A Little Hungry

If I could assign “required reading” for adults on the planet, then I would put on the list Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, And A Mother’s Will To Survive by Stephanie Land. Buy it, read it, “get” it.

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Stephanie writes about the days when she had a small child, no other reliable adult support, lived in a mold ridden apartment that made them sick, and worked as a maid. For me, as a woman who struggles a bit now and as a daughter of a mom who cleaned houses for 20 plus years on top of her day job, this book echoed through my whole being.

People need to know what it is like to be in Stephanie’s shoes. The juggle is intense. What might seem like the most common things become road blocks. For example, recently a woman asked me if she could use my computer to fill out and print a Section 8 form. When I said of course, her relief was visible. Her forehead, shoulders, and arms relaxed; measurable only in millimeters on the exhale, right in front of me.

If we really want to help people in poverty, then we need to help with things like printing and transportation. And we need to nix the judgemental and marketing manipulative attitudes.

Some people give others the stink-eye because someone who may appear to be poor has what looks like a smartphone. But let me tell you that phone likely does not do everything your phone does. That person may only pay for a certain number of minutes at a time. What may be your daily lifeline is a tool that comes and goes for them. Imagine how quickly you might run out of minutes with no money to get more. Over the summer, a woman called me to help her track the bus route progress. She had a phone but no internet. She was waiting at a bus stop and trying to get to the hospital to see her child. She talked me through how to use my phone to look up the live bus line.

And how about the environmental marketing that impacts people in poverty? If you go into Kroger in a fancy neighborhood, the alcohol may be in a separate side store or tucked in a pergola looking back section of the store. If you go into a Kroger in an area with higher poverty, then the alcohol is in front and often near the checkout like candy for the young and old to see all year long. Cigarettes and E-cigs? Where do you think the most vape shops are and the most colorful nicotine addictive luring posters?

If we really cared, mental health and self care learning options would be accessible at the unemployment office and government offices that give assistance. We could teach better options. We could make healthy resources easier to connect with. We could.

The prolonged brain strain begins to physically hurt. I know first hand the constant pressure of trying to pay bills with no way to save toward the inevitable broken appliance, car repair, etc. I must write down every little to-do item or I will forget. I think of this time in our lives as either go-to-work or shelter-in-place and allow time to pass until the next paycheck.

When Hubby needed help today he said, “No because it’s not fair to you.” I replied, “Thanks for the acknowledgement. And this is not fair to either one of us. We’re in this [ALS-21] together.”

People say you either get better or get bitter. I think that is true, but my brain hurting likely will not go away until we sell the house and start over. I cast vision daily in my mind of what it will look like when we are no longer slave to a mortgage after losing his income, and when we are in a more accessible location so I can stop worrying about how Hubby will make it up or down stairs.

My “getting better” is in the appreciation of many small things. I notice beauty around me. Every time there is hot water I am thankful. When I open the fridge door to cold food, I am delighted. Groceries are golden. When a friend bought me two tacos, I felt joy to ditch tuna and peanut butter on a long pre-paycheck week. I have hugged the washer and dryer in appreciation for their endurance. I marveled at this sunset Saturday night:

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If you struggle, you are not alone. Stephanie Land reminds us of that.

What would you place on the required adult reading list?

Love,

Glenna

One Less Thing

I realized my self-talk whispers “ok, one more thing” over and over each time a new daily challenge arrives. This came to my attention when suddenly I experienced a fifteen minute window where I soaked in the joy of One-Less-Thing instead.

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My car dashboard mirrors my life with its scattered warnings. The tire maintenance light is forever “on”. I’ve had 5 nail punctured tires over 5 months.

The service engine light greets me each morning. The oil change guy hooked up a gadget reader to tell me the light is nothing to worry about, but I wonder. The brake light won’t go out even when the emergency brake is released. I stopped looking up what the other lights mean in the manual.

The dashboard reminds me of the running narrative in my mind. It goes something like this: I’m still sick. Stress is not helping me get well. Drop the kid off at school. Go to work. Repeat. My voice refuses to come back. The cat puked. -One more thing. I need to make dinner. Sweep the house. Keep trying to sell the house. Clean the bathroom. Move the laundry. I really should write a letter or send a care package to our deployed son. What just fell off the house?! -One more thing. If you sit down, you’ll fall asleep. Get up. Give Hubby the light weight fork because it is easier for him to manage. Position his shoes in a way that will help him be less likely to fall. Move his phone to his next location so he is not thrown off balance by carrying something when he travels inside the house. Help the remaining kid with college applications. I need to go to Lowe’s. Heavy duty caulk. A new vacuum bag. Take out the trash and recycling. Prepare for presentations at work. Who do I need to call back? Have I followed through on all work tasks? Scoop litter box. Check personal email to see if anyone has responded to my manuscript query letters. Send more queries. Do we have gas in both cars? Pay bills in a way that hopefully does not cause an overdraft. It’s going to be close again this month. Is Hubby breathing? Is the cat breathing? I really need to make a vet appointment. -One more thing. There are other people I want to check in with. I text them. There are other people I would like to be there for. My capacity is too narrow. I can’t believe he hasn’t been able to work for a year. We need some mobility equipment. That will have to wait. The kid needs an eye appointment. -One more thing. I can’t make that work financially. How many hours of sleep can I get if I go to sleep right this minute? Why can’t I fall asleep? And so forth.

I try not to complain out loud. “Just keep swimming” as Dory says. But seriously, if there is a Santa out there who wants to buy our house so we can leave and start over, that would be GREAT.

Today I uprooted this tree growing into our fence and felt delighted by the image. Yes, we are ready to be uprooted.

In an attempt to make extra cash, I placed an ad to be a Pet Sitter. I can squeeze in dog walking and more cat litter scooping. I can love on animals and give neighbors peace of mind. The first response? Someone needs help with a cat until they get out of jail in February. So many thoughts. Bless their heart. Sigh….

One day I will not feel so stuck. I visualize selling a manuscript and being in an affordable and accessible home. One day I’ll be in the land of all three. I have learned hard lessons. I can do better.

This week our youngest got a job. Go kid! And he broke my heart by saying, “You won’t have to worry about Christmas, Mom, ’cause I’ll be able to buy my own presents.” The sentiment is good. The reality hurts.

A new job means he needs new pants. We make a plan to go to the store Wednesday. I secretly stress about how to afford the pants, but I think we can make it work. I don’t want him to know how close we are cutting it.

On Tuesday evening I drag my work bag into the house as the guys say, “We have a surprise.”

There on the kitchen table are new pants one day early. Hubby even used a coupon. In my book, that’s hot. Hubby had a decent afternoon and they worked together. I hear that the wheelchair got stuck in the JCPenny door, and they figured that out too.

In the moment, I physically felt something fall off the to-do list. One. Less. Thing. This felt magical. I soaked in the joy for fifteen intentional minutes. I smiled in my own home. This surprise felt so good!

This was a glimpse that things can be better. Will be better. I will trust the process.

To all those who struggle, I send you a giant cyber hug. You can do this. We can do this. Deep, slow breaths.

And now I must go.

The cat puked.

Love,

Glenna

One Light Town

After a 12 hour hot date with Nyquil, I opened my eyes at 10am. It’s been a rough week healthwise. I feel much better now.

I live on the edge by wearing a favorite pair of jeans that are so thread worn in the booty that I should have thrown them away months ago. Clean and dressed, I head to the annual Books By The Banks festival in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Hubby reminds me as I go out the door to look for two writers with connections to his hometown.

McKee, Kentucky’s population is approximately 1,000. The town rests in a deep valley between mountains in Jackson County. There is one traffic light. If the light doesn’t stop you, it takes 20 seconds to drive into and out of McKee.

I have traveled to McKee to see family for 27 years. I love the rich green vines that cover trees and the bright starry nights. I sense nature’s peace there and less electricity in the air. The oxygen is dense. I often leave feeling rested even if I slept on someone’s floor.

The first thing I do upon arrival to Books By The Banks is to attend an author panel. I learn a few tidbits about publishing. The talk affirms that my work is heading in the right direction.

Then I head to the sea of authors and books in a large conference hall. I find Gwenda Bond. Her new book is the prequel to Stranger Things. [How cool is that?! We LOVE the Netflix show Stranger Things at our house!]

Gwenda is the daughter of Hubby’s high school chemistry teacher. I shared our connection and asked Gwenda how her mom is doing. She gave me an update to take home to Hubby and signed a book for us. She has other books I hope to read also. Her website is www.GwendaBond.com.

Next I find Keven McQueen. His books involve spooky tales from various areas of the country. Keven was a year ahead of Hubby in high school. He signed our book “Jackson County High School Forever!” Me, Mrs. Messenger, caught up a little with him. Keven and Hubby are friends on Facebook so they could connect later too. His website is www.KevenMcQueenStories.com.

How about that? Two best selling authors from Eastern Kentucky. Big wishes for much success to them and all the authors at Books By The Banks yesterday!

Before leaving I scanned my Instagram stories and realized one of the books I put on my read soon list is there too. The book is Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe. The author, Heather Webber, is represented by my current dream Literary Agent. I walk back to meet Heather. She confirms her agent is as great as I estimate from research.

I posted this on my Insta story:

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Too much? I dunno.

It was a good time!

Author Heather Webber’s website is www.HeatherWebber.com.

The world is big and small at the same time.

Love,

Glenna

* The authors included in this post said ok to picture posting and to me blogging about the experience. Other cool things happened too, but I didn't ask permission to share those moments. Join me next year at #BBTBCincy!

In the Stillness

Chronic illness and caregiving are lonely places to be. And a lonely place can be smack dab in the middle of your own house. It is easy to be forgotten when you don’t show up hardly anywhere social anymore. It’s easy to miss friends even when you talk to them a lot via text.

This is one of those posts that is scary to write because I certainly don’t want to hurt Hubby’s feelings; however, he has said to me before maybe if you write the truth it will help other people not feel as alone.

I try to look at our situation like we’re lucky because we have each other. If you’ve ever lived this type of life, then you know that’s just as funny as it is true. I hold onto what I can. I miss him. And I hate that he feels (in my opinion) sick 80+% of the time. We each silently regret some of the things we could have been out doing in our early years together.

There is sweetness too. When he verbally appreciates my weak effort to do house chores. When he offers me quiet time in the house because he knows the silence soothes me. When he will go to the end of the Google search engine to research anything the boys or I need. And, I have my thoughts about him always being a man of integrity. That is one of the things that attracted me to him long ago. Recently he agreed to do an audio book club with me. I am hopeful the first book discussion will be fun from our different perspectives. I’ve listened through chapter 9 so far.

I ponder if this time of both rest and stress ultimately helps me focus more time on writing projects. The quote below got my attention this morning after waking up from another nightmare for the sixth morning in a row:

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Writers need a platform. Mine is growing. I am thankful that my Twitter followers are 18 away from 1,000 (as of the time of this post) which I read is an important step in jumping onto a propulsion algorithm. We shall see. Fingers crossed. It’s not about “likes” for publishers. It is about “would anyone buy her book?”. Since I am 60% introvert and 40% extrovert, this writer life climb is filled with internal conflict–hence the nightmares? Being on a team is joyful for me. Putting my neck out there solo causes a touch of angst.

I enjoy getting to know a little bit about people in the writing world who live around the globe. That part of the journey is fun. I just cyber-met someone who is on number 200 of her 300 bucket list items. How cool is she? Go girl, @VickyJones7.

So in this life filled with challenges, I say: Carry on in the stillness. Carry on in the Light. Carry on, dear readers, carry on.

Much love,

Glenna

Exodus 14:14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

What We Think vs. What Is, Plus Tea

Dear People,

I admired her. I wanted her to like me. I hoped we’d be friends.

And–I was fairly sure she didn’t think anything at all about me.

That lady was busy doing important things that I liked being part of even if on the fringe. She might not have known my first and/or last name.

I attempted a conversation or two. I doubted my spoken words connected to her brain.

Isn’t that how it goes sometimes? We like someone. We share similar ideas with them. They do work we think is cool. We are confident they have zero interest in getting to know us.

Years later she calls me. Wha…wha…what?

She wants to meet at a restaurant.

So I go.

And it turns out she likes my brain too.

She has been reading my blog and asks me to help her think through a couple things.  Then she asks me to pray for her weekly in the months ahead as she works on a project.

I say…ok.

Like, O and K together softly, genuinely.

Before agreeing I took a few seconds to think about whether I could fit her request into my life. Which, I gotta say, is one of my most grown up moments. To consider if I could make time for something new, to think about if I could honor her and my word, ah, yes, that is an adult moment for me.

Connection isn’t always obvious, dear readers. Sometimes less is more. We don’t have to force anything. Be present. Be kind. Carry on. Don’t compromise. Be you. Things come around if they are meant to be.

This example gives me hope that a relationship with a literary agent will come into my life too. It’s happened for others. It will happen for me too. I’ve written two novels in three years (dog gone it) while in the midst of serious life changes.

The pressure is on and off at the same time. My coal is being pressed. I’m learning all I can about who might be my #DreamAgent. It will happen. I know you’re out there.

Until then I am sipping Hot Cinnamon Spice tea on a Sunday morning. I’ve learned that quality tea and taking time to breathe is valuable. I’m putting my mug out there and wishing peace for you and your dreams too.

Love,

Glenna

 

Put It In The Bear Box

I could not physically go on. After walking sunrise to sunset miles down a mountain and then miles back up, I was d-o-n-e done.

In fact, I was not sure I could make it from the large rock where I sat to where we were supposed to pitch tents for the night. My feet felt as if each toe was on fire.

SunFloJo [trail name] returned from scouting the campsite while the group of us stayed with the backpacks and overnight equipment.

I confessed, “I don’t think I can do this another day. It is your dream to hike all week and you should not miss the chance. I’m slowing you down, and I’ve thought it through. I absolutely will be fine if you leave me behind. I’ve got a book. And I am sure I’ll be safe. You must go on without me.” I even carried a fairly lethal knife that my oldest son insisted I have in my pocket during the trip. Whether bears or other probs, I would be fine. My biggest challenge would be disappointment in myself as I watched the other women leave me behind.

I gauged her facial expression to be a mix of “so true that you are slowing us down and yet no, I can’t leave you alone“.

I hobbled to camp and collapsed for a while as daylight slipped into night sky.

My mind spun around options regarding what to do next. I felt beyond grateful to no longer have a sweaty back and backpack attached. The group ate and laughed.

We placed food or items that might cause animal smell curiosity into a bear box.

The bear box was a new concept for me. I marveled at its purpose and convenience. To prepare for the trip we had brought a bear bag and rope to place items away from us and up a tree. This night, though, we had the fancy metal box.  It felt like we had a community chest of drawers out in the woods. I appreciated the safety and kindness of the bear box.

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One Benadryl later, I fell asleep too tired to wonder what that scurry sound was swishing by my single person tent.

Birds became my alarm clock that week. I lay thinking hard about what it would take to continue the trail.

What if half of what I had been carrying simply stayed behind in the bear box? Could we swing back by this place at the end of the week when we have access to a car again?

Long story short, that is what we did. Everyone, especially me, lightened our load. The bear box held the burden. I dared to lace up hiking boots again and head back to the trail knowing the next stop did not have the convenience of a bear box.  The next stop we planned to be much deeper in the woods.  I didn’t want to miss the next level challenge.

The bear box has become a mental metaphor for me when times are tough.  What can I leave behind for now?  What do I need to deal with today, tonight, and leave the rest for later?

In many ways, the bear box represented my faith during that trip.

Best wishes to you this week. If you can’t carry the burden, feel free to stick it in the metaphorical bear box for now.

Love,

Glenna

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Matthew 11:28-30 28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

Bestie Mantra Weekend

Driving 3 hours to her house, I think of all we might do in a 24 hour getaway. I will go as far as karaoke. I’m all in.

Good food and laughter are guaranteed. I need a minute away. Home is stable. This is my chance. Hubby wishes me well with my favorite, “Have fun.”

I appreciate and love my girlfriends so much. They keep me sane. I could listen to stories about what goes on in their lives forever. They listen to me too. And this bestie, Bestie B, was my college roommate. We survived living together, studying together, random outings, heartbreak, and the dawn of adult living. She knows the recipe for my go-to final exams breakfast omelet. She knows I clean to alleviate stress. I have not seen her in many months. Every second will be savored.

After visiting with her daughter and a tour of her new place, we moms go out to eat Mexican. We dive into life stage ponderings and problem solving which leads to a weekend project and of course, duh, the craft store stores. We visit JoAnn’s, Target, Walmart, & Michael’s. Shopping is something I hardly ever do these days. It feels good to wander.

Back at her home, the project ensues. We seek words that will lead to a personal mantra. A mantra is a slogan or phrase that one can use to meditate. It may be for a season or a lifetime. We hope creating a mantra will help steer our brains in a healthy way. Through conversation, we write down positive words and watch for the most important words to elevate. Our intent is to have a ready thought to help with current challenges.

I mean, my gal is an engineer and I consider myself a social scientist, so this was fun. Hours unfold. Words emerge. We are well past our usual bedtimes. I anticipate she will land on 3 separate words, but I am wrong.

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With a sound effect of introduction well after midnight, a word phrase moves to the top of the post it note chart. We agree to sleep on the results and see if the mantra sticks. She has a mantra statement “Manage My Mind”. I have a mantra question “Is that thought helpful?”.

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I wake up in a different place and watch Netflix undisturbed for an hour. As if I wasn’t already in Heaven, then I share in a bestie chocoholic breakfast. Yum.

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Our fresh minds agree that the mantras fit even after sleep. These are our phrases for this season.

We move into craft time. She makes vinyl stencils with her Cricket (Thanks Daughter M for helping Bestie B figure it out over the phone). We place the stencils on decorative wood from Wal-mart ($2.97ea). We use one of the 12 paints in a set from Michael’s ($9.99set) and sponge brushes ($4.97set) to paint the words.

While paint dries we listen to the podcast “My Favorite Murder”. On the second round of paint drying, I nap a little and have to Google the rest of the podcast story. Then it is time to remove the stencils and fill in any missed spots.

I want to add glitter. We find cute large rounds of glitter at Walmart ($3.99). I use Elmer’s Glue to apply the sparkle.

Wah lah! Our mantras are ready to be placed in a spot where we will be reminded daily.

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When it’s time to depart and without discussion, she finds a Ziploc bag to keep my new favorite sign from leaving glitter in my car. #Love

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My mantra “Is that thought helpful?” reminds me of the Bible verse that talks about taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).

I’ll pay attention to how my brain functions over the next few months with this mantra hanging in my office. I don’t want to get stuck on “thinking” that is not useful. I want to train my brain to keep moving my thoughts and actions in a good direction.

If you get a chance to do a mantra making project, I would love to hear about it. I hope it is as fun and useful to you as it was to Bestie B & me.

Love,

Glenna

Military Mom

20190717_120253Of my many jobs and titles in life, one I didn’t anticipate began about three years ago when our son joined the Air Force. Or I could say four years ago if I count the year of paperwork and appointments that led up to him swearing in officially.

Since 1% of young people choose to be in the military that means there’s only about 1% of us momas inside the tornado of being a military mom also. The tornado involves support, concern, pride, and wondering how your child could be this brave, among other things.

There are private social media groups where I see posts from moms all over the USA updating the “club” with needs and requests. I find myself praying daily for someone somewhere.  A parent or grandparent is sick or a funeral is happening. A baby or a relationship needs divine intervention. The strained hearts over a countless number of miles is endless.

I am struck by how isolating it can be to be in the military and even in my small role as a military mom.

Our family figures out how to visit our son on a tiny budget. Some families never figure out the cost of travel to see a loved one.  We are blessed that our son has adapted well.  But for some in the service, they may struggle to adjust or to make friends and then lose those friends to deployment or a new duty station.

People say “that’s what they signed up for.” And of course they did, but no one really knows what it fully means until they live the life.

On our last visit, I saw several ferral cats that reminded me of the isolation. My heart hurt thinking of the lonely metaphor parallels.

 

The suicide rate is high in the military. It is easy to forget that when any service member is lost for any reason there is a ripple effect which impacts other people and families.

Whether in the military or not, much needs to be done in our nation as a whole to help people get help before it’s too late.

Would you pray with me for the mental health needs of both citizens and service members? Please encourage people in your life to seek support.

* It is ok to not be ok.

* Talking to a professional when you feel blue is a healthy choice.

* Offering to go with someone to an appointment (without judgement) can be helpful.

* Don’t ignore anything serious. Get help when you need it in order to help someone else or to help yourself.

* Don’t ignore gut feelings. Ask the hard questions so you know if someone is safe.

Signature GSE

2 Turtles in Rush Hour

On the way to work I see a turtle halfway across Dudley Road hill. There’s no safe place for me to pull off and safely move him to the other side. At that hour with so many cars I might cause more harm than good. His outstretched neck on the double yellow line haunts me as I blink my lights at oncoming traffic.

Then on the expressway onramp I see a similar turtle crossing with head held high.  What in the world? Two within one mile? Neither I can help safely. I pray for their protection.

I think of those two turtles for days.

Today I ponder the two perspectives in my marriage. On selfish days I wonder if Hubby can possibly see or care about my inner struggles.  I only need his encouragement and an atta girl once in a while (ok, every 1.5 days please) to keep going. I’m “fine”. Everything is fine.

On less selfish days I ponder what life is like from his perspective.  I may never know completely what ALS muscle loss feels like, his struggle to walk, or the occasional cognitive glitch. How frustrating it must be.

We have opposite personalities to begin with so perspective sharing has long been a challenge.  Of the many things I’ve learned from two opposite wired brains over the years, I am certain there are at least two ways to do most tasks and both can feel like the right way at the moment until one considers the other person’s point of view. Many of our brief spats involve arguing the exact same point from different angles.

“You’re saying the same thing.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Ok.”

What I hold onto year after year is that God’s love is greater and more fulfilling than any love I might find or desire on earth.

We are lucky.  We choose Jesus to be at the center, our Translator In Chief. Time after time our hearts soften and we hear one another eventually.

I saw this on a Lysa Terkuerst Instagram story  post:  “If lesser love ever fulfilled us, then we would have no need for God.”

So true.

We are all turtles daring to cross the road.

Romans 15:13 NIV:  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Gas Pedals & Mommas

Accelerating on an interstate entrance ramp, I think about how gas pedals are small yet mighty.

Then I consider how the go of the gas pedal is balanced by the stop of the brake pedal.  I ponder how cars have seats, steering wheels, mirrors, lights, and all the many parts that work together for the cause of convenient transportation.

My mind spins in a thankful vortex. How wonderful it is that we have little gas pedals that can do great things. I can go down a mental rabbit hole, I tell ya.

I asked a friend what she is doing for Mother’s Day.  Her mom passed away recently.  “Do you have a plan for Sunday?”  What I really am asking is does she have something to be distracted by that day?  I try to be there for those who face fresh grief during emotionally charged holidays.

In my own world, I am getting better at zero expectations for special dates.  A different friend pointed out that as long as they’ve known me (since childhood) I’ve been overcoming something.  A parent leaving or coming back, sicknesses, multiple deaths close to me, and so forth.  They are not wrong.  It’s been a mountainous road.  I once had romanticized hopes for days like Mother’s Day, birthdays, etc. which of course leads to disappointment.

Now I have learned small gestures are bonus moments. I enjoy surprises that pop up in ways I don’t anticipate. I allow part of every day to be a celebration of the life I get to live. Yes, I’ve been known to turn up Mandisa’s Overcomer song on the car radio.

Four of the best strategies I know for getting through tough times are:

1. Identify a gratitude anchor.  Is there a memory you cherish? Hug the memory and thank it for being part of your life. Is there an object of wonder? Take time to be thankful. Fill in the blanks: “I appreciate _________ because _________.” Repeat.

2.  Help someone.  You might be the bright spot in someone else’s day.

3.  Give yourself permission to check out of a situation especially if you are recovering from a tragedy or grief. I am new to giving myself time-outs from people, places, or things. I’ve found time-outs helpful in 2019.

4.  Do something you enjoy and fully relish it.  My go to the last two weeks has been listening to Journey’s timeless music Faithfully and with Open Arms.

Romans 8: 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.

Deep, slow breaths.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Love,

Signature GSE