#20 – CELLPHONES

I thank God soooo much for CELLPHONES.

When they first came out, they were too expensive to buy, and the cost for air time was horrific, so I couldn’t afford one. 

Then, I had a car breakdown in 2002, in the middle of a factory/warehouse area – at night.  Someone stopped when they saw me, and let me use their cell phone – for which I thanked them profusely.  When the tow truck driver heard that I had to borrow a cell phone, he gave me the side eye and sternly said, “Lady, there’s no excuse not to have one for emergencies.  Now, when you get home, you check the internet and find you a phone for about $35 a month, and it will be worth it to you.” 

I didn’t have the heart to tell him I couldn’t afford the internet at that time, nor a home phone. What I knew was that there was email at work and at the library, and I found an advert for a phone for just that $35/month.  Texting was extra, but I had 150 minutes and that was more minutes than I needed for any emergency I could think of.  I let friends and family know I had a phone now (couldn’t afford a home phone back then either), and told them we had to keep discussions brief. They were great with that, and I only ever went over during the holidays, which was ok by me.

About two years later, I had added texting to use with my younger son and eventually his brother. By this time, long distance became free; but I still had to be wary of roaming fees.  Already I was finding out that I liked being able to answer my phone while I was away from home. That way I could go straight to the caller’s location without pause, unless I needed to go home to put away some groceries.  The thing is, I didn’t HAVE to go home to find out who wanted to talk to me, now.

I loved being able to talk to my sister in GA for more than an hour, and not have to worry about the cost of the call.  We did more talking about everything we’d been missing out on for the passing years! Just that feature alone could bring me to tears about why I appreciate that cell phones that came into being.

I got a phone with a camera, and was astounded to find out it could take videos, too!  I have been able to record so many great things ever since I have had those features, and I’ve never looked back.  I always put the pictures and videos on my computer, too.  So I’ve never lost any that I valued.

As time went by, I found that I enjoyed being able to text when I had a quick question or needed to know sizes while buying gifts or just out looking at rummage sales.  Getting pictures from folks via text messaging was frustrating until I got my first smartphone, though.  I was late in getting one, but when I did in 2016 – a whole world opened up for me, and I mean that literally. 

I have used that GPS app more than 100 times (no exaggeration) because I moved to a new state, city and county.  I also worked in a city I’d never been to for much, so now I needed to know how to get around in my new hometown and in my new job town.  Sometimes I’d know how to get somewhere from my home, but I worked an hour away from home. So I’d need to know how to get there from work, instead of home. My son had given me his old GPS a year before, and I had already loved using it, but I have to admit – it was an extra thing to keep in the car and to hook up.   The phone is much easier and simpler to use – as well as being more accurate since the updates happen pretty much automatically.

I love distinctive ringtones that let me know who’s calling, when I have a phone that allows for it, too!

I especially like being able to connect with friends when we go to places that we can get lost in, but we send each other texts and find each other so much more easily than we did before there were cell phones.  I like being able to get recorded messages without having to go home to hear them, too.

It’s a bonus to use it to access the internet. So many of my friends do that, rather than own any other kind of computer.  That means that my currently homeless friend and I can still keep in touch, as long as no one steals her phone from her. I like that it makes their lives work well that way, and it doesn’t have to cost more than $50 a month in fees.

Really, there’s not much I dislike about a cellphone – as long as I still can visit with your face when we’re together.  Huggerz.

REPEAT#10 – AUTUMN!

Alla da FUN!

I felt like I didn’t say enough about this season. Anyone who’s known me for a few months knows that my love for autumn is no secret. I just love nearly everything about it. Some folks call it Fall, and I think that they just lack imagination and miss what is really going on during this season. Things aren’t just “falling” things are HAPPENING!

Early on, I think I loved autumn because of the new things that begin in autumn that brought me hope. New clothes for school, new classroom, new teachers, new books to read – all of it. As the scorching heat of summer left, the trees began to get colorful, and I loved seeing that happen, too. Summer was rarely a good season for me, and my birthday is in June!

As the leaves fell and turned brown, I LOVED shuffling through the places where they’d pile up. I get to watch my grandson enjoying the same sensation these days, and it blesses me like my cup is full. ‘Cause it is. When I was young, everyone burned their leaves after raking them. So there was a wonderful smoky tang in the air – an incense of the season. Though I understand it might make others very sick to deal with (including me, now), I still miss the way the air smelled on the walks home from school. When I get to drive through an area where they allow leaf burning, I hurry to open my car window so I can inhale some of that wonderful scent – though I have barely controlled asthma. I figure that’s what meds are for, right? Chuckle.

I really don’t enjoy all of the extreme heat during the summer, nor the sunburns I’d get when I tried to play outside. Add the itchy mosquitos at night, and nothing seemed right about summer. During the autumn, I could play to my heart’s content and even ride my bike further than usual, because I didn’t overheat so much. Jackets were neat to wear, or you could just tie them around your waist when it got too warm to wear it. Even an overcast autumn day is thrilling – with all of the colorful leaves swirling around and getting stuck to the windows – decorations! In my area of Northern Illinois, there were helicopter seeds from the colorful maples, and acorns and (if you were quicker than the squirrels), hickory nuts to enjoy.

Great foods like apples, pumpkin everything, spicy scented sauces, soups and stews with root veggies along with chili come to the tables during autumn, and decorative gourds would be on display almost everywhere. As a kid, my sisters and I would make elaborate plans on what we’d do if we could only get some help for Halloween. But even the lowliest costume got the same candy as the most elaborate costume – so trick or treating was always a thrill. We moved nearly every year, so there was always a new neighborhood to enjoy collecting candy in, as well as new friends to join us on our journey.

As I got too old for trick or treating, it was time for enjoying more bonfires and other cool night activities, now that it would get dark sooner. There are hayrides, corn mazes to tramp through, and wonderful trails to enjoy now that the mosquitos and ticks are hiding when the first freeze hits.

As a grown up, I still thrill with the farm harvests that begin around me where I live, and I have trees all around me turning delightful vibrant colors like crazy. The hot days are finally segueing into the cooler nights for sleeping and the warm sunshine for daytime activities of raking leaves into piles for children (and pets) to jump into. I still keep a wary eye peeled for smoke, so I can get some of that scent again – and relive great carefree days of my youth. There’s really no mystery to me that it’s the perfect season for giving Thanks, though it’s more than just the harvests we reap that bring me that wonderful feeling of God’s blessing in my life.

When I was dating a few years ago, I kept meeting these guys who would talk about moving to warmer climates like Arizona or Florida or some southern state like Missouri. Well, that was probably our last date, because I’m not interested in going to a place that gets triple digit heat! I’ll forever keep a home where there are four seasons, thank you – as long as autumn gets to happen without restraint, I can enjoy the other three that have to provide a stage for this grand season!

#17 – Orderliness

I am so thankful for ORDER and cleanliness, which should accompany it.

I am not a germaphobe or perfectionist, nor anything like that; but I really appreciate coming into orderly places, no matter where I am.

Part of my enjoyment of a neat and orderly home or office/desk, is because I want to keep from getting soiled or coming in contact with vermin, sure. But the biggest reason is just that I get mind flooded (google that) when I encounter a lot of clutter. Even when I enter a cluttered store, I can’t stay in it for long, or I will have to linger in sections of order, so I can keep going through the store in bits. It just overwhelms me and that’s not a nice feeling, though there are worse ones to get from badly run stores.

It’s one of the reasons I don’t do well all by myself when I have to make order out of disorder at work or at home. I can work well alongside of someone else while we make order from disorder; but not on my own unless it’s a repetitive pattern, like cleaning up the kids toys when they are toddlers. At that point, it’s following an order of repetition – see?

The best part of having something orderly is that I can find things when I want to use them. An orderly office or home invites me to start working on something or begin some kind of activity there – unless the area is so bare it’s sterile. That’s just uncomfortable.

I have two things I didn’t like about being a “homemaker” cooking, and cleaning. Cooking makes a mess, though I enjoy eating and serving other people meals. Nothing makes me smile wider than to hear someone compliment something I make. I just really hate the mess of cooking: all of those pans, bowls and implements. So if I can use a pan to accomplish more than one action, I’m happier than you’d believe. Truth. I blame my birthmother’s bad habit of soiling the kitchen and leaving the debris for her children to clean up.

I dislike housekeeping because I really don’t enjoy the work of it – but I love the results. So, cleanliness and order are a joy for me, more than clutter or disorder, though I certainly had a home that was often cluttered or disorganized. Especially the closets (chuckle). Sometimes, when life is busy with onetime events, you have to let the stuff build up until you have a less active moment to get it under control. That’s just the nature of any life well lived.

So don’t you begin worrying that I ever come to visit you at home and I’ll be critical. I’m usually thinking, “How in the world do they manage to keep their home better than I could when I was in their life situation (wee children, working, going through a draining illness, etc)?” Trust me, folks. I usually admire someone’s home, and its distinctive contents, if I notice it at all. I usually come to visit YOU – not your home (Love and hearts).

But one of the best moments in life is after having a party. Why? Because once the debris is all removed – the house is cleaner than it has been for months, and that’s a blessing when I sit back with my feet up and a nice cuppa coffee in my hand. I really love the residue of memories after a really good gather, too.

#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

#14 – The Reading Skills

When I was four years old, I was made to stand in the corner for a time-out. While I was bored and waiting for my release, I noticed my mother making a bunch of squiggles on some paper in neat lines.

“Why are you doing that?” Because when I scribbled on paper, I would get scolded.

“Because when I “write” something Grandma knows what I’m saying,” Mom answered firmly.

I thought she meant that Grandma would get that information “real time” by some kind of telepathy aided by the squiggles. My first thoughts were: “Uh oh! She’s telling Grandma I’m being naughty.”

My very next thoughts were: “Magic! I want to learn how to do that!”

Since then, I have learned so many things thanks to being a voracious reader. Being that kind of reader taught me how to be discriminating on what the author is saying, and whether they took the time to learn before spouting, too.

Yes, dear Peeps, reading is AWESOME! Even if it isn’t REALLY magical – it still seems like it is, y’know?

You’re never alone if you can read or write!

#13 – Extraordinary Gifts

I really enjoy giving unexpected gifts that are perfect for THAT person. Don’t you?

WELL – my younger sister (next in the birth order with both parents) who is a really good quilter found some material that featured art that reminded her of me.

I have had the “handle” of Churchmouse since my teen years because I have never grown to five foot of height. I was also very poor during my teen years, and there is a saying “poor as a churchmouse” that reminded my friend of my situation. As time went by, I used it as an identifier on Citizen Band radio through the 1970’s as well as on my blogs through later years.

I found some cute “meeces” that looked cute and were drawn to mischief, so I used their pictures for my profile picture on Facebook most of the time. When Di saw this material, she knew she had to get it and make a quilt for me with it. It’s a throw quilt, so I use it for my couch during the summer, or just on the end of my bed sometimes. I LOVE this quilt for the way it was given to me on a hum drum Saturday, for no particular reason other than she really wanted to give it to me and see my reaction.

My grandson enjoys using it as well when he comes over for visits. This is a quilt that always LOOKS like a hug to me.

So, I am really and truly thankful for all the ways something/someone says, “I love you.” Without saying those words. I want to find fun ways to do it, too.

Have you ever had some kind of extraordinary gift? Let me know!

#8 – Grateful for COFFEE!

I am SO grateful for Coffee in my life.

As a child born after WW2, coffee was a major part of the adult rite of passage that was ubiquitous to the US. Children were not allowed to have a cup of their own in most homes. Or, they’d get a mostly milk form of it. Mornings always started with the smell of the coffee brewing that let you know that someone else was already up and making things ready for the day. It was a comforting smell to kids like me.

Coffee was a part of social gatherings, too. You smelled it at church events, in restaurant dining rooms, and at family gatherings. It was always there – the smell and offering of hot coffee. You learned to provide for coffee drinkers even if you didn’t care for the brew. That pot of coffee wouldn’t last very long at any gathering, and eventually we learned how to use thermoses in pretty carafes to serve it when another pot was brewing.

While my parents always drank their coffee black and simple, I enjoyed mine with milk and sweetener, and still do. My former husband would drink no less than a pot a day, and on really busy days at home he’d drink more than that – especially if he was working in cold areas. It was his favorite way to warm up.

My oldest son still enjoys the smell of fresh brewed or fresh ground coffee, though he doesn’t often enjoy drinking it. It’s just a smell of stability and good things happening. He admitted that he’ll dawdle in the store aisles if someone looks like they are going to grind some coffee beans.

Another reason that many folks my age drank coffee was because a cup of coffee was cheap and refills were free. So if you were going out with friends to just chat and visit, but you didn’t have much money, you could order that cup of coffee so you could join in the outing. It’s the only reason I learned to enjoy a cup. My beverage of choice for a morning was cola, to my husband’s horror when we first married.

There are a few in my generation who have continued to use some form of soda pop for their morning hydration, but I’m a solid coffee drinker, now. It just seems to set the tone for good things in a day. I feel ready to take on the complexities of anything when I have a good strong cup of coffee at hand. I also feel comforted and comfortable when I am enjoying some coffee with someone else.

I thank God for coffee because it allowed me to be present when I felt like I couldn’t enjoy life much, as a poor teen. Later, it allowed my husband and I to sit for hours in coffee shops just dating each other on a shoestring. All of that gave me great memories of robust goodness through my adult years.

Eventually, special brews arrived (Hello Starbucks), and then to my astonishment, cold coffee versions as well! I’ve enjoyed some of them, and still do, so they aren’t all that bad. Some of the instant cappuccino versions have even been enjoyed from time to time as well.

But nothing makes me feel like everything is good like a drip brewed, robust and strong (but not bitter), cup of coffee with milk or half and half stirred in with some sweetener. The Keurig types were tried, and just don’t have the same flavor for me. So I’m back to the drip kind, and I have my own favorite grind and brand, of course.

 There’s just something about the goodness of a cup of coffee that is just at the right temperature for gulping.  It makes me feel like God is near, and all is right with the world and my mindset when I enjoy a hot cup – anywhere.

Dealing with Delays in Life

I have again failed at being diligent with my blogs. I’m more frustrated with myself than anything else. So, I’ve got some explaining to do.

I found out that I have been in a depression cycle about this time last year. I wish I was more blasé about dealing with life changes than I am, but my father’s description of my personality being ‘intense’ was clever and on point. So I was able to get some help from my wonderful geriatric centric doctor, and have a better outlook on life as a result. I am careful about taking my Venlafaxine every morning.

I’ve had some bad dandruff problems for many years, and I finally got an appointment with a dermatologist about a year ago. We tried some simple things (AGAIN), and then a very expensive topical that my insurance made much more affordable. I try not to talk bad about a healthcare plan that takes good care of me; but the US really needs to address the disparity in healthcare coverage for all of its citizens. I hate to think of someone who couldn’t get that reduced cost that I have.

Anyway, even the topical wasn’t sufficient, so I now have the diagnosis of scalp psoriasis, and began taking Otezla, which has some warnings about weight loss (YAY! I need that), and depression! I found that I fell back into a numb funk, and had to pace my medicants so that there was less disturbance. This all happened at the same time that I was moving to a new home, so I’ve been really distracted since April with that move and all that followed.

I also have the wonderful blessing of taking care of a 6 year old grandson for an overnight visit every other Saturday to Sunday evening. My son has to work on Sundays because he works at a resort as Maintenance Supervisor. His manager takes the Saturdays. So at the age of most Great Grandparents, I am doing the grandparent thing, with joy and great exhaustion, chuckle. Toss in some chronic health problems that make me a ‘spoonie‘ and I just have to surrender to a limited list of things I can do in a day.

I’m still going to resume my list of thanksgivings very soon. But for now, I’m going to shout about how good God has been for me in all of this.

My new home: I went from a tiny apartment of 580 sq ft, to a bigger place of 750 sq ft! The rent is higher, of course, but not so very much higher that I can’t afford it. I have a garage as I did with the last home, but I also have my own washer and dryer here, instead of a shared coin laundry. I cannot tell you guys how much that blesses me! Not having to worry about someone else’s construction soil still residing in the washer when I take a turn is a big deal for me. I was pulling a white bra out with mud on it after washing! I love knowing I can wash a small load and reduce the water without paying for a full load of laundry, too. It’s also wonderfully convenient to wash something when I want to, rather than when I get the coins, or while waiting for someone else to finish doing their weekly wash, or having to dodge through the weather to go to the laundry room. Now, I do laundry in my nightgown if I want.

The other benefits of being in this new place are that I have deeper closets, and an area to place a dining table so I have a place to seat guests for a meal, instead of using folding tables that have to be set up and put away. Add the banquet room (available for rent), the indoor pool, and work out room for no cost, and I’m in renter’s heaven! I want to point out that the complex has families of all kinds and includes pets. So I’m not in a Seniors Only space!

I also have a spot that is just for the work hours that doesn’t invade my leisure places. This is really good for my mental health, as it means I can “leave” work for breaks or when I am signed out for the day.

As the previous tenant was here a long time, they renovated the apartment before I moved in. All but the clothes dryer are brand new appliances, and the carpeting is new along with the ac and ceiling fan in the living room. I have a private and spacious patio that I enjoy using when it’s not too hot (It’s been a really hot summer here in northern IL with most days in mid 90°F).

My neighbors are friendly and take good care of their homes, too. Add that I am now closer to family, and that I have enjoyed more visits with some of them than I did before the pandemic, and perhaps you can understand that my life feels surreal in a good way. I feel like I am living in the lap of luxury here, and in the mind set of “don’t pinch me, I don’t want to leave this dream”. This steals energy from me, and I tend to get a bit brain fogged by the evening hours as a result.

I am getting a Social Security Widow’s benefit from my late ex-husband’s benefits. Since we were married over 10 years, and I am not currently married to anyone else, I am eligible and add it to my job income. Since I am at full retirement age (66 made me eligible, but I’m 67 now), I will not suffer any restrictions on what I earn.

When I was informed that I am finally restored to a 40 hour work week (starting this week), I am over the moon with happy feelings. When the pandemic smote the land, I was reduced to 34 hours a week, and it was decided that I should work them in the later morning, coming in later rather than leaving early. I’m so glad to be back at work in the early hours even if it means a longer day. At least I don’t have to drive for an hour on the highways (58 miles each way) each morning and each evening, now that I am allowed to work from home. That saves me money on gas as well as energy for personal tasks after work!

So I’ve been really distracted with the changes in my life as spring segued into summer. I’m finding a more consistent stride and I’ll be better about making updates. That’s my intention at least.

Life is good! I sure hope you are in a good place, too, dear reader.

Aging With Some Grace

I’ve been reading a fantasy series called The Adventures of Maggie Parker (4 books) by Martha Carr and Michael Anderle and it’s been very entertaining. I’ll say no more than this: it’s a free read if you are a Kindle Unlimited member. If not, the books are reasonably priced in either paperback or Kindle versions.

I’ve read the first three: The Magic Compass, The Gnome’s Magic, The Elemental’s Magic, and am reading the author’s notes at the end of the third book. Martha Carr is in her early 60’s and as a person who is at the right age to be her older sibling (67 in four more days), I like what she’s been saying about her lessons in life’s journey in her author notes.

“I have a team who help me out these days. At some point, it’s a necessity. Plus, I wanted to change my old belief of ‘if I can do it, I should be doing it’ to something saner,” she wrote.

I have been learning that same lesson in the past few years. I get help to do big projects in home cleaning or organization. Sometimes, I get help decorating for the holidays, too. Lately, I’ve even gotten groceries delivered (Thank you Walmart+), instead of going there for a pickup order and bringing it all into my home by myself. Now that the pandemic is almost over, and masks are being left home by most shoppers in my area, I have been feeling a bit guilty about continuing to use the Pickup grocery service. That inner guilt trip that she spoke of, “if I can do it, I should be doing it.”

My quality of life is better when I don’t do it just because I can, though. I have more time for making a well-balanced meal, or to get a much delayed haircut. Am I lazy? I don’t think so. I still take care of the household chores, the laundry (that I can do myself with the machines in my new apartment, thank God!), and work a full time job with the administrative chores for an engineering team – from my home, thanks to the pandemic showing us that I can work from home in a reliable and responsible fashion. So I am not going to be compelled to return to the office, not even as a hybrid employee. Since work is more than an hour away, I’m grateful. I moved closer to family as a happy result. But – I digress.

I have long felt pressured to do what I can, and if I don’t, then I will lose some kind of badge of honor. Sometimes I have pushed so hard, I made myself sick or fell down on the work, and had to get help to recover. That’s not very wise, for sure. So, now I just schedule some help before I’m in trouble, and ignore the hissing of that voice in the back of my head. The only thing I want to win is a high quality life. Getting appropriate help, and offering a reward to that help is the right way to go. Sometimes I’ll barter a service, sometimes I’ll offer something else like a gift card or money that can help someone who has very little.

I always try to ask God for the right help to be available, or help me to know about a service that is available. While I might pay for services in my situation, I know that my birthmother was able to get someone to help her 20 hours a week, and it was paid for via Department of Aging, which is a Federal program. So if you find you need help but can’t afford to pay for it (and you live in the US), find out about the Department of Aging services in your area. See what they can do to help you. It helped my family not to have to be my birth mother’s servants when we went to her place for a visit. Instead, we could just visit!

When the caseworker is asking you questions about ‘what you can do when…’, my advice to you is what I told my mother after she lost her help for several weeks thanks to her answers to their questions. She told them about her best days when they asked what she could do. I told her that she needed to tell them about her worst days, in order to get the help she needed to live those better days, though. No lies necessary. Just tell the truth about your worst days, and you’ll get the help you should get.

Tell yourself the truth about your worst days, and be honest about needing help, too. Then, you can live out some of your best days more often.

From Those Who Aren’t Moms This Weekend…

This Sunday is Mother’s Day in the USA. I wrote this many years ago, but it’s still where my heart is.

When my husband and I got married, many of our friends and siblings were also marrying within the same five year time period.  More than a few of those friends announced pregnancies soon after the wedding.  So we went from bridal showers and weddings, into baby showers and stories of Lamaze classes and childbirth experiences in about two year’s time.  Some of our unmarried friends were also getting pregnant, so we joked about how there was a lot of that “Egyptian Flu” going around (“nine months and you’re a Mummy”).

As time went on, we wholeheartedly celebrated each healthy birth with our friends, and enjoyed holding the new babies.  We mourned some still births and miscarriages with some friends, too.  Always, we let those new parents know that we welcomed their children in our home by having a collection of toys for them to play with when they’d come.  I had a sister with babies I’d borrow now and then, who lived in the apartment just below me. I also helped raise several younger sibs, so I had experience with kids. My husband had a daughter born to his first very brief marriage, so he had some understanding of life with babies as well. He was really great with dealing with those inconsolable crying babies, too. 

In spite of all of that, we rarely saw our parenting friends outside of activities or events like cookouts at their parents’ homes, church events (if they went to the same one we went to), or meeting them at some store or holiday event.  No matter what we said or did, no matter how often I’d call and chat with them, these people somehow decided we weren’t people that they were comfortable socializing with outside of their own homes. It’s not that I minded going to their homes; I just wanted to be a hostess once in awhile, too. 

After awhile, they were even too busy for having us visit their homes. I was beginning to think that, for reasons I wasn’t “getting”, that they just didn’t want to socialize with us anymore. I would have asked directly, but the one time I did ask “Is it us?  Did we offend somehow?”, I got a defensive reaction that was more like an attack. She sharply retorted, “You don’t know what it’s like to have no time to clean for company!”

“I don’t come to visit your house, hon.  I come to visit you.” I responded, carefully not mentioning that I knew she was having other friends over from time to time. She didn’t trust that I guess…cause it made no difference. I tried to tell her that I wanted to help if she’d let me, but that friendship died quietly after that conversation.

The other portion of our distressing social changes, was that we weren’t getting pregnant. We were trying; but it just wasn’t happening. I thank God that I never experienced multiple miscarriages, like some of my friends had. I can’t imagine the heartbreak of going from the euphoria of baby preparations, to the grief of knowing that life had died for unexplained reasons that can’t be remedied. After three years of marriage, I began carrying around a certain stuffed animal that was just the right size of a swaddled newborn. My arms needed a baby to hold, and I felt weird for doing that.

When we were married for four years, I finally went to a doctor to see what might be wrong. My husband had a baby by his first wife, so the problem clearly wasn’t his. The doctor checked me over and said that it was probably a variety of things that kept us from being a fertile couple. He was warm, nice, and encouraging that “someday” I might still manage a pregnancy since it all seemed to be healthy and well. 

I couldn’t afford the more intensive testing, so we just had to let it stand with his exam. Then he handed me a pamphlet that I wish I still had.  It was titled something like “200 reasons the human body can’t reproduce”. With all the teens getting easily pregnant when they didn’t want to be, it really did help to know that conception was more of a miracle than routine results for sexual activity. This was back in 1978, so it was just as the abortion debate had crescendoed into legalizing the procedure, and I was devastated. I knew that it would make it that much harder to adopt a healthy baby for a family with little money, but lots of love and desire for one. We would just have to come to terms with being childless.

During those years, we kept seeing that we weren’t considered a “family” as long as we were childless. All “family” activities were for groups of people who either had parents living with them, or were parents themselves. For Sunday School, we didn’t fit with the college-aged people, since we were married. Most of their conversations were of how to live as single people and dating.  We didn’t need that temptation when we were feeling unhappily married some days!  We also felt old when we were with the single twenty-somethings who were still living with parents and didn’t know what the trials of living on a tight budget were like. When we’d find some childless couples we thought we’d enjoy, either they soon became parents themselves and that mysterious detachment would once again separate us (even though we’d all mentioned that it is unfair when that happens before they got pregnant!); or they would move away. 

I know with Mother’s Day approaching, and Father’s Day only one more month behind it, that there are people right now, who are also dealing with being marginalized because they are either single adults without children, or married and childless. And they are reading ads about how a “mother found the secret to whitening teeth” – which seems to impart that only a MOTHER is able to really find good remedies for things in life. Or only a FATHER has the wisdom and strength to offer a younger person’s questions and problems. I am sorry that it happens that way. I want to hug and hold each of you, and let you know that YOU are important and have valuable gifts to give in life, even if you aren’t a parent. There honestly is so much more to life than breeding.

We all know that many people who are parents, aren’t any better people for having working wombs or fertile semen. So why is it that we segregate our social contacts apart from these people who can still enrich the lives around them?

To the caring friends and family members, and to church leaders who know they are guilty of not considering the childless persons: you can change that.

Right now.

Today.

Friends and family: You can accept their invitations to come to their homes, and just let your portable children learn how to enjoy some time in a new environment. Have the kids bring some toys, and let them show them to the new grown ups.

If you have a sink full of dishes, let the friend wash them while you diaper the baby and get them fed without feeling defensive or offended, please. Visiting friends just want to make YOU more comfortable and enjoy their company, too!  Let them help where they can, and don’t assume that they are criticizing you. They could do that just fine without getting hands in the dishwater, LOL.  Befriend them, unconditionally; so they can learn how to return the favor.

Accept their offers to help, too. Somehow I wasn’t allowed to do much by my other parenting friends; as if I couldn’t cook without onions if you’d just tell me that you want it that way.  Let friends bring you contributions more often. 

Childless people need to have the exposure to see life through a child’s eyes: share your children’s views more.  Don’t fuss about your house being clean enough.  I come for fellowship, not home inspections; ’cause being single or married and childless is sometimes just a lonely thing to deal with.

When we FINALLY got pregnant, I vowed to NEVER exclude a childless friend from our lives. I would walk behind my babies and let them show me what was in their reach when we visited childless homes, and it only takes a half hour of fun chat while I did it. Usually, the childless friend would come to my home more; but I always did everything I could to accept any invitations from them for visits. 

At church, I always speak up for “family” events to have activities for persons without kids.  C’mon church leaders! At least ONE event for the single folks who are part of the church family!  Let there be one for married people who ARE still a family, even if there are no kids. 

There are a few parents whose kids are grown and flown out there who also want some activities that they don’t have to find grandkids to enjoy.  I know that we need to lift up families with children because it’s challenging for them to find safe places to be social.  But it’s just as challenging for the single adults and the married without kids to find safe social activities TOO!

I know you will all do your best to celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day honoring your parents.  But reach out to the other folks without kids, and let them know that they are important, too.  Even if they come without charming and demanding miniatures.