Day 21 of the Overcoming Fear Challenge

The Greatest Pain in Life

According to statistical studies, the fear of death is second to the fear of public speaking. The fear of death is the fear of dying, but there are many aspects of that fear. For instance, a lot of people are not so much afraid of passing from this life as they are of the fear of the pain that is involved. I don’t think that the physical pain of death is the worst pain a person can have however. I believe the worst pain involves not just our physical bodies, but it permeates the depth of our spirit.

One of the last pictures taken of my brother Allen and my Dad together.

One of the last pictures taken of my brother Allen and my Dad together.

Most people who will tell you that they are not afraid to die have not truly come face to face with the concept of death. For most of my life, I never knew death in my immediate family so I had no reason to fear death. My parents were both alive and outlived their siblings. All of my siblings were alive. We never really had to face serious illness or injury in our family. We lived relatively healthy lives. Then last October, my father died. It wasn’t as if it weren’t expected. He was 91 years old. He had lived a long life. Most of the friends he had grown up with had passed, but he still had many friends and relatives who had wonderful memories of him. It was really my first glimpse of death in my immediate family. Inside I had a gnawing feeling that I had allowed too many years pass by that I had not been living in my purpose.

Six weeks after my Dad’s funeral I got a call from my sister Carol that my brother Allen had been taken to the hospital and was not expected to live. He died November 29th of last year. His funeral was on December 4th. I took his death much harder than I did my father’s death. He was my eldest brother, but younger than me. Allen was born a year after I was. He was the only one of my siblings that I don’t remember having been born. As far back as I can remember, he was my first playmate and now he was gone. At his funeral, he too had numerous friends and relatives who celebrated and would miss him.

Carol and her husband Jim.

Carol and her husband Jim.

Earlier this month I got a call from my brother Marvin telling me that my sister Carol was losing her bout with cancer. Carol was just a week shy of having been a year younger than Allen. She had said that she hoped that she would live until she was the same age as he was when she died, but she was afraid that she wouldn’t make it. She spent her last couple weeks in a hospital bed in her own home under hospice care. She was surrounded by family and friends when she took her last breath late in the evening April 16, 2014. The church where her funeral was conducted was packed with people who loved her. She always offered a smile and sometimes a joke. She left behind a husband, four children, and six grandchildren upon whom she doted.

I took her death harder than I did losing Dad or Allen. Partly because she was my only sister. The other reason was that I promised to be there,  but I wasn’t there when she died. We were far closer than I realized. I cried more the few days before she died than while in Pennsylvania for the funeral. When I returned home, however, my mourning turned to depression and again the tears wouldn’t stop. The tears were not just because I had lost my only sister, I realized that I had a dream that was unfulfilled and if I didn’t do something with it soon, I too might die without ever having done what I knew I was destined to do, and my funeral would be attended by far fewer people. I didn’t want to die regretting the One thing that I was destined to do.

My Dad, my brother, and my sister all had one thing in common. They had lived what they believed was important to them. They valued friendship. Their dreams had been to love and be loved by their friends and family. They were. I have to admit that I am made of different cloth. My dream in life is to serve others differently and in a broader sense and I have recently felt that I fall far short of that dream and that goal.

If you’ve never felt the pain of knowing that you’ve lost track of what you wanted your life to be, if you have lived to let the dreams that you had a child slip away into the abyss of wasted days, then you have no idea the pain I was in. As I said, there is one fear that is greater than the fear of death, but there is no pain greater than the pain of realizing that you have lived your life without fulfilling your dreams.

About the Author

2014-04-07 07.07.08Cygnet Brown has recently finished her first nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga Cygnet Brown resides in Springfield, Missouri.

Get a free copy of her newsletter and a free pdf copy of her e-booket: Vegetable Gardening in the Shade.

Day 21 Overcoming Fear Challenge ©2014 Donna (Cygnet) Brown

Day 17 of the Overcoming Fear Challenge

Develop Faith That Overcomes Fear

Faith is not something that once you get it you can put it in your wallet, stuff it into your back pocket and say that you have it. To have faith you must develop gratitude. You develop gratitude, you must work at making it a habit. The only real way to work at making gratitude a habit is to take the time for gratitude every day.

river meditation

I started a gratitude journal so that I will become focused on gratitude first thing every day. For fifteen minutes I focus on writing down all the things and that I am grateful for. This I do in addition to meditation, doing a Spanish lesson, yoga, and daily hygiene. It happens every day whether I feel like doing it or not.

It has not been easy for me being grateful every day. Since my last post, I lost my sister after she lost a year and a half battle against cancer. Less than six months ago, my brother died of a heart condition, and my father died from a stroke. I am older than both my sister and my brother who died and during the process I realized just how little I have done to accomplish those things that I know I am to do before I leave this life. I have a sense of urgency that I never had before. I have things to do, and I have a limited time to do them.

I think what I find that is difficult for me in having gratitude every day is that I have difficulty understanding why my sister who always seemed to have only kind words to say to people, who showed positivity every day of her life, should have died the painful death that she had to die. Yes, she was surrounded by family and friends and she was loved. The problem is, those family and friends who surrounded her are forever scarred over the hell she went through during her last days. I am having difficulty understanding how a loving God can let someone he loves suffer like that.

I know that gratitude is the right thing for building faith, but for me right now, it is a struggle.  I struggle everyday to remain grateful. It is very difficult for me. I can’t help but feel as though I am pitiful and unlovable. I have gotten to the root of my fear. The fear that I am not worthy of being loved by anyone including God and certainly not myself. I have not been faithful in giving the gratitude for what I have been given. I am not worthy. What scares me is the fact that if someone like my sister should suffer even when she was so friendly and so giving, then what chance to I have for ever being good enough or grateful enough. It is a hard thing to face, but definitely a fear to be reckoned with. I will not stop the struggle until this fear and the pain associated with it are no longer an issue.

About the Author

2014-04-07 07.07.08Cygnet Brown has recently finished her first nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga Cygnet Brown resides in Springfield, Missouri.

Get a free copy of her newsletter and a free pdf copy of her e-booket: Vegetable Gardening in the Shade.

Day 17 Overcoming Fear Challenge ©2014 Donna (Cygnet) Brown

The Ghost of My Christmas Future

The Christmas tree is now lonely without all the gifts around it to keep it company.

The Christmas tree is now lonely without all the gifts around it to keep it company.

Christmas was a day late at our house. Well, actually, it wasn’t, we just celebrated it a day later than everyone else. My husband is a truck driver and the load that he was supposed to get so he could make it back by Christmas was canceled. They had to get a load for him at the last minute which meant he ended up coming home over a day later than we had anticipated. I have learned that “you have to row with the flow” when you’re married to a truck driver.

Because we decided to postpone the regular festivities, on Christmas Day, my daughter and I went to see the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty I enjoyed it. I remember having read the short story when I was in middle school. I remember enjoying this James Thurber work although many other students I am certain found it less interesting. As a writer, I also have a secret life, a life where I vicariously live through characters who are of my own creation but who seem to take on a life of their own. The movie, like the book, was thought-provoking, and I think that Ben Stiller did an excellent job bringing the character to life in a unique way.

Yesterday we opened our Christmas gifts, one of mine was a writing tray which I am currently using to support my laptop on my lap as a write. I then cooked Christmas dinner.

Now this Christmas is over, and it is time to think about the coming year. I have determined that New Years resolutions do not work for me, but this part of December is the perfect time to reflect on the past year and to look forward into the next. As in the Christmas classic A Christmas Carol, a good question for me to ask myself is “Where do I want to be next Christmas and how do I get there?” In this story, A Christmas Carol, Scrooge discovers that his future isn’t predetermined. His life can be changed by changing himself. He learns that there is more to living than having money. His value as a human being is determined by the relationships that he develops as he generously gives to those around him–his business clerk (employee), his nephew (family) and the poor (charities). So to take a page from Charles Dickens and ask myself, “What can I do over the next year to foster a happier life?” What I do now and with whom I spend my time will determine how I spend next Christmas. Like Scrooge, I am the one who gets to decide my fate.

The Ghost of My Christmas Present

In Dickens A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is taken by the second ghost to view things as they are in the present. In this video, we see the Ghost of Christmas present taking Scrooge to the house of Bob Cratchet and his family.

The Ghost of my Christmas present is certainly in the shadow of the fact that we have lost two of our loved ones, one in October and one in November. Also the fact that my sister is currently in the hospital fighting cancer weighs heavy on my heart this holiday season. I feel a sudden urgency to complete writing my father’s poem book and memories of his life. I have gone through his poem book and typed out all of the poems and I have added important information such as his birth, marriage, the names and birth dates of his children, and other life milestones. I am however still looking for the stories that family and friends have to tell what they remember about that time of their life. I really need to ask my sister what she remembers about Dad. I remember things from my standpoint. What does she remember from his?

In addition to all of this, my trucker husband Jeff is stuck on the road this Christmas because the load he was supposed to pick up was canceled at the last minute. He spent Saturday, Sunday, and Monday sitting in California waiting to get a load back. He finally has one today. He should be home Thursday, so we’ll have our holiday together then.

Boni and her grandmother going to see The Nutcracker and making Christmas memories.

Boni and her grandmother going to see The Nutcracker and making Christmas memories.

As with the Cratchet family, there have been some good times this season, however, and we have been making the best of it. For one thing, my Mother-in-law took my daughter to the Nut Cracker Suite Ballet. It was the first time for both of them and they both loved it.

In addition, we invited a couple of children over to help decorate Christmas cookies.

decorated cookiesThen we brought a number of gifts to that same family.

I made caramels and peanut brittle because caramel is Boni’s favorite candy and peanut butter is Jeff’s favorite. I also made fudge which is my favorite.

For the recipes, click on the links

Homemade Soft Caramels

Microwave Peanut Brittle

IMG_20131224_092328_435My Daughter and I plan to see the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty at the theater on Christmas Day. She will open her gifts from her grandmother Christmas Day, but we will save the rest of the gift unwrapping until her Daddy is home.

We are choosing to remain positive despite the sadness and disappointments. We believe that we embrace need to the idea of sharing, giving and being grateful for all that we have and are able to give. It is certainly the time of year to reflect on all that is good in the world and we will do our best to carry it with us throughout the coming year.

Finally brothers and sisters, Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report. If there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

A Ghost of my Christmas Past

Dolls I got for Christmas as a Child

My earliest Christmas memories always included getting dolls as one of the gifts. As I told in my post last Wednesday, the first Christmas I remember involved my doll Susanna, going to Aunt Mabel’s and my brother Tom’s birth (Which incidentally  his birthday was yesterday.)

The next Christmas I remember involved getting another doll. I barely remember that doll. I don’t even think she had a name. This doll was one that had a turning head that would have the different faces on it. One face was angry, the next was sad and crying, one would be sleeping and the last face face showed that the doll was happy.

Another year, I remember getting Susy Smart. Susy Smart was a talking doll that sang her ABCs and 123s and taught me those things. What she taught me came in very handy when I started the first grade. That’s why she was Suzy Smart, she knew the important stuff.

The year I did go into the first grade, I remember getting my first Barbie doll. Actually, she wasn’t a Barbie, she was Barbie’s younger sister Skipper. She was my first of many Barbie type dolls that I would later get.

Susy Smart is on the left and Skipper, Barbie’s sister is on the right.

Televised Special Programing

I remember Christmas being a time of special television programs. For instance, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was one of our favorites.

What holiday season would be complete without at least one adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Here’s a video mash up of several different adaptations featuring Scrooge and the ghost of Christmas past.

Another Holiday Christmas favorite is Its a Wonderful Life. this is a trailer for 1946.

I also remember Dad reading his Christmas poems. I have shared two already, but this one was often a favorite of many who heard it

Santa’s Error

by R. Leonard Swanson

I went to visit Santa

He said on Christmas Eve,

That he’d come down our chimney

And Presents He would leave

For Old Saint Nick to do this,

It would really be a feat,

Because we have no chimney

We use electric heat.

Another aspect that I found important during the Christmas holiday was the food. Usually we went to one of the cousins’ homes for the holiday dinner and for the exchange of gifts. I remember enjoying the cookies and candies. Here are some links to recipes that I remember from when I was a child.

Goodies of Christmas Past

Holiday Decorated Sugar Cookies

decorated cookies

Milk Chocolate Fudge

fudge and flowers

Thank you for joining me on this trip down Christmas memory lane. I hope you all have a Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Memory of a Christmas Present and a Christmas Past

Boni and her grandmother going to see The Nutcracker and making Christmas memories.

Boni and her grandmother going to see The Nutcracker and making Christmas memories.

Last Sunday my twelve-year-old daughter and her grandmother went to see The Nutcracker Suite. I am certain that this holiday adventure will be one of those memories of the Christmas holiday that my daughter will always remember cherish. First she loves her grandmother, second she loves Christmas, and third, she loves the ballet.

The first memory I have of Christmases past was the year that my brother Tom was born. I remember coming down stairs and being surprised by the fact that my mommy was not there, but my Aunt Mary was washing windows. (We had moved from Snider Circle the previous spring, so this was the house where I grew up .) She told us that we now had another baby brother and that when my daddy got off work that he would be taking us somewhere else to stay for a few days.

 I remember that my brother Allen stayed at my Aunt Myrna and Uncle Carl’s house. Carol and I stayed at Aunt Mabel’s house. When we arrived at Aunt Mabel’s house, I remember two of my older cousins were there as well. Jane and Ardie, Aunt Pauline’s, (Dad’s sister)daughters, were staying at Aunt Mabel’s  , I now assume, to help care for my sister and I. (I was three and a half years old and she was about 14 months old by this time). I remember sensing that Aunt Mabel seemed to favor Ardie over Jane. I remember that Jane left early, I think before Christmas. The details there are a little hazy.

I remember Christmas morning. I remember getting up early in the morning and seeing Aunt Mabel’s shiny aluminum Christmas tree, but it looked different because under the tree were presents and some were for me! I only remember one special present that year. I remember looking in the box and seeing a pretty little doll dressed in a little blue dress (or was it pink?).

I remember that I named the doll Susanna. I remember why I named her Susanna. I remember that I was watching Shirley Temple movies at the time and one of my favorites was Susanna of the Mounties. The doll had curly blonde hair and Shirley Temple had curly blonde hair. It seemed a logical name for my pretty doll.

Since then, I have shared my delight in Shirley Temple movies with my daughter as well.  Though I no longer have my Susanna, at this very moment, sitting on our DVD shelf is a copy of Susanna of the Mounties. My mother-in-law may have shared The Nutcracker Suite with her, but I have also been able to share the first Christmas I remember with my daughter through this old, delightful movie.

My Earliest Memories

One of the last pictures taken of my brother Allen and my Dad together.

One of the last pictures taken of my brother Allen and my Dad together. Allen was my first sibling and major playmate.

  I was born in 1959, the same year that the first Barbie dolls stocked store shelves. The doll revolutionized the doll industry, and I revolutionized my parents’ life style because I was their first-born child. Dad called me his “Darling Daughter Donna”.  I had a lot to teach them that first year and they were so confident with their success with me that late the following year Allen was born. I don’t remember Allen’s birth. My first memory was of me in my walker and strolling up to the television set and seeing Lassie on the screen. I remember touching my hand on the screen and feeling the static of the television on my hand. This memory had to be from when we lived at my grandfather’s house before we moved to the Snider Circle town house. Whether Allen was born yet or not, I don’t remember, but I do remember that television set and the dog Lassie. It is funny the things a person considers important when she is less than two years old. While we lived there, my grandfather died and we moved to Snider Circle.

    I don’t remember grandfather’s passing, but I can vaguely remember the apartment owner showing us the townhouse before we moved in. I remember there was a kitchen and living room downstairs. There was also a utility room where Mom would do her laundry in a wringer washing machine.Upstairs were two bedrooms and a bathroom. One of the upstairs rooms I shared with Allen. I remember that we slept in cribs in that room and we played with our toys there too.

     My next memories were while we lived in Snider Circle. Allen and I spent (what I now know) a week at Aunt Mary’s apartment. Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob’s apartment were upstairs of Aunt Augusta’s and Uncle Merle’s farm house. Uncle Bob and Uncle Merle were brothers and Aunt Mary and Aunt Augusta were sisters. Aunt Augusta had a daughter Janiece and Uncle Bob and Aunt Mary had two children Guy and Kaye. Anyway, Allen and I went to Aunt Mary’s to spend a week. What I remember most about Aunt Mary’s was the fact that she had a dishwasher. I remember I was enthralled when Aunt Mary rinsed off her dishes and put them into the dishwasher and then after a while she came back and put them away. It is amazing what a little girl of just over two remembers as important.

     I then remember Daddy picking us up and taking us back to the townhouse. I remember him saying, “Would you like to see your little sister?” I remember that both Allen and I looked in on her and then we both went up to our bedroom to play. I remember not being so impressed. I think I quickly recognized that this little baby was my competition for my Daddy’s time.

      We lived at Snider Circle for a year. I remember moving to the house that my parents would own for most of my life until my sister took ownership of it when she took over power of attorney for my parents when they could no longer care for themselves. I think I can remember going to the house the first time and seeing it when Mrs. Munn answered the door to show us around. I don’t remember any more or my first impressions of the house, but I do remember that the day we moved in, I remember several uncles helping Dad, and the gas man putting in the gaslines. Most memorable memory of that day was that that I got over tired and my mother told me to take a nap on the couch or as she called it, “the davenport”. I remember that when I awoke, the house looked better, more organized. Mom had been busy while this little girl slept. It’s amazing what a little girl of less than three years old thinks is important.