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.

20191101_224343_HDR

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

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.

13323191_1222450417766750_3342272418316418701_o

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

13316910_1222450281100097_8509402803528309027_o

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.”

 

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

 

For the Broken

I did not see that coming.  Twice, in fact, I paused in awe within the last seven days.

First, I went to spaghetti-a-plenty night at our local Larosa’s restaurant with the young man who has helped us accomplish countless house tasks over the last two months.  He and I have painted wall after wall and multiple ceilings while worship music played.  We sang or talked about life along the way while occasionally saying we’d go get spaghetti when the list of to-dos were done.  He’s done carpentry and plumbing work.  The list is long.  He’s 26 and he could have chosen to be anywhere.  He didn’t know us until he answered a random church text to go help a family in October.

That introduction day surrounded by our mess, he looked deep into my eyes to size up the situation.  He promises that he will not leave our family’s side until the house is ready to be put on the market.  “I’ll care for you the way I would care for my own mom,” he said.  He delivered mercy with a paint brush to my soul.

During dinner he shares, “I look at your husband whose body is broken and it makes me think of how broken I have been on the inside.  Through this time with you I am reminded that no matter how his body is failing him that he has everything I’d ever want:  a wife and family behind him.  Kids that love him.  ALS can’t take that.  He is more whole than I have felt in a while.”

I see the reflection in this young man’s eyes that his heart is healing and he is moving on with God into the next season of his life.  He’s spending time in prayer, scripture, and seeking wisdom.  I hope I get to serve punch at his wedding one day.

Second, yesterday Hubby and I went to church.  Often this fall we watched online as the home tasks were many and his body struggled.  It is Christmas.  We want to be inside our church to worship.

Hubby had a rough morning so we need more than the rollator.  I quickly load the wheelchair into the trunk.  The sun is shining.  The car is old but warm.  We are smiling.  A friend checks in on text and I reply that I feel peace and hope to carry it through the holiday.

And then 10 short minutes later…

As we roll toward the door the gravity of Hubby not being able to walk into church rips open my tear ducts.  We can not get into the sanctuary where it is dark fast enough.

I don’t make eye contact with Hubby for the first half of service.  I look away to wipe my tears and wonder about my mascara status.  I place my hand on his knee.  I hope that he will take my hand.

He doesn’t.  I can feel his pulse.  It’s a strained rhythm like the rhythm happening in my own body so I know he is fighting tears too.  Eventually I peek and see his wet eyes.  I don’t know if he’s missing our son in the Air Force, missing his mom who passed away this fall, or if it’s the weight of simply everything we face right now.

Releasing my stubbornness, I stop waiting for his hand to move and move my own hand to find his.

I am reminded that whatever brokenness we feel, there are many more who feel angst too.  Sometimes the holiday lights amplify pain or grief.  For all who suffer right now I lift up this prayer for you.

Dear God,

We praise your name even when times are difficult.  Lord, lift up the brokenhearted.  Please help the lonely feel your presence this season.  Be with those who long for a loved one who has passed.  Your Word in Psalm 34:18 says you are near the brokenhearted and we claim that promise right now.  Be near us.  Bring joy in the simple things.  Heal the sick.  Give hope to the hurting.  Bless the caregivers.  Ease suffering.  Be with military families near and far.  Help all who feel alone to find joy that can only come from you.  Wrap everyone with your love and peace.

Amen

With love to all,

Signature GSE

Friends on the Trail

13323572_10154248042174508_4883675974728144485_o
Steam Team friends 2016 near Rapidan River

I’ve noticed that loss and loneliness often go hand in hand.

To stay the course of cleaning out our home of 20 years before putting the house on the market, I’ve said no to several fun get togethers and adventures this summer.  Spending hours alone in a dusty basement is a recipe for lonely.  Ugh.

I remember 10 years ago feeling lonely as I grieved the deaths of my mom and sister-in-law.  No matter what interactions I shared with people the fog of loss did not lift for many months.  The grieving dominated while I went through the motions of life as best I could.

This loss is different.  I am thankful to not have the intense brain fog, but my mind is noticeably strained with long to do lists and some sadness nonetheless.

While sorting items from our home, I relive memories of friends and family over the years.  Cards, pictures, movie tickets, toys, and journals have resurfaced.

I laugh out loud, snap a picture to capture certain memories before tossing items, and give thanks for the experiences.  I don’t need the fading construction paper from my children’s preschool masterpieces, but I do want a remaining image of their artwork in case I choose to revisit digital pictures that do not require space or dusting in our next home.

I feel lucky for friends in my life whether they are here for a season, reason, or ongoing.  I’ve had time to think about friends and how much they’ve meant to me along life’s trail.  I am reminded to text or email girlfriends I haven’t spoken with in a while.  And close friends who know what’s going on have helped or offered to help in this process.

It’s like I’m in adult time out.

I have long talks with God on my worn path to Goodwill.

Memories made with friends along the trail of life improve my energy.  Oh, and ibuprofen could almost be called a friend at this point too!  Ouch, my muscles hurt.

Sometimes I think when this is over I will spend a week in bed, but I really won’t do that when the time arrives.  I will call a friend and choose an adventure.

friendship proverbs 27 9

When Was The Last Time

20180716_224859
2009 Shaw Farm

When was the last time he took my hand and we took a walk together?  When was the last time he could stand up from the couch without thinking about how to stand?  How many years ago was the last time he could golf–his all-time favorite activity?  When was the last time our home did not involve daily groans and pain?

As a mother, I vowed to cherish everything about our sons:  every flutter as they swam in the womb, first grins, first toys, first words.  My heart skipped beats when their little hands kept reaching for mine well into elementary school years.  I knew their childhood would end.  I treasured their soft skin and cuddles.  I would not squander those moments.  And while storing up sweet memories I welcomed the fact that one day our boys would move on to a greater destiny beyond their mom’s heart.

What I did miss was treasuring simple moments with my husband.  Yes, I appreciated him.  Yes, we tried to spend time together.  Yes, we overcame the fact that opposites really do attract and chose to draw closer to God, our translator, to communicate.  Yes, we did not give up on our marriage or each other.  But did I truly cherish him?  I didn’t think he was leaving.  And he hasn’t left, but sometimes it seems like he isn’t all here either.  My mind reaches for precious moments of ease that I forgot to store in my brain.

Grief arrives in many forms.  Sometimes we grieve the loss of a job or relationship.  I’ve endured the pain of people close to me passing away.  You may have too.  And now I endure the pain of watching chronic illness ALS-21 steal expectations we had for our present and future.  Our youngest child is a teenager.  I thought we had more time before hubby and I grew old together.  But symptoms of old slowly moved into our home decades too soon.  We are like the metaphoric frog in the pot of tepid water who didn’t know the heat was about to turn up.  We sat calmly in the pot not noticing that the water began to boil our circumstances.

I spend hours each week clearing “stuff” out of our house.  It feels like we are in a race against the clock to move to a more accessible place.  We had plans to remodel that will never happen while we are here.  I feel the ugly emotion of jealously toward people I haven’t met who will do projects here that I likely will not see.  Tears drizzle my checks occasionally over leaving our home of 20 years too soon.  What really got me down deep was when our oldest son was home on leave from the Air Force.  A couple nights he didn’t want to go see friends.  He shared that he just wanted to enjoy the walls of our home because he knew he might not ever again get to come home to this address.

On the flip side of the moving coin, I celebrate the thought of being in a home where my husband doesn’t have to crawl upstairs at night.  Are we old enough to require a no steps living arrangement?  Apparently yes.  This thought process requires me to clear clutter faster.  Time is not waiting for me.  I’ve quit looking at other homes online because I need to focus on the task of leaving this home first.  I trust God will provide the right place for us at the right time.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:34

I often tell myself that our situation could be worse, that there are worse things that people deal with.  These thoughts push me along to be grateful for the good things in our lives that we do have, or things that are better because we’ve had to adapt.  For example, I’m not sure my husband has ever verbally appreciated me more than he does now.  His kind words mean a lot to me.  We are also more forgiving and appreciative these days.  It seems like we have reached a calm place where we are slow to anger and less judgmental.  I thank God for the side benefits of sticking together and pushing through tough times as a team.

Are you grieving a loss or expectation of any size?  It takes time to grapple with it.  If you have tips or favorite verses about grieving that you would like to share, please comment.  I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

PRECIOUS VIDEOS

I’ve learned not to be surprised by irony in life.  In fact, I welcome it.  How about you?  If I’m aware enough to notice when it happens, then I raise an eyebrow to God and ask, “Is this ironic thing something you are using to get my attention?”

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a writer.  Harriet the Spy was one of my childhood heroes because she walks around writing in a notebook.  As a child I walked around with notebooks too–and I still do today!  The desire to write and publish books has grown in my soul since I learned to read and write.

The first book I had the courage to complete was about caregiving and grief.  After years of wanting to complete and publish any of my writing ideas, it was grief that fueled my fire to finally finish a writing project.  Rainbow Bed:  a child’s perspective on coping with grief (2009) was a labor of love inspired by how one of our children dealt with the caregiving and death of my mother. 

That was a dark and painful time for our whole family.  Not only did we lose my mom, but we also lost my sister-in-law just 5 weeks later.  Sadness swallowed us whole it seemed.  Since that time, most of our darkness has lifted.  We all have needed time to adjust to our “new normal”.  Rainbow Bed:  a child’s perspective on coping with grief is one of the projects that helped me through the hurdles of grieving.

Flash forward to 2012.  I have been meaning to download and organize family videos.  Anyone else overwhelmed by how to do that?  I keep hoping that the video recorder will hold up until I figure out a good system.  Meanwhile, I’ve been taking videos of school events and holidays year after year.

Often while recording school events I have a nagging feeling that I might not be the only parent in the room who would want copies of my videos someday.  I brush off those thoughts, but keep the camera rolling.  Who would want my footage?  And how often will even I look at these videos when my own kids are grown?!  Most of my zoom is focused on my children, but I take the time to scan the crowd of kids involved–just in case.

This summer one of Ben’s classmates died as a result of a horrible car accident; Grace, 10 years old, a precious, kind, amazing sweet girl.  I have given her mom space, but also sent encouraging notes occasionally–mostly to simply say “you’re in my thoughts and prayers”–because c’mon, what words could I possibly say to this dear mother who has suffered so much?  Encouragement is a fine line when tragedy happens.  Choose words carefully, I tell myself.  Let people know you care, but be wise and pray about what words to say and what words not to say.

But I’ve been thinking about those videos more and more wondering if Grace’s mom would like copies of events K through 4th grade.  Of course, that would mean I’d have to start organizing those videos I’ve been avoiding! 

I can’t imagine the pain their family has endured.  I didn’t bring up the videos to Grace’s mom, but then the door opened.  I received a text from her saying that they have one video of Grace, a clip taken by her younger brother.  That was one of those ironic moments.  I barely whispered to God, “Guess you want me to mention those videos, huh?”

So I did.  And she wants them.  Today, another parallel day with grief, I finally worked on organizing my videos, downloading precious moments in-between time working on this new blog.  I’ve cried while watching Grace and Ben run around in their kindergarten gym class, sobbed in contrast to their class singing happy songs like America the Beautiful and Fifty Nifty.  And, seriously, Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA sung by third graders was never fair from the first time.  I cried at the original performance.

In a few moments I will drop off 5 DVDs to Grace’s mom, a woman who found the courage to raise her hand in praise during her own daughter’s funeral when no one in the rest of the room could.  Could I do that?  I pray I never know.   

I wonder if children in our community receive a little more patience and love from their parents who know about Grace’s story.  I know that is the case in my home.  The opportunity to hug my children is extremely valuable. 

I’m glad today was a day to finally tackle projects like precious videos and creating a blog.

Blessings to you and your family,

Glenna

Image