Not Dead Yet (The Brief Announcement of my most recent disappearance from the world.)

death_oldwoodcutNot Dead Yet    (The Not So Brief Announcement Of My Most Recent Disappearance From The World, And The Adventures That Occurred.)

By Brenda Ann Eckels, aMGC


Anytime I vanish from my online community,, or from my blog,, Twitter, Google+, or any other of the various social media channels I habit, for the first several days no one notices. Practically all the Facebook friends I have, whether I know then in real life or not, know that I am seriously disabled with multiple sclerosis and a host of other problems.

I always imagine then that it takes at least a week for anyone to sit up anvictorian_telephone1d say “Hey, where is that half nun writer with all the opinions that make Republicans shudder and the ability to throw out questions on Catholic life that start entire pages long discussions?” A few might, and do, then send me private messages, emails, or if they know it, call or text me.

soundthealarmDisappear for going on three weeks? Then things get serious. Distant family wonder whether to cash in life insurance policies, close friends decide to call hospitals, and finding I am not at any of the ones nearby, begin pelting me with private messages along the lines of “Where are you? Are you ok?”, and my boss at Convergent Streams adds “find Brenda” to his 22 item code green To Do list (his church, his wife Dana, and his kids get all the code yellow and code reds).

A few really, really close friends (consisting of those who were standing nearby, propping us up in the hurricane that hit our lives last year from August to October) basically make one last effort to get me on the phone, and then just show up.

And this time was not much different than the others. I not only got sick, I got hit with an extraordinary amount of unpacking and sorting of over 125 boxes that arrived from storage the same day my furniture from a wonderful charity called Operations Blessings did.

Soon, I was dragging my wheelchair from box to box, desperately trying to find the things one needs to live with like pots, pans, dishes, clothing, shoes, and bathroom towels. I have yet to find my measuring cups.

In between this unpacking, I discovered even more boxes packed in the most malicious manner by those who assaulted, harassed, and slandered me (and Brian and Jamie) last year. Each one of those was like a sucker punch to the gut, making me once again feel that queasy fear that if my mere possessions could be handled so roughly, what might happen if I unwittingly bumped into one of them at Walmart?

In some ways, the boxes Brian had packed were worse emotionally – every box carefully labeled, sometimes in 2 inch high letters on multiple sides, the contents inside swaddled like tiny babies in newspaper, cloth, bubble wrap. He was so sick…his thyroid goiter alone made him look like he had a spare tire under his neck, and so much else was wrong. The dichotomy of how the boxes he packed had been done with so much care and attention, where the others had been treated as if my precious things were nothing but rancid garbage brought me to tears or my knees in prayer or both many a night.

Then of course, there were the boxes, bags, and totes from what should have been the happiest day of our lives – our wedding day August 16, 2014.

So, you can imagine me, a year later, still waiting for explanations and apologies, trying to start over in a new apartment, sick, sore, exhausted, wheeling to an unlabeled box or tote, terrified of whether it would hold:

  • a happy memory,
  • more of items damaged beyond use,
  • or a memory of incredible pain

Pretty much everything you see here from mouth and tongue to bowel and bladder has something wrong with it. This is what my insides will look like if I fail to keep my weight, proteins, and other nutrients up and have to have a g-tube put in to eat ensure the rest of my life.

I was doing this mostly alone,  while at the same time barely able to eat from gastroperesis in my stomach, heartburn in my throat, and IBS symptoms in my intestine causing pain in my throat, stomach and colon. At times I was literally bent over double as pain from uterine break though bleeding escaping my broken and prolapsed uterus, and the vertigo and dizzy spells of MS were aggravated by the anemia I had been battling since March took their toll. The pain “cocktail” that would allow me, Cinderella like, to walk and lift and move for up to 48 hours (albeit with braces on many parts of my body) had the most awful symptoms when they wore off, leaving me a prisoner in the bathroom for hours.

Except for my case manager, my friend Niki, Niki and her husband Mike and whatever kids they could scrounge up, my adoptive parents Ma and Dad Johnson, or Brian, I was by and large alone.

A government glitch meant that my chronic health care had been caught in the bureaucratic machine. I have had a case manager, a weekly home care nurse, and from 10 to 17 hours a week of personal care attendants or LNA’s since 2006 until the final brutal threats, lies, and institutional assaults against us in October 2014 to help keep me as healthy and active as possible. When I lost those supports, I nearly lost my life more than once, and I have lost track of how many hospital trips I had in addition to the 2 ½ day stay in the cardiac unit.

For 7 years, I had all kinds of personal care, nursing, and professional help. I had a large circle of friends and my bio family was not yet emigrated to California.

This time, My bio family is mostly either in California or scattered to the wind, my finances are ruined, my health is in shambles, the supports are missing, and I don’t even have a reliable car.  

My case manager, though a separate agency from the chronic illness program, is amazing and drives me to appointments when I need to because I can’t afford the para transit van for wheelchair users for all of them. She has helped me sort boxes, take out trash, and keep at least some semblance of a schedule. But her caseload is huge.

There is no nurse, and while I try my best I frequently make mistakes trying to fill my complicated planners.

There are no aides to help relive some of the burden, or at least prompt me that it is time to eat, to cook for me, or to shower me. Except for Niki and Brian to help with showers and so on, it is just me. Brian tries his best to make sure I get a shower at least once a week.

So for day after day, I would drag myself out of bed, into the chair, and take my temp. If it was under 100 degrees, I checked how bad the bleeding was. As long as I was not soaking blood through a depends within 2 hours, I went to work.

I worked on unpacking, sorting, putting things away, and trying to make sure there was a path to the patio door. Every other place I had lived, your first floor bedroom window counted as your second egress in the case of fire. It was one of my worst mistakes that I hadn’t double checked, as the type of development I joined requires there be two doors available – and I had stacked a month’s worth of boxes in the way of door #2.

This is one of the official engagement photos, a glimpse of who Brian and I were before the final attacks against us in the week prior to and the day of August 16th.

This is one of the official engagement photos, a glimpse of who Brian and I were before the final attacks against us in the week prior to and the day of August 16th. At the time, I was suffering sleep deprivation and exhaustion, but was walking without a cane and was on a very moderate program for pain control. I also still could smile with an open mouth as I still had all my front teeth. One reason I avoid being photographed now.

The first bad night was when I opened a tote and found myself staring at the “I her Mr” and “I’m his Mrs” signs that had decorated our places at the head table. I cried there curled up in a ball on the floor for hours. I am not sure when, but somewhere after midnight I finally got the strength to get back in my chair and wheel into the bedroom, collapsing on the bed with Booker. I suddenly realized I had cried right through his dinner time. All I could offer him that night was peanut butter crackers I had in my nightstand. He seemed to understand, and curled up against my aching cold knees instead of at my feet.

Another bad night was when my temp was 99.9, my body alternating between freezing and sweats, and the blood soaked depends needing to be changed every 3 hours. The pain was indescribable. But the next day was an inspection of units. I kept cleaning, being too weak to unpack any boxes. (I passed by the way, although they had to shut off the water to part of the development for half a day.)

The best day was when I opened up a random box and discovered the Laura doll my mother had made for me when I was a child.  Originally, none of the wedding attendants were going to carry flowers.  Instead each was going to carry one of the 41 dolls in my collection, all of which had great personal meaning to me.  We had torn the cabin apart trying to find Laura, and had only found one of the dresses from her wardrobe.  I had thought she was lost forever.  Now she sits proudly on the quilt rack my Grandpa Watts made right over me as I sleep.

By October 1st I was covered in the yellow, green, and newer blue bruises from trying to walk and list, carry, unpack, move, hang things up, and all the rest of the parts of setting up an apartment entails.  I had suffered four borderline bowel impactions which I had to treat at home, alone.

This past Saturday, Mike and Niki had not only gotten my business phone working and my desk organized, Mike had fixed my speakers on my pc, and had gotten my backup drive running. He gave a great try to get one of the two printers I own working, but wasn’t able to. He did however help me move 5 big totes and boxes to my storage unit I rent in another town. Niki sat and unraveled and organized one entire large tote of wires, putting the useful ones together, and the tossing the broken ones.

Sunday night…maybe about 4:30pm, I was walking (against doctor’s orders) trying to lean on and push my wheelchair with a basket and bag of laundry to take and put in the washer in the laundry/mail room in another part of the building.

I never made it too the door. The fatigue hit me suddenly, along with a dizzy spell and another attack of uncontrollable burping, my knees buckled, and down to the floor I went. It surprised me, because I had slowed down enough I wasn’t having the breakthrough bleeding anymore, and a recent CBC had showed the anemia now under control. Why can’t I stand up? I wondered.


In addition to the things broken inside me, and the things wrong caused by MS, these areas have been in various levels of constant pain inside sometime in the early 1990’s. In 1995, after escaping a brutally violent first marriage, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.

I didn’t even have my cell phone with me, and that same bureaucratic snafu that had some how held up my hone care had also held up my life alert button. I curled up on the cold floor of my entry hall and cried myself to sleep. Honestly, I think it was just exhaustion. The week before I had told my case manager “I can’t keep up this pace. You can only push a mule and work it so hard and it just collapses. I have trouble getting up, I fall asleep during the day if I sit down and don’t keep pushing and working. Is there are word on when my aides will get set up?”

Sunday night, when I finally awoke, I was able to drag the basket and bag off the wheel chair, and to wheel myself to bed. My bills for the month lay half finished on my desk. I felt like my entire body weighed three times what it really does.

I recognized that feeling. It is Fibromyalgia, the feeling you have just run a marathon, all your muscles feel overstretched, pressure points hurt, and you are fatigued beyond belief.

The bills I didn’t finish included the net 10 cell card, and overnight my service was shut off.

By Monday October 5th, Niki had come once, Brian had come with them the day we had the van, and Niki and Mike came this past weekend. Brian had come Monday to do housekeeping, laundry, and shower me, and had come Tuesday to help me get to an appointment. The place was looking more like a home, less like a dirty storage unit.  I was able each day someone came to rest in the wheelchair or the bed at least a little. However, my body was loudly crying “uncle.”

Brian went to call me in the morning, and when he got the message my phone was disconnected, he knew something had gone very very wrong. He was my Personal Care Support Professional, you know..  Even though he had lived with and managed disabilities since birth. His time as my PCSP was way back in our story, before his doctor had told him it was time to stop working part time and apply for SSDI in December 2011.

A_Knight_totherescueThat same morning, Brian decided to just drive down and find out what was going on. He found me, exhausted, still in bed, obviously having not had more than a wash up for days. He found stacks of laundry, piles of dishes, and boxes and totes with labels saying “needs to go in outside storage” “need to sort this” along with my planner with 10 other “To Do’s” while I could barely lift my head off the pillow.

Just like Mike and Niki had done Saturday, he was another of my knights in shining amour.  He cleaned and sorted, like they had done. He did laundry, and cooked me lunch, bringing it to me in bed. Just like Niki had two weeks earlier, he went through boxes and got the items sorted into what rooms they belonged in, and then wheeled me from room to room asking me where this went or that went. By the early evening he had helped me get dressed, and taken me to the credit union, and helped me get one more bill paid.

Also on Monday, Brian played with Booker, and made sure I got into bed early. Yesterday, Tuesday October 6, 2015, Brian helped me on and off the para transit van, on and off the bus, and after my doctor appointment, the reverse, making a 5 ½ hour day to a specialist much easier to manage. He got called away by an emergency, but left me with enough energy to do some light putting away for about 30 minutes before I got into bed to rest and write most of this entry.

None of the three during the times they were here were able to do much about my appetite. Ma and Dad ohnson somehow get me to eat more, but I had no way to get to them, or them to me the past two weeks.  The other help I have gotten from all of them and my case manager has been invaluable.

I tried to work on things today, after sleeping from exhaustion until 11:30am.  I took the Cinderella cocktail, strapped on my braces, and went to work.  I made lemon almond bran breakfast bars, which Booker loved.  Trying to lift the top of the hutch back on the base, about 2:30, my brace encased knee, and then my brace encased shoulder gave out, and I fell, hitting my shoulder in the process.

I am done.  While the floor is strewn with tools, the dishes are not all finished, and the floor never got mopped, I am bed bound now except for about 20 minutes tonight I made Booker dinner, and got myself a drink.  It is 4pm, and I am still in too much pain to sleep, but  it seems to be better.  I finished the edits to this post and added today’s events.  (I had written it yesterday.) I scheduled it to post overnight.

Will I finish everything the landlord wants done by Friday AM?

I doubt it.

I will try my best.

Brian is going to try to come back on Thursday afternoon.

A new agency with professional organizers is giving me a quote for services on Thursday, and might have some last minute tips.

In short I will do my best, and take what help I can get.

But I will not push so hard again that I start bleeding or I collapse.

Even if it costs me this place, which I like very much, I am going to start right now resting more, staying on bed rest as much as possible, and somehow it will have to be enough, because I have very little energy and ability to give.

I will be back on Facebook, Messenger, Google Plus, Good Reads, and all the social media channels I write for or run as soon as I can. But first I need a few more days for me to rest.

In the meantime, please say a prayer for me, and if you can contribute to my fundraiser at so I can get a smart-phone with a big screen to accommodate my MS related vision problems and also use the medical tracking apps that were on my now battery-less tablet.

Yes, I can still use the 4 year old heavy laptop to read email, but a lot of the medical tracking software is Android only, and Text messaging is getting quite hard on my eyes, especially since the handset I have has a 4″ cracked screen.

For those folks from family to Facebook friends who have sent messages,  thank you for caring ,for praying for me, my medical team and Case Manager, my volunteer caregivers Ma and Dad Johnson, Mike, Niki  & their family and school aged friends, and for Brian. I am very grateful for the messages and prayers, even if too exhausted to write back.

It is Wednesday 5pm. I have to sleep. This will post sometime this week, I hope, and let everyone know that although I suffer and battle…


To see more by this artist, click on the picture. (c)

I survive still. God is with us…

my favorite prayer being the Glory Be: 

Glory Be To The Father God, The Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. 

As it was from the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.


The Divine is in the air we breathe and the people in our lives.

The Divine is within us, and in the person of Jesus Christ, he is strong enough to carry our battered bodies when we can’t stand.

Take care,


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Phone Calls and Automobiles

Last Weekend In August, 2015


a call from a friend can make a cold bed rest day just so much better!

You know who you are, and yeah I can’t wait until we are both healthy enough to get together too!victorian_telephone1

On a sadder note, I think my indoor thermometer is broken. It says 70…but feels more like 50, except twice when I wheeled to the kitchen. Those two times it felt like it was 85 in there. I have checked the ovens, the burners, and yep, both are off.

Now trying to find thermometer. Did my coldness come from anemia and relief from menopausal hot flashes, or do I have an infection somewhere I don’t really have feeling and I have a fever? The joys of having multiple disabilities.

Hopefully it is nothing.These are the kind of things that occupy a mind of a home bound diasabled person as soon as the phone call is over.

And while I was glad to hear from that friend, I am praying earnestly for one I didn’t talk to today.

My best friend, who has been so sick, has now had a preexisting problem with his left foot become much worse, and who has a condition that makes it hard for his medicine to work, which makes his TBI so bad it’s not safe for him to cook, drive, make good decisions, or operate machinery.

Not that he has much issue with that as he, too, is holding a beat up car together with band aids and victorian_automobile2bubble gum.

So, prayed an entire St. Francis Peace Seed chaplet for him and his car, and going to try and fix his favorite Roman Dominican short rosary for him so he can have it to hold. He lives in a town with no mass transit, and spent all last winter home bound.

Prayed also for friends Joyce and Richard, who unless they take a bus or get a ride are home bound like I mostly am. Amazingly, I got to talk on the phone to them today also. To talk to two friends in one day is..well for me it is amazing.  Between MS and Anemia, I am not concious often enough.

So Joyce and I traded notes about the folks over there and the folks over here, and had a shorter, but very nice chat. Her husband, her, and I all miss the days we used to go shopping together, or take turns having potlucks at each others homes.

old fashioned automobile

old fashioned automobile

The friend who called me this morning is just barely hanging on to her car. My best friend’s car is falling apart. Joyce and her husband just made the mistake of being disabled and old. I don’t have a car, and doubt if I will ever be able to afford one now that it would need to be somewhat wheelchair friendly..

It gets worse. Those of us who are often home bound and who have home care aides shudder at what some of these hardworking medical professionals are driving because the pay is so low.

So many of us elderly, disabled, low income working folks, and single parents just can’t afford decent cars. Even those who can, often have to choose between gas to get to the job or the doctor and heat, lights, food.

How do you get to the doctor or the pharmacy when you are home bound? How do you get to the grocery store? Or your brother’s funeral two towns over?

How do you pay for repairs, or a car payment and insurance on a fixed income that hasn’t even been risen to cover the outrageous gouging by Kraft, Nabisco, and General Mills?  I still can’t believe that if your adjusted income after rent and taxes is even one penny over $973, you don’t qualify for food stamps.  With the typical car payment being close to $300, insurance being at least $100, heat and medical – what’s on earth is left to buy food with?

How do you afford a car payment for a reliable car, that as a home care worker you will spend at least 3 hours a day – not reimbursed – driving from client to client, when the pay is so low you can’t pay a payment, insurance, and gasoline?

Today was a good day in being able to talk on the phone with three friends, and to do some praying for my best friend even if I didn’t get to talk to him today.Open air Old Fashioned car

But even those good things come tinged with the realization that:

  1. before the cuts triggered by the Tea Party shutdowns,
  2. before the gas companies were allowed to charge outrageous prices in poor neighborhoods, while rich folks with fat checkbooks get special “club discounts” because they don’t have to check the balance each time they gas up,
  3. back before states started dismantling social safety nets, and
  4. before the 1% stopped hosting and going to gala fundraisers for homeless shelters and food banks,

We – all of us that talked today, and even my best fried….we all might have spent the day together in person, and had a BBQ. Chances are we would have bought charcoal and some chicken, maybe some BBQ sauce and contributed to the economic growth of our community.  We would have laughed and shared our sufferings, and we would have had a good healthy meal, eaten slowly and savored.

Lack of decent, affordable transportation robbed us today of our Pursuit of Happiness and our Freedom, and contributed to the continuation of the economic depression.

Things need to change.

woman_victorian_webBrenda The Writer

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Human Donations To Political Parties

Interesting fact for today…Green Party: “The number of monthly sustainers has skyrocketed by 70% in the last 8 months….”

That is a growth rate of people making automatic monthly donations that is very close to what Bernie Sanders had.

Meanwhile automatic monthly donations by human beings is plummeting in both the Republican and Democratic parties. If they were not taking money from super PACs and corporations, both would be having problems flooding our airwaves and the Internet with advertisements.

The bad news is that there are also humans who are putting money into neo-nazi groups, tea party fundamentalists, and other fringe extreme right groups as well.

This bears watching, because we could easily end up with an excellent third party in 2016 or we could easily end up with a Iran style theocracy or a Hitler in 2020.

If larger numbers of human beings in this country are putting their own money behind Bernie and the Green Party than in the “big guys” what will happen on Election Day?

Super PACs and corporations do not have the right to vote. Only humans do.

Trump is a joke and everyone knows it. No one in the Republican Party is coming forward WikiLeaks style to admit who would actually be running things if he were to win.

Hillary’s campaign is relying on super PACs, corporations, banks, and a core group of female voters who are not aware that she is not the only female candidate.

Are Americans starting to educate themselves that the advertisement glut is just super rich puppeteers trying to pull their strings?

Or come election day will they just be lazy and check off the name they know the best because it has been playing on the airwaves the most?

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Tilting At Windmills: Wellsense & Beacon

psychiatristsIf you are on New Hampshire Medicaid, you most often have to pick a managed care program.

Because the wingnuts currently in our legislature keep threatening and filing bills to throw out the Health Care Reform Act and the Medicaid Expansion, however, few companies are willing to spend the $40,000 to prepare a plan for the state.  This means that Medicaid NHmcm-logomembers this year had only two choices: Wellsense and NH Healthy Families.

Amazingly, it is the supposedly pro-business GOP wingnuts in Concord who create this anti-business atmosphere.  If they would all shut up, or better yet get swept out of office next election, they would find more companies willing to put together plans for New Hampshire, and the more free market competition there is, the more money the state is likely to save.

However, Supporting Free Market Capitalism seems to be the ultimate sin for the GOP today, because the only way to do it with health care is to shut up and leave Obamacare and Medicaid Expansion alone, like the Supreme Court ORDERED them to.


This is a brain. Legislators don’t understand that neurologists and psychiatrists are both brain specialists. They should be paid the same.

wellsense_logoSo, off I went, and having such little choice, I chose Wellsense.  beacon_logo

At that point I discovered that the mental health care had been sold by Wellsense to a company called Beacon.

Sighing a little at a Boston Medical Center non-profit outsourcing so quickly, especially considering the near failing grade NH has in mental health care, I went ahead and decided to test the waters with Beacon, and see if they are made of the right stuff to truly fix any part of our broken mental health system.

Email #1 sent 12/30/15.  I will post later and link here when I get the response.  Please, no accusations I soft peddled.  I purposely only threw three softballs at them. Let’s give them a chance.

Hi I just signed up for Wellsense through NH Easy.  I am  also on CFI-chronic illness waiver. I have recently been approved  for CFI-mental health waiver through Medicaid.

Lots of questions, but first up:

Pain clinics all over the state keep recommending people take a Cognitive Behavioral Class to help manage pain.  Because I used to run a 501c3 charity that helped members find resources in NH, they keep calling me asking if I know where there are classes.

I already got the same advice from a pain clinic 23 months ago and discovered that NONE of the so called mental health agencies in the state actually offer CBT classes.

I DID take a CBT class, which was I believe once a week for 6 weeks when I lived in Massachusetts through Harvard Pilgrim HMO.  It did a lot for my mental health and for my fibro pain.  I still needed meds, but not as many.

The group interaction works much better than the MH agencies trying to teach CBT one on one in expensive counseling sessions. It also eats up so much time, they can’t actually get any counseling done.

Are YOU guys willing to pay for a CBT class if I find a space and a social worker who will teach it?  I have several locations in Strafford County that will let Wellsense (as a nonprofit) use space for free.  So, all you would pay for is marketing, materials, and the teacher fee.

Next: You know there is a massive shortage of psychiatrists.  I am a freelance writer and public speaker. Would your company help sponsor me to take a trip to colleges in Boston to talk to first year med students about why they should consider psychiatry?

The state of NH doesn’t even have a single person doing recruiting, so I am also interested in going to colleges to talk to new psychiatrists about the benefits of living in New Hampshire, and ways they can balance the low reimbursement rates by offering alternate services and products (like sharing office space with massage therapists, or a self help bookstore that also sells home therapy items like mini zen gardens.)

Last, who in your company is up in Concord and in Washington bugging the politicians to raise reimbursement rates?  Can I get some tips from them on bullet points to bring up when emailing and talking to those wingnuts?

More questions, but this is a good start.

Email is best at  Office/Home is 207-xxx-xxxx (yes, it’s NH) and I am “open” Mondays, Wednesdays 10 to 4pm and Fridays 10am to 3pm.

Thanks, Looking forward to you serving my MH needs, and working with you,

Brenda Eckels Burrows, aMGC

Well, let’s see what happens!

woman_victorian_webTake care,

Brenda The Writer

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Filed under disability, Election, Life After The New Depression, Mental Health, poverty, Uncategorized, Welfare

11-27-15 Return Unto Your Rest – A jewel from another blogger, Jay Harding

Source: 11-27-15 Return Unto Your Rest

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11-27-15 Return Unto Your Rest

This is such a beautiful prayer, and it expressed the longing I often have lately as I reach each night without a good night call or text from my best friend. Would that my soul was better at remembering these words and that Jesus is here even if I am alone. Some nights it is easy, some nights…..

Source: 11-27-15 Return Unto Your Rest

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Thanksgiving Relections



November 2014

Hard to believe that last Thanksgiving, in this photo with the grey dress, I could: walk all I wanted,climb stairs, speak clearly, had a lot more teeth and hair, and actually had a chance of climbing out of the financial wreckage from having our wedding day ruined and being harassed as I tried to get my shoes and dress on.

There have been so many days I wish I had let the DJ, a wonderful woman, just handle it and escort the person off the property that day. Or considering the issues we had with the same person the day before, I wish we had simply called the cops and filed a “No Trespass” order. We’d have celebrated our first anniversary in August, so many horrible things would not have happened, and Brian might not be so sick now.

But hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it? Despite the tragedies of the past year and a half, we humans can either let them lead us down into illness, addiction, despair, death….or we can crawl up into the wheelchair, dust ourselves off, and try to live the best life we can.

So this Thanksgiving, I paused to reflect on what I am thankful for, and where I might like to see myself and our now fractured family next


cornucopia thanksgiving fruit vegetable pumpkin clipart

This Thanksgiving

I am grateful for:


  • The domestic violence workers at YWCA Manchester and Safe Place Portsmouth for teaching me about Female Relational Abuse, and how common it is that female abusers like his ex-wife seldom get better without extensive treatment.
  • The case managers at all three programs that have helped me, and continue to help me survive and thrive.
  • I am profoundly grateful to everyone at both Al-Anon groups I ended up attending,
  • to my counselor, and especially to my psychiatrist who in addition to solving how to get the right meds into my body and to absorb correctly…ALSO worked so hard to find a psychiatrist for Brian with the experience and knowledge to sort out TBI, Psych, and other issues.
  • To our couples counselor, and the psychiatrist she is under who worked with us also.
  • To my pastor, my brothers and sisters in my religious order, and to all who offered prayers and masses for Brian, Jamie, and I over the past 18 months.
  • I am grateful for the medical team that kept me alive, especially the Cardiac Care Unit at Frisbie Hospital.
  • I am grateful to the medical team that took care of Brian after his accident last fall in Maine.
  • For those bio and adopted family members that have walked with me this past year, and not given up and walked away.
  • For those members of Brian’s family who are caring for him now. Mom and Dad, I am glad I got to talk to you this summer, even briefly. I love you both.
  • While my circle of friends is much smaller now, I am grateful for the ones who truly stood with us through the storm.
  • While it certainly cost me in lots of different ways, I am grateful to God for bringing Brian and I back together for a third time.  The most recent 10 months were full of hardships and trials, but I truly believe God brought us back together for a reason.  I am grateful for the love, laughter, and life we had together when he was doing better, and before once again, humans dared to separate what God had joined.

While I will always love Brian, and I would welcome him back in friendship if he, again, “beats the odds”, and survives, I suspect that no matter what recovery he experiences, he never again be completely whole. As for me, once you taste the sweet wine of hearts intertwined so harmoniously, as Brian and I were on Valentine’s 2013 and many times before that and since… never want to go back to anything else.  I understand now why eagles mate for life.

That said, I continue to pray for him everyday….that God steps in and saves him yet again.  Everyone should have one great love. I wish we had been able to grow old together unhindered by those intent on tearing us apart, but God will either decide to bring us back together again someday down the road (which would be the forth time, if God chooses to), or God will provide me and him another type of life.

I don’t know for sure yet, but it seems that God is calling me already  to a different kind of life, at least for now.  The photo next to me on my nightstand is Jesus now, and already my life is beginning to center around my writing, the work of a Subdeacon, and the discernment about making my profession as a full religious.  There are even whispering in my prayers that perhaps God is leading me to a vow of celibacy. Wherever God is leading me, I am grateful that he has decided I still have something to offer him as a Franciscan and as a Catholic.

I hope that next Thanksgiving sees Brian alive and more stable, Jamie growing and loving the sports he plays, and me perhaps able to do a little more walking than I am capable of now, while continuing to write and minister.  I hope next Thanksgiving that perhaps all three of us will be more healed, and that perhaps all three of us will have had more of the people who hurt us ask us for forgiveness, and that we will be able to in turn ask those we hurt, including each other, for forgiveness too.

Advent…the “Little Lent” in Catholic faith starts officially on Sunday, but I like that it is preceded so closely by Thanksgiving, when we look back on our year, both good and bad, give thanks for what we have been able to do, and give thanks for those who have helped us along the way.

Happy Thanksgiving to my families, give-thanks-to-1The Eckels, The Mihaleks, The Cooks, The Watts, and The Allgaiers, The Johnsons, and The O’Rourkes, and to my dear Godson David and his mother Deanna. Wherever they are, I hope my beloved granddaughters are having a wonderful holiday.  To all the  kids who were ever part of my family, I hope you have all the best things in life this Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving to my “in real life” friends, to all of my Facebook Friends, Google+ pals, Pinterest friends, even the folks I argue with on HuffPost and other blogs.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at my Catholic denomination, Rumney Marsh Fellowship (especially Bishop David!) and my religious order, Mercy Of God Community, to my “boss” Bishop Gregory, the writers, and staff at Convergent Streams Magazine, to  all the members at, and to those who follow me here at my blog at

And yes, Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are, to “my Brian” and to Jamie, my kid #15, both in my heart always. May God watch over you both.

woman_victorian_webTake care,

Brenda The Writer

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Filed under Catholicism, Family, Life After The New Depression, Mental Health, Religion and Faith, Uncategorized, Wedding

Tales over Tea

colored_victorian_lady“Well, don’t just sit there like a bump on a log,” demanded the old woman, as she adjusted her hat to keep the offending rays of the sun off her face. She continued, impatiently,”It was even more boring around here than usual. I kept hoping someone would break a hip or streak out the bedroom!”

Sally smiled, as she removed the tea ball with a flourish that contained  direct from china Jasmine Tea. It was just about ready to drink, but she knew Irene . The next part was to carefully add just exactly one miniature spoonful of honey, to gently stir, and then to present it to Irene as if presenting a gift of gold to the Christ Child.

“I am sorry, that it seems to be rather dull here.” Sally began. “Perhaps, if you were to try one of the Activities they have displayed on the board…” Continue reading

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Paris 11/13/15

Arabic word for “Peace” : Salam

frenchflagThere were so many words about Paris, about the refugees, about all of it going through my head…In the end, other than a fb discussion about the difference between ISIS and Islam, none of the words could come together in a way that encompassed all my feelings that we have just experienced the same event that in my grandmother’s time started WWI. Then I saw I didn’t have to write anything, for a far better writer than I had already taken my thoughts and captured them. Thank you so much David Concepcion, my friend.

arabic word for peace

Theology in Action

I think we are all reeling from the late night attacks on Paris that have only recently been claimed by ISIL. When these attacks happen, I’m not sure what people think. I know I feel numb at how senseless all this violence can be, the damage it causes and the recriminations and violence it can spur from then on. While I know this blog talks about spirituality and theology, at times like these it feels like prayers are not enough. Keeping Parisians in our hearts are good, but I feel like I want to donate blood and mail it overseas. The situation is compounded with the refugee crisis in Europe. We need to hold all of Europe in our hearts, and take a long range look to see how we may tackle the root causes of terror and war.

I offer this poem by Karuna Ezara Parikh seen a lot…

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Filed under Faith, Life After The New Depression

A Little Extra Mercy

This Sunday, I thought I’d share a favorite quote…and decided to make it a freebie you are welcome to download, save, share, and enjoy. 

It’s not a Catholic quote at all, but a Christian one.

When God calls you for something difficult, He tucks a little extra mercy in between the Grace and the peace.  paraphrase of quote by Rick Renner

The easiest way to save this in Windows is to right click and go down to Save As…Sorry, but I don’t speak Apple.

The quote is from the Charismatic (and Apocalyptic) Christian leader of the self titled Rick Renner Ministries.  Pastor Renner’s book “Living In The Combat Zone” has all sorts of dogmas and beliefs I, as a Catholic and as an individual, would not endorse. But, like all humans, every so often, he gets it right, and this quote was one of those times.

I learned about Charles de Foucauld (who IS Catholic – Roman denomination) at the same time I read “Combat Zone” by reading “Cry The Gospel With Your Life” a biography of him.  There were a lot of days when I felt like I would end up like Charles, who feared at one point feared that he was a total failure, because he had not attracted one person to his religious life or made one convert. Today he is (to the Vaticanites) Blessed Charles de Foucauld . (As a martyr, I consider him to already be a saint, as was the case in the early church when there was no Vatican or special stamps or papers.)

By the time he died, he had founded the Roman Catholic Association of the Brothers and Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in France, even though he was in the Sahara, and after his death his writings inspired the creation of Roman Catholic religious institute The Little Brothers and Little Sisters of Jesus and other organizations.  It was wonderful to read of how deFoucard’s ministry turned out, but the biography, although helpful, did nothing to give me a concrete way of thinking about the environment I was in right now. 

My first hint came when I found Prayer Before Battle in a little book written by then Monsignor Fulton Sheen for soldiers to carry in the war.  Sheen acknowledged in the book that the prayer had been found in a soldier’s prayerbook, and that Sheen himself did not write it.  It rang so true to me, it has been one of the most frequent morning prayers I pray for almost a decade.

The overall tone of “Living In The Combat Zone”, the way of thinking about being a minister to human beings in a very dangerous and difficult world – In my case the world of the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the GLBTQ, the forgotten, and the lonely – was of great comfort to me when there was no “Tender Mercies Ministry”, no 501c charity, nothing more than me by myself, going out everyday and trying my best to be an example of Franciscan Independent Catholicism by my activities, not by preaching. 

It filled out the thoughts expressed in Prayer Before Battle”, and gave me inspiration to get up, haul my MS ridden body out of bed, and go out and BE.  Guess what?  There is no more Tender Mercies Ministry, no staff, just me mostly in my wheelchair going out as often as I am healthy enough and trying my best to be an example of Franciscan Independent Catholicism by my activities.  Life is a circle sometimes…

It often works out that God may pick someone you completely would never expect to for one moment to come out with one sentence, or one book, that can change your entire day.  Since God is all-powerful, I saw no reason why God couldn’t be allowed to have picked this on-the-edge preacher from another far-away part of the garden to send me a message.  The message I got was that God knew I was down in the trenches of a very bad war, that  I was not walking this lay Franciscan thing by myself, that Jesus was walking with me. 

woman_victorian_webThis quote, based on Renner’s interpretation of Timothy 1 and 2, stayed with me through the years, and I hope that it brings the reader as much comfort as it has brought me.

Take Care,


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Heartache (Poem)


Each minute that goes by
Alone in a cold bed
Is another minute I dive for
The sleep medicine
And my heart aches to curl up next to him.
Each hour that goes by
Without his voice
Is another hour I try to stay so busy
I will not notice
But my heart aches for the sound of his laugh.


Each day that goes by
Without his arms around me
Is another day I feel I am closing down
To human touch
And my heart aches to nuzzle into his chest.


I dread what it will be like
Should it come to pass
That I measure in weeks
How long he is away
And my heart trembles in fear at the thought.


How do you tell a heart
That the one it loves above all others
The one it has been true to for years
Is lost and wandering again, and
You are not sure when, or if,
He will find his way back this time?


My love was the most valued thing
I could give him.
My heart was like silver shining bright.
My friendship was, is, everlasting.
My care for him the sweetest ministry.
But most of all, the vow I made
that Valentine’s Day
Never wavered,
and never will.


Every hour that passes
I can do little more than
What I have done every other time
He has thrown me away, gotten lost,
or chosen someone else’s tin charms.
So I pray, just like the other times
But while I pray, I am bowed over in pain
Because my heart aches…that…much…


I love you. Come back soon, I miss you so…
my heart aches for you.

(C)11/6/15 Brenda Ann Eckels, aMGC

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