Thursday, September 7, 2017

Pushed BY An Angel?

The American Frontier pioneers were amazing people.  They often left everything behind them, family, friends, and often even a continent.  Many of them came propelled by faith in God.  My family walked that very, very long, tedious, frightening walk.

Many of these pioneers were too poor to afford a wagon, forget oxen or horses to pull that wagon.  So handcarts were used instead.  The handcart was like a giant wheelbarrow.  Into that handcart would go all of the things needed for survival, food, clothes, medicines, anything and all things that they could afford to purchase.

Imagine now that not only are you walking every single, exhausting day across an entire country, now you're doing it with possible hundreds of pounds of belongings?  Going up hill would be exhausting, but going downhill?  You are now not only proxy for horses or oxen, but for brakes as well.

One of my favorite stories to come from this amazing bank of stories is in regards to a young man.  He later told others that on a specific day, in a specific time he was so weary that he didn't think he could move another step.

He was startled when he felt someone behind the handcart pushing it.  His ability to pull the handcart became very light.  Astonished he turned to see who was helping him.  He couldn't see anyone, but he knew that someone was helping him.  He ascribed that assistance to angels. 

Angels, have a long history.  There are many different beliefs about who they are, what they are, but to me it's quite simple.  Angels are beings of love.  They lighten our burdens when they become insufferable.  Angels sometimes protect us from others or sometimes from ourselves. 

When I was 16 or 17, I was crossing the street to my home one day.  Being a teenager I was in a hurry.  Aren't ALL teenagers in a hurry...often not knowing what they are hurrying to?  I heard the screech of tires on a car going far too fast for our residential neighborhood.  I looked up and saw a car barrelling towards me.  I truly had the deer in the headlights experience.  I could not move.  I knew that I needed to run, but somehow I was frozen watching my probable death racing towards me.

Suddenly, there was a hand in my back, firmly it pushed me safely to my home.  I knew that some kind person had seen the situation and helped me.  I looked back to thank them.  There was nobody there.  My Mama, out in the yard watering, witnessed the entire event.  She said, "You ran rather rapidly didn't you?"

I try my best not to do the all too human thing and explain that situation away.  It is all too easy when confronted with something that you can't understand to look for explanations of reasoned intelligence.  Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, but not seen.   I choose to believe that I was blessed.  To this day, 46 years later, I can still feel that hand in the small of my back pressing me to safety.  My friend, waiting in her car for me witnessed the entire thing.  My Mama witnessed the entire thing.  Neither one of them saw anyone behind me. 

Today, do you need an angel pushing your handcart as you climb up and down the hills of mortality?  Remember that there are angels that we can't see with our all too limited vision.  There are also human angels that we CAN see.

My Father was dying from cancer.  I was traveling on a train in coach with two small children through the agonizingly long night.  When I arrived at the destination I was exhausted, so were our children.  My ride was not there.  I called my Mother to see what was happening.  She informed me that my Father had passed the night before.  I was despondent.  My Papa was one of my very best friends.  I could not bear the thought that I didn't get to kiss him one more time, thank him in person for all the sacrifices that he made for me.  I didn't want to come unglued in front of a waiting room full of strangers. 

I took the kids and went in the restroom.  There didn't seem to be anyone in there.  I explained what had happened to the kids.  They were far too young to really understand anything but that Mama was sobbing, and having a hard time speaking.

One of the stall doors opened.  There had been a woman in the restroom that I had not noticed due to my extreme grief.  She didn't say a word, she just wrapped me in the arms of love.  The next words she said were, "I lost my Father a few years ago.  I know how much this hurts.  I'm so sorry!"

That was exactly what I needed at the time.  Somebody who understood and cared.  She enfolded me in the warmth of that hug for a few moments while I sobbed freely.  Finally we both stepped back.  She offered to get us food, asked if we needed a ride,  She truly was an angel of mercy in human form.

Our ride came then.  They had been at a different railroad in the town (Who knew there WERE two stations in the town)?  I thanked our human angel and we went our separate ways.

We are NOT alone.  Even in moments where we feel that nobody cares, nobody will help us, WE ARE NOT ALONE.  Sometimes we have to be the ones to reach out for that love, that help, but we are not alone.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

How Do You Use Your Words?

Raising our children I would encourage them, "to use your words in a kinder fashion, or in a quieter tone.

Words are fascinating.  In every language words create our ability to communicate.  Sometimes words are delivered by sign language.  We live in a remarkable era where translation can often be as simple as pushing a button on a computer. 

My parents recognized the power that words carry.  My father had a Master's degree in speech and drama.  He loved to introduce new words to me as I was growing up. 

My husband loved words as much as I do.  He used to read the dictionary (so did I), unlike me, he adored playing Scrabble and knew all of the words that do not sound like words because they are used infrequently.  He also knew how to put those unique words on spaces where the value was doubled or tripled.  I remember that many times his score for one turn would be in the 60s.  That is an extremely high score in Scrabble.

I did beat Nyle at Scrabble one time.  The reason was that we were playing with another friend.  Nyle and this friend played the game as though their lives depended on it.  They were so busy trying to annihilate each other by Scrabble score that they didn't even notice the game that I was playing until I won.  Obviously I still cherish that one time memory.

Words can be used to carry harm, and hurt.  Words can be twisted and re-arranged in such a fashion that the actual message is hidden within.  We have all experienced words that hurt.  "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me."  I've heard that Mantra all of my life.  It is NOT true!  Words can cause long lasting hurt.  They can precipitate actual physical harm. Psychology explains that it takes four positive comments to replace one negative comment that we hear.  Words can have great power to hurt...even to destroy!

It fascinates me that is often easier to be kind or polite to a total stranger than to those in our own family.  On the one hand, home should be a safe place where you are loved unconditionally.  On the other hand, why would we ever want to use the power of our words to strike out in anger towards those that matter the most to us?
What words are you using today?  Are your words helping or hurting?  Do you understand the power that words carry? 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Waves and Washing

One of my favorite musicals is "South Pacific."  I adore the movie with Mitzi Gaynor.  She is such a spunky young lady.  One of my favorite numbers is "I'm Going to Wash That Man Right Out of my Hair."  In the movie she has decided that her relationship with a French man on the island where she is stationed with the military will not work for many reasons.

She dances and sings this number on the beach.  Each and every time that I go to the beach I am Mitzi Gaynor singing joyously about washing a man out of my hair.  It is absolutely magical to me to not only wade through the waves, but to dance through them, singing at the top of my lungs.  For obvious reasons at the age of almost 61 I do NOT do this when there are lots of people around.  I prefer to solo, by myself, alone.

For those magical moments I am again young, and my body is lithe and unencumbered by age.  After I finished my dance this morning I thought about the difference between the way I danced that number at the beach when I was young, and now.  It was an easy realization that although my body has more limitations now, my spirit is just as young, as free, and as happy as that young woman I used to be.

Most people at this vantage point of life say, "I don't feel like that many years have passed."  It does seems impossible to me.  On the other hand, I have children and their march through the years testifies to me that I HAVE lived all of those years.

On the other hand, I'm STILL HERE!  I'm still upon this earth, this world.  In many ways I appreciate my life far better than I did as a young woman.  Back then there were so many questions.  I felt as though absolutely every single part of my life was an enormous question mark.  Shall I go to college.  What line of work should I pursue.  Shall I get married?  Who will I marry?  Will I have children?  How many children?  What will we name them?  On and on and on.

Now?  I know who I married, and I was truly, deeply blessed with my marriage.  Even though he is no longer on earth physically, I know that his spirit lives on and is close to me still.  I know how many children that we had, and what we named them.  The questions that so troubled me at 20 until 40 are answered now.

There are other types of questions that still need answers, but I no longer feel as insecure, and vulnerable as I ponder them.  The perspective of living for 61 years shows that I've been through tough stuff before, and I most probably will be again.  On the other hand, I can face those things with confidence.

The best thing of all is knowing that just because I AM 61 I don't have to give up, sit in a comfy chair and wait for death.  There are still ever so many wonderful things that I want to do, and need to do.  I would love to hear from some of those that read these post.  I want to hear the marvelous things you're doing at 20, 30, 40 or beyond.  (I truly believe that after the age of 50 we're all the same age).

I'm excited for a new place, new people, and new opportunities to grow.  Here's a toast to a quote we hear often but still has great value, "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass.  It's about learning to dance in the rain."

Friday, March 31, 2017

Shhhh....We Don't Like to Talk About This!!!

Let's discuss a different type of pain.  Mental health can cause a pain that goes far beyond any physically perceived pain or illness.  You can be living in a lovely home, not have a single concern, and yet be in pain so severe that it feels as though suicide is the only answer.  Is this pain less real because it is not perceived physically?

We live in a marvelous time of technology.  There are so many wonderful things that we can do to palliate physical pain.  Several different types of technologies can make living with chronic pain more functional.

We DO speak about physical pain, bad knees, backs, or chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, or fibromyalgia (although this last illness is still often ascribed as caused by mental health).  The reality is that clinical depression, bi-polar disorder, or schizophrenia are PHYSICAL illnesses.  They are every bit as real, as clinical as diabetes, or multiple sclerosis.  They are triggered by an imbalance of the chemicals that we still know so little about, those miraculous chemicals that allow our brains to feel at peace, sated.  We are just now touching the surface of mental health challenge with knowledge about neurotransmitters, and the multiple chemicals that cause our brains to function normally.

In the past we dealt with mental illness by putting everyone that we did not understand into mental institutions.  A woman could be committed for infidelity.  (Note that men were never committed for this reason).  The blind and deaf might be shoved into these places.  Definitely someone with clinical depression or other types of mental illnesses were there.  Anyone suspected of homosexuality was definitely in that place.  It was a horrific answer to societies ails and ills.

Now we realize how broken that system was.  If the old system is broken, where do people go that can not function within society for whatever reason?  Now we shovel them out on the streets and say, "Good luck."  Then we do our best to ignore them and their needs.

The solution to all of this is not simple.  It's multi-faceted, and complicated.  Yet there are things that all of us can do.  We need to care.  We need to communicate, we need to find ways to make a change, even if the only way you can effect change is through reaching out to educate others.  We need to quit ignoring this problem and find more effective methods of coping with it.

During the Great Depression there were many displaced individuals.  They were unable to find work so they traveled throughout the country searching for ways to earn money to send to their families to support them.  My mama remembered vividly men walking on the rails not far from her home.  The men would knock on their door.  They would be ragged, tired, dirty, some of them despairing.  Grandma found food for them.  Sometimes they would do a little work for the food.

What does this have to do with mental illness?  These displaced men were not just ignored or looked at as less than human.  There were programs to help, there were people that genuinely wanted to help.

So many of the mentally ill in our nation are extremely vulnerable.  They live on the streets, and rarely get the medications that they need to be even slightly functional.  Some turn to alcohol, or drugs to self medicate because they can't afford to go to a doctor, or get the medicine they need on a regular basis.  

We must teach, educate, explain, discuss, communicate with our children about the medical reasons for mental health issues.  We need to love them richly, and unconditionally so that they know that you are their safe place.  If bullying occurs during their young years, you must be aware so that you can prevent that from sliding your child into clinical depression.  I repeat, we still don't fully understand the connections between our psyche and our physical body,  We do know that ongoing stress has harmful effects on our body and mind.

Let's take this subject out of the shame, and blame pile, and look for creative, effective methods to help those in this kind of need.

One of my friends went through a severe bout of suicidal ideations caused by clinical depression.  When he slept (he was terrified to sleep) he would awaken every single time with the idea racing through his mind that he had to die...he simply couldn't continue to live another day.  His weary wife found a hospital and he went there to protect himself from himself.  What a giant joke.  He only saw a doctor for 45 minutes in 4 days.  There was a "occupational rehab," program.  They become upset with him when he only wanted to toll paint wooden kitties, five in all.  They told him that he needed to try different things to help decide the type of work that he would do.

He was a professor at a Law School.  He did not need to paint kitties to get ideas for what to do for work.  The one size fits all mentality at the hospital was far less than helpful, and the bill that they were charged after insurance paid was horrific.  The hospital DID keep him alive for those four days, but then they put a financial burden on the already struggling family, AND did NOT give him anything helpful to take back to his regular life.

COME ON PEOPLE!  Wake up!  Don't say, "This is NOT my problem."  You never know...some people develop clinical depression or schizophrenia later in life.  What would you do if you were facing this debilitating disease, or heaven forbid, one of your children or grandchildren were battling with this?  Let's quit blaming and shaming anyone who is facing the severity of these challenges! 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas Crazies or Reason for the Season

(This post is a repeat)

Ten Signs that you are infested with an attack of the Christmas Crazies

1.  You find that your tongue is dried beyond redemption from licking copious amounts of Christmas Card envelopes, and stamps.
2.  It is not merely a nice idea to send out Christmas is a necessity....even though you are working two jobs and have three little kids, a husband, a dog, and two kitties!
3.  The NEED of baking cookies to take to the entire neighborhood is constantly throbbing at the back of your mind.
4.  The tree is up, decorated, you've been the home room mother for every single one of your children's Christmas parties at school, and you wish that Christmas was over and your kids were back in school.
5.  Just as a stranger in a department store  reaches to grab a toy that your child is convinced they must have or simply DIE, you put your hand under hers and rip it away...then laugh in maniacal pleasure!
6.  You then engage in a wrestling match with the above mentioned lady to redeem that aforementioned item that your child will simply DIE if they don't find under the tree on Christmas morning!!!
7.  There is a Christmas party at church and you insist on taking pictures with Santa and ALL of your children.  Even Bess the thirteen month old that you KNOW will scream and cry in terror at the sight of a jolly old man in a red suit with white trim (how does he keep that white trim white going down all of those nasty dirty chimneys in the world)? MUST have her picture taken with him because after all this the picture will bring happy memories in years to come DARN IT!
8.  You pretend that you're asleep so that your husband will get up and comfort Bess (who is having night terrors about some strange man in a weird red suit)!
9.  You get up at midnight to go to a Christmas sale with toys that your children just HAVE TO HAVE OR THEY'LL DIE....and when you get home exhausted you discover that you saved 50 cents at the all important sale and now you only have two hours to sleep before your entire family will be up and want you to make breakfast!  (Let them eat granola bars....after all you were up all night for them, right)?
10.  The number TEN reason that you know that you're suffering from an attack of the Christmas Crazies.  Your family is sitting around the Christmas tree singing Christmas Carols and all that you can think of is, "When can I insist that we all go to bed?"

Now the reason for the season.  When my beloved Mama (94 years young) was a tiny child in the 1920s her Father taught her a lesson that stuck with her over the years.  Before they would go into the magical Christmas room where Santa had left gifts he would exclaim, "Christmas Gift."  My Mama knew that he was reminding his family of the reason that gifts are given at Christmas.  The original purpose of those gifts was to remind us that God our Heavenly Father gave the most precious of all gifts, he allowed his son Jesus Christ to be born into this world.  He knew the cruel suffering that his son would endure.  Yet God knew that it was necessary for Christ to come to earth to break the bonds of death for ALL of God's spirit children, that includes you and I.  Christ had made a choice using his own Agency to make this grand sacrifice.

So as the Christmas Crazies threaten to engulf you in their tight hold remind yourself, "Would the world stop spinning if I sent out JANUARY cards this year?  If I allow someone else to be room mother this year, would my children suffer irreparable harm that would lead to years of therapy? (Not so much, not really)"

Review your priorities often, maybe each morning before you start your day.  You may even find pockets of time that you can temporarily relinquish (like watching television or going on Facebook for four hours).  After all Christmas Crazies ARE temporary.  What is PERMANENT will be the precious memories that you make.  Memories like the beauty of lights that surprise and delight your soul as you drive through a normally dark and dreary neighborhood as you are going home from your work.  Remember the precious smile of your youngest watching Christmas lights and listening to Carolers sing.  The joy on your child's face as they see the wonders that Santa brought for them will make all your effort worth it!

Just so you understand, I'm writing this entry to remind MYSELF of what matters during this time.  There is a song by Sarah Bareilles that says, "All I am, all I need, is the air I would kill to breathe. Holds my life in his hands AND STILL I'M SEARCHING FOR SOMETHING..."  Nyle, my beloved husband of 27 years, I still miss with intensity breathing the air that we shared.  Nyle passed away in January of 2012.

Yet I know that he would insist that I continue "SEARCHING FOR SOMETHING!"  I will use the "Reason for the Season," to not give in to mindless sorrow and the deepest of anguish.  I will use the joyous Christmases we shared to keep me from the Christmas Crazies.

Oh I WILL grieve but it will not be the type of grief that drives me to desperation.  It will be tempered with the joyous knowledge that because of God's gift to all of mankind, I WILL see my beloved husband again!

A Musical Christmas Present

Rae was sad.  At ten years of age she hadn't been able to earn money to buy Christmas presents for her parents.  She loved them so much, and she loved watching their dear faces when they opened a gift she had given them.  Her golden brown eyes were swimming in tears as she contemplated a Christmas morning with no gift under the tree for them.

Then, the tears stopped, and a giant smile filled Rae's face with radiance.  She knew what to do!  Her parents both loved music.  Her Father was always in the choir at church.  Her Mama sang as she did her household tasks.

Her Dad had purchased a piano soon after her parents married.  The unusual thing?  He and his wife could NOT play the piano.  His reasoning?  "Our children will ALWAYS have music in our home."

Rae looked through their children's church hymnal.  She wanted the perfect song.  When she found, "Oh Hush Thee My Baby," she got goosebumps.  The song was PERFECT!  It was unusual, not a carol sung all the time.  It had rich musical dynamics.  Most importantly?  Rae could play it on the piano.

Her next step was to involve her four year old sister in the plan.  She thought that her parents would enjoy the musical gift even more with two of them participating.  It was hard finding a time when both of her parents weren't around to hear them practice.  Rae forged ahead.

Rae knew when the perfect night arrived.  Both of her parents were home.  They were all feeling the Christmas spirit.  A lovely tree stood in the corner of their front room.  It was silver, aluminum, her sister Joy was far too allergic for any type of evergreen.  It shimmered softly in the light.

She said, "Mama, Papa, Joy and I have a Christmas gift that we wish to give you.  Do you have some time?  Can we give it to you now?"

They both agreed.  Rae sat down at the piano to play.  Joy stood by Rae's side facing their parents.  Rae was very anxious as she played the introduction to the song.  She was afraid that she would make a mistake and their well rehearsed gift would be ruined. 

As they began to sing, the flowing rhythm, and the sacred words all begin to calm Rae's nervous hands and voice.  Rae and Joy's voices blended together well.  The sisterhood they shared was evident as they harmonized.

They sang three verses, and somehow it felt to Rae that they got a little better on each verse.  She was sad when they finished the last note.  It had felt so dear, so right to present this gift of music to her parents.  Rae was a little shy to turn around and see her parents faces.

Applause turned her around.  Both of her parents were clapping joyfully.  Her Father's face concerned her.  He was wiping tears away.  Sadly she wondered, "Was our singing so poor that it made Dad cry?"

Her Father came to them.  Wrapping his long arms around both of them he gave them each a sound kiss.  "Oh girls.  This was the best present that you could ever have given us."

Their Mama echoed their Dad's words.  "This IS the best gift.  Thank you, thank you.  I could never have gotten anything that I enjoyed more."

Rae's heart seemed to expand with joy.  She hugged her little sister.  The warmth in the room had very little to do with the job that their furnace did.  Rae knew that she would never forget that wonderful moment. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Praise or Pain?

I live in constant chronic pain.  I hit the jackpot with all three types, muscular, skeletal, and nerve!  WOOHOO!  If I had been born 50 years earlier I would have been called a cripple.  I would have been homebound...ALL THE TIME, by the extreme levels of this sensation that we call pain.

Pain has a purpose.  Pain tells us to take care of whatever happens to be hurting.  My nephew as a small boy stepped on a multi pronged fishhook that settled deep into his toe.  I was the only available adult in my family at the time.  It was NOT fun to take that sweet young boy to a doctor knowing that it would be a painful experience.

On the other hand, if that fishhook did not hurt?  What if he had just merrily gone along his way?  Of course, the toe would have become infected, which would have turned very nasty, and he may have lost his toe or more of his body.  PAIN HAS A PURPOSE!

I do not, and will not believe that a healthy mind looks for ways to experience pain.  If you see pain as a joyous experience, well, that's a subject for someone much wiser than I am!  I guess we can use for an example the character in Little Shop of Horror's who ADORES going to the dentist.  That's enough said about that!

Here is a question?  Why on earth would a person with a reasonably healthy mind praise pain?  My husband once told me that he had decided, "Pain is just a sensation.  It doesn't have to be defined as good or bad.  It's just a different way to feel."

He was far more evolved than I am.  I dislike intensely feeling pain.  Yet I have learned in my journey that when I awaken in the morning instead of cursing the pain that I feel, praising the medicine that will help me feel closer to normal (whatever normal means...I guess normal for me), begins my day on a positive plane.

There are always things to praise.  I praise the chance to live in a new day.  I praise the chance to be close to my family.  I praise the Christmas holidays and all of the joy that they bring.

I have found that praising, giving active thanks, is like having a key that unlocks secret doors.  In the book/movie, "The Secret Garden," the adorable young girl finds a lost key to a garden that has been allowed to grow over, and turn into a secret patch of weeds.  She has lost both of her parents and lives with an uncle who is entirely morose and rarely home.  The key to the garden opens her soul to a plethora of opportunity for praise and gratitude.

I am continually touched and amazed at the secret gardens that have opened to my vision as I discover the key through difficulty, and pain.  Within those experiences of feeling far less than I would like to feel, I find ways to connect and understand my brothers and sisters of the human race.

I have learned the things in life that REALLY matter.  Trust me, financial wealth, a fancy house, and spiffy cars, well they are nice (I'm not completely crazy), but they are not even close to the most important things in life.

The things that I cling to as I focus on praise and not pain,  are many more than I wish to discuss in this post.  The number one praise worthy gift is faith.  It is a most simple word, with a multitude of meanings.  The faith that I refer to is an active power.  It has the power to help you push through all of the most difficult things that life can hand you.  The following are but a few types of this faith infused with a real power that I am referring to.  Faith in God, however you may perceive him or her, faith in family, faith in yourself, and your capacity for overcoming, these types of faith give life meaning, and color. 

I already mentioned praise, and it stands as the title at the top of the column for this discussion.  This week I will touch on one or two other doors that can be opened by the seemingly negative experiences that life can hold.