY!

It took me by such surprise and I realized that I could not even remember the last time I felt pure JOY! that I began crying. I cried because there were so many times over the past few years that I should have felt this way – when I saw my daughter after a long absence; when my brother married the love of his life; when my son graduated from Oberlin. I cried because I’d wasted so much time on being angry or resentful or guilty or scared or despairing.

Then I wondered where the feeling came from. Coffee? No, I drank it every day. Sitting on the back porch? No, I did that every day too. Hearing birdsong and watching birds? No, again, that was a daily event. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper? Bingo, it was Arthur Pepper’s search for who his wife was before they met that did the trick, I am sure of it. In fact, I’ve been on a similar search – I’ve been going through items I brought back from my mother’s house and trying to find meaning in them. Why did Mom have them? Where did they come from? Who had them before she did? I think I suddenly realized that even though I’d lost my mother in August (really, years before that) I’d not lost the memories of her and could make more memories because of the items from her house. I mean, I have not even got to the letters and have only touched upon the photographs.

Cover of Rise & Shine Benedict StoneSince that epiphanous Tuesday, I’ve been able to sleep through the night (with a slight hiccup this week because of a work issue) and have been able to deal better with things that would have made me angry, resentful, or despairing before that Tuesday. Maybe I am done with the grief – the grief that I told everyone, including myself, I didn’t feel.

This morning as I sat on the back porch drinking coffee, watching the birds, listening to bird chatter I once again felt JOY! This time, the book I’d just put down was Rise and Shine Benedict Stone, Phaedra Patrick’s second book. Coincidently, I am halfway through it.

So this is not a book review but a too-long, twisty-turny open thank-you letter to Phaedra Patrick who I hope continues to write charming, witty, life-changing novels. And no, I don’t believe we are related but it would be cool if we were.

RAS 5: Come Along with Me — Shirley Jackson

Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and purchase a copy of Shirley Jackson’s posthumously published short story collection Come Along With Me. If you have read anything by Shirley Jackson before, you know this has got to be good. If you have never read anything by Shirley Jackson, what are you waiting for?

I, like most of the world, was introduced to Shirley Jackson through reading her short story, The Lottery, in high school. It wasn’t until years later when I picked up her books about raising her children that I realized what a wonderful writer she was. After reading Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages I moved on to We Have Always Lived in the Castle and fell madly in love.

Come Along with Me is the name of her incomplete novel which is about a woman who escapes from her past reinvents herself.

The rest of the book has something for everyone: Humor (Pajama Party and The Night we all had Grippe); Mystery (A Visit and The Bus); Suspense (The Little House); Drama (The Summer People and The Rock); and Non-fiction (Three Lectures: Experience and Fiction, Biography of a Story, and Notes for a Young Writer).

At some point, I must make time to read all her novels. Maybe after this Read-a-Shelf thing is over.

Statistics: Stats: 243 pages (paperback). Started October 2016, finished May 23, 2017.

Pastor Keith does it again

Nearly 6 years ago I wrote a post about how Pastor Keith helped us through our father’s death and I shared the amazing sermon he gave at my father’s funeral. I’m here now to let you know that he did it again, this time at my mother’s memorial service. We were not entirely sure this would be possible because Pastor Keith moved from my mother’s church to a different church, but since Mom was so fond of Pastor Keith and she’d never met the interim pastor at her church until she was on hospice care, Kevin and I (mostly Kevin) made sure Pastor Keith was able to be involved.

A few days before the memorial service Pastor Keith called to get some ideas for the sermon. We talked about mom’s qualities, about her illness, about her friends, about Kevin’s upcoming wedding. I also shared with Pastor Keith the dream I had the night my mother died.

Without further comment, here’s his sermon:

Funeral Sermon for Patricia Ann Patrick (February 16, 1936–August 26, 2016)
Texts: John 14:1–4 and Romans 8:18–21
Preached: September 9, 2016 at Moss-Norris Funeral Home, St. Charles, Illinois

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, in whose house are many, many rooms, and from Christ Jesus, who has gone to prepare a place for us. AMEN

I’m grateful to Pat Patrick’s family, and to Pr. Michael Rothaar, for inviting me to participate in this service for Pat Patrick this evening. I was Pat’s pastor for five years, and she holds a special place in my heart. Pat was the only parishioner I’ve had, and I suspect will be the only parishioner I ever will have, who invariably as she was leaving worship on a Sunday morning would bow her head in front of me as she was leaving the service and… would kiss my ring. I don’t know for sure how that started, but she did it week in and week out. Someone a couple of years ago noticed her doing this, and privately afterwards said, “Pastor, do you think that’s a sign of the Alzheimer’s?” And I had to laugh and say, “No, no, not at all, she was doing that long before that became an issue! That’s just Pat.” And even after her mind became clouded, she never failed to kiss my ring, and then would smile sweetly and somewhat slyly at me. There was a delightful, childlike quality about her, an almost pixie-like quality, that enabled her to look at the world with wonder, and to laugh that infectious laugh, and to get away with some slightly goofy behaviors that only she could get away with. You can see that delight in the photos of her as a young woman—still a girl, really—as she looks up adoringly at Elvin as he embraces her. Even when she went through trying times across the years, through difficulties and challenges and losses, she still kept that air of eagerness, that spirit of amazed wonderment.

Earlier this week, Pat’s daughter Dona shared with me an experience she had the night of Pat’s death that I think in some way captures that quality. Dona had finally gone to bed that night, sleeping near Pat’s bed, knowing that the end of this life was not far off. As she slept, Dona began to dream. And in her dream, she saw Pat get up out of bed, all dressed in white. There were windows all around. It wasn’t Kevin’s house, but some other place. And in the dream, Pat kept heading toward the windows, drawn like a moth to a flame. She would get up close to a window, and would stand with her hands behind her back like a child who has been told not to touch something very precious, standing up on her tiptoes, straining delightedly, expectantly to see what there was on the other side of the glass, as though there were something of great beauty and fascination to be seen that she couldn’t quite make out. She went from window to window, trying to get a clearer view. Others in the dream kept coming and trying to tug Pat back to her bed, but she couldn’t be held back…she kept going back to the window to stand on tiptoes. Finally, someone took hold of her and pushed her into Dona’s arms, but not even that could keep her from the irresistible attraction of the sight she was straining to see. And suddenly, she broke free from Dona’s grasp, and instantly was transformed into sparkles of light. And at that moment, Dona awoke, and Kevin told her that their mom was gone.

When I heard that account, I was immediately reminded of some verses of scripture, actually verses that come just before the very same passage that Pr. Rothaar read a few moments ago from the Letter to the Romans. This letter was written by the Apostle Paul to people who were going through profoundly difficult struggles in their lives, people who were being persecuted and even killed, people who needed to hear a word of hope and encouragement, people who were unsure about what might lie in store for them. And in the verses that we heard, there is that stirring affirmation that not even death itself, not even life itself, can hold us back from the love that God shows to us in Christ Jesus. Those are amazing words to hear. We can have confidence in them. But now I want you to hear what Paul had to say just before those words. These verses come from another translation that I think captures something very important, and it’s why what Dona had to say caught my attention. Listen to them:

18-21 In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the children of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God! (Romans 8:18–21, J.B. Phillips Version)

“The whole creation is on tiptoe…” Most translations give a very dry, “The creation waits with eager longing,” but the original Greek word there is actually very picturesque, describing the whole head being stretched forward, trying to see something wonderful that is about to come. And that is what I pictured when I heard Dona describe her mother in that dream, darting from window to window, standing on tiptoe, hands behind her back, craning to peek into those rooms Christ has prepared to see the wonderful sight of the future God has planned for her and for us. As the children of God, we need have no fear of death, because we have the incredible assurance that death is not the end, that there is resurrection life that will be even more wonderful than anything we’ve experienced so far, when “the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!” We can approach even our own mortality with expectancy and hope.

Now I can’t tell you exactly what lies just the other side of the glass. Scripture says that right now we see only in a darkened, obscure way, only catching a pale reflection of the glory that will be. But Jesus often gives us word pictures of what God’s fully realized reign will look like, as did the prophets before him, and one of my favorite images is of a wedding banquet, a great feast where there is joy and laughter, where there is plenty for all, where the wine flows freely and the food is abundant, where all those who have struggled, all those who have experienced sorrow and crying, all those who have suffered in body or mind, will be brought in as welcome guests to enjoy the fullness that God has intended for each of us from the very beginning of creation, brought to sit at the banqueting table in their rightful places as beloved children and heirs of God.

I couldn’t help thinking of that picture on this evening, knowing that tomorrow Kevin and Connie, along with some of the same folks gathered in this room tonight to mourn, will be feasting and dancing as they celebrate their marriage to one another at their own wedding banquet. Yes, it’s a contrast, but I think it’s a beautiful expression of a very deep truth: Even in our profoundest sorrow, we can stand on tiptoe, eagerly awaiting joy. And as I picture Pat standing at the window, up on her tiptoes, I think maybe what she was glimpsing was that great marriage feast that will have no end, where she will join with all those claimed by God as God’s own beloved children, completely restored in body, completely restored in mind, sorrows forgotten, tears dried, and infectious laughter ringing out in wondering delight at the magnificent gift of life and freedom that is hers as a daughter of God claimed by Christ Jesus in baptism. And I picture her bowing her head and kissing in gratitude the hand of the one who has invited her to the feast, then looking up and smiling that sweet smile. And that, sisters and brothers, is very, very Good News. Thanks be to God. AMEN

The Return of the Peripatetic Son

Andrew graduated in May, spent a few days with us then went off on his post-graduation summer travels. First he went to Colorado with a couple friends by way of a circuitous route and flew back to Maryland about a week later. Not long after that he flew to Seattle with his bike and very few other possessions to embark on a 1300 or so mile solo cycling trip to San Diego.

We heard from him weekly along the way (a predetermined compromise from several times a week) about how his trip was going. He spent a few days with friends in Seattle, then took the long way to Olympia to visit Clare. He tried to cycle to Portland, but was picked up along the way by Clare and friends. He spent more time in Portland (but didn’t participate in the Naked Bike Ride even though he thought about it.)

The next time we heard from him he was in Newport, Oregon setting up his campsite. He told us he was living on rice and beans cooked over a small cooker and it was getting old.

11717422_4434734826193_956547921161502244_oWe heard from him again when he was in San Francisco where he was able to meet up with some of Dean’s cousins. He stayed a day or so with Joanne, one of Dean’s cousins.

Andrew and I had a nice conversation when he was somewhere in the middle of California. He lamented that his trip was more than half over but was really happy he was doing it.

It seemed like more than a week, but we finally heard (though Tal) that Andrew was on his way to Santa Barbara where he was going to spend some time with our friend Tal. When he got to Santa Barbara Tal set up a Skype chat. Andrew, Tal and I talked for half an hour or so. Tal knew I was anxious to see how Andrew was doing and I am forever grateful to him for that gift.

11224305_10153139103781523_278894187786000153_nAfter that I saw some Facebook posts from a friend of Clare’s showing Andrew in Topanga having fun with some dogs and swinging on a rope. He called us sometime around then and said he’d stayed with Dean’s Uncle Ed and Aunt Fran in Pasadena one night.

We talked to Andrew a couple of times in the last couple of weeks. Once when he was in Baja California and again on Sunday when he called me from New Orleans for my birthday. Again he repeated that the trip was a great one in which he learned things about himself, was able to reflect on his life and he met some great people along the way.

Andrew comes home tomorrow morning. Home meaning the home in which he spent most of his life so far, but I know that before long he will have a new “home”. None of us know what is going to happen in the future. All I hope for is that Andrew be happy in whatever he does next.

I am so proud of both Andrew and Clare. They have both turned out to be amazing adults. I cannot wait to see what happens next.