It is January 2018 and the beginning of a new year. This is the time that we all make decisions to go to the gym, eat healthier, made amends, go to church, or make other life altering choices. I will admit that I too have been guilty of waiting for January to make changes that could have and should have been made long before. Instead of feeling guilty, I choose to see this as a positive thing – at least I am willing to make changes and when better to start than January.
My move to the Upstate of South Carolina from the Lowcountry this summer created the opportunity for many changes. These changes include where will I get my hair cut, what doctor to choose, what grocery store is best, and the list goes on. I am grateful that my best friend Jan moved back to this area from Charleston before I arrived. Having a “local” friend is a huge blessing.
Two decisions that would have a large impact on my life were how would I continue my exercise and healthy eating program without my trainer, Arron. I will admit that I haven’t done as well as I had hoped. Going to a new gym with new people and new routines is difficult. There is an amazing gym at Clemson, and I have a membership at Gold’s Gym. I simply need to put on my gym shoes and go. I give you all permission to hold me accountable to my commitment to continuing this journey.
The second decision was where to go to church. This one has taken longer than I thought. I came to the upstate with a church already in mind. I enjoyed the church services, the pastor, and the people there, yet I knew in my heart that I needed to keep searching. Just a few weeks before the holidays, I decided to visit a church I pass every day on the way to school. I felt drawn to visit. It turns out that the pastor grew up in the same church as my best friend. I immediately felt drawn to this church. I plan to make this my new church home.
That takes care of the physical and spiritual part of my life. The harder part of a move such as this is creating a new community. In Charleston, I had an extensive circle of people in my life from my years at Hotline as well as the theater community. It is time to create a new community here. Just as with the gym, I haven’t done as well as I had hoped in this area.
One last change for the new year involves this blog. I have been writing for OdysseyOnLine for the past year, neglecting this site. As of the first of the year, I am not longer a writer for OdysseyOnLine. While this was a great opportunity and provided a larger number of readers, I don’t feel I was able to write in my “own voice” on the site. I am returning to my website and blog for my writing.
I hate change if truth be told. Ask any of my friends; they will confirm this. However, I must concede that change is inevitable. This year will undoubtedly bring many changes. I hope they are all positive, but that is a bit unrealistic. So, I will look at the year ahead and remember the Serenity Pray daily:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
My life has always involved changes. I am not really fond of changes; just ask anyone who knows me. 2015 has been full of changes, and I wasn’t happy about most of them. There was a lot of loss this year, too. However, this Christmas will be a very big change for me. Tonight, I will board a train and head west to San Antonio, Texas (after heading North, then West, and then South to get there) to spend the holiday with my brother and his family.
My brother and I were separated when we were very young. I did get to spend a couple of weeks with him every summer, but never Christmas. That might have been in part due to the fact that I lived in South Carolina, and he was in West Va. buried under snow. We haven’t been able to see each other very often as adults and have only been together during the Christmas season a few times. We have never actually shared Christmas Day since he was 2 years old.
This will be an exciting time. I will get to meet his grandchildren for the first time. We will be able to spend some good quality time together and that usually means trouble. His wife might have to send us to our rooms or give us time out. She will have to separate us when football is on because he is a DALLAS fan. OMG! We will get to do a little sightseeing, try to piece together memories and share some old pictures we have been able to gather over the years. All in all, I am so very excited and ready to begin this journey.
This will be a huge change for me. For the past 19 years, I have spent every Christmas day with my two children, their spouses, and my grandchildren. We usually begin the day in our pajamas and head to IHOP for breakfast. We then return home for gift giving and fun. The day usually ends with playing games and just relaxing. This year we got together a couple of weeks early to celebrate Christmas as a family. For the past 4 years, I have shared Christmas eve with my “other family.” The day often included shopping or last minute gift wrapping followed by Christmas Eve service at church and then supper. There would be amazing hot chocolate from a crock pot and just enjoying the time together. The kids would beg to open one gift from under the tree, and then we would exchange our Christmas gifts for each other.
Christmas at my house growing up wasn’t much of a celebration or fun. It was a day I usually wondered if my mother or father would call or come to see me. Usually my mother would call, but never my father. We had an ugly silver tree with a light that revolved around it. I have written some other posts about all of this. As an adult, Christmas was made very special because of my children. I loved watching their excitement over everything that happened during the holidays. There was then a period of time when they were older that things weren’t as good, but those times passed.
Christmas really is about a time of celebrating the birth of Christ and all that it represents. It is a time to share with family and friends no matter how close or far. I will truly miss the Christmas traditions of the past years, but I know this Christmas offers something special as I get to be a “kid” and reclaim some of the Christmas spirit with my little brother.
I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanzaa or anything else that you may celebrate during this holiday season.
While I am so grateful to have two best friends that I consider sisters in every way except blood, I also have a biological half sister. I am sharing an older post today because it is my sister’s birthday. Those who know me will pause and ask, “which one is this?” I have seven assorted brothers and sisters, although I grew up an only child. This post will explain my sister, Jill. (click on the link below)
Happy Birthday Jill!!
I have been blessed with 2 best friends who are not only friends, but they are “sister friends” or “soul sisters”. They both been dealing with challenging times recently. I am reposting this blog post from two years ago because this is a difficult day for my friend Carol, and for me as well. In the post, I mention her childhood home where I found support, love, acceptance, and a retreat from the chaos of my house. Today, Carol moved out of that house taking with her so many memories. I have been lazy about writing personally and for my blog. This reminds me that I want to capture all of these memories, and it is time to get back to my writing.
Summer was a great adventure growing up. I grew up along the banks of the Stono River in Charleston, SC. I lived in a small neighborhood at the foot of the old Limehouse bridge. It was a swing bridge that turned sideways to let boats go through. There were about 20 houses in our neighborhood. There was a dirt road leading off the main highway that formed a circle of about 1/2 mile. There were houses on the main river, houses on the inner circle with just a view of the water, and just off the circle was a small extension of the circle where my house stood. We had a dock in the back yard on the main canal that lead to the river. The lots that were not developed were still thickly wooded areas filled with trees and wildlife.
I was almost 8 when we moved to that house. There was only one other family with children at the time. Carol was a feisty, freckle faced redhead just a couple of years younger than I. We immediately became “sister” friends and still are to this day. Even though my grandmother was very controlling and afraid of just about everything, she seemed to feel safe letting me roam the small neighborhood. Carol and I spent everyday together with few exceptions for next ten years.
The tides played a big part in planning our day. At low tide, only pluff mud and fiddler crabs were in the canal. We occasionally braved the mud to chase the fiddler crabs. The tide had to be about half in before there was enough water to swim or get in the old john boat. High tide in mid afternoon was the ideal. We would be in/on the water from lunchtime until dinner. In the evenings, we would shrimp or crab from the dock. A few years later, more families with kids and boats moved into the circle. We would often go out to the main river on their boats, but the canal was always our first love.
Behind Carol’s house were several undeveloped lots. There was a very large oak tree with massive branches that touched the ground. One of the branches that came close to the ground was perfect for bouncing. Our tree had several perfectly etched out places where you could sit. Carol would climb to the one just above the place I chose. We would sit and talk for hours. We solved world problems, dreamed of adventures, and planned our futures.
We loved the woods. They were filled with honeysuckle vines. We would sit and pick the honeysuckle, gently pulling the stem to get the tiny bit of nectar on our tongue. We picked wild blackberries and ate them on the spot. We were yet unaware of all the things in our world that would soon prove to kill laboratory rats. The woods were filled with tics, red bugs, spiders, and more but we rarely encountered any problems. We did come across snakes a few times, but always outran them. We loved catching Daddy Long Legs and fireflies. We would sit and dig in the sandy soil and find shark’s teeth. We had several small jars filled with them. We were always filled with awe as we thought that our homes were once covered with water and sharks.
We had a small store not far from our neighborhood. It was also home to the post office. Close by there was a fresh vegetable stand. We would go with Carol’s mom and spend our meager allowance a couple of times a week. We would often buy a stalk of sugar cane to take home. After dinner we would sit in Carol’s yard looking across at the river, pulling the husk away and chewing on cane to get the sweet sugary juices. Another favorite treat was Pepsi and peanuts. We would buy bottles of Pepsi and a small bag of salted peanuts. After drinking just a little of the Pepsi, we would each pour half of the bag of peanuts into our bottle. The trick was to get all the peanuts out before you finished the Pepsi.
When people ask about childhood memories, I don’t often have many fond ones to share. Alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, fear and sadness were all things that filled my house. Moving to that small neighborhood and finding Carol and her family was the greatest treasure and salvation of my childhood. Those summer days gave me hope for something more. Carol and I are still “sister” friends. She moved back into her childhood home after her father died. I go to the house, and we sit on the front porch looking out at the river or in ever so familiar living room and share stories of those times. We walk around that block we walked so many times before and smile. We even stop to pick the honeysuckle from time to time.
I sat on the wooden pews in a small church waiting for the memorial service for a friend to begin. If the wall of this hundred-year-old sanctuary could talk, they would tell the life stories of so many people, including the story of the man to be memorialized that day. He had been married in that church, as had his parents, as well as his some of his children and grandchildren. In the cemetery next to the church were buried his wife, his parents, grandparents, and other family members.
A granddaughter spoke about him during the service remembering a long life spent in devotion to family, service to community, and dedication to his church and beliefs. No one could describe him without using the words “sweet man.” What an amazing legacy to leave for those who knew and loved him.
I thought about my friend Jan F. who died seven years ago. She left behind a note stating what she hoped would be her legacy. Anyone who knew her would have to say these words are true.
I wish to be remembered for:
– my loyalty as a friend and to family
– my passion – for animals, music
– my commitment to providing caring, sensitive, compassionate therapy to my
patients. I would go the extra mile for them.
– my love of music and singing
– my laughter
– my creative, innovative side
– my integrity – as a person and as a psychologist
and anything else someone can think of.
I couldn’t help but wonder what legacy I would leave for my children, grandchildren, and friends (family of choice). My family tree is broken and missing many branches. I don’t have a long line of ancestors to share. I have made many detours and mistakes in my life journey, yet I hope that the life I have created out of the turmoil and chaos of my childhood will speak for me. I hope those who know me best will remember the person I have become.
I don’t plan on leaving this earthly home anytime soon. I have always said that I plan to live to be at least 100 years old. When that time does come, I hope the legacy I leave behind is one that causes those who knew me to smile and to know that in some small way I changed their lives.
“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
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.
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!
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!
9862 days ago, I managed to walk up the steps to a fellowship building at a large church in Severna Park, Md. I was looking for a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. My therapist Jan F. told me I had to go or I couldn’t see her any more. I had to hitchhike to get there, because I missed the only bus that would take me there. There were so many people that I thought the church was having some kind of special meeting. I saw a set of double doors and peered in the window. I could see lot of chairs and a set of tables in the front of the room. I had never been to a meeting, so I had no idea what to expect.
I walked in and saw two women at the front of the room. I looked around and noticed a rack with AA literature and pamphlets. I slowly and cautiously made my way to the front. One of the women, a tall, mean looking red head, looked up and said hello. I told her that I didn’t know if I was in the right place. It must have been obvious to her that I was a drunk, because she looked at me and asked how long it had been since I had a drink. I shrugged my shoulders and told her that it was sometime around midnight. She said that I was in the right place and told me to sit down on the front row. She left for a moment, came back with a cup of coffee with lots of sugar, and another woman she introduced as Pat. Pat said it looked like I needed the coffee. Honestly, my hands were shaky and I wasn’t sure I could even hold it.
I sat or I should say squirmed my way through the meeting. I heard some of what was said, but I kept looking on the wall at a banner where “the steps” were written. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the third step that said, “Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God, as we understood God.” I wasn’t ready to talk to or about God right that moment. At the end of the meeting, someone stood up and said, “If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, and you want to try our way of life, come up here and get a white chip. All it takes is a desire to stay sober for 24 hours.” I watched as a couple of people walked up and got chip and a hug. Pat nudged my arm, and told me to go get one. I wasn’t sure about any of this, but I went up and got one.
Since that day, I have not had a drink or used any mind-altering drugs (unless you count sugar- only kidding). It has been 27 years of working the steps, praying, living one day at a time, praying, being in pain, experiencing joy and happiness, praying, starting over in new cities with new people, praying, losing people I love, praying, feeling as if my heart were breaking and my soul was wounded, praying, – you get the idea. There have been days that I wanted to drink more than I wanted to live or breath, but I made it through them.
In most meeting, we read something called the Promises. These promises have all materialized in my life. THE A.A. PROMISES found on page 83-84, of the Big Book, Alcoholics Anonymous.
If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and selfpity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.
I am so grateful for my sobriety and all of the people who have helped me on this journey- some alcoholics/addicts and some “normal” people. I am grateful for a program of recovery that helped me find a relationship with God as I understand God. I am grateful for my family and special friends who have my heart.
I remember the day I celebrated my first AA birthday/anniversary. I received my first medallion surrounded by my first home group. I still have the banner from that night and the cards from friends. Two very special people were that night–my new friend Donna who is still my friend today, and my friend Jan F., who would be my friend, support, and mentor for the next 20 years.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring; No one does, really. I do know there will be more heartache, pain, and loss in life. It is inevitable. Yet, I know that there will be happiness, joy, and serenity as well. All I can do is live this life one day at a time. Through the grace of God and the program/steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I don’t have to drink today.
“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.