Friday, May 23, 2014

You Are Not Alone & A Partial Potter Update

Dear Family and friends,
     We want to be there for you always.  We want you to feel comfortable calling us for whatever you need   whenever you need it, especially during the most difficult times! For those of you who we have been there for at least some of the time, please know that you are not partially responsible or at all responsible for the times when Kevin and I are feeling worn out and/or rundown.  Even if we have not been as good about calling, visiting, or checking in with you lately as we could be, please rest assured that you our on our minds, in our thoughts, and certainly in our prayers.
     Our struggle has a lot more to do with being upset for the times we don't feel we have much to offer anyone, even each other and those closest to us.  We struggle with feeling like we’re not enough, not who anyone wants or needs us to be, not living up to what anyone would like or expects of us.  It’s painful when some of the ways we’d like to be able to reach out and help others, we no longer are in a position, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or financially that we can offer the assistance we’d like to offer and in many cases have given in the past. 

Still Searching

     Kevin’s been looking for work ever since he lost his job on Labor Day, and though he’s had some good leads and applied to a number of places, nothing’s come together, yet.  He’s networked with some great people and been given some prospects to check out.  He’s kept an open mind, kept praying, and kept pounding the pavement.  Last week, he received the letter saying that he’d been sent his last unemployment check.  He was hit with a wave of frustration, anger, and anxiety that he hasn’t found a new job, yet.    
     Regardless of what other things are going on, I’ve needed to take pretty much every subbing job I’ve been offered due to our financial situation.  Don't get me wrong; I love working at school with different age groups of children and a number of great teachers teachers.  I’ve learned a great deal and have come to appreciate the Montessori method as an ideal way of educating children.  However, as anyone who has served as a substitute knows, it can be more exhausting than usual when you don’t yet know the routine or all of the kids and specifics of the role played by the person for whom you’re filling that day.  There’s so much to try and remember and learning on-the-go can be a challenge in an environment where there are already a significant number of important Department of Social Services rules, regulations, and procedures to keep in mind. 

Running on Empty

     Over the past couple months, I’ve most often felt like I’ve been running on empty.  We’ve had so much going on that it’s been hard to catch my breath.  I’m behind on a number of things as is really obvious if you look around our apartment or consult any one of my “To Do Lists.”  I can’t seem to relax much, because I always feel like there’s something else I should be doing.  Yes, I know that I just finished reading Crash the Chatterbox twice in a row, but it’s so flipping difficult to put it into practice day in and day out. 
     Anywhere I look, I see and think about something I should be doing for our marriage, our family, friends, to improve our financial situation, to straighten up our place, to minister to others, and it just makes me more discouraged when I get so caught up in all that I could be doing and some of what I should be doing that I haven’t yet. 

Enjoy the Ride

     A Cursillo friend of ours who is single and lives alone was recovering from knee surgery and then had shoulder surgery at the beginning of April and needed help with rides to and from her physical therapy appointments, and such.  I think of her regularly and get upset with myself for not having checked up on her recently or at the very least sent her a card.  Kevin and I were blessed to be in position that we could help. 
     I showed up to give our friend a ride and couldn’t pull it together soon enough before I got to her place that she could tell I’d been crying.  There are few things that make me feel as ridiculous and pitiful as feeling the least bit sad or depressed when I’m well aware that others are suffering way worse than I am.       
     Did my friend get in the car and ask me what could I possibly have to cry about since I didn’t recently have to have a series of IV infusions just so I could finally have the knee surgery, followed by shoulder surgery after a car accident a year before that wasn’t even my fault?  No.  Did she tell me that I should be wildly rejoicing because I’m able to move around without difficulty, have a husband who loves me, don’t live alone, have family nearby, and friends who care about me?  No.  She got in the car and was genuinely concerned about what had happened that made me feel so upset that I am not enough in any area of my life and that I can’t seem to do anything right.  (Unfortunately, these are beliefs about myself I have struggled with most of my life that sometimes drag me down further than other times.  I’m better at fighting them sometimes than others).
     I am amazed by this woman’s fighting spirit and can do attitude.  She is persistent and insistent that she get through these surgeries and get back to an active lifestyle.  She’s assured those of us who used to gather weekly for prayer group that come summer, she’ll be running circles around all of us again.       

An Influx of Family Visits

     The week leading up to the Women’s Cursillo Weekend was even busier than I’d expected it to be and more tiring.  Holy Week is usually a full time for us anyway, but we had even more packed in this time.  On Good Friday, Kevin’s sister and brother-in-law stopped in while driving down to meet their newest granddaughter, so we spent some time with them before heading to church for the Veneration of the Cross.  Saturday, we met them in the morning, then we headed over to my sister’s house to see my uncle, aunt, two cousins, and their two friends, who were in town for lunch and an afternoon visit at my sister’s house before they drove back home to upstate New York.  That evening, Kevin and I attended the Easter Vigil at St. Michael’s, which was quite beautiful, as always. 

A Window of Opportunity

     I spent a good chunk of time that week putting together blog posts, journal entries, and writing a very long letter to Michele Morris, so I could send her a package of things during the two weeks after Easter when she can receive, read, and respond to mail to let her know what’s going on in our area with Cursillo, mutual family and friends, etc.  In the letter I sent her at Christmastime, I’d let her know that I would be serving on team for Cursillo on the weekend of Divine Mercy Sunday, so I knew she would be praying for everyone participating on the weekend, especially during that time. 

A Loved One Lost

     The Wednesday before Cursillo began, Kevin and I had a funeral to attend that morning at Epiphany on the Southside.  Kay Marie Geiger, who had been really sick with cancer for a number of months, went to be with the Lord, so we gathered with her family, many friends, and Cursillistas to celebrate her life and legacy.  (Life has been so crazy, busy, and hectic since then that I have yet to finish writing my tribute to this wonderful woman who has been such a loving, compassionate presence in our lives). 

Now is the Time: ACTION

     The evening of April 23, 2014, we spent several hours at Shalom House unloading cars, moving lots of furniture and beginning to get things set-up for the Women’s Cursillo Weekend that took place April 24-27. 
Thursday, another team member and I arrived back at Shalom House in the early afternoon to continue preparations.  There was so much running around and taking care of things that I managed to go the entire weekend without having a really in-depth, intimate conversation with anyone at all.  I have a hard time keeping up with all the running if I don’t connect with anyone on a deeper level than discussing the weather, meals, logistics, and other surface stuff. 
     Everyone on our team was wonderful, pitching in wherever needed, regardless of their assigned roles, but we were down an “angel,” those responsible for making sure everything and everyone is where they need to be and where it needs to be at or by the time specified.  One of our angels had to have a double mastectomy a few weeks before the Cursillo, and she blessed us by coming for a few hours when she was up to it and to give her talk, but her work and offerings during the weekend itself, understandably, needed to be predominantly prayers since she was still recovering from surgery.  I should have visited her or sent her a few cards by now, but again, I haven’t.  She’s certainly been in my thoughts and prayers, though. 

Sharing Straight from the Heart

     Two of the talks given on Divine Mercy Sunday as part of the Cursillo weekend I knew would hit me really hard.  One talk was given by a woman who bravely shared the story of how she and her family have felt God’s presence and love in the months since last September when their youngest son committed suicide.  The second talk was given by the woman who has also found strength and hope in the Cursillo community when she was diagnosed for a second time with breast cancer and this time had a double mastectomy and will also need chemo and radiation.  I made it through each of these talks by sitting in the way back of the room, letting the tears stream down my face, then leaving the minute they were finished to go back and have some quiet time to myself in our room.  By Sunday evening, I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted and ready to collapse.

While You Were Gone

     Within the next couple days, we learned of troubling news about some of our close friends.  One friend, whom I had invited to come on the weekend and who discerned that this wasn’t the right time for her to go, informed us that the previous Thursday she’d found out that her ex-husband had been found dead in his apartment.  He had not been in good health, nor had he taken very good care of himself, but it was still unexpected and, of course, hard on the family.  Kevin and I devoted an evening to help clean out the ex-husband’s apartment, which we needed a mask and gloves just to enter.  There were a number of things that reminded me of my dad and his declining health and struggles at the end of his life, so that wasn’t easy to manage.  We attended the funeral Mass held at church which was quite beautiful, but again reminded me of losing my dad at a young age.   

Not much rest for the weary

     The Monday after the weekend, I slept and rested most of the day, then met several team members and their spouses back up at Shalom House to clean up, move furniture back, organize and put supplies away, and such. 
     We also found out that a good friend of ours had been hospitalized for the second time in one week.  That Tuesday, Kevin and I were on our way to Mass at St. Benedict’s.  Actually we were in the parking lot, when I happened to check my phone before going into 5:30 Mass.  I’d already turned the ringer off, but something nudged me to look at my phone again before heading in.  Our friend whose husband had been hospitalized called asking if we would be so kind as to pick up dinner and bring it over to her at the hospital.  We left to go be there for our friends while they were facing a difficult time. 

We’ve got your back

     As we've said to the dear friends of ours who are fighting some tough stuff, including one of them having recently been diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer, it's nice to be able to do some practical things to let you both know we love you.  Sometimes, it's hard to know how to help or what to do, so having specific things to take care of makes it easier.  I need or ride or a meal or for you to get this from the store for me are tangible things we can do to offer assistance.  We are saddened by the burdens that some of our family and friends are carrying, but we are also very hopeful for each one of you in the midst of these crises. 

Prayers and Presence

     Two of our friends each lost a parent in the past couple months.  We weren’t able to attend either of those funerals.  Another couple we know through Cursillo lost their 20 year old son who committed suicide a couple weeks ago.  When we arrived at the Ultreya that Friday evening that was at their parish, they were outside to receive an outpouring of love, hugs, and condolences.   I’ve prayed for all of these people, their loved ones lost, and the families in mourning.  I’ve given each of our friends hugs when I’ve seen them in person and expressed my sorrow over their losses, but I have yet to send any of them sympathy cards or letters.

More than meets the eye   

     There are many crosses Kevin and I are carrying which only a handful of people know about at all.  Only a select few people know the weight and depth of these burdens and what we’ve gone through to keep moving forward despite them.   It's been a struggle for us to trust in God in these areas when it seems like there's no change or improvement, not just recently, but over a period of many months, even years.
     Seeing the hope and courage of others in the face of major challenges and drawbacks inspires both of us.  We are grateful that family and friends share their joys and sorrows with us.  That's how it's supposed to be.
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