Preserving Our Past For The Future

Monthly Archives: May 2013

Today is my 53rd birthday. I remember thinking not so many years ago when I was a young kid that anything over 40 was old, and anything over 50 was pretty near dead. I have since changed my perception.
Looking forward to growing up, it seems life passes at a snail’s pace. From birth to about 4, you are learning about yourself and investigating the tiny environment of your own parent-controlled world. Dad is many times that shadowy figure that goes to work, whatever the heck that is, and comes home to grumpily read the paper before dinner, eat and retire to the recliner for a night of viewing TV you can’t participate in. Mom’s lap is soft and safe, and any boo-boo gets fixed by simply climbing up and cuddling as she wipes tears, coos, and pats your cheek. Siblings start out ok, but somehow they turn into those grabbing little annoyances you wished would run off and join the Foreign Legion.
Then you are 5. Still prone to temper tantrums, crying jags over being sent to bed earlier than you want, and avoidance of baths are somewhat of a mainstay of your everyday life. You have begun to learn the world doesn’t revolve around you, sharing is not an option, and other kids are first a friend, then can get kind of stinky if something goes awry during playtime at their house. You turn 6, 8, 10 and begin to huddle up with gossipy friends and they enlighten you to the reality that one day you get to be the decision maker for your own life, and suddenly you can hardly wait to “get out of this house and away from THOSE people”. Teenage years and rebellion, even to a small degree, are indicative of raging hormones mixed with individualism that raises its monstrous head and flings all your decent upbringing to the curb. Some kids sneak out at night, others form bad habits that stay with them a lifetime, then a golden few seem to escape this stretch of black holes and go through those years unscathed and are deemed the “good kids”.
High school rolls by, acne starts out as your biggest concern, then gets trumped by wearing the wrong kind of make up or dress and finding yourself an outcast with no invite to prom or months without a date because you are not thought popular. Somehow you limp through and the day you walk the graduation aisle, you become, at least chronologically, an adult and capable of making your own decisions for your own life. You are at that place you dreamed of. You have left home, you no longer have school to attend, the friends that abandoned you or made you feel creepy have gone off to college, and it is you…just you…in charge of your next step. And you start thinking you want your mama’s lap back…
Each age and phase of life comes with its own adjectives, adverbs, twists and turns but they all have one thing in common…they are marks of the passage of time.
Passing time…what does that really mean? Today I have thought about several moments and segments of my life and there are frankly many I wish I could forget. I made poor choices, hurt people, left myself open to devaluation of personal principles and became some kind of two-headed monster for a while. It’s a wonder I didn’t lose the total respect of my family during that period of time. I lost so much respect for myself. Consequences of those poor choices caused me a lot of anguish and heartbreak and the passage of time to move through that and toward a clean and free life was slow and unyielding for many years. I wanted to break away from those situations and those people, but I was stuck in that time of my life and unable to claw my way out until one day I stepped back from my own life and took a look at the time passing. I realized it wasn’t my choice IF it would pass; that was inevitable. But it was my choice HOW it would pass.
Two steps forward, one back was the dance for several years after this revelation, but eventually I started making progress. I began to look for places and people, like mama’s lap, that were safe and protecting. Either something or someone was nurturing me or it/they were not…plain and simple. I decided to pass the time, and pass my life, in a manner that would build me up and inspire those around me.
I am not always perfect, not do I have pipe dreams that I will be perfect this side of heaven. My body aches and my eyes are growing dim. I don’t hear as well as I used to and gaps in memory are becoming more frequent. But I ain’t dead yet.
In this autumn part of my journey, rather than standing idly by watching the passage of time, I want to time my passage. This day, this moment… I choose to go to a wide field full of dandelions in my mind. I reach down, pluck one from the center, squeeze my eyes tightly shut and make a hundred wishes…one for every seed attached to the dandelion’s bloom. I blow gently and watch as those seeds of promise take flight and carry with them all the dark moments of the past and faltering steps of the present. Funny thing is, there are a hundred wishes, but each one is the same…don’t waste my time, by letting it waste me.

Today is a very special day. My twin grandbabies, Max and Isaac celebrated their first birthday yesterday and today we are having a luau party with all the trimmings! I can hardly believe it’s been a year since their birth…

In the fall of 2011 my daughter,  Samantha, was working for my cleaning company as Operations Manager. She had held several positions since starting the company with me in 2002 but this latest position was in hopes of me retiring and she and her husband, Tracy, taking over the company. Several conversations, much praying and many months of consideration  had brought us all to the same choice of direction. I was excited to think God had blessed my company financially and I could leave that “legacy” to someone who had the same vision in many ways that I did and would carry on a family business with respect and integrity. Lorelai had started preschool, which we had not originally wanted to do, but she seemed to be enjoying it and adjusting very well. The original plan was for Samantha to stay home with her and home school as I had done with her, but the talk about taking over the family business had trumped that by the end of summer .

Then one day, Samantha came to work and knowing my daughter, I could see something was on her mind. We worked through the morning hours, and then I went into her office across the hall. “You seem to have something on your mind…wanna talk about it?” My daughter with a hesitant grin said “Wellll…I think I may be pregnant.” For a moment, my excitement overcame reality of what this meant to my future and theirs. I was going to be a GiGi again, and was overwhelmed with gratefulness. My kids had experienced a miscarriage earlier in the spring, before the business talks had even started, so this was an answer to prayer in so many ways. As Samantha talked on, I had a feeling begin to creep over me that I couldn’t quite put a name to. I was excited, but at the same time so disappointed and kind of like the wind had been knocked out of me. My company had just weathered the storm of a tremendous turnover of both customers and staffing and this move to retire and let my kids take over was a glimmer of hope in the midst of the turmoil’s aftermath. In the blink of an eye, on the heels of a few words, my whole future was changing in almost every area.

My daughter went to the doctor soon after and I accompanied her. Medicine is so advanced these days. When I went to find out whether I was carrying a baby over 30 years ago, it was just becoming vogue to know the gender. Nowadays you can find out a lot sooner, you have an ultrasound immediately, and you know so much more than whether you are pregnant or not. That day is vivid in my memory…

We sat and waited on the ultrasound tech to come in. A perky little girl entered the room  and quickly she scooted the wand around Samantha’s tummy for several minutes as my daughter and I watched the screen. I was looking at it and saying to myself “Something doesn’t look right here.” Samantha never indicated she saw anything out of the ordinary, but I was seeing two big black spots. Now it had been a while since we had viewed Lorelai’s ultrasound like this but I didn’t remember hers looking this way. The tech said “Well, are you ready for an answer?” This whipped my attention back to the reason we were there and that was to find out if I was indeed going to be a grandmother again! Samantha nodded and we watched as the tech circled the black hole to the left and said “ This… is Baby A”, and circling the hole to the right she remarked “ And this…is Baby B”. Sam laughed a little, looked at me and back to the tech and said, pretty calmly I thought, “Really?” The tech nodded then said she’d be right back, she needed to get more supplies for the second ultrasound. When the door closed, Samantha and I both jerked our heads around to look at each other with big “O” shaped mouths. I cannot describe the giddiness and goofy giggling that went on between us for several minutes before the tech returned. Suddenly, my retirement, selling the company to my kids, the questions of when would I lose my operations manager and what was I going to do now seemed to fade into the background. Nothing mattered but the reality that I was going to be a grandmother again, Lorelai was going to be a big sister, Samantha and Tracy were going to be parents again, and God had blessed us with not one, but two babies to soothe the heartbreak and loss we had all experienced in the spring.

And now we are almost two years from that moment and I cannot imagine my life any differently than it is today.  The babies are growing up well and strong and happy. Lorelai stayed in preschool through the birth last May and finished out her pre-K year but is now home and working the original plan of homeschooling. She is the ultimate Big Sister teaching the babies all the important things like how to pirouette, the proper way to wear a tiara and wings, and making them grin when she dances through their scattered toys all over the living room. Tracy has a great job that is allowing Samantha to stay home which is a blessing because child care would be so high for three children, especially since two are babies.

And me, well…I am doing pretty alright myself. I pushed through some hardships personally and professionally and am working in an estate business I not only make a living from, as was the case with the cleaning company, but I am also exploring new things and living a passion, something few people do in their lifetime.

More every day I realize that I often choose the Thing One in my life. I pick the easy thing, the thing causing the least issues, the thing that makes me money for the house note, or lets me buy shoes for the feet and food for the table. Because all the basics are pretty much taken care of, I never even think about pursuing the Thing Two in my life. I don’t think I am very different than most folks out there either. Most of the time we don’t even know Thing Two exists until Thing One starts to look a little shaky or not quite right. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a Life Path Ultrasound? You could lie on a table, swirl a wand around and around and then the read out would show you the possibilities in your future…the Thing One and Thing Two. How many of us would choose a different thing if we only knew there was one?

I can say only in my own circumstances, I am fortunate enough to know there is more than one “thing” I can or should do. I can keep or sell my cleaning company, I can pursue the estate business full time, I can open a store or not, sell online or just hold estate sales for others. I have journalism and coaching experience so I can use one or the other or BOTH to forge my future. I can work for the dollar, or I can pursue my passions and make money doing it. I have choices, I can go left or right, up or down, stand still or start running with an idea…it is all up to me when and how. I don’t look at the ultrasound picture as just two black holes of uncertainty. I know both those holes hold LIFE, it’s just a matter of which I want…or better yet…maybe I will choose Thing One and Thing Two. I love my life, I love that I have choices…and I can tell you, through all of the past troubles and bumps in the road I’ve decided for sure at this stage of my journey, I don’t wanna miss a Thing.

Thing1-and-thing2 twin pics

In the old prairie days, prior to modern day electronics, people worked an honest day, plowed the field, put in crops, fed children, slept on beds made of ropes and ate bread they formed and baked themselves. Life was simple and although not always kind, it was easily decided. And consequently, each day was much like the one before…you rose, you worked, you ate, you laughed and loved, you slept, and you arose to do it all over again. Any tragic circumstance, baby born, marriage, death or other life point was often told farm to farm, house to house, mouth to mouth, person to person, until it would reach those living on the outskirts. News didn’t travel like lightning, it came slow and easy and many times much after the fact. The news, while still life changing, was accepted more readily and quickly because the hearer knew it was a done deal. There was no ” I gotta get over there and fix that” or “Man, if I go talk to her she will not marry that bum”. Nope, it was all about hearing the news, then accepting it, even if it was not news you wanted to hear. You listened, you considered, then you moved forward in the life you were living before you heard the news.

But these days, news travel is much different. All we have to do  is click on the TV to see all kinds of devastation and tumult in real time.We see hostage situations work out over hours and days right before our eyes. We see train wrecks recorded and replayed again and again. Storm chasers’ cameras allow us up close and personal, a bare mile from the churning winds and tail of a tornado. Thousands of miles might separate us from the other side of the world, but we stare as floods swallow up homes, and cities, and residents. In prairie days, we were forced to accept what we didn’t see, only what was told to us. But now, we are forced to accept what we see happening  at the moment it is happening. I cannot help but think that this is much more damaging to our own psyche because we know it is playing out now behind a huge piece of glass…and there is not a darn thing we can do about it but watch horrified. And the most unnerving part is we watch it over and over and over until we cannot watch it anymore, or until the next televised tragedy begins to unfold and it drags our attention to a new scene of hurt and turmoil.

There have been so many moments in my own life like that. I have stood idly by and watched it in real time as a non-participant, a spectator. Poor choices played themselves out as if I had been watching another person’s life like an approaching earthquake. I see a tremor here, swaying tree there, falling debris and crumbling, and I find myself shouting out in my mind  “Stop! Don’t you see what’s happening, look behind you, it is gaining on you. You are going to get overtaken…hurry, hurry…”. Then, watching still, I see the life quake split the foundation of earth underneath, it opens up, and with a huge groan swallows the running soul, and closes in over her head. And as fast as it came, it was gone, and as I try to take in the scene I have just witnessed, I suddenly remember the running soul is me. But in all reality, if I had realized the danger ahead of time and the ultimate results of my decisions, would I have changed anything just because I knew the end result? Would I have gone a different direction, or done a different thing? Or would I have seen the signs, known the probable result, then assigned myself the job of savior of my own destiny? I think most of us would say we would start looking for a shovel to furiously fill in the cracks as we saw them appear in the ground where we were standing rather than taking a different path, away from the quake center.

When was the last time you felt like everything in your life was quaking? We have all been there, probably numerous times if we have lived a very long life. During childhood we felt little tremors when someone didn’t share their toy because we thought they weren’t our friend anymore. Our insides shook when we experienced our parents’ wrath over a lie we told or the inevitable talking back that took place in our teenage years. Growing into an adult, there were other life life quakes. Sometimes a child is wayward, a husband leaves his responsibilities at home for a new single life, a wife takes prescription drugs to “get by”. Jobs are lost, health is compromised, we grow old and can’t do what we once could, companies fail and we have to find a new vocation at mid-life…and on and on.

Over the last several years, I have experienced a lion’s share of life quakes. Some I saw coming and participated in willingly. In other circumstances,  I grabbed a shovel and tried to fill in the cracks I saw appearing. Both those types quakes were nothing but harbors of grief because I didn’t see the wisdom of stepping away from the quake area. I tried to fix the splits, the bumps, I overlooked the growing damage, and I pretty much thought I was superhuman and could do whatever it took to make the quake just disappear. Looking back, I can see the best choice would have been to move away from the quake, just let it happen, and not be affected by it at all. I would have been like the prairie folks, just knowing about it, sad to hear, but moving on with my own life.

Today, I am in a bit of a life quake. My cleaning company is on the wane and has been for a while through a series of life events. Some are attributed to the economy, some are my letting the company scale down to a manageable point for a small staff. My second company dealing with estates and buying and reselling vintage items is moving forward slowly, but not at the point yet of doing it full time, although this is my real desire. If I  had not gone through a few life quakes in the past, I would have grabbed that shovel and started throwing dirt in the hole, and believed I could “save” my cleaning company. And this is kind of how that estate thing started. I was buying and reselling items to help pay the bills for the cleaning company because the work just wasn’t there. But something happened that made me start leaving the quake area.

I have a book by Beth Moore that my daughter gave me. It is filled with daily devotions, each one page long, and I had started reading it this time last year. It is dated so I turned to the page on May 2nd and read “By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8). I had been praying that morning, pleading with the Lord to let me know what to do. I was seeing a company I had sweated and toiled over reduced by 2/3rds in 18 months due to the economy and some former employees poaching customers, I was going through a divorce and would be solely responsible for my own household income, my physical situation was not great due to arthritis, and I was about to turn 52 which is not the ideal age to look for a job in the work place, especially since I have no skills “on paper” to speak of. I had had a few small sales and sold some things I pulled off the road that were toss-aways, some things I had cleaned out of my own home, some items that I could live without although I really didn’t want to have to sell them. I had earned a bit of money, loved meeting people and holding the sales were easy for me to organize.

Later that same day, I was reading a blog posting that I frequented and the author had written “What you have is enough. Don’t waste your  haves, concentrating on your wants.” I knew God was speaking to me directly. I had been trying to fill in the cracks of a company that God wanted to move me out of. He had plans for me, I may not know what they were, where I was going, or what I would be doing, but that didn’t change the fact that there was a plan. And for months, I had been inhibiting that plan and wearing myself out shoveling in the holes rather than taking my resources, my time, my mental peace and applying it toward what I felt I was supposed to do with my future.

It is a year later, and yesterday I was reading the same devotion book and came across the same verse. I smiled when I read it and am glad I had this life quake when I did, and the wisdom to put the shovel down. I still have questions about my forward path today.  I don’t know if I should look to open a store, sell online only, do shows or events or a combo of all of it. Over the last year, I didn’t always know what to do next…should I hire only one or two folks or a slew of staffing to aid me, or just do whatever I need to do myself? Should I put a sign on the cleaning company and walk away? Should I try and sell it to someone who could take the ball and run with it?  But each time the opportunity has risen for me to make a choice, the answer has always been there, even if I feel a little shifting going on under my feet. Another estate sale possibility for me to host comes along. I find a perfect item for someone and a sale is made. Shoot, I even had a storm take down a tree and my fence in the fall last year and I got a whole new roof out of it when I was looking at replacing my 20 year roof this spring with money I knew I may not have. I am moving, ever so slowly, away from the quake area and learning to put my shovel down.

The next big area of possible quakes is right around the corner. It always is, and I hope and pray each day I will see it and avoid what I need to as I continue on a good journey to a new vocation. Yes, that has been decided…the how and when maybe not so decided.  The last several months I have known what I want to do, what I feel called to do, but just like all human beings I wonder how I will pay the bills, will I get enough business and at the right time, will my health hold out to do the physical part of the work, will I have good folks to work with me in building something for my future, and hopefully for the future of my kids and grandchildren? If I sell or walk away from the very thing that is paying at least most of the bills, how will I make it? Will I make it?

After I read my devotion yesterday, I pulled out my Bible and did what I often do when I am struggling with a decision of which way to go. It  was 5/2, so I chose Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Bible and chapter two. The caption was “The Desert Years”, and I had to grin to myself a little. I started to read of the Israelites, God’s chosen people, walking around the mountain for days and days but getting nowhere. Then I read ” The Lord spoke to me, saying  ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough, turn northward. For the Lord has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord has been with you, you have lacked nothing.’ ”

Um, I think I just heard a shovel fall…