Sharing life with a dear neighbor

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“A good neighbor increases the value of your property.” – Czech proverb

 

We just wrapped up spirit week, and tonight is the last football game of the season, which means if you are a senior on a varsity sport, your home will most likely get decked out in team colors.

Continue reading “Sharing life with a dear neighbor”

Supporting those who support those who serve

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“No one really wants to admit they are lonely, and it is never really addressed very much between friends and family. But I have felt lonely many times in my life.” – Bill Murray

Sitting in church on Sunday, our pastor’s sermon theme reflected on friendship. Though he interjected some humor with thought-provoking questions, his message really hit home. I am sure many of us squirmed, knowing full well that we all can, should and could be better friends.

He touched on something that really resonated with me, and that was loneliness, and what it really felt like. If you have ever experienced loneliness, and I am talking gut-wrenching, deep-in-the-pit loneliness, you could relate. When you are hurting, you don’t want to be forgotten.

Most of us think of loneliness when we hear of someone passing away. Loneliness is part of the grief experience.  But it isn’t always death that makes one feel alone. Any traumatic experience – like a cancer diagnosis, a divorce, a job loss, addiction, losing a home – can lead to feelings of loss and grief.

Because I am a military spouse and mom, I know how very lonely it can be when your loved one is not home. Basic training, TDYs, far-off duty stations and deployments  can cause grief: separation anxiety, lack of communication, missing your loved one. You grieve for the life you had before they left. You grieve for normalcy. At times, people avoid service members’ families for fear of making them – or seeing them – cry. Similar to how people react to a death.

And honestly, that is isn’t too far off the mark as to how we respond, in general, when others journey through difficult times. We don’t know what to say or do, often afraid we will make things worse.

Back in the late 1960s, Elizabeth Kubler Ross introduced a hypothesis for the five stages of grief. Some pooh-poohed her idea, and others embraced it. When my dad died, I can say I went through the stages, though not in any particular order. I stumbled upon some notes regarding those stages recently, and it was like I had an “ah-ha” moment. The stages of grief are similar to the feelings many military families go through when those deployment warning orders start filtering down the chain of command:

  • Denial (Oh, this won’t happen. He is needed at his base more than over there.)
  • Anger (Mad at the command, mad at the violent world we live in, mad at the dog, mad the account won’t balance. Mad! Mad! Mad!)
  • Bargaining (God, if you keep my service member home, I will ___________ [fill in the blank].)
  • Depression (Some days, you just want to pull the covers over your head and sleep until your loved one returns.)
  • Acceptance (This really is happening, and with God’s help, I will survive it.)

I’ve been asked before how one can really help military families – you know, “to support those who support those who serve.” As a well-season military spouse and mom, I have some suggestions listed below for those who have a friend, neighbor, co-worker, church member or relative facing or living through a deployment. But really, these can be used for anyone in need:

  • Be there. When my husband left for a deployment, my sister-in-law showed up at our house within minutes of his departure. Kids, coffee, and tears. I don’t even know if I talked. But she held my hand while I cried.
  • Bring a meal. My mother is the best. She either a brought a complete meal or invited us over. What a relief to not have to worry about feeding the kids. What a relief to not have to eat alone if the kids are not home.
  • Texts are great, but there is nothing better than hearing a voice at the other end of the line.
  • Invite the spouse, parent or family for coffee, ice cream, or just for a visit. Evenings, weekends and holidays are the worst times for feeling lonely, as that’s when most families gather and interact.
  • Drop off or mail a care package to the family. Maybe a box with some movies, popcorn and candy; a cookie bouquet half-way through the deployment; a flower arrangement on an anniversary or birthday; a balloon bouquet on a child’s birthday; fresh-baked cookies…let your imagination run wild!
  • Offer to help – from childcare to errand running to household/yard chores. A military spouse is pulling double duty.
  • Don’t say,”If you need me call.” Just call – they do need you.
  • Don’t be afraid. You will see tears. I guarantee it. Consider it an honor that your friend can comfortably cry in front of you.

Certainly, we have all the technology we can handle to stay in touch, but as connected as we are, there is a huge disconnect in interpersonal relationships and human touch. We rely so heavily on texts, posts and tweets, that we feel we have done our duty to connect. And while electronics are good to get the dialogue going, I think we’re really missing out if we don’t get out of our comfort zone and help wipe some tears, hand someone a box of tissues, give them a big a hug or sit and hold their hand. Something as simple as sharing a big slice of chocolate cake, or a bowl of body-and-soul-warming soup can do wonders for someone who’s lonely and scared. They will know they aren’t alone.

From someone who supports someone who serves, I can tell you, it will be appreciated. Greatly appreciated.

“Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.” – Vera Nazarian

Would you be interested in seeing more blog posts on how to support military families? Feel free to let me know in the comments section.

© Lynne Cobb – 2013

Bruised bumpers and the Blues

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”  – Sophia Loren

A few events over the past week brought me to this “A-ha!” moment: With age comes wisdom.

Heading to lunch with my husband, I was busy reading email on my phone when a huge thud jarred me: figuratively and literally. Some debris, either from the car in front of us – or kicked up by said car – walloped our front bumper. Talk about being shaken.

It was then I realized that my calmness, as well as my husband’s, was a sign of the times. In our younger days, we would’ve been madder than a wet hen at the young driver. She was completely oblivious to the fact that either she hit something or lost a large part of her car. With her tiny dog in her lap, I noticed the dents and dings in her car. She was completely unphased, and we couldn’t get her attention – as hard as we tried – to let her know what happened.

I didn’t even think to yell or scream at her. Maybe I envisioned one of my own children, having car trouble that could cause a major incident, and hoping that an encounter with another driver would be educational and not dangerous. Even when we reached our destination and looked at the damage, we were both surprisingly calm. Back in the day, not only would we rant and rave, we’d wring our hands and wonder how we’d pay for this mess, that was no fault of our own. Instead, we were thankful it didn’t break the light-housing or come flying through the windshield, which would surely caused injury to one or both of us.

With age comes wisdom.

Last weekend, we had the opportunity to attend an art gallery opening. The featured artist, whom we never met, is the husband of a colleague and friend of mine. She and I chat several times a week online and meet for coffee when we can. To be able to see her husband’s incredible art was a moment in our lives that we felt truly blessed to be able to share – alongside them and many others.

Exactly a week later, we had another great opportunity. Our neighbor and friend has been in the fight of her life. Diagnosed with a very aggressive, late-stage form of breast cancer, this woman has been a courageous inspiration for many. And just as it seemed that surgery, chemo and radiation had done their job, the bad news came. This fighter now had to face even more extensive surgery, just as she thought she had gotten back to her life. After six weeks of healing, doctor appointments and rest, this trooper was on back stage last night. And we were in awe. I firmly believe that The Blues were written for her to sing. Confident, smiling and blowing us away, she beat the crap out her cancer, and we were there to watch her comeback gig – completely in awe of her amazing talent. Who knew that this tiny little powerhouse could sing?!

But the most amazing thing happened after both of these events – and it was the humbled response of these artists. While we were so thankful for being invited to share in one of the most memorable moments of their lives, they thanked us for attending!

Hmmm…I think I am beginning to get it.

With age comes wisdom.

Back in the day, when I was a younger woman and desperately trying to seek fame and fortune through my writing, my focus was completely wrong. Please don’t take this as a judgement call, but in our twenties, many of us embraced our gifts as “ours.” We didn’t share – we had what I will call an arrogant talent. What will my talent get me? Some of us foolishly pitched that gift when it didn’t bring us the income or fame we thought it should.

Additionally, some of us shelved that talent when we started having families and felt pursuing a dream was a waste of time when there were kids to raise and an income to earn.

But as we got closer to or reached that half-century mark, the talent that was buried for various reasons began to sprout back to life. Maybe because we now have more time to nurture it, but maybe, I think, we have just come to realize how important that gift is.

We realize how fast time is ticking. I think, too, that we become confident in our place in life. Maybe we are a little less shy in sharing certain aspects of our lives.  Seeing that life has smacked all of us around by the time we hit this age makes us more humbled for sure, and most often, kinder to others. We have felt the sting of loss;  whether it was a job, a house, a loved one, or health. We embrace good news, and to celebrate accomplishments and talents of those around gives us time to pause from the mundane and experience joy.

We also change our attitudes when it comes to our talents. Instead of wondering what we get from it, we are more concerned about what others get from it. Our motives don’t revolve around making it big – they revolve around making a difference.

Will Doug’s gift of art inspire someone to experience the smell of paint and the feel of a brush meeting canvas? Will Annie’s gifted voice inspire someone to sing, take a dance class or play piano? Most likely, yes. But the biggest gift of all came from these artists sharing themselves – putting themselves out there for all to see. To bare their souls, not because they are awesome (which they are), but because of their choice to share their gifts with others.

God has graciously gifted everyone. Some have the gift of art, music, photography and such. Others have the gift of service; some have the gift of teaching. Still others can build and repair anything. Then there are others that can turn ordinary grocery items into the most extraordinary meals. Or grow beautiful flowers and delicious produce.

Our gifts are endless.

No one could have ever convinced me that going into decade number five would be one of the best times in my life. And, admittedly, there are days I long to be in my twenties again. (Sometimes it is because I long to see myself minus the little wrinkles forming around my eyes, or so I can wear short shorts because I’m not sporting these awesome varicose veins!) Seriously, though, revisiting my twenties is more because of my want to go back in time and smack that twenty-something me in the head, then bestow upon her all this wealth and knowledge and insight that I have today.

With age comes wisdom.

Here’s to settling down and not flying off the handle over the little things in life. Here’s to enjoying your older, wiser self. Here’s to sharing with others. And if you are burying that talent, unearth it today. I double dog-dare you to share that God-given gift of yours with others. In doing so, you will experience a joy that can’t be described.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb