Redemption stories

Its Thanksgiving this week. I think it’s wonderful that we have a holiday dedicated just to being thankful and I like to imagine families and friends all across the country at their dining tables remembering all their blessings and saying thanks on that day. Gratitude is a powerful thing. So is redemption. Often they go hand-in-hand.

I’ve always been a sucker for a good redemption story. Someone who is on the wrong path, at odds with themselves and everyone in their life,  has an experience that, for them, is life changing.  They might go through something as shattering as a near-death experience, the death of a loved one, serving their country in combat, or surviving a life threatening illness. Often something less traumatic is enough of a catalyst to help a person see the changes they need to make in their lives. The important thing is that the veil is lifted from their eyes and they find a connection with their Spirit that they didn’t have before. Suddenly, everything becomes clear.

I know I’m not alone in my love of redemption stories because many popular movies and books have this type of theme. I think redemption stories give us hope that, as spiritual beings having a human experience here on Earth, we always have a chance to “get it right” and align ourselves with God’s purpose for our lives. All we have to do is wake up and begin to take the steps that lead us to a different path.

One of my all time favorite  redemption tales is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens and I have a beautiful cloth-bound edition with color illustrations. When my son was a child I read it to him and it has been a tradition for me to watch it every year on Christmas night with my family ( my favorite version with George C. Scott as Scrooge). Sometimes family members groan a little bit and they might say “Oh, not again” but, once it starts we are all engrossed in the timeless story. I think the timing of this viewing is perfect because it is at the end of a day of abundance when we open many gifts and gorge ourselves on all kinds of culinary treats. The movie serves to remind us of all the blessings we have.

Dickens used the character of Scrooge to illustrate what happens when a man allows gold and material possessions to become his God. He isn’t just miserly with other people; he is also miserly with himself and, as a result, is not even capable of enjoying the wealth he has accumulated. Scrooge has a narrow, selfish and lonely existence until a series of visions come to him in his dreams and show him the error of his ways. These visions were his life changing event and I never tire of the scene when Scrooge awakens to find he is not dead and, in fact, has been given the chance to change his ways. His joy is infectious as he hurries to make amends to those he has treated poorly. He is a different man, one who is filled with laughter and good will – he has been redeemed! As always with Dickens, the story is chock full of symbolism and morality lessons. By the way, Dickens never once implied that the citizens should all pay more taxes so the government could take care of everyone in need or that being rich is a bad thing – the lesson in the story is that generosity, charity, compassion and love are the path to a happier, more spiritual life and a better society in general.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving dinner

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Mothers and daughters

Some years ago I had a lengthy conversation with a friend about the relationship we had with our mothers as adult women compared to the one we had as children. I found it fascinating how it was often difficult to separate our adult feelings from our childhood experiences and long after that conversation I found myself thinking about my relationship with my mother. I began to wonder if it was really possible to have a completely adult relationship with her or if there would always be a part of me that was the little girl wanting her approval.  My friend still had feelings of resentment and anger toward her mother about things she had done many years ago. She told me she has tried hard to forgive but had to confess that those feelings bubble to the surface even to this day in reaction to certain comments her mother makes or the way she acts. She admitted that she would never choose a person like her mother as a friend and, if she had married a man like her, she would have divorced him years ago!

I became fascinated with this very important female relationship and decided to ask all the women I knew if they would contribute the story of their adult relationship with their mother so that I could compile them in a book. Some of the women declined, some were excited by the book project and immediately gave me their stories, some said they wanted to participate but never submitted their stories, and the project even caused the end of a couple of friendships. In the end I had to remove 3 stories, find replacements for them and pay for revisions to the manuscript. I try to view everything in life (especially the painful things) as a learning experiences and putting the book together, which I titled “Velvet Ropes: The Ties That Bind Mothers and Daughters”, turned out to be another one for me. Not only did I learn a lot about the complexities of mother/daughter relationships but I also discovered what a mine field the topic can be!

Although it didn’t end up being the fun project I thought it would be in the beginning, I do think the book turned out very well and I love the way each woman’s voice can be heard as you read their story. I was touched and moved by how honest the stories are.

Our mother is the first woman we know and she is our first role model. We learn the fundamentals of being a woman from her and, if we’re lucky, she supports and encourages us so we have the confidence to figure out the rest. I’ve always known I was very lucky in the “Mom lottery” and working on this book only reinforced those feelings.

Mom and me

 

Like my artwork …visit me at Lynda Linke Productions

 

 

 

 

 

Trick or Treat

This past week was Halloween and what a terrible “trick” Hurricane/Winter storm Sandy played on the Northeast. New Jersey,  lower Manhattan, and the surrounding boroughs were particularly hard hit.  Having grown up in northeastern New Jersey, attended college in lower Manhattan, and lived for many years at the Jersey shore, I am familiar with these areas and have friends there. Pictures of the destruction in towns like Seaside Heights at the Jersey shore, Coney Island, Queens and  Staten Island are hard to look at.

If your home is completely destroyed by wind, flood, or fire there isn’t much you can do except start your life all over again – with help from your insurance, family, friends and relief organizations – but I have been disturbed by how many people do not prepare at all for emergencies. Power outages can occur for any number of reasons, no matter where you live, and yet I saw many people on the news who were already out of food and water within just 2 or 3 days (sometimes less) and this surprised me. Maybe it’s because I have lived in Florida for so many years that I have it drilled into my head to always be prepared for an emergency with enough food and water for everyone in the household to survive without power for at least a week. Flashlights, batteries and other essential supplies are always on hand. I also keep some cash available because the ATM machines don’t work when the power is out!

Obviously, there are many things that are beyond our control in a disaster situation – availability of gasoline and running water being two – but the very least we can do is to be prepared to survive without electricity for at least a week or so. I’ve been fortunate that, in almost 20 years of living in Florida, the longest I had to survive without electricity was 4 days, I only had to evacuate once – during a very bad wildfire season – and my house has not been damaged but I am prepared for the worst. My house is insured, I have hurricane shutters, I have enough food, water, and dog food to last about a month, I have a propane cook top and other emergency supplies and … I have an evacuation plan. I am amazed by people who refuse to leave their homes when warned of a direct hit from a hurricane. During hurricane season, and especially if there is news of an approaching storm, I keep my gas tank full.  I’m about 9 miles from the ocean and don’t live in a flood zone but, if landfall is predicted in my area, I’m out of here!

I have a friend who is what some people mockingly call a “prepper”. I have known her for almost 20 years and she has always been much more prepared for the catastrophic situations that can be caused by nature (and by man) than I but, over the past 3-4 years, she has become even better prepared. She and her husband began growing a large variety of vegetables and canning them. They have stocked up on rice, dried beans, and other staples and now have enough food for a year. They have a large inventory of other essential emergency supplies. I admit, I used to think they were a bit “extreme” but I don’t anymore. In fact, it is now my goal to also have a year’s worth of food and emergency supplies. Of course,  I pray I will never need that much but, if I do, it will be there. Different parts of the country are susceptible to different types of weather disasters – wherever you live, be prepared for yours.

 

I’m not being critical or judgmental – believe me, I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to keep your bills paid without the extra money to stock up on emergency supplies but, if you start now and take small steps you’ll be better prepared for the next disaster or even just a loss of power for a few days. Helpful hint: every time you go grocery shopping buy one item for your “emergency pantry” – a good way to do this is “buy one get one free” sales. I’m afraid that too many people have come to depend on the government, i.e., FEMA, to take care of them in a disaster.  I’ve seen FEMA, both up close and from a distance, and I’m not impressed. Dependency on federal government is a dangerous path to take. Yes, there are times when local and state resources are tapped out and that is when the federal government should be there as back up but they shouldn’t be considered first responders. Your local and state governments know best what to do in an emergency in your area and the Red Cross and other charitable relief organizations are quickly on site; however, the smartest thing we, as individuals, can do is to make sure we are prepared to survive and take care of our families until things get back to normal. Don’t find yourself in the position of waiting for the government to feed you or bring you water!

Meanwhile, let’s all send prayers to everyone in the Northeast who has been affected by Sandy and, if you’re able, donate to your favorite charitable relief organization.