September 6, 2010

Saturday, Sr. Wantabee had a mornin cup of coffee with her daughter overlooking “the mighty Mississippi.” She thought both were sad as they tenderly sipped some last moments together and watched the boats float by, dredging up memories. Was she there when….? Did she remember…? In the back of their minds was the realization that Monday morning the daughter would climb on a plane to fly across country to her new job.
“Mother! You make it sound like I’ll never return. It feels like death. I’ll be back in two weeks, having rented an apartment and gotten a feel for my new job and then I’ll take my stuff but really, I’m only a short flight away and I’ll be back. This is not forever!”
How beautiful thought Sr. Wantabee. In the transition experience chart she has taught for years, her daughter is exactly stage appropriate. She remembered back to saying farewell to her mother when she had gone to Africa. “We’ll write, AND I’ll be back in four years. If you need me, I can come!” Denial is the process. The person is not really leaving because they are stil emotionally connected. They are not dying. They are just accepting the adventure. “We’ll meet again soon.”
Sr. Wantabee’s mother did not write for eight weeks. When she did she shared how she had experienced it as a death and had to grieve for awhile. Now, Sr. Wantabee was on the being-left-behind end of the emotions.
Sr. Wantabee had been taught fresh out of college and working for the Probation Dept. that kids in lock-up who are released have three ways of saying goodbye to their friends they are leaving behind. Some pick fights to justify moving on cause they didn’t like those friends anyway. Some sob and cry and take drugs and wallow in the separation. The healthy way is somewhere inbetween where grief is acknowledged, appreciations are said, and blessings are counted as each releases the other to their spot in life.
Sr. Wantabee explained to her daughter that she had just been in a group meeting where one of the younger participants shared that she had left her home to come, realizing that her mother would not approve and knowing that their family did not talk about emotions, by sending her mother an email. The woman had burst into tears and run from the room, sensing her mother’s disapproval. Inwardly, Sr. Wantabee had gasped. That mother had never had a chance to say farewell to her daughter, nor try to talk out their differences!
Sr. Wantabee affirmed her daughter’s stage appropriateness and explained that she too was trying to say those things that we often wait until death to say, to affirm relationship and memories and confidence in the loved one, not because she believed she would never return, but to try and do a healthy farewell on her side, realizing that each day is a gift.
Sr. Wantabee knew the daughter was returning in two weeks, only to leave again, but the leaving was the growth into her future and an express of her talents that Sr. Wantabee believed in. But likewise it is an end to a phase of life for which Sr. Wantabee is deeply appreciative and that appreciation needed to be shared.
How can so much sadness contain so much blessing?


September 2, 2010

Last night Sr. Wantabee was teaching ESL. She had been teaching a unit on food and nutrition to a group of level 2, fairly low level speakers and it was just hard going. The unit is just soooo American. The food pyramid would not work where she came from in Africa where people lived on meat, milk and blood and had never seen a vegetable or fruit. Reading a recipe rather than watch your mom and how she proportioned ingredients seemed strange also. then in the middle of the recipe lesson, the students asked, “What’s that?” A fraction. They had never seen or understood fractions much less 1/2 teaspoon.
Sr. Wantabee decided a hands on recipe was needed and decided to try “microwave tacos”. When she pulled the onion out of her basket, their eyes lit up and they recognized it immediately. They quickly learned “to grate” the cheese. No problem “slicing the watermelon” for desert or “chopping the tomato.” We crowded around a table and ate a bite together. The lesson was a success. But what touched Sr. Wantabee was the comradery and all the young women joining in and helping just as it would have been in Africa. they may have enjoyed the lesson but she enjoyed the memory of a joy gone by.


August 31, 2010

Sr. Wantabee was given a trip to Alaska. It was a dream come true. She left on Friday the 13th from gate F 13. Others felt that was the explanation for the 4 hour wait while the engine was repaired! But a plane load of midwesterns, mostly men with their cold boxes arrived in Anchorage to transfer to points more remote.
Sr. Wantabee had missed her connected little put-put plane so sat in the airport and chatted with a man from Bosnia who had not run from the war, but had run from the death of his mother and hopped boats all over the globe. They shared what is the best part of the goat to eat in different cultures and what is the best part of the fish to eat also. He had eventually settled in LA and married late in life and had two youngsters but had to come North for a couple weeks to fish. He and his friend hopped a their Cesna and Sr. Wantabee marveled that in the middle of the Anchorage airport she had met a man who understood her past and the fun of comparing cultural differences.
Unpon arriving at her destination she was driven on a dirt road to a small fishing town that is alive with tourists in the summer and has an active fish processing plant. She, in fact slept on a fishing boat made into an excursion boat to carry scientists around the area. As she walked down the ramp to the pier area where perhaps a hundred boats were anchored, she gasped. Close to a hundred salmon were swimming in circles like the beginning of a giant funnel. The leader occassionally leaped into the air, right there between the shore and the pier, almost within her reach. At that moment she knew she wanted to fish just as bad as those men on the airlines.
As a young adult Sr. Wantabee had fished for salmon with her cousins off Vancouver Island. The family story goes that her cousin caught a huge 18 pound fish while Sr. Wantabee, with all delight yelled, “It’s a whale!” Sr. Wantabee snagged the next fish which sank to bottom and ran the other way. By the time the boat was turned the truth was evident. The line was not secured to the pole and gone. The big one got away!
Outside this little fishing town, there were streams and salmon filled them, spawning, within 10 yards of her! Sr. Wantabee got a liscense for a day and began her hunt for the elusive “big one.” The fish jumped to the right of the skiff, to the left, in front, behind but her line caught 25 rocks, 3 jelly fish and 5 hand fulls of seaweed.
Sr. Wantabee began to loose spirit and had to self reflect. Why was she sad? Did she think her family woud never believe her tale of so many fish so close? Did she really want to brag to the men at work who fished all the time? Was she trying to catch the one that got away? Or was she trying to catch the past, catch an image, and impress? Certainly she was not hungry!
Yet again the fish got away. Yet again Sr. Wantabee tried to explain to her family the thrills of her youth. Yet again Sr. Wantabee felt like the little old lady at work. But in her heart, she knew the fish was still out there and she had had another adventure trying to catch it!


August 29, 2010

Sr. Wantabee has been off line for several weeks because her life has been too busy to process. In the midst of the flurry of life, she was sent to Alaska to shadow a fellow “sister” in a little fishing village. What a wonderful experience.
As they chatted Sr. Wantabee shared that each summer as a youth, her family would plan to join relatives up North and “the clan” would go to the ocean for a week, which involved fishing. As a young adult, the family shifted to Vancouver Island as their place of fishing for “the big salmon.”
During the year Sr. Wantabee would walk with her father up to Sears at night and they would “chew” the previous vacation, which route to take this year, what would be needed and plan for that magical week at the ocean. Now, that day, Sr. Wantabee was living on a fishing boat, watching ministry happen in a small remote town in Alaska that could only be flown into. Ecstacy!
The other sister shared that their family vacation consisted of the family sitting down with a map of a province in Canada, all closing their eyes and putting their finger on any spot. they would pick the town and find a road that led from that town to nowhere and then when vacation time came, they hooked up the trailer to their car and drove to “the end of the road” to see what was there. One time there was a lake a little ferry. When she was given the job in Alaska, her father visited, gave her two thumbs up and said, “You have reached the end of the road! Well done.” When she moved further remote to the fishing village that can only be reached by plane, he visited again and said, “You have gone beyond the end of the road!”
Today Sr. Wantabee knows her goal but chews what happened and how to get there. The other sister loves to hike into the wilderness to the top of a mountain and see what is beyond the peak. Upon returning home, Sr. Wantabee realized how true this little story is for how she functions in life. She wants a goal. Then she chews how to get there, doing it a little differently each time. visiting Alaska was a dream come true but she is already chewing on how to return. How did your family organize vacations?

The Power of Greetings

July 15, 2010

Sr. Wantabee has inherited two dogs from her son “to babysit.” One is a short legged, docked tailed rat terrier that treats everyone on the street as a potential stranger or thief. He barks! The second is a half great dane and half boxer young guy with an Avatar tail. He whips that tail back and forth, slaming it from one door post to the other without seemingly wincing. A stranger walks by and he woofs with enunciation on the end of the woooofffff in a deep bass voice. Yesterday these two characters were joined by a third, our friend’d boxer needed babysitting for the weekend. This poor guy has ears that both point left, droopy eyes, docked tail, and a bark that requires the whole front of his body to leave the ground before the woof can escape. His looks do not slow him down in greeting you. He does not know he is ugly or scary. The three make a formidable greeting team. It is not possible to walk into the house without the greeting of the three. What would happen if we greeted each other as frequently and as affectionately as the dogs greets Sr. Wantabee?


July 5, 2010

Anyone who knows Sr. Wantabee, knows that one of her favorite movies is “Fiddler On the Roof” and the opening scene where the father sings, “Tradition.” Traditions are what holds society together, “Traditions tell us who we are and what God expects of us!” July 4th is one of those big traditions for Americans.

Flying to California three weeks ago, the United airlines was already running an informative clip on the traditions around 4th of July, and where fireworks came from. Sure enough, last night, even as she and her husband debated if the big fireworks would be on the holiday Monday or on the actual day, Sunday, the firecrackers in the neighborhood starting booming and shooting into the air. The TV had to be turned up to volume 45 to override the background noise. People were on the street, parties were being held and her husband even met the new neighbors and came home with a sparkler!

Sr. Wantabee and her daughter had a driving lesson going to Target and Cub, the food chain here. Black berries were on sale for $.50 a box!!! Watermelons went from $5 to $1.99! Hamburger buns were on sale. At Target, “Independence Day” was bought for $7.99 as it was on sale and that family tradition was organized.

They returned home and together made a berry pie from scratch, her first ever but the crust was actually tender. After bar-b-que chicken, veggies and pie, they settled down for the DVD. By midnight the world had yet again been saved from aliens by the wonderful Americans. Even in the absence of many family members, the traditions bought fond memories of former days. Culture was satisfied and they retired to bed full.

The second half of tradition, though, is telling us what God expects of us. Does God expect wars in the name of freedom and indulence in foods that might have otherwise been bought? Hummm, probably not. But God would want community, loving one’s neighbors, and laying down one’s life for one’s friend and faith. Perhaps those traditions did serve their purpose! And at least we are safe from aliens though not united in our world.

ID for Sparklers

July 3, 2010

Sr. Wantabee just went to Target with her daughter who was anxious to practice driving now that she has her learner’s permit and she, the daughter, had to cruise the $1 isle for this and that for camp on Monday. Sr. Wantabee survived the experience and entered Target to see the $1 stuff and there was a box of Sparlers for $2. Have we outgrown them or not, thought she. Ah, for $2 I’ll invest, she decided. On checking out the lady asked for her ID and ran her driver’s liscense through the register! Needless to say Sr. Wantabee had never been carded for sparklers. Carded for alcohol, yes. How ironic that she would be carded for sparklers but not for R rated videos, not for food that threatens her diabetes, not for sugars that threaten her weight. We live in a funny world to be sure!

Avatar and Habbakuk

June 11, 2010

Sr. Wantabee has suggested to the pastor of her church that a summer community discussion group be run by her during July. If God doesn’t get to take a vacation from caring for us, why should we take a vacation from adoring and thanking Him? Early church to avoid the heat and then an intergenerational share time to talk about Avatar and perhaps compare it to Habbakuk.

Habbakuk is a minor prophet in the Old Testament who bemoans God’s absence during trials and distress, not unsimilar to the Na’vi distress at seeing Home Tree destroyed. How can disaster like this befall us. A commentary Sr. Wantabee read this week offered a two point response to evil offered by God in Habbakuk. First, evil will eventually burn out and be destroyed by its own methods. The evil general in the end is speared and dies. Secondly God and good will eventually prevail. In Pandora when it looks like evil is winning the pseudo-rhinoceroses coming charging through with their body plating that cannot be penetrated by bullets and set the military to flight.

The group could ponder whether our good Avatar, Jake Sulley, was really a Christ figure. What is the nature of connections – to see the world through another’s eyes or to control, how does prayer work? There could be a discussion on the mechanistic vs the naturalistic view of reality. As youth, is there a similarity to the sheroe who refuses to fly her helicopter to kill the Na’vi and eventually dies. “I had hoped there was a way out of this that did not involve martrydom!” There are many good hooks for conversation beside the obvious Western vs Hinduistic faith stances. The role of the saints-sacred memories or active agents?

Let’s do it!

“I wish I were thin!”

June 3, 2010

Last night Sr. Wantabee was teaching ESL to level 3 beginners. The class is composition. The unit was on change.

The first week we wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper about a change we would like to see take place. The students were quite clever comparing the traffic in their former traffic to traffic here. The streets of America are almost as nice as the streets of Saigon! Why not park in the malls and then have rapid transit to the city center to unclog parking? Nice essays.

Last week we wrote about changes in housing, the differences between the homes in our former country and our homes now. Things were “too” tiny or not “spacious enough” as we compared.

Last night, though, we tackled the past tense used in a present “wish” statement. Sr. Wantabee wondered what goes on in American thinking that a wish automatically throws the conversation into the past tense. A wish in the present necessitates an action in the past which makes the present wish conceivable. She could be thin now if she had dieted properly then. Wishful thinking in the present draws thoughts from the past which make a dream for the future. I cannot say “I wish I will be thin.” I must say, “I wish I were thin.” “Hoping” can be followed by the future tense but “wishing” is followed by the past. It says something about how we see reality.

Theologians Go To Sunday School

June 2, 2010

Sr. Wantabee is still reflecting on where theologians play if English majors play on radio and the thought occured to her that theologians play in Sunday School. We are able to step into another world of adventure, magical interrelating of the seen and unseen world, and hope. We pull out scissors and paper, puppets, and plays. We sing songs and dance dances and are free to ask questions and plumb the depths of reason. As a youth teaching vacation Bible school, Sr. Wantabee was asked by a 5th grader, “Why did God make us with hands on our shoulders and legs to stand on and not the other way around?” Wouldn’t we all look funny walking on our hands? Yes, Sr. Wantabee, reflected. Theologians do have fun and that is probably why she loves the classroom as much as the sanctuary!

In two weeks she will have an opportunity to share in the sermon at her church. It is the story of Jesus being invited to eat at the home of a stuffy Pharasee who forgets to even offer to wash his feet while a woman of the streets interrupts the party by crying over his feet and drying them with her hair. The person who has been forgiven much, loves much. Sr. Wantabee is going to call the children forward to act out the story three demensionally and end with singing, His Banner Over Me is Love. Then on Monday she gets to act out the story on the Memory Care Unit. That will be fun because just like children, little ole “people say the darndest things.”