Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/marybiev/public_html/wp-content/themes/StandardTheme_274/admin/functions.php on line 229
Uncategorized | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother
Archive - Uncategorized RSS Feed

The Risks of Class Envy

Class envy is a huge threat to the poor and the needy.

Read to the end to understand my meaning. Often, the best thing we can do for the poor is to not simply help them today but to empower them to help themselves and seek to break the cycles of poverty.

I write of this from personal experience from living in poverty. Without going into too many details, I’ve lost almost everything I owned twice in a lifetime. The first time was after my parent’s divorce and a scandal involving my father. The second time was 13 years ago, a year after my husband and I started our own digital arts business. Our home and business burned on a Saturday night. Our kids were ages 5 and 7. That Sunday morning, we went to church in borrowed clothes and borrowed shoes, without a home or livelihood but with no idea where we would sleep that night or how we would provide for our children.

Add to that I’ve been on my own since age 18. I’ve spent time as a couch surfer because I had no home, I spent a month sleeping on the living room floor of a friend’s apartment because I had no home, and have gone hungry because the cupboards were bare and the refrigerator was empty.

So I discuss class envy from the perspective of someone who’s pulled herself out of poverty by her bootstraps – on more than one occasion.

I am thankful for many people who stepped up and helped us in many different ways. If I tried a lifetime, I couldn’t pay their generosity forward.

One of the greatest things they gave me was encouragement and confidence, as well as opportunities for our family to work ourselves out of messes. We rebuilt our home and business. When the economy went south in 2008, we kept the business going and scrambled every way we possibly could to get through it.

If we had wasted time and energy on class envy, we wouldn’t have had enough left over to find solutions. Every moment spent resenting those who have more, who drive a nicer car, or live in a nicer home is a moment that could have been better spent savoring what we do have and working to tend our own gardens.

Further, class envy makes us focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have. Resentment and anger do not breed solutions for poverty. They merely exacerbate it. Victimology does nothing to help those who are victims. It merely perpetuates and worsens the cycles that put them there.

Finally, often those who have more than we do also give more than we do. Many do not share all they do with their time, talent, and treasure to help others.

One of the commandments was not to covet our neighbor’s goods. It makes sense and is one of the smartest strategies we can adopt in the war on poverty.

Positively Better After a Heart Attack!

Don’t make the mistake I made and wait until you have a heart attack to reduce your stress.

If parts of your life just upset you or give you anxiety, do what you have to to reduce your stress. (Note – parenting kids is not included in this one.)

This is my new anthem for life – accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative.

I never realized how much of my energy was sapped dealing with negative forces. The problem with dealing with negative people and forces is that it puts you into either playing defense or offense. In defense mode, you’re trying to prevent yourself from being hurt or are trying to recover from the latest hurtful thing that was said or done. In offense mode, you’re standing up for yourself and fighting to be taken seriously.

And all that time in defense and offense mode removes your joy. It saps your energy and your ability to be happy in the moment.

When you latch onto the affirmative, it will be easier for you to not only spread joy but to feel it yourself.

You deserve to be happy. It’s a great prescription for better health.

Singing a New Song

Yesterday, I was again reminded that one season’s ending is another’s beginning. Sometimes a season ends before we are willing to let it go. When we finally let go of the past, new opportunities will present themselves. The song “Turn to Me” reminded me of that yesterday.

Letting go can be hard. I can get so drawn into the mission of a non-profit that I put its well-being ahead of my own and that of my family. One of my passions is to walk into a nonprofit in crisis and find ways to resolve the crisis so it can continue to meet its mission. The problem is I can get so sucked into the problem solving that I neglect myself and my family.  I’m an all or nothing kind of person, and I don’t do halfway with anything I start. So I can add, and add, and add to my plate until it is too full and I break.

My heart attack a year ago tomorrow was a wake up call. I decided the best way to lower my stress was to stop adding new things, and I changed my management style. It’s more vision-oriented than in years past. I cut some small things from my plate and tried to keep going where I thought I was needed the most.

I was too stubborn to let go of a position I held with a nonprofit as their president. They needed me.

I tried to keep helping at the same level I had in years past. But it was no longer fun. In addition to the pressures of keeping fundraisers going, I felt pressure not to get upset and stressed. I ignored many signs to stop. I tried to keep going, convinced I could make it work. They needed me.

The problem is others who loved me were concerned about the impact and worked twice as hard to not only pick up my slack, but they worked to shield me from stressers that might upset me.

This week, the scales fell from my eyes. When I realized how much they were protecting me, I knew I had to go. A good manager needs to know the good, the bad, and the ugly of an organization in order to make the best decisions. I knew I needed to quit but hated to do it.

As I struggled, with tears rolling, my family intervened. I told my husband I would give it a few days to see if there were another way out. He told me it was time to go and stop delaying the decision. Then my kids told me it was time to quit. I was astounded – I took this position years ago to help their organization.

But one is now in college, and the other graduates from high school in the spring. They told me I would be happier without it.  I realized they needed me, and they needed me to be happy. They wanted me to focus on my new job that I love, full of new challenges.

It seems everyone else saw this season was coming to an end, but I stubbornly clung to it, convinced I could keep going.

Finally, Friday I quit, effective immediately. In the hours after the resignation, I felt a slow and growing peace. This was the right decision.

Yesterday was the morning after the resignation. I saw pieces falling into place this past year. More than one friend has told me this year that when you remove something that doesn’t quite fit any more from your plate, something better replaces it. In cardiac rehab, I had been told to remove stresses from my life.

After the resignation, friends cautioned me not to rush to add something new to my plate. They told me God has different plans for me, and I needed to sit back for Him to show me where I go now.

So we went to Mass last night. For years, I had cantored but I quit because I wanted to sit in Mass with my children. I love singing in Church. After my heart attack, I had been afraid to begin cantoring again. What if I had chest pains in the middle of a service? What if something stressed me? I was afraid to add to my plate, so I resolved if and when God wanted me to sing in Mass again, someone would ask me.

Last night, as we walked in to the service, I realized we had an organist and no cantor. The organist came to me, asking for my help. Of course, I said yes. There was no time to warm up or rehearse. Within 3 minutes of my saying yes, the service began. As the music began, I could feel the Holy Spirit flowing through me from the tips of my toes to the hairs on my head.

There were a few Bridget Jones moments – but I like singing by the seat of my pants. I couldn’t find music for the Alleluia when it began and started off faking it, realizing just before it was time for me to sing the solo part that my music was turned upside down on the music stand, and I did have it. When I sang a couple of songs, I got lost briefly as I hit a repeat and had to scramble to find in the music where it repeated to. Every moment was thrilling.

I was happy and had fun. It was my voice singing, but God was guiding me at every step. As I sang “Turn to Me,” I realized once again that that was what I was called to do. Turn to God.

After the service, I told my husband that I felt that God was telling me that He had new plans for me. Once I let go of the old song, He gave me a new one. My husband said he had the exact same feeling at the same time.

So I don’t know what songs I will sing or where I will sing them next. God only knows.

Life is always easier when I sing the song He presents before me.

Managing With Respect

I’ve turned into one of those grumpy old school people.

We were at a hotel, and I asked the front manager how we would get a shuttle to the airport. She buzzed their driver. When he came and pulled the car up, she scolded him in front of us because he failed to keep the engine running. He went to turn the van back on and as he left, she rolled her eyes at me behind his back.

He was a nice guy doing a hard job on Black Friday. In addition to driving people to the airport, he was responsible for keeping the breakfast room stocked. She not only treated him with disrespect but did so in front of customers.

He did not respond in kind.

He took us to the airport, and we worked to generate conversation with him. When my husband found out how badly the manager treated the driver, he added to the tip. An hour later, he picked us back up from the airport. We learned about his family, where he traveled and more.

I made a point when we returned to tell her how good a job he did and how much we appreciated his help.

The world is a better place when you treat the people around you like people instead of chattel or objects.

The manager who took pride in her efficiency must have been absent the day they taught leadership. Maybe she never had the dirty job where someone mocked her in front of a customer. I don’t know.

A manager may keep things going ok. But a leader, a true leader, not only keeps things going but inspires everyone to work harder, give more, and respect each other.

Her bad behavior also made me appreciate the office where I work now. Everyone is part of the same team. We will do what it takes to get the job done. And if we have some fun along the way, so much the better.

When you treat those you work with with respect, they will go above and beyond, and you will all do a better job.

Maybe you have to be a crusty old lady to see that.

And now I’m pondering whether I should email this blog to the manager involved. I have her business card.

Update on December 3: I received a heartfelt apology from the manager. We’ve all made mistakes. I’ve made them. I am glad her hotel was as responsive as she was.

Thanksgiving Menus

I usually post Thanksgiving menus. The challenge this year is what to fix after a heart attack to keep family traditions. So we’re doing a mix of cutting certain items, adding others, and swapping ingredients to lower the fat content.

Menu:

  • Broccoli salad, made with broccoli, sunflower seeds, diced almonds, dried cranberries, and a red onion, mixed with my own fat free creamy dressing and sprinkled with low-salt turkey bacon.
  • Cranberry salad, made with pureed cranberries, apples, oranges, and walnuts and mixed with raspberry Jello.
  • Turkey
  • Dressing, made with whole wheat bread and celery and onions cooked in chicken broth instead of margarine – no margarine will be used in this dish. And the chicken broth is home-made, to lower the salt content.
  • Mashed potatoes, made with freshly dug potatoes, using olive oil and garlic and mixed with the skins still on them to increase the nutritional value.
  • Sweet potato casserole, made by my daughter. I don’t know how she’s making it.
  • Corn casserole, made with olive oil instead of margarine. The rest of it is pretty much like the traditional recipe.
  • Gravy, ok – I’ve got to keep gravy.
  • Mini pies, made by my daughter. They are miniature blackberry and cherry pies, baked in a cupcake pan for individual servings.

I skipped any type of bread or rolls. There are plenty of starches in this menu, and I didn’t want to add another temptation. We’ll see how my substitutions of olive oil for margarine play out with my family.

Update: success! It is possible to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with no margarine or butter.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream of Jesus

My surgery went well, and I’m on the path to recovery. A few nights ago I had the most profound of dreams.

I was returning to once again teach children in a large group. What lessons would I share? What was most important for them to learn? How would I design the lesson plan?

When I stood up in front of them, I knew I was to forget about math, reading, history, and science. Those were not the first lesson to teach.

Instead, I told them, “What’s most important for you to learn to do is to talk to Jesus. He always listens and is always there.”

After I said it in the dream, I was utterly overwhelmed with the recognition of how much Jesus Christ has been and is there for me in my own life.

I didn’t know if any of the children in that dream took my message to heart. But they had heard it. So I had done my job.

And I marveled at how Divine Providence had cared for me for a lifetime. I told the kids, “Jesus Loves Me is more than a song. It’s real.”

With that message shared, my task with the children was complete.

And it was time to share that message with others.

Jesus does listen. He does care. He will carry you through the darkest pits and share a light with you you never imagined possible.

And I know that for me, there is one thing to remember above all.

Give. Me. Jesus.

 

 

Update on Summer Break

I have not posted much here because of time spent with summer business and family obligations.

Last week, I had surgery which went well and am still recovering. As I increase my energy and recover, I will resume posting.

His Name is Holy

I’ve been covered up with family and personal obligations for several weeks, without time to blog much. As my family meets challenges this week, we’ve met them united together in prayer. And in the process, we’ve seen the hand of God at work. I marvel at Divine Providence and pray that I learn as much as possible from each challenge and experience.

This morning, I woke with an abiding peace. With all our distractions, what matters most is love.

 

His name truly is holy.

Prodigal’s Parents

The older I get, and the emptier my nest gets, the more I think of the story of the prodigal’s father.

What torment he must have felt.  I don’t have a prodigal. But every parent will go through moments of surprise at life decisions.

Letting go of my kids is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There are the worries – will they be safe? Will they be happy? Will they be ok?

Then there can be uncertainty or frustration – will they forget all they have been taught? During those years when I tried to share my heart and soul with them, did any of it stick? Or did I waste my life?

And then there is the sadness of missing these kids who were and are the light of my life.

As I think of the prodigal’s father, and as I watch my own children stretch to make their own journey, I remembered the final scene in Alex Haley’s Queen miniseries. Queen had survived a horrific life and when her own sons wanted to leave home, she wanted to hold them back. She told them the world was a mean place where they might get hurt. And actually (there were other causes), she went through a complete breakdown.

But when she recovered, and as she said farewell to her sons, she told them words I have paraphrased and used myself.

Wherever you go, always remember that there is a road back home, and that road is a lot shorter than the one it took for you to leave. The door is always open, you’re always welcome, and we love you very much.

My job now is to simply love them.

And with those words, I know as they venture on their own stories I’ll be covering them with prayer and daily singing Jean Valjean’s, “Bring him home,” with a heartfelt prayer to keep them both safe.

You can take
You can give
Let him be
Let him live
If I die, let me die
Let him live
Bring him home

 

Letting Go With Lent

A nest built with love isn’t really empty. That’s the lesson I’m learning this Lenten season.

Ash Wednesday had a poignant beginning as I realized it was the first time ever we were going to services without both of our kids. And of course part of that too was thinking that in two years, both our kids will be gone.

But during the service, there was a revelation…

We worship one God. We have one savior. Wherever my kids are and wherever they go, so long as there is an opportunity for Mass, we worship together in a different way….we listen to the same Bible readings and make the same Psalm responses. As we stand and listen to the same Gospel readings, we stand together wherever we are.  If they travel to other lands, in whatever language is spoken, we will listen to His word and can reflect on what it means in our lives.

My job is to play the role of Hannah as she did with Samuel. My children were a gift from God, and I’ve done my best to teach them what I know. The time has come and is coming for me to take them to the temple, trust them to God, and pray for them always. When in future years I see them, maybe instead of bringing them the coat I had made for them that year, I’ll bring something else. Since I don’t sew, it will probably be something knit or crochet, and that can take awhile….I’m still working on the afghan that was supposed to be a high school graduation present for my daughter. She hopes I’ll finish it by the time she graduates from college.

The challenges of the past several months give a new gravity to ashes on the forehead and hearing “from dust you were created and to dust you shall return.”

Wherever they go, I know that we can be together in the ways that matter most. Wherever they are, my prayer is they know how much they are loved and that their father and I will pray for them always, in this world and in the next.

And I pray they always remember our love is but an imperfect reflection of the all-powerful, all-knowing love of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer King.

Page 1 of 3123»