Unconditional love…what a concept!

Hello dear reader.

It’s been a bit, I know.  Between headaches, CASA, and wedding plans, I’m sure you’ll excuse my absence.  Soooo, the day after tomorrow I will be a married woman.  I’m SO excited.  The last few weeks have been insane trying to make sure everything is set up and ready for Saturday.  I have worked my butt off!  Finally, everything is in place and ready and I can relax and enjoy the fruits of my labors.  I try to be  unpredictable when I write, but today I’m going to (predictably) talk about this man I’m going to marry and how much I love him.  

How do I know marrying him is the right thing to do, that it will work?  The really simple answer to that is that Tim and I have been to hell and back…a FEW times…and we still like each other.  Yes, I said LIKE.  I think like is even more important than love.  I have loved people that I didn’t like at all, and it was miserable.  We are best friends.  I look forward to spending time with him.  I laugh with him.  I tell him things I won’t tell most people, things you can only tell a very close friend.  Quick story – Not long ago, when Tim was between jobs, we were SO broke!  We were getting food from the church, were behind on ALL the bills, the bank account was overdrawn, and we didn’t know when any of that would change.  We were sitting together holding hands while watching the dogs playing and looking at a spectacular sunrise.  Both of us said, “I love our life!”  How crazy is that?  Logically we probably should have been completely stressed out.  But we both felt happy and contented just being together.  THAT’s how I know.

I’ve learned with Tim what love is supposed to be like.  He loves me simply for who I am.  He supports and encourages my dreams and aspirations.  He makes me feel smart and pretty.  He considers it his mission to make me laugh at  least once a day.  Okay, some of you are probably saying, “Okay, and the big deal is….?”  If so, you’re a very fortunate person. The big deal is I have never in my life had anyone love me like that, unconditionally and completely.  All the way back to my childhood, any love I got from anyone  was conditional.  I was loved if I did this or that and did it this way or that way.  I was loved only if I was willing to give up what I wanted and felt to do and feel what someone else wanted me to.  My dreams were to be a good mother or wife or daughter, to make someone else happy so that they would love me.  My aspirations were to do things well enough to earn someone’s love.  You know, I think that’s actually the core of it….I don’t have to earn Tim’s love.  He gives it to me…a gift, not as payment for something.  That is the big deal.  It’s something which was extremely difficult for me to learn to accept and trust.

I honestly think I’ve always tried to love that way, unconditionally.   I can’t say I’ve always been able to.  I’m not making excuses for that, but I have learned why I failed at it.  When two people give to each other freely and gladly, both of their hearts stay full because they’re being given at least as much as they are giving.  When one person is giving and the other is taking, the giver’s heart grows cold and empty eventually because there’s nothing to fill it up.  As I said, nobody ever gave me unconditional love, so there was nothing to keep my heart full and I eventually gave up. 

Don’t get me wrong…I’m nowhere near perfect,  I came into every relationship I’ve ever been in (besides the one with my parents) with a lot of my own baggage and misconceptions.  I had a horrible view of myself.  I thought I could never do or give enough to really deserve love from someone else.  I was only partially right.  I could never do enough to earn someone’s love.  All I can do is give my love freely and accept Tim’s love in return.  But I do deserve love.  It’s ironic when I think about it.  Only after I took the time to learn to love myself simply for who I was (am) was I able to trust and accept that anyone else could.

Okay, I’m getting mushy here.  But in less than 48 hours I will marry a wonderful, loving, compassionate, funny, giving, and VERY good looking man.  I think a little mushy is allowed,  :-}

Until next time…

Headaches and wedding Invitations

Hello dear reader.

Today is an awful headache day.  Well, it actually started around 11 last night when it woke me up.  I managed to fall back to sleep at around midnight, but by 2 a.m. it was a lost cause.  It’s super frustrating because I seriously don’t have time for this right now.  There is so much I need to be doing, but I can’t. 

Onto something brighter…I have to brag. Yesterday I discovered that I had made a significant mistake with the checking account and put us into a pretty bad situation. When Tim got home last night (after a 10 hour workday) I listened to him tell me about what a good day he had. You know, the first few minutes determine the mood for the rest of the evening, so positive was a good way to start. The last thing he said was, “It’s been a really good day.” I replied, “I’m so glad, but I’m about to ruin it.” I burst into tears and told him what had happened. This man…the one I get to marry in a week and a half…put his arms around me and told me it was okay. He said with so much going on it was no wonder I made a mistake…that we’d get through it and it wasn’t the end of the world. I couldn’t stop crying, but then it was out of relief.

Speaking of the wedding, a wonderful friend of ours made our wedding invitations for us. We mailed out all the ones going out of town, and the other day we got the ones to hand out locally.
image

Is that not the most beautiful thing?!? The invitation is rolled up inside that beautiful tube. There is no way I can ever show or tell how much I appreciate this. It’s another amazing example of the incredible friends we have!

That’s about all the “brighter” I can do right now. My head is still hurting terribly and I’m going to lay down and try to get some rest.

Until next time…

Hot Coals

Hello dear reader.

My last couple of posts have been a bit different from what I usually write about, but they’ve been things I’m very passionate about…domestic violence and giving children a voice when they need one.  Today, however, will be a little calmer.  I promise.

I found a quote the other day that really stuck with me.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else. You are the one who gets burned”
Buddha

I’ve believed for a long time now that holding on to anger and refusing to forgive, gives the person who wronged you power over you. It hurts you, not them. Buddha just says it better. No matter how it’s said, it’s a truth that a lot of people never grasp.

When I was a child, I wanted more than anything to be grown so my abusive mother and step-father would no longer have control over me. When I was 15, I simply could not deal with it any longer. I was literally losing my mind. So I left. The police found me after a week or so. They gave me a choice between going to Juvie or going home. I thought about it and decided, better the devil you know……right? So I went back. Nothing got better. Things actually got worse. So when I left again a few months later, I had a plan. The plan worked. Instead of sending the police after me, they told me that they would call the police on me if I showed up there. I was free! At least, I thought I was.

Many years went by while I hung on to hurt, anger, hatred, and guilt. Why guilt? Because I had left my four siblings in that hell hole. When I left, I planned to get them out as soon as I could. But I was living in an abandoned car out in a field. In Louisiana. In the summer. I knew I couldn’t take custody of them while I was living like that. It was four years later by the time I had a home of my own, not staying at someone else’s house, and a steady job. By then…..anyway, that’s where the guilt came from.

I went from bad relationship to bad relationship to worse relationship. I was angry, depressed, and felt like a victim. But I didn’t have a clue how to change things. I had gotten away. But I wasn’t FREE. My life still felt the same. I changed geography and who was abusing me, but other than that it was the same life. I’d reach a point where I simply could not deal with it any longer and I’d run, over and over again.

The first time I tried to commit suicide I was 10 years old. I knew that it was dangerous to take more Tylenol than it said to on the bottle, so I swallowed an entire bottle of Tylenol before I went to bed. I completely expected to die during the night. Boy was I mad when I woke up in the morning! That was the first of many attempts throughout my life. I simply could not deal with my life any longer and I tried to run.

It’s a funny thing about running. No matter how fast or how far you run, you are still there with all the pain and anger you try to escape. It took me more than 40 years to figure that out. But I still didn’t know how to change it. I couldn’t erase all that had happened to me. I had tried to forget, but that never worked. I had to let go of it. I didn’t know how to do that.

When I had my first surgery for the Chiari, I truly didn’t know if I would survive the surgery. I wasn’t scared of dying, but if I was going to, I needed to do it with a clean slate. I had to forgive so that I could be forgiven. It wasn’t about letting them off the hook, or in any way condoning what had been done. It was about me being able to die with a clear conscience. So I started calling people…my mother, my ex-husband….people who had hurt me the worst. I called and told them that I was sorry. I was sorry that I hadn’t been a better daughter. I was sorry that I hadn’t been a better wife. I was sorry that I hadn’t been a better person, a better sibling, friend, mother….so many things.

I was shocked at what happened. My pain and anger toward people went away as I apologized for my failures in the relationship. I was able to let go of my hurt. With every person I talked to, a little bit of light shined into places in my heart that had never been anything but dark. It was incredible! They didn’t have any more power over me. What they had done to me no longer controlled my life.

Let me be very clear about one thing here. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. I would never leave my daughters alone with my parents because I knew what could happen. I let go of the pain they had caused me. I didn’t become stupid. What I did was for me, not for them.

I did survive the surgery….obviously. But I had my clean conscious. My past no longer ruled my future. I’ve worked hard every day since then to try to be more forgiving. The things that happened to me are still a part of my life, but now I try to use them for good. I work with children who have been abused or neglected. I work with victims of domestic violence. I am very passionate about those things. But I am no longer a victim. I am a survivor.

That hot coal did a lot of damage to me while I tried to throw it. I still burn my fingertips from time to time when I reach to pick it back up. But now I’ve learned to drop it.

I truly hope that I (and Buddha) have given you something to think about today. Put something in comments at the bottom of this page and let me know. You are welcome to share as much or as little as you’d like. Please feel free to pass this on. It’s truly life changing.

Until next time…

Please help

Hello dear reader.

Today I’m going to use my blog to ask for your help.  Any of you who know anything about me know how important the work CASA does is to me.  Children are given a voice they wouldn’t otherwise have, someone to be in their corner when he world as they know it has fallen off it’s axis, and someone to make sure they don’t simply fall through the cracks. In many cases, the CASA is the only stable thing in their lives during (and sometimes even after) the time their parents are getting treatment, therapy, or just trying to learn how to be a parent. The majority of work done by this incredible organization is done by volunteers, but there are still a lot of things that cost money, and that’s hard to come by in the best of times. I’m copying a letter I received today. It explains what’s happening and how you can help. Please. It’ll only take a moment of your time and it won’t cost you a dime. Children deserve to have someone on their side.

What’s Happening:

The CASA program has been called a model volunteer program for abused and neglected children. Volunteer advocates now work with over 230,000 children a year throughout the US. But this is only 35% of the children who need a volunteer. Federal funding has been the most significant source of support for reaching more children who urgently need our help.

Now, Federal funding for this crucial work is in serious jeopardy. Earlier this week the House of Representatives slashed millions of dollars from the authorized funding for CASA – recommending just $3.5 million for CASA advocacy in 2014. Next Tuesday, July 16, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee will meet to determine the 2014 funding level for the CASA program. This is our only chance to save funding for the CASA program. Thousands of abused and neglected children are at risk of losing the most trusted adult in their young lives. Your help is urgently needed!

What you can do:

First, see if your state, or the state of someone you know, is listed below:

State Senator to contact Alabama Senator Richard Shelby (Vice Chairman) Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski Arkansas Senator John Boozman and Senator Mark Pryor California Senator Dianne Feinstein Delaware Senator Chris Coons Illinois Senator Mark Kirk Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu Maine Senator Susan Collins Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski (Chairwoman) New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy

Second, take these two easy steps immediately:

1. If your Senator is listed, email or call to urge him or her to appropriate the authorized funding level of $12 million for the CASA program. 2. Forward thisalert to your network of friends and colleagues in any of the states listed, and ask them to join you in taking immediate action for the children.

Here’s how to reach your senator:

Go to http://www.congressmerge.com/onlinedb/

Enter your zip code (only) and the site will take you directly to the contact information for your members of Congress. Click on the “Contact Form” for your senator, and it will link you directly to him/her, from where you can submit your request.

Here’s a Sample Message to send to Senate offices:

Please restore full funding of $12 million as authorized for the CASA program in the Violence Against Women Act.

In a Justice Appropriations Subcommittee hearing with Attorney General Eric Holder on June 6, committee members noted that $6.9 billion— a full 25% of the Department of Justice budget proposal for FY 2014— is taken up for federal prisons. And the prison population is ever-increasing.

CASA advocacy is an important strategy in criminal prevention efforts. A study by the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, has found that children who have been abused or neglected are 59% more likely to be arrested as juveniles. And foster youth are 30% more likely to become violent criminals as adults.

The Department of Justice has recognized the CASA model as a model juvenile delinquency prevention program. More than 400,000 children still need CASA advocates to protect their safety and bring stability into their futures.

With the continued rise in the prison population, and its impact upon society, restoring funding for the CASA program is neither controversial nor debatable. It is a proven solution to bring stability into vulnerable children’s lives, and to prevent far more costly consequences for their futures and that of society.

Thank you for your attention and support to this critical issue!

Your name Your Address Your City/State/Zip Your email

Thank you! If you have questions, contact carmelaw@casaforchildren.org

If you’re taking the time to do this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. If you’d like to know more about what CASA does, I have a post entitled “What is a CASA?” which will tell you from a volunteer’s perspective, or you can follow this link to the CASA organization itself… http://www.casaforchildren.org.

Thank you again.

Until next time…

It’s just plain wrong!

Hello dear reader,

Those of you who follow my blog know that I try to avoid discussions about religion and politics.  The intention of my blog is not to stir up controversy.  That being said, sometimes there are things that I simply cannot be silent about.  This is one of those times.  I doubt there is anyone who hasn’t known about the George Zimmerman case, or that doesn’t know about the verdict.  But do you know about the Marissa Alexander case?  Let me tell you a story courtesy of Huffington Post writer Mich Stacy.

Marissa Alexander is a 31 year old African American woman.  She is the mother of a toddler and 11 year old  twins.  She has never been in trouble with the law.  She  has a Master’s degree and an estranged husband who she’s very afraid of.  So Marissa did what the law said she should do.  She applied for, and was granted, a restraining order.  You know, that amazing document that means you have nothing more to fear.  As a survivor of domestic violence, I will never understand that line of thinking.  I was told by my abuser, “It’s a piece of paper.  It ain’t f*****g bulletproof.”  If you have a restraining order,  the police might…maybe…make your abuser leave when he’s broken into your house in the middle of the night.  Again.  But that’s my story.  Let’s get back to Marissa’s. 

Marissa went home to get some clothes {why is the victim always the one who has to run and hide?} expecting her estranged husband to be gone.  He wasn’t.  An argument ensued, and Marissa got very scared.  She was afraid he was going to kill her.  She went out to her car and got the gun.  It was legally registered to her.  She went back into the house (still trying to get some clothes).  When the situation continued to escalate, Marissa fired a warning shot into the wall.

Now let’s look briefly at George Zimmerman’s story, courtesy of Huffington Post writer Jermaine Spradely.  George is a 29 year old insurance fraud investigator who identifies himself as Hispanic.  He is married, has no children, and lives in a gated community.  After failing to become a police office, George settled for volunteering with his local neighborhood watch.  He had previously been accused of domestic violence against a former girlfriend and had been arrested for assault on a police officer.  A younger female cousin has accused him of nearly two decades of sexual molestation and assault.  This same cousin talks about George’s family being “proudly racist against African Americans.”

George was on patrol one evening when he saw a young African American male walking down the street.  The teenager looked suspicious to George because of his “unnaturally slow and meandering gait.”  Yep, he was walking too slow.  So George did what he was supposed to do.   He called the non-emergency hotline for police assistance as he had done on numerous other occasions.  He was told not to follow the young man or even get out of his vehicle.  George had a better idea.  He got out of his SUV, made sure the safety was off on his gun, and began to follow the young man.  Not very much later George shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

Now here’s where it gets really crazy.  George Zimmerman was found not-guilty by a jury of six women.  Marissa Alexander, after turning down plea deals because she had faith in the judicial system, was found guilty of using a gun in the commission of a felony by her jury.   Even though nobody was hurt at all, they said the bullet could have ricocheted and hurt someone.  Marissa was sentenced to 20 years of prison.

After George Zimmerman’s verdict, President Obama called the case a “tragedy.”  He said, “I know this case has elicited strong passions, and in the wake of the verdict I know those passions may be running even higher.  But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken.  I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.”

After Marissa Alexander’s verdict, US Representative Corrine Brown D-Jacksonville had this to say.  “The Florida justice system has sent two clear messages today.  One is that if women who are victims of domestic violence try to protect themselves,  the “Stand Your Ground” law will not apply to them….the second is that if you are black, the system will treat you differently.”

So what happened?  Was it racism?  Was it that this country continues to condone domestic violence?  Regardless of the reason, two people lost their lives for no good reason.  And another person literally got away with murder.  I’m saddened.  I’m disappointed in our judicial system.  Most of all I am angry.  I cannot and will not keep silent about such injustice!

Until next time…

Contrasts

Hello dear reader.

Two weeks from today I will be married to the love of my life.  It feels surreal.  I told Tim this morning that I am so happy and my life is so amazing that it scares me.  I keep expecting to wake up.  We have a great house in the most beautiful place on earth.  All of my children and grandchildren are healthy and happy.  We have the best friends anyone could ever have.  Tim has a job that he loves and we can live on.  Every morning we wake up to birds singing outside our window.  We start our days drinking coffee and laughing at the dogs.  I’m making progress in getting my pain under control.  I get to be a voice for children who need a voice.  I’m marrying a man who is loving, compassionate, loyal, and keeps me laughing.  I get to be married to someone who was, is, and always will be my friend.  This is my life?  Really?  How did this happen?  How did I get here from where I’ve been?

I started out as a physically and sexually abused child.  I went from there to being in physically abusive relationships.  I have to say though, I’d do it all again to have my kids.  They were the only good thing in my life.  All I wanted was for them to have a happy childhood and grow up to be happy people.  I wanted their lives to be the opposite of mine both as children and adults.  I know that I wasn’t always the mother I wanted to be, and I’m still not.  But they had at least one thing that I never did…I loved and will always love all of my children with all my heart.  People say about their children, “I’d die for them.”  I did more than that.  I lived for them when dying would have been a lot easier.  I’m getting off on a tangent here, but I suppose I needed to say that.  Back on topic…I went from physically abusive relationships to an emotionally abusive one.  I’ve never had anyone love me.  Everyone who claimed to love me, actually loved their image of what they wanted me to be.  I always put who I was or wanted to be in the background to be what I was “supposed” to be.  Even now I often don’t seem to live up to my children’s expectations of who they think I should be.

Fast forward to me at almost 50…I find myself in a relationship with someone who loves who I am, a relationship with no abuse at all.  This is a relationship where not only am I allowed to be myself, but respected, admired, and encouraged to be myself.  I grow and flourish in ways I never knew I could.

Can you see why it all seems so surreal?

I know I’ve said some things in here today that will make you smile and other things that will make you shudder.  That’s my life.  But today, now, I’m all smiles.  I have a life that I never even dreamed was possible.  I’ve lived way too many nightmares.  If this is a dream, please don’t wake me up.

Until next time…

Something to think about.

Good morning dear reader.

This has been a really rough week, but I’m finally feeling a little better this morning.  As soon as I finish writing this (priorities!) I’m going to start trying to get caught up on some things.  I am SO behind on housework.

Last night I found myself thinking about death, not as something to fear, but as an inevitable thing for all of us at some point.  Then I looked at my “Inspiring Quotes” this morning and it really solidified what I wanted to write about today.  Here’s the quote:  When we leave this world, how much we have loved will be our true legacy.  It is the only thing we will leave behind..(Anne Siloy).   I’m  not sure who she is, but I agree with what she says. 

It all boils down to two questions.  The first one is how do I want to be remembered after I die?   These questions can be life-changers if you really take the time to think about them.  Just figuring out how you want to be remembered takes some serious soul searching.   For example, do you want to be remembered as someone who held tight to their opinions and refused to budge, or as someone who was willing to compromise with others?  Do you want to be remembered as someone who did all they could to help others,  or as someone who worked hard all their lives to build something to leave for the next generation?   I could go on and on, but the examples themselves aren’t the point.  None of them are wrong, they are all things that people strive for in their lives.  I think in order to answer the question of how you want to be remembered, you have to take the time to learn who you are.  Not the you that you show in public, but the you that is there when you’re alone and not keeping up appearances.  Many people are afraid of being alone (I sure was!) because that means they have to spend time with a stranger.  It  took me many years to learn who Lynnette is…not the mother or the wife or the person who cooks at church. or any of the things people saw me as…just plain Lynnette.  Yes, it was scary and yes, it was hard work, but finding the person that had been buried under all of these expectations (real or imagined) was an amazing thing.  I found diamonds and charcoal…things I wanted to polish and make brighter and things that were dark and ugly.  I looked  up how diamonds are formed.  According to geology.com, “The formation of natural diamonds requires very high temperatures and pressures.”  In other words, it ain’t easy.  I think I may be getting a bit off course here, so let’s bring it back.  Bottom line…figuring out how you want to be remembered after you die requires getting to know who you truly are.

Now the second question…how do you think you will be remembered after you die?  If the answer to that is the same as the first question then congratulations!  You are perfect…no further work is required.  You can just sit back and enjoy the ride.  But since that is not the case with most of us, I’m going to talk about it anyway.  For the first question we had to figure out who we were, but for this one we have to figure out how to make diamonds out of our coal.  The difference between who we are and who we want to be can be quite vast, but it isn’t impossible to get from one to the other.  It simply requires work.  Oh…did you think the work was finished when you found out who you were?  Sorry, the work has just begun.  I’m going to use a personal example to explain what I mean by this one.  I was the person who volunteered for everything, no matter what it was.  If anyone asked for help I was there, no matter what it was.  I thought this made me a good person.  People would remember me as the person who was always there, always made herself available for anything that was asked.  I never said no to anything, at least not where anyone would hear me.   But alone, in the part of me that I didn’t show, I often resented the hell out of it.  I’d do whatever was asked of me (or I volunteered for) with a smile on my face and a “No problem!  Glad to do it!”   Then I’d get home and say, “Why is it always me?  Is there nobody else who can do some of this stuff?  They know I’m sick…well, they sort of know.  I don’t tell how bad it really is.  But they should be able to tell I’m not doing well even if I don’t tell them.  So why do they keep asking me to do things?  Okay, maybe not asking me specifically.  But they know when they ask for help I’ll always volunteer.”  It would go on and on.  I thought I was being the person other people wanted me to be, but I definitely wasn’t being the person I wanted to be.  So you know what I did?  I learned how to say that impossibly difficult two letter word… NO.  I only said it to the things that were super hard for me to do.  But the sky stayed up where it belonged, it didn’t fall, and people didn’t hate me, they still loved me.  So I said it again.  Before long I was only volunteering to do things I actually wanted to do.  If I was asked for help by someone who had taken advantage of me in the past, I told them I couldn’t do it.  Now I believe I will be remembered as someone who did what she could when she could, and did it gladly.  That’s one example of a way I think I will be remembered that matches up with how I want to be remembered when I’m gone.  I still have a lot of work to do with some other things.

I’ve gotten a bit deep today.  But I think this is something people don’t normally take the time to think about.  You deserve to be the you that makes you happy.  So if I’ve made you think a bit today, great! 

Until next time…