Tag Archives: inspiration

2017, A Great Year

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“Faith don’t come in a bushel basket, Missy. It come one step at a time. Decide to trust Him for one little thing today, and before you know it, you find out He’s so trustworthy you be putting your whole life in His hands.” Lynn Austin, Candle in the Darkness

The day before our son received a cancer diagnosis in late February, he wrote a rare post on Facebook, “New job, new city, and bringing a new life into our family … 2017 is shaping up to be a great year!”

He’d texted me earlier that month to say the year was off to a great start because Clemson University, his alma mater, brought home the 2016 National Championship.

At the end of last year, I overheard him telling his dad about 2017 being great since he and his wife had several promising things in the works.

My stomach tightened each time I heard “great,” and not because I didn’t think 2017 held a lot of possibility, but because sometimes we don’t perceive great in the same way God perceives it.

Almost a decade later, I still remember my “great” year that brought me to my knees. I wrote about it here, “The year was 2008 …

Great typically requires footwork, and a lot of it. It means change and not always the kind we want. Coming into greatness often means walking through trials and feeling emotions we hadn’t factored in when we did our planning.

Great means being in relationship with God, in relationship with others, and living our purpose.

I had doubts about whether our family had worked out matters of the heart enough to usher in greatness. Like in Romans 2:29, the verse says “heart matters” are the heart of the matter for God. Since I didn’t think we’d gotten that far yet, I questioned what it’d take to make it happen.

What would “great” cost us?

I was bothered enough to mention my son’s text in February’s blog post, “It’s Always Something.” Even though I trusted what I wrote, I still felt uneasy about the messiness I mentioned, “My son’s right, 2017 will be great even with its messy moments because it is always something, and sometimes it’s something beautiful.”

For one minute, I wished I had not prayed long and hard for us, asking for realness and restoration and godly relationships minus the things that sometimes come alongside like devastation and humiliation. I’ve held my breath while we have skirted those last two.

Just before our son’s biopsy confirmed stage 1 cancer, not the result we hoped for, he and his wife, who is pregnant with their first child, had a baby scare. Thankfully those test results turned out well.

Less than a week after my husband John and I returned home following our son’s surgery, John’s 87-year-old dad took a fall, hit his head on a brick stair, and was rushed into surgery. Doctors did all they could over the next fourteen days, but last week we said goodbye to Pop Pop. He died the day before Easter.

In light of reassuring calls and messages, friendship, and signs that life was happening as intended, my stomach calmed down and so did my spirit.

Historic Great Cross at St. Augustine, Florida at sunrise

 

I didn’t have to wonder anymore. I was witnessing the price of greatness.

While John listened to his dad’s surgeon talk to the family in the Neuro-ICU waiting room, he leaned close and whispered, “Is this what great looks like?”

I believe it is, and we notice it most during times like these.

Great is recognizing our dependence on God.

Great is cherishing others’ demonstration of God’s love.

Great is acknowledging God’s goodness when we have to let go of things we want to control and keep.

Finally, great is learning the lessons God teaches by way of suffering, grief, and letting go because He calls us to the emotional journey before He allows us to take the action journey.

In other words, He prepares us for the great things (great according to Him) that He’s put in front of us to do.

How great is your year? It’s not so much about our surroundings as it is about coming around to Him.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks, Pixabay, for photos of the Great Wall of China and the historic Great Cross in St. Augustine, Florida.

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Shame Can Kill You (or make you wish you were dead)

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“Shame is worse than death.” Unknown

My uncle’s sexual abuse didn’t impact my life as much as Mom ignoring it, and there was one particular Sunday afternoon that left unshakable shame.

The family was all together and playing croquet in the backyard when my uncle slapped my behind. I started screaming and wouldn’t stop. Mom grabbed my arm and walked me inside and up the stairs out of earshot. When she asked why the outburst, all I could say through crying was, “He hurt me.”

I begged her not to make me pull down my pants, but she did anyway because she wanted to see if he’d left a mark. He hadn’t because my fit wasn’t about how hard he popped me, but about the abuse. I knew better than to explain because it was too painful for Mom to listen to. She and my uncle had been through it also, and worse, with their dad. Her ultimatum – return to the backyard and apologize to my uncle or stay in my room. I wish I’d chosen the second. At least I would have felt a little powerful.

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Because shame left me afraid to share how I felt and afraid of others’ punishment, I’ve felt shaky living through an election year that’s been similar to living with my family of origin.

I’ve snuck around Facebook trying to determine if my vote was okay

… just like I used to sit outside my parents’ bedroom door and eavesdrop on their conversations, trying to figure out if our family was okay.

I’ve kept my candidate’s name to myself even when others loudly announced voting for the opposite person, and attacked anyone who disagreed

… just like listening to my family judge people until I’d feel so uncomfortable I’d ask, “Aren’t we doing those same things?”

I offered up common ground the evening a friend brought up politics, “You know, neither candidate is an ideal choice for the presidency.” She said, “Really? I’m not so sure about that,” letting me know she believed her candidate was ideal

… just like sitting across the table from my dad and brother during one of their arrogant rants.

Out of nowhere (except maybe the election results), a friend stopped liking and commenting on my Facebook posts including grandparent ones, a commonality we’ve shared and “liked” for a couple of years now. On his page, instead of sharing his precious granddaughter, he’s posting offensive political posts, one after another. I’ve fluctuated between sad and maddened since, like Mom, he’s favoring retribution over relationships. I don’t understand, which I’ve said repeatedly this past 365 days.

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This election’s taught me more about dealing with shame than dealing with politics. I’ve had to choose between these …

Be silent and feel ashamed.

Speak out and be shamed.

This time around, I did choose the second and I do feel more powerful.

And …

 I’m choosing well in relationships too because I’m no longer 13, the age I was on the stairs with Mom, and there’s no longer anyone with power to shame me (or you). Committing to these may help both of us.

  • No longer giving into the uncertainty of self-doubt.
  • No longer standing by for hurt caused by judgment.
  • No longer heeding voices of the unreasonable and the arrogant.
  • No longer reacting to another’s punishment.
  • No longer letting shame silence us.

So …

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I’m proposing what my friend and fellow writer put forth. Jacqui said, “I have been working to ‘stay out in the open’ in the recent year or so, despite the palpable repercussions.”

No matter our own self-doubt and others’ judgment, arrogance, and punishment, it’s self-caring, and maybe even self-saving, to stay out in the open and not allow politics or anything else to shame us. As always, it’s easier to step into the open when we are …

In This Together,
Kim

 

 

It’s Always Something

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“There are no guarantees. There are no promises, but there is you, and strength inside to fight for recovery. And always there is hope.” Gilda Radner

Before I ever finished the first chapter, I threw away Gilda Radner’s book about living and dying with ovarian cancer, It’s Always Something. She sounded cynical and I didn’t like it. In hindsight, maybe I didn’t like it because it’s true …

It’s always something.

My son texted, “I believe 2017’s going to be a great year.” I texted back, “I think so too,” but troubling was a message I’d read about our bishop being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and we’d just joined the church the week prior to the news. My husband and I talked about how, for the first time, we felt like we were going “home” – to a community where we’ve always wanted to live, to a house well-matched for us, and to a church with a spiritual foundation we didn’t even know we needed. “Shaken by the news” was an understatement, but I knew I didn’t want dread to wreck 2017’s possibilities, and that’s when it came to mind …

It’s always something.

I remembered Gilda’s book. Since I threw it away some 20 years ago, but still recalled it, I realized, like it or not, the first chapter made an impression. I found the chapter online and read it again. I still didn’t like it, but I understood more and accepted more because …

It is always something.

As far back as I remember, I’ve wished for all to be right in the world. Just once. Maybe for 24 hours. Maybe just 24 minutes. Like the part of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “ … on Earth as it is in Heaven,” so I pictured Jesus saying we’d have perfect times here meaning total perfection down to no dog hair on the floor, which is why I chunked Gilda’s book. She messed up the fairytale. Of course, a lot of things mess up fairytales because …

It’s always something.

I worked hard at having a clean house and laundry; a mowed, raked and edged lawn; washed and detailed vehicles; and a spiritually, physically, and emotionally balanced family (my husband, grown children, and their families) – all on the same day. But perfection’s elusive because …

 It’s always something.

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Addiction muddles love stories. A wayward child worries a mom’s heart. Financial difficulties unsettle financial security. Illness ruins retirement plans. The perfect partner doesn’t complete us after all. #whilelovingthepeopleinit

Disruptions happen like not being paid for a job, not landing a job, waiting for medical tests, waiting for a return call, and waiting to feel better, be skinnier, and get stronger. There’s a broken washing machine and dreams that break instead of flourish. There’s stress from car accidents, a car engine that won’t start, inclement weather, and, like our friends had happen, a tree falling on their house that caused tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage leading to a bout with the insurance company.

It could be a distraction as simple as spilled milk, and in spite of being told, “Don’t cry over it,” …

It’s always something.

Another story I’ve never been crazy about goes something like this: if we put our problems in a pile and have to swap them out for other problems, we’d end up taking back our own. I balked for a long time, but now I’m buying into it. I can’t think of a person on this planet with whom I’d swap lives. Not one, and it’s because I don’t want their problems.

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Our stories are about choice, like Gilda’s story too. She wrote about the bad and the beautiful. Our stories are the same. We live in vicious cycles alongside victories. I’ve been noticing my downward cycles are easier to pay attention to than perfect moments, I’m guessing because I’m human more than holy. I have to be intentional about taking my eyes off difficulties and getting my feet off slippery slopes like the past and future, and onto the present holy ground.

#selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #gettingyourownlifenow

I’m still not sure I’ll read Gilda’s book even though I’ve accepted “it’s always something,” and I treasure her saying, “And always there is hope.” My son’s right, 2017 will be great even with its messy moments because …

It is always something, and sometimes it’s something beautiful.

What I love best about bringing this to light is we get to muddle together and hope together and we get to go through our “somethings” together. I appreciate sharing our passages, whether excursions or episodes, with each other. And while we’re together, please pray for Bishop Chuck Murphy because some of our “somethings” are scarier than others.

In This Together,
Kim

Pixabay.com shows off again with interesting images and at no cost. Thank  you, Pixabay.

A Frustrated Post Standing in for Acceptance

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“All conflict we experience in the world is a conflict within our own selves.” Brenda Shoshanna

Don’t you hate it when you’re on a roll, and then life throws a curveball or a donut just five minutes into committing to a goal, 10 minutes after you’ve undertaken a healthy habit, and 20 minutes since getting your own life?

At the end of last week’s blog post, I mentioned I’d be highlighting acceptance and tolerance next. I’ve learned my lesson about announcing upcoming posts after typing, backspacing, and deleting for hours only to end up with an abridged (and unhinged) version of non-acceptance that rambled on something like this.

“Acceptance is off the table. We’ve faked tolerance for years, some of us until we got our way and some of us until we didn’t.”

“We’ve read history books and the Bible, so time’s up for us to accept that we have never embraced diversity, stood united, or practiced political correctness. “We the People” have been at odds forever.”

“Acceptance is a fine idea until we disagree. Then, forget it.”

Just so you know, this isn’t the positive post I envisioned or the one to which I invited you. Authors of novels blame their characters for taking over scenes, however, I’m not sure who to blame for this. If I had known about this post, I would have sent a warning, not an invitation.

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I’m naïve, though, and figured most would be weary of … what’s the antonym of acceptance?  

Oh, yeah, dissension, antagonism, discord, rebellion, judgment, and nasty posts. I figured most would be weary of these. I was wrong. I googled “antonyms of acceptance” for the list above – all except nasty posts. I made that one up.

I planned to gush on about accepting others as a byproduct of accepting ourselves, an overflow of acceptance, of sorts – are you getting even a glimmer of that? – kind of like a volcano of acceptance. Ahhh, that describes more accurately how this post was spilling over.

Take heart, though, all who wander (into frustration) are not lost.

Okay, so at the moment, maybe we are lost. And unhinged. Yeah, definitely unhinged. I couldn’t figure out the problem, or a solution, until my husband texted from the bedroom at 4 a.m. and said, “Come to bed.” I looked at the clock. I felt like I’d been slapped awake.

Until he texted, there was no way I was waking up to and accepting the fact that, since last week, the gracious post I’d started about acceptance had turned frustrated, and so had I. My post about acceptance was off the table the same as acceptance was off the table.

But I had to wonder, since being “slapped,” why such an emotional reaction when I’d hardly been involved in any backlash during the week, or during the year for that matter? I’ve felt overwhelmed and scared and misunderstood in the shadows of it all, but not personally attacked, yet I was taking this week on like I had been. It’s like the quote says, “… it is conflict within our own selves.”

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So, there you have it, the problem and the solution.

The Problem: I take things personally that have nothing to do with me, which lands me in a frustrated place instead of an accepting one. I want to resign my inner conflict that tells me things outside myself are my responsibility, my fault, and mine to fix. I want to accept that friends who rage and name call and belittle aren’t talking to me unless they tag me, text me, call me, or knock on my door.

The Solution: Following through with acceptance means work, prayer, and writing to rid myself of fear, especially fear of others’ confrontations and disapproval. Following through means accepting their reactions are theirs to deal with, and also accepting I deserve contentment and I’ve earned the right to my own life, even unpopular opinions.

#gettingyourownlife #workseverytime #whilelovingthepeopleinit #acceptingmyself 

A friend’s funny comment to a disparaging one put the problem into perspective. He wrote, “Wash, rinse, repeat.” #lovetolaugh

And my daughter’s solution is the same instruction she gives to our nearly two-year-old grandson who overreacts, “Shake it off, buddy.” And he does. He shakes, wiggles, and stomps until he’s done with it. I won’t be cute like him, but if it helps with acceptance …

How is “getting your own life” coming along if you’re like me and easily distracted by negative noise? Sharing solutions help us all. And if you need to share frustration, that’s fine too because we’re in this together.

We sure are,
Kim

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

Create Something Besides Chaos

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“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.” Thessalonians 4:11

I took my own advice about being quiet, voting, and being creative until I let people I care about (on and off of Facebook) overturn my week. I meant to watch the results of the election on Tuesday and onward move. Instead, I spent from Sunday until today either in bed or online trying to make sense of how others were acting – not about me, not anything I could control, nothing that was my business.

This is a lifelong habit of some of us humans. Actually, it’s probably original sin at its most obvious. I want to understand (the reason Adam and Eve – let’s blame them – ate the apple from the Tree of Knowledge in the first place), so I can decide whether you need acceptance or straightening out, and whether my feelings should be hurt. I need to understand why you’re being unkind, or at least make you understand why you need to be sorry. If nothing else, certainly we all understand I’m justified in judging you for judging me first.

It’s all beyond our limited understanding, even when we’re worldly, and kindness, humility, and acceptance are challenges when we don’t understand each other. They have their reasons. So do we, and they’re trying to figure it out too. I read an article that actually speculated I voted the way I did because I haven’t traveled more than 200 miles from home this year. Really? I need another apple.

“Martha, Martha, there you go again, letting their lives distract you from your own,” from “Choose Well (a distracted Martha in a world that admires merry Mary).” #GettingYourOwnLife

I heard Jesus’ voice this morning like he spoke this out loud, but I went ahead and reasoned how easy it’s been to get sucked into other people’s junk. I justified it because I’m sensitive. I explained it on Facebook – I’ve been kind while hurting for a long time, so why can’t you?

#WhileLovingthePeopleInIt

Thankfully, I have a friend who listens when I complain (using the polite word here). She listens, but she also redirects when she can. Sometimes I’m like a derailed train and I’ll send her six long messages riddled with pronouns (after all, it’s your fault), negativity, and not-so-nice words because the problem is out there. However, her steady compassion, spirituality, and humor remind me I’m sitting with the problem, staring at the problem, being the problem.

It’s difficult to recognize, though, and challenging to admit because I’m so sure it’s you, not me, especially after the way you acted about election results.

By now, it’s Thursday. I’m discouraged and exhausted, but probably not as much as rioters using their energy to destroy instead of create things. Although, looking around, I haven’t created anything except chaos this week either, which is usually when I either nosedive or decide to pull out and do something different.

I’ve been here and “rioting,” like so many times before, when I’ve had no idea what to do with myself. I’ve felt hurt to the point of shaking and lashing out, frustrated enough to physically not be able to sit still, eat, or sleep, and so scared, alone, and misunderstood, I didn’t want to live. I was most afraid of the hole I’d fall into if the darkness kept on, and lots of times, it did. A friend reminded me, “It’s a tunnel, not a hole. Walk through it.” I trusted her, but, too often, it turned into a hole anyway.

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But that hasn’t happened this week because I’ve had more practice walking through dark places and, like my friend who redirects me said this morning, instead of a dark hole, I’m finding my “holy hill” – a place to go where I’m safe and guided and close to God. For me, this place is Creativity.

If you’d like to read another of my blog posts, here is the link to “Holey (holes and tunnels and holiness).”

When I think of being saved by Creativity (and my Creator), I think about what a friend told me when she found out I majored in psychology. She said, “Psychology is fascinating. My mom worked as a counselor for the Radar Institute.” In her next breath, she said, “I used art to navigate my way through my insane family dynamics. Art is an awesome way of communicating.”

“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” Marc Chagall

My friend’s quote, coupled with Marc Chagall’s, helps me understand myself even when no one else does and even when psychology and well-meaning friends with advice and church fall far short. It shows me the way to my Holy Hill. Get out of my head, into my heart, and Create.

Write it. Paint it. Take a photo of it. Sing it. Sell it. Record it. Dance to it. Build it. Bake it. Organize it. Travel to it. Draw it. Calculate it. Meditate on it. Decorate it. Collect it. Clean it. Teach it. Decoupage it. I used to decoupage everything except my waffle at breakfast.

Create something.

This is big. When we create, we biggie-size our breaths. We make what we do larger than our problems, bigger than what we dwell on, greater than what bothers us. Creativity is healing. It’s living a quiet life, minding my own business, and working with my hands. Sometimes writing, my version of living out loud, seems contradictory to living a quiet life, but it’s not when I stick with heart work instead of messing with the “Tree of Knowledge,” trying to figure it out, and overthinking. When I do it right and leave the apples alone, timely things happen like my art instructor sending a message just now, “I hope you’re playing in the paint every once in a while during our hiatus from class.”

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I’m reminded of Elizabeth Layton, also known as Grandma Layton. The 68-year-old spent much of her life suffering from feelings and coping with depression and bipolar disorder until she signed up for an art class at a local university. It saved her life. Grandma Layton overcame her difficulties when she began drawing contour art in 1977, which the Washington Post said “is good.”

Like God created us, we’re called to create because we were made in his image. When I do, I get caught up in a space far from needing to understand and a long way from judgment. I get caught up in creating, and time stands still and life feels magnetic and restorative and energizing.

Creativity is my Holy Hill. My guess is, it’s everyone’s holy hill. May we find that spot and live there often.

And heal … God, help us heal. 

In This Together,
Kim

The Images:

Rebecca Zdybel, thank you for your painting, your instruction and encouragement, and the image you created that goes along with this blog post.

Joel, I knew I had to use at least one of your photos. You’re photography not only seems like your holy hill, but it provides that same kind of space for others.

Grandma Layton’s family, I appreciate you reaching out when I wrote about depression the first time and offering her artwork for use on my blog. The piece I shared here is called Garden of Eden – November 1977. For more about her, check her out @ Grandma Layton. She describes Garden of Eden like this, “Women have had the blame all through the ages for everything. You know that’s not right. Now a woman would not listen to a snake, she’d run, wouldn’t she? This is Adam, he’s got a Band-Aid where his rib came out. This was my first E.R.A. picture. I was just objecting to being blamed for all of the sin of the world.”

The Quotes:

Jenine, there aren’t enough grateful words to describe and thank you for our friendship, your support, and for all things funny and good and sacred we talk about like belts and space and holy hills.

Maria, I appreciate our friendship more and more. It’s been fun getting to know you.

Betty, you’re gone and I miss you terribly, but nothing you ever told me has been forgotten. I remember when I need it most.

 

 

It’s Not About Being Grateful

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“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

In a book study years ago, a group leader chose a topic each week for us to discuss. Gratitude came up often, especially around Thanksgiving. Everyone gushed gratitude until my turn when I’d say, “I’m grateful I don’t have to be grateful for anything.”

So, when the story came up in church about the lepers (Luke 17:11-19), the one about 10 of them being healed, but only one coming back to thank Jesus, I thought, I’m good with this now. I’ve had a change of heart and I’m all about gratitude. 

That was, until Rev. Stu Boehmig said, “The story’s not about being grateful.”

Huh? Then what is it about?

It never occurred to me the nine men who were healed from leprosy were, of course, grateful. After all, their healing meant being spared isolation. They were allowed to again worship in the synagogue, allowed to hug spouses and children who they couldn’t touch prior to their recovery, and given a second chance at life instead of physically deteriorating.

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However, only one made the effort to come back. Only one chased down Jesus and thanked him. Only one lived out his gratitude. Here’s what Biblegateway.com has to say about Ten Lepers and a Samaritan’s Faith when only the foreigner returns to give thanks, “Now what Jesus praises here is the Samaritan’s initiative.”

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

The story’s about action.

And it reminds me of a funny tale about our daughter’s former friend. He didn’t do much, but I’d come to his defense anyway and say, “He has potential.” It turned into a witticism when my father-in-law asked, “Potential to do what? It’s not helping him much.” From then on, we’d say about anyone who wasted their time and talent, “But they have potential … ”

Since the sermon, I’ve thought about my own healing from “leprosy” – a couple of years of isolation and deteriorating mental health due to depression – and how grateful I ought to be. Some people aren’t given a second chance when they suffer a debilitating mental illness. They disappear into alcohol or a pill bottle, an institution, or a grave.

I’ve also thought about turning my potential for gratitude into a practice of gratitude. I am grateful, just like the nine lepers were grateful, but it’s the tenth one who put his potential into practice. He took action.

Intentional. Deliberate. Purposeful.

And here’s the enlightening (and Twilight Zone-y) part of all of this for me. I glanced through the church bulletin to fact check this post when I noticed, after years of reading it, the name of the final prayer the congregation prays together – Prayer of Thanksgiving. No wonder I get choked up every time I say out loud, “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you … ”

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie

My heart’s known for a while I’ve needed to do “thank you” instead of mouth it. And you know I’m going to tie this into getting our own lives, right? Gratitude is our way forward.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

Timing. Wait For It.

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“Practice the pause.” Lori Deschene

Even though I had no idea how to get started, I made a list of writing goals and included ghostwriting. On this day five years ago, one of my writing mentors needed to complete a manuscript within 30 days, so she asked if I’d take over her ghostwriting assignments from an international speaker for a month.

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That’s right, she sent me an email about ghostwriting on Halloween Day. That struck me as funny, and every October 31st since then, I’ve thought about timing.

Around this same time three years ago, my daughter and son-in-law made offers on at least five houses in Upstate South Carolina, only to have every single one fall through. When they slowed their search and he submitted a work application in another town, my son-in-law had the job he wanted within a month and they had a house in an area our daughter had always wanted to live.

A similar thing happened to my son and daughter-in-law. They negotiated for months on a price and a repair list for a house they thought they wanted to buy. After giving up on working with the unreasonable seller, a house came available within walking distance of the college where our daughter-in-law is working on her master’s degree. They now live in a downtown area and just blocks from popular restaurants and quaint shops.

My husband and I have our beach house for sale. During July 4th weekend, we received an offer and accepted it. We were disappointed the buyers never showed back up because we had our eye on a more spacious house with a backyard big enough for a pool. We questioned whether to lower our price so we could sell faster and go ahead with our plan. Since then, we’ve had downpours and a hurricane skirt the coast, which left the backyard of our would-be house with at least two inches of sitting water where we planned to add the pool.

This week, we are looking at a different house (out of the flood zone) that’s more space for less money. It has the pool we hoped to add and a garage that my husband wanted, but almost gave up on. In fact, it has every single thing we want down to a screened in porch and a fireplace.

If any of us could have convinced ourselves that our timing was better than God’s, we would have been all about fast forwarding our plans. We all said the same thing, though, “Something doesn’t feel quite right. “ In hindsight, we figured out it’s not wise to rush #GettingYourOwnLife when all the signs say “no.” We’ve all learned a thing or two about practicing the pause.

What’s been worth “the pause” even when you weren’t sure you were supposed to be waiting?

In This Together,
Kim

Loving People Through the Election (we can do it)

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“We all have inside of us a Mother Teresa and a Hitler.” Unknown

Almost daily I wonder if our country, my family and friendships, and I are going to make it until Election Day. These final four weeks are bringing out the worst in a lot of us. It’s telling when I’m relieved to read about Hurricane Matthew instead of politics. Even though I unfollowed most of my big political posters (people who post on Facebook), my newsfeed is filling up again with politics as the election nears.

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There are diehards who know they’re right, and those of us struggling not to be wrong when we don’t agree with them. And when I do hang out with friends who agree, I want to be respectful instead of rebellious towards those who don’t, but that’s not easy sometimes if they’re rebellious first. #WhileLovingthePeopleinIt

I typically stay far from political discussions even though I have near-to-my-heart opinions about politics, and that’s what I’ve figured out is the “problem.” Since working on my manuscript about getting in touch with my feelings, I no longer can stay solely in my head like I used to. However, sojourning to my heart is scary, especially now. It feels safer, in a sick sort of way, to practice judgment and anger rather than understanding and compassion.

It came to a head the other night when I unfriended a friend because I couldn’t stay away from her page, even though I never commented when I was there. I unfollowed her a while back, but I’d still check in every few days even though I promised myself I wouldn’t … just like she promised to stop posting about politics. It seemed she couldn’t help herself anymore than I could.

She and I only know each other through mutual friends, so this isn’t a lifelong and special bond I’m breaking. She never comments on my page either. We’re distant, so I wondered if my unfriending was even worth blogging about until it dawned on me the struggle isn’t about our relationship with each other. It’s about our relationship with ourselves.

This is about getting my own life while loving the people in it.

I visited her page hoping she’d stop posting about politics because she said she would, and I wanted her to. I wanted us both to stop letting ourselves down, and I wanted her to go first.

I wanted her to stop reacting to friends with arrogance and show some LOVE like her cover photo says. That way, I could show some love also.

I wanted to like her again like I did before this election season got ugly and she did too. She’s not my only friend who’s gone off the deep end about politics, but she’s the most verbal and vicious. That is, unless you come behind my closed doors. I’ve said some pretty ugly things about her to my husband.

He reminded me that she’s afraid just like I am. He also clarified that I’ll never understand how she’s handling her fear because it’s not how I handle mine. She is confrontational. I run. She knows she’s right. I doubt myself. She is unapologetic. I say “I’m sorry” before I figure out if I actually am.

Going to her page triggered all sorts of uncomfortable emotions and unpleasant thoughts. I’d read her comments and make up ones in my head to put her in her place. I wanted to straighten out her thinking with the same kind of sarcasm she was writing to others. I unfriended her the night I felt unambiguously (which means really, really, really) justified in meeting her unkind comments with some of my own. I didn’t write them, but I wanted to.

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That’s when I thought, I am her.

I believe we all have some of her in us. And just like the quote at the beginning said about Mother Teresa and Hitler, we all have inside of us some Trump and some Hillary. I can hear it already, “There’s no way I’m like him/her.” Grumble, deny, grumble, grumble, deny. Yeah, we are. In fact, I’ve watched friends act just like the candidate they’re criticizing.

Unpleasant news, I know, because if we’re hating one of the candidates, we’re likely hating ourselves. We “sort of” know how much we’re alike whether we accept it or not … whether we accept our immorality, our crudeness, our dishonesty, our scorn, our bratty fits, and on and on. We say, “I would never … ,” but we do.

Author Carla Laureano posted similar ideas on Facebook. She said, “The reason why we are so horrified by the candidates and the way they’ve been running their campaigns is because they represent us perfectly as a nation, down to every last hidden sin and evil thought: greed, lust, hatred, fear, pride … There is no longer a veneer of civility behind which we as a country can hide and pretend any sort of respectability or character. In order to deserve better, we need to BE better.”

We’re all capable of mudslinging madness, and we’re also capable of Love that overcomes it. My unfriended friend’s page is a jumble of conflicting emotions that aren’t usually so visual, but it’s right there on her page and in writing, which is why she and her page are so bothersome. On there, the clash of love and hate is palpable and problematic and politically incorrect … and it’s you and me. It’s all of us.

It’s like the story I doubt is true since I can’t find a reputable source, but I appreciate it anyway. Mother Teresa was asked when she began her ministry and she answered, “On the day I discovered I had a Hitler inside me.” Fact or not, I’m buying it because it makes her human and relatable, and it makes me feel better that she’s flawed too.

I was still a little crazy about my friend’s page until I read what another friend suggested about our days leading up to the election. He said something like this, “Shut up and vote, and find something creative to do besides obsess about November 8th.”

Thanks, Jason. I think I’ll do just that. #GettingYourOwnLife

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And to think, I almost canceled three days of art classes beginning next Thursday, and I suspect it was because I only have time to be crazy, not creative. Maybe that’s why last night I ran into a fellow painter. Seeing her reminded me to stay out of my head and lean heartward.

What about you? Obsess about politics or pursue a real passion during the next four weeks? Let’s encourage each other in ways that are creative, not crazy.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the first three pix, Pixabay.com.

Lighten Up, Literally (a post about emotional eating)

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“There’s a huge emotional component to weight loss.” Carnie Wilson

This last decade, I’ve gained an average of two pounds a year – this was the least painful way to express it. The weight added up so gradually, I’m not sure if the gain started in 2005 after Dad’s death or when we moved to the beach about three years later. I used to walk daily, a practice I started when I was 25 and pregnant with my firstborn. People in town would ask, “Aren’t you the lady that walks all the time?”

When we moved 700 feet from the ocean and near an almost constant breeze, I stopped walking. Crazy, right?

I didn’t know how crazy (I was) until I looked back at my declining mental health, the downward spiral of our finances and marriage, and my lack of purpose because my kids didn’t need me anymore. I needed something to numb the pain and fill my soul’s hole. I also needed protection because I felt emotionally unsafe. I could have turned to God. Instead, I turned him into an enemy because he wasn’t intervening like I thought he should, and I turned to an old habit since childhood, emotional eating. My mom kept a candy drawer stocked with PowerHouse candy bars, Baby Ruths, and Little Debbie snacks. She baked Toll House chocolate chip cookies. Making s’mores for her and snacking on the dessert together is my fondest memory with her.

For a long time, I was okay with my weight gain. I’m sensitive, so the more I padded my body, the more I protected my emotions, or so it seemed.

Even though I felt safer from the world, I suspected I was letting myself down like I wrote about in my last blog post. Overweight wasn’t something I wanted to be and when, in a workshop about healthy eating, the speaker compared our fat to carrying around several five-pound bags of sugar, I couldn’t shake how heavy and tired I felt. I’ve never had good posture, but I starting slumping. For comfort and because of the weight gain, I wore sports bras instead of regular ones. I walked with a drag instead of a bounce in my step. To top it off, try trying on a pair of pants or dress you thought looked good on you, and imagine shoving bags of sugar in the outfit with you. It got tight in there.

I’ve had my moments of exercise and weight loss the last 10 years, like before our daughter’s and son’s weddings, but mostly my routine back to a healthier and lighter lifestyle has been start, stop, start, stop, start, stop, stop, stop.

It’s interesting that we never know when enough is enough. We don’t know when we’ll get sick of ourselves and make a change. Sadly, we can’t manufacture the mood, but when it happens, we know it.

My husband, John, and I ate a perfect meal at our favorite mountain restaurant. We walked down the street to an open-air market with freezers full of fresh made food labeled with directions for reheating. He said, “What are we doing about dinner?”

Something snapped. I could almost physically feel it. I felt irritable and anxious and really heavy. We left there and bought four cupcakes at a dessert place. They’re big and with a lot of icing, so after dinner, we ate all of them. After that, we talked.

“We have to figure out fun things to do besides eat,” I said.

“I know,” said John, almost like it was his fault.

It wasn’t. We both had gotten lazy, gained weight, and given into a boring routine. I thought back about a video shown to alcoholics in rehab when I was working at The Commission for Alcohol and Drug Abuse. The speaker in the video said God gave us two natural pleasures, eating and sex, but not to abuse. To enjoy. This is stressed with addicts in recovery because they can seldom answer, “What do you do for fun?” That is, unless they’re honest and say they drink or drug.

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Looking at our empty cupcake box, I related a little too much to the addicts in rehab. Life wasn’t as fun now that I substituted eating for other enjoyable things like evening walks, hiking, and walking for miles in downtowns when we’d take daytrips. We swapped all that for driving around to find the closest parking space to restaurants and bakeries.

I was irritable the next few days because I was coming down from a sugar high and having to face why I gained weight in the first place. I wanted to change several habits, but, at first, I hated doing the work and the workouts.

However, like I said, something snapped. Since then, I’ve made a few adjustments to detox from junk food and junk living. And, no, I didn’t give up all white foods made with sugar and flour because I’ll never stick to that kind of diet.

I committed to reasonable things I would actually follow through on like …

  • Going to the gym, walking outside, or both at least five days a week.
  • Walking with John at least one evening a week.
  • Aiming for an average of 15,000 Fitbit steps daily.
  • Tapering off chocolate.
  • Eating one brown sugar cinnamon pop tart for a midnight snack instead of more calorie-intense sweets. (Don’t even think about suggesting fruit or yogurt.)
  • Cutting down on bread since it’s not a favorite food anyway.
  • Drinking even more water than what I already consume.
  • Making a list of fun things to do besides eat. #GettingYourOwnLife
  • Speaking up when I need to, so I’m letting go of junk instead of eating it.

Mostly, I’m overriding a thought I’ve let discourage me for years, “What’s the use?” Since pounds don’t drop off as quickly as they used to, I’ve given up easily the last few years. This time around, my new and improved saying is, “I’m not responsible for the result, only the effort, so keep moving and making healthy choices.” Also, I’m dealing with my emotional stuff, and you can read all about that in past posts if you haven’t already.

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After all this heavy talk, I’ll leave you with a funny story about a bathroom scale and my three-year-old granddaughter, Claire. I took her to a friend’s bathroom and when she spotted the scale, she wanted to stand on it. It registered 28 pounds.

“Aw, Mammy. It’s broke,” said Claire. “I one, two, three years old.”

When I stood on it, she said, “Wow, Mammy. You’re old.”

That’s when I explained that scales measure your weight, not your age. While washing my hands, she got on and off of it enough that it showed an E for Error, which she thought was a 3.

“Oh, good, it’s working. I three years old,” she said.

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That kid and Erma Bombeck (her quote’s below) can even lighten up coming face-to-face with my bathroom scale. And I need to lighten up figuratively and literally. It makes getting your own life so much easier.

“In two decades I’ve lost a total of 789 pounds. I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.”

 

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the pix, Pixabay.

 

Nice Talking with You (positivity and truth … is it either-or?)

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“Say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.” Anonymous

I’ve written a lot lately about speaking up. Next thing I know, I’m also speaking up on my vlog, but this time it’s about being quiet unless we frame what we say in a positive light, in a way that tells what we stand for instead of what we stand against.

I questioned if I’d contradicted myself even before a friend commented, so I’m clarifying just in case. Positivity is good, but sometimes we have to …

  • Say the hard thing no one wants to hear.
  • Say the true thing we’d rather ignore.
  • State the reality we prefer to deny.

I also questioned if framing our messages positively and telling the truth, the kind people call “brutal honesty” because they don’t like it, are mutually exclusive. I must have thought so since most of my life I’ve told people what they’ve wanted to hear. I ended any message with a nervous little laugh to be sure no one took me seriously. I valued being positive (and liked) over being honest. No wonder family and friends interrupted my conversation, stopped me if they didn’t like what I had to say, and ignored my requests to not talk about topics like religion and politics. No wonder “no” didn’t mean no. No wonder I slammed doors instead of finishing a sentence. I had no voice.

Goodness, I’ve written about this until I’m sick of hearing myself talk about it, but I can’t stop until I get this out and until I get it straightened out. I don’t have a shot at doing what I’m telling y’all to do, #GettingYourOwnLife, until I get my own voice.

#WhileLovingthePeopleinIt isn’t happening either unless I’m willing to tell the truth. If I don’t love you enough to be honest, I don’t love you enough. Sometimes I can tell you what I need to say and frame it positively. I may figure out a way to keep it upbeat while keeping it real, or I may not. “You have a bad attitude” is hard to frame in a positive way.

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I responded to my friend about my vlog when she commented something like, “There is a time to be positive, but there’s also a time to speak the truth.”

“You’re absolutely right,” I said. “I don’t want to be held to this video and expected to always be Polyanna.”

I’ve aspired for people to say, “I’ve never heard her say a negative word.” I don’t want to be her anymore. I want to speak up positively when I can. When I can’t, I’ll speak up kindly, but I’ll still speak up.

practice-615657_960_720Here are ways I’m practicing:

  • Say what I have to say and get out, especially if I’m confronting someone who explodes, defends, or acts senseless. I walk away so they have time to reflect and so I’ll stop talking. People typically argue not to deal with an issue, but to distract from it. I’m following Facebook’s meme with a fierce guy being chased by his opposition. It reads, “Give your opinion and run.”
  • Rock the boat. I speak up about what’s bothering me even when we’re getting along, especially when we’re getting along, because it’s easier to talk then and because a single issue is easier to deal with than a long list of all that’s gone wrong this week, this year, this decade. If I wait until troubles build up, the culmination feels overwhelming to me, and it sounds crushing to whoever is hearing it. My son said, “It would be easier to hear this stuff in increments. You know, along and along.”
  • Consider what’s important and helpful, and what’s not, when it comes to speaking up. Sometimes I fight just because I’m frustrated, maybe my husband’s finished with his paperwork while I’ve procrastinated over mine or he’s in bed early and I’m not. Other times I’m frustrated because I’m too afraid to speak up. That’s when I need to.

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Here is what “speak the truth” is NOT:

  • An offensive comment to control, to insult, or to make a point we know doesn’t need to be made. Usually the point we’re making is,  “You’re wrong and I’m right.”
  • Disrespect like talking about something we’ve been asked not to talk about and for good reason, but we say it anyway.
  • A way of defying human courtesy instead of asking ourselves, “Is it kind? Is it true? Is it useful?” (By the way, these questions apply even when we’re talking about big personalities like Hollywood stars and political candidates. Their bigness doesn’t justify our belittlement.)

Does anyone else have anything to say about speaking up? I’d love to hear your take on it.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks for the pix, Pixabay.com.