Butterflies

 

I have a butterfly tattoo on my ankle; a reminder of the changes I have made in my life. Sounds kind of corny and cliché, I know, but it’s a good analogy of  my life.

Twelve years ago, I was broken. I hated my life. I hated my job. I hated me.  I felt lost and alone, and what hope I had left was quickly diminishing.

But something happened that year. My first grandchild, Thomas, was born April 18, and at the time, I was unaware of the impact he would have on the decision to change my life.

Later that year, in July,  I was climbing the 20-plus stairs to our apartment. It was a hot and humid day; one of those days that Iowa’s known for. I had to stop half-way, because I couldn’t catch my breath. I drew air in air in, but I felt like I was suffocating. My heart began racing, and I literally saw my life flashing before my eyes.

I saw Thomas growing up without me. I saw an empty chair at his wedding. I saw him holding his child, and I wasn’t there to tell him how proud I was of him.

But as fast as the visions came, they were gone, and I was back in the hallway of our building, breathing normally.

The thought that came to me was, “I don’t want to die.”

I immediately opened the door of my apartment, took my cigarette pack out of my purse and threw them into the wastebasket.

I tried to quit smoking before, but it was only a day or two before my willpower gave out. But this was different. I knew if I kept going the way I was, smoking two packs a day, I would die. I was sure of it.

I got through the first day, and then the second, and soon I was celebrating a month without smoking.  I felt great! I could climb the stairs to my apartment without stopping to rest. I stopped coughing up crap from my lungs. I could take deep breaths again, and I knew it could only get better.

I was so proud of myself, because quitting smoking was no easy task. I used the patch for eight weeks, and then graduated to nicotine gum. I used the gum for a year and then switched to mints, which I carried in my purse to curb any lingering cravings.

I quit smoking when I found out I was was pregnant with my first baby, but started again as soon as she was born, kicking myself with every drag I took.  By the time I finally quit, I had convinced myself that I would die with a cigarette in my hand.

That is, until I realized I had two choices; I could continue living my life in the prison I had built for myself, or I could break free and do something with my life.

You see, smoking wasn’t my only problem. I had a drinking problem. I used alcohol to self-medicate, to calm my fears,  alleviate the stress, and numb the feelings of shame and guilt that consumed me.

My intention was to just to have one or two beers, to take the edge off, but once I started, I couldn’t stop.  I was drinking a 12-pack of beer a night, and that still wasn’t enough to keep those horrible feelings down.

The night of August 31, 2005, I was sitting at the computer, while my daughter was doing homework. She’d had a rough year and was trying to catch up so she could graduate with her class.

The third time she asked me for help, and I said, “Just a minute, I’m busy,” was her breaking point, and she threw her books against the wall.  She had a history of extreme outbursts, but that’s not what this was. I truly believe it was divine intervention, because what she said next blew my mind:

“I’m sorry you have so many problems, and that you’re so unhappy, but I have problems, too. …”

For the first time, I heard her words. She saw my pain and my unhappiness, and I saw hers. She was reaching out to me the only way she knew how.

She taught me something significant that night, something that has made me get out of myself and really look at the world around me:

“We don’t live in a bubble; what we do affects others.”

I had been so busy worrying about me and focusing on how bad my world was, I wasn’t seeing what my own children were going through.  My selfishness and self-centeredness had kept me from being emotionally available for my children, and now I had to take responsibility for it, and do something about it.

I was hurting, and I didn’t know what else to do but to close the world in on myself. All this time, I had been inadvertently killing myself, because I couldn’t face the pain I had caused others. It had gotten so bad, I couldn’t live with myself.

I knew I needed to take control of my life.  That night, when I went to bed, I did something I hadn’t done in years; I prayed. I asked God to help me. I promised Him that I would do whatever it took to have a better life, to be a better mother, a better person. I begged him to show me how to do it.

And he did.

The next day, I threw all the beer away and got rid of all the empty cans.

A few days later I met someone who introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous and I started attending weekly meetings. A few months later I ran into a friend, who was also in the program, and she became my sponsor.

God was putting people in my life to help me.

But that was just the beginning.

To be continued ….

 

That’s What Friends Are For

One day a woman found herself in a hole. She looked around for a way out, but there was none. Suddenly, a man’s head appeared in the hole.

“Hello! Do you need help?” he called. He was wearing a stethoscope around his neck and holding a note pad.

“Yes, thank goodness! Please, help me, Dr.!”

The doctor wrote something on his notepad, tore it off, and tossed it down to her. 

“Take these pills and call me in the morning.”

She looked at he paper in disbelief. Then she crumbled it up and started to cry. 

“Hello!” she heard from above. She looked up and saw a man with a white collar. “My child, why are you crying?”

“I’m stuck … I can’t get out of this hole!”

The pastor made a sign of the cross, and said, “Bless you, my Child,” and walked away.

Just when the woman began to lose all hope, a shadow was cast across the the hole. She looked up and saw a face, smiling down at her.

“Need some help?”

Before she could answer the man jumped down into the hole with her.

“What are you doing?” she exclaimed. “Now we’re both stuck down here!”

“Yes,” he told her. “But I’ve been here before, and I know the way out …”

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Leaving a Legacy: My Father’s Story, in His Words

In My Father’s Footsteps is the title I chose for my Dad’s story in my new blog, Leaving a Legacy.

At one point, I thought about having it published through Amazon, but I wasn’t sure how I would edit it.  While he is an awesome writer, the story he wrote while recuperating from a knee replacement in 1994, is hard to follow at times. He switches channels a lot. (Now I know where I get it.)

My dad died in September 2008, the same year Cedar Rapids had the flood that heavily damaged the downtown area.

He died peacefully, sitting in his favorite chair, eyes closed, a book on his lap. Though he had been in and out of the hospital with congestive heart failure, it was a shock to the family.

As I was helping my mom clean out the storage room, I came across a box of papers title, “TPMLIFE.” As I read the first page, I realized I held my dad’s life story, which he started in 1994.

I gathered all I could find and took them upstairs to my mom, who told me my brother had the rest of the pages. I put them in order and began the laborious task of transcribing them onto the computer, with the intent that I would share them someday with the world.

That day has some, and though I know not everyone will share the same enthusiasm that has driven me to work so hard to put them online, hopefully some of his lessons learned will make you laugh, cry, and think a little bit about your own life.

tributecr.com

 

Happiness is a Verb

“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” –  Og Mandino

My fiance and I are currently reading, “The Greatest Miracle in the World,” by Og Mandino. I read aloud to him, and he listens. This way, we both get to enjoy it.

One of the things discussed after today’s reading was how the great writers of the world could very well be messengers of God. Not so much in the biblical sense, but offering hope to those who are searching for happiness and not able to find it.

According to Mandino, these  great writers believe the soul requires cultivation, and whether it is cultivated with blossoms or weeds, that is strictly up to the individual. It is always their choice if they will choose to cultivate the positive side of life, or the negative. Happiness, therefore, has everything to do with your perception of life. If you are a negative person, who only complains and feels sorry for themselves, chances are you will not live a happy life.

I’m sure everyone has their own definition of what it means to them, but for me, happiness is a state of being. It’s how I live my life. Maybe it’s because before I realized I had the power to choose, I lived with a dark cloud hanging over me, and a few times consider seriously about ending my life. I struggled through my day just to wake up and struggle through the next.

I lived this way for years, until something happened to wake me up. My grandson was born, and I realized I wanted to watch him grow up and be a part of his life.

The first thing I did was to quit smoking, which was no easy task. I made it through the first day, then the first week, and before I knew it, I had been smoke-free for a month. I realized I actually accomplished something I set out to do. I honestly think I had forgotten that such a task was even possible.

I began to wonder what else was possible.

I took a good look at my life and saw that my drinking had become a problem. The thought of not being able to drink made me anxious. I had gotten used to using alcohol to “take the edge off,” after getting bad news, or just to celebrate making it through the day.

But I knew I couldn’t do that anymore. Alcohol not only kept me from expressing my true emotions, it actually contributed to my depression, which I struggled with most of my life. I had become a co-dependent people-pleaser. I wanted to be accepted so badly, I became whoever you wanted me to be. Honestly, I didn’t even know who I was anymore.

I took my last drink Aug. 30, 2005.  I started seeing a therapist to help me face my demons. I let go of resentments and forgave myself and others.  I walked through my fears of criticism and failure, and began to like myself again. I did things I only dreamed about, and then I went beyond that, and did things I never dreamed of.

I have cried more than I ever thought possible, perhaps grieving for a life I thought I’d wasted. But once I realized I had the power to become whoever I wanted to be, I decided to make every day count.

Today, I do my best to accept things I can’t control. I have a faith that can move mountains, and a hope that is endless. My life is far from perfect, but I am at peace with who I am.

I am happy, but it’s not because I arrived at a place where all my problems disappeared, but because I continue to do things that bring me happiness. I spend time with those I love. I spend time doing things that nurture my soul; praying, meditating, and exercising. I spend time cooking, crafts, writing, and other projects that make me feel like I am contributing to the world.

It has taken a long time and a lot of hard to get to where I am, but I’d do it all again. I am happy because I choose to be.

 

 

When the Internet Goes Down, Improvise

I created  a new blog at the beginning of the month, just in time for my internet to go down. At first we though it was wide-spread, then found out that no, it was just us, and Mediacom wouldn’t be able to come out until the next Wednesday to fix it.

When Jeff told me the bad news, I started to panic, with the gears working fervently in my head to figure out how I was going to work on my marketing business and website, tributecr.com, as well as my blogs on WordPress.

As it turned out, I had nothing to fear. After all, we managed to live our lives without internet and cable for 40 years before this, right?

We did what most people do in our situation; we improvised. We grabbed out laptops and tablets and headed to the library to conduct our online business, and then rent a few DVDs for later, all along, assuring each other “We’ve got this.”

yesterday we had coffee at a local coffee shop and “borrowed” their internet. We also have a lot of friends who offered to let us use theirs.

I think it’s safe to say, we’re going to be just fine. 🙂

(You can check out my new blog, Leaving a Legacy, by clicking here!)