September 2011 - Renee's Ramblings
Posted: September 27, 2011
Giving God Credit
I just finished watching Joyce Meyer, one of my two favorite TV evangelists, Joel Osteen being the other. Both have taught me about giving credit to God in all things. Both have taught me to have an open heart of gratitude toward Him. So I am going to take a few moments to publically acknowledge many of the wonderful and awesome things God has personally blessed me with. I do not do this to preach to anyone, it is simply an exercise to show my appreciation for answered prayers, unanswered prayers and the many blessings I’ve received, though many times undeserved. I have often thought about why God has been so good to me and the answer has come from the Bible. I don’t even remember which book or verse, but it states something about how if we as parents who love our own children want to give them all that we can, how God, as our Heavenly Father, wants to do the same for us on a much grander scale.
This list is not in any particular order. They are all the proof I need of God’s love and presence in my life:
I am thankful to God for bringing Al into my life giving me a husband who is thoughtful, generous, strong, compassionate, and funny – a man who allows me to be myself, who always encourages me and who is my best friend.
I am thankful to God for my three loving, independent and free-spirited daughters – Amber, Angel and Arin. They have brought meaning and a greater purpose to my life and countless hours of joy. Each one very special and unique and each one a great mother, which I think is a compliment to me in how I raised them. I am thankful to God for their forgiveness that I wasn’t a perfect mother and yet they love me in spite of myself.
I am thankful to God for our ten grandchildren – Baine, Michael, Joseph, Nancy, Emilee, Gunner, Tukker, Emry Jo, Dominque and Lucas. We are proud of each and every one of them, but God gets the credit for these beautiful creations, each born with their own personalities and special gifts.
I am thankful to God for Al’s two sons, Tommy and Jimmy, who came into my life through their father. These grown men sadly lost their own mother suddenly and yet, they have accepted me as an important part of their dad’s life and both treat me with respect and like a family member. I am thankful to God for the opportunity to get to know each of them better. I am proud to say that their father did an awesome job of raising two fine gentlemen.
I am thankful to God for answering our prayers and healing Jimmy from his lymphoma. He is now healthy and active and has a very bright future. I am thankful to God for all the people who pitched in their time, money and resources to help raise money for his cancer benefit.
I am thankful to God for curing my friend Karen from her breast cancer and giving her the strength to get through her treatments and helping her to recover more with each passing day.
I am thankful to God for putting the idea of a cochlear implant into someone’s head (more research on that to follow at a later date) and thankful for all the work from the developers and manufacturers and their employees for bringing this device to fruition so that people like my grandson, Tukker, are able to grow up in a “hearing” world.
I am thankful to God for the relationship I have with my sister, Carrie and her husband, Brad. We have enjoyed countless hours eating pizza, going to Deadwood (I never said I was perfect!), driving around in the Black Hills, cooking for each other, being there for each other during the tragic times in our lives, going on road trips and generally just having their company, someone to laugh and cry with.
I am thankful to God for my sister, Melinda, her husband, Thad and niece, Shelby, who are always fun to hang out with and who I always look forward to seeing again. Times like the 4th of July in Interior and visits to our home in the Black Hills. I am especially thankful for Melinda’s sense of humor and her willingness to share her own beliefs in God with me.
I am thankful to God that my relationship with my brother, Larry Joe, is starting to grow. For years, we were not in touch and at times, there were hard feelings between us, but the one thing I know for sure exists is a brotherly-sisterly love. I have fond memories of him sticking up for me growing up and I know he’ll always have my back, if I need him to. I am also thankful that he and his son, Francis, are now developing a relationship as father and son.
I am thankful to God for the health of my mom, JoAnn and my step-dad, Frank. Both are now in their 70s and one day we’ll have to say good-bye for awhile, but for now all seems well. Frank took on a step-family and provided us with a nice home and helped me buy my first car. Mom provided her love and guidance throughout my life.
I am thankful for my good friends, Karen, Vickie, Wayne, Cheryl, Stephanie, Michele, Delon, Donna, Loren, Arnell, Vicky, Marv, and Arline, who were all there for me in different ways and even when I don’t see them for long periods of time, they will always remain in my heart. Each one of them has “counseled” me through the rough times of my life. Each one has brought different gifts to the relationship and each one has played a major role in the person I’ve become today. Karen, with her gift of common sense, always knows just the right thing to do. Vickie is always entertaining, making us laugh. Wayne always puts a smile on my face with his dry sense of humor. Cheryl has a giving and encouraging spirit and took me under her wing teaching me lots about Native American culture and history. Stephanie is beautiful inside and out and always there with open arms for a hug. Michele has a very unselfish spirit, having to give up much of her time to care for her loved ones, and yet has the gift of always looking put together and on top of things and is always there with a listening ear when you need to talk to someone and keeps me updated on other friends and acquaintances. Delon has a special gift of listening and counseling and the gift of a great sense of humor and it was his time and attention that got me through the darkest period of my life and I will be forever grateful. Donna taught me so much about computers and work and life and common sense. Loren has a generous spirit and can always be counted on if you need help. Arnell is a loving soul and caring spirit. Vicky was always there when I really needed a shoulder and a willing ear. Marv always made me laugh and have a good time. Arline was always compassionate to me and helpful when I didn’t know what I was doing at work. There are many other friends I’m am grateful for, as well, who bring joy to our lives, Nancy, Mary D and Mary V to name a few. My life has been enriched because of each and every one of them. I am thankful to God for all my Facebook friends who share advice, tidbits and humorous stories, providing hours of enjoyment. I am thankful to God for having brought Heather into my life via Facebook, a sister who I’ve never met, but who Dad told me about in the past and who I hope to get to know better in the future.
I am thankful to God for my crazy aunts, Loretta and Marilyn, who always make me laugh and who have at times, offered words of encouragement and offered insights about my parents that helped me accept them as people. I am thankful to my dad’s sisters, including Loretta, Shirley, Carol and Rita, who were there for Dad when he was dying of cancer. Their love and support meant the world to him.
I am thankful to God for a beautiful home in the Black Hills of South Dakota. While we can’t be there now, I know God will bring us back in the future and we’ll be able to enjoy more time there, sharing it with family and friends.
I am thankful to God for finding Dakota, our former wonder dog, a new home perfect for him. See previous Ramblings, “God Loves Dogs Too”.
I am thankful to God that Al has a good job and that we are able to pay our bills and always bless others with some of the extra.
I am thankful to God for my gift of being able to write, which brings me hours of pleasure and something to be passionate about.
I am thankful to God for His unconditional love, His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, His protection, and His guidance. He has brought purpose, passion, and promise back into my life.
I am thankful to God for answering my and many others prayers about baby Lawson, who was born early on September 5. He made it through surgery and the reports are that he is doing well. Congratulations, Grandma Nancy - I am so happy for you and Skip!
There are hundreds of other things I am thankful to God for. In times when I find myself complaining, I pull out my list of over 100 items that I am grateful for and I add to it as I go along. Besides the very important things of friends, family, salvation and health, there are countless other things to be thankful for, like being born in America, all the advances of technology that make our lives easier, and the beauty of this earth that God created, to name a few.
I challenge anyone who is feeling down to sit down and write a list of 100 things they are thankful for. Sometimes it helps to think about what others don’t have to write your list, because no matter how bad you think you have it, there are always others who have less and need more than you do. I guarantee that your mood will turn around and that life will feel a little brighter, things will look a little clearer and your down mood will shift to one of joy. That’s really what I believe our main purpose on life is to learn to experience true joy here on this planet, while we do the work we are intended to do and wait for what God has in store for us in Heaven and to always give God the credit and walk through life with a grateful attitude.
Posted: September 22, 2011
Sometimes You Just Gotta Laugh at Yourself Story #2 - The Interview from Hell
She flounced into our little four person cubicle area like she was walking into her own personal lion’s den, flexing her polished claws with an attitude of domination. With not an ounce of warmth in her tone, she announced she was taking over as supervisor, as she turned toward her chair flipping her long, blonde mane. I’m surprised she didn’t demand that we call her “Your Highness” for it was clear she thought she ruled the jungle of our little piece of the world, the Word Processing Center of Social Services, not that it was so much to be so proud of, with only a staff of three to boss around. Her entrance was dramatic enough. As soon as she sat down, she flung open file drawers and cabinets and began flinging computer manuals, reference books, files and whatever else she could get her hands on to the center of our tiny floor space. Soon there was a pile two feet high by four feet wide.
I just sat and stared at her not hearing her excuse for this sudden desire to force a cleanup not even two minutes after she reported to her new position. I assumed she was very insecure and needed to assert her authority right away to make herself feel better. Or maybe it was just plain an act to show who’s the boss. Whatever it was, I made the decision at that moment to start applying for other state jobs knowing I would take the next one offered to me, no matter the position, as long as it paid equal to what I was making.
So the state job applications went flying frantically out the door to the mail box. Whatever I remotely qualified for, I sent an application. For the next six weeks, I endured my new she devil boss’s erratic, bossy behavior. After a week, she began trying to befriend me, but I didn’t trust her, didn’t like her, didn’t even want to look at her. I was cordial, because I felt it was my duty, however, I was never comfortable and never let my guard down with her for one second. I just wanted out. Did I mention that she aced me out of a promotion to supervisor? Yes, part of it was my hurt pride, but I’d been down this road before and gotten over it. This time, I knew I wouldn’t.
So I took my bruised ego and attempted to move on. My first job interview was for a position as an Administrative Assistant to a deputy secretary for one of the state departments. I was surprised to receive an interview, not fully convinced I was qualified. However, the only thing that mattered was getting out of my current employment situation and away from my she-devil of a supervisor.
I didn’t know much about the department, but I did know my way around a personal computer, filing cabinet, copier and pencil sharpener. I started the process of pumping myself up for the interview. I planned what to wear. I studied about the department as much as I could. I got my hair cut and dyed. While I didn’t have the money to buy new clothes with having three daughters at home, I did decide to wear my best black dress slacks and jacket.
On the day of my interview, I was extremely nervous. Hating to talk about myself, I didn’t usually do well answering questions during interviews. It’s not that I didn’t know I was a good worker, that I was loyal and had all the skills and qualities I needed for office work. My resume’ spoke of my vast experience, computer skills and knowledge. But when asked to tout myself in person, I flopped most times. I could coach myself all night long in front of the mirror and then once I got to a job interview, my mind would go blank when asked questions. I’d sit there and smile and clear my throat and try to come up with something half intelligent to say. Usually, just garble came out of my mouth. Fortunately, I had a friendly smile and most employers later would confess that they hired me for that reason.
For this particular interview, I did the usual coaching and reading and rereading my resume’ to build up my confidence. A lot was riding on this interview. Not only would it be the highest paying position I’d applied for, it also meant a ticket away from my she-devil bossy boss and I needed this job for that reason alone. In other words, I was desperate. I would have taken any job offered as long as it paid equal to what I was making. Anything would have been an improvement.
That morning, I primped, put on my makeup with extra care and dressed in my interview outfit. I didn’t look spectacular, but I looked business-like. I drove to the interview and silently told myself all my good qualities over and over. I took my folder with my resume’ in hand and walked inside the building to the reception desk, announcing my arrival. I was lead into a nice office, decorated tastefully. I sat and waited my heart pumping louder with each second.
Finally, a side door opened and in floated a beautiful, petite lady. She appeared to be the epitome of class, totally opposite of myself. She wore a cream colored, fitted suit jacket and matching skirt with a peach blouse underneath, which matched her peaches and cream complexion. Her nails were done in peach and she wore pearls at her neckline and on her ears. Her hair was done in a short pixie cut perfect for her small frame – and she was blonde. I stood up and with my usual clumsy lack of grace, I reached out to shake her perfectly manicured, delicate hand and nearly tripped over her desk. My man hands looked frightfully large next to hers. Mind you, this was over seventeen years ago, when I was still considered skinny. I felt like a moose.
I thought I sensed a lack of approval from her right away, judging me by my appearance, lack of grace and large frame. Immediately, my inferiority complex kicked in. She began the questioning. I couldn’t tell you what she asked me, but with each question, my nerves got worse and my stammering increased and I couldn’t think of one reason why she should hire me. Needless to say, she ended the interview quite abruptly, shook my hand and said she would be in touch. I stood to leave, thanked her for her time, turned and walked smack dab into the wall with a loud thud, which caused me to sway backwards and nearly knock over a chair. With a cherry red face, I said excuse me and slunk my way to the door, struggling to turn the knob. She walked me to the reception area all the while my face burning. I got to my car and sat there and cried. I couldn’t stop shaking. I felt like a loser.
I didn’t jump every time the phone rang over the next week. I already knew I wouldn’t be offered the job. I didn’t run to the mailbox either. I knew a rejection letter would be forthcoming, but as it turned out I didn’t even rate a rejection letter. I never heard another word about the position. It is standard procedure for the state to send you a rejection letter within six weeks, but I never got one.
That was my interview from hell. I did manage to land the next position I interviewed for, which turned out to be my favorite department to work in and, yes, I stumbled through the questions and was told later that my smile is what got me the job.
Now, I look back to that interview from hell and I can laugh at myself. I’ve gained so much more confidence since then. I interview better, because I believe in myself and know what my abilities are and know they are of value.
Ironically, shortly after I started my new position, the department got a new Executive Secretary. He was a handsome young man, warm, friendly and a great leader. It turns out his wife was the lady from my interview from hell. The first time she came to the office, I wanted to fade into the wood work, hoping she wouldn’t recognize me. Later that night, I laughed out loud. I’m sure she never forgot me - the person who ran into the wall during a job interview. How often does that happen?
The moral of the story is that she and I both judged each other without really knowing each other. I’m sure she thought I was an incompetent dunce. I thought she was a bit cold and prissy. As it turns out, I was invited to her home for an office event and she was warm and gracious. She also worked with us at the office on governor’s event projects and she was pleasant to be around. I hope she knew I was a great employee for the department that her husband managed. I can now say that without feeling uncomfortable.
Oh, and the she-devil. She’s not so bad either. She expressed regret of me leaving employment there and we would speak to each other when running into each other. Would I ever work for her again, NOT ON YOUR LIFE!
On a very sad note: The Executive Secretary I’m referring to was Roland Dolly, at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism. In 1993, he lost his life in a plane crash along with Governor George S. Mickelson and six other people. Rolly was well respected by all the staff and everyone missed him. My heart went out to Rolly’s wife, Lane. She was too young to be a widow and, as a mother of three daughters, I felt so bad that they never got to have children - they would have had beautiful babies. I still think of her and hope that she has moved forward and has a wonderful family to care for now.
First impressions are rarely the right impressions. That’s one the lesson I learned from all this and it has stuck with me all these years.
Posted: September 16, 2011
Coping With Life through Meditation
If you Google “health benefits of meditation” over 1.7 million results pop up. I don’t think any medical doctor would argue that meditation reduces stress and can lower blood pressure. Meditation can be used for pain reduction. The physical and emotional benefits justify setting aside a little time each day to practice meditation.
I have been meditating for over ten years on a regular basis. I read a book on mediation techniques at a time when my life was at its lowest point. If there are any words of wisdom I’d like to pass on to my daughters and their families and my friends and acquaintances, it is to develop a daily routine of meditation and to do whatever you have to do to arrange 10-30 minutes a day to practice it.
Anyone who knows me personally knows I’ve always been a nervous Nellie. However, if you’ve known me long enough, I think you’ll agree that I’ve calmed down considerably over the past decade. I still have a nervous condition where I can’t tolerate loud noises, but I deal with emotional issues in a more peaceful, steady manner than in my 20s and 30s. Back then, I had no real solid coping mechanisms, other than drinking too much frequently, which only added to my problems.
There are numerous different methods of meditation and a person can do a little research on the topic and find one that suits their own needs and spirituality. My method is to combine my meditation with prayer. Each person can develop their own personal style and mantras and benefit greatly from the practice. A mantra can be a prayer, a favorite verse or poem or even one word or syllable repeated over and over. Here’s how I meditate nearly every day:
- I set the alarm on my cell phone to ring in 30 minutes.
- I lay flat on my back with arms at my side and legs together.
- I mentally walk through relaxing each body part from head to toe. For example, I say in my head, “Relax your head, relax your face, relax your jaw, relax your neck…” For me this works great – if I happen to have a kink or an ache or pain in an area of my body, once I relax it through this exercise, the pain disappears.
- Then I say my mantra which is “Relax your whole body and go way deep down inside to the center of your soul where you can find Divine Guidance and pray.” Then I say The Lord’s Prayer in my head followed by The Serenity Prayer. This is my routine to get into a meditative state of mind. Each person should develop their own routine according to their own beliefs. If you do this regularly, you can feel your breathing and heart rate slow way down.
- First, I thank God for my blessings and for answered prayers, listing them out one by one, then I pray for others, then I pray for myself. Praying in this meditative state helps me focus on what the needs of others are, as well as my own.
- For the last 5-10 minutes, I try (this takes tons of practice) to just focus on breathing and clearing my mind of all thoughts and letting whatever thoughts or ideas that seem to come from a Divine Place enter my consciousness. I have had some great ideas pop up this way – I don’t believe they were my own, but by Divine Intervention.
For me, meditation is also a tool for building my faith in God, however, regardless of your spiritual beliefs, it has been proven to be beneficial. Meditation has helped me cope with deaths of loved ones, job changes, relationship issues, relocation and a host of other stressful events in my life. Without it, I would not have been the person I think I am today. I am more well-adjusted, happier and able to cope with the stresses of life. I still have lots of areas that need improvement, but I believe through meditation and prayer, I become a better person.
There have been times when I’ve gone weeks without meditation and I feel lost, unfocused and unconnected to the world and people around me and worst of all, God. Once I get back into the habit, all seems well again. It took me a year of routine meditation to get completely comfortable with it and to make it a priority to my day. There are always times when you just can’t work it into your schedule, but if you keep it forefront on your to do list, the stress and worries of the day dwindle down to a level that is manageable.
That’s my words of wisdom, the most valuable piece of advice I could give anyone. Sure, most people say they don’t have time. Squeeze the time in somewhere, even if it’s only 10 minutes at a time. After 30 days, I can promise you’ll feel better and you’ll look younger because you’re managing your stress better. I’m confident without this habit in my life, I would have been locked in a mental institution a long time ago. Meditation and prayer gives me balance, a solid foundation of faith and a peace I wish others could find for themselves. There has been 100% improvement in my spiritual life, relationships and quality of life since I began doing this in 2000, in fact, it is overwhelming how much improvement there has been. Do yourself a favor and try this yourself, if you don’t already. I’d love to hear back from you how it’s going at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lately, meditation and prayer is what is getting me through missing my family and friends in South Dakota. It's helping me cope with my homesickness. Without it, I'd be totally lost.
Posted: September 9, 2011
We Made It!
After white knuckling it through Chicago and Washington, DC area, traveling five hundred sixty miles a day, we pulled into Newport News, Virginia road-weary, buggy-eyed and short-tempered. I thought I forgot how much I hated the area, but I didn’t.
It was probably best that Al and I traveled in separate vehicles, because I’m a merciless back seat driver. As it was, his duty was to follow behind me the whole 1700 grueling miles. He followed me like a blood hound, tailgating me half the time, but I overlooked it, feeling safe, knowing he had my back, in case some crazed driver tried to run me off the road or pulled out a pistol in a fit of road rage. I was navigating with John, my GPS man, and I followed his instructions most of the time. Al had a GPS as well, and until we got to Washington, DC, they both were in sync.
Traveling thru Washington, DC on Labor Day weekend is almost as bad as traveling through Chicago at 5:00pm on a Friday, it’s a nightmare of impatient drivers, lane hoppers and tailgaters. As we worked our way through the area on a six lane highway, I noticed Al had jumped over four lanes and was about it take an exit. Panicking, I grabbed my phone and dialed him. He picked in time to hear my mad ravings and pull away from the exit. After exchanging choice words and threatening each other, he somehow managed to get back over to my lane, pulled in front of me and ordered me to follow him. Seething, I hung up on him and threw the phone down, with the force of a runaway train.
We pulled off into a park area along a bike trail just off the Interstate, both shaken, extremely irritated with each other and exhausted. We had to find a way to pull ourselves together and finish the rest of the trip, just two more hours. We rested for fifteen minutes, then decided to go back out into the war zone. He instructed me to keep my phone right next to me. I said I would if I could find it. I tossed it in a fit, but couldn’t remember if I threw it toward the back seat or out the window, when the rage took over my senses. We searched for the phone for five minutes with no luck. Then I instructed him to dial my number and we’d hear the ringer and be able to locate it. This would work for people with normal hearing, but I forgot that we are both half deaf – he in his right ear, me in my left. Nine times, he called my number and nine times, we both would bend our ears towards the faint sound, he leaning in with his left ear, me straining with my right. We might as well have been searching for a phone buried in a hay stack – we could not locate it by sound, but we thought we had it pinned down to under the passenger seat. We dug and dug around the car, pulled stuff out of the back seat, moved both seats back and forth and nearly went crazy, not having any success. A half hour later, Al picked up the Fritos Corn Chip bag off the seat, and realized it felt heavy. He looked inside and there was my phone amongst the corn chips. We laughed hysterically, complete with tears. I believe all things are planned. I had been saying the Lord’s Prayer out loud through most of the drive through the DC area and I wonder if God didn’t make that phone land in the corn chip bag knowing we needed a stress reliever in order to get through the last leg of our trip. It worked. We made it!
It wasn’t all bad. The Appalachian Mountains through Pennsylvania were beautiful, but nothing as stunning as the Black Hills. The Interstate Highway was curvy and I almost lost it around one treacherous bend, but after my heart went back from my throat to the chest cavity, I breathed a sigh of relief and thanked God. It would have been more enjoyable had not there been fifty million other people traveling the same route.
Right outside Chicago, and the final toll booth and nearly $200 later, we pulled over at a McDonald’s. We were starving, but after using the filthy restrooms and cleaning out the crap from our pants, we decided we’d press on and skip a meal. We stopped at an Ohio rest area and Al called and made a room reservation for the Hampton Inn in Sandusky. I knew I needed to get off the road, as I walked into the Ohio rest area talking to myself, saying O-Hi-O!, O-Hi-O!. The tourism attendant gave me an inquisitive look as I walked past, but I didn’t even realize how deranged I looked or sounded. Al kissed me and said he got me a room with a Jacuzzi for the incredible low price of $189. I looked at him like he was nuts, but thanked him. He said I earned it after driving through Chicago in the mayhem. We looked on the wall map and I was excited to see the Hampton Inn was located right on Lake Erie. We drove the ten miles off Interstate in search of our hotel. We forgot to get the address, but the desk clerk told us to just follow highway 10. Well, there is no Hampton Inn on Highway 10, unless they put it in the middle of Lake Erie. As Al frantically tried to find an address for the hotel, I got out of the car and walked through a city park and along the enormous lakefront, oblivious to what he was doing. The scenery was incredible, the best part of the trip and I hope to get back there someday for a vacation – in fact, it looks like a great place for a family reunion. (See photos below.)
Observations after arriving: There isn’t near as much litter along the highways as the last time I was here two years ago. Maybe that nasty letter I wrote to the Governor of Virginia worked! Eating my words about no customer service here – everyone we’ve encountered has been very pleasant, even friendly. Oh, there are those you walk past at the hotel who glare at you when you smile at them, but Al and I decided we will not let it get us down. We figure maybe if we smile at people, one day maybe they’ll remember it and smile at a stranger walking past.
We witnessed a couple our age making out standing in a parking lot of a restaurant we came out of. When they were done, I asked them if they were newlyweds. The guy said, “No, it’s just great to be in love!” I guess Virginia really is for lovers! Al tried to do the same thing with me, but I said, “No way, we just got done eating!” So much for romance!
Marina in Sandusky, OH on Lake Erie
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