Time to Give Thanks

November 2017 has marked some difficult changes for me.  When you’re adapting to big changes, it’s easy to lose track of time.  Weeks seem to have flown by without me having noticed.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.

I have a lot to be thankful for.  Some days those things are easier to see than on other days.  On those days – the days when the world seems to be against you and things seem like they may never be “right” again – on those days it helps to have a practice in place to focus on the good.  I recently began being “thankful” on purpose – every day.

For me, it starts with “clean water to drink.”  I get up in the morning and fill a clean glass with crystal clear water straight from the tap.  I don’t have to walk a mile (or more) to a well or a filter site to collect water and carry it home.  I can wash my morning pills down with a whole glass without even thinking about it.  I take the time to look at that crystal clear water in the clean glass before I consume it.  I take a moment to give thanks for clean water, and that prayer of thanksgiving is followed by gratefulness for a furnace to take the chill off the air, a soft rug under my feet, and a giant fluffy dog who greets me as if he hasn’t seen me in a year.

After I trot downstairs, I have the luxury of letting the tap run until the water is hot before filling my kettle to put it on to boil.  I can take a long, hot shower and not worry about whether that luxury will leave me without clean water to cook dinner with later in the day.

When I was in the Vermilion Rotary Club, the clean water problem came to my attention for the first time.   I was in my late 40s before I realized that something as basic as clean water is a barrier to basic hygiene, education, and economic growth in much of the world.

A Rotary colleague, John Hill, put together a clean water initiative through Clean Water for Haiti.  Clean Water for Haiti puts filters for safe water in schools.  The children can collect their household’s clean water while they receive an education.  The filters are assembled in Haiti, creating jobs.

Start your day off with an attitude of gratitude. If you can’t find something to be grateful for, pour yourself a glass of clean water and drink it.   If you are blessed, as I am, with money to pay the bills with some left at the end of the month, consider giving to Clean Water for Haiti or another charity providing clean water solutions in areas of need.

For the price of a $1.00 bottle of drinking water per day for just over 3 months, you can sponsor a clean water bio filter for an entire family.  I will be giving to Clean Water for Haiti on Giving Tuesday -help me to help them “Make Waves,” so that someone, somewhere, can start their day by giving thanks for a glass of clean water.

http://cleanwaterforhaiti.org/donate/make-waves/

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Day 5 – Be Authentic

I learned many lessons during Day 4, but I didn’t write about them. I was in a dark mood. I didn’t feel like doing anything except knitting and wasting time on social media, so I didn’t.

I spent a few minutes reviewing some of the comments that readers have left on my previous blog posts. One of the comments that I received recently made note of the observation that although there have been very difficult times in the past year or so, my posts have been (mostly) positive. That is by design, but I realize that perhaps that isn’t the for the greatest good.

I write as a way to cope with my emotions. Being sad, depressed or lonely feels bad. Being angry and anxious feels bad. For me, and I believe for many others, emotions each have a physical sensation that feels “good,” “bad,” or “neutral.”

These past months have been extraordinarily difficult. There have been many days during which I have lashed out at people who care the most about me. There have been days that I have cried and days that I have shirked responsibilities. I have made nasty comments under my breath and though unkind thoughts.

I will be the first to admit that I am extraordinarily imperfect. I strive to be positive and to show kindness. Some days I fail. Some days I am a miserable person to be around.

There would be something wrong with me if I only felt happiness while my mother was dying. I experienced sadness, rage, confusion and frustration on a daily basis. I had some really bad days.

I wrote in a journal daily. I let the feelings out. I didn’t keep them inside, and by letting them out in the light, I was able to deal with them. Writing about the negative emotions felt like opening the curtains on a dark room and throwing open the windows to allow the clean air to come in.

Many problems don’t look so big or so scary when you put them on a piece of paper.

I started writing in a new journal 3 days before Mom was hospitalized in August. I chose a book with black paper because I felt like even a grocery list could look elegant written in white ink on black paper. I filled every page of that book. Today I filled the last page. I’ve never been so relieved to finish filling a journal and being able to move on. Instead of a black book with black pages and a black cover, I’m next writing in a beautiful book wit a purple cover embellished with beautiful colors. The pages are ivory and they have lines so that my writing doesn’t end up all crooked.

I hope that the sadness and anger that sometimes filled those black pages becomes a thing of the past as I move out of this dark chapter in my life.

Death visits us all. My experience is not special or unique. Losing a parent is the “natural order” of things. Although I won’t allow myself to wallow in grief, the words of a dear friend remind me to be kind to myself. “You are never truly prepared to say goodbye to your mother, no matter hard you try.” He was right.

I’m not feeling very happy or positive today. I’m also not feeling very negative today. I’m pretty close to “neutral” on the emotional spectrum, and I think that’s a pretty good place to be at this stage in the grieving game.

Spread kindness, sprinkle joy. Be authentic.

The $600 Washcloth

I like to crochet.  It is a great way to occupy my hands in the evening when I watch television with my husband.  It’s hard to eat popcorn when your hands are full of yarn.  I am also a “gifter.”  I love to give little gifts.  I like to gift what I make, as well.  For the past several years, I have crocheted warm scarves in the winter time.  Most of my family members have (at least) one.  I have at least 20 of them stacked on a shelf in case I need a gift for someone on short notice.  They are great to make in the winter, but when the weather gets warm, I usually stop crocheting.

This year, I discovered cotton yarn. I’ve discovered the joy of making face cloths, scrubbies, and dish cloIMG_6306ths.  I love to make them in bright colors.  They make me happy.

I can buy a perfectly nice washcloth at the store for $4.00.  I can buy a deluxe washcloth for $10 – $15. I can buy a handmade washcloth just like the ones I am making on Etsy for under $10.  Depending on the stitch, these washcloths take me 3-4 hours to make.  The materials cost $1 – $2 depending on which brand of yarn I buy and whether or not it is on sale.

When I am making washcloths, I can’t earn money as a lawyer.  I suppose, in that regard these pretty little pieces of hand-made fabric that will soon be stained with makeup or food are pretty expensive.  However, I’m a believer in doing more of what makes me happy.

Crocheting washcloths is almost a form of meditation for me.  I don’t have to think beyond the next stitch.  The feel of the yarn and the rhythm are comforting.  The bright colors are uplifting.  There’s nothing about this little activity I don’t enjoy, and it’s cheaper than therapy.

As I mentioned before, I’m a gifter.  If you find yourself the recipient of one or more of these $600 washcloths, you can be sure that I like you, and that I think you, too, deserve a $600 washcloth, and a whole lot more.

love,

~Be~

 

Comfort and Joy

Happy New Year!  I’m quite late for a New Year post, I know, and believe me, that’s actually a good thing.  You see, 2016 is the year when I make good on my promise to be good to myself.

“You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” – Eleanor Brownn

Historically, I have run in the new year and then spent hours poring over journal entries and blog posts from the previous year, decade, etc. to see where I’ve come from, and what track my life is taking.  This year was different – the clock struck midnight and my husband and I shared a sparkling grape juice toast with our youngest son before heading upstairs – together – and falling peacefully asleep.  There was no attempt to review the past – no tears shed at past hurts, and only one resolution:  to be good to myself.

2016 is the year of comfort and joy.  This is the year of self care and learning to say, “no,” when necessary.  I’m taking time (and making time) to do the things that bring me joy.  I’m allowing myself to enjoy the things that bring me comfort.

This is the year of silly songs at the break of dawn, loose leaf tea in fancy teacups, essential oils that smell like liquid joy or comfort in a bottle, and beautiful fibers that wind themselves into scarves and blankets while my eyes watch the television.

Thanks to the efforts of my husband and children, I once again have a “sacred space,” (named the Betty Room by my hubby) where I can sit quietly to read, pray, meditate, and contemplate.  I’m also getting a new bathtub with enough depth to soak – more comfort (and some joy, too).

My first bit of advice for 2016 is to make room for comfort and joy in your own life.  Experiences that comfort us and that allow us to feel joyful replenish the energy that we deplete when we give.  Although giving to others without expectation of receiving anything in return brings its own rewards, when people take from us without giving, over and over, it can take a spiritual and physical toll.  Seek out joy.  Seek out comfort.  Make your own happiness, and then share from that vessel that is no longer empty.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” – Psalm 23:5

We can pray for comfort and joy, or we can seek it out. I had a difficult Monday with a difficult adversary in a difficult proceeding at work.   It was bitterly cold, and when I stopped my car for gasoline, I opened my back door to retrieve a hat.  When I went to shut the door, it would not latch.  Believing it to be frozen, I took it to a local auto repair place hoping they could quickly thaw it so that I could be on my way to a court proceeding.  It turned out to be a broken latch, not a frozen one, and replacement parts had to be ordered.  There was no way to fasten the door shut (except, possibly the rope and duct tape that my cousin suggested) for the 45 mile drive, so I had to beg for mercy from the party with all of the power in that situation.  The tone for the tense email exchange that followed was probably largely imaginary.  The tone of the voice in my head as I read the email response was set by the morning I had already had.

I wouldn’t go nearly so far as call that person an enemy, but it nevertheless the terse nature of the exchange (real or imagined) created a drain on my joy.  I set my little table with one of my favorite teacups as I brewed a fragrant pot of tea.  I rubbed a few drops of my favorite essential oil blends on my temples, and I allowed the aromas from the tea and the oil to surround me with beauty, comfort and joy.  That’s probably not what the Psalmist had in mind, but soon I was singing again.

My husband said, “boy, you’re in a good mood!”  I explained my quest for comfort and joy.  Sometimes you have to “fake it until you make it.”  When you’re faking joy, though, it quickly becomes real as it infects others with smiles (or even laughs).

I’ve had a tough week so far, but my cup runneth over.  Being good to myself is my only resolution for 2016.  Actively seeking comfort and joy is the first step toward achieving success.

Happy 2016.

~Be~

All The Colors of the Rainbow (An Unbiblical Marriage)

My husband and I have been married for 15 1/2 years.  We have a child together.  We disagree sometimes.  We make up again.  We have been through some real trials and tribulations, but we have weathered the course and I can say with all sincerity that I think our love and our commitment to each other is stronger than ever.

With the marriage equality issue squarely in the limelight right now, I have devoted a lot of thought to the issue of marriage.

I’ve been delving into the scriptures, and I realized that I have the privilege of being married to my wonderful husband only because the State does not put Biblical constraint on heterosexual marriages.  You see, I have been married before.  I was married at age 19 and divorced some 8 plus years later.  Both my first husband and I have moved on.  We are each married to new partners.  If, however, the State had taken the position that is consistent with the scripture, I could not have remarried.

 In 1 Corinthians 10-11, Paul stated, “10But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband 11(but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.”

My husband and I eloped.  The only “guests” at our wedding were the other people waiting at the little chapel for their turn to state their vows.  We did not have to seek approval of clergy.  We did not go through pastoral counseling (not that it would have been a bad idea), we just paid our money, said our vows and signed on the dotted line.

I have close friends in the gay and lesbian community.  I attend services at a church that has taken an “all are welcome” stance on the issue.  They have welcomed my divorced and remarried self with open arms.  Their love has shown me what I have been missing in my life as I worshiped in solitary.

I have witnessed first hand in both my personal and professional lives the havoc that can result when a gay person marries a straight person who is unaware of their sexuality.  Although those marriages are Biblical, they can leave broken hearts in their trail, and frequently do.

As a sinner, I leave the judgment to God.  I have never attended a gay wedding, but I will if invited.  Perhaps gay marriage is not sanctioned by the Bible.  Neither is remarriage after divorce.  Perhaps there are florists and bakers who would have refused to cater my wedding reception if I had planned one.  They’re not making the news, though.   I respect the right churches to refuse the rites of marriage to those couples whose unions are inconsistent with that church’s teachings.  I expect we will see more on that issue soon.

I thank God for my husband.  I thank my family, who may or may not have agreed with my decision to remarry, for accepting us and encouraging us.  I realize that on this issue, we may not agree.  I learn from them, and I am thankful for every opportunity for me to consider my stance on issues where law and faith intersect.  They have always been respectful when disagreeing with me, and I am confident that will continue on this issue.  I love them, and I know that they will continue to love me, just as they have in the past when we have disagreed.

I quietly celebrated yesterday.  I have many men and women in the LGBTQ community who I am honored to call “friend.”  They welcomed me with open arms into their circles.  They did not care that I was once divorced, an unwed mother, or a morbidly obese person.  They simply called me “friend.”

Just as they do not refer to me as their “obese, divorced and remarried heterosexual friend Betty,”  I do not think of any one of them as “My gay friend Max,” or “My lesbian friend Sally” – they are simply my friends.  I love them.  I will celebrate with them.

I am an Ally.  I am a welcoming Christian. I have chosen not to discriminate in my business or in my friendship.  I cannot personally use the scripture to deny the right to marry to anyone whose union doesn’t comport.  I gave up that right when I chose my own path.

Count your Blessings

Prayer and meditation are important to me.  I’ll admit, though, that I am easily distracted.  I start praying and the dog barks or the neighbors’ kids laugh, and I’m instantly thinking about something else.  I’m one of those people who need tools to focus.

I began a new routine today, one that I hope to stick to. I began by writing in my journal – the one saved for positive thoughts and positive memories.  This act of recognizing peace, beauty and blessings in my life helped to get me into the proper mindset for part two, which was literally counting my blessings.

Some time ago I purchased a Mala, which is traditionally a Hindu or Buddhist tool for meditation.  I purchased it for its beauty, and it resides in my special space.  Today I picked up that Mala and tried it as a tool to focus for my prayer practice.  Holding the tassel, I began my prayer by thanking God for the many blessings in my life, including my family and my improved health.  I asked God to bless the people in my life and asked that as I said each name, that He would  bless that person with joy, hope, peace and health, and to bring into their life anything that they needed.

There are 108 smaller beads on the mala.  As the string of beads slipped through my fingers one at a time, the names of 108 people in my life came to me, one after another.  108 blessings.  I know about the struggles in some of their lives, and as those names came to me, I prayed for those situations.  Others I simply prayed that their lives would be filled with the blessings that they bring into my life.

I had no mental “prayer list.” The names and faces came into my mind one after another.  I was somewhat surprised by some of the names that came to mind.  Some were people who had hurt me, and along with praying for blessings for them, I prayed for help to forgive long-ago hurts.

108 people, 108 prayers, 108 blessings.  As I closed my prayer, I thanked God for such a rich life.  I thought it would be hard to come up with 108 people to pray for, but as I write this, the names and faces keep coming.

My life is blessed – truly blessed.

The Destructive Power of Anger

I try very hard not to hold a grudge.  I know how much energy it wastes.  Worse yet, while I’m wasting energy and feeling miserable, the person on the other end of the grudge is blissfully unaware of it.  Someone dear to me once told me, “don’t let someone take up space in your head without paying the rent.”  I’ve remembered that and try to live by it.

Last year, someone who I had to deal with on a regular basis did some things that made me angry, then they said some things that hurt my feelings.  The result wasn’t pretty.  To his great credit, he has extended an olive branch and tried to mend fences on several occasions.  Although I said the words, “I accept your apology,” the truth is that I never really let go of the incident.

I went to the gym this morning to run a couple of miles on the indoor track.  I set my app to remind me to run for two minutes then walk for 60 seconds.  My favorite playlist was playing, I felt “fast” (for me), and I was having a great run. The first half of the 2 mile run was great.  I thought about what I would do when I finished my workout.  I thought about the fun I had over the weekend.  I could feel the grin on my face.  People were smiling and waving.

Then, at 1.27 miles in (I happened to look at my running app), last year’s “incident” popped into my head.  As soon as I thought about that person and what had happened, I got frustrated.  I mentally told myself, “you must forgive him.”  I tried to just say the words, “I forgive,” and I couldn’t do it. I felt I wasn’t ready to forgive him.  I somehow NEEDED to continue to be angry with this person. I felt my mood continue to darken, and realized that I had begun to scowl instead of smiling.

I continued to argue mentally with myself for a few more minutes, and grudgingly thought, “I forgive you.”  I continued to run/walk and soon I began to think of possible ways to not mend fences with this person (fences keep people out), but instead to build bridges.   I felt the bounce return to my step and the smile come back to my face.

I finished my run, got back home, and I got curious.  I pulled up the chart of today’s run and scrolled the bar to 1.27 miles.  While I was filled with anger, I was slower.  You can see it clearly. I went from “green” peaks to only “yellow” peaks as soon as I began harboring resentment. Stewing on old hurts slowed me down. I was 37 second slower on mile 2 than on mile 1.

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I couldn’t ask for a clearer demonstration of the power that negativity / anger has over me.  It kills our joy, saps our strength and robs us what we are working to achieve.

Thankfully, I feel much better.  It’s my turn to extend the olive branch.  I will never again underestimate the destructive power of internalized anger.