Monday, September 16, 2013


Today I am feeling a little bit lighter.  Unshackled.  Freer.  In spite of the fact that today is Monday, I actually am a little bit hopeful.  Not that this can't be dashed in a New York minute once I begin my day in earnest.  But for now...I'm enjoying it.

I feel lighter in that I quit eating junk and have started actually thinking about everything that goes into my body.  I'm 50 years old, and I am the sum total of some really good genes and some really heinous decisions.  But I can't reverse my affection for the drive-thru or the appreciation for coffee in the morning.  For loving to celebrate with food and for hating to leave anything on my plate.  For enjoying starches and detesting brussels sprouts.  It pretty much is what it is, you know.

Don't even get me started on party food.  That's "Danger! Will Robinson!" territory if I've ever seen it.

I am not on some weight loss plan, not trying to convert the world, and not really that worried about it.  I know I should be worried.  I mean, I do have mirrors around here.  But I've finally come to accept that my best isn't going to match that of people who have been meticulous and active all of the years that I chose to let it fly and sit it out.  I've had periods of living that life during these intervening years of looking great and where I am now...and because of those...I have the courage to pick up the plow and start moving.  But I am at a place where I'm finally ready to turn down something in spite of how good it looks.  Where I'm content to just have a bite and take the rest home.  Where I'm okay with salad every day for a week or cutting my portion size at the exact point where I feel full instead of when whatever it is has been completely eaten.

I've set some goals for myself that I don't dare share for fear that someone will tell me it can't be done and I'll believe them.  I have decided to push myself even though I'm quite certain I look ridiculous doing it and I may pass out from mouth-breathing (yes, ragweed season is the devil).  I've decided to test my limits and see what happens.  It will more than likely take months just to see anything close to results.

But the gradual changes will be there.  The ability to do one more rep, or not to quit when every fiber of my being is telling me to stop because I can make it to "...4-3-2-1...well done!"  It will be the quiet realizations that will keep me going.  That an an extremely supportive coach or two that I have leading classes that I take.  The guy in the gym who tells me "keep it up, rock star!" every time he sees me.  The hair that looks like Sasquatch's when I finish wallowing on the floor doing something that is supposed to make me stronger.

I am stronger.  I will be even stronger.

But the lightness of mood doesn't end is also because I've decided to free myself of twelve boxes of items that are currently serving no purpose in my life other than to make me feel guilty.  Uncomfortable.  Like something needs to be done all of the time.  As though I cannot enjoy my entire home or any weekend because I don't have a handle on it.  I had kept it thinking that I'd have a yard sale someday.  I rethought that after remembering that I don't have good luck at yard sales, I have no desire to waste a Friday night and a Saturday morning putting this stuff out for people to offer me a dollar for the privilege to cart off.  I think I'd prefer that it be shipped off to Goodwill and let them have what would probably bring less than $200 if I sold every item.  It is a small price to pay for my sanity and for this feeling of lightness.

Lightness is one of those things that is highly underestimated.  I'm referring to lightness of spirit in this instance.  The freedom to be spontaneous because you have time not managing "stuff."  The joy of taking care of the "stuff" that you have.  The enjoyment of seeing the "stuff" that makes you happy because it is in your world.  Most of us spend way too much time overwhelmed with we put it in a storage facility.  Or the attic.  Or the garage.  Or a closet.  Before long, we are to the gills with items that need to be moved along.  Desperately.

In the boxes outside is a coat that my daughter wore in 5th grade.  I know this because her teacher's name was on the tag.  It has been hanging in there for half her life.  But it was too good to throw away, and since she has been almost the same size since that time...we kept it.  We have sheets for beds that are mismatched and the old beach towels that have long since been replaced with ones that we like much better.  There are books and decorative items and some things that sounded like a good idea at the time...but so weren't...or we've moved on and replaced them with something else.  There are old sofa pillows and pencil boxes.  Baskets and what-not.  All manner of items that are in good condition...but who followed us from house to house (Jill lived in four different places in college...each with a different decorating theme) or just for whatever reason are no longer serving any purpose other than to make me crazy.

No longer.

Today I feel lighter knowing that this job is done.  Three closets are cleaned out.  Two remain.  One will need Brian to sit there and give me a "yay" or "nay" to various items.  The other will require Big Dave.

That'll be interesting.

I suppose what I'd like to share on the other side of that it is possible to start.  To just decide.  To move past the excuses, lack of time, or even the desire to address something.  I am finding that it is the kindest thing that I've done for myself lately...this moving toward my goals.  It has taken me months...and possibly even get to this point.  And I may fall back into old habits again.  I'll have to fight that tendency and that uphill battle every day.

I believe that when we release "things" and the hold that they have on our mental energy...that we are freer to follow what God intends for our life.  In my life those "things" are food, the control I like to maintain over my schedule, and the items that are all over my house demanding my attention in terms of dusting, or washing, or finding a place for it to reside.  I'm freer just saying "no" to my own desires and saying "yes" to being under the yoke of discipline.  Because that yoke is light...and discipline is freedom.

It really is.

So, as you go out into your life today...just remember to travel lightly.  We can't take it with us, and between us...I don't want my kids to have to sort it.  I want them to be free to live their lives without that cloud hanging over them that my poor Mom and her siblings did when my sweet Gammy's house had to be dealt with in 2006.  It took them four years to get up the courage to face it.  Not kidding.

I wish you the best in whatever makes you lighter today.  Be it eating to glorify God through the temple that He resides in or the home that He has given you to live here while waiting to go Home.  I don't know.  I know that my body, my home and my spirit have huge "Under Renovation" signs out in front.  The load is lighter already just putting up the signs.

Have a wonderful day.  I hope that it is filled with lightness.  And joy.  Peace.  Love.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


This week was the beginning of "Apples of Gold" - which is sponsored by my church that you can read more about here,  In a nutshell, it is a program that pairs older (chronologically...we won't claim anything other than this) and younger women in a seven week program.  Two hours each Tuesday night are spent socializing, having a cooking demonstration, a "talk" on one of six topics and then a meal that is presented on beautifully decorated tables.  There are usually about thirty of us there each it is a lot of work...yet totally worth it.  Before they leave, the "Apples" -  the term given to the younger women - also receive recipes and a take home gift that totally rocks along with a little gift from whoever is teaching that relates to the lesson.  It is like Christmas every Tuesday in terms of having people love on you when you are an Apple.  It really is.

I should know.  I was an "Apple" five years ago.  If you want to relive that experience...and it would take awhile to do it because I condensed each week plus what was going on in my crazy life at the time into one extraordinarily long blogpost.  Pop some popcorn and enjoy here.

The "mature" (uh, no) women are referred to as "mentors" - which is an awesome concept...but when you feel on the inside like they look on the is really a unique experience.  They make the transition from calling all of us "Miss *whatever*" (obviously, Karen, in my case) and start calling us by our first names.  That's tough when your Mama has drilled manners into you for the majority of your existence.  But they learn.  We get the opportunity through them to remember how tough it is to be in our 20's and 30's when we thought we were fat and that there weren't enough hours in the day.  When we worried about how to do things and the grass always looked greener on the other side (stay at home moms versus working moms...that kind of thing.)


Oh, my, that wasn't very kind was it?

No.  No it wasn't.  That's because when you get to be fifty years old...and I'm told it gets even more so later have survived so much or held the hair, hands, or the children of so many of your friends through various life experiences that you just cannot relate to someone being devastated over gaining five pounds on a cruise.  Okay, maybe that's just me.

And yet we try to relate.  Because what is important to them should be important to us.  Our job is to tell them that it is not earth-shattering and that they will be tested repeatedly throughout their lives and that the best defense is a good family and friend support system.  That the body of Christ is not just something that Christians say in some kind of language that outsiders don't understand...but it is a reality.  We all have different gifts and that's really okay.  In fact, it is better than is awesome.  We don't have to dislike someone because they have it easier than we do or because they have more or even more amazing talents that we wish we had to offer.  We learn that our gifts and talents are valuable and the employment of the gifts is what matters.

They learn that you don't have to be perfect and that it is possible to make something out of nothing (or from the Dollar Tree at worst).  We learn that even though we'd love to have thighs that don't giggle and arms that aren't wings...we are really happy that we've made it from where they are to where we are.  Even if we look like we flew there.  (Oh, come on...we can't all be Michelle Obama.  Thank goodness.)


The talk this week was on kindness...and that means that God will use this opportunity to test me.  I'll jump on ahead and tell you that I teach "submission" in three weeks - which is a subject that is not for the feint of heart.  I look at it as a way to impart some of the wisdom I've gained in 28 years of marriage...and I hold to that "those who who can't...teach."  But as you read that...bear in mind that I have the utmost respect for teachers of every kind.  I just know that this saying most assuredly refers to me.  At least with this subject.

And no, I don't feel like a fraud for telling them the truth but still struggling with some aspects of it.  I'm human.  I'm strong-willed.  I've been married for 28 years.

Kindness is a difficult subject to broach because it looks different to everyone - much like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Some people believe it is kind to share your time...others think you should share your money.  Some folks want you to share your talents to be considered "kind" and others are just happy if you are pleasant or inclusive.

To me, kindness means that you give people the benefit of the doubt before you chew them a new one.  That you actually stop to make sure that something isn't going on in their lives that would necessitate not being pinned to the wall...if they are being boneheaded.   It means speaking to people when you see them instead of darting into another aisle so that you don't have to engage them in conversation at WalMart.  Yes, I understand avoidance when one is devoid of makeup or dressed in something that almost qualifies you for "People of WalMart"...but still...  It means that you treat them the same as you treat everyone else without regard to their backgrounds, what they can do for you, or some perceived pecking order of importance.  It means doing something for someone if you can without expecting anything in return just because they might benefit from it.  It is letting people know when you see them doing something amazing...or even just making progress.  It is speaking gently, expecting the best, and spreading the sweet perfume of Jesus in everything you do.

Basically, it is not being rude, short tempered, preferential, or moody.  It is not, however, being a doormat.

We all know doormats.  And we want to smack them.  Sometimes that's actually the kind thing to do, because life is too short for all of that.  It really is.  I am not suggesting that we adopt rudeness as an alternative...but I do believe that there are times when you just have to let people know that they've crossed a line with you.  Not tell everyone BUT them...tell THEM.

So, this week has been quite the experience in being re-educated on kindness.  So far this week, I've had people steal my parking place, annoy me, push me when I'm tired (or sore from the gym), not do what they said they'd do, find picky things wrong with this or that, or forget to call his mother (he'd better be studying).

But the mother of all things is my tendency to get into "comment wars" on social media due to my disdain for people who insist on being idiotic.  See?  Houston, we most definitely have a problem with this sister's attitude.  So, I'm going to have to back off for a few days and not try to save the world.  My cape is in the cleaners, so to speak.

But back to kindness.  It is so important and yet so tough to pull off sometimes.  We want to do something for someone and they don't want our help.  We want to say the right thing and we end up bungling our words.  We think that we are called to make it better and we end up feeling like we should have just left it alone.  In those cases...maybe we should have.  Kindness can require some execution to pull off something bigger...but what I think is equally important is the small things.  Holding the door for a mother with a stoller, letting someone with four items at the grocery go ahead of you and your full cart and coupons, or just speaking to someone and waiting for their response when you ask "How are you?"  We in the South are incredibly guilty about asking and then moving on because we expect the answer to be "fine."  Sometimes it isn't.  We need to wait just in case.

Here's the Apples of Gold verse that the program is based upon: "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the work of God." - Titus 2:3-5

Yeah.  I have some work to do.  Rather, God has some work to do in me.  I don't consider myself an unkind person, but that would depend on who you ask.  And when.  This must change.

I know that there are times when we are not well, overwhelmed or just cannot give people the time we'd like.  There are also burdens we carry that make us a bit oblivious to others sometimes.  But the default mode should be "kindness." Even if it is about drama regarding a five pound weight loss.  Or learning to cook rice properly.  Or fill in anything that you find inconsequential and silly to you.  You are still obligated to be kind because you really never know what your extra attention might mean.

Not fake.  Not insincere.  Not a doormat.  Just kind.  Whatever that looks like to you and how you think it might affect someone else in a positive manner.

I do love the "Apples of Gold" program and have a feeling that I'm going to learn a lot through it over the next few weeks.  I always do.  Especially the week that I teach.  Yes, God has a sense of humor.  I will inevitably have several examples to share with them.  Current ones.  Oy.

Next week is "Loving Your Husband."  That should be easier...but it won't be.  I'll keep you posted...because the week after that is "Loving Your Children."  In the meantime, I'm still trying to be kind - which in some cases is harder than it should be.  Again, I really need to work on that.

That and the first five pounds of the ridiculous amount of weight that I need to lose.  Maybe then I can more kindly relate more readily to the sweet Apples if I am dieting right along with them.  Hope so.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Tired - Tried - Tied

Today I am fighting a battle. Oh, nothing like true warriors who are fighting life or because they are paid to do so...but a battle with myself.  There are times in our lives when we have to just sit and give ourselves a good lecture.  Tell ourselves that it is not too late to change, not too difficult to do, and not too ridiculous to get back on the horse after being thrown off countless times.  Figuratively, not literally, that last one, by the way.  I've never been thrown off of a horse, but that's because I've made it a practice to stay off of horses.  I think that they are beautiful and majestic animals and I love looking at them in the field a half mile from my house.  That's close enough for me.

I'm not trying to put rules and restrictions on myself, put myself on a program, or even tell myself that I'm out of time to make a decision.  I'm not going to give myself a hard time, be angry at my foolishness, or even curse the fact that I have this thorn in the flesh when others do not.  I'm not making excuses, berating myself, or even complaining about it.

All of that is futile, unproductive, and in my unique case - tired and tried.  

Did you notice that the words "tired" and the words "tried" have the same letters in them.  Just two letters turned around make all of the difference in the world?  No wonder people trying to learn English think it is ridiculous.  I thought French was hard (and it is, by the way...even if I have two small nearly 7 and 8 year old tutors who laugh hysterically when I try to say anything in French.  Particularly if it involves an "r".)

Most people I know are tired.  They are tired of struggling, tired of striving, tired of not sleeping well, and tired of waiting for something to get better.  They are worn out from attempting to be everything to everybody, doing more than what is expected of them, keeping up with their own expectations, and working longer hours - either at work, at home, or supporting someone somewhere.  I think that most of us have fallen into the habit of being tired in some respects.  We work out for an hour and are exhausted...but we can sit and type on a computer (ahem) for hours.  We have every opportunity to go to bed early...and we stay up late watching reruns of Frazier.  Or Friends.  Or whatever.  We overschedule ourselves and then can't understand why we don't want to do everything that we've managed to fit into what should work...but really doesn't.  We long for peace and do nothing and to have a say over how we'll spend the hours that aren't tied up doing everything that we are obligated to take care of in a 24 hour period.

I remember a time when getting an invitation to do something was a joy.  It was an opportunity to do something different...something fun...something out of the ordinary.  It was something to be looked forward to with excitement and was a star on the calendar of a month of normal.  Now, an invitation is something that has to fit in between obligations, work, visits that need to be made, friendship upkeep, the needs of the children, church activities, and workouts.  More than once lately, I have seen an invitation as more of an obligation than an opportunity.  When did that happen?

Maturity.  It's not for the feint of heart.

I want to be less tired...but I don't want to sign up for "tried" either, truth be told.

People who are tried...are dealing with the aftermath of something that has rocked their world.  Maybe it is the care of someone who needs them for a season.  Perhaps it is pushing themselves to do something that has been a goal - like training for  a marathon or a massive weight loss undertaking.  Or it is surviving a divorce, downsizing, empty nest, surgical wake-up call, demands that cannot be ignored from a boss, or just something that has taken a person to the end of their capacity to deal.  Except they do deal...and keep on dealing.  

Because they either have no choice...or that's just how they roll.  As for me...I'm the latter.  Sometimes I let people know...and sometimes I just keep it inside until I can talk about it.  Sometimes I'm able to function and other times I'm so scattered that I can't focus.  I'll do something repetitive and mindless just to get myself back on track.  I'll count the revolutions I make on the elliptical machine so that I won't think about anything but that.  

Really.  I do this.

Tired and tried.  Even worse when handled in tandem.  And often we try to be big, bad, and brave and put on our big girl/boy panties/boxers and deal with whatever it is head-on.  Except when we are tired...and when we are going through something...that's when we are supposed to rest, release, and regroup.  

Yes, more often than not...the easiest answer is rest.  Yeah, yeah, I hear you laughing.  But it is.  Sometimes, the best answer is to quit striving and worrying about it...and just drag thyself to bed.  After you've done that...pray about your situation and give it to the Lord.  Then ask for some direction and try to figure out the easiest and most practical way to get from point A to point B.  The next day?  Rinse and repeat.

Over and over.

Those of you with children who are taking every moment of your day or are the primary caregiver and nothing is getting done?  Keep asking for help until someone answers, lower your expectations, and rest when whoever you are caring for rests.  I realize that we all have standards of getting through each day that are unique to each of us...but just because your soup cans aren't alphabetized and your laundry is wadded up in a basket - clean - but nowhere near being folded are put will survive it.  Trust me on this.

I am happiest when things are in order.  But "order" is a relative term.  I have friends who would be appalled at the level of "order" that I'm okay with and others who think I'm a decent housekeeper.  It really just depends.  I could spend every waking moment trying to bring it one step closer...or I can accept that sometimes in one day I can do more than I can do in a month of struggling and be okay with that.  Generally, I clean when I'm mad.  Since I try to avoid being angry...I have to let some things go.

It works for me.  But if I am fired up at someone...I rarely waste the opportunity to clean something.

Tonight I am glad that I had the discussion with myself this morning.  I forced myself to just sit and do what I could.  I showed up to get weighed tonight and I'm going to a class tomorrow before I have to be where I've obligated myself to be for the next six weeks.  Big Dave and I are eating out of the freezer during September...and we are determined to buy the least amount of groceries that we can so that we can get some of this food out of the house that has been sitting there because one of us was too lazy to actually cook it.  Yes, by month end, it will get interesting.  And some of it may be at odds with what I'm trying to do with weight loss and working out.  Including committing to writing down the number of steps I take every day for a free pedometer.

Free is good, y'all.  And so is having to report my steps to a higher power.  Work.  Not THAT higher power.  Trust me...He knows.   And I like to think that He is strongly nudging me to get back on track and quit making excuses for being overweight and cursing my sluggish metabolism.

I like to think that when we are tired and tried...that there is a third word that is close..."tied."  I want to be tied to good behaviors, habits, and a schedule that is rational...not jam-packed.  I hope that the coming weeks will find me resting a little more and getting off my own back.  I had seriously not realized the weight of that as being part of my problem.

That and these dang closets that I can't seem to get around to cleaning out.  

Except tonight...I'm committing an hour to just that.  As soon as I get up from here...I'm headed to see what I can do about that.  And then I'm going on to bed to rest. Just because.

And for those of you out there carrying burdens and monkeys on your back that you'd like to release...just do it.  Yes, I know that's a Nike slogan...but it really applies to everything.  Just know yourself and love the person that is you.  Take care of yourself as you would your best friend.  Be easy on yourself like you would a very young person who is trying to figure things out.  Be good to yourself and be grateful for all that you have been blessed with in this life.  

That's my plan.  Maybe it will be yours too.  If so, I wish you every success. 

Now...go rest.  That laundry will be there tomorrow.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Good Day

Today was about as close as it gets to being a good day.  Granted, there was no Alabama football...but aside from that...there were some pretty good highlights.  I mean, when you have dinner with your two kids, two dogs, husband and SEC football is on the TV...that's pretty good.  The menu being steak, baked potatoes, salad, jalepeno poppers, Conecuh sausage and Blue Bell ice cream meant that it was very good.  Very good indeed.

Not that I should have eaten any of that other than the salad...but today I am celebrating.  We kind of did that whole "fatted calf" thing since Brian was home for his first time since deserting his poor mother.  Okay, FINE, since going off to college like he is supposed to do at this age.  

I am celebrating the fact that all of us were together under this roof.  That I had breakfast with my daughter where she works and that we had a little time together to just chat about nothing in particular.  I'm so amazed at how well she does her impressive and grown up...and professional she sounds when she's dealing with customers.  How much she knows about the various kinds of cars.  I know the basics...SUV, truck, sedan, van, and hatchback.  She not only knows the cars...but what's unique about them.  How to put the right customer in the right vehicle to make them happy.   Kind of made me super-proud, truth be told. 

Because the seasons have changed means that I have to start wearing socks and have to punt some of the lightweight shirts since the dress code is about to tighten up when it cools off a bit.  The fact that I purged 75% of my closet last weekend means that I needed a couple of items to tide me over.  So, I went to Belk today in search of a couple of shirts and came away with a lot of things on the 65%-80% off rack with an additional 30% off that are going to work for me...and a pair of Lauren work pants for Jill that were dirt cheap, and they fit her perfectly.

Right now, I am watching my Brian do his homework sitting across from me as I write this with Riley under my feet snoring every few minutes and moving around so that I remember he's there and don't step on him as I change sitting positions.  Even Dixie seems to be doing better...although she clearly still is a little confused and has spent a couple of days hiding in closets so that we'll quit talking to her and attempting to ply her with treats and more TLC than she can stand..

Big Dave got paid from three jobs today which means that I can breathe for a few weeks.  Not that I worry...but one of them was a little delayed...and larger than usual.  One of the things that people don't realize is that small contractors need to be paid within a week.  Not two months later.  Better yet...paid when they finish.  But God is good...and I'm assuming that the checks are.  They have been in the past.

Today in the mail we also received two amazing thank you notes - handwritten, mind you - from a bride-to-be and her sweet mother.  Although I mean well...and sometimes I am prompted to write a note...sometimes I simply forget.  Especially because people these days tell me that they have been thanked and that it is not necessary.  But is that really an excuse?  My grandmother would say "no" - for sure.  And receiving those notes today reminded me of how lovely it is to get something in the mail that isn't wanting payment, for you to sign up for a credit card or an opportunity to spend money either at a store or for a cause.   

Tonight I listened to Jill and Big Dave making jalapeno poppers using peppers from our garden...with a recipe that she keeps on her phone because everyone wants her to make it so often during football season.  She is finding her place in the world...with a fun circle of friends and the hope of meeting the right guy who was meant especially for her.  She is busy but happy.  Responsible...but young.  Beautiful and my heart.  Her Daddy's too, by the way (as is our son).  

I pulled up Facebook today to a sweet friend telling me how much she appreciated something my daughter had done this week. Every mother loves that, right?   Later, I saw an old work friend celebrating the anniversary of his proposal to his beautiful wife. I can remember how he looked when he spoke about her.  Exactly the way that I hope some young man looks when he speaks my daughter's name.  I already have seen that in my son with his Kentucky sweetheart.

In a few days, I'll be starting another round of "Apples of Gold" and will have the chance to meet young women who are coming to the class to be taught some cooking and decorating tips along with some spiritual nourishment.  Yes, I'll be teaching "Submission" again because for whatever is a lesson that I've learned the hard way and would prefer that others have a simpler time than I have in this regard.  Because as unpopular a word as "submission" is in today's is God's plan for all of us in some way, form, or fashion.  For wives, it is a particularly difficult concept - because we have been raised to feel like we can do anything a man can do.  I do what I can to explain it in a way that hopefully changes their minds.

Yes, life is good today.

Even if I'm not at Disney World like two of my Facebook friends, tailgating somewhere, or through with my laundry.  I'm just content to be where I am, with the company I'm keeping, at this point in time.

So much of our lives are devoted to the things that make days like this one possible.  We go to work.  We work out to keep healthy (um...I need more of this, but humor me).  We support causes, attend events, and we serve others - be they parents or children who need us or a ministry that we are committed to devoting ourselves to.  Every so often, it is good just to look around and realize that life is good.

Even when it is not so good.  This week, overall, has been a bit of a doozy.  Weeks like this can be a little iffy for me, so I am grateful to be sitting here...content.

A friend of mine posted something on depression to make the load a little lighter...and it really hit home with me.  Especially with what this week has been like.  With the pressure, the disappointments and the little things that just kept going wrong over and over.  Many of you may not know this, but I struggle with depression from time to time.  Not the kind that keeps me housebound or that it is something that crushes my soul every day...but I have a tendency toward being melancholy.  I'll see the bad in something before I'll find the silver lining and I have to carefully guard my heart from seeing, hearing, or taking in things that will harm me.  I'm that impressionable.  

I'll attempt to figure out what is going to go wrong and begin preparing myself for that eventuality.  I'll be sad over something that other people would brush off or that people don't even know they said to me in passing. I'll see someone being overlooked or something being mishandled and I'll want to make it right.  Sometimes, I will step in.  Other times, I'll just quietly pray for a situation and wait to see if it resolves itself.  But I'll chew on it and worry about it until I remind myself that it is not my place to worry, fret, or be anxious (Phillippians 4:6-7).  Frankly, if I ever got a tattoo...which totally will not would be those verses...because I've spent many hours in my life repeating them to myself. 

The way that I have dealt with depression is to find some coping skills that work for me.  The main thing I try first is to always, always, always look for what is going right before I allow myself to delve into what is going wrong. Sometimes that's enough.  Often it isn't.  But nevertheless,  I'll get up and go through the motions...even if it is difficult for me to focus or to even talk to people.  Because that is what I do.  And I simplify my life dramatically when I go through one of these down times.  I do what I must and I have learned to let the rest of it go.  

I guess you now know that writing is therapeutic for me.  Which is why I am grateful that God gave me the gift of being able to express myself.  I used to be angry that I didn't have a beautiful voice or was unable to draw or paint...but this is what He chose for me...and who am I to argue with that?  Exactly.

It is because I know how precious good days are that I am especially happy today.  After a week of things not going according to plan and money flying out of my wallet...I just held tight and trusted that God would deliver me from the dark clouds rolling in.  And He has.  With today.

And I am grateful.

Yes, there are days when I would trade being melancholy for just having a laid back approach to life...but that's why He gave me Big Dave.  Big Dave's motto is "Every day's sunny in Dave's world."  And it is.  Truly. The worst it ever gets is partly cloudy...and there's the very rare thunderstorm about once a year. Some of that has managed to rub off on me through all of these years. That and his patient and wise counsel.

 Truth be told, though, I wouldn't trade how I am...because to do so would erase the way I view the world.  I like my creative side.  I enjoy seeing things people miss.  Even if they are painful.  I think people that are sensitive to what is going on around them or who see the world differently have always had issues with melancholy and addictions of some kind.  For's food.  I'm thinking it needs to shift to something more exercise...or doing good deeds or something different for a change.  I'm going to work on that.  I'm always working on that.  Some days I actually succeed.

But enough about me...and back to this day.  To this wonderful day of spending time looking at my son every chance I get because I want to remember this day and how having his presence here makes me that when he is back in Huntsville getting himself all educated and such...I can imagine him sitting here with me when I miss him.  I had 21 years of him in this home...and I squandered so many hours doing things that mattered not...that I am extremely aware of his presence (or lack of it) now. Same with Jill...but at least she is in town.  Although her social and work schedules make it harder to see her as much as we'd like.  
So, tonight, we had the perfect steaks on a lovely night.  We had laughter around our table...just the four of us.  We ate too much, watched a lot of football, and just enjoyed something so familiar...and yet so much more precious now that our two have their own lives that are more and more independent of us.

I hope that in the coming weeks we will have others like Brian's sweet girlfriend and my "other daughters" around...and frankly, I am looking forward to that.  I love having something to look forward it football season, a wedding, time with friends or family, or even (gasp!) Christmas.  I love looking ahead...but even more...I am learning to love where I am right now.  

At this point in time.

I plan to write more often - and I doubt that it will be as "weighty" as tonight's post has been.  I just thought I needed a counterpoint to the post a couple of nights ago when everything in the world was going wrong.  Or so it seemed.

Thanks for reading...and for the support I've received from those of you who read every post...or those who catch it when you can.  It means a lot.  It truly does.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Today Has Not Been My Friend

Well, today was one of those days that had a few bright spots.  It is my sweet Ralph's birthday and although  I completely ruined it with bad news...I am grateful beyond measure for him and all that he is in my life.  I mean, he has loved me like a daughter and he has been that person who can always make everything better...and I feel terrible about casting a shadow on his special day.  I really do.

Then there was the good news that a chore that I thought might take all night...didn't.  I have had lots of prayers, thoughts, comments and love thrown my way, and I'm even getting a new checkbook cover from my uber-creative friend, Cindy.  So, life does not totally suck.  But totally does not rock, either.  Let's just say that today has not been my friend.

You may not know what it is like to see your precious dog get miraculously pregnant at the ripe old age of eight or nine and then lose those long awaited pups on an awful night...but I have.  Last night.  And as if that wasn't enough to have my heart hurt about...I've had a pretty awful day by most measures.

Which, in some strange way, is hilarious...because it is like God is trying to tell me that it isn't as bad as I think.  In fact, His flair for the dramatic has been underlined in Sharpie for me.  He is reminding me that no matter how bad I think it is...that there is someone out there who is dealing with far more than I am.

I sweet Dixie is fine.  And one of my favorite dogs that I only know online - Wynny - walked across the Rainbow Bridge today.  Before you go "Say who?  Online?" have to know that I am friends with her mother, Pam.  She sent me photos of her dogs for one of my favorite activities...captioning.  The fact that my Phi Mu heart sister and I enjoyed this exercise together makes me sad for her as she is trying to adjust to her girl being gone.  I remember that pain well when we lost Rebel last October.  And although I really miss the opportunity to know the beautiful little creatures that we lost last night...I still have my baby girl here to love and spoil.  And I'm extremely grateful for that.

But what I mean honestly have to just read about some of it because truth is stranger than fiction.  Today was like that girl who you think is your friend but then she doesn't invite you to her party and talks about you behind your back.  To the guy you like.  In front of you.  Yeah.

I took Miss Dixie to the vet this morning to make sure that everything was okay because her ordeal was a little bit emotionally trying for all of us last night...and the last thing I wanted was to be the worst dog parent ever...especially since I haven't already had her spayed and I brought the Abercrombie model of shih tzus - Riley - all up in this house.  Y'all, Riley is pretty.  So much so that a male dog that I know and love kept trying to express his admiration in ways that were more than a little disturbing in that there were small children present  But primarily because we were so grateful that she was so much more herself after everything was said and done that I felt that the least I could do was make absolutely, positively sure that all was well with her.

Just so you know,  "absolutely, positively sure" costs about $150 for an office visit and a short ultrasound.  I'm totally not kidding.  It is why we don't go to this particular vet office any longer...but our vet is out of town and I had limited I paid.  Dearly.  Guys, I was there for 20 minutes.  But I have the benefit of knowing that she is okay.  And you really can't put a price on that.  Plus, it really has been something to whine about all day.  That can't be undervalued either.

Unfortunately, while I was away, I inadvertently set the house alarm incorrectly (it is on a key hard can it be to press the button that sets the alarm?  Answer: Dixie could do it and she can't read. I don't think she can anyway.) and it went off while I was at the vet.  The local sheriff came into the house in search of someone breaking in...when it was really only my carelessness.  Yeah, great, right?

After dealing with that...and between us...Big Dave got the short end of that stick, I got back in my car and checked the fuel gauge...something you get in the habit of doing if you live 15 miles out of town like I do.  It was on less than a quarter tank.  Which meant - you guessed it - that I had to stop for gas.  Naturally, you'd expect that at 9:20 a.m. on a Thursday morning that there wouldn't be a line at the pumps at Costco.  But if you thought that - like I did - you would be wrong.

Leaving there I decided that the "check tire pressure" light that had come on for the third time really needed to be addressed so I whipped it into the local Firestone for a quick fix to what I assumed was a nail in the tire.  Oh, it was a nail, all right, but the treads were too thin to fix it had to be replaced.  And, naturally, the other back one was threadbare as well and the front two weren't that much better.  Oh, and I needed it aligned and my windshield wipers needed replacing.  This was after I told him NOT to find a bunch of stuff wrong with my car because I couldn't afford it.  Okay, that last one was actually at my request, but I ended up paying a whole lot more than I anticipated.  Then I got the bill...$666.

Because, OF COURSE IT WAS on the day from Hell.  I also told him that this was why I quit coming there...because they always found some way to get my money.

I left there and went to work and things looked up for awhile.  Except that I was really hungry and had failed to bring a snack.  So I went foraging into the refrigerator for anything I had brought over the past two weeks...and found an apple and a yogurt.  Healthy stuff...blech.  But I ate it anyway.  And liked it.  Not nearly as much as I liked the Zero bar that I ripped off from the tellers because their customers bring them candy all of the time...but close.  I finished my work earlier than expected and am grateful for that.  I came home and found Dixie more herself than she has been in weeks, and I had a good call with Jill that erased a whole lot of awful today.

All of us have the possibility of a very rotten day...or the potential for an over-the-top good one.  Some people had life changing good go on at the exact time that I was having my really bad.  And there are times when I feel guilty just being happy when other people crushing disappointments, losses, and struggles to bear.  Maybe you think that my sad little day didn't come close to the pain you've felt at one time or another...or you think I must have been incredibly self-absorbed to have stored it all up to put out here to be read about.  But I used it as a reminder of what all I have instead of what all is lost.

I have a healthy dog that I love dearly.  My car has new tires and windshield wipers.  I was able to pay for the vet visit...and they didn't question why I didn't bother to make an appointment or explain why I haven't been there in a very long time.  My daughter is happy.  My son is coming home to visit for the weekend tomorrow.  I'm getting a new checkbook cover.  And people who love me have been praying for me and sending sympathy and good wishes my way all day long.

I'm actually convinced that the latter is responsible for today turning out as good as it has.  It is why Dixie hopped up and voluntarily (okay, she didn't that was good) got a bath to clean her up from her ordeal yesterday.  It is why I was able to write a dog obituary (my first) for my sweet friend (to try to cheer her up) and why I am able to sit here and think "Wow, what a day." without crying.

I know that there are times in our lives when things go the way we want...where the little miracles that we think are meant for us actually are.  There are also times when we don't understand why we have to go through things if they are going to turn out wrong.  As I looked at those sweet little still bodies of the puppies I'd been waiting for since July...I realized that the most important thing is that they gave me something to look forward to when I really needed it...and that is a miracle in itself.  The second part of that is that it has made me appreciate my Dixie so much more because she has come through this doing well, relatively speaking.

I just hope that tomorrow is a nice, quiet, boring day.  But I already know it will be a good one.  Brian is coming home.  Dixie will be here to greet him.  I don't have to stop for gas, or a flat tire, or because my windshield is rainsoaked (if it rains) and I can't see jack squat because my windshield wipers are worn out.  I may be broke...but I've checked a few things off the list of things I needed to do today.   At the risk of sounding like Annie...tomorrow is another day.  Another chance for things to be better.  Another chance to find something amazing to celebrate, ruminate...or at least tolerate.

And for that...on this very bad awful no-good day...I am grateful.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

On Friendships

Lately, I have been hearing or reading a lot of comments about the true meaning of friendship.  How we are not going to put up with toxic relationships or how we are disappointed by what someone does or fails to do.  We do something for someone that feels like participating in a triathlon, and they won't even cross the street to help us do something simple.  We are the hands and feet and ears and eyes for someone...and all we see is the back.

I could go on...but you get the point.  You've all read those points...or lived them.

And I get that...I really do.  I know how disappointing it is to be undervalued or put upon or even overlooked.  I've been on both sides of that fence, truth be told.  I have had people who have been so over the top wonderful to me that there is no way that I could ever repay them, and I've had people disappoint me at a level that I can scarcely think about without tearing up a little.

But that last part?  More because I am ashamed that I put all of that pressure on a relationship.  That's not what friendship is all about.

The truth is, dear friends, that nobody owes us anything in this world.  We are here to take care of ourselves and those we bring into the world.  We are to honor our parents and to help the extended family unit out to the best of our ability.  But we are not to expect anything from anyone else.

Seriously.  But pay attention to that last line...and the word "from."  That's key.

Some of my friends are dealing with ailing parents or special needs children or have done so in the past.  They are sleeping in hospital rooms or in recliners...dealing with doling out medications and trying to come to grips with the fact that it probably won't get any better than it is right now.  They are lifting constant prayers, advocating to doctors and overlooking stares and questions, while trying to do all that is within their ability to do.  Some have children with serious issues that are behavioral or drug related and are coping with that and trying to function.  Others have children who have been ill or have passed into Jesus' arms prematurely and they are exhausted with trying to find normal again and just put one foot in front of the other.

What I am trying to remind you of is...your job as a friend is to BE a friend to others...and to expect nothing in return.

Now before you go thinking that I believe you should tolerate bad behavior...I invite you to think again. If you have someone - or a group of someones - who thrive on drama and suck the life out of you...well, you have to be wise enough to recognize that and not get trapped into an endless cycle of picking them up, getting them straight, picking them up, getting them get the idea. Frankly, if their own families can't deal with them...and you aren't called to hang in there in your spirit...then you have to set and respect your boundaries.  In my lifetime of fifty years, I have had two such friends.  And while I love them dearly in my heart of hearts...I no longer have any contact with either of them.  Their demand on me was not was babysitting or firefighting or amateur psychiatry...or all of the above.  For the was exhausting.

Not in a good way.  Not in a "Whoa, I'm glad that I did that even though I can barely think, move or breathe."

As a recent urban philosopher recently stated, "Ain't nobody got time for that."  True, this.

Then there are those people who you can't do anything for because they won't let you.  They'll try to pay you back tenfold so that they won't owe you.  They'll be happier feeling like you are indebted to them instead of the other way around.  They won't accept your offering without thinking of how they are going to pay you back.  Bigger.  Better.  More involved.  They are your friend because they feel like they have to be.  Because you've done them a good turn.  Because you might do them a good turn someday.  Something like that.

To this I say...I completely understand.  In today's society, you want to pay your "friend debts" in full because you don't want to be thought of as a "taker."  This is primarily because so many people keep score.  You do two good deeds and I do two good deeds and we stay on an equal footing.  Sounds fair, right?


The truth isn't fair...we have different gifts...and life may throw a whole lot of needs my way that someone can fill.  I'll never be able to repay some of the people in my life who have told me what my future was going to look like because they had a daughter a few years older.  I'll never be able to match the creativity of some of friends...or outwork others.  I'll never be able to repay what others have poured into me...even if I had the means and the time to do so.  Because I'm not meant to.

And neither are you.

Friends are in our life - if we are adults - by choice.  We choose who we will listen to, spend time with, or invest in.  And the cool thing is...they choose us too.  Sometimes it all balances and we rock along in a give and take relationship...other times it doesn't.  Sometimes it is so incredibly unbalanced that there's a debt there that can never be repaid.  Do not let that make you feel that you have to spend the rest of your life trying to make it right.  And if you are the giver in this scenario...don't hold someone else to a level of expectation that they cannot possibly meet.  It will kill the relationship and you will be left wondering what the heck happened when you went out of your way so much to help them.  Truth have to let it be a gift.  And a gift is a gift.  Not a Dirty Santa game where we all bring something and we all leave with something.  Life doesn't work that way.

Other friends come and go...are there and then gone...or are just with us because we have something in common.  They are those who knew us when we were young.  Our sorority sisters (or fraternity brothers) or the people we started work with once upon a time.  They are the parents who sit with us in the bleachers or the church friends that we share an event with every year.  They love us while we are there and may even miss us a little bit when we are gone.  But they are meant to add tiny sparkles of gold to our life rather than to command an entire ream or even a place in the index in our story.  And we can love them for years and be excited when we see them...celebrate when we see them happy and mourn with them from the seventh pew in the sanctuary.  We just have to love them...and serve them...and be content with that relationship.  Frankly, this group comprises the biggest group in our circle of friends.  And there is no humanly possible way to be everything to everyone that we know.

Not and keep every other ball we have to juggle in the air.

Just be aware when you offer the gift of friendship to someone...they may choose to reject it, not value it, or they may accept it with more gusto than you are expecting.  It isn't your job to worry about is your job just to love and serve them.

I think that most of us feel that we are good friends...but there are at least a handful of people in our lives that we wish we could have a do-over.  People who were extremely kind to us and we were too self-absorbed or busy to reciprocate.  Folks who gave of themselves but we were afraid to get too close for fear that we could never pay them back.  Friends who showed up at exactly the right point in time to get us to something, through something or over something, and then faded back into obscurity...other than occupying a permanent place on the Christmas card list.

As I think about friendship...I can honestly say that I have a wide and wonderful circle of friends.  I have friends of all ages, races, both genders, and in various locations.  Each of them has brought something unique and colorful to my life, taught me something I didn't know, allowed me to be a better person than I thought possible, or just walked with me when I needed a companion.  I don't feel the need to keep score with people...because I tend to know what I have to offer...and I trust that God will bring them to me when they need something.  Sometimes I'll offer...and almost always they will turn me down, forget, or feel like they should do something for me.  So, normally, I just wait until they ask. Although I have had friends who have just shown up to bless me because they thought I needed it.  That's pretty awesome, too, I must admit.

The reverse is true as well.  I have asked people to help me with things.  Along the way, many people have appeared to tell me where to find the next clue on my map of life...or have magically appeared with the gift of their time or talents.  In fact, I have one friend who has come to mind who asks me every time I call her..."What can I do for you today, my Karen?"

I love that, by the way.

I have another one that thinks I'm better than I think I I try to live up to her idea of me.  She makes me try harder to be the best "me" I can be.  She never judges...she just keeps thinking I'm terrific.  If I is because she has helped to make me that way by her constant encouragement.

I have another friend who prays for me and tells me I'm smart and takes me to wonderful places.  She believes in me and makes me want to believe in myself.

Yet another one would do whatever I needed if I asked.  She has been a constant friend for years and years and if I were burying a body (which I wouldn't be...but humor me here)...she'd be holding a shovel.

And finally, I have another one who lets me be the rotten to the core person I can be when I'm upset...and she just takes my side and tells me that it will all be okay.  I can be myself...and she'll be there to crack me up in the next breath.

I am a blessed woman, folks...I could be here all night.

Just remember to have the right idea about friendship...and I've learned from mine to give people more than they expect...because you aren't just serving your are serving Jesus as well.

I try to do that...the serving Jesus part.  The expecting that the phone will ring with a request that I can help with...and then I'll do my best to make that happen.  The funny that when I am trying to make them own joy goes off the map.  Which is something you can't put a price on.  So, repayment?  Totally not necessary.  See?

The rules for friendship are pretty simple, y'all.  Give of yourself...but know your limits.  Treat other people as your mission field...and expect absolutely nothing in return.  And if you find that your friendship is being abused...that isn't their is yours.  You are the one that sets the boundaries for your own life.  So, take responsibility for that and move on.  Without regret...and without thinking of them as anything negative if you possibly can.  Try to stop way before you get to that point.

Friends are meant to enrich our us...and be a gift to us.  But let's not leave our focus here.  Let's instead focus on what we can offer instead.  What gifts we have that can be employed in the service of others.  What time we can offer...and what we can do.

When we are gone...all that will remain is what we have given of ourselves.  The memories.  The love.

So, resolve to be a good friend.  Not someone who wears out the people around you and is indignant when people don't return your over the top offerings.  Not someone who expects a certain level of attention because we always give it to them.  Not someone who wants to cultivate a friendship with someone for what they can do for you.  Not someone who keeps score.

Be someone who gives all that they have and is okay with whatever those offerings are.  Be someone who knows his/her boundaries and won't get sucked in to doing more because someone demands it of you just because you think you should.  Be someone who is grateful for the people who choose to love you, expend energy on you, or have your back...because it isn't a right.  It is the result of someone's incredible choice to give you a part of their time, treasure, and attention.

Maybe if we all looked at friendship as a gift and those we are friends with as people to serve...we'd be a whole lot happier and less neurotic.  A whole lot more interested in life and way less demanding of others.  A whole lot more like Jesus and less like someone we don't want to be.

I know that's my goal, my friends.  And I'll miss that mark and hope you'll forgive me...but I'll keep trying to hit it.  And if there has been a time that I've done something for you that has made you smile...know that it brought me even greater joy to do it.

For reals.