Life Inventory

Last month I celebrated another birthday. It was not one that is usually considered to be a milestone birthday and yet it did cause me to pause for some reflection on my life. I realized that like everyone else, I have experienced a long list of wonderful events in my life. Also like everyone else, I have experienced a number of challenges.

As I mentally created lists of both the positive aspects of my life and the challenging ones, I realized how blessed I truly have been. Like others, I have not always made decisions which produced beneficial outcomes. I did make the decisions that seemed right to me at the time. Most of those decisions were after consulting others. Yet, even after making some wrong choices, I would have to state that my life so far has leaned much more to the positive then the negative.

Reflecting upon where I am now in my life, I am grateful for the outcome so far. I am living now with integrity and honest display of who I am as a person. This has led to having an amazing husband who is a true partner who supports me completely. I also have two wonderful biological sons and two “adopted” foreign sons who bring me joy. Both of my sisters remain an important part of my life and I treasure our conversations in between too infrequent visits. My home provides shelter and comfort with some wonderful additions such as an amazing front porch to sit upon, an amazing backyard which I can view while sitting on the covered back patio, and an in-ground pool which I am starting to use for exercise. I am currently engaged in a new career as a writer (and blogger). I am also preparing to lead an online faith discussion group. I would be remiss if I did not also state that I have two loving dogs who always provide entertainment, challenges, and affection.

There have been plenty of challenges as well. I have experienced the extreme sense of grief when my eight-month-old nephew, my mother and my father each died. Having to be honest with the woman whom I married and had children with in regard to my sexuality was difficult. The divorce which was necessary after being honest caused pain and overwhelming fear. Leaving jobs and a number of moves each came with their own challenges even though they advanced my life in positive ways. At various points there have been lesser challenges as well.

Looking at my life to this point. I determined that the positives have far outweighed the negatives. My success has been due to the amazing people in my life. In fact, I would say that the relationships which I have had and continue to have been the greatest positive in my life. This truth leads me to say thank you to the family and friends who have made my life as wonderful as it has become.

During this time of isolation due to Covid-19, I challenge each of you to do a life inventory. Even when we are faced with challenges which this virus has created for many of us, when we reflect on where we are in life, I am confident that each of us will see how much better we are than we often realize. I am also confident that our positive outcomes can be linked to the relationships from our past or present.

Raising Up

Today, I was looking for some inspiration as I prepared to write this post. Once a week, I sit and jot down ideas of possible blog post topics. When I looked at the one which I had planned for today, I discovered that I was not completely sure what I meant when I wrote down the idea. I also decided that I did not feel inspired to write on that topic even if I could figure out my initial intent. This left me with the question of what the topic was going to be. I sat for a while seeking inspiration while looking out the window….nothing. I changed rooms in our house to get a different perspective, still nothing. Finally, I decided to check out some videos on YouTube and inspiration came my way.

The video which caught my attention was of a group in an outdoor setting singing the song, You Raise Me Up. You can check it out by following this link. I think the reason that my eye was drawn to this video is due to the reality of our world currently. We all are dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on our lives, our jobs, our families, and our activities. The title of the song made me pause to consider what raises me up. As I listened to a talented group of young men singing this song, I thought of those in my life who have been, or currently are, the ones who raise me up.

Here are the lyrics to the song made famous by Josh Groban and written by Brendan Graham and Rolf Lovland:

When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary
When troubles come, and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be

You raise me up to more than I can be

These lyrics remind me of the times when I have felt down, times when it seemed I could not go on another day. I recall those individuals placed by God into my life who have supported me, built me up, given me confidence, walked through rough times with me. The list seems endless. Faces rush through my mind as I recall these incredible individuals. The list includes family members, friends, teachers, mentors, neighbors, classmates, and co-workers.

During this challenging time in many of our lives, I encourage us to think about the words of this song. As we listen to or read these words (or both), let your mind list the names of individuals to whom you would sing this song. Consider how many people were part of getting you to where you are today. As you do so, realize that there are still people in your life who can, and are, raising you up even today. Be sure to say thank you to them. Be sure to thank God for placing them in your life.  

Be My Neighbor

Growing up in a small, rural community of just over 800 people meant that everyone knew everyone else. In this small environment, I witnessed what it meant to be a neighbor to someone. My parents were friends with those people who lived around us. They would spend nights playing cards at each other’s homes. There would be times when they would get together for coffee and conversation. Whenever there was a need, either for a missing baking item or because of something having gone wrong, my parents and those who lived around us were the first to respond and supply whatever was needed. Together they parented each other’s children and had no issues tattling on us kids when they felt warranted. My image of what it means to be a neighbor is one of being similar to an extended family.

Having grown up and moved away from the community of my youth, I began to live in larger and larger cities. Some of these locations still had an understanding of being a neighbor similar to my own, but others had a much different concept. The city in which I now reside is a part of a metropolis of over seven million people. I would have to say that being a neighbor in this city is very different from the understanding which I have had most of my life. Being a neighbor to most whom I have encountered means having adjoining property lines or being across the street and that is the extent of the definition. While this is not completely shocking, I am not convinced that this is how it has to be. In fact, I would go so far as saying that I do not think it needs to be this way.

I have decided that I want to show those who live around us, a much different possibility of being a neighbor. Realizing that I am new to the neighborhood in which I now live, I know that I need to take small steps. The key to making this change is small steps which create trust. The first step which I have deliberately made is to be visible. We are fortunate to have with our house not only an awesome patio in our fenced off backyard, but a terrific front porch. My husband gave me wooden Adirondack chairs for a Christmas gift. Per my request, he painted them white. After taking down the outdoor Christmas decorations from our front porch, we moved the new chairs to the front porch. We added a half, wooden barrel (which he also painted white) in between the chairs to provide a stand for our drinks or other items. With this set up, it is possible for me to spend sunny mornings or afternoons sitting on the front porch, reading, and sipping a drink. By doing this, I am visible to my neighbors and gives me an opportunity to at least say hello whenever I see them out.

Another small step which I have taken is to be deliberate about introducing myself to neighbors whom I have not met yet. I share a little bit about myself and my husband, then I ask about their families if they do not offer information on their own. I work hard at remembering their names and a little bit about them so when I see them outside I can call them by name and even ask a question regarding something which they have already told me.

My hope is that by taking these small steps, I can build trust. By building trust, it will be much easier to interact more frequently and to do more in looking out for one another. The days of going over to one another’s house to play cards in the evenings may be gone. However, I think we all could use a little more feeling of being a neighbor in a world which can be so impersonal.

Like Mr Rogers would sing….. “Won’t you be…my neighbor?”

Made That Way

Alright, this may appear to be more of a rant rather than any useful information. My rant today is in regard to denim jeans. Growing up, I was always very conscientious regarding my jeans. My parents did not have a lot of money so jeans were usually purchased once a year, at the start of school. Three pairs of jeans was usually the quota for the year, and they had to last me until summer. In summer, these jeans would be cut off and I would have shorts to wear for the summer. Mom always got the same brand of jeans from Sears, and they were the darkest blue when purchased but a very faded blue by the time of transition into shorts. I took very good care of my jeans because replacements were not an option unless I had grown out of the current size. So I am partial to dark blue jeans even today.

However, I have discovered over the last thirty years that dark blue jeans are not the only style available and for many individuals younger than me, they are seldom worn. Instead, today’s jeans are faded at various levels. I walk into a store, and they are actually sold in that condition. I am amazed that people wish to buy jeans that appear to have already faded. I painstakingly try my best to slow the fading of my jeans as much as I possibly can. I have purchased some of these “already faded” jeans but I feel like I am throwing away my money every time I do so. I purchase them more out of style pressure and try to appear cooler than I am. (Truth is that I have never been considered cool, so I am not sure why I am still trying when I am in my 50’s.)

I could probably grudgingly manage through a world where faded jeans were in style instead of my trusted dark blue jeans, but adding insult to injury, they have now also decided that jeans should have rips and tears in various locations throughout them. I have seen some where the whole knee was exposed and it appeared that they were ready to be transitioned into denim shorts rather than be worn as jeans. Whenever I would have rips and tears in my jeans, Mom would apply one of those denim patches. I was always embarrassed by those patches because it seemed to advertise that I had not taken good care of my jeans. Today, the rips and tears are not patched but instead worn that way as badges of high style. Stores actually sell jeans with rips and tears. I have never purchased this style of denim jeans because I would truly feel like I was throwing my money away buying a substandard product.

Am I the only one who cannot understand these styles of jeans? Surely there are others out there who ask the same question over and over, “Are they really made that way?” Or maybe the other question, “Did he/she actually spend their money on something like that?”

My final observation that I will share with you during this rant is cost. As I look at the cost of jeans, which seems to be phenomenally high, I notice that the plain dark denim jeans cost less than those torn and faded in most cases. So my confusion climbs regarding the financial choices some might make. Why would you pay more for a worn out pair of jeans than you do for what appears to be a brand-new pair of jeans? I am totally confused. Help me understand this if you can.