Posted by: ritagone | April 17, 2019

Call the Midwife

Well, if you were to put a gun to my head and ask me to name my favorite TV show of all time, I would have to say that it’s “Call the Midwife,” a British period piece of the late 1950’s into the early 60’s, set in an impoverished section of London near the River Thames. It’s based on the memoirs of midwife Jennifer Worth, whose aged voice-over which is heard at the opening and closing of the show is supplied by Vanessa Redgrave.  The cast is magnificent, the writing is beautiful, and the sets make you feel that you know what it was like to live in that place and during that time.

But what really wins my heart is the frequent use of voice-over narration like this, which was from last week’s episode dealing with a baby born with a cleft palate into a family of rambunctious siblings to a harried mother whose husband was at sea most of the year:

“We can decide to be happy, make much out of little, embrace the warmth of our ordinary days. Life unfolds, as a mystery, an enterprise whose outcome cannot be foretold. We do not get what we expect, we stumble on cracks, are faced with imperfection, bonds are tested and tightened, and our landscapes shift in sunshine and in shade.  There is light. There is. Look for it. Look for it shining over your shoulder on the past. It was light where you went once; it is light where you are now; it will be light where you will go again.”

How can anyone resist such beautiful sentiments expressed bravely and honestly at the end of an hour-long episode that wrings your emotions and makes you stop and think about humanity in all its glory and its gainliness?

For eight years this series has touched me and made me both laugh and cry.  I have watched characters come and go, age, die off, and battle such things as alcoholism or whether or not to stay in the calling of a nun or return to civilian life and marry.  There’s no spectacle the way there is with “Game of Thrones,” to be sure; just the occasional kids’ Christmas or Easter program where the little ones are dressed in costume and someone invariably goofs up a line or spills red punch on the outfit right before going onstage.

They’ve tackled subject matter that was controversial back in the day historically (abortion, Downs syndrome, wife beating) and remains so even today.  There is humor that comes at just the right time, as if the writers and producers know when to lighten up and let the audience laugh instead of cry. (And I’ll wager that’s exactly what they do know!)  I know many people love the sentimentality of “This Is Us” right now, but I find “Call the Midwife” much less manipulative, more touching in its story lines.  If you’re a “This Is Us” fan, in fact, watch an episode of each of the shows and see which one feels more sincere, less contrived.  I’d be interested in what you have to say.

In short, if you haven’t already guessed it, I love this show.  You can watch it on Netflix or Amazon Prime (but you have to pay for each episode on Prime), and if you’re looking for something really good, this is where I’m sending you.

Hey, have I ever steered you wrong before?

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Posted by: ritagone | April 3, 2019

Nothing Is Better Than an Evening with Old Friends

Last night (well, at 5 p.m.,

to be exact, because we’re older now and disband at the other end of the evening earlier than we used to) I got together with three old friends, ladies I have known for the better part of my adult life, part of a group which used to call itself, with wild and sarcastic abandon, “The Ladies of the Night.”  It was a title we bestowed on ourselves, tongue in cheek, and which we thought was very funny.  We still do.

Last night the four of us met at one of our homes for a deliciously prepared dinner and dessert, wine (or Diet Coke, in my case, because of my headaches), lots of reminiscing, laughter, and some tears, because you can’t be friends with people for 30 or so years without bringing up some pretty emotional and hard-to-relive experiences.

I learned a lot last night: I learned that the human bladder is a delicate thing, that cooking and presentation, while I can thoroughly enjoy someone else doing it, is definitely not my “thing,” that three hours is not enough time to get everyone’s story in, and that time actually does fly when you’re having fun.

And probably the most important lesson of all: old friends are hard to come by.  If you have someone who’s been in your life for more than a decade, cherish them.  Treasure the history you have built together, and let them know what they mean to you.  Spend time together whenever and wherever you can.  Laugh a lot.  Cry even more.

And if you don’t have any old friends that fall into this category that I’ve been describing, go out today and start making some new old friends to last the rest of your life!

I’ll be in New York City next Wednesday, so I won’t be writing next week.  See you on the 17th with some good stories from the trip to the Big Apple!

Posted by: ritagone | March 27, 2019

Your Defining Moment

One of my favorite devotional writers, Christine Caine, in her book “Unshakeable,” writes the following, and I’d like to share it this morning with you, dear readers:

 

Your Defining Moment

 

Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? – Esther 4:14

 

At some point in your Christian life, you’ll be faced with a crossroads decision. We face them when we consider changing jobs, moving out of state, or going back to school.  We face them when we have to choose between looking out for our own interests or the interests of others.

Esther was a queen in the Bible who faced such a decision. An evil adviser had persuaded her husband, King Xerxes, to sentence her people, the Jews, to death.  Her uncle Mordecai pointed out that she was uniquely positioned to save the people – to petition the king.  But it was dangerous.  Esther chose to put God and the people first.

I call that a defining moment – and eventually, we all have them. Maybe yours hasn’t happened yet, but at some point you will have the opportunity to make an eternal difference in the lives of others.  It may be something as simple as driving someone to the doctor or skipping a movie to be with a hurting friend, but it will be a defining moment. A moment when you choose to do the right thing and it affects someone’s life.

Keep close to God and attune your heart to His plans around you, so you don’t miss any defining moments.

 

God, please show me the defining moments You send my way. Thank You for opportunities to make an eternal difference in someone’s life today and every day.

Posted by: ritagone | March 20, 2019

Paranoia! Conspiracy! Deception! Lies!

Now that I have your attention, I want to tell you about an HBO Documentary I just watched –The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley – which I think every

one reading this should find a way to see if HBO is not readily available to you.

It’s the now famous story of Elizabeth Holmes, wunderkind who started the company Theranos promising to revolutionize blood testing by using a simple finger prick instead of (what often seems like) vials and vials and vials of blood from your veins.  With people on her Board of Directors like former Secretary of State George Schultz and Henry Kissinger, with her blonde good looks and personable ways (although the fact that she hardly ever seems to blink is, I found, a bit off-putting), she built an office building/laboratory in Silicon Valley after dropping out of Stanford, razzled and dazzled everyone for years, even when the promise became impossible to fulfill.

What amazed me as I watched whistleblowers and journalists as the heroes of this story, was that how often we are bamboozled by the things I mentioned in the above paragraph: promises, well-known names attached to the project, an attractive founder who can be very articulate about its prospects, and other factors that just turn our heads and make us believe, as one writer said, “in unicorns.”

        The story behind this documentary is all too familiar, and illustrates to me a very definite point: we can be pretty gullible, pretty susceptible to the lies and deceptions of other people too often.  Why is that?  Sometimes it’s because we want to think well and positively of the people we know.  Other times it’s because they are so adept at pulling the wool over our eyes.  Elizabeth Holmes appeared so sweet, so earnest, so enthusiastic about her mission in life, to bring this one aspect of health care to as many of the general population as she could, with her mantra being, “No one should have to say good-bye too soon,” that it was hard to resist her appeal.

And yet.  And yet.  Beneath the sales pitch, beneath the enthusiasm, machines were being switched, patients were being fooled, and staff being asked to lie and cheat if they wanted to keep their jobs. It got more and more out of hand.

Thankfully, the company is no more.  What was at one time a nine billion dollar business is now worth zero.  But it makes me wonder what other companies and people are out there trying their best to swindle, to lie and cheat and deceive us.

No wonder we need a free press to get to the bottom of things, to expose these kinds of deceptions.  No wonder we praise the whistleblowers (sometimes, whereas sometimes we don’t) who are brave enough to take a risk to come forward and speak the truth.

You don’t need to go hunting for a good fictionalized movie to see this weekend.  Just find this documentary, sit back, watch, and be amazed once again at what people are capable of.

 

Posted by: ritagone | March 13, 2019

A Simple Thought

So simple.

And yet so eloquent.

A great, powerful, wonderful society is all of those things when old men plant trees knowing they will not live to sit under the shade of those trees.

In other words, when those old men sacrifice for the next generations willingly and generously.

I don’t think I need to say much more than this.

Think about it.  Ponder it. Process it.

It’s so simple, yet so profound.

Posted by: ritagone | March 6, 2019

Even This Day???

 

One of my devotional books this year is “The One Year Book of Hope” by Nancy Guthrie, a woman who sustained great loss in her life yet chooses to love and honor God and Jesus anyway.  Anyway.  That’s the key: being able to go on and go on well.  Here’s her writing for one day that moved me greatly, and I wanted to share it with you.

 

EVEN THIS DAY?

“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God!” – Psalm 139:16-17

 

On the days when life seems good, it is easy to say to God, “Every day of my life was recorded in your book.” But on the day tragedy strikes, on the day our lives are changed forever by loss, we wonder.  Was this day of my life written in your book, by your hand? Is this the story you have intended to write for my life, or has there been a terrible mistake?

On April 20, 2001, missionary Veronica Bowers was in a Cessna over Peru, holding her seven-month-old daughter, Charity, in her lap. With them were Veronica’s husband, Jim, and six-year-old son, Cory, when Peruvian authorities mistook them for drug couriers and opened fire on their aircraft. One bullet passed by Jim’s head and made a hole in the windshield. Another bullet passed through Veronica’s back and stopped inside her baby, killing them both.

We can’t help but wonder, Was April 20, 2001, written in God’s book?

A week later Jim Bowers said at his wife and daughter’s funeral, “I want to thank my God. He’s a sovereign God. I’m finding that out more now. Could this really be God’s plan for Roni and Charity, God’s plan for Cory and me and our family? Roni and Charity were instantly killed by the same bullet. Would you say that’s a stray bullet? That was a sovereign bullet.”

A sovereign bullet? Think about it. Jim Bowers went on to say that the people who shot the bullet were used by God to accomplish his purpose, comparing them to the Roman soldiers whom God used to put his Son on the cross (Acts 2:23). At first it can seem absurd to label what happened as anything other than a senseless tragedy. But Jim Bowers sees beyond the real culpability of those who fired weapons at their tiny plane and sees instead the sovereignty of God. His words reflect a ruthless trust in God.

Are you willing for your belief in God’s sovereignty to permeate your thinking and captivate your heart, enabling you to write across the arrows that pierce your heart and the hurts that invade your life: sovereign?

 

Writer of all my days, it seems a dangerous prayer to invite your sovereignty to rule what is written every day of my life, but knowing how precious your thoughts are about me helps me to trust you and entrust my life to you fully.

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | February 27, 2019

How Easy It Is To Be Hypocritical!

 

 

 

I watched the Academy Awards last Sunday night, like many others, rooting for my favorites and wondering which movies would win and which actors.  It’s fun to guess.  This year I had $5 in a pool of voters, so I had a lot at stake!!!!  (I lost, by the way, badly, but that’s another story.)

What I want to talk about briefly today is how easy it is to be a hypocrite and not even notice.  I say this first of all about myself, because the minute I use someone else as an illustration, I realize that I too make the same kinds of mistakes.  So know as I write these words that I put myself in this category of unwitting hypocrite too.

I’m speaking, though, about Spike Lee, the director this past year of “BlackkKlansman,” which, I will say, was my favored movie to win Best Picture.  I thought it was a well done film, memorable, with substance and gravitas, a film to last for a long while if it had won this major award.  Poor Mr. Lee has not done well in the awards department, having never won as Best Director, so he’s due.  He’s a good director, I’m told.  I wouldn’t know.  I always think I could direct a movie; it doesn’t look that difficult.  Then my husband rolls his eyes, my son walks out of the room in disgust, and I know I’ve said the wrong thing, made the absolute wrong assumption.

Anyway, just in case you didn’t watch the Awards program this past week, Spike Lee did win an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for “BlackkKlansman,” and at the end of his very muddled speech, he launched into a plan to derail Trump’s second run for the presidency.  “Let’s all mobilize,” he said. “Make the moral choice between love versus hate.  Let’s do the right thing!”

“Let’s do the right thing!”

“Make the moral choice between love versus hate.”

Got it.

Only, not even a few hours later, Mr. Lee was criticizing the movie “Green Book” for willing Best Picture with some not very nice comments and unloving statements.  Where’s the love?  Where’s the right thing when what he wanted to happen didn’t happen?

It’s called hypocrisy when you say one thing and then turn right around and do another. Or say one thing and then an hour later say something completely opposite of what you said earlier.

We all do it; we’re all guilty of it.

I just wish that Spike Lee – public figure that he is, admired by so many that he also is – would recognize that words and attitude coming from him mean something and say a lot more than cries to do the right thing and make the moral choice between love and hate do.

And then I’ll also take what I’m writing here to heart in my own life.

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | February 20, 2019

Decisions, Decisions!!

Sometimes making a decision feels better even than eating ice cream.

Michael and I have been debating, talking, processing, thinking over the last year or so about our living situation: should we stay where we are, in a rather large (4,000 square feet) house with a big back yard and a pool and spa which are hardly ever used or downsize to a smaller house, even though the one we’re in now suits us as far as floor plan (no formal dining room, no family room, we each have an office, there are two guest rooms and a master bedroom, and all on one floor except for one guest room which we never ever go into) and location?

And then, through a set of circumstances, we found ourselves with lots of quiet time, so we set about talking to one another A LOT!!  And we listened A LOT to what we each had to say, how we felt, our dreams and plans for the future.

And we came to a wonderful consensus that we wanted to stay where we were, unused swimming pool and all.  (I must confess that the pool guy for some strange and unexplained reason doesn’t send us a bill and hasn’t for a few years.  So it’s essentially a free pool, which makes it a lot more palatable to own for when it’s wanted during the summer for grandkids and poolside parties.)

So now we’re on a mission to rehabilitate our house so that it’s the way we want it for the remainder of the time we will live in it: new flooring (that is not carpet) in the bedrooms and two offices, new windows that will do a better job keeping us insulated and draft-free, tiles on the roof repaired.  You get it.

But what really feels good about all of this is that we have made a decision, we’ve made it together, we’re on the same page about it, and we’re moving forward!!!

Are there decisions in your life that you need to make, but you find yourself stalled, unable to pull the trigger?  I’m praying for you, even if I don’t know who you are  specifically or what the details of your decisions are.  Because I know what it’s like to be undecided…and then I know the wonderful joy and relief of decision making.  And I want that for everyone reading this.

Posted by: ritagone | February 6, 2019

Facing Something a Little Bit Scary

 

 

First of all, my disclaimer: what I’m about to share with you is not scary at all compared to what many of you reading this are facing.  I realize that.  So don’t shoot the messenger.  But this is my experience, and so I share it because it’s what I have, what’s happening to me now, and maybe it will help someone even a little bit.

I suffer from migraine headaches,  as many of you know, and have done so for almost 50 years.  They have morphed and changed patterns over the years, but they have always remained knock-outs when a bad one comes along, and in recent years I’ve had bad ones about six to ten times a month.  At those times I take to my bed, close up the room to make it as dark as possible, go into a fetal position (figuratively) and try to sleep if I can.  I lose at least a day in my life. (And losing a day at my age is no small thing anymore!). 

Now along has come a new migraine drug that is a co-venture between Amgen and Novartis, called Aimovig, and I qualified for the trials and had success there, so I’m now on a regular prescription basis: once a month I inject myself with an Epi-pen with the Aimovig and hope for the best.

So far, so good.

The Aimovig seems to be changing my headaches.

For the better.

So here’s the scary part: My headaches almost always start in the wee hours of the morning: midnight, 1 a.m., 2 a.m.  In the past, I would get up, take an Imitrex, go back to bed and sleep, then wake up headache free.  The problem is that you can only take so much Imitrex, as it’s not good for your organs or something.  Of course not.  There must be a catch if a drug does something as miraculous as getting rid of a migraine when it starts!  So whenever I have a clear day, with nothing going on, I have had to allow the headache to get worse and take to my bed, as described above, and waste a day.  Then for some strange reason my system re-boots itself and I can usually go about a week without a sign of a headache.  Don’t ask me why; in fact, don’t ask my neurologists why.  No one seems to know how the brain or the nervous system works for each migraine sufferer.

But now, with the Aimovig, there’s a new pattern: when the headache begins, if I get up and don’t take the Imitrex, there’s a good chance that the headache will go away on its own. 

I say “good chance” because there’s the possibility too that it won’t.  That’s the risk referred to in the title of this piece.  If it’s a day that has a lot to it: I’m teaching, we’re going out to dinner, the theater, whatever, can I risk not taking my Imitrex and winding up with a really bad headache that means I can’t function?

My neurologist has said that I have to push through this concern and take the risk to let the Aimovig do its thing.  Easy for him to say. But when you’re sitting up in bed at midnight and contemplating the to-do list for that day, and when you know that popping an Imitrex will quickly solve the headache problem, and if you don’t take it, your headache might get worse, what would you do?  I’ve even taken to getting up at midnight and going to my home office, because there seems to be something about getting up and starting to function normally that affects the headaches positively and sends them on their way.  But again, it’s a calculated risk. Every time I don’t take the Imitrex and let the Aimovig work, and the headache – however slight – does go away, I’m encouraged the next time to not take the Imitrex.

But it’s a risk.  Always a risk.  And always scary.

That feeling of suddenly realizing you’re headache free is one of the great wonders of my life now.  Makes me almost break into song.

What is there in YOUR life that scares you but that you try to do anyway?  I think we all have actions and deeds that we know we have to risk doing because we’re better people when we do.  But that doesn’t mean the scariness goes away.  And it doesn’t make the risk any less.

So I sort of know what you’re going through, and I do feel your pain, a bit.

Let’s try to be braver together.

 

Posted by: ritagone | January 23, 2019

Call Me Sucker!

 

I realize more and more that I’m a sucker for the ads on Facebook.

So far this year I’ve bought a bracelet (which promptly fell apart), a bra guaranteed to be the most comfortable piece of clothing which you’ll ever wear, and which felt slightly less comfortable than a suit of armor when I tried to put it on (unsuccessfully), and a hand-held vacuum which supposedly gets into the hard to vacuum places like drawers and keyboards but which I failed to realize requires a real vacuum on the end of it to work.  (I thought it was self-contained, and so I marveled at the genius of it.  So much so that I bought one for my son and one for my daughter. Yes, I bought three.  Two of them are still sitting here at my house; one is still in the original box.  I literally can’t give them away.  I am out about $60 for that stupidity.)  I’ve also bought a few other items which I won’t share with you, because I think I’ve successfully made my point.

I know that Facebook knows full well that putting ads on its website is going to garner customers, because, come on, otherwise why are they doing it?  And I’m one of those customers, apparently, who sees something and can’t resist.  Everything looks absolutely wonderful when I see the little boxed ad in my post feed, and I must have it.

But when it finally comes to my house and I unwrap it, it’s never – well, almost never – as wonderful as it appeared in the ad.  It didn’t change my life and make me smarter, more beautiful, younger, sexier, cooler, or whatever else it was promising.  The shoes from Brazil are not that comfortable.  The pillow guaranteed to give me the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had.  Nope.  Fail.

So I’m looking to join a support group called Suckers Anonymous, even as I know that writing this means I’m not anonymous anymore. I admit I need help.

And isn’t that the first step toward recovery?

So here I am, posting this on Facebook, and while I’m here….

 

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