Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Searching for Pockets of Joy

Sometimes amidst the storms of life, there are small pockets of calmness, small moments of happiness. Most of the time, I am so overwhelmed by the circumstances of my life, and the stressful situations I find myself within to even notice. When I recently found a few such moments, for once, I had the presence mind set to stop, and appreciate them.

This weekend there was a literal storm, a deluge of snow, rain, and then sleet too. Extreme weather conditions of any kind make me nervous. I live in home without a basement, and drive a small (beautiful) car. When the television states 'seek cover' it translates to 'flee the house'. Snow & rain mean I have to drive like a myopic grandmother wearing reading glasses. And did I mention that I tend to get depressed every fall, and that it's directly connected to how much daylight there is?

This weekend, we had a terrible storm on Saturday. I knew it was coming; I watch the weather on tv & check a weather website, just to be prepared. Ok, so maybe I over prepare.... I made certain I had all my errands done beforehand, and that my cupboards were full. I was out & about, picking up ingredients for homemade cocoa mix & checking out library books. As I was driving home, marveling at the mostly clear skies, the thought struck me... instead of worrying about the coming snowfall, I should be appreciating the patch of sunshine pouring through the sunroof on my wee black car. So, I turned up the Christmas music, and sang along with Bing, and enjoyed the sunshine.

Safely back home again, I unloaded groceries & books, placing the books beside my favorite easy chair. Checking my ever-present to-do list, I began making cookies, an old family recipe with an unpronounceable name...thus I have always called them 'green jelly-filled cookies'. I was again listening to the Christmas music on B96, when my current favorite song, "All I Want for Christmas" by Mariah Carey came on. Ah, ha...the conscious click went on. This is another one of those pockets of joy! So, with the scent of baking cookies surrounding me, and Mariah belting out the song, I started dancing in the kitchen. I be-bopped my way through the music, with only the kittens, watching me with stunned expression on their furry faces.

The next day, after shoveling out from that terrible storm (thank you Cat, for shoveling!), I headed out to attend small group. This is a group of people from my church, that meets every other week. I walked in, on time, didn't even get lost this time...and enjoying that small moment of joy. I placed my pretty plate of homemade cookies in the kitchen, then headed to the living room, to see what my choices of seats were. Sofa, filled... easy chairs....filled... *sigh* expecting only the hard backed chairs to remain, I took a last perusal... and noticed the rocking chair, empty, sitting beside a bright & pretty lamp. I love rocking chairs! I would have chosen to sit there had every seat been open. Gladly I took residence, rocking away happily for the next hour, knowing I rested firmly in a deep pocket of joy.

So, now I have experienced another paradigm shift, a complete change in thinking. Instead of focusing on the bad things in life, that loom overwhelmingly, I am now searching out, noticing, and enjoying the small moments as they happen. Having dinner with my friend's 3 & 4 year old sons. A perfect cup of tea. A moment of perfect harmony with a friend. Try to always consciously enjoy the small pockets of joy in life.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Gaggle of Teenagers

Part II of Why I don’t take my teenager to the store.....

I’ve written previously about the fun that occurs when I take my daughter, Cat, to the store with me. Her friend, Nuzzle, is a testimony to that fact! Butrecently, I found out that it’s far, far worse, to take two.

I have twin sons and the aforementioned daughter, and have taken them to stores often as they were growing up. As a single parent, I had little choice. Other than the occasional rambunctiousness, and the requisite whining for candy, those shopping trips were uneventful.

When I took Cat & her friend, Tiffany, to Walgreens, I found out the ‘Joy’ I had been missing. Do you know what happens when two teenage girls are together in a store? Their IQ and maturity drops in half. Suddenly, I was shopping with over-sized toddlers!

“Oooo…how pretty!” “Look at this, Cat!” and of course, the giggles. A LOT of giggles, drifting over to me, aisles away. They played with toys. They sprayed each other with tester perfumes. They danced to musical cards. They fingered Everything!

When I heard, “Oooo…Shiny!” drift over to the aisle, to where I stood choosing paper products, I knew I had to take action. Like a lion tamer trying ot distract from the open cage door, I called out to them: “Girls, Candy!” "Candy? Yay!" I lured them to the candy aisle, telling them to pick something. Sighing, I figured they were temporarily corralled.

Right. Sure. Obviously, I spend a lot of time dreaming.

Cat & Tiffany, did stay in the aisle, but they spent the better part of 30 minutes, fingering all the candy choices, and playing with the ‘weird ones’: Gummy worms, spinning pops, and some sort of gel-like goo. When I found them seated on the floor, crashing candy-filled toy cars, I had lost the final fragments of my mind.

Taking their candy choices in hand, I headed for checkout. Finding them trailing me (or was it the candy?), I told them to go outside and ‘loiter’ on the sidewalk. Finally feeling some semblance of peace, I paid for my purchases. The automatic doors whoosed open, and I stepped out into the cool of the night.

Then I heard it-“Loiter, loiter, giggle, loiter, giggle”. I turned to find Cat & Tiffany, shuffling back & forth, dancing on the sidewalk. “See, Mom! We’re loitering! Can we have our candy now?”

As I drove home, via Tom & Jerry’s Ice Cream shop (don’t ask about that experience, or how they talked me into it), I finally understood what life was like for those parents with multiple daughters. You have my respect, and admiration for all time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Portrait of Courage

My friend Connie is the most courageous person I know. She went from being a stay-at-home mom, to becoming the Head of Household, the decision-maker and wage-earner.

She called me one rainy, dismal afternoon. "Laurie," (she's the only one who gets away with calling me that), "We're going to have to move." Her time in Alpena was over. With her husband unable to work due to medical problems, (including epilepsy), she was working the only available job there--part-time at the local motel desk. This wage was not enough to support her husband, son, and mortgage. No other jobs were available in town. Bills began to pile up, money got scare, and they were on the verge of losing their home.

So, Connie stepped up, took over as head of the family. She sold everything she could at several garage sales. The sectional sofa, the big screen tv, the beautiful dining room table...all furniture, everything of value. I had to argue with her to convince her to keep her beloved antique curio cabinet! She put her house up for sale, packed what they needed, and prepared to move.

The hardest part of all was watching her find homes for her two dogs. Anyone who has ever had a pet knows how much a part of the family they become. She found good homes for both Brittany & Lena, but leaving them broke her heart.

Connie, her husband, and her teenage son, all moved to Sterling Heights this August, just in time for her son to begin a new school, and his senior year. When her sister, who'd promised them a rent free place to live for a few weeks, decided to opt out, Connie again stepped up, and made last minute arrangements. Within a week, she'd found a job too, not one she enjoyes, but something to pay the bills with til she finds something better. After a month of staying with various friends, they finally moved into an apartment, near both her current job & her son's high school.

The courage it took, to initiate this move, to make the plans, and do most of the work in following through, was phenominal. Starting completely over, and bearing the brunt of the decisions & work, was exhausting. But as I watched, listened, and helped however I could, I saw a well of strength grow within her. She is a strong & amazing woman. I think my friend Connie, my best friend since we were both 14, is the most courageous person I know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Writing Advice

Today I heard the very best writing advice I have ever heard. Now I have read countless writing books and dream achievement books. I have done writing exercises, and considered taking writing classes. I read several fellow writers blogs, including Tricia & Heather, and of course, the Writer Mama. I am even posting an answer to a blog question on the Writer Mama's site, hoping to win one of her writing book giveaways. (I recently won the Poetry Market 2008!!).

Today's blog question was "what is the best writing advice you could give other Writer Mamas?" The very first post was from a nice lady named Eliza, who stunned me with her simple advice. "Shut up and Get up". Wow. This sounds so much like something my blunt-speaking Aunt Alise would say. "Shut up and Get up".

Suddenly, I realized that I spend far too much time thinking about and reading about writing, and not enough time simply Writing! (and I spend far too much time simply watching TV!) Procrastination is the root of many disappointments in my life.

So, being a lover of a good quote, I now have a new one to motivate me. "Shut up and Get up." Get off that chair. Turn off the TV. Write. No complaints. Even if I have only 15 minutes, write. Get up earlier and write in the quiet of the morning.

And I am taking that advice right now. I was going to go watch tv after posting my answer to that blog. Instead, I headed straight here, and wrote this.

"Shut up and Get up"!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Perilous Shopping, or Why you don't take you teenager to the store

It is never a good idea to take your daughter to the store with you. Her age, nor the type of store does not matter. However good your list & budget planning are, with her alongside, you are destined to spend at least $20 more than you wanted to.

Yesterday, I picked up Cat, my 17 year old daughter, from high school, and took her to the grocery store with me. Armed with a carefully planned 2 week menu and a detailed grocery list, I began my shopping. I tried to distract her by keeping her busy sending her on forays throughout the store for her lunch and hair care items. It didn't work.

Whilst trying to choose a candle for a co-worker, she found me. After dropping her pomegranate scented body wash in the cart, she turned around and cried out "ooooooo'. Kneeling on the floor, she pawed through the shelf of new beanie babies. Frantically, I scanned my list, desparately looking for something, anything to send her to find. Too late. My teenage daughter sat cuddling a medium-sized brown puppy, with a look of instant love on her face. "Mom, he's all lonely. Can I take him home?"

Yep, you guessed it. Nuzzle, that sad faced brown beanie is currently keeping her company as she sits drawing on the couch. Hope he's inspiring her latest cartoon. Cat did her part though. When she choose her lunch items, she looked for things on sale, and got incredible bargins. And truthfully, the stuffed puppy didn't cost $20. (he was only $10.95). Still, no where on my grocery list did it say, fluffy friend.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Getting Lost

I have such a reputation for getting lost, that I rarely get asked for directions. When I am given directions, I am given multiple landmarks to watch for, and a phone number for When, not If, I get lost. I thank God for Goggle, Mapquest, and all the other online map websites. My mother can find a place using the directions written on the back of a crumpled napkin with a crayon, viewed in failing light. She has a great sense of direction.... Me, if I find myself at a cross roads, and know I have to choose left or right, I decide which my 'sense of direction' is showing me, then go in the opposite direction. :) My son once bought me a bumper sticker that read "Boldly Going Nowhere!". I proudly displayed it.

Why do I get lost? Often it is due to the difficulties of navigating whilst trying to drive solo. It's hard to read a map, steer a car, bop to the music, and watch for the occasion deer whom love to Leap out of nowhere and throw themselves in front of my car. Let's not even talk about the squirrels. I really need a bumper sticker that reads "I brake for Squirrels". I also get lost because of fear. Fear of getting completely lost, fear of ending up somewhere scary, fear of encountering car problems on some lone deserted back road. Fear. I envy my friend Ro, who travels with nary a map, just a pretty good idea of where she's going, and an attitude of enjoyment.

Getting lost is not always a terrible thing. In the course of getting lost, I have seen some amazing things...I have seen fawns grazing near their mother. Amish children at play. Beautiful old houses surrounded by carefully tended cottage gardens. I have also found road connections that latter helped me when I was traveling that way again.

There is a quote, "Not all who wander are lost" J.R.R. Tolkien. Fear motivates all of us too often. It is better to shake off that fear, remember that I have a Guide, my Father in Heaven, and confidently walk or drive down the paths laid before me. I will seek to enjoy the wandering when it happens.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

What would it be like to live confidently? To walk with shoulders thrown back, head held high? To take the attitude of a worthy lady, instead on a downtrodden servant? Can I live this way? I have spent so much of my life, hunched over, trudging along the path, expecting little, giving so much of myself, because I felt it was my 'place'. Do I have the courage to try to look up, to look into the eyes of my Maker, and to unfurl my wings, and take off into my potential?

Life is so much easier living as oppressed. It is easier to live within other's expectations, to keep my eyes on the ground before me. For so many years I have lived this way. Just walking along, doing what is expected of me. To value in myself only what I can give to others around me, to doubt they could even see me, beyond my service, to the woman within.

Then one dark and dismal day, as I sat mentally cataloging the various tasks before me, I listened to the excited chattering of others, making their plans for get togethers, to which I was not included. I suddenly found myself wondering if my only worth lay in serving. And I realized, that service tainted with self-effacement was not true service at all. It was only a form of self-betrayal. Following this thought, came the realization that my self-image, my very estimation of my own self-worth Can Not and Should Not be found outwardly. I was formed by a very creative Maker, for a specific purpose, whether that purpose be undiscovered as of yet. I was not made for mere trudging, but for flying, for soaring. This was a complete paradigm shift.

Now I am trying to change the way I live, to learn to live confidently. As scary as it is to try to live differently, to change my own attitude, I know that I cannot contiue as I have been. Slowly, with each choice I make, I am starting to flutter on untried wings. Some day soon, I will be soaring.