Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Burden   Leave a comment

It just seems to be one of those days. Yesterday morning, I was fine. I woke up normally and in good spirits. I don’t know what happened, but today I am trailing along in the wake of the same old depression that has been routinely dogging me for the past two years. Not every day or month, thankfully, but it just keeps coming back.

I hope this will be a one day version and that tomorrow will be better, since I was on the upswing. We’re doing work on the house that is supposed to get rid of mold and thus help my mental health, and that remediation is finally over and we will get the final clearance from the assessor that the house is mold free, soon, we hope.

But for now, it’s the same old fight, fighting the inner voices that tell me I can’t do this or that, or that it’s too much trouble, or I don’t have what it takes to overcome this, or that it will never change.

And going into this winter, with the virus having totally swamped the boat of normal life, knowing that it’s getting worse and not better, it’s hard to bear even the thought of going into a lock down again. It was bad enough last spring. If I can’t get out and see friends all winter, it will not be a good thing.

Most days recently, what I have been doing when a worry comes forward in my mind, is to just start praying about that exact thing. It does drive it away. It does give it to God. I want to be doing that today. But the burden isn’t moving so easily today.

Posted November 14, 2020 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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Remaking my Brain   Leave a comment

I’m a skeptic on anything smacking of positive thinking. I seem to have been born with a bent toward negativity and thinking things will probably turn out for the worst. I don’t know why–a combination of genetics and life experiences and brain chemistry is my best guess, since these things are never simple.

However, at an opportune truly low spot, I read a book about a process called detoxing your brain. As I looked into it, it seemed in some ways like more positive thinking. What made it worth trying in my view was research that showed that it was not just that thoughts are different if you meditate, but that the brain itself actually changes, growing new and different connections and letting go of the old. People the author had done research with had positive effects from trying the process.

So I decided why not?

I picked a negative belief that kept running through my head. There’s a five step process you go through, the key part in my opinion being when you write/draw/scribble your negative thoughts and replace them with the positive truth on paper, thus literally letting your mind process and make choices about what to focus on and what to let go of. It’s basically written meditation. You finish with an “active reach” which just means a phrase or action you will take when you fight the negative thought in order to combat it.

I started with “Life is too hard,” and used as my replacement thought, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I repeated the process taking about ten or fifteen minutes each day. Believe me, some days were pure torture. I didn’t want to do it, and I barely got myself to do it. I just didn’t feel like doing it.

And honestly, at the time, I didn’t notice any particular benefits beyond having a verse or phrase or reminder of truth to go to that day when my mind would go back to the old habit. It didn’t seem to be doing anything.

After the first 21 days on one negative idea, I went to the next one that was really bothering me, which was that bottom line, I was alone, responsible and had to figure everything out by myself.

And I went through the same process again. Painful, hard, boring, tedious, repetitive, yes.

After four rounds of doing this with different fears and concerns, as I look back, I cannot say it has completely erased these un-truths. But I can say that it has worked in that it has dimmed them. They no longer hold me as much, nor do the negative thoughts stick in my head as long. I’m able to boot them out much more expediently.

So, this skeptic is glad she tried something that she thought was just a bunch of hooey.

It was definitely work worth doing.

Posted November 3, 2020 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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Down by the Waterfall   Leave a comment

In August, when our vacation to New York’s Adirondacks was cancelled by Covid, we took a short getaway to Cincinnati and saw some attractions, went out to eat, and did our best to enjoy ourselves. It was fun, but it wasn’t what we usually do.

We’re used to camping, but that wasn’t going to happen in August, when we had planned for New York weather.

So last weekend we went to see the Niagara of the south, Cumberland Falls. We were only gone for a few days, but I felt relaxed pretty much the moment we arrived. A campground, wood smoke, turning leaves on trees, and a hike down by the Cumberland River to Eagle Falls helped, but weren’t even necessary. It was just so good to be away with my family, enjoying time. Peace. The outside. The routine of our life camping.

We stayed four nights during which we did very little, other than hike, eat, read, and toast marshmallows. We climbed up to Cumberland Gap in a day trip east, which was lovely. If you hike on up to the Tri-State Mountain you can stand in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee at the same time. And the views from the scenic drive overlook were amazing.

Another nice surprise was how enjoyable it was being around other campers. Most people were friendly, even while keeping a distance, and many were talkative. As I passed one woman coming from the Falls overlook, she smiled at me, I smiled back, and I was reminded of the good old days–it lifted my spirits so much to see her smile.

We stayed four nights. I wish it could have been longer, but I am so thankful for this respite in a challenging year.

Posted October 31, 2020 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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The Roof of My World   Leave a comment

God peeled off the roof of my world two years ago when my husband lost his job unexpectedly.

Sure, you know this happens to people.  But before it happens to you, it hasn’t yet happened to you.

He got a new job three and a half weeks after the day he lost the old one.  This was a quick turnaround and meant we were only without income for seven weeks, while we waited for the monthly paycheck from the new job to arrive.  People said, and rightly so, that it was wonderful my husband had found a new job so quickly.  It was quick.  Talk about relief!

The relief of knowing God had provided for us did not however relieve the sadness and trauma of losing a job he had been told he did well the most recent time he asked his supervisor about it.  It didn’t relieve the disconnect that existed because he had been told the same thing every other time the question had ever been put.  The disbelief of close co-workers on hearing the news eased the sting…a bit.

Being turned back out on the street without your laptop, with the work cell phone loaned to you for a few more days so you can get your personal photos off of it, without an opportunity to say goodbye to the co-workers you’ve known and partnered with for twelve years, as if you’re some sort of objectionable criminal–that is trauma.

So, as I said, the roof peeled off our world.  We can negotiate this fact by criticizing ourselves for being naive to start out with, or say we’re discounting the providence of our father.  These statements are true.  But they only go so far.

You have to feel the pain, and you will.

The fear will resonate for a long time to come.  The fear colors your future interactions in your new job, although you remind yourself that it’s not likely to happen again.

I lived through this traumatic loss with my husband.  We’ve been a team for a long time, and we’ve experienced chronic issues in our lives that brought their own challenges.  But this one was so abrupt, it changed things for us.  As much as we acknowledge that God has it all, and that he will bottom line care for us as he sees fit, and bring us to himself in this life and the life to come, it still has changed us.  Despite our faith, this event in our lives has made challenges more difficult to face without fear.  That’s the reality.

Things happen and then you finally know the scary things can become real.

Posted January 9, 2020 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

Not the Well   Leave a comment

In the four gospels, we see Jesus spending time with all sorts of people.  He healed, he blessed, he talked about the kingdom of God and mostly, he loved them.  As many have noted, these people were not the beautiful, healthy, powerful or impressive.  They were often the least of society, the outcasts–drunks, addicts, tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes, you name it.

It’s understandable, I think, that these were the people who were drawn to Jesus and the ones he was drawn to.  As he said, he came for the sick, not the well.  He came for the ones who really needed him.

But the twist to this story is that if we don’t see that we too are the sick, we won’t see the need.  If we don’t realize that we are the weak and the helpless, despite all the actions we can take, the projects we complete, the service we offer, we will miss it.

The thing is that we all ultimately stand in need.  If our lives now are in order, that’s great.  If we are successful and happy, that’s wonderful.  If we haven’t had any problems yet, fantastic!

But even if you don’t have a miserable life now, if God is real and if Jesus if working and alive, it makes sense to pursue him.  And the good news is that He’s already pursuing you.

For sure, those who suffer have a better sense of their need.  The door to the rest of eternity is wide open–and when the pleasures and joys of this life are thin, it’s a lot easier to see it.





Posted October 24, 2019 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime   Leave a comment

From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime by Elizabeth Hinton is a book that’s hard to read, but one that you will want to read if you want to understand a big portion of the reasons why there are so many African Americans incarcerated in our country.  As you may know, the United States as more people incarcerated per capita than any other country on earth.

The basic concept is that due to the ways the war on poverty was implemented, government leaders thought it wasn’t working, and due to the unrest of the 60s and early 70s, they then leaned harder on trying to stop crime.  But due to their own biases they misunderstood the causes of crime and in trying to stop crime, ended up inflaming the problem.  The predictions that were then made of further crime waves drove prison construction, police department mobilization and a larger penal system.  And here we are today….It’s more complicated than that, as you can read, but in some ways as simple as the racial stereotypes held by the leaders who created the policies and made the choices that have led to where we are today.

As I said, the book is painful to read.  Nonetheless I recommend it to any student of where our culture is today and the racial divides we still face.  The author’s detailed scholarship is commendable and pretty difficult to refute, with the caveat that those who don’t want to believe the evidence may continue to place the blame for the violence of the 60s and 70s where it was placed at the time. But for many of us, perhaps the book will turn us to a different path, and enable us to see that we want to move forward to dismantle the vast prison that much of America has turned into.

Posted May 8, 2018 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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Free Agents   Leave a comment

I have to remember that if love is coerced, it’s not really love.  It’s slavery.  It’s bondage.  It’s fake.  If I can keep that fact in front of me, it provides a needed corrective to my natural tendency.

Whenever I find myself thinking that I wish so-and-so would step up to the plate and do what they’re supposed to, I remember the time I complained to an older and wiser friend about how someone was not doing what I thought he should be doing.  In a way, I was right.  The person had an obligation to me and others in a social context he was not following through on fully.

But in a much, much bigger way I was totally wrong.

My older and wiser friend pointed this out.  She did it just with the right amount of gentle and the right amount of real.  I can’t remember what exactly her words were at this point, but if she’d been totally blunt, she could have just said this.

“Since when do you get to run his life?”

Who made me the arbiter of what another individual should be doing?  Nobody.

I have neither the right nor the privilege to do so.

Thank God, because I too want to be a free agent.



Posted October 26, 2017 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

Overused   Leave a comment

Maybe I’m a grumpy old lady, but when I am enthusiastic about something I hope people can just tell.

It might be they can because I never stop talking about it.  Ask my husband and my friends what I really get excited about. There have been different fascinating subjects I’ve fallen in love with over the years.  The Donner Party.  Getting pregnant.  Homebirth.  VBAC.  Healthy diets.  Food.

Maybe you can tell what I love by what you often see me doing.  Reading, cooking, being outside, keeping up with friends.  I moderate an online support group.   I invite people to dinner.  Working with my husband, I plan next year’s camping trip, and there is nothing better than traveling west with him and the kids.

It’s been a while since I’ve been asked what my interests are when introduced to someone new, so I am not sure how I would bring those things up in a conversation with a new friend.

But passionate is one word I would not use.

I’m honestly afraid that I could never live up to that level of pure emotion.  Shoot, when I was a kid passionate was reserved for how people felt when they were getting amorous.

I’ll try to stick to doing, rather than stating.

Posted September 30, 2015 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

Reunions   Leave a comment

I spent the last hour or more talking to high school classmates on Facebook. We just lost one of our own in December. Since most of us are only 47 or 48 that seemed pretty hard to take.

Yes, I meant that!  I’m *only* 47.  Humph.  That’s no longer old. It was when my teachers were that old.  Actually come to think of it most of my teacher were probably younger than that when they were my teachers….but I would have thought they were both old and wise.

Whether I’m wise remains to be seen.

Here’s hoping I’ll get to see my friends in person this summer for a reunion.  Working on that now.  It will be a trip worth making.

It would be a fifteen hour drive.  So a ways to go, but….

Just have to find a way to carpe diem.

Posted January 29, 2015 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

A Dangerous Cough Drop   Leave a comment

Who would have thought that there was another hazard associated with cough drops, besides choking if you’re not paying attention?

I have come down with a horrible cold as of last night.  I stayed in bed this morning and the kids did school on their own.  So thankful that they are old enough to take the assignments I write down and run with them.  I actually dozed off.

This afternoon with the sore throat I was rolling a Ricola’s cough drop around in my mouth.  My tongue discovered a trench in it, which had a sharp edge.  I’ve never had this happen before, but I guess there is always a first time.

I cut my tongue on a cough drop.  Hunh.  Hopefully, my tongue and my cold will be better tomorrow.

Posted November 18, 2014 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

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