I was not there for the birth of my grandson, as I was for my granddaughter three years earlier. Things were such in the family that I did not receive an announcement but heard the news from others. The estrangement had been solidified soon after my granddaughter was born.
Miles was born 18 years ago today. I met him for the first time when he was nearly two years old. He was in my life until the last time I saw him, nearly three years ago, shortly after my daughter left her marriage. He has lived with his father and things have been strained since. There is no contact with his grandparents, and it’s one of the toughest things anyone should have to sit by and watch or endure.
I am grateful for the times over 12 years I was able to see him and spend a little time with him. He was such a cute little boy and as he grew into a teenager has become a handsome young man. I appreciated his creativity and his sense of adventure through storytelling. He had a loving, Generous Heart.
Today is his birthday, and I have no way of reaching out to him to let him know that I’m thinking of him today and that I love him. We should be celebrating as a family these milestones.
I keep looking forward and trusting that someday there will be reconciliation. Life can be so confusing and so painful for so many of us from early ages into old age. I pray that someday soon we can all get together and celebrate those things that we have missed.
I love you, Miles, and I hope that you enter into this stage of adulthood with anticipation of wonderful things to come. I’m proud of you for your creativity, your generosity and your wit. I’m sure that in this next stage of your life you will do great things with all of them.
Happy 18th birthday.
2017 has been a year of LIFE.
2017 was the year that marked five years since my diagnosis of stage 4 Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs)/Carcinoid Cancer. As there is no cure in my case, there is no remission. Yet, here I am looking forward to the sixth year, many believing that August 2012 would be my last birthday. I celebrated my 62nd this past year, and I look forward to the next!
2017 has been a year of EDUCATION.
I studied Spanish in 2017. I also enjoyed lectures and discussions in Philosophy, Ethics and World War II History from professors who are brilliant and love their subjects. I am taking all these classes as a “senior audit student,” so my tuition is waived. I do not receive a grade or credit for taking them, though they will show up on my transcript that I have taken the classes. I received my Bachelors degree nearly 16 years ago, but I love to learn, and I like the challenge. I will continue doing the same in 2018.
2017 has been a year of CREATIVITY.
It was only three years ago that I picked up a paintbrush for the first time to put something on canvas. If you talked to my friend and creative arts “coach,” she would tell you that it has been difficult for me to break through certain emotions to get in touch with my child-like creative self. Yet, this year, I painted 10 canvases, nearly all of them with faces. Though they may never become famous works of art, they are MY works of art, as childish as they may seem to others.
2017 has been a year of FRIENDSHIP.
This year I have come to realize the truer meanings of “friendship” or “relationship” to others, and what it means with friends, family and acquaintances, and in business and pleasure. Learning to recognize those relationships, which are uplifting to all parties involved, as well as when there is little reciprocity, has been of the utmost of valuable lessons. I have continued to learn that, by accepting others for who they are, it is simply about love. It does not necessarily mean that relationship will continue. Sometimes, we must learn to let go of others. It is equally as important to accept and love oneself, and make choices that are best for us and our well-being.
2017 has been a year of GRATITUDE.
There are so many things this year for which to be grateful. Having had the opportunity to learn about myself and others, I am grateful for the chance at all the experiences and lessons that have been presented, even when it is necessary to deal with the painful realizations that all things and people are not as they seem. However, though we encounter those few people in life who choose to stand in extreme judgment, spewing ugliness, and doing their personal best to drag others down into the mud with them, there are many more people in life that we encounter…
…there are so many more who are accepting and beautiful, uplifting and encouraging, supportive and loving, and who will be there without judgment.
These are the people in life who are truly the most genuine, and will share themselves freely…vulnerable and without expectation.
If nothing more was learned in 2017, I have learned about genuine love from and for others and I am so grateful for these people in my life.
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WHAT IS IN STORE FOR 2018?
Of course, none of know the answer to that question! We set goals, make resolutions, and have the best of intentions, before something happens to put a glitch in our plans, derailing all those lofty dreams.
All we can do is keep moving forward, approaching life with gusto and working toward being a better version of ourselves.
2018 will be a year of LIFE.
I know that I must continue to live every day that I am given. I will wake up and look forward to whatever adventures each day presents to me.
2018 will be a year of EDUCATION.
I will continue to audit classes in 2018. I am looking forward to what more I can learn. I love keeping my brain engaged. I look toward taking more classes that encourage more of the creative side of my soul, not just the academic.
2018 will be a year of CREATIVITY.
The first class at the college for which I am signed up is a Jazz Musicianship class. I have known the professor for nearly 20 years. I have never taken a class from him, but I know that he is a brilliant bassist, having seen him perform with various bands over these two decades. I look forward to putting in practice more improvisation and taking more risks as a singer. I look to resurrect the music in me in a way that gives me joy, getting back to what I consider my “jazz roots.” As well, I’m in collaboration right now with another bassist to start to work together in 2018, possibly with a bass and vocal duo.
I have several more canvases that I have to paint. I want to continue to explore acrylic painting, and to approach my style of painting with as much freedom as I have begun to embrace,without worrying about what others think of it. I am also planning to enter a couple of them in a juried art show designed for veterans to share their art.
2018 will be a year of FRIENDSHIP.
Oprah Winfrey said, “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”
These words from Ms. Winfrey are representative of my biggest goal for 2018, as I too often waste too much energy and time with people, situations and things which I let “eat at me” and rob me of my inner peace, and halt my joy. Sometimes these are things that are beyond my control. At other times, some will purposefully do whatever they can to “pick” and get a reaction. HOWEVER…
Let me point out AND repeat the operative words:
I waste…I waste…
No matter what others may do to us, or try to do in order to cause us grief, even though it certainly does affect us, it is ALWAYS MY OWN RESPONSIBILITY to make sure that I care for my own well-being. Like so many others before me, I must take care not to be sucked into the old patterns that some will try to heap upon me.
2018 will be a year of GRATITUDE.
Let us all be aware of (and own) the choices that we make, as these will be the ones that make the biggest differences in LIFE and views of success in 2018. Let us all be GRATEFUL for those lessons we learn by what life deals out. Let us all be joyous in the genuine relationships that we are given that truly lift us up to happier hearts and a desire to be better to one another.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018!
2018 WILL BE A YEAR OF LIFE!
Coming to understand myself and the “whys” behind my beliefs about the world and the people in it has always been of interest to me. I am also just as interested in others and their stories. As I tend to be rather curious and analytical, I have often been told that I “would make a good counselor.” I am not sure that it is truth, but I do see that I am willing to look in the mirror and find the connections with others and the correlations of experiences. It requires us all to be more vulnerable.
Recently, I have begun to “look” beyond some of the issues that have presented in my life. They seem to be inter-connected in so many ways.
It has been more than two decades since I have truly done anything to “celebrate” the Christmas holidays in my home. There have been some moments where one may have seen a glimmer; however (for the most part), it has been non-existent. I have cooked or helped to cook the holiday meals elsewhere, but it was never the same. Much of the time, I went to a restaurant for a meal…sometimes with a friend, sometimes alone.
“Hoarding,” or just Scared?
This past summer I began to open up and admit to “shutting others out.” The easiest way for me to do this was to not deal with clutter in my home. This way, I did not allow others into my space.
I could have let others into my home, but there would have been some who would have been judgmental and then would have told others how awful it was…I was. Some would have accused me of being “a hoarder,” likening me to the extreme hoarders featured on the television show.
Truth be told, I bought into those visions of myself. I did not see reality, but saw myself through the judging eyes of others. So, I shut down not only from others, but myself.
One of the things that I would never have been able to tolerate is the filth of rotting foods, the scampering of rodents, and the other horrors that are sensationalized with the show.
Yet, the piled-up, unpacked boxes from previous moves kept me from “LIVING” in my home and accepting others into my home to celebrate life, friends and family, and the holidays we share throughout the year.
Preparing to Die
I moved into my current townhouse in September 2013, preparing to die. It was a year-and-a-half earlier that I was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroendocrine Tumors (NETs)/Carcinoid cancer, and told by an Army Lt. Col. and surgeon that I “…(had) six months to a year, two…if lucky.”
So, when I moved, I truly believed that I had less than a year to live. That being the case, why unpack?
Looking back, I understand the ideas or thoughts and how they manifested in the way that they did. But I also recognized that how I choose to look at my life and what I think, believe or do is MINE to choose, despite what others will tell me, think of me, or treat me.
Starting to Live Again
This summer, I have started to “let go” of the accumulation. I am unpacking and donating items that I no longer need to friends, family, and organizations. I am beginning to see a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. It has much less to do with the condition of my home, but the condition of me and my view of life and the people in it.
I call this my “Clutter Project.” I am facing my inner turmoil around letting others see who I am on the inside, which is difficult. It is not easy to be vulnerable. It is not easy to be open, knowing that there will be some who will act in judgement, and then reject and abandon. It is downright painful, and then very tempting to pull back and shut down even more deeply. It is not easy, and their is so much more to do, but I have started.
This is where the choice to keep moving forward is so important. Trusting when it is scary to do so.
I have allowed two trusted friends to see the chaos on the inside of me and in my home. Each has been invited to dine with me, including Thanksgiving Dinner. Two other friends have come over (separately.)
There was an online friend from Australia who stayed with me for a week this month. We had only spoken by phone for an hour total (two calls) in the 18 years that we had “met” online.
Last week, I committed to hosting Christmas Day dinner here in my home. It will not be formal, but rather informal. There will be seven of us for certain, and maybe a total of three more. I must admit that I am a bit anxious about it.
Since I have opened up about my struggles to one of my sisters, and to my best friend (BK), each has shown me so much love and support. The relationship between my sister and I has strengthened in ways I never imagined, and it is much more authentic than
any other relationship that I have had with a family member.
If not for BK’s help in going through things here in my place these past five months, I would feel paralyzed. She has been here to help me as I push through the process in my own way. She and I (together) are learning our own lessons of telling our stories, and listening with more love. Of course, it requires us to be truthful with one another, but more importantly…truthful with the person in the mirror.
So, Christmas get-together at my place!
I will likely invite others over during the season between now and the New Year holiday. It is getting easier to allow people that I know care and who are not going to walk in judgement of me into my home…into my heart. I am also confident that if I felt there were others who would walk in and look down their noses, I would be gracious enough to offer a coffee, but cut the time short.
Keep telling your story
I know my story. I know the characters in the story, up to this point in my life. I understand how the story has been written, but I also know that there are twists and turns in every story, and that we never know how any story will end.
Is it not wonderful that we get to write more chapters and change the direction of the plot of our stories? We find other characters along the way. When the story is all-told, as we come to the end, it is a far different story than we expected.
I am grateful to all who have become part of my life. I thank each for taking time to read and “listen” to more of my story. I appreciate all who have shared their stories with me.
And I look forward to continuing the journey.
(Note: Edited from original post by the author, “There is always MORE to the story, if one is willing to listen to the storyteller” written and published on 13 December 2017 at myLot.com.)
Author’s Note: Today I wanted to share with you three things I wrote –one for today, one last year, and one from three years ago. Thank you for taking the time to read all that I share from my heart.
I overheard a conversation yesterday in which someone commented on “the obligatory phone call.” I felt a sense of sorrow having heard it. I understood the need to act like a dutiful child, when I was angry at my parents and the rest of the world for dealing me some crummy “life cards.” I wondered if the person engaged in the conversation would understand what I wrote this morning in…
Last year, I remembered the last Mothers Day that I had with my own mother five years ago. There had been many Mothers Days over the years that I had missed having spent with her after leaving home at the age of 18. Having been there with her on the last Mothers Day of her life was a special moment for me…
Each year spent without being able to call my Mom is a reminder that she has been gone for nearly five years. I cannot say that it “gets easier with time.” But what I can tell you is that there is not a day in my life where I do not celebrate those moments that I used to take for granted. It really hit home for me on the first Mothers Day without her, when I wrote…
I hope that someday there will be a sense of reconciliation for those who continue to hold onto the anger, sense of obligation, and the hurt they continue to clutch to their hearts. Learning to love someone in spite of the hardships is certainly not easy. We are not even sure what that is supposed to look or feel like.
But when we look to find those soft-spots in our hearts, and reach out in love, however awkward it may be or feel, there is a peace that can surpass all understanding. It will open up the world to receive more love that we knew possible. It all starts by saying…
© 2016 Coral Levang
Photo credits: Pixabay; No attribution required, Public Domain
This week, it will be my 61st Christmas Eve and Day on this earth. Certainly some holidays have stood out more than the others. Not all were filled with tidings of comfort and joy. But there have been several that hold some of my fondest memories.
I went to Redeemer Lutheran School and church in my first and second grade years. I was five when I started first grade, never going to Kindergarten.
We put on a Nativity pageant, and that first year in 1960, four months after turning five, I was the angel. With my celestial attire of a white cotton sheet, and wire hanger wings and halo wrapped in tinsel garland, I delivered my first lines on stage: “Unto you a child is born.”
There were a couple of childhood years that were magical, and were my favorites–Childhood Christmas Memories from the Early 1960s. Being a “big sister,” to my first sister, Sonja, was part of the magic for me. She arrived in 1962.
Christmas 1965 was one of the years that I was on the Lawrence Welk Christmas show. Thanks to YouTube, I can watch this clip and see my father, brother, sister and I. There are glimpses of a family still intact. Even though I knew the “truth” about Santa, I still see wonder and joy in my 10-year-old face.
My daughter was born in September 1975. I had very little money. I bought her these two little cloth dolls–boy and girl–that were the closest thing I could afford to a Raggedy Ann and Andy. By 1978 they were so raggedy, and had been washed so many times, they were lifeless. But oh, how she loved them, nearly as much as I loved her.
Sometime in the 1980s, I went back to California to visit around the holidays. Ours had been a tense relationship over the years. That one year, she asked me if I had been to “Candy Cane Lane.” I was not quite sure what she meant, but we got into the car–just the two of us–and she drove around for us to look at the Christmas light displays in and around our area. It was one of the most magical moments I remember having with my mother in our adult years.
Christmas 1999/New Years 2000 was the season I went to England and Scotland with a backpack and stayed in youth hostels. It was probably one of my favorite Christmases ever! I was in Glasgow for Christmas Eve, and Perth, for New Years Eve. I spent nearly three weeks with strangers, and it was the most fun I think I ever had during the holidays.
Christmas 2001 was special because of a reconciliation. It was the first Christmas spent with my grandchildren, who were nearly five and two years of age at that time. I will never forget the feeling of my grandson crawling up on my lap that first Christmas. We have all missed out on so much, and I pray that more reconciliation will allow the special bonds of family to be renewed one day. But I will never forget having that magical moment
Christmas and New Years 2006/7 was the holiday I spent with my friend, Julitta, and her husband, Per-Erik, visiting them in Sweden. I arrived early in the month so I could be there to celebrate Julitta’s fiftieth birthday. I lived in Sweden with them for about five weeks, and we made so many memories. It was probably one of the best five weeks of my life. They truly are my Swedish “family.” (Julitta is from Poland; Per-Erik is a Swede.)
This year, amidst life’s challenges that seem to face so many of us, let us all find some joy and memory-making moments in this season.
I look forward to telling you of those special moments soon!!
It was a Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941, much like today, and around 8 a.m. when Japanese planes attacked the American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaii Territory. President Franklin Roosevelt went on to say that it was “a date which will live in infamy.”
That surprise attack killed more than 2,300 Americans, and it destroyed the battleship, U.S.S. Arizona, and capsized the U.S.S. Oklahoma. Other ships were sunk or damaged, and more than 300 U.S. aircraft were destroyed or damaged. The property and personal loss was immeasurable. And no one was prepared for it.
The following day Congress declared war on Japan and its allies, and in a few short days, war was declared on Germany and Italy. America entered into four years of what would become the “deadliest military conflict in history,” claiming more than 60 million lives around the world, including 420 thousand Americans, according to Wikipedia.com.
I have often thought about that day, which was 14 years before I was born. I heard the stories of war from my uncle who had served. I knew of the heartache of the battle-worn civilians who worried, and waited, and worked to support the war efforts. These stories and people are the reasons I chose to serve by joining the military at a time during the Vietnam conflict when it was no longer popular to do so.
I lived in the Pearl Harbor area for two years, 38 years after the air attack. I havestood on the Arizona Memorial, remembering those who gave their lives on that day in history, as 1,102 of them continue to “lie in state” in their sunken battleship coffin, the ocean floor their grave.
As a military musician, I have played many times on military bases for the Colors ceremony at 8:00 a.m. I can only imagine what the day would have been like for all, including those military musicians who also felt the fear and terror, as they played the National Anthem on their military station in the Hawaiian Islands before running for cover for their lives.
I think about those we send off to war, even today. Some might say that they serve (or have served), because we were attacked. Knowing what is right or wrong for us to do as a nation or as an individual is something that cannot predict until we are placed in a situation that requires us to make that decision.
We must always remember that there is a price to pay for war, just as there a price to walk away from those who attack us.
Today, on the eve of the 74th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, let us never forget those men and women, military and civilian, who lost their lives that day and in the years to follow. They are the ones who paid the ultimate price.
We all have expectations of what the Thanksgiving holidays are meant to be.
Media has certainly played a big part in creating what the “perfect ” day is supposed to be. So, when the situations in life are less than Hallmark-perfect, the feelings of loss or being “less than” can eat away at the very core of what we have come to believe is normal.
I have had many share with me over the years that they feel that “the joy of holidays has disappeared.” I am convinced that this is not uncommon. There are simply those who retreat for a few days, allowing others to believe that they are busy and happy.
Things change. Family dynamics change. People struggle to change with them, not knowing how to do things differently. They are thrown into a tailspin and nothing resembles what was or what is “supposed” to be.
I have had many years of Thanksgivings to learn to do things differently. Many of them have been fun, and filled with much love and peace. Yet, I still have not learned how to manage them well.
Life has changed drastically for family members and friends that they are learning to deal with their own expectations of what holidays and life truly mean. I suppose that I had talked myself into believing that some situations would go back to what they once were long ago. But that is my own version of what I was taught to believe today should bring.
Today, I will not host a Thanksgiving dinner. There are no definitive holiday plans or invitations to join any one else in a celebration of the holiday, or to help them in hosting such an event. Today will be like any other day.
There is not a moment where we are not surrounded with the commercial visions of sugarplums and Santa and Norman Rockwell-inspired visions of family gatherings.
Wait! Sugarplums and Santa? Aren’t we still talking about Thanksgiving? I am confused. Halloween to New Years becomes such a blur when Christmas decorations are being sold in October.
Anyone of us can fall into a pit melancholy, hurt and pain. We can feel slighted for not getting invitations. We may feel discarded by those who “should” (fill-in-the-blank).
I admit that I have fallen into that pit a time or two over the years.
Yet, I have learned that every day can be a day of thanksgiving, whether or not it is filled with turkey and stuffing, and pumpkin pie while watching football games with people you may see once a year.
But who is to say that you cannot stuff a turkey with bread, or bake a pumpkin pie in July, if you wanted?
Has Thanksgiving been reduced to simply a turkey, cranberries, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows? Is this what it has become because we have all bought into unrealistic expectations that have been shoved down our throats by society, media, and (dare I say) dysfunctional family?
Each day we wake up, there is an opportunity to give thanks for whatever we have. Is that not what the words represent? Thanks giving?
I do not know if I will eat turkey or pumpkin pie today. I might just have pancakes and eggs at my local Denny’s.
On Saturday I am meeting a group of people for a traditional dinner and game night, if I need my tryptophan-fix.
Yet, today I will reflect on many things for which I am thankful:
- LIFE itself
- People who have remained by my side to care for me since my 2012 diagnosis
- Living in a place where I am safe
- The few dear friends and family members who continue to make it a point to let me know they love me by picking up a telephone or sending me something in the mail to surprise me
- Having enough
- Opportunities presented to me when I trust in the process, others and myself
- A new life born on Tuesday–my grand niece, Rosie, at 9 lbs. 6 oz.
- Being enough
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
For those of you who celebrate today, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with much joy and love and peace that you so deserve on this day and always.
And for those of you who are sitting at home alone, maybe you will join me for those pancakes at Denny’s.
For what things are you thankful for today?
As of 2014, 7.3 percent of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives.The overall percentage varies by gender — 1.4 percent of all living female Americans have ever served in the armed services, compared to 13.4 percent of all male Americans. (Source: Veterans Administration)
Veterans are a rare breed. Each joins for a different reason. Many today do not fully understand just what it means to many of the old-timers like myself.
I joined the military because of the influence the World War II and Korean War veterans had on me. Many of the men did not agree with me, as they felt that I, as a woman, did not belong in the service.
I grew up hearing stories from people who remembered when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Others told their stories of escaping Nazi Germany. Many of them did not serve in the military, but felt indebted to those who did.
I joined the service at a time when things were changing. We were still in Vietnam. It was not sexy for anyone to join any longer. The romanticism of the “good guys going after the bad” was quickly losing its appeal.
Yet, it was ingrained in me to be of service to others, especially “owing service to my country.”
Today, I still believe in service to my country, fellow man, and others who are in need. I am not quite the idealist as I was at 18-years-old. I also see things differently than those who are coming in to the military today.
Yet, I am grateful to each and everyone who has made the commitment to join andbe ready to go into battle, if need be. And I wish to honor all veterans today on this Veterans Day–those who have served before me, with me, and also after me.
Thank you for being willing to be one of the very few who has taken the oath of service.
It matters. You matter. At least to one old vet who remembers why we serve.