appreciation, change, clarity and direction, Discovery, enlightenment, families, inertia, living and growing, perspective

How $25 Changed Me

It seemed so simple at first.  Give each of my (adult) kids and my husband and I, $25 at Christmas time.  $25 with a catch, that is.  We each had to spend it on someone else.  Someone who had a need.   We distributed the $25 on December 1st.  We had 25 days to find a worthy cause to give our money towards.   And we agreed that on Christmas day we would share with each other where we had given the money.

There were no rules, other than you had to see a need and give the $25 away.

Seemed simple enough.

But what I learned through this process was unexpected and transformative.

I thought I would have no trouble giving my $25 away.   I assumed that there is need all around me and that within the first week, the money would be gone.  Instead I discovered that I live a truly insulated life.  That someone with obvious need, is not constantly in front of me, just waiting to be handed money.   I live a comfortable life, surrounded by other people, who even when they struggle, do so, pretty comfortably.

The first couple of weeks went by and I was chill.  I was certain that some type of need would present itself to me.  So I waited.   But nothing appeared.  Sure there was the Salvation Army bell ringers…I ran into them every time I went to the grocery store.  But I already give to them.  I thought about dropping the $25 into the kettle and being done….it’s more than I usually give and I could be done!  But no, it seemed too easy.

By week three, I was really paying attention to the world around me.  I started to accept the idea that I would need to find a cause to donate to instead of a person to hand the money to.  An ad came on TV for the American Cancer Society.  I know too many who have lost the battle to cancer.   This could be a worthy recipient.  But online giving seemed too easy.  So I watched and waited.

During week 4, I saw a program on TV about Yemen.  The children.  The famine.  The heartbreak.  I did more research on Yemen and was reduced to tears.  This was worthy.  But $25 seemed so little.  Ineffective against all they face.  But here’s the irony.   Had I not committed that $25 to give away, I wouldn’t have given anything towards Yemen relief.  Not a penny.  In light of that, I recognized that $25 was pretty good.  It still took me till Christmas Eve day to make my decision.   Yemen would get the $25.

But getting to Yemen, if you will, was a challenging process.   This experience revealed to me how influenced I was by my early years of marriage.  With 5 kids and only my husband’s salary, we were broke.  When you are broke, giving money away isn’t an option.   When we gave, it was usually to a family member in greater need than ourselves.  We were, more often than not, the recipients of people’s generosity.  They saw our need and gave.  We were grateful.  And for that and other reasons, we gave back.  But with no money to give, we gave our time.  And a pattern emerged.   Giving my time became part of the fabric of who I was.  I was generous with my time and gave freely.  Sometimes I gave too much.  But I gave my time because it was what I could offer.

Fast forward 30 years and money isn’t so tight.  There is extra.  Or there could be.   But I still behave like there isn’t.   Extra money gets funneled towards nice things or helping my kids. Until that $25 showed up.   It opened my eyes to the fact that things have changed.   Just being able to hand 8 people $25 and say, “give it away’ is an indication that I am no longer broke.  So what to do with this new insight?

I recognized that giving to family isn’t bad, but perhaps I needed to expand my idea of family.   Those 2 year olds in Yemen, with arms and legs that were pencil thin….my tears were telling me, they are family too.  And I find myself heading into the new year with a broader perspective of need.  A deeper understanding that I could and should do more.  Not just with my time, but with my money too.

As my husband and I gathered with our kids and heard about how they spent their $25, I realized I wasn’t the only one who found the process difficult.  So with anything that is difficult, the only solution is to practice until it becomes easier.   We will be doing this again next year, though we decided Nov. 1st is a better date to start.

In only 25 days, that $25 gave me a fresh perspective.  And it enlarged my heart.  Now that’s time and money well spent!

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families, living and growing

Transforming Love

“It’s been a slow but steady change. Something that bordered on indifference had transformed into investment and caring. An awakening awareness. 6 years ago my Uncle Ed died. His death, which came a year after my Aunt Mary’s death, shattered my father. He was the oldest of 4 siblings. He had lost his youngest brother years ago. But it was the recent death of his brother and sister, that broke him. The man who had always played the role of the big brother had no siblings left to care for and protect. He struggled with the injustice of them going before him. The consummate big brother had lost his purpose.

My Uncle Ed and my Dad had for many years, lived within a 40 mile radius of each other. They got together often, talked on the phone regularly and were deeply invested in each other’s lives. Each had children of their own and tried to get these cousins together on a regular basis.

Some of my siblings developed, early on, deep and lasting relationships with these “Framingham Convery’s” as we called them. My relationship with them was different. There were six Framingham cousins in all. Three of them were quite a bit older than me, closer to my own siblings ages. But I had one cousin a year older than me, one a year younger and one two years younger. And for most of our childhood we had the type of relationship children have when they feel forced to play with one another. I liked them more than I disliked them and as we all got older we came to like each other even more and let our own insecurities go.

But the overall indifference I felt, remained. Until their father died. Having their dads brother as my dad, I knew what they had lost. I understood the impact. Both men were larger than life. Both left a huge vacuum that time and space could not fill. My dad died just over a year after his brother. And my understanding of exactly what their loss felt like, grew.

And as that understanding grew, my indifference began to be transformed into something new. The indifference had not been born out of dislike but rather stemmed from the busyness of life. For our entire lives, our fathers updated us all on each other’s lives. No real investment was necessary. I could listen as my father would recite to me all he had learned about each of my cousins from his latest phone call. I could smile or be sad for them, whichever was appropriate and then go on with my life.

Until there were no more updates to rely on. And these people, this small band of Convery Framingham’s began to grow in importance to me. Why? Because THEY KNEW. They understood the depth of my loss. We had a shared history that I could no longer allow to languish on the sidelines of indifference. Slowly and surely I began to care. Indifference gave way to curiosity. Not a gawking kind of curiosity but the kind that develops as one starts to see the value another holds.

Each year since their dad died, my Framingham cousins have held a fund raiser around St Patrick’s day to raise money for a scholarship in my uncles name. And each year I have gone. Our dads both loved their Irish heritage and the day that allowed them to celebrate it. It’s a warm time and as the years go by, it feels less and less sad and more and more of a tribute to exactly what those two men would have wanted. The tribute goes well beyond the Irish celebrations because the real tribute is the growing relationships. It would have delighted both of them.

This year I noted a change when I went. I always enjoy it and have looked forward to it from its beginning. But this year, I felt something new. I felt at home. Completely relaxed. No pretense. No walls built up from years of indifference. I felt a deep abiding appreciation and a deepening curiosity. These people MATTER! I need to know more about them. I WANT to know about their lives. I feel that I have been given a gift……a gift stemming from the love two brothers had for each other. Finally I was open to it being passed down in a way that transformed my heart. My cousins have experienced this too…I can see it and feel it when I am with them.

I know my dad and my uncle are smiling down at us….glad we finally understand what they knew, all along. These growing relationships reconnect us with a part of ourselves that was lost when our dad’s left this earth. But connecting with each other isn’t just about holding onto to something we have all lost. Its bigger than that. This connecting transforms us. It takes us off the path of indifference and puts us on a path of deep, abiding love. That’s a transformation worth celebrating and a tribute to the special love that began long ago. A love that transforms.

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clarity and direction, living and growing, spiritual growth, Uncategorized

How to See in the Dark

Life can be blurry.   We can long for clarity and direction yet answers elude us.

I had a dream this past week.   I was trying to find something but fog was rolling in.   It covered everything in a mist that rose about a foot off the ground.   Not only could I not see well, everything felt disorienting.

I forgot about that dream until I went to bed last night.   I have a condition called ‘dry eye’.   Each night I need to use an ointment in my eyes.  It’s consistency is similar to Vaseline.  I put off doing this each night until I have shut off my light.   Once I’ve put the medicine in my eyes, I can’t stand having the light on because it highlights how blurry everything is.  I like to be able to see.

I’m in a season of ‘not knowing’ these days.  A season of not being able to see how things can or will work out.   Personally and with my kids and with my aging mother.   I just can’t see what to do or where to step next.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I came to grips with the unanswered questions regarding my own life.   When it comes to me, I am again content not being able to see ahead.

But as my kids grow into their adulthood and I watch them make decisions that I worry about, as I watch them struggle, I long for answers.   I long for assurance.  I want to ‘see’ a secure future for them.  But things are blurry.   Very blurry as a matter of fact.   The kind of blurry that (literally!!) makes my heart race.   I feel disorientated.   I can’t see!  And when I can’t see, I start to struggle.

But I’m old enough now, to realize how foolish that struggle is.   Life is blurry sometimes, actually it’s probably blurry most of the times.  Sometimes we are blessed with true moments of clarity.  An unobstructed path that clearly points in a specific direction.   And those times are so comforting, so desirable, that it’s easy to start to want it to always be smooth sailing.   Life is messy though, and fog often rolls in.

I know two responses to this.  My first response:  which is to feel disorientated, to struggle, to feel sad, guilty, frustrated…..overwhelmed….afraid.

But then there’s the second response.   The response that allowed me to fall asleep last night.   The same response that had brought me contentment with my own uncertainties.

That response is prayer.   And relinquishment.  To surrender to God the need for me to see the future, trusting that if He is there, I can relax – whether or not the path is blurry.  It’s an ongoing response though, not a one time thing.   The circumstances that cause me to worry haven’t disappeared.   My concern over them hasn’t vanished.   But there is an answer and it doesn’t need to involve stressing out because I can’t see the answer.

I’m reminded that the second type of response involves depending less on my eyes to see what path to take.  But then how do I see?  I reach up, take the hand of the Lord who loves me, and I let Him lead the way.

 

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addictions, blackouts, comfort, electricity, enlightenment, home, honesty, inertia, letting go, living and growing, peace, perspective, power, struggles, Uncategorized

Enlightened in the Dark

12 hours.  That’s all it was.   Short and sweet, really.   Friends in neighboring towns still don’t have it.   Power that is.   The completely underappreciated gift of walking over to a light switch, flipping it on and getting light in return.

12 hours, that’s all it took for me to appreciate that I am hooked.   Completely dependent on electricity.  The night time wasn’t so bad.   It wasn’t cold out and if it weren’t for my dog barking, I could have slept through the first 6 hours….blissfully unaware.

But my dog did bark, and I got up to check on him.   Flipped the switch to walk downstairs and…nothing happened.   Flipped it again, surely this was just a fluke?  Nope.  Nothing.   At that point, my son, who doesn’t believe in sleeping when it’s dark out, popped his head out of his bedroom and told me, “We’ve lost power.”   Oh.   Hmmm.

Now the nagging questions start.   Has anyone else lost power, why have we lost power, is everything alright?   It’s a little tough to tell at night if your neighbors have power.  But I spent a good hour, spying out different windows looking for a clue.

Then sleep….well, I would have slept except that’s when it dawned on me that my youngest wasn’t home from his shift that ended a t 11:30 pm and it was now 1:30am.  Thankfully after I sent a frantic text he responded quickly and assured me he would be home soon.  And he was.

So sleep finally came and quickly on it’s heels came morning.

Granted I was groggy that morning but still…..I found myself sitting – for two hours, in my recliner, doing pretty much nothing.   Don’t want to use the phone and drain my battery…but what is going on?   I need updates!!!  Meanwhile I continue to sit because somewhere in my head, without realizing it, I had determined I couldn’t do ANYTHING without power.   And it was at that moment I realized how truly dependent I had become.

Really, I could do nothing?   That’s ridiculous.   It was daylight after all.   Open the shades and get something done!  So I finally hauled myself out of my one recliner that is manually operated….did I mention how I also discovered in the middle of the night that when you don’t have power your electric recliners won’t work?   Who knew?!

While my kids wanted their devices, I wanted my FRIDGE!  Two weeks prior, someone left the door to my fridge open and in the morning I had the depressing job of throwing everything I had just bought the night before…out.   And here I was again.  Two weeks later and again, I had JUST gone food shopping.   But whatever!  I was use to this.   But the freezer too?   Man!   And no hot water, no oven, no curling iron (this was getting serious!) no washing machines, no, no, no, no……goodness, does everything plug in these days??   When you don’t have power it seems like it.

Even my land line disappointed me!   Like a dinosaur from times past, I have doggedly held onto my land line.  Because everyone knows when you lose power, only the land line works.  Except in this case, where we had lost our phone service too.

And then the magic happened.   A few beeps throughout the house….and voila!  Microwave clocks again tell time, TV’s work, phones can be charged.   Ahh, all is right with the world.

And I realize, I need to break this addiction I have to electricity.   Toughen up!   Kick it old school and go off grid!   I don’t want to feel this way again!   But as my refrigerator happily hums away, in my warm and well lit room, I find myself thinking maybe I’ll just get a generator…..

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addictions, decluttering, diet, healing, hope, inertia, letting go, living and growing, mourning, moving on, new life, peace, perspective, struggles, Uncategorized, will power

De-cluttering – Letting Go of the Inertia

Why does inertia have so much influence over our lives?   What is it that can make us want to do something for a long, long time and yet we just don’t?   I blame inertia but I can’t seem to put my finger on what causes the inertia.   Sometimes it’s as simple as a bad night’s sleep.   The next day is spent just trying to stay awake.   But other times, when lack of sleep isn’t to blame, why don’t I do the things I say and think that I want to do?

Some of the things are simple….pick up that piece of trash on the floor….umm, no, thanks…I will instead choose to walk by it 5, 10 or perhaps 25 times before I finally decide to take the half of second it needs for me to deal with it.  But as soon as I take care of it, I feel better.  Funny that such a simple thing can bring relief yet I don’t choose to simply pick it up, the first time I see it.  What gives??

Then there’s the bigger things….projects, jobs, dreams….I get where some of that inertia comes from.   These things require time and effort.   They may require skills I don’t yet have, connections with people I don’t yet know.   Maybe I don’t want to start one more thing that I might not finish.   Maybe I’m afraid I’ll fail.  Maybe deep down I don’t really want to do it or maybe I think it’s not worthy of my time.

I’m trying to de-clutter my life these days.   Honestly, I started the process 16 years ago but with five small kids at the time, my attention was often diverted elsewhere.   And as kids grow, de-cluttering means getting rid of the past.   That’s hard.  For a long time I found it impossible to let stuff go.

So over the last year I started looking at de-cluttering in a different way.   It wasn’t just about getting rid of stuff….although I have doggedly been doing that.  I started in January with de-cluttering addictions.   First to sugar, and most recently caffeine.   Controlling the will and ultimately changing what the will wants is a long slow process.  It takes a lifetime.  But I’ve learned it is possible.

Then I challenged my lifelong distaste (bordering on hatred actually) of exercise.  I started exercising most days, last summer.   But then the cool weather kicked in and I quit making the effort.   I started again this past summer and learned the difference between doing something because you should and doing something because you want to.   The longer I did it the more benefit I started to see and slowly, very slowly, I began to want to do it because it makes me feel better.

With each victory over my old stubborn will of downright refusal, I felt lighter….slightly less cluttered.   But inertia is still the enemy.   It whispers how busy i am – there can’t be time to exercise….how deprived I am…so many foods you can’t eat!   It tells me other things matter more.  Some days I listen to those whispers.   Most days now, I listen a lot less.

All this makes me wonder….has inertia ever been a problem for you?   Do certain circumstances provoke it in you?   How do you move beyond it?  I’d love to know.

 

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comfort, diet, doctors, healing, hope, living and growing, moving on, struggles

Waking up to a new reality

After a lifetime of stomach issues and medications that solve one problem only to create others, I decided I had had enough.   I couldn’t just keep doing what I had been doing and expect different results.

But I liked tried and true.   I liked mainstream.   I trusted it.  But the reality is that mainstream was getting me nowhere.   As a patient in my current health plan…the same health plan I have been at since I was EIGHTEEN, I have no less than 8 doctors.   All but my primary care doctor are specialists.   But it seems they never talk to each other about me.   Despite having access to my files, each one treats me independently of the other.   Each specialist only sees in me, their specialty.   The stomach doctor, treats my stomach, the skin doctor, my skin, the eye doctor my eyes…etc.

If any of my symptoms were ever connected, I would never know.

So I threw in the towel and headed to a new place.   A Holistic, Integrative doctors office, where one doctor wanted to know ALL my symptoms.   He did not want to know my diagnoses, he wanted to hear about my symptoms.   And once I started, I discovered the list – when taken as a whole, was pretty daunting.  And perhaps, very much connected.

He made suggestions, I followed them to the letter and….I am NOT cured!   Crazy, right?  Here’s what is really crazy.   For the first time in 51 years, I felt LISTENED TO.   Someone acknowledged my symptoms and really thought about a treatment plan.   I tried a 30 day elimination diet.   This is where I ate absolutely nothing I was familiar with, gave up everything that had previously got me through the day and tried a brand new way of preparing food, all at once.

I won’t lie, I hated the process and I complained…a lot!   What I didn’t understand when I started was, that this journey was going to change my life and my thinking.   Slowly over the years, I have developed better eating habits.   Got rid of soda, added fruit and veggies….but what I didn’t know is how much I DIDN’T KNOW!

Lately I feel like I’m living my very own science fiction story.   It’s like I fell asleep knowing how to feed myself and my family and I woke up realizing that nearly everything I ever thought I knew about food was wrong.   I hadn’t only been making bad choices for myself but I had been training my kids in poor food choices, their whole lives.

It was, and continues to be, overwhelming.   I still am searching for what is causing my stomach problems.   And I am still working on that elimination diet, even though I am well beyond the initial 30 days.   I have learned tons about my body.   And I have learned even more about food.   Real food.   It’s been a huge adjustment.   But there is no turning back.   Processed foods, sugar, additives, chemicals….I don’t want them.   But my repertoire of replacements are slim because I still have a lot to learn.

I consider myself lucky though.   With so many resources available at this moment in time…books that give me the real scoop on food and grocery stores that finally offer good choices, I feel like I ‘woke up’ at just the right time.

Food defines us in ways I never really thought about.   But so do illnesses.   If I can use food as a way to help my body to heal from a lifetime of less than stellar choices…I am determined to do so now.    The path is uphill, but I think it will be well worth the effort.

 

 

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childhood, comfort, death, dying, healing, home, hope, living and growing, moving on, peace, school, Uncategorized

Stepping Back to Move Forward

About a year ago, I received an invite to an Elementary school class reunion.  Seems harmless enough, right?   But for me it churned up a whole host of feelings I had thought I had buried.   Here was my problem.   I had HATED elementary school.   With the exception of Kindergarten and 6th grade, the years in between had felt like hell to me.   I had very few positive memories related to school and none of the good memories included my classmates.  Saying no to that invite would be easy.

But it nagged at me.   The fact that the emotions from 40 years ago were as strong as ever was a shock and a disappointment.   I thought I had moved on.   Middle school was ok and high school was excellent.   Since then, I had created a very happy life with many good friends, a great marriage and wonderful children.   How could something that was long over, still matter so much?

Elementary school didn’t start off horribly.   Kindergarten was a blast.   First grade was ok.  But a series of events happened in the summer after first grade that set in motion, changes I couldn’t control as a seven year old.

In the summer before 2nd grade my paternal grandparents both died.   Within 8 weeks of each other.   This had a devastating effect on me.   At the age when most kids are grappling with death and what it means, I was given a double whammy.   I became convinced that both my parents were also going to die.   For some reason, I firmly believed that I was the only one who could stop them from dying.   I believed a monster would come to the house and that if I wasn’t home, the monster would take my parents.     I couldn’t convey any of these fears to the adults in my life.   I could only take action.   Often I would start to walk to school and then run back home in a panic.   The crossing guard would come to my house and march me back onto the path towards school.   I became more resistant.   Soon, my mother had to walk me to school.   I had been walking myself since I was 5 years old so this was quite a set back – for her and for me.   And with my peers, it was the beginning of social suicide.

Eventually it got to the point where my mother had to not only walk me to school but stay in the class with me.   If she tried to leave, I would start to sob and cling to her.   Eventually the 2nd grade teacher took a stand and told my mother that she must leave and that she would take care of things.   Her sternness worked.   I gave in and stayed and my mother left.   But those bouts of crying in front of my classmates had done permanent damage.  I was labeled a cry baby.   I was ostracized and the regular brunt of jokes and teasing – for the next five years.  Not by everyone.  A few were kind.   Many were neutral – in that they didn’t participate in the teasing but they didn’t speak up either.   I don’t blame them.  Social hierarchy is a formidable thing to overcome when you are young.

In third grade, one popular girl who was still playing with me, told me something devastating.   One day she just said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t be seen playing with you anymore.”   Wow.   Sadly, even as a child, I understood.  I was seen as the weak link.   A handful of loud, but popular kids had made it clear, it was not cool to be my friend.   The elementary school years became a lonely, unhappy time.

It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I was able to express to my mother, why I hadn’t wanted to go to school in 2nd grade.   By then, I was in a much bigger school, with a wide variety of kids and the opportunity to be fully myself.   I was no longer lonely, no longer a cry baby and I certainly didn’t need or want the friendships that I was so desperate for in elementary school.  Life moved on and I was grateful for it doing so.

And then that reunion invite appeared.

And although I initially denied what I must do, eventually I knew I needed to go.   I needed to forgive them.   To release both myself and them from our old roles.   It was a dual invite.   The past was inviting me to remember and God was inviting me to walk back into those memories with Him at my side.  He knew the hurt I had carried, even if I denied it.  He knew that for me to move forward in this area, that I would need to step back.  God reminded me that if I had changed, that it was very likely, that they had too.   I knew if I had met any of them, today -without knowing them from the past, that I would probably like them.   And they would probably like me.

I did go.   Granted I needed a glass of wine, as soon as I stepped in the door, to help me not appear as tense as I felt.   It was awkward.   I knew I could ask my husband to go with me.   That he would bridge things for me and make me feel stronger.   But I went alone.   Because I needed to put my past to rest.   The much older me had the strength and the words the seven year old me didn’t have.

Here it is almost a year later.   And as I now have some of these early classmates as friends on Facebook, I am reminded.   They too, aren’t who they were when they were little.   I wish my elementary school experience had been different.   But I am no longer angry or hurt about it.   It taught me that it is very important to be able to express yourself.   I have learned that the underdog needs a friend.    And I acknowledge that many of us are unkind to others at some point in our lives.   Perhaps the greatest lesson learned is that building yourself up, at someone else’s expense comes at a great cost to both parties.

And now, I want to be connected to them.   We are the same age and of the same time period.   We remember things that others haven’t experienced.   This matters.  I’m actually looking forward to the next reunion; to discovering more of who these people from my past have grown into.   The next reunion won’t have the same cloud over it for me, I now welcome the chance  to step back and move forward.  🙂

 

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