My Boy God

When I was a boy, I couldn’t understand the God at church. I apparently had to dress up for that God. That God was completely a mystery. Didn’t know where He was…up, down, inside? No one else had a real good explanation where exactly he is either? Didn’t know how to have a relationship except through that lonely, incomprehensible process called prayer.  All the answers to life apparently also were in a book. That was the God all the adults introduced us to. No fault to my parents. Bless them. They were still living with that God. It was just not real to me. I couldn’t see or touch or feel heard with that God.

But I came to know a real God that lived just 10 feet from my bed growing up. It was called Outside. There was marvel all round! There were life and death struggles every minute on our 50 acres of land and lake. Streams and woods and lots of dirt. Teeming with discovery, wonder. One day I could be a giant peering into and playing in the world of the very small. When you get your eyeballs inches away from almost anything, it teems! On a dark, winter night I could be lying in the middle of our frozen lake, alone, looking up at the heavens filled with the Milky Way. From out there, now I’m the very small one. I could be out in tornado weather with trees fighting to stand upright, lightning filling the sky or stand in 3 feet of snow and not be able to see 20 feet through the blizzard pelting my face. I could look out my bedroom picture window and see the sun rise then see it set in the evening on the other side of the house at dinner.

Our parents gave us this. God obviously gave us this. But I really don’t think parents, in general, connect these dots. I don’t remember our priests talking or showing us this God in a book. Yet, it is in this most amazing, glorious creation where God lives and breathes and bathes every minute of everyday that this boy took in his first gulps.

Is there a message in this story? My mother without knowing it threw me and my sibs out into that Outside magic kingdom where He/She stands with open arms. Once Outside tho, mom and dad both had to pray to their God we’d come back.

My prayer to all parents, “If ever anyone doubts there is a real God, quick!, take your kids and run for the hills!” and, “May that awe of creation be the prayer of praise and gratitude that starts the conversation.”

About this time last year I committed…

About this time last year I committed to making a serious attempt at writing a memoir about my faith journey over the last 6+ years that began with the period of a liver disease where it’s failure became, let’s say, obvious. I took a 6 week workshop in memoir writing through one our local literary groups called the Log Cabin. I began to realize the scope of what this might become and the immensity of this project. I began reading much more earnestly and deeply. Reading first for pleasure and connection to various memoirists mostly, then with some I began to reread to see as much as my inexperienced eye could gather about style and form but in that I began to discover ‘voice’. Each author had a certain voice that either connected or not to me. Or maybe only sometimes would connect. My early writings were geared to finding my voice. Turns out that is an ongoing wonderment.

Now having been ‘at it’ for a while with relatively brief moments of inspirational writing, I began to pile up a number of short pieces, notes, lists, themes, etc..  I then found a writer’s app that was recommended and will do for the project (Schrivner).

A latter spring and summer was filled with starts and stops. In the fall I began various substitute teaching assignments as I get closer to finding a sweet spot of income generation and meaningful work but with some time freedom for writing. Not totally there yet but it is improving almost daily toward this sweet spot.

I have taken on with the teaching a real mental and physical stretch with being in radically different settings with kids and schools. I’ve interacted with K-12 students in PE, almost any type of class I can think of, special ed, playground and recently coaching basketball after school. I have challenged myself with learning without instruction how to play sudoku. My goal was to be able to finish the most challenging level at least once. Thankfully, it is pretty common now. Then I got it in my head that maybe doing logic puzzles would be another good way to keep my mind hopefully learning/expanding. Over the holiday time I did master a set of puzzles that said I had achieved 12th grade level expert status. What a carrot I put out there! Now I found another set of puzzles that have rendered me almost ‘stupid’. What used to be a fun challenge is now a bang my head against the wall deal. Now I see why some people used to look at me like I was ‘stupid’…I apparently was!

Also, over the holidays I set a goal of completing 6-8 pages of script that at the very least indicated to me that this project was possible, worth the effort and had potential. I was able to write over 3000 words and much of what will most likely be chapter one. I’m hoping within a month, I’ll be willing to share it with a few people to get their feedback. I am interested if it carries enough compulsion to read it and a voice that is distinctive of the ‘moi’ in memoir.

And I hope to make some entries from now on in this new improved blog from the light of these new developments, and much less about my medical condition and coping mechanisms.

Cheers and thanks for listening.

The mission is to bring a story to light that will take the reader on a life time journey and tell a journey of faith and its lack as loss and disease beset almost my entire life with various resurrections and how I learned to respond.

 

12/24/16 Christmas eve

Since my anniversary post in August some interesting new directions emerged from the deep recesses of my “golly-now-what-?”  In May I began renewing a professional life by taking care of a few former patients with the possibility that many patients former and new might get word of all this experience with dying and resurrection and fill my life in ways I couldn’t imagine. Huh. Well. It didn’t happen. I am left to only accept and find more to do.

Rather suddenly and usually in the middle of the night a compelling idea might descend on me to make tennis headbands or be a customs agent for dinner exchanges between middle class Americans and refugees or go be a teacher again! The ‘be a teacher’ idea took hold and since my teaching certificate expired along about say 1979…I’ll be a substitute teacher in the meanwhile. Yeah. That’s a good plan. One of the first people I spoke with was a Dr. who said she enjoyed, the word she used was ‘volunteering’ as a substitute since this for her was pocket change. It’s kinda true. But to me teaching elementary PE back in the mid-70’s was the best job with the biggest joy factor I’ve ever had. Maybe some of that joy I’d hoped for, flexibility to work or not as I felt my health and new found energy would allow, and I could earn actual money again. Last winterI hadn’t ‘earned’ any money when I took a job as an usher at one of our local entertainment/sports arenas a few nights a week at $7.25/hr., it just basically caused my low income housing rent to increase.  But it was kinda fun to be out there again. The reactions from the occasional person who knew me when they would see me at the arena was pretty…interesting, let’s say. But it was the only job I could get literally about a year ago following the first stent procedure that started me experiencing ‘normal’ again.

I can most favorably report that the subbing has been engaging and to a limited degree fulfilling as I entered that environment again. I have been averaging 4-5 days a week since the beginning of the school year. And I’ll be coaching a 5-6th grades boys basketball team this winter and well as a little tudoring a few nights a week.  It has led me to put in application for teaching positions for 2017. Who knows? The most ideal situation would be to get a part time teaching position and continue to focus on my book. That is what I am doing this winter break.

Regarding the health journey,  I just got back from Univ. of Washington on Nov. 22 and the final step of the stenting project. All stents removed and I’m now on my own without artificial props holding the liver duct open. I feel wonderful. There are no guarantees but Dr. Balmadrid is pretty positive in the near term (1-3 years). If it shuts down again, he can start the stenting again for a year. I pray that that won’t be what happens. Gratitude has been my norm and I hope yours as I/we stand in the middle of creation looking for something to do at least a good bit of the time.

Thanks for all you given me and Roni and my daughter. As Sly and the Family Stone used to sing, “We Are Family” and ‘Celebrate, Celebrate”!

Let me know what’s happening in your lives with a blog comment, please. I wish you all the best and most meaningful Christmas and holiday cheer.

With Love,

Pat

In Memory of a special soul 11/1/16

This is a letter I wrote to John Martin, MD who’s dedication to his life’s work began saving my life since Feb/2011 through Nov/2014, and continues to care for others like me. No one can see the tears of gratefulness I’ve poured out because of him but their joy have been released into our world of suffering.

Dear John,

I know its been a while and I can only hope that this new email address is correct. If you have any new contact info you would like to send me, I would appreciate it. I hope you, Angela and Owen (an probably by now another child) are all well and thriving.

I couldn’t sleep a few nights ago which opened the door to get a cold, go through various crazy symptoms (as this particular body is wont to do) and come out okay again. But tonight I woke up again in the early morning hours to remember that Today, two years ago, I was on a plane coming back from Chicago following the Halloween day I wished I didn’t have with you doing your last and most amazing ERCP! I just read the report on it again. Wow! I am learning to read so much between the lines. In the same moment, I am so, so grateful for what you provided me and hope I never stop staying in that gratefulness. This little note is In Memory of You.

I can only assume that you are not in the loop about my progress anymore. It would be too much to follow all the people you have cared for but I thought I’d just reach out and shout out to you what’s up a bit. Maybe you read it, maybe not but Life is so much about just putting it out there without concern for results…kinda like love.

Quite a journey for both of us. On Nov 28, 2016, Byran Balmadrid takes out the year long stent procedure and I begin to live the great experiment without the props again. The stents have given me one whole year without significant ‘issues’ and I have enjoyed the vitality and learning what it’s like to not have my life go into the tank every few months. I have a certain growing amount of internal ‘freedom’ that informs me to be and give more unconditionally than ever. One of those manifestations is to go back into teaching. I’ve renewed my teaching certificate from 38 yrs ago and have found work substituting almost everyday in our local schools and so love to be with kids and educators again. I still see a few patients at the end of the days just in case God wants to make something more significant out of that someday. I don’t know where else this will lead me but it’s all very good. I am still committed to writing a memoir and have poured a fair amount of work into that very challenging endeavor.

We shared so much through our journeys with out kids. I’ll attach a pic of Clare and me just in case you may be interested. I made it to her high school graduation! Which was perhaps the driving force to make it through all I’ve been through. She is a sophomore in college and really thriving there. I couldn’t be more grateful. Yes, now I am setting more goals for our future that will keep me reaching but peace is already mine and all this is just…extra!

I wish for you the goodness, God can bless on us from time to time keeping us held as in the arms of a great parent watching a child grow. You are a very special soul and I continue to be blessed by your life.

Pat

This pic was taken a while back before the stent process was started (everyone says I look much better now) but it has very special meaning to me.

8/21/16 2 yr. Anniversary of a most amazing Life

Well isn’t Life so amazing…ly wonderful sometimes. At this point I’m appreciating not being compost.

Last night 2 yrs. ago (August 19, 2014) Roni, Mary Bassett, my sister, Joni Sandy and I were finally on the eve of the transplant scheduled to begin basically at dawn the next morning. I’m sure their imaginations, hopes, anxieties, preparations, prayers from the days, weeks, months and years leading up to this moment in time were pretty dialed up. Me? less so. After all I had had already many years of pretty significant anxiety, suffering, ups and downs, some near death events, parents dying, losing control of basically everything in my life on every level, had prepped many times by then for my ‘leaving’. 8 weeks prior I had an unanticipated open heart surgery and recall thinking that that was the toughest thing I could ever imagine getting through. There were more than a few times that I doubted I had the strength or remaining liver function to make it. My biggest dream then was seeing my daughter, Clare graduate from high school. As I said though, at that point I was as ready as I could be and wanted to get to the next morning. I can’t remember whether I slept that night tho. 
But these three amazing women were that beginning wave of support around Roni and I. And we sat on one of the beds in that apartment overlooking Lake Michigan and prayed the most moving prayer of my life. Actually, Roni and I just let go and let Joni and Mary pray. They must have been channeling everyone else! From that moment on it seemed for me and I’m pretty sure Roni would agree, all the butterflys inside us were flying in formation. 
As some might recall, we arrived at the hospital before dawn, were prepped, IV’d on our gurneys ready to go. Then there was a parade of nurses coming in saying everything was on hold because our transplant team hadn’t finished transplanting another person in the middle of the night because a liver became available. When that happens, they don’t have a lot of time. They just have to do it to save another life. The delay crept on for a long time and finally our team representative came in and said the transplant had been called off for the time being. They took all our IV’s out and released us with no timeline for when an opportunity would come again. Truthfully, they could not tell us anything; whether it would be a day or a couple of weeks. We went back to the apartment stunned. I have to admit that at that time, I began to get anxious because I knew and I knew that Roni knew that she only had a relatively small window of time when she was available to do the transplant and the unexpected heart surgery had closed most of her window already. So, we just sat around that whole day leaning in to the phone hoping we would get a call and some new frame of reference. It had to have been after 5PM when you begin to think that everyone at the hospital has gone home when the phone rang and they said to get ready again for the next morning. What a tremendous relief! but my sister, Joni had to leave because her window had closed. But her son, Nick called out of nowhere. Nick is a most remarkable young man about the same age as my step-son, Nick (late 20’s then). He was flying to another big event for one of his best friends in Michigan and rerouted to Chicago to make this surprise hour long visit of support for me. Roni, Mary and I were back on!
And here we all are two years later! By that I mean you (you all), me and Roni!! Roni is doing fabulous. I just have a feeling that one day she’ll tell her story and share it with the world too but in the mean time…isn’t Life so amazing!
You might send Roni a little lovin’…if you want. 

8/2/16 Follow Up on Transplant progress

8/2/16
First of all I want to thank so many of you who sent me your good wishes and fun thoughts. Here are a few words about the ‘results’ of all those intentions.

The ERCP again was very successful. Stents replaced, no complications. Blood values are almost all back to normal, and following those has been for me interesting to see in relation to how I’ve felt and function. But Dr. B was in there so long doing so many micro activities that those delicate tissues aren’t used to that I feel like I’ve gone a round of body blows with Joe Frazier for this past week.
Had a long talk with Dr. B to find out how rare my situation actually is and how many of him there are who do what he does. Crazy small data base. I am extremely fortunate to have gotten this far without more complications let’s just say.
The stents will be removed in 4 mos and the real test starts. In the mean while I am experimenting with creating a more functional life with work, etc.
Of note on a more social level in late June I went back to the midwest to celebrate and be with dear friends at my high school reunion (50th). Then followed that by a family reunion of sheer joy except that one of my sisters couldn’t be there because she had taken her life fairly recently from a very long debilitating disease. We celebrated her life with a funeral and following her last wishes she knowing we would be having a reunion without her. There is another story there obviously but here I can say that she was an inspiration to me and one of the most amazing people in my life not only as a sister but a friend.
May all this continue to lead us all to more and deeper appreciation and engagement of what’s important in life. Roni is doing great by the way as we approach our 2 yr. anniversary. “Hi, Roni!”
Gratefully present still,
Pat