Too much rain

An unknown artist left this painting for us to appreciate.
Public doman, from Düsseldorfer Auktionshaus via Wikimedia Commons

If anyone asks you how I am
Just say I’m doin’ fine.
If you will do that for me,
I’ll do the same for you sometime.

And if anyone asks you where I’ve gone
Just say I’m down the line.
I don’t want my friends to see me like this.
Maybe some other time.

Too much rain fallin’.
Too much rain fallin’.
There’s just been too much rain, down on me.

One day I’m gonna understand
The way that my heart works,
And then I’m gonna work it out,
So that I won’t get hurt.

But if anyone asks you where I’ve gone,
Oh, don’t say where I am,
Just say you saw me and I’m doin’ fine,
‘Cause I’m doin’ the best I can.

Too much rain fallin’.
Too much rain fallin’.
There’s just been too much rain fallin’, down on me.   — Carole King

Hello friends,

For some time now, I’ve wondered what to do about this blog. Since Jeff died, it has been very difficult to keep it going. I have never really been able to rest enough to recover from the grief, and the exhaustion of endless tedious paperwork, hard decisions, and bad news that seems never to stop coming. From where I sit now, watching how things have unfolded the past seven months, I can see no reason to think that anything is going to get easier anytime soon. Caring for a disabled adult son with Jeff’s steady and reliable help was difficult enough. All by myself, at age 60, and after 32 years of the continual, relentless pressure of being on call 24/7, it’s often more than I can manage.

Yet I live my everyday life in nearly total isolation, mainly seeing or talking only to people with whom I must stay in touch for managing Matt’s medical care and ongoing life issues. The comments on this blog are often the closest thing to conversation I have during the day. Sad, isn’t it? But I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that. I say it only to let you all know how much your presence here has meant to me.

Some of you who stay in touch with me outside this blog know about the sorrow and grief that seems to just keep piling up, though it’s likely that no one person knows about all of it. That is as it should be, for only Jeff was in a position to understand all of it, and talking about it only makes it worse.

So now, for the first time in four and a half years, I must step aside from posting until I can replenish the wells of optimism and faith and hope and courage that are rapidly running dry. I will post here whenever I can, but I cannot say when or how often that will be. Please continue to pray for me, and know that I will read and respond to any comments you send.

One neglected pleasure I hope to make time for during this sabbatical is visiting the blogs many of you publish online. I am well aware of how much time, effort and sharing goes into blogging. There is so much inspiring, uplifting, candid, funny or thought-provoking richness out in the blogosphere. Of course, as I write this, I hear that nagging voice in my head saying “Ah, but that was what you intended to do when you dropped from blogging daily to blogging only twice per week– and didn’t that end up the way most of your good intentions do?” Guilty as charged. However, I won’t let past failures deter me from trying again.

It has been an amazing journey so far. Together we have compiled an archive of over 980 posts and countless online conversations, and if I’m unable to post very often, please remember there is a handy search feature which you can use to seek out posts on any topic you may want to read about. Comments remain open on every single post, so feel free to share your thoughts with me on any post you read, or re-read, no matter how old it may be.

Given the enormous life challenges so many of us have faced during the past five years, the abundance of thoughts, ideas, smiles, laughter, prayers and tears we have shared here (with each other and with all the world) represent no small accomplishment. Thanks for being part of it. I hope someday to get to that 1000-post milestone! Until then, know that you have been, and still are, an essential part of my personal and ongoing efforts to defeat despair.

 

103 Comments

  1. Here’s a thought that I doubt is unique: 980 posts are so near that 1000 post mark, that the milestone is sure to be attained! Please do not despair in the life of Matt. Just this morning, I read about a woman, with many physical and mental difficulties, who is competing in the Miss Minnesota contest. Research past posts – I will continue to do so; post comments on old blogs – I will do more of; Prayer – redoubled is my vow. Hey! Is that just a hint of a sunbeam, or a tiny patch of blue sky I see on the far horizon?

    • Thanks for your interest in the blog. ❤ I still don't see much on the horizon, but I haven't quit watching the distance. Certainly the continued prayers are much needed.

  2. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. ☕⛺️🏕 May 1st and Monday morning and your words to start my day are each special to me! I am sadder for you and your despair far more than my personal feelings right now. It’s about you and what you are physically and mentally able to do! True friendships, prayers, thoughts, correspondence, and love will continue on the foundation that Defeat Despair has built. Your zillion words are still here, many of them in much happier times. You know our friendship will go on, we will meet on our Verandah, we will sip sweet tea, and we’ll cry, and we’ll laugh. The hugs and love will cross the miles today and you are always close in my thoughts. 💛 Smile and keep your chin up! 💛 Love, Sheila

    • Sheila, thank you so much for this comment. It was a blessing when I first read it, and even more so now. Words can’t express my gratitude for your friendship, but I know you understand. I’ve been drinking iced tea today, and I bet you have too! But as I write this I am enjoying the sound of cooling rain…wishing you a refreshing weekend!

  3. cclemon78209

    Thank you so much for your wonderful blog. I will continue to pray for you and trust God with our future.

    • Thank you, Cheryl. Your prayers and your continued presence here are a blessing and an encouragement, and I need both! ❤

  4. Jim Beavers

    Julia, I will miss your writing, but I understand why you must stop. I will pray for you and Matt as you go forward with your life.

    • Thank you Jim. I so appreciate your presence here, and your prayers. I hope to be back to blogging soon, if possible. Meanwhile please know that you have my gratitude for your longtime encouragement.

  5. Linda Blackford

    God bless you, Julia, as you continue on this journey. I’m one of many who have experienced grief, and though we all grieve differently, we can all identify in some way. I think you are wise to step back from your blog in an effort to give yourself a bit more personal time. Every morning when I check on email, I will say a prayer for you. God bless you.

    • Thank you Linda. I am finding that the time away (not just from this blog, but from many other areas of my life) is restful, though I miss all of you! I really appreciate those prayers.

  6. MaryEllen Davis

    Thank you Julia. I truly loved your blog and have followed you since the beginning in November 2012. May Our Heavenly Father shower you with mercy, grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit. If you send me a personal email when you feel isolated I will reply. If you send me your phone number I will call you up to chat! MaryEllen

    • MaryEllen, I am grateful for each and every reader here, but I feel a special fondness for those of you who have been with me for well over four years now. I just may take you up on that offer to write or call! 🙂 But meanwhile you are welcome to join Sheila and me and a cast of unknown others for a virtual cup of tea out on the Verandah every day. Some things just go on no matter what. 🙂 Thank you so much for being here, and for your prayers and encouragement. They are a true solace. ❤

  7. Ann Vande Zande

    Wise decision, Julia. Take care of yourself. Sending you my love and prayers – and hope that we will see each other again.

    • Thank you so much, Ann. Your love and prayers are just what I need. YES let’s hold onto the hope of getting together again…sometime we WILL be able to make it happen!!

  8. Sadly I can relate to you dilemma. My Korean born first wife disappeared off the planet while trying to join me in the United States. That was 1974 and no one has ever seen her again. I was required to wait 7 years before she could be declared legally dead. I’ve never had complete closure on that part of my life. My third and final wife passed away in 2011 so at least I could mourn and move on. I pray that you find peace in your life and know that God has never loved you more than He does right now!

    • Oh Bob, I am so sorry for all that you went through. I cannot even imagine how painful it must be, not to know what happened to someone you loved so dearly. Thank you for your understanding and for your closing words were and are such a comfort to me. Many years ago Jeff’s college room mate was visiting us in Hawaii, and his visit just happened to coincide with a very emotional time for me when I was hurting badly over something thoughtless that a friend had done — unintentionally, but no less painful for that — and as I broke down in tears telling him about it, he said pretty much the same words that you said here, and quoted Psalm 34:18 to me. Thank you for being here and for understanding.

  9. I’m sorry to see you go but I know you need your rest and that we will stay in touch in other ways. *hugs*

    • Thank you Jena! You continue to brighten my blog space, my mailbox and my life! ❤ ❤ ❤ BTW the other night I was comforting myself with a long-hoarded cup of David's Strawberry Cream loose tea (at least I think that was the flavor) from which I got three 12-oz. mugs without losing any flavor. Not only did it taste wonderful but I was cheered by thinking of the benevolent soul who sent that (and similar treats) my way. 🙂

      • Aww! Good to hear that the tea is still nourishing your soul. =)

        • You have been so generous that I still have some to enjoy– as mentioned, I make the most of every cup or pot! 🙂

  10. Mike

    Have a great time on ur well deserved sabattical. Will u be doing some travelling? Let us know if you get out this way toward Seattle. Maybe a nice cruise? Alaska inside passage.?

    • Mike, so far the only traveling I have done has been to Atlanta – once to spend time with Mama during her last week of life, and once to hitch a ride with Drew to her funeral in north Alabama. Both trips were priceless but I hope for some less painful journeys eventually. I keep mentally hatching a wild scheme to someday come out to see Alys and talk her into a road trip up the Pacific Coast to see Kelly, stopping along the way to see “Marvelene” and maybe you too! But don’t hold your breath. Seriously, I do want to get back to the Pacific when I can, and if I ever get there I hope to see as much of the coast as I can manage to fit in.

  11. Mike

    How is ur mom doing? I heard an interview of Alexander ? novelist and they asked him when is your next book coming out? He said,” I think I am going to fo hangout with my grandkids for a while.” I can see how a blog- though at times therapeutic could become a kind of blessed burden. I was thinking of starting one, but I think I will go hangout with the little ones. I think brother Raynard has one, but I still have not found it. Let me know if you find some to recommend- I think yours is like the only one I actually follow.

    • Hi Mike, sorry I am so late getting to this comment; by now you know that Mama is no longer suffering. Was that quote from Alexander McCall Smith? He is one of my favorite contemporary authors. I am not sure whether Raynard still blogs. I think he was occasionally posting to a group blog at one time but I haven’t heard him mention it in awhile. But I still get his delicious virtual cakes on a fairly regular basis. 🙂 As far as blogs go, I wouldn’t know where to begin; there are so many good ones…but just very recently a relatively young blogger made his way to my place here, and I think his blog is worth a visit! See what you think: https://danupondrake.wordpress.com/

  12. Carol Hoyos

    3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.
    3:6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

    You and Matt are in my daily prayers 🙏🏻

    • Thank you, Carol, for the reminder of that wonderful verse, for being here with us, and especially for your prayers!

  13. Julia, I’m sure this wasn’t an easy decision, but I applaud you for making some time for yourself to pause and reflect and to figure out what next. I can only begin to imagine your exhaustion. I would like to encourage you to look for a support group in your area for other parents of adults with disabilities or a group for grieving adults (or both). None of us can do this alone. You need support now more than ever. Not only will a support group introduce you to others in your community going through similar things but it will get you out of the house, talking to people and reaping the benefits of community. It’s important to let people in and to accept help.

    • Thank you, Alys. Right now I am focused on catching up on sleep, and that is helping tremendously. School started back for me and that has put me in touch with additional people, which (along with the work) is a welcome distraction. Interestingly, in the small group of us (a dozen or so) who are taking the course at Oxford this summer, the prequel to which has already begun here, there are two other women (both younger than me) who also are widows, one recently so, with two young sons. The three of us are looking forward to our association in class, and all three of us see our being in this small group together as more than a coincidence.

      • I’m glad you are catching up on some sleep, Julia, and happy, too that you are back in school and finding it a welcome distraction. Good for you. I am sorry to hear of two other women with a recent loss, but I’m happy that you’ve found each other. You’ll be a wonderful support and resource together.

        • Alys, I hope so. I’m still a bit intimidated by the thought of being back in school. On the plus side, losing Jeff and my parents has put everything else in perspective, so I can freely ask myself “what’s the worst that can happen?” and the answer “I can flunk out” seems laughably insignificant in the great scheme of things. At the very least I should make some interesting acquaintances!

          • So much has changed since we were first in college, so I imagine it would be quite disorienting at first. If anyone can do it, you can. You have the discipline, the smarts and the writing skills not to mention the WILL to succeed. I’m pulling for you.

    • Thank you. ❤

  14. Jack

    My hopes and prayers are with you Julia. May the darkness in you (and in us all) yield to the love and the comfort of a gracious, compassionate and forgiving God. It probably doesn’t help to say its always darkest before the dawn, but that has certainly been my experience. God willing, may it be yours too!

    • Thank you Jack. I have always liked the thought about the darkest hour being right before dawn, to which I was first introduced in childhood when I read On the Banks of Plum Creek (one of my favorites of the Wilder “Little House” books), which has a chapter with that title. I must admit that I have thought of that quote many times in the past 8 months, but thus far I keep wondering how much darker it will get before the light starts to break. Maybe the darkest has passed now. I hope and pray so!

  15. Lynn Hayner

    Julia, your words touch so many…may they circle back to touch you as well, in this rainy time. Love, Lynn

    • Thank you, Lynn. I hope you are doing well! ❤

  16. Love you friend!

    • Thank you Barb. Love you too…and we WILL round up Ann for another get-together sometime! “All for one, and one for all…” 😀

  17. MaryAnn

    My dear Julia, please take ALL the time you need to heal, as you grieve the loss of your wonderful husband-life partner! Your “wells of optimism and faith and hope and courage” will be refreshed with much needed rest. Your know the Source of your strength! Remember Jesus rested, also. Much love & prayers over the miles!

    • Thank you, Mary Ann. You have been keeping us refreshed with your love, prayers and warm thoughts for a very long time now (18 years to be exact…WOW.) Love you!

  18. Susan

    Julia, I can understand the need to step back when life and challenges feel overwhelming. Somehow you need to find a way to sneak in at least a bit of self restorative care in between all your duties, decisions and heartaches. You have provided a lot of strength and encouragement to others through your blog. You do need a chance to refuel your tank with friends and family. Take care.

    • Thank you, Susan. It was a real blessing to see many of my extended family at Mama’s funeral. I am focusing on rest and quiet. I miss the blog but I hope to return to posting before too long. Thanks for your presence and encouragement!

  19. Oh, Julia, I so want to come and give you a big hug and cook you dinner and sit and have a chat. We get to feel so close to fellow bloggers even though we are separated by thousands of miles. I’m sorry you are finding the blogging a challenge, but perhaps only occasional posting will work better for you, and perhaps you may find a routine or format that better suits your current situation. For now, just relax and know that your friends are still out here. I’d love to send you a real letter so I’ll email you for your address.

    • Well, the virtual hug/dinner/chat are a great substitute in the meantime! I just sent you an email with my postal address. Sorry it took me so long to get to this comment. I am gradually feeling more rested. Hope this finds you doing well. Thanks so much for your presence here!

  20. Ron Wood

    I will miss you deeply. I struggle to find words that can express my feelings to you and the difficulties you face. I pray there is someone who can be there for you and Matt. I wish I could find the words………..

    • Ron, you just did! Sometimes a few words can say a lot. Thanks for being here; I hope I can return to posting photos and ideas before too long.

  21. Bob

    Julia,
    I have been following your blog since shortly after you started it. I discovered it quite by accident and it is the only blog I read. I am not a blogger/writer myself. Please know that I have found such comfort, peace, hope, humor, and so many other helpful things over these years. I have related to so much of what you have gone through and admired your strength and courage as you have fought through the many overwhelming obstacles you have encountered. You truly have a gift of uplifting others with your positive attitude, strength through faith, and shared knowledge of other peoples triumphs. I have prayed for you routinely over these years. While I understand you are doing what you have to do, I am so sad to know that the start to my day will be changed ( Your blog is the first thing I read every morning with The Upper Room). I will continue to pray for you, read the old post and wait for your return to this blog. I know that you have a gift of helping others defeat despair and I hope you can get back to a place where you are able to share that gift. I look forward to any updates or post regarding you or Matt and thank you for sharing with me from such a special place. God be with you….

    Bob

    • Bob, thank you so much for your encouraging words. They really do boost my spirit. I am so thankful that you have found something of value here at the blog. I honestly see it as a collective effort because without the readers, and those who leave thoughtful comments, I’m sure it would never have lasted this long. I hope to return to posting as soon as possible, but in the meantime, you have my deep gratitude for your presence here and your encouragement.

  22. jkbader

    I will miss your blog posts, but I completely understand how you feel. Things won’t always be this grim and you will survive, I promise. You and Matt will remain on my prayer list so I can remember you every day. Sending a hug your way…

    • Thank you, Judy. It is always helpful to have reassuring thoughts and prayers to hold me up. I am not sure whether I am getting any stronger, but I do feel more rested and I still remain determined to defeat despair! Thanks for helping me in that effort, and I’m sending a hug right back to you from me!

  23. Harry Sims

    Spiritual people have always recognized the need for a sabbatical.
    He withdrew…………..
    Grace and Peace await.
    Harry

    • Thank you, Harry. That’s a great reminder and an encouraging promise!

  24. Mark Richardson

    Julia,
    There’s no doubt that Jeff provided assistance for you, but you’re by far no slouch yourself. “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (Winnie the Pooh)

    We BOTH love you very, very much.

    Mark and Peggy

    • Thank you, Mark. It was so wonderful to see you and Peggy at Mama’s funeral. You both mean so much to me!

  25. tpeastin

    Bravo, my dear Julia, bravo! You have done a masterful job with this blog these past four and a half years…what a gift to so many!!! Also, bravo on being wise enough to know when to step aside…such a healthy thing to do in this world that blares out daily: “KEEP PUSHING! DO MORE!”

    I shall still check in regularly (old habits die hard). Just know that I am praying for you, Matt, and your entire family. It has been an immense pleasure to see your pictures, to read your quotes, and to follow your life through the words of your blog. Take care, my friend…I will be in touch.

    Love,

    Pat XOXO

    • Pat, please do keep checking in on me. Your steadfast presence is a source of tremendous support, and my bookshelf and fridge offer me daily visible evidence of your friendship. I am so grateful for you! Love & cyber hugs! ❤

  26. Ann

    Dear Julia, you are loved and missed. It’s time for you to rest and trust that the Lord will restore your soul. Psalm 23

    • Thank you, Ann. Psalm 23 is such a comfort!

  27. Susan

    Best wishes and prayers to you Julia and Matt. May you be replenished and healed from all the pain and sorrow. Give yourself the time you need to fill your soul with beauty in between the pressures.

    • Thank you Susan. It can be hard to make time for the beauty, but fortunately, there is always an abundance of it whenever we open our eyes and prioritize allowing ourselves the chance to see it.

  28. Vibha Ravi

    This is the first time I am visiting your blog. You’ve managed to put your pain across so elegantly. I’m praying for you.

    • Thank you for visiting here, and for your kind words and especially the prayers. I am honored to have you with us– I hope you will visit again!

  29. LB

    Julia … my heart breaks for the continued losses and devastating challenges that face you. I wish I were closer to help lift your burden. Know that you are loved and I will be in touch. ❤

    • LB, just knowing you are there (and imagining your megawatt smile) does lift my burdens. Thanks for being with us. ❤

  30. Hello dear friend. I can’t imagine how you’ve managed to keep it all afloat and understand completely your decision to step away, for now. What it means for me, is that I must do a better job of checking in with you. Tomorrow, I will add a US calling plan to my phone. Thank you for sharing so much with us here. The quotes and your immense knowledge of literature are food for the soul. You started your posts to defeat despair but we’re the recipients of your wit and lessons in courage. You are amazing Julia, don’t ever doubt it. No one could ever dream of surviving what’s tested your sanity in such a cruel way. My wish for you is that you take some time that you may have used to share yourself here and spend it doing something just for you. Maybe that’s pie-in-the-sky, but replenishing those wells need your entire focus and efforts. I’m certain they must be nearing empty, it’s been too much, too long. Finally, I’m standing in ovation for the commitment you’ve shown on your blog! 980 is an acheivement to be admired. I hope I can still find a post at times to get that dose of brilliance I soarly need, you’ve taught me so much. Sending love with my whole heart xo K

    • K, thank you for your evee-encouraging optimism and kind words. I just checked, and my phone plan does include calling Canada, so I should be calling you and then you don’t need a plan. Having said that, I’m not a phone person and rarely talk on the phone at all, but on the plus side, it’s bound to be easier and more free of glitches than our Skype sessions! 🙂 I so appreciate your presence on this blog from its earliest days, and especially for showing me a fun and happy place online that was and is a true inspiration. You have my love and gratitude always! ❤ ❤ ❤

  31. Callye R Gibbons

    Julia, I have held you in my heart for some time now, reading your blog, saving your emails in a Defeat Despair folder, some marked with a star. Just looking at your title has been a reminder and encouragement to me as I consider the challenges of life, even as one blessed with knowing God who is real and loves us deeply. It encouraged me to “taste and see” the beauty in nature, people in my midst, art, poetry as encouragement along the way. Yes, you can’t avoid this excruciating part of your journey, even by presenting yourself in public with a smiling face and encouraging word. Yes, you need others and a chance to discover strength, comfort, provision, perspective in your most vulnerable moments and for your family. I think you needed the blog and we needed you, too. Thank you for allowing us to walk along with you. Maybe now, maybe later consider my friend’s blog http://laurawarfel.com/more-than-a-widow/ and the book Tear Soup. I pray for you many blessings….

    • Thank you, Callye. I am always so happy to find out about readers whom I didn’t know before. I’m glad you took the time to introduce yourself to us! I am so delighted to think that you enjoyed my blog enough to save some of them. You are so right, I needed this blog. Interestingly, I didn’t realize all the reasons why I would come to need it when I first started it, but life is that way, isn’t it? Full of “more than we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). Thanks for the link to your friend Laura’s blog – it’s lovely and quite interesting. Reading about her, I found some things in common and some different. I do not dread or avoid the word “widow” — I very much think of myself that way, though like her, I’m realize I’m “more than a widow” (love that title). Unlike her description of herself in the beginning of her bereavement, I don’t think of myself as still living as a wife just waiting for another man; in fact, I have no intention to remarry, ever (and Arlington National Cemetery is egging me on in that determination, as I will not be able to be buried with Jeff and Matt if I am married to someone else when I die. Seems kind of mean of them, doesn’t it?). I suppose being the sole caretaker for a 32-year-old man with multiple disabilities has a lot to do with my resolve, too. So thankfully, that limbo of “waiting around” is one thing I don’t have to “un-learn” or learn — I can embrace who and where I am now as inevitable, though not without some feeling of resentment for being cheated of the retirement years I always dreamed of sharing with Jeff. I did really enjoy Laura’s most recent blog about independence and freedom, and the importance of balancing that with dependence on God, and the many people through whom God works. That was something I could really identify with, and I loved the pic of her with the airplane! I have not heard of the book Tear Soup but it does sound interesting. Thanks again for joining us here in the comments section, and for keeping me in your heart! ❤

  32. Julia…
    That’s really heartbreaking. I still remember reading your blog for the first time. I fell in love with it instantly because of the honesty, depth and simplicity of your words. After all these years of reading your posts you have become a dear friend who I have never met or spoken to.
    But now when I read this post it is like getting ready to part with that friend. This is the only place where we can meet and get to hear from each other.
    Actually there is no end to our miseries, but when there is no sufficient gap for us to revive we may feel devastated. No words can take away the pain, I know.
    I am sure you will continue posting once your mind is peaceful again. Waiting to read your words filled with wisdom and compassion. Why just 1000, while that’s just a fancy number?Take your own time, but do come back!

    • Thank you, Bindu. I do hope to come back, because staying in touch with you and others who have become dear friends is so important to me. I’m so happy you are with me here!

  33. BURDENED, DISCOURAGEMENT, EXHAUSTION, HEARTBROKEN, LONELY, OVERWHELMED, RESIGNATION, SAD, TAKING A BREAK, TIRED – these tags really make me cry!

    • I think they probably made me cry too, as I wrote them. I have never been one to believe in wallowing in sadness, but sometimes the hurts are so deep and multi-directional that acknowledging them, while it might bring tears, can also provide a kind of relief to our pent-up grief. I think at the time I wrote them, I felt that I would be dishonest not to admit to the truth about all the times I don’t blog about, knowing that these, too, are universal experiences and perhaps sharing them might create some sort of connection for others who feel the same. For now (sniffle, sniffle) let us dry our tears and take a walk together (if only in imagination) down some lovely green path cool with shade and sweet with birdsong. Thank you for visiting me this morning. I feel better already. ❤

  34. Mike

    Yesterday I was down in Aberdeen making some hospice visits. One of the men I visit is a Vietnam era veteran. He has had advanced alzeihmers since 2005 when he was given a 6 year life expectancy. Still with us. In this little beach town the VA bus comes twice a month and veterans line up to get an appointment. Many are disablled. I watched them line up outside the bus waiting for it to open. I have no idea really of what they have to go through. And I have to be thankful for my health-albeit not perfect. The stuff they go through.
    Nouwen says the quickest way through the night is to fly into the darkness rather than the sun.” But what does he know.
    I hope you are taking care of your physical being. I hesitate to recommend yet another book, by Paul Kalanithi” When breath becomes air.” Probably the saddest book I have ever read, which brought me to tears- so you can probably forget this recommendation.
    Still no word on the Atlanta application. But I think with the rent differential we have a chance. They have a great YMCA in canton. G.L. Pritchard? Something like that.
    I miss the Cardinals and the MOckingbirds.

    • Hi Mike,

      Your experiences watching the patients at the VA remind me of one of the (seemingly endless) books I have to read for school this semester. It’s called Sidewalk and I am finding it to be the most interesting assigned book I’ve read in quite awhile (leaving aside the ones by or about C. S. Lewis which of course are in a class by themselves in terms of my interest level). It’s important for us to step outside our own orbits and get a glimpse of different worlds…most of us in whatever circumstances come running back to our own lives with a bit more gratitude. Re: Nouwen, I think he knows quite a lot. At least as much as Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama or Billy Graham or any of the other religious teachers out there. Nouwen lived it. His work at L’Arche puts him in a very tiny minority of people willing to give up prestigious and powerful positions to live and support adults with developmental disabilities. When someone quotes him, I pay close attention. BTW did you know that Nouwen was a personal friend of Fred Rogers?

      Colorful Cardinals and musical Mockingbirds are fitting adornments to the natural beauty of the south. I hope you do find a way to move to Georgia. There will be a lot to love there.

  35. Mike

    I read somewhere the Cardinals and the Mockingbirds sing to each other- is it true?

    • I have no idea, and I was unable to find an answer in a quick search. I did find out that male birds of all varieties sing more than females, and often it’s a territorial thing or a mating call. I think Mockingbirds can copy just about any other bird, so it would not be surprising if some of these other birds answered back, maybe thinking it was another of its own kind.

  36. Mike

    That is probably it. They are very talented mimics those Mockingbirds.So you are doing CS Lewis for your PHD? Very cool. Oxford don-etc.
    Norah says I take too many pictures of flowers. I was being facetious abouit Nouwen- one of the spiritual giants of our time and here comes another book selection- by last name Hennesey the grandaughter of Dorothy Day – a new biolgraphy of her- one of four Americans mentioned by Pope Francis.along with Lincoln, Kennedy and M.L. King. I don’t have the title. I am still reading Americanah -in the time being.

    • Hi Mike, I am doing the PhD in Communications, but this summer I am taking a course about C. S. Lewis, part of which will be conducted in Oxford, in and around the places he lived, worked and attended church. This is like a double incentive for me, since I totally loved Oxford the two times I visited while Drew was a student there. Actually I must admit this one course is part of the reason I was drawn to this particular PhD program. I hope I will love it (the overall program) enough to finish after this. 🙂 Re: Americanah–I believe in taking all the time I need to get through a book. At various times in my life (when things were busy) I have taken as much as nearly two years to get through a lengthy work of fiction. Some are harder to digest than others, but usually the effort pays off.

  37. Nice painting + poem + post!

  38. Mike

    Shadowlands was the movie right? About Lewis and the American Joy…
    Yesterday Jen and the girls hiked the Kennesaw mountain trail up to the top- 2 miles up I think. I will try and post a pict. They grow up so fast. Verie is enjoying the garden finally at the end of May, but it looks like it might be June Gloom here. As I sit here-the rain has started once again after a four day reprieve.

    • Mike, yes, the movie Shadowlands was a touching if overly-romanticized version of Lewis’s brief marriage to Joy Gresham. She was quite an interesting person in her own right, and a recent, well-researched biography of her casts a much different light on her relationship to Lewis. Her adult son says that she went to England with one goal in mind: marrying Lewis– though she herself was still married at the time, and arranged for her female cousin to stay with her husband while she was in England (?!), which tends to lend credibility to what her son later said. His father, not surprisingly, ended up in a relationship with the cousin, freeing Joy to pursue Lewis. It’s an absorbing story and one that portrays the characters as much more human and less saintly than is generally supposed. She was an active member of the Communist Party in the USA for many years, and that tended to get in the way of her career as a poet, though she won acclaim from some very well known figures in the world of American letters.

      Re: Kennesaw — I have only vague memories of it and I’m not even sure if I ever climbed any part of it. Yes, the kids grow up fast. I have about resigned myself to seeing very little of Grady and Owen, unless present trends change. As it is, they are like different boys each time I see them, each stage equally delightful. We are having some gloomy weather here today as well, though I like the cooler temperatures it brings, and have hopes it will keep the plants in their springtime beauty for awhile longer.

      • Mike

        Sounds like an interesting work on joy, the de-mythologizing of her life, “they were gods sinful patients.” Nice line on the book cover. Of course you heard about what Daryl Hannah did to Neil young? History is written by the Victors. Now I have to watch the movie again.

        • Mike, I knew nothing about Daryl Hannah and Neil Young, but I’m sure such things happen all the time. For the vast majority of couples I know personally, the woman was the one pushing the relationship, either in the beginning or at some point early in their story. Very few go to the extremes that Joy did, however. C. S. Lewis had an interesting relationship with his friend and fellow soldier Paddy Moore’s mother, for whom he was the caretaker for many years. He and Paddy made a mutual agreement to care for the parent of the other if one of them survived. After his friend was killed in World War I (Lewis was injured in the trenches, but survived), Lewis ended up living with Mrs. Moore and her daughter Maureen for most of his life. Like Joy, she was known to be a difficult woman. There has been much speculation as to what Lewis’s true relationship with her was. Some say it was romantic in the early stages, some say not. Either way, there is little doubt that Mrs. Moore became something of a mother substitute for him (his own mother died when he was very young and his relationship with his father was difficult at best). And I believe taking care of Mrs. Moore for all those years (she was, by all accounts, quite demanding) probably made him more tolerant of Joy in the early days of their friendship. He himself characterized his marriage to Joy as that of “a sinful man married to a sinful woman.” Reading of his life, it is easier to see that he meant that sincerely, and was not just attempting humility. But on the whole, I would say Lewis was more saint than sinner. He was generous to a fault, living frugally while giving away almost all his substantial income to whomever he knew to be in need, and laboriously answering all the voluminous correspondence that resulted from his fame.

  39. Mike

    I am not sure I know the true story of what really happened there with Daryl and Neil ,although they are now together and his ex- gave a tearful interivew on NPR- She is a singer and she put much of her present heartache into her new album, so I hope it all pays off for her. But she says she is broken in many ways. Maybe as you say- Daryl pushed for it.She was a groupie and then became something else. BTW did you hear Dylans interview about his Nobel prize in literature and the three books that influenced him- Moby Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front and the third escapes me, but he says these works have made it into his unconscious and made it out into his verse -one way or another.
    That is interesting about Lewis and his generosity. My late aunt would say about my uncle who had a meat business, “If it wasn’t for me we would have nothing. He gives stuff away all the time.?” I suppose that is where the term-“generous to a fault,” comes from.
    Reading actor Jeffrey Tambor “Am I anybody,” his memoir. A really fun read. I think I will stick with that -memoirs for a while.
    On saint versus sinner- it is like that bumper sticker you have seen- I am sure- about being 49 % nice guy and 51 % someting else- hellion or whatever. It is quite a mix and like DNA root analysis there could be stuff in there that may surprise us.

    • Mike, I haven’t read that interview with Dylan, but it does not surprise me that he named those seemingly unusual books as influences. Dylan has always been full of surprises and his work defies easy description. More overtly, throughout his amazingly long career, his songs have been sprinkled with references to the Bible, some obvious ( such as his famous line “the first one now shall later be last” and his Grammy-winning song “Gotta serve somebody”) and some that would shoot right past anyone not well as well acquainted with scripture as Dylan was and is.

      Yes, it is possible to be generous to a fault, I suppose, insofar as it may involve poor stewardship of resources and even mindless extravagance. But I suspect that particular tendency is more rare than its opposite. In the case of someone like Lewis, I believe he never saw his own actions as sacrifices (though many of his friends seemed to see his generosity with both his time and his money as making him vulnerable to those who took advantage). Lewis relished the simple joys such as a good cup of tea, a collection of books, and friends with whom to enjoy both. He personified the truth that the man who is content is truly rich, regardless of how much or how little money he has. Then, too, he no doubt remembered the long years of struggling to establish himself at Oxford, during which he relied on his father’s financial support. I imagine that he learned to live quite frugally during that time, and then paid it forward as soon as he was able. To his own father, sadly, he was much less gracious, something he later repented. As you mention, he was like all of us in that he was “quite a mix” — but his incomparable ability to distill profound truth into simple explanations and analogies continues to enrich countless readers, myself among them. I wish the world had many more such mixtures!

  40. Mike

    So last week NPR Sunday puzzle was name a us city- two words- whose second name sounds like last name of a famous 21st cent. author while the first name is something found is almost all of their books.
    The winner– Corpus christi- for Agatha Christie and the runner up.
    Saint Louis for C.S. Lewis.
    Pretty clever huh.
    MB

    • Yes, and I would never have guessed it, despite being familiar with both authors. That sort of question is why I could never go on Jeopardy.

  41. Mike

    I think Dylan is a devout Catholic. The song,” Serve somebody,”

    • I don’t know anything about his being Catholic, but I do know that he became a Christian many years ago. During the period after his conversion he recorded several overtly religious albums (the most famous one being “Slow Train Coming” which I love – that’s the one that includes “Gotta Serve Somebody”). After some blatantly evangelical songs he went silent about his faith, although he never renounced it. I think he was into reading the Bible for quite some time before he was ever converted, though. Supposedly he got into it after his near-fatal motorcycle accident in 1966, when he went silent for a time and got away from the pressure of being continually besieged with fans.

  42. Good morning, Julia. I just deleted well over 300 blog notifications from the last 4 months that I just can’t get time to read. I saw yours in there and opened it. I didn’t see it before. They were coming in so fast that it overwhelmed me. I’m so glad you are taking time for yourself to rest and restore. It will help more than you know. I think of you every day and know that you, like me, don’t want to lay your burden on anyone else. We keep that still upper lip and a smile pasted on when we are quaking inside. But somewhere, some way, we must be able to share our burdens so we don’t break under the weight of them. I can’t come and help you with Matt, But I can pray for someone to do just that. I’m here for you to tell the truth to and listen with an open heart. It’s what I do best. I don’t carry your burden, just help lessen the weight of it. Giant hugs from a friend afar, Marlene

    • Thank you, Marlene. It means so much to know that we are in each other’s corners. Matt and I pray for you and we really appreciate your prayers too. Someday we will both be in happier places and perhaps we will look back with the teensiest bit of fondness to think how many of us somehow found a way to keep going.Til then the stiff upper lip and brave smile are the orders for the day. Your giant hugs mean more than I can say! Love and gratitude ❤

  43. Mike

    And now they are saying he- Dylan- plagairzed from Moby Dick and quoted from Spark’s notes and not the original novel-Not sure I am following this. If you get a chance -watch Patty Smith’s acceptance song at the Nobel Prize Ceremony-,where she sings “It’s a hard road.” The audience is forgiving and encouraging. Not sure what to make of this allegation, but his interview was enlightenging and he basically said,”Hey it is a song and made to be sung, not read like literature.” So I guess he was in a sense disavowing his award for literature, though of course he is a poetic genius.
    Today in Seattle- it is a “hooded jacket day.” Actual quote from a Seattle weatherperson.

    • Hi Mike, sorry I’ve been away so long – I’ve been “on the road again” and overwhelmed with school work. It’s funny how people obsess about Dylan. I would not be surprised at all if he used Spark’s notes. The only way I got through the unabridged Moby Dick was with an audiobook with a very skilled reader…but it was well worth using that format, as I ended up finding it quite fascinating. I had never had the slightest interest in whaling, until we visited the whaling museum in Lahaina, Maui. It’s a small museum but really good. As soon as I heard that Patty Smith gave the acceptance speech and sang Hard Rain, I went to the YouTube video of it. That song got me through a very difficult time in my life, and I have the words to the final verse on the wall of my garret to this very day. Anyone who has ever had the lonely role of advocating for a person with disabilities will eventually experience “I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it” in a way they would never have chosen. I agree that Dylan is a genius but I think he hit the nail on the head many years ago when he called himself (only half jokingly, I believe) a “song and dance man.” I don’t think Dylan’s lyrics stand alone as poetry without the music attached. Paul Simon, on the other hand, is quite the poet in my mind. His “Poem on the Underground Wall” (among many others) is brilliant even without the music, and his music is amazing. Try listening to “Wartime Prayers” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usl0hnGBhJI WOW.

  44. Mike

    That is a great song- which I don’t recall that well. “I,m trying to tap into some wisdom and even a little drop will do.”
    Are you in Oxford now? When I think of Oxford I think of the race scene in “Chariots of Fire” where they try and race around the corridors in less than a minute -by the bell strikes. The true story of Eric Liddel-“The flying Scotsman,” and Henry Abrahamson-Oxford alum. Here in Seattle we have a great book on the 1936 Olympic champion Rowers from Univ. washington -“Boys in the Boat.”

    • Hi Mike, I was indeed in Oxford when you wrote this, but I’m home now after an amazingly inspiring and tiring couple of weeks. In real life, Eric Liddell’s story only got more impressive after his unprecedented, record-setting Olympic win in an event he didn’t even train for. He ended up dying in a concentration camp in China, having sent his wife and children home to America during the war, but choosing himself to stay with the people he loved so well. Survivors of the camp tell some inspiring stories about how Liddell kept everyone going. Some people really are heroes. But I digress. Re: England, I came back with nearly 3000 photos so hopefully I can come up with a blog post somehow in between the two major papers and several smaller assignments I still have to get done.

  45. Mike

    Cool. 3000 photos. And you had some Shepherds pie?
    Tragedy in Marietta yesterday at the Well’s Fargo bank, involving a veteran and some hostages. My son was at the scene on anticipation of casualties. Don’t know any details yet. I worry about out first responders.

    • Mike, amazingly enough, I did not have any shepherd’s pie. It has never been a favorite of mine, especially since our college cafeteria had a particularly unappetizing version of it. What I did eat was a lot of McVitie’s hobnobs — dark chocolate version — and tons of fresh croissants from the lovely full English breakfast I had every morning. Plus drinking tea by the potful and cooling off with Bitter Lemon, which is easy to get in the UK but almost impossible to find here. Not to worry, I didn’t starve. In fact, despite my walking 8-10 miles per day (as confirmed by my FitBit) I actually gained 8 pounds while I was there– or as they would say, over half a stone!

      Yes, I too worry about first responders. I wonder how long it will be before they can’t pay anyone enough to take the job. I think that’s already a problem in Baltimore.

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