Embrace Your Joy!

photo 4Christmas is one of my absolute favorite times of the year and it’s obvious when you look around my home.  I’ve just spent the last two weeks decorating, so yes, it’s very evident that I love Christmas!  The holidays bring me great joy!

Joy is an appropriate topic for today’s post because after all, tis the season!  My post is inspired by a few things.  One of those inspirations is Nelson Mandela.  People who spread love and good will in our world are a great source of inspiration and much can be learned from the legacy that this man left behind.  While the world mourns his passing, those closest to him are dealing with intense grief at the moment.  Joy is the farthest thing from their minds.

As a matter of fact, this season is one that many can’t find joy in.  Accidents still happen.  People lose their lives.  Disease is still diagnosed.  Employees lose their jobs.  Bills still come in the mailbox.  Families break apart.  Depression and suicides increase.  Life doesn’t suddenly change to cookies, glitter and snow angels when Macy’s Santa arrives in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Transforming my home and singing carols is more apt to cause people in these situations to be even more depressed.

So, how can I write about joy when there is so much pain and disorder around me?  You knew I was going to answer that, didn’t photo 5you.  My own life hasn’t been all happy and joyful, nor have all of my Christmas seasons been filled with gifts and shiny things.  If you’ve read my blog before, you know that.  I’ve experienced Christmas with accidents, loss, illness, no money, bills, break ups and brokenness, so I understand how difficult this time of year can be.  No, I wasn’t happy with my circumstances during those times, but I was able to be grateful for what I did have and look for the bright side of whatever the situation was.  I’ve always found someone or something that inspires me to find joy.

Another source for my inspiration today is a member of the running team that my husband and I belong to.  I’ve photo 5 (2)never met her in person, but I’ve seen enough of her posts on our team website and Facebook, that I feel like I know her and for that, I am grateful.  Honestly, I’m grateful for all of our team as they all are wonderful people who encourage and support each other in all of the highs and lows that come with injuries, recoveries, victories and defeats.  We all need people like this in our lives.  Today, while I am not diminishing the rest of our team in anyway, I want to highlight one.  And here I go naming names again and this time I actually have permission.  My inspiration today is Nancy.

photo 1 (2)Each day, Nancy posts a little personal story and how she was able to find joy in her day, no matter if it was a good day or a bad day.  I’ve come to look forward to reading her, “Go embrace your joy” messages.  I want to share what she posted on facebook last week.  I’ll just copy and paste exactly what she posted, as I can’t say it any better.  Here you go:

“Your destiny is to fulfill those things upon which you focus most intently. So choose to keep your focus on that which is truly magnificent, beautiful, uplifting and joyful. Your life is always moving toward something.” ~Ralph Marston

“A few days ago I shared with you all that after having fallen into a funk in my life I sought the guidance of a therapist–a person who helped me develop the tools to carry me through the obstacles–to change my perspective of this incredible and many times challenging journey we call life. 

There are many who perceive anyone seeking help as being weak or unable to cope. Sadly seeking help for a photo 4 (2)broken bone, a headache, blurry vision, even a toothache has never been questioned by my friends, but the minute they heard that I was in therapy, some friends became quite uncomfortable–giving me a side-way glance or total silence as if my problems were contagious–as if may I have a screw loose or that I am nuts. The truth– I believe the judgment from others is one biggest reasons people do not seek intervention–they don’t want people to think they can’t figure out life on their own. But sadly this perception is so unfair.

What I have learned over the years is, if I already knew everything I could about life, than there is nothing more I could learn. There would be little or no reason for me to change, to evolve to transform my life. Unfortunately, unlike your car, we aren’t born with an owner’s manual to guide us through the trials–what to do when our own internal check engine light comes on. We learn to do what we have to do just to survive–that is what we are wired to do. 

With each passing year I worry less about what others think of me, something that I spent way too much time and energy doing in my past, electing to focus more on what I think of myself and the nurturing friendships that bring me joy. Am I a good person? Am I a compassionate person? Am I kind? Loving? Giving? Do I bring joy to others?

The truth is–not everyone will like me–my goal in life is not to give up who I am to be loved by others, to be liked by others–as long as I am kind and respectful, you get me in all my whacky doodle ways. I love to have fun–I find being happy and joyful takes far less work than being miserable and angry. And as I have come to believe there is joy to found every day–sometimes you have to look far and wide for it and other times it’s right before your eyes. 

HAPPY SATURDAY FRIENDS–GO EMBRACE YOUR JOY!!!!”

Nancy started writing her posts about joy when her therapist gave her a homework assignment to find at least one thing that bringsphoto 2 (2) her joy every day, even on the dark days.  She said that some days, it was just finding a penny on her run, or seeing a rainbow after a storm, or a smile from a stranger.  She wrote this about finding joy in another one of her posts.

“Finding joy is a choice– it’s about rewiring our brain to move from negativity that can became such a part of our lives, to finding joy in the simplest of things. Certainly I would love to take full credit for my epiphany, but life in all its ups and downs is meant to be shared. More times than not, the joy does not lie in others, but is buried deep within our own hearts–we just have to open our eyes, hearts and minds to this amazing gift.”

This blog is named what it is for a reason.  It’s my own quest to become more of a real person, not one who puts on the socially accepted mask, flashes a fake smile and pretends my life is like living in a rose garden every day.  While I do like shiny things and I’d like to make you think that if it were even possible that I would ever pass gas, I would emit tiny puffs of glitter, we all know that’s not really how it is.  I want to share in the real life journey we are all on, because we all need support and encouragement.  We all need the encouragement of people around us during the difficult times, like my running team does for me.

photo 3 (2)Nancy is being real.  She’s sharing what is uncomfortable, but what she is really doing is encouraging others to be better people.  Because she chooses to be authentic, I’m encouraged to listen.  Her words speak to my heart, therefore, I’m encouraged to grow and I too, can find joy.  Maybe she’s not doing it on the scale that Nelson Mandela did, but she’s doing her part to spread love and good will in our world.

The past several days, we’ve been privileged to hear more about Nelson Mandela’s life and what he stood for.  We’ve also heard many inspiring words of wisdom that were uttered through his lips.  They were really an overflow of his heart.  This particular quote got my attention.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.

If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Nelson Mandela 

photo 1Nelson Mandela was authentic, the real deal.  He spoke in a language that could be understood by all, because he spoke to something that is buried deep in the hearts of all.  It’s love and goodwill that speaks to us.  That’s the language of the heart.  So in this world where all that glitters isn’t gold, where it’s hard to find the true meaning of the season in the frenzy of activity and plastic trees, I’m hoping more of us will open our eyes, hearts and minds to look deep inside ourselves and others for those real gifts that are real and authentic.  Spread some of that love and goodwill around.  Go embrace your joy!

Thanks Nancy!

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Brought to You by the Letter “J”

Two kids left to talk about, so two more days for this proud mom to use her bragging rights!  Today is “J”’s day.  Actually, let’s refer to him as “JN”.  You see, we have two “J”’s, so the next one you’ll meet tomorrow.  I also gave “JN” the heads up that I would be talking about him.  He wasn’t worried about what I would say either, so once again, I’ve been privileged with the liberty to share.  His comment was that the last manger scenetime I shared about him, it helped someone and helping people is where “JN’s” heart is at.   That post was titled, “My Grown Up Christmas Gift”, if you care to take a peek.

“JN” is my 3rd born, who also made his way into this world by C-section.  He too, was over 9lbs. at birth.  He was born right after Thanksgiving that year and was introduced to the public in his debut as baby Jesus in our small town church Christmas play.  I waited backstage, holding my breath as the guy playing Joseph held “JN” high over his head for all to see.  It was a proud moment, but did Joseph really have to hold my baby boy up in the air that high???

It was very evident from the beginning that “JN” was a deep thinker.  His gaze was piercing as he watched the people around him.   He would wrinkle up his tiny forehead and stare into people’s eyes, as if he could read their minds and interpret their thoughts.  It was pretty wild!  I would love to have been able to know what was going on in that little brain at the time.

“JN” got lots of attention, too!  He was born ten years after his big brother and sister, who were very happy to have a new baby around.  So when “JN” wanted held or fed, his wishes were granted pretty much immediately.   Thankfully, “JN” was spared from having to endure the drama of child abuse that his older siblings had gone through in my previous marriages.  I’d say he had a pretty sweet life in those early years.

Things began to take a turn though as “JN” was nearing the end of the elementary school days. He started to develop some health issues child in hospitalwhich resulted in lots of doctor visits, biopsies, surgery, medications and hospitalizations.  One of his doctors was a specialist who was writing a text book at the time and because “JN”’s condition was so rare for a child, he was going to refer to his case in his textbook.  I don’t know if his case ever made the cut or not, but I thought it was interesting.  Maybe a student or another child was helped even then by “JN”.  Needless to say, no parent wants to have their child undergo this kind of trauma.  I’m sure “JN” doesn’t have fond memories of this season in his life.

dark-streetThe season that followed doesn’t contain fond memories for “JN” either.  He would be able to tell his story much better than I.  I really only know the story from the parent’s side.  The years that followed were the very painful years of addiction.  “JN” missed all of the normal fun of the teenage years.  Instead he learned the tough existence of drugs, the streets and dark alleyways.  He had times of wanting to be clean and would check in to a rehab program, but it seemed he was caught in a vicious cycle of rehab and relapse.  These were nightmare years for all of us.

Maybe you think I’m a horrible mother for sharing this story with the world.  I might be that in your eyes, but I’m not in the eyes of my son.  I’m a mother who is proud of her son.  He’s clean now and he has been for a year and a half.  He’s been taking college courses, getting good grades, he lives on his own and he’s kept a full time job.  “JN” is intelligent, caring and obviously a fighter.  He’s still that deep thinker, too, and what he thinks most about is helping other people.  He goes to AA meetings, shares his story and sponsors others who are still struggling to be free.

No one knows the depths of the hell he went through in all of this, except for him.  For me to try to explain to you how hard he had to fight Strengthto get to where he is now would be a waste of space, because no matter how descriptive I get with my words, I couldn’t even begin to touch what he’s experienced.  So I’ll leave that story for him to tell.  What I will say is, if you are one who struggles with alcohol or addiction, why not visit one of those AA meetings.  You might run into my “JN”.  He’ll be the first to tell you, there is hope, there is help and there is healing.  You too can be free!

So “JN”, hear your momma loud and clear today, I’m super proud of you and I love you with all of my heart!

“Sometimes you don’t realize your own strength until you come face to face with your greatest weakness.” – Susan Gale

#NaBloPoMo

My Grown Up Christmas Gift

HopeIt’s with utmost respect and honor that I bring you today’s blog post.  I want to share one of the most valuable and precious Christmas gifts I have ever received.   It’s a poem written by one of my own.  My son gave me permission to share this with you today.  It wasn’t his intention to share this normally, very private, thing with the world, but it’s such a beautiful thing that, how can the world not get to experience it.  The back story to this, are years of addiction, many rehab programs, and several seasons of recovery followed by relapse.  Not that the journey is over, but this time feels different.  There is new life and hope that hasn’t been felt before.  I’m proud of my son and the positive steps that he is taking toward his new and wonderful future.  Together, we share this private moment in time today, not to exploit a man’s suffering, but to bring hope to other moms, dads, brothers, sisters and family members of addicts.  My son’s heart is much the same as mine, to help and love others.  Here is our gift to you.  May this season of hope live on in the New Year.  Merry Christmas!

 

For the Family

How can I even begin to express

About this time last year I was undoubtedly distraught, surely lost,

Senseless direction, heading nowhere, the trail had long since gone cold

Solid ground so ever elusive

The fear of death was becoming reality

I had abandoned all hope and lying to myself and everyone else in the process

Sick of pain and sobbing in a drunken stupor, I knew I couldn’t deny the truth

I was robbing myself of a life rich with meaning and warm hearted affairs

So I did what all good gangsters do and I called my parents, E.T. phone home

An answer, always an answer, as close as man can come, to divine love

They listened, always listened; I knew I had to get back to the desert

The place I once believed to be my problem, these people, these mountains, these

plastic possessions

Technology, pornography, dystrophy, all around me

But what I’m getting at ain’t so easily said, but seen out of your own two see’ers  instead

I got lost

The stupid story of the prodigal son haunts me like a rake does a garden gnome

And every time I was welcomed back, grace with a warm blanket of unconditional love

I am warm in my family’s arms

Fingers not so stiff and bleeding

I am charged with intense emotional uplift in the arms of my blood

Not so lethargic and glum, the fog lifts a little and I can finally breathe some

I am delighted to be born into such a solid rock of a household

Homesick and uprooted I am shaky and alone

I am blessed with a family who could never see me how I see myself

Distasteful, wasteful, hell in a bucket

The true meaning of the holidays is this

Family

I hope I’ve expressed in some way what I’m so desperately trying to say

I have the best family

From it stem the strongest roots

And I am so grateful and so floored to have made it back

If I’d had the choice to choose, I would have sold myself short

I am a man among angels

You see right through me

Thank you

 

The Bumble’s Story

Wow!  I almost have no other words to say in light of all the tragedy that we’ve seen happening during what is supposed to be a joyful season.  We have indeed, seen unthinkable and horrific events unfold before our eyes.  I am not attempting to address what has happened, nor relate these events to my story today.  I just can’t help but express the heaviness in my heart for the families involved as I begin to write today.  My prayers for those who are hurting so deeply are united with yours and the prayers of this nation.

I will repeat, I “almost” have no words to say, but I do have a few.  It’s not that what I am going to say is easy or all that joyous, but it’s important to me, so pull up an ice block for a few minutes and lend an ear.

One of my favorite Christmas specials is “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”.  I grew up watching it every year.  I remember many years ago as an 18 year old, working “adult”, (well before the days of the DVR), I had a boss that let me have a long dinner break from work so I could go home and watch the show.  Yes, it was that important to me.  Even now, many years later, Rudolph has this special place in my home every Christmas.  photo

While the story of Rudolph offers many good life lessons, today I want to focus on the Bumble’s story.  In case you aren’t familiar, the Abominable Snow MonsterBumble was the Abominable Snow Monster of the North.  Everyone knew and feared the Abominable Snow Monster.  Rudolph’s father, Donner, taught Rudolph the dangers of this monster as a very young buck.  The prospector in the story, Yukon Cornelius, was always cautiously aware of the possibility of encountering the monster in his daily search for silver and gold.

Today I’m thinking of what the Bumble represents, but not in the cute, cartoonish way he is portrayed in the Christmas special.  There is no way that I would ever begin to make light of the situations that are on my mind today.  The fear that Rudolph was taught or that Cornelius had, can’t possibly even begin to touch the reality of what I’m talking about today.   Today, I’m talking about some other monsters, the monsters of addiction and alcoholism.  You see, these monsters have robbed some of my family and friends, people I love, of portions of their life.

This morning I walked out of my bedroom to find my husband already up, eating breakfast and browsing the web.  He informed me that our youngest son had posted a picture of our family on Facebook.  The picture was from about 18 years ago.  Oh my, the things your kids do while you’re sleeping!  My son had gotten all of the family albums out and apparently found this particular picture to be entertaining and posted it.  Entertaining, it was indeed!  Once I got past being horrified by the look of my enormous hair, I was brought to tears as I scanned the sweet faces of my four children.  They were so adorable!  I had a moment, so surreal.  How fast they grow up!  The picture had been taken before life had robbed them of the fun and innocence of childhood.

In the years since that picture was taken, I’ve gathered many stories to tell about how the abominable monster has reached out to grab those I love and attempt to snatch their very lives.  The battles waged against this monster have been bloody and fierce, neither are they over.  As many of you know, this is a lifelong battle that is fought everyday by millions of you.   Today isn’t the day to go into details on the specifics of my stories.  We’ve heard enough negative this season.  Today, I think we all need to be encouraged.

You see, the Bumble story has a happy ending.  Just as those who daily fight the monster of alcohol or addiction, Yukon Cornelius had more than one encounter with the Abominable Snow Monster.  One time he used the tool that he worked with on a daily basis, his pic, to make a “do it yourself iceberg”.  He was able to escape certain harm at the hands of the bumble and float away to safety, because Bumbles sink!  There finally came a time when Yukon could no longer run and hide from what he feared and he had to face his monster head on.

Remember Herbie, the elf whose dream was to be a dentist?  Yukon and Herbie devised a plan to save Clarice and Rudolph from being Abominable Snow Monster 2eaten alive by the Abominable Snow Monster.  Herbie made pig noises, because we all know that Bumbles will gladly turn down reindeer meat for a pork dinner.  He was able to lure the Bumble out of his cave and he and Yukon courageously faced that which they feared the most.  Yukon was spastically swinging his pic as Herbie oinked and they were able to bait the Bumble away from the cave so their friends could be safe.  Unfortunately, they backed the Bumble up to a point that appeared to be certain death for Herbie, the Bumble and Cornelius, as they all fell over the edge of a deep crevice.  The lives of Rudolph and Clarice were now safe, but at the cost of their friend’s lives.

The scene shifts to Rudolph and Clarice mourning the loss of their friends.  Were they ever surprised as the doors of Santa’s castle Toothless Bumbleswung open and in walked Cornelius and Herbie, followed by the Bumble!  Cornelius proclaimed that he had reformed the monster!  And Herbie the elf had started his new practice as the North Pole Dentist, by pulling the monster’s teeth.  The Bumble no longer had the power to eat reindeer or pork!  The reformed Bumble then helps to make the tree in Santa’s castle complete, as he places the star on the top.

Why do I like the Bumble story?  Because, it’s a story redemption and hope!  The Abominable Snow Monster that everyone feared was reformed.  No one imagined that he could ever be anyone different than what he was, but it did happen!  Yes, it’s just a make believe child’s Christmas story.  I know that, but “hope” is very real.

There is another Christmas story which is the basis of my hope.  Hope was sent in the form of that little babe lying in a manger.  I think that story is much better as it’s read by Charlie Brown in another childhood Christmas special.  That baby didn’t stay little and powerless.  That baby was sent by love to bring light to a dark world.  I believe that love has the power to overcome any monster we face and certainly, the evils of addiction and alcoholism!  That perfect love chases away that which makes me fearful.  Yes, the God of limitless love is my hope.

That hope is the gift that I use as a tool in my life, this life that I’ve learned to live just one day at a time.  That powerful hope is also the weapon that I use to fight the monsters that make me fearful.  It’s the one thing that I’ve been able to hang onto in the very dark days of this journey.  When all else has been ripped from my hands, hope is still there.  No, all of the struggles are still not over, nor all the battles won.

HopeI posted this picture last week.  The word “Hope” is written free hand in pencil by someone I love.  It was written on a piece of manila folder and was sent to me from a prison cell as a Christmas card several years ago.  The person who sent it had no idea how much it meant to me.  This person is still struggling to this day.  Though it breaks my heart, I still have hope.  This one hasn’t made it to the side of victory in this battle yet.  I said, not “yet”, but I know many others who have.  There is a victory side in the days to come.  I just know it.   As I posted, last week, hope is my gift.  “I’m a mom.  I will never give up my hope!”  For that reason, I can still have a joyous heart this Christmas season.  Merry Christmas!

 

 

Patience Makes Perfect

christmas-cactus“Tis the season!”  That’s been my response to people who wear “impatience” on their face this holiday season.  You’ve all seen it and I think all of us would freely admit that we’ve felt more than a little impatient already this season.  We have multiple opportunities to practice patience as we maneuver the obstacles in grocery store aisles, stand in the department store lines and practically risk our lives to find a parking spot.

I’ve got more than the holiday season to be impatient about right now.  If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know that I’ve been trying to train to run a marathon for over a year now.  I’m frustrated and impatient about that, too.  It seems that as soon as I start to recover from one injury or issue with my body, a new one emerges.  I’ve had physical therapy for just about every body part from the waist down now over the last year and a half.  I’m beginning to wonder if I should ask for my name to be inscribed on one of the bricks in the wall at the physical therapy office.  Certainly, my Therapist must be tired of seeing me walk in that door, too, in spite of my financial contribution to his lively hood!

PHX HalfJust this past weekend, I was finally able to run six miles for the first time in a couple months because I’ve been recovering from a knee injury.  This morning I went out to run and within the first five minutes I had hip pain that felt similar to pain I experienced last spring.  That was a stress fracture that put me out of commission for a couple months.  I didn’t want to risk another couple months off, so I decided to give myself today off from running.  My coach schedules my workouts each day and he is trying to do all he can to keep me injury free.  I’m afraid to tell him about yet another pain.  Certainly, my Coach must be getting tired of all of this!  Could he be secretly wishing I would just give up???

I texted my husband and told him why I had to skip the run this morning.  No response…  I just picture him shaking his head and imagine him thinking, “Not again”!  If he isn’t getting tired of the injuries, he certainly had got to be getting tired of all the co-pays!  I know I am!

Maybe even you, my readers are getting impatient with me, thinking the same things that the rest might be…

Maybe you can’t relate to my reasons for feeling impatient, but you know what I’m talking about.  We get impatient over many things, most often; they’re situations beyond our control.  Things as trivial as another’s bad driving habits or waiting in rush hour traffic might make your blood boil.  Waiting on hold for customer service or to speak to a real person about your need can be terribly frustrating.  Worse yet, situations involving waiting for others to change or to act on something that will have an impact on your life, seem to drag on forever!  Have you noticed a pattern here?  These are all situations that we have no control over, but they require us to practice patience.

Frankly, I hate the fact that I have to practice patience!  How many times have our parents said the phrase to us, “practice makes perfect”.   I’ve had to be patient all my life and that represents years’ worth of practice!  Really now, how long should “perfect” take!  And besides, why should I have to be patient because something else or someone else is not doing whatever it is that they are supposed to be doing?  Why should I have to be affected by another’s action or inactions?  It just doesn’t seem fair!

The reality is that all my ranting, raving and rebelling will do nothing to change the fact that I will have many more opportunities ahead where my patience will be required.  My stress, frustration and anger will only be heightened by allowing my emotions to be involved in these situations that are beyond my control.  The fact is, the best way I know how to face these things is to roll through and keep smiling as I do it.   It’s not easy, that’s why it’s something we have to practice over and over and over…  It’s like a snowball that frostystarts out small.  As it rolls along, it gets bigger and bigger.  The more you practice patience, the bigger it gets.  Before you know it, you’ve made yourself a friend from your snow and you’ve named it Frosty.  Of course, me living in Arizona, we don’t have snow in our forecast, so the best I can do is make dust bunnies.  We have plenty of dust here!

No, you won’t ever reach perfect by practicing patience in this life, but you will arrive at the end of your run, a lot less stressed and you will be the bigger, better person because of it.  This life is much like a marathon.  It’s not easy and involves much training, many setbacks, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears.  It requires patient endurance, persistence and a “never give up” attitude to make it through.  I may not be running on the road today, which makes me sad, but the ultimate goal is to complete the marathon.  The only way I can do that is by being patient.  I need to let my body heal.  I have to trust that patience makes perfect and that I will be when I cross that big finish line!