Tag Archive | friends

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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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.

Love, attachment, detachment, and letting go

I have been enjoying a day of silence and solitude today, which has not been as silent as I had hoped, but without the distractions of music, or movies, or too much talk, I have succeeded in being able to listen and hear what I have been needing to hear.  I have needed clarity on the topics of love, attachment, detachment, and letting go.  These thoughts began as a tangled ball of hurt feelings and slowly I have been untangling the ball.  As the knots loosened, I saw that the feelings had to be sorted into different piles, and each pile needed to be named and understood before I could make any true progress towards my goal, which was letting go and forgiving and loving fully.

When we think of love, most of us would be quick to agree that in order to love someone there has to be an attachment to that person.  I am very attached to my children, and I love them deeply.  Siblings, friends, spouses–those people closest to us–we generally feel that in order to love them fully we need to have an attachment to them.  I certainly thought that, and yet I have been forced to realize that the notion of attachment and love may be leaving something very important and valuable out of the mix.  This became especially clear to me as I struggled to come to terms with the Biblical command to love everyone.  Most religions and spiritual disciplines teach something similar.  We are all in this together, and love is the goal we strive to reach.

Love and attachment do coexist in many good and healthy relationships, such as the parent-child relationship, ideally anyway.  The same is true with friends, spouses, siblings, and parents.  There has to be balance in the attachment.  If we become overly attached in unhealthy ways we might become clingy, or domineering, or unable to see and appreciate the person separate from ourselves.  There are those darned boundaries again that tell us where we end and another person begins.  Boundaries are unique within each close relationship, and they shift over time.  If the relationship is a healthy one, this adjusting of boundaries happens fairly easily, as we parents adjust and step back as our children grow older.

We learn to let go and trust and have faith that we have taught our children well enough that they will flourish as adults.  The attachment to the child remains secure, but a certain detachment must come into play if we are going to be able to love them for who they are, and allow them to grow into who they are meant to become.  It is not an uncaring detachment at all, and it is not easy at the start, but it is necessary to maintain healthy boundaries and love in the relationship.  It is respect at the very core of it.  Certainly, this form of healthy attachment-detachment adjusting is far easier with those we are close to, or maybe not…

What happens when someone you love hurts you?  What happens when a marriage fails, and the divorce is nasty, and love is replaced with more undesirable emotions like anger, resentment, and even hatred. The base of all of these emotions is hurt.  How do you love a perfect stranger who has repeatedly attacked you, or someone that you love deeply but who does not show you the same respect that you show them without some overlay of hurt or bitterness to muck up each attempt at forgiveness?  How do I love someone who has wounded me in ways I never dreamed imaginable?  How do I love these people fully, like the Bible tells me to, and do it with purity and compassion.  Here is where the tangled ball unravels, and the three separate piles become more clear.  Detachment is the key to loving someone who has betrayed you, abused you, or hurt you in any form.  Detachment is not an easy place to get to, though.

When I was at the height of my cyber-bullying experience I read a lot of articles on the topic so that I could better understand it, and in order to write an article myself.  One of the best things that I read told me that, while documenting everything, to take a giant step back and to become an observer of the person harassing me.  To be an effective observer, I had to detach from my own hurt.  Once I was able to do that, I saw that the woman harassing me treated everyone the same.  She lashed out easily at anyone who had the slightest disagreement with her point of view.  She often perceived that certain comments were “calling me stupid,” when nothing even close was said.  She had a hair-trigger when it came to feeling slighted, and becoming angry and aggressive.  In short, I learned that her behavior towards me truly was nothing personal.  It was just how she viewed and attacked the world.  This information was liberating is a rather smug, “Well, she is just a miserable person…” sort of way.  I stopped observing and documenting, but I had not reached compassion, love, and forgiveness yet.

To get to that place, I had to detach even further.  I had to step so far back that I was in her shoes.  I had to look at what her life must be like, and feel like.  I had to look at who she was in a relationship with, and what she was going through with her children, and grandchild.  When I looked at her life from inside her shoes my heart hurt.  I am a mother, and I know what it feels like when there are serious issues with a child.  It is scary and it hurts like hell and you blame yourself in some way or another.  I had to look at the grandchild and his behavior that so troubles my son—such anger and aggressiveness at a very young age.  Grandma has to cope with that, and that sort of behavior doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  I felt sad for her in a profound way and I finally reached a place of compassion for her, and the entire household.  With compassion comes the ability to love–the kind of love that the Bible teaches.  It does not mean I want to play in the same sandbox with her, but I no longer harbor any ill will towards her.  I love her for the hurting person that she is and that feels a lot better than anger and lack of forgiveness.

Unfortunately, I have had to use the same process recently with someone infinitely closer to me–someone who I love dearly and always will.  I had to step back and observe a lifetime of behavior on both of our parts.  I had to step back even further to get into her shoes, and feel the anger she feels, and the fear, and the sadness.  I know why she hurts, whether intentional, or not, and I know that her pain is deeper than the wounds she inflicts on me.  I have great compassion for her, and I have forgiven her.  At the same time, I have compassion for myself in a new way, and suddenly a fourth pile comes out of the mix, and into that pile goes expectations.

I would, and have, moved mountains out of love for this person.  Because I would, and have done that, I expected the same from her.  Not everyone loves like I do.  Not everyone is willing to move mountains, or feels that they even can.  I had to release my expectations–detach from them–in order to let go of the hurt and love her fully.  She can only love as well as she is doing, like my mother could only love as well as she did.  I cannot expect more.  I can expect respect, and if that is absent, I will let go with love.

Throughout this process of detaching, and observing, and stepping into another person’s shoes, I was certain that what I was doing was detaching from each individual.  To be sure, there is some truth to that.  However, today I realized that what I had really had to do in order to get to the place of love, compassion, forgiveness, and letting go was to detach myself from my own ego and pride.  I had to tie each piece from each one of the four piles together, roll the ball up neatly, and name it what it truly was–pride and ego.  If I had not detached myself from my own hurt ego, I never would have been able to step into their shoes, find compassion for them, and finally love and forgive them for who they are.

My pride and my mouth have been two of my biggest defense mechanisms when hurt.  I have been chipping away at both bit by bit, but these experiences have taken me forward with a huge leap.  I can step away from my ego and my pride and I can love and forgive as God wants me to do.  I have not given up myself in the process.  Quite the opposite, like the Grinch, I feel as if my heart has grown three sizes today.  It is a wonderful, peaceful, gentle feeling.  The silence has truly been golden. The sun will be setting soon, and I will be lighting my candles.  I am full of homemade bread and soup.  I have nothing to defend tonight.  I am free to love fully from whatever distance I choose.  I thank God for that freedom.

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!

Mother’s Day Reflections—A Quickie ;-)

“It seems odd to celebrate one’s mom is just one day. Someone so important should be celebrated every day.”  Anonymous, because he’d prefer it that way.

I have seven gorgeous children who are the light of my life.  Six are adults, and one is just 7 years old.  They are truly amazing, though I admit to a bit of bias.  To say that they are accomplished is an understatement, and that includes the 7 year old.  While their accomplishments are good for bragging rights, they are their accomplishments, not mine, and their accomplishments are not what makes them so special.   As I have always said, I wouldn’t care what they did as long as they are happy doing it.

What makes them so amazing is their personalities, and their character.  They are kind and generous.  They are loving and they are funny as can be.  They can laugh at themselves, and no one can get me laughing faster, or harder, than my children, with my sisters coming in at a close second.  They help me laugh at myself, and we have those family stories that are hilarious to us every time.   We have a secret language of movie quotes that we all understand, and can use to convey a variety of thoughts and emotions.  “Keep the change you filthy animal,” means “I love you,” or “You owe me nothing, it’s a gift.”  We’re all a little nutty, in a good way, of course.  We we are all together, the room vibrates with love, hot conversation, and tons and tons of laughter.  Individually, we are all quiet people, and true introverts, but together we are a gaggle of kindred spirits knowing we are fully home.

However, their greatest gifts lie in their ability to forgive, and to move forward, and to recalculate life, and the people in it, as needed.  This is what means the most to me, because I have required forgiveness more than most mothers.  I have required forgiveness again, and again, and again, and each time it’s been freely given.  They’ve forgiven the years of drinking, and my inability to be there for them properly.  They have forgiven the times I was physically absent due to rehab stays, or jail stays, or prison.  They have forgiven lavishly, with no lingering resentments, and they have moved forward in their view of me as I have recovered.  In many ways, we have been growing up together and they have been as patient with me as I have been with them.  They love me unconditionally, as I have loved them.

Yet, for many years, because of all of the guilt and shame I dragged around because of my perceived poor performance as a mother, I lagged behind them both in my forgiveness of myself, and my ability to recalculate who I am today, as opposed to who I was 10 years ago.   I have been forced to stop and look at myself through their eyes, and actually feel their words, not just hear them.  They did not become who they are today in some miraculous vacuum.  They remind me of this often, and of course, their father has played a role, the older kids having seen the worst, and the youngest having been spared most of that.  Because of my children, and God’s grace, which underpins all of this, I have been able to forgive myself, and I am getting up to speed in the recalculating of my view of me.   I thank God every day for these precious people that He trusted me to care for and love, flawed as I am.

My own mother died over 24 years ago, and I miss her terribly.  Although we had bumps in our relationship, by the time she died, we had reached a place of deep friendship.   She was always the first person I wanted to call when anything happened in my life, good or bad.  Now, I am blessed to have three women in my life who are both friends, and mothers to me.  One woman spoils me silly, and is a grandmother to my 7 year old, though there are no blood ties.  Another is chock full of common sense, and tells it like it is.  She loves to cook, too, like I do, so we share recipes and new food finds.  The third woman is the one to whom I can cry my eyes out, and I discover a bit more of myself every time I talk to her.  There is reciprocity in all of these relationships, which is what makes them so special.

But, the best mother that I have now is myself.  In the recalculating I have had to do—the seeing myself as all of these other very special people see me—I have come to realize that I can, and should, give every wonderful gift to myself that I give to others, and that others so richly give to me.  Knowing that God has fully forgiven me, as have all of the people who matter the most to me, I realized that it is more than a little arrogant not to forgive myself, and treat myself with the love and kindness that I deserve.  What a tremendous gift that has been, and it’s one that will remain.  I am blessed beyond words, and I wish you all the happiest of Mother’s Day’s.  Mothers come in may forms–our own mothers, our children, our friends, our sisters, ourselves.  Even if you have no children, you can celebrate and honor the mother within you today.

That quote up top came from my 20 year old son…  I am sure I’ll stop crying anytime now 😉  Happy Mother’s Day!