20 Things I’ve Learned in my 50 Years of Life

Turning 50 isn’t so bad

On September 23rd, I’ll turn 50 years old. Birthdays have not meant much to me; at least not since my 16th birthday in 1983. Before that date and for many years afterward, I led a reckless life. In my teen years, I had a sex addiction.

Consequently, I got pregnant twice. The first time I officially learned I was pregnant was on my 16th birthday in my doctor’s office. The second time I was seventeen years old. Both pregnancies ended in abortion. (You can learn more about these troubles in my memoir, Just Another Girl’s Story.)

As I recall the last half century of my life, I feel I am exactly where I need to be. Though I have many regrets; they don’t bother me like they used to. I live with a grateful heart, and I believe this is the key to peace and happiness.

We all have a past, and I am certain you could share anecdotes and words of wisdom that can come from trials and tribulations over the years of your life.

Here are some of mine:

1 Mistakes can be overcome. Depending on the severity, some may take more time to reconcile. Regardless of how big or small the mistake, recognize each one, fix and move on. Don’t let them consume your life; let bygones, be bygones.

2 If you wake up in the morning, God has blessed you with a new start. A new day means whatever happened yesterday is now the past. Treat each day with a clean slate. Don’t dwell on arguments, disappointments and other negative attitudes. Every new day is a second chance to live happily.

3 Write down five things you are grateful for every day. Right now, I can easily write five things:

*the ability to type these words and write from my heart

*my dog sleeping on the floor next to my feet

*the fresh cup of coffee that is making my brain come alive with each sip

*“Green Bay Packer” Sunday – football, the chili I will be making and time with family

*and knowing that I will be talking with my mom later this afternoon and catching up on the happenings in her life.

4 Write down five things you wish to lift up in prayer. Right now, I can also quickly write down five things:

*my friend Debbie at work – she has an aggressive and awful cancer

*one of my niece’s friends who was in a horrific boating accident in Canada and is now paralyzed at age 22

*the flooding victims in the south

*a cousin facing a divorce with two small children

*continued terror attacks and threats all around the world

5 Go out of your way to smile at people wherever you go. If possible, say hello. Being the recipient of this many times, I know first-hand how impactful such simple gestures can be. Such kindness can turn a bad attitude around immediately.

6 Don’t keep enemies. Enemies will make your life miserable and breed hate in your heart. Instead, pray for people who threaten happiness and peace.

7 Volunteer as often as you can. Spend time with folks less fortunate than you. Visit the elderly in nursing homes. Use your God-given talents to help others. The marvelous way you feel afterward and knowing you’ve made a positive impact somehow and in some way, will be your reward.

8 Don’t fake who you are. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Don’t be afraid to speak from your heart. Being genuine makes you free.

9 Remember that diversity isn’t just the color of your skin. Diversity includes your family history. It involves how your parents raised you, how many siblings you have and whether or not you suffered tragedy (to name a few). Everything that we experience makes us unique. Therefore, different from others. The next time you want to judge someone because they are different, stop. You don’t always know what battles or issues a person has lived or is living.

10 Never stop learning. Read and research. The more we use our brain, the more exercise it gets and is healthier.

11 Experience college, regardless of age. Even if you take just one class, do it. From the people you meet to the satisfaction of accomplishing coursework – you will be smarter and more gifted.

12 Ask your grandparents and parents about their upbringing. Once they are gone, it’s too late. Knowing your family history can give you a great perspective on a host of things. Plop the facts you learn in a genealogy program, such as Ancestry.com. From there, you’ll learn even more. It’s fascinating!

13 Get a dog. Dogs are the most loving and loyal creatures God blessed our world with. There is nothing like coming home to a wagging tail, especially if you’ve had a rough No matter what you’ve done, they will always love you.

14 If you love someone, tell them. Never miss an opportunity to tell someone that you love them. No matter what you are doing; be it at the end of a phone call or visit. When you pass away, they will be confident of your love for them.

15 Eat Fondue with your family. Cut up steak, chicken, mushrooms, string cheese, onions, veggies and anything else you enjoy eating. There is nothing like sitting around the table waiting for your morsels to cook in batter and oil, drinking wine and spending time with your family. The time it takes to cook Fondue is what makes it so great. Instead of a 30-minute mealtime, Fondue can take a couple of hours, even more. Imagine the great conversations you can have in that time-frame!

16 Find what you are passionate about and make it part of your life. For me, I love family history and have so much fun when I research and discover new tidbits. I also enjoy listening to Christian music. There are so many incredible messages that can you can hear in songs of praise; it’s hard not to feel invigorated after hearing them.

17 Organize photos as you take them. Put a description and a date on each one. Not only will this simplify your life when you need a picture of something in particular; your kids and grandkids will appreciate such organization when you are gone someday.

18 Know when you’ve had enough to drink. Stop before things get fuzzy. There is nothing worse than a horrible hang-over and not remembering what happened the next day when you’ve consumed too much. NEVER drink and drive.

19 Call your parents often. Someday you won’t be able to do this, and it stinks. My dad passed away a few years ago, and I miss calling him. I talk to my mom almost every day; if even for just a few minutes. Don’t be one of those kids that are “too busy” – there is no such thing.

20 Read from a daily devotional book. I have three; one in my office at work, two at home. I read them every day. Each one is different and offers me incredible moments of reflection. I also have an APP on my iPhone called Bible Promises. At 10:00 am every day, a bible verse pops up and gives me encouragement and reflection. The more you fit God in your life, the less likely you will falter.

I can add so much more; it’s amazing how much we learn as we age. There is a song by Carbon Leaf, titled, “Let Your Trouble’s Go By.” As I reach 50 years old, some of the lyrics in this song apply to my life:

“You’ve come far, and though you’re far from the end, you don’t mind where you are, cause you know where you’ve been.”

I have come far and I don’t mind where I am as I turn 50. I hope you feel the same way. Please share your words of wisdom in the comments section below!

Happiness and a Grateful Heart

Three things I am most grateful for today

Book Signing September 9, 2017 at Chapter 52 Bookstore in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

This past weekend, I had a book sale/signing at a local book store. It was a fantastic experience and one that I will always be grateful to have experienced. Last night as I was falling asleep, I began to reflect on the people who have helped and encouraged me on my book journey.

#1 My Husband

My husband, Shawn, is deeply rooted in my memoir, as he is one of the main characters. Though I did not reveal and write too many details of his life in Just Another Girl’s Story, A Memoir on Finding Redemption; he did experience much heartache and pain in his teenage years as I had. Of course, much of our pain was self-inflicted, as you can read about in the book. However, in our teenage years, we weren’t mature enough to recognize that our behaviors were reckless.

Shawn and I have been through some pretty crazy storms, even after we survived our teenage years. Yet he is still standing strong, just as I am. Shawn is my best friend and has always been my biggest supporter in all my endeavors over the years. There is nothing he thinks I can’t do.

I owe much of my confidence to Shawn, and I will be forever grateful for all his love and support. He is kind, generous, intelligent, funny and cuddly. I love him with my whole heart, always.

#2 My Children

It may seem like a biased comment, but my kids are the best in the world. We have a daughter, now 30 and a son, now 26. Both of our children have witnessed Shawn, and I work through the demons which haunted us during much of their young lives. Though they must have felt helpless and perhaps even scared at times, their adorable little selves helped get us through each difficult period.

When I finally revealed my abortions to my kids, they were very understanding. For so many years, I feared them finding out about my dark and ugly past. I feared that they would be angry because my two abortions cost them having more siblings. I worried they would hate me and not accept what I did.

However, both of them have been nothing but supportive and loving. My grown kids understand the context of what happened during my teenage years and feel empathy toward me, not a disappointment. For this, I am incredibly grateful to have such remarkable kids, and I am so very proud to be their mom and I love them to the moon and back.

#3 My Readers

I continue to be amazed by the outpouring of support and encouragement from my readers. From social media messages, private text and email messages and book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads; I am heartened by the kind and loving words shared and grateful to every person that has taken the time to read my story.

I have to admit that when I decided to publish my book, I feared rejection by many because of the topic of my book. Abortion is a tough issue for many and writing about it in my memoir can be offensive to some people. However, I decided that I cannot please everyone, so I aimed at trying to please a few. My story isn’t for everyone, and I accept this.

The Grateful List

With all the drama, sadness and tragedy in our world today, it is easy to get discouraged. We must remain diligent in keeping our focus on the good in our lives, and build from that positive energy. There will always be negative forces that are beyond our control. We have to find a way to accept that we cannot change every bad thing and turn it into good.

The Serenity Prayer offers incredible instruction: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Indeed, words of wisdom for everyone.

Grateful_List is one method I use to keep my focus on the good in my life. I have a sheet of paper that is divided into two parts: Today I am most grateful for, and Today I lift up in Prayer. In the grateful section, I write down all that comes to my mind that I am grateful to have. In the prayer section, I write down things that I have no control over that are weighing me down. What I write in this section, I put in the hands of God.

You’d be surprised how helpful such a list can be; especially if you do it daily. Reflecting on what we do have, versus what we don’t have or can’t change is a game-changer. In the words of Melodie Beattie (self-help author), “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough.”

Cheers to you and your GRATEFUL heart & life!

 

Abortion does not help women in a crisis pregnancy

Abortion adds turmoil and heartache

Abortion sucks. I despise everything about it. The first time I became pregnant, I was 16 years old. At the time, I was emotionally and mentally fragile. (You can read about how I reacted to this life-changing event in my book, Just Another Girl’s Story). My parents opted for me to have an abortion. When I was 17 years old, I got pregnant again. Once again, my parents took me to Planned Parenthood.

Speaking for myself, nothing good came from destroying the lives of my unborn. Before my first abortion, I was sexually active at a very young age; 14 years old to be exact. I come from a dysfunctional family, and I became addicted to sex to escape family stress. When I became pregnant at age 16, the abortion solution added anguish to my already delicate mental state.

My second trip to Planned Parenthood only made matters worse for me, as the doctor was reckless when he placed my dead baby on a silver metal tray after mutilating my baby from inside. I will never be able to forget the image of a tiny leg and arm heaped in a bloodied mess on that tray.

I never received any counseling after either abortion. At the time (and for years following), I didn’t realize the pain I suffered internally was related to the loss of my unborn. I never took the time to grieve their loss and subsequently, I suffered depression, excessive drinking and the desire to be isolated.

Abortion is not a solution

Before my Pro-Life proclamation in my 30s, I didn’t pay much attention to abortion. Even though I experienced two at a young age, I was indifferent and did not have much of an opinion. I could not place any conviction to its existence. Instead, I tried to forget them, and I continuously tried to keep my abortions buried because of the pain and guilt associated with those experiences.

You see, abortion did not help me, it nearly destroyed me. What seemed like the best solution to my parents at the time, turned out to be some of the reasons I became so careless in subsequent decisions I made. Abortion did not rescue me from a crisis pregnancy, and the workers at Planned Parenthood did not care that I was in a crisis.

Planned Parenthood is not a friend to women in crisis pregnancies

I cannot understand how Planned Parenthood can falsely state on their website, “Serious, long-term emotional problems after an abortion are rare.” How on earth can this claim be made? What is their proof? This is a bold statement to make without valid facts to support such an outrageous claim.

Over the years I have met numerous women who like me, have suffered serious, long-term emotional problems from abortion. Most women don’t talk about their abortion experience freely, and many do not link their abortion to problems afterward. For most women, abortion is a shameful and regrettable experience, and silence is the best way to deal with these feelings. Many women never reveal their pain to anyone.

Planned Parenthood has no right to make such a false statement. This organization does not speak on my behalf. I did suffer long-term emotional problems that can be directly related to my abortion experience. This cannot be refuted by Planned Parenthood, or anyone else. I am keenly aware of the impact my abortions had on my emotional, physical and spiritual self.

What supporters of abortion fail to recognize is the mental state of a woman in a crisis pregnancy. The term “crisis” reflects that a woman is in a vulnerable state and requires special care. Abortion is a permanent decision; one that is irreversible. If a woman regrets her decision to abort, how can this not cause long-term emotional problems? Regret is awful and can have damaging effects.

Women have other alternatives

It’s been more than 33 years since I had my second abortion. I am grateful that new rules, regulations, and laws are now enacted. I am aware that many states now require a woman to receive counseling before a decision can be made and some states require a 24 hour waiting period. Additionally, an ultrasound is typically performed to estimate the age of the baby.

Although I feel the new rules are significant, they don’t matter much if Planned Parenthood is behind the wheel of the counseling session. That’s like getting a second opinion about a legal matter from a partner at the same law firm. What’s the point? They want your business and will do and say what they can to get your money.

What women need during in a crisis pregnancy is an unbiased therapist, experienced in dealing with the aftermath of abortion. Women need to learn the truth, and they need to understand that they likely will experience serious and long-term emotional problems. Having this information ahead of such a life-altering decision is critical. At least then, a claim cannot be made that “no one told me.” Women need to be fully informed.

I believe that once a woman is fully informed and has time to digest all the risk factors, she has a better chance of giving birth than succumbing to abortion. Giving birth is even more likely if a woman has resources about adoption and pregnancy homes. Naturally, women possess motherly instincts. It’s how God designed women. I strongly feel that maternal instincts do not include destroying life.

Choose Life!

Abortion is not a political topic; it is a human concern. It’s never too late to change the heart of a woman considering abortion. We just need to provide as much warning as we receive when taking prescription drugs. All of the risk associated with abortion should be communicated freely, as done on pamphlets we receive with our drugs from Walgreens.

Knowledge is powerful. So is prayer. Please pray for all women facing a crisis pregnancy.

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting, Sex Education, Teenage Pregnancy and Abortion

Note to parents: it’s your job to teach your kids about sex

When I was a teenager, I had unprotected sex more times than I wish to share. In my memoir, I share that I had sex with my step-brother for more than two years before I became pregnant. The first time I became pregnant, I was 16 years old.

For a good chunk of my adolescent years, I was raised by a single parent. My dad left my mom for her best friend when I was five years old. My mom raised me Catholic and sent my siblings and me to a Catholic grade school. At church, I learned it was bad to kill, steal and disobey my parents. In Religion class, I learned about Noah’s Ark, Moses, and Mother Mary.

However, I didn’t learn about the birds and the bees at school. That part of learning was left for my mom to teach. Between working 12 hour days and falling in love again, with my step-dad, my mom didn’t get around to teaching me anything about sex.

The tidbits of sex I did learn about, I got from girlfriends. By tidbits I mean, kissing and making out. Not much more than that. I certainly never learned about how a boy can get a girl pregnant before marriage. Then I got a crash course in my teenage years (too late by then).

Things went south for me when my parents took me to Planned Parenthood to have an abortion. Afterwards, I never received any counseling and didn’t have any dialogue about unprotected sex (would you like to read my book to see what I went through instead? – get your copy here).

When I got pregnant again at the age of 17, they took me back to have another abortion. Once again, I didn’t talk to a therapist afterward, and there was no discussion related to unprotected sex. You may be thinking, “Well, you should have known better!” Unfortunately, I was likely clinically depressed and could not reason properly. I was a troubled teenager that desperately needed intervention.

Fast forward to my kids

In the 1990s, my children were students at a Catholic Grade School. My husband and I were required to teach our children about the birds and the bees. The school did not believe it was their duty to teach sex; therefore, we were provided a Christian themed workbook to read and review with our kids at home.

Although I cannot recall the title of the workbook, I do remember it was easy to read to my kids. I remember my husband and I felt grateful that we were the ones that taught our kids such sensitive and personal lessons.

Perhaps we felt grateful for this opportunity because of the pain and suffering we lived through in our young lives. Had our parents taken the time to explain sex to us; perhaps we would not have been so careless on more than one occasion (or any occasion). Getting pregnant in your teenage years stinks to high heaven.

It’s no secret that teenagers already have to muddle through quite a lot of crazy things. Friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, clubs, grades, dances, clothes, shoes, family life, staying away from drugs and alcohol, pimples, homework, etc. The last thing a teenager needs is the worry about getting pregnant. Worse yet, having to worry about getting an abortion.

Heartache is preventative!

I realize that even the best intentions made by parents can fail. As a mom; I know this first-hand. However, our kids need to hear from us why it isn’t OK to have sex before marriage. Our teenagers need to understand the consequences of having unprotected sex. It is a parent’s duty to make clear what happens during sex and what can happen because of sex.

Parents warn their children about running out in front of traffic, about the damaging effects of the sun without protection, and even how sitting too close to the television can harm young eyes. Isn’t warning your children about unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases as important, if not more important?

Teenage pregnancy is hard!

Teenage pregnancy is messy. It is heartbreaking, challenging, hurtful and confusing. It is highly emotional and scary. The impact of a teenage pregnancy cannot be underestimated. Yet it is preventable, just like a sunburn.

I know first hand the devastation of teenage pregnancy. Not only did I deal with the changes in my body from being pregnant at such a young age; I also suffered through the life-altering procedure of abortion. Abortion does change you; mentally, physically, and spiritually. For most women, its changes are harmful.

Parents, please, if you haven’t already done so, spend time with your children and warn them about sex before marriage. Be bold, honest and thoughtful in your approach. Have the “talk” as many times as you feel it is necessary. You know your children the best and can surmise if they “get it” or not. The job of a parent is hard enough; don’t add teenage pregnancy to the mix.

For ideas on how to approach your children about sex, Focus on the Family has helpful ideas on their website. Focus on the Family also has useful information if your teenager tells you she is pregnant.

Volunteer work; entertaining the angels above

Dorothy, A Master Volunteer

A couple of months ago, a wonderful young woman borrowed me a movie called, “Entertaining Angels – The Dorothy Day Story.” She borrowed it to me because after reading my book, “Just Another Girl’s Story, A Memoir on Finding Redemption” – she felt I would enjoy watching this movie. I enjoy volunteer work and briefly write about this in my book.

Today is a muggy day in Wisconsin, a day where the humidity drains my energy. Staying inside to keep cool, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to watch the movie finally. Plus, I feel bad that it is taking so long to return the film. I ventured down to our “Irish Pub” in our basement because it is the most comfortable room in our house when it’s hot outside. It’s been awhile since I watched a DVD; so it takes me a couple of minutes to get the movie playing.

Finally, I have cool lemon water, a few pouches of fruit snacks and my phone on silent as I push play. I have to admit; I am intrigued by the description of the movie typed on the back cover. The first 10-15 minutes is enjoyable, and I find myself wondering why I never knew about Dorothy’s story before today.

Dorothy was a writer, which makes the opening of the movie appealing to me. She was also a hell-raiser and fought for many causes, including women’s suffrage. In the late 1920s, Dorothy became pregnant and had an abortion. In those days, abortions were illegal. The man Dorothy was involved in, coaxed her into going through with the procedure. After it was over, he was gone.

The abortion shakes Dorothy, and she moves to Staten Island to grieve. It is on Staten Island when she meets another man and becomes pregnant again, this time keeping her baby. She also discovers the Catholic Church and converts to Catholic doctrine. When Dorothy wants to get married after her daughter is born, the father does not agree and moves away.

After that, Dorothy’s true calling in life begins. She and her daughter move to New York City. The time is the Great Depression and through many “signs,” she is called to feed and provide shelter for the homeless. With the help of many volunteers, The Catholic Worker Movement is established, and the rest is history.

Dorothy’s story moved me to tears a few times. Mostly because of the sheer number of people that needed help during this period. The line for entry into the shelter wrapped around blocks. My tears also came because of the volunteers – they had so much passion for helping the helpless. In one scene, one of the volunteers said, “we are entertaining the angels, ” and this makes me smile.

This movie resonates with me. There was a time in my life when I spent more time volunteering than any other pastime. The joy of volunteering isn’t about what you are doing; rather, it’s the feeling you receive when you know you help someone else. Volunteering is one of the most precious ways we can contribute to humankind.

Knowing that you help to make even one life better for a short period, is an improvement from the start of your day. Just think if everyone volunteered for a short period of time, the impact would be incredible. There are over 325 million people living in the United States. If half of our population is down on their luck, that still leaves 100 million people to volunteer their time (considering children).

5 Volunteer Ideas

There are numerous ways to volunteer. Here are five that I feel are pretty impactful.

  1. Volunteer at a neighborhood soup kitchen. There is so much satisfaction serving people in your community. You will be amazed by how friendly and grateful those you serve will be when you smile and say hello. If you have children, bring them with you! When your kids witness your servant behavior, they will likely grow up to do the same.
  2. Organize a collection drive at work. I’ve done this a couple of times, and it warmed my heart to see my coworkers so generous. Talk about team building! We once collected clothing for a shelter in downtown Milwaukee, and when it was time to take the items to the shelter, we had collected so many that they barely fit into my car!
  3. If you have a hobby, use it to help others. For example, if you knit, make hats and scarves for children and drop them off at an elementary school or social services office. If you sew, make baby quilts and drop them off at a crisis pregnancy center.
  4. Visit a nursing home and spend time getting to know the residents. This is especially awesome if you love history. I can’t tell you the fascinating stories I’ve listened to over the years! Folks living in nursing homes have a wealth of knowledge and experience – some were born in the 1930s or earlier! Imagine what you could learn from someone born in 1930!
  5. Take a week in the summer and join a youth mission trip. Take it from experience; you will not regret this opportunity! Of all the volunteer activities I’ve done over the years, mission trips are most memorable. Not only do you impact a community and their people, but you also have a chance to affect teenagers participating in the journey. I am working on a book to describe this further – I hope to have it published by the end of the year!

So there you have it! A very short list of volunteer ideas for you to ponder. If you already do some or all of these – thank you so much! We need to remember to thank fellow volunteers and encourage them to keep at it – so many people depend on the kindness and generosity of others.

Dorothy Day dedicated her life to entertaining the angels. Though I am certain this was not her goal, angels are an extension of God, and He too must have been entertained by her efforts to help the poor.

Matthew 25:35-40: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

For more volunteer ideas, visit this Pinterest board!  Happiness will surely follow!