Poison Ivy

This is a story about elder abuse. And I would never mean to make anyone feel stupid. And my friend is NOT STUPID by any means, but this is a story of someone taking advantage of my friend and while it is humorous it is not funny, so I hope you will bear with me and laugh when it’s appropriate and be outraged when it’s appropriate.

My dear friend told me recently that she had some people come and do her hedges for $500, and that they told her that there was some poison ivy that was there that they did not remove. I adore this lady and I wanted to help her, so I told her I would come and remove it for her.

She has a modest home, so I figured there must be a real problem with the poison ivy since $500 wasn’t enough to deal with the problem.  $500 is a lot to spend on a .25 acre lot, right? So I put on some long jeans, and I packed a long sleeved shirt, a trash bag to put my clothes in after I dealt with the problem, some clothes to change into, and I headed to Lowe’s.

At Lowe’s I picked out some gloves and I was looking at hedge clippers when a gentleman asked me if he could help me. I told him my dilemma and he said that it might be better if I bought some of this potion that kills things like poison ivy on contact and a spray bottle rather than trying to cut it down and dig it out. I thought that sounded good, so I spent $25 and bought that instead.

I went to my friend’s house and loaded up the spray bottle and went out to face the dreaded poison ivy.

There was a twig sticking out of the ground, with a few leaves attached. Seriously. Oh yes, there were a couple of other smaller twigs nearby with leaves attached. None of them were poison ivy. AT ALL. I sent a photo to my husband. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. So I asked him what he thought. He said, ‘do the branches have more than 3 leaves attached?’ I said ‘yes, they do’. He said ‘then they are not poison ivy’.

Now, I can laugh about this all I want, but is it really funny? These people took $500 of this woman’s money. It would take me about 2 hours to trim her hedges, and trust me from now on, my husband and I will be doing just that, we will be trimming her hedges. FOR FREE! And shame on these unscrupulous people for not only taking her money but trying to convince her that she had this problem that didn’t exist, and taking more of her money. Really. Shame on them.

She’s lucky. I looked in on her. How many people don’t have someone looking in on them?

 

Poison Ivy

The Ladybug

I have changed. It has taken a lifetime, and I have a lifetime to go, but as surely as I’m sitting here, I have truly changed. Not because of anything I have done, but because Christ has changed my heart.

Back in my 20s, I was selfish, and self-involved. Actually, my whole life, but I’m backing up into my late teens and early 20s. Early sobriety. I was thinking about this time period the other day when I was driving to class. I was thinking specifically about my relationship with my sister, the one closest to me in age.

She and I were always rivals. Probably it was my fault mainly. I wasn’t very kind to her, and I think I was always jealous. I think I felt she was prettier and smarter. We were competitive a lot. I was thinking about a time when she had bought a new car. It was her first new car, and it was a beauty. A black Fiero, if you remember those. It had a spoiler on it, and one of those nose bras that were so popular at the time. I was jealous, I can admit it.

Not long after she had it, she was in a bad accident. Near head on. It was totaled, and she wound up in the hospital, every bone in her foot was dislocated. She was lucky, they just popped the bones back into place. She could have been killed. It was the kind of thing that should make a person stand up and realize that you could have lost someone important to you. Except it didn’t do that for me. I wasn’t moved. And my mom realized that it hadn’t moved me, and said something about it to me, and that made me realize that perhaps there was something wrong with me.

When I got sober, I was in college. I was living in a college town, very small, kind of backwards. There weren’t a ton of meetings, and everybody in AA knew everybody. I had a sponsor who owned a used bookstore. I used to hang out there a lot. They had a table in the back with coffee on and people in the program would drop by and sit around and talk. It was kind of nice.

One day I was talking to my sponsor, and I don’t recall what I said, but my sponsor kind of lost her temper with me and said ‘You gossip about everybody. You gossip all the time. I think you gossip because you want to make yourself feel better about yourself.’ It stunned me and made me feel horribly ashamed of myself. I didn’t realize I did it, and I was horrified.

I can’t say that I changed that aspect about myself overnight. I think I still did it for a very long time. But I was more aware. But that competitive, jealous part of me was definitely still there. And I think that’s the part she might have been referring to.

Well, I’ll tell you what cured me of that. Losing my marriage, when I wished bad things for other people’s marriage. Losing my home when I was prideful about my home. Losing my career prospects when I had pride about my career. Losing my health and sanity. Realizing that nothing, absolutely nothing is promised to me except for salvation though faith in Christ.

So, I was thinking about all of this….and my sister is going through something difficult right now. And I am so sad for her and it’s not fair and I feel like a lioness wanting to fight on her behalf. And she has a great marriage, a beautiful home, a fabulous career, beautiful children, even a cute car, and I’m happy for her. Truly. I want her to have happiness and joy. I hate that she’s going through some difficulty.

I heard a great sermon a few weeks ago, and the pastor referred to Daniel’s former name as (Belteshazzar)….in parenthesis, because that is who he was before, in parenthesis, not who he was in the present. Who I was in my 20s, or 30s, or 40s, is who I was in parenthesis….in the past. It is not who I am.

It’s not who I am.

I wish my kids could see that.

Many of you know….most of you should know that I adore the book The Shack. I love the symbol of the ladybug from that book. I even have a photo of me holding a ladybug with a ray of sunshine across my hand framed on my mantle. It symbolizes healing and forgiveness……for my birthday, my parents gave me a ladybug charm. As I was driving to my class the other day and I was pondering all these things, I fingered my ladybug charm and I realized that it is shaped like a pair of parenthesis. Thank you Jesus.

The Ladybug

Forgiveness

Being divorced, one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do was forgive my ex-husband. Our divorce was extremely acrimonious. Lots of fights, lots of swearing (on my part), just general ugliness all around.

I was bitter and angry, and I think it showed. If it didn’t show, I was sure to make it known.

At some point I realized how much anger I had. Not just about the divorce, but also with regards to issues I had with other people. I’ve probably shared a lot on that topic, but it bears repeating. Forgiveness is a big deal to God.

In the story “The Shack,” nearing the end of the story, Papa asks Mack to forgive the man who murdered his child. Think about that. I know it’s only a story, but think about what it would take to forgive a man who murdered your child. It’s unheard of, especially in our society today.

Taken a step further, you know we…you and me put Jesus on the cross. God’s only beloved son who did no wrong. God isn’t asking us to do something harder than what He has done.

Scripture says that if we don’t forgive others, He won’t forgive us. I think it’s more that if we don’t understand how much we’ve been forgiven, we don’t understand the message of salvation and grace.

Who is it in your life that you have said ‘I will never forgive’? I can tell you that unforgiveness drains your lifeblood and holds you hostage. I can tell you that until the cows come home, but if you are holding on to that one resentment, your soul is going to suffer. So forgive! Today!

Forgiveness

How I Wasted My Life

Here is how I wasted my life. I put off doing things that are meaningful in lieu of pleasure.

I remember being in college and I drank heavily in college. I would joke and laugh about how awesome it was to get high or drunk or whatever. I would say that ‘Hey, we need to party  now because in the future we will have to be responsible.’ I didn’t see my actions as sowing seeds for the future. I thought I had plenty of time.

In the meantime, I was passing over the opportunity for an education. I graduated from college, but I didn’t have the knowledge. I didn’t think it mattered. Turns out it did.

In my working life, I made some considerable strides in my career, but at the same time, I was lazy. I though I could coast. I was lazy. In the end, I left my job because I knew I wasn’t doing my best. I said it was because of my bipolar diagnosis, but in truth it was a lack of ambition.

For the past 4 years I’ve been trying to catch up. I can’t get a job. I’ve been studying and sharpening my skills and I’ve been realizing what it was that I gave up when I left the workforce. The times of being the grasshopper are upon me. The winter is coming and I have nothing stored up for the future.

My only hope is in the Lord. He’s the one who redeems. He can redeem my life. Maybe I will pay in my consequences for the rest of my life, but I don’t think so. I think my savior will come for me. And I’m grateful.

How I Wasted My Life

Amnesia

There’s an an amnesia that occurs when you first wake up that happens to everybody, yet we never talk about it. After someone dies, I’m sure this is what we notice the most, but it happens every day. You wake up. Things seem ok. Then your life starts to pour back to you “Oh my gosh, he’s dead. He’s gone, he’ll never be back.” It happens all the time, every morning.

With alcoholics it’s pronounced. You wake up, you are innocent. All of a sudden the memories come back to you. Last night, oh my God, I drank. Heaven help me, what did I say. What did I do?

It’s inevitable. This amnesia. I think it occurs to protect us from ourselves. Granted, I’m not drinking, it’s been a while since I worried about what I did the night before, but still it floods back…yes, my daughter isn’t speaking to me. Yes, my son is angry with me. I wish it were not so. I’m grateful for the moments I forget. Why is this necessary? I do not know, but I know it’s a way to perform my reentry into the world, and I do have a lot I regret, but I am grateful for all the bad things, all the horrible things, who have made me into the person I am today. I forgive myself….but I have to forgive myself daily, after I’ve awoken, after I have remembered. And that’s ok…..because I’m stronger. Every day I’m stronger and better. So, yes, I hate that stuff, but I have deep gratitude. Thank you Jesus.

Amnesia

It’s Not My Fault

In my former family, the one I had with my former husband, fault was a huge deal. Fault was assigned on a regular basis, and it was usually assigned to me. Blame was important, and it was important to defect it from yourself as much as possible.

The house I left in 2013 was a mess. Laundry everywhere. Clothes that fit or didn’t fit….clothes that had holes in them but could possibly be used as rags. Useless crap piled up everywhere in a huge mess. A floor covered with dog hair and stuff that was useless and had no home. It was horrible.

I thought when I left that it was my fault. I didn’t do my part. The family was better off without me.

My eyes were opened when I took my ex-husband to his home from the hospital. My daughter lives there, and my oldest son during the summer. My youngest son lives with me and he is supposed to spend weekends with his father, but he never does.

When I went into the home, I thought I’d do a little light cleaning just to help my ex-husband out. He’s in really poor health and has no strength to do the simplest tasks. It was like walking into a time capsule. The same crap piled up everywhere. Filth. The smell of dirty laundry was pungent. I don’t even have that great of a sense of smell. I Immediately felt like going to work, cleaning and organizing. The washer and dryer don’t even seem to be working very well. It was nasty. And I could see that it wasn’t ultimately MY FAULT. My daughter is 21. She has the ability to clean her bathroom and do her laundry and she chooses not to. That’s on her. She can blame me, but blame doesn’t improve the quality of her living conditions. Getting up and doing what she should do, is her task. It’s what she should do. It has nothing to do with me.

That is very freeing for me. I’m sorry I wasn’t a better mother, but today my clothes are clean. My husband’s clothes are clean. So are my son’s. I vacuum, I dust, and I clean the bathrooms.  That’s the real me. Yes, I am messy, but it all gets done. My house doesn’t smell. I show my love to my husband and my son through the care I give them. And I know they feel it.

It’s Not My Fault

Walking the Dog

I learn a lot about life from walking my dog. We moved into an apartment just over a year ago, and she hasn’t had the same type of access to a backyard the way she used to. I know she misses it.

When we would take our walks, initially she was fine. Soon she realized that going out wasn’t going to be quite the long adventure she hoped for. She began tugging on the leash. As time went on, she became more adamant about being outside. She would spread her forelegs and brace herself in an attempt to not go in. She would do that if she even thought we were heading back toward the house.

Tory is an older dog. She’s been with us since she was 5 months old, and she’s 12 now. She’s in pretty good shape for a dog her age, except for some breathing issues.

I realized that she longed to be outside. She has a real need to do a certain amount of sniffing. There are quite a few dogs in our neighborhood, so sniffing is something she demands when she’s outside. She would sniff all day if she could. I, on the other hand, don’t want to walk at a snails pace all day long.

At first I was impatient. Then I realized that when you love someone you want them to be happy. I do love her. So I implemented a plan.

I started to walk her in the same route every day. I let her sniff as much as she wanted. I do get impatient. I want to yank her along the route. I don’t do that. Instead I practice being patient and loving.

When she tries to pull the leash in directions that aren’t on the route, I don’t give in. I also don’t let her yank me off the pavement. We aren’t going on traipses through the grass. But on our established route, she can sniff as much as she wants. I always say “no, we’re going this way.”

I started to realize she recognizes the phrase “we’re going this way.” She began to believe that we were, in fact, going this way no matter what she did to try to lead us in other directions. I walk her in about a quarter of a mile, 3 times a day. It’s enough sniffing.

Once I had thoroughly established our route, she stopped pulling. She will stop suddenly to sniff on our route, but all I have to do is say “we’re going this way,” and she comes without complaint.

The power of habit. I’ve long recognized that having habits is a useful tool. As I’ve implemented this tool in my life, things go along more pleasantly and more predictably. It takes time and effort to develop this tool, but it’s been well worth the effort.

Walking the Dog