Category Archives: encouragement

Lessons from a Dog

I have written before on this blog about my two canine children – Jack and Shirley. Jack is my 10-year old boxer/terrier mix. He is highly intelligent and very vocal – both traits from his boxer parent. Shirley is my 9-year old Dalmatian/hound mix. She is very energetic and a tad ditzy – both traits from her Dalmatian parent. However, her sense of smell is through the roof. She gets that from her hound parent.

Shirley loves to lay by the back door and watch things – she’s my watchdog. Jack is very protective and barks when the ice maker in the fridge makes noise because he thinks it’s someone at the front door – he’s my guard dog.

I’ve had both dogs since they were puppies, so we’re a pack now. When they sleep in the bed with me, we all have to snuggle up close and be touching. They know where I am 100% of the time I am home. They love to do things together – go on walks, chill on the couch, go ‘bye-bye’ in the car. I am a dog person and have had dogs most of my adult life. I’ve learned some valuable lessons from my canine children:

1. Love with all you have: My pups let me know I am their ‘hooman’. They wag their tails and bark with joy when they see me. They hold nothing back in showing me they love me. They bark with delight, make happy noises when I pet them, and freely snore when we hunker down for the night. We are delighted with one another’s company.

2. Don’t be afraid to show compassion and sympathy: Whenever I cry, Jack is right there to comfort me. He looks at me with a furrowed brow as if to say, “Are you okay? What can I do to make you feel better?” When I am sick, my pups snuggle up to me, keeping me warm and making me feel better.

3. Be boundless in your happiness: Jack does the full body wag and Shirley barks and wags her tail when they are happy. A head tilt and an excited, “Woof!” often accompany unbridled happiness. When my pups are happy, they show it to the extreme – from running like a crazy dog around the backyard to 100 mph tail wags!

4. Take pleasure in the small things: A warm blanket, a good snuggle, a tasty treat – all are small things that bring my pups great pleasure. One does not need a great deal of money to experience small pleasures. Some simple pleasures for me – beautiful clouds, a young buck in Cycle Dude’s yard, and Dove chocolate.

5. Forgive others and experience the joy of the moment: Sometimes my pups do things that are naughty. I tell them, “I am not happy with you!” They will still follow me around, not at all concerned that I am angry with them at that moment. One of them ends up doing something funny and I laugh, my anger melting away. I cannot be angry with my pups for long. Life is too short and they are too funny.

I know that divorce is painful. I would not have made it through that time if I did not have good friends and wonderful pups. In the middle of a bad night, when sleep would not come, I’d roll over to a cold nose and a warm pup. They helped to keep me on an even keel. God has blessed us with His creation – both for pleasure and for learning. I am grateful for my pups. Stay tuned . . .

Advertisements

What is My Purpose?

My mom had such high hopes for my five siblings and I when we were younger – she thought at least one of us would be rich, or perhaps another would be famous. None of us are neither rich nor famous. But we have touched others’ lives for the better. Both of my sisters are educators – one teaches English for the military and another teaches fifth graders. One of my brothers has been a leader in his church and another brother owned his own coffee shop. My mom is currently pursuing her two passions – writing and educating. She has her own website and writes an education column for several local newspapers. Perhaps she is the one who will be rich and famous!

Often, when we come out the other side of a rough time in our lives, we begin to question our existence. If you are a mom, you may feel your children are your identity – until they grow up and begin families of their own. They are no longer your responsibility. Or you may feel your identity was in your marriage. Your purpose as a mom and a wife are gone. So what do you do now?

A sweet friend called me this past weekend. She had been reading my blog. I remember when she first contacted me to comment on something I had written. She was very wounded and didn’t think she could endure the hard time she was going through. I encouraged her and stayed in contact with her. Now, a year or so later, she is, in turn, encouraging other women. I told her she has come so far! She has a purpose – to walk beside other women as they go through a divorce or other hard times in their lives. I am humbled by her strength.

I have found that part of my purpose in life is to write this blog, to encourage other women. I have also found that part of my purpose is to love my adult children through the different phases of their lives. My purpose is also to love my mom and encourage her as she pursues her passion this late in her life. My purpose is to love and encourage those people God has put in my life. In doing so, I will make a difference in my small corner of the world. It has taken me a while to realize my purpose.

For some, their purpose is larger than life. For others, their purpose is small and quiet – making a difference and blooming where they are planted. Do not feel insignificant if your face is not splashed across the latest cover of Vanity Fair. Know that God sees you, hears you and loves you. You are right where He wants you to me. Hugs! Stay tuned. . . .

Not an Addiction?

(Note: This post will not be on my Facebook page. It may be too offensive.)One of the biggest names in Hollywood finally got caught – Harvey Weinstein is finally headed to rehab after years of sexual abuse of  some of the most famous leading ladies in Tinseltown (and beyond). This month’s Atlantic has quite a stinging criticism of the “sexual addiction” Weinstein claims he suffers from.

Author Dr. James Hamblin states, ‘ “Sex addiction” is not included in psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, as the American psychiatric establishment chose to regard sex differently from other addictive behaviors—largely in that there are no serious physical symptoms of withdrawal.’ I beg to differ. You see, a deep-seeded sexual addiction was the demise of my marriage.

Ex and his brother were first exposed to pornography by their father, who found a stash of girly magazines in a dumpster and took them home. Their mother was aware of the magazines’ existence, but did nothing about it. This was due in part to the antiquated belief that porn was just a part of who a man was. It was also due to the dearly departed Hugh Hefner, who brought pornography into the mainstream as something all ‘gentlemen’ should have free access to.

Granted, Hefner wasn’t the first one to publish photos women, not was he the first man to ever have seen photos like that. However, he brought pornography out into the public arena. His magazine, his clubs, his TV shows – all objectified women as good for one thing only. We have Mr. Hefner to thank, in part, for all the knock-offs of his publication – Hustler, Penthouse and thousands of porn websites.

Dr. Hamblin, even though there may be ‘no serious physical symptoms of withdrawal’ from a sexual addition, I can attest first hand that there are very serious consequences of sexual addiction – lying, blaming, stealing. Those are actions associated with any other addiction. And also, as with any other addiction, there is destruction – of the addict’s family, home life, relationships, marriage, and finances.

Ex is a sex addict. (I say ‘is’ instead of ‘was’ because once an addict, always an addict. One must keep the addiction under control.) He displayed all the signs of addiction including those specifically mentioned above. He actions ruined our marriage. He is remarried and is now someone else’s responsibility. I cannot say if he ‘suffered’ symptoms of ‘withdrawal’ since I was not around him.

I have talked many times to my sons about this issue. I have encouraged them a) not to ‘indulge’ in pornography, b) to be aware of the long family history of this, and c) to get help if or when they must conquer this beast.

I don’t expect Mr. Weinstein to ‘cured’ of his addiction by a simple stint in a luxury European rehab. He has to do an about-face and resolve to conquer his demons on a daily basis. He can’t do that alone. Only Christ we be able to help him conquer the beast.

Sexual addiction is real. It grabs people with its tentacles and squeezes the life out of them. It destroys families and communities. It fuels even more evil pursuits. If you are facing this demon or someone you love is facing this demon, leave me a comment. We need to stand strong against this addiction. Stay tuned. . . .

 

My Responsibility

As a parent, I wanted to make sure I taught my children to be responsible for themselves. Blaming others for your poor decisions, avoiding the consequences for your actions, and lying about it all was something I would not tolerate. Personal irresponsibility was something I was exposed to for years.

Personal irresponsibility is a direct effect from enabling, rescuing and helicopter parenting. It does little Johnnie or Suzie no good if Mommy and Daddy are always there to pick up every mess they make. I remember when I was in kindergarten and one day I fell over a burm on the sidewalk. I hit the concrete hard and scratched both of my knees. That experience reminds me of what it means to allow our children to stumble and fall and face the consequences.

I am not saying we should deliberately create opportunities for our children’s demise. Heaven’s no! But as parents, we need to let our children experience the consequences of their decisions. We need to let them understand what it means to work hard. We need to be an example of personal responsibility. I must confess that I wasn’t always like that to my children. It wasn’t until I began to see the disintegration of my marriage that I realized I had to be responsible for me.

I’m sure my children got mad at me when I made them stand on their own two feet. I’m sure they resented me when they didn’t get the latest and greatest of everything. I’m sure they hated working those long hours in the summer just to have money for school. My parents made me do the same thing. My responsibility as a parent was to make sure my children were ready to take care of themselves when they left my home. It was hard on all of us, that’s for sure.

But I couldn’t be more proud of my children – all six of them (3 of my own and 3 in-laws). My first grand baby is due next month. I have no doubt my son and daughter-in-law will be amazing parents. My other two children don’t have children of their own yet, but I can see by how they treat their spouses’ nieces and nephews, that they, too, will be amazing parents. Will I take the credit for that? Perhaps some, but I prayed for my children ever since they were in-utero. I prayed for guidance, for other adults who would pour themselves into my children’s lives, and for spouses and in-laws who would also love them beyond measure.

My mom says that you never stop being a mom (parent). My responsibility now is to encourage my children in their parenting, to continue to pray for them and their families and to pass along some small nugget of wisdom that I have learned from raising them. I love my children. And I am going to love my grandchildren, too! Stay tuned . . . .

 

Fall is Here!

Fall is the prettiest season here in MyState. People come from all over the world to visit the national park and October is one of the most crowded times of the year. The small towns near the national park host Octoberfests, Fall Festivals and go all out in decorating for the season. Once fall is over, the towns decorate for Winterfest, a delightful holiday season complete with lights, decorations and special events.

Fall is my favorite season and October is my favorite month because of where I live. I love the different colors of leaves. I love all things pumpkin. I love fall decorations. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And my daughter was born in the fall. I’ve written before about how divorce is season in our lives – things are always changing. I’ve also written before about finding the new ‘normal’ in your life after divorce, about finding your happiness and moving forward in joy.

Divorce is a very difficult time in one’s life – especially if your spouse is the one who filed for the divorce. (In my case, I filed.) You can feel rejected, angry, bitter and depressed. It’s okay to feel those emotions. After all, we are emotional beings. It’s part of what makes us uniquely human. But don’t dwell in those dark emotional places. Find the places that make you feel accepted and happy.

If this is your first holiday season after your divorce, I understand what you’re feeling. Give yourself permission make this holiday season different:

1. Feel free to ‘bow out’ of huge family gatherings: You may not feel like doing the huge family holiday, especially if your ex will be present. Carve out a time for you and your children, or for you and a few close friends, to have a smaller holiday gathering. If your family gets offended, don’t worry about it. You are the most important person right now – your healing trumps everything else.

2. Make new holiday traditions: Bring the stress level down several notches. Do simple things like: go out to see holiday light displays, go out for hot chocolate and pumpkin pie, invite a few close friends over to help you decorate for the holiday, have a pizza and movie night with your adult children. Keep it simple. The less stress, the better.

3. Give back to your community: Volunteer at a women’s shelter, collect coats for the homeless, volunteer for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign, collect donations for your local animal shelter. Giving back makes you turn outward instead of turning inward and feeling that destructive self-pity.

4. Be an ‘elf’: When you’re in line at Starbucks, pay for the person’s order behind you. When you’re at the grocery store, find an elderly person in the checkout lane and pay for their groceries. Be generous with your time and money. If you know of a single mom, pay her electric bill so she can give her children Christmas.

5. Put on your favorite holiday music and sing along at the top of your lungs! Who cares who’s listening?! Let yourself go! Be giddy and enjoy the spirit of the season!

Divorce can be dark and depressing. It can make the holiday season dark and depressing, too. Don’t dwell in that place! Even if you sing, dance or decorate just a little, at least you’re grabbing some of the holiday spirit. Start out small. One of my favorite post divorce activities was to turn out all the lights except the lights on my decorations – fall leaf swag, Christmas tree, etc. I would make myself a cup of hot chocolate and just sit in the silence with my dogs. It was so peaceful. Let peace reign in your heart this season. Get out and enjoy the sights and smells of fall. This is yet another season in your life. Breathe a prayer of “Thank you” and enjoy the whipped cream on your hot chocolate! Hugs, dear one! Stay tuned. . . .

The Song That Gets Stuck in Your Head

We’ve all had this happen at one time or another. You hear a song, or someone mentions a song, and before you know it, that song is stuck in your head. No matter what you do, you can’t get that song out of your head. I’ve had the experience as a parent where children’s songs would get stuck in my head. That’s annoying!

There are other things that can get stuck in our heads, too – painful memories, regrets, words we’ve said to our children that we shouldn’t have said, stupid things we’ve done. Words are often the things that get stuck the most – verbal abuse from a parent, mean words from grade school bullies, abrasive words from a spouse. It’s bad enough when a song gets stuck in your head, but when the painful words and memories start taking up residence, it gets worse. How do we get rid of the painful things that get stuck in our head?

  • Face it – head on: A counselor told me one time: “To feel is to heal.” As painful as that memory or those words are, if we let them come back again and again, they will continue to inflict damage. Facing that memory or those words takes courage. Journal about the memory or words and how it/they made you feel. Go into as much depth as you feel necessary to finally beat the wind out of the thing! This may take some professional help, but once you’ve beaten it (the memory, the words), let it go.
  • Share it: Talk to a trusted friend, a clergy member or seek out professional help. Don’t let the thing get so deeply embedded in your soul that it begins to fester. To share the thing is to bring it out into the open. Letting others know about the thing tends to loosen its grip on you.
  • Say it out loud: The deep dark recesses of our minds are fertile ground for stuff to rot, fester and grow putrid tentacles. Give words to the memory or the painful words. Speak out your pain – either alone, with a friend or in a support group. Tell it out loud how it makes you feel and how you are done with it! There is something about confronting the thing out loud that also lessens its grip on you.
  • Use it: There are so many people who harbor deep painful memories, whose ears ring with painful words. Once you’ve let the thing out, use it – write about it, paint it, dance about it, sing about it, take a very long walk, run up and down the stairs in your office building or at the local high school football stadium. Do not allow the thing to regain entrance into your psyche. Work it out of you.
  • Leave it alone: Don’t keep going back to that memory or those words. Look at that thing like a gross pile of feces, because that’s what it is. It doesn’t give you life or bring you joy. Don’t go back into the dark corner with it and allow its tentacles to wrap around you again. It’s something that should make you want to vomit – leave it alone!

Conquering these things in our lives takes time and willpower. Some people can get these words and memories out of their head relatively easily. For others, it takes time and professional help. Don’t berate yourself if it takes you longer to move past these painful words and memories. You know yourself and you know how much time you need to heal. However, I would caution you – don’t dwell in these dark places. Give yourself permission to move into the light and closer to healing. Stay tuned. . . .

May My Words Be Sweet

My son and his wife had a virtual baby shower this past weekend. It was basically a video conference call with folks able to join in from all over the country. Cycle Dude and I went to my daughter’s house where we were joined by my second son and his wife. It was a bit different attending a baby shower like that. We had all mailed our gifts ahead of time so we could watch my daughter-in-law open them.

A couple of days prior to the shower, my son texted me and reminded me to “be civil” since his father would also be tuning in. Even though ex ended up not being there or tuning in, I made sure to abide by my son’s request. I would not be ugly. I wanted to honor my son, his wife and my grand baby, Sweet Pea (my nickname for her). As I read my son’s text, I was reminded me of a poster I saw once. The poster was a picture of two little prairie dogs eating dandelions with the caption, “May my words be sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.”

It is so easy for me to say mean things about ex. I have to remember that he is my children’s father and my history with him is not theirs. They don’t see him as I do. And they all have a relationship with him. I have been reminded several times over the years since the divorce that I need to keep my opinions about ex to myself. Sometimes, it is really difficult for me to keep that boundary with my children – that I will not say mean things about their dad in their presence. My journal is one thing – being in public with them is another thing entirely. It takes a great deal of self-control, but I want to honor my children.

I want to be above reproach with my children regarding what I say about their dad. I want them to know that I strive to keep my words sweet or to say nothing at all. It is difficult to have sweet words about someone you do not like. Better to say nothing than to have to eat sour words. When I was young, my mom always reminded me of what Thumper’s dad (from Bambi) said; “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Proverbs 17:28 states, “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” If my words can’t be sweet, then may I be thought of as wise. Stay tuned. . .