One of the things that has kept me busy for the past four months is leading a Grief Share support group at my church. It's the first time we've offered this curriculum, and though the group was on the small side, it was tremendously effective for those who attended.
It is a 13-week curriculum, but with class breaks due to weather or other obligations, we went 16 weeks. I am surprised, but I found myself somewhat sad this evening as we went through the last session and said our goodbyes at the end.
I hope to lead this group again someday, if the timing allows. Instead of an evening class, I would like to offer it as a morning class. I've been keeping notes about how to offer it to more people, and I've learned that the typical age group that would benefit does not like to get back out at night and drive for a meeting. If they are still driving, it is only during the daytime. It might be a benefit if several people could carpool together for class and then perhaps go to lunch together when the sessions finish.
It's been good material for me to go over, too. Even though I was the leader, I may have learned as much as the others. I have had a lot of losses through the years; all of my nuclear family is gone, as are plenty of other relatives and friends. In my teens and 20s, I had six people -- friends and family -- who died in separate drunken driving accidents. There were others who came too close.
I feel like I'm coming to the end of a good book. The auction is done; that was a happy chapter. Grief Share is completed. Not a giddy chapter, but satisfying and fulfilling.
Nothing is on the immediate horizon to replace these events. But it is summer and my yard is completely out of control. I'm thinking it would be a good thing to put some of that time into creating a fabulous garden. Something nice that would keep me from getting citations from the city and bring a smile to others who have to pass by my house.
I had someone who was willing to come this afternoon to mow my yard, but then we had a floodin' rain come through. I think the grass is 3 inches taller and the mud is 3 inches deeper, so I can only hope I can get a mower through it in the next day or two.
But try I will! I can imagine making myself a chair like those at the auction -- someplace to sit and sip lemonade and enjoy the perfume of fresh-mown grass.
UPDATE: I have learned I can apply for a community grant from Wal-Mart, which will match the funds raised in the auction up to $1,000!!!
The Tie-One-On Chair-ity Auction was held yesterday after church, along with a potluck dinner. I was amazed at the number of chairs and aprons that were brought in! And the quality of work? Amazing also!
I was very pleased to have a guest attend -- blogger buddy and real-life friend ER dropped by for some brisket and side dishes for lunch. He even made a few bids, which boosted bids made by others. I'm sad he didn't win any of the things, but I'm grateful he motivated some competitive bids. In total, we raised $1,440! (I would have been thrilled with $300. So multiply "thrilled" by 4 and you'll know how I feel!)
Every item sold, except for three photographs. I'd held an online photo contest with some friends from all across the U.S. and Canada and sold framed prints.
Here are a few photos -- the auctioneer (Santa Claus, working his off-season job as executive director of Mustard Seed Development Corp., a Partnership With God); some of the aprons and chairs; me, getting a ride around the gym in one of the chairs.
OK, I think it's been long enough since my last substantial post. Time to catch up!
It's been a worrisome time, with taxes coming due. The hit is incredibly hard for those of us who are self employed, especially if we make very little money. See, the IRS doesn't much care that income is barely sufficient to cover utility costs. Come April 15, they want a BIG chunk of the year's money, along with Social Security taxes and who knows what else. It stinks having to shell that out along with paying for all the equipment necessary to work and along with car expenses that come out of pocket. And this year, on my 12-year-old car, expenses were extraordinarily high, but not deductible because the car has been primarily a personal vehicle for the duration of the time I've owned it. I can get a little relief for my mileage, but it's not close to helping me.
Throw in the unexpected and immediately urgent cost of having the sewer cleaned out last week, and this little pauper's purse was turned upside down, inside out and every which-way but loose. To say I was suffering a panic attack and anxiety attack daily is no exaggeration!
Enter my friend and accountant Tony. He did my taxes for me and I thought I would have a seizure right then and there. I did start hyperventilating but Tony talked me down from the ledge. We discussed options. Tony is great for that. And after I left his office, I went directly to my bank and applied for a home equity loan.
The banker treated me with dignity and respect, and was as reassuring as Tony that there is a solution. I think I spent all of 10 minutes going through the application. Later that evening, I got a call from the loan processor saying there were just a few things they would need copies of. That will take me about 10 minutes. They need a copy of my driver's license, my last credit card statements, the house insurance policy and copies of my last two tax returns (one in my hand, thanks to Tony, and the one he did for me last year, which is in an envelope in my filing cabinet. I just need to drop them off at my nearest bank branch. We'll close on the loan in 7 to 10 business days. My life will be tolerable again. The 30 percent credit card debts will be gone, absorbed into the 8 percent loan.
I slept like a baby last night. When I awoke today, there was no anxiety attack. It was replaced with a sense of peace.
I was amazed at how simple and fast the process was. Seriously, an investment of 10 minutes at the bank changed my life.
It's funny. With all of the economics courses I took in college, my experience in editing personal finance stories, my personal experience buying, selling and managing real estate, and generally being a well-educated consumer, I had allowed fear and panic to take over. Consolidating these bills all into one loan has given me back my personal power. It's given me a clarity of vision. I don't have to have self doubts any more. They have been a painful illusion, not the truth. I can take care of myself and this was a joyful reminder of that.
I also was reminded that it is OK to let other people help you, even if you just need to have them listen while you consider your options. It's great when they can say "you can do this." It's great when the banker says "That happens sometimes. Let's see what we can do to make it better."
This will get me over a very painful hump as I move on down the road to whatever comes next. Changes are coming, probably long overdue. Somehow I let myself get off track over the past few years and I came to believe that I needed to "settle." Who the heck was I kidding? I don't need to settle! No one does! Why did I believe that?
Maybe it doesn't matter why I thought I needed to accept less. The point is, I see more clearly now my own worth and value. I got lost for a little while, but I don't need to believe the lies any more that have been telling me that I'm not worthy of a full life. I have value and I don't need to keep believing that I should be grateful for a life of deprivation. I'm worth more than that. God loves me enough to provide abundantly, and now I'm walking into that promised life.
Earlier this afternoon I was in a hurry to get something eaten and get to a 6 p.m. meeting. So about 5:15 I was in the kitchen putting some shredded cheese on a tortilla to roll up for a quick snack.
I was going to put some picante sauce on it too and started shaking the jar. Then I discovered I'd already unscrewed the lid.
Yep, it came flying off the jar, landed on the counter, and picante sauce suddenly rains down on me, with the approximate velocity of the rain we had in central Oklahoma last week. It was in my hair, all over my clothes, on the counter and the floor.
So I took a quick shower, shampoo and clothes change before rushing out. I've got a lot of mopping, not to mention laundry, to do tonight.
It's been a good one. I've gotten many great cards from even greater friends, plus today is Palm Sunday. It doesn't happen often that my birthday falls on Palm Sunday or Easter, but usually it's around the same time.
I love Palm Sunday, especially watching the little kids waving the palms around the church sanctuary. It makes me cry, every.single.time. It's the good cry, of course, the kind that takes my breath away.
Good friends Anne and Cliff (plus Anne's son and his girlfriend) took me to lunch today at Chili's. We had an unusually long wait so we filled up on chips before we got our food and everyone wound up with go boxes for the leftovers. That's OK -- I got a free chocolate shake with sprinkles on it for dessert, which was shared all around.
This afternoon I had a delightful nap, so it's been a happy day.
The week coming up is Holy Week, so it will be a busy week. I'll be at church every day. Monday's a committee meeting; Tuesday is my Grief Share week (four more sessions!) Wednesday is choir rehearsal; Thursday is Maundy Thursday; Friday is Good Friday with the choir cantata. Saturday is the kids' Easter Egg hunt (I think I'll be skipping this) and Sunday next is Easter.
There's lot going on in the "regular" world this week, too. Some working, working on things for the auction coming up April 22, etc. I'll probably have to haul clothes to the laundromat too, because of the problems with the floor drain in the garage.
The weeds in the yard are getting pretty tall, too, so it's time to do the first mowing of the season. I'll have to wait for the ground to dry up some before I try to put the mower on it. I've got a neighbor a few houses down on the other side of the street who, for reasons unknown, removed all the grass from his yard and replaced it with a few large boulders with his house number written on them. Hm. It was real interesting (and "entertaining") driving through the river of mud after the torrential downpours we had this week. I wonder if I can find the city ordinance which requires grass to stop soil erosion -- new home builders are required to put down sod to stop it so mud doesn't get in the storm sewer.
Anyway, that's the news from Mount Pilot today. I wish everyone a wonderful April and an amazing experience this Holy Week!