still around

Contrary to appearances, I have not (quite) fallen off the face of the earth.

Since I last posted, I have spent quite a bit of time trying to take care of people who are sick and being sick myself. Luckily, both of my sisters have visited to help take care of Nana and Paco while I was sick.

This week, I need to do a ton of catching up on paperwork and poetry. Before the end of the month, I need to prepare comments on four manuscripts and get my own together to distribute to our group. Fingers crossed that I can get my brain in gear to manage it.

Of course, all of this is happening against the backdrop of the continuing maelstrom of the news. If a television show, novel, or movie followed a plot from the current political news in the US, everyone would dismiss it as too far-fetched. Yet, here we are in a continuing succession of situations that are accurately called unprecedented.

It’s enough to make one’s head spin.

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unsettled

This month has been a demanding one personally; hence, I have managed only a few posts this month.

I will spare you the bureaucratic details that have been occupying so much of my time and headspace, but the situation is made all the more difficult by the public unraveling going on around us.

Although I have cut back on the amount of news that I see, the continuing revelations of foreign entanglements with United States elections and governance have been truly disturbing, as has evidence that the Russians have been detected infiltrating computer systems involved with the upcoming midterm elections in November. The Manafort trial, more books and articles being published about the administration and the investigation, DT’s tweets, and interviews with members of the administration and the president’s lawyers add to the unsettling mix.

The past week has also seen a lot of coverage of the grand jury report on sexual crimes by Catholic clergy and coverup by church officials in six Pennsylvania dioceses. The behavior described in the report is appalling, sinful, and criminal and my heart breaks for the victims and their families, but, unlike many people, I did not find the report shocking or surprising. We have heard similar stories from other US dioceses and from other countries for years now.

Some Catholics feel that the Church is being attacked or singled out for criticism, but I don’t feel that way at all. I see the root of the problem as abuse of power. Sexual violence is one form of abuse of power, but there are many others, verbal, emotional, and physical abuse, financial and employment discrimination, racism, and sexism among them. All of this has led some priests into a culture of clericalism, which, in turn, led to the coverup of crimes by “brother priests” and the silencing or ignoring of victims, who are usually lay people, although sometimes also members of religious orders, other priests, or seminarians.

For many people, the Pennsylvania report highlights the lack of accountability among bishops. While this issue has been on my mind for years, it is gaining new prominence in the Catholic and general press now and is being more openly discussed among lay people, theologians, and ethicists.

Pope Francis, when he visited Chile, made the mistake of dismissing sexual abuse survivors and supporting a bishop who mishandled credible allegations against priests. After public outcry, Francis appointed an investigator. Upon receiving the report, Francis changed course, met with Chilean survivors, and called all the bishops to Rome. All thirty-four bishops offered their resignations; at this point, Francis has accepted five of them.

There are now calls for the United States’ bishops to also offer their resignations, which the Pope could accept or not on a case-by-case basis. This is occurring in the aftermath of the resignation of retired archbishop of Washington, DC Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, after reports of abuse of both minors and adult seminarians. He has been ordered into seclusion; it’s not clear if he will be laicized if he is found guilty at a canonical trial, as has happened with priests.

Of course, for most bishops, the issue will be if they covered up crimes of priests in their dioceses or moved priests to other locations where they abused still more minors or vulnerable adults.

For me, there is also a larger crisis of leadership. If a bishop fails to protect children and teens from such terrible crimes, how can he credibly claim to be leading and caring for all the Catholics in his jurisdiction? For a variety of reasons, I have been avoiding dealing with the bishops in my diocese, concentrating instead on parish-level ministry and the Church as the people of God, not as a hierarchical institution.

Still, I can’t help but think that personal complications would be easier to bear if the government and the church were functioning with stability and rectitude.

SoCS: an unexpected call

[Warning for family: This post is about Nana’s hospice care. You may prefer not to read it.]

I got an unexpected call this week from my mom’s (Nana here at TJCM) hospice social worker. She wanted to set up a family meeting with her and the hospice nurse. It was a bit unusual to have a formal meeting time set up, but we agreed to meet in my mom’s room at Mercy House, the hospice residence where she moved in May. We were fortunate that my older sister was here visiting, so she was able to join in, too.

What I hadn’t suspected was that the meeting was about re-certification issues. In most hospices, acceptance means that life expectancy is six months or less. With some diagnoses, that determination is relatively clear, but, with heart failure, as my mom shows, it isn’t so clear.

Nana was re-certified at three months, at six months, and then every two months since. We are now at fourteen months. There have been lots of ups and downs, but, sadly but not unexpectedly, the overall direction has been one of decline with continuing weakness and fatigue that has worsened significantly over the course of this year.

Therefore, we were shocked that the social worker told us that the medical director was considering de-certifying Nana. I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked, as there had been a couple of other times that the medical director has questioned re-certification, but it seemed so clear that symptoms were worsening that I never thought there was a possibility that he would think Nana didn’t meet the criteria to remain in hospice care.

As I understand it, there are two basic issues. One is that the medical director only has access to data points collected during visits from the hospice personnel, perhaps two or three hours a week and always during the day. Second, the criteria to stay under hospice care have to do with rate of decline, so, even though Nana would easily qualify to enter hospice care in her current condition, it doesn’t necessarily follow that she would be re-certified to remain under hospice.

So, on hearing the news from the social worker, I freaked out a bit. Well, not outwardly. But losing hospice care at this point would be very complicated. In order to be in residence at Mercy House, one has to be under hospice care, so de-certification would have meant having to move Nana, which would be complicated and exhausting. We had a preliminary plan in place, but we hoped not to have to implement it.

What we could do was give the social worker more information of what we were seeing when we were there visiting, which covers about nine hours most days. Nana was also able to give us some more information about night-time issues.

The social worker took the additional information we were able to provide and the medical director was able to see how it fulfilled the criteria for Nana to be re-certified. We were very relieved. From now on, though, I will be more deliberate about noting changes in case we need to fill in the blanks again.

Through it all, we are grateful for the care hospice has been able to provide. If it were not for their expertise in managing symptoms, it is likely that we would already have lost Nana. As it is, we continue to have the hope of more time with her.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “call.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/08/03/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-4-18/

 

 

 

SoCS: three Ts

At my blog, I refer to my younger (now adult) daughter as T. Usually in person, I call her by her name, although, with granddaughter ABC in the house, we sometimes call her Auntie T. One of her high school teachers nicknamed her TNT because she was usually quiet until she gave forth a brilliant and insightful flash.

One of the things that T loves is tea. Not just any old tea, though. Along with sister E, she is somewhat of a tea connoisseur. At any particular point, we will have at least a dozen varieties of tea in the house, most with fanciful names and specialized blends. We have various tea pots and strainers and other accouterments. We also have a very large assortment of tea cups, mostly inherited from Grandma. It always feels special when we use them.

Another thing that T has always loved is tee shirts. She has many special tees that she has accumulated over the years. Many of them have science or environmental themes, which is fitting for T who has two degrees in environmental science. There are also some science fiction and fantasy tees, and, of course, some Harry Potter tees.

And some tees involve clever wordplay. One of her all time favorites involves the word ” hippopotomonstrosesquippediliophobia” which means fear of long words, a malady which certainly does not inflict T!
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “T, tea, tee.”  Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/07/27/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-28-18/

 

SoCS: organ

While I have been delinquent/busy/overwhelmed and a few other adjectives lately, I have mostly been skipping out on Stream of Consciousness Saturday, which I once did diligently, but when I saw that this week’s prompt was “organ,” I knew I had to write.

In my younger years, I played the organ. After several years of childhood piano lessons, the priest in our tiny Catholic church asked me if I would learn to play the organ so that I could take over when our current high-school-aged organist went away to college in three years.

So, I learned.

I was lucky that my first organ teacher was very good, so I developed good technique. It was also good that he played in a larger church in North Adams which had a pipe organ, so I got to learn on a decent instrument, even though I was practicing on a not-great electronic at my own church.

I played at my church, first substituting and then becoming our organist my sophomore year in high school. I earned $5 for playing two masses every weekend and $3 when I played for weeknight masses a couple of times a week. I played a few weddings and funerals, too. I admit that playing funerals as a teen was really hard.

My original organ teacher had moved away and I was back to studying piano as I was looking for a college to attend, but my teacher used her connections to get a list of nearby colleges that had good organ/music programs. Smith was on the list and I fell in love with it on a campus visit, applied early decision, and was accepted. I wound up being the only organist in my year and played often at Catholic mass and played preludes and postludes for ecumenical services and at some college events. I used to joke that I had the biggest practice rooms on campus, as I played the three-manual Aeolian-Skinner organ at the chapel and the four-manual Austin in the 2,000-seat John M. Greene Hall.

After college, I spent a couple of years in an assistantship at an Episcopal church and after my daughters were old enough, I went back to playing, mostly on a volunteer basis.

Unfortunately, there was a problem. Even as a teen, I had pain in my right arm. It would come and go, but I sometimes had longer bouts of pain, especially if I played the piano a lot. (I will spare you the discussion of how piano and organ technique differ.) As time went on, I had more and more problems which led to doctor visits, physical therapy, various diagnoses including what is usually called “golfer’s elbow” and eventual surgery. We had hoped that would finally solve the problem, but I developed calcifications which have made the problems permanent.

I have shifted some things that I would ordinarily do right-handed to my left hand to help protect my right hand from over-use and pain. Obviously, this strategy does not work with playing the organ which takes both hand and both feet. If I had been one of those people who was a fantastic sight-reader and improviser, I might have been able to continue playing because I wouldn’t need very much practice time; alas, I am someone who needs lots of practice to play well.

For a few years, I was able to continue some accompanying with the youth choirs at our church, swapping over to conducting as needed to protect my arm. When that parish fractured and we had to leave, I no longer had a reason to continue playing or access to an organ and I stopped playing totally.

Sometimes, it’s still hard. Sometimes, it seems like another lifetime. Most times, I don’t think about it – and then, something happens to remind me, like hearing organ played on public radio or getting ready for Christmas or a prompt from Linda, and I miss it…
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “organ.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/07/20/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-21-18/

 

 

SoCS: Yay for Moms!

Yay for the return of Serena Williams to the Wimbledon finals and congratulations to Angelique Sperber who won the championship!

It was nice to see Serena back in a final after the birth of her daughter and the serious health complication that followed.

There have been ads talking about Mom power featuring Serena during the tournament. I definitely believe in the power of moms! Yay!
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to begin with a three letter word. Join us! Find out how here:   https://lindaghill.com/2018/07/13/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-14-18/

 

 

apologies

Apologies to the people of Canada, especially Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  I am very sorry about the way President Trump and some members of his administration have treated you and spoken disrespectfully about you.

I have always lived in the Northeast United States and think of Canada as a close neighbor who shares our values. I have Canadian friends. My spouse B has a French-Canadian surname and relatives in Canada.

It makes no sense for the Trump administration to violate current, ratified trade treaties with additional tariffs and I am disappointed that Congress has not stepped in to stop it. Many Americans have been speaking out and preparing for the Congressional election in hopes of electing representatives who will uphold our values and laws on both the national and international level.

While I am apologizing, I would also like to express regret about how the President is treating our allies in the G7, the European Union, and NATO. I also am appalled with how DT insults developing countries in both hemispheres. And how his announced withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement in November, 2020 has negatively impacted the world community. Many cities, states, companies, and individuals are continuing to work to keep our climate commitments despite the current administration.

I know I am just one voice and alone have little impact, but there are many others speaking out and together we will eventually reassert our best American values.