Category Archives: encouragement

Isolation is the Opposite of Community

My mom always says, “There is safety in numbers”. This principle is seen time and again  in nature – schools of fish, herds of zebras, flocks of birds, forests of trees, fields of sunflowers, colonies of ants. Individuals are often weak and vulnerable. The strength of the community gives strength to the individual.

I have several coworkers with whom I pray and share my daily life. There have been times recently that life has been rather challenging. We can turn to one another to share the burden of what we are going through. Galatians 6:2 says, “Share one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What is ‘the law of Christ’? To love one another as you love yourself and to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. By bearing one another’s burdens, we love one another as Christ loved us.

One does not have to believe in God to be part of a community. I am a woman of faith, so my community is one of faith as well. Cycle Dude belongs to a group of ‘free thinkers’ who get together weekly. There have been times that I have seen “bear one another’s burdens” in action in this group as well. Caring for one another and bearing one another’s burdens is a human thing, not just a Christian thing.

It is easy to want to isolate ourselves when we experience difficult times. We may feel like we are the only one going through this and that no one else would understand. We may feel that our situation is such that no one would want to understand or want to walk with us through the trial. That is a lie. We experience healing and support in community. We are weak and vulnerable when we decide to isolate ourselves from others. Dear one, seek out friends to walk with you through your difficult time. Do not walk alone – let others share your burden. Stay tuned. . . .

 

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Where Are Your Eyes?

I was the Queen of the Pity Party when I was a child. I was always upset that my older sister (by 10 months) got to do things before me. I was upset when life didn’t go my way and I had a strong tendency to wallow in self-pity. My mom would often tell me, “Get your eyes off yourself and go do something for someone else!” Why are moms always so wise?

I remembered that advice when I first got divorced and tended to muck around in the mud puddle of self-pity. I looked for ways to “do something for someone else”. I eventually volunteered with a local refugee resettlement service in teaching those refugees English.

Where are your eyes? Are they on yourself? Are you stuck in the muck of the mud puddle of self-pity? Get your eyes off yourself!

1. Volunteer: There are so many opportunities in one’s community to volunteer – at the local humane society, at the Boys and Girls Club, at a local after school program, etc. Go to https://www.volunteermatch.org to see what’s going on in your community and how you can get involved.

2. Join a local philanthropic organization: There are plenty of philanthropic organizations in your community – Lions Club, Rotary, etc. Google those in your area. Volunteer your time and talents for a cause you believe in.

3. Give: Being newly divorced will most likely leave you with fewer financial resources. That’s okay. Do you sew? Can you teach others a new skill (music, etc.)? Use your talents to help others. There are many people in your community who can benefit from your talents and experience.

It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself. After all, divorce is a painful situation to have to endure. However, it is not okay to stay in that place of self-pity! Stand up, dust yourself off and move on! Getting your eyes off yourself and giving to others is one step in your healing journey. One step at a time! Stay tuned. . .

How to Be a Successful Non-Trad

I returned to the college campus when I was forty-five and my youngest child was sixteen. I worked full-time, went to school full time, and was a full-time mom as well. Eventually, I quit my full-time job to concentrate on getting my degree.

At the time I returned to school, I didn’t know there was a name for ‘older’ students like me. I soon discovered that I was a ‘non-traditional’ student, meaning I was older than 25, returning to school, and bringing a great deal of life experience with me.

My college career began in 1980 as a wide-eyed college freshman right out of high school. I had just turned 18 and it was my first experience living away from my parents and five siblings. The freedom was exhilarating at first, but soon became overwhelming. I ended up flunking out of college my freshman year, having to move home and finish my education at the local community college. I got my AA degree in Secondary Education because of the minimal math requirement for the degree. In the meantime, I met a young man, fell in love, got married and started a family. Twenty-one years later I decided it was time to go back  to school and get my bachelor’s degree.

I live in a college town so my choice of where to go to get my degree was a no-brainer. I learned a great deal along the way – tips for being a successful non-trad.

  1. Do Your Homework: Investigate the different programs you may be interested in, who offers them, how much it costs, what sort of job placement the school offers and what resources the school has to offer its alumni. One of the advantages of being a non-trad is that, hopefully, one has learned something and is a little bit older and wiser than the traditional college student.
  2. Recruit the Recruiter: Make an appointment to speak to the recruiter for the program you are interested in. They will give you a good overview of the program, the faculty, tuition and other resources available to you. Their job is to get you to enroll in their program, so they will be happy to answer questions and give you as much information as you can digest.
  3. Read the Reviews: Whether it’s “Rate my Professor”, Google reviews or other feedback venues, you will want to get a basic feel for the institution, the program, and the faculty before you sink your hard-earned dollars into pursuing your degree.
  4. Start Small: Not quite ready for the intensity of a four-year college or the non-stop hours of a specialized program? Then start small at the community college. Start by getting your feet wet, by learning how to study, take exams and write papers again. Most community colleges have evening classes that cater to working adults. Take one class a semester – it won’t cost as much, and it will expose you to valuable classroom experience.
  5. Be Fearless: As with any new experience, deciding to return to school as an older student can be somewhat daunting. You may ask yourself – Can I still write a research paper? Do I have good study skills? Will I be able to relate to students or professors who are 20-30 years younger than me? Do I have the technical savvy to keep up with my younger classmates?

There is a large community of non-traditional students that is growing annually. The most important thing to remember as a non-traditional student is that you are not alone. Yes, it can be frightening to be back in the classroom as an ‘older’ student, but it is also an adventure. You will learn a great deal about many things, but you will learn the most about yourself. Stay tuned. . .

 

Independence Day

I remember when I was first divorced. Even though I knew for several years that my marriage was over, it was still difficult to sort through the emotions, the finances, and all the stuff from my marriage. It wasn’t until I moved into an apartment almost two years after the divorce that I finally felt independent – totally separated from my marriage and the pain it represented.

I learned a great deal by truly being on my own and being financially, physically and mentally responsible for just me (and my pups, of course!). I enjoyed being on my own. It never got very lonely because I had Jack and Shirley. Cycle Dude would come for dinner once a week and I’d drive out to his place, too. I remember sitting in my napping chair with the canine children and either watching a movie, listening to the rain or taking a nice nap. Those things brought me great joy.

I moved in with Cycle Dude almost two years ago, but I have still retained my independence. However, this independence is a bit different. Cycle Dude and I are different people, yet we enjoy those differences and love each other. We give each other space, but encourage one another in our different pursuits. He bikes, I quilt. He reads, I binge-watch. I am there to cheer him on when he does bike marathons. He gives his approval to my quilt designs. We both love working with our hands – he builds stuff, I sew stuff.

My divorce represented my independence from a painful relationship. That is a day I will never forget. The day I moved in with Cycle Dude represented my independence in a loving relationship. That is a day I will never forget, either. Cycle Dude is kind, loving and respects me for who I am and I am grateful that he encourages my independence and doesn’t stifle it. I do the same for him.

When was your independence day? Celebrate the unique person you are and encourage that uniqueness in others. Stay tuned. . . .

Appreciation

After my divorce, I was scared, anxious and distrustful. I wanted to be alone, but then I didn’t want to be alone. I was angry, bitter and reckless- almost to the point of self destruction. I am thankful for my two steadfast friends who kept me grounded during that time.

This morning, I was eating my breakfast out on the front porch, enjoying the morning – listening to the birds sing, smelling the forest after the rain, and watching critters come and go. Cycle Dude recently hung a hummingbird feeder for me. For a long time, no one visited the feeder. However, this morning, I heard a beautiful male hummingbird buzz up to the feeder. I watched in amazement as he darted around the feeder and landed to enjoy some of the nectar. He came back several times.

As I watched him, I thought of a word – appreciation. It seems to me that I have a greater appreciation of life after the divorce. I enjoy spending time with my children. I like cuddling with my dogs. I enjoy being out in nature. I love spending time with Cycle Dude. The new beginning of the divorce has given me the opportunity to start over in more ways than one.

I know that it is difficult to appreciate much after one has been through a traumatic event like a divorce. Yet, there is so much to appreciate and to be thankful for. When you wake up tomorrow morning, look out your window. Is the sun rising? Or is it raining? Appreciate either one. What will you have for breakfast? Savor the taste of coffee, appreciate the lingering smell of bacon and eggs, meditate on the sweetness of the pancakes and syrup on your tongue.

Life is tough, but there is a great deal to appreciate. Stop, take a deep breath, and take in all that surrounds you. Life is an adventure. Live it!! Stay tuned. . .

(I took the accompanying photo in Cycle Dude’s yard. He has a tree beside the driveway that looks like it could be a hobbit house. These mushrooms were growing inside the little ‘doorway’.)

 

 

Another Season

My youngest niece will graduate from high school tomorrow. She is the last of my siblings’ children to graduate from high school. Her graduation represents the end of an era – no more nieces or nephews in K-12 school. Earlier this month, my youngest sister’s oldest son graduated from college. My little sister doesn’t look old enough to have a son that age!

Both my niece and my nephew are moving on to another season in their lives. My niece will go to college clear across the country on a diving scholarship and my nephew will move on to get a graduate degree. I am excited for the adventures that are ahead for these two young people. I can’t wait to go watch my niece dive and hear about my nephews studies.

Getting divorced and walking forward as just me was another season in my life. It was scary and I was anxious. I had a great support system to help me along the way and I had my faith ion God. Each new phase of our lives is another season. How do we handle those seasons? Do we wither and fall or do we weather and flourish? Do we succumb or do we succeed?

This may be a time-worn cliché, but I think it’s worth repeating. The mighty oak tree grows from a single small acorn. The tiny seedling grows stronger with each passing year. Soon, it is home to birds and other animals. Oak is a tough wood that has been used for centuries to make homes, furniture, and tools. As we enter new seasons in our lives, we need to look to the oak tree as an example and stand strong. Stay tuned. . . .

Medals

One of my siblings lives in San Antonio, TX. Every April, the city celebrates Fiesta San Antonio. Each year, new commemorative medals are issued as part of the festival. There are some people who have been collecting commemorative medals for years. Collecting the medals is like collecting pins from different places and events.

I have my own medals – they are known as wrinkles and gray hair. Yesterday, I went to get my hair trimmed. As the stylist was showing me how much she had trimmed off, she showed me the back of my head. I gasped! There, buried under several strands of dirty dishwater blonde hair was a streak of gray hair! I have gray hairs here and there, but I did not know I had such a big streak. I began to laugh!

I have earned every single one of those gray hairs – three terrible two-year-olds, three teenaged drivers, three children away at college, three weddings, one hard-earned Bachelor’s degree, one $%@# ex, four moves in less than two years and four jobs. Those wrinkles around my eyes and mouth? Laughing with my children and friends, smiling at my grand baby, singing in choirs and praise bands, and loving Cycle Dude with my whole heart.

Am I afraid or ashamed of my gray hair and wrinkles? Heck no! They are reminders that the life I have lived thus far has not be easy and has not always been happy. But I am grateful for these visual reminders that I have not stopped living life, that I am not afraid to share that life with others and that I am grateful to God for this amazing life He has given me. (And yes, I do use sunscreen and always wear a hat when I am outside.)

My wrinkles and gray hair remind me that my life has not been perfect, but I would not trade my ‘medals’ for anything in the world! Stay tuned. . . .