Thirty-One Days of Starting Over


31 Days of Starting Over

 

Welcome to 31 Days of Starting Over.

I will be Joining 1,400 other bloggers for the month of October to meet the challenge or writing every day for 31 days.  I will be adding each link by day to this post, so you can find any topic in this one place.  If you have any “starting over” topics you’d like to read about, please leave a comment.  In the meantime, start here.  Thanks so much for reading!

Day 1:  Starting Over in the State of Alabama

Day 2: Starting Over in a Skilled Nursing Facility

Day 3: Starting Over After Being Found

Day 4: Starting Over When the Nest Empties

Day 5: Starting Over After Re-organizing Your Home

Day 6: Starting Over After a Miscarriage

Day 7: Starting Over with a New Diet

Day 8: Starting Over as a Cancer Survivor

Day 9: Starting Over After an Argument

Day 10: Starting Over with an Old Pair of Traveling Jeans

Day 11: Starting Over with a New Christmas Plan

Day 12: Starting Over When Relationships are Unhealthy

Day 13: Starting Over After a Funeral

Day 14: It’s All about the Marriage, Not the Wedding

Day 15: Starting Over with Less

Day 16: Starting Over With Your Feedback

Day 17: Starting Over in a New City

Day 18: Starting Over After Getting in Trouble with Your Parents

Day 19: Starting Over with a Lil’ Ole Theatre

Day 20: Starting Over After Sweating the Small Stuff

Day 21: Starting Over with a New Game Day Snack

Day 22: Starting Over with Photography Lessons

Day 23: Always Starting Over

Day 24: Starting Over After Childhood Abuse

Day 25: Starting Over in a New Church

Day 26: Starting Over with Finances

Day 27: Starting Over with a Newborn

Day 28: Starting Over with a Change of Panties

Day 29:

 

Day 13: Starting Over After a Funeral

31 Days of Starting OverIn 1976, while in the 10th grade, my Literature teacher gave us a list of topics to write about in a term paper.  The one I chose was “euthanasia”. It was a fresh topic at the time, due to the case of Karen Ann Quinlan, a 21 year old who was being kept alive on feeding tubes and a respirator after an incident with drugs and alcohol that left her brain-dead. I remember it being a hot topic due to the many different beliefs about how she was being kept alive.  According to the article that I linked above, she eventually died in 1985 after living for 10 years in a coma, while being fed with feeding tubes.

I believe that due to this very high profile case, all of the controversy around Jack Kevorkian and the Terri Shiavo case that lasted from 1990 until 2005, we are now better prepared for the devastating choice of whether to have a living will or not.  Both, Jay and I have a living will with specific instructions of what we want/don’t want in the case of being kept alive by artificial means.  So why is this so important?

It is important to make these decisions ahead of time, so that it isn’t left up to those who will be grieving the loss of their loved one.  I attended the funeral this last week of my uncle.  He was/is the daddy of my dear cousins, David and Rick, and the husband of my favorite aunt.  I love this family and loved my uncle – although I didn’t see him much in his last years.

Our family with only a few spouses and grandchildren missing.
Our family with only a few spouses and great/grandchildren missing.

As David related the story of his dad’s final hours, he told me how his dad’s feeding tube had come out and how my uncle then asked that it not be replaced. I am relieved for my family that he made this decision and they were not asked to do so. My precious aunt, cousins and their children will now go through the difficult stages of grief without the added angst of having had to make that decision.

David and his bride, Christina (who is more like a sister to me), came for a visit the following weekend and while I know it will be hard for days and days to come, they seemed at peace.  Christina, my “adopted sister,” said something to me that has resonated ever since.  We were talking about family and how we didn’t see each other enough. We were also talking about some of the rough patches we have been through with some of our living relatives and this is what she said about that…

“We have to remember the good in our loved ones and forget the bad; we need to learn to love people for who they are.”

This was an easy thing to hear from her, because I believe she has done this her whole life.  She has loved me for who I am without question or judgment. She also directed me to Luke 7 and the story of the woman with the alabaster jar:

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

While Jesus was teaching the Pharisee a lesson in being judgmental of “sinners”,  this was a reminder to me that each of us has been forgiven a great debt.  He died for the Pharisee and the “sinner” alike.  I’ve often wondered, however, who was truly the greater sinner in this story? The woman with a past or the man who was so quick to judge her? I noticed that Jesus spent more time counseling the Pharisee than he did the woman.

I couldn’t help but spend some time on verse 43 where Jesus tells Simon that he has “judged correctly.” The lesson I am taking from this scripture is this:

  • It seems appropriate for us to “judge” or as the word means in the Greek, to examine the amount of forgiveness God has for us, for then we will be more grateful for it.
  • Jesus loved the one who realized her own sin and “removed the bad” as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)

And as we live life preparing our own eulogy, may I add, that just like the woman with the alabaster jar – who was in a sense preparing Jesus’s body for burial with her tears and perfume; that it is a good idea to prepare our bodies in a way that shows the “other-centeredness” kind of love we have for each other – just as Jesus did. We can show our “great love”, just as my uncle did, by making the tough decisions that affect those left behind. My uncle, J.D. and his grandson, Jared. My daddy and my son, AaronMy uncle, J.D. with his grandson, Jared and my daddy with my son, Aaron.

May you rest in peace John D. Morgan.  We appreciate the lessons you taught us in life and in death. You were loved and will be missed.

 

Day 12: Starting Over When Relationships are Unhealthy

31 Days of Starting OverA friend and I were having a conversation about relationships recently and were trying to determine if and when it is ok to sever and move on. In the movie, Steel Magnolias, Shelby (Julia Roberts) says to her mother (Sally Field), “I’d rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”  Her mother is unhappy to discover her diabetic daughter is pregnant. The pregnancy is not good for her body and like all good mothers, M’Lynn only wants what is best for her daughter.

Photo Credit: www.everydayhealth.com
Photo Credit: www.everydayhealth.com

I couldn’t agree more.  Although, in this case a child is born and if the story had continued, we’d likely see a lifetime of wonderful for this grandmother.

But, how do you achieve that “30 minutes of wonderful” if some of your relationships are unhealthy? How can you tell that the relationships are unhealthy? I am a researcher by nature, so I’ve read up on the subject. This of course, is not a complete list and I am not a therapist, but I think this is a good place to start.  Mayo Clinic gives the following list of questions to determine if you are dealing with borderline personality disorder.  The last 5 deal with narcissistic personality disorder from other sources.

  • Does spending time with this person(s) create in you an insecure sense of who you are?
  • Does their self-image, self-identity or sense of self often rapidly change in your presence?
  • Do they seem to change jobs, friendships, goals and values frequently?
  • Are their relationships usually in turmoil? Do they seem to idealize someone one moment and then abruptly and dramatically shift to fury and hate over perceived slights or even minor misunderstandings?
  • Do they have difficulty accepting gray areas — things seem to be either black or white, good or bad?
  • Do they seem to be only self-focused?
  • Is it difficult for them to empathize?
  • Do they use other people without regard to the cost of doing so?
  • Do they admire and flatter people who seem to affirm them, while hating and detesting those who do not?
  • Do they pretend to be more important than they are?
  • Do they claim to be an “expert” at many things?
  • Do they seem incapable of remorse or gratitude?

In Sandy Hotchkiss’ book, “Why is it Always About You?”, she lists the “seven deadly sins of narcissism”:

Shamelessness: Shame is the feeling that lurks beneath all unhealthy narcissism, and the inability to process shame in healthy ways.

Magical thinking: Narcissists see themselves as perfect, using distortion and illusion known as magical thinking. They also use projection to dump shame onto others.

Arrogance: A narcissist who is feeling deflated may re-inflate by diminishing, debasing, or degrading somebody else.

Envy: A narcissist may secure a sense of superiority in the face of another person’s ability by using contempt to minimize the other person.

Entitlement: Narcissists hold unreasonable expectations of particularly favorable treatment and automatic compliance because they consider themselves special. Failure to comply is considered an attack on their superiority, and the perpetrator is considered an “awkward” or “difficult” person. Defiance of their will is a narcissistic injury that can trigger narcissistic rage.

Exploitation: Can take many forms but always involves the exploitation of others without regard for their feelings or interests. Often the other is in a subservient position where resistance would be difficult or even impossible. Sometimes the subservience is not so much real as assumed.

Bad boundaries: Narcissists do not recognize that they have boundaries and that others are separate and are not extensions of themselves. Others either exist to meet their needs or may as well not exist at all. Those who provide narcissistic supply to the narcissist are treated as if they are part of the narcissist and are expected to live up to those expectations. In the mind of a narcissist there is no boundary between self and other.

My personal thoughts on this subject are that life is SO short and like Shelby in Steel Magnolia’s, I don’t want to look back over my life at 70 or 80 and realize I’ve had a whole lot of “nothing special”, due to unhealthy relationships.

I spoke with my pastor about this years ago and his advice to me was, “Distance yourself, but don’t disconnect.”  There are going to be people in our lives that we can’t completely disconnect from – nor should we want to – unless they are abusive.  For instance, if a woman decides to divorce the father of her children due to his narcissistic and abusive behaviors, she is distant, but not disconnected because of the children. Or say, worse case, your step-mother was abusive to you as a child.  Is it ok to completely disconnect in this case?  Can you decide not to attend family functions where she is present?  In this writer’s humble opinion, ABSOLUTELY!

Where the lightbulb comes on in my dull mind, is that I have no power to change this person, I am not responsible for their actions, I am NOT the cause of their behavior, and I have no real obligation to remain in an abusive relationship.  There may be imagined or contrived reasons to stay involved, but in reality, boundaries are a very good thing.  And it doesn’t make us narcissistic to set those boundaries!

This is a topic that could go on and on forever, but in reality we don’t have forever on this planet. To borrow from James 4:

14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

Time has done just that in my 53 1/2 years on this planet – vanished away. But thankfully, I’ve had many, many “30 minutes of wonderful” and hope to have many more – without allowing difficult people to make my lifetime “nothing special”.

 

 

 

Day 11: Starting Over with a New Christmas Plan

31 Days of Starting OverA friend on Facebook wrote a few weeks ago that it is only 13 1/2 weeks til Christmas.  I commented, “Stop it!!!”  I love Christmas, but I don’t enjoy the frantic, scurry, hurry, panic of trying to get it all done. As soon as I read her post I felt the acid rising in my stomach.  So, I thought, what can I do now to prepare?  The following is the list I came up with to get ahead of the game so I can truly enjoy the season.

Ours is a traditional tree, filled with homemade gifts and souvenir ornaments from all of our trips.
Ours is a traditional tree, filled with homemade gifts and souvenir ornaments from all of our trips.
  1. Make a list of all people you are purchasing for this year.  You can do this on paper of course, but a great app I use now is Evernote.  That way I have my list with me all the time.
  2. Prepare your Christmas budget.  Always allow for more people than are on your list.  You may make a new friend!
  3. Decide on service gifts and buy multiples.  For instance, if you purchase for your hairdresser, nail tech, doorman, dog groomer, caregivers, house/pet/baby sitters, purchase several gift cards at one time, like iTunes, Starbucks, or a restaurant.
  4. Purchase multiple hostess gifts to have on hand for parties.  You can gift wrap them now in a solid color paper in case you don’t use them.  You will then have a “gift shelf” in a closet for those last minute birthday/anniversary/graduation gifts.  In order to remember what is in each gift, place a sticker on the bottom with a number or letter written on it.  Keep a list of your gifts with your chosen coding system on the shelf.  You can remove the sticker before adding your ribbon.
  5. Address your Christmas Cards if you purchased them after Christmas last year.
  6. Decide on a few appetizer menus you’ll keep on hand for taking to get- togethers and buy any staples you can keep on hand now.
  7. If, like our family, you have special candy-making days, put that on the calendar and share with family so no other activities get in the way of that family time.  Every year, we make chocolate and peanut butter fudge and divinity.
  8. Plan any special gatherings in your home now and send out a “save-the-date,” early to friends and family.
  9. Plan your menu for your special gathering.
  10. Stock your pantry, liquor cabinet and wine frig – if your parties include adult beverages.

A few ideas for hostess gifts:

  • Candle with snuffer or wick trimmer.
  • Anything in blue and white.  Blue and white vases, cup and saucer with specialty tea bags, boxes, etc.  A little blue and white goes with every decor.
  • Candy dish with candies.
  • Guest towel with pretty soaps.
  • Specialty olive oil and vinegars.
  • Antique watering can with small plant. (Purchase plant day before party.)
  • Book with bookends (I have a book that I love giving as gifts – One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voscamp) Keep your eyes open for bookends throughout the year for great deals.  There are some now on One Kings Lane.

It is now only 10 1/2 weeks until Christmas.  I may wear mouse ears on vacation, but there will be no scurrying by this shopper this year!

 

 

Day 8: Starting Over as a Cancer Survivor

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’d like to share a story of strength and courage.  This is not a breast cancer story, but one of lung cancer and small cell carcinoma.

Pink Ribbon

My family has had its share of the ugly “C” word, beginning with my sweet daddy. My daddy, like so many men of his generation, smoked for many years.  After a heart attack in 1996, he took the advice of his doctors and quit smoking which did his heart good.  Unfortunately, however, the damage had already begun in his lungs, and we received the horrible news that daddy needed surgery in 2001.  The surgeon removed 3/4 of his left lung. To say now that I love the air my daddy breathes is an understatement.

The faith of this man is a strong, quiet one.  The kind that moves mountains without a spoken word.  The kind that children have before the world has had a chance to cause doubt. Daddy’s is the faith that you see but hear very little about.  He’s not been one to preach, condemn or judge others.  Instead, his hand is always reaching out to help those who need it, and while as a police chief, he had to hold law breakers accountable, he always offered help where he could.  There have been many would-be wayward boys come by as grown men to thank my dad for something he did for them in their youth.

My dad is not a worrier, but like all cancer patients, he is a warrior. The doctors have said that his most recent cancer (small cell carcinoma that metastasized to the lymph system) may return.  Not once has he mentioned that he is scared of its return. He endured the painful radiation treatment that turned his skin to raw meat.  And now, even with the memory of that pain, his attitude toward his health is optimistic.

  • He remains busy.  At 77 years old, he still works part-time driving for a rental car company.
  • He eats fruits and vegetables, drinks lots of water and tries to walk for exercise when he can (even after a hip replacement surgery.)
  • He is prompt with his doctor visits for re-checks.
  • He is in bed early each night to get plenty of rest.
  • He is active in church.
  • He enjoys every minute he spends with his friends and family.

There are numerous stories of survivors who turned their illness into a cause.  Stories of people who begin businesses to help those who need wigs, colostomy supplies, sunscreen, emotional support, nausea medication, and many others that have changed the treatment and prevention of cancer; but my dad’s story is simply one of tremendous fight, heart and strength.  His family is his cause.  He has survived a heart attack, lung cancer, hip replacement surgery and the aforementioned diagnosis of small cell carcinoma.  But with each diagnosis, you could see in his eyes that he just wasn’t done with his life yet.  Not that he really has a say in it, but if a will to live and faith as strong as a mustard seed has influence over our Father, well, then we have heard from Heaven.  Daddy will be 78 in a few days and to celebrate we’ll take up his cause – in fact we will be his cause and be blessed as a result.

Family
Family

31 Days of Starting Over

Day 6: Starting Over After a Miscarriage

31 Days of Starting Over

 

It is very likely that the most devastating thing(s) that have happened to me personally were the 3 babies that I lost due to miscarriages.  The first one happened after Jay and I had only been married a year and a half.  It was in April 1982.  I found out I was pregnant in early March and elated does not begin to describe my state of mind. Eight weeks later I was no longer pregnant and depression began to descend over me like a cold, dense fog.  You see, my goal in life was not to be a career woman, a writer, a decorator, Bible Study teacher or any of the other things that have been “sidebars” along the way.  All I ever wanted was to be a mother.

Well-intentioned folks would comment that at least I wasn’t too far along, I would see the baby in Heaven some day and that it was probably God’s way of correcting something that was wrong.  All I felt was a terrible sense of loss and that something I desperately wanted had been taken from me.

It may sound a little crazy, but some days afterward I would think I could feel it move, and then realize, nope that was my imagination.  I cried myself to sleep at night and worried myself sick during the day, wondering if something was wrong with me and perhaps I’d never have children.  For several months, I went through the motions to appear that I was “getting over it”, but I can honestly say there is no description of the ache and emptiness I felt inside.  I wanted to start trying again right away, but after many tears and lots of discussion, we decided to wait until we were at least in a house and not an apartment, because this pregnancy had been a surprise.

In March, 1983, we moved into our first house and the minute we were settled, I went to the doctor to see if we could try again.  My doctor was one of the sweetest on this earth, Dr. Ronald Henderson. He sat with me on his couch, put his arms around me and cried with me after that first miscarriage. He put me through some tests and discovered that I was not fit as a fiddle and had what he called, “late ovulation.”  Once again, I felt the fog begin to descend.  But, Dr. Henderson put me on a drug to make my ovulation more prompt.  (My friends are chuckling because there is nothing prompt about me!) It was two, long years of mother nature showing up every month.  The months that I was late, I would begin to hope and think maybe I’m pregnant and then boom, I would feel the loss again and again.

Finally in March, 1984 we found out we were pregnant.  In January, 1985 my beautiful, perfect son was born.  I decided that day that birthdays would be a HUGE deal in our house.  Celebrations would be a BIG deal in honor of what God had given us.  If my children can say nothing else, they definitely have great birthday memories because each one was special to me and I made sure special to them.

Aaron, our miracle baby.
Aaron’s birthday.
Leaving the hospital.
Leaving the hospital.

Dr. H advised us that things were usually different for parents after they conceived and birthed the first child, so we could wait to try again when we were ready. I wanted to trust him, so we waited until Aaron was 2 years old to start trying again.  A second miscarriage happened in the summer of 1989.  I was devastated again, but with the added joy that I could look in the eyes of my precious son every morning.  We were in St. Petersburg, FL on vacation when it happened and I had to schedule a D and C with a doctor who showed up in ratty jeans and hair down to his waste.  To say that I feared ever having a second child is an understatement!

Jay and Aaron played at the beach while I recovered in our rented condo. I knew I needed comforting but didn’t want to totally ruin our vacation, so of course I turned to my best friend and He was the perfect sympathizer. In Psalms 25, I read:

10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, Lord,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord?
He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.

16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
    and free me from my anguish.
18 Look on my affliction and my distress
    and take away all my sins.
19 See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!

20 Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, Lord, is in you.

Now, as a Bible student, I know that David was speaking about the future of Israel and his own battles with King Saul, but this was the most comfort I had had since the first miscarriage. It also brought into perspective a precious card I received after the first loss from a dear Jewish couple.  They simply signed the card…”God in His infinite wisdom.” I didn’t really understand why then, but that card had given me such comfort.  I understand now, that it has everything to do with our trust in His wisdom. I also know that as an adopted child into His kingdom, I was eligible to receive His promise of descendants to inherit the land.

After many fertility tests, procedures and drugs, I began seeing a specialist at UAB and soon after the second miscarriage, we were told by another doctor that our son had been a “fluke” and it was likely we would never have more children.  Because of my comfort from my Father after the previous loss, this statement did nothing but make me mad. My son was a gift from Heaven and in my opinion, there is NO life on this planet that is a “fluke!”

We continued with the specialist to the point that we were going to begin fertility shots that were $800 and not totally covered by insurance. That was in the spring of 1991 and while we had the syringe in the refrigerator, we decided to take the summer off from everything related to fertility. We went on a second honeymoon to Aruba and returned content to accept whatever God decided was right for us as a family.  One child, two or several more, it was in His hands.  We were pregnant without any pills, drugs or procedures in July.  In April of 1992, my princess was born.  It took us 5 years, lots of drugs, tests, procedures and a trip to Aruba – of all places – to get to a point of total trust in our Father.  Am I saying that this is the answer to all infertility couples?  Not at all.  Adoption would have been a likely next step, but to say I was content as a mother to have these two is a major understatement.

Amy's birthday.
Amy’s birthday.
Amy, our second miracle.
Amy, our second miracle.

My next miscarriage was in 1998 and the pregnancy was a complete surprise.  I had been content with two, but the thought that I might have a third… well, at the age of 38, I would be lying to say that I was not a bit scared.  I would be 56 when that child graduated from high school.  But, Jay and I talked long into many nights and were truly beginning to enjoy the idea of another baby in the house, when at 8 weeks (just like the other two), another miscarriage.

So, how do you start over after a miscarriage?   You grieve, you cry, you may even scream at God asking why. You put away the nursery ideas and the first things you’ve bought for the baby. You read everything you can get your hands on about fertility. You see specialist after specialist. And then as you go through the different stages of grieving, you begin to accept that there may be a “better?” plan for your life?  For those who think that Christians just magically trust God with all their heart the minute they begin to know Him, they are sadly mistaken.  In all honesty, after the first miscarriage, I did not trust God with my future. I knew what I wanted and if He wanted something different, well then, He was just wrong. There were times when I didn’t care what He or anyone else thought was best for me. I knew that I wanted to be a mother. Period. It made me sad, hurt, disappointed and very angry after each loss.  I began to think that God was vindictive and was somehow punishing me for past sins.  And that my friends, is because I didn’t really KNOW HIM.  To see how I began to know Him, read Starting Over After Being Found.

My prayer is that somehow this post will be a comfort to those going through this same thing.  My encouragement – get to know your Father – so you can better understand Him when these things happen. Knowing Him is the only comfort that soothes.

And then, to borrow the words from a song we sang a lot around our house,

Praise Him, Praise Him!

Praise Him in the morning,

Praise Him at the noontime.

Praise Him, Praise Him!

Praise Him when the sun goes down.