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…..

When You See One, There Are Always More….

My Mom and Dad moved back on to the family farm, when I was about four.  Dad had worked in the oilfield, but he wanted to farm.  Grandpa Pat was ready to slow down, and then died.  We moved into the old farm house.  It was a sea foam green two story house, that originally only had an outhouse.  Grandpa and Grandma had taken a porch and made it into a small den, bathroom and enlarged the kitchen area.  It sat on a dirt basement, with a coal burning stove that heated the house, sometimes.  In the coldest days of the winter months, we would all sleep in the living room, with a blanket blocking off the kitchen-half of the house, the door shut to the upstairs, and the furnace full of coal, trying to heat that little bit of house we were sleeping in.  We didn’t mind much; we were warm, and it was “camping out” to us kids.

The only thing we had to worry about on those nights, is that the mice wanted to be warm too.  They would come up from the basement, and risk life-or-death, by running around.  They especially liked to surprise you in the bathroom.  I would be sitting on the toilet, and a mouse, or two would come out and look at me.  We both had our jobs to do-me finishing my toileting and them trying to survive.

Dad would periodically catch a bull snake and release him into the basement, to try and control the population, but never seemed to make much difference.  It only made going down to get canned goods more interesting, as I was terrified, the mouse would survive and I would not.

Dad later gave the house away to the mover, who sold or gave it to someone in the White Earth Valley.  Dad told me in later years they used it for their animals.  We built a new house, whose only infiltrators were salamanders, or a calf or lamb, who were brought in by the humans.

I was lucky enough to have repeat performances of mouse escapades, when I lived in a 12×60 trailer house in an oil camp, in 1978-1982.  I was visiting with my mother-in- law on the phone, when I saw the tinfoil move, that was covering the roast beef on the counter.  I looked again in time to see a mouse pull a piece of beef off the plate, slide it across a bit of counter and take it down behind the stove.  There were times I would be laying in bed nursing my oldest son, and a mouse would come out from his hiding and look up at me, with no fear in his eyes.  We were outnumbered.

When we sold that trailer house, very soon after that, I pictured it going down the road to Billings, Montana; the mice waving goodbye as they began their new adventure.

An interesting insight into my life on the farm?  I have tried to give you a few of them, so you know who I am; based on my experiences you can see when we are similar.  So you can believe me, when I tell you I understand where many of you have been.

I was watching TV one morning, working on a Soduko puzzle.  I’m trying to keep my brain more toned than my body.  The announcement came on that Charlie Rose had been suspended.  I set my puzzle down and tried to take it in; I’m obviously not one of those people oblivious to abuse; I’ve had my share of it, in several different versions, but Charlie Rose…  I didn’t see that coming.  Many of the broadcasters have made the point of saying, how do we balance our feelings for someone we care about, who has done something so wrong.  I don’t care if it’s the Senator from Michigan, or Alabama, or our favorite morning news commentator,  the President, or family member.  It hurts when someone we respect, betrays trust.

How do we balance our feelings?  By lashing out at others?  The women in this case, and there have been men in other cases as well, are like mice…They for whatever reason, have held on for five, or ten, or 40 years.  Their lives were changed, but they survived by doing what they had to do.  Victims are like mice, stories of abuse are like mice…if there is one, there is more.

The stories in the news have been mostly sexual abuse of power, but my analogy can be any form of abuse.  I have thoughts and prayers in my heart right now for people who are physically, emotionally, and verbally abused as well.  Verbal and emotional abuse leave no outward physical scars, but the damage is so difficult to overcome.  Please don’t become so comfortable with it, because of your family, or culture that you don’t pay attention to the mice.

With all of my heart, I wish 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….

Don’t trust anyone, not even your Papa..

Trust; the way a child feels about their parent, a dog feels about its owner, a child towards a grandparent, a spouse to spouse….. how do we define it or explain how we lose it?

I don’t know what was wrong with me, when I was a kid.  I loved to jump… I was like a  little Mexican Jumping Bean…  My Dad tells the story of standing in front of the barn working on something; I had climbed to the top of the old two story barn; was only about five, and said, “Daddy should I jump?”  He said, “I don’t care.”, never in a million years thinking I would.  He said he saw a shadow come over his shoulder, and he looked and I had landed in the hay pile next to him.  I jumped off of everything…one afternoon I was practicing my jumping bean routine and Dad had tired of it.  He came upstairs, in our old farm house and said, “I’m going to break you of your jumping.”  He proceeded to have me jump off of everything: beds, dressers, chairs, and finally the banister of the stairs.  He caught me every time, until the bannister.  I jumped and he stepped back.  When I landed on the floor, I asked him why he hadn’t caught me.  He said, “Don’t trust anyone, not even your Papa.”  He told me later that his father had said the same thing to him, at some point in his life.  I understood little of trust at that age, and only thought about it retrospectively later.  How sad it is not to be able to trust.

I don’t jump anymore: I’m afraid of heights and would probably break an ankle, or a hip. 🙂  I’m not very good at trusting either.  Do you trust?  Who would you let catch you if you jumped.  I have seen the trust fall demonstrated at conferences.  You fall back into a colleagues arms…. scary!

I do still try…trusting with bits at a time…my husband, our children, (I trust most dogs!) working on it!  Working on trust leads to disappointment sometimes.  My oldest son told me that I always expect people to do the right thing and that’s why I’m disappointed.  I do expect people to do the right thing and I’m tough; I can stand a little disappointment as long as there’s the chance…  Trust!

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…..

We Can Only Tell Our Stories

We all know stories; stories passed down through our families, fables of our cultures, gossip about the neighbor.  How do we know when we can share a story; have a teaching moment, use someone as an example either negative or positive?  This is the deal, unless it’s our story, we have to be very careful.  I like the “Do unto others as you would want them to do to you.”  I am pretty open with you about my story, but I don’t tell all.  Maybe I will someday, but that will be my choice…it’s my story.

A friend called me a couple of weeks ago and said, “I want to tell you a story,”. She began to share some family history and after about thirty minutes of discussion, she said “I think I know someone who may have been abused.  How do I get them to tell me?”  Well that’s the crux, you can’t get anyone to tell you anything. They need to be in the right place to trust and to share, and you might not be the person they tell their story too for any number of reasons.

Many people have the ability to bury their abuse and the pain of pulling it out might be too much for them.  We have to respect that.  Survivors are doing just that, surviving and their process is not ours to judge.  I’ve noticed that surviving is like an addiction in a way.  If you stay away from the subject, you’re good, even though it might be lurking in the background, but I can imagine that for some, dipping your toe in the past might cause you to jump in, unable to swim, only gulping water.  Many victims, who haven’t achieved survivor mode, feel guilty and ashamed, because they’ve been told that they are guilty and shameful.  Some have told their story and weren’t believed, or worse yet shunned for their openness.  Many have buried themselves in addiction of drugs, alcohol, food, or abusive behaviors leveled at themselves or even become abusers themselves.  So many stories buried behind covers, that for some reason or another can’t be opened.  It’s so sad.

“What can I do?” was her next question.  What a wonderful person, to ask “what can I do?”  You can set an example of not telling other’s stories.  Be a safe place, listen and be trustworthy.  It’s not enough to say your trustworthy, BE trustworthy.  Have you ever heard that saying that if someone has to tell you they are something, they probably aren’t?  We set the examples; we screw up, but we have to try hard to set the example.  I have had many people tell me their stories, after I have shared mine, or said I was writing this blog.  They feel that if I can trust them, they can trust me back.  I don’t forget their stories and only share them generically.

We we all need to tell our stories when we are ready, and for some people that may be never, but be ready……the person they choose to share it with, could be you.  It’s an honor to be that person.

Peace..

You Would Know Four Things About Mom..

I taught a Freshman Seminar class at a community college a few years back.  One of the ways I had the students introduce themselves, was to tear toilet paper off of a roll, that I passed around the class.  They were to tear off the amount of paper they used, when they went to the bathroom.  They then had to share as many things about themselves, as there were squares of the tissue.  There would be embarrassed laughs and inevitably someone, thinking they were cute would tear off just one, while someone else would tear off 10.  It was a way to break the ice and it worked.  If my mother was in the class, she would have told us four things.

September 10th, 2017 was the third anniversary of Mom’s death.  I always say “my mom”, as if she had only me,  but there were four of us kids.  She had three daughters in a row, while making it perfectly clear, that her goal was a son, as my dad desperately wanted a son to farm with.  We were a conservative farm family, on the brink of poor, raised to love country and the Catholic Church.  Mom wasn’t raised Catholic, but joined when she married Dad.  That is the first thing you should know about her she loved the Catholic Church.

You would think after three years the unexpected jars on my heart would stop.  Days will go by and boom…. some unexpected trigger sends a feeling of loss over me, and I cry.  I cry because I miss what we could have been, friends.  Mom and I shared little until her death, we talked, but nothing from our souls.  We became closest the months before her death because the second thing you should know about her is she was very private.

Mom overcame much in her life by putting things in little compartments, only taking them out when she needed to and could handle them.  Some things never came out, but ate at her anyway.  If Mom ever loved you, she never stopped.  The third thing you should know is she was loyal to everyone she loved, except herself.

Mom’s last days were spent on Hospice.  They gave us books that told us the signs of her impending death and “helpful” hints; darkening of skin, talking to people that weren’t there and that we should make sure and tell her it was ok to go.  All of us did our best, to help her, support her, tell her we loved her, sing to her and recite the rosary.  Even those of us who had abandoned the Catholic Church, or felt like it had abandoned us, could still say the Rosary… She clung on to life, like I can’t imagine.  Everyone had told her it was ok, to go and be with Grandma and Aunty Anne, be she didn’t seem to hear.

I thought about it one night, her last night,  and realized something.  I went in and put my head by hers, told her how much I loved her, and that I would try my best to do what I could, what was expected of me for the family and then I told her, “Mom, you leave when you’re damn good and ready, and not a minute before.  We will be here as long as you need us to be.”    The fourth thing you should know is that Mom was stubborn.

It’s easy to get caught up in what we missed.. She loved me and trusted me, putting her faith in me, when it was her darkest time.  Maybe it doesn’t matter that we weren’t baring our souls, in an earlier time, maybe it just had to be, when she was damn good and ready.  Rest in Peace Mom.

Peace…..