Thanksgiving Reflections

Beginning the Holiday Season Without My Husband

                During my therapy session we discussed how I planned to handle this first Thanksgiving without my husband.  I was given the assignment to create a blog post the day after.  As I am writing this my son is in the next room playing music.  I make a note that I need to purchase a pair of noise canceling headphones.  This is not my usual writing time and usually my son is at work and I have the entire house to myself.  However, since it is a holiday, everyone is home and there is noise in the house to which I am not accustomed.  One more thing through which to persevere.

                After leaving my therapy session I began to think about Thanksgiving and what it would entail.  For about three days I felt a considerable bout of sadness.  I subscribe to “One Fit Widow’s” page on Facebook.  It always has timely advise for those of us dealing with grief and how it has irreversibly changed our lives.  A resent post dealt with the effects of being overwhelmed and how overwhelm sometimes comes over us and we find it difficult to interact with the world.  This sometimes causes us to feel as though we are not accomplishing anything and that in fact, we are throwing away time and opportunity.  Yet, it cannot be pushed to the side and is simply something we must go through and allow to pass at its own pace.  That post and a post by Candice Benbow explaining that she was withdrawing from social media and other activities during the week that marked her mother’s death,  helped me to realize that I was in the process of being overwhelmed and that my best bet was to just allow it to happen and if I have to spend a day or days on the couch covered with a blanket, it’s okay.  That’s what I did.  I decided that to deal with what might be a challenging day, I needed a day of complete rest.  So, I spent the day before Thanksgiving on the couch in front of the television under a blanket.  That evening I planned what I would wear to dinner the next day, what time I would leave to go to my sister’s house, and prepared to gather the items I was to bring to dinner.  I had a few opportunities to fall completely apart but the rest and prayer made it possible for me to successful maneuver those situations.  

                I started Thanksgiving just as I start every day, in prayer.  A few days earlier I returned to the practice of keeping a prayer journal.  I have been beset with anxiety which manifests as discomfort in my core with bouts of gas and lower to mid-back pain.  There is a scripture that advises us that instead of being anxious we should tell God what it is we need and want to happen.  I started a list.  Now, each time I experience anxiety I think about what it is I need or want to happen, and I add it to the list. 

                I got dressed early and went to the store to acquire the items I needed to take to dinner.  I was fortunate that there was a store near me that had everything I needed.  I felt accomplished.  I was ready to go to my sister’s house but was having difficulty locating my adult children concerning our time of departure.  My sister suggested that our brother come to get me and that my sons could come when they were ready.  A marvelous idea!  I always enjoy time with my brother and the conversation during the ride was great.  Good conversation always works wonders for me. 

                My sister and her daughter had been cooking all day preparing for dinner.  She and her adult children live in the house we grew up in.  That house always provides comfort for me.  We greeted each other with hugs and laughter, and I was able to watch football on television with my brother and simply relax.  My sons, grandson and future daughter-in-law arrived soon after and the house was filled with even more laughter and conversation.  There was so much food!  All the traditional fare and a few things that I had never seen on the Thanksgiving table.  I ate a little of all of it and mindfully enjoyed every smell, taste, and texture. 

                Conversation is always on point when my family gathers.  There is little or no talking during the actual eating of dinner.  But, afterwards, we delve into all types of topics.  We talked about the pandemic and how it was affecting our lives.  We talked about the elections and how we felt that present leadership was adversely affecting our ability to move forward as a country.  We talked about local politics.  We talked about racism, white supremacy, and our own effort to attempt to fathom what is really going on with people in this country.  At one point there were several conversations going on at once.  We know how to do that.  There was however no religious conversation and no coffee drinking.  That was probably since my other brother was not there.  He generally requests coffee.

                As the evening concluded I found that I was full of food, ideas, new thoughts, and joy.  That’s and unbeatable combination in my book.  My oldest on drove the car so I didn’t even have to do that.  After calling my sister to inform her that we had all made it home safely, I put on my night clothes and went to bed.  I ended the day just like I started it, in prayer.  I was thankful to God for the love and comfort of my family.

                When I arose this morning, there was a tinge of sadness and a few tears.  I miss Oscar and Daddy and Mama.  There was music though coming from my grandson’s room, then from my son’s room.  I drank my morning coffee and Red Velvet cake was my breakfast.  After my morning devotional I sat down to write this blog.  My son was playing hip-hop on his phone, M&M, I think.  Later I recognize the lyrics from a familiar song, “Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge. I’m trying not to lose my head.  It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.”  I begin dancing in my chair as I wrote.  Cancel the order for the noise cancelling headphones.  The sounds of my family are the perfect solace for my soul.

Sorrowful Souls

Don’t Fall Asleep on the Sad and Depressed

                I am prompted to write this blog piece because these are extremely difficult times.  Thanksgiving is tomorrow, Christmas is fast approaching, and the New Year promises more of what we have experienced in this present year.  People are sad, depressed, and anxious.  We are being urged to limit our contact with the people we love during a time when we most need the people we love.  Our traditions are being forced to changed along with our understanding of how to navigate in the world. 

                This year has been hard for all of us.  There are some who were experiencing depression and anxiety long before the upheaval that COVID-19 has caused.  For me it started on January 5, 2019, when my mother died quietly in her home.  I was already providing primary care for my husband who had suffered multiple strokes in previous years.  On December 26, 2019, my husband died.  Since then, like so many others, I have struggled to make ends meet.  Family members and friends have become ill and some have died.  The ongoing racial tension, inability to gather with loved ones, and the seeming lack of compassion for fellow human beings weighs heavy on the mind.  

                Recently on Facebook, I saw several posts meant to encourage people during this holiday season by admonishing them to choose to be happy. “Happiness is a choice,” I have heard many times.  I understand exactly what this is meant to convey, and I believe there is no malice intended in the statement.  Yet, there are people among us who are not just a little “blue,” but actually clinically depressed and no one knows about it because they have internalized the statement, “choose to be happy,” and pretend to be so.  They want to be happy.  After all who wants to be depressed.  They just cannot bring that feeling to the surface, and in an effort to not “ruin the holiday for everyone else,” they suffer in heart wrenching silence.

                “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (NLT). These are the words Jesus spoke to his disciples just before the soldiers came to take him away to be executed.  Despite all the good he had done; he was betrayed by one closest to him.  Knowing his impending predicament, Jesus asked his friends to simply stay awake and be present with him while he pray and wait.  Their response was to fall asleep. 

                They like many people did not know what to do with Jesus’s sadness and grief.  It appears that the Church today has a difficult time dealing with people who are experiencing sadness or depression.  For some reason we have come to believe that faith in God requires us to either always “be happy,” or at least always “look happy.”  People are being forced to face the difficulties of life and the emotions that accompany those difficulties alone.  Many are distressed and choose suicide as a vehicle for relief.  The Church must become more comfortable dealing with the sadness of people and provide comfort for those who are sad or depressed.

                This holiday season I urge you to beware of the sadness and depression of others.  Stop trying to make people be happy so that you can feel comfortable and escape your responsibility to show compassion and comfort.  “In this world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.”  Jesus said this but we do not seem to grasp the insight that “be of good cheer,” is sometimes a process that may require having someone to talk to, long hours of therapy, or just someone dedicated to being present.  Do as Jesus request and as the Holy Spirit urges.  Be present for someone and be a comfort to them.

Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or need someone to talk to please utilize the resource below.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255              Emergency 911

                          

Thinking About Eating

Mindful Eating Enhances the Entire Eating Experience

                I want to talk with you about thinking about what and how you are eat.  Mindful eating is an approach to eating that is based in the Buddhist meditation of Mindfulness.  It has been utilized and achieved success for some who are challenged with obesity or eating disorders.  It is also a wonderful technique for those who, like me, engage in emotional and external eating.  Anxiety often triggers me to eat, even when I am not hunger.  I am also triggered by the sight and smell of food.  Recognizing this about myself aids me in resisting the temptation to overeat and encourages me to engage in some other activity.  I am not one hundred percent effective at this, but I have made tremendous progress and it is evident in my feelings and my figure.

                I realize that it is Thanksgiving week and many of you are not interested in talking about being mindful of what you eat when there is about to be mounds of food set before you.  You are thinking about getting your turkey or ham and who is going to cook what.  You’re probably doing your grocery, pulling out your recipes and creating your plan of action.  Since Thanksgiving is a time when we concentrate so much on food, I think it is the perfect time to begin the process of thinking about eat food. 

                Mindful eating entails thinking about what you eat, where you eat, when you eat, why you eat and how you eat.  It requires that we process every aspect of eating and that we eat with intention and purpose.  Mindful eating has helped me to better appreciate my food, making my food more enjoyable and beneficial.  There are steps to mindful eating that you can check out in the article referred to below.  I take heed to those steps and in this article, I am going to tell you how I do it.  No, I am not an expert and I may not follow these steps with every meal, but I am becoming more proficient.

                I practice Intermittent Fasting (IF), so I rarely eat breakfast and my first meal is generally not before 11 a.m.  I spend a portion of the morning thinking about what I am going to eat.  I think about how I am going to prepare it and what ingredients and cooking method I am going to use.  I envision myself putting it together and the pleasure I am going to experience preparing and eating it.  I rarely eat food that is not prepared at home.

                I place my prepared meal on a small plate.  Dinner plates hold far more food than most of us require.  Salads are usually served in a pasta bowl.  I look at my plate for several minutes.  I take in the colors, shapes, and textures.  I note in my mind whether my plate has a variety of colors on it.  That is a goal for me.  I smell my food, even attempting to identify the spices and herbs used in preparation. 

                I am learning how to eat in a quiet place, free from distractions including television and other electronic devices.  I always give thanks for my food, mindful of those who have nothing to eat and equally mindful of how much food is available to me and how easy it is for me to access.  When I pray over my food, I ask God to bless those who have nothing to eat and to use me to feed them.

                I chew my food slowly, attempting to savor every bite.  Chewing slowly helps to prevent overeating by giving the brain time to realize that you are eating.  Chewing quickly or gulping down food can cause overeating because by the time the brain signals that you are full you have already eaten too much.  I eat until I am no longer hunger.  I do not feel guilty if there is still food on my plate.  I simply save it for a future meal.

                When I finish eating, I think about how the food makes me feel.  Did I enjoy the meal?  Will I prepare this again?  Was it satisfying?  Do I feel energized or sleepy?  I try to listen to my body’s response to the meal.  I drink water afterwards.  I say, “Thank you,” again to God.

                That’s it.  That’s how I practice mindful eating.  It really helps me to eat intentionally and with purpose.  It makes me mindful of the people involved in ensuring that my food is accessible and safe.  It increases my desire to eat more “real” food and fewer processed items.  I believe it increases my body’s ability to utilize food more effectively and efficiently.  You should try it.  Start with one meal and see how it works for you.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mindful-eating-guide#bottom-line

Make Sure the Children Are OKAY

Helping Our Children Through These Uncertain Times

                It was nothing but pride that made me refuse to see that my sons were experiencing depression.  It was nothing but pride that made me buy into the idea that children do not feel pain and loss to the same degree as adults.  It was nothing but pride that made me believe that I knew what was best for my children simply because I was their mother.  It was nothing but pride that prevented me from standing on the rooftop and crying for help for my broken family until someone heard and responded.  It was nothing but pride that made me ignore my mother’s suggestion that we get family counseling.  It was nothing but pride that made me believe that if I were okay, they would be okay.  Yet none of us were okay.

                By the grace of God my sons endured loss, pain, being misunderstood, their mother’s selfishness, their father’s rejection, and their stepfather’s sometime overbearing discipline.  By the grace of God, we continued to love each other even when we did not understand or like each other.  By the grace of God, we persevered through feelings of being misplaced.  By God’s grace we moved beyond the ignorance of believing that everything that is wrong with a child can be handled through punishment and whippings.  By the grace of God our healing process is in full effect and our beliefs on rearing children have evolve.

We are thankful for God’s grace.  Yet, our journey may not have been as rocky and tumultuous had I realized that as a parent it is not necessary for me to be the sole source for meeting every need.  Sometimes parents are the facilitators that ensures that those who are trained to meet needs are employed to do so.  The best parents seek out help and utilize it. 

During this pandemic, when parents are being forced to spend more time with their children, I hope that parents are paying attention to children.  Remember that children are people just as adults are people.  Children feel the same anxieties, fears, and angst as adults.  All is not well for our children.  Pay attention to your children.  This pandemic has caused them to suffer much loss.  Children often lack the language acquisition to express their feeling.  Sometimes they act out in ways we consider strange.  Pay close attention.  Do not brush off what your gut tells you is something you should be mindful of.  If you find your child’s behavior unsettling talk with your pediatrician.  Be proactive.   Of course, give plenty of hugs, have fun as much as you can, make life at home as simple as possible.  Enjoy each other. Be receptive to your children’s needs.

These times are affecting us all in ways that we cannot explain and may not even be aware of.  Do not ignore your own anxiety, fears, and angst.  Be honest and truthful with yourself and talk to your physician.  Get your own counseling to help you deal with the pressures and demands of family life during this time.  Most of us have never lived through anything like this.  Unfamiliarity often sparks trepidation.  So many varying news reports and conflicting information can make it difficult to make decisions and cause us to be unsure of ourselves. Family counseling may be necessary.

Children are vulnerable at every stage.  They must be protected and cared for during these times of great uncertainty and change.  Things may never be as they once were, but we must do everything we can to make children feel safe and secure.  There will be long term affects and transformations associated with this time in history.  Right now, families must work to emerge strong.  The future depends on it.  Make sure the children are okay.

These links may be helpful

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beyond-freud/202003/how-parents-can-help-their-children-during-the-pandemic

Encouragement for Care Givers

                This blog post is a portion from my book Encouragement for Care Givers.  November is Family Caregivers Awareness Month.  In 2013 I retired from a twenty-five year career as an educator to care for my husband after he suffered his second stroke.  It was a journey that took my entire family through a myriad of changes.  I continue to pray for caregivers everywhere.  While caregiving is rewarding and honorable it is difficult and requires self-care. 

                Get Regular Checkups

                The caregiver must remain healthy.  If you get sick, your loved on is in big trouble.  Get regular health checkups.  You are not helping the situation by avoiding the doctor.  You ensure that your loved one makes every doctor’s and therapy appointment.  You see to it that prescriptions are filled and picked up in a timely fashion and that all medication is given according to directions.  Now, do yourself and your loved one a favor and get a checkup.  The stress of being a caregiver can impede your body’s ability to function. Your immune system can be compromised.  What you think is the onset of a cold could be the onset of pneumonia.  Your blood pressure or glucose level might be higher than normal, wreaking havoc on your entire body.  You will never know what is going on inside your body and what to do about it unless you get a checkup.

                Eat Healthy and Exercise

                Caregivers use a great deal of energy.  That’s why it is important that you eat right.  You must fuel your body with the nutrients necessary for you to properly function.  You have many physical and mental task to undertake within the course of a day.  Take time to eat.  Eat right.  For optimal performance, eat food that God created.  Limit processed foods. Drink plenty of water.  Take nutritional supplements as needed.

                Caregivers are constantly on the move.  That does not take the place of concentrated exercise.  Your body needs to be strengthened inside and out.  Something as simple as stretching for twenty minutes a day will get your blood pumping and oxygen flowing throughout your body.  Oftentimes, caregivers are unable to go to the gym or hit the walking trail, but you can turn on your computer.  There is a vast collection of exercise videos on YouTube and other sites.  There are also exercise programs on some television stations.  If those options are not available, the do the calisthenics you learned in your high school physical education class or walk/jog in place.  The point is you need to get moving, concentrating on strengthening your own body for your own optimal health.

                Be Good to Yourself

                You may ask, “When do I have time to be good to myself?”  You make time.  During your time with God, ask him to lead you to time that is just for you.  In order to care for someone else, you must be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy.  Being a caregiver can take a toll on you in all three of these areas.  You are not required to be a martyr.  In addition to getting regular checkups be good to yourself.  Do something you enjoy.  Find time to laugh, time to have fun.  Read or listen to a good book.  Sit still for a moment.  Close your eyes.  Sit in the sun.  Breath the fresh air.  Listen to the birds sing.  Relax.

                Find someone to talk to.  You may be thinking that there is no one in whom you can confide.  Pray and ask God to send you someone who will listen to you and pray for you.  Start by talking to God first.  He understands your situation and is always available for you. 

                Spend time in solitude.  Time alone gives you the opportunity to decompress.  It also provides time to focus on something other than caregiving for a period of time.  Most of your thought throughout the day are concerned with caring for your loved one.  Practicing solitude gives your soul and your brain a much needed rest.

                Sleep.  The body and mind need rest.  The stress and energy expended caring for another can cause damage to your body.  Although there is much to do, refuse to work yourself to death.  Sleeps give the body the necessary time to repair itself.  God instated rest from the beginning of time.  Sleep is a part of that rest.

alone and away from the situation.  You need respite.  Pray to God to send you the right person and to put you at ease so that you can let someone help you.

Encouragement for Care Givers is available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com

The Work Continues

                It is the week after election season 2020.  Since it took until the weekend for the winner to be declared, many are struggling to overcome the effects of their jubilant celebrations.  Still others refuse to accept the fact that Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris are the president and vice president elect of the United States.  They continue to make accusations of fraud, filing lawsuits, and even threatening ballot counters.

                Although we are no longer subjected to the atrocious speeches of the President of the United States, we must not turn our backs and forget what his words and actions revealed about the inner workings of this country.  We recognize America as a grand experiment of democracy, yet we must come to finally realize that this country is not the flawless beauty that we so often want to believe she is.  These past four years began the process of removing the makeup, lashes and hair extensions that disguised the ugliness of America’s systematic soul.

                We also had our rose-colored glasses snatched off and replaced with suitable corrective lenses.  Now we see things that were always before use but dim and unidentifiable.  Some of us have even undergone internal cataract surgery and now our vision is being flooded with light.  We thought we could see but now we can really see.  Sight is always a wonderful thing.  After the past four years many of us have emerged not only with sight but insight.

                The truth of the evil division that has for centuries vied for the soul of this country was laid bare before our eyes.  Our hearts ached when we saw it.  We often stared in disbelief, yet we could not deny what we were seeing.  Finally, the great God of the universe was equipping us to see the revealing truth that we tried so hard not to believe.  This country, that asserts that it is the servant of justice is, in reality, the servant of mammon.  Many hearts were broken and left to bleed as we witnessed what was in abundance in the heart of America.

                I too rejoice that we have a new presidential administration.  My hopes are high, but I refuse to turn away from what is still painfully true even as we feel a sense of decency about to ascend the steps to the White House.  Over 200,000 U.S. citizens have died from COVID-19 and the number is projected to rise significantly during this winter season.   Millions of Americans are unemployed, about to lose their homes, are unable to feed their families, are presently homeless and the people who represent us in Congress are playing power games with each other.  All of them are employed.  None of them are about to lose their homes.  None of their children are hungry and when they are diagnosed with COVID-19 they seem to bounce back as if they simply had the sniffles.

                This country has been in pain for a long time.  Many citizens, particularly those in positions of power are under the mistaken impression that restoring the economy is the cure for every illness.  Application of the principals of mammon will not cure America of her ailment.  At best it will only serve to reapply the makeup that makes her appear to be healthy.

Saving the soul of America begins with the same action that saves the soul of any human.  Repentance is the first step towards rescuing America’s soul from utter destruction.  It is more than an apology.  It is restitution and restoration.  It is challenging, laborious work and the citizens of America must insist that it is done and assist in its doing. 

We have been graced with the opportunity to truly push America towards a greatness that she has never fully realized.   As faithfully as we fought to ensure that citizens registered to vote and voted to elect a president and vice president that as many have said will “restore decency” to the White House, we must fight to ensure the equitable treatment of all citizens.  Now is the time for every citizen to get involved in the restructuring of democracy in America.

Voting Season is Ending

Tomorrow is the end of the election season in the United States. We will either have a new president or we will continue under the present administration. this election season has been unique to say the least. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic there have been rallies with people in close contact, many not wearing masks. In other places campaign rallies and town hall meeting have been virtual.

There have been instances of campaign buses being run off the road. Demonstrators are blocking the highways to ensure that people not make it to the polling places. People have been encouraged to watch the polls to make sure that everything is going “right.” People are still trying to decide who to vote for or whether to vote at all. While others are prepared to sit all day if necessary, to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Our pastor has called for a 24-hour prayer vigil for our church from 7:00 PM November 2nd until 7:00 PM November 3rd. He has encouraged us throughout this season to exercise our right to vote. Exhorting us to be accountable citizens.  He has spent time teaching us why voting is important and how as Followers of the Way we must do justice in this world. Our pastor is also leading the way as our church prepares snacks for those persons who will be standing in line to vote on tomorrow.

The congregation has received instruction on specific things to pray for during the vigil.  Each congregant is asked to pray for one hour within the 24-hour period.  We are to pray for

  • God’s will to be done.
  • Safety at the polls.
  • For the hearts of leaders to be broken, filled with God’s love and God’s people to be revealed.
  • The aftermath of the election

On yesterday I took time to pray and prepare for the vigil which begins tonight.  I thought it important to think about what I would specifically be praying.  I created an outline and listed the items for which I would be praying under each heading.  Upon completing the outline, I observed that my heart is most concerned with the aftermath of the election.

It has been reported that some have said that if the candidate they want is not elected there will be violence.  In response I will pray for the safety of all citizens and each elected official.  Beyond that, my heart’s major concern is that after the election citizens will simply resign to their lifestyle and abandon the political process until the next “critical” election.  I am equally concerned that citizens fail to realize that the work that must be done to improve our lives and our society must be done by the citizens.  We cannot assume that elected officials will make the changes necessary to improve society where we live.  Rather we must hold elected officials accountable for enacted laws that make it possible for us to exact the necessary changes.

Voting is important to the foundation of our democracy.  Yet, democracy is much more than voting.  Democracy is observing the condition of society and having the construct to make changes to that society for the betterment of that society.  Democracy requires continuous conversation, continuous movement, and continuous restructuring.  Democracy is challenging and important work that is done by citizens every day at every level.

If you have already voted, thank you. If you plan to vote on tomorrow, make a plan.  If you have decided not to vote, that too is your choice.  Whichever applies to you, my hope is that you decide to activate your power to work to restructure democracy for the continued benefit of the citizens.  Voting is not the only thing that has to be done.