Finding Me In the Snow

The night before last we got 10 inches of snow. That much snow in a NC town means no one goes much of anywhere for a few days. To be fair, you should know (according to weather.com) our average snowfall is 3″. And we don’t always get that each year. So major investment in snowplows doesn’t make much fiscal sense. We have enough for the main roads to be at least partially cleared in the first 24 hours, but residential streets take days. Not to mention, most people don’t have real snow shovels or snow blowers. Can leaf blowers do double duty? See, I don’t even know!

My daughter went to the grocery store on Friday morning (snow was predicted for Friday night). She called me on the way home. “Mom!” she said in this tone of voice that always foreshadows something big is coming. “I just went to the grocery store and THEY WERE OUT OF MILK!” She’s 36, married 11 years, has 2 kids, 4 and almost 7. My response: “Well, honey, did you think they made up that story every year?” It’s a news story with pictures of empty shelves even when they only predict a couple of inches. I guess she never had to go to the grocery store on the day of a snow prediction.

I wrote before about being a 9 on the Enneagram and being a turtle and an introvert.(See here: I’m a 9 and a turtle)

Here are some tidbits:

Nines want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict.

Turtle naturally withdraws and goes within when in turmoil.

Introverts enjoy and sometimes require time to themselves. An introvert’s best and most creative thinking occurs when he/she is alone.

I didn’t like snow days when my daughters lived with us. I would forget every time that it has to be COLD to make snow. Proper gloves. hats, and boots were rarely required in our lives and, thus, hard to find or non-existent when needed. Yes, my kids sometimes had plastic bags over their shoes. And socks for gloves. You do what you have to do. Also, they never had snow pants. We did have warm coats.

Snow is wet, especially in the south where it’s not usually much below freezing when it’s cold enough to snow. So, kids without proper gear + the novelty of snow here  + a dad who grew up near Pittsburgh and loved all the excitement and wanted to teach his kids how to play in the snow + not much practice with being cold and wet = a LOT of in and out and the dryer running constantly.

Remember those personality types that describe me? Yeah, I’m not at my best in chaos and loud excitement and major disruption of the routine. I tried to be fun. It got harder after I stopped drinking in 1987. (Notice sometime–stores never run out of beer and wine. Those shelves are stocked.) Cookies and Doritos could only do so much for my mood. Plus, I either had to hide in the bathroom or share them. I swear they could smell Doritos when the bag opened.

Teenagers were no better. I had mine in the days of no personal electronics and no Netflix or You Tube. So they either slept (fine with me), were bored and bickering, or begging to watch something I considered inappropriate on cable tv.

I made hot chocolate and probably, at least once in a while, baked cookies. I’m not sure. We did make snow cream. I am sure we didn’t have much sugary-type treats because I was convinced sugar made my kids crazy. They still call me the Sugar Nazi. Though I’m much more lenient with my grandchildren.  Surprises them and, I think, annoys them a little, every time.

I don’t have small children  or teenagers anymore. They have their own little ones to deal with. They do better than I did. I hope so. They sure have more resources for entertainment.

Snow days now mean I’m home with the retired man I live with. He’s fine alone. We are still in our big house so we have room to separate and do our own things. We are on our 2nd day of snowed-in and still doing ok.

Usually, I like this kind of quiet time.  This time, though, it’s giving me a lot more time than I want to think about and plan for a situation that is just plain uncomfortable.

Remember these?

Nines want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict.

Turtle naturally withdraws and goes within when in turmoil.

Soon, I need to step forward, speak forcefully, ask hard questions, and lead some people to an end to a challenging situation. It would be so much easier to sit here in my warm house, next to my gas log fireplace, read a book and drink a cup of tea.

I keep forgetting to pray for strength and guidance. I don’t doubt that I can do what needs to be done. But inside me, there’s a 2-year-old screaming “NO! Don’t want to!”

Please pray that I will be led to the next right thing to do.

Thank you.

 

Advertisements
Published in: on January 8, 2017 at 1:41 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

An Attempt To Break Through Writer’s Block

1.Around the first of this year, I told a few people that I wanted to write a memoir. They were very encouraging. I bought a book about writing memoirs and read and studied and underlined carefully.

I haven’t written anything since.

Writer’s block is a real thing. I think mine is fueled by fear. Fear of messing up. Fear of not doing it right. Fear of the immensity of such a project. I still have another book to study.

I know the cure for writer’s block is to write. So I’m writing.

2. I took one of those quizzes that pop up on Facebook about whether my right brain or left brain was dominant. It said my left brain was, the side that’s orderly and logical. As I look around my office and consider my lack of discipline with exercise and writing, I feel more right-brain-ish. I’d LIKE to be orderly and organized. I used to be. I rarely am these days. I blame it on late-onset ADD.

3. Kids are like acorns. Little acorns grow into big trees. Little kids grown into big human beings. Both need water, dirt and sunshine.

4. From an article in the journal Emotion by researchers at UC Berkley:

AWE is a natural anti-inflammatory.Those who experienced more amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, joy, love and pride had the lowest levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, specifically levels of interleukin-6.

So, my rheumatoid arthritis, caused by inflammation, would be better if I spent more time beside the ocean or with my grandchildren. Okay!

5. I have a small stink bug issue. Here’s a link to a picture and some information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_marmorated_stink_bug.

It says in the article, someone had 26,000 in their house! (Who counted??) That’s why I said I have a small problem.

Stink bugs completely freak me out. I think they know that. I only see them once or twice a week, in my office and our bedroom, both upstairs. I’ll walk through a room and there one will be. I don’t see it come. It’s just there. The other morning, during my quiet time, one landed on the arm of my chair with a little buzz! I jumped and almost spilled my tea.

I generally am a kind and compassionate person to all living things. Not stink bugs. I flush them. The retired man I live with is appalled by that. He picks them up and opens a window and lets them out. So they can come back and find me again.

6. Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel good. I keep having to learn that.

7. Did you know you can use wadded-up balls of aluminum foil in your dryer to get rid of static electricity? I read that in a list of housekeeping hacks on Facebook. One piece of useful information in a 30-minute pilgrimage down a path of wasted time. Sigh.

8. I have an ottoman in my office with a removable top. I recently remembered that I threw a pile of papers in there to quickly tidy up when someone was coming over at least a year ago. I think I should just dump them in the recycling can without going through them. Obviously, I don’t need them. I haven’t done that yet. See #2 above.

9.During one of our snow/ice times, I saw this in the list of school closings:

Ed-Choo-Ka-Tion Station

Really.

10. I want a heated toilet seat. Our upstairs bathroom is cold in the middle of the night. I googled “heated toilet seats.” Prices ranged from $52.66 to $1,578.00. Wayfair has one that includes a nightlight in the rim and three temperature settings. It needs a standard electrical outlet, which in our older house is on the other side of the bathroom. Maybe there’s a battery-operated one. By the time I investigate all the brands and bells and whistles, it’ll be spring. I live in NC. We have short winters. I think this is a “want” not a “need.”

And Want vs. Need is a big topic for another day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on February 23, 2016 at 10:43 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Give Up or Surrender?

I just about ran out of pluck.

And gumption.

And grit.

I’ve had 6 surgeries in the last year and a half, some bigger than others, but all required some rest and recovery time.  My muscles atrophied from all the sitting.  It’s harder for me to move around easily. Then I took a trip and came home worn out and sick with bronchitis.

After a long day of consciously feeling the fear of not getting better and staying weak and fragile, I realized I had a choice. I could give up or I could surrender to reality and begin the work to get better. Giving up looked easier.

Giving up means admitting defeat. It’s saying, “I have lost, there’s no sense in trying anymore.” Surrender means stopping the fight against forces you cannot control. Surrender allows you to reserve your energy for later. It’s the process of letting go. It does not mean giving up. (Teresa Bruni)

I surrendered. I asked–well, begged–God to help me find my pluck and gumption and grit again.

The difference between surrender and giving up is the difference between suffering (giving up) and being at peace (surrender). It is the difference between being lost and finding your way.  (Tim Custis)

I remembered what I hear in 12-step meetings:  Do the next right thing. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And from Anne Lamott:  Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe.

Giving up is resistance to what is. Surrender is acceptance of what is. Giving up says “No” to life (you curl up in a ball on the bed). Surrender says “Yes” to life (you hold your arms wide open ready to receive). Giving up moves you away from God. Surrender moves you closer to God.  (Tim Custis)

I exercise in the pool again. I ride the exercise bike in the basement. I lead with my weaker leg when I go up the stairs from the basement. I bought some new shoes (Hey, girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do) that work with my new orthotics so I can walk outside.

I’m not angry at God anymore. I had to feel the anger and tell God I was angry before I could let go of it.

There is no hope in giving up. It’s a dark, miserable place to be.

God and I are buddies again.

I have hope again.

And pluck.

And gumption.

And grit.

Thank God.

Published in: on April 21, 2015 at 12:03 pm  Comments (15)  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A Turtle Creates a Village

God, I offer myself to You–

to build with me and to do with me as You will.

Relieve me of the bondage of self,

that I may better do Your will.

Take away my difficulties, that victory over them

may bear witness to those I would help

of Your power, Your love, and Your way of life.

May I do Your will always.

(3rd Step Prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous)

I sat quietly with this prayer daily, starting in January, 2005.  It took the place of resolutions.

In late February, 2005, I found an odd lump in my groin.

On April 15, 2005, I was diagnosed with cancer–non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

I had 2 malignant lymph nodes, but no symptoms and I felt fine.  After tests, the treatment plan was “watch and wait.” That took a while to accept. God and the doctor and I have “watched and waited” for almost 10 years.  Still no symptoms and no treatments. Dr Sherrill says at each checkup, “It’s still in remission.”

Go back and read that prayer again.  I’ll wait.

I started writing emails to a group of spiritual friends shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer.  I didn’t want to talk about it much, but I wanted people to pray for me and I felt compelled to share what happened and how I dealt with it, including my faith journey.

I’ve written before about being an introvert and a turtle.  When things get hard, I pull into my shell.  I’ve learned, though, that I can invite people in through my writing.  And I often feel pushed to write for this blog by a powerful and irresistible force.  I can resist for a while, but God starts writing in my head and it doesn’t go away.

This piece started forming in my head a couple of weeks ago.  I had cervical fusion surgery on December 2, 2014, to correct a place at the top of my spine that moved to a dangerous position because of damage from my rheumatoid arthritis.  A piece of my spine was impinging on my spinal column at the very top.  A fall or car accident could have ended my ability to breathe.

I’ve had several other surgeries, including a total knee, in the past 10 years, but nothing scared me like this one. It was “a big surgery,” Dr. Pool, the neurosurgeon told us. I asked the retired man I live with the morning of the surgery not to let them keep me alive on a ventilator if things went wrong.

The first couple of weeks after this surgery were very hard–lots of pain. I was grateful to be whole and breathing and alive.

Before the surgery, I started another email list of pray-ers.  And once again I could feel the power of the prayers. I don’t know how to explain that, but I know it’s real. I felt surrounded and encircled by God.

I try to tell God that I’ve fulfilled my 3rd Step Prayer obligations.  10 years is enough of this “take away my difficulties so I can show how God works in my life” stuff.  But more challenges come.

With each surgery, each setback, each test of patience and hope, I learn again that things will change.  And it’s all a bit easier when I remember God is with me. Not everything can be fixed completely. Sometimes it’s just different. Then I figure out how to live with it and keep going as best I can.

If I ever write a memoir, I think I’ll title it “Okay, God, Now What?”

 

 

 

Do Sharpies Write on Snow?

The snow they predicted for days came on schedule yesterday (“between 1:00 and 6:00 pm, 1-3 inches.”). Looks like we got 1-2 inches.  My phone says it’s 16 degrees outside.

I need a giant black Sharpie so I can climb out my window onto the porch roof and write on the white surface like a little kid with a crayon would write on a bare wall:

ROBIN WAS HERE.

(I live in the middle of North Carolina in the South of the US.  We don’t get much snow. 1-3 inches is kind of a big deal. 16 degrees is really cold.  I have a nice-looking wool coat and several scarves, but I don’t own a good pair of gloves or functional boots. Laugh if you want.)

Every morning, in my quiet time, I look out the double window in my office over the screened-in porch’s roof at the backyard of our house. This morning at 7:23, I saw clean, white snow on top of all the stuff–balls, dog poop on its mulch pile, 3 durable fake-wicker chairs, the weathered old picnic table, the Little Tikes First Slide and the blue swing hanging from a tree branch.

I saw me with the Sharpie on the porch roof. I’d go out on impulse in my pj’s that have been washed so many times they are soft like expensive baby clothes. The 16 degree cold would push me to hurry.  Would I change out of my warm, cream-colored thick cotton socks that look like they came from Finland? Or would I just jump out and do it?

How would I climb up and out? Would I even know how to move the screen of the triple-paned window out of the way?  What if I slid off?   The snow on the frozen ground wouldn’t be enough to cushion my fall. We know a guy who fell off a ladder while cleaning his gutters and got badly hurt.  What if I dropped the Sharpie? And who would even see what I wrote?

I’m good at over-thinking things and not so good at spontaneity.  Maybe not a bad way to be in the long run, but I think I’ve probably missed out on a lot of fun.

Besides, Sharpies of any size won’t write on snow. And I’m afraid of falling and my bones that are approaching osteoporosis could break into a bunch of jagged pieces.

Maybe I’ll try for a snow angel–in the yard–later, after I put on the proper clothes and a hat.  I hope the retired man I live with will help me get up.  We could be in trouble if we both lie down in the snow at the same time.

Published in: on January 29, 2014 at 10:46 am  Comments (10)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Where Is the Magic?

In my family, I learned well how to shut down emotionally.  I struggle this time of year.  Childhood memories are vague and memories from when my girls were little are complicated.

I learned at home to drink away feelings.  And that it’s ok to tune out the world by reading.  I don’t drink anymore.  Thank God. I’ve read several good books over the last few weeks.

Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of my mother’s death and my brother died in July. I’ve done no shopping for the grandchildren, which scares me.  The retired man I live with got out the Christmas decorations 2 days ago, but we have no tree yet.

Last May, I wrote in a post titled “I ‘tuck”:

I’m stuck.  Or as Adaline used to say, “I ‘tuck.”  I’ve been ‘tuck for weeks.  Not able to write.  Not able to plan much beyond today.  Wondering what I am supposed to be doing and how to get to the point of doing…anything.

I know that sounds like depression, but this time I felt more lost than depressed.  I asked God for some kind of sign or message.  Nothing.  Besides feeling stuck.

Slowly, the light started to go on inside my brain.  I spend a lot of my time waiting for the next disaster/crisis/time of need.  On hold. Stuck.  ‘Tuck.

Well, I ‘tuck again.  My therapist (yes, I do have sense enough to get some help) asked me recently “What are you afraid of?  What are you resisting?”  After a few moments I said “I don’t know.”  I still don’t know exactly.  I feel a big, dark, presence behind me.  Not evil, but patiently waiting for me to turn around.  And I know that needs to happen.

It has to do with being the last of my family of origin alive.  And it has to do with my body not working as well as I’d like.  It has to do with aging.  It has to do with living with cancer in remission for over 8 years.

I think that big dark presence is called Fear.

Years ago, an elegant older lady who grew up in New Orleans shocked many of us at the Wednesday night women’s AA meeting by stating, “Well you know what sober stands for, don’t you?  Son of a Bitch, Everything’s Real.”  She was right.

My prayer life and my relationship with God get shut down along with everything else.  I love traditional Christmas music.  I have a couple of country Christmas cd’s that I like to sing along with in the car.  They remind me what Christmas is really about–a baby being born.  I haven’t pulled those out this year.

One of my favorite songs is “Mary, Did You Know?” (here’s a link–skip the ad).  The first line takes my breath away every time.

I debated writing about all this for weeks.  Writer’s block goes hand in hand with depression and shutting down for me.  I certainly don’t want to be “Debbie Downer.”  I know I’m not the only one who has mixed feelings about the holiday season and that there’s comfort in knowing that.

I still believe God is all around me.  I choose not to connect to that higher power. When I decide to turn around and look fear in the eye, I believe I will be safe.  Doesn’t mean I want to turn around.  I’d rather it just go away.  I just want to feel less weighed down and to stop saying, “I don’t care.”

I do want to care.  That’s who I am.  It’s lonely where I am right now. I want to change that.  Please pray for me.

I wish all of you a happy holiday.  And if it’s not, tell yourself “Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe.” (Anne Lamott)

Published in: on December 13, 2013 at 10:41 am  Comments (16)  
Tags: , , , , ,

I just want to ask why

I are amazing,”

says a 2-year-old girl.

“Who are you?’ we ask.

Me!” says a 1 1/2-year-old girl.

These kids are well-loved.  They were planned-for and very welcome.  They are surrounded by caring and supportive adults.  I pray they don’t lose that feeling of delight about themselves.

I doubt they will grow up to be computer hackers.

A hacker got into my yahoo email account.  My contacts got an email asking for money  because I was stranded in Madrid.  I was at a writing retreat at the coast with my phone turned off.   Mike was at home babysitting our granddaughter.  He answered a lot of phone calls from concerned friends.

I’ve changed my password and communicated with yahoo security.  They are investigating.  The hacker erased my address book.  I hope yahoo can get it back for me.  (Please send me an email if you want me to have your email address.)

I really do want to ask the hacker “Why?”  I guess it’s probably about money.

Maybe the hacker wasn’t wanted or loved.  Maybe nobody taught him/her that choices have consequences.  Maybe no one cared enough to teach right and wrong.

Or maybe he/she is just a clever, bored teenager with too much free time.

I think the whole thing is just mean.

Published in: on October 10, 2011 at 8:30 pm  Comments (9)  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

So What Do You Expect?

(an excerpt from Sacred Healing by Janet Davis)

Though most of my friends and acquaintances experience me as a positive person, I’ve come to recognize that I’m really not.  I am quite the pessimist, always expecting and preparing for the worst.

Such “negative thinking” is, at least in part, simply the overuse of a positive penchant for planning.  A critical part of effectual planning is anticipating bad things and arranging life so that you can avoid those hazards.

I, however, take this to the extreme, seeking to banish all grief and pain, loss and harm from my life and the lives of those I love.  With that goal in mind, I am disproportionately aware of hazards around me.  And there are many.  Thus, the pessimism…

God wants me to expect goodness and abundance rather than evil, abandonment, and scarcity.  Even in the midst of pain and loss, to expect grace, comfort, and provision.

Now, I don’t think God is interested in the power of positive thinking as much as reshaping what I believe about the God I serve.

My negativity says that ultimately I do not trust God’s ever mindful, ever effectual love to be very loving or to be very good.

Will I ever grow up?  Will I ever learn to trust this God who has carried me every step of the way?   Will I ever begin to expect goodness and abundance?

Girl Power

“GIRL!!” came the text last Friday from the doctor’s office.  We have another grandchild on the way!  Stephanie and her husband, Will, are due in January.  They had an ultrasound and saw her moving her hands and crossing her ankles like a proper lady.  Wow.

A week ago I woke from a dream at 4:30 am unsure of where I was or even what year it was.  In my dream I was again a young mother of two preschoolers on a really bad day.  Everything was out-of-order, me most of all, and I was spiraling down in anger and frustration.  I wasn’t seeing me at my worst.  I WAS me at my worst.

I wrote down what I could recall and later that day wrote about the power and the feelings in the dream.  I can’t let go of this dream. I feel the out-of-control-ness.  It still scares me.

I was anxious during my second pregnancy about my ability to manage 2 kids in diapers in 2 car seats.  They were both very much planned and welcomed, but the second happened quicker than I anticipated.  They are 26 months apart.  Our grandchildren will be 23 months apart.

I know I’m not that young, overwhelmed woman any more.  And neither are my daughters.  I’ve worked hard for years to understand and learn from that time in my life.  I hope I’ve passed some of my wisdom on to them.

I am wondering, though, why that dream now?

My Trainers

I changed gyms and paid for one-on-one hours with a trainer.  I got Jodi.  She’s 25 (sigh) and kind.  She challenges me, but she listens when I describe how my body works.

I’ve written before about having rheumatoid arthritis (click on Rheumatoid Arthritis in the cloud of words down below on the right).  Life can be a challenge some days.

So can an 18-month-old granddaughter.  Someone asked me yesterday if she’s walking.  I said, “No, she runs.”  She’s not chubby anymore, but she is solid.  And sometimes squirmy.

So Jodi helps me strengthen my upper body and core.  And we do cardio stuff.  Ever try an elliptical machine?  I am awed by people who do it for a long time.  An hour?? My goal is to move beyond 5 minutes.

Humility and a sense of humor go to the gym with me.  (There’s a fine line between humor and self-denigration.)  I am grateful for all my body can do.  Jodi pushes me past stopping just because I want to.

I led a writing group at a drop-in center for people who are HIV-positive yesterday.  The prompt was a quote from an article by Nancy Copeland-Payton in Presence (the journal of Spiritual Directors International.)

It’s a roller coaster.  I didn’t buy a ticket, never wanted a ride…the illness will keep recurring and I will die of it.

Who am I…?  I’m no longer the person who used to be in control, who had energy to take care of tasks and other people.  Rather, I’m the one who needs care.  I’m the one who is vulnerable.  This is not an identity I choose.  Buried inside are losses that need to be cried out.  This is a long mourning process.

I finally let go of my control and let myself be vulnerable and cared for by others.  When I learn to receive their care with profound gratitude, I receive the greatest gift.  I realize how much I am loved.  It’s extraordinary.  This love lets me be even more vulnerable.

While we wrote I played a Kenny G CD (they like soft jazz).  As we finished, we listened to the music and rested.

I wrote a whiny page about not liking roller coasters and not wanting to be vulnerable.  They wrote and shared about God’s love and how their disease saved them from drugs and a wasted life and changed them for the better.  I didn’t want to share mine.

The last song we listened to (not planned by me) was Louis Armstrong singing “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  They sang along and smiled when it ended.

Amazing grace, again.