The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston had both a Pablo Picasso exhibit and an impressionist exhibit. Both were wonderful and inspiring.
Picasso always fascinates me. I would love to go back in time and crawl inside his mind to see how he sees the world. He pulls things apart and rearranges them on canvas in ways that confuse and enchant me. Was he whimsical or seriously symbolic with his art?
Am I whimsical or seriously symbolic? For me, I suppose, it depends on the work. Some are created when I’m going through something emotional and they are an expression of this, such as my hearts. Some are whimsical and just FUN. And still others are planned around symbolism, but not necessarily emotionally inspired, but more intellectually or spiritually inspired.
There is a long hallway full of bright yellowish orange light in the Fine Arts Museum of Houston. We had made it about halfway down this hallway before we had looked at each other long enough to notice something was off. Our skin was grey. We were in black and white. It was so cool. I felt like I was in a Dr. Who episode.
We didn’t notice the change right away. It took us interacting with each other to see it. Perception. It’s everything isn’t it?
The artificial light changed our perception through sight – how our eyes filter the light. But we have the ability to control our perception of our world. When we believe the best in others and look for the good, we see a world that welcomes us and is good. When we criticize and demand, our world becomes unwelcoming and ugly. It’s a choice we make in every interaction, especially in the challenging ones. Choosing patience and peace over a self involved, me centered focus when we are in a highly emotional situation serves us well. This attitude allows us to reflect on what’s going on with the other person, see the other perspective. Understanding our fellow humans. This. This. This.
I was in a head on collision this morning in a parking lot. A man had just tested positive for Covid and he was FREAKED OUT so he started to black out. And, staring right at us, hit our car. Because of this tiny fraction of time his car is mangled. It was his only source of income as a delivery man.
How often does this happen in life? Something freaks us out and we watch ourselves run right into it by just freezing for just an ostrich moment only to snap to awareness to see we are worse off than before?
It’s hard to face the hard stuff sometimes.
But hard stuff not dealt with leads to harder, more complicated stuff. It doesn’t just go away, we run into it anyway.
I remember complaining about the divorce – wanting to just wake up on the other side so I didn’t have to walk through all of the emotional trauma associated with the nature of that season in my life. But, I would have been worse off. I needed to deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly to make it out a stronger human on the other side. And, I am a stronger human for it.
This sort of thing can be small – not wanting to make a phone call that must be made or scheduling to have a cavity filled. Or, it can be big – paying the bills or breaking up with your significant other. Regardless of big or small, the issue does not get solved without some sort of action and avoiding it does not make it better, it only compounds it. Lean into it.
Dictionary.com definition: conviction: a fixed or firm belief
I use the word “conviction” because it sounds so much more non-negotiable than the word “belief”. I didn’t even realize I had convictions until a big one was staring me down. And, it took a really long time for me to clearly define this conviction. It was:
I will not live in fear.
Now, I was never in fear of my life. I had a roof over my head, my children were fed and safe and we were active members in the community. The fear I slowly began to recognize was insidious. It crept into my life unnoticed until I was staring it down and declaring: “It is you, or me. so that means you. Fear, you gotta go.”
It was truly like I woke up one day and realized I had no idea who I had become or how I had ended up in a life where I was planning my days around the invisible eggshells covering every room of my house – I couldn’t walk around in peace. I couldn’t speak in peace. I was blindsided with the feeling of having to retreat into a corner so I could feel relief and I could breathe. This was life with an alcoholic. The alcoholic does not hurt people on purpose. I knew this and this made it harder, in truth. To know this man was not doing or hurting us on purpose and that it was the effect of the alcohol on his brain seriously prolonged my realization of what I was ok living with and what I was not ok living with. If only he could stop drinking, we could find peace in our home again. If only he would stop drinking we could repair our relationship. If only he would stop drinking I could stop living on the defense. The ‘if onlys” kept me in my marriage for a very long time.
Some people are cut out for life with an addict. They are patient and kind and understanding and can live without trust. I am patient. I am kind. I am understanding. But, I cannot CANNOT live without trust. I need more than trusting that someone is doing the best they can. I need to trust that my people will not hurt me or my kids with words, with actions, or with disregard. THIS was the real conviction. It wasn’t fear. It was lack of trust. Ok, so maybe it was both. Regardless, this moment, it was huge. It helped shape the life I began to dream of, the one where I was happy and felt safe in my own home without fear of happening upon the invisible eggshells around every corner. I had to realize that love just wasn’t enough.
Here are the initial convictions I defined early on. Defining my convictions has been very powerful in building the life I have dreamt of.
I will not live in fear.
I will not live with someone I cannot trust.
I will spend my time with those I love. Relationships are of the utmost importance.
I will live my life body and soul. Carpe diem.
I will trust in God. If it is right, it will happen.
It is a bit funny to me, now, that I had lived my life without defining my beliefs – I suppose this is a natural thing. We live our beliefs without having to put words to them because they are just a part of us. But what happens when those most basic ones are trampled? The ones we think are just givens?? It takes a minute to realize what’s going on. It took putting words to my beliefs to give myself the power and a true understanding of my situation. Defining my principles really helped me identify when I needed to set boundaries. Setting boundaries has given me confidence and helped me take control of the beautiful life I have been given. If you find yourself feeling lost, take a minute to define what your non-negotiables are. What are your beliefs and convictions about the way you want and need to live your life? And, are any of those convictions being challenged? If so, it may be time for a change.
I have also found that on the other side of divorce, in this place where I am defining my life and making choices for me, that I still find myself pausing and evaluating the people I choose to be around and the situations I place myself in to see if I am living my convictions. This place of peace was not an easy or quick road to take and I am finding more and more how easily it can be chipped away if I’m not careful.
Of course I am not walking around in a constant state of Zen and I don’t cut off my loved ones when we get crossways, but I am mindful of myself (as the only person I can control) and I try, try to respond to the chaos of the world from a place of love – love of myself and others. Any other way will lead to regret. Life is too short for that.
I spent all day Saturday setting up my tent in my front yard in order to get a more cohesive booth photo. I want to apply to some more shows and actually get in and apparently my all over the place range of pieces is more of a detriment rather than a help. So, I set the booth up with my abstract and my not abstract.
Simple, not too much clutter, all the paintings are lined along the top, the rug is similar to the colors of the work, etc. I did blur out my banner so my name cannot be read for the blind jury shows. I need a new banner for the not abstract booth. What do you see that I might could improve on?
Matt 7:7-8 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives, and he who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
These verses are a call to continuous prayer – to keep our hearts and minds on Him in all things and He will answer and guide us. They are also a reminder that God is our Father and as such He wants to provide for us, to give us the gifts we crave. God WANTS to give us what we want – IF it is what HE wants for us. See, that ole’ “your will, not mine” part is always there because we do not know better than God.
I struggle with adding that to my prayers sometimes – sometimes I have to catch myself because its more of a “Your will God, you know, if it is in line with MINE. If not, perhaps reconsider that I may know better???”
How childish does this sound? How lacking in faith. Surrendering to His will, even when asking for those things we want, is not always an easy task. But in the surrendering, we get the grace and love and answers for our lives. In surrendering, I am understanding that God, as my father, wants what is best for me. I acknowledge that He can see my whole world, my whole life, from beginning to end. I am believing that His wants are what is best for me and are for His glory and purpose. I have to admit to myself that I am shortsighted, I am not omniscient the way He is. I am only human.
If we are living with a running conversation with Him – you know, back and forth where we talk and He listens, then we listen for Him in return, our asks will be in line with Him. I am working on listening. I am working on surrendering.
This is my niece, Maryleigh’s new blog. Check it out. She is a creative and I love the way she is sharing with vulnerability. She has so much to share with the world! I look forward to every post! Here is a link to her site so you can read for yourself https://writingauntb.wordpress.com/
I am beyond honored to be a part of her creative outlet!
Worry. As a mom, a friend, heck as a woman, worry seems like a natural part of life. I worry about my kids, about my job, about my friends, about ridiculous things like “does this top really go with these pants?” But, worry is really just a call to prayer.
If I am worrying then no doubt I am (at least subconsciously) thinking –
1) I can somehow be in control of a situation or thing I can absoloutely not be in control of – such as whether others approve of my outfit choices or whether or not my kids make good choices away from home.
2) and, I must not believe God can handle it and I need to take it on myself.
Whoah there. Is worry really me trying to take on what belongs to God? You betcha it is.
Worry is a call to prayer. It is a call back to the running conversation we should be having with Him all day long.
When I find myself in the midst of worrry I must stop, recognize I am not in control, and offer the worry to God – and then TRUST He’s got this. That’s the faith part. Handing it over and trusting God will lead me through the solution to the worry with grace and love and patience.
Matt 6:32-34 Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat? Or What shall we wear? . . . For your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about it’s own things. Sufficient for the day is it’s own trouble.
Notice, in this verse, we are not even supposed to worry about where our next meal comes from. We are supposed to trust that God will provide. If we are to trust that He will provide for our basic needs, we are supposed to trust him with the more frivilous and the big serious things as well.
We are to LIVE IN THE MOMENT. Live for today. This is a call for me not to futurize and plan so much. I feel called out. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about it’s own things. . . ” I can plan, I can futurize, but really, I must lay these plans and dreams at God’s feet and say “if it is your will. . . ” and Let. It. Go. in trust of HIM . . .
Do you have to wait to build a life you love?
Today I went to the Van Gogh Emerson Experience with my fellow Champagne Sunday girl. During our many conversations over this adventure the subject of WAITING became a prevalant theme – specifically, waiting for a big change you know is on the horizon but have no way to predict when it will finally occur. We all go through this at some point. And, then we go through it again. And again – for different reasons and seasons of life. We wait to get married, for a baby to come, to get accepted to school or get the dream job, etc. For me, this was the definition of divorce – waiting. Waiting. WAITING. It wasn’t the fun in line at Disney kind of waiting either – it was the kind that is full of heartache and ugly surprises around every corner as we disassembled a relationship that had been 25 years in the making.
Waiting is a recurring theme in life.
Well, it isn’t really about the waiting, though is it? There is a message in all the waiting, isn’t there?
The message is BE PATIENT.
What is waiting but patience? Patience with myself, with those I love, with God even.
I am not good at patience. Or, maybe I am getting better. I suppose that would depend on who you ask.
So, while I am being patient, waiting on a change, what do I do? Being patient does not mean being stagnant. It doesn’t mean I just sit and do nothing. I don’t JUST wait. I create the life I love with what I have, with where I am.
We do not have to wait to build a life we love.
Long before I filed for divorce I was forced to see this. I was married to an alcoholic and I knew things were not good and that they would not be good without humongous change in our lives. And I knew this change, whatever it might be, would not be easy or quick.
I remember the day I decided I was not going to remain frozen in grief at my situation. I took time to imagine the life I wanted. What could I achieve where I was with what I had? I got a full time teaching job. I began painting again. I reconnected with old friends. I began, slowly, creating a life I loved inside the waiting.
I know change is on my horizon now too, different kinds of changes. Seasons of life changes. For one, my children will all leave the nest sometime within this new year. I will have to navigate living alone for the first time ever, in all of my years, and I am not looking forward to it. I will need patience with myself through this change in life but I have been building a life I love for a while now, so the transition may not be as terrible as I imagine.
What will you do inside your waiting?
- Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. Proverbs 14:29
- Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
- Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12.
- But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:25
- The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14.
I love Sundays. In my sweet little downtown home I am surrounded by churches. An Episcopal church a couple of blocks one way, a Presbyterian church a block or two another way, and a Methodist church a short walk away as well.
I was raised in the Baptist church and the Methodist church growing up and I learned a great deal about Christianity from both. I have loved God and I have been angry with Him too. These past few years have made my relationship with God very tempestuous. I’ve been like a runaway teenager – avoiding His gaze and holding on to resentment, pretending I am in control. That is over now. Over the past couple of years I have been seeking Him, asking forgiveness, and craving a relationship with my God once again.
I feel like I’ve been led to write about this journey more and more. When I first started writing again I felt I needed to keep my spiritual life close to my chest – private. I felt like I would lose potential readers if I shared my tumultuous walk with God. I wanted women to know that they are not alone if they are experiencing living with an alcoholic or living in a toxic relationship. But the more vulnerable I have become while sharing, the more I just have to include this part of my life.
My recent exploration of faith has ignited a new kind of fire where I am craving His guidance. And I am finding it everywhere.
Recently I went to Disney for work. (Great place for a conference, by the way.) I have only been there twice before: once when I was in middle school and again with my kids a good many years back. I’d forgotten how magical the place actually feels. It did my soul so much good to let go and enjoy the rides like a child. My inner kid, the one that has been supressed with a lot of grown up stuff, broke free.
I have tried to say yes to the fun things this past year, yes to time with friends and family, yes to opportunities like this new job, etc. But, saying yes to this conference in Disney? It was a really great yes. I even wore the ears.
I was able to allow myself to feel like a 20 something in my not at all 20 year old body. I laughed and laughed. I rode all but two of the major rides. I went all fan girl in Star Wars Land. I had a blast.
Disney feels magical, it really does. Even at my age.
New Year’s resolution time is just around the corner, if you believe in such things. Last year I made a resolution to say yes and live my life to the fullest at every opportunity. I think I will keep that one. I will say yes to experiences with the people I care the most about. I will say yes to helping when I can. I will say yes to as much as I can. I will listen more closely for the direction God is pushing me to go and I will say “YES” no matter how uncomfortable.
I need a hard reset – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I need to connect to God and find the direction He is wanting me to go because His directions here recently are quite confusing. I need to find my center. So Jan 1 – Jan 21 will be a period of intense prayer, study, and gratitude.
How do I grow my relationship with Christ? This is the question. I am planning to study the New Testament and focus on the characteristics of Christ, read some books I have on Christianity, journal, and whatever else I feel led to do. I am sure some of you who read this can share the things you do to grow closer to Christ (but make it a comment on the actual blog post or I won’t see it – ha).
During this fast, I will abstain from:
- Social Media – deleting all apps, turning off all notifications, keeping only this blog (yes, I am deleting Messenger too). So, if you want to reach me you will need to call, text, email, or comment on a blog post instead of on Facebook – if I am moved to post, that is. I have no idea what to expect from this.
- Television – this one will be hard. I like to fall asleep to The Great Gatsby movie when I am feeling low.
- Meat – as a keto person, I haven’t gone without meat in a very long time. I will focus on veggies and I will keep eggs and fish in my diet in a more vegetarian type restriction
- Alcohol – I will be having some soda for Champagne Sundays – at least there will be bubbles . . .
- Sugar – my nemesis.
- Breads, pastas, potatoes, processed foods
I expect this to be the hardest thing I have ever, ever done. I chose 21 days to model Daniel who fasted while he sought God in prayer duing a time of mourning. This felt appropriate and like the best way to allow God the room to heal me from this past year. I tend to get in His way a lot. Don’t we all? We read His answers in the way that feels least stressful to us instead of the way He intends. Or we snap at the first answer we hear without waiting for the rest. Sigh.
I know that it is common to both declare a fast or keep a fast private. But, for my purposes, I am declaring it so my people do not worry about me when I go off grid for three weeks. No need to hunt me down. So, here goes.
1 Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.
Daniel 10:3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.
Esther 4:16 Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.
Exodus 34:28 Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.
Joel 2:12 Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.
“You see, I am a poet, and not quite right in the head, darling. It’s only that.” – Edna St. Vincent Millay
Texture, resin, coffee dyed pieces of The Great Gatsby, acrylic, pen and ink
I have two more I’m working on that will look lovely stacked with this one.
Tornado of Thought Forming 12×12 Mixed Media
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
I overthink. A lot. Ha. I suppose I am of a first-rare intelligence.
Heavily textured, resin, pieces of The Great Gatsby, acrylic
The white spot in the photo is a reflection of a light in the resin. It’s hard to capture the shiny vs matte surface.
I am working on building my collection of abstracts and painting with a friend is always fun. I’m so thankful my career allows me the time to do this over Christmas break. Interested in one of my abstracts? Now is the time to talk to me about it!
This will be our first Christmas without him. It is bittersweet. It had been years since he had been sober on a Christmas Day. He felt such guilt at not being the man he wanted to be for his kids that he would become overwhelmed and drink those terrible feelings into much worse ones. He won’t do that this year. This year he is free of such pain, such guilt. He is in the arms of our Lord; he is with his mom and dad. He is no longer carrying the burdens that made him so sad and so angry.
But this also means he isn’t here. He isn’t here for us to hope that this is the Christmas he is sober, that he is really with us. We lost our hope that he would get well and would join us again in life. We wanted so much for him to share himself with us. We wanted him to see all he had to offer. It’s this loss of hope that makes our Christmas bittersweet. We know he is finally at peace but we have to miss him, miss the hope that he would be well and here.
Alcoholism robbed us of a father, a brother, and a friend. Alcoholism is ugly.
We will always be the family of an alcoholic but we are no longer fighting the good fight. We are good. Bittersweet.
No one knows what to do with the alcoholic. No one knows what to do with the family of an alcoholic either. Let me tell you what they need – love.
If you know an alcoholic who is active in his addiction then know his family needs your love and support. Is this person in rehab? Do the southern thing and take that family some dinner. Call and check on them. Send them a kind note. Pretend that alcoholic is a cancer patient instead. What would you do for a family whose loved one is away getting treatment for a disease? Then, do THAT for them. Oftentimes the alcoholic alienates everyone and by extension this means the loved ones become alienated from their people too. Loving an alcoholic isn’t easy. So, be kind this holiday season. Love on your people and notice those who may need more love than usual and take them a cake!
Recently, as I have been searching for a deeper spiritual connection I have been attending classes at a local church. I am attending to learn about faith and about Christianity. The classes cover the history of Christianity, the beliefs of the different faiths, etc. I have learned alot in these classes. Sometimes, I leave surprised by the lesson or I take away something that creates a shift in how I see my experiences in religion, such as this past week.
This week, the priest who leads these lessons was talking about our call to be holy. First, what?? In my experience there is no way this will ever be possible. We are sinners and no changing that. I have believed that the glass was half empty as far as our ability to be holy or truly “good” was concerned and there was no way to fix that, no matter how hard we tried. Even in my best moments I would be a sinner. But in this class, the priest said “Everyone is called to the fullness of life (John 10:10); that is, there is a ‘universal call to holiness,’ a vocation to lead a life that draws ever closer to God, a life wholly dedicated to the Kingdom of God.” It sounded almost cruel at first, that God would call us, eternal sinners, to be something he knew we could never be.
This is when things get good.
He said “. . . since baptism is the true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by the minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity.” If we wish to be baptised, we wish to be holy. HOLY. Because of my glass half empty view of my ability to be holy, I have been living in mediocrity. I have settled. I have been shallow in my religiousity because I have not felt there was any way I could possibly come close to the perfection of God. But, according to this, I should be living as if I CAN. I should live as if I am holy, because I am, because I am baptised.
This belief is a GLASS HALF FULL version of Christianity. We can do it, we can be holy through faith, worship, morality, and love. Hey, I can work with this! According to Google the definition of holy is “dedicated or consecrated to God for a religious purpose; sacred.” Isn’t this what we are all supposed to be? Wow, paradigm shift. Suddenly, I am not feeling all the ways in which I am failing the Lord in my walk with him, but now I am feeling all the ways in which I am succeeding. I will not ever see it any other way again. To truly believe I could please Him and not be perpetually grounded by a displeased parent lightens my heart and encourages me to love harder and do better.
I do not know exactly where God is leading me in my religious journey with Him, but I am loving the ways He is drawing me to Him and showing me He loves me. I left this lesson feeling like I could please God, like He might could be a proud parent when looking upon my measly human efforts to be a good woman, in spite of my being a sinner.
The priest presented the following verses to back up our call to be holy (p 61).* Now, I have heard these in isolation but have either a) assumed it wasn’t meant for me but for the original audience or b) that I can try, but we all know it is impossible. But, reading them all collected like this, how can I not see the truth in it? I am called to be holy because God wants me to be like him, he CHOSE me to be like him. He sent Jesus to purify me for this purpose. This makes every little decision I make more important than before. My responsiblity is greater. I am meant to be more than just “good.” I am meant to be holy.
- You shall be holy to me; for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples that you should be mine. – Leviticus 20:26
- I will walk in the way of perfection . . . I will walk with blameless heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes whatever is base. – Ps 100 
- Be you perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:48
- Paul . . . To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints . . . – 1 Corinthians 1: 1-2
- This is the will of God, your sanctification – 1 Thessalonians 4:3
- For God has not called us to uncleanness, but in holiness – 1 Thessalonians 4:7
- May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless on the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ – 1 Thessalonians 5:23
- He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight in charity – Ephesians 4:3
- I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called – Ephesians 4:3
- Fight the good fight of faith, lay thy grasp on eternal life, that life thou wert called to – 1 Timothy 6:12
- He has saved us, and called us to a vocation of holiness – 2 Timothy 1:9
- Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one wil see the Lord – Hebrews 12:14
- Be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15-16
- Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for the hastening the day of God. . . Therfore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot of blemish, and at peace – 2 Peter 3:11, 14
By the way, in case you got hung up on the word sanctification this is Google’s definition: 1. The action of making or declaring something holy.”the sanctification of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ” 2. the action or process of being freed from sin or purified.”the process of sanctification takes deliberate action on our part.”
I have no illusion that I can be truly good all the time, but having this shift in the way I see my relationship with God has me more motivated and excited to want His will and not mine, to be still and listen for His direction, and to live my life more purposefully. For the first time, I believe he sees the good in me more than the bad. Which, really, as a parent, I should have known. I should have connected these dots before now. I love my kids and see the best in them, not the worst. I forgive them when they aren’t so perfect and chalk it up to learning experience. Why wouldn’t my God do the same for me? For us?
Please take some time over this Christmas season to thank Jesus for his sacrifice so we can be santified, truly holy in His sight. Then, let’s all try to act like it.
*The quotes not from the Bible are from this come directly from RCIA: A journey of faith and reason Fr. Charles Merrill 2021-22.
When I realized my life was wonky, long before I divorced, I took inventory of what I used to have and love and compared that list to where I was at the time. I believe, especially as mothers, that it is very easy to let some of the best parts and some of the best people go while we are in the busy-ness of raising kids. It just happens. It is hard to be purposeful and hold on to what we love about ourselves and our people when there is barely time to take a shower and look presentable on a daily basis. But, when life slows down, when those kids begin to become self sufficient, when your head begins to clear the water line and you want to reenter the vast world you once knew – where do you start?
I started by listing the people I missed the most and I started reaching out to them. I planned trips to see them and I took my kids on most of them. I made a list of hobbies I loved and I modified them for life with kids. I needed a creative outlet or my family would not be able to stand me. So, I scrapbooked for awhile. But, really, I needed to paint. So I traded oils for quick drying acrylics to keep little fingers less of a chance to help me paint and I painted. I found the time here and there. This made a huge difference in my happiness level and I am still taking inventory, planning, and carving out the time needed to do those things, see those people that make my life a happy one.
Do you need to take inventory of your life? Are there people you miss and want to connect with? Are you passionate about something? Painting? Photography? Cooking? Reading? How could you add your passions back into your life? These things improve mental health. (See? The government says so.)
I had a little bit of time to spend in the studio over Thanksgiving break and I was able to lay the foundations for a couple of new paintings. The circle has so many symbolic meanings and I am a bit crushing on all of them right now so look for a few circles to dominate my abstracts over the holidays!
This has been a strange Thanksgiving. I have spent the majority of my 50 years going to my grandmother’s for lunch and this year we went to the beach with my ex-husband’s family instead. It will be the first Thanksgiving we, my kids and I, have spent without my ex or my grandmother here on earth with us.
Years ago, his family began the tradition of going to the beach and renting condos near each other so the whole family could be together, spend time in a big circle talking on the beach, and getting together to watch the big rivalry game on Saturday. Two of my 3 kids and I joined them this year for the first time. (One kid works retail and could not get off work, of course. But, don’t worry, he had dinner with my parents and his cousin!) It was good for my kids to be with his family and it was good for me to remember they still think of me as family too.
I did not get the dream of a cohesive, healthy family from beginning to end. Instead, I have gotten 10 years of potential, 14 years of alcoholism, and 3 years of divorced with kids. And, yet, I wouldn’t trade it. I am thankful for the time with my ex, the time we had that was good, our children, and the things about life that he taught the kids on purpose or inadvertantly. I am also thankful for the lessons he taught me about life, about addiction, about love. This Thanksgiving I took a moment, staring out at the gulf, and I remembered the good and wonderful parts of this man I spent such a humongous chunk of my life with. I feel like I have been letting him go for decades. I guess I have. As toxic and horrible as the alcoholism was for all of us, I choose now to remember the best of him, not the worst. He was a good man. I have many, many blessings to be thankful for and this Thanksgiving I am thankful for him and for his family who continue to embrace me as their own.
This month marks one year since I decided to give up on finding love and allowing it to find me. This was a pivotal moment for me in some significant ways. I was on the brink of giving up on love all together and committing to accepting a solitary life. And, honestly, I was fine with it. When I say I was on the brink, I really do mean I was standing on the line. It would have been just as easy to go one way or the other. When I started dating after divorce I wasn’t looking for a partner or a significant other. I was looking for proof that I was worthy of dating, that a decent man would think that I am beautiful. I needed the confidence boost. I needed to find approval outside of me at a time when I was not really loving myself. During this time I had a 3 month relationship and a series of one hit wonders that never panned out on his side or on mine. At the point where it became too much trouble for me to even message back, I quit, thank goodness. I know several wonderful women who are in long term relationships or marriages with good men they have met on an app; I couldn’t be happier for them. But, this is not for me. I have tried and I have met some very nice people. What I have learned, though, is that I am more of an organic gal, even if that means I end up alone forevermore. I also found my own confidence over these two years and I no longer needed to look for it from others. I am able to love me just fine again. This is something I think some of us struggle with after the ending of a toxic relationship. It is glorious to know I will be happy alone – or not – and that I don’t need anyone else to make happy happen.
As an alternative to dating men, I had chosen to “date” my house by concentrating on turning my house into a home that is an expression of me as well as spending significant time in my home art studio, creating. It seemed like a perfect alternative to spending the effort actually dating. I do adore my house and I have lots of projects planned for my house. I could see myself spending the rest of my life pouring myself into my art and into my home. I have wonderful friends whom I love to spend time with, my children are at a point in their lives where they are still in and out of my house all the time, and I have a great job that keeps me involved in the community. I do not need more. My life could be complete and FULL with just this.
So, how and why did I decide to choose to be open to love again? I loved my life, my home, my job, my kids, my community. I knew I didn’t NEED anyone. I would be perfectly fine on my own. But, the more I thought about it, the more I felt the need to pray. The more I prayed about God’s will for my life, the more I wasn’t so sure “alone” was His plan for me or even what I really, really wanted. This pivotal life moment brought me back to a life full of prayer. It began to heal the wounds I had self-inflicted into my relationship with God over the course of the slow fatal crash of my marriage. When I allowed myself the freedom to dream of a pie in the sky sort of second half of this life of mine, it included not only a deeper spiritual life, but a Clyde to my Bonnie (without any bloodshed, obviously).
So, I prayed the Hallmark Man Prayer with the encouragement of a close friend.
The Hallmark Man Prayer came after 1 year of dating via apps and 1 year of NOT dating because of the aforementioned. Don’t get me wrong. I met some wonderful men. I dated one or two that I will remember fondly and one I consider a friend. But, I didn’t meet or go out with anyone I had a connection with or had real sparks with. I was attracted to a couple of them but that is not what I mean. I did not go out with anyone over the course of that year that I would consider “best friend” or “up for adventure” partner material. I also know part of this is because I didn’t give them a really real chance, not really. Trust is hard.
I called it the Hallmark Man Prayer because it was conceived during the beginning of the Hallmark Christmas movie season of which I am an avid watcher. I love the predictability and the beauty of love that can happen seemingly overnight, even if it is fiction. I meet one of my closest friends for dinner at least once a month (she is GREAT about keeping us to a schedule so we don’t fall out of touch). She asked me, at one of our dinners, what sort of man I was looking for in a life partner. This was a good question. So, after I came up with my list I created a prayer to ask God for a very specific man I want to come to me and I asked her to pray for him too (though I am sure her prayers for this man for me were not as detailed as mine). Here is my prayer:
Thank you for the time you have given me to find my confidence and love for myself again. Thank you for my beautiful home and my children, my friends, my family, and the beautiful life you have gifted me. Lord, I want to share my life with a man worthy of sharing my life with, one you have created just for me. Please connect me with the man you wish for me to spend my life with, the one you have meant for me, the one who will be my soul’s companion. I would like for this man to be or have the following qualities:
- My best friend first
- A man of God
- Love to travel
- Accept me and my quirkiness, always see the best in me
- Support me in my creative endeavors
- Enjoy going to plays, at least tolerate Broadway type music
- Love live music
- Be someone it will be fun to create with
- A man who will love me, let me know I am special to him, always
- Have grown kids so he is free to travel and empty nest with me
- Be my age or close to it
- Come to me around Christmas and try to convince me he is the man for me
- Have his own hobbies
- Has a good job or is retired
- Has hair and is taller than me
- A man who gets along with my family and enjoys spending time with them
Please, Lord, show him his way to me. Give me the vulnerability to be open to him when he shows up.
Thank you. Amen.
Now, I know some of those things may seem petty to you. I guess they are. Why should it matter if he has hair or is taller than me? It doesn’t really, but if I was going to place an order with God, I thought I might as well ask for everything I thought it was impossible to actually fit into one man. God is in the business of miracles, so why not ask for my miracle? I prayed this prayer for a month or so and then I just trusted God to deliver. The main point in telling you all of this is I didn’t give up on love. I embraced the vulnerability that allowing the possibility of love to enter my life again would bring. I also trusted the Lord to deliver what he felt was best for me and I trusted that he would, in fact, deliver. (I also trusted he would take my list into consideration, lol.) This prayer marks the first time in years I was able to trust in Him fully. I prayed and I TRUSTED. This was significant.
This was the beginning of the repairing of my relationship with the Lord and my forgiveness of Him and of myself for the life choices and the consequences of those life choices I have made. God is good and I am thankful he chooses to forgive me and love me, his defiant daughter, and welcome me home to Him. My relationship with Him has grown significantly over this past year. All it took was the courage to be vulnerable.
When “Midnight Mass” popped up on Netflix it was Halloween season and I thought it might be a good sorta psychological fright. It was created by Mike Flanagan who also created the remake of “The Haunting of Hill House”. The original black and white version was the first movie to keep me up at night, terrified of what might be in the dark; both Hill House movies are loosely based on the book by Shirley Jackson. Flanagan’s remake is sinister with deeper characters and family storyline and I enjoyed the torture of it. I felt the same about his remake of the book The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (which is a book I once taught in my advanced tenth grade English class) called “The Haunting of Bly Manor”. “Midnight Mass” is similar to both of these series in that the characters are deeply flawed, as all humans are, and the story centers more on relationships than it does the increasing horror surrounding them.
I had to stop watching “Midnight Mass” for a bit after episode 4. I have to be in the mood for blood, which this one delivered seemingly out of nowhere, catching me off guard. When I did finish out the series I did binge it. I had several reactions: 1) I wish I knew my Bible better. I felt like I was lacking the knowledge to get the full picture of what Flanagan was trying to say – or not say. In other words, it felt like a sudo complaint of Christianity, Catholocism specifically, and without great knowledge of the specific context of some the Bible verses or Catholocism I think I probably missed something. 2) Wow. The tragedy of it. It was a love story in so many ways. 3) Cool use of vampire and angel mythology. 4) I want to watch it again to “English Teacher” it, as my kids say. (Call yourself fortunate I wrote this before I did that – this would have been a much longer post about symbolism, characterization, themes, and main ideas – ha.)
By the end of the series I was not as invested in the horror as I was in the tragedy of it for the community. My daughter would have very rightly rolled her eyes at me had she walked through the den during the last episode to find me sniffling at the tragic revelations amid the chaos that ensued.
I have to admit that my favorite of the three series is “The Haunting of Bly Manor” – perhaps because I know the original story so well and appreciate the modern adaption and additions to it and I do love a good ghost story. But, I will be watching “Midnight Mass” again to study it a bit closer.
Now to watch some Hallmark to balance this horror out . . .
My grandmother, Mama, lived to be 105. She passed away the January before Covid hit and thankfully didn’t have to deal with any of that. It is funny, we all worried about her health all the time and she never really seemed to. She didn’t really consider death, from what I could tell, even after she passed the century mark. She was up for whatever God’s will happened to be for her. I know 105 is old, but I still feel like I lost her too soon. This is what I wrote on Facebook when we lost her:
My family and I have been so very fortunate to have had this wonderful woman a part of our lives for so very long. We are also so blessed to be able to say 105 years doesn’t really feel like long enough! I am so comforted by the little bit of time I spent with her these past few weeks as she reminded me several times that “God is good, God is so good” and that she has felt incredibly blessed to have her daughters, her girls, take such excellent care of her.
She was ever thankful, always seeing her blessings. She had a genuinely positive attitude and when I once cried in her lap she reminded me that I am loved and that I would be alright – and I immediately felt her peace and believed it because she believed it.
She raised my mom and my mom loves and cares for our family in much the same way Mama did, fiercely believing in each of us. . . only maybe without so much baking .
Thank you, Mama, for . . .
- Not ever using the switch you made Beth and I go get for you when we were being annoying.
- Letting us “explore” the treasure in your garage whenever we wanted.
- Telling us to appreciate the invention of the washer and dryer because you remembered when it had to be done by hand and you could assure us it is the one invention we want to keep.
- Telling us stories of what it was like to grow up on a farm in Webb County, Alabama in the early 1900’s (dirt yards, community get togethers to make lye soap for the month, and being upset still in her 90’s at the neighbor children who poked the eyes out of her first ever baby doll (it had the marvelous eyes with weights so it would close its eyes when she laid it down), not knowing about the Great Depression because they “was already depressed” and so many more. . .)
- Making me drive you to South Alabama when I was barely 15 in your HUMONGOUS Crown Victoria (I am still a nervous wreck and my knuckles go white just thinking about it) and gently correcting me in your sweet voice like we are not about to die every minute through Birmingham rush hour traffic . . .
- Marrying my next door neighbor, Jack, and making him Papa Jack. He was a blessing to our family.
- Teaching me how to bake the most incredible pound cake.
- Showing me that it is important to volunteer in my community.
- Showing me that it is important to be gracious and thankful to those who take care of me.
- Making sure I knew your family, my extended family in Ashford, because family is everything.
- Showing me that strong women are a blessing to our family . . .
I am sure I will spend the rest of my life blessed by the lessons I never realized you taught me.
November 28, 1914 – January 14, 2020
I read over this now, nearing the second birthday/Thanksgiving without her, and it fills me with such love and gratitude for having had this loving woman as a part of my life for as long as I did. It also makes me realize that I did not spend nearly enough time with her. I did not take advantage of the time we were gifted.
I mention above crying in her lap. What I didn’t mention is that this was the day that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my marriage was over. I went to her house sat next to her in her big comfy chair, I laid my head in her lap and just cried. She stroked my hair and reminded me of God’s love for me and of the strengh I could find in Him. Her faith was so strong. Her faith could have moved mountains. I want to be like her. I want to have that kind of faith in our God and her kind of surrender to His will. I am working on it. This spiritual journey of mine is intense which I guess is why I am writing about it more and more. It is spilling out in the wake of the summer.
I will end this post with a handwritten note for me found among Mama’s things.
Dear Bonnie –
May God bless and keep you safe all of your years. Trust in Him always for all your needs and help. He is always near (never sleeps).
I love you, Mama
Thank you, Mama. I love you.
It is time to start over. I am thankful for the infinite do-over’s God allows us over the course of our lifetimes. I have found myself at the bottom of a shallow proverbial pit again – and since I used the word “proverbial” I think I need a quote from Proverbs, don’t you? So, I found this one – Proverbs 4:7. But, I didn’t like the first translation so I googled it again and got a God wink by seeing verse 8 as well.
Proverbs 4:7-8 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. 8 Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.
Really, I was just looking for a little guidance to move forward and instead I get an added emphasis on the power and importance of wisdom – the “she” in line 8 is “wisdom” not some random woman. So, my tasks are to 1) understand where I am: the pit of despair (if you know, you know) check. 2) Seek wisdom to get moving before Miracle Max is declaring I only want to live in order “to blathe” not check.
When I feel my life has gone all off kilter again and I stop time to look around and inside me to take inventory of my world, I usually find the following things: an abundance of stress, a chaotic home environment (I blame laundry), a poor diet, a lack of physical exercise, an employment of various distraction tactics like being hyper social to get me out of the house away from the chaos or being lethargic in the middle of it, paralyzed.
This is a pattern. It isn’t new. It is more like a cycle. And it’s not absolutely awful. I mean my home is a mess but not a MESS. My diet is awful but I’m not eating cake all the time. You would think at 50 I would recognize this coming on and arrest its development from progressing to a quasi wallowing state. But, no. Not yet, anyway. I think this is where the wisdom comes in. At what point will I realize what is going on soon enough to stop the “pit of despair” from sucking days off of my life? As a person afflicted with a bit of deficiency in the area of attention – routines, time permanence, and living in the present moment are difficult for me. I love to futurize and plan, but recently I have had to let go of a future that I wanted more than anything – so much so I haven’t wanted to replace it with anything. Part of me just wants to dig in my heals and become the crazy lady on my street with too many animals who lives in a world of fantasy. Ok, that does actually sound like it would be fun for a brief moment. Instead I am going to work on my art, become an expert in my job, and enjoy having all of my adult babies living under my roof – this time is fleeting! And, as I have said over and over – its the relationships and the people that are the most important. Also, it’s November and therefore Christmas season. Need I say more? I have plenty to focus on to keep me in my present moment.
So, how do I move forward toward an unknown future? And, how do I set up some safeguards so when these patterns begin to emerge I can abate the oncoming digging of the proverbial pit – again?
- seek understanding of where I am
- an abundance of stress – what is causing the stress? Identify and address.
- a chaotic home environment (I blame laundry) – what can get done that will eliminate the most chaos? List these in order of most important.
- a poor diet – I know what to do. Take my probiotics, eat a lot less of the carb laden foods, drink water, yada yada
- a lack of physical exercise – I do not love exercise, especially alone. I started tennis last year and gave it up because I started travelling more on the weekends, why not take it up again? Start going to a barre class – I do love ballet. . .
- an employment of various distraction tactics like being hyper social to get me out of the house away from the chaos or being lethargic in the middle of it, paralyzed. I need to be social, but not HYPER social. I ride the line between extrovert and introvert – I am neither. I am an ambivert. So the hyper social can be as bad for me as seclusion. I am a complicated person. Ha.
- Seek wisdom to move forward
- Time to take the personality tests again. I enjoy the insight these give and they might offer insight into how I can tackle the plan to subvert this pit thing in the future. Knowing more about the innerworkings of my mind is fascinating. And, I change over time. I am not always the same on these tests. There are sometimes subtle differences.
- Continue studying the Bible and going to the church class I am attending
- Continue going to my precious counselor
- Remember who I am and what is important to me. Sometimes life has a way of taking my eye off of the most important details.
- It may be time to read “Self-Discipline” by Emerson again. . . it makes me think and ponder. NAH. I think I will read The Princess Bride instead. Who doesn’t want to dream about a Westley of their very own? Reading fantasy is the BEST way to get my mind off of anything
- Allow myself the grace to move forward into a life undefined – and continue to pray that God’s will continues to be revealed to me (more road signs and pool moments, please).
I just love The Princess Bride! Please enjoy a few of my favorite syrupy good romantic quotes from the movie/book.
Westley: “Hear this now: I will always come for you.”
Buttercup: “But how can you be sure?”
Westley: “This is true love. You think this happens every day?”
Westley: “I told you I would always come for you. Why didn’t you wait for me?”
Buttercup: “Well… you were dead.”
Westley: “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.”
Buttercup: “I will never doubt again.”
Westley: “There will never be a need.”
“You can’t hurt me. Westley and I are joined by the bonds of love. And you cannot track that, not with a thousand bloodhounds, and you cannot break it, not with a thousand swords. And when I say you are a coward, it is only because you are one of the slimiest weaklings ever to walk the earth!” — Buttercup
“Life isn’t fair, it’s just fairer than death, that’s all.”
“My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!”
“Love is many things none of them logical.”
“Enough about my beauty.” Buttercup said. “Everybody always talks about how beautiful I am. I’ve got a mind, Westley. Talk about that.”
“Have fun storming the castle!”author: William Goldman
I spent the majority of my Fall Break in Cancun relaxing with friends, finding my center, appreciating the life God has gifted me. While there, enjoying pool time, God sent to me the most beautiful and faithful woman. She was on her honeymoon and their love story absolutely renews my faith in God and my belief in His faithfulness. They are both Catholic – she is Roman Catholic and he is Orthodox. They come from very traditional families that require the traditions and expectations of courtship from old. I love it.
I am sure I will get it wrong if I try to tell their story, but I will share the highlights. God brought them together at a Halloween party. They didn’t talk for weeks. Then they did. They became engaged fairly quickly due to a family medical emergency that would require a separation for a bit. Once the engagement was settled, the medical emergency just sort of evaporated and was no longer a factor. I know that’s vague, but trust me. It was super romantic. It was clearly orchestrated by God to abate all fears and push them together. The husband had been married once before and was reluctant to jump into marriage again until he was faced with the possibility of not seeing her for months. He didn’t just not want to lose her, he didn’t want to lose contact with her. How romantic.
This woman’s faith in God radiates from her – she spoke to me with words that renewed my faith in love. I really cannot explain the amazing feeling that came over me. But not only this, to hear her husband tell the story of how they fell in love and how his faith was renewed through the gift of this committed, everlasting, soulful love would make your heart skip a beat.
God put these two on the path to each other and the way their lives came together through ordinary circumstance, how they had an instant soulful connection neither could forget or let go, how events were arranged to make them plan a life together instead of facing a few months apart – God was at work laying the foundations for them both.
My faith has been shaken over the years, I will not lie. But, apparently, God will not let me give up. He is working in my life to bring me closer to Him and create the life I will love, the one He wants me to have. This kind woman who spoke to me of her faith calmed me in exactly the way I needed at exactly the time I needed. She did not know me and yet she spoke the words I needed to hear – words my friends could not have known to say.
If I look for ways God has been answering my prayers I see them. Some, like meeting her, are almost obvious. I really, really just wish there were road signs or even just those arrows or even “dangerous curve ahead”. Seriously could have used a “watch for falling rocks” sign here recently. But, then, I suppose I would not be called to pray as often if he provided subtitles. Sigh.
Thank you, God, for your sweet messages in the pool. You are so cool. Keep ‘em coming 😘
Acrylic on heavily textured background, resin, torn book pages, egg shells; 12×24 “You were my favorite word until the day I forgot how to spell you.” – Michele G Stratford
I am exploring more natural texture to add to my pieces. Egg shells were a cracking good time to work with.
I have been purposefully carving out a portion of my day to read in my Bible and not just do a devotional or listen to a cool inspirational podcast as I would normally tend to do. There is not one thing wrong with my normal approach to getting a little bit of God time into my day in addition to the running prayer chain He and I have going. But, taking the time to get out my Bible with a pen in hand to really study it takes more time because I am usually carried off on a mission to discover more about the passages I’m reading. Since I have been walloped aside the head by God recently to let go of trying to control my world and allow Him to be my pilot once again (see the post The Opposite of Fear) I feel this is a prudent first step. Besides, when I polled all you lovely people about how you deepen your faith a good many of you said you turned to your Bible. Good advice.
I chose to begin studying the women of the Bible because, well, I am a woman and I relate to stories of women, naturally. To be honest, it was hard to begin. It was like I was afraid of what I would find out about myself that I would rather not acknowledge. I do not always believe in the devil’s power to insinuate himself into my life. I mean I find that I go for long periods seemingly forgetting that’s a real thing. Which is totally proof that this happens. But this fear of just picking up my Bible and reading??? It was c-r-a-z-y. I am an English teacher turned librarian turned tech coach. I have 3 degrees. Learning is what I do – I am NEVER afraid to read. So, being the rebellious girl I am I READ to spite this fear.
I chose the “Book of Ruth” because it had been on my mind. Though I have no particular reason to associate this with other than the Holy Spirit guiding me with the still and quiet nudges. Turns out, it was, of course, the perfect place to dive in because 1) it’s not too daunting – only 4 tiny chapters 2) it’s a story of friendship more than anything else 3) it demonstrates God’s promise with everyday life.
I didn’t like what I found.
Turns out, Naomi and I have a lot in common. I would love to insert a cuss word here but I feel that’s inappropriate.
Let me explain.
The story begins with Naomi losing her husband. Then, her sons get married. Ten years later both of her sons die. (Ruth 1:1-5) And there’s a famine. (Ruth 1:6) And she is a woman in a culture that does not make being a single woman of age an easy person to survive being. She became BITTER. I would go so far as to say she was angry with God and felt he had abandoned her, punished her, or outright turned his back on her. So she sorta did the same. Or she threw a temper tantrum, anyway. She called Him out. She even requested she be called a different name so that her very name (Mara – Hebrew for “bitter”) expressed her bitterness with God. (Ruth 1:20)
- “For it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” Ruth 1:13 NKJV
- “But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi since the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” Ruth 1:20-22 NKJV
Now, I’m too Southern for that. My bitterness was kept beneath the surface – just behind my smile and hidden inside a little corner of my laughter. But I felt this way. I felt abandoned by God when my marriage and life became plagued with my ex-husband’s alcoholism. I folded my arms and stomped my feet and cried “why me????” I was angry. I just didn’t go so far as to change my name to Bitter Bonnie.
THEN, now this one struck me, THEN Naomi said she was too old to marry again. (Ruth 1:12) Now woman. Please. I understand that in her context, in her culture, she did not see herself as any kind of bargaining chip to use to enter a marriage that might save her from the plight of being a widow with no sons and no parents to go home to. But, when I read this I immediately questioned whether or not as a divorced woman with grown kids I am possibly too old to marry again. Let me make this clear, I am not. This one sentence in this one chapter struck this conviction in me. Until recently it didn’t really matter to me one way or the other. I know I am quite capable of thriving on my own. I do not NEED anyone. But, God has reminded me of His promise and His love for me. He has shown me what a true and soulful love could be. He has pushed me into wanting this again, to allow myself the vulnerabilty to accept it when (not if) God places me on such a path. I want God’s promise of a partner, a man made by Him specifically for me to spend the last of all of my days with. But, Naomi reminded me that bitterness can keep me from seeing the ways in which God wants me to go just like control can. It’s like a veil pulled between God and I and it creates static, impairing my ability to understand – or my ability to accept that I am not meant to fully understand. Naomi was in no position to dream of marrying for love. But, I am.
But Naomi’s story continues. Like any good woman of God, she took action and picked up and moved herself to a place where she had relatives and there was no famine. She did not sit and mope and wait for God to rescue her. She took action so God could rescue her. And she didn’t even have the Holy Spirit to nudge her along. Ahh. In her bitterness and her anger she kept moving forward. She was a good woman who suffered tragedies and she was angry and she chose to live and continue to believe in her God anyway. She was bitter, but she didn’t lose faith, and she didn’t stop being a woman of God.
God rewarded this moving forward with Ruth, Naomi’s daughter in law, who insisted she stay with her. Naomi tried to get her to choose to go back to her own family, but Ruth refused to abandon Naomi. She pledged to remain with her all of her days. I wonder, with as bitter as Naomi was, how long it took her to see this as the blessing it was? Her life took a turn for the fabulous because of the dedication of just this one friend.
As you may remember from my recent post about faith (referenced above) I am really trying to define the woman I am, want to become, and the one God has called me to be. Thanks to Naomi, I know I do not want to be bitter, I do want to be stagnant, I want to radiate my HOPE and FAITH in God and continue to move forward, always. Naomi didn’t quit – she picked up and moved and found the opportunities God had provided for her and Ruth to secure a better life. He is working on my life right now, just out of sight where I cannot see what in the world He is doing. But I have faith He is continuously laying foundations for me.
More on the “Book of Ruth” soon 😃
I was privileged enough to be asked by my daughter to take her and friends to Atlanta to see some obscure band play at the Mascarade. I say privileged because I think she and her friends are comfortable enough with me to be ok with me listening in on their conversations and they trust me to keep them safe. I know this is a privilege that teenager type people rarely bestow on adult type people.
I would argue that spending time with your teenage people is as important if not more so than spending time with your little people. This is when we can really begin laying the foundation for the adult relationships we hope to one day have. Now is when these almost adults are watching us and filing away those little decisions they see us make, marking them as future guidelines. Eek!
Working with this fabulous age of people for so long has made me hyper aware of this. I demanded respect of all in my classroom just as I do in my home, and I am always hyper aware that it should go both ways – I give the respect I expect. But I’m talking about more than this type of thing and more than the normal “I always put my grocery cart back” type decisions.
How do you handle the kid who is making poor decisions? How do you handle the kid with a gross attitude that makes you want to pinch their mouths closed and glue those lids before you watch that eyeball roll again? I believe that my reaction in these taxing situations speaks volumes to my kids.
When I respond to a terrible attitude with a calm warning – bringing attention to the behavior, having grace and assuming the kid was not aware they were being disrespectful shows my kids that I love and respect them – even if I’m not feeling the same from them. I take care NOT to reflect the attitude I’m receiving but reflect the one I expect. It is sometimes difficult. Assuredly. The second time the kid mouths off they get a second warning but with a future consequence attached and perhaps a bit more stern reminder on the expectation of respect as a way of living. If we get to the 3rd infraction- the consequence is exacted and there is no wiggle room to get around it. What I hope my kids learn from this type of example in conflict is that 1) respect is a foundation for good relationships 2) grace and benefit of the doubt should always be given to loved ones 3) you should always mean what you say and follow through.
I do not want my kids to fear bringing their troubles to me – I want them to understand that my love for them means I will see the best of them even when they are at their worst.
I want my kids to come to me if they are faced with something frightening, frustrating, heartbreaking, etc. and if they do not believe I will hear them and only reprimand and punish when they bring these things to me then they most likely will not confide in me. If they don’t confide in me, they must deal with whatever it is on their own, or with the guidance of other teen people, or an adult more trusted. And, as the mom, I want that coveted spot of “trusted adult” to be mine as often as it can be. Or, I at least want to be in the running. And I want to continue to be in the running well into their adult lives.
I am not naive enough to believe that my kids come to me with everything. I know they don’t. But, I do think that if they needed an adult they most likely would feel comfortable choosing me to confide in, ask advice of, and trust to hear and not judge them.
I am also not ridiculous enough to claim myself a perfect mom. I get it wrong alllllll the time. But I get it wrong out of love. That has to count for something.
This was my very first abstract. The idea came to me when I was prepping a background for another painting. I have always textured the backgrounds with modeling medium in circular shape. My daughter was playing around with resin on some of her paintings and I thought it might be cool to add some small areas of resin into an abstract painting. Now I am absolutely obsessed with exploring this in as many different ways as I can!
The blue in this one made this painting pop for me.
“We have to get used to the idea that at the most important crossroads in our life there are no signs.” -Ernest Hemingway
The Hemingway quote is true for my life – I have encountered many a decision that I was suddenly faced with without the benefit of road signs or maps for guidance. Thank my sweet Lord for giving me people who are willing to walk along beside me and support me along this life’s journey – even when I go off path!!
The coffee dyed book pages turned out really cool. They are spotted and have a very pretty range of coffee colored hues.
I believe a strong foundation in vocabulary gives us the power to communicate as well as understand most effectively. Lack of communication is the root of misunderstandings and conflicts.
“Searching” 36×36 mixed media, textured foundation, resin, acrylic paint. “If I cease searching, then, woe is me, I am lost. That is how I look at it – keep going come what may.” – Vincent Van Gogh. The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh
This one was s departure from the ususal circular shape. It reminds me of lightening or cracked earth and yet it feels calming to me too.This is one of the bigger pieces I will have at River Clay this weekend!
The Steinbeck quote is pulled from a passage describing the wonder of the world and the connection we sometimes feel as humans to all of it – the wonder of being a part of the whole of life. It is a very existential and Thoreau type view of the world. I, personally, think this pull to feel connected somehow is a pull to thanksgiving.
I love how this turned out! The texture is so much fun. I delight in finding ways to make texture the focus of a piece and this painting kept me mesmerized. You cannot see in a photo the juxtaposition of matte paint against the shiny resin in the stream – but it is beautiful.
I love this stage of a painting. It has good bones. It has made it past the ugly phase. It is waiting on those final tiny choices that will make it into something magnificinet. Something I am truly proud of.
I feel that way about me, about my life. I have good bones, I have made it past the ugly phase of life, and now I am making those tiny choices that are slowly turning my life into one I am truly proud of – one that is incredible. After my terrible summer was over (refer to post “God has called me to my knees“) and life sort of settled back down into a normal-ish routine, I found myself once again getting excited about creating the life I love. This month alone I am painting, participating in an art show, applying to more art shows (fingers crossed!), going on a tropical trip with my girlfriends, and even going on a short cultural excursion to Day of the Dead in Mexico with my daughter (yeah, ok, this is technically next month, but we LEAVE during this month). I am loving my new job and slowly figuring out my role. I am modifiying my routines, more time in scripture and in prayer; cooking more meals and actually enjoying it; excercise/strength training, etc.
Who knows what next month will hold or the one after that! I. Am. On. Fire.
When my life is stripped away of all the drama and all of the noise, I am able to find my peace and love my people more fiercely. I had almost forgotten the peace. Almost.
Spread the peace and love, people. ❤️
“Do you know what the opposite of fear is?” Asked my lovely counselor.
I did not. I rattled off a list of things I thought it could be – happiness, courage, love, action. All of these, she said, are byproducts of “the thing” that is the opposite of fear.
“Ok. Fine,” I said, “What is the opposite of fear?”
“It is FAITH,” She said. “Faith is the opposite of fear.”
Wow. Ok. When I am faced with something out of my control (the immovable rock from the post “Living in the Moment”) I am still. I pray. I live in the moment. But, what if I need to take it even further? What if a deeper faith could push me into a more steady and perpetual peace? What if all this planning that I do to abate anxiety is just masking fear of being out of control? And, if fear is the opposite of faith then all this planning that I do is only giving me a false sense of contol and not actually tackling the anxiety/fear AT ALL. What I really need is faith.
But, I have faith. I am faithful to His promise. I have faith in God and His plan for my life. But, maybe having faith should be percolating all the way down into the more mundane areas of my life and not just exercised on the bigger things. Which honestly, I didn’t even realize I was not doing this. I truly thought I was living my faith.
This is worth investigating.
So, I have English teacher-ed (yes, this is a made up verb) it by creating some good ole fashioned central questions:
What exactly is “faith”? How does one go about aquiring or building faith? If you find yourself having little faith or being fearful (since faith is the opposite of fear) how do you build or aquire faith?
Gracious, I don’t know. So, also English teacher style, I did some research – first in the form of polling a few friends and then putting it out to the masses via social media. Then, I went to delve into a more in depth religious explanation and got way more than I bargained for. But, that is a post for another day.
What is the definition of faith from the viewpoint of Christianity? After a quick research journey, I found 4 ways faith is referred to within Christianity.
Faith as religion – the doctrines and beliefs of Chrisitanity
Justification by faith – saved by Grace or the understanding that our forgiveness cannot be earned; our salvation is a precious gift given to us by God through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus. We receive this gift when we have faith in truth of Jesus Christ.
Faith as a way of living – striving to live the teachings and the doctrines we believe in; “faith without works is dead” James 2:20
Faith as trust in God and His care of us
The FAITH I am after with my questions, the one I am seeking to understand how to expand upon, is the last one – faith as trust in God and His care of us. One of the social media responses I received spoke directly to me. My Facebook friend, Jessica, said, “I think to gain more faith we have to realize we are not in control of things, most of the time. We can control our small circle of influence and the choices we make but other than that, we don’t really control most things. Fear and anxiety specifically crave control. Once we can learn to do without it, faith can exponentially increase. It has to.”
If fear is the opposite of faith and fear and anxiety crave control then these are ways my soul is being targeted. UGH. Yes. I see this now. Truly, I am not a big fan of being so slow to recognize God’s truth. My mind is blown at how often he has tried to show me this truth and bring me back to faith and how often I have held on to that control like a pacifier, doing more harm than good.
So, now that my call to have a more purposeful faith, one that is more ingratiated into my every day life, is ringing in my ears how to I create exponential growth in this area?????? How do I build this muscle, so to speak – as in I have faith, but I want it to be of Goliath proportions and not a measley mustard seed or even a large shrubbery sized faith. GO-LI-ATH!! I want it to be the woman in the C. S. Lewis quote – “A woman’s heart should be so close to God that a man should have to chase HIM to find her.” How cool is that? I need to define what that woman looks like in me. Also a post for another day. But, to start? Her faith trickles down like beautiful golden honey into all areas of her life. It is sticky sweet and hard to wash off and makes her radiate in a glistening sunshiney hue. The sticky goodness is left on everyone she touches.
Stay tuned. My research has sparked many a post!
I often listen to my music on random shuffle, because you know as a gen-x I purchased a lot of music before the whole Spotify playlist thing was a thing. I love the eclectic range of my music – punk to show tunes to alternative to . . . Veggie Tales.
Yep. Tonight, “Silly Songs with Larry” popped on and I was singing along to the “Hairbrush Song” before I came out of the fog of nostalgia to realize my boys are not strapped into car seats in the back in my mini van. They are, in fact, adult men with a adultish little sister and the minivan was two vehicles and a divorce ago.
Where did the time go?
Life has taken unexpected twists and turns since I spent my days innocently singing along with Bob and Larry. I think of the woman I was and wonder, if I could travel back to her and tell her anything, would I? Would I tell her to brace for what was to come? Would she even believe me?
Would I risk whatever danger Doc Brown says about how this could mess up the space time continuum?
What if she did believe me? Could I then convince her that the blessings may actually be worth the pain? What if I tell her she will love and be trampled and she will love again and feel heartache but love is always, always worth the pain? The vulnerability I have learned is necessary for real love – I wouldn’t have this vulnerability if I hadn’t been through the dark times. And, even though it hasn’t lead to that dream of a lifelong committed soulful love as of yet, it has shown me that love is worth the risk. It really is. Could I get her to see and understand this without the benefit of the dark times yet to come?
Would I risk forfeiting the woman I am now? I am strong, independent, and even more caring because of the hard times. I have lost some of my naivety and optimism. I understand the necessary and true value respect plays in relationships. And I have gained a set of eyes wide open and am anchored a bit more firmly in reality. I have had countless confirmations that my gut intuition is spot on. And, I believe in myself and in God once more.
I have gained a world of living gifts in the wake of the years of living inside a toxic relationship. The years of feeling strangled by the thick oppressive air that surrounds someone walking through an eggshell world made way for a bright future paved with significant lessons learned along the way. Here are just a few things I have learned:
The value of self evaluation and criticism and evaluating my world for what is and isn’t worth my time.
The value of friends and family and love in every form
The importance of being self sufficient. And independent. And in control of my finances.
The value of education
The need to provide a safe home and landing place for my kids
The value of counseling
The value of finding my why and my values in order to make a huge difference when trying to point myself in the best direction
The absolute doability of creating a career later in life, including an artistic one 🙂 and that success is worth the risk of failure.
And, most importantly, God has never left me. He is here, loving me, always, and that a relationship with Him is like any other – in need of constant care and attention.
So, what would I do? Would I tell her? I don’t think so. But, I would really love to hang out with her and those littles! How fun would that be??
I will be participating in the River Clay Fine Arts Festival in Decatur, Alabama this October and these sweet little 6×6 birdies will be there!
I am spending a good bit of time in the evenings and on the weekends creating pieces for this show and I am loving every minute of it!
Weekly check ins. This is what Champagne Sundays are all about.
I have become wonderful friends with my next door neighbor and each Sunday we get together on the front porch and have champagne from my vintage champagne glasses and discuss the week we’ve had and the one coming up. We celebrate our wins and we dissect our losses.
We are at different stages in life – she has a little and I am five minutes away from an empty nest. I have about 10 years on her but I haven’t really noticed. I think at some point, in adulthood, friends are friends without regard to age.
I love my neighborhood. I am surrounded by homes that have stood for more than 100 years, including mine. My house has now stood through two pandemics and multiple wars. Several families have been raised here and these rooms have been filled with love, laughter, sorrow, and just the everyday joys and mundanities of life. Several decades ago, stting on the front porch in the twilight hours was the entertainment of the day. Folks visited with each other and relationships were the focus of life. No television. No internet or virtual anything. It was all about face to face relationship building. And I bet they didn’t even know it – it just was.
It is becoming more and more clear to me in my life that it is my people who are my everything. Maybe it is because I am about to lose my last child to the university life that is making me hyper aware of how quiet my house is when I am here alone. Maybe it is having my boys home with me again, all of my people here under my roof, that has me so aware of how much I have missed them and how fleeting this time is – that this is most likely the last time in my life I will have all of my babies living with me for any significant period of time. After this school year I will get visits, not children living in my home.
Maybe it is missing the relationships I built at work over 11 years while I am building new relationships with some really fun people in this new position.
Or maybe it’s all this change in my life that has me craving the connection with friends. Who knows.
What I do know is that at the end of the day when only 85 of the 2000 things have been marked off the list; when I have successfully completed anything, really; the only things that I will truly remember a month, a year, 10 years from now, are the memories I make with my people. I have no idea whether I cleaned the house last Tuesday, but I do remember having dinner at a friend’s house while she so graciously shared some sound financial advice and experience. I cannot remember one day last year where I went to bed feeling like I had completed everything that needed to be done – but I also can’t remember what those things were. I do remember some very pleasant conversations with my ex (which I now treasure), some heart to hearts with wonderful teenage people, advice from dear friends, laughing on my birthday. I remember the people and the memories made with them.
I also realize I am replacable at work. I did a lot. I had a lot of hats. I took on more than the average chief. But, since leaving the position, those jobs are being absorbed. Someday I will retire even. And, although you can be sure that I hope I have made a difference, I hope I continue to receive messages like one I got today from a former student sharing some of her brilliant writing with the message “Some writing I’ve done recently. I owe my skills to you. I miss you,” I am also fully aware that I am not destined to make some sort of name a building after me kind of impact. I made a difference on a more individual level. I miss her, this student. But I miss the connection that we formed when we bonded over Henry David Thoreau in her 10th grade English class several years ago. I miss having life changing conversations with teenagers who have minds open to every possibility under the sun. This wonderful young woman changed my life as much as maybe I changed hers. The ability to grow intellectually through conversation – it is the lifeblood of a good life!
Now I am not at all hating on technology. I have a love affair with all things tech, actually. And I fully advocate for the use of tech and participating in social media and all that. It’s one of the ways I stay in touch with my college roommate or see what my sister (who always lives a country or two away) is up to. Use the tools available to keep up the relationships with the people you love.
Our Champagne Sunday talks are almost always about the people in our lives, not the tasks. I encourage you to start your own Champagne Sunday, or supper club, or girls’ night out, or even a vacation with your favorite people. Spend your time where it really counts, on relationships, on people. Do not get bogged down by your to do lists and the mundanities. Live! Share! Be vulnerable with your people. Share your love – it is an infinite pool that grows and grows if you let it.
I have realized here lately that when there is a situation that I cannot control I analyze it, come up with all sorts of possible explanations and solutions and tornado myself into an anxious place of f e a r. I am doing this because I trained myself, during the dark times, that occupying my mind with anything feels like an action, and an action feels like it is working toward a solution, and working toward a solution allows me to avoid feeling my present situation. It also, I told myself, prepared me for any and all scenarios either the worst or the best and anything in between so I could better brace for what comes. These were the ways of survival. But these are not the dark times. When a situation has no solution this action sends me into a spiral and just confirms there is no solution and this breeds that all consuming f e a r. As my sweet counselor likes to ask when I am stuck in such a tornado – is this a playdoh problem or a rock problem – meaning is it one I can actually push around or is it out of my control, unmalleable?
How do I change how I handle the rocks?
I be still. (U G H)
I live in the moment.
I allow myself to feel, leaning into the tears, the frustration, or the anxiety, if you will. Because let’s face it, if we are facing a rock that is causing us to seek solutions when there are none to seek, then it isn’t some kind of happy, happy, joy, joy thing that has us all tangled up in tornado thinking. It is something not going our way, or that requires a “wait and see what happens next” approach, or is just simply at the mercy of someone NOT US. What is that wonderfully terrible truth???? I am the only one I can control. Yeah. That.
I pray to God in thanks for allowing me the situation, because if it causes me to feel intensely then my heart must be all in. I don’t tend to get all worked up about situations that do not involve people I love. I give Him thanks for allowing me the love that causes the instance and I praise Him for creating and sharing this sort of love with little ole me. And, then, I ask HIM to solve it. What is a rock for me is always playdoh for HIM.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
I allow myself to NOT see solutions and just sit in the present, not predicting, not worrying, and not telling myself stories that are most definitely pure conjecture. Do you ever do that? Brene Brown calls this a “shitty first draft” or how we explain things to ourselves when we are hurt or offended, insecure, etc. The stories we tell ourselves from a place of f e a r. These stories need to be checked for truth because, generally speaking, they are anything but. Recognizing a shitty first draft (SFD) reaction to anything will deflate an escalating situation quickly. Check yourself as that tornado begins to form for the SFD component.
I allow myself to feel the blessings of the moment and not search out the sorrow. I allow myself to be thankful for the grief or uncomfortable unknowing. It is ok to not feel peaceful, but there is some kind of peace in letting go of the fear. I must really just stay in the present. Wow. Soooooo hard for me.
Be present. Be present. Be present.
I am sensing a running theme. . .
Being present as a person who loves to plan her future is, well, sometimes a bit tedious. My head is always trying to look ahead and skip the uncomfortable parts. BUT, what I am finding is that when I cannot see a future, I am more engaged in my present. I am spending more time present with my kids, you know, engaged in conversation, laughing and talking. I am cooking dinner more, painting more, and spending more time with friends. Hmmm. Maybe I am not really spending more time on any of these things. Maybe I am just enjoying them more because in the back of my mind I am not already jumping to the next thing, planning away my present. Regardless, it feels good.
When I recognize that a rock has started knocking around in my brain, I pray and give it over (I do tend to be fairly specific in the way I would prefer for God to handle it, but you know, He is God. He will exact His will. But, it doesn’t hurt to put in my two cents, ya know?) Then I focus on my present. I fill my time with my people and my art. I make a conscious effort to Be still. Be thankful. Be HERE.
My oldest, the one who made me a mom, graduated from college with a degree in biology on Friday. He has worked hard both for the degree and to become the responsible, dedicated man he is. He has successfully completed his final weeks of coursework, found a really cool internship opportunity in South Africa, and packed up and moved home all in the wake of his father’s death. I am so proud of him, and his father would be too.
This is our first event without his father. I wanted my son, and my other two kids, to feel their father was a part of this momentous occasion so I found the fraternity pin (they belong to the same fraternity) and I had a battery replaced in one of his father’s old watches for him to wear while he walked. I chose a graduation gift I thought my ex might have chosen with me for our son, a dive watch in the same brand of the last watch I had given my ex and that he had loved and worn every day for the last few years. I think he would approve of my choice for our boy.
It is strange, now, that the responsibility to be sure he is included is mine once again. It is sort of like I have been made the wife again in death. Really, I just love my kids and they loved their dad and I do not want his absence to feel like a gaping hole for them. He loved them. In death, I can be sure they know it.
Watching the graduates walk across the stage, each full of potential and promise and the wildness youth bears, I reflect on how I learn so much about life by watching the young people who are always around me. They are unafraid to take chances, change trajectory, and jump in with both feet at a moment’s notice. How much more important is this sort of impulsivity here 25 or so years older? Now, when I realize how precious life is, how fleeting it might be, how few opportunities we are given to love deeply, or change trajectory, or slow down even – NOW is when I need to embrace that impulsivity and “why not?” way of thinking and embrace all that God may place in my path.
Now is the best time to remember that it is PEOPLE, relationships, that are my treasure. It is the love I have to give and the love bestowed to me that I need to fall to my knees and thank our sweet Lord for placing in my life. He has blessed me in more ways, especially in this last year, than I ever thought possible. He has shown me His love for me through others when I have least expected it. He has answered prayers and opened doors and placed just the right people in my path to push me in the directions He wants me to go. It is lovely, but He wants more.
I may not exactly choose to go and spend weeks or months in South Africa like my son, but you better believe I will not hesitate to go where I am moved to go – I am not going to worry away my opportunities to live, LIVE my life with love and laughter and drama and all the other good and bad and wonderful and tragic days that this life may hold for me. I will be open and free to travel or even move if I am so moved by God to do so. I am thankful for my Lifetime moments as much as my Hallmark moments. I am thankful to just feel again, all of the feels, to have been broken open and set free to experience life once again. It’s funny how a graduation ceremony reminded me of all of that. Why is this so hard to hold in every day life?
I only have this ONE life. That. Is. It.
I want to live it body and soul.
Let us all . . .
Love with wild abandon.
Be present. Be present. Be present.
I was scrolling through TikTok last night, watching the many videos on trauma, toxic relationships, and narcissism that tend to be on my “for me” page, and I recognized myself in literally almost every post. I understand the trauma, I have lived in the toxicity, I have labeled my ex as a narcissist without any formal diagnosis. And, then, the really wonderfully terrible thought drifted through me – God made the narcissists too. Ugh.
What did this realization mean for me? Well, it made me sit in silence for quite a while, thinking about just that. So what? I know everyone is a child of God. Even the bad ones. Why was God speaking to me at that moment, while I was whispering “yes, girl, you deserve so much more” at my phone screen down the TikTok rabbit hole?
He was calling me to Him. He was asking me to be still. Isn’t that the hardest thing our Heavenly Father EVER does???? I have such a difficult time being still and listening.
I write about my experiences in a toxic relationship to help other women know they are not alone and possibly learn from my mistakes and from the hard lessons I lived through. As the wife of an alcoholic, I learned a great deal about alcoholism and navigating that difficult life. Sharing those years of the dark times has worth to others. I have been thinking a lot about this. The topics I have been inspired to write about have centered around this. Naturally, I have considered writing about abuse and narcissism, toxic relationships and the trauma it caused me and what I learned about myself from the experiences. But HOW do I do this? How I do this matters. It matters to me, because how I think about things affects how I approach and live my life and it matters because how YOU, the reader or listener, hears my message will affect how YOU internalize the information. It is so easy to jump on the victim bandwagon. How do I share those traumatic times without sharing through the eyes of a victim but sharing through the eyes of a victor?
When my ex went to rehab again, I don’t remember which time, the community actually knew what was going on – he had outed himself as an alcoholic so to speak. I had a choice at this point that had to be made. How do I talk about him, when acquaintances ask, in a way that my kids will be hurt the least? I was hurting, I was feeling victimized, I was angry. I had to sit in the awful stillness until I was able to see through the hurt. I loved this man, no matter what he had said or done because he was the father of my kids and because way back when I said “I do” to him and made him a promise of for better or for worse. So, I chose in that moment to look at him, look at our trauma as much as an emotionally traumatized woman could, through a lens of love. When people asked me about his drinking, about our separation, I answered with, “He is a good man who has a problem with alcohol.”
Now, don’t go throwing your hands up asking me why I was protecting this man. I did it for my kids. I did it for him – if his reputation in the community was going to be tanked, he would be responsible, not me. I am fully aware that every time I say something negative about my kids’ father, whether anyone else judges me for it or not, I judge myself. I do not live in his skin, I do not know the intimate struggle of alcoholism, and I know full well what he has lost. He has lost me, he has lost YEARS with his kids, and much, much more. I know what I went through in that toxic relationship is not something I would wish on my worst enemy – but I put myself there because I chose to stay in it for better or for worse, until I didn’t. I cannot blame him anymore. But oh my gosh I did. If TikTok had been a thing 5 years ago, I would be one of the women I was “yes, girl” commenting. Instead, my inner circle very gracefully handled my anger and my sorrow with me. But, staying there, in that mindset, keeps me in a victim mentality and I am not ok with that.
When I filed for divorce I knew it would be hard. More importantly I knew it would be hard for my kids, even though they were two teenagers and a twenty-something. I had seen my friends go through divorce and I had watched a couple of my friends in particular handle it with such amazing grace and I wanted to emulate them. I did my best to walk through the divorce with the same public front. But at home I was devastated. I went through waves and waves of emotion. I hated it. I just wanted to get to the other side without feeling any of it. But, what I tried to never forget was that my kids, our kids, love their dad. They recognized the need for the divorce and they honestly did not want us to stay together – they were good with it all. Our lives were much more calm and predictable. My ex-husband was going to have enough work to do in repairing his relationships with his kids, if he chose to do so, without me adding my two cents about how exactly I felt about every little thing he said or did. So, I did my best to shelter them from it. I did not always succeed and they did have to see me broken on more than one occasion but I did my best to be a good mom to them through it all. I firmly believe that no matter how old your kids are, they do not need to be privy to the ugliest parts of your marriage. There will be time for those talks on the other side of divorce, when everyone is healed and wisdom can be imparted, if it ever feels appropriate. As a woman who wants her kids to see her as a Christian, as a lover of Jesus, as someone who lives what she believes, how could I choose over and over again to destroy their dad instead of treat him as my God would wish me to? But, YES, I could very, very easily have been the woman who TOOK HIM DOWN so to speak. But, is that who I wanted to be? Nope.
Believe me, this attitude is often difficult to hold. I still struggle, and I fail, and I will never claim to have been good at it, but half the battle is knowing, right??
So, when God whispers to me that narcissists are His children, it is a call back to this. Back to Him. He wants me to write about my struggle, He wants me to help other women, He does not want me to play the victim, or to explain my toxic marriage and divorce in detail. He DOES want me to share what I learned through it all. He wants me to approach sharing my story as if I am sharing it with my kids – through a lens of love. And, although it would sometimes be easier to explain with examples – as an English teacher it is soooooo hard not to cite my source – God has called me to share the fruits more than the details of the trials and tribulations of toxicity. There have been SO MANY FRUITS. Truly. I have been blessed by the dark times in ways I would never give up. This is what is worth sharing.
When I was in the middle of a toxic relationship I pulled in close for survival. I felt like a victim. I felt like my partner was creating this toxicity on purpose to punish me for not being the woman he wanted. It did not matter what I did to try to become the woman I thought he wanted, I never felt like I was enough.
But what I could not see due to the bubble I had crawled into to try to protect myself, was that if I was in a toxic relationship, SO WAS HE. He was not choosing to live in a toxic place on purpose. Who would do that? He was miserable too. No one actually wants to live that way. This is powerful now, in looking back. It strips away the animosity I have felt about this period of my life. He was not to blame. I was not to blame. We were both just bumbling through a really terrible time in life and we had no idea how to do that together – I don’t actually think we were built to support each other in this way. We did not fit together in this vitally necessary way a couple should.
I did not know how to strip my life of this toxicity. I did not want to quit on my marriage; I wanted a healthy and strong relationship. I wanted to honor the covenant I made before God until my very last breath. But, I am human and I was full of self-doubt and self-loathing at the time. This was on me, by the way. Other people do not have the power to strip me of my confidence, not even my most loved ones. It is a response to situations and people and one I am in complete control over, even when I don’t feel like I am. I did not possess the understanding, at the time, of what was happening to create this bad juju in my home because I was only beginning to research alcoholism and I had beaten myself down instead of facing my reality. I knew I could not escape, I didn’t want to. I wanted it to get better. And, the only way that could happen was if I worked on myself. I could not change him. I could only work on me. It was his responsibility to work on himself. I was ready to be a woman I loved again and one my children could be proud of.
I feel I should mention here that counseling was a part of our efforts to find a way forward, both individual and couples counseling. I believe in counseling. I saw great value in sharing a marriage counselor that we both saw – together and independently – this meant the counselor could see both sides and did not blindly advise either of us without knowledge of the personality and narrative from the other side. Believe me, this was sometimes quite irritating. I mean, what woman doesn’t want her therapist to agree only with her and the way she sees her life? But, alas, that was not an incredibly healthy approach for me from inside my bubble. The marriage counselor was able to bring my spouse’s perspective and hurt to me where I could see it. I sure as heck wasn’t allowing my spouse to broach that beautiful bubble of emotional protection very often. More importantly, the counselor helped me recognize the need for communicating when things were NOT ok – recognizing emotional abuse is not easy for a Positive Polly in a defensive position. I also saw a counselor to help me work on ME, independent of what I wanted in my marriage. Perspective is a wonderous thing.
I wonder now, how many other women sit in the toxicity of a marriage that is plagued with bad juju and see only the abuse instead of two people no longer having any idea how to do life together. When people crouch down into protection mode their defenses are thrown up and their offenses are not always kind. When we place a protective bubble around ourselves, the good stuff can’t get in either. The one who is supposed to be battling life with us is all of a sudden battling US, and it breeds the worst kind of fear – and, I admit, I engaged in the blame and deflection game to help me build myself up to get through this fear. Is this common? I think it is. It has taken a TON of self reflection to get to a place where I can see how my protective armor also kept me from seeing any good, or seeing any responsibility I might have had for our misery, for that matter. The bad always outweighs the good, whether I want it to be that way or not. It is human nature.
Now, I am NOT saying that emotional abuse was not present. What is that common saying right now?? Hurt people hurt people. I am also not saying that this mutual battle stance was an excuse to engage in emotional abuse, really, there is never an excuse for such behavior. What I am saying is that without this bubble I think would have SEEN it and I would have freed myself sooner (my care is my responsibility).
When I look at the whole of my marriage, things changed. I cannot prescribe the end to the beginning because that would be lying to myself and to my kids to help justify the end. Instead, I know, and my children will know, that it was good, once. We loved each other and cared for each other differently then. The parents they saw divorce are not the parents from their childhood. And, that is ok. We changed, life changed, circumstances went south – and not in the pretty southern hospitality kind of way. My bubble kept me from seeing my reality and kept me rooted in the past – a magical place of potential that, without my bubble, I would have recognized could never be realized.
Divorce is like a living death. Nothing is going to change that. I can see, though, from here, WHY we hurt each other the way we did. I can understand how protection prolonged our inevitable end because we did not allow ourselves to feel or to see the other person’s pain and deal with it in a healthy way. And, in some couples, I can see where the opposite may be true and that this protection may actually push the couple closer and closer to divorce when, if only they could pop those bubbles, they could find their way back together.
My walls of protection KEPT me from being vulnerable. That was the purpose. I didn’t want to feel the hurt. I didn’t want to deal with my own role in the spiraling chaos of my marriage. I wanted to be Pollyanna and play with my babies and visit with friends and wish it all away. If I could have only seen the value in sitting in my hurt and opening myself to the vulnerability I have now – I could have seen the necessity of the ending that inevitably came. I kept myself in the toxicity. I did that to myself. I also know that my sweet counselors tried to coax me there but I wouldn’t hear of it at the time. Ohhhhh hindsight. You are sometimes cruel.
Today I offer grace. I offer it to myself for being a woman who was experiencing emotional trauma and for the times when she did not handle it from a place of love but instead from a place of protection. I offer grace to my ex for the same.
I will make it a point to always remember that time in my life. Being conscious of where I have been will be a barometer for future relationships. I will fully understand the worth of a partner who treats me well and who has my best interests at heart. I will argue and fight, when necessary, with a new awareness of the fragility of love and the importance of respect and self-reflection in the care of this love. Most of all, I will remain aware of the ease in which that damned protective bubble begins to rise and I will pop it with open communication with my person. I will recognize emotional abuse and toxicity immediately this way. Remaining vulnerable will keep me rooted in reality. I will only know if I have found the man God has meant for me if I remain open and communicate with him all that is me, in spite of my fear of being hurt. I know, now, that a life partner who can handle my worst, my most anxiety ridden paranoid fear level, from a place of love – he will be the one worth holding on to forever. I will not settle for anything less, God does not mean for me to settle for anything less.
Gloria Gaynor may not have meant a sugar addiction, but her song most definitely plays on repeat in my head as I let go of all things carb laden. . .
As I wrote in the last post, it is high time for me to feel good again and to STOP the whole sabotaging of my progress nonsense my inner child has engaged in since my birthday weekend in FEBRUARY.
I know what to do. So, this past week, I started. Again. I am too embarrassed and honestly have lost count as to how many times I have started over again. But, I am ready, now, to dig in. I am out of school, stress has lessened, and I have more control over my days.
So, here is what I do the first week or two to ease myself back into a low carb lifestyle.
I just eat low carb. It is that simple.
I do not count. I do not care if it is all that healthy. The whole point is to wean myself off of the carbs, which I am highly addicted to. I have found this is easiest if I allow myself whatever it is that I LOVE to eat if it is low carb. There is a lot of cheese involved, I will tell you that. And, it is not the healthiest. But, healthy choices come next. I have to get past the absolute need to eat white chocolate almond bars first (thanks a lot Hershey).
I also drink a TON of water. I work on making this a focus and I never stopped taking my probiotics. That is just a must.
The next phase will begin when I have made it 10 days of low carb. At this point, I will make planning and tracking a main focus. Stay tuned. . . I will let you know how it is going, the challenges I fail and the ones I conquer.
I work in education. This means that this, this month of May, is the most stressful time of the year for me (the second most stressful being the start of school). I gain pounds almost every May and lose them in June. This is unhealthy. It is even more irritating.
Buuuuutttttt . . . I know what to do!!!!!
Buuuuutttttt . . . I am an emotional eater.
I eat my stress. Especially when my stress is compounded.
BUT, do you know what is different this year???? I NOTICED THIS PATTERN! This has happened every year now for 11 years. ELEVEN YEARS. Now, I know what you are thinking . . shouldn’t I have noticed this before now? UH, YEAH. Only, I guess I did – I just had the mindset that it is something to endure – not something to prepare for. So, now I am at the end of this “most stressful season” and realizing this change in mindset gives me the motivation to identify stress sooner so I can create strategies to push through it in a healthy way instead of in the Bonnie way, which clearly does not work.
I have tried several diets and ways of eating and my success boils down to the following things:
- I have to like what I am eating. I do not do well if I have to “get used” to the way something tastes.
- I know what to eat. My issue is one of emotional eating. I know what to eat and when to eat it, I don’t always follow my own directions because I can be bratty that way.
- I know planning is e v e r y t h I n g . . . .
- If I get too strict with myself I will rebel against myself. Ha. I am such a BRAT.
What do I do with this information??? Well, first, I wait to really delve into a plan to conquer the stress eating until after the last day of school or #4 will be a factor. But THEN I will be back with a plan. I can, between now and next week, take notes in my planner of what is triggering stress for me. Research research research. That and make water a priority. I can do those two small things until I am in a position to do some bigger things to get myself back on track!
How do you, my reader, redirect your sugar monster (or whatever type of monster your emotional eater self is) when you begin to feel stressed or anxious???? I could use some ideas 🙂
When my ex-husband went to rehab for the second time, our closet became MY closet. It was a beautiful walk in deal – not huge but not tiny. I had taken the dimensions and designed shelving and spacing and it had been rebuilt just for us. I cannot explain why exactly this closet became the symbol of my reclaiming of my life, but it did. I cleaned it out and donated everything I knew I would never wear again. I organized it by style and color. There was a place for everything and everything was in its place. When he returned from rehab after this particular stint he moved home for a couple of months. I was so emotionally attached to the closet space that it upset me greatly to think of having to rearrange this masterpiece to accommodate his clothing again. . . I wasn’t ready. It was like the closet was a symbol of my life if it were put together, neat and tidy. Adding anything would mess with the organizational system I had created. Perhaps it was also a representation of my giving over complete trust in him to love me, as if moving into my closet was allowing him to move back into my heart. (Cheesy, corny, I am an English teacher/librarian, remember??? It is how I am wired.) Also, this closet had been where I would go to cry so my kids couldn’t hear me. It was a safe space. I wanted my marriage to work and I wanted our family to be a strong one with love oozing all over the place, but I was still heartbroken when he returned; I needed time to heal with him and find a way to be with him and not on the defensive from him. I had an absolute come apart over this closet thing. He was very accommodating, if not understanding. The trauma of recovery isn’t for the faint of heart. It affects everyone in the household – not just the one with the addiction.
Now, when I say this closet thing is a big deal to me, I mean it is a BIG DEAL TO ME. When I started dating after the divorce I sorta started judging each man by whether I could see myself allowing him a fraction of my closet space EVER. Honestly, I am pretty sure I used this to give myself an excuse to not date because how would I really know after a date or two anyway if they were worthy of closet space???? But, maybe I didn’t. Maybe I really did know after a date or two that the date would never be a man I could share my sacred closet space aka LIFE with. Who knows. This was one of those evaluation practices that ran on gut intuition and not facts or an evaluation of boxes a man’s qualities might check off of my “perfect match” list.
At this moment, five years or so from the morphing of the closet into a coping mechanism to deal with the pulling apart of my life, my family, and three years or so since the divorce and my re-entrance into the dating world, I am still very fond of my closet but it does not hold the same uber significance for me that it once did. My post-divorce house was built in 1909 and (I assume thanks to the needs of some previous owners) I have a nice size walk-in closet here as well. It is large enough that I am turning part of it into a very small (tiny) office space – to write and begin podcasting. I love my closet. I like that I have shoes in color order, by season. I like that my clothes follow a ROYGBIV pattern and are all facing the same way, grouped by type. I like my neat stacks of sweaters and tshirts. You see where I am going. My house can be in utter chaos and the first place I straighten and get put back together is this closet. My closet is still sometimes my safe space. It calms me and makes me feel safe in chaos. It just makes me HAPPY. And, thanks to embracing vulnerability, it is now nothing more than this.
After doing a great deal of research, I chose to eat a low carb/keto type lifestyle as a way to lose weight and get healthy. After much research I found that this way of eating:
- Reduces inflammation – this is the one thing that keeps me coming back. I have -0- cartilage in one knee and when I am eating low carb/keto my knee does not hurt me at all. When I am eating an average amount of carbs I am taking ibuprofen all day to relieve the pain.
- Improves energy and sleep
- Improves brain function
- Loss of the irritating feeling of being hungry
- Improves mood overall
I also made this choice knowing it will need to be a lifelong lifestyle for me. Once my body is used to burning fat instead of sugar it would be a difficult transition back to burning glucose. Choosing to eat this way for the rest of my life, not just for as long as it takes me to lose weight, has also made a difference in my approach. I have researched and gathered an arsenal of recipes and go to snacks to keep my healthy and low carb.
Weaning myself off of sugar is never easy. After birthday cake it takes me MONTHS to get back on track. I just love sugar! So, to start, I just allow myself to eat whatever so long as it contains few carbs. I also up my water intake. Drinking a ton of water is very important on this diet. In the next week or two I work on keeping my carbs under 20. After about 3 weeks of this I am in control of my cravings enough to begin to work on also looking at my fat, protein, and calories. I eat low carb veggies, healthy fats (like avocado), and protein (limiting dairy).
When I get back on my bandwagon of keto living I use ketone strips to confirm I am burning fat instead of sugar. I will track it on occasion to be sure I am staying there and I use the CarbManager app to track my progress and my macros (carbs, calories, fat, protein).
When I get to the 4th week of a low carb way of living I find I am no longer feeling hunger the way I am when I am eating carb laden foods. I can go longer periods of time without eating and I love this. I do not like feeling hungry and I also do not like eating several times a day. I can eat lunch and dinner only and lose weight and feel great. My blood pressure and blood work has come back excellent for the past two years of mostly eating this way as well.
I have mentioned that I do not like to feel out of control. So, that moment when I realized that regardless of my herculean efforts to control my life and that these efforts were really just to soothe my anxiety and really did not have much bearing on my situation at all – well, it kinda freaked me out.
Now, I knew I could not control my kids. I mean, have you ever met at toddler? All you can do is set parameters and cross your fingers you will be there when those boundaries are breached so you can limit the chaos or damage. I knew I couldn’t control my then husband, I knew I could not plan away his alcohol addiction. But, that does not mean that I didn’t try.
For a period of time I made it my priority to spend time with him and grow our relationship. I made sure he could see evidence of my devotion and strove to create a deeper friendship between us. I was careful to have alternate beverages in the house. I planned social outings with friends and we went on vacations. I took care of all of the kid responsibilities so he could be devoted to work. We were not a perfect family, but I worked hard to build a life that would make us all happy and content. I wanted him to have the family that was worth fighting for.
Yeah. It doesn’t work like that.
Addiction really doesn’t care. We could have been the royal family with the most supportive members and the most money and the most fun activities planned all the time and addiction would infiltrate anyway. His addiction was not about me or our kids or our family. I had heard that addiction was a disease, but really, what did that mean? Well, now I know. Like cancer, it can strike anyone in any family. And, only the one who is in the disease can engage in the treatment for it. The kids and I couldn’t do it for him. And, the craziness of alcoholism or any addiction really, is that no matter how much the addicted person may WANT to be free of it, it just isn’t that simple. Sigh.
I remember very vividly the day I realized that I no longer wanted to live the life I found myself in. I have never felt so alone. We were at a family reunion and I was surrounded by my family, my extended family, and my extended extended family. Now, all that comes to mind is Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby, “And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” I was surrounded by my people and I was alone. I was trapped inside this knowledge of what was happening to my husband and, as a result, how miserable and helpless I felt and how the chaos was affecting our kids. At the time, my ex didn’t even realize the insidiousness of the alcohol and it wasn’t something I was able to explain with enough clarity for him to understand. It was like seeing this tsunami approaching, knowing the destruction it will bring, knowing I needed to prepare and guard against it, and not at all having the ability to do so. I was not in control.
I did not leave at that time. I chose to stay. But, this meant finding a way to crawl out of the misery and helplessness I was feeling. In order to do this I had to concede that I had NO control over this situation, I could not control his alcohol consumption. I could not best friend him out of it, or love him out of it. I could choose to live in anger or I could choose to live in love. I chose love. Love of my family, love of my husband, and most importantly, love of ME. Disclaimer: I am human. I did not stay in that place of love 24/7. How could I? I am not a sitcom mom and as much as I really, really want to most days, I do not live in a Hallmark movie. I was living in the Lifetime movie channel where things are messy and not pretty. I made mistakes, I got angry. I lashed out. But, my ultimate goal when I woke up every day was to see my life and my people through a love paradigm. This is still my goal. How could I have regret if I loved my way through the difficult times instead of allowing bitterness to reign?
Now, in reaction to this epiphany what ensued was, in all reality, an Escape Plan. You know, when the idea that you might be ok with divorce? The Escape Plan begins the moment you allow this thought to even enter your mind. When this happened I began spending my time with one foot in my marriage and one foot out the door, preparing myself to live on my own. I explained this to myself, at the time, as an effort to prepare myself for anything, as if my preparedness would stave off the ugliness of alcoholism and keep divorce at bay.
Also, doesn’t work this way either.
But, in all of this I did learn the very deep and honest truth: I am the only one I can control. That’s it. Just me. So, I am the only one who can create a life I love, find the happiness I desire, and live the sort of life my kids can be proud of me for. Ya’ll. THIS was my turning point. My life is MINE. It was at this low point, I began living like it.
I am thankful for these very trying years. I learned a lot about the world of addiction and through that I learned very important skills for a successful life. I learned to set boundaries. I learned to choose happiness on days when I really, really didn’t want to. I learned that spending time for myself is necessary and not a luxury to feel guilty for. I learned that I needed to discover my convictions and take the steps toward living them. I learned about codependency and how this is not so nearly as romantic a concept as I once thought. I learned that I still love art, music, and being outdoors. I learned that playing with my kids was more important than cleaning my house. I learned the importance of having a confidant or two to confide in. I learned the beauty of counseling.
I learned that even when I am angry with God, He still loves me. He did not give up on me while I was throwing the ultimate angry temper tantrum and giving Him the silent treatment. He waited patiently and showed me in my still moments that He was still there, in the eye of the storm, guiding me.
In my entire life, my biggest dream was to be a wife and mother. I had not thought much beyond this, really. And the crazy thing in losing part of this dream, has been to discover that THERE IS SO MUCH MORE. Oh so much more to life and so many more dreams to be had.
Have you been through a difficult time that taught you something wonderful about yourself? I want to hear about the wonderful thing! I want to hear about how you changed and grew from your experience. I will be featuring these interviews on a podcast I am creating. This project will focus on stories of everyday women with inspiration to share from beauty that sprung from chaos.
I HATE FEELING OUT OF CONTROL. I think the first time I felt out of control I was with a college boyfriend, whom I knew had been cheating on me with MANY other girls, who began flirting with some girls at a sandwich shop. Actually he may have just talked to them. Regardless, I grabbed his sandwich and stomped on it. I am not kidding. I STOMPED ON HIS SANDWICH. I was immediately embarrassed and panicky. What was that????? That, ladies, was my first firefly, lol.
Now I see that 1) I should never have stayed in this relationship because I was the only one in it and 2) I should choose my friends, and my boyfriends, WISELY. People who love you and get you do not inspire you to stomp on their sandwiches.
Do you have a tribe??
I am blessed with the most incredible tribe. My people love me, call me out, inspire me to achieve at higher levels, and generally be a better person. I have several friends who constantly leave me in awe of their accomplishments and their drive to reach for MORE. These women are powerful in their fields and loving in their homes. I admire and respect these women and want to learn from them. I have heard more than one inspirational personality state that choosing friends who exude the qualities you wish to possess or who achieve at the level you would like to achieve, is critical for your personal growth. I must agree with this. However, I don’t actually remember choosing my people. I just naturally gravitate toward women who inspire me, have qualities I lack (but need), that I respect, and that I feel good around (laughing is key to life, ya know). My people have my back and they get me. They forgive me when I am irrational and they are patient with me when I am emotional. Having these people in my life grounds me and gives me the support I need so I do not go mental!
In addition to having a group of girlfriends who lift you up, if you are dating after divorce, pay attention to the men you are choosing to spend your time with. Do not get caught up in the old dating game. My father once told me, when I was dating as an adult in my 20s, that I should be careful who I spend my time with because I may not always be able to control who I fall in love with. Surrounding myself with the sort of people I know are good for me is far more important than I may realize. He was so right. Isn’t that sort of the premise of choosing friends who push you to be a better person?? Surround yourself with those who make you better? This same premise should apply to the men we choose to date as well.
So, why do we, as women, so often choose to spend time with men who do not do the same for us as our girlfriends? Shouldn’t the person we choose to spend our lives so intimately with be chosen, at the very least, with the same standards we use to choose our friends?
Dating, after divorce, has been different than dating in my 20s. It is not that everything is jaded, it is that I now understand with an incredibly heightened awareness of how important it is, how non-negotiable it is, to find someone who will be my best friend and my most enthusiastic cheerleader.
Once, in Sunday School, not many years after marriage, our class was asked who our biggest supporter was. Who did we think supported and believed in us more than anyone else? I responded: my mother. Most of the other members of the class chose their spouse. It was not my then husband’s fault that he did not fill this role for me. We were just very different people and we did not click on such an intimate level. I think back on this and see with glaring clarity the holes he and I left in each other. We did not know it then, of course; this is the bittersweetness of hindsight.
I have spent the past couple of years sort of dating and learning more about myself, eventually arriving at a place where I am happy and content on my own. So much so that I had resigned myself to this solitary life for a bit. If I were to ever enter a romantic relationship again it would have to be something spectacular. I will not settle for anything less. After much reflection on what I did not have in my marriage, what I thought I wanted in a significant other, and what I knew I needed in someone who was to be my life partner, I called on a friend to pray for him with me. I set my standards to a level that was only attainable by God. And, I couldn’t be happier. I am confident that some day, God will lead me to this man, whomever he may be, even if it is not anytime soon.
Choose to spend time with people who will have your best interests at heart and will push you to succeed at what you are working to achieve. I don’t mean for you to surround yourself with “yes” people. I mean choose those who believe enough in you to believe in your dreams, whether they understand or want the same things or not.
Spend time with people who will lovingly call you out when you are wrong, or cannot see the forest for the trees, being completely irrational, or are just needing a little nudge back to the sunny side of the street. Choose friends who weather conflict and will grow with you in your friendship.
Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself.
Choose to spend time with friends you can model on your way to success.
Choose people you feel SAFE with. Those you can trust and with whom you feel safe to laugh and cry with WILL NOT inspire sandwich stomping. This is the most important thing. . .
Set your standards high, ladies.
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I am in a dark room, no – a dark one room CABIN, in the woods. It is a beautiful sunny day outside but in this cabin I cannot see anything. It is completely dark with the windows shuttered and the door closed. Inside this cabin there is one tiny, beautiful firefly, blinking slowly as it flits around the room. I need to see, so I am chasing this little firefly, trying to capture it – harness it’s light, as it avoids me with clever zigs and zags. . . and I am completely ignoring the obvious. I had only to OPEN. THE. DOOR. to let in a blinding light, capable of lighting up the whole room.
The firefly is hope. It was the hope I had for my marriage and for the dream of family I had built upon it. The outside is all of the rest, all of the possibilities I refused to allow myself to see because I would not let go of this one hope in this one dream. This is fatal optimism. I engaged in such a fierce hope that my dream would materialize that I could not see all of these other wondrous possibilities just on the other side of that door. To me, opening that door meant giving up. Never been good at that.
In not giving up, I encountered so much more hurt than was necessary. I was slowly strangling my ME-ness by focusing so hard on this ever shrinking possibility, on this unavoidable necessary ending. This optimism that – Things will be ok! We will work this out! I can force my life to conform to my design! – it about killed me. Ok, not really, but it did cause depression, anxiety, and a loss of creativity in me that I was afraid I might never recover. I allowed my sunny side natural tendency toward optimism to blind me, to place me inside a box. I hid inside it, convincing myself that in being positive, in being hopeful for what I wanted, I could somehow manifest this desire into a reality. My Pollyanna was frantically chasing that tiny firefly.
I sacrificed my creativity to the pursuit of this lightning bug. And my creativity is my life force.
Do you know when it returned to me? It reappeared when I began considering other possible roads to happiness and joy and a contentedness that I so desperately needed. I found a family counselor who had experience/knowledge of the destructive nature of alcoholism and its affect on family and I saw her just about every week. She helped coax me out of the darkness and into the light. My creative spark sprung to life once again.
I opened my door and focused on what would bring me joy without considering the context of my current circumstance. I did dream big – I mean BIG. It only took one tiny, tiny step to propel me forward: I had to acknowledge that the possibilities I had not wanted to consider were/are actually possible. I did not WANT to find my happiness on another path, but it was and is possible. IT IS HAPPENING. I covered miles and miles of ground toward my big dreams once I allowed myself the possibility that happiness could be realized in the paths I had once been so dead set against instead of the one I was so dead set ON.
Most importantly, I conceded that I was not giving up on the commitment I made in my marriage, I had lived it out.
When I chose to move in a direction that was healthier for me the world opened and welcomed me back (and delivered transformative surprises too!)
If you are contemplating an ending, I have a book to recommend – Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud was worth my time (times 3). Dr. Cloud explains the “necessary” part in a way that helped me make peace with my own endings. Your ending may not be a marriage, but a career, or a big move you would not consider before. Change in any form comes with the ending of something.
It is ok for endings to be necessary.
It is ok to redefine life’s dreams, it is not ok to stop dreaming.
Oh, and choose to open doors. Stop chasing fireflies.
Yes, seriously. I went for vitamins, specifically probiotics, first.
I had just moved into the house my ex and I had renovated to be our forever home and I had also just asked him to leave for what would begin the downward spiral through his recovery and our marriage’s end. It was a lot to deal with. For the first time in my adult life I was responsible for every aspect of the household, from finances to maintenance, and every aspect of parenting – from sending our oldest to college as well as managing the two teenagers at home (not to mention the anxiety over my ex’s health and recovery).
I was so overwhelmed that I could not fathom making big lifestyle changes and I was so overwhelmed I HAD to make big lifestyle changes. In the stress of living in what felt like a silent battleground full of eggshells and unhappiness, I had turned to food to hide from my feelings. Food insulated me from dealing with the chaos around me and eating gave me an action I could take to feel like I was doing something about it. I could have what I wanted for a few minutes when I made a choice of something yummy to eat. UGH. When my life spun out of control I realized I needed to get my health under control for me, for my kids, and for our future.
Around this time a long time friend had started a supplement business. These products, she told me, were originally formulated to help diabetics regulate sugar and sugar cravings but it was found that these products also helped people who were not diabetic to reduce sugar cravings and feel better. Sign me up. Sugar is my love and my poison. This sounded too good to be true but also sounded like minimal effort on my part to possibly get me started toward a healthier life.
So, I spent the money. And, honestly, I will be taking these supplements forever more. They make me feel better, they reduce sugar cravings, and they also make my moods more – oh I don’t know – predictable I suppose.
I do not tell you this to sell this product, though I do believe in it, I tell you this to share that really paying attention to my gut health ended up being the critical first step in my weight loss and emotional well being journey. It helped because the probiotics really did make me feel better but it also helped because psychologically I saw it as a step toward optimal health and believing I was making a choice to be healthy pushed me to make the next best decision for my health. It fixed my mindset on health as an attainable goal.
You can choose to take a step toward better health no matter how small. A step is a step is a step.
As it turns out, gut health and its connection to the brain is a real thing. Here is a brief article on it from Harvard Medical if you are interested. And, here is another one from Psychology Today that explains how your gut health affects cravings.
*This is my personal health journey. I hope you find inspiration to discover your own health journey. I am not a medical professional, just an everyday person! My story is meant to inspire you to begin your own journey, and to encourage you make the decisions you find are best for your body and for your life, which may not necessarily be the same as mine.
If you have read one or two of my posts then you can probably infer that I am divorced from an alcoholic, have 3 mostly grown kids, and am generally enjoying this time in my life rediscovering who I am and redefining who I want to be. A humongous part of my journey for the past 20 years has been a cycle of destroying and repairing my battered self image. I think this is quite a common struggle among women. Most women I know are losing weight, wanting to lose weight, striving to include exercise in their routines, reading and engaging in productivity workshops, and going to counseling, etc.
My self image was destroyed by ME. I did it. I gained 100 lbs in avoidance of my circumstance. I used food to escape, to feel good, to feel loved, to NOT feel, and mostly, to insulate myself. When I am overweight I feel invisible and invisibility limits engagement with life. I spent so many years at such a heightened emotional level, feeling lost as a stay at home mom and in the feeble attempt to guard my family against the invisible enemy of alcoholism (ok, I know thinking I had the ability to guard us from this disease sounds ridiculous, but this coping mechanism is a subject for another day) that I could not or would not allow myself to experience anything that might create an emotional spill over. I mean this in the most ridiculously strict way possible – I could not, really still do not, watch movies or read novels that I know up front might prick a sorrowful feeling in me. That would be risking tears. Crying was to be avoided at all cost, according to my old paradigm. I needed to be numb at most because I feared the emotional release – I feared what I would have to acknowledge in my life – and I feared that I would never stop crying! So, when I began to feel almost anything, good or bad, I ate. I ATE IT ALL.
I realize this may all sound super dramatic. “Really, Bonnie? You thought you could regulate your entire emotional well being with food?” And, well, I did, sort of. I also have a beautiful group of friends and an insanely supportive family who loved and nurtured me as well. But food took a place in my life it should never have held.
I have worked hard to repair both the emotional damage I have collected as well as the damage I caused by weight gain to my physical body. These toxic habits of mind and body are excruciatingly difficult to break, bend, and mold into ones that serve me instead of battle me.
I have lost 40 lbs since the divorce. I still have 50 or so to go.
I am at a plateau of sorts. I AM HAPPY. It is a terrifying and strange place to be. It turns out that when I allow myself to feel the good feelings I am also bound to feel the bad ones. “Bound” in that I have no choice but to feel the entire range of emotions. Going from mostly numb to enduring the colossal spectrum of emotion from elation to grief has been, honestly, VERY unsettling. When I feel some of the same emotions that were triggered during the bad times, even though these emotions do not carry the same weight or impending doom, the habit is to allow the old fear to take over. And, this of course requires cake. (Not really, but you can see where my habits may be screaming this.)
I am in an emotional plateau and I recognize this and am working on acknowledging it and creating habits and a mindset that will better serve me. I want to feel beautiful again. I want to be able to go on adventures and not feel hindered by my physical body. I am also done with being invisible. I am ready to fully participate in this world and to do that, I need to be SEEN and to be HEARD. How terrifyingly thrilling!
For years, I have planned to write extensively about life with an alcoholic, specifically, the lessons I learned about life, love, and grace because of it. Recently, I have been narrowing the topics and making a plan, forming questions that I know my answers to will help other women who find themselves in a similar place. And, you know what?? It is a good plan.
But, I can’t do it.
I am not ready to be so vulnerable or to share my brokenness. Ok, that is not true. I am ready in that I am confident in the woman I am and have become in large part to that season of my life. I am choosing not to do it for fear that the vulnerability I would feel from writing about these years would somehow pull me away from the life I am loving right now. It could possibly regrow the walls around my heart that have finally been obliterated due to a salvo of good fortune rained down on me for the past few months. I am choosing to just love where I am for the moment.
I suspect I will occasionally be moved to write about some of the topics I have planned, but I will not make it my main focus as I originally planned. Instead, I am focusing on writing to encourage women to be confident, to be healthy, to embrace creativity.
If you love an alcoholic or suspect your loved one is an alcoholic, let me offer this resource: https://loveoveraddiction.com/blog/
The program, Love Over Addiction, gave me a community of women I could turn to when I needed to know I was not alone. This program fit what I needed in a way that Al-Anon could not. The courage of the founder, Michelle Anderson, to share her story and to share in understanding of the beauty of living a life through a lens of love was a tremendous gift to me and truly shaped the way I was able to approach my day to day life.
You need to know that you are not alone and that you can find your way to happiness, wherever you find yourself in your journey. My inbox is always open.
The kids and I attended church today for Easter Sunday Service. I haven’t been to church for a very long time – in fact the last time I was in church could have been Easter of 2019. I have had a strained relationship with God and our reparation is fairly new. But, aside from the one year off for Covid, I have never missed an Easter Sunday in an actual church with my family.
Today, the pastor was relating the Easter story, as one does this time of year, and I was struck by one part in particular. Although, as a good teacher I was at the ready with pen to bulletin, I missed her direct quote, so here is my paraphrase –
Jesus was dead. He WAS dead. There was no doubt. It had happened. People had seen it, his lifeless body was placed in the tomb by people who know what dead looks like. He. Was. Dead.
But he wasn’t.
Because God is like that.
He can and DOES take situations and parts of us that we think are dead and gone and he resurrects them as something new. This right here, this is an amazing and wondrous thought, isn’t it? God can raise the dead. If he can raise the dead he most certainly can breathe new life into someone who feels broken and lost. I have spent my Easter Sunday reflecting on how He has done this for me. He raised my spirit from the dead through my divorce. He built me up as I began to build a life as a single person with three almost grown kids. And, He did this when I was not happy with Him.
He is continuing to build me up, through my dearest friends, through my job, through my kids, and through my art. All of a sudden I see that anything is possible, I may just need to rely on this relationship I have been obstinately ignoring like a pouty teenager because I did not want to have an alcoholic husband (or ex-husband for that matter) or have to endure all of the ugliness and anguish that entailed. I did not want to make decisions that needed to be made. I absolutely did not want to do it all on my own. Yeah. See the irony there????? I see it now, God. I really do.
This is a photo of my daughter, creating a heart out of the sand in the dunes on the coast of Oman – one of the most beautiful, natural places I have ever been.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” Eph. 4:32
Have you ever been so angry that you just can’t see straight? You cannot hear your friends and loved ones when they even suggest something contrary to your justification of your anger? This is where I have been. I have been angry. Angry for a myriad of reasons both valid and completely irrational. I have run the gamut of “if only. . .” and “what if I had just . . .” and many other ridiculous thought patterns that have no constructive purpose in moving me forward through this (apparently very angry) tiny little section of time in my life.
I may have been hard hearted and resistent, but if anyone can get my attention, it is God. The theme of forgiveness is running through all that seems to touch me right now. My God is screaming at me to forgive through literature in my classroom, through the novel I am reading for fun, through my personal Bible study, in the book my school has been assigned as professional development, commercials, memes, even a cleverly placed STOP sign when my head is swimming in angry prose- I mean you name it, FORGIVENESS is a running theme God is placing before my every turn. I know He is doing this so my heart is free to heal and free to love my children in the way they deserve and need and – well, just free to be myself through the power of forgiveness so that I can be His servant in ALL of the roles He has assigned me.
In her book, Add more -ing to Your Life, Gabrielle Bernstein shares some advice she gave to one of her Life Coaching clients, “I made it clear that if her desire was to change her life and be set free from her resentful patterns, forgiveness was in order.” I am my own obstacle. Wow. Ok, then I am the ONLY one who can get over myself!
I forgive. I forgive it all.
I forgive the real transgressions against me.
I forgive the ones in my head, made up to avoid facing my real anger or to avoid taking responsibility for my own life.
I give the anger over to God to transform into positive energy.
I will find my inner Pollyanna again and she and I will tackle this world of ours with fun, laughter and love once again!
And, since I ABSOLUTELY hate the saying “One day at a time” I will simply say that I look forward to planning my tomorrow as I live today in peace and in positivity!
Me. Circa 1977ish
My sweet, precocious, persistent inner child. She love sweets. She loves to use the vending machine. She hates being told “no” and throws temper tantrums when she can’t have what she wants. (And don’t judge her uber-chic, in style for the times “Dorothy Hamill” haircut of the 1970’s. She is very cute and in style 🙂 She is still inside me and, although I love it when she is creative and spontaneous, I am not so thrilled when her extreme sweet tooth is screaming to be fed!
Recently, I found that I am going to have to have a very, very minor surgery to remove a small benign cyst. No big deal really, except that I really don’t WANT to have surgery. (duh) So, what is my reaction? I go to my favorite bakery (the one mom got my cakes from when I was that little girl in the picture) and make it all better with FOUR large petit fours. UGH. You know what? Eating those did make it better – for like 10 minutes. The regret I felt was a wee bit longer than that and you know what else? I. still. have. to. have. surgery. So, it didn’t work. It didn’t really help.
I have also discovered that my sweet inner child takes over around 3 or 4 every afternoon. I used to think this was because it coincided with the end of the school day – the end of the part of my workday involving students and therefore the point where stress of the day eases up- but it is summer and I am still experiencing major sweet cravings at this time. This tells me I must need a heavy protein snack somewhere around 2 each day to head this off. I will be working on this, including this snack in my meal planning, and see how it goes.
I need my inner child throwing her temper tantrums to get me to try new things, go on adventures, and be creative. NOT eat a cake. I want her working for me, not against me.
Planning, preparing, organizing and journaling will get us working together.
Photo is from the parent orientation luncheon and presentation.
The unadventures of getting happy and healthy – lesson #1 PLAN YOUR FOOD AHEAD OF TIME. Obvious right? But the thing is I was READY. Remember? Ready to start to change THAT VERY MINUTE. So, no real planning, just a do it sort of thing. The day after I have this wonderful epiphany, I take off to drive 6 hours with my oldest son to go to his college orientation. . .
Here I am, at the “parents of incoming freshman” college orientation, trying to adhere to my re-instituted EAT SMART (low carb, esp no man made carbs), drink tons of water, and eliminate artificial sweetener way of life. Geez. It is like I subconsciously chose this particular moment to challenge myself and prove my conviction or sabotage myself.
Day 1 – the 6 hour drive
There are no choices of a caffeinated drink that is not diet and does not contain sugar in convenience stores/gas stations. I can have water. But – I MUST HAVE CAFFEINE. I drank Diet Pepsi (now aspartame free, but still a cola) sparingly to head off caffeine headaches. AND TONS OF WATER. So, I give myself a B+ for effort here.
Days 2 & 3 – the stay
Continental breakfast at the sweet little hotel I am staying in consists of a lovely array of tempting muffins, bagels, and toast . . . and fruit. I had fruit. A+ (I resisted the carb loaded deliciousness for natural deliciousness)
College campus lunches are heavy on the carbs – not veggies. I did enjoy some baked chicken and some potato salad (yes I know this is a carb but just chicken was just sad). On the up side – my kid is going to love the food. C
I did drink water every day, all day. Which means that I now know where every women’s bathroom on campus is. A+ (but an irritating A+)
Exercise – well, I walked all over campus for two days. I was staying alone in the hotel while eldest son was on campus and I used this excuse to NOT walk any more than this. Even though I could have gotten up early – I am a night owl, not a morning glory – and walked the lovely downtown area, I did not. I did not feel safe at night and couldn’t bring myself to get up early. B
I made it home mostly proud of the choices I made. See, really, it’s not about a diet or counting calories I eat or minutes I exercise, it is about making the choice in the moment.
It is about choosing ME each time and not the temptation, etc. So, here’s to success not sabotage 🙂
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“When we settle we sacrifice ourselves, and in doing this we hurt our authentic connection wth others.” Shannon Kaiser Adventures for Your Soul
I am no longer a spring chicken. I have cracks in my armor and it seems to just be missing in places. I have had my head down and my blinders on, peeking out only when necessary only to look up find a life I didn’t exactly plan – one that just happened. I have settled. I have been hiding behind my job, my kids, and around 80 extra pounds instead of taking life by the nose. And today, today I am done with that. I am done settling and being afraid. I’m done avoiding and I’m done hiding. Today I am READY. Life as me, the best I can be.
Yeah, yeah, I know you have heard this before. What is different this time? Why will I succeed in getting healthy and happy this time? I don’t know exactly I just feel it in my bones. I will do this and it will be a struggle but it will be worth it!
I will be documenting this crazy journey here – as an accountability tool. I love to write. . .
Thanks to Shannon Kaiser for her awesome book Adventures for Your Soul – this book is currently my daily dose of positive “you can do it” inspiration. You will see more inspirational quotes from this awesome book as I move along this journey to a healthier, happier me.
When trying to make a decision, my family looks like we are engaged in desperate game of volleyball – no one wants to be the one to let the ball drop in the sand by making a decision!
Decision making has become an albatross in my family. No one wants to bear the weight of it. This albatross passing happens most often when it is time to decide what we will eat for dinner – or say today – where we will go for lunch after church (with the added dreaded decision of – do we go have a sit down dining experience? or do we get it and bring it home?) On this occasion the dread of decision led to a stalemate where we stomped off to our cars discussing it along the way. Inevitably, one of the kids chose to get sandwiches and take them home.
Now, I am sad. Sad I didn’t get a sit down dinner with my entire family where we talked and enjoyed each other’s company. But, perhaps in the mood we were in because of the dread of decision it would have been more of a verbal volley of irritation. Who knows. What I do know is this dread of decision is getting in the way of peace in my family.
Why don’t I want to just make all the decisions? Well, I could. But, when my dream is to share the responsibility with my family because we are “all in this together” then my being sole decision maker sort of defeats the purpose. I want my kids to understand and respect what others want as well as how to make a decision without bickering. I do not want the almighty matriarch role – I just want to hang with my fam!
In my classroom, instead of choosing who will be in groups, I have a set of cards with each kid’s name on one. When its time to do group work, the kids pull random cards to choose groups so the groups are totally random. I was trying to think of a less obvious way to do the same thing with the dinner decision. One of my very best friends once told me that when she and her husband were remodeling their house they made decisions based on how they ACTUALLY live not on how they WISHED they lived. I think this is brilliant. So, in the spirit of how we each really, really hate to be the one to decide, I will get us together (family meeting!) and come up with two lists – one of restaurants close by to get something to take home and another of our favorite out to eat restaurants. I will write them down as suggested. Then when time to decide, we just go to the next name on the list. (I keep my planner with me all the time! I can have it out in a snap!)
As far as deciding on whether we need a take home or a sit down meal, I think this is a decision we will just have to make on the fly.
How else is this dread of decision affecting my life? I will be looking out for this one in the weeks to come to see where else this weird little fear is raising its head!
P.S. I would also like to note the irony: In the spirit of not having a conflict over differing views over something as inconsequential as where we eat, we are having conflict. There is confrontation in avoidance as well as disagreement.
“People tend to become like you treat them or believe them to be.”
– Stephen R. Covey
I cannot begin to tell you how much I LOVE, LOVE this commercial. I was raised in the South, where traditionally, mom stays home with the kids and takes care of the housework and the general raising of the kids. I did this. I stayed home until my youngest went to kindergarten – which was about 12ish years at home with my kids and the albatross of doing it ALL. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am thankful beyond measure for my years at home with my kids. I am NOT, however, a great housekeeper, chef, or budget person. I HATE housework. I do it, but I don’t love it. I was miserable at home. I spent so much time missing the joy of my sweet babies because I knew I “needed” to be home working on the house. Ugh. To get those days back. . .
When I started working, I felt a joy I had never felt before. I am independent, I am contributing to my family in a way I can feel successful. I never felt successful at housework, at managing our home. It was hard to feel like a failure so often and it also welled up an embarrassing amount of guilt for wanting to do anything for myself.
I have worked for the past 6 years and it has become more and more apparent that my kids need to be involved in keeping our house a home. In some ways, I feel like we all need to live as if we were roommates, not family, so we learn to fully respect each other’s shared and personal space. My kids need to know how to be good roommates and good steward’s of their time, just as I do.
For the past few weeks I have been texting a chores list to my kids daily so they will know what is expected of them to help get our home in order. Our lives are so busy and so spread out between soccer, football, tumble, etc. that our needs change too often for a chore chart set in stone. So, I evaluate in the morning who is doing what and what needs to be done and spread it out. It is working ok so far – especially since I have a 6th, 9th, and 12th grader.
Any suggestions on how to manage this more effectively? I’m happy to hear your thoughts!
planning – noun; the process of making plans for something
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Ben Franklin
“He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” – Winston Churchill
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” – John Wooden
Planning. I love a pretty planner. I love to plan. However, planning consistently has proved to be a challenge for me. I tend to be a “fly by the seat of my pants” type of girl. I also tend to let my tasks swallow me up and only realize I’ve missed an opportunity or have nothing clean to wear when I am desperately searching for a clean pair of panties 15 minutes before I have to walk out the door – which may or may not have happened within the last week . . .
When I do plan, I feel more in control of my life and feel like I am more effective while wearing each of my different hats (mom, wife, teacher, IB Coordinator, yearbook sponsor, newspaper sponsor, etc. . . . .. . . ) It is important.
Recently, I bought a new planner. For the past 3 years I have faithfully used a Erin Condren Life Planner. This year I am trying a Plum Paper ME Planner and so far it is helping me stay on top of my goal to plan each week – activities, to do’s, meals, exercise, etc. (Granted, I only began on Feb. 1 – but my fingers are crossed!).
My goal is to discover and live my convictions with balance and I believe planning will go a long way in helping me accomplish this goal. What exactly needs balance? When thinking long and hard about this question (like years) I came up with the following list: Faith, marriage, parenthood, health, finance, education, work, and friendships (after all, that is what life is about, right?). These are the areas that need my consistent attention in order to feel complete, balanced, and in true discovery for my convictions.
Step one to accomplishing this goal?
Websites @ planning:
This is my mission statement:
Spend time with those I love.
This is my only life. I will live it body and soul.
This is the question:
How in the world do I accomplish the fireworks explosion of “to-dos” and still live my mission statement?