Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Out in Left Field

This week's blog is posted on our new site:


There are pictures and some fun stuff to come on the new site.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rose-Colored Glasses

This last week I decided to give Princess a bath. She was looking rather shabby and it was becoming an embarrassment to take her out and about in public. So I spent a good chunk of my day off scrubbing and polishing. Princess looks amazing!
Princess is my cherry-red, Sebring convertible. I vacuumed and polished the interior and scrubbed the wheels so they would shine. I know this all sounds ridiculous. At least I always thought men who loved their car were...ridiculous.
My husband loved his car. It was a gold Park Avenue. I called it the "geezer car" because it was the kind of car that old men would drive. It didn't matter how much I mocked it or how much I hated driving it (it was way too big for me and I felt lost and small behind the wheel), David loved his car and was quite proud of it.
So I was surprised when one day he announced we were going to the dealership to trade in his "baby". David was 5 months into his 9 month sentence with cancer and so I assumed it was the drugs talking and told him we didn't need to do that. He wasn't able to drive anymore and I didn't want to waste what time we had together dealing with car salesmen. David insisted and so I climbed behind the wheel of his car and we headed out to a dealership a good 20 miles from our house. (It's nearly impossible to tell a dying man no). David insisted on that dealership but would not tell me why. I thought perhaps the medicine was impacting his thinking. When we arrived the salesmen already had the car we would be buying waiting for us and that's when I met Princess. David traded in his "baby" to buy me that red convertible I had mentioned to him I wanted to drive someday. I always thought my "someday" was just wishful thinking and assumed I would spend my life driving the minivan I called the "mom mobile". Every time we passed one of those cars on the road I would say to David, "that's going to be my car someday." Who knew David was actually paying attention?!
So... I love my car! Not only is a sporty convertible with lots of style and fun, it wraps me in love every time I get in it. Princess (yes, I've named the car. I know that means I've joined the ranks of the car-fanatics. I don't care.) Princess reminds me of David's love for me and not just everyday, ordinary love. It points me to a self-sacrificing love that is rare and precious.
I love telling this story and I tell it often; every time someone asks me why a middle-aged, conservative pastor is driving a red sports car. I tell them of David's love and how wonderful it is to feel the wind in my hair.
Here's the point: (Yes, there really is a point to this drive down memory lane) David and I were married for almost 27 years. There were many occasions where David's actions or words were less than self-sacrificing. There are many memories where... let's just say I don't feel the love. Anytime two people live together that closely that long there's going to be some ugly moments. If I tried I could remember some really hurtful words spoken and some truly disappointing actions. I choose to remember Princess. I have made a deliberate choice to forget the ugly and embrace the loving. I believe it has been key in assisting me to heal and prevented me from becoming one of those angry, bitter, resentful women who feel abandoned and forgotten by the ones they love.
That's not to say I don't have my moments. Yesterday was the Fourth of July and I have always spent that day with my family around me, grilling and laughing and eating together. Yesterday I did not. There were good reasons the kids weren't with me and so I chose to get in the car and put down the top and "feel the love" rather than pout and cry about what I've lost. It's a choice and some days it takes more effort than others but it's the best choice I can make. I'm making lemonade out my lemons. I'm putting the best spin on a bad situation.
You can say I'm not dealing with reality or that I'm wearing rose-colored glasses. I don't care. The glasses match my car!
Embrace the loving memories as often as you can. Give me a call... I'll take you for a spin. Princess loves company!


Monday, June 28, 2010

The Rearview Mirror

A Great Monday morning to all who grieve.
(Is that too perky?)

I was thinking this past week about just how useful the rearview mirror is. Really...I think about such things. I know that makes me quirky or outright strange but I'm OK with that. It's truly a liberating moment when you reach the point (or age) where you just don't care all that much what people think of you. So I'm thinking about the road behind me and justthis past week I found the rearview mirror quite helpful.

I used it on Monday to hold the handicap sticker that my father-in-law has so I could park in the front spot while taking him to his doctor appointment. The rearview mirror is a handy holder of all sorts of dangling things.

On Tuesday I used the mirror while in the midst of traffic. I glanced up just in time to see a guy in a very large pickup truck move in behind me close enough to smell my perfume. I thought a moment about hitting the brake but I really like my car so I moved over and let the guy have the lane. He was speeding and agressive but... I really like my car so I let the bully pass.

On Thursday I found it particularly helpful in helping to apply lipstick. It also is quite handy for reapplying makeup and straightening hair. This last one is quite helpful since I drive a convertible and the hair is truly a mess. This is also something I'm OK with. Messed up hair or life without the convertible- the choice is clear. I really like my car!

Well I have found the rearview mirror a useful tool but only when used in brief spurts. Driving while gazing steadily into the rearview mirror would not be good. In fact, it is impossible to make any forward progress while staring into the rearview mirror. Only brief glances are best.

I took a brief glance back this past week and found it quite helpful in guiding me through a week filled with difficult grief-points. This past week was the fourth anniversary of my husband's death. If you had told me that four years later I would still be grappling with grief I would have told you that is not ever going to happen to me. (shows you what I knew about grief)
I had to take the cat (David's cat) to the vet and put poor Fred out of his misery. In the midst of this I found myself looking back at the joy the cat brought to David in his last days battling cancer. Fred had earned his keep! I glanced back at the many ways God had carried me through the past four years when I thought grief would surely kill me. There were even those days when I hoped for someone to put me out of my misery only to find God sending a friend or a funny moment to ease the pain and give me a clear perspective. Sometimes grief is like that bully in the truck bearing down on you with such agressive speed that the best you can do is pull over and try to get out of the way. A quick look back at all those times God saved me was helped me get a clear perspective for this past week. Glancing back can give us the courage to move forward.

WARNING! A brief glance is the only way to look back. If you linger in the past you will risk letting the past overrun your life and greatly impair your future. I also recommend selective glances down memory lane. I chose to look at only the good and joy-filled memories and kept a steely-eyed, determined gaze at the road ahead whenever a painful memory tried to climb into my backseat. The Bible tells us to "take every though captive" and to "think on those things that are good, and pure, and lovely". That's selective use of the rearview mirror. I strongly recommend it for all who grieve.

Well, it's a sunny day and that top is comming down on the red convertible! It's going to be a "top-down day"! I'm so glad I didn't spend any time on my hair this morning. I can blame the mess on the wind and the car. And I'll be using that rear view mirror to apply the lipstick (it matches the car!) So get out there and find something to make you smile- a garden or a movie or a lovely lunch along the lake - go for it! Move forward and use that rearview mirror sparingly.



Monday, June 21, 2010

David Jobs

Today is a "David's Job" day. A David job is any task that was routinely done by the husband and dad of the house. Within the first week following his death I called a meeting of all living at home (me and the two boys)and we came to an agreement of who would be handling the "David jobs". It was agreed upon, with some reluctance from all involved that Jon would unclog the toilets, Stephen would kill the spiders and I would handle the trash. It seemed to work for about 30 days and then the boys returned to college and I was left to handle the "issues".

I really didn't know how many "David jobs" there were until they started popping up on a regular basis. Apparently David was the one who locked the doors and turned out the lights every night. He changed light bulbs. He changed all the clocks in the house when daylight saving time hit. I actually lived for the first two years without changing the clocks or locking the doors. It's not that the tasks were too difficult. I just didn't want to do it. It was a "David job". My sister moved in with me during year two and forced the issue. She doesn't live in houses that aren't locked at night. Go figure!

Well I share all that to point out that today is a "David job" day. This week will be the fourth anniversary of his death and I really thought that all these issues would be resolved by now. I now change the light bulbs and the clocks. I kill the spiders (well, OK I mostly shoo them away or pretend they're not there) and I empty the trash and handle simple plumbing issues all by myself. At some point I just assumed that the tasks that were once David's would become just routine and not be the reminder of loss and generator of grief that they have for the past three years.
Apparently I was wrong. Who knew?

Today I will be taking David's dad to the doctor. It's a monthly trip we make together to a large hospital in the area. Routine and not difficult for either one of us. David Job. After I return I will be spending some time in the front yard cleaning up limbs and debris from a weekend storm that blew through. I have some help coming but still...David job. Somewhere between doctors and lawns I will need to go on line and buy Tiger baseball tickets. David's dad loves the Tigers and he has his heart set on going to the series with Minnesota. For the past three years my boys have taken grandpa. A good time was had by all. The last family activity we all did together before David's death was go to a Tiger game. Well, both boys are not available this summer so I will be going with grandpa to the game. It will be a good time together but not as fun for either one of us without the boys. David job.

Then at some point today I will need to scoop up David's beloved cat, Fred and take him to the vet. Fred is 17 years old and failing fast. Today is the day. David loved that cat. Fred loved David and kept guard over him as the cancer robbed David of his strength and then his life. Fred is now in distress and the vet says it's time to let him go.

I am aware that some folks wonder why I still grieve four years after David's death. It's days like today that make it impossible NOT to grieve. I would have to be an unfeeling robot not to cry a few tears today. I've packed my purse with Kleenex and I'm giving myself permission to grieve today. The clueless bystanders who don't understand the need for grief will just have to remain clueless. I can't please everyone today and I've decided to give my attention to "David jobs". His dad and his cat loved David very much and have earned the right to be tended to.

Wow! What a heavy posting today! Sorry. Some days are just like that. What is surprising to me is that I really assumed these days would go away with time. I really didn't expect to still be grieving over the "David jobs" four years after his death. Now I realize that grief is not something you "get over". Grief is a life sentence you learn to manage. It gets less painful and less emotionally draining but it never really goes away.

OK. I could be wrong. Perhaps year 4 will be grief-free. Maybe year 5 will be a whole new day free of tears and "David jobs". I'm not counting on it. Does that sound less than encouraging? Sorry. I try to make our weekly meeting a positive and helpful time together. I also try to keep it real and honest. Let's just say today is really real.

In the midst of a day filled with "David jobs" and reminders of his absence in my life I am still thankful for all the days I had with David. I am thankful for the privilege of keeping my promise to him and taking care of his dad .... and his cat. Today I get to be David's wife and handle his "stuff". Even grief days can be good days too. - Well... sorta. I still have to say goodbye to Fred. Perhaps the only good thing about the day will be that it will be over before I know it. Some days you just do your best to get through it.

Next week I promise to tell funny stories and laugh with you. If you think of it, say a prayer for me today and for all who grieve. Some days are just.... awful.

Gotta get going. The only way through the day is through it. See you next Monday.

Karen PS - I am now posted at Wordpress- KarenPayneTableForOne.wordpress.com

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Perfect Gift

Good Monday mourning to all.

Yes, it is possible and perhaps even necessary for our mourning to be "good". Good grief really does exist. It's not just an expression of exasperation used by Charlie Brown whenever things were out of sorts. Grief is good and necessary.
Speaking of expressions of exasperation...

I was looking through the Sunday newspaper adds yesterday. It's the only reason I get the weekend newspaper. I like my Target add. I rarely ever buy anything listed in the adds but I still like to look at all the stuff. This week there was something in the adds that caught my eye. I read the description of this stadium seat that you place on the high school bleachers and sit on it. It had a back to it and arms and a padded seat and it came in several colors. I practically jumped out of my seat and exclaimed out loud, "I've found the perfect Fathers Day gift for David!"

My sister, Janet said, "Ok" with a bit of hesitancy in her voice and a slight chuckle. I appreciate her not assuming that I've lost my mind (well, actually that would be an assumption on my part). David has been gone for over 3 years now and we haven't had a kid playing in a high school football game for 4 years. All of that is beside the point! I finally found the perfect gift! David would have loved it and he would have insisted I pick up another one for his dad who always accompanied David to all of the games our two boys played.

Shopping for David was never easy. I gave up trying to buy clothes for him. He seemed to change his likes and dislikes constantly and after returning things that I had purchased just knowing he would love I just gave up and told him he was on his own. "You need it - go get it." It sounds cruel, I know. I'm not the slightest bit sorry. After a few dozen returns the only reasonable response was to let him handle his own "picky" purchases.

But this gift would have been absolutely perfect!!! I would have bought a green one to match the high school's team colors. Just thinking about it makes me smiles. I would have given it to Stephen and made him wrap it up for his dad. What fun!

Another thing that makes me smile; realizing that this little excursion down "memory lane" didn't make me sad. Not a single tear was shed! Instead I found myself laughing out loud at how ridiculous it was that I would see that item in the Sunday adds and get excited about it. I also laughed at the realization that finding the perfect gift 3 years too late was so... just like David. I actually entertained the thought of going and getting one of those chairs so I could return it later - just for the "good old days". Oh Good Grief!

Yeah, I'd say there are signs of good grief here. Great memories now bring smiles and laughter instead of sadness and tears. That's definitely a good sign.

I pray God gives you "good grief" this week. That memories will bring smiles instead of tears. If you're not quite there yet, hang on! It will come. One day you'll find yourself laughing over a silly memory and you'll recognize the signs of good grief.

I've gotta go. Those chairs might run out of stock before I get one!


Monday, June 7, 2010

Life's A Beach!

Just came back from a family vacation. It was wonderful with lots of sun and sand. Even the two-day drive was filled with mountain scenes that were breathtakingly beautiful. But the best part of the whole trip wasn't sun or sand which means the best part was truly incredible because I live in Michigan and sun and sand are hard to find most days. The best part of the family vacation was..FAMILY.

The kids from three different states managed to clear their calendars and make their way to the beach. We laughed together and ate dinner together every night. The kids taught me how to play a new card game and then I soundly whooped them all without a hint of mercy or grace. It was great fun!

The Payne family is still alive and well. Separated by jobs and even death but still very much a healthy, loving family. David was of course missed and his empty chair at the table always visible. The kids each took turns saying grace before each meal(one of David's jobs). And yet he was there with us. I heard him in the kid's laughter. I felt him smile with me as I watched the boys wrestle with the ocean waves. I am so thankful for an eternal perspective on life. It comes from knowing Christ and the promise of a life that never ends. David is still very much alive - though separated from us for now - he remains a part of us. We look forward to the day we will be reunited; perhaps on a sunny beach in heaven.

Do they have beaches in heaven? Can you even call it heaven without a beach? I'll have to leave that one for greater theological minds than mine. I'm just saying... I really like the beach. But a week on a beach with family is as close to heaven as you can get here on earth.

I consider it a personal victory that I didn't cry once this week. I missed David and I wished he could have been there to enjoy every loving, laughing moment of the week. But I chose not to give away even one moment of joy for expressions of grief. We can always do that on a cloudy cold day at home. Sunny beaches must be met with joy. Thank you Lord for helping us all revel in every moment together. Thank you, Lord for helping us all make that choice. Healing and love were served with every meal and the Payne family ate it up with gladness.

I love the beach!
Keep moving forward in your grief toward health and healing. It's our choice to make though not always an easy one. It really does get better with effort and time and sunny days.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Flushed with Grief

I spent several days this past week at a conference for pastors held on a college campus. The campus was lovely, the conference inspiring and the company good. I'm glad I went. The accommodations were in the dorm rooms on campus. Let's just say it's been a LONG time since I've been in a dorm room. The 10 x 8 room was "decorated" with two twin beds, two desks and an overhead florescent light. The bathroom was located down the hall. For someone who is used to hotel living this "communal" bathroom was quite a shock. Maybe I'm spoiled. Maybe I'm just sheltered. Let's just say I am quite fond of having my own bathroom. I seem to be unable to be "chatty" with people when wearing nothing but a towel and a mouth full of toothpaste. I'm not able to focus on the conversation with wet hair and mascara in hand. Some things really require our full attention. I know we've passed laws against driving and texting or phoning. Perhaps we should consider a law prohibiting all talking in communal bathrooms. It's worth consideration.
Truth be told, chatty is not a word I would use to describe me anytime before 9am. David and I would get up and dressed and out the door in the morning without speaking anything other than a mumbled, "mornin" as we passed in the hall. And though we shared a bathroom we made sure we were never in it at the same time. So my experience with dorm life was quite disturbing for me. The other ladies seem to take it in stride so clearly the problem is entirely me. (I'm willing to own that)
The other part of the communal bathroom that seemed to leave me a bit "on edge" was the automatic flushers. Have you ever experienced one of these contraptions? I know I have from time to time at other public facilities but the ones in the dorm were... well.... over-eager. I closed the door on the stall, sat down and then leaned forward to reach for the paper dispenser - FLUSH. I leaned back (mostly in shock from the first flush)- FLUSH. I took a deep breath and tried to focus on the "job at hand"- FLUSH. I attempted to finish as quickly as possible and leave (more like running for my life!)- FLUSH. I assumed that I had just picked the wrong place and on subsequent trips used a different stall only to experience -FLUSH. FlUSH. FLUSSSH.
Most disturbing! I felt the need to take a shower - again - after using these hair-trigger contraptions. Really! Some things ought to be done personally - NOT automatically. There are some things in life that we really need to give personal attention to and not attempt to delegate to someone else. The bathroom is one of those things.
I was so glad to be back home in my "low-tech" facilities. Some things just need our personal attention. Lesson learned.

Such is grief. It really can't be delegated to others or put on "automatic controls". It requires our personal attention. No one can grieve for me and only I can know the when and wheres of moving forward - or not. Grief is an extremely personal thing; best done by the hand and heart of the one grieving.

I believe those automatic flushers were invented to prevent the mess caused by folks who didn't give attention to their own "issues". We must attend to our grief - ignoring it will cause quite a mess. Some things are just done best in person. There is no such thing as an "automatic griever". So as messy as is might be at times let's determine to handle our own grief in our own way by our own hand in our own time.

I realize this analogy is a bit "stinky" and brings the term, "bathroom humor" to a whole new level. Sorry, but this is my experience this week. Let's just say I am so glad to be home! I'm handling my own grief with great care. Not gonna let others rush me or circumstances overwhelm me. I'm handling it with care, and time, and prayer. How about you?