A Yearning For My Front Steps

This morning I have an inexplicable yearning to go outside and sit on my front steps and breathe in life.

It is the appearance of the sun in what has been a cold and bleak and cloudy Minnesota which brings to mind spring and thoughts of flowers and warm weather. However, I can’t explain my feeling that I need a front step sit. I have a perfectly good outside porch to enjoy but something in me tells me I need steps.

Though the sun is shining today my front steps and porch are crusted with ice. It is still winter and there is still snow on the ground. I like the beauty of winter as long as I don’t have to haul my old body outside. The pull is real to feel the fresh air on my face so I may dash out, raise my face to the sun and dash back inside to the warmth of my fireplace. Still, I feel the call of the front steps or the back steps for a peaceful sit.

Outdoor furniture awaits my porch sitting so why would I abandon that in place of the front steps? I think it has to do with my past and memories.

Living at my grandmothers and then when my family moved, we didn’t have fancy outdoor furniture. We would go outside and sit on the steps and talk and enjoy the evening. The front steps were better than the back steps because you could chat with those passing by or you could wave at the cars going by. Occasionally they would stop and talk.

There were interesting views. At my grandmother’s house I sat on the front steps and watched the trains go by or watched the animals. My mom or uncles would come in from the chores or the garden and we would talk for hours on the front steps. At our house my dad would sit with me as we watched the neighbor kids play or visited with those in the neighborhood, sometimes calling across the street. There were no cell phones or outdoor phones to distract us.

I do sit on my front concrete steps occasionally in this day and age for a quick moment when I am shaking out a rug or waiting for someone to pick me up, but most of the time I sit on my comfy chair on my outdoor porch or my patio. I have to say that for some reason it isn’t the same. Perhaps because of the front step memories.

I have no good explanation for yearning for my front steps unless it is perhaps missing those that used to share my experience. I also shared many front step conversations with my best girlfriends. If those steps could talk they would reveal so much about the past lives of the step sitters.

Perhaps when the ice is gone I will forgo my porch and patio for an occasional step sitting. I have a feeling it will be a good way to breathe and appreciate the simple life of the past,

“A journey to a thousand miles begins with one step.” –John F.Kennedy

Have You Found Your Calling?

Depression is real. It is a hopeless feeling that wells up inside of you and takes over rational thought putting fears, doubt, and paranoia inside of you so that you want the pain to stop.

I know, for me, when I feel anxious, sad and overwhelmed, if I keep on the path of those feelings the endless depression will overwhelm me. Occasionally my remedy is going to bed for a day and confronting it. It is the only thing which starts me back on my journey to being able to smile and see the light.

I wasn’t feeling good this weekend and I tried to decipher if it was a real illness, meaning my stomach picked up a bug, or if my feelings of being overwhelmed with responsibility were the cause of my stomach and my tears of sadness.

I turned on meditation music and gave myself permission to wallow in bed. At first thoughts of all the things I needed to do kept churning in my mind. Did I really have to do any of them or was it my expectations that were stealing my peace? As I wandered through my life’s experiences and memories—I’m a firm believer in learning from your past to go forward to your future—I knew what was causing me to be on the edge when it came to expectations this time. I will save that for another time but what did hit me in this day of rest and meditation was the “calling.”

What was my calling? And was that part of my anxiety? We hear the question all the time from our churches, from the media, from friends and from strangers. Self-help gurus, some very good ones, promote all of us to find our calling. And our churches ask us continually “What has God called you to do?”

If I read the news first thing in the morning we have a constant bombardment from the news headlines and almost every headline has the word Trump in it, for or against. Almost every headline has a disaster in it.

My cell phone updates frequently warn about the winter storm warnings or the flood warnings. A plane crashed, kids are hungry and illegal immigrant children are being kept from their parents and mistreated. The Social Media tells us if you’re a Republican you are supposed to be upset or hate Democrats and if are a Democrat you are supposed to be against and hate Republicans.

We feel helpless in the midst of all of this chaos. So not only are we supposed to find our calling we are supposed to find it in the mess we are bombarded with everyday.

There are so many volunteers needed everywhere. I have friends that spend their lives giving and giving and giving. They are busy 24-7. Not only do these people spend their time volunteering, they also have to juggle taking care of their family and spending time with them in the midst of the good things they are doing. Have they found their calling? I often wonder about how they keep up, or do they have to make those difficult choices for society over family? I remember at times being too busy volunteering to have time to help someone in my family.

What about parents who have to run with their children, work a full time job, and still expect or are expected to be the ever present volunteer to make the world better for their kids. Have they found their calling?

I lay in my bed this past weekend pondering these questions. I do think too much. It is hard for me to just be. I pondered these questions because I felt guilty being down and depressed when so many others are spending their time helping others. How do they take care of themselves so they can give back to others?

I know we need to stop hunger, stop global warming, stop sex trafficking, stop gun violence, stop ignoring the elderly and their needs, feed the homeless and the list goes on and on and on. I know we need to raise a next generation that is respectful and responsible. These are all things I know. I read the headlines and the list seems impossible because inside all those headlines we aren’t given any good news.

I don’t know about you—these things bother me because I can’t do anything about any of it—but if I am called to do something as everyone tells me, what am I called to do? It seems when people preach or bellow about our calling they always want to make us think if we aren’t doing something out there for the world to see we are failing. We are drug down to believe rest or being busy is laziness and failure. We have to be on the move all the time. Is this what we are teaching our youngsters? Nothing we ever do is good enough in the eyes of the world.

My sister-in-law, who lived states away, years ago came to visit my mother-in-law who was in a nursing home. After visiting, my sister-in-law came to my home and told me I was called to bring my mother-in-law out of the nursing home into our home and take care of her. I felt guilty because I didn’t want to do that. Was that my call and I was ignoring it? That time I was at a good place in my life and I knew just because we had a responsibility we needed to do or had a responsibility that we could do, didn’t mean that was what I was called to do. We all do things because we need to do them. We all do things because we might be good at it. That doesn’t mean it is our calling. At least I at the time, didn’t feel like that was my calling.

As I took care of me on this lazy weekend day I felt guilty for taking the time to get it together. In reality, if someone would have asked me to do something for them that day I probably would have said yes and put my “me” day on hold. And it would have been because I have been programed to put myself second and so have many people.

The day did me good. I, in my head, know if I don’t take care of me, I can’t take care of anyone else. But yet…what is my calling? Should I feel guilty because I don’t know?

What if I said, after my day of rest that I do know what my calling is NOT. I am not called to make another person feel bad. I am not called to use my words in a way that will degenerate another living human being. I am not called to hate. I am not called to judge. I am not called to be cruel.

I don’t know what my calling is. I don’t know if I need one. If I stick to what I know I am not called to do, would that be enough? If all of us did that, would we need all the venues we need today to combat those things?

Perhaps our calling is the gift God gave us when he gave us our magnificent bodies and what we are called to do is to take care of them, and then the rest will all fall into place because we will be peaceful and whole.

Perhaps all we really are called to do is to love one another. Rather than being confused about all the material and societal mores to live up to, we could rest in our journey if we felt love from others, for others, and for ourselves. Wouldn’t the headlines be fun to read each morning? In spite of whatever is happening in our lives whether it showing others who we truly are, weathering storms, the personal and the weather related, love would get us through.

Christmas, Joyful or Stressful?

Sprinkled Notes by Julie Seedorf © December 2018

Printed in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of December 6.

my angel 1

Copyright Julie Seedorf Creations

Each Christmas season, others remind me when I write my feel-good column about the holiday season that many people struggle with the holiday. I decided to be honest and share my issues so that it doesn’t feel as if I am not empathetic with seasonal depression.

 I loved the Christmas season from the time I was a child. My parents made sure the season was magical. Growing up visiting my dad and mom’s business put me in the mood with the holiday decorations, with the mood continuing as I attended the free Christmas movies at the theater, capping it off going to midnight mass with my mom at her church and Santa’s arrival early Christmas morning at my home. And I can’t forget visiting my Uncle Dominic’s Christmas tree lot in Mankato to pick out our tree.

As an adult, the fun and joy continued on as my own family grew. I loved decorating the Christmas tree with my children and then with my grandchildren when they were small. Putting up the tree and decorating my home was a family affair. Teaching my kids about the Christmas story and having them participate in the Christmas programs at church was also a highlight and one of the reasons I loved the season.

It is 2018 and times have changed. I no longer have that family here to help me get in the mood for the season. We used to do it when the family was here for Thanksgiving, but now with everyone being so busy, our time together is short if our family get-together even happens. It seems like a struggle to figure out a time to celebrate any holiday as a family.

Six or seven years ago I suffered from an illness and depression, and I did not put one single decoration up in my home. I didn’t even go to church that year. It was a dark time in my life.

The severe depression and illness, through a lot of work, have passed, and I again like the Christmas season, but with it still are feelings of sadness.  I miss the hubbub of children helping me with the tree and oohing and awing over Christmas decorations and remembering who made what. My husband isn’t one to get involved except to set up the actual tree. He will help if I twist his arm, but there is no excitement in the task. It just isn’t his thing. It is hard to be excited when you are alone in the feeling.

A couple of years ago, since we never had Christmas at our house anymore but at one of the kid’s homes, we gave our big tree to our son and his family. We now have a small tree that we leave decorated, put in the closet and haul out every year. I no longer cover every nook and cranny with Christmas bauble. But the already decorated tree isn’t the same.

This morning, as I was viewing pictures on Facebook of families decorating trees, I realized part of my sadness at Christmas is because I miss having someone to share the excitement of the season with me. I miss my kids and grandkids helping me with the fun points of making my house feel festive. The other part is me missing those family members who have died, meaning my mom and dad who always joined in the fun too.             

We are having Christmas back at our home this year, and I am looking forward to that. I have some decorations up, but they will be mellower. I know I am blessed to not have to spend Christmas alone, and I will have my family with me. The reasonable part of me says it is no big deal to have to decorate by myself and get ready for the hoopla. But yet there is the niggling feeling of missing days gone by — happy times with my mom and dad’s families and those with my children and grandchildren.

Last year, too, was a struggle for a different reason. My best friend, Jan, was in the last days of her life. I marveled at her peace and joy in the season. She taught me to count my blessings, but yet this year I feel sadness she isn’t here to share the season with me. She, too, loved Christmas. I will never look at an Old World Santa without thinking of her. She also loved the hospitality of the season, always hosting friends and family. And her voice — her beautiful voice — lifting in praise and worship at our church or when we were out caroling will never be forgotten. Joy shared with her, together as friends, kept me going. When I was in my depression, she lifted me up and encouraged me to live in the season of love.

I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. That is not the purpose of my sharing this. I have a choice. I know this from the past. I can leave this sadness to overwhelm me, or I can count my blessings and feel grateful. I will tell you, for me, it is work. It is hard work pulling out of the doldrums. I do know writing down what I am grateful for eventually turns into peace. But I also know there will be an occasional day when it won’t work, and I will have to accept the sadness but not let it carry me away. I know how to reach out if I can’t figure it out myself. Each person has to take care of themselves the way that works for them. But if you feel trapped, and can’t work your way to find a little joy in the season, please reach out to a friend, a pastor or a professional. Your life is worth living, and you deserve joy, peace and love that Christmas can bring. It is there if you reach for it.