Contentment

Good morning, would you do me a favor? Grab a cup of coffee and sit down with me. Pour a nice shot of creamer in it; add a bit of sugar, if you like, but sit down and talk with me. I’ve been thinking  and wonder how many of you are worried about content. Maybe you are worried about something large or something small; we always seem to find time to worry about something. In order for you to feel contentment today, what would have to happen? Take a couple of minutes and think, “What would make me feel content today?”

Is it something that you can control? Is it something that’s really important in your big picture? Is it someone else’s behavior, or someone else’s thoughts?

This isn’t my typical way of writing a blog. I have been putting all of them in a word document, so that I can print them off for family. I have made changes back and forth sharing my story and trying to encourage you in yours.  In the process realized I Havent addressed feeling satisfied. Contentment is so important for our survival. Stress is a huge cause of so many diseases and problems in our lives.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to one of my sons about a new relationship. He said, “Mom, we are both really content.” I felt so much peace, when he made that statement; to have contentment in any area of our lives and not want more? His statement got me to thinking about my life and what makes me content. The forerunner is when our children and grandchildren are safe and healthy. I always think happiness can be a rollercoaster, but their health brings me contentment.

Then I began thinking about my children’s level of contentment, and friends levels, the nations.. I spend a lot of time thinking! So now I am asking all of you in writing, “What makes you content?” Do you feel the need for more money, more sex, more excitement, more respect, more job satisfaction, a happier marriage, good health? If you think about it, and formulate a plan, maybe you can achieve it. If you are looking for the Vikings to win a Superbowl, well I hate to tell you, but you have no control and may never feel content! (I am writing this the week after the Eagles won, good for them…. :)) What exactly is it that you want?

Prioritize: Would you give up money for your health, or your children’s health? Would you give up job satisfaction for more money? Are you willing to give up respect for more control? Would you give up your health for anything? Are you doing these things?

I don’t expect answers back. A friend recently told me that even the blogs she can’t necessarily identify with, make her think.. I really like that she would think about what I write; that’s all I ask, not that you agree or have a “wow” feeling, but that you think.

I wish you contentment. I wish you enough.

Peace……

 

Surviving Divorce.

Writing about divorce is as personal to me as writing about abuse or death.  It sends a weight to the pit of my stomach.  I don’t write other people’s stories and that’s why I’m cautious about this subject.  There wasn’t just me.  There was a spouse and there were children.  Little children who deserved better.

When we pick spouses, we base that decision on many things, love, lust, need, fear, compatibility, escape, ambition, life goals, family suitability… When you are young, I had just turned 19, you don’t know yourself and you certainly are clueless about who you will become.  The newsflash is your intended spouse has the same feelings.  You start out with plans and they go awry, you fight, and pout and beg; there are a few good weeks, and the cycle starts over again.  Eventually someone says enough, or one or both of you make decisions that most people can’t come back from.

When my first marriage ended, I told the children.  One was very young, one was happy go lucky, and one cried and told me it was his fault.  When I assured him that it wasn’t, he said, “Mom, I’ve been praying to God, that you and Dad would get divorced.”  I knew that I didn’t have a choice, no child should bare that kind of responsibility, to want to protect his family so much that he should be pushed to pray for a divorce, in order to have peace.

No one starts out in a marriage planning on a divorce. We all start out wide eyed and innocent, hoping.. no planning…. on the best.  We bring children into it and sometimes we fail.  Typically it’s not just one spouse who fails, both play a part,  I firmly believe though that one person can’t make a marriage work by themselves, not year after year.  There has to be a commitment by both to the marriage, to the family and to the commitment.  In a bad marriage there is no  50/50, it’s 75/20 or sometimes even 90/10, but that isn’t sustainable without someone’s hurt getting too deep.

When I moved to Williston, after my divorce, I started dating and eventually remarried.  I remember distinctly, a couple of women in town who had been divorced twice.  It had been and I’m sure continues to be challenging to be a divorce’ once, let alone twice.  The stigma, even in this day and age, continues to suggest a harlot, a red letter A, plastered firmly on your forehead.  I smile when I write this because it’s archaic, but yet sadly in small towns, it’s true.  I looked at those women and said to myself, “That will never be me.”  You know how God loves that when you make ludicrous statements like that.  God says, “Watch this.”

Well watch I did, not just watch, but I experienced my second divorce.  I was one of “them.”  I had joined a club unwillingly; oh I had initiated the divorce, because I had apparently finessed the talent of poor decision making.  I dated a bit and frankly I lost my appetite for it quickly.  I had learned a lot and was still learning, wanted to learn, wanted to and had decided that being single could be great.  I learned to enjoy being single; the freedom was something I hadn’t experienced before.  I learned to survive divorce.

Do the children survive?  They do, some more quickly than the rest.  My children’s father and I were decent divorced parents; we kept the kids out of most things.  Children are smart though and they always know more and see more than you think.  If my mother had divorced my father, would my life have been better?  Sometimes the damage is already done and it’s hard to know.  I bare full responsibility for my poor decisions.  In a world where everyone likes to shirk their faults and shift the blame to their pasts, or abusers, I won’t.  I could have done better.  I have done better. 🙂

Peace…..

How to Be the Perfect Parent…

Don’t have children.  Sometimes I get an idea for a blog and I start a draft of it, so I don’t forget.  The post-menapausel Alzheimers I get sometimes has me forgetting things two minutes after I think of them. so I try to get a title and few sentences to lead me, when the time comes to actually write. .  I sat down to write the other day and looked at some of my thoughts and all I had written under this title, was “don’t have them.”  I laughed trying to remember what my mind set was that day.    Was it the day when there was an eye roll, or a sarcastic rebuttal to my advice?  I don’t remember!  🙂

I was not the perfect parent, nor am I still.  The news flash?  No one is.  Are you? Have you met one?  Do we love our children like they’re perfect?  Absolutely…  Are they?  Are we?  Depends on the day…

I wished I had done things differently; somedays I do.  There were days when I made mistakes, or came close to making mistakes, that I shudder at now.  I gave them quite a bit of freedom; freedom to try things, to travel, and to express themselves.  I let them fail, but if I had to step in because someone was unjust, my reaction was predictable and swift.  I didn’t helicopter; oh once in a while a rotor started to spin, but I would always try and think first, trust that they could take it and could figure it out.

I could have done better with father figures for them, by the time I figured it out and married Dave, they were grown and have had to figure out on their own what a good male parent looks like.  They have faced disappointment and sadness, but have survived. They are all very strong and very independent, sometimes more than I would like.. they don’t need us so much anymore, or at least don’t think so, at least that’s what they sometimes tell us.   🙂

When Dave and I were married, our youngest daughter wasn’t independent.  The two youngest kids had lost their birth mom to cancer and understandably so, were fearful about loss, about decision making…..  I worked hard to make them more independent.  I wanted them to know that loss was hard, but that they could survive.  I wanted them to be strong enough to survive the other losses that invariably happen.  There was a day though, when our youngest made it very clear to me that she was independent.  I was lamenting to my husband, when he reminded me that her independence had been my goal.   Huh…success?

My sister told me about a time when she overheard our mom tell our dad that they were shitty parents.  There were days when I felt that was true; there are days when my children think they had shitty parents; there are days when your kids have thought you could have done better.. later curfews, more toys, less toys, earlier curfews, less harsh words, more hugs.  We look at them with pride, not only because we feel like we had some small part in the greatness of who they are, but because we know they are surviving us..our mistakes, our youth, our lack of parental example or in spite of our parental examples.  They are not only surviving, most of us are lucky enough to see  them thrive.

Don’t get me wrong, I still worry; I wished I could wrap them up in bubble wrap, store them in a closet so that they are only mine, safe from harm and heartbreak, but that’s not the answer by any means and we all know better (except for that couple in California).   We have to loosen the reins, let them live their lives, and pray that God will keep them safe.  The alternative, if we don’t, is that they break free on their own, with no guidance, with no safety net for when they fail, or someone fails them.

There was this quote in the 70’s, “If you love something let it free, if it’s meant to be yours, it will come back, if it doesn’t it wasn’t meant to be.”  A cheesy quote that we can blow holes in a mile wide, but really the idea is to release what you love, with a glad and open heart, before it wants to escape.  Relinquish the control..we don’t get to be in control, we only pretend.

I told my kids one day, “I’m not going to live my life feeling guilty, I did the best I could”.  “If you think I did things wrong, be a better parent, show me how it’s done, but I did the best I could.”

When I write about our children, it’s with a smile on my face.  They are my biggest worry, losing them is my biggest fear, but they are my greatest accomplishment.  I love watching them parent, whether it is with one child, three, or practicing on a dog.  The growth doesn’t stop for any of us; the learning doesn’t stop and neither does the pride.

How to be a perfect parent?  Don’t ask me; you need to practice on your own.  🙂  You will do the best you can; they will survive it and hopefully so will you..

Peace…

 

I Could Teach Classes in Prison, and Start a Book Group.

Sometimes raising kids is challenging.  No one really trains us how to raise our children; of course there was Dr. Spock, and then someone else and then someone else who disagreed with them.  In the 70’s we didn’t swaddle our babies, much to our mother-in-laws chagrin, and now my grandson is swaddled!  Who knew?!  We learned from our parents, who did the best they could based on their parents.  It was either good, or bad or somewhere in between.  We all do our best and hopefully our children survive the job we do.

If we are really lucky, the prize for surviving parenthood is when you get to be a grandparent.  Could we love any one person any more?  I think it’s because they are our second chance; to soften, to say yes more, to hug more, and for a moment of time  to slip back into silliness.

Grandparents tend to be ferociously protective, because we are older and most likely don’t care as much what others think-or maybe it’s because we are wiser and more aware of the dangers that are out there.  I have made it perfectly clear what would happen if someone tried to hurt a grandchild.  I don’t mean helicopter parent protectiveness, where children aren’t allowed to feel loss, heartbreak, or failure.  I mean if someone is stupid enough to try and hurt them physically.

My oldest grandson was having a bit of anxiety and decided to talk to me about it.  He was probably nine.  His mom was newly divorced and for some reason, he was worried someone would come in to the house and take him.  He said, “Grandma, what would you do if someone kidnapped me?”  I said, “I would take every cent I have to hunt them down; we would get you back and then Grandma would kill them.”

He nodded his head, “That’s what Mom said you would say.”

“Feel better now?”

“Yep,” and off he went to play.

What a great feeling for a child to think his grandma would protect him at any cost.  I don’t know if he thought my comment was metaphorical or literal, but I know and so do you.

I would do fine in prison; I could teach classes, start a book group, discuss feelings……

Peace…

Quilting Together the Past and the Present

The handprint quilted into the quilt above is mine.  Surrounding it are the handprints of my husband and grandchildren.  Twenty-seven years ago, I was sitting in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck headed to Wyoming.  We were delivering some oilfield supplies.  My children’s father was driving; it was late at night; the marriage was failing and I was thinking about my friend who was dying of cancer.  The idea for the quilt came to me; I don’t know how or why, but it did, and I started it the next week.  Different shapes, of different colors, were hand appliquéd onto a white piece of fabric.  I bought the thread intending to hand quilt it, with the different colors running through the quilt, an alternating triangle border pulling it together.

I often wondered why, when you would hear the stories of quilts, uncompleted, “discovered” in an attic, or box in a closet, they weren’t finished.  I learned, and understand now, life has it’s own plan sometimes, and it might not include finishing a quilt.  I carried the quilt, and it’s thread, from home to home, town to town, from the end of one marriage, through the failing of another, until now.  Children grew up and had children of their own; I found a good marriage, a happy place and decided I was ready to finish it.

The quilt like my life, metamorphised a bit; I needed to find a couple of replacement triangles that almost match; a couple spools of thread disappeared and had to be replaced; the stitches are bigger, and there were stains from the colored fabric bleeding onto the white.  My quilt and I have aged.  The colors match others I have chosen for our house, it will still keep a child, or grandchild warm, and if my husband wants to snuggle under it, while the fireplace warms up the house, it will keep us warm as well, while reminding us of the love of the handprints-the best warmth of all.

Our pasts never really leave us.  We can modify them, redirect them and flat out lie about them, but they are still our pasts.  Bring your past into your future, embrace it and quilt it together with your future.  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, with many things to be thankful for, both past and present.

Peace…

Forgiveness is mine

Thanksgiving is coming up soon and it always gets me to thinking about what I’m truly thankful for:  This week I am thankful for forgiveness.

I’m not a perfect person as my children like to tell me regularly.  They tease me about my foibles, the eccentricities of their mother, and my outright mistakes.  (Only they are allowed to do this though, they would set anyone else straight who criticized me.) I have had to ask for their forgiveness and I am so thankful that they have given it to me.  I can’t imagine living with the guilt for the rest of my life, if they said, “No, we can’t forgive you, you are unforgiveable.”  Their father and I made mistakes in our marriage, ending it in divorce, and today respect each other and have given forgiveness.  Our children have benefitted from that and learned from it.  We are a family who believes in forgiveness.

I had coffee today with a classmate from my high school days.  We talked about forgiveness and how it correlates in today’s society.  I shared with her that it upsets me that our entire society seems to have a chip on their shoulder and is unable to give forgiveness.  What we have is a society of victims who can’t give forgiveness, choose not to move forward, and are unable to be healthy survivors.  Here I am on my high horse, I know.  There are wonderful examples of groups of peoples who were treated horribly in history and have moved on: the Italians, the Irish and the Chinese were treated as slaves, they mined and built our railroads receiving little or nothing for pay.  They were spit on, beat up and called names.   They are survivors.

When you act like a victim; people treat you like a victim; you are perceived as weak and unable to take care of yourself.  Look around you.  Some of you will think I am talking about a particular race, or culture, but I’m not.  You see victims everywhere, regardless of whatever stereotype you want to name.  I’m reading a book right now about coal miners in the Appalachians who were treated horribly..  Many moved on and survived; many didn’t.

I understand forgiveness, because I have had to ask for it and I have given it; both are tough. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you forget, as my children example shows, but forgiveness means you get peace.  The negative energy it takes to not forgive, becomes positive energy, you get to move forward.

My Dad is in assisted living and I stopped up an visited with him the other night for an hour or so.  When I left, I said, “Dad, I’m going to be gone for a couple of weeks, but will see you when I get back.  He said, “Ok, well I will miss you.”  “I love you Dad.”  “I love you too Wanny.”  Our family knows forgiveness.  I know forgiveness.  I wish it for you, with all of my heart.

Peace….

PTSD: Please Don’t Call Me Honey

There have been traumatic events over the course of our history.  The PTSD that Veterans experience has started to come to the forefront of our awareness.  My son has a friend, who experienced such severe PTSD, that we worried for his safety.  We all know that the suicide rate is high for Veterans with PTSD.  What is it specifically and why am I writing about it?

PTSD.va.gov defines the symptoms as:

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you might have PTSD.
There are four types of symptoms of PTSD (en Español), but they may not be exactly the same for everyone. Each person experiences symptoms in their own way.
Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). You may have bad memories or nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
Having more negative beliefs and feelings. The way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel guilt or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can’t trust anyone. You might be numb, or find it hard to feel happy.
Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. You might suddenly get angry or irritable, startle easily, or act in unhealthy ways (like smoking, using drugs and alcohol, or driving recklessly.

Now, Luanna why are you writing about PTSD? Are you a veteran?  No, I’m not, but read through the symptoms.  Do you recognize any of them? in yourself? In a friend?  I worked with “At-risk” students for years.  They became my specialty; I could see the best in them, even the days when it was challenging and even when they could never see it in themselves.  Many of the students displayed the symptoms. While most of us have not fought on foreign lands; many people display PTSD.

My abuser called me honey.  To this day, if a male calls me honey, I cringe inside and feel anxious… all these years later.  I dated someone who would call me honey, and I had to close my eyes, breathe, and say to myself, “This is not that person.”  It almost became a mantra, I used to get through a snuggle, for Pete’s sake….. “This is not that person, this is not that person, this is not that person……………

There have been days, when I feel this butterfly in my chest, one, than more…. I want to drive fast, be reckless… I have..  PTSD can be real.  Identify it and get help for it.

Peace…..