Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Nutcracker

I haven't really been able to sit and write for long lately.  I think the Christmas season has just worn me down a bit - it usually does.  This time of the year tends to be more stressful at work for some strange reason, so I normally come home and zone out completely.  It's good to let the brain rest every now and then.
My gorgeous daughter Isabel got to see the Nutcracker today on a school field trip.  Of course, a trip to the ballet means having to dress up and take beautiful pictures, so I thought I'd share some.  I can't believe she is 7 years old, but she has maturity well beyond her years (and my years too), a heart of gold and always knows what to say at just the right time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Some Lessons are Learned the Hard Way

November 13, 1979 - November 18, 2011
Those who mourn Kristin's sudden passing include her daughters, parents, brother, and other loving family and friends. Despite her emotional and mental pain, she found much happiness and pride in her dear daughters whose love was her most precious gift. Her study and gifted expression of ballet had been a source of joy to her for many years. Now the chains of suffering no longer bind her. That beautiful, compassionate and graceful spirit is free to dance among us and into the loving arms of the One who always claimed her as child. Those of us who knew her, love her and grieve are assured by faith of her peace at last and joy forever. A worship service in her memory and to the glory of God will be held on Thursday, December 1st at 4:00 at First Presbyterian Church...
Raleigh News & Observer, obituary, (edited for privacy)

I found out that someone from my past had died of a drug overdose the Friday before Thanksgiving.  This wasn't someone I considered a friend but it still seems to be bothering me more than I had expected.  She was a mother of two beautiful girls, a daughter to two loving parents, and a sister to a brother - all of whom are trying to understand how this could happen to them. 
Kristin's story is a sad story.  She became a mother and a drug addict at a very young age.  I met her through a friend of mine that would babysit her daughter.  I heard the stories from my friend about how Kristin would try to do good, to get a job and get off drugs, but she would always revert back to her bad habits.  I knew of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her boyfriend.  She had come into where I was working  one day with her mother and recognized me and asked if I would hire her.  She seemed healthy and like she was getting her life together, and after talking with my friend, I hired her.  She was a great person to work with, never complaining and always working hard, but it didn't last long.  After a few weeks, I noticed changes in her.  She was coming in late, or not at all.  There was a smell on her that was familiar to me - the smell of heroin.  I tried talking to her but eventually had to let her go and that was the last time I saw her.  That was about 10-15 years ago. 
I feel an overwhelming sadness for her daughters.  My father was a drug addict and was abusive, all things that her daughters have had to see.  It sets two paths before you - one following in your parent's footsteps, the other down a long journey with many forks.  Forks that turn you into a bitter, cold person and forks that make you compassionate and understanding.  I hope that her daughters take the longer journey and learn to be stronger women, women that can learn to understand their mother and her mistakes and learn from them so those mistakes don't happen again.

"I walked a mile with Pleasure
She chattered all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne'er a word said she;
But oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me."
Robert Browning Hamilton

Casting Demons - UPDATE

Can I tell you how happy I am right now?
It's been maybe 3 weeks since I wrote about the possibility of having my financial situation change due to my ex-husband's job not going so well (see Casting My Worries Aside).  Long story short, he was feeling like the entire company would possibly be shutting down for good by the end of the year.
I have been working on letting go of all those voices and demons that tell me that things will be difficult, that I can't handle things on my own, but didn't know how well I was really succeeding at that.  I was confused about my own feels since I didn't seem to be worried about it.  I didn't know if it was a true faith in God or if I was just in total denial.  Well, after several weeks, I began to realize that I was not in denial and I did have faith that God would see me through this - and boy did He.  Not only is my ex husband's company not closing down, but his hours are not getting cut (again) and they will have steady work for at least 6 months if not a year.  Great news in this economy, especially for a company in the construction industry.
But, I think I am mostly just really happy that I didn't allow myself to stress about it.  I told God that I had faith in His plan and would do my best to abide by His wishes.  Easy to say when things go how you would like, I know, but still I am happy.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Angel Tree, Grumbling Givers

"The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear."
Buddy the Elf (Elf movie 2003)

I am upset.  I may even be mad.
I don't know why I do this to myself, but I was reading a question/comment that someone had posted onto a website that I frequent. The question that was posed to the reader was about needy kids asking for expensive presents.  The writer had asked the reader how they felt about needy kids on Angel Trees asking for gifts like Xbox games and Ipods.  The writer felt that if the kids had an Xbox, then obviously their parents could afford to get them a gift themselves.  I read the first 10 comments before deciding I needed to fire one off of my own.

"I can't believe how many people are chastising the kids for asking for a "want" at Christmas. How would you feel, being poor, to only get socks or shoes for Christmas? How would you feel having to go back to school after Winter Break and listen to everyone talk about the cool things they got and you have nothing to talk about? Who are we to judge what these kids have? Maybe they got an xbox as a hand me down from a friend that upgraded, so what is so wrong with asking for a game? I try my hardest to teach my kids that Christmas is not about getting tons of toys and gadgets, but who are we kidding? That is what it has become, unfortunately. Me, I don't mind buying the xbox game for the kid that ask for it, even though I don't have one, because it is not for me to question how he got it. We should give out of a desire to bring joy to a child who otherwise wouldn't get much. People - have a heart, these are kids who the majority of the time probably have to be little adults at home to help out. And for those of you who said your churches leave "those" kinds of tags on the tree - shame on you."

Ok, I know - I didn't need to be so harsh, but I was mad.  I look at the Angel Tree at my local coffee shop everyday and feel like crying.  I cry because I know that these kids go without for most of the year.  I get upset because even if these kids have cool toys, gadgets, a big TV, many of these kids only have one part time parent.  I say "part time parent" not to say single parents don't do a good job of raising their kids (I'm a single mother of two), but because it is extremely difficult to be a parent the way most of us would want to be when you are just physically and mentally exhausted from a long day at work and just want to rest for 5 minutes before you have to get the kids fed, homework done and the kids bathed.  Before you know it, it's time for bed and you've barely spoken two words to your kids.  I don't grumble about being a single parent but I know that what I just wrote describes a typical day for me.  I am luckier than many, though.  I have a job that pays well and an ex-husband that loves his kids and understands he needs to support them - but even with that, it's hard to be a great parent because really all our kids normally want is our attention which can be so hard to give at the end of the day.
Maybe I was a bit harsh and let my anger get the best of me, but I can't help it when I think my kids could be one of those kids.  I just want us all to remember what it was like to be a kids at Christmas.  Though Christmas is about Jesus' birth, I have always felt that it was about His "gift" to us as well.  It''s a gift that we can never repay or duplicate. God does not command us to give when we don't want to or have the means (2Corinthians 9:7), so we should not question those who feel they have a need.  Whether you have good memories or bad ones, at the end of the day, we should want to bring joy to a kid who otherwise might not have a great Christmas.  Great list of bible scripture referencing giving.
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