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.

Continue reading Adapt and Charge Ahead

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.

Continue reading Unravelled

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Continue reading Lack of Rumination

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.

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.