“Happy old age” was always an enigma. I didn’t know any “old people” who seemed happy. Bitterness, anger, and loneliness seemed to be the destiny for anyone that lived past fifty. I will admit that perhaps my vision was a bit skewed.
From the time I was four, I lived with my grandparents and my great grandmother. Vacations each summer were spent with another set of grandparents. Each of them was miserable in their own way. None of them showed any signs of a happy old age.
When I think about each of them, I remember the frowns and downward pointed eyebrows. None of them had that sparkle of joy or peace in their eyes. Their voices were dull and mean. Yes, that is the word I needed to find-mean. Perhaps all of that anger, bitterness and loneliness had poisoned their spirit to the point that their words and actions spewed meanness.
This seemed to be such a contradiction since all of them (except my grandfather) talked about loving God and hoping for the glorious day when they would see Jesus in Heaven. My grandfather was a drunk, so his meanness came straight from a bottle. Grandmother took me to church every Sunday morning and then again on Sunday evening. When I was younger, she would take me with her to her church group “circle” meetings. The old women sat in a circle and talked about a Bible verse of two for a while, and then went directly into bashing anyone not there, as well as other church folks. Time for refreshments meant time to discuss the terrible state of the world, the disappointing youth of today, and to ask the host for the recipe of the treat of the day. Of course, they chatted amongst themselves as they left about “those treats she made” and the recipe was thrown out at home.
At church I heard sermons from an amazing pastor about God and his love for us, but at home Grandmother told the story of a different God. Her God was vindictive and just about as mean as she was. God was clearly judgmental, and perfection was required for His love. I never measured to the standard my Grandmother set for God to love me. He was just another grey haired, white bearded, crotchety, mean old man in my mind. When I was in my late 30’s I left the church, and after 25 years I felt drawn to return. I attended a variety of churches and denominations looking for a place to call a church home. One Sunday, I was looking for a church and “accidentally” found a different one. It was the farthest thing from anything I would ever have considered, yet it was where I was supposed to be-for many reasons.
The congregation is an older one with some of the most beautiful grey haired, faces with wrinkles, older women you will ever meet. I come complete with tattoos and ever-changing hair styles and colors, and they have accepted me without question. Many of them have been friends for years, and they truly love and cherish each other. The ages range from 70 to well over 90. Every Sunday and often at Wednesday prayer lunch, I look forward to seeing these special women. Their faces show wrinkles and eyes are often clouded by cataracts. They may have to use a cane or walker. Yet, all I see are sparkling eyes and beautiful smiles. I listen as they willingly share stories of the church, their childhood, marriages, families, and more. Laughter often accompanies their stories. When one is sick or has to be away, you can feel the sadness from the others. These women all love God and Jesus, but they don’t have to tell you that. You can see it in the love they have for each other, their church, their lives, and the way they welcome anyone who enters the doors of the church. I can clearly see the God of love that the pastor of my youth shared with us.
I used to be afraid of growing old. I worried that I would become a bitter, angry, lonely old woman just like my mother and grandmothers. I’m not afraid any more, in fact, I look forward to watching my children, my grandchildren, and yes, even my great-grandchildren as they grow and change. I have some very special friendships that I cherish and plan to take them with me as I journey towards old age. My prayer is that I may be just as precious and joyful as the women at my church.
Although I may be inconsistent in posting on my blog at times, I traditionally post on New Years, March 7th, my birthday (both belly button and recovery), Thanksgiving and Christmas. Remembering the past year, I am reminded to “be careful what I ask for”, because 2013 brought many lessons about trust. As I began this post, I read the post for New Year’s 2013. This is what I wrote:
A blog challenge for 2013 is to find one word to focus on through the coming year and incorporate that into your writing. I have several words that seem appropriate, but the one word that keeps coming through is trust. It isn’t something that comes naturally for me. I learned a tremendous amount about trust in 2012; some of it bad, yet much of it good. I am going to embrace the challenge and put trust into my daily life- trust in God, my friends, my family and in myself. I survived the end of the world in 2012, so welcome 2013. Let’s see what you have in store!
I began the year trying to recover from the flu, and in spite of getting the flu shot, it was my Christmas day gift. For the next few months, I would battle one round of bronchitis after the other. Breathing treatments, antibiotics, injected and oral steroids became constant companions. I would battle each round coming ever so close to victory, only to find myself pushed back into a corner once again. In May, only two days before I was to take my grandson to the live auditions for X-Factor complete with Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato, I was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.
All of these battles with bronchitis occurred as I prepared to begin my lifelong dream of going to college. I stepped onto the College of Charleston campus in early January not sure if I would be able to survive as a college student. I can now tell you that I not only have survived, but I have done well. I have enough credits to apply as a degree student instead of a “non-traditional” student and I am only a few credits away from being a sophomore. Did I mention that I have a 3.82 GPA?
Being sick for so long took a financial toll since I wasn’t able to work during that time. The cost of COBRA for me to keep my insurance was over $500 a month, and I still had deductibles and copays. In October, the biggest financial hit came when my car blew the transmission. Being without a car for close to two months was devastating, but I managed to finish school for the semester and keep my part time job.
As summer approached, I was healthy again and was able to start a new fitness program. It was another step in learning some great ways to exercise without a gym, and it was a thought-provoking experience in learning balance. I was reminded that fitness goals and healthy living are a work in progress, not something to achieve overnight.
I managed a couple of very short trips this year. Jan, Anna, and I took a day trip to Savannah. We laughed, talked, shopped, discovered “Your Pie Pizza”, and walked all around Savannah even though it was still a bit cool that day, and had a great day. I had to take a trip, have an adventure, and see a play for my three of my classes, so a short weekend trip with Ginger, Sassy, and Jerome made getting an A on all three papers easy. Jan and I continued to have Friday adventures including doing some genealogical research, climbing an old haunted staircase in a house that was built in early 1800, and visiting a couple of library archives. We did manage to find some great food along the way, as well.
So, what does all this have to do with trust? If you look at most of last year, you may begin to see that I wasn’t able to do things for other people the way I usually do. Money, health, and time took away my ability to take care of others and do things for the people in my life. All that was left for me to give was myself. I have always been sure that “I” was not enough. Last year, I had to trust my friends and my family with my vulnerability. Every time they stayed by my side, supported me, bought me lunch, visited me, called me to make sure I was OK, took me where I needed to go, went beyond everything I expected, I thanked God for showing me what trust and love are really about.
I didn’t learn to trust anyone as a child. I didn’t understand love until I had children of my own. I did not trust God, and I was not convinced that God would or could love me. I do not believe God sends catastrophes, broken cars, financial problems, etc. into my life, but I do believe God has used all of these things to help me learn about love and trust. God continues to be patient and understanding with me.
I do not think I am going to choose a theme for 2014, but I will be writing to tell you about my year. I will give you one sneak peak at the upcoming year. The “three stooges” (we must think of a better name) are going to see JILLIAN!
I hope you all have a blessed and wonderful New Year!
What does Luke Bryan have to do with “Must Be Present To Win?” Those who know me won’t be surprised when I explain. This post is obviously about winning. Jan and I were in the car the other day and I mentioned that I was really getting tired of the song, “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner.”
“I don’t think I know that song? Who sings it?’ I was confused by her response since she is a county music fan and knows all the current songs.
I tried to sing a piece, but she still had no idea about the song. I decided to Google it and let her listen to the chorus, so that she would be terribly embarrassed when she realized she knew the song. I found it and played the snippet of the song I found. I then discovered that the song is That’s My Kind of Night by Luke Bryan. Here are the lyrics:
‘Floatin’ down the Flint River/catch us up a little catfish dinner/gonna sound like a winner, winner.” So, I had it almost right. And, she did know the song, of course. I still haven’t lived that one down.
On a more serious note, two years ago I attended a day conference here in Charleston presented by Google. As a surprise, they donated two newly released Samsung Galaxy Android Tablets. The first was given away at noon and the second at the closing session of the day. I had an appointment that couldn’t be changed, so I left just as the last half hour of the session started.
When I left my appointment I had several text messages and a couple of phone calls telling me that my name had been drawn to win the tablet. HOWEVER, YOU MUST BE PRESENT TO WIN! As you can see, I am not over it still.
You may know that it has been a rough few weeks. Several things are going on, but primarily I am struggling because my car died. Living in Charleston (very little public transportation), tying to go to school and work, and do all the other things I do is now a true challenge. I have cried, screamed, and prayed a lot- trust me!
Yesterday, I received a call from the local pharmacy where I fill my prescriptions. They announced that there had a been a drawing from all the people who used the online refill email last month, and I was the winner. My prize is two tickets valued at $20.00 each to a trolley tour around Summerville on what is known as the Sweet Tea Trail. While it isn’t a Samsung Tablet, I did win. As odd as it many sound, that phone call changed my mood. I didn’t do anything to earn this prize nor do I really deserve it. I won simply because I did what I needed to do.
I began to think that life is like winning both of those prizes-you must be present to win. If I choose to withdraw and be miserable or simply focus on the negative because I don’t have a car…or money…or my own home…you get the idea, then I lose. I can’t enjoy those things that make life worth living…family…friends…laughter…you get the idea.
Being present simply means getting out of bed each day, doing the next right thing, being part of the lives of the people I love, laughing out loud, acting like a kid, working, going to school, helping where and when I can, having faith that God is present in my life no matter what the circumstances, and praying. Some days I am going to be more present than others; we all have those days when we need to retreat and regroup. We might even need to cry sometimes. A friend told me that everyone has a bad day; you just don’t want it turn into bad weeks and months.
Today, I have been present. I got up early because I didn’t sleep well, but used the extra time to get a few things done. I went to school with all of my assignments for the day complete. I met my friends for lunch. We talked and laughed and just enjoyed hanging out. Right now I am supposed to be working on ten short summaries of essays for one class and critiquing three stories for another. Instead, I decided to write this blog post, first. (Please don’t tell on me!) I doubt I will have chicken or catfish for supper today, but all in all, I would say I was a winner.
I saw this picture/statement on a facebook post from an organization that works with families and individuals facing challenges of mental illness. Often, we read these simple statements, smile and say, “Oh, isn’t that sweet,” without really thinking about the message. What I read in this statement is, “Suffer in silence, don’t ask for help, and God forbid, don’t tell anyone!”
I was raised with that philosophy. Tears and fears indicated lack of faith in God. Accepting help was a sign of weakness and asking for help was a sign of a failure. Accepting help made you a slave to the one who gave the help. In my family, there were definitely strings attached to accepting help and in some cases ropes or chains.
Fighting battles no one knows about was a way of life as a child. I learned to cry in private or not cry at all. I learned that God didn’t like little girls who were afraid. Adults who abuse children make sure the children don’t tell anyone or ask for help. Depression, anxiety, fear were all from the devil, so there was no help other than perfect obedience and faith. Seeking mental health help was admitting that your faith was weak.
I grew up strong…according to the definition in the quote here. I learned to always put myself last. I almost died because I was so strong. I was 35 years old before I learned to ask for help. Walking into a room of people when you are disheveled, hung over, and smelling like alcohol (not because you were drinking right then, but the smell coming from your pores and breath), and looking at people through squinted red eyes makes it difficult not to ask for help. Yet, I didn’t ask for help or want help from anyone. A wonderful therapist and 12 step programs taught me to ask and accept help. I am 62 now and still find asking or accepting help a challenge.
I also know that friends and family who love and care about you want to help. It gives them joy and pleasure. When I offer help to someone, I get so much from the experience. At the same time, when I offer help to someone and they refuse it, I feel as if they don’t trust me or feel connected enough to accept what I offer. When I don’t ask for help or refuse to accept help, I do that same thing to others.
PAUSE…I was going to go into a rather lengthy theological and philosophical discussion, however, I think I will leave that to the philosophers and preachers.
The past year has put me in a place where I have needed help. At times, I reached out and asked for it and in other cases, it was offered without petition. It is still a challenge to admit that I need help sometimes. Pride and ego are powerful adversaries. I am a work in progress. I do not want to “smile through the pain, cry all alone, and fight in silence.” I don’t want to be “strong” any more.
“Mom, this came in the mail. A real card, in an envelope, in the mailbox!”
No one in our family or circle of friends does that anymore. Occasionally we buy a an honest to goodness, hold in your hand, made of recycled paper card, but more often than not, we send an online card, post happy birthday wishes on facebook, send a text message, or if they are special enough, we will call and talk to them. The card was from my daughter’s aunt, who lives in our town. However, she chose to mail it. She knew my daughter would not receive the card in the mail from her Grandmother that year. She passed away only months before my daughter’s birthday.
I remember watching the mailbox every year for birthday or other special holiday cards. I loved seeing the cards, but more importantly, the accompanying note or letter from the person sending the card. Over the years, I have saved letters or special cards from family and friends. I pull them out from time to time, remembering the people and events of my life. I lost an entire box cards and letters when I moved from Nevada, but I managed to save one small box. I have added to the collection over the past 16 years, but I rarely receive cards or letters anymore.
I have been helping my friend Jan with searching for stories about her ancestors. We have been to historical archives, libraries, and old houses in our search. In online programs for recording family trees and genealogy as well as in archives, letters have been an amazing source of family history. I love reading about the people and their lives. Letters have been part of our history since there was pen and paper. We would be missing a great deal of our New Testament in the Bible were it not for letters. Novels and poetry books are about or taken from letters. We had songs growing up about letters. “Take a Letter Maria”, “Please Mr. Postman”, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (a Letter From Camp)”, “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”, and more. Of course, we can’t forget the yearly letter to Santa.
I pulled out some of my letters this morning and as I read the words of encouragement and support from my friend who passed away five years ago, I felt her presence and smiled. I read about her fear when the Beltway Sniper shootings were happening in the Baltimore/DC in 2002. I laughed as I read the things she shared about her family and friends. I still have copies of the letters from my mother when she left my father, my brother, and me. The words helped me understand her and the decisions she made at that time in her life. Another letter she sent much later explains more about her life.
I love being able to keep up with friends and family, who are spread across the country, on social media. Of course, we can always call and talk but it seems that we are often doing other things while we talk. Writing letters requires time and attention. When I sit down to write a letter, I am focused on that person for the time I am writing. When I read a letter I am connected to someone in a different way than any other. I miss cards and letters.
No, I am not a postal employee trying to encourage you to buy more stamps. I am challenging myself and all of you to write a letter or card to someone special. In fact, why not pick several people and write one card or letter each week for the next few weeks. I have a feeling that once we start, we won’t want to stop. Once you do, write a blog post about it. Let’s save an empty mailbox today.
I found this old post from my Blogger days. It was one of the first from the Losing It Series. Thought I would share this since it is no longer on my active site. I may pull some more posts from that series in the coming weeks.
I found the miracle cure for weight loss. I found it on the internet, of course. It is called the Tapeworm Diet. I am not kidding. There is a Tapeworm Diet; and yes, it involves a real Tapeworm. Here is the information I found about this “diet”:
“So what does a tapeworm in your gut actually do? It secretes proteins in our intestinal tract that make our digestion of food much less efficient. A less efficient digestive systems means that you can consume more calories through your food since your “body guest” is also noshing on them for his own growth purposes. Some scientists estimate that those infected with a single tapeworm can lose up to one or two pounds each week.”
Extreme? Maybe, but is it anymore extreme than allowing a surgeon to place a big rubber band around your stomach or cut out part of your intestine? What about giving up sugar and carbs totally? We could say it is easier than running triathlons, jogging for miles everyday, or spending your life and fortune in a gym.
Let’s look at those people on the Biggest Loser reality TV show. They leave their life, families, and jobs to go and live in a big house with strangers. They show off their layers of fat being pushed up by tight spandex to the entire TV viewing world. Don’t forget that they are beaten to death by two obsessed trainers.
I wonder if any of you reading this understand how desperate many of us are to lose weight and change our lives. We have bad knees, bad backs, high blood pressure, diabetes, and many other health issues caused by weight. We look at the clothing in our favorite store and then have to go to the “other” stores that sell fat clothes. Oh, wait, sorry, I meant Plus Size. I dream of the day I can fit into a size 16, while normal weight friends are mortified it they hit a size 14.
Many of us have tried the most popular solutions that have passed our way-Atkins, Sugar Busters, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, diet pills, Jazzercise, Aerobics, and more. I have even been looking online for “fat camps or fat rehabs.” They do exist, but not in my price range. One week at a well known “weight loss spa resort” in Hilton Head costs $3400 for a 10 day stay. They recommend 21 days at a special rate of $6900. The truth is that I would gladly pay that and more if it would work.
If you are scratching your head and thinking, what about good old fashion calorie counting and exercise, you are not alone. Sure it works. Absolutely. The problem is maintaining that for a lifetime. I will write more about the “cravings’, the obsession”, the inability to stop once you start in another blog post. I can’t eat ONE doughnut. I can’t even imagine why someone would eat just one. I often wonder why they make little bags for one or two doughnuts at Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme? One dozen is more realistic.
OK-enough for today. Thanks for reading and following along with me on this journey.
I watched as Nik Wallenda walked on a 2-inch-thick steel cable, 1,500 feet above the river on the Navajo Nation near the Grand Canyon without a harness or a safety net. I can’t count how many times I held my breath when the wind blew or he would seem unsure of the next steps. My friend and I texted as we watched, wondering how much longer it would until he would reach safety on the other side. The faces of those on either side of the tightrope were filled with apprehension and concern. While viewers watched around the world, many questioned his reasoning for taking on something so dangerous without the aid of some type of safety device.
I think most of us have felt that we were walking a “tightrope” at some point in our lives. That’s where I am right now. One year ago, in July, I took those first steps out onto my tightrope. I walked out in full confidence that I was prepared in every way for the journey. I believed this was the path I was supposed to take. I had a harness and a safety net in place. I was afraid, but most things in life don’t come without some risk and willingness to follow an unknown path.
The thing is, once you are out on that rope, looking back can cause you to falter or even fall. You have to focus on each step and keep moving toward safety on the other side. When I stepped out, I couldn’t really see the other side. I just knew I couldn’t stay on the edge of the cliff any longer. Somewhere along the way, I lost my harness and my safety net. I am out in the middle of the tightrope today, and I still can’t see the other side. Things I had planned didn’t go the way I believed they would go. John Lennon’s song says, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
The part time job I counted on fell through and a second part time job did the same. Several months of being ill ended in a short visit to the hospital. Medical costs, paying for COBRA (health insurance), unexpected bills and car repairs depleted the savings that would take me until mid October when I would begin collecting Social Security Retirement. For the first time in more years than I can count, I am without health insurance. Safety net and harness are gone.
This morning I had the oil changed in my car. The service person came out to tell me that my windshield wipers were separating and I needed new ones. They would be happy to replace them for me. I asked how much it would cost. He shrugged and said, “Not very much at all. It would only be about $30.” I forced a smile and explained that I couldn’t afford that right now. I stopped at the grocery store and spent a long time trying to decide what I could afford to buy today. I am trying to eat healthy foods, but Twinkies and canned foods loaded with sodium are much less expensive. A friend invited me to meet them at the water park today. I had to say no. I came home and tried to figure out how to budget for the rest of the month since I have car taxes and a parking ticket to pay. Just as a sideline, the parking ticket was very unjust but that will be another blog post. I wonder if I will be able to afford my books when college classes start back mid-August.
Long ago, I promised myself that I would never be in a place like this again. My friend JanF. was filled with wonderful saying. She would remind me to “never say never because if you do, life will surely teach you a lesson about that. ” Much like Nik Wallenda, I have people in my life who question my decision to step out on the tightrope. They are the ones who believe I won’t make it to the other side and they are waiting to be able to say, “We told you so. ” Like Nik Wallenda, I pray and believe that God is going to protect me and be with me throughout the journey. And like Nik Wallenda, people ask, “How can you ask God to help you when you put yourself out on the tightrope?”
I sometimes say the same things to myself. Yet, I am very grateful to now have a job. It is part-time with no benefits (at least for now), but it is helping me maneuver this tightrope. I am blessed to have family and friends who are cheering me on. My daughter and her husband have opened their home and allowed me to share it with them. My health is good, for now. Someone is helping me with a plan to get my medications at a cost I can afford. Right now, my car is running well with the exception of the windshield wipers. Perhaps the tears I cry from time to time help keep the tightrope free of dust and debris, just as Nik “spat on his hands and rubbed it on the sole of his shoe for grip” when the cable gathered dust.” Nik carried a 43 pound balancing pole. Faith and prayer have become my balancing pole.
Maybe I was wrong in saying that I have no safety net or harness. When the ones I had in place failed, it seems God provided new ones. His may be much stronger and better than the ones I counted on to protect me. I can’t let fear stop me from moving forward, one step at a time. Nik talked about an earpiece that allowed his father to talk to him and encourage him as he walked across the tightrope. I don’t have an earpiece, but if I listen closely, I can hear God talk to me and encourage me. What better harness or safety net is there than that?
My friend sent a link to a blog post today. She said it reminded her of some conversations we have had recently. The author is someone I haven’t read before. I took a minute to check out her site and quickly decided to follow her. Her name is Allison Vesterfelt and her blog is “Learning To Live With Less. ” You can find it on her website here.
The post my friend shared was called. “You’ll Never Have Enough Money for Your Dream.” I have been concerned about money and my financial future for about year now. It started when I quit my full time job with amazing benefits because…well, I was miserable. I won’t go into everything that happened that made me so unhappy at a job I had loved for more than 12 years. I prayed, I talked to friends and family as well as my therapist and I knew I had to leave. I decided the timing was right to pursue a lifelong dream of returning to college.
According to my well thought out plans, if I worked part time I would enough money to live comfortably until I was able to collect social security retirement the following year. Little did I know that my world was about to implode. My already shaky marriage ended. I moved in with family and cut expenses. Two major car repairs, several months of being ill, and a part time job that fell through at the last minute changed all the well laid plans I had in place. There is a saying, ” Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” (Yes, John Lennon did record a song with those lyrics but they came originally from Allen Sanders and were published in Readers’ Digest in 1957.)
I am still almost 4 months away from being able to collect my retirement and I basically out of money. I have started a part time job and I am grateful to be employed and back in the field that I enjoy. As of the end of last month, I am no longer able to afford the COBRA and keep my health insurance. I am living pay check to pay check and that is a place I swore I would never be again. Never say never.
The blog post made me stop and think about what is really important. It also reminded me that nothing is ever guaranteed to us. I have put off my dream of school for 40 years. If I wait until I have time and money, it will not happen. For the past few weeks, I have allowed fear to creep in. I have compared myself to others and felt that I fell short. It’s a place I visit far too often and I don’t want to stay there.
I hope you will take a moment and check out Allison’s website and blog. I am going to order her book, “Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage.” Well, I will as soon as I have enough money. For now, I will read her blog and see what I can learn.
So, what you don’t have “enough” money for your dream? Neither do I.
Let’s do it anyway.
– See more at: http://www.allisonvesterfelt.com/#sthash.fpcb8uk8.dpuf
So, what you don’t have “enough” money for your dream? Neither do I.
Let’s do it anyway.
So, what you don’t have “enough” money for your dream? Neither do I.
Let’s do it anyway.
The challenge for Yeah Write today was to write a “list” post. I haven’t done one in a while and typically someone provides the list for the post. I debated for a while and decided to create a list of some things that have been on my mind recently. So here are five things I really want to accomplish, but I’m not sure how or if I can. #1. College Degree I recently started attending college. I have completed 12 credit hours. I have a long way to go. I can only attend part time since I still need to work part time. I left my full time job to make an attempt at this lifelong dream. Academically I am doing very well, however life has been throwing curve balls my way making it difficult to know what to do next. People often ask me why I am going back to school at my age and what I plan to do with a college education. I try to answer honestly and tell them I have no idea what I will do my degree but I am pursuing it because it is what I truly want to be doing. I love school-more than I have loved any job or other activity I have chosen to pursue. Money is the one thing standing in my way. Of course, without a full time job, I have not benefits such as health insurance. Some people suggest student loans and financial aid. There are many reasons I don’t qualify for either of those right now. I may be able to apply for those later. For now, I will continue to follow this path and see where it will lead. Oh, and I pray…a lot. #2. Actress No, I don’t expect to be in New York on Broadway, however, it might be fun. My dream for acting only takes me as far as a local theater in my community or at college. I have had to play many roles in my life to survive and I have played them well. Yet, the idea of playing a character on stage is thrilling. I envision myself as Miss Hannigan in Annie or as one of the sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace. I took an acting class last semester and fell even more in love with the idea. It will take going to many auditions and a lot of time if I get a part. School and a part time job along with rehearsals and performances may be too much. So, I will continue to pursue this dream. Oh, and I pray…a lot. #3. Size 14 I have struggled with weight most of life. I was overweight as a child and a young teenager. I gain a tremendous amount of weight with the birth of each of my children. I have lost weight in the past but never reached my target goals. Injuries, illnesses, or life got in the way each time until I reached almost 300 pounds about 3 years ago. I have been working hard to get the weight off but again injuries, illness and life keep interfering. However, I won’t give up. I keep working towards the goal. Oh, and I pray…a lot. # 4. Financial Independence I have had some brief times of independence with money but it has not been a shining example of success in my life. I have made huge mistakes in my life, some due to being undiagnosed bipolar disorder. For the past ten years, I have done well and managed to save money. Then I made the mistake of getting married. Yet in spite of that major error in judgment, I managed to preserve my finances to some degree. I am at a place in life at this time where money is a huge issue and concern. I have faith that I am doing what I need to do and will keep working toward this goal. Oh, and I pray… a lot. #5. Faith
I, as many people I imagine, have had struggles with faith. I was raised by people who presented faith and God in way that was confusing and well, downright wrong. I have followed many different paths to God. I have never lost faith but I have never really had the kind of relationship I truly want with God. Some may sneer and say, “Whose fault is that?” and then some rather tired and worn out clichés. I am back in church, I follow a twelve step program and continually work the 11th step, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.” Oh and I pray…a lot.
The summer I turned 8 years old was one filled change. Change was nothing new in my life and that summer was to be no exception. We were in the process of moving into a new house. I didn’t know it yet, but this was going to be a positive change for me. I would meet the family that would help me survive my childhood.
I had been introduced to my Uncle Joe and his family earlier that year and I had visited them a couple of times that summer. My grandmother took me for a ride and parked by a small lake in downtown Charleston. She tried to break the news to me that my Uncle Joe was really my father. She was shocked to find that I remembered him and already knew he was my father.
My grandmother sent me to a girl scout camp for a week towards the end of summer. It wasn’t one of her better ideas. I had serious abandonment, anxiety, and fear issues. They had to call her twice that week, because I had an upset stomach every day and experienced night terrors. I was already something of a misfit and that didn’t do much to help.
When Saturday morning came I was packed and ready to leave. Grandmother put everything in the car, shut the door, and sat for a minute before telling me that we were going on a trip. I wasn’t sure what to think as she explained that we were going to West Virginia to visit my other grandparents. She asked if I remembered them. I told her I didn’t. Another moment passed and she asked if I remembered my little brother. She went on to explain that when my parents left my brother was sent to West Virginia to live with my father’s parents. It was a bit much for my 7 year old mind to take in.
It was a long drive. Interstates were beginning to be built, but at that time it was all 2 lane and 4 lane highways. Road signs were the most interesting thing along the way. The were Smokey the Bear signs were my favorite. Along the way we also encountered the famous Burma Shave signs. The signs were placed in groups of 5 or 6, spread apart by short distances in between. Each sign would add another line to a somewhat silly set of rhymes with the last one reading, “Burma Shave.” As we moved into the Blue Ridge mountains we saw signs advising drivers of falling rocks and curves in the road ahead. We arrived in the small farm community where my grandparents lived in time for supper. I wasn’t sure what to think of the 6 year old boy with several teeth missing, but we bonded quickly .
Over the next ten years my Grandmother and I would repeat this trip every summer. We would wake at 5am to be sure we arrived before dark. I sat at the small Formica top table in the kitchen and ate breakfast. Grandmother pulled out her Bible and read verses someone had designated as ones to read before travel. She said a prayer for our safety and off we went. We watched for the same landmarks and signs each year. We always ate at the same small cafeteria for lunch. My excitement would build when we arrived in the mountains because I knew we were getting closer.
I cherished those two weeks I spent with my brother each summer . We spent that time getting to know each other and sharing our secret thoughts about life, family, and the future. We haven’t been able to spend as much time together as I would like since we became adults. We talk on the phone, text, and email. We share family pictures on facebook. We may not have had the typical brother-sister relationship growing up, but he is my baby brother just the same. My brother and I have talked about taking a road trip back to Flat Top, West Virginia together one day. Maybe I should call him and start making plans for next summer.