Addicted to Ink

Thursday, September 29, 2005

relatives by choice

Tonight, Mike & I went to go visit Grandma at the hospital.

Uncle Dean meets us in the lobby & we go up the elevator to the second floor. She's been in the stepdown unit since Monday night, and for the second day in a row was convinced that she was going home, whether the doctor wanted her to or not. Each day, convincing the nurses to lose the IV, getting dressed, calmly waiting for the doctor to discharge her. Now that's faith!

The three of us walk into the room - Grandma didn't know we were coming. Her face lights up like a July noontime sun, and she says, loudly, lovingly, "MICHAEL!!!"

With a sheepish grin on his face, my 6'2 husband walks over to my 79-year-old, 5'1 Grandmother and gives her a hug. She refuses to let go for like, five minutes. And for the next oh, maybe seven minutes , Michael is the only one in the room.

My Aunt Wilma is cracking up.

"Well, hello to you, too, Amber," she says, barely able to breathe from laughing too hard. "How are you doing, granddaughter?"

I shrug, smiling. "I'm used to it - I don't mind!"

And I don't. Michael didn't know his paternal grandmother well, and his maternal grandmother died many years ago. It's good for a guy to have a grandma who adores him.

Finally, about two hours after he said he was going to be there (I'm not saying he didn't have good reasons) the doctor comes into her room and breaks her heart.

"Not today," he tells her. "We've got your liver under control, but I don't like what your heart is doing. We're going to have a cardiologist look at you in the morning."

S0 the guys go into the hallway, AW and the nurses and I get her into her backless hospital nightgown again, and she braces herself for a new IV.

We stay for another hour, in which I am sometimes my mom, sometimes my cousin Andra, and sometimes myself, but Mike is always Mike.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005



This is weird:

I should be exhausted. I haven't had a day of in, well, going on 22 days, but I still have energy. (No worries, friends, I'm going on vacation soon!)

Kickboxing rocks - and it's giving me more energy than I should have.

But I think it's the writing, too. This new project just feels right, which gives me even more energy than exercise.

So... working harder means more energy? How does that work?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

My heritage

I interviewed my grandmother tonite, for this book I'm writing.

She so strong. And feeble. She's failing. And thriving. She's remembering. And forgetting.

I know that the end of her life is near. I know that every time I see her, it may be my last. Which is why she is the first person I interviewed.

We talked a lot tonight. Half of the time she thought I was my mom, but it didn't matter. She kept interrupting people - but that's wonderful. We hang on to her every word, happy for these moments, these stories of the past, these stories that, once they die with her, we'll never recover.

She taked about when she was little. How, among her brothers and sisters, her mom liked the boys, and her dad liked the girls. Her mom treated her so badly--nothing was ever good enough, she made her lie to her father; but her father loved her and was kind to her.

Her "papa" - she said she would have been slapped in the mouth for calling him "Dad", it would have been disrespectful then - had a lot of faith, she laughed, because it was the Great Depression. He wasn't "quite right" but they needed money, so he'd go door-to-door taking orders for coal and milk and food. Problem was, he didn't have access to those goods.

She talked about difficult times in her life (the worst was when my grandpa was in the process of leaving her), and how she got through them. She told of a time not long ago when she was depressed - "feeling sorry for myself," she said. "I was lonely." She talked about the time (also recently) when she saw Jesus in her living room, when she still lived alone.

"He was beautiful," she said. "And He just sat there, keeping me company."

She looked good tonight. She was wearing a nice button-down white shirt that Aunt Willie had bought her, well-fitting pants, and these cute littly fuzzy pink ballet slippers.

But she didn't feel good. She only ate a few bites of her cottage cheese and chicken salad, and later she needed a mint because her mouth was dry. When she could stay awake no longer, she struggled to her walker. Her stomach hurt, but she didn't want to take anything for it. She just wanted to sleep.

She goes to the doctor tomorrow. He's a new doctor, now that she's moved in with my aunt & uncle. He's young, up on all the latest medicine, and has taken her off a lot of the medicine that was making her feel so awful.

My grandmother, who's never been a drinker, has scerosis of the liver. I don't know how she got it. She just has it.

These, her last days, are bittersweet. Grandma gave me such a happy childhood. When I lose her, I will lose so much, and, though her body is wearing out, she still has so much love and knowledge to give, and she is a gift simply because of who she is.

But still, I don't want to see her suffer. I wonder when she will go... Home.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


If Hotel Rwanda & Piano made you sick to your stomach, don't see Lord of War.

I feel violently ill.

After all -- where do we think the Hutus got their guns?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Blue, baby!

Just bought tix for the Blue Man Group show in Vegas for Mike's 30th birthday.

Has anyone ever seen them in concert?

Any tips for Vegas, anyone? I kinda feel funny going there -- like I'm doing something bad -- gambling was a BIG sin when I was growing up.

These days, I guess I view it in two ways:
- pure entertainment
- just stupid, like I'm throwing my money away.

But Mike & I are reasonably intelligent people, right? It's not like we're going to be gambling away the house or anything - we're spending a (very!) limited, pre-decided upon amount of cash, and that's that.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Lamenting my lack of discipline...

I'm so jealous of people who can eat anything they want and never work out and never gain a pound.
That's not me.
Unless I am 100% perfect, 100% of the time... well, let's just say I can gain weight looking at a picture of chocolate. So here I am, once again intent on trying to do this whole kickboxing-getting-healthy obsession. Because if I don't give it a 110%, it just doesn't happen - I won't lose weight, I won't feel good, I won't be fit. So ignore me for awhile if I get a little wierd(er)...

As I was thinking about this whole healthful process last night, I realized that it's like that with anything in life. If we want to become spiritually healthy, we must give that 100%, too, in whatever things make us fit, like reading, praying, fasting, meditating, other disciplines. I want those things to be a regular, solid part of my lifestyle.

I've always considered myself to be industrious, but in some ways, I'm just plain lazy. Some days, though, I refer to it as being "busy." Which I am.

But it's all about priorities, right?

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Prayer for Owen Meany


I think I need to take a class on this book or something. After reading this novel, I feel the way I did afer seeing The Matrix.

There is so much symbolism in in - I don't even know where to begin. Owen as the Christ figure, John as the disciple Jesus loved, the geneology tracings, "God's instrument," if I go much further, I'll give away too much.

Any takers for some discussions on it? :0)

In other news... wow, what a crazy day. So Michael Brown is accepting the position of scapegoat, eh? Anyone who knows anything about how American public safety funding has been destroyed since the development of "Homeland Security" knows that his hands were likely tied from the word go.

As I listened to NPR on the way home from work, I learned that because of this disaster, our nation's deficit will likely increase either by or to 3 trillion dollars. That's all. Just 3 trillion dollars. We'll be borrowing from Japan, China, and Germany. The journalist was saying something about the perception of America being weak. And, well, if we're as strong as our weakest link... well?

Yes, America's weaknesses were exposed. However, there's more to our people than our money. Almost every single person I know has given money to the desperate in New Orleans. At the college I work at alone, I've heard of at least four groups of students who are taking relief trips there - and I've heard of lots of others who are as well. There have been so many reports of heroism. We are a generous people - something that doesn't happen in many other places.

So anyway.

If any of my local pals are interested in a trip to the Pittsburgh Project, lemme know! I'm taking a group of Malone students at some point next month. It'll be an overnight trip. Actually, we'll be serving some of the displaced Katrina victims.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Fall is officially here:I went to my first football game this afternoon. We lost, but it was a relatively good game. And tonight, we're going to another football game, but not a live one. Just on TV - OSU plays at 8 p.m. Go Bucks.

Contrary to just about everything in what I perceive to be my nature, I love football. But I had to laugh today. One of my former professors was there with his children at the game, and just as I was walking by them, our guy clobbered another guy to get him to drop the ball. I don't know exactly what his daughter said, but something to the effect of the guy was bad because he hurt someone else. And the prof was explaining that yes, violence is wrong and it's not okay to hurt people, but when you're playing football, all bets are off... :0)

I, too, Rachel, am a pacifist. So I can just see myself explaining to my son someday... "Yes, dear violence is wrong. It is never okay to hit someone." And then cheering at his football game - "Tackle him! Stop him! Go get him! Cream him!"

because I just can't shut my mouth at football games...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The strangest thing...

the craziest verses in the whole Bible are so counter to our culture, to what we believe, to what we feel is right, to our personalities, to how we were made.

These words:

Luke 6:20-23a
Then Jesus looked up at his disciples and said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven."

Poor? I've been known to work four jobs at once.
Hungry? Fasting is one of the hardest things ever.
Weeping? I hate crying - it's a sign I have NO control over my emotions.
Hated? I'm can tend to be such a people pleaser - I want people to like me.
Excluded? I want to know all the secrets - can't stand being left out of the loop.
Reviled? One little insult can make me crazy & obsessive all day.
Defamed? I try to live an honorable life - and strive for a good reputation.

ahhh, the mysteries of the Gospel.

One of those days...

Have you ever had one of those days where you're just kinda in a funk?
That's the kind of day I'm having.

Nothing's really wrong - I just keep getting irritated, mostly with myself.

Maybe tomorrow will be better...


This article was in the Sojourners newsletter today...

Acts of God or sins of humanity?
by Wes Granberg-Michaelson

From a vacation cottage Karin and I watched on TV as the desolation unfolded in New Orleans and the Gulf coast. Through that agonizing week we sat helpless with millions, while the world's most technologically powerful nation could not provide food, water, and rescue to fellow citizens whose desperate faces filled our screen and haunted our consciences.

Commentators described Hurricane Katrina as a "natural disaster," or at times as an "act of God," like language used in some insurance policies describing events beyond human control. It means no one is liable. Except, of course, God. And that's what troubles me. How can a God of love, Creator of all that is, be responsible for such terrible, destructive disasters?

But as I listened, reflected, and prayed during that week, another question emerged. Just how "natural" was this disaster? Consider this, for instance. When Katrina left the Florida coast, it was classified as a "tropical storm" - not even a hurricane. It picked up tremendous power as it passed through the Gulf of Mexico, in part, experts think, because the waters of the Gulf were two degrees warmer than normal. So by the time it reached New Orleans, it was a category four hurricane.

Years before becoming general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, I led a group studying global warming and the responsibility of the churches for preserving the environment when I served as director of Church and Society for the World Council of Churches. Even then (1990), a clear global scientific consensus warned that global warming due to human causes - especially the accelerated use of fossil fuels - was causing disruptive climate changes. And I clearly remember listening to scientists say that one effect could be that storms such as hurricanes would increase in their intensity and destructive effects because of warmer waters and changing sea levels. So a part of Katrina's fury was not completely "natural."

And there's more. New Orleans was built between the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, with much of the city below sea level. Its vulnerability to flooding from hurricanes was partly protected by the wetlands between the city and the Gulf. These act like a "speed bump," absorbing and lowering some of a hurricane's force. But they've been disappearing, making way for shopping malls, condos, and roads, so 25 square miles are lost each year - an area the size of Manhattan. And the city has kept moving closer to the Gulf.

Moreover, the levees and dams constructed to protect the city and "control" the Mississippi deprive the wetlands from the sediments and nutrients that naturally would replenish its life. There's a lot "unnatural" about this "act of God."

And then, consider the victims. Those who have suffered the most are the poorest, and most of them are black. Twenty-seven percent of New Orleans residents lived below the poverty line, and many of those simply had no cars, or no money, and no way to leave. That also isn't "natural." The poverty rate, and the gap between rich and poor, continues to increase in this nation, and that is a national disgrace. More to our point, that's a sin, condemned by literally hundreds of verses of scripture. Those most vulnerable to Katrina have been kept on society's margins by persistent economic injustice and racism.

I celebrate the tides of compassion flowing in the wake of Katrina. Organizations such as Church World Service and the Salvation Army bear the compassion of Christ to the desolate, homeless, and hopeless. And I still don't fully understand why, in the providence of a loving and all-powerful God of creation, things like hurricanes and earthquakes happen.

But I do know this. When I see the devastating effects of Katrina, I don't simply regard these as an inexplicable "act of God." I also focus on the sins of humanity. We've disobeyed God's clear biblical instructions to preserve the integrity of God's good creation, and to overcome the scourge of poverty. In the aftermath of Katrina, we desperately need not only compassion, but also repentance.

Wes Granberg-Michaelson is general secretary of the Reformed Church in America. Reprinted from the Church Herald, October 2005. (c) 2005 by the Church Herald, Inc. Used with permission. Another version of this article will appear in the print version of the October 2005 Church Herald and on the Church Herald Web site

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Making Loss Matter

I stole this from Jeffrey Overstreet's blog, but I thought it was beautiful.
( - a Seattle-based blogsite that is edgy, thoughtful, and fun.)

Loss is transformative if it is met with faith. Faith is our chance to make sense of loss, to cope with the stone that rolls around in the hollow of our stomachs when something we loved, something we thought was forever, is suddenly gone.

- Rabbi David Wolpe, Making Loss Matter