Ancestral Rooms

Over the weekend I was looking through photos. Actual hold in your hand photographs. Probably taken on an Instamatic Kodak camera complete with a rotating flashbulb and film~~ or as I remember my dad had an old Brownie camera and 8mm camera & yes you young people out there “film” that had to be taken to the store, developed and then picked up a few days later and “viola!” photographs to look at for many years to come.

Photographs that capture the faces of people you love, places you have been and they capture memories you may have forgot or memories you will never forget. No doubt about it photographs are little glimpses into a moment in time that can elicit a smile, a laugh or an emotional cry.

I realize that the core of myself comes from my ancestry. So many people are jumping on the  ancestry website offers & the 23&me kit, in fact my brother did the 23&me kit and found out his ancestry is 48.3% British and Irish and 19.5% French and German, and 1.7% Native American (not sure what happened to the other 30.5% but I digress)  the point being my great grandparents, grandparents and parents are responsible for my biological self.  In so many ways those people also formed in me so many memories that sustain me in my times of reflection of those memories. The photographs in my mind  are those that I hold so close in my heart.  This is where I began……….

My set of grandparents had disparately different households.  My dad’s parents were a rather prosperous and with my grandfather an accountant for a prominent part of a Bay City, Mi business. A beautiful Victorian home in the city. My mom’s parents were farmers and during the depression era and I am sure it was a rough life.  It is rumored that the marriage between my maternal grandmother & grandfather was an arranged marriage by their parents~ my grandmother was 13 years younger and she never wanted to be married but was longing to be a nun.  My mom’s mom was a very, very pious woman of the Catholic faith ~ she would do her prayers on crushed tin cans to suffer as Jesus did (rumored not sure I believe all that but I think it is an idealization of her perspective of faith and service to the church) So it make sense that my own mother would have adapted the same type of attitude.  She was the second eldest of 8 children.  My mother was born in 1929 at the very start of the depression and my grandmother went on to have 6 more children~  Can you imagine having 8 children in the midst of the depression?  I certainly can’t.

My memories of spending time with my Mimi and Grandpa Lalonde  (my father’s parents) are different from the memories of my Mimi & Pippi Dore (my mother’s parents) **sidebar note, we called my grandparents “Mimi” and “Pippi” because of our French heritage, but for some unknown reason my paternal grandfather was always “grandpa’ and never “pippi”.  Anyway, those memories may have been different but they are treasured memories just the same.

Going to my Mimi & Grandpa’s was filled with memories of my Grandpa sitting by the window in the large kitchen with his cane (he had a “wooden” leg from an amputation from the war)  He had a metal newspaper rack with a silhouette of a paper boy next to his chair.  He was a smoker, so his ashtray was on a small table by the window.  I remember the ashtray because it was a beanbag bottom and it would squish when he would ask me to empty it.  I would sit on his lap and look out the window to the neighbor’s house next door.   Every once in awhile he would get maybe a little drunk (but not sure.. these are memories of a small child), but I am not for certain if he drank very much or if at all, anyway he would take his leg off and clunk it on his chair and it scared the shit out of me! He died of emphysema when I was 6 years old, so my memories of him are limited to those.   Now his wife, my Mimi Lalonde is a different story!!   Their house was so beautiful! She took great pride in it.  She was a bit of a snooty woman.  She never really liked my mom.  I think she felt that my dad could have done better than a farm girl.   I think she took such pride in the house because it symbolized wealth and prosperity in a time (the depression) when things were falling apart.  It had an front entrance with a grand staircase made of mahogany. A parlor sitting room along with a formal dining room, both with beautiful fireplaces with ornate mantels and tile work.  The kitchen had a butler’s pantry, which was filled with baking supplies and spices as well as dry goods. My Mimi Lalonde was an excellent baker~ her cooking was good but her baked goods were AWESOME!  I loved going to their house!  She was also a gifted seamstress and would have scraps of fabric in her sewing room that I was allowed to take with me and encouraged to make something from them.  I tried but eh…. It wasn’t my thing. She would make us pajamas every year for Christmas, flannel and so cherished!! We would explore the attic, which was all finished in cedar; we were allowed to play up there. We would also try to slide down that staircase, but it really wasn’t allowed. Spending time there was always fun but also a bit restrained and shall I say “proper”.   Think of tea with bone china and white gloves.  I actually have this tea cup set from my Mimi Lalonde.  It is beautiful but is displayed in my china cupboard that I have, but never used.  Maybe I need to use them more.

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She eventually had to sell the house and move into a high rise one bedroom apartment,  much like the one I  currently live in.  I remember spending time with her there and it was a much more intimate living arrangement and feel I got to know her much better during those later years of her life.

My other grandparent’s house was very different.   They lived on a farm and in the country.  A small house but warm and inviting. As a little girl I was intrigued with my Mimi Dore’s kitchen. It was small and filled with many stoneware bowls and cupboards of homemade canned fruits, vegetables and sauces in mason jars.  She had some of the best canned peaches I have ever tasted!  She made chili sauce that was to die for!  She was one of the best cooks ever!  She made roasts every Sunday and we when we would join her for those Sunday dinners, oh my gosh, my mouth is watering as I write this! She baked the best bread and pies, but cakes, cookies and other baked goods she did not excel in, that was my Mimi Lalonde’s forte!  Needless to say my grandmothers kept us well fed.  It is funny how my memories are of house, home and food.  Back then both my grandmothers of course were stay at home moms.  I am not even sure either one of them worked before marriage but I know they didn’t after marriage.  My Grandpa Lalonde was an accountant, he wore a suit to work.  My Pippi Dore was a farmer and bib overalls were his “suit”.  I did not see much of him as a young child. He was always out in the field.  What I do remember of him was his  chewing tobacco spit can (eww) and his love of wintergreen lozenges, you know the pink ones that look a little like Pepto-Bismal tablets?  As he got older and was in a nursing home, we would visit with him and he always had the little pink candies nearby to share with us.

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My grandparents lived fascinating lives. They have all passed on and died~  My Grandpa Lalonde at the age of 66 (way too young) of emphysema, my Mimi Lalonde at age 84 of pancreatic cancer she lived a long life without much illness, but when the cancer hit, it hit her hard and it was not a peaceful end.  My Pippi Dore (the one with the pink candy) died at the age of 85 of complications from diabetes and a leg amputation surgery.  My Mimi Dore died at age 82 of congestive heart failure.

Forgive me for the statistical breakdown of my grandparent’s deaths, but it provides a snapshot for me of what may happen to me and/or my siblings as we approach old age and the inevitable.  Yes, I went there, because let’s face it, we all die, some will sooner rather than later but it is always the end of the story. So with that I close the door on these rooms of my grandparents,  I will peek in once in awhile to remember though.  Next room I will visit will be that room where my parents are. See you there!  🙂

 

 

 

 

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Rooms of Revelation

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I just watched an old Oprah Winfrey show with Carrie Fisher and her mom Debbie Reynolds and then I watched the 20/20 special that was on right after Miss Reynolds died.

It reiterated to me how important it is to be true to yourself.  When Carrie Fisher died, I was affected because she put a face on mental illness and  addiction.

When I look back at my life I realize why I related and was so emotional while watched.  I am someone who is bi-polar (now managed with the right meds), an addict (now in recovery for many years) and someone who loved and hated her mom (but mostly loved)

I also realize that most of the failures in my life have been directly attributed to either me being bi-polar or an addict.  My inability to fully handle the scope of my emotions and the total unpredictable aspects of just being me has proven to be full of thrilling challenges and gloomy clouds over my head.

In the next few entries I am going to try to categorize my life in “little rooms”.   I would like to write about my experiences in my life, to share those with my few readers and to expound on those experiences to help get them out of my head. The rooms may be decorated  beautifully and sweetly or they may be sparse and with harsh lighting. Either way I hope they will reveal who I am and how I became her.

So I will be back soon as I work on the first installment of this epic (lol) anthology of writing!

Pain

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I recently tore my meniscus in my knee and started physical therapy for it. It is hurting like a son of a bitch~ I  do not understand how it is suppose to help me when it hurts so bad    I just know it doesn’t feel good~!!  The physical therapist told me, with a smile no less, holding my knee with one hand and moving my swollen knee as I squirm in pain he says to  me “But the pain is actually a good thing!”    (with a smile ~ I wanted to kick him in the nuts and ask him how that pain feels….. but I digress)

The PT explained to me, “The nerves in your knee send pain signals to your brain. Your brain processes the pain as something is wrong, and you seek care for your pain”. Then I thought about pain and how it’s really genius the way God created our bodies to respond to pain. If I did not feel the pain in my knee then I would continue to use it and do further damage to it.

Okay …. So what is my point ??   I’d always thought of pain as discomfort to dodge at all costs or an ache to avoid with continuous doses of ibuprofen  or when I was using~~ valium, cocaine, booze or whatever I could get my hands on to block out that pain~ emotional and physical— not a tool designed by God for my good.  As a recovering alcoholic and addict,  I have to make the decision everyday when I wake not to use ~  when I was using it was to mostly to escape emotional pain brought about by trauma and emotional baggage.  Experiences from when I was a teenager (which I will not expound on today)  the deaths of my baby brother and my son within months of each other as well as the untreated mental illnesses of being bi-polar.  What I did not know at the time of my most active addiction was that I was bi-polar and prone to be highly sensitive to others pain and suffering.  I am a HSP and empath personality.  It took many years to come to terms with it.  And yes HSP is an actual diagnosis (Highly Sensitive Person).

I have learned through much life experience that the physical elements of pain often mirror the spiritual sorrow I experience when I ignore God’s kindness or others attempt to help me in the discomfort of my distress. God has not designed us to do things without sending us help from others or ways to glean from other people who He puts in our lives.  We just CANNOT do it alone~ no matter what.

Romans 2:4 explains it well. “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin and help ease your pain?”

God’s kindness is what has drawn me closer to Him in salvation and in my life, and God is also kind in the details of my day-to-day life and how I can deal with having a chronic illness (Lupus) as well as mental illness. I’m convinced God uses pain signals deep within my soul to call to me to seek help, seek Him and be hyperaware of what and who He has provided to me avoid further suffering.

It’s sad to say, and also it was the case for me……..

  • I might have never paid attention to my addiction until the pain of a destroyed life seemed eminent. (mostly because the pain of hurting my kids and most of my relationships, in addition to my own physical well being)
  • I might never get hold of my anger, resentments and selfishness until the pain of a loved one leaving the relationship became my reality. Those who left me was not because they did not care or love me it was because they were consistently let down by me and it hurt too much to stay.   I had a mistaken idea that what they expected from me and whether I met those expectations had no bearing on the love they had for me.   When I did not meet those expectations it produced disappointment, hurt and anger in them, but it never made them stop loving me~~  nothing I could or did do would cause them to not love me.  NOTHING!   That is unconditional love.

I have always felt a gnawing ache within my soul but over the years I had developed a high threshold for the pain or so I thought~~ it was in reality, the pain was only dulled because I was heavily medicated with and just numbing the pain with whatever (or whomever) will give me temporary relief.

However, God designed me to respond to pain in a way that will bring goodness if I do not run and avoid the  pain but instead remain in Him or return to Him.  It is very hard at times, but God does not intend to harm us in anyway and He will ALWAYS answer in our time of need.   Spirituality is something that is not easy to achieve because it defies what this world reflects.   We are to live in the world but not be of the world~~ 1 John 5:19  states  “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is now under the control of the evil one”  Then Jesus says to us in John 16:33  “ I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  The Scriptures especially the New Testament can and will provide us with answers, it just takes time and effort to glean all you can from it.  There is no easy way to say this but it takes work and it is a continuous journey of learning and practicing.

I have found that if I live in awareness of pain instead of avoidance, I have seen, time and again, God’s kindness leading me to peace and healing.

Now when I experience soul pangs, instead of looking for the easiest escape, I often find myself thanking God for His kindness to me. I ask Him to show me why the pain is there. I plead with Him to have mercy on me and show me the way to heal and cope with whatever is happening.  I have also found the pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.   This world will cause us much pain……. But with God’s help and the help of others we can learn and grow from the pain and come to the realization that God is our comfort.  God has also given us at times of temptation a way out…… (as indicated in the Our Father prayer…… leads us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”  )

Whenever I experience pain  (physical or emotional) it brings me to an end of myself and drives me to seek help for the trauma and hurt in my life .  I cannot do this alone…. I need God and others who have been placed in my life to help me.  One of my morning prayers is always this……

Dear God, thank You that in Your kindness, sometimes even pain is good. I confess that when I experience spiritual pain my first instinct is to run toward whatever will give me quick relief. Sadly, I often rush in to find it’s not sustaining, and the pain eventually will worsen. Please forgive me for turning to things or the wrong people; in my weakness, Lord, help me to recognize who and what you put in front of me to learn and grow and to live in peace and contentment despite the pain.  So far so good…….  ❤

what is real?

Manipulation is deceit. Deceit is not real. Being not real is to bury the truth.

Sometimes the truth is buried so deep, that unless you dig deep, it will never be unearthed. It will never see the light of the truth. It will become so ingrained into the core of you, you begin to believe it was not real or at the very least you will start to believe the lie. You will live it as if it were true and then you are so confused as to what is real and what is not, you lose touch with reality.

The madness of deceit can kill you. Maybe not in a physical sense of killing you. But your soul is dead and your spirit is defeated with deceit and you teeter on the edge of sanity.

You peer over to the side of insanity and it looks inviting. It taunts you to join in. Come on over, nothing is as it seems here. You can make your own reality. Come on.. Come in.. join us.

We are all WHAT we want to be on the other side of sanity. We are all WHERE we want to be on the other side of sanity. No rules, no expectations, no way out. Come and join us………….. then again insanity is also a new workout video… I think I will pass on both.. and move on.

Unconditionally

I was thinking about unconditional love and the truth of whether or not we are capable of it.  I always thought  “I love my children unconditionally”  and I do believe that I do.

However,  I also came to the realization of what the word  “unconditional” means, it means “not subject to any conditions.”   I have been broken by relying on someone who I thought loved me unconditionally.   It started as early as a daughter with my mother.  I always felt that their were conditions on her love for me.  If I was not good enough or smart enough or pretty enough that she would not love me.  As I grew up it affected me because my mom did expect me to be (in my opinion)  little miss perfect.  Always meeting her expectations of me.   Always being the good little Catholic girl.  As I became a teenager, I realized a rebellion inside of me that as an immature 13 year old I just could not contain~~ it felt good to rebel, it felt good to be bad!!  My first drink was when I was 12 years old at a  6th grade end of the school dance and I got drunk.  (it was cherry vodka…… ugh!!  )  We had just moved to Mt. Pleasant the beginning of the year and I had a very hard time fitting into the small Catholic school I was attending.  At the end of the year, I managed to become a little more accepted by the “in” crowd.  I felt like this year end school dance would seal the deal to popularity as the summer started and for the future 7th grade me.   I do not remember much toward the end of the dance, but I do remember the next morning……….. a lecture from my mother on what a huge disappointment I was to her and how I may have ruined HER reputation in the community and with the “altar society”    I chuckle now because, I know both my parents enjoyed their choices of alcohol ( my dad was a beer drinker,  my mom drank Jim Beam and water  <<shudder>> )   They both had their share of drunken nights after a fish fry at the Moose Lodge or a parish hall wedding reception.    I  am now, as a recovering alcoholic for over 27 years aware that perhaps my parents were alcoholics.   I do believe they were high functioning alcoholics, being that they did not let it affect their ability to pay the bills etc.   My dad was an architect at a major university in our town and my mom was a homemaker who always had the house clean, laundry done, and wonderful home cooked meals.  She later went back to work when we were all in high school, as an accountant for a small vending company.  But I digress~~   That first drunk was pivotal for me.   I was a proven disappointment to my mother.  (I say my mother mostly because she was the most vocal of my parents and my dad was a strong silent type)   I continued that pattern of disappointment throughout my teen years~~  right down to getting pregnant BEFORE I got married, but alas, that is a whole ‘nother post!!

The above narrative of my teenage years and the subsequent disappointment that I was to my mom, kind of shaped my version of unconditional love.  I have no doubt in my mind that my mother and father loved me very much, but until recently I thought they did not love me “unconditionally”  that there were always “conditions” on their love.

As I have grown into the woman I am now, I realize that they did love me unconditionally.  I had a mistaken idea that what they expected from me and whether I met those expectations had no bearing on the love they had for me.   When I did not meet those expectations it produced disappointment, hurt and anger in them, but it never made them stop loving me~~  nothing I could or did do would cause them to not love me.  NOTHING!   That is unconditional love.

I am an alcoholic.  I have been in recovery for 27 years now.   I can honestly say that I love my children and grand kids unconditionally, but I also know they will not always act or do things that don’t disappoint or hurt me but I in no way, shape or form will stop loving them~ EVER!

 

what is change?

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I have learned to look at any moment with the quiet understanding that, in reality, nothing in life is fixed. All things change~~

Everything passes. This is truth. I know this to be true.

On the other hand, according to another great truth, everything in life tends to become more of what it is supposed to be~ so that the only thing “fixed” in me are those parts of my present unenlightened nature that convince me to resist life’s natural changes.

As this fear-filled, downward-trending nature tricks me into accepting its conclusions, I unconsciously accept the limited and painful life this alliance-in-the-dark produces.

Real self-change begins with seeing that real life IS change. This means there is nothing that can disturb me without my cooperation.  I need to wake up. I need to walk out of myself by changing how I see what I call my life.  I need to realize that while the contents of my life may come and go, turn dark, or suddenly seem delightful –  that regardless of the good, bad or indifferent —  all these things will pass. Living life on life’s terms is crucial if I am to  be of peace and contentment.

Resting in that awareness of this truth while working to stand upon its higher ground, I can adapt to the inevitable changes that life  has to offer.

 

He has joined us

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My last post was a birthday post for my youngest son Paul  aka “my baby”.  Well my baby now has his own baby!!  He arrived on June12th (about 3 weeks early) at 6:47 a.m. weighing in at 6lbs 12oz and 20.5 inches long. The name he was given is  Lane Lundean Engler.  He is PERFECT!

It is such a treasure being a grandparent.  As you watch your children become adults and become parents has always been a bit surreal to me.  Like floating above and watching things unfold ~~ My heart bursts with pride but also I have to learn this is their journey and I am only along for the ride.  My oldest son has three children~~ Emma is 13, Andrew is 11 and Olivia is 6.  I am so grateful that I am able to spend time with them and enjoy all the activities they are involved in.   Sports, school, dance,  and all the things that keep them busy! It is such a joy but it is also a great relief that when I am tired I can drive home and rest!

When I went to see my new grandson the other day~  I really had forgotten how little newborn babies are.  Lane is a very relaxed baby with open hands and little newborn smiles.  I fed him, burped him, he farted and fell asleep.  It was wonderful.  He was so content and my mind went to the realization that only a few days before this little being was safe, warm and protected inside his mommy’s womb. Now he is among us here in this world.  A big and sometime scary world~~ it became a bit overwhelming to think of this.  Then I said a silent prayer to God to keep this beautiful little family safe and protected.  To help them when they are weary and tired with those weeks of having a newborn to care for. Asking God to help them to realize that this is a time to enjoy and relish this little being.

My heart overflows with so much love for my children and grandchildren.  I am so incredibly grateful for what God has given me!!  5af37ccf94b96267dda2940d9b64b53b