Friday, September 15, 2017

Worthless

OK guys, listen....I have been worthless today.  Worth-less, less than worthy of oxygen.  I have actually used oxygen that someone worthy of life sustaining oxygen might have needed. I have literally wasted hours of today and I kind of feel bad about it.  Kind of.... Here's the thing yesterday I spent about three hours cleaning and organizing my garage and that is where I finally have come to get a different view to see if I could come up with something to write.  I'm sitting on a chair that is going in a garage sale next month with my garage door open just looking at the fruit of my labor and watching it rain when it occurred to me I could write here.

I'm still just exhausted.  A week ago tomorrow I woke up and the prediction was that Irma was heading for us.  It had shifted yet again overnight and I was just spent.  The ups and downs, the build up was just too much.  I'm not sure I've actually completely checked back into my life.  I mean, I think I have to an extent because the laundry is getting done, dinner is being served and my bed continues to be made by my own hand but the rest of it?  I'm not so sure... I went outside and pulled weeds today for an hour or so, I showered and dressed, and I have had breakfast and lunch.  My kids have been working on homework and I have been staring at a blank page and doing crossword puzzles and talking on the phone in my room with no stimulation from the television or Pandora or anything.  Just staring at this blank page thinking, "What on earth can I say?" I found the lightbulb moment while sitting in a clean garage watching it rain.

The thing is I feel like I spent an entire week running a marathon that I had not trained for.  I feel like I was running and running and running and the finish like just kept moving further back.  I was on a treadmill without the emergency shut off and it was run or die and now I've gotten off the track and I don't know where I was.  I don't remember what track I was on. It is like everything is either before the hurricane and after the hurricane...as if life has somehow been altered a bit.  Are you with me?  Have you been here?  Maybe some of you have.  I feel bad about it actually because we really lucked out here and it weakened before it hit us and as I said before we were locked down in a shelter and didn't actually see any of it.  Our home even came through it virtually unscathed and this makes me feel like I'm not worthy of my feelings.  As if I am not entitled to them because I still have my home in tact.  I don't know.  I'm on unchartered territory here.

I am so thankful for all the messages and phone calls from friends and family checking in and wanting us to be ok before the storm.  There were so many that it was almost overwhelming and while I appreciated the concern it almost furthered my fears as if people were now talking to me because they didn't think we were going to make it. The weather reports made it seem like we might not make it.  It was the largest hurricane to form in the Atlantic...ever.  It is a lot to process.  The thing about all those phone calls is...they have stopped.  The messages have stopped.  We're all good now...uncertain death has been averted so no need to check in.  Forget about the fact that I don't know what day it is and as I feel like I've lost two weeks out of my life I'll never get back and I still sometimes cry in the shower.  We didn't die so we're good.

It reminds me of when my mother was dying.  People came out of the woodwork to help and love on us and be there for us and then once she was gone they all went away.  A week or two later and everyone is back to their own lives and assume you are business as usual.  They don't realize that your entire life has been forever altered and everything is now before your mother died and after and you have no idea how life just goes on.  You can't seem to figure out why everyone else can move on but you can't.  Why it is so easy for others and not for you. What is wrong with you?

I have always thought there is comfort in being around other people.  I don't do alone well. Not that I don't have alone time and enjoy getting custody of the remote or reading without interruptions because I do but I'm a people person.  My mother would give me the silent treatment as a punishment because I need someone to talk to and it was effective.  I don't know how to handle awkward silences.  I can't even go to get a massage without talking which defeats the purpose because I'm incapable of relaxing so I just don't do it.  The thing is, I love my people.  I love all of them...even when I think they are nuts.  Sometimes it just makes me love them more.  I try to text and call and keep up with everyone and when I only hear from people because I might you know...go with Dorothy and Toto via hurricane it makes me sad. I don't comprehend it.

I'm over here like...."What. Just. Happened?"  Have you been here?  Have you had these thoughts?  Have you felt this way before?  Maybe it wasn't a hurricane, maybe it was something else, maybe it was a tornado, or a flood, or something else entirely.  Listen to me on this God is with you in the storm.  I think part of the problem is that we forget that He's with us AFTER the storm as well.  I can't tell which end is up.  I've gone so gray I think I'll blind people if the light hits my head just right. I've gone through ALL the hurricane cookies and I was already ten pounds up from where I want to be weight wise.  My shoulders are up to my ears with tension and I'm scared to take a nap.  Why?  I have no idea but I can't do it.  I look on Denis Phillips' Facebook page to check the weather like it's my job.  I have forgotten that God is with me through the storm and after the storm.  He's with me for the fallout.  When the dust settles and you are left to do life again God knows.  He's there.  He's in for it.  He won't leave you.  He won't forsake you.  He is the God who stops the wind and calms the sea.  He is the God who turns day into night and night back into day. Nothing is too hard for him. Are you going through a storm?  Have you just endured a storm in life and come out the other side?

Remember when I said I felt kinda bad about how I was feeling? Well I've decided to give myself permission to have my feelings and not feel bad about them.  If you need permission I'll give it to you too.  Have your feelings. Psalm 107:28-31 "Yet when they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, the Lord brought them out of their distress.  He calmed the storm and its waves quieted down. So they rejoiced that the waves became quiet, and he led them to their desired haven.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for his gracious love and for his awesome deeds on behalf of mankind." " Psalm 89:8-9 Lord God All-Powerful, there is no one like you.  You are strong, Lord, and always faithful.  You rule the stormy see.  You can calm its angry waves."

Deuteronomy 31:8 " It is the LORD who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed".  Do not fear of be dismayed.  Do you see that?  God went before us and He didn't leave us.  He had us and still has us.  Why do I always forget that part?  Do you?  Have you?  I'm not sure but I think maybe the aftershock of the hurricane is just as bad as the build up.  I still wouldn't trade the experience though.  A friend told me I was crazy for trading a maybe fifteen minute tornado for a week long hurricane.  Maybe that's so.  Maybe I am crazy for wanting this life.  All I know is that being here is making me stronger...even on days like today when I feel weak.  On days when I think I can figure it out on my own and I avoid the blank page because I'm scared of what God will tell me there. I keep waiting for the God who loves me to figure me out, to give up on me and walk away because I'm not worth it.  I'm not worthy but then...who is?  Yet he waits for me.  He finds me in the garage when I've hidden in my room all day.  Who does that?  God does.  So today I've been a mess, tomorrow I might still be a mess to be honest but who knows.  His mercies are new every day.  I saw there were some more disturbances they are keeping an eye out for but my running days are just about over so I guess I better stock up on cookies...you know....for emergency use only.



Thursday, September 14, 2017

Irma


As the world is aware hurricane Irma set her sights on Florida this last week.  The predictions as to where her strike would occur and how strong of an impact she would have were all over the place.  First west then east no west again.  As the stereotypical woman, she didn’t seem to be able to make up her mind. You’d think she were deciding where to have dinner.  Memes of Irma took over the internet and after the destruction of Harvey we waited in anticipation for Irma who was to be the largest hurricane to have ever formed in the Atlantic.  My family potentially sitting in her path.

My husband as you may be aware works in the medical field as a pharmacist and the pharmacies were packed with people trying to get their medications early so they could flee the state.  The interstate became a parking lot and gas became scarce and we prepared to hunker down.  Then the report came Saturday morning that Irma had a real beef with us and looked to be making a beeline straight for us. Gas stations were closed and after retrieving our daughter from her college an hour away we were down to half a tank of gas. We didn’t have hurricane shutters and we didn’t have boards to put up to cover our windows and those who were not apart of the mass exodus had already bought all the plywood around.  I have always thought there was comfort in being around other people.  That said my husband and I left early and registered at the nearby shelter and went home to pack everything up. 

As you are probably aware we are from the Midwest, as you further are now aware we now live in the great state of Florida.  What you may not be aware of is that when the largest hurricane possibly ever is coming at you everyone in the Midwest becomes an expert on hurricanes.  They also, not understanding how it isn’t so simple to just pack up and leave when you are not on vacation here and you have jobs and responsibilities, think you’re stupid for not leaving. My inbox, private message box, and text box filled up with family and friends telling me to get out and drive 1100 miles back from whence we came.  We needed to come there to stay with every friend we had.  Fear and anticipation of what could happen and the idea of us not fleeing for our lives drove them to tell us how to handle the situation even though they had never been in this situation.  This did not help the women of the house. My middle child was filled with anxiety from the start and now she was on hyper drive.  I was crying in the shower.  My husband was at his wits end with scared women and trying to get us to calm down and we would be ok because we were together.  Where was our faith?

We have family here.  My cousin who lives on the other side of the state was very concerned and continued to call on us and check in, wanting to make sure we were taking this very seriously and that we were going to be safe.  When told we were going to a shelter I could hear her relief.  We have other family here that we never heard from.  They left the state and never once thought to call us to see if we were going to be OK.  I think that is one disappointment that has us the most flummoxed of all, especially when it is pointed out to us that they had left, hit the road, got out of dodge, without a thought to the family members who were new and had never experienced this type of storm before. I’m not sure how you make sense of that.  Maybe you don’t, you just realize where you stand.  Nevertheless, gas stations were closed and there was no way out by this point.  We prepared for the worse and hoped for the best

We arrived at the shelter just before 3 p.m. on Saturday and started carrying in our supplies and looking for our spot that would serve as our “home base” for our stay.  It was already getting full and by the time we were on lockdown on Sunday we were at capacity with 1700 people camped out and ready to ride out the storm together.  We had hours to prepare and pack.  We had our supplies pretty well put together.  Food, cases of water, important supplies like games and other forms of entertainment were near the top of the list. When you are camping in a strange environment surrounded by strangers it is important to have things to do for not only you but the kids no matter how old your kids may be.  The idea of going stir crazy didn’t sound appealing to any of us. My girls even brought homework to work on for school, desperate times and an overwhelming sense of responsibility drove that I believe.

I’m not sure what I thought this experience was going to be like.  Packing up my kids and going to a shelter to ride out a storm was never on my ‘to do’ list.  Had I to do it all over again…I wouldn’t change a thing and I’ll tell you why.  Jesus was there.  He was in the five-year-old little girl who was excited to be camping with her family in her school where some of her friends were doing the same.  He was in the woman named Miriam who said, “We are going to get through this Heather, we’re going to get through this together.” He was in the woman who came alone but was finally joined by her older neighbor that she had convinced to come too.  He was in the couple who are customers in my store who talked to me about churches in the area.  He was in the young guy (I say young guy but he literally could have been 35 as everyone seems young to me at this point) who brought his service dog and his laptop and set it up and invited all to join him to watch the weather to see how things were going.  He was in the service dog even because he never made a sound but somehow, I felt safer with him there.  He was in the officers and national guard who were there to protect and serve.  He was in the numerous volunteers who made food for everyone there three times a day.  He was in the young mother of that five-year-old and her one-year old who allowed me to dote on her children and her husband who I ended up knowing from work as he had been a student at my store.  He was everywhere I turned.  I saw the hands and feet of God at work in an elementary school turned hurricane shelter.

I never once saw any of the storm.  I heard the rain that sounded like rushing water on the roof.  I saw things on the computer screen showing the news and forecasts but I didn’t see anything of the storm and that helped me.  I think it helped all of us.  We could have been there for any reason at that point.  We could have been camping in a school not for survival but for a fundraiser or anything.  But survive we did.  The storm came and shook up everything but we made it to tell the story.  The next morning, we packed up and went home not knowing what we would find or if we would even have a home once we got there.  What we found when we arrived was leaves.  We surveyed the entire house and all we found were leaved and a plastic piece from the side of the house that covers wires that just needed snapped back on.  The neighbors on either side of me had damage.  A tree down that blocked entrance through the front door on one side and screen from the lanai and vinyl fencing that needed snapped back together on the other side. Another tree down the road was down.  We had leaves and a front door that now sticks for some reason.  It seemed to me as if God had covered our home with his hand as the storm passed by.  I was shocked at first but then I remembered all the prayer warriors we had praying for us and then it made perfect sense. 

We learned a lot from this experience.  First, our God is bigger than any hurricane. Second, we really can get through anything together. Third, God has plans for us.  I know this because HE calmed the storm.  He calmed a storm that was to hit our area at a cat 4 and it hit us at a cat 2.  Irma caused devastation on her path to us and there are parts of Florida that fared far worse than we did.  I urge you to see what you can do to help those in need here in Florida as well as in Texas.  Help a neighbor without power, help them with the clean up of the aftermath.  Offer a hot meal or shower.  From what I saw in the shelter people are still pretty good in a crisis. We as humans can still rise to the occasion and show the enemy that we stand with God.  Let’s do that.  Let’s live like that.  Neighbor helping neighbor.   

Monday, August 28, 2017

My Heart Hurts, Will You Pray With Me?

My heart hurts.  I'm sitting in the student center at my daughter's college where I'm supposed to be working on my (self appointed) comeback.  Writing the book that might be...the end of the trilogy.  I'm not sure why there needs to be a third or why it should end with three, maybe that is how I'm convincing myself to do it.  To go through the struggle of finding the words again.  I'm distracted however, watching all of these college kids coming in and out, eating food that doesn't seem like breakfast food for 8:15 in the morning.  Some are plugged in just as I am, looking at their phones or laptops or notes.  I wonder if they are listening to a Danny Gokey station on Pandora like I am.  Somehow I doubt it.

None of these are the reason for my heart hurting though.  A young girl who I worked with was found killed yesterday morning along with her young son and my heart just aches.  She was eighteen and had her whole life in front of her.  I look at these kids and again I'm struck by how senseless her death is.  Yesterday I think I was just in shock, unable to reconcile the information, refusing to understand that it was true.  A fireman while on his way to work happened to look in the direction of her apartment and notice there was a fire.  He called for back up and soon there was an investigation underway.  She had injuries to her body inconsistent with the fire.

In the short time that I knew this young girl, I knew her to be a quiet, soft spoken girl.  She was beautiful and her smile was full of joy, especially when asked about her young son.  Her face would light up a thousand suns and she would joyfully tell you all about him.  She was very bright and caught onto things much quicker than I have.  I often would ask her for help with something that I wasn't sure about or didn't know how to do.  She was always willing to help.  She, though radiant, didn't seem to want to draw attention to herself.  She was nervous to use the intercom. We would try to get her to step out of her shell some, though she would make comments on occasion that were just so uncharacteristically funny and surprise us.  Honestly, because she was so quiet and we were often so busy and concentrating on our work I don't know much else about her other than that she was one of many children in her family. It seems like so little to know about someone and yet in the nine months that I knew her we often didn't work the same shifts.  Although, how much do we really know about each other anyway?

Today I read where they arrested the young man who had been her child's father and had at one time been in a relationship with her although from the comments it seems they were no longer in a relationship.  He is twenty years old.  He is charged with two counts of murder and one count of arson. If convicted on all counts he faces a lifetime in prison and possibly the death penalty.  I also read that he stabbed her and cut her throat before setting fire to the apartment. This bit of information just adds to the horror of it all.

I'm so sad that this has happened.  Two young lives have been taken and one life is essentially over.  All the hopes and dreams and potential just squashed and I can't reconcile how this could happen.  How this young man makes the decision to do something like this.  How anyone could look at a life and see no value.

Two families are affected by this and the overwhelming sadness and loss and heartbreak they must be experiencing right now makes me hurt for them.  People I have never met and yet they are my family and your family too.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow journeymen on this blue and green ball called Earth that we are all just trying to venture through together.  Children of God who were created by God but who live in a fallen, broken world. Psalm34:18 says, The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  I pray that they are leaning on the Lord during this time.  I hope they have that hope that they will see her and her son again one day in glory. Could you pray with me?  Could you pray for all those who are hurt and broken and suffering because of this?  Could you pray for peace?  Could you pray for this messed up broken world that we live in?  We need to be there for each other.  We're called to love each other. We're called to love like Jesus.  Every life has value.  Every single life.  Each man, woman, and child was born into this world as a beautiful creation and gift from God and somewhere along the way we've just gotten so lost.  We've lost sight of the One who holds everything together.  I'm praying, will you join me?  Rest in peace sweet ones.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Hanging Out On Campus: Observations and thoughts from an outsider.

I am spending time on a college campus this semester.  No, I didn't go back to college (student loan debt for a 45 year old when you have two kids in college seems like a bad idea financially) and no I am not teaching.  I doubt they need someone to teach them sarcasm and that is really all I have a masters degree in.  What it is, is that my kids do not have cars.  We can (barely) afford college.  Cars are a luxury.  They will have to save to buy their own cars or we will have to be blessed by a generous benefactor such as the State Lotto or the Powerball.  We don't actually play all that often so our chances are probably even slimmer than those that play every week.  We also don't have any family members/friends who have  won the lotto or who have become so wealthy that they are running out of things to do with their money so they have decided to go down a list of family members and secretly pay off all their bills and roll up with vehicles with red bows.  If we as humans didn't need to eat every day and were trying to eat more healthy we might be able to scrounge up some extra for luxuries like cars for all drivers in the house.  But I digress...

I am spending time on campus waiting for my middle child to finish her classes for the day four days a week.  We live just far enough away from campus that it isn't worth the gas spent to go home and then have to return to pick her up and then go back home again.  We're trying to save money not burn through it even faster. So here I sit at a table in the student center watching kids come in and out and trying to behave and not go to the cafeteria and get overpriced snacks and drinks. I say that as I realize I forgot to bring my cup of water today.  Well that shoots that....ok I'm trying not to buy overpriced snacks because I have to already buy overpriced water.  I also spend time staring at blank pages and looking at works that have been started and trying to find inspiration as to where to go next with them.  Continuing this form of tortuous release feels like an exercise in futility and yet this is what I keep coming back to.  I have a healthy fear of both stopping and continuing.

The kids look at me like their mother just showed up to make sure they are being kind, respectful, and doing their work. They also tend to look at me like, "she doesn't even go here!"  I feel like an imposter and perhaps I am. It isn't an unfamiliar feeling for me.  I often feel like an imposter, as if I don't belong, I don't quite fit in no matter how hard I try. One of these doesn't belong and usually it is me. 

I'm plugged in which is how I normally write.  I am listening to Pandora because I can't figure out how to get free music on my Motorola and I can't figure out how to get iTunes to work on my computer because apparently it is downloaded onto too many computers for one account and must somehow be deleted from computers we no longer use.  Don't look at me like that.  I know!  It's things like this that show my age and are probably why I am not precisely "successful" in life. I grew up using a typewriter. Computers were just becoming a big deal in college for writing papers and most didn't even how printers they had floppy discs. I got married right out of college and got pregnant right after that.  My 'business' has been raising a family and I never did need a spreadsheet for that. I rarely even have a grocery list and tend to wing it.

I'm actually just winging life to be completely honest with you, never quite specializing in any one thing and never quite finding success in any of them either.  I'm not even sure I'm doing my makeup right when I take the time to put it on.  I go to the store if I run out of something and they have all these products I don't even understand what they are for. What is this bronzer stuff?  Why do we need that?  Go outside. You can get bronze from the sun for free?  Don't tell me it's for the winter, why do you need to be bronze in the winter unless you live in the south in which case....Go. Outside. Bronzers and highlighters and cc cream and bb creams.  The alphabet didn't used to come into play with makeup. I saw blue lipstick and green lipstick?  What is that about?  Halloween much?  I might look a little too natural at this point.

I still haven't figured out the dress code here either.  It is still getting into the upper 80's and 90's here and there are people in jeans and sweatshirts.  What's that about?  It's not ever going to get particularly cold here aside from those two weeks around February, but who cares I like the feeling of sweat running down my back? Don't get me wrong, I am all about bringing a sweater or sweatshirt for going inside cold places but can you say heat stroke when you walk outside?  I don't get it.  This is why I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb while here.  Although to be honest it is probably my own insecurity as I'm rarely noticed while I'm here.  Of course, that thinking could be my own delusions too.  I try to dress in a respectful yet stylish and cool way for a college campus while here.  I'm not sure I'm succeeding though because apparently the dress code is more grunge or athletic with only a few dressing the way I seem to think kids dress.

I wonder about these kids/young adults.  I'm curious if they realize how amazing they are just for being here.  I wonder if they get the blessing it is, how at one time college campuses were not quite so busy a place.  I hope they feel strong, and smart, and that they see all of the possibilities the world can hold for them.  Just as I wish those things for my own children.  I hope that they don't worry so much about what other people think. I think that is where we have gotten lost today.  So many are looking for approval from others for who they are.  Don't do that.  Be who you are.  Keep seeking to find out who that is and what that means for you.  It is OK to be weird. I'm kind of weird. and it works for me. Never stop learning, exploring, dreaming and seeking counsel from God who is really all that matters anyway. Don't let others set your pace because they aren't the one's running your race. While I'm on my soapbox dreaming of the future generation I'd also like to say that it is perfectly OK to sing along with the music in department stores or restaurants.  They want you to or they wouldn't play good music.  I would also like to say that if I happen to look in your direction, I'm probably lost in thought and not actually really focused on you at all. 

So that is how I came to be sitting on a college campus and not getting paid for it and not taking any classes.  It's a nice campus and the food here is top notch.  The offerings here really are amazing.  These kids have access to sushi and power bowls and a salad bar.  It's like club med in this cafeteria...not that I have ever been to club med and actually club med probably has people to bring you food and rub your shoulders if you look tense like me and have to remind yourself to relax your shoulders.  I don't know.  My expectations are usually off.  I once went to a country club in my home town for my husband's reunion and it was not nearly as fancy as I had built it up in my mind. I've digressed again....it's the hunger and the fact I'm 98% parched her.  Until next time....

Thursday, August 24, 2017

High School and College and Stress,Oh My!

This year my son started high school.  My middle child started her final semester at the community college and will be leaving in January for university.  My oldest was dropped off last night at her university and I would be lying if I said that I was handling all of this will ease and grace.

Here's the thing...nothing can go easily. My son is on his fifth schedule for the year.  Yes, you read that right.  His FIFTH schedule for the freshman from another state that has no familiarity with the school whatsoever.  They do not give the students their schedules until the first day of school and when they handed him his first schedule it was a different schedule than what was in the computer.  This meant that he went to the wrong classes for the first three days of school.  As of today we are only on the eleventh day of school. I'm hoping that this is the last one.  You wouldn't think that this was a huge deal, they are just working out the kinks in the beginning of the year and now it will be smooth sailing from here out...except now his grades show missing work and F's for classes that he didn't attend because he was handed THE WRONG SCHEDULE.  If we could work this out that would be great.

My middle child had all of her classes registered had paid for them all and gotten her books for them.  She then received an email stating that one of her classes would not be happening due to lack of enrollment.  She went into the computer to drop that class and add another.  One would think this would be an even swap.  Evidently not and because we didn't pay for the new class right away she was dropped from every single class she had registered for. Today is the first day of classes, one would think that this would be a day that you would have the office staff in early to handle things like this.  It is not. 

We took my oldest to college last Thursday.  Her roommate nor her suitemates showed up. We also learned that a co-ed dorm meant boys and girls in the same hall.  We moved her stuff in and then took her home and had to return her to school Sunday night.  Fortunately there were people there.  It's an interesting experience really.  Especially if you go into college not knowing a single soul on campus.  You just show up and live with some random stranger you have never met and know nothing about.  I can think of no other time in life when this happens.  I suppose if you have an arranged marriage....maybe?  When was the last time you met someone who had an arranged marriage?  See?  It's awkward to the nth degree for everyone, especially for people with any bit of anxiety and who are introverts.  The entirety of the rest of one's life they will never enter into this kind of living arrangement.  Or I suppose maybe some people do, what do I know I've been married for the same number of years than I wasn't married in life.  It's 2017 and a very odd and strange world who knows what all these people are doing.
 
We have had a rough start.  At times the stresses and bumps in the road  have gotten the best of us.  It happens.  It is easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated.  We have been all of those things.  I have been all of those things.  You know what though...My son has been fine.  He's been mildly inconvenienced but has just rolled with it.  He just comes home tired and tells me who he knows in the classes he has now.  He says to me, " It will be fine, mom."  He is so like his dad that way.  Twenty seven years I have been with my husband you would think he would rub off on me.  The only thing I acquired is more sarcasm.  He is the calm in the storm and I am the storm.  I am so glad that at least one of our kids got the best of him.  I give them the worst of me. The girls get to be anxious balls of stress because I am an anxious ball of stress. I can only hope that if/when they someday marry they find Godly men who bring them calm as their father has brought me.

The first week with my son starting school was tough.  For me, cause as I said he was fine and rolls with it.  This week however, the girls started classes.  They've been nervous and stressed and so I've been nervous and stressed but you know, I also kind of think it's been awesome.  As I sit alone in the quiet to think about it some pretty amazing things have happened as well.  My son has shown that he is as steadfast and laid back as his father which is great to see. 

My middle child, after she freaked out and decided to take her frustrations out on me, has actually been given more opportunities at the school that she may not have had otherwise.  Because of this entire ordeal with her schedule and trying to get everything fixed we talked to someone in the music department and she offered her more scholarships if she signed up for her class and a different class from what she was trying to get transferred into.  She also has started talking to more music majors and was even invited to go get lunch with some new friends one day this week. 

My oldest, has had some things come up that she has needed help with and we are no longer just in the other room or right on the other side of town.  She has had to step out of her comfort zone to ask others for help.  She's not comfortable asking anyone anything except us usually.  She's also looking into activities to go to and things to get involved in.  For my quiet introverted girl who is uncomfortable in a lot of situations that involve people she doesn't know, this is huge!  I'm so proud of her. She's figuring things out and hopefully finding out she is braver and stronger than she thinks.

As for me...well...I'm still a big giant ball of stress mess.  I've actually been in a great deal of pain for a several days now just because my muscles are just tied in knots from worrying and stressing out over everything. I can't control everything. I really hate that.  I know I have control issues.  I usually need to have a handle on things and I've been rendered pretty helpless as it applies to the girls and their schools. I've kind of thought, as my friend Christi put it today, that if I stopped spinning my fingers the world would stop spinning.  This week the world has continued to spin and my fingers have had nothing to do with it.  I asked my middle child if she could see how God has worked her schedule mishap for the good.  That had that never happened there wouldn't be any more scholarships and she wouldn't be playing her oboe in a band again.  She said she does.  I hope so.  As it turns out I have little to no control over most things really. I'm not in charge of all things. (Control issues alert: I probably should be in charge of some things because...well I should.)  It's shocking, I know!  I was amazed too!  I pray for my kids every night and sometimes I might be a little too specific in my requests.  I wonder about that.  As if God doesn't already know our hearts and our requests before we ask them, how specific do you really need to be?  I bank on this for those nights (that are too numerous to count sadly) that I fall asleep in the middle of my prayers.  The girls are learning this week how to fly.  They are finding their feet anyway so they can learn to run which will help them to fly.  I am learning to let them even if it means they fly further away from me.  (I don't like it.  I don't have to.  I'm not in charge of the world and all things in it.  Sometime I wish I were.  Mostly I'm glad I'm not. It is exhausting spinning your fingers to keep the world in motion and besides I don't have the attention span for it.)  I just hope once they learn to fly they eventually find their feet again so they can follow them back home...at least for a visit.








Sunday, August 13, 2017

Because I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone it, People Like Me!

There was once a skit on Saturday Night Live where Stuart Smalley went on and did his daily affirmations: Because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and Doggone it, People like me!  It seemed so silly at the time and everyone would laugh. I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately. 

Life seems so hard sometimes.  It feels overwhelming...as if we work and we try and nothing we do is ever good enough.  We run ourselves ragged and yet nothing gets done. We save and we budget and there isn't enough.  You tell your kids how magnificent they are from birth, they are beautiful and smart, and kind and loving and loved and they don't believe you.  One kid tells them something different and all your work is for naught.  You follow a recipe and try to make healthy meals for your family and they don't turn out.  You work a program to lose weight and you put ten pounds on as soon as the program is over. You look for jobs and you don't qualify for any of the jobs that sound challenging and fun.  (Interesting how many things you don't qualify for having spent your life dedicated to your children) Your kids don't think you are as smart as dad and you don't think so either.  You're quirky and sarcastic and a people pleaser and people don't get your humor.  You go on Facebook and everyone has their crap together.  They can do it all.  You go on Pinterest and everyone is a professional decorator and gardener and chef and you cannot possibly do all of it...or even some of it.

Somewhere along the way we get lost.  I get lost.  Maybe it is just me...it could just be me.  I moved and I live in paradise.  I have everything I ever wanted.  I have the husband, the children, the house with the palm trees and I've been lost. Sinking, trying to keep my head above the water, just treading water because my feet can't touch the bottom and I can't get my footing. I've been so busy trying to make everyone happy that I've forgotten how to be happy myself. I'm exhausted...all. the. time. 

I haven't even been reading books. Me!  Not reading books.  I buy books.  I bring books home.  I read a couple of chapters and put it down or maybe I'll read half of it, then put it down not to be looked at again.  There was once a time when I would sit down with a book and a cup of coffee (that doesn't actually taste like coffee) or tea and read.  I could read for hours.  Laundry would pile up, dinner would need fixed, the kids could fight and I didn't care.  I was in a book and I was filling my tank.
I haven't even been writing.  Obviously...I haven't been writing because if you are one who follows this blog you know how far and few between the posts are. 

There was a time I didn't concern myself with what people would think of my posts. I wrote for me and no one else.  Everyone else was just bonus.  The actual writing was cathartic for me...as if by doing so it healed the broken vestiges of my heart.  Writing stories about my kids reminded me of my blessings. Just typing out what I was figuring out in life helped it to sink in somehow.  If what I wrote for me helped someone else that was God's business and not mine. Somewhere along the way I tried to take that from God and worry about that myself.  I started concerning myself with who was reading and what they thought about it.  Do I look stupid?  I shouldn't be writing.  I have no formal training....who am I anyway?  I should leave this to professionals.  Who do I think I am anyway, Beth Moore?  I love Beth Moore, but I cannot BE Beth Moore, nor do I want to.  I can't go talk in front of people.  I'm more of a Lizzy McGuire....RUN!!!!! kind of girl.  My mind would race and wouldn't shut down.  What once was healing and only for me, two books later, was no longer just for me and I wasn't sure I was that person.  The enjoyment disappeared and was replaced with a real sense of total fear.

Transitions are hard.  We moved a year and a half ago.  We settled in and made some friends and found a church and jobs.  The transition was hard on everyone but I made it my mission in life to do whatever I could to make sure everyone was transitioning well and they were happy.  They would be happy if it was the last thing I ever did.  They would be happy if it killed me. Working and doing everything for everyone because that is what we do as wives and mothers.  We bend over backwards to take care of everyone else and we forget to take care of ourselves...or maybe we just run out of time or get too tired.

I started reading a book recently (a couple actually) one asks "who told you, you weren't good enough?"  the other asks "what measuring stick are we using to measure perfection?"  I can't seem to find the balance.  I never feel like anything I do is good enough and I will never achieve perfection.  My meals will never be gourmet and my house will never look professionally decorated and will likely never be without dust or a pile of papers somewhere.  It's stressful.  Never feeling good enough, or smart enough, and never being able to tell if what you think is what God wants from you is really what God wants or what you want is stressful.  Having your kids growing up and leaving and not knowing who you are without them and how to fill your days once they are gone is stressful.  So many make it all look so effortless.  Why is it so hard?  Why do I continue to tear myself down and knock myself  down to size the moment I think I might be on to something that maybe I could do? 

Does God talk to you?  Does he tell you stuff?  I mean...do you know how to tell the difference between what you think God wants and what you want?  What if it's the same thing?  Does that happen and if so what do you do with that? I don't know...maybe God doesn't talk to me. Maybe I don't know how to recognize it if he does. 

I have questions!  I'm scrambling through this life full of questions.  Anyone?  Just me then?  OK ...I got it.  But if I'm anything I'm real.  I keep it real and I don't pretend to be something I'm just... not.  I am also pretty sure that when I feel like God is wanting me to do something I tend to want to pick and choose.  I also tend to be pretty sure that it can't be God asking me but it is just my own selfish desires coming into play.  I'm also quite certain that I am really good at running.  (Not actual running because that would be ridiculous and someone or something would have to be chasing me. If you see me running it would be a good idea to send help.) 

I love this place I call home. I feel blessed to be here.  I love this crazy family I get to spend this life with and I love God.  I don't talk nice about myself.  This has been pointed out to me.  I also have a growing relationship with the words "I can't" this has also been pointed out to me.  These friends are not wrong.  I just haven't figured out how to reprogram my brain into thinking or reacting another way. I am not unhappy I'm distressed.  I'm confused about my role not only in my family with my growing/grown children but also my role in the kingdom.  I'm also really quite scared about what I might find out.  I never said I made sense. 

In church today we talked about Got equipping the called and that he often doesn't call the equipped.  It makes so much more sense the other way around.  Although when I really stop and think about it, maybe it does.  Maybe it is easier to learn from someone who is or has been where you are.  Maybe it is harder to take things in from beautiful perfect people who seem to have always had their crap together because when you're scrambling around trying to figure things out what they have going on seems unattainable and out of reach.  Maybe it is easier to take things in from people who are just like you, just like me, lost sheep in need of a shepherd.  When you think about it like that it doesn't seem quite so crazy. 

So here's what I've got: Maybe daily affirmations aren't so bad.  Maybe they can be helpful when (like me) your inner voice isn't really very nice to you.  We need to take some time to fill our tank. I am not now nor will I ever be perfect.  It is completely unattainable and maybe that it ok.  I didn't use to care.  My goal was always food-edible, house-not condemnable, kids-loved, husband-loved, and the rest would just sort itself out.  My daughters are both going to be out of my house soon and I have to come to terms with that.  I have to learn to let them go and do and be what God wants them to be.  My baby is no longer a baby.  He's in high school and as hard as that is to come to terms with I have to deal with that too.  I don't know how or where that leaves me once they are all off living their lives and leaving me behind but maybe that's ok too.  I don't have to have it all figured out in a day, or a week or even this year.  What I really need to do is learn how to let go and let God handle it all and stop trying to do His job for him.  It is far too much for my tiny brain to handle and frankly it is exhausting.  Lastly, why should I be so concerned about living up to what I think others expect from me when I really don't know what they expect.  And does it really matter?  I'm a mom and I have the love of my husband and my children (most of the time) and so what if I don't have some high profile thing to talk about at reunions.  I don't like or go to reunions and it shouldn't be a competition anyway.  I'm not on anyone's journey but my own and for now I don't know what it holds and I need to learn to be ok with that too.



Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Story about Time and Finding Friends

What difference can a year make?  It is a funny thing, this thing we call time.  We, as humans, are the only creatures who mark it out, count it, rely on it even, and worry so much about it running out.  One of my favorite books is called The Timekeeper.  Mitch Albom of course, is one of my absolute favorite authors of all time.  In this book about the Timekeeper and time he explores it all in such a poignant way.  It is really a good book so check it out if you haven't.

We have lived in our current location for almost a year and a half.  I think about how different things are from when we first got here.  It is amazing really how much smaller a place can get.  Don't get me wrong, it is huge.  Two to three lanes per side on any given road to get where you are going is not unusual here.  A traffic jam here is not just a few cars behind a tractor and not once have I had to try and get around a combine that was moving between fields.  It just isn't a thing here...at least not where we live. Perhaps the more appropriate word is familiar.  Most places are now familiar and feel like home.

When first we arrived things were not familiar.  Even our home wasn't familiar.  People weren't familiar in almost every location we went and the locations weren't familiar either.  I was afraid.  I won't lie to you about that.  Obviously I was afraid.  I've always been afraid of one thing or another.  Afraid to go down the big slide at the park, afraid of the dark, afraid to drive on the big roads, afraid to speak in front of people, even if I know them all, always so afraid.  Mostly though I think my fear was bigger of what our lives would be if we didn't move.  That fear was bigger.  The fear of settling and always being afraid of everything because the comfort of the familiar was just so comfortable.  The comfort even started to scare me because what if I never stopped being afraid and I stayed that way and eventually it became worse?  What kind of life is that for my family?  What does that show our children?  Is that what I want for them? The answer was and is no.

We arrived as aliens in an unknown but beautiful place, knowing only four people in our location and three others that lived hours away.  My husband and son were the lucky ones.  They had work and school.  That helped them to be submerged into the environment a bit quicker than it happened with the girls in the family.  We mostly stayed home except for going to the grocery and church.  But then something amazing happened, our pastor's wife started taking me out on excursions and showing me around.  We quickly became friends and in no time (there's that word again) at all we were getting together most weeks even if it was just to go to the grocery together.  Everyone knows going with a friend to the grocery makes that chore more tolerable.  

In the year and a half since we've been here I have met some great people and made some friends.  Our son has made friends at school and even ventured to a school dance (something he never ever did back at his old school).  Our middle child started a job that was temporary and then started a different job and started college.  She has made friends and started getting more grounded.  Our oldest daughter has graduated from her college she was attending on line and is getting ready for her next chapter.  My husband has turned his store around.  It is no longer quite the trouble store it was upon arrival.  It is still insanely busy and ridiculous at times but improvements have been made and small glimpses of light are being seen at the end of a very long tunnel.

I drive.  I drive on three lane roads and cut in and out of traffic when people go too slow.  I have driven to the beach.  I have been forced to drive places that I wasn't familiar with to get my son places he needed to be for activities.  It seems that if my child needs me to go somewhere, my fear gets put in the corner and I go.  It is good for me.  We take walks and it gets dark.  It storms and I find I am not concerned.  I have ridden rides (simulated rides but I think that still counts).  It seems as though things have started picking up.  Life has started and we are hitting our rhythm here.

But as per usual life always likes to hit you with a curve ball to make sure you are paying attention.  Life is a Rocky Balboa quote.  "You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.  But it ain't about how hard ya hit.  It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.  How much you can take and keep moving forward."  My friend is leaving.  Our time together is short now. Their family is moving and I'm so sad.

It is harder I think, as an adult, to find friends who get you.  Someone you can laugh and be silly with that won't secretly judge you for being a nerd bomber.(Does that term date me? I feel like it dates me.)  I'm a huge nerd.  I like super heroes and Star Trek, and Star Wars and singing to the muzak in the mall and singing in the car and pretending I could rock at lip sync battle.  I walk out of movies feeling like a ninja and like I could conquer the world.  I have unrealistic expectations of things I think I should be able to do, that I cannot, and I speak in movie quotes and sarcasm.  As you can see,it is hard to find someone who can not only deal with that kind of charm but embrace it and dive right into your life and be the kind of friend that seems as though you have always been friends and the time you didn't know each other seems of no relevance at all.  I get I'm weird and my only fear now is that once my friend leaves I may not find that one friend here that can fill that void.  The one I can call and say "Hey let's go to Target and look at clearance." or "Hey I need you to talk me down from the ledge cause I'm losing it."  or "Hey, go to Aldi's with me because I don't want to go alone."  I need that kind of friend in my life and while she reminds me that she isn't dying she is just moving, there is still a sense of loss.

I am blessed to have made such a good friend shortly after my arrival and we will always be friends.  Just as it was when I moved from my home town to here, I didn't just stop being friends with the friends that I had there.  I have several friends that I miss dearly from my home state.  That said I don't so much miss my home town.  I don't miss who I was when I was there.  I kind of feel like in leaving I found a piece of myself that was missing.  I gained a bit of independence that I may not have found otherwise.  God sent me just the friend I needed here to help me adjust and learn to step a few toes outside of my comfort zone...to learn to fully live my life in this new environment instead of just moving to another house and nothing really changing.

I am no longer sitting on the sidelines. I am diving in, looking around and absorbing it all.  I'm looking for my tribe and I'm not so concerned about the timing.  Sooner rather than later would be nice as she's leaving next month but it's OK, she will still take my calls.  I have a routine and I'm still figuring out who I am outside of the motherhood.  I've always just been someone's mom and while I'm still the mom, they don't really need me or want me around so much.  I'm not sure who I am outside of that.  My cousin reminded me that I did once have interests and I was once human before I had the children.  It's hard to remember but I think when the time is right God will reveal the plan.  Until then I'll bide my time and wait for God to send me a friend that likes to sing along with Bohemian Rhapsody and go to the grocery with me and speaks fluent sarcasm.  Ironically my friend is moving to my home state.  I did warn her and I sure hope she likes corn.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Phone Calls from Heaven

Dear Mom,

It doesn't really get easier.  Mother's day is tomorrow and I suppose I should focus on the fact that I, myself, am a mother.  I realize that, of course, I realize that and yet I want my mother.  Everywhere I go people are talking about buying cards for their mothers and I don't have a card to buy.  I don't have a call to make or flowers to send.  I would have sent you sunflowers.  You should see the sunflowers they have at the farmer's market.  They are breathtaking.

I had this fantasy, a dream really, you were here.  We were making plans for dinner for Mother's day and talking about how to spend the day today.  Were we going shopping or to the beach to work on our tans?  There are so many choices here.  So many places to eat, I think you could go somewhere different for an entire year and still not try them all.

I drink coffee now.  Did I tell you that?  Your granddaughters like it too.  We don't drink it black like you did but I often think about how much fun it would have been to go to coffee shops with you.  How you would have ordered yours black and we would have tried to get you to drink coffee like we do with all the stuff in it that makes it taste good.  Would you have enjoyed it the way we do?  Would it have been a running joke between us?  Can you imagine the four of us girls shopping and drinking coffee together?  I never did...I imagine you thought, like I did, that the girls would be little forever.  It never occurred to me, when you were here, the things we would be doing together as the girls got older.  Now we are visiting colleges and in a few short years they will be working and on their own.  You would have been right in the mix of it all.  How different would our lives be if you were here?  What would you have taught the girls?

Amazing...it is really amazing to me how much difference a year can make.  We moved almost a year and a half ago and I was so frightened to drive on some of these big roads.  We felt like aliens in a strange land and now, well....we're not.  Yesterday your grandson pointed out a kid on a bike and said he was a great guy.  We have friends here now.  I have driven to the beach.  If I want to go somewhere I'm not so scared to go anymore.  I have found that it doesn't matter where you go, people drive like idiots.  I have thought about how you would have handled driving here and then I was remembering that you drove us to North Carolina.  Do you remember that?  Just the two of us on the open road and I realize you were fearless.

You were fearless and yet I have always been afraid of everything.  You were the hardest working woman I ever knew and you raised me alone.  It wasn't easy.  Raising a daughter is hard, I get it, I have two.  PMS and drama and all the things...throw in the eye rolls and the door slamming and it's enough to make anyone slightly crazy and you did it without help.  I, at least, have a partner in life.  We can tag team and team up and support each other.  Remember when I was having the boy?  We were so scared of a boy.  He's so easy...always was really.  He would put himself down for naps.  Such blessings each and every one, with their different personalities, and they would have enjoyed hanging around you as much as you would have them.  You would have spoiled them.  I hope you would have taught them to be fearless like you.  I wish I could have been fearless too.

So many changes and I can't call you.  I can't call you and talk to you while I'm cooking dinner.  I can't invite you to dinner.  You were always on the other end of the line.  You could be so mad at me but you were always on the other end of the line.  You might have yelled at me but you would have been there.  For the record, I was always right, but I'd say I was wrong if I could have one more conversation. It's been almost thirteen years and I have to focus to remember the sound of your laugh.  I have to concentrate to remember the melody of your voice.  I remember the way you would say things, the expressions you would use, like it is ingrained into the very fiber of my being.

I can close my eyes and see your smile and the way you would chew on your pinky finger when you were tired. The way you were late for every party always but you made the best cakes in town.  The way you always looked so tired because you worked all night in a factory for my whole life so you could be available if I needed you in the daytime.  I remember it all.  I thank you for it all.  I was a sarcastic kid and maybe I'm not a much better adult because my entire vocabulary is full of sarcasm and movie quotes but you did teach me to appreciate everything.  You taught me right from wrong and you taught me that love is a verb.  That it's showing up.  And maybe you taught me a little bit about hard work too but I was always too scared to fail to really go for dreams I knew I didn't deserve. And yet you were never the one who told me I didn't deserve anything, you only told me I was spoiled but you were mostly to blame for that and you loved it.  You loved me.  Always.  For better or for worse you were always the one person in my life that I could run to and all I want is to talk to you on the phone.  If only there could be phone calls from heaven.

I have been so very blessed with a wonderful husband and three great kids I've gotten to love here on earth and one that I hope to meet in heaven someday.  I have this beautiful family and some great friends but on mother's day I miss my mom.  No one loves you like your mom.  I know though that if I can't be with you that you are with the only one who could love you better.  I'm so overwhelmed that you came to know Jesus before you died.  I think that is the best part of all this.  His love for you is so deep and so true.  I know His love for me is too.  I love you and miss you to infinity and beyond.  I just wish there were phone calls from heaven.  Until we meet again.

Love,

Your favorite daughter, Heather
(I win by default, only child and all)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Shot in the Butt

A shot in the butt should cure any ailment that you may have.  That should be a thing.  You have hypoglycemia, go to the doctor for a shot in the butt and BOOM you're cured.  Cancer?  A shot in the butt.  Thyroid issues?  A shot in the butt.  Bladder infection?  A shot in the butt.  A cold, the flu, kidney stones, gallbladder attack, essentially any way that the body can rebel against you, a shot in the butt should take care of that and get you back to normal.

I'll take this one step further.  Are you suffering from a lack of filter?  Do you have a disease where you are just a jerk?  You're teenager's lack of respect and hatefulness should be cured by a shot in the butt.  I'm just saying! 

You laugh but wouldn't life be just so much easier if things could be taken care of so easily?  I mean sitting might be uncomfortable for a couple of hours but essentially the main problem ceases to exist.  Oh if only it could be that easy. 

I once read somewhere or saw in a movie about someone who wanted their memories erased so they wouldn't have to feel the pain of losing the person they loved.  There have been times in life where the pain of losing my mother and so many others, beloved pets included, that I have had the very same thought.  But then I got to thinking how sad an existence that would be.  A life where you couldn't remember your precious loved ones seems like you wouldn't have lived much of a life at all.  To be able to truly love I think you have to be willing to take the chance of being truly hurt.  To feel pain makes feeling love and joy that much more precious and special.

We've been having a rough time of it lately.  We buried our beloved cat Gabby on what would have been my mother's birthday this last Saturday.  Our entire way of life has altered significantly by just not having this cat in our home.  It has been an entire reset of our way of life and this is from a cat.  Perhaps that seems odd to people who do not own pets but they become a part of your family and a part of you, especially when they are with you as long as our Gabby was with us.  Seventeen years with man or beast is a commitment.  Seventeen years is a long time to have a relationship of love and like and dislike and every phase that one goes through when you truly love a part of your family.

As I spent my time remembering my mother and my cat and thinking about how things used to be and all that was lost, I wished I could forget even a little bit, maybe just the bad parts when they were sick.  What kind of service would that be to them though?  To truly love and be loved you have to be in it for all of it.  The good, the bad, the ugly of life is just that...life.  I believe a full life includes all of the good, the bad and the ugly.  Without all of the components you miss a little something along the way.  A lesson maybe that helps you get to the next step or phase in life.  I don't want to forget any of it, not really.  In time, pain does fade from a sharp stabbing to a dull ache that you just can't shake.  I remember every bit of how my mom was and how my cat was at the end but I also remember how they lived. 

My mother was a force to be reckoned with.  She worked so hard and showed up for everything.  She didn't hold any fancy degrees and she may not have made an enormous amount of money but she did pretty well.  She did well enough to take care of herself and her child without much help from a man and she apologized for much.  She loved her family and she loved the home shopping networks.  She had friends that I never even met until she was sick or after she passed.  She was loved by many.  My mother baked the best cookies in the county, she made the best spaghetti sauce, she had an infectious smile and she loved all things sweet.  She watched Days of our Lives and she drank black coffee and smoked cigarettes at the same time which truly did seem counterintuitive but that's what she did.  She used to run her hands through my hair when I was younger to help me sleep.  She called me Kong when she would ask me what I wanted to do next.  She hated it if I called her by her name and not mom.  She made me go to bed at nine on school nights until I graduated high school.  She loved shopping and could never turn down a good sale. She loved her mother and she could argue with me like a champ.  She had 'the look' and I never developed 'the look' which is my greatest disappointment as a mother. My mother was all of those things and my mother died at fifty two years old from cancer but my mother cannot be and will never be defined by the disease that killed her.  No, if anything came from her cancer, it was that it just showed those around her that she was an even bigger fighter than what we knew.  What's more is that my mother came to know Jesus.  She was a child of the Lord and he came down personally to escort her home.  I know this because I was there and yes she argued with him too because you could see the struggle on her face and then the relaxing and the letting go when she went.

My cat could scare dogs and she was fiercely jealous of all other animals.  She was also kind of a jerk sometimes.  She loved us but then loved the very creatures (other cats we brought home that she supposedly hated and wanted to kill) more than she loved us.  They would become best friends and they would gang up on us and they were our friends too.  Linus being my sidekick and Gabby tagging along only because he wanted to be around me.   She preferred having him all to herself.  Also I think she was still mad at me for going to the bathroom so much when I was pregnant with our son because as guard cat she would follow me around to protect me.  I'm not sure if she thought I was going to fall in the toilet and how she would help if anything did happen during that time but she would no sooner get comfortable when I was up to go again and she followed me every time.  She liked eating and sleeping and she totally lost it if catnip got involved.  She would act like she was higher than a kite and she wouldn't share with the other cats.  She would growl at them if they came near the catnip.  We only got it a couple of times and we never got it again because she got that weird about it. 

A shot in the butt.  It would be so easy and my mom would be here.  My cat would be here.  Cancer would be as rare as Polio.  Or if not that then the pain of losing so many would cease to exist and yet how do we really appreciate what we have until it is gone?  As human beings we know what it is to love and what it is to lose but we don't really spend our days, not the day in day out daily grind anyway thinking to ourselves, "I want to remember this moment right here for when they are gone.  Or I want to forget this happened or reshape it to fit the memory I wanted to have if this person dies before I do."  No, we go about our lives as though tomorrow will come and the next day and nothing ever changes.  We take people, animals, and things for granted not because we mean to but because we are busy and we are human.

Mitch Albom is one of my favorite authors of all time.  I just think he is brilliant and so talented.  In The Time Keeper it says, "With endless time, nothing is special.  With no loss or sacrifice we can't appreciate what we have."  I think that is true. We get stuck, we get into the daily grind and we forget that life is short and precious and temporary.  I also think that that is how the devil distracts us and tries to keep us from growing closer to God when really we need to be so focused on God that we can learn how to better love and serve the very people we don't want to lose.  We need to be so focused on God that when we do lose them we can remember that he is there to help us heal from their loss.  I remember being surrounded by people and never feeling more alone than when I lost my mother.  That's how I managed to crawl into the pit and stay there so long.  I believed the lie that I was alone and stopped thinking about what I still had but focused all my attention on what I had lost.  Even when I knew that God was with me, knew he had stood at the foot of my mother's bed, felt the presence of the One who brings peace that passes all understanding.  I fell.

As I said before though, even though a shot in the butt seems easier and I would be all for it if it meant that it would take care of our ailments, I wouldn't want to forget.  Only by remembering do we remember that life is temporary and only with God can we feel the permanence of lasting love. 



Thursday, February 23, 2017

God's Love and A Soft Fuzzy Blanket

I'm not sure how it occurred really, this love of soft furry things.  Today I find myself cuddled up with a soft fuzzy blanket and it seems too lightweight as if it isn't right somehow.  I have these jackets that I love that are soft and fuzzy.  It is a texture thing with me I believe, as when in stores I am always touching blankets or pillows or jackets to feel how soft they are.  I am drawn to them as if they bring comfort some how like a mother's hug.  Today however, while I sit wrapped up and just exhausted with life in general, my favorite blanket isn't cutting it.

Two days ago you may have read we lost our Gabby.  Gabby was all cat just like people say boys are all boy.  I'm not precisely sure what that means but she was always herself.  She was seventeen which translates to about eighty four in human years.  She was like a teenager in the sense that she only really wanted to come around us if she wanted something from us.  She was like a little old lady in the sense that she was going to do what she wanted when she wanted.  For example; she knew where her litter boxes were but she would look at you even if you caught her in the act like, I know I have  have a litter box over there and I'm going to pee or poo right here.  I do what I want and you are my people who clean this up.

When she was younger she wouldn't really have anything to do with other humans except for my mother who hated cats.  Somehow she seemed to sense this and would always rub up against mom and try to win her over or being that she is my cat she probably did it just to tick her off.  A cat's attempt at sarcasm and jerkiness perhaps.  As she grew older though she would kind of be jerky to us and then be all angelic when other people came over.  It was pretty hilarious. 

She loved us like a teenager loves their overbearing, overprotective parents.  She was too cool for us but she did need food and water.  She also was protective of us.  She would scare off other animals when she was in her prime.  Other dogs and cats didn't stand a chance.  If a mouse got into the house, well, he could stay because she had no interest.  Lucy was our mouser.  She got so many mice even after she died mice were scared to enter the premises.  At least that is the story we tell, it is probably more likely that all the houses in the neighborhood got built up and the mice stopped coming from the fields to our house and sought their refuge elsewhere.  Gabby would take one look at a mouse and go the other direction. 

When we were sad, she was there to sit in our laps and comfort us.  When our Linus died she took his spot at the foot of our bed and she grieved his loss with us.  They had been friends for nine years as we brought him home once we lost our Lucy.  She was there for us through the birth of our son, the loss of my mom, and the loss of our number four.  She comforted and guarded and protected and loved us through so many years that I keep looking for her even now when we are mourning the loss of her.  I keep thinking I hear her meowing or that I will open the garage door where her litter box was kept and she will come slowly walking back into the house after doing her business.  I keep closing the doors inside the house then I remember that I don't have to anymore.  And yes, as I sit here cuddled up in my soft fuzzy blanket, tired and just worn out with life in general, I keep looking for her and wanting to feel the weight of her sleeping in my lap or nearby to comfort me in my distress. 

It seems silly to most I suppose.  I broke down at work yesterday when I first got there and all that happened was that the pharmacist asked me how I was.  Sometimes I think it is the days after a loss that are the hardest and not the actual day of.  The day of you are just in shock and running on shock and adrenaline.  The days after are when it seeps in and settles.  When the cloud just seems to have fully formed and decided to stay for awhile and rain.  It seems no accident to me that we have had rain yesterday and today.  It feels as if the heavens are weeping with us.  It seems so odd for her to not be underfoot and then I always lean on her more two weeks out of the year and this week is one of them.  The week of my mother's birthday when my inner demons come to call once again. When the struggle to put one foot in front of the other is harder and usually her fur catches my tears as I mourn another birthday my mom didn't get to have with me. A time when I replay every decision and try to align everything to make sure there isn't anything else I could have done for her.  This is my burden to bear and Gabby has always been there for comfort because I try to be so strong around everyone else.

Today we returned Gabby's food and medicine to the animal hospital. We also went to the store to buy things for cleaning up the garage where as I said before she went wherever she wanted.  We cleaned up after her daily but now it comes down to a complete fumigation process.  As if we need to remove all traces of her being there.  Our lives are changed so irrevocably by the loss of her.  But what is more is that our lives were so changed by having her and loving her and even if I had known the day and time we would lose her I still would have brought her home that day.  We were so blessed by having her.  That's the thing about love, no matter what form it comes in, even though it will cause you pain sometimes, it is always worth it in the end.  Love transforms us, it molds us, it helps us draw closer to God who is love.  I believe he designed it that way. Our love doesn't end when we lose someone or something it only expands to stretch to the other side. 

So this week I am sad but the sadness will eventually subside just as the clouds will part and the sun will shine again.  But my love for all of the blessings I've been given, well...that will last long after my time here.  In the meantime, I will find comfort in God's love and a soft fuzzy blanket.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Goodbye Gabby



Sadness permeates and settles into the soul really.  Like a dark cloud descending upon a day that was once full of sunshine and happiness.  It moves in dark and heavy.  The weight of it settling into your bones making movements heavy and awkward.  Rains come and pour down washing away everything in its path like a tidal wave coming on shore and taking everything the shore has to offer back out to sea with it.   It is so heavy and burdensome and yet....

Storms end.  Sometimes they seem to last forever with no end in sight and the heaviness seems almost crushing under the weight of it all.  Sometimes they are gone almost as quickly as they arrived.  But storms do end.  One way or another the end comes and with it the sun does shine again.  It breaks through the clouds in brilliant light.  It shines down through lifting and moving the clouds away.  At times when you look up you can almost see a robe through the sun's rays.  As though the Son has come to clear it all away and stand and survey the wreckage left behind.  For from wreckage can come great beauty.

I wrote the above last week when I was told that my seventeen year old cat was running out of options.  While once before she wasn't a good candidate for surgery because of her age, now she is in need of surgery to try and improve her life.  It was going to be a gamble but if it could improve her quality of life it was worth the risk.

Today my Gabby girl went in for surgery.  She had to be there between seven and eight in the morning and would be staying the night.  We took her in and brought her two cans of food for her stay.  We told her to be good and we loved her then we left.  We went about our day, dentist appointment, take the boy to school, go to the beach....

When my phone rang and I heard it was the vet I honestly thought, "Wow, my girl did so well that they are calling early to tell me about it."  I thought she was going to be fine and would have a weeks worth of recovery and then she would be good as new....at least that is what I had hoped.  I just wasn't prepared, you know, I don't know how you prepare really.  Can you get use to losing those close to you?  I wasn't expecting the vet to say that when they opened her bladder it was full of cancer.  That there wasn't anything they could do for her.  There were stones sure, but the bladder was full of cancer and it would be the most humane to let her go while she was still under the anesthetic. 

She once scared a dog from our yard just by hissing and raising her back up.  That was at least fifteen years ago but that is what I remembered.  My oldest child was three and my middle child was about two when I brought Gabby home. My son doesn't know life without Gabby in it.  I don't know how to live in this house without keeping the doors shut because she's been old and sick the entire time we've been here and we had to keep her out of the bedrooms so she wouldn't pee on our beds.  I don't know how to do this.  It seems as if Gabby has always been in our lives, a part of our family and now she's just...not here.

As I rode in the car with my husband I could feel the walls going up.  I could feel myself disconnecting and shutting down.  I don't want to be that person though.  Not really.  I just, it's easier to shut down.  It's easier to disconnect to try not to feel.  I'm pretty good at it.  I shut down or I feel all the things all at once...and then I shut down.  I enter hibernation mode and crawl into my pit.  I thought about that but then I remembered what I had written down not even a week ago.  I realized that the heaviness doesn't last forever, the clouds do part, and the sun will shine again.  I know this from experience. 

It is supposed to rain tomorrow for most of the day and I keep thinking that even the angels are sad and they are going to cry rains of tears tomorrow just as we will for days to come.  I believe that God knows and feels our hurt.  I believe that we are not going through this alone because God will never leave us alone.  I also know that God has a way of making beauty from ashes and I don't understand how that is going to happen but I never do and yet he does.  I did not want to say goodbye to Gabby today. I didn't want to go home and tell my kids that the pet that has been around them almost their entire lives was now gone.  Today I did all of those things and tomorrow we make more decisions about her final resting place and we'll breathe in and out and pretend that our hearts aren't broken until we are back home when we can join our tears with the angels tears. 

Goodbye sweet Gabby girl.  We love you and we'll miss you always. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Quality of Life: A Story About Gabby

Seventeen years ago I went into a pet store to look around.  We were living in my grandmother's house while our house was being built and my grandmother was living with my mother because her health was declining.  I had a preschooler and a toddler and somehow I ended up bringing home a kitten.  She was just so tiny and cute and when I held her I couldn't put her back into the cage. She was the cutest little calico fur ball and we named her Gabby because she 'gabbed' all the way home.

As she grew so did our love for her.  Once we were moved in and settled into our new house we happened to go into the pet store again.  This time there was a cute little white kitten with black patches and somehow we ended up holding this one too and were unable to let her go.  We brought her home, named her Lucy, and introduced her to her sister.  They did not exactly hit it off right off the bat.  Much like my Daphne was none too pleased with Megan when I brought her home, Gabby was not interested in having a sister either.  It took some time for them to become good friends and good friends they became. (Daphne and Megan are another story altogether.)

When I was pregnant for my son these sisters would essentially stand guard over me.  They would sleep near me while I sat in my rocking recliner watching A Baby Story and preparing for my baby while my girls were in school.  By this time I had a second grader and a kindergartener.  These fur babies grew alongside my babies.  When I had my son they were his guards when his sisters were playing or at school. 

When my mother became ill and was eventually diagnosed with cancer, they were there.  They comforted all of our broken hearts...even my mother's much to her dismay as she was always partial to dogs and not much of a cat fan. In July of 2004 my mother went home to be with the Lord and they would watch me fall apart in the depths of my despair.  When I cried they were there.

They were there for every birthday, every Christmas, every celebration, every argument, and every temper tantrum.  They were there for all the pet fish, all the pet birds, the newt, and the hamster.  They were there when we got a mouse in the house and I brought Gabby in to catch the mouse.  I put her right in front of the mouse who thought he owned my house and she took one look at it, sniffed it, and wanted to go back outside.  She had no interest.  I brought Lucy in and she chased it all night long and woke my husband up early with her prize on the stairs. 

The Easter following my mother's death Lucy was hit by a car.  We were all sad.  My beloved couldn't stand to see us sad so he asked a girl at work if we could get one of the kittens her cat had just had.  We went and picked one out. A long haired black kitten with a white patch on his neck.  We were actually told he was a she and we named her Lilly.  At "her" first vet visit we found out she was actually a he and changed his name to Linus. (No we never actually looked ourselves.  We took her word for it.  Also he was a long hair cat.)

Gabby was even less happy with a brother than she had been with a sister.  It took her some time to adjust to the idea.  Once she did however, they were inseparable.  They were two peas in a pod.  We had two girls and a boy in human babies and one of each in fur babies.  As Gabby grew older she spent more time with Linus than she did with us.  She would be in the same room but she wasn't really interested in us like Linus was.  Linus and I became best buds.  He would sit with me while I read books.  He would sleep at the foot of my bed.  He stayed near me after I miscarried my number four.

For a brief instance, they even had another brother when we took in a stray.  We named him Rerun as he looked just like Lucy.  Plus we kind of liked our Peanuts theme we had started.  But Rerun only stayed with us for a few months.  Once we got him fixed, which we only did once we were pretty sure he would stick around, he took off and we never saw him again.  We looked everywhere for him to no avail. 

Gabby and Linus were our comforters and they were each others best friends.  When Linus was killed by a stray dog, Gabby mourned his loss with us.  Where Linus had sat beside me while I read, now she sat in his spot.  While I cried myself to sleep at night she slept in his spot at the foot of my bed.  We saw each other through.  She had been with us through it all.  Our twelve and a half pound cat who loved eating and tried to take walks around the neighborhood like a dog was now our only fur baby.

A year ago we moved south to warmer territory.  It started before that though.  She started not going in the litter box.  She started declining.  Our girl, we realized, was getting older and we hoped she would survive the trip.  She has continued declining much to our dismay.  Our sweet Gabby who has been with us for so long and through so much is now seventeen.  She has two stones now in her kidney and essentially gravel in her bladder.  She also has hyperthyroidism.  Our once twelve and a half pound kitty as of today is now seven pounds and one ounce.  Her coat is thinning.  She looks frail and she pees blood.  Her Cat Chow that she once loved is a thing of the past as she now has to have special food for her bladder.  We've been dealing with this for months.  Today we found out it is getting worse.  And where before they talked like surgery wouldn't be a good option because of her age, now we are discussing quality of life and if surgery is worth the risk if it could improve her life if she lives through it.

Quality of life....interesting words when you think of them.  No one seems to discuss quality of life until life is coming to an end.  Why is that, do you think?  I'm no stranger to loss.  Our family at one time was losing so many that I though the funeral home was going to start offering us a group rate.  End game talks are not new to us.  They never get easier.  It seems to me though, that perhaps we should start talking about our quality of life while we seem to still have a lot of life left to live.  I don't know....just a thought. 

I keep thinking about We Bought a Zoo.  They discuss the end game for the big cat.  I keep hearing Scarlett Johansson saying that they are in so much pain but they can't tell you.  That you can see it in their eyes.  My cat who used to see a vet once a year for shots.  My cat who has grown up with not just my kids but me as well.  We've all grown up together essentially.  We were so young or maybe it just feels that way now that we are older.  My sweet Gabby who hated getting into her carrier actually fought to get back into her carrier while in the vet's office today.  She has been there more in the last year than any of us care to remember. So today we got more meds and made a tough decision.  Tuesday we will take the gamble.  We are going to try surgery and see if they can improve her quality of life.  They can't do anything about the kidney stones but they can hopefully take care of her bladder. 

I don't know how this goes.  I know that I can see it in her eyes.  I know that it is bad and I know that I can't say goodbye...not yet...not without trying everything.  I'm selfish.  I want her here with us for as long as the good Lord allows her to stay.  I have to know that I did everything I could because I haven't always been certain of that in other cases.  The doctor said it is routine and that while she is old she also doesn't have any other options.  She has had a good life.  She has had a family who has loved her.  She had a sister and a brother to love.  We've loved her even when she frustrated us and she didn't really like us. 

So here we are, once again in a place we don't much like and I come to you dear ones; our family, our friends both new and old, our beloveds who read and follow along with our family's crazy antics and our struggles and I ask you for your prayers.  I know that God already knows the outcome and I know that he will sustain us no matter what comes....good or bad. I know cats can't live forever and I know to some maybe she is just a cat but to us she is a part of our family.  If you could spare a prayer our way we would be grateful. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bras or Haircuts....How do you choose?

Some years ago I wrote about Victoria's Secret.  I couldn't understand why their bras were so expensive.  What made them so special?  Fifty dollars for a bra that no one is likely to see (outside of your husband) seems a bit much you have to admit.  I contemplated different scenarios that would make them more special.  Did they come with free WiFi?  Do the cups automatically adjust to size when you lose or gain weight?  I had a lot of questions and being the bargain shopper I was raised to be, I wasn't likely to ever find out.  Except....after my book came out that covered this topic my husband took a photo copy of that excerpt and put it in a gift bag along with two Victoria's Secret bras for Christmas so I could find out what the hoopla was all about.

I get the hoopla now.  While the bras that he bought me were nice (after I exchanged them for the correct size) it wasn't until just recently that I really realized how nice these bras were.  Did you know that there are bras that you can get to pick the girls up without an underwire and they go on like a sports bra?  Seriously?  Where have these been my entire life?  So comfortable and without making you look flat chested.  It's a miracle in innovation.  I may be in love and I may never wear another bra again.

So obviously I figured it out and I get it now.  Today I have another question on my mind.  What is with the $37 and up haircut?  OK before you jump all over me with the whole "It cost money to be beautiful" and "Beauty is Pain" business let me just say that when I was growing up haircuts were $5.  Imagine the first time I paid $15 dollars for a haircut.  Seriously though I have never paid more than $20 for a haircut.  EVER!  Maybe it is because I'm from a small town in the middle of the Midwest that had one stoplight and was surrounded by cornfields that I don't know about such things.  But let me tell you this, the gal that did my hair for years in the middle of that one stoplight town was fantastic.  I have yet to get a haircut in this giant metropolis that is as good as the haircuts I would get from my girl back home.  In addition to that, where I am from getting a haircut included having it styled afterward.  They never let you out of the chair without looking your best.

I ask because my daughter and I went into a makeup store and didn't realize that they gave haircuts there.  So we went back to check it out and get pricing.  They start at $37 and go up depending on how long they have been there.  The gal said it was not reflective of their skill as they were all good but on the length of time working there and experience.  So...if they all cut hair well and equally as good as the next guy, how can the person who has been there say...5 years get away with charging $70 (hypothetically) and still make money?  If the person who charges $37 is just as good wouldn't most people want to pay less for the same haircut?  How does this make sense?  Please explain this to me like I am four because I just do not understand.

Have they gone to more training?  Is it some kind of prestige thing with working at certain places because of the name?  I don't know what to make of this.  It is my understanding that all of the stylists have to continue to go to training to keep up with new techniques and like a lot of jobs there are always new things to learn.  So why is there such a vast difference in pricing?

I was just wandering.  If you know what I am missing out on let me know.  But let me say this; if I have to save up for these expensive bras that are almost like not wearing anything at all because of comfort, I'm going to need to find another job to save up for expensive haircuts.  Bras or haircuts how do you choose?  Until next time...let me know your thoughts on the matter.