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Video: Becoming What You Hate

Notes from the video

The ability to commit violence (by word or deed) is not a strength. True strength is exhibited in our self-control. How we maintain discipline over our own tongue and actions. Not how we curtail other people.

Avoid becoming stuck as your worse self by:
Reimagining who you are
– Who have you always been?
– Who do you want to be?
– Who do you want to be nothing like?

Reimagining your environment
– How did your surroundings impact your character and personality grieving up?
– What aspects do you want to cultivate in your space moving forward?

Reflect on your actions and reactions – good, bad, ugly, & embarrassing.

Thought experiment: Project the idea of your best self into the idea of your best environment. What’s the first step in getting you there in reality?

If you are striving to be the best version of yourself but you keep surrounding yourself with people who bring out the worse in you, you will find your strength when you walk away from the people and environments that keep you at your worse.

You have a choice in how you live. Are you going to grow consciously in the direction of the person you want to be? Are you consciously releasing the person you don’t want to be?

Video, Parts 1+2

#self-control #discipline #growth #life #family #abuse #childhoodabuse #childabuse #elderabuse #eldercare #counseling #listen #findpeace #selfcare #selfimprovement #selfreflection #growth #betterthanyoushouldbe

 

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Looking back to move forward

August is a month of reflection and celebration. All this year I’ve been looking back. Mostly at the history of America as it relates to descendents of the American slave trade, including legacy systems, and Black Women. I’ve returned to old homes and old jobs. I’ve committed to finishing unfinished work. Now my mind and heart are on the loved ones who have left already.It seems I’m in a whole season of looking back, but in the sense of a rock being pulled back in a slingshot. I’m not sure if my future is ready for me, but I know I’m ready for the trajectory I’m being prepared for.

#life #change #death #growth #lovedones #rip #onward #grief #newlife #newhope #keepmovingforward #realestate #milwaukee #wisconsinbadgers #chicagobulls #represent #familytime #memorylane

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POEM: Elegy: Cousin Tish – Baby Woman Mother

In memory of my lil cuz, Tish.

Elegy: Cousin Tish – Baby Woman Mother

Playing house is different with baby
cousins, lil’ brothers and sisters and the
mannish boys in the neighborhood. Who needs
a fake baby with real baby cousins
in reach? Tish was a chubby, curly-haired
infant, rosy-cheeked girly-girl toddler
adorable, rambunctious, loved. Rolling
over, pushing up learning to walk, run
circles around folks from the house and yard
to Grandma’s vegetable garden; real life
cabbage patch doll blooming up and down the
street, burrowing roots, extending networks.

Too soon, I was no fun; just a boring
old cousin to a womanish girl who
preferred smokin’ weed as boys circled and
plotted in her haze. Though she grew up fast,
she was no fast-tail-gal. She met her love,
married young in paradise. Soon after,
my play baby was having babies in
wedded bliss. A homemaker happiest
making a home in the warm embrace of
family, next door to her mama, ‘cross
town from Grandma. A nurturing space for
herself, her husband and their one two three
four five bouncing bundles of joy. Later
expanding her shelter to make room to
comfort Grandma in her declining years.

A lifetime came and went. A final stealth
pregnancy shared with few. Heard in passing
near her due date. Her mom, my aunt, kept her
confidence; our uncle not so. She was
due on my long-deceased brother’s birthday.
A happy coincidence to be sure.
On December 16, my aunt called to
check on me. She asked, “Have you gotten your
diabetes under control?” “I thought
I did, but last week I spiked,” I replied.
On and on I rambled, before Cousin
Tish interrupted, “Should I let them give
Grandma the Covid-19 vaccine?” “No,”
my aunt said. “What do you think,” she asked me.
“No,” I agreed, “they don’t know what the side
effects are.” “Yeah,” my aunt said, “Mom has too
many illnesses and is taking too
many medications, that vaccine could
kill her. “Ok,” said the woman who was
once upon a time my play baby, as
she made arrangements for the grandmother
she was now mothering. Generations
are mere stair steps grape-vining across blurred
lines. We could’ve all been in the same room,
sharing the same space in momentary
unity. A rare consensus. Eighteen
hundred miles, forty years separated
us from oldest to youngest to farthest
away. “I have to go,” said Auntie. “Tish
needs to get ready for the hospital.
They’re inducing her tonight.”
“Goodness! How does she do it all,” I asked.
“What do you mean?” Intoned with a raised brow.
“She’s about to deliver her sixth child.
She’s on her feet to the end, taking care
of grandma, five kids and a husband. It’s
a lot.” With a quiet sense of affront,
my aunt said, “I help.” Indeed, she does, though
not immediately apparent from
eighteen hundred miles away. As neighbors,
mother and daughter have separate but
shared households. They see each other daily.
Tish stays home, her mom works. They share the days
and divide the responsibilities.
Mini-compound in an old industry
town. How can any of us do it all
without help? “Ok, talk to you later.
Good luck to Tish.” When was the last time I
told her I love her? She’s kept me at a
distance for decades; I stopped trying to
bridge it long ago. What would I have said
had I known it was my last chance to speak
to her through her mom? The next morning, her
brother called to say this vibrant woman
died in childbirth. Unbelievable, yet
true. That was not the call any of us
expected to receive. From good luck to
my God, may she rest in peace! We know she
held her blessings close in a well-lived life.

Of the ways we thought any of us would
go next, the ones we were “ready” for, Tish
dying giving birth was not a concern.

Gone. Thirty-eight years young. Healthy. Happy.
Living, loving fully. Present for life.
Woman, wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter,
sister, niece, cousin, friend. Being herself
was her favorite role. “I Am Woman.
I Am Me,” she shared with me when asked what
womanhood meant to her during my last
visit. “Everything about Woman
represents Me. Determination. Me
being focused. Being respectful and
making sure my children are respectful.
Having manners. Succeeding in life.” She
Will be remembered as my play baby
and a bonafide mommy-woman. She
leaves behind many impressed by all the
life in her years, her love of motherhood
all encompassing. For the little ones,
Tish’s babies, overwhelming sadness
for the void her physical absence leaves
in their lives. May God enrich their spirits
to receive all the comfort, guidance and
love they need to fill their years with good life.
Precious Layla, Erick, Karess, Remy,
Daymanie and dearest London whose first
breath struggled pass her mother’s last. As I
mourn Cousin Tish, I ache for the husband
she shared her life with, mother never more
than a hop away, father whose pride was
his first-born, and brother who could’ve been
her Siamese twin. Then there’s Grandma, who
has been sustained by Tish’s care and grace.

 

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Funerals: Pre and Post Covid19

2020 is now book-ended with funerals for me.

I try to avoid funerals, but my elders are passing and I feel honor bound to show up in some way. This month, I attended a service via Zoom for the first time. Honestly, a remote memorial doesn’t feel quite real.

Service via Zoom

My paternal grandmother died in December 2012. The following spring, her surviving four sisters hosted a memorial for her in Chicago. I was the only member of my grandmother’s line to show up, though she had three surviving children, many grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. My dad preceded her in death, as did my brother. My sister had been hard to connect with after our brother’s funeral. I had been living in New York City, isolated from family, so the thought of connecting with my grandmothers sisters was ambrosia for me. They knew who I was and I was familiar with one or two, but I didn’t really grow up around them. So, I was eager to sit and listen to their stories.

In April 2013, Great-Aunt Juanita hosted her living sisters and their descendants in honor of their recently lost sister, Jurl, my grandma, near Chicago. I traveled with my camera and captured some great candid shots, family groupings and intimate portraits. The sisters also brought along photos of their gatherings through the years. I’ve photographed a few funerals and gatherings in honor of loved ones over the years. As morbid as the subject may sound, the images are full of joy and love.

In 2015, I returned to Chicago for a conference and was happily able to connect with three of my great aunts at Great-Aunt Faye’s home in South Chicago.

In November 2019, I was compelled to attend my Great-Aunt Cherrie’s funeral in Gary, Indiana. She was the eldest sibling of thirteen Stuart children born in a small town near Little Rock, Arkansas.

On December 1, 2020, Great-Aunt Faye left us for the light on the other side. Her daughter reached out to ask if I had any photos of her from Aunt Cherrie’s funeral last year. I found quite of few of her from last year and my prior visits in 2013 and 2015. She was a light and a joy.

The Sisters

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Everything I Thought I Knew About Diabetes Was Wrong

Did you know diabetes mellitus is a term for a group of disorders that cause elevated blood sugar (aka glucose) levels in the body? Known by it’s first name, diabetes is a chronic (aka long-lasting) condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. Glucose is a critical source of energy for your brain, muscles, and tissues.

When you eat, your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose (sugar) which is released into your bloodstream. This triggers the pancreas to release a hormone called insulin. Insulin acts as a “key” that allows glucose to enter the cells from the blood. If your body doesn’t produce enough insulin to effectively manage glucose, it can’t function or perform properly. This produces the symptoms of diabetes.

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious complications by damaging blood vessels and organs. It can increase the risk of: heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, eye disease

Nutrition and exercise can help manage diabetes, but it’s also important to track blood glucose levels. Treatment may include taking insulin or other medications.

Diabetes and Food Memories of Mom

My mom was a diabetic. I don’t remember when she was diagnosed, but she would have been in her early or mid-thirties. I do remember watching her shoot insulin into her belly. That’s pretty much all I remember. Oh, and she was a drinker. Not too heavy, but she loved beer and now that I look back, her mood swings could have indicated some habitual drunkenness. She also enjoyed drugs and sweets. Memories of Mom’s baked goods still bring joy. When she threw together caramel cake with icing, banana pudding, and sweet potato pie from scratch, I would literally stand transfixed at her elbow peering under her arm or looking over her shoulder as time went by. Normally, I don’t claim regrets, but my greatest regret in life is that I didn’t get my mom to write down her recipes. Watching her cook and bake was not the same as having written instructions.

In the fourth grade I had my first Home Economics class – remember those? I still have Dotty, the stuffed animal I sewed that year. We learned to make French toast and vanilla pudding from scratch. There were many other dishes, but these were my favorites. Mom allowed me to make French toast and other simple dishes for the family on weekends. When I was fifteen, I took it upon myself to gift my mom and siblings with caramel cake. I threw flour, sugar, milk and eggs into a bowl and baked a brick. Mom was by nature laid back and easy-going person. A super pleasant and beautiful soul, truly. One of the few times I was the target of her rage was when she woke from a nap and saw that I had “wasted” so much of her precious baking ingredients. Desperately, but to no avail, I explained that I did not “waste” her flour, sugar, eggs, milk, precious vanilla extract and whatever else I tossed into the mixing bowl, I was baking her a cake. She stomped and screamed as she pulled my brick from the oven and tossed it on the counter. Truly bewildered, I didn’t understand why she didn’t appreciate my initiative and desire to bake one of our favorite deserts.

Today I understand. Today I can hang my head at my obtuseness. But I still wish she would have fussed and then shown me how to make her fabulous caramel cake. As far back as I can remember, Mom had worked several jobs at a time. The pride of her life was being able to say she provided for her family without government assistance. However, we were extremely poor financially. Everything, especially food, was precious. I knew that. Understood it. But that day, I didn’t consider it a waste to attempt to emulate my mother. She died a few years later and I have no other memories of trying to cook or bake her dishes. Since she’s been gone, I’ve asked relatives if they know how she cooked her banana pudding, sweet potato pie, caramel cake, turkey dressing, potato salad, pinto beans, chicken noodle soup or any of the foods that brought me comfort and joy during my childhood. No one knows. My mom cooked by taste, sight and feel. She was self-taught and as the eldest of eight children, everyone enjoyed her cooking, but no one could duplicate the magic.

This is all I knew about diabetes growing up: My mom had it. She had to take insulin. She also smoke, drank and did drugs. Subliminally, diabetes wasn’t a big deal.

Food as Comfort and Love

I’ve long known that food is my comfort. Certain foods remind me of home and love. Until the writing of this post, I hadn’t connected my “sweet tooth” to what my mom’s deserts and home cooked meals represented to me. For most of my adult life, I’ve attempted to recreate the taste, texture and feel of my favorite foods. This has led to baking becoming one of my favorite pastimes. I still haven’t mastered caramel cake but I’m closing in on an excellent caramel icing. My sweet potato pie is gift worthy and has been has been requested during the holidays, as have my staple sweet potato dishes. I haven’t attempted banana pudding from scratch again, but it’s on the to do list.

So… just as I’m coming into my stride as a baker, I get diagnosed as a diabetic during an intense DKA episode. I was sick, but didn’t know I was a diabetic so I was cooking and baking peach cobbler, caramel cake, banana bread and similar yummies to make myself feel better. In my ignorance, I was killing myself. Despite having a diabetic mother, brother and grandmother and since my diagnosis learning, five of my maternal uncles have diabetes, I knew nothing of the signs or symptoms common to the disease.

I Knew Nothing

Honestly, despite having a mother who had to use insulin daily and a brother whose death was inconclusive because he was a diabetic who had drugs and alcohol in his system when he was beaten to death, I knew nothing about the mechanics or practical requirements of diabetes. Both of my grandmothers fought chronic illness for most of my life. Yet I can’t tell you the sum of their illnesses or how their lives are impacted by each disease or how likely it is that I’ve already developed the same diseases or will soon do so. Disease isn’t talked about on either side of my family as something that is avoidable or even treatable to good health. There’s a resignation to disease with my people. So much so that it’s a side note or conversational add-on.

Quick Facts from CDC.gov

  • More than 34 million people in the United States have diabetes, and 1 in 5 of them don’t know they have it.
  • More than 88 million US adults—over a third—have prediabetes, and more than 84% of them don’t know they have it.
  • Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States (and may be underreported).
  • Type 2 diabetes accounts for approximately 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes; type 1 diabetes accounts for approximately 5-10%.
  • In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled as the American population has aged and become more overweight or obese. [https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/quick-facts.html]

What is Diabetes?

Closeup of dictionary page showing definition of diabetes

With diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use it as well as it should.

Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy.

Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar (also called glucose) and released into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, it signals your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.

If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream. Over time, that can cause serious health problems, such as heart diseasevision loss, and kidney disease.

There isn’t a cure yet for diabetes, but losing weight, eating healthy food, and being active can really help. Taking medicine as needed, getting diabetes self-management education and support, and keeping health care appointments can also reduce the impact of diabetes on your life.

There are three main types of diabetes: prediabetes, type 1type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).

Read related posts:

Poem: Sister, Sister II

Morning Stretch and Praise Break

Sources: CDC.gov and Healthline.com, American Diabetes Association

 

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Poem: Sister, Sister II

My sister is forty-one; three years my junior. She’s about six months clean. I don’t know exactly when she began doing drugs, but around the age of twenty-four, she essentially stopped living her life. She lost, or gave up, her job, her apartment and her car and allowed her “boyfriend” to pimp her out. For the last seventeen years or so she has experienced horrors I can’t listen to without cringing, crying or asking her to share with less detail when she needs to talk.

Our brother died in July 2007. His funeral was the last time my sister and I saw each other until July 2018. She avoided me for eleven years. Whatever her reasons, no rejection has ever hurt more. Most of those absent years she called me on my birthday to let me know she was still alive. Quite honestly, her voice was the best present every time. I would also get calls when she was in hospital or jail and forced to get clean for a while. Answered prayers. One year she moved out of state with a john and was clean for almost a year. She called almost monthly then. Until he grew tired and bought her a ticket to return her to the hell he pulled her out of. I tried frantically to reroute her ticket to me, but she didn’t want me. She wanted the comfort of the hell that was the only love she was willing to accept.

A couple more years passed.

In July 2018, I returned home for a visit after many years away. I reached out to my sister through the grapevine – her network of friends and contacts who knew where and when to look for her. She agreed to see me. She stayed with me for about a day, sleeping through most of the visit. She slept in the car, on our cousins sofa during a condolence visit, in the car again and through the night. We didn’t have much time to talk between the visits and the sleep, but I made sure to remind her that wherever I am she is welcome. I told her what I wanted most for her was for her to love herself as much as she loved the man holding her in bondage, because then she would no longer accept the things she’s been accepting for her life. I told her she could return home with me that weekend. She had only to say the word. Instead she said she wanted to go back home to the drug house she was living in, to the man who had lured her into that life.

Earlier this year she entered rehab. She has a new boyfriend who encouraged her to do for herself. She wants to please him so she committed to rehab. However, she says she completed rehab for herself. The new guy also encouraged her to visit me. She stalled and bounced around for a few weeks after rehab, ending up back in the hell she now wanted to stay out of but didn’t know how to live without that man and all the familiar demons within sight. Then I got ill. Gravely ill. I called to tell her I was taking myself to the hospital and didn’t know how long I would be there. In my head, I was articulate, but apparently I was barely speaking. She began sobbing uncontrollably, saying “Shawnda, what’s wrong? I can’t understand you!” I was trying to give her instructions on what to do if I didn’t make it – sell the house, keep the profit, etc. I may have even said, “I’m letting go.” Or maybe she heard the distance in my voice. She started calling out repeatedly, “Shawnda, I’m coming! I’m coming!”

It sounded nice, but I didn’t believe her.

I’m grateful God doesn’t limit our blessings to our ability to believe.

My sister arrived the day after I was released from the hospital in July 2020. She hasn’t been in a home of mine in over fifteen years. It feels slightly surreal but mostly it feels like a lesson on hope, waiting and not letting go.

Kim is here. Answered prayer. New challenges. Renewed hope.

 

Sister, Sister II

I have loved you more

Consistently and unconditionally

Than any other living being,

Except for mom.

I have left myself open

Remained available

Laid myself bare

For your convenience

And possible comfort

Should you ever choose

To love yourself more

Than the abuse of men

And begin to value your

Life beyond your next high

I’ve been waiting

Months years decades

A lifetime now

For my sister to come home.

6/24/20

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Family Dilemma

The three part Family Matters series I’ve shared has been very powerful for me. Like many, I have struggled painfully and mightily with my relatives through every stage of life. Unlike many, after a while, at each stage I have consistently chosen separation and distance in order to preserve my life. Self-preservation has been both a blessing and curse. The instinct to cut off my arm, my foot, even my heart in order to breathe and live another day with a bit less pain has been my status quo since adolescence. But now, as I approach my middle years, after living the last fifteen years alone without family input or interaction in my daily life, it feels as if I’ve over-preserved myself. I’ve processed out the salt and flavor of life, the meat of existence, the joy of being. I’ve grown stale.

The Tug-of-War of Returning

The aunt who knows me best and had a hand in mothering me during a portion of my teen years, dropped me in my twenties. No rhyme or reason I’m aware of. She simply stopped communicating and interacting with me.

She had a very controlling stranglehold on many people. The hold she had on me was through constant reminders of how she stepped in to help my mom when no one else would. Her idea of being paid back was me owing her my life and being willing to give her whatever she wanted whenever she asked for it. Preferably before she asked for it. When I moved away at the age of thirty, my main intent was to get away from the yoke she kept trying to attach to me. My insight into my aunt’s character was very limited then. Fortunately, I see her much clearer now.

After I moved to New York City, the only time my aunt and I communicated during the first ten years of my self-exile, was surrounding the death of family members.

When my aunt became ill a couple of years ago, she began sporadically reaching out in earnest. Meaning her speech was earnest but her follow-through was not. I listen to her with a very skeptical ear, in an attempt to discern truth and need from hyperbole. Despite not being able to trust her, I do find that I would still like to have a good relationship with her. What I’m coming to terms with is that such is not possible.

My return to Arizona was not meant to be shared with relatives in the state. There was no intention of interacting with people who have no goodwill towards me. However, I am very talkative, my aunt is very nosy… and I’ve never been a deflector or a liar. She knows this. When I don’t want to answer a question, she will keep at me until my guard lowers and I overshare throughout the course of the conversation. She is also good at inserting herself without invitation. Long story short, I eventually shared my intention to move to Tucson and she began planning my life. First, she wanted to visit me in New York City before I leave for good. She wanted to join me in various endeavors when I arrive in my new home and insisted I pick her up and drop her off in Mesa (suburb of Phoenix about 1.5 hour drive away from me) so she can do so. Her suggestions exasperated me. Each time I impatiently cut her off. “I’ve been in New York for twelve years, if you haven’t visited by now, I’m not holding my breath for a visit before my final exit. I’m not driving to Phoenix on a regular to pick you up and drop you off in order to participate in an activity with me. No. No. No. Then… Okay, do you want to spend Christmas with me? In March, I’ll be in Phoenix for an event and will stop by to visit. When do you want to come to New York? I’ll see what I can do.”

Love is very simple. So is relationship. Love embodies the desire to provide and accommodate. That is the essence, the true core, of relationship. My aunt no longer manipulates me from the angle of owing her anything. She targets my loneliness by revealing her own. She tries to identify with me being on my own by claiming to be the same. In addition to being “on her own,” she’s ill, she’s dying, and unemployed. What she doesn’t like mentioning is that she has three children, several grandchildren, a brother, nieces and nephews in the same city. She claims no one’s checking on her or looking out for her. She’s not eating. She can’t go shopping. No one cares. So yeah, I finally gave in and agreed to visit her. I told her two weeks in advance when I would come.

When I called to tell her I was in Phoenix and leaving the event I had attended, she passed the phone to one of her grandsons who was visiting. She called a few minutes later, as I was heading to the highway to get across town to frantically tell me her brother and his wife also “dropped by.” I could hear her anxiety through the phone. I wasn’t prepared for a visit with her, her brother and his wife – far too much ridiculous energy in one space. I told her as much and told her I was fine staying on the highway and returning to Tucson directly. She said her visitors wouldn’t be there long and asked me to come by as I intended. By the time I arrived at her complex, I had to use the restroom, so I called and told her I would bite the bullet and deal with her brother and sister-in-law because I needed a bathroom. She calmly replied, “Can you go to McDonald’s down the street? I’ll send my grandson down to take you there.”

“I just passed McDonald’s. I can get there just fine.” This was my first visit since my grandmother, her mother, died four years prior. Yet, she refused me entry for a time in preference for her brother whom she later shared lives around the corner.

I drove to McDonald’s and ordered food while I was there. Then I drove to another location to journal. I was gone for close to two hours, during which she called three times. My internal debate was should I get back on the road and drive back home to Tucson or should I follow-through on the visit I said I would make? I suspected she had set me up. She had always tried to force me into interacting with her brothers even when I have been direct about not wanting contact. Though that wasn’t the case this time. I had already tried scheduling time with her brother. That seemed to surprise her. Against my better judgement, I completed my journal entry and went to visit my aunt. When I arrived I was surprised to see her son – who had according to him, been living with her for four years. His girlfriend shared his room with him.

The lonely aunt whom no one was checking on, literally had a full house.

My aunt has always made destructive choices. She has never chosen love for the sake of love. Not for her children, not for her husband, not for her mother. Nor for me. I have always given her the benefit of the doubt, but her actions have always been honest expressions of her priorities. She always says I’m like a daughter to her. Yet she did not drop out of contact with her children for ten years.

I view my aunt now as a gateway drug or disease. She chooses everyone and everything I don’t want in my life. Even my willingness to accommodate her for love’s sake is not a good reason to open the door of my life to her when I know she will continue to pull undesirable people and elements in.

Ultimatums

I have nieces of my own whom I have no contact or relationship with. My brothers’ daughters have been withheld from his family since he died eleven years ago. The girls were still sweet then. And I did what I could in all my broken exiled loneliness to maintain a semblance of a relationship with their mother, thereby staying within their world. I reached out to cultivate relationships. I called, I visited, and I sent care-packages. Their mother was a party to my brother’s death. The police refused to investigate so she was never charged. She and I had a couple of conversations about what witnesses shared with me and my family. To my recollection she never denied her part. She didn’t want me connecting with her daughters and when she gave up trying to manipulate me through them, she shut down access altogether.

Several years ago, I connected with one niece on Facebook. I was quite excited to be able to see her and her sisters virtually and perhaps hear about them online. My excitement died a pitifully quick death. They were playing a short game they thought was a long con. Be borderline courteous for a couple of short emails or texts. Hit me up for money. When I refuse, tell me to go kill myself or that I’m not a real auntie because I’m not paying for the privilege. This cycle happens every few years. It’s been three years since the last time.

Last week, my middle niece texted me from an unknown number. Cue borderline courteous brief texts. She said she has a lot of questions and asked to speak to me. I suggest the following evening. When I got on the phone with her, she began with a disclaimer. “I don’t mean to come off as rude, but on the other hand, I am very angry and I just want some answers. Why are you not interested in having a relationship with your deceased brother’s children? Why don’t you ever come around or call? Why didn’t you reach out when your grandfather died? I know you were in Gary, why didn’t you stop by?”

Sometimes, people create their own alternate realities. She’s eighteen now. She was fifteen when she told me I am not her aunt because I don’t “act like” the aunt’s she acknowledge. For example, her mother’s sister is accessible and available for everything. I reminded her of this exchange. And because I know her mother used to text awful things to me then pass the phone to her so she could add her own awfulness, I offered, “Perhaps your mother had your phone when that text was sent.”

“No that was me. That’s how I felt because you’ve never been around and I don’t understand why you don’t want a relationship with me.”

This is where my heart would’ve broken if it hadn’t been targeted and trampled under-foot for so many years.

I told her, “Your mother would be better able to answer why I haven’t been around. I have never not wanted a relationship with you. However, if you’re asking if I want to work on a relationship with you where you have all these expectations about who and what I should be and how I should perform in a role, then no, I am not interested in that. But if you’re interested in getting to know me and allowing me to get to know you, then yes, absolutely. I would absolutely love to build a relationship with you.

It’s an odd thing when you can be hurt by someone, move to protect yourself from their fiery barbs and still ache because of the pain they’re experiencing. It’s not lost on me that this girl is reaching out with the same hand she’s lashing me with. Even as she’s seeking love and knowledge, she’s attempting to punish and destroy. She wants a connection, yet she keeps burning the bridge we’re meeting on. I see it. I get it. I’m just not here for it.

I’m over all this foolishness in my life.

And I’m as a self- preservationist who has never had the luxury of sharing my pain with anyone connected to the source of the pain despite having a host of pain points…. Because of my history, I am not interested in coddling, and further enabling, an abusive personality. Also because of my own seeking and longing, I will continue to re-open the door the tiniest bit as the simplest invitation I can manage.

Even if I take her at her word and dismiss her methods as learned behavior from feeding at the breast of malice and destruction, then I’m still sort of blurry as to her true intent.

Before the end of the call, she said, “It would have been nice to have had you or someone from my dad’s side of the family at my graduation.”

“It would have been nice to be invited. When was your graduation?”

“It’s this Friday.”

“Yeah, an invitation would’ve been nice. Have you decided on a college?”

“Yes, I leave in August for Atlanta.”

We talked a bit about college. I’m quite happy for her and wish her all the best in all she does. However, it was not lost on me that the timing and the purpose of her call speaks more to her expectation for a financial acknowledgement of her accomplishments than to an interest in getting to know me.

Reconciling Past, Present and Future

Both my aunt and my niece represent the current state of my familial relationships. More importantly, my aunt is solidly entrenched in the past. Everything I have worked to extricate from my life would return to roost in my home and life should she be allowed access to either. I know it. I see it. I don’t want it.

My niece also represents a future hope. She and her sisters could have filled the void of the children I never had and would have joyfully been showered with whatever was showered upon me. She also represents a future destruction as a reminder that the enemy is roaming the earth seeking people to devour. From that perspective, just being able to build and maintain a path to healthy communication would be a blessing to cherish.

 

 

 

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Sermon: Family Matters – Present

by Ryan Kramer

Family Matters – Present from Casas Church on Vimeo.

This is part two of a great three-part sermon on family. My notes are below.

Notes:

The divorce rate in 1967% was 16%. In 1980, it was at 52%. What is not normally discussed re the low divorce rates in the 1960’s is that in fidelity in marriage was statistically high. In order to divorce on grounds of unfaithfulness, the infidelity had to be proven.

Also, rarely considered with the low divorce rates mid-century was the state of Women’s Rights. There were few opportunities for women to provide for themselves.

Due to economics and societal structure, women were essentially stuck in marriages with no way to exit.

Has there ever been an ideal Biblical family?

  • The First Family: Adam and Eve raised a murderer
  • God eventually had a do-over with humanity
  • The Second First Family: Noah’s son, Ham, raped his mother while his father was passed out drunk next to her
  • Abraham took side women and divided his household with bitterness
  • Isaac fathered and blessed his devious deceitful son over his rightful heir at the urging of his wife
  • Jacob’s jealous sons sold his favorite son into slavery

Family has always been difficult, shameful and painful.

Take Three Opportunities

  1. Take the opportunity to be present.
  • This requires action. It’s not passive. It’s a choice that requires a willful step.
  • Luke 10:38 Mary & Martha: Martha insists that Jesus make Mary help her. Mary chooses to sit at Jesus’s feet.
  • Jesus was an itinerant rabbi. He had no home. He traveled and stayed with people who offered hospitality. Sometimes he invited himself into people’s homes. He also traveled with a posse.
  • Martha was busy and overwhelmed.
  • But Mary chose the good portion. She chose to spend time with Jesus in proximity and conversation.

Are you Mary or Martha?

Truth: We are all both Mary and Martha.

  • We all feel the pull and tension to choose between what matters most and what the moment seems to require.
  • “Busy for just a season” becomes a life habit. There’s always going to be a season. There’s always another moment. That’s life. Therefore we have to make choices.
  1. Take the opportunity to define what family means to you.

Mark 3:19-35 Jesus went home, a crowd gathered and accused Him of being possessed. His family was sent for. They believed the crowd and tried to shut Him down. When told by the crowd that His mother, brothers and sisters were outside trying to get Him, Jesus responded: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35)

  • Family has a diversity of meaning:
    • Depends on what you grew up with
    • Becomes what you’re used to
    • Is how you structure your life
    • Could be people who choose to be together no matter what
    • Or simply people who know each other very well and share their joys and struggles

Have you thought about what family means to you?

What do you value from family most?

What do you expect from family?

What is it about you definition that is different from definitions your family members have?

Go share your thoughts on family with your family. Hear what they have to share in return.

What do you want to do about what you learn?

  1. Take the opportunity to recognize the gift of complexity.
  • We navigate life in compartments. It is exhausting holding our full beings back, keeping ourselves in check. Family is where the “real” is. Family gets the good and bad you – your worries, frustrations, joys, highs, lows, etc. Family is the place you don’t have to hide. You can be your true self. This is a gift.

 

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Sermon: Family Matters – Future

By Pastor Glenn Barteau

Family Matters – Future from Casas Church on Vimeo.

Family Matters, Part 1
Pastor Gary Barteau
April 8, 2018

Book of Ruth: Naomi and Ruth
Ruth 1:5 Naomi loss her husband and two sons.

Your family still has a future.
Grieve
Look
Dream
Choose

Grief
It is an healthy thing to be able to grieve.
It is an inside process.
It makes a declaration
Becomes a deep outside expression of how valuable the person was to you.
Its never too late to go back and grieve something you didn’t grieve before.
When we don’t grieve it’s difficult to move forward.

Ruth 1: 19-21
So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

Look
Just because there is loss doesn’t mean all is loss.
Look for ehat isn’t loss.
For whats there. For God is bringing into the picture.
Naomi was gifted with two great daughters in law. She had a hometown to return to.

Ruth 2:11

Dream
Dream of what God has put in your heart that matters to you.
Those values and beliefs do not fo away. They remain.
They may manifest differently than you imagined.
Is iy grace? Acceptance? Family as a safe place?

Ruth 2:15-16
Boaz instructs workers to leave grain for Ruth yo glean/collect

As you look to whats loss and what is still present. Go build that family. You have a part in shaping what your family might be
Take steps.

 

Choose
We can choose to move forward.

Naomi’s grandchild is not the future she envision but she called herself blessed and Ruth better than seven sons.

We don’t get back what is loss from before but we are gifted with something beautiful and new. God remakes us and everything we need for life.

God my gift you with ife and joy that may be different that before but is a future for your family.