Monday, November 05, 2012

My Choices: Election Day 2012

For this Thursday's Child to come out of a long-closed, self-imposed closet and actually talk about how I plan to vote in an election is a major step. During 37 working years in journalism, public higher education or both, I was obligated to keep my activities in the voting booth to myself. I retired in 2008 and finally allowed myself to put a bumper sticker on the car and a sign for a presidential candidate in our yard, but it still felt too strange to announce my choices to the world.  In this election, all that has changed. Last night I wrote the following essay on how I am voting this year, and why.  I'm publishing it not as a partisan ploy so much as to encourage everyone who is eligible to vote in the United States tomorrow to take time to study the pros and cons of issues and to weigh the consequences of their choices in state and federal contests. Voting, to me, is a sacred trust that the American people enjoy and we must not take it for granted. Especially women, who were barred from voting until the 1920s, and African Americans, who were granted voting privileges after the Civil War but were often supressed by poll taxes and outright intimidation until the 1960s passage of the Voting Rights Act. I hope that if you are able, and registered, that you will exercise your right to vote tomorrow unless you have already voted absentee or early in the states that allow it. 

Tomorrow, Nov. 6, I'll be standing in line at my precinct in Bel Nor, MO, voting in my 13th presidential election, an unbroken voting record that started in 1964 when I was 21 and voted by absentee ballot for Barry Goldwater. Over the years I have evolved into an independent Democrat who still occasionally votes for a Republican, at least in state or local elections. When it comes to issues I take a progressive, or some would say liberal tack. I don't mind being called a liberal because to me the term means having an open mind, respecting the opposing view, and using reason to solve the problems of our day. So here is how I will vote tomorrow, if you care to know, and why. For a non-partisan look at issues and Missouri races, I recommend this link: which was prepared by the League of Women Voters. 

To begin with the issues, I will be voting to raise my own property tax with a Yes vote on local Propositions S and L. Prop. S is for the St. louis County Special School District. I know several families whose children are on the autism spectrum or who have a physical disability, and the services of the District have been invaluable to them. To hire more teachers and improve services for a growing number of children and youth who need them will cost our household $36 more a year. That 's $3 a month.  I think we can swing that. Prop L is is 6 cent increase to fund renovations and replacement of several branches and the headquarters of the St. Louis County Library District. I personally use both the Normandy Branch and the Genealogy resources at Headquarters, and I believe the money will be well spent. At least three library employees are among my friends, and I know how dedicated they are in their work. And I get to see these improvements for less than lunch out with a friend...$11.40 a year.
On statewide Amendment 3, I will vote No. This looks like a subtle step that could begin to insert more politics into the selection of our judiciary system, and after having to endure the judicial election ads from a bordering state, there has to be a better way. The Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan has been a national model for selecting judges on merit and this Constitutional amendment would begin to dismantle it.
On Missouri Proposition A, returning the St. louis police department to local control, there are good arguments for and against. But state control of the police department is a relic of the Civil War, and the reasoning behind it has long passed into history. I am going to vote Yes, and trust that issues about police pensions and the review board will be handled fairly or else addressed in future elections.
Proposition B has been opposed by huge bulletin boards all over the state decrying a 760% tax increase! For people who use tobacco products, that is true, and the tobacco industry has funded much if the opposition. It will raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 17 cents, the lowest in the nation, to 90 cents, higher than some of our border states but still lower than others. Half of the revenue will go to K-12 education and 30 percent to higher education, the rest to smoking cessation programs. Opponents fear that the revenue will be directed elsewhere by the legislature. That fear may be well founded, although the measure appears to be written well enough to keep that from happening. As a retiree from employment in higher education and a person who has seen too many people die of lung diseases, I am going to take a leap of faith and vote Yes.
Proposition E is a measure that seeks to stop implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act, aka Obamacare, in Missouri. It prohibits the governor or any state agency from setting up the health care exchanges that are required by the law to be operational by 2014, without approval of the legislature or a vote of the people. It resembles similar initiatives in other states that have Republican majorities in their executive and legislative branches. Proponents are basically opposed to any state regulation of insurance through these exchanges, saying the free market is best, and they want the act to be repealed by Congress.  Opponents point out that if the measure passes, Missouri will lose the federal funds targeted to help set up these exchanges, which according to the Supreme Court are the Law of the Land.  I have noticed that our health care system is already accepting the health care law and starting to implement many of its mandates... Including networks to share health care records systems and hospitals starting to charge more efficiently--that is, by protocol rather than for each separate procedure--for treatment of certain conditions. If these hospitals think they can follow the law, why should the legislature continue to fight it. I will be voting NO.

For state wide offices: Jay Nixon gets my vote for Governor. He won my loyalty with his pioneering consumer protection initiative, the Missouri Do not Call list, when he was Attorney General and he has governed the state well this past 4 years working with bankers and farmers, business and education. For Lieutenant governor, I face a dilemma. For the past two elections I have voted for Republican Peter Kinder because the experience of his Democratic opposition has been weak. But this year the Democratic candidate is Susan Montee, who performed well as State Auditor and helped straighten out our local fire protection district when its directors came under scrutiny for how they had (mis)handled our tax dollars. I am still debating this one..either could serve well as pro tem in the state senate and as stand in for the Governor if he is on a trade mission out of the country. Chris Koster gets my vote for Attorney General...he has a good record in his first term and has earned another one, and the perennial candidate running against him lacks the experience the position requires. For Secretary of State, neither Jason Kander nor Shane Schoeller has statewide exposure  beyond serving in the legislature, but I'm casting my vote for Kander because of his military experience and his higher level of education, and because he is a proponent of early voting, a progressive idea that may appeal to more Missourians after they stand in line for a couple of hours on Tuesday. Finally, I'm voting for Clint Zweifel for State treasurer. Clint was one of my students and advisees at the University of Missouri St. Louis when I advised the student newspaper, The Current. Clint has run the Treasurer's office honestly, has helped people I know recover their unclaimed property, and expedited getting state Loan funds to Missourians impacted by tornadoes and floods and drought. His office even got a clean bill from Missouri's state auditor, a Republican.

For Senator, Claire McCaskill. Two words, Todd Akin, are enough to explain why, but her service to veterans as a member of the armed Services Committee, helping clean up VA hospitals and burial irregularities at national cemeteries comes to mind, as well as her past background as a county prosecutor and state auditor. She is dogged about the details and we need more people who will study this stuff, not folks who confuse beliefs with facts, in the Senate.

For President, Barack Obama. I voted for him in 2008 and I will give him the opportunity to continue leading us out of a very deep recession and out of the second of two ill-considered wars. Progress has been slow, but he has worked with the hand he was dealt, and I cannot support the Republican opposition, which claims to want to put the country on a sounder financial footing but seems to be oblivious to what their plans would do to senior citizens, women, people who could not get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions, places that are hit with natural disasters, low-income college students and ordinary Americans who have fallen on hard times.  Not to mention what the opposition's friends in the financial world did to my retirement accounts between 2008-2011, that thankfully are finally recovering. I would say especially to those undecided voters, or those who voted for Obama in 2008 but are wavering now because you didn't see as much hope and change as was promised...please consider the alternative, and the consequences, carefully. And if you are thinking of voting for a third-party candidate in order to express that disappointment, well that is your right...but I am here to say that I exercised that right once, in 1980, and woke up on the Day After to regret it. I voted for my hero Ralph Nader because I was disappointed in Jimmy Carter. Enough of us did that to swing the election to Ronald Reagan, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

I believe our American political process, however flawed some might think it to be, is still the one tool that guarantees our freedom and is the envy of much of the world. No matter how vicious the attack ads and robocalls get, they are in the end only words, and not bullets. Here's to Election Day!      

Monday, August 08, 2011

Stuck in Blogger's Block

Although I have gone far and still have far to go, I have been tied in knots for this past year when it comes to writing my blogs. They are beginning to resemble those new spiral notebooks I would buy every new year and start writing a journal, only to abandon them and leave a lot of white pages. At least no trees have died because of my virtual publishing absence.

I have been working in fits and spurts on my family history. Every answered question leads to new discoveries and new questions. I have found Hugh McElyea in Robertson County TN for a longer period than I expected. I have also found John Burch there in 1840, but no other traces before 1850 to explain why he turns up without the mother of his boys in Missouri a decade later. And the Logan County KY genealogical archive that we visited last month was brimming with new details about my mother's Morgan and Paris ancestors. I have pictures, too.

Before this blogging anniversary month is out, I will post some of what I have found and my reflections on how learning about one's ancestors really can inform the present.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Myth of Self -Reliance

Phlox is an old-fashioned flower, one I'm privileged to have in my yard now because a former resident planted wild phlox as part of a natural butterfly garden. I remember pink phlox growing in my grandmother McElyea's perennial border when I was a child. As I have spent the last year looking up facts about my great-grandmothers and their families, sometimes tracking down where they might have lived and taking pictures, sorting through sometimes contradictory data, I'm slowly beginning to see my project acquire a shape and direction. I'm starting to feel like it's time to start to write. But while I am still thinking about that, I thought I might start writing some short impressions that have come to me as I've thought about what I have learned about them. And today, I realized that the lives of all four were at one time or another dependent on family cooperation, and sometimes the kindness of strangers. Here in America we celebrate the self-reliance of our ancestors and sometimes lament its lack today. But then I considered these items from my research:
  • When Jesse and Emma eloped to Memphis from Arkansas in December 1891, one of their witnesses was a neighbor their age, who may have helped arrange the trip in addition to being the Best Man. I don't think they could have pulled it off on their own in the middle of winter.
  • When Belle and Roscoe moved to Oklahoma Territory in 1903 after their tobacco crop failed in Kentucky, they brought with them some of Belle's younger brothers. They gave these young men a start they badly needed, being the youngest of 11.
  • When my grandmother, one of Belle and Roscoe's daughters, had graduated from Normal School, it was a postcard from a family friend, the young minister in Sayre, that told her about a teaching job in that relatively new town. She took the job, met my grandfather, and the young minister performed the wedding a couple of years later.
  • When Martha's sister was widowed in the Civil War, she moved back into her father's house with her infant daughter. Later, on her own and re-married, she took in to her household her younger brother who had never married.
  • When Martha was widowed in 1901, she moved to Lockwood from the farm at Mt. Vernon and kept house for her unmarried daughter who was a printer and publisher in that small town. After this daughter died unexpectedly, another of her daughters, recently widowed herself, invited Martha to live with her.
  • Sarah and her husband William were charter members of the First Christian Church in Everton, Mo., and freely supported it. The church was in a community where people helped one another in hard times.
  • When Belle and Roscoe were in their 80s, never having become eligible for Social Security and before the existence of Medicare, they went on "general relief" and were eligible to receive a monthly supply of "commodities" from a federal government program that bought up agricultural surplus to help stabilize farm prices. That supplemented the canned goods my grandmother took to them, and what my aunt, who lived with them, could afford to buy from her meager retirement income. This couple had, in their prime, offered a meal to every traveling preacher who came to town, and in the horse and buggy days, saw that every guest's horse received a fine ration of oats.
These are just a few of the instances I can think of. When families moved westward, they often went not only as a clan, but also in a group with their former neighbors. Frequently the men were bonded to guarantee a son's or brother's or nephew's land purchase. Sometimes their generosity was costly; my grandfather Mc, who finally was able to buy his own gasoline service station in the spring of 1929, hung on through the early part of the Great Depression but finally lost it in late 1931, because he had extended too much credit to his neighbors, unable to cut them off when they needed gas for transportation to look for work. So "self reliance" is mostly a myth. In my ancestors' time, the interdependence was mostly between friends and family members. As families have grown smaller, and jobs and careers more demanding and farther from home, the circle of dependence has grown wider--the city, the state, even the country.

Today I got an e-mail warning me that the Other Party wants to take over Congress so it can start cutting Social Security. There are many competing claims about how solvent the system is, and for how long, and the best way to "fix" it. I won't add to the debate here, except to say I think the fix is simpler than most politicians are willing to support. But I am grateful that both of my parents received Social Security benefits (and Medicare) when they retired, after years of work and contributing to the system that sustained THEIR parents. I know that my contributions during my working years may have helped to support my parents, and others of their generation. I'm counting on the contributions of those who are working today to help support me and Norm, something we earned during our own years of working and contributing. Sometimes I feel the rhetoric aimed at "cutting" Social Security sounds like it is coming from those who never wanted it in the first place, because they think it is somehow un-American, a kind of welfare, even socialistic. They think everyone should provide only for themselves and not owe their neighbor, or the generation that came before them or the ones that come after, anything. I don't agree with that view, and I don't agree with that interpretation of our nation's social history. Back in the rosy "self-reliant" days, most people (at least, most of my ancestors) were anything but. And yet they built communities and sustained institutions that persist to this day.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Trail of the 4 Great Grandmothers

On our trip in June to Southwest Oklahoma, in addition to tracing my mother's childhood roots, I was searching for the burial place of the only one of my 4 great-grandmothers I hadn't found. Earlier this year I had looked for Emma J. McElyea and learned she was buried in Sayre Doxey Cemetery. After we got to Sayre, it was easy to find on a hill about three miles east of town. Doxey was a one-time rival town, named for one of the earliest ranchers in the area.

Right near the entrance, I found these tiny yellow flowers blooming. I don't yet know what they are, but they seem to be the same as the larger flowers on the cemetery sign. There has to be a story there.

We went out to the cemetery in the evening on the day we arrived in Sayre. We thought if we couldn't find a marker, we would try again the next day after getting a map from the town funeral home. But we headed for a part that seemed older--Emma died suddenly in 1914 and Jesse lived until 1950--and after about 15 minutes, we spied it. Their marker appears newer than 1950, perhaps placed by one of their daughters. It is out of the same red granite that we found in the Wichita Mountains on our trip.

Jesse and Emma are in block 4, not far from the south entrance to the cemetery. Their grave has a view to the west across part of the North Fork of the Red River valley, and it is very peaceful. I know they came from Arkansas to this land between 1901 and 1910, when my grandpa Earl was a young boy. I wish I knew more about their life and maybe someday I'll uncover more information.

Two days later we were heading for Tulsa, and we stopped at the Stroud Cemetery so I could leave a bouquet for my great grandmother Belle Paris. I know this cemetery and plot well, having visited it as a child and being present at 5 burials in it--both great grandparents, my grandparents Mary and Earl, and my Aunt Bess. Belle is one of two great-grandmothers I knew in life. She died in 1962, just shy of age 98.

The two families -- McElyea and Paris --
joined in 1912 when Earl McElyea married Mary Paris. Mary had gone to Sayre to teach, and I think that's where she met Earl. Their daughter was Frances, my mother. The Paris plot is bounded by three large Abelia bushes, and their small white blooms were attracting a lot of bees. Mary planted them after Earl died. I helped her and later my mother weed, prune and water them. The 4th one didn't make it but three of them are now taller than I am. We should have had pruning tools with us! (Note to self: next time.....)

As we closed this gap in my quest to visit the graves of all four great-grandmothers, I realized something remarkable. ALL of them lived, died and are buried along the storied Mother Road, old U.S. Highway 66. Sayre is the farthest west, then Stroud. The great-grandmothers on my father's side are buried in Missouri. Sarah Gilmore Brown is in the Springfield cemetery although her husband is in San Antonio. I visited her and heard her stories when I was a child. And Martha Stanley Burch is in a small country cemetery, Salem, in Lawrence County just north of Mt. Vernon. Of course, US 66 didn't exist when they moved into new country from their homes in Arkansas, Tennessee, or Kentucky. I know the ones in Oklahoma came by train. The all moved in order to start over: Emma had buried her youngest daughter, 7 months old; Belle and her husband moved west after their tobacco crop failed in Kentucky; Sarah and William sought a better farm; Martha and her husband left a slave state for one that was caught up in border conflicts during the Civil War. All of them lived into their upper 90s, except Emma, who died at age 48. Emma, of course, is the one who started my quest. I am looking forward to putting their stories into a narrative that will trace their lives.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Christmas Tree Family Album

Over the years, our Christmas tree, Norm's and mine, has evolved into a family album of sorts. When I go back through photos, as I did this summer looking for images for the 40th anniversary celebration, there seemed to be a few constants for picture taking: Christmas decorations, pets, fronts of houses, and garden plants. This is our tree as it looked on Christmas morning, 2008, before we dug into the presents.

The oddly tilted foil star on top of the tree is a rescued ornament from one of my mother's housecleaning sprees. I know, Unclutterer says that when something new comes in, something old must go out. Mother practiced that. When my parents got an angel for their tree topper, this star, which I remember from my earliest days, was consigned to the trash. Except I brought it to my home and it has topped our trees for 40 Christmases.

Mother always liked this funny little styrofoam snowman. I don't know what it's sentimental value was for her, but it is one of her ornaments I kept. The pipe cleaners are really faded, but once on the tree, it's handy to fill in one of those gaps that always appears right in front!

My grandmother Burch gave me this plastic bird off of her tree when I was a little girl. I recall her tree in the house on North Florence only dimly. I know it had big bright lights (probably C7) and a whole flock of these birds. It goes on a high branch every year.

Birds were popular in Norm's family, too. We acquired this one at the family auction at the Linville reunion in 2008. Unfortunately we have lost the notes about where it came from: Norm's mother, or one of his grandmothers. But it is glass, and has a spring loaded clip to cling to a branch. This was its first year on our tree.

When I was a girl, I always looked forward to a visit with Cousin Eunice, who was a relative of my Grandpa McElyea. About the time I graduated from college, she presented me with three ornaments she had made herself, with beads, sequins and pins on styrofoam balls. One is blue, one is silver, and this red one completes the set. They go on the tree every year in her memory.

One of the last letters I wrote to Santa Claus was on Christmas Eve of a year when snow unexpectedly showed up in the forecast. I think I was 7 or 8. I asked for a last minute change to my list, if Santa had a sled in his sleigh. Amazed, I read a note from Santa the next morning, neatly printed at the bottom of my letter. He said he was out of sleds, but he was sure I would get one for my birthday in January. And I did. Upstairs in my Dad's metal box of precious letters he saved is that letter. Not long after Norm and I were married, Daddy made this wooden replica of a 1950s sled as an ornament for me. It gets wrapped in bubble wrap when it is put away and always has a very visible spot near the top of our tree. And I start to cry every time I hang it.

There are many more family ornaments on our tree, but in time we had to start making our own memories. Christmas of 1968, I wanted a silver and red theme for the small Scotch Pine we bought (for about $7, I think.) Being on a tight budget, we strung popcorn and cranberries, bought red and white candy canes, and finished the tree with these pine cones. We picked them up in a cemetery in Pittsburg KS about two blocks from our apartment. We invested in a can of silver spray paint that must have also been a wood preservative, for they are still sound, 40 years later. Originally they were strung with silver and red metallic ribbon but after it gave out, I restrung them with red.

A few years after the pine cones, we were in Colorado and the church Norm served while he was in seminary had an Advent workshop. I was in charge of a children's craft room. We made these ornaments out of the old cardboard egg cartons, glue, tempera paint and gold glitter. It's another hardy reminder that one can create something of lasting beauty and memory out of the most everyday things, even things some people would throw away.

This Christmas, like all Christmases that occur after all of your ancestors have passed on, was bittersweet. But I decided that I would put everything in our storage boxes on the tree, that I wanted to remember as much as I could of our individual histories and our history together. I know of three women for whom Christmas 2007 turned out to be their last one. I got to thinking that at this time of life, there's no point in "saving" some things for next year. If they ever had value, they have value now, and I will enjoy them now, and hopefully for many more Christmases to come.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Retreat 2008 Part II

On Saturday morning of the retreat, I followed the voice that called me to go outside for a walk. Sometimes I have to go to meetings at retreat centers, and we stay too busy, or the weather is too bad, for me to explore outside. This weekend, I wanted to feel my feet on the path, look at the sky and the distance, marvel at small things, and breathe the air. So while others were painting and singing, I left the dining hall and walked first to the river, then up the road toward the hill cabins.

The Castor River was full, but not out of its banks. The day was over cast but bright. At this point, the river flows from south (right) to north (left). My long fascination with bodies of water gets a "fix" from watching the current in small rivers like this one. As I walked back up toward the road, I noticed several vultures circling in the sky overhead. They flew silently, and I wondered if they were hunting or if they had already spied a meal.

Small things are easier to spot when you aren't in a hurry. This insect was on the wall inside the dining hall as I exited. It is about a month (Sept. 20) until the average first frost date. I don't know how this one deals with winter, or if it even does. Humans anticipate these climate changes, but creatures, for the most part, just react to them. Certainly they have less to worry about.

One creature that will hibernate when days grow colder is this lizard, who is cold-blooded. On this warm fall day, though, it was darting through leaves, making a rustling noise. It paused on the flat rock, its markings making it invisible to predators above. If you look closely, you can see it on the flat rock in the center, just to the right of the twig that lies diagonally across the picture. (Try clicking in the photo to enlarge it.)

Farther up the hill, I found this hawk feather lying next to the road. Another reminder of change of seasons as the bird molts and gets new feathers for winter. Hawks will perch and hunt all winter in these parts, staking out territory from a fence post or tree top. They often command several square miles, depending on the food supply. Thinking about the birds I saw this day, the vultures, a couple of hawks, several blue jays and some chickadees, I recall how the Native Americans cherished birds as messengers of the Great Spirit itself. The naturalist in me wants to return to observing such signs more intently and intentionally.

Fall is fungus time. Toadstools, mushrooms, whatever you want to call them, are abundant. At home, Norm digs them up as they sprout along the lines of decaying roots of long-dead trees. In the deep shade of the forest next to the camp road, many small toadstools flourished. This one was most spectacular. The photo doesn't do justice to the scale of the thing. It was almost a foot tall and about 10 inches in diameter, and the yellow was brighter than the picture conveys. I've never seen such a huge fungus in my life.

The hill section of Orchard Crest is full of native black walnut trees. I don't know if they were planted as part of the original fruit orchard here or not. No fruit trees remain, but the nut trees are everywhere. The leaves and nuts on this one made a nice contrast to the darker forest behind.

Up close, from the other side, the bright green husks of the walnuts glow in the shade. Often this delicate yellow green is a color of spring, but in a walnut grove, it means harvest is almost here. Calling all squirrels!

Dogwoods, lovely in spring with a cloud of white blossoms along the edge of a forest, provide bright red fruit, food for wildlife, as fall arrives. In the city, the berries are prized by mockingbirds. I'm not sure which forest birds prefer them, but if I had not needed to get back to the hall for lunch and worship, I might have just waited to see.

Walking, watching, waiting, thinking, listening to the thoughts coming into my mind--for years I have done this, solitary but not lonely, as a way to try to connect with nature, the Creator, my higher power, the indwelling Spirit of life in all things. It is a way honored by many ancient people, many Native Americans. Today, I learn that this isn't laziness or "wool gathering" on my part--an accusation I often heard when I was young. It is the way of knowing of the Naturalist, as valid as reading and writing, creating logical sequences, feeling the spirit through music, organizing visual arts and space, being in motion, interacting with friends, centering in meditation. I'm grateful to Patrice, to the Southeast Gateway Women, to Orchard Crest, and to the One who led me to take this journey farther down the path of faith.

Retreat 2008 Part I

Another year, another retreat for women at Orchard Crest Camp. This gathering of 40 women from as far south as Kennett, as far west as St. Charles and from several St. Louis area churches took place the weekend of Sept. 19-20. I'm just now getting around to editing the pictures and reflecting on the experience. Here, the group gathers in a long oval inside the dining hall for the closing worship, led by Devoree C. of Webster Groves CC.

I started loving to go on retreats when I was in college and a member of Disciples Student Fellowship. Retreat experiences have formed much of my spiritual base throughout my life. I also love going to camp, and this area retreat for women has both spiritual enrichment and a chance to spend about 24 hours in a rustic setting, close to a wilder kind of nature than I usually find in my own back yard. This outdoor chapel is the signature building at Orchard Crest Camp, but we held meetings indoors because it was damp (a week after Ike's drenching) and a tad cool.

Cabins at Orchard Crest do have indoor plumbing, but they are still a little basic. The nearby river makes the valley humid, and the cabins are often prone to mold. Somehow, I managed to escape without my allergies being riled up. Must be part of the spell of the place.

Our theme was "Listening for the Voice of God" and the keynote speaker was Patrice R., whom I have known for more than two decades. She noted that she suffers from impaired hearing, and suggested there are other ways to know God than listening. She led us through a review of multiple intelligences, or the different ways we receive information, or know something. Some of the ways are verbal, numerical, musical, visual, and kinetic. There are social intelligences and inward or contemplative intelligences. There is even a naturalist (observing) intelligence, which I claimed as one of my ways of knowing.

Saturday morning we had an activity time, where women could pursue the intelligences that seemed most useful to them. This group (Patrice is at the right) used musical expression, going through the hymnbook and harmonizing a capella for close to an hour. Others enjoyed just listening, or chiming in now and then.

A craft activity engaged the visual intelligence women. Ruth B., who is a mainstay at retreats, chose to decorate a birdhouse in the shape of a church. A large number of the women did engage in this craft. Some of them sat together at tables and collaborated, showing that social interaction was important for them.

Others, like Ruth and Linda, here, took a more solitary, introspective approach. We had other activities including creating a spiritual autobiography. Mine is barely begun, but the process taught me something important about myself. You'd think, since I've been a writer and a "word" person all my life, I would have started writing. But I started instead with a timeline. And I was very particular about getting main years written on it, and getting items in order as they happened. Who knew I was a numbers person?

All in all, the retreat was helpful because it opened my mind to new ways of knowing God in addition to simply listening for a voice. I realized that I am primarily a word and visuals person (as my three blogs attest), but numbers (logical order) and music are also important to how I experience life and how I express myself. And kinetics, or moving around, can't be totally left out. Sometimes I just want to dance, or go for a walk. Usually I choose solitary, introspective activities over social interactions but as I've gotten older, I'm more comfortable in groups (although not yet in crowd scenes.) Yet the greatest revelation of all from this weekend was a validation of an "8th" way of knowing, that of the naturalist, or the person who observes and derives conclusions from the environment. It's possible I'm sure to be an indoor naturalist, but on this weekend, the outdoors called my name. More about that in Retreat 2008 Part II.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Still Far, Very Far, To Go

Today is a milestone of sorts, for the first installment of Thursday's Child was posted on August 15, 2006. This little blog of mine is more deliberate and reflective than Home Stories, and I haven't done much with it in the past year, but I haven't abandoned it. If you have checked it in the past, drop in again sometime in the next month and you will see some new things. In the past 11 months, the energy I would have put into Thursday's Child has gone into another blog instead, Compton Cares Update, as part of my contribution to a fundraising effort for my church. The updates on that project will now take less time, so I plan to spend more time on family history and reflections, my original intent when I started Thursday's Child in addition to Home Stories.

One thing that has happened is that another former member of Rogers Heights Christian Church in Tulsa found my entries about the church's closing in 2007 and wrote to me. She has since written her own impressions of the church of our childhood on her own blog. You can check it out by clicking here and here.

See you again soon.