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Posts Tagged ‘blessings’

It’s been a rough couple of weeks around here, but hopefully all is back to normal now.

Just to give you a brief overview. Two weeks ago Thursday, I noticed that my shower was barely lukewarm. Ugh. We called in the company that had installed it 5 1/2 years ago. The technician came out, took one look at it, and said. “Uh oh. It’s no good.” I asked what he meant and he explained that there was a leak on the inside. Even worse, our warranty had Just. Run. Out. Of course it did. Sigh.

We set up a time the next day to replace it. The guys came out, did the job, and we thought all was well until we all got home from the theatre that night. When we opened the front door, we were greeted by a rush of natural gas. We got Middle Child out of the house and called the gas company right away. We must have been a sight, all out in the front yard at 10:30 at night, our neighbor cats winding around our ankles trying to play. The gas company came out, saw that we had a leak, and shut it off, telling us to call the other company in the morning.

Long story short, the leak did not get fixed the next day; we needed the pipes replaced. Our awesome neighbor hooked us up with a handyman who was able to come out Tuesday morning, which meant a few days of cold showers. Back up just a bit, though. Did I tell you that the power went out Saturday night? Yep. Good times. No air, no gas. The only utility we had was cold water. Luckily, my mother-in-law graciously let us bring our laundry over (and DID it for us) and our other awesome neighbors let me heat up water on their grill so that I could wash the dishes. It was hot, humid, and dark for a couple of nights. We took cold showers just to feel better. Of course, Marty had just gone grocery shopping, so we eventually added that cost to our losses with the exception of a big ham that hadn’t completely thawed in the freezer.

The power came back on Monday night, yay, and the handyman arrived early Tuesday morning to fix the line. (If you live in my area and need a handyman job done, message me and I’ll pass hi name along.) Marty, Youngest Child and I were leaving for Niagara Falls that morning, so my mother-in-law stepped in again to be there for the repairs. Middle Child stayed home because of work so he had a few more days of cold showers because one of the homeowners needed to be there when the gas was turned back on. We wouldn’t have risked it with him home alone anyway.

We got home Friday afternoon, called the gas company, and they eventually got there to turn it on. In the meantime, we noticed that it was rather warm in the house, even though the air conditioner was running. The problem was that it was blowing room temperature air, not cold air. I was really feeling at this point that the house was rebelling against us. I mean, come on! We called a different heating and cooling company to come and see what was going on. Apparently, the power coming back on had either created or worsened an existing leak and instead of the normal 70 PSI, our 30-year-old unit had 7. It would be a huge cost to fix it and it was easier to replace it. So, we chose a new unit and waited a few more days for it to be installed.

Truthfully, I grew up without air conditioning and we spent the first five years of our marriage without it, but I always hated summer. I mean, really and truly hated it. The kind of hate reserved for mortal enemies. Summer was much worse than winter. The sweat, the heaviness of the air, the stickiness of the air, not sleeping, general grossness. With air conditioning, summer and I have a truce; I always have an escape. Without air, misery ensues.

That brings us to this morning. The new company was here right on time and spent a little over five hours getting rid of our old air conditioner and installing the new, fancy-schmancy one. There was only one more attack of the house when the internet went out today, but that proved to be a simple fix handled over the phone. The period of house rebellion is, hopefully, over.

At this point, we have air, (hot) water, electricity, gas, and internet. Life is good, even if our credit card debt just went up tremendously. (The Big Red Eye will have to be mostly off-limits for a long time and I’ll be sending articles out left and right to make a little extra money.) I have rarely felt more relieved and blessed. I freely admit that I take it all for granted; we think these things will always be here but the truth is that they can go at any time. It made me really think about those who have no choice but to do without, who don’t have the credit to get things fixed or a home to go to. We are truly one of the lucky ones.

In the meantime, we’re going to make the house watch Dr. Phil for awhile.

God is good.

All the time.

 

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I am blessed. Unequivocally, undoubtedly, blessed. It’s easy to forget, sometimes. It’s easy to let the problems of the universe sink in, to let the daily annoyances pile up and inspire resentment, but that’s when we have to take a few steps back and get a new perspective. We need to let those unimportant things go and either make a new plan or let it be. Here are some of my blessings:

  1. My husband. I am married to a man (for almost twenty years!) who has seen me at my best and most definitely at my worst. He has loved me through four pregnancies, three kids, job loss, financial crises, a depression/anxiety diagnosis, and my frustration with keeping up an older house and no money to do it. Oh, and did I mention that he has to put up with me trying to convince him to move to London?
  2. My kids. My boyos: Oldest Child, Middle Child, and Youngest Child. All different, all amazingly wonderful. I never imagined being the mother of all boys, but God works in wonderful ways and even with all of the ways they are different from me, they are my heart.
  3. My family. My family is huge, mixed-up, made up of many components, a wee bit dysfunctional, but most important, loving. I wouldn’t trade my family for anything in the world.
  4. My friends. Like everyone, I have different groups of friends in different places and from different times in my life. I am deeply thankful for each one of them.
  5. I live in a country where I’m free, not only as a person, but as a woman. In many places in the world, even today, I would have no rights to anything. The U.S. isn’t perfect by any means, but I can wear what I want, marry who I want, drive, go anywhere I like without a chaperone, and criticize the government without worrying about being thrown in prison, or worse. There’s much work to do, but things are moving in the right direction.
  6. My hedgie. She’s amazing, cranky and cuddly at the same time and I love her.
  7. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to several countries. I have the wanderlust. Bad. I believe that seeing how other people live in other parts of the world is essential. How can we work together if we live in ignorance and all we know of others is what fear mongers tell us? Granted, I haven’t visited any war-torn nations, but the places that I have been have given me a greater appreciation for the world as a whole. Now, I just have to figure out how to travel more frequently. (Rick Steves, have you looked at my résumé yet?)
  8. I’m a published author. Not a New York Times bestselling author, but I was able to get published by a company. Let’s see if it can happen again. (Slightly greedy, I know.)
  9. Facebook. This was a toughie, because Facebook is most definitely a colossal time-waster. But it has also allowed me to keep in touch with people who I may have otherwise lost contact with. In most cases, that is a blessing.
  10. Creature comforts. There’s an old hymn that says, “There’s a roof up above me, I’ve a good place to sleep. There’s food on my table and shoes on my feet. You gave me your love, Lord, and a fine family. Thank you, Lord, for you blessings on me.” It’s one of the truest songs I know. I don’t need, or want, a huge house, expensive cars, or designer clothes. Most of the world doesn’t have what I have: Enough.

Reminding myself of how much I actually have when I want something may not stop the desire, but it does make me appreciate my blessings. I wish the same for you.

A presto.

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I’ve been struggling a lot lately with my mind. Depression sucks and with everything I have going on lately, it’s choosing to rear its ugly head. I won’t go into excruciating detail, but feelings of failure, uselessness, and hopelessness have been creeping in whenever it seems I have a free minute, telling me that I’m worthless, not thin enough, ugly, undereducated, not taken seriously, my dreams are stupid and I’ll never attain them. I hate feeling this way; it’s unproductive and I am trying to do everything I can to combat it. Fortunately, I don’t have depression to the point where I can’t function. I still wake up every day, go to work and do a good job, go to rehearsal, I interact with everyone normally. In fact, unless you know me very, very well, you’d never guess I had depression. I’m good at covering, at looking happy, but in my head, there’s a war going on.

I haven’t written in weeks, the will to do it has been absent, but, finally, the fog is starting to lift a bit and I’m feeling inspired again. I’m picking myself up off the floor, ready to try again. I owe that to my family and, as my therapist tells me, I owe it to myself.

Driving home from work one day this past week, I had an idea: The Joy Project. I’ve written before about counting my blessings, but this project will be focusing on finding one thing every day that brings me joy, something like the Thankfulness Project that is popular on Facebook every November. I won’t be posting these joys daily, unless it’s something really exceptional, because I know that would be tiresome to read on a newsfeed every day, but it’s a new strategy for me to try and stave off the bad feelings, or at least help when they come creeping around.

Let me be clear, depression is a condition. It’s not feeling sorry for oneself, it’s not just ordinary sadness. It’s a chemical reality that affects millions of people to different degrees, from just occasional bouts to chronic, debilitating periods of blackness. Mine is manageable, albeit chronic, and I was probably genetically programmed for it from the start. A traumatic childhood probably amplified the effects, but that’s just a guess.

Since this is my blog, I get my own soapbox and while I’m on it, I just want to say that there is a dangerous movement out in the Christian evangelical world that any kind of mental illness, including depression, can be “cured” if the sufferer prays hard enough. Oh. My. Gosh. That idea is not even close to being okay. If I could pray depression away, it would have been gone long ago. I cannot think of a more damaging thing to tell someone who is depressed than it’s their own fault because they didn’t pray hard enough. Complete and utter bull poo. Does that mean I don’t believe in miracles, or that God can work in someone’s life? Absolutely not. I just believe a miracle is a miracle for a reason, it’s rare. No, I don’t have depression because of a lack of faith or for not trying hard enough. I have a chronic condition that will probably never be cured completely, but with hard work (and prayer), I will be able to manage it better over time. There done with that. Back to the happy stuff.

I’ve been finding things to be joyful about for the past few days. Marty Man waited up for me (twice!) while I was at a late rehearsal this week and he didn’t have to. My director told me that I did a good job as his assistant. We got a nice card in the mail from our choir director. Youngest Child needed some snuggle time. Today’s joy? Tap Club. I’m a beginning tap dancer with a very patient teacher and I wasn’t able to go to class all summer. We started up again last Saturday and when I got to class today, I felt amazing. I’m not very good, but you would never know it from the people there. Most of them are a million times better than me, they’ve been dancing since they were small, but somehow, I never feel like a complete idiot in that class. The atmosphere is warm, literally and figuratively, and I love it. They accept me, missteps and all. Today, Tap Club brought me joy.

I’ll probably check in here from time to time with how it’s going. I think that the more we talk about things like depression, as a society, the less the stigma will be. It’s my hope that people who are struggling realize that it’s okay to seek help and to get treatment, whether medicinal, therapeutic, or both. In the meantime, I’m going to write my joys down in a little book and keep it with me, do something proactive to ad to my strategies. Please feel free to tell me what brings you joy, especially if you suffer with depression as well. Let’s help each other.

Until next time.

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I’ve been feeling a bit like a toddler lately. I want things to happen, but I can’t make them happen, no matter how hard I try, and the frustration can be maddening. I won’t go into the details of my pity party, but will suffice to say that career-wise, my life isn’t going like I think it should. There’s the key phrase: Like I think it should. It’s like the old saying, if you want to make God laugh, make plans. Well, I’ve probably won the equivalent of Last Comic Standing up in Heaven the way my plans have been going.

I’ve never been good at waiting for things that I can see myself getting done faster or that I feel I’m ready to do. With other things, I’m extremely patient. When I’m waiting for my food in a busy restaurant or I’m number 99 at the Secretary of State office and they’re only on number 70, I get it. It’s not fun, but I wait it out. What can you do? Suck it up and make sure that you bring something to do. I prefer a nice, fat, novel. Sometimes, it’s the only place I can get any fun reading done, but I digress. Other things, like bureaucratic red tape, waiting for a simple yes or no answer from an agent or a company, make me absolutely crazy

Instead of dwelling on what I can’t do right now, this morning I decided to start counting my blessings. It’s kind of like what happens on Facebook every November for Thanksgiving, where you post something that you’re thankful for every day except, well, it’s June and I need to remind myself of the important things in life. Such as:

I’m healthy. I have a few creaks and moderate high blood pressure, but for the most part, I’m in pretty good shape health-wise and because of that, my life is much easier than it could be if I had any chronic conditions or injuries.

I have a job. Is it my dream job? No, but I have a steady income that helps to pay our bills and it’s a nice place to be. I love the people I work with and (I hope) they like me. We’ve been through unemployment, in fact, we’re still paying off that time in our lives and it sucked. I am grateful that I’m no longer in that situation.

I have an awesome family. I’ve been married for 17 1/2 years to my best friend, we have three boys that we adore (most of the time), and an extended family that loves each other and tries its best to stay in touch. There are problems and drama sometimes, but we’re family and we work things out. Not always in the best way, mind you. There are tempers and hurt feelings, but also apologies and epiphanies.

I’m a woman in a country where I can do what I want, be what I want, and dress how I want. I don’t have to cover my hair, my face, or dress in a certain way because I am female. I don’t have to have a male from my family escort me if I step out of my house, I can vote, I can drive, I can go to school for whatever I want and for how long I want, I can conduct legal business without my husband’s approval, and I could even be President of the United States. I don’t have total equality in all things yet, (Hello, glass ceiling) but I am not considered property or a child because I am a woman. I have a voice because of where I live and I’m reminded of that every time I read or listen to the news. Things aren’t perfect, but they could be a lot worse.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel. I’ve been to several states in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the UK. Oh, and Canada, which might seem like a big deal to some, but for me it’s only 15 minutes away. I adore traveling and realize that I’ve been fortunate in that aspect. Of course, it’s addictive and every time I go somewhere, it just makes me want to do it again. There should be meetings, like AA, for those who love to travel but can’t afford it. I’d be a regular member, but I constantly be falling off the wagon.

I live in a great neighborhood. I’ve lived in my house for almost 13 years. I’ve never lived anywhere for that long in my life. It’s not like I don’t have the itch to go somewhere new, but it’s not because of where we are. We have great neighbors and I couldn’t have picked a better place for the kids to grow up. We know most of our neighbors, it’s safe, clean, and very community-oriented. I don’t know how long we’ll stay, but at least until the kids are through school. It’ll take at least that long to fix the house up to selling condition anyway, so we’re in no hurry. It’s a happy place.

There are many, many, more ways in which I have been blessed and I need to remember them every day. I might not be where I want to be in my life right now, but I’m not in a bad place at all. That doesn’t keep me from any ambitions, but it will make me slow down and appreciate the things that I have. Until then, I’m sure I’ll keep God smiling.

 

 

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Brrrr…

So, Facebook friends already know that during the coldest snap of the year so far, our furnace died. Well, not died completely, but in the context of doing what it is supposed to do, the furnace failed and when the temperature is several degrees below zero, that becomes a huge issue.

To make a long story short, we had the repair guys out to the house five times over eleven days to replace parts and figure out what the heck was going on. The furnace is just over 20 years old, so we knew that this day would be coming eventually, but as our friendly repair guy Tom put it, people don’t think about the furnace until something goes wrong. He said that he sees customers who have landscaping that cost them in the thousands of dollars, but balk at the thought of having to replace the furnace, often for about the same amount of money. Now, those who know us in real life, especially our neighbors, know that the amount we spend on landscaping is several thousand dollars short of “in the thousands”, pretty much amounting to whatever flats of annuals that English Gardens has on sale that week, but we also used to not think about the furnace very much at all. Like most people, we (used to) take it for granted that when it begins to get chilly in October, you switch the little tab to “heat” and on it goes, and so it has for more than twelve years. Then, last Monday, it didn’t. The good news is that Tom was able to eventually replace the circuit board and get it running again. It has been running for almost two days now without doing anything hinky, but Marty and I are still fairly paranoid about it. I listen for that click of the ignition when it starts feeling chilly, especially this morning while waking up to 6 degrees. I will probably dread that cool, drafty feeling until the weather turns from frigid to scorching all in one day, usually sometime in May or June. We don’t get much of a spring around here.

I have to say that not having heat really did a number on my psyche this week. I was stressed anyway from being back in school, going through an unsuccessful audition, dealing with the furnace going on and off, getting a magazine issue out, and not sleeping very much in the process. Last night, one of boys clogged the toilet and while trying to unplug it, the water ran over the edge of the bowl. Not very much, but enough to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. At 11:30  at night I was having to not only unclog a stupid toilet that no one told me about earlier, but having to bleach the bathroom as well. I’m a total germaphobe when it comes to the bathroom. I hate toilets and everything having to do with bathroom functions to the point of absurdity. Marty knows this and he knew that there would be nothing he could do to help me when I get into that state and so he just went to bed. That was for the best, as two seconds later, the tears came rolling out. All the stress from all week long just kind of ganged up on me all at the same time. In my head, this dialogue was playing: “I can’t believe this is happening! Is it too much to ask that I get one freaking night where I don’t have to worry about anything or fix something in this money pit? Just one night?” And on it went for about ten minutes while I toweled up excess water, put towels and rugs in the washer on “hot”, bleached the toilet and anywhere in the bathroom that the contaminated water might have touched. It was a nice little pity party, but it did stop and I calmed down. It was scary, though, to think that just that little taste of no heat, along with everything else, was enough to cause a little meltdown. It made me wonder about other people, those who have to live without central heating as part of their lives instead of just because their furnaces went out. We hear about it on the news all the time, of house fires that start because of an oven being used as a primary heat source or space heaters that overheat or get too close to something flammable. How do those people feel all winter long? How can they stand it? It really made me feel guilty about feeling the way I did, even as cold as we had been. We’re by no means well-off, but we’ve never had to worry about a problem like that, thank God.

As a middle-class person, you hear the plight of the poor and you feel bad for them, but how often do you really experience what they do? I remember working at Greenfield Village, at Firestone Farm where we used a coal-burning stove and fireplace to heat the house. Even though there was a heater in the house set to very low to keep the artifacts from being damaged when we all went home, it was still really cold in there when we would arrive in the morning. It would eventually warm up as the day went on and I remember thinking that I could have done that, lived in that time period, especially when I would think of all of my Little House on the Prairie books which told how Laura Ingalls and her family stayed warm in the winter. I remember thinking that with a roaring fire, it wouldn’t be all that bad and that it had probably been pretty cozy with all of them together. It just goes to show how naïve and idealistic I was at that time. Being cold sucks. A lot. Laura and her family were probably used to it, but that wouldn’t have made it any more fun for them. When you can’t get warm, because there’s nowhere to go that is warm, being cold begins to feel desperate. I can imagine having to look forward to that feeling every day and it scares me. There are kids growing up like this, probably only a few miles from where I’m living in my (now) warm colonial.

I guess, at the end of the day, that losing heat taught me a lesson on perspective. I want to know more about helping people, about warming centers, and supplying the warm and fuzzy tree that we have at church. I feel stupid now, but I really hadn’t thought of the donations on the warm and fuzzy tree as items of clothing that some would wear inside as well as outside during the winter. Spending a couple days wrapped up in my scarf and hat while in a blanket on my couch lit that particular light bulb in my head. I don’t know what I would do if that was my way of life, if I couldn’t afford to pay the heating bill or to finance a new furnace. I do know that going through this has made me incredibly thankful for what I do have and that we had the means to fix what was wrong. I also know that I’ll never take that particular blessing for granted again.

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