This Too Shall Pass

 

The other day, I thought to myself, “This too shall pass.” But not for the reasons you might be thinking. At that precise moment, I was walking with two coworkers and we were laughing after a terrific day of teamwork and humor. We had been swamped with clients but we all pitched in and the day ended up on a wonderful high note.

We remind ourselves that hard times are temporary –

Bad day at work?
Deployment?
Hangnail?

This too shall pass.

There’s a flip side to it, however, that we sometimes lose in the day to day. Good times will pass also.

Great day with your kids?
Relationship hitting all the right notes?
Hair looks amazing?

This too shall pass.

We are told in the book of Peter that we shouldn’t “think it strange” when we are in fiery troubles, and there is great peace in remembering that the fire shall pass. But we are also told, in James, not to boast about tomorrow because the plans are not ours, but God’s.

When things are good, sometimes we forget to be thankful. We forget to take a moment and soak in the moments of joy, focusing on the well-being. We forget, until the hard times come and we have to shore up against them.

This was made abundantly clear to me over the last month or so. At work, things had been really rocky. There were some relationship issues and some other factors that made daily work very difficult. During that time, I relied on God to change things – I knew something had to give, and the difficulties wouldn’t last forever. As I told a coworker, “Something has to give.”

Something changed. Our team realigned and the difficulties were resolved. There is a lot of laughter in our group again, and we are able to provide much better service to our clients. At the same time this changed at work, things at home were really positive and happy as well.

This too shall pass, right?

Fast forward to today – work is still amazing. Home life is in a happy rhythm only slightly broken by the welcome visit by The Folks.

But my mom is in the hospital. A thousand miles from here. I believe she is getting terrific care, and I will go to her when she is ready for my help, but she is sick and I worry for her. I find myself distracted and somewhat exhausted, wondering when I should go, how I can help, and dealing with logistical details so she doesn’t have to worry about them.
And then a quiet voice reminds me, as it did during the happy laughter last week –

This too shall pass.

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(P.S.) – This did pass.  My mom is back at her house, with appropriate meds and home health care available.  And all I can do is smile.

 

Filling Buckets

This week, we’ve all just been running on empty.  Full of the wrong things, maybe, as we try to just get through like we are driving to the gas station with the light on and praying the car doesn’t die.  Our tanks depleted, we’ve neglected laughter and “please” and “thank you” and just felt oh-so empty.

But starting last night, we began doing some things to fill ourselves back up.  A few years ago I read a book called “How Full Is Your Bucket” and it talks about how we can’t really do much for anyone if our buckets (our hearts) are feeling empty or worn out.  It mentions ways to fill out buckets, and ways we can help other people with their buckets as well.

It’s a great book.

The things we’ve done have been small ones, but they’ve helped a lot.  Maybe these ideas will help someone else who is running on empty and needs a little laughter, sunlight, or warmth.

I sat outside in the afternoon sun, feeling the breeze and enjoying the flowers we’ve planted.  A little Vitamin D can go a long way after a horrible long day.

We let our big boy Jack out so he could get some sun (and a good brush).  Hearing him purr and watching him hop-skip-jump to catch moths is a singular pleasure.

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My G got the last 2 pudding cups out of the fridge for us, topped them with some whipped cream, and we had dessert.  Just us.

A coworker was having a rough week and her birthday is coming up – I got to be a part of making her day really special and memorable.  Buckets – filled!

More sun, more flowers – madly thriving purple iris are the last of our beds to bloom and they make an impression that lasts.

 

This post – I love this blogger and the way she writes so much.  Today’s post was just golden.  The lady in 18F had great advice for parents of teenagers.

An apology from my boss, to all of us, for a misunderstanding.  Do you realize how rare it is for bosses to apologize for, really, anything?

Quiet laughter, good food, Lego minifigures (even though I didn’t get the Queen)…  My bucket feelss a lot more ready to take on the world now.

What can you do to fill your bucket today?   Or fill someone else’s?

 

 

 

Never a Good Time for Goodbye

There are times that every pet owner dreads, and today was one of them. Precious was nearly 17, had thyroid issues and some form of kitty dementia on top of tummy issues and possibly kidney failure. His dementia was probably the worst of his issues, but he also suffered from arthritis due to his special-ness.  Today, we did the humane and the right and the appropriate thing – and said goodbye.

Today, tonight, my G and I will wrestle with doubt and guilt and questions because even if it was “time,” this is quite possibly the hardest and worst thing that can be asked of us.

Let me tell you a little bit about Precious, our sweet old man. He was born to a pure white Mama kitty who belonged to our across-the-street neighbors when Big G was just 6 years old. All of the kittens were white, and we saw them before their eyes even opened. Precious, a boy, was named by this family’s 9-year-old daughter. He had what the vets later called a “radial dysgenesis,” meaning his radial bone grew over his elbow and curved around his foreleg. His toes on that foot were merged, so he had fewer than the norm. Before we had him declawed (for medical purposes), his claws grew wildly, curling around those pink toes. His eyes were the purest mint green, and his fur was rabbit-soft and long. The tips of his ears were pink as the finest shell.  Precious ran like a rabbit, hopping and catching himself on that bad foot – he ran faster than any of our other cats have.  Visitors would always comment on him, both because of his limp and because of his beauty.

Precious has always been my husband’s cat. My G brought him to us the first time, having heard about the kittens after visiting with our neighbors. He carried Precious in  his Army soft cap, curled up tiny as could be and too small to be away from his Mama kitty for very long. We later brought him home to stay, trusted with his care by this sweet family, in that same cap.  Precious would sleep in my husband’s sandal, face scrunched under the top strap. He did this until he was too big to fit, but always had a special bond with the man who loved him first.

It had to be my G’s decision, this last trip. And for that reason, maybe it took a little longer than it would have for me to make this choice – I’ve been down that lonely road, bringing home an empty cat carrier or pet blanket. My G has not. This is a hard thing, to purposefully, deliberately, and finitely affect something in such a way. It is so final. We prayed he’d pass away peacefully in his sleep, but cats are not known for doing things the easy way. Despite knowing it was the right choice and the humane act, it is still an impossible decision and for that reason we have taken many months to come to this day.

Precious was always a noisy cat, meowing  his welcome and calling to us if he got lonely. Part of his illness included an inability to settle, and a confusion that would result in more cries, more yowls.  When his thyroid went bananas, he would cry like a newborn babe and wake even my half-deaf self from a full sleep.  The house is quiet now, despite my attempts to fill it with dishwasher noise and music and other things. It’s quiet, because no one is letting us know their deep hunger/confusion/loneliness/restlessness. Never has quiet been quite so loud.

As I’ve said, I’ve been down that road before and returned with my arms empty. My cat was the first to go, then Big G’s, then my mother’s dog. When hard times repeat themselves, such as deployments or death or decisions that hurt – they don’t get easier for the repetition. Each time builds on the one before, so the grief is huge and fresh inside us. The scars overlap, and reopen wounds we worked hard to close. Tonight’s pain is dark, and heavy.

Today we went down that road together, though, and we returned home together. Little G used her love language of acts of service, and helped take care of some of the cleaning details that come with having a pet who was ill. We came home to a fresh house, cookies that she saved for us, and the knowledge that we would get through this. One thing that is true about going through hard times, is that we learn how to manage our grief. We learn how to push through, how to hold tight, and how to keep fresh and dear the memories of those we’ve lost.

Tonight I am remembering Precious, of the noisy meow and the fierce insistence that he could do anything and go anywhere any other cat could go. I will remember his sweet soft fur, his funny messed-up foot, his surprisingly strong purr. I will laugh at how he used to bite My G’s toes under the covers, and I will think of his first night home with us when he could not sleep so I cuddled with him on the couch. I will remember his first purr that night, and the fat little kitten tummy he had. I will imagine him with my cat, whom he loved. I will picture him at peace.

 

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And it will both hurt and heal to remember it all.

 

 

 

A Big Kid Christmas

Christmas with big kids sucks.

At least that’s what I’ve heard, and from more than one source.

Sure, the big kids are focused on their own friends and activities, and they generally don’t come flying in on Christmas morning at the crack of dawn to shout their joy over Santa’s visit.  We don’t get to see their eyes light up when the reindeers’ carrots are “eaten,” and they don’t worry about our ability to talk to Santa and tell him when they’re naughty.

That kind of magic is past for us, at least unless we have other small children in our lives later on.

To be fair, sometimes, with an adult child, we don’t even get to see them on the holiday at all.  This particular year we had a second late Christmas because of work schedules, but last year we sent off a box and received a phone call.  So those holidays are unequivocally a little rough.

I could spend my hours bemoaning the lack of this kind of charm and innocence, but I think I’ll share with you what the joy of Christmas can be like when you have big kids, instead.

Our adult daughter was tickled pink that her hotel room had a small kitchen in it.  (It even had DISHES!!)

Our still-at-home teenage daughter’s face truly lit up because I bought her a personalized notebook in a style she’d been looking for.  It sparkled when she discovered that we had bought her the phone that she had really, really wanted.

We got to see the adult daughter holding hands with her boyfriend and occasionally stealing a kiss.

We got to see the teenage daughter take gifts to her friend’s house, and mints that we had made together because I “needed the help” (I am not above forcing the issue when I want company for a family tradition).

We enjoyed a movie together as a family, because the teenager used her own money to buy her dad a theater gift card that paid for the tickets.

I wrapped some memories for the Big G, in the form of the ornaments we’ve collected just for her over the years.  Yes, I cried as I set them aside instead of putting them on the tree.  And I almost cried again when she opened them and realized I was helping her set up her own tree, in her own place, as a full adult.  But this is a gift that has been many Christmases in the making, and her recognition of that effort and tradition was, in itself, a gift to us.

So, is Christmas with big kids different?  Yes.  In just about every way, the holiday has changed from what it was when they believed in Santa and haphazardly helped me hang their ornaments every year.

But our Christmas was still magical, still special, and still filled with love.  Even as I wistfully think back to bright eyes and excited bounces, I can enjoy the fierce hug of a child who misses home.  I can enjoy the burgeoning independence of the child who will soon leave the nest.

I am so very blessed to still be able to enjoy my husband’s arms around me at the end of the day, as we hold tight within the change.

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Each ornament has a story, each ornament marks a year in her life.

Be Not Afraid

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10, New International Version.

My friend Chris and I have had a long conversation today about the attacks over this weekend in Beirut, Iraq, and especially Paris. The organized attacks in France were especially horrible because of where they occurred. This time, it wasn’t the government that was struck. It wasn’t an airplane, which have felt vulnerable since 9/11 (or for those with longer memories, since the hijackings of the 70s and the multitudes of crashes in the 80s). This wasn’t more violence in a country besieged by violence.

These attacks happened in the safe places.  The strike zones in Paris weren’t symbols of government. They weren’t symbols of the military. These were the kinds of places people go when they feel free and happy. Joy is the enemy of evil.

ISIS is such a faceless, ambiguous threat. And this weekend’s strike in Paris shows that they understand how to fully instill fear – they struck at the heart of a city.  They hit the happy places, where innocents went for dinner, or to see a game, or to catch a few drinks and a concert with friends. They struck families and couples and the lighthearted social centers of the city. By doing so, as Chris wrote today, they struck at “leisure, livelihood, and the freedom of choice.”

We grieve with them. We wonder what is next.

And we fear.

There is so much fear, even as we want to strike back.

We forget what FDR said: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is… fear itself — nameless unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”

Some of us have additional concerns that strike a chill in our hearts. I will admit I understand completely where some military spouses are coming from when they hear the cries of “We must fight ISIS!” and immediately shudder. To the world and to our nation, it is the US military that will be asked to do the fighting, often by people who are unwilling or unable to do that fighting themselves. But to us, it is our family who would be asked to fight and sacrifice.

How do we keep fear from winning?

Chris put it beautifully:  “What I know is this. As shocking, horrifying and mind-numbing as the attacks on Paris are, there are points and times when a person must turn it all off and unplug. Leave the doubts and worry to those who are in charge of logistics. Find a way to help those in need, if one feels compelled to do so. Live your daily life. Remember what happened in Paris, in Beirut and in other places but do not let them consume you. For those that are affiliated with the military, yes.. deployments may happen. Yet those deployments probably would’ve happened even if the Paris attacks had not have happened. Thus, the importance of resuming normalcy is more important than ever. Take the time together that you have now and make the most of it. Just do not do it out of fear.”

Fear not. Be prepared and self-aware, but fear not.  When we live, they lose.

Why We Allow Personal Days

It may not be a particularly popular idea, but we allow Little G one non-health-related “Personal Day” per quarter. Obviously, if her grades are hurting or if she has been ill a lot that quarter or that semester, this gets revisited, but we allow her to call “time out” one day per quarter and just – stay home.

She can’t do this if she has a concert that night, or if she is supposed to babysit that evening. If she is well enough, in any regard, to do those evening obligations, then she’s well enough to go to school.

But, otherwise, yes, she can stay home.

Why? Aren’t we trying to teach her responsibility? Don’t we think school is IMPORTANT? Aren’t we trying to help her mature and become familiar with the REAL WORLD? Doesn’t she get enough time off in the summer/winter/etc?

Well, yes. And we also know that sometimes as adults we can call time-out and request a personal day. We take vacations. We get weekends, usually. And we are responsible enough to know when we need to bring work home and when we need to work longer hours and when it is ok to let the office go on without us for a minute.

We want her to learn that same kind of mutual responsibility. Responsibility towards obligations like learning and school attendance and singing her heart out at concerts and caring for others (while making more money than I did doing the same). And responsibility towards herself.

Self-care is an important idea in our family, and with good reason. She is the only person who will know her limits, and she can and will stretch those. She is the only person who will ultimately know her needs, and will be able to seek out help when she has some. As her mother, it is my responsibility to help her identify those needs, and to address them as appropriate.

“These kids are already so lazy and entitled…and this is why!”

I have a friend who teaches at a high school, and she has said her administration lets the kids get away with so much disrespect it is sickening. Students have literally stolen from her and gotten in her face, with little to no consequence, and her hands are tied. These are not the kids I am talking about. These are schools and systems that have utterly lost their way and I don’t have answers for those situations.

The kids I am talking about are the ones who are expected, regardless of personal affinity, to join clubs and extra-curriculars, to do exceptionally well at (honors, preferably) classes, to have an idea what they should do in college and beyond, to pass exceedingly & increasingly difficult and vague exams, to work part-time, to learn how to drive, to keep their rooms clean, to be nice to people, to volunteer, and to still fit in with their peers. This does not include the outside pressure they feel to look or act a certain way. If they’d rather work with their hands or muck in the dirt, they are told they won’t succeed and better go to college. (Thankfully, this last part is changing, thanks in part to people like Mike Rowe and his efforts.)

This is at the same time that they are going through the biggest brain and body changes that they have ever gone through, with the possible exception of birth to age two. Think of your baby when they were first born. Then think about them a year or two later. Think of the vast changes that occur.  Your teenager is going through the same kinds of brain changes now; they just are able to walk and talk and wipe their own rears. Some even do laundry.

I’m not saying that we expect too much of these amazing people. They are capable of so much. I just think we need to be realistic and supportive. And, for us, that looks like a Personal Day.

Personal Day

Shows shown are only suggestions, not really what I or Little G plan to watch. But this is what I’m pretty sure she’s planning on doing for her Day.

The Splinter of our Discontent

Do you ever have days where it feels as though there is a splinter, or a thorn, or some sort of irritating thistle rubbing and scratching you, just below the surface?

No?

Liar.

I don’t usually start my blogs by calling people names, of course, but I am a pretty good study of human nature and I know without a doubt that there are days when something or someone is just getting to you.

And you probably wish there were a way to just wiggle that little splinter on out.

Everything else may be going absolutely wonderfully, but the feeling of that little scratch, scratch, scratch is making you just a little crazy.  You might not be able to appreciate the wonderfulness around you, because of the irritant.

One year, we went to Disneyland, which is one of my very favorite places.  The very first morning, I smacked my ankle HARD on a bike rack.  The resulting (swelling) bruise made it very difficult to enjoy anything because the pain was a distraction.  Disneyland hadn’t changed. It was still magical.  I just couldn’t appreciate it.

Sometimes relationships can be affected by “splinters” or “bruises,” too.  The person has not changed.  Our relationship with them is still amazing, strong, and otherwise satisfying.  But the circumstances of our lives get in the way and we feel like there is a splinter irritating us.

We think, “Gee, if I could just get rid of this splinter, things would be great.”

The thing is, when we remove a splinter, sometimes we can be pretty harsh.  We try using our fingertips at first, and maybe we get part of it out. Then we try the tweezers, trying to grab the end of the thing.  If we can’t reach the tip, then we might widen the opening. Sometimes we open it WAY up. and the splinter is still there but now we have a wound.

Sometimes we ignore it, and hope it will go away on its own.

Sometimes it gets infected.

Sometimes, we need help.  We need someone to shine a bright light on the splinter, and help us see more clearly to fix the problem.

All of these things apply to relationships, too.  We can be pretty harsh when we are irritated by something outside of the relationship that is causing problems inside the relationship.  We snap at each other, we get irrationally irritated by the same things that have been there since the beginning of the relationship but now we feel like we can’t bear it any more.

Sometimes we need help. Sometimes we need someone to look at the “splinter” under a strong light and use a fine touch to help us see where the problem is.

Sometimes, in our marriage or other connections, we need to go and do something nice for or with each other to ease the wound or the irritation.

We are in a season of our lives, My G and I, where things are really, really good.  We have an older daughter who is independent and happy. We have a younger one who is finding her strength and spirit. We are coming to the end of a mostly-satisfying career (his) and have reached the end of an educational goal (me), and we are dreaming big dreams together.  And we like each other.

The splinter is caused by the restless “what next” feeling that we are both facing, talking about where we want to live and trying to get our professional feet underneath us so we won’t be living in the car once he retires. There is both an abundance and a dearth of time before he will be finished with this part of our lives – and the push-pull urgency/inertia is getting to both of us.

Nothing has changed in our marriage, but we sometimes get distracted by the scratchy irritant.  And so we are making time for each other, and for fun. We make plans for more frequent dates that have nothing to do with the Army.  And we know without a doubt that the splinter will work its way out, with or without help, because we have faced other “splinters”.  I know that he is not the cause of my frustration or irritation.  I know that I am not the cause of his distraction or impatience.

We are not each other’s splinter.  But we can be the bright light for each other, and shine a focus on the solution.

ThornsAnd roses

Thinking Thursday – What Makes You Proud Today?

I am tired, and brain-weary. I have a stack of books to sell back, a smaller stack to keep and organize, and pages upon pages of notes to recycle/toss/shred/something.

The term is done.  The last two classes only await the final grades – all papers, discussion boards, etc are turned in.  These are the last two classes of the program to earn my Masters’ Degree in Human Services Counseling, Marriage & Family.

Done.

(Today I also applied to two different jobs and paid bills.  It’s been a busy morning.)

I feel kind of numb inside, though, you know?  I mean, it’s been full throttle moving forward, study study study, write write write…  I completed a really big goal, and accomplished something no one in my immediate family has done before.

But now it’s done, and I am in a similar position as what I was in before – applying for jobs and unsure of what the future holds.

I’m really tired of being “between”.  And I guess that’s what this blog is all about, finding out where I’m coming from and seeking the open door at the end of the hallway.  Mostly, I am ok with this.  Today, I am kind of…done.

I will add that I am really proud that I finished this challenge, that I did well, and that I learned a lot.  For that reason, today’s question allows you to toot your own horn:

What are you proud of, today?

Let’s celebrate, together.  For those things that are finished and fulfilled, for those feelings that are strong, or muddled – let’s celebrate.

Piles Upon Piles....

Piles Upon Piles….

Thinking Thursday: What Would You Like to Talk About?

There is so much going on in the world that we don’t talk about in polite company.  There is a whole list of things, in fact, that sometimes reads like George Carlin’s famous list of curse words he’d get censored for saying.

Guns.

Sex.

Money.

Religion.

Politics.

And yet, at the root of it, there is much that we need to talk about, as people and as a country, in a more civilized and actually listening way than we ever have before.

Guns.

Sex.

Money.

Religion.

Politics.

Emotions are high about these subjects, because we all have our preconceived notions that surround them. Certain words pop up and our ears just close until we are shrouded in a sea of silence – a sea we have created ourselves.  We put up protective barriers around ourselves so we don’t hear things that make us uncomfortable, or we refuse opportunities to discuss important things in fear that we might disappoint people who love us by feeling a different way than they do.

Both of these things, refusing to listen and being unable to talk, mean that we miss out.

Both of these mean that things do not change, and when they do change, no one is happy about it.

So my question for you this thinking Thursday is,

What do you wish you could talk about?

What topics make you the most passionate…or the most afraid?

Which topics bring you joy?  Or offer a sadness that desperately needs the reprieve of sharing?

I hope you’ll share with me.  I hope we can be brave together.

I have much on my mind, as well, and in the next few days I have some words to say about the topics I listed above.  I’ve talked about religion before, so that has become rather easy for me.  But other topics are still so verboten that only the most stalwart (or angry) seem to be able to write about them.  I don’t want to close people off when I write, so my passion (anger, sadness, joy, regret) will need to be carefully explained.  But still I will write.

Even about the topics that scare us.

Even about the topics that worry us.

Even about the topics that divide us, because we do not listen.  Or care.  Or both.

Will you join me?

Walk with me a ways.

Walk with me a ways.

Thank you, Dr. T.

One of the things that I write about from time to time is the fact that I have moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears.  I began having trouble hearing things well when I was about 10 years old; I remember the soundproof booth at the University, and how claustrophobic it made me.  I write about my experiences because I think it is important for those of us with hearing loss to share with others, so that those who are beginning this journey have some answers, some information, and some hope.

Whatever I can share, I will.

Tomorrow I go in for a one-week follow-up on my new hearing aids.  Forgive me for getting technical, but I have two Oticon Alta2 Pros, which are behind the ear (BTE) and absolutely amazing.  Before this, I had Oticon Agils, but the sound quality and receptivity of the new programming and technology is astounding. I could not be happier.  Tomorrow I will tell my audiologist that they are 95% perfect and I am so very happy that I was able to make the change.  I will ask her to add some programming I need so I can stream music via Bluetooth straight to my ears.  I am still a little giddy at this.

However, there is a downside to my appointment tomorrow.  My audiologist is leaving, and taking a position closer to her home but far from mine.  She is everything an audiologist should be:  Knowledgeable, honest, helpful, and friendly (Ok that last one is just what I would like).  She faces me when she talks, she speaks and enunciates clearly at all times. She shares just a little of herself, and asks about me.  She asks about my sound environment, and what kind of sound I prefer.  She listens.  She hears.

I don’t know who my new audiologist will be, but Dr. T. has set the standard pretty high.  Tomorrow I will give her a thank you note, and a little Starbucks card, and I will share the following:

Thank You, to Dr. T.  

It’s just hearing …
Just sound, just noise.
Not cancer, not babies, not wound-mending knack.
But they don’t know the things I know
Because they can hear, but simply won’t.

What you can do
Is magic, a gift.
You grant sound, where sound never was
And make it more fulsome where once it played.
You make music resound
And become a symphony again.
You help the birds to sing,
Where dawn’s silence trembled.

Let the fridge hum and the neighbor’s dog bark
Let the moths tap at the glass.
In the fullness of sound, I rejoice at noise
Which is normal, which is natural
Which is mine.

I wanted to hear voices more clearly again
And converse, and share, and delight.
I have that afresh, and so much more
Because you were called
And answered the plea
And have the skill, and heart.
To conjure sound, where sound couldn’t be.

(Copyright 9/2015, Casey Fogle)

Best things ever.

Best things ever.

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Seriously. Teeny, shiny, and THEY WORK.