Saturday, January 28, 2012

For the Love

I have a friend, my best friend. She is a train wreck. She is loud, abrasive and obnoxious. Sometimes I wonder why we are friends, I wonder why I put up with her. Other people ask me the same thing. "How do you put up with Jenny?" God blessed me by not giving her to me as a sister. God also blessed me by giving her to me as a friend. There are some things I will never understand about her. There are other things I know I should emulate.

Jenny has made me a part of her family. Let me tell you about her family; they are volatile, feuding at times, judgemental, outspoken and they are there for each other (even if they are not on speaking terms). At least Jenny is always there for them. She bad mouths them, curses them, fights with them and loves them. Jenny has four brothers, one of them is a crack head. He has been for years. Jenny loves him, but has limited her contact with him and worries every day she will hear he is dead. He has a daughter, Jenny's niece, who is mentally challenged. When this niece was a toddler, her mother abused her and shook her and left her with brain damage. Afterwards, Jenny's mother obtained custody and raised her. Jenny's niece infuriates Jenny, she is selfish and loud and argumentative, just like the child she mentally is.  Jenny's niece had a baby and quit the county services she was receiving to go live with her mother (the one who abused her). Her mother became her payee and was virtually keeping her hostage and applied for custody of the baby. This saga, worthy of the Lifetime Channel, spans the court system of three counties. In a whirlwind week, Jenny found out about it, called everyone in three counties, showed up at the custody hearing and left with her niece, and baby, in tow. They are now living with Jenny, until she can help her niece obtain housing and services. Jenny has called me every other day to update me and to bitch about the situation.

In Jenny's world, you bitch and moan and complain, but you stand by family (and friends) until the bitter end, fighting for truth and justice and for what is right. Jenny's favorite saying is, "Karma is a bitch." I tell her that she is a bitch too. In fact, she will call me to say, "Let me tell you what a bitch I was today." Jenny will tell anyone who asks (and many who don't) all about her sexcapades. When she goes out on the weekend, her (adult and teenage) daughters will say, "Mom's wearing her 'fuck me' boots." Jenny can hold a grudge longer than any other person I know. Jenny would be the first one here if I called and said I really needed her. She shocks me, embarrasses me, delights me and drives me crazy. Mostly, she drives me crazy, but I love her. I can't stay mad at her. I admire her ability to be herself and to say "fuck you" to anyone who has something to say about it. All in all, I'm very glad I am her friend and not on the wrong side of Jenny, because "Karma is a bitch."

Friday, September 30, 2011

It is well with my soul

I feel an exhaustion and ache and hurt that permeates my entire being. There is a dull throbbing pain which goes clear to my soul. Too much, just too much has happened and I want to turn back the clock, turn away and pretend that everything is good and normal and this is a bad dream. Sadly, I can't. I can't take back my words at work that flew out of my mouth in a fit of fury and arrogance. I can't take back the day last week that my grandchildren's other grandparent, and the father of my son's wife, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. I can't dry their tears, because I can't dry my own. So I cry and I ache and I hope. Because there is always hope, even when things are hopeless.

When things are good and right, hope is unnecessary. There is little to hope for, because things are as they should be. It is in the midst of the storm that I cling to hope, to the trust that tomorrow will be better and the day after that and the day after that. How do you find rational words to describe an irrational act? How do you tell children that he never wanted to hurt them, when all they feel right now is hurt? How do you help children cope and heal and feel safe, when the adults are all acting worse than children? So I hug and I love and I listen. I listen to children's questions, ones that do not have a good answer. I listen to a daughter's pain and grief. I listen to a husband and a father who fears and hurts for his family. I listen to people I have only a cursory relationship with, as they look to me for words of understanding and comfort. I listen to the words of a man, who hurt so much he couldn't live another day. I listen for the voice of God, who seems so very far away. Yet, he is close and near. He is weeping with all of us, holding every broken person. He was there when the gun went off. He was there when a father-in-law discovered a bloody, bloated body. He was there when the children's world was shattered. He heard the wails of the survivors at the funeral.

I talk and reassure and give the right responses, the ones I learned in my counseling classes. They seem so hollow and inadequate. I feel like a fraud. They all turn to me for strength and for answers and I am short on both. I move forward as I am mired at the same time. I wait on the Lord, on the healing, on the wisdom. Yet, even as I wait, I keep taking one step at a time, praying that none of them are missteps.

In the depths of my hurt and weakness the Lord sends me comfort and wisdom and love. J is my rock and my lifeline. He pulls me out of the dark and helps me find my footing on solid ground. He tells me the truth, the things I need to hear and believe. His care and concern are humbling. His love is strengthening. He is a voice of reason, when I think reason does not exist. Scripture and poetry speak to my heart and express the feelings I cannot put into words. A friend messages me, the truest words I can imagine, given the situation. She will never know how her words are a salve to my soul. "It is sensless to us, and the only thing that made sense to him, I think that was the only thing he could see. He would never want to cause such pain for all of you. I just believe he could see nothing else. I pray he may now truly rest in the peace. Thank you for your friendship and trust. You are such a strong women and I am blessed to know you." It makes me wonder how I am a blessing. I do not feel strong or good or wise.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

I think of God's people. I think of the Jews coming out of Egypt, moving forward on their faith in the Lord's promise. I think of the Jews in the death camps, clinging to their faith and God's promises. How can anyone have faith or hold onto traditions after something like that? Yet the traditions, the ritual, are comforting, familiar and hopeful. I feel a kinship and an understanding. I feel their hope, it sustains me. So, I take up  holidays that are not mine, not part of my heritage. I will embrace this new year, a fresh start. I pray for mercy to be shown to me over the next year. I will hope for better times.  I am a wild branch that has been grafted in. I am an adopted child, grateful for the grace and love.

Even in pain, I am so greatly blessed. I am blessed by J. I am blessed by good friends' words. I am blessed by my faith. I am blessed by those broken survivors in the wake of a tragedy. For he is compassionate and gracious and slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness and truth.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Well, It's All Right

People seem to put a lot of stock in the beginning of a new year, like somehow that magic strike of the clock will make their problems disappear.  I can understand how we can look at it as a fresh start, all things old are new again.  The problem is when people are disappointed.  When things are not better or things get off to a rocky start and then people say, "I thought things would be better, but they're not." or "this year is going to be no better than last year."  It is all just markers of time and it all means nothing.  I have been guilty of it myself, wanting, waiting and proclaiming new starts.  The fact is, we can start fresh any time.  We do not have to wait until the new year or new week or when we turn a year older.  We do not even have to wait for things to get better. 

Life is life.  There will always be good and bad and lots of in between.  People will come and go, be born and die, bless us and disappoint us, that is life.  Yes, I want to win the lottery and spend every day with J and not have to work.  I want to pay off my debts and repair my house and help my children get ahead.  The fact is, even if I win the lottery, my one son will not become more responsible, he will only expect me to bail him out more.  All the money in the world will not make people kinder or reliable, it will only bring out their ugly side faster.  People will still say unkind things and go on shooting rampages and hurt children and animals.  Children in Africa will still die of AIDS and starvation and abuse.  Dogs and cats will still be abandoned and neglected and tortured.  The more resources I have the more I can reach out, but I cannot change the world.

In the past couple of weeks, some friends have died, good people have been shot and killed, my finances have not improved, my sister is severely depressed and worried about everything, my son's car has developed a few more problems.  One of my lost boys has called to see if he can move back in.  (Yes he can, I have no idea how I will support/subsidize one more person.)  Everyone I talk to has some sad tale and the new year is not off to a good start.  Some days, I don't want to be here, I don't want to be me.  That is because life is messy and the world can be harsh.  The more I decide that I want to make a difference, be closer to God, engage the Universe, put out good Karma, the harder it can become.  I know people who take the ostrich approach, "I don't watch the news, because I don't want to know about all the bad things that are happening."  "I don't want to love too much, because I will always get hurt."  "There is nothing I can do about the starving children, the war, the hate, so I do nothing."  "I have enough to worry about with just my own problems, so I don't want to hear about anyone else's."

I have used the ostrich approach myself.  It doesn't work.  Bad things still happen.  The strange thing about those bad things is that nothing is all bad.  When we don't have enough, we can be more thankful for what we do have.  When someone dies, we can rejoice and celebrate the fact that we knew them.  When we know about the bad news, we can strive for a solution, we can try to make a difference, we can love and care.  We can become more tolerant of other beliefs, we can be careful not to engage in hate speech or bigotry. That child still may die of AIDS, but don't they deserve to have someone mourn their passing?  The past couple of years I have focused on the blessings.  That approach doesn't always work, worry still creeps in, sometimes my heart still breaks.  I can still rejoice, I can still be thankful.  There is always just enough.  Even when my resources get stretched further and further, there is always just enough.  I don't look too far down the road, I deal with one day at a time, I celebrate whenever I can, I laugh and love and keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I am rich and blessed and content.  I have so much more than so many, that is how I know I can stretch it more...again and again. 

I am not overly religious, I am probably more of a heretic and sinner than I am a person of faith.  I don't think it matters if I attend church.  I don't think my sexual preference or history makes me good or bad.  I am sure I have told my share of lies.  Some days I get my hope from my belief in the Lord, some days from my connection with the Universe, some days I pull that strength out of myself.  Maybe that is how I make it, I find my faith in all things, from all sources.  I may be confused, I may be naive, you may choose to call me a Unitarian or sacrilegious.  It is all God to me, I don't care what name you choose to use. I have faith my lamp will burn for eight days.  I have faith that my handful of flour and little bit of oil will last until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.  I have faith that my ripples I put in the Universe will spread blessings and sustain me.  I have faith that Karma will be favorable and elevate me on my quest for Nirvana.  I have faith that even if there is nothing greater than me, my actions will give me peace and allow me to sleep at night.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances.  1Thessalonians 5:16-18
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:1-3
Keep your loins girded and your lamps burning. Luke 12:35

Well it's all right, riding around in the breeze.
Well it's all right, if you live the life you please.
Well it's all right, doing the best you can. 
Well it's all right, as long as you lend a hand.
End of the Line ~ The Traveling Wilburys

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Spirit

Christmas is upon us in 12 days.  December is always a time of scrambling and being lost in busyness.  Trying, each year to make it perfect, better, memorable.  I get caught up in trying to buy gifts with money that I don't have.  Trying to do more with time that does not exist.  Trying to achieve perfection that is impossible and make memories that won't be remembered.  Every year I stress, because I fail.  I fail at perfection, imagine that.

Today I have been reflecting.  On my failure, on the season, on Christmas memories, on this world we live in.  I have been thinking about Christmas spirit.  It doesn't really matter what you believe in.  Whether you are a Christian or a Jew or an atheist.  You can use whatever labels and embrace whatever thoughts make you comfortable.  Whatever gets you through the night.  That may be a strange statement for a Christian to make at Christmas time, this time that we celebrate the birth of Christ.  For me though, it makes perfect sense.  The only thing I may get perfect this year.  I have been thinking about Christ.  Maybe he is your savior or maybe, for you, he is only a historical figure, or maybe even a fable or a myth.  We can all find peace in him, in the manger of that story.  In that tiny baby, born homeless but full of hope and possibilities.  This season is about hope, about promises.  In the midst of this winter season, where things are dead, or at least dormant, there is still promise.  The promise of rebirth, of spring that will come.  Jesus was that promise.  He was hope.  The Christmas spirit is found in our spirit.  Not in a store or the lights or the gifts. 

I see all around me hurting spirits.  Broken people trying to cope with this "most wonderful time of the year".  People trying to just make it to another year.  People trying to stay warm, trying to keep food on their table, trying to hold on until...

I think about my Christmas memories.  I remember very little about what presents I received.  I remember about time spent.  Not the time spent pursuing perfection, the time spent together.  I remember baking cookies.  I remember caroling.  I remember visiting the train display at CG&E (now Duke Energy), I remember the Christmas display at Krohn Conservatory and the live nativity there.  I remember family gatherings and people no longer with us.  I remember candlelight services and hymns softly sung.  What do all of those things have in common?  They have nothing to do with excess, or perfection, or money.  All wonderful, cherished, free memories.  This season was never supposed to be a burden, a sad and stressful time, it is supposed to be a celebration of hope, not of what is.  We need to cling to that hope.  That hope can be Jesus, or the oil in the lamp that did not burn out, or the hope that somewhere, deep within ourselves, we have the ability to go on, for one more day.  The hope that spring will return, the sun will shine, things will bloom again.  The hope that we will find grace and love will prevail.  The hope that maybe we can touch just one person and make a difference.  The hope that we can create just one memory that will outlive us.  The hope that maybe giving someone a smile, or a phonecall, taking a plate of cookies to a neighbor, putting a quarter in the kettle or a can of food in the barrel can make a difference.  It might plant a seed that will bloom in the spring.  Who knows, that seed we plant might take root in ourselves and grow that hope within us. 

The Christmas spirit is one of love.  Be nice.  Don't judge.  Reach out.  Do it because of Jesus, or do it because it is the right thing to do.  Do it because somewhere in all of us is a hurting, dirty, broken person who needs grace.  Invite the spirit to dwell in you.  Whatever spirit your mind is comfortable with.  That spirit of love and grace and caring.  That Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


My life has been a series of events, some joyful and easy and others difficult and painful.  I am sure that is true of every person on the planet.  One thing I can say, that is not true for everyone, is that every one of those events have blessed me.  I didn't always know it and I could not see how that was always possible at the time, but I can honestly say that is an absolute truth in my life.  At times I did not know how I was blessed by something until years after it happened.  Some events felt like they cursed me before I could be thankful for them.  Some things I knew were good for me, even though I didn't want them to happen.  They all have left a kind of imprint on me, they have shaped me and made me who I am today.

I hear people say that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  The flip side of that is sometimes you have to be broken in order to be fixed.  When your heart breaks, it feels like it will never be fixed.  Even the fix may leave an ache, sort of like when you break a bone you are left with some arthritis.  It doesn't mean that it isn't as strong or stronger than before, it just means that you have an ache to remind you of that trauma.  I am thankful for my aches, they mean I have lived life and I have risked things and I can be more loving and empathetic to others because of it.

My heart is heavy right now.  My son had his heart broken today.  I hurt for him and I hurt because I loved the girl I thought would be my daughter-in-law.  I didn't realize that it had been 3 months since I wrote about my son, R.  Time has gotten away from me, it seems that the days are speeding by at a breakneck pace.  Some days I scramble to get everything done, most days it just doesn't happen.  Okay, that is my excuse (whine) for not writing. 

I am thankful for my son R.  I am thankful for both of my sons, but he is special to me.  He is my baby (though he hates it when I refer to him that way).  He is my unplanned child, he came at an extremely difficult time in my life, I thought of aborting him, our relationship was tumultuous from the start.  Early in my pregnancy, when I was debating what to do, I almost miscarried.  In a split second, I went from wondering if I should terminate the pregnancy to knowing I wanted him.  Despite being my second child, the pregnancy was high risk and difficult and the birth was long, drawn out and hard.  From the time he was a toddler on, he was fiercely independent, I felt he didn't really need me.  I have outlined the trials and hardships of his teenage years here in earlier posts.  Maybe because we fought so hard, both for each other and against each other, we are very close and protective of each other.  We are understanding and tolerate each other.  He is a blessing and a joy to me every day.  To say I am proud of him doesn't even scratch the surface of what I feel.  He is amazing.  I marvel at his mind, his wit, his love of life and his tender heart.  He is a loving son, a loyal friend, a hard working employee.  He gives second chances, because he has been given second chances.  He forgives, because he has been forgiven.  He tolerates and overlooks faults and flaws, because he acknowledges his.  I hurt for him and with him, but I know he will be okay.  He has been hurt before and he will probably be hurt again and I am sure he will keep an open heart. 

As his mother, I want to fix things.  I want to mend the hurt and make it okay.  That is much easier when your children are 3, than 23.  So instead, I love him and I am here for him and I tell him I understand (because I do).  I hope that he sees the blessing in all of these things and that one day he will be able to be thankful for them. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Domestic Servitude give away

I don't know how many of you are readers of  Domestic Servitude.  It is a blog, put together by Danae and several other ladies, and they post helpful tips, tutorials, recipes and links for making any home run smoother.  This week they are also hosting a give-away for a $45 gift certificate for CSN stores.  Check them out and enter the give-away.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The heartbreak

R was always a quiet child, though in the right group of people he could (and still can) be gregarious and extremely funny.  He has a knack for problem solving, he intuitively knows how things work.  From toddler hood on he was fiercely independent, "I can do it myself" was his mantra and he meant it!  He has a natural athleticism, he taught himself to rollerblade, to ride a bike, to ski.  Much of my "parenting" of him was watching him struggle to do something until he mastered it, my offers of assistance were always refused.  He has a easy going manner, he is compassionate and accepting, which made him a magnet for some of the kids who were on the fringe and social outcasts.  Though he had hordes of friends from all circles and of all social strata, I think he also felt very alone much of the time.  He has such a gentle and loving spirit, animals and children are always drawn to him.  He was constantly bringing home animals, baby birds that fell out of the nest, injured rabbits, stray dogs and cats, we had them all.  He could approach and calm almost any animal, he was the "horse whisperer" of all species.  Children too, he is the pied piper, they clamor for his attention, which he provides patiently and willingly.  When R is around, I am chopped liver to the dogs and grandkids, he is the star in their eyes.

He is gifted musically, he can play 5 or more instruments.  Some, such as piano, he taught himself to play, but is still very good.  He was invited to join the high school marching band when he was in junior high.  He did take trumpet lessons, but I felt guilty for not being able to provide more instruments and instruction.  Sports was another thing he excelled at, even as a toddler he had superior coordination and ability.  He picked things up quickly, but he also worked very hard at them.  While other boys had dads that coached and tossed with them, R only had me.  I did sign him up, pitched to him, played catcher to his batting, I was always the "team mom" and later always the score keeper.  I just couldn't offer him much instruction or demonstration, I also was not a dad.

I think one thing that is plentiful to single moms is guilt.  As hard as I tried to be both parents and the breadwinner, I could not.  R's dad was not involved or available.  He never paid any child support and showed up or called less than once a year.  While it was very hard on R, it was for the best, his father had his own problems, his own addictions, and just didn't have it in him.  I guess I always hoped that not being exposed to his father's demons would somehow sever the inherited predisposition for substance abuse.  I also knew that nurture contributed as much as nature and I nurtured the best I could.  I also worked...a lot.  I worked enough that I did not see the early signs of his straying off the trail and experimenting.  Maybe I did not want to see it, but he had been the one I was least worried about.  He had so much going for him and he was always extremely mature for his age.  We were very close too, he usually told me everything, even things I didn't want to know.  He never told me he was using, not until he was caught and it was too late.  Not until he was in over his head and even I could not get him out.  That is the thing about addicts, no matter who loves you or how many people, or how many resources you have, only the addict can do something about it.

I was so clueless that I was in denial even after his arrest.  But once he was back home and on house arrest it was hard to not see the elephant in the room.  He would sneak out, he stole money from me, his anxiety level was extremely high since he was not using all the time.  Slowly the truth began to emerge.  I became his probation officer, interrogator and a private detective.  I also still supported him, loved him and cried over him.  It is very hard to balance the hurt the addiction causes with the love you have for your child.  It is hard to continue to support, love and fight for their life and not enable them.  It is hard not to resent the turmoil that has been brought into your life.  It is hard to realize that a mother's love and hugs and kisses cannot make things okay.  It is hard to believe that there will ever be an end to the lies, and the hurt, and that one day your son might be back and this stranger will no longer be in your house.  It was reminiscent of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"; someone had come into my house and stolen my son and replaced him with this alien, this addict.

When I started writing this, I thought I could just sum it up and dash it off in a post.  As it is, I am having trouble keeping it from being a novel.  I do not feel bad leaving you all hanging again, especially since you know the end and it has turned out well.  So once again, to be continued...