Caroline Martha Owens

Caroline was born on this day 18th day of January in 1898. She was the daughter of Welsh immigrants who came to this country seeking a better life. Her mother was from Bangor and her father from the Island of Anglesey. She used to tell me about this when I was a little boy sitting on her lap. She was my grandmother and I can still hear her voice and today I sense her presence even more. She died thirty years ago but her memory lives on with me and and her other grandchildren.

Her father was a share cropper. Neither of her parents spoke English very well. Her dad’s nickname was ‘DickShe.’ He got that moniker because someone who came to the farm looking for him asked my great-grandmother of his whereabouts and she replied, “Dick she’s in the barn.” Her mother was the daughter of a Welsh banker I was told but I don’t know what if any other work she did after coming to America. Caroline was the youngest of seven children. Caroline went to school and made it to the sixth grade. Despite her lack of formal education she read very well up until the time that macular degeneration took away her sight. She married at seventeen and had five children, three of whom lived to adulthood. She used to say rather proudly, “I’ve had all the deadly diseases and five children.” We used to chuckle about how she lumped the children in with the deadly diseases.

She was an accomplished baker and my favorite treat was her fried cakes and filled cookies. I lived with her for four years in my twenties. We had a great time in those years. She lived six years after I married and moved into our own home. She was great grandma to our children. She taught our son how to count in Welsh and say some other Welsh phrases. She taught our daughter some limericks and enjoyed hearing her say, “oh shit.” Happy Birthday Grandma! I love you.

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Blue Cross Arena Hoops Classic

Tonight I’ll be joining my wife, son and grandson at the Roc City Hoops Classic. The matchup features the St. Bonaventure Bonnies and the University of Massachusetts Minutemen. The Bonnies have been hot lately winning 10 of their last eleven games. We are season ticket holders and longtime St. Bonaventure fans. As I look forward to tonight’s game I thought of a night nearly thirty-nine years ago when I accompanied this lovely young lady to our first date which was a St. Bonaventure vs. Duquesne game. Now almost four decades later we’re going to be joining our son and grandson at the game.

It’s a new year and a new decade filled with lots of promise. While the outcome is far from certain there is one thing for sure and that is gratitude for this amazing journey of life. Bonaventure literally means “The Good Journey,” and our lives have certainly been that. The names change from year to year but the men in brown and white still exemplify the spirit of this small Franciscan University on the banks of the Allegany River that continues to draw a crowd at larger venues like Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.

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Finding wholeness and holiness from a cranky and beautiful woman

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have now read three of her books this summer. She’s an incredible author who really speaks to me and my understanding of God and creation. She has forced me out of some of my comfort zones and challenged me to think in new ways. I recommend her to anyone. There will be some who will be put off by her profanity. As Mark Twain proclaimed, “profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” In that spirit Nadia Bolz-Weber’s writing is a call to conversion for those of us more at home with profanity than pious ‘church speak.’

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What we don’t know can hurt us

A friend who is suffering with a bout of poison ivy shared information about the increased prevalence of poison ivy in our environment and the increased toxicity of the plant. This is brought on by increased levels of CO2 in our atmosphere. The increase in CO2 is directly related to climate change. Be sure to read more about it here from The Druids Garden.

Recently our daughter and our grandson had a bout with hand foot and mouth disease. It’s a viral infection common in young children. Our daughter’s experience was more acute and she was unable eat for a number of days as her mouth and throat were affected. There is a relationship between temperature and humidity which makes hand foot and mouth disease more common.

Yesterday we had the pleasure of spending an afternoon and early evening as guests of our son and his family on the shores of Conesus Lake. There was a lot of algae and ‘seaweed’ in the lake that was churned up by the increased number of boaters. I learned that the increase in boaters is due to the rising lake level on nearby Lake Ontario which has made it difficult for boaters to dock and launch their small craft. These recreational boaters are coming to Conesus because they can launch their boats without difficulty.

Most people think of addiction to alcohol or other narcotics. Most people have never thought of our over reliance on fossil fuels which are exacerbating this climate change as addiction. In the late 19th century a famous American politician gave a speech about mankind being crucified on a cross of gold. I wonder how many consider that we are crucifying mankind on a cross of fossil fuels which is raising the water levels of lakes and oceans. It’s harming our environment and increasing the spread of disease. Meanwhile know nothing and do nothing politicians wring their hands and cry that we cannot harm our economy by taking reasonable action to prevent this debacle. The economy will be a moot point when the world becomes uninhabitable. Even the oligarchs who profit from the addiction will lose their livelihoods and lives.

Ignorance is not bliss. We will follow the dinosaurs into extinction. Earth will survive but we won’t.

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Take a deep breath and release

With those words my prostate cancer surgeon released me from life with a catheter. I’m grateful that I’m no longer tethered. I was learning to get along with these extras. They provided the necessary bridge to health after the robotic prostatectomy. The doctor gave me an excellent pathology report too. Only twenty percent of my prostate had cancer cells. I’m not sure what all that means in the long term but I’m very grateful for now.

Yesterday I began the next phase of my journey to health post prostate. Following the cystogram and catheter removal I donned my maximum absorbency underwear. Now, I’m on the same page as grandson. I have a temporary continence problem. I began the prescribed Kegel exercises in earnest as my wife drove us home. Our first stop was lunch at Tim Horton’s. I opened the passenger side door and stepped out into the warm afternoon air and then ‘whoosh.’ Oops, I forgot for a split second that I don’t have bladder control. That was my first epiphany. I smiled and shared the discovery with my wife. I’m reminded of the Saturday Night Live skit ‘Oops I Crapped my Pants.’

Once we got home I went for a walk enjoying my new freedom. The days and weeks ahead will have their challenges as I do the Kegel exercises and retrain my bladder muscles. It’s great to be alive and enjoy the rest of summer.

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Reformation of Discovery and Healing

Shameless: A Sexual Reformation

Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was the second book I’ve read in the past week by the author and I found her insights keen and a welcome conversation to what is a dim landscape when it comes to common sense and sexuality in religion. I love her writing style and her very open approach to the subject. I’d love to hear one of her presentations and/or attend one of the House for All Sinners and Saints services. I highly recommend this book even if you’re an atheist or agnostic. There is great insight and powerful sharing here for everyone.

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Grateful for the journey

My life has had a lot of ups and downs in the past year. I don’t want to recount them now. A few months ago I learned from expert medical attention that I have prostate cancer. Who isn’t afraid of a cancer diagnosis? But compared to the other tribulations that have occurred in my life in the past sixty-six years it was just one more thing.

Upon learning the diagnosis my wife and I began a series of office visits with different clinicians to determine the best possible course of action. I had three options. One was to do nothing for a year and see what happened. That didn’t seem reasonable. I thought that would be like sitting on a landmine hoping for the best. Another option was radiation and the third was surgical removal of the prostate.

Many relatives and friends stepped forward to share their experience. I’m grateful to all of them. My sister was perhaps the most persistent advocate for surgical removal. Her husband had prostate cancer twenty years ago and opted for surgery. In addition to them I had other friends who had relied on radiation therapy and were almost five years cancer free. I went back and forth and prayed on it along with my wife. After a thorough examination of all possibilities and counsel with my wife and the medical teams I decided to pursue the surgical route.

In the days and weeks leading up to my procedure I did a lot of thinking . I went on a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi with a group of United States military veterans. I spent a lot of time in prayer there and in the quiet places I love closer to home. A few days before my surgery while attending an evening program at Mount Irenaeus an entire congregation prayed for me. A Franciscan priest told me he would offer his mass on the day of surgery for my intention. A former minister put me on his prayer list. Fellow prostate cancer survivors and their families reached out and slowly with their help and encouragement I moved forward. Faith is not the absence of fear. It is continuing to move forward in spite of that fear. Faith is walking through fear and trusting that things will work out.

The countdown ended the afternoon I arrived for my surgery. I was admitted to the hospital, prepped and put in one of those little hospital gowns we all know and love. I was surrounded by my family. My son left work early to be there along with my wife and daughter. The professional staff of the hospital got me ready and came an hour early to take me to the operating room. I remember the anesthetist putting something over my nose and then … I woke up hours later in my hospital room. While I was asleep a team of highly skilled doctors and nurses performed a robotic prostatectomy. I am grateful that such people surround me.

It’s now nine days hence and while I still have a catheter for the time being I am returning to health and wholeness. I have been surrounded by love and care. I have received phone calls, text messages and personal visits. My wife has been a private duty nurse who has had to modify our home to accommodate me. Each day is a new adventure. I have returned to writing again. Yesterday I was able to attend the weekly meeting of the moderators. Later I ventured out with a friend to a meeting twenty miles from home. I got a text message from the mother of one of my Python coding classes. She let me know that she and her son were keeping me in their thoughts and prayers. I am surrounded by love and at times it has been overwhelming. I am very grateful to everyone who has given something of themselves. This has been the good journey. In its own unique way it has been a pilgrimage which has led to some new understandings of life.

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