Do you know what I discovered about my life this week? I am one unlucky sorry-ass woman. I just barely got over a sinus infection, and the minute my husband stepped out the door to go on a business trip, I got an intestinal flu bug, and it kicked my behind from one end of my house to the other. I have chills, I ache all over, my stomach cramps at the slightest smell of food, I can’t stray more than two feet from a bathroom, and I’m spewing out of both ends. I am truly undone.
Cartoon by Tim Dolighan www.dolighan.com
I was writhing on the couch moaning in three octaves: “WHY ME, OH LORD; WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” when the phone rang and it turned out to be my youngest daughter (29).
BABY-GIRL: Hi Mom. How’s my favorite mother? I noticed that you hadn’t published your blog this week so I am checking up on you.
MISERABLE ME: Your only mother is ready to send up a shout-out to Jesus and let him know I’m ready to exit stage left—that’s how miserable I feel. I had to send a neighbor to get me stopper-upper meds, and I’m so weak I can barely cook for myself—let alone think of a blog topic. Of all the adages I’ve given you over the years under the title, “A Mother’s Parting Wisdom to Her Children,” did I ever tell you that when you have the flu you should never, ever trust a fart? Maybe I could write a blog on that tomorrow.
BABY-GIRL: No, you have never told me that saying—and I don’t want to hear it now. And NO, you cannot write a blog on “never trust a fart.” You’ve written way too many posts on bodily functions or sex. Need I remind you that my colleagues read your blog, and it is mortifying when I get an email that says they’re reading about you farting in your doctor’s face after a colonoscopy while they’re drinking their morning coffee?
MISERABLE ME: Hey now—that was written in the spirit of public service. I’ve gotten a lot of requests to have that post sent to people who are undergoing a colonoscopy for the first time so that it doesn’t frighten them. Sheesh! Everybody’s a critic.
Used by Permission: “Flu Season” by Olle Johansson, Sweden
BABY-GIRL: I don’t care, Mother; think of something else north of your navel. I’ve been reading some poetry lately. How about a post centered on the CLEAN poetic line: Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost. It’s from J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Fellowship of the Ring:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
BABY-GIRL: Does that line conjure up anything inspiring that you can write about even with the flu?
MISERABLE ME: Yeah, now that you mention it. I facilitated a storytelling hour and book signing for my book Monsters’ Throwdown last week at the largest women’s homeless shelter in D.C. It was packed—standing room only. Now that I think about it, the women who attended were amazing. Life had dealt them all a tough blow, but I could see in most of their eyes that they were not down for the count. They were broken, but they had the great hope of being renewed because of the helping hand that had been extended to them—they were wanderers, but they weren’t completely lost. That’s why they keep showing up at the Village for the counseling, the educational classes, and the community support.
BABY-GIRL: I read somewhere recently that President Reagan once said that, “The homeless are homeless because they want to be homeless.” Did you sense that at your storytelling hour?
Photo courtesy of www.csindy.com
MISERABLE ME: Ronald Reagan was a insensitive pig! Much to my chagrin, I voted for him and I will never forgive myself for that because he did more to mushroom homelessness in the inner city than any other force in recent years with his goddamn trickle-down economics that made the rich richer and the poor only poorer. If there is a Hell, Reagan is wandering around it on cold, barren streets as a homeless person for at least a quarter of eternity without a blanket and with constant diarrhea.
BABY-GIRL: Now that’s an interesting topic. What did you learn from these “wandering women”?
Author Book Signing for Monsters’ Throwdown at N Street Village’s homeless outreach
MISERABLE ME: I learned that but by the grace of God go I. I was homeless several times in my life before the age of 21, but it never lasted long. I was rescued which is what my book is about. Someone discovered that I was broken and could be renewed. I learned that many of the homeless have jobs (more than one) that they go to, but they still can’t afford housing. I learned that you can come from the best of families, with the best education, and all it takes is a few missteps and before you know it, you’re out on the street—whether from a bad relationship, an abusive husband, a medical issue, or a layoff. I learned that in Washington, DC, 55% of the homeless women that N Street Village services (they are the largest women’s homeless services in DC), are over 50 years old. I met one woman who was an amputee due to diabetes, and yet she is homeless. The homeless women I met suffer from emotional, sexual, and physical trauma, while some are crippled by mental health issues and addictive behaviors. All I could do was cling to them after all was said and done. As I looked into their eyes, I could see the beauty of who they were created to be. I understood what Jesus meant when he said: “What you do for the least of these, you do for me.” If I do a thousand more book signings, I doubt that any of them will be as rewarding or as profound as the one at the women’s homeless shelter.
BABY-GIRL: I’m so proud of you, Mom. I’m sure the ladies loved your time together. Just imagine yourself in their place with what you’ve been going through the last few days—flu symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and chills BUT going through that while sleeping on the street in the snow with no proper meds or sanitation. Makes your situation pretty tolerable, huh, La Mama?
MISERABLE ME: Yes, Ms. Smart-ass, it does! Anyway, I’ll write that post tomorrow. In the meantime, let me snuggle up in front of the fireplace and sip my hot toddy while I read 50 Shades of Grey. Your father and I could use some tips to spice up our sex life, although I hear this book is about bondage with handcuffs and all. I’m afraid if Dad and I try this handcuff thingie, I’ll fall asleep before anything exciting can actually happen.
BABY-GIRL: TMI! HANGING UP! HANNNNNNGING UP! OH, MY GOD—MY EARS, MY PSYCHE . . .
I am discovering that it is so easy to get caught up in my pathetic little life and forget that homelessness is everywhere and ever-expanding due to issues that we can primarily control as a society. It is also so easy to become comfortable and forget from whence I came. All of us who claim to have a heart and especially those of us who claim to believe in a kind and generous God must do everything in our power to eradicate homelessness in our midst. Ronald Reagan was just plain wrong, and that Ayn Rand spirit he left behind permeates our politics and our national psyche. Being homeless could happen to any of us. But by the grace of God go us all!
Author Storytelling Hour at N Street Village/check out Author’s website for more details
“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”—Mother Teresa
“There is a lot that happens around the world we cannot control. We cannot stop earthquakes, we cannot prevent droughts, and we cannot prevent all conflict, but when we know where the hungry, the homeless and the sick exist, then we can help.”—Jan Schakowsky
“Seven out of 10 Americans are one paycheck away from being homeless.”—Pras Michel
“All of us who covered the Reagans agreed that President Reagan was personable and charming, but I’m not so certain he was nice. It’s hard for me to think of anyone as ‘nice’ when I hear him say ‘The homeless are homeless because they want to be homeless.”—Helen Thomas
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