Thursday, May 21, 2020

perfectly imperfect ~ a 2015 throwback post

Laughing until you snort, and then laughing until you cry.

Crying until you can't breathe, holding onto each other and crying until you laugh.

Late-night scary movies that make you jump and laugh, then when the nightmare wakes you in the predawn hours, it is reaching over to feel someone breathing and knowing that you are safe.

Listening to someone's anger, knowing it has nothing at all to do with you, giving them space to find their way back again and when they do, telling them that you love them no matter what and everything will be alright.

Road trips and making getting lost an unexpected adventure.

Comfortable silences that are only broken when both of you say almost the same exact thing.

Laughter.  Always laughter.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

what makes a home ~ a 2015 throwback post

 I got a tour of a barn and home that were built almost 100 years ago.  It was amazing.  Neither of them had changed much since they were built.  I imagined that if you were to stand in the barn at just the right time on a summer night, you might just hear the hoofbeats of the horses that used to live there as they come from the fields.

The home had pictures on the wall from the generations that had lived in it.  Families that spread across decades now down to just one person.  But you can feel the love in the wood by how cared for it was, how well it lived, and the craftsmanship that went into each and every part of it.  The glass in the windows had waves ... imperfections that add to the beauty and history of the home.  It was a home ... not just a house ... because of the love that filled it.

Many years ago now, I took a tour of cities that were hundreds of centuries old.  Stone carved block by block, piece by piece, by hand.  Faces that have felt the tears of angels ... perfect, but yet no doubt there were imperfections in the stones, color variations that have come with time and age ... weather, pollution, and the oils from the hands that have touched the stones to listen to the vibrations from the past.  Vibrations that still speak of the love that went into creating the faces, cathedrals where families came to be joined in love, to bless the new lives their love created, and then eventually to goodbye to them.

What is a perfect home?  Is it in the design or the foundation?  Is it in the wood, or in the stone?

I believe it is in the love that built it ...

Thursday, May 7, 2020

lessons ~ a 2015 throwback post

I interviewed that week of 2015 for another job, in another forest, in another state.  Don't get me wrong... I came to love what I did there, we loved the area, liked some of the people and knew I would miss them when we leave.  But this area isn't offering everything that we need, and so it is time to move on.  When the Forest Service tells you that you need to be able to live in a rural area they aren't kidding.  The closest hospital is almost an hour away.  Fast food ... an hour away.  Shopping, pharmacies, clothing ... an hour.  But that isn't really that much of an issue.  You get used to the drive, the scenery is incredible, and you learn to plan your trips to take advantage of as much as possible.  But we both needed to work, and with only three "local" businesses for my husband, we just needed more options.

Interviewing with a panel over the phone is always interesting.  In a way, it feels like The Dating Game.  They ask questions ... I ask questions ... without any idea what each other looks like.  Then at the end of it all, they decide whether or not they want to make me an offer, and I decide whether or not I want to accept it.

As always you get those questions that are supposed to somehow tell them everything about you.  What are your strengths?  What are your weaknesses?  What have you learned in your current position?  What have you accomplished?  Why do you think you would be a good fit in this position?

If I were to interview for my next life, what would I have learned from this one?
  • I've learned that if you can't laugh at yourself, you have no right to laugh at anyone else.
  • Praise in public, criticize in private.
  • Sandwich criticism between compliments.
  • Never ask someone to do something you aren't willing to do yourself.
  • Be willing to consider other perspectives.
  • Think outside the box.
  • Apologize when necessary.
  • It is always necessary when you've made a mistake.
  • Take responsibility for your actions.
  • Find the humor in stressful situations.
  • Be willing to learn something new.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

the leap ~ a 2015 throwback

Moving to somewhere that we had no ties was a huge leap of faith in more ways than one.  For me, it was also accepting a job doing something I had never done before, and for an organization I had never really been exposed to before.  There was almost even a new language to learn.  The language of timber.  Looking back now to my first day I cringe with embarrassment at my naïve attempt to impress by saying that I really liked the Norfolk pine trees.

I just had to take a moment to smack myself there. What an idiot I was.  (The Norfolk pine is 1. Not really a pine tree. 2. It is a houseplant that originally came from Norfolk Island by Australia and New Zealand.  3. Rarely survives in the outdoors any farther north than Florida because even a light frost can kill it, let alone a winter of 15° below zero and three feet of unending snow for 5 months). I still shudder at the memory of that day.  No wonder people were taking bets that I wouldn't survive winter, and never expected me to stay as long as I have.

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  Taking a leap of faith.

When you are willing to accept your own imperfections and recognize that perfection is an unattainable goal, you might find yourself taking more leaps of faith than you had before.  You find out rather quickly that like a cat, you will land on your feet when you trust yourself to make the best of what you have.

You learn, sometimes you change, or you accept.  You grow, adjust, and do it again.  You make mistakes, you pick up the pieces, and you do more than just survive... You thrive.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

numbers ...

Numbers have been impacting me a great deal this month.
On the 1st of April, the United States had 199,890 people infected with COVID-19, and only 4,380 had died.
Only.
That was still an astounding number of people.  To put it into perspective, it was more than the number of Americans that died on 9/11.
And we went to war over that, which added to the death toll substantially.

Today, there are 1,035,045 infected and 58,964 who have died.
Mind.
Boggling.
And it's not over yet.
COVID-19 keeps morphing with new symptoms and impacts every single day.

Adding to my recent obsession with numbers ...
and I admit it is a recent one because math was always my least favorite subject in school and university ...
... is that in less than a week, I will be turning 58.
A number I don't feel, and one that amazes me.

It also marks four years since my soul-dog, Trooper, died.
I don't know how I've survived, except for the love of Charlie.
Another number that amazes me.

There have been times, past and recent when thoughts of death have crossed my mind.
I never expected to reach this age.
Not because of any ongoing health issues, but just because it seemed so far away when I was younger, and in recent years there often seemed to be no reason to want to.

Last night as I was pulling articles of interest from some of my magazines ... putting stars by chicken coop ideas, gardening tips, crafts to do ... it suddenly occurred to me that I have way too much I want to do and that it would really suck if I didn't wake up in the morning to get even half of it done.

I've reached an age where I feel like I finally have life mostly figured out, and could possibly [hopefully] make better decisions than I did when I was in my 20's - 30's - 40's.

Lord, if I get a do-over ... do I have to take all the same tests again?  Because I really feel like I'm to just ready to soar now.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

the circus ~ a 2015 throwback

Once I realized that I didn't have to be perfect, or have perfection in things ... everything else in my life fell into a different place as well.  Being able to step back and look at people and events as they only applied to me, it became easy to remove myself from the drama that others had in their lives.  I was not only accepting my own imperfections but those in others without the need to try to "fix" them.  Relationships healed. Suddenly I was not just living in a new drama-free zone, but a stress-free zone as well.  That change alone had a ripple effect on everything else in my life.

When we stop seeking perfection in our other relationships and accept others just as they are, we ...
  • can say no without feeling guilty
  • can say yes when we really mean it, without feeling cornered into it
  • can ask when we are truly interested
  • can answer when we want to and with what we choose to share
I stepped back from the center ring of what had become a circus in my life and was able to finally think clearly without all the drama cluttering my mind.  That allowed me to make decisions that would change our lives.  Accepting a job that would move us away from everything and everyone we ever knew gave us a chance to start over.  It was a make it or break it move for us, and it cemented our bond in a way that nothing else could have.  My husband is my best friend, and I am his.  I can't imagine life without him and know that if we had stayed in the drama-filled circus where we were, I would have lost the most incredible person I've ever known.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

becoming ~ a 2015 throwback post

When I finally stopped looking for perfection, I realized how exhausting it had been trying to achieve something that was impossible to find.  I have a plaque hanging in my office that says "Pretending to be normal day after day is exhausting."  It should read "pretending to be perfect."

For years I would struggle with sleep every night, worrying about how to make it all work, nightmares about what would happen if it didn't and what had happened.  During the day, it took almost every waking moment of my thoughts.

The day I stopped fighting it, and finally turned it all over to God, I had been walking in a thunderstorm, praying to get hit by lightning.  Instead, apparently, my house was.  When I went back into the house all of my radio stations had been changed to a Christian station I had never heard of before.  I went upstairs, laid down on the bed and slept for almost 36 hours straight, waking only to go to the bathroom and let my dog out the back door so he could.  When I finally woke up, it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off of me.

I didn't have to try to be someone I wasn't.  I didn't have to try to be something I wasn't.  But I didn't really know who I was.  I'd spent too many years pretending and trying to be perfect.  Now ... I didn't know what to do.

For the next few weeks, I turned to prayer.  I woke each morning, fixed myself some coffee, and sat on my upstairs deck to read the Bible scriptures for that day.  I meditated on who I thought I was, who I wanted to be, and wrote in my prayer journal.  It was the first time in my life that I had slowed down to really seek His word.  It was the first time in my life that I really slowed down to listen.  I still hadn't found a job or gotten another car, and each month when the utilities were due, I never knew until the last moment whether or not I would be able to pay the bill.  Yet each month, the money would arrive.  An unexpected gift from a friend.  An unexpected royalty check for book sales.  An unexpected pay-out of a vacation balance.

The more I let go, and the more I trusted that God would provide, the more He did.  Until finally I realized that there was no more fear, only faith.  That was when the miracles really started to happen.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

meh ... Wednesday

I've been fighting a challenging depression, and have been blogging [here] where I usually post fewer words and more pictures.

Fewer words = less thinking.
More pictures = more smiling.

I've also apparently been battling an infection somewhere of unknown origin [no, not COVID-19] that has some of my blood tests abnormally elevated, but no fever or other yucky feelings.  I'm now on a round of antibiotics, which cause their own yucky feeling.  More results have come back elevated, and I'm waiting for answers to my question of "well, what does that mean?"

I've not been participating in Words on Wednesday because my thoughts have been too dark, and I am just so tired of being in that place I didn't want to go there on purpose.

I remember during the very first Gulf War when all we were fighting over was oil and not the lives lost in the towers.  CNN would do a nightly roll of the names of men and women lost in those battles, and for the first week, I would sit at the end of the bed with tears streaming down my face, thinking of all of the families and friends they left behind.
It became too much for me and I had to stop watching all news broadcasts for about three months.

COVID-19 is becoming the same way for me.
When I first started paying attention to the numbers, they were just mortality rates that were oceans away.
March 9th, there was a 3.4% mortality rate worldwide, with 3.7% in the United States.
Today it is 6.5% and 5% respectively.
On March 14th, there were only 19 infected in Wisconsin with no deaths.
Today, 3,555 infected (2 in my county) and 170 dead.
The United States had 3,083 infected and 60 dead exactly one month ago (2% mortality rate).
Today?
There are 614,451 infected and 29,897 dead.
That's almost 20,380 people infected, and 995 people dying every day in the United States.
Just from COVID-19.

It's more exhausting than learning a new job, which I'm also doing now because the company that furloughed me from my work-at-home job decided to just let me go when I was hesitant to want to talk to angry people in New Jersey.
Nothing personal to any readers from NJ.  I'm sure there are nice people there, too.
Somewhere.
But let's be real.  The only time someone calls their gas utility company is not because they are doing a great job.  It's because something is wrong and they aren't happy about it.
Especially now.

So until the next time ... stay safe.  Stay sane.  
Wash your hands and say your prayers, cuz Jesus and germs are everywhere.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

faith ~ a throwback post from 2015

One of the biggest things I learned when I stopped seeking perfection, was that somehow it seemed to find me anyway.  Since I didn't have any clear ideas of what it looked like in the first place (other than Martha Stewart had some part in the definition of perfection in decorating and baking), it was fairly easy to stop looking for it.  I became grateful for what I had and started seeing the perfection in my life as it was.  What I found, or rather what found me, was that my life was perfect ... for me.  It probably wouldn't work for anyone else, but it was working for me.  Those things that I once viewed as imperfections became unique.

The biggest change for me was in my marriage.  I stopped trying to force my husband to be something he wasn't and started accepting him as he was.  I stopped trying to force my marriage to be something it wasn't and started accepting it as it was.  What I saw then was that when I just let it all go and put it into God's hands, He knew exactly what was needed to gently nudge change to happen.

There are those who argue the evolution theory of man, and I sit back and look at how my life has changed in the past five years and wonder if it wasn't just God tough-loving us.  We have free will, and can choose which path we will follow, but what if all the roads that are placed before us are designed to make us change and grow?  How many times will we fall into that hole before we learn to walk around it?

When we trust that we don't know everything, and we will never be perfect, don't we begin to relax into the life we were supposed to have?  A life much better than we ever could have imagined?

In the first four years of our marriage, my husband and I were doing a constant tug-of-war over what our marriage and relationship were supposed to look like.  We fought constantly.  We pushed.  We pulled.  We very nearly destroyed ourselves and each other.  It was only when we both let go of that rope that defined the line in the sand for us, that we were able to step back and grow.  I did what I needed to do for me to heal, and he did what he needed to do.  We were still committed to each other, but it was suddenly clear that if we kept trying to force each other into a mold that we weren't meant to fit, we wouldn't survive.

The result was that when we came together again, after almost a year apart, the change was nothing short of a miracle.  The year between our 4th and 5th anniversaries was one of the most incredible years of our lives.  It hasn't been cookie-cutter perfect, but instead of exploding and imploding at the imperfections, we've held hands and walked around them.

It really isn't a secret.  Success in all things comes in learning from the past and moving forward.  Moving forward means letting go of the past.  Letting go of the past means you have to forgive it as well, otherwise you are not really moving forward but instead, are just walking backward.

Walking backward is really just good for exercising your leg muscles in a different way than they are used to.  But if you walk backward too long, three things will happen.
  1. You will hurt your neck trying to twist forward and see where you are going,
  2. You will miss what is in front of you, and
  3. You will fall down and get hurt.
When I realized that I needed to stop trying to obtain perfection in my life, it still took me a while to accept the fact that I had to let go of the past.  I was afraid that if I let go of the past, it would happen again.  Because of my distrust and fear, I wasn't able to stop worrying about it, and before long everything, I worried about happened.  There really wasn't any other option.

If you constantly point out someone's flaws and imperfections, eventually they begin to believe it themselves.  When you aren't able to forgive someone, it is the same thing as telling them you don't believe they can be better or do better.  But forgiveness isn't just for them, it is something that we must do in order to let go of the past and move forward.

When I started writing this series, I hit a block because I realized that I was starting to walk backward.  I struggled with procrastination, doubts, and I began having nightmares again.  I was starting to fall down.

So I took a day to step back and look at what I hoped to accomplish with this series.  It wasn't to rehash what was all over again.  It was to share what is.  What I learned has given me the best year of my life.  The best relationship of my life.

Forgiveness is embracing hope.  Hope is having faith in someone other than yourself.  Faith is forgiveness wrapped in love.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Monday Memories

On this day ...
 2015 ~ I was in love with a guy that reminded me of the Abominable Snowman in the Rudolph the Reindeer Christmas cartoon.
 2017 ~ seven-month-old Lucy (looking at the camera) and her mom, Gracie were enjoying some rare sunshine in a window.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday memories

 On this day...
 2015 ~ a day trip to Ontonagon, Michigan Upper Peninsula
 2016 ~ I was 36 days away from getting my heart broken
 2017 ~ sunset view of Chequamegon Bay, Ashland, Wisconsin
2018 ~ day trip to Duluth, Minnesota
2019 ~ much more snow on the ground last year than this year

Thursday, March 26, 2020

ghosting ~ WoW

Words for Wednesday is a moveable feast of participants. Each month the prompts ~ words, pictures, themes, or even phrases are provided by someone new. The aim of the words is to encourage us to write. A story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. In March, the words have been provided by Mark Koopmans and posted on The Elephant's Child blog, who will also be providing the words in April.

     There is a ghostlike quality to cities around the world today.  Areas where normally one would find loud joyous gatherings are filled with silence and emptiness.  A holly wreath hangs crookedly on a house, melting snow has caused it to wilt and droop so that not even the birds returning from their winter migrations are interested in the berries.  Christmas lights, normally taken down by now, are being put back up to bring a little joy to those who are confined within.

     There have been no incidents of illness yet in my county, but this virus is still no joking matter.  Six dead as of this morning in my state, and we are told the worst is yet to come.  

     I'm in Walmart, oddly uncrowded, buying a few necessities while making sure I keep my distance from anyone who sounds ill.  I'm thirsty, my throat is dry and I want to cough, but stifle it worrying that I would be thrown out if I did.  I stand in front of several frozen food cases, wondering if I could eat a kilogram of ice cream in one sitting, then factor in what my lactate threshold would need to be in order to work it off.  I move my cart to the next aisle.  Empty.

     Later, I take a winter jacket for my husband at work.  He is still working at least.  The melting snow and warm daylight temperatures have fooled him into wearing a hoodie that provides him no warmth against the falling night temperatures as he works outside.  They have had some layoffs at his plant, and on my way home I stop to get bread at the Kwik Trip store which sells the only bread he likes to eat.  Feeling magnanimous I buy a dozen salted caramel cookies, telling myself I will share them with him and his remaining co-workers.  However, by the time he comes home for his dinner break, four of them have mysteriously gone missing.

     I occupy my time trying to thread small beads onto a nearly invisible strand of fishing line, using tweezers instead of needles.  A needle might have been faster, but more painful as my lack of depth perception is worse than I thought it was after my retinal tear more than 10 years ago.  It becomes a lesson in patience and persistence as the project takes me nearly four hours to complete.

     Standing outside to oversee my dog while he searches for elusive chipmunks and red squirrels, I see a robin land on the top of the outboard motor of my husband's fishing boat.  An indicator of spring almost as reliable as seeing a porcupine at the top of the birch trees.  I wonder if it will nest again in the woodshed or find another spot.

     I wake the next morning, my eyes itching as small particles of pollen, invisible to the naked eye irritate them.  Invisible, yet still capable of inflicting an annoying and amazing amount of discomfort.  I wait for a call from a possible temporary work-from-home job, ready to quiz the hiring coordinator with questions about the company.  I'm furloughed from my job right now, though I still have benefits and can claim unemployment, it is with a small amount of rancor I end the call after hearing that I qualified ... but ... there are no openings right now.

     Sigh.

     What project can I start on next?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

wilting ~ WoW

Words for Wednesday is a moveable feast of participants. Each month the prompts ~ words, pictures, themes, or even phrases are provided by someone new. The aim of the words is to encourage us to write. A story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. In March, the words will be provided by Mark Koopmans and posted on The Elephant's Child blog.

     [rapid knocking on the door]
     "Ocupado."
     [more rapid pounding on the door]
     "Lo siento, pero este baño está ocupado!"

     I instantly regretted taking this mini-vacation to Gibraltar, but after a long winter, I was deserving of at least a long weekend of sunlight.  For too many years, my business dogma had always been that work was a priority over everything else.  But lately, the search into my family tree and the recent pandemic had made me think twice about what was truly important.  Especially after a conversation with my siblings.

     [My younger and very spoiled sister] "Well, I hope you don't think we're going to come to Wisconsin to help you with this foolish project of yours.  Who cares what Uncle has done?!?"
     "I care.  For some reason, the thought of how many people he has harmed over the years has given me a particular drive to find him and hold him responsible for what he has done.  Not only to them but to our family name."
     [My one-year-younger brother] "Reggie, you act as if you have a tiny jockey on your back who is kicking you with his spurs.  Why such a sense of urgency with this nonsense?"
     "That was not quite the image I was hoping for, but I'll take it if it makes you understand why I want you to help me find him.  To be honest, it feels more like I have a wisteria vine strangling me, and I'm desperately trying to keep our family tree from wilting under the scandal that this might cause."
     [My very direct one-year-older brother] "You know, Regs, the last time I saw you, your color was very ashen.  I think you've been working too hard and need to take a vacation.  I've had my secretary schedule a flight for you that leaves tomorrow for Gibraltar.  I expect you to be on it.  Ever since this silly Brexit business, I've been trying to get down there to see how several of my investments have been doing.  I'll meet you there the day after tomorrow."

     Now, here I was trapped in a toilet with some maniac banging on the door.  I could hear him muttering as he paced just outside.  I'd had enough of this stress that was not helping the pressure currently occupying my bowels.  I was supposed to be relaxing in the sun.  I screamed loudly.

     "COLGATE!!!"

     Silence.  Then footsteps walking away.

     I smoothed my shirt and ran water over my face and hair so that I didn't look quite as strained as I had just been.  Stopping into the Gibraltar Distillery had been an unplanned detour, but when nature calls, you often don't have a choice of where you choose to answer.  Opening the door, I stepped out and was surprised to see a large crowd of women glaring at me with their arms crossed.  The elegance of their attire did not match the anger and disgust in their faces.

     A hand gripped my elbow firmly and pulled me out of the hallway and into the lobby of the distillery.

     "Disculpe, señor, pero ha estado ocupando el baño de mujeres durante casi una hora."

     I turned to look at the closed door behind me, and felt my face burn with embarrassment as I saw the sign that said "Mujer."  A voice behind me boomed loudly.

     "Regs!  There you are!  I've been looking everywhere for you.  I was afraid that with your flighty sense of obligation you might have missed the plane yesterday just to peeve me.  There's been quite the uproar here as some fool locked himself in the ladies' toilet and was simply being explosive in his bowel movements.  We've been hearing and smelling him for most of an hour now.  Positively repugnant!  I'd ask if you've been on the tour yet but have been informed that they are going to have to close the distillery for the rest of the day now to fumigate and sterilize the entire building.  Oh my, you are quite red in the face.  You should have used sunscreen, my dear brother.  It is not a flattering look on you."

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

wheeling and dealing ... WoW

Words for Wednesday is a moveable feast of participants. Each month the prompts ~ words, pictures, themes, or even phrases are provided by someone new. The aim of the words is to encourage us to write. A story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. In March, the words will be provided by Mark Koopmans and posted on The Elephant's Child blog.

     We had once been what some would call a nuclear family, close-knit, tight.  Even our extended relations, such as my cousin the drug addict used to once be inseparable from us, and indistinguishable as to whether he was a sibling or a cousin.  It was a good childhood.  So I once thought anyway.  But sometimes family secrets were buried so deeply that it can take generations, even centuries, for them to rise to the surface.  Ours was such a family.

     Whispers between dancers of the foxtrot.  Hidden closets filled with klan white.  Some secrets would have made our great-great-great-great-greats rollover with disgust in their graves, but they were hardly innocent themselves.  Days, when our taken-for-granted utilities of indoor plumbing, hot running water, and electricity, were yet to be a thought in infant Edison's dreams for the future.  We were audacious enough to believe that we were above the law, even when there was no law.

     In the days when Greek oracles tossed zinc into temple fires to receive the answers they wanted from Zeus or Apollo, the lies they told the followers were manipulated by the choice of "dirt" they used.  Secrets, plastered on the walls of the shrines, paid for with coin, or blood, depending upon the size of the lie to be told.

     It had taken me years to firmly identify the players in my family tree, the identification of nameless faces, or worse yet, nameless stones in a graveyard marked only by initials carved in the bark of a nearby tree.  I came from a long line of manipulators, wheeling and dealing with their currency of choice.  Not to benefit others, but only themselves.  I was determined to break our family curse, and so it was my uncle I became fixated upon.  To hold him accountable for not only his lies and secrets but those hidden for all our generations.

     It was the least I could do to try and repair the damage my family has done.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

with all your heart ~ a book review

Grieved and starved.

The first three words of Chapter One seized my attention.  Yes!  That is what I'm feeling!  Christine Hoover's words and emotions continued to reach out of the pages of her book with all your heart and convict my own.

I'm not a very good Christian.  Those words in Chapter Four caused me to inhale quickly.  She knew my fears, not just what I was feeling.  I read on, my highlighters coloring the pages as she wrote about relationships, marriage, and herself.

Chapters end with a series of questions that make me think hard, wanting to be honest with myself, wanting to learn and grow.

Isolation.  Chapter Nine.  Isolation was my fortress.  How did she know?  How could she know?

Christine's book will be one that I read, again and again, facing my fears, and beating down my demons.

Monday, March 9, 2020

questioning ... WoW

Words for Wednesday is a moveable feast of participants. Each month the prompts ~ words, pictures, themes, or even phrases are provided by someone new. The aim of the words is to encourage us to write. A story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. In March, the words will be provided by Mark Koopmans and posted on The Elephant's Child blog.

     The snow fell like granulated salt.  Tiny beads of it dotting the surface of everything.  If winter hadn't already made my sanity feel like it was on trial I would have stopped to be amazed at it, listening to the serenade of a bright red male cardinal wooing its mate.  But instead, my head felt like someone was playing billiards inside it, slamming the balls into each other and making me want to cuss with each step I took.

     I held the crumpled letter that had arrived from a lawyer just that morning in my hand. The feel of it made me angrier, my head pounding even harder.  "We wish to discuss your avuncular relationships."  Who even used such a word?  My uncles had all been gone for several years now, and there really wasn't any point in discussing our relationships.  I knew what the lawyer wanted anyway.  It was my cousin trying to vindicate his responsibility for the missing money from the trust fund.

     The man was a hotelier of one of the finest and most expensive hotels in the entire country.  With a waiting list of almost five years just for one night at his hotel, no one would think that he had a secret, but few knew that he was also a junkie who stole from his guests.

     I could feel my stress levels rising and closed the door to my office, setting the metronome I used to settle my breathing and heart rate to a slow and steady beat.  Eyes closed.  Breathe in. Count.  Breathe out. Count. In. Count. Out. Count.  In. Count.  Out.

     I opened my eyes at a quiet tapping on my door.  "Yes?"  The door opened a crack and I could see my secretary.

     "Sir, you wanted to be notified when the questionnaire was ready for review."
     "Yes, thank you.  Has it been uploaded to the Cloud?"
     "Yes sir, it has."

     As I read through the questionnaire, I made notes for my secretary to find ways to exemplify our intentions with the survey for our customers.  The last thing we needed was for them to think we were on a witch hunt, even though we were.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

ubering ~ WoW

Words for Wednesday is a moveable feast of participants. Each month the prompts ~ words, pictures, themes, or even phrases are provided by someone new. The aim of the words is to encourage us to write. A story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. This month the words will be provided by River on her Drifting Through Life blog.  [and full disclosure ~ I DO NOT have a microphone hidden in my Mom's car.  But she does give her version of Uber rides to her senior friends and considering she is going to be 79 this year with a less than stellar cognitive history after her CO2 scare last year, these are things I would imagine myself saying if she were to drive me even 5 feet down the road]

Things heard on a hidden microphone in my Mom's car while she was Uber driving recently:

"Eyes on the road!  Eyes on the road!"
"What? I am!"
"No, I mean there are literal eyes on the road!"
Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.
Groan. Gag. Groan.
~*~
Pop.
"Uh-oh."
"Uh-oh, what?!?"
"Oh, nothing.  Just a little thing."
"Little thing?"
"Yes.  Possum."
Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.
"Family."
~*~
"You don't mind if I put my new Tiffany lamp in the trunk do you?  The box is rather large and there won't be much room for me in the back seat if I don't."
"Hmmm.  Did you say it was a Tiffany?"
"Yes, why?"
"Put it in the backseat.  There is room for you in the trunk."
~*~
Bump.  Thud.  Groan.
"Me?  Why me? Why couldn't I have just said it was a cheap Walmart lamp?"
~*~
"Have you ever seen the movie Boogie Nights?"
"Why?  Are you a fan of Burt Reynolds?"
"No, I was just wondering if Mark Wahlberg used a body double in the final scene."
Groan.  Scribble. Scribble. Scribble.
"Were you making yourself a note to watch it?"
"No, I was making a note to never watch it, and if I accidentally do, to never discuss it with my mother."
~*~
"Um, did you know there was a teapot full of hot tea in the backseat floorboard?"
"Yes.  Is there a problem?"
"Uh, no.  I just wasn't sure if you knew.  I didn't want it to spill or anything."
"Well, since you wanted a ride during my normal teatime, I thought I would just save time and bring it with me.  Could you pour me a cup with a splash of milk, please, and hand me a buttered crumpet?"
"Um, while you are driving?  Don't you need both hands on the wheel?"
"Oh. Perhaps we should just switch places until my teatime is over?"
"If giving me a ride to the emergency room to reattach my severed finger was an inconvenience, mother, I could have called an ambulance."
"Nonsense.  That's what I'm here for.  I'm your mother.  It can't possibly hurt more than it hurt when I was giving birth to you.  I was in labor for 56 hours, you know."
"I do believe that every time you tell me that, you add more hours to how long you were in labor."
"Don't be silly.  You think I don't know what 64 hours of labor felt like?"

TbT ~ Making Choices

We all have choices in life, and sometimes those choices become regrets.  My father died with regrets.  The very last words he ever spoke to me were "I wish we had talked more."  We didn't even have a chance to talk then because the morphine he was on for the pain kept him drifting in and out of consciousness.  We could have talked more when he was healthy, but he made other choices, and so did I, because we didn't know any other way.

While I was struggling to cling to my idea of perfection, I had unreasonable expectations of a family ... relationships ... friendships with people in my life.  Expectations that I didn't verbalize because I just assumed that what I wanted should have made perfect sense to everyone.  I didn't have good examples of what a marriage was like, or what healthy communication was.  I didn't even have a good example of what a family was like.

I wanted a perfect life, and I didn't know what that was.  All I knew was that I didn't have it, and I was willing to do anything to get it.

The problem, however, is that even if I had known what a perfect life, or a perfect marriage, or a perfect husband was ... it would always be something unattainable.  Because we are all human.  We make mistakes.  It is in our nature because it is how we learn and grow.  How many times did we fall down as babies before we learned how to balance and walk?  What would have happened if we had refused to get up after the first time we fell?  or the second?  or the third?

But we do, we get up and brush ourselves off and try again.  Because somehow we know that if we don't, we may regret it.  We learn by baby steps what kind of a life we want, what kind of marriage, what kind of relationships we want ... and we realize that it is in the least perfect moments of life that we find what we were looking for all along.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Thrive

thrive
[THrīv]
VERB

  1. (of a child, animal, or plant) grow or develop well or vigorously.
    "the new baby thrived"

I chose "thrive" as my word for 2020.  For me, it felt like "grow" on steroids.  Something I need this year.  The funny thing is that both times I tried to write "thrive" in my journal, I've misspelled it.  I may need to work on growing my spelling skills.  Or have more coffee before I attempt to connect mental processes with finger dexterity. 
A few weeks ago, my counselor said to me that she didn't think I was happy, and the comment stopped me in my tracks.  Happy?  Unhappy?  I didn't feel one or the other.  I felt numb.  But why?
I have stickers in my journal that say "Choose Happy!" and "Choose Joy!"  If it was that easy, why was it so hard for me to know which one I was?
2019 ended on a hard note for me.  My relationship with my mother was struggling which is why I started counseling.  My marriage was/is struggling.  Winter brought a lot of snow sooner than expected, with colder weather.  I am working from home and inside the house 98% of the time.  Even with my happy light and additional D3 vitamins, I know that my Seasonal Affective Disorder is in full cranky mode.  We (which included our dog, Charlie) have been under spiritual attack in our home, brought in by outside sources.  I spend more time praying for the rapture, any rapture than is probably healthy.  Had it really reached a point where I was just lukewarm about everything?
Happiness is an inside job.  We do, and can, choose to be happy.  We do, and can, choose to be sad, angry, unhappy.  I practice my breathing meditations now when I feel anger or frustration creeping into my thoughts, but is it enough?  I need to identify the moments when I feel happy and what I'm doing at the time.  I need to do more of it.
Bird watching.  Crafts.  Shopping for little surprises for my sisters and nieces.  Decorating.  Creating.
For being an inside job, it seems like my happy is mostly found outside of me.  With my senses.  What I see, what I hear, what I make.
Maybe I should have chosen "Create" as my word for the year.  Create joy.  Create happiness.  It seems to be working better for me than thrive has been so far.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

TbT ~ Hitting Bottom

I've been procrastinating this post for a good 24 hours now.  Not because I was trying to figure out how to make it sound perfect, but because I was trying to figure out which direction I wanted to go in from last week's post.  It would be so much easier to tell you where I am now in my life and give you a quick Cliff Notes version of how I got here.  But that wouldn't be completely honest, and sometimes the reason our journeys are so painful is so when we share them with others, they might be able to relate to the struggle.

How many times do we feel all alone in our lives, especially at times of great challenges?  How many times do we think that we are the only ones who have been through this?  That we are the only ones who feel like this?  We isolate ourselves because we think that no one else will understand, and we isolate ourselves because we feel shame about where we are, and how bad things have gotten.  We are embarrassed and afraid that we will be judged or condemned for our choices or our mistakes.

There will be people who do judge and condemn us because they think they are perfect and better than us.  They will believe that they would have made different choices, and maybe they might have.  But maybe they wouldn't.   We never know how we will face the storm until after it has passed.
It is when we hit bottom that we find out who we really are, and Who is always with us.  There is nothing in life that He has not already faced for us.  Nothing that He does not understand.  No choice we make that He will not walk through with us, or forgive us for.

My bottom came with joblessness, car repossession, fear of foreclosure eviction, anger, hunger, a cancer scare, loss of a cherished pet, walking miles to look for work, depression, being shunned by family and friends, lies, manipulation, shame, and embarrassment.

This is what I learned when I hit bottom...
  • I thought I was alone, but I wasn't. 
  • I thought I had nothing to live for, but I was wrong.  
  • I thought the hurt would never stop, but I healed. 
  • I thought that things would never get better, but they did.  
  • I thought that I could never forgive, and then I realized how much I had been forgiven. 
  • I thought that I could never love, and then I realized how much I was loved.
I was loved and forgiven before I was ever born for sins I never imagine I would do.   The moment I realized that was the moment my life changed forever.   Not just my life changed, but my marriage changed, and my husband changed.  Once I surrendered everything ... I was given everything and more than I ever imagined I would have.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

wandering ~ WoW

Words for Wednesday is a moveable feast of participants. Each month the prompts ~ words, pictures, themes, or even phrases are provided by someone new. The aim of the words is to encourage us to write. A story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. This month the words will be provided by River on her Drifting Through Life blog.

Another week of words suitable for stretching my creative wordsmithing.
That rapturous time of sewing words into a rhyme or story that chills.
"The creature smeared the hot blood across its face,
as it began to snuffle across the dark basement floor looking for another piece of its latest victim."
I place a bookmark in my journal for today's entry,
hungry for another scoop of pecan praline ice cream,
topped with chopped up pieces of a snickers bar.
I start a blog posting of a funny thing that my cats did,
then become distracted by watching the last of the birds at my feeders as twilight sets in.
My brain at times acts like it is part of a small espionage team,
hiding the reason I walked into a room, as I look for some kind of synchronicity
to remind me that ice cream to cool my feisty annoyance was my goal.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

TbT ~ Seek and Ye Shall Find

When you start looking for perfection, you may eventually come to the realization that very little in life that is perfect. Even those things that we label as being perfect, often have flaws in them that we call “unique imperfections” as a way of still keeping that word “perfect” in them still. If you were to really look at the Mona Lisa, you might find a stray brush stroke that seems out of place, but adds to the mystique of her smile. If you looked at the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the imperfect fading and inescapable cracks that have come with time now add a precious awareness of the effort that was spent painting the ceiling and the painstaking methods that Michelangelo took to create an irreplaceable canvas of love. Did he think at the time that it would last as long as it has? Or was he aware of the fragility of life? If he knew that it would last for centuries and be treasured and admired by millions, do you think he might have painted it differently?

As we grow older, we find that our memories of events, people, or things sometimes change because our perception has changed. What we might have called the worst day in our lives when we were 21, will suddenly become the best day, or a “perfect” day when we are 41 or 61. It changes because we can see more of the pieces that fit together in that puzzle of life.

In 2006, five years after the divorce to my abuser, he reached out to tell me that I had been the love of his life and we should have had children together like I had wanted to. This from the man who verbally, emotionally, psychologically and occasionally sexually abused me for almost eleven years before I found the courage and self-esteem to leave him. I had in the early days of our relationship talked about having a child together, but by our second anniversary would pray each month that I wasn’t pregnant. I took my birth control pills religiously because I knew that one day I was going to have to run. I didn’t want any reason for him to hunt me down and kill me as he threatened to do if we ever had children and I tried to leave. While we were together, I never seemed to be able to do anything right. I couldn’t cook. I couldn’t clean. I was too fat. I was ugly. I repulsed him. I was stupid and “a brain sucker would starve to death on your head” (an actual quote of what he would say to me at times). I would be a horrible mother. I read books too fast. I didn’t know how to decorate.

My memories of him never changed, but apparently, his of me did.

When we slow down long enough to look back at how we got here, the road is always so much clearer. Would I change any of those “imperfect” days? No. The pain of those days, the hurt, and the lessons … were all just growing pains to make me who I am today. They prepared me to be this person, right here, right now, to be more compassionate, more understanding, more forgiving, and so far from being perfect that it is what has made me a better wife and a better Christian.

If we spend our days searching for perfection that doesn’t exist, don’t we waste what time we have with those that we love? When we realize that our time on earth is short, will we give ourselves a V-8 smack on the head and say “Gosh darn, I wish I had found that perfect person … had that perfect life … built the perfect house … drove the perfect car….” Or will you think, and pray, “Oh, please forgive me for my wrongs. I wish I had apologized for more, hurt fewer people, loved and forgave more.”

Forgiveness isn’t just ours to receive; it is also something that is ours to give. Love isn’t just ours to receive; it is also something that is ours to give. The two of them are so intertwined that it is impossible to love without forgiving, and impossible to forgive without loving.

When I finally learned that, I was on my face at the bottom of a very dark place in my life. I thought that I had nothing left. I had nothing to take, and nothing to give. I didn’t think I had any reason to go on. I had lost everything that I thought was important in life.

It was only then that I found out what was really important, and what perfect love and forgiveness were.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

drooling ~ WoW

     Words for Wednesday is a moveable feast of participants. Each month the prompts ~ words, pictures, themes, or even phrases are provided by someone new. The aim of the words is to encourage us to write. A story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. This month the words will be provided by River on her Drifting Through Life blog.

I watch the clock as the hour nears,
the thought of hot pizza nearly brings me to tears.

I shift and fidget in my chair,
I'm almost tempted to pull out my hair!

My stomach growls, the doorbell rings,
I jump from my seat as my stomach sings!

Then it happened and was such a sad case
in my hurry to answer, I broke my favorite vase!

That's what I get, for racing down the stairs,
Where I will get another, I'm just unawares!

It was quite unique, made with a chainsaw
A bear in a tutu, with a lace bra!

The derelict that made it was really quite skilled
I have no doubt there isn't anything he couldn't build.

Carving the wood like it was buttery silk
With the creativity of a beautiful quilt.

But what am I saying, what is this bedlam?
Just give me my pizza, hand over the ham!!

Friday, February 7, 2020

TGIF

I love Fridays that are like an impromptu Christmas!
No bills in the mail today, but PACKAGES!!!!
 First was a pair of blue-blocking glasses for my computer work that I hope will both help my (one good) eye and help me to sleep at night.  Found them on Amazon!
 Next was my Work Home Happy subscription box with all kinds of goodies!
 Finally, this super cute card from my brother and his family, and .....
this ADORABLE movie poster for A Dog's Way Home which shall soon be watching me with those sweet puppy eyes from a wall in my office!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

TbT ~ Looking for Love in ALL the Wrong Places

By the time I turned 45 in 2007, I had been married and divorced three times. My child-bearing window in time had been slammed and nailed shut… or more aptly phrased… removed. I was reeling from the death of my Dad, and the unfortunate, dysfunctional family feuds and drama that sometimes accompanies settling an estate. I had decided I was just going to turn into a crazy cat and dog hoarder, and one day when I had failed to show up for work, they would find me dead in my bed with my face chewed off by my cats.

Okay. Maybe that was a little too graphic. 

But I had given up on ever finding the “perfect” man because I realized he just didn’t exist, any more than somewhere out there is a “perfect” woman who hasn’t been nipped, tucked, and botoxed until she had more silicone in her than Silicon Valley.

Instead, I found my comfort in unwisely spending my inheritance by taking two Christmas trips to Europe, flying my Mom and me to Arizona for a family reunion, visiting a cousin in Alaska for a week in the summer and again for the following Christmas. I helped build a house for a local wounded veteran, bought and contributed items to silent auctions raising funds for other veterans, and paid for a Christmas condo on the beach for the same wounded vet and his family as we finished building their home. I donated to dog rescue organizations and the local Humane Society, and sent several large boxes of toys and treats to Military Working Dog teams I sponsored in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I practiced a hundred or more random acts of kindness by paying the bill for a random restaurant table every time I went out to eat … which was two or three times a week.  The wait staff would come to me when they had found someone deserving and it became something that every employee looked forward to.  An elderly couple celebrating their 50th anniversary and the wife had to cut up her husband's food and feed him because of a stroke.  A single mom with three young children celebrating a birthday.  A table of military members having one last night out before half of them deployed.  Two social workers trying to cheer up after a difficult week taking children from abusive parents and putting them in foster care.  Police officers out for lunch.  

I lived large as if I had my own personal money tree or at least a genie in a bottle somewhere.  I was looking for that "perfect" love in money, property, and prestige.  I made a list of qualities that I was looking for in a life mate because I thought that if there truly was a man who could check off everything on that list he would be worth risking my heart again.  But that list was impossible, unattainable, and with unreasonable qualities that I knew no one could ever fill because I had been so hurt and was so afraid to put my heart out there again.  I had decided I would never marry again ... three strikes and I was out of the game.

All of the random acts of kindness, and generous donations I made ... anonymous.  The meals I paid for at the restaurant were under the condition that none of the staff revealed who paid.  The house for the veteran, and the beach condo for Christmas ... anonymous.  I even made sure that I wouldn't be in town for the big reveal in case someone slipped and pointed me out.

In truth though, I was so incredibly lonely.  I was hiding from everyone, and not wanting to hide at all.  I didn't know what to do.  There was a hole in my heart that I didn't know how to fill.  I had finally started to like myself, but I didn't know yet how to love myself.  I wanted so much to love, to be loved, to be in love ... and didn't know what it looked like or what it felt like.

Fortunately for me, there was One who knew what it was and knew what perfect love was.  It would take me losing everything to finally learn what it felt like to be loved.

What I learned, however, from those few years when I thought I had it all was this...
  • The bigger the hole in your heart, the harder it is to fill it with things.  It seemed like the more things I bought, the more I spent on others ... the bigger that hole in me got.  I was like Sisyphus pushing that stone up the hill, only to see it roll back down again.
  • The friends you think you have when you have it all are seldom real friends that you can count on.  They are just there for the ride, for the fun, for the food and when the tide turns and everything is gone ... they will be too.  True friends will be there in the bad as well as the good.  They will be the friends that don't want anything from you at all, the ones who show up after the ride is over, when the sink is filled with dirty dishes, and they will roll up their sleeves and help you wash.
  • The only time money can ever buy love and friendship is if you spend it on a puppy or kitten.  If you want love from someone, start by loving yourself.  If you want friendship from someone, start by being a friend to yourself.  Treat yourself like you want others to treat you.  If you don't love yourself, how will anyone else?  If you aren't your own best friend, how will you know how to be a friend to anyone else?   Take care of yourself first.  My Aunt often tells us ... "Remember what they tell you on every single airplane flight.  Put your own oxygen mask on first, before you help anyone next to you."

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

yawning on WoW ...

     Words for Wednesday is a moveable feast of participants. Each month the prompts ~ words, pictures, themes, or even phrases are provided by someone new. The aim of the words is to encourage us to write. A story, a poem, whatever comes to mind. This month the words will be provided by River on her Drifting Through Life blog.



Weighted blankets help me to sleep.
Oh, wait, that's Charlie! Sneaking up without a peep!

Who is that striding across my back?
Lucy Magillicutty, who thinks I'm a soft nap sack!

I stretch, I twist, I mutter hocus-pocus,
No wonder my morning eyes are so hard to focus!

Sluggishly I make my morning brew,
one heaping scoop, nope, better make it two.

What's this I see in my email box?  A comparative study on sleep that is lost?
I don't need to know more than I already do, into the trash bin it's tossed!

I pull out my prayer notebook and jot down a line,
oh please, Lord, tonight let me sleep just fine!

I love all the fur-kids into my home I did bring,
but at times with my sleep, they're ruining everything!