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Dude, where are your tears?

2 Comments 28 August 2013


This little card says a lot about my life. No, MH is not ‘technically’ Autistic, though she is on the spectrum and she has a lot of autistic-like issues, OCD, anxiety, sensory integration, and on and on. Anyway, having a kid like MH, who not only has those challenges, but has a very low IQ, which makes explaining things, discipline, etc…like nailing jello to the wall, can be challenging in all kinds of ways. But this little card says so much…the things that could have sent me into a meltdown with my other two seem tiny and even comical in comparison. I am not saying, oh, my stuff is harder than your stuff, I am just saying that certain realities, certain suffering, certain experience…make your world a bit less rockable.
I really thought a lot about this in the last few weeks with my oldest daughter’s college drop-off looming. I couldn’t decide if I was unfeeling or a bad mom or what, but I was excited and not generally sad about it. Granted, I cried, I got sentimental, but when you live a day with MH, (I hope whoever reads this knows me well enough to put this in context) you are really happy that your children grow-up, mature, grow wiser, can be independent…hell, for that matter, wipe their bottoms and take a bath alone! The things that make me cry feel broader and bigger, not because being so about other things (like college drop-off) is trivial, so much as the ground of my life feels saturated with tears. Tears that come from every day life with a child that is terrified of having a menstrual cycle…a child that asks me over and over and over and over and over and over again (x4958) the same question, even though I say,”No!” every time…a child that wakes up out of control and goes to bed out of control…a child that only sees the NOW, not wait, not be patient it will come, not if you do this, then you get this. The weight of the grief of just regular life today combined with the weight of the worry of how I will care for her the rest of her life…it soaks me and the ground around me.
So when it comes time, sometimes, for the tears of just your regular life moments…I feel all cried out sometimes. I feel full of happiness for just the reality that my daughter can drive, that she can go to college, that my son can sit out back and sing and play his heart out, that he has a girlfriend, that he can be in choir. Yes, I miss my daughter and I am having to adjust to her being gone, but I am glad she CAN be gone, that she CAN begin a life of her own.
So, when parents like me don’t respond like you think we should, don’t be surprised, and please, don’t think you know why unless you ask. We aren’t trying to show-out and be all brave, we just might be all cried out that day!

I Love That Punch Line

0 Comments 21 February 2013


“It’s not an obsessive food story. I don’t care about food that much.” — Gabrielle Hamilton

I read a multitude of articles and often times the information that I garner ends up somewhere in that dark pit of my brain labeled: useless information/potential trivia. However, every now and again, I read about someone that invokes intrigue. Gabrielle Hamilton fell into this category after I read about her restaurant, Prune, and memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. Anyone who knows me is keenly aware that, while I enjoy fabulous food, I am not at all inclined to cook it, so, upon seeing the title of her memoir, my immediate inclination was to suggest it to a dear friend who loves all things culinary. Gabrielle was placed on that mental shelf of intriguing people and her memoir was passed on to someone who  could possibly benefit from its reading.My memory would be retrieved though, when a weekend visit to Oxford, Mississippi to introduce my eldest child to Ole Miss led to a chance meeting. Girlfriends joined me in Oxford for an annual art show and we decided to grab dinner at City Grocery. Feeling a bit under dressed, we chose a seat at the downstairs bar, located in the back of the restaurant. It was perfect: Our bartender was delightful and the food was amazing. Mid-way through our dinner, a woman and man walked in and took the two remaining seats at the bar. The drink order captured my attention and sent that wheel in my mind spinning (she ordered a Negroni). Information retrieved, we connected, and, long story short, Gabrielle Hamilton had taken the seat next to me. It was as if we had planned to have dinner together all along. Granted, I was a bit star-struck; I had read enough to know that she was James Beard’s best chef in New York in 2011 and that her book was being held in high regard by industry people and critics alike. However, there was something else: She wasn’t a chef that night, nor was she a writer. She was a woman and a mother, not unlike myself. There was a genuine interest on her behalf about the college visit, my daughter’s non-profit, parenting and the task of figuring out how to send a kid to college. My intrigue had been warranted and, by the end of our dinner, I was certain I had found a friend.Back in Birmingham, I grabbed the book from Church Street Coffee & Books and was hard-pressed to put it down over the next week. It was not at all a memoir just for would-be chefs or foodies, although there was a plethora of images painted and descriptions that would captivate both. While food plays a central role in the book, it is a role of connecting, not of cooking. Gabrielle says of the book, it is “not an obsessive food story.” I was in complete agreement, but it was a story though, her story, or at least the first part of her story. I was hooked.

Gabrielle shared her story in the way that Toni Morrison proclaims stories should be shared, as she implores the storyteller, “Make up a story. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.” Gabrielle makes a story that connects to the greater story of all of humanity. Her words reveal “belief’s wide skirt” as she offers us a glimpse into both the dark and light places that she has trodden in her first four plus decades. There were moments that I was certain that I knew this girl she writes about. I knew that catch in the back of her throat, that loneliness and that determination. She is clever and honest in her telling and, for me, she reveals that “stitch” Morrison demands as she loosens the veil of fear by connecting her revelations to my own. Revelations that remind me: I am not alone.

In her words, “Here’s the set-up: a girl walks into a bar….. (in oxford, mississippi), and here’s the punch line: Friends. For. Life.” That’s a great punch line!

(Posted on Post Script – 2/21/13)

Come meet Gabrielle and hear her speak about Blood, Bones & Butter at Emmett O’Neal Library this Saturday morning at 9 a.m (click here for more information). Read more from Jorja on her blog, Living Beyond the Pale.



Pull That String (Part II)

8 Comments 15 February 2011

So, now I want to address those who would consider themselves ‘liberal’ or committed to the ‘social gospel.’  Or, quite honestly, those who do not espouse faith at all.  There are a limited number of individuals that do not see themselves as having some sort of responsibility for humanity at large.  And quite frankly, I know far more liberal friends who are far more committed to changing the ills of this world than those who proclaim a strong faith.

So, that being said, does the other side of the coin offer a better soulution than those who come at it from a ‘faith’ perspective? Can education and poverty reduction be the answer to the atrocities that I have read about in Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide ?  It certainly is a foundational part of bringing about true and lasting change, but I believe, it is not either or, but both and.

We can give these women education and build into their lives a stronger sense of self by equipping them to provide for themselves and their families, but ultimately, if their hearts are empty, if their self-worth is found only in their ability to produce and survive, what happens when their efforts do not flourish?

They too must have a change of paradigm about the value of women, the value of their own lives, and if there is not a higher power that attributes that value, what will they do?  We are what we worship and if there is truly nothing that is transcendent, where will these women find themselves? Even if they have escaped the brothels, the genocide, the rape, where will they be if they do not see beyond the finite? Faith, in my opinion, must be a part of the change that needs to happen.

However, many on the left side, those who have a deep-seated mistrust of the church and those of faith, have separated themselves from all that do not espouse their worldview.  What would happen if we laid down our arms against each other in the name of coming together to end such horrible ills in our country and our world?  What if the left, the liberal left, chose to respect the faith of the conservatives, or even the faith of many of their own, and work, hand in hand?

Jesus said, in one of the gospels, as his closest followers questioned the motives of a group who was preaching in Jesus’ name.  It is probable that their path was different, possibly even the way they lived out their faith was different.  Jesus answered the critique with a rebuke.  He simply said, if they are not against us, they are with us.  I recognize I am taking liberty with this passage, but ultimately, if we in the church long to see redemption, can we not work with and along side those who are working for the same thing?

Is God so small that we must fight for him to have the Christian fish stamped on every effort that we participate in or of which we are a part?

One of the women who read Part I of this topic wrote this:

“Jorja, Thanks for this. First, I would like to say that I am hopeful b/c I have found a Baptist church here in Frankfort, KY (our capitol) that is doing a great job caring for the sick, poor and marginalized. We have a medical and dental clinic and pharmacy that is run by volunteers and serves people in our community who don’t have other health care options. We also have a clothes closet that is like a department store and are a part of a local food pantry that is making plans to organize in a way where people get to ‘shop’ and choose the foods they need and want. We partner with the local health dept. and many other non profits and churches of all types to do these things. We manage to do this in spite of many differing political views within our own congregation. We also have a center for creative arts that offers free music practice and lessons to children. Now, all of that said, I am aware, thanks to you, that we can do more addressing issues that oppress women specifically. I celebrate that we are evangelical, but we ordain women as lay people and ministers and strive to use inclusive language, etc. Many churches do this, but sadly, not many Baptist ones in the south. Still there is so much more we could do to raise awareness about sex trafficking, slavery, etc. I will definitely be thinking and praying about how I can and should be a catalyst for this. Thanks a bunch.”

How encouraging to see that there are churches that are caring for the ‘least of these’ in a combined effort with a multitude of organizations who are committed to the same things.  To see human beings coming together because they too, as Dr. King said in his Letter from Birmingham Jail believe what he wrote:

“…I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states…Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.

I do not have answers.  I only have questions.  But they must be asked, and pondered if their is to be real change in this country and this world.  I believe more than I ever have that I am a part of ‘an inescapable network of mutuality’ and a ‘single garment of destiny.’

What do you think?  What are your questions?

Taking the Holiday

4 Comments 06 December 2010

Hello people…iI know my posts have dwindled…I hope to have a clear vision of what i am going to write about beginning with the new year.  I am torn, a lot, when I sit down to write and I have sought a bit of counsel as to how to give myself permission to write what I really want to write, for those that I truly want to be a part of Living Beyond the Pale.  I sincerely hope you all have a fabulous holiday season.  Cheers and lots of love from me!

Do you know WHY?

0 Comments 01 December 2010

My husband sent this TED video to me today.  It is very thought-provoking.  Do you know what you believe?  Do you know your own WHY?

things to make you wonder~

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...” Annie Dillard

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