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This Thanksgiving was so different, but no different. While Covid was a component, it wasn’t the culprit.

The holidays are not my favorite time of year. In fact, they’re my least favorite, which seems almost sacrilegious, especially because, I am religious. Not only am I religious, but Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday. Tired of consumerism, but loving food to a fault, a holiday centered around foods unique to once a year and family, was just great with me. It segued into transforming the house into a Christmas wonderland. I relished the Christmas spirit, with my children underfoot or at older ages, making their Christmas gift lists overtly known. The gift exchanges with friends, baking, giving extra to those in need, I loved it all, but so much more, because it was done within the framework of my family.

Which is probably why it’s so hard to find joy in the holidays still, ten years after my divorce. Wait, it might be eleven! But I’m not counting. Those are the holidays that I still want, and cannot have. I made the decision soon after the divorce that I would not give in to the temptation of a stale emotional state. So, for the holidays, I would do my best to maintain the integrity of who I am. Each year, while on a lesser scale, but still in earnest, I pursue the holidays. I do my best to maintain a semblance of the home and traditions my kids grew up in. While the family we knew died, we don’t have to live like we died, but can live and thrive.

But that is no easy task. Thriving can mean striving, and if one is always striving, seeking that life that we desire, the one that brings us joy and peace, the process can be arduous.

Even today, with just my daughter, our two dogs, and myself, I made a full Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, a whole turkey, and the works. Because of medical issues, my daughter did not eat (these are not related to her medical issues she had in HS or college). I can imagine what some of you are thinking, and it’s probably not, “Can I have the recipe?”

Since the divorce, this family still struggles to find its footing. The reasons are complex, and for many families of divorce, this is not the case. But it is the case for ours, and I know there are others.

In spite of the big meals I make, the bounce in my step, the decorations of tinsel and sparkle, the holidays are difficult, and I find myself enduring them, instead of running into their arms with the excitement I once knew.

Well-intentioned people have advised me with admonishment to move on, reminding me that God is my husband and my father. My first response is to punch them. I want to say, “Well, that’s easy for you to say, since you have one.” Would one say that to someone who lost a child in death?

Punching them isn’t cool either though, and I could not agree with them more. Without God as my husband and father, I would not be here today. Besides the health of my daughter, my relationship with my children, and living without my family during the holidays has brought me closer to God than any other thing. God created my family. It is his design. And I believe that as my heavenly father and husband, he mourns my loss equally, with every ornament I hang, the disappointments I bear, and the tears that fall.

If you are divorced and strive to thrive, but face the glare of the holiday lights that expose the losses, and intensifies the pain, I see you. I feel you, and I know you. God created the design of family to be the pillar of our society, and our strength in times of good and bad. Every form of media emphasizes the value of family. That when we have our family, we have everything, even when faced with the most difficult of circumstances.

What does that mean then, for those who don’t have family, or it’s been dismantled beyond recognition? When that family is no longer there, like the rag that gets tossed around a bit, yet still predictably, always ready for use when needed?

Some will turn to other people or other things in order to find relief from the pain.

But I turn to God.  Every year, it’s the same drill. I brace myself, I prepare myself, I’m disappointed, I grieve, and I beg God for mercy. And every year, he delivers.

This Thanksgiving was anything but typical. It was fragmented and disjointed. Not one TV illustration on how to handle the complexities of Covid ran through my personal scenario. But God heard my pleas and answered my prayers. He gave me courage to find the right words when I needed them, and tenderness in my execution. Angels were on my side and in my presence. My daughter and I shared a time of conversation that united us and a memory that I will treasure; one on which we can build.

The holidays shine a light on the brokenness that we work so hard to recover. But there is one who is the light of the world, whose light is so powerful, that he will not let the darkness overpower him (John 1:5). He is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34).

Covid is hard. I understand that the destruction it’s caused. But the media and God are right. That when we have the love of our families, we can overcome any hardship. Of the hardships we face,  none compares to the hardship of losing one’s family.

Being this transparent is hard for me. But I know how hard this walk can be, striving to thrive, yet not always reaping what we’ve sown. It reminds me of some favorite movies. One I recently saw called The Biggest Little Farm. It documents the enormous energy that a family puts into building a farm out of nothing. One fiasco and tragedy after the other occurs, until ultimately they discover how all of those mishaps shaped their farm into the success it is today.

The other movie is more relevant to this time of year. That is “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  After so much sacrifice and devotion to the people he loves, George Baily faces the potential destruction of his business, and not because of any fault of his own. Through an angel, and the beautiful gift of perspective, George is able to reconcile his losses and overcome his despair.

You are not alone. George, the farm owners, and I can relate.

There are many people who can relate to George, but how we handle our despair determines if we find our success.

PS: Oh, and a whole pie. These are the best store-bought homemade pies ever.

I could talk books all day long! Well, sometimes I could talk all day long on a lot of subjects. But this is definitely a favorite topic.

I haven’t read a book outside of the bible in ions. But I listen ALL. THE. TIME. I am in awe of the opportunities we have to access information and entertainment. It’s the ultimate juggle. Listening while I do housework, yardwork, putting on my makeup, making my bed, weeding the vinyl in my JoniTDesigns, working on a Juggle Source project, riding my bike, or taking a walk.

I sometimes use Audible, but mostly I use Overdrive through the library system. It’s a great way to preserve money. It does mean that sometimes I’m listening to two books at the same time, because if I don’t finish it within the 21 days it’s loaned to me, I have to request it again, and while I’m waiting, I’m on to another book.

Most of My All Time Favorites are books I have purchased and stay in my very small library.

Right now I’m listening to On Writing, by Stephen King, and Moneyland by Oliver Bullough.

My interests are all over the place, but mostly I gravitate toward non-fiction.

These are the books I’ve documented or remembered. They’re not in any particular order. I often forget to document them; I’m sure I’ve missed some.

I didn’t indicate the topics or why I like the books, so I’m happy to tell you if you want to ask. I love love love discussing books! Ironically, I’m not in a book club, largely because of time, but equally, because I have so many I want to read, and I don’t want to be limited to a book I’m required to read by the book club.

So, Happy Sunday, and Happy Reading, or Listening!

PS: Darn… I forgot to add the other book that MADE ME A READER!

“Don’t Stop the Carnival” by Herman Wouk.

 

It is so tempting to power through grief. To practice gratitude exercises and to count our blessings. To “look on the bright side,” to overcome disappointment, and to “get over it,” which for me is not a quick decision, but an intentional process. I don’t “just get over” anything.

I think these efforts have their place, yet they are not the solution to our sadness. God created every emotion in us. Happiness, joy, elation, celebration, fulfillment, expectations, anger, disappointment, sadness, and sorrow.

Isaiah 53 tells us that Jesus was a man of many sorrows:

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

I can see it now. Peter says, “Jesus! Come on. Pull yourself up by your sandals! You’ve got this!” I’ve been told this by well-meaning people on more than one occasion.  It’s everything in me not to say, “Really? That’s all you have?” I think I have said a form of that a couple of times, Oops.

If you know me, you might have the impression that I am a believer of “pull yourself up… get over it…” and all that jazz. It’s true that I am decisive and intentional. But my process includes tears, it doesn’t avoid them.

This morning on my walk I listened to Catholic radio (this is what I call it, but it was actually, Ave Maria radio… or mater day, or something like that… not sure I know exactly what it is… I learned that today is the day of St. Alphonsus Liguori… I knew nothing about him. I am not Catholic.

But I came home to read up a bit (thank you Catholic radio… more enrichment) and create something that I could revisit… maybe often, or daily during some stretches.

This is what attracts me to Jesus. This love that man cannot grasp.

Yet we who love him can know it. In our suffering, or in the beauty around us, like Queen Anne’s lace, or another day to see blackberries ripen in the month of August. It is love that transcends grief and transforms lives.

Happy National Lipstick Day!

I haven’t written in a couple of months. I just can’t think of anything to write about.

Ha. There’s so much to write about, my inexperience and writer’s block can’t narrow down the enormous content in the limited time I find between Juggle Source and JoniTDesigns.

But hallelujah, it’s National Lipstick Day! No controversy, just happy, beautiful, and colorful lips. Don’t you love them? There’s a color for every mood and motion. How can you not love lipstick?

Andriyko Podilnyk

Tamara Bellis

Nojan Namdar

Amanda Dalbjorn

Ken Mages

Karly Jones

I think this was a Russian name, so this is the handle! @eugenivy_reserv

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t mind controversy. I love conversation, exchanging ideas and opinions and could talk until I’m red in the lips. But these days everything seems to turn to discord that evolves into attacking each other, so lipstick it is!

My very good friend who lives in NZ hates lipstick! I think she’s possibly got lipstick PSD from a bad experience that involved a clown as a young child. Yes, LT: Comment on my blog and prove that it’s true!

I guess lipstick does invoke a tiny bit of controversy:

MASKS! When masks began to emerge, like many people, I resisted them. I stayed home and obeyed orders and went out only when necessary. I didn’t think there was a future for all the people who were making them, and I figured I needed one, maybe two.

I now rotate about eight, the bulk of which I got from this Etsy site.

It didn’t take too long for me to see I was wrong, in particular after a shopping trip to my local Safeway, where I left nearly in tears. It wasn’t so much because we had to wear masks. It was more about what it symbolized: that this thing called COVID 19 was serious and our world was in trouble, and that was before George Floyd was killed.

Our masks are an inconvenience to which I’ve adapted, and quite well, considering the grumpiness about them that I had to overcome. Mostly my annoyance is the hassle of remembering it, washing it, but yes, not seeing our faces. It’s true that we can’t see each other smile. And if we’re wearing sunglasses like most of us are on 90 degree days, then our faces are downright covered.

But I wear my lipstick anyway. Not that I look at myself much during the day, but when I do, seeing color on my lips makes me happier. It’s like my wardrobe seatbelt; I just don’t feel like I can go down the road without it. Or these days, down the hall.

And you know, mask or no mask, I just think that somehow the energy I get from my beautiful colored lips comes through. It surges past the mask, into my eyes, and affects the tone of my voice when I say hello. When I talk to the cashier, or pass someone on the way into the store, I think they sense my lipsticked smile; because when they smile, I know it, too.

So, Happy National Lipstick Day. Besides being a favorite thing, it’s also useful for mask hygiene. It forces me to wash my masks often, ensuring that they are well cleaned and ready for another day.

Photo Credits to the photographers of Unsplash (names under each photo). Since COVID, I am far more grateful for the access I have to resources on the Internet.  Unsplash has thousands of photographs they allow us to use for free. Thank you, Unsplash photographers!

 

 

When my kids began to date, I might have given more consideration to the topic than the average well-rounded, successful, happily married person. I was many things, but I was not that. My emphasis on dating was the expectations of each person, to maintain their integrity and to remain true to one’s self. My dating philosophy sounds easy enough. But so does resisting that last piece of fried chicken. We all know that a simple concept doesn’t necessarily translate to an easy execution. But if we can approach dating, or at least, our reaction to dating, with a few basic practices, I think we can better manage our grief now, and save ourselves from more grief later.

Coming from a divorced woman who has dated very little in the last eleven years, I understand why someone might disregard my opinion. Most people who read this are probably married or have dated much more than I. But what I possess that you may not, are a couple of things. One, I have learned a lot from my mistakes. And two, because of my divorce, I had the opportunity to discover myself, in a space of aloneness. Can I use that word? Is it a word? Dr. Seuss would use it, so I’m leaving it.

Time to reflect on my mistakes and emerge from a place of struggle and autonomy has equipped me for many things.  It’s the source of lots of opinions, based on personal experience. Additionally, I have had three dates since January, one of which lasted for three months. See? I am qualified.

At the beginning of my online dating experience, when it was fun and novel, I thought it would be relatively easy to share my experience. That was until I met someone I liked. Someone worth exploring. I wondered if he would be “the one.” I know, “the one” sounds ambitious. But I am hoping to find a guy who wants to share the rest of his life with me. Real-time documentation suddenly didn’t feel right. Reality TV is not in my future.

Writing about one’s dating life is super intimate. With good friends, transparency is my middle name. However, my middle name changes when we’re talking about going public. Being able to reflect and work through this has been a great luxury, and now I have some things I can share, that won’t read like you’ve broken the lock on my personal diary.

HERE GOES. A whole book could be written on this topic, so understand this is a snapshot of my dating philosophy.

I value the dating process. . .

I went into this relationship with the same mentality I had developed several years back when my kids began to date. If respected, the dating process is an awesome opportunity of discovery, before we make a permanent decision. I say, “if respected,” because often people don’t treat dating like a temporary experience. Instead, subconsciously they commit to the relationship in a permanent sense before there’s a mutual agreement of where the relationship is headed.

Unless both parties have agreed to marriage, I believe either party can call it off, FOR WHATEVER REASON. I understand that there is more to this when a couple has been dating for a long time. This point could have its own chapter. But let’s assume we’re talking about six months or less (but I’m inclined to have the same philosophy for longer periods of time as well). Regardless if one person feels the relationship going in a good direction, it is either person’s right to call it off, FOR WHATEVER REASON. This frees both people to continue in their search.

Breaking up (reverting to my junior high vernacular) is especially hard when you’re focused on marriage, you’re old(er), or it appears that a target has come into view. I had to remind myself of my own dating philosophy. That as much as I liked what I was experiencing, it would not serve either of us well to manipulate or maneuver it. Understanding that dating is a time of exploration, we both have the right to end the discovery.

The best and least we can give one another is kindness. We can’t and shouldn’t attempt to force virtues on another person. We have no right to demand any more than what they want to give us. If they have asked to end the relationship, I believe we should honor their request with very little contest.

Does that mean we were just handed a crappy day, that seeps into a few weeks? Probably. But that doesn’t change that explanations are not owed to either party. The breakup experience is still part of your story, individually and within your relationship. It’s the whole process that refines both of you. It is beautiful, valuable, and sometimes, difficult and painful.

Frequently couples “stick it out”, because the thought of hurting another person is so troublesome. Breaking up seems unkind. As hard as it is to be the breakee (new word), for me, it is more difficult to be the breaker (another new word), unless you don’t mind kicking dogs. OK, I’m joking, but for many people, the anticipation of hurting another person is something to avoid at all cost.  At times truth, authenticity, and sincerity may be uncomfortable and hurt. But almost always, it is the right thing.

If we grant each other this liberty, we can avoid the darts that get thrown and save us wasted time attempting to force relationships that result in bad outcomes.

Remember, we are D A T I N G.

Why it hurts so bad when it ends. . .

After just three months, with Stay at Home orders, and a long-distance relationship, it was still really sad to break up with Bill (Not his real name. Poor guy; he dated someone who blogs!). I think there are two main reasons breakups hurt. One is because we give someone our heart. The other is because we begin to establish a culture that becomes comfortable and familiar, which is where I love to sit. But for this post, I’m going to focus mostly on our hearts.

We hand another person the most tender, powerful part of us. The part that stores our emotions, desires, aspirations, hopes, dreams, feels pain, loss, and grief. We do this, because we care about something. Most likely, it is this other person. Although it’s not always just that, but this snapshot prevents me from elaborating.

This is no different than many things we put our heart into. On a team, you play to win. When you’re not on the field, you think about the game. You prepare off the field and execute on the field. You don’t hesitate. You move forward with ambition, desire, and determination. You dodge bullets, endure discomfort, and subject yourself to pain. On fourth downs you deliberate and make strategic decisions. Your heart is all in.

I think dating well looks the same. Of course, there are stages and circumstances vary. Some relationships require more effort and experience more challenges. They’re all different. Our hearts attach to the unique personality of the relationship. You keep at it because along the way you’ve decided this person is worth the efforts, sacrifice, or emotions you’re handing over. You’re in it to win it.

This is the beauty of life. You expose your talents, skills, personality, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. A lot is going right. Then you mess up a little, but so what? We all do it. It’s a fumble! You get back up and recover. You keep at it. But then the game clock ends, and you’re left standing there, wondering why you’re stuck in the middle of a play that can’t be finished. Nobody asked you, and the game is over. You didn’t win, and it hurts.

But here’s the thing: unless you cheated, lied, or stole, you played a fair game. If you gave it all you could, you played well. That’s all we can do when we’re looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right. My objective is to find a person who wants to play with me for the rest of my life. After a few sucky weeks, things begin to turn around. We recognize how much we’ve gained, and we’re ready to play again.

When in doubt, stand still. . .

This is an old saying, even before my time! If we aren’t sure about something, then we’re unsure, which means we’re in doubt. Right after a break-up, we are pretty unsure about a lot of things. The relationship, the sincerity of it, the person, our judgment, the list goes on.

I think the hardest thing to do at this time, is to stand still. We desperately want comfort and instinctually want to grab at the most convenient thing. Most often, we think we’ll find comfort in answers. We’re tempted to demand them in an effort to finish the play. What? I wasn’t done! You said this, and what about that? When we don’t get answers, we consider another relationship. We want to be assured that we’re okay. We are, aren’t we?  We’re desperate to compensate for the new loneliness and the abrupt change in culture that has us looking around like Marty McFly in 1955. If we’re not careful, we could find ourselves twirling, into the arms of a tragic country song.

In that moment, our vision is so blurred and our motives so self-serving, that really, the best thing we can do is to be still, be sad, cry, and pray. Even when it doesn’t make sense, we need to accept that we lost this one. There are a million ways we can interfere with God’s plan. I think we have the advantage of seeing his plan, if when in doubt, we stand still.

Trust God (when you’ve asked Him to guide you). . .

After the breakup, I kept coming back to this. We both prayed, together and separately, that God would bless us individually and as a couple. My prayers are a sincere conversation with God. When Bill broke it off with me, I wanted explanations as we all do. But thankfully, Bill was spared the tears when I chose to trust God and honor the dating process that I so much respect.

I mostly stood still.

I don’t think I can write this post without addressing two things. Yes, the hundred miles between us was a challenge. The Stay at Home orders were executed a few weeks into our relationship. That was an even bigger challenge. But I don’t consider either of those obstacles an explanation of why things didn’t work out for us. Because, if both of us wanted our relationship we would have overcome the obstacles that stood in our way.

When we date well, it will hurt when we lose (meaning the relationship ends). When we date well and lose, we will recover and continue. When we date well, and lose, and recover, and continue,  one day we’ll find our team, and win the game.

Whew… this was a long one. Happy D A T I N G . . . whatever that looks like during a pandemic!