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.

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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.

Charlie Hebdo: In the trenches equal to Vietnam?

The images live in my mind, watching reporters put their life on the line. The tall weeds acting as a wall, separating the reporter from the carnage that was occurring before the lens. The sounds of the helicopter engines were so loud that the reporter had to yell into the microphone. That was how I learned about the Vietnam Conflict. It was because of those correspondents risking all that I decided I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to be that reporter, dodging bullets (and bombs), putting my life on the line to get out the truth.

It is reported that 63 news correspondents lost their lives during the Vietnam Conflict. Some of those deaths were execution style, others from stray artillery fire, while, at least one, French Journalist, Michel Laurent, was killed while trying to rescue another correspondent. http://pathofhistory.com/2012/05/28/michel-laurent-on-one-of-our-photographs/. Laurent, a photographer for the Gamma news Agency, was the last correspondent killed during the Vietnam Conflict.

Reporters, photographers and their support staff have always been in the middle of dangerous situations. The New York Times posted an article in 2006 that reported the following statistics:  From 2003-2006, 83 reporters and their support staff had been killed in Iraq,  17 were killed in Korea and 69 in World War II. The desire to report the news, while relatively safe, has always held risks. Reporting the news is not always about the cute babies and feel good events; sometimes it is reporting on natural disasters, or man-made disasters. Journalists, in all genres, put their lives out their, even when they do not expect it.

But who would think that media specialists would be risking their lives by just showing up to the office. That is what happened today with the terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo, a French Satirical Magazine. At this writing, twelve have died and the terrorist were still at large. French police described the scene as “carnage” and the attackers were heard yelling “Allahu Akbar”, which is an Islamic phrase meaning “God is Great!” (Multiple sources for this information, USA Today, NBC News, Fox News)

It is one thing to consciously put your life out there based on the story you are going to cover, a natural disaster, or war or conflict. It is a totally different affair to be attacked and killed because of a satirical editorial cartoon, or a controversial  story that was objectively written, in the security of your office.

I am an American! I believe in our First Amendment right which allows freedom of press: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.. – See more at: http://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment1.html#sthash.nXPWiqsw.dpuf

It gives me a heavy heart to know that, in these modern times, people still are losing their lives for expressing their opinion, in a controlled media. I know that there are exceptions to every case, but I believe that opinions are opinions and facts are facts. Charlie Hebdo does not discriminate; no one is immune to their satirical cartoons. While I do not like what they draw (it is very sexual and inappropriate), they have left nothing untouched. There have been cartoons on the Pope, on the French President, the British and the reason for the latest attack, the Muslim faith. I have not read of an attack initiated by the Pope or the President of France against Charlie Hebdo. (I have purposely not put a link to the Charlie Hebdo website. It truly is not something I would read and will not promote it. This is about an injustice to the employees by their senseless murders)

Rewind a few weeks, and you have the controversy with the movie The Interview. North Korean President, Kim Jong Un threatened retaliation on Sony Pictures if The Interview was released. The Sony hackers, reported to be from the North Korean government, threatened movie goers, the studio itself and the United States if the movie was released. After much consideration, Sony did release the movie online and in independent movie theaters. The online and VOD release earned 31 million dollars in two weeks. They will earn six more dollars from me today as I plan on renting it this afternoon, in support of a fiction movie that someone did not like.

I am a Christian woman. The Christian faith is challenged all of the time but you do not see me taking up arms to tell someone they are wrong. Some how, I do not think God finds violence the best way to handle these situations. I myself, am not without controversy. While I do not know for a fact, I am pretty sure that a relative of mine unfriended and blocked me on Facebook because my words did not set well with them. I thought this person had gotten off of Facebook (which does happen). But after some research, I found this person’s name on the FB page of other relatives. I put out facts, disputing their opinion, which is what a responsible individual would do to squash rumors and editorials represented as factual news. Because of that, I have been cut off from this family, which is sad. I really enjoy this person and their family. I do miss seeing the family posts.

But back to the news…it is apparent that the trenches run from the war-torn countries in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and so many more, to the desks of cartoonists in Paris and to the big screen. Too many think that violence is the end all to silencing that facts and opinions of others. One of my favorite quotes comes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I have used it a lot in the past six months and I end it here today:

Dr. King’s Question To Today’s Social Movements

http://justinh.org/2013/08/29/darkness-cannot-drive-out-darkness/

Find peace in your heart and the ignorance of others cannot weaken your fortitude.

 

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.”

A Christmas Carol

It is appropriate that on this Christmas Eve I write about “A Christmas Carol” It is my all time favorite story at Christmas time. Some of you might be saying, “But Jane, you write a lot about your faith. Shouldn’t the Nativity Story be your favorite?”

In your thinking, yes, the Nativity story should be my favorite. While it is why we celebrate Christmas, I relate so well to the characters or Charles Dickens. On a simplistic level, it is a story about a man who relives his life and sees that he could be a better person. Or, it is about money; how you don’t need money to be happy and sometimes money, or the love of money (very religious) can make you very lonely. I guess I should just say that “A Christmas Carol” is my favorite movie.

It is about family dysfunction and how unresolved feelings can make you a wreck. It is about the innocence of youth. I could keep going but the complexity is not my point. My point is about the world!

My last couple of writings have dealt with the troubles of this world as I see it. It has been about the need to be #1 and forget the facts. The facts can be figured out later. So with that, I begin.

As I was getting ready for our Christmas Eve service, I was watching the scene when Jacob Marley was visiting Ebenezer Scrooge. He talked about the chains that he forged, “oh, those seven years ago,” and how Scrooge’s chains were as long as Marley’s back then. Marley spoke of the additional chains that have been forged since his passing. And I started thinking about the Marley’s of the world; I began to wonder how many people are out there that too, have forged so many chains that they are not aware. That not until their death, did they realize the errors of their ways, the wrongs that they have committed here on this earth. And I felt sad for all of the Marley’s that live here today. That will learn when it is too late.

Then I began thinking of the Scrooge’s out there. I wasn’t thinking of the curmudgeon of a Scrooge because that would be Marley. No, I was thinking of the Scrooge’s out there that have had an epiphany and have changed their ways. I think of those people who were selfish and mean and now, for whatever reason, have become giving and caring and redemptive.  I think how lucky those people are to have the same opportunity that Ebenezer had to change his ways and become a better person.

When you think of “A Christmas Carol”, you cannot forget the spirits. Depending on the version of “A Christmas Carol” you watch determines the spirit that you get. Some of the versions have the Ghost of Christmas Past as a young woman, sometimes an old man. Sometimes the spirit is very serious and other times, almost like a silly goose (an oca loca, is what my daughter would say). The director has taken the story and used his/her own spin to decide that past.

I could see using the different characterizations because at the beginning, Scrooge seemed an abused child and therefore sad. After he became an apprentice to Fezziwig, he became jovial and full of life. But he became sad and angry into adulthood. Because of this, I could see where the ghost could be portrayed in different ways if your belief is the ghost could be a reflection of life.

It is interesting that the Ghost of Christmas Present may be presented differently in appearance but he seems to always be a ghost with a jovial laugh. There is always a great deal of food and light. It would appear that he will be uplifting but that is not the case. Yes, it is true that he shows many happy families and celebrations; but he also shows the reality of life. He reminds Ebenezer that there is poverty and hurt and despair in the world. And that Ebenezer has a responsibility to help if he has the means.

Sadly, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is always ominous, mysterious and scary. As child, it is scary to look at and I would seem to turn away when I was younger. As an adult it is the reminder of death and that it is looming. I know that ghost is to scare Ebenezer into seeing that his life is not worth much and that he garners no respect. But sometimes I wish this ghost would have different personas like the other ghosts. I guess maybe everyone who has produced a Christmas Carol story, felt that Dickens did a fine job with this character.

I don’t know that I have experienced a Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. I do think there are times that I am scared into looking at my present and how my present may affect my future. There are times that I wonder if I fall into the category of a Marley, that I do not see the chains that I have forged in my life – chains that will not be revealed until death.

I do love the end of the story; Ebenezer Scrooge has seen the light and for the rest of his days was a loving and giving man. I really hope that is how I  will be remembered, not for the awful things but for the good. I do not believe that I am a Scrooge; not a ‘before ghosts’ Scrooge or an ‘after ghosts’ Scrooge. I am probably a cross between Scrooge and Cratchit, not always bad but not always good.

I wish for everyone, the memorable Tiny Tim statement, “God Bless us, every one!”

Merry Christmas and Blessings to you all.

I need a job

“I need a job!” How many times have you said that? Actually, I remember just twice – once when I was graduated from college and had sent out a million (okay a little exaggeration) resume‘s to television stations and now. I have either been gainfully employed or, as a family, made the decision that a paying job was not best. All that has changed. I am not gainfully employed and the family has decided that I need to start providing an income.

So, “I need a job!” Do you know how hard it is for me to find a job/career when I have not had full-time work for almost 17 years? It is pretty darn hard, especially if I want to find a job/career in my field of study, contemporary media/journalism. I have been sending out resume’s via a job search website http://www.flexjobs.com.

My first experience of sending out resume’s, oh so many years ago, was all done by snail mail and the employer would respond back with a “Thank you, no jobs are available”, or “Thanks, but your qualifications do not match our needs.” Now you send out a resume’ for a job posting and the email response is…”Thank you for your application. While (insert company name) attempts to contact all candidates within a reasonable time, due to the high volume of applicants, we may not always be able to respond to each submission. We will contact potential candidates to schedule an interview. HR will keep your resume and information on file for future consideration.” I don’t have hundreds of applications out there, but I have either received the above statement or heard nothing at all.

Some problems I have been finding are employers want paid experience. I have been a volunteer writer/editor for a not-for-profit quarterly newsletter for over 3 years and have been their non-paid grant writer for two years. How can this not count as experience? My success rate for grants is over 50%. My understanding, that in the grant writing world, that percentage is successful.

I also have been writing, almost non-stop, since college. I either found a way to write in my job or was using my background for other organizations or businesses. I have written for the Girl Scouts – newsletters, brochures and other PR publications. I used my talent writing for our housing development, the Village of Kennard, Nebraska, Toastmaster’s International and presently, Camp Fontanelle in Fontanelle, NE. But the only job that I actually was paid for writing was at the television station. The other positions were not part of my job title but became a part of my job or was done as a volunteer. I even write articles for our local newspaper but once again, not a paid position.

I just need a chance, but cannot take a non-paid job. I blog regularly for practice and write for http://www.examiner.com. Examiner is more about getting practice and getting published. It cannot be my main source of income. I spend many hours a week, sometimes a day, and this is about all I can give non-paid.

I am learning about on-line writing. This is a new animal for me. This was not a possibility when I was in college because the internet did not exist. I don’t know if there are more writers out there or more people out there writing. But I am trying to brush up on my AP style writing and copywriting/editing. I am not expecting a miracle. I would like a writing position by mid-summer. I am being patient but I also know that I would rather write than work in customer service. It seems that is one of few options that I have since it has been 17 years since working full-time.

This blog is a place for my thoughts, experiences and feelings. While it is not meant to have huge SEO, there may be some, like you, who read this. If you have any words of advice or encouragement, please share. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Copper has died; Long live Copper in our hearts. (Thoughts on euthanasia)

Note: part of this was begun on Monday, November 26, a day before Copper died.

He was terminal. He was not going to get better. His bone marrow was not producing red blood cells and the RBCs he had were dying. He was dying. He was not that same dog that would jump from five steps up to get to the door to go outside. He didn’t want his favorite treat. He turned his head when I tried to give him a cooked turkey liver.

It was painful; not for him but for me as I watched him waste away by the hour. He was not suffering, physically. A low RBC, at its basic level, causes a person to be tired, lethargic. That was Copper, sometimes too tired to lift his head. It was not natural. It was not Copper.

(Below was written on the 26th. I have tried not to edit it as the writing was fresh and raw)

He was ‘hospitalized’ at the vet’s office and given an IV of meds to help him get better. Many tests were done and many things were ruled out but it was hard to come up with an answer as to why he was so ill; he looked healthy. Comparing blood tests started showing that his blood was deteriorating but the vet did not know if it was a production problem or a destruction problem.

We now have answers and have to look at what is best for our dog, our family member. Copper is not producing red blood cells. And the blood cells that he has are looking very tired. Soon he will not have any red blood cells in his body.

What does this mean to a dog or a person? Well, he gets tired very easily; he is lethargic; he has lost his appetite. That is because the red blood cells move oxygen around the body. That is not happening. Copper also has low platelets. That is actually why he was initially taken to the vet, he kept bleeding from the nose and mouth. It was just odd, but that is what happens when there are not enough platelets, you bleed, or when you start, it is hard to stop.

We had plans to be away from home for Thanksgiving. We did not know how Copper was going to handle us being away so we left him with the vet and kept our Tinkerbelle at home with our niece. When I went to pick up Copper today, we had one last blood test to confirm what the vet had feared; Copper was dying and it would not be long before he was dead. Through many tears, I learned all I needed to know to be able to go home and share with the family our options.

I now await the arrival of our children to discuss the end of life plan for our dearest family member, Copper. I brought Copper home so we can share our last moments, to have closure, to say to him what we need to say, to say good-bye. It is hard to believe that soon he will no longer be physically with us.

(That is all I could write. The rest was written today and is still wrought with emotion but there have been a few days to process what has happened)

Murphy’s Law went into action. Talking to the family did not go as planned. My son did not get my text because his phone had died so he did not come home right after school. I had to pick my daughter up from school because…my son did not get my text. Conversations were done individually.

The initial discussion happened with my husband as soon as Copper and I got home from the vet’s. Through a bucket full of tears, we talked about, not what was best for us but, what was best for Copper. He needed to be allowed to be at peace. I cannot say that he needed to be without pain because I could tell that he was not in pain. You live with someone for nine and a half years, you get to know them and he was not in pain; he was sad. The life that he had in his eyes before we went away for Thanksgiving was gone. Before he had a sparkle; that was gone. He was oh so skinny. He had lost 5 pounds, more than 25% of his body weight in three weeks.

Kent and I decided that we would have a discussion with our children about ending his misery. Kent went ahead and called Dr. Johnson and made an appointment to have him put down the next day. Our thought was, we could always cancel the appointment if the kids were not on board.

NOW, let me tell you, I believe in euthanasia. I have believed in euthanasia for as long as I can remember. I wrote term papers on passive euthanasia in high school and college. I gave speeches on euthanasia. Kent and I signed Living Wills, as soon as we were married, stating that we did not want to be kept alive by artificial means if there was no hope of recovery. We had that discussion again when a friend of ours was in a bicycle accident. It is not something that we don’t talk about. It is something that we discuss with family so everyone knows how we feel.

I spoke with my daughter as I drove the 10 miles from the high school to home. She asked if she needed to take over driving as the tears ran down my cheeks. But I said no because I needed something to concentrate on, even if it was only driving a road that I have driven thousands of times. She knew what I was going to say. She had been preparing since I had sent the text 5 hours prior. She knew and she knew that Copper needed to be released. She was not fine but she was okay.

My son got home after martial arts and we had the talk. I can still hear him say, “Oh, Copper,” the way he did almost every day. I told him, as I had told my daughter, that he needed to say his goodbyes because tomorrow was the day.

Monday was a blur. And Tuesday came too quickly.

We have a dog door that goes into the garage where the dogs have a special place to get out of Nebraska weather. There are also dog houses and chairs for them to sit on outside, when the weather is nice. Needless to say, our dogs are very spoiled.

Well, we put Copper in the garage to be with Tinkerbelle and I would go out an check on him frequently. There were a few times throughout the day, I would go out and lie next to him, stroke his soft, curly hair and just talk. Talk to him about how much I loved him and how lucky we were to have him in our lives. I told him that what we were doing was to make him well in another place (I do believe that an animal’s life does not end here on Earth. I have to believe that) I also told him I was sorry because what we were doing, no matter how much I thought it was the correct decision, was a hard decision.

About 45 minutes before he was to go to the vet’s, I picked him up; he was no longer able to walk much of a distance without tripping or falling. I took him outside and told him to ‘go potty’. He stumbled around a little and then I picked him up and brought him inside. I sat holding him on the ‘dog sofa’. It was the last time I would hold him. His head lie limply on my chest. I was hoping he could hear my heart beat and know that it was more than just an organ that pushed blood throughout my body. I was hoping he knew that it was a heart that was breaking, that was so full of love, that it needed to let him go so  he could be healed. I just took it all in and prayed that there really was a Rainbow Bridge that our pets crossed over to another life.

It was decided that Tinkerbelle would go to the vet’s with me so she knew that Copper had died. She needed to know that Copper was not coming home. She had seen him leave over the past three weeks and he had always come home. Tinkerbelle needed to know that her friend would not be around anymore.

Dr. Johnson told me on Monday that the process would take about 20 minutes but I needed to block out an hour in case his office got busy. He wanted the process to happen without interruption so he wanted me to be prepared to not have things begin at the scheduled time. I was okay with that.

We drove to town and I continued to talk to both dogs the whole way. The tears had not started, yet. Getting out of the car I had Copper in my arms and little Tinkerbelle on a leash. Tinkerbelle was nervous because the last time she was at the vet office was to give a blood transfusion to Copper when we did not have a diagnosis.

(I am going to explain the process and my experience. If you do not want to read about it, please go down to the XXXXXX’s. You can start reading again after that).

It was 4:45. The office was not busy. It was us and the office staff. We were directed into the room where we always go; the exam room where we learned of Copper’s fate. I laid Copper on the cold, stainless steel table and continued stroking his coat. Tinkerbelle was roaming the exam room, shaking like a leaf, not sure what to expect.

The vet and his assistant came into the room and again explained the procedure that was going to occur. He had explained it Monday to make sure that we were completely informed as to what would happen. Euthanasia is derived from two Greek words which together mean ‘good death’. That is what we wanted for Copper, a good death.

It was time. I let the assistant take over controlling Copper on the table. It was really not necessary because he was lying there not moving but I moved to petting his head and hoping he felt the love. Doc Johnson leaned over and whispered something in Copper’s ear. I don’t know what was said, but I imagine it was something about everything was going to be okay, he was going to be in a better place, he was loved. It was their private moment.

At this time, I picked up Tinkerbelle and held her as Copper’s leg was shaved for the injection. A tourniquet was put around his leg and Doc tried to find the vein. “That vein is gone.” Oh wow! He explained that he needed to prep the other back leg. So he moved that leg aside and shaved his other leg and put a tourniquet on it. He told me that he was able to find that vein and started the injection.

I swear that within 30 seconds he looked at me and said, “He is gone”. I looked shocked and said, “So soon.” He looked at my tear filled eyes and said, “He was almost there. He just needed a little help.”

It was peaceful. There was no release of air from his lungs. There were no fluids leaving his body (which I knew was a possibility at death). His eyes stayed open (which I have read is natural). I think that is why I was so surprised that he was dead. It took less than a minute and his eyes were open. Oh Man! Copper was dead!

Dr. Johnson told his assistant to go get a towel so Copper could be laid on the floor for Tinkerbelle to see him. I don’t know if it was the assistant or the doctor that laid Copper on the floor. All I remember is when Copper was picked up, his head flopped back because it was not supported; the sign I needed that confirmed his death. I know that sounds weird but him laying on the table and his chest not rising, did not confirm it for me; the vet saying he was dead did not confirm it. His head flop confirmed it and I was sad.

Tinkerbelle sniffed a little but would not get close to Copper. I put her tennis ball close, but she would not go after it. I knew she knew Copper was dead because nothing would stop Tinkerbelle from going after her tennis ball.

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Dr. Johnson explained, on Monday, that Tinkerbelle would go through the same grieving process that a person goes through. We were not to be surprised if she started ripping up pillows and that was okay because she needed to work through her grief. I have seen a change in Tinkerbelle. She does want to be held more. She does not rollick in the back yard like she did with Copper. She will get better. We just have to be patient. (She still likes her tennis balls though!)

It is appropriate that as I write this the vet office called and said Copper’s ashes are ready for pick up. We opted to have him cremated. We will decide at a later date whether to have has ashes stored in an urn (which my son wants to make in Advanced Pottery) or have his ashes spread in a favorite spot.

Copper is dead but he will forever live in the heart’s of those who loved him. My grief is not over. But I am better. And I know Copper is better. Two comments were made that put a smile on my face: from my sister who commented after I sent out an announcement to family and close friends,  ‘I just wondered how Copper was doing. He’s doing GREAT! He and Jake are chasing butterflies beyond the Rainbow Bridge. I’ve got tears for you all and for all our wonderful nonhuman family members. You’re right, they do tell you when they’re ready to go, even if you’re not ready.’ And from my neighbor after I posted his ‘obituary’ on Facebook, ‘We all are sorry to hear about Copper.  Will miss seeing him romp through the side yard!’ 

I am so grateful for the person who envisioned the Rainbow Bridge, a place for our beloved pets to roam after death. Whether it is true or not, whether they cross the Rainbow Bridge or head directly to ‘people’ Heaven, I have hope that Copper will be with me again, when my time comes. http://www.rainbowbridge.com/hello.htm

Blessings to all of you who have suffered the death of a pet. Copper’s death is probably one of the most devastating deaths that I have experienced. He was always true and loving and never judged me (at least I can believe that because he could not speak to me in human speak). There will never be another Copper.

In memory of Hollybriar Copper Wired Van Horn b. 5/21/03 d. 11/27/12

This is the last photo taken of Copper

This is the last photo taken of Copper