Category Archives: keeping it real

Organizing My Thoughts

It’s usually around this time of the year that I start to write my annual Christmas letter. I keep it to one page. I remember getting Christmas letters from distant cousins that were pages long of bragging. Ick! I dedicate a paragraph to each of my children, one to me and Cycle Dude and one to my dogs. Five paragraphs are plenty long enough for a Christmas letter! I stopped writing the paragraphs a couple of years ago about my children and let them write their own to include in my Christmas letter. Not only does that make their news more personal, but it helps me to organize my thoughts.

I remember the days immediately before, during and after my divorce. I was so scatter-brained, I was surprised I could think at all! I was still in school at the time, and was preparing to graduate five months later. I couldn’t afford to be scatter-brained! By the grace of God, I was able to hold it all together enough to graduate with a 3.3 GPA.

I employed several different tools during that time that helped me a great deal!

1. I used a paper calendar: I kept the calendar with me so I remember appointments, when papers were due, when I had exams, etc. I filled the calendar in every two weeks and let it do my thinking for me!

2. I made dozens of lists: From what I had to accomplish that day, to my grocery list, and my housecleaning list, etc. Even if the task was trivial, I put it on the list. I didn’t want to forget anything, especially since I was in school.

3. I’d prepare for tomorrow the night before: I’d make sure I had all the schoolbooks I needed, the papers that were due, my lunch, and anything else I needed for the day. I would also lay out my clothes the night before. If I took time the night before to prepare for the next day, then the next day wasn’t as crazy!

4. I’d take some time to seriously veg: Sometimes, you just need to have an afternoon of not doing much of anything. Those were the days I’d clear the cobwebs from my brain and just enjoy the peace and quiet.

5. I’d map out my route: The year I was divorced was my daughter’s first year of college – four hours away I another state. I attended all of her volleyball tournaments. I always made sure I knew in advance how to get to where her game was. Of course, my laptop and schoolbooks came along as well.

It’s easy to become scatter-brained when you’re going through a hard time. Take the time to make sure you have the tools to help you not be so scatter-brained. And above all, give yourself grace. Stay tuned. . . .

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The Tempest

In Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest” caused a shipwreck that killed the main character’s enemies. One may feel that a divorce is like the tempest. Divorce is painful because it is the rending of two souls intimately joined by promise or covenant – that’s what the rings represent. Divorce can feel like a shipwreck, and all you are left with are splintered boards, broken glass and an oil slick on the water.

I have never endured a hurricane or a storm on the open sea. However, I have endured frightening thunderstorms in the Midwest and dust storms in Arizona. The tempest can take many forms – from thunderstorms whipping the atmosphere into a circular frenzy to mighty winds carrying dust into every nook and cranny and powerful storms over the ocean pushing the sea several miles inland. The tempest can also be the emotional storm that accompanies the ripping apart of a divorce.

I thought about this post this morning. I try to encourage others to walk through their divorce with courage, knowing there is light when you come out of the darkness. I know going through a divorce is not all butterflies and unicorns. I know it can be one of the darkest, ugliest and most frightening places you can be. I think only abuse and death are worse than divorce – at least for me.

Shakespeare’s character conjured up the storm for nefarious purposes. I know of One who calms the storm – for His glory. I can honestly say that if it had not been for my faith and the faith of two close friends, I would not have made it through the tempest. I also humbly admit that I did not ride out the storm as a saint. I rode out the storm screaming and shouting all the way – not out of fear, but out of anger and vengeance. I am not the ideal person to emulate during a divorce. However, I can proudly say that I am still standing, I have withstood the tempest because of the love of Christ.

The storm may be buffeting you all around. You may feel as if you do not have the strength to stand. Pray the prayer, “Help!” You will feel the hand of God calm the tempest and steady you. Have faith. Stay tuned. . . .

To Thine Own Self Be True

Back in October of 1966, Gilligan’s Island had an episode entitled, “The Producer”. Harold Hecuba, a Hollywood producer, crash lands on the island while on a trip to find new talent. The castaways stage a musical production of Hamlet in order to showcase Ginger’s talent to Mr. Hecuba. At the end of the play, the entire cast sings a chorus that ends with the words; “And there’s another thing you ought to do, to thine own self be true.” The Shakespeare character Polonius utters these words in the original play Hamlet. He means, “Do not deceive yourself.”

I spent the first few years of my adult life totally oblivious to myself. By that, I mean, I really didn’t know who I was, what I was capable of, what I thought about things and believed in and where I stood in the grand scheme of life. I think now, at the ripe old age of 50something, I understand myself.

When I was younger, I was easily influenced by others, even as a young wife and mother. I remember when Y2K rolled around. I eagerly jumped on the bandwagon of doomsday preparation because the group of women I hung around with told me to. I would not let my children read the Harry Potter books because the group of women I hung around with told me the books were evil. I did not hold ex accountable as leader our family because I was told to “just let him lead (in whatever way he deems appropriate)”. Wow. I’ve come a long way.

The one good thing about my divorce is that it forced me to get to know myself – apart from husband, children, influential friends, finances. I was stripped of everything I thought I needed to live a good life. The only constant in my life was my faith. I knew that I had to cling to Christ in order to “make it out alive”.

Now I am on the other side – of the divorce, of the second half of my life and of the process of getting to know who I am. I know what I believe in. I know what I am capable of. I know how I react to situations – physically, emotionally, financially. I will not allow myself to be influenced by others to think, do, and behave in ways I don’t believe in or that I question. I won’t blindly follow others like I did when I was younger. I guess it’s all part of growing up, maturing and understanding who I am – being true to myself. Stay tuned . . . .

There is Life

Jesus followers around the world will be celebrating His resurrection this Sunday. Even if you are not a Jesus follower, there is still celebration – for spring, for the new life that spring represents and for the time spent with family. Spring is one of my favorite seasons because of the promise of new life. I love to see the flowers bloom, watch the little fledglings make their way out of the nest, and smile as mama animals lead their babies out into the world.

I remember the dark days of my divorce when I thought life would never be again, not just that it would never be the same, but that it would just never be. I was angry, hurt, and depressed. By God’s grace, I had some amazing people in my life to help me walk out of that darkness.

Dear one, if you are facing that darkness during this season of Easter, know that there is LIFE! It may not feel like it, you may be so angry and hurt that you don’t know what to do, but take heart. Sit down, take a deep breath, cry if you must. Know that the God of the universe sees and hears your pain. He knows how to bring you out of this. He is the God of the impossible. The same force that raised Christ from the dead cares about every hair on your head. (Didn’t intentionally rhyme that!) Know that there are also many women who have been where you are, so you are not alone. Look out your window at the flowers, the birds, the bees buzzing around. Notice how blue the sky is and how warm the sun is. All around you, there is life. Breathe a prayer of thanksgiving for the life you have been given. Stay tuned. . . .

Lessons from a Coyote

I once heard it said that the two most adaptable creatures on earth are coyotes and cockroaches because a) they can both be found in nearly every corner of the world and b) they have been around for such a long time. That may be all well and good, but, like I a told a PhD Etymologist candidate one time, the only good cockroach is the on the bottom of my shoe. He was appalled and held his Madagascar Hissing Roach a little closer. But, I digress.

Back to the coyote. These wolf-like mammals are everywhere. They’ve become highly adaptable in a world that is rapidly encroaching on their habitats. Coyotes have the remarkable ability to adapt their entire lives in order to survive in different habitats.

I believe God uses His creation to teach us valuable lessons. There are many scriptures that refer to an animal as an example of a spiritual characteristic. When we are going through a hard time in our lives, we may need to stop and look around us at the beautiful creation set before us. What kind of lessons can we learn from a coyote that will help us on our healing journey?

1. Be adaptable: Going through a divorce is just plain nasty. You can either dig your heels in and become angry and bitter or you can shake off that nasty man and continue on with your life. One of the most adaptable animals in the world, the coyote can change its breeding habits, diet and social dynamics to survive in a wide variety of habitats. Urban
coyotes take advantage of swimming pools, dog water dishes, ponds and water hazards at golf courses and other water-bearing human artifacts as a source of moisture. However, the majority of coyotes never see people.

(Read more: http://www.desertusa.com/animals/coyote.html#ixzz4dadmEud9)

What changes does your divorce bring – living on your own again? Moving to a new home, city or state? Getting a job? Instead of fighting the change that is happening as a result of your divorce, embrace it. Learn to adapt to a new ‘normal’.

2. Be resourceful: Urbanization has encroached on the coyotes’ territory, and they have learned to look in other places for food. Unfortunately, that food may be in the form of a domesticated animal, though coyotes don’t usually subsist on domesticated animals. Depending on how wide their range is, the coyote can be singular as a carnivore or more of an omnivore (eating both meat and plants).

As a mid-life divorcee, you may be facing a job change. Start out as a temporary employee or a part-time employee in order to get your foot in the door. Do you have a lot of stuff left from your marriage? Sell it! Use the money for your needs. Take stock of your assets and liquidate what you can in order to take care of yourself.

3. Be patient: The coyote has a great deal of stamina and will stalk its prey for 20-30 minutes in order to wear that prey down. When the prey is at its weakest, then the coyote will strike.

You did not get into the situation overnight (that precipitated the divorce), you will not get out of it overnight. Divorces can be like a festering wound – mean and ugly. Be patient and give yourself grace as you heal. Have stamina and do not allow yourself to get worn down.

4. Ask for help: Coyotes live and hunt in groups. They know there is safety in numbers and more hunters can be more efficient at times than a lone hunter. Coyotes have different vocalizations that communicate their needs. They know one another’s ‘voices’.

My mother always used to say, ‘There is safety in numbers’. As you walk this healing journey, make sure to get connected to a support group or a couple of friends who will ‘have your back’. Voice your needs. No one can read your mind.

5. Be strong: Coyotes are feared hunters because they hunt in packs, like many of their wild cousins (the wild dogs of Africa, wolves, jackals). Coyote pups learn to hunt from their mother. By the time they are a year old, they are strong enough to hunt on their own and begin their own families.

Pray for God to put a ‘coyote mom’ in your life, someone who will walk with you through the divorce and teach you to be strong. Someday, when you are strong enough and healed enough, you may be called upon to be that ‘coyote mom’ for someone else.

Thank God for His awesome creation and the lessons He teaches us through it. Take heart, dear one. You are not in this alone. Not only does God walk along beside you, but so do many other women who have found themselves in this same situation. Stay tuned. . . .

 

 

Starting Over After a Loss

You may have heard about the wildfires that swept through Gatlinburg, TN a couple of weeks ago. Many people lost everything – their homes, their possessions, and even loved ones. I am proud to call this area of the country ‘home’. I am proud that Dolly Parton, a Sevier County native, pulled together resources to make a telethon happen that raised over $9 million for the victims of the wildfires. I am proud that so many people have shown why Mystate is called the ‘Volunteer State’ by volunteering time and resources to help these families as they start over.

It is never easy to start over after we experience a loss. Divorce is a loss – loss of a dream, loss of a relationship, loss of finances, loss of a way of life. We may feel as if we escaped something horrible with only the clothes on our back. I not only lost all a dream, a relationship, finances and a way of life, but I also lost my home. A friend of mine spent days sorting and organizing my stuff as I prepared to leave my home of 10 years.

How does one start over after a loss? Perhaps the following will help:

1. Allow yourself time to mourn: You just lost something you have known for several years. Your life has changed dramatically. Don’t expect yourself to be ‘ok’ with this situation quickly. You will experience anger, denial, bargaining, etc. It’s okay to feel these things. Mourning is normal after a loss.

2. Take stock: Many of the victims of the wildfires said, “We lost everything, but we still have each other.” Don’t concentrate on what you lost, but concentrate on what you still have. That doesn’t necessarily mean possessions. I still had my children, my dogs and friends who loved me. For me, those were the most important things.

3. Move forward in baby steps: You cannot expect to rebuild your life overnight. For the victims of the wildfires, it will take time to rebuild their homes and their lives. Move forward in small steps. Learn how to budget and balance your checkbook. Sort through your stuff and get rid of anything you don’t use, reminds you of ex, etc. Join a support group. Do what you need to do in order to feel ‘normal’ again. Give yourself grace as you move forward slowly.

4. Give yourself grace: I’m sure the victims of the wildfires will experience PTSD. They will need help, not just physically, but mentally as well. We can experience PTSD whenever we go through a traumatic event in our lives. Divorce is a traumatic event. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t expect too much too soon from yourself. Give yourself time to heal. How long you take to heal is up to you – there is no set time that it takes to heal from a traumatic event. Don’t let people tell you to “Just get over it!”

5. Celebrate being a survivor: You have come through a traumatic event in your life and you have survived. Ex meant to crush me, but by the grace of God, I am still here, I am still standing. Whether you have survived divorce, illness, an accident or a host of other traumatic events that can happen in our lives, you have survived and that needs to be celebrated.

Dear One, you have survived the traumatic event and you are to be commended. Give yourself grace as you negotiate the next several days, months and years in your healing journey. Take baby steps toward your new ‘normal’. Know that you have people in your life who love you and will help you as you heal. Allow yourself time to feel the emotions of your loss. Don’t dwell there, but know that to feel is to heal. Hugs! Stay tuned . . .

Protesting The President-Elect

Normally, I would not use this blog as a place for political rants. However, I feel the recent presidential election deserves some attention.

I have to shake my head at all the protests going on over our President-Elect, Donald Trump. Our nation is one of democracy, where the people get to express their opinion via the voting booth. I did not vote for either candidate because I felt neither one of them was presidential material. Still, many people took to the polls to vote for their favored candidate. If those who are protesting Donald Trump’s win want to place blame or are angry that their vote “didn’t make a difference”, they need look no further for blame than their neighbor, their co-worker, or their own family members. Folks were tired of the status quo and not being heard and they showed it with their votes.

Trump’s win came on the back of those Americans who have felt disenfranchised for far too long. They were not willing to accept the status quo, the global political correctness, and the prostituting of the American worker any longer – and they made their voices heard.

Politics is also cyclical. Ron Elving, a political contributor to NPR, puts it this way:

“Trump is a disruptive figure, to be sure — he has shattered the usual categories of the Republican Party and realigned the loyalties of the working class. But in one sense, his victory reinforces something quite traditional – the rhythm of presidential cycles and the alternation of progressive and restorative attitudes in the White House.”

So what we saw Tuesday night was not only a slap in the face of the status quo Democrats, it was also the pendulum swinging back the other direction. Perhaps in another four years, we will grow weary of Trump and give the Democrats the Congress and the White House once again.

Another thought on the protests: Those who protest don’t realize what a great country we live in that they can protest like that. Burning effigies of the President-Elect, claiming  “He’s not MY president!”, and carrying insulting banners would mean jail time or worse in many other countries. The right to free speech and to peacefully assemble is guaranteed under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

We do indeed live in a great country. Instead of protesting, perhaps those folks ought to be praying for the President-Elect and his advisors. That would be a better use of their time. Stay tuned . . .