A Little Help

Last Tuesday, I walked out into the humid heat already pressing down on the world to take Rebar out for his morning walk* and stopped dead in my tracks, my mind racing to begin problem solving. The dogwood was down.

I loved that dogwood.

I didn’t have time for a tree removal project.

My car was blocked in the driveway further down (luckily not under the tree, even if it was small).

No one has time for unplanned developments. But, really, I did not have time. I had just gotten back from Iowa where I had led a five-day workshop (9:00 am – 11:45 am all five days). I was leaving the next day for the next yearly meeting’s annual sessions where Quaker House also had a significant role on Saturday. And . . . there was to be a wedding at Quaker House while I was gone–a very small wedding, but a special day, nonetheless.

My racing problem-solving brain noted branches resting on wires and, thus, the need to not touch, just yet. Did we have a chainsaw in the garage, here? No. I didn’t remember seeing one–but friendly neighbors were just passing for their walk. Rebar and I asked them if they had a chainsaw? No, but they suggested neighbors they thought would be willing to help with that. I called the utility company and texted the neighbor across the street. Once the utility company cleared the tree for safety, Neighbor Across the Street would not only bring chainsaw, but would gladly help clear the tree. And, he did.

My gratitude for his assistance was maximum even without an additional development. We hire a lady to come by and give the House a good cleaning once a month, except she had not been here in over a month because of a family crisis of her own.

Wedding.

So, I did my best to clean as much as I could before I absolutely had to leave on Wednesday. I also bought a tiny boquet of five colorful roses. I wanted the couple to feel welcomed and that I celebrated this event with them even though I was not there. It was all I could do, but I hoped they would see the little colorful clump as a smile from me.

Along with all of this, a family member sustained a serious injury and had surgery Tuesday morning. There was nothing I could do for them in New England except worry and grieve for the pain and trauma while never stopping for a second in the work I had to get done.

On arrival to University of North Carolina – Wilmington, I just couldn’t keep going any long and collapsed into bed earlier than I have in as long as I can remember . . . after making the bed because dorm living, you know. (I am not complaining. They were very nice apartment-style dorms.)

Back before all of this, when I had originally confirmed Quaker House could be the wedding venue, I knew I would be gone, and I knew that I would want someone I trusted to make sure unknown un-wedding-like things had not happened in or at the house in my absence. Luckily, a Friend readily agreed when I asked her. Luckily, because it gave me a tiny bit of peace of mind when I could not be there myself. Luckily, because she was a lifesaver when, indeed, there was an issue that had popped out. The next day, I got a text from the bride thanking me, telling me it was magical.

When I walked back in the door from Wilmington, I saw the most beautiful flower arrangements that the House-Checking Friend had contributed. I am sure they were loved by the wedding party, but, at that moment, I think I must have loved those flowers more than they might have. It has been a long 18+** days, and seeing those flowers gave me an immediate sense of respite.

 

A little help from my friends.

_______________

* If you look closely in the first photo, you can see Rebar (tied) up at the House.

** I had already had several trips before this 18-day run.

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Lukewarm

I am not prone to panic attacks
never been handed a
paper bag

Today
a leader churchman I know
called:
“people called Americans want to destroy us.”

The churched
responded:
“They use fake news.”

Today
churchy satire I once enjoyed
mocked
Walled devastation.

Today
A friend of a friend
commented on 3-year-old Sofia’s story as if it wasn’t a
forbidden
either/or choice
ordered

just not caring
to actually
look

Today
A co-helper described two calls for
help
a mother threatened with
deportation
a leader not faking quite well enough

Today
Someone said #weseeyou
in a good way
and I wept
because it meant
#theyfeltcaredfor

Today
someone held up
a glass of wine
for our admiration
of their traveling
care
free

Today
A friend was “perpetually heartbroken”
“radicalized by long-term grief.”

Today
My uncle lamented a crowd chanting
“Send her back”
The comments back
to his lament
somehow
confusingly
divided.

I just hadn’t finished heart breaking
today

“She’s hyperventilating.
If she doesn’t slow her breathing, she’s going to
pass out.”
The one time.
Pitocin gave no break
Epidural-giver gone.

in through the nose

in, through the nose

Fight or Flight
but
Don’t look away

~Kindra Bradley, July 17, 2019

Yeshiva Girl by Rachel Mankowitz

The author of Yeshiva Girl, Rachel Mankowitz, navigates several delicate lines, and she does that well.

Most prominently, Ms. Mankowitz captures the emotional chaos that results when an adult (here, the father) persistently and aggressively manipulates his child, his spouse, people at his work, and his religious community. In the novel, that manipulation coexists with additional sexual abuse and threatening physical behavior, but Ms. Mankowitz does not dwell on graphic details of these events. Rather, it is the resulting fragmented thoughts and perceptions of his victim and the distorted reality experienced by other adults that is the dominant, and important, storyline. Graciously, the author rescues us from overwhelming despair of such a disturbing topic by including characters who are genuinely caring and good, despite also being human.

Additionally, Ms. Mankowitz explores religious questions that surface when people interact with sacred texts. Because her main character, Isabel, is a teenager, it is natural for her to challenge conventional accepted scriptural stories in a way that seeks for God to make sense and to be approachable. Isabel both demands this possibility and desperately needs it to be validated. These explorations of thought give the novel an added thread of interest to follow, especially for those who have experienced their own faith crises and have, themselves, demanded more of religion than what has been presented for their acceptance and obedience.

Finally, because Ms. Mankowitz expertly chooses and develops characters who have varying ways of expressing their Jewishness and who are all, in their own ways, trying to understand what being Jewish means to them personally, she is able to help readers seamlessly navigate this world, even if it is not that of their own culture or belief.

Clearly, the abuse and manipulation that is the foundation of this story is a content warning for those who desire to approach such topics with awareness and care. Once that concern is acknowledged, the story is skillfully told and worth the read.

* * * * *

“I was seven years old at the time and I did believe in God. I was pretty sure he looked like Grandpa and had butterflies flitting around his head, whispering secrets about all the people he needed to help.”

“I couldn’t help smiling at him [Grandpa], but he was the good kind of smile, the one that warms your belly and makes your shoulders relax out of fight mode.”

Discussing the stoning of women (but not men) for adultery in the Bible: “‘But, . . . how did they get the women to stand still and allow themselves to be stoned?’ . . . ‘Or,’ I said, ‘Maybe the society has so convinced her of her own guilt, teaching her what it means to be a good wife and teaching her how much God hates her, that she just stands there and lets them kill her.'”

One of the boys in Isabel’s class writes, “I feel like the rabbis are trying to bottle up my soul . . . and sell it back to me piecemeal because they are afraid of what I will do if I breathe God, without their guidance on how to use the resulting power.”

One of the rabbi teachers, in response to Isabel’s question about the story of Esther, “We study Torah every day, and in these stories women are used over and over again for the sake of their families’ desires, righteous or otherwise. Have you noticed that? You sit here and I wonder if you hear any of the words you read out loud. . . . My point is: these are not lessons to be followed as is. More often than not we’re reading stories about the pitfalls our forefathers, and foremothers, fell into becausse of their human weaknesses . They were jealous or lonely or selfish or just plain stupid. You are adults, or you will be. If something sounds wrong to you then maybe you’re the one who’s right.” [Underlining added by me.]