Words Not Weapons

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After hearing of the terrorist attack in Barcelona, I contacted my German friend, Margrit.

Thirty-six years ago in 1981, my mother and father met Margrit’s parents at a wine festival in Margrit’s hometown, Deidesheim, Germany.  Our two sets of parents shared the ages of their children, and they discovered they had two girls approximately the same age, Margrit and me. Our parents exchanged addresses, and Margrit and I became pen pals.

Our letters tied us together. Even after the tech revolution, we continued to write. Margrit and I’ve adjusted our writing. We still both prefer a handwritten letter, and I could pick Margrit’s beautiful script out of a line-up for sure!  Our letters aren’t as frequent, but with the tech revolution, we’re able to follow each other on Facebook and share photos via messenger. Margrit and I’ve celebrated world events, like the downfall of the Berlin Wall, and we’ve denounced horrors, like the despicable acts of 9.11.

Inspiring this blog entry is Margrit’s and my time on Las Ramblas, celebrating our 25th friendship anniversary in June 2009. Margrit and I walked side-by-side down the peaceful Boulevard, enjoying the summer evening. We people-watched, listened to street musicians and chose a place to stop for a ‘tres bier Grazie.’ 

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We had our photo taken with a Las Ramblas street performer, a larger-than-life gargoyle, who while the camera clicked, leaned in for a kiss, whispering Catalan into my ear. Margrit and I laughed about the gargoyle’s forwardness, and in the years to come, the photo reminded Margrit and me of our harmless, fun-loving encounter with the Gargoyle on Las Ramblas in Barcelona.

The photo’s taken during a time when peacefulness accompanied most traveling Westerners.  A time when terrorists weren’t walking into crowded tourist areas with bombs strapped to their backs. A time when people rented cars to get to a destination not to kill people. A time when we guarded our wallets against pickpocketers but didn’t fear for our lives when having coffee or tea in a city square.

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On Thursday, August 17th, the day of terror on Las Ramblas,  I contacted Margrit on WhatsApp. I sent her the news headliner and referenced our 2009 photo:

our moment with the gargoyle is on my mind😩😢

And three days later – quicker than a letter traveling over the Atlantic but slower than pressing send on a social media message or an international texting app – I received Margrit’s response.

Happiness and tragedy are so close together 🙁

A van didn’t bloodily extinguish our lives on Las Ramblas when we were there.  Instead, we had a trustworthy interaction with a gargoyle.  To us, Las Ramblas is a place of inside-jokes and laughter, and now I can’t help but cringe thinking about what Las Ramblas elicits in those who suffered pain, personal loss, and unbearable heartache because of a heinous, despicable crime.

Friends, this isn’t only Barcelona’s terror, this is our world’s worst nightmare unfolding in front of our eyes – the disregard for human life and the desensitization toward violence are crippling our world.

Let’s stop the madness!

*******

Tragically,

Monsters exist

But thankfully, so do pen pals –

To who and what are you paying attention?  Good or evil?

A pen pal uses words not weapons to write a life story.

The world should take a page out of a pen pal’s book.

Remember the adage, ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me?’

My hope is within my lifetime, words connect us again, not ill-willed reactions, violent acts or deliberate tragedy.

One can hope and plot our comeback –

One kind word at a time.

 

 

May you find your peace again, Barcelona!

 

 

 

Extra Oxygen

In December 2016, my friends, a father/daughter team, organized a blood drive, and I signed up.  I’d never donated blood, but

J⁴ needed a blood transfusion.  The 12-week chemo/immunotherapy treatment had lowered her blood counts to a point where she desperately needed a life-saving boost. She needed three separate blood transfusions.

Although I knew she wouldn’t receive my blood, I went into the blood drive thinking about her need and about how having her blood type available saved her life. Someone else had given his/her blood for her to live.

I answered, in a private room, the medical history questions – some questions pretty basic, have you lived overseas for more than five years during 1980 -? And some questions downright personal, have you ever paid for sex?  have you ever had gay sex?  I got my finger pricked to draw a bead of blood to check my iron levels. I had my blood pressure and pulse taken.

Then I stretched out on a portable hospital bed and had a pint of blood drawn via IV. I squeezed a rubber ball to encourage the blood flow. When I finished giving, the nurse took an extra seven vials of blood for testing.

I didn’t coast through the whole thing – actually, I had some light headedness and nausea which I’ve now learned is normal.  After donating, I went to bed early, but in the AM, I felt fine.

I thought about the 12 weeks I accompanied J⁴ to chemo.  The needles that stuck her – blood tests, chemo IV, immunotherapy IV.  The machines she’s laid in and tables and hospital beds she’s laid on while having CT scans, radiation and doctor visits. The Penguin Cold Caps we put on her head every 20 minutes before, during and after the treatments.  How cold the caps felt on my gloved hands as I readied them, yet J⁴ had to endure the ice-cold caps wrapped around her head and also carry the worry, will I  save my hair? (which she did!)

A few weeks after donating blood, I received an email from the American Red Cross, asking if I’d give blood again, after 56 days, the required time between giving. Without hesitation, I downloaded the Red Cross’ blood donation app and scheduled my next donation.  I’ve now given 3x since December, and I receive notifications when I’m able to give again.

On my 2nd blood drive visit, I met a woman in the ‘recovery area’ where salty and sugary snacks and waters are served. The woman ate Chips Ahoy cookies while I munched on Cheez-Its.  She told me that she had worked in a trauma unit in an east coast hospital for over 30+ years.  She said she’d given blood, on schedule, for the last 15 years. She witnessed a patient who required 100 units of blood (a person can only give 1 unit/pint, so 100 people saved one life!) and who then fully recovered from his injuries. After seeing the miracle, she committed to giving.

I listened to a Canvas-SF service this week while I strung a NeckGrace. It was about minimalism; Less is More.

“Minimalism is not about having less stuff but it’s about being free to do more which matters. True life, that which is real and full, is found at the intersection of simplicity and generosity. You make a living by what you get, and you make a life by what you give away. Passing blame that you don’t have time is absolving yourself from responsibility – cuz you ‘B-lame” when you blame other things for owning your time. Are you making a living or making a life? Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible – hurried people can’t love. Love takes time. Will you open your hands and loosen your grip on the more that you’re pursuing, so you may have true life.” – Travis

In 2012, healthy and well, three years before lung cancer, J⁴ traveled with us to our family’s favorite beach in the world, Anguilla.  For some local flavor, we recommended she read the book, A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean, written by Melinda and Robert Blanchard, who gave up most of their worldly possessions and most of what they were familiar and moved to Anguilla and started a restaurant, Blanchards. J⁴ loved the book, so once on the island, she went to Blanchards and met the owners. She bought a hat, and they signed it –

I photographed J⁴ on the Anguilla beach wearing her treasured signed hat.

IMG_8113picWe took the photo next to these:

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“Extra Oxygen”

Five years ago, I had no idea that the beauty of these tanks in the foreground to the most beautiful water in the world foreshadowed J⁴’s necessity for extra oxygen.  The extra oxygen that will buy her time; time to read books, time to share with her beloved husband and boys, time to visit places that bring her joy and time to impact the lives of those around her by all that she gives.

Breathe life into yourself by giving blood, extra oxygen, sweat & tears and love in any way, shape or form.

‘Cuz real life doesn’t allow us to take a timeout when the going gets rough, and after we’re gone, the stuff we’ve acquired becomes someone else’s clutter, but what we give away sets us free!

Like when we take a trip to the beach – we keep it simple – some sunscreen, glasses or a good book – all the rest is extra – extra clutter – blocking us from the simplicity and a true life.

Don’t b-lame – give your extra away.

 

 

 

Writer’s Block

When the atmosphere above our desks is cloudy and the ensuing fog is a pattern, our minds drift, our words evaporate, and our fingers freeze.

We accept the current conditions as

img_2261“Writer’s Block.”

Familiar with this drought, we listen to the advisory;

hunkering down and forecasting this disturbance will pass –

And sure enough, the depression moves out, the pressure melts away, and as predicted, the conditions are perfect

for an avalanche.

Desired Things

 

Nowadays, when we’re searching for answers, we often depend upon Google, which usually, other than with the misfortune of a dead battery or no wi-fi, comes with us via our phone wherever we go.  With the privilege of carrying our pocket-size encyclopedias, dictionaries, translators, atlases, maps, recipe keepers, books, magazines, periodical tables, and on-and-on, who needs to do an old school search for desired info in a library?

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While in Puebla, Mexico, this week, we stopped into the tourist information center, where it was recommended we visit the city’s biblioteca, Biblioteca Palafoxiana, the Americas’ oldest library, right next door.

The Biblioteca Palafoxiana’s namesake, Juan Palafox y Mendoza, was bishop of Puebla from 1640 to 1655, and served as viceroy of New Spain. In 1646 he donated 5000 books from his private collection to the seminary of the Colegio de San Juan. He made the donation with the stipulation that the books be available to any literate person, and not just academics, thus establishing the first public library of the Americas. In 1773, Bishop Francisco Fabian y Fuero commissioned bookshelves made of finely carved cedar, ayacahuite pine, and coloyote wood to house the library’s growing collection. An additional tier of shelving was added in the 1800s.

Whether it be from lack of desire, of access or of privilege, we don’t all own personal phones or computers, and those of us who do, often, sadly, feel naked and alone without them. However, when we peel it all away – when the batteries are completely dead and the wi-fi is on the fritz – we still, together, desire understanding.

Stepping into the beautiful, quiet Biblioteca Palafoxiana, I’m reminded of the privilege of being literate, the value of words and books and the sacredness of where it is celebrated and housed, in a library.

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from Max Ehrmann’s,

Desiderata,

(Latin word meaning, “desired things”)

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

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It Is Still a Beautiful World

I checked it out –

there’s still a lot to be desired in the library

and in this world.

📚

 

Benefit of the Doubt

“Maybe you’re standing on the side of a cliff, stuck on if; wondering,

Can I entrust myself to him? Can I commit myself even though I doubt?

If I take a leap, will he catch me?”

When vacationing on Anguilla, I partook in a rare recreation for me.

I read a book.

Coincidentally, the book, Faith & Doubt, by John Ortberg, led me to a place, like Anguilla; a place where tranquility allows me to explore my doubts and where familiarity and comfort permit me to see the beauty derived from my faith. It’s a leap of faith to give something or someone the benefit of the doubt – to decide to believe, even though we’re not sure that what is being said or being done is true.

It’s a decision to have faith,

and through my faith, ultimately,  I’m able to see beyond the cliffs

and to accept

without a doubt, I should read more often; not for only recreation, but also for purpose.

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“Beyond The Doubt”