“I’m tired of being around unhappy people”

Somebody posted that on Facebook today. I understand, believe me. Unhappy people make me sad, and unhappy, too.

But, unfortunately, I don’t have blinders on.

I see the poor blamed for their poverty.

I see immigrants blamed for wanting to escape corruption in their own countries.

I see hungry people being demeaned when they try to access food – FOOD.

I see our government spending obscene amounts of money on weapons of war against our neighbors.

I will see people dying because they can’t afford their medications or a visit to the doctor.

I see people living on the streets.

I see privately owned prisons and “detention facilities” getting rich by warehousing people.

I see people in cities being made homeless by the effects of global warming.

I see young people who would desperately love more education being denied it because they don’t have funds.

I’m sorry, I can’t just whine about wishing everyone around me was happy. I have to speak out when I see injustice. I have to march, and make phone calls, and send emails and text messages, and nag, and point it out when I hear lies from elected officials or worse still from “nominal” Christians. I CAN NOT bury my head in the sand, and complain when other people are unhappy. I have to find out why they are unhappy, and I have to help them solve whatever problems they may have. 

Still Possible

(Many thanks to MaryAnn McKibben Dana for her great workbook that gave me an opportunity to review 2016 and to begin to set intentions for 2017. You can get yours here.)

In any case, here is my year-end post for 2016.

REVIEW

Major Highlights

This life-long Presbyterian got to attend General Assembly for the first time. I didn’t go as a commissioner, but I did go as a volunteer and got to meet many of my on-line friends in person for the first time. I also got to renew friendships with folks I met years ago. The open atmosphere, and loving acceptance of racial, sexual, and gender differences was healing to my jaundiced heart.

2016-06-19-17-09-55

2016-06-19-17-09-43

Co-Moderators of the General Assembly Jan Edmiston and Denise Anderson

2016-06-18-16-09-45

Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Also, this fall I was elected Vice-Moderator of Olympia Presbytery and installed in the November meeting to take office January 1, 2017

capture

Major Lowlights

There were two deaths in my generation in my family and two deaths of women who were good friends of mine here at Franke Tobey Jones. There are big holes in my heart and in my life with these folks gone.

The outcome of the election was also a major lowlight. However, from that came a resolve for me to be kinder, and to resist all forms of persecution. I finally decided that I was tired of being “tolerant” of those people who spew hate. I am resolved to call out bigotry wherever I find it. That’s what my safety-pin says to the world.

2016-11-11-09-58-23

Physical Health

I kept off part of the weight I lost in 2014. Two trips in the spring, and three trips in the fall found 15 additional pounds on me (I have no control over what is served to me on Amtrak and I have no willpower when everybody else is having desert). It’s also almost impossible to exercise when you’re traveling. I’m still able to completely control my diabetes with exercise and diet, and I no longer have to take statins for high cholesterol. I try to exercise regularly by walking, and sessions on the NuStep (although I need to put strength workouts back into my routine). Tai Chi has fallen by the wayside.

Mental Health

My faith in God remains strong, and I’m in a very supportive, loving, affirming church environment. I can’t begin to say how much those people mean to me.

I attend Bible Study at the church almost every week, and it has deepened my understanding and faith.

The affirmation of being elected to the office of Vice-Moderator of Presbytery was a major boost to my ego and mental health.

Social

I have burrowed further into the community where I live. I walk weekly with a group from the church (and then we drink coffee afterwards), so friendships are deepening there. We also have an informal group from Franke Tobey Jones who meet for Happy Hour once a week. During the warm weather we met at the Gazebo next to our house, but when it’s too cold to sit outside comfortably in the evenings, we meet in my living room.

Sadly, we lost more of our friends here this year. Two of my best friends (part of the Gazebo Group) died suddenly, but not unexpectedly. We have been able to welcome a couple of newcomers into our circle. It’s all part of the rhythm of life – folks leave and new people arrive.

My cousin, who is just a year older than I am, lost her husband suddenly this spring, and my brother-in-law died suddenly right before Thanksgiving. When death comes to my generation, it reminds me once again of the impermanence of life.

2016-11-27-16-37-39

The good thing about funerals is that the family gets together. Here are all three of my siblings. We haven’t all been together since my son’s wedding in 2013.

Gardening

I had a vegetable garden again this year,

IMG_0583

and I grew green beans, tomatoes, squash, and peppers. I also had an artichoke plant that made up for lost time this year. I got 25 artichokes of off the one plant. I had such a bumper crop of squash and tomatoes that I was able to donate over 100 lbs of food to the food bank. Al and I ate all the tomatoes, squash, and green beans we wanted.

2016-05-07-10-54-07

Political Commentary

I have not been able to write anything about my reaction to the election. I was struck dumb for almost a month over the fact that hatred, misogyny, racism, jingoism, sexism, paternalism and hetero-normity won out. I have decided I will do what I can to resist this scourge of evil. I remind myself that rarely is a society changed from the top down, rather big change comes slowly and through small people doing kind things. Eventually, the selfishness will founder in the face of goodness. I’m checking my news sources and trying, in my small part, to keep to the truth, and to believe that goodness will prevail.

RELEASE

I’m bidding a farewell to 2016. It was a rough year in some respects. Unfortunately many of the good things were overshadowed by death, and loss. The major thing I’m taking with me into 2017 is a new confidence in myself and a new resolve to not let hatred win.

Happy New Year to all of you, gentle readers. Tomorrow I’ll bring you my “intentions”!

 

At the Gate of the Year

(Many thanks to MaryAnn McKibben Dana for her great workbook that gave me an opportunity to review 2015 and to begin to set intentions for 2016. You can get yours here.)

Everybody seems to be getting into the act of encouraging you to review, release, and resolve. Even The Container Store added their two cents worth.*

Pastor Sarah handed out Star Words in church on Sunday. I got “Listening” and I’m still not sure what to do with it. It found me, so I guess I need to pay attention to it.

In any case, here is my year-end/new year post for 2015/2016.

REVIEW

Major Highlights

DSCN1021

Our family came to see us and help celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary. It was wonderful to get to know Ray’s wife and her kid better, and to reconnect with Bill, his wife, and the grandkids.

2015-09-28 16.46.28

We had a wonderful trip across Canada on Via Rail,

2015-10-04 13.41.07

Then cruised from Quebec to New York City on board the Queen Mary II,

2015-10-22 10.19.47

And rode Amtrak back home through the central Rockies in the snow (in October!).

Physical Health

I (for the most part) kept off the weight I lost in 2014. I didn’t pay any attention to my diet while we were travelling and while the kids were here, so I guess I can count it as a win that I am entering 2016 about the same weight as I entered 2015. I’m still able to completely control my diabetes with exercise and diet, and I no longer have to take statins for high cholesterol, so that’s a big win for the year. I am exercising regularly by walking, and sessions on the NuStep (although I need to put strength workouts back into my routine). I have also kept up with Tai Chi a couple of times a week.

IMG_0489

A group of us from FTJ walked along the sound at Owen Beach every week on a Friday. It made a nice outing for many of those who wouldn’t otherwise get away from our hilltop.

Mental Health

My faith in God remains strong, and I’m in a very supportive, loving, affirming church environment. I can’t begin to say how much those people mean to me.

I have had a mindfulness practice (I call it Centering Prayer) for quite a while, and this fall I was introduced to Headspace. It is a guided meditation that is helping me be more accepting, generous, loving, and calm. I can highly recommend it.

Social

I have burrowed further into the community where I live. I walk weekly with a group from the church (and then we drink coffee afterwards), so friendships are deepening there. We also have an informal group from Franke Tobey Jones who meet for Happy Hour once a week. During the summer we met at the Gazebo next to our house, but since it got too cold to sit outside comfortably in the evenings, they are coming to my living room.

k2-_eaacf709-02fb-45ee-877d-e3fd89bd1acc.v1

Big Al and I gave each other a fire pit for Christmas, and have installed it in the Gazebo. We are trying to get the powers that be here at FTJ to enclose the Gazebo with removable Plexiglas panels or something so it is usable year round.

Sadly, several of our friends here passed away this fall. Other people moved on in the community, leaving their duplexes for an easier life in one of the apartments. One of our particular friends also became so disoriented her husband had to relocate her to the memory care unit. All of this is only to be expected in a retirement community, but that doesn’t mean the holes in our hearts are any smaller.

Gardening

I had a vegetable garden this year,

IMG_0583

and I grew green beans, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and peppers. I tried to grow black-eyed peas, but didn’t have any luck there. I also had two artichoke plants that didn’t get around to bearing artichokes until late in the fall. I hope they will be a little earlier this year, as several never matured because the weather got too cold and wet. I had such a bumper crop that I was able to donate over 100 lbs of food to the food bank. Al and I ate all the tomatoes, squash, and green beans we wanted.

Political Commentary

The horrible evidence of continued racism weighed on my heart this year. I took an on-line discussion class for 6 weeks this summer called Hard Conversations: Racism. It was convicting, and difficult. Another woman from Bethany and I also facilitated an in-person group from the church who read really current blogs about racism, and then discussed them. We also read and discussed “Between the World and Me” by Ta’Nehisi Coates. The problem is really big, and I often despair of finding a solution, particularly with Trump spewing his awful rhetoric nightly on the news.

I rejoice in the legal acceptance of those in the LGBTQ community. Both in the PC(USA) and in the country, they are finally being given the same rights to happiness (and difficulties) in marriage as any one else. I fear for some of the rights and freedoms we have all been given if the election in 2016 goes the wrong way.

RELEASE

I’m bidding a fond farewell to 2015. It was a wonderful year for the most part. I had the joy of anticipation of travel and hosting our family. I saw new things, got to know the people in our lives better, lost some friends to death or illness, and grew in appreciation of this wonderful area of the country between the mountains and the sea. I grew in confidence in leadership in church, increased my exercise, and enjoyed myself immensely.

2015-12-30 13.30.30

RESOLVE (or better yet – INTENTIONS)

  1. Finish losing the weight I need to by eating right (lo-cal, lo-carb, wine only on special occasions) and strength training 3 days a week.
  2. Walk regularly, either alone or with a group, at least 4 days a week for at least 5 miles.
  3. Grow enough vegetables to enjoy and to help supply the food bank.
  4. Travel to see Bill and his family (for Ian’s graduation from High School), but don’t focus solely on that. Take several short trips as well.
    1. To Pacific Beach
    2. To Portland
    3. To Spokane to look for genealogical information
    4. To the San Juan Islands (because we’ve wanted to return and keep saying “We can do that anytime”, but we never do.)
    5. To Victoria, BC
  5. Keep up with Headspace and Tai Chi.

Happy New Year to all of you, gentle readers. I’m will try to keep up better with this blog, because I love all of you!

*NOTE: NOT a paid advertisement, although I do like a lot of the products from The Container Store.

Truthful Tuesday

IMG_0406

I know very little about gardening, but I’m going to grow some vegetables (I hope) this summer. I’ve already planted some spring onions and a row of green beans. The tepee is for some crowder peas that my sister is sending seed for. She’s also sending some purple hull peas. I’ll put in a couple of cucumber plants, a couple of yellow squash plants and several tomato plants after the first of May. The things I’m planting now should sprout in two weeks and be ready for harvest in two months. When these start bearing, I’ll plant some new so that I have crops coming in all summer.

Here’s the truthful part. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I figure anything I grow will just be something I don’t have to buy – right? If I have a greater yield than Al and I can eat, I’ll give the rest to the Food Bank.

Honesty

My one word for 2015 is “Honesty.”

Let’s see how I did with Honesty in March.

March was very busy with Lent and activities at the church. It started off with a group of us from Bethany feeding the college students dinner at The Lighthouse, an open and affirming Christian college fellowship at the University of Puget Sound here in Tacoma. We fixed Mexican food, and they seemed to love it. The best part was, we got to stay and eat supper with them, and then participate in their discussion after dinner. We talked about money and finances and how they relate to the church. They are thoughtful, kind, and interesting young people, and I am more hopeful for the future when they grow up.

We’ve also had a weekly Vesper Service every Wednesday night for about half an hour. Very similar to a Taize service.

In Sunday School we’ve spent the month reading Marcus Borg and Dominic Crosson’s The Last Week, What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem.

Capture

You can read reviews on Goodreads by following the link. So much of what has been things that I’ve struggled with is explained. You may or may not agree with their conclusions, but it will definitely make you think.

Lunch Bunch was a trip to Pomodoro, an Italian restaurant in the Proctor District here in Tacoma.

Capture

It was good, but nothing special as Al and I frequent it often by ourselves.

Al and I continued our foray into creative writing with a formal fiction-writing class. It was fun, although I didn’t write much of anything until I was suddenly inspired for the last class to write the semi-genealogical, semi-fictional account of the Christening Robe and the people who were baptized in it. It was made by my great-grandmother in 1875 to baptize my father’s mother, and now five generations of the family have worn it for their baptism.

3-18 - Believe

This is my granddaughter, Kate, at her baptism in 2002.

I’ve been very busy with meetings for Olympia Presbytery and for my work with the Commission on Ministry, although not as busy as in February. I guess all the preachers are feeling a little overwhelmed with Lenten activities, too.

Pierce County Hunger Advocates held a workshop to teach churches how to conduct an offering of letters, sponsored by Bread for the World.

Capture

We had a small turnout, which was really sad, because we had a couple of great speakers. One was a principal here in Tacoma whose school has over 90% of the students on free or reduced price lunches. That’s major poverty. This fall, congress is going to be taking up the school lunch program, and we really need the citizens in this country to write letters to ensure they don’t cut it to the bone as they have threatened to do with so many “safety net” programs. Help if you can.

I struggle on with my diet. I DO have a new picture of me that shows some of the weight I’ve lost.

Abbie Watters

I credit my FitBit and MyFitnessPal with whatever success I’ve had. The weight is coming off very slowly, but at least I’m not gaining anything back.

The church is doing a capital campaign to raise money to bring the facilities up to ADA standards and to do some needed repairs on our 80-year-old building. THAT, of course is taking up a lot of my time. Since I’m being honest, I only hope we haven’t bitten off more than we can chew.

Not too much about HONESTY in this report, but I’m remembering my word, and trying to live my life in HONEST relationships.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5th Day of Christmas – The Gift of Sharing

(I’m following these prompts for the 12 Days of Christmas)

John 6:1-14

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

IMG_0200

This is one of the sumptuous spreads the Turkish Community in Dallas shared with us and many more of our Christian and Jewish friends. Their tradition of sharing food was one of the main reasons they were able to befriend those of us who were, to them, “the other”. It’s said the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – Jesus knew that one of the ways to anyone’s heart is through feeding them. It’s hard to listen to a lesson or appreciate those around you when your stomach is growling. That’s why I support hunger programs in Tacoma, like Fish Food Bank and Nativity House, and also Bread for the World.

Provide

As you may remember, my one word for the year is “Provide”.

I’ve continued to PROVIDE a warm body in attendance at Pierce County Hunger Advocates. I’m in charge of sending out alerts to folks who want to know when significant hunger-related bills are moving through Congress. We’ve been working this month on beating back an amendment on the Coast Guard reauthorization bill which would require 70% of all US international food aid to be shipped on US flag carriers, no matter its place of origin. This would severely limit the funds available for actual food to be provided to the world’s poor. Even locally purchased food, which was just recently authorized, would be affected. If you have any sway with congress this is still a hot button issue.

I continue to participate in our fledgling Toastmasters group here at Tobey Jones.

For most of April and the first half of May, I was able to attend a one-hour a week Conversational French class. I was the only person who came, other than the two college students who were hired to facilitate the hour. They were lovely girls who were very understanding of my fumbling lack of memory of vocabulary. They had both spent a year in France, one in high school and one in college, so they were very fluent. I loved visiting with them every week, and I hope Tobey Jones will offer the course again in the fall. One of them has graduated, but the other could be back next year.

The Hospitality and Outreach Team at church PROVIDED an opportunity for folks to get together and have a meal at a local restaurant. We went on a Saturday evening, and had a really good time. It’s nice to meet socially. This was also an opportunity for an intergenerational gathering, so we got to know some of the youth, as well as the other old fogies our age.

I suppose the biggest this thing I’ve PROVIDED is a customer for those local farmers who grow and sell organic vegetables, fruits, and plants. It’s become a regular thing for me to go to the farmer’s market every Saturday morning.

IMG_0569

So far there have only been mustard greens, green onions, and asparagus,

IMG_0559 IMG_0557 IMG_0560

but the local strawberries are just starting.

IMG_0558

They also sell organic plants to put in your own garden, that you won’t have to worry about killing all the bees and birds with the pesticides the big, corporate concerns like Lowes, Home Depot and McClendons put on their plants before they sell them.

IMG_0570

These are all small, family farms and I especially like shopping at L’Arche, which is a farm for adults with developmental difficulties.

IMG_0562

I guess it’s been being on this diet and having the dietician rave about organically grown produce, but I’ve become much more picky about what I buy. Also locally grown fruits and vegetables go a long way to helping minimize hunger here locally – if the farmers can sell their produce for a decent rate, we will have less worry about genetically modified foods and pesticides in what we eat.

rant/ I suppose the last thing I’ve PROVIDED (although not willingly) was fresh greens for the deer.

IMG_0554

There you have it – chewed to the stalks – poor lupine – and the deer don’t even LIKE lupine! And all the bloom gone from the astilbe. (Snarl, growl) /end rant

 

 

 

Provide

Tomorrow is April Fools Day, and rather than post my One Word for the month and have y’all think I’m pulling your leg, I thought I’d best get it out of the way now.

What did I “Provide” in March?

Capture

  • I was a voice of organization and practicality as we (the Hospitality and Outreach Team – HOT) at church worked with the Christian Education team to figure out what we are going to do on Easter. The final decision was to have an Easter Potluck Brunch while the kids hunted eggs before Worship. (I know that doesn’t sound like much, but we are talking a four-day, email debate between 8 or more people.) I think we accommodated everyone’s wishes and all seem to be happy.

Capture

  • I provided a “calming influence” to a newbie knitter, who is a perfectionist, and always concerned that he is making a mistake. (His original teacher is away in Hawaii for the month – AWWWW).
  • I gathered and distributed a contact list for Pierce County Hunger Advocates using the attendees at the symposium the first of the month.
  • I shared Lenten blogs and inspirational posts on hunger, clean water, and prayers on the Facebook page for Pierce County Hunger and on our Adult Sunday School Facebook group.

Capture

  • I babysat for one of the pastor’s twins while she was at the hospital caring for the other twin. (It was no hardship to rock and cuddle a 2-month-old for an afternoon.)
  • I participated weekly in the fledgling Toastmasters Group we are forming here at Tobey Jones.
  • I kept up with my diet, providing detailed lists of foods eaten, and exercises performed to my counselor.

I’m not sure I remember anything else, but I do know that I feel totally busy, and fulfilled. And I think I’m keep my eyes focused outward to see what I can do for others, as well as for myself.

photo credits: Flickr Creative Commons and Sarah Wiles Facebook Page