Monday, April 13, 2015

K is for King

I got lost online today looking at my genealogy on a website.  I knew that most of my ancestors came from Ireland in the late 1600's.  I knew there was some English and Scottish mixed in there as well.  What was really exciting that I found today, is that William I "The Lion" King of Scotland is my 23rd great-grandfather.  I also found forks in the tree that led to several other noble families, including kings in Denmark and England, and even the King of Troy.  I also found a weird little branch that traces back to Odin, yes THAT Odin.  His name was Baldr and he supposedly arose from the sea.

The ancestor which I feel most affinity for is of course King William of Scotland.  I have always felt a special pull to the British Isles, especially Scotland and Ireland.  I knew my family came from Ireland but it turns out they came through Ireland from Scotland.  I decided today to do a little research about "The Lion" and find out if there are any similarities between him and myself or my family.

William was crowned King at the age of 22.  His reign lasted 50 years, which is a very long time in the 2nd century.  William is the grandson of King David of Scotland.  He was also known as William "The Rough." The title of "The Lion" came about after his death due to the lion on the flag used to represent His Royalty.  In the scant information that could be found about his personality, he is described as "headstrong."  I can identify with that throughout a long line of my ancestors.  He is also described as having red hair, another trait seen in my family.  His wife was a descendant of King Henry I of England.  Interestingly, William's mother and father shared great-great-great-great grandparents, Richard II, Duke of Normandy and Judith De Bertagne.  It's inevitable that every family tree will not fork at some point.  I'm just thankful it was during the time of the Royals and not  on my branch of the family tree.

Unfortunately there is not much information that I could find today about William "The Rough."  I have been inspired to keep searching and I also know that the pull I feel toward Scotland is literally in my genes.  I am excited to keep working on this new endeavor.  The connection I feel with my ancestors is quite real and I have felt it for a long time, even before I could put names to them.  I'd love to say that of course, I knew that I had descended from royal blood, but I did not.  Another thing that is exciting about this work is sharing it with my children.  They are very excited to know about their heritage.  It's really nice to have some sense of background and belonging.  

Friday, April 10, 2015

I is for *I*

I am funny. 
I am intelligent.
I am compassionate.
I am forgiving.
I am loving.
I am thoughtful.
I am most funny when I don't feel like being funny.  My humor hides the hurt that I feel all the time.
I am intelligent, but also so stupid about some things, like when to let go of things that no longer serve me.
I am compassionate with others, but I cannot seem to find the same compassion for myself.
I am forgiving when anyone wrongs me, but I cannot seem to forgive myself any wrongdoings.
I am loving to everyone.  Especially the ones who deserve it least.  I am loving to everyone but me.
I am thoughtful.  I think about people and things often at the expense of myself and my priorities. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

H is for Happiness

A list of all of the things I can think of that make me happy:

Sleep.  I have no problems when I am sleeping, unless I have bad dreams.  And then when I wake up, my problem is solved.

Pepsi.  My personal drug of choice.  If I were stranded on a desert island and had to desalinate ocean water to drink, I would try to convert it to Pepsi. 

Chocolate.  Duh.  Chocolate.

A hot shower.  I love the hot shower even more when I am able to take it without a child or animal pulling back the curtain to make sure I haven't gone down the drain while they weren't looking.  Someday I'm going to install a secret trap door in the bathtub and I'm going to slip outta there and take off. 

My family. Usually.  Especially my adult kids. 

The Beach.  I never feel as happy and grounded as I am at a beach.  It doesn't even have to be a nice beach or even a beach really.  Being on a pond dam is almost as nice.  As long as there is sun and water it's cool. 

Jokes.  I love jokes.  The only jokes I don't find funny are rape jokes.  Rape hokes = not funny.  And if you tell me one, I may punch you.

Sunshine.  Sunshine stimulates your body to make vitamin D and serotonin.  Serotonin is nature's way of thanking you for being alive. 

Music.  I love Chopin, Beethoven, The Weeknd, Brian McKnight, Janis Joplin, Deftones, Aerosmith, Nine Inch Nails, Creedence Clearwater Revival.  The list is rather schizophrenic.  I would say "eclectic," but I don't think that word covers it well.

Flowers.  Who doesn't love flowers?

Charlie Hunnam.  When Charlie was born, God looked down upon all women and said, "You are welcome."

Pets.  Most of the time my pets make me happy.  Except when they don't. 

Carbs.  I love carbs.  My thighs and belly are proof.

Friends.  I have a lot of friends and they make me happy.  They listen to my stupid rants, they put up with my horrible sense of humor, and sometimes they bring me gifts. 

Sports cars.  I love sports cars, especially when I'm driving them.  The feeling of being in control of that much power is very freeing. 

Faith.  My faith makes me happy. 

Learning.  I would be a professional student if I weren't completely broke.  I try to learn from everyone and everything. 

Surprises.  I love being surprised with good stuff.  Surprise visits from friends are the best surprises ever. 

Babies.  I love their perfection and innocence. 

The movie "Stepbrothers."  Best.  Movie.  Ever. 

Camping.  Being out in the outdoors, with only the basics, communing with nature is complete bliss for me. 

Books.  Where else can you completely lose yourself in a story?

Playing the piano.  It's my form of meditation. 

Talking to people.  I love to talk to complete strangers.  I have this gift/curse of inspiring people I don't even know to tell me their life story.  We are here on this planet to take care of one another.  We need to do it more often.

This list is by no means all inclusive, but it's a start.  I feel happier now, just thinking about all of these things. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

G is for Greatness

Greatness.  How does one define Greatness.  Surely everyone has their own definition and ideas of what determines greatness.  When I think of Greatness, I think of things that are larger than life.  I have the mental picture of someone with light behind them, arms outstretched.  So, of course, I equate Greatness with Godliness.  Sometimes.  I'm going to try to describe Greatness other than God.

Greatness, to me, is embodied by people who continue to do what nobody thinks they can do.  Greatness is about stretching oneself to be more than average.  The condensed dictionary definition of greatness is "exceptionally high quality" or "of large size."  To me, these definitions are too limiting. 

Greatness in people can be seen when they surpass the normal expectations or characteristics of human beings.  You don't have to be good or virtuous to be great.  Greatness is larger than life.  Greatness is being noteworthy, leaving a lasting impression.  Greatness, to me, also has nothing to do with size.  I've known some examples of Greatness that were exceptionally small.  Mother Theresa is an example of Greatness in a small package.  Children fall under this category.  The Great and Powerful Oz was small and not so great.  His greatness came from his presence and ability to think "outside the box."  It was all in others' perception of him. 

I suppose, that being said, Greatness is in the eye of the beholder. 

Yeah, I got nothing.  Bad letter for me.  On to tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

F is for Forgiveness

Not sure why I picked this topic for the letter F.  It's been on my mind for two days as my subject of choice, so I guess I will go with it.

I used to teach Anger Management at almost every single job I have ever had in the field of therapy.  I taught it at substance abuse treatment places, at a mental health facility, on an acute mental health unit of a hospital and in a prison.  Everyone needs anger management, apparently, myself included.  I believe I have to teach things because God thinks I need to learn about the subject.  I guess I haven't gotten Anger Management down pat yet. 

Part of teaching Anger Management in my group was also discussing the topic of forgiveness.  There are a lot of sayings about forgiveness and why it is important.  I used to liken it to carrying a table with another person.  It takes both of you to carry it, one on each end.  If it gets too heavy, put down your end and walk off.  That's forgiveness; putting down your end of the table.  Try playing catch with someone who refuses to catch the ball.  It's not a game of catch, it's you throwing a ball at someone.  Not much of a game and it's exhausting to have to throw the ball and then retrieve it and throw it again.  Forgiveness is refusing to catch the ball.   You don't expend any energy and the game of catch no longer matters.  You get to save your throwing arm for something important. 

Forgiveness is simple, but it is not easy.  Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or allowing someone to hurt you again.  Forgiveness is just the opposite.  When you forgive someone, they no longer have any power over you or your emotions or thoughts.  As long as you are carrying around a grudge, it's like carrying around a large boulder on your back.  The load determines how fast you go, where you go and how you feel.  That boulder or person you are not forgiving, continues to exert stress on you even when you aren't thinking about it.

Forgiveness has nothing to do with the person you are forgiving.  They don't need to ask for it or earn it.  It's not a gift for them, it's a gift for yourself.  I know that many people have forgiven me for many things, including the Great Forgiver, God.  I am usually really good at forgiving others as well.  I can thing of one person in this world I have not allowed myself to forgive.  To this day if I see this person, she runs in the opposite direction because she knows I will say something to her to hurt her.  I'm really not sure why I cannot bring myself to forgive this person, except for the fact that she attempted to ruin every relationship I hold dear.  She still tries, five or six years after we have stopped speaking.  I know that once I drop my end of the table, stop throwing the ball or quit carrying around the rock, I will feel so much better.  I also know that not forgiving this person is holding me back spiritually.  For now, for whatever reason, I choose to hang onto it.

Do yourselves a favor and search your hearts to see if there is anyone you need to forgive so that you can go on to enjoy your life more fully.  I will continue to prepare myself to let this one go. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

E is for Eulogy

This may sound a little morbid or strange, but when I did substance abuse counseling, one of the exercises we did with the clients was to have them write their own obituary.  This activity was designed to get them to look back on their lives and see what impact they have had on others, and what legacy they would leave behind.  My friends and I have joked a lot about our own deaths and what we want our funerals to look like.  We have discussed attendees, music, attire, and surprises we wish to have at our funerals.  My friend, Amanda, and I have made a pact that we will carry out one another's wishes upon our demise.  Of course, only one of us will actually follow through because, well, the other person will be dead. 

While searching for a topic starting with the letter "E," a friend suggested Eulogy.  I said, "Genius!"  I am totally up for writing my own eulogy.  Hopefully by the time it is needed, this eulogy will be way outdated and no longer funny.  I have always imagined my funeral as somewhat of a "roast" where all of my friends (both of them) will gather and say whatever they want to say about me.  Should I meet my demise in an untimely manner, please use this at my funeral. 

Eulogy for Robin Bourland

We are gathered together on this day, to commemorate the life of Robin Lynn Hogue Parkhurst Bourland.   Robin had many roles in life, including:  mother, daughter, sister, grandmother, friend, therapist, scapegoat, instigator, nemesis, bad influence, stalker, saint, sinner, chauffeur, butler, maid, referee, spiritual advisor, cosmetologist and ordained minister in the Church of the Latter-Day Dude.  She leaves behind her five children, their spouses, 375 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.  She is also survived by her mother, Beverly, who is 150 years old and still smokes three packs of cigarettes per day.  

Robin was well known amongst her peers and co-defendants for her biting wit and sarcasm.  She has been described as the one who, "says what everyone else is thinking but are too scared to say themselves."  This would be the primary reason she lost the presidential election twenty years ago when she referred to her opponent as a "twatwaffle."  Mainstream politics were just not ready for her.  She was soundly defeated by Republican incumbent, George Herbert Walker Simeon Winston Jazzy Killah Bush III. 

I have asked her children and grandchildren to share some quotes or special memories they have of their mother.  Since her children are currently incarcerated and unable to make it to the service, I have agreed to read what they have written in their absence.  Here are the quotes and memories from her children, who wish to remain anonymous:

"Mom made the best meatloaf.  Sometimes she made so much that she forgot it in the cabinet and we would find it two years later.  It was like a really weird version of an Easter egg hunt."

"Mom taught me how to be a graceful drunk.  She was never graceful, but I learned from her what not to do."

"Mom lived to make me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  She really did.  That was, like, her whole purpose in life."

"Mom was always there for me when I needed her.  She comforted me when I was sick and calmed me when I was scared.  Wait, no.  That was Mike.  My bad.  Who are we talking about again?"

"Mom taught me the most valuable lesson I ever learned in life....How to make a shank.  She has literally saved me life numerous times."

"Now she finally has some damn peace and quiet."

I also requested quotes and memories from her friends.  Since none of them are in attendance (they are both at the bar celebrating), I will read what they wrote.  Again, they wish to remain anonymous:

"Robin was such a giving person.  I remember when she went to Africa to work with orphans.  I remember because she came back with Ebola and killed half my family."

"Robin would literally give you the shirt off her back, whether you wanted it or not.  In public."

"Robin never asked me why I killed those people.  She just grabbed a shovel and helped me hide the bodies."

"Robin once fixed supper for my family when we were all sick.  She gave us all food poisoning, but it's the thought that counts, right?"

In closing, I would like to add what I know about Robin.  I only knew her for a short period of time as I took care of her 400 pets that her kids had dumped at her house throughout the years.  Robin was completely bedridden after a horrible snowboarding accident in the Alps.  Robin loved her family.  She had all of their mug shots and newspaper clippings covering the walls of her house.  Partly because she couldn't afford paint or wallpaper, but also because she loved them all in her own weird way.  As she would slip in and out of consciousness, she talked a lot about her life and her regrets.  She also liked to steal the cat food when she thought I wasn't looking.  She talked about how she wished she had more time to spend with her family.  She told me how she always tried to do the best she could even though life was really hard sometimes.  She was brave when she had to be but also cried a lot when nobody was around.  She felt really inadequate at times but didn't want anyone to know.  She loved people with her whole heart and once she loved them, she ALWAYS loved them.  She loved to laugh but even more than that, she loved to make others laugh. 

I will end this service with an Irish Blessing, and I hope that this is true for Robin. 

"May you be half an hour in Heaven
Before the Devil knows you're dead."

Be sure to tip Yo Waitress.  

Saturday, April 4, 2015

D is for Dog

Most of the big lessons I have learned in life, I have learned the hard way.  I was the kid who had to touch the hot plate to make sure it was really hot.  I tried time and time again to get my face to freeze "that way."  I looked for my gifts from Santa to prove that he wasn't real, and I found them.  You get the idea.  As an adult, not much has changed.  I don't take subtle cues about anything.  This story is an example of this character defect of mine and what happens when God or the universe or whatever you choose to believe in, has a sense of humor.

I have a dog named Maggie.  She's a Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland mix.  She's a big girl.  I used to take Maggie with me everywhere I went, including work.  I was a therapist at a substance abuse treatment facility and she was a therapy dog until she started getting overly protective of me, and then she was grounded to the house.  Maggie was strong-willed as a puppy.  Well, I guess she still is, nothing has changed in that department.  Like every other living being in this house, she does exactly what she wants. when and where she wants, no matter how much yelling I do.  She's getting old now and I have grown more tolerant of her attitude.  Or perhaps I am just too old to fight with her anymore. 

This story takes place a few years back when Maggie was still a puppy.  We live in this two-story, old farmhouse.  Anyone familiar with old farm houses knows that the heating and cooling systems are either non-existent or leave much to be desired.  At our house, the upstairs is heated through open vents in the floors.  The first floor has duct work under the floor, but the second floor only gets heat from the first floor that rises through those open vents.  Not very efficient or handy, but, as it turns out, this design was perfect to teach me a lesson I will never forget.

I had the week from hell that week.  Work was horrible.  We were going through a statewide audit and my program was being hit hard.  I was under terrible stress.  That same week, my car decided to quit and stranded me alongside the road on my way to work.  I borrowed my mother's van, and it also broke down on my way to work.  We had five kids at home and four of the five had been infected with a stomach virus and were doing some synchronized puking that week.  As a mom, I have seen cuts, bruises, broken bones, and blood.  The ONE thing I cannot tolerate is vomit.  I am a sympathetic puker.  If I see someone praying to the porcelain God I will bow my head and join in the chorus.  Needless to say, it was not a fun time at my house. 

This particular day, with all of the aforementioned stressors weighing down on me, I got home from work to a mess.  I was greeted at the door by four sick children, two dogs, and a husband who was holding the youngest child who had recently joined the band of barfers.  Hubby handed me the baby and said, "Here.  YOU take her."  She was obviously sick and the other four children were whining and clawing at me.  I felt like the one normal person left in a world full of hungry zombies and they were closing in fast. 

My usual routine was to retire to my recliner and watch TV when I got home from work.  As a therapist, the last thing I wanted to do was hear one more person's problems.  I used to tell my family, "Mommy's listening ears shut off at 5:30."  As usual, I kicked back in my recliner with the newly ill baby on my lap.  I was thinking about all of the things that had gone wrong that week and was silently lamenting my situation.  My mother used to tell me that if I thought things could not get worse, they inevitably would.  Here's the part where I have to learn the hard way.

As I was sitting in the chair stewing about the past week from hell, my newly ill baby, who was on my lap, started heaving and then managed to spew at least a gallon of some unidentifiable liquid all over me and the chair.  She was bawling, and I was on the verge of reciprocating her generous gift.  My husband took her from my hands, knowing that all hell was about to break loose. I had reached my breaking point.  This was the final straw.  My last nerve dwindled into nothing.  I threw my hands up in the air, looked up, and started yelling at God.  I said, "Come on, God.  Bring it on.  Is that the best you can do?  Take your best shot."  At precisely that moment, I started feeling droplets of another unidentified liquid hitting my face.  It seemed like rain, but that was impossible since I was inside, right?  I looked back up and directly above my head was the open vent in the floor upstairs.  On top of the open vent was Maggie.  She was not yet housebroken and had picked that very spot to potty at that exact time. 

You know when you get so angry and/or scared that the world around you moves in slow motion?  When I looked around, the faces of my husband and children were frozen in a state of complete and utter terror.  They had seen what had transpired and were sure that Armageddon was upon our household. 

I was so angry that I just broke.  Right in half.  I had no energy to fight any more.  I let my arms down to my sides and hanged my head in utter defeat.  That was it.  There was nothing left.  I said nothing and walked up the stairs to my room, gathered my night clothes and some towels and went to take a shower.  While washing off the stink of the day, I thought about how many other things could have happened at that moment when I was daring the Powers That Be to "Bring it on."  The house could have caved in.  A tornado could have taken us all out.  A meteor could have landed on us.  Nope.  My God has a wicked sense of humor.  I still imagine Him snickering to Himself about what He did, thinking, "That'll teach her."  But, then again, he knows me better that that. 

I still have Maggie.  I still have my husband.  I still have all five children.  We all survived.  I have yet to tell God to "bring it on" again.