Why I Was Late for Church on Sunday

Imagine my excitement when on my way to church last Sunday I became engrossed in an interview on the radio that confirmed the wisdom of a concept I learned forty years ago that has helped me make sense of personal relationships and world events.

Some simplified examples of that concept:

Values of the dominant worldview (fear-based separation):

  • I’m the authority. I know best. Listen to me and do what I say.
  • I compete with you because power, performance, and winning are what matters.
  • Follow my rules or all hell will break loose.
  • You are only important if you are supporting me and doing it my way.
  • If something goes wrong, it’s your fault.

Values of a relational worldview (trust-based connection):

  • We each have gifts to offer and a perspective that may be helpful. Working together, we can find a better way.
  • I collaborate with you in the service of finding a workable solution.
  • People matter most. Rules can be changed to meet people’s needs and preserve connection.
  • To reach the most compassionate outcome, all voices are needed.
  • When I’m wrong, I admit it and participate in finding a better approach for all concerned.

WYSO Weekend host, Jess Mador, interviewed Doug Oplinger, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and forty-six-year veteran in the business. He related how the way reporters have been handling the opioid epidemic hasn’t solved the problem.

“We’ve been writing gruesome stories for years … 4000 have died in Ohio, 1000 in Southwest Ohio. Where’s the public outcry?”

Oplinger said he and other investigative reporters grew frustrated that people weren’t engaging in the conversation. So they joined forces and tried an experiment that evolved into a new approach and a project called “Your Voice Ohio: Journalism Driven by Ohioans, for Ohioans.”

You could hear the passion in Oplinger’s voice as he described what he finds exciting about this different approach … something he is devoting himself to in retirement.

As my excitement merged with his, my brain went off course. I missed my turn toward church, drove about a mile out of the way before I realized what I had done, made a U-turn, and retraced my steps.

I was thrilled to hear how changing their worldview and values led these journalists to change their behavior. I couldn’t help but notice the similarities in their new approach to what had inspired me forty years ago.

Oplinger said, “News organizations are setting aside their competitive instincts…they are sharing resources, reporters, and stories to provide better information more often.” Instead of aligning themselves with politicians, they invite ordinary people to watch journalists doing their jobs and then cosponsor community meetings where reporters listen to the people. They explore together what is needed in order to find personal and community solutions.

As they sat with the people and listened, the news organizations were surprised to find that they needed a very different approach. In their redesigned coverage, they are changing the conversation to lift up the voices of the people. Instead of an emphasis on gruesome stories, the emphasis is on solutions and highlighting the stories of people who have successfully overcome their dependence on opioids.

I felt so proud of this Ohio initiative and hope news organizations nationally will learn from it. In my experience and that of many of my friends, we are weary of being bombarded with “gruesome” news about everything that is going wrong in the world.

We are concerned, we want to be informed, and we want to make a difference, but this bombardment leads to a sense of powerlessness that is not helpful. Having worked as a family therapist in the addictions field for over twenty years, I know that feeling of powerlessness in the face of this epidemic. And as a concerned citizen, I know that feeling of powerlessness in the face of the situation in our country and world today.

My friends and I are overjoyed with this emphasis on success stories and finding solutions that work.

It was worth missing the organ prelude on Sunday to learn about this innovative and creative initiative by Ohio journalists who are committed to being part of the solution rather than part of the problem! They are an inspiration and deserve a standing ovation!

If the opioid crisis has touched your life and/or is on your list of concerns, I encourage you to get involved in this creative, solution-oriented initiative.

Lost and Found

“Once I was lost and now I’m found.” ~from the Hymn, Amazing Grace

LOST

A common phenomenon for writers finishing a book is to experience a letdown. While being interviewed after publishing his latest espionage novel, John le Carré admitted to being depressed and that he always experiences this between projects.

My writer friend Susan J. Tweit who generously gave me a blurb for my memoir just sent her recent memoir, Bless the Birds, to her agent. When congratulated, she admitted, “I’m feeling both relieved and excited, as you can imagine, and also feeling a bit of the postpartum blues to not be carrying the story around inside me anymore.”

After the initial flurry of excitement about completing what a high school classmate referred to as “the achievement of my lifetime,” — writing and publishing A Long Awakening to Grace, I felt lost. I am familiar with that feeling. I’ve experienced it many times throughout my life when I’m in a period of transition. But this time it felt a bit different. I pondered the difference.

I wasn’t asking “What’s next?” as I had done during other transitions. Inept as I was at it and totally out of my element, I charged ahead doing what was logically next … marketing my book. Between dealing with the “pecking order” among writers (self-published authors frozen at the bottom) and in the social media world of changing algorithms, I grew increasingly overwhelmed, frustrated, stressed, cranky and disgruntled…not the energy I wanted to bring to the process.

FOUND

I took a break from marketing last week and went to four movies. This quote attributed to P. T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman jumped out at me.

“I was trying to be someone I am not.”

  • I am not nor do I aspire to be “A New York Times Bestselling Author”
  • I do not have to nor do I aspire to make a living as a writer
  • I did not write and publish this book to make money though if I do, the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation will benefit from it. I did not write and publish to be a big name in the literary field. I wrote it to be of help to others.
  • I do not have to nor do I aspire to be a marketing whiz

And yet, I am fortunate to know and interact with New York Times Bestselling authors, authors who make a very good income writing,  authors who receive acclaim widely, and authors who are willing to master the world of technology to promote themselves. And I admire them and I compared myself to them and tried to follow their example.

And that is not who I am!

Who I am is:

  • Someone who writes as a spiritual practice … to understand myself better and to connect with the best version of who I was created to be. Writing my memoir gave me a whole new perspective on my life and was transforming. I share my writing when I think what I have to say would be helpful or enlightening to others.
  • Someone who loves to connect with other kindred spirits by reading spiritual literature, inspirational memoirs, historical fiction … along with books that inform me about cultural challenges we face.  Check out my Goodread’s Book Page and you will see.
  • Someone who likes to participate in groups who share my interest in spirituality, who are committed to growing, and who are interested in being informed and active in dealing with cultural challenges.
  • Someone who is energized by connecting with people. An interesting challenge for an introvert who loves to write … a solitary activity. Sharing with interested readers and receiving their comments in this blog is enormously satisfying for me.

WHAT BOLSTERED MY SPIRIT THIS WEEK

  • Receiving a hug from Pastor Larry who appears in my book and being told that my book was wonderful and he was moved by it.
  • Receiving a long embrace from Larry’s wife, Clara, and receiving expressions of empathy from both her and Larry.
  • Receiving a post on my timeline from a Reader’s Facebook group. One of their members, Debbie, a woman from Minnesota who I’ve never met, read my memoir, called it amazing, and said she loved it. I reached out to thank her and we had a few back and forth interactions. Then she gave me an Amazon review. Made my day!
  • Seeing another woman from that Facebook group decide to read my book because Debbie loved and recommended it. Thanking her, asking her to let me know what she thinks after she reads it, and receiving a response from her that she will do that.
  • Receiving a telephone call and reconnecting with an Imago colleague to tell me she is reading my book and wants to work with me to arrange a book signing in her city. We are having lunch together this week and I’m so excited to connect with her again.
  • Receiving a Facebook message from a high school classmate who read my book, had no idea what I had gone through, called me a strong and resilient woman. She wrote this while receiving chemotherapy. Later that week she wrote an Amazon review and said she was proud of me. Brought tears to my eyes.
  • A woman who I admire but don’t know well at church sharing with me that she had finished reading my memoir. She was silent for a moment. Then she said, “You know suffering, don’t you?” She went on to share her experience reading it and the most powerful part of the book for her. She wanted to know if I had given any talks about it. I haven’t, but I’d like to … once I discern the message that would be most helpful to others.
  • A friend from church telling me that she spent time on my website this week and found a lot of good stuff there. Makes me feel like the hard work I’ve been doing updating it is worthwhile.
  • Receiving fabulous e-mails from members of the Works-in-Progress group through the Story Circle Network.

Two of those e-mails were in response to my rant to them about my frustrations with marketing and social media and my decision to do only what is enjoyable and gratifying.

This group member who makes her living writing said, “There was a time when you were discouraged about the writing, and you persevered nonetheless. I think the hardest part of being an author/publisher is that you wear all the hats. But you’re right to do what you enjoy or at least can tolerate. What I read in your posts is that the human connection is what fuels you the most. … Those person-to-person connections may be the most effective form of marketing for you, and they’re clearly the most rewarding.” I felt really seen and understood.

And this prolific and award-winning author said, “Linda, rejoice in your ability to sell books one-to-one. Booksellers will tell you more books are sold that way and by word of mouth than all the advertising in the world.” That helps me feel better about my choice.

These e-mails came through this weekend and addressed the challenges all authors face. In comparing myself with this group of women writers, I unintentionally distanced myself from them. I didn’t feel worthy of belonging. It is nice to be back in connection:

One group member, a New York Times Bestselling Author said, “…it’s simply nonproductive to make comparisons between genres/audience communities. The writing universe (and now, the publishing universe) is broad enough to include all of us. We don’t have to live (or die) by others’ preferences and judgments. We can just set them aside, do our best work, and move forward on the paths we choose.”

And another is committed to literary citizenship — supporting her sister authors and, in my experience, does it extremely well. She has an Amazon Author Central Page that is quite impressive in my opinion but looked down upon by some who are “snooty” (not her word or mine but made by a writer who could be and thankfully isn’t).

This group member did a rant of her own when she said, “Sometimes when you hang with writers you forget about the non-writers who are simply dazzled by our output, not busy saying ‘Well that’s good but not quite enough yet.’ … I work to be as transparent as I can about my growth and progress as a writer. I want to celebrate every step of the journey. I am so glad to be able to do this here (in the WIP group) but also want to do it publicly both as joy and as encouragement. … What I am striving for is to do work that comes from my heart and that I can give to the world with the intention of reaching others. I can’t tell you the number of times my heart has been soothed or uplifted by ‘light fiction’ or, and this one grates at me when it is used in a diminishing way, ‘women’s fiction.’ I love a beautiful piece of “literary” work AND I love ‘light fiction’ and ‘women’s fiction’ and all the other genres that get sniffed at. Don’t even get me started on the folks dissing memoir as me-moir!  Those me-moirs have been life changing and life affirming for me, sometimes a hand out that’s pulled me out of the muck and given me hope.

I say “AMEN!” to that!! I am so fortunate to be a part of this stellar group of women writers and to be accepted and supported by them.

And I’m so fortunate to have had such a spirit bolstering week … even though I took a couple of days off.

And I’m so fortunate to have come home to and be back in connection with “myself.” I have much for which to be grateful!

THRIVE

A couple of years ago, Jude, one of my local writer friends, invited me to her solstice gathering. She had been holding these for many years. I was honored to be asked, and as an introvert, a little nervous about meeting and interacting with new people. I set an intention to extend myself beyond my comfort zone and reach out. On my half hour drive home, I patted myself on the back for my new behavior and for the connections I made.

At the winter solstice, Jude asks us to share our word for the year. My word for 2016 was “JOY.” For 2017, I chose the word “OPPORTUNITY.” My word for 2018 is “THRIVE.” Then she gives us a reminder to position in a prominent place in our home as a prompt to be on the lookout for evidence of our word materializing.

The major OPPORTUNITY that manifested for me in 2017 was being gifted by April with her expertise to publish A Long Awakening to Grace.

I choose THRIVE for 2018 because I have never been satisfied with calling myself a survivor. I want to do more in life than survive. I want to THRIVE. And now that I’ve accomplished what a high school classmate referred to as “the greatest achievement of my life,” what’s next? It will be hard to top 2017.

In November and over the holidays, while we have been experiencing frigid weather and I wasn’t feeling well enough to go out, I made use of this time with a major cleaning out the old. My office is reorganized and I have a pile of papers and records I no longer need (I tend to be a pack rat) waiting for the recycle bin. I already feel lighter and love how much more accessible my new office arrangement is.

It occurred to me that letting go of this old stuff is a part of making way for the new … the new that promises to fulfill my intention to THRIVE. I still have more I want to do, but I am well on my way. And seeing these actions as my commitment to THRIVING in 2018 increases my enthusiasm and curiosity. It will be interesting to see how THRIVE materializes despite whatever rejections and disappointments as a writer and author may come my way. (Rejections and disappointments come with the territory and we THRIVE when we keep plugging away and noticing the gifts we receive despite them.)

To celebrate these surprises and gifts, I’m going to record everyone of them as a celebration in my THRIVE journal.

If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your word for 2018 and how you are preparing to live into it?

Angels Among Us ~~ Alice

Friends who have read my memoir and especially those who have accompanied me on my journey the past eight years of bringing my book into the world have been remarking about how just the right person has come along at every juncture in my life to take me to the next level. That, too, has amazed me. If I ever doubted that the Universe has my back, writing and publishing my memoir has dispelled any lingering uncertainty.

Shirley, the Angel in my November 24 post, and Alice, the Angel I am featuring today, were people from the church who extended love to me at times in my life when I needed to know that I am Divinely loved, that I am a person of worth, and that I am capable of much more than I realize. The Universe had plans for me I couldn’t even begin to imagine.

I’ll bet if you think about it, you can point to a person or persons from your childhood or youth who changed the trajectory of your life. That one person for me is Alice.

Alice

Alice moved to my hometown when I was about twelve to serve as the parish worker in our church. She appears in two places in my memoir because her influence in my early life was great.

Because she was new in town and didn’t know many people, she welcomed frequent visits from my friend Saundra and me. We always had fun at Alice’s apartment. My most precious memories, however, are the times when I was alone with Alice. I carried the following secret in my  heart related to Alice. When she read A Long Awakening to Grace, she was shocked to learn about it.

“I remember most how Alice made me feel. When we spent time alone, she treated me as someone important to her. She listened as though interested in what I thought and how I felt. She didn’t seem to consider it ‘weird’ talking about serious topics. She gave me the individual attention I received from no one else. I felt ‘at home’ with Alice and wished she could adopt me so I could live with her.” ~Page 27 of A Long Awakening to Grace

And then, when my high school graduation was nearing, Alice changed my life’s path. She asked me what I planned to do after graduation and recommended I go to college. I didn’t think I was smart enough, no one at home or school had suggested it, so I hadn’t given it any thought. I am forever grateful for her suggestion. And I’m grateful I was wise enough to follow it. Going to college opened opportunities that I would otherwise not have had … including meeting people who could take me to my next level of my development.

It took fifteen years and a second recommendation for me to heed her next suggestion. Alice was the first person to suggest I consider a career in the church.

“‘You should think about being a parish worker like me.’ … I tucked Alice’s recommendation in the back of my mind …” Page 11 of A Long Awakening to Grace

Alice’s suggestion led me to Bowling Green State University and a major in Business Education. I didn’t know myself well back then and chose a major that wasn’t a good fit for me. I took a circuitous path through United Theological Seminary, Living in Process and Imago Relationship Therapy trainings that revealed a counseling ministry as a better fit.

And now, after publishing my memoir to such high praise from readers, I wonder what life might have been like had I pursued creative writing. Even though I was selected by the faculty to be the editor of our high school newspaper, that was a possibility that never occurred to me. I knew no one and had never heard of anyone who had followed such a path.

It is not too late, however. What lights up my life these days is increasing my learning about the craft of writing. Despite my eighteen-year-old attitude that I wasn’t smart, thanks to Alice, I have emerged at seventy-five into a life-long learner. It is what makes my life meaningful.

“Conscious aging is about having meaningful goals for our elderhood that spring from our authentic selves and using the power of intention and inner work to make our vision a reality. It is about having the courage to aim high in an unconscious world.” ~Ron Pevny in Conscious Living, Conscious Aging: Embrace & Savor Your Next Chapter.

On Being Relational

David Letterman

“I’m here tonight because of hundreds, probably thousands of people who helped me.” ~Dave Letterman upon receiving the Mark Twain Prize for Humor.

When I heard Dave Letterman acknowledge that he was successful because a lot of people helped him get there, my admiration for him expanded. Not that I disliked him before. I’m just an “early-to-bed” kind of person and miss all the late night shows.

His words demonstrated to me that he is a “relational” guy. He named some of the people who helped him and acknowledged the talents of several who he believes deserves the Mark Twain Prize every bit as much if not more than he does. I liked that.

In the 1990’s I trained with Harville Hendrix. He and the woman to whom he is married, Helen LaKelly Hunt, co-developed Imago Relationship Therapy. I retired in 2012, but still value this community of therapists and their partners who devote their lives to improving their own relationships and helping others do the same.

Recently one of my friends and colleagues, Ani, told me that Harville no longer likes the word psychology because of its orientation toward individuality.  I agree with him because, in my opinion, we’ve gone too far with the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality that is pulling our culture apart.

Click here for an interview with a linguist that gives the interesting origin of that phrase which started as an insult and has morphed into an admirable quality and cultural demand that is not serving us well.

Harville has coined a new word that I think is much needed in our times. His word is “RELATIONOLOGY.”

Harville Hendrix

It seems to me and many people whom I respect that our culture is based on an illusion of separation. No matter how it looks, we are not separate. We are one. And much of the loneliness and angst we experience in life comes from the emotional distance that results when we act out of a belief that we are separate.

Think about what means the most to those facing terminal illness and death…their loved ones…be that family or close friends who are like family. Trophies, awards, accolades, and material wealth mean little if we aren’t surrounded by those we love. Somehow, when our life is going well, we often forget what matters most.

I am receiving a lot of positive responses to my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace. Some of them are beyond my wildest imaginings. I am being referred to as an amazing woman. Those are words I never expected to hear and I enjoy hearing them and am grateful to receive them.

However, I am keenly aware that whatever writing and publishing success I am experiencing…whatever growth has turned me into an amazing woman…I must attribute to Divine guidance and the many people who came into my life during my journey to grace as “God with skin on.” I call them angels.

My blog series, “Angels Among Us,” is to acknowledge those people. I have indeed been blessed. I have a lot of material to continue writing this series for a good long while.

Once I’ve acknowledged all the folks mentioned in my memoir, I have more angels to write about … those who taught me to write well, those who helped me revise my manuscript, those who gave me advance praise and blurbs, those who helped me with the task of publishing, those who helped design the cover, those who are currently mentoring me with marketing (something I am attempting to do from a relational paradigm) and those who are writing wonderful reviews. The list goes on and on. I am so blessed.

It is clear to me that A Long Awakening to Grace is not all my doing.

And so, I ask you, as you read about my angels, to reflect on your own. We all have them. If we look up from our cell phones and social media long enough, we might more easily recognize them. And I think we could all benefit from paying more attention … for taking time to appreciate who matters most in our lives.

Please join me in giving a hearty hip, hip, hooray for this new word in our vocabulary … a word with the potential for drawing our culture back to our spiritual roots. We are all one … interconnected … created to be relational beings. We have so much to learn about and so much to benefit from embracing …

RELATIONOLOGY

Have a Happy Thanksgiving with those who matter most to you.

Angels Among Us ~~ Rachel

Yesterday I did a favor for Rachel. She recently moved, is still feeling overwhelmed with organizing her new space, and I’m pretty good at organizing. It is the least I could do for this angel … a small repayment for her kindness to me during difficult times in my life.

Rachel

Rachel first appears in my memoir on page 176 in the chapter titled, “Daunted.” It was 1989 and I had just left my marriage of almost twenty-three years. It was moving day and Rachel noticed my daughter and me working hard all day carrying stuff into my new home. We were exhausted, and I had neglected to make plans for dinner.

“As we carted in another load, Rachel came by to welcome us to the neighborhood. She invited us to dinner at her house. … A single parent with two teenage daughters, Rachel lived two doors down. Her invitation felt like a good omen. I hoped a friendlier neighborhood with girls near her age living close would make my daughter more comfortable moving in with me.”

Then she appears ten years later on page 259 in the chapter titled, “Fire Walk.”  Rachel is more extroverted and fun-loving than I am, but our friendship survived my move away from the neighborhood where we first met.

I was even more exhausted and rattled in 1999 than I had been on moving day in 1989. I was in the midst of a crisis with my daughter. She needed appropriate clothes to wear to a funeral and I didn’t have the time or energy to take her shopping.

“Rachel appeared with a bag full of clothes she and her daughters no longer wore. In the bag was a nice dress and shoes for my daughter to wear to the funeral.” 

When Rachel arrived at my home with these clothes, she saw the state I was in. I had so much to do and couldn’t even think straight to get started. Rachel helped keep me focused for the tasks at hand and helped me accomplish them.

Rachel sees a need and jumps in to help. She is known for helping many others. When reminded of her generosity, she is surprised because she has forgotten all about it. That’s just the kind of friend she is.

Yesterday morning as we worked on organizing her kitchen, our conversation deepened as we both reflected on what I wrote in A Long Awakening to Grace. She is not the first friend to note, after reading all that I went through with my children, that they didn’t feel they had been there for me … had not been a good friend.

That has nothing to do with their friendship. When something came out in the open, friends responded, including Rachel. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to write this “Angels Among Us” series. My friends couldn’t know the extent of what I was dealing with because I mostly kept it to myself. When I needed to talk about my family struggles, I saved that for my support group meetings.

When I was with my friends, I wanted to enter fully into our social activities. I wanted and needed a break from family matters. So many friends, including Rachel, are now learning the details. What is meaningful to me is that my story seems to touch some of their own tender places and they now feel free to share with me. Our eyes moistened as Rachel and I bared our souls in her kitchen. And then we did what good friends do, we gave each other a big hug.

Thank you, Rachel, for being an angel in my life … in days long past and currently as well.

Another Welcome Gift of Grace

In my last blog post, I wrote: “For many years as an adult, I hid. I cut myself off from old friends who would have wanted to know what was going on. I didn’t want to tell them.”

When our family moved from Middletown to Kettering, OH in the early 80s, we left behind a whole group of tight-knit church friends. I didn’t include in my memoir the story of the house church some of us founded, a most meaningful experience for us. But that is another story for another time.

This week, I reconnected with one significant friend from my past, LaVerne, my daughter’s first piano teacher. LaVerne, her husband Dick, and their three children Dale, Bruce, and Sandra were active members of The Church of the Continuing Creation, our house church.

After her husband died, LaVerne moved to Houston, TX, to be near her daughter. My memoir brought us back together.

LaVerne

LaVerne and I have been friends on Facebook for awhile, but we hadn’t talked in several years except for a visit I made to her shortly before she moved to Houston. I was still in the process of writing A Long Awakening to Grace. I trusted LaVerne to give me honest feedback about how she experienced me in my relationship with my then husband. She had many opportunities to observe us in the 70s. I wanted to be as candid as possible about my part in our relationship not working.

But because some of what I experienced with my children was still too painful to talk about, I didn’t share much with her about that part of the story. She learned about it through reading my memoir.

It was important to me that someone significant to me from my past know my truth. In fact, a Facebook message I received from another member of the house church when my memoir was first published brought me to tears. Karen was a teenager in the house church and her mother, Wapella, was one of my dearest friends. Unfortunately, Wapella died before my memoir was published. Karen said:

“Linda, I read your book this weekend and was very moved. I smiled at the memories of people from our past and shed a few tears during certain passages. Thank you for sharing your insight and pain.”

When I knew LaVerne, also one of my closest friends, wanted to read my book, I asked her to give me honest feedback after she finished reading.  And thankfully she called me Sunday evening instead of sending a text. We talked for two hours.

“Through memoir people get to know us, the inner details they never knew. Glad you rekindled your relationship!” Linda Joy Myers, founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers and one of my teachers.

Not only did LaVerne not know the inner details of my life, she knew little of the outer details. She seemed to hardly know how to respond. She just kept saying “Wow!” She also told me that she talked with her children about reading my book, telling them, “I lost touch with Linda a long time ago and her life just kept getting worse.” She wondered how I am “still standing.”

As Linda Joy, author of two memoirs, Don’t Call Me Mother and Song of the Plains, and several books on writing memoir, knows … it is the inner details that most interest friends.

Most of the conversation with LaVerne centered around the deep, inner details of our lives. She didn’t seem to recognize her musical talents as gifts that are every bit as spiritual as my contemplative writing and involvement in groups that delve deep into soul. But by the end of our conversation, she seemed pleased to appreciate that fact at a deeper level.

LaVerne is an extrovert with a great sense of humor. She finds people fascinating and loves to interact, often initiating contact through humor. People enjoy and trust her almost immediately. That is a gift I wish I had. While I find people as intriguing as she does, I have a much more difficult time initiating conversation.

And, now that, in LaVerne’s words,  “…we broke the barrier we’ll talk often to check up on each other.” Before we ended the call, we reaffirmed our friendship and love for each other. What a blessing. Another gift of grace that has come as a result of publishing A Long Awakening to Grace. I am once more filled with gratitude.

 

Ranting

This is the first time in my memory that I have used this forum to rant. I think the gray-haired among us will relate. Lately, I’ve been tearing my hair out over technology. I do fairly well for someone my age, but I have my limits.

When my computer works well, I’m grateful to be able to interact with a world beyond my neighborhood, city, and country. When it isn’t working, I invariably can’t understand why and don’t know what to do to fix it. Sometime in September, the Jetpack plug-in just disappeared from my website. That meant my subscribers were not receiving my blog posts. And I didn’t know it until after I had posted twice, one being a very significant post. I also received feedback from another writer about my website. It needs an update. It couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Because I have no whiz-kid grandchildren, I have to “fork-over-dollars.” And in that realm, I also have my limits.

The months of September and October 2017 have been filled with anxiety and frustration as I’ve attended to several time-consuming matters, some of which involved an outlay of dollars:

  • updating my will and trust,
  • dealing with the Jetpack and other website issues (update still not resolved),
  • getting leaks to Nicole’s new tub and around the old tub in my bathroom fixed

Others were designed to save me money as the prices of everything are increasing in 2018:

  • finding the lowest gas and electric carriers
  • finding the best, most affordable health insurance supplement

Correcting the mistake made in my 2016 taxes involved both an outlay and a savings:

  • finding an affordable tax preparer and
  • receiving the refund I was owed

And that doesn’t take into account the hours spent dealing with the Equifax breech and collecting the documents the Job Center needed to determine if Nicole will still be eligible for medicaid help.

And then, of course, there is life:

  • grocery shopping
  • cooking
  • cleaning (to pay for Nicole’s tub, we let our house cleaner go)
  • doctor appointments

All that interfered with what I really wanted to do:

  • promote my memoir
  • prepare my home for Jacqui’s return from Taiwan so she could  move in

What frays my nerves and pushes me close to the edge of insanity is:

  • automated answering systems

It is next to impossible to get a human being anymore. And what should take minutes, takes hours. It is unbelievable what all is involved in getting instructions or the answer to a simple question. I even found an article about it here and here and here.

Twice this week, I was put in a queue and promised a call back. I’m still waiting.

Monday, we cut the cord with cable TV. Upgrading our internet was a breeze. Changing phone carriers and learning to use our new streaming device was not.

Thank God for Jacqui. She is far advanced beyond Nicole and me in her understanding of technology. And she is willing to help. Nicole and I have made progress in understanding how to use Apple TV and Hulu and we still have a ways to go. I’m happy with the dollars we are saving.

An awareness I didn’t expect, after witnessing Jacqui’s very different manner, was noticing how contracted and defended I have become. I approach armed and ready … alert in every interaction to being taken advantage of and cheated out of my hard-earned money. Of course, the customer service representatives are not to blame. They don’t make the policies. They are just trying to make a living. And they bear the brunt of our increased stress. And that isn’t good for any of us.

I firmly believe that the rampant greed and contentious climate in our culture today contributes to our stress. Clearly I’m not alone as the articles I referenced above prove. Whew!! However, watching Jacqui joke with customer service representatives and extend kindness to them brought me up short.

Being tense, anxious, defended, and contracted are not ways I want to be.

So, I am increasing my motivation by embarrassing myself here and revealing one of the worst parts of me. My plan for change is:

  • determine what I want and need before the call or encounter
  • breathe deeply
  • set my intention to be kind to the rep and to my body
  • and to assertively ask for what I want and need.

These are skills I have possessed for a very long time. I plan to start being intentional about using them again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angels Among Us ~~ Karen

Probably one of my greatest fears growing up was being rejected and judged as inferior. That fear was front and center for me in 1999. I had been searching for twenty-two years for the reason behind my children’s puzzling behavior and had given up all hope of ever knowing its cause. As most parents do, I blamed myself. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to experience a miracle that would reveal the origin of their behavior.

Professionally, I offered Imago Relationship Therapy and relationship coaching as an outreach ministry of a local church. Because of my embarrassment about my children’s behavior and my fear of how members of the congregation would react if they knew, I didn’t talk about my children at church. I kept secrets.

“No one at church knew much about my personal life. They knew I had adult children but didn’t ask about them, and I offered nothing about their circumstances.” ~excerpt from A Long Awakening to Grace

To my horror, my secret became known in a very public way. I prepared myself for the judgment against me that I was sure would follow. I served on the Christian Nurture Committee, and the next time they met, I braced myself for their disapproval. I was so very wrong. They gave me nothing but compassion. From that I learned that I was projecting my judgment of myself onto them … and many others … something I probably still do far too often today.

I had lunch yesterday with Karen, one of those committee members who has remained a friend all these years later. She has most definitely been an angel in my life.

Karen

“We’ll pray for you. We’ll add your names to our prayer group.”

 

“‘And I have a friend with a prayer group at her church. I’ll get you on her list, too,’ Karen chuckled. ‘In fact, we’ll see to it that every prayer group in town puts you and your daughter on their list. We’ll cover all the bases.’ She gave me a reassuring hug.” ~excerpts from A Long Awakening to Grace

Karen is an extraordinary woman who is an angel in many lives. She makes a difference in her family and in our community, utilizing her many skills as a volunteer. A retired teacher, she currently tutors at the literacy center. She told me over lunch about helping a man learn to read the Bible so he could do that in church, helping a woman learn to read children’s books to her grandchildren, and a woman learn to read so she can upgrade her work skills. That’s just the kind of woman Karen is.

Karen exudes enthusiasm for life and one of her favorite activities is having dinner with friends. She became so engrossed in reading my memoir, in order to finish, she turned down a dinner invitation. As soon as she turned the last page, she called me. “I just had to talk with you.”

She told me about her rejected dinner invitation. “Now you know, I never turn down a dinner invitation,” she chuckled. She went on to share how moving she found my story and how she felt for me with all I went through with my children. We made a date for lunch.

Over lunch yesterday, I enjoyed catching up with what is going on in Karen’s life and hearing about people from that congregation who I rarely see anymore. They are still very special to me. Karen wanted to know about how my daughter is doing and about my life these days.

After lunch, she had to rush off to take a neighbor woman in her 90s to the doctor. Like I said, that’s just who Karen is. As we prepared to leave, we made a pledge not to wait so long to schedule another lunch. I am so blessed.

Celebrations

It was a long day. My Michigan friends, Tom and Sarah, were visiting. Sarah and I grew up together in New Bremen, got married about the same time, and were pregnant at the same time in 1968. Their daughter, Connie, is two weeks younger than my son, Doug. While our children grew up, we visited each other twice a year, alternating between Ohio and Michigan. It had been two years since we had seen each other. The picture below shows Tom and Sarah with Connie, her husband and daughters.

Don, Carolyn, Sarah, Megan, Tom, and Connie

Nicole had an appointment with her OSU neurologist Tuesday afternoon, August 15, so I scheduled an appointment with a Columbus attorney in the morning. I no longer like driving the interstate and wanted to double up on these appointments. Sarah accompanied us to these appointments.

I had been referred to Matthew Gibson because he specializes in estate planning when there is a disabled child involved. Sarah sat in on the meeting and took copious notes for me. Nicole and I really liked him, but it was a stressful meeting. I had made an outrageous request of a friend to handle Nicole’s finances after I’m gone. We called her so she could ask the attorney questions. I hate having to ask friends to assume this responsibility and am grateful for their willingness.

Sarah, Nicole, and I had a lovely lunch after seeing the attorney and then headed for our OSU appointment. Unfortunately, we missed a turn and got lost and never made it. And so we switched gears from frustration at having to reschedule with OSU to excitement about what awaited us at home.

The proof for A Long Awakening for Grace was slated to arrive that day. My friend, Diana, wanted to be present when I opened it. We called Tom to make sure it had been delivered and then called Diana to alert her to our impending arrival home.

Jim & Diana

Diana and her husband, Jim, came with sparkling juice and wine glasses to toast the occasion. After the drum roll, I opened the package.

The big moment

My daughter cried. When I asked if she could share with me about her tears, she said, “I was just thinking about all we went through.” Then she joined in the celebration. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate her support.

Nicole

I’m so aware that in the midst of the chaos that surrounds us these days, we have much to celebrate. I am determined to notice and honor the emergence of joy and love wherever I find it. When we look, we find that it abounds. This day I celebrated with friends … the satisfaction of a job well done. Yesterday Nicole and I celebrated the wonder of the Universe, watching the eclipse from our front yard, chuckling at my space kitty’s interest as we watched the eclipse on Nova that evening.

Kiko

And as I write this, the second proof is due to arrive. Later, Nicole’s new visiting physician will arrive. We will celebrate again, in the midst of the ordinariness and extraordinariness of life.

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