Tag Archive | family

The month where it seemed as though nothing went right.

Where have I been, you ask?  Maybe you have not asked, but I sure have.  I am right here, waving at all of you!  This has been the month where it has seemed as though nothing has gone right, and I am still recovering.  Actually, it began before Christmas, but who is counting, anyway?  I haven’t written in many weeks and yes, as much as I have been dying to do so, it feels as if there is just so much emotion that has been trapped inside of me I am afraid I just might blow to bits, or cry.  It will likely be the latter, so you can all relax now a bit.  I still have not entirely pinpointed what caused this disturbance in its entirety, but that is probably because it was just a myriad of “one thing after another.”

Prior to, and during the Christmas holidays, every plan that took me weeks to construct seemed to fall apart within a minute’s time, and need to be reconstructed in even less time.  Visitation schedules were confused.  When you are working to two former spouses, and seven kids, it is hard to begin with to get everyone in one place at one time.  Things just kept changing and changing and changing, and while I am so much better now at rolling with the punches than I used to be, I felt as if I were rolling, and ducking, and jumping, and side stepping, and having to give up a lot in the process.

My Christmas Kid

My Christmas Kid

Many things simply did not happen, or if they did happen, I had to let a lot go just to get it done.  As much as I loved having all of my kids home, and as much as many, many good things did happen, like my younger daughter getting engaged on Christmas Day, and wedding dress shopping with my two girls the day after, I was dizzy from all of the rolling and I felt that everything was helter skelter.  I felt that I had lost control…the control that I wanted, anyway.  I could not find my joy.  Looking back, I think that I had lost it somewhere even prior to all of the going with the flow.  I still feel sad looking back, as if I missed an event that I had attended.

After New Year’s, my little man returned to school for a couple of days and I looked forward to life returning to normal, whatever that is around here.  The following Monday, he came home with a bad sore throat and by Thursday night, I had fallen ill.  This was no ordinary cold.  Nope, this was an honest to goodness siege of influenza that had befallen us, causing him to miss more than a week of school, and causing me to miss more that a week of work.  No work, no money.  No money, no way to pay the rent or bills.   We had suddenly become like lepers trapped in our own little germ filled colony.  No one wanted to be anywhere near us, and I do not blame them.  I didn’t really want to be anywhere near us, either.  I totally lost whatever good humor I had and I was a less than delightful person to be around.  As is so often the case, the little man was starting to feel better just when I was at my worst.  Visitations with his Dad were cancelled, ah, but we finally made it back to school and work, only to have me relapse with a bronchitis/asthma thing.

Add to all of this snow, and bitter cold, and school holiday, and teacher work days, and a car misbehaving, gastroenteritis this past weekend, and more missed visitation, my computer broken down for over a week, and finally on Monday, my car broke down.  That is what it has been like day after day and it has been hard and draining and then some.  Every day, I would pray, and every day I would try to find my gratitude–to count my blessings, but my blessings felt limp in my hands.  I knew that I had so much to be grateful for, but trying to hold onto the gratitude was like trying to get a tight grip on a handful of Jello.  I felt awful for not feeling grateful.  I felt lonely, too, as well as sleepy, dopey, and grumpy.

Today, I am not working because my road is an ice slick.  I will work tomorrow and I dearly needed this day to find perspective.  At no point during any of this was I ever truly alone.  I have God, my family, and my wonderful friends. My rent did not magically pay itself.  My rent got paid because of many kind, wonderful, and generous friends around the world.  I have never met most of them in person.  One of my son’s took care of my electric bill.  My first ex-husband got us an Omaha steak gift pack at Christmas that gave us a lovely New Years dinner and many breaks from pasta.  My beloved probation officer and friend has put me in touch with a woman who runs a counseling service and she is pursuing me for a job as a case worker, working with people with substance abuse issues, and coming out of incarceration situations.  It is a dream job if it works out, and as my P.O. said, “You know, I don’t just do this kind of thing for just anyone.”  Oh, yes, I DO know that!

When my car broke down on Monday, a friend was a phone call away and there to pick me up in 10 minutes.  I had AAA within the hour, and my car was towed home within two.  A friend is coming over to fix it this weekend, and my son fixed my computer.  I am loved.  I am so well-loved that it is crazy and now tears of joy and gratitude are rolling down my face.  I do not know why I could not see this, or feel it sooner, but I think it has a lot to do with not being able to write.

I get my footing back when I write.  I find my hidden emotions and bring them out into the light when I write.  Something overtakes me, and the blur of life totally disappears and it is just me and God when I write, and when I write, even if my hands may tremble, and my eyes may cloud over with tears, obscuring my earthy vision, I see much better when I write.  I may have to stop at times to let out a long-held sob, pain mixed with joy and hope, but I find release when I write.  I find hope, and joy, and gratitude when I write.

I need always to write.

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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.

The fine art of pampering…

To begin with, when I said that I would be blogging less over the summer, I certainly did not think I would go this long between posts, but it has been a wild ride of a summer so far!  My daughter is officially married two weeks as of today.  She is also back from her Caribbean honeymoon.  The wedding weekend was perfect and the wedding itself was like a fairy tale, only better, because it was real.  She was a gorgeous bride and my son-in-law, who I adore, was a very handsome groom.  Best of all, I had all seven of my children in one place at the same time, which is rare these days.  My 7 year old was in heaven all weekend, flitting from one sibling group to another.  Everyone had a splendid time, and there was no “anyone-zilla” moments at any time.

Could they look any happier or more stunning? No, they could not.

Can you believe that I took this picture, and the one above? No one else can, either…

 

A professional “First Look” image by Susan Shek. (susanshek.com) If you live in the NYC area and need a wedding photographer, she is the woman for you! She did a fabulous job!

Not a single thing went wrong the entire wedding weekend.  You see, my daughter is a planner, unlike her mother.  She had everything organized so beautifully that it was seamless.  She gave me the role at the wedding of the “go to” person, something that I excel at, and I carried that role through the reception, happy to do it.  It was a weekend to remember for a very long time to come.  NYC is gorgeous in the summer, if not a little hot…

My daughter is not just a top notch organizer, she also is caring and generous, so I felt more than a little pampered during our stay in NYC.  My two daughters, the little bro, and I stayed together in a lovely suite with a full kitchen and all the amenities one could need.  On the day before the wedding, Emily took her matron of honor, her sister, and I out for manicures and pedicures.  What a treat!  During the pedicure phase, the technician was massaging my feet and asked me if I’d like a 10 minute foot massage.  Oh, it felt so heavenly that I jumped at the opportunity, and it was during this divine foot massage that I found myself fighting back tears.

These tears were not the emotions of a mother about to marry off a daughter, but of a woman realizing that despite her dedication to self care, she had forgotten entirely about the fine art of pampering one’s self.  It wasn’t self pity.  It was like life–my life for the past 12 years–passing before my eyes, as if a small part of me was dying.  I think it was the part of me that felt it needed to be punished.  In those 10 minutes, I saw, and felt as much as I could in the middle of a nail salon, what the last 12 years had been like for me as a woman.  I saw the drinking, and the rehabs, and the relapses.  I saw jails, and prison.  I saw a very bad marriage, and leaving it on my 50th birthday.  I saw the death of my brother-in-law and moves.  I also saw the healing of myself and my son and my whole family post the drinking, and the incarcerations, and the abuse of my marriage, and I saw sustained sobriety, love, peace, and a very happy life.  What I did not see was me taking the time to ever truly pamper me in that time period.  Like the weeks preceding my daughter’s wedding, I had spent 12 years moving steadily from one thing to the next to the next with little thought for niceties for myself.

Rest assured that I do not go without goodies entirely.  I have a friend who spoils me with things regularly, and my children spoil me with gifts on the three major Mom holidays—Christmas, Mother’s Day, and my birthday.  I want for nothing, except for the things that only I can give to myself like the nightly bubble bath I took for most of my life, or doing my own nails nicely, or giving myself a facial, or putting a few “Me” movies onto our Netflix queue.  No one can do those things for me, and those things are my idea of pampering, simple as they are.  How could I forget something that I used to be quite good at, like slathering myself with lotion any chance I got, or having matching undie sets?  Lack of time and money are not excuses.  I had been neglecting the one person who I need to take the best care of and that person was me.

As I mentioned, I am quite good at self care.  I eat an impeccable diet, and have my BMI well within a normal range now.  My blood pressure is normal, and I went off of my statin with my doctor’s approval and lowered my cholesterol to within normal limits in three months time.  I exercise, I have a regular bedtime and wake up time, and all of my female tests are perfect.  My body is in fine shape.  I take care of my mind by reading, writing, and playing Scrabble, I take care of my spirit by listening to music, dancing, and again, writing.  I take care of my soul by praying for an  hour every day, reading the Bible, and the devotional masters from past centuries.  I took care of my emotional needs by getting the help I needed to heal from a lifetime of trauma.  As a result, all past psychiatric diagnoses have disappeared, and I have rewired my brain to the point where I need no psych medications and have never been happier, or more at peace.  Self care is work and it takes practice, but it pays off greatly in the end.

However, self care without pampering is like cake with no frosting. The cake may be good, but it will be lacking the fullness of its delight without the frosting.  What good is a well cared for mind, body, and soul, if you do not pamper it from time to time even in the most simple ways?  I have begun again to build the habit of pampering into my life.  Being a single mom makes it harder, but not impossible.  I started yesterday by dressing up for no reason.

I have begun my nightly baths again, and bought a pumice stone for my feet.  Yesterday, I did my nails and instead of the usual messy, slap dash, job that I do myself, I took my time and made it a half day event.  I used a base coat and let it dry fully, two coats of carefully applied polish, well dried between applications, and a top coat.  I didn’t try to do a million other things with half dry nails, and what do you know?  My nails look like they were professionally done.  This morning, I gave myself a decadent kitchen cupboard facial, with a sugar and lemon juice scrub, a cocoa and oatmeal mask, and a coating of olive oil.  It took all of 30 minutes.  My feet have been moisturized twice, and do they feel happier for that small effort!

Sometimes it feels like life is about putting out fires.  We run from one fire to the next to the next to the next.  At some point, we think, “Okay, I have finally got this.  I have achieved balance.  All of the fires are under control.”  Inevitably, something comes along to show us that we have not quite “won at life” yet.  I thank God for that–for the continual opportunity to learn and grow and to make adjustments, even if the lesson that needs to be learned is a repeat of something that I used to know.  Relearning to pamper myself regularly is a lesson I know I am going to enjoy.  I hope you all will learn to enjoy it, too.  Thank you Emily for helping me to remember to pamper me, too!  Now, you all go do something nice for yourselves!

Living in the moment–a harsh reminder.

Monday on my Facebook page my theme was living in the moment.  Living in the moment is something we should all aspire to be better at, but every day life can be so distracting.  I try my best to live in the moment and fail often, and some days it is just plain easier to be in the moment throughout the day than others.  Yet I keep on trying to get to a place where I live in the moment every day, and cherish each moment in a day without labeling them good or bad, but instead precious and a gift.

On Monday morning I had said that we should cherish each moment because this one single moment is all we are guaranteed.  I meant that sincerely and I believed it fully.  However it was said and meant from a purely intellectual standpoint.  Intellectually, I believe that being fully present for each moment and being thankful for every moment in each day is the most fruitful way to live.  I do believe that with all of my brain.

It wasn’t until that evening that I understood what it meant to believe it and feel it with all of my heart and soul.  The feeling was extremely poignant and painful and very necessary to get the concept of living fully in the moment from my head down into my heart.  On Monday night I learned that a dear friend from high school and college had been killed instantly that morning when the car she was driving was struck head on by another vehicle when the other driver entered a roundabout going the wrong way.

One moment she was alive and well with so much to look forward to and one single moment later she was gone from life here on earth, and from the world’s of all of those of us who cared about her.  I don’t believe that she had even a split second to know what was coming, and for that I am extremely grateful.  She was a lovely woman who married her high school sweetheart and stayed married to him.  I sang at their wedding.  She had two daughters, one expecting her first baby and the other just having graduated from high school.  She loved the Lord so she is safe in God’s arms now and that is what brings so many of us comfort in spite of the pain.  We all are praying her family.

It is human nature to wish away painful or unpleasant moments.  Often we wish away entire days and weeks.  “I cannot wait for this day to end!” or “Is this week ever going to end”?  Don’t ever wish away a single minute, because we just do not know how many minutes we get in this life.  I know that it is hard to be thankful for each moment and day when times are tough, but there is always something to be grateful for, even on days that feel miserable.

The people in my life know how much I love them.  I tell them a lot–every time I see them or talk to them– because I’ve had that intellectual knowing of lack of permanence for a long time and I never wanted one single “I love you” left unsaid.  I dislike unresolved conflicts for the same reason.  But there have been times in my life when I have though, “I’d be so happy if I never had to see that person again.”  At the time I meant that also, but time does have its way of healing and now I’d be devastated to see those people gone.  It’s unfortunate that there are one or two people now that I often feel that way about now, because at one point I cared very deeply for one of them.  I am working on that with efforts redoubled now towards forgiveness and letting go fully.

My sister has a friend who is a very caring man and when you are around him you feel that.  On one occasion he told me that his motto was, “Wherever you are, be all there.”  I think he succeeds at that, and it is truly excellent advice.  In the midst of this week that has felt like one giant roller coaster ride I am working very hard to take his advice and be all there wherever I am, and with whomever I am around.  I am so much better living in the moment now than I was in my youth, but I have a long way to go.   I am committed to cherishing every moment in my heart and my head because those moments become memories for everyone involved and at some point memories are all that we are left with.  Go make some good memories today.

Celebrating life every day

Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living!

 Amanda Bradley quotes

Today I am celebrating life because life is good every day, and God is good every day.  As a culture, we tend to wait for a holiday or a certain event to feel as if we are allowed to celebrate, but this way of thinking robs us of the opportunity to celebrate every single day.  We need to give ourselves permission to find cause to celebrate each day no matter the date, or the reason.

Perhaps you are thinking right now that there is no real reason to celebrate–that you have nothing worth celebrating.  That sort of thinking usually stems from a lack of gratitude for the miracles present in each moment of life.  It can take practice to develop an attitude of gratitude, but it is something that will change your world, and your view of life in general.  Even on a day filled with annoyances, distractions, and unfortunate events, there are things for which you can be truly grateful.  Start small by making a list of five things that you are grateful for and do this every day.  Over time you will find that your list begins to grow and then it will grow again some more.  Look around you, wherever you go, specifically searching for often unseen things to dazzle and amaze you.  As you begin to notice more, your gratitude will increase yet again, and as your gratitude increases, so will your desire to celebrate life daily.

Certainly, there are many conscious choices that you will need to make if you are not in the habit of celebrating life.  Deciding to feel grateful is one of them, and deciding to be responsible for your own happiness is another choice you will need to make.  You will have to choose to slow down and look around.  You will have to choose to begin to work towards becoming someone who sees the positives in life more than you see the negatives.  You are going to have to let go of grudges, and complaining, and blaming, and feeling sorry for yourself.  Those are big choices filled with huge responsibility to yourself, and others, and it will take work.  Begin by believing that, step by step, you can do it.  Choose not to get discouraged, or berate yourself if you have to keep starting over.  Just begin again and keep moving forward.

As you make headway with these thought changes you will find that you will begin to celebrate life without having to force yourself to do it.  Sometimes you will find yourself swept over by random gratitude waves so big they nearly wash you away.  You will feel joy and wonder for reasons others cannot quite comprehend.  Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.  Go on and celebrate anyway!

What does celebrating life look like in practice?  That will differ for each individual, so be creative and follow your heart in how you celebrate.  As you become a happier, more grateful, and celebratory person, do not hide your sparkle and shine, not that you really will be able to hide it.  Imagine what a gift you are giving your family and friends with your new way of life!  Think of the many excellent and valuable lessons you are teaching your children each time you dance with them for no reason, or bake cupcakes just because it’s Friday, or watch a special movie together just because you are so happy to be with them.  Your personal changes will have a huge ripple effect on the people around you, and you will find more and more to celebrate effortlessly, and so will the people around you.

For me a celebration can be as simple as painting my nails, or watching a movie, or dancing in my living room with my son, or outside under the stars by myself.  It may mean making a nice meal, or baking cookies, or cupcakes, or counting Lady Slipper’s as I walk up my hill.  I counted 43 yesterday.  I think that is cause for celebrating life, and I am doing that today, all day.  How will you celebrate this amazing life that you have been given today?  When you think about it, there is no reason not to celebrate!