My Faith Journey through the Church…and out of the Church.

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No I don’t go to church much, but at one point in my life, church was one of my highest priorities. My Church was a huge part of my life.

I grew up going to church every Sunday, I made my confirmation, attended Sunday school, sang in the children’s choir, ran though the halls, and when I was an adult I worked as the church secretary.

I was married in the church,  and baptized all of our children there,  we raised them in church, where they participated in church events, youth fellowships, choir and so much more.

The clergy through my years,  comforted our family in times of sadness, visited family in the hospital,  and celebrated with us during the happy times.

My choir director, when I was a little girl, gave me a love of music, and encouraged me to sing, even though I could not carry a tune.

A very talented musician and composer, who was our music director,  encouraged me to play hand bells, even though I could not read music. The church gave me music, and I enjoyed it so much.    

When I was in high school, my High School Sunday School teacher was an incredible man.  He was the most kind, understanding and patient man of faith I had ever met.   He was a big part of my faith journey.  He taught me to never give up on anyone, never judge anyone, and always have faith that things will get better.  He was a mentor to many at church, me included. 

My childhood minister confirmed me and he taught me to be quiet and listen.  He taught me that you hear God in the stillness, so when you pray make sure you take time to quietly listen.

The minister who led our church when I was a teen,  helped me through some very difficult teenage years with the patience of a saint.

After I finished high school, I wanted to teach Sunday school, two very lovely women of the church took me under their wing and I started teaching our 4 year olds under their guidance. I continued teaching for 25 years all because they were willing to take  a chance on me,  and had faith in me.

When I was having my first child, three weeks into the pregnancy I found out I was exposed to a virus.  I was told I could have an approved medical abortion because the baby might be born blind and deaf.  I was beside myself, so I went to my church, went into the stillness of our sanctuary and asked God what to do.

I remembered my childhood ministers words.   “Be still and listen” 

As I was sitting in the sanctuary, a calmness came over me, a peace; as if God was telling me everything was going to be fine.  I carried that baby 9 months and gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

As an adult another minister arrived. He encouraged me to get more involved in the church as a leader. He also encouraged me to start a new fellowship group.

I formed the EYF (Elementary Youth Fellowship) and continued to work with the same group of about 30 kids from EYF to JYF  (Junior Youth Fellowship) and on to MYF.   It was the best of times, we became a community of love and caring.

We went to so many Christian retreats together, along with fun adventures such as camping and canoe trips on the Delaware River.

Even now, almost all of those kids keep in touch with me either through face book or in person.

I was so blessed to have that same group of kids and watch them grow from grammar school students to high school students planning for college.

I was with them through their happy times, confusing times, and some very sad times, including a battle with cancer by one, and loss of a parent by two. They taught me more than I ever taught them.

I had so many people in the church who believed in me.  One woman encouraged me to be the Church Secretary. A job I took, but it never seemed like a job.  It was more of a labor of love.   I thank her for that encouragement and opportunity.    

I loved the church and the people in it. It was always my safe place.  A place to find friendship, peace and answers. The church meant so much to me, and to my family.

When I look back on my years in the church, I thank God for allowing me the great privilege of meeting so many people of  strength courage and great faith, who influenced my life, and whose words come back to me in time of need.

I thank God for those who have continued to help me, even after leaving the church.

During the year my husband was battling cancer, so many reached out with support.

A wonderful woman of God who watched me grow up in the church sent me 20 years of cards, trying to get me back to church after I left.  Always encouraging me  with her wit and wisdom. I wanted to go back, but I had lost faith in the institution of the church.  I tried many times, but the scars were too deep  and painful.

Now, in that church where I spent such a big part of my life, there is a new minister and even though I don’t attend church often,  his kindness means the world to me.   During the prolonged illnesses of  my parents and through the heartache of their death he was there. 

I never believed I could feel comfortable with a minister again, until I met him.

I have so many memories of church, and of the people who encouraged me along my faith journey from my childhood to my adult years.  God Bless all of them, in heaven and on earth.

I am thankful for the 48 happy years of being a part of a church family.

Everything I learned there helped me in my darkest hours and times of trial, and when I left,  I felt lost.

Little did I know, the leaving, would lead to a new beginning of  volunteer work within the town of Nutley, even now at the age of 70. 

Yes, I was blessed by being a part an extraordinary church family for a large part of my life, but sometimes life throws you a curve.  The church I loved was also the church that hurt me more than I had ever dreamed possible.  Yet, looking back, it changed me for the better.    I do believe all things happen for a reason. 

I lost the church, but I never lost what I learned while growing up there, nor what I learned as a youth adviser, Sunday school teacher and church secretary.

The knowledge I gained from the good years as a member of a church family, was transferred to new and different volunteer work which fills my heart and stirs my soul.

The church will always be  a part of me, then, now and forever

I will forever hold it in my heart and Thank God for the good years there,  surrounded by people of strong, faith and love, whose words and actions I carry with me to this day.  I don’t judge the people who hurt me any longer,  I leave that up to God.
Maybe one day I can forgive them, as God has forgiven me so many times, but it’s difficult, and I am only human with feelings, flaws and imperfections, but maybe one day, maybe one day.  There is always hope! 🙏

God Bless

6 Years…..and one Thanksgiving

FAMILY BEHIND THE CHAOS

The journey through life can be a difficult at times and not all stories end well, but sometimes you get lucky and things work out.

My husband Butch was diagnosed with stage 3 lymphoma, June 20th in the year 2014. It was a long, hard and emotionally draining battle. There is a saying that reads “When a family member gets cancer, the entire family gets cancer” Anyone with a family member who went though, or is going through cancer, understands that quote.

Butch spent more time in the hospital and ICU than at home that year.

While Butch was going through his cancer treatments, and going in and out of the hospital, our daughter had an unexplained stroke which scared the hell out of all of us. She was healthy and she was young, it was unimaginable to think this could happen to her.

Thankfully she recovered fully and Butch survived his first cancer.

My parents, being in their 90’s were in and out of the hospital, through those years, adding more pieces to the puzzle. The puzzle which was our life. Each piece adding a new challenge.

I had promised my parents, they would never be in a nursing home, and I was determined to keep that promise no matter how difficult things became, and boy were things going to get difficult.

Two years after Butch’s first remission, he was diagnosed with another form of cancer. During this second bout with cancer, I was also diagnosed with cancer, and my Dad had a stroke which left him unable to walk.

I had to figure out a way to give more care to my parents, keep them in their home, have my surgery and see Butch through his surgery and treatments.

(Are you following this? It gets more complicated, we weren’t done yet.)

I wondered if things could get anymore complicated. Never wonder, it can!

I thought life was throwing a bit too many curve balls, and they were all hitting me in the head.

My cancer was caught early so all went well. My Dad was slowly dying from a form of Leukemia complicated by the effects of his stroke which put him in a wheelchair. Sounds like a soap opera doesn’t it? 😳.

So there we were, now we were dealing with Butch’s cancer surgery, my cancer surgery and my Dad’s stroke which left him disabled.

Add into the entire scenario the fact that my mother suffered from bi-polar disorder and we had quite a situation to say the least, yet we were all managing to stay somewhat sane. Notice I wrote “somewhat”.

Then….My mom fell one night, hit her head and ended up in the ER with a brain bleed, the Doctor didn’t think she would make it through the night. After 8 long days and nights in hospice she was still hanging on.

I spent hours by her bedside when the doctors told me she was near the end, but she died after I left. I know she planned that. That was Mom, she wasn’t going to make her exit easy on me, she was going to defy all the medical knowledge and hang around for 8 days longer than all the medical professionals thought she would.

Mom died after I left and soon after midnight when the day turned into my Dad’s birthday.

I wonder sometimes if she planned that as well.

Each day I walked into Hospice they told me they had no idea how she was still alive, well I knew, because I knew Mom.

After the day Mom fell, I moved in with my Dad to care for him and for 8 weeks we became closer than we had been in my entire life. Leukemia took him at 98 years old.

I was blessed to be there when he transitioned from this crazy world to the next, holding his hand and telling him I loved him,

I know he waited for me to get to him. He would never leave this earth without me there by his side.

It was just 8 weeks after my mom passed.

Well, after all that, we thought we were doing ok, we thought things were quieting down, but within 2 years of his 2nd remission, and after both of my parents died, Butch’s cancer returned, and he had to have another surgery.

I could not go with him to the hospital, as Covid was now preventing anyone but the patient to be inside the building. During surgery his heart slowed to almost a stop, leaving his heart damaged, but he was still here.

During the surgery I was at home with no information, driving my family crazy. Something I do often.

My daughter finally found out what happened, a nurse told her that they brought his heart rate back up while on the operating table, and we found out later it left him with damage. Thankfully the damage can be helped with medication.

All of this happened over the course of 6 years.

It was 6 years of non stop worry and stress. Looking back I don’t know how the friggin’ hell we all would have made it through without each other, and some good friends. We went through it all as a family.

This Thanksgiving our family will not be together, we decided it is better to skip this year due to the current situation with Covid.

At first I was sad, but now I realize that it is only a day. How does one day compare with all the love and compassion we share each and every day.

How does it compare to the last 6 years of crisis after crisis and everyone helping each other.

We do not need a day of thanksgiving, I don’t need a day of thanksgiving,

I am thankful every single day I have a family who supports each other NO MATTER WHAT. What more could I ask for from this life?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, there is always, always something to be thankful for, right?

Love and Blessings to you and yours.

My Own Mental Heath Journey

No, I am not a professional in the field of mental health, I am a mental health advocate from personal experience, years of taking classes, and my own years of therapy.

I have my own personal story and I tell my story to teens in crisis. By telling my childhood story, I am able to give hope to teenagers at a crisis center in New Jersey.

I want to write a bit about ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) because I am very concerned about finding problems earlier than later, but before I do, I need to say ……mental illnesses are just as real as physical illnesses.

There is no runny nose, no broken arm, no visual signs to say someone is suffering, but it is debilitating, and no one can just tell someone with an illness to SNAP OUT OF IT, no matter how much you want them to…………..it is an illness.

My own problems began in very early childhood.

Problems do not just appear in high school, or when one becomes as adult. If you look back you will probably find they began long before, but no one knew or intervened.

Examples of childhood trauma are domestic violence in a family situation, watching a mom being abused,  having parents who are addicted to alcohol or another substance, physical abuse, verbal abuse, a parent with a mental illness, or sexual abuse to name just a few.  

Adverse Childhood Experiences, is a study first published in 1998 by  Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, Pediatrician and best-selling author and California’s surgeon general

Dr. Harris has an ambitious dream, and that is to screen every student for childhood trauma before entering school. She wants to do this because the first 10 years of life are the most critical for traumatic events!  That is due to the developing body and brain in the early years.  

Understanding my own ACES and addressing my own trauma not only helped me, but it also helps me help others.

I grew up in a home with a parent who had a mental illness and it wasn’t easy.  I took the ACES test of childhood trauma and scored a five, which is very high but…..there is a second part to this test and it is the “Resiliency Questionnaire”, in which, thankfully, I scored well. This score explains why I didn’t end up worse than I am.

My childhood trauma was having a parent who was unpredictable.  I never knew if I was going to come home to a good parent, bad parent, depressed parent or manic parent.  

My childhood was chaotic. I was a quiet shy child who never gave anyone a problem in school, but I was a mess inside. 

Can you imagine being a little child and constantly receiving mixed messages from a parent, being verbally and physically abused one day, then treated with kindness the next day?  

Having a parent in their manic stage give you a puppy and then in a week or two, when that parent crashed, taking that puppy away from you with no reason, with no explanation. 

To have a parent constantly telling you how worthless you are, how much of a burden you are and how stupid you are, then being kind the next day.  

Can you imagine being sent to your aunts house to live because your parent can’t stand you any longer then hearing her cry on the phone to get you back a week later, then going through the same thing over and over.  

It was chaos, I lived in constant fear of what next? Stability was nonexistent.  

I don’t blame my parent at all, not one little bit, I just happen to be born to a parent who had an illness, an illness that went untreated. An illness no one spoke about.  An illness that carried a stigma which still exists today.  

The ACE’s study proves true with me, because from this trauma, which began in my very early years of childhood, I was left with general anxiety disorder which I have lived with all my life. 

We need therapists in our schools, and we need them in the early years.   Problems with children do not just emerge at the Middle and High School level.   We have to be aware of childhood trauma at an early age.  

We need public education to routinely screen,to enable early detection and early intervention. We can’t close our eyes and wait for the problems to become full blown, out of control behavior, as it did with me.   

I was quiet and shy in grammar school, not a problem to a teacher or anyone, but inside I was a mess. 

In High School is when my trauma emerged for all the world to see, and all hell broke looseI became the problem teen. People wondered why.  I heard people sayshe was always such a good little girl, what happened?  Well, what happened, happened for a reason, a reason that started as a little child, not a teenager.

Mental health screening should start early, it is so important.  How I would love to see therapist on staff in all schools.  They are on staff therapists in some schools, but not in Nutley.

Children will do well if they can, kids want to do well.  

See a child differently and you will see a different child.  

Dr. Burke is a leader in a national movementtoward the creation of trauma sensitive, and trauma informed education programs, that she hopes will lead to changes in school policies

I was fortunate to have people enter my life who helped me, encouraged me, and proved to me that people do care. That is why I grew up with reliance. 

Someday, hopefully, childhood trauma will not be avoided, ignored or denied, it will be understood and children will not have to carry the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences to their grave. 

They will be helped as children, not as broken adults, because It is a lot easier to build strong children than to repair broken teens or adults. I see it at the crisis center all the time.  The teens there, all have a story, and the story goes back to painful childhoods, with no intervention.

People will talk constantly about physical fitness, but mental health is equally or more important. People are suffering, and their families feel a sense of shame about it, which doesn’t help. 

Children and adults with mental health problems need support and understanding and our mental health system is failing us miserably. 

It takes a village to raise a child and we all need to be a part of that village. Tell your story. Don’t be embarrassed. Your story may save someone’s life!

One Summer and Leon

He wore shabby clothes

And hid behind the shelter of

dark glasses when we met.

He spoke to me in ramblings of a

silly fool, too high to reason.

I asked to see him again,

They told me I was a fool,

Nevertheless I recognized something,

something I could not explain.

Behind shabby clothes and sunglasses

was someone unlike any other. Someone I wanted to know.

Next time we spoke he was down from his cloud.

I saw the beauty of his soul, the multi-layered depth of his character

and the wealth of knowledge he kept hidden.

Hour after hour we poured our hearts out to each other.  

Listening to understand.

We shared many things the summer I met the man in the shabby clothes,

all beautiful.  Most beautiful of all, we shared our deepest emotions.

The emotions we kept hidden from view.

I will never fail to recall the vision and  insight he added to my life,

that one short summer.  

I know now what I recognized when I met him.

I recognized myself.                                                                        -lb

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“Sunflowers end up facing the sun, but they go through a lot of dirt to find their way there”

Beautiful Souls I’ve met – Eileen Painter

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Some people just capture your heart.

I love the quote, “I have been touched by some beautiful souls, and for that I am grateful” One of those beautiful souls is Eileen Painter. We all know Eileen is moving on and we wish her all the best, but we will miss her so much.

Eileen is someone you meet and never forget. She is a leader, a champion, and a woman of strength and fortitude. I especially admire her leadership. I have worked with, and for, many leaders of organizations in my LONG life.

Needless to say, some were good, some bad, some indifferent, some had massive egos, some I wanted to punch, but many were exceptional. Eileen is one of the exceptional.

She always gives credit to everyone, but herself. She loves to say she just “stirs the pot”, and it is “the village” that makes things happen.

Working as a volunteer under the guidance of Eileen Painter,  you always feel appreciated, needed and included. She watches everything going on around her.  In times of confusion, bumps in the road, and a fair amount of of craziness  she is still watching everything  going on around her.   

If she sees a volunteer looking a bit confused as to what to do next, she will call out their name and make sure they are included. That doesn’t happen in all organizations, and because it doesn’t, it leads to feelings being hurt, and people stepping back or leaving, which is very sad.

No one ever feels out of place or left out under Eileen’s watch.  All are treated as if their contribution, no matter how small or large, is appreciated and always acknowledged.

I didn’t work at the NFSB long, I usually helped out with monetary donations. The Pandemic allowed me to finally help, because I was furloughed from my job.

In that short time I realized the kind of person Eileen was, and the incredible job our NFSB does in this township of ours.

Eileen Painter, you will be so missed, which makes me sad for us, but we are all so happy for you.

The work NFSB accomplished getting through the pandemic was way beyond difficult, but she led ‘THE VILLAGE” well.  All were fed, and taken care of emotionally and all volunteers were kept safe.   I will never forget all I learned from Eileen, I will never forget Eileen.  

Thanks for being you Eileen, and I hope you know you take a part of our hearts with you into this next chapter in your life.

We do not have to know a person a long time, for them to make a forever impact on us. You have certainly made an impact on me Eileen, and I am forever blessed. 

Good luck and keep a part of us in your heart, you will be in ours. ❤️

I love the photo I took of this amazing woman putting up the tents in a downpour of rain. 

That is fortitude, that is commitment,  that is passion for helping others, and that is why we love her.    

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Rain isn’t going to stop us

The Hippie and The Hood

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52, yes FIFTY one years ago, my friends and I were cruising the Ave and I picked up a friend I knew who was hanging with some guys, on the corner, across from the Dairy Queen.

One of the friends, I noticed immediately, he was a guy they called “Clutch”. We drove around for awhile then went to the Onyx Room. After that we hung in a Nutley Park drinking beer.

A year later we became engaged in the parking lot of Rutts Hutt with no romantic proposal and no ring, we honeymooned at Howard Johnsons on Route 3 and we were back to work the next day. We had 42 dollars and 72 cents between us. We were the odd couple, hippie chick and gear head.

We are a true Nutley story of two kids who grew up in “The Nut” in the 1950’s-60’s and never left…..after three kids and 4 grandchildren we are still here and we still have only 42 dollars and 72 cents between us. lolol.

I am not going to lie and say being married 50 years was always a walk in the park! Together we laughed, we loved, we struggled, we worried, we fought and we cried. You can’t be together 52 years and married 50 years, go through tough and trying times, without bumping heads a few thousand times.

We had so many happy times, but there were also bad times. We definitely had our share of painful, devastating and scary times.

There was sickness, deaths, problems with our kids, financial worries, emergency room visits, parents who needed us, children who needed us, careers that needed us and at times life seemed like an overwhelming juggling act with too many tennis balls in the air! Together we raised three kids, while taking care of our house, the bills, the second mortgages to pay for raising and educating said kids, worked full time jobs, and at times second jobs to make ends meet. The both of us had parents who needed help whenever they became ill, a brother who died of AIDS in the 1980’s  and too many battles with cancer.
No, we haven’t had a fairy tale life, we had our life, our own unique story and it’s been quite a story so far. We enjoyed the good times and hung in through the worst of times. That is what marriage is about! It’s about sharing the good, the bad, the seemingly impossible, the flat out ugly, and never giving up.

Life can get tough, with a continuous series of ups, downs, illnesses, twists, turns, and a variety of WTF moments. No one has a perfect life even if it looks that way on their Facebook page. 😏

Thanks for sharing this crazy ride with me Butch! Thanks for hanging in when things got tough. Thank you for loving me, putting up with all my crazy antics and thanks for not killing me 😜.
No matter what anyone says I do love you Clutch! 😁. Maybe we aren’t Romeo and Juliet, but hey, their story didn’t end well did it?

Through it all, we have always had each other’s back, and that my man, is a beautiful, beautiful thing! 😘 Here’s to more years of keeping it real.

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Embers

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Bright burning chaos

sparks hidden embers, long forgotten,

returning the soul burning memories

of  long ago.

A fire burns wild;

reaching the heart,

the mind.

 

The darkness I created

in days so lost,

consumes,

and I am back.

Back to a place I thought destroyed.

Back to what was, what was not,  and what could never be.

-lb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Valentines Day to the Gentleman 3 Pews Forward to the Left

Every Sunday morning, in my mother’s favorite pew, I sat.

A little girl forced to sit quietly in church.

3 pews forward to the left sat a most interesting man.

He did not seem as if he belonged in our small little church, in our little suburban town of Nutley.

He was quite refined, extremely handsome, and a man of style and grace.

I was told by my aunt, that style, is a way to say who you are without speaking.

I believed he was saying, with his style, that he was a kind and royal prince.

A prince who returns to a castle in a faraway kingdom after church service.

My imagination went wild trying to solve the mystery of the man 3 pews forward and to the left.

One day I asked a friend if she knew who he was.  She told me   “THAT MAN IS MR. SILAS MOUNTSIER III”

My mouth almost dropped to the floor.  His name was as wonderful as I imagined!!

I would have been disappointed if she said Joe, Nick or Bob.  SILAS MOUNTSIER III, what a wonderful name.

Through my childhood years at church, I watched him greet people in a manner different from the other men.   He was so refined and polished when he shook hands or kissed the ladies during fellowship.

I often wondered if he noticed me, as I watched and stalked him.

As the years flew by, and I became an adult, I became very active in church and more visible.  I would stand at the pulpit and speak often with my Sunday school class, or with the Youth group I advised.

One day, when I was in my 20’s I received a note from Mr. Silas Mountsier.

How did he know me?    Had he always known me?  Did he remember the little girl who stalked him in church all those years?

I carefully opened the note feeling elated to receive such a treasure.

It was just as I imagined.  Parchment paper, with his name engraved at the top.  Silas Mountsier III.  It was beautiful.  I felt 10 years old again in my excitement.

As the years went by I would receive more notes, from Mr. Silas Mountsier III.  I would also receive many  cheek kisses during church fellowship, take communion in his beautiful gardens and attend gatherings at his beautiful home.

Even now, I believe, as I did when I was a child, that Mr. Silas Mounsier III, 3 pews forward, to the left is a prince of a man.

Yes, a prince who befriends all with love, compassion, grace, generosity and so much style.

A man who sees a need and fills it. A kind, caring and giving man who walks humbly with the Lord. 

Happy Valentines Day Mr. Silas Mountsier.  You will always be my mystery prince, 3 rows forward and to the left, who made church interesting for a child who couldn’t sit still.

My love is with you always. You are a great man with a kind heart and a humility we rarely see any longer.  You make this world a better place for so many in your quiet, humble way.  Your empathy and your unending love for those in need is a gift to the world and so many have benefited by your kindness.   May God continue to bless you always Mr. Silas Mountsier III, even as a child I knew you were someone very special.

My love always,

The little girl 3 pews back.

A Boy

 

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There was a boy

with lips soft, full, engaging,

sweet.

…with eyes burning frozen

 soulfully deep.

A boy who wasn’t mine

to keep.

Found inside my damaged soul,

his memory slumbers deep.

He wakes, laughs, loves, weeps.

within the confines of my anxious sleep.

                                                      -l A buset