Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wisdom From the Trenches

I am 48 years old, reasonably educated, and have been married for 27 years this July.  I have two children: 22 and 19 and have survived the teenage years, Rush, college tuition, and am now about to launch the first one out of the nest in the coming months.  I am a cat a sweet, but inbred outdoor cat named Elle who loves us then she is afraid of us then she loves us and on and on.  I'm also the owner of two dogs - Rebel and Dixie - and have been the former owner of two sweet dogs who are waiting on me at the pearly gates...Hannah and Harley. 

I've been a Christian since I was 10, but have had periods of my life where it was impossible to know it, and I'm not really proud of that at all.  I struggle with my weight but I don't struggle with spelling, thinking outside the box or knowing that I am immensely blessed.  Many of my dreams have come true and others have just changed so much over time that I barely know what I could have possibly been thinking when I had some of those dreams in the first place.

I know a wide variety of people and I love them where they are.  Primarily because I know that change in everything...including inevitable.  I also know that nobody is perfect...but that given the encouragement to just be themselves...most come extremely close.  Although I am not always good about keeping up with people and what is going on...I like to think that my friends know that I care and that they can call me at any point in time to share whatever it is that needs sharing.

I get excited about other people finding success and I don't hesitate to share their joy because there is no conceivable way that I could possibly do some of what my friends accomplish.  I cheer on the kids I know because I don't think that most of us realize that sometimes the people who should be filling kids up drop the ball and as a result lives are changed because those kids think that even at their best...nobody cares about them.  If I see something worthy of praise...I more often than not am going to be fairly obnoxious in that praise.  I make every attempt possible to be as honest as I can, though, because the last thing I personally need is someone pumping sunshine into places where it doesn't belong...and I pretty much feel that this is a universal sentiment.  We in the South tend to struggle with being so positive and nice to everyone that our words can evaporate into unbelievability.

I've dreamed big dreams for my children but I'm aware that they are at that point in time where they have to pick up the threads of my dreams for them and either hand them back to me to tie up and forget or carry them forth into their futures with their own unique spin.  Thankfully, they are both amazingly low-key like their Dad, and surprisingly talented in their own unique ways.  Jill has never worked for anyone who wouldn't take her back as an employee in a second...and Brian can do pretty much anything mechanical, mathematical or culinary...all of which elude me.  Big time.

I live in Alabama...where people don't call me KAY-RUN...although I'm actually okay with my sweet Georgia friends who do.  I have good, solid, Christian friends here who will not hesitate to support me, and I've somehow managed to stay employed in the field of banking since I started working at age 22.

I can carry a tune, but have no range.  I love rock music but don't really hate other genres of music except possibly rap if the WalMart version sounds like a recording of the Emergency Broadcast Service because everything has been bleeped.  OH...and most Barry Manilow...and Chicago.   I love praise music in church, but I don't like to stand up longer than ten minutes because I'm a bit lazy.

Okay...maybe more than a bit.

I'm an indoor person and would prefer to be on the computer, reading a book, or watching a movie.  However, I like the outdoors and LOVE the beach...but I am not a fan of wicked hot summers that feel like the portal of Hades...when the swimming pool feels like a hot tub and I look like I've just finished a set at Madison Square Garden with my band.  Except that I don't have a band.

In short...I have lived and loved and worked and watched and hoped and dreamed and prayed and waited.

During all of this...I have gathered up some little bursts of wisdom either from other people, personal experience or more commonly...messing up.  Here it is.  For what it's worth.  Which may be nothing...but eh, you'll read or not read...totally up to you.

1. If you have a daughter, her father's opinion of her...the time he spends with her, how he treats her, and what he pours into her will far exceed anything her mother or anyone else does. 

Encourage this relationship to be wonderful and if your husband is shy about stepping up to take care of his baby girl and being the father she deserves...remind him that he is the most important person in her life in shaping who she believes herself to be.  Yes, it is possible for someone else to step in if he is missing through death or other circumstances.  But if he is there...he needs to know his importance...and act accordingly. 

(Thank you, Big Dave, for listening to me all of those years ago and taking this as your own personal crusade years later on your own.  You are amazing.)

2. It is okay to ask for help.

Sometimes people ask for help when they are really just being lazy or are failing to channel their inner-Scarlett, but often folks will struggle in silence because it is just easier to not be accountable.  Trust me on this.

I have met my share of martyrs in this life and as much as they are appreciated...the frustration that they cause because nobody knows quite what to do or say is usually equal or more than any good that they ever do.  Worse...they never seem to feel the love...but they can sure enough feel that disdain.  So they do more.  And more.  And then one all comes crashing down when something shifts their footing and they find that they are holding up everything in their own strength. 

I find that sometimes the bravest people are those that just go, "HEY...I'm struggling." to the right people.  Not the people who they want to be there for them because they want a favor returned...but those who are actually standing there waiting for instructions.  Even better if they aren't waiting but are just handling things without input because they know you so well that words aren't really necessary.  Not in that annoying controlling way...but in that quiet, loving, "I'm the real deal" friend way that we all have and normally fail to appreciate fully.

You know...the ones who will tell you when you're better than you think you are, that you messed up but that failure isn't fatal, and that although your ship came in and you were at the airport...there will be other ships.  Who will hold your hand and whisper things to you like Abileen in "The Help."

If you need help.  Ask.  Better yet...surround yourself with people who love you so much that you can count on an enthusiastic YES when you do. Or maybe just a YES with a little less enthusiasm.  But that will be enough.

3. Accept that everyone has a thorn in the flesh.  It may not be obvious...but it is there.  For some of us it is failure in an area of life that is public...and for others it is something that you'd never expect unless they tell you.  Ask yourself this..."if I pray that this thorn is removed and it is not...will I still make every effort to be happy?" 

The answer to this question is YES.  Decide to be happy now!  Why wait?

I have spent a lot of years whining because it isn't "fair" that I can't eat anything without thinking about it.  I have been so angry about it, actually, that I just said "whatever" and ate...well...whatever.  What I failed to appreciate was that it was put in my life to keep my eyes on God.  My skinny friends may suffer with medical issues, money problems, or a child who is dancing on a pole somewhere to their dismay.  I know not.  (Really...please don't send me e-mails asking me who I'm talking about because to my knowledge this was just a random example pulled out of thin air.)

Just because my thorn is public doesn't mean that other people don't have pain.  They do. 

Remember that the people you encounter may be a pain in the nether regions because they are struggling with something that you cannot see.  The people that appear to be together may be appearing to be perfect so that they don't just fall apart at the seams.  It is so hard to tell.  Just reserve your judgments...or better yet...don't judge at all.

4. Do not compare yourself to others...what they they look...what they can do.  Instead, get on the sidelines of whatever it is that they are doing, shake your pom-poms and cheer. 

There are far too many people sitting in the stands being envious and far too few cheerleaders.  I didn't make the cheerleading team in high school...but I've been dang determined to be on the cheerleading team in life.

We all should be.  After all, anyone that crosses our path is actually our mission field.  You don't have to be sent to Africa, Japan, or England.  But if you are...I'll be all about supporting you in that as well.

My friend, Hazel, takes the most breathtaking nature pictures you can imagine.  My friend, Andrea, loves daylilies so much that she has gone into business.  A former French teacher of my children has started taking gorgeous wedding pictures that are breathtaking.  My friend, Courtney, is blogging every step of her wedding for us to walk through it with her in real time.  My friends, Buddy and his wife, Jodi, are working out and honestly look like Malibu Barbie and Ken in their profile pictures.  My friend, Kayla, puts up jelly and all sorts of bounty from her farm and my friend, Libbie, is building a house.
I have a friend, Pam, that cracks me up talking about her dogs, and a friend, Cindy, that is expanding her card-making business.  My friend, Chrystie, is planning a girls' trip when she isn't busy doing a million other things that are fun or creative, and I have a cousin, Lynne, who is getting stronger every day as a survivor of breast cancer.  Each of these people in my life either give me something to get excited about for one reason or another.  I could go on and on...but I won't.  About this anyway.  Just know that I could. 

Because every person that I know has something to offer and something to be excited for them or with them about.

Beats whining all of the time.  I should know...because whining actually comes to me far easier than anything.  Your life may not look like you want.  Change one thing..  You may feel unfairly treated.  Aren't we all?  You don't feel like it.  Well, feeling follows action.  So, get out of the stands and start cheering.  You are blessed.  Accept that.

4. Every single person on this earth...even those who drive you absolutely nuts...has something good about them.  Your job is to find it. 

I can already virtually "see" the eye rolling, and I can imagine that some of you are going..."Yeah, whatever...she doesn't know *fill in the blank* that I live with/work for/mother/survive.

Oh, but I do.  If you have walked this earth for any period of time from junior high know that there are some people that just seem to relish the idea of bursting your bubble.  Yes.

That person that I worked for years ago that I referred to as "The Wicked Witch of the North"?  Well, she taught me about sushi, CYA, and how to succeed in spite of giant obstacles.  And much like having leg weights on your ankles...when they are removed...the muscles are strengthened.  When I was unshackled from working from I went.  And I have never looked back.

I also had a Credit Administrator who was impossible to deal with and picked apart every single loan presentation I sent to him.  I worked hard to make sure that I did my homework and answered any question that I could conceive might be asked.  That trained me for my next job and the one after it.  One of my regrets in life is that I didn't send him a thank you note for being so hard on me after I left the bank at which he worked.  He died a short time later from a massive stroke.  But I've never forgotten him...and how sometimes the people who are like sandpaper to your spirit are actually polishing you for something better in your life.

Not everyone put into our lives is a roomful of roses...sometimes a few are more like poison ivy or sand spurs.  But there is a spark of the divine in everyone.  Keep looking for it.

5. You have to have something to look forward to...or you will lose your mind.

Life is either busy, overwhelming, or tedious...depending on which stage of life you are currently in as you read this. If you are need to look forward to a time of rest.  If you are have to be able to look forward to a time of peace.  And if you are in a tedious need something to get excited about.  I've found that through the years...not having some little rabbit out there for me to chase like a greyhound around a track makes everything far more difficult and less appealing than it deserves to be.

Right now, I am no longer overwhelmed that often...although I do enter that arena around the holidays and occasionally when I forget to say "no" often enough.  I usually schedule time out to do absolutely nothing the week before Christmas because by that time I am incapable of being terribly productive anyway.  For other people it may be a piece of Godiva chocolate at the end of a month of working out faithfully, or better yet...a pedicure.  I don't know what rocks your world...but remember to reload those carrots in the machine and keep running around that track.  It does seem to help. 

I know some people who find something fabulous about every single day.  Sometimes I feel exactly that way, too.  But some days one of my favorite authors, Jen Lancaster, says "blow goats."  Keep looking for the little joys...but keep something out there to look forward to as happiness insurance, if nothing else.

6. Realize that if you are a Christian...what you want to do isn't nearly as important as what He wants you to do. 

This one has taken me years to even verbalize...but how much better would my life have been if I had stopped and asked in fervent prayer for the answers I needed to move from point A to point B?  Oh, but no.  I had to wait until I had exhausted all possibilities that I could envision in my own finite little mind before finally messing it so badly that I ended up in fervent prayer anyway.  But instead of asking for guidance...I was often asking for forgiveness along with it.

If you are at a crossroads in life.  Stop.  Look up. Get on your knees and enlist an army of prayer warriors to pray for you and with you.  Ask for help and plead to the Lord for His favor.  And then wait.  I have found that He doesn't like being never late...but His timing will more often than not be different from your own.  Brace yourself. 

And then years from now...when you remember those prayers and this time in your life...look back and go "wow." 

7. Embrace your age.  Let the 20 year olds have the low cut jeans and the platform shoes. 

I really do embrace this one...perhaps a little too much.  I am not saying that you should be frumpy (which is what I think I embrace more often than not) but I'm saying that if you are sharing clothes with your daughter or might want to rethink that.  My thoughts always repeats itself.  If you wore it the first can't wear it the second.  Or the third. 

Unless, of course, you want us to add "bless her heart" every time your name is mentioned.  Because, sadly, that IS what happens.  (You weren't imagining it.) 

Be comfortable...cute...and fabulous.  Pull off what you can...but be proud to be 30 or 40 or whatever.  You've earned it!

8. Know what you believe.  And be prepared to explain it.  Ad nauseum.

I am sometimes stunned by the fact that some people do not know why they vote a certain way, attend a certain church, or do some of the things that they do.  I don't care if you are fourteen or need to know who you are, what you believe..and be able to support your position.

If you are a Christian...why?  Why do you attend the church you do?  Why are you pro-life or pro-choice?  Why do you vote Democrat or Republican?  How do you feel about gay marriage?  Muslims?  Welfare? 

I find that most people don't really know.  I know people that vote Democrat just because they always have, and people who go to church and don't honestly understand the Trinity.  So they let other people do their research and thinking for them.  Educate yourself...decide for yourself...and then stick to your guns.  (Or be anti-gun...whatever.)  Just remember that sometimes what you thought you understood may be entirely different from reality. 

Take Warren Buffet for instance.  Personally, as a banker, I used to have tremendous respect for Warren Buffet because I knew that he was successful and figured that the man must be absolutely brilliant.  And then I started getting his political views.  When I saw was the nail in the coffin of my favorable opinion, so to speak...

No.  Just no.

So, know what you believe, believe fervently, and keep growing and learning as everything changes over time.  And try to get that video out of your mind.  Best of luck with that.

10. Love. 

This one is the easiest to say...but the most difficult to do.  Most of us know that there are three kinds of love...eros...which is romantic love (and makes YOU feel happy), philos...which is brotherly love (which also makes YOU feel happy), and agape...which is unconditional love (and is totally not about YOU).  Most of us can handle the first two...the last one?  Not so much.

Face the fact that some people are just going to be...well...a hassle sometimes.  Try to remember the following...

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

-this version is credited to Mother Teresa

2. The Original Version:

The Paradoxical Commandments

by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.

Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.

Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.

Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.

Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.

Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

Thanks for always.   Sorry that tonight's post was all about ME...but um...well.  Never mind.  Seriously, thanks for reading.


  1. So true Karen, so true. thank you for sharing your point of views. What I really want to do is copy and paste the blog's web address into an email and send to all my friends. Would that be a no-no?...Knoxye. (I am anonymous because I dont know what my url is.) :(

  2. :) you are always welcome to share! Hopefully, if they like it, they will follow the blog as well! :) Thank you for the support!