How Great Thou Part

How Great Thou Part

What Advice Would Your Mother Give You in Divorce?

posted by corme

We are laughing with my sister who recently had knee surgery. It is my sister, my niece and me.

“I’m weepy,” she says.

“Weepy, who says that?” laughs her daughter.

I know who says that! It was our mother.

I miss my mom. I really miss my mom through the ‘weepier’ days of divorce. And I especially miss my mom when my sister speaks her familiar language.

I often wonder and wish for the advice my mom would give me in the midst of divorcemania.

I am reminded of a conversation with my friend, “Stella.”

We are commiserating about divorce. It is a conversation of waxing and waining about our strength and weakness at a time that we need only the prior.

“My mom says that I need to put it in God’s Hands,” says Stella. “I tell my mom, Really? Don’t you think his hands are getting pretty full?”

For a brief moment I am so envious of Stella. I wish I still had my mom to turn to. I want advice. I want comfort. I want my mom.

I want to know the stellar (sorry had to put in the pun) words my mother would offer me at this time so that I can cope.

We finish our conversation and I think back to what Stella’s mom had said to her. A smile comes across my face.

The truth is my mother seldom offered concrete advice in the crisis of life. She didn’t get specific on what she thought I should do. She would only say one thing to me.

“Colleen, put it in the hands of The Lord.”

As a young girl, I always wanted more. I wanted a step by step solution.

Stella’s mother reminded me that I don’t have to wonder what my mom would tell me to do. She left me with the unifying simplicity and magnitude of prayer.

She left me with concrete advice.

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The Adjectives of Divorce

posted by corme

I am a hypocrite of my own words. I often say that writers tell what others are at times afraid to speak of.

This week I found out that even I have fear. That even I can’t bring myself to speak of certain things which are scarier to me than the emotional cost of divorce. What is scarier than the emotional cost of divorce and all of the adjectives that accompany it?

For me, it is exposing the mechanics of divorce…the legal process, the time, the cost and the ultimate fairness even with the best of counsel and how it effects our children.

I ponder the divorce adjectives that already envelop me.

Vulnerability: Will I feel even more vulnerable exposing my thoughts on the bunkmate of emotion in divorce?

Dignity: Will I feel an even greater loss of dignity if I expose the indignities of the mechanics of divorce?

Scared: Will I be even more frightened than I am now as I put myself out there above the emotional exposure of divorce?

Lonely: Will I feel even greater loneliness than divorce already gifts if I am the rebel rouser that exposes my deep,dark philosophy…that in the uglier cases divorce could be labeled, “Legalized bullying?”

So this writer finds herself in a conundrum. I find myself immersed in the adjectives of divorce. Will exposing the truth of some or all of us, further empower me or will it further reduce me?

I am not certain.

However, in my self-reflection I discovered another adjective of divorce.

One that sleeps while the others wrestle. And then, once the others are sufficiently exhausted, it rises. For it has been waiting until you needed to wake it.

It is the heavyweight that replaces the lightweights…………….It is bravery.

how-great-thou-part-3
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How Oprah Comforted Me in Divorce

posted by corme

I am sitting to write my column. It is a weepy day. A day when the side effects of divorce are difficult to stave off. I am worried about my children, about paying the bills, about a true independent future.

I take a moment to click on the Beliefnet article below. I find it difficult to pass on most quotes, nor can I pass on all things Oprah.

http://tinyurl.com/n8of5c3

Three of Oprah’s quotes speak to me:

“What God intended for you goes far beyond anything that you can imagine.”

“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”

“Where there is no struggle there is no strength.”

Oprah’s words are poetic ‘duct tape’ for my wounds. I can catch my emotional breath.

I am able to plug my emotions and absorb the warmth from my nearby fireplace. I am back in the moment rather than floundering in future worry.

I watch the attempt to replace Oprah on daytime television.

If the studios called me in for a marketing consultation I could tell them why they have been unable to capture her magic. They simply have tried to take television personalities and make them into talk show hosts. They have not taken life personalities and given them a television forum.

Oprah is a kindred spirit to the likes of Ellen and Steve Harvey. The magic not being in their television life, but rather in the strength they have gained in their personal lives. They are, “healers’ of people. They are ‘missionaries of life.” Television is simply the tool that allows their message to inspire, comfort and spread.

I write to heal. I know that words possess this strength. I hope to be a ‘missionary of life.’ I am attempting, to “turn my wounds into wisdom, my struggles into strength and know this is because what God intended for me goes beyond anything that I can imagine.”

how-great-thou-part

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Finding Your Purpose While Grieving

posted by corme

I am chatting with my friend, Crystal (as always, name changed to protect the innocent). The sadness in her voice is palpable. It is just about a week after the anniversary of her father’s death and days after returning from her brother-in-law’s funeral.

Crystal is reflective. Death brings this out in people.

I, too, am reflective because of the loss my family has suffered these past years and because I have just interviewed, Anna Whiston-Donaldson, author of “Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love.”

I reflect on a quote which I have just read.

“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer,” Zora Neale Hurston

This quote speaks to me.

These are the years that ask questions.

There is a baseline disillusionment with life that comes from losing someone young. At least that is how I feel after losing my precious nephew. The world is not as safe. Bad things do happen. There is unpredictability. I question ‘time’ and I have a new determination to make my purpose count since Matthew does not have another day to do so. I have an urgency to make things happen.

For my friend Crystal, she too, is reflective having lost her brother-in-law many years too soon. He was not an old man. He had not yet experienced the privilege of retirement and of spending luxurious time with his family. He was a giver. He volunteered and not the occasional type of volunteering, but the kind where you show up every week, at the same time to give of yourself.

“I find myself asking, ‘How am I living and loving the people I am touching while on this earth?’” says Crystal. “What am I doing here and what should I be doing that I am not doing?”

Crystal tells me that she feels as if she needs to start volunteering again, get involved and contribute more.

I reflect for a moment.

My thoughts go back to my uncle, Father Pat.

I called him one afternoon to tell him I wanted to volunteer in a soup kitchen in Washington, D.C. After all, if I was going to give, I wanted to give big, right?
“Colleen, why don’t you volunteer in your own backyard?” he said

“Oh,” I responded, quite deflated. There just didn’t seem to be quite the need in suburbia as there did a big city.

I tell Crystal this story. I tell her how I later learned Father Pat’s wisdom. I needed to be in my own backyard in order to live an authentic and consistent life of giving. Certainly, I could stretch outside its limits from time to time. However, it was the most immediate place where love, kindness, generosity and respect should filter first.

Crystal and I are searching for our purpose. The one that will make us feel that we are honoring God, ourselves and especially the love’s in our lives that we have lost.

We agree that we have no immediate answers.

For these are the years that ask questions.

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Rare Voice: A Mother’s Loss and Love

posted by corme

My door bell rings. I open the door and find my friend, Lisa standing on the stoop.

“The book I ordered you arrived,” she says.

Lisa hands me the book. I thank her. She is thoughtful as always. We say goodbye. I close the door and head into my family room. I turn on the light and fall into the sofa. The night turns dark outside the window on this Saturday night. My hands grip the book. I open it.

The words pull me in though down deep I am afraid to read them. They are the words of a mother. A mother who speaks raw and eloquently. A mother who tells of the moments we hold dear, the dreams we aspire to and the hopes we hold onto as parents. She speaks, too, of the day she would see these things shatter.

Her name is Anna Whiston-Donaldson and her book, now a New York Times Bestseller, is “Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love.”

I walk with her as I read each page. The power of her writing placing me inside her world as she experiences her utterly devastating loss. I can feel her numbness. I can hear her cries as she discovers the worst…….that her treasured and rare Jack will not be coming home to her.

I hurt for her.

My mind races backward to an early June evening. My phone rings inside my purse. I grab for it. I hear only one word, yet it is so foreboding that I have fight or flight. I race from the back of the restaurant towards the exit. I won’t let my brother speak. Instead, I just keep begging him over and over again to tell me that everyone is okay. I throw my body at the door and make my way outside. I lean up against the wall. I am still begging.

“Colleen, I’m sorry. We lost Matthew today.”

I collapse. I hurl screams into the air. I am living while dying.

I am drawn to Anna’s story despite the fear of tracing the steps of a mother’s ultimate suffering. I watch my sister battle this unspeakable truth every day.

Anna tells a compelling and visceral image of loss and love. I wonder where she draws the strength to be so courageously honest. I ingest all of her emotion as her love finds its way through the pages.

I am unable to fight the love within me. It cascades down my cheeks. I am crying for my beautiful nephew. I am crying for my sister and her Matthew. I am crying for Anna and her Jack. I am crying for love.

I swipe at my tears. The pages before me blur. I close the book. I reach for my computer and I e-mail Anna Whiston-Donaldson. I share a few personal thoughts with her and ask for an interview.

We meet at a local coffee shop. It is October and just a month and three years since Anna has lost her sweet, beautiful, twelve year old Jack.

I sip my decaf coffee while Anna sips her tea. She is outwardly beautiful. I have already been privy to her inward beauty. She is full disclosure and candid. She is also selfless with a captivating grace. Her spoken words as raw and inspiring as her written words. There are occasional hints of her impossible loss welling in her lovely eyes, though she wrestles through them.

I, too, fight to keep the flood within my eyes.

“I am humbled by your ability to share such overwhelming devastation in a way that speaks so strongly to others,” I say.

What I don’t say is how selflessly that I feel she delivers this. It is her loss, her Jack, yet her hand extends beyond the pages to squeeze the hand of the reader. Anna lets us know that in loss we will be angry, weak, hopeless, isolated, bitter and eventually we will be strong.

Anna sets down her tea.

“No one is going to stay a stranger to grief,” she says. “ So why not be honest about it now and let yourself feel it and see it now?”

Anna says her book speaks of all loss and not only the unspeakable loss of her child.

She speaks the truth. We will not escape this terror in our lives. Yes, the terror. It is not a pleasant word. Let’s be honest though. It is what loss invokes in us.

Anna opens the forbidden conversation. She is expelling the, “Shoosh, don’t talk about it….Don’t ask her about him….Be quiet….It will be easier for her.”

She is exposing grief for its ugly dirty self. The thing we run from, hide from, and retreat from. However, when we absorb Anna’s love, her pain, and her precious son, she bravely lifts the cloaked veil. The ugly, dirty, grief is cast aside.

“Grief is simply a, ‘love story,’ in reverse. A necessary ending to an exquisite love.”
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Signed by God: Signs From Those We Love

posted by corme

I have always prayed for signs.

After losing my mom, I was especially desperate for them.

I remember telling my uncle, the priest that I had prayed for a sign my mom was okay and that I had asked for one by the end of the week. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss it.

My uncle just chuckled.

“Only you would give God a deadline,” he said.

* Shortly after we lost my sweet nephew, I regretted not saying how grateful a person he was while speaking at his service. As this thought crossed my mind, I pulled into my sister’s house. The license plate on the car next door, read “GR8FLL.”

* The day of my uncle, the priest’s funeral we got up unexpectedly to move a car. My sister and stared at one another as we gazed at the license plate of the car parked in front of us. It read, “PRAYY.”

* A dear friend lost his battle with cancer. A movement in his honor was called, “Rock The Purple.” He was on my mind as it was near the anniversary of his death. A car passed me. The license plate read, “PRPLE.”

* A friend’s sister needed surgery. We let her know she was in our prayers. She would politely thank us and tell us that she wasn’t particularly religious. She raced to the hospital when her sister took a turn for the worse. A car pulled in front of her. Just as she was about to voice her frustration, she noticed the license plate stating “Ask God.” Her sister survived.

Archangel Raphael, the patron Saint of healing, the body, mind and spirit is believed to be the angel who delivers these license plate messages.

I still believe in signs. I still pray for them. I am still open to them.

However, I now leave out the deadlines.

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Are You Living the “Posed” or “Chaotic” Moments of Life?

posted by corme

I had many years where I would say I lived a life that was pretty perfect.

I was low stress, organized, philanthropic, living in the moment and overall, I would say, pretty much together.

Then things fell apart.

While I tried to save my marriage as only a party of one……….I neglected to truly accept that the party was over.

It was humbling accepting my less than perfect life. After all, I had a hand in creating it.

My high school friend, Christy Largent interviewed me recently for her podcast, “Encouraging Words for Working Moms.”

http://tinyurl.com/k6ennx4

It was a great conversation of two old friends reconnecting and reflecting.

While twisting and turning through my journey. I told Christy, “You want to make every day joyful, but not every day perfect.”

This is the truth that accompanies my new perspective. I was fighting, rather than living my journey. There is goodness in imperfection. No, I would say there is a greatness that lives within imperfection. The messier side of life that I tried to avoid is what I now embrace.

In fact, I wish I had pictures of the chaotic moments.

The ones where all three of my boys were covered in dirt on my front step.

The toy trashed family room that held what they called, “their stuff.”

The exhausted mornings when they slept on the kitchen table rather than ate their breakfast.

The slurpee spilling moments in the backseat of the car.

The element of surprise catching them climbing to reach the kitchen cabinet filled with treats.

The discovery of the brand new wooden chair they carved their names in.

The sweet moments they suddenly huddled next to each other on the couch.

The loving mementos strewn all over the house left just for me…..candy wrappers, melted chocolate, perfectly chewed gum, clothes, balls, cleats, helmets, and more.

Dare I even say, as the mother of three boys, the bathrooms that I would rather not enter and the trail of clothes thrown all over the hallway that took them to it.

Yes, I wish I had more pictures of the chaotic moments and not the posed moments.

After all, the posed pictures weren’t really moments.

We didn’t share anything except the click of the camera…….an attempt to capture perfection.

I want the messy moments back. The ones where we were really living life.

The ones “when every day was joyful, but not perfect.”

(I would love to challenge everyone to start taking pics of the chaotic, messy moments)

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For More information on Christy Largent:
Follow her on Facebook @Christy Largent Speaker
Twitter @ChristyLargent.
MyguysSeaIsle

Princesses and Superheroes: Recapturing Our Self-Love

posted by corme

I think back to my childhood. The frequent ritual of stepping up onto the brick fireplace, grabbing the vacuum hose and belting out a five year old’s best version of, “Hello, Dolly.”

I believed I could be whatever I dreamed. In fact, I was so very confident of this, that it would change weekly, from a singer to a dancer to a oceanographer (I blame those enticing episodes of Jacques Cousteau).

I am in my five year old glory, brimming with self-love.

You know the kind. I am the little child holding onto my mom’s hand while being introduced to someone new.

“What’s your name?” They ask.

“Colleen,” squeals my five year old voice. “I am a dancer.”

I twirl boastfully around my mother. I smile ear to ear. I’m convinced I am Broadway bound.

I am a born mini-exhibitionist. Stepping forward to announce my latest, greatest gifts and prepared to act them out.

In reality, I am no different than any other child that age. We draw a picture and we believe we are an artist. A cartwheel done quite imperfectly and a gymnast is born. A soccer goal and we are an athlete. A song applauded and we are a star.

We are here to show the world, quite literally who we are.

We are confident. We think we rule the world. We are princesses and superheroes.

Then a few years later and a trip to the beach with a few fake sharks and crabs grabbing at my feet (two of my older sisters humor) and Jacque Cousteau no longer.

Alas, I can’t really blame them.


It seems the older we get our mini-exhibitionists turn into maxi-spectators. We are suddenly uncertain of our princess and superhero powers. The evil stepmother and Kryptonite lurk around every corner. We are now wildly aware of other people who seem to be taking all the power from the sun.

It’s time to become maxi-exhibitionists and mini-spectators.

After all, I think we would all agree that at our core, we are still those five year old children. We still hold that unconditional self-love. We just have to get our strength from the Son and believe in ourselves again.

I am still a princess and I hope that you are still a superhero.
Superheros

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Chick-fil-A Part Two

posted by corme

The mall teems with people. Cars are vying for spots. It’s one of those days were it may be a better idea to save some cash and head home.

If I were going to vote on locales where human beings can be their ugliest. A crowded parking lot would have to be in the top ten. However, at this moment, I don’t feel mean and frustrated, just desperate.

I am with my sister. Not my Chick-fil-A sister cohort, but rather my parking space sister cohort.

“Nightmare,” I say. This too has to be in the top ten, ‘no spots left,’ responses.

My sister nods in agreement.

“I’m going to pray to Sister Bonafice,” I say.

“Colleeeeeeeeeen,” she says. And there it is again. The familiar, mother induced inflection on the last portion of my name. I succeed to shock, yet another sister.

“What?” I say innocently. “Sister Bonafice must have loved to shop. She told the other nuns that when she was gone to pray to her for parking spaces. She always comes through. I used to be a non-believer, but every time my mother-in-law would ask for a space, presto, there one was.”

My sisters have honed the head shake. I, as the youngest, am the obvious recipient of it. I take it in stride. However, this time I get the shake. I used to think my mother-in-law was nuts. Then when I realized it worked it took me forever to remember the name, ‘Bonafice.”

The story is rooted somewhere in the fact that my mother-in-law’s mother had seven sisters who were all nuns.

I ignore my sister and I ask for the space. I barely get the words out and suddenly, right in front of us, a space begs our attention.

My sister still isn’t buying it. She’s a tough sell.

Some time later, we are in church and the priest speaks of Saint Anthony. He says that he asks Tony for everything. That he is always there without fail. That he answers every prayer.

I look at my sisters after mass. Now I am the one who shakes my head.

“I told you,” I say.

Father heads our way. He is the priest who is the new pastor at my uncle’s old Parish.

“I loved your Saint Anthony sermon,” I say.

My sister steps up. I have little warning for the words she is about to speak.

“Colleen prays for parking spots,” she spits out. Then she glances over at me with a smile. It’s like circa 1970’s and she’s just ratted me out to our mother and she waits to reap the rewards.

“Uh, oh,” I say quietly under my breath.

My chickens are coming home to roost. She’s outed me in front of a priest.

I look and I wait. I shift my eyes toward her and then him and then him and then her and back again. He simply smiles. After all, he’s a Tony devotee. It seems my new favorite priest is undaunted.

I am smug with contentment. Once again, reminiscent of our youth. The younger sister who’s gotten away with something.

We walk towards her car. In a few minutes we pull up to the breakfast place our family is gathering at. I sit quietly in the backseat as we assess the parking situation.

“You guys get out and I’ll park the car,” says my sister.

“Sounds good,” I say.

For once, this younger sister is smart enough to keep her mouth shut. After all, there’s no mom or priest to help me get away with this one.

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The Day This Catholic Girl Prayed for Chick-fil-A

posted by corme

My sister drives the car while I ride shotgun. My three boys chatter behind us . We are hungry. Scratch that, we are starving, so we drive to scout out the perfect lunch spot before our drive back to Sarasota. We are smack in the middle of Orlando, Florida. A seemingly perfect spot for restaurant surplus.

“Let’s look for a Chick-fil-A,” I say.

Squeals of enthusiasm fly from the backseat.

My sister nods in agreement. This clinches it. All eyes begin to hunt the landscape.

Twenty minutes later, different screams are cast from the backseat. The boys are weary of this game.

We surrender. My sister and I decide it is time to jump on the highway and look for our best choice there.

“I’m going to say a Saint Anthony prayer,” I announce. “Tony will find us a Chick-fil-A.”

He is my favorite saint. My ‘go to’ guy. I call on him so much, that I now refer to him as Tony and joke that it may be saint abuse.

“Colleeeeeeeeen!” my sister gasps. She places the emphasis on the “Lene,” just as my mother did whenever I shocked her. “You can’t pray for that!”

“Watch me,” I shoot back.

I recite the Saint Anthony prayer, “Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around, let a Chick-fil-A be found.”

My sister’s head shakes with disapproval. I have visions of Sister Lisa Marie and the nuns of our grade school youth.

I try and blame the Chick-fil-A people.

“Why do they make the chicken soooooo yummy that you crave it?” I ask.

No response. Just silent disapproval.

We inch onto the highway. My boys glance outside, eager to spot our destination. They know their mom. They hear my Saint Anthony pleas so often that they now believe him to be magic, make that miraculous.

My sister gasps again. I turn to look towards her. Her mouth is now open. I shift my gaze towards the first exit. We have gone barely a mile or so before we discover the Chick-fil-A.

The boys erupt with joy.

“See,” I say with a smile. “Saint Anthony always works.”

My sister sits speechless. Not sure whether to lean back on the stance of not praying for little things or to realize that perhaps it’s actually okay to pray for these things.

So is it the Catholic in us that makes us feel like we can only pray for specified intentions? The really serious stuff?

I think it is. I felt that way once. However, I let go of that barrier a long, time ago.

I now pray wide open.

I pray big and small, tiny and huge, bitty and giant, teensy and monumental.

There is no differentiating my conversation with my faith.

It may have started as the Catholic school girl in me thinking it was wrong to pray this way. Only now, it is the Catholic school girl in me that simply just says, “pray.”

My phone rings a few weeks after our chicken sandwiches.

“What’s that Saint Anthony prayer again? asks my sister.

 


Col2ndgrade

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Previous Posts

What Advice Would Your Mother Give You in Divorce?
We are laughing with my sister who recently had knee surgery. It is my sister, my niece and me. “I’m weepy,” she says. “Weepy, who says that?” laughs her daughter. I know who says that! It was our mother. I miss my mom. I really miss my mom through the ‘weepier’ days of div

posted 7:05:51pm Nov. 21, 2014 | read full post »

The Adjectives of Divorce
I am a hypocrite of my own words. I often say that writers tell what others are at times afraid to speak of. This week I found out that even I have fear. That even I can't bring myself to speak of certain things which are scarier to me than the emotional cost of divorce. What is scarier than the

posted 7:35:53pm Nov. 19, 2014 | read full post »

How Oprah Comforted Me in Divorce
I am sitting to write my column. It is a weepy day. A day when the side effects of divorce are difficult to stave off. I am worried about my children, about paying the bills, about a true independent future. I take a moment to click on the Beliefnet article below. I find it difficult to pass on

posted 12:18:09am Nov. 18, 2014 | read full post »

Finding Your Purpose While Grieving
I am chatting with my friend, Crystal (as always, name changed to protect the innocent). The sadness in her voice is palpable. It is just about a week after the anniversary of her father’s death and days after returning from her brother-in-law’s funeral. Crystal is reflective. Death brings th

posted 5:59:00pm Nov. 13, 2014 | read full post »

Rare Voice: A Mother's Loss and Love
My door bell rings. I open the door and find my friend, Lisa standing on the stoop. “The book I ordered you arrived,” she says. Lisa hands me the book. I thank her. She is thoughtful as always. We say goodbye. I close the door and head into my family room. I turn on the light and fall int

posted 8:35:36pm Nov. 10, 2014 | read full post »


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