Tag Archive | perspective

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.

Christmas Shopping and Social Injustice

holiday-shopping-social-mediaI haven’t stepped up on my not-so-famous soapbox in a while, but I got something stuck in my craw this weekend. Here it goes . . .

Now that the turkey leftovers have been in the refrigerator over ten minutes, the dishes are done, the guests have gone home, and we have watched so much football our eyes are bleary–it’s time to shop!

Heck, this year, stores couldn’t wait until Thanksgiving dinner was over; they had to open their doors and welcome bargain seekers right after we all gave thanks for family and the ability to spend more money this year than last.

Okay, that’s the way it goes. A mere mortal can’t fight the advertising gods, can she? From now until Christmas Eve we will all be seduced to “get in the spirit”  of opening our purses and wallets to fill the cash registers of neighboring retailers with pretty pictures, schmaltzy, familiar Christmas music and the smell of cinnamon. There’s no escape.

This year, Ken and I have a little more money than we have had in more than three years, so yes, we are looking forward to being able to buy a few more presents than we have in a very long time. I am receiving my Social Security check now, so I can be more generous to all. I am also paid by the state to care for my husband. I don’t care if other benefits have fallen by the wayside now that our bank account isn’t on life support any more. I don’t feel cheated. I was just glad the help was there when we needed it. Now the government can give our former share to starving children or homeless people. But will it really go to them?

The United States is richest country in the world, but a good share of its citizens are working poor because good manufacturing jobs of the past have gone overseas and have been replaced with too many retail jobs that serve shoppers and don’t offer salaries big enough so workers can provide a decent holiday for their own families. The same goes for the fast food workers who serve frantic shoppers a quick lunch as they scurry from store to store, searching for the “perfect” gift.

Does anybody else get sick from this topsy-turvy situation? The list of our “other half” or our have-nots can go on and on, while the do-nothing fat cats in Washington say America cannot afford a decent minimum wage. . .or affordable healthcare. There are as many opinions in Washington as there are _ _ _holes who have sat on their butts for two years, blocking good things for people who really have no voice. The people screaming are millionaires or soon will be. If these legislators haven’t grown up privileged, it seems they forget the struggles of their before-Washington families after they’ve been there a while. And yes, I am a bleeding liberal.

Yes, we have a budget problem, but we also have a poverty problem. Most people who have good jobs and enough money don’t want to face the poorer side of society–after all, it’s not their  problem. Right?

I believe we are setting our country up for a big upheaval because any society who forgets the needs of its people will surely crumble. If you don’t believe me, just look at the history of big governments throughout the ages.

I say when a child goes hungry or must sleep in an unheated room, or worse yet, live on the harsh streets of our large cities, this is a problem for ALL of us. Just remember, if a person feels no one sees them or values their life, the whole society will suffer. Eventually, these unseen people will create a rebellious group who will rise up and fight back. If you don’t believe me, study history.

So when you’re out there shopping, put a buck in the red kettle. Put a canned good in the barrel at the grocery store, give a toy for tots and maybe tip more than you usually do when you’re served well in a restaurant. Say thank you to the workers who must give up their holidays to make yours happy and bountiful. Be appreciative. Take a deep breath when you are at the end of your shopping rope and remember the under-paid server or clerks are having a tough day, too.

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.

Weathering the Storm

Ships-in-a-Storm-on-the-Dutch-Coast-1854-xx-Andreas-AchenbachI am no longer afraid of the storm, for I am learning to sail my ship. — Louisa May Alcott

I came across this quote in a caregiver’s newsletter this week. It really resonated with me because to understand its full impact, a person has to have weathered storms in life.

Like most people, I’ve experienced my share of life’s disappointments, sometimes bordering on tragedy. My father became seriously ill when I was 13. I broke my leg and lost the lead of the 9th grade musical and was marooned at home for five months. I miscarried between my daughters. I divorced after 40 and lived alone for the first time in my life. Ken was diagnosed with cancer 13 years ago and MS 7 years ago. I was fired or laid off a half dozen times. I’ve had to shop in thrift stores, live on food stamps and saw my 800 credit rating plummet into the 500s. Through all of these things, I’ve learned it’s not what happens to you; it’s how you deal with it.

I found out who I was and how strong I could be by facing the tragedies with humor and a positive attitude. It didn’t come naturally, but I soon learned nobody wants to be around a complainer. I looked for the positive elements of a situation and concentrate on them. It’s not that I’m brave or special; it’s just that it’s so much easier to go with the flow.

When you choose to live a thankful life and find the positive things in dire situations, the bad doesn’t seem as bad. Best of all, a positive outlook makes the sadness of the tragedy easier for everyone around you. Friends come forward to help. Family steps in, too. In fact, our doctors have gone so far to tell both Ken and I that we inspired them. I don’t know about you, but that was exciting.

So, when Ken is so weak he can hardly sit in a chair, we stay at home and are thankful we can experience a quiet day. We laugh at the goofy game shows, play on our computers, and just are thankful we have a comfortable place to do both. Before we know it, the day has passed and it’s time to cuddle in bed and thank God for a good day.

When he’s feeling strong, we have a day like yesterday–bumming around accomplishing errands, visiting friends, while laughing together, and having a date for lunch–just the two of us.

Our ship is on a steady course. We realize the storms will come, and when they do, we either strap ourselves to the mast and hang on to each other, or we point our ship into the wind and wait for calmer winds and sunshine.  Either way, we get through the crappy times together and rejoice when we can sail again through calm seas.

It takes a lot of living to understand how to weather the storms, but experience has shown finding the smallest positive detail — and there always is a nugget of something good in the worst possible situation — you’ll come through the bad weather with a calm you never dreamed was possible.Sailboat in Sunset

A Fall Into Darkness

Autumn by the pond 001Have you noticed how short the days are becoming? Enter soon the dark, dark, dreary month of November–probably my most hated month of the year. I remember one November in 1991 when there was only eleven hours of sunlight! As a sun sign, I was never so depressed.

The only saving grace of November is we have Thanksgiving, which is a unique holiday to America. It’s a time when most families gather together, stuff themselves with great turkey and trimmings, then remember how lucky they are to have each other. Since 1992, this holiday was dashed for me because when I got divorced after 22 years of marriage, my ex and I had to pick the  holidays when we would have our children. He got Thanksgiving, so ever since I’ve been a Thanksgiving orphan.

I miss not having Thanksgiving with my daughters because they still go to their father’s place on turkey day, but I’ve had twenty years to get used to it. I always looked forward to my orphan status because every Thanksgiving dinner was different, and I didn’t have to put up with a sister who has issues with me or nieces and nephews who never learned social graces.

Every year I always had a place to go because of my strong network of friends who included me with their families. When I met Ken, I finally had a family again. The way they accepted me and included me was a gift, and I was never an orphan again.

So as November approaches, and the time change plunges us into darkness, remember there is a wonderful holiday coming up at the end of the month to remind us just how lucky we are. And then, the next day the craziness of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Saturday” begins — if you’re into that nonsense to take you into frantic December.

Leaving Yourself on The Page

This morning as I read through the blogs I follow with regularity, I came across this in Candycoatedreality:  Every time I write, I leave pieces of me on the page.

These few words resonated with me because as bloggers we do so in a very big world. We  unknowingly unveil our very souls to people who follow us.

As we all know, there can be no false masks in good writing. We can all use our imaginations to bring forth fantasy and other fictional tales, but deep down, the writer’s own personality is the bedrock of the writing.

I kind of like that idea. Maybe it’s because I’m old enough to finally accept myself as I am. I’ve tried to fit into boxes other people have designed for me, and dah — that didn’t work at all for me. The images of what other people wanted for me didn’t suit me, and I was the unhappy one. The good thing about going through such experiences is I found out what I didn’t want in my life. It wasn’t until I had the courage to cut MY path by using MY machete to get through the brush did I find the peaceful meadow.

Climbing out of boxes other people build for you is a brave feat. For me, it meant divorce and estrangement from my teenage children. It meant living on my own for the first time in my life. It meant not having the money I was accustomed to having. But the result was so worth the effort. For the first time in my life, I had the freedom to explore me, throwing out the parts I didn’t like and nurturing the parts that I did like.

Liberation does come with a price, though. Some people I used to call “friend” had to fall by the wayside because of the changes that were taking place in me.  I slowly emerged as a new person I liked better than the old one. I wasn’t afraid any more. I stood up for myself and took calculated risks that paid off. After all the exploration and work was done, I met a wonderful man who wanted me for me. He had no desire to make me over in his own image and restrict me to a box.

Ken and I have had almost twenty years together. We’ve weathered the storms of life that caused us to strap ourselves to the mast of our ship. We’ve felt the sting of the churning waters of sickness and unemployment. Weathering such storms together showed us we can face anything.

If you find yourself in a place where you don’t fit, don’t waste time to change your situation. It might be scary or hard or both, but in the long run the sacrifices you make will be so worth it.

Finally, know the only person you can change is yourself.

What is Carpal Tunnel, except for a Pain in the Wrist?

Today I am attempting to post this blog with a brace on each hand. I’m beginning to think the doctor might be right about me experiencing problems with my carpal tunnels. By wearing the braces to bed last night, I slept through without waking. That was the first time in over three weeks! Needless to say, though, this new development is putting a damper on my writing.

I’ve been a pretty good typist since the ninth grade when I taught myself how to use the keyboard. At the time, I was marooned at home, recovering from a broken tibia, and I was restricted to bed rest.  It was a devastating experience at the time. I lost the lead of the school musical because of my injuries, and I was isolated from all of my friends, which was certain death to a thirteen year old girl.

During that time, though, I learned so many important lessons I never would have experienced any other way. I quickly recognized my true friends. and I learned how invaluable they were to me.  Since then, I’ve cultivated and maintained many good people in my life. I also learned I could improvise. Even though I was sequestered to my bed, I developed different ways to do things. I saw the difficulties as challenges to conquer. I also recognized I could teach myself anything I wanted to learn.

Four months later when I returned to school with a toe-to-hip plaster cast still on my leg and a pair of crutches, my good friend Debbie stayed with me, carrying my books and helping me in any other way she could. The popular kids at school who tried to hitch their wagons to my brief shining star didn’t remember my name by the time I returned to school. Before I was anybody, I was a nobody. I learned the “importance” of popularity and from then on chose my friends by their character, not their status.

Even now, the lessons I learned almost 50 years ago still resonate. Now that I’m experiencing a temporary limited use of my hands, I recognize I cannot do things the same way I did in the past years. I will have to limit my computer time or perhaps invest in a tool like “Dragon” to help me keep “writing” my books. I’ll have to wear support braces until the issue is healed or resolved by surgery. But in no way, will this little setback of tingling, painful hands keep me down. I may not post everyday, but when I do, I hope I can share something that is useful to you.

Please excuse the typos, though.

Falling Down & Too Weak To Get Up

I’ve been absent for the past week because I’ve just been under the weather.  I’ve struggled to write anything, and I didn’t want to bore you with something as mundane as my funk. You see, I’ve had some weird things happen to me lately, and because I haven’t got medical insurance, I haven’t been able to see a doc to check it out and take steps to get better. How crazy is that?

When I lost my job in 2009, there were no jobs out there. People in my field of marketing communications were being cut, so needless to say, a woman in her fifties was not being sought after. Added to that, Ken’s MS had reached a point where he really shouldn’t be home alone all day any more. Not only was he not able to escape the four walls because he couldn’t drive, he had gotten to the point where he fell often. So, with few other options, I stayed home to share his company and take care of the things he couldn’t. It wasn’t until just recently I was paid for my efforts to provide the care he needs.

Because of our life path, we’ve gone through financial disaster without bankruptcy because I wanted to keep the option open if I should suffer some kind of medical meltdown in the future. This approach has worked for four years, but now it seems I’ve run out of luck. I need to see a doctor because for some reason my arms are killing me and my hands fall asleep.

I called the clinic this morning only to learn that it may take five to seven days to get looked at.

Perhaps if I could get through the “Marketplace” connected to the Healthcare Act, I might have a chance to get medical attention when I really need it in the future, but for right now, I’m not sure of how to get this fixed.

Anybody who thinks this country’s medical system isn’t broken doesn’t have to look too far from home. I’m sure many of you know someone who has fallen into this pit, and the fat cats in Washington, who are sitting on their hands and trying to prevent a healthcare change make me so angry. I don’t think anyone should have to claim bankruptcy because they got sick. And I don’t think that I should have to wait to get so sick I need to be treated at the Emergency Room if things get scary.

So, if I don’t write for the next few days, forgive me. My hands are too painful to tinkle the keyboard. But know this, I miss your likes and comments and promise I will bring you something more interesting than my medical maladies in the future.

Out With The Old

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

I’ve taken a few days away from the blog to do some serious furniture shopping. I’m happy to say, after a few trips to various stores, I found a sofa and a recliner to compliment Ken’s lift chair and our pug boy Ernie.

I think the saleswoman thought I was a little nuts when I told her my criteria for a sofa. I specified the sofa had to be comfortable enough for a night of insomnia and wide enough for me and, of course, Ernie.

After going through four books of swatches, I decided upon a gray fabric with a thin black line to add some texture. Best of all, the soft fabric is polyester, so it will wear well for an animal’s feet.

The chair? It isn’t part of a sofa set, instead, it’s an automatic recliner. (That means you plug in the chair and push a button instead of having to pull a crank.) The chair is upholstered in solid polyester fabric that looks like suede, so again, it’s Ernie-proof.

For all of you who are not dog and cat lovers, you might think this kind of shopping is crazy, but for Ken and I, we are just compensating for our “kids.” Our animals are part of the family and both Ernie and Vinnie have run of the house. We haven’t restricted them from jumping on the furniture simply because we love them sitting beside us when we plop down for a night of television. Stroking their soft, silky fur lowers our blood pressure and makes us feel cozy. Neither of them are good conversationalists, but they always listen when we talk to them. Who could ask for better friends?

So, now all we have to do is wait eight to ten weeks to have the manufacturer build our sofa to our specifications. The chair, however, will be arriving tomorrow between one and three o’clock in the afternoon. I just hope when we put my “writing chair” out on the curb, my muse won’t go with it.

 

What’s This? Working on a Sunday?

workI usually don’t blog on Sunday morning because I think I need the day off. That’s rather curious because other than a part-time teaching gig and being a caretaker for my husband, I don’t work.

WORK — It’s a crazy word. What does it really mean?

In our society, most people think REAL WORKING involves leaving home, driving several miles to another place, spending at least eight hours there, while most of the time we’re wishing we were somewhere else. We complain about how stupid bosses are and that we don’t make enough money for the effort we exert. Worse yet, if we don’t involve ourselves in this kind of activity, society pretty much sees us as retired or slackers.

Debating with myself over this issue I turned to the dictionary to describe to me what work really is. Here’s what the old Oxford Dictionary had to say:

WorkNoun 1. activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result; 2. mental or physical activity as a means of earning income; employment; 3. a task or tasks to be undertaken; something a person or thing has to do.

Of course, this is just a snippet of the full definition. Most writers I know don’t go anywhere to participate in their profession. Lucky writers may have a studio in their homes or they may take themselves out the local coffee shop for inspiration.  Personally, I sit in an over-sized chair in my living room with my dog sleeping and snoring beside me as I pound out pages of prose.

My blue-collar family still makes me feel like I’m not working, and the dictionary definition confirms they are right. Definition number one comes close to what I do, but when I write, I don’t always have a purpose. Number two is certainly not my experience. I’ve written seven novels and haven’t earned a penny even though they all have been published by a “traditional” publisher. And, finally, number three isn’t accurate because I chose to write; no one is putting a gun to my head, (although sometimes when I’m blocked, that terror might help.)

So, I guess it’s true. I’m not working. I’m creating. I’m having fun thinking. I’m spinning stories many people have told me they have truly enjoyed. What is it that some anonymous soothsayer said:  Find something you love and you’ll  never work again. Yeah. That’s the path I’ve chosen. Royalties or no royalties.