I’m a Cub Fan- For Reals

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I don’t know who to credit this photo to, but – it’s perfect.

The Chicago Cubs are in the World Series, and if you have been cloistered from reality somehow, and didn’t know that already, let me tell you that they are playing against the Cleveland Indians and two games have already been played.  Each team has won ONE game each, in Cleveland.  This Friday, they will play game 3 in Wrigley Field for the first time ever. Games 4 and 5 will also be played in that historic ball park before this weekend is over – barring significantly bad weather.

One celebrity fan, Bill Murray, won a Mark Twain Award (I’ll let you google that) this week, and someone with a microphone asked him what it felt like to have the Cubs playing in the World Series.  He said that he’d listened to the Sportscasters trying to explain what it feels like and they just don’t get it.  He was dead right.  All they can talk about is what hadn’t been invented or what else in history hadn’t happened yet.  That’s not the point for any real Cub fan.

When you’ve waited your whole life, almost seeing it happen several times, and staying faithful even during the years when you know the team is a disgrace on the field, you get a glimpse of what it means to be a Cub fan right now.

When you take all the trash talk about your team from the other side of town, and other teams that do better (cough*Cards*cough), you get another glimpse of the life and times of a Cub fan. Yet we will still wear our team colors with more pride than courage, and with more sense of thrill than grudging responsibility.  You may even begin to save and collect the best of all the slurs, as badges of creative honor. “They wouldn’t talk trash unless we matter,” we’d tell each other with a wink.

When your team’s playing field has more historic significance than your division opponents, but their win cycles have been more fruitful – you remain tenaciously steadfast anyway, bragging on the history of the edifice if not the skills of the team. And that’s when you begin to realize what a Cub fan’s life might be like.  You will appreciate how traditions have held us together (like throwing the other team’s ball back from the bleachers), and how folklore has helped name our businesses in ways no newcomer knows about unless a local lets them in on the lore (Billy Goat Tavern).

These are things no White Sox fan nor Cardinal fan has had their parents explain to them, nor have they had anything similar to explain about their team to their children.  It’s distinctly a part of the Cub fan traditions, and  there has been enough time for our children have told their children – even if they move to another state.  Because that’s what Cub fans do.  And when the Cubs come to play in our different states and stadiums, we tend to crowd out the locals who think that they are good enough fans for their home team.  We also tend to out shout them!

What other team has a tradition of a team song karaoke at the end of a winning game?  I bet they’ll all begin working on that, though, because that’s how memories and thrilling moments of “we’re all in this together” happen. And we began doing it while our team was referred to as “the lovable losers”, doggonit!

These are things most “johnny come lately” folks will never feel or fully understand.  It’s certainly nothing the sportscasters outside of Chicago Metro area can ever explain, either. That’s ok, because WE are the kind of fandom that might not like that you waited so long, but we’re still going to tug you into the fold and make sure that you sing louder on the chorus when we sing “GO CUBS GO”.

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.

Free Write Friday – Memory Prompt

Memory Prompt: Write about your earliest memory. Good, bad, happy or sad. Before you begin, take time to dwell in that memory. Absorb everything you can about it. What you see, what you smell, what you hear and mostly, how you feel. Let it resonate. Marinate your mind in that one moment. Then begin.

My very earliest memory I had confirmed by my birth mother.  At first, she said it wasn’t true, but later she decided that it was true after I added a few details and she remembered the incident.  “You have to remember that this wasn’t so significant to me, along with all of the other things going on at the time.  I mean, you were safe and everything was ok, so what was there to remember?”  Point taken.

I have a partial memory of just seeing my mother nursing my sister who was 24 months younger than I.  But it was just that, a curious “mental photograph”.  My first whole memory was when I was just over 2 years old, since my sister was already born. To begin with, I have to explain that I was an energetic bed rocker.  I would move my crib around with the force of my rocking I’ve been told.  My mother’s sister was living with us at the time, and she remembers that sometimes getting into the room was a challenge because the crib was against the door.

The memory begins with seeing something next to my crib (the window) and feeling surprised.  It was not usually there.  I apparently climbed out of my crib and fell through the window screen, to the ground below.  Because the next part of the memory was that I was laying on the ground (not feeling any injury). I was only wearing a diaper, and it was dark.  Then I was lifted up by a tall thin man with a hat.  He made nice sounds at me, and I felt just fine being held by him.  He carried me along, and soon there was a doorway that was very bright and my mother and aunt were facing us, making other sounds.  The man handed me over to my mother, and I was ok with that, but wouldn’t have minded staying with the man.  I was not frightened at all, or uncomfortable.

My mother put me back into bed after moving it, is the final part of the memory, and I was very disappointed that my interesting evening had ended so routinely.  I had an expectation for more excitement – and that is a strong element of my memory.  Being in bed was boring – finding a way out of bed was exciting!

 

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Understanding and Work Concerns

IMG_20160107_082204250    When the first few hours of 2016 began, I saw someone post on Facebook about their word for the year. It was the word that they would focus on getting a better grip on, and some offered courage was their word, another faith, and yet another was for patience. I read the explanation, and realized it wasn’t just what you felt you were lacking in, but what you really wanted to experience in the coming year.
With that idea in mind, I realized that I honestly thought that Understanding would be my word.
I wanted to understand my beloveds more completely than I did. We’d all fallen out of touch again, and I wanted to remedy that. I need to know more about what they are identifying with, what they are longing for, what they laugh about, and what they are afraid of. I couldn’t answer those questions for anyone I valued, it seemed. Part of that was because my phone had limited minutes, and part of that was that we were all so very busy with life’s requirements: work, family responsibilities, chores, etc.
I also wanted them to understand me better. There were too many times where I was getting hurt by something that might have seemed harmless to my beloveds, but really landed hard on my tender places. I felt I wasn’t finding good ways to communicate what needed to be communicated about what hurts me, and what I longed after.
I have to attempt this and be ever mindful that I don’t want to fall into self centeredness, and that I am a recovering codependent where there’s a danger of trying to control others. Also the danger of rescuing others when they aren’t looking for a rescue = disrespect, and implies that they don’t have enough power of their own to work things out their way.
So, my options are to work on understanding them, and then wait and see if that contact helps them understand me better, too. I want to spend more time listening to them, so that they know they are heard and even validated if they were in doubt about their worth. I don’t want to compete with their narratives, as we are so often prompted to do. I know that many times people are just trying to show that they understand our predicaments, but it does just the opposite, really. It shows that you care more about your narrative than theirs. Worse, you may even have interrupted them before they were done relating their narrative. I see this all of the time, and work on keeping myself from doing it. I may fail here and there, but I’m alert to it, and working on it at least.
On second thought, Understanding may be the right word for more than a year, being honest. We’ll have to see how it works out.

* * *

    At work, it was sad to take down all of the Christmas decorations, and things looked a bit – blank. So, I went to Goodwill, looking for some inspiration, beginning with flowers in my vase. I love how the bouquet turned out very much, and it should be perfect right on through Valentine’s Day. I have some snowmen cups that I have put throat lozenges into for anyone who needs one, as well as sugar-free hard toffees. I have a cute snow couple cut out, too.

So, here are a few pictures from work, though I am “on furlough” for a few days until they get the funding worked out for my staffing agency to pay me to return. This is a challenging time for me, but – working with staffing companies is the best a woman at my age and stage can find. They pay me better than any job I’ve seen yet, and the work is exactly what I love to do: document editing, spreadsheet actions, and even some meetings and minutes to manage. It’s a blessing to find a job that has me doing exactly what I love to do, and pays me enough to enjoy a mediocre life, I admit it. It took me so many long years of adversity to get to mediocrity that I honestly soak up the unfamiliar comfort of it.

Which is why I’m a bit frazzled that I may be trying to live on Unemployment benefits if they don’t get the funding worked out (yes, I applied as soon as I was compelled to stay home).
So I pray a lot about getting back some equanimity and remind myself that God is the one who has it all in His control. He’s my Spouse and my provider. I have to stop fussing at Him and just trust Him like I know He’s died for me to prove his love. Well, that’s what prayer time is for, hm?IMG_20160106_172654570

Old TV’s Won’t Recycle

Cathode Tube ProblemsI was reading this article about how thrift stores in the Chicago metro area are being flooded with old televisions that use the cathode tube and analog technology to work.  Most are heavy and have to be carefully recycled, so that they don’t damage the environment as waste.  New laws generated in 2012, to limit how they are disposed of in IL has caused a problem, though.  There is activity to help deal with the problem, but it doesn’t become effective for a few months, or the new laws are pending until the old laws can be changed this spring.

The trouble is the same when dealing with old computer monitors as well.  They have used the same technology and are being cast off for the same reasons: desktop real estate (space), and weight as well as lack of high definition.

So what’s a person to do in the meantime?  Check your local recycle area for their schedule of days they will accept the old sets, is one bit of advice.  Another is to keep them as long as they are working and in good repair.

An excerpt of this article here: A Kane County e-waste recycling event Dec. 12 collected enough old electronics in four hours to fill six 35-foot semitrailers, [Jennifer] Jarland [recycling coordinator for Kane County] said. Televisions made up 60 percent of that haul. Many appeared relatively new and in working condition.

“We’re just being flooded, especially with those giant TVs,” Jarland said. “If they’re still working, keep using them.”

One reason that people are getting rid of even the nicer heavy TV’s, is that too many have toppled over onto infants and toddlers, killing them immediately, or severely injuring them with lifelong impacts.  This would make getting rid of a heavy television, even if it’s working and looks new, a necessary goal for anyone who has small children or will have small baby visitors.

The cost of lighter, high definition televisions with all the plugs for gaming, computer feeds as well as cable and sound bar connectivity is becoming more affordable, too.  Many consumers are finally digging out of the consequences of the Great Recession, and have the ability to buy what they could only long after before.

I have to admit that I hated having a heavy television, especially as I had to move very often as my fortunes changed after the year 2000.  It was a huge relief to buy a lighter plasma television (though it was analog) in 2006.  My mother still had her heavy cathode television until she died in 2013.   None of her survivors wanted something so bulky and heavy.  Thankfully, we found a place that was still recycling them when getting rid of it.

As an older person, moving such a television is not simple, and I’ve generally tried to avoid it or ask strong friends for help when I’ve had to do it.  I honestly never wanted to worry about my friends or family hurting themselves over carrying anything heavy for me during a move.  If I can’t move it by myself, I will probably get rid of it or avoid buying it altogether.

I can’t see any reason for people to keep the old square cathode televisions, since rectangular wide screen presentations are becoming more common, too.  That means trying to see a video on such a TV would have the sides being cut off.  Sometimes, you’re missing the face of a person who’s talking, or the main person in the center is talking about something you can’t see off on the side.

I feel bad for the folks who are stuck with these heavy televisions, and feel a bit anxious that I may be reading another sad story about an infant crushed by one.

What do you think about these old televisions?

Advent is Important to Me

There are some holidays that just thrill us to think of them.  Sometimes it’s because of a particular memory, and sometimes it’s just because of the thrill of the things that are traditional to the holiday.

One of my favorite holidays is Advent.  I separate it from Christmas, because Advent is my worship portion of that time of year.  This is where I take time out for my Creator who kept His word to all humanity, in spite of the centuries of time that it took to make it happen.  It’s enthralling to consider why God waited until all of humanity was able to know about the promised Messiah.  This was thanks to the Roman roads and authority that kept travel safe, and also promoted the transfer of knowledge between civilizations.  There needed to be a way for most of humanity to learn of God’s promise, and then of how it unfolded with a newborn birth of a babe in a manger.

There’s a song titled, “It’s About the Cross” that was popularly recorded by Philips, Craig and Dean, and I like it – but it’s wrong.  Advent is a great deal about the Promise coming true, more than the cross.  The cross is critical to the fulfillment of the Promise, that’s true.  But Advent is about preparing for the Messiah’s coming, and acknowledging that we needed Him.  The cross comes after that, and has a place all its own.  There’s no need to blend them, or there is a danger of overlooking the singular value of each occasion on its own.  The cross gets our focus at Lent and Easter, and it deserves separate consideration.

So, Advent is where I intentionally make a quiet place in time for me to ponder the significance of God’s promise to send a Messiah from Davidian lineage to overcome the enemy that caused Humanity’s fall.  This is where I consider that God chose to send His Son because no other person in time could do what needed to be done.  This is where I consider how he arrived at the decision to send Jesus – Yeshua in Hebrew – as a babe with a birth that would be witnessed and noted significantly by people of that time.  You have to hold a newborn infant closely, not just stand back in awe.  They must be embraced and given focused attention, or they will not thrive.  I’m reminded that my love for God has to be like that, close and with focus – or I will not thrive.

Traditionally, Europeans would use Advent wreaths for devotional expression during the four weeks preceding the celebration of the infant birth.  The wreath would lay on a table, or be suspended horizontally from a ceiling, with four candles on the wreath and one in the middle.  Coming from a European background, I embrace that tradition with its quiet influence.

As I raised my young children, we honestly enjoyed the Advent wreath ceremonies very much.  Some nights we might start out feeling pushed into something inconvenient.  But every time we were at the end of the worship activities, it felt a bit sad to blow out the candles and turn on the lights for all of us.  Sometimes we just didn’t do it right away.  We’d enjoy some treats and just visit a bit and talk about whatever we wanted to talk about.

There were some weeks that we missed lighting the newest candle.  That was ok, since there were other nights when we could light up more than one.  It was rare for us to miss the final week when all four candles would be lit.

Christmas, for me, was the secular and happy occasion that followed Advent.  I could allow Godly memes and themes to influence my decoration choices, and certainly my song lists; but I admitted that it was secular, and still joyous and happy.  It was where I could shop and give gifts, and dress up for happy occasions, as well as gather with family and friends for good food and perhaps some games and teasing.

Once all of the children were grown and flown, and I was on my own, I would choose to set up an Advent wreath and forgo the decking of a tree.  My time was limited with work or perhaps my health wasn’t up to the work of a tree.  A wreath was simpler and more possible.  It was also more beneficial to me, than the hustle and bustle of the secular holiday.

Some folks are working hard on making Christmas their act of worship, and I don’t think that they are wrong at all.  I just couldn’t make it work for me.  Just as there are so many different ways to decorate a Christmas tree, there are so many ways for people to celebrate God in their lives.  All of them are valid if what is being done stays focused on God more than the ceremonies or the decorations.

I couldn’t say that was true of my ability to celebrate Christmas most of the time.  I certainly enjoyed more than one church program, service or musical performance, and basked in the warmth of the Pastor’s blessing as the congregation was reminded of our Creator’s intentions during this season.  I’ve also positively pointed out to my children how the evergreen trees point toward their Creator, and how they are evergreen because they never die – like God’s love for us.  I have definitely had a nativity scene for them to set up and discuss as well.  But, it all tended to get overwhelmed in the holiday blur of baking all of the right foods, hurrying to each of the events, and ensuring we were dressed appropriately for the pictures that would be taken, as well as having all of the gifts bought and wrapped for the folks we didn’t want to forget.  Advent never seemed to have that problem – for me.

Even a huge snowfall that might ruin the plans for the special visit with family or the musical event at church, or – whatever we thought we had to hurry to – even those plans didn’t matter if we chose to just stay home and light up the candles on the wreath when I had a family.  As a single, senior aged, woman, it still doesn’t matter so much to me that it’s just me lighting the candles, reading scripture, and praying to God.  This is where I keep my heart in the right condition to enfold the Messiah (or even letting the Messiah make my heart right to enfold Him) who came so long ago.

If I get no gifts, I know that the biggest gift was given to me before I knew I needed it.  If I can give no other gifts, I try to offer the one I received much later than it was given.  The gospel message and the offer of a Savior instead of a Judge.  If I have no decorations, I will revel in the ones that others have worked on displaying, and let them know, when I can, how much it touched me to see and enjoy their efforts.

So, Advent is my favorite holiday at this time of year.  How about you?  What do you like most about this time of year, and what makes it consistently special even through a hard time of austerity?

 

Life Resumes

Last winter was a challenging time for me, with no stability, poor health, and always on the brink of a crisis that could have had me homeless in every way.

I had to leave a nice home in a gated community, which was a heartbreak all its own, though I was merely a rentor.  That move required me to purge many beloved possessions as I prepared to live in a smallish bedroom with my unmarried youngest son, in a town in another state about 35 miles away from other family members.  I had been out of work from May (when my birth mother died), to November, having my unemployment benefits denied through an error on my part.  I had been using my siblings’ inheritance to pay rent, hoping to win appeals, but I lost them all.  It was time to leave.

Having to toss 2 things to keep one, or sometimes 5:1, was emotionally distressing.  I had been forced to restart my life several times since my marriage died in 2000; and now I was having to part with many things I’d been using to express myself with.  It was hard to be firm in letting go of some things, though I am not a hoarder or a “thing keeper” like you may think.  However, getting rid of china, silverware and stemware meant that I was also surrendering my right to be a hostess to my family.  That now there would be no more private gathers for my children and their beloveds and myself.  I would never be able to rebuild that part of living again.  It hurt, and I was devastated in having to give up those hopes and dreams along with the things that would enable them.

The same was true of the furniture.  I was facing the reality that I’d never be able to afford a home that I’d be able to use a Queen sized bed in.  Nor would I have room for the furniture that I had using to make it personal.  Decorations for the holidays and seasons were winnowed down to three plastic bins and a Christmas tree.  Pictures on the wall had to go to Goodwill, or happily passed along to family members who found value with them.

Someday, I hoped I would have a better job and could begin life again – but only with whatever I could afford to buy.  I had no money for storage fees, and I had to face the reality that I might never find a really good job again.  I was just too close to my 60th birthday.  At the time that I was packing things up, I had only found a retail job near my son’s home.  I thank God for it, but it paid me only a minimum wage, and that wasn’t enough.  I was facing the reality of having to move into a homeless shelter by March of 2014 (my son had lost his job just before I’d come to stay with him), unless my son or I found something significant by the middle of the month.

I was on the edge of great failure, and it wouldn’t take much to fall in.  I had a car that was in scary condition that I depended on for job interviews and as a means to get to a job.  Where I live, there is no mass transportation for even shopping excursions, let alone for getting to a job.  My son was in the same position, having had his vehicle repossessed, and then having to use his tax refund to get a car that was barely working.

I really dislike having to say that God seems to wait until we have prepared for failure before He brings success; but it’s true more often than not in my life.  I got a job in April, that has me driving an hour one way, but pays three times what I was earning in retail.  It’s easier on my health, and it uses the skills I love to use in a job situation (word processing, spreadsheets, document creation, and graphic editing).  Since it is a contractor position (paid through a staffing agency), I have no paid vacations or benefits.  I use the Affordable Care Act to find insurance that is not really affordable, but is honestly only good for crisis management should I get seriously ill.  I can’t afford to buy my meds, because they all apply to the $5500.00 deductible.  I am trusting God about this more than I will complain.

My car died in May, and I found a dealership that was able to sell me a car at dizzingly high interest rates; but I got a vehicle and I could keep my job!  I have been in a “recovery process” through all of this time, and life has had some wonderful moments in this past year.  I have had some challenging setbacks, too.

First – the rewarding joys: The son I was staying with found several temp jobs, with one still using him as a zip line tour guide.  It’s not good for a man to be idle, and he’s been very busy building his life in a different direction than he’d thought of before.  He’s now also a father, and I love seeing how that has changed his world view as well as his decisions on what he should do next.

My other son is the eldest.  He and his wife have been doing well, I’m grateful to say, and they were hugely helpful as the winter went by.  Mostly, they gave us money gifts that didn’t need to be paid back – and that meant so much that I can’t explain it fully enough in the heartfelt terms that would be sufficient.  They blessed us when we were feeling worthless.  My firstborn lost time with his work, while he went through important knee surgery, too.  Since he works with concrete construction, this was a critical incident, and we prayed him through it.

In November, I found I was to be “furloughed” for six weeks.  When you have bills all planned in a recovery budget – this was horrific news.  When you toss in a gifting holiday for extra stress – it’s pretty bad.  I feel like a whiner, since God was faithful to help me through this time – but always just as I was prepared to give up, since I’d gone as far as I could go with what little He had provided.  I am ever mindful of the reality that others have suffered much more anguished trials than I have this past year.  However, I also know that I have a lot to learn about trusting God when I live on the edge of a recovery process.

I don’t have smooth words, or what I call “bumper sticker” theology phrases that will mean anything helpful for anyone on the brink of failure.  I despise those who think that they have them for me.  My life won’t fit into YOUR box.  Stop forcing it, or insisting that it does when we talk.  Don’t be surprised if I begin avoiding you if that’s all you have to offer.  I have learned what you have is destructive to my sense of health.  I only feel like God doesn’t care when your words are so empty and unhelpful; especially if that’s all you have to offer.  I am not angry at you – but I am in survival mode, and I can’t use any energy on you.  I have so little left after meeting the day’s demands.

I have moved into a nice one bedroom apartment in this town so far from family and friends.  It is the best place to be to get to the job AND the family and friends, though – so here I stay.  I am still feeling traumatized and frightened about my job, my health and my home – but it’s getting better.

I need to be in a secure place in my life before I can blog.  So, I haven’t been able to write much here this past year.  I pray that I’ll have more time for it as we move into 2015.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Bless you!!

Verse of the Year: For I, the LORD your God will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’ Isaiah 41.:13

Does Money Help the Poor?

I’ve had some questions ever since I read this article: What Happens When the Poor Receive a Stipend?   What the author seemed to learn, was that when an unearned stipend was given to poverty level families, they benefited and changed their previously predictably negative futures for the better.  The younger the children, the better the futures, since the children had less negative history to rework or unlearn.

We’ve all heard variations of the saying, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”  I don’t think that this article is in defiance of that idea.  I think it just points out that poverty has to be overcome in order for someone to find success, even in a “free” country with good human ethics, laws and traditions.  If you show someone how to fish, but don’t provide a way to get the fishing lures, hooks, line, nets, or other materials needed to do the job, it seems to be that the lessons are in vain.  Let enough time go by, and the student even forgets how to use the items should they stumble on some.  For example: I have learned some software skills (Access, to be exact) three times with expert levels of accomplishment during the classes – only to forget it because I haven’t used it later on.  We flippantly and accurately note: “If you don’t use it – you lose it.”

So, I guess I see that we have to make an impact on the poverty before we can see the resident of poverty find their ways out of that state of being.  That’s what the author of the article seems to have found out.

This seems to defy what I have heard from my church life teachings, though.  Most of the time, I have heard lessons about how to be thrifty so that there is ample money for any situation.  I’ve been taught that if you are careful to cultivate skills in both learning and skilled labor of some sort (artistic pursuits would count), then there is no reason to believe that you can’t provide a means of support for yourself, your family or your church/ministry.  Many of the teachers of these ideas came from a challenging economy themselves that we now call The Great Depression.  They still said that if you were willing to work, then you should be able to find an honest way to eat.

As I read many accounts of that time, there were plenty of folks who were honest and looking for some kind of work to help their families with.  But they went homeless, hungry and died as a result.

Don’t get me wrong – I trust God’s plan is better and mightier than any plan a human mind might devise.  I’m just wondering what my role should/could be in understanding what God’s point of view is concerning these things.  I am going to be thinking this through a lot, as I join the ranks of “the poor” once again in my life.  I don’t see that I’ll ever leave this rank or role either, since I am now older and not seeing anyone interested in employing me in any gainful wage situation.

I don’t always think it’s age that’s holding me back – since no one knows I’m “older” until they meet me.  Most of my resumes only get tossed into a pool of candidates and not even chosen for an interview for no reasons I can find out about.  I suspect it’s because I’ve worked as a temp/contractor for nearly 10 years, though that should prove that I’m trainable, and that my skills have been kept fresh.  The reality is that I am stuck with a minimum wage job, with part time hours; and that’s the best I can do in spite of having an Associate degree and years of Administrative Clerical experience.  I have no idea why I can’t find anything better.

I am not lazy, I work hard at the job, and then I work hard at home cleaning and keeping my home and car well maintained (where I can do it without cost).  I send out resumes wherever I find an opening that makes sense to try for (can’t work at a job 50 miles away for a wage that won’t support the gas or car repairs as well as a low rent).  I check several job sites out at least three times a week, and keep a record of all the jobs I’ve submitted resumes or filled applications out online for.  I am listed with several staffing agencies and am regularly contacted at least once a week for them to submit me as a candidate for a client (of course!).  I will get an interview about once every three weeks.  I never get the second interview, though it always seems to be a good interview.  Even the staffing rep says the feedback from the client about me was very good to excellent.  My test score percentages for all the software skills range from the mid 80’s to 100% (proofreading/spelling tests are my forte it seems).

The reality is that too many jobs have been eliminated, and where I might have competed against 20 or so applicants for a job posting in 2004 – I am now competing with more than 100 candidates for a position.  This means that my resume may never even be seen by the hiring manager.  They just get overwhelmed by the response, and just pick out the first few good possibilities and toss the rest in the trash.  This is not personal, and I have heard this from three different hiring managers, so I try to remind myself that it’s not because I’m not valuable or that I am discarded.  It’s just that I am anonymous in the crush for employment.

Because I believe that God is bigger than a fax machine, and that He can make my resume fall in just the right spot for someone to see – I will believe that my situation is just what God wants it to be – for now.  My job is to be humble and not object.  I am to be gracious and keep my words kind and patient for those who would ask me what I am doing that isn’t working.  They just don’t know, and it’s good that they have good work that keeps them clueless, as far as I am concerned.  I would rather they had the jobs that they do!  I just wonder if we understand who needs help and what is “help” when it comes to the poor?

Ideas?  Comments?  I’m interested – so please share!

Copyright © 2014 Churchmousie ~ all rights reserved.

Happy Hopes – I Have Them

As each new month begins I review a list of goals from the previous month that I call my Happy Hopes list.  I mark out the ones I was able to achieve with a date, and maybe a brief note or name of someone who helped me attain that goal.  Then I save it, save it again under the new month’s name and year, and then make any changes I want.  I might drop off an item, or add new ones.  I’ll include songs or books I want to buy, or even crochet patterns that I wish to make.

While some folks make lists of resolutions for the coming year, I work on goals that I want to focus on, in case I come into some extra ca$h or even see an opportunity that I might have missed if I hadn’t stayed aware of that goal.   Some of the goals are nothing money can buy, but are more prayer focuses – like what kind of job I want to find, better health for a chronically ill family member, or a goal for a friend who wants to sell her home noted so I can celebrate it with her.  At the end of the two column list, I have a place where “Unlisted Joys Happened Here.”  That’s where I put the things I either didn’t dare ask for (like a gently used living room set, that we got from a friend who was bored with them), or that I didn’t even know to watch for (like a trip to visit family in CO with other family members).

My husband and I began this list back in the 80’s when our children were small, because we often forgot what we were working so hard for.  We were also frustrated when we’d get our tax return money, and forget what we really wanted to use it for.  We’d decided to follow another family’s example, and stop using it for paying bills (“That’s what a budget is for,” the father stated).  Instead, they’d buy something they really wanted but often couldn’t manage to save up for, like a new bed, a down payment on a car, or even a special trip.  After two years of not remembering our best ideas, I offered to keep a list.

At first, the list wasn’t really refreshed much, except twice a year.  Sometimes, the things listed were too high, and we weren’t noticing the small conquests, so that’s when the second part appeared.  Since we were really busy once the kids got into double digit ages, we only refreshed the list twice a year.  Once in January, and once in July.  I’d ask the kids for ideas of things to go on the list, and they offered a few things: a computer, fishing trips, bikes, etc.  It was a great place to look for gift ideas sometimes.

Finally, once the family left and it was just me, I began making them closer together until now I am creating one for each month on the computer.  I actually began the electronic ones in the late 90’s when we got our first computer.  So, these are all easy to look at and remember how things have changed, and how things came together at different times.

This is my best way of counting my blessings without comparing my life to anyone else’s.  It seems to me that comparison really is a trap for discontentment.  But to just see how God has worked or where I’ve been able to focus – that really has been a blessing to me.

Here’s a sample of one from long ago, so you can see how simple it is.

Happy Hopes Screenshot

If I want to lose weight, I say how much, though I’ve learned not to put the whole amount down.  Instead, I will put the amount I might lose in three months, or two.  Then I might note how close I am to that goal before making the next month’s list from the old one.

So, this is my way of making time count the best way that I can, but still allow myself some room for surprises and not to kick myself too hard if something doesn’t come to reality.  I have the rest of the list that might be turning into reality, and that’s a real joy when I want to review some time spent in my life :).  It’s not the same as a bucket list, because I think it’s more practical and more focused on immediate possibilities.

What do you think of my Happy Hopes list?  What is one thing you would put on the list if it were yours?

Copyright © 2014 Churchmousie ~ all rights reserved.

Hoping for Better – Like Many Others

Happy New Year!  May you enjoy the fun that winter can bring, and may it be with good friends and making warm memories with family members ♥.  A healthy life should be all about moving toward something positive and very little about moving away from something negative.  With that goal in mind, you usually have to discern what your starting point is, so this day is the day I take some time to reflect on where I am in life, and how to move forward with a healthy positive stride.  This will include seeing where my faith is centered, too.

As a child, New Year’s Day didn’t really mean so much.  I liked the idea of parents going to a party, and my siblings and I having a private one of our own.  We used to make party hats and put them on our stuffed animals, having a kind of contest to see who made the best hat.  They were each so different, that we simply couldn’t choose one as the best.  We were happy that we’d made them and that our parents seemed to like them the next day.

As I became a young adult, it mattered more how I celebrated the day.  I didn’t want to be snubbed from any party, and I didn’t want to just stay home and do nothing.  It was supposed to be merry and give me and my husband a reason to dress up and act our age with people we enjoyed.  Once the children came along, we either had parties for them or with them at church.  One particular memory was when we had my sister’s kids as well as our own for the night at home.  One game that was my husband’s idea: tossing balls of clean socks into a clean potty chair.  The lid acted as a backstop and of course the older kids had the better chances of winning.  John (my husband) even tossed socks at the kids to heighten the hilarity.  All of the kids had fun, and I’m talking kids from ages 5 to 2 years.

As the children grew up, they went to their own parties, and finally my marriage was over as well.  As a single person, the fun was harder to find at church or anywhere else unless you were dating someone.  I honestly didn’t have that intention for a long time, and once the intention was there I had no candidates.  For most of the last decade, I’ve simply stayed home and talked with people and friends in chat rooms, or just enjoyed the Christmas tree with some wine before praying the year in.  It was quiet and gave me some sense of closure for the year that was ending, along with the growing question of: “where has the time gone?”

See, I’m a Senior now and that surprises me in some ways.  I’m not surprised by my age at all, and I wouldn’t turn back the clock for one minute!  What surprises me is how different being a Senior is, from what I’d ever imagined it would be.  How oddly old memories court for attention, and how few options there are for making significant new ones.  I somehow thought that I would have more choices than I do, and that saddens me.  But on New Year’s Eve, I find myself looking back over the year that went by so quickly – and I count so many more painful losses than I have before.  I am realizing that this aging stuff takes a lot more courage than I thought it did.   I also thought that my faith would be in a different place, along with more satisfaction with my church relationships.

The hardest realization is that the welcomes are more and more diminished.  As I talk with a few of my friends of the same age, I see that they are groping through that realization as well.  Where we’d like to go, we’re not usually wanted or welcomed.  Some of the places our spirits want to go to, our bodies will fail us – so we can only hope that someone we know will go and we might live it out vicariously if they will only happily share the memory with us.  Our church experiences are suffering as well.  Fewer and fewer options are available because of our growing list of accommodations that seem to frustrate others in ways we’re trying not to get frustrated about (how’s that for a frustrating circle of woe?)!

I’m not whining here, nor am I damning anyone.  I’m just putting my surprise into words.  Somehow, I didn’t realize that I may have been just as guilty of letting my elders languish when they might have blossomed with inclusion.  I remember trying to include the ones I could relate to (not all people – young or old are compatible to our lives, remember).  I remember smiles and kind declines, and decided that it might be that I led a far too boisterous lifestyle for them to enjoy being around (That may still be true, lol).  I now see that there were times I might have been more willing to shift things into a mode that would help those elders enjoy the ride a bit more – had I cared a bit more to do it.

I had thought that not having grandchildren might be part of what is missing for me, but my friends with grandchildren say that “fun” part only lasts for a time – then they (the grandkids) are too busy with building their lives  to include someone of Senior years.  Some friends have had their children or grandchildren move away, and other friends have willingly moved away from their children and grandchildren to avoid contact (I find that the most sad of all).  The point is that some of these seniors with no grandkids to participate with are still able to find a good stride in life if they have an adequate income, good friends to enjoy, and most of their health is good.

There is much I need to find out about how to have a more enriching life as a older lady, and one of them is certainly avoiding becoming isolated.  Laughably, I have just done that to myself because I had to leave my old home and move in with my son – in a new state and town I’ve never lived in before.  I guess I’ll have to figure out some creative ways to get connected with a group in the new place asap!

More ruminations to come: Happy Hopes Lists!

Copyright © 2014 Churchmousie ~ all rights reserved.