Anniversary

Thirty- three years ago I made my vows on the back porch of Terry’s lake house.  A small group of family and friends surrounded us.  We have celebrated anniversaries in any number of places since.  Quite a few celebrations took place in North Carolina. Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway often was a top choice. 

  Three years ago I was pastoring for the summer in Florida.  On my friends’ patio, we renewed our vows.  Officiating was a mentor who had been on my Committee on Ministry. That year we took a few days at one of our favorite places, Cedar Key.   So many good memories….

This was our first anniversary to celebrate in Montana and it was most unusual.  We have just returned from a week of being leaders/counselors at church camp. Today I had services to lead and a council meeting after.  We drove to Billings to try out a restaurant we had never been to, where we consumed excellent Asian food in a very pleasant atmosphere.   After shopping for shoes for Terry, we returned to Columbus, made a brief stop at home and then walked a few blocks down our street to watch a superb performance of Twelfth Night in a Shakespeare in the Park series. 

Now he is on his computer in his office and I sit here working on mine.  It isn’t the most romantic of endings.  Yet there is a sense of comfort, familiarity.  We are both pretty exhausted from camp.  Being free to just allow a situation to be what it is seems so valuable.

Thirteen years ago my father died the week of our anniversary.  It was our 20th anniversary and we had planned a celebration with our children and their spouses and a larger party with friends the day after that.  I was devastated by my father’s death.  The funeral home wanted us to have the service on our anniversary itself (long story) and I balked.  We had the funeral the day before and on our anniversary we flew home.  The plan we had had following the parties we ended up cancelling, had been to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. But I didn’t want to go.  Terry convinced me we should go on with it and we did.  In the midst of my grief, I still was able to find pleasure in the trip.  That reflects another valuable lesson: “In the midst of loss, celebrate life,” as I have noted in other blogs. 

I am so grateful for the years, for the life we have built.  There have been difficult times of course and generally we have managed to navigate those and come out stronger.  Now we face aging together and that presents its own challenges.  Growing old together sounds so romantic when you are young and healthy.  The reality can be pretty tough as health issues begin to impact your functioning and quality of life.

  So I find another lesson is to cherish the memories through the years, while being mindful to make more in the present moment.  They can serve as anchors that will help ground us in whatever time is granted us, in whatever circumstances we may face.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café “Bonus” (actually a P.S.):  My apologies for a late edition blog.  There was little WiFi and little time to use it when it was available at camp!

Tabula Rosa

            Tonight I went to a writer’s workshop.  You might think that would inspire me to go write home and write my blog.  It seems to have had the opposite effect.  I stare at the blank page, first wondering what it is I want to say.  Then I recognize a pattern.  When I resist writing, there is some thing I am avoiding addressing.  Reluctantly I  admit  what it is:  this week I realized there is a box of belongings that I believe did not make it from Tennessee to Montana.  It contained my Common English Bible, a gift from a dear friend.  An accumulation of mandala books and materials was in that box……along with most of my journals from over many years.  Those journals were full of my diary entries, along with poems, quotes, prayers that had been meaningful to me.  The sense of loss has deepened with each succeeding day.  Losing the journals feels like I have lost a part of myself.

            Certainly I am aware that this is miniscule compared to the refugees fleeing war and famine, having to leave so much behind that was integral to their lives.  Separation from who and what matters most to us is heart wrenching, soul crushing.

           Two bedrock ideals sustain me as I seek to respond to this situation:  that in the midst of loss, I must celebrate life and that I must always ask “What am I grateful for in this moment?”  So I celebrate all that survived the trip, especially the few journals that remain, and that my life is not significantly altered.  I still have my spouse, family and friends, a home, a church, meaningful work, my health.  For my life in this moment I am thankful. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  We had a specific writing exercise at the workshop that involved looking at a photograph (or calling up a memory) and writing in response to specific questions about it (e.g. what was the environment, the sensations associated with it, who was there, who was missing or left out).  I thought of other kinds of writing exercises I have been given in other classes. Online I noticed that one suggestion is to write a blog!  So I will add that another gratitude is for the desire to write and also for those who take the time to read my ponderings. 

Impact

From whence the whim came, I don’t know.  But I googled my name.  I still show as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in practice in Cleveland, TN.  Someone once tracked me down when I was an interim pastor in St. Petersburg, FL when she googled me and saw information that I was pastor there.  I didn’t see anything that indicated I now serve as settled pastor in Columbus, MT.  However, there were many sites selling the book I had published in 2017.  But the startling thing was that there was a site in Poland and one in India offering my book for sale.  I was stunned!  Has my book made it to places I never imagined? 

I thought about the book The Blue Sweater, a book to which I referred in my blog of December 2020.  The author had given away a sweater to a charitable organization in high school.  Years later working in Africa she encountered a boy wearing the sweater still bearing her name on the tag inside.     “The story of the blue sweater,” she wrote, “has always reminded me of how we are all connected.  Our actions—and inaction—touch people we may never know and never meet across the globe.”

Exploring the notion of impact, I came across Israelmore Ayivor, who appears to be African inspirational writer and speaker.  He had some fascinating quotes.  Ponder these:

“My father said this to me: “Israelmore, if you don’t make any impact on earth, you will die before you die. But if you impress hearts with what you do, you still live even after you are gone”
― Israelmore Ayivor

“Don’t be a pepper on the eyes of people; Rather be the salt on their tongue and make a difference that influences their sense of belonging to the earth.”
― Israelmore Ayivor

 “You got the eggs in you; the world is fully ready to celebrate the chicks out of your laying labour. Never give up. Go and breed! Go and breed great dreams.”
― Israelmore Ayivor, The Great Hand Book of Quotes

Readers, I pass these on to you.  So be “salt on the tongue” that you might influence others to increase  their sense of belonging to the earth” and “go and breed great dreams!” 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.”― Martin Luther.  This makes me think of a story I read once.  A woman recounted how her mother had dreams of being a writer.  She set up a desk for herself with the necessary supplies.  She never got around to writing a poem or story or publishing anything.  But after her death, her daughter learned of all the people who had received her hand written notes of encouragement, gifts of her thought and care for so many individuals.  Never discount your impact on others even if it seems a small gesture to you.

More Animal Tales

Hippo encounters and our education about them were some  of my favorite, though sometimes a bit harrowing, animal experiences on our recent African trip.  At Kafue National Park, I would arouse early in the morning to the tune of Hippo “chatter,” their calls to one another.  Our cabin was right on the water and their proximity to us was astounding to me. 

Hippos have very sensitive skin so they mostly stay in the water to avoid exposure to the sun.  But at night they come on land to feed on grasses and will consume enough to last themselves three or four days in the water before returning to feed again.  However, they have very poor eyesight and sometimes get disoriented on land.  The hippo calls I heard in early morning are one way hippos in the water help hippos stranded on land to find their way back to the water. 

Once on a river trip,  we unwittingly strayed into a hippo’s space.  He was not happy with us!  He followed the boat, rearing up over and over and splashing down in the water, essentially chasing us away.  No worries!  Our guide got us out of there pronto! 

Our last morning at Kafue, we were about to walk to breakfast when we discovered a sleeping hippo had parked himself right at our front door.  Yikes!  Hippos are known to be extremely dangerous and we were not about to rouse him.  We had been told to never approach animals, to return to our cabin immediately if we came across any in our path.  What to do?!  We learned later that we had an airhorn by our bedside to call for help.  But I finally was able to get the attention of the cleaners at the cabin next door.  To our astonishment, the staff person who came over gave the hippo a few whacks on his back, gave him a shove with his foot and the hippo proceeded to move maybe 6 feet, laid back down and went right back to sleep.  Our rescuer smiled and said, “Oh he is one of our residents,” a hippo who frequently makes himself at home there without incident. 

Later that morning, I was sitting on the deck while Terry was at the office paying our bill.  I heard a big splash in the water and knew it was “our” hippo.  I grabbed my phone and walked down the steps, while maintaining a safe distance, to catch a photograph.  He put on quite a show for me, dipping down in the water, rolling over (at least as much as a hippo can roll), and opening his mouth very wide.  His display  simply felt a little like a friendly communication, maybe “Come back soon. We’ll miss you.”  I miss them, too.  Waking to the melody of their hippo calls was a gift I cherish from our trip.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Who knows where early morning thoughts come from but I woke up thinking about the comic strip “Pogo,” the iconic comic by Walt Kelly published from 1948 to 1975.  Kelly briefly used one human character in his strip but found animals much more adaptable to comics.  I am reminded of when I saw children in therapy.  I always had animal figures because often children could more easily express feelings through the use of them.  We are enriched by animals in so many ways.  I was heartened to learn that efforts to reduce poaching have been increased in Zambia and other African countries.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Our trek to Africa yielded a multitude of animal encounters.  Our first experience was a trip to Lilayi Elephant Nursery where we saw the baby elephants fed.  They receive a giant baby bottle filled with a special formula every 3 hours.  It takes them about 90 seconds to consume it!  This orphanage—all the babies are rescues after their mothers had been killed by poachers— is one of the projects of the Game Rangers International, established with the intent to preserve wildlife and resources. 

The adventure we had at Victoria Falls probably warrants its own blog.  But I must include here the ginormous giraffe who nearly trampled us in its effort to reach a particularly appealing tree whose leaves apparently were irresistible.  I had no grasp of how large giraffes are.  The zebras were most fascinating to me.  They were everywhere at Avani where we were staying, grazing on the grounds, unperturbed by our presence, quite indifferent. 

My zebra fascination led me to explore further information when I returned.  Found throughout different regions of Africa, the three living species of zebra are the plains zebra, the mountain zebra, and the Grévy’s zebra. All three belong to the genus Equus, which also includes horses and donkeys.

The Grévy zebra, found only in Ethiopia and Kenya, is named for Jules Grévy, a 19th century French president who received one from Abyssinia as a gift. It is the largest of the three, weighing as much as 1,000 pounds. Plains zebras are a bit smaller, weighing up to 850 pounds. They have a range that extends from South Sudan and southern Ethiopia to northern portions of South Africa. The smallest species, the mountain zebra, weighs as much as 800 pounds and is found in South Africa, Namibia, and Angola.

The width and pattern of zebra stripes vary widely by species. The Grevy’s zebra has narrow vertical stripes covering its entire body, including its ears and mane. The striping pattern of the plains zebra varies by location; they have either black striping and a primarily white body color, or lighter, dark brown stripes overall. Mountain zebras have a white or off-white body color with black or deep brown body stripes that are spaced close together. They do not have stripes on their bellies, and those on their head and body are narrower than the ones on their rump. Even within each species, no two zebras have the same stripes; they are as unique as fingerprints.

Stay tuned for next blog for more on our African adventure!

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Zebras have been bred with horses and donkeys which results in zedonks, zorses and zonies….

*Zebra information obtained from Treehugger site. 

SebnGabe

              We were not sure we were going to have the opportunity to be grandparents.  One after another of our friends heralded the birth of a grandchild, declaring the experience incomparable.  We became doubtful of ever belonging to the club of grandparents.  Not wanting to be intrusive, we avoided questioning Matt and Jenna about their “intentions.”  About the time I became reconciled to the notion of not becoming a grandparent, lo and behold, they announced they were pregnant!  Sebastian was born and we were bestowed the coveted titles of Nana and Papa!

              All that our friends had said was true.  Nothing compared to this blessing.  Over the next several years, Sebastian’s parents debated having another child.   If they chose to, this would be another “geriatric pregnancy,” a description not at all appreciated by Jenna!  And, indeed, when they did conceive again, it proved to be a most difficult and stressful period.  Some circumstances delayed their departure for their overseas assignment.  To keep the assignment, Matt had to go overseas for six week stretches.  Nana and Papa gladly stepped in to fill the gap.  But Sebastian was too young to comprehend what was happening.  He only knew his beloved Daddy was gone. And Mama’s schedule meant she left early and returned late. 

              As if that were not enough complications, Jenna had two deaths of loved ones in her father’s family that occurred over the course of her pregnancy.  She was eight months along when she attended the funeral of her stepbrother.  Sebastian became ill while she was gone.  She returned with the flu herself and had to be isolated from Sebastian and us to minimize exposure.  She coughed so much that she actually cracked ribs. 

              When she seemed stable, I had flew home, intending to return 10 days later for the expected birth.   But I was barely home before Terry  called to report that Jenna was put on bedrest, that her amniotic fluid was low.  I caught the next plane to return but by that time she had been hospitalized. She went into labor that lasted several excruciating days and included an episode where her blood pressure dropped so low she truly thought she was not going to survive.

              Matt arrived from overseas and was whisked from the airport to the hospital in time for the birth.  Gabriel arrived safely and has turned out to be a sunny little soul who adds immeasurably to the family.

              All this is to say:  we fly out Wednesday to visit these little tykes and their parents and Hope’s Café will be suspended until our return in June.  I took a hiatus when we moved to Montana but managed to get back to regular blogging when we got to town.  So I will look forward to being back online in mid-June, doubtless full of stories of SebnGabe!

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: “Your children are your rainbows and your grandchildren are your pot of gold.”—Unknown

 “Grandchildren: my favorite hello and my hardest goodbye.” – Unknown

“I wouldn’t change my grandchildren for the world.  But I wish I could change the world for my grandchildren.”—Unknown

Goals Versus Intentions

A church member, whom I encountered yesterday as he was out mowing his lawn and I was out walking, told me that his mother lived to 101 and that was his goal for himself.   He is 89,  maintains the home he and his wife shared before her death, gardens and generally stays active and involved in church, in the community, and with his family.

This gave me pause to think about several things.  I have an aunt who lived to 100, another who lived to 97.  It seems plausible that I might live into my nineties, perhaps to 100.  I don’t think of living to an old age as a goal for myself though.  However, I do think of staying as healthy as I can for as long as I can as a worthy intention.  So then I wondered what is really the difference between his goal and my intention.

My curiosity led me to read about the two. Goals can be described as destinations or specific external achievements in the future. Intentions are lived each day, and are about your values, about your relationship with yourself and others. The habitsforwellbeing website describes the difference as “goals are what you want to DO….intentions are about who you want to BE.”

 Goals have the potential to set one up in a win/lose mind set.  If I don’t lose 10 pounds in the next 30 days and I lose nary an ounce, have I failed?  If I set a goal to walk seven days a week and I walk four, have I failed? 

I would tend to describe this as friend versus foe.  Goals have the risk of making yourself a foe.  Intentions have the advantage of going about your life in a way that is more supportive to yourself, to how you live your life. 

From The Empowerment Dynamic website (Did you know that is what T.E.D. talks stand for??) :Focusing on intentions does not mean you give up your goals or desire to achieve.   Here are three differences between goals and intentions:

  1. Goals are focused on the future. Intentions are in the present moment.
  2. Goals are a destination or specific achievement. Intentions are lived each day, independent of achieving the goal or destination.
  3. Goals are external achievements. Intentions are about your relationship with yourself and others.

By setting your intention first, and combining it with goals, you will become a Creator who enjoys both the journey, as much as the destination.

 May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: “The journey towards your dreams begins with intention. Download Free Intention Setting Worksheet to Set Goals at https://www.pinterest.com>pin
P.S. This represents my 100th post in kateshopecafe.net, begun 2 years ago this week!  It was not a goal to keep it going so much as it was an intention to pay more attention to my life, to what is happening around me and to how I am experiencing those things.  But I do take some pleasure in the fact that I have reached 100 posts. 😊

Hearts of Compassion

I met my husband Terry the year following his return from his second tour in Vietnam.  He had transferred from the graduate psychology program to the graduate school of social work where I was studying.  Our second year in school, he and I were in field placement together in the legal clinic program of the law school.  At the time I would have said I got to know him during that year.  I now recognize I got to know the part of himself he thought was presentable. 

My memories of Terry during that time are twofold and are opposite in nature.  I would often see him in the center of a crowd, keeping the group in stitches.  He could be very funny.  But a third person, Janet, shared our small office in the legal clinic. This young woman had gone through a pilot program where they allowed college grads to do an intense summer of study and then join the second year of social work training.  Quite rigid in her thinking, she tended to see single solutions, and sometimes quite extreme ideas to tackle problems.  I often felt like “The Peacemaker,” trying to maintain some  equilibrium in the space we shared.

In one particular episode, she had an elderly client assigned to her who was about to be evicted from her apartment because she had 27 cats she was unwilling to give up.  Our classmate’s recommendation was to euthanize the cats.  Terry was livid.  Understandably, he was concerned that Janet was not a good candidate for social work for a lot of reasons, to include a profound lack of empathy. But it seemed to me at the time that his reaction was over the top.   It is only in retrospect that I grasp what the killing of anything triggered for him emotionally. 

Fifteen years after graduation, Terry and I went on to marry, in the wake of our individual divorces.  But it was fourteen years after that, as our country went to war with Afghanistan and Iraq, that I gained some understanding of the depth of angst he carried after his experiences in Vietnam.  His PTSD symptoms began to erupt at that time, with a sleep disturbance that has never entirely resolved. 

Up until the Vietnam War Memorial was built, Terry kept a running  mental videotape of the men under his leadership who died, where they died, what were the circumstances.  In my work as a therapist, I ended up with some men in counseling after tours in Iraq.  One in particular shared how troubled he was that he found himself looking at people and imagining what they would look like dead.   We never know all that people carry within.  Sometimes we don’t even recognize all we carry within ourselves.  How important, how necessary, it is for us to offer compassion to those we encounter, as well as to ourselves. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus: As Atticus Finch said in To Kill A Mockingbird: “First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Death Comes Calling

This week our friend Bruce contacted us to say his dear wife of thirty plus years had died suddenly the day before.  He didn’t give many details and when I offered our phone numbers to call us, he said he was just too broken right now. 

              The next night I got a call from a former member of the church I came from to accept the Montana pastorate.  He was calling from the hospital with seven blockages in his heart and awaiting surgery the next morning.  In such moments, it can seem like death is stalking you.

              The next day I got a text from a hospice chaplain that one of our church members who has long been in nursing home care was “imminent,” death expected within hours.  When I went to the nursing home, the woman had died not long before I arrived. 

              Somehow these events combined have weighed on me.  I came across the phrase in a poem “the obesity of grief.”  How descriptive of the heaviness, the immensity of loss. 

              Whenever I think of death or the inherent grief,  I think of the poet John O’Donohue, who spoke so eloquently and wisely about those experiences.  I share with you “For Death,” which he penned:


For Death

By John O’Donohue

“From the moment you were born,
your death has walked beside you.
Though it seldom shows its face,
you still feel its empty touch
when fear invades your life,
or what you love is lost
or inner damage is incurred…

Yet when destiny draws you
into these spaces of poverty,
and your heart stays generous
until some door opens into the light,
you are quietly befriending your death;
so that you will have no need to fear
when your time comes to turn and leave,

that the silent presence of your death
would call your life to attention,
wake you up to how scarce your time is
and to the urgency to become free
and equal to the call of your destiny.

That you would gather yourself
and decide carefully
how you now can live
the life you would love
to look back on
from your deathbed.”

May we indeed be called to attention, gather ourselves and decide carefully how we can live in this present moment.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  I once attended a workshop where we were instructed to imagine ourselves at 80. (Amazing how that doesn’t feel so very far away now. At the time I was 36).  We were to consider receiving some message, some wisdom, from our 80 year-old selves.  I remember the message I understood, both startling and comforting, was “Thank you for doing the things you needed to do so that I can look back on my life now with a sense of satisfaction and gratitude.”  I did and I can.

“Sprinter”

We had a lovely spring day…..and then winter returned with a vengeance.  Snow fell all night and most of the day. Easter plans began to fall apart.  A dinner engagement I had really looked forward to got postponed.  How, when things can look so promising, can they dissolve in a matter of hours?

I wonder if things falling apart, disappointments, even catastrophes, serve to remind us there is much we do not control.  And I ponder whether that illusion of control contributes to a lack of empathy in our society.   If I am master of my fate, captain of my ship, why are you floundering?  Just take the wheel! Make something of yourself! 

There is an ad for an insurance company that puts my teeth on edge every time I see it.  The woman, her long blond tresses in bouncy curls, her makeup perfectly applied, her build slender and her clothes stylish, who is advertising her father’s company for whom she works, says: “You can be anything you want to be.”   She probably really believes that because she has had advantages that she almost certainly assumes are available to everyone. 

I have a heart murmur that wasn’t discovered until I was in junior high.  Because other kids could run and play seemingly endlessly, I spent years thinking I was “defective.”  I would tire long before they did.  My confidence was impacted in myriad ways because I considered myself “less than” others.   And that obstacle pales in comparison to children growing up in poverty, dysfunctional homes, abuse; others who have crippling physical or mental limitations.  There are children who grow up to overcome their circumstances, but they are the exception rather than the rule.  Their chances of living up to their potential, of “being anything they want to be,” are slim at best.

If you have had a “sprinter” experience lately—you were going along just fine and encountered obstacles you didn’t expect and weren’t prepared for—be reminded that the one reliable control we have is of our attitude.   “I find that it is not our circumstances but the spirit in which we meet them that constitutes our comfort,” is a quote I have often relied on.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.  OR alternatively:  God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change; courage to change the people I can; and the wisdom to know that person is ME!