Tag Archives: hope

All Her Bags Are Packed


All her bags are packed,

She’s ready to go.

I want to tell my sister “no”

I can’t stand the thought of

saying goodbye.

 

She’s leaving the place

where she was born

Arizona is waitin’

it’s blowin’ its horn

Already we’re so lonesome

we could cry.

 

My sister is moving to Arizona, and my first intention with today’s post was to completely re-write Leaving On A Jet Plane but that was too cheesy even for me.  And ya’ll know I can handle a lot of cheese.

Instead, I just decided to be frank with you.  Well, to be “Sue” actually.  Not “Frank”. HA!  See, I’m so sad, all the Belgian is leaking out of me.  You know – making stupid jokes.  That obviously have to be explained.  Because nobody else gets them, probably not even other Belgians.  Except my family, and I guess that’s the point.

We get each other.  We share ancient history, DNA, good times, and bad jokes.  My sister is moving and my heart is broken.

I understand families move all the time.  Sisters, brothers, parents, children – all move miles away from each other.  Hell, we wouldn’t even be here if Arnold VerStagen hadn’t traveled from Holland to settle in Little Chute, Wisconsin way back in 1850.  It took him two months, mostly by boat.  Now that’s a long damn drive.

And I know she wouldn’t be moving if it wasn’t right for her.  She’s not willy-nilly, my sister.  But I just need to be selfish for one paragraph.

I don’t want her to go.  She taught me how to sway my babies and how to spend oodles of money on beads.  She brought me to Bjorklunden where I found a piece of my heart I didn’t know was missing, and she believed in me when I told her I sat and talked with Jesus on a rock on the beach.  And it is entirely her fault that I have two high maintenance yorkie-poos that poop on my carpet.  And she’s my sister.  And my friend.  And I love her.  And I’m going to miss her like crazy.

There.  My selfishness is done.  Follow your heart, and go with all my blessings and love, Celeste.  Do yoga in the sun and dance with Myra in the kitchen and drink coffee with Hugh on the deck.  Call often and send us pictures of bare toasty toes while we shovel snow.  Expect a busload of frost-bitten family members soon after.

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

Love,

Sue

PS. Arizona – just a heads up – we’re sending you one of our greatest jewels.  You best take care of her.

She’s leavin’

on a jet plane

Don’t know when she’ll

be back again

But probably Christmas….

 

Matching blue sweaters.  Coincidence or weird sister thing?  You decide.

Matching blue sweaters. Coincidence or weird sister thing? You decide.

 

The Jesus Rock - Shores of Lake Michigan near Bjorklunden

The Jesus Rock – Shores of Lake Michigan near Bjorklunden

PPSS:  As blue as my heart is, this is also my contribution to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge:  Blue

Growing A Pair


A few weeks ago I posted about Super Powers – how we all have them. And we do. But every Super Power has it’s Kryptonite.

say-no-to-kryptonite

 

I am my own worst enemy. The cliche-ness of that statement does not make it any less true. Any dream or goal I have ever had has always had an obstacle. And that obstacle has always been me.

Me standing with a worried brow and wringing hands. With fear and self doubt babbling a litany of reasons for failure. Reasons to give up. Reasons to quit hoping.

You’re too old. You’re too fat. He won’t listen. She won’t learn. The damage can’t be undone. Others are better. Nothing matters so why try. You’ll starve. You’re spouse will leave. You’ll fall and break a hip.

Oh yeah, and then there’s the voices outside your head. From well meaning family, friends, church members, co-workers, acquaintances, the gas station cashier, the homeless guy on the corner…

Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind? That’s stupid. Why? You should do it this way. You should say that instead. You’re gonna get screwed. Look out for number one.

And if those voices aren’t enough to drive me screaming off a cliff, there’s also the voice of realism. Past experience. Knowing my own limitations. Bills that have to be paid. A spouse to consider. Family. Friends. A job. Commitments to others.

All of which must be considered, and “yes” to learning from past mistakes, too. But perhaps considered instead from the point of how they can propel me forward, not how they may hold me back.

So I have to grow a pair. I have to grow a pair so I can stand up to society, to family, to friends. But mostly, to myself.

I gotta tell ya. I took a baby step this weekend and it hurt like hell. Still does. I suspect it will for a long time, because I’m not stopping. I need this pair of spiritual balls or I’m going to stay stuck.

I know I’m on the right track, even if my first step wasn’t perfect. It was still a step. A beginning. A line in the sand. A line thru my heart.

And I’m sure that in this process, small victories will retract. Pull themselves back up into my spirit to hide and I will take a step or two backwards. Maybe even stumble and fall. I may have mascara running down my face, ripped panty hose, and a broken heel…haha- ok that’s not me. I’ll be the messy haired little kid with dirt streaked cheeks, skinned knees and snot running out of my nose.

Point is, I’m going to get my ass back up. I’m not quitting. I’m not going away. And I’m not backing down. So get ready Self. I’m not taking any of your shit anymore. There’s a new kid in town.

Rescue Me


One of the things I love the most about Facebook is reconnecting with old friends, family members, and classmates.  I love seeing what they are doing and meeting via cyber space their children, grandchildren, and pets.  I love finding out what they think is funny, or sentimental, or maddening. And I really love how we come together as a community to support one another when someone loses a loved one or struggles with illness or other hardships.

One of these reconnects is the subject of my next Hero story:

When one hears the term “animal rescue”, one usually thinks about animals being rescued by humans.  We’ve all seen pictures and read stories of people rescuing pets from floods, garbage piles, drain pipes, trees, chains, and neglect.  Sometimes though, the “rescue” in “animal rescue” is the human getting rescued by the pet.

animal_rescue_adoption

A few years ago, Laurie Spah held a high energy, stressful job.  It required a lot of her time and focus, not only during office hours but at home as well.  It was not unusual for her job related activities to spill into her private life, consuming her physical and mental resources into evenings and weekends. She had little time left to pursue outside interests, much less take time for her home and friends.

As busy and crazy as her life was, Laurie enjoyed her job.  She liked the mental stimulation and challenges to keeping everything on track and in balance.  And, she was good at it.  But even people who are good at their jobs can sometimes find themselves in need of new employment due to circumstances beyond their control, and this was the case with Laurie.

It didn’t take her long to find new employment, but her new job required far less of her, leaving her with feelings of loss and extreme anxiety.  Laure did the smart thing, and began to get counseling, as well as medication to control the symptoms.  However, she still struggled. As someone who has dealt with anxiety issues related to depression, I can give first hand knowledge to how debilitating it can be, and I can understand the awfulness of wondering if you will ever feel normal again, if you will ever find joy again.  Each day can become a challenge to just “get thru”, hoping the next will be better.

what-is-anxiety-disorder

Seeing her struggle, her counselor suggested Laurie find a way to occupy her time and stretch herself a little, by reaching out to help others.  On that advice, Laurie began scanning the paper and the internet for ideas.  By chance, she received a mail flyer about an animal shelter looking for volunteers.  It was a newer no-kill shelter called Happily Ever After, and was based in Marion, Wisconsin.

NOKILL

Part of Laurie’s anxiety manifested itself by causing her natural introverted personality to magnify, so the idea of volunteering at a shelter where she would have minimal human interaction appealed to her.  She read that they often had information booths at a local pet store, so she went there on the weekend.  She talked to the woman there, who happened to be the aunt of Amanda Reitz, the founder of Happily Ever After (you can read her story by clicking here).  After hearing about how the shelter was started and the work that needed to be done, Laurie filled out her forms and began her life as a dedicated volunteer.

Lucky

Lucky is one of Laurie’s foster kitties, and he is now at the adoption center waiting to find his forever home. Hopefully someone will give this beautiful boy a chance soon!

The following Saturday, Laurie drove out to Marion.  It was a blazing hot day, and while the pet rooms were air conditioned, the rest of the facilities and surrounding farm was not.  She spent that first day hauling, scooping, lifting, scrubbing, hammering, painting, walking, feeding, and caring.  Mostly caring.  There were 120 cats and 50 dogs, and each one was treated with the same love and attention as the next.  And while Amanda and her father had their doubts as to Laurie’s return, she knew she had found her calling.

Since that first hot, sweaty Saturday, Laurie was an active volunteer with HEA every weekend.  Being with the animals helped calm her anxiety like nothing else could.  The physical labor tired her body while the wagging tails and purring throats soothed her mind.  Besides the healing properties of warm, fuzzy, gratitude, Laurie discovered the reward of working with a great group of people who respected her and understood what she was going thru.

Ariel

Ariel picture is one of Laurie’s current fosters who she has had since September 2012. Areil and her sister Peta came to her with upper respiratory infections. Peta passed away in her arms from FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis). Ariel had a continued ear infection and it was discovered that she had polyps in her throat and a very large one in her ear. They removed them all but the one in the ear was so large that they had to take the whole ear canal. Her ear is sewn shut.

As her time with HEA continued, Laurie took on more duties, helping to establish and open the new Green Bay shelter and eventually becoming the unofficial manager.  Laurie now spent her weekends and most week nights helping to save the 4-legged loves that first saved her.  However, her volunteer work was overshadowing her full time job, her relationships with her loved ones, and her own pets.

To help minimize her work load, HEA created team lead positions that helped remove some of the stress and time consuming duties from Laurie at the Green Bay shelter.  And while letting go was difficult, Laurie now has more time to pursue the aspect of rescue that she loves the most – care taking and nursing pets who are ill.  She has also been able to adopt an additional family member- an English Setter named Paige, who for 7 years knew nothing of her world except a kennel, but is now lavished with love and attention.

Paigeandoliver

Laurie’s babies: Paige (the English Setter) and Oliver (mix of 7+ breeds). They are both rescues from HEA.

Laurie will never quit working for humane solutions to alleviate pet over population and to provide pets with safety, health, and loving homes  – from being part of spay/neuter clinics to running the HEA adoptions out of PetCo, or to fostering and nursing sick or disabled animals.  Laurie believes all pets deserve a 2nd chance, and her goal will always be to try to give them that.  After all, they gave her a second chance, first.

And that’s Laurie’s story!  Remember – heros come in many forms, and they don’t always wear a cape.  Most times, they are people you see every day, quietly going the extra mile to make someone else’s life a little better.  People like Laurie.  🙂

Laurieandsally

Just 3 months into Laurie’s volunteering: At the GB holiday parade, Sally was the first dog (but not the last) that she “fell in love with”.

Until next week-stay warm my friends!
Sue

PS – If you are thinking about growing your family with a four-footed pal, please please consider adopting a rescue, from Happily Ever After or your local shelter.  Save a life.  Save your own.

Exploding Oatmeal and Other Hazards


quakerYesterday, my oatmeal exploded in the microwave at work.  I make oatmeal every day and I have to keep an eagle eye on it because Mr. Quaker Oats sometimes gets a bad attitude.  Well, there were other people in the lunch room hogging using the space in front of the microwaves to make their coffee, so I was trying to be courteous and give them some room.  Next thing I know, I see my oatmeal spilling over the top of my bowl.  I leapt forward and grabbed the door, almost bashing my co-worker Lois in the head as I yanked it open, and then stared sadly at the mess.

My first thought was not, “Ew- what a mess” or “Wow, I hope I didn’t kill Lois” but was, “Rats. Now I have less food to eat.”  My second thought was, “I wonder if I can salvage any of the stuff that spilled over” followed by my third thought of, “Gross, Sue.  You might eat a random M&M off the floor but you will not stoop to eating boiled over oatmeal off the bottom of the work microwave”.  For the record, I had to repeat this to myself twice, and thankfully Lois was still in the lunchroom or I may have succumbed to thought #2.  Haha!  Just kidding!  That would be so disgusting!  I would never do that!  (No, really, I might have.  Lois unknowingly saved me, even after I tried to kill her with the microwave door.)

I hate having my food routine disturbed.  It just leaves the door open for those irrational rationalizations, where my brain tries to justify eating 10 cookies to make up for the disruption.   “You poor dear!  You didn’t get a full 1/3 cup of oatmeal today.  Have a pan of brownies.”  I know what you are all thinking.  You are all thinking I should overcook my oatmeal everyday and replace it with cookies because oatmeal is like eating wall paste and good Lord if your going to eat something as bad for you as wall paste you might as well eat cookies.  And if I’m going to eat cookies, bring on the chocolate cake, because even Bill Cosby knows chocolate cake is full of nutrition!

Perhaps you are wondering if I grew up as a starving child in China (“There are starving children in China that go hungry every day!  Eat your wall paste!”) but no.  I grew up in a middle class home and never went to bed hungry – not even as a punishment.  My mom was a wizard in the kitchen and could make a pound of hamburger stretch for all 7 of us, including my Dad and my brother.  No, I’m just a food addict.  No meth or crack for this girl!  But whoa!  Is that a bakery?  I think I’ll stop in and mainline a chocolate donut.

Because I am a food addict, I need to have a strict food plan of no sugar or wheat, and I need to follow it.  I have fallen off the wagon these last three years, and really have no desire to get back on it, even though I know the sugar and flour just keep feeding the beast.  Before this, I went four years without it passing my lips.  I lost 80 pounds.  Gained confidence and moved up in my company.  Ran my first half marathon. Hit the upper 90’s in my health assessment at work.  Felt absolutely fantastic, physically and emotionally.  Except when I felt deprived – like at birthdays when others were celebrating with cake or at Christmas when I passed the cookie tray without taking one of my mom’s cut-outs (my favorite), or on vacation with the Daver or at Easter when I passed the rows and rows and ROWS of unbelievably delicious Robin Eggs and other confections (why do we celebrate religious holidays with so much chocolate?  A fattening mystery…).

So where am I now?  I am somewhere trying to find the balance.  I want to have my cake and eat it too (pun totally intended) but I don’t want to give up my health doing it.  I have gained back some weight, but not all.  I have held on to certain food habits – like lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins – and most certainly my exercise habits have stayed.  I don’t run as much – I would like to have fully functioning knees and hips when I am 80 – but I do bike, swim, inline skate, kayak, walk, hike, snowshoe, and hang out in the gym doing burpees and jump squats and dive bombers (oh my!).  Since regressing back to sugar, I have done another half marathon, ridden 2500 miles on my bike, taken another position in my company, and performed 10 billion burpees.  Yes, you heard me.  10. BILLION. BURPEES.

DrEvil

And you know what?  I think I’m okay with where I am.  Yes, I still struggle.  Yes, I still have food issues.  But at the end of the day, I would rather eat a celebratory piece of birthday cake on my dad’s 82nd birthday.  I would rather go out with the Daver and have pizza and a couple of beers while we talk and laugh about our week.  I would rather bike 100 miles with Kay, eating strawberry shortcake at the rest stops.  Or have dessert with the girls at the end of our night out.  Or eat a cannoli at Mike’s Pastry in Boston even if it means getting blisters because I am stupidly wearing brand new shoes.  Or eating Garrett’s cheesy popcorn while watching my niece run in the Chicago Marathon.  And you know why?  Because life is meant to be lived, and sometimes living involves eating delicious foods that have no nutritional value.

birthday-cake-hd-wallpaper

Some people are blessed with high metabolisms or the ability to eat a single brownie, but I am not one of them.  I am a big-boobed, 49-year-old woman, with stretch marks and jiggle, that loves a good laugh and cake with frosting and sprinkles.  But I just have to believe there is a balance and come hell or high water, I’m going to find it.  And when I do, I will share it with the world.  Meanwhile, I’ll be in the gym –  doing burpees.

What are your food downfalls?  How do you handle feeling food deprived?  Have you found balance in your own food plan and if so, what worked for you?  I love hearing from you and I love your feedback!  Please share in the comments below or on my FB page!

PS – I actually love oatmeal and seriously do eat it every day at work, with two – three hard-boiled eggs.  I like it best with almond milk and blueberries or apples and cinnamon.  Mmmmm!

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For additional reading on body image acceptance, check out these blogs:

August McLaughlin’s Blog

Katrina Anne Willis

Sue

Learning To Move The Bean Bowl


I bought green and wax beans the other day at the farmers market.  They call them wax beans because they are yellow and look waxy I guess.  The term ‘wax’ in reference to food grosses me out, so I prefer green and yellow.  Or better yet, green and gold (Go Pack Go! Yes, I just went there, and yes, I used my entire first paragraph to set up the Packers reference.  This is what happens when you live in the land of cheese).

tumblr_maao4bKhNi1qhpvj5o1_500

I love getting fresh produce from the farmers market but it does require extra work to clean it and make it ready for consumption.  It’s not like buying a bag of Steamers and popping it in the microwave (although I do love Steamers – what an awesome invention).   Fresh food needs to be cleaned and cut and trimmed and peeled.  Kind of a pain, all this eating healthy business.  Some veggies are more of a pain than others but beans are fairly easy in the veggie cleaning line up – just wash and snap off the tops.

My process is to wash them in a colander, spread them on a clean towel, grab a few, snap off the tops and then toss the cleaned bean in a bowl and the top in a pile to the side for the garbage.  Easy peezy, lemon squeezy, right?  Well, I was cleaning my beans after I got home, and I kept accidentally throwing the beans in the garbage pile and the tops in the bean bowl.  What the heck?  After about the 10th time, I realized I had my work area set up wrong.

Green and Gold beans!

Green and Gold beans!

My natural tendency was to grab the beans with my left hand and snap off the tops with my right, so the bean bowl should have been to my left and the garbage pile to the right, and I had it reversed.  This would have taken about 5 seconds to rectify and ended the awkward cross reaching, plus the time-consuming need to stop what I was doing and fish the tops out of the bean bowl.  Not to mention that I was using extra energy just concentrating on my process that could have been used to create a plan for world peace and a new energy resource (HAHA.  Okay, I would have created my grocery list and a plan to clean the bathrooms but still, a better use of my time).  Instead, I stubbornly continued to clean my beans counter intuitively, swearing under my breath every time the tops ended up in the bean bowl.

After going thru 3/4 of my beans, I finally set my ego aside and fixed my workstation.  I finished the rest of my beans lickety split (I like to say that word.  Lickety split.  Or is it lickety spit? Hmmmm….).  I wasted a lot of time and effort fighting my body, but was too prideful to admit my set up was wrong and I was too lazy to expend the energy to change it, even though I used way more energy trying to fight it.  Apparently this thing on my neck really is just a helmet holder.

Door County Century

Helmet holder, but at least I get strawberry shortcake!

Life is like that, isn’t it?  The thought of making a change, even one that will make my life easier, seems like too much trouble and effort, so I keep on trying to control the wrong things.  I read once that a person won’t make a change until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.  Pain yes, but pride too.  My ego tells me my process is right and if I could just control myself, all would be well.  This is especially true in my eating habits and in my relationship with God.

I will never be able to eat normal portions if I don’t have a handle on why I am eating in the first place, and I will never be able to grow in my relationship with God if I continue to try to commune with Him according to rules and obligation.  It’s hard to change what I have always done, and the process of making that change seems overwhelming.  But like moving my bean bowl, the initial energy needed to make a change is greater, but is less overall because of the energy saved on the other side of the change.  The sooner the change, the more energy saved.  With all those energy savings, I could qualify for an Energy Star.

Thus starts my quest to move the bean bowls in my life that are causing me to stumble and seeking God for change and direction.  I don’t think it will be easy, but I believe with His help, all things are possible.  One of the biggest changes I see coming is my commitment to writing.  In fact, the very idea is giving me anxiety at this very moment.  But, you know how sometimes you crave something, like maybe a bowl of ice cream or a donut, and you decide not to have it because it’s fattening or whatever, so you eat everything else in your cupboard instead, and then end up eating the ice cream or donut anyway?  That’s what this is like.  I feel like I have spent years eating around my desire to write, thinking I would never be able to make a living at it or be good enough.  Instead I have tried to find satisfaction or direction in other areas, and while I have been successful, I am still wandering around my house opening up cupboards.

I’m scared.  I’m scared of failing, of not being good enough, of dying poor and penniless living out of a cardboard box with nothing but my thermos à la Steve Martin in The Jerk.  But I think I am more scared of not trying it.  Of never knowing.

Steve Martin

I’m picking out a thermos, for you!

How about you?  What are the “bean bowls” in your life that need moving?  I love hearing from you!

Sue

Jesus Is In The Boat


Christ-Asleep-In-His-BoatMy husband can fix just about anything.  Cars, washing machines, dryers, the siding, bikes, the plumbing, the roof.  He built our deck, put up our fence, installed a few water heaters and painted just about every room in our house.  Sometimes he fixes things with specific purchased parts, and other times he “MacGyver’s” it out of things he has lying around the house.  In our 27 years of marriage, we have never had a repair man in our home.

I wanted to fix things too, except I wanted to fix things I was not supposed to fix.  If a friend or family member came to me with a problem, my brain immediately began problem solving and plotting a course of action for them.  Instead of listening, I would be patiently waiting for a break in the conversation to give them my sage advice, except that they weren’t coming to me for the Wisdom of Solomon.  They just wanted me to listen.  And to pray for them.

So I learned to be a good listener and prayer warrior.  Except when it came to problems with my kids.  That has been another story.

Of course I pray for them.  Daily.  With fervor.  And sweat.  And some arguing about God’s timing.  And maybe some late night pacing.  But I can’t seem to let go of the anxiety.  Even now, with my kids being young adults – all it takes is one phone call or late night text to put me over the edge into “fix it” mode, my brain scrabbling to put together a solution for them, every instinct screaming at me to step in and take over.

I have struggled with this ever since my kids problems graduated from skinned knees and broken toys to middle school angst and broken hearts.   I would often find myself as torn up and anxiety ridden as they were, or so angry that I wanted to go Mama Bear on someone – often times them.  I tried harder and harder to control them or the situation, thinking good parents had good children, and why were my children running amok?

A few years ago, I was sitting in a Companions In Christ class at church, explaining how trying to control my kids made me feel anxiety ridden and hopeless, but that I couldn’t seem to stop because at least by trying to control them, I felt like I was being a good mom.  We were reading the story of Jesus and the disciples in the boat, and how the storm hit and the disciples were freaking out while Jesus slept thru it all.  The Holy Spirit flipped a switch, and I had an incredible Ah-Ha moment.  I was a freaking out disciple, and Jesus was right there in the boat with me.

I shouted, “That’s it!  Jesus is in the boat!!  He’s in the boat!”  And then I had to explain, that no matter the storm, if Jesus is in the boat, you’re going to be okay.  I was going to be okay.  My kids were going to be okay.  Everything, no matter what it looked like outside, was going to be okay, because the Master of All was in the boat.  It reminded me of the time my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia when she was four.  Feeling helpless and alone, I gave her to God, regardless of the outcome.  Regardless of whether she lived or died, she belonged to God and not to me.  As the years progressed, I had lost site of that.  Finding Jesus in the boat with me, realizing I did not have to calm the storm nor try keep everyone from falling out of the boat, was such a relief.

I still struggle with wanting to take over for God and solve all of my kids problems.  And although I have gotten better at surrendering them back to Him, it still scares me to let go.  I have to constantly remind myself that He is in the boat, that I can let Him calm the storm.  And even in my weakness and in my fear, and in my lack of faith and trust, He still does.  For that, I am ever grateful.

Originally posted on The Neighborhood Church Lenten Pasha Blog.