Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rising From the Ashes

In response to David McMahon's weekend wandering question, "What's the most important thing you've ever lost?"

Friday night at church, I watched a grief play by Paula D'Arcy. The play was, "On My Way Home." In it Paula told how in 1975, when she was 27 (and 3 months pregnant), she and her husband, while coming home from a trip, were in a horrible accident. A drunk driver crashed into them at 97 mph destroying their car and killing her husband and their 22 month old daughter. Paula and the baby she was carrying survived, but she was barely able to comprehend how she had managed to live when all that she valued had been taken from her.

The story was played out as a conversation between Paula and God. It told how her faith had carried her through the struggles to reconnect with life. With exquisite sensitivity and humor it showed how God nudged her through connections with others and the life she needed to live for. We weren't spared the grief she felt. Nor were we spared the humor of life as seen through God's eyes. One amazing thing is that Paula played herself. That experience must have been so traumatic that one wonders how she could have faced talking about it to an audience of people many of whom she didn't know. But Paula is a psychotherapist as well as a grief counselor and this story, told 33 years later, is part of her way of helping others come to terms with their own losses.

My ticket to the show was a gift from JS. She was going to be out of town this weekend visiting the best of the local seminaries with her family. It was a loving gift and lovingly received. But I had no idea that when I saw the play it would touch me so deeply. That play took me back to the day and weeks after my husband left me. Nothing I've ever experienced in life hurt me so badly as his leaving. Everybody has had losses of one kind or another. Family and friends have both passed on. But the loss that hurt the deepest, showing up when he left, and has had the longest lasting effect was the loss of myself.

It's not as hard to lose a life as you might think, or as sudden. Over the course of 7 years of marriage, I gave way in almost every choice that mattered to me. It started by giving up little things that didn't seem that important. He picked the deserts. No more cherry pie, which I love and he didn't. No sitting together watching quality shows on TV. Instead we channel surfed, flipping every 5 or 10 minutes, till I didn't know what we were watching. Then moved on to more important things. His method of relaxation required me not having an outlet for that for myself. So I stopped playing my guitar, the noise disturbed his channel surfing. The clean house became a mess because he didn't value cleanliness and didn't want to feel guilty about my need for clean. We didn't make friends with any of his coworkers. I handed him control of the finances when I found out he'd never managed a budget before. Even the way the pets were treated was determined by him. I'd have had them in most of the time and treated them like family. For him they were just owned animals and to be kept outdoors. Eventually, my whole world seemed to revolve around him. "Well," I thought (remembering my mother's example), "wasn't that the way it was supposed to be?" Now days I know better. People don't value you unless you value yourself. But back then I was literally clueless. So, when my husband left me 7 years later, I had no idea who I was anymore.

That was just the beginning of a string of heart aches. My best friends let him rent their spare bedroom. Suddenly they couldn't have me over anymore; it would make him uncomfortable. My job was cut from the company payroll 30 days later. I'd been with the same company for 18.5 years. My parents didn't understand why I was hurting so, I guess they hadn't liked him much. Every major role I had was suddenly going down the drain. I wasn't a loved wife, a valued employee, or a cherished friend. After all of that there wasn't much left. No surprise that my decline into situational depression was sudden and severe. Fortunately, I'm a fighter and I wanted to live. So when it had all sunk in and I took a look around at the shambles that was my life, and my view of myself, I realized I had a lot of rebuilding to do.

You might be able to just pick up the bits and pieces of you that dropped along the path of life and regain all that you lost, but that didn't happen to me. Eight years later, I'm still trying to regain bits I lost during those years. My personal mantra became, "I'm going to rebuild a me that I love so much that I won't give her up for anyone or anything." For all that I'm not the person I imagined I'd be after rebuilding, it has actually started coming true.

The me that's growing out of the ashes of that old life is a better and richer person. I have more and better friends. My relationships with them are deeper because I realize the value of them. I'm developing skills I didn't know I had. And glory be, somewhere along the road, I've developed a spine. It doesn't always show up when I need it; I loath conflict. But get on my wrong side and baby watch the fur fly!

After the play, Paula held a question and answer session. I kept wanting to ask her, "Once you reached the end of this play, what did you do next? How long was it before you felt whole again?" I didn't do that. I think I knew that her walk was as unique as my own is going to be. Life will happen when it happens. I'll be ready for it when the time comes and no one, except for God, can give me a time line for that. I just have to have faith. And that was the entire point of Paula's play. That you have to have faith to make life out of loss. You have to believe that the life you build will be worth living. And so it is.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Exploring Widgets

While bouncing around the news on another site I discovered a cool widget. So I thought I'd add it to my blog. Then I found there were more. So I tried out two. Both were USA Today, one for Top News and the other was Green News. Wow, they looked good except that they were too wide for the column. So I moved them to the other side. That looked better but still too wide. So I started looking for widgets for 3 column templates. I found a few that were closer, but not one that fits yet.

Google has news widgets that would probably fit just right. I just don't want to use Google widgets. For some reason I feel that Google is kind of invasive. Not as bad as Yahoo is getting, but they are headed in that direction. That's just my NSH opinion.

Anyway, back to widgets. I found one that was for Rueters. It doesn't have the cool display that the USA Today ones had, but it does seem to be keeping up with the latest news. And it fits better. Then I found another one for National Geographic. I love NG so that one I may keep even though it doesn't fit perfectly. If it sounds like I'm trying to avoid template editing work, I am. Hopefully I won't have to do any of that.

So, the upshot of all this is, I will be exploring widgets for the next few days/weeks/whatever. There are so many different kinds out there. I found one for books, but it wasn't customizable. There was one with the NYT Bestseller list. Maybe? Hopefully I'll find lots of cool things to add that will entertain and provide good content. If you have one you want to recommend, or like one of the ones I'm trying out, please let me know.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Strength Comes in Many Forms

The latest Weekend Wandering question posed by David McMahon was, "How strong is your faith?" That question has several answers so this may seem a bit of a ramble. Faith has so many different effects on our life that strength can be measured on several different scales, each as unique as the faith of the individual who's describing it.

What is strength? Is it intensity? Is it endurance? Is it a force that creates change? Is it simply a quiet call so irresistible that you can't stay away? I've been a believer for 25 years. During those years, my faith has been measurable on each of those scales at different times for different reasons.

When it was new, it was so intense that it was very much a life changing force. The minute I believed, I was changed. I had a religious experience that let me know forever after that God is real. My attitudes and personal behaviors, at the time consistent with popular culture, turned around and became those of the loving and kind beliefs I was brought up with. To say my life took a 180 is not an exaggeration. The effect of change at that time was instantaneous. I'd be sitting in church listening to the sermon and hear something that resonated with my newly found spirit of belief...Holy Change was effected without effort. Belief that it was right and fit with God's intent was all it took.

As I grew more experienced in my life of faith, I found things intruding on that walk with God. Most dramatic was my own anger. Nothing can take you away from faith like the belief that you aren't walking right. You get angry, unhappy, pull away from what you've known was right and just withdraw from the things that support you in your faith. There used to be an old saying which went something along the lines of, "If you feel far from God, guess who moved." Yep, anger moves you...far away from that which you no longer feel in sync with. Like Adam and Eve you hide in shame. Does the presence of God stop just because you turn and hide? No, eventually the quiet, soft voice of love brings you back. Why? Because no one loves you like God does. Not parents, friends, lovers, children, one! God's love is unique in its all inclusiveness. God loves every bit of you and nothing you are or do will make that change.

After experiencing the way anger can change your faith and its functioning, you discover how the world can change it. Being tired means you want to go home and sleep instead of going to Sunday services. Not knowing a soul well at a new church means you don't want to put yourself out to go to functions where there is no one you look forward to seeing. You tell yourself that you can worship God anywhere. While that last is true, there are things one gains by being part of a community of believers that solitude doesn't provide. The life you build for yourself can create impediments to you practicing your faith. Like the husband, that you want to spend time with, falling asleep during service. The length of the drive to the new and interesting church you found. The feeling that maybe you just don't fit in.

When I had gone through a marriage and divorce, a job change, and started trying to rebuild my life, I found myself at a church that kept me there but didn't feed me in all the ways I needed. I think this is called being a fallow field. I'd find myself uninvolved at church, unfed, unfulfilled, and get angry and think of going elsewhere. Why did I not get fed? Part of it was that I was so devastated from the collapse of my life that I literally hid within a crowd. When you hide from everyone and everything you approach life so tentatively that no one can successfully involve you in theirs. You don't involve yourself in the church community. You don't make any effort to fit in and thus you make no connections. Yet every time I looked for a different church I found that while some things were attractive there were things that made me say, "No way!" Nothing else seemed as right as the place I'm at. So I hung around for 3 years with no involvement and no friends at the church I attended.

I'm not sure what triggered the change but eventually my efforts to change my career caused me to feel I needed mentors. I was facing a role I'd never seen myself in...that of leadership. There were lots of people in my church who worked in the career field I was trying to enter. I needed a way to connect with them and find someone who could answer the many questions I had about this new role I'd chosen. God provided a retreat called Cursillo and I found some mentors and moved into the community of my church. Suddenly I was "involved". Within a year I had a circle of friends and then a best friend. I found another role to fill, that of servant, and became involved in the ministry of the Eucharist. God's still small voice was bringing me back to the fold.

Now, I'm a Lay Minister, an Altar Guild member, and have a small select circle of friends whom I love to spend time with and can talk to about almost anything. The creativity of that community is helping me grow and see beauty within where before I'd always looked without for that kind of view. My new experiences in creativity have started my efforts to share myself instead of hiding the gifts God has given me. A network of friends across the globe is building and I'm finding inspiration in the communion of life with others I'd never have believed I could enjoy 25 years ago when this path started.

Endurance...25 years worth. Intensity...enough to break through the barriers a hurting spirit builds. Force of change...building a new self image, developing a community, learning how to love yourself and in the process how to love others in meaningful ways. many new things, experiences, knowledge, connections, a whole world that only a God who loves you so much better than you can ever imagine builds for his beloved child. IS my faith strong? I'd say yes. Not because of anything I've done...but because of it's focus and creator. Thank God!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Joining in on the "Deadly Dull" Meme

Paschal of Murat11 and JS of Influxtransposer have picked up on a meme snagged from Amy Rigby's blog. In it you are to tell 7 deadly dull things about yourself. Paschal being the creative soul he is, changed the meme to "riffing off Amy's opening statement." JS followed suit. So here I go, although I don't know that mine will be riffy. Paschal has a way of making even prose sound poetic.

1) “I am a lip balm addict.” Nope, not even close. I like flavors from time to time, but I've never found anyone who enjoyed tasting them with me. At least not enough to make it worth the dough. What is the worst smelling balm ever? Carmax, of course. It's saving quality? It works.

“I can walk pretty fast in high heels.” Hmmm...depends on the heel height. At 2 1/2 inches I cha cha. At 3 inches I slow down to a rhumba. Go higher...say 3 1/2 inches...and my walk acquires a very stately pace. At 4 inches I go barefoot.

I love broccoli.” I don't love broccoli. I love broccoli with cheese and rice. I love broccoli and cheese soup. I love broccoli in a vegetable mix. I love broccoli in stir fry. Nope, I don't love broccoli.

“My current favorite movie is ‘A Star is Born’ with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.” I much preferred her in Funny Girl and On a Clear Day. What's MY current favorite? That would be Eight Below. Still want to see it again, even after 3 viewings. It is by Disney so it's family friendly. It has something for everyone, romance, excitement, humor, lessons in geography, animal science, and pack behavior. And, it is one of the most exciting on first view kid movies I've ever seen as an adult.

“I really missed seeing the Oscars this year.” Well, I understand that we all missed out on stuff with the writers strike. But really...there was lots of other stuff on you could have watched or done to fill the evening.

“I love making (and eating) good American pancakes.” Good for you, girl. So do I. The time I liked making them the best was as a kid. Mom had a really good electric skillet. The pancakes fit perfectly in it. And when I learned how to make those silver dollar pancakes...oh boy!

“I have dozens of scarves.” I've got about 7 or 8. Most I don't wear anymore but I still love them. A couple of the longer ones I use as an occasional belt or as a strap during yoga workouts. Somewhere in my dresser is one of those little booklets that tells you about 20 different ways to tie them, including turning them into a skirt or a halter top. :)

So there you are. Peace! And Happy Easter everyone!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Voila! & Cat Silliness

Yay! The new look is up! Some of my wonderful friends have visited and left nice comments. Thank you, guys!

There was a vision, but it happened in bits and pieces. Terry, of Terry's Playpen, did all the html work on this and he is awesome. He also did some Photoshop image adjusting to get me the great banner image. That image started out as a NationalGeographic wallpaper, so I don't feel any guilt in modifying it for my blog. They had already published it as a download for broad personal use. Yes, we took the name off because there just wasn't room for everything to fit in the small space allowed for an image. That's one of the reasons I'm giving them credit here. Plus, I'm not making money off this blog and don't really intend to. It's for personal use and friendly sharing.

Terry tends to downplay his skills, but the creative work he put into that image is fantastic. He cropped it, rearranged sections of it, carved out the edges of flowers and butterflies. He created awesome translucency on the butterfly wings so that you can see the background through them. He has a really great sense of color too. There are so many tiny detail touches that he put in that I couldn't even begin to list them all. Compare the banner image to the original image below and you'll get an idea of just how much work Terry put into it.

When I said the vision happened in bits and pieces, I wasn't kidding. It started as a request for a tag cloud. I casually mentioned that I was thinking about adding a background pattern. Terry picked up both of those ideas, offered to help, and things grew from there. If I ever wondered how a project goes from small to large, I have an excellent idea now. It's those little tweaks and changes you get when people are excited about their work and spend time making things just right. The background pattern got scratched, the image got implemented, also the tag cloud, and the new 3 column format. Plus there's a custom background color now. Lots of work!!!

One of the nice things with this new look is the 3 column format. With that I can now post awards, such as those Sandi has been giving me, without making you scroll forever to see them. The drag and drop feature of blogger is also much more useful in this format because there's actually room to move things around. I'm delighted!

So, there you have it, "my new look!" In the process of creating it, Terry got some ideas for future tweaks and "how to" posts for his Playpen. Be sure to put his blog on your list of those to visit. He is terrific (pun not intended)(well, maybe it is)!

To celebrate the new look, I'm sharing some cute cat pics of Hooboo. Yes, I know, he tends to get star billing and feels it is his due. Fortunately, Hyram knows he is still the love of my life and assures me he doesn't feel neglected. The other day Hooboo was in one of those playful, exploratory moods where none of his usual toys were quite right. He discovered the fringe on the afghan I have for the sofa. In the process of playing with it he crawled under the pillows piled at one end. Suddenly he was in a "pillow jungle" and started having all kinds of exciting adventures. This made enough noise that I was alerted, grabbed the camera, and came up with some great shots.

Here he is crawling up through the "Pillow Jungle". He didn't seem to mind my picture taking this time. I guess he was just having too much fun with his jungle fantasy.

And here he is, having made it to the top of that jungle climb playing peek-a-boo through the pillows. I couldn't resist taking several pictures of that face. He definitely had his cute on.

Enjoy folks! And have a Happy Holy Week!

Friday, March 14, 2008

There'll Be Some Changes Made...

Hope you enjoyed that wonderful rendition of an oldie but goodie. This post is to let you know that some changes are about to be made to this blog. A totally new look is coming. Lots of work went into it's creation, so the changes may come in stages (for those quick enough to catch them). But, thanks to the wonderful skills of Terry....there'll be some changes made. And I for one think they are gonna be awesome! Hope you all agree.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Super Heroes, Quizzes. & Research

Paschal of Murat11 tagged me to declare my super heroine persona. I wasn't sure what mine was and struggled with the idea for a while. There's an image that comes to mind, but she isn't a super heroine, unless you have a name for her that I don't know. The image that I'm thinking of is from a painting by Luis Royo called Seeds of Nothing. Here is what my personal image of strength looks like.

There she is in all her glory. She fought a long, hard battle. Nothing of those who opposed her remains, except corpses. She is wounded, tired beyond thought, but she knows she's done fighting. She came out on top. The battle is won. Not pretty is it? But sometimes strength comes from the bottom. From the seeds of nothing.

But I couldn't think of a name. I started researching other super heroes and stumbled across this quiz which seemed to fill the need for a super hero nicely. I took it. Here are my results. Do you think this is me?

Your results:
You are Supergirl

Lean, muscular and feminine.
Honest and a defender of the innocent.

Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

I don't really feel this is me. She is someone I grew up with and read about as a child but I never saw her as me. Honest? Yes! Defender of the innocent? Well, yes, I suppose I would do that. It still doesn't feel like me. Strength came too easily for her.

Among the other super heroines I discovered, on my search for an identity, I came across one more that fascinated me. I discovered Dawn, a character in Sirius comics. Gorgeous, isn't she? From Wikipedia this is Dawn.

Dawn is the goddess of birth and rebirth. While her appearance depends on who is viewing her, she is generally depicted as a young, red-haired woman with three "tears" running from her left eye. Back during the witch hunt, witches were discovered to only cry from their left eyes. Dawn is the guardian of all the witches on Earth, the goddess they pray to. Gaia, Aurora, Mother Earth.
Dawn is shown in many different facets, many shapes, sizes and colors. Dawn is all women, and all women are goddesses. Joseph Micheal Linsner always stresses that all women are goddesses, that's why Dawn takes so many shapes. Because all shapes are beautiful, and so are all women.

If I had to pick a known super heroine who is as I believe, it might be Dawn. Rebirth both personal and spiritual is something I've experienced. The variety in women fascinates me. Yes, we're beautiful! I haven't thought of myself as a witch, but I tend towards the Episcopaganism that is so popular today. I have a totem animal. I've moved a scrying stone with my mind. And I believe I have a healing touch. Yes, Dawn could be me. And darn, I look good as a redhead! (G)

Sunday, March 02, 2008


The Truth Laid Bear rating system has gone a little wonky of late. For a while now I noticed I had no daily details when I checked their website. The support request I registered hasn't been handled yet.

Today I noticed that it was even worse than I had thought. There is a note that says they are adding thousands of blogs and the rating system will be better and more accurate when they are done. Well, I looked at my rating on my website. It says I'm still a multicellular microorganism. But when I check TTLB's website I'm a crawly amphibian. So I looked at the list for that level. Wow! It is really long now. and the number of links are from 1 to 2 for that level. When I looked at the multicellular microorganism there were a fair number listed but they had absolutely no links attached to their blog names. So I'm totally flummoxed and have no idea what I am anymore.

When they get this fixed I may go back to where I was or I may be up a level or two. Whatever happens I hope they finish soon. I felt proud of not being in the bottom rung of the ecosystem. Now that I'm a fair way above that I keep looking around anxiously waiting for the sky to fall. I wonder what Susan is thinking of all of this because her blog says she's a flappy bird while TTLB says she's a marauding marsupial.