Don’t Stop

Today’s reflection question is a tough one.

Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

I’m stretching a little, but my youngest first cousin on my mom’s side got married this year.  It was the first marriage in the family in many years.  His wedding affected us by pulling us together for a joyful experience, creating a bonding moment.

My members of my mom’s family actually sees each other pretty frequently, at least compared to a lot of families whose members live in different towns and states.  As my sister and I were growing up, my mom and her six sisters all lived within 40 miles of my grandparents.  Every Sunday was spent at my grandparents’ house, and most of my aunts and their children came each Sunday.  When my grandfather passed away, he asked my mom to help ensure that “the family” still got together frequently, and my mom and my step-dad have opened their home on a regular basis to us.

Thus, the wedding wasn’t the first time in a long time that we all had seen each other — we just got together at Easter.  But it was the first time in a long time that we celebrated each other, celebrated our family, and celebrated how much we love each other.  (Also, a celebration of cupcakes and Journey songs.)

10 Days of Reflection

Two years ago, I participated in the ten days of reflection that precede Yom Kippur (My Jewish Experiment Day 1).   I did not participate last year, but want to take these days to reflect now.

So, here goes:

Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

My divorce became final this year.  Even though we have lived completely separate lives for over two years, and have had almost no contact since the day that I moved out, actually getting divorced and getting my maiden name back felt liberating.  Especially getting my maiden name back.  Until your name has unpleasant connotations, you don’t realize how often you hear it or say it on a normal basis.  Picking up a prescription at the pharmacy?  Give your last name.  Going to the bank?  “Welcome, Mrs. Elder.”  Signing a credit card slip.  Signing his last name.

Hello Name Tag Sticker on White

Hello Name Tag Sticker on White [url=][img][/img][/url]

When you are trying to leave a marriage behind, his name keeps popping up on your way to the new you.

Until I got that final divorce decree.  Which changes absolutely nothing about how I have been living during the last two years, or my finances, or anything.  Except that now I can get my precious name back.  And I am grateful.

My Jewish Experiment: Day One

I was listening to NPR on the way to work this morning, and the hosts mentioned that today was the first day of Rosh Hashanah.  One of the traditions of this very holy time is that Jews use the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to reflect on the year and spend time in self-evaluation and reflection.

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From Wikipedia, Definition of Rosh Hashanah

The segment went on to talk about how some Jews were blending their beliefs into the modern world by using technology during this ten day period, using a site called 10Q.  You can sign up for this website and each day for the 10 days get a thought provoking question in your inbox.  You answer it and submit.  At the end of the 10 days, your answers “go away” until next year during Rosh Hashanah.  Then you get your answers from the previous year (to help show how your life has progressed over the year), plus another 10 questions to answer for the current year.

This year has been a memorable, significant year in my life.  I have had a life-threatening illness, the dissolution of my marriage, and some fundamental challenges to the things that I believe.

If there was ever a time to reflect and complete self-evaluation, this is it.  And I liked the idea of tackling it, one question at a time, one day at a time.

So, here goes day one:

Question:  Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

Wow!  Just go for broke, right out of the gate…

I have had several significant experiences this year.

1. I developed a pulmonary embolism and could have died
2. My husband asked me for a divorce
3. I bought a new house and began to rebuild a residence

The one that I would pick to discuss is buying a house and rebuilding my safe haven.

I am an introvert that is surrounded by people all day, so having a haven, a place to be still and to recharge my batteries is critical to my well being. After it became evident that my marriage was going to end, there was a time that we still shared a house. This might have been some of the most stressful time in my life because I lost having a safe zone. My house became a tension filled and unwelcoming, so finding a place to make safe again was so important.

I am slowly doing this with the purchase of a house. And I have felt every emotion possible in the months since. There is no way to describe how I feel without talking about almost all emotions.  Joy when the fence went in, keeping my dog safe. Anxiety and aggravation during the whole loan process. Loneliness during that first night on my own in the house. Relief when all the kitchen boxes were finally unpacked. Pissed off because I have to do this to begin with. Excited because it’s mine, mine, mine to do with whatever I want. Proud when the new color turned out just right. Worried that I am making decisions based on emotion, not rational thought. On, and on, and on.

Mostly, though, I am grateful. Grateful that I have a support system. Grateful that I am learning how to ask for help and to recognize that people find joy in helping.  Grateful that I am not alone, even during this time when I should feel the most alone.

I would never have chosen the circumstances that led me to rebuilding my safe haven — but I am a better person for knowing that I have all these wonderful people in my life.

A rose by any other name is called my old lady

Matt and I had a conversation about rednecks last night and it eventually went something like this:

matt:  We need to be careful what we say about rednecks because we live among a bunch of them.

me:  I’m not saying anything bad because we have a bunch of them in our families.


me:  But I don’t consider you a redneck.

matt:  You don’t?

me:  Why should I?

matt:  I like to ride four-wheelers, and that’s something rednecks do.

me:  Yeah.  But you like to drink import beer.

matt:  But I also like Budweiser.  And that’s a redneck beer.

me:  You don’t hunt.

matt:  True.

me:  You’re not a redneck.


me:  You know, I have heard you call me “my old lady.”  That’s rednecky.  I wish you didn’t call me that.

matt:  You don’t like that?  I hear that all that time.  That’s how guys refer to their wives.

me:  They don’t just say “my wife”?  Like “My wife wants me to come home?” instead of “My old lady wants me to come home?”

matt:  Yes, but there is no bad meaning behind it.  They don’t mean it with any disrespect.


me:  I guess it’s more important what you say about “your old lady” than the fact that you call me ” my old lady.”

matt:  Exactly.


me:  Like, “Hey, my old lady has taught me how to love again!”

matt:  I have never said that.

me:  Well, maybe you should.

matt:  Could you write it down so I could say it correctly?

I so dislike it when I hear people talking badly about their spouses.  I am surprised, actually, by how often I hear it happen.  I overhear it in the elevator, standing in line in the cafeteria, as part of the chit-chat that takes place before a meeting starts.  You know what I’m talking about:  “My husband is driving me crazy.  He never helps me with the kids.  I have to do everything by myself.  He’s awful.”  Or “My wife is bitching me out about buying a new car.  It’s always something with her.  Buy this.  Buy that.  It never stops.”  I have heard each of these statements more than once from people.  And worse.

I had a co-worker once that used to call his wife the “fun Nazi”.  I always used to think to myself that I would hate to be his wife and find out that he was using such a derogatory term to describe me.  I would have to call foul.


Here’s some unsolicited advice.  Speak nicely about your spouse — it only calls into question your judgment in marrying them when you don’t.  Matt can call me his old lady all day long, but I know he doesn’t say anything bad about me when he does.  And my old man is pretty special, too.

Happy Birthday, Mama!

I have had this blog post on my mind for over a month now, but today is the appropriate day to share it.

I was driving to work one morning when the story of the oldest person in a neighboring county came on the radio.  She was celebrating her 110th birthday.

It’s not the fact that she was turning 110 that made me love this story so much.  Or the fact that during the radio interview (click on link and see the “Listen” link in the story to hear the actual interview) you hear her social worker yelling, “HOW DOES THAT FEEL [to be the oldest person in the county]?”

110 year-old Sina Hayes takes a break after eating breakfast in the meeting room at Brookridge Retirement Community in Winston-Salem, N.C. She displays one of her favorite quilts she has made over the years.Credit Keri Brown

110 year-old Sina Hayes takes a break after eating breakfast in the meeting room at Brookridge Retirement Community in Winston-Salem, N.C. She displays one of her favorite quilts she has made over the years.Credit Keri Brown

What I loved about this story was that her 88-year-old and 90-year-old sons flew into town to help her celebrate her 110th birthday.

How awesome would that be to be 90 years old and still have your mama around?  Of course, I can see her 90-year-old son telling his friends at his rest home, “I’m flying home to see my mom for her birthday.”  They’re probably thinking, “Oh, Bob has stopped taking his medicine again…”

I hope that when I am 87, I still have my 110 year mama around.  And maybe, instead of flying into town to celebrate her birthday, my nurse can just roll me from room in the nursing home into her room in the nursing home.  And we can complain that my sister never visits us, how the green beans just aren’t as good as the ones that she used to make, that we wished we could still see so that we could pluck those chin hairs, that someone would change the channel to Discovery ID because our favorite true crime show is getting ready to come on, and how happy we are that they made chocolate cake for her birthday because we both love chocolate.

Happy Birthday today, Mama!  Here’s to at least 44 more — let’s aim for 110!  Hugs and kisses.  Cristy

Birthday luck

I had a birthday this past week and I am glad that I lived another 365 days, but I’m definitely past the age where birthdays are one of the most exciting days of my year. I remember the birthdays that were so important because each one got me one year closer to 16 — the best birthday ever, the day I got my driver’s license. Then, I remember each birthday that was so important because it got me one year closer to 21 — the best birthday ever, the day I could buy alcohol.

And many years later, I remember the details of those two birthdays very well. They were milestone birthdays.

The milestone birthdays that happen now are not so important because of what you get to do because you reached them, but important because you reached them. Doing anything after them is sorta gravy….

Regardless, I realized I am really lucky. Many people sent birthday wishes and I felt blessed that so many people took time from their day to acknowledge that my mother expelled me from her birth canal. (You know, the mother ought to really get the messages on a birthday…)

And I realized how lucky I am to be married to a man that understands me. Matt bought 43 scratch-off lottery tickets and hid them around the house. He knew that I would enjoy finding them and the quick rush of scratching them off. And some of his hiding places were clever, but he also took into account that I’m not a morning person so he didn’t make it difficult: in my shoes, in the Keurig, under the faucet, in the dog food…the man knows me.


I won $9…okay, I’m not that lucky, but lucky enough.

The gift of the love note

Matt and I were invited to a Christmas party at my cousin’s house earlier in the month.  We had a great time (a bonus of not having depression).  Before we left, my cousin, Beth, gave me bag that her mother had sent to me.  It was full of items that had been in my grandmother’s house when she passed away, and my Aunt Linda was sending them to me for division between my sister and me.  It was mostly pictures that Grandma had, and the majority of those pictures were of my nieces and nephew, marking their growth and milestones.

But there were also some memorabilia related to my dad.  There was a school report about baseball (with a grade of 97), a model car that he had put together as a boy, and some of her favorite pictures of him.

Like most people who have lost a close loved one, I think a lot about my dad during the holidays.  I remember the fact that he always put his shopping off until the very last minute.  I remember that Christmas Eve that he tried to fix our stuck back door and we ended up with the back door in the back yard–but it wasn’t stuck anymore.  And when we get together with the rest of our family, I miss his presence.

Thus, the memorabilia that was in the bag that was specific to him felt like a Christmas present.  It was wonderful to pull out the toy car and read the report on baseball.

And I was reminded that my dad was, to his bones, an optimistic person.  He was a natural salesman and spent most of his adult life in some sort of sales job.  He was always quite successful at sales because he connected so well with people.  Maybe because of that optimism I mentioned.

In the bag of items were two love notes that he wrote as a boy.  One of them perfectly illustrates that “never give up” attitude.  He had it even as a young man.

Love note

Love note

Dear Cathy I ham (sic) very fond of you.  And I know you love smity.  And I know you have some more boy friend.  But I still love you.  love Tommy.

I love this love letter.  He recognizes that Cathy loves someone else (Smity), but it doesn’t matter–Tommy still loves her.  It’s that optimistic, glass-half-full outlook that he exhibited until he died.

This little note may have been the best gift I got this year.



Before you’re married twice

My mama had some key phrases that she used regularly in response to certain situations.  For example, when my sister or I were complaining or whining about something fairly (in retrospect) insignificant, she would say, “You’ll get over it before you’re married twice.”

I don’t know where she got that phrase.  I never heard any of my aunts say it, just my mama.  But to this day, it sticks in my head and I find it bouncing around in there whenever someone around me is grumbling about something small.

As a young girl, I used to think that her statement didn’t make any sense.  If she was trying to tell me that I would soon be over my anguish, well then, telling me that I would be over it before I was married twice caused me great confusion.  Since I would never be married TWICE, I would obviously have to spend the rest of my life working through my heartache.

I knew very few people who had divorced parents.  I had one cousin whose parents were divorced, but we never talked about.  None of my friends had parents that were divorced, and if any of the other kids in my classes had divorced parents, I didn’t know about it.  In my very protected little world, divorce just wasn’t a known entity.

So, it was with authority that I would reply, “Then I’ll always be unhappy because I’ll never be married twice!”

Ah, the innocence of youth.

At the age of 42, I have not been married twice.  But this is not a result of being so smart and emotionally mature that I just waited for the exact right person.  No, it’s the result of things not working out the way that I wanted them to.  I would have married a man who I dated in my 20s, and I am fairly certain that it wouldn’t have lasted.  It’s only stubbornness on his part that prevents me from being married twice.

Matt and I just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary.  Each year has had its challenges.  Each year has had its joys.  And no matter how much you are advised that marriage is work, you can’t appreciate how much work until you are in one.  I couldn’t appreciate the blessings, either.

I hope this is Matt and me in 40 years.


Speaking of marriage, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at my mama’s house.  My Aunt Baby, Uncle Joe and cousin Judson came over on Christmas Eve.  During the evening, the topic of “John and Jill Doe” arose.

mama:  You could be like John and Jill Doe that got divorced after 42 years of marriage.

me:  Who are John and Jill Doe?

mama:  They used to live across the Blue Ridge Parkway from Mama and Daddy.  They got divorced after 42 years.

Judson:  Why after 42 years?

Baby:  Because John stayed in the bed drunk all day while Jill worked.

me:  And that had been going on for 42 years?

mama:  Yes.

Matt:  Well, what happened after 42 years?

Baby:  Jill got tired of John staying in bed reading westerns, being drunk all day, while she had to work.

me:  Yeah, but why did she put up with it for 42 years and then decide enough was enough?

mama:  Maybe she figured he was never going to change.

Joe:  I’ll say one thing.  John is a better man than me.  If I were in bed drunk, I couldn’t read.  That would be too much for me.  Maybe TV, but definitely no reading.

Mama Mia — Day 10

Today I am grateful for mothers.  Specifically, I am grateful for my mother.  She’s a pretty darn good mother.  My sister and I turned out well.  We’re kind, responsible, competent women.  My biggest issue is that I tend to put a lot of people into the category of “Idiots”.  Matt might argue that I have more issues than that, but I think that is idiotic.

I am especially grateful that she taught me that I shouldn’t take myself too seriously.  She is the kind of mother that won’t be mad at her daughter at all for posting this picture of her in a blog.  A picture that she hates.  She will laugh and laugh and say, “I’m not going to take myself so seriously!”  Cause that’s the kind of mother she is.

I love this picture.  She was 17 at the time, competing in a beauty pageant.  And I love to think about her that young, that carefree, that bold.  Go, Girl!  You are as beautiful today as you were at 17.

Elder grateful month — day 2 — My husband

It’s day 2 of Elder Grateful Month.  Whoop Whoop!

Today, I’m giving a shout out to my husband, Matt.  I am so grateful that I have him in my life and that he is my husband.

Ireland 2012

Matt and I will celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary next month.  (What is that?  Copper? Aluminum?  If you ask me, 5 years should be something precious and valuable because the first five years are hard.)  We do not have a perfect marriage, because no one does, but I think that we have a solid marriage.  I really, really, really like my husband even when I wonder why I love him.  And I really, really, really  love my husband even when I wonder why I am not killing him.

Matt, in return, puts up with a lot by being married to me.  I’m not an easy person to live with, to be married to or to be in love with.  He has to have great patience, lots of understanding and a big heart.  He has all three in abundance.

Luckily, we both have oversized senses of humor, which helps us through most situations.

So, to Matt, here is a quote from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.  It is the Prophet’s thoughts on Love.

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.

Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;

For love is sufficient unto love.

When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”

And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.

But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:

To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.

To know the pain of too much tenderness.

To be wounded by your own understanding of love;

And to bleed willingly and joyfully.

To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;

To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;

To return home at eventide with gratitude;

And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.