Accept Help

Things are better for our family today than they were one year ago.

Or, today compared with the last seven years, seven years that got progressively worse until I thought my brain and heart might implode.

I felt fear typing the word “better”, but it is true.

Thank God.

And, thank people.

A key thing I learned especially the last three years was that help comes from the most unexpected places: complete strangers, acquaintances, neighbors, some friends, some family. There was a time when I would have refused help or tried to do it all my own.

I stopped being embarrassed of our mess and started saying yes.

Someone I trusted but did not know well sorted my jewelry and personal items. A team of painters from a church different from our own church came to our house for over a week, most that I did not know. Someone I barely knew out of town paid our electric at just the right time when I was debating the order and deadlines of bills. Grocery gift cards arrived. Encouragement came in the mail from both sisters (by blood and marriage) at just the right time every time. Someone ran a marathon to fundraise so that Hubby could get a mobile scooter. A friend spent 36 hours removing stubborn wallpaper at the condominium. One room had four layers! Eight women over 60 years old showed up to pack their cars with Rubbermaid containers to transport from garage to garage so that we could save time and money on moving day. This paragraph could be much longer with stories of miracle people showing up, but you get the idea.

One thing that rolled around in my head was that people do what they can when they can. I did not expect anyone to help. I think it is dangerous and mean to expect people to be there for you. For example, I am not a fan of Facebook chain posts that end with “and I think I know who will respond.” Yeah, no, at any given time, you do not know what someone is really experiencing or what they can make time for this minute or in this season of their life.

If you are going through a tough time, just be open without judgement. Say yes to those who emerge from the clouds. In addition, when you can, make sure you help others too. There are plenty of opportunities to be there for people when you can. Over the years, I have really enjoyed giving quietly when I was able. It was humbling to be on the receiving end. And, it was necessary to accept help. We would not have made it otherwise. Thank you to many.

When we have frustrating days now, I observe how quickly my mind thinks, “Thank You for my problems.” Right now involves acceptable water treading with a little space and capacity to roll with the waves. I feel the physical and mental stretch daily but nothing like recent years.

Last summer I was fortunate to visit Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The building is constructed with glass walls that provide a sanctuary in the woods.

While there, I thought about its openness to nature. I considered my openness to surrender.

Surrender means saying yes to God through the stress. Surrender says, “Sure you can sort these items in my bedroom. Seems like a personal place, but let’s go for it.” Surrender says, “Thank you for adopting my son to celebrate his high school graduation in ways that I would not have been able at that time to provide.” Surrender says, “Yes, please interview and find us the best realtor for our situation.”

Surrender is also the word that came to mind back in 2016 when I was out of shape and said yes to a near week long hike on the Appalachian Trail with a team of women.

I knew the ground was sliding under our family’s footing. Something was wrong. I thought I was losing my mind over our oldest son going to the military at 17 years old. Maybe if I ran away to hike and sleep outside, then I could get alone with God to work out my mixed up feelings.

However, there was more.

And, God was preparing me.

“Surrender on the Trail” became the title of the manuscript I wrote about our wild experience in the woods. Imagine four women committed to staying outside to maneuver rocks and mountains for 35 miles. Imagine getting lost in the rain at nightfall. Imagine tears and flies buzzing with an incredible 4,050 feet view above sea level.

I am thinking about publishing one chapter a week here on the blog. What do you think?

The manuscript has been complete and edited for a long time. Something in my heart does not feel like continuing to query publishers or literary agents right now. What if I make it available here?

People from 34 countries read this blog last year. What if I simply share?

If you have comments or ideas about this idea, please let me know.

Thanks,

Psalm 121:1a ~ I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD….

Capture

When a baby comes along, one hears “Enjoy them, they grow so fast” on repeat.

I took mental pictures of our tiny babes, memory videos of their first steps, wrote down funny things they said, and worked as late as it took to pull off birthday surprises and holidays.

But almost no one tells you how fast your marriage will go. One thing I do recall someone say at our wedding, “Look around. You’ll never see this many people who love ya in one place again until your funeral.”

Well, that was encouraging. Eek.

I’ve considered lately how much I cannot remember about the years with Hubby in the way I can with the kids. While there are some thoughts to revisit, it is not as easy to find the rewind button or scene selection.

So, these days I take time to freeze the frame when we laugh at a show together, when he talks the boys through a decision or when he reassures me that I’m doing pretty well considering. I even capture the kindness when he shuffles away to give me alone or reading time. He knows I need the quiet to recharge.

No one tells you that there may be a season of marriage when you feel a ping of jealousy seeing random people much older than you walking around together at a mall or on the street.

I remind myself that everyone has unseen burdens. Life sprinkles the challenges out to folks.

Still. It can be difficult to play out your hand while not wanting the game to end.

So, we’ll capture in each day what we can. The mundane is no longer dull. The hurdles mean we are breathing. It is the life we get to live each day.

Valentine Antidote

It is that day when I promise once again that next year I won’t be in town on Valentine’s Day. I will be with girlfriends or on a beach, on a mountain top, anywhere else doing something–anything–not so ordinary.

Valentine’s Day is a double whammy. It’s also my birthday. Growing up, I loved celebrating with red hearts, white paper lace, pink streamers, balloons and all things Valentine.

As an adult, I realized many people have jumbled emotions linked to February 14. Happy feelings, angry feelings, dread, anger and so forth.

Then I married someone who expresses love inversely to what I anticipated. Let’s just say his first romantic gift was a bright yellow personal alarm to wear on my waist so I could pull the cord for it to wail and screech if someone nefarious came too close to me on my college campus.

We’ve worked it out. It’s taken a lot of tears and years. I’ve learned that the antidote to my occasional sad feels is to have less expectations, ask for something specific if desired, support or help others.

These days, ALS-21 plus a Pandemic make it so Hubby can’t get out to shop, or walk much, or feel good for a full day. I am happy simply when his words are kind. I like thoughtful and kind. Lately, I’ve been quietly thanking the writers of Call The Midwife. Hubby really likes that show. I call it his daily empathy exercise. Women have been through so much and that binge worthy series does not shy away from hard topics.

Speaking of writers, my feel better about Valentine’s Day activity this year was to support authors I care about. I directed Hubby to my wish list and he placed the order. I was excited to open the packages.

Janine Rosche is an author who picked me up off the floor when I received a bad news phone call at a writer’s conference. She prayed with me. Then I found out she was looking for a certain agent to meet. I am thrilled to say they met indeed and are three books into a successful journey. I now have a trifecta of inspirational romance to read:

William Klein’s book was lost in our move so I needed a replacement copy. This is a timely fictional story about a painful border experience.

And Jessica Terry is a writer that cracks me up with her Instagram stories. Like me, she was a basketball player in her youth. We’ve never met. I appreciate her work ethic and passion. So, I soon will read:

Who would you like to support? Someone creative? An organization that does something you value? Church? Someone elderly or ill? Doing a little something for others could brighten your Valentine’s Day. Earlier in the week, I called a couple people who I hadn’t spoken with in a few years. It was a good time on old fashioned phone calls.

Frequently, I think of the verse Love One Another (John 15: 12). Loving others does not result in only one direction of good vibes even when that should be our intention. When you love others, the good feels return to fill your heart and strengthen the weave of the universe.

Still in town,

P.S. Hubby also visited the Shari’s Berries website. Winner. Yum.

Still Here

There is “a lot of togetherness for families right now”, a friend said–knowing how people at home can get on one another’s nerves after nearly a year of social distancing.

I dream of hopping in the car and taking long drives. Drives that land me in other states, on a mountain or on a beach. The sound of ocean waves is high on my YouTube search list.

Our family is fortunate to have moved just in time to our condo where accessibility for Hubby is much better overall. Our youngest is attending college online this semester rather than returning to a dorm. It has been a comfort to know Son 2 is home when I mask up and go to work. If Hubby falls, Son 2 is here to help at least for now.

While things are far from perfect, I count blessings daily.

Hubby and I have opposite personalities. Often I either have a different viewpoint altogether or am mentally translating that we just said something similar in a different way. I usually recognize the style difference first while he argues his point. I wait, then eventually say, “we said the same thing” which he may or may not ever believe. This fact has worn me out for near 3 decades–long before ALS added to our mix.

I notice a lot of couples end up on opposite sides of the picket fence so I want to encourage those who end up as spouse, friend and caregiver. Caregiver is a twist of sour lemon, but you can carry on and survive. I even believe thriving is possible. Not there yet, but I’m considering what “thriving” might look like. Stay tuned.

Occasionally I have a little island moment epiphany. This week I was knocked over by the thought, “He’s still here.”

And, I’m glad.

I can still figure out how to hug him–awkward and on me to initiate, but it is possible. I can still ask his opinion about something. I can still find a moment to catch up about our sons. Once in a while something on TV makes him laugh, and that is my favorite few seconds of eye crinkling. Last night he was able to sit in a chair long enough to play a couple rounds of a board game. That was a win.

Still here is a lot better than not here.

So, we carry on.

Do The Work, White People

White People,

I feel like I’m in a game of “Not It!” with you. That’s what I think when I see people try to throw down a meme that misses the point.

If you want to do better & you want society to do better, then you have 2-4 jobs right now:

  1. Listen. Listen all the way. Listen without having a single thought about what you think about a topic. Listen to hear something new. Listen to someone who does not look like you. Do not say one word about what you think unless you have done the work.
  2. Read. Read something credible like a book that can teach you something that you never considered before. And you’re going to have to be patient. Don’t give up after two paragraphs like one of my friends who direct messaged me, “I don’t agree, and I just can’t do this.” Read all the way. Here are 3 books that I have devoured this summer so far. I could not be happier about the discoveries and glossary of terms that I am now aware of. In fact, some things that bothered me in the past I now have words and definitions for about why. I could not put my finger on certain concerns before, but now I can. I have plenty more books to read soon too.
  3. Watch. If you are not willing to read or listen to books from the public library or Audible, if you have no one in your life that you can really talk to in a way that you could learn something different, then Netflix has a bunch of Black Lives Matter movies picked for you. Or you can find some of the above mentioned authors or topics discussed on YouTube and in TedTalks.
  4. Support. Support people who know more than you do. Donate to or buy from Black led organizations. Go stand in support at a peaceful event. [Please wear a mask for the health of all.] Tell someone you care about them and you are here for them. I loved when my pastor said in a sermon recently, “If you’re not Black, then you don’t know.”

There is plenty to do if you really want to be helpful.

Do you ever remember learning how to be antiracist when you grew up? Did you attend an anti-racism class as a child? No?!? Of course not. Find out why. Now is the time to do the work of learning. It is not too late. Even one shift in the way you think will help you, your family and future generations. I read Matthew 18:1-5 while writing this and am reminded that we must humble ourselves and learn like little children.

I have witnessed or heard of many misguided moments lately. If you lead a company and you think oh, let’s get all the Black people in a room and ask them what to do, then I call “not it!” Yes, every voice is needed, but you may do more harm than good if you have not done your work. Here’s a key fact:

Systemic racism requires systemic change.

If you’ve done your personal work and you really want to end racism, then we have to change how we do business. This means required trainings, for example. Everyone can benefit from implicit bias and racial equity training. What if every policy and hiring is required to be run through a racial equity checklist? Real progress happens when we change every day practices.

It can be painful to see well intentioned people scurrying to do or say things while assuming they know what to do. You know what happens when you assume, right?

When you do the work in your own heart and mind first, then your next steps will be better.

Love,

Signature GSE

P.S. If you feel defensive or angry while reading this, then this post wasn’t for you. This was written for folks who truly want to love one another.