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Lessons From A Bramble

#lifejournalramblings  Lessons from a bramble, that’s what I unexpectedly encountered this morning.  I knew I would find some great blackberries, but the words I heard as I searched for fruit while avoiding thorns is what this excursion was all about.  Sometimes we see the low lying fruit, the easy pick and we miss the the ripe and luscious fruit that is just one vine back.  How often do we do that with people? How many times have I missed a potentially life changing moment because I wasn’t willing to take a chance on something that may take a little more effort to get to? I have to work on this thought a little more. #weinkaufsummer19

I also learned that I really needed to wear long pants and a long tshirt. The best berries were way back in the brambles. How many seasons pass where those berries in the middle dry up on the vine? I’m guessing that not too many of my neighbors have dove into the center of that blackberry patch.

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The Last 10 Days

Or as I like to call it Dad’s 10 Days In Heaven On Earth. I’ve been compiling a photo album from my instagram posts on Dad’s Parkinson’s journey. While it was a 14 year journey the last 16 months leading up to his death were the most impactful. I’ve decided to dissect those days a little more, especially those last 10 days.

My Dad was a photographer and a journalist. While he vocation was chemistry, his avocation was storytelling. As we went through boxes of memorabilia after his death, it really became apparent that he loved telling stories since he was born. He learned at an early age to keep newspaper articles and to write notes on the back of photos. He wanted to keep the memories alive and fresh.

He started journaling special events in his live, especially his trips. He used a theme in his title; “Ten Days.” The first one I remember was when we visited my brother and his wife in the Peace Corps. It was titled, “10 Days in Guatemala.” He didn’t always travel for 10 days, but he always got away with sharing the phrase. He and mom traveled to visit my family while we lived across the ocean. He titled the journal “10 Days in Hawaii minus 1.” This is why I think it’s so appropriate that those finals days between when the hospice nurse said Dad had only a few days left to when he passed was 10 days. Even in his death he left us with a great story title, “The Last 10 Days.”

So here is where I begin this story. It starts with this picture and this first entry from June 6th.

Priorities. Jeopardy and chocolate for dinner, not much food or fluid intake today. And Mom showed me this book that a friend, who recently lost her husband, gave her to read. Heavy stuff but good to read as we head toward the inevitable. #lifewithparkinsons #schlewitzmindset #weinkaufspring19

I got the call Thursday afternoon. Mom was in distress. She came home from her sub job for the school district, where she was usually assigned to a student with special needs, to hear the hospice nurse say that Dad only had a few days left. She asked me to contact my siblings. She needed to know what to do about my sister Robyn. She needed to get Robyn to Dad before it was too late.

My hubs dropped everything to help me get up to see Mom and Dad. As I contacted the sibs I packed my bag. I had a ton of questions going through my mind. How long was I going to be there? What should I bring? This hospice process can be quick or move into days or weeks or even months. The past year was filled with many moments where Dad was winding down but ended up rallying. Is this another rally point? What would I see when I got to him? It had been a week. Would he still be able to speak?

By the time I got there the caregiver had finished her shift. It was just Mom with Dad. He had a sponge bath and a dry shampoo. He was watching the news. He wasn’t very hungry, but wanted a bite of chocolate. These days he could have icecream and pie for every meal if it meant that he was eating. Chocolate was par for the course. He greeted me with a smile and said, “Hey, you came.” I said, “Yes Dad. I’m here to stay for a while,” and smiled back. He didn’t have enough strength to wrap his arms around me so I just leaned in and rested my head on his shoulder for a bit.

Later that evening during one of Dad’s naps Mom shared that she and Dad had a good cry after the caregiver left. The realization that death was iminent came to rest hard on both of them. I can’t imagine how scared Dad was. He was such a planner. He even scheduled shower time for the family reunions as our family had tripled in size. My Dad didn’t know what life would be like after death. We read about heaven. We heard it preached. But when it comes down to it we don’t know the physical state of the after life. I sat there wondering how to respond, how to encourage someone who would come face to face with it in 10 days.

TEFL

A big part of this next chapter is my focus as a student. A week ago I started my cert to Teach English as a Foreign Language or TEFL. It’s been 27 years since I took my last test for a class. I spent years homeschooling my children, but I had an answer book to aid in grading quizes and tests. I was a little nervous when it came time to take my first quiz. I got a 10/10. Phew. My renewed life as a professional learner is off to a good start.

The first two modules for the certification have been about the history of the English language and the philosphy of what makes a teacher successful. It was encouraging to see the pages of information detailing why this organization puts such an emphasis on the importance of using a wholistic approach to teaching English to learners from other countries. I’m excited to see how this training will combine with my Danceability teaching intensive that begins in a little over a week. I’ll share more about that as it’s happening. Here’s a link to Danceability’s site so you have a better undertstanding of what it is.

I don’t think it a coincidence that TEFL cert and the Danceability Method are building blocks on my journey to an MA in Theater. It’ll be exciting to see how they all fit together as I develop my thesis. I know that I really want to focus on storytelling. I know some of you think, “DUH, isn’t theater all about story telling?” Yes, it is. BUT, I would like to develop a method of helping people share their personal stories in creative ways. In a way it might follow the philosophy of Moment Work throught the Tectonic Theater. My daughter, a theater major, introduced this to me as she experienced a moment workshop. Their “core values are courage and risk taking, innovation, theatricality, social & political change, and egalitarianism: everyone has a voice in the creation of new work.” Everyone has a voice. There are those out there who cannot speak for themselves or who do not have the mobility to create a dance or theater piece on their own. Think of all of the God stories we might see, hear, engulf ourselves in if we opened up the possibilties for those who have been pigeon-holed by someone’s bias.

It’s all just part of my dream that I’m trying to take from the liquid state and move into the jello phase.

My last post was in 2014. A lot has happened since then. We moved back from the islands. It was mostly to be back near our family. At that time my Dad was in year 11 of his Parkinson’s journey and I found it difficult to navigate supporting my mom through phone calls and the occasional visit to the Mainland.

Two months ago today my dad passed. I’m so thankful that I was there. He was literally surrounded by family. How we all ended up around his death bed is a story of hope and forgiveness. I’m still amazed by that moment. Experiencing my Dad’s peaceful last breath of life as our voices called out our love to him is a memory I will never forget.

Three weeks later my sister died. She was a big part of the hope and forgiveness story. She was estranged from us. Choices she made throughout her life kept her at a distance. Dad’s hope to see her one last time won over the pride and she arrived for those last 10 days. Stories came out from her last few months before arriving at the house. She almost died twice.When i picked her up from the train station she was recovering from a recent dog bite to the face. She was fighting fatigue and sickness her entire visit but was still present with all of us. Her last words to me when we dropped her back off at the train station were the same words we shared as Dad was dying, “No matter what happens it’s going to be okay.” We continued to text over the next few weeks. I knew something was wrong when I had texted her an old picture of us by the oak tree and didn’t get a response. Years of abuse took a toll and her body finally gave out. She coded on a lifeflight to the hospital. All the years of not knowing if my sister were alive have faded as I hold on to those last days with her; those last days with her making our family whole.

The late Toni Morrison used to ask herself, “What do I have to do that is so important that I would die if I didn’t do it?” I’m asking myself the same thing. The deaths of my father and sister have made it clear that life is too short to not follow a dream. So I’m stepping away from paid ministry life and into the life of a student. Same Dreamer. New Chapter.

This past weekend dear friends of ours premiered their film, Under The Blood Red Sun.  It is now available for digital download. http://underthebloodredsun.com/ The film is  based on Graham Salisbury’s book of the same title.  The book is a great read and gives a vivid portrayal of what American Japanese families faced in Hawaii the days following the attack on Pearl Harbor.  http://www.amazon.com/Under-Blood-Red-Sun-Graham-Salisbury-ebook/dp/B001OERNVA/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

Victorious, New Hope Oahu

On Monday our church released a second album with Dream Records on iTunes. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/victorious/id911187792 Here is a positive review of the album, Victorious, CMR. http://christianmusicreview.org/new-hope-oahu-victorious/

Nigerian girl kidnapped by Boko Haram

A few months ago 270 Nigerian girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram.  Lately, as groups like Isis take the forefront in the news, I’ve wondered what happened to these girls, many near my daughters age, and hope that they will not be forgetten. Here is a piece from The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/14/nigeria-girls-kidnapped-5-months_n_5791622.html

My latest read, “Cold Tangerines: Celebrating The Extraordinary Nature Of Everyday Life” by Shauna Niequist, is wonderful lift.   It encourages my daily effort to choose joy.  I relate to some of her story, and appreciate the road she took to write this book.  A big thank you goes to another dear friend who gifted it to my Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/Cold-Tangerines-Celebrating-Extraordinary-Everyday-ebook/dp/B000SH224M/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-5&qid=1410979304

Summer Lovin’

Last year we switched from a parent-only approach to teaching to the help of an online school.  Our first year on the island it was all me, and with a part time ministry job it really sucked the life out of me.  Moving to a completely new environment without the family support and familiarity made homeschooling even more difficult.  The families that we had been spending our dance and music time with were no longer available.  Taking out the full time teaching has given me back creative time which lets my brain engage the youngest when she needs help with a class.

I’m excited that this year she will write more, read some great classics, have a study hall to help her with any needs she may have with math or science, begin her voyage into French, and study American History up until the early 1800’s.  We have also made music and theater the big focus for the year.  Anyone who knows us may ask how is that any different?  It comes down to her commitment to rehearsing and staying in shape.  We will spend more time practicing, memorizing, and exercising.  It’s not a have to.  It’s a want to.  She should have quite a story to tell by the end of it all.

With a week and half until we are in full swing we are hoping to enjoy the rest of our summer break.  It’s a little different here because seemingly the summer never leaves.  Oh sure, there is actually sweater weather for about a month, but for the most part, if we are willing to drive, we can find sun somewhere on this island.  It’s just finding the time to enjoy it.  This year have blocked out adventure time during the week.  It could be a hike, or a paddle, or just enjoying a good book on the beach.  That whole schedule is still a few days away, so my question for now is what shall we do TODAY?

Worship Confessional

Last night was one of those worship leading experiences that leaves you wondering, “How in the world was I allowed to sit behind that piano and lead these ladies in worship?”  It wasn’t a complete train wreck but it had a moment where I thought I was out of my body watching my hands all of a sudden switch to a completely different key.  My biggest fear is that my leading would be a distraction instead of an attraction.  This group is very forgiving, and honestly they don’t need anyone to do anything except start the song.  They love to sing songs of praise.  Thankfully we were able to end it on a good note.

There is a danger when you sit down to lead and your heart and mind are not in the moment.  In that situation I lose concentration quickly if I don’t keep things in check.  I had been distracted by my thoughts of my family.  Changes in school for the oldest, the start of school for the youngest, missing my family back in the Pac NW, family hurting physically and emotionally all cascaded at one time.  One would think that at my age it would be easy to put away those thoughts into a neat compartment only to be opened when I wished it.  I’m finding that’s not the case.  I’m created a certain way, and it’s my job to make sure that I take every thought captive, keep my mind in the right place so that I find peace.  I guess it’s a constant thing.  It’s not something that I can just snap and change about myself.

So, how do I prevent this from happening again?  Take a few moments to myself before I have to step out on the platform.  That five minute countdown should be used to breathe and pray.  Easy fix.