The Next Generation

As I write this post, I am anxiously awaiting the birth of grandbabies #2 and #3. Grandbaby #2 is due to enter the world this week, and grandbaby #3 is due this summer. Grandbaby #2 will have my ex’s last name – the little one will be my second son’s first child.

 When I divorced, I took back my maiden name because my married name, for me, no longer held any honor nor respect. I did not want to be tagged with that last name the rest of my life. My maiden name held more honor for me because my dad was an honorable man. I would gladly bear his name. I was concerned about how I would feel once my sons started having children – would I be bitter when I met them? Would I not love them as much as I would love my daughter’s children? That was something I gave a great deal of thought to.

 Of course, I decided that I would love all my grandchildren, no matter what their last name. I looked forward to holding those little ones in my arms and letting them know how much their Nonnie loves them. Grandbaby #1 is almost 18 months old. She is my oldest son’s first child and she is a delight! I look forward to watching her grow into a wonderful young lady.

 My mom was here over Christmas. We took a four generation picture with her, me, my son and grandbaby #1. As I look at that picture, I am overwhelmed with the short expanse of the generations represented. My mom is almost 82 and grandbaby #1 is a little over a year old – 80 years separate the two and encompass four generations. It was also an honor to take a four-generation picture with my mom. She is alive to see three successive generations – her children, her children’s children, and her children’s children’s children. I thank that is amazing! I hope I live to see my great-grandchildren!

 As I look at my grandchildren, the next generation, I am looking into the future. What will these little one grow up to be like? Will they make great contributions to science, art or literature? Will they quietly serve, making a difference in the lives of others? I am looking forward to watching this next generation grow up and move forward in their lives. I will be here for as long as the good Lord allows – encouraging and loving my grandbabies, investing in the lives of the next generation. Stay tuned . . . . .

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Making Memories

One of my coworkers was raised in an orphanage. I have been getting bits and pieces of her story over the past few weeks. When I talk about how excited I am for my mom to come for Christmas, my coworker relates a story from her past. She never really knew her mom and knew very little about her dad. Her stories don’t bother me or make me sad, but they make me grateful for the family I have and the memories we made through the years.

I am looking forward to making memories with my mom. As one of six children, I didn’t always have one on one time with my mom. A couple of years ago at a family reunion here in Mytown for my mom’s 80th birthday, she and I shared a cabin. I was so thrilled to finally have her all to myself. We laughed and cried together. I will have those memories forever.

I have the whole Christmas week planned out with my mom. We are going to see two of my children who live in the middle of the Mystate and we will go see my son and his family who recently moved back to south Mystate. We are also going to the Biltmore in Asheville to see the Christmas decorations. I have built in some “veg-out” days where we can hang out and just enjoy each other’s company. Cycle Dude is taking the whole week off, so he will be vegging with us! I am looking forward to the memories we will make during the week. I know that when the day comes when my mom is no longer with us, I will look back on these days and be grateful for the time we had together.

I hope my children will also take this time to make some memories with their Grandma. We will visit my grandbaby, my mom’s fifth great-grandchild, and take a four generation picture with my mom, me, my son and my grandbaby. I will cherish that picture.

Wherever you are, whoever you are with, whatever you do this holiday season, spend some time making good memories. It is easy to have bad memories about your divorce. It is therapeutic to make good memories – to start new traditions, to make new friends, and to be grateful for another holiday season. Have a thankful heart and a joyous holiday. Stay tuned. . . . .

Tight Budget Holiday

and You are newly divorced and this is your first post-divorce holiday season. You may find yourself on a very tight budget – there is money for the basics but not much else. How do you get through this time and still maintain some semblance of happiness?

First of all, happiness should not be an externally motivated emotion. You choose to be happy. Sit down and do an inventory of all that you have. I can think of several things I had my first post-divorce holiday season: family, friends, my dogs, and a roof over my head, a car (or the bus) that got me to work. I did not have much, but I was thankful for what I did have.

Second, who says you need a great deal of money at the holidays? Be creative!

Centerpieces: Granted, a table centerpiece is the usually the last thing one thinks about when one is on a tight budget, but sometimes a little festive decoration can do wonders for one’s spirits. And a little goes a long way. A simple Christmas centerpiece: 3 apples, 2 red or white pillar candles, sprigs of greenery. Make a ‘bed’ from the greenery, add the apples, and then arrange the candles in and among the other pieces. Use small pieces of ribbon as accents. (Do not use the apples as candle holders – don’t waste food – you may want to eat them later.) Reuse taper candles (the long, thin ones). Cut off the used part, making sure not to entirely cut through the wick. Once you light the candles, no one will notice they’ve been “recycled”.

Gifts: Can you sew? Do you bake? Do you paint? Can you walk? Use your skills to make low-cost Christmas gifts. Cut out two circles from a piece of felt, whip stitch them together, hot glue buttons on the felt, and add a piece of ribbon (or red or green embriodery floss) for the hanger. Whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. When cool, dip one end of the cookie into melted chocolate (dark, milk or white). Simple, yet elegant. Paint three palm-sized rocks – one green, one white, one red. Use the green, white and red paint to paint dots, speckles, zigzags, etc. on the rocks. Give them together as a unique Christmas decoration. (You can also sprinkle glitter on the paint while it is still wet to add a little extra pizzazz.) Take a walk and collect some pine cones. Paint them white and add a little glitter, the attach some red ribbon. Simple Christmas decoration!

Attitude: It’s very easy to have a poor attitude during the first post-divorce holiday season. Sit down and have a self-pep-talk instead of a pity party. Did you wake up this morning? Good. Is there a roof over your head? Good. Did you have a warm shower? Good. Do you have least one friend? Good. Don’t expect this holiday season to be like all the rest. You are headed for something better! Now is the time to start some new traditions. Now is the time to step outside of yourself and give to others. Now is the time to enjoy the peace and quiet. Reflect on the God Who gave. Or, if you are not religious, reflect on how vast the universe is and how you are part of something that big! Have a thankful heart this holiday season – big budget or not. Stay tuned. . . .

 

That One Special Person

I was going through my Facebook page this morning and a memory from a year ago popped up. The post was of Cycle Dude and Shirley, my younger dog. From the moment she met Cycle Dude, Shirley had him pegged as her hooman.

There is something about animals and how they can sense good people. Shirley has always loved Cycle Dude. She will snuggle up to him, lay on the floor next to his side of the bed and follow him around. He loves chips or anything salty and crunchy and so does Shirley.

One morning, Cycle Dude was sick (he had gotten food poisoning). I came home from work to find both of my dogs laying on the floor next to Cycle Dude’s side of the bed. They were “taking care of” Cycle Dude. They knew he was sick and the only medicine they had to make him better was their company.

Animals tend to latch on to that one special person – the person they sense is “theirs”. Jack is my dog. He tries to make me feel better when I am sad. He protects me. He wasn’t too sure about Cycle Dude for a while – not because Cycle Dude was mean to Jack, but because I was Jack’s hooman and he was jealous of Cycle Dude. I’m still Jack’s hooman, but he has warmed up to Cycle Dude.

I believe it says a great deal about someone if my dogs like them. Dogs seem to instinctively know when someone is of good character. I trust my dogs’ judgement. They judged Cycle Dude to be of good character and they were correct! If you want to know if the new person in your life is of good character (strong moral fiber, a person of integrity), introduce them to your dog. Stay tuned . . . .

 

A Better Person

I have recently shared that I will be leaving my current job for a job at my Alma Mater – just across the river from where I am now.  Earlier this week, I was emailing a colleague in the Accounts Payable Department. She was sad to hear I am leaving. She told me, “You have made me want to be a better person and I’m working on it.” I felt humbled.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man (or woman) sharpens the countenance of his (her) friend.” I told my colleague that one of the signs of a good relationship – personal or professional – is that those involved become better people. There should be people in our lives who “sharpen” us and make us better people.

How does this happen?

Professional: Coworkers, supervisors and business associates should motivate us to be and to do our best. Improper relationships, shady dealings, work gossip and ‘working/cheating the system’ is not our best. Taking advantage of other people in the workplace is not our best.

Personal: Whether the relationship is friendship or romantic, we should aspire to influence one another for the best. Gossip, stealing, mocking, selfishness, any kind of abuse – none of these things is our best. Compassion, integrity, generosity, faith – these things are our best and we should encourage them in those we love and are friends with. If you have personal relationships that are dragging you down, causing an overwhelming darkness in your life or are just plain unhealthy (co-dependence, addiction, abuse, etc.), it’s time to re-evaluate and end that relationship.

I have a couple of friends who have been with me through the good times and bad times in my life. I have been with them through the same. One friend I refer to as ‘My Best Buddy”. Over the past 13+ years, we have sharpened one another. We have also rounded down the edges that have gotten a little too sharp! We know we can depend on one another (like the time she called me at 3am because she had a water pipe burst). Cycle Dude has made me a better person – more at peace, more generous.

Take time to consider if your relationships have made you a better person. If not, seriously consider ending them. Life is too short to waste it on bad relationships. Stay tuned. . .

 

The Golden Rule

I will be leaving my current job in a week and going back to work at my Alma Mater. I am excited to be on a college campus again and to be a part of all the activity. I enjoy helping students and faculty. I enjoy learning. I enjoy serving my coworkers. I enjoy giving back to the community.

Almost five years ago, one of the faith groups on campus started a food pantry for students. I am looking forward to serving the campus community by volunteering my time and resources for that food pantry. It wasn’t so long ago that I often wondered where the next meal was going to come from as I chose between food and utilities or gas. But God was good – my dogs and I always had something to eat.

But, I digress. The real purpose of this post is to share that many people have come up to me at work and expressed their sorrow that I am leaving. As I was running an errand at the hospital this morning, I ran into one of my good friends who is a housekeeper and is also an Elvis impersonator (that’s a whole ‘nother story for a whole ‘nother time, but he has an unbelievable ministry through his impersonation). Tom and I talked and I started to cry. I told him I was leaving, but that I was sad and overwhelmed at the same time. Tom encouraged me with prayer and scripture and told me that I had made an impact at myjob.

Why have I made such an impact? For one, the love of God. As I have received, so I give (Matthew 10:8b). Another is that I strongly believe in treating others as I want to be treated, or The Golden Rule (Luke 6:31). There have been times when I have been lost and afraid and in dire straits and others have reached out to me. I have been treated with love and kindness and that’s how I try to treat others. Is it that way 100% of the time? Heavens, no! I am not perfect and I will be the first to tell you so.

I find joy in serving others and treating others well. I know that I am doing what God has called me to do – to make a difference in this life. I may not be rich or famous, but I want others to know they are loved and valued. If I have positively influenced one person in my time at the hospital, then it has been worth it. If I have shown one soul the love of God and brought joy to their heart, then it has been worth it. If I have given one sad heart a big smile that broke through that sadness, then it has been worth it. And so I move on to serve others who need to know the unconditional love of Christ. Stay tuned . . .

You Can’t Train Kindness

In less that 14 days, I will be leaving my current job and returning to my Alma Mater for a job in the Geography Department. Many people at my current job have told me they will miss me because I have always been so kind. My kindness comes not from a sense of duty (“I am a Christian – or an American, or a mom, or a grandmother, or a woman – so I should be kind”). No. My kindness comes from a thankful heart and a genuine desire to serve others.

Is that altruism? Some will argue that altruism comes from a motivation of self-centeredness (“Look at how kind I am”, “Look at how generous I am with my time, money, etc.”). Others will argue that altruism comes from guilt, or the need for penance, or another negative response. Still others will argue that altruism comes from man’s ‘basic goodness’. (As an aside, Jeremiah 17:9 says, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?’) I argue that my kindness comes from none of the above, that it is not altruism for altruism’s sake.

My kindness comes from a thankful heart – thankful for my children, my grandbabies, Cycle Dude, my pups, my mom and my family and so many more blessings God has given me. My kindness comes from a genuine desire to serve others. I know how I want to be treated and so I treat others that way. The sum of my past equals the person I am now.

Will my replacement be kind? Will he or she be willing to do what’s not ‘in their job description’ in order to help others? Will my replacement take the time to answer people’s questions? Will my replacement answer the phone with a smile, ask, “How may I help you?” and be genuinely concerned for others’ welfare?

You can’t train kindness – it must come from a thankful heart and a grateful life. Kindness is a heart overflowing with joy, in spite of difficult circumstances. Kindness is seeking the best in others and expecting it in ourselves. Kindness is pouring out abundant grace to those who least deserve it. Kindness is seeing our weaknesses and admitting them and forgiving them in others. Kindness is going the extra mile, then going a mile more. Kindness comes from sitting quietly, hearing our heartbeat and thanking God for the gift of life. Kindness comes from selflessness.

I have learned a great deal in my 50 something years. I have learned that serving others in kindness and grace is the most joyful thing I can do. Stay tuned. . . .