Filling up and spilling over

The other grandparents of my newest grandchild are visiting her in Oregon for the first time. She texted me a few pictures. I asked her if her heart was filling up or spilling over. The image came to me at that moment and I really liked it. It suited the situation so well.  Then I started thinking, what else in my life would cause my heart to fill up or spill over? How would you answer that? Here is what I came up with.

When I listen to certain music. Lately I would have to say it would be Christian music, the modern kind, like they play on KLOVE. Some of it is so inspiring and it always connects me to God. Other music, especially certain classical pieces, do the same thing. My all time favorite is Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 in C Minor. It takes about an hour to listen to the entire piece and always brings me to tears. There is some music that is so beautiful that it hurts. I don’t know how else to explain it. Maybe you have experienced music like that. I hope so.

Hugging my children and grandchildren. When they were babies, my favorite thing to do would be to lay them on top of my chest as they slept. There is something about their heart being so close to mine. It is definitely a spilling over moment.

Hugging my husband, anytime. He makes me feel safe and loved. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Petting my cats while they are in my lap. Loving on my horse. Riding my horse and having a moment of being one creature, moving in complete harmony. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does the feeling is amazing. If you are a horse person, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

Anytime I am with my children, especially if they are both with me, something extremely rare.

Laughing with my sister over something we did years ago.

Singing in church.

I’m sure I have forgotten some very obvious ones. You can think of some. Be aware the next time your heart is filling up or spilling over.  My old drama teacher told me that whenever  I was having one of those awe inspiring moments in life, I should open up all of my senses and take it in. Really experience it, hold onto it and then remember it. They are gifts. Enjoy them and be grateful.  Let your heart fill up and spill over often. It’s good for the soul. God bless.

You can do this!

I’m overwhelmed. My husband has been in pain since mid-December and  it has gotten progressively worse over the last few months. He is living on pain killers, which, unlike their name, are not “killing” anything, except maybe his brain. He has gone through more than one diagnosis. The first one was spinal stenosis.  His pain doctor had a temporary solution, an injection of cortisone. We were holding our breath and hoping for a miracle. The days dragged until his appointment. I had to drive him there because they said he would be woozy afterwards and unable to drive. No problem. We left the house at 6:30 am, not speaking much on the hour and a half drive,  just praying to ourselves that this would do the trick.

It didn’t. Two weeks later we were going through the same exercise for a different kind of injection. “This one should work,”said the pain doctor. We put all of our hopes on that one. It didn’t work either. We were despondent. What next?

An appointment with a back surgeon. It still hasn’t happened yet. March 21st was the earliest date. However…… In the meantime the pain has gotten worse. It is coming from his left hip and knee, not his back. Because we were getting nowhere with the first pain doctor,  my husband got a referral to a different one. He saw him yesterday. They both agreed (the doctor and my husband) that all things pointed to a hip replacement, not back surgery. (That sounded better to me, not as risky.)

He also had an injection for him to try. They did that this morning. It didn’t work. But it didn’t work because my husband has a “bone on bone” situation in his hip. The next step is a referral (which he already has) to a hip replacement surgeon. He is going to call today to set up that appointment.

My husband, being the superman that he is, continues to go to work every day (an hour and a half drive each way). He comes home with his hand out before he reaches the living room, looking for a pain pill. I am his drug dealer. He wants it that way.

I am praying with all that I have that he can have the hip replacement surgery sooner than later and that we can put this time behind us for good. It has been beyond trying. For him, for the obvious reasons and for me, well, maybe that’s obvious too. We are over it and ready to move on with some semblance of normalcy. Please!

This morning was stressful because I was waiting to hear if the injection had worked or not. And then the toilet overflowed the bathroom and the hallway. As I cleaned it up, I could feel myself seconds away from losing it, from sitting on the water soaked floor and crying. I chose not to. You can do this, I said to myself. Don’t let go now. It’s going to be okay. Hang on a little longer.

Sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of a storm. Don’t hide in the corner and suck your thumb, as inviting as that may be. Face the storm and know you have what it takes to get through it. Better days are coming. Keep that in the forefront of your mind. See the other side and know not only does it exist but it is waiting for you with open arms.

You can do this, no matter what it is you are going through. Pray and know that God will see you through it. Believe in your inner warrior. If you need to cry, go ahead. Then put your combat boots on and march right through that storm. God bless.

Once upon a mouse

I bent down to pick up a blue pillow off the floor to put behind my back as I watched the news and ate my breakfast. There was something on the pillow. My brain chatter went like this – What is it on top of the pillow? It looks like a mouse! It looks like a toy mouse that my cats play with. Is it real or is it a toy? I think it’s real! What is a mouse doing in my house? Is it alive or dead? It looks dead. Oh my gosh, how sad!

I slowly picked up the pillow. Not knowing for certain if it was alive or dead, I was not going to throw it in the trash. Something told me to take it outside and place it in the soft grass by the pool, in the warm sunlight. It moved! It was alive! I gently tilted the pillow so that it fell onto the grass.  I’m going to say it was a girl.  She righted herself quickly and then did not move a muscle. She was terrified. I spoke to her quietly. I left her there and went back into the house feeling sad but hopeful that she might survive. I was pretty certain that earlier one of my cats probably had her in its mouth.

After about 15 minutes another thought popped into my head – she needs food! Yes, but what? I looked it up on the internet: grains, seeds, fruit, none of which did I have readily available in my kitchen. Cheese! I did have cheese! I broke off several tiny pieces and took them outside . She jumped as I slowly dropped them next to her. She picked one up in her mouth and then dropped it when more fell around her. I looked at her back. It was so little and furry and she looked so soft. I lightly petted her. She cringed. I could see her heart beating, like the wings of a humming bird. My heart ached. I felt like God as my huge body hunched over her tiny one. I looked down and my heart filled with love, for her and for all of God’s creatures.

I went back into the house feeling very emotional. I had to leave soon for the barn. When I got back, I went outside to see if she was still there. She was gone. The cheese pieces were gone. My first thought was that a stray cat came and grabbed her, eating the cheese as well. That was not a pleasant thought at all. I then decided that she had eaten the cheese, regained her strength and courage then left, looking out for other mice to be with. Or maybe she was with God.

This silly little mouse really captured my heart. I don’t think I will ever forget her.

Just breathe

“It’s beeping again!”  I said with great frustration. “What?” my husband asked. “The alarm, it’s beeping again. I thought you cancelled our service.” “I did, but they said it could take up to 30 days to process.” The beeping, emanating from our keypad in the bedroom,  keeps us awake at night. We were told it was due to some problem at a local cell tower. I had had enough and called them, ready for a fight.  Several stressful minutes later we were cutting the  wire at the back of the keypad to completely disconnect it. What they told us to do over the phone was not working. Done. “Do you feel better now?” my husband asked cheerfully, hoping for a satisfied response. “Not really,” I replied. “Now I am completely stressed out. I hope they don’t expect me to continue paying the bill until they get around to processing the cancellation, because I won’t!”

I had had a good day. This was about to ruin that.  Take a deep breath, Sarah. Just breathe. I did and eventually got past it. Some things just aggravate me to no end. Can you relate? There are things that would upset some people that I can easily deal with. But there are other things that get under my skin and won’t let go. What to do? Breathe!

In case you didn’t know, life is not peaches and cream all the time. Stuff happens to take you off center, unnerve you. We often find ourselves overreacting, although not warranted. Those are the things I am talking about here. We get rattled and stressed out even though it doesn’t deserve the amount of time and  energy we are giving it.

There is a great Christian song entitled “Just breathe”. I think of it as I find myself losing control of my equilibrium. There’s a lot to be said for taking a long deep breath, in through the nose and out through the mouth. It slows you down, physically, mentally and emotionally. Such a great tool at our fingertips and yet we don’t do it often enough. I do slow, deep breathing at night when I am trying to sleep. It relaxes me. It also provides oxygen to your cells. Something I learned recently. Bonus.

In the middle of an argument, stop and take a deep breath. When you feel anger, frustration, extreme stress, breathe deeply. Waking up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep? (that would be me) Breathe slowly. I usually count to 10, then work my way up to 15 or 20 as I inhale and exhale.

Life is stressful. Whatever the cause, stopping to breathe will help diminish the negative emotions and make you feel more calm and peaceful.  Try it next time you feel yourself losing control. Don’t react, just breathe. :))

 

Thank you, God, no matter what

Every morning I spend about ten minutes with God in prayer. I offer up my requests  and end by saying thank you for the answered ones. Recently I started making Mondays my “Thank you, God” days. I don’t permit myself to ask for anything. I merely think of everything possible I can thank Him for. Throughout the day, no matter what happens, I say “Thank you, God.”

Sound crazy? I understand. But if you try it, you will soon notice that things start changing. The first thing that changes is you – your perspective, your mood. The little irritating stuff that happens becomes less bothersome. Even larger issues take on less significance.

I am not saying it isn’t challenging. It is. It is certainly counter intuitive. You get ready to leave for work only to find that you have a flat tire. Thank you, God? You stub your toe on the corner of the coffee table. Thank you, God? Your washing machine stops working mid-cycle. Thank you, God? You’re in a car accident….. You get the idea. I may be crazy. I just know that it changes me. It makes me trust God more. It convinces me that everything will work out, no matter what it looks like now. My all time favorite movie quote (from the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) : ” Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, then it’s not the end.” I love that.

And that’s the key. Trusting that God is there for both the little stuff and the big stuff and the really big stuff. You are not alone. He will see you through it. He is in charge and is working all things together for your good. It takes faith, persistence in your belief, surrender in your need to control and guts.

I am suggesting that you try it. See what it does to you, if it changes you and how. Try it for one day. My goal is to carry it beyond Monday. I’m not there yet. Maybe I never will be, but it’s a start.

You are not thanking God for bringing problems or pain into your life. You are thanking Him in advance for helping you get through it, for letting you grow, for giving you the tools to fix whatever it is (keeping in mind that some things cannot be fixed) and for being your comfort and your guide.

God is there for all those who love Him and want Him to be there. Never doubt that. Sometimes we put ourselves in a bad place, having nothing to do with God. If we ask for help, He will help us. Saying thank you in advance clears a space within you for the guidance and love to come in. And isn’t that something to be thankful for?  God bless.

 

It’s about time

I’ve been sick with bronchitis for the last two weeks. It kept me away from the barn and my horse for nine straight days. It is also the reason I did not write my blog last week. :((

The above phrase popped into my head the other day when I made the decision to go to the barn and exercise my horse. I also wanted her to know that I hadn’t deserted her.  I think about things like that in my spare time. I have no idea if horses even think that way. In any case, I needed to reassure her that I was still around and still her mom. It’s about time you went back to the barn. It’s about time you took care of your horse again.

It’s about time that….

you got your lazy butt off of the couch and participated in life again.

you started tackling some items on your to-do list.

you stopped feeling helpless.

you got back to your bible study group.

you carried your weight around the house.

you felt normal again.

you ran errands that have been piling up.

you wrote your blog!

you let the world know that you’re back!

you gained control over your life again.

I get sick 3-4x a year. I know that sounds like a lot. My doctor isn’t worried. I’m basically pretty healthy. But it bothers me because my very busy life gets put on hold for almost two weeks. Appointments must be re-scheduled, other meet-ups must be cancelled. My husband must do most things around the house. Someone else has to take care of my horse. I lose valuable lesson time. Things don’t get done the way I would like them to.

I’m not in control! Maybe getting sick so often is a gentle reminder that I can survive without being in control for two weeks. The world carries on without my input. I have to depend on others which is also hard for me. I’d much rather do it myself. Sound familiar?

I see commercials on TV with old people being cared for, driven around, cooked for, etc. It makes me cringe. I don’t want to ever be in that position but someday I could be.

“It’s about time”, a common expression. How would you complete it? It’s fun to play with. When I’m not getting things done as I should, I often think of that phrase.

It’s about time to forgive myself for the days on the couch, for not getting everything done, for depending on others, for not being in control. I think I’ll go rest now for a bit. I’m tired. The couch is calling my name……. It’s about time!  :))

Dealing with difficult people

When I was taking karate with my son many years ago, I remember our Sensei telling us that the best response to a blow coming at you is not to be there. It surprised me at the time and even disappointed me. I was learning all these wonderful self-defense moves and I wanted to be able to use them!  If someone tries to punch you, get out of the way! And so my best advice in dealing with difficult people is to avoid them. Unfortunately this will work in only a small number of cases. Most of the time we cannot avoid these people. We either work with one, are in a social group or organization with one or maybe we are living with one! What do we do?

My second suggestion for those of us who cannot avoid them but who do not see them all the time is to be pleasant but do not engage. Keep your contact minimal. Smile, be respectful but do not go deeper than that, i.e., keep it superficial. Going beyond respectful pleasantries could be a recipe for disaster.

If that won’t work in your particular situation, I’d say this – look for something positive about them (not impossible). Compliment them (sincerely, don’t be fake). Be nice to them and offer to help when appropriate. You may be labeling someone “difficult” who could, with some patience, empathy and understanding on your part, become a friend. Sound incredible? It isn’t. This approach is most desirable if the person plays a significant role in your life.

I have worked with difficult people in the past. Every time I truly believed it would  be resolved as soon as I left that employer. Wrong. There will always be challenging people coming in and out of your life. Get used to it and learn how to cope. Try one of my suggestions depending on the situation. I believe it will make your life less stressful and might even make you a better person. God bless.

Enough!

My father was strict. My mother was a softie. It was a very good balance for me and my sister growing up, but my father dominated the household. If you misbehaved, it wouldn’t take long for the you-know-what to hit the fan. Those sixty seconds before getting spanked were horrifying. So the last thing in the world I wanted to do was make Daddy mad. And so I tried to make sure he was happy with me at all times. This turned me into a people pleaser as an adult. I enjoy making people feel good and keeping things peaceful. Don’t get me wrong. I have learned to confront when necessary; but it is not my favorite thing to do.

Because this is my nature,  I am prone to help when called upon.  Recently that situation came up at the barn (it seems like everything comes up at the barn) which is still ongoing. I have offered my assistance temporarily (6-8 weeks – we’re at week 5) which means more work for me and longer hours there. Initially it was novel and even fun. Now it feels more like work and I am beginning to resent the other person who agreed to share who isn’t. I am spending more hours there than I want to. I am exhausted when I get home and the other-than-barn duties I have are being ignored. I found myself getting irritable and upset enough to keep me awake in the middle of the night. I worried that I might be expected to carry on with these extra duties after the 6-8 weeks are over. No! I heard myself saying. Enough is enough!

I confronted. I was assured that the extra tasks are temporary and concessions can be made to reduce the amount of time I have to be there. Whew! A lot of the problem was in my head. That is not a rarity.

Sometimes people pleasers reach their tipping point. That’s what happened to me. Instead of being in a loving frame of mind I was becoming more grouchy. I knew something had to give. I stopped feeling generous and started feeling resentful. This can happen in a relationship and often does. One partner is not pulling his or her weight. The other person, initially being considerate and caring, slowly feels put upon and resentful. They may not want to confront their partner.  What happens then is that little things start irritating them and small fights break out. The fights seems to be over the little things but actually the culprit is the bigger issue of resentment.  Not good. Communication up front is so important. Your partner may not even realize they are taking advantage of your good nature. Talk to them before the situation builds to a huge fight and a confused partner watches you walk out the door. Deer in the headlights moment for sure.

I feel much better now that I have spoken out about what was bothering me. Years ago I would try to hold it in and tell myself I need to be kinder and less selfish. That doesn’t work so don’t even try it. Have a conversation. Lay it all out there but do not be angry and disrespectful when you speak out.  This is an opportunity for growth and understanding and that is a good thing. When it’s time to say “Enough!” say it!  God bless.

 

Rain, Rain, go away and other thoughts

Some day we might move to Portland, Oregon where it rains a lot. But we are currently living in Southern California, where it hardly ever rains. Wait a minute, where am I?

Don’t get me wrong. I love the rain, mostly. But right now I have two good reasons for not enjoying it. First reason:  My roof leaks, even though we just had it fixed. Well, we thought we just had it fixed.  I don’t know what the next step should be. Bring the same guy back who didn’t fix it and have him try again? Or hire someone new who will probably charge more?

Second reason: Although we probably have the best arena within a ten mile radius when it comes to drainage, the longer it rains, the sloppier it gets. And then there are the turnouts (3). They can remain unusable for days. If the footing at the barn isn’t good, we can’t even walk our horses. Although I have a slight advantage here. My horse is in a box stall at the top of a hill. The area in front of her stall is covered and therefore dry. There are four stalls in a row. I can do “laps” with her, back and forth in front of the four stalls and if it isn’t raining, we can go beyond her stall to the cross-ties and even as far as the wash stand (all uncovered). We generally do 25 laps. She’s a very good girl when we do this although she gets bored (so do I). At least it gets her out and moving. It’s not good for horses to stay stall bound for too long. I never leave her in her stall longer than one day.

Those are the issues I face today, vis a vis the rain. There are more serious matters at hand but I am trying not to be consumed by them. What do you do when things are bothering you? When they occupy your mind more than anything else? When you have to fight off the negative imaginings that flood your brain? My father used to tell me your worst fears never happen. I suppose for the most part that’s true. But what if? How do you cope with pressing concerns, fear of the unknown or life’s proverbial twists and turns?

I used to worry about it until it got better or at least got resolved. I lost sleep and remained unfocused during conversations with friends and family. To what end? Did it alter the outcome? No. Did it hurt me more than help me? Yes!

Now that I am a Christian, I know what I should do. Give it to God. Why is that so difficult? Because, if you are like me, you feel the very deep need to control the situation, to find the answers, to “fix” whatever it is you think needs fixing, even if “whatever it is” is a person. We can’t control others. It never works. I’ve tried. I can only control me, and sometimes my horse.

The simple answer is to give all my worries to God. To realize that He is in charge, not me. That things will turn out the way they will turn out. My power lives in how I deal with the outcome.

Trust God to get you though the tough times, especially if the tough times involve worrying about someone else. Remember that what looks like a bad situation often turns out to be for the best. Everything happens for a reason and we aren’t privy to the reason in the beginning. Have faith. Pray and believe – my new mantra. God bless.

I don’t wanna!

It’s 10:00 am. I’m getting ready to leave the house, go to the barn and do lots of extra work, in addition to riding my horse (the fun part). I push myself out the door, get into my car and off I go. Inside my head as I review the day before me, I hear a little voice screaming, “But I don’t wanna!”

A few minutes go by during which I ask myself if there is any way out it. Nope! Then shape up woman! Put on your big girl pants and go with a happy heart, not a sour face. And so I did. And the time went by and it was good.

There is a nasty “devil” on my shoulder lately who pushes me toward doing nothing, toward laziness, to staying in my comfort zone and living my day out in the fetal position. Really? Is it merely the result of getting older? But I’m not that old! I have to fight it. I’ll certainly not give in.

I look for other areas in my life where “I don’t wanna” whispers in my ear. “I don’t wanna make dinner.” “I don’t wanna clean up the kitchen.” ” I don’t wanna exercise.”  “I don’t wanna make big decisions right now.”

Maybe this is normal but I don’t like it. I’m not used to non-action. I’m used to doing the work and then doing the relaxation. First the work and then the rest, always. It’s my m.o.

Maybe it’s a phase…. No. I don’t think so. Perhaps it’s the result of me relaxing more and working less. Am I settling too much into retirement? Get off the couch, Sarah! Be productive!

Can you relate? Is it age? Laziness? Fear of leaving my comfort zone? Inertia? I say do what you need to do and then relax. Don’t feel guilty, especially if you are retired and have “earned” your couch sitting time.

Try asking yourself where it is coming from. Maybe you have been overdoing and need a break. That’s justifiable. Perhaps you have given in too much lately to doing nothing and it is becoming a habit, a pleasant habit. If it is seriously messing with your life and you don’t like it, push yourself to do something and then something else. Slowly but surely you will get back into your old routine of action and feel more in control. The lack of a rigid schedule (which is what happens in retirement) makes it that much more challenging. I went through this shortly after I quit working. Why is it coming back now?

My plan is that most of the time I will challenge the “I don’t wanna” voice inside my head. And occasionally, but rarely, I will let it win. :))