Dee's Blog
Thu 02/21/2008
New Challenges from a Three-year-old
Topic: Making Changes

Over the weekend, I asked my granddaughters what we needed to change in the grandkids' room upstairs at our place.  "Paint more things on the wall?" said three-year-old Kellyn, with eyes brightly shining.

"Good idea," I replied.  "We'll have to think about that."  I asked for suggestions and got "a barn and farm animals."  Immediately, I thought of the challenge.  Painting animals will be a daunting task for this amateur, but I promised to look into it.  I explained that the wall under the windows started out to be a barnyard years ago, but it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to.

Reminds me of our lives.  We have our plans, but circumstances come along that alter those plans.  The end result isn't always the way we envisioned it on the easel.  Or the wall, in this case. 

So, it's back to the drawing board.  First I'll have to imagine myself even trying to paint animals.  Wonder what they'll turn out looking like?  Part of me can't wait to get started.  Part of me doesn't WANT to start.  That's the way it goes.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Wed 02/20/2008 7:39 AM CST
Wed 02/20/2008
Growing Up
Topic: Making Changes

As I see it, we are all constantly in the process of growing up.  None of us ever will be totally grown.  Depressing perhaps to some, I find this idea energizing.  We have to continue learning and growing as long as we live.  There's work to do!

Over the weekend, my two preschool granddaughters visited us, along with their father.  Upstairs we have a kids' room that used to be a huge junk closet for the former owners of our country cottage.  This grandmother,  who grew up in a parsonage with the ghostly fear that anything we did to the place where we lived might get us in trouble, had the time of her life.  I literally drew all over the walls!  With paint.  Hot air balloons, a castle, a city, mountains, a windmill, a playground, animal "clouds", a spaceship, children, and a forest are among the recognized objects.  Later the oldest grandson and the older granddaughter decided things needed to be added.  Micah wanted a rocket blasting off--he got it.  Haley quietly inquired of her father one day:  "Where's the sunshine?"  While there was evidence of it peering through the clouds, and even a fireball sunset over the mountains, she seemed to want something bright and shiny.  She got that, too, though I may not have succeeded in spreading the "sunshine" through the many square feet of wall space, to her satisfaction. 

The building of full-length beds in that room is a project long overdue.  A professional carpenter is starting that task tomorrow. 

For families, just like individuals, have constant changes and challenges.  What a gift to be a part of this thing called life, so we can all grow together.  In families, as well as in community.  Meeting the predictable changes.  And the unpredictable.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Wed 02/20/2008 7:38 AM CST
Tue 02/19/2008
Starting at Home
Topic: Making Changes

One of the prime symptoms of depression that was so starkly evident to me as a mental health nurse had to do with environmental factors.  Seriously depressed individuals tend to be either focused on nothing.  Or focused on remote things, too far removed and unrelated to the real world in which they live to be practical.

It's as if the world close at hand is so dismal, especially the internal world of self, to clean up the visible messes that are tangible.  Even in the physical environment.  Things just get stacked up, and those things are representative of the emotional housecleaning that needs to be done in order to be productive. 

I've even known of families that required two large moving vans to drag around all of the things they never found the time or energy to sort through as they moved to a new location, to transplant all of the problems (and junk) that would take too much time or energy to go through in order to make significant changes in the quality of living.  Allowing them to find the things that were really important.

Whenever I begin to feel frazzled or at loose ends, I know it's time to evaluate what's close to home. To find the closets I've neglected or the drawers that could be used for things related to the present, occupied by things no longer useful.   What fun it is to discover forgotten treasures, hidden under things I don't need at all.

Ironically, when I begin that process in my physical house, I find synergy.  In other words, my emotional house--the internal sense of self--comes into focus.  Perhaps because the things that are passed away, keeping the present from becoming new and shiny, force me to make choices.  Throwing away the useless objects often results in me cleaning up the clutter in my own psyche.  Then, I can narrow it down to a manageable short list of priorities.  Down to what's really important.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Tue 02/19/2008 1:15 AM CST
Mon 02/18/2008
Another Way to Find Serenity
Topic: coping

My father's family is known for it's strong sense of humor.  A dry humor that sometimes gets misunderstood by more serious folks.  I've inherited some of that myself.

Dad and his siblings have all had me beat by a long shot, though.  Perhaps because they knew so much grief and horrific abuse and neglect as children. 

Dad has been gone for almost a quarter of century, but his brother still seems to have a knack for putting a smile on the faces of people, even when hearing some of the saddest stories.

He might start the Serenity Prayer like this:  "God give me the creativity to find humor in the things I cannot change."

It's a marvelous gift.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Sun 02/17/2008

The cook and nanny for Atticus and his motherless children was Calpurnia, herself a “Negro.”  This lady was a queen in that household.  She showed herself to be full of wisdom and kindness.  Once, in speaking to another cook, she was overheard giving an insider's view: 

 “First thing you learn when you’re in a lawin’ family is that there ain’t any definite answers to anything.” By that she explained that there was no way of knowing how things would turn out. No matter how hard the advocate-attorney Atticus worked or how smart he was.

That's the first thing we need to all learn, when we start to advocate for the oppressed.  Or to fight oppression in any form.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Fri 02/15/2008
Taking the High Road
Topic: coping

In Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, one of the main characters is Atticus, an attorney who stands up for a falsely-accused “Negro” and “rapist.” We see much of the story through the eyes of his children. He tells them that they must see prejudiced people as simply ill-informed.

He insists that his daughter, who is prone to get into fights with antagonistic males in her second-grade class, is to simply turn away and ignore the fact that these kids are bringing their parents’ attitudes into the school. Attitudes developed because of malicious talk about her father, because of his role as the defense attorney for his client.

Yet he contradicts his mild-mannered approach at one point, near the end of the novel, when he tells his son: “As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it--whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.” A far cry from being ill-informed.

Perhaps you sometimes struggle with how to live with what you know about the bigotry and collusion you’ve seen, especially among people like those in this small, fictitious Southern town of Maycomb.

Fact is, as Atticus really understood deep in his heart, no matter what we believe or feel about people who are ignorantly cruel, it serves us well to remember that they are not necessarily evil. Acting aggressively or in a manner that puts us on the level of repulsive people does not serve anyone’s best interest.

Mature Love IS all that counts for anything.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Thu 02/14/2008
Love is ALL that Makes Sense

A lot of people, after a tragedy, try to make sense of the whole thing.  To figure out how it could fit into the commonly-held belief that sometimes almost drives me nuts.  The belief that "everything happens for a purpose."  Or, as some try to explain, God will someday help us see that it is all according to "His Plan." 

Initially, that must have been in the minds of the parents of Shawn Hornbeck, the young man found about a year ago in Missouri, after being held for four years by a guy that did senseless acts.  According to Shawn's parents, when questioned by Oprah Winfrey, this included sexual assault. 

A few weeks ago I saw another interview with his parents, on the Today show, as I recall.  The father said that they had finally come to the conclusion that some things aren't supposed to make sense.   What a wise place to reach!  Some things just happen.  They are senseless acts.  They are certainly NOT according to God's Plan.  They are acts of evil because others choose to take liberties that are not theirs.

What does make sense is that we live in a world where much Love abounds.  Love is ALL that makes sense.  We can choose to show love in responsible ways.  Or we can choose to participate in loveless, irresponsible behavior.

Justice is a part of the Love process.  Injustice is the opposite.  What does not make sense to me is something that I no longer need to make sense.  It's the fact that the institutional church so often fails to hold accountable the irresponsible people who say they are acting in the name of Love, all while deceptively taking advantage of the innocent. 

It calls for the same conclusions, I believe, that the Hornbecks have made.  It's just not supposed to make sense.  God is not mocked when we declare that not everything HAS to make sense.  Perhaps, just maybe God is glorified in the conclusion that some things just happen.  

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Wed 02/13/2008
Scriptures that Light My Way
Topic: spirituality

My two favorite Bible verses are among the many that I committed to memory as a child.  They have served as guidelines for so many of my decisions, both large and small. 

The first might be called the "watchword for the Protestant Work Ethic."  The King James version, on this one, is still my favorite:  "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.  Ecclesiastes 9:10 

Though I learned it in the KJV, I believe that The Bible in Basic English captures the true meaning of Romans 12:2 much better:   "And let not your behaviour be like that of this world, but be changed and made new in mind, so that by experience you may have knowledge of the good and pleasing and complete purpose of God." 

Most of you who come to this site have learned that it is very hard to do something unpopular with the utmost might.  It's exhausting.  Yet as we dare to think through new ideas, we find that our renewed minds lead us to understand the purposes of God in remarkably new ways.  As we become new creatures.  The old things that pass away are often the rhetoric or trite ideas that just don't make sense after living through grief experiences as devastating as  collusion and betrayal.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Tue 02/12/2008 9:58 PM CST
Tue 02/12/2008
So Much for the Mall
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Aliens

The night before my exciting Saturday with the foreign exchange students, attending museums, I had some one-on-one time with the student from Tanzania.  After supper, I asked her to choose from several options as we explored the largest U. S. city she's ever visited.  She decided on the mall.

When we arrived, I noted with dismay that we only had 55 minutes before closing.  "We can see a lot, though, in that time,"  I assured her.

Walking into the large Younkers store, she looked with awe at the large selection of women's clothing.  The look on her face was something like I've seen on my own children's faces when first seeing a cartoon character.  A mixture of delight and amusement. 

My husband later reminded me of my own reaction, after being in Africa for almost 4 years, upon walking into the lingerie dept. of Macy's.  It was the first time I'd ever seen women's panties hanging like dresses on multiple racks.  Being the verbally impulsive person that I am, I loudly declared, much to the chagrin of my husband and children (all more reticent than I):  "Oh, my Lord!  I've never seen so many drawers in all my life!"  I'm not sure they noticed a clerk turning to identify the source of the Southern accent, but I busted out laughing at HER strange expression. 

I led my guest through the store and into the hallways of the mall.  "What's this?"  she asked, with eyes wider than before. 

"It's the mall," I replied.

Confusion spread across the young face of this "alien."  "What is a mall?" she asked. 

It was 8:20, fifteen minutes after we'd walked into the mall.  We'd taken a fast stroll around, entered a second store that she chose and even made a trip to the rest room, when she asked in a very matter-of-fact voice:  "Can we go home now?" 

I smiled.  She'd accomplished her mission, seen all she needed to see, and put into perspective the strange phenomenon of shopping for frivolous items--the very thing that keeps our economy going.  At the risk of taking us away from some essentials that we may not even realize we are missing, as we get caught up in the bright lights.

As we were exiting the same store we'd entered 15 minutes earlier, the student saw something that really appealed to her.  I followed her lead.  It was a simple, white, long-sleeve shirt that could have been just as much in style in 1960 as it is today.  A nice one indeed, very useful and practical.  Except for the price that horrified her--$59.  She shook her head in amusement.

This visit stood in sharp contrast to the following day when we couldn't seem to find enough time to do all that interested the students as we explored the museums that were not nearly as crowded as the mall.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 8:16 AM CST
Updated: Tue 02/12/2008 12:42 PM CST
Mon 02/11/2008

Over the weekend, I had a great opportunity.  Two exchange students in this area--one from Tanzania (in E. Africa) and the other from Japan--were my guests for a day.  I took them to visit two large museums.  What a delight to see their reactions, to hear their questions and comments!  What an opportunity for me to reflect on some of the things that I take for granted as universally understood. 

Certainly, my own cross-cultural experiences helped.  Yet, I know so little about the rest of the world.  Never have I had the chance to see three cultures, each so distinctively diverse from the other, come together.   Often we stopped and talked about broad principles.  At other times, I entertained the questions and comments about rather mundane objects.  Like the fake carrots in the model store....the Japanese student commented that these can still be found in Japan.  She had seen only baby carrots so far in America, so had assumed that the "real" carrots weren't even available.

Sometimes these high school students seemed like old women to me, in their maturity.  At other times, like when their eyes shone to match the smiles on their faces, they talked with delightful anticipation about their upcoming proms this year (something they would never have known about or experienced in their home countries).

As a writer, I am as interested in the words next to the works of artistry in a museum as I am of the pieces themselves.

Today, I want to leave you with one of the statements expressed in the Native American displays:   No culture is ever stagnant.  Each is constantly changing and evolving, though the changes may not be evident to those who are living through them. 

I thought to myself that this is true of us as individuals.  Some of the changes that I see in my world disturb me.  Some delight me.  I have no desire to go back to the simpler days, though it's nice to visit them.  Very quickly, I want to come back to the present.  For only in the present can I hope to influence the future.  Only in the present can I help to shape history that will change my world.

The same can be said of my own personal history.  I wouldn't take anything for my journey, but I'd love to change a myriad of the details in the past.  All of those fall into the first sentence of the Serenity Prayer:  "Accept the things I cannot change"  Learn from them and use them to teach others.


Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 7:22 AM CST

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