Empathy, Faith, Single Living
Hey Tresa, Ed, Sharon, Matt, Deb, Dolly, Blake, Brenda, and Doyle, this is for you!!!!
Empathy. It’s a beautiful thing. It may not be something you give much thought to until you need it. You think you’re empathetic, but then one day you wake up and say to your wounded self, “Which neighborhood street corners, store entrances, and business offices are wheelchair accessible? Crikey, how am I going to get to Safeway, Physical Therapy, and The Real Tequila (I can’t go very long without good Tex-Mex)?” It’s then you realize you never really thought about, or even noticed, handicap accessibility before.
And not just empathy for physical handicap challenges. It’s like you lived for decades thinking you “don’t have a racist bone in your body” until that “Aha Moment” when you realize how offensive you have been to people of color without even knowing it. You’re carelessly throwing around microaggressions right and left without giving it a second thought. All the while you’re the emperor with no clothes showing off your racist bone structure, thinking you’re so sensitive to those around you.
Then you fall down the stairs…
Moving to a new town, with a freshly fractured knee, left me depending on the kindness of strangers. It’s hard to ask for help, especially from people you barely know (or haven’t been around for over 40 years). Fortunately for me there are a lot of empathetic people living here. I was carted around to appointments, church, and fun outings all because people wanted to help. Some jumped in without being asked. That touched me. Those generous people made me wonder how I would rate on the empathy scale.
Brene Brown, in her TED Talk on empathy, discussed the difference between sympathy and empathy. One way she explained it was that sympathy is feeling for someone who is in a deep hole while empathy is climbing down into the hole with them. I think I’ve spent more time talking to needy folks from on high instead of getting dirty and crawling down there with them. Makes me sad. Sorry friends I may have failed. (OK, saying “may” have failed is a coward’s apology. Here I go–Sorry friends I failed!)
I’m grateful for the example people showed me this summer while I was at a very low point. They showed up. Showing up is huge. It’s empathetic. It’s helpful. Hollering “get well soon” from above isn’t. Not that get well sentiments aren’t also greatly appreciated, (because believe me they are!!) but it’s nice to have someone willing to get down in the trenches with you and help.
We all have different gifts. Some people have that sacrificial gift of empathetic service. Others have gifts of finances, leadership, exhorting, or grace. I’ve seen lots of those people over my lifetime, too. We all have a role in this life. Different gifted roles for differently gifted folks.
The Apostle Paul gives direction in I Corinthians 12…
A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other…Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part…and God has put each part just where he wants it…Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? Do we all have the gift of healing?…Of course not!…But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.
And that my friends is where the great LOVE chapter begins. Without love, any gift you have doesn’t matter. I think love is what takes us from sympathy to empathy. It’s what makes us look at people different from us in physical ability, skin color, intelligence, or whatever it may be, through a lens of compassion. It gives us a desire to understand and help.
I’m not fond of the sentiment, “Everything happens for a reason.” I believe things happen, and God can take those events and turn them into a positive thing for His glory (Romans 8:28). God doesn’t desire rape, murder, or falling down the stairs to happen to his children. But he allows it to happen so that He can be glorified, cause us to grow and watch Him work in ways we wouldn’t be able to if a particular event hadn’t happened. So yes, that may cause some to say everything happens for a reason, but I like my spin on it better.
As the light at the end of my tunnel is beginning to shine, I choose to look at The Summer of 2022 this way:
Dana in a wheelchair = BAD
Dana seeing empathy in action = GOOD
I’ve been able to grow, learn and be blessed by strangers who are now my friends. Glory to God for that!
*I can’t take comments here but feel free to comment on the Facebook post. How have you seen empathy in action in your life?
Single Living, Weight Loss
P is for…
Back in 2013 I wrote a book of children’s alphabet stories using alliteration. I’m not gonna lie, I love alliteration. I love it a little too much though because that book is very hard to read. So much so that I say to someone who is oh so silly enough to read such a senseless script to skip certain sections, so they don’t go insane trying to speak such absurdity. Sad.
I use it in conversation occasionally, which I’m sure can be rather annoying. But if you only knew how many alliterations are left rummaging, ranting, and ringing around my brain, unuttered, you would thank me.
Besides conversation, alliteration has followed me into an area of my life where I struggle (struggled, senselessly, for what seems like centuries…ok, I’ll stop…meaning I might…maybe). Food. There it is. Food. I struggle with FOOD! I love food. And for one last alliteration (I promise…possibly) my favorites are Peanut Butter, Popcorn, Potatoes and Pizza.
First off, PEANUT BUTTER. Mmmm, peanut butter. Creamy or Chunky doesn’t matter. I am an equal opportunist peanut butter eater. When I was a child back in the ‘60’s (white go-go boots and all), my mother would send me off to Lindbergh Elementary School in San Diego with a brown paper bag containing only a peanut butter sandwich, no jelly, plus a nickel and a penny for that cute little pint of milk. My favorite snack these days is apple and peanut butter. For that tasty treat I use chunky style. But for my oatmeal concoction I use creamy. For the apple, creamy can be substituted, but the oatmeal just doesn’t feel right with crunchy. Maybe in a pinch I would eat it that way, but it wouldn’t be the same.
Second, POPCORN. I kid myself thinking I will be strong when entering a movie theater, only to find myself in line with my Regal Rewards Card at the ready after just one whiff of the glorious aroma that is popcorn. My family used to eat it every Sunday evening after church while watching The Wonderful World of Disney. Then we began eating it Wednesday nights after church as well. Eventually the Brown house was filled with the scent of popcorn most nights of the week. I’ll never forget receiving a microwave as a gift from my first nanny family. I was in heaven knowing I could have microwave popcorn anytime I wanted. Pure bliss.
Number three, POTATOES. The wonder food. You can fix the cute little gems so many ways. My current favorite is a loaded baked potato. It used to be mashed potatoes (I still judge a restaurant by its mashed potatoes). And don’t get me started on tater tots. Oh, my goodness. Crunchy on the outside, creamy, yummy potato on the inside. Then there’s all the variety of French fries. Steak fries, curly fries, waffle fries, greasy McDonald’s fries. Scalloped potatoes were a childhood favorite. Mother would fix those with ham. I’m quick to order Potato skins for a tasty appetizer. Potatoes are so food lover friendly that you don’t even have to be a good cook (which I am not) to make them delicious. Anything is good with enough butter and sour cream (don’t cha know). Here’s a little tip for you, Mexican food leftovers are perfect on a baked potato. I’m also a fan of pulled pork on a baked potato. Really anything on a baked potato makes me happy. I love potatoes so much. The Mr. Potato Head game, not so much. Not sure why. Maybe because I couldn’t eat him.
And last, but not least, PIZZA. Pizza is new to my “P” favorite foods list. In recent years I can’t seem to get enough. Pizza brought the country together. It was the first food where families welcomed strangers to their house. If some slinky looking sap in a tiny sedan with a pizza light on top or a metallic pizza slice sign slapped on the side of their car (there goes my alliteration gene again), they were welcomed in with open arms. I love it when people bring me food. Once pizza is ordered I wait in anticipation for the doorbell. When it rings, oh joy of joys. It’s pizza time! BBQ chicken pizza, scrumptious. Hawaiian pizza, delightful. Pepperoni pizza, heartburn inducing, but so worth it.
Can you tell I have an unhealthy relationship with food?
After I wrote Single is as Single Does about my single life, I started writing Skinny is as Skinny Does. I’m still in the taste testing stage of that project. We’ll see how it goes. The last book took me 15 years to write. I still wound up single after writing it. I hope I’m not still chubby after finishing my eating book. We shall see Now I’m off to have some peanut butter in my most favorite, coma inducing way. On a spoon. I’m not hard to please.
*I can’t take comments here, but feel free to leave them on the Facebook post. Lemme know what your favorite yumminess is. Thanks for reading!
Faith, Single Living, Weight Loss
After I finished my book, Single is As Single Does (about my life as a FABULOUS single) I began entertaining the idea of having a husband. It seemed an ironic way to move on after the completion of that project. But I started thinking maaaaaybe I should lose some weight first. Then I thought if he doesn’t like a chubby girl who wants him anyway. And that made me want to binge eat, causing me to put on a few extra pounds. Which made me think no relationship is better than a spoonful of peanut butter before bed. Then I was back to thinking being single is pretty great after all.
This has been my life. Single and happy. Single and curious about being married. Single and fine. Single but in a relationship that was headed nowhere. Single and okay. Single and apathetic towards a relationship. Single and content. Single and in a relationship, but he cares about me more than I care about him. Single and in a relationship, but I care about him more than he cares about me. Single and happy yet curious. Single, single, single. And so my story goes.
All the while I knew God loved me. He loved me, and I was single. Jesus was single. The Apostle Paul said it was good, if you could handle it, to remain single. In my life of singleness, I knew God loved me and Paul said it was good so, there you go.
However, in my final season of life I’d like a fun partner to hang out with. A built-in husband kind of partner. No offense to my sweet, caring friends kind of partners. You’re fun, too. Just different. I don’t want to hold hands or kiss and cuddle with you.
About a year and a half ago a friend of mine met a nice man on Match.com. Seven months later they got married. Wow! I had been adamant (and I mean A.Da.Mant.) about not going on ANY dating websites. But after experiencing their love story with her I thought maybe I should just let loose and do it. Be an online dater. Nothing wrong with that! What’s there to lose? (My Dignity. My Money. My Life.)
So, Thanksgiving of last year I did it. A friend came over and taught me how to pose just right to hide a bit of my pudginess, took some photos, and Voila, Miss Dana had herself a dating profile. I spent weeks coming up with just the right blurb about myself. Not too serious, but not too witty either (a man told me once that men don’t like women who are funnier than them). I think I achieved the right balance though, so I put myself out there online (on-the-line as my Dear Dawn and I say) and I waited.
A few days into it several men said “Hi” but moved on. I approached a few and we emailed. If I didn’t respond promptly enough some just disappeared. Then there were the “get to know me” blurbs of men that were so appalling I couldn’t believe any woman would respond. Here’s a few that made me cringe.
- I’m looking for a self-assured and sufficient lady, but not a dependent. Be real but have feelings beyond yourself interest! If you are looking for a daddy- that’s not me. I have grown kids already! Be a partner not a clinger or a Bitch!
- Unless you’re interested in…(a specific sexual act) pass me by.
- I’ve recently had a stroke and am looking for someone to take care of me.
I did not “heart” any of them. I hope no woman did. I think those men should go back, re-read their bio and think, hmmmm, what can I learn about myself here. (Would you want your mother reading that, Sir?)
The qualities you look for in a partner in younger years may be the same kind, yet for different reasons, that you’re looking for during your older years. When you’re young, you look for someone who’d be a good parent for your future children. And someone who is financially responsible so those future children can go to college. Of course, you’d want those same qualities of good parenting and financial responsibility in an older spouse as well. But instead of changing your baby’s diapers you think about how they may have to change your diapers someday. And that their financial responsibility hopefully did put those kids through college so said children can take care of you in your twilight years.
Many singles have had success with on-the-line (hee hee) dating. When it first began people didn’t really like to admit they’d gone on-the-line, but now it is no big deal. It’s just amazing how many people are on those sites! Some blatantly say they’re not interested in anything serious, but that they just want to have fun. And that’s OK, honesty is a good thing. Others put it right out there that they’re looking for love and marriage. I put it out there. I’m still single. Single and contentedly happy…yet curious.
There’s lots of reasons for a 61-year-old never married woman to stay single. There’s also lots of reasons to take the plunge. I don’t know how my story will end. But it will end, and it will do so happily ever after, married or single. Because after all, God loves me.
Dana's Blog, Faith, Single Living
My Boo Boo
Consider it pure joy when you are faced with trials of many kinds…
Many kinds. Yes indeed.
I’m 61. In less than two months I’ll be 62. Knowing the truth of that verse in James at almost 62 is easier than trying to believe it at 22. But it’s because of living through trials of many kinds (more or less) at a young age that makes going through them when you’re older more bearable, and even joyful.
I didn’t say it doesn’t at times still suck though! It sucketh much. I believe it was my dear, departed friend, Jeff Martin, who coined that phrase. Sucketh Much (the “eth” makes it sound more King James and less crass). He had lots of good ones like that. My favorite was when someone would suggest we pray about an issue and he’d chime in with, “Has it come to that?”
May 26th I fell down the stairs and fractured, tore, and bruised my ego as well as my right knee (my Italy knee). This lovely knee of mine has been through trauma before (TWICE!). And since I (and my knee) made it through 2011 and 2014 intact I know I will again in 2022. You wanna know how I know? Cuz the Bible tells me so, that’s how.
Some may say my Sunday School Girl mindset supplies this simplistic answer (alliterate much?). But simply put, simplicity is simple. Why should we make things hard?
God said He would never leave me nor forsake me. And He hasn’t, and He isn’t, and He won’t. You may ask why He didn’t stop me from falling down the stairs in the first place. Well, because He didn’t. That’s His prerogative. Cuz He’s God. He did however keep me from falling higher up and breaking my neck and dying. So, there’s that.
We don’t get to pick what the rescue looks like. We’re only promised He’s there with us. And right now, that’s enough for me. We may not ever see the full picture or be relieved of the situation. That’s okay, too. He is there. This is not to say I haven’t cried myself to sleep several times lately. But He was there for that, too. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep. Not wanting the enemy to get ahold of my thoughts, I asked Alexa to play the worship song “Jireh” for me. I cuddled under my blankets and let the words about Jehovah Jireh being my provider wash over me. The message brought peace. Because He is enough.
“You are Jireh, You are enough. Jireh, You are enough. And I will be content in every circumstance, You are Jireh, You are enough.”
Enough. Sometimes I feel like I’ve had enough, but never enough of Him. My relationship with the Lord is always good. But when I’m at my lowest is when it is REALLY good. I cry (the ugly cry) and surround myself with His presence. That is what is getting me through these days. He is enough.
I don’t want to make light of someone enduring their darkest moment. Sometimes we Christians can give such trite answers when people are suffering. Saying something like “They’re in a better place now” may cause more harm than help. But the answer is still the same. We don’t get to choose what our rescue looks like. Only that He is there. Sometimes the simple answer, though it’s the truth, feels inadequate. It sucketh much. But it’s still true. He is there.
When I was the children’s minster at Crossroads Church way back when, I asked my friend to share his toddler’s ER visit the previous week with our Sunday school class. His story had a happy ending. He got to bring his little girl home. When he finished, I reminded the kids that not all the parents who took their kids to the ER that night had the same experience. Some family’s story ended with tears. I asked them, “Does God love that family less?” “Nooo,” they replied. “He loves everybody.” Even at their young age they understood the simple complexity of God. We don’t get to see behind the veil to find out the answers and His reasons why. We just get to know He loves us, and He is there. Sometimes that’s all we get. And sometimes, though true, it Sucketh Much. But even still, He is enough.
If I had been spared this time of yet another knee injury (and the other “many kinds”) I’d be missing out on how God is blessing me with friends that are His hands and feet (and chefs, chauffeurs, and comic relief). There are other challenging issues I’m experiencing right now as well, but those are a story for another day. Suffice it to say, there are trials of many kinds (like being unemployed and losing your insurance with a hurt knee sucketh much).
In my mid-thirties I began a business called Tunes for Tots. I had only been open for a couple of weeks when I ran into a problem with the building I was renting. I needed to find a new place and was overwhelmed with how to make that happen in a short time frame. I walked around the Upper East Side of Manhattan for a while and then, as I was praying, I began laughing. God filled me with such peace that it was going to work out. I laughed and cried and couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen. I was actually very excited for this difficult situation to see my creative God in action. And he was amazing! And because of that, I know He will be again. I know, cuz the Bible tells me so.
Sometimes that knowledge is all we have to hang on to. But hold on, don’t let go. We’re not promised an easy, uneventful ride. Just a ride. I’ve had smooth, wonderfully fulfilling rides, and then rides like the one I’m on now. The kind that sucketh much. But knowing I’m holding on to Him, makes it OK. (I left out all kinds of “Jesus take the Wheel” and “Jesus is my co-pilot” references. You’re welcome.)
At times like these I grab on to the faith of The Old Testament Prophet, Habakkuk. When circumstances become overwhelming, there is the Power of Yet:
Even though the fig trees have no buds, and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty,
YET I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.
Praise is powerful. It reminds us of everything He is. I praise Him because He is God. He is enough. I will wait and rest in Him. Jehovah Jireh, My Provider. He is enough.
I’ve been having conversations with the Lord and my friends lately about “causing” and “allowing” types of God actions. Did he cause me to fall down the stairs to get my attention about something? Or did he just allow it to happen so He could Romans 8:28 all over me. I have no idea which. What I do know is whatever the reason for this season I want my reaction to the action (sorry for that) to be all about showing God’s Power and Glory in my life. I have the assurance He is sovereign.
So that’s how I can…Consider it pure joy, my friends, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
And remember that…The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8
And rest in the fact that…All things God works for the good of those who love Him, and have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
So simple. Belief. Faith. Trust. Hope. Joy. Not necessarily in that order (but kinda).
God is good and God is God. He is enough. So simple. So true. Even when your circumstances Sucketh Much.
Stay tuned to see what God does with this and my other “many kinds.” I can’t take comments here, but feel free to comment on the original Facebook post.
Dana's Blog, kayaking, Single Living, Weight Loss
I like to think that, though I am not necessarily athletic in a sporty kind of way, I am fit and coordinated enough to do physical activities. I say this knowing that I blew out my right knee by attempting to leap up on a 4-foot pillar, broke my arm by tripping over a water hose while roller skating and my Portland to Coast Walking team came in dead last (more than once!). So it seems I may not have a good sense of reality in this department.
My father lived to be three 3 weeks shy of his 99th birthday and my 93-year-old mother is physically going strong, so I come from good genes. Maybe if American Ninja Warrior had been around when I was younger I could have been a contender (and given Jesse Flex Labreck a run for the title of most buzzers hit by a woman). But I’m sure that idea makes those of you who know me roll your eyes a little.
I was in thin in the 1980’s when Jane Fonda made it big with her aerobics workout video empire. I had a closet full of colorful leotards and faithfully made it to the gym most days after work. That kept me in great shape. Then, a few years into it, my attendance started to drop off a bit. I slowly noticed my clothes getting tight. EEK! At that age though it was very easy to get back in shape with just a few visits with Jane or my local gym for a sweaty aerobics class. That cycle continued for a couple of decades. Then my fifties hit, and I couldn’t seem to lose the tight clothes feeling. So, I just bought a bigger size. And then another bigger size. And then another until I found myself eating cookies and crying while watching The Biggest Loser.
Last Saturday a friend and I (my Dear Dawn) took a 3-hour Kayak tour around Fidalgo Island (home of my beautiful Anacortes). I chuckle now thinking that it was a 3-hour tour just like the castaways on Gilligan’s Island. And for a while there Dawn and I thought we might end up being Ginger and Mary Ann (you can decide who was who). But our tour guide, Alex, seemed much better qualified than Gilligan and the Skipper.
I had taken the same tour several summers ago and did just fine so I wasn’t worried. But that tour was in the summer (and I was a few pounds lighter) and this tour was on a cold, windy October day. We were one of three sets of tandem kayaks led by a single kayak leader. We floated gracefully through the marina, but when we hit the channel leading over to Barrows Island the strong winds hit. It was at that moment I really regretted getting rid of my Jane Fonda videos, because being in better shape would have come in very handy.
The person in the back of a tandem sea kayak has the honor of steering. It is a contraption using your feet so I gave that job to Dawn (because she trips less than I do). She couldn’t see very well so I, ever so politely, would holler LEFT or RIGHT as needed. (I told her the PLEASE was implied.) We managed to keep up with the other boats, though in last place of course (in honor of my PTC team) and made it over to Barrows. The water between the two islands was much calmer and I thought the tough part was over. Surely the wind would be moving in our favor going the other direction (wrong). Rounding the tip of Barrows, the wind slammed in our faces again. It seemed much harder, but it may have been that I was just more tired.
I noticed we were going in the other direction as our tour group, so I hollered LEFT. LEFT!! LEFT!!!! Dawn informed me that the steering wasn’t working, and hollering LEFT wasn’t helping. So instead, I hollered ALEX! ALEX!!! ALEX!!! Then Dawn informed me there was no way she could hear me so hollering ALEX wasn’t helping either. I couldn’t stand the thought of heading the wrong direction only to have to retrace that area to get back to where we were supposed to be. Suddenly, as if angels from heaven, two nice looking young men kayaked up to us and saved the day. By the time Alex realized the two old broads on her tour needed rescuing, and made it over to us, our two handsome helpers had repaired the broken foot-steering-thingy and we were good to go. Alex announced the water was extremely rough (like we needed telling) and to just put our heads down and go. And go we did.
What was supposed to be a 3-hour tour took a tad bit longer, but we eventually made it back. The entire time three things kept running through my head. One, I hope Dawn doesn’t hate me for suggesting we Kayak in October. Two, if only I was a few pounds lighter. And three, Lord Jesus give me the strength I need to do this!!!!! He of course did because he always does. And plus, Dawn could never hate me. As for the few pounds, well I’m working on that.
As a Christian who has made it to sixty-one years old, I know to ask God for help. I also know He will help, but I need to take some proactive steps of faith. I used to think that just praying made things happen, and it is a vital first step. God wants that intimate communication and communion with Him. But it’s through the time spent with Him (prior to kayaking emergencies) that He’s able to remind us the steps to take when we need it. There are those times, after praying, that we sit back and watch God work. But there are also times when, through our praying, God shows us proactive steps to take.
So back to the gale force winds kayak trip. I kept saying, “Lord, help me” and I knew He would, but what was my role? I’m a musician so the paddling of the Kayak took on a rhythmic cadence. Every time the right side of the paddle went in the water I’d say, “God is good” and then breathe when the left side entered the water. The next time I said, “Jesus is Lord” and then breathe when the left side entered again. Then, “The Holy Spirit comforts and guides” followed by a breath. I just kept repeating that over and over as the rhythm of the paddling took on a meditative motion. Those three phrases just happen to be how I begin most of my prayer and Bible study times, so it was a natural transition into saving me from the embarrassment of being towed back to the marina.
Once we were home the weather report was issuing a small craft warning because of gale force winds. I gotta say I was a bit more impressed with myself and Dawn once we heard that. And Alex said we killed it. So, there’s that.
Psalm 23, that famous Psalm, was my reward at the end of that trip. My shepherd led me to still waters. We will often find ourselves in rough waters, sometimes by our doing and sometimes by no fault of our own. I guess being out on the rough Puget Sound waters in gale force winds in October was my own fault, but it is what I’ve learned when I’m by still waters that helped me get back to safety. I could have spent the struggle swearing and being mad and frustrated. Instead, I chose to proactively turn to God for help. Saying, Lord Jesus help me, was the first step. Then he showed me my next steps.
God doesn’t need our help to save us, but does desire us to learn and grow in difficult situations. If he just miraculously intervened each time we asked we’d be stuck in our childish ways. Our faith grows when we’re challenged. If we build our relationship with the Lord while we are by the still waters, then, when the rough seas come, the Holy Spirit will reveal His rescue plan. And our faith will be even stronger for the next rough patch.
I am so glad God is in control and that I’ve lived long enough to see it in action many, many times. I want to encourage you to endure through the end of your rough waters. If God had sent a lifeboat instead of those two handsome young men to help us, it would have robbed us of our victory in that ever so difficult paddle back to the marina. And if felt so good to have done just that.
…God is Good…Breathe…Jesus is Lord…Breathe…The Holy Spirit comforts and guides…Breathe…
I can’t take comments here, but feel free to respond via the Facebook post.