We are “Home” by Being in Community!

This week at the “Becoming Holy Whole” class I’m taking at Virginia Theological Seminary, the primary theme was finding and feeling at home through our various communities. It was an outstanding and very thought-provoking class. We all belong to so many communities: family, work, church, hobbies, social groups and many others….This week for me has been a true convergence of many of my communities.

One week ago, on Saturday morning I attended the funeral of a co-worker’s wife who was only 32 years old. She died in a horrific accident a mile from where I live. A tractor trailer had run a red light and hit a school bus which then went airborne and hit and demolished two cars. My coworker’s spouse was sitting at the light in one of those cars and was killed instantly. Everyone at work was talking about that accident which closed the major thoroughfare for hours. As we all talked, my coworker commented that he “prayed for the family of the victim” as he had passed the accident on the way to work and was late for work like many others, but at the time of his comment he had no idea his wife was involved. Though most of us had never met his wife, our work family was out in force to support our coworker and his two kids, ages 5 and 8. One of the things I learned about this amazing young woman was that she was the glue of her family and did everything in her power to ensure that she helped others in any and every way she could. Though it was one of the longest funerals I’d ever attended, I was honored to have been there and we all walked away asking ourselves how we could be more like this young woman by doing all we can for our communities to make them even better.

Monday was a family highlight for me as it was Grammy time with Kendal. We had dinner at the American Girl store and then got her doll’s ears pierced. We also journeyed to the LEGO and Disney stores and played in all three places as if there was no tomorrow!! It was simply a perfect evening! On Tuesday I attended a funeral for a member of my church family. My good friend Stewart lost his mom to Alzheimer’s. Over the last two years he and I had many conversations about his mom, and though I had never met her, I had to be there for him, as were many others in our church family. I learned so much about his mom, who was a true adventurer! Stewart shared quite a few stories during his reflections of his mom’s life and we all felt we had come to know her. I left that service feeling as if my path of experiencing as many adventures as possible is the right path to be on! I look forward to having many more adventures before my life ends. I used to dread funerals, but as of late I’m finding that even if I don’t know the person I can learn many lessons from how others lived their lives and it makes me a better person. Attending those two funerals this week definitely has made me a better person!

Yesterday it was time to have some fun with my RVing Women community for our first rally of the year. Every time I am with these amazing women I learn something new and meet incredible new friends I believe I was destined to meet. Just one of the new friends I met yesterday was a woman I’ll call Bee who had come as a guest with one of the members. I instantly noticed that she had a really cool walker, one of the ones that allows the person to sit and rest when needed. She is around my age and I quickly surmised that she has MS, so I felt an instant connection with her because that disease is what took my sister and only sibling from our family in 2011. I had dinner last night and breakfast this morning with Bee. We shared many stories and talked about the disease which robs people of so much of their lives. But just as my sister had done, she plans on living every day to the fullest and jumped at the chance to join her friend on this camping adventure. I feel as if I’ve known her forever and that for a short time I had a little bit of my sister back.

As many of you know, I feel so at home in the outdoors, and this weekend so far is no exception. But this week has also been about feeling at home with my actual family, my work, church and camping families, in spite of the fact that the funerals were very difficult. I believe that part of being “home” in your community involves being there through good times and bad and for both enjoyment and support. I hope each of you feel at home in your various communities. May we all do our part to make our communities the best they can be because that’s what being at home is all about!!

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I Can See Clearly Now! (Sort of)

Sometimes you don’t see things clearly until you are forced to. Many of you know that I failed my driver’s license renewal in Jan 2018 because a cataract I didn’t know I had prevented me from seeing one of the columns on the eye chart. One month later in Feb 2018 I had cataract surgery. Fast forward to yesterday when I went to my cataract surgeon for my one year post-surgery checkup. I’ll be honest and say I’ve known for a while that something didn’t feel quite right as my vision in my left eye seemed to be getting worse for the past 3 or 4 months and every now and then I had a sharp pain in it.

I found out why as I sat in the surgeons office. You never want to hear a doctor say. “I don’t like deterioration of the vision in that eye, let’s do another test”. After seeing the test results she said “well this doesn’t look good”… Yikes… next thing I know she’s telling me that I have a hole in my retina and I may need emergency surgery and she picks up the phone and chats briefly with a retina specialist (who knew those existed?). The pic on the left of my right eye is perfect with its cute little divot, while the pic on the right is my left eye which has swelling and that hole she was concerned about. Uh oh….

Eye

So I changed my schedule for this afternoon and mentally prepared myself for the two hours of testing they told me would occur on my eyes. As I sat in the waiting room I thought about my incredible vision since my Lasik surgery in 2003. Would I still be able to see clearly enough to work, take Mom for a walk, teach online and drive Joy, my really cool RV? Those questions were valid, but what I needed to see clearly is that I need to pay more attention to my body and what it’s trying to tell me. The pain in my eye wasn’t normal or just dry eye. This afternoon was incredibly scary. Three solid hours of tests and bright lights, and even an extra test the doctor ordered that included dye being placed in my arm that made me see everything in bright red for about 30 minutes. The retina surgeon requested the dye test because he thought he saw “leaking” in the back of my eye. After the three hours, the verdict was that the inflammation is too bad to deal with the hole at the moment, so I’ll be on a series of drops for a month to see if they will clear up my inflammation, close the hole and improve my vision. The doctor shared with me that he thinks the inflammation has been there so long that there’s no guarantee my vision will improve in that eye. I’m ok with that since we’ve at least identified the problem now.

This has been a great year so far as I’ve slowed down my schedule, am doing more things for myself and am getting more sleep at night. But here’s what I learned over the last 30 hours. I dodged a huge bullet and so far can avoid surgery on my eye, and I’m grateful for that. But I can also clearly see that I need to listen more closely to my body, and not ignore things that don’t seem quite right. I pray that at the end of my month of endless eye drops, I’ll be able to see things more clearly (sort of), cause it sure is better than not being able to see at all. I hear you God, and I’m listening.

Memories Help Make Us Whole!

It isn’t a secret that my greatest fear is getting dementia like my Mom. That fear is the reason I cram as many memories into my days as I possibly can, and then I pray that my brain can store them all when I want to remember them. It wasn’t an accident that Tim and I named our RV Memory Maker and it was our dream to make a lifetime of memories together. Making memories became a priority because even as a young adult I recognized that my memory didn’t seem to be as sharp as others my age. Of course I remember where I grew up and went to school, church and places I visited. BUT my memories of people, particularly people I grew up with, teachers I had and years that some events occurred are very fuzzy. Why do I remember events, but not necessarily the people I experienced them with?

In January I began a journey of “Learning Loretta” (specifically who I am without Tim). As part of that journey I signed up for two classes, a Spiritual Writing course that required us to make “Art Dates” with ourselves and a class on “Becoming Holy Whole”. I’ve stuck with the art dates even after the class ended and love making time to see as much art and nature as I can. The “Holy Whole” class concerned me a little because the text used in the class written by Professor Timothy Sedgwick focuses a lot on memory.

Professor Sedgwick writes “Consciousness of one moment in time does not exist apart from memory of the past and expectations for the future. Through language, the present is experienced in light of the past, and as enlightening the future. And so it is in the experience of the holy. The holy points to an experience of a moment in time that makes sense only in terms of what happened before and after the moment.”

As I’ve worked my way through Professor Sedgwick’s book, that quote and several others have stuck with me. I’m examining how the present, past and future connect and disconnect in my life. Yesterday evening I was to attend a baby shower in Calvert County, MD about an hour from my house. The weather was supposed to be beautiful so I decided to include an “art date” and visit Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center only 3 miles from where the baby shower would be held. I planned to spend the entire day there so I packed a lunch, put on my walking shoes and set out. The six hours I spent inside the gardens made me feel both Holy and Whole.

The sculptures in the garden were stunning! I went to each, sat on the benches around them and reflected on each one. Several of them were Holy in my opinion.  The sculptures had names, but I renamed some of them based on how I connected with or disconnected from each of them based on my past and what I believe will be my future.

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I took notes on several of the sculptures and my reactions to them! Some I went back to several times. I sat in chairs that overlooked the water and ate my lunch as the birds chirped. I also sat in a garden of sculptures of women and colored in my coloring book as I reflected on them. The tall stones with benches in a circle became my church setting and I prayed and reflected on Lent and felt God’s presence. I also felt God’s presence in the sculptures that were IN the trees that had sculptured faces. They were amazing!

Memory3          Yet the thing that impacted my day the most was an actual “experience in memory”. It was exactly what I believe Professor Sedgwick is getting at in his book. The sculpture was called the “Surveyor’s Map”. The artist built a huge “boardwalk” that twisted and turned through the woods and encouraged visitors to make their own memories as they walked through it. It also included inscriptions from Calvert County residents that the artist KNEW would fade over time just as our memories do. WOW!! Each time I walked through it, I discovered something new, like the sculpture with its hands up and mouth open!

Memory5When it was time for me to leave the gardens and head to the baby shower, I felt whole. I had seen and experienced art that became important memories for my present, recalled some memories of other sculptures I’d seen in the past (that I’d forgotten) and allowed me to disconnect from XM radio, email and social media for six hours. I only used my phone to take photos – YET I didn’t feel disconnected at all because I felt connected with myself, God and Nature which was my primary goal for Lent. I’d say, Mission Accomplished!