Category Archives: contentment

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. . . . .

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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. . . .

 

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. . . .

Lawn Mower

I recently read about the new trend in parenting, the “Lawn Mower Parent”. These folks seem far worse than the “Helicopter Parent”. The Lawn Mower Parent mows down every obstacle in their child’s life so the child doesn’t have to overcome adversity, etc. Needless to say, this kind of parenting will produce very weak, pampered and entitled people – even more so that the Helicopter Parent.

A child is like a butterfly. If you help the butterfly out of its cocoon, it will die. the butterfly needs to struggle out of the cocoon to gain strength. It needs to let its wings unfold slowly so they will dry and also be strong. We do our children no favors when we mow down the obstacles for them. The obstacles are what causes strength and resiliency in a person’s life. Are they fun? Heck, no! But they are needed to allow us to grow into strong, healthy people.

One cannot live one’s life without some pain and adversity. I know of people who try to avoid pain at all costs – their lives are dull and they are dull. Getting out of bed in the morning is inviting pain and adversity. My divorce was one of the most painful things I had ever been through. I would much rather had gone through natural childbirth again! But I have come out of it a much stronger and more compassionate person.

We can spend so much time mowing down pain and adversity that we have little time for anything else. We may be mowing down flowers or insects – the little things that make life special. Weeds continue to pop up in different parts of the yard. As we go after one weed, another pops up and at the end of the day we are exhausted from mowing. Put the lawn mower away. A few weeds are good.

Yes, pain and adversity are not pleasant. That’s a ‘duhism’. But pain and adversity help us to become stronger. We grow and change in ways we never thought possible. And through that growth and change, we are able to be more empathetic toward others as they face pain and diversity in their lives. Isn’t that part of what life is about – helping one another along on this journey? Life is an adventure, live it! Stay tuned. . . .

Looking in the Rear View Mirror

When I was learning to drive (way back in the Dark Ages), my Driver’s Ed teacher told us we should constantly be scanning the rear view and side mirrors. I thought, “How can I do that and keep my mind on what’s in front of me?”

The aftermath of a divorce is sort of like driving – you have a destination and you need to keep your mind on what’s ahead of you, not constantly what’s behind you. Every now and then, my past raises its ugly head and I can easily get distracted and not be able to focus on the here and now and what is ahead. I have to remember that a) my past is under the grace of God and b) my past is past.

Sometimes it’s easy to go down that slippery slope and want to get caught up in the past. We have regrets, we feel angry, sad or bitter. Stop that!! Just like the rear view mirror on a car, the past is a tool: learn from your past, understand your mistakes, mature past your mistakes and move on. If you are constantly looking in the rear view mirror while you are driving, you’ll smash into something ahead of you! The same thing goes with your healing journey – look ahead, not behind.

In 1989, Christian Artist Bob Bennett released, “Lord of the Past”:

Every harsh word spoken
Every promise ever broken to me
Total recall of data in the memory
Every tear that has washed my face
Every moment of disgrace that I have known
Every time I’ve ever felt alone

Lord of the here and now
Lord of the come what may
I want to believe somehow
That you can heal these wounds of yesterday
(You can redeem these things so far away)
So now I’m asking you
To do what you want to do
Be the Lord of the Past
(Be the Lord of my Past)
Oh how I want you to
Be the Lord of the Past

All the chances I let slip by
All the dreams that I let die in vain
Afraid of failure and afraid of pain
Every tear that has washed my face
Every moment of disgrace that I have known
Every time I’ve ever felt alone

Today, resolve to spend more time looking ahead than looking behind. After all, you can’t change the past. Learn from it. Let God heal it. Stay tuned. . . .

 

 

 

Who Needs an Umbrella?

Today is Cycle Dude’s birthday. I got up very early to make him cinnamon rolls (the frozen kind) as well as to make a bouquet of chocolate covered Oreos (his favorite cookie!). We are going downtown tonight to do whatever he wants to do, then tomorrow we’ll have a birthday dinner with his son. I am excited! I enjoy making Cycle Dude’s birthday special because it’s just one way to show him how much I love him.

When I got to work, my boss was not in a very good mood. He has been very critical to me all day long. He has been short and impatient with me and has been getting easily angry with me. I was a little discouraged after several hours of his behavior. (But who knows what’s going on in his world?) My day started out so well and now it was not so well.

I had a choice to make – was I going to let my boss ‘rain on my parade’ or was I going to let the rain roll off my back and enjoy a wonderful evening with the man I love? I decided to enjoy the wonderful evening, of course.

We are faced daily with choices – are we going to choose joy or pain? Freedom or chains? Light or darkness?  It’s so easy to let others affect our choices. One wrong word can cause us to deflate like a balloon. But who has power in your life? YOU are the one who makes that decision. I did not give my boss the power to determine my mood or my value. I am the one who chooses to be happy or sad. Christ is the One who gives me value.

So, go ahead, boss, go ahead and rain. It’s not affecting me. I don’t need an umbrella because I choose joy with my sweetheart tonight. Stay tuned. . .

 

Take it in Stride

This past weekend, Cycle Dude and I went with a group of friends to an amazing fossil site not far from Mytown. The dig site, the lab, the fossil storage and the museum were all at the same place. It was exciting to see the different steps paleontologists go through to identify and preserve fossils.

The group carpooled and Cycle Dude was one of the drivers. He had just had his car worked on a few days before the ‘field trip’. The car began acting up on the way to the fossil site and got worse on the way back. We were less than a mile from where the group met to carpool, stopped at a stoplight. Cycle Dude said, “Well, we made it home”. But as he pulled into the intersection, the car died. Thankfully, several Good Samaritans stopped and helped us push the car to the side of the road. And, thankfully, Cycle Dude has AAA.

Needless to say, Cycle Dude was not too happy about the car breaking down. I told him that at least we almost made home and didn’t get stuck several hours away. I was able to get a ride home and come back to get Cycle Dude and follow the tow truck to the car repair shop. To me, the whole situation was a minor inconvenience, but it could have been worse.

Since I divorced, I have learned there are many things in my life that are out of my control. To get angry about it only makes the situation worse. I have learned to take situations in stride, to be okay with not being in control. What good does it do to get all worked up over something or someone you cannot control?

Whenever my children experience a situation like the car breaking down, the washer dying, or an unexpected visit to the doctor, I tell them to look at the situation and ask, “What have I learned from this? What good has (or might) come out of this situation?”

Some situations in our lives we can control – others we cannot. We have to be okay with not being in control. We have to give ourselves and others grace. We have to realize the world is not perfect – things will go wrong. Begin to look at those times of not being in control as learning opportunites. . . and take it in stride. Stay tuned. . .