Time marches on

Check out this beautiful blog written by my older brother. Proud of him for being able to express these feelings and super proud of my nephews and niece who are amazing human beings.

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If you would have told me five years ago that things would be as they are now, I would have scoffed.  Never would I have imagined the life changes that have occurred in the past two years. Sure, in the scheme of family life, the kids grow older, go to college, move away white time moves us along as they begin to move forward to form their lives and their futures. Some of those life changing events brought me to the darkest period of my life thus far. My kids mean the world to me, and not being around them much due to the inevitable “growing up” has been a tough adjustment for this recently divorced father.

Yesterday I had one of those moments where emotion takes you down fast.  Being the end of the semester, dad duties include picking up no longer needed furniture for the move back home for summer.  The boys and…

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Be your Best Friend: Advice to Myself

Today’s words of wisdom stem from a conversation with a dear friend and co-worker.  She is working hard on trying to improve herself and her situation so she asked me for my honest opinion on something.  She asked, “Will you give me 3 areas in my life you think I could improve on?”

The answers to this came way too easily.  You see, this girl is 10 years younger than me and is also a single mother.  We’ve been there for each other through a lot of stuff over the last couple of years.  She reminds me a lot of myself.  So I realized as I was typing these things, I wasn’t only speaking to her – I was speaking from my own experiences, what other wise people have taught me, and I was speaking to myself on the things I constantly need reminders of.

So today – here are 3 areas in life I think we could all improve on . . .

  1. Love yourself.  I know that we hear this a lot, but many of us have been taught that loving ourselves is selfish.  The issue is, we spend so much time trying to do for others, that we have nothing left to give.  We were given these bodies and these lives to TAKE CARE OF.  We have to meet our own basic needs if we want to reach our full potential and have the capability and energy to love others.

    So . . . GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK.  You have overcome so much in your life!  SO MUCH.  Maybe you had a horrible childhood.  Or maybe you survived the severe mental illness of a family member.  Maybe you survived a horrific accident and had to learn to live your life all over again.  Maybe you survived an unhealthy marriage or learned to move on after a betrayal.  Maybe you’re a single parent who struggles to make ends meet.  Everyone has a story and everyone has a struggle, whether they admit it to others or not.  The important thing to remember is – YOU ARE STILL HERE. You haven’t given up yet!

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    SO STOP BEING SO HARD ON YOURSELF.  You are making it.  You are making progress.  And your hard work and perseverance WILL PAY OFF in the long run.

  2. Learn how to “teach others how to treat you.”  Meaning, if you continue to allow people to treat you badly, they will continue to do it.  Set clear boundaries on how you are okay with being treated and what you will absolutely not allow.  And then let people know when they are doing a good job or when they are not.  This applies for families, friends, co-workers, and yes, even bosses, managers, superiors, etc.  We all need to be able to set personal boundaries in our lives.

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  3. Pay attention to your body and your emotions.  Notice when you start to feel stressed and prepare for it.  Preparation includes scheduling guilt-free alone time to pray, meditate, sleep – whatever you need to get through it.  (Don’t think you have time to meditate or just spend quiet time alone?  Check out this article on Pattern Interrupts.)

    Start a journal.  Even if it is as simple as writing down what you eat and what your emotions were that day – it is a step to learning more about yourself and what you need to survive.

    Another tip, especially if you’re an emotional eater like I am, always have a favorite healthy snack nearby to devour in times of need.

    The more you learn about yourself – the easier it will be to notice things and make the best choices for YOU.

I also wanted to share one final thing (okay, so actually it’s FOUR) that has been a huge help in my own personal growth.  I’m still working on each of these in my own life – but the second agreement was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done.  I dealt with so much fear and shame in my own life, all because of what I was afraid others thought of me.  (And I was probably making wrong ASSUMPTIONS anyway.)

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Click on the picture to learn more about The Four Agreements book.

So, Congratulations to everyone who is doing their best every day and making steps (no matter how small) to better themselves.  YOU’VE GOT THIS!

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Writing is in my Blood

I have known for a long time that I come from a long line of storytellers.  Writers, musicians, poets, thespians, and artists abound in my family tree.  However, I was unaware that my paternal grandmother was not only a brilliant seamstress and artist, but she was also an aspiring writer.

This week, a gift was shared with me by a cousin: folders of written pages by my Grandma when she was taking Composition classes at our local university a couple years after my Grandpa died suddenly of a heart attack.  I have so enjoyed getting to know my Grandma a little bit more (she died of cancer when I was in high school) through these yellowed handwritten (and a few typed on a TYPEWRITER) pages.  I thought it would be fun to share some of it here on this blog.

The following was written during an in-class free-writing exercise..  I am sure many of you will relate to her words as I did.

Why must I write this essay?

by Martha Williams

I am handed two sheets of clean white paper, along with the rest of the English composition class, and told to take my pen and free write for about twenty minutes.  The topic is on “The Persuasive Theme” and my mind is as blank as the paper before me.

Now, anyone who knows me will tell you I am an argumentative son-of-a-gun and will take sides at the drop of a hat, any side, both sides, up one side and down the middle.

The girl next to me who has been writing steadily, suddenly crumples up her paper and tosses it in the wastebasket and the class gets a laugh and I agree, out loud, that “that is how I feel, too.”

Surely in my head, that has been crammed with ideas and knowledge since childhood, there must be something I can write about with some intelligence, presenting one side clearly and yet showing the opposite side for reasonable doubt.  What does one do on the days when no sensible thought appears?

For two days, and longer, this essay has been on the edge of my mind.  I’ve known the whole semester that I would have to do it some day and I still am here, stymied, dumb, no thoughts at all in my head.

Would the teacher accept a note with the explanation that I just couldn’t think of a thing to write about?  No – I don’t think so.  She might be sympathetic, but since she’s passed this way before, she’d expect me to come up with something.  After all, she did it, didn’t she?

“The Zoo at Glen Miller Park is Shameful.”  Now there’s a really good subject and I can get into it with both feet.  I love animals, especially exotic ones; lions, tigers, peacocks, and all the little woods animals; the bear, the silly monkeys that look like members of my family tree; they are beautiful, cuddly, and soft.  Or are they?  Out at the Glen, they’re dirty and cross and smelly and evil looking and who wouldn’t be?  Now the other side of the argument – there isn’t one.  Well, scrap that idea.

My little friend in the next seat is going through a painful period of finding her worth in a world of people whom she thinks have everything while God has somehow passed her by.  I could write on that theme.  I certainly know a few things about that.  Some day she’ll learn that the pain she’s going through is her growth in body, mind, and spirit and she’ll recognize it and be thankful for it.  Her sorrow is only one of many kinds, but I can’t tell her that.  When you hurt, you hurt and no one else’s pain compares at all with yours.  She’s OK and she’s going to be better.  I don’t want to get into that subject anyhow.  I can solve my own problems and no one ever is popular who preaches one way or another on any phase of religion.  Who wants to be told, “just forget it, it’s happened before”?

It’s time to pass papers around for editing and ideas.  Good, that always helps and if I need anything at all today, I need help for this paper.

The first gal doesn’t really think I’m serious because I’ve been so silly today.  She is kind and laughs at my silliness, but the young man is trying to help and makes me a list of good reasons for why I should write a debating paper.  Bless them both.

Well why should I?  I’m working for credits for this course.  I have to earn them, no one’s going to say, poor little old lady, we’ll give her good grades as our good deed for today.  At least I hope no one is going to do that!  And then, even with earned credits, I’ll be a freshman for thirty years at the rate I’m going.  As kind as the good Lord has been to me, I don’t think He’ll be that patient.  So why do I work so hard?

Well, what if I do have time to earn a B.A. degree; to take all the subjects I’ve yearned with all my heart to take for 42 years?  To fill my self with the knowledge that this little gal has got a lot on the ball after all these years?  Wouldn’t I crow?  From the top of the highest tree I would!

So I’d better stop foolin’ around and get busy.

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written sometime around 1980 for Composition I at Indiana University East

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I was so touched to know that my Grandma would be proud of me.  Although she never got to finish her B.A. degree, I did; and now I know that when I was handed that diploma from Indiana University East 25 years later, she was smiling down on me.

 

 

 

 

When Random Acts Find You

Can you believe we are just ONE MONTH away from Christmas?  I have not started my Christmas shopping yet.  But I’m not stressing about it.  I have learned that the holidays are more about spending time together and making memories and not buying expensive gifts.

We are also 17 days away from my 40th birthday.  I spoke on several other blogs about my wish for this birthday and having at least 40 random acts of kindness performed and helping make the world a better place.  A few people have already started doing this and have given great creative ideas for paying it forward to others.

I wanted to write this post to reiterate that you do not have to PLAN random acts.  All you have to do is keep your eyes and your heart open to those around you, and opportunities will present themselves to you.  This happened to me the other evening at Meijer.

My youngest daughter takes forever in the bathroom.  I know she will kill me if she sees this someday but SORRY – YOU DO!  As we were checking out, she said “I have to go use the bathroom.”  I groaned internally, wishing she had decided 10 minutes earlier that she should go.  My son and I finished checking out and then went to stand by the door and the restroom to wait.

An elderly woman with snow-white hair and piercing blue eyes was also waiting in the mobile cart, her basket filled with groceries.  She looked at me and asked if I knew what time it was.  She was very soft-spoken and looked a bit timid, but something about her reminded me of my beloved Grandma whom I miss so much this time of year.  I pulled out my phone and told her the time.  Her expression changed as she said “Oh, I will be waiting here a long time.”

I know of times when my car was broken and I had to rely on others to get to where I needed to go – and it isn’t fun to lose your independence.  I felt for her.  So I asked her if she needed to call someone and I let her use my phone to call her son who said he would come get her right then.  When she handed me back my phone, the sparkle had returned to her eyes and she thanked me.  My daughter had already emerged from the bathroom by this time and she and her brother had taken our groceries to the car.

I wished her Merry Christmas and hurried out to my car, tears running down my cheeks.  I could have continued to be irritated at my daughter being slower than molasses, but I chose to just look up for a second and the opportunity to help someone was right in front of me.  It changed my attitude for the rest of the evening.  It wasn’t a big elaborate gesture – it was just doing what we should and looking out for our fellow human beings.  Loving people in whatever ways we can.  That is how we can turn this world around.

I hope you will join my 40th birthday celebration on December 13th.
Let’s change the world one Random Act of Kindness at a time.

 – Izzy

Ripped Apart

“According to Greek mythology,
humans were originally created with four arms,
four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power,
Zeus split them into two separate parts,
condemning them to spend their lives
in search of their other halves.”
– Plato, The Symposium

We are coming up on the 4th anniversary of what my little family calls “Bravery Day”. The day where three children decided to stand up for our family and tell the truth no matter what the cost and I, as their mother, had to make a decision that would affect every part of our lives from that point forward.

I was raised in the church.  When I was younger, “Divorce” was the hot-button topic in churches.  There were always whispers and gossip about people who had affairs or got divorced and how they were going against God.  There are still people today, no matter the circumstance that triggered a couple getting divorced, that will treat a divorced person as if they are a lesser human being, someone who is tainted by sin and someone to be looked down upon.  This is one reason why it was very difficult for me to give up on my marriage of 10 years and the family we had created.  I felt like I was doing something wrong, even though I knew at that point, it was my only option.  Little did I know that divorce should be a last resort, not because of what people thought, but because of how it affects someone going through it.

Malachi 3:16 says that “God hates divorce.”  I now believe that is completely true. Not because it is something “Christians” should look down upon, but because it wrecks the people going through it and the God I believe in would not want anyone to hurt this badly. When people marry, the “two become one flesh” in the eyes of their God, their family and friends.  They live their lives together as one – and then when divorce happens – it rips that consecrated union back into two again.  Neither of the people involved get everything back the way it was when they entered into that union.  Nothing is ever the same.  It HURTS; physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially . . . it just plain SUCKS.  Four years later, some of the wounds caused by my divorce have not completely healed.  They may never heal completely.

The first couple of years after I made that big decision were filled with every emotion possible.  Never before (and I hope never again) have I felt so many warring emotions at one time.  I would go from desperately sad to so angry, I wanted to hurt someone.  I am not an angry person – but I became one during those transitional years.  There were nights that I honestly felt like my insides had been ripped apart, and my emotions were bleeding all over the floor and no amount of medicine, hugs, therapy, or rocky road ice cream could make the pain stop.  There were those friends and family members who wanted to help, but didn’t know how.  They would tell me we were better off, that I needed to pick myself up and move on, that things would be better now . . . but that isn’t what I wanted, or needed to hear.  I needed to mourn the loss of every single part of my life.  Nothing would ever be the same again.

Luckily, there were a few friends who didn’t know what to say, so they didn’t say anything.  They were just THERE.  They listened.  They got me tissues when I couldn’t stop crying, and fed me and my kids when I could barely get out of bed. They felt angry and sad and scared with me, but they didn’t try to tell me when it would get better or when I needed to “get over it”.  If it were not for those friends, I know that I wouldn’t be here today writing this post.

It is sad that I know so many people my age who have gone through something like this, or are going through it now.  I see friends or family members, and I recognize the look on their faces, the way that they walk, and the mixture of sadness and shame in their eyes.  If you are one of those people right now, I want to tell you something:

  • No matter what caused you to be in this situation – I am sorry you are going through it.  I know that it hurts, probably worse than you ever imagined it could.
  • Seek out those friends and family members that you know will love you no matter what and tell them you just need them to listen and to love you.
  • No one else needs to try and fix it – because no one can.
  • No one but you can determine how long it will take to heal.
  • No one but you can determine when or even if you’ll ever be ready to try again with someone new.
  • Take time to remember and learn from the experience.
  • Just keep putting one foot in front of the other; ask for help when you need it and hide under the covers and cry when you need it.
  • There may be times when you use food, wine, or other vices to attempt to drown your sorrows and that is okay.  Just don’t make it a habit because taking away the ache for a few hours will not heal the source of that pain any faster.
  • Gather your support system and don’t pay attention to those who think they know better than you.  You just get through it however you can.

“There is nothing that can take the pain away.
But eventually, you will find a way to live with it.
There will be nightmares.
And everyday when you wake up, it will be the first thing you think about.
Until one day, it’s the second.”

And one day you look back, realize it is four years later and the sun is still coming up in the morning and setting at night and you’re finally able to appreciate the beauty of it again.

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Full Disclosure

I try my best to be as positive as I can be. I know that the more negative I am, the more negative things become in my life.  And wallowing in self-pity has never done me much good, although I admit – sometimes I wallow because I’m exhausted and need a good cry (and a pint of ice cream).

1024990777784. . . today would have been my 14th wedding anniversary.  I was raised to believe that marriage is forever.  ‘Til death do us part.  My former husband and I said that we would do whatever it took to work things out when things got rough.  But there were things that I never counted on or even imagined would ever happen in my relationship with this man that I gave my heart and soul to.  I mentioned in my first blog post that I’ve learned something very important . . . “Hurt people hurt people.”  I knew when I chose to marry this man that he had many unhealed hurts in his life – and so did I.  But I believed we could work through them together.

Three years into our marriage, we decided to adopt.  And we brought three more hurting hearts into the equation.  The difference was – these children weren’t old enough to deal with their emotions or start healing their hurts alone.  They needed us to model it for them.  And instead of all healing together – hidden hurts caused more hurts and chaos and pain that just wouldn’t stop.

No one understands the confusion that foster and adoptive children go through trying to figure out who they are, except those children.  We try our best to understand it and love away the hurt – but no matter what government and adoption agencies try to tell you . . . love is amazing and helpful and absolutely needed – but it is NOT ENOUGH.  I truly believed that I could love the hurt away in my children and in my husband – but I couldn’t – and it sucked everything out of me until things got bad enough that I had to choose to protect those who were unable to protect themselves.

It has been almost 4 years since I made that difficult decision.  And we still struggle every day.  My children struggle with feelings they don’t understand – feelings for their father, for me, their siblings, their biological parents, other family, their friends, and themselves.  Some days – we are just thankful to have made it through another day.  Some days – we don’t want to try again tomorrow.  Some days we are disappointed in each other for not trying hard enough.  And some days – we just exist.  But every now and then – we have a day like we had last weekend.  The four of us enjoyed being together and doing nothing but giggling, laughing and driving around the countryside listening to the radio.  I wish I could be super positive and tell you that this happens often – but truthfully, it doesn’t.  And it is hard.

But as I’m feeling a bit sad and even angry on this date that should be something I’m happily celebrating – I cannot regret the relationship that brought these children into my life.  They teach me something about myself every single day.  Some things I didn’t want to admit to myself, but they have given me no choice.  We all have to deal with the darkest parts of ourselves as we struggle to survive.  And I will continue to believe that one day – they will be able to learn from me being their Mom and replicate the good things I do and avoid the mistakes that I’ve made.  I believe in them.  And most days, they believe in me.  And that’s enough to keep fighting one more day.

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Favorite Memories: My 18th Birthday

Now that I’m only 5 months away from 40, I have spent some time lately thinking about some of the memories in my life that stand out to me.  Why do I remember certain details and not others?  Just the other day my Dad was telling me a story and I didn’t remember it at all.  That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen – it is just that it was something my brain must have decided it didn’t have room to store.

Neuroscientist David Eagleman writes “Your brain is built of cells called neurons and glia—hundreds of billions of them. Each one of these cells is as complicated as a city. And each one contains the entire human genome and traffics billions of molecules in intricate economies. Each cell sends electrical pulses to other cells, up to hundreds of times per second. If you represented each of these trillions and trillions of pulses in your brain by a single photon of light, the combined output would be blinding.

The cells are connected to one another in a network of such staggering complexity that it bankrupts human language and necessities new strains of mathematics. A typical neuron makes about ten thousand connections to neighboring neurons. Given the billions of neurons, this means there are as many connections in a single cubic centimeter of brain tissue as there are stars in the Milky Way Galaxy.” – from Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

Our brains are fascinating, complex, and obviously very busy all the time (which could explain my recurring issue with insomnia . . .).  However, there are certain memories that come back that I’m appreciative my brain decided to store, so I could glean what I can from them in my journey to being the best me that I can be.  One of these memories is my 18th birthday.

I don’t remember a lot of the actual day; it was my senior year and we had a Music Department Christmas Concert that night.  I sang an Amy Grant song at the concert called “Grown-Up Christmas List” which felt very profound to me on the brink of adulthood.  After the concert, I had invited my closest friends over to the house for cake – but there was one specific thing I asked for:  my own private “concert”.

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Izzy and Uncle Steve 1989-ish

I am fortunate to have been born into a very musical and creative family.  My Auntie Linda also married a very talented musician and they lived just around the corner from me growing up.  So many times when asked to sing a special at church, I’d be unable to find the song I wanted to sing on an accompaniment TAPE (yep, I’m old), so I’d go see Uncle Steve and he’d learn it on the guitar and play for me.  We’d practice it several times and then sing it the next day.  Probably wasn’t a good thing to procrastinate, but those were some of my favorite specials.  Live music always seemed so much more authentic to me.

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Mr. Kays and Izzy – “Rocky Top” – NHS Talent Show 1994

Along with my family, I have had some absolutely amazing music teachers.  My senior year, that teacher was Mr. Mark Kays.  Mr. Kays did more than teach us music.  He taught us history and theory and how music changes lives.  He allowed us to be creative and helped us follow our dreams.  A small group of my friends (our island of misfit toys) often stayed after school just to talk with and learn from Mr. Kays.  And like my Uncle Steve, Mr. Kays was a fabulous musician who could play multiple instruments.  I had the privilege of Mr. Kays accompanying me on guitar for our Choir’s Dinner Theatre and also in a talent show where he played banjo and I ::gasp:: did a clogging routine.  But back to my birthday . . .

I asked Mr. Kays and Uncle Steve to come to my birthday party and bring their guitars.  And that night, after cake and ice cream, we sat in our dining/music/computer room and just played and sang music.  They played Dueling Banjos and Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind”.  And in the moment, I was so content to just sit and listen and sometimes sing along with these God-given talents.  I didn’t go into adulthood with the cliché trip to buy cigarettes or lottery tickets.  I rang in adulthood with music and creativity and love.  And these three things are what I hope to carry into my forties.

I’ll end this post with a musical thank you to Uncle Steve Mathews and Mr. Mark Kays.  Thank you for the music.