That last - sacrifice - is what our veterans are all about. Putting their lives on the line so that we, back home, don't have to make any sacrifices at all.
Today may be the one day a year that our nation actively honors our veterans but - it is our duty, nee' our responsibility, to honor their actions each and every day of our lives.
And those of their families, who also make sacrifices so that those ideals - that look so good on paper - can be lived by everyone around them.
As I have mentioned in the past few months, the death of a young girl in my town has touched the deepest corners of my soul, urging me to act.
To do something that could possibly help even one kid make a different decision at a critical moment.
And so I did it - I joined the Youth Ministry. I attended a "Core Team" meeting about 2 weeks ago where we discussed plans for the monthly Youth Group Gathering; which takes place the 2nd Saturday of the month after 5:00pm Mass.
That night ... was last night.
In a moment of insane weakness at the Core Team meeting, I agreed to speak to the Youth Group about - bullying. It was to be the main topic of last night's Gathering and it was suggested by Mike - one of the Ministry Leaders - that it would be good for the kids to hear about bullying experiences from one of the adult Ministry members.
Since we all know that this topic is very close to my heart - without thinking at all I heard myself saying..."Sure Mike, I'll give witness."
Now - I don't speak in front of people. Ever.
All my life I have been the background planner; ensuring things run smoothly, that all details are attended to so that the people who do speak in front of the crowd have nothing else to do but - speak.
I don't get in front of the crowd - just thinking about it makes my palms sweat and my mouth go dry. It is so far outside my comfort zone that the comfort zone is a speck on the distant horizon behind me.
So last night not only did I attend my first Youth Group Gathering - I was scheduled to speak.
I figured it would be 10-12 kids, maybe a handful of adults. I could get thru that especially talking about something as important to me as the subject of bullying.
What I didn't expect was - 30 teenagers aged 13 thru 18 plus a sprinkling of college kids.
Looking at me and waiting for me to rock their world.
Mike runs a tight ship - he is intense and focused and he is amazing with the kids. They listen so attentively to him; it's clear they love him and he loves them. It is also clear they are very engaged in whatever is being discussed and boy - do they have alot to say.
As the gathering progressed I realized - Mike was saving my work for last.
I was to close the gathering with my words.
For the past 2 weeks I have been working on what I referred to as my TED Talk; I did this to avoid the word "speech" - which just scared me half to death.
I shared my talk with Mike just to be sure I was on-message for what he had in mind for the gathering. He asked me to cut it down, which I did during the gathering last night, massaging my words on my iPad so that my message was more concise and focused.
Then - the talk about bullying began and I realized as it progressed that all that I had written, all that I had prayed about and committed to the page - was flying out the window.
Not that my message needed to change but how I presented it - changed nearly entirely.
Because the kids inspired me. They were so engaged in what Mike was bringing to them, so clearly committed to trying to tackle the awesomely powerful issue of bullying in the most positive way possible - that I had no choice but to just...
Dear Lord, don't let go of my hand. That was my literal prayer last night. Not only was my comfort zone quickly receding but I was now off the precipice and standing in - air.
And so eventually I was introduced and 30 heads turned around to look at me. I made my way into the living room from the kitchen and took a seat on a hassock next to a girl who I am fairly certain is suffering from some pretty bad bullying.
As I sat down and looked up - I had to say it out loud - "wow...there certainly are alot of you here..."
It made them all chuckle and it put me at ease, somewhat.
And then something truly beautiful happened - the Holy Spirit took me over and I gave the TED Talk of my life. I had 30 teenagers focused directly on ... me.
They never wavered, never looked bored. They gave me their full attention, boring into my heart with their eyes. As I would look from one to another, as my gaze took in the room from one side to another, all I could see were faces - young, earnest faces - listening to my every word.
Hearing what I said, not just listening. As I shared my experiences with bullying - the teasing, the assaults, the violent behavior inflicted upon me by my classmates - I could see their revulsion at what I was saying happened to me.
I could feel their love for me.
30 teenagers spread their love all over me in a way I could have never expected.
It was - intoxicating.
About 75% of what I had prepared to say - I never said. I just told my story, harkened back to things said during the gathering, spoke directly to their hearts.
I offered prayers to anyone who was being bullied; I offered prayers to anyone who was currently being a bully.
There really are no words to describe what it felt like to have those kids - who, to be honest, I kind of feared a little bit - applaud me when I was finished. When I thanked them for their time and attention - they applauded me.
Me. The person who truly thought had nothing to offer them. That I had nothing they would be interested in hearing.
As I went back to the kitchen the adults who were there all came up to me to say basically just one word - Wow.
I think - I have may have found a calling I didn't know I had.
We won't be covering any new ground today. We retreat to what soothes us.
For we are in pain. Physical pain.
My left knee - which has been mildly problematic off and on since last summer - has moved into more chronic pain territory.
Pain with every step. Pain when I sit, stand, walk - all day, every day.
I had so hoped to get thru 5 years or so before I had to deal with the partial knee replacements I've known I needed since just before my hip replacement last fall. We've been doing the lubricating, synovial-joint shots every six months and they do work quite well.
Unfortunately it seems the last round has worn off - about 3 1/2 months early. We are in territory I thought I had left behind with 2 hip replacements.
Pain that interferes with my life. Pain that affects every decision I make right down to how I place my feet.
"Now We Are Free"* - a song that gives me great peace and given the title and my situation - how ironic.
I know I need to go see my surgeon yet I am terrified at what I know he will tell me - surgery, sooner rather than later. I just...know.
I know my body now, better than I ever have before, particularly when it comes to joint pain. It is a subject I am far better versed in than I would have ever liked.
Two total hip replacements in less than 4 years is just so much for the body to recover from. I had hoped for more time with my knees.
Time for me to work thru my previously-mentioned 5-year plan; a major part of which would see me out of the cubicle farm, able to approach my recovery from knee replacement surgery without the pressure of a return to that which I no longer feel is where I belong; and the attendant stress of that return. Because I know that recovery from knee replacements - even partial ones - is far worse that the hip replacement - and trust me the hip replacement isn't exactly a picnic.
And as much as I fear it I know I need to make that appointment, get some x-rays and see what's what. I suspect that a stop-gap may be some physical therapy to strengthen up the muscles around the knee joint. Which - yeah, not liking that. Like I need more appointments crammed into this my crazy life.
Insurance won't pay for extra shots so unless I have about $1,800 lying around...that won't be an option.
So there is a decision I need to make and I go back and forth all day, everyday.
"The Bluebird"** - in its physical form, the Bluebird is my talisman for all good things. Seeing one always fills me with joy and the hope of possibilities. Even just hearing their sweet burble can be enough. I heard that burble at the retreat last weekend.
And it and that experience has kept my life chugging along, changed fundamentally from the retreat. I hold all the gifts I received tight within my healed heart; I hold fast to God's light within me - allowing it to flow from my heart, through every pore, right out the tips of my fingers.
I tend to live in the dark of myself; gravitating towards the shadows. I know now that while we do need the shadows to give shape and definition to the dark parts of ourselves and our lives, it is the light that banishes the shadows taking with it the darkness.
Seems pretty basic but when it comes to emotions - nothing is basic. And so it is that I am praying diligently for God to help me to acknowledge my shadows...
...but to live in the light.
Healing to me
And freely to you from Sol Omnipotens
Wings of Joy
Warmth of Day,
Sun of Dawn
O Sun of Yellow,
The Son of Righteousness,
Son of Morning Light,
Shine high and below!
O Great I AM!
O He Who Was!
O Great to Come!
Now we are Free!
One the One now whom he was to be!
And the One by whom we now do all see
Healing to me;
Healing to you now freely from Sol
For all the world too
Wings of Joy
Warmth of Day,
Sun of Dawn;
The Sun of Yellow,
Flame by Day
From Our Lord
True Sun of Liberty
Healing you free.
The lake lay blue below the hillThe lake lay blue below the hill, below the hill
As I looked, there flew across the waters cold and still
A bird whose wings were palest blue
The sky above was blue at last
The sky beneath me blue in blue, was blue in blue
A moment ere the bird had passed
It called, as if in a trance he flew
The lake lay blue below the hill
As I have said many times - I struggle with eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight; hell let's be honest and say that I have no consistency to my weight and what I am carrying now - isn't healthy.
I mentioned back in July how happily shocked I was at comprehensive blood test results that showed I am in great health overall. All numbers were on-target and there were no strong recommendations for changes in my diet except perhaps a reduction in sweets.
Sounds so simple, doesn't it.
Just reduce the sweets. Oh yes and perhaps reduce intake of carbs.
Why don't they just slit my wrists?!
Then ... the laryngitis returned and we've been making the round of doctors. We are at the G.I. stage now waiting for a procedure to be done in mid-December. It is suspected I'm suffering from silent acid reflux and the only way to find that out is to sedate me and stick a very long tub all the way down into my stomach.
Again - why don't they just put me in a deep coma and feed me intravenously; it would be better than giving up things like - chocolate - nature's perfect food.
I tend to binge on junk food so that one won't be too painful. I'm not a big drinker and I don't intend on giving up my every-so-often glass of red wine. I don't smoke. I've never developed a palate for spicy foods.
But these restrictions do leave a person's appetite - hungering for more.
I am trying to stick to fruits like honeydew melon or grapes as snacks; my favorite fruit - pineapple - is currently off the menu.
I've reduced my caffeine intake to almost nothing and that was less painful than I feared. Not that I drank it in copious quantities but 2 cups of regular coffee per day didn't used to be out of the ordinary.
Kicking the sweets/chocolate habit will be - difficult. Painful even.
Ah well - it's all in my best interests for overall health and well-being and so - we manage as best we can.
And we have made a rather cool investment in something that, I hope, may become the motivator I need to lose weight once and for all. Or at least make healthier choices.
FitBit - the FitBit Flex to be precise. It is a wondrous device...by wearing this small black bracelet I record a host of information that I can synch up to my iPhone & iMac (or any other device, tablet or computer that you may have; it's not exclusive to the iDevices...) and eventually get trends, reports and input into my physical activity, eating habits and sleep monitoring. It keeps track of an amazing array of statistics each day, many of them without your input at all:
- How many steps I've taken.
- How many miles I've walked.
- How many minutes I've been active.
And if I input my food consumption it will keep track of calories and percentages of carbs, fats, sugars, etc...
It also includes a sleep monitoring program; I lightly tap the bracelet when I go to bed and keep it on all night (given that it weighs nothing and is made of flexible rubber it's quite comfortable). I can set a silent alarm so that the bracelet vibrates on my wrist, waking me up and ending the sleep tracker. Or I can skip the alarm and manually turn off the sleep tracker.
The large blue spaces are when I'm sound asleep; the pink line is when I was awake and the teal line represents periods of restlessness.
It is completely and utterly accurate - at least in terms of the awake time. The Oracle was very restless shortly after we went to bed last night and he woke me up from a good sleep at - 12:00am. Which if you could hover over that pink line you'd see it would say - awake at 11:59pm.
For 4 minutes.
Which was a surprise because it felt like much longer than that. I don't recall any of the restless periods after that and I did wake up this morning feeling like I had gotten a decent night's sleep. Not long enough - I like to get 8 hours per night if I can - but still, close to 7 hours of decent sleep with long stretches of deep sleep is pretty damn good.
And the FitBit will keep track of this information for as long as I wear it and synch it. The sleep patterns will emerge over time, of course, and I'm looking forward to that.
The Oracle insists I'm a very restless sleeper but, at least last night, he's been proven to be wrong.
And so while I wear this little beast, at the very least, it is a reminder that I've spent a fair chunk of change on a tiny device that is designed to help me be healthier. I can already sense myself thinking about what I want to eat rather than just gravititating to whatever my grumbling stomach thinks it needs.
So - we begin.