Sunday, July 9, 2017

Emotional magnet or sponge?

I've said it so many times I've lost count.  I am an emotional magnet.  But today's reading in More Language of Letting Go makes me think I am more like an emotional sponge.

Part of telling your story in recovery means sharing what it was like, what happened, and what it's like now.  I'm not and have never been an addict to substances like alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex.  I tend more toward the co-dependent type, a care-taker and martyr.  We're no less sick than those who find themselves driven by the compulsion toward their addiction.

Like a recovering addict, I have to constantly and consistently "work my program".  One of the most vital character traits I must be aware of and intentional about is my emotional health.  It was both shocking and liberating to discover at one point that I was rarely, if ever, cognizant of my own feelings, my emotional condition.  Don't get me wrong, I was plenty emotional - all.the.time...  Many bad decisions were made in the heat of those emotions.  Some habits were borne out of the constant stream of emotional turbulence I lived in.  But they were rarely my own emotions.  I fed off the emotions of every nearby human being, completely unaware of my own but weaving them right in to an unrecognizable tangled mess that ruled my behavior.  Then I found help.

Feelings are not facts.  What are the facts?  There is a whole collection of tools to employ to help maintain my emotional sobriety, and I use them all, and I use them often.

Considering the reading this morning, it occurs to me that there are some differences between a magnet and a sponge.  I realize I am more of a magnet in some situations and with some people and with others I am definitely more of a sponge.  A magnet simply attracts and attaches to certain objects (emotions); a magnet also repels certain objects.  I've learned to do that, simply avoid or turn around and walk (or run) away.  This can be helpful when simply separating my magnetic self from other people's stuff isn't working very well. Either way, the goal is to separate emotions without damaging either party.

But then there are the sponge situations. A sponge soaks up every possible drop until it can absorb no more, and then it simply drips dry or must be rung out (or lingers in the stuff and becomes a stinky, gross mess, and nobody wants that! Come to think of it, that's exactly what a lot of people do!! Lightbulb moment).  I think I lean more toward the emotional sponge when it comes to my kids.  Seems completely understandable to me.  I have at least one kid with whom I am convinced I share an inseparable emotional umbilical cord.  This is not a healthy thing.  It just is what it is.  When she is sick, I feel it.  When she is sad, depressed, scared, worried, angry, I feel it.  When she is happy, excited, joyful, enthusiastic - I feel it.  Right now, she is about eleven weeks pregnant - fortunately, I don't feel that! :-) But I do feel the lack of energy, the weight of depression and worry she is experiencing about a myriad of things.  We are connected in a unique way that really defies full explanation.  Let me tell you, that when I talk to this girl on the phone, in person or even via texts, I know what's she's feeling even if the words aren't expressing it.  Lately, when I am feeling something that doesn't make sense with my own situation, I know there is something going on with her.  I've been known to call her and ask, what's going on because I feel __________(fill in the blank).  And I've been right, it's bizarre.

I am a sponge with all my kids though, even though four out of the five are adults.  I suppose you could say that it's because I love them and care for them, of course.  I want good things for them, and pray that no harm ever comes to them.  But I have to be aware of the line between their feelings, their situations, their choices and mine.  Some days and some situations take more ringing-out than others. Most just require some drying time. And if this analogy is really going to make sense, a damp sponge is probably more desirable than a dried up, crusty old sponge or a dripping, messy, soppy overly-soaked sponge.  Balance.  Most things always come back to balance.

Are you a magnet or a sponge?

Simply Sam


What's the occasion?

Last night we went to dinner at Bonefish Grill.  First, just let me say, "YUM!"

Trying to get out of our slump comfort zone, John and I have been branching out a bit from our tried and true restaurants.  We don't really love leaving the comfort of our comfy clothes and our cozy four walls, but we also don't love feeling like life its passing us by, or knowing that if we don't work at it there is always the threat of weeds growing up around our relationship.  So, as we are transitioning to a new season of life where we can do pretty much anything we want without worrying about other people's schedule, we hope and plan to continue to stretch ourselves in different ways; more dates (at new places), dance lessons, working out together :-0, euchre nights, trips-for-two :-) ...

Anyway, I digress just a bit from where I started in my thoughts.  Last night.  Bonefish Grill.  I waited until pretty late in the day to make reservations and by the time I called they weren't able to make a reservation for ELEVEN.  Imagine that - no last minute seating for eleven people at a nice upscale restaurant.  Who waits until two hours beforehand to make a reservation?  I know, I know - lesson learned.  They were, however, able to take reservations for two groups, hopefully seated as close together as possible.  Fingers crossed.  These days most restaurants won't even take reservations, they'll take call ahead waiting for a short period but rarely reservations.  At least at the places we normally enjoy.  Aha!  Getting out of the comfort zone is already teaching us something, right?

We arrived a bit early and the hostess let me know that they were working on getting us at tables near each other.  Yay!  As it turns out, by the time the entire party arrived they had our table ready, all of us together at one table.  Double yay!!

Appetizers, drinks, the meal - oh, my heavens the meal (and dessert!!!). But if you ask me today what the best part of the evening was, although I could go on and on about the excellent service, indulgently delicious food, and wonderful atmosphere, I wouldn't be telling you the very best part.  The very best part was when the staff asked us what occasion we were celebrating, our answer was simply, friendship.

You see, my sweet husband and I were joined by two of our daughters and their husbands, and my kindred-spirit friend, her husband, one of their sons, and their daughter and her fiancĂ©.  That might not seem strange at first, it's not unusual for best friends to go out together with their sweethearts, but this night was one year and one day since God worked mercy and miracles in our lives.  If you have read any of my past posts here, you might remember me writing about a friendship - once broken, and then healed, restored.  A gift, truly, to my soul and spirit.  And it's not just my friend and my friendship that was restored, it was our daughters' friendship with each other and the friendship we share with each others' daughters, one that prompts an affectionate Aunt Susan (now Aunt Sam - but that's another story lol) from young adults, once the kids I considered my own by heart-desire.  I can't imagine my future without these beautiful souls in my life, I don't want to imagine it.  I am so deeply, profoundly grateful for God's mercy and for the forgiveness I received from my kindred-spirit friend.

So what is the occasion?  Friendship, kindred-spirit friendship, and family by blood and by heart.

Amen


Simply Susan Sam


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Did you know...

...that my nickname is Sam?  Why would you know, unless you are a RL friend - you know "real life" friend.  But yeah, it is, and I prefer it over Susan.  I've even attempted a couple times in my grown up life, where most everyone knows me as Susan, to get folks to use my nickname.  I really am more of a Sam than a Susan.  I love that my granddaughter is named after me, my nickname-sake :-)

Why Sam? Because my birthday is October 31, Halloween.  It's amazing to me how many people notice that date is Halloween when they have to ask for my birthdate.  Apparently, people love Halloween. :-). Anyway... growing up my mom always told me it was because being born on Halloween makes me a witch and the most well known good witch at the time was Samantha on Bewitched.  I loved Bewitched!  So I was happy to be named after my favorite witch.

Then I got older and the truth came out.  My dad and brother, who was two years old at the time, had decided, while I was still baking, that I was a boy and that my name was Sam.  Surprise, surprise - it was a girl!  But Sam it was, and is still today, to my family back home.

Having a rock solid memory of my childhood I remember in detail when my kindergarten teacher asked me if I preferred my nickname or my given name for school.  Wow, I didn't know I got to choose!  So hey, let's switch this up a bit - I want to be Susan for a while.  Well, a while turned into my entire future life.  But at heart, I'm still very much Sam.  So, call me Sam.  It'll bring a smile to my face.

Sam ;-)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dear Bloggy

That's what I'm choosing to call you, for now.  I have to take a moment to write just a little something about our day.  It's July 4th.  Yep, it's Independence Day.  We actually had one of the best family gathering days ever.

It was strange not having Sarah and Brad and the rugrats here, but at least we have Facetime :-)   

We're a gettin' older, and packing up and going to any of the local firework displays isn't high on our list of things we want to do; the crowds, the mosquitos, the heat, traffic... you might get the picture.  Well, Rachel isn't grown up yet, not grown up enough to want to go to the fireworks by herself.  So knowing that we weren't planning to go tonight she pouted (seriously pouted) all day long.  Her attempt to change minds, of course.  Well, her dad is really just a teddy bear in a grown man's body.  I was actualy feeling kind of crappy about not going anywhere so I stepped out on our deck to see what I could see.  Truth? I couldn't see much, but I sure could hear a lot!

Anyway, the conversation turned to the fact that some of the fireworks we were seeing were probably just down the road in our neighborhood or the one adjacent to us, just a short drive away my husband (the teddy bear) pointed out.  He asked if we wanted to drive down.  We jumped on that idea.     So our the door quickly, barefoot, with just the keys to the car and house and my phone, we ended up driving to the parking lot of the high school near the big fireworks we usually enjoy.  We weren't alone, but we weren't part of a mob either.  It was actually incredibly nice to sit together, at the last minute with no lugging stuff from the car a mile or more away and dealing with the typical drama of crowds, and enjoying a great view!  The minute the finale was over, we drove right out of the parking lot and here I am less than 20 minutes later in my bed snuggled up to the love of my life writing this little blog post. LOL  

I guess I just wanted to take a moment to write to the future me, like next year future me, because I've noticed I have a habit of looking back at holidays and other special memories.  I like to see where I was and how much I've learned.  One thing I'm learning is that the unplanned moments are almost always the best.  I couldn't have planned that 30 minutes ahead of time if I'd tried.  I mean now I know that we could do the same thing next year but who knows what could get in the way of it working out as smoothly as it did?    

 I am also learning that sometimes I simply make things too complicated.  I make mountains out of molehills, truly I do.  I waste too much time fretting that I could be using to just get things done, whatever the thing is right in front of me.   Writing this post could be considered one of those things.  Just do it.  I know I'll be glad I do.  I know I'll be sad if I don't.  There's already way too much I wish I had written about so I'd always have it to look back on.  I've been confused about the audience for this space when all along it should have just been an online journal for my family.  Can't go wrong with that.

Good night and happy 4th of July.  We really, really do have so much to be grateful for as a nation.  As corney as it sounds, I'm proud to be an American.  

 Simply Sam

Friday, June 23, 2017

People before things

It's about relationships.  That's what we keep hearing, isn't it?  I totally agree, it is certainly about relationships.  What we don't always hear about are the things we have to put aside in order to make sure relationships get the time and attention they need to be nurtured.

I'm sure there are some folks who come by this naturally, but I'm not one of them.  I was always one of those who repeatedly told the child who was asking to play a board game - "Not right now.  I have to ______" (fill in the blank - and it was usually something to do with cleaning or maintaining our household).  I'm not now, but as fate often has it, my kids all are pretty much grown up now.  All but one are actually adults.  The one teen still left at home keeps me on my toes with her insistence that we keep our relationship first.  I'm not as good at it as either of us would like, but I'm certainly better than I ever was with her older siblings. In part, that's because I am selfish and don't want to live with the guilt it induces when I realize at the end of the day that I put off doing a simple thing that would nourish a relationship in order to attempt to complete or at the very least start some project.

Feeling guilty about mistakes that I have learned not to make is not on my bucket list.  I'm sure it's not on anyone's, but now I know there is something I can do about it.  I can stop whatever thing I'm working on or towards and pay attention to the person right in front of me.  It might be complete attention to listen to a story, or a hurt, or watch a funny SnapChat.  Maybe it's to listen to the list of things they're requesting from the grocery next time I go shopping and they know me well enough to know that there's a very good chance that I'm not fully listening to them - experience does teach some things very well - and they want to make sure I hear them.

The list of ways people seek my time and attention (and yours I'm sure) is pretty much endless.  I'm finding it very hard to get anything done around this house.  I'm not really sure I'm okay with that yet, but I'm too tired to worry about it. LOL

People before things; I first heard it in La Leche League referring to our babies' needs versus the work waiting to be done.  It's the idea behind poems like Babies Don't Keep.

  "Dusting and sweeping can wait 'till tomorrow, for babies grow up we've learned to our sorrow.  So go to bed cobwebs, dust to to sleep,  I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep" 

Neither do grown babies.  They're always going to be our babies, no matter how old they get!  So they always come before dusting and sweeping, dishes and laundry.  And many times, so do the people in our lives who aren't even our babies. :-) It's hard letting that be a reality.  We can't always do both, and when it comes time to choose, God help me keep people before things.

Monday, June 19, 2017

An uphill battle

Do you ever feel like that's what you're in?  Some days... 

You know, when you can't seem to find 12 minutes to sit down and do one little thing you really want to do, like write a quick post for your lonely little blog?  Well, apparently not everyone would be interested in doing that with their 12 minutes, and it's definitely not the top priority for me if I get an extra 12 minutes.  But, if I had an extra-extra 12 minutes, that's what I would want to do.  Sit down and blog a little. Do I have an extra-extra 12 minutes you might ask?  No, I don't, but I took them anyway.  I know that if writing is important to me it's not something that's just going to land in my lap.  I have to work at it.  I plan to work at it.  There are just a few other things that take precedence at the moment.  One being taking my now-closer-to-17-than-16 year old daughter to the paddles boats.  Listen, I have a sweet kid who really likes spending time with me.  Who am I to turn away from that?  And some days my nature, the one that wants to do what I want to do, tries to take over and keep me from saying "yes" to better things.  Not today.  We are off to the city park for our annual paddle boat adventure. 

The good thing about uphill battles?  Once you hit the top you get to enjoy the ride down the other side.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

We can do this

In the past six years I have worked conscientiously toward de-cluttering our home.  It's been done in fits and spurts.  There have been days and weeks when I drove my mini-van to the local Salvation Army filled to the brim with everything imaginable - books, toys, clothes, books, kitchen appliances, pet supplies, army gear, books, furniture, craft supplies, homeschool curriculum, books.  I even tried having a couple yard sales in hopes of recouping at least a tiny fraction of the money I spent on the myriad of things I collected over the years.  Five kids, 23 moves, homeschooling, hoarder DNA and "idea junkie" - I (we) had collected a LOT of stuff.

We live in a four bedroom, two-story house with a basement (with two more bedrooms) and a garage we have never been able to actually use for our vehicles.  When we first moved into this house, we owned a GMC 3500, dual wheel, full size bed, full-size crew cab pick up.  You probably wouldn't expect to be able to store that vehicle in a typical suburban garage, I'll grant you that much. But the garage became the overflow for everything I couldn't store, stuff or cram into any other square inch of the house.  It was a certain recipe for misery.

Moving about every two to three years as a military family forced us, for a while, to sift through unnecessary belongings and at least try to leave behind what we didn't really need, use or love. Perhaps that what kept it a bay for such a long time.  My husband retired from the military just a few years after we moved into this house and although we have never EVER thought of this house as our forever home - here we are, still.  We've lived in this house longer than my husband has ever lived anywhere his entire life.  I still have a little ways to go before I can say I've been in this house longer than the one where I grew up. After the first four years passed and we weren't packing up to move to the next duty station, the clutter began to expand - in all directions.

There were still boxes and totes my dear husband we had never even opened from the last duty station being moved from one place to another in our house and in and out of the garage.  There was an ever increasing amount of books, because well - for one thing we were homeschooling, for another my husband and I both LOVE books and we have a really hard time letting go of them.  There were kids books, baby books, photo books, curriculum (can you say curriculum junkie?) college text books (from 1984), gardening books, self-help books, bibles, devotionals, fiction...  We actually could have been a branch of our local library, I'm - not - kidding.  There was craft supplies, sewing supplies and all the great and wonderful gadgets my generous mom had purchased over the years in hopes that I would find something, anything, in that arena that I might actually do.

Then there was the party planning, entertaining, I-want-to-be-a-chef collections.  Catering supplies, paper products, decorations, linens, COOKBOOKS, oh the cookbooks.  There will be a separate post related to this topic...

My husband is (was) a computer geek.  Everyone we know has given him a computer at some point either in hopes that he could repair it or just so he'd have "spare parts".  At the current time, we have approximately 42 computers (I may be exaggerating by say 10), 10 towers (obsolete towers), cables, cords, discs, programs, adapters, etc. taking up residence in our garage, basement and two bedrooms.  This my friends, is the final frontier.  He assures me that he will be ready to part with them soon... sighhh.

Five kids and one income family means hand-me-downs, so I saved every stitch of clothing ever bought or given to us because "someday" someone will wear that, right?  Different duty stations, different climates, different wardrobes.  Mama getting bigger, mama getting smaller, mama getting bigger, mama getting smaller - and I don't mean from pregnancy.  If I moved from one size clothing I always hung on to the old stuff because I never knew when I'd be right back where I started.  Clothing remains one of my greatest challenges. And shoes.  We still have too many pairs of shoes.  And socks, who on earth needs this many socks? And why is there a basket or box or pile of socks that haven't seen their match in like a year? or two?

Power tools, broken power washer, scrap wood, gardening supplies, pallets, paper, filing waiting to be done, photos not in books, memorabilia set aside for when I get around to scrap booking, decor I've grown tired of or never liked in the first place, things purchased that need to be returned but have exceeded the return date, curtains from six duty stations ago, stuff other people don't have room for and have decided our house is a good storage facility for, and last but not least (not even last really but for this list we'll make it last) things people I love have given me that are no longer wanted or needed and I refuse to get rid of or pass on to someone else simply because I think it will hurt their feelings if they ever visit and can't find it proudly displayed front and center.  God help us all, because I know for certain I am not the only one who has traveled down this road.

In fact, the older I get the more my eyes are opened to see that there are more of us rather than less.  Our stuff has become a no-kidding serious problem for many of us.  I have been reading and hearing more and more often this idea that a cluttered mind results from a cluttered life - our physical clutter, mental clutter, emotional clutter and spiritual clutter.  It makes us sick and robs us of the wonder and joy that we could be experiencing if we would just make better choices in what we allow ourselves to "own".  How simple its that?  It seems crazy simple, right?  Explain that to the woman who hides herself in her bathroom and cries because she's so overwhelmed with trying to keep up.  The woman who is constantly telling her kids who ask her to play a game with her, not right now, I have to clean the house.  The woman who gets up every day and wonders if this is all there is.  Am I just a maid?  Is this all I will ever be able to do - cook, clean, do laundry, hunt for thing my family needs amidst the chaos that has become our home?  I've been that woman, and as simple as it seems, it's not easy.  But it is possible.

Now don't get me wrong, I love, love, love being a stay-at-home mom and these things are the ways we express our sacrificial love to  our family.  I'm talking about when it gets so out of balance that we're missing the point.  And herein lies the challenge.  I have recently been reading two different approaches that on the surface would seem like they contradict each other.  But it's always about the balance, isn't it?

On the one hand, I've been reading Never Unfriended by Lisa Jo-Baker and loving it.  In her chapter titled Create (Imperfect) Time and Space Together, she talks about the profound need for women to be ready to share themselves with others right where they are whether they think they're ready or not.  Yoga (sweat) pants, pony tails, dirty dishes and even the most extreme messes we live with raising a family.  Right where we are - we need to invite other women into our space and let them see what it really looks like when we think no one else will see it. This is where we will find our true girl friends, the ones that stick around for life and know us inside and out.  The girl friends we can sit for hours and hours and hours talking and leave still knowing we could talk more if we had the time.  This is the kind of friendship that is fast becoming extinct with Facebook, Instagram and other social media.  We all know this, we see it, we feel it and yet so many of us aren't taking the steps to change the tide.  What we stand to lose is something I'm not willing to let go without a fight.  Another topic for a separate post soon :-)

That being said, the other thing I've been reading/watching is Allie Casazza, a gal who is inspiring and helping so many moms become more intentional about their lives through minimalism living. The current thing happening is De-Clutter Like a Mother!  It's a 30 day challenge to help cut through the clutter in our homes in the 31 days of May.  Everything I see her sharing is what I have learned over the course of the last six years - that's about how long it's taken me on my own de-cluttering journey, and I'm not quite at maintenance phase yet, but I'm really, really close. I would encourage anyone, particularly young mamas, to check out her blog, Facebook, etc...  I think she is right on about the reasons it's so important to consider living a more clutter-free life, in every way.

And there we find the seeming contradiction - on the one hand I agree wholeheartedly that we should allow people into our space right where we are, messy and real and ordinary.  At the same time, I believe that striving to live a life free of unnecessary clutter makes room for extraordinary relationships with people rather than stuff.  Unless you were lucky enough to start out with this mindset, you may decide that there is room for change in your own life.  May I suggest a balance of these two ideas?  Go ahead and invite people into your imperfect space and time.  Welcome the unexpected visitors with open arms and be glad for the time with them rather than fretting over the condition of your space.  At the same time, start slowly and steadily finding your way to a life with less stuff; fewer belongings to cope with in your home, fewer commitments on your calendar and more white space, less worry and anxiety and more joy.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Inbetween

Time moves quickly and slowly all at once.  I can't believe it's the last day of April already, but at the same time I can't believe it's not later.  Weird.  Rain, storms, more rain.  The heat will come, I know, and I will complain.  There really isn't enough time in the transition to enjoy its weather when it's perfect, not too hot, not too cold.  Sometimes I think this is where I want to live - in the transition.

One foot in where I've been and one foot in where I'm going, not sure I'm ready to stay and not sure I'm ready to go.  This somewhat describes my life right now.  I'm an almost-empty-nester with one grown child packing up and leaving to a place far-far away soon - and taking the grandkids with her.  The youngest just got her driver's license and we're working toward more and more independence for her which means lots less chauefering for me. 

Feeling uninspired lately and at the same time overwhelmed with ideas about what to do with the "extra" white space appearing on my calendar.  Feeling quilty that I have loved my "job" as a stay-at-home-mom and wife all these years and my sweet husband goes to a job every day that he really has grown to loathe. Thoughts of how I can move into a season of doing something else I love and somehow, down the road a bit, contribute in a way that allows him to make choices to do something he loves.  The voice in my head on Friday that whispered, "You could just get a job" jolted me at the core and sent me into a mental and emotional downward spiral of self-pity and semi-depression. 

What will the next season really look like when we get there?  How much of the season we're leaving behind will we miss and want to cling to? How do I remain purposeful in the season that is not quite behind us and still embrace the things coming our way in the new season?

Only God knows...


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Out of the mouth of a babe

--- who isn't a babe any more; he is my grown son, whom I adore.  He's not always around these days, busy with work and school, so we don't get to have conversations as much as we once did.  Today what he had to say seemed as if God had placed just the right words on his lips for my heart to hear. 

"Words are powerful, Mom." 

Yes, Joshua, they most certainly are. He went on to share some things, and to be perfectly honest I couldn't tell you exactly what he said but I definitely know what he was "saying" - you see how powerful words are?  I don't even remember the words, I just remember the meaning behind them.  It all just seemed to reinforce what I have been mulling over and over in my space.  How to use words wisely because they do hold so much power.  Power to hurt or help, power to kill or give life, power to discourage or encourage. I know which I want to do.

I've been seeing the current of conversation between my favorite writers and bloggers move in the same direction, touching some very serious and relevant-to-me topics.  Many times, I find that what has already been on my heart and mind for weeks or months is surfacing in these threads of conversation, so I know I've found my "tribe".

What to do with that now...

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Holiday Hangover

That's what I call the days following a three or four day weekend - Holiday Hangover.

As much as I enjoy the time off with my family, I sure do pay the price in the days immediately after their return to normal routines.  First of all, I am truly a creature of habit.  I'd really like to be able to say I'm a creature of rhythm, but I'm still a work-in-progress in that area.  I cling to my good habits like a life raft.  When it's taken from me (or willingly given over), even for good things and good times, it takes me a minute to get my bearings back.  Needless to say, I'm a little grumpy today.  I know it won't last long, because I know what I have to do to release myself from what is making me that way, but allow me a moment to recognize and perhaps even label this little 'mood'.

In most ways I look forward to a break from the busy morning schedule; waking the troops, breakfast for all, lunches packed, necessary housework - somebody's gotta do it, right? I enjoy lingering in my comfy sweatpants and t-shirt while I read a little more, write a little more, play a little more, sip a little more jo - you get the picture.  But that necessary housework - it doesn't take a break from needing to be done.  And if/when I take a break from doing it, I have to play catch-up eventually and that leads to and heavily contributes to Holiday Hangover. 

So my mission today is to continue to build and maintain good habits that help alleviate that feeling of overwhelm when everyone returns to their routine and I am left to re-focus my efforts.  I don't want to wish away the all-too-fleeting precious time and good memories created when we have the opportunity, and I don't want to suffer from this nagging feeling of - what am I doing wrong?  Why is it so hard to come away from such times without blender-brain? There must be a better way of managing my time and energy.  I'm not asking for perfection, just progress...