Trying to find calm in a world of worry

I worry too much. I worry that I am not there enough for my family; I worry that I have missed something at work; I worry about how others view me. I worry that I am not a good enough wife. I worry that I hover over my children too much. It’s the worry of I woulda…shoulda…coulda…

Surprisingly, I don’t worry about my life after death. I know I am not perfect, but I believe that, even in my imperfections, I am doing what I can to be a good person. My intentions are good and I strive to be better.

My favorite Bible verse is Luke 12:48. I was not as familiar with the first sentence as I was with the last part of the verse. After I had taken in the first sentence, I felt so much better about my past. You see, there were things I did as a younger person that I felt pretty confident when I did them. As I grew older, I was not so sure that my actions would be pleasing in the eyes of God. But this sentence, the first in Luke 12:48 set my heart at ease…”But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows…” It is contrary to the statement “Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law,” which is a statement I use. What the Bible says is that doing wrong, when you don’t know it is wrong, will not receive the same punishment as someone who is intentional and knows.

The rest of the Bible verse is what I write about now; “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted much, much more will be asked.”mini chocolate chip

There are many things I like to do, and because of that, I have put the time and effort to work towards perfection in those things I like.lemon cupcakes

I enjoy cooking and baking. Growing up, my mom did the cooking of the meals AND the clean up as well. If we wanted to help, we could, but it was not required. I, too, am that way. If you come to my home for dinner, you are not expected to help with the preparation or the washing of dishes after the meal. I will generally clean up as best I can, load the dishwasher and then organize, as best I can, the remainder of the dishes for later care. I will finish up cleaning when my guests have gone home.

Strawberry glazed

Strawberry glazed

prom cupcakes

When I became an adult, I asked my mom why it was we were never expected to clear the table or wash the dishes. What I remember her saying was this, “This is what I can give. Cooking from start, and working and working until the last dish is washed, is an act of love and service.” For me, I work hard to make sure that I do my best when showing love in the kitchen.

I love to capture life in photographs. I don’t like staged shots of people; I like natural shots, of action, of stillness, of love. Some of my favorite photographs are of the skies. The sky can tell so many stories. I think clouds can convey love, joy, fear, anger. There are times I have to pull off to the side of the road and take a photo of a sunrise, or a cloud formation. I believe I have an eye for telling stories through a camera lens. There are times I miss an opportunity for a story because the image is there, and in a second, it is gone.

And I love to write. I do not take the opportunity to write as often as I would like. Maybe I don’t feel inspired, or I am too engrossed in other things, or maybe I am too exhausted and can’t think of doing anything but recovering and re-energizing.masquerade

purple velvetWhat if that recovery or re-energizing is writing, or cooking/baking or quilting? That is what I am trying to figure out now.

Maybe I should work at finishing my quilting projects when I feel tired. There are times when I know I could be productive but instead, I choose to do nothing but catch up on the TV shows on the DVR. I also know there are times when I am so tired that if I tried to accomplish something, it would resort in mistakes and re-do’s. It is finding when I should really relax and when I should work at projects and use my gifts wisely that need to be done.

I truly believe that I have been blessed with talents that need to be shared. I believe that God has given me a voice-words to share on paper and in front of people-verbally. I share that talent as a lay speaker with the United Methodist Church and as a voice for camping ministry with my job at Camp Fontanelle.graduation

It gives me great joy to feed people. While I can’t do it as much as I once could, I love to bake doughnuts for my daughter to share at school. I love to entertain and make food for people that is special, something they may not make for themselves. I have started sharing my love of cooking/baking at a different level. I have started soft selling items. I am not advertising, but how fun would it be if I could make it into a full-time business!

My love of photography will always be my personal joy, to be shared with family and friends.lightning in the night sky

I am so lucky that I am able to share my gifts with others. It is what I am directed to do In Luke 12:48.

I encourage you to find your joys and talents and develop them to share with others. I don’t know whether I am in my position because of my talents, or I have taken my talents and fit them into my life. Either way, I have so much joy in sharing. If you are able to fit your gifts into your career, do so. If you have a love or a talent that does not fit into your career, find time to share your love and talent somehow in your life.whale in the sky

1 Peter 4:10 says, “God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use then well to serve one another.”

Today, I worry because my brand new cell phone fell in water. Worrying will not get it fixed. Hopefully a bag of rice will take those worries away. If not, there will be another new phone. For now, I WRITE!

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The Power of a Woman – Part 2

I believe that God puts you in positions, or provides opportunities, for you to learn. Like, for instance, a part breaking on a plane which frees up some time for a person to write a blog.

“I struggle every day with who I am…” those were my words on Monday as I sat in an airport, waiting for my plane to attend a United Methodist National Gathering of Camp and Retreat Leaders. I arrived eight and a half hours later than I was scheduled. I missed the opening worship service, but I found out I did not miss the lesson!

Because I arrived late and missed the first event of the conference, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss anything else. I was up at 6:00 a.m. (5:00 a.m. my time) to attend Morning Watch. I walked the short distance under the Spanish Moss laden trees to the little white chapel. Built in 1880, the small chapel is named Lovely Lane Chapel after the site where the founding of the Conference of American Methodism in Baltimore, MD, took place in 1784. It is significant in the life of the Methodist Church. But today, it was significant for me as it became my chance to move from my past, to the present and into the future. I did not even know that what I wrote yesterday would have such significance today. But that is the way God works.

The air was crisp as I walked towards the chapel. I opened the white-painted door to a small room filled with rich dark woods and beautiful, vibrant-colored stain glass panels. It was warm and welcoming. I was ready for newness.

I had spent much of yesterday, writing, re-writing and reading my blog. I wanted to make sure it was what I wanted to say. It was significant to me. After I was finished and hit the “publish” button, I kept thinking that the blog was not what I had intended.

I had meant to write about the fact that a woman has great power in no matter which position she holds in life. It is the right of a woman to determine her direction in life, whether it is being a stay-at-home mom or a business executive. I wanted to write that my parents had given me the power to decide my fate; I WAS to go to college; I WAS to get an education that would allow me to live on my own if that is what happened in my life; I WAS to have the chance to be independent and that would happen in college. My parents gave me the values and foundation to be whomever I wanted. That is what I meant to write about. I meant to write about the power women have and to not let anyone take that power away, and that power could be defined in many different ways.

That is what I meant to say. But that is not what happened. I cried that I missed my past life. I mourned for the person I was and I lamented my sorrow to the world.

It was actually on my mind as I entered the chapel. And then the pastor stands up to give the message. He cited Isaiah 43:18-19, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

God’s Word Translation says, “Forget what happened in the past, and do not dwell on events long ago.” Apparently, that was the Bible verse that was cited in the opening worship service which I had missed.

I was dumbfounded! That verse was speaking to me; God was speaking to me. He was telling me to get over it and feel blessed with the life that I have and am re-creating every day. He had probably been telling me that for quite a while and I was not listening (I just typed lostening. How ironic that I wrote lost because that is what I am/was.)

If I had been at the evening service and heard that verse, I am sure it would not have meant as much to me. I needed to be placed in a position where I allowed myself to have a pity party. I had to put down, in words, my feelings of despair because then, and only then, would it manifest itself into the “aha” moment of this morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I still own my words. I do miss being “that” person, but there are parts of my childhood and young adulthood that I miss. I do not mourn those times, I have recollections which have shaped who I am today, I must look at the past and take what I did and learned and use it in my present and into my future. I need to quit dwelling on my past and being mournful because dwelling on it makes me sad and I do not want to be a sad person. I want to be a happy person, an inspiring person, a person filled with love for God and family.

God gives us a chance to learn. Sometimes God needs to set things in motion that force someone to look at their life so they can quit dwelling on the past and begin looking towards new things, the future.

For my Morning Watch alone, I am a changed person. I may only say this once, but thank God for my canceled flight.

The Power of a Woman

I struggle every day with who I am. I am a traditional person. I like the idea of “The Man of the House” and me being the “housewife”, or mother, or domestic engineer (Okay, not so much the domestic engineer title). I dream of winning the lottery so I can truly be at home and taking care of my man, my children and the home. If I won the lottery I could give money to the non-profits I support and volunteer to my heart’s content. I was lucky enough to only have very part-time jobs for 17.5 years. My husband worked (and still works) his tail off so I could be home with the children.

Because of his sacrifices, we homeschooled for six years. I was a full-time volunteer, always available to run errands for my husband and be “that” mom who was heavily involved in her children’s life. Because my husband travels with his job, there were frequent flyer miles and hotel points so we enjoyed nice vacations.

I am employed, outside the home, full-time now because of circumstances in our life. I made choices that precipitated my full-time employment sooner than I had expected, but we also have a child in college and one who will be in college in the next year and a half. We decided that our children should come out of college debt free and so there are sacrifices that I now need to make. (Did I mention before that I like nice things? Oh yeah, I did. Once again, another reason why I am full-time)

I love what I do. I have the best full-time job, outside of the home,  that a person could have. And while I love what I do, my heart still breaks a little (a lot) when I get home and realize that I still have my home responsibilities and that I am not as available as I was. I am a traditionalist. I liked being available, at the drop of a hat, to run errands for my children, or my husband. I liked being that person that could be counted on to bring food to school for the teachers, or homemade treats for the dance class. I liked quilting and making Halloween costumes and making homemade bread for the family. I liked being able to can the vegetables from the garden and shovel the driveway, for the exercise.

I hope that people did not think that I was an unintelligent woman when I was a stay-at-home mom. I hope people didn’t think that I “settled.” I love it when I can give of myself to people. The gift of my time and talent was the best gift I could give someone; especially when time is so precious these days. I was not dependent on people. I am a very independent person but I loved being “that person”.

Years ago, I received an email that was a dig on being a good wife. And while I laugh at some of the things that are presented in this email, I have to say, that I would think our home would have been happier if I would have done more of those things. That independent part of me did not allow me to follow through on some of these things.

Good Wife…Directions

1) Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.

2) Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

3) Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

4) Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a dust cloth over the tables.

5) During the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

6) Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate the noise of the washer dryer or vacuum. Encourage your children to be quiet.

7) Be happy to see him.

8) Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to see him.

9) Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first-remember, his topic of conversations are more important that yours.

10) Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.

11) Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through at work.*

12) Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

13) Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

14) Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

15) A good wife knows her place.

* Don’t know that him staying out all night, should not be questioned.

So as I read through these things, I think to myself, how lovely it would be, to be all of these things to the man I love. This is a total commitment to be a good wife and manager of the home. And, in turn, your husband would be respectful to his wife and appreciative of all of the things that she does for him. This is the true definition of being a good wife. In the Bible (Ephesians) it talks of being submissive. It does not mean to be lesser than, it means allowing the man to be the ultimate say in the household. Believe it or not, someone needs to be the boss; someone has to have the final say.  It brings tears to my eyes to think that I have been too opinionated, too forceful in my ways and not submissive enough.

There are needs in a household. Someone has to clean the house. Someone has to cook the meals. Someone has to cart the kids around before they are able to drive. Why does society look down on those people who have made that decision to take on those responsibilities? Do I feel less of a person because I was that person for so many years, absolutely not! I would say that I feel less of a person because I am outside of the home, not being there, doing the things that need to be done in the home.

I honor and respect those women who are able to always be at home, unless they are at home for the wrong reasons. If you are at home, you should be trying to do things to make life easier for your spouse, who is out making the money to sustain your household. If you are home out of laziness, shame on you. If you have sacrificed your career, to be available for your spouse and children, I applaud you and have no greater respect. What a greater sacrifice to give, than to put yourself last and all others first.

For years I wore a necklace that had the acronym JOY: Jesus first, others second, yourself third. Now I wear the United Methodist Cross 24/7. It helps define who I am. I like to think that I still live in JOY but the others (my family) may not feel that they have me as they had me at one time.

I still hope that maybe I could still win the lottery. I do buy tickets every once in a while but I need to accept the fact that my life has changed. I can no longer be “that” mom who is always available. I am finding that my volunteer life is not as easy as it once was; I find that my free time is different. I have not quilted in almost two years and I have unfinished projects begging for attention. My family does not receive homemade meals like once was; sometimes I just look at them and tell them they are on their own.

I know that my husband has sacrificed a lot to provide for our family. He is a man who likes to be busy but I don’t know if that busy-ness would have to be for an income, if it weren’t for the likes and lifestyle that has been established in this family. Some may feel that I sacrificed by being at home for so many years. I would tell you that my sacrifice is being away from the home and not available.

Maybe I was wired for a different generation. I hope that there are women out there like me. I hope that there are people out there who want to live their life making other’s happy in an unselfish manner. I am not an unintelligent woman. I am independent, but want to be a people pleaser.

For those people out there, who are who I used to be, God Bless you! For my husband and children, I love you and know that this is where we need to be in our lives. In a perfect world, I would be at your call 24/7, available for you whenever you need me.

Ephesians 5:22-23

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, …

You need to be where you need to be; your sacrifices are your sacrifices and they may not seem like sacrifices to others. Sometimes, okay maybe more times than not, you need to look outside of your world and figure how you can be best used in the live’s of others. I mourn that I am not who I was and I have still not accepted who I am now. But, with God’s Help, I will find my way in this new life, embrace it and live life abundantly.

Love at first sight.

For nineteen years I have held this secret; a secret that, for many years, I thought defined me as a parent. Here goes…I did not have an outpouring of love when my first child was born. There, I said it! I was a total wreck after labor and delivery and I was too spent to feel anything but exhaustion.

I am, in no way, saying my labor and delivery was difficult. Compared to many, it was easy. Sure, my blood pressure was elevated, which precipitated my being induced. Because I had high blood pressure and was hooked up to the pitocin drip, I was not allowed to get up and walk around to ease the labor pains.

I was at the hospital at 6:00 a.m. and the IV line was put in at 7:30 a.m. By 9:00 a.m., I was having full-blown contractions, three minutes apart. My husband, bless his heart, would look at the monitor and let me know that “a big” contraction was coming! Thank you very much, I think I was aware of the upcoming pain. The pains became so intense that during the down time of the contractions, I began to hyperventilate. By the time I regained my regular breathing, another contraction was coming on. There just was not enough time to recover from the onset of the contraction, through the hyperventilation and on to the next contraction. By 11:00 a.m., the nurse said it was too difficult for me and I needed to consider an epidural. I WANTED TO DO THIS WITHOUT DRUGS!!!! But the nurse was right; there was no way I could continue labor this way.

Our son was born at 1:16 a.m. If you do the math, I had between 350 and 400 intense contractions during the time that labor was induced. I had told the doctor that I wanted to avoid a C-Section at all costs but it became very apparent that I was not going to be able to deliver him without help. Out came the forceps and with a little help that way, he was delivered.

After his delivery, I was given oxygen because I could not catch my breath. Looking back, I am pretty sure my body was in shock. I was not in good shape at that time. It had been a hard and grueling day.

I had envisioned the birth of our first child so differently. I imagined my new baby being placed on my chest and being filled with love. NOPE, that did not happen. I was so tired, I just wanted to sleep. I felt guilty that I wasn’t overwhelmed with love, that I didn’t feel that immediate bonding. I feared that my first foray as a mother was going to define me forever.

Things didn’t get better. I just wanted to get home to my own bed, the new nursery, the comforts that made our house a home. Our son was born on a Saturday and by Sunday afternoon, I was on my way home. I felt great! I had rested some and I was ready to tackle my new role as mother.

Sunday, December 31st, I was home to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I don’t even know if I had sparkling juice, but it didn’t matter, I was home. Then came January 1st! I woke up and was in severe pain. I thought I would be a trooper but I couldn’t get passed the pain. I needed to get the pain medication prescription filled. My husband went into town only to find all of the pharmacies were closed. Luckily, he saw a car in the parking lot of our pharmacy and knocked on the back door. The owner (head pharmacist) was doing year-end inventory and was more than happy to fill my prescription. (Remember this was 19 years ago, 24 hour pharmacies did not exist)

January 2nd my husband had to go back to work (no Family Medical Leave Act back then either). That meant my mom would come out and spend the week with me. She was a blessing when things were tough.

On January 2nd my son had his first visit with our new pediatrician. In 3 days our son had lost over a pound in weight and I was frantic that my breast-feeding was not going well. He was supposed to be eating every 2-2.5 hours and that just was not happening. And then to find out he was losing weight. I was going to be a horrible mother! For the first few months of his life, so many people said he looked so thin. I was struggling with breast-feeding and then people were telling me how skinny my child was. There seemed to be more and more evidence that I would be an inadequate mother.

January 3rd, I made an “emergency” visit to my doctor because my right breast was bright red and there was a huge lump forming. A biopsy was performed to see if it was something more than a clogged milk duct. To this day, I see that scar every morning and it is a reminder of how rough things were in the start. In general, I was still in really bad shape. (Sometimes, to this day, it can still be painful.)

Things did get better, but my son weaned himself from the breast at four and a half months. I felt I was such a bad mom as I couldn’t even provide my child the nourishment he needed. He preferred formula over me. It was another indication, I thought, that I would not be a good mother. Transitioning from formula, to cereal, to baby food, to “human” food was a challenge.

We went on to have another child, a girl. And while I wanted more, God had other plans. We are so blessed to have the two we have. And I try to think that I have been a good mother. I have been open to conversation about anything and I try to be understanding in all situations. I am a mother, not their friend. I have expectations of their manners in public and at home and I hope that their core values will help them make an impact in the lives of the people with whom they associate.

I love my children more than life itself. I am glad that I did not allow the first few days, or the first few months of my first born’s life, define who I am . If I would have allowed that, I would have not seen the potential in the gifts I have to offer, or the future I see for my family. I would have wallowed in the pain and inferior sense I had as a first time mother.

Do not let a few things define who you are. As we get ready to start a new year in 2015, find what you do well and excel, find a cause or a hobby which you want to learn and participate, take time to drink good wine, eat good food and love those around you. Don’t let your past define you, but let your future guide you to be the best.

I did not have that love at first sight experience with my son. But every time I see him now, which is few and far between as he is at college, my heart swells with pride as to the man he has become. My eyes fill with tears of joy at his future. I know that I had a part in helping him be who he is now. I know that my love is deep, for both of my children. And I know that I have done all I could for them to have a bright future.

Bless you and your family on this final day of 2014.

I believe in God – a confession on my life

I believe in God! I believe that He* is the Master of my life and that, by my belief and acknowledgement of Him, I am blessed. I have always felt that way no matter what was happening in my life. And while I believe that, sometimes it is hard for me to talk/write about. I feel that God inspires me in my writing and when this topic entered my head this morning, frankly, it frightened me. Why you ask, please let me explain.

In my last post, I wrote about keeping family secrets and the importance of making sure that the family not be shamed. I also believe that you should be humble, no matter what the circumstances. So in writing this, I am making myself vulnerable. I must have faith that it is God that is inspiring me to write and that I am not being led astray by other forces. So I do write with trepidation but I think this is what I am to do. (Can you feel the hesitation that I have? Imagine me taking deep breaths, in and out, in and out…) Here goes…

As I wrote, I believe in God! I am a faithful person always; I believe in God, always; but I am not a religious person, always. I do not memorize where Bible passages are located in the Bible, although I know many Biblical stories and lessons. Sometimes I forget to say grace. And there are times when I am so tired or pre-occupied that I forget to speak with God daily. I go to church weekly and attend Sunday School and worship services. My husband and I have raised our children in knowing that Sunday is a day that we spend at church and church takes precedence  over sports, or sleep, if they were out a little too late.

To my recollection, I have never said that I hated God or been angry with God. I try to take responsibility for my actions. I don’t blame God for my circumstances because I am of the opinion that God lays many paths before me. Based on the path  I choose determines my future. I rely on God to be with me if I make poor choices and available for me when I ask for guidance. I do not attribute my shortcomings to “things” that God “has done” but I do give Him praise when things are going well. Some may ask, “How can you give credit to God but not place blame?” I can’t answer that for anyone else but myself. I have free will to make decisions in my life and I believe that some of my decisions have caused my life to go in directions I did not anticipate.  When I make a wrong choice, God has the opportunity to show me the correct path, if I am open to His words. (I am still somewhat hedging. I don’t want to rock the boat, known as my life, but I think it is time. I think I am being called to share what I have not shared before. I hope you have given me a little leniency)

Coming up in two weeks, I will have been married 25 years. There have been ups and downs, as in any relationship. Having a husband who is self-employed, there were times, early in his self-employment, that we did not have income. When that happened, I would say, “Well at least we are healthy.” When someone became ill I would say, “Well at least we have health insurance.” I would always try to find a way not be angry or to get depressed. I always thought that there was someone out there that had it worse than me and tried not to have a pity party.

I think our family is where we are today because we have always given credit where credit is due. As a family, we have always praised God and made Him an important part of our lives. Our family is healthy; We are gainfully employed; We have a full food pantry;  There are no reasons to complain about anything going on in our lives. (It took a lot for me to write that. It all goes to being humble. I worry that by actually saying this to the whole world, I may affect things. I know that seems superstitious, and I like to think that I am not, but I really do not want to jinx our life)**

Why do we have the life we have, while other people of faith struggle? I wish I knew and that may be one reason why I am humbled about what we have and what we are able to do for our church and our community.  I was able to go 17.5 years and devote the majority of my time to managing the household, everyone’s schedules and was a very busy volunteer. I always said that I volunteered so much to take on volunteering for women that were unable to do so because they had jobs outside the home. We have taught our children that it is important to give back to the community; that your community is only as strong as the people who give, to make it a great place to live.

I don’t want to say that life is easy, but we are blessed. And I know that our life may seem “easy” compared to others. But I think it is how I have looked at things that make me feel like we are handling things well. And maybe things have not been easy and it is just the way I look at life that makes me feel so blessed.

BIG GULP!

I believe that my husband was meant for me. I was faced with circumstances that forced me to move back to my parent’s home. It just so happened that my husband attended the church where I grew up. We met only because I trusted too much and gave someone access to my life.

FLASHBACK…the story

It was the darkest day in my life. All I saw were stars escalating into a pit of darkness the day I found out that I had nothing! I didn’t have much, just a car and furniture and Oh Yeah, a job. That may not seem like much to you but I had just lost it all, because I trusted, trusted too much.

Standing in the phone booth, listening to every customer service agent tell me that my phone and my electricity and gas were not out because of the spring storms; they were cut off from lack of payment. Uncontrollably shaking, I dialed the number to the bank that had my car loan…my car was up for repossession! That phone booth kept getting smaller and smaller and with that, the oxygen seemed to be less and less. I thought I was going to pass out before I made that last, most important, phone call.

It was hard to punch in the phone number to my bank because I was too frightened to hear the truth. I didn’t want to hear that I had a negative balance in my account. But I knew that was what I was going to be told. And even though I could feel my life crashing down around me, I could feel the weight of all that I was being told, I was in too much shock to let my emotions burst out of my soul.

I had been robbed, financially raped if you will, by someone whom I had trusted, trusted with my life. I had to think. I had to get my act together and figure out what I could do.

I was young, in my early twenties. I had a college degree but had not earned my degree in life. I was from a Midwestern town where you left your doors unlocked and didn’t have to worry about “bad guys”. I did not grow up in a small town, there were 60,000 people in this city which was near a larger city. When someone told me they were my friend, I trusted that was true. And when someone told me they wanted to help me, I took them up on their offer.

I was living in a different city about 6 hours from my hometown. I moved there for a job and basically knew where my bank was, and where the grocery store and my apartment were located. I worked long hours and my friends were people I managed. I now know that is inappropriate but they were the people I knew and my social life was my work.

I became friends with a man who seemed to know everything. He intrigued me. We began dating and then he started offering to handle mailing my bills for me since he was more flexible with his time. I thought, “How great is this. I basically have my own personal shopper and someone to take care of my bills.”

I would bring my bills to work and he would swing by my work and deliver my bills to the mailbox. (It seems strange but I don’t know that I remember where the post office was or any stand alone mailboxes. I look back now and know how dumb I was.) Within a month’s time I gave him access to my bank account. He was my friend, my boyfriend, I could trust him, right?

Fast Forward…The spring storms came and everyone lost power and phone service in my apartment complex. But after a few days I became concerned. My “boyfriend” said not to worry; it was just taking time to get everything back on-line. After a week, I decided to go to a pay phone and find out what was going on…

Every phone call I made saw me sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss. During the phone call to my bank the bottom dropped out of my life. If I remember correctly, I think I sunk to the floor of the phone booth and sobbed, deep-heavy breathing sobs.

Thank God I had(have) great parents. I phoned my parents and tried to explain to them what had happened. In between the tears I told them that I had nothing. I explained to them that I had trusted someone and he had stolen everything from me. I had to explain that I gave him my bank account information and instead of mailing my bills, he was taking money out of my account; Instead of picking up my mail, he was throwing all of my bills away and only giving me the junk mail. I had not received any late notices or anything that would give me a notion that I was slowly being robbed of my life. I was lost, alone and I needed Mom and Dad to rescue me.

They explained to me that they could not get to me right away because of commitments that they had. I needed to be strong and they would take care of things. They asked for the phone numbers to all of the utility companies and they would make sure that everything was settled up with them. They would make sure I had lights and phone by the end of the day and I would not lose my car. My dad told me I needed to get things squared away with my work and tell them that I needed to make arrangements to transfer to my hometown and that I would not be in to work for a couple of days.

I did what I was told and my company was very understanding and very accommodating . I would have a job and could start at the new location in two weeks. Thank God for a good company. Even through all of this, God was there with me. I had made the mistake of trusting someone but I put my trust in God and he took care of me with a loving family, a good company and wonderful people at the bank, the utilities, the phone company and JC Penney.

JC Penney? Yes, JC Penney. I had purchased all of my furniture through them and was on a payment plan. I had a living room set, bedroom set and dining room furniture. I phoned the sales person whom I had purchased my furniture and explained what had happened to me. Through the tears I told her that I could not afford the furniture and I needed to leave the state and really did not need the furniture anymore. Can you believe that they took it all back! Within two days a big van came out and picked up all of the furniture. My 1200sf apartment was almost completely empty. I had a television and a plastic shelving unit from college. (I still have the shelving unit in a spare room of our home) I slept on the floor, ate on the floor and relaxed on the floor. It was an empty shell, a true picture of what my life had become.

I moved back to my hometown and moved in with my parents. They had settled up all of my bills and I lost nothing except my dignity and the trust of people. Innately, I still wanted to trust, but I was vulnerable and frightened of everything. I started working almost as soon as I moved back and started going to church regularly again.

My parents wanted to help me transition to my “new” life. I was asked by a pastor to join a group of young adults that were planning a singles group for our congregation. Needing to find ways to meet new people in a protected atmosphere, I said yes. Twenty eight years later, I am so blessed to say that my first friend back then, is now my husband. He knows what happened but we don’t talk about it. After we had dated for a while, I told him what had happened. And up until the day that we started building our home, I was making payments to my father for everything that he had to pay out to rescue me. The day that we signed the papers for our construction loan, my father forgave the remaining debt.

You see, bad things, really bad things happened to me. But as I look at things now, in a more mature and as someone from the outside looking in, God was with me always. I had parents that could help me in my dire situation. I met a man who looked past my failures and loved me for me. There were companies that bent over backwards to help this poor, naive, single female.

It was not all wine and roses. There were some companies that were not as kind and I had problems with this individual, this creep that stole my life, after I moved back to my hometown. But I moved past all of that. I thank God for my life and even though it was a horrible time, it was a blessing, because I am where I am today because of the situations that brought me back to the fold of my parent’s arms.

I believe in God! I am a faithful person but not always a religious person. I believe that when I take the wrong path, God is there to help me learn and move forward. I believe that God wanted me to tell my story. I believe that I needed to tell my story, finally. I believe that you should never give up on God because He will never give up on you. You need to be willing to have God guide you and you have to be willing to struggle through the hard times and still want God there with you.

As John Wesley, the founder of Methodism said, “Stay in love with God.” I say, “Always be grateful and find ways to stay in love with God.”

A couple of side notes below…

*When I say Him, I do not mean male, it is the pronoun that I have used all of my life because there is not a pronoun for parent.

**It took me a week to finish this. The day after I started writing this, I went to the dentist and found out I needed a root canal. On that same day, I found out my car had about $1,000 worth of expenses in repairs and tires that were in desperate need of replacement. You know that “jinx thing” I wrote about in the beginning, it took me awhile to convince myself that was all coincidence. I thank God that my root canal was successfully treated and my car is in good repair. And I thank God that we are gainfully employed. As the old saying goes, “You can choose to see the glass half empty. I choose to see the glass as half full.”

Where have all the manners gone?

As I wrote last week, I was visiting the southern states of Florida and Georgia with my daughter. The metropolitan feel came out of our Orlando and Tampa ventures. But there was a drastically different sense when entering the city of Savannah. Even though it was the celebratory “season” of St. Patrick’s Day, it was different from the party scenes in Key West during New Year’s Eve celebrations or Florida Spring Break festivities.

We were graced with the genteel nature of the south in our visit to Savannah. You could feel the embodiment of aristocracy in the stately buildings on Whitaker Street or the elegant lifestyle on Bull Street. Even the Spanish moss cascading off the tall oak trees evoked a sense of curtsying maidens and tuxedoed gentlemen retiring to the smoking room.

Oh, the days when manners meant something. If we could go back to, or move forward to a time when manners meant/mean something; where our elders were treated with respect and civility, temperance in speech was practiced and virtue was a badge of glory.

I am a dichotomy in terms. I am a very independent woman. If I were childless and single, I would be very successful in my career as I am outgoing, determined and intelligent woman.  But I am married with children and I love the aspect of being a wife and mother. I would love to be at home baking, cleaning, sewing and volunteering with my time. I miss being flexible for my family now that I have a fulltime job outside the home.

I am old-fashioned and yet if I weren’t married, I would be a very modern woman. That seems strange but I love being married. I love my focus being on a house in order and a family in order. I want my family to be courteous, kind and a good example to others. I want them to be good stewards in the community by making sure that we give back both in community service and in an active church life.

Modern or old-fashioned, I do know that I would always have my manners; I would always have my “please” and “thank you’s” and I would address individuals as Mr., Mrs., or Miss when appropriate. I do see this as greatly missing in this society. I think that families are not honoring the etiquette that was so important in the past and they are missing many aspects of a time long gone. I think that the demise of the wife taking the husband’s last name has caused a confusion as to how to address adult women. I understand professional titles and my taking my husband’s last name had nothing to do with me losing my individuality. Believe me, even as a married woman who proudly took her husband’s name, I am an individual.

I am not a friend to my children. I am their parent. I am the parent that can speak about anything and everything to her children and they can say anything and everything to me. We speak about personal, worldly, out-of-the-box topics, but I am their parent. I expect them to respect my authority and I expect them to listen to me, learn from me, and take orders and guidance from me. We have a great deal of fun but when the fun goes too far, and they start treating me like a friend, I let them know.

What I mean by that last statement is, I don’t want to be talked to like I am their friend. I want proper and respectful English used, no swearing, no inappropriate words. Sometimes, my son gets carried away and I have to remind him that I am not his buddy and proper language needs to be used.

When I was growing up, I spoke to my friends differently than I would speak to my teacher, or parent or other person of authority. I would not use slang around my elders and would address my elders with the proper title. I knew that there was an invisible line that separated me from persons of authority. I was, and still am, okay with that. I believe that there is a pyramid and the higher you move up on the pyramid, the greater expectations people will have of you.

Let me go one step further, I don’t want to see my pastor out getting drunk. I am not saying that they shouldn’t do it; I just don’t want to see it. I don’t want my choir kids to see me getting drunk and I don’t want to see my president “yucking it up” on late night television. I know it is done to “bring them down” to the level of the common man, but let’s be real; many politicians in Washington D.C. are wealthy. And I don’t want them to be at my level. I want them to have a better grasp of things than I do. I am aware of this and I do not begrudge them. I applaud them for being successful enough in their business life that they are wealthy. I don’t want them to be on my level. I do not want to see them in a way that would not make their mother or pastor proud or would tarnish the position in which they hold.

That means, yes, I do have higher expectations of them. Because they were chosen to be a person of authority, I do believe they should act in a way befitting their position. Just like you would not see me in a mini-skirt or a string bikini; not just because I shouldn’t wear them with my body-type but because I am a 50+ year old woman. Mini-skirts and string bikinis are for those of younger age. I would say by your late thrities, you should start steering away from skin revealing clothing. Late night television is a lot of fun but not a place for politicians.

Don’t get me wrong, these thoughts came about because of my visit to Savannah, and I know that there is a lot of degradation, salacious acts, lying and cheating, just like many communities in the world. The difference is what happened behind closed doors, stayed behind closed doors. (What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.) My grandfather probably said it best, “Don’t share family secrets.” What he meant by that, was family problems need to stay within and handled by the family. Problems are not meant to be publicized and become the fodder for gossip.

I don’t want to know the sex acts of celebrities. I do not want to know what my friends do behind bedroom doors. I don’t want to hear swearing in public places because you don’t know who could be walking by and you should always want to come across in a positive light, if at all possible. I love the parents that openly swear and speak of personal things in front of their children. I want my children to have respect for me. How can that happen if a bunch of trash is coming out of my mouth.

As we get further into the political season, we all get to hear the bashing that will happen amongst the candidates. Another great saying my grandfather had was, “Don’t try to raise yourself up by putting others down.” If you degrade someone, then others will feel they can do the same to you. It is a vicious circle.

I never heard my mom swear. When I was older she told me that she didn’t swear because she had too much respect for herself. Wow, what a concept to have respect for others AND yourself. I wish there were more people out there who could have that same respect for themselves.

I admit it. I have sworn in my life. I have even sworn in front of my children. I have yet to reach the level of respectability that my mom has for herself.  I am a work in progress and I do feel horrible when I say something or do something that is not to the standards that I strive to achieve.

Think about how you portray yourself. If you are a church going person, would your words and actions be acceptable to your congregational family? Would you be embarrassed to have your children speak with their teacher or principal about your words and actions? If you don’t care, then that is a whole other problem. If someone was describing you and you did not know it was you, would you be proud to know that person or ashamed?

Our world needs to think about the genteel South, even if it is an old wives tale, of their cordiality, their soft words, their proper manners.  I listen to a lot of old-time radio, so I do know there was a time when it was expected, not a surprise to have a door opened for a woman or a “please” and “thank you” regularly said. There was a time when children addressed all adults with a proper title. You don’t have to be uptight or a snob to use manners and be polite.

I have hopefully instilled in my children a sense of respect in their lives. Maybe they can be strong and continue on this tradition into future generations. Time tarries on and I must close for now and say, “Thank you for reading my blog. I hope your day is filled with love and joy.”

Defying Gravity or When did I get old?

I know where I was when It happened. I don’t remember the date or time; maybe I was trying to deny the inevitable and erase it from my memory. But it happened, I stopped being “that girl”. No I don’t mean that ditzy Ann Marie from the 1960’s tv sitcom That Girl; I mean the girl who rock stars make a connection; the girl who could garner a smile from a total stranger.The one who the lead singer targeted in the audience.

I was the girl who stood out in a crowd. I am not being conceited because I was far from a strikingly beautiful person. My face was a little too full and I was never a thin person. But my grandfather always made me his photo test subject because I was photogenic. Maybe it was my smile or my blue-blue eyes. Whatever it was, I knew that I could capture the attention of XY gene carriers on a stage. I could feel their eyes connect with mine. Sometimes it was electric. I would smile and that smile was reciprocated. Sometimes their smile was a shy little smile and others an, out there, full grin. And while I could have been imagining it, I don’t think so. Because I remember when it ceased; more importantly, I remember how I felt.

Most times, this happened when my husband was with me; sitting (or standing) right next to me. It made me feel special. I was proud that I could catch the attention of someone other than my husband. No don’t get me wrong, I love my husband and would never do anything to lose his trust. And while this sounds very shallow and women out there may tell me I am demeaning myself, I was glad that I could stand next to my husband and know that I looked good for him and he could feel proud to have me next to him. And… other men knew that he was lucky to have me going home with him. It was nice to know I “had it.”

It was in 2010, the 35th anniversary tour for Air Supply. Kent likes to go to concerts and this was one that he really wanted to see. I agreed, even though I wasn’t readily familiar with the songs tied to the band name. (I am bad connecting song titles to bands. I was/am very familiar with their music. Now it all brings back sad memories).

Kent was excited for this concert. Famous for love songs that caused teen girls to swoon in the arms of their boyfriends. I am sure that Air Supply was responsible for many late night entanglement of arms and legs; you can imagine the rest. How could you not want to declare your undying love while, .“Lost in Love”, “All Out of Love”, “The One That You Love”, “Sweet Dreams”, or “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All”, played on your transistor radio. It was going to be a romantic evening, alone in a crowd, with my husband, I thought.

It was a small venue. We were in  a hotel meeting room area at one of the local casinos. The stage was set up and metal folding chairs were parallel from the stage edge to the back wall of the venue. We chose our seats and then chose them again. We kept moving around until we found, what we felt were the perfect seats. We were in the third row, square in the middle of that row, center stage. I was ready for a night of swooning with my husband.

I know it was the 35th anniversary show (I know that because I have a guitar pick advertising their 35th year tour) but WOW, Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock looked old. Their faces were fake baked (at least I thought their tans looked fake) and that really brought out Hitchcock’s silver fox colored hair. But what should I have expected from a band that was formed in 1975 and was still on the tour circuit. I would guess it had not been an easy life. Plus they were 60 and 61 years old.

The lights went down; you could feel the excitement, electricity in the air. And then the band came out, full of energy, even though they looked old, playing, singing with the same, smooth sounding voice, playing with eloquence and moving across the stage. And then the time came. It was time for “the contact”. Hitchcock’s eyes met mine. It was just a short glance and then, his eyes went to someone else. It felt like a cold, blank glance. I felt cold, unattractive. No, I felt old! and I was under the age of 50. I had lost it. Even thought the concert was great, the lack of an eyelock, is what stands out in my mind.

That was the beginning of a new era in my life. I was no longer “that girl”. I have been to concerts since 2010 and every concert is the same, I no longer have the same appeal. I am older. I am not the kind of “girl” who rock stars want to lock their eyes with. I am pretty sure that I still cause my husband’s heart to flutter. But I don’t think that men on the street look at my husband and say “What a lucky dog!” I still try to get the eye contact, but it is not meant to be.

I don’t know if I am okay with that, but it is what it is. I have yet to find a natural way to truly hide the wrinkles. I let my hair go natural and while there really is not that much gray, in fact very little, my hair does not have the same luster if I don’t add color. (By the way, after a year of no color, I have an appointment tomorrow). My face is finding gravity; my body is finding gravity. And it is taking more time to keep all that is me, together.

There are many reasons that I am blessed to be married to Kent. He puts up with all of my emotional days; days when it is hard to think positively and my mood comes out in my words. He puts up with my body changes and my, set in stone, beliefs. When my friends tell me that they don’t celebrate birthdays anymore, I say, “Heh, it’s better than the alternative!” I do believe that and while I believe I look pretty darn good for someone over 50, I wish I looked about 40 again, that was a good time for my face and body. So while I may look good for my age, and it is a compliment to hear, I wish I could learn how to naturally learn how to defy gravity and not look so old. I can’t see being so vain that I go under the knife.

I will age gracefully and maybe I will always look younger than my age, but I don’t know if I can accept that all of the things that are impossible to do at my age, are gone from my life.

Or maybe I should not limit myself. I have always said that if no one told me I couldn’t do something, that I could do anything. Maybe I should put that into practice. While I will never have another baby, maybe I could build up my stamina and canoe like I did as a teenager. (Somehow though, I think my all night partying days are over; that doesn’t even sound appealing to me anymore.)

To borrow an old, worn out saying, “You are only as old as you feel”. Maybe this is my inspiration to quit feeling sorry for myself and start feeling younger so I can truly reflect my youthful self.

How do you go about keeping yourself feeling young? How are you working at defying gravity and not needing to ask that question, “When did I get old?”

Now off to work out and start my new attitude! Okay, kidding! I am going to make some coffee, I think a chocolate peppermint latte this morning, and get ready for work.

taken just yesterday
taken just yesterday
At a volleyball coaches training with Karch Kiraly (natural curl in my hair)

At a volleyball coaches training with Karch Kiraly (natural curl in my hair 2010

It's all about the blue eyes. 2012

It’s all about the blue eyes. 2012

I can see a change over the years. I don’t know how it happens but it is a reality and definitely better than the alternative.

I guess I should just look at it all and age gracefully.