Monday, September 17, 2007

The Code To Freedom

My sister has a way with words. She has the ability to express what all of us are feeling when she describes how she feels after a visit with our beloved mom. Members of our family often send emails to one another after our visits; sharing whether it was a good day or bad day. One day, after a particularly difficult visit, Martha emailed us about the code to freedom that we possessed.

You see, my mom has Alzheimer’s. Martha, like all of us, carries guilt out the door with her after every visit. For those who love, live with, or care for someone suffering with this cruel disease, you’ve likely experienced that same guilt, pain and frustration we have.

That pain can come in varying levels. Like the illness, some days are worse than others. It was a gradual progression those first few years. My father, saint that he was, covered for her. We had no idea how bad she was until he passed away and we realized what he must have been dealing with. After his death, the progression of the illness accelerated. It seemed as if she was simply ‘gone’ mentally within a few short months of his death. I felt that was God’s anesthesia. His way of allowing her to overcome the pain and grief that was just too much for her to bear. I mean how do you…can you cope with losing your love of 63 years?

So, we go to visit our mom in her new home. We walk through the heavy security doors that separate the “memory impaired” from the rest of the world and into her room, and more often than not, find her sitting quietly. She is surrounded by her beautiful things and beautiful photographs of people she can no longer remember. She is still our sweet, poised, ever classy, always refined mother, (even now) as she exists in this new world of what would appear to the lay person to be the mentally insane. People around her on any given day may be crying, moaning or having some sort of outburst. We close the door to her room to shut out that world and spend our time there looking into her beautiful blue eyes, which stare past us blankly, as we talk away, brush her hair, and rub lotion on her hands and feet and do what we can to make her—and us feel better. Sometimes she smiles; but mostly she just stares while we continue to talk, about kids, the grandkids, anything and nothing. Doing what we can do to aleve the guilt we feel. Because we know that after we’ve done our “due diligence” we walk toward the door and punch in the code that opens the door to our freedom, and leaves her behind in her prison.

I remember the first time she asked who I was…and I told her I was her daughter, Susie. Her baby. She looked at me suspiciously and said “you’re not my daughter! “I don’t know who you are.” A grown woman…I felt like a disappointed child. An orphan.

We realized, after a valiant effort at home care, that she needed 24 hour care. In our hearts we know she is cared for by wonderful people in this Alzheimer’s home. And although she has visits from one of her 7 children almost daily, we all struggle with the pain and guilt of leaving her there. Because we can walk away …we just go to the end of the hall and punch in the 4 digit code to freedom as Martha describes it, and leave her behind. “1234 locks her keep her safe...1234...the freedom code back to our lives. We walk down those steps and out the door often with a lump in our throats, tears in our eyes and a prayer lifted to heaven.”

I’m just waiting for my dad to come to get her. He’ll take her by the hand and lead her down that hall, punch in that 4 digit code and the angels will hold those doors open while they walk together out of there for the last time…from there through gates for which she’ll never need a code…because she’ll be free at last. Thank God almighty she’ll be free at last!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Dating in Mid-Life: Red Flags for Women

There are so many of us who just didn't think we'd be in this situation. Whether it's through divorce, death or just never finding the one, at 40-something, we just didn't think we'd be out in the dating world again.

Widowed at age 44, I know I didn't.

I didn't really date much for the first year and a half. And once I got out there, I had no idea I'd have such interesting and eye-opening experiences. I now have many more single friends, both male and female in my social circle than when I was married, and I've heard some wild and wacky stories from them too.

Recently a group of us were enjoying a beverage after work, and one of my friends starting giving her list of red flags. I added a few of my own, and then everyone began jumping in. I thought I'd share some of the combined wisdom that came out of that evening. Warning: this is from a female perspective.

The Newly Single. Most people just out of a relationship, especially a long-term one, have a void to fill. Their self-esteem is damaged and many look for an ego boost via a brand new girlfriend. They rush to fill the emptiness, and they just aren't ready. Many newly single "go back" for an evening, for a week, for a month, to their ex. No matter how bad or dysfunctional a relationship might have been there is some comfort in familiarity. It takes time to heal. Date someone who has been out for awhile, is comfortable in his own skin and can function without a woman constantly in his life.

Too much talk about the "ex". Excessive talk abut the ex, whether its positive talk or negative talk indicates a need to work through issues. If they talk about how wonderful their past relationship was and how well they still get along, may leave the impressiion they hope for reconciliation. Conversly, trashing the ex could mean the anger and frustration from the relationship is unresolved. Information about previous relationships should be revealed slowly and sparingly, as a relationship grows. Yes, it's helpful to know a person's relational history, but time and trust should determine when and how much info to reveal.

Psycho Exes. While it is possible to get involved with someone with serious issues once, people of strong character don't have multiple psycho exes in their lives. If all you are hearing is that is was "their fault" and "they were nuts", realize that the one common denominator in all these relationships is him. Run.

He has few outside relationships. It may be flattering at first for someone to want to be with you all the time. But if his only relationship is the woman he is dating, his expectations will be for you to fill every need. If a man has few or no male friends, no fishing, golfing or nights-out buddies, something is awry. Jealously, control and isolation from your family and friends could be looming.

Poor relationship with his mom and sister. These are the most formative and important female relationships in his life. Observing his handling of these relationships will help you determine his relational skills and his ability to compromise with you. If he treats these women with disrespect, it's a sign of how he may treat you and with your kids if you have them.

How he treats the wait staff. If he's cheap at a restaurant, especially in the early phases of the relationship when he's trying to impress you, he'll be cheap in every aspect of his life. Bossy, condescending talk to people in the service industry at a restaurant, bar, cab, or retail shop is the ultimate sign of low confidence. He's a bully, and he'll bully you.

The wandering eye. Most "normal" men I know can't believe when we tell them this even happens. But it does. A man can't look you in the eye. When he talk or listens, his eyes are on your chest. And when they aren't checking your cleavage, they looking at other women's cleavage.

Cell phone etiquette. If he spends more time talking to someone on the cell phone than you, it's clear how you rate. The only calls he should take or make are emergency calls from one of his kids or from work. In fact, if he doesn't take a call from his child, his priorities are off. The key is to politely excuse and explain who is calling and keep the call brief.

In the early stages of a relationship as you're getting to know someone, it is important to learn and pay attention to the little red flags. If something doesn't seem quite right, trust your gut. Like it or not, a person's relational history is a good indication of what's to come, so pay attention. While it's true we can work to change and adjust and improve on some of our faults and in areas of communication and compromise. The basics of our personality remain constant, especially the older we get. At 40-something, we are what we are, and we need to find someone who will love and accept us for that.

Ladies: Anything to add? Gentlemen? Gve me your red flags and I'll post them, too.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Light Bulbs and Gasoline

Recently we featured a special guest on our radio station’s morning show. Miss Bonnie is a clairvoyant, psychic medium, and she has guest slots on morning shows all over the country. Although I admit to being a bit of a skeptic, having heard similar features on other stations… I know that people love this stuff. If the person is good, it can be pretty entertaining and compelling radio, so we gave Miss Bonnie a spot.

The first time we had Bonnie on, I admit, it was pretty amazing. She told people things that there really wasn’t any explanation for. One woman called asking a question about her personal life—and out of the blue Bonnie said, “I need to tell you to check your vehicle. I say ‘vehicle’ because I don’t think you drive a car. But you need to have it looked at right away”. The woman on the other end of the line was quiet for a moment and then said. “I drive a truck…and the check engine light went on last night”

After we all picked up our jaws…we continued the show, and we gave Miss Bonnie a regular Friday morning slot.

A week or so later, I was at home changing light bulbs. It seemed like 4 or 5 light bulbs had burned out in my house all at once. I stood on the ladder and my daughter stood below and handed me the bulbs as I complained. “I hate changing light bulbs”. I joked that it was for stuff like this we needed a man around the house. “If your dad were still alive, he’d be changing these bulbs.” You see, my husband died a few years earlier of cancer. I often felt the sting of his absence, but never more than when I was handling something he use to do. In fact, just a day or two before that, I was asking my brother-in-law how I should dispose of old gasoline that had been sitting in a can in my garage for a few years.

The following Friday, Bonnie expressed her appreciation. She said she had received a great response from being on our station. She also told me she’d be happy to do a reading for me. I am open minded enough to believe people have gifts, but as I said, at the same time, I’m a bit of a skeptic. Plus, I am a woman of faith, and although I believe that God gives people gifts of the spirit—and prophesy is one of those gifts, I also think maybe there’s certain things He doesn't want us to know in advance. But curiosity got the best of me, and soon, I was sitting in front of Bonnie.

She told me I could ask a question or two, so I asked about my kids and about my love life. I told her nothing about myself in advance, however. After sharing some insight about my daughters—which was pretty on target by the way-she moved to my love life. She said she someone who was full of love for me... and full of light, but that he was far very away.

I was a bit uneasy. I told her my husband had died a few years ago. She said she knew right away that was him; the man one far away, full of love and light. Then she said “he wants you to know that this is him, so I am suppose to say this to you”.

She closed her eyes.

“Light bulbs”.

I was stunned. Light bulbs? Did she say light bulbs? “Does that mean anything to you?” Bonnie asked.

“Yes”, I mumbled, a little freaked out. “I know what it means”. She then said that now that we knew it is him, she was suppose to tell me something about my garage. Something about gasoline. She said he was concerned about gasoline in the garage.

Tears began to fill my eyes.

“Do you know what he’s talking about? Bonnie asked me. “Yes”, I said. “I have some old gasoline in my garage that I don't know what to do with.” "Well", Bonnie replied, “He wants you to get rid of that gasoline.”

I walked out in a blur trying to reason it all out in my head. There must be a logical explanation. She had simply guessed. Got lucky. It was a fluke. But then I thought, there’s no way that could have been a coincidence or a lucky guess. To pull those two things out of the blue? Light bulbs and gasoline?

Then, all of a sudden, I felt a sense of peace. I have always believed there is life after death. I know with confidence and faith that we’ll see the ones we love again. But now I have a that little extra assurance and comfort.

And that, I believe, was a gift from God.

Note: Miss Bonnie's link can be found on the morning show page of WQMX's website. That website link is on the right.

Friday, September 7, 2007

If a Dog Were A Teacher

If a dog was the teacher we'd learn things like:
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
Take naps.
Stretch before rising.
Run, romp, and play daily.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.
Be loyal.
Never pretend to be something you're not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day,
Be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently
Being always grateful for each new day and for the blessing of you.

author unknown

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

When I Win The Lottery

I'm a sensible woman. I know the odds are against winning the lottery. It's why I simply don't play. Well, I don't play very often. But I started reading the book The Secret and I'm changing my thought process. It may sound like I'm an Ohio Lottery commercial but the fact is... somebody has to win; why not me? If I practice the law of attraction, as The Secret explains, thinking the right thoughts...or the wrong thoughts...can bring those things your way. If you think poor you'll be poor. If you think rich, you'll be rich. In fact, the book suggests, don't just think it...act it. Act "as if".

So when I win the lottery, here's what I'm going to do. First, I'll take care of my immediate family. I'll pay off my house and any additional debt, put away money for my daughters' education and future, and put a significant chunk into safe investments, enough to live as I do now during my retirement. Okay well maybe a little bit nicer than now--but for the most part, I am pretty happy so my current lifestyle, plus some travel and a few extras, will certainly suffice :-).

Secondly, I will pay off each one of my siblings' most significant debt, and buy them each something they always wanted.

My mom and her lucky 7

Next, I will take care of my best friend, so she'll never, ever have to fight that deadbeat ex-husband of hers for another child support payment.

Finally I will fund the trust set up in my husband's name. The Cordle Foundation will not only award scholarships to needy students who show a love and aptitude for music (as his current modestly funded one does), but it will go beyond scholarships. The Cordle Foundation will contribute to worthy organizations, both locally and nationally, that are taking care of those less fortunate. I have a heart for animals, so various rescue organizations will be recipients of a Cordle contribution.

The question that every lottery winner always gets asked is: "will you quit working?" And my answer will be "no". I may take a hiatus, or focus time on the Cordle Foundation and my freelance voice work, but I will not stop working. Because work is definitely good for heart, the soul and it keeps me young.

There is often a dark side you hear about when someone wins a lot of money. That they are changed, they blow it all, they lose friends, they make new friends, that usually aren't friends. Money can be the root of all evil. I have a strong faith in Jesus and I believe what he told us in the Bible. I have always struggled to understand the verse where Jesus tells the rich man "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:23)But the Book of Timothy (6:17-19 )says "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."

I believe that it's not that God doesn't want us to be rich, it's that we are called to use our wealth for the good of others. There will always be the very rich and the very poor, and most of us are somewhere in-between. But I promise that when I win the lottery, I won't be the only winner!