Achieving Women Against the Odds

There are so many valiant women in the world and most go through their days with no recognition.  Many have gone through traumatic experiences and have lived to tell the tale.  However, telling the tale is not as important as doing the work and achieving against all odds.

One woman I recently read about was sexually trafficked by her mother starting at age 9.  This continued for three years but was halted by Child Protective Services,  Her mother wouldn’t give up her rights to the girl as she was a source of income and needed to support a rampant drug addiction.  Later, she fell into the hands of pimps.  Not knowing another way of life, prostitution continued into her 30’s when her own drug addiction finally came to its end.

She developed a program where young prostitutes could come for shelter and be given the resources to make life changes from prostitution.  To this date, she has assisted more than 300 girls.

I read about women who have gone through incredible suffering in civil wars, by terrorists, revolutionaries, and often loosing loved ones and their homes in the process.  They were given the opportunity for micro-grants, often a cow or a sewing machine, the means to support themselves and their families.  In spite of their traumas, they succeeded in the hard-bitten life they were given.  Greatness is fluid and relative.

My mother was one of those who achieved despite the odds.  As a child she lived with two alcoholics, one of whom was a raging, sexually and physically abusive drunk.  At age eleven, she took her one year old sister and left their apartment, never to return.  She worked in her aunt’s boarding home to pay her way.  Becoming a nurse, she worked very hard to support our family.  She ended up developing three businesses in the home health field.  When she chose to, she sold one for $250K.  She was generous, caring, and though she had a wicked temper at times, she made life easier for many people, even when she didn’t have financial resources for herself.  She removed herself so far from the squalor of her childhood, she was truly great.

Most women are touchstones of love and dedication.  They share from their hearts and give even in the tough times.  Some rise beyond the levels lived by the majority.  They become great.  They are the women I want to know.

Margueritte “Maggie” Barankitse

I came across another fabulous woman yesterday.  The Burundi President has referred to Margueritte “Maggie” Baransitke as the Mother of Burundi and she certainly lives up to that reputation.  Likened to Mother Theresa, which she dismisses, she has adopted at least 30,000 children since October 25, 1993. She calls herself an inventor of solutions. 

In the midst of an extremely violent ethnic war between the Hutus and Tutsis where 100,000s of people were killed, Maggie and her adopted seven children went to the Bishop’s home for security because some of her children were Hutus. Seventy two, people were already gathered. She hid the 25 children there in cupboards in the Church sanctuary.  The Tutsi invaders demanded she tell them where the children were and when she wouldn’t disclose their whereabouts, she was tied up, stripped naked, and one by one all 72 people, including the Bishop, nuns, and others who had come for safety, were executed in front of her, the last, the head of her best friend,thrown in her lap. 

Upon releasing herself, she buried all of those people in the days following.  She begged and borrowed food and supplies to care for the 25 children, then 50, then 100 and on.  On May, 1994, Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Nduhirubuse donated an old school to be made into a shelter.  But Maggie was not content.  Always following the path laid out by her God, she built a school because she knew education was the key to getting out of Burundi’s grinding poverty, where the average person earns the equivalent of one dollar a day.  She developed shelters and homes for small groups of children in other cities throughout Burundi.

The children are treated with love and respect. When people were ill, and 16 women died in childbirth in one day, she talked the military into building a hospital.  When she had troubles with the bank, and was robbed, she opened a bank to service the needs of Maison Shalom, the organization she founded.  During the time when she had saved and adopted 20,000 kids, among them child soldiers, garbage dwelling children, Single mothers, Mothers and children with Aids, incarcerated children, she had to flee Burundi under death threats.  Many of the children went with her to externally displaced camps.

When able, she and the children returned. The children of Maison Shalom have become extraordinary in their own rights according to the people of Burundi.  Many have gone to college, some internationally, then returned to lend their skills to the community as doctors, lawyers, and business entrepreneurs.  Maggie gives micro grants to single mothers and women to set up businesses.  The loving life of Maison Shalom continues to flourish.

International praise started coming in, recognition for both her achievements and the love which flavored every action she took.  In June 2009, Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg visited Burundi, stopping to see Maison Shalom for herself.  Impressed, she invited Maggie to Luxembourg in October 2011 for a photo exhibition of the Maison Shalom project and has subsequently proffered additional support.  In November of 2011 Kofi Annan gave her the Prize for Conflict Resolution.  And on April 24, 2016, Maggie was awarded 1.1 million dollars through the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, an award given in memory of the Armenian genocide and presented by Humanitarian George Clooney.  Other awards have followed.

Summertime at the Cabin

As a kid, our family went to the Cabin in upstate New York every summer.  It was paradise…two months of town rec, swimming pools, waterfalls, state parks, swimming holes, mountains to climb, fossils to find…every child’s time of wonderment and freedom.  Granted, it was a time when kids could walk down the tar hot road to friends a mile or two away for the day.  Times have changed, but up there, not so much.

Nowadays, the adults do day trips, hang out at the creek, go swimming, build campfires and eat delicious food.  Come to think about it, the youngsters do the same thing.  They still rely on their tablets at night when the adults are at the bonfire, but there is a miraculous lack of technology there.  Even though there is television, movies, cell phones, and lap tops, there is surprisingly little interest in them.  Everyone craves the companionship of friends and family.

The girls, aged 10 this year, keep going over to the Millenials’ side of the camp, entranced by big adult things.  Thgey are funnier, more hip, and I think having the girls around makes the Millenials more circumspect.  Their other activity is the creek.  Just like I did as a child, they could spend every waking minute in the icy, chill waters of the mountain steam, its swimming holes and waterfall. My mom used to make sandwiches, a quart of iced tea and one of lemonaid, and we’d spend the whole afternoon back there.

Time seems to stand still, or at least move more slowly.  Even the sun stays up an extra hour, giving us more time to just Be.  My bags are packed, all in readiness for Thursday morning when we light out of here at 10 a.m. promptly.  I’ve been working twelve hour days so am really looking forward to this respite. Fourth of July is something spectacular with a big party, hours of fireworks going up all over the valley, and friends unseen for months to a year.

So if you don’t hear from me for a few days, pay no mind.  I’ll be back in a week and a half, relaxed and ready to renew my acquaintance with every day life.  Cheers!

Travesty and the Lack of Succor at the Borders and Within Our Lives

Believe me, I think it is heinous what is happening at the Mexican border.  That nursing and Down’s syndrome children, or any others, should be ripped away from their parents’ arms is an atrocity.  And for a Bible passage (Romans 13: 1-14) to be used for justification of such activities is unconscionable, and incorrectly used as justification.  What happened to, accept the huddled masses?

Now we have withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Commission saying Israel is not being treated fairly.  What hypocrites!  And the fact that we don’t seem to have any alternatives to shredding families apart and causing permanent psychological and perhaps physical harm to the children, and parents, is infinitely sad.  I feel nauseous when I hear President Trump or the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Neilsen.

But human rights violations have been going on in our country since its inception.  Our “Enlightened” society has been prejudiced against each immigrant group that has come to our shores or were already on them. These past few decades alone have been filled with discrimination:  LGBQT, Blacks, Women, Native Americans, Latinos, Puerto Ricans, the list goes on.  It behooves us to have a psychological change in our interpretation of social order and justice.  Sometimes there doesn’t seem to have enough pure air to breathe.  Arians, Bigots, Thoughtless people who may not even know their actions are prejudiced are making me feel claustrophobic. I’m not saying I am without fault, the fault lies within all of us.

But the plight of the people trying to cross our borders is heartbreaking. Yes there are those who come with the intent to do harm and we need to prevent that.  But the vast majority are people just like us who have been ostracized, had their lives threatened, or lived amid civil unrest. They deserve succor even if they are not allowed to stay.  They don’t deserve to find their illusions of safety shattered, their children taken to be put in cages, in internal Guatanamo Bay for kids.  They don’t deserve the massive stress of separation, not knowing where their children are taken, and the trauma of possibly not seeing their kids again.

I don’t know what the solution is – only that what is going on right now has to stop.  Restitution needs to be considered.  These people are not cattle.  They don’t deserve what they have to content with.  Their lives matter as much as our own and we would never stand idlely by while our own children were taken, or those we knew already in the nation’s borders.

This is feeling more and more  like a police state with an almighty ruler sanctifying adversity and trauma. We need to take action. Day by day our rights are being threatened, the country we took for granted two years ago is being devastatingly ruined. We must act for the children and parents coming to our southern border. It could well be us down the road.  Maybe I seem reactionary but I feel helply watching as innocent people are herded into concentration camps.  We are doing exactly what we did to the American Japanese in World War II.   Didn’t we say, never again when that happened?

The Immigrant Situation

I am by no means an expert in this area, but we have to raise our voices against the horrible conditions illegal immigrants are facing in this country.  I hardly recognize the United States anymore.  It is no longer the place of hope and dreams.  It is becoming a military state, and those in government are not working to improve conditions.  They are letting this President become a despot and semi-dictator without stepping in to stop him.

Donald Trump is a man even his wife doesn’t want to be near.  He throws away people as much as he throws away the last vestiges of the greatness that made this country the best in the world.  The laws and rules of society, the manners of decency and goodness, don’t seem part of his constitutional make-up. Our representative leadership is not doing their jobs and not acting in their constituents best interests.  Sadly, we can no longer lay claim to being the greatest country in the world, and each day seems to bring us further down into the trenches.

One of the greatest issues facing this administration and the peoples of this country is that of immigration.  Illegal Immigrants face hardship and trauma.  My own grandmother was an illegal alien.  She lived under the fist of an abusive man who threatened to turn her in and take away her children if she didn’t behave as he dictated.  She lost her life because of him. She didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. She lived in fear.

Illegal aliens always live under a blanket of fear.  People who have been working, productive members of society, who have given of their lives to this country are being herded up like cattle and shoved back to the countries they no longer know and probably not safe to return to.  They are separated from their spouses, children, friends – often with no notice. They have become members of this society, and have earned the right to stay.  They are bound by not getting their green card, for whatever reason, many times valid.

But just as bad is what is going on at our borders.  Children are being separated from their parents, decimating families, held in concentration camp style settings.  They are isolated from those they love, and even if they are allowed to return to their countries, they run the risk of not finding their parents.  I’m not sure why this is even happening.  It looks like they are being kidnapped.  What is the purpose of holding these children?  We have a large military, we aren’t trying to turn them into soldiers or child brides. It is mean-spirited and malicious. And pointless.

I understand the need to tighten our borders even if I don’t agree with all the reasons why.  There is a problem with illegal aliens entering the U.S. But these are largely people who are escaping terrible circumstances in their lives.  They need understanding and to be given to opportunity to be led through the process of legality.  They have value.  They are not animals.  And their children are not commodities.

This is indicative of the broadening trampling of American values and the lack of rational leadership.  One man, Donald Trump, is dictating egregious atrocities in many areas of government.  We need to hold him accountable and retract the harmful, short-term or long-term, acts he has done.  And we need to hold him accountable for the lawbreaking he has done himself.   Our country’s future depends on it, as do the lives of these children.

Finding the Truth

I have had a lazy mind, I admit it.  It is humbling but the reality is that while I know I am a smart woman, I am woefully inadequate to face the awesome wealth of knowledge and information in this world.

I know I have issues.  Math is a dismal reality of failure in my life.  When I was married, my husband wanted me to get an MBA.  Not that I wanted one…an MFA or a Master’s in Psychology were more suited to my interests and abilities.  However, there I was, with a full force Migraine, driving through dense Fog to a college an hour and a half away to take my GMATs.

When the Math sections came, my Migraine lit with a force beyond reckoning. During Verbal sections, it abated somewhat.  Bottom line, I scored a 5% in Math and a 93% in Verbal.  It’s not a one-shot deal, I vividly remember my Father and I both crying as he tried to help me with Math homework, clutching “The Parent’s Guide to Modern Math”. I wasn’t going to be good at Math as they weren’t.  My parents told me I wasn’t going to be good at Math as they weren’t.  I believed them.

The Internet has awoken my mind to the complexities of the World and its inherent knowledge.  TV hasn’t done that to such a large extent.  Most of what is on it is garbage.  Blogging and its huge sphere of influence have acquainted me with the world in a new and awesome way.  So has research on my book.  I am learning more in my 50s and 60s than I did in the subsequent years of child raising and employment not conducive to learning beyond its boundaries.

I Love Learning.  Exploring the larger world, not just that which stares me in the face, it fascinating.  I can feel my brain prying open, trying to digest and make sense of that which I read.  And I haven’t really moved into the sphere of YouTube yet beyond research.

Perhaps when I reach the ripe old age of 80, I will know the world on a much deeper and richer level.  I wonder what my purpose is in life and whether I will know when I have achieved it.  Looking at all the people who have done so much more than I could ever dream, is daunting.  I will never reach those levels of grandure.  I didn’t start early enough and I’ve hid from so many issues over the years.  For too many years I lived in the shadow world of my bubble.  Depression and trauma transfiguring my world into one of smallness and darkness.  I am no longer trapped in that shell.  What a glorious feeling.

Now, at my age, I have little use for how others see me.  I am comfortable in my skin.  I might have more pain and physical issues, but my brain has reawakened to a vividness I don’t remember having before, or at least since college.  Because of my not caring how others think of me, I feel free to explore the world on my own terms.  I don’t feel silly knowing more than my living conditions would seem to project.

If I had the money, I would go on Missions to countries that need helping hands. I would go for an MFA.  Archeological digs and traveling would become a much desired reality. I saw on Facebook a story about a woman who uses cruise ships as her retirement plan.  Instead of paying out the money for an Assisted Living facility or a Nursing Home, she travels on water, having all her needs met at a senior and a frequent traveler discount.  What I wouldn’t give to make that a reality!  But even with that, cruise ships don’t go to the places in the world that need the most help. And they don’t do much to open the mind.  That is where I am most needed.

Should I give up, knowing the money isn’t going to be coming from my account?  Hell no.  If it is my purpose in life, the money will come.  In the meantime, there is so much left to learn.  I remain open to the possibilities.

 

 

Thanks

I want to thank all those who have decided to follow my blog.  It is humbling but reminds me constantly to continue to write even when I don’t think I have time.  Feel free to offer comments.  It is how I learn and keep in touch with what you might prefer to read.  Thank you.

 

Conference Findings

This past weekend I went to the United Methodist New York Annual Conference in Garden City, NY. Why they can’t call it the New York and Connecticut Conference I am questioning, but that’s another whole topic.  This writing is about the issue of gays and transsexuals in the church.

This is my first conference.  A lot of legislative activities go on during the course of the weekend.  I was shocked to find out there is a profound division in the Church.  It is hanging precariously on a thread regarding the LGBQ issue.  The Biblical conservatives in the Church are demanding that LGBQ and other sexually different people, should not be allowed in the Church – whether it be marriage, ministers, or even in congregations.  The Church might divide into two seperate denominations because of these matters.

The other, more Liberal persuasion believe we are all God’s children and everyone has the right to live their lives as they are meant to.  Even the issue of whether Women should be pastors has been a loaded one in many denominations.  The Catholics are also struggling to find their Center.  Everything goes back to Leviticus and the apostle Paul.  Two plus centuries ago.

This issue has come up in my own family, with my children believing conservatively and I believing a more liberal, inclusive approach to Christianity.  This may rattle many cages, but I believe the LGBQ group brings more openness and diversity, obviously.  But they also can bring fresh interpretations and vital ideas to congregations.

This may prevent me from getting into Heaven but I believe all have the right to worship openly.  Jesus had all kinds of people, most being the underappreciated, displaced, rejected members of society, in his circle of influence and accomodation. Not once did I read in the Bible where someone was rejected.  And Jesus had one whom he loved more than all of the rest….what does That even mean?

At the Conference, I saw quite a few gay and lesbian people.  A couple were Pastors.  Depending on the status of the vote in St. Louis in the Fall, what could that potentially mean for them.  “Hey sorry, but you no longer are a minister, don’t have a job, and aren’t welcome to attend Church. ”  What is that?  How can you take people who are actively sharing their Faith and leading their congregations toward a more open, accepting view of the World, and throw them out like yesterday’s garbage?

My children do not consider me to be a true Christian.  I’m not going to Heaven unless I radically change my belief system and values.  I believe God is more accepting…that love is more important than orientation…that the most important thing you can do is Believe in Jesus Christ and the Trinity.  I might not get to Heaven because I question sometimes whether Jesus was the son of God but I wouldn’t really want to be in a Heaven that draws lines, makes distinctions, rejects people because of who they are from the moment they are born.

I pray the Church remains whole in its entirety and those believing diversely get the opportunity to believe in diversity and inclusiveness, no matter the sex or orientation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pollen

Pollen floats down these days of Spring, coating everything, Leaving behind streaks and yellow caking in every crack, on every surface.  Unless, your home is hermetically sealed, coating your furniture.  It’s like a haze in my mind.  Spinning, spinning, self-perpetuating.  I’m getting excited about going to our family cabin in upstate New York in a month.  It is my spiritual center.  I need some centering.  I’m also going to the Methodist Conference in Garden City, Long Island, NY.  this coming week.  I’ve never been.  I’m told it is overwhelming but there is something powerful in being in the midst of hundreds of people acting in the common good and worshipping the Lord.  I could use some of that.

I’ve been working hard for my church, usually scratching my head and wondering what I’m doing but that is the nature of the position I am in.  How do you mentor people who have the guts to get up in front of a congregation and share from their hearts?

My mother used to say “I could do that but nobody asked me”.  Well, I could get up there and say a bunch of words but I’m not sure about whether they would be coming from my heart or my head.  I’m a skeptic and analytic by nature.  I still have too many questions which involve more research and prayer than I’m able or willing to give.

Coming to Christ is an awesome responsibility.  You can’t do it lightly.  It comes with thought, prayer, a willingness to accept the unknown, and the will to devote yourself to a belief system knowing you’ll never understand fully or get right.  It isn’t a college course.  It is reaching inside, grabbing your gut, investing your mind, pulling yourself up, and saying with all your heart, “I believe”.   How many people truly can do that?

My children are avid, deeply believing Christians.  It is woven into the fabric of their lives.  My son-in-law’s large book collection completely involves the study of Christianity.  He is going to the seminary in upcoming months.  However, there isn’t a single book other than those involving Christianity in their entire home.

My collection is diverse…history, archeology, mysteries, fiction, non-fiction, women’s studies, biographies, and, of course, Christianity.  And I’m not that diverse in my reading.  There are no books on the Sciences, Mathematics (God forbid), Politics, World Studies.  Those are covered in National Geographic and Time magazines and what I glean from the internet. I am limited in space but even if I had an entire, huge study, some of those areas would be slight. I think about however sheltered I am, how left-brained,  how lazy my expansion into the world of knowledge is.

How can something that fills my life, leave me so short-sighted?  Will my questions ever abate?  There is so much I need to know, want to know, but, in the end, its all about acceptance. And that is where I fall short.  I want to believe with all my heart.  But the skeptic says But.  It has to do with being comfortable in my skin.  About saying Yes, not Yes But. About relaxing and acknowledging it’s okay to have questions.  That not everything requires complete knowledge.  Acceptance is the key.  I need to find the key.

So I’ll accept the Pollen floating inside my brain with its yellow haze, and content myself with continuing to place one foot in front of the other and hope for the best resolution.

 

 

School shootings

“There have been at least 288 school shootings in the US since 1/1/09, 57 times more than the other six G7 countries combined.”   –CNN

These numbers are, unfortunately, no surprise to me. Our culture has been steadily shifting to one of violence and our young people are caught in the crosshairs.  The rhetoric perpetuates, spinning round and round as the NRA spins the mental health issue and our politicians take their sides without paying much attention to what their constituents feel. And here I am, spinning my own rhetoric.

What I can’t wrap my head around is how this perpetuates in such a vacuum.  Parents don’t know what is going on in the minds of their children, don’t check their internet pages, don’t look at those others their sons hang out with, or whether they have friends at all, don’t know if they have guns and don’t secure guns in locked safes.

I don’t mean to be ragging on the parents.  Sometimes their sons externalize very differently than what they internalize, but certainly, parents can determine if their children are depressed or angry or manifesting signs of mental illness.  Perhaps one problem is they don’t know what to look for.  Mental illness isn’t covered in most parenting books, that is if they read those books.

Schools are also part of the problem as are the communities.  The “not in our town”, mentality is a pervasive glitch in our psyche.  There aren’t enough instructors to demonstrate what to look for and how to prepare for it.  Police departments are also not involved enough, although in many towns there just aren’t enough police officers and perhaps not enough budgeted funds to train them adequately, particularly in small towns.

But, I think the greatest problem is that there is a lack of Hope in these young people, and in those who perpetrate mass shootings at concerts and movie theaters, or wherever crowds merge. They lack the foresight to see there are better ways to handle their feelings, that going out in a blaze of rage is not the answer. They are, too often, left to their own devices.  Nobody is wondering why a person is acting strangely or if it’s their responsibility to do something about the warning signs they see.  And young people who see what is emerging in another classmate keep that tight-lipped stalemate of not acting in protection of one of their own, even one who no one wants to be near.

I had a dear friend who had an arsenal of over 200 weapons, including cannons he had built himself.  Everyone looked on it as a quirky obsession and hobby.  He grew depressed and was so hateful to his family that they avoided dealings with him – left him to his devices.  I can’t blame them, dealing with his rage and depression filled them with despair. I talked with his wife about the possibility of therapy but he wouldn’t hear of it.  In the end, he blew his brains out. In front of a son. The guns are his sons’ legacy.  It makes me crazy thinking about it.  They should be sold and the money’s used to start their adult lives with.  I mentioned it to my friend, but that is where my advice ended.  Guns are just part of her reality even though she doesn’t touch them.

Hope is strangely lacking in so many of our lives.  We huddle in masses of despair.  Those who have church may find comfort there; therapy is a God-send to many. But to those who have no real support in their lives, whose lifestyle and decisions seem to have no awareness in those around them hope is just 4 letters strung together.  And they are already strung too tight.  And we stand by, hands dangling at our sides, vacant expressions on our faces, saving “Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa.”

 

 

 

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