Not that anyone has asked…

12 03 2010

But I’d like to explain the name of my blog (because I think it is clever and profound in its own odd little way)

For those that haven’t notice it is called “Agents and Minipearls of Grace: thoughts from the heart of a ragamuffin.”

Why?  Well, I love Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  I think it is perfect on many, many levels.  However, I couldn’t tell you acts and lines any more than I can give you citations for Scripture.  The text says it, that’s all I know.  So anyway, just at the beginning, when Hamlet and his buddies are checking out the rumors of the ghost, said ghost appears and someone says “Angels and Ministers of Grace, defend us!!”

For a while I would say that whenever struck with a frustrating or troubling or dangerous situation.  It slowly metamorphosed into a less pretentious “Angels and Minnie Pearls!!”  Because what situation could stand against an old lady in a hat (with price tag in situ) bellowing ‘HOWDEE!’ to the world?

Then I began to consider Grace.  Those of us who have received Grace are called to bring that Grace to our daily lives.  To be the agents of Grace, even if we none of us are angels.  And yes we are called to be ministers but that seemed redundant.  And truth be told, I don’t like the Grand Ol Opry.  So I thought more on Minnie Pearl.  And a picture came to my mind of a necklace.

A pearl necklace whose pearls are graduated, with small ones at the ends and larger ones in the middle.  The ones on the end would be mini-pearls.  It came to me, as I thought on my life, that really even my most profound, deepest experiences of God’s Grace are just the smallest pearls on the necklace.

The tiniest pearls of God’s grace are life-altering to the point that the idea of experiencing one of the larger pearls…terrifies me.  The shattering “wreckless, raging fury that they call the Love of God” has visited my life.  It has shaken me to my core and indelibly marked me.  AND YET…and yet, I know that I have only touched the edges of what it means to love God and to be loved in return.

When we stop to think that the moments of Grace, the times of awareness that we humans have of God are just that: moments and times.  Our glimpses are just snapshots.  The reality of the ever-present, all consuming…the heighth and depth and breadth of  the love of God, the presence of things wished for and actuality of things unseen, they are beyond our ken.

God gives us His Grace in mini-pearls, so that we can grasp it and so that we can acknowledge that there are more, larger pearls we have yet to receive.

Astounded & Amazed

01 11 2019

Silenced by God’s wondrous grace.

As I wrote last,  I’ve been facing a financial crisis.  My transition from one job to another hit a delay — in fact,  I’m still waiting to hear that I am able to start. I’m still facing not having a paycheck until December first.

 

I have dealt with both confidence and fear as I wonder how this will work out. Looking for the miraculous rescue… And the story of the man on the roof in a flood came to mind.  The man who turned away 3 practical demonstrations of aid because he was waiting for God to save him. When he succumbed to the flood,  he challenged God saying “I trusted you to save me!”  God replied “I sent help three times,  what more do you want?”

 

In my own case,  God’s assistance has been both eminently practical and divinely compassionate.

  • My second job at the winery has given me extra shifts as I wait for my primary to start.
  • Calls to my creditors have resulted in deferred payments with enough time to get my feet under me.
  • My church has come together to offer me funds toward gas and groceries

And then when the winery ran out of extra shifts for me,  it coincided perfectly with the onset of what may be the flu.

In short,  I remain Speechless: grateful and blessed by the provision of God and the Church.

Speechless

27 10 2019
I’m being set up for having an incredible testimony to offer… actually I already do but God’s grace is on the increase.  Quick recap so far: in November of 2017 I escaped a very abusive marriage. Because of Texas law,  I wound up with a bunch of debt and not a great deal of spousal support. I found a position that would double my income but entailed moving from Dallas to DC.  God made that happen this past March. Doors flew open  and the way was made.
Unfortunately the job that brought me here was not something that could be long term.  And again God made a way with a new position with better benefits and an increase in income and also a weekend job.  And then the wheels came off.
First I realized that because of the difference in pay calendars I was looking at a half paycheck on 30 Oct and a half on the 15th of November.  I wasn’t sure how that would work.
Then I got a call at 4 on Tuesday the 22nd telling me I could not start my new position as planned the next morning.  The issue? My fault entirely.  When I was divorced,  I was returned to my maiden name.  I did not want to continue wearing the name of my abuser.  And yet…i could not being myself to go to the social security office and drivers license bureau to do the actual paperwork because that was shooting the deadbolt on the closed door of my marriage and as bad as it was, it hurt because of what it should have been.
So since my new job requires clearance,  until I get my id’s updated I cannot begin work.   Social security was easy but the DMV wants the new SS card before they’ll process the license.  So it looks like at best I won’t start until the first and therefore won’t have a paycheck after 30 October until the first of December.
I don’t mind telling you I initially panicked.  I thought I’d throw up.  But suddenly I felt peace and the chorus of Steven Curtis Chapman’s song Speechless was on my lips.
“I am speechless,  astonished and amazed.  I am silenced by your wondrous grace.  You have saved me you have raised me from the grave.  I am speechless in your presence now,  I’m astounded as I consider how you have shown us a love that leaves us speechless”
And as i continue in this,  I ricochet between fear and confidence. I’ve joked to my sons that at this rate I will only have my sanity, my dog, and my faith left at the end of this journey — and weirdly that’s ok. God has now pushed me to let go of the last bit of my past dreams I was holding on to by not getting my ids done– pulling me from the comfort of Egypt.
 I’m blessed because my second job has made space for me to pick up extra hours but it’s a service job so very low hourly plus tips.  I have no idea how this month is going to work without God’s radical provision.  But God reminds me that if i trust and believe,  He is willing and able to give me far beyond all I can ask or imagine.
As I told the young lady i prayed with this morning,  I need to say aloud that I believe and have confidence that God will make a way even if i can’t see it and have no idea how it can be done.  And I need to praise Him that I am no longer a slave to fear,  I am a Child of God.  And God has a soft spot for ragamuffins like me.
I am asking you,  and through you,  the church to join with me in prayer and expectation.  God is remaking me. He will make a way.  I can’t wait to see what He does next and I’m grateful for my journey so far.

Ragamuffin Writes

17 08 2019

Ever wish you had someone who could take your writing and make it sing?  Or rework it to ensure that it was clear, concise, and logical?  I am told I have a gift in these areas.  You can hire me if you’d like:

https://www.fiverr.com/share/0YQVA

 

Extraordinarily Present

01 08 2019
A new friend used that phrase to describe an early morning encounter with a cashier at McDonald’s.  “It was too early in the morning still to have become jaded by all the people that will take him for granted and be rude to him today?”

Yesterday evening I had had the wonderful opportunity to visit with a colleague after work but realized as I went to go home that I had left my book at the office, a circumstance both silly and traumatic.

Traumatic because I’m at a really good part in the book and was looking forward to continuing both yestereve and this morning. Reading makes the commute go faster and allows me the ability to tune out the constant buzz of the world around me.

Silly because the book is in part about being a member of community and moving through this world in light of the now and not yet Kingdom. So not advocating escape from or tuning out the world at all, at all. Also silly because part of what I’ve found to enjoy about DC, as you, Dear Reader, may have noticed, is observing the community around me.

Not having my book should encourage me to practice not only what it preaches but the idea of being Extraordinarily Present.

What does being Extraordinarily Present look like?  I think it calls to mind openness, observation, authenticity, and acceptance.
Openness to receive the world around us, to be aware of the warp and weft, the ebb and flow of each moment and series of moments.
Observation of the circumstance, the terroir that created the glass of life you now hold.  Looking beyond the surface to the whys, the whats, the whos.  Can you look at a person’s face and body language and put a name to the dominant emotion they are displaying?  Can you then alter your stance toward them with a compassionate eye?
And can you give that same compassionate eye to yourself?  Are you aware of what you are displaying in a moment?  How has your circumstance dictated how you approach the world and what the world sees in you?  Is it your best, truest self?  Or is it the “light & momentary troubles” of your life (See 2nd Corinthians 4 for definition) taking the foreground?
You, Dear Reader, are so much more than what you do or have done, what is being or has been  done to you.  You are more than your circumstance, whether you are in front or behind the McDonald’s cash register, whether first thing in the morning or last thing at night. You at your most authentic are Beloved, Created, Known, and Accepted by the Creator Covenant God.  The question is can you be that to yourself as well?
When you are able to accept yourself where you are on your journey, when you are open to what the world brings, when you observe the community in which you move, and when you seek the authentic in yourself and those around you, then you can be Present, Extraordinarily Present in your own life and the lives of those around you.

Perspective

14 07 2019

As I was riding home on the Metro late Friday, looking around at the myriad of other passengers from all walks and stages of life, I began to think. There was a group of moms with a young baby, three older women who’d been to a rally on behalf of refugees/immigrants, a security guard, a group of Hispanic blue collar workers, mostly drunk carousers, and a couple one of whom was of indeterminate gender.

It had been a long evening for me and I was tired. Bone weary, as I told my mom before I even went in to work that night. My ankle ached all the way up to my knee.

Naturally there were no seats, so I was standing–and those who know me know coordination is not one of my gifts. I was in full self pity mode. And then God decided to take me out of myself.

Micah 6:8 popped into my head and I began to think. What would doing justly look like Right Now?
What would loving mercy look like Right Now?
What would walking humbly with God look like Right Now?

I didn’t really have an answer beyond choosing to be present and see the people before me as gifts. And getting the grump off my face. Recognizing that I am blessed.

Perspective shift. So today as I go about the things I have to do, I will continue to ask those questions and answer them as best a Ragamuffin can.

Broken Things

27 06 2019
As we wander into any relationship, there are lines that have to be crossed.  Some people hold the secrets and hope to delay the other’s finding out about it.  The reasoning is that perhaps the level of attachment and the level of trust will be such to weather any resulting storm.
Some people jump in immediately.  The rationale is  that if we talk about and venture into the realm of those dark spots in our histories should we be found lacking and the relationship end, perhaps it would not shatter us further. Perhaps the end would come before the heart committed too deeply. (It won’t surprise most, that I am in the latter camp)
 Either way, we trust that sharing our broken pieces will not result in a broken heart… And occasionally, especially when you are commencing a relationship later in life the sharing of our brokenness is a mutual moment.  It can serve to draw two people together.  The question that must be dealt with when it happens early in a relationship is: has this created a false sense of intimacy?
As we talk to one another, we hear underneath the grinding together of the broken bits.  The veneer of matter of factness covering the pain of the memory. And the refraction of the light of Grace bouncing, dancing off the repaired soul.At least we want to believe that. Because we, too, have broken bits. Some because of choices we made and some were done to us. Done by trusted individuals, ones we believed the best of.  We want to believe that the one Who is intended to Be will win out eventually from the mask one hides behind.

Sometimes we choose to fear people who resemble the ones in our past who have harmed us.  But it is hard if not impossible to mass people into one label. So a person may share gender, eye color, hair color, race, socio-economic status, etc with the one or ones who have cause us harm in the past BUT… It is the individual who matters. It is knowing the individual that allows you to build community.

We have to choose that we can trust the word of someone’s testimony, the depth of their belief, the reality of their repentance and redemption. We choose to believe others and accept the person they were because of the person they are.

And they choose to believe that of us.

I’m very much unique. And very much a work in progress. I know who I am and more whose I am. I don’t group or label easily. My broken bits have been touched by the super glue of God’s Grace. There are still some weak joins. Some rough edges. More frailty than I want to believe.

My broken pieces have been placed back together and sealed by a love that transcends the mundane. I believe yours, Dear Reader, have as well. And perhaps, just perhaps they’ve been assembled in such a way as to fit together on our journey.

Waiting for To Go

27 06 2019

Virginia Woolf once stated that every novel begins with an old lady in the corner across. Perhaps I hover on the edge of a novel?

At the bus stop today i spoke with a lady who also waited.  She has lived in DC for 50 years and recently retired from the State Department.  She’d been a Stay At Home Mom who worked part time as a substitute teacher, librarian, and bus driver.  She had occasion to apply for the job at State and to her shock, they gave her the job immediately…because they recognized the skill set.

It is an interesting thing to suddenly discover that the myriad of talents and abilities you have cultivated over the years have coalesced into a skill set that is desirable for employers.  It surprised her and turned into a long term career.  My own experience is comparable, except that I’m in the hopeful phase of the long-term.

As my journey continues, I boarded the bus to find a young boy with scratches on his leg.  It reminds me of my boys in their youth.  “Soccer?” I wanted to ask.  However, he had earbuds in and would never have heard me.  More connected and ever more apart.

Tall lady with lovely red hair and a strong sense of her self as she balances hands free to read her book. Until her flip flops fail her and she tumbles into the young man behind her. Who reacts almost not at all.

A woman gets off and as she departs in front of me I see silver strands dancing among the dark curls if the rest of her hair. And it speaks to me of joy, especially as I see her smile as she walks away.

A young lady in a scrub top, Disney inspired, yoga type pants and improbably tie dyed tennis shoes.

Which draws my eye to the elegantly dressed lady with simple flats adorned with large crystals at the toe.

And as I walked past the White House and treasury building, the Exceedingly Impressive Building on my left had a woman sleeping in the doorway.  Gut punch.  And today’s novella ends with a lady of indeterminate age watching from a corner, unwatched unnoticed by the rest of the world,

 

 

#MeToo…Now What? Self-Care

25 05 2019

As I’ve said before, most of us got out of our bad situations without being fully prepared for what lay ahead.  There is not only the financial stress but emotional.  Face it, even if your situation was awful, there was a level of comfort–it was ‘normal’.  And now you are in a place very Not Normal.   The emotions run the gamut from guilt, lingering anger, fear, sorrow, and joy (accompanied by guilt).

When I was trying to sort out what to do about my marriage, I sought out a therapist.  She looked at me about 10 minutes into my first session and said “You already know what you need to do.  You just need to give yourself permission.”  She asked me to go home and make a list of 10 things that I wouldn’t give ground on.

The irony struck me.  My ex and I met on eHarmony and one of the things they had you do back then was compile a list of Must Haves and Can’t Stands.  The glitch in the eHarmony model is that it is contingent on the Match being honest about his/her stance as well.  The glitch in what my therapist wanted me to do was that it was contingent on me being truthful with myself.

As I made my list, I became aware of all the things on which I had already surrendered territory.  The things I had once held dear and thought were non negotiables I had not only not negotiated on, I’d yielded without a fight.  Things as simple as no longer decorating for Christmas and as complex as how I let him treat the children–and me.

And I was almost to the point of giving myself permission to leave.  As I’ve told you before, he himself handed me the last piece of that puzzle.

I should have continued with that therapist but the only insurance I had was his and I really couldn’t afford the co-pay.  I should have gone anyway because after the divorce, I acted out and made some very not-so-smart choices jumping back into the dating pool.  I’ve since climbed out and dried off and decided I need to give myself time and space to heal. I should be in therapy now to cope with the depressions, the flash backs, and the anger surges.  Again, I need time to heal but maybe not as much space.

Part of self-care is learning to trust others–while giving yourself enough honesty to recognize when you aren’t able to, not because of the other person but because of your past.  Isolation is not healthy.  Withdrawal from society is a continuation of what your abuser did to you and by doing that, you give the abuser the win.

Next in my journey is learning to step out and do the things I’ve been wanting to do.  The last several years of my marriage I withdrew from society, my anxiety made it difficult for me to do anything. I was afraid.  The dance of appeasement I did in my relationship had me second guessing every aspect of interpersonal encounters and, of course, fearing that I would make a wrong decision.

One area I have been fortunate in is that, other than the occasional Netflix binge, I haven’t developed any secondary obsessions or addictions.  I know from my experience working with bariatric surgery patients that losing the normalcy of one condition can lead to coping by use of another. (side bar: this is what my mom thinks happened to my spouse.  He lost the security of being the fat, funny guy and took refuge in the bottle and in sex.)

You are free from your abuser but you may allow yourself to become, let’s call it ‘obedient’ to another manipulator, whether it is drugs, drinking, socializing, exercising, religion, or even social justice.  It is a mechanism to continue to hide and not confront who you are, what happened, why it happened, and where you can go from here.  Everything in moderation.  Don’t allow yourself to be ruled by any one thing.

A major part of the healing process is getting to the point where you can look over your past and see it as a topological map.  See the hills and valleys, the lovely lakes and the sheer cliffs.  I can see that there were moments of true love and absolute beauty in my marriage as well as times of fear and darkness.  I can see that I am not responsible for his actions but I am responsible for my reactions.  I own some of the fault.  And when it comes to my kids…

Well, as I said part of the gamut of emotions is guilt and I also said I still need to work things through.  But healing will come.

 

DC Reflections 2019– Through the eyes of a newly arrived ragamuffin

15 05 2019

12 March Washington DC observation: the impracticality of one’s foot wear correlates directly to the distance of one’s commute to or from the station.

15 March

Just watched a metro bus pass a stopped school bus.

There’s a schedule to be kept!

18 March

I had grandiose plans of frying up bacon, dicing taters & onions & peppers into a nice hash, scrambling some eggs, and crafting some lovely breakfast burritos to have all week.

I couldn’t find tortillas at the grocery. Not in the breads, not with the bakery, no where.

In Dallas, they’re in at least 3 sections and on 2 end caps in every store, whether that store sells food or not. “Oh, you’re here to buy a couch? Great. Can I get you corn or flour tortillas with that?”

I’m lost. Profoundly displaced.

20 March

Stuck on an over crowded metro and notice that the group next to me is speaking German. I pass the time listening to a conversation I cannot understand but love the sound of. And I notice the little differences between them and their American Cousins. They are all nicely if simply dressed. Classic cuts to their clothing. One gentleman’s overcoat was just gorgeous. All of them, male and female, had short, neat, unpolished nails. The ladies wore minimal make up. And their shoes were practical for metro riding and walking.

Nice start to the day

21 March

Still watching footwear on the metro.

Want ankle high wellies

25 March

More Metro observations:

While electronic devices are plentiful, the number of honest to God books is delightful. There was a Walter Mosely novel, a textbook on Foreign Relations, and Mrs Obama’s latest right near me and more beside.

And newspapers. There’s a gentleman outside Fort Totten station who hands them out whilst encouraging us (loudly) to have a “Great Day ON PURPOSE!”

I met his eye today and wished him the same in return.

26 March

Came out of my alley this morning to see my bus departing the stop. As I walked to the corner, the next one arrived… And departed just as I got across the street. 10 minute wait for the next one. Glad I wore gloves!

Got to the metro station and to the platform to see my train pull away from the station. But when the next arrived, there was space enough to find a seat.

It’s all very amusing. And a very good day.

27 March

He really did try to tell me.

Usually when I leave Seamus wags me good bye from his perch on the couch. Today he walked me to the door and followed me outside.

I got him back in, locked the door and headed for the stop. Only to realize I’d neglected my phone.

Ran back across the yard, unlocked the door and barreled into the house, where he stood with an “I told you” look on his face.

Found my phone. He sighed and retreated to the couch. I headed back on my way

Always listen to your dog…


Metro observations:

The escalators sound like a Jr high orchestra horn section trying to prep for class. Squeaky, distracted, out of tune, and you’re pretty sure there’s some pb&j stuck in the ‘keys’ somewhere.

Either that or the makers of WD-40 are missing a huge advertising opportunity.

29 March

I got flirted with on the bus this morning.

Hispanic guy, beautiful brown eyes, infectious smile, and relentless in his pursuit of me.

I think he was about 18 months old.

31 March

My smoke alarms went off at 11:50 this evening. And apparently I need to update my renter’s insurance policy because because there is in fact a sprinkler system.

There does not appear to actually be a fire. No gas leaks. My landlord who lives upstairs is visiting family in France. He did answer my text and let me know an alarm tech will be out ASAP.

Once my ears stop ringing, everything will be grand.

1 April

Metro observations:

As I stood waiting on the bus, I watched a beautiful tortoiseshell cat approach the street. She looked at the cars, picked her moment, and shot across the street and up into a yard. Clearly she’s done this before.

I was approached by one of the locals who remembered me from my wait on Friday. Her name is Denise, she is a native Washingtonian, has lived in the neighborhood for 50 years, and has a personality ridden pooch named Gucci. Denise was very concerned I’d neglected my hat. Gucci was in a fabulous ensemble: an orange corduroy jacket with faux horn buttons and a hood.

3 April

Metro observations: (on seeing a doe pick her way down the hill behind Fort Totten)

From the platform. My train is late, thank God. I might have missed her.

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10 April

I’m officially a city dweller. I just bought lunch from a street cart!

___________________

Someone asked me for directions this morning. And I knew the right ones!

Of course it helped that they didn’t ask for street names.
And that they were looking for a cathedral.

____________________________

Why am I still up?

Well, because God has a soft spot for pyrophobic ragamuffins. Upstairs had a water leak that decided to come in to my apartment through the smoke alarm. Pro tip: if your alarm sizzles like a pan of bacon leash the dog, go outside, and call the fire department. Especially if it also starts smoking.
I’m having another glass of wine

13 April

So apparently all the girls my age keep their metro card etc on a lanyard…

Trying to decide if I want to be a joiner or a rebel

30 April

As I put on my shoes, I double knotted the laces. I said to Seamus I felt like a kindergartner.

However if it stops me having to kneel down in the Metro or on the sidewalk to tie my shoes (or, God forbid, getting my laces caught in the escalators), I’ll take it–and the accompanying post lunch nap!

__________________________________

Mused to myself as I hurried to the stop that it would be my luck to be crossing the street directly in front of my bus.

Prophetic. Bless the driver for opening the door for me mid road.

2 May

I do try to not complain about the public transportation because the drivers are doing a difficult and perilous job and I’m grateful.

But I do wonder what genius decided fabric covered seats on buses were a good idea. Mystery stains and odors. And it isn’t even that hot out yet.

9 May

Saw a mom with her two boys on the train today. In her bag was a copy of Sandlot.

So many memories of watching that with my boys. I can quote it in my sleep… And probably do.

Incredibly grateful for the blessing of motherhood.

13 May

My life should be a musical. Got on the bus today with a young lady who could be a Disney princess, modernized and urbanized. Yellow boots, stockings, skirt, adorable coat and a polka dot umbrella. Reddish hair in a bun and very clever glasses. She was reading a variation on What to expect… And you could see every mother and grandmother on the bus smiling quietly while appraising her.

And next to me a loud lady was having what I took to be an animated conversation with the girl what had bright green hair sitting opposite her. Turns out, they were each on their respective phones. As the bus filled up so did the airspace with conversations–all one sided. The 21st century version of the the Music Man’s Pick a Little, Talk a Little.

We waded off the bus and I found on the platform a young lady with a vine cutting in a glass of water. A consummate optimist. Both in keeping the vine whole in the crush of the train and in not spilling her water.

And for a city scape, D.C. is actually quite pretty in a spring rain.

As I returned to the train this afternoon, an exceedingly well fed pigeon hopped out of the shrubbery directly in front of me, causing me to stutter step and beg his pardon. His response was very De Niro.

And there was a band outside the train station. No idea what they were playing but really, is live music ever wrong? Really?

14 April

Oh DC!
For reasons too complex to go into, at 5 this afternoon I had to run to the UPS store to buy a box and bubble wrap for work.
I found it on Google maps, it was supposed to be a 5 minute walk. Off I went.
Halfway there sirens began to blare. Soon headed past new in the opposite way came several motorcycle officers, a couple cars, and then came the black SUVs– one with US flags mounted on the hood. Trailing was a large black box truck that seemed ominous.
“Hail to the chief, he’s the one we all say hail to…” (Some movie about ex presidents) started running through my head.
I found where the UPS store was supposed to be… It wasn’t… Round the block. It was all hotel. Found a friendly face with a name tag. UPS was in the hotel on the opposite side of the building, on the second floor across the mezzanine.
So in I go, across the marble floors, past the myriad of conventioneers, up the stairs and into a private party that had closed the mezzanine. Back down stairs to the concierge. Nope, no other way to UPS but through the party. “You gotta do what you gotta do” she said.

Up the stairs, wove my way through the business folk and their drinks & hors d’oeuvre, found UPS. And a sign that said “Out delivering packages, call for assistance”
Sigh. I called. He came back. They didn’t have the box I needed.
Sigh back to the office.

And then on my way home I got hugged by a homeless man. He’s easily the friendliest person I’ve met in DC. We say hi and bump knuckles everyday when I’m walking back to the train. Today he asked for hug and I hugged him. He always has his cup for spare change. It’s silly but I don’t want to put money in his cup for fear of changing the dynamic–i also rarely actually have cash. I’ve considered making an extra sandwich to give him but don’t know if he’d accept it.
He reminds me that but for the grace of God and the love of family and friends… So I may make a extra sandwich tonight.

15 April

The Box saga continues…  I rode the metro one stop past the usual and trekked to the UPS store that was in between that stop and my office.  At that store I purchased a 2 ft x 2 ft heavy duty box.  For those who pay attention to such things, that’s 48 inches by 48 inches.  I am 63 inches.  My wingspan is a little less than that I’m guessing. I carried this box and the accompany bag with bubble wrap (plus my computer bag and lunch box) 3/4 of a mile, through morning traffic, to my office.

Much to the amusement of passers-by and the concerned looks of a gaggle of construction workers. My elbows and shoulders are still complaining.

And then on the way home, I nearly walked with a co-worker but I made myself a promise this morning when I made my lunch.

I found my friend.  I learned his name begins with M and he let me pick the rest.  I said to him, “Since I haven’t anything to put in your cup, would you let me give you a sandwich? It is ham and cheese.”

He told me he doesn’t usually eat ham but since I made it for him, he’d make an exception.  And if he didn’t eat it, he’d give it to someone else who would.  And he hugged me again.

Today has been a good day.

 

 

 

#MeToo…Now What? Stepping out

12 05 2019

If you have finally taken the important step of walking away from your abuser, THANK YOU!  The world deserves you to be a part of it.  Simply by standing up and saying “I do not deserve the way I am being treated” you have taken an incredible step.  And if you, like me, discover that your Life After is full of challenges–emotional, physical, financial– you never anticipated, I want you to know you are not alone.

I left.  In a whirlwind of a week, I went from a 3500 square foot home, 4 sons, 4 dogs, a husband, and $360,000 shared salary to a one bedroom 3rd floor walk up, no husband, 2 dogs, and 2 sons….and a salary less than 10% of what I’d been used to.

The emotional devastation of having lost my marriage and my step sons is still that sore tooth I try not to touch.  More immediately was coming to grips with my financial situation.  Years of spending and living beyond our means, in addition to the student loans for our sons that were in my name only, had me deeply in debt.

I spent the summer working and struggling.  I had to ignore my creditors–student loan and credit card.  I paid only my rent, utilities, car insurance, and car payment. And toll fees…Oy the toll fees.  The only piece of decent advice my attorney gave me was that the worst the people I owed money to could do was to ding my credit.  My credit score is lower than I thought was humanly possible but by not paying those bills, I could manage my day to day expenses.

My company decided my position was redundant.  The job did not pay me enough to do more than survive but it did at least do that.  It was a basic administrative job in an office.  All of a sudden I needed to parlay that role into a position that would make paying my bills and surviving possible.

After spending the bulk of my marriage as a stay at home mom and then working low paying, part time positions as the kids got older, my resume was a patchwork and my confidence low. A friend put me in touch with an HR Director who viewed assisting people in reshaping their job hunts as a ministry.  The questions he asked me helped immensely in focusing my search.  And it helped me see what I was not only capable of doing but already doing.

And then I tightened my belt and paid close to $200 to have my resume rebuilt by a professional.  The result was a power house resume with just enough of my own quirks to make it my own.  For example, the header trumpeted me as “Office Manager, Editor, Wine Educator.”  Because my oldest sons were completely on their own and independent and the two youngest had shut me out of their lives, I was able to open my job search coast to coast.

I also really thought about where I wanted to work.  The reality was that my skill set was going to land me in an administrative role which was never my dream.  I had dreams of teaching, of writing, of leading, of being an agent of change.  In addition to the usual suspects: LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, GlassDoor, etc, I found a job board called IdeaList.  The cleverness of the name appealed to me.  I found these jobs were all non-profit or government positions.  These had the potential to be listings that had jobs I could do in organizations that were effecting change and making a difference.  I also applied on WineJobs.com because Why Not?

I eventually wound up interviewing for not one but 2 jobs in Washington, DC, approximately 1800 miles from where I was.  I landed them both and the one I truly wanted fought to get me.  In the space of less than a month, I turned in my notice, planned a move, found a rental and drove to my new world.  Also knowing what my salary would be (almost double what I had been making), I reached out to student loans and got all my loans consolidated.  I also did a little research and found Beyond Finance.  They are negotiating my credit card debt for me.  The payments for the two of those now combine to absorb the little bit of support I receive.

I am now in a one bedroom basement apartment that luckily came furnished and with all utilities–and a landlord gracious enough to offer my a chance in spite of my abysmal credit.  I am working at a job I truly enjoy.  But I am only barely surviving so I’m taking a job on Friday nights and hoping for a 3rd job on Sundays.  With those in place, I will begin to move from surviving to actually starting to thrive.

Here are my takeaways:

  1. Evaluate your situation and decide what you will need to do.
  2. Be prepared to make sacrifices.  Prioritize what needs to happen: taking the hit on my credit has been awful but it allowed me to pay the immediate and put together enough to get my resume revamped.
  3. Ask for assistance.  Find out if someone in your circle of friends or at church or your current position can talk to you about your resume and job history.
  4. Decide where your direction is.  Can you manage to move beyond your current community?  Can you change job arenas?
  5. Utilize the resources that are out there.  No one will come and offer help.  It would be stellar if they would but that’s Hollywood.  You are on your own to find the programs that can help you.  If your credit card debt is outrageous, do some research. Know your options.  Debt Consolidators are usually not a wise move.  I do recommend Beyond Finance.  They are BBB approved, yada yada. They do not consolidate your debt per se, they simply negotiate what you owe to a semi-reasonable level and you pay, via their services, what you owe.
  6. If you can’t manage your debt, speak to someone regarding a bankruptcy. A chapter 7 will relieve your unsecured debt but it will be a massive ding to your credit.  (I considered it but we had done both a 7 and 13 while I was married so the ding would have been Big Ben magnitude. My lawyer and my Ex both also included verbiage in the decree that if I did declare bankruptcy, I would lose what little support I receive.  He can, I can’t. Ironic chuckle)