Turkey Day with a Side of Mercy

While it always hurts to come across hateful comments about my father on social media, last month, I started receiving such comments on my personal accounts. Anger has often been my initial response in such situations. Recently, I did something unexpected, I paused and remembered a song I was learning, a song about mercy and how we all could use it.

I changed my focus and quickly recognized both the hate and pain surging through this troubled individual. The prudent option here was to ignore what was not really an attack, but an individual in pain, lashing out; in addition, adjusting my thinking helped me deal with such posts. I wondered where else “mercy” was needed…

Every semester, I perform for the Music Appreciation class at the college. This time, in addition to the usual presentation about oral tradition and Appalachian folk music, I added a current song I was learning. While the song is still in need of a final polish (and an amp for the strumstick), it felt right to sing about mercy. This holiday season, in addition to thankfulness, where do you need to show mercy? Is there a rift from long ago in need of attention? Are you still avoiding family members with differing political views? Perhaps it’s time to “mend the bond.”

Thanks for reading and have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Time to stock up on Lip Balm!

https://www.etsy.com/listing/229658359/set-of-4-all-natural-beeswax-lip-balms

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Family, Church, and Local Community College

During my first year of college, Dr. John Willson’s history class mapped a substantial portion of America’s history through study of “Family, Church, and Local Community.” Expanding on Dr. Willson’s famous phrase, I observed a connection to education. Last fall, I accepted a part-time position as afternoon secretary at Kellogg Community College’s Fehsenfeld Center. To be completely honest, I questioned whether I should instead pursue a full time teaching position. However, I recognized something special here.

I first began working at the Fehsenfeld Center in the fall of 1996, teaching Transitional English and serving as a paraprofessional. Teaching at this level improved my understanding of the writing process. If students could master a quality paragraph, they could readily transition to the college essay. This experience served me well when later teaching Freshman Composition. I also met fellow instructors; many were members of the local community: Lawyers, high school teachers, business and community leaders, etc. They offered a unique combination of education paired with real world experience.

The Fehsenfeld Center also brings in a lively group of local students who, year after year, often form a learning community. Many become friends, form study groups, and succeed together. As an Adjunct Instructor for the past two decades, I was already part of this process; however, I wanted more. My brother once shared that secretaries are the sergeants of an institution; without their leadership, facilities could not function effectively. In addition to time in the classroom, I discovered that assisting students in the office often increased the classroom connection. I enjoy hearing about their current semesters and future plans, providing assistance if they are feeling frustrated and need a small nudge, perhaps a starting point for an assignment, someone to help brainstorm summer options, or just an ear to listen.

The Fehsenfeld Center offers a unique learning experience for the residents of Barry County:

• Want to complete core classes close to home and transfer to a four year institution? Did you know that 4 out of 10 students who earn a four year degree begin at their local community college? (insidehighered.com)

• Want to pursue a class or two at an affordable price and see if college is the next step?

• Interested in learning a trade? Come learn about our welding and manufacturing programs.

• Want to explore special interest classes? Perhaps you might enjoy Pastor Anton’s Life Long Learning Class, The Bible: A Closer Look.

• Want to earn an associate’s degree and take on the world?

Come see me in the office!

Thanks for reading!

Dealing with Depression

I have suffered from depression since 1998. I deal with it in many ways, devotions, exercise, mud runs, vitamins, medications, counseling, and whatever seems right at the time. I am one of those people who is willing to try what comes down the pike.

Let me back up. I had a big second boy, 11 lbs, 11 oz, naturally, which led to a few complications. We survived that, but the stress of the birth and the blood loss led to problems. While I was fighting my doc to avoid a transfusion, G needed to be fed every 75 minutes because we found out later he had BWS (Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome), not to mention my oldest son was an active toddler. I was not able to drive for a month, among other issues. I had an amazing support network! They helped me through the moments where I couldn’t physically care for my child.

What caused further problems was my parents’ divorce in the fall of 1998. My first thought was 43 years of marriage!  You are giving it all up now? I was devastated and made contact with a counselor. Occasionally sharing my thoughts continues to be a large and effective part of dealing with depression.

Then the national scandal hit. Two weeks before, Chad and I had just returned from a week in St. Louis, MO, where our son had major surgery.  I was also pregnant with my third child, so I was in protection mode. While I thought my dad received a bum rap, my job was to protect my unborn baby through this tragedy. I hunkered down, and MK emerged, alive, but with complications, a ripped hole in her lung, pneumonia, and a non-life threatening genetic disorder. The clan rallied round, and we moved forward and loved the new member of our clan.

I’m not sure if any or all of these events caused my depression, but I do know that life is full of challenges for all of us. Embracing these challenges and making them my own was the most effective way for me to tackle depression.  If you suffer from depression, be proactive.  Educate yourself!  Which activities, vitamins, and medications help?  Which hinder?  Most important, know that you are not alone.

How to Heal

 

I want to thank the many people who reached out to me both privately and publicly regarding my latest post about having to deal with the tragedy of suicide. While dealing with such tragedies is quite painful, I can assure you that I am in a positive place now. I posted “Far from Lothlorien” in an attempt to help others. I know there are many out there who feel the range of emotions that I survived: pain, sadness, rejection, anger, etc. I wanted those who deal with the horror of suicide to know that you are not alone. If you want to move on, know that life improves if you allow it! Find what brings you comfort. (I find peace in family craic, bunny ears, jokes, and carefully planned pranks) Is it taking the time to read, exercise, or even prepare a unique meal? I encourage you first to take care of yourself, then look for opportunities to help others. By helping others, we complete the circle.

Find Peace, Friends!

Listen to the Silence

MK - book house with tree in color

As we are making commitments to exercise more and make healthier food choices, there is one more area where resolutions can be made. Take some time in 2013 to nurture your spiritual health. When we strengthen our spirit, we find our center, bringing focus, inspiration, and peace.

Spending time in the great outdoors is an effective way to reenergize and center. This time of year, I am particularly fond of walking in the woods during a light snow fall. Have you ever taken the time to stop on these walks and just listen? The faint noise of snowfall makes a beautiful and unique sound. My father frequently encouraged me to stop what I was doing when we were in the woods and “listen to the silence.”

Activities which challenge your mind can also nurture your spirit. Reading a thought provoking book, learning an instrument, or taking the time for daily devotionals are all effective ways to broaden your horizons. For me in particular, singing is a powerful activity. It challenges and centers me. I also enjoy singing in church as it is one of the strongest forms of worship and one way I can give back to my parish. (And to my fellow church members, now that life is returning to normal, I will be rejoining the music schedule soon 🙂

While all of these activities are quite fulfilling, the act that centers me the most is trying my best to attend church each week. Please understand that I am NOT trying to increase membership in my parish (though all our welcome). I am merely sharing why I find weekly church attendance so beneficial. Before I can explain why it’s important, I first must tell you those things I find unpleasant. Usually churches will have a healthy share of church drama and church politics. I have been on the receiving end of this, and honestly, in my weaker moments, I have been the cause of church drama. However, I find looking past those moments to be worthwhile as most churches are full of kind, hard working people who are a pleasure to see each week.

I attempt to attend church each week because it provides a much needed routine. Getting up at the same time each Sunday, following the standards of Mass, and having that weekly time with my church community provides focus, keeping me centered on what I must do each week in my life. My children are also gifted with that same weekly plan and are in regular contact with other young people who share their faith. In addition, weekly church attendance puts me in contact with people who need help. It might be a parishioner who would benefit from ten minutes of conversation after Mass, the notice of someone who is ill and could use a meal, or any individuals who would benefit from a card or phone call. That’s what life is all about, helping those around us.

So in 2013, take some time to nurture your spirit. Explore the nature around you, “listen to the silence,” read a book, join a Bible study, or even start a book group. Two books that have inspired me are “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis and “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge. Or are you looking for more routine in your life? Do you long for more community time? Start looking around for a church community.

Thanks for reading! Happy New Year!