Tag Archive | love

Life, love, lemonade, and letting go…

I love the writing of the late Nora Ephron.  Her writing style is clean and crisp, not forced and flowery.  I especially love her personal essays.   They are honest, funny, perceptive, and often profound.   I can read them over and over again and still take away something new each time.  I love that, too.

The quote below is from an essay she wrote called Moving On.  In the essay she talks about falling in love with an apartment and the many rationalizations that she uses, not only to justify the cost of getting into the apartment, but for staying for a decade despite poor conditions and numerous rent hikes.

lemonade1

Finally, once her rent is raised by 400%, she instantly falls out of love, and finds a new place that feels like home just as fast.  These two sentences sum up so much of my life, both in terms of relationships, and many other things, as well.

I was raised to be strong.  My mother was a strong woman who had endured much and she tried to form me into her own image.  “You’re stronger than that,” she would say when I was having a tough time and it was showing.  Stronger than what, I now wonder?  Was I to be stronger than a team of oxen?  Stronger than what, exactly, is still my question.

But I am a good learner, and life provided many powerful experiences, so I got stronger and stronger.   I could, and would, endure almost anything.  It was a point of pride.  I was persistent.  I persevered, no matter what the circumstances might be.  I endured and I tolerated like few can and I rarely complained about it.   Again we go with the pride thing, as you can easily see.  Of course, all of this enduring and persevering and sticking it out and being strong almost killed me, but that was beside the point, wasn’t it?

When I left my last marriage, I swore that I would never allow myself to be in a relationship that was so unhealthy that I had slipped into a place of tolerance that is beyond all reason.  I would never tolerate such conditions and treatment again.  I would be grateful and happy and free, even if I was never in a relationship ever again.  For the most part, that has been true for going on four years now.

But then I had to go to prison.  Going in, I was determined that I was going to do prison like a champ and come out better for it.  Guess what?  I did prison like a champ and I came out far better for it.  Coming out of prison, I was determined to thrive and succeed and be completely open and honest about my past while continuing to move forward.

Within five days of my release from prison, I had found a little cottage in the woods to rent, and my little boy and I were soon moved in, and I was working, and parenting, and making it through a nasty divorced, and smiling all of the while.  Every day was like a gift.  I danced in the living room every night.  I was in love, or so I thought.

I didn’t mind having to use a sled to haul groceries and laundry down the luge run of a road.  I overlooked all of the many ways that my landlords deceived me.  I tolerated the hot water heater that allowed for a three-minute shower, and when the entire place molded last summer, I did my best to clean it up, and move on, despite my mold allergy.  I rationalized, I tolerated, and I endured.  I was a trooper, because I do “trooper” well.  In short, I fell back into old habits.

Fall of last year came, and I renewed my lease when my hopes of a better place fell through.  By the time winter hit, the bloom was long off of the rose.  The long promised new hot water heater never arrived.  It was impossible to remove the entirety of the mold in that place.  The road was poorly maintained, and I still did not have a blessed smoke detector after asking for one over four times.

My friends and family were constantly encouraging me to break my lease—that I was within my rights to do so, but I kept on enduring, mostly because I had no idea where the money for a new place would come from.  My car had also broken down again, and my little boy was in the middle of a school year.

At the same time, though, I began to finally assert myself with my landlord.  That did not go over well, and soon I found that I was being evicted.  I knew it was wrongful, and that I could fight it, but after I finally wrapped my head around the whole mess, which took a couple of weeks, I finally saw it for what it was—a rescue from God.

My tenacity and desire to persevere is so danged strong that God often has to give me the old 2×4 upside the head treatment to get me to let go of something, or someone, that he wants me nowhere near.  And so this buttercup bucked up, started a fundraiser online, and had first, last, and security deposit for a place provided in no time.

We are now living in a home right where I had been praying for years to be, on our lake, once again renting from good and honest landlords from the past.  After a year and a half in a cottage so dark that it was debilitating, we are enjoying light every day, and space to move around,  a huge  yard, lovely gardens, and the ability to stick our feet in the water and dig our toes into the sand anytime we like.

The front yard.

The front yard.

Our constant congestion, coughing, and for me, asthma, is gone now that we are away from that bloody mold.  We no longer sound like a couple of chronic lungers. That place was killing us.  We are happy, filled with joy and gratitude, and truly free.  My little depression has lifted.

The living room.  See all of that

The living room. See all of that

Life has left me with a highly developed ability to make lemonade, but I simply do not tolerate citrus.  It gives me terrible reflux.  I am done making lemonade just because I can do it especially well.  Yes, I will stay positive, and I will remain resilient, and I will look for the good, and live in gratitude of God’s grace.

The sitting area

The sitting area

However, I refuse to endure anything less than what God has finally shown me that I deserve.   I deserve all good things, including love, and I am now finally strong enough to be vulnerable enough to ask for help, let down the walls, and allow myself to be loved, by God, and by all of the beautiful people who surround me.    I am finally open enough to allow myself to be deserving of goodness, not simply enduring.  What a blessing!

Our lake!

Our lake!

To end this, having not written in so very long, I would like to thank all of the people who have nominated me for various awards, including the Very Versatile Blog Award, and The Shine On Award, a couple of time for each!   Thank you so much!

Fear and Faith Cannot Exist in the Same Place

Far be it from me to suggest that I may have been out of touch with my own self in the past several months, but let me suggest just that.  I have been sorely out of touch with myself in the past few months.  Although I prayed every day, I also felt as if I was out of touch with God.  No matter what spiritual books I read, saying a hearty “Amen” to what I read, or what practices I tried to employ to get me over the hump, I remained absolutely stuck.  Stuck rhymes with another work…and it was  that, too.  Yes, it stunk!  (I trust you to get what rhymes with stuck.)

LeSeur In end1

Gosh darn it all to heck, a once ongoing issue had me scared and traumatized to the point where I could no longer write.  I was completely afraid to write for fear of some unforeseen backlash.  Being totally afraid to write left me in a place where my soul got sucked dry.  Each day I prayed to God to help me deal with the fear and the trauma, and to bless whatever might be the source of my fear.

Some things are like the interest on credit cards, or a saving account.  I needed do nothing, but they were compounded daily, or annually, and now I even sort of know what that means, because I am no financial genius.  You can trust me on that.  It means that even things I ignored added up, and even as I kept ignoring them, they continued to add up, then one day God came down and froze my assets and then what did I do?  Well, I prayed harder.   I also may have gotten depressed quite a lot.

There I sat.  My assets frozen, and I could not move because of, or from, fear.  Suddenly, the deficits started to pile up.  First, my own perceived deficits, and I found that they piled up quickly, with no interest whatsoever.  Some deficits I acquired rightfully…I judged, I spoke ill of someone, I felt compassion at times, and anger at others.  Other deficits were old issues, long gone, but back again for a visit, and I let them in, gave them tea, and a place to stay.  Fear lived in my home, and faith and fear do not cohabit well together.

What was I afraid of, you ask?  It makes no matter at this point in time.  What mattered then was that my fear was based in pride, and the resurrection of old trauma.  It took me a long time to figure that out, and even when I *knew* it as plain as the nose on my face, it would not disappear.  Still, I continued to pray every day.  I did not pray only for me, but for the source of my fear.  For some softening—for an end to hate and an opening to love.  I have been praying for that for a year and a half and nothing, but I am no quitter!

There are times when God tests us, and He does so not just by trials, but by a feeling of dryness in our faith.  Lord knows, (Oh, yes, He does!) just how stale I felt.  As a Montana gal, I do not give easily, so while I faltered many times, I did not give up, and then the grace of God descended upon me in the form of something so gracious, loving, and humble, that my weak faith never thought it would appear.  Ah, but it did, because God is good, and I am one persistent woman, for the good, or the bad.  God has given me the biggest prayer of my heart, and the fear is gone.  Today, I can write.  Hallelujah, today, I can write.

As is often the case, I write with tears streaming down my cheeks, and so much joy in my heart.  I pray that this is the start of a reconciliation of sorts—of a new beginning.  Today is the first day of spring and I welcome the thought of an end to the cold, and renewal, and new beginnings, and while there are still many unknowns in my life at this moments, I can feel the coming of sunshine, and warmth, and love. All of this come thanks to a season of trial, and the glorious grace of God.  Hope, like this new season, springs eternal, and my gratitude is too large to fill this page.  May that grace find all of you, too.

Thoughts on Newtown, Connecticut tonight…

I get personal on this page—up to a point–but not too terribly personal. It’s how I am built.  I hold a lot inside until something totally rocks my world. Today’s tragedy in Connecticut totally rocked my world. I am an extremely sensitive person who puts on a good, tough, front. Today, I have not stopped crying. I also do a very good job of pretending not to be too awfully political. I am the mother of seven glorious children, one who is only 8 years old. They are all alive and safe at this moment. Thank you God.  Seriously.  Thank you so much!  They have lock down drills at my son’s school, even in this tiny little town in Maine.  What in the world?

Courtesy of Vee Warren and Quiet Retreat.

Courtesy of Vee Warren and Quiet Retreat.

My heart is broken for the families of all of those tiny children….those lost, and those who will live with the memory of terror for a lifetime, and for all of the families involved. I have so many friends who are teachers….so many. Those teachers in Connecticut were heroes today.  One lost her life shielding her class.  She was 27 years old.   I know that all of my teacher friends are heroes every day.  Schools are a battleground these days.  Are we all thanking our teachers each and every day?
My oldest daughter is a school guidance counselor in Maryland.  The school guidance counselors in Connecticut have a horrible task ahead of them that is part of the job. I think about my daughter and wonder just how crushing to her psyche being on a crisis team for something like this would be. I know her, tender spirit that she is.  She would be torn apart, yet on the other hand, she would probably surprise the hell out of me with her strength.  My kids all amaze me every day.  No, she would pay a high price for such strength.  I know that with all of my heart.
At the same time, I was the mother getting the crisis emails when a shooting took place at one of my son’s colleges. I have been the mother on the other end of the phone listening to her terrified child tell her that he and his friends were fleeing until it was safe. I have been the mother—I am the mother—of a child who lost a friend to a shooter, and who graduated college three weeks later with pall of it all hanging over the ceremony.
While we all take time to grieve, we also need to ask what we need to do as parents and human beings. Are we finding ways to support parents who are clearly lost in the job that they are doing, or are too young to do the job without the help of a committed mentor?  Two days ago, a child in my little boy’s class threatened to have his father come over to our house, break in, and gun us down. This is an ongoing issue—this little boy and his rampant bullying. The school does all that they can.  Without help on the home front, what more can they do?
What are we doing as a society to stop adult bullies, or those using the internet to stalk and harass others, or to help those in domestic violence situations, or those people with mental health issues? The answer does not lie with the government….not all of it.
The answer lies within us. The answer is love. The answer is always love and reaching out and paying attention and offering help even to those who offend us–within reason.   The answer is not turning a blind eye, judging, blaming, or walking away. If my thoughts offend anyone, well, they are my thoughts on this sad night.  Reach out.  Be safe and trust your gut, but reach out in love.

To Every Season, Turn, Turn, Turn…

This blog post is going to be a mash-up,  as I believe the youngsters call it, so hang with me until the end, if you will, please.  You will be rewarded with an excerpt from my book if you just hold tight.   The title to this blog post—the song—has been turning in my head for a day.  Today I opened my daily devotional to find this exact Bible verse.  Co-inky-dink?  I think not.

Last week I  reported that I had started my book.  Yay team!  I will respond to all of your comments soon.  I am still absorbing it all.  How it is going, you ask?  It is has not gone one darned place since.  Why, you ask?  I have a million excuses, just ask me.  December is busy.  I have gifts to make.  I spit coffee all over my gorgeous Apple keyboard and ruined it and I HATE  my new, cheap, keyboard.  I have to JUMP on the space key to get it to work.

Thank you to Running From Hell With El for this!

Thank you to Running From Hell With El for this!

I have a kid to tend to daily.  I have to work. On and on the excuses go.  Excuses are just that.  It all boils down to one single thing.  I am afraid that I am not good enough.  No matter what anyone says, I simply cannot wrap my head around the concept of being good enough.  Pardon my language, but what if I have to give up my self-appointed title as a fuck up?  My head knows that I am not that, but as always, my heart lags behind.

See that red poster up above?  My friend El made that and I loved it. One part of me thought, “She made that for me,” but the other part of me thought, “Good advice, but she wouldn’t make a poster just for me.”  I talked to El on the phone yesterday.  She said, “I made that poster for you, you know.”  Ah, now I had verbal confirmation.  Darn that all to heck.  Now I have to get real.

I began this blog on March 10th of this year. That is not all that long ago, and yet, some how, I have amassed a boatload of followers in that time.  Every time I get notified that I have a new follower, I shake my head and think. “Hmmm…how did they find me and decide to follow me just like that”?  It strikes me as  strange every time.

A couple of months ago, I got one of these babies and it was a lovely gift.

You Like Me!!

You Like Me!!

Guess what?  Since that time, I have been gifted with yet another one of these from Reflections on Life Thus Far, and again I was humbled and very grateful.  I did nothing with it, because I hate to seem showy.  I am a fly under  the radar kind of gal.  Next thing I know, I have gotten of these, also from Ms. Reflections:

Wow, I said to myself.  Wow.

Wow, I said to myself. Wow.

I was touched beyond words, but quite frankly, I stink at accepting awards because a part of me thinks, “Me”??  The other part of me thinks, “Wow.” but I do not want to turn heads or anything, you know?  What would happen if I actually had to admit to myself that I am a good writer?  Then, last week, I got another one of these, this one coming from Rohan7things.  Is it redundant to post it twice?  Why, yes, it is, but tough!

Wow, I said to myself.  Wow.

Wow, I said to myself. Wow.

Not too long ago, my youngest son from my adult six said to one of his older brothers, “You may not know this, but Mom is kind of a big deal.”  I laughed—Anchorman quote and all,but his older brother, the PhD candidate said, “Mom is an excellent writer. Mom needs to write her book.”  Good heavens! I have no children thinking that I am nutty for wanting to write a book.  How do I wrap my head around my kids knowing I have talent, these genius kids of mine?  It is a lot to take in for me, folks.  It has been my job to allow them to shine. What if I just happen to shine, too?

Good heavens, if this all has not been bad enough—hard enough on my inaccurate view of myself—the other night, this showed up, coming from Ivon at  Teacher as Transformer:

Blog of the Year 2012?? Me??

Blog of the Year 2012?? Me??

Oh, baby, I wanted this almost as much as I want, want, want, to be Freshly Pressed!  I was beside myself having seen my name on the list and ever so grateful, and taken aback, too.  This one is different.  It’s a “collect the whole set” award.  I had one star and that was enough for me, but by the next morning, thanks to Carolyn at ABC of Spirit Talk it looked like this:

Two stars overnight??  Again, I say Wow!

Two stars overnight?? Again, I say Wow!

Two stars is enough for me, but if I get more, I will survive it, I suspect.

Then there is the gang on my Facebook page.  My gang is the best gang on any Facebook page.  They cannot wait for my book.  They tell me that I inspire them every day, and I crack them up, too.  My own personal, real, friends who have known me forever tell me that same thing.  Can you all see now why this might be a bit much to take in all in less than a year?

I am being forced to believe in myself because I KNOW that God and a whole great, big, slew of people believe in me.  I have to reorder my view of myself and that is the hardest thing of all, but it is about darned time that I do it, because I CAN feel it…  I can literally feel success and my book and all good things right at the end of my fingertips.  It is right there and it is just waiting for me to catch up.  I reach out every time I think of my book and I can almost wrap my fingers around it all….almost.  Give me a few more moments to wrap my brain around it all, will you, please?  I am a slow learner and quite stubborn.  I am getting there with your love and support!  This is my season to accept myself and my gifts.

Oh, goodie, now comes the book excerpt, raw as it is.  After the book excerpt I am going to paste in a bunch of blogs that I love, and as far as I am concerned, you all win every single award I have won.  Once again, do with them as you will.  I love you all!

Chapter One:

The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., waking me up quickly and not happily. I looked over at my 6-year-old son sleeping next to me. This was not our own bed. We were not in our own home, but in half an hour I would have to awaken him to get him fed and ready for school. I went upstairs and started the coffee and made sure that my hosts were awake. I got dressed while simultaneously packing away all of my own clothing. For whatever reason, I chose to wear my best shirt, jeans and shoes. I went and washed my face and applied full makeup and did my hair. Where did I think I was going that day?

 

At 6 a.m., I climbed into bed with my little boy and snuggled closely with him, kissing him to wake him up. He opened his eyes and said, “Is today the day that you have to go”? “Yes, it is, sweetie,” I replied. He did not want to go to school. I understood that, but I told him that he had to go—that everything would be okay and that his big sister would pick up after school. I hugged him hard and then told him we needed to get ready. He was going to school. I was going to turn myself in to go to prison and while I had know about this for over two years, he has only found out two weeks prior.

 

The counselors told me not to tell him. We were all praying that a pardon might come though. No one could see me going to prison. It just wasn’t going to happen. I remembered back to the day that I had finally told him why we had to move back to Maine from Montana—that I had to go to prison. He had melted before my eyes. We held each other and we cried and cried. He asked questions, and I did my best to answer them. “Mommy, what will you eat”? I told him I would eat whatever they gave me, which would probably mean beans and weenies every Saturday night. He found that amusing.

 

“Mom? I don’t want you to get fat, so will you please eat the skinny cereal”? I promised him that I would eat the skinny cereal and that I would write him every day. “Mom? What will you do about privacy”? I told him that I didn’t expect that I would have much. The depth and uncanny understanding he had of the situation floored me. A week later, we loaded up my car and spent a week driving across the northern part of the United States in the treacherous weather of late February.

 

I don’t remember a whole lot more of that morning, that going-to-prison-today-morning, except that somehow I got all of my all of belongings loaded into my car, and all of his belongings loaded into Howard and Georgia’s Chevy Tahoe. I know I dropped him off in his classroom and I think we both had tears in our eyes. His new teacher may have, too. I remember going over to my first husband’s house to drop off his belongings. Aidan would be living with my first husband and his wife, under the care of my younger daughter from my first marriage.

Blogs that I love:

http://abcofspiritalk.wordpress.com/

http://runningfromhellwithel

http://deborah-bryan.com/

http://chrysalisjourney.wordpress.com/

http://waitingforthekarmatruck.com

http://ivonprefontaine.com/

http://roots2blossom.wordpress.com

http://myrivendell.wordpress.com

http://momentumofjoy.com

http://morningstoryanddilbert.wordpress.com

http://scott-williams.ca

http://infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com

http://knowmyworth.com

http://yogawithmaheshwari.wordpress.com

http://paularenee.wordpress.com

http://tracielouisephotography.net

http://mymeanderingtrail.com

http://abbyhasissues.com

http://toddlohenry.com

http://shesamaineiac.com

http://thetwistingkaleidoscope.wordpress.com

http://reflectionsonlifethusfar.wordpress.com

http://spreadinformation.wordpress.com

http://rohan7things.wordpress.com/

I am forgetting a lot and I know that.  Please forgive me.  If you are behind me, add yourself the list!  On we go!  Rock on, we will.  I sound like Yoda now. Time to say bye-bye!

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.

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.