#16 – Kindness

I want to thank God for KINDNESS.

Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Somehow that trait was diminished in my family of origin, and even overruled in some ways. It was diminished so well, that when I saw it being acted out in television shows I perceived it as phony and unreal. When I saw it practiced around me by others, I either thought of it as “someone trying to manipulate someone else” (because that’s how it was used in my young life), or something only weak people do.

Thankfully, God helped me find out that kindness wasn’t a myth, and that it was as real as the pain of stubbing a toe (that REALLY smarts and is utterly undeniable).

Learning to be kind to others was hard, until I learned that it really and truly had to begin with being kind to myself. I honestly didn’t really grasp that very quickly, having learned that the only way for people (myself included) would make enduring uncomfortable and foreign changes is when they are browbeaten (punished) into making them. So if I made a mistake or even just a bad choice, I’d beat myself up about it – harshly and without kindness. I thought that would make me better. I was wrong. Once I was able to be more kind to myself, it got easier and easier to be kind to everyone else I wanted to be kind with.

The real surprise was that I actually make more consistent changes within myself and my life walk when I am kind to myself. It has been a lovely gentle surprise in my life’s journey to find that to be a real thing.

How can kindness live while really bad things going on around you? I can only say that as we engage with kindness toward ourselves, it gets easier to see where kindness makes us feel better in bad situations, and punishing others becomes less important and certainly less rewarding. See how I did that? I showed how learning kindness helped me learn what forgiveness was: my ability to give up my right to punish someone else for something they did wrong to me. I don’t need an apology to forgive someone, now. I only need to be kinder to myself, and the world, by giving up my right to require punishment for them. Does that mean I have to let them repeat the injury? O HECK no! Forgiveness does not require that I lay down and be anyone’s rug, chuckle. Boundaries are healthy things for good relationships that last, after all.

This lifelong journey for the lessons of kindness drew me to a poem that I had as a bookplate when I was only 20 years old, and newly married. It’s a poem written by Stephen Grellet (1773-1855), and it still resonates with me. I use it as my illustration today. I hope it inspires you as well.

Finally, I want to thank God for being patient and tenacious (a kind word for stubborn) in teaching me that kindness is the better way to go, in spite of what I wasn’t given in life. Didja know Kindness is a fruit of the spirit? Means the more I practice it, the more God’s spirit can flow into and through me. A very good thing.

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

My life’s goal

#9 – Good Healthcare!

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This year is nearly over, and I have done less than I expected as far as expressing my thankfulness; but I have honestly been gaining ground on things to be grateful and thankful for.

Good healthcare is sometimes a desperate challenge for some of us in my age group within my country (the USA); but I have to say that I have been able to obtain some great care this past year. My Primary care physician is focused on caring for those over 50, and it’s been a HUGE blessing for me that I found her. She listens to me, and then tells me what is significant that I missed seeing as significant. She chooses my medications based on her understanding of my aging process as well as my lab results. She’s just been a big difference to the doctors I’ve had before, lemme tell ya.

This year has been an ordeal for me in the health area, though I had been working on improving it most of last year. I have been dealing with shortness of breath for a long time, and my doctor decided to push for a lot of tests by a lot of experts. She was concerned that my troubles were more than asthma, which we had been working hardest to resolve.

So I am grateful for the discoveries. First: I have a healthy heart! There is no heart disease currently messing with me (relief). That took several tests to determine, and there was some reason for concern since I have been obese with high cholesterol (my body makes bad cholesterol, even if I am fasting) for most of my life.

I still have no sign of diabetes! Also very good news (don’t hate me, please).

After a discussion with the pulmonologist, who complimented me on my faithful use of the CPAP, he decided that – it is my asthma that’s causing the trouble. There are a couple of tests he’s going to do, but they are all about how my asthma is working me over.

I am one of those people who didn’t get an asthma diagnosis until my adult years, and I just don’t always know when to use my rescue inhaler, though I am good about using the nebulizer when I feel persistently breathless. What I wasn’t doing, was resorting to using the rescue inhaler before, during or after exertive activities. Instead, I’d sit down and work on recovering. From now on, I’ll keep moving but use the inhaler before, during, and after any exertive activity. That will allow me to rebuild muscles and stamina that I’ve lost during this fight for air. There’s more testing ahead, but nothing to be worried about – just looking for better options and coping mechanisms that will allow me to keep active more than I have been doing.

So, I just want to say how thankful I am that I haven’t missed any significant time from work (just some PTO time for the tests) during all of this, too. Working from home is such a HUGE blessing, since I had less traveling to do just to make the appointments.

I am my sole provider for income, with a widow’s pension that is insufficient for my basic needs unless I apply for governmental assistance. So my job is important for my independent lifestyle. It also provides my really good healthcare, which is slightly less costly than Medicare would be, and covers more than Medicare does. That means that though I am eligible for it, I am better off staying with the plan my employer offers me.

At 67 years of age, I have out-worked all of my 8 parents before they retired, and none of them were lazy about their work habits. Life just beat them up harder. I’m beyond grateful for God making it possible for me to work beyond 60. It keeps me engaged with mental stimulation as well as making my life work well at my age, and with my needs.

I may have been too busy to write about my gratitude, but certainly still counting my blessings during this time!

#4 – Working From Home

Sorry I fell out of step with these 100 things I’m thankful for. I’ve been a bit troubled about the shutdown that began back in March, here in the US.

With the pandemic concerns for SARS-CoV-2 (aka COVID-19), I saw my office leadership cleaning the office twice a day. It wasn’t ever in their job description but they did it cheerfully, making jokes about it, and casually, without complaint. When supplies were running low thanks to shopper runs on cleaning supplies at stores, they let us know to keep our eyes open and that they had enough for one more week. Happily, I found some at my store, during Senior Hours. I bought enough to take care of cleaning for 5 weeks, I was told with nearly tears in my supervisor’s eyes. I refused repayment and let her know that it was their own attitudes keeping us going and encouraging us to stay the course.

In that time, we lost 10% of our pay for the rest of the year. The client that most of us worked for further reduced our hours (from 40 to 34/week), and then threw 15 furlough days (unpaid days of no work) to be sprinkled through the rest of 2020. I’m so very thankful I will be ok with these reductions, but my heart goes out to the coworkers with families or other dependents. Some were also furloughed and it made me go into a small tailspin.

When I received my $1200 stimulus check, I bought a new computer since my former one was over 8 years old. That was providential, because instead of issuing me a laptop to work from home, I was told to use my own computer to access the one I use in the office via internet and other connections.

I also bought a new desk, and that makes it easier for me to work well in comfort through the day.

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[My desk, in the living room of my home]

I thought that everything would be wonderful and better when they told me I could work from home on April 22nd, once we found that the connectivity was working. I mean, my commute to the office took about an hour to get there, and then another hour to get home. The gas budget was $80/week before the gas prices began dropping during late winter. So an 8 hour working day was actually 10 hours away from home. I was usually wiped once I got there. Too wiped to even make a healthy meal, most of the time.

So, now I only had to go to the living room and enjoy the benefits of working from home. I couldn’t figure out why I was still anxious and dodgy. I am doing better since I began antidepressants. I have no problem saying that, and I hope others will be fine admitting it as well.

I should also mention that in March, about a week after my state did their shut down, I began CPAP therapy at home. I use a nasal pillow, and I worried my 5 year old grandson (who I have for an overnight visit every 2 weeks, as his father has to work on Sundays) would be afraid of it. He liked my jokes about being like an elephant, and uses a face mask for his asthma attacks, so it went well.

So here I am now, and I’m astonished at what the CPAP therapy has done in my life since I began it. First, I went through the spring season without an asthma attack – I usually have had to do nebulizer treatments nearly nightly, and have frequently ended up missing time from work and seeing my doctor. None of that happened this past spring.

Cleaning my home was hard, and usually had to be spread over several days. I am again amazed to report that just last week I:

  • Washed three loads of laundry (taking it to the laundry room in my building and bringing it back when done, folding and hanging the clothing and putting it all away).
  • Used the new vacuum cleaner (wireless and light! But so effective it will capture pet hair and fine crumbs!) to vacuum two of the three rooms in my home.
  • Swept the kitchen and bathroom floors, and then steam cleaned them with the steam mop, as well as the entry spot of quarry tile by the front door.
  • Then I baked muffins for my grandson.

All in just one day!

You might think that would make me post something about being thankful for CPAP, and I probably should have; but for me it’s all working so well just because I am safe at home. I’m not afraid of the virus, though I am one of those folks with vulnerabilities. I just mentally didn’t do well with the diminished cars on the roadways, and the unfamiliar face masks and all of the rules for shopping. Happily, I usually use the Pickup service at Walmart, and it’s still without extra costs. It’s a huge blessing for me. I think being an introvert at heart helps as well.

I have wanted to work at home for a very long time. I am at full retirement age, now (66), and that commute can feel mighty long after a demanding day, lemmetellya. There are other reasons that working from home is good for me, though.

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at age 33, so I’ve been dealing with it just that long (33 years). One of the problems with fibro is that it curtails your energy. When I run out of energy, I feel like my mind is stuck in white noise. This is usually called brain fog, and it’s an apt description. I have no creative ability left, so I make sure I’m not doing anything that requires it in the evening when the energy might run out. I make no decisions after 5 pm that are critical. I know that in the morning I’ll have my best mental acuity and most things will wait that long for me to work them out. If I am in a full flare, the decisions may wait a bit longer. Sometimes much longer. That’s just how it is.

So working a full time job is often a wonder for people who have fibro at my age. Believe me, if it wasn’t so rewarding and not so physically demanding (I work on a computer all day long), I wouldn’t be able to do it. Add that my client (I work as a contractor for a staffing company) is an inspiration and someone who frequently thinks of things I didn’t see, and you can see that my job can be fun some days. My wages aren’t that bad either.

The new work hours and payment hit I’ve taken has reduced my options in some ways, but I have been dealing with a financial recovery process since 2013. I was living below my means for a very long time, and just recently I’ve paid off most of the debts that were putting me on an austerity budget.

So I am thanking God that I am working from home right now, and they aren’t going to require me to return any time soon with the new resurgence of the pandemic within the US right now. If I wish to return, they’ve set up my desk so that there are only empty cubicles on either side, and I’ll be socially distant from any coworkers. They have the lunchroom set up similarly, and plenty of sanitizer stands through the office now that supplies are more available.

I just like coming to work in my home. I dress like I’m going to work, and turn on all the lights in the living room. It cheers me up to have them on, and helps me feel focused. I have the smell of fresh brewed coffee nearby, and I can play music at home, but not at work.

When it’s break time, I flop over the wide and comfy chair by the window and just enjoy the comfort and peace of my home. I might have music playing, too.

If I want a snack, the kitchen is very close, as is the bathroom. My whole apartment is only 580 square feet, but it’s well maintained, vermin free, in a residential neighborhood, and my neighbors in the building are sweet people. The management takes good care of the building and property, too. I love my life now that my hard times have receded.

So I am immensely thankful and grateful to work from home. This is my sanctuary, my comfort zone, and everything is convenient for my needs here. I even honestly like having the reduced hours. It gives me time to cope with my stress levels in healthier ways.

How are YOU doing in all of this?? I honestly want to know, so please tell me.

#3 Thankful for – Kindness

I want to thank God for KINDNESS.

Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.  Somehow that trait was diminished in my family of origin, and even overruled in some ways.  It was diminished so well, that when I saw it being acted out in television shows I perceived it as phony and unreal.  When I saw it practiced around me by others, I either thought of it as “someone trying to manipulate someone else” (because that’s how it was used in my young life), or something only weak people do.

Thankfully, God helped me find out that kindness wasn’t a myth, and that it was as real as the pain of stubbing a toe (that REALLY smarts and is utterly undeniable).

Learning to be kind to others was hard, until I learned that it really and truly had to begin with being kind to myself.  I honestly didn’t really grasp that very quickly, having learned that the only way for people (myself included) would make enduring uncomfortable and foreign changes is when they are browbeaten (punished) into making them.  So if I made a mistake or even just a bad choice, I’d beat myself up about it – harshly and without kindness.  I thought that would make me better.  I was wrong.  Once I was able to be more kind to myself, it got easier and easier to be kind to everyone else I wanted to be kind with.

The real surprise was that I actually make more consistent changes within myself and my life walk when I am kind to myself. It has been a lovely gentle surprise in my life’s journey to find that to be a real thing.

How can kindness live while really bad things going on around you?  I can only say that as we engage with kindness toward ourselves, it gets easier to see where kindness makes us feel better in bad situations. Then punishing others becomes less important and certainly less rewarding.  See how I did that?  I showed how learning kindness helped me learn what forgiveness was: my ability to give up my right to punish someone else for something they did wrong to me.  I don’t need an apology to forgive someone, now.  I only need to be kinder to myself and the world, by giving up my right to require punishment for them.  Does that mean I have to let them repeat the injury?  O HECK no!  Forgiveness does not require that I lay down and be anyone’s rug, chuckle.

This lifelong journey for the lessons of kindness drew me to a poem that I had as a bookplate when I was only 20 years old, and newly married.  It’s a poem written by Stephen Grellet (1773-1855), and it still resonates with me. I use it as my illustration today.  I hope it inspires you as well.

Finally, I want to thank God for being patient and tenacious (a kind word for stubborn) in teaching me that kindness is the better way to go, in spite of what I wasn’t given in life.  Didja know Kindness is a fruit of the spirit?  Means the more I practice it, the more God’s spirit can flow into and through me.  A very good thing.

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? -Micah 6:8

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Thankful for – Facebook

Quick summary: Once upon a time I tried to post 100 days of Thankfulness. I fell off the task several times, so I am only going to say 100 posts of Thankfulness this time. I hope you enjoy them as much as I might. I talked about it more, here

For my first day, I want to thank God for FACEBOOK. I know it’s been a challenging place to visit with all of the furor and hate talk going on, but that’s just because we aren’t used to that kind of thing being able to invade our homes. We’ve dealt with it on the street quite easily, and comforted ourselves by saying it wasn’t happening in our familiar circles; but perhaps that wasn’t the right response. So it’s occurred to me that perhaps it’s a good thing not to be too comfortable being segregated from things we need to be part of changing. I’m thinking that’s what God wants me to do – be the change I want to see. Discomfort makes it possible and more urgent as I get more uncomfortable. However, I DO think that home and hearth (aka intimate family) are meant to be our safe havens, and we are wise to restrict the rancor and anguish of the topics from inciting the same at home.

I thank God for Facebook because this is where I see what people far from me are doing, and I can see their pictures and even seen videos of them in an instant! I’m old enough to remember what it was like to only have letters with snapshots (if we could afford to get them developed and have copies made), and hideously expensive long distance phone calls. That’s all I had when my sister moved to another state with her husband in the early 70’s, and it was really hard to know and understand what was going on in each other’s lives.

Now, we have Facebook along with cell phones that allow for free long distance talks, and even video options for video chats! Facebook allows me to post something right now, and it will politely wait until my receiver is ready to sit down and receive it. How nice! I can choose to have private or public messages when it comes to shouting out the happy things, too.

I even have friends there that I haven’t ever met (yet); and yet I smile with their happy news, and my eyes get misty with their sad news. These folks all matter, and I really DO care. I try to let them know that on a one to one basis, too. Cause we all need to really hear it for ourselves, when someone says we matter and they care.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the encouraging and positive memes, but those are just mild influences in my journey. Nothing means more to me than a really personal message, y’know?

So, for the first of my list of 100 things I’m grateful for – I thank God for Facebook, with all of the bad that I need to address, and all of the good I might have missed out on. I love sitting down to see what everyone’s posted in my news feed each day.

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100 Things I am Thankful For – Introduction

A few years ago, I decided to make some posts on Facebook, and did it rather sloppily. I meant to post one thing each day that I was thankful for. I wanted to do it for 100 days.

What actually resulted was that I did make 100 posts for things/people I was thankful for; but I didn’t do it once a day. I fell off task some days due to illness, work life balance triage, and just because of writer’s block some days.

So the next time I posted, I might do a catch up thing, and that meant that some of the things I was thankful for, got lost in the news feeds now and then. Oops!

So, what I want to do is to try it again, and put it all here.

Some will be reposts from back then, some will be new posts. I had included people I thanked God for specifically, and that was right to do in the Facebook world. But not so necessary in the land of blogging. So I’m going to avoid that kind of post in this new list.

I found that when I read what other people posted that they were thankful for, it inspired me to see life in a brighter better way. We need that sooo much these days.

I also found that when I was writing them, that I was learning about what I appreciated in life more than what I thought I did. Things that I thought were important weren’t so critical. So they are taking less of my time these days.

I’m not going to set a daily post structure on myself. I’ve already learned that doesn’t work for me. I will do my best to post at least once a week, perhaps more.

This is going to be a journey. Take some time to enjoy the ones you like most. Tell me if I did something a bit wrong, and I’ll fix it. I’m sure that I will make some mistakes as I go along because I’m a human. We do stuff like that. Mostly, it’s unintentional. Please believe that.

Day One - Introduction

Changes in Christmas Music

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From Crosswalk.com

I was reading an article about singer John Legend producing a new Christmas album, and that he was “revamping” the song Baby It’s Cold Outside “to modernize the song’s outdated and sometimes troubling lyrics”. For those who haven’t been able to capture them all, the lyrics are here.

To be very honest, I’ve always been unhappy with the lyrics of that song, even when I first heard it as a young teen on late night TV in the movie Neptune’s Daughter. Some of the responses by the guy seemed so self-centered to me. Some of the responses of the woman were also too provocative for my “black and white world view” teen mind. She was being too wishy-washy about leaving, and seemed to be a provocative tease. So, I’ve never liked the song. I didn’t perceive the rape culture at the time, so I’m not going to address that here. My prejudice against the song was strong before I was awakened to the rape culture’s reality.

When it began to pop up in Christmas playlists, I was annoyed and wondering why – until I got to watch Elf, again. I think I had dismissed it and forgotten about the song after seeing it the first time. Like I said, I didn’t like the song, but I honestly liked the movie, Elf, in more ways than I didn’t. So I probably deliberately overlooked the fact that the song was there.

So now I knew why the song is included in holiday playlists, but man, why play it so often? Eventually, I figured it out and here’s the real part that I am grappling with: the secularization of the season that requires removal of all religious contexts. Didn’t expect me to go in that direction, didja?

I like to listen to music on my TV, because I no longer own (nor can I afford) a stereo system. So when the Christmas season gets underway, I enjoy turning on the music channel on my cable provider. They used to provide two channels, one with old stuff and one with fresher content. The one with old stuff would have singers like Perry Como, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra singing the old standards I grew up with. Not necessarily the channel I want to linger in, since it’s my parent’s domain more than my own. Not bad, but not where I want to stay. I just visit a bit and wish it was included in a blend of new and old.

The other channel has the fresh stuff, and even some of the ridiculous stuff that was hard to find once upon a time. Like Dominic the Donkey, or I’m Getting Nuthin’ for Christmas, just to name a couple. But as the season playlist went along a couple of years ago, I noticed that I never heard any of these artists singing the other songs that were part of the playlists of my adulthood. No more Drummer Boy, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, or even The First Noel by some of the recent artists like Celine Dion. There’s even a really wonderful song, Jesus, Born on This Day by Mariah Carey, that will never be played there. It’s deliberately scrubbed all of the ‘reason for the season’ right out.

I’m not surprised, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t find even one channel that could be more impartial and offer a blend of ALL of the holiday music by currently active artists who are selling holiday recordings.

Y’know?

Charitable Giving, Part 1

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Image found at mylifehouse.org.au

This is the time of year I begin working out my budget for Christmas. I blame my timing on being a parent more than anything else. At this time of year, there are variable school costs to factor into the budget, and I would begin to make layaways for school things.

Background: I grew up in mostly homes where we were using welfare options (government programs that disburse money and/or food to poor families with dependent children) to survive. Or, we were making do with austere measures to make sure everyone had most of what they needed. I longed for the lifestyles of other kids around me where they could ask for something and get it like a troll doll, or even a box of crayons with a large selection of colors. Clothing that didn’t have to be shared…

My husband and I were on or below the poverty level most of the time that we were raising our two sons. So I know what happens when you get your names submitted for food baskets, or go to the charitable food pantry to get something until the next paycheck arrives. I also have been on the charitable Christmas lists, and my children had tags with their names (first names only) and ages on Christmas trees for gifts for some years. I’ll have more to say about that in Part 2, but you can see that I know how significant a charitable gift can be, even when you can’t give hundreds of dollars to a major charitable organization.

For some of my readers in other countries, a “layaway” is when you go to a store with a wide variety of items to shop over, and they have a program that allows you to bring your choices to a place in the store where they ring up everything you want to buy on payments. They then wrap up and store the items until you pay off the balance due. You usually have to make a minimum down payment to secure the deal, but it may only be as little as 10%. There’s usually a deadline of six weeks or up to December 15th, when it’s less than six weeks to that date. They want their storage areas empty after that date, or if you can’t pay it off, they put it all back in the store and return your earlier payments. Some stores would even mark down the items you chose if the items went on sale during the layaway period, once computers got involved.

In recent years, some people have gone to large stores and offered to pay off any existing layaways when it gets close to Christmas. That has been a huge source of joy for the recipient families as you can imagine!

Once I paid my school clothing and supply layaways off, I would start to consider what my family said they longed for and would watch for the items that I might be able to afford to give them at Christmas. By October, I usually had a significant portion of money to use to secure a large layaway, and I had a means of payment figured out on schedule. I shopped at a store that would automatically apply sale prices to my items when they went on sale, too. The best part of that, is where I had clothing in the right size and colors already chosen and set aside, rather than sifting through picked over remnants for the cost. If I had toys that were high in demand in my layaway, I knew I wasn’t going to disappoint when other parents might have waited too long to get the favored item.

All of that, to say that since my family has flown the nest, and I have only one grandchild, I have enjoyed the happy option of being a charitable giver, rather than being a recipient of someone else’s giving. It’s not a pride thing at all, for receiving has taught me so much about compassion and kindness that giving can’t. But I honestly like this phase of life that gives me more options to give than I have had before.

Having said that, I have been a bit annoyed and frustrated to find out that some organizations are not being as active in their stated missions as I had thought. I’ve also been confused when someone says bad things about an organization’s expenditures apart from their mission, and then a different person testifies to how that same organization saved them in a very desperate situation with a generous option of help.

So I was very happy to find out about Charity Navigator. If you want to make sure your charitable dollars count as much as you want them to count, then check out each charity that you think sounds good to donate to at charitynavigator.org to see if your choice charity is doing their job. As far as I can tell, they explain their vetting process on the site, and how they grade the different organizations. It’s a great option to use when you want to “Be the change you wish to see in the world” as Ghandi advised.

I hope this helps us to be generous where we can, and willing givers even when it’s not a lot by some standards. Something is always better than nothing.

 

Frosty Thoughts

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There was a very thick frost waiting for me this morning, and I was enchanted and happy to see it.

The first frost of the season, no, the first real frost of the season and I – we go way back. Like, 61 years ago back.

My family and I had just moved from Buffalo, NY to Wheeling, IL. My birth mother told me it was Wheeling when I described the house as best I could. I couldn’t figure out where we landed before Arlington Heights, and after Buffalo. Anyway, apparently there were two levels to the home, and my bedroom window allowed me to look out into the back yard, which was fenced. I remember seeing that it had been coated with a translucent white cover, and couldn’t wait to go outside to get a better look. I ended up outside only briefly, so that I had to go back inside soon after I was able to examine what was out there and that it melted when touched.

The following day, I went outside and found that the grass was all flattened and browned, and my maternal grandfather told me it was the frost that had done it.  Later on, I noticed that someone had removed the wagon that was upside down on the lawn before. Where it had been, the grass was lush and green! I excitedly called someone grown up to look and see the patch of green grass. They did and then quickly told me it was because the wagon had protected the grass, but that it would turn brown, soon, too.  The next day I saw more frost, but the grass was still green under it where the wagon was. Then, the next memory had me seeing that it was now all golden and flattened.

What a wonder! Later, we got a decent snowfall, and my maternal grandfather helped me make a snowman. He did it all wrong from my point of view, since it was more of a mound with a peak and a round ball on top. Then he had the audacity to say it needed water on it! I knew that wasn’t right, since I’d never heard of that before.  Sure enough, as he added the water it began to dissolve the parts that it touched! He mumbled something I don’t remember and insisted that it would turn to ice – but it didn’t. I remember watching the snowman melt away to a little heap as days went by and finally a true snow fall covered the evidence nicely later on.

I loved being able to see things through the window, and then being able to go outside and see what the difference was between the “macro” view of my bedroom, and my “micro” view in the backyard. The frost was so delicate in my micro view, and it just impressed on me that it was more delicate when I would take the time to look at it closely.

So as I matured and grew, and had homes with poor window views, I began to value the micro views most. Seeing the lacy designs on the grasses and leaves was like seeing the lace on my Sunday underwear or hankies that were trimmed with lace. I found it incredible that it would just form that way, and learned in my parochial school that it was the Great Designer’s decision to make that repeatable beauty for me to notice every time it appeared.

Some doubters will talk of how molecules form these delicate designs, and all it brings me to see is that – Someone knew how to create a molecule in just the right way to generate frost.

How amazing!

A Different Kind of Mother

 

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I’m pretty quiet about my birth mother in life and on FB, unless the subject comes up.

When I see someone post something mushy and in the way of tribute for motherhood, I will usually leave a message saying, “I’m so glad you had a wonderful mother.”  I’m tired of just passing them by, and it’s the honest truth.  I want every kid to have a nurturing parent who guides them in ways that give them the freedom to live out their passions.

The thing is, my mother was someone who was never diagnosed as mentally ill because she never had a problem with her Borderline Personality Disorder.  With her 8 marriages (married 2 guys twice), messy life decisions, and inability to manage most of her financial dealings, my siblings and I all ended up suffering from PTSD from dealing with her and her machinations.  It’s clear that she was narcissistic and didn’t perceive our hurts or fears as anything significant.  It was always about her and her dramas.  This meant we basically went without nurture during our neediest times in life.  It’s really hard to celebrate what you wished for but never got with any kind of consistency.

She was a charming woman with winsome traits when she wanted something from you, or even if she just wanted to be liked.  She took pretty good care of her appearance, and honestly tried to be some kind of good cheerleader in her later years, when BPD tends to be less intense for post-menopausal women.  I was a bit surprised by how lessened her behavior traits were until I read an article that said that the lowering of hormones did that.

It didn’t banish or cure her mental illness though, it just made it trickier to know when you were dealing with her or her illness.  Before, you always knew to just deal with the illness because the person behaving outside the traits didn’t last very long. With the new situation, where there was an equal time exhibition, you just tended to get hurt more often by not knowing when the shift happened.

So when my mother died in 2013, it was with a nearly audible sigh of relief that her children mourned her passing.  She died in a peaceful way in spite of her more cruel diseases.  But for the very first time, we didn’t have to brace for her erratic behaviors, her weird letters, beseeching phone calls, or her manipulative conversations to do what she wanted done in the way she wanted it done.  There would no longer be her odd comments that made you doubt something you were sure of before she spoke.

There would also be no more insightful comments on different family members who caught her attention, or jokes about things that needed to be seen in humorous ways, for she was intelligent and had a lively sense of humor.  There would also be no more thoughtful comments during her times of sanity that would bring me to a delayed epiphany.  There would be no more times for me to find another waterfall picture for her computer wallpaper, or comfortable hours where she relived her childhood for me, and introduced me to the people she saw as significant in her life.  Family folks would become more than names in a family tree carefully charted, but more like people with flesh and blood and dreams and fears  – and yes, even heartbreaks.

I lost many good things the day my mother died, and that still has some painful thorns on occasion.  But more than that, I lost a slippery slope of conflict and despair, and that’s where the relief comes in.

We honored her with a Memorial Service in her church – the very first they’d ever had. Most folks choose to use a Funeral Home.  Ma had her final arrangements made at the funeral home ahead of time, with a life insurance policy that paid for almost everything.  There was another life insurance policy to cover what the first didn’t.  So, she was thoughtful about not leaving us one more mess of hers to clean up – the good person who lived with a mental illness having reined the most at the end.  We were able to carry her urn into the church, so we didn’t have those huge fees of moving a body.  That’s how we were able to give her the kind of service I am sure she’d have been thrilled to see and be a part of.

The ladies of the church served us a lovely buffet, and we made sure they got something back for their trouble. The memory was such a time of healing for all of us who had endured our collateral damage from her mental illness. We needed that more than I can say.  We could all gather, her children, her siblings, dear close friends and others, to celebrate the things we admired about her in complete safety for once.  If we did that in her hearing while she lived, it usually would end up being used as a springboard for her next bad behaviors – so we were all very careful about what we said in her hearing.

So that’s why, when Mother’s Day comes along, I will pray for all of the mother’s I know of in my life, first.  But then I shift to pray for all of the kids – young and old – who have mother’s with mental illness who aren’t getting help for it or managing it in healthy ways.  I get it, and it’s not deserved.  Mental illness is neither the fault nor responsibility of the children.  Even if they do something plainly wrong, the reactions will frequently be from the illness and rarely from a careful response of correction.

But – we can come out of it with amazingly impressive life skills, if we get help to fix what we missed through recovery programs like Codependents Anonymous (something I resorted to as a way of managing her erratic behavior), or other therapeutic options for good self-health and healing.  Once I got a good handle on what was healthy and how to live it in my life better, it helped me to know how to celebrate the best of my mother, without being unguarded against her lesser version of life.  I knew how to deal with the worst of her behaviors, though it still wasn’t a desirable thing to endure. It was messy, and my timing could be off, but it was more manageable.

She’s healed where she is now, and that’s a very good thing for me to focus on.  I don’t want to reflect her bad stuff to my children or anyone else.  So, it helps to remember that we laid that bad stuff to rest on that lovely May day of her Memorial.

Happy Heavenly Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you.  We’re all doing well, and we miss the good moments with you.  We miss the hugs (but not the rummage sale gifts – jus sayin).  So glad you’re getting the hugs you missed from your long lost beloveds, now.