Category Archives: Driving Lessons

An attitude of gratitude

Just coming off another round of holidays—the last two month’s full of occasions when ones family gathers around tables of food; and one in particular that traditionally includes giving thanks and remembering all one has to be thankful for—it can be hard as both a single and a widow not to feel sorry for myself for all I have lost.  Used to be that my family and his family—both sets of parents, my sister, his cousins and their parents—-would gather on nearly every special occasion when we lived in New York.  Pictures on my Facebook wall prove that once upon a time, there were countless backyard barbecues and gatherings on Christmas Eve when we all were together.  One by one, I have lost the people that smile back at me in those pictures.  Yes, my dad is still here, my step mom and step family have filled the gaps somewhat.   His cousins are but a comment away to a post or a picture.   But it’s not the same and it can be hard for me as I am sure it is for many others, when the holidays come and there are empty chairs at the table.  Add my birthday (and my sister’s birthday a mere four days after mine) and you can see why the Christmas holidays are not as joyful for me as in past years (although the Reason for the season will always have my heart).   So I could easily slip into that well of despair that claims a lot of lives during what should be a happy time of the year.   And I have dipped a little low this year, I will admit.

I read something online that captured my attention in regards to this;  it said in order to stop dwelling on what you didn’t have, to write down five things everyday that you were thankful for.   If you know me at all, you know I love writing exercises!  So on December 27, 2015 (I couldn’t make myself wait until Jan 1), I bought myself a hard cover journal and wrote Grateful and Thankful on the front.  Each day since then, I have written down five things that I thank God for blessing me with.  I’ll admit, some days have been a struggle, but then I just thank him for eyes that see, ears that hear, mouth that talks, well you get the idea.   Other days are easy—my salvation; my freedom from various addictions; the roof over my head, my job, etc.   I figured I would wait a while and re-read them but also, if you know me at all, I have no patience;  so I have gone back and read some of the entries and it’s good stuff.  It has definitely helped me see that I am so blessed!

I also read something else that I have found to be true—whatever it is that you have (and may be taking for granted), there is someone out there who wishes they had it too.  Singles who want a spouse; marrieds who wish they were single.   People in apartments wanting houses; homeowners who, overwhelmed with the responsibilities of maintaining a house, wish they had a landlord instead to take care of it.  Country folk who long for city life and city dwellers who want to live in wide open spaces.

There is a lady who works in one of the stores that I visit;  she is a greeter at the Walmart in Charlottesville.  I don’t go in there very often, but when I do and she is there, she always has the best attitude—always smiles and welcomes me to the store.  And you might say, well that’s her job, that’s what they pay her to do.  And that is true, but what you don’t know if you’ve never seen her is,  she is in a wheelchair and not only that—she has no legs below her knees.   There are plenty of people who would not even bother to work in her condition;  they would go on assistance and that would be completely understandable.  But somehow, this lady not only comes to work but has one of the best attitudes when she’s there.  I don’t know her story, I don’t know anything about her—but somehow I think she must be grateful—thankful that she can still make a contribution to society and she does! She welcomes people to Walmart and maybe in doing so, hopefully in doing so–someone who might be feeling down for all they don’t have (and understandably so, not judging anyone) takes a look at her and realizes they do have a lot—they can walk and jump and run, where she can not.  But more importantly than that, hopefully they look at her and realize if she can be happy with her lot in life, so can they.

The older I get the more I realize it’s not the things I have that I’m thankful for most–it’s the people in my life;  the memories we have made.  I don’t need much in the way of material things—I could furnish most of that on my own.  I have loved and I have been loved and am still loved.

So the next time you’re feeling down—it happens to all of us—jot some things on a piece of paper that you are thankful for.  You might think you don’t have much, but you will be surprised, I guarantee!



Practice makes perfect

My job sends me from store to store to set up displays.  That’s the short version of what I do.  My job also pays mileage and drive time, otherwise I wouldn’t go to all those far-flung places they send me. Several years ago, two stores ended up on my schedule one week–both in West Virginia.  On the surface, without knowing that there is a fairly steep mountain to cross before being able to visit both stores (in two different places),  the mileage to the first store from my house is 65 miles;  and then on to the second one from the first is another 65 miles.  Thinking that it would be a straight shot, with a 55 mph speed zone (and intending to go 60), I thought it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.  I didn’t know about or factor in those mountains, though.  The first mountain to cross is pretty steep and curvy and slightly harrowing even now, but definitely then,  having never scaled it before.  Plus I was driving an SUV at the time too. Not sure which was worse, going up or coming down, but I was overly stressed out by the time I got to the first stop.  The 65 miles took me nearly 90 minutes.

Done with that call, I was on to the second store.  That ride is really scenic and beautiful, but that first trip I was just concerned with not breaking down in the middle of nowhere.   My cell phone didn’t work there either, so that would have also been a problem.  After having to drive up another steep mountain (there is a really sharp turn at one point and a speed limit sign posted for 10 miles an hour),  I still had several miles to go before I arrived at my destination.  I found a Subway Restaurant and stopped there, not only to fill my empty stomach, but to try and calm down from the anxiety of being so far from home and so out of my element.

After I finished at the second store and drove home (another 85 miles more),  I was glad to be done with it.  I had only been filling in for another rep, after all.   Except a few weeks later, not only did those calls turn up on my schedule again;  my district manager informed me that they were going to be mine permanently!

To say I wasn’t happy about that would be an understatement.

Bob pointed out that basically my company was paying me to drive and look at scenery all day and most people would love to get paid for doing that.   I knew that God had blessed me with my job, which I really like doing and I also knew that not only does He go with me every where but that He doesn’t give me more than I can handle,  (and really I had no choice) so begrudgingly I complied.

While all of this was transpiring, my husband had been complaining about and ended up having to go out on disability for—unexplained back pain which got progressively worse.  The man laid on the couch in excruciatingly awful pain, he would take two Percocets, two Vicodens, and a bunch of Ibuprofen and it wouldn’t so much as make him loopy nor did it do anything to alleviate his suffering.  I had a bad vibe about it;  but still we prayed and we got everyone else to pray.  The doctors we went to couldn’t pinpoint the problem and he just got worse and worse.  I was doing the trip to WV every week by then with growing concern over his condition;  until eventually, when he could no longer get up without assistance, I refused to make the trip altogether.  There was no way I was going to be gone from the house that long and with no cell phone service either!

Finally at the end of January of 2011, we had a diagnosis—Multiple Myeloma—a very rare (1% they say) and potentially deadly form of blood cancer.   Prognosis with a stem cell transplant was 3-5 years, without one was 1-3.   It was pretty devastating to say the least.

The first run of chemo did it’s job (as the first run for this cancer always does—it’s a false sense of security) and Bob was able to not only get back on his feet, but go back to work.   I was still making the trek to the two stores but by then it was actually getting easier and I was enjoying the scenery and even the steepness of the mountains was no longer scary.  Spring turned into summer and I just had a feeling deep in my spirit that Bob was not going to beat this thing.  I really think that God was preparing me for it, because at that point I had no reason to know this, his primary doctor was always upbeat and optimistic.   I remember rounding the curves on one of those West Virginia mountains one morning, tears streaming down my face, asking God out loud—“How am I going to do this?  How am I going to face all that is ahead?”  And it came to me fairly quickly—-I would get stronger and learn to cope with everything,  just like I had learned to get used to climbing those mountains.  It had been so scary that first trip but with each subsequent drive, it had gotten easier.  And just like He had been with me all those times, He would definitely be with me for this.   He would take me over and through and around, and I  would get to where I needed to be.   I’m not saying it didn’t hurt like heck, because it surely did.  But yeah, everything I had to do for my husband for the 18 months he lived after his diagnosis,  got easier to cope with each time I had to do it.

He’s still doing things like that for me, nearly three years later. There are still “mountains” I must learn to climb.   But when I get fearful, all I have to do is remember how far He’s brought me already; and how He is always so patient with me, knowing that in this as in most things, practice makes perfect.

Why settle for less than God wants to give you?

I’m from Staten Island originally,  the little forgotten borough of New York (until someone wants to make fun of it).  There, I could take trains or buses or cabs, or as was the case most of the time, rely on foot power to get me wherever I needed/wanted to go.  My late husband drove, but I did not;  and it really didn’t bother me much because traffic on the Island, especially where we lived, was bumper to bumper most of the time.  Plus, people drove like maniacs when it wasn’t.  So I wasn’t all that interested in getting my license.

Until, that is, we decided to move to Virginia in early 1993.  Husband came down here first, to secure a job and a place to live;  while I stayed back North to pack up and have my dad teach me to drive. Because where we were going did not have public transportation, I now had to take a crash course (no pun intended), otherwise how would I find a job or go shopping or any of the other places I needed to go?

Six months here without my license eventually drove me to my knees and repentance and salvation (although to be fair, my not having a license was not the cause of that, the isolation and separation from my family had more of a hand in it).   I started attending a church and met people in the neighborhood who also went and would take me with them.

Eventually though, I left that church and started attending another one, and while it was true that I had another ride whenever I wanted one (Thank you Elizabeth);  it was also true that I felt the call for independence.

So finally around the  two year anniversary of our move, I got down to business with learning to drive.  I was tired of having to depend on others to bring me to the store or church or the doctor or whatever.  Plus, a new addition had joined the family in the form of my nephew and I had offered to babysit him.  His family only lived a few miles down the road from us, but still it required me to operate a vehicle to get to them.

My original vision was to learn to drive and get my license primarily to get myself to church;  go to the nearby town to shop and to get to my nephews house in order to sit for him.  One Saturday, as my husband (who from now on I will refer to as Bob) and I drove to a nearby bigger town about 20 miles away from our house, I thought to myself, “If I’m going to learn to drive, I want to be able to drive in this town too,”   Reciting one of my favorite verses, I vowed that, “I can learn to drive anywhere through Christ Who strengthens me.”

As it turned out, not only did I learn to drive in that bigger town;  I have learned to drive and have driven in many other towns, most bigger than that one.  I have even driven to Staten Island twice by myself!  The job I have requires me to put a lot of mileage in over the course of even a day.   There is no telling how many miles I have logged in the almost 7 years that I’ve worked in my present industry.

All this from someone who did not get her license until she was 31 years old!  And as I thought about this, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how God worked all this out.  If He had told me way back at the beginning of my driving lessons that this would all occur, no doubt I would have turned tail and ran from the fear of it.   And if I had “settled” for what my original vision was, I would have missed out on so many interesting experiences and I wouldn’t have seen the gorgeous scenery that my state has to offer.

My Facebook status today was:  How many times are we satisfied to settle for so much less than what God plans to give us? I want all the good stuff God has for me!

And maybe this writing thing is supposed to be more than only offering comforting words to the hurting in cards and letters;  and certainly God meant for it to be for more than just updating my status.  So I will not have a “vision” for my talent;  I will let God decide what to do with it, how far it will go and for how long.