Build on Your Strengths

through_pain_comes_strength_by_chrishay7-d4wdx1s
Through Pain Comes Strength by chrishay7 | deviantart.com

Along with my business blog, I joined two writers’ groups to keep me motivated to write. Fiction. Keep me motivated to write fiction. Until this past year, I’ve never written fiction in my life except for perhaps a couple high school assignments.

And guess what? I’m bad at writing fiction. So far. I thought maybe since I love reading fiction and I listen to a ton of fiction that I might be half-way decent, but not so much. I’ve been writing stream-of-consciousness or prose my entire life. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that tackling a new genre isn’t easy. Or fun. The point was for it to be fun. It’s not.

Then I come back to my once-prolific blog, post one thing, and “the crowd goes wild” so to speak. I had three new followers on my blog when I woke up this morning. That’s way more fun, I’d say!

Since May 2017, my life… My life is changed. I can’t say it’s better. It was definitely worse for awhile, but it’s better than that now. I still have highs and lows. This week has been low for various reasons.

Reading back through some of the posts on this blog has been cathartic. I don’t know if I should be comforted or discouraged that some of the same thoughts and conclusions are still so relevant. I feel like I’ve digressed, spiraled down instead of up.

I’ve been seeing a therapist this past year. It was weekly in the beginning, but now I’m down to just once a month or so. I have a meeting with her today, actually. I don’t feel like going, which is usually the best indicator I know of that I need to go.

Gratitude can be as effective as antidepressants, chemically speaking. The problem I’ve found is that I forget to be grateful, where taking pills… No, I forget to take those too. But taking pills certainly requires less effort. Less engagement. That’s the problem with pills is that they just become part of your routine, and you forget why you’re taking them. Forgetfulness seems to be the enemy of both methods of treatment, natural and chemical.

I put up a white board in my office to write down all the things I’m grateful for. And then I moved my desk to the living room. Hah! *Sigh* Okay, new strategy: Be grateful. Every day. Write it. Print “Gratitude” in your favorite font in the middle of a yellow, card stock piece of paper and add to it every day until the paper is full. Then fill up the back. We’ll try that.

Document, Don’t Create

frustration_is_flattery__by_feedingyoulines
frustration is flattery by feedingyoulines | deviantart.com
I started a business blog recently, posted three entries, then promptly lost all motivation and inspiration to write anything else. I’ve been listening to Gary Vee quite a bit in recent months and his perpetual advice is to “Document” your journey instead of trying to constantly “Create” content. The problem I find with that is that I doubt documenting my failings as a blogger will appeal to anyone looking to me for tried-and-true business solutions. I don’t know, though. Maybe the fact that I’m a fallible human being would be a helpful thing for people to see. Perhaps describing just how frustrating it is to feel like you don’t always have something to offer would be nice for someone to hear, if only so they have someone to relate to. From what I have observed, all business owners go through periods of intense doubt and frustration about their chosen profession. The fact that they gave up on so many other opportunities comes screeching to the foreground and suddenly everything tastes like ash. “Why did I choose this field?” “Do I have any idea what I’m doing?” “Why aren’t people taking me seriously?” “What do I have to say to make the damn sale!?” Yes, I’ve heard these questions and asked them myself from time to time. January will mark ten years since I’ve been freelancing as a consultant. Ten years, and I still feel like I’m just barely scratching the surface of what I think I should know. I’ve been in a terrible mood for the last week, likely because my August numbers were nowhere near where I wanted them to be. But here we are, staring down September 12th, and I’m still crying about last month. Guess that’s not an entirely perfect use of my time or energy or effort.  

In Response to Fear

tumblr_m9168wbudi1rr8ov4o1_500_large
Safe | http://weak-hearted.deviantart.com/

Write it. Write You, without apologizing. People will hate it. They will judge you. They will condemn you. They will criticize.

And there will be some whose lives will change. They will relate. They will heal. They will reach out. They will love you for being vulnerable. They will love you for expressing what they have felt and grappled with and blamed themselves for.

They will abuse it. They will make it something you never intended.

Write it anyway. For the ones whose lives need to move and forgive and process and learn to be vulnerable again. Only for them. Write it to them.

How to Make Money with a Mess

 

0-fSeD8zYoC-BsrsDz
FRIENDS | “The One with the Dirty Girl”

I feel like I’ve been handed something I thought would take years to accomplish. Part of me is irritated that I didn’t pursue a management position years ago when it became clear that I was built for leadership. But I can’t throw away the last 8 years of work. I learned a lot about human nature. That has to be worth something.

I also learned that corporate life is for peons and cutthroats. If you’re not interested in being one of those, for the love of God, stick to a small office!

Today is my first day off in my new position. And I feel alive. The challenge I’m faced with is an ultimate puzzle. I’ve been handed 25 years of files with only 15 years of financial records, spread across 4 QuickBooks files, 1 incomplete Excel spreadsheet, 3 filing cabinets, and multiple file folders strewn about the office in boxes and on desks, and asked to find repeat business. The thought is that after 25 years, someone is going to need roof maintenance.

My goal this week was to introduce myself by sending letters to 5 past customers, and give them a heads-up that I would be calling next week to setup an appointment to inspect their roofs. I send 6 letters yesterday. It probably sounds small, but I am so proud of myself! After 6 days, I pinpointed the biggest fish I could find in all that data, and I’m going to start reeling them in next week. One of them could be an 80 thousand dollar sale!

Not only that, but I’m going to build a custom customer relationship management database in Access. This was the project I originally started for the company back in April, but had to put on the back burner because my life didn’t give me enough consecutive hours to work on a relational database. (If you’ve ever worked with relational databases, you probably can relate to the assertion that focus is crucial; otherwise, you end up with a lot of data that doesn’t rightly talk to each other.)

Some people might wonder why I didn’t just send letters to everyone I could and just start calling them en masse. Here’s my thought process:

1. If I’m going to take care of a customer by myself, it needs to pay off.

I don’t want to waste time with small potatoes. If I had a team of customer service reps that could coddle small sales, I would go after every dollar I could. As it is, I have to make the most of every letter, phone call, and email.

Here’s how I did it: I exported the invoice transactions from each QuickBooks file into an Excel spreadsheet, combined them all into one, filtered it by services to exclude sales where we only sold product, and summed all transactions before August 2011. (The minimum warranty period is 5 years, but some are good for as long as 20 years.) I sorted those totals in order of highest to lowest and got feedback from both the past and current owners for all customers whose total was 10 thousand dollars or more. And wham! Focus achieved. The result was a list of about 60 customers I’ve now adopted as my own.

2. If my customers don’t believe I know who they are, they’re not going to believe I know what they need.

Here’s another reason I chose to start small: I need to understand my customers, their properties, and their needs if I’m going to have a prayer of closing the sale. There’s no way I can effectively learn about all of them all at once; not with the state the records are in. If everything were nicely organized and I could count on having everything I need at my fingertips, that would be another story.As it is, I have to gather all the intel I can about each one as I go. That includes reading through files with handwritten notes about past interactions, proposals, contracts, warranties, invoices, and talking to the people in the office who had past experience with them.

3. Slow and steady wins the race.

My hope is that I will be able to gain momentum as I go. This week it’s 6 customers. Maybe next week it will be 10 more, but I’m going to build slowly. I have some clearly defined work to do: Organize the files and the data, understand the history, contact the customer, make the sale. I could go crazy and pour over records and make a zillion calls, but there’s no way I could sustain that pace. My level of service would suffer, and I can’t afford to give my customers substandard attention.

Capture2
“He told me about your apartment, and I couldn’t sleep thinking about it.”

I’m truly excited about this next step in my professional life. It’s the perfect challenge: I have a starting point, I have a goal, I have the skills to accomplish it, I have the tools to make it happen, and best of all – I have the owner’s full support!

Professional Whiplash

superman-typing-300x225

My last day at my job of five years was June 10th. My first day at the architectural and engineering firm that claimed to love me was June 13th. Last Wednesday, July 27th, I had a feeling that I should call up my friend to catch up. Between my classes sucking up every spare molecule of brain function and willpower and her parents needing help moving from their decades-long residence, neither of us had found the time to connect lately.

She gave me a deposit to work on a project for her roofing company back in April and I felt terrible about not being able to find time to work on it. I asked her to lunch, resolved to offer her a full refund and to see if we could revisit the project after I graduate in December. Before I got to that point in our conversation I mentioned that my job at the new firm wasn’t really living up to my expectations.

The supervisor I thought I would enjoy working with turned out to be the most condescending, hot-and-cold, neurotic, overtired, martyr of a boss I had ever worked for. I was disappointed. And bored… God I was bored. If feeling patronized and bored isn’t a recipe for change, I don’t know what is.

Instead of accepting my offer to refund her deposit, my friend offered me a job. She knows my potential, could see that I wanted some freedom to create, so she asked if I would take the data from the 25-year old roofing company she and her husband recently inherited and turn it into repeat business.

The prospect of that much freedom and gaining that much trust was highly enticing. The next morning my friend said her husband was on board with the idea of my coming to work for them, and we agreed to meet for dinner that night to iron out details. I walked into the HR office that morning and let them know that I had an opportunity to move on and I wanted to know if, after only six weeks, they would like me to work out a two-week notice.

“Without saying too much,” the HR rep started, “I’m going to say that you should take that opportunity. It turns out that the work we thought we were going to have for you to do dried up, so Friday was going to be your last day.”

It took half a second for my brain register the implication of his comment as several thoughts shot through my head:”Today is Thursday. Tomorrow is Friday. They were going to fire me tomorrow?! I quit my job of five years so they could lay me off after six weeks?!” Suddenly the lack of loyalty I felt for their firm was wholly justified and called for anger to complete the balance the injustice.

“Oh my god!” was what I said out loud. The shock and sheer awe of the timing was life-defining. Another thought ran through my head: “If I hadn’t asked my friend to lunch yesterday, I would have been jobless tomorrow!”

Only God can orchestrate that kind of moment. I was struck with profound disbelief in what was happening and pure gratefulness for the care God took to show up as a supernatural provider in my life.

I took a few days off before I started with the roofing company yesterday. I’m still reeling from the shock of the change, but I am finally hopeful that my talents will not go to waste!

I Am an Administrator

I didn’t marry a man named Spike just to throw my mother for a loop.

After the first decade of my adult life, I recognized a natural strength in Spike that could balance the natural strength I found in myself. After playing the role of the strong, decisive, manager of every relationship I had ever developed, I met my match; someone I could flex my strength and my opinion to the nth degree and still feel feminine.

I had grown accustomed to having to be careful not to bowl over the thoughts and opinions of others. I had to train myself to think and speak “smaller” so I wouldn’t make people feel insecure or threatened.

Little 5’4″ me has always been intimidating on some level or other, but it never occurred to me that that would make me unpopular. I’ve always been friendly and ready and willing to be helpful in any way I can; professional at work and loyal in my friendships.
But “surveys are in” – I’m not cut out for subordination. Apparently my work style requires a strong, personally secure, trusting manager in order for me to be successful. More strong, secure, and trusting than the new one I’ve been given.

This shouldn’t surprise me, but it’s still disappointing. I’m an administrator. I’m gifted to serve others. But I can’t do that to the best of my ability if they feel like I’m trying to undermine them or steal their job or question their competency or criticize their management abilities. (None of which is actually happening, but all of which is being perceived.)

I’m trying to figure out why I come across that way, and I’ve decided to blame my higher education. As a student, I have been poked and prodded and challenged to be a critical thinker. So I ask critical-thinking questions. They are excellent questions, but I’ve found my supervisors become uncomfortable at the speed at which I’m able to arrive at those questions. And it makes them feel uncomfortable and threatened to not know the answer.

I don’t ask questions because I want to stump them. (Those people make me nuts.) I ask because I’m truly hoping there’s already an answer, and I won’t have to come up with my own solution. I will not reinvent any wheels if I don’t have to. I have too much to do to try everything the long way!

Most of the time, though, there isn’t an answer… Because no one has devoted the necessary time to work out that issue. Those issues – those puzzles – are what I live for! I want to find and fix every last one of them! I want to reroute the pieces of the machine and oil the gears and get the system flying through every issue it could possibly encounter.

I am an administrator.

I’m not your peon. I’m not your subordinate. I’m not the person you dump meaningless shit on to keep me busy and out of your hair.

I’m going to fix your life. You’ll never thank me for it, because you hate change and technology and new-fangled ideas. But your life will be better, because I want you to have more mental space for your family and friends and hobbies and laughter. I don’t want you to get hung up on all the issues that could be automated in your day. You have enough issues to deal with without having to work around inefficient systems!

I am the administrator that is more stubborn and more consistent and more diligent and more patient than your hate for change. I will fix it, though you fight me the whole way. Because you came to me for help – like a diabetic goes to a doctor. The shots hurt and the lifestyle is hard, but the diabetic will die without the routine.

I am an administrator. Let me fix it!

[Untitled]

Here we are again. Just a little reminder that depression is still hanging around, waiting for an opportunity to pull us down. It’s harder when Spike and I are both fighting it. Neither of us has any positive energy.

Thankfully we still coo over each other and snuggle and issue kisses, but that’s all we can offer when we’re like this. And it’s enough. I know he loves me. He knows I’m here. We don’t know what we want or what sounds good or what to do, but we love each other. We sleep, we work, we study, we attempt to maintain a healthy diet and keep the house from falling apart… But this weight is always here, pushing both of us into the mud. No matter if good things happen or problems are resolved, it’s always there – like a force.

Sleep brings rest from the fight. I should take more naps.

Whatever did I do before?

My God… what will possess my time what all this is finally over? My mind is constantly consumed with deadlines, with worry, with anxiety, with resoluteness, with focus, with anticipation.

Thousands of words I’ve written, and thousands more to go before its done. Countless hours of reading and mulling-over, and how many more before my time is free again? How I must have wasted my life until now, when I consider the feats I have accomplished in just ten months. Six more loom before me and now I begin my final project. Forty or more pages of dissecting and planning and strategy-forming. And that on top of four more classes.  Forty seven weeks are behind me. Only twenty four to go. My final semester is here!

Transition

Actress Vivien Leigh Looking Over Her Shoulder
Vivien Leigh

I turned in my key today. It was less satisfying than I thought it would be. I’m anxious about this next step. I’ve wanted to quit my job almost from the day I started five years ago, but I didn’t walk out the door until today. Loyal to a fault, I believe some would say.

But now comes the moment of truth. I have no real hope that the grass is greener on the side I’m moving to, but at least it’s different grass. Different sheep. I cannot abide boredom. It’s a petty destroyer of souls. 

Maybe this new job will be everything I’ve been looking for. Maybe it will just be a stepping stone. In either case, I’m finally moving on. Remind me to be less loyal to things that hurt me, will you? The last two weeks, working out my notice, have been chalk-full of unsurprising comments that somehow still cut me to the core. Unsurprising, but disappointing. I really was holding out hope that they would turn over a new leaf and come crawling, begging me to stay, swearing to treat me better.

A few kind-hearted individuals that I’ve connected with gave me cards and farewell flowers and toasted my new journey at lunch. The other 90% didn’t say a word. They just let me leave. I’m not surprised, but I’m still disappointed. No matter what you say and think and feel about horrible people, at the end of the day, sometimes you really just wish you were wrong about them; that somewhere deep inside they have the ability to be human.

Machiavelli indeed. It’s no wonder I’ve become so cynical. Nearly everywhere I turn someone reacts with insecurity or jealousy. I know it’s true because the people I connect deepest with are solidly self-aware and supremely confident about who they are. It’s no wonder people think I’m arrogant and pushy and I never win any popularity contests. I’m always seen as a threat.

Maybe that will change. My new job is in a technical field. I will literally be on the bottom of the totem pole with my puny bachelor’s degree, assisting engineers and architects and project managers. Maybe I will finally be in a bigger pond and people won’t feel so unnerved by my solidarity.

Maybe.

Master Manipulator?

Have you ever taken a personality test and cringed at the result? We had an exercise in my business strategy class tonight to discern the degree of our Machiavellian nature. I wasn’t just high Machiavellian. I was the most Machiavellian in my class: Always employs manipulation in business practices.

I’m still reeling. Really?? I’m doing my best to blame in on the highly cynical, negative industry I’ve been in for the last five years, but I can’t help but think I must really be that way.

Spike was no help, not surprisingly. “Am I manipulative?” I asked innocently.

“That’s a trick question,” he stubbornly refused to answer.

Smart man. I know his answer, otherwise he would have said, “No, that test is stupid.”

He did throw me a bone, saying all business is Machiavellian. I’d like to go with that and conclude that I must be the most super business woman in my class of business majors.

Jealousy and Guilt

guilt by burning-shark | deviantart.com

 

I’ve waited so long for this thing I wanted.
In an instant it was a petty insignificance.

She had what I wanted, without even trying.
My jealousy and rage toward the injustice was instantly ignited.
Then the guilt dragged me to depths of profound disappointment.
How could my first thought be of myself?
Every micro-expression on my face must have communicated judgment.
My recovery was pitiable.
I hugged her and smiled and said I was happy for her.
It was my best, and my best was a sorry failure.
How could I be so unkind?
I don’t know how to apologize.
I don’t know how to explain without making it worse.
She has what I will likely never have.

And I cannot be what she needs.

There’s Things Happenin’

My words are caput, but here’s an update:

  • Handed in my notice on Friday. I start a new job on the 13th.
  • Took in a friend’s three-year-old dog – a yellow lab – on Saturday. Looks like we may be adopting him.
  • Bought a yoga mat. Tabletop position doesn’t hurt my knees now. (Started yoga at home last week.)
  • Started two, fast-paced, six-week classes last week. Already. Cannot. Write.

I’m sure I’ll have an emotional meltdown when the reality of all the updates hit me. Looking forward to that post!

Courageous Compassion Part III

31kjb
Kim Phuc and her son, Thomas

What does it look like to love and show compassion in the midst of pain? How does anyone keep giving when they find themselves in a despicable situation? How do you combat the instinct to withdraw and shield your heart from further damage?

There is such an outcry for healthy emotional boundaries. “I’m not going to let you take advantage of what I’m offering,” is now heralded as a legitimate assertion, but what if that person needs you to be connected right now? “Don’t be codependent,” but there are needs in the world. “Don’t enable them to continue living that way,” but they’re helpless. “Don’t get sucked into their world,” but they’re alone. We need to disconnect for our own protection, and yet the need for connection is undeniable.

At what point in our psychological quest for health do we arrive at a place where we can give of ourselves without feeling like we’re being taken advantage of? Is it simply a decision or a mindset to live as if you are healthy enough to give of yourself freely?

Jesus gave himself away, and he didn’t discriminate. There was never an instance where he pulled back because people were taking advantage of him, although most certainly were. They came to see him from miles, not because they loved him or believed in him, but because of what he could do for them… for free, without asking anything in return. To many who saw him, he was a miracle-worker and a prophet, but they never believed that he was the son of God, come to take away the pain of the world. They didn’t appreciate him. He was just a means to an end.

Still, Christ was undeterred by their unbelief. He didn’t turn them away when they came begging for favors, even though he knew they would later kill him for claiming to be the Messiah. (The irony is thick there, isn’t it? He healed them when they didn’t believe, and they killed him for “claiming” the power to heal.)

“But he’s Jesus,” some would argue, “He could love them and give himself away because he was God. We’re not God, so we have to be more careful.”

It seems like many people treat the process of forming healthy boundaries as the final destination; as if they will be able to function on the highest level if they can assert that no one should take from them without asking. I’m not saying people shouldn’t learn this skill. I believe it is a critical process in learning to do life. But what if developing healthy, emotional boundaries is just supposed to be a stepping stone? Once you have that confidence and that healthy determination, isn’t it time to give yourself away? Isn’t it time to abandon your right to keep what you have acquired?

I would say yes, once you have suffered and survived, it is time to reach out to someone else who is still suffering, and doesn’t know if they will survive. Pain and suffering comes in many forms, but the experiences are universal. Relating to someone with similar experiences is pivotal in the healing process for both sides.

Rejection. Abandonment. Uncertainty. Betrayal. Death. Loneliness. Heartache. Trauma. Someone needs you to do the work of unpacking all that , so you can help them through the same thing. Whatever your story is, whatever emotions you worked through, whatever feelings you can put words to, someone needs you to share it so they know they’re not alone.

Think of all the times you felt misunderstood and consider: Someone needs you to understand them. Connecting with them on a heart level is crucial for healing to take place. And when you participate in healing, you participate in saving the world.

Courageous Compassion Part II

This is the second in a multi-part post I have been developing. You can read Part I here, although it doesn’t exactly feel like this one. My thoughts on the two posts are related, but I’m still figuring out how.

This phrase, Courageous Compassion, keeps knocking away inside my head and I don’t know what to do with it except give it some space to grow. The progressions seem cynical, but they need to be fleshed-out. I don’t think it’s going to make anyone feel better in the way they might expect, including me, but these musings might give us a breath of understanding and a moment to relate.

For the past three years we have taken care of two young girls. They came to us neglected and traumatized and abandoned. The were unkempt and feral and afraid of everything.

For the past three years I have done the best I know how, and I am finally coming to the end of myself. I no longer know what to do. I no longer have the answers. I no longer want to do this. I chuckle to myself when I consider that I’ve actually managed to go so long without calling on a divine strength for help. Of course He is there. Of course He has been my strength. Of course the prayers of those supporting us have given me the fortitude to do this. But I no longer have any delusions that I might be able to do this under my own power.

It isn’t the parenting or care-taking or forming traditions or consistency or routine. I can do all that, relatively speaking. It’s the rejection and the dismissal and the criticism and the nonreciprocal, flippant response to what I’m offering. It’s the attitude that throws away everything I say before I’ve even said it. It’s the notion that everything would be better if I had never taken them in. It’s the hellish accusation that I took them away and now I’m keeping them apart.

I can’t take that anymore.

Someone asked me last week, essentially, if all the conflict with the girls’ “father” has had an effect on my relationship with the girls. I wanted to say no. I wanted to say that my commitment to them has continued, unwavering, and my affection for them is growing. But it hasn’t and it isn’t. I am not a factory of compassion. I am not a well of grace. My soul is broken. My storehouse of empathy is burnt. My heart is beaten and I am not brave enough to turn another cheek.

I don’t have the benefit of calling on memories of years when my love for them was fathomless and secure. I wasn’t there when they learned to walk or to speak. They never came running to me when they were hurt and I never scooped them up in my arms or whispered that it would be okay. They never asked me a question starting with, “Mama, can we…”

I am battling in this war without anything from that arsenal that most parents are able to stock and draw from. Effectively, I am weaponless, armor-less. I have nothing to combat the barrage of insults or to defend myself from the onslaught of injury. And yet I am expected to happily run into the line of fire every day and thank God for the opportunity.

I can’t do it anymore.

There must be something I can call on. Every religious inkling in my being screams that all I need is God, but I don’t understand those mechanics. “Just pray and it will all be alright,” is painful advice. “God is enough and He will give you strength,” is a only a nice saying. When you open up your heart to a child over and over again over the course of several years, and all you’re ever met with is flat rejection, the love of God has hard time peeking through.

“Who will go for Us?” God asks.

“Here am I. Send me!” the prophet exclaims.

How often did he regret that moment of naive volunteerism? How often did he contemplate giving up? And what sustained him? Was it pure solidarity and willpower that kept Isaiah from abandoning the people? Did he ever throw off his heart connection to them out of the need to survive his calling? Did divine intervention hold him fast?

I keeping feeling that I can call on the wisdom of parenting relationships or even marriage relationships, but this relationship is neither of those. None of that advice fits. This relationship is more like one between a prophet and his calling.

In reality, it is easier for me to relate to disaster relief workers than to Mothers of Preschoolers. The mind of trauma counselor makes more sense to me than one of a mother having trouble with her teen. I have more kinship with an African missionary than I do with an overtired soccer mom.

I am not a mother. I do not enjoy the benefits of their giftings. I am a guardian. A soldier. Why didn’t anyone tell me? And what the hell do I do now?

Courageous Compassion Part I

This is the first in a multi-part post I have been mulling over for some time. It wasn’t until I finished Part II that I Googled the phrase “Courageous Compassion” and discovered a book by the same title, written serendipitously by a woman with my same first name. I have added her book to my wish list because it feels miraculously like what I am working toward in these posts. The thoughts that follow are my own, and I look forward to reading her ideas on the subject at a later time.

I watched Rob Bell’s updated two-hour talk titled Everything is Spiritual yesterday morning. It was a follow-up talk to one that he gave ten years ago, and it is remarkably on-par with the musings I have mulled around for the past several weeks. His premise is that everything in the universe, from the beginning of time is gravitating toward more complexity and more depth and more unity. Particles formed atoms. Atoms formed molecules. Molecules formed cells. Cells formed organisms.

The logical progression is that organisms will form something together that is more complex and deep than the organisms were when they were apart. That glorious evolution will produce a new entity which will have characteristics and properties that are undetectable in the parts that make it up. It will take on new life and achieve developmental profundities we can only imagine.

I wonder if that’s why Jesus spoke about it in parables. There is no way for us to understand the complexities of what is in store for the next universal phase of connectivity. Attempting to describe this Kingdom of God where all life lives in harmony is as ridiculous as attempting to explain the complexities of the human body to a skin cell. The cell doesn’t even have the awareness to listen to that explanation, let alone understand it.

And yet God the man became a cell and gave us glimpses: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field (Mt 13:24)… like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed his field (Mt 13:31)… like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened (Mt 13:33)… like a treasure hidden in a field (Mt 13:44)… like a merchant in search of fine pearls (Mt 13:45)… like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind (Mt 13:47).”

The mystery of this new organism is unsolvable by the pieces that will make it up, but will make complete sense to the whole. Like the human that can understand the biology of a single cardiac cell, the kingdom of God will one day know and understand what Christ taught as basic truth.

I don’t believe that preaching “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” was ever meant to frighten the masses into believing a certain truth to avoid damnation. I believe the announcement was the joyous exclamation that we, as the most recent universal development since cellular formation, are on the verge of transcendence!

Where once we actively cut ourselves off from one another through human sacrifice and slavery and racism (paraphrasing Rob Bell), we are now seeing an inexplicable emergence of unity. This cauldron of life on earth is slowly amassing a weight of energy that will propel the formation of a new creation: the kingdom of heaven. Like atoms being fused in the nucleus of a star to form carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen molecules (Rob Bell again), the body of Christ will fuse and become one, cohesive organism.

I wonder if atoms had a savior that proclaimed the end of their relatively boring existence in the wake of becoming molecules. I wonder if particles had a dream of transcending their reality before forming atoms.

Deferred Pain

If I were keeping to my new, rigorous schedule, I would be sleeping already. Rebel that I am, I’m typing away on my phone in bed instead. Like a teenager getting away with breaking the rules… My own self-imposed rules.

I’ve been writing almost every day for a month and there’s hardly more than a single blog post that I’m pleased with. I’m not a prolific writer; just like I’m not the type of pianist that memorizes every piece I’ve ever learned. I love the piano. And I love writing. They’re my art, not my science. They’re old, good friends. They’re not my clients. I don’t work for them and I’m not their master.

They are the objects of consistent interest and profound gratitude in my life. Both have brought me through pain and relief and grief and uncertainty. I’ve never forced them to be more than that… Until this past month.

I’ve concluded that writing cannot become my discipline. Not now. I need it to get me through this. I can’t afford to offend spontaneity with routine.

The girls are going to visit their dad again, and it’s tearing the soul out of me. I feel numb. My nightly dreams are the only thing giving me any insight into my true feelings, which is also tearing me up. Why can’t I write about this? Maybe it’s because I’m in the middle of it and the feelings are still being formed. Or maybe my emotions are tapped out.

I found out last week that my adrenal glands are shot from the stress of the last month. So shot, in fact, that I was nodding off at my desk in the middle of the day, and in the car on my way to work in the morning, even after a full night’s sleep. Given that I’d rather not fall asleep on the job or at the wheel, I asked for help. Thankfully, the naturopath I’m seeing was able to sort that out this past week and I’m already feeling better during the day.

But the nights are still riddled with escapism. I don’t want to face what’s happening. I don’t want to acknowledge the glaring reality that the lives I’ve poured myself into for the past three years have summarily rejected me and the life I was offering for a deadbeat asshole who’s full of bullshit promises.

I have given three years of my life to this, and it’s been a consistent slap in the face. I have to get through this in one piece. My marriage has to get through this in one piece. I can’t compete with bullshit promises… apparently.

To put it mildly, children with traumatic pasts have a difficult time growing up because their brain chemistry becomes hard-wired to distrust their environment. A child who experiences and witnesses violence and abandonment learns coping mechanisms in order to survive. To the outside, these mechanisms seem manipulative and controlling and devious. And if those children had grown up in nonviolent households, that perception might be accurate.

But for a traumatized child, asserting control over their environment is a fear-based reaction, not one based on the desire for power. It’s an attempt to survive what’s going on, not to control it. Traditional parenting and consequences for lying and cheating and stealing and bad grades don’t work because they don’t speak to the root problem, which is that the children don’t feel safe.

Thankfully there are resources we can utilize to help us through our attempt to raise these girls, but it’s hard even when everyone is working to ensure success. The problem we’re facing is that they have a trigger from their past that keeps poking the situation with a stick and demanding to be involved… now.

He abandoned them to foster care and was absent from their lives for five years. Now he’s making them promises he will never deliver on and they’ve been sucked into the fantasy that he can and will give them everything they dream of. And we’ve become the enemy of that dream because we live in reality where this buzzard has never delivered on a single promise he’s ever made. His shame and guilt are bleeding his children’s faith dry to silence the haunting fact that he is a horrible father and always has been.

I’ve gone beyond frustration and anger and utter astonishment at the injustice of this situation. I wish I could say I’ve arrived at a higher place where my perspective is clearer and my motivations are purer. But it doesn’t feel that way. Letting them go visit him again so they will experience the reality of his lies feels like giving up.

And they have regressed. Since he started making them promises, their behavior has regressed back five years – where their development stalled in foster care. They’re not 11 and 12 anymore. They’re 6 and 7, playing make-believe with stuffed animals on their bedroom floor. They’re back to needing hourly transition warnings to answer the ever-present fear of “what’s going on?” I can’t even put on a sweater without answering “where are you going?”

And yet they’re thrilled at the prospect of seeing the source of their fear. There’s nothing we can do or say that will make the situation better. They’re going to visit him again, and they’ll take another heavy hit of his fantasy world before we have to detox them back into reality.

The alternative is that we remain the enemy for the next five years, throughout their teenage years, let them maintain this fantasy of a princely father that can give them everything if they would just go live with him, and then let them figure out the truth when they’re adults.

As grueling as that sounds, I would  sign up for it in a minute if it were an option. But the Royal Disappointment has resolved to make our lives a living hell if we don’t let them visit. The court is resolved to let us agree to visitation terms with him directly, which is part of the responsibility of Legal Guardianship.

I wish I could keep them all from learning this the hard way. But as long as the girls want to go, and the liar wants to have them (and there’s no immediate threat to their safety) we have to allow them visitation.

I’m sick with anxiety over the pains we have already taken to give them a new life, and the work we have ahead of us to pick up the pieces.

Quiet Fire

fire__black_and_white_by_colleen721
Fire, Black and White by colleen721 | deviantart.com

“Sit in the chair,” Joshua Fields Millburn admonished in a recent podcast by The Minimalists. Stop putting off your writing and just sit down. The more ritual you build around the act of writing, the less likely you are to ever do it.

“Resist the urge to self-edit when you’re writing a first draft,” is another piece of sage advice I often find hard to follow. I’ve discovered that turning off the monitor during the drafting step helps. But it isn’t comfortable yet. I feel like I keep losing my train of thought. Typing this way is a bit like the way I’ve been trying to play the piano lately; just keep going, even if you make a mistake. The song is what’s important, not the individual notes.

That thought could be applied to my new morning routine as well. I keep finding myself drawn to “keep going” and “step it up” every day like I’m not doing enough.

“Oh, you walked a mile today? Why not three miles?”

“You walked every day for the last two and a half weeks? Why didn’t you run?”

My morning routine is supposed to include six solid elements every day. Other than exercise though, I tend to vary the requirements I put on the mornings. Moving my exercise to the first task I accomplish instead of the last was probably the best change I made. I kept putting off my walk because I “just wanted to read or write a little more” – it’s what I told myself, but what I really doing was stalling, procrastinating, putting off my walk because I didn’t want to do it.

Now the walk ends almost before I’m really awake. It doesn’t take a lot of mental effort to go for a walk. Not once you’ve got your shoes on and you’re actually out the door. It’s getting there that’s the challenge.

I’ve had serious thoughts about running, but I’m saving up that anticipation. The most important thing I can do right now is to establish a habit. I need to get up and exercise every morning. That is the focus. My actual exercise and the scale will have to wait for my mind to catch up with their enthusiasm. A part of me wants to run two miles a day. But the emotional and logical sides of me know that I tend to overcommit to things, and then I drop them when I can’t sustain the pace. More than anything, I don’t want to drop this habit. So much of what I have planned for the future depends on me being healthy. I just need to steady myself and curb my enthusiasm; to ensure this slow burn will last.

My bullet journal started and evolved the same way. I started with a blank book with lined rule that was too far apart. (Wide ruled paper is so obnoxious. No one needs to write that big except children that are just learning to write.) I loved the concept and the practice so much that I upgraded to better notebooks and better pens and more thoughtful layouts. Now I’ve gone veritably insane, granted. But My Passion has grown and my expertise is organic and tried and tested.

I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos of people flipping through their mostly-blank bullet journals with big plans to keep track of every little thing they believe they need to track. At the end of the day, I wonder how many of them actually stuck with their system.

There is a concept I’ve honed working in a partial-IT job: Test, then implement, then test again… and again. Refine what you have before you make it bigger. Find the bugs while it’s small, or you’ll foster a crack in the foundation. The result is that I’ve been able to build mind-blowingly complicated systems that look simple and are easy to use.

Take the Transition Workbook, for example. I work in real estate management. Every time we add or remove a property from our portfolio, there are dozens of little things that need to happen across three departments to ensure a smooth transition. There are actually five types of transitions, but I won’t bore anyone with those details. The point is that each of those transition types has its own set of tasks, and they’re not mutually exclusive from the tasks of the other transition types. By creating some earth-shattering, complicated Excel formulas, I was able to design a template that captures all the relevant, needed information about a property in transition and assign all the tasks related to that transition type to the responsible party.

It wasn’t easy. It didn’t happen overnight. In fact, I had to go back to the drawing board at one point and re-think the entire project. The original system was too complicated and required too much training to implement. So I simplified it for the end-user using my big, fat, beautiful brain. The result is something I’m extremely proud of. Comically, because it’s so simple to use, no one really understands how astonishing it is. They just go through the steps and think nothing of it. But that template represents hours of learning and refining and mulling over ideas and formulas.

Next up: My health.

Discipline is the chief ingredient, I’m convinced. Much as I’d like to say that I don’t need discipline, and the things I want will just fall into my lap, it just isn’t true.

“In this life you will have trouble,” says Yeshua, “but fear not, I have overcome the world.” He destroyed sin and death “that we might have life, and have it more abundantly,” but that abundant life requires participation. We have to act in the life He has for us, otherwise we’re just observing.

[Another cup of coffee, please.]

“Alright, a quick cup of coffee…”

finish-the-job
“Then take him outside and finish the job!”

The trick to passion, I’ve concluded, is that it needs regulation. A small fire can burn forever, if there’s someone sitting there, gently stoking the coals. If you add a small log every now and again, you will have enough resources to keep that fire burning. You will have time to cut more wood and to gather fuel. If you believe a bon fire of epic proportions is the only fire that’s worth your time, then you might find it challenging to keep that sucker burning. More often than not, that fire will blaze for a short time, and then burnout and become something you talk about “this one time, I did such and forth.” It will be a story you tell, not a life-changing event. You may gain a new perspective. You may even inspire others, but your longevity is limited. Your influence is cut short.

My conclusion is that passion is best cultivated slowly and deliberately; given time to blossom. Its caregivers must mind the weeds and feed it nutrients. It desperately wants to thrive, but if it’s forced to grow bigger and faster than is natural, it may impress for a time, but it won’t last. It won’t be organic. It will be akin to an abomination, like Frankenstein sewn together and electrified, rather than like a beautiful baby born nine months after of painstaking development.

We seem to think there isn’t time to do things slowly; that all we have is right now, so whatever you can do in the moment is all there is, and if you don’t do it you’re a failure and you’re wasting time. That simply isn’t true. Nothing worth having ever came from a moment’s effort. No achievement worth talking about was ever accomplished with a minute’s hard work.

It takes time. Often much more than we wished.

My brother was trying to tell me a couple weeks ago that because I’m disciplined, I should have everything set and figured out. I should be retired by now with a passive income I can live on because I have the work ethic and the skills and the mind to be able to set myself up like that.

He’s probably right, but he doesn’t appreciate that that journey requires a thousand steps in the right direction before it can be realized. Sometimes those steps are racked-up in spurts, other times those steps come to a dead stop. That seems to have been the journey I experienced through my 20s: Alternating eras of high awesomeness, followed by depression-ridden weeks or months of zero movement.

This new era, new life that I’m imagining and hoping and acting on is slow and steady and deliberate and focused. It isn’t full of sprinting across plains or climbing mountains at a record pace. It’s a walk in a meadow, not a cycling coast down a steep hill. The wind I feel on my face is from the quiet world around me. It isn’t from gravity pulling me to the end of the line.

Bullet Journalist

After existing as a lone wolf in this pursuit for about six months, I finally started reaching out for inspiration. I’m fairly certain I have an addiction to the Bullet Journal community now, and I have no intention of giving them up.

My biggest inspirations are the Bullet Journal Junkies community on Facebook, Boho Berry, Pinterest, and dozens of YouTube videos of people commenting on their setups. After immersing myself in their world of excellent suggestions and comparisons for several months, I was finally convinced to give up my Moleskine for a Leuchtturm1917. I am exceedingly satisfied so far. The pages lay flat, the paper can handle all my pens, and the slightly wider format is giving me a bit more space to write. I must say as well, I was very pleased to find that the dot grid layout was precisely the same as Moleskine. (I was worried that the dots would be further apart on the Leuchtturm.)

So May is complete, ready for all my life’s missions to fill up the right and my daily log of activity to fill up the left. The bottom of the monthly calendar lists the birthdays and anniversaries, which I’ve found I like much more than trying to fit those on the line for each day.

I started my first Bullet Journal in March 2015, and I haven’t let up! It’s evolved and grown with me and I am so proud of what it’s become.

Well, that’s different…

Something has happened. I’m hesitant to write about it, because I’m still fighting the fear that it won’t last. But since this happening is centered around encouraging my best life possible, I’m going to hazard to write about it anyway!

On Sunday, April 3rd I saw in a Facebook post that The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod (2012) was available on Kindle for just $1.99 (and still is, by the way! I didn’t get paid to include the link… yada yada).

On Wednesday, April 6th my eyes flew open at the sound of my 5:00 am alarm. Without exaggerating, I can say that was the first time that had ever happened. Traditionally and verbally I have always asserted that the hours before 9:00 am are the devil’s time. No one should be awake doing anything, because it’s simply an evil, life-destroying time of day. So you can imagine how surprised I was to wake up excited and eager. It was almost disorienting!

I should also include the fact that I am unwavering in my skepticism about any idea that claims it will change your life. Most of the time I don’t even read the next paragraph: “Yep, probably bullshit. Not gonna waste my time.” But I’ve become pretty attached to the Bullet Journal communities on Facebook, WordPress, Instagram, and Pinterest (honestly, I might have an addiction), and many of the Bullet Journalists mentioned adopting Elrod’s morning routine, so I kept reading. (It’s was only $1.99 after all. I waste more money than that on my coconut milk cappuccinos!)

What I read was nothing shocking, nothing new, nothing I hadn’t heard before, but it was assembled it a way that finally flipped a switch.

Four days into this new morning routine, I am truly shocked to admit that I feel like a new woman – like I’ve been born again! But it isn’t like fireworks. There hasn’t been a huge, brilliant, life-altering, cataclysmic event. It’s just a shift. A slow-burning focus that is transforming and refining my mind and my heart.

It’s Saturday, but I had no desire to sleep in, possibly for the first time in my life. I bounded, yes bounded, out of bed at 5:00 this morning with more excitement than I did the first three days, because I realized last night that my morning wouldn’t have a one hour limit. I had four hours before I needed to be anywhere.

So my meditation was 20 minutes instead of 5. My affirmations were 10 minutes instead of 5. I spent 30 minutes visualizing instead of 5. I wrote for 30 minutes instead of 10. I read for 30 minutes instead of 15. And I’m planning a few hours of spring cleaning this afternoon for exercise instead of a 20 minute walk (it’s raining – hallelujah!).

Now, being an introvert (balanced INFJ/INTJ), three hours of uninterrupted, quiet, calm is like going on vacation! It’s now 8:13 am and I feel like Wonder Woman. And I need to shower so I’m not late for coffee with a friend of mine who will probably love this!

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Blog Maintenance 

Most Categories Converted to Tags

 At long last, I have given my blog Categories and Tags an overhaul. I’ve been thinking of doing it for months and it’s finally done! I just have a handful of categories now. My goal was to make them more generic and use Tags for the details. It ended up being a surprisingly interesting exercise in self-discovery. “So that’s what I write about!”

Anyway… Enjoy the minimized category list!

Yeshua

Risen1
Mary Magdalene, played by Maria Botto (Risen, 2016)

I went to see Risen (2016) yesterday afternoon. I was hoping the story would put a new perspective on the story I’ve heard and seen a thousand times. I was blown away by the impact it had on me.

Risen2
Yeshua, Played by Cliff Curtis (Risen, 2016)

I keep seeing the actor’s face who played Yeshua. There was so much love in the way he spoke and smiled; not like a teacher, always instructing, or like an unrelatable god, but like a man who is in love with everyone around him. This is my God, the salvation of my soul. Hollywood finally got it right. I could cry, it was so perfect.

We had a long talk yesterday morning at church before I went to see the move about what distinguishes us in our communities. Or rather, I brought up the subject because it’s been on my mind a lot lately:

  • How does my God-given purpose to love affect the communities I’m part of?
  • Who is actually in the communities I find myself in?
  • Who do I have an influence over? Who listens to me? Those are my disciples!
  • What do I find myself saying to them? How do I act around them?  
  • Do I love them like Jesus loved his disciples? Does anyone who respects me or admires me or listens to me feel that loved by me?

I have the Spirit of Yeshua living inside me. It’s there all the time, and I ignore it. I judge and I dismiss and I lash out in anger. I’m sarcastic and bitter and disappointed and harsh. I’m entitled and short-tempered. And I am missing it. I am missing all the opportunities in my world to look at people the way Yeshua does. I’m missing out on giving that gift of unconditional love and affection to those He has placed in the world around me.

I keep thinking about this repeated phrase in the Gospels: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15; 13:9, 43; Luke 8:8; 14:35, English Standard Version). I am not called to lecture the people I have an influence over. I’m not called to lord my knowledge over them and to judge them and correct them. I am called to be the incarnate God of Love to them. They have ears to hear what I have to say to them. They are in my world, part of my community, because they can relate to something about me.

They may only have ears to hear what I have to say. What am I saying to them? Is it love? Does it inspire them? Does it bring people to tears when they think about how I love them?

John 13:35 says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (ESV). Do people know who I follow because of the way I love?

I’m going to propose something that may be a bit black-and-white for the gray world we live in. What if there are always twelve people around us that are listening? Jesus had twelve disciples. Why was that? I hear people say that twelve is some kind of maximum number anyone could possible “disciple” at one time. “See? Even Jesus couldn’t handle more than twelve.” I’ve never really liked that idea. It sounds unattainable, and I guess it would be if you thought of disciples like mindless sponges that are just supposed to do everything you do and say.

But what if we redefined disciples simply as people who hear us when we speak? And what if there are always twelve? If you think about it, I wonder if you could identify twelve people in your life that hear you when you speak. Whatever you say to them has an impact, for better or for worse. What if there are always twelve people in your world that God placed there to hear from you?

Here’s another idea… what if those twelve seemed to shift around every few years? Life is rarely exactly the same from one three year period to the next. People move. They find other interests. They change jobs. They get married, have kids. And you meet new people. It might be hard to always identify them, but what if they were always there… Twelve people who God placed in your life to love. And to love well:

A child, a spouse, a sibling, a co-worker, a manger, a neighbor, an assistant, an old friend, a new friend, a virtual stranger, a classmate, a store clerk… they have ears to hear you. What are you saying?

 

Don’t Jinx It

im_free_as_a_bird_by_autummlover-d44hh0s
im free as a bird by autumnlover

I’m still madly in love with my planning journal. The problem I’m having during the days of depression is that I feel a constant stream of shame over how fitfully unproductive I am. I look back on all those beautiful pages of ass-kicking and I can’t help but feel like a loser. Self-competition is the easiest form of competition to justify, and the hardest to stop. “I should be able to do everything I did yesterday and more, because I improve every day!”

The problem is that I don’t improve every day. There are days that I take a few big steps forward and days that I jump backward off a cliff.

The only way I’ve found this past week to pull myself out of the depressive state is to stop looking at my planning journal; to stop comparing myself to a more awesome version of myself; the one that was on a mountain top, or at least not below sea level. And I’ve started making progress again! When I find myself flipping through the beautiful pages I remind myself not to jinx it:

Be productive or don’t, but stop judging yourself for not being able to fly back to the top of that mountain. Don’t write another list of all the things you’re not going to do today. Do what’s on your heart and don’t check a box when you’re done. Rediscover an inner sense of accomplishment and let that be your reward. Love what you’re doing and love yourself and others well while you’re doing it.

Stop devaluing the here-and-now because it wasn’t in the plan.

Learning to Me – Part II

If you’ve ever wondered what depression feels like, or if you need someone to relate to…

The words aren’t coming. I know I want to write, but I feel dry. I’m far from bored. I’m not tired. I’m just stuck. Typing with my eyes closed helps. Like feeling the words instead of picturing them. It probably helps to not be able to read and re-read and edit and second-guess everything you think of, especially on a first draft. That’s what they always say, but how can you possibly do that if you can see all the words you write? It’s natural to want to revise and refine your own thoughts. But it does get in the way of the goal; which is to communicate.

I don’t know what to write, but I need to say something. I need to break whatever hold seems to be keeping me in this silent place. I started typing to a stranger on TalkSpace last week and I was weeping within moments. She hadn’t even said anything. The simple step of reaching out broke something inside me. I thought immediately that I should keep writing, but I froze. For a week I froze. Now I can’t remember what it was that brought me to my knees.

Unhappiness, I think. I couldn’t come up with another way to put it. Depression does that, I guess. God, I’m sick of blaming depression for everything. I’m unhappy. I’m anxious. I’m restless. I’m fat. I have no willpower. I don’t want to do anything except what’s already in motion. My initiative is sapped. My productivity and creativity are unpredictable. Clinical depression, he said a year ago. I haven’t taken care of myself. I feel worse now. But I’m in school. That’s one major undertaking that’s improved my prospects. But with prospects come rejections. And with rejections come disappointments.

I’m kicking ass at school. There’s no doubt about that. But what will it all be for? It doesn’t help that every other person I run into is insecure about the fact that they didn’t finish school, so they find the need to dismiss my undertaking. It’s even worse when I mention I’m thinking about getting an MBA. “What could you possibly need that for?” they offer wisely. Either that or they thwart my efforts to jump start my consulting business.

“Thank you, world. What I really need right now is for someone to pour glue on me while I’m curled up in a ball.”

I need a win, but not a big one. I need something that will lift me up without it feeling like I’m going to crash. The best I’ve been able to do lately to take care of myself is go to bed earlier. That’s a small step in the right direction I think, listening to my body when it’s tired. My next thoughts, though, are always guilt-laden with all the ways I’m not taking care of myself through what I eat and how I move. I gained another 15 pounds this past year, and my habits are hopeless. I feel guilty every time I finish eating, which can’t be helping my mental well-being.

I keep waiting for something cosmic to pick me up out of this hole and place me where I should be, because I don’t know what to do. Even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could wander around to a better place.

Viral Final

I can’t remember the last time I was this sick. I felt it coming on Wednesday night while I was in class, but I felt a bit better on Thursday morning. By 5:00 on Thursday night, though, I was fully taken over. I don’t have a thermometer that works, but my fever was high enough that I couldn’t get warm. I stayed home from work yesterday, and slept until noon. I emerged from the bedroom a couple times for food, but mostly watched Mozart in the Jungle on Amazon Prime the rest of the day. As an amateur classical pianist, it managed to hold my attention. I couldn’t do much else.

My head is still swimming this morning and my head aches something fierce, but I’m up drinking tea and blogging, so I must be a bit better. I still can’t get comfortable though. The chills set my nerves on edge and my body aches down to my hair follicles. I would go for another marathon today, but somehow I have to be productive. I have a paper due tonight that’s worth 40% of my grade. Luckily for the instructor I’m turning it in online. I feel like everything I touch is contaminated.

It won’t be the first time I’ve had to get through a final like this, or the worst. At the end of my freshman year in college I flew to Texas to see my brother graduate from basic training with the Air Force. The morning that I flew back I was insanely sick, but I managed to get myself a cab to the airport and fly back to school. It was finals week and I had a ton of work to do. On top of that, I had to pack up my dorm and have it ready for inspection. I was miserable, but I got everything done.

Hopefully the ibuprofen kicks in soon so I can focus.

Glimpses and Nudges

There’s something about vision that people don’t seem to talk about. I expected that when I received a vision for my life it would be grand and detailed and all the details would be spelled out. But the vision I’m catching isn’t overt or spoken from the sky. There hasn’t been a big booming voice describing the purpose of my life these last two weeks. There is simply a trend emerging that keeps pointing and nudging me in a certain direction. I don’t exactly know where I’m going, but I’m seeing small pieces off it; teaching in a seminar, setting an example for non-profit leadership, re-organizing business structures, helping others to catch their entrepreneurial dreams.

My older brother and I finally connected last night. We’ve been missing each other’s calls for about a week. The last time we spoke we both briefly touched on this idea of building a business consulting firm. Given our significant sibling history of contention, we were both hesitant to consider the idea of working together on a regular basis. Still, we have very similar thoughts about business management and how to go about engineering systems to give the stakeholders the best value for their resources.

By the end of our conversation last night we agreed that we would at least start talking to each other about the projects we’re working on to get one another’s opinion about our approach. I didn’t see much harm in starting there. Maybe we have grown enough to be able to appreciate each others’ genius. Maybe we will end up an each other’s throats, but at least we will have tried.

He is my brother, and we both miss the family we once were: Six of us huddled around the dinner table laughing until our sides ached from laughing so much. Since my parent’s divorce a few years ago nothing has been the same. Now three of the four of us siblings have our own kids and we’re all trying to figure out what kind of parents we’re supposed to be in the massive wake of our family of origin being shredded to oblivion.

My sister and I have remained close, but contact with our brothers has become very haphazard. Sometimes there are months between the times I hear from them or talk to them, I’m sad to say. Again, maybe my older brother and I will end up wanting to kill each other, but at least we’re trying to stay in better contact this way. I guess we’ll see if it’s worth it.

In the midst of this recent development, it seems I’m becoming more involved in a project outside of work that could launch my business consulting firm into huge opportunities. I’m almost afraid to give too many details, as if it will shatter the dream, but suffice it to say, the potential is real and the glimpses of what could be are becoming rather vivid.

[You would never know that I typed most of this entry with my eyes closed. I have been so exhausted the last couple days, fighting some kind of virus. I really want to sleep, but I also really want to chronolog this journey. I remember doing this in my journals in high school and opening my eyes to see a massive mess of scribbling.. At least you’re getting legibility!]

Saturday Post 001

Saturday’s are, by far, the most productive personal days of the week… On a good week. Today was a good week! I woke up at 7:30, showered, and met my best friend for coffee at a French cafe down the street from my house. My hair was still wet, but I was surprisingly pleased with the messy bun I managed to pull off. Actually, it looked a bit like roadkill that someone pinned to the top of my head. #kidsthesedays

Coffee talks were good. She adopted two kids out of foster care in the two years that we spent finalizing legal guardianship for our girls. Unbelievable that my friend and I have been close since the third grade and we find ourselves in the the position, asking the same questions, hoping for an understanding ear at the same time. God blows me away with His timing sometimes.

I got home from coffe at about 9:45. Spike and the [11 year old] baby were just starting to stir. Thankfully they both slept in. They’re both getting over a cold and needed some extra sleeps.

I grabbed the hampers from all the rooms, sorted the laundry into the usual three groups (colors, whites, jeans/towels) and started a hefty load of colors.

The girls finally came out of their rooms at about 10:30 and made some cinnamon and sugar toast for breakfast. The house was filled with nice smell of smoke for not cleaning the melted cheese out of the bottom of the toaster oven first.

Then came the usual Saturday chores: Kitchen, bathrooms, floors, dusting, etc. The laundry kept up a steady stream all day. One of the last loads is actually still in the washer. I’m gonna call it quits when that one is done. It’ll be the fifth load today.

Most of the early afternoon was spend scrubbing the showers. I hate cleaning the showers. They’re tile and the grout is long-passed the point of needing to be resealed, so I bought a nylon scrubbing brush on Amazon last week that connects to a power drill. So. Much. Win! I took a chlorophyll capsule (neutralizes lactic acid, so muscles don’t get sore) when I was done and drank a bunch of water (herbal supplements 101). All the up-and-down and keeping a tight hold on the drill absolutely qualifies as a workout!

A couple of the neighbor kids came over and jumped on the trampoline with the girls for a bit, while Spike and I worked on homework. Eventually the girls had to pack for Grandma’s. We dropped them off about 4:00 with a Valentine’s present for tomorrow, and went to an early dinner at a place I won a gift card to during Super Bowl.

The early dinner turned into another win for us to catch a 5:15 showing of Deadpool. We passed three restaurants that had people lined up out the door. Apparently everyone had the great idea to go out for Valentine’s early. I can’t imagine what tomorrow and Monday are going to be like. I plan to avoid the world in general. By the way, Deadpool was vulgar, violent, and very funny. Definitely don’t take the kids. I should note that Spike said he would see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies if I would rather, but I don’t like zombies. He doesn’t like Pride and Prejudice, so it would have been an equally-matched, miserable compromise. We both wanted to see Deadpool, so we decided happy times all around instead.

I stared at homework for about a half-hour when we got home and decided I’d rather be blogging. Homework isn’t due until midnight tomorrow night. With the kids at Grandma’s for two nights, that should be a breeze.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

The Grip

Paralyzed. I don’t know how else to describe the days I’ve spent this past week after declaring my plans to branch out with my own business. It feels like failure before I’ve even begun! I know exactly what steps I need to take, and I haven’t even leaned in those directions. Every reason I have is an excuse… and they’re all full of fear.

“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.” The verse comes to mind without even trying. Normally I would look up the reference, but I need to write more than I need to research.

Fear is there, but it isn’t in worrisome crisis. It’s a deer staring down headlights. It can’t move, even though it knows it should. Still, my memorized scripture reminds me that my identity is wrapped in power and love and a sound mind. Depression be damned.

My mind needs You, Oh My God. The plan on my heart is from You. I know it is, but is there something more You need me to see before I start down this path?

….

Beloved, I just want you to take Me with you. I made You for this. It is the culmination of all that We have become. Please take Me with you. It has always been the cry of My heart, but I’m holding you here because I’m desperate for You to know Me through this. I cannot watch you do this on your own. Not this time. Not these plans. Take Me with you, My love, and revel in what We will do.

Already and Not Yet

reading_carefully_by_nymphetamine291289-d46ta3r
Reading Carefully by nymphetamine | deviantart.com

“When Dorothy pointed out a problem, she also offered several solutions, and she always showed up when it was time to do the hard work of implementation” (Jennings & Stahl-Wert, 2004, p. 25).

This is bullshit! was my exact thought. My eyes narrowed as I read the lines again. I was simultaneously enthralled and furious.

I was reading a conceptual book about masterful leaders and was describing the way they act and how they present themselves and how they function and what they say and how they think, and I was reading it as if it was something I need to learn.

I already do all these things! was my next thought. Reading Dorothy’s praise was when my engagement with the book’s remarks finally grew to a fever pitch. It’s when I realized that naturally, without prompting or coaching, and organically, without study or a scientific approach… I am already the kind of leader that I want to be and want to have. And not yet. This makes me both excited and angry for change.

Many Christians enjoy exploring the paradox of “Already and Not Yet.” For example, we believe Christ defeated death, and yet know we still experience physical death. We believe He established the Kingdom of God on earth, but the Kingdom of God has not yet come in its full form. We believe that sin has no hold over us, and yet we are subject to a world filled with destruction.

That’s how I feel about my leadership style this week. I am already the Serving Leader, but not yet. I already go to work everyday with the fundamental, driving principle in mind that serving co-workers is everyone’s job description. It just never occurred to me that I was the only one who thought that way and everyone else has to read a book about it! In a corporate world where hierarchy is prized above all else, the Serving Leader runs so counter-cultural that no one knows what to do with them! Acts that come from a heart of service are seen as attempts at manipulation and a greedy grasp for control and subversion.

Side note: I’m gonna give myself an ‘A’ for vocab on this post so far.

  • enthralled: capture the fascinated attention of.
  • masterful: powerful and able to control others
  • fever pitch: a state of extreme excitement
  • organically: Resembling a living organism in organization or development; interconnected
  • paradox: A person, thing, or situation that exhibits inexplicable or contradictory aspects

Moving on with my derailed train of thought, let’s take Suzie Sad Story for example. Suzie started working for a highly prestigious firm in the middle of her prime. She was an expert in marketing and communication and was thrilled to be working for a company that could truly utilize her skills. During her first week on the job she noticed that the formatting on all the internal forms and firm literature were highly inconsistent and she even heard a couple outsiders comment that the company didn’t seem to have a united image. Putting her skills to work she put together revised designs of a few key pieces and presented them to her manager. After all, they had discussed her marketing experience in her interview. They must have been impressed!

Unfortunately for Suzie Sad Story, she was reprimanded for doing work outside her job description on the clock and told that all forms and literature were handled by the corporate secretary. Perturbed at the harsh reprimand, but hopeful to know that what she set out to do was already someone’s job, she asked the corporate secretary if she could her help put a fresh, united face on the company. Offended at her blatant blindness to corporate structure, the secretary passively said she would consider it then aggressively ignored all attempts to revisit the issue.

This is the fundamental problem of hiring a warm body to do a job instead of hiring a person to do what they do best. It is the most poignant flaw of corporate hierarchy and I don’t have the stomach for it.

“How’s your day going?” Spike gave me a kiss and sat opposite me in the cafe not far from my office. “Great!” I beamed, having come to the obvious conclusion from my reading: “I’m going to quit my job!” Being the husband he is, he didn’t freak out and ask me how I could consider giving up my stable job for some kind of pipe dream. He just smiled and said that he loved me. With pride beaming from his eyes, he let me dream.

Over the next two days I crunched numbers in a worksheet and business plans and researched billing options and mulled over potential clients and came to a few surprising conclusions:

  • I’m not interested in working for just one company or even just one industry
  • I already have a few companies interested in hiring me for what I can do, but no single company cannot afford to hire me full-time. Incidentally, this jives well with my first conclusion.
  • I am principally a trailblazer, as the Serving Leader describes: Someone who removes obstacles then teaches others to follow a well-laid path.

I put together a website for my business consulting firm awhile back, but it was mainly just so I would have something to point to if anyone ever asked me what I would rather be doing. I had some interest when I was throwing my name into the void, but not enough to get me fired up about running my side business at more than an scant profit per year.

I decided to reverse-engineer the life I wanted. I put the net profit I wanted to make at the bottom of a spread sheet, filled in all the expenses above that (not many in service-based industry – mostly taxes and insurance) and added it all up to figure out what my gross income would need to be.

Two clients, I surmised between a dozen rows of numbers and formulas (I even used Goal Seek since some of my expenses were based on percentages of the gross income – that was fun!). If I started small – just two days per week with two clients, I could effectively give myself a fifty percent raise! That is, if my corporate job would agree to cutting my hours to just three days per week. Given the fact that I’ve made myself irreplaceable, I’m not sure if they could say no. I consistently produce solutions that only my skill set can devise!

  • surmise:  to make a judgment about (something) without sufficient evidence; guess
  • devise: to form, plan, or arrange in the mind; design or contrive

That’s fun that they rhyme.

Okay, this post is about to go the way of I’ve-been-running-on-five-hours-of-sleep-for-eighteen-hours, so I’m going to post before I decide to scrap it.

References

Jennings, K., & Stahl-Wert, J. (2004). The Serving Leader. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Bullet Journal / Traveler’s Notebook Update

Quite awhile back I re-discovered and re-imaged my love for journaling and planners. With the help of many inspiring resources…

  • Bullet Journal
  • Midori Traveler’s Notebook and Fauxdori Notebooks of all kinds
  • Moleskine Large Dotted Notebook
  • [Oodles of YouTube videos, Pinterest pins, blogs, and Google images]

… I have consistently carried my very own Traveler’s Notebook creation around with me since April of last year. It has morphed through many forms, which is perhaps the best thing about it. Until now, I often found myself drawn to planners for their paper and ink qualities, but dismissed the interest in favor of a more practical, digital calendar. My days are too crazy to imagine that a paper calendar would actually be able to plan and stay in-sync with Spike. There are simply too many happenings and changes for a paper planner to not turn into a hot mess within a matter of days.

Still, I kept journaling; capturing my thoughts about whatever events happened to move me. But the writing was disconnected. Looking back, I have no idea what was going on in my life during those reflections – no context. Attempting to connect my calendar with the writing was pathetic too. I don’t keep track of non-appointment events in my Google calendar like a spontaneous visit with my sister or days when I was sick.

Enter Bullet Journal!

Dec 2015
December 2015 Bullet Journal – Monthly Spread

Jan 2016.JPG
January 2016 (to date) Bullet Journal – Monthly Spread

The best thing about Bullet Journal in my world is that it provides a line a day for me to summarize what happened. I treat it as more of a log than a plan. Effectively, my future is organized in the digital world (*INTJ does a little dance*) and my history is written with ink on paper with colors and borders (*INFJ cries with joy*). This is my own, personal version of Planner Peace.

 

In addition to the Bullet Journal system, I discovered a camaraderie with the Midori Traveler’s Notebook community. I didn’t want to just catalog my days. I wanted the journal itself to be the most favorite thing I owned. And it is! It goes everywhere with me.

Oftentimes I see Traveler’s Notebook users will have several inserts in their leather-bound notebook. For the sake of simplicity, I’ve stuck to just two notebooks: One for journaling, logging, tasking, etc. The other insert is just for lists, or “collections” as Bullet Journal would say. I became fast friends with this idea after the first time I finished a notebook and realized that I would have to re-write all my collections if I wanted to keep them with me in the next book (e.g. personal wish list, books to read, gift ideas for the girls, MBA programs).

Wish List
Wish List – Reduce Buyer’s Remorse!

Possibly my favorite thing to flip back and see now are the days when I completely kicked my to-do list’s ass! It gets me pumped to do it again.

Super Productive
Task List Mastery!

My daily headers have morphed into something I really enjoy as well: A sort of banner that I later color-in with water color pencils and paint. It doesn’t require me to carry around washi tape or different colored pens or spend an inordinate amount of time just entering the header; just a quick couple of lines that I can make colorful later:

Daily Header.JPG
Daily Entries

I must say, I have attempted to create weekly spreads many times and they’ve always ended up being a waste of space. Either there isn’t enough room on a certain day, or I leave it blank, neither of which is very satisfying. It just reinforces my goal to make this notebook a log of activities and thoughts and tasks rather than a way to plan more than a day in advance.

 

Someday is Today

Gonna keep turning these phrases, I guess… three days in a row now!

I go to the same place for lunch at least three times a week. Usually I order a sandwich and tell myself that someday I’ll just order salads when I go there.

Today I had a Chicken Caesar Salad for lunch.

I went to Thailand for five weeks about 11 years ago. I often think of my time there and fondly remember the food. I tell myself that someday I’ll learn to cook Thai food.

Today I made peanut vegetable stir fry for dinner.

I bought a climbing machine back in November and resolved to spend at least 10 minutes on it per day. (I thought 20 minutes originally, but I would probably have a heart attack! That thing does not mess around.) Through the holidays I told myself that I would return to that goal someday… soon.

Today I spent 10 minutes on my climber. It was 45 seconds to a minute at a time over about 20 minutes, but I did it! And then I nearly collapsed, my legs were shaking so hard. Gah! That thing is a beast.

I’m always tired, and I keep telling myself that someday I’ll go to bed at 10:30.

Today I showered at 8:00 instead of 11:00, so I’m on track to go to bed earlier.

We have too many chores to do on the weekend. I often tell myself that someday I’ll do laundry in the middle of the week so there isn’t so much to do. [I almost deleted this one, because my legs are still acting like Jello.]

Today I did a load of laundry, in the middle of the week.

Switch your Someday list to today’s list and tell me how it goes!

The Perfectionist-Procrastinator Parallel

 

Completed January 11, 2016 | from Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden

I couldn’t help but appreciate the alliteration when the thought struck me: The more perfection I pursue, the more I procrastinate. Maybe it’s fear of failure. Maybe it’s laziness. “I won’t do it justice, or I don’t have time to do my best,” I reason, so I don’t do it. It isn’t until I lower my unreasonable standards and take a shaky step forward that I finally see progress. It isn’t perfect, but it’s more than what it was before. Then I have to temper my tendency to nit-pick everything as its emerging. “Just close your eyes and take action, Bethany. It won’t be perfect, and you’ll live… And don’t listen to the asses that criticize your progress. You’re living!”

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, The Minimalists, started a podcast recently. I listened to one of their first episodes over the weekend and they suggested writing two lists. Title one, “Someday,” and write down all the things that find yourself saying you’ll do someday or eventually or when you have more time. Title the second list, “Last 24 Hours,” and list all the things that you’ve spent time doing in the last 24 hours.

Now imagine what your life would be like if you switched the titles on the lists.

Unfortunately, the only people who take the exercise seriously, I’m guessing, are those who have reached the end of themselves. They’ve done it all and realized there’s no meaning in most of it. We’re all inspired by those stories; where someone reaches an enlightened state after a trying time in their life. I think we’re inspired because, really, it’s everyone’s story.

When you’re young you have hopes for what your life will become. Whether it’s a “calling” or a passion or an impression or a prophecy or a word from God Himself… we receive the building blocks to have an effect on the world around us. And then we procrastinate. We excuse today and say it’s to prepare for tomorrow or to reflect on yesterday. And we believe the lie that all the preparation and reflection will eventually lead to the perfect tomorrow we once hoped for.

We reject imperfect relationships or we try to force them into a preconceived notion of a perfect normal without taking one simple truth into account: The people around us experience the same world in different ways. No one fits a mold. They are all “Learning to Me” as I coined yesterday.

Some are more aware of that reality than others, and they are the ones that emulate what we recognize as a life lived in love. They are patient to understand people, and kind when they uncover faults. They’re the ones whose company we crave because they provide a cradle that will hold a form that doesn’t conform to a stereotype – our form – everyone’s form.

 

Learning to Me

This post is literally a month in the making, so please bear with the random turns it takes…

My dad paid good money awhile back for a series of audio recordings and a workbook to help someone setup a blog. The problem with his plan was that he never listened to the recordings or went through the workbook.

At the end of my four-day Thanksgiving vacation, mentally well-armed with having washed, dried, folded, and put away every article of dirty clothing in the house, I cracked the workbook.

Step 1. What are you going to write about?

Step 2. Contemplate Step 1 for six weeks and eventually go back to the workbook for more instructions.

I’m almost done with Step 2. So far, I’m grateful to be borrowing these instructions.

I’m fairly aware that the last year of blogging hasn’t really resulted in a central theme. It’s mostly thoughts about what’s going on; not exactly clear material to help you with anything in particular. The purpose is mainly to record the thoughts for myself and process the feedback, like a public support group. The only real help I offer is the chance for my little corner of the blogosphere to relate to what I’m going through.

Deciding to finish school was a huge step forward for me, but work turned into a nightmare in the fall. I thought I might change jobs when I finish my master’s degree – circa 2018, but I don’t know if I can hold out that long. I’ve been fairly diligent about applying for jobs I would actually take, but everywhere I look I find I’m either overqualified or underqualified. I didn’t drop out of high school, and I’m not Six Sigma certified, so my options appear to be fairly limited.

I’m not frustrated yet, mostly because I’m not desperately searching for just anything to take me away from what I’m doing now. I’ve been particular about the jobs I apply for, so I don’t end up in a job I like even less than what I have now.

In the meantime, I’ve been introduced to a creative outlet in coloring with watercolor pencils. Sitting around for hours with nothing to show for it (i.e. watching TV shows and movies) makes a person wonder about just how flippantly time can be wasted. The colors on a page make those hours of sitting around magically more valuable.

Completed December 25, 2015 | from Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden

I got to meet my brother-in-law’s girlfriend on Christmas Day. After breakfast and presents and homework (yes, I had assignments due on Christmas), we colored together for hours. She’s a cop, but you’d never know it to talk to her. She’s strong-willed and confident, certainly, but her soft side was easy to access. The next day we went to a bookstore and she bought her own coloring book. Apparently she found as much value in it as I did.

But something happened after Christmas. I don’t know what triggered it, but all my productive, creative drive vanished without a trace. Maybe it was the prospect of going back to work after New Year’s. Maybe the over-complicated month of family holidays finally caught up with my introverted nature and shut me down. Psychologically speaking, maybe a cycle of depression decided to spin again, or I have a mild manic-depressive disorder, or I have Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Whatever the hell it is, I’m still in the middle of it.

The world is gray and I don’t care about anything… again. Damn it!

How can I swing to such extremes in such a short time? It’s the most frustrating thing of my life, and I’m learning to compassionately walk myself through it. Without judgment, I have to accept that this might just be who I am. I will have mountain-top achievements and I will have desert-like wanderings. They’re not so extreme that I need medication. They’re just both part of my journey.

The idea I’ve been chewing on is that I’m not a single entity and I’m also not fully integrated. I’m getting there… I’ve always been getting there. But I keep getting hung up on the idea that I must be just one type of person: Minimalist, hoarder, family-oriented, loner, introverted, extroverted, organized, chaotic, studious, lazy, planner, procrastinator, depressed, driven, serious, silly, sarcastic, wise, provocative, peacekeeping, strong-willed, passive, flippant, loyal, consistent, variable.

The problem is that as I grow, I realize that I am all these things; some I nourish and others I judge. I reject the parts of myself that don’t fit in a stereotypical mold, so it’s easier to explain who I am… So it’s easier for other people to understand and accept who I am. The problem with being all of these things at once is that no one knows what to do with me, including myself. How do I nurture a spirit that is at home wherever it goes, but never settles?

I guess that’s the question I will be asking myself this year, while I’m Learning to Me: to Me all that I can Me, to Me or not to Me. Okay, I’m done, but the idea of “me” as an action isn’t too bad!

Keep Calm and Color On

 Work was Monday. I met with the HR manager in the afternoon and let her know I’m looking for another position. I’ve talked to her a few times before about the roadblocks I’ve faced at work, so she wasn’t surprised. She’s very grounded, and even-keel by nature, so talking to her felt more like talking to a friend. She’s going to keep the news to herself until it’s more serious. I told her I’m not just looking for anything, so it could take some time. The only reason I went to her this soon was because I’ve applied with the staffing agency that she uses, and I didn’t want there to be any conflict of interest. She said there wouldn’t be any problem. They’ll treat me well and find me a good place.

She has no idea how good.

I named a price – effectively 50% more than I’m getting now, and the staffing agency didn’t blink and eye. With my experience and education, it didn’t seem to be a problem. Of course the recruiter’s job is to place me and get paid for it, so I’m taking the optimism with a grain of salt, but who knows? I could be raking in the cash sooner than I thought!

With some professional sprucing after my second interview, my resume is now on its way to the desk of someone who sounds like he could become a great mentor.

I’m going to wait for an actual job offer, but I wonder if I’ll be happy in that kind of position again. I really was looking forward to calling the shots in my next job, but I don’t know what the position is, exactly, so maybe it will be perfect.

Maybe it will just be a perfect match for my experience. Is that all I want? I don’t really know. The excitement is muted at the moment. Damn depression. I wouldn’t know exhilaration if it jump up and… Well, you know.

Legacy

We sat at a picnic table in the park. Across from us, the decision makers. Next to me, he waited to hear what they had to say. He broke the rules. Would it cost him a home? I waited to see if my son would still be mine, or if he would be lost in a system.

“We want him to stay with you,” the decision maker smiled. I pulled my child close to me and whispered something loving in his ear. He smiled with relief. He was finally home.

I can hardly believe that I had a dream about adoption. I haven’t dreamt of babies or being pregnant for over a year, but I’ve never [literally] dreamed of adopting.

We went to my 92-year old great grandmother’s Christmas party last night. The house was full of second and third cousins, and cousins my grandparents adopted into our family when they were pastors. Family that’s always been family without a need for blood relationship.

It occurred to me on our way to stay with one said adopted cousin for the night, that I may be the one the mantle falls to, to keep the tradition alive. Grandma told me before we left that we should have the party at my house next year. I thought she was teasing, but what if that’s what she’s hoping for?

She gave me her vintage fine china years ago. She’s asked me to hand out her gifts every year for the past 10 years or more. Since my parents divorced, she’s asked me to take over the head count and organizing the food. [It use to be my mom’s job.]

And I’m the one who’s raising other people’s children, like she’s always done. Great Grandma never had children of her own. She adopted my grandmother (and my great uncle) when she married my great grandpa. The kids were 10 and 12 years old. At 22, she was hard-pressed to know how to raise older children. But her spirit of adoption flourished.

She and my great grandfather worked for a boys ranch for many years. Boys that would have otherwise ended up in jail had a home and pastors to love them. Many of them kept in touch over the years. At least one became a pastor in his own right.

Our family has always been inclusive. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that I might be considered great grandma’s successor when she’s no longer with us. My life might mirror hers in more ways than anyone would have expected. And I might be the most surprised of all.

Just Keep Painting

A friend of mine invited me to a paint night tonight, so I got to continue my experimentation with colors. I’d say it turned out pretty good for never having used acrylic paints; or painting anything on a blank canvas other than a wall… Ever. It was good to be with my friends, and the instructor was very positive. I think the whole night might have been worth her few complimentary comments. It made me realize just how starved I am for words of affirmation. It’s never been a particular love language of mine, but we all speak all the languages of love in varying degrees. It felt like no one had paid me a compliment in months. I’m sure that’s not true, but the sadness and relief of hearing just her few nice comments made my whole day.

It’s Working

I completed another page from Johanna Basord’s Secret Garden coloring book last night. I started it at my mom’s over Thanksgiving by applying a light pink “wash” over the whole page so the background wouldn’t be plain white. I’m happy with the result. I’m not a water color genius, but it looks better than the average bear. My creative, INFJ side can  breathe a bit easier.

I was watching The Man in the High Castle on Amazon and completely lost track of time. I hurried to get ready for bed, but it was 1:30 before lights-out. I’d say it was worth it. I made a pretty thing, and I had a better attitude at work today than I’ve had in awhile. I think it’s working.

There’s something about creativity that makes a difference in how I feel. For a long time I was able to apply that creativity at work to resolve complex problems, but lately I’ve just been shelling out the same boring answers I came up with [now] years ago. I’m restless, and it makes criticism that much more pronounced.

I feel like a child, coloring pictures, but I feel better. After feeling emotionally mute for so many weeks, I don’t care how.

I’m still applying for jobs and reaching out to my network, but I’m only going after opportunities that would be better than what I have now. I can’t just change jobs. With Spike in school, only working part time, and two girls to support, I’m the main bread winner. I never expected to feel trapped in this job. I never expected to understand this kind of pressure.

So I’m refusing to be an adult after work this week. I’m coloring pictures and staying up late. It seems to be helping.

A Few of My Favorite Things

“Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes…” In the spirit of Christmas and stuffing… here are my favorite things and stuff:

  • Finishing an entire cycle of laundry: Sort, wash, dry, fold or hang up, put away.
  • Moleskine dotted notebooks
  • Makeup Forever HD foundation
  • iPhone 5C
  • Deco Tape by Duck
  • Jetstream Uniball 0.5 Pens
  • Having a clean, fully stocked fridge and pantry
  • Petite Sirah and Steak
  • Selby Chardonnay
  • Home manicures and pedicures. (Seriously, it’s not hard to get good at it, it can last for hours, and it’s a fraction of the cost!)
  • Purging. Don’t get a new thing if you’re not going to get rid of an old thing. Just don’t.
  • Shark vacuums
  • Memory foam futon. It’s the most comfortable couch and guest bed ever!
  • Fall family photos. Do you know it costs $100 for a basic package of school photos now? For that much I can hire a semi-pro photographer to spend 20 minutes taking portraits of the girls and a few family shots, have them edited, and get the digital files for distribution to all the family and friends.

Color Therapy

 Thanksgiving was, the most checked-out I’ve been in quite some time. We spent a couple nights at my mom’s and didn’t (couldn’t) do any household chores at home. I was between classes, so I didn’t have any homework either. It was wonderful!

I colored a lot, as evidenced by the photo above. My mom has these awesome colored pencils that turn into watercolor paints when you get them wet. You color the picture like you usually would with colored pencils, then use a [very] small amount of water and a paint brush to smooth out the coloring. It’s like painting with watercolors, but a lot less hassle! Highly recommended if you like coloring, or if you really need a [productive] mental break.

(If you’re anything like me, just sitting around might drive you crazy, and it doesn’t feel like resting. It feels freakin’ lazy and wasteful sometimes! I need something to show for all my sitting around, so I blog, play the piano, or [now] play with watercolor pencils.)

If you’re planning a stay-cation this month, this is not  a bad option. The coloring book is called “The Secret Garden” by Johanna Basford. The picture above is definitely one of the easier/less detailed spreads. It was more satisfying than reading a book, especially since I’ve been working my tail off in statistics! By the way, I got 99% on my three-hour final exam. Because I’m incredible.

Wanted

Romy 1 by Futz | deviantart.com

Wednesday night I browsed my computer to dust off my resume. It’s not the first time in the last five years. Apparently I’ve updated that resume three or four times, but nothing has ever come of it, except maybe a raise when I mentioned that I had other options. But I’m sick of coercion. It isn’t satisfying to get what you want by holding someone’s feet to the fire. And I’m probably stupid to think they would come back offering more later. They never intended to offer me what I have now, so they’re certainly never going to offer me more.

It seems obvious, looking back, that I should have quit the first time I felt like this. Three months into this job, I knew it was a dead end. Four years in, I had gained forty pounds and was suffering from clinical depression. Thankfully, my marriage was thriving, and my family was growing, but my job… I wanted to love it. I wanted to give my boss the benefit of the doubt, but a lot of true colors have come out the last few months, and I don’t want to do it anymore.

I get puzzles to solve at times, but being unpopular never gets me an honorable mention. People stab me with flippant remarks most of the time, and I’m left bleeding all over anyone who will listen. I feel pathetic. And I am far from pathetic.

It’s been three days, and I already have a second interview lined up with one company, and a job offer on its way from another company. I’m damn marketable. What the hell have I been doing all these years? Life is too short. My skills are too awesome. And I’m too young to stay where I am. I forget – I’m not married to my job. It makes me money, but I didn’t swear oaths to stay with these people no matter what. I can leave. And I should.

And I will.

Adapt and Charge Ahead

Life shows no signs of slowing down. My stress level seems to be at a new constant. I refuse to let the river overtake me. I signed up for this madness, so I am adapting. I am building a raft. The raft sounds boring and safe, but it’s going to keep me afloat. It’s made up of “bed by 10:00 on any night I’m not doing homework” and “accept every opportunity to spend time with friends and family”. I am not going to allow this life to alienate me from the people I love, so if it means I work and do homework for 16 hours on most days, I will do it.

I had a couple conversations with my higher-ups at work last week. The HR director and my manager, who’s the head of the department, both said that my role at the company would become more global if I stayed. Vice President of Operations sounds pretty good, right? With an MBA, I would certainly qualify. I just have to get through school and not burn any bridges for the next couple of years. If that turns out to be a carrot on a stick, I’m sure I won’t have trouble finding another job.

I can’t bring myself to quit right now. I’m stretched too thin to make that big of a change. If something better fell in my lap, I’m 90% sure I would take it, but for now I’m just going to charge ahead with what I know. I have plenty to learn right now without having to learn a new job or new people.

Spike emailed me at work at the end of last week with the starting salary for a mechanical engineer in our area. I responded: “I love you. And even before you’re rich, which is lucky for you!” The track we’re on could easily give us a six-digit income within the next five years. Just in time to put the girls through school: My future veterinarian and lawyer. Unbelievable.

Speaking of the girls, today I framed the cross-stitch piece that my amazing bloggy friend, Jen, sent me! I was completely overwhelmed when I saw that she made me something. Having it on my desk is, quite simply, the most genuine proof of friendship I’ve received in a very long time. I never had a baby shower… God, I’m going to cry… No one ever made me a blanket or a bassinet or booties like they did for my friends and my sisters. But Jen made me this. And it means more to me than she can know. Thank you, friend. You are a gift.

File Nov 09, 7 47 22 PM

Arc Fault

Arc Fault

Work is worse. My manager didn’t back me up this morning when I was trying to enforce policy. Instead, she overruled my decision, and decided to use it as a teaching moment to explain to me that this is why people think I’m so stubborn.

Keeping everyone on the same page with how we do things and why we do it is my job! I’m supposed to be stubborn, otherwise everyone would revert back to the days when everyone did shit whatever way they wanted, and the entire department was frustrated to tears because of inconsistency.

An arc fault is a high power discharge of electricity between two or more conductors. This discharge translates into heat, which can break down the wire’s insulation and possibly trigger an electrical fire. (Wikipedia)

I don’t want to get to the other side of this transition and have a million stupid things to clean up because everyone just started flying by the seat of their pants. “Just get through it,” is going to make the problem last a lot longer.

I can’t imagine anyone we hire right now sticking around. The environment is putrid and toxic. It’s no wonder people are jumping ship. If I had a job offer right now that would pay the same wage, I’d be gone tomorrow. Whatever loyalty I might have felt is scorched.

I didn’t sign up to be treated like an expendable, idiot child.

And this area of work isn’t going to get better. I’m starting to see very clearly that all she really cares about is me being her assistant. She tolerates my other roles (trainer, policy keeper, software expert, etc.) as necessarily irritating so I’ll stick around. Roles, I should say, that I was assigned because of feedback from her department and other departments!

Her replacement, who’s supposed to take over in a couple years, cares even less about what I contribute to the department than she does. They will fail if I leave. It’s not an arrogant statement. It’s happened before. Things don’t get better for the employers I’ve had in the past after I leave. They go bankrupt and get sued. I made action plans that would have fixed the problems, and they ignored me. So I left.

Maybe it’s time.

Lousy Resistor

My assistant called out sick this morning. And then another person quit. That makes 15 since April. I’m starting to wonder when Corporate is going to offer an incentive to get the rest of us to stay and clean up the mess. No joke: When 38% of your staff jump ship, it’s time to appreciate the people who are still around.

I talked to Spike last night about electrical resistors. This image of myself has been growing over the last few days.

“Resistors act to reduce current flow, and, at the same time, act to lower voltage levels within circuits” (Wikipedia).

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a lousy resistor in my current environment. I don’t have the power to reduce the flow or lower the voltage.

There’s a Buddhist teacher I enjoy listening to from time to time, and her voice seems to be the one that’s peeking through the noise: “Just notice your feelings. They’re not who you are. They don’t control you. You are not what you feel.”

I had lunch with my niece yesterday and I gave her the summary of all the happenings. “Sounds like you’ve become fucking Wonder Woman!” she concluded. I laughed wholeheartedly. It might have been the most validating comment I’ve received in the last three months!

Millennial Virtue

…Thinky… by GreenEyesOfRain

I’ve been mulling something over these last few days. There’s something about reading a bunch of studies about millennials that makes me sad for our generation.

“They’re not likely to stay at a job for more than three years.” Why is that? Do we have a massive sense of entitlement? Are we a fair weather friend to the organizations we work for?

Here’s the funny thing though. The articles I’m finding aren’t judging us for it. Really? I would expect a heap of judgement for that kind of trend. I’m sure they’re out there: “Young whipper snappers don’t work like they did in my day!” But on the whole I’m not seeing it. I just see things like: “They understand tech better than you since they grew up teething on iPhones, so you better be nice to them and give them some respect, or your business will stay in the stone age!” Thank you for the massive vote of confidence, world! Guess it’s a good thing that I’m tech savvy so I can live up to all the hype.

In any case, the idea that we youngins don’t stay put is a little unsettling for me. There’s something about it that likens itself to the divorce rate, but that’s purely speculation on my part, and probably not fair. After all, we’re not married to our jobs, and we shouldn’t be. That’s another virtue of the beloved millennials. We care about our families, and we’re not afraid to put work in its proper place. Go us!

But there’s a commitment issue that’s really bugging me about the fact that we don’t stay in place. It could be some misplaced guilt and insecurity I’m digging up from being divorced.

Ugh, there’s a derailing statement. I’m not interested in talking about this anymore. Let’s just drop it.

Absotively Posilutely

Well, hallelujah!

I got a fancy new tablet from my hubby for my birthday, anniversary, Christmas! Windows 10 (not sure if it’s worth it yet) and it has a keyboard that attaches magnetically.

By the end of the day, I’m so fried I don’t want to blog, but this way I can write during my lunch break and not have to re-type it to blog it later! Hooray!

I’ve missed all of you. There are very few bright spots in my life lately. The doorman at school is one. The receptionist at work was one, but she retired last month.

[Positive, Mama. Gotta think positive.]

Did you know saying thankful things actually changes your brain chemistry so you think more gratefully? I don’t have a source for that, but I believe it! It’s almost like I believe it intuitively. When the girls first came to live with us I started a tradition to ask them three questions before they go to bed: 1) What was your favorite part of today? 2) What’s something you’re grateful for? And 3) What are you excited about?

I thought about praying with them before bed, but I’m still shying away from any parenting that’s overtly religious. I want them to experience God in more ways than religion can offer. I want God to make sense to them in practical, every-day ways. I don’t want to tie Him up in untouchable mystery [that requires master orator skills for communication].

I have a lot on my mind. There are only 40 people in my office, and 14 have quit, retired, or been fired, or gone on maternity leave in the last six months. I feel like I’m on a sinking ship and all the rats are jumping off! Am I missing something? Or is everyone just jumping on the band wagon to move on?

I don’t love my job. I don’t tell people that though. When they ask, I say it’s great, mostly because I feel like I should be grateful to even have a job. The truth [which I haven’t hidden from this blog in the past] is that it makes me miserable most days. My heart isn’t in it, especially lately. It’s monotonous. I don’t get to create. I take responsibility for shit that isn’t my fault. I get dumped on by snobs. So why do I bother?

I think it’s because somehow I believe I’m saving the company; as if some day I’ll be heralded as some kind of warrior. Nuts to that. I’ve been there four and a half years. I’ve saved them from a million things, and no one cares. I can live with that, though. It’s the criticism and the lack of respect that gets to me.

Have I not done enough to earn their respect? Have I gone about it the wrong way? (Might be a better question.)

There’s a recurring idea that keeps poking at me since I started school: In order to lead, you have to possess qualities which the group admires. The problem with where I work is that they admire wardrobe more than work ethic. They value conflict avoidance more than synergistic relationships. And they value hard work more than smart work.

That last one really fries me. Life is too short to do it the long way.

What am I going to get out of all of this. If a personal sense of heroism is off the table (and it should be), then what am I getting out of this relationship with my work?

Money? Boring. A sense of accomplishment? Not for over a year now. Promotion? I’m ignored when I mention it. Reimbursement for school? Also ignored. I’m getting my degree, but that’s just going to get me another pat on the head.

[Failing at the positive deal, here. I feel like I’m full of poison and writing about it will work like some kind of detox, but I’ve written about it a lot and I feel almost the same way. Maybe a bit more numb, but not better. I haven’t felt better about a situation for having written about it in a long time now. Maybe that’s because it actually is a problem, and it’s not just something I need to work out in my own mind. Or maybe I just can’t bring myself to think differently about it because I’m not trying hard enough.]

If I’ve learned one think about being an adult, it’s that you’re never more grateful for “how things use to be” when everything hits you from the outside. My life could be a lot worse. It could be a nightmare, in fact. A few moments of imagination is enough to convince me of that.

I need to close the book on living like this. There’s probably a book out there, but I don’t have time to read about how to fix it. I just need to walk it out. If the solution isn’t mine, I won’t take it seriously anyway!

Patch Work

an old sewing machine… by gosiaa93 | deviantart.com

Thinking about yesterday:

Every time I speak I hurt vomit at an unsuspecting victim. It makes me ill to think about the things that have come out of my mouth this past week. This is the downside of being a verbal processor.

Is it really all the fault of my need for verbal processing? Yes, I think it is. But I need to channel that process. I need to write it – pray it – not say it. I’m liable to bleed all over the public interest if I don’t. They’ve already proven that they don’t give a shit. Generally speaking, the world around me is just trying to get out of the way of my Irish blood rage.

(I’m gonna go ahead and claim that as an original idea, by the way. I don’t recall ever hearing it before: “Pray it. Don’t say it!” It’s catchy, right?)

No one wants to know why I’m angry – why anyone is angry for that matter. No one. They’re busy, and so am I. I don’t have time to wonder at their behavior, and they don’t care to know my reasons either. We’re all content to just judge one another and file away our thoughts in stereotyped compartments: Incompetent, Raging Bitch, Idiot Dirver, Over-Protective, Over-Controlling, Overbearing, Overly Critical, Inept Communicator, Clueless Imbecile. See how easy that is? That was just off the top of my head!

[More sake, please.]

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and that defiles a person (Matthew 15:18 ESV, emphasis mine).

The rice wine isn’t going to corrupt me. It’s these words… these heinous words that keep spewing out of my mouth all day.

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell (James 3:6 ESV, emphasis mine).

I’m perfectly comfortable with accepting that this is all projection. You, my amazing WordPress community, are wholly excluded from all these frustrations. You always have been. I’m here because you care, like my wonderful bloggy friend who finished stitching me something this week and gave it a dedicated post on her blog. That kind of support isn’t available in my every-day world of overworked, underpaid, overstressed women. The best they can do is apologize when they rip your head off.

I need sleep tonight. It’s been an emotional-processing day and my soul needs a rest.

Unravelled

miss you, little one by carvingbackbone | deviantart.com

In the past five days I have yelled at both my kids, had a sobbing fight with my husband, reamed one of my best friends for her behavior toward one of her family members, got into one major and several smaller arguments with my manager, nearly took the head off one of my vendors at work, threatened to terminate every vendor working on my portfolio, sent an infuriated email to my school’s financial service office, and came unglued with an undertrained Target employee.

Do you ever see those people who can do it all and make it look easy? Yeah, I hate those people. They’re making me look bad. This isn’t easy. And I’m doing my very best to make it look as miserable as possible. I let everyone know how hard it is. Everyone.

I’ve lost every last shred of my human capacity for grace and kindness and self-control. Every time I speak I hurl vomit at an unsuspecting victim. It makes me ill to think about the things that have come out of my mouth this past week.

This is the downside of being a verbal processor. When you work at a job that is slowly encroaching on your sanity and you do homework during every other hour of your waking life, your soul is slowly crushed by the build-up of pressure. There hasn’t been a vent to release any of the anxiety or frustration or fear of failure. I just work. And I don’t have time to figure out how to fix it.

My first thought was sex. I should have more sex. I’m married, after all. That should be easy! But what woman can have sex on an average of five hours’ sleep and 150 tasks on her mind? If I figure that out, I’ll write a book and retire.

My next thought was alcohol: “Just chill out, Mama. It’s not worth you losing your shit over a hill of beans.” A friend of mine brought me honeydew sake a couple weeks ago, so Spike and I are busting that out tonight. It’s too sweet, but I think it’s working.

As a Christian, you would think it would occur to me to do something like pray, but it hasn’t. There’s something about being in this position that makes me feel like I should just shut up and fix my attitude. God didn’t put me here against my will. I don’t want to get out (i.e. quit school, quit work, move to Mexico). I don’t need to be rescued. I’m voluntarily trapped here for several more months, like a reality TV show, but I have exactly zero fans.

No one is happy to see me. I just watch them cringe and hope I’ll get more sleep. No one wants to be me. I’m not manifesting character traits that anyone would aspire to develop in their professional or personal lives. Perseverance, maybe, but God help us if there isn’t another way to exhibit that virtue.

I need a vacation, obviously, but that isn’t an option. I’ve only been at this for two months, one week, and five days. I still have one year, two months, and four days to go!

I’d like to blame work here, in this paragraph. We are severely short-staffed right now. Turnover equates to calamity in my world as a trainer in a small department where trainees don’t quite feel like they’re making it for at least a year. (There’s that much to learn.) We’re still attempting to recover from an onslaught of additional work we’ve picked up since April, which would be challenging for a veteran staff, and I’m going to have to train replacements for half the support staff over the next two weeks.

I was hoping this little blogging exercise would help work out some solution, but I’ve still got nothin’. I am simply resigned to suffer (split infinitive, by the way – I’ve learned all about that in the last two months) through this.

At least there’s more sake.

Happy Bloggy Birthday to Me!

Thinking about this past year, my head is in a whirl. Last fall I was battling depression on a level I had never experienced. Since then I’ve managed to naturally treat my depression, come to peaceable terms with not carrying my own children, refocus my energies, return to school full-force, gain legal guardianship of my goddaughters… Oh, and I found out I got a raise today 🙂

No promotion from my evaluation this year. I thought I’d cool my jets since I’ve demanded a promotion and pay raise three times in five years now. I’m content for the time being… Or I may just be too busy to care. I haven’t had time to reimagine my work lately, which is a bit disheartening. I like to feel that I’m evolving; not standing still. Right now I just feel like I’m furiously running in place at work. I’m seeing results, but I’m pretty underwhelmed by the journey.

So that’s the last year in a nutshell. My personal life has taken off for the moon, and my work life has remained fairly stagnant.

At some point I’m going to need to bring those two roads together. I’m hoping I’ll be able to figure that out or have an epiphany in class.

The Little Things

This is the cup that I take out when I want coffee, and it’s ten o’clock. (The cup I grab when I need coffee is much larger, and I fill it with strong, Peet’s French Roast.)

This is a comfort cup of Joe, which  I’ve missed. Little pleasures seem to have a lot of space in between lately.

I fell asleep listening to an episode of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman on my phone last night; the first media entertainment I’d had in days. It’s not that I’m fanatical about the show. I like Jane Seymour, but I think it’s just the good, old fashioned things that comfort me, when women had long hair and long dresses, and men tipped their hats.

We’ve evolved as a society, but I wish we could have saved some of the courtesies we once had. I wonder if we would appreciate them, though. Did women take advantage of “gentlemanly behavior” they way we take advantage of things like texting? I bet they did.

Mandatory Day Off

I could have cried this morning, I was so tired. I’ve been getting about five hours sleep each night for the last few weeks, and it’s just not enough. Luckily, I had to go to the dentist. I’ve never been so grateful for general anesthesia. Spike waited for me and took me home after where I promptly fell back to sleep. I woke up around noon, ready for pain meds and mashed potatoes, then back to sleep for a few hours. 

I started the six-hour, BBC version of Pride and Prejudice when I woke up in the afternoon and slept through most of it. I woke up again at 11, more pills, shower, and back to bed again. My head aches and my jaw is tender, but other than that, it’s been the best day off I’ve had in months! I have eight pages to write before Wednesday night, but it will have to wait. My mind is in a happy fog, and it’s gonna stay there for now. 

Good night, responsibilities. The chaos can resume tomorrow!

Guardians of a Dysfunctional Family

I would say today was bittersweet, but I like dark chocolate, so I can’t. It was more like being handed a giant box of grief as a reward for over two years of round the clock volunteer work.

The guardianship was granted.

In the same breath the court informed us that we would have to drive the girls to and from their father’s house for visitation. He literally lives 500 miles away, and we have now been ordered to drive to and from the filthy city he moved to so he can see them.

It felt like, “Congratulations on being a stellar human being. You’ll need to step that up about 50 notches now.”

Of course the first and most obvious argument is why, if he’s so interested in being part of their lives, do we have to go to him?  But you can’t ask the judge that question when the opposition has stretched the court’s patience to the breaking point. 

In 30 minutes we said a sum total of about 10 sentences. The rest of the time was monopolized by completely useless bantering between the father and the judge about the fact that his opposition was not enough to keep the judge from granting our petition for guardianship.
It was an emotional morning, but I waited until the courtroom cleared to burst into tears. Spike held me and said it was going to be alright. I held him and told him it was going to be alright. We only ate half our lunch. How could the court make us do this? 

We thought having the petition granted would quell the issues, but now we’re responsible for getting the father to compromise with us about visitation. Why won’t the court just decide? Why put us all through this? He won’t negotiate with us. He’s placed the blame for his whole damn life at our door. He can’t see anything past his rage.

We had the bailiff join us in the hall while we were trying to work out visitation, since the father was literally raising his angry, shaking fist in fury over the fact that we had to discuss it at all. He wouldn’t talk about anything except his anger.

Thankfully the bailiff turned out to be part-chaplain (seemed like) and  talked the father down from the enraged ledge he was teetering on.

This is why people give up. Dealing with this kind of pure insanity is the reason people lose faith in humanity. If we were dealing with anything else I’ve ever been given to take care of – a pet, a home, every last dime in my bank accounts – I would have given it up today.

But it isn’t just money or a dog I like. It’s the lives of two girls whose father is more concerned about righting all his past mistakes than about what’s truly best for the kids.

Genesis

In the beginning… the universe was created with order. In its original, natural state, it was created with perfect Form, as the Greeks described.

My faith was rejected by more than one person in the past based on the idea that a Christian life would meddle with and subdue and dictate the course of his or her life. It’s a common enough thought. Religion has a pronounced reputation for condemning certain behaviors. The Bible is then seen as the codified book of those pronouncements, and “all fall short” if they don’t follow it to the letter.

But what if the Bible didn’t stand to judge and condemn but describe what creation is and how it was intended to balance itself? (Christians: Don’t freak out at an idea that sounds Buddhist. There are plenty of scriptures that say we are each given gifts that are meant for the building up of the body – to balance the needs and resources of a community.) What if we began to see the Bible, not as a book of laws, but as a schematic?

…a representation of the elements of a system using abstract, graphic symbols rather than realistic pictures. A schematic usually omits all details that are not relevant to the information the schematic is intended to convey, and may add unrealistic elements that aid comprehension. – Wikipedia

Again, don’t freak out. Not everyone who lacks faith in the stories is excluded from having faith in God. Yes, I said it. You can have faith in God and not believe Noah’s Ark really happened. You’re allowed to doubt! Faith in God is not contingent on you believing everything in the Bible.

What if, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ”? What if those who judge could see the pain people suffer, which drives them to seek Substance for comfort. The Form they were created to live in has obviously failed them. Maybe it was because of their own misguided actions. Maybe it was because of the actions of others, but their relationship to mankind is disjointed. Substance is all that is left. Only their senses can be trusted – what is felt, heard, tasted – because they cannot perceive the Spirit. Those that judge believe that inability is the fault of the Sensor. But since when do we hold fire alarms responsible for spiritual warfare?

This is the true miracle of God With Us. Without Christ, there is no hope for reintegration… for anyone. We cannot have holistic relationships with each other or with Him without reconciling what-is with what-was-created-to-be. The world around us, around the Spirit within us, is degrading. Our minds can only perceive four of the multiple, universal dimensions, and it can only physically exist within three.

These relationships teach us what our perfect state is. They refine us to become more of what we were created to be: How we can live in perfect harmony with the world created for us, and how to interact with other creations that are not striving for their original, intended state.

Personally, I believe the stories actually happened, not because they’re in the Bible, but because I know God could have orchestrated those events, and I believe He did. However, the fact that I believe it doesn’t make more any more spiritual than anyone else. Faith is a gift. So is mercy, which I struggle with, but others don’t. We are all given natural abilities which bring us together. If we all had all the spiritual gifts, none of us would need anyone else.

But we weren’t created to live alone. Man was made in the image of God, fully integrated and whole, but in physical form, he was incomplete. God’s image was incomplete. Man existed without the ability to relate – to have relationship with someone else. He tended the world he was given, but his equal did not exist. God’s image was made complete in the creation of woman. Being in relationship with her became the perfect, “good” state of mankind. As Christians, being in relationship with each other is the perfect, good state of the Body of Christ.

Marriage Scenes

Just a warning… Slightly more adult content. I don’t believe it’s anything graphic, but please accept my apologies if you’re offended.


Sunday

It was six-thirty in the evening. The gremlins would be getting hungry soon and I wasn’t really up for making a full-size meal. I logged off WordPress to see if I could quickly throw something together. Tortillas. Sold!

“Honey, do we have any rice?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Spike called back from the living room.

“Kay, could you make a batch and I’ll put the rest of the stuff together to make burritos for dinner?”

He got up from his desk and wandered over to the kitchen. I was still standing in front of the pantry, so he naturally was drawn to the fridge. He opened the door and stared inside.

“There’s no rice in there,” I laughed.

“You don’t know,” he play-argued back. He tried to reach around me to get to the rice in the pantry, but I didn’t move. His hands started roaming for what they could reach; my waist, shoulders… other places.

My arms reached over my head and I placed a hand on the back of his neck. His lips were on my ear, my neck, my shoulder. I pulled his face to mine and kissed him deeply. Without a word, he lead me back to our bedroom, shutting the door to the gremlins’ room. They were engrossed in a video game, and didn’t even notice. He closed our bedroom door and we wasted no time undressing each other, hardly breaking our locked lips…

When it was over I laughed as I snuggled against him.

“So, should I make the rice?”

Kaizen: Continuous Improvement

It’s no secret [in my quiet world of reflection] that I’m discouraged about the way I treat my body. It’s rarely sick, it stays up late, gets up early, stares at screens for countless hours, and provides on-demand inspiration for work, school, and family needs. Why I can’t manage to be nice to it, feed it good things, take it out to smell the freakin’ roses… I cannot fathom. My naturopath distilled the frustrations as my simply not caring enough about myself; taking care of everyone else before I take care of myself. Well, that inspiration has lost its effectiveness.

So here’s some new inspiration akin to the tortoise and the hare: A post about Kaizen.

I’ve created a spread in my journal, and I’ve been intentional about setting it up for success. I have not listed the next 100 days. No, I’ve listed the next 59% with the intention of writing the date when I’ve done something to achieve 1% improvement. Maybe it will turn out to be a “nice try,” or maybe it will change my life, but I have to do something. Standing still cannot be my life.

I refuse to be passed my prime.

  

Hot Chocolate and French Pastries

Something’s happened. It seems overnight I’ve bonded with the baby of our little family. She’s been going to coffee shops and the french bakery with me when I need some uninterrupted time away from the house to do homework. She sits quietly and sips hot chocolate and reads a book while I study. Both the girls are engrossed with the Warriors series. With their cat obsession, I’m surprised it didn’t start sooner. They were a bit tied up with Harry Potter for awhile I guess.

But something is definitely different. I’ve been trying to put my finger on what might have happened, then I realized something did happen last weekend. We were at church talking to a friend of mine who’s had the girls over to spend the night a couple times and we started talking about last Christmas when she invited the girls to help decorate at her house. The baby piped up: “Yeah, [Mama Spike] made us choose between going to your house and going to the last movie night of the year at school. We were only allowed to do one, even though nothing else was going on.” She looked at me with a big smile like she’d just told on me. I then reminded her that she was actually grounded that week. She was only allowed to do one, but she shouldn’t have been allowed to do either.

Later when just the two of us were in the car together I told her that her comment really hurt my feelings. I explained the last several months have been hard for me because I’ve been accused of being mean and selfish and not having the girls’ best interests at heart. (Of all the people we know, only three people are against us having Legal Guardianship, but the comments from those three have been hard on me.) I was careful to tell her that I didn’t believe it was her fault and I was able to handle it. I am very conscious about maintaining emotional boundaries with both the girls, as in “These are the feelings people have that you’re responsible for, and these are not.” I explained to her that it hurt me to hear that people thought I was mean. It hurt me to hear that she thought I was mean too.

She said she had forgotten that she was grounded that week and asked if she could apologize. My heart melted. Her stubbornness has made her a challenge since early on, but after two years I finally feel her softening. This past week she’s run to hug me when I get home from work. She’s asked me what I think of her drawings. She’s politely asked permission to go on the internet and play video games and make tea. She lets me hug her without pulling away right away. One night she even asked if I would snuggle with her before bed. We’ve done that several times, but this was the first time she knocked on my bedroom door to ask.

With her sister growing up so fast, I feel like I need to savor every little girl moment. I tell the baby all the time that she’s a strong, natural leader. A lot of my parenting her so far has nurtured those things, but now I think we’re transitioning into a more compassionate relationship. She’s lonely without her sister at the same school as her. She’s an introvert and doesn’t like change. She doesn’t like to meet new people like her sister does. She would rather read in the library. I’m a little anxious about her being a bookworm, but school just started a couple weeks ago. I told myself I’d give her some time to adjust and not push her to make new friends right away.

That one has to make changes on her terms. She won’t have it any other way.

It was the way you said it.

Loss by ChiccaNeko | deviantart.com

I was sitting a cafe, waiting for Spike to join me for lunch when he called to say he would be a few minutes late. “Hey,” he said when I answered the phone. Who ever knew such a small word said in just the right way could stir up so many feelings? I had completely forgotten the way my ex-husband used to say that; like an Italian mobster, but cut short.

I was so disoriented through the short call. I couldn’t get my head straight. Who was I talking to? Then I heard myself say, “I love you too,” and I was wrought with grief when I put the phone down. How many times did I have that same conversation in my previous marriage? That relationship hasn’t caused me grief like that in years, but remembering him in that moment, like a casualty of war, was painful. It’s painful now, two days later, to think about.

We met in December 2003. My best friend was finally marrying his best friend, and they recruited me to help plan the wedding. They wanted a short engagement: two months. I was frantic to get everything in order, but he steadied me. He joined me on errands to put it together and stayed up late talking to me like we were old friends. It didn’t take long to fall in love with him. Three years later we were married in the church I grew up in. Three years after that I asked him to move out. He had betrayed me to such a degree that I couldn’t even recognize him.

Divorcing him was an easy decision compared to the decision to lose his friendship. I couldn’t be married to him, but cutting him out of my life was like surgically removing my lungs. I didn’t know how my heart would continue to beat without him. He was everything to me for the sum total of my adult life from age 19 to 25. I don’t regret the divorce, but it doesn’t make me immune to how much I loved him.

It gives me hope to know the loss didn’t turn me to ice. My heart grew larger for lack of air, not weaker. Today I can assure myself that even if my heart must accept another path, my loyalty to its keepers will never fade.

They Grow Up So Fast

It’s a common thing for people to say, but what they don’t tell you is that it can all happen in a matter of two weeks! Our older goddaughter is 12 now. She started junior high on August 24th, and announced her list of boys “crushing on her” three days later. She got her first visit from Aunt Flo (TMI probably, but it’s a major milestone in a girl’s life!) on August 30th, and I took her out to dinner that night to celebrate.

We talked that night about the kids she met during her first week at school and the boys that like her. I asked her if she like anyone, and she said no, but I kept the conversation going. “So what happens when a boy likes you and you like him?” Standard, pre-teen answer: “I don’t know.”

“Well, what would you want to happen?”

“I don’t know. We get together?”

“And then what?”

“I don’t know. Go to Jamba Juice?”

“And then what?”

“I don’t know. This is embarrassing.”

I remember being boy crazy at 12, but there wasn’t a lot of reciprocity. There were only eight kids in my class at a small, K-8, private, Christian school. By the time we had hormones, we’d spent so much time together we were more like siblings. I didn’t go to my first dance until freshman homecoming. In contrast, our 12-year-old is in a school of 1,000 kids her age. It’s glaringly different from the time I spent in junior high.

We bought her a new dress for her first dance this past Thursday and summarily denied her permission to post videos from the dance on YouTube that night. She got in trouble for being home late the next day (it was only a few minutes, but it was the first time we let her go alone) from a neighbor’s house, and later we found out she was there without any adults. Consequently, she’s not allowed to go over there for a week.

Side note: Why the hell are parents allowing their 11 and 12-year-olds to be on social media sites!? The EULAs for all the majors – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. – say kids under 13 are not allowed because they’re unable to comply with the COPPA laws! Keep your freakin’ kids off the internet until they’re older! We in our 30s forget those things weren’t available until we were in high school. We had MySpace and Yahoo and MSN instant messengers, but we couldn’t tag a picture of ourselves in a specific location for any creeper to find us! It took some effort then. Now it’s stupid-easy! There are 50,000 predators online looking for easy targets (Child Rescue Network).

I bought the girls The Care and Keeping of You last summer and reading through it was a lifesaver when it came to talking to them about important care-taking topics. There’s a second, more sensitive, advanced book that I’ve decided to walk through with our 12-year-old, and all I can do is pray for the wisdom to keep the conversation easy, open, and honest. Her sister is only 16 months younger. Between social media and the polarization of genders in the last 20 years, creating a paradigm of freedom and expression is going to be the crowning achievement of raising these girls. There are too many ways to keep secrets and feel ashamed. They have to be able to talk to me about things they see and hear and experience. And I have to be able to shepherd them.

I’m not allowed to be a bad parent.

That’s another thing they don’t tell Foster parents and Legal Guardians. Bio parents are allowed to screw up themselves and their kids and people just say, “It’s hard to be a parent.” But if you’re raising someone else’s kids, you have a to be a pro. It’s like being an estate manager. You’re allowed to go bankrupt if it’s your house, and people say, “Times are tough.” But if you fail to properly steward someone else’s assets, you can be charged with criminal intent!

Asking questions seems to be the most effective method way to parent. I wanted to send her to a nunnery at dinner last week when she answered, “I don’t know. We get together?” I think I stayed cool. I asked her again yesterday about what happens when a boy likes her and she likes him, and I got the same response:

“I don’t know.”

“It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it right now – if you feel like it’s embarrassing. But if you’re not ready to talk about it, then you’re probably not ready to ‘get together’ with anyone and start dating.”

All the while I’m thinking, “Oh dear God, why am I talking to my 12-year-old about dating!? How did this happen!? She was a baby… yesterday! Now I’m explaining hormones and personal hygiene when you’re on your period and why we’re going to wait a while to use tampons. And I have to talk about it like it’s the most natural thing. She has to know that it’s normal. She has to not be ashamed of talking about it. How the hell do I do this!? What words do I use? The world is changed and I have to protect her, but how much do I say? She’s just a child!”

But she isn’t anymore. Is she?

Taking the Night Off

  

I’ve declared a glass of red wine and no homework tonight for me! I’ll tackle the 12 pages of papers and 8 hours of reading I need to do this weekend. I usually spend Thursday nights at a friend’s house, drinking decaf coffee and catching up on life; otherwise I would never see her or the other friend I meet there.

The three of us are completely maxed out at the moment. One of them is an adjunct professor and she’s in a doctorate program. The other is a nurse, has four kids, two of whom she’s recently adopted, and her husband is in a doctorate program. They’ve become my sounding boards over the last few years. I don’t know what I would do without them. Between their crazy lives and mine, we have plenty of empathy to go around.

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about: I chose this crazy life of constant activity, so why not own it? Why complain about being busy, when really, I chose to do everything I’m doing. No one forced me to go back to school. No one is poking me with a cattle prod at work telling me to be awesome. No one would judge me if I just did a simple birthday party for the girls instead of the elaborately planned days I put together at least a month ahead of time. No one would think less of me if I didn’t get straight-As.

I’m this great on purpose, so I’ve stopped complaining about how busy I am, and I’ve started sharing the joy of my full and happy life. I’m healthy enough to keep up with it. My mind is buzzing with intellectual ideas. My relationship with the girls has never been better. Spike and I are doing an incredible job supporting each other (seriously, I don’t know what I’d do without him). Life is stellar! But nothing!

I could talk about how I’d love to have a self-cleaning house, but that’s really just another point of productive pride for me. I can be this awesome, and keep the house from looking like a catastrophe… most of the time. This week is a joke since our new plumbing sprang a leak. I’m sitting in the living room listening to the whirr of the carpet restoration fan (#thankgodwerent). My desk and its piles of books are pulled away from the wall. All the activity of the week can be told in the items strewn about the couches and tables. I’m not cleaning tonight, though. I’m writing. It’s taking some willpower, but I’m doing it!

Have I mentioned I’m an early-riser now? Our older goddaughter decided she wanted to be in choir and orchestra this year, so she starts school at 6:45. My alarm goes off at 5:45, which has never happened more than one day at a time in all my life. The truly awesome part about it though is that I work 7 am to 4 pm. The extra hour in the evenings to skip traffic, spend time with the family, and run errands is definitely contributing to my happiness factor. It’s also giving me an hour at work every morning with absolutely no interruptions. My stress levels have fallen out of sight! Who knew? Going to bed at 10:30 is weird for me, though. I don’t know when I’m going to get used to yawning at 9:00.

That about does it. I’ve run out of steam. Thank you for your comments and encouragements and thoughts. Here’s to you and your superb writing! I think about you all often.

School and Entrepreneur Ramblings

I’ve spent morning noon and night on the computer now for weeks, but seldom does a day go by that I don’t wish I could be blogging. I realized tonight that I have this little baby Acer laptop with Windows XP that I’ve barely ever used, but would be perfect for blogging in bed. I miss writing for fun, but not enough to continue to sit at my desk after a full day of work and a full night of school. Continue reading “School and Entrepreneur Ramblings”

Unprecedented Nuts

Insane Asylum Office by Diesel74656 | deviantart.com

I may have made academic history. I just turned in the first of my three papers for this class two full days before the deadline. It’s probably too soon to make this claim, but I feel like I’m growing. I have completed 40, yes forty, classes in my career as a student and I don’t think I’ve ever turned in a paper early. Granted, I still have 66 pages to read and a 300-word forum post to write before Wednesday, but let’s focus on the fact that I don’t also have a six-page paper looming over my head. Continue reading “Unprecedented Nuts”

The Calm

I start school in a week. Five years ago I thought I was going restart my life, and here I am finally hitting the Play button again. In 16 short months I’ll be done with something I meant to finish 10 years ago, but here’s the silver lining: I have 10 years of work experience now, which means I can launch straight into an MBA program when I’m done. Better yet, I’ll qualify for an accelerated program that will only take 17 months to complete.

In less than 3 years I can be done with both my bachelor’s and my master’s (MBA). I never thought of getting my master’s degree in my 20’s. It didn’t even occur to me that I should go that far. But now I think I owe it to myself for putting so much blood, sweat and (definitely) tears into my education. I should have my master’s, otherwise I’ll have chased my educational goals for 14 years just to get a 4-year degree. It’s got to lead me to graduate school… Or bust!

I’m restless this week. Spike said I tossed and turned on Saturday night. I don’t remember sleeping poorly, but he distinctly remembers getting kicked, so I guess we’ll go with “restless.” I feel it during the day too, so it’s not surprising. Work has been outrageously stressful. It always is when I have to do two full-time jobs… for over a month now.

No wonder my writing has fallen off the wagon. By the time I get home, my mind is a gelatinous scramble. I can hardly form a complete thought. Staying in communication with friends and family takes the last crumb of communicative power at the end of each day.

I should take a personal, “mental health” day, but that would be a lot more stressful than restful right now. I guess it doesn’t help that my evenings and weekends feel almost as busy as my workdays.

I need to simplify some alone time soon. Just me, a notebook, a scene, and some silence: unplugged and unavailable.

The storm is coming, and this ship needs some care-taking before the first waves make contact.

Slipping

I’m afraid. Seeing myself react to different situations the last couple weeks, I wish I could see something other than what seems obvious. I’m explosive and numb. I’m irritable and unfocused. And all I want to do at the end of the day is tune out the world and not speak to anyone. All I can do is sit and wait to sleep, because I don’t care, and I don’t want to. 

Depression isn’t a problem I once had. It isn’t something I’m only going to have to beat once. I only beat it for the first time, and now I can see it won’t be the last time. It’s part of my nature and my nurture. It’s something that will always be there, waiting for me to think it’s not still hanging over my head.
It doesn’t matter what my successes are. It doesn’t matter if I gain everything I hoped for. This cloud is going to ruin it. It will suck the joy out of everything. 

I went off my supplements a couple months ago. I wanted to know if I was cured or if I was dependent. I guess now we know. I can’t be who I really am, who I was meant to be, without help. As a fiercely independent woman, I am devastated with staring that reality in the face. As the wife of the most intelligent, supportive man I’ve ever known… I am so grateful. 

But grateful doesn’t quite describe it. I feel saved by the love I have, as if Someone knew I would need saving, and surrounded me with a fortress. 

I’m not afraid of the future. I just wish the painful steps to get there weren’t so familiar.

It’s Late and I’m Awake

I am so tired, but I’m reeling from too much caffeine. I have a meeting with the CEO and the head of my department in the morning to explain my plan to re-define an entire system; something I should probably be fresh for. 

I’ll be lucky to look like something the cat dragged in.

Spike and I have had a couple “talks” in the last month to clear the air. “What’s wrong with us?” I elegantly started the first one. I’m always emotional when we have those talks. It kills me whenever he’s not absolutely blissful to see me. If he’s upset with me, I’m a wreck. Thankfully it doesn’t happen very often. 

When it does, we fight fair. We do our best to talk about what’s actually going on, rather than bring up past feelings. I wonder sometimes if people get “historical” simply because they know how to talk about past feelings. Current feelings are harder to pin-down and communicate, so the conversation just fights about something it’s already figured out.

Fighting, or in our case, emotionally discussing our current frustrations is a rough undertaking. It takes patience on both sides to let the other figure out the best way to communicate what needs to be said without getting defensive and dismissive. Hearing each other is how we love each other when we’re hurt. We do our best to give each other the benefit of the doubt: “It’s not in their nature to want to hurt me, so I won’t let what they said sink in.”

Of course keeping the conversation clean is a must: No swearing, no out-of-control anger, no aggressive body language. Of course none of these rules are written, but I think we’ve done well keeping them.

Didn’t take long… My eyes are getting heavier by the miniye!!!

Chromolog Update

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” – Alice Morse Earle

One month ago I created something I may continue to thank myself for. No matter if I’m a street sweeper or a CEO, I will have just as many hours in each day as everyone else. How do I use those hours? And curiously I wonder, how do others use the same hours?

Chomolog Jun 28 2015

I invented Chromolog to level the playing field: “Here are your hours. What did you actually do with them?” It isn’t a list that can be lopsided with good intentions. There are just as many hours in one day as there are in the next. There are just as many hours in my days as there are in yours. There are just as many opportunities to move forward or backward with your life. Are you forming good habits? Are you spending more time or less time on the people and ideals that you claim to value? Am I? So long as we promise to be honest, wcannot hide it in Chromolog. We cannot make excuses.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Jesus

There are many ways to over-inflate a person’s virtue or to cut them down unjustly, but at the the end of each day, what do we really know about how people spend their time?  What trends could we see if we compared one with another? I’ve seen how people analyze the time management skills of highly successful people, but has anyone compared those hours with those of an idiot savant?

How deflated would a Success become if they learned the same success could be achieved by another in a fraction of the time? How much more would we expect from the alternate if we knew just how easily they could achieve greatness? How much untapped potential is there in the world? How many hours skate by in the daily life of the gifted? How many hours do the un-gifted struggle through? How often could they encourage each other? How many times could they help one another? How often are people left unchallenged and undisciplined? How often do we reprimand and chastise those who work hard to achieve small successes? These are all questions I wish we could answer by challenging ourselves to take an honest look at how we spend our days.

I spent nine of the last twenty-four hours watching a TV show. I also spent five and a half hours of quality time with my family. The former was an entertaining waste of time. The latter was important to everyone I live with. Both were good for my soul.

Checking out to watch a drama I enjoy on a day off was well-earned in my book. I spent nine full days of work training four new hires in the last month. I am completely talked-out. As an introvert I’ve felt more drained and overworked in the last four weeks than I have in the last four months. Nine hours of TV  was a recharge. I’m not going to tell myself I should have vacuumed and done laundry instead. Not today.

Tomorrow, on the other hand, I intend to catch up on a lot of chores before I spend an awesome afternoon with a friend that’s visiting from out of town and an evening with a group of friends at a barbecue and pool party before we watch the fireworks. Just another day, but I intend to live it well, and represent the hours in a few colorful columns.

Change the Stars

Do you ever feel like you’re wandering on the edge of a revelation; as if you’re about to discover some great nugget of wisdom? I’ve felt this way before, but not for so many consecutive days. It’s usually just a few moments in the midst of studying.

I’m uncomfortable with existing in this state. It feels like catching the scent of bread baking and not remembering when I put the loaf in the oven. How long has it been in there? Is it almost ready? How will I know when to take it out? It smells wonderful, but am I about to let it burn?

If I meditate on the surrounding subject, will I discover what’s behind this feeling, or will it disappear and pretend it never existed? Will I find that the wisdom I hoped to find was really just indigestion?

“Their lives are better now,” sounds so arrogant. Is it true in the ways it matters? Empirically, yes. Is it true in the ways I hoped for my children? 
I didn’t have nine months to dream dreams for them. I’ve never had the space to do that. We’ve been surviving through the months, fighting off dragons, but the fulfilled life I hoped for my children… I haven’t given them that. 

I’ve given them security and safety and guidance, but not my dreams… Not enough. They’re children, and I’m their guardian. How can I let them flourish without my dreams for them?

This is what comes from being guarded. I didn’t even realize I was holding back. Their stars are changing, but what constellation will they live under?

Investigative Validation

To anybody you I will not give by mechtaniya | DeviantArt.com

“Based on the information provided and the information obtained, it appears at this time it is in the best interest of the children to remain in the care of Ms. and Mr. [Spike] and the guardianship be granted.”

The Investigator’s Report to Court is in black and white and sitting on my desk. I’ve been staring at the last sentence most of the evening, and I’m still exhaling. The court will make their decision based on that official recommendation. Until now we have only been able to hope and pray the investigators would see through the lies and truly see what’s going on.

They saw it. Thank God. Twelve more days until our next hearing, but they can pass in peace. The girls will be safe. They’ll be with us.

“When you are appointed by the court as a guardian of a minor, you become an officer of the court and assume certain duties and obligations… If the probate court appoints you as a guardian of the person for a child, you will be required to assume important duties and obligations…

The guardian of the person of a child has the care, custody, and control of the child. As guardian, you are responsible for food, clothing, shelter, education, and all the medical and dental needs of the child. You must provide for the safety, protection, and physical and emotional growth of the child.

“As guardian… you have full legal and physical custody of the child and are responsible for all decisions relating to the child. The child’s parents can no longer make decisions for the child while there is a guardianship. The parents’ rights are suspended – not terminated – as long as a guardian is appointed for a minor…”

Duties of Guardian, Superior Court of California

If the judge signs the order, we will have the official papers in less than two weeks. I’m surprised how shocked I am at that reality. I knew I was guarding myself against the worse-case scenario, but now I can feel just how guarded I was. The weights are slowly coming off my shoulders, but I still feel vigilant.

Their dad has a history of violence involving weapons, even guns. He’s a coward and a liar, but he’s dangerous. And we’ve just beat him at “the war” he started. God help us.

Organic Organization – Chromolog

I’ve invented something. Probably. At least, I can’t find anything else quite like it. If you remember, I slightly lost my mind a bit over Chronodex awhile back. I loved the concept! I watched more YouTube videos than I care to admit with people demonstrating how they plan their day with colors on a clock. But watching people set their schedules in stone with colored pens and pencils started to give me anxiety: “You can’t erase that! Even if you could, what a mess!”

There was something missing; a few things, actually. My days switch gears at the drop of a hat. Constantly. I have six calendars to keep track of:

  1. Work Meetings
  2. Manager’s Schedule
  3. Department’s Schedule
  4. Kids’ School
  5. Family Calendar
  6. Personal Calendar

There was no way I was going to attempt to lay that out with colored pencils and depend on it to keep my schedule straight. I would have failed miserably and instantly. But I still wanted to do something to satisfy the craving I felt for seeing my time in color. I didn’t want to plan or budget my time that way, but then I thought of the other columns in a budget: Actual. Difference.

Then I realized I wanted a log, a colorful one.

Chromolog

Chromolog, as it is displayed here, is my own invention. I started out with just a few columns for the day so I could “stack” the events and tasks on top of each other, similar to Chronodex, but in linear form, top-to-bottom, like a daily calendar:

Chomolog 1

I rapidly decided having everything mixed around like that was really not going to play well with my type-A personality. The columns needed their own names (from left to right):

  1. Personal Development
  2. Family Time and Activities
  3. Food and Finances (things I’m trying to keep myself accountable for)
  4. Work

Also, I wanted to see an entire week on one page, not just a couple or a few days. Putting my graphic design and layout skills to work, I organized all my objectives in one template. I printed it out and started coloring. The result is that I can see how I actually spent my waking hours in an entire week at a single glance:

Chomolog 2

Chomolog 2b

Spending 10 minutes or less each day coloring the day is allowing me to see trends:

  • I spend a lot of time in meetings, which I mark with diagonal lines in addition to the color.
  • I eat a lot of chicken.
  • I take time to read to the girls, and I put a lot of hours into planning their birthdays.
  • I binge-watch TV shows at night when my days are busy.
  • This month has actually been pretty nuts and it’s only the 17th.

Chomolog 3

Coloring is therapeutic. Knowing how I spent my time is soothing, and encouraging. I don’t have to vent to someone at the end of the day to collect my daily value of empathy. I can empathize with myself! I can look at what I’ve created each day, give myself a big, FAT pat on the back and sleep like a baby, because I’m awesome, most of the time, and I can prove it.

Hug A Saint

“I’m just glad you’re here,” my Writing comforts me. I’ve stopped apologizing for absences. The Words don’t criticize me, so why should I be chastised? My heart is heavy, so I’m here. I don’t know what to Pray, so I wait. I know He’s here, and the Peace lets me take a deep breath. My pulse slows. I exhale and close my eyes briefly to shut out the lights, but my mind whirls in every direction until I open my eyes again. The Words will find a focus where my mind hears only chaos.

“What is it?” my Words ask. My hands are steady, but my chest is tight. Fourteen days. Will the countdowns end? Am I strong enough to endure it with a degree of grace?

The problem with being branded a saint is that people expect that it’s easy to just keep living like one. They’re uncomfortable with the idea that it’s hard, as if only certain people can do great things; as if only certain people can be exceptional and it’s easy for them.

With a single decision a person can alter the course of their life. Many only think of that concept in terms of ruining their lives, ending up in jail, or in the gutter. But a single decision can permanently alter your path in a positive, uphill direction as well. If you pull a kid out of the street or you decide to work as a paramedic, you could be branded a hero.

But it isn’t easy. Your saints are faking if they pretend it is. It isn’t glamorous. The thoughts a saint has are not always admirable. They’re human, make no mistake. But the more admired they become, the more pressure they feel to hide what doesn’t belong in the picture. They see the look in people’s eyes when they voice their insecurities, and they slowly retreat to take a more powerful stance. “I don’t know how I’m going to get through this,” transforms into, “Everything happens for a reason.”

Their friends raise them higher. They’re acquaintances deify their very existence. And the saint starts believing their own catch-phrases. They forget they’re capable of fear. They deny themselves the need for true human connection. They encourage others in their struggles, but never seek out a listening ear for themselves. Their lives become a living encouragement, and frighteningly capable of toppling the faith of others if they fail to live up to all the expectations.

The thing is, no one quite knows how to communicate with heroes. Congratulations abound, but unless another hero comes along who understands, no one has quite the right things to say. “Wow, that’s amazing!” needs am empathetic counterpart: “Do you feel safe? Can I call to check on you tomorrow? I can stay if you don’t want to be alone. I can listen if you want to talk about it.”

It’s hard to find that friend when everyone believes heroes and saints are born, not raised; destined, not determined. “Do not grow weary in doing good,” I remember, but what an admonition. Where are the people who give rest to those travelers?

Life and Chronicles

I’ve missed you. Since last we met, my life took on life. Fullfillment is mine. The story is yours. It inspires me to drive on. It scatters hope along the path, looking for rich soil. Some seeds fall among rocks, never to take root. Some fall in with weeds, choked out by circumstance. But where there is life, hope will begin its journey again. It will seek out those in pain. It will comfort the burdened. It will lift the broken from the pit. 

The well-lived life is a rarity. Even more rare is its record. Let its light give light to all those around it. Let its warmth stretch arms around the abandoned. Your words are a guide. Don’t doubt their power. Don’t doubt your influence. Don’t doubt your ability to make a difference in the lives of those you’ve received as friends. Don’t wonder if your encouragement will sink into the heart of family.

Be wise and be bold. Your life is worthy of connection. Your heart is well-formed for the tasks at hand.

“What are Your Hobbies?”

There was a time, not six months ago, when I dreaded anyone asking me what my interests were. Depression was eating away at the marrow of my life, and I didn’t have the will to have interests. I watched TV shows and movies. I ate out a lot. Occasionally I would play the piano, just to have some semblance of living my life for more than work and sleep.

This morning I realized I’m developing interests! Natural, organic, true interests. I woke up at 5:00 yesterday morning and spent two hours browsing the Internet for all things “organizer.” I even blogged about my discoveries before I got ready for work.

This morning I’m up and at it again! It’s such an alien notion, I was sincerely confused as to why in the world my head was popping off the pillow with a mind for coffee and YouTube. 

Then I realized, I like something. It doesn’t matter that it won’t change the world. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t a noble cause. It’s just something that gets my blood flowing. It’s enough to threaten tears! My life has me in it again. It’s like a welcome home party.

Organic Organization Continued…

Writing by LeoNn | DeviantArt.com

My INFJ side is still on a quest to discover all things new in analog, written organization. Just a warning, this post might come off as a bit of a sales pitch. I’m not sponsored by any of these companies, but in case there’s interest in these items, I’ve included several links.

I can’t stop watching YouTube videos about Filofax. The conclusion I’ve come to is that it ends up being a cross between a scrapbook and an organizer. People are stuffing these things with everything they can get that was made for Filofax as well as do-dads they find on Etsy, including stickers, pins, Post-It notes, quotes, pictures, and “printables” (there’s a 21st century word for you). I’ve also looked in the Midori Travelers Notebook, but Filofax seems to be a bit more of my craze right now.

I came across Filofax when I started playing around with Chronodex, and my interest escalated from there. Now I’m thinking of all the ways I could customize my own Filofax! Of course, the biggest drawback is the cost. I love the idea, but the A5 size (5.8″ x 8.3″) starts at $49.00. Yikes. I like organization and I want to make my right-brain, creative side happy, but we’re gonna have to do better than that!

The idea I like the most about having a small binder rather than a bound notebook is that it can be so easily customized and changed. I just about destroyed by latest casebound, Black n’ Red notebook with a razor blade because I didn’t like what I started with and couldn’t tear out the pages. So how do I get what I want out of this idea without breaking the bank? Solution: Avery has a cute, organizer-style binder for $11.35 on Amazon. Sold. Easy.

Now, what am I going to put in it? I’m a millennial-generation, corporate business woman. I’ve embraced digital organization to the nth degree at work. My INTJ self is happy as a clam in that world. But I want more warmth and color at home. I want to see handwriting and personal achievements. There’s an old soul in me that wants out.

We’ll see what I come up with next to make her happy.

5 am

I was on the road for work again today. Six hours in the car plus seven hours of training a new admin. I’m spent. But at 5:00 this morning, when I got on the road, I had the rare opportunity to witness the activity of people who appear to exude excellence.

At five o’clock in the morning, people are out running. I’ve heard of this rare breed, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them in their natural habitat. The moon is still up, and these people are attacking the day!

I couldn’t help but wonder what some of them must be like. Are they all classic, type-A personalities? How long have they made a habit to go running that early? How often do they go?

I’m truly fascinated, but not quite inspired to take up the habit myself. Someone has to “sleep in” and smell the coffee. It might as well be me!

Unpack When You Get Home

Suitcase by oroos | DeviantArt.com

I’ve formed a bit of a tick as an adult: I always unpack as soon as I get home from a trip. Literally, I walk the bag straight to the bedroom, empty it out, and put things away. There’s an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where the two of them have an altercation over taking a suitcase upstairs after coming home from a trip. Those scenes come to mind every time I think about this funny habit I’ve created: My tote bag goes back to its place within 10 minutes of being home.

Unless it doesn’t.

It doesn’t happen very often, but on the rare occasion that I get distracted when I first come home, I’ll pick away at the contents of the bag and kick at it under-foot for a few days before I finally get around to emptying everything out. In the meantime I reach over it in the closet when I’m getting dressed and rummage around in it looking for my makeup bag and blow dryer as I need them. It’s most definitely not my preferred method of unpacking.

I mention these quirks for a couple reasons. One is that at this very moment I’m blogging while the last few items from my two day business trip sit in the bottom of my bag on the floor of my closet. It’s bugging me in real time. I should just get up and take care of it, but I’m trying to explore an illustration of emotions. I’ve been thinking about it since last night when I realized I didn’t unpack my bag right away. Call it stalling if you want, but attempting to have profound thoughts seemed like a legitimate justification for procrastination. (Also, there are 15 syllables in the last four words of the last sentence – neat.)

Let’s go with it then.

What happens if we don’t unpack our emotional baggage right away? I’m not talking about dumping on someone as soon as you meet them. I’m talking about the time we let pass after an emotional situation and the time we actually reflect on what the hell happened. What happens to our hearts in that time? Does it harden so we forget just how much we packed away while we were in that situation? How many left-over hurts are just settling at the bottom of our hearts because we’ve ignored them for so long?

I have a theory about that. If you happen to kick that bag of emotions and it doesn’t budge – if it hurts your foot and you don’t understand why, you might have a very large rock waiting for you in that bag that was never unpacked. Rejection, fear, misunderstanding, bitterness. We all like to think that if enough time goes by we’ll just forget and move on.

But the contents of our hearts tend to change the shape of our hearts. They may end up being lop-sided or bulgy. We grow accustomed to it, but it becomes part of the first impression we give to others. They see it in our eyes and our voices. They can tell from our decisions what our past experiences might have been. We’re not fooling anyone, and in the meantime we’re wreaking havoc on our psyche.

So unpack when you get home. Don’t wait until you’ve blown up over an insignificant issue to realize that you have some soul searching to do. Recognize and validate your emotions when you have them. Don’t stuff them and chide yourself for being immature. Let yourself have a moment to freak out, then be your own best friend – ask yourself what’s wrong. Have compassion for yourself. Explain why your feelings might be so strong.

And do it soon. Make time for it. Don’t wait for it to be convenient. You have a long life to live with yourself. It might as well be the best relationship you have.

Coloring Time

I’ve spent many hours nerding-out over something new this past week. Since embracing my home/personal organization desire for color and drawing and pens and paper (my INFJ side), this direction has become a bit of a pilgrimage in exploring the modern world’s resources for those who still prefer pen and paper in a digital age.

It started with learning about Chronodex, reading about how others use it, and watching YouTube videos. The basic idea is that you color-in the events of the day on a clock face. If more than one thing happens or may happen that hour, you make the “spikes” shorter so you can add to it. This was my first attempt:

Chronodex

After that I went kinda crazy and designed my own, 24 hour diagram, which is a bit much… I don’t think I want to maintain this level of detail for every 24 hours, although I must admit, many of my days really are longer than 18 hours.

24 hr 1

24 hr 2

My internet search naturally escalated to Spiraldex, which I liked a bit better, but I didn’t try using until today. I think, in the end, this might be my favorite. It’s colorful, it’s cyclical and it gives me some accountability regarding where I spent my time. All of these do that I guess, but visually, I l think like this best:

Spiraldex

Of course, going back to the original, I like the multi-tasking features of Chronodex too:

Chronodex 2

I printed six of each of these diagram types on Avery 5164 labels (3-1/3″ x 4″ shipping labels) so I could easily stick them in my journal. The best idea I saw, though, was definitely using a rubber stamp. I can imagine labels can get pricey after awhile if you’re serious about chronicling your days this way.

I’ll probably keep playing with them. I like the idea, obviously. We’ll see if any of them have any staying power. I doubt I would ever use them as a way to keep track of my appointments, but I like the visual, colorful, aesthetic representation of how I spent my day.

Irish Blood Rage

tink happy
Hook | TriStar Pictures

I don’t take kindly to being talked down to. Not at all really. Actually, that’s probably the best possible way to make an enemy out of me. Forever. Yes, you’ll be my enemy, and I’ll pray for you, because Jesus says to pray for enemies, not to be friends with everyone. It feels emotionally immature, but screw that. Don’t talk to me like an idiot child! I don’t care who you are. Any hope of a working relationship with me will cease. Today. Which will suck for you, because I am invariable rock star, and I can make your life and your work much, much easier, as I’ve proven over the last sixteen years as a god of administration. Yes, I’m confident about my skills. I should be. I’m amazing.

I had a bad afternoon yesterday, and I’m obviously still stewing about it. (Yes, I’ve already admitted to acting emotionally immature, and I’m going with it.) I was so tense when I sat down to dinner I felt like I was shaking. I checked my hands. They weren’t shaking, but my skin was crawling. Here are a few drafts I decided it would be best not to send, so I’ve got that going for me in the wisdom arena.

  • Your communication skills leave much to be desired. Why don’t you try rephrasing your request as if your reputation, your legitimacy as a professional, and my respect for you depended on it?
  • Do you think I can’t hear the degrading, insulting, manipulative, and disdainful tone in your voice? Do you think you could hear it if I talked to you that way?
  • I’m sorry, I must have forgotten when I said you could talk to me like an inbred imbecile. Is there something you’d like to ask the person whose help you need to get through this audit, namely me?
  • Certainly! I’ll get to work on that as soon as I forfeit my self-respect and start letting people shit on me.

I watched crap TV until two in the morning just to get my mind off the situation, which didn’t help my mood very much. What the hell is on these days anyway?

**Huff**

Isn’t there a blog I follow that talks about happy, positive things? I should check that out more often. Or maybe I should use the fire to promote my consulting business. I got my business cards in the mail today. They’re awesome, like me. Designed by me, of course: minimalist, clean, essential information only.

**Deep breath**

I thought I decided being angry was a waste of energy. I thought I decided horrible people weren’t worth this kind of effort. Apparently my Irish blood can still boil and I still believe my anger is justified. (I’m an American mutt, and I’ve never become violent, but there’s enough Irish in these veins for my flare-ups to worry me over the years.)

I know, “Unforgiveness is like you drinking poison and expecting the other person to drop dead.” But it’s hard to always be the bigger person. Every. Time. I don’t have to work with this person very often, but every time I do, I want to walk out. I imagine myself throwing a pile of papers in the air, screaming profanities, and slamming the door on my way out. Every time. Without fail. I’ve never had a working relationship that was so toxic, not even close. I went to HR about it and they said not to waste my breath. It will only make it worse. (Not the biggest fan of how HR handles internal conflict either, at all really.)

//End Bitter Recap

A Precious Commodity

It’s been awhile, but I did some internet research on courtly love about five years ago and it completely solidified my claim on being a hopeless romantic. “Married or unmarried, be free and love who your heart wrenches for,” is the policy I adopted.

Let me be very clear, the philosophy is not one that encourages spouses to be unfaithful. The marriage bed is to be kept irrevocably pure. The spouse should always be the first and main recipients of the love one has to offer.

But for the love of God, we should love others too! Marriage is between two people. But love is commanded between all people. Our compassion is a gift we can give. Our empathy, our prayers, and our intimate thoughts were created to be shared with others, to encourage and strengthen them, men and women alike. If, when we get married, we forfeit this responsibility for all but one person, then we will cause the world to have less love in circulation than it needs.

It is good for the human heart to love. It is healing for it to feel the warmth of compassion and understanding in return. It beats truer when it knows acceptance. It sleeps more soundly when it is soothed by harmonious words.

There’s something profound that happens in the heart of a woman when she catches a glimpse of how adored she is. She comes alive. She soars. She brushes off the pain of criticism… Because she is loved.

There is something that softens in the heart of a man when someone  understands the pain he is experiencing. He opens and heals. His defenses melt, and he lets go of pain from years of heartache. 

Those that love and receive love with a pure heart experience a euphoria of connection. Falling in love with the human race is a blessing. In it, you touch the heart of God.

Self-Promotion Fail

“I started a business consulting business!” I couldn’t take the words back. I realized I sounded like an imbecile about half-way through the exclamation and completely killed the delivery. But the words were out before I could think twice about them and I immediately regretted having put absolutely no thought into how I should describe myself in person now.

“I’m a business consulting business.” Really? I’m gonna have to do a lot better than that for an elevator pitch! Yikes. There’s no way I’d hire someone with that kind of description. Lame. Okay, so enough self-deprecating. I’ll figure that out, rapidly.

In other news, since the month overview was getting a little crowded, I played around with a weekly spread for my Bullet Journal modification tonight. The number of Google images I’ve clicked through for “bullet journal” likely ends in hundred at this point. I just can’t help myself. I’m going all nerdy over this again.

Bullet Journal Week

Making lists is therapeutic. Recording a summary of my daily events helps me exhale at the end of the day: “You did things today, darlin’. You’re awesome, now go to bed!”

Organic Organization

As proud as I am of the way I’ve been able to digitally organize myself at work, the last month has shown me that my home life was in need of a much more tangible system. I wanted to use rulers and highlighters and pens and notebooks. I wanted to see color and handwriting and sketches. I loved the Bullet Journal system, but the suggested level of detail was too intense for my purposes. I wanted to chronicle my life, but not down to the most minute detail.

At the end of the experiment I realized I just wanted to upgrade my journaling style. In the process, I managed to ditch some unneeded apps on my iPhone and create a central hub for bringing my thoughts together at home.

I bought a Black n’ Red notebook at Office Max. No frills; I just wanted something with a hefty cover that could hold up well in my purse. So far, so good!

new-1

The monthly spreads are probably the biggest update in my journaling style. I don’t use these pages to keep track of my schedule. I just summarize the days, so I can see what I’ve been up to. It’s letting me connect my daily life with my thoughts and it’s giving me context so I can be patient with myself.

“You’ve had a big week, darlin’. Take a breath!”

I also have spreads (facing pages) dedicated to projects I’m working on. The tasks for the Legal Guardianship hearing didn’t feel so daunting once I outlined them neatly on a page. Instead of using check marks, I’ve been writing the date the tasks were actually completed. It’s nice to see a history of how long it actually takes me to go from one step to the next.

Legal Guardianship Project

Our older goddaughter has a birthday next month. I have a spread dedicated to planning that too. Oh, and the lists! So far I have one-page dedications for Books to Read, Financial Goals, Quotes, and Travel Plans.

There’s something so deliciously comforting about reaching for a book that’s covered in my own handwriting. It’s so personal! It’s what I’ve been missing. I believe I’ve successfully integrated an organic organization style with my journaling, and it’s giving me all kinds of warm fuzzies.

But What If…

anton petukhov | flickr.com

I had another appointment with my naturopath on Wednesday. We talked a bit about the stress I’ve been under because of the Legal Guardianship hearing and dealing with the girls’ dad. I mentioned that my job is a drag, but I’m afraid to do anything about it right now because we have so many balls in the air. It sounded like wisdom when I said it, but he challenged me. What if there’s a big open door I’m not walking through because I’m afraid?

I’ve been playing around with a business card design for years, literally. I first created the file in July 2012. Every so often I get asked about my side business, but I don’t have anything that I actually says I have one. So I determined to finalized the card design yesterday. Then I realized I would be a joke if I didn’t have a website on the card, so naturally, I designed and launched a website yesterday that describes who I am and what services I offer.

The next client question I needed to answer was, “How much is this gonna cost me?” It’s a key question that, obnoxiously, never seems to get answered on a website; like it’s a big secret you’re not allowed to know unless you talk to a salesman. It always feels underhanded and shady to me, so I determined to answer that question with some brainstorming and business planning.

I browsed other business consultant websites and read through example contracts. After a few hours I realized, at the rate I’m worth, I could replace my current job if I had four (4) clients per month. Really, just four? Yes, four. And since I already have a full-time job I can afford to be selective. I don’t have to bend over backwards to please the first schmuck that wants to hire me. I can say, “No, I don’t think it would be a good fit,” and not hurt for it.

The last piece of the puzzle I resolved was a complete business consultant agreement: my first “internal form.”

I’m beaming with pride a bit at the moment. These plans are for me… Finally! I’m putting muscle and skin on a bare-bones dream I’ve had for a long time. It’s exciting. Exhilarating, even! All it cost was some time, $26 to register my domain name with WordPress for the year and $19 to order the business cards.

I’m in business! Realizing that it’s not that hard was the biggest hurdle. Now I have something legitimate to follow-up on a conversation about my skills. All I have to do is watch for an open door.

Daughters Will Love Like You Do

Father and Daughter Dance by emanuelmelo | DeviantArt.com

May 19th is over. The judge approved the continuance, so I have a new date to wait for. June 30th. We were granted Temporary Guardianship until then. As promised in his barrage of harassing text messages over the last few weeks, the girls’ dad was there. It’s standard procedure for the judge to order visitation, but without a completed report she limited it considerably, thankfully. She told us to let him see the girls for one hour this afternoon.

I felt terrible springing the surprise visit on the girls right after they got out of school, but they took it in stride. We met him and his tag-along girlfriend (New Mommy choice) at a public place. Neither of them looked at us or spoke a word to us all day. We have housed and tutored and spoiled and loved those girls like our own children for two years, and he pretended we were invisible. Better than engaging in a fight, I guess, but really? In my mind, not looking someone in the eye just screams shame and guilt and cowardice.

One hour. Before we got there I told the girls if they were uncomfortable they could let me know by asking if I could get them some french fries. We sat in the booth next to theirs for one hour and listened to low voices. Thankfully, they were okay. No requests for french fries. I periodically poked my head around the corner to let the younger one know I was still right there.

The girls told me after that he told them a “funny” story about one time when the neighbor kids decided it would be fun to throw kitchen knives at a board on the floor. Then the game escalated and they thought it would be funny to throw knives at each other. Hysterical. “Where [the hell!] were the parents?” I asked one of the girls who was laughing, retelling the story. “Oh, they were drinking beer in the next room.”

You don’t have to have maternal feelings to see how screwed up that is. First, that he would tell them of that story as part of the “good ol’ days.” Second, that he encouraged the girls to think it was funny. Thirdly… do I need a third point? Every protective bone in my body is screaming.

Their mom, who we have a signed, private custody agreement with, said he was very harsh with them when they were little, which caused a lot of their early fights. “He would say or do something and I’d say no and stop it, then… yeah.” Her words.

She ran away from him once with the kids and he tracked her down by filing a bogus protection order. He knew that the court would require her to be personally served, so he gave the sheriff the address of a friend who knew where she was. The friend gave the address to the sheriff, and the proof of service that the asshole got back had the address where she was living, the battered women’s shelter. She was supposed to be safe there.

These are only a few examples of the dozens of stories I’ve heard about him over the years. Every fiber of my being says, “No! Stay away. You’re a liability. You abandoned them, by every legal and moral definition of the word. You should not be allowed to raise them just because your pride is hurt.” He had absolutely no expressed interest in having the girls live with him until he found out that we were seeking Legal Guardianship. Now suddenly he’s “Father of the Year,” come to right every wrong of the past by harassing the tar out of us, the court, and anyone else who might not agree with him.

He doesn’t understand that he’s only hurting everyone involved. The girls are happy, content, healthy, safe. They’re getting a stellar education. Both of them talk about going to college.

IN a 2010 study by researchers at the University of Chicago, only 6 percent of former foster youths had earned a two- or four-year degree by age 24. Those not in college may be in jail; 34 percent who had left foster care at age 17 or 18 reported being arrested by age 19. (New York Times, 2013)

Their dad checked himself into a mental hospital four years ago, told the staff there that the girls’ mother was dead, and he didn’t have any friends the girls could stay with while he was in a psyche hold. The truth was that he had filed another bogus, emergency police report to have their mother forcibly removed from the house two months prior, and Spike, his only friend, lived ten minutes down the road.

The girls went into foster care. After having multiple “no contact” orders issued against him for harassing the case workers, the foster parents, and the social workers, their dad moved across the country with a new girlfriend. Spike helped their mom find a place to live and get back on her feet. And she got them out of foster care.

Who the hell lets that happen to their children and still, four years later, doesn’t see how horrifying it was?

This is an ugly business. And I’m not an ugly person. God, show me justice. Please.

Blood [of Battle] is Thicker than Water [of the Womb]

droplettes by erupt | DeviantArt.com

Do you ever feel like you’re bleeding all over everyone?

I’m anxious about tomorrow. I’m desperately trying not to be, but the desperation is coming out in casually conversing with people about what we’re be up against. It’s not helping. I’m trying to make light of an issue that isn’t light. It isn’t casual. As soon as the gravity of the situation hits them, I watch them back-pedal, stop listening, and try to end the conversation.

“Oh, sorry! Did I get blood on your shoes? Sorry, let me see if I can clean that up for you. I can’t believe I bled on you. That’s so inconsiderate!”

Clearly, I need an outlet, and the world around me is proving to be a pathetic sounding board. I don’t know where to start, or if this is the right place, but I’ll be at the courthouse in less than twelve hours, and there are many many unknowns. I keep telling myself not to worry about tomorrow. It will bring enough trouble of its own. But I keep thinking there’s something I might be able to prepare for.

There isn’t.

I’ve filed all the paperwork. I’ve got all my copies ready to go. I even have court clothes picked out. Check. Check. Check! I’ve been working toward this day since last summer, and the most disheartening thing is that it won’t be over tomorrow. We might sit in the waiting room all. day. long. just to hear what we already know: the court investigator has filed a motion for a continuance.

We’re not related to the girls. Their parents live in two different states and have only had a half-dozen points of contacts with the girls in the last two years. Their father is a menace. Their mother has a hard time following-through. It’s complicated. A social worker was assigned to the case two weeks ago to complete the investigation and give their recommendation to the court. Social workers are busy. No surprise there. The investigation isn’t done. They haven’t even called us yet.

This level of stress doesn’t get a resolution tomorrow. It gets a pat on the head and told to keep waiting.

How the hell am I supposed to sleep?

“Praying that the court does what’s best for the girls.” It sounds encouraging doesn’t it? But when it’s delivered to me from a friend, it really feels under-handed. Her three natural-born children are sleeping soundly in their beds. No one is fighting to take them from her. She doesn’t know what this is like. She doesn’t understand what it feels like to have to convince a court of law that you’re a better parent than someone else. It’s not an argument I ever thought I’d be in, especially not with someone I’ve been trying to avoid since I was eleven years old.

I knew the girls’ dad when I was a kid. I kept my distance. Even then I knew his kind of instability was not something I wanted to be around. Talk about bleeding all over people. His insecurities and issues were out for the world to see at a very early age. My friends steered clear too, and now no one will listen to him. No one will take him seriously. No one will stand up for him. No one believes he’s right to fight us on this, not even his own mother.

She will be at the hearing tomorrow too. One, big, happy, dysfunctional, volatile family. God help us.

Fear of Words

Logophobia by Meggito | DeviantArt.com

I have words. I’ve locked them away for five years. After months of spewing my raw soul onto paper, I could only wait for time to pass. It was the only thing left to heal me. I’ve only read through some of those words once or twice since then, but each time it was too soon. The pain was still too near. The pages singed my emotions. I’m still waiting for the sting to cool, and I wonder each year if I’ll ever actually forget.

Then I battle the fear of forgetting. What if I need that strength? I was blind before. What if I lose the sight I’ve gained? It’s all I have to show for what I endured.

I battle the fear of ignorance. What people don’t know can hurt them, and it does, every day. Am I supposed to share my words? I have more than enough of them. The material is yellowing on my shelves. But it’s ugly and dark. People don’t want to know. There are many subjects that people bravely come forward to share here in the 21st century, but this isn’t one of them. This one is locked away in secrets and rumors and whispers and scandals. It’s locked away in pride and shame, only fit to be heard by a jury of peers.

I battle the fear of flippant disregard. “That’s intense,” I imagine the response, barely a complete sentence. More than anything I battle the fear of questions. I’m afraid of the doubt of others. I’m afraid of being misunderstood. I’m afraid my heart and motivations and decisions will be scrutinized and criticized. I survived the worst thing that ever happened to me. “But couldn’t you have survived it like this?” might be the question that leads to my ruin.

As a life-long people-pleaser, I’m know no one will be pleased by my story, least of all me. No one will sleep better at night. These stories need a voice, but I’m afraid I don’t have the courage to see it through.

I Am Their Guardian

Morning Coffee by wagn18 | DeviantArt.com

The house is still asleep, but I’ve already started the second load of this weekend’s laundry. The kitchen is returned to its neutral state, after carrying evidence of fun night with family. The ticket stubs from our night at the ball park are filed away with the rest of our memories. The kids’ excellent progress reports are signed and ready to go back to their teachers. The dates for field trips and activities are added to calendars from reminders in my in-basket. The couch is finally holding the last load of laundry from last weekend, neatly folded in four stacks. The dining room proudly displays a Lego Friends Dolphin Cruiser box, which one of the girls saved her own allowance to buy. My digital picture frame happily displays two years of snapshots from our many days of “Going on a venture!” as we like to say. My planner sits next to me, open to ideas about the next birthday party I’m planning.

From all accounts, I appear to be a mother. But I didn’t carry the little souls that rest peacefully down the hall from me. I mailed the Mother’s Day card they signed to another state last week. The recipient of that card is their mother. She is the one who entrusted them to us. She is the one they wish was there to hold them when they’re hurting. She is the one they miss on their birthdays.

I am the one that makes sure their school t-shirt is clean on the right day. I am the one that reminds them to brush their teeth. I am the one that takes them to volunteer at the animal shelter. I am the one that reads to them before bed.

I am their teacher, their counselor. I am their confidante. I am the one that attempts to make up for all the ways adults have let them down. I am the one that reassures them that they are not abandoned. I am the one that prays for positive, loving contact from their biological family. I am their defender, their protector.

I am their guardian.

If God is for Us

300 | Warner Bros.

Scripture says different things to me at different times in my life. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the eighth chapter of Romans, but today it reminded me that God is sovereign and He is with me.

… we are children of God

… the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 

… the Spirit helps us… For we do not know what to pray for… but the Spirit himself intercedes for us… And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit… And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose…

If God is for us, who can be against us? … Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us… (Romans 8:16-37)

Being falsely accused on the level that we have faced these past few days screams so much injustice in my face that it’s taking a tremendous amount of willpower to keep from being severely defensive.

It isn’t a simple misunderstanding that could be cleared up with a few clarifications. They’re pure lies – fictions without any basis in reality, meant to discredit us in the Legal Guardianship case. I’m afraid. No one who knows us believes the lies, but will the court believe it? God, let them have discernment. Let the facts speak.

“Faith, my love,” He whispers. “I have given you a shield of faith. Know that I Am with you. Know that I will win the battle. Believe that there is nothing to fear. I have called you to this purpose. I will work all things for good.”

“He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” (Psalm 37:6)

Sixteen days left. God, let it be over then. Please.

Better

Hugh Laurie – Dr Gregory House by xjorieke | DeviantArt.com

I went to see my naturopath last night. He said there’s a particularly nasty strain of stomach flu that hit our area last fall, and it sounds like I’ve caught the tail end of it. Unlike the 24 or 48-hour flu, this one likes to stick around until you fight back. He gave me a homeopathic detox remedy, a high-quality probiotic, and said to eat nothing but specifically white jasmine rice, baked or boiled chicken, and canned (not fresh) peaches, pears, and apricots for the next few days. In 15 years of practicing natural medicine, he said this homeopathic detox has never failed to cure the flu. No antibiotics? Needless to say I was skeptical, but by the time I went to bed last night I felt better.

Today marks three weeks since this bug first attacked me. Tonight I feel better still! Thank God! I even went to the store after work today. I’ve barely lifted a finger since I’ve been sick. It’s made me feel so useless and bored! I only picked up a few things, but it was nice to take care of something for the house.

I don’t know why I keep giving my “regular” doctor the chance to disappoint me. At this point, unless I need a limb re-attached, I’ve mostly given up all hope that U.S. medicine can effectively treat anything. Emergency medicine and surgery: unbelievable capabilities. Treating every-day health concerns: “Let’s cut something off, and pump you full of side-effect-causing drugs!”

“No, U.S. Medicine, you need to calm down!”

“But I went to school for 10 years and I’m in crippling debt! I need to blow this out of proportion, or else I need to not treat you at all, so there’s more time for the cases that can pay the bills.”

Am I wrong?

Mysterious Me

My Mystery Woman by SqueeBacon | DeviantArt.com

No, I’m not pregnant. Why does everyone keep asking me that? There’s no bouncing bundle of joy at the other end of this misery. I’m just sick, and I don’t know why. Any of these events could be triggering it, or it could be a perfect-storm combination:

  • Gut-wrenching stress from the looming legal guardianship hearing.
  • The round of antibiotics I took after having a tooth pulled last month.
  • Bacterial infection from visiting a national park a few weeks ago.
  • Bad diet finally catching up to me after having a cholecystectomy last year.

My labs came back negative for bacterial infection, so I don’t think it was the trip. All I know is I really miss food. I alternate between stomach cramps from being hungry and stomach cramps from eating the wrong thing. I’m going to see my naturopath tomorrow, and I think he may prescribe an elimination diet – cut everything out of my diet for a few weeks and then gradually add certain foods to see how my body responds. I started doing some research on the subject, and it’s not pretty.

MindBodyGreen.com says the elimination is no gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, fast food (duh!), or alcohol for 23 days. Oh, and it says, “Don’t freak out… it only takes a few extra minutes a day to prepare your food.” I don’t know what planet they’re living on, but cooking at home takes a hell of a lot longer than eating out, believe me. Anyway, I’m cutting fat, caffeine, sugar and corn as well. It doesn’t leave much to work with. As of tonight, this is the short list of ingredients that don’t appear to hurt me:

  • Quinoa
  • Lime Juice
  • Salt
  • Black Beans
  • Cilantro
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Almond Milk
  • Olive Oil
  • Chicken

I really miss coffee though. I haven’t had any since the first week I was sick. Spike kissed me after having a cup this morning and wish he would have lingered a bit longer so I could keep the aroma with me. I’d try decaf except I’m worried about the fact that coffee both contains acid and causes your stomach to create more acid, which I really don’t need at the moment.

If I eat the wrong thing, I’m out of commission for 12-18 hours. Hopefully I’ll get a longer list of food tomorrow. I started a food log today. (Trying not to beat myself up for taking so long with that epiphany. I think I’ve just been hoping this will go away on its own.)

I’ll Never Be 30 Again

65 by metal steffi | DeviantArt.com

I’ve been sick. I’ve missed four days of work over the past two weeks, and my insurance-paid, western medicine doctor doesn’t have a clue. “All tests normal,” he proudly reports. I should be grateful, right? Nothing wrong that they expected.

What about the unexpected? We’re not worried about that? Guess not. Do I have food allergies? Apparently that’s not a concern unless I’m rushed to the emergency room.

Okay, I’ll just keep eating tasteless food and drinking clear liquids and hope the stomach cramps stay away. And people wonder why I see a naturopath. Western medicine is so messed up sometimes.

I prescribed myself some probiotics. I have to do something. I miss coffee. I miss salsa.

A thought occurred to me last night that often occurs to me when I’m suffering: “I’ll never be this young again.” It sounds like a downer idea, but it actually puts a lot into perspective, and it’s oddly motivating. The longer I live, the harder an illness is likely to be. The longer my lifestyle lends itself to being physically sedentary and irresponsible with my diet, the longer it will take to fight off infections and viruses.

I feel old, and I don’t have to.

Please Stop Asking Me This Question

Infertility Awareness
Infertility Awareness

Someone asked me again this week if I was going to have children of my own. Actually, three people have asked me that in the last week and a half, and it’s making my head spin.

I think most of us can agree that it is socially unacceptable to ask a woman if she’s pregnant. She could simply be overweight. She may have had a baby recently. It’s a risky question, and highly capable of offending her, so we don’t ask. Somehow though, “Aren’t you going to try to get pregnant?” seems to be a free-range question. It’s just as personal, just as loaded, but the insensitive nature of that question is completely lost on a majority of the populace.

Did you know that up to one out of four pregnancies (yes, 25%) ends in miscarriage? Did you know that, about one in ten (yes, 10%) of women in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant?

Why don’t we have an Infertility Awareness Day? Oh, wait, we do! Actually, it’s National Infertility Awareness Week, and it starts tomorrow. (I doubt anyone is going to believe such a coincidence, but honestly, I didn’t know that when I started writing this.)

Here’s the thing: I understand the question is just idle curiosity. It rarely comes up during a deep conversation. It usually plants itself around the time I’ve finished discussing the weather with an old acquaintence. “Oh, so you’re raising your goddaughters. Are you going to have any of your own?”

Just like that.

It makes my heart drop and shrink and hide, but to save the person’s feelings and avoid an awkward situation, I smile and prattle about how nice it will be to be making great money with the kids already grown and moved out by the time I’m 40. That’s the story I tell, and then I listen to them tell me how great that sounds, as if they’re jealous. But it’s only half the truth.

The other half of the story is so saturated with pain and anguish and doubt, it has no place in the middle of light-hearted catch-up session. But it’s there, eating away at me while they finish telling me about their new boyfriend, or how they started a new job. It’s there while they tell me about how adorable their baby girl was when she asked about the moon. The pain is in the back of my throat. It stings my eyes, but I wait to cry until I get in the car to drive home.

Here’s the other thing: I’ve done a lot of emotional and mental work to be able to handle that question this well. I can go to baby showers now. I can be happy for a pregnant friend. I can hold babies without my uterus lurching. I can rejoice in finding another purpose.

But I didn’t choose this.

My mom recently brought me some things she found while she was cleaning out the attic. My favorite doll was in one of the boxes. “My baby!” I beamed. Some of you might remember the My Child dolls from the 80’s. She’s survived a lot of love since then, including “a hair trim,” a worn-through chin, and having to wear a new outfit that doesn’t quite fit. Along with my baby I got a shopping cart and a purse with play makeup, everything a four year old would need to pretent to be “Mommy.” I always wanted to be “Mommy.”

I experienced one of the happiest moments of my life when I watched my sister come into the world. To this day, her nickname is “Dolly.” She was my baby, my pride and joy, the love of my life. She still is. I looked forward to motherhood more than I ever hoped and dreamed of anything in my life.

I didn’t choose this. It’s taken a lot out of me to stop hoping and dreaming of children.

Please stop asking me if I’m planning to have any.

Ostrich Grunting

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Take That, Rosetta!”

Words are a force. If I could wake up tomorrow and be fluent in any language, it would be one that could incite government reform.

I don’t think I’ve ever discussed politics on my blog before. It makes me angry to even think about it. After I watched the presidential debate between Obama and McCain, I swore off following politics.

As an adult, I’ve never owned a TV, but I stopped reading the news then too. The smoke and mirrors made me sick with frustration, not just because of what they’re hiding, but because there’s nothing anyone could do about it.

The most well-meaning, moral, upstanding presidential candidate could never reform the country in just two terms. The bureaucratic nightmare waiting in Washington would never allow it. The nation needs a mediator, one that unites the people to demand reform, and one that can inspire the government to peaceably comply.

If I could speak the language that would accomplish all that, I would. Since I can’t, I’ll continue to to bury my head in the sand.

Reorganization Update

Simplicity by kuzy62 | DeviantArt.com

The reorganization of my over-abundant systems of organization is well underway. I hit a bit of a snag with all the synchronizing needed to compile an accurate task list and my calendar. I’ve nearly scrapped the whole thing a couple times because it seems more complicated than it should be, but there is something very powerful about breaking a task down into steps, which is what Toodledo can give me with Subtasks. I needs it in my life!

Here’s how the reorganization stands. I’ve technically added two systems, but they work together.

  1. ActionAgenda – Calendar & GTD by Appeople
    • Will be my go-to app on a day-to-day basis.
    • Links Tooledo with my Gmail calendar and iPhone Reminders
  2. Toodledo App – Task Organizer
    • I can actually add one-step tasks easily with ActionAgenda.
    • I’ll only need to access Toodledo if I’m working out steps for a project.

I’ve taken out six redundant systems:

  1. iPhone Reminders  – Personal Tasks
    • I can still use Siri to set tasks, but I won’t need to visit the separate iPhone Reminders app to view them anymore.
  2. Gmail Calendar – Personal
    • Replaced by ActionAgenda
  3. Thunderbird – Personal Email
    • Already knew this one needed to go.
  4. Evernote – Lists
    • Will create packing and grocery shopping tasks in Toodledo.
  5. Care4Today – Reminders for Supplements
    • Created recurring tasks in Toodledo.
  6. Chore Checklist App – Household Chores
    • Created recurring tasks in Toodledo.

I’m definitely keeping these three of the original eleven systems:

  1. Outlook Email, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks – Work
    • This system is as true as it can be to my INTJ work style. I’m going to keep it.
  2. Gmail Email, Contacts – Personal
    • It ain’t broke.
  3. Quicken Home & Business
    • There’s an app for this software on my phone. I can have all my accounts and transactions and budgets at my fingertips if I would simply devote some time to sorting out.

These two I’m still mulling over. I like them as resources, but I may simply transfer relevant data to Toodledo, rather than use them as a daily go-to apps:

  1. Goodreads – Reading List
    • Maybe I’ll just use it as a resource and keep my actual reading list in Toodledo.
  2. Pinterest – Inspiration
    • I have over 1,200 pins. The time involved in sorting them out seems like it would be ill-spent.
    • Maybe I could just keep that list of Pinterest-inspired tasks in Toodledo.

So the resolution for daily organization feels more like just four systems, a third of what I was using. Not bad, eh? I feel better already!

The proof is really in the pudding though. I’ve had a stupendously productive week so far and the alternating stress and apathy about getting things done seems to be leveling off to a good, mellow hum of focus and drive.

Chicken Wrangling and the Art of Caregiving

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: Mentor Me

In my third year of marriage my husband and I started going to a church that offered to match-up older couples with younger couples in the hope of sparking mentoring relationships between the wives and husbands. We met with the couple who were teachers and had three teenage kids. They were tall, both over six feet, and they towered over little five-foot-four me in stature and in wisdom. I was excited to get to know them. I’d never had a mentor before, and I was out of my depth to know how to be a good wife in the middle of dealing with infertility.

Vivian was a role model from the start. She cooked from scratch, she maintained a vegetable garden, and she kept chickens. She must have honed her no no-nonsense, get-to-the-point approach from her years in the classroom, but she was kind too. She lead much more than she pushed, but I didn’t find all that out until I moved in with her and her family.

My husband and I only met with our mentors once before a blind-siding day just before Christmas when the shit hit the fan and we separated. (Yes, this was my first husband.) Vivian’s family welcomed me with more than open arms. They asked me what color I liked and painted my room sage green to make it more my own. They invited me to eat dinner with them and watch “The Middle,” but they didn’t expect me to act like part of the family. They didn’t even ask me to pay rent.

I took care of their chickens while they were away one weekend, not very well. I didn’t “click” the door behind me when I went in to feed them and bunch of them got out. I swear, I was just like Link on Zelda’s Ocarina of Time trying to pick up chickens and throw them back in the pen. There I was, top of my class and I couldn’t figure out how to trap a bunch of flightless birds. It ended up being a lot more complicated than I though because, unlike Link, I couldn’t catch them!

The story of my chicken wrangling hour made everyone laugh. They needed to laugh, and I needed to hear it. I needed to know that I wouldn’t be a weepy wreck of a human being forever. And I wasn’t. Vivian and her family taught me that in the middle of a crisis, I could still be a functioning human being. I woke up early and went to the gym before work. I made pesto from scratch. I baked bread. And I cried as often as I needed to.

No one ever disturbed me when I was in my room. For three months it was my sanctuary. It was the time and place I needed to get a grip. Vivian taught me that sometimes people just need space to figure things out, and the most kind thing you can do for them is to invite them into a time and space that’s warm, welcoming, and nurturing.

Although they may not appreciate it at the time, that time and space should also have a light counter-weight of expectation. Notice I said counter-weight and not balance. Expectation is good for someone you’re caring for, but only as much as is needed to keep them from slipping away into depression. It should be enough to give them purpose, but not so much that they feel like they’re paying you back for your kindness.

I never felt indebted to Vivian and her family, which is possibly the greatest gift I ever received during that time of my life.

Debtor’s Dreaming

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Afloat.”

It must be eight years since I first picked up Dave Ramsey’s book: Total Money Makeover. It was apparent to me that I knew almost nothing about how to successfully manage my money. At 23, I was paying my bills, but I had debt and nothing saved for retirement. I read through Dave’s book, started listening to the Podcast of his radio show, and I started dreaming of what it would be like to be one of those people who screamed “Debt Free!” on Fridays.

A lot can happen in eight years. I wish I could say I met my debt-free goal in my 20s, but I’m actually staring down more debt in my near future. Not much has changed, except that now I have something saved for retirement. Dave wouldn’t approve. “Debt-free before retirement saving!” he preaches. I’m not following the plan, so I shouldn’t be entirely surprised that I haven’t met the goal.

One out of three people working in the US makes more money than I do. In fact, that third of the population is taking home 70% of the total US wages. I’m not exactly unhappy about it. It doesn’t cause me stress or anxiety. On the contrary, I feel abundantly blessed to have my bills paid and money in the bank! I even take two-day vacations occasionally.

But it would be nice to be more than just “Afloat.”

In Need of Defibrillation

Stick Mustache by juliagarriott | DeviantArt.com

I’m unfocused. I don’t really know how else to describe it. I have a hundred things I need and want to do and I can’t decide what the priority should be. So like any reasonable human being, I’m not going to do a thing.

That’s right; I’m just going to wait until something becomes important. Oddly, it actually causes less stress than attempting to be productive and being anxious that I’m working on the wrong thing, that my priorities are off.

Let’s see… how many lists and calendars and organization apps do I actually have and why?

  1. iPhone Reminders  – Personal Tasks
    • It’s awe-inspiring just how many things I remember to do while I’m driving! Usually it’s after I drop off the girls when I’m on my way to work.
    • Long-press the Home button and Siri takes voice dictation to create a reminder!
    • Reminders can be location-based (when I get home) or time-based (tomorrow morning) or generic (just added to the reminder list without notification).
  2. Outlook Email, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks – Work
    • Standard software at my office
  3. Gmail Email, Contacts, Calendar – Personal
    • It’s free, and it’s just where all this landed
    • Spike and I are able to sync and share the kids’ school calendar
  4. Quicken Home & Business
    • I’ve used this software for years and I love it!
    • Bill and income reminders
    • Online account reconciliation
    • Home business invoices and sales tax tracking
    • Tax preparation organization
    • Budgeting
    • Net worth tracking
  5. Thunderbird – Personal Email
    • I have it installed on my personal computer because Spike said I should check it out.
    • I probably don’t need it. I find myself logging on to Gmail much more often.
  6. Toodledo App – Experimenting Task Organizer
    • I absolutely need an app that I can update online or through a desktop app. I can’t imagine trying to maintain my crazy life all on my phone, but phone-access is definitely a requirement as well.
    • I looked at OmniFocus and Toodledo this week and decided to check out Toodledo first.
    • OmniFocus seems more robust, but I use a PC at home and at work. Toodledo has an online login; whereas OmniFocus (I think) needs a Mac to run the desktop software. I could be completely wrong about that, but that was my initial finding, so I went with Toodledo.
  7. Evernote – Lists
    • Packing lists for trips
    • Grocery lists
    • Recipes
  8. Care4Today – Reminders for Supplements
    • I’m taking a few different supplements right now.
    • This app tracks what you’re taking, how often you take it, and when you need to order more.
  9. Chore Checklist App – Household Chores
    • I found this awhile back and I really like it!
    • The problem is that it’s one more thing for me to maintain, so I don’t
  10. Goodreads – Reading List
    • Social media for books. Awesome!
    • I get to see what my friends are reading and recommend.
    • Keep track of what I’ve read, what I’m reading, and what I want to read.
    • It’s come in handy when I get into a reading kick and I’m not sure what to read next.
  11. Pinterest – Inspiration
    • Birthday ideas
    • Recipes
    • Cleaning tips
    • Home decorating ideas
    • Trip ideas
    • Share cute stuff with my sister
    • Minimizing tips (could probably take more of these to heart)

Seriously… ‘Merica. Where you can have so many options to keep yourself organized, you actually implode. It’s no wonder I don’t know what the hell I should be doing. This is disgraceful!

Logically, I should just move everything into Google, but there’s something very evil-overlord, control-my-whole-life scary about that thought, so I probably won’t.

I like the way Toodledo looks so far, but it’s going to take a lot of work to put everything in here, and there’s always a risk I’ll spend a lot of time on the system and then scrap the whole thing because it doesn’t accommodate a key ingredient to keep me organized. Still, it seems like it could consolidate a lot of the systems I have in place:

  • Tasks, Subtasks, Folders, Contexts, Goals, Due Dates, Repeating, Priorities, Task Import
  • Notes
  • Outlines by Category, Step by Step, Hierarchy, Planning
  • Lists for Personal, Home, Travel, Medical, etc.
  • Habit tracking for Exercise, Eating Habits, Household Chores, etc. Track as a check box, number, or star rating.
  • Online Login
  • iPhone App

I should just bite the bullet, but I have so many things I should be doing instead of re-organizing my life! Old problem – not likely to receive sympathy on that front, not even from myself.

Reorganize. Which list should I add that to?

Celebration of Life, Not Death

Warning: If you prefer to continue celebrating Easter as you always have, DO NOT READ THIS. I’m serious. This may completely ruin your day, especially if you’re a Christian. Read at your own risk of messing with your current paradigm.

I’ve been a Christian for 25 years. I grew up in the church, but I firmly established my own faith in God at a very young age. I heard a parable this past year that’s completely destroyed the idea of an “Easter Celebration.” I may not be telling it exactly as I originally heard it, but it goes something like this:

Imagine a family at home playing games when suddenly their home is invaded my a sadistic monster. He’s there to kill everyone, but the father somehow convinces the sociopath to leave his family alone. While the family watches, the father is tortured to within an inch of his life. To make it worse, the asshole tapes the whole thing and posts it on the internet. The father eventually recovers, but the video goes viral.

Now imagine this. To remind his family of how he sacrificed himself to save them, the family watches that viral video every year. And every year the father proudly stands by while they all weep and thank him for his benevolent endurance.

Now who’s the asshole?

Ever since I heard this, I’ve been completely horrified at the idea of attending an Easter service or, God forbid, an Easter production where they reenact the crucifixion. Ugh… and then to listen to someone say, “With every head bowed and every eye closed, is there anyone that wants to ask Jesus to come into your life?” My stomach is in knots just thinking of it. I think I’m going to be sick.

It’s the most twisted, manipulative, cruel and unusual way to “honor God” I can think of.

While I’m ruining Easter for you, let’s clarify a few things. The invader is not Satan. He has no power over God.  He is not God’s antithesis. He is a created being. He tempted Christ to sin, but that’s all he could do. God does not have an exact opposite. He is perfect Light, and there is no such thing as perfect Dark. Dark does not have qualities that are all its own. It is only the absence of Light.

Sin is the enemy: Any act of free will that violates the will of God… the will of Love. It separates us from God because God is perfect Love and cannot be in the presence of imperfect Love without obliterating it. The only way for God to defeat this enemy was to “become sin” – to exist in a world where sin separated the creation from the Creator and to die as a sinner would… but without ever having sinned.

This is the “Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time” C. S. Lewis illustrated so poetically in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

…when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.

The Table – the Stone Table in the story – represents the Law: The rules God explained to Moses so He, the Creator, could have relationship with his creation. When Christ died without sin, He defeated death and was resurrected. All that separated us from God was destroyed. No sin can keep Us apart. We are Whole again. We are Reconciled to the Creator.

But the world is fallen. Although sin is defeated, it still exists and all of creation is degraded by it. Until Christ returns to create a New Heaven and a New Earth, the Reconciled will have trouble. “But take heart,” Christ says, “I have overcome the world.”

I simply cannot liken this belief in God to the one of the benevolent asshole. They are so wholly different, that Easter has become a sickening reminder of how sadly we have chosen to show His creation how much He loves them.

So I’m having an Easter egg hunt with the kids today. Because it’s fun. I’m not going to stretch the truth and tell them we have eggs because it’s a symbol of the trinity. The plain and obvious truth is that eggs and rabbits are symbols of fertility, just like Christmas wreaths, and I like those too. I didn’t wake them up at five o’clock in the morning to attend a Sunrise Service, as if we’re worshipers of Ēostre – the goddess of the dawn.

I’m not going to celebrate Easter it by glorifying the crucifixion and telling people they should be grateful for it. Not any more. Easter is a celebration of fertility, not morbidity; it’s a celebration of Life, not Death.

Lack of Rumination

Bliss by elisadelatorre | DeviantArt.com

I’m almost hesitant to post this on April Fool’s, but since I loathe practical jokes (when they’re played on me), I’m going to pretend it’s yesterday, which is when I started considering this post.

I seem to be experiencing joy in my life. It’s a bit odd to make that observation so clinically, but I don’t know what else it could be. I say joy and not happiness because the last eight days have not passed without tears.

The weekend was harsh. Spike and I sat at our friends’ kitchen table late Saturday night, decompressing from the long day, playing games on our phones while the girls showered and got ready for bed. Our friends had already gone to bed, and it wasn’t long before my tears started hitting the table. Without a word, Spike got up and held me while I cried into his shoulder. I didn’t even have to explain. He watched me that day and knew my emotions were going to take a hit. Thank God for that man.

Since unpacking all my journals, I’ve taken some time to consider the content I typically wrote through my teenage years and my twenties. Every page seemed to be full of negativity and immaturity, which really was the purpose. I wrote to get the ruminating and lies out of my head and into the light where it could be burned up and refuted. I needed a safe place to “voice” my indignation and my eye-rolling thoughts. Unfortunately though, that’s most of what I have to show for those years; as if I was simply a wreck of a human being that needed to grow up. I recorded my shame and my stupidity and the moments when I was being unreasonable and illogical. My journals read like a pool filter full of bugs and weeds and grime. There isn’t much in the way of describing the finely-maintained pool itself.

Figuratively speaking, the pool expanded and contracted and suffered remodels and draining and re-filling. It’s gone from chemical cleaners to maintain its glistening appearance to natural, organic solutions. (I could really take off on this analogy.)

Spiritually, I am reborn. There wasn’t a date, time and place. There wasn’t even a change in religion. I simply journeyed from the world of Christ the Redeemer of Every Worthless Life to the world of Christ the Groom of God’s Perfect Bride. It was a gradual change from a world of guilt and condemnation to a world of compassion and grace.

But there is no mention of this transformation in what I’ve recorded until now. And that needs to change.

In the future I would like to look back through my thoughts and see the big events I lived through and goals I accomplished. I originally came across the Bullet Journal idea about a month ago and promptly lost interest in maintaining it. I over-committed: “Record all the things!” The reality is that I cannot maintain a system where I record every event and idea. It’s exhausting. I can’t keep up and I’ll just set myself up for failure if I set a goal to maintain that kind of system. However, I believe I can incorporate the idea of context:

  • What was my schedule like? How busy was I?
  • How much sleep was I getting? What was I eating?
  • What goals was I working on and how long did it take to meet them?
  • Which goals did I abandon and why?
  • What events had an effect on my outlook? What changes affected my mood?
  • How did prayer and meditation change the way I thought?

If I could go back in time and counsel my younger self, I would encourage her to consider the answers to these questions as often as possible.

I wonder how my life would change if I could. Would I experience fewer days of rumination?

Rumination is the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions.

Liebster Award

liebster-award

I would like to thank Hannah at To Knit or Knot for nominating me for the Liebster Award!

11 Questions. 11 Answers. Here are the questions for her nominees:

1. Do you have a favorite day of the week?

That would have to be Wednesday. For a couple years now, I have spent Wednesdays working from home. It’s the best way I have ever found to break-up the week. As a self-motivated introvert, I was so happy when my manager agreed. I get a lot more done from home without the interruption of people stopping by to see me throughout the day.

2. What is your favorite food?

I eat Mexican food most often, but if I had the money I would eat sushi all the time!

3. Are you an early bird or a night owl?

I’ve always been a night owl.

4. How did you decide on the name of your blog?

Semper Fidelis is Latin for “Always Faithful.” I wrote a post about it a couple months ago called Faith and Silence if you’d like to read the full story.

5. What is your favorite memory?

My first day at Washington State University. I very rarely take “selfies,” but I did that day. I stopped by the restroom on my way to my first class and caught sight of myself in a full-length mirror. In jeans and a t-shirt, I was radiant. I survived the darkest time of my life that year and I was moving on. I was embracing a new life. I was transformed. I’ve never felt more pride and compassion for myself as I did in that moment.

6. Would you rather listen to a song that you intensely loathe 10 times, or a song that you love all day?

I don’t mind listening to songs I like over and over again. I’d rather listen to a song I love all day. I don’t think there’s much risk I would grow tired of it.

7. Who is your best friend?

I have a few very close, dear friends, but I’ve known Christen the longest. I met her in 1992, the third grade. We’ve had many common interest over the years, but one I never would guessed we would share is that we are both raising children that are not our own. I have grown more profoundly grateful for her than ever these past two years. Being able to relate to someone about the struggles and triumphs of fostering children is a gift. The memories and trust we’ve developed over the 23 years we’ve known each other is a comfort beyond any words I can express.

8. Roses or Daisies?

I like a bouquet of roses as much as anyone, but in general I like expressions of love to be more permanent, which is why I usually dry them if I receive them. Daisies are happy little flowers, but I don’t mind that they fade. It isn’t as depressing to watch as a fading rose. I’d choose daisies if I had to.

9. What are three things that fill in the blank for you- “I love….”?

1) I love my husband. I would say I’m sorry for being so obvious, but I’m not sorry. He is my match, my soul… he is everything I never hoped to wish for. 2) I love my sister. She is the most kind, forgiving, joyful soul I have ever known.  3) I love my home. Last April we moved into the first house I’ve ever rented as an adult. We looked for months and I would have happily moved to several of the places we saw, but Spike always had something better in mind. We actually signed the lease on this house before I even saw the inside. He was sold on it, so I rightly assumed I would love it too. It was a risk, but I never felt like it was.

10. When is your favorite time of year?

Spring is my favorite time of year. Everything is green and it’s not too hot and it doesn’t get dark before I’m off work.

11. If you had to live on an island with only one food, what would that food be?

If it were earlier in the evening I would do some research on the food that provides the most well-rounded nutritional values. That’s my choice, intellectually, I would want the one food that would keep me the most healthy. Psychologically though, I would probably want the food that brought me the most comfort.

My Liebster Award Nominations:

Dizzy With Feet Planted

Wild Warrior Princess Mommy

Writing Through Tears

Life of a Journaler

My 11 Questions for the Nominees:

  1. Who would you want with you if you were stranded on a deserted island?
  2. If you could do anything you wanted right now, what would it be?
  3. If money was no object, what would you do all day?
  4. Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
  5. What is your favorite book?
  6. What is your biggest success up until now?
  7. What does your perfect day look like?
  8. What is the one thing that should be taught in school that isn’t already?
  9. If you were to create a piece of art, what would the subject be?
  10. If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
  11. How would your friends describe you?

I look forward to reading your answers!

Liebster Award Rules

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions that they set.
  3. Nominate others with less than 200 followers.
  4. Let them know about the nomination and the questions.

Cannot Quit

2015-03-23_1618

No, that’s not helpful. In what way could that be helpful? Seriously, Microsoft, these messages blow my mind sometimes.

I’ve been working on a project for over a year now and the data is too much for Excel to handle. It keeps crashing. I should just throw it all in Access, but I feel like Excel should be able to keep up. It’s only 2200 records!

A New Romance

I finished The Scarlet Thread yesterday. Spike came in while I was on the last few pages. “You don’t look like you love that book,” he smiled. I didn’t realize I was actually scowling. “It’s high fructose corn syrup Christianity,” I said, surprised at my own precisely accurate description. “It’s sickeningly sweet. And fake.”

I’ve already ranted about my issues with this book, but I can’t leave it alone. It isn’t in me to complain about the way things are without offering a solution.

I love classic romances. Wuthering Heights was actually the first novel I ever read, and I was hooked. I read a lot of Jannette Oke books when I was in junior high and high school too. I wonder if I would still love them, or if I would sense the same HFCS Christianity overtones now. Of course my romance reading had a heaping side helping of Disney princess movies. My mother was once warned not to let me watch Sleeping Beauty so much because it would warp my sense of true love. Luckily for me it came from her mother-in-law, whose advice she never took, so I continued to dress up and lie on top of my toy box, waiting for Prince Phillip. (He never came of course, but I loved to pretend.)

I’m still drawn to romances as an adult, but more in the form of TV shows and movies. Downton Abbey is my most recent favorite. It’s the perfect mix of romance and my other favorite genre: historical fiction. I’ve watched every movie and TV series I can get my hands on that’s based on a Jane Austen novel.

Is there a way to present romance that doesn’t send people screaming or set their eyes rolling? Could I write a better romance? I’m fairly certain I’m at least living a better romance than the one I just read, so that’s a start. I could tell my story. It’s full of heartache and tears and miracles. Would anyone read it? I know I would, which is really the most important part of writing anyway. I would have a lot of help from that bookshelf full of journals.

Culinary Ownership


I’ve had it pretty good the last few years. During our pre-marital counseling, Spike agreed to do all the grocery shopping and all the cooking. Nice, right? In exchange, I agreed to do all the cleaning and bookkeeping. It’s been a dream arrangement. I hate hated the grocery store and I can’t couldn’t stand cooking. The frustration of not being able to find things in the grocery store – no more. The hangry cleaning of the kitchen after work so I can cook dinner – never again!

I am grateful for the blessings of this arrangement. It’s worked seamlessly for many years now. My husband and I have lived up to our agreements. We’ve [actually] never fought over who should do the cooking, the cleaning, the grocery shopping, or the bookkeeping. We haven’t suffered any undercutting comments from each other about the lack of upkeep. We have been blissfully, happily married.

The unforeseen consequence of this arrangement is that I have completely relinquished all responsibility for what I consume. If Spike doesn’t cook, we eat out. I don’t care what I eat. I’m entitled to my mashed potatoes. I deserve my brownies. I needs the cheesy garlic breads. When your serotonin is at a level to barely keep you functional, carbohydrates are the savior you clamor for.

But I am happily changed, and I have taken ownership of what I consume. I am more aware of what I eat. I am selective. I have [some] self-control. And I want to cook. God help me. I want to cook.

Spike started school in January. Since then our meals have taken an understandable hit. We’ve eaten out a lot more often. Although I’ve gotten better about the food I order when I go out, it still isn’t great. Although my serotonin-boosting “brain pills” (as I call them) are helping, I still need some help in eating healthy.

I discovered emeals.com many years ago. Seriously, for five dollars a month, I don’t know why everyone and their mother isn’t subscribed to this site. It offers a wide range of meal plans as PDFs that come out every week (which I saved when I was subscribed to the site). It gives you recipes and a shopping list for a week’s worth of meals. For all the planning and brain power it saves, I don’t know how I would manage to takeover meal planning without it.

This morning I went to the grocery store for the first time in [actual] years. I spent two hours making sure everything on my list was carefully selected. I purchased and bagged my items and I brought home my kill with all the pride of a successful hunter.

I prepped a spicy beef flank steak this afternoon (which Spike grilled this evening) and a side of radish slaw. We “beefed up” the slaw with some fresh Red Russian Kale, arugula, mache, and curly endive clippings from Spike’s aquaponics garden. It was delicious. The steak was more spicy than I expected, but it was still fantastic!

emeals.com
emeals.com

Also, I might be cartoon-drunk now [read: literally hiccuping and drunk] from celebrating my success. We bought a growler of award-winning, amazing beer on our wine road trip, and I may or may not have tried to finish it off single-handedly after the girls went to bed. Single… glassedly? I don’t know. Hope you enjoyed this. Mrs. Spike needs her bed now.

Three Gold Stars

I had an amazing appointment with my naturopath yesterday. Let’s start off with the fact that he gave me a homeopathic remedy for my allergies that blew my socks off (or my nose out? that’s gross). He gave me the little bottle at the beginning of the appointment. My ears were itching, throat was raspy, and eyes were watering. A dropper-full of that formula and half-way through the appointment, I felt 90% better! He said continued use will make even more effective. Signed up for that!

After talking about the life changes I’ve experienced over the last few months he said he was going to do something he’s only done a handful of times in the last ten years of his practice.

He gave me three gold stars.

Three Gold Stars  |  Earned March 20, 2015
Three Gold Stars | Earned March 20, 2015

It sounds like a ridiculous, juvenile reward, but he was so proud to give them to me! I was just as proud to receive them.

The first star was for the fact that I admitted to needing help. I didn’t accept that clinical depression was simply my lot in life, as it is in my lives of my family members, and I should just get used to the idea. I didn’t throw in the towel and continue to watch myself slide deeper into depression and malnutrition and obesity.

The second star was for recognizing the unforgiveness in my life and not brushing it off as something that didn’t affect me. He said many Christians may see that forgiveness is needed, but they only pay it lip service. “I’m saved. I’ve forgiven. It’s done,” but when they’re in the same room with the person they “forgave” or they hear their voice, their physical reaction gives away their insincerity. Their hearts pound, their eyes narrow, their chests tense. They may have spoken the “magic words,” but their spirit is still starving for forgiveness, and their body is paying the price.

The third gold star was for taking steps to alter the course of my life. Three months ago I had barely enough weepy motivation to get through the day. Today I’m waiting on an acceptance letter to a university to finish my bachelor’s degree, I have a hearing date to gain Legal Guardianship of my goddaughters, I’m on the warpath to make a career move, and I’ve naturally stopped overeating (which, I don’t think I’ve mentioned before).

My heart sings more sincerely. I am transformed. I am mighty.

Three gold stars, justly won.

I stand quietly

This is wonderful!

Dirty, Naked & Happy

I stand quietly while you do somersaults on the bed as you aren’t being naughty, you are just trying to get your out of sync body under control.

I stand quietly by the toilet door every time you need to go, and come with you around the house, and sometimes even just across the room, because I know you can feel truly frightened when you are not near me.

I stand quietly at the supermarket checkout while everyone stares at you barking like a dog and blowing raspberries on my arms to cope with the buzzing lights.

I stand quietly while you tell the baffled shop owner that you are looking for shoes that feel hard like splintered wood because your skin can’t bear soft things.

I stand quietly when the attendant gives us scornful looks when I ask for the key to the disabled toilet because the hand dryer…

View original post 800 more words

Idiot Frankenstein

So I’m in a bad mood lately. You know when someone quits their job but keeps showing up? That’s how I’m feeling this week. I’ve had too many knock-downs to have any motivation or inspiration to continue to do my job well. I’m operating on bare-minimum effort, which honestly makes me ill. It’s not who I am, but it seems to be how my company prefers their employees to be: sedated by frustration to the point of pure apathy. What the hell am I doing there? It’s sucking my soul dry.

Not always. After four years, though, you would think my days of pulling teeth to push an inspiring notion would be over. You would think they would just go with it!

Young Frankenstein (1974)

I feel like Dr. Frankenstein, electrifying a corpse and then, like an idiot, believing it’s alive! But the damn thing keeps dying and my resources are burnt-out and all I have to show for my efforts is the smell of fried, putrefied flesh.

That was graphic. I guess I finally have an accurate description of how I feel about corporate America.

Blogging Space

Annotated Home Space
Annotated Blog Space

I was clicking around tonight and found this lovely blog with a nifty idea to describe the space I use to do all my bloggy things. My space is not nearly as adorable as Abbie’s. In fact, it’s pretty sparse, but it’s me.

The desk came free after a recent office move. I thought Spike was going to disown me when I won the drawing and asked him to pick it up. “How big is it!?”

“It’s only six-by-four [feet]. It’ll fit in the living room.”

We literally had to donate one of our [three, old, busted] couches, but it fits quite nicely now! And our older goddaughter inherited my old desk, which she needed, so really everyone won. Except Spike. I’m pretty sure he still holds a grudge against this desk. It’s solid oak and probably weighs 500 pounds. It’s a miracle it didn’t crush him and our neighbor when they moved it into the house.

We don’t have a TV or game console. The four of us just have our computers for doing work, school, TV shows, movies etc. Spike’s computer has a larger monitor we gather around if we’re going to watch a movie together. My desk is, by far, the biggest though. I would feel bad… but I don’t. I work from home one day a week, so I justify it but saying it makes us money. I’m not wrong.

Now I’m curious. What does your space look like?

Women, Respect Your Men

I didn’t mean for this to get so out of hand, but apparently I have an opinion about this.


 

I woke up, wide-awake, at 6:00 this morning. I made some coffee and cleaned the kitchen. Spike came out and joined me at about 6:30. He usually gets up about that time, but he doesn’t usually speak. I don’t either, but I was somewhat chatty this morning, talking about the book my friends and I are reading: The Scarlet Thread. I like Francine Rivers, especially Redeeming Love, but I’m having a hard time with this one. It’s 300 pages of terrible marriage followed by 75 pages of all you need is Jesus. I’m not knocking the power of Christ, but really? The heroine has a revelation that she’s been a bitch and her marriage gets to go back to normal after all the horrifying things she slung at him for three years? I don’t buy it. I guess that’s why it’s a romance: a completely unrealistic portrayal of real life.

If I sound pessimistic, I am. Marriage might be able to recover from that kind of communication breakdown. Anything is possible, but I’m passed the point of encouraging anyone to think they will be the exception to the rule. You cannot disrespect your husband and expect to stay happily married. You cannot dump on his dreams and his goals and his vision and his desire to provide and protect and expect him to lovingly wrap you in his arms. You can have one or the other. Your husband is not a robot. He hears the shit you say and he isn’t likely to forget it!

I am speaking from a position of judgment and observation and also from first-hand experience. I don’t speak in absolutes very often, but I am absolutely convinced of this. The moment a wife turns down a path of disrespect for her husband, it marks the start of her journey toward divorce. Sometimes the loss of respect is warranted, but if she cannot regain it, the marriage is doomed.

If you haven’t read Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, I would highly recommend you do before you even think about marriage, especially if you’re a woman. Our culture trains boys to love their mothers and their girlfriends and their wives. It puts the pressure on them to buy flowers and sign greeting cards and be sappy in order to let women know they’re loved. But the other side of that equation is what the man gets out of it. Men want to be loved, of course, but never as much as they need to be respected. A man needs to know he’s respected more than anything, and our culture does a piss-poor job at showing women how to do that.

The traditional father figure in Modern Family is a joke. The guy that tried to stay married and have kids in Friends is a joke. Women who manipulate and condescend and judge and harp are heroes in the media! Voicing your opinion and putting a man in his place is heralded as a sign of a strong and independent woman – but she is not likely to make a relationship last.

Hear my heart, women – you probably don’t have any idea what kind of damage you’re doing. Until reading this, you have been innocent and oblivious of your crimes against men. But I have to say it, because our men never will. The don’t dare. The moment they say they need respect we will nail them to the wall as chauvinist pigs. They know we will, so they suffer in silence. They absorb every emasculating comment and tone and spirit because they love us. God help them, they love us! Do your part, and respect them! If you do not or cannot respect them, for God’s sake, don’t marry them in the first place.

[End ranting and raving.]

60 Days

Someday my pain by Helen-Carter | DeviantArt.com

I woke up at 4:00 this morning with the most wretched pain in the middle of my torso. I was having trouble breathing it hurt so much. I didn’t know if I was having a panic attack, a heart attack, or some crazy bout with indigestion. Lying down made it worse, so I went with indigestion and didn’t call for an ambulance. God it hurt though. I broke out in a cold sweat twice. My neck and back were locked-up in pain. It took effort to calm my breathing and drink some water, but eventually the pain subsided. I emailed work and told them I was calling out for the day though. There was no way was I going to power through the workday with that kind of night behind me. I was afraid to lie down though, so I pulled my nightstand close to the bed and slept slouched over it for a couple hours.

I guess that’s what I get for taking a dose of one of those pain killers I was prescribed after my dental work on Friday. My mouth was throbbing last night, so I took one – ONE – The only one I’ve taken since Friday. I probably would have gone to the ER this morning, except that this has happened before. The last time I took pain killers I nearly blacked-out at work. Spike came and took me to the hospital. We thought I was having some kind of allergic reaction, but it was just dehydration and hyperventilation. My blood pressure is pretty low as a rule, so apparently if I add dehydration and narcotics to that, I’m a bit of a pansy and can’t do things like breathe real well and stand upright. Awesome.

Spike was really sweet this morning though. He stayed up with me and rubbed my back and made sure I was okay. He took the girls to school and let me sleep. He checked in with me periodically throughout the day too. I think it freaks out most husbands to see their wives in pain. Not being able to do anything about it must be debilitating. It’s no picnic for wives either. Staring into the puppy dog eyes of your husband when your body is hurting gives you a terrible heartache on top of it all.

I slept until almost 11:00 after waking up a few times from my arms and legs alternating between falling asleep and being rearranged in my slouched-over position. I stayed fuzzy through most of the day, maybe from the dose of narcotics, maybe from lack of coffee, but I took advantage of the sick day – a free weekday – and got some paperwork filed with the court. We’ll have our Legal Guardianship hearing for the girls in 60 days. Events from this past weekend have made the step necessary. We’ve been talking about it for a long time, but we didn’t want to rock the boat with the girls’ family. But boat-rocking be damned, it’s time. It’ll be two years in July since they came to live with us, and with both their parents living out of state, the girls simply don’t have the legal protection they need from the private custody agreement we have with their mom.

Their dad isn’t going to make it easy though. He’s made that very plain. This morning could have been a panic attack just from the possibility of facing him in court. He can’t win, but he can make our lives hell in the process. My vehement prayer is that he simply won’t show up, that he will fold and walk away like he always has and will leave us all in peace. I hesitate to write any of this because I know everyone has their own idea about legal proceedings and child custody battles and parental rights, and I’m not going to defend our case here. Don’t be surprised if I delete your discouraging remarks. [This is not an equal-opportunity-to-take-a-shot-at-me blog.]

Those who believe in me, please pray for us. It’s going to be a very long 60 days, and it may be longer still. I need my body and my mind and my emotions to hold up under the pressure. I’m finding it hard to have courage. I’m afraid of failing this process. I have no reason to be afraid. Our case is solid, but where children’s lives are at stake, there will always a mother-bear raging fear that will blindly tear anyone apart that dares to threaten them.

Medal of Fairness

It seems like I haven’t written in a long time. I guess it’s only been six days, but I’ve missed it. This past week was a bit of a torrent. I went on a short business trip to train the staff at our satellite office on Wednesday and Thursday. I received so much negative feedback about our procedures from the two new staff there, I left feeling like I’d been whipped.

From the moment I walked into my first position there four years ago, I’ve worked painstakingly to resolve the glaringly obvious deficiencies in the office processes. I excelled in everything I did and finally gained the trust of the staff in the main office. It wasn’t without effort. I nearly quit. More than once. Fighting against office politics was not in my skill set when I started. “Pick your battles,” became a phrase I hated to hear.

Now I have power. A lot of power for someone still so new to the forty-year-old company. I have changed a multitude of procedures and personally invested hundreds of hours in training the staff.

But new blood brings new criticism. They don’t know where we were four years ago. They have no idea how far we’ve come. Their threshold for change hasn’t had a chance to break. But they want me to push the envelope. It’s understandable, but it doesn’t make their suggestions any less demoralizing.

I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink on Friday. I have a somewhat rare case of agenesis of permanent teeth. I didn’t know it had a name until I did a few minutes of internet research this morning. Until Friday, I still had my two lower primary molars – baby teeth. Neither of them have permanent teeth under them. My mom had the same thing, but just one. She held on to that little tooth until she was in her forties, but one of mine started giving me trouble several weeks ago. It took time to hear back from my dental insurance on the pre-authorization for the implant, which they didn’t give. They only agreed to cover part of the extraction and anesthesia, which wasn’t even 15% of the total bill. I ended up having to foot the bill for the implant myself. So we’re in debt for the next year to pay that off. Thankfully it’s interest-free, unless we don’t pay it off in 12 months, then the interest rate jumps to 28%! Ouch. Usury much?

But back to the mandatory fasting. Since I was going under general anesthesia, I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink beforehand. Usually it isn’t an issue because they schedule the procedures in the morning, but my appointment wasn’t until 3:00 in the afternoon. Without coffee, I got to go to work, preside over a training hour with the staff. Without breakfast or lunch, I got to debrief my VP on the two-day training trip and convince the CFO’s son to talk his mother down from giving our satellite office a tongue-lashing for something stupid they did (but not that stupid considering how green they are). Two days of hearing nothing but bitching from that office and I sat there defending them. I should get some kind of medal for fairness. Seriously. The last email that I read before I left for my appointment was more feedback from the satellite office that the morning training “wasn’t good.” I didn’t even read the whole thing. I couldn’t stomach it.

My day didn’t get any better when I got to the oral surgeon’s office, but I’ve lost the will to complain about it now. I’m only surprised they prepped me as much as they did for all the pain I would be in. The last couple days hasn’t required the use of any of the massive painkillers I was prescribed. I’ve taken some ibuprofen and the prescription antibiotics, but nothing else. I’m in a bit of a fog from the unexpected heat today and the whirlwind of the week I had, but I guess I’m fine otherwise.

The Game of Productive Thrones

Daenerys Targaryen by the ComicKid | DeviantArt.com

I might have gone a little overboard on the productivity today, but maybe I didn’t. Maybe I’m just finally seeing the kind of person I am. Do I always get this much stuff done? Probably not, but I don’t feel like I’ve crossed over a hyper-productive threshold. I’ve been this productive before, but I don’t think it was ever this satisfying.

We had a bit of a terrible car day, but Spike handled most all of it while I was at work, so it didn’t phase me too much. I had to reschedule my appointment to take the English Placement Test at the school I’m transferring to in the fall, but that was easy enough.

Goodness. I say “in the fall,” like it’s a long way out, but August is only five months away. I have three colors in my Bullet Journal for work, school, and personal items. It will be interesting to see how they all interact when they’re in full force! That is, if this new-found glory continues to inspire me. I tend to go overboard when I find something new like this and then eventually abandon it; not because I’ve necessarily found something better, but because I get bored with maintaining it.

One thing I haven’t gotten bored with is my email clearing system, which has stayed virtually the same since January 2013 when we finally upgraded Outlook at work. It keeps me organized, on-task, allows my priorities to shift at a moment’s notice, and allows me to find reference material quickly. It’s nothing especially profound. I’m just utilizing what Outlook offers in the way of categories, priority flags, tasks, and calendars. Bullet Journal is just tracking the major blocks of time.

I wish I could think of anything else to talk about, so I’m going to blame the time change for my sudden sleepiness and head to bed.

Introvert Retreat

by jayfley | DeviantArt.com

Spike and I got back from our third (my fifth) annual trip to wine barrel tasting in Northern California this afternoon. As an introvert this trip is, by far, the most outside the box thing I do all year. I retreat from my introverted tendencies and do things like sing in public, take pictures with strangers, drink and make friends with people I’ve never met before, introduce wine road newbies to wine road veterans, make people laugh, and strike up conversations with wine connoisseurs. It’s a stretch, but I must say, I perform quite masterfully each time I go, further proof that introversion does not equate to social retardation.

One of my favorite things to do is teach the wine babies how to eat chocolate and drink wine to get the full taste of both. It was the very first thing I learned to do on my first trip five years ago and it made me fall in love with both Petit Sirah and dark chocolate truffles. It’s quite simple, really: Take a sip of wine, then take a bite of chocolate. Chew the chocolate until it’s about three-quarters gone and then take a another sip of wine with the last quarter of the chocolate still in your mouth. I never knew my taste buds could be so happy.

[Side laugh, anticipating comments: “Instructions unclear. Snorted wine through chocolate straw.”]

It’s really the only time during the year that we buy nice wine, so we make the few bottles we do buy last through our birthdays and anniversary and special occasions the best we can. The trip is only a few days long, and we go with a group of twenty to (one year) forty people. Of course, I love when the group is smaller and more intimate. There are always people I haven’t met before and several I have. I joked this year that they’ve become my wine road family. I’ve actually seen some people on that trip more in the last five years than my own extended family in the last fifteen years.

Thank God I married an introvert. We had a few good, intimate conversations on our way home today, but most our time in the car was spent in complete silence. After all the noisy rooms and loud talking and laughing, we became each other’s sanctuary, refueling from our hiatus from introversion. Without him, the trip would lack the depth I crave from my experiences. There might have been three or four obvious introverts on the trip other than us, but they didn’t socialize much, understandably. From my own experience and my observations of others, travel-size relationships aren’t very appealing to introverts; unless you want to tell us your life story. Then maybe we could be friends.

I added mood tags to my Bullet Journal, by the way, which really just makes sense. Making connections between the days events and my reactions to those events is what journaling is supposed to be all about.

Bullet Journal
Bullet Journal

The Mother Ship

Oh. My. Gawd. It’s been a long time since I went completely geek-crazy, and this time I’ve gone off the reservation. I stumbled across this blog post last night and ended up watching videos and making my own Bullet Journal until the wee hours of the morning.

IMG_0347
Original Key

Not only that, I but I spent a good hour and a half making another draft at work today:

 

IMG_0349
Work Day Spread

I think blogging may be giving me a too-high opinion of my daily accomplishments. When I first started reading daily blogs, my first reaction was that they seemed over-detailed, but now I wish I had something of my own to reflect on my day-in-day-out life. I love the idea of combining all my analog journeys into one cohesive piece. I’ve kept journals my whole life, but I’ve never had any context (nearby) for my meltdowns – which there were many – or my triumphs – few as I’ve recorded.

I want to see more positivity in my writing, and I can think of no better way to show myself something positive than to fill of a page full of “Shit got done!” I’ve tried and abandoned dozens of ideas over the years, but this one seems more powerful. It fits me already – my way of thinking; and it gives me something I’ve been wanting – a holistic, integrated outlet. I have work and I have home, but INTJ and INFJ never get to meet; not on paper, not on email, not on my blog. My two halves want to come together, but neither wants to disappear.

Then tonight my twenty-first century, nerd-self finally caught up with me and decided all the writing and re-writing to migrate tasks was a waste of time, and remembered OneNote with all its Tags… and my brain exploded.

OneNote Tag Heaven

Then finally the pièce de résistance of my little journey toward a better life: The Tags Summary Page

 

Boom. I’m not even embarrassed that you can see I skipped lunch and had Taco Bell for dinner to make time for all this. I still can’t believe I skipped lunch, though – fasted – like a monk on a spirit walk (do they do that?) to go completely AWOL on this idea. I guess I found that post at the right time, right place, and in the span of twenty-four hours, I’ve made it mine forever! *Evil Laugh*

Okay, I’m done.

 

One Step Program

Rather than attack my whole house at once, I’ve decided to take a gradual approach toward minimalism. I’ve never been a hoarder, but I’ve come to wonder just how much less I could have and still function. It’s kind of a game, and I’m still working on getting better at it. I’m okay with it taking some time to build up the discipline. I don’t want to get rid of everything and then wish I hadn’t. I want to gladly give it up and stick with what’s left.

So I minimize one step at a time. For example, my bathroom drawer was not my favorite thing to wake up to every day. I just want my gray eye shadow. Where the heck is it? (I’ll give you a gold star if you can find it.)

Bathroom Drawer Before

 

I spent $3 at the Dollar Tree for a few simple, wire baskets:

IMG_0341
Plastic Coated Wire Drawer Organizers

 

Then I spent about 10 minutes purging and putting away and voila! My mornings are much more pleasant now. Organized Me is much more satisfied with this arrangement. Minimalist Me sees room for improvement, but I’ll get there. I’ve had a steady stream of items make their way to the garbage or the thrift store over the last several months, so I’m not worried.

 

IMG_0342
Organization for the Win!

 

The whole basket of additional cosmetics in the top right is probably the next thing to go. Day-to-day, I really only use the five items in the middle: foundation, eye shadow, eye liner, mascara, blush. One of the best thing I ever discovered, though, was that silver ring in the top left for my hair ties. I think it came with a bunch I bought once and I’ve held on to that thing for dear life. I hold on to so many more hair ties than I use to! Now they only disappear if I break them on my inch-and-a-half-thick ponytail and have to throw them away.

My minimalism is really still getting to know me. It’s new, but it seems to be getting along with my quirks and habits. Five to ten minutes on teeth, hair and makeup and five to ten minutes getting dressed is my morning routine. I can literally roll out of bed at 7:25 and be ready to take the girls to school by 7:45. I shower at night because getting into bed, covered in a day’s worth of makeup and pollution, kinda grosses me out. It saves me a good 30 minutes in the morning, which is nice. (Also, the shower is much too noisy and active to be a morning activity, especially when you consider the need for a hair dryer. I need more peace and quiet and stillness before my first cup of coffee.) I actually started the habit growing up in a family of six. Seriously, if yer not first, yer last! I got sick of trying to beat everyone to the hot water, so I gave up and formed a new habit.

That’s all for me tonight. Hopefully I’ve lived up to my newly awarded title. What are you going to minimize?

 

 

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Fake internet points! Yay me!! Spike is jealous, probably. Although he did just beat his brother to 300K people on SimCity Build It, so he’s got that going for him. I gave up because he built up double my population in half the amount of time. I’m not particularly competitive when I get completely blown out of the water. I just give up; not the type to focus on my weaknesses. I’m proudly better at other things! (We won’t talk about all the ways Spike is better than me here. I’m supposed to be enjoying my fake internet points, after all.)

Many Thanks

Thanks are certainly in order to Warrior Freya for being truly awesome and for nominating me for this award. Also, many thanks to her blog that inspires me to write as often as I can.

Seven Facts About Me:

  1. I had a serious dream of being a mermaid when I was a girl. I spent hours in my friend’s pool, even after all the other kids had gone inside, pretending to play with the sea people. Their pool was kept clean with salt instead of chlorine, which only added depth to the fantasy. I loved the movie Splash. You’d think Little Mermaid, but no – Splash was what did it for me. (I thought the the Little Mermaid was a stupid, disrespectful little wench actually.) I watched Ondine awhile back and it revived all those old, girly pretending hours.
  2. I’m intrigued by the idea of urban exploration. I took a nature writing class awhile back and it popped up as one of the topics. I had never heard about it before, but it inspired so much freedom to imagine as an adult. I was blown away at the invitation to dream and make up stories and play like I did when my parents left the refrigerator box in the back yard. Those abandoned places are a blank slate to dream. If it weren’t for my respect for private property, I would probably make a regular habit of breaking into abandoned buildings and writing stories about the people I could imagine who spent their lives there.
  3. My favorite zoo animal is the orangutan. I could watch them for hours! Their eyes are so precious.
  4. I’ve never been arrested or broken a bone. I’m not sure if those are related, but I’ll pair them up. Sure.
  5. I was in a fashion show at a hotel when I was four years old. I wore a yellow shirt, blue shorts, and a yellow ribbon in my hair. I also wore a fanny-pack type thing that was a actually stuffed bear wearing a backpack that you clipped around your waist. They let me keep the clothes and the accessory. I loved that thing till its stuffing came out.
  6. I have exactly three ex’s: one ex-boyfriend, one ex-fiance, and one ex-husband. It makes it easy to tell stories.
  7. I am still amazed at the Word Press community and their encouragement toward each other. It’s a lovely, lovely thing and I’m truly honored to be followed by people who inspire me to bravely be exactly who I am. I’m a firm believer in word-of-mouth referrals and this seems as good a way as any to find new, recommended blogs. Congratulations to my nominees! I sing your praises as often as I can. You have become a part of my life by sharing your thoughts, and I consider myself truly blessed to know you the way I do.

And my Nominees for Very Inspiring Blogger are:

  1. This is My Design
  2. What I Like to Do by Steve
  3. Authentically Aurora
  4. Christian INTP
  5. I Refuse to Follow Your Blog
  6. Surpassing the Odds
  7. INFJ Ramblings
  8. Ben’s Bitter Blog
  9. Becoming Minimalist
  10. Streams of Conscious Thoughts
  11. Adventures Alone
  12. The Minnie Path
  13. See, There’s This Thing Called Biology…
  14. Aging Introvert
  15. Blissful Britt

The Rules

  • Post the award on your blog
  • Thank your nominator because they’re awesome
  • List 7 facts about yourself
  • Nominate 15 other blogs for their awesomeness
  • Post the rules so people know them

Mama Spike

Architect: Ricardo Bofill | San Just Desvern, Spain

Spike showed me pictures like this one awhile back and I went completely Pinterest-nuts over finding everything I could on converted warehouses. I love this like I love my own soul. It reminds me of how I designed our wedding invitations. We only invited about 40 people, so we only had to make a couple dozen invitations. And they were awesome. I had the invitation printed on metal and then I wrapped each one in satin and ribbon. It matched us perfectly: Spike the metal worker, and me the lover of soft and delicate things.

A home like this would fits us like nothing else would. We’ve considered the tiny house idea, but as introverts, we need more space between people. The more space the better, really. We need a fortress of solitude (yes, like Superman). We’re homebodies, so why shouldn’t our home be a castle?

I adore the white linens and white stairs. People think it’s hard to keep clean, but have you ever tried to keep dark colors looking crisp? The moment there’s a spec of dust, it looks shabby. White is easy to match too. White towels, white bed sheets, white drapes. It looks so clean and fresh! I don’t know if I could do the white couches and chairs though. I don’t think people would be as likely to feel relaxed if they think they’re going to mess up my furniture, including me.

I could never live in a home like this with just one or a few other people. But what if we were Fostering? We’ve talked about being Foster parents before. Spike even became a approved Foster parent in another state to get our girls out of the system before we were married. My eyes have sparkled to think of taking kids out of the system who are about to age-out; to give them a place to finally feel safe and accepted and supported.

And what if I was an MBA and Spike was a mechanical engineer, which is the path we’re on now? We could offer the world to those kids. They might not take it. They might hate us for trying. But some might latch on to the opportunities. Some might come alive to see how their life could be. We could teach them mechanics, bookkeeping, customer service skills, and even just basic life skills to give them a handle on being full-fledged adults.

Of course, this all sounds so easy in a dream, but it feels like a dream that’s been building since I was first told I would never have children of my own – ten years ago. There’s that number again. Ten. That same year a woman I trusted said she saw a vision when she was praying for me. It was night and there was a house with a single light in the window, and the light never went out. Ten years. I had no idea what it meant then. Could this be the house with the light that will forever welcome people home?

The plan no longer includes having babies, but it doesn’t discount the idea that I could be Mama Spike someday.

Relating to the Gods

The Veiled Virgin by Giovanni Strazza

Two of my closest friends and I have been meeting irregularly for the last couple years. We finally managed to nail down a night awhile back that works for all three of us and read through Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. I had never even heard of it, which was odd since I thought I new C. S. Lewis pretty well. Apparently it was the last book he ever wrote, and arguably his best work. Really, better than Narnia? Yeah, I’d say so.

The story is a re-telling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, from the perspective of Psyche’s sister. The story itself was excellent, but the end completely baffled me. Wait, what happened? I re-read the last few chapters again before we met, and I still felt like I wasn’t connecting all the dots. It made a little more sense as we discussed it, but wow… the line between myth and reality was pretty rough. Curiously rough. It begged to be talked about, which is what we did.

I could never be at peace again till I had written my charge against the gods. It burned me from within. It quickened; I was with book, as a woman is with child.

From the first page, the story eloquently describes the process of having it out with the Divine and ends with why it is so essential to do so. There are many other themes and powerful revelations, but that is the one I related to most.

Dostoevsky’s Pride and Joy

The best version of myself. That’s what I’m hoping for. Since having my education plans slapped around for ten years, I’ve at least learned to be flexible. I’m okay with the plan changing, as long as there’s always a plan. But the plan has always involved having children, and now it doesn’t. Suddenly, after a long while of dragging myself through the mire, it doesn’t. It’s the first time I’ve ever been comfortable with the idea that my own offspring will not be ruling the world. No one will see epitaphs like these: Here Lies Mrs. Spike’s Son, the Ultimate Bad Ass, or Beloved Daughter of Mrs. Spike, Supreme Diplomat and Queen. Just no.

It’s a freeing notion that I’ve never thought to revel in. I’ve only thought to grieve – always grieve. It’s like I’ve suddenly realized the tightrope I was walking toward motherhood is actually a six-lane freeway bound for… anywhere! The potential and the possibilities are vastly more appealing than I ever thought to explore. I’m only surprised I’ve never wandered down this line of thinking before. Really, never? No, never. I’ve joked about how 3:00 am feedings and diaper changing would be nice to skip, but to be free in my prime to pursue anything I want? No responsibility of child care (our goddaughters are half-grown already). No guilty conscience for having borne a horrible human being. No paralyzing pride for having borne a saint. Just no.

I met with a Degree Completion Program Representative at lunch today. The cohort starts in August. If all goes according to plan, I’ll graduate February 2017, which is fitting. It will be almost exactly ten years from when I originally planned to graduate. Ten:

The number of divine perfection. There are 10 commandments (Ex. 20); 1/10 of your income is a tithe; the were 10 plagues on Egypt (Ex. 9:14ff); 10 x 10 silver sockets formed the foundation of the Tabernacle (Ex 38:27); There are 10 “I AM’s spoken by Jesus in [the book of] John…”

I’m not usually into numerology, but I’ll go with that.

It feels exhilaratingly self-absorbed to take a step that is one hundred percent for my own good. I’m not sacrificing another day of this thirty-year-old life for children that will never be. I will not make another decision with their best interests in mind. The plan doesn’t have me pregnant and raising children. For the first time. It’s the very definition of existentialism:

a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.

Dostoevsky, my favorite author, would be proud.

Reaching Out

crying girl by lourithesugarqueen | Deviantart.com

I failed today. I didn’t even see it coming. Suddenly I couldn’t even recognize myself. What was I saying? I sent the girls to bed after dinner, they were both crying. The older cried for a long time before finally I heard her calling out, “I want Mom.”

She’s never said that before. Not in two years. Not out loud.

I failed today, and my heart is rent with grief and pain. No one will ever want me the way those girls want their mom. No one will ever reach out to me like that when they’re hurting. No one will ever want me to hold them the way they wish she could. No one. Because I’m not only re-grieving my infertility, I’m grieving the loss of any possible children in the future.

I’m enrolling in school. I’m taking out student loans to finish my education. I have refused for twelve years to do this, because I didn’t want to leave a husband with the responsibility of paying my student loans while I raise children; not because he demanded it, but because I made a personal choice that I wouldn’t do it, even before I was married.

Call me an idiot. Call me a woman of the past, but it’s the decision I made, happily and without coercion. Most would say that’s even worse, but I simply could not make the logical leap to put myself tens of thousands of dollars in debt only to work a few years, get pregnant, and leave the workforce. I wanted the option to stay at home and raise babies, and I couldn’t do that in good conscience with a mountain of debt hanging over our family with only a diploma on the wall to show for it. I’m confident enough in my brilliance not to need a piece of paper to prove it to myself.

It’s taken me three and a half years to make this decision. I thought we would be bouncing babies on our knees by now, but they’re still a dream. And so I’m reaching out for a different future. I have to. The dream of having my own children has caused me so much pain and misery. I have to put it away. But tonight tore my heart like its never been torn. I held her and quieted her and told her I was sorry. I was so sorry. But it wasn’t me she wanted. “I want Mom.”

Those words may haunt me the rest of my life.

Five Year Goals

I woke up early this morning. (I’m still in awe of my actually being awake in the morning these days.) I read through a lot of new blogs, searching out tags on introverts, INTJ, INFJ, minimalism, etc. (By the way, if you haven’t discovered Readline – the Chrome browser Extension, it’s pretty awesome for being able to speed-read!)

Then I got curious about what my life was like a year ago. I read through my journal and found I was still in over my head with grief for my parents this time last year. But I did find time to read, and I thought long and hard about what I wanted in my life. Here’s a link to the PDF of my scanned journal: Five Year Goals

Nice that the work is already done. Now I can start pursuing those things I didn’t have the willpower to start then.

Forgiveness Without Magic Words

“Long Path of Dreams” by Teakster – Deviantart.com

I had another appointment with my naturopath today – my third since the end of December. I gave him all the positive feedback I’ve mentioned here before, which he was very pleased to hear. Then came the emotional therapy.

Forgiveness is such a cliche thing to talk about in therapy, but I reflected for awhile after my appointment, and God put the pieces together for me:

Beloved, your life is settling down, and it’s on a good path. Your healing will not come through magic words. We will walk through it in My time. The first step is to stop blaming them for the way things are now. You have two hands, two feet, a beautiful mind, inspiration to last a lifetime, and your mind is healing from its deficiencies. You have what you need to make changes. Stop blaming them for pieces of your life that We can change. Your healing will come as you take these steps. Walk the path I have blessed, and your forgiveness will blossom. Your resentment will fade.

Here are the steps, in no particular order of importance:

  • Mental Forgiveness: Enroll in a degree completion program. (Already applied this morning!)
  • Physical Forgiveness: Start cooking, and learn how to love it.
  • Emotional Forgiveness: Establish more of your own family traditions.
  • Spiritual Forgiveness: Be what I called and gifted you to be. (This one was actually one of the bigger areas of forgiveness I need to focus on. I’m choosing to leave the step a bit vague. There’s a lot more that I’m still working out.)

The only forgiveness I have ever been taught involves words. Always words. “I forgive you for that… I release you from that… I choose not to be embittered by that anymore… I claim the blood of Christ to wash this hurt clean.” Thank God for showing me how actions can be so much more effective. Move on! Stop holding them responsible for how your life has ended up, like there’s no hope for it to be any different. As long as your life remains the product of how you were treated, you will never truly forgive them. You may calm down for a time, but as soon as an old wound is poked, all the animosity and hurt will come rushing back. And you’ll keep wondering why you haven’t forgiven them.

Now imagine transforming your life into something gloriously unrecognizable from what it is now. You will not be able to blame them for or credit them with that change. They will have no part in what your life becomes. Your old wounds will finally have space to forget the pain, and your scars will turn from red to white.

A Tool Re-imagined

Most of us have heard the saying, “That’s the best thing since sliced bread!” What do you think is actually the best thing since Sliced Bread?

It looks like a lot of the responses to this prompt are food-related, but I think I’m going to take a more historical approach. According to wikipedia, sliced bread was first sold in 1928. Since then our world has come alive with new inventions including the jet engine, kidney dialysis, velcro, the polio vaccine, the microchip, kevlar, genetic engineering, and the world wide web.

May 1948 Eagle-Gazette
May 1948 Eagle-Gazette

I’m gonna go with the invention of the ball point pen by Laszlo Jose Biro in 1938. Here’s a guy that dared to re-imagine a tool for the masses that dates back to when cavemen drew on walls. According to this site, the quill pen was invented in 600 AD. No one figured on the fountain pen until 1884. Really? Almost no innovation for over 1,200 years?

I love pens, so for me, this is the best thing since sliced bread.

Love Languages

“My Love!”

These are the words I hear every day when I walk in the door. Soon after comes an onslaught of bear hugs and a showering of kisses. My friends once joked that I wouldn’t make a good wife because I wasn’t touchy-feely. What they didn’t understand was that I wasn’t against affection. I was simply selective! Imagine their surprise when one of my top love languages ended up being physical touch. [The others are quality time, and acts of service, which my friends and I enjoy in ample amounts.]

I now have a steady supply of all my top love languages: physical touch, quality time, and acts of service. You can take the test, based on Gary D. Chapman’s 5 Love Languageshere. Typically you’ll just have one main language and one secondary, but true to my never fitting the personality mold, I have three. It’s pretty convenient though. I don’t need an abundance of any one thing to be satisfied. Thankfully, the hu’band is the family cook, he likes to kiss my face, and he likes to breathe the same air as me, so we’re good!

Acts of Service

Acts of Service

Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter. Finding ways to serve speaks volumes to the recipient of these acts.

Last month I sent exactly 600 emails and received 947. I have categorized and archived 18,119 emails since February 1, 2014 – and those are just the emails I saved! Thousands more were deleted. Setting priorities is paramount to my job performance. At any given time in the past four years, I maintain about 100 conversations in various stages of completion. By the time I get home, my mind is a blur. All I want to do is kick off my heels, have dinner, watch a show, play a game, and maybe do some writing.

The hu’band has to be the most accommodating partner I could ask for. When our goddaughters came to live with us, we decided he would work part-time so he could be available to pick them up from school, and be with them in the afternoon. I have continued to work full-time. I never expected to end up with this kind of role-reversal, but it’s what made the most sense. And now he does his own homework in the afternoons! He went back to school full-time last month to earn a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. I think I may retire when he graduates! (Not really, I think I’d go crazy, but it’s nice to know he will be out-earning me one day, and I’ll be able to support him the same way he’s supported me.)

Quality Time

Quality Time

In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there – with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby – makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful. Quality Time also means sharing quality conversation and quality activities.
This is what I mean by breathing each other’s air. Whatever I’m doing, I want him there with me. I want his feedback at a moment’s notice. I want him to laugh at something funny that I read. I want him to listen when I make a noteworthy discovery. I want him to kiss me when I say something witty. I want him to hear me, and he does!
Physical Touch

Physical Touch

This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face – they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive. Physical touch fosters a sense of security and belonging in any relationship.

Yeah, don’t get all squirmy. It’s actually not about sex at all. It’s about foreplay. Okay, sorry, I should have warned you, but it’s true! If this wasn’t such a big part of our private and public relationship, the hu’band wouldn’t have a prayer by the time we get to the bedroom. All the kisses on my face and pecks on the neck and hugs from behind and hands on my back and dances in the kitchen keep an unending stream of affection running between us. It solidifies the fact that we not only love each other, but we like each other too. As a creature who enjoys sex as an emotional connection, you can probably guess that liking my spouse is absolutely essential.

Words of Affirmation

Words of Affirmation

Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important – hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten. Kind, encouraging, and positive words are truly life-giving.

Here’s where we start getting into my uncomfortable territory. I do not accept compliments very well. Typically, I find them highly suspicious and almost never sincere. Which is odd, now that I say that. It’s not that I don’t think I’m worthy of the compliment. I actually compliment myself quite a bit. It’s just that when it comes out of someone else’s mouth, I doubt whether they’re qualified to give me that kind of feedback. “Oh, you’re so organized!” Really? You should see my bathroom drawer. “Oh, you’re so good with those kids!” Seriously? I’m just trying not to warp them. 

Generic compliments tend to end up in my emotional waste basket as failed attempts to manipulate me. Detailed compliments, on the other hand, I can appreciate. “Your training was fun.” Heck yeah it was! “Your linen closet is so neat and pristine!” Isn’t it, though?! “I love how you taught the kids the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. You hit all the right points.” I know, right?!

I plain do not understand people who have this as their main love language. It’s a perfectly legitimate emotional need, but I have never been able to cater to it. I offer sincere, detailed compliments when I can, but that’s about as far as I can go. Flowery, generic, wide-sweeping, glowing remarks just don’t come out of my mouth.

Receiving Gifts

Receiving Gifts

Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous – so would the absence of everyday gestures. Gifts are visual representations of love and are treasured greatly.

Lucky for the hu’band and I, this is the lowest on the totem pole for both of us. So low, in fact, that we don’t buy each other specific gifts for specific events. At least I don’t remember getting or giving gifts on birthdays or Christmas the last few years. He did get me flowers and wine and cheese for our last anniversary, but he does that just because sometimes too. I understand that this particular emotional need comes from wanting to feel cherished and treasured, but I’m just not that sentimental about things. I purge as often as I buy, so unless the gift is priceless, it should probably be consumable, otherwise I’m gonna donate that sucker as soon as I forget who gave it to me or why.


 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little rendition of my hierarchy of emotional needs. Let me know what your top love languages are!

A Burning Scent

“No, no, no, no.”

I feel like complete and utter garbage. I woke up this morning with a terrible taste in my mouth, my stomach was in knots, and all I could think was, “It’s not working. My brain pills have failed and I’m doomed to be depressed forever.”

What a nice way to wake up!

But it was seven o’clock. I don’t wake up at seven o’clock on my own, so something’s got to be working there. I got out of bed, brushed my teeth, took a shower, got dressed, and felt a bit better. Taking care of myself: also something I don’t do on my own without a significant amount of willpower. By the time I poured my coffee I realized what was wrong. People get sick!

Yes, even the most perfectly balanced brain is not immune to all viruses. There are a couple doozies going around my office. Seems like half the staff was out last week, some for more than a couple days. I reached for the Echinacea and Vitamin C and handed out some immune boosters to my family. I still feel awful, but at least it’s not coupled with hopelessness.

What a drama queen.

I haven’t been motivated or inspired to write about much this past week. That might have been the start of my little trip to Doomville. “Why don’t I want to write? Am I still depressed?” I tried to reason that not everyone has inspiration every day, but the nagging feeling that my transformation might be a hoax left me uneasy.

It’s been three weeks. I suffered from undiagnosed, clinical depression my whole life, not knowing I could do anything about it. When I started this journey in December, I resolved to be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all that good stuff. But the scent of depression is familiar now, and it burns my senses. I just need to remember that physical illness, with its sluggishness and fogginess can masquerade as a setback.

Process Training Twist

Thanks to some inspiration from Authentically Aurora, my internal process training for lease administration went just swimmingly this morning! The topic is really rather boring, and most people know their stuff, so I added some fun.

I actually had “Learn what a meme is” on the Objectives for the training:

Picture1

The Overview came complete with The Most Interesting Man:

Picture2

New Leases had a great reminder from The Office:

Picture3

Amendments heard from Boromir:

Picture4

Lease Charges got a dig from Dawson’s Creek:

Picture5

Commercial Admin responsibilities had a peaceful reminder:

Picture6

Correspondence heard from Terrible Teacher:

Picture7

Matrix Morpheus answered the question about “Billbacks”:

Picture8

Grumpy Cat had a snarky comment for Delinquencies:

Picture9

And finally, Team Meetings received some encouragement from Overly Attached Girlfriend:

Picture10

Fun times! Definitely going to incorporate humor in my future trainings. Made it more bearable!

Ignore the Lie, Not the Child

When children lie, parents get stressed out: “Don’t lie, just tell me the truth.” Children lie from fear and stress, just like adults. Children with trauma history lie out of survival. “If I don’t lie to you, then the worst thing that ever happened to me is gonna happen again.” Stress causes disordered thinking. “You are a threat to my survival.” Get your own state level stress in check. “You’re alright and you’re not going anywhere,” and then you walk away for a couple hours. “When you tell Dad a lie, it really hurts me, and I need you to know you can trust me and everything is gonna be okay.” The definition of discipline is to teach, not to punish. You’ll be creating a positive, repetitious experience. The security is in the relationship. – Why Kids Lie and How to End It Now by Bryan Post

I was at work for 11 hours today. When I finally got home I found out our younger goddaughter sat in detention all afternoon. She had all her reading points for the year stripped from her because she was caught cheating, taking tests for other kids and letting them cheat off of her. She’s been in constant trouble for lying this past year, but I didn’t get angry this time. Maybe I was just tired from a long day at work. Maybe I just wasn’t surprised that it happened again. Maybe those supplements are leveling out my brain chemistry, so I’m more level-headed. Or maybe I’ve finally realized that her lying is not a conscious decision meant to hurt me.

The two videos I watched from Bryan Post didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know, but it put all the pieces together. She’s afraid. Afraid of what? This time, I didn’t ask her why she lied. I didn’t ask her to tell the truth. I asked her what she was afraid of.

The kid that asked her to cheat is the second tallest in her class. She’s the second shortest in her class. It’s been awhile since the fourth grade, but I was the shortest then too. I remember feeling intimidated by taller kids. She didn’t say no. She took the reading test for him in the library and let the kids around them cheat off of her.

She’s grounded until she earns her reading points back, so she can get her “Sparthenian Reader” award again this year.  Her only free-time activity will be reading. But she gets to have Sundays off. We’ve never given her a day off when she’s been grounded before, but she’s never been grounded for as long as we think it will take her to get her reading points back.

She was afraid we were going to tell her she couldn’t be friends with those kids anymore. I’d like to think we know better than that. “We’re not going to tell you that you can’t be friends with them anymore, but those kids are not your friends.” She understood the difference. Friends don’t ask friends to cheat for them. Friends don’t get their friends in trouble.

She’s never gotten in this much trouble at school before, but somehow I feel like I won today. I changed the way I responded to her lying. I built-up my relationship with her instead of tearing her down with consequences. I gave her hope instead of dread. I gave her tools to deal with bullies instead of grief for not standing up to them.

Pulleys, Levers, and Gears

“Ribbon” by ashlynashlynashlyn – Deviantart.com

“Anyone who knew Violet well could tell she was thinking hard, because her long hair was tied up in a ribbon to keep it out of her eyes. Violet had a real knack for inventing and building strange devices, so her brain was often filled with images of pulleys, levers, and gears, and she never wanted to be distracted by something as trivial as her hair.” – Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning

In a classical sense, I don’t really think of myself as a highly artistic person. I may turn a phrase here and there when I write, but I can’t draw or paint or sculpt. My creative skills manifest in efficiency. Economy of words. Logical layout of processes. Anticipation of questions and problems. My inventions do not have wheels, but they do have motion. My creations do not produce widgets, but they do make money. I’m an engineer of policy, and a master of procedure. What I do makes people yawn and yell, and it makes their lives a hell of a lot easier than they were before.

Administration is a Gift – one I’ve found few will thank me for having. Most might wish my creativity would end up on canvas rather than in one more thing they have to change. “They’ll thank me one day,” can only make its way through my head so many times before I start to doubt it.

I’ve made a lot of changes in my career as an administrator in a lot of companies. None of them thanked me for it… And none of them have abandoned the changes. None of them went back to the way it was before. My changes stuck. Other than refined skills, it’s the only thing I have to show for all the grief I’ve endured.

Will they sing my praises one day? Will I get to hear it? I often claim that my creative process does not require motivation from the outside. I work and create for my own sake, not for approval and applause. But God, it would be nice to hear a kind word. At the very least, the nay-sayers could keep their noxious opinions to themselves.

I AM There

I haven’t thought of myself as an anxious person. It actually drives me crazy to listen to people who worry and wring their hands because of things they have no control over.

I’m learning though; anxiety can come out in overreactions. Angst, apprehension, concern, disquiet, doubt, dread, misery, mistrust, panic, trouble, uneasiness – all synonymous with an issue I didn’t think I had.

I met with a friend yesterday who offered an excellent tool for dealing with ugly emotions. She used the thesaurus to look up antonyms, and to answer to question, “How should I strive to respond instead?”

Belief, blessing, calm, certainty, confidence, contentment, faith, peace, security, trust.

The truth I see is the root of my overreactions doesn’t come from worry, but from unbelief. Not belief in God, but belief in others. I doubt their intentions. I criticize their motives.

But I am semper fidelis – gifted with eternal Faith. What if God is leading me to use that gift in my relationships – to place my unfailing confidence in the Spirit of others?

I would rather be called to preach to poisonous snakes in a desert wasteland.

The thought of trusting and hoping in others terrifies me. At the fear of disappointment, I will wring my hands and wail. My heart will race, and I will hold my breath. What if they use this Faith against me?

God never fails. He never disappoints. My Faith in Him is justified. Or is it?

I spent five years waiting to hear His Voice, and I never doubted Him.

But I knew He was good. I knew He was Love.

Was it loving for Him to seemingly ignore me? Was it kind to disappoint me by never revealing Himself? In those moments, I believed in His kindness. I believed in His love, even though I couldn’t perceive it.

Could I do that with people?

He has proven to me that I have Faith to move a mountain of doubt. Now He’s asking me, “Will You continue to use that Gift only for Yourself, only for Our Communion Here inside of You? Or will You use it in Your Communion with Others? Will You put Your Faith in the Spirit I have placed inside of Them? Will you trust that I AM There as well as Here?”

My Life On A Shelf

IMG_0300
Unpacked

On Wednesday I unpacked a box of journals. Tonight I did something I’ve never done as an adult. I’ve never had enough shelving to fit everything in one place, but with all the reorganizing and purging, I finally had space!

I gathered up all my notebooks and journals and organized them (somewhat) in chronological order. The result? Twenty years of my life on a shelf. It’s a beauty to behold. The top shelf is everything from 1995 through 2004. The bottom shelf is the last ten years. I think I’ll replace the post-its with actual labels. Maybe then I’ll always have a place for these, no matter where I may go in the future.

 

IMG_0301

Faith and Silence

I read Warrior Freya’s response to Morton’s Fork this morning before I got ready for work and I’ve been mulling it over for the last several hours. What would I do if I had to choose between reading and writing?

My writing is synonymous with my prayer life. It contains the thoughts of God toward me and my thoughts toward Him. It is the best way I know to be truly honest about what is happening and how I’m reacting or responding to it. That said, there was a time in my life when my prayer life was very one-sided. I would write. I would cry. I would plead, but God’s Voice was silent. I didn’t know how to hear Him.

I wasn’t more than five years old when I woke up in the dead of night with a single question resonating in my mind: “Will you follow Me?” I remember thinking of the Bible story of Samuel and how God woke him up in the middle of the night. I knew it was God’s voice. I knelt beside the bed in my grandparent’s house and prayed a simple prayer of receiving Him into my life.

Over the next ten years I went to church with my family. I learned all the Bible stories. I listened to my parent’s reaction to the teachings. And I learned sensationalism: God is in the warm-fuzzies, God is in the chills, God is in the tears, God is in uncontrollable urge to “speak in tongues,” God is in act of falling over when you “feel His presence,” God is in the shouts and dancing. God is in the manifestations. If you cannot see it or hear it, you are not seeing Him. You are not hearing Him. These things were never expressly taught, but it is certainly what I learned about hearing the voice of God.

Thank God for my dad.

My dad is also an introvert, and the sensationalist ideals never sat well with him. He argued against it for years before finally leaving the institutional church and seeking out a home group that could talk about real life, real responses, and actually hearing the voice of God.

I followed his lead to some extent. Some of my friends started going to a youth group down the road. At first I only went because I wanted to be with them. The youth group I went to in high school was growing the church more than Sunday morning service. The kids there were going to youth group on Thursdays and then convincing their parents to go on Sundays. “Big Pete” taught us about God’s love. Only God’s love. Always God’s love. Unconditional, pure, and devoted love. I knew I was hearing truth; not mystery, not sensation, but undefiled Truth.

Over time I started seeing the toxins in my Spirit from sensationalist Christianity rise to the surface… and God’s voice disappeared.

I didn’t know what to do. Where was He? Why couldn’t I hear Him anymore? Was He real? How could I know without seeing Him?

Fast-forward ten years. I was living on an apple ranch in Washington state: a retreat from the world while I was healing from my divorce. After a weekend visit to my grandparent’s house in Idaho, I was driving back to the ranch with the windows down, listening and singing along to Skillet. Suddenly God’s voice was as clear as I have ever heard it. And He was singing the words of the song back to me:

You have been more faithful than the morning sun

You have been more faithful than knowing the night will come

You have been more faithful than the changing of seasons

My eyes filled with tears. Through years of detoxifying my Spirit, He saw that I continued to trust. I continued to believe, even though I couldn’t hear Him. My Spirit knew Him, but our communication was shrouded in mystery. He gifted my Spirit with Faith. I never doubted His existence. I never renounced my belief. I had no proof of His existence in my life, but Faith carried me through those critical years of formation.

Semper Fidelis

Although I identify myself as Mrs. Spike, this blog isn’t about how faithful I am to my husband. It’s about a gift God granted me when I could have turned from Him. Always Faithful.

So to answer the prompt, I chose writing, with only the hope that someday I would read the Words I was desperate to hear. And I would do it again.

Hush-A-Bye

Here’s another marked example of the changes I’m seeing since starting on my naturopath plan: taking care of myself doesn’t feel like such a chore. I didn’t even know I felt that way, but looking back I can see that just taking myself to bed was a task I had to muster up some will power to accomplish. As a result, I would stay up until 1:00 in the morning, just putting off the heinous effort involved in brushing my teeth and taking a shower. [Hah – Now that I think about it, I think I’ve been sleeping naked the last couple years just to avoid having to pick out an outfit for bed. Too much work! Hu’band doesn’t seem to mind though.] Shaving my legs too: “Ugh, I have to shave my legs. What a drag.” Taking a shower: “That’s gonna take time.” Eating right: “I’d rather have comfort food.” All these little things I knew I should be doing to take care of myself; I did some of them most of the time, but it was always with an undercurrent of whining. I just didn’t wanna. My tank was constantly on empty, and it felt like my life was running on fumes.

My naturopath said that I should be prepared for a personality change. That worried me at first, because I didn’t want to feel like I was acting like someone I didn’t know; I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable in my own skin. But that’s not what’s happening. It’s simply easier to be the better version of myself. It doesn’t take so much effort. Thank God! It feels like my will power can finally take a rest. I’ve started looking forward to bedtime. I happily finish up on WordPress, take a long shower, swallow my brain pills, and slumber off! I’ve even started humming the “Hush-a-bye” lullaby to myself while I’m getting ready for bed. [Seriously, with the singing to myself thing. It’s so sweet. I just smile at myself when I notice it.]

How Do You Believe?

This keeps knocking away inside my head…

“Everything is as good or bad as our opinion makes it.” – C.S. Lewis | Till We Have Faces

It struck me as profound when I read it, and after listing to one of the recent Free Believer podcasts, I’m convinced more than ever that we have the power of life and death over the well-being of others. Spiritually, emotionally, mentally, we can choose to encourage, build-up, understand, and be gracious… or we can destroy.

1995

I spent several more hours cleaning and purging today, and guess what I found? A box of journals I haven’t opened in at least the last three moves I’ve made. We moved into this house last April, and I’m fairly certain we’re going to stay until the girls are through high school – another eight years maybe – so I figured why not unpack them?

Unbelievable. I found journals from when I was the same age as the girls. I distinctly remember at that age that I should record my thoughts and feelings so that one day I could read them and remember what it was like – so I could be a better mom! I thought those journals were packed away in my mom’s attic, but there they were! I’m actually kind of nervous to read them. I thought I was so wise and amazing then (much like now). What if I read them and think 10-year-old me was a little wretch?

“Judge tenderly of me…” is my constant plea to any reader of my work. I guess I’ll just have to give myself the benefit of the doubt. Here goes….!

……………….

Oh boy… boy, boy, boys! Every page. All I can think is, “Are my girls this boy crazy??” I don’t think they are, but would they tell me? I started a dialogue with them about it awhile back, but we haven’t really touched on the subject for awhile.

My older, 11-year old has been asking to do “Bible time” before bed more often lately, which makes my heart go pitter-pat. Spike and I baptized her together at the end of last summer, and I’m full of hope for her little life. Her sister isn’t as eager. Her interest is mostly just in following her sister, which is fine.

I’ve been busting out Hannah-Barbera’s “Greatest Adventure – Stories from the Bible” on YouTube. I loved those when I was a kid and the girls seem to be enjoying them as well. It’s a lot more fun than just reading them.

Not Monday?

I thought it was Monday again when I woke up this morning. The day didn’t get much better than that.

There’s a woman in my office, we’ll call her “Bubbler,” who has frequent conversations with another woman in my office. We’ll call her “Shrieker.” I have no idea what these women talk about, except that I’m fairly certain it’s not nice things about other staff members in the company. All I know for sure is that I am too often assaulted with the nervous, unreal, too-long, bumble-laugh from Bubbler and the high-pitched, over-reacting, indignant story-telling of Shrieker. When I’m working on a deadline and these two get together, it’s all I can do to not requisition a baby and punch it in the face!

Thankfully the assistant whose text message alert was set to the Happy Little Elf laugh from Series of Unfortunate Events recently moved to a different area of the office, so I’ve got that going for me.

Monday Thoughts

I woke up from the most incredible dream yesterday morning. I can’t decide if it’s the stuff of a best selling novel or maybe just one person’s favorite video game. In either case, I can’t get it out of my head. I started working on an outline for a short story, at least. I haven’t tried my hand at fiction in a long time. I don’t remember ever being very good at it, but it’s a story I want to tell, so maybe it won’t be terrible.

Other than that, I don’t really want to write today. If I summarize, I’ll sound cold. If I try to expand on this last week, I might not sleep much tonight. I thought maybe the time for feeling numb and detached was past, but there’s a certain degree of protection in denial. I’ll have to unpack the events as they start to affect me. In short, my dad’s life is in chaos, and the daddy’s girl in me has no idea how to handle it.

Time was a drag at work today. By 2:00 it felt like I had worked a double shift. Maybe the ultra-productivity of last few working days and spending 11 hours deep cleaning and purging the house on Saturday made it seem slow. I dive into mass production when I’m avoiding my feelings. I guess I’m like a lot of people in that respect.

The good news is that my naturopath supplements are continuing to have a positive effect. I spent almost all day yesterday around groups of friends. When we came home last night, I didn’t feel like I needed to decompress for several hours. In other words, it didn’t suck the life out of me to be around people I love. I’d say that’s pretty positive! I’m also not craving coffee at all hours of the day, which I’m sure is helping me sleep better.

Superbowl was awesome, by the way. I especially love how it turned into a hockey game at the end. [End relating to media.]

 

The Versatile Blogger

First, I’d like to thank Warrior Freya for nominating me for this award. I’m honored!

In return, I would like to nominate the following blogs. (I’m sorry there are not fifteen, I only started blogging again a few months ago.)

Lastly, here are 7 things about myself:

  1. I graduated high school, third in my class, with a 4.12 GPA. I have completed exactly 40 college courses (122 semester credits) with a 3.67 GPA, but I do not have a bachelor’s degree.
  2. One month after beginning my first tax season as an income tax preparer I was promoted to office supervisor over approximately 15 employees and was awarded employee of the season a few months later. I was 24 years old. The following year I was asked to teach the income tax preparation course.
  3. I never dated until the summer after I graduated high school. I spent nearly two years pining away for wasting my life over my first boyfriend who broke up with me after just three months. He kept me on the hook with phone calls and dinners, but we never got back together.
  4. I traveled to Thailand in March 2005, just three months after the tsunami hit southeast Asia. I spent two months there with a team of 36, working with Habitat for Humanity, helping to rebuild houses.
  5. I’m a classically trained pianist. I started playing in the 3rd grade and I never had to be asked to practice. My family complained constantly that they couldn’t hear the TV or talk on the phone because I played so much. They finally moved the piano into my room so they could be left undisturbed.
  6. I’ve been my parent’s bookkeeper since I was 15. At 19 I designed an Access database to manage production at my dad’s commercial print shop. I was tired of double and triple entry to keep track of jobs that were in the works, out for proof, ready for shipment, etc. I didn’t know how to use Access when I started, but before I was done, I managed to integrate paper orders, press schedules, and bindery deadlines. It made our morning production meetings a lot easier and replaced the paper system they had used for over 15 years. It took me about a month to iron out the details, and my dad still uses the database to this day.
  7. I have ridiculously thick hair and it’s usually kept long. When I was in junior high I would practice french braiding it while I watched movies. Consequently, my skills have been recruited to braid a lot of hair over the years: cross country teammates before races,  Habitat for Humanity teammates (see #4) in the 110-degree-99-percent humidity of Thailand, and recently, my goddaughter’s hair before her basketball games.

Soaking Up the Sun

I had weird nightmares last night. They were specific and detailed. I was afraid and crying. There were so many details I didn’t want to forget, so I saved them in my Dream Moods app before I went back to sleep.

After reviewing all the symbols, it looks like I’m being lead to assert some authority over my past. Apparently no matter how much healing I’ve experienced, there is always a remnant that needs to be addressed.

It’s been five years, but the fear of being blindsided by the truth is still alive. I don’t know if people ever get over that. How does anyone firmly reestablish faith in humanity after that faith is crippled? Anyone who fails to live up to your expectations, no matter what level they are, immediately justifies your skepticism and doubt.

The sun is shining on my lunch break, and I’m soaking up some rays before I go back to my “green” [dimly lit] cubicle. Thankfully they’re replacing the lights “soon” but my mood definitely wasn’t helped by my surroundings this morning.

The Members Will Dance

…When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. – 1 Corinthians 14:26

Many members, but One Body. That’s the mantra I feel the Spirit massaging into my heart lately. Many gifts, but One Spirit.

I asked the Lord last week why it is that we have music, especially in church. What is it about? Do we need it or is just something the church does? After many years of leading worship, you would think I would have asked Him sooner, but it honestly never occurred to me to ask. And He answered me! He said, “I have music in the Church because no matter what part of the Body you’re in, all members can join together when they hear music… and they start to dance.”

It was such a simple answer, but it struck me as incredibly profound. I shared it on Sunday before we started the worship set. “No matter if you’re the head or the foot or the hand or the heart, no matter if you’re introverted or extroverted, you can all join together.” In all the years I lead worship, I have never heard such a positive response after. “Thank you!” and, “That was wonderful,” and “Anointed,” and even more “Thank you!”

I was resistant to leading worship again, but it’s something I can do for the Body of Believers I’m with. I stepped out in obedience, not willingness, and I truly believe the Lord is blessing me for it. It felt like pouring water on a parched piece of earth, not just for my Church Family, but for me too.

My best friend and I are going to be trading off leading every other month, and I can honestly say I’m excited to be part of it again. She and I started playing on worship teams in junior high, and here we are, leading the church her and her husband started into worship. It’s a beautiful, wonderful, special place to be.

Head Bouncing

Let’s get one thing straight. My head does not “bounce off” of anything, especially not “the pillow.” So imagine my surprise when the alarm clock sounded this morning and my eyes flew open. They don’t do that, even at the best of times. As far back as I can remember, even as a kid, I have never been awake in the morning. It takes a good, solid two hours and at least one cup of coffee for my words to start forming. Until then, I carry a look on my face that says, “Morning people beware!”

Evening out my deficiencies is causing things to change, and boy howdy, I’m glad they are!

I saw my dad over the weekend. We had exchanged texts about my appointment with my naturopath. “Sorry you’re crazy,” he whispered to me with a smile at the seminar we attended together, “That’s probably my fault.”

I laughed quietly, “Yeah, thanks!”

He’s struggled with depression… always. I think at some point he must have accepted it as his Cross to Bear, part of who he was.

I couldn’t do that. I love my dad dearly, but I didn’t want to see my health deteriorate into obesity and diabetes if there was any way to prevent it. I’ve got teenagers to raise, for God’s sake! If I’m gonna have a prayer in keeping up with them, I cannot be depressed.

Spontaneous Song

“Let me be singing when the evening comes.”

I had my follow-up appointment with my naturopath yesterday. Clinical depression. Clinical anxiety. Test results. Black and white. It shouldn’t be any surprise to anyone following my journey of cynicism and tears this blog.

My first words upon hearing this? “That’s great news!”

Honestly, my biggest fear surrounding that appointment was that he would say the test showed nothing out of the ordinary, and I had no objective reason for feeling this way. Worse, that there would be no help for it. I should just continue to squeeze my willpower into smiling and being productive.

Thank God for answers!

The naturopath, who is also a Christian, prescribed supplements to boost the neurotransmitter levels that were low. I hesitate to give more details than that, because the treatment plan is specific to my history, my situation, my [possible] genetics (since it seems this has been an issue in my lineage, going back four generations), my work environment, and my test results. The short story is that I am relieved.

Then something happened this morning. I started singing in my car on my way to meet a friend. It was totally subconscious. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. When I finally noticed, my eyes filled with tears and my throat closed. I was singing.

The only other time in my life that I remember spontaneously bursting into song were among the happiest days of my life. My brain chemistry hasn’t had even 24 hours to change, and my outlook, my attitude is already starting to transform. For the first time in many many years, that song didn’t come out of sheer willpower. It spilled out of my joy.

More than the answers I received and the supplements I bought, I am excited… I am excited about the change in my heart.

Big Rocks

I did quite of bit life planning awhile back. I think I need to revisit it before another year whooshes by without anything more than a vague memory of what happened. You’d think I was completely out of it most of the time, but I’m actually a very planned-out person. I could tell you all the little things that happened this past year, but there are very few things I’m pleased and proud to report on. Continue reading “Big Rocks”

They Will Know You by Your Understanding

I’ve created a lot of posts as a Free Believer on this blog, but many probably have no idea what that is. It’s hard to define, and I’m gonna go ahead and be lazy and not try. There’s a podcast I love to listen to and this episode really got to me today. “You cannot change people,” Darrin says, “but you can understand them.” It’s a powerful notion, and it’s confirmed something I commented to another blogger not too long ago:

If there’s one thing I know about grief, it’s that there’s no use grieving with someone who’s never been hurt. “I can only imagine,” comes out of their mouth, and you just want to drown them for having the audacity to speak. “Yeah, you can ONLY imagine; why are you talking??” Misery loves those that have experienced misery. I’m convinced that – Understanding – is the greatest gift we can offer another human being. It heals more in a moment than therapy and chemistry can touch in a year.

I’m powerfully grateful, once again for Darrin and Aimee and Hans, and their commitment to the Into the Wild show. Understanding at its very best in the modern world of disillusioned Christians.

hypokrisis

One of my most vehement criticisms of church leadership is the issue of hypocrisy. I’ve been thinking about it a lot this past week as it seems I will be stepping back into a semi-leadership role soon. My best friend has asked that I take over leading worship for our house church once a month. She’s adopted two kids this past year and she needs a break. We’ve been talking about it for months and I’ve helped out a few times, but this month will be my first month on my own.

Leading worship is really like riding a bike for me. I’ve been on worship teams off-and-on since I was 12 years old. Before that my parents were a tag team at the church were I did a lot of my growing up. My dad had a great ear for the sound booth and my mom played the flute and sang on worship teams for as long as I could remember. That changed when they stopped going to church together, but I carried on the family… habit? of church leadership by playing the keyboard for my youth group all through high school and partially through college.

I’ve filled-in here and there over the past several years, but I’m a bit out of practice now. Still, I can make-do with the library of songs I finally organized into a 6-inch binder a couple years ago. Of those hundreds of pages, there are a dozen or so I can still bear to sing. Most of them are so repetitive and useless, I can hardly stand to read them.

My relationship with music was re-energized when I came across this hymn a few months ago. I had heard it before, but I never really listened to the words:

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, tho’ far-off hymn
That hails a new creation;
Thro’ all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?

What tho’ my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Saviour liveth;
What tho’ the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths,
Since first I learned to love it,
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am his—
How can I keep from singing?

I don’t know how many times I’ve read it these past few months, but my eyes still blur when I read certain phrases.

Still, my biggest concern with stepping into this role is hypocrisy. I’m the age and in the position now that use to criticize harshly for inconsistency. I don’t think I’m not living a life that it completely contrary to what I believe, but I’m sure there are things I claim to value that I fail to practice. And I’m sure that my kids would be able to pin-point exactly what those inconsistencies – those hypocritical themes – might be.

If only I had the courage to ask them.

When You Thought You Let Go

Skipping through a few of my posts since I started blogging again and gah! – what a negative stench! Apparently this is what happens when you think you’re good at healing from events that turn your world on its head. Just because you managed to survive one massive overhaul doesn’t mean you’ll skate through the next one. In fact, I’m pretty well convinced that I would have made it through this one better if I hadn’t had the first one.

Short story: I was married at 22 and thought my husband and I would be together forever. I imagined growing old with him, raising kids, hosting Christmas for grandkids and great-grandkids. It’s was all there. Then my world spun on its ear and I discovered that he had managed to lie to me for nearly a year about… something I divorced him for. I was 25. I spent the summer after we split to recuperate at an apple ranch in Washington state. I walked a lot. I wrote a lot. I cried a lot. After four months all that was left to do was wait for time to distance me from what had happened.

That was five years ago, and it was the most pain I had ever felt. Compared to that, the last couple years of turmoil should have been a walk in the park. My tolerance for life being unexpected should have barely been touched, but that’s not how emotional pain tolerance works. Each successive hit brings back the memory of the pain you suffered before. You may have healed from those experiences; you may have even forgiven the people involved, but the depth of pain you endured leaves a scar at the bottom of your heart after it dug its way in. You can’t go back to feeling things at a more shallow level, especially if they bear any resemblance to the events that wreaked havoc on your life before. If it was deceit, then deceit will cut you deeper. If it was betrayal, then the scent of betrayal will burn your senses.

People who tell you that you need to forgive and forget should be expelled from your circle of advisers at this point, by the way. You’re not actually bringing up the past. You’re over the past. You’ve moved on. You’re just changed now. You can’t process events the same way you did before. Everything goes through the filter of your experiences. You may be completely healed from what’s happened, but your emotional memory, like muscle memory, just can’t help itself.

You cry more easily and you eat comfort foods more often because your physiology has grown accustomed to seeking out the endorphins and serotonin and that are released when you cry and eat carbs. You feel like a basket case, because your body is giving you signals to reach out for things that will make it feel better.

So your emotional memory is on autopilot and you’re heading down a long path of regret all because of what…? An event that, in the grand scheme of life, doesn’t really affect you as much as you think it does. You’re disappointed with how things have turned out, but you’re over-thinking it. You’re taking it too hard. And you’re actually blaming other people for the fact that you’ve now gained 45 pounds and you’re a depressed train wreck.

Okay, so there’s really no use in chastising your inability to cope. What do you do now? How do you dig your heels in and refuse to keep sliding down this slippery slope of negativity and self-absorption. [Huh – Maybe starting a blog and venting wasn’t the best step.] So what do I do now? How does someone with a proven track record of inconsistency start to turn their life around? Just become a consistent, driven, disciplined person? And then fly to the moon while I’m at it; skip over to mars and setup a colony before I head back to earth to smack whatever insensitive idiot gave me that advice then figure out a real solution.

My naturopath has actually given me more hope and direction through this than anyone. He told me there are actually new studies that show there’s a particular gene responsible for supporting the brain’s natural ability to make serotonin. In many people with depression, this gene is either damaged or completely missing. It’s like those people don’t even have a chance! He cited an Ivy League school on that research, but I don’t remember which one. I’ll have to get some literature from him on that.

In any case, he’s the first one that held out some hope that I might be able to take care of myself without taking a fistful of antidepressants and side-effect-balancing drugs. I may be able to just take a certain kind of folic acid to give my brain the building blocks it needs to make happy-brain chemicals. I don’t know what kind yet. I have another appointment in January. He wants to test my neurotransmitter levels first to confirm whether his genetic theory proves as true in me as it has in others he’s treated naturally for depression. From family history, I’m the fourth generation to have struggled with depression, so we’re both fairly confident that my genes aren’t helping my coping ability very much. I may have to take this folic acid supplement forever if he turns out to be right, but it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than antidepressants, and it won’t mess with the rest of me like western meds do.

I’m sure I’ll post an update when I discover more, but that’s where I am on my depression-treatment journey. Happy new year, everyone!

How to Husband Your Best Friend

Four years ago I told an old friend of mine that if he ever developed feelings for me beyond friendship, he should just keep them to himself. I was determined to not be responsible for another broken heart. I needed a companion – someone to vent to that had meaningful feedback to offer. As much as I loved my girlfriends, they were all pretty busy being married and having babies and not having a clue about what it must be like to be divorced and childless in your mid-twenties. They had mommy brain. I needed a philosophical, logical, intelligent brain to keep me together.

It didn’t hurt that he could write. Actually, I’m fairly certain his verbal abilities were one of the first things that laid a foundation of legitimacy in our relationship. It was a subtle confirmation that he valued his education and paid attention in school; at the very least, it meant that he was well-read enough to pick up on things. “We could be pen-pals,” I smiled to myself. “At least I won’t feel like I need to grade his paper every time he writes me an email.”

Then the entourage came out of the woodwork. I was newly single and my status hit the market before I was prepared to handle it. I was brutal. [See above command to keep all feelings at bay.] And I was fragile. I was still processing the layers of my grief-laden divorce, and I could never quite predict when something might trigger a ragged insecurity, or a love-filled memory. I remember going to my old, faithful friend during times that I couldn’t make any sense out of my emotions or my actions. Somehow he would weave an explanation of logic around them, and I would feel a little less like I was losing my mind.

Our conversations became more frequent, and I started informally dating a few of the guys I met. One of them proposed, ring-in-hand, six days after our first date. In a fog on unbelief, I said yes. I was still a mess. Over the course of several months, I tried and failed to fit my fiance and I together. I moved out, and all the while my old friend was still emailing and messaging me while I tried to figure everything out.

A few months later my old friend recorded a song – a cover – he was working on, and he emailed it to me. My heart skipped a beat, and I wondered at that. His voice was ragged, but it soothed a longing I didn’t know was there. Music. It’s so much a part of me, and I’ve pushed it away so much as a result of circumstance and manipulation and hurtfulness; I didn’t know how much I needed it, but He did.

Within two months, I found myself walking through the airport with my hand in his, smiling like a fool. How could I have written him off? When I realized my respect for him rivaled any I held for another human being, I knew I had found my match. My respect blossomed into a deeply-rooted love, which gave way to a mutual affection unlike any I’ve ever known; passion stole it’s way into my heart. Six months later we were married on the beach where he proposed.

And that is how my best friend wifed me. He didn’t push. With an easy confidence, he strolled into my life and was everything I needed, even more than what I wanted, and exactly what was meant to be. Three years later now, I love him better than ever.

When It Doesn’t Get Better

Have you ever had a cold that wouldn’t go away; or a nasty backache? How about resentment that doesn’t go away with forgiveness. Sorry, I guess I dove into the deep end there pretty quick.

I feel like such a whiner on this blog, but why stop now? I’ve always preached that writing is the best form of therapy I know… but it’s not working this time.

I run to writing like it’s my last hope when things are tough. I started this blog. I’ve filled countless pages in my journal. I’ve written notes on random pieces of paper. I’ve even tried writing in a sketchbook; instead of writing in straight lines, I write diagonally, in circles. I create art with words. It’s not pretty. I’m not even proud of it when it’s done. But I’m doing the work! I’m doing what I know to do to dig myself out of whatever pitiful hole I’m in.

Ugh… I wish I could say I’m self-deprecating and my self-confidence just needs a boost; but that’s not it! I wish sitting in a room where everyone tells me I’m amazing would fix this. I wish I could figure out anything that would fix that doesn’t sound completely impossible. And before you tell me I should start praying for the impossible, let me stop you. “Praying for impossible things,” and I don’t get along. Believing in the power of God to make my wishes come true is not a thing.

My relationship with God isn’t about what He can do. It’s about who He is. And right now, He’s showing me that He loves people more than I do. He loves them enough to let them go. He loves them enough to let them believe things about Him that aren’t true. He loves them even when they reject Him. He loves them even when they twist His words to hurt people.

He loves them more than I do.

Being stretched like this is never something I sign up for, but I know My Redeemer Lives. He knows my future. He knows the strength I’ll need. He knows the wisdom that will help the ones I learn to love. He knows, and I’m committed to finding whatever it is I need in all this.

But, God, it hurts.

Checked Out

I don’t feel much between emotional unloading sessions. I don’t feel guilt or sadness. I’m irritable. My fuse is barely a stub. My tolerance seems to fill up to lower levels every day.

I’m wounded. I’m in self-preservation mode. And I’m not facing it. I’m not resting either. I’m not really taking care of myself. I’m just existing; getting through the day and making them as long as possible. I watch TV shows – hours and hours of TV.

I check out. I don’t want to face it. I don’t really even know what it is. Or maybe I do, but there’s no one to cry with. There’s no one to draw it out of me and empathize with my dark corner of the world.

Deceitful Hearts?

Can we explore the idea that the heart is deceitful? Yes, it’s a phrase straight out of the Bible Old Testament , but is that reality for Christians today? In fulfilling the Law, Jesus said we were now His friends, adopted as co-heirs of His kingdom. If we’re really supposed to live with a watchdog presiding over all our motives, wouldn’t He have said a bit more about what wanton creatures we [still] are?

Where Faith Meets My Feelings

I found myself in tears yesterday during a discussion about relationships with difficult people. We’ve been going to a small home church for the past two and a half years and our group has become pretty close. They’re like a second family to us. I wonder how often they get tired of me pushing the envelope though.

I always want to talk about reality and how what we’re talking about applies to issues we’re actually having. Call me a realist, but I believe my faith should be able to answer issues I’m having with the world around me. Faith and religion have obvious applications to helping the poor and being kind to the less fortunate, but what about the friend that’s stopped talking to me?

What about the parent that I can’t be involved with anymore? What about the manager I can never seem to please? What about the co-worker that treats me like a threat? What about the child I wish I could love better? What about the spouse I never reconciled with, and the entire family I removed from my life? What about the fiance I failed to love well? What about the man I now claim to love more than all of them? If I truly love him better than all of these, then my best is a sorry standard. I can do better, but my best is sadly broken.

I blotted out relationships that were toxic, but they’ve left me poisoned. I have failed to be better, and now I am bitter. My heart doesn’t give anyone a chance, because I cannot bear another disappointment. I narrowly escaped a nervous breakdown and turning to substance abuse and all the dysfunction that goes along with it, but I didn’t survive unscathed.

I laughed when I learned that RBF (Resting Bitch Face) was a thing people talked about. I laughed because I’m pretty sure my default mode is Bitch now. I’m probably not as bad as most, but compared to the meek, sweet, old soul I use to be, I feel like a complete bitch most days. My tolerance is so low, it’s a wonder I have any relationships left to speak of.

This is, of course, a massive exaggeration of reality. My house was brimming with people who love me just a few months ago. They didn’t show up because they were afraid I would be pissed off if they didn’t come. They came to love on me because it was my birthday and they wanted to see me. Friends I’ve had my whole life. Family that has always stuck by me.

But such is the way of the introvert. We mull over feelings that are the most pronounced, not the feelings that are the most often felt.

What I Should Have Said Was Nothing

If any of you have heard Mike Birbiglia’s standup routine, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, watch it when you’re done reading this.

It’s become more and more apparent to me that trying to make someone feel better when they’re in the middle of a crisis is a bit of a waste. You’re likely to be offensive and make them wish you weren’t around. People in crisis don’t need advice. All they need is to not be alone.

But in our infinite wisdom we jack it up, don’t we? We say too much. We try to fix it. We play the hero, and guess what? We don’t save them from the crisis. At the end of the day, their life is not better because we interfered. We’ve dumped our lifetime of effectively worthless experience on their tragedy and declared, “Do it this way. You’ll thank me!”

Do the world a favor and listen instead, you great oaf!