An Interview With Maureen Pratt

Maureen Pratt is an award-winning playwright, journalist and author, as well as a sought-after speaker and patient advocate. Her articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Arthritis Today Magazine, Lupus Now Magazine, National Employment Business Weekly, and other national and regional publications. She is an on-going contributer to the newsletters WRITE TO THE HEART (American Christian Romance Writers). Her play, “In Good Faith,” won the Best Play, State of Maryland Award, and her manuscript, “Dream Come True,” won the 1999 Molly Best Inspirational Award.

Maureen’s book, Taking Charge of Lupus: HOW TO MANAGE THE DISEASE AND MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR LIFE (co-authored with David Hallegua, M.D.) has been awarded the Seal of Approval by the Lupus Foundation of America. Her most recent book, The First Year – Hypothyroidism, has been approved for patient education by the Thyroid Foundation of America. Her latest title is Peace in the Storm: MEDITATIONS ON CHRONIC PAIN AND ILLNESS (Doubleday, April 2005).

As a lupus and hypothyroid patient, Maureen has joined with several regional and national organizations to raise awareness of the diseases and funding for research. She is an Ambassador for the Arthritis Foundation, Southern California Chapter, and a founding member of Lupus LA. When her health permits, she has also been a guest speaker at events, symposia and medical conferences sponsored by the Lupus Foundation of Illinois, Lupus Foundation Kansas Chapter, and the Lupus Support Network, among others.

A graduate of Georgetown University and UCLA, Maureen is fluent in French and Spanish. For 13 years, she conducted and sang with an African-American gospel choir in Los Angeles, and she has also been a civilian musician with the U.S. Army and a ranger for the National Park Service. She is a member of the Author’s Guild, Romance Writers of America, the Aquarium of the Pacific, American Christian Romance Writers, Georgetown University Alumni Interviewing Committee, and the UCLA Alumni Association.

1) To start us off would you share one of your favorite meditations from your new book with us?

Each meditation/prayer is focused on a specific area or theme related to coping with chronic pain and/or illness, so it’s hard to choose one favorite! But the one that is most related to the theme is my meditation on “Peace in the Storm,” which reads, in part:

“In the eye of the hurricane. In the middle of a tornado. In the aftermath of a great earthquake and before the aftershocks…
There is peace.
While all around the winds might blow and the earth tremble…
There is peace.
In the storms in our lives, in the middle of the darkest hour…
There is peace…
Because God ordains it.
The Lord can command the winds and the water, the earth and the sky. With the simplest of words, he can say, “Quiet! Be still!” and it will be done.
In our hearts, too, we can experience a profound, strong peace at a word from the Lord.
We have to listen for it, we have to be watchful. We have to believe there is peace.
And we shall find it.”
(Peace in the Storm, page 251, Doubleday/Random House, 2005)

2) What are some of the modifications you’ve made having lupus/chronic pain when you garden?

One of the most obvious ones is to stay out of the sun. This is really tough to do, if you like outdoor gardening! But I’ve managed to find times early morning or later in the afternoon/evening, when the sun isn’t shining on my little garden, to tend my outdoor plants. Another help is gardening in containers. This way, I don’t have to stoop and bend all that much and can lessen the amount of stress placed on my joints. Wearing good gardening gloves is important to avoid cuts and pricks from rose thorns. And selecting shade-loving plants is another great way to garden out of doors, but out of the sun, too! Some of my favorites are fuchsia, dipladenia, and geraniums (which seem to grow in Southern California no matter where they’re planted!) Gardening indoors is also amazingly therapeutic and fulfilling – I love my African violets and other indoor plants. And the nice thing is that I can tend them whenever I feel able to and they don’t seem to complain!

3) You were active for 13 years with an African American gospel choir. How did that affect you spiritually?

Working with the people at Saint Eugene Church was one of the highlights of my life! The friendships and fellowship with the parishioners and choir members continues to this day, and I fell (still) so blessed! African-American worship, with gospel music, is a tremendously energetic, spirit-filled way to praise God and express the sublime joy of His gifts of love, peace, and comfort. Gospel music is like non-other, and coming from a classically trained background, I found more strength, diversity, and depth to my own singing than I’d ever experienced before.

4) You’ve been through alot. Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? What got you through it?

Faith. Through a lifetime of illness and ups and downs, I’ve learned that maintaining faith, even at the lowest points, is vital to seeing a way through them. I also understand that there is much to be learned during the tough times, and I have tried to keep an open mind throughout. Did I ever feel like giving up? No. I’ve felt frustrated, angry, sad, tired…all of the human emotions. But it has never occurred to me to give up – I have too much of a fundamental appreciation for God’s gift of life. And, I’ve always liked puzzles. Somehow, going through a difficult time is like living in a puzzle – and trying to figure out how to get through it to a brighter tomorrow.

5) I want to thank you for taking time out to talk to me. Is there anything else you’d like to say to my readers?

I’m delighted to help! I think the thing I’d like to most emphasize about living with faith and a chronic illness is that I do believe that God has the capacity to cure each of us – to take away our illness and suffering completely. But sometimes, I believe he chooses not to for very important reasons. The things we learn from one another, the things we learn from our own illnesses, are tremendously important to our lives. Finding productivity in the midst of suffering is also extremely important. Just knowing that God is still present in times of trial is also vital to our faith. God might not cure us, but he wants us to heal, that is, he wants us to come closer to him. And sometimes this means walking through a desert or being buffeted by a violent storm. On the way to peace.

6) Please share with us out of your book, Taking Charge of Lupus. I believe everyone living with chronic pain can benefit from it and Peace in the Storm.

This passage is from Page 111 of Taking Charge of Lupus. It’s about productivity – something I find extremely crucial for each lupus patient to consider and fold into his or her own life:

“Key to turning the lupus experience into a positive one is the realization that your productivity level and type might change, but it need not vanish. Perhaps you can no longer work full-time, or even part-time. Seek out ways of volunteering, where your schedule can be more flexible. Become involved with a support group and serve as a resource for other lupus patients. Reach out to the needy, the sick, or the lonely in your community. Helping others can be an exellent way of putting your own disease in perspective and giving you a deeper appreciation for the mobility and talents that you possess.” (Taking Charge of Lupus, Maureen Pratt and David Hallegua, M.D., New American Library. 2002) Maureen Pratt www.maureenpratt.com

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