water buffalo

So I received a water buffalo a few days ago. It’s true.

My St. James Parish bought a water buffalo through Heifer International in my honor. I had served on the Vestry of St. James Episcopal Church for three years, and as Sr. Warden of the Vestry for the past twelve months, and I received this during the Annual Parish Meeting.

Seriously, a water buffalo.

There’s such a good story about Shonavan Khutun, a participant of Heifer’s Nepal program, whose life went from utter despair to genuine prosperity after receiving a water buffalo and extensive training from Heifer.

She was living with her parents in rural Bangladesh in 2013, when she was 23. She was rarely allowed to leave her own house, and her economic prospects were bleak. But all of that changed with a gift from Heifer.

With Heifer’s support, Shonavan was able to buy a water buffalo, which she rented out to neighbors for draft power. With each new season, she built her profits and today owns four animals.

When I read her story, I hear: Tenacity. Ingenuity. Teamwork. Faith. Promise.

Anyway, our Priest in Charge, Doris+, believing there are similarities in tenacity, strength, and teamwork – and of course, faith – between Shonavan and myself, purchased the gift of a water buffalo in honor of my Sr. Warden ministry at St. James.

This feels like high praise for me. A note from Doris+ noted, “You persevered as a faithful servant with joy in pain and vision in confusion” (a reference to my car accident). I’m grateful for these words, and for this gift.

I visited the Heifer website to learn more about the gift of a water buffalo. Check this out:

The benefits of owning a water buffalo.

Water buffalo are gentle giants that allow farmers to plant four times as many crops, allowing them to sow fields in days that once took weeks to plant by hand.

Your gift of a water buffalo will provide rich milk that is high in protein and nutrients. Water buffalo also make farming easier by tilling fields and providing fertilizer. People in the marshlands of India, southeastern Asia and parts of South America depend on water buffalo more than any other animal.

What this gift provides.

Increased crop yield. Milk. Nutrition. Steady, dependable income. Education and training. Community sustainability. Fertilizer. Self-reliance.

Oh. I also received a tiara.

Now I turn toward other ways to serve St. James. I have some ideas, and I expect more to be revealed. After all, I have a water buffalo and could travel.

food for body and soul again and again

I love coming to Houston for the ways in which I am fed.

At the top of the list is being with my best friend. There is nourishment in reunion and familiarity. In laughter and in tears. In understanding my hard walk and offering a hand.

And then there’s Tex-Mex food. Gosh I miss good Tex-Mex food. So while I’m here, that’s my food of choice.

After I arrived we drove straight to La Lucha restaurant where a great feast was enjoyed.

A short stop at home and soon it was time for church. At “my” church, at least what was my church when I left Houston. Christ Church Cathedral.

We were there for the 5pm Celtic Holy Eucharist service.

Welcome to this holy place.

Friend and stranger, saint and sinner, all who gather here.

Worship was exquisite.

Sufficient nourishment for one day. Followed by much needed rest. I thought I could soar, but found out I’m only ready for short practice flights.

The next morning it was time to begin again. We began the day at Slowpokes, a sloth and snail-themed coffee shop. Perfect for me.

Yes, even the bathroom carried the theme.

Next up were spa pedicures. So many choices!

Then off to see Knives Out. It was enormously entertaining – all the while reclining on heated stadium chairs.

Then off for more Tex-Mex dining at Superica.

Oh my, it was fabulous!

A bit of shopping in a favorite store, and I was done in all over again.

Happily exhausted once again.

Today it was back to Slowpokes.

and then to The Color Factory.

This was a hands-on color adventure and activity, audience participation, and goody-filled fun!

Great fun!!

This afternoon an attempt was made to figure out how to light the gas-fired fireplace in the living room. We watched YouTube how-to over and over. And over and over we heard “if you smell gas get out of the house. Don’t use your telephones. Get outside and ask someone to call the fire department.” Yikes!

I was the most spooked, but remained nearby offering frequent suggestions of whom we might call

In the end, clearer heads prevailed and we went outside to have a gas-free, wood-burning fire, in the fire pit. A lot more soothing and safer.

Tonight – Texas tradition – black eyed peas for luck. And ribs because we love ribs!! So good!

vigilant

Today I’m at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport. I’m experiencing another milestone as I travel wheelchair-assist free!

Evan helped me navigate bag drop-off in order to check my bag. From there I was on my own.

Pulling my small onboard bag, I walked off into wheelchair-free travel.

I was soon aware of the need for me to be vigilant. Super vigilant. No one is paying heed to me, to my tenuous uprightness. I find freezing in place with arms ready to flail and vocal chords at the ready to give a shout-out is good preparedness.

I navigated one elevator, then switched to escalators and trains. And walking. Lots of steps today.

I’m so aware of my new ability. My new reality this day.

It felt unfamiliar to walk and ride, moving about as I wished. However it soon became familiar.

I’m so grateful. I have prayed for healing. I know others have prayed on my behalf. I know there is still healing to be had. But right now is right now.

I’m in my chair; soon to be my chair in the sky.

Traveling mercies.

records

I’m interested in records.

I wear a Fitbit to track the number of steps I walk each day. My goal used to be 10,000 steps per day, and I was able to meet that goal most days. Fitbit comes with encouragement. I receive texts when I’m close to the goal.  “Only xx steps to go.” Or, the best text, “Nailed it!”

One of the things I love about Fitbit is the Badge Collection. The first badge earned is the Marathon badge. It means one has walked 26 miles. It goes on from there.The Serengeti (588 miles), the Great Barrier Reef (1600 miles), and the Monarch Migration (2580 miles) and so on. You never know when you will be presented with a new badge, but when I am, I’m joyous! Another record. All because I count steps.

In recent months I’ve been sorely set back in my daily goal. Actually I put my Fitbit away for a few months.  As I began to heal, I thought about wearing my Fitbit again. I started with a small goal – 100 steps a day. I’ve upped the number of steps slowly. Currently my goal is 2500 steps per day, and I’m soon to move the goal to 3000.

In the midst of this step slow-down, though, I earned my Russian Railway badge- the equivalent of 5,772 miles. Whoo hoo!

Another thing I count are trips I take by air. Back in 1985 I learned to fly once again, and now I am up to 406 trips (that’s at least 816 separate flights).  I’ve averaged  12 trips a year for 34 years. One flight a month for 34 years. That’s some kind of record.

I’ve flown just 10 trips this year. I’m going to have to take extra trips for a few years to maintain my record of 12 per year. Now that’s a challenge I’m ready to embrace.

All this to say I’ll be on my way to Houston tomorrow. I’ll leave in 2019 and return a few days later in 2020.

A new year. I’ll be glad to have 2019 in my rear-view mirror. Literally.

Traveling mercies.

The Wily Adversary

A big part of my growing-up years was fly fishing. When my sister, brother and I reached grade school age, we were schooled in fishing by our parents.

At first we used a worm on a hook, strung on a fancy bamboo fishing rod. This was a relatively easy way to learn to fish. It was exciting to catch a fish. and it brought a certain amount of satisfaction, along with praise from our parents who both had a passion for fishing. Fly fishing to be exact.

This is my dad.

The goal, of course, was for the kids to move on from being “wormers” – yes, that is a real term, to becoming polished fly fishing persons. If you ever reverted to fishing with a worm, it was a moment of real shame. The reverse was pride in one’s self and membership in the elite family of fly fishing.

Well yes, this was a long time ago.

There was real joy in this pastime. It required skill, which often brought success. It was solitary, as the protocol for fly fishing was to go solo. At the end of the day it was great fun to gather and show off the “catch”. And then fry them up for dinner!

While I don’t fish anymore, part of my identity remains that of a fly fishing woman. I became quite adept at doing battle with the wily adversary. My fishing vest – complete with flies still attached to the sheepskin – still hangs in my closet.

A few years ago, a new vanity license plate that supports the organization Trout Unlimited was issued. I got myself to the DMV soon after. To add a bit of sweetness to this act, it turned out the license design was done by a local artist. I drove straight from the DMV to Broderick Crawford’s gallery in town. He was thrilled to walk outside to take a look because he had yet to see his artwork displayed on any car.

For a number of reasons the placing of this license plate on my new car was significant. For one thing it had been pretty mangled in my Miata accident. Fortunately Evan was able to straighten it out enough to pass DMV inspection in order to install the plate on Sarton. Now a piece of the old is affixed to the new.

It’s me placing my identity on this car. As I re-define parts of my identity, I retain much of the old, while establishing the new.

Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher and theologian, said Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

So with a glance back to explain the import of my recent action, I’ll now turn to the road ahead. I’ve many miles to go.

Traveling mercies.

Identity

So I bought a new car. I didn’t really want to buy a new car, but I was forced into needing a new car because of the accident I had six months ago which totaled my beloved Miata. Almost totaled me and a friend who was with me as well.

Meet Sarton.

I had to make some changes with this purchase. Automatic transmission was one.

I’ve only ever driven manual transmission cars, with a fair amount of pride in doing so. These days I need to be kind to my knees. I was surprised to make this transition so quickly. By the time I drove home from the dealership in Atlanta I was all in for automatic!

Sure looks like a manual transmission, but not so. Just shiny pedals and a foot rest.

I also gave up having a rag top. This new car comes as a hardtop. I’d driven ragtops since 1983. Car manufacturers had ceased making convertibles in the mid 70’s. In 1983 Toyota sensed interest in convertibles once again and responded by sending 1983 Toyota Celicas to Florida to be converted from hardtops to convertibles. I couldn’t order one fast enough!

Meet Flashdance.

In 1989 Mazda Miatas were introduced. I bought the first Miata in north Houston.

Meet Amadeus.

For the next twenty-seven years I drove nothing but Miatas. Five of them. Amadeus. Gabrielle. Clara. Scarlatti. And Chapin. The run of Miattas ended with the accident. I thought for sure I would buy another Miata. It wasn’t to be as a Miata and I are literally no longer a fit.

I’m now getting used to owning a Subaru BRZ.

In Lectionary study today, we studied a portion of Haggai. It details the story of the rebuilding of the Second Temple, a rebuild of the Temple. The question asked was if the rebuilt temple was seen to be the same as – sufficient as – the first temple. Would it be like it was before?

Our priest asked us about our own identities and if we had ever felt we had lost our identity. I was first to answer. I said I felt when I lost my car in the accident, I lost my identity, and with the purchase of my new car I had begun to reclaim it. But, she asked, would this identity I associate with my new car be like it was before?

I’m so thoughtful about this.

Any assumption I might have had about my identity, I’m beginning to see will not be the same as before. It’s wishful thinking to think otherwise. As I settle into my new car identity, I’ll surely consider how it’s different from what it was before. And what it means today.

Traveling mercies.

an opportunity

not to be passed up.

Because of a chance to see my oldest two grandchildren together, I made a quick two-day trip to Texas. I could not pass up time to spend with these amazing young people.

It appears I’ve got the travel bug!

So once again I embarked on wheeled travel. With each travel segment, I find I have increased ability to navigate my way through an airport. I do need help with distance to the gate, but after that I’m more and more able to move about the gate area. And that gate area continues to expand.

While my time in Texas was short, it never felt like it. Lots can be accomplished when motivated!

My son picked me up and soon enough we were at the pumpkin farm. I find that more and more grocery stores have farm sections.

Ten CHOICE pumpkins picked later…

Always a stop at Starbucks on the way home. I was reminded of all the times my grandson and I sat in Starbucks in “our” comfy chairs.

Flowers for me as I arrived.

Now that the two grandchildren have moved out, I enjoyed conversation with their parents. They are the age I was when my children had left home. I heard their words of change and of wonder. And of quiet. Sometimes too much quiet.

That ended with the arrival of grandkids/grand young adults the next day!

The day was a gift beyond measure. A chorus of family stories, updates, and cheering for the big game – in this case the alma mater of my granddaughter vs the Dawgs.

A feast followed..

And, birthday cake!!

A wonderful end to this remarkable day. Abundant blessings.

There’s a new resident in this home. With the recent losses of two long-time pets, this new one has begun to fill the void.

This Sabbath my beautiful daughter-in-law and I had lovely worship at their church where this family has belonged for close to two decades. There’s change here with the leaving of their rector and an interim in place.

Then just like that, it was time to return home. My heart is full. I’m so grateful for the quick gift of love, of time, of hugs, of laughter, of talks – from each of these four precious pieces of my heart.

Traveling mercies.

the big city

I absolutely loved being in town for the birthday party.

It was a joyous evening with remarkable women. Rich and hilarious conversations. It was an evening of celebrating and being celebrated.

I’ve loved being in town to see large, beautiful buildings. Many new, sitting next to vintage and historic structures.

Houses of worship.

Christ Church Cathedral, where I worshipped before I left town.

Iskan Hindu Temple.

I love the neighborhood and surrounding area where my friend lives.

As we drove home yesterday she described this part of town as having texture.

Yes, that’s exactly the way to describe it. There is a wonderful variety in people and dwellings in this part of town. Texture in voices and colors, in food and shelter, in opportunity and in struggle.

Of course I loved all the meals I enjoyed.

I’ll return for more big city life.

Today, though, I am going home to small town life.

Now airborne for my flight to Atlanta, I’m aware this second return to traveling is much easier than the first. I’ve got spunk, which was required for my wheeled travel at the Houston airport today. And once again I turned my chair into a walker and I walked at will.

Amazing.

Traveling mercies.

birthday joy

Today is my best friend’s birthday. It’s the reason for my visit. She came to visit me in July to celebrate my birthday. Two friends traversing miles for the milestones.

We began the day at 2nd Cup, a coffee house she had wanted to check out. One thing about this place – all proceeds go toward programs that have to do with stopping human trafficking, and programs to help those caught up in this web.

It was all delicious, and such a fine start to this day. After breakfast I dropped Beth off at work.

I’m loving driving around downtown Houston where she works. I’m really taken by the reflections of buildings on buildings.

When I lived in Houston, I worked in The Texas Medical Center. My route to work took me past flower shops lined up along Fannin Street. Every Monday I stopped at one or another of the many shops to purchase flowers for my office. It was a gift to myself that pleased my co-workers as well.

I returned to one of those shops today.

As I dropped Beth off at work, she reminded me that sunflowers were her favorite flowers. Got it!

There’s a party tomorrow. As I mentioned, everyone is to bring a dessert. My plan was to bring Freddy’s custard. I decided a better plan would be to head north today to Connie’s Frozen Custard. It’s the pinnacle of frozen custard, and this is a special birthday after all.

I thought we might need to do a taste test tonight. But not after the dinner we enjoyed. I had 3 appetizers. Enough said?

A lovely day bookended by times of shared sustenance, and most excellent birthday related journeys for me.

Birthday blessings.

transition or destination

I had a conversation yesterday about transition and/or destination. That struck me as I wonder if I’m in transition with respect to my health situation, or whether or not I have arrived at my destination. Oh my gosh say it isn’t so! And certainly I believe this just cannot be my destination. Still, at times….I’m discouraged.

Yet as I write this I have taken my seat in my chair in the sky. Yep, I’m on trip #405.

This morning Evan dropped me off at the airport and waved goodbye as I wended my own way to curbside bag checking. All by myself! That was an unexpected transition.

Later, as I was pushed toward the plane train I found myself engaged in conversation with my pusher and a 2nd pusher who was walking alongside, not pushing. Anyway, we talked about transitions. Destinations.

I wrote down her words. “We’re always in transition”. Followed by “better to be in transition than in decomposition.” Well, yes.

Next up was the elevator ride up to the gates, where I joined another wheelchair rider. Packed in we were literally face to face. So we introduced ourselves. I guess I gave the impression of high energy. Imagine, accomplishing this while seated in a wheelchair.

As we were removed from the elevator, she exclaimed “I hear the fire in you!”.

Lastly, as I mentioned in a previous blog, a friend suggested I turn my wheelchair into a walker after the pusher parks me and leaves me sitting.

You better believe I transitioned that wheelchair into a walker and took off. As I passed a guy he spun around and cried out “you’ve got it backwards!” I replied “I’m free!”

I do realize I have a difficult road ahead in my period of transition. As I sit here, I’ve got Brandi Carlile singing in my ears, “there’s a road left behind me that I’d rather not speak of, and a hard one ahead of me too”. Very hard.

For now, I’ve transitioned from Eastern Daylight Time to Central Daylight Time. I’m here for a best friend’s birthday party. All the guests are to bring dessert. I’ll be bringing a giant tub of Freddy’s frozen custard. Delicious joy ahead with sweetness of friends and desserts.

Traveling mercies.