Category Archives: standing strong

Things That Matter

Last January, I bought a new car – a Nissan Versa in gun-metal gray that I named Jet. Jet does not have many bells or whistles – he does not have power windows or locks, heated seats or back seats that fold down or  lot of other things. That’s fine with me. He has what matters – the ability to get me dependably from point A to point B. He does that quite well and doesn’t use a whole lot of gas in the process. In fact, I discovered this morning that he also does quite well on snow and ice.

For me, getting divorced took me from a house full of stuff to an apartment full of half that stuff. The longer I lived in the apartment, the more stuff I got rid of. When I moved in with Cycle Dude, I got rid of tons more stuff. Truth be told, I could probably get rid of even more stuff.

Stuff wasn’t the only thing I got rid of. Friends who knew ex and I together seemed to evaporate. I also got rid of a great deal of anxiety, suspicion, and (eventually) anger. I felt like my life was like an onion, peeling away layer after layer. I finally got down to the things that matter.

I don’t have the latest, greatest and most updatest of everything – I don’t need it. Jet doesn’t have tons of bells and whistles – I don’t need it. I don’t have a walk-in closet full of clothes or shoes – I don’t need it. I don’t have a house full of knick-knacks – I don’t need it.

What do I need and what are the things that matter in my life? My faith, my children, my grandbaby, my sweetheart (Cycle Dude), my pups, my family, a roof over my head, food in the fridge and a job that meets my financial needs. My perspective has changed a great deal over the past seven years. My needs are met with simplicity and my wants are few. I find happiness in relationships, not things. I get to come home each day to three of my favorite people – Cycle Dude, Jack and Shirley. And for that, I am grateful! Stay tuned. . . .

 

Advertisements

Blessed

Christmas is only a few days away. I am keenly aware that this time of year can be incredibly stressful on its own without adding the additional stress of going through a divorce. I also know that the holidays can be a painful part of the year, too – especially if one has experienced a loss during the year. I remember the first holiday season after my dad died – we felt empty, like something was missing. The holidays are still a rough time for my mom because she misses my dad so much.

I divorced right before Christmas seven years ago. As a result, I didn’t have much money, but I did have a great deal of anger. I was angry that my finances were shot. I was angry that my children did not have good holiday memories like I did. I was angry that ex had more money and was able to give my children more for Christmas than I was. That first Christmas after my divorce was not a very good one.

I was so angry for so long that I lost sight of one thing – how blessed I was. I had a roof over my head, a job, food in my cupboards, a car that ran and people who loved me. God had provided the things I needed. There is a big difference between needs and wants. Our needs are those basics we need for survival, food, shelter and clothing. The wants are everything else – a car, a cell phone, new shoes. Even with as little as I had, I was still richer than many people in other parts of the world.

I am blessed. I do not have the latest and greatest of everything – I don’t need it. I don’t have a car with all the bells and whistles – I don’t need it. I content with what I have, where I am, and with whom I am sharing my life. I have man who loves me. I have a new grand baby. I have six amazing children. My mom is in good health. My siblings are all doing well. I have a good job and a good boss. I have two hilarious pups who think I am everything. I have wonderful friends. What else is there?

The floor beneath my Christmas tree is not stacked high with gifts. I didn’t go into debt to buy gifts this year. My bills are paid. I am content. I am blessed. I thank God for keeping me in His care. As this year comes to a close, I do not wish for next year to bring financial prosperity or more stuff, I wish for more opportunities to serve – my coworkers, my family, Cycle Dude, my church and my community. I am blessed and I wish to bless others.

Keep a quiet heart this holiday season as you meditate on the reason for the season – Jesus. Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by expectations, relationships and unfulfilled promises. Know that you are loved. Stay tuned. . . .

Not Alone

I was sexually assaulted. I remember that day so clearly. My family was visiting relatives in Chicago and we had gone to the Museum of Science and Energy. I think I was about 8 years old. There was one display that I was particularly interested in, but did not get to see when my family was around because there were so many people. After my family started to wander off, I stuck around to look at the display. I was surrounded by a group of older children. I thought nothing of it until someone slipped their hand up under my skirt and started to fondle my private area. I was shocked! I didn’t know who the person was, I didn’t look up and I didn’t look back. I broke away from the group and ran to find my parents.

I didn’t tell my parents about the incident because I thought they would make it my fault. I carried that memory with me for a long time before I told anyone. I thought it was my fault – if I had gone with my parents instead of staying back, it wouldn’t have happened. Forty years later, during a counseling session, I mentioned the incident in passing. My counselor said, “What? Go back to what you just said.” I did and we talked about it. It was good to finally get it out in the open.

I told my ex and my children about it once it came out in counseling. I didn’t tell my mom until several years later. I was angry with her and my dad for not protecting me. After I told my mom, she told me that she, too, had been sexually assaulted by a family friend as a young teen. We cried together.

I am glad that the sexual assault that has been so hidden but pervasive in Hollywood is finally coming out. I glad that more and more groups are tackling sex trafficking and bringing that horrendous practice out into the open. Women and girls, even men and boys, need to know they are not alone as victims of sexual assault.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please call your local law enforcement agency. A victim of sexual assault feels shame and guilt. They need to know that whatever happened was not their fault, no matter what anyone says. Please seek help and support to get beyond this horrendous experience. Please commit to walk with your friend as she heals and recovers from this trauma. God Bless you.

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. . . .

Going Gray

I colored my hair for years – blonde, auburn, dark brown. My natural hair color is a dirty dishwater blonde. Several years ago, I started going gray. In fact, I found my first gray hairs when my second son was in high school, as I knew I would. I thought I was too young to be gray. Then I met Cycle Dude. His natural hair color is a dark brown. He started going gray when he was in his late 40s. He is now 60 with a very attractive salt and pepper hair color. I thought, “If he’s not dying his hair, I won’t dye mine.” So, I didn’t.

Now, I have this dirty dishwater blonde hair with beautiful (gray) highlights. I’ve had several people ask me who does my hair color and highlights. I tell them it’s all natural. This morning when I looked in the mirror and saw my gray streaks, I thought, “My gray hair is like battle scars – I’ve earned every one of them and I am proud!”

Accepting my graying hair is accepting who I am. My hair is graying, I have scoliosis and I could stand to lose a few pounds. That’s who I am. I love Dove chocolate. If you’ve ever had Dove chocolate, you know they put little sayings inside the candy wrappers. One of my favorite sayings (that I have posted on my office bulletin board) is “Be proud of your age.” I am proud. I just turned 55. I have a good job, a man who loves me, three wonderful children and children-in law, my first grandbaby on the way, amazing siblings and mom, great friends and I live in a beautiful part of the country.

I accept that I am not perfect. I accept that I am not 25 anymore. I am looking forward to the rest of my life being who I am. I want to be a great Nonnie to my grandchildren. I want to be a wonderful companion to Cycle Dude. I want to be a loving mom to my adult children. I want to be a good daughter to my mom and a good sibling to my brothers and sisters. I want to be my best . . .  just the way I am!

Accept who you are. You are strong, you are beautiful and you are loved. . . . just the way you are! Stay tuned. . . .

Be Prepared

I walked into work Tuesday morning to find that a survey team from a national  healthcare accrediting organization was on campus. The people at Myjob have been preparing for this organization’s visit for the better part of a year. The organization comes every 2-3 years to inspect the hospital for re-accreditation. Even though we expected the survey team in the fall, my boss said they could come as early as late spring or early summer. My boss has been preparing his team for this visit since October.

I am glad we have been preparing for this event. I have learned a great deal more about healthcare and what it takes to run a hospital. I have learned that it is better to be proactive than not. It is better to anticipate possible scenarios than to sit back and “let it slide”.

One thing I have learned, especially through my divorce, is to be prepared. I can honestly say, I was not prepared to divorce and then to deal with all the emotional, physical and financial flotsam and jetsam that accompanied it. Sure, I knew it was coming – I knew that several years before it actually happened. But I was still not prepared.

I wrote about this subject in a post entitled, “Storm Warnings”. However, I’d like to apply a little of what I have learned in preparation for this healthcare accreditation organization visit.

1.  Categories: Organize your divorce preparations into categories – financial, household, relational, work-related, etc. Sit down and make a list of these categories, then add the following: under financial – income, budget, savings, retirement, emergency fund (even though you may get alimony, don’t count it as income because it’s not going to be around forever and you don’t want to become overly dependent on it); under household – will you sell your home? Move into a new home/apartment? Need to have a yard sale? Need to replace household items? (hint: estate sales are good places to get household items – furniture, dishes, etc. if you need to set up a home.); under relational – How soon will you tell people of your (impending) divorce? Who will you tell? How do you break the news to important people in your life (children, parents, siblings, etc.)?

2. Rank: Once you have your categories and have broken them down into sub categories, give each sub category a ranking from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) in order of priority. What things will you take care of first? What things can wait? Work on the #5’s first and cross them off your list when done. Number fives should be things like income (how are you going to support yourself?), housing (where are you going to live?), and debt (pay off old debts and don’t create any new ones until your are financially stable).

3. Finish: Once you have finished an item, cross it off your list. If you are really good and make a spreadsheet, hide that column/row when you’ve completed it. Once it’s done, it’s done.

4. Document, document, document: Keep a copy of all your records. Keep a phone log of your conversations with ex or of any electronic communication with ex. You may have to produce this information if it comes down to “he said – she said” in court. Be aware that unless you inform someone you are recording the conversation with them, that communication may be against the law. A good rule of thumb regarding keeping records and documents is 10 years. Instead of tons of boxes full of paper crowding up your spare bedroom, scan documents and store them on a flash drive, backup hard drive or on the ‘cloud’.

Everything we experience in our lives in a learning experience. We can take what we learn in one aspect of our lives (ex. work) and apply it to other aspects of our lives (personal). The thing is we should never stop growing and learning. And, yes, we can even learn from an unpleasant experience like a divorce. Stay tuned. . . .

I Was the Victim of Bullying

The year was 1972 and my parents had just moved our family back to Arizona from Ohio. My school-aged siblings and I were enrolled in a religious school – grades K-8. I remember that every morning, all the children in the school would file out of our classrooms, stand in two lines, face the flagpole and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the Hail Mary. I was in 5th grade.

Fifth grade wasn’t too bad for me. The trouble started in 6th grade. Joey Polanski and his cohorts decided it was a good idea to relentlessly harass me. They would call me names, steal a basketball I had brought to school for recess, and in general, make life miserable for me. I told my parents, but was told, “Just tell them, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.'” Really??!! That was the solution? The teasing continued in 7th grade with Mike Hayes and his buddies joining in on ‘the fun’. Eighth grade was a blur because my mom had my little sister halfway through the school year.

I homeschooled my children for seven years. When they finally went to public school, I told them that if they were ever bullied, to let me know and I would be down at the school office in a heartbeat. I wanted to let my children know I would defend them because my parents never defended me.

My parents knew about the bullying, my teachers knew about the bullying, the school principal knew about the bullying, and yet, nothing was ever done. I was deemed “too sensitive” and it was thought that I should grow a backbone, or a pair of balls, or learn character from the relentless bullying. Instead, it brought thoughts of suicide, running away and abandonment. I guess in a way, the years of shame at the hands of those boys did make me a little stronger. In those days, nearly 45 years ago, bullying was seen as something that built character in the bullied. I disagree. It builds fear, anxiety and low self esteem.

Nothing was done to Joey and his Band of Brothers because he was from one of the most prominent families in the church community. At that time, I was sacrificed on the altar of  “Don’t make waves”. To this day, nothing makes me more angry than to hear about bullying, or to hear my mom talk about the friendship she has with Joey’s mom (I believe his dad has since passed on). Yes, I guess I need to “get over it” and yes, that experience did shape who I am today. However, I will never just stand by and let someone be bullied. Stay tuned. . . .