Saturday, January 26, 2013
Randomness - Thoughts That Wander Through My Mind
Earlier this week I began to feel a bit irritable and antsy. Nothing seemed to satisfy me, everything was a source of frustration in some way. I came to the blog three, four, eight times to post and went away without writing so much as a word. And then it occurred to me the source of the trouble: I was out of balance again. I hadn't had a coffee chat or written a post on my spiritual observations. I was all one thing and one thing only. That's why I originally gave up Penny Ann Poundwise and why I found her so constricting and uncomfortable. But I see now it's not that old persona that is the trouble, it's me. I can be too single-minded at times, too focused on one thing and nothing else. It's that little edge of obsession that creeps in now and then.
Now, of course, I recognize that what I need is to post random bits. So here goes:
Goodbye, Dear Soul: Word came this morning that a dear doctor died. He moved a few years ago, back to his home state and I was terribly sad to see him go. I met him first when Samuel was two and at last old enough to see a General Practitioner rather than a Pediatrician per our insurance company. He saw my children and I through all the usual childhood afflictions and illnesses, a couple of hospitalizations, a couple of marriages. He saw us through a few family crisis as well.
He was just a good man, unfailingly kind, sometimes frustrated, but rarely did I see him show the sort of temperamental attitude that other doctors sometimes displayed. I never saw his ego get in the way of his character, as some doctors' allowed to happen. I had the privilege of not only calling him my family doctor but also worked with him in a professional capacity. Again, that is one of the beauties of small town living. Lives tend to overlap a bit more than they might other places.
I have a world of memories of this man in his professional capacity, dealing with patients, family, board meetings. I think the one that makes me laugh the most involved a patient at the nursing home where I worked. Mr. H had a cyst of some sort in his abdomen that would swell and cause discomfort and required repeated treatments. Eventually the time came to consider surgery. I was asked to accompany him to the doctor's office and make sure that he understood what was required, etc. So there we sit, Mr. H. and I and in comes dear Dr. "Mr. H., I'm afraid that we need to operate on that cyst," says the Dr. "Well....", said Mr. H. slowly, "...If you're afraid to operate, I'm afraid to let you!" The look of complete consternation on Dr.'s face made me laugh out loud, no doubt the exact wrong thing to have done, but the logic of Mr. H. and the doctor's face were just too much for me. Mr. H. turned to me and said "Take me home, Miss," and the doctor nodded for me to go. He knew there was no way he could argue the point that day.
Eventually Mr. H and the doctor came to an agreement and he was operated on. And as Dr. told me later, "I've learned to choose my words more carefully." lol
I have many other happy laughing memories of this good doctor. He took delight in my Katie, in all children really, which made him the favored doctor in the county for children. And children loved him.
He was also a Christian and tried to exemplify his faith in his work and personal life, but he never condemned those who hadn't made that same commitment, as I know too well from my own experiences. He saw me in less than nice circumstances, but his inherent goodness never made me feel beneath his contempt. I only ever felt his goodness and kindness and my lack compared to his, but that was the conviction of my own conscience, nothing he ever did or said. Later, when my life was different, when I was different, he always treated me as a sister in faith, never once referring to those lower moments in my life.
I've missed him these years that he's been gone, and even thought of him just this week and wished I could see him once more. Well I will now, one day. I know his family will miss him, that a community will grieve him, generations were touched by him. I pray that he's surrounded by little children there in his new home.
Love is Lovelier...: When John and I began seeing one another (we never did manage a real date until months after we met), we had five children between us. With joint custody, there was a child with us most everywhere we went, and then there was Katie who was with us all of the time. We didn't know what it was like to be alone together. Alone was something we eventually managed for an hour or two when we went out to dinner at the truckstop, having fed the kids and gotten Katie off to bed, or when we'd order in pizza and let the kids eat in the dining room while we closed the door to the den and ate alone, but mostly where we went, children went. I longed for a courtship but facts were facts. We had kids, we were responsible and so there they were. Truly we enjoyed them.
Fast forward to Katie turning 13,14 or 15. I can't remember which, but we were in St. Augustine and she was in a sullen mood for some reason. We'd planned a big day in Old Town but no, she wouldn't hear of it, she wasn't going to go, didn't feel like it, didn't want to, she'd stay behind at the hotel. We warned her that staying behind meant staying in the room, no pool, no going for a walk on the beach, but to no avail. She meant to stay. John was so hurt, but I just felt sad. We talked it over as we headed into town and he reasoned his way out of his hurt, but my sadness wouldn't go away. "It's because this is it," I told him, "the beginning of our lives without any children about."
Truth be told, it scared tootles out of me. We weren't really individuals, we were parents and we related to one another as parents. We'd never had the opportunity to relate to one another as Terri and John, because a child was always hovering in the background. The odd times we'd gone on dates, we discussed the kids. When we ate dinner alone at home, we usually ate silently, because we were listening to the kids, interested to hear what they were talking about, what kept them laughing.
We were offered a week away at a lovely little cabin late one summer and Katie stayed home, because school was already in session and she didn't want to miss a single day even though we begged her to come with us. I was nearly speechless with fright. I remember confessing to a friend at church, when he asked if I was looking forward to the mountains, that mostly I was afraid to be alone with John. "He might not like me at all, you know," I told him and he looked at me with the most puzzled expression on his face. Perhaps it was the intimacy of my answer, because we were friends but we weren't that friendly, lol. Perhaps it was because John and I seemed to be 'of one accord' and we were. But we were of one accord about parenting and our faith, just two aspects of our lives.
More and more we were given those moments to be alone and then the final break came when Katie left home to make her own home. I was numb for weeks afterwards. She moved in August and it was December before I could bring myself to walk into her former room and consider it part of the house and contemplate making it a guest room. The whole of those months I was feeling my way along, uncertain of every step. It was a fragile sort of time for me anyway, as I experienced 'The Change', and then there was Granny's dementia which generated the loss of my dearest friend and mentor. I was grief-stricken. I realize that now. And yes, I was still scared, still frightened that with all those changes in my circumstances, within me, that John might not like me, just me, if my focus wasn't grounded on a child/children.
But he does. And he's a little selfish with me, not wanting me to spare too much of my time for others, not wanting me to be too far away for long. "You're my best friend," he told me the other day and I know just what he means. His is the company I want to keep, he's the first one I think of in crisis or joy as the one I must tell. Being alone with him is no hardship at all. I like him and his company and he likes mine.
I see them, those other couples out there who look a little older, a little comfortable, a little worn around the edges; who look like what we are now, long distance parents. I used to just see older people, caught up in a time between middle and senior years and think how sad, but now I wonder if they are as passionate about one another as we are, if they have rediscovered the joys of being alone together or are just being introduced to them as we were. I wonder if they are enjoying being "Bob and Sally" or "Jean and Bill" the way I'm enjoying being "John and Terri", two people who were blessed to raise a family and are just as blessed to find themselves with this precious bit of time to get to know one another in a whole different way.
Financial Infidelity: I recognized what this term meant even before I read the article in the magazine last night. I can't even remember which magazine I was reading at the time, perhaps the latest issue of All You.
Financial Infidelity is exactly what it sounds like. You are unfaithful to your partner financially, not physically. One day I'll share my own story with you, but suffice it to say right now that the reason I knew what the term meant was because I lived that story. I lied about our finances, my spending, our bank balances many years ago.
I've examined myself over and over again trying to determine how/why I ended up in that place in my life. Money and I have a checkered past. I've always known how to stretch a little to cover a lot, but it's only been in the past 12 years or so that I've been a straight shooter. At one point during that financial infidelity I wrote out a bill of divorce from money. No kidding. I was so sick of going around and around that mountain of fear and shame and gut wrenching nerves. Ugh!
My parents were both unfaithful in that area as well. Daddy often hid or ignored bills until they reached crisis point. I can't name the number of times our home went up for sell due to back taxes not being paid on the property, or the car insurance was cancelled or we heated water on the stove because the propane bill was three months behind.
And Mama was just as bad. She often shopped for pleasure/out of frustration. Oh she'd walk in with a little bag in her hand that contained a necklace and earrings or a lipstick or a bag of candy. But in the car trunk she'd have left a plethora of goodies and she'd sneak them into the house after Daddy left for work, before she headed to work herself. She hid things at work in her office closet. If Daddy ever asked, "Is that new?" She'd answer him, "Oh this? It's been hanging in the back of the closet." That was true. It had been pushed to the back, sans the sales tags, hidden so that Daddy couldn't see it.
Lest you think I'm ratting out my parents I'm not. I did much the same things myself, and I say it with shame. I learned how to be unfaithful in my finances by watching the example set before me. In my first marriage financial infidelity was hidden money, money squirreled away so that I could pay for school books or buy Christmas for the children. But it was just as lacking in trust and honor. And yes, my husband then was also unfaithful in that sense. He'd tell me he'd made a mistake and his check was $150 short of what he'd thought after all...right after I'd mailed off all the bills.
On one hand it seemed wrong but on the other, I followed right in their footsteps, with an assumption that it was the way everyone lived. But they don't. Not everyone. I know this because I'm married to a man who isn't like that in the least. Soon I'll tell all about my own trials and the trial I put us through. But for right now, I want you to ask yourself a simple question: Are you being true? Are you being unfaithful to your partner, to your family? There's only two ways out if you've lied about finances: Confession or get caught in your own lies. I got caught. It's a testament to the man my husband is that I am married still...
What Children REALLY deserve: Back a few months ago I had a discussion with my daughter in law about what children really deserve. She shared her frustration that there were things she wanted her children to have, some of which are just out of her reach. We discussed credit cards and finances and I told her that in my opinion what children really deserve is to see their parents in financial peace, to know the security of a home where the electricity is on, there's gas in the car, food on the table, a roof over their heads, money enough to make minor repairs.
I was speaking from experience. When I was three or four years old, I watched as every item in our home was carried out. We were left with a mattress in each room, the old beds given to us children by our grandparents and a rocking chair. I heard the words "Bankrupt" for the first time. Daddy lost his job. In those years, bankruptcy cost more than just signing a piece of paper and hurrying out to buy a new car and apply for a new credit card. People didn't consider bankruptcy the norm or even an optional choice. It was a sign of weak character, a black mark against a career that involved finances. I was perpetually anxious where money was concerned from that day until the recent past.
Finances in our home were a passionate subject, usually avoided, but not nearly often enough for us children to live in ignorant bliss. Too often, discussions were explosive. We knew all about the daily dangers of having our home taken away from us, of losing everything. We learned early to never answer the phone and we were taught to lie when the phone rang incessantly for days on end with bill collectors calling. We went without heat occasionally, hot water often. On the surface all looked well but underneath we wore undergarments that were holey and shoes that were a a little too small. We rode in cars that were new every three years but payments were often late or insurance not paid.
It was an unstable and unhappy environment that affected us for years after we left home.
I share all of that to say this: it's not how much money you make or how things look to 'others'. It really is all about providing a secure home. It doesn't have to be three stories with a basement and all new furnishings. It isn't all about what year or model car you drive. It's not about what kind of clothes they wear or what kinds of toys you give them. It's about a child knowing every day that the bed he sleeps in is HIS, that Mama and Daddy are providing peace and love and a secure family life. It's about teaching kids to handle finances rightly by example. That's what I think.
Promises to Keep: Now all that weighty talk is done. I've been enjoying the pansies and snapdragons on the back deck. I came so close to not buying them, simply because they appeared to be higher in price than I'd anticipated. Mind you, I had the money. It wasn't that. I debated and I dithered.
But then I drew myself up and reminded myself exactly why I'd come to purchase pansies. Because they make me happy. Because I love their lovely little faces. Because they make me feel exactly what they were once called, "Hearts ease".
I found the receipt the other day and you know what? They weren't even as expensive as I thought they were. They weren't even half price. They were $3. $3. And I nearly didn't keep a promise I made to myself to have them this winter because I had that stupid little stab of guilt over spending money on something simply because I love it. It's because it's just for me that I hesitate because honestly, John could care less if we have pansies or don't have pansies. In the end, it was important I keep a promise I made to me: I will have pansies this winter. I have my pansies. I couldn't be happier.
This Is A Test: Remember those emergency alert systems on television and radio, where an alarm sounds and an announcer comes along and says "This is a test..."?
In November, when we sat on the side of the mountain overlooking that lovely valley and had that heart to heart talk, John and I said to one another that it was time to let go of our plans and our dreams and our desires and let God direct our lives. It scared tootles out of us to even think of giving up control but we agreed that it was time. And for good measure, that was a New Year's resolution for us both, too. To just let go and let God we said.
In the meantime, I made all sorts of plans for work I wanted to get done in the house. I had lists. I had time schedules. I had PLANS.
Four days into the month, right in the middle of MY plans, I was asked to make a road trip. It's a five hour drive one way. And I was going to have to do it alone. I did NOT want to go. The idea of it scared me. I made my displeasure known to every one involved. Yet I knew I had to go. Why?
Because I was having to give up MY plan. Because I felt in my spirit that God meant me to go, that He was stretching me to grow in His will. Because I couldn't very well say, "Hey God, I want to go where you want me to go and do what you want me to do, but only when it's convenient for my plans and what you want me to do doesn't scare me, okay?"
I made the trip and all went well. I learned a few things about myself, my marriage, my relationship with others. It was hard and it was worth it in the end. I grew in confidence in myself. It's unlikely I'll be asked to do it again, because usually we don't have to repeat tests unless we fail them.
Now I feel all written out. Time to work on the menu and catch up on my daily savings. I promise we'll have a coffee chat soon, okay? In the meantime, back to de-cluttering and cleaning and organizing.