Tag Archive | generosity

A Happy Celebration

hugsToday I’m celebrating my 401st post on the Word Press site. When I told a friend that I had written so many posts, she replied, “You’re a wordy bitch, aren’t you?”

I answered, “You’re just realizing that now?’ Then we both laughed and went on to talk about the weather.

I must admit it has become harder to come up with something interesting nowadays than it was three years ago when I set out into the blogosphere. Then I was teaching at the local community college, designing and selling jewelry, and having fun painting–so one of those topics could inspire a conversation. Now, I primarily write and wonder what to write.

My inspiration doesn’t strike as often, but still makes an appearance from time to time. When it does, I try to pass it along to you. Like this morning when I watched my favorite CBS Sunday Morning program. This is the one 90 minutes of “news” I never miss. Today they presented a story about a man who suffers from ALS (Lou Gehring’s disease) and has dedicated the time he has left to bringing a smile to others and making them happy.

At first, he bought dozens of glazed donuts and went to chemo wards, children’s hospitals, parks, and other places where people might need a smile and he passed out his donuts. After he did that for a year, he put a challenge out to others to come up with creative ways to make strangers happy, send in a video of their project, and after a time he sponsored a premiere showing for those who rose to the challenge.

He made the celebration a night to remember with a red carpet going from the street to the theater where the show would be presented. He welcomed everyone in the audience and thanked them for their creativity. Then before the show started, he passed out — wait for it — donuts!

What a wonderful, feel good story, huh? I love to hear about people doing things just to make someone else’s life a bit better. I do try always to be thoughtful and giving, but sometimes I wish my creativity would lend itself to something as great as this. Just think how many smiles one man has given to the world. Incredible.

Here’s my advice. If you’ve read this complete post, go out there and do an act of kindness everyday. It can be as simple as smiling at someone and wishing them a good morning as you open the door for them. That’s not hard, right? And who knows, you might just turn around a crumby day to one that has a little joy in it because of a simple kindness.

We can all do that.

The Best of Christmas Everyday

Christmas Party 007With Christmas just around the corner, I’m happy to share what a great life our time here can be. Even with all the hardships of Ken’s M. S., we still find joy in each other as we spend each day doing ordinary things. We are truly blessed with a wonderful family and a stable of faithful friends. Sometimes I wonder how we got so lucky.

Usually people count their blessings on Thanksgiving, but I do everyday. Ken’s wonderful family has sustained us through times when our car was repossessed, there were few groceries in our cupboard, and a pile of bills we didn’t know how we would ever pay. Ken’s Aunt Lil rallied the family together to pay for a beautiful wheelchair ramp our friend Scott Martyn built. Now we can get Ken’s power wheelchair out of the house and into the van that also miraculously came along this year.

Aunts Sharon, Lil, and Rita have sent us checks when we really needed the money. Our friends gathered together to clean our kitchen, which had gotten to the really yucky phase because my arthritis in my hip and knee doesn’t allow me to wash floors and walls any longer.  Then there’s Ken’s brother Steve who has treated us to many a meal out. And who can ever forget our Secret Santa who has sent us extravagant gift cards every year for the past four years.

Through the intervention of angels, we were put in touch with the ARDC which helped us learn about agencies that aid people like us who have fallen into a financial pit because of devastating illness and unemployment. Then there’s the people at Societies Assets who agreed we needed to move our laundry facilities upstairs. Again, Scott and his crew stepped in and built us a beautiful laundry room that will save so many agonizing steps. There’s also the support of the IRIS people who have provided us with Kaitlin who guides us through the government bureaucracy.

This year has been one of learning how to accept help. For a couple of baby boomers, this is a hard lesson because for so many years we’ve stood on our own two feet, not needing such help. For some, accepting help is a lesson in humility. For me, it has been a blessing. I’ve learned to how to say thank you in so many ways.

Even though these trials have come along, so has the opportunity to focus my energy into producing stories and novels. Needless to say, these years of hardship have also been wonderful for my writing career. Teaching basic grammar has strengthened my writing and also given me satisfaction of reaching one or two students. This blog is my 368th post, and slowly, I’ve been able to spread my words and phrases across the world. It is my hope that I give hope and inspiration to other writers, along with a few laughs and joys to others who just enjoy reading what I have to say.

My wish is that everyone reading this post will find happiness inside. Then share that happiness with a friend, a family member, or even a complete stranger because it’s through everyone of us God works his miracles. And believe me, they do exist.

A Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

thanksgivingHolidays are curious times. Most of us look forward to them; some of us dread them. We all have a perception of the “perfect” celebration, which is usually unrealistic. So, when the actual holiday rolls around we are either elated or disappointed. There’s  no in between.

This year I was looking forward to being with Ken’s family in Chicago only to learn they all are heading to Nebraska to be with Ken’s other brother and his family. Needless to say, I was in a funk. My picture of our usual Norman Rockwell-type Thanksgiving with the turkey sitting golden brown on the perfectly set dining table, surrounded by smiling faces were dashed with one phone call.

Last year we went to my dear friend Kay’s house. Little did I know that would be the last time we’d be together for the holiday because this fall Kay and her husband moved to Florida. I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to be together because Thanksgiving is special to Kay. It’s the one American holiday she enjoys as a Scottish immigrant.

This year, though, I had to develop a plan “B,” so  I called a few friends to see if they had plans for the unique American holiday only to find out they were already busy.  It looked like Ken and I would be roasting our 15 pound bird alone, and then we’d sit across the dining room table just like any other ordinary night, staring at each other, while we would eat a meal which was meant to be shared.

And then the phone rang.

Just as I accepted our lonely fate, I got a call from a close friend. It was our Dave inviting us to his family’s Thanksgiving dinner. He and Terry have been friends for over 20 years; we have watched their boys grown into handsome young men and supported each other through good times and bad. This invitation lifted my spirits more than I can tell you.

Now instead of moping around like an orphaned child, I’m actually looking forward to Thursday. I’ll begin the day with a cup of coffee, while I watch the Macy’s parade in my jammies. Following that tradition, Ken and I will enjoy a special breakfast, before we watch the Packers/Lion’s football game dressed in our Packer regalia. Finally, we’ll toddle off to a thankful feast with great friends. Sounds like a good day.

Saluting our Veterans

Veteran's Day ParadeAs an author of a series of novels that are set in the World War II years, I have researched a lot about the time period. I wonder how people survived the horrors war from hunger to torture. Today, war is so often glorified in movies and video games that it really sickens me. In these media a hero marches in, drops a few bombs, and the war or game is over. Once in a while, movies like “Saving Private Ryan” attempt to show the “real” experience. Even though the makers of this movie might have gotten the graphics right to show the true experience of being an infantryman, we don’t smell the sulfur of  the bombs; we don’t feel the pain of the ear-piercing sounds and the fear that shakes a person to the core; and most of all, we don’t see the mangled friends that stare ahead in death.

On November 11th every year, I wonder how many of us truly even give a passing thought of the sacrifices military men and woman have made through the years, so the rest of us Americans can live in a country where we have a freedom which is available nowhere else in the world.

Yeah, we have an Congress who has been sitting on its hands for four years. We have violence in our streets. We have mentally ill boys shooting up public places. We have people going hungry. We don’t have enough jobs. Our educational system has suffered through the years. America is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.

What we have in this country that our veterans have protected is our way of life–warts and all. We can disagree with the government and not fear we will be put in jail. In fact, comedians on the late shows have made a living of making fun of our leaders. Where else in the world does that happen?  We can live where we can afford to live. We believe if a person wants to succeed, all it takes is dedication and hard work to make the dream happen. We have the freedom to think out of the box and the whole world looks to our innovation.

So when you see a person dressed in a military uniform today, be sure and thank them for their service. If you have a veteran in your family, call them and tell them how you feel about their sacrifices. And if you have a chance, take a walk through a cemetery and notice all the American flags that fly on the graves of people who have served and passed. Don’t let the day go by without any recognition. That’s your duty.

A Dumb White Collar Writer

Garfield and MondayDid you ever endure “hardship” because it was the weekend and you didn’t want to call a repairman and endure the weekend double-time charge? I did. Yesterday.

The thermostat for the furnace pooped out, so we relied on a little space heater to keep us warm. It does an adequate job to warm the living room. Our beautiful autumn weather has turned cold enough to fire up the furnace.

All day, Ken and I huddled under warm fleece blankets while we sat in our comfy chairs and enjoyed a full day of football games. In between keeping our body masses warm, we dared to venture down the hallway for a couple of bathroom breaks and into the kitchen for lunch. By suppertime, the heater had warmed the room to 68 degrees, so we watched “The Good Wife” in comfort.

Needless to say, the first thing I did this morning was pick up the phone and dial our heating and cooling professionals to see if someone could come out and fix whatever major catastrophe we had suffered. Much to my surprise the woman who answered the phone said, “We can be there in twenty minutes.”

Twenty minutes! I was still in my pj’s and hadn’t had my first cup of coffee! Like somebody who just had a fire lit under her bum, I jumped up, pulled on some jeans and a sweater, ran a comb through my hair and next thing I knew, Ernie was barking and the repairman was on our porch.

I let the repairman in with a bright smile and showed him the thermostat. He took off the cover and said, “Do you have a couple of batteries?”

I was puzzled. “Batteries? Really? That’s all that’s wrong with this thing? I thought, “I could have replaced the batteries. Even I’m capable of that!”

Sure enough, Jason the furnace man popped in two new AA batteries and the damn furnace fired up and heat started pouring out of the vents.  I felt so stupid. Two AA batteries, honest to God!

I think he felt a little silly charging me $70 for a trip charge to just swap out a couple of batteries, so he took a quick look at the furnace in the basement. He reported everything looked good except we had a dirty filter. After a trip back to the store and a return trip back to our house, (The store is about ten minutes away.)  Jason installed a new filter and only charged me $84 for the whole enchilada. If anybody is looking for a fair furnace repair service, call Kiernan in Racine.

So, my Monday was full of surprises. Not only did I get the furnace “fixed,” my day also included a trip to the doctor. Because I haven’t had insurance for over three years, and my doctor moved out of town, I had to break in a new doctor. This time around, I’m opting for a female doctor who thinks I have carpal tunnel inflammation going on in my hands, but I also have to have a series of blood tests to check out other possible maladies. I won’t know anything for sure for two weeks, but she gave me two wrist supports at no cost. Between Jason the furnace guy and the new female doctor I saw, I know there are fair caring people still left in the world. My only regret is not paying attention when my father tried to show me how to fix stuff around the house. Being a dumb white collar writer can be very costly.

What to do When You’ve Been Evicted

The July 4th holiday week(end) is over. The flags flew. The parades went past. The picnic food has been devoured.  The fireworks blasted into the night sky. Now it’s time to endure the rest of the long, hot summer.

Our after the 4th celebration began by being “evicted” from our home on Saturday. A group of our friends and family have formed an “Share the Care” organization, and on July 6th, they came to do some heavy-duty cleaning in my not-so-clean kitchen. I am a great cook, but a poor housekeeper. Somehow I attract dust, dirt, and clutter and have no burning desire to do much about it. I can be quite sure I will never receive the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.”

On the outside of the house, the gutters were full of leaves and debris which should have been cleared last fall, but I am unable to climb a ladder to clear the stuff — so, like the kitchen, the crap built up. My dear friend Dave and his wife Terry worked all day in the Saturday heat to get the job done.

How do I thank such generosity and hard work?  How do I ever even the score? How can I ever return the favor?

The answer is, I can’t. At least not right now. I can only say “Thank You” and let them all know how much I appreciate their hard work to help us. I can be thankful they love us enough to give up a Saturday to help Ken and I keep our house in working order. Being on the receiving end of such unselfish love is a blessing.

And what did Ken and I do during our eviction? Well, we enjoyed breakfast together at a restaurant, gassed up the car, and faced the holiday traffic to go to Chicago to wish our nephews congratulations after their graduation milestones. We ate too much and laughed even more, as we shared the afternoon with the McCloskey Clan. All-in-all a great way to end the holiday weekend.

And now, like everybody else, it’s back to work.  Today it’s “Subordinating Conjunctions” and a review of Prepositional Phrases. Color me excited.

Angels in The Flesh

November 28 006Yesterday I missed posting on my blog because I had to process everything that happened this week. If I was a cynic, I would look at the happenings as lessons in humility. Instead, I think God sent me angels.

I wrote about the episode in the pharmacy where I came up short to buy my medication, so that was one event. Two days later at the grocery store, I also came up short at the cash register. I truly thought what was left on my food stamp card and the few pennies I had in my bank account two days ago would cover my purchases. But alas, I was wrong again. I began eliminating items from my cart to get down to the bare essentials, only to find I was still ten dollars short.  Behind me a line of customers had grown and my predicament was holding them up. I wanted to cry and run from the store because I was so embarrassed.

Then the lady behind me pulled out a ten dollar bill and handed it to the clerk. She said, “Please let me help you. It is my pleasure. I believe in paying it forward.” This time I wanted to cry, but not from embarrassment, but from gratefulness. This stranger reached out to me and offered a generous gift. Who was I not to accept it?

This event happened right after I had just taught a class. I gave my students an assignment to write about a person who came into their life and thought they were worthy of being treated special. Over half the class felt there was no such person in their life. Isn’t that sad? It’s hard for me to believe they saw the world as such a cold and uncaring place when here a perfect stranger extended overwhelming kindness to me.

And the kindness didn’t stop there. In the afternoon, the lady from the IRIS Medicaid program came by for a meeting with good news. Ken has received a start date of June 2 for the program. I also had been approved to take care of him. What this means is I will get paid to take care of him–something I’ve been doing for over three years because I deeply love my husband. The good news also means that Medicaid will pay for all of his medical expenses. Talk about manna falling from heaven!

Yesterday, another angel crossed my path with a gift. One of my dearest friends read the account about my inability to buy my medication, and she handed me money to cover the cost. This time, I did burst into tears.

The morale of the story is God does hear your prayers. According to the Christian Bible, Jesus told us, “Ask and you shall receive.” He wasn’t lying. So, I am grateful for all of the help, and I will pray for my students who haven’t felt the goodness which is in all of us.

 

When Darkness Falls, Let the Light In

incredible-storms

This morning, as all other mornings, I read the posts of some of my favorite bloggers. Candy Coated Reality by Renae is one of my most favorites. It’s a beautiful site filled with art along with articulate posts. She’s extraordinary. But today, she talked about suffering from depression. About the darkness. About wanting to sleep away the feeling of dread. Unfortunately, I knew what she was talking about.

It’s hard to admit you have depression because most people don’t understand it. They see it as sadness, but it’s so much more than that. It’s darkness that invades your life and sometimes your little flashlight of medication doesn’t shine through it. It just is.

My depression manifests itself in withdrawing. I don’t speak. I sit in like a lump in my chair and play Facebook games. I don’t even want to write when this happens to me. Lately, the money issue in my life has put me in such a place. Part of it is the chemicals in my brain, but the bigger part of it is feeling like such a failure.

I tell myself that my life is what I’ve made it. I do want to stay home and be here for Ken. He struggles so much everyday, you’d think he would have to fight depression—because he has it too. But in his case, he sees the world in a whole different way. He never complains because he says doing so would only make me feel bad. He never puts anyone down because he allows people to be just as they are. He somehow keeps himself in a world that is filled with light.

Yesterday some light came into my darkness. After the phone call about getting a lift chair for Ken, we both were invited out to lunch by my dear friend Joyce. We first had coffee at her beautiful little home, and then I drove us all to Nafi’s where we had a sandwich. When Ken went to the bathroom, she opened her purse, pulled out a wad of bills and said, “How much do you need?”

I knew she was going to help us, but her generosity overwhelmed me. I never guessed she would hand me one hundred dollars.

Again, God has provided. He does his special work through others, and Ken and I are testimony to His good works. Remember the ramp his aunts and uncles gave us? Remember Scott putting more work into it than he originally planned and then didn’t charge me? Remember Jackie and Kay giving me money so I could buy my books for a book signing? Remember Steve and Tara helping us with the overwhelming drug expense?  Remember Dad paying off my car when it was reposed by the finance company? Remember others who stand beside us and will drop what they are doing to be here for us –Dave and Terry, Heidi and Ray, Patrick and Linda, Jim and Cathy — the list goes on.

I do not practice organized religion, but I do believe a higher power intercedes when we’ve done all that we can do on our own. Time and time again, our friends and family have helped us out of jams Ken and I couldn’t fix ourselves.

I feel so humbled when all I can do for them is say, “Thank You.”

It’s More Than a Lift Chair

handsI’ve talked about being a caretaker for my husband Ken who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. In fact, I’ve talked about it so much, I’ve actually learned how to spell Sclerosis and had to create a category for our experiences. And maybe someday, this will be a springboard for a book. I’ve talked about how this horrible disease comes like a thief in the night to take away the man I love.

Because of this disease, our relationship has changed. And I hate it, but my changed role is necessary. I’m a writer by profession and religion, but I’m a caretaker now 24/7. As such, I’ve turned to the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) in our area for some necessary help.

Through that organization, I met a wonderful woman named Marilyn. She calls once a week just to check in on ME. I guess caretakers get lost in the shuffle, and it is her quest to connect with me and help connect me with resources that will benefit both Ken and me.

Yesterday, Marilyn called and said there was a lift chair available, and all I had to do was pick  it up. I was thrilled it was offered to us because Ken does have problems getting up and down out of a chair. So, this chair would aid him in his everyday challenges.

lift chair

When I excitedly told him about the chair, he said, “Where are we going to put it?” You see, he doesn’t want to part with the platform rocker he sits in now, and I think he saw this lift chair as another reminder he needs assistance.

I know he will probably love this chair, so I said, “Maybe Ernie will sit by you more often if you have a different chair.” (Our pug Ernie doesn’t like the rocker because he loses his balance when he attempts to sit on Ken’s lap.) Ken thought about it for a second and said, “Okay.”

So, now the next challenge was to get the chair from its present location to our home. Enter friends. I phoned one of my male friends who has a truck, asked whether he could help me and with no hesitation, Dave said, “Sure, I can help you, Barb. When do you want to do it?” So bright and early on Saturday we will go together to get the chair.

The moral to this story? Let people around you help. I’m not big on support groups, but connecting with people who can actually help is so important. Friends and family see the struggles and most of the time they feel helpless to ease your load. So, when an opportunity comes along when one of them can help, ask them. Life truly does take a village.

Family is An Anchor to Life

Easter BunnyYesterday I celebrated the anniversary of being welcomed into the McCloskey clan. It happened eighteen years ago, when my mother told me she would rather spend Easter just with my father instead of including me in their plans. I was alone after a miserable divorce, and her insensitivity to my situation devastated me.

But Ken had recently come into my life, and when I shared what had happened, he put his arm around me and he said, “You’re coming home with me.” At the time, we just started dating, and I was afraid it was too soon to meet his family. But, it was the best thing I ever did.

I thought the fact that I was older than Ken would cause a problem, but  it never was mentioned. Unlike my own family, his Mom, Dad, brothers, and sisters just accepted me as I am. And as you might imagine, it was a wonderful day.

Since that time, this family has become very dear to me. I love all of them very much. I’ve gotten a chance to watch “little” Kristen grow from a vivacious three-year-old to a beautiful young woman who will graduate from college next year. I’ve sung at Steve and Tara’s wedding in New York. (They helped me cross off that “bucket list” entry.) I also sang at Sue and Carl’s wedding in Chicago. I was there when Catherine was baptized. I held Isabel when she was a baby. I was there for Sue’s baby shower when she was pregnant with Joey. I was there for Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary where I got to meet most of Ken’s uncles, aunts, and cousins. It’s been a gift to be included in this family. I thought these kind of people only existed in books.

With Ken’s MS it has become more difficult to be with the family because preparing for the trip is laborious. When Ken was well, it was no problem because he helped pack the car, and we took turns driving. But now, all of the packing, preparing, and driving is up to me. On top of that, Ernie has become of the McCloskey clan and expects to go, too. By the time I get to Steve’s house after all the commotion and driving about 100 miles through construction and Chicago traffic–I need a hug. Luckily, when I get there, everyone is standing in line to give me one. All of the effort was worth it because once again, I have a chance to bathe in the positive energy I get from the McCloskey family.

So yesterday, I not only celebrated Easter, as I watched the kids find their eggs the Easter Bunny had dropped all over the yard, I quietly celebrated my anniversary of being welcomed into this wonderful family. And the sun shone on me once again.