Another Empty Toilet Paper Roll!

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ― M. Scott Peck

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It is inevitable that at some point, everyone will find himself or herself comfortably seated and suddenly realize that the toilet paper roll is empty with no spare roll in sight. This situation has several solutions, although most of them are embarrassing to some degree. The worst solution, in my opinion, would be asking for help. “Um, can someone bring me a roll of toilet paper, please?”

If we are to believe M. Scott Peck, then this could be one of our finest moments. As my friend, Jan F. used to ask, “What is it I am supposed to learn from this?” One lesson may be to take more time in preparation and look next time. Another may be to have a spare roll hidden away for such an emergency. Perhaps, the “truer” lesson is learning to ask for help. (Oh, and forgive the seriously disturbed person who left the empty roll.)

This year has brought more than usual “empty toilet paper holders” to my life, and I have tried to look at each situation with an eye for a creative solution and what lesson might I learn. I will admit that this question is usually the last thing on my mind when something happens. My first reaction is pure crisis mode. I know this about myself, yet in those first moments of what I consider a crisis in my life, I panic. I decide the worst possible outcome to the problem; this is usually an exaggerated worst possible outcome. I internalize first, ask God why He wants to torture me this way, breakdown and talk to someone I trust, and then, and only then I go into solution mode.

Last Thursday  presented one more empty toilet paper roll in my life. I did not create the situation. In fact, I didn’t even know there was a situation. Someone else “left the toilet paper roll empty.”  It seems  all I can do is move into solution mode. This financial crisis took me totally by surprise, and it will be a challenge in my life for the next three months or so.

My mother was the one who taught me most about working in a solution mode. She overcame so many obstacles in her life, and with each one, she became more determined to overcome whatever may come her way. My mother was a unique character. Her solution sometimes included being a steamroller, yelling, cursing, and being a total b###ch!  She would agree with that statement and be proud of it.

I have been thinking about her a lot this weekend. Six years ago, she died suddenly and unexpectedly. While I don’t want to become like her in some ways, I hope I can be as strong as she was in overcoming life challenges. It was only in the end after fighting for so long that she gave up. She never learned to ask for help or to trust people who would help her with those life challenges. It has only been in the last twenty years that I have learned to trust and allow people into my life. I am blessed with family and friends, yet I struggle to ask for or accept help. I am working to step out of that rut and find a different way.

I imagine all of you closing your computer screen, walking by your bathroom and sneaking a look to be sure the toilet roll holder is full. You may even go and find some extra rolls to hide away. Just remember that is all else fails, you can always yell for help.

218062_1034694790696_1325238216_81030_4576_nClaudia Haber  October 12, 1935 -September 16, 2008

I Still Want a Donut!

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Last week I embarked on what seemed to be a rather innocuous journey, and I shared a post here about it. The challenge was to post a picture every day for 100 days of something that made you happy. I started well, but floundered around day four. In the eleven days since I accepted the challenge, I have posted only seven pictures, and truth is one of them was an old picture.

I tried to take pictures of things that made me happy, but soon came to the realization that not too many things really make me happy. Well, I meant to say things I could photograph, that is. Don’t misunderstand me; I have many things in life that make me happy, but I just couldn’t find a way to make it work in this challenge.

Of course, things like the beach, a beautiful sunrise or sunset, the color of fall leaves or spring flowers, spotting a deer in the woods, and more all bring happiness into my life. However, it is a bit of a drive to the beach or the woods, and I am often not in a place to photograph those other things on a daily basis.

Yet, what really makes me happy is sharing that experience with people in my life. I don’t have to physically share the experience, but I find such joy in sharing the story with a friend or family member. Even better is when the person with whom I choose to share the experience gets as much joy or excitement from it as I did.

I grew up as an only child in a home where talking, touching, and sharing life experiences were non-existent. I had very few friends and often felt alone. As an adult, I have come to cherish the people in my life. I sometimes share my experiences with the exuberance of a young child, bursting with excitement to tell my story. I imagine that I can be a bit overwhelming to those who know me best. However, they usually smile and say something encouraging.

I have decided that I am not going to continue with #100happydays challenge, but I am going to continue to look for things every day that bring happiness into my life. If something captures my attention, and I can take a picture, I will still share it on Instagram. Keep watching! The next picture you see may just be of a donut!

Refocusing or May I Have a Donut?

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I have been watching my friend Abby, from the infamous Abby Gabbs blog, posting pictures with the hashtag #100happydays. I wasn’t sure what it was about, but I loved the pictures. Today, Abby posted that she had completed the challenge, and I finally understood what it meant.

It is a very simply challenge- every day submit a picture of what made you happy! Post the picture to your Instagram or facebook and tag it. At first it seemed to be a rather Brady Bunch, Leave it to Beaver look at your life. Yet, the more I read, the more I realized that some days I only focus on the fear or the negative. Every day has something that brings happiness. Every day I can chose to be grateful for something.   I know this is pretty simple, and I know it won’t change the circumstances of daily living, but it might just change my attitude a bit.

The challenge says, “#100happyday challenge is for you – not for anyone else. It is not a happiness competition or a showing off contest. If you try to please / make others jealous via your pictures – you lose without even starting.

I decided to take the challenge. I won’t be posting to facebook every day, but my Instagram will be updated daily. I will post again in a couple of weeks, and let you know if my attitude has changed.  I hope I don’t have to buy too many donuts!

Off the Computer and Into the Streets?

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The past few months have been a time of questioning and feeling powerless.  It began when I read the story of 200 young girls in Nigeria who were kidnapped and held hostage.  A movement called #bringbackourgirls was started, and the internet exploded with people posting concerns, demanding action, and praying that the girls not be forgotten.  I quickly jumped on board.  I chose and committed to praying for not only all the girls, but for one young girl named Naomi.   I changed my profile picture on facebook to the logo for the movement.   I signed a petition  and tweeted about the girls.

Last week, I changed my profile picture back to my own picture.  As I did it,  sadness filled my heart knowing that we are approaching 100 days, and the girls are still being held captive.  Did all my efforts mean nothing?  Is it useless to try to effect change?   I hope not.  Yet, I wonder if it is enough.  Could I have done or do more? What would that look like?

I am thinking about the answer to questions like these as I take classes this summer.  In the first semester class, we watched  Half the Sky documentary about the lives of women and girls around the world who are abused, treated as slaves, sold as property, and mutilated.   We saw sex trafficking here in our own country, as well as around the world.   We discovered girls being denied access to education just because they are girls.  We also watched a documentary about the conditions of people  around the world living without proper sanitation or access to clean water.   We looked at poverty at home and globally.

This semester we are talking about social problems and solutions.  In one of our discussion posts, I wrote about the use of the internet and social media to effect change.  I know these movements bring issues to light and help unite people around a common cause, but are they enough?  My professor asked a difficult question, and I am trying to find an answer within myself.  She called using social media, etc.  “armchair activism”.   She asked “What do you think it might take to get people off the computer and into the streets?”.

It seems like a radical idea, doesn’t it?   Yet, isn’t that how change has taken place in our country since the beginning?  Please understand that I am not talking about violence or overthrowing the government, but I am talking about finding ways to have a voice that will make a difference.   Social media can have an impact; a study last year showed that people were more likely to vote if their friend’s post about voting.  Many people learn about politics and politicians on the internet.  Social media has been helpful in creating movements that do make a difference.

Take Molly Katchpole. She was 22, working two jobs, and struggling to make ends meet. When Bank of America announced a new $5/month banking fee, she thought it was unfair and decided to do something about it. She used Change.org to start a petition, shared the effort with her friends, and got 300,000 petition signatures, which pressured Bank of America to scrap plans to institute the fee.   http://techchange.org/2013/07/02/social-movements-and-social-media-spark-a-movement-change-the-world/

Let’s talk about voting.  Do you vote?  Do you know that America has one of the lowest percentages of voter turnout for countries that allow voting?  Among the 58% of people that did vote in the last election, how many actually took time to research and learn about those for whom they voted?    Do you know that according to the constitution the only requirements for running for the House of Representatives are being 25 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and live in the state they represent?  Of course, I understand that  you need to find backers with money, etc. in order to win.  Or do you?

I am asking questions because I want to do something.  I work in a field where I  talk with  so many people who are facing issues that are far too common in our country.   I look at statistics about our county or read stories in news, and  I hear people say, “That is so sad or so horrible. Why doesn’t someone do something?”  It reminds me of a couple of quotes that seem appropriate right now.

I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”    Lily Tomlin

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.” “Well, why don’t you ask Him?” “Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”   (Anonymous) -a quote from A Hole in the Gospel, by Richard Stearn, President of World Vision.

Do think it is important to do something about things going on in our world?  A student in my class said that he believed people either feel helpless or just don’t care.- Do you  feel helpless?   What do you think you can do to effect change?

 

 

Country Roads and Finding Home

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.     TS Eliot

Just one year ago, I wrote a post called Road Trip , where I talked about taking a car trip from South Carolina to a very small community called Flat Top, West Va.  It gets it name from level highlands upon which it is situated—the “flat top,” which follows the crest of “Great Flat Top Mountain”.   At the summit, it is 4001 feet above sea level.  All I can really remember is that there was a small country store/ gas station with “pop” as they call it there,  and snacks, etc.  close to my grandparents farm.  There was a small school house across the street, a few more farm homes, and another small country store that served as the post office.   I also remember cows and chickens, although I am sure there was more to it.

In my previous post, I explained that the trip each summer was to visit my brother who had been adopted by my paternal grandparents.  I was four when we were separated following my parents divorce.  I would travel with my grandmother every summer until I was sixteen to visit for a couple of weeks.   The first time I went to visit there was when I was eight years old.  The local paper came out to take a picture and report on the strange visitors from down South.   Here is that article:

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I remember pulling up to the house and feeling excited and scared all at the same time. I was told that I had been there to visit when my parents were married, but I was too young to remember that. Yet, I felt a strange sense of familiarity with the house and my brother. There was a connection there, which is hard to explain.

In my post last year, I ended with suggesting that my brother Mike and I make a road trip and visit Flat Top together in the coming year. He jumped on board quickly, and we decided to make it happen. Early this year, we talked with my brother Billy (my father’s son) and his wife Susan about the trip. After bouncing a few dates back and forth, we chose the last week in July for our adventure.

Let me digress for just a moment. My father remarried shortly after his divorce. He married a young woman who lived just down the road from his parent’s farm. He and his wife had five children together. I didn’t get to spend much time with them growing up, but my brother Billy and I have always had a strong connection. In fact, he is the only one of the kids to whom I am close. Just a couple of years ago, after his mother died, he and Susan bought the farm and live there full time. We will all be spending the week together. I am working many extra hours the next two weeks to be sure I can afford the gas to get there!

I am excited to visit my brothers and sister-in-laws, and I am excited to see the place I spent so many summers. I am also a bit anxious; memories might be stirred or maybe there will be triggers during this trip. We hope to find some other relatives or family friends who may help shed some light on some family questions. I want to enjoy the peace and beauty of the mountains, as well. Some new information I recently discovered is making me even more excited about seeing Flat Top. I have been searching for information about my father (he was adopted), grandparents, and other family. While helping my friend Jan with some research on her family, I discovered some great resources. One was a great website with old newspaper clippings. I found some newspapers from West Virginia that gave me some exciting information. Before my mother passed away, she explained that my name was Carolyn or Carol Lynn when I was born , and that I was called Lynn until my grandmother adopted me and changed my name.  I wrote about it in a post called “Will the Real Cathy Please Stand Up“.  I was also told that I was born in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital and then moved back home to Charleston, SC shortly after.

There were some newspaper stories about the Flat Top Farm Women’s club in some of the old newspapers. Several of these included the names of the women attending the meeting. I was shocked to see my mother’s name listed with “her daughter Lynn.” By putting the dates and names together, I discovered that after I was born, my mother went to live with my grandparents in Flap Top while my father was out to sea. We lived there until after my brother was born, moving to Charleston when I about two.

I believe this trip will be a journey home for me. In the quote at the beginning of the post, TS Eliot says that we “will arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. I don’t really know what I hope to find or gain from this journey to my first home, yet I believe it will hold more significance and meaning than I imagined when we planned this reunion. Maybe I will meet my little girl Lynn while I am there. I will surely give her a hug and tell her how very happy I am to know her.

What You Don’t Know Won’t Hurt You…

This summer I am taking Women’s Global Health and Human Rights at College of Charleston.   One of our big assignments was to create a YouTube video PSA.   Only after completing the video and posting it on the class site did I learn (finally read the rubric) that I had to get over 400 hits to get full points.

This is my first attempt at making a movie or a PSA so it is a bit rough around the edges.  Please be sure to click on the link and help me get 400 views!

Would love some feedback or ideas about how to make the next one better.  I already know that the audio on the videos wasn’t the best so that is something to work on!!

Thanks everyone!

 

Five Years of Blogging–Oh, I Mean Writing

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I wrote my first blog post in January of 2009.  I had no idea what I was doing, but I was determined to try it.  My son Teddy (blatant use of blog to endorse my son) had created a blog to have a web presence for his writing.  You check out his webpage and his author’s page on Amazon here.  He encouraged me to  start a webpage or blog since I had started writing again.   I created a website, Cathysvoice.com using Go Daddy and one of the options for pages was a blog.     I posted my first blog on the Go Daddy site but quickly discovered Blogger and made the move.

I only shared my blog with a handful of people at the time.  In fact, I kept some posts private, never sharing them with anyone.  It took over a year before I made my blog a public blog, however no one really knew it was there.   Many of my writer friends had started blogs and were using WordPress.  I made the change to WordPress in June of 2012.  I was getting braver in sharing my work.   In May of 2012, I decided to going BlogaThon and commit to writing a blog everyday that month.  I was officially hooked on blogging.

Today, I have almost 700 blog followers. and in the past two years, I have posted 211 blog posts. And no, I don’t assure that 700 people read every post.  I assume a 10% hit would be a good day.    I blog about everything from my weight loss/healthy living journey, to my recovery, to women who annoy me in bathrooms.   I have written passionately about stories in the news about abuse or injustices.  I have shared my joys, my triumphs, and my pain.   A friend once asked me if I wasn’t concerned about sharing so much in a public forum.   I assured him that I was no long concerned about that, after all, my blog is called Cathy’s Voice.

I have had the good fortune to meet some amazing people through blogging.  I connected with them through their posts and shared emails and facebook chats with them.  I attended a writer’s conference at Montreat and was pleasantly surprised to find one of my online blogging friends there.   I even have a new friend in Australia.

I am a part of several online blogging communities. One of the sites offers the opportunity for other writers to give feedback about writing style, grammar, and more.  There are often blogging challenges or the opportunity to share a blog post as a guest on another blog.

I often read debates questioning if blogging is really writing.  I found this quote recently that says it best,   “And it occurred to me that there is no such thing as blogging. There is no such thing as a blogger. Blogging is just writing — writing using a particularly efficient type of publishing technology.” (Simon Dumenco)

So, I will continue to write and share it in my blog, as well continue my other writing.  I want to thank all of you who have supported and encouraged me in my writing journey.   If you are a new reader or someone who has been following me for a while, I  thank you and hope you will keep reading!