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$1.49 day … a walk down memory lane

Out of the blue, in the middle of getting ready for church this morning, a little ditty from my childhood burst into my head.  I opened my mouth and (will spare you the music) sang, “$1.49 day, Woodwards!  $1.49 day, Tuesday!”

500px-Woodwards_Logo.svgWoodward’s department store, one of the places in childhood where adventure could always be found.  My Mum loved the place.   Dad and Mum both worked for them shortly after their arrival as new emigrants to Canada from Scotland, and my parents were loyal until the doors closed forever.

My dad was paid every other Friday night, so on those evenings, after supper, the gang piled in the car and headed down to Woodward’s to buy groceries.  We hung onto the cart as Mum or Dad pushed it, generally making a nuisance of ourselves but loving having dad home after his week of traveling for work.  We were together, and it felt safe & warm, especially in Woodward’s.

Many a treat got thrown into that grocery cart, unknown to Mum until we got to the check out counter.  “Now how did that get in there?” she’d grin, and dad would just shrug his shoulders, ally to the end.  There were cream biscuits with jam at the center, and special “sweeties” imported from Scotland.   I’d look longingly with jealousy at the older teenage female clerk, a neighbor from up our street, who checked us out and filled the brown paper bags marked with the famous logo,  wishing I was old enough to do her job.  To me, a pre-teen, there was nothing more wonderful than being a check out clerk at Woodward’s on a Friday night!

After the groceries were placed in brown bags and these were placed in plastic bins that were sent out to the pick up area near the parking lot for collection later – a marvel now reproduced by one of our local grocery stores – the clan headed up to the top floor to check out the “bargain basement” …. yup, on the top floor … where we rummaged for treasures.  I still have a terrific bread knife I bought there when a young teen for only 19 cents.   I loved that department, trying to supervise my younger siblings as they hid between the racks of clothes, driving my mother to distraction.

It was $1.49 day that got our Scots blood pumping, tho.  Hearing that little ditty on the radio made my mother & I grin.  I remember being so jealous that she could go without us, as she only once (and it was a very special morning!) allowed me to stay home from school so I could go with her.  I still remember her purchasing a large bag of oranges, a fine china tea cup, or so many loaves of bread, each for $1.49.

Woodward’s gave me one of my first jobs … in the fabric & notions department.  I measured out miles of yardage for women.  Despite my best attempts, I never could get to be a bagger in the grocery department.   Instead I learned about selvages and different weights of yarns, found great buys on knitting patterns and made my Nana’s day when I could talk “shop” with her at her little house in the evening, over a cup of tea.

Contentment and gratitude for good memories of a dear gathering place, for that’s what Woodward’s was for us.  We rarely went through the doors without seeing someone we knew.   As a child, I remember going to the luncheon area and getting sandwiches cut into four little triangles.   What a marvelous treat.   Sometimes my Nana would take me for lunch there on a Saturday, and I in turn took my siblings, one at a time, for the thrill of being made to feel special, just like Nana made me feel special.

Economic “progress” brought with it the outlying malls and the demise of our family’s favorite store.   Woodward’s closed its doors forever in the 1990’s and with it came the end of an era.  In one of my memory albums I have a little paper bag from the store, alongside one of my mum’s treasures, her Woodward’s credit card.

We all need to walk down memory lane occasionally, and journal what was dear to us.  Maybe a ditty is inside your head, waiting to be sung!

don’t let your words of comfort cause more pain

Yesterday found me rummaging around in a musty basement of an old antique store when I got the phone call from my weeping son about the massacre in a kindergarten in Connecticut.   I almost fell to my knees with the news, as we have a precious little 5 year old kindergartener in our family.   I could not imagine the horror facing those dear families, the long journey of pain awaiting them, for their sorrow will never be done.

Little beds that will never be slept in again.  Presents already wrapped and under the tree.  Barrettes found under the sofa next time the floor is swept.  A little car discovered in dad’s tool box next Spring.  Drawings scotch taped to the fridge, now and for always.  Little arms that will never again be wrapped around your neck.   No more whispers of “I love you, Mama.”

Grief.  Inexpressible grief.

Most of us want to help, we long to make it better for our friends who have been crushed by their own personal tragedy.  Sadly, however, too many of us add to the sorrow by saying the wrong thing …. “Heaven needed another little angel.”  Noooo!

I read an excellent article by Rev. Emily C. Heath in the Huffington Post this morning, and am including it here for everyone to read and pass along.  We mean well, but we have to speak well too.  Don’t let your words contribute to the grief, but let them be words of comfort.

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Dealing With Grief: Five Things NOT to Say and Five Things to Say In a Trauma Involving Children

Rev Emily C Heathby Rev. Emily C. Heath, Clergy United Church of Christ

We often have no idea what to say in the face of senseless loss. That is especially true when children are the victims of tragedy. Today’s shooting in Connecticut is heartbreaking in so many ways, not the least of which is the staggering loss of children.

My first two years in ministry were spent as a chaplain assigned to the emergency department of a children’s hospital with a level one trauma center. During that ministry I saw so many senseless tragedies. I also heard some of the worst theology of my life coming from people who thought they were bringing comfort to the parents. More often than not, they weren’t. And often, they made the situation worse.

Here are five things not to say to grieving family and friends:

1. “God just needed another angel.”

Portraying God as someone who arbitrarily kills kids to fill celestial openings is neither faithful to God, nor helpful to grieving parents.

2. “Thank goodness you have other children,” or, “You’re young. You can have more kids.”

Children are not interchangeable or replaceable. The loss of a child will always be a loss, no matter how many other children a parent has or will have.

3. He/she was just on loan to you from God.

The message is that God is so capricious that God will break parents’ hearts at will just because God can. It also communicates to parents and loved ones that they are not really entitled to their grief.

4. God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.

Actually, some people do get a lot more than any one person should ever have to handle. And it doesn’t come from God. Don’t trivialize someone’s grief with a “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” mentality.

5. We may not understand it, but this was God’s will.

Unless you are God, don’t use this line.

And here are five things to say:

1. I don’t believe God wanted this or willed it.

A grieving friend or family member is likely hearing that this is God’s will from a number of other people. Affirm the idea that it may very well not be.

2. It’s okay to be angry, and I’m a safe person for you express that anger to if you need it.

Anger is an essential part of the grieving process, but many don’t know where to talk about it because they are often silenced by others when they express their feelings. (For instance, they may be told they have no right to be angry at God.) By saying you are a safe person to share all feelings, including anger, with, you help the grieving person know where they can turn.

3. It’s not okay.

It seems so obvious, but sometimes this doesn’t get said. Sometimes the pieces don’t fit. Sometimes nothing works out right. And sometimes there is no way to fix it. Naming it can be helpful for some because it lets them know you won’t sugarcoat their grief.

4. I don’t know why this happened.

When trauma happens, the shock and emotion comes first. But not long after comes our human need to try to explain “why?” The reality is that often we cannot. The grieving person will likely have heard a lot of theories about why a trauma occurred. Sometimes it’s best not to add to the chorus, but to just acknowledge what you do not know.

5. I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I am here to support you in whatever way feels best.

Even if you have faced a similar loss, remember that each loss is different. Saying “I know how you’re feeling” is often untrue. Instead, ask how the grieving person is feeling. And then ask what you can do to help. Then, do it and respect the boundaries around what they don’t want help with at this point. You will be putting some control back into the hands of the grieving person, who often feels like they have lost so much of it.

Follow Rev. Emily C. Heath on Twitter: www.twitter.com/calledoutrev

one mother’s mission to bring her daughter home

I used to think that it was impossible for me to feel a stronger love than I do for my children, and then my daughter in love gave me three beautiful little grand girls.  The heart just isn’t big enough to contain the feelings I have for them.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my family.  Nothing.   So, if I learned one day that my daughter or daughter in love had gone out to run an errand, leaving a precious child in the care of safe people and she didn’t return, you bet your bottom dollar that I would be on a mission to find her, and that there would be nothing I wouldn’t do to bring her home.

That’s what happened to an ordinary mother in Argentina.  One day Susana Trimarco’s daughter, Maria de los Angeles “Marita” Verona, a young mother herself, went to a doctor’s appointment and didn’t come home.  For over ten long years, her courageous mother has been searching for her daughter, and what she has accomplished in the process stunned me this morning as I read the article.  In her hunt for Maria, Susana has rescued literally hundreds of Argentine women from the sex trade, women who were enslaved in misery until this remarkable woman helped liberate them.

Susana TrimarcoSusana has been honored with the “Women of Courage” award by the U.S. State Department and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on Nov. 28. Sunday night, President Cristina Fernandez gave her a human rights award before hundreds of thousands of people in the Plaza de Mayo (photo by Associated Press, Victor R. Calvano).

Susana continues to search for her daughter.  Rumors abound that she has been taken out of the country, that she was sighted just days ago …  This mother will never give up looking.  If she can’t find Maria alive, she wants to bring her body home.  I can’t imagine.

vote as if your life depended on it

I will never forget the first time I voted.   I was 18, and nervously walked into that polling booth with my parents.  I was in awe that “my vote” might actually make a difference in choosing the leader of our country.  It was an honor and privilege I have never taken lightly.

I lived in South Africa during the beginning of the fall of apartheid.  Some months after my family had left that beautiful country, I sat weeping as I watched the news and saw an aerial photograph of thousands of black South Africans, who had never before been given the opportunity to vote, lined up for miles, eager to let the world know their opinion!

Then I watched “Iron Jawed Angels,” the story of how the ‘right of women to vote’ came to be in this country.   “Aghast” doesn’t describe it well enough.   I was angry!   Brave and incredibly courageous women suffered torture and death so that I can vote today.  These women from the 1900’s were ground breakers, standing up to an obnoxious Woodrow Wilson, and in 1920, they WON.   But at such terrible cost.

There weren’t very many of them, just a handful of 33 women who stood defenseless in front of the White House, carrying signs asking for the right to vote.  This protest was first seen by the men who passed by as humorous, but when these men realized that the women were serious, that they truly wanted equality in the election booth, that laughter turned to outrage and the women were carted off to spend their first night in detention.   By the end of that first night, the infamous “Night of Terror” of November 15, 1917 at the Occoquana workhouse in Virginia, a few of those women were barely alive.   With their prison warden’s blessing, forty prison guards wielding clubs had taken out their frustrations on the 33 women who had been wrongly convicted of obstructing sidewalk traffic.

Alice Paul led the suffrage movement.    She was placed in solitary confinement and, when she went on a hunger strike to protest the treatment of her sisters in prison, she was held down, tied to a chair, and force fed for three weeks using tubes shoved down into her stomach while she struggled.   I can’t imagine how much pain she felt.

After they beat Lucy Burns, they chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and broken.

Dora Lewis received some of the most brutal treatment at the hands of wardens at the District jail and the Occoquan Workhouse. During the infamous “Night of Terror” of November 15, 1917, Lewis was hurled bodily into her cell. She was knocked unconscious and feared dead when she collided headfirst against her iron bed frame. Lewis and Lucy Burns were initial leaders of the hunger strike in Occoquan; both grew so weak that they were also held down by attendants and force-fed through a tube.

Additional recorded statements from other prisoners describe the guards as brutally choking, pinching, kicking the women, twisting their arms behind their backs.   Sexual abuse can only be assumed, but considering sexual abuse is all about the abuse of power and not the act of sex, it is more than likely that these women were victimized in this way as well.  There is no other way to describe it: these women, and others, were tortured.

As you have read the papers over these past months, and have listened to the debates and now criticize the banter, never forget. 

As you consider getting out of your bed a few minutes earlier so you can go to the polls on the way to work, never forget.

As you wonder if it is really worth it to find a babysitter for an hour so you can drive into town to place your vote tomorrow, on election day, never forget.

Lives were sacrificed so that WE WOMEN could participate in choosing the leadership of this country.  Never forget.

the very inspiring blogger award

Thank you, Trudy Metzger at http://trudymetzger.com/2012/08/06/the-very-inspiring-blogger-award/ for honoring me with this special award.

How very kind of you!

The Rules

Of course with a title comes responsibility, and so having already acknowledged the person who nominated me and posting their link above, I will gladly: (1) post the award to my page; (2) list seven things about me;  (3) nominate a few awesome blogs and let each of them know they’ve been nominated.

Seven Things About Me:

1.  I make mistakes all the time, apologize and appreciate the mercy and forgiveness received, and hopefully do the same for others.   If we don’t try new things, speak our heart, confront evil when we see it, we will never grow and be the people God wants us to be.

2.  My mother died at 60.   I am 60.  Every single moment I have from now until the day I breathe my last breath will be an incredible gift she was never given.  I won’t allow anyone to rob me of the joy of the moment any more.

3.  I love my family.   I am blessed to be loved by a wonderful man and have a son who adores his “almost 3” girls, and two amazingly brilliant and tender daughters, one born from under my heart and the other adopted through marriage.   Those grand babies just have to blink at me to melt me to my core.   They are God’s “second chance” for me.

4.   God redeems.  Every piece of pain I have lived through, every tough experience, every tear shed, will be used to help someone else if I give it to the One who got me through it all, instead of holding onto bitterness and the need to have revenge.   Forgiveness sets us free from the power of the people that hurt us.

5.   I love what I do.  Every woman who walks through my office door is a blessing to me, as I hope I will eventually be to her.   Her gift of trust to me is priceless.  As I watch her grow, become more confident and recognize the lies in her life, replacing them with Truth, it is like watching a rosebud unfurl as the heady fragrance encourages others to ‘come and walk in the light of freedom!’

6.  Every day I try to be the hands, feet & heart of Jesus.

7.  I’ve been blessed to live internationally for many years.  Never, ever complain about this imperfect land we are fortunate to live in, or the people who lead it, until you have lived in a third world country.  Living in fear is a reality there.  Be thankful for everything, and share.

Now, whether they choose to accept the award is not as important as my publicly acknowledging how these blogs have been a source of inspiration to me. They are not in any particular order:

http://www.runningchatter.com/

her.menutics at http://blog.christianitytoday.com/women/

http://thoroughlychristiandivorce.wordpress.com/

http://cindyburrell.wordpress.com/

http://hiddenplacessongsofdeliverance.blogspot.com/

http://www.kristamournet.net/

http://gracednotesministries.blogspot.com/

http://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/

http://thebiblicalworld.blogspot.com/

http://speakingtruthinlove.wordpress.com/

This is only a few of the many inspiring and encouraging blogs I follow, and I encourage you to check them out. Many others deserve recognition as well.

the difference a little 9 year old girl has made

Never doubt that you can make a difference.  This little girl inspired me when I first heard of her, and then her life was tragically taken.   Her dream lived on, and now thousands have fresh water out of 100 wells, all because of a little girl named Rachel.

Rachel’s Gift. One Year Later.

Rachel

Monday, on the one year anniversary of Rachel’s death, our staff took her mom and grandparents to Ethiopia to visit some of the 60,000 people Rachel helped. Watch the video:

 Rachel’s story.

Tekloini Assefa stood in the middle of a huge crowd, surrounded by Ethiopian priests, mothers, and children. Rachel Beckwith’s mom, Samantha, Rachel’s grandparents, and others in our group sat listening. We had all flown halfway around the world just two days earlier to visit some of the 149 communities Rachel helped in the north of Ethiopia.

Samantha Beckwith
“Samantha, your little girl is an inspiration to us all. We have heavy hearts imagining what it was like to lose Rachel due to such horrific circumstances. It is something no parent ever wants to contemplate, let alone live through. Even more remarkable is that Rachel developed such a big heart from such a young age — that she understood and felt the pain of others on the other side of the world. To give up her birthday presents so that other children can improve their lives, is the most beautiful gift a person can give.”

A little over a year ago, Rachel was your average nine-year-old. She loved Taylor Swift and had a secret crush on Justin Bieber, although she’d never admit it. She had a loving family and a heart that wanted to solve every problem she saw in this world. Once, she cut off all her hair and donated it to make wigs for kids who had cancer. So when she sat in church one day and heard Scott Harrison from charity: water give a talk about how kids her age in Africa didn’t have clean water to drink, she immediately decided to help.

With her mom’s encouragement, she created a fundraising page on mycharitywater.org, telling her family and friends that she didn’t want presents for her ninth birthday. Instead, she asked them to donate $9, as she was turning 9. Rachel wanted kids like her to have clean water to drink.

She had a big goal: to raise $300 and give 15 people clean drinking water. She fell a little short, raising $220, and told her mom that she’d try harder next year.

A month later, Rachel was in a tragic car accident on highway I-90 near Seattle, Washington. A trailer had jack-knifed into a logging truck, sending logs tumbling down the freeway. More than a dozen cars were caught in the pile-up, and the trailer smashed into the back of Rachel’s car.

She was the only person critically injured, and on July 23rd, 2011, she was taken off life support.

When the news spread about Rachel’s story and her birthday wish, people all around the world began to donate on her page. Some gave $9, some $19, leaving comments like “This is the rest of my month’s salary…..” A month later, 30,000 people had given more than $1.2 million.

All of us at charity: water were blown away by the generosity. The comments and notes that were left on Rachel’s page caused many tears in the coming months, and Rachel’s story continues to inspire us today.

Last year, we sent 100% of the money from Rachel’s campaign to our partners in Tigray, Ethiopia, and they began to construct water projects for people in need. We made a promise to Rachel’s mom that one day she’d come with us to Ethiopia to meet some of the people Rachel’s wish had helped.

Monday, we fulfilled that promise.

Ethiopia

On the one-year anniversary of Rachel’s death, we woke up early, at 5:30 A.M. We piled into Land Rovers and began the two-hour drive to Bahra village in the north of Ethiopia. We heard the community had planned both a memorial service in Rachel’s honor and a celebration of her life.

We didn’t know it then, but honor would become the theme of our entire day.

First, we visited a church. The priests there knew all about our arrival, and they knew Rachel’s story. They told us they had been up since midnight, praying that God would keep Rachel’s soul in peace. A photo of Rachel stood on the ledge, surrounded by candles. We paused, listening to the priests recite their prayers, singing ancient Ethiopian hymns over Samantha and her parents.

From the church, we walked to a new well nearby that was funded by Rachel’s donations. We cut the ribbon and watched water splash into bright yellow jerry cans. This water didn’t have dirt or leeches in it, and it didn’t carry deadly disease. It wasn’t far away from people’s homes, and they didn’t have to walk for hours to find it. It was right there, in their village, and it was crystal clear. To prove it, Samantha took a long drink.

The children wrote notes about Rachel, and handed them one by one to Samantha. A famous priest read a poem he wrote especially for the occasion, and then the village gave gifts to Rachel’s family. A mother from the village made a speech and said Rachel’s story would be a lesson to their children. She said that all the mothers in her village were praying for Samantha. Another community sectioned off a plot of land and called it Rachel’s Park. They invited Samantha and her grandparents each to plant a tree in Rachel’s memory.

Memorial

Near the well, our local partners, Relief Society of Tigray (REST), commissioned a marble sign. It read “Rachel’s great dream, kindness and vision of a better world will live with and among us forever.”

Her photo was nested in the marble, a permanent fixture in Bahra village. It will serve as a reminder to all the mothers who draw water from this well that a mother’s tragic loss and a child’s dream brought clean water to their village.

60,000 people in over 100 villages will drink clean water because of Rachel’s wish.

Rachel’s mom, Samantha, continues to fundraise in Rachel’s honor.
Visit her current fundraising campaign to donate.

— the charity: water team

two minutes to eternity – the loss of a child

We await with great anticipation that within the next few months we will be having our third little grand daughter.  What joy.   Every day, every night, and many times in between, we pray for this little girl and her two big sisters.    I was blessed to give birth to their daddy, and now the generations continue.   For us, but tragically not for many.

Most couples want to have a child.  Some never are able to conceive.   Others continue to miscarry their precious babies.  Loss upon loss upon loss.   But to long for a child, finally have the joy of pregnancy and then have that little one die within minutes of birth, is an experience too many I know have endured, and cannot imagine their grief and heart ache.

There is a wonderful article written by Marshall Shelley on his own experience of losing his wee son, Toby, and why God would allow the miracle of birth to be followed so quickly by the mystery of death.    Two Minutes to Eternity.