Tuesday, August 12, 2014

For Robin's sake . . .

(Warning:  some portions of this entry may be triggering.  Read at your own risk.)

He exploded onto the scene in 1978 as the lovable alien Mork from Ork, adding the catchphrase "Nanu nanu" to the American lexicon.

He went on to make us laugh in movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning, Vietnam, and Aladdin. Who could forget his performance as the Genie?  ("The Genie . . . of the LAMP!")

He also made us cry in movies such as Awakenings, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, and The Fisher King.

He was one of the few actors who was equally gifted as a comedic and dramatic actor.  That is rare.  In fact, one of my favorite episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit has Robin Williams as a guest star. He played a troubled engineer who tried to teach people a lesson about authority.

Yesterday, his life ended at the end of a belt.

Robin Williams, Academy-Award actor, Emmy award winner, Golden Globe winner, and Grammy Award winner, the man who made us laugh and cry, also suffered from depression.  It was an illness that perhaps he tried to mask with laughter, and perhaps his alcohol and drug use were also ways that he attempted to mask the depression.

For whatever reason, the battle became too much, and we now know that yesterday, he put a belt around his neck--after trying to cut his wrists--and hanged himself.

Yes, those facts are brutal.  So is depression.

Depression is a brutal, black beast that dogs too many people.  It's more than just "feeling blue" or "having a bad day".  It is an illness, and its sufferers find themselves in a constant battle that is often like fighting drowning, fighting to keep their head above water.

I know this illness.  Depression and I have been antagonists since I've been a teenager.  I am on medication and do receive counseling and support.

Many more do not.

Please, if you're a sufferer who has not received help . . . get help.  There are hotlines you can call and places you can go that charge a sliding scale fee.

If you're a sufferer getting help, keep getting help.

If you're on meds, stay on the meds.

If you get counseling, keep going.

Please.  Do it.

For Robin's sake.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ebola and one man's sacrifice . . .

John 15:13-14:  "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command."

This week, the eyes of the world have been focused on the West African country of Liberia, where the population is suffering from an outbreak of the Ebola virus.

Ebola is deadly.  It has a 50% to 90% mortality rate.  Two workers associated with Samaritan's Purse, a humanitarian organization headed by Franklin Graham (Billy Graham's son), are Americans Nancy Writebol, an aid worker, and Dr. Kent Brantly, a physician.  They went to Liberia to help the people stricken by this outbreak.  Dr. Brantly is the nephew of one of the ministers at my church.

Last week, they both tested positive for the Ebola virus.  The virus they set out to fight has now turned on them and may yet kill them both.  

The terms #prayforKent and #prayforNancy have been trending on Twitter, and I do hope our prayers have helped. 

This morning, Franklin Graham's Facebook page posted the following update:  

This morning Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are still stable but in grave condition. Dr. Brantly has taken a slight turn for the worse overnight. Even as he battles to survive, this heroic doctor is still focused on the wellbeing of others. Yesterday an experimental serum arrived in the country, but there was only enough for one person. Dr. Brantly asked that it be given to Nancy Writebol. However, Dr. Brantly received a unit of blood from a young 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola because of Dr. Brantly’s care. The young boy and his family wanted to be able to help the doctor that saved his life.

Read this again:  Kent Brantly, 33 years old, gravely ill and with a wife and two young children, had the opportunity to receive an experimental serum that might save his life, and when he learned that there was only enough for one person, he asked that it be given to the other ill person.  He did not demand it for himself. 

And then, a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola because of Dr. Brantly's care, whose life was saved by this doctor, gave his blood so that he could help the doctor that helped him.  

This moves me to tears.  

This, my friends, is an example of laying down your life for someone.  

#prayforkent #prayfornancy

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

God and the public schools . . .

Thanks to my friend Kathy Havins, I found and read the following article by a Christian schoolteacher.

This reminded me of a song I found on Spotify a couple of years ago.

On Randy Travis' album Three Wooden Crosses, which is a collection of inspirational music, he has a song called "Everywhere We Go".  Here's the chorus:  

We are soldiers of the cross

We’ve been found to reach the lost

In city streets, down country roads

We take You with us every day, and everywhere we go

It bothers me when I hear comments or read posts saying, “God isn’t allowed in schools.” Or, "They've taken God out of public schools." Or, “God isn’t allowed . . .” wherever.

Now, it is true that the Supreme Court ruled against mandatory, teacher-led public prayers in school in 1962, in Engle v. Vitale (at least, that’s my understanding of the decision.) It is true that there have been many legal fights about the posting of the Ten Commandments in schools and about public prayers at graduation (never mind that student-led, student-initiated prayers ARE legal, as I understand from the Supreme Court.)

But if we are Christians, then the Holy Spirit–God the Spirit–lives inside us. And as the above song says, “We take [Him] with us every day, and everywhere we go.”

What is stopping a student or a teacher from silent prayer daily in a school?

What is stopping a student from a quick, quiet grace at a lunch table before eating?

Maybe I’m naive and simplistic here, but if “God isn’t allowed in schools”, does that mean that He leaves the people that He lives inside when those people step onto a school campus or go through a schoolhouse door?  Does the Holy Spirit slam into an invisible wall that surrounds the campus of a public school whenever a Christian arrives there, thus leaving the Christian without the Holy Spirit until they leave the campus?

Somehow, I don’t think so. We as Christians take God with us every day and everywhere we go.

We take Him with us into a school where the mention of God is controversial at best.

We take Him with us when we are driving in traffic and someone cuts us off. (And believe me, anyone who has driven in Atlanta traffic NEEDS God with them when navigating Spaghetti Junction!)

We take Him with us on the Internet, where nameless and faceless people engage in discourse that can be–and often is–downright hostile to the name of God.

We don’t just take Him into places where he’s “allowed”. He goes with us everywhere.

So, next time you read that “God isn’t allowed in schools,” just remember that God is greater than an edict that may say, “You’re not allowed.” Because we Christians carry Him every day, and everywhere we go.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Just give it to Jesus"

(Note:  This may be an offensive post to some, and for that, I apologize.)

Last Sunday I posted as my Facebook status, "Stress level 11 on a scale of 10."  Not only have I been dealing with the related stress and circumstances stemming from our car accident, that morning, Matthew was listening to the tablet and talking--loudly--and me telling him to "stop talking" did not work.  Instead of stopping the behavior, he just moved to another part of the house.

One response caused me--to borrow a phrase from Glenn Beck--to nearly shoot blood out of my eyes.

The response was, "Just give it to Jesus."

Now, I know the person meant well, and that usually, when people say things like that, they mean well and they're trying to help.

But this is the gut-level, visceral reaction I had when I read that post:

What in the bloody hell am I supposed to be doing when I "give it to Jesus"?

THAT is what I despise about all of those "Christianese" phrases--I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing when I do them.

Not only that, they come across to me as "be of good cheer, keep warm and well fed" but they don't really help the problem. 

If you want to help, tell me that you're sorry.  Offer to pray.  Offer to talk.  Listen. 

But for the love of God, do NOT tell me just to "give it to Jesus".

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Since June 29th . . .

The accident on June 29th was the start of a very stressful and "crazy busy" time.  Since that Sunday, the following things have happened: 

1.  We cleaned out the car on June 30th and said good-bye to it.
2.  After getting nagged into it by about three of my Facebook friends, I went to my primary care doctor on July 1st.  She referred me to an ENT for the ringing in my right ear and also referred me for a CT scan on my abdomen because of the seat belt bruise. 
3.  We got the payout for the loss of the car on July 2nd or 3rd.  It was a little over $7000, which was better than I expected. 
4.  I've gone to a chiropractor (one that I had already been seeing for back pain) at least three times since the 29th. 
5.  I took Matthew for a psychological evaluation having nothing to do with the accident, this was scheduled before everything happened.  Since we take Medicaid, we have to get an evaluation on him every three years. The psychologist we saw is one we have seen twice before.  She was VERY impressed with how Matthew had matured since she'd last seen him! Matthew tried to cheat when she was testing him and she ended up having to hide the answers from him.  (She didn't get mad at him, she was amused.)  He was also saying "uno" instead of "one", "quatro" instead of "four" and she said that he was keeping her on her toes!
6.  The Tuesday that I went to see the primary care doctor, I went out and found that I had drained the battery down.  I think I left the interior dome light on.  When I called AAA, they told me that since I didn't know how old the battery was (I am driving a borrowed Honda Pilot from 2004) that the battery might be bad.  When the battery was jump started, the guy told me that it was a bad battery, that it might not hold the charge and might have to be charged again, and really should be replaced.  My heart just sank.  I priced a couple of batteries for that car, and then sent an email to the couple whose car I have.  It turned out that the email that I sent was to the WRONG couple in our Sunday School class!!  The email eventually got to the correct couple, and they have told me not to worry about the battery.  The battery turned out to be about two years or less old, and it really shouldn't be going bad yet. 
7.  This past Tuesday, I got the CT scan on my abdomen because the doc was worried about a seat belt bruise; the day I got the scan, they had to redo the order because it was an order for the abdomen but the area where I had the bruise was really the pelvis and the CT scan wouldn't scan the proper area.  When the CT office called the doctor's office, the doctor's office was at lunch.  They were able to find a "back-door" number to get to the office, and the person on duty wrote up another order, faxed it quickly, and I got the scan. I was in and out within about an hour, and considering everything, that was pretty efficient.  I also have a CD with the CT images on it.  I can't interpret anything to save my life, but the pictures look pretty cool!
8.  I had to make an appointment with a new urologist for my interstitial cystitis.  My pharmacy asked for a refill on one of my prescriptions and they were denied because the doctor had left the practice.  I was able to get the appointment the day after I got the phone call about the prescription.  She also had a bladder ultrasound on me and wants me to have a pelvic ultrasound and a cytoscopy (where she gets to look inside the bladder).  I don't need to have those done immediately.  I will make those appointments when the madness dies down. 
9.  The Sunday of the 4th of July, we showed up at church an hour early because we forgot that service started at 10 a.m. and not 9 a.m., since we were not having Sunday School.  I used that time to talk to people and was privileged to hold the 10-month-old granddaughter of our minster.  Unfortunately, I did have to explain to her that she could not put my whistle in her mouth. :-)
10.  The same day as the urologist's appointment, I had an ENT appointment with a practice that has locations in several areas.  I was due to go to Snellville and ended up going to Duluth, in exactly the opposite direction.  The ENT that was in the Duluth office had an empty appointment and he was able to work me in.  The audiologist on duty gave me a hearing test.  I told him that I thought I suffered from selective listening and that I didn't think the audiologist was going to help there.  (He recommended marriage counseling.)  He did find that I had "auditory trauma" in my right ear, and the ENT prescribed cortisone cream that should help. 
11.  We saw our counselor on Monday, who reminded us that we had been through a major trauma with the accident.  Sheesh, I have had physical trauma, emotional trauma, mental trauma, and auditory trauma.  This is my cue to place hand to forehead and wail, "Oh, the trauma; the trauma!" 
12.  We took Matthew to camp on July 6th and picked him up yesterday.  I almost walked right past him when we went to pick him up because he was wearing sunglasses and I didn't recognize him.  When we went to pick his stuff up, he asked me if I was trying to be funny.  It turned out that I had packed him a pair of sandals . . . and both sandals were for the left foot.  All I could was laugh and tell him that I was sorry. 
13.  On Thursday, Frank and I looked at a car, and we both had a gut feeling that something was wrong.  When I drove the car, it vibrated, and I have driven a car before that vibrated and it turned out that something was wrong with the transmission.  Something felt "off" about the steering as well.  Frank thought something was off as well, and we decided not to buy the car. 

I have felt terribly, terribly tense and anxious during this time, and have taken plenty of time to lie down when necessary.  Frank has been home this week, and that has taken a lot of the pressure off of me. After writing down the above list, I think I have had good reason to be tense and anxious.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

RIP, Black Beauty, 2009-2014

Black Beauty, a 2009 Ford Focus, was assembled at a Ford auto plant.  Where, I don't know.  She began her life as a member of a rental fleet.

When we bought her, she was residing at a CarMax in Norcross, Georgia.  She was a year old and in pretty good shape for a rental car. We were in desperate need of a car, having lost our Ford Escort to transmission difficulties.  We were able to pay cash for her.

She became part of the family on January 1, 2011, and for the next three and a half years, she faithfully served our family.  I've driven her to church, the grocery store, doctor's appointments, appointments for Matthew, to and from Florida, and other places I can't remember.

This Sunday, she gave her life protecting our family.

At approximately ten minutes after twelve p.m. on Sunday, June 29, a driver made a left hand turn in front of Black Beauty.  Frank was driving.  He slammed on the brakes but was unable to stop the car in time, and he hit the car.  A loud crash deployed both air bags, shattered our windshield, and crushed the front of the car, effectively ending her life.

Frank, Matthew, and I all made it out of the car with relatively minor injuries.  Matthew has a seat belt burn on his neck.  I don't see any bruises on Frank.  I have a nice bruise on the left side of my chest, under my arm (from the air bag), a large bruise on my lower abdomen (from the seat belt) and some small abrasions and bruises on my knees and legs from hitting the dashboard.  Today, after several Facebook friends urged me to do so, I went to the doctor, who is scheduling me for a CT scan to make sure there is no internal bleeding.  I also get to see an ENT, because I have had on and off ringing in my right ear since the accident.

A couple we know from church has loaned us their SUV, and I am in serious danger of becoming a power mom after being behind the wheel.

We have also heard from the insurance company about the car, and we will be getting a payout that is more than I expected.  That will be a good start to replacing the car.

I could be planning a funeral.  Or two.  Or someone could be planning mine.  I will take the inconvenience of doctor's visits and insurance companies over that.

RIP, Black Beauty.  You served us well.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Five years . ..

"Five years have past, five summers, with the length of five long winters!" -- William Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey".

Five years.

Five years ago, a tire blew on a van.  The resulting accident killed two people four days apart.  One of them died instantly.  The other died four days later.

Their names were Matthew and Jeannette Prather, and they were members of my church.  I knew Jeannette when she was part of the church I attended in Tallahassee, Florida.  We met up again when I moved to Atlanta.  By that time, she was married with two children.  In fact, when I met her again, it was outside our church nursery, and her youngest son was crawling down the hall.

That youngest son was Matthew.

Jeannette, when I first knew her, was a speech therapist.  In a casual conversation in passing in our church hallway, she said that she was getting her master's degree in speech pathology "in order to help kids like Matthew" (my son, who by then had been diagnosed with autism.)

Five years ago, she graduated from online school and decided to go down to participate in the graduation ceremony.  It was on the way back from that ceremony that the fatal tire blew on the van, on I-75 just south of Macon, Georgia.  Their van flipped.  Matthew was instantly killed.  Jeannette was severely injured.  Jeannette's husband Michael and their older son Stephen were badly shaken up but okay.  Jeannette would die four days later.

I remember getting the email telling us about the accident and sitting in front of the computer, just shocked.  Matthew was a well-loved member of our youth group who was already involved in mission work--not just the summer mission work that our church sponsors each summer, but mission work in Africa that he participated in with his brother Stephen.  Jeannette and Michael actively participated in our recovery ministry, sponsoring people who were recovering from addictions.  We all felt the shock.  People drove two hours south to be with Michael and with Stephen.  I don't think Michael was alone from the time of the accident until the time Jeannette died.

I went to the funeral.  The church was packed.  People that knew the Prathers from church were there, Jeannette's professional colleagues were there, Matthew's school classmates were there.  Several of them wore their high school tennis team shirts because Matthew was a member of the tennis team. 

What is it about five years that makes it one of the benchmarks of time?  Maybe because it's half a decade?  Half of ten years?

Michael still attends church where I attend.  He got married again about two and a half years ago, to a very nice young lady.  Stephen is now a college graduate. 

On Matthew's 16th birthday, a tree was planted in his honor on the grounds of our church.  When his class from the youth group graduated, they added a sign with his picture on it, and a paraphrase of the verses of I Corinthians 13.

IMPACT, an annual gathering of teenagers at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, honored Matthew this week.  Many of the youth group around at the time Matthew died were on their way back from there when they heard the news.

Today, Stephen's Facebook status read:  "Five years ago today.  I hope the memories of my mother and brother are not forgotten."

My response:  "They are not. ((()))"

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.