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Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

What a wonderful occasion to think of our mothers, all they have been to us, and all they have taught us.

For me, every day is a little like Mother’s Day as my mother is not living. So each day I’m reminded of something she stood for, something she taught me, or something she said or did and I pause to remember her and her teachings and example that prepared me to live an unexpected life. I can’t help but wonder how differently things could have turned out for me had my mother not prepared me as excellently as she did. My story could certainly have turned out very differently. But thanks to my mom, I’m heading toward a happy ending. I’m indebted to her.

Today I remembered many good women I am indebted to: the mother who gave me life, the mother who raised me, aunts who have been mothers to me, and good friends who have filled in the voids that periodically surface in my life as I carry on without parents and in the past year, as I’ve pressed forward very alone.

Last Mother’s Day, my life had fallen apart. Less than two months before, I’d found out my spouse had been running a ponzi scheme for most of our marriage and would be heading to prison for several years, leaving me alone to provide for and raise our four children. We were divorcing. I was entering the work force for the first time in 18 years. Many changes hitting and all at the same time. For awhile, every day was more difficult than the previous one. It took herculean effort on my part to get out of bed every day and face what had become my life. But I did it.

However, last year, good friends made it a little less of a challenge.

Friends coordinated a special Mother’s Day for me–a bright spot in an otherwise very overwhelming existence. Many friends chipped in to the effort financially on my behalf. They made the day unforgettable for me.

The day began with an unexpected delivery of homemade cinnamon rolls, a box of See’s candy, the most beautiful arrangement of two-three dozen pink roses, and a card to me from many friends. They also delivered a huge, delicious meal to us as well.

Another friend took my daughter shopping so she could purchase some things for me for Mother’s Day.

Frankly, my life was in such turmoil I didn’t give much thought to Mother’s Day 2009. I probably was just hoping to make it through another day. I was too busy to think about it. And I was too devastated to expect anything special that day.

He was still in our home, living with us, we had four children together yet He did not mention one word about the day until evening. I noticed. So did my children. He came to me after it was dark and apologized for not having money to buy me a gift but said, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

He was sorry he couldn’t buy me a present? THAT was why he couldn’t even say the words, “Happy Mother’s Day?” until the day was past? I couldn’t believe it. I told him I never had been about the money and he knew that. I told him words didn’t require any currency. I reminded him I’d asked for very few (if any) material things as gifts in the course of our entire marriage and the only gift I’d ever requested was a letter of appreciation–which doesn’t cost anything but time and effort.

He acknowledged all of that and walked away. I shook my head, again, wondering if I’d ever known the stranger who was now living in my home.

So if you want to make a mother’s day, in my opinion, take a moment and write a letter of appreciation to a mother you love or admire. I promise, you’ll add to the joy of her day, and who knows, it just might help her over an unexpected event in her own life.

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” ~Albert Schweitzer

Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers, women and friends who rekindle my spirit. How grateful I am for their influence in my life. May I follow their good example and be that to others in my own small way.

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Miracle Mail

I am terrible at remembering to collect my mail each day.  I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because my former spouse always got our mail, so it has been over 20 years since I’ve had to collect my mail.

But one year ago that changed. Due to my spouse’s crimes, the revelation that He had been running a ponzi scheme for 15 years, His prison sentence looming, our pending divorce, and other traumas…I took over everything–including the mail collection.

Each day, it seemed, hate mail arrived. I was shocked that we received it, and even more surprised at where it came from: total strangers, all across the U.S. It became so frequent for awhile there that one day I realized it had been one week since we had received a piece of hate mail!

An occasion to remember.

However, not all of the mail was hateful.  For the first two-three months of the nightmare, other anonymous mail arrived, the complete opposite of hate mail. I would open an envelope to find a gift card to a grocery store, Target, Costco or WalMart.  Other weeks, I would open an envelope to find some cash.  Other times it would be words of encouragement or an uplifting thought I really needed at that moment and that helped me continue on when the day had been particularly disastrous.

I called it Miracle Mail. It was such a blessing to me and to my children. It helped us survive, not just emotionally, but physically.

Thank heaven for those who “never suppress a generous thought.”

We were getting by on very little money as all of our accounts had been frozen. The cash I had I withdrawn on March 18, I had put in my wallet and then kept my wallet with me at all times. I didn’t let my spouse know where the money was because I was afraid he’d steal it! Trust was non-existent. (I guess it shows you may choose to allow a stranger to remain in your home for your children’s sake and because you feel it is the kind thing to do, but that doesn’t mean you trust Him.  At all.)

Any time my children needed lunch money, etc…I pulled a small amount of cash out of my wallet and used it.  I didn’t dare look at it, because to see the minimal amount, and to see that minimal amount dwindling, would have added even more stress to a life that was already bursting at the seams with it!

I remember getting down to the last $20, and then finally to the last $1, and wondering what we were going to do…and then an anonymous piece of mail, miracle mail, containing a gift card or cash would arrive at the very moment I needed it. There are some amazing, generous, kind, and charitable people. They literally saved us.  And of course, most of it was anonymous so I had no idea who to thank.

We also lived off food we had stored for emergencies, so although we weren’t eating our favorite things, we were able to purchase less at the store and still had food to eat. And, as with everything else, we got by with a little help from our friends.

A friend stopped by one day and unloaded a car load of food items from Costco–”fun” food, as she called it, that my children hadn’t seen in awhile like fruit snacks, crackers, Mickey Mouse-shaped chicken nuggets, cookies, etc…THAT was a highlight of the nightmare experience for my children! It was like Christmas in our kitchen!  They were thrilled to enjoy, once again, some treats they remembered from their former life.

Other friends called when they were heading to the store and asked if I needed anything.  If I didn’t need anything, they usually dropped food off anyway. Other times, they picked up what I needed and more.

And many women from my church delivered meals to us as well.  I think we had one entire month of dinners brought to our home by good women who were concerned about us and wanted us to not only have food to eat, but to feel loved. They delivered dinner every night until I finally asked them to stop–I couldn’t move my food storage and felt like we needed to use it up and provide for ourselves as much as we were able to.

Another friend brought us huge, delicious Sunday dinners EVERY SINGLE SUNDAY until we moved out of state.

True, we may have been hated by some, but we were also SO LOVED by so many.  That compassion, and Miracle Mail, got us through.

Snow Day

I remember snow days in Colorado were always a celebration. Cozy, unexpected family time; days filled with sledding and hot cocoa; relaxing by the fire; snuggling on the couch.  But the snow day we had in the spring of 2009 was completely different.  It just felt cold and alone.

That snow day I saw what an outcast I had become. Even regarding snow!

Every single driveway of ALL of our neighbors had been plowed, except ours.  (We hadn’t shoveled our snow in years–a neighbor with a snow plow on his truck, or a neighbor with an ATV and snowplow, always took care of it for everyone.  Not in 2009.) To make matters worse, all of the plowed snow had been piled, four feet high, at the top of OUR driveway.

A subtle message.

Aristotle was right.  ”Misfortune shows those who are not really friends.”

My son and I shoveled and shoveled the snow in an attempt to clear the driveway.  There was so much snow, snow that was that heavy, wet, spring snow, and the snow was piled so deep, we hardly made a dent in the piles although we shoveled until we felt like we’d sprinted a 10k.

My daughter was going to be late to meet her friends due to the snow situation blocking the exit from our driveway so I finally called a friend and asked her to pick my daughter up so she wouldn’t miss the activity. When her husband drove up and saw the piles of snow deposited in front of our driveway by neighbors, he was appalled! And angry.  He went home, got his snowblower, drove it over to my neighborhood and home, and cleared the snow away. (His wife told me he glared at every neighbor he saw as he did it–he was THAT disgusted by the hateful actions of our neighbors.)

That day I wrote, “I’m an outcast. But like the old song says, ‘I get by with a little help from my friends.’ Thanks, Dan.”

And truly, with good friends you’re never REALLY an outcast. Aristotle forgot to mention that while misfortune shows those who aren’t your friends, it also shows those who really are!  At a time when I felt like the biggest loser on earth and a total failure–believe me, ending up with my life at 41 1/2 years old had NOT been my life plan–I had friends who showed me otherwise.  ”The making of friends who are real friends,” said Edward Everett Hale, “is the best token we have of a man’s success in life.” If that was the measure of success, I hadn’t failed at all!

I don’t know how I would have survived my nightmare without friends.  ”A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”  (Anonymous) At a time when I felt like I had lost everything, including myself, they reminded me of who I was, what I had always been and showed me I was still me.  Me. Me PLUS the adventure of my unexpected life!

They helped me make the transition into a new chapter of my unexpected life. And although it was very hard to leave them in Colorado and begin a new life in Utah (so hard, in fact, I couldn’t say goodbye to anyone–I just drove away), how fortunate I am to have known such good people, to have been blessed with such incredible friends, that it WAS so hard to say goodbye!

My friends, old and new, help keep me going even to this day. Truly, I get by with a little help from my friends.  Don’t we all?