Sabbatical

Walter Brueggemann, in his book “Sabbath as Resistance”, referred to the idea of “seven”-ing our lives. “People who keep Sabbath live all seven days differently,” he said.

I decided that 2018 will be my Sabbath year.

Each week, I hope to reclaim the Sabbath by turning off my phone and computer. Imagine 24 hours every week without the tyranny of the urgent!

I mentioned this to my co-early-morning lifeguard this morning and her reply was a little off-putting. She said nothing, as in not a word. I babbled on for a little longer about taking a break from devices. Still nothing — from a usually good conversationalist. Either this is the dumbest idea in my history of dumb ideas, or I struck a nerve, or she just didn’t “get” it, or it was some sort of weird allergic response. Note to self: don’t discuss device abstinence at 5:30 in the morning.

Even the computer games, which I have so often rationalized as a way to relax, will go.

St. Francis de Sales said,

For if we spend too much time in a game, it is no longer recreation, but occupation: we refresh neither our minds nor our bodies, but on the contrary, we depress and weary them.

St. Francis penned that 400 years ago, never imagining this world of handheld devices that entertain. Once a week, those games won’t even be an option for me. I will power down.

Brueggemann spoke also about the Sabbath year — “Every seven years [is] an enactment of the sabbatic principle.” Basically, this means spending the whole year living generously.

In the Biblical Sabbath year, the land lay fallow. (Fallow means “usually cultivated land that is allowed to lie idle during the growing season” Merriam-Webster) I tried to think what I could leave fallow.

And I settled here. This blog. My story.

This blog began as a place to write about my mother and my father, and caregiving, and the struggles of life in a large family. I wrote the story that I know best — my story.

For one year, I’ll set my story aside and (try to) tell other people’s stories.

Sort of like Humans of New York, on a much lesser scale. And not as good. And without photographs.

Of course, I’m in the story because I’m the narrator, but I hope to minimize me. It may be a skill that I’ll hone as the year goes on.

I’m starting with a man named Bruce. I listened to his story on a flight from Nashville to Detroit 7 years ago — and I still think about it.

Augur’s Bookstore

Below is a semi-updated post from January 1, 2014:

davidsons_large1New Year’s Day is like the back room at the old Augur’s Bookstore

In Cooperstown, on the corner of Pioneer and Main, is a bookstore.  Well, it used to be a bookstore.  They still sell books there, but now they also sell  jewelry.  And toys.  And children’s clothes. (see update below for its current usage)

In the old days, it used to be a bookstore that also sold office supplies.

In the left-hand back corner of the store was a display case full of fine writing instruments.  Not 99¢ Bic pens, but Cross pens that were gold or silver, and fountain pens with ink cartridges.  I even think there were bottles of black India ink and blotters.

On the top of that glass case was a display Flair pens of every color imaginable.  I loved to try new colors.

To the left of the back left hand corner, tucked away where it was easy to miss, was a door that led to my favorite room in the whole store.  It might have been my favorite room on all of Main Street Cooperstown.  It was quiet and smelled like paper.

Often there was a man working back there at desk.  He sat with ledger books and an adding machine.  A glance at me over the top of his half-eyes told me that he knew I was there;  then, he would set back to work.

And I would begin my perusal.

Poster-board of many shapes and sizes stood in a rack as I entered.  I never cared much about poster-board.

Blank notebooks were neatly stacked and arranged on a shelf along the whole right-hand wall.  Nice paper, onion skin and bonded paper of varying weights, filled boxes and shelves.  Ledger books stood in one stack, and receipt books made up another.

It was a room of possibility.  Everything was blank, just waiting.  Waiting to be filled with all sorts of words or numbers or pictures.

I miss it.  Because Augur’s now has become more.  More stuff.  Less potential. It’s funny how that works.

But New Year’s Day — it’s like that back room.

Today, I can run my hands over the blank pages of the new year.

And imagine.


2018 update — now the store is called The Beverage Exchange. I went in there for the first time a few days before Christmas to buy a bottle of bourbon that one of my children wanted to give as a gift. Two things I never imagined — that Augur’s would one day become a glorified liquor store, and that I would ever be purchasing bourbon.

I asked to peek in the back room when I was there. I could see the open door and couldn’t resist.

“Sure,” said the store clerk. “That’s where things happen.”

It was part storage, part kitchen. In the evenings, The Beverage Exchange is a cocktail lounge — at least, that’s what the clerk said. A utility sink replaced the man at the desk. Boxes of who-knows-what replaced the countertop stacked with empty notebooks.

It was progress, I suppose.

But I felt sad.

Last year Owen had me for our gift exchange.  Funny how that worked — last year he had me, this year I had him.

Part of his gift to me was two unassuming blank journals.

I have a “thing” for blank journals and I think it can be traced back to Augur’s.

Over 2017, I not only filled the journals that Owen gave me, but I stockpiled a small arsenal of new blank journals.

2018 will be the Year of the Journal. I have so many plans for them.

So much possibility lies in those clean pages.

And in 2018.

The Gift

’twas nine days before Christmas
and my throat was so sore
my muscles so achy
I couldn’t ignore

So I drove to a walk-in
and waited a bit
before being ushered to
a new place to sit

With my butt on blue vinyl
and my foot on the step
I told the provider
“I need a rapid-strep”

Looking over her glasses
she tried to assess
this hoarse bossy patient —
should she say yes?

“I’ve no time to be sick,”
I tried to explain.
“A script for penicillin
and I’ll be on my way.”

A swab of my throat
a twenty minute wait
a knock on the door
then came the update —

No strep.

Dang. It was not the news I was hoping for. Not that anyone hopes for strep throat, but it’s a known quantity and a relatively easy fix.

“I could check for flu,” she said, but I declined. I doubted it was flu. I had no fever and I wasn’t feeling that bad. Just a sore throat and achy joints.

But the sore throat got progressively worse. Over the next few days I couldn’t swallow without pain. My children watched while I grimaced to swallow the Advil that brought some level of relief but I had to take twice my normal dose and repeat it every 4 hours.

I stopped eating. Well, mostly. Yogurt slid down with minimal pain. If I cut the thing I wanted to eat into tiny bits and chewed them a gazillion times, I could swallow, but it would take a good half hour to eat a single piece of toast with peanut butter on it.

Christmas loomed on the horizon. I really didn’t have time to be sick.

“Just make it go away,” I prayed. Surely God understood how inconvenient this was. I longed to wake up in the morning and swallow painlessly. But it didn’t happen.

I made an appointment, this time to see a doctor.

“Do you have a primary care provider?” the scheduler asked.

“No, I haven’t for a few years,” I told her. The older I get, the less I like to go to the doctor.

“Would you like to see a male or female provider?” she asked.

“I really don’t care. Just put me in with the next available,” I said.

She set up an appointment for the Thursday before Christmas with a new female provider.

When I met Dr. Cerna, I immediately liked her. She was pleasant and thorough. She listened well. She respected my concerns. Then she gave my problem a name: Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease.  She drew a little picture of it for me on the back of a piece of paper.

“I’m not a very good artist,” she said apologetically, but I could recognize the esophagus, the stomach, and the duodenum. Then she added little arrows showing the direction things should be going and more little arrows that showed the direction things were going.

Finally, she sent me on my way with a follow-up appointment scheduled, information about Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease which included dos and don’ts, and a prescription.

So here I am, one week later, and I can swallow again. I can eat without pain. In fact, I feel pretty darn good.

AND — I’m ready for 2018 with some new eating guidelines.

  • Small meals.
  • Small bites.
  • Chew well
  • No rushed eating

I’m going to keep a food diary, to hold me accountable, and to see which foods affect me negatively.

Over Christmas, when I failed to eat properly, my body reminded me. GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease) feels almost like a gift, forcing me to slow down, allowing me to gain control over an area of my life that I have often felt is beyond my control.

Sometimes gifts come in the most unexpected packages and arrive in the most unexpected ways. The quick fix isn’t always the best thing. Good things don’t always feel cozy.

My “theme” for 2017 had been “Leaning In.” I didn’t post every day, one of the goals I set for myself — but I did pursue relationships and I tried to train myself to find the beauty in things.

So finishing the year with GERD felt like a final exam. Lean in. Embrace this thing. Find the beauty in it.

I can’t wait for 2018.