Poems, Personal Stories, and Observations

Archive for the ‘Personal story’ Category

Thank God for the Fleas

When my parents were World War II refugees, they lived in various Displaced Persons camps run by the U.S. and other Allies. Sometimes it would be so cold that there was frost on the INSIDE walls of their “accommodations”.   (I don’t know exactly what their living quarters were like,)  At some point in there, my older brother (a baby!), one paternal uncle, and my paternal grandmother also lived in the same camp(s). At least they had shelter!  Traumatic as it all was, thank you Allies (and, ultimately, God), for keeping my family alive!  Others, as you know, suffered considerably more: in concentration camps, in battles on land, sea, and sky, and elsewhere.

LIFE IS A GIFT! And, I’m so grateful to live in a home with heat and hot water.

Corrie ten Boom was in a concentration camp during World War II, because her family had hidden Jews in their home.  She decided to take seriously the Scripture, “… give thanks in all circumstances …” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), so she gave thanks for the fleas in her barracks.  Sooner or later, she learned that the guards would avoid her barracks as much as possible, because of the fleas.  In that way they did not get as much abuse as they might have.  Perhaps most of us are not as faith-filled as Corrie ten Boom, but there is certainly a lesson to learn from her.

War is probably horrific for everyone touched by it, but perhaps it’s appropriate to also remember the positives.

Why do some (or perhaps all of us) encounter great trials and tribulations?  I propose a few reasons here, several or all of which could occur together:

  1. We are being tested by God.  It can be an opportunity for growth, to trust in Him more.
  2. We are being chastised by God.  ” … for the Lord disciplines those whom He loves, and chastises every child whom He accepts.” (Hebrews 12:6).  This is a good thing, because it shows that God loves us enough to correct us.
  3. We are suffering for our own or other people’s poor choices.  We make bad decisions, or others take out their frustrations on us.
  4. It’s just part of the fallen human condition.  Because of original sin, we all suffer consequences such as illness, accidents, death, etc.

No matter the reason, we must trust that God is with us through these difficulties.  I don’t see any other reason to hope.

 

 

 

Blueberries and Junk Piles

“… most marital arguments cannot be resolved.”
How about that for a startling statement?  Read on …

Now that my husband is retired, we have more “opportunities” to learn about each other’s perspectives.

Many years ago, I did learn that certain of my husband’s behaviors were not deliberate attempts to hurt me, though they often felt like it.  Now I am learning that we truly do see things differently, which is why we often have (usually settled amicably) conflicts.

Take the case of the blueberries.

One day we were beginning our breakfast routine, and Tom said he was going to put some frozen blueberries in his bowl.  I said, rather harshly, “Please eat the fresh blueberries first.”  A little while later, he asked me, “Why was it so important that I eat the fresh blueberries?  I like the frozen ones, because then the milk (or half and half) I pour on them freezes a little and it reminds me of ice cream.”

So I had to explain that I hate for food to be wasted, and I wanted the fresh berries used up before they became rotten.  Why didn’t I explain that, instead of being harsh with him?  Maybe I assumed he would have the same perspective I have, namely, the need to not be wasteful.  But he was seeing blueberries in a whole different way.

Then there’s the case of the junk pile, or piles.

I came home and noticed that my husband had kindly put out the trash bins on the street in anticipation of the following day’s trash collection.  When we went for a walk the next morning, he mentioned that he had started breaking up some items in the side yard, to “clear up more junk,” and had put them in the trash collection.  I said, “What exactly did you you put in?”  He named some items, and I said, “Wait a minute, I was going to give those to Goodwill or freecycle.org.”  “But I’m trying to clear up junk like we agreed to, and it was in the junk pile.”  “But,” I said, “the junk pile is in [area A], not the area you were clearing.”  He replied, “I thought the junk area was the whole side yard, and those items have been there for months.”

Well, besides us never having explicitly defined the actual junk pile area, and me leaving items out for a long time (because I needed to clean them before giving them away and I had procrastinated on that task), I realized that we needed to have a lot more communication.  “Why,” I asked, if he wasn’t sure about throwing something out, “did you not ask me?” “Because you weren’t home and I wanted to get the task done.”  Anyway, I thanked him for his effort and rushed home, but the trash collector had already come.  [By the way, afterwards I did clean up some remaining items and most have been given away successfully.]

So my point is that many disagreements have to do with misunderstandings and assumptions.  They aren’t necessarily examples of people being mean to each other.  Perhaps my husband and I have not talked enough about our perspectives, priorities, and what values are important to us (in this case, my value of frugality or not being wasteful).

In the book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”, by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver (Harmony Books – 2015), on page 28 the authors state, “… most marital arguments cannot be resolved.  Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind — but it can’t be done.  This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values.  By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage.”

The Selfish Cells (2)

The lumpectomy surgery was successful!

The one lymph node they removed was cancer-free, halleluia!  But, they did find some cancer on one of the margins, so I’ll have another shorter surgery, scheduled for 11/30/2018, to remove those cells.

Radiation will perhaps start in early January.

The Selfish Cells

Well, once again, cancer has visited me.  (See: The Kidney Stone Miracle .)

A routine mammogram in September eventually led to a breast biopsy on  October 1st, and I learned on October 4th that it was cancerous.  The good news is is that it was small (Stage 1), and Grade 1 (usually slow growing).  (Ladies, please get yourself checked regularly!)

Surgery (lumpectomy) was today, October 23rd, 2018.  They took out one lymph node, also.  So, I will keep you posted on how things go.  I’ll have radiation for sure.

Just recently, I came across an excerpt from Ann Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way: A Daring Path Into the Abundant Life.  She is sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office.  Another woman is there, talking about her “cancer checkup”.

The woman says, ” ‘You know what? … Dr. Reid says … that in our human bodies, the cells that only benefit themselves are known as cancer.’ ”  Ann goes on to write, “How had I never known that cancer is the cells that only take for themselves?  Cancer is what refuses to die to self.”

 

On Prejudice (Mine)

I am prejudiced — but, hopefully, each day I get less and less so.  I attend regular meetings of Prejudiced People Anonymous (well, at least in my mind).

It started early in life.  It was in the air, in my culture, all around me.  “That group …, ” “Those people …,” “That church …,” people around me would say.

But, as I grew older, I realized that prejudice was wrong.  Sadly, the damage was already done.  I fought against the ideas in my head, but they still came.  I felt helpless, knowing that my attitude was wrong.

It didn’t help when some people would confirm my prejudices.  Yes, some people who were “different” did bad things to me.  But others were good and kind.

Over the years, it helped to learn about other cultures and religions, their background, and what they have suffered.  The more I had contact with people who were “different,” the less prejudiced I became.

One of my turning points happened like this:  I had been attending night classes at a state university.  I was walking on campus to my car, when a woman of an ethnic group that I felt most afraid of (or most angry at?) was coming from the other direction. She said hello and was very friendly and had kind words. Suddenly it hit me that I did not deserve her kindness, after the bad thoughts I’d had against her particular group.  It was a grace received, again — undeserved.  I realized that it wasn’t the person’s group that mattered, it was who they were individually that mattered.

There is hope for sinners, even for people like me!  God can change our hearts!  If you are prejudiced, pray for God to show you the beauty of each person.

The Curious Case of Grandma’s Ashes

When my grandmother died in 1986, she was cremated and the ashes brought to my parents home. For some unknown reason, my parents did not have her ashes buried, and they sat in a box, sometimes not even in the house but in their garage, for nearly 26 years. This is how she was finally laid to rest:

In 2008, my sister Mary’s younger son, Brian, through his college, had a semester abroad in Hungary, specifically the city of Budapest. Hungary happens to be our place of ancestry, as our parents, and my grandmother, were born there. My parents came to the U.S., along with my older brother, in about 1949 and Grandma Anna came in about 1951. So Mary and her husband decided to visit Brian that April, and to combine that trip with a visit to our relatives there.

Mary had never been to Hungary and it was a thrill for her to meet many family members and to visit places of family history. One relative she met was my Aunt Rozsi (the “zs” is pronounced like the “s” in the English word closure), later to play a part in this story.

On their return, my husband Tom and I were infected with Mary’s excitement about her visit to Hungary. We decided that we would also go, along with our children. It sounded like a good time to introduce the children (not to mention Tom) to my background, while they were both still at home. So we made our plans to visit that very same year.

Meanwhile, Mary had the brilliant idea that we should take Grandma’s ashes to Hungary and perhaps we’d be able to have her buried in the land of her birth. I researched the laws online regarding carrying human ashes on an airplane, but the question of legality was a bit unclear. It did not seem, however, that any serious trouble would occur. We did have the official paper stating that the box contained human remains. Still, I was unsure and decided to keep the ashes in my checked-in luggage so that during carry-on inspection, it would not become an issue.

Well, we did get through without any incident, and arrived in Hungary with the ashes still in my suitcase. We had let the relatives in Budapest know ahead of time that we might bring Grandma’s ashes. When we got to Budapest and met my Aunt Rozsi, we told her about the ashes. She enthusiastically agreed to see what she could do about arranging a burial.

My Aunt Rozsi is an incredible woman. In her late sixties or early seventies, she was still full of energy and did not hesitate to be out at night in the city of Budapest, moving about easily on public transportation. She is a short little woman who takes copious pictures of people, sometimes to their annoyance, but she is totally lovable.

So, while we were out touring the city one day, Aunt Rozsi spent the entire day arranging for a pre-ceremony, for the burial, and for a church service to follow. This involved a lot of bureaucracy, because my Grandma’s ex-husband, next to whom she would be buried, had a special cemetery plot, apparently protected by the writer’s union to which he had belonged. Not only that, but to coordinate the many people involved, official and unofficial, was a momentous task.

Well, she pulled it off! If I recall correctly, it was the next day or two days later that the funeral was scheduled! At least 10 or 15 relatives came, one from perhaps 50 miles away. It was a beautiful time, followed by a luncheon attended by everyone in Hungary who could participate.

We owe a great debt to Aunt Rozsi. Grandma was finally laid to rest, after 26 years. Rest in peace, Grandma.

Hot Dogs for Dinner

     (All temperatures are Fahrenheit.) Our heater was repaired last week, after about five days of non-operation. I was so happy that I cried from gratitude. It’s not that we’re experiencing frigid weather — I was able to warm the house up to a high of 66 degrees each day, by opening any curtains where the sun could stream in. Perhaps I’m a “climate wimp”. But, I had thought of how things might have been different — it could have been 32 degrees outside, it could have been a longer period of time, and so on.  I thought of homeless people, people who can’t pay their heating bills, and about refugees and migrants who suffer through miserable weather. And I was so grateful for the friendly repairman who promptly came, once the needed part for our 30-year-old heater had been obtained.  Not to mention, grateful that we could pay the bill.

This brought to mind another story, which happened around 1947, told to me by my mother. My parents and older brother had immigrated to the U.S., after being World War II refugees (displaced persons) in Europe for several years. They had been sponsored by my mother’s cousin, who had immigrated to the U.S. before World War II, perhaps being admitted on the strength of being a scientist. My mother’s cousin helped my parents to get a house. When they sat down to their first dinner there, they started to cry.  Why? The dinner consisted of hot dogs and perhaps some other items. They had never had anything as good as hot dogs in the refugee camp, and they realized that others like them were still suffering deprivation.

After 70 years, somehow I’m still reliving my parents’ story. So whenever I eat hot dogs, or my heater is working, I’m grateful.

The Gift of a Sunrise

Maybe God wanted to do something nice for me after I had to have a blood
test (does anyone like them?), or He just wanted to delight me somehow,
but when I came out of the medical clinic about 7:30 a.m., this is the sunrise
that He showed me:

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The California Primary Election

Just voted in the California primary.
 
Okay, the candidate choices aren’t great, but there are issues to vote on as well.
 
The first few times I voted I cried with gratitude, and many times thereafter, even if it was an election for water district or some other obscure thing.
 
My parents left Hungary near the end of WWII, partly because the Russian communists were invading. For the next 40 years or so, Hungarians (including the relatives I had who did not leave) had to endure communism, not the least problem of which is there is only one political party!
 
When I first visited there in 1980, before the Berlin wall came down and countries became freer, people were still afraid of the occupying Russians. People of faith could not get good jobs, and many people worked two or three jobs to make ends meet. My relatives even told me that to talk politics or religion, you would not, for example, do that while rowing a boat on the water, because sound carries over the water. They were that paranoid.
 
Many people have fought for the right to vote. I try never to miss an election, even if it’s for the water district.

Tale of the Rat

One day last week I lifted the lid of our compost bin (a cheap plastic one with a lid, about 3′ by 3′ by 3′), and saw a fat tail disappearing into the pile. I thought, “It’s either a lizard, a snake, or a rat (ughh for the rat, at least). Friday or Saturday I called my brother-in-law about it; he owns a pest control company. After talking to him, he said it’s most likely a rat, and that is probably the usual thing, since I do put vegetable scraps and eggshells in the bin, along with leaves and coffee grounds.

So, we put 2 big traps in there (not one outside; I didn’t want to trap a skunk or something). So Sunday there was no activity; no trap sprung nor tail seen. Today I went out about noon to look in. Staring up at me was a lizard about 8 inches long, whose tail could have been the one I saw earlier. So for now, I have sprung the traps and put them away. A lizard is okay, I guess.

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