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Eight Years Strong

contra by daniel

Dance Motion by Wubby

There’s a meme floating all over FB that says something like, “If you’ve been friends for seven years, you will be friends forever.” Sometimes, but not always, at least from my little chair.

It all started in 2007, when a blogger suggested I read this. So, I did. It said, “He played me a piece of music, happened to be my all time favorite (still is) although if you can hear the bagpipes I think it’s even better. Sounds like home calling me, some distant island off the coast of Ireland or Scotland. He played Amazing Grace and I went to pieces.” And, as I’m writing this at 12:59 AM, Pandora is on shuffle and guess what’s playing? THAT is what it’s all about. Coincidence? I like to think it’s more than that, it’s divine intervention. For me, it’s God telling me that this was all part of the plan, and the plan is very good.

It was like coming home to a person I’d never met, but immediately knew intimately. (Damn, those bagpipes…) Anyway, the only other person I’ve ever had this kind of connection with is my dearest Hubby, who is wondering why his crazy wife is blogging in the middle of the night when she hasn’t written a word in at least six months. She and I became acquainted in the blogosphere, and it was good.

Then, in July of 2009, I got in my car and drove 352 miles to Hatteras, Frisco to be exact, to spend 4 days with her and her girls. Although we’d never met IRL, there was no awkwardness. The first thing we did was get in the car and go for groceries. An ordinary, everyday task. At the end of those 4 days, we left the island, drove in opposite directions, and returned from Narnia back to normal life on the other side of the wardrobe . But it was a new normal.

She was already in the middle of a very painful new normal. My painful new normal had occurred a few years earlier, and was a different flavor from hers. Regardless, new normals are hard work, and she’s worked VERY hard as long as I’ve known her.

There were some striking commonalities: we both work (or worked) in the IT geek world, she’s an artist, I’m a musician. We knit. Big and little things. There were other meet-ups IRL, back at Hatteras that September, in the mountains of Todd, NC the next September. She has opened her home to me, more than once, so that I could introduce my kids to the glory of the City. We’ve celebrated birthdays in Floyd and Glen Echo, being dance gypsies. And we celebrated a birthday in The Forest.

On January 18, 2016, I turned 55 and we hit the road again, dance gypsies meeting up in Harrisonburg for a weekend of Contra and waltz and pizza and wine and marathon TV (I can now say I’ve seen The Godfather Parts 1 and 2) and silliness and seriousness, and it was wonderful. I would never have even tried Contra if not for her, and it’s become a large part of my life, a place to meet new people and forget the world and its problems and just dance. Hubby dances, Kate dances, and Wubby is making noise about trying it too, which is pretty amazing when I think about it.

We talked about life and beliefs and what is important and what isn’t. From a strictly political standpoint, we are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but there is common ground. We talked a little about religion; we talked A LOT about faith. Again, commonality in an area where it looks like we are on opposite ends of a spectrum. But, religion isn’t very important, while FAITH is vital, and I think we can agree on that. The labels come off, leaving the truth underneath, and it’s good.

We are both going through new seasons in life. Change is hard, and some lessons have to be learned by living them as opposed to looking at them from a distance and deciding that, no, I don’t think I want to walk through that one. There’s a line from Garth Brooks’ The Dance: “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

So, to Alecto, my friend, my sister: I love you. It blows my mind that you love me. You make me a better person. You challenge me to look at my core beliefs, to define what is real and what isn’t, and you do it with love. You also said this, and I will always remember:

Sometimes the heart bleeds out like you’re going to never stand again.  And sometimes there are transfusions in the most amazing places.  And sometimes you find there’s more to you or me than meets the eye… But at the end of the day, we are only worth what we can give away and the score won’t be counted until the end.

You’ve given me so much, and I can only hope that I’ve been able to reciprocate.

Here’s to the rest of our lives. We shall dance on!

(And Pandora says, “Amazing Grace” again, on a solo fiddle)

I want to do this again, very soon.

 

 

causing ironic amusement or indignation

That’s the definition; you’ll have to guess the word for yourself.

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Hubby and I are finishing up a book on marriage. One of the chapters is entitled “Embracing the Stranger”. Here’s one of the passages we highlighted:

Marriage does not so much bring you into confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself. Marriage shows you a realistic, unflattering picture of who you are and then takes you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to pay attention to it. This may sound discouraging, but it is really the road to liberation.”

It then goes on to tell a story about a couple, what each of them brought to the marriage, and how the marriage changed each of them. He was described as a loner who had little or no empathy for others. As a 4th grader, his school counselor described him as “a mild sociopath,” someone who often trampled on the feelings of others because he couldn’t sympathetically imagine what they were feeling. This character flaw caused problems for him because he couldn’t see it for what it was. She was described as “an assertive kind of woman who didn’t easily get her feelings hurt.” If he spouted off at her, she gave him right back. It seemed like they made a great couple.

Until his insensitivity towards her got worse, and she observed how he spoke to others, those who didn’t have a thick skin like she did. She could see how destructive his behavior was to others, including herself. She became disillusioned, he got scared when he saw it, and they began the journey of recovery together. She was the one person who could say to him, “Your words hurt me and I’m going to continue to tell you how I feel until you learn what your words do to people.” And that’s what she did.

Up until this point in his life, people had either just given up and withdrawn from him or had simply attacked him. She stood up to him.

Now, there are a number of ways in which she could choose to stand up to him. One way goes something like this: “LISTEN TO ME YOU %*($@ MORON! THIS IS TRUTH AND I’M GOING TO SCREAM AT YOU UNTIL YOU ACKNOWLEDGE ME BECAUSE THAT’S THE WAY I AM, TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT.”

Another way goes something like this: “I love you. Let me show you what happens when you do A. Please understand that I’m saying hard things because I love you and don’t want you to live a lonely life because of your behavior.”

She chose the second path. And something interesting happened. As she spoke the truth, IN LOVE, COMPASSION AND TENDERNESS, he began to realize that yes, indeed, he had been hurtful towards her, and others as well. He didn’t want to hurt her because he loved her. Because, whatever love is, it does not deliberately, almost gleefully, inflict pain on the beloved. So he began to change, to screen his thoughts before they came out of his mouth as hurtful words.

Simultaneously, she began to realize that her assertive nature had made it impossible for her to depend on anyone. If someone ever let her down, she just dropped them. She wanted to just drop him, but her choice to stay with him forced her to change as well. She eventually learned that she could depend on him, that she could trust him not to hurt her.

After 3 years, he had changed to become a more empathetic, thoughtful person. She had become more gentle and gracious person.

The author calls this transformation the “power of truth.”

I wonder, though, if that truth would have been as powerful if she had chosen option A.

And I wonder, too, if the same process is applicable to other relationships in our lives. And if how we use our “power of truth” might be a factor. Do we fashion that power into a sledgehammer and wield it with impunity? Or do we wrap that power in the ball of cotton a ballet dancer uses to protect her heart, that is, her toes, her feet, her soul…..so that, as the dance progresses, the soul is protected as it changes and grows.

The greatest of these

faith hope love

If I had to choose a favorite chapter from the New Testament it would be a tie between 1st Corinthians 13 – The Love Chapter – and John 14 – The Peace Chapter, or that’s how I think of it.

Everyone, Christian or not, knows 1st Corinthians 13, but just in case, here it is, English Standard Version:

The Way of Love

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Sometimes teen-aged girls have this “puppies and flowers” view of love. It’s all about romance and prince charming and dreaming of a beautiful wedding day and practicing writing your married name over and over in the back of your biology notebook.

But we all know it’s more than that. Much more.

One little piece of advice we give to students when talking about the true meaning of love is this: Take 1st Corinthians 13:4-7 and replace the word “love” with the name of your “lover”. Does it still work?

4 Hubby is patient and kind; he does not envy or boast; he is not arrogant or rude. Hubby does not insist on his own way; he is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 he does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Hubby bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

That is a tall order, and we all will fall short of that goal. But what a goal to aim for in our relationships, ALL relationships. Spouses, children, parents, friends, co-workers, enemies.? Are you serious?

Yes.

Put away childish things, like pride, arrogance, stubbornness, jealousy.

Practice Love.

So, what about John 14? It’s a long chapter, so I’m going to pull out the parts that give me peace.

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  

There’s a lot in there.

We live in a world where “peace” is impossible to achieve on our own. We’re human, and we have issues, right? How many of us walk around every day with troubled hearts? America is walking around right now with a troubled heart. Division, anger, evil. How do we get past the trouble to find the peace? The answer in John 14 is this: believe in something outside yourself, something bigger than yourself, someONE bigger than yourself.

For Christians, that someONE is Jesus. I’m a Christian, so what does this mean for me? Look to Jesus.

OK.

That next scripture up there, about doing works greater than those Jesus did while on Earth. Are you serious? Jesus performed miracles every day. He changed water into wine (I like that one!), he walked on water, he healed the sick, raised the dead, cured lepers, and the list goes on to the very end of His earthly life, when He Himself was raised from the dead.

So, another tall order. And this one sounds impossible.

Many years ago I heard Tony Campolo speak on this very subject, and I love what he had to say about it. Can we mere mortals perform the same miracles as Jesus? Probably not, although miracles do happen every day. You might call them coincidences, kismet, karma. I choose to see them as events in which God participates but chooses to remain anonymous.

But what can WE do that might even come close? Tony tells the story of traveling to Southeast Asia. As he walked through the airport he was approached by several young girls offering him their “services”. Here’s what he did: he gathered up several of them, took them to his hotel….and ordered pizza and rented some Disney movies. For one night, those girls got to be children again. For one night, it was slumber party time. They laughed, ate pizza and popcorn, watched movies, and got to know each other as human beings instead of sex slaves. It was one night, just one night. But, for that one night, they experienced a miracle.

His story didn’t end there, but this is enough for me to make a point.

I wonder if any of those girls knew anything about 1st Corinthians 13. If they had ever heard the “Love Chapter”. My guess is that, even if they had, the experiences of their daily lives didn’t come anywhere close to that definition.

What a world we live in.

And so, what’s the point?

Maybe the point is this: if we take the definition of love and start applying it to our relationships, miracles might start happening. Broken people healed. Broken marriages restored. Broken families reunited.

And aren’t they miracles?

Finally, let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Do not fear.

Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes Humpty is so broken that there’s nothing to do except to sweep up the pieces and move on, and that can be scary.

Do not fear.

Sometimes the universe throws us a curveball.

Do not fear.

Sometimes we are asked to step way outside our comfort zone. Sometimes we’re pushed.

Do not fear.

Practice Love.

Receive Peace.

The post that WordPress ate

piano

I haven’t exactly been ignoring my blog. Really, I haven’t. I had written a very nice post right after Christmas that started to explain why I’m in the state I’m in now — utter confusion.

Then WordPress ate my post. Bless its heart.

It went something like this:

Mudderella: I came, I fell (hard) on my already irritated knee, I walked 1 mile through 1 mud and tapped out. Alecto and Cletus took Kate in hand and the three of them finished. They were awesome.

Post-Mudderella: remember that knee that bitched BEFORE I fell on it? Well, it became very testy after Mudderella so I took it back to the MD. Turns out it was unhappy because it had a torn meniscus and a ganglion cyst AND a benign tumor gumming up the works. So on October 30 it had major surgery, 6 inch incision, and a recovery that was worse than that of a knee replacement because I couldn’t bend it for 6 weeks unless I was flat on my back. All walking had to be done with a walker and in a knee immobilizer. MD threw in some more microfracturing (had that done in 2007) in hopes that we could put off knee replacement for another 10 years or so. It’s getting better, but it’s going to take about a year for full recovery. In this case, full recovery means BETTER than it was before, so I’m OK with that.

The beginning of the crisis in which my lizard brain ran away:

We did the gypsy Christmas thing and went up the mountain to visit Hubby’s family. On the way home I was surfing XM looking for anything besides Christmas and found this:

It’s called Vocalise because Rachmaninoff wrote it to be sung just like that. I used to play a transcribed version of it on the piano, back when I could still play. After it was over, I plugged up the old smart phone and hunted down more Rachmaninoff to listen to, landed on the 2nd Piano Concerto, which I absolutely adore. Yeah, I know the critics don’t like it as well as the 3rd, but hey, it’s my life.

So we’re headed back down the mountain and I’m listening and thinking and Kate is snoozing in the back seat. Wubby and girlfriend had also accompanied us, first time he’d seen the family in at least 5 years. My thought process was something like this:

I will never play the 2nd at Carnegie Hall. I could have chased that dream but probably wouldn’t have caught it, and in the chasing I would have lost the life that gave me Hubby and Kate and Wubby. So it’s all good.

Only it’s not. Because before there was a Hubby and a Wubby and a Kate, there was a piano. Because there was always a piano. Because MY lizard brain needs music like a Southerner’s lizard brain needs 4 loaves of bread and 2 gallons of milk when the weatherman predicts 1/4″ of possible snow. And I have ignored that fact, about my lizard, for way too long and life is getting way short on time.

In case you’re not familiar with Rachmaninoff’s 2nd, part of it turned into this. It’s the long version because the radio jocks in the 70’s cut out the part that starts at 2:57. That’s the good part. It’s not verbatim concerto, but it captures the essence.

There it is. And there goes my lizard.

Meeting Ulysses and Thomas

It’s been history week for us. Kate loves history so we left out Monday morning and drove to Appomattox. And we got lucky. They were filming at Appomattox for a new movie to be shown at the Visitor’s Center, so there were several people walking around in period costume. As we walked into the square we were stopped because they were filming a scene with a wagon carrying an elderly gentleman and a little girl that came barreling into the square. We took the back way into the Visitor’s Center, picked up a guide, and proceeded upstairs to see the current video presentation.

And two words into that presentation I lost it. Those words: April 12. Hubby had a nephew that was born on April 12. I wrote about him here. He was a civil war re-enactor, among other things, and he took his own life at age 21 in 1993. We’ll never understand why, and we miss him every day.

As we left the Visitor’s Center and headed into the square, we saw someone who looked vaguely familiar. Upon closer inspection we discovered himself, General Ulysses S. Grant, portrayed brilliantly by Dr. Curtis Fields. He talked with several of us for quite a while and never broke character.

Kate and Me with the General

Kate and Me with the General

Alecto thinks I look like I’m going to drag him off to a hanging or something. I assured her that I was just suffering from the heat, or something!

Here is a video I found of Dr. Fields on Youtube:

I have a great deal of respect for those who work diligently to ensure that our history is preserved. As Dr. Fields talked with the children, he constantly reminded us that “the kids are the past’s future.” I’m not saying that we’re still fighting the Civil War, although we do joke about it from time to time. I am saying that our country’s history is important, and needs to be preserved. Dr. Fields takes great pains to ensure that his portrayal is accurate, drawing much of his information from General Grant’s own personal journals.

It was a powerful hot day, so we continued our visit at Appomattox by visiting the jail house (dismal place) and the McLean House where the actual surrender meeting occurred. We also took in the preserved general store, which reminded me so much of the little country store my great-grandfather used to run in Fancy Gap. As we walked back through the parking lot to the car, we saw General Lee coming through the lot headed back to the site for the afternoon’s filming. Because he was in the parking lot and not actually on site, we didn’t take much of his time but did stop long enough to thank him for his service in helping to preserve our country’s history as well. He was very humble.

We headed to Staunton to spend the night. After dinner we drove around town a little and discovered the local shopping mall. Or, what’s left of it. Most of the stores were boarded up, and the few that were open were virtually empty. It was sad and a bit surreal. Parts of it reminded me of some of the pictures you see coming from Detroit these days.

Tuesday morning we headed east across Afton Mountain to Charlottesville and Monticello. We got there early so we could walk around the grounds before our tour time, and before the heat became unbearable. The grounds are beautiful, just as I remembered them from the last time I was there, about 40 years ago. (There’s another scary thought that I don’t want to think about right now. As Scarlett says, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”)

We took the self-guided tours of the “dependencies” of the house-the slave quarters, kitchens and storage areas that are underneath the main house. Then we headed for the starting point for the actual house tour.

Monticello is beautiful. Period.

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After the tour we walked a bit more, then walked back down the hill to the visitor’s center before heading for home.

We had in interesting conversation about “haunted houses” when Kate asked if I thought Monticello was haunted. I said, “Of course it is, but probably not in the way you think I mean.” We talked about the memories contained in any given place, and wondered what it would be like to be able to access those memories in some tangible way. I think about that every time I drive past the old general store and house where my great-grandparents lived and worked, or when I pass the house in Christiansburg where my parent’s lived until Daddy’s death almost 10 years ago. I wonder how it could be 10 years already. I look at the pictures Kate took of me and I see my grandmother looking back at me, and again, I wonder how that could have happened, and happened so quickly.

We are all the total sum of our individual histories, and I think maybe we are also greater than the sum of our parts, if that makes any sense. During our walk through the underbelly of Monticello, we got to inspect one of the “indoor privies”. I told Kate about how, when I was a child, we used to play hide and seek and if you were unlucky enough to be “it”, you had to hide in the outhouse and count to 100 while everyone else hid. She said she would have cheated on the counting, and I said that of course we did too! Kate has no concept of actually having to use an outhouse for anything, and I have a hard time grasping the fact that, during my lifetime, there were people who still did. And they didn’t live out in the boonies, they were in town. Yesterday I watched a series on the History channel about the Nasa years, and I remember those heady days of our trips to the moon. Today I noticed the half-moon in the summer sky and I started thinking about the fact that humans have actually walked on that surface.

History. What does it mean, for us as individuals and for us as a nation, and for the world? Heavy stuff for a summer day.

Kate has decided that she would like to be a Civil War re-enactor like her cousin.  It makes me cry. We named her after her cousin because she was born three weeks after he died. I think a part of him lives on in her. She looks like him too.

How does this happen?

And how did THIS happen?

More time on my hands

I have that, because last week I got “sidelined” from my job. By “sidelined” I think she means, “Go away.” Whatever.

So, on to other concerns. The big one is my knee. Right knee. Had surgery on it a few years back, maybe 2007? Anyway it’s not happy about the Mudderella training, to the point where the pain is constant. I am avoiding calling the doctor because I already know what he’s going to say: “Can’t fix that.” And, “You’re crazy if you think you’re doing a mud run in 2 months.” Mud walk?

Another one: Kate. Send happy thoughts her way. She’s having some trouble adjusting to having to deal with other people. We’re all introverts around here, but she’s really got a case of it.

But, August is coming and yes, we are the kind of people who go on vacation. I’ve heard that that means we aren’t living an authentic life. Three cheers for fake life. I’m looking forward to my fake life week at the beach with friends and family.

So sue me.

Did I mention I have an attitude problem? I “heart” my attitude problem.

 

Up the mountain and down the other side

It’s 2 days after the hike, and I can say I accomplished my goal, which was to go camping for 3 days and hike the 4.1 mile Fall Mountain trail. I can also say, “Ouch, that hurts!” but that was to be expected.

See that? That’s at lake level and it’s super easy. The trail follows the lake for a bit, then takes a left turn and heads pretty much straight up the mountain. There were some switchbacks to help, but it was a rather steep ascent.

I survived the Fall Mountain trail without falling, but not without *thinking* about falling! The trail itself is a loop, so you can hike it from either direction. Half of it is steep and the other half is pretty moderate. We decided to go UP the steep side and come down the moderate side, which was a pretty good decision in hindsight. My knee is not happy with me today, 2 days after the hike. I can’t imagine how it would feel if I’d gone down the steep side instead of up, since going down seems to bother the knee more. On the way up we would occasionally stop and look back down to where we started and my self-talk started getting scared. “This is REALLY steep. There’s NO ONE else on the trail. If you fall, you are gonna DIE.” Fun stuff like that. At one point I seriously debated turning around and going back down that steepness, but we pushed on. Very glad we did. It took us about 2.5 hours of pretty steady hiking to finish the trail, and I guess for a couple of out-of-shape 50-somethings that’s not too bad. At any rate, I was happy with myself.

There wasn’t much of a view from the top but that’s ok. It wasn’t about the view. It was about setting a goal and then accomplishing it, and that’s what we did.

Ah, but the rest of the weekend….camping was interesting to say the least. Wasn’t as crowded as we expected, with it being a holiday weekend. Bugs weren’t too bad. Food was good as always. The people watching….well, there’s a story.

Our first neighbors across the road were very friendly, a family from one of the military bases nearby. The 16-year-old girl was impressed that I was camping in a dress, which was what I put on after the shower because it was easy. Turns out, I like camping in beach dresses, even when I’m not at the beach. So there. She also like our method of washing dishes, which I learned from Alecto back on Hatteras all those 5 years ago! She even asked to borrow our dishpans. Cute, cute, cute.

Unfortunately, those neighbors left and some new ones rolled in, two twenty-something couples, one of which fit the description of “pet parents” to a t. They were loud, constantly talking over each other. They played (c)rap music, loudly, as they tried to put up their tent. It fell a couple of times in the process, but they finally managed to get it to stay up. Then the drinking games began.

Did I mention that this is a state park, and they have a rule about alcoholic beverages? The rule is: don’t. I know the rangers sort of look the other way as long as people are behaving themselves and not being obvious. But these guys were OBVIOUS. About 10:15 PM (quiet time starts at 10) hubby mentioned to them that they might want to keep the noise down before they got into trouble. Thus ended the (c)rap. About 15 minutes later, though, the park ranger strolled into their camp and he was NOT happy. They weren’t arrested, but they did have to pour out the rest of the 24-pack of Bud Lite and were escorted to the trash cans to deposit the empties. About 2 minutes after that, a ranger pulled up in a truck to empty the trash cans. We don’t know if someone turned them in, or if the park ranger himself noticed what was going on. They were very quiet the next morning, packed up quickly and left. As they were packing, they again got loud and it was very easy to overhear their conversation. Turns out that at least one of the them was either a med student, resident or full on doctor. The lack of judgement displayed the previous evening became disturbing to me after learning that.

Ah, but the other neighbors. One one side of us was Adam and Steve. They were quiet and very discreet. On the other side of us were Amanda and Eve and they were neither, which was disconcerting. Eve was a rather large woman who insisted on wearing, um, inappropriate clothing. Sports bra and yoga capris with the top rolled down and the midriff spilling over quite a bit. Lovely, really.

Whatever.

So, what did I learn this weekend? That I can set my mind to a goal and then achieve it, as long as the goal is reasonable. I also learned that my right knee does not like it when I do that. It’s a concern, what with Mudderella coming up in 2 months.

I also learned that I missed Kate a lot and wish she would give camping a try. The people-watching alone makes it worthwhile!