Thursday, April 27, 2017

Something Beautiful

Elliot was my homeless friend in town. He passed away on April 6 due to natural causes and the affects of his passing on my little town have been profound.

He landed in our town around 2008, appearing one day out of no where. We called him the "man of mystery" because no one knew his story and he was incapable of really putting all of the pieces together to convey who he was or what his past had entailed.

Through the years, rain or shine, heat or snow, he stood as a sentry outside of our McDonalds. Sometimes bundled in a coat, sometimes shirtless, but always there, listening to his music which undoubtedly quieted the voices that ran through his head.  He was a constant, always grateful in his quiet way, for whatever was offered him. If we didn't see him outside McDonalds, we knew he would probably be inside the Starbucks next door, at "his" table. If we didn't see him around his usual spots, posts on our community page would start popping up...."Has anyone seen Elliot? Im hoping he's ok." For the week after he died, the Starbucks employees kept a vase of flowers on "Elliot's table."

As a town, our citizens came to love this man. We wondered who he was, where he had come from, what his story was, but regardless of how much or how little we actually knew, he was accepted as one of ours.

On April 22 our little community put together a memorial service for Elliot. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. Standing room only, spilling out into the church foyer and yard, a community of all different types of people, medical personnel, clergy, the addicted, the mentally ill, the homeless, housewives with babies, business owners, all standing shoulder to shoulder to say goodbye and pay their respects to this kind soul who found a safe haven and lived among us for the past 8 years.

The lessons that man gave to us just by being himself were priceless. Elliot had carried his brother's phone number with him all of these years and when he died, the medical examiner called him. He was completely shocked to hear what his brother's life had entailed and the impact he had had on all of us. He and his wife flew into town to be at the memorial and he shared his story. I am going to share it with you below, because it shows that EVERYONE has a story.

Elliot's story makes me think of my list of all of our children, that I pray for each day. I pray that they will not be alone, that they will be "found," and met where they are at, that safety will surround them, and that they will be seen and cared for. Elliot's life in my town is a picture of exactly that prayer being answered. I am sure Elliot's momma prayed for her precious lost boy too. Elliot was found, he was loved, and accepted, and cared for and I am so grateful that I got to share in some minuscule way in that process. I feel like God gave Elliot to us to allow us to experience giving with no expectation of return, accepting the least of these among us just as they are, laying down our judgements and just serving. What beautiful lessons he gave to us.

                                                                  "Elliot's War"  

Elliot was born in the Bronx October 29th, 1959… …….. For a time he lived across the street from Yankee Stadium and that may be why he always loved the NY Yankees. He had every baseball card of every player on the team… He even had Mickey Mantle, Bobby Mercer, and Ron Bloomberg, they were his favorites.
At a very early age, his family moved out of the Bronx to a small sleepy little town in Suffolk County Long Island, called Brentwood NY. In the 1960’s, it was a beautiful little town, just beginning to develop. Brentwood even still had some unpaved roads, farms, and wooded areas where raspberries and blueberries grew wild.
We played together as children, just as brothers do when they are young. Our favorite sport was baseball. He pretended to be his favorite Yankee and I pretended to be my favorite player on the Mets. We played baseball in our front and backyard, we even played in the street. Then, with other kids on the block, we made a makeshift ballfield in a little clearing located across the street from our house in the woods. We gathered together other boys on our “block” (Nolan Street”), made a team and played against other “block” teams that were in the neighborhood.
In the fall, after it became too cold to play baseball, we played football. The heavy coats we wore protected us from knocking each other down, fighting for the ball. We put together football teams and somewhere in-between baseball and football, we played basketball. However, our hearts were always in baseball.
Together, we built a go-cart that we used to race. Actually, we built two. The first was a prototype and neither was motorized. We would take it to the hill by Mr. Timpte’s house on Hilltop Street. We ran as fast as we could, pushed from behind and then jumped on and rode all the way down the hill. How we didn’t get run over by a car was a miracle. The first one was a prototype and we lost every race to a kid down the block that had one purchased from a toy store. We went home, took all our peddle cars and the little red wagon apart. Specifically, we took the wheels and axles off and incorporated them into our little racer. When we were finished, it looked like something right out of the TV show, “The Little Rascals”. It looked like hell. But, we won every race from then on.
In the winter when it snowed, we use to drag our sleds to Hilltop and shed ride down the hill. It was very tiring since we had to drag the sleds up the hill as well. Daddy would come home from work and tell us about the sled motor hidden in the attic. He said when we were old enough, he would let us have it to get back up the hill after each run. Imagine that, we really believed that there was such a thing. Good one Dad, you had us fooled for years.
We rode our bicycles all over the neighborhood. We especially liked tearing it up on the minibike trail that was carved into the woods across the street. Sometimes we would venture far away into unknown territories.  In the summer, we would ride all the way down Islip Avenue to Islip Speedway where we found a little hole in the perimeter fence, sneak in, and watch the cars drag race. That was so much fun!
Our parents bought us a little tent that slept four comfortably. We used to set it up and camp out next to the pool in our backyard or even in the woods across the street. (I heard you were still practicing this same concept, kudos to you for that). Sometimes we invited two of our friends and sometimes it was just you and me.
Some days in the summertime, we would walk down to Hills Supermarket and carried packages for old ladies (they were probably 30 years old) and put them in the trunks of their cars. We were compensated very well, nickels, dimes, and sometimes even quarters, which was very good money for the 1960’s. By night, we would sneak out of our tent and ride our bicycles to Grant’s shopping center. We went to the movies and sometimes played pinball with the change that we had earned that day. We also spent some of the money on “chocolate ice cream”, which always was, both of our favorites…… I remember, one time we snuck out of the tent at night, rode our bicycles all the way to Carvel and Daddy walked in the front door, we ran out the back….! We hoped on our bicycles and rode as fast as we could home, in order to get there before him. We made it back in the nick of time, even though Daddy drove a 1966 Mustang. Of course, he brought us our “chocolate ice cream” so we didn’t miss out anyway. Actually, from Carvel, your favorite was “chocolate ice cream sodas” and mine was “chocolate ice cream thick shakes”. We also loved McDonald’s and I heard you still do, just like myself.
On holidays, we went to our grandparent’s apartment in the Bronx, since much of our family still lived there. We played stickball in the street and learned how to play handball with the kids from the neighborhood. That was a lot of fun too.
The 1960’s were over, the Mets had just won the World Series and our family moved to another suburban town on Long Island called Massapequa. Yes, this is the same town where Jerry Seinfeld and the Baldwin brothers are from. I’m not sure if he knew Seinfeld, but he definitely knew the Baldwins, since we all went to Massapequa High school together.
Now, where we lived in Massapequa, it was close to Jones Beach and even closer to the Great South Bay of Long island. Elliot and I always loved going to the beach. Sometimes we took the bus, sometimes we hitchhiked, and sometimes we even rode our bicycles there. When we became teenagers, our Uncle Gary bought us a little yellow speed boat…. The launching ramp was about a half mile away and since we were too young to drive, we would push the boat down Merrick Rd (you can equate Merrick Road with your Broadway, just to give a visual). Some drivers passing by would either be annoyed that we were creating a traffic jam or generally felt for us, would pull over and pull the boat the rest of the way to John J. burns Park where we would launch it. I must say, this worked out very well. Sometimes we went flounder fishing. Sometimes we used our feet to collect clams buried in the sand during low tide (It’s a Long Island thing), and sometimes we just went for a ride.
While in high school, Elliot continued his love for baseball and played on the Massapequa baseball league teams. Did I tell you already that he played shortstop and was very good at it? He was also a power hitter and led the league two years in the row for batting average and home runs. I used to love to watch him play. He also took Karate lessons as did I and we used to practice in the backyard. My father called it, “Playing Karate”. Eventually he earned his black belt.
When Elliot got his license, the same uncle that gave us the little yellow speed boat, bought him his first car. It was a 1968 Chevy Impala super sport convertible. It was dark blue, with a white convertible top and a white bucket seat center console interior…. It had low mileage, but needed extensive body work which we worked many days and nights on. Eventually, he was able to get it repainted and had a really nice stereo installed. Elliot always loved music and back then in the 1970’s his favorite bands were the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and The Who.
Elliot was very good in high school, an A student. He was very popular and had many girlfriends. In his senior year, my parents took him to see many colleges that were located upstate New York. Since he was so good in school, he could have gone to just about any school that they could afford. In the end, I guess he just wasn’t interested. I don’t really remember the exact reason why he told me that he didn’t want to go.
These next couple of segments should answer a few questions. It was during the height of the cold war, Elliot’s sister Debbie, who is also very smart, went to college for computer engineering. Elliot’s father (Victor Cohen) started out as an airplane mechanic who worked for United Airlines and somewhere along the line, he went to night school and earned a degree in mechanical engineering. Subsequently, his father quit the airlines and got a job with Grumman Aerospace. Elliot came from a family that was professional and very well educated.
Elliot had two uncles that served in WWII. One uncle, we called (Uncle Louie). He was a highly decorated pilot. He flew 25 bombing missions over Germany, was shot down 3 times, wounded, captured by the enemy twice and escaped both times. Another uncle, we called (Uncle Christie), served heroically in the pacific theatre and returned home minus one of his legs.
It was 1977 and Elliot had two favorite uncles. Elliot’s Uncle Gary was a decorated cop in NYC and his Uncle Tony had recently returned from Vietnam, just five years earlier as a decorated United States Marine. Perhaps this is why Elliot enlisted in the Navy and signed up for nuclear submarines. Like I said, I don’t remember why he chose not to attend college but I do remember him telling me that he chose the Navy over the other armed services because of the uniform. He said the girls just love guys in uniforms and he liked the Navy dress blues best. He went through boot camp without a hitch and they accepted him into the nuclear submarine program. If I remember correctly, specifically, “electronic engineering”. After a few years, he had made it all the way through the program, including all of the academics and training required in order to be deployed on a nuclear submarine, within the field that he had chosen. Unfortunately, I do not remember what rank he eventually earned, but he had 3 stripes on his uniform. The timeframe is a little unsure for me, but this is when and where his life changed………..
We do not know how or what or where…. But something happened to him… Was he on leave and someone passed him a bad marijuana cigarette? By the way, he was not a pot head, alcoholic, or a drug addict ever. Sure, like everybody else, but very rarely, he would take a hit of a joint. I was his best friend who knew him the very best and pot wasn’t a vice that he was interested in. Nonetheless, if a good looking girl passed him a joint on the beach, he would take a drag, just to be social. With that said, was he on leave and someone slipped him some kind of bad hallucinogenic drug without him knowing? My Uncle Tony told us a story where that happened to him when he was in the marines. Elliot was also about to be deployed on a nuclear submarine where he would be subject to many existing environments present in other countries. Therefore, was he subjected to many inoculations that may have had detrimental side effects? We just don’t know…and neither did any of the doctors that we took him to.  All we know is that he developed a mental illness that changed his life forever and took him away from us. I’m just not going to talk about all of the so called experts that we took him to. They just put him on medicine that only made him sick and num. I’m also not going to talk about the pain and anguish that his family has gone through over the years. However, I want you to know that we tried to help him fight his demons as hard as we could and never stopped loving him. He ran away four different times, Twice to Las Vegas and twice to California.
Soon after he was honorably discharged from the Navy, he went to Israel in pursuit of his roots and perhaps, to get closer to God in order to give him enough strength to fight off the demons that were inside his head. There, in Israel he learned how to speak Hebrew.
The last time I talked to him, was on the telephone, he had called collect from Las Vegas and I would say it had to have been 2003 or 2004. The last time my mother heard from him was 2008. He was in Las Vegas and asked for a couple of hundred dollars because he said he wanted to go on vacation with a friend to California. My mother did (as she always has when he would call) send him some money and that is the last we heard of him, until I received a call from the detective that told me my brother was dead.
As a trained investigator myself, I have been trying to put together what he has been doing and where he has been the last nine years…. What I have found out so far, is that he showed up on the door step of the city called Placerville. What I have also learned so far is that many people here loved and cared for him. It was the “many” here that has been the most successful in helping him fight those demons that I mentioned. Not all the medicine in the world or his very own blood relatives have been able to help him in this fight. However, the many here have given him some kind of semblance of a life. I can only believe that he was happy here and he was accepted for who he was. Know this………Elliot fought an unbelievable exhausting uphill battle for the last 35 years. I will call it, “Elliot’s War” I believe that he never wavered one little bit. He fought to his last breath and in the end it wasn’t the demons that put his fire out. Instead, it was high cholesterol……and the predisposition for heart disease, specifically clogged arties. His father died of the same thing at 60 years of age, Elliot died six months short of his 58th birthday….
How can I ever thank the “many” that have given my brother so much love and respect? Well…. I am Elliot’s little brother Neil Cohen, born one year and ten months after him. Like many in my family, including Elliot, I too have taken the oath of office. I work for a very special department in a very special agency, in a very unique division. This department was formed after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history. My duties are very complicated and difficult to explain, some of which, I am not allowed to explain. However, I can say this; my work environment includes keeping the people of our beloved country safe from harm, from both foreign and domestic and since my job is not very transparent, I have sometimes thought it to be thankless. However, after hearing what you all have done for my brother, I will never think that way anymore.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Critic

I will get to the critic part in a minute.....first, we had a lovely Easter. Happy holidays are not taken for granted as a norm around here. They are a big deal and my gratitude is always so very very deep. I had my three girls here and two had their partners with them. The big girls shard funny stories from when they were little, stories of jumping on the trampoline with the sprinkler and dish soap and sliding around, stories of luring me outside so they could bomb me with snowballs, the time Molly wanted to show me her drop kick and it hit 5 month old "little one" straight in the face and she thought she had killed her and was inconsolable and had to skip soccer practice that day, stories of each of the times they broke their arms....but just to be clear, NEVER during one of the soapy trampoline play dates. Molly kept putting my hand on her stomach so I could feel Landon kick... I spent a large part of the meal with my hand resting on her stomach, only to not even one time get to feel him.

It was a "normal" holiday. No drama, no tears, no anger, no unmet expectations, it was just a day that we all came together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and we all could love each other and accept each other as we came. Kind of like the one would do who we were celebrating. Imagine that!

"Things" in general are pretty stable right now. Pretty darn good. My girl is 4 months heroin free. Nothing about it has been traditional or what would be categorized as "recovery" but she is as of this day, recovering. She got a new methadone counselor who in three weeks has accomplished more than in the entire 2 years of being in the program. Bless his heart, he gives her hope, he empowers her. She is considering filing an "official complaint" in regards to the old counselor...which tells me that she is feeling like she has a voice, that her care matters, and that she is feeling stronger.

So about the critic...its me. I have had 4 situations in recent months that have raised up this "feeling," this discomfort, these judgements, Im judging people/groups for being judgemental. Such an oxymoron. It brings up this anger inside of me that concerns me. Not rage, but who am I?! Judging because people are judging... the dad said, "maybe your spirit doesn't bear witness with what you see happening." When I pray I feel like God speaks to my heart and says, "Ive got this. You dont have to tend to this or try to figure it out. Im working these issues out with my kids. Stay out of it!" (Said in all love and gentleness because He knows I get my feelings hurt easily.)

Anything that smacks of levels of people, being in or out, being considered ok or not, deserving of forgiveness or not, holy or carnal, good enough or not good enough... is like a rough edged jagged stick stuck in my chest. I hate it. People being called a "loser." And I think its because I know what it feels like to not be "Christian enough" or good enough, or in enough, or accepted enough....until God grabbed me and made me His own just because He loved me and wanted me with Him. It has nothing to do with anything I did. Or do. It had to do with mercy.

I don't know what to do with what I am feeling. I dont like the disturbance in my spirit, but don't know what to do about it. Pray of course, accept that every single person on this earth has their own process to walk out and that truly its none of my buisness. Keep my own side of the street clean....keep my own heart judgement free, accept the judgers where they are, model Christ's love to them, be pure in my own spirit and deed....and really this whole situation proves that that is enough to keep my hands very full!

Praying for us all every single day.
Annette

And when He saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to Him. And opening his mouth he began to teach them, saying,
      3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
      4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
      5“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
      6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
      7“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
      8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
      9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
      10“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
      11“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
      14“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matt: 5:1-16


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Barreling along


Ive been gone for over a month! Thank you for those who checked in to make sure I was ok. I am....just super busy. School will be out soon and that will free up some time.

 This is going to be a post of random thoughts....so here we go:
This morning I got on FB and there was a post from a young girl who was raised with my kids, childhood neighbors, who has fought this life of mental illness and addiction for years now, that was total craziness. My heart sank. She is out there on the streets out of her mind. Pray for her. I commented that Jesus loves her, she is so loved and I am praying for her. A Facebook comment feels so stupid, so futile, in the face of such insanity and brokenness.

I read the book Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and haven't stopped thinking about it. A friend and I were discussing it and he said, "It's a story of redemption." Yes! I loved that. J.D. tells his story of being raised for the most part by his "meemaw" who was rough, unconventional, swore like a sailor, but she loved him and believed in him. She got him through his childhood...to later become a Yale law school graduate. Reading this book took me back to all of the rental homes I lived in as a little girl, those thick white rental draperies of the 70's, the green carpet, the mismatched sheets on our beds (I am thankful that we had sheets....it could always have been worse!!) the white walls, the packing and moving every 2 years, this transient life that made connections hard...not because I couldn't connect, but because I would and then before I knew it, it would be over... to the drunken fighting, the police at the door, to the brokenness, and eventually to our own stories of redemption. Yeah, those memories...

I am doing a bible study called "Broken and Redeemed" with some friends. Oh it is cool water for my parched throat. This study talks about our powerlessness, humility, relying on God's grace, about God having the answers and what a comfort that is. I know when I relied on my own strength I got tired and could only go so far. When I relied on my own best ideas they rarely worked out the way I wanted them too.....my big ideas usually consisted of ME trying to change other people. When I began to learn (and trust) how to let go and how to put people and my desires into God's hands I began to experience peace. Without fail, when I start grabbing back and formulating my own agenda for those around me, I begin to almost immediately experience turmoil. I will give you this....it is NOT EASY to live in this place of relinquishing control to a force that I can't see, but I know He is with me. I feel Him more times than not, but still.... I am impatient, I am tired, I am just an ordinary person. So for today, for this morning, I will choose to rely on God's strength and not my own. If that feels like a good fit, then I will do it again this afternoon.

I listened to the Invisibilia podcast, The Problem with the Solution this week. The story of the town of Geel in Belgium that takes in their mentally ill residents as "borders" and accepts their odd behaviors as just part of who they are. There are limits of course, but so much that we diagnose and clinicalize is just part of life there. What a picture of kindness, acceptance, unconditional love, and healthy boundaries. Really a worthwhile listen. The thoughts on family involvement were insightful and made me think about my own situation. I would agree. There was one part that talked about...the family has watched everything unfold from the beginning, they often get stuck seeing their family member as "just a bundle of problems." That jolted me. I am so busy managing the crisis, and treating the problems, that it is hard to see beyond the immediate needs. The potential that is there just waiting to be uncovered and unfurled. That made me sad. Have I conveyed that to my girl... through word or deed? Probably. However we have so few positive options (any?)  here in America, that I have to wonder what the answer is. So we do the best with what we have.

I read that Amy Bluele passed away.  So very sad. She was a spokesperson for those who suffer with depression, mental illness, and self harm. She began Project Semicolon. She shared a message of hope and that individuals matter. I hope she hadn't lost sight of her own message. The semicolon signifying that our stories aren't over yet. Molly got my semicolon tattoo for me for my birthday last year.

Baby boy is growing inside momma just fine. We love him so much already....you would think he is the second coming of Christ. LOL  I am making blankets, and I polished the old baby cradle that I used when my kids were babies and bought new sheets, and a new mattress pad. They will probably use a "co-sleeper," whatever that is LOL, but I suggested the cradle could go in the living room to lay him in when they need their hands free.



So life is barreling along. I pray we can all find our spot, that we can dwell in God's grace, letting His power infuse us to do this life that is set before us. Bless us all.....
Annette

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Anger

Ive been home sick all week. In my flannel pajamas, with my favorite sweater and slippers, doing nothing but napping and drinking tea infused with essential oils and letting myself get well. Maybe I needed this. Regardless it has given me a chance to write here which I always love. Even if no one reads it, which I am so grateful for my few readers that I have left, but blogging has always been my way of finding my way through this life that took me by surprise. I was supposed to share at an Alanon meeting this week, but had to postpone until next month. So Im going to use this space to kind of plot out my little share time. I was going to share about the anger I lived with for so many years. Actually for the first 40 years of my life, it would be accurate to say that I was livid. It was always stewing right under my big smile and assurances of how happy I was.

I was raised in an alcoholic home, by two violent alcoholics. The facts are that my needs weren't met there. I was not nurtured or cherished, I was not told that I mattered, that I was important...if anything we were expected to be quiet and stay out of the way. I grew up very afraid, ashamed, starving for affirmation of me, for guidance, for love and care. I know now that my parents were doing the best they could with what they had. My mom and I made peace a long long time ago and for my long time readers you know she lived with us the last 6 years of her life and my girls and I took care of her while she was in Hospice care the last 6 weeks of her life and it was the most miraculous, healing, beautiful, profound thing I have ever been a part of. My parents loved us, but were so broken they were incapable of conveying that. They weren't evil or bad, they were just broken inside due to their own mistreatment and untended wounds...and so the cycle continued on.

From that house I set off to forge my own life's path but I was seething inside without even realizing what I was feeling. I was driven to make my own way, to build a family with someone, to fill up this cavernous hole in my soul and to confirm, somehow, that I did in fact matter in this world. I was so misguided and so angry, I was doomed before I ever began. I can see that now, but at the time I was certain I knew exactly what to do to not be like my parents. I hadn't learned about compassion, humility, or powerlessness yet. I truly believed if I just tried hard enough I could make everything happen the way I thought it should.

Anyone who has done any work on themselves knows that anger is a secondary emotion. I was carrying around this emotion that was covering up all of the hurt and shame that was stewing beneath it. I spent years dealing with the outward manifestation of those things, squashing this anger, *trying* to not be mad, counting to 10, reading books on how to change, willing myself to be different....with very little to no success. I was hurting people with my words and my attitudes and my impossible expectations and that was most definitely not what I wanted to do. My exhausting efforts weren't enough to fix what was wrong inside of me though. I didn't know how to heal what was broken in me.

I had been given these 4 children, this faithful good man to be my partner through all of this and I was so hard on them. I was so afraid that what I was striving for, perfection, proving that I was good enough, that I mattered, that they mattered, that I was running as fast as I could to make it all happen...angry and afraid the whole time that I wouldn't be able to do it and that it would all fall apart.

See where this is going? lol

As the kids got older, one of them lost her way as you all know. She became the catalyst for an unearthing of everything I had ever held onto. Having one of your children suffer in this most awful disease will change you at your core and that proved to be very true for me. I have told her so many times that what we have gone through with her has given me an authentic life, it has stripped away anything that was a facade, it enabled me to learn to find my way through what is right in front of me, to deal with feelings as they come up, to acknowledge and face them...not deny and stuff away for later.

It all came crumbling down. I couldn't do it. I-couldn't-do-it. I had failed at what had felt like, my life depended upon.  All of the feelings I had held onto, stuffed away, the stringent control, ideas, the fear, the anger...none of it mattered. It all came pouring out like a mudslide....pouring and oozing over the sides and down down down, until my cavernous soul was empty.

I sobbed through my first Alanon meetings. I cried in grocery stores and had to leave my cart and go to the car to get myself together, I cried in every Starbucks in our county, I cried with friends, I cried in bookstores, while getting a pedicure, I cried with my kids, with my husband, with my mom and then she would cry, because she knew what this was. I cried and cried and cried, I was afraid I would never stop. As painful as this all was, it was also such a relief. It was over. All of my trying, all of my effort, the worst had happened. There was nothing to try for now. I had not been able to steer us away from all that I had feared so terribly. As those core heart feelings poured forth, so did the anger. I was beginning to see a glimmer of what freedom looks like. I think that so many of us would agree that to get to that place of authentic freedom, we travel through some deep times of suffering and turmoil.

I was so so fortunate to have found my way to a very healthy Alanon meeting that became my home group for many years. A place where I was hugged and told I was in the right place, that it was safe there, to go ahead and cry, that they all understood, to keep coming back, things would get better...no one told me what to do. They just let me be there, right where I was and they loved me in that place.

It was during that time that I had my spiritual awakening, that God spoke to my heart and said, "Im so glad you finally found your way here. Ive been waiting for you. All of that hard work was never my plan for you. Now lets start off together and I will show you the way."

I had never felt so accepted and so loved in my entire life. It was no accident that I finally had experienced what I had been striving for, at my most broken place.

As I kept coming back to meetings, as I got a sponsor, worked the 12 steps, layer by layer as things were revealed I would deal with them, which is a process I think I will go through until my dying day, I began to feel peace. I wasn't angry anymore. I was finally free.

I always say that we have to be the recipient of love and grace to be able to extend it to others....I have been given much, it humbles me to think of how much.

I hope this story speaks to someone today. I cried while writing it....this one is me, my innermost soul, on paper.

God bless us all.....
Annette











Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Its a.....

Yep, we are having a grandson. Baby Landon will make his appearance in July. I immediately went to the fabric store and bought fabric to start sewing for him. Don't be fooled! I am not a seamstress in the furthest stretch of anyone's imagination...but I always wanted a grandma who sewed and made things for my kids and never had one, so now is my chance! Im making a set of burp cloths with cloth diapers and soft flannel. Very tricky. lol

Little one and I watched Little Women with Winona Ryder....and I realized that that is what I expected my life to be like. The loving strong mom who knew all the answers, the kids who adored her and looked to her for help, the family that was so enmeshed and close that they moved as unit, agreeing and helping one another further their dreams. No one else in my family seems to have watched the same movie though, so I got the motley crew that I got.

Things here are calm. Progress continues to unfold, but never ever in any way or time frame that I would expect or dictate. Once again....I am powerless over the outcome of anyone elses life, its not my journey, and anything we provide in support is a free gift with no strings or expectations attached. Many times that is easier said than done.

A friend was selling an older Honda Accord that we bought for little one. After months of dragging her feet about getting her permit and then her license, she is now motivated seeing that car sitting in the driveway.  It has given me a light at the end of the tunnel. I drive endlessly to appointments for she and my girl. She is also motivated as she will be able to drive down our mountain and see her nephew whenever she wants to. Slowly but surely she is branching out into her own unique version of calm, quiet, adulthood. She is an absolute joy with her vast vocabulary and her quirky interests and insights. I am amazed at the variety of children I was given.

I continue to pray for our kids and their beautiful families.
Annette





Thursday, February 9, 2017

Dying a good death.....

Today I listened to Dr. Haider Warraich share on an NPR podcast, about the ways that the medical community have changed the dying process. As I drove along, listening, I felt back in my element.
This is me, this is my passion, helping people to have a good death. These are the things that speak to my heart. How to let go of those we love so much, to leave us on their own terms, surrounded by love and care and comfort. This kind doctor shared his heart... he mentioned that he doesn't wear a lab coat because he doesn't want to be known as an "other." He wants to be part of, an equal, we are all just people. I have never worn scrubs to see clients...I wear my regular clothes. I have wanted to just be a friendly and supportive face coming through the door....not a reminder of their need for care, or help, or their disease.  Its not typical protocol to wear street clothes and I was so happy to hear that he does this too and for very similar reasons.

I loved his humanity. If you listen you will know exactly what I am talking about. He is a humble young man (29 years old!!!!) with such a kind heart.

Our world feels surreal right now. So much conflict, anger, distrust, and fear. I dont know what to make of it all to be honest. Listening to this today grounded me. Brought me back to my world. I realized Ive felt lost this week. What can we believe? I told a friend, its another thing that is unsettled in my life, that I dont have the answers for, that I have to trust and believe that there is a plan, and that the set of human and spiritual checks and balances are in full working order and that God can handle all of this. I know that that might sound like a cop-out to some, but its all I have. I can't fix what ails the world, I can't fix what ails my girl, I can't even quit eating chocolate even when I try my absolute hardest.

The only sphere of control that I have is the one I am standing smack in the middle of. What will my responses be? How will I find ways to continue to love unconditionally? Can I, will I, choose to abide in the power of my God each moment of the day? Or will I barrel off in my own direction, thinking that my best thinking will fix and cure.

One thing that is beautiful to behold is humility. I want to be humble. I want to not just talk about relying on God, but really *rest* in His power. In every manner of my being. My marriage, my girl, my other children, this crazy world we are living in where everyone seems to be rising up and fighting for what they think is right and best.

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me." John 15:4

God, give me your heart for each person I encounter. Help me to not judge their motives or their actions. I am only seeing a glimpse. Purify my heart with your spirit that I can be a light in this dark world. Amen.

Love to all.....
Annette