Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post-Election: What would Jesus do?

Today on Facebook, I've seen the worst of people and the best of people as a result of the 2012 presidential election. I am also saddened to have sees good people behave so ugly.  Even Mitt Romney handled his loss with greater aplomb and grace than many of his Christian-based supporters!

I also find it curious that individuals who profess themselves as Christian, that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior, would spew such hatred, then use the excuse that they are not perfect but “Jesus loves me anyway” as justification for spewing such hateful things about an individual s/he doesn't even know. One Facebook post purported that “Satan was re-elected,” then later in a comment states that if that's God's will, it shall be. Is this individual insinuating that God wants the “devil” to run this country? And if it is truly God's will, why make such a post that decries the very outcome of the election in defiance of God? The appearance is that in this instance, the profession of one's self as a Christian is in name only; but that a Christian does not make. The purpose of Jesus' existence and His teachings was so we'd come to understand, live and walk in this life, given to us by His Creator and Father, like Him! This demonstration of hateful piety, and the excuses to justify the hateful behavior falls well short of striving towards the calling question, “What Would Jesus Do.” Additionally, if we are to behave so ugly, judgmental and hateful because we're not perfect, but “Jesus loves me anyway,” then by this argument, we all would be loved, including the very man who was voted president, right? And then according to the original statement, wouldn't this also imply God loves “Satan?” And does the statement “Jesus is my Lord and Savior” imply that by simply saying the words, you are forgiven for such actions and “in” with Heaven, without genuinely living and expressing the spirit of Jesus in your heart, in your actions, in your life?  Last I checked the teachings of Christ, Jesus was a proponent of love, not hatred. If one professes to truly be a Christian, love wouldn't be simply a word thrown around, but an action and a way of being and expressing, no matter how others show up, no matter how things turn out, no matter how any of us disagree with each other. It's not an easy task, and we do falter, as many today did on Facebook, but it is what Jesus invites us to consciously live and to consciously choose in action. The actions and expressions by many self-professing Christians demonstrated a vast contrast to the practice of a true genuine Christian. And what Jesus taught, by the way, was unconditional love, not selective love.

To offset such ugliness on Facebook, I found great appreciation and respect for those who voted for the other guy, and who also expressed their disappointment with the outcome with humility and respect, demonstrating the “higher spiritual road” of their Christian faith. These Facebook posters also accepted this outcome as “God's will” but choose to honoring and supporting that “will” moving forward. Some even chastised fellow disappointed supporters for their blatant show of disrespect for the President. Many stated they would pray for the President, though I cannot personally know what they are praying for; but I would hope that we'd all pray for our entire governmental system, because as easy as it is to make one man the scapegoat for all our country's problems when in fact, one man cannot single-handedly be responsible for the lack of progress these last four years. Polls show growing dissatisfaction with Congress, and its no wonder when everyone from both sides of the aisle are acting like a bunch of kids on a playground at odds with one another. (Hmmm, sounds kind of like Facebook.) These individuals significantly contrast to the vehement Facebook posters by demonstrating the genuine practice and grace of their faith; you could say they are walking and living their talk of Christianity, not just talking the talk of Christianity.

Look, as the one Facebook poster pointed out, we are not always going to show up perfectly, but once we realize we haven't, if we are to “walk that talk” we must turn that ugly side we've shown around and own it.  Own responsibility for the less-than-stellar behavior or choice, realize we showed up less than Christian-like, and be open to looking at ourselves and ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” had He been in this situation. Our task isn't just to profess our belief, it's to LIVE it! Unfortunately, I see far too many hypocrites, (and yes, Jesus does love them) than I do authentic practitioners living the Christ-like life. Their walk isn't mine to judge, these are simply my observations. Their walk is truly between them and God. I simply invite more authenticity, less spewing of hatred and contempt, never mind self-righteous condemnation, in the name of Jesus Christ. I'm pretty sure Jesus didn't do that and wouldn't do that.

As a final note, before placing my personal vote, I decided to let go and let God be present within this election and the outcome. My vote counts, each one of our votes count, but I trust more deeply in God than I do any other human, be s/he a family member, a co-worker, a friend, or the leader of this country. Our faith can be shaken at times, especially when what we want doesn't come to fruition, but its in those times in which true faith and our practice in it is demonstrated. As the country song reminds us, “some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” We can not, may not ever know what would've happen had things gone differently, so we are better served in our relationships with each other, and to our country to work with and support what we've got right now, not what we could've had. God made you, me and both these presidential candidates. How could any of that be wrong?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Things to Do

This latest offering came to me while I was on my lunch break, sitting in my car at a park contemplating all the things I needed to do since my return from vacation. Instead of a “to-do” list, the following landed on my paper! I am not sure but I think I was channeling Andy Rooney! Enjoy!  C~

I always have something I can do; maybe you know this feeling? Things I want to do. Things that I need to do. Things I’ve been meaning to do. I can “things to do” myself silly. Do they really need to be done? If I do them, is my life richer, or more meaningful? Would my life or its quality improved because I did them?
There are books I “want” to read; CD’s and tapes I’ve been meaning to listen to. There are organizational projects and cleaning-out projects on my list of things to do. I have files of written ideas for writing to record into the computer, a collection of quotes over the years to cull into one big document. I have a list of things I want to do that would be fun or different. I even have a to-do list for when AFTER I get around to doing something in the future!

What is this phenomenon of “Things to Do” really all about? Am I creating these things to do so I can feel I’ve accomplished something after (when and if) I actually do them? Or is it busy work that gives me a sense of value in my life?
I’ve considered a “Job Jar” similar to the one I would see in an old comic strip called “Hi & Lois.” Hi would pull a slip of paper out of the jar to get his chore for the weekend. A Job Jar would keep things interesting, and lend a sense of spontaneity to the “things to do” task. I don’t like being stuck in a routine, though I need routine to fulfill my need to “mix things up” and create variety. The Job Jar would also eliminate the dread of doing those annoying “things to do” items, which tends to lead to procrastination.

I read somewhere that if you have a book or magazine you mean to read, or recipes that you mean to try, or projects you aim to do, and you haven’t done so in over a year, odds are you won’t ever. Interesting; however, I like going up against the odds.

Perhaps this issue is about how I manage my time or how effectively I use it. Do I waste a lot of time? Never mind, I don’t want to know that answer.
I don’t want to be a busy-body but I know people who seem to have everything in their life in perfect order. How do they do that? Of course, I’ve never checked their cabinets or closets or attics to see if they are stuffed with stuff to do, hidden out of sight, out of mind.

Having the burden of all these boxes and lists of things to do leave me feeling overwhelm, and well, a little lazy. I have things I’ve held onto for years with the plan of doing something with it. A table I plan to resurface with mosaic tile. Unfinished cross-stitching projects I started when I was in my late twenties, and some I’ve yet to start. Training notebooks, tapes and CD’s I got from professional conferences when in jobs 6 or more jobs ago; and handwritten notes, letters, and journals I intent to type up and chronologically organizing.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m not that unusual. Maybe I’m an optimist because I believe I will eventually get to my to-do list and complete everything on it.  Maybe I’ll go to the mall and shop instead.

New item for To-Do List:  Type up a new to-do list.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Tangled Yarn


Over the last year, I’ve been doing a great deal of work around relationships of all kind: friendships, co-worker, family. More recently, I’ve been doing some deeper healing work around my relationship with my father, and out of this process has come the even deeper work around my intimate relationships with men. I’m finding this process much like untangling wadded yarn; and interestingly, the yarn represents the “story” I’ve lived and spun for myself over many years about my relationships with men. They say the relationship we daughters have with our fathers reflects the kinds of relationships we have with men in our dating lives. I’ve come to realize how in many ways, many of my dating relationships have been influenced by the relationship I’ve historically had with my father. Yikes!

In a studious look back at past relationships, I found some disconcerting trends. Most of my intimate relationships developed out of sense of neediness. I’ve also recognized patterns of insecurity in which I’ve had a great need for validation, reassurance and attention in order to trust the situation at hand. Much of this insecurity I’m realizing stems from my relationship with my father who was not emotionally or verbally expressive whatsoever with his feelings towards me as his daughter. I didn’t experience the father-daughter affection I watched many of my girlfriends enjoy with their fathers. My father also worked a full time job and additional “jobs” in order to provide for our family and college educations for my brother and me. As a result, we didn’t see a lot of my dad because of his swing shift schedule and/or tending to his various farming projects. My father didn’t take an interest in my life or things I liked; and we never had father/daughter time in which we spent quality time together doing things I enjoyed or that we could enjoy together. Dad was supportive of my involvement in band, especially in the last two years of high school taking on the Eagle One equipment bus project in which he renovated a school bus and drove it to band contests. While this interest I appreciate, it didn’t fulfill that one-on-one quality time spent together, since I shared him with over a hundred other people during those times. Dad did what he knew how to do best: provide for his family, and in this he was a great success.

I came to realize I held an unconscious belief that because my father didn’t take time to spend time with me, freely show me affection or express his feelings for me (his responses to my “I love you” were typically grunts and I had to coerce hugs out of him), I felt unworthy of his love; and through the years in our relationship, as well as those with men I’ve dated, I have felt the need to “earn” his love and affection. As a rebellious teen, I got his attention by fighting with him, yelling matches which unfortunately were how he and I invested our time into our relationship. I learned from my dad my feelings didn’t count, and therefore, unhealthy ways to angrily express them, even then they weren’t honest. I have spent most of my life trying to win my father’s love and approval; and only within the last year have I decided I don’t need it to be the wonderful and loving person I am.

Through this reflection, I realized I carried that baggage with my dad into most of my dating relationships, and needless to say, that has yet to serve me or the relationships well. I also attracted and dated men like my father: emotionally unavailable and/or unable to communicate or express their feelings (though most of this gender isn’t the best at these things). I managed these relationships much like I managed my relationship with my father, with anger as the persecutor or by emotionally shutting down as the victim. I accepted verbal and emotional abuse was the norm within a male/female relationship. My father often criticized me throughout childhood, and even still today; however, now I no longer take it personally (though little girl inside me still feels the sting as the past flares up) or place great value on his words. Today, I express how I feel in a respectful but honest manner and I don’t back down. This last year living with my father has been no doubt purposeful to rediscovering my personal power. I’ve learned to stand up to my father in a respectful and healthier way and to speak my truth around what I want or need from him, or how I’m feeling without fear or shame. I’m learning self-validation, rather than look to him (or anyone else) for validation of worthiness in this life. And I’m recognizing and appreciating his own ways of expressing love for me; at times it feels like an archaeological dig to find them but they are there.

This time with my father prepares me for a healthier way of managing and showing up in a dating relationship. I recognize how this baggage with my father has bled over into my dating life and how to better manage the dating process, and myself within it. I’ve given over so much of myself and my personal power to these past dating connections in the hope of being accepted and loved, all in an effort to fill the void left unfulfilled by my father-daughter relationship. What a horrific burden to place on another human being! In many ways, I feel like a teenager all over again figuring out how to date, what to do and not do, what to expect and not to expect. I’ll muddle through it as I’ve muddled through so many other new enlightened experiences before. These revelations offer me an incredible opportunity to grow and develop a healthier and loving relationship with a man who unconditionally accepts and loves me for who I am. Part of this process also involves my believing that I am worthy of unconditional love and acceptance, and finding within myself the willingness to accept nothing less than that from another.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dear Mom

Today marks three years since my mother's passing. In many ways, it doesn't seem like it has been that long, yet so much life has happened in the three years she left us that it feels like it's been forever ago.

Every day, Monday through Friday, the last few years of her life I would talk to my mom after work during my drive home. So much life has happened, and many many times I've wanted to pick up the phone and tell her what all was going on, only to remember I can't really do that. I suppose she knows the scoop anyway; I just miss hearing what she thinks about it, her advice and insights, her pleasure and excitement around it, and her support.

She use to threaten to come back and haunt me if I didn't come visit her at the cemetery. She got her wish. I've often gone to the cemetery and sat by her grave overlooking the lake at the Hines Center to talk to her. She picked that spot for her and Dad because of the view. I remembered thinking her silly, but now, I'm not wondering if her plan, even an unconscious one, included the view for me to enjoy during our“visits.” Many, many times I've visited her when my heart ached or felt troubled over matters around my dad, friendships, relationships, work, or life in general. The setting, that view she would show off to family members before she passed, has been very peaceful, healing and meditative to me these last three years.

When I lived in Colorado, I wrote mom lots of letters or notes in cards. I realized today I haven't done that in three years, and decided to do just that. Honestly, I'm betting it's probably old news to her since I'm confident she knows what's going on already. So really, I suppose this letter is for me, just like her gravesite.

Dear Mom,

I know you're good; how could you not be reunited with all those in Heaven you loved dearly that passed before you, especially your dad? I find comfort knowing you are taking good care of Casey and Belle too. We who loved you here miss you. And I know you're around when I energetically “ring” you up in my heart and thoughts. Thank you for still taking my calls.

Dad's doing well, you'd be very proud of him. Remember how you fretted he couldn't take care of himself? Well, he's doing a pretty good job of it. He's not too keen about my helping him unless it is doing the dishes and tending to the kitchen. He's better at asking for help but still a proud and stubborn man. Remember how you use to vent about him being unappreciative? Well, I may have over-defended him a bit. After living with the man this last year, I see your point. LOL. I've done a lot of healing work in and around my relationship with him and I think you'd be pleased with how he and I better relate now. As for him, I anticipate some changes in his living situation and life in the next year. If you can just “talk” to him in his dreams, in his thoughts and convince him to be more open to my and Steve's help more through this process, I sure would appreciate it.

I love my work at Wendell Foster's Campus and enjoy the people we serve. It's been one of the highlights in my life since returning to the Owensboro area. I get to do what I and my heart enjoys – writing, teaching, advocacy and education. Life is joyous again since you're passing – it took a couple of years to get over you leaving us. I grasped at a lot of straws to stay afloat in the grief. I still feel the ache of loss now and again but it no longer consumes me like it once did. And it's a little more intense today on the anniversary of your passing but I take comfort in knowing it will pass.
I've settled into living in Owensboro again. I've enjoyed reconnecting with many past classmates and friends. We even had a 30 year class reunion! Can you believe it? I miss all my friends in Colorado and living there but it's nice to be closer to family again too. I'm happy to be here for dad too. He misses you and while he'd never admit it, I think he enjoys having someone else in the house since your absence.

Living with Dad has been an experience but a positive one. Aside from rebuilding and restoring our relationship, I've had the opportunity to enjoy the setting in which I grew up. We've tried to keep your flower beds in good shape but both my and Dad's thumbs are not nearly as green as yours. This summer's drought took its toll on everything, everywhere. But I know Mother Nature will tend to it all come Spring. I will miss this place when Dad does finally sell it, but it has become too much for Dad. I know he'll miss it as well. I only hope whoever buys it appreciates it as much as you and Dad have, and as much as I do.

I miss talking to you daily, feeling your hugs, seeing your smile. I miss you laughing at my corny jokes, getting excited about the good stuff happening in my life, and our conversations. I just miss you.

Love you,

Carolyn

Sunday, July 15, 2012

In Memory of Casey, 1995-2012

This last week, I sent my beloved Casey to Doggie Heaven after sudden illness struck her late Monday evening. The most difficult decision one has to make, I sent her Home, giving her peace and with gratitude for having given me sixteen wonderful years of companionship.

In 1995, Casey picked me at the humane shelter in Lexington, Kentucky. My husband and I already picked a dog to bring home but the entire time we pondered our choice, this one noisy little fluff pup yipped non-stop at us. I finally turned my attention to this little black fuzz ball of perseverance with white feet. Picking her out of her fenced pen, I set her down at our feet and she immediately picked up where she left off in her canine oration, all the while “herding” us. She would not be ignored or left behind. Her personality oozed and my heart succumbed, and this puppy got her wish.

Casey's high energy wore us out; it was boundless. We'd roll a tennis ball across the expanse of a hardwood floor with Casey in hot pursuit hardly breaking a sweat. Casey latched onto shoe laces while you walked across the room with all the confidence she was bringing us down. After two weeks, we decided Casey needed a playmate and entered Belle who at first seemed put off but eventually warmed up. Thus, the beginning of Casey and Belle's Big Adventure.

Casey loved playing fetch, like most dogs do, especially snowballs which crumbled under her tyrannous capture. She loved the outdoors, and ravaged the open spaces of a park or my parents' yard, shifting into a full throttle run two or three times in a wide circle before coming to a halt. If you tried to approach her, off she'd go again in the opposite direction with a “catch me if you can” smirk on her pretty face.

Casey's smarts at times left me feeling like she was the pet owner. One day, Casey gave a quiet throaty snort of a woof. I dismissed it thinking she was playing since it didn't indicate urgency. After several more vocalizations which eventually grew in volume and with insistence, she'd release a full out bark. I got up to see what was troubling her. Casey stood by her nearly empty water bowl, looking at me, then looking at the bowl, then me again. Despite her attending puppy kindergarten training, sometimes it was unclear who trained whom.

Through most of her years, many thought Casey a puppy. Her puppy energy turned into enthusiasm and a love of life which intensified upon my arrival home at the end of the day or upon meeting someone new. She knew no strangers, and welcomed everyone with complete abandoned. I joked she was a “belly rub” whore because she'd “belly up” with open invitation to anyone she met. Casey loved talking to you, and upon meeting someone she had lots to say.

A fun-loving dog with more personality than I've known in a dog, Casey was not without her mischief. Over the years, she transformed dozens of pairs of underwear into crotchless panties; and she became known around the house as the Kleenex Bandit. Like pigs hunting truffles in the woods, Casey rooted used Kleenexes out of nowhere, leaving me wondering where she found them. Casey was the best vacuum cleaner, “Johnny on the spot” to clean up my oopsies in the kitchen. Unfortunately, she'd pick things up on walks that weren't so good. Once on a walk when she was a puppy, I looked down to see a partially smoked cigarette hanging out of the side of her mouth like it was nobody's business!

Casey shadowed me everywhere. During cleaning frenzies, she'd follow me around from one room to another, her tags jingling as she kept up, until she tired and settled down in one central location to more easily supervise the activity. Casey didn't like being left out of anything. She loved car rides, despite having motion sickness. We ran errands together and traveled across the country many times over the years.

Casey's loyalty was humbling. Our sixteen years together consisted of countless life transitions and moves. When heartache visited, Belle licked the tears from my face, propping her head on my leg with concern. Casey simply sat next to me, holding space in support; and I'm not naïve, the Kleenex Bandit also knew opportunity when she saw it! A pet psychic once told me Casey had been with me in another life, and again with me in this life to see me through all these changes, and absorb negative energy of my heartache and upset within them. I know Casey hugs were better than any stuffed animal I ever had.

Over the last year I watched my“Quesadilla” succumb to the physical demands of old age as her eyesight and hearing deteriorated, and her hips weaken to shakiness after walks. She slept more than she moved round, and life became simply existence, not living. When she fell ill, I knew it was time. Intuitively, I've known this year would be our last together, but not so soon. Not this soon.

After sixteen years of unconditional love and support from two companions who were like four-legged children, I am alone and lost. My daily routine of walking Casey every morning and twice in the evening, feeding her, looking for her at every turn leaves me out of sorts. Casey offered such comfort upon Belle's transition, but with Casey gone, I have only myself to see me through this latest transition. I take comfort in God's love, and in my faith that she's in God's good care now; and that Casey is running full throttle in the open spaces of the yard in Doggie Heaven.

Blogger's Note: I wish to thank the many people who graced Casey and Belle's lives over these last sixteen years in support of them and me: Aleisha Gravit, Mike Petock, Ryan Hansen, Jane Stoddard, Ellen Kempf of Woofer's and Whiskers, Dr. Lutton, Newburgh vet, Viona Brink, Barb Van Horn, Kim Lively, and my mom and dad.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Bitter Taste of Humble Pie

I made a commitment before I left for Colorado in 1999, I reaffirmed it while living there, and I sort of followed through on it: I will return to Kentucky only if and when my parents needed me. That time came in 2009. After my return, I buried my mom and fled to Evansville for the comfort of another man’s arms. When that didn’t work out so well, I moved to Newburgh, closer to Owensboro I thought but eventually realizing not close enough. This realization in addition to my life “falling” apart, I finally decided I wanted to go home. The internal urge to go home to Owensboro, a town in which I loathed living, felt surprisingly strong considering I couldn't leave fast enough to get away from Dad after mom died. Everything about my life seemed to be pushing me in this direction: a failed business attempt everyone supported but few utilized; a humiliating relationship that offered me comfort on the front-end of grief, but misery on the back-end once reality set in; disappointing friendships that challenged my sense of self, my value system, and my drama-free zone, and; unsuccessful efforts in securing a meaningful job in Evansville. Okay, God, I get it! I surrender to thy guiding will. I returned home to Owensboro.

This decision was greeted with the taste of bitter humble pie. And to think I considered the loss of my job in Colorado, the loss of my mom, and the loss of my life I’d known for ten years as the dismantling of who I am. Ha! Little did I know it was the prologue for much deeper personal and spiritual renovation! Humble pie tasted like shit but I ate it anyway. I had to in order to figure out my life. Gratitude became the daily sweetener I used in which to get each bite down. First order of business was finding a job, anything that brought income because I had none. A part-time job at JCPenney blessed my life, and so I had something to do, a way to contribute. I remembered why I hated retail sales but I sucked it up and did it anyway. I gave thanks every day and looked for whatever I could find within it as opportunity. I continued to search for full-time work. I danced with despair and disappointment but quickly replaced them with optimism so I may continue moving forward. Job prospects were slim in Owensboro, but the more I leaned into gratitude for my JCP job, the easier each day got.

Then in August, US Bank Home Mortgage (USBHM) called. A $9 per hour, rigid 8-5 job at a desk doing one thing and one thing only, this position was a far cry from my $55K per year and flex schedule I enjoyed in Colorado. Yet another bite of humble pie I took. Again, I offered genuine gratitude to God, and expressed it to myself and to anyone who asked how I was doing. The USBHM position allowed me to do what I love: write. Yeah, it was writing letters in response to insurance questions or complaints, and for the most part, they were stock responses but they got the “Ferber touch” as much as USBHM would allow me to put on them. I had a purpose and that felt good. I leaned into it and this new career opportunity.  For three months I wrote letters. I had no idea where this job would take me; I couldn’t pursue any other position within USBHM relevant to my professional background for a year. Dad envisioned my becoming a corporate woman working my way up the ladder. I didn’t but I never closed my mind to that being a possibility.

Suddenly in my third month, I received a surprising email from Wendell Foster’s Campus asking me to return to discuss the job I’d interviewed for back in April. After months of “touching base” with them, I finally accepted the job wasn’t happening when I finally received no response, that is until mid-October. Expecting a conversation about the position changes, I found myself in a second interview! A week later I’m asked to pee in a cup. Another week later, I’m offered the position, and USBHM received my two week notice. I felt the gratitude erupt within me like I’d never felt it. Hope replaced the despair and disappointments of the past.

This new position allows me to do my heart’s work: to serve others in a significant and meaningful way. This life purpose and my continual focus on it moved me through challenging customers at JCP and hateful insurance complaint letters at USBHM. As long as I kept my focus on it, the darkness of despair couldn't completely dim my light and joy, hard as it tried. Humble pie became bluebird pie spiced with joy. Despite my circumstances, I fulfilled my life's purpose through my conscious focus on it.

In this last year I stripped myself of professional arrogance and pride,and let go of all the resentment towards the bumpy road I'd traveled since my return to Kentucky and towards those who were a part of that ride. I’d blamed everything and everyone but it was me who made those choices, me who held the perception and beliefs about it all, and me who created my own reality and experience as a result. Arrogance, pride, resentment, anger, all these and other pain-causing feelings are how our human Ego holds us hostage in struggle, drama, and unhappiness in our life. When I finally let go and chose gratitude despite only having fifty bucks to my name, and forgiveness of myself and others for the bumpy path I traveled, the light of gratitude, joy, and abundance broke through the darkness of despair.

Today I continue to focus on serving others with my gifts and abilities. Some days I slip and my attention wanders to worldly things, but I consciously remember and diligently practice daily the attitude of gratitude, love, joy and centering through meditative practices. I remember God’s got my back as long as I let go of controlling everything, and surrender myself to God’s will and guidance. When I stay in this zone, I’m led down a beautiful path upon which to journey. And everyday I give thanks for all that’s been and for all those a part of it, all that is now, and all that shall be.

Yes, even the humble pie.

I Finally Cried "Uncle!"

It’s been a year since I returned to Owensboro, at which time I moved in with my father who had the house and farm on the market. The move-in was “temporary.” A year later, I remain here as my dad decides whether he is ready to sell the place or not. He pushes through the Parkinson’s disease and the challenging demands it places on his aging body. Dad knows his limits, and he takes rest breaks, but the work he does, he loves. The homestead has been his life; thus, to sell it means his life in some ways ends. As long as he handles the tasks physically, I anticipate he will remain, though he admits its getting to be too much. I expect he'll see the place through before selling in the spring; of course, he said that last year. Time will tell.

Living with Dad challenges me but offers me the opportunity to do some healing within our father-daughter relationship. Ours is not the warm and fuzzy father-daughter relationship seen on “The Brady Bunch.” The teen years involved a lot of yelling and crying. College years provided space to be who I wanted to be, bully-free. Young adult years smoothed out and the relationship seemed better; however, the older I've gotten, the more independent-minded I am, marching to the beat of my own drum. Doing so didn't set well with my dad though he kept his tongue for the most part. During mom’s illness, our estranged relationship intensified as if under a microscope in the midst of the stress. I was treated like I was sixteen again, and amazingly, I responded as if I was sixteen again. What the heck? I felt little support from dad during and after mom's illness, but then, he was a grieving widower himself, so that I accepted.

I made choices after mom’s passing that widened the chasm between us, mainly because dad expected me to act accordingly to his expectations. I wasn’t who he wanted me to be, and honestly, I was floundering as I made poor choices in effort to soothe the pain of my grief and loss. Upon realization of my situation, created completely by my own choices, I recognized the need to cry “Uncle” to the Universe as my dire circumstances came to bear. I was miserable in Indiana. I felt too far away from dad and everything in my life seemed to be falling apart. I felt the spiritual guidance to go home to Owensboro, the very place I eagerly left after high school. Doing so meant I would eat a great deal of crow when talking to my dad about my situation. I needed his support in these dire straits so I could sort things out, but I also felt a burning need to be closer to him. I’m sure Dad saw things from the former perspective, especially since he once stated his belief that the reason I came home to Kentucky in 2009 was only because I lost my job in Colorado! His accusation cut me to the quick and even deeper in my heart since mom was dying. Again, I had to let that and all of his narrow-minded beliefs of who I am go. He doesn’t know me, and at the time of this transition, hell, I didn’t know who I was either!

Through the last year, I’ve woke up from what felt like a bad dream. I had several “Come to Jesus” meetings with myself about my choices, coming clean that I acted with my head and emotion, not with my heart or out of God's guidance. I’ve let go of the story about my woeful sacrifice of leaving my life in Colorado, my friends, all that I knew to come home to see to my mom and dad. I’ve let go of my story about how undervalued I and my professional expertise is in this area. I’ve let go of my story of financial woes and hard luck, and how no one in this area appreciates me. I’ve let go of my story of true love turning into a nightmare of shattered love caused by a heartless and damaged man. And I’m still working on shedding a few more stories: the story of being the unappreciated and disrespected daughter; the story of hopelessness of ever finding my “Prince Charming” in this area who gets me, is like-minded, appreciates me, values me; the story of how I'm a misfit, out of place where “normal” is "abnormal" compared to life I knew in Colorado. I realized I made myself a "martyr" when I tell these stories; I decided not to live as a victim as many do when they whine and tell their sob stories of hurt and how they were wronged.

I am grateful to my father and his support during this time to grow, to heal, and to expand upon who I am and “what's next.” I’m grateful to spend time in the place I’ve called home for more than forty years and its sanctuary to remember and heal my youth and young adult experiences in this seemingly foreign place after a twenty-six year absence. I value every moment I can have at the only address I’ve ever lived here in Owensboro before its gone from my life forever.

I recently considered moving into my own place, a reality not too far off into the future, but I struggled with the decision. After struggling for a week or more around it, I remembered during a meditation that decisions from my heart are easy to make. If I'm struggling to make this decision, and its not feeling right, chances are it’s not the right choice right now. In making decisions, I'm learning to follow my heart while many tend to follow their head and popular opinion. With a dose of practicality offered by my head, I follow my heart first because more often than not, decisions made based on emotion and my head lead me down the path of heartache and struggle, as clearly evident from my choices since my mom passed.

I'm happy where I am right now, and my heart knows it is temporary. I offer dad company, help around this big house and sometimes in the yard when he lets me. He offers me company, support as I recover from three years of financial setbacks, and the opportunity to figure out how I can participate and contribute in this community. I'm available to him at a moment's notice which offers me greater comfort and peace in fulfilling my commitment to see him through his transitional years. And I'm given the opportunity to heal, even strengthen our relationship; to create a new kind of relationship between us that allows me my voice and heart as my father's forty-eight year old daughter.

Life is good with few bumps along the way but that's Life. My heart is peaceful and God blesses me with opportunities and guidance to move forward in my journey in such a way that honors both myself, and my father in his final phase of life.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friendships

The concept of friendships has been at the forefront of my contemplations of late. Loss of friendships; the meaning of friendships; the missing of friendships; and the revival of friendships past all have been on the radar this last year. Friendship has been a recurring theme of my healing and growth. Life is ever-changing and friendships are no exception to change. 
I’ve lost a few friendships this year that left me wondering if they were truly healthy friendships. Through the loss I’ve gained a greater clarity and understanding of what a meaningful friendship represents to me. I can count on a few fingers how many friendships I’ve lost over situations that simply didn’t get resolved to the point of animosity. No reason exists for the inability to find respectful resolution other than resentment and grudges (which typically reflect self-righteousness and arrogant pride) by one or both parties involved, through the failure to communicate, disrespect, lack of consideration of another person’s feelings, or simply a need to have things seen or be one’s way. My spiritual life coach often comments on how incredibly self-reflective I am, willing and able to look at every angle of a situation, even from others’ point of view. I do so sometimes to the point of over-analyzing and/or taking on too much responsibility in any given situation. Thankfully, I’ve been provided with support systems that gently say, “Snap out of it!” when I go down that path of bearing too much of the cross. I’ve learned to take responsibility for my actions and mine alone, while restraining the “rescuer” and "pushover" in me from taking on everyone stuff. Out of these losses, I’ve keenly become more aware of my own value system, and how I adopted and participated in friendships that were out of alignment with these values. Through this reflection, I’ve learned to raise the bar on what a meaningful friendship is for me, how I reflect that as a friend, and how others reflect it to honor and respect who I am as well.

In this effort, I’ve gained a friendship that exemplifies the new found understanding of the aforementioned lesson learned. Within this friendship exists many differences, yet we manage them with reverent love and respect. We don’t always see eye-to-eye but we discuss those differences without either of us needing to be right or making the other person wrong. We beautifully dance together among the differences sans self-righteousness, selfishness, and demands that expectations be met, creating a harmoniously coordinated movement through times of disagreement and challenge. In that dance, we developed trust to speak our individual truths without persecution or punishment aimed at the other. This trust deeply anchors our connection and loyalty as we support each other in trying times. We honor each others' need for space without insecurity or compromised senses-of-self. This friendship reflects and encourages multifaceted opportunities in which our friendship welcomes varying interests, other friends with whom we connect and socialize without either needing to be an integral part of it in the name of insecurity or control. This new found friendship is built on a solid foundation that is nurtured every single day with care, selflessness, respect, trust, and unconditional love and support.

I’ve also missed friendships I left behind in Colorado this year, like-minded friendships steeped in the spiritual essence of who I am at the core of my being: peaceful, joyous, loving, harmonious, compassionate, spiritual, and caring. These beautiful friendships of feminine divine connectedness reflect love, self-confidence, selflessness, and goddess beauty; not jealousy, melodrama, victimization, competition for attention, or cattiness. Coming together for community involves sharing of a few glasses of wine, good food, laughter and whimsical musings. These friendships feed the soul, leaving one filled with vibrant energy, not feeling drained or exhausted. My beautiful spiritual sisters from Colorado inspire, motivate and cheer each other on, listen attentively in support, allow each other space to be who we are, and render freely unconditional love and acceptance no matter the situation. Finding such friendships are rare as the gemstones of black opal or red beryl emerald, and they are to be handled with care, tenderly as the precious treasures they are. 

Finally, I’ve revived a past friendship that somewhere along life’s path faded like a ship into the night. This friendship was truly a gift from God upon my arrival to Colorado thirteen years ago as I started a new life in a strange place as a stranger to everything and everyone. A recent blog post about my journey into my new life flushed this friendship from the past after several years of disconnect, a loss I mourned at the time. This friendship exemplified a sisterhood in which we hung out, had fun but also laid our hearts out to share our deepest worries, fears, and greatest dreams; again, no drama,
no angst, no pity parties. The foundation of this friendship was solid, evident upon the recent reunion via email in which despite the years and the many life changes we’ve added to our ticker tape of experience, the rhythm of the friendship fell into its original place of trust, just like old times. 

Like the root base of a tree, the foundation of a friendship determines the strength, the durability, the depth, and the longevity of the connection and its quality. Without the roots of trust, open and healthy communication, respect, integrity, sacred reverence, and unconditional love and acceptance, a friendship cannot withstand the times of change, bumps and challenges. These characteristics I seek in any relationship, but most especially that of my friendships. I honor all the beautiful people within my friendships from the past, present, and those yet to be, for they are my soul mates teaching me, challenging me to expand my soul and its Light in this life. All with whom I’ve traveled the road of friendships I send love, blessings and gratitude for teaching me who I am. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Goodbye Kentucky. Hello Colorado.

April 20, 1999 was the day I left Kentucky to embark on a new adventure, nay, a new life. I had no idea what I was getting into, what lie before me, and what to expect. I simply surrendered to the journey. I've yet to decide if I was fully conscious to what I was doing or on some intuitive auto-pilot during this time.

Before leaving Kentucky, I worked for Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs as marketing director for the Lexington and Frankfort offices. Upon announcing my resignation and the reason why, many co-workers marveled at what I was about to do. One called me brave. I didn't really see myself as brave at that point, but today I understand why someone may say that. I knew no one in Colorado, my cousins having long since moved on to other states. I'd later meet a couple of people while out for an interview before I actually make the move. Even “braver” I'm told going without having secured a job first. Brave or crazy, I'm not sure, but the good news was I landed a job offer two days before I left Kentucky. Life was falling into place.

I headed out early that April morning, giving my worried mom reassurance with one last hug that I would be fine. By the time I landed for the night in Kansas, I'd learn in a phone call home letting mom and dad know I was okay that tragedy struck in Littleton, the very community where I shopped for my apartment. Columbine. It wouldn't be until I arrive the next day that I would fully grasp the severity of what actually happened. Honestly, I don't think anyone at the time understood what had happened. I've shared in previous blog posts about this experience and how Columbine would instantly hook me into the Littleton community.

After arriving to Denver, I lived in a La Quinta Inn for almost two weeks while I sorted out the final arrangements on my apartment which was across the street and park from Columbine High School. I had only that which I could carry in my Toyota Tercel when I headed West, and given it was a small car, that wasn't much. I moved into my new place with nothing but the clothes I brought with me. The first night in my apartment I slept on the floor; two hours into a sleepless night, I decided to go to Walmart to get an air mattress. They were closed! The Walmart in Kentucky stayed open 24 hours! How can it be closed!?!  No, Toto, I don't think we're in Kentucky anymore.

It would be another two weeks before I'd start my new job with Grant Thornton LLP as marketing director for both the Denver and Colorado Springs offices. I spent time getting affairs often associated with a move in order: Colorado driver's license, license plates, banking accounts, change of address cards completed, etc. I also visited the Columbine memorial that developed across the street in Clement Park. The amount of people that came through there was overwhelming.  So many in fact that the once lush sodded grass was reduced to grass-less mud thanks to April snow showers. I had to show my ID in order to get into my apartment complex. Media trucks were everywhere. This madness would last at least a month.

I hung out with a gal I met only the week before at a legal marketing conference – Aleisha. She was a godsend of an angel who reached out to me with empathy having herself transplanted there from Texas knowing no one. Our friendship developed as we got to know each other and she showed me around the area.

I learned a lot in the first few weeks in Colorado. You can't drink as much in the higher altitude as you would at sea level; you get plastered faster if you do. The higher altitude will take your breath away, literally, even from climbing a simple flight of stairs. It took several months before my lungs adjusted to the thinner air. Colorado has no humidity, which means the air is drier, which means drier skin. I had to drink more water and lather with lotion more then I've ever in my life. They have these lanes called HOV lanes; high occupancy vehicles meaning no cars unless there are more than one person in it could expressly travel through traffic.

In the time before starting my job, the reality of this major change in my life hit me and homesickness set in. I didn't know but a couple of people. I missed my dogs which were in my parents' safekeeping until they brought my furniture out the next month. I missed my family. I missed familiarity.

Yet, here I was.  Despite the tears and the fears that crept up, I dealt with the realization that life as I had known it in Kentucky was no more. A new life in Colorado, unknown, uncertain, and for reasons still unclear to me, had begun.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Dulcimer & Me

As I shared in “The Dulcimer and a Wild Hair,” my Mother's Day gift to mom was to learn to play the dulcimer. And that I did!

I left early yesterday morning for Land Between the Lakes; unfortunately, the sky was overcast and threatened of rain. Nonetheless, I enjoyed my drive, always one of the best parts for me in the travel, especially when I'm traveling alone. The time covering the distance I spend with my thoughts and reflections about my life, and life in general. Meditative in nature, my inner wisdom and guidance comes through as I'm focused only on the task of driving without other distractions. This time I also enjoy spending being a “rock star;” its the safest place for me sing at the top of my lungs along with music favorites like the soundtrack for “Rent” or “Evita”, Melissa Etheridge, John Cougar Mellencamp, Pat Benatar, and other songs from my day.

After overcoming mild confusion thanks to my being directionally-challenged, I finally arrive at The Homeplace an hour and a half before class. GPS offered a different “scenic” route with which I made better time than I expected. As I waited, I perused the many cases of exhibits and explanations of living life on a farm in the 1850's. A mild melancholy came over me at how simple life was then, though I realize those of that century had their own unique challenges just as we do in this century. I learned how various plants, what many today consider to be weeds, were used to make dye for wool, how to preserve food without the benefit of a refrigerator or freezer, and how to work the land for a healthy garden and crop. I decided I need to return when I have time and attention to pay to this museum's preservation of our Kentucky living history.

Three other people arrive to learn the dulcimer with me: an older man and woman, and a young gal between ten and twelve. The four of us settled in for our class as we became acquainted with our husband and wife teachers, Kelly and Susan Amsden, who traveled three hours from Tennessee to teach us the art of the dulcimer. We learned the history of the dulcimer which literally is an indigenous American instrument created in Appalachia. We learned the anatomy of the dulcimer, how to tune it, the different scales in which you can tune the dulcimer, the different types of dulcimers there are, and ways of playing it, etc. For being an instrument that's “simple to learn,” it seems complicated in its many possibilities.

Once we had the basics of understanding where the notes were on our dulcimer fretboard and which finger positions we used to achieve them, we began to practice a simple scale, then moved to a simple song! I filled with excitement after we finished, even playing at a turtle's pace! I crossed that line of my ignorance of the instrument to playing and appreciating it. We played another simple song that introduced skips – where you move from one note in the scale to another two or more notes up or down the scale. Technique comes into play here and my technique was awkward. I realize as we move further into this class I will need more beginning classes and lots of practice.

I learn there's a dulcimer group here in Owensboro, so I will begin researching into how I may participate with them for further practice and learning. I need to find a dulcimer maker to fix a small issue with the “nut” bridge in which the strings are cut too low and close to the fretboard, thus making it sound twangy. (In fact, they suggested I play one of their dulcimers but I really wanted to work with Mom's. Kelly rigged it so two of the four strings would sound better at least for the day.) The Homeplace is hosting “The Picking Party” Memorial Day weekend and I plan to return and listen to the sounds of all the beautiful strings of fiddles, banjos, and dulcimers, as well as reconnect with my wonderful dulcimer teachers.

During my drive home, I was rather pleased with myself and this adventure. I felt excitement, then discouragement, then encouraged again about my ability to play the dulcimer. I didn't learn to play the piano overnight, and realized the “perfectionist” in me harassing me for not being a perfect player after one class. I played it again last night and realize practice will be the key to my feeling more comfortable with the instrument, to fine-tune (pun intended!) my technique, and learn even more than I what I did in this one day workshop.

I thought about my mom several times and felt her sitting beside me grinning ear to ear. During her final months, she told me how much she loved I stepped out and tried things, went after what I wanted, and how fearless I was about stepping out of the comfort zone of “normal.” I felt mom's pride once again as I took a huge step to try something new this weekend; and I'm feeling pretty proud of myself for doing it and breaking out of a rut. I owe gratitude for that to my mom and her dulcimer. And I can hear her saying to me:

"Welcome back, Sweet Caroline, welcome back!"

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Dulcimer and A Wild Hair

As Mother's Day approaches, I'm feeling less burdened with sadness, and much more at peace around mom's absence. Previously, my heart ached as I saw Mom's Day cards in the store, ads for gifts, and all the possibilities of how to celebrate mom. A recent estate sale of my mom's stuff and that entire process helped “wring” a good chunk of the grief out of me, ahem, at least for a while. No doubt it will rear its head again down the road. I've come to be okay with that because it keeps me connected with her, with her memory.

So for now, I enjoy the grief-free journey when it comes to my mom. This Mother's Day, inspiration to honor her rather than mourn and miss her struck me. I find the irony amusing, and that I'm actually following through with it joyously nuts!

Many years ago, my mom fell in love with the sound of the dulcimer and decided she'd wanted to learn out to play one. So dad had a co-worker make a dulcimer as a birthday gift for my mom.  Included were playing instructions, as well as an audio tape to help the student learn how to play it. I believe my mom actually “fiddled” (yes, pun fully intended here!) with the dulcimer a handful of times, but according to dad, she never learned how to play it. Over the last several years, the dulcimer has sat up in a closet of my brother's old room collecting dust.

Upon clearing out the clutter of my mom's things, my dad and I discussed what to do with the dulcimer. I called local musician and string instrument teacher, Randy Lanham, to ask if he was interested in buying it for teaching, or if he knew anyone who was interested in owning one. Unfortunately, he didn't, suggesting a music shop. Dad decided we'd hang onto it and sell it in the estate auction when it's time for him to move out of the house. So once again, it sat in the closet on the shelf collecting a new layer of dust.

Then last weekend, I stumbled across a newspaper magazine insert in Sunday's newspaper featuring the summer schedule of activities at Kentucky's Land Between the Lakes (LBL). While casually perusing it, I noticed a class being offered: Beginning Mountain Dulcimer, Saturday, May 12 at The Homeplace at LBL.  The class caught my attention. I've never been interested in the dulcimer, and I've never played a string instrument in my life, unless you count a piano because well, it has strings attached to the keys.  I suddenly felt mom's encouragement to take the class. Why not? the familiar voice reasoned. I felt as if she wanted to live vicariously through me.  So, I decided then and there, why not? I'll do it.  I took the magazine insert to work with me the next day so I could make the call for more information.

Monday came and I started to think, this is crazy! Maybe they expect people with a little experience in this class; can someone really learn that easily? So I called. No, previous experience is not required. Yes, all the basics, including explaining the strings on it will be covered. Yes, you will be able to play several tunes on your dulcimer before the end of the 5-6 hour class. Well, hmm, okay then, sign me up! And so they did.

I giggle at myself for grabbing this wild hair to learn the dulcimer; but I'm excited about it. First of all, it's been a long time since I've grabbed a wild hair; I'm notorious among for doing so, and I like feeling some of the “fearlessly adventurous Carolyn” coming back after a three year withdrawal. Second, this adventure takes me out of town, if only for the day and into a beautiful part of Kentucky's scenery. Third, I'm doing it for mom; call it a Mother's Day gift if you will. I know she'd get a huge kick out of my taking the class.  I sense it was her spiritual kick that got me into it!

Tomorrow, early Saturday morning, off I shall go to LBL to learn how to play a dulcimer. A couple of people inform it it is suppose to be easy to learn, which is optimistic news for me! I have no expectations around the outcome of my ability to play, much less play well. I see this opportunity to spend the day with my mom via the dulcimer, an instrument which she loved. I have no doubt she will be around watching and enjoying the sweet music it and all the other beginners make.

Stay tuned (again, pun so totally intended) to hear the rest of the story! Um, and maybe a song!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Colorado or Bust

In the year and half after my divorce, I was a broken woman. My heart ached, my soul lost, I numbly went through my life as a new single struggling to keep her head above water. In addition to a relationship change, I also had a living change (two to be exact) and a job change. Yeah, when I do change, I do it big, or so it seems. Looking back, a lot happened in a short amount of time, climaxing into the biggest change post-divorce at the time: a move to Colorado.

The manner in which I made this decision still amazes and amuses me today knowing all I know about God's divine and intuitive guidance. Early October 1999, over a year after the divorce, I attend a business seminar hosted by Toyota in Georgetown, KY; or so I thought. This gathering actually was a women's conference about, well being a woman in a professional world. Lily Tomlin was guest speaker, and breakout sessions offered tips for well-being and balance. Up until this point since the divorce, I lived life numb. My spirit, heart and I felt no passion or excitement about my life. I simply got up each morning, went to work, and on the weekends, isolated myself in my apartment. I had no goals, no desire, no purpose. Until I attended this women's conference.

One seminar, facilitated by a then-not-so-well-known life coach named Rhonda Britton, stirred my soul, waking me within as if lighting afire dry brush laying brittle inside me. Rhonda challenged our group with one question: “What one thing would you do but haven't because you are afraid?” The moment she asked it, something snapped within my mind as if a vault of ideas opened. One thought escaped and resounded in my head. I want to live in Colorado. A flood of memories downloaded as I recalled a vacation taken years earlier in 1994 in Colorado to visit two cousins; how I fell in love with the mountains and the state, and; how I was fired up and ready to move back right then. I didn't because my ex-husband was rooted in Kentucky with his family business, and truthfully he didn't want to move. So I'd locked away the idea and forgot about it. I also remembered I briefly considered fleeing to Colorado during the divorce process but didn't thanks to a little voice gently guiding: Not now. You need to be close to home, family, support. End of mental discussion.

In that moment at this conference, and every moment thereafter, Colorado weighed on my heart and mind, so much so I immediately began researching the area, the cost of living, job opportunities, etc. The more I thought about it, the more it felt right; however, my head challenged this crazy idea. What? Leave Kentucky? Go where you know no one? (My cousins had since moved elsewhere.) So I grappled, argued with myself about this move. I wanted to go but I was stuck in fear. I knew it, so I asked my Higher Power for guidance. I asked for a clear cut sign that would let me know in no uncertain terms I was suppose to make this move. It felt right, but it was bold, was I ready? Could I do this? I had doubt. In hindsight, I realize I'd lost my fearlessness of taking risks, going for what I wanted. I wasn't trusting my passion.

The first sign bluntly appeared immediately. I started seeing Colorado license plates all over Lexington! Never seeing one before, I suddenly saw several within a week. Hmm. Okay, I said, I think that's my sign, but just to be sure, give me one more so I know for sure this isn't a coincidence. I didn't trust God, my intuition, or my gut, and well, given what all I'd gone through post-divorce, it was understandable. So I waited for my sign: the Dixie Chicks song,Wide Open Spaces. This song suddenly played constantly on the radio, everytime I was in the car! A fairly new song, I never noticed it until one day coming home from work. And upon listening to the words for the first time, I thought, That's me!

I'm still unconvinced despite two requested and granted signs, so I asked for ONE more sign, promising myself if I got this one, I'd know I was suppose to take the plunge. While I knew in my heart I was suppose to go, my head still wasn't on board. Now, it's late October, and I am walking my dogs in my neighborhood. A beautiful fall day in which the air was crisp and cool, reminded me of Colorado's weather during my visit – no humidity, sunshine. As my girls and I walked along, I looked off to the sky and “saw” mountains. The clouds were low on the horizon, and shaped like the mountains, peaks and valleys off into distance, and in that instant, for what felt like minutes, I felt what I call an “out of body” experience in which I was transported to Colorado. I was in Colorado in that moment, walking my dogs. It felt good; it felt real to me, and it was then I decided and knew:  Yes, I'm going to Colorado. And so I began planning, saving money, researching jobs, making professional contacts, etc. Six months later, I loaded most of what I owned into a storage unit, and what I could in my car and headed West, to wide open spaces.

This new journey marked the beginning of my journey to self-discovery and self-healing. At the time, I knew there was something or some reason I was suppose to go to Colorado, but what or why, I did not know. I just followed my heart for the first time in a long, long time at that point in my life. And my life forever changed as I began the long road to healing. Not just from my divorce, but from lack of self-esteem, self-confidence, and sense of self. Healing of past heartaches, disappointments, and unproductive choices. Healing that led to me finding myself, my life's purpose, and discovering who I really am for the first time in my life.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sharing My Mom

I know it's been a while since my last post.  Here's why!

A month after my mom died, I received marching orders from Pop to clear her things. At the time, this meant to both of us her clothes and personal belongings. And so I did, and believed we'd cleared her things.

Fast forward to the beginning of this year and my “in your face” revelation we'd not even scratched the surface of “clearing” her things. Closets full of floral arrangements, luggage, prints, Santa Claus and snowman collectibles, chotzies and other things. Shelves filled with plastic bins of sewing threads, tools, fabrics, craft supplies for crocheting, cross-stitching, ceramic painting, Christmas ornaments. Walls covered in beautiful decorative wreaths she designed herself. Plastic bins filled with grapes, silk flowers, and floral arranging materials, more fabric, and seashells. Department 56 houses and every accessory imaginable on shelves. Cabinets filled with votive holders, potpourri, and home décor items. Canning jars, freezer containers, lids, canning pots and cookers and tools, oh my! I chuckled at my and my dad's naivete in believing we'd “taken care of all her belongings” after her transition!
I'm not sure Dad is completely ready to sell their place yet, but when he is, I realized I didn't all these beautiful things of my mom's to be insensitively handled in an Estate Auction. These things, her belongings, she gave great care and concern before purchasing; much time, energy and consideration was invested by mom before before buying something. I knew mom wouldn't want these beautiful, high-end things (she had some excellent taste) to collect dust, sit hidden in closets, and be randomly thrown into a box to be sold at a chaotic Estate Auction. I knew Dad wouldn't get a fair price on these things this way, so I decided needed to do right by mom and hold an Estate sale.

My dad calls my mom a “collector.” My brother calls her an “organized hoarder.” I believe my mom had ambitious dreams of being Martha Stewart. Mom had big plans for her time in retirement but cancer stole that time from her. Mom didn't collect just to have it; she collected because these things touched her soul, resonated with a poor little girl who admired from afar pretty things. She also had big plans to decorate the house in great style. Mom did collect Dickens and New England villages, Santas and snowmen. And my brother was right; she was very organized. My dad shook his head repeatedly in disbelief at all I pulled out for the Estate Sale.

You think you know someone, but go through their belongings, and you get to know someone a little deeper. I knew mom loved shopping, but only until I begin organizing her things for the sale did I realize how big her dreams were, and what incredible tastes she had. In hindsight, I realize I took for granted her excitement about her plans and many interests. Despite the fact we talked every single day by phone for several years, I didn't understand this facet of her. What didn't I know?

I didn't know she practiced crocheting or she was teaching herself. I didn't know she was nostalgic as I perused newspapers and magazines saved about Hurricane Betsy that we were in, or Mardi Gras she attended in 1965, or when Elvis, JFK, and Reagan died, the flood of Daviess County in 1997, the tornado that hit Owensboro, or 9/11 happened. I found a tub full of my baby clothes, including the onesies, little dresses I wore as a toddler and even into the first few years of elementary school, and the baby clothing hangers. I didn't know mom had done so much floral work, twenty arrangements in all not counting the wreaths.

Mom was poor growing up and when she had the money in later years, she spent it on nice things she enjoyed. She loved shopping for it, having it, and displaying it. Mom loved to learn new things, a trait of hers which I take after, and she had a creative side that was expressed in her home decorating, the holidays, and her flower gardens.

As I pulled things out, organized, and priced items over a two month period, I experienced another level of grief. I ached for her, so I could enjoy those things with her. Everything I touched held her energy; I felt her constantly throughout this process. She talked to me as I contemplated prices; she giggled when I cursed her each time I found more stuff. And I cried several times as the Estate Sale approached. I fretted I'd no longer feel mom without these things in the house, but realized my mom wasn't these things; they simply reflected who she was. I felt grateful I got to know this part of her through this process.

In the days leading up to the Sale, I felt concern I would lose it as people walked out with mom's things. I meditated around this and realized mom wouldn't want her beautiful creations and things sitting in a closet collecting dust! She enjoyed them, and she'd want others to enjoy them too! I took great comfort in this knowledge, and as the Sale took place, my heart comforted as everyone demonstrated awe over the beautiful things. People who bought floral arrangements, Dept. 56 houses, her collectibles, etc. showed respect and admiration for them, which warmed my heart a part of mom's energy was bringing joy to others. I know my mom felt full of pride somewhere above that this facet of who she was, her legacy, would carry on bringing joy to others lives.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Heads Hidden. Asses Exposed.


Can you believe it's March already? This year is moving right along! How are things going with your year?  You may remember reading my blog post New Year, Right People and the list I mentioned, 30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself.  Let's talk about the second item on that list:

Stop running from your problems.Face them head on. No, it won’t be easy. There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems. We’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall. Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.

I know far too many people who run away from problems, conflicts and issues in the hopes they will go away, even hoping others will forget about them. Sweeping them under the rug and pretending they are non-issues makes for a very bumpy walk that only leads to stumbling even more in life. Ignoring problems, conflicts, and issues doesn't solve anything, and more often than not makes matters worse.

I use to be someone who ran from problems, especially conflict. I didn't want anyone to dislike me, the result of a very challenged and low self-esteem. I, like many of us, was raised by well-meaning parents who pointed out all my faults, criticized me for one thing or another, and told me how I could be, should be, and to be better than what I was.  In order to be liked and accepted, not only by others, but most importantly, so that I may like and accept myself, I didn't deal with anything when strife and challenge took place. Not dealing with anything means: I didn't stand up for myself when I needed to when I was being wronged, and; admitting when I was in the wrong (because then, I'd prove my parents right that I was less than perfect). I lived thirty-plus years this way, and it was during this time I experienced some rather miserable experiences in my life: struggles with high school and college, depression, financial challenges and failures, a failed marriage and many failed relationships, and unhappy job experiences.

When I began to look at my stuff, that is all my emotional and mental baggage I'd been toting around for over three decades and that had weighed me down, I began to face past and current issues I'd ignored. Some issues were with other people long gone from my life, but I dealt with the issues anyway in their absence so I may resolve and forgive them, and how I showed up in those relationships, friendships, and situations. Some issues were with myself; unproductive and devaluing choices I made over the course of my young adult life that I needed to accept, forgive and free myself of the guilt I felt, and own the blame I'd placed on others.

Today, I face problems head-on, and do whatever I can to address and resolve them. Sometimes, if it involves another person unwilling to participate in the “working things out” process, there's little I can do about that, but know I tried, then come to personal peace and forgiveness with him or her, and for myself. Instead of reacting in an emotional knee-jerk reaction, a common practice of mine from the past, I now take a step back, breathe deeply, and apply a 24-hour rule. During this time, I work through the emotional upset and intensity around it, meditate so I find my center and clarity. As stated above, we're met to “feel” these emotions, so allowing them to express, best done in private (because doing so publicly only creates more drama and a new set of problems, issues and conflicts), helps me purge them. Then, I can see the situation with a clearer mind and open heart. Taking this time and space to “process” facilitates “cooling off” which lends to a maturer, calmer approach towards a positive resolution when addressing the matter. Many fail to use this approach and fly off the handle, especially today on Facebook. Admittedly, taking a step back verses reacting in the upset wasn't easy at first.  But I've found with conscious effort and practice, I've experienced firsthand how much more smoothly and quickly things work out and greater peace it produces in my life.

In facing our problems, we learn about ourselves, and how we sometimes show up in less than stellar ways. Doing so also helps us recognize within us unfinished business from a past hurt or disappointment. Too many times, these unhealed wounds are projected towards another innocent, putting that person in the role of “punching bag”. The more we face our problems, the more empowered we are in having our voice and effectively dealing with them in a meaningful way.

Here's another way of looking at this: If we keep sticking our heads in the sand when problems arise, remember our asses are left sticking up in the air, open and vulnerable for everyone to take a piece of it.  When we pull our heads out of the ground, turn around and face whatever unfinished business is nipping at our hind-end, we will feel less pain, less hurt, less misery, and less stress in our life. 

Life is never without its problems. When we face life head-on, we take part in creating an opportunity to enjoy peace, tranquility, personal empowerment, wisdom and harmony in our own lives.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Disability of Bad Attitudes

In my work with individuals with developmental disabilities, I am continuously amazed by the ABILITIES these individuals have, and their positive attitudes despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles before them in living their lives. I am in awe of them, inspired by them, and honored to work with such a remarkable group of people.

When I saw the quote above by Scott Hamilton, I considered people who don't have physical disabilities but mental and emotional disabilities influencing their attitudes which shape their opinions about themselves, other people, and their own lives to the point of crippling them in living joyously, peaceful, drama-free, and harmonious lives. I believe in people more than they believe in themselves, and it saddens me to see people struggle in their lives as result of these crippling attitudes. I've learned I can't change anyone but myself.  I can only mind my own attitude to the extent of my willingness to be genuinely honest with myself, and only then can I experience and live peace and and harmony within me. In doing so, I experience a life of greater joy and happiness.

Attitude is everything, whether its about a job, our current political environment, family, our own bodies, and our perception of others; whether it's positive, negative, or one of victimization. Attitude shapes our reality. If you hold the attitude your job sucks, you will experience a sucky job. If you believe negatively of someone, you will live a reality that person is mean and hateful to you, whether that individual actually lives up to that belief or not. Our attitude shapes everything about our life, our outlook and perception through our eyes and our belief filters. Worse, it then reflects in the things we say, how we say it, our actions, choices and our behaviors.

Every day I mind my attitude through meditation, prayer, and affirmations. When I feel pulled down by others' lower altitudes of attitudes, I breathe deeply, and recenter in the highest altitude I know before reacting: God. Whether it's friends, family members, co-workers or strangers at Walmart, people show up positively, negatively, rudely, hatefully, threateningly, lovingly, etc. We can do nothing about how others show up and behave, but we can manage our own personal attitudes via our words and response/reaction to them. The higher the altitude of your attitude, the easier it is to let other people's stuff slide. Remember, these folks may be having a bad moment, a bad day, a bad relationship, or a bad life. It doesn't matter. What matters is how you and I take it on and/or respond to it; and if our attitude is genuinely, authentically in a higher altitude zone of positivity, love, and compassion, then their actions, words, choices, behaviors will slide off us like an egg slides on Teflon, thus making the whole deal a non-issue unworthy of reaction, response, future discussion, recycling, or stewing over.

The key is recognizing it in those moments, and doing an altitude check. Having a healthy sense of self, and an astute self-awareness makes it easier. Changing one's altitude of attitude is about being self aware, recognizing when we are feeling hooked into the lower altitudes belonging to someone else. If we get hooked, we must own it, and take responsibility for it. More often than not, people place the blame, responsibility of their actions, behaviors, choices off onto another person or situation, using that as their excuse for an overreaction, poor management, poor behavior or hurtful words. No one is responsible for what we do, say or how we act but you and me, the one's doing it. No ifs, ands, or buts. We must also consciously consider the impetus of our choices, behaviors, actions, or in some cases, non-actions, and address what is at the root of it. Usually, it's fear, insecurity, low self-esteem, anger, abandonment, self-judgment and/or blame projected onto another when it's really one's own self-perception at an unconscious level.

Additionally, sweeping these things under a rug, pretending whatever happened didn't, and moving on in a “forgive and forget” (a cop-out from owning responsibility, learning lessons and gleaning wisdom) effort doesn't shift the altitude of attitude. Responsibility must be owned and addressed, whether it involves another person or whether it's a conversation with one self, or both.  This effort facilitates healing, so that as appropriate, apologies may be issued, feelings acknowledged, hurts forgiven, and lessons learned to facilitate the shift to a higher altitude of attitude and awareness. It's from this place clarity is achieved, so in moving forward, better choices are made to improve one's life, and ultimately, one's altitude of attitude.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

For My Valentine, Wherever He Is


Over the last few months, I've been developing a deeper relationship with myself, which also deepens my relationship with God, my Creator. The more I unconditionally love and accept myself, the greater and deeper my love for my Maker who felt me worthy of breath, as well as the deeper the well of endless love I have available for another. Loving and accepting oneself doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement, and its through this personal and spiritual development that I deepen my love and acceptance for me. The deeper my love, the greater I am able to express God's love for everyone else, and especially for my Valentine.

In honor of Valentine's Day, I share with you a few quotes about true love, and my thoughts and wisdom to further expand upon these ideals. I use them as reminders, and to shift out of potential whiny self-pity parties common with singles. The quotes remind me I don't need a man in my life to fulfill or complete me (unlike Jerry McGuire's rationale). I do seek a man to experience and travel life together. These past fifteen years have been a journey of achieving this wisdom, experiencing trial and error, and finally becoming very selective in my dating choices. These quotes help me stay on track.

I want to love you, hold your hand, laugh at your jokes, walk by your side, look into your eyes, talk about whatever, and kiss your lips every single day. I love this quote because it reflects a relationship that is about the other person, rather than what we get out of it. Many times we date someone because we need something – to feel complete, to feel loved, to fill a void. Love is about giving, and in the giving, we receive. Unfortunately, many are uncomfortable receiving what we have to give, intimidated by the love we have to offer. My Valentine is open to receiving my love and my devotion.

Just like a shoe, if someone is meant for you, they will fit just perfectly. No forcing, no struggling, no pain. This quote is now my mantra for the dating experience because my past history and pattern has been to make it work, fit and happen. The struggle and pain mentioned above is reflected in worry, anxiety, apprehension and doubt, as well as the anticipation of the expected. When it feels natural, easy, graceful, you are in the flow of the experience. Relax and enjoy the moment while practicing non-attachment. Attachment has been my greatest enemy. I remember this quote when I start to shift into what the future looks like, so I may return to surrender and allow the dating process to simply unfold. If it's meant to be, it will happen.

Yes I'm single. You're gonna have to be amazing to change that. This quote reminds me not to settle for anything less than what I deserve. Guilty of this in the past, I won't let myself do it again; that's the selectivity I practice in dating. I posted this quote on Facebook recently with a tongue-in-cheek advertisement for my 2012 Valentine. It occurred to me this quote may scare men off, especially if they don't believe in themselves as having something amazing to offer to another woman. I'm a confident put-together woman who knows what she wants in life, and I need someone who is my equal in that. I've only met two men in my life who made me think, "yeah, I would consider marriage again" because I saw my equal in them. For their reasons alone, they bailed. I've been told my independence and confidence intimidates men, but I'm unwilling to renegotiate who I am for a man. I'm holding out for the one who believes he is worthy of the best I have to offer and to receive my love, just as I believe I am worthy of the best he has to offer and to receive his love.

For all singles out there, I invite you to consider celebrating V-Day and love for self and for others. The more willing we are to love ourselves, the greater our attract-ability of the one Beloved who is our match. If you don't love yourself, or treat yourself and others lovingly, you cannot foster or generate a loving relationship with The One.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

New Year, Right People

How's 2012 going for you? It's already the second week of February and I'm taking inventory of my efforts in achieving my goals for 2012. This time of the New Year tends to be when one's level of focus and commitment for making changes begins to wane as distractions takes place and discouragement sets in. To stay the course towards success, we must stop and reassess where we are, what we've accomplished, recalibrate our direction, and recommit ourselves in productively moving forward.

I set my mind to accomplish a number of things this year. I diligently conduct my daily meditation and prayer, especially on the weekends when I'd usually slack. Another simple but important goal is to nightly clean my face of makeup. Laziness often deterred me from healthy skincare, so I cleanse immediately upon arriving home after work. I also joined a gym and have managed two visits a week. Four times a week would be ideal but in reaching goals, we must acknowledge and celebrate the baby steps we take towards achieving that goal. We are not striving to be perfect overnight, but to gradually initiate change as we create a new habit. I made a decision to do more writing this year, and while its been a couple of weeks since my last entry, I averaged one blog entry a week in January. Now, I am writing a blog for work (Unique Bodies-Determined Souls) which is a huge thrill for me, so writing is definitely a commitment I'm honoring. I'm also infusing my financial life and am pleased to have already achieved one of four goals I set for this year! So as I sit and review my efforts over these last six weeks, I recognize I've accomplished more than I thought;  thus, the importance of regular reevaluation, recalibration of the course, and a re-commitment to the goals.

My dear friend Leah shared a beautiful article on New Year's Eve titled, Thirty Things to Stop Doing to Yourself.  Upon reviewing the list, I was tickled to see I've accomplished a majority of this list; but it's good to review and reassess how you are living your life. A few on the list I can stand to address, and another few I have accomplished but may need to improve on the tasks. I've decided to share one item on this list with you via Journey Wisdom over the next several months with a few words of personal wisdom you may or may not find of value. I learned I don't know it all but I know a lot through personal experience, and if I open myself to listen to others' words of wisdom gleaned from their own personal experiences, I may add a little something to my own wisdom treasure chest. After all, we are all in this life experience together; why not support each other and be supported in the journey? This first item is a humdinger, one of which I spent a better part of 2011 addressing.

Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot. Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth.

As a part of my “reawakening” in 2011, I realized unhealthy connections with people. I regret none of them, but 2010 and 2011 was spent keeping company with people who were unsupportive of me being my best. We each have our own definition of what “wrong people” means to us, so here I focus on defining what the “right people" are for me. I spend time with people who honor, respect, and even value my opinions, ideas, and beliefs. These individuals don't have to agree with me but they allow me to speak my truth while having a mature, respectful dialogue to facilitate understanding without judgment or retribution. My “right people” handle disagreements and conflicts with maturity that includes calm productive discussion, an openness to see both sides of the argument, and like me, have a willingness, when appropriate, to concede responsibility and/or misunderstanding, rather than blame and make excuses. They recognize I authentically speak my mind and my truth, even if it isn't what they want to hear just as I will listen to them.   My “right people” know I will call them out on their crap, and that I do it because I love and care for them, otherwise I wouldn't waste my time, energy or breath. My “right people” are compassionate, open-minded, considerate of others, sensitive, loving, and live within integrity, character and honesty.  We contribute our best to our relationship, and we work through our worst together, rather than try to bring each other down into ugliness, drama and hatefulness. The people I associate with are reflections of who I am and my multifaceted personality, my character, my spirit, and my values. They are supportive, not destructive.

It may seem easier to stay in a relationship that brings us down than to expend the energy required to leave it. In removing myself from the “wrong people”, I experienced a backlash from those who were hurt by my decision, and a sorrow within stemming from my grief of the loss. I took the time I needed to get clear on who I am as a person, and who I want to surround myself with as a reflection of me and my values. Eliminating the wrong people in your life doesn't mean you wish them ill-will, but it's important you render forgiveness where its needed, including for yourself, and send them love and blessings each day.  As the photo quote above says, If someone makes you more miserable than they make you happy, it doesn't matter how much you love them, you need to let them go.