Anything is Possible!

With Hope, Faith, and Perseverance


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I’m Thankful I Didn’t Walk In Front of a Truck.

“The Suicide Note” at Manifesto Amelioration   reminded me that I thought about suicide when I was 20 years old.

It was in the late 70s, after high school when my codependency emerged full force. The guy I’d been dating was not a good fit. But I didn’t get it. Depressed, I dropped out of college, worked in nowhere jobs, and drank more I should have.

I had no active suicide plan, just thoughts about leaving work at the pizza place where I washed dishes with tears dripping into the sink, and walking in front of a truck. I thought about it more than once. Because my stupid boyfriend didn’t love me anymore, and life wasn’t working out at all like I planned.

What stopped me was that I didn’t want to hurt my parents. My little sister had been killed by a drunk driver less than two years earlier. The night she died, my father, the strongest man I’ve ever known, sat in his chair shaking his head and holding a cigarette for the first time in years. I felt his agony.  Even then, I knew that losing one child was a horrible burden for any parent to bear. I would not add to their pain.

I didn’t know how hard my parents were praying for me when I was 20. And that angels were watching over me, sometimes peeking though their fingers, shaking their heads in disbelief as I meandered along the edge of sanity.  I did not walk in front of any trucks, but I did put myself in some risky situations.

Thank you, angels.

 

Angel from Pixabay

Putting one wobbly, angel nudged foot in front of the other, I got over the boyfriend who was never a good fit. I had other boyfriends. I got married, graduated from college, and had two children. There was more heartbreak, but there were joys, too. Big joys. And lots of lessons. Today, my life is better than I could have ever imagined.

My point is that when I was 20 years old and thought about suicide, I didn’t know that the best years of my life were waiting for me.

Hope is always with us, waiting patiently. It gets better.

1-800-273-8255 

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

It ain’t over yet.

 

(The angel photo is from pixabay.)


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Theo’s Story

As September is “Recovery Month,” I’m sharing this story based on my interview with a man who has become a respected friend.

broken window black and white

Some of us remember it as “The Blizzard of ’89.” To Theo, it’s the night he almost froze to death.

Not technically a blizzard, the storm was an anomaly for the Carolina Coast, especially on Christmas Eve. He’d quit his job at Dupont to drink liquor and sell blood. He’d been arrested 66 times for child support. The money was supposed to be taken out of his check, but it’s hard to hold on to a job when you keep getting locked up.

On that Christmas Eve in 1989, he walked to the club on Orange Street and got hit in the head with a bottle by a man trying to rob him. Theo stumbled into the cold and headed toward Ann Street and the place he called home.

The house had no electricity, no water, and no heat. Windows of broken glass allowed the frigid night air to permeate every room. But he figured it would be warmer than sleeping outside. Theo wrapped himself in whatever coats and blankets he could find and fell asleep.

He woke up shivering in the middle of the night and saw snow blowing in through the window.

“Lord, let me go to sleep and not wake up,” he prayed.

 

Theo had never prayed such a thing before. Even during his three years, six months, and 11 days in prison he’d always found enough hope to stay alive.

His prison time started in 1966 when he was convicted of armed robbery while serving in the Navy. He’d been drinking heavily and hanging out with the wrong crowd again. On a five-day leave, he planned to spend time with family in North Carolina and caught a ride from the Florida base with his buddy, John. They partied along the way but ran out of money in Georgia where John decided to rob a gas station and landed them both in prison.

Working on a road gang in Georgia, Theo was charged with insubordination and ended up in the hole for 15 days – naked, in the dark, on concrete. He got one meal ever four days. Even then, he didn’t lose hope, though he did lose 20 pounds during each of his three stays in the hole.

After a year of incarceration, Theo wrote a letter to the newspaper about conditions at the prison and was interviewed by the press. Shortly after that, he was transferred to a larger facility that held over 4000 prisoners.

prison fence

“There was a killing every day.” Theo recalls. “I didn’t know if someone was going to stab me in my sleep or set me on fire.”  For the first three months, he just sat on his bunk and watched. He noticed some inmates reading, writing letters, or making crafts (handbags and wallets) and started doing some art himself – painting portraits and making handbags to sell to relatives back home for spending money. Trying to stay out of trouble, Theo gravitated toward the creative crowd. Watching all the killings going on, they realized how many prisoners didn’t know how to read or write. So, he and a group of 8 to 10 inmates started a group called, “The Barons of Goodwill.” They helped fellow prisoners read and write letters. Theo believed this was his turning point.

While in prison, he took courses in electronics and welding. He started writing a book called, Choices by Chance, but since it was about life in prison, the guards confiscated it along with some of his poems and paintings. With about seven years left on his 10-year sentence, Theo was in an accident on the road gang truck which left him with 3 broken ribs, 27 stitches, and a busted shoulder. They released him from prison a couple weeks after the accident.

He planned to stay sober and live with his parents for a while. But three blocks from the bus station, he ran into old friends drinking on their front porch. He was drunk before he got home. He told his mom over and over that he was sorry. This was his first clue about the cunning, baffling nature of alcoholism.

Theo got a job welding at a factory and did stop drinking. But after about two years, he thought he could drink a little.  First, he only drank on his days off. Then only after work. Eventually, he was drinking before work, then during lunch. He’d stop drinking off and on, but over time, his disease got worse. In 1983, he married a woman who also drank heavily. They argued a lot. On Valentine’s Day, he saw a TV commercial for a treatment program asking, “Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?” He called the number and his wife listened in on the other line. When he hung up the phone, she came out and shot him four times in the stomach and legs. He decided the relationship was over. After that, Theo didn’t drink for a while, but he still hung around with the wrong crowd. He started a roofing company, but hired people who were just like him. “working to drink.”

In 1989, Theo got locked up on his birthday over child support. He went to an AA meeting to avoid the fighting, drinking and reefer in the prison dormitory. He remembers one of the men in the meeting sharing he had 20 years sober. Theo didn’t believe it.  “You’re a liar,” he told the man. Someone told him to “shut up and listen.” The next time he went to a meeting, he just listened.

Theo got out of prison in October of ’89. A friend invited him to an AA meeting at Good Shepherd where he’d gone to the day shelter. He saw some guys he used to drink with there, which tweaked his interest in the program, but he continued to drink off and on. His addiction to alcohol grew stronger with each episode.

On Christmas Eve of 1989, the years of misery, broken relationships, and doing time came bearing down on him. Theo woke up to a blanket of snow on Christmas morning. He had to do something to get warm, so he walked to the day shelter knowing they were closed. The man who lived across the street from the shelter was shoveling snow. Theo thought he recognized him from meetings and asked to borrow a shovel to remove snow from the shelter sidewalk and parking lot. The work kept him warm for a while.

Then, Theo walked to the liquor house which was open. He was no stranger to drinking in the morning. But today was different. All he wanted was to be warm. When the woman asked him what he wanted to drink, he said he wanted something hot. She gave him some of the stew she’d been cooking for her husband.

Theo never drank alcohol again after that. He spent much of his time at the day shelter where he could get lunch, shower, and wash his clothes.  A counselor there named Ann knew he’d had a drinking problem and must have seen a change in him. One day, she asked him to come into the office. She asked him a list of ten questions.

“Does drinking interfere with your relationships?”

“Yes.”

“Has drinking ever caused problems at work?”

“Yes.”

Theo answered yes to all ten questions.

“It’s like you’ve been following me around or something,” he told her.

“Do you want some help?”

“Yes.”

Every place was full. But Ann told him, “If you don’t drink, come back Monday.”

On Monday, every place was still full. But on Tuesday, there was an opening at Stepping Stone, a halfway house for alcoholics and drug addicts. After the interview, they told him to come back the next day with his stuff. “He won’t last three weeks,” he heard someone say. But Theo lasted seven months.

It wasn’t easy at first. There were all kinds of men at the halfway house. It helped to remember he’d lived with a diverse group of people in the Navy and in prison. Theo’s three years of military service and three plus years in prison, helped him adjust quickly to the structure and routine of morning meditations and going to three meetings a day. At first, he didn’t listen at the meetings and focused on eating cookies and drinking coffee. Then, one day, this guy came up to him and said, “I’m your sponsor.”

“I didn’t ask for a sponsor,” Theo replied.

“My sponsor said you need a sponsor.”

The man turned out to be Theo’s sponsor for the next 25 years, until he died.

Working the 12 steps, Theo learned the real him, not the monster he used to see in the mirror. “I had to learn to forgive myself – to make amends to myself,” he said. All his life he’d felt like the fifth wheel, like he didn’t belong, but when he went to AA, he felt like he belonged. He’d thought that God didn’t want him, but realized that God had led him to AA, and that God had never left him. He knew that it was time to stop taking and start giving back. He knew this might be his last opportunity.

praying hands

As Theo stopped blaming other people for his shortcomings and taking responsibility, he learned that he was “the author of all his tragedies.” He learned that he had to get real, that he couldn’t run from himself and had to face up to things.

Over the next few years, things fell into place. After the halfway house, he worked regularly as a welder, in apartment maintenance, and as a longshoreman. He fixed up the house he was born in, the house where he slept on that snowy Christmas Eve. Then, in 2014, Theo married a preacher. They had dated for a few months way back in the 1960s when he spent his free time in clubs and on the street. She didn’t go to clubs, didn’t drink, and focused on work, so the relationship didn’t work out back then. They finally reconnected after Theo got sober and she showed up at his church.

Throughout his journey, what made a difference in Theo’s life was the company he kept. He’s tried to impress this upon his sons, telling them to watch who they hang around and to do positive things. “If the person you hang around goes to jail or Yale, you’re going too,” he says. Theo says he’s met the best people in recovery, some of them even in prison. In recovery, he’s met people who are honest and working on the same goals. He’s developed friendships that transcend age and race.

Today, in his early seventies, Theo is “semi-retired.” He fixes up houses, tends his garden and gives his home grown produce to older people at church. He’s been teaching Sunday school at his church for the past ten years. He buys books at thrift stores and gives them out at church, to people in recovery, and on the street. Theo attends meetings for himself every week and goes to the prison every Sunday. He sponsors some men there, remembering that his first meeting was in prison. When an inmate doesn’t believe he has 17 years of sobriety, he doesn’t tell them to shut up, but he does tell them to listen. He tells them to look around for a sponsor and to get a “home group” when they get out, a group that can become like family. He tells them to stay in recovery.

hawk in flight bird (2)

 

(All photos in this post are from Pixabay.)


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Song Lyric Sunday: Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

Song Lyric Sunday

I’m doing my own thing for today’s Song Lyric Sunday. The beautiful voice of Hillsong’s Taya Smith becomes a meditation in the middle of the song, transporting me to a place of trust, comfort, and faith. I hope it helps with whatever storm you may be facing.

Lyrics:

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine
Songwriters: Joel Houston / Matt Crocker / Salomon Ligthelm

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group

Song Lyric Sunday is hosted by Helen at:

https://helenswordsoflife.com/2017/09/09/song-lyric-sunday-theme-for-91017/


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How to Heal a Broken Heart

How to heal from a broken heart

This is exactly what I learned to do after my divorce. It took time. There was all that grief to work through, a codependent relapse or two, and a great deal of questioning.

But in time, I found me again. I put my love into the constants that had always been there for me: God, dogs, nature, painting, writing, singing, swimming, and family. I explored new interests like drumming, improvisational dance, and kayaking. I bought myself flowers and encouraging cards. Slowly but surely, I healed. In some ways, the healing was like coming home. In other ways, it was like a mid-life adolescence but with a little more wisdom and growing self-love.

What are the constants in your life that can support you through hard times?

What else can help heal a broken heart?

back cover painting (2)

My back cover painting for Trust the Timing


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On Your Mark, Get Set…..STOP!

 

socsbadge2016-17

SoCS prompt: “ick”

So, I had this post all done about my book being published. All excited and everything. And I found another snag. Another technical glitch which has to do with publishing under my maiden name. When I discovered the error, I felt that icky feeling in my stomach.

I thought about using the post I had written about my icky rebound from hell being the ickiest part of the book, and all the things I learned from that relationship, but then I realized: I can’t edit! It’s SOC. So I’m starting from scratch.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

But the thing is, my book is available. That’s like a whisper. It was going to be a holler with a happy dance. So this is like a very soft book launch. I don’t want to do the holler until the glitch is fixed. It’s a minor thing, really.

But life is like that sometimes. Sometimes there’s a holler with a happy dance, and sometimes there’s a steady, slow slide into the process of whatever it is – growing up, falling in love, getting older – and then, it’s there in all it’s glory or all it’s hollering, or gnashing of teeth.

So I guess this is really about persevering though the ickiness. Publishing a book is not quick. Not for me anyway. But it is happening. And I will be hollering and dancing.

Thanks to all my blogging friends for your patience and support!

And thanks to Linda G. Hill for hosting the Saturday Stream of Consciousness. For more information, visit:

https://lindaghill.com/2017/07/07/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-817/

Here are the rules:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” “Begin with the word ‘The’,” or simply a single word to get your started.

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top. NOTE: Pingbacks only work from WordPress sites. If you’re self-hosted or are participating from another host, such as Blogger, please leave a link to your post in the comments below.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. As a suggestion, tag your post “SoCS” and/or “#SoCS” for more exposure and more views.

8. Have fun!

 

 


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8 Ways to Keep Going When the Journey Gets Long

     Path to beach

 ( Today’s post comes from my June Newsletter. )

  Most of us have seen that ancient quote by Lao-Tzu,

  “A  journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step.”

     It’s a good motivator to get us started. But what about when you’ve been taking those steps for a while, and the journey of a thousand miles feels like two-thousand? Lately, I’ve felt that way about my book.

     Don’t get me wrong! I love my book. I believe in my book. But it feels like high time for my baby to leave the nest and fly out into the world. Yet, I keep getting these opportunities to trust the timing. Thanks, God.

     I know my past six years of book writing is a drop in the bucket compared to some journeys, and I’m glad I got to learn so much about the intricacies of writing, editing, revising, book cover design, ….. (and the technical stuff – but let’s not even go there except for this picture.)

crossed eyes in confusion

Technical glitches. (Add 50 years and messy hair.)

      The good news is that publication is right around the corner. I can see it! I have real paperback proof copies being proof read as I write this. And I am thankful. This journey has been worth every step.

So, What does it take to keep going, to not give up, when we tire of the journey?  Here are some things that can help:

1. Rest. Take breaks. But don’t rest too long, because there’s that inertia thing.

2. Do something totally different. If you spend a lot of time on the computer, get outside and move!  Use different parts of your mind and body. Stretch your legs! Put on some music and dance! (I’m talking to myself here, too.)

3. Get a fresh perspective – ask for honest and encouraging feedback. Ask for positive feedbaMakeck along with constructive criticism. What do they like? What could be better?

4.  Consider changes. Research, then trust your gut. Maybe there’s a different path to take that just feels right. For me, it was the decision to publish under my maiden name – a big, inconvenient step but one that brought peace of mind and forward momentum.

5. Break big jobs into small parcels. Take one chapter at a time or one paragraph at a time, and congratulate yourself for getting through each step.  I have clutter issues. Hey, I’m an artist! It helps me to focus on one corner, counter, or table top and de-clutter that small space. Then I stand back and admire the “after” picture.

6. Think about the reason for the finished product, whether it’s a clean table top or a published book. What are the likely benefits? How will it improve your life or help others?

7. Pray. Ask for what you need, be it guidance, strength, balance, gratitude, or patience.

     Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.

                                                   (Dr. Joyce Meyer)

8. Remember that “Nothing is impossible.” That’s what my father told me when I was 12, and it stuck. Here’s the poem I posted for him last week: https://joannaoftheforest.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/for-my-father/

What’s the next step on your journey? I’d love to know.

Atlantic Beach steps

If you liked this post, I hope you’ll subscribe to my monthly newsletter via the sidebar to the right. (If you already subscribe, thank you!)  In addition to updates on my book, I include encouraging tips and ideas on life, relationships, and stuff I’ve learned in my 60 something years.


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Good News Tuesday: Graduation on the Subway

Nursing student Jerich Marco Alcantara got lots of love and support on the subway when the train breakdown made him miss his official graduation ceremony.

 

 

Got good news? It can be global, local, or personal, feel free write a post, use the Good News Tuesday badge if you like, and share it in the comments. Or just share your good news here. Easy Peasy. 

Sunflower w address