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What will you be known for?  Last night, a friend and I were talking as we attempted a new craft.  While we worked we chatted about family and how we remember various people.  She mentioned that in all of the photos, her great-grandmother looked incredibly stern and that’s actually how almost everyone thought of her.  My grandmother was all over smiles with a great sense of humor.

Just then, my friend dropped a bead which she managed to trap against the table.  Proud of her accomplishment, she showed me the bead with a flourish which was when she smacked the open tube of beads across the kitchen table.  The patter of tiny beads raining down is a very distinct noise.  We laughed until our sides hurt.

I’m fairly certain this is how we will be known?  Laughter.  In fact, I’m sure of it.

On Sunday, we met our choir director’s husband.  “She’s told me about everyone but which one are you?” he asked me.  “Soprano.  And I laugh at everything.”  He looked confused because truly that describes both my friend and I.  I pointed at myself.  “I’m inappropriate laughter.”  “Oh, I know who you are.”

Yep.  That’s me.  My friend?  Over the top laughter.

Even when tiny green seed beads are raining down in my kitchen.  The sugar bowl.  I forgot to check the sugar bowl.

–SueBE

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I have to admit that lately I’ve been emotionally exhausted. Lately it seems like 90% of every social interaction involves pit falls and traps.  There’s enough infighting and back room negotiating to make me feel like I’m in politics.  One person sets other people up and then checks back with me.  “Has anyone complained?”  Another maneuvers in the background and then comes scuttling up to me to inform me that no one agrees with me and they’ve all decided to do it her way.

Talk about an energy drain!

Friday I made an absolutely liberating decision.

I have quit engaging.  You want to do it that way?  Go ahead.  No, really.  I’m good.

You want to pick a fight?  Personally, I don’t see the draw.

Either way, as the old saying goes, not my circus, not my monkeys.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with that one, the basic meaning is not my responsibility.  It may seem like an odd attitude for a social justice warrior, but whether you are dealing with a toddler or a boomer, you have to pick your battles.

Me?  God put me on this earth to work for “the least of these.”  Social squabbling?  Thanks but no.  Not my circus, not my monkeys.  I’m not sulking.  I’m actually really happy with this decision.  Soon, I’ll once again be an introvert with energy to spare.

–SueBE

Every once in a while, it’s nice to put the spotlight on people who were caught on camera doing the right thing. So much of what goes viral these days is about bad behavior, but there’s a lot of positive news out there if you shift your focus.

Like the young man who saw his six-year-old neighbor being attacked by a pit bull, so he ran toward the dog in an attempt to make it chase after him, which it did. He got attacked by the dog, too, but was able to get away after being bitten on the hand. Both the young man and the boy are recovering. Click here to see the video, but please be aware that it is disturbing. When I saw this video, I thought, That’s not just a Good Samaritan. That’s a great one. 

Or the group of random drivers who saw a car flip over on the highway, so they got together to push the car onto its side. Amazingly, the driver escaped the wreck with only minor cuts and bruises.

Then there’s the tractor driver who was startled when a mother bird stepped in front of his moving tractor to protect her eggs. Just in the nick of time, the driver stopped when he realized the nest was in his path. He even got down off his tractor and gave the bird some water.

Focusing on the positive is like building up your soul’s immune system. And with everything going on in the world today, we all could use a little inspiration.

You know you’re getting on in years when you start talking back to the television. I hit that milestone the other day when an annoying commercial for a medication came on. Patients were standing with hands on hips, glaring into the camera. “You think psoriatic arthritis is gonna stop me? Watch me!”

“You talking to me?” I snapped back, all DeNiro-like. “Who’s stopping you, lady? Take a hike!” It’s not just the oddly-threatening arthritics getting under my skin. It’s the fact that commercials for drugs are allowed on TV at all. Many have called for a ban on all pharmaceutical advertising, in keeping with the rest of the world. Only the US and New Zealand still allow it.

We’d like to believe that there’s a government agency watching out for the interests of consumers, but that’s not the case. A few years ago, I complained to the FCC that Comcast had upcharged me, but nothing happened. Some time later, there was a class action concerning Comcast’s upcharging, resulting in a $2.3 million dollar settlement. But here’s the catch: the money didn’t go to the consumers, but to the FCC! 

So I say, if nobody’s watching out for us, we’ve got to watch out for each other. There’s enough shady business going on in the world. Let’s show up as bearers of light, and do the right thing every day. All of us putting our candles together could really put a dent in the darkness.

“Act like that and no one will like you.  You won’t have any friends.”

I have absolutely no clue what I did to prompt my mother to say this.  I just don’t remember.  But I do recall her saying it to me on more than one occasion.  I suspect it had something to do with my blunt honesty.  I can occasionally pull off the social lie but more often than not, they come out transparent.  Instead, I’ve had to learn to say something true if somewhat misleading.

“I’ve never seen a dress like that before.  Where did you find something so unique?”

“What a beautiful color.  You have such a strong sense of style.”

I may not like what the person is wearing but I’m going to sidestep telling them that.  Not to worry – if your blouse is unbuttoned or your pants unzipped, I will tell you.  I’m not trying to set anyone up for embarrassment.

Fortunately, my mother’s predictions were slightly off.  No, not everyone appreciates my candor but I am wildly popular with my friend’s autistic son.  “I’m going to go find Sue.  She’ll tell me the truth.”  But that’s okay because I can trust him to tell me the truth when I ask for some of his popcorn at the movies.  “You need to go get your own.”  No resentful sharing that will come back to haunt me with this child.  I actually find him refreshing. We are, after all, birds of a feather.

God gave us each a unique set of traits.  My friend’s son and I are bluntly honest and love super hero movies.  That said, he cannot abide coconut or spicy foods, both of which I love.  Sour snacks? Those we share.

What?  You have a different opinion? That’s okay.  We are all God’s children, quirky though we may be.

–SueBE

 

Moisturizer. Sun block. Hair spray. Toothpaste. Insect repellent. I am making a list of things I will need when I go to Mexico next month for a brief vacation. It’s what we do. We make lists — from groceries to chores, business to long-term goals. What we have, what we need. Call it taking stock, prioritizing or simply Type-A fussiness…lists keep us organized and moving in the right direction. But when’s the last time you made a list of the things your soul needs? After all, isn’t life a journey, too?

Patience, I will pack it,
and courage, enough to bolster
what is not native to my being.
Empathy I own in large amounts;
it will not cost me to lavish it liberally.
Silence is a skill, it will fit neatly in
my toolkit. Tolerance I will plant
between hope and faith, perhaps
they will cause it to grow, like
garlic rooted next to roses.
Love, justice and mercy will be
my water, my matches, my tent.
Where I hope to go,
I must be well supplied.
Humility I will keep
close to me: When all else
fails, it will sustain me.
Forgiveness I will scatter freely,
a trail of crumbs to show
where I have traveled.
Come after me.
When we tire,
like worn stones,
we will lean,
on one other.
The road will
rise before us.

Oh, hi there. You caught me doing my index-finger isometrics so they’re strong enough to open my closet door. 🤞 You see, my house was built in the 1960s (so was I, for that matter), and it seems to have been designed by a sadist. (The house, that is. Not me.)

This closet door is virtually impossible to open. It’s as if they took a thimble from someone’s sewing kit, jammed it into the door and called it a day. I’d like to meet the sadist who designed it so I can accidentally poke him in the eye with that finger. It’s nice and strong now. I jest of course! I’d probably just smack him with a hanger. Oops! Jesting again. But you can sense my very real frustration.

There are so many things around my house that need fixing, and not a penny in the budget with which to hire a contractor. The microwave broke last week. The fence needs repair, there are leaks from the ceiling, and the floors need to be re-finished. 

Instead of just sending missionaries overseas to convert people, we should also have a team right here at home with a program to “un-vert” people. To make it very clear, I’m not trying to convert you. I’m trying to convince you that people of faith have no ulterior motive. I’m just here to make your life easier. Can’t open that closet door due to its Lilliputian thimble-like handle? Let me fix it for you. People would join in droves!

Such a program doesn’t exist yet, but until it does, the best way to present your beliefs in a positive light is to follow the golden rule. Sure, stay on message, but be a person about it. You can’t save a soul with a bonk on the head, and, try as you might, some doors will always remain closed.

“Equal rights for others do not mean fewer rights for you.  It’s not pie.”

This is one of those sayings that I dearly love even if it does beg the question.  So what is like pie?

We’ve been taught to think that universities are limited in the numbers of young learners they can accept. We are told that affirmative action is why there aren’t enough seats for other students. Yet, class after class is canceled when not enough students enroll.  Credit courses and continuing education classes alike suffer this fate.

Jobs? Common knowledge is that if we let those people in and give them jobs, then there won’t be enough jobs for the rest of us.  Of course, we are also supposed to believe that employment is up.  And, when employment is up, people spend more money on homes, cars, food and clothing.  That would mean more jobs, maybe not making these items but selling and maintaining and keeping them clean.

Whenever I hear someone talking about how generosity to “those people” is what has cost us, I think about the loaves and fishes.  For those of you who don’t remember the specifics, here is the story of Christ feeding the multitude as it is written in the Book of John.

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.”

Even if the boy was worried, John doesn’t say anything about him complaining to Jesus.  “Wait minute! If I give this to you, I won’t have enough.  But if the boy did complain, I imagine Christ telling him.  “Don’t worry.  It isn’t pie.  There will be enough for everyone.

–SueBE

Way back when our twenty year-old was a tot, we ate out a lot.  Nightly meal prep in our house always started with the same question.  One of us would ask, “What do you want for dinner?”  The standard reply?  “I don’t know.  What do you want?”  Neither person wanted to make a decision because if you suggested something, the other person would often say, “No, what else could we have?”

More often than not, I was the exhausted mother of a toddler.  My husband was the one saying, no but then never had a suggestion.  To me, this seemed awfully passive aggressive, but how often can you point that out?   So to avoid a fight, I’d suggest we eat out and he’d often say yes.

Money was tight and, when we made the decision to move to a better part of town, money got even tighter.  Something had to change.

I read somewhere about a weekly meal plan and we decided to give it a try.  Each weekend we make a plan for the week.  My husband does the shopping.  And each night we walk in the kitchen.  “Oh, tonight we’re having a BLT salad.”  “Thursday we’re having waffles.”

When we prayed for a solution, we were hoping for more money.  Instead, God led us to try something new, a solution that we’ve been working with for well over a dozen years.  Pray, listen and be ready to try something new.

–SueBE

 

You know what I realized today? That I wished all my doctors had multiple sclerosis.

Wait. What?!?

Hold up. That’s not what I meant at all!

Let me re-phrase that. What I meant was, a doctor with MS would have unique insights that might be helpful to me as a fellow patient.

This is what it’s like to write a blog post with MS-mind. My posts begin with disjointed ideas that eventually make sense. Still, I’ll never publish a post until Lori or SueBE has had a chance to proofread it. 

Often, I find that I’m trying to explain symptoms to doctors who see through a lens that’s calibrated by conventional wisdom. Once, I told a physician that food, liquids and pills can get stuck in my throat due to trouble swallowing. She suggested liquid medications instead of pills, but that wouldn’t be helpful, as it would take several swallows to get down, as opposed to a pill, which is only a gulp or two of water. 

That’s why I’m encouraged to read a blog like The Cricket Pages, because it’s written by a young lady who’s licensed as a social worker, but also struggles with anxiety. Her description of getting lost in a parking deck after taking her licensing exam was nerve-wracking just to read, and so relatable.

So while I don’t wish illness on any doctors out there, as this article about a doctor who became a patient shows, it can change their perspective. That can be the case in terms of faith as well. If you’ve been through hardships in your life, you know how it feels to soldier through it alone. You can be a healer yourself. All it takes is a word of encouragement and a heart of compassion.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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