Cloud Talk

Today I was early for work, so I leaned back in my car and watched the clouds float by. It was a windy day and they were moving quickly.

Like Charlie Brown and friends, I sought images in the sky. First face I saw was a cameo-like profile of s woman. It morphed into the Grinch of Dr. Seuss fame, and then became nothing more than abstract poofs.

I moved on to the image of a mountain lion, and began to wonder if some legends of old found their start in cloud formations. I know the stars inspired some stories, but what about clouds?

What inspires stories, the tall tales or myths of today? We hear sometimes of odd prompts that influenced an author, songwriter or other artist. We don’t see the connection, but it’s there in the mind of the creator.

As for me, I watch the clouds float by and listen to hear what they might be saying.

Photo Credit: © Pakhnyushchyy – Fotolia

The Tide is Turning

Things are turning around. 

In the past few months, I’ve posted about my problems finding a job as well as the stress of having two cats who (suddenly) don’t get along. The latter was due to what’s known as “displaced aggression.” One of my cats, Mimi, saw something that upset her, and she took it out on her brother, Walter.

Well, I’m thrilled to say that’s changed. While Mimi still might growl a little if Walter gets too close, they’re almost back to their old selves. I can’t begin to express what a relief this is. For the past few months, any reminder of my cats brought about feelings of guilt and frustration. I had to separate them, and to do that, one was locked in a bedroom while the other had the run of the place. Then I’d switch.

As you can imagine, that gets a little tricky when you’ve got obligations outside the home. There were times when one of them had to be locked up for eight hours, and that killed me.

Now I even can leave my bedroom door open at night without fear there will be fighting. They’ve worked this out between themselves. Mimi stays with me and Walter goes to the living room. As much as I’d like to have Walter snuggle up to me at night, if that works for them, I’m not interfering.

On the job front, again, good news. I’ve got a freelance writing gig that looks like it will continue for several, perhaps even many, months. Like any new job I’m learning my way, but I believe I’ll be able to do it and do it well.

Thanks to all of you for the encouraging words. For so long it seemed like nothing was going to change, and even though I know that’s not the way life works, it was difficult pushing through it at times.

I’d like to get back to my blogging again, so I hope to see more of all of you soon!

Walter and Mimi are more than willing to help me with my blogging.

Image credit: (c) geosap — stock.adobe.com

The Final Forgiveness

There are those who hurt us and infuriate us, people who forever remain oblivious to the harm they are doing. They are locked into their own understanding of what is good and right.

You want to honor all they’ve done for you, but seeing them comes with a price. It is a constant battle of wanting to rise above knowing you will only be dragged below by your good intentions.

At what point do you let go?

It is best, purest, if it can be done now and the issues are put behind you. But they are difficult to let go of. We are human; we are — on both sides — in many ways locked into who we are and what we believe. It protects us, guides us and provides us with clarity. So perhaps you forgive, only to be set up once again for a battle of wills and false understanding. It is a vicious cycle.

Then you hear: he is dying. He is hanging on, but soon will be gone.

It is time for a final forgiveness, an acknowledgement of our own failings and the knowledge that the temporal, in the end, is a wisp of smoke, dissipating into thin air.

It is time, but it is still hard. You haven’t been heard. There have been assumptions and presumptions that wound. Rumors and lies that become fact in the minds of others.

What does it matter? His death isn’t the final word because you go on living. What matters most?

Refine me, O Lord, open my blind eyes and lead me down the path of forgiveness.


Image courtesy of Pixabay

 

If You Are Burdened…

I loved my Kate Spade handbag.

It was practical and stylish, two words common to describing her designs. I was lucky — I got it half-off, something the snide sales person had no problem disdainfully pointing out when I paid for it (a story for another day). Never mind him. I had my Kate Spade handbag.

I carried it for years, until the wear and tear made it too embarassing to use any more. That’s my sole connection to Kate Spade. But when I heard about her death today, I was moved to tears. The story is coming out that she committed suicide, and that breaks my heart.

A friend who was at one time suicidal described to me what she felt in this way:

“It was like there was weight on my body, an outside pressure that made it hard to breathe. All the sorrow and pain I’d felt in my life was trapped inside of me. The only thing I wanted to do was break away from it, and death seemed like the only option.”

She made a phone call and followed the advice of a professional. Later she had to work her way through the physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Today she tells me she no longer struggles with those feelings and their burden, but it took her some time to deal with the issues that caused them, including physiological factors.

I am not a professional, nor in any way am I trained to advise someone who is feeling suicidal. If you are suffering with those feelings, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


Image Credit: ©eyetronic – stock.adobe.com

 

Discerning the Assumption

They tell you not to assume anything. But I disagree.

I’m job hunting now, and it is (as others have told me) a demoralizing experience. But I assume at the end of the my search I’ll have a job. If not, what would be the point of continuing?

Maybe that’s faith, not an assumption.

I have a friend who’s told me she doesn’t enjoy going to movie theaters. We’ve stopped inviting her, because we know what she’ll say. It’s not that she isn’t welcome, and we frequently let her know we’re going so she can include herself if she wants to go. But why ask the question when you’ve already been told the answer?

That’s common sense, not an assumption.

When I was in college, I took a course with no prerequisites. It was, I was told, a bottom-line, basic, true beginners class — no prior experience required. It also was a graduation requirement. Turns out everyone in that class — except me — already knew these basics, so the teacher taught at a higher level and left me behind. He believed I must know more than I thought I did. After all, I was bright enough.

Now that’s an assumption. Fortunately I took the course pass/fail and he graciously passed me. I didn’t learn a thing.

There are times when we assume things based on the facts we have, yet that information isn’t complete. It seems so obvious, so clear what the situation must be, until that puzzle piece that’s been missing appears. I’ve said it before. We don’t know what we don’t know.

How do we know when it’s faith, common sense or an unfair assumption? Look at who you’re depending on for the information. That will shed some light. The rest is life experience.

Which I’m assuming you have. Just kidding. If you don’t have it now, you will soon.


Assumption

Image Credit: © Bigstock.com

A Time to Plant

Can’t see the forest for the trees.

I think that’s human nature, getting so caught up in the details of an issue that we don’t see the bigger picture. And sometimes that bigger picture is beyond the scope of our understanding. It might take years before we fully comprehend all that there is to know about a particular situation.

When multiple parties are involved, each with their own stake in what’s going on, it can be hard to understand the bigger picture. You know there’s a forest out there — heck, you’re smack dab in the middle of it — but all you can see are the trees, the facts that don’t necessarily seem to tie together.

But somehow they do.  Not necessarily in an orderly fashion, and at times the meaning remains obscure long after we leave those trees behind. That doesn’t mean there isn’t good in that forest.

It also doesn’t mean there isn’t bad. Sometimes the hard cold truth is people did things they simply shouldn’t have done, and their actions have an unfortunate impact in your life, or the life of someone you love. Sorting through that remains a challenge.

Those are the times you have to bring the good to the forest. Plant your own trees, and watch them grow. Take charge of the world around you. It doesn’t mean everything will suddenly be good and the pain will disappear, but it’s good to take control.

I know some of you are facing situations where you have little control — illness or injury, for example, that may or may not be treatable — and these words may sound trite. For that I apologize.

But few of us are 100 percent victims of our circumstances. There is a time for mourning, and a time for giving thanks. And a time for planting trees.


Image Credit: ©sara_winter – stock.adobe.com

 

Forest

Astonish Me

I’m looking to be astonished.

Praying for it, actually. I want God to break open the heavens and say, “here it is!!” My faith tells me it can happen, but my faith is weak right now. So I’m praying for more faith.

How often are we blessed with astonishing news? Do we remember those blessings as well as we should? I know not all my followers share my faith, so I’m putting this in the context of life, not necessarily a belief in God. Do we tend to remember the bad news and accept the good news as our right?

Or perhaps that is an American way of thinking, even a white American way of thinking. I was born into more privilege than many people on this earth. Despite my struggles at this moment (I need a job!), I still enjoy a better life than others in war-torn, destitute countries and regions of this world.

I also have had my share of troubles and setbacks, and I’m struggling with some of those now.  It is impossible to define a balance of good and bad in our lives, and compare it to others.

Last week I was part of a discussion about happiness. The core of this conversation was the concept that money buys happiness. We all agreed, it takes a certain income, an element of security to be content with your lot in your life. That amount differs from person to person, of course, and much of it depends on where you live and what your needs are at any given time.

One man asked, “if money doesn’t buy you happiness, then why don’t the people with money give it away?”

Wow, what a question, and so many answers. I remember some thirty years seeing Donald Trump in an interview on Oprah. He was still married to Ivana — that’s how long ago it was (he’s had two wives since then and, as we know, a few other relationships). Anyway, he stated that after awhile, it isn’t about what you can buy, it’s a scorecard.

The man with the biggest bank account wins.

That’s a mentality I can’t buy into, and not to worry, it’s not likely to become an issue in this lifetime. But my point with this is, it isn’t simply the money that matters. Paying your bills and buying what you need isn’t the issue for those with great wealth. To whom much is given, much is required — but many seem to lose track of that requirement.

So I’m not asking to be astonished with great wealth. Rather, surprise me with the means to live a relatively simple life, that abililty to replace my worn shoes and keep my electricity from being shut off.

I’m praying, astonish me with that. I’m scared.


Image Credit: © GraphicStock.com

Astonish

 

Hey Ship!! Here’s Your Harbor!!

Recently I ready brief biography of music composer Dorothy Fields on a fellow bloggers site. One quote from her stood out to me:

When your ship doesn’t come in, go out and find it.

How often does our ship actually come in? Certainly there are times we are lucky enough to have good fortune fall our way. But more often than not, we need to create our own possibilities.

I’ve written before about being prepared for opportunity, and I think that’s part of it. Training and experience obviously help in the job hunt, and having an updated resume at the ready is wise. But there’s another part of it. Sometimes we need to take action and actually get out there and look for our own good luck.

We need to be brave.

Going back to the ship analogy, it isn’t always easy to set out in choppy seas to find a wayward vessel. But what are your options? Sit at the harbor and get rained on while your ship is sailing further away?

We need to make sacrifices.

Sometimes it’s small things we need to give up, and those can be the hardest to let go of. Consider your monthly expenses and pare those down. You may end up with greater discretionary income to cover the costs of seeking your ship.

We need to be patient.

It’s easy to give up and say “I tried, but it didn’t work.” Maybe you need to give up on reigning in one wayward ship and believe another is on the horizon. Don’t stop looking because your last opportunity is now out of reach.

Believe in yourself.

If you struggle with this, I have no quips or easy answers. However, I do know taking risks builds confidence, especially if you keep those risks in perspective.

I’ve had ships come and go, and some remain a steady part of my fleet. Now I’ve exhausted the metaphor.

But if your ship hasn’t come in, go out and find it.


Image Credit: ©juanjo – stock.adobe.com

 

Thank You

For the last seven years I’ve suffered at the hands of those with greater power and lesser insight.

It’s not that my life has been all hell and horror, but it’s safe to say the worst moments of my existence happened during this time. So I’m thrilled to announce it’s officially over.

That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to live with the consequences, nor does it vindicate those who caused this pain. And for my part in it, I’ve paid the price. A proportionately higher price than our society accepts. Life isn’t fair sometime.

But we are not a product of what happens to us. We are a product of how we respond to those events, the accusations, the unjust decisions. I’m not saying the events themselves don’t change us. They do. But what shapes us, in the end, lies within our hearts.

So I thank not only those who stood by me, but those who inspired me over my lifetime. All of you who shared your wisdom and built a tower of strength within me.

And I thank God for holding me close.

Thank you.


Photo Credit: © stock.adobe.com

How or Why and Peace of Mind

Last night I dashed out to the local CVS to get some candy. I admit it. A quick trip, three miles or less.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a car, different make but similar style and color to mine, parked in the same corner I was headed. Then I noticed something else. The license plate number was almost identical, save for one number. Instead of an eight, hers was a zero.

A second later the driver of this car appeared. An attractive yet otherwise unremarkable young woman carrying a prescription and another small bag (maybe candy, who knows?). Yet it got me to thinking.

What if she’d just robbed the place? In the rush and panic that would ensue, what if someone mistook my car for hers?

Now that’s my active imagination,  no doubt. Here’s the problem: these things do happen. Given that she had long blonde hair and was clearly a good twenty years younger than me, chances are I wouldn’t suffer the worst. Still, in the world we live in today, I could.

The odds are worse for minorities, and we’ve all seen the stories. I remember one particularly troubling report on a news magazine, perhaps Dateline, of a man who was imprisoned for nearly 30 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Some might say, well, maybe he didn’t commit that crime, but surely he was guilty of something just as bad. Only in this case, there was no evidence of that.

He could have gotten out on parole years earlier if he’d confessed and shown remorse, but he refused, saying the only thing he had left was his name. I hope he was able to find peace once he was released, but odds were still against him after all those years of incarceration.

I hope others helped him find dignity, because he’d lived a long time without it.

We learn when we’re young that life isn’t fair. Yet we can’t live life with a constant awareness of our alibi for that moment or our excuse for doing something others might find odd. That, in and of itself, is going to raise red flags for some.

Why are our lives at times devoid of justice and peace? I don’t know. I don’t understand the imbalance in the world. But I do believe in a God who is just, even if we can’t comprehend how or why.

And that’s my peace of mind.


Photo Credit: ©Anna – stock.adobe.com

The Proof is in the Pudding

And I’m the pudding. It’s all well and good to write endless tomes on how much I’ve learned in recent years, but try putting that to the test. One of life’s pop quizzes on how I’ll respond when things get bad.

I aced it.

Last week the temporary job I was working on — one I’d hoped would become permanent — abruptly ended. The explanation was vague. Colleagues who messaged me said management terminated the contracts of several temporary employees. In all fairness, it is what happens when you’re a contract worker. Still, it’s nice to have a reason.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

I discovered I’d accepted the truth of that statement, something I’ve written about on this blog in the past. Rather than agonize and speculate over what happened, I’ve decided not to dwell on it. Time to move on.

This puts me in a bad place financially. In addition to facing a difficult time paying my bills, my credit is at risk. That could have long term consequences.

But I’ve been through bad times before, and I’ve learned you live through them. Things eventually turn around.

I hope my next job lasts for years. I’d like something that could become a part of me, rather than another passing experience. I believe when you set your mind to something it’s more likely to happen, and my hope has become a part of my search criteria.

It’s like they say, wish I knew then what I know now. But that’s such a universal conclusion in people’s lives it tells me there’s some order to our experiences, some reason we internalize beliefs like these when we do.

Tomorrow I may panic. Today I am at peace.


Image © Bigstock

 

Keep the Beasts Away

As a senior in college, my journalism classes were peppered with visits from real-life reporters.

One of them was a top crime reporter from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, whose name I’ve long forgotten. He showed up for our 9:00 class with rumpled hair, wrinkled shirt and unshaven face, holding a cup of coffee and looking too sleepy to be nervous. We weren’t shy about asking him questions, but it was when we allowed him to talk freely about his career that the most interesting information poured forth.

An earlier reporting job had been for the major daily paper in Chicago, where he worked the overnight shift. Most of the time he covered accidents and drunken brawls; if he was lucky, someone with some degree of fame was involved. One night, while playing cards with a colleague, he heard a call come over the police scanner. A woman had reported a foul odor emanating from her next-door neighbor’s home.

This kind of report was common and rarely went anywhere, but the two men figured since nothing else was going on, they might as well see what was up. Not expecting anything serious, they were intrigued by the growing number of emergency vehicles surrounding the house in question. Police weren’t talking and had roped off any access to the premises, so the reporters checked in on the neighbor who’d made the call.

A kind woman who’d lived in the same home for decades, she poured them some coffee and began talking about the man next door. Pleasant and polite, she said, but there was one strange thing. Young men, boys, really, would show up at his place on a regular basis. She’d seen plenty of them going in, but none ever came out.

That caught the attention of these reporters. They called their editor, and continued to investigate this increasingly harrowing story.

They broke the news to the world about John Wayne Gacy.

For those of you who don’t know, Gacy was one of the most notorious American serial killers of the 20th century.  Convicted in 1980 of the rape and murder of 33 young men he’d lured to his home and buried in the crawl space, he eventually was put to death by lethal injection.

The point of sharing his experience with a wide-eyed audience of journalism students was to remind us you never knew when or in what form opportunity would present itself. This horrifying story catapulted the career of these two reporters. Always seeking  information the hordes of other reporters missed, they helped fill out the tale of a gruesome tragedy.

They weren’t voyeurs, nor were the opportunists playing on the despair of others. This crime changed them in ways they were reluctant to discuss. As reporters, however, they called upon their training, formal and informal, to relay the full story. Much of what they reported is long forgotten, but a significant portion of it informed the world of the danger that could lurk in their neighborhood. If one boy heeded the lesson from their reports and saved himself from degradation and death, their work yielded the desired results.

Doctors prepare for the disaster they pray never happens; schools practice for the terror they never want to see. In our own way, preparing ourselves personally and professionally for the darkest parts of our society helps make our lives and the lives of those we care about safer.

No, we can’t live with a fatalistic attitude, nor can we worry ceaselessly about unseen events. We prepare, and go on with the joys and expectations of our lives. No better preparation can be made than that of cultivating a compassionate and caring heart, one that is grieved by tragedy but never hardened.

May you never face the worst of man or nature, and for those who do or will, may God carry you through it. And may all of us do what we can to keep the beasts away.


Image Credit:  ©Algol — stock.adobe.com

 

Dive in — The Water’s Fine

My world is changing, once again.

Actually there are lots of changes…the end of a truly difficult time is approaching, and there is hope for a future project. Someone I relied on is out of my life and isn’t coming back, but someone new has stepped in. I’ve been working full-time as a temp at a job that soon may be permanent. What’s more, it’s a job in my field — something I never thought I’d see again.

A few years ago things looked so bleak I couldn’t see my way out. Slowly the wind turned, and a fresh breeze began winding its way through my life.

I am grateful for the good in my life.

Still, I find myself sometimes focusing on my failures and shortcomings. I notice I still don’t have a sofa to replace the aging futon that sits in my living room. I struggle to pay my bills many months. There’s a difference in that struggle now, however. I do get the bills paid, I can buy groceries, and I can even buy the occasional treat for myself.

My makeup is running low and I’m not sure how I’ll afford to replace it, but I believe I’ll figure out a way. For so long I couldn’t afford it and went without. As someone who likes the way she looks better when there’s a little (just a little) war paint on, that was a challenge.

And I always have a ton of toilet paper. As God is my witness, I will never run out of toilet paper again. I think I said that once before.

I’m mindful of what my dad has told me: whether times are good or times are bad, we always think they’re never going to end. I’m enjoying the good times, but I know life, being what it is, will present me with challenges once again.

The good thing about surviving the storm is you feel prepared for the next one. Not that you want it, but it doesn’t scare you.

Jump. The water’s fine.


Photo Credit:  © raduga21 — stock.adobe.com

 

Never-Ending Wonder

There is something about endless skies and rolling fields that bring out the dreamer in me.

Perhaps it is the seeming unlimited nature of the view, the what-is-just-beyond wonder that this vista presents. It is vast, yet it is contained in our world, it is out of reach yet somehow attainable. It is our dreams spilling out before us.

Dreams for ourselves, our children, our country, our world. The belief more is possible.

Dreams are salvation for some, drive and determination for others. Dreams grab us and hold tight, tell us what we ought to do.

Never-ending wonder, unlimited possibility.


Photo Credit: © Andrushko Galyna — Bigstockphoto.com

 

“Have a nice trip?” “Last Fall.”

A nice trip, indeed.

I’m working in a warehouse now as a technical writer. The administrative aspect of my job doesn’t mean I get an office, however, or even a traditional desk. I’m smack dab in the middle of 95000 square feet of bedlam.

They strive for high safety standards, but with that much STUFF it isn’t always easy.

So I’m walking to the ladies’ room when BAM! I find myself face down on a cement floor. Turns out a piece of plastic strapping tape — used in this case to bind a pile of empty, flattened boxes — was jutting out from said pile. I slid on it, which is what caused me to fall forward.

I landed smack dab on my side, seriously bruising my rib cage, liver and kidney, and the surrounding muscles. I spent hours in the ER, where they ruled out any cracks, breaks or damage to organs.

But, ow.

Even with painkillers, things like feeding my cats and lying down in bed hurt like the bejeebers. This is likely to last a little while.

So if it isn’t this, it’s that. Still, I remain grateful for overall good health and wounds that will heal.

The kitties haven’t left my side. I swear, we must secrete something when we’re in pain because cats and dogs always know when they need to take care of you.

And I’m well taken care of.


Image Credits: (Fallen Elephant) © maxbol — stock.adobe.com; (Leaves) © graphicstock.com