Archive | November 2012

Having My Baby—I Started My Book!

As a writer, I am not the most disciplined person in the entire world.  I need to ruminate a lot before I write.  I need to think and think and think and then, when I have finally thought enough, I sit down and the words just flow out of my fingers like water.   I have been waiting to start writing my book and have been being nudged gently, and not so gently, by a lot of people.  This book is my baby.  It has been in my head for over a year now, but there have been a lot of distractions, and a lot of thinking, and a lot of fear.  Yes, sissy girl here has had just enough self-doubt overriding my inner knowing of the greatness of this book to hold me hostage for a long time.  I am no sissy, but I am as vulnerable to fear and self-doubt as anyone.  Over the weekend, I got enough encouragement and a big enough kick in the butt to finally do it.  Yesterday morning, I started my book.

Yes, I grew each one of these people in my body and gave birth to them all, one way or another.

For me, writing is like giving birth.  Because I have given birth to seven children, and am a retired midwife, the analogy of having to be pregnant and then labor in order to finally give birth is what best describes exactly what writing is like for me.  I will walk around for quite some time knowing that something big is coming and that it is going to change my life and that it is going to be something good.  This is a very thoughtful period, pregnant with possibilities as yet unknown.  It is a time of dormancy, but not inactive dormancy, for there is a lot of internal planning and preparing going on with in me.  During these periods, I tire more easily, and I might get a little irritable at times, as well.  Being pregnant is hard work and whatever is needing to be birthed just keeps getting bigger and bigger to carry within me.

Now, I am not going to tell you that I had terrible, days long, labors with my real, human children, because I just did not.  I think my longest labor was about six hours long, because I do not consider it labor until I am really feeling it, and really having to concentrate and breathe.  The labor period may be short, but I also go nearly completely within myself during this time.  I do not want to be touched or spoken to.  I am in my own little world for that short period, and that is exactly where I need to be, too.  Do not fret.  I am not there too awfully long.

Then transition hits and things get serious.  I am beginning to feel like I need to push, and even if it is not an actual child that needs to be pushed out, but an idea, I will still often feel a physical sensation to push.  During transition, I can get a little lost, and more than a little scared.  I might be tempted to run.  I had a planned home birth with my sixth child.  He was born in July and I was so hot that I had the air conditioning set so low that all of those present for the birth had to raid my closet for my winter sweaters.  At one point during transition, I got up off of my bed and began to walk towards the bedroom door.  My labor and birth support team asked me where I was going.  I told them that I was getting the hell out of there.  I would come back tomorrow and finished it up then.

Not one drug involved and yet I thought if I just walked out of the room that the pain would end and I could come back when I was ready.   I guess that I thought if I went outside and hoisted myself into my Chevy Suburban and went and got a chocolate malt at the Dairy Queen and maybe had a little nap that I would be ready to finish up the job in a few hours.  Much to my chagrin, they guided me back into the bedroom and I popped the kid out on the bathroom floor about 30 minutes later.

Over the past weekend, I was in transition and I was scared.  I felt stuck and lost.  I knew that I could not go on as I had been, not having the courage to begin to push my baby of a book out into the world, but at the same time, I just really wanted a rest and a chocolate malt from the Dairy Queen.  I would come back and do it when I was ready, and yet I knew it was time to push!  Thank goodness, I had a good labor coach along side of me over the weekend.  She said all of the right things.  She held my hand and listened to my internal wailing, and she understood my fear, and she encouraged me a lot.  She gave me the courage to begin to push and even promised to edit the book and lined up a totally awesome beta reader to join her as part of my team.

Yesterday morning, I woke up and felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of me.  I had such a burst of happiness and energy.  I was ready to push. I sat down at the computer and opened my word processor and typed the words: Chapter One.  And then, just as I described above, the words just flowed out of my fingers like water.  Apparently, the quality of the water is high, as well, or so I have been told.  I can taste the water myself and know that it is pure and it is the kind of water that is so good that people will want more.  People will pay money to drink this water–well, that is my hope, anyway.

It was not easy, those first few  paragraphs, because it is not easy stuff to give birth to, but it feels so good.  Once you stop fighting the irresistible urge, and you actually start to push in earnest, it feels so good.  I have a lot more pushing to do, and I suspect there will be more pregnant pauses, and more labors, and more periods of transition, but this baby is going to be gorgeous.   This baby is going to light up a lot of lives.  This baby is going to release so much from within me, and so much into the world that I can hardly wait to see what she looks like.  She does not have a name yet, but she will.  This beautiful, hard-fought for baby will have a name well suited to her before she enters the world.

So, if I am a little more quiet than usual in the months to come, or more irritable, or suddenly absent for a bit, please know that I am giving birth to my book and that it is hard work.  You are all my labor coaches and my cheerleaders and I hope that you will all be around to celebrate this baby when she enters the world.  She is my gift to all of you.

This post touched me beyond words, and it beats any of the blog awards that I get, and really need to respond to properly. Thank you so much, Val! Also, you will find here some of my own very favorite blogs!

QBG_Tilted Tiara

Gratitude


Appreciation


Thankfulness


I allowed my anniversary to pass without much fanfare, mostly because I wanted to sit back and consider all that had happened in the past year. Where I began and why, what caused me to start and what has changed for me, in large part since I began exploring pieces of myself I didn’t think to explore. This past year has truly been an exercise in redefining my limits and boundaries. I have wandered paths I long since allowed to be overgrown and choked off. I also rediscovered my love of research, history and yes you might have guessed the sociology within politics.

There were things I knew, things I intellectualized but had never spoken aloud. There were other things I knew, a history buried so deep in my soul despite my tough girl exterior I still allowed those hurts to define me. In these pages I…

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This entry was posted on November 24, 2012. 1 Comment

I know—two reblogs in one night, but this is important stuff that those of us with a conscience need to understand! Xoxoxo

From my friend over next door, yet another wonderful portrayal of the sociopath, this time as seem as the serial bully. I have one caveat, not all of them are especially good with words. My sociopath was not—not at all.

This entry was posted on November 20, 2012. 3 Comments

Giving Thanks for Forgiveness and Healing

This is going to be one of those busy weeks around here with Thanksgiving and children coming home and my youngest son turning 8 years old, so I am taking this single opportunity that I have to write about what I am thankful for this year.  Because I am now twice divorced with six children from the first marriage, and one from the second, all of the holiday arrangements can get cumbersome.  Who is going to be where and when takes a lot of time to pin down.  Being flexible becomes more important than ever.

Until two days ago, it looked as if my adult kids–the ones who will be home–might have to try to stuff themselves with two Thanksgiving dinners only a few hours apart.   I was grateful that my meal would be first so that they would have some room in their stomachs for all of the delights I had in store for them.  However, on Saturday, my first husband and his wife invited us over to their house for Thanksgiving dinner.  My youngest son was thrilled with the idea, and even if I had to give up complete control of the meal, it made perfect sense to accept the invitation on the one condition that I get to bring a lot of food.

When I left my first husband I told anyone who would listen that, “He will never change.”  Guess what?  I was wrong.  He has changed quite a lot.  So have I, for that matter.  I got sober and grew up.  He made changes that I know were hard for him so that he could have a better relationship with our children.  I admire him greatly for all of the work that he has done that has so hugely benefited our family.  I think he admires the changes that I have made, as well.  Because we both cared enough about our kids to make some huge changes, we have been able to forgive each other, and we have both healed to the point where we can get together as a family with our kids, and his wife’s kids, and my little boy, and other new people thrown into the mix.  I still think this confuses some of our adult kids a bit, but they are adapting, like it or not.

I realized today that these big family gatherings would not have been possible ten years ago.  We were both still extremely stuck in our own garbage.  I got rid of the drinking and a whole lot of other things.  He gave up a lot, too, including a wife who did not support our family as a whole.  His wife now has a heart big enough, and an ego healthy enough, to open her arms to everyone.  As confused as our adult kids may be at our fairly recent hospitality towards each other, I know they are learning a lot even if they are not aware of it right now.

They are learning that even grown ups have to do some growing up before there can be health in the family.  They are learning about forgiveness that was a hard-fought battle with huge benefits.  They are learning that people can change if they have courage enough, and they are learning that healing is possible even after a bad ending.   They are also seeing that, even though they are all grown up now, that their father and I will support them forever as a unit.  There is no tug of war anymore, unless, of course, his wife will not let me make the gravy like she did last year, then there might be a battle for the whisk. 😉

My little boy adores his “Uncle Garth” and Holly and since he spent six months of his life living in their home while I was in prison, they are a very important part of his family.  It took an awful lot of people coming together, and a huge amount of love coming from all directions, for my little boy to have come through that experience as healthy as he did, and for that, I am very grateful.  I am grateful to all of my children, especially my youngest daughter who was his primary caregiver, and to my first husband and his wife and her kids, because they all played a big role is caring for my little boy.

I am so grateful for healing and forgiveness and for reconciliation as it works the magic that brings all of our families together on one day to celebrate growth and love and caring and support.  My introvert kids will survive the event, and we will get together the next day, just us as a smaller unit, to celebrate my little guy’s birthday.  It is having the best of both worlds all in one love packed weekend.  We are all having to give up a little something to open ourselves up to something much bigger and far more grand.

This kind of love and compromise and healing and forgiveness is a rare thing, and I know that.  I also know that they are right (whoever they are) when they say, “Never say never.”  I am so grateful for the kindness, love, flexibility, and generosity of this big, messy, cobbled together family.  The blessings that come from healing and forgiveness are almost too big for words, so I will use just three.  Thank you, Lord.

America–Keep Calm and Love Like Crazy!

It has been quite a week here in America, has it not?  We made it through the worst Presidential campaign that I have ever had the displeasure of witnessing, and we have made it through the election and to the other side, happily.  Of course, that happiness is only in my mind, because I like to keep my mind happy. I am truly happy that it is all finally over.  Let me insert a disclaimer at this point.  This post is not meant to incite a riot, or to become a political debate.  That is not where I am heading, so please do not head there, either.  Thank you so much.

As is the norm when it comes to Presidential elections, there was one candidate who won, and there was one candidate who lost.  That is traditionally how it works, and from what I can tell, it is the point of the whole process, as gawd-awful as it can appear at times.  Now, here we sit as a country with a lot of people who are seriously unhappy that their candidate did not win, so much so that a number of states are petitioning to secede from the United States.

Thank you to Cecilia Hanna and Good Juju for this poster!

I am left wondering what we must look like to the rest of the world, especially to the people in poor countries, or countries where they do not have privilege of voting for their leaders.   I suspect that the United States looks like a giant preschooler from a well-to-do family who, having been denied a KitKat bar at the store checkout, is having a very loud, ugly, and extremely public hissy fit.  If you have kids, you know just how embarrassing those hissy fits can be, and if you do not have kids, you have probably witnessed a public hissy fit or two, and they are just never attractive.  I am not finding this “Imma up and leave America and Imma take my whole state with me, I am so darned mad” hissy fit attractive at all.  We are not a nation of quitters, are we?

I do not know about you, but on a day-to-day basis I do not get my way all of the time, or even most of the time.  Do not get me wrong.  I like to get my way as much as the next person, but I can accept not getting my way without a public tantrum.  Heck, I am not even prone to private tantrums a whole lot.  If I gave up on something every time that I did not get my way, well I suspect that I would be awfully lonesome.  I can keep on loving someone, or something, even if in that minute, or situation, I did not get my way.  I can support a President that I did not vote for just as easily as I can support a President that I did vote for, because as Americans that is our job.  It is our job to stand behind the poor guy who has what I believe to be the least coveted job in American, from where I sit, anyway.

I mean, seriously, take a look at some before and after pictures of most of our past Presidents.  They go into the job looking all shiny and new and they come out with gray hair and looking as if they have aged 10 years for every year that they served.  It is not an easy job when you have your country supporting you nicely.  It has got to be a damned miserable job when almost half of the country is gunning for you.  The guy—each one–is only human, but we expect so much.  Do we expect that much from ourselves?  Not even close.

I still see people saying that our nation is divided and that it is President Obama’s fault, and yet I do not see him saying anything that in any way is encouraging unhappy voters to hate those who voted for him, or to run if they did not like the outcome of the election.  I believe that he would sincerely like us to stand together as a nation and to support him as best as we can.  We are dividing ourselves in a way that leaves me sad beyond words.  It is time to stop.

America, it is time to keep calm and love like crazy.  It is time that we, as a nation, remember that we are all in this together.  We are friends, neighbors, families, co-workers.  We are all human beings who need to be loved, and who need to love a whole lot more.  If we do not settle down soon and start to love on each other again, well we will have only ourselves to blame for any less than optimum outcomes.

America, it is time to put on your happy pants and remember what a great country this is and it is also time to look around you at all of the people who are struggling just as you are.  Hatred and mass discontent is not going to get any of us anywhere, but man oh man, if we all decided to engage in a love revolution, just imagine how much healing could happen, and imagine just how far ahead we would be in the future from where we stand today!

You say you cannot love the President?  That is perfectly okay.  Can you love your friend or neighbor even if they voted differently than you?  I bet you can.  If you loved them before, you can love them now.  The great thing about this country, and about this whole, big, wide world, is that we are all different.  We Americans so cling to our fierce need to be individuals that we sometimes forget that everyone else gets to be an individual, too.  Imagine a country, and a world, where we embraced differences–where we hugged the heck out of our differences and truly celebrated those grand and wonderful differences.  Imagine a country, and a world, where love was the native tongue, and the currency, and the most popular medication on the market.

What would happen if we let go of hatred, and the past, and the need to blame, and we moved forward into a future fueled by crazy amounts of love for our fellow man, no matter how different he might be.  What if we all chose to love the heck out of our country even if we do not care for the man who won the election.  What if we all stopped putting up grumpy Facebook statuses that continue to divide friends and families and our whole nation and we all took a deep breath and a giant step back and really believed that we will be okay, because we will.

We will be okay just as soon as we move into a love-like-crazy frame of mind and follow it up with some action.  If you cannot do it for your friends or neighbors, then do it for your children.  Stand tall, America!  Stand tall, keep calm, and love like crazy.  Let the healing begin within you, but do not be stingy!  It is time to start tossing love around wherever we go.  Love is the healing balm, so spread it around freely.  We will all be fine if we start to love like crazy.  Just do it.  Yes, I do mean you.

Signs That You are Becoming an Authentic Person

I am always wary of books and such that offer promises of happiness, or whatever, in three, or five, or even seven easy steps.  Do you notice that easy steps usually come in odd numbers, but you never see nine, eleven, or thirteen easy steps?  After seven easy steps, you will see a jump to ten easy steps, because ten is a number that even those of us who hate numbers can like.  Odd numbers are good up to seven, it seems, and then we move into the realm of ten or twelve steps.

As an aside, odd numbers are also best for any kind of floral or table or candle arrangement.  You will have to trust me on this one.  If you want to give someone a balloon bouquet, pick three or five balloons, never four or six.  It just will not look as appealing, and that is your Suzy Homemaker decor tip for today.  Odd numbers win when it comes to most the most appealing decorative arrangements.

Have enough faith that you can be authentic and still be loved.

Back to the topic we go now.  I do believe that happiness is an intentional choice that you have to make every day, and that you will probably have to do a lot of work to make it an ingrained habit.  You may have to change the way you see things, and react to things.  You will have to turn those negative messages in your head into positive ones.  You will probably also have to change the way that you view yourself, treat yourself, and care for yourself.  You will have to learn to reframe life circumstances and interactions with other people.  You will have to let go of blame and grudge hold and the need to always be right.  You will have to be grateful as much as possible.  You will have to be forgiving.  You will have to get rid of old, worn out, ineffective, coping mechanisms and trade them in for new, healthy ones.  None of that stuff happens overnight.  It takes a lot of work, and willingness, and many more choices, and action, and actual change, over and over and over again.   It cannot be accomplished in three, five, or even seven easy steps.  It is an ongoing process.  Sorry for the bad news so early in the week!

The good news is that the really super cool thing about making the choice to be happy is that, along the way, you are apt to discover your authentic self, and unlock the door, and let the real you out of wherever you have been hiding yourself.  Again, you will not wake up one morning, look in the mirror and exclaim, “Oh, look!  It’s the authentic me and I look mah-vel-ous!”  It did not happen that way for me, anyway.  If it happened like that for you, I would love to hear from you because that must have been one great day, and I love to hear about people and great things happening to them.

Finding my authentic self took a lot of work, and years of peeling off layers, and digging through a lot of muck and garbage until I found the core of my personal pain.  Once I found that core– that pain– I brought it out from down in the depths of my soul and I carried it up into the light of day and then I released it.  That did not happen in one day, or even seven, or ten days.   It took a while, with rest stops along the way, and missteps, and back steps, and the Texas two-step.  Finally, I did it, though.  However, I suspect I am not fully there even now.  I do know, with completely honesty and clarity, that I am far more authentic today than I was a year or two ago, and do not even ask me to look back to three or five or seven years ago.  Gads!

If you have been sitting there reading this thinking that I am fixin’ to tell you how to become a more authentic person in three, five, or seven easy steps, I am not.  No-can-do, I am afraid.  After all, I barely know you.  We have only just met!  It would be highly presumptuous of me to think that I know the road anyone must follow to become authentic.  We are all unique.  Your road will be different from mine, and besides, I really do not recommend my route to anyone, even if I do not care for you a whole lot, because it was rough.   No, what I plan to do is give you some signs that you are becoming a more authentic person.  I do not know at this moment in there will be an even number of signs, or an odd number, so we will find out together!

1.  The first sign for me was that I truly was happier more of the time.  Because I was finally being true to myself, I was happy with the choices that I was making, and with the people who were in my life.  Good choices, good people, all good.

2.  I found that I had stopped caring what other people thought of me.  I am who I am and I worked hard to get to me, so as long as I know and feel that I am being true to myself, and am adhering to my beliefs, and enforcing my boundaries in a kind fashion, it is okay if you do not like me.  Frankly, most people do like me, and that is lovely, but I am all good with the few who do not.  I do not need to be liked by everyone anymore.

3.  I am far more honest.  Now, we all know that active alcoholics lie a lot.  It is the nature of the disease beast.  Also, as Dr. House points out, everyone lies.  However, there was a time in my life, even when sober, that I would lie because I was afraid people could not accept the truth, or that I would somehow be punished if I told the truth.  As I have become more authentic it would seem that I have also become more firm in maintaining my integrity, and I also put on my big girl panties, too.  I have no reason to lie now.  Sure, I may still be inclined to tell you that your butt does not look big in those jeans, but so few people ask me that question, it is a fairly moot point.  If I tell you that you look nice, I mean it.  I do not do false flattery anymore.  Also, if I “liked” your blog post, I did actually read it.  The flip side of this is that I have a far lower tolerance for dishonesty in others that I care about and trust.  I love myself too much to allow myself to be treated that way anymore.

4.  I no longer always need to be right.  As the adage goes, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy”?  I would rather be happy so I do not need to be right all of the time anymore.  I also feel very little need to become defensive when someone points out that I may have behaved in a manner that might not have been particularly wonderful.  Instead of arguing, now I simply acknowledge the truth, and say, “You’re right.  I am sorry.”

5.  I take full ownership of my behavior, be it good, or bad.  I apologize.  If the problem is squarely mine, I admit it.  I still make mistakes, I still do dumb things, I am far more human than ever, but that is okay.  People really seem to like people who are human and know it and admit it and own it.  It is more than kind of cool to be fully responsible for myself.  I do not need to blame anyone, nor am I looking for a knight in shining armor around every corner.

6.  I feel lighter—oh-so-much-lighter!  I do not have to carry around various masks and disguises to change the way I present myself to the vast number of people in my life.  I have nothing that I feel that I need to hide.  I feel bold, and colorful, and vivid, and free!

7.  You now get to be whoever you are, too.  I have no need to change anyone anymore.  I hate to see people miserable and in pain and unhappy and if you ask for my help or advice, I will give it, and if you choose another path, that is cool.  It is also cool if you choose not to change.  If you want to be unhappy then I have no right to tell you to be otherwise.  I am not inside of your head.  I do not know your hurts or your motivations.  I will pray for you, though, and you cannot stop me from doing that.

Looky!  It is an odd number!  It is a good thing, too, because had it not been seven I would have had to proceed forward all of the way to ten and that might have been stretching it.  For me, were I prone to doing stuff like cost/benefit analysis types of things, which I am not, the benefits of doing whatever you have got to do to continue to move closer to your authentic self would far outweigh the cost.

I still have a way to go yet.  I can still be too nice sometimes, if there is such a thing, and there is.  I can still hold back the truth to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, even though I am fully aware that I can present the truth in such a way that little harm will be done.  Each day I take another step forward, and that is all any of us can do.  Give me a little more time and I just might have ten signs of authenticity.  You just never know!

My Life is an Embarrassment of Riches

I have been doing a lot of thinking over the past day or two, and it has been a rather eye-opening experience.  (Yes, that is all of the smoke you have been seeing—my brain is smokin 😉 While I have known what I am about to tell you for a while, today I am feeling it all very intensely.  Sometimes it takes a while for important tidbits of information to make the long trek from my head all the way down to my heart.   As much as I am a true “feeler,” I am also highly intellectual, so I can intellectualize a lot of things for years before I actually feel, believe, and know them at the heart level.  I am having a full heart day today.

Today, I am feeling absolutely overwhelmed with gratitude, and love, and pure joy that is simply bubbling out all over the place.  I have the best life in the whole, wide, world.  I know that sounds rather cocky, but it is true.  For me, I have the best life I have ever had.  I am the most blessed person that I know, and I am also the most blessed woman alive today.  Again, I am fully aware of the cockiness of these statements, but for me, they are so inherently true that I literally ache inside with happiness and joy.

Look at that glorious sunrise! Look at those than less than stellar picture-taking skills!

I got out of prison, after a six month stay, on September 15, 2011, so it has been a little over a year now since my release.  While it became very apparent to me while I was in prison that the reason I had to go there had little to do with me, but something much greater that God had in mind, there was still a lot of fear and trepidation coming out of the prison doors.  On one hand I firmly knew that the rest of my life was going to be the very best of my life, and that was very exciting.  Over on the other hand, though, there was a lot of trembling going on.  I was walking out to a child and a car that I could not drive yet and a bag of clothing.

I had a place to stay with some lovely people, but I was technically homeless and penniless.  I was also walking out into the middle of a very yucky divorce and custody battle.  That was a very scary place to be.  I was not especially helpful to open the trunk of my car to get into some non-prison clothing only to find that mice had taken up residence in my car over the time I was away, and much of my clothing was ruined.  I have never cared for mice and this did nothing to change my opinion of them, I can tell you.  I craved a place to call home, but how would that happen?

I will tell you how that happened.  My adult children, anticipating my need, all pitched in and suddenly I was far from penniless.  I had enough money to find a place to live and to get some essentials, to boot.  No mother wants to take money from their adult children, but I knew that this was something that they wanted to do for me badly and it was my job to humble myself enough to accept their gifts.  Before I had even been out of prison a week, I had secured the perfect place for my son and I to live, with landlords that have been nothing but kind to me, even knowing my background fully.

Home!!

I realized this morning, as I prepare to sign the lease for another year, that we have been here now for a little over a year, with another year in front of us.  That is the longest we have lived in any one place since we left my marriage, and the house of horrors.  Do you know how good that feels—to have a home?  It feels absolutely wonderful, that is how it feels!  It also feels absolutely wonderful to know that in the three years since we left, we have never been cold, have always had running water, and a fully functional bathroom, and we have had those things every day since we left.  We had not had those things for a very long time prior to that.  That feels super fantastic, too, as does not having had to do a single load of laundry in the kitchen sink.  Last year, I got many random firewood drops from people just because they could, and they cared.  I was beginning to see that coming out of prison has not made my world smaller, it had made my life become much bigger than it had been in decades.

I had employment cleaning houses almost immediately thanks to a friend and word of mouth.  My writing career, which I thought would disappear while I was in prison, had only grown, expanded, and gotten better.  We have not wanted for one single thing in the past year.  New people to love and care for us were entering our lives at an amazing rate.  These are people who I can call at 2 a.m. for any reason, and sometimes I had to do that due to my inability to drive for 9 months after my release.  The people who I work for were more than happy to pick me up so that I could clean for them, but more than that, they we also happy to take me to the grocery store, or ER with a sick child, or anywhere else we needed to go.  My son now has many surrogate grandparents who adore him and spoil him and treat me like their own child, too.  Love was, and is, everywhere, and that is an intense feeling in the best possible way.

The whole fam-dam-ily, Christmas 2011

I had all seven of my children with me last Christmas.  I think it was the best Christmas of my entire life.  I will have all seven children home this Christmas, too, plus my new son-in-law, who I love.  I get all weepy just remembering seeing them all walk in the door last year.  I got all weepy then, too.  I love them so much, and they are the best children on the planet.  Smart, accomplished, yes, but much more importantly, they are kind, loving, generous, and funny as all get out!  They are all also safe after Hurricane Sandy, and all I can say to that is Thank you, God!  I love you so much!

My lovely daughter and her husband.

My oldest daughter got married last summer.  She was the most beautiful bride in the history of mankind.  Her wedding will go down in history as the most perfect, fairytale, wedding the world has even seen, and she did it all on a tight budget, too!  My son-in-law is the best son-in-law any woman has ever had, or ever will have—that is until my younger daughter gets married, then I will have the two best sons-in-law God ever created.  The wedding was a blast, and another chance to have all seven of my kids all in one place.

Don’t bug me! I am on vacation!

My little boy and I had a three-day vacation at the beach this summer.  It was a gift to us from one of the women I clean for who owns a little cottage with the most spectacular view in all of  Maine.  It was the best, and first, vacation he and I have ever had together.  We caught tons and tons of crabs who promptly ran back into the water, but when you are seven years old, that just never gets old.

Last night, I took my little zombie trick-or-treating.  There was no random, pick a neighborhood and go there, element about it this year.  We had many stops to make and we had many people we had to see—people who would have been so disappointed if a zombie had not shown up at their doorstep, or their floor at the hospital.  When you are a kid with a ton of surrogate grandparents, you get some surrogate older siblings to stand in for the siblings who are not around to go with you on Halloween.  Life just gets richer and bigger and swells with so much love that I feel like I might burst right open.

Be very afraid!!

Best of all, among all of the glorious, wonderful, fabulous things I see, I see one very happy child.  I see a child who has been through so much in his little life and he has triumphed over it all at the tender age of seven.  It was a hard-fought battle, but everyone sees the triumph now.  His principal at school sees it and tells me how happy he is this year.  He comes skipping off of the bus every day.  He is making friends.  He tells me all of the time now that he loves life.  I think he had the best Halloween of his life last night.

One very happy zombie!!

Last year at this time, I was still very much getting back on my feet.  I did not know what the world would think of a woman who had just gotten out of prison.  I started learning quite quickly that, amazingly, the world could and would think no less of me.  In fact, my world has grown in ways words cannot express, all because I went to prison.  Soon after I got out, I wrote a three-part series for Yahoo! Shine! about my prison experience.  I wrote it fearlessly, as if called to do so.  However, when I shared the first article, the fear did hit, for as many people who knew where I had been for those six months, there were many more who had no idea where I had been.

I did not know how all of those friends would react.  Those people who did not know read that article, and rather than turning away from me, I was hit with a love avalanche unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life…love and admiration.  I think it goes without saying that I have the best friends and family in the entire universe, and more and more keep coming!  The avalanche never ends, but who would want a love avalanche to end, anyway?

Once or twice in the last year, I have had someone who is just getting to know me say something like, “Oh, what a terribly tragic life you have had!”  When I have heard this, inside I was shouting, “Oh, pah-leeze!”  My life is not tragic—not one bit.  I have had some pretty intense life experiences, but God has taken each and every one of those experiences and He has woven them into something magnificent.  My life is an embarrassment of riches, and I would not trade a single one of those crummy experiences for anything in the world.  If that is what it took to get me where I am today, then all I can say again is, “Thank you so much, Lord!  I love you for everything!”

I am the single most blessed woman alive.  You can try to fight me for the rights to that title, but I am not giving it up!  I worked hard to earn that title.  In my world, I am the most blessed woman alive. You can be the most blessed person in your world, and I hope and pray that you are!  You earned that title, too!

Joel 2:25-26

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm[a]
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.