Archive | October, 2013

When Grandma Learned to Wobble

28 Oct

Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”
Said the old man, “I do that too.”
The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”
I do that too,” laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, “I often cry.”
The old man nodded, “So do I.”
But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems
Grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
I know what you mean,” said the little old man.” 
― Shel Silverstein

I really do love seniors. My Pitt Pals laugh at me sometimes—whenever I pass an older person on the street or on the bus, I kind of melt a bit…like my heart all of a sudden weighs more than it should and my knees buckle because of it. There’s just something about a little old lady that gets to me. I feel like if anyone really has all the secrets of the universe, it’s going to be someone over 70, and I’ll learn the answers in the twinkle of their eyes. I just need to open mine, realizing there’s a treasure in front of me in those wrinkles and slow pace.

This month my grandma is turning 85. When she came to visit with my parents last weekend, she reminded me that I shouldn’t operate under the false perception that something as arbitrary as age builds an impenetrable wall between people. Grandma can have fun with the best of them, and when the pals and I jumped up to do the Wobble (which pretty much happens on a weekly basis with this crew), Grandma was dancing right along. My grandma is 4’7. If you were to see her on the street, you’d probably say in your head, “aww, what a cute old lady.” But don’t let her age or her stature let you write her off as “cute.” Take the time to know her before you size her up (that’s not a short joke, grandma, I promise).

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My grandma and I at my cousin’s wedding last summer 🙂

One of the services provided by Ursuline Senior Services (my placement site) is a Senior Reassurance call program. Basically this program pairs volunteers with senior clients for daily phone calls, ultimately to provide a friendly chat and a wellness check. I call two old ladies every morning. Every time I call the first lady, she’s reading a book. She likes to read historical fiction, and makes sure I know just how much she hates Henry VIII. My other lady, a 95 year old chatterbox, is the highlight of my morning. We talk about all sorts of things. She swears by oatmeal with peanut butter for a good hearty breakfast, and couldn’t wait to tell me when she broke the bank playing penny slots at the casino. I know I’m supposed to be calling her to check on her well-being, but I can promise that in reality Miss T helps me to be well.

Last week I attended a conference called Aging in Place. It was for professionals who serve older adults, to network and provide resources that could benefit the aging population at large. One of the speakers, a hilarious older woman, spoke about how she will never be grown up, but rather always growing up. The journey never ends. What’s that quote, we don’t stop playing because we grow old we grow old because we stop playing? I like that. Never stop playing.

It’s funny, I’ve spent most of this week feeling “grown up.” My supervisor is out of town, leaving me with more daily responsibilities. It’s easy to fall into the trap of being a grown-up, and thinking the whimsy is over. Good thing I’ve got my Wobbling grandma to keep me in check.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my journey this week. It’s scary…when mindfulness is your mantra traveling anywhere else in time is a dangerous feat. But most things we do are finite, and I can’t help but ponder where I’ll be summoned after my year with Change a Heart comes to an end. My Pal Kim and I make every effort to avoid talk about life after CAH, for no other purpose than we already can’t imagine the pain of leaving everything here we’ve come to love. But I feel like if nothing else, I must be aware of stirrings in my soul. And, if the Grinch is any inclination, when my heart hurts because it feels like it’s growing I should probably make note. Maybe that ping of love means there will be more Wobbling seniors in my future. Whether that’s the case or not, if nothing else, in 60 years I sure hope that I’m still Wobbling.

I’m Waking Up, I Feel It In My Bones*

17 Oct

In this book I read once, there was a man whose spirit positively glowed. People asked him, “Are you God?” “Are you an angel?” The man just shook his head, quietly stating, “No. I’m simply awake.”

We wake up every morning. But to be awake is something altogether different.

This weekend, at our retreat to upstate New York, I was reminded that God likes to dance in paradox. In the midst of a rejuvenating weekend full of low-key relaxation, I was reminded of the thrill of waking up.

This lesson began Thursday on the way to Syracuse, when, unexpectedly, Kelly (the Director of our program) made a sharp turn and got off the exit to visit Niagara Falls. The trip was a blip in the length of the drive—an extra 30 minutes both ways. But the memory of spontaneously running to greet the slapping waters of the Falls was unforgettable, especially for the pals who hadn’t been there before. Kelly didn’t have to do much, just drive a little farther than planned, and be willing to arrive at our final destination a little later. She jarred us from our slumbers, literally and metaphorically speaking, reminding us that if our eyes are open we can jump off the map. All we have to be is awake.

Skip ahead to late Friday night. As we were slowly dozing off by the fire at our retreat site, Kelly ran in the room to tell us Rachel (a Pitt Pal) had arrived from the airport and we were all welcome to go pick her up. Rachel had been home for her grandfather’s funeral, but she was back and awaiting our pickup at the airport. Despite nearly being asleep, we jumped up at the ready and ran to the van. It was a late night adventure. At the airport, we realized we were waiting at the wrong terminal, so we literally ran across the building to arrive at the correct spot. When we made it to Rachel’s gate, we sat down at the base of the escalator and waited patiently to catch a glimpse of our pal. Sitting there, I opened my eyes, and I began to notice that all of the flyers arriving in Syracuse looked miserable. I couldn’t blame them—flights had been delayed, it was after midnight, and we were in an airport. There wasn’t much to be excited about.

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Kim and I waiting patiently at the base of the escalator for Rachel to arrive. 

So I decided to help them wake up. 

Before my pals realized what I was up to, I started clapping inthe groggy flyers, welcoming them to Syracuse and congratulating them for making it safely there. I must have looked absurd, standing there clapping in my pajamas and bandana, but I received more than a few grateful smiles in appreciation.

Sunday morning, the last day of the retreat, I decided to get up before the sun. I’m not a morning person, so a sunrise is an event, and holds a dear place in my heart. If I’m up with the sun, I mean business. So, in the quiet of our 15 person sleep room, I laced up my shoes, and boldly stepped out into the wee morning light. I made my way into the winding meadow in front of our quarters, traipsing through the brush as I watched night turn into day. I walked for awhile, passing several frolicking deer, eventually making my way to a bench overlooking miles of turning trees. Then, I did the only thing I felt was right: I hopped onto the bench, threw my hands up into the air, and I danced in gratitude for all that is.

The day was breaking, and I was not only up, but I was awake.  

 

*from Radioactive by Imagine Dragons 

  

More Than Sunshine and Rainbows

7 Oct

So I’ve been reading this book that a friend lent me called Love Does. The basic premise of the story is that to live a life of love you have to be bold. You can’t think about loving or talk about loving, but act in such a way that in all you do you exude love…even when it’s messy and difficult.

This isn’t so easy. But I’ve been working on it.

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I’ve taken to loving the universe at random times throughout my day…usually when I’m walking around the city. I put my arms in the air in a gesture of gratitude for all I am and all I’ve been given. I remind myself that I am love, and love does. This gesture grounds me, orienting me towards love.

This week, however, I’ve begun to see that while love is easy to talk about, it’s the whole doing part that isn’t always easy. I’ve learned this lesson in two ways: running and an argument.

I have a fear of running. I can’t stand it, really. I don’t think I have the physical capacity to be a distance runner, let alone the mental stamina to get the job done. I’ve even started to have dreams that I physically cannot run. So, naturally, I figured that meant I had to start….we’re supposed to do the things we think we can’t, right?

So I’ve been running. And let me tell you, running in theory is a lot more enjoyable than actually running. I sweat like a pig and feel like I’m going to pass out every time I come back from a run. It’s a challenge and it takes a willpower that I don’t quite have yet. But I’m working on it. And besides, my dad wants to do a 5k together in two weeks, and I can’t let him go it alone. Love takes commitment. Love does.

This week I learned a lesson in what it means to apologize and forgive. I acted irrationally towards a friend and owed her an apology, and in turn was asked for forgiveness for her irrational act. It was nothing detrimental on either of our parts, but because of our love for one another we were both hurt. Arguments aren’t fun or neat. We talk about forgiveness and apologies all the time, but to actually do so is difficult and humbling and can be pretty scary. But we can’t just talk about apologizing and forgiving. Love doesn’t sit idly by and watch someone hurt without resolve. Love does. So we apologized, and we forgave.

Listening to God is easy when all you hear is sunshine and rainbows. I can throw my arms in the air and be grateful for the beautiful sky above my head any day. But to conjure that gratitude during a run when my legs are burning, or after an argument that helped me grow, that’s what love does.

And that’s what I want to do.

 

And Sometimes I Rhyme

2 Oct

Every morning and every afternoon I have a 30 minute bus ride to myself. Sometimes I talk on the phone to friends back home, sometimes I stare blankly off into space, sometimes I strike up conversations with my fellow bus-lovers. And sometimes I write.

Ever since I was little, I’ve enjoyed thinking in rhyme. In grade school those rhymes turned into little poems—my mini-self filled notebooks with poetry. As I began to grow older, those rhymes became a little more mature, and I began writing spoken word, usually with theological or social justice undertones. But, every so often, like when I’m staring out the window of a bus, my mind reverts back to middle school, and out come the couplets.

So today I put those couplets into verse, and I wrote an Ode to The Pitt Pals. So sit back, pretend you’re seven and rhymes are exciting, and get to know my housemates just a little bit better.

 

Ode to the Pitt Pals

I reference them often, but “who are they??” you may ask.

It’s time to introduce the Pitt Pals, so sit back and relax.

11 kids and 10 cities, we’re from far and near,

All crazy enough to dive into this adventure for a year.

I’ll break us up by house, but must clearly say,

We have two houses but one home, they’re just six blocks away.

I’ll introduce the kiddos, a description may be nice,

Of who I share my life with in this Pennsylvania life.

First I’ll start with Christopher, and his beloved Notre Dame,

He goes to bed by 9, so Grandpa is his name.

Next we have Wes, the history buff,

But it’s in the kitchen that he really knows his stuff.

Christina is from Boston, her accent’s wicked sick,

Ask to see her dance moves, her dougie is legit.

Sean is my 4th housemate, he’s Change a Heart year two,

If you ever need anything Sean is there for you.

Throw me in the mix, and we make up Milgate Street,

So let’s head down to Edmond where there’s six more pals to meet.

Joy is “house mom”—she cooks like a pro,

Then brings us to Cathedral for some time at H2O.

Rachel likes to snuggle and curl up like a bug,

You can always count on Rachel for a reassuring hug.

I think Kelly’s the craziest—though it takes some  time to tell,

But when you play the Wobble she bursts right out her shell.

Sarah’s my fellow wanderer, she’s never sitting still,

She seeks adventure in her heart, and will never get her fill.

Next we move to Amy, from a Minnesotan farm,

She warms the hearts of all with her small town country charm.

Lastly we have Kim, the music connoisseur,

This one’s got a heart of gold and always knows the Packer’s score.

Together we’re The Pitt Pals and we’re here to get things done,

But in between that service we promise we are fun!

 

(The thing about community, is that love’s what we’re about,

So it’s okay this poem is corny, they cannot kick me out!)

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 Milgate Family Photo

Until next time, friends  🙂