Friday, February 25, 2011

Daily Office, Otters & Others

Liberty Bay & Olympic Mountains
Through my friend, Robin (of the blogs Metanoia and Desert Year), I found this blog: The Daily Office. It has prayers for the day, posted throughout the day. What a gift! I have been loving sitting quietly, reading and praying along with the printed verses. If you are interested, click on the link and check it out. It is good to find new ways to pray. I have my favorite habits - favorite place to sit, time of day, etc. - but prayer is an always-present possibility, sort of like an open-ended conversation - like facebook - with God. On a walk, in bed, in the shower, in the car...I believe there is no "right" way, place or time to pray. Sometimes when I can't sleep, praying for others is the best sleeping "medicine."

For the past two days, I've been supervising Operation Otter Cleanup at my mom & dad's house. River otters decided to take up residence underneath their home. If you've never seen nor experienced this, here is a visual prompt for you:  imagine the aftermath of a college fraternity party, with rotting fish carcasses, fish vomit and poo, instead of spilled beer, broken bottles and smashed cans. Fortunately, it's very cold here right now; I canNOT imagine what the stench would be like if the weather was warm.

Some wonderful, fearless workers arrived, went underneath the house, took up the insulation and plastic that were strewn with Otter PartyWare, and hauled it out. They repaired the insulation and plastic, put down clean, new plastic on the ground under the house, and closed up the places of entry and exit in the foundation which the otters had been using. NOTE: between Day One and Day Two of this operation, the otters succeeded in opening new places to enter and exit, and re-opening one of the places closed by the workmen. HELLO? Persistent! I will be back to see whether they are clever enough to circumvent Day Two's preventive measures. If so, we may need to call in the big guns (professional exterminator).

During the otter cleanup, I was able to finish the draft of a book on which I am collaborating. It is a wonderful book that I learned about from blessed Renee, called "Cancer: 50 Essential Things to Do" written by Greg Anderson, a cancer survivor and founder of . I approached Greg about editing the book for the adolescent and young adult cancer audience, and he agreed. I was able to complete and send off a big chunk of that, and it feels great.

David texted me yesterday, to say that classes were cancelled at G.U. due to heavy snow on the ground (about a foot) & a blizzard warning; he followed that up with the news that he was planning to go SKIING. I wondered: if the university staff saw fit to cancel classes due to snow and a blizzard warning, why would teenage boys decide to leave campus in a car to drive for over an hour to a ski area? What is it about Blizzard Warning that suggests Ski Trip? I sent a message (HELP!) to Gregg.

Both of us extracted a promise from David to stay within the bounds of the ski-patrolled area (David likes back-country & tree-skiing). I even stooped to send him a text with something along the lines of "I would be devastated if anything bad happened to you." This is probably a normal feeling for any mother of an adventurous young man, but it is painfully so for the mother of a child who has died. I don't want to fill David with fears, or keep him tied to me, but certain risks are not worth taking. I felt a little bit bad about the emotional weight of my message - but not bad enough to delete it before sending.

Over dinner and a beer at the pub, I read the text messages to Gregg. After my plea for help in the morning, Gregg had emailed David, keeping his words factual and calm. But guess what he admitted? He had composed a message to David, filled with logical, sound, fatherly advice...and had included something along the lines of "We couldn't bear to lose you" - and then deleted that part before sending! It was a quiet affirmation of my feelings to hear that Gregg, the unemotional one, had the same kind of fear in his heart...even if he deleted that part of his message to David.

David texted us during dinner that he had had a great day on the slopes, skiing in two to three FEET of fresh powder. We're glad he had fun, but even more happy that he is safe.
Katie's bench is the one on the right.
It's a gorgeous, cold day here, with sunshine, blue skies and snow-covered mountains gleaming over whitecapped waters. After I had my hair cut, I stopped by Katie's bench; it now has a lamppost behind it. You can see the Olympic Mountains from there, across the bay. It's a beautiful spot.


Elizabeth said...

I will check out that site -- it sounds wonderful. Your otter story is wild; I just had no idea! As for the rest of the post, I'm relieved, too, that David is safe after a day of skiing. I totally worry about that kind of thing FOR you, so I can only imagine how you must feel. I have felt guilty denying my Henry tackle football, even though he's dying to try it. I'm just too worried about head injuries, irrationally so, I'm certain, but the worry is there and can't be denied. I try not to put the weight on my two boys, but it's definitely something I struggle with.

karen gerstenberger said...

Elizabeth, I couldn't agree more with you about tackle football. Gregg's cousin played in high school (he's 6'5", played basketball and football, and is a teacher & b-ball coach now) and has bad knees and a bad back because of it. He feels the price is too high - and head injuries are even more serious than knees and back!

deb colarossi said...

I want to sit on that bench someday.

and the otter story is just so wild.

and I'm not going to go there re the worrying. I know beyond a doubt that your situation is magnified, but I have often wondered how delicate my okay is you know?

My daughter got a pretty bad concussion at soccer last week, and today my son had to turn around driving in a snow storm and come back home. I never get over the fear of it all . Even tonight as I wait yet again for the flight that brings my husband home....

Busy Bee Suz said...

I think we ought to send Otters into Afghanistan. Surely they could cause some havoc with the insurgents? Maybe even find Binladen?
I agree with you in the praying...I do it anywhere I see fit. But laying in bed before sleep seems where I Do it most...and then in the morning as my people leave again. *Sigh*
Reading about David taking this bit of a risk, well, it brought tears to my eyes too. Oh....*sigh*
Glad he made it home.

You are collaborating on a BOOK?
You do realize I almost pee'd my pants when I saw you in Redbook??? What are you doing to me???

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Let us know about your Oscar party too.

karen gerstenberger said...

deb, I didn't know about the concussion - I'm so sorry. That had to be very scary for you. Driving in snow? Not a fan.

It's possible that we have little or no control over anything - but we have the illusion of control! Yet there are certain risks that I think we just don't have to take.

Suz, the book project is just me editing an already-great book for a younger audience. I don't know if it will ever get to publication, but it's so worth the effort! No need for Depends yet! =)

Mary Potts said...

My best prayers seem to begin with a spontaneous burst of either HELP ME PLEASE!! or THANK YOU GOD! and then the thoughts just flow naturally from there. I think I do my best praying in the great outdoors. Katie's bench looks like a good spot. The HELP ME PLEASE often does occur now when I worry about my other children, as I try not to overreact and impose my own fears upon them... no easy task.

Hmm... wasn't "Otter" in Animal House?

Allegra Smith said...

Never stop yourself from firing love salvos at a teenager. Never. That is a mother's right and they need to know that deep love is the reason for you to write that.

You are not going to stop a young man in college from doing something he wants to do, but you may make hi aware of the responsibilities he have toward those who gave them life without making an issue of it. I remember when I was young in boarding school once getting a letter from my Mother about not been allowed to join the swimming team (I had a heart murmur since I was twelve) I was furious and angry and you name it. Until one of my roommates said: You are so lucky, your Mother writes to you.

I was frozen instantly. It had never occurred to me that other Mothers wouldn't write. I knew it was something I needed to remember and I have never forgotten those words. We cannot bend destiny but we can certainly remind those we love how important they are to us without making it a guilt trip.

You were right and I am glad you sent it, btw, the way my boyfriend looks at you there is nothing un-emotional about him :) Hugs from here, missing you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen -

I have to confess to sending a similar message to each of my boys, I don't want to weigh them down with my fears, but ... I sent the texts anyway. I had to.

Katie's bench is beautiful, the view is amazing. What a lovely place to sit quietly and just be.

I think of you and Katie often.

Carol (Caroline's mom)

Karen said...

I love Katie's bench. It is perfect. I love the lightpost, too. It fits.

Good news about the book. Bon Accompli! Now on to the next book? I hope it encouraged you to to move forward on that.

As for the otters, I hope you win the man v. nature battle. It's not an easy one, but you have a college degree and they don't. Keep that in mind!

karen gerstenberger said...

You are right, Allegra - Gregg is not unemotional, but he has his EXPRESSION of emotion under great control. I suspect this is a Norwegian quality, as the German side of him would likely not be so controlled (I can say that, being French & German myself)!

AnnDeO said...

My in-laws were watching the Jazz on TV and a raccoon popped up from the heating vent. I guess just to say hello. He escaped the vent during the night and performed parcour moves throughout the house. My MIL found him the next day sitting on a shelf above her staring intently on her work. Silly creatures.

I know what you mean about those young men and the call of the snow. I try not to be over anxious, but the thought does cross my mind several times of things that could happen. My youngest left Friday night during a blizzard to drive through the canyon to skate at an indoor park. Logical? Not to me, but all was well.

Robin Gaphni said...

I just discovered your blog. I so appreciated your thoughts about communicating with David your concerns for his safety. I get it.

I have recently joined the "club no parent should have to join." My oldest son died in October from complications from endocarditis. He was 21. So I, too, have texted my 19 year old son up in Bellingham things that might be considered over the top. And I have had to bite my tongue to not say more to my 17 year old daughter as she heads out on a Friday night. We are all too aware of the pain of loss, and of the randomness/preciousness of life. So thank you for putting into words what goes on in my head daily.
P.S. I live on Bainbridge Island.

karen gerstenberger said...

Dear Robin,
Welcome to my blog, and thank you for your comment. I don't want to say "welcome" to that "club" that no one wants to join, but you have good company here, and you will find others like us. I will send you a message via your blog soon.

Kay said...

I love Katie's bench! Such a beautiful place to sit, reflect and enjoy nature.

But speaking of nature..otters...that's just weird. I can't fathom something like that moving in under somebody's house like that. Ew! Hope cleanup was successful and permanent! : )

rebecca said...

dear karen,
i so enjoyed your post, and the news that the ski trip was tame and safe.
yes, we are mothers FOREVER! and lovingly so.

i very much enjoyed your link and the work you are doing with awareness for families facing cancer. such important work and you are perfect for the cause!

thank you for being a compassionate voice here in our lives.
i appreciate you so very much!

Meg said...

Don't worry, my parents (my mom especially) are the same way! Anything that involves me driving or being in a car with someone during even the mere *possibility* of a snow storm.... let the frantic texts and phone calls ensue!! I'm sure that it's a different for your family because of what you've been through...but just wanted to let you know that even though it doesn't carry the same emotional weight for my family, in general I think it is very typical.

I'm super jealous that David's school gets snow days... we NEVER get them, even when every other college in NYC has closed and the city has declared a state of emergency (this happened twice this winter)!!