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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Beautiful Circle of Life

I pull up to the building, with my nerves buzzing in my head.  I know this building; I've been here many times.  I adjust my hair and saunter in.  I'm directed to the elevator and I smile a little.  I know this elevator, as well.  It opens up to a familiar room and I sit and wait and tears build in the back of my eyes and I berate myself a little because I absolutely cannot have tears in my eyes for this moment in my life...

My oldest was 4 when I walked in to daycare and was told that she was exhibiting very aggressive behavior which they knew was so unusual for her, having known her since she was 10 months old.  I saw her teacher standing with a notepad and she told me she's been "documenting" her behavior.  I couldn't believe MY daughter was being "documented."  I'd done it myself to other kids but... MY daughter?
She was barely 4 and she was so broken and so angry and there was nothing I could do and it broke my heart every day.  She acted like she hated me half the time - she would yell at me and tell me she didn't want me to be her Mommy anymore.  In my head I knew I was just the only one she felt safe enough with to lash out at.  In my head I knew she was just testing me to see if I would leave, too.  To see if she pushed me hard enough, would I break and leave her.  She needed to know how strong my love was for her.  But, in my heart, it broke me, too.  In my heart all I knew is that my life was hers now.  Hers and her brothers and that I'd do anything!  I was doing EVERYTHING I could to make their lives good and happy and safe.  And, somehow everything wasn't enough.  Some days I was strong.  Some days I wasn't.  There were moments when I cried with her. 
She had just been through too many things she didn't understand.  Divorces, deaths, separations.  She couldn't wrap her little head around it and she couldn't understand.  All she knew was that people leave and things change and it was scary to her.  So, she lashed out.  And, as hard as I tried to be everything she needed, I was exhausted!  A young single mom with two little kids and a full time job, I felt I was just hanging by a thread a lot of the time.
So, we went to counseling. Once a week for about a year.  Every Thursday I would take her and I would sit in the waiting room for an hour, thinking mostly about her and hoping that one day we'd all just be okay...

And, here I sit in the same waiting room.  It's a different program here now, not the counseling place anymore.  But, still, here I am, waiting for a job interview.  Almost eight years later and I'm no longer waiting for my baby girl to get out of a counseling session.  She's a pre-teen now and she's at home, cheering me on as I take a big step and venture on to a new career path.  She's healthy, happy, secure, beautiful, and sure of herself. 
I think about the scared, tired single mom that used to be me and I think about the copy of my Bachelors Degree I'm holding in my briefcase.  I think about how far we've come since I used to sit in this room and I think about all we've accomplished.
How can the tears not be at the surface right now as I thank God for his blessings?  For answering the fervent prayers of an exhausted young Mommy who just wanted her family to be whole again.  And, we are.  And here I am, so far away from where I started.  And I'm thankful and humbled and so blessed...
I take a deep breath, I sit up straight, and I will those tears to wait.  I'm not her anymore.  I'm strong, I know who I am, and I know what I can accomplish if I set my mind to it.  I've proved that to myself.  And, I can do this, too.
And, I do...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Love Keeps no Record of Wrongs

I have decided that it is equally disturbing for a man to feel that he is disappointing his wife as it is for a wife to feel like her husband doesn't want to be around her.  And, thus begins a cyclical downward spiral of a marriage.  And, every marriage has downward spirals.  You are lying if you say you haven't.  Some people catch theirs sooner than others and keep them from crash landing in the dirt.  Some people build them back up, some people walk away.  But EVERY marriage has it's moments.
We've all read and heard 1 Corinthians 13:4-13.  "Love is patient, love is kind...."  I think we've been exposed to it so much so that we are a little desensitized to the real meaning of it all.  We aren't really acting it out in our daily lives.  After all, they are words.  And, words are easily spoken.  Actions to back up the words that you say are much harder.  Especially in a marriage situation where you are required to act on the words you've promised for a lifetime. 
There is one component of those verses that has been on my mind a lot lately: "[Love]does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."  Isn't it just human nature to look at a situation, at a relationship, or at a marriage, and take note of the way the other people involved are handling things "wrong?"  To see how if they changed their behavior in this way or that way then things would just go so much smoother?  It is easier to do that than to look at yourself and see the things YOU could change in order to make things better.  Because, in the end, we can really control no one's actions but our own.  And what the above passage is asking of us, is to put other's before our own needs.  This is especially vital in a marriage. 
It is a tough notion in the society we've been raised in which values self promotion above almost all things.  But, if we are Christians, we know that we just cannot conform to that.  Your spouse is not always deserving of selflessness towards them, but neither are you.  None of us are deserving of God's perfect love towards us, and after all, isn't the main goal of a marriage to be a living picture of Christ's love for his people?  We just cannot put tally marks on the wall of the things that our spouse has done "wrong."  And, how do you tell someone how they should love you? You just can't!  Love is a gift given.  You would never tell someone who handed you a present that their presentation or timing was all wrong or that you wish they'd have spent a little more or gotten you something different.  Even if you felt that they didn't put much effort in to it, you'd take what they gave and be appreciative and polite.  A marriage is the same way.   We're going through life together, which isn't always easy.  Sometimes you won't get your spouse's best of first efforts.  Sometimes you'll feel like your seat on the "back burner" is undeserved and unfair.  But, you can't force someone to gift you with their love the way you think they should.  More often than not, if you try, you'll end up even more unsatisfied than you started. 
What we should be doing is loving our husband or wife without putting them in a proverbial box.  Without looking for what I can get out of the situation.  Without thinking they are doing things wrong.  Without trying to manipulate them in to treating us how we'd like.  (Of course, a situation of abuse is a whole different topic that I won't venture in to here but that should never be tolerated!)   We should be trying to love our spouse the best way we can.  And sometimes we'll be overwhelmed with that initial in love feeling of when we were dating.  But, as time wanes on there will be more and more times when we have to seek God's counsel and divinity to love the person in our life and to see them through God's eyes. 
The words in 1 Corinthians 13 are easily said, easily printed on wedding programs and wall hangings, but if you really read them you'll see they aren't as easily lived out.  It's actually hard to "always protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere."  The key word there, I think is: ALWAYS.  We are not allowed to take breaks from that.  Not even when someone else is not doing it.  We are still required to live this out... ALWAYS.  Yes,it is sometimes very difficult, but it is what we, as Christians, are called to do and with God's help, we can.  The relationship with our husband or wife is the very most important relationship in our lives, aside from our relationship with Christ.  And, it is worth it to put the work in.  (Much of which should be done on our knees before God!)


Monday, May 14, 2012

Another year to love

Another year is marked by just a day.  A day to remember when we are placed here on this Earth.  It is remembered (by less and less people the more years that go by) by phone calls, social network posts, texts, gifts, hugs, a cake... 
The 20's are behind me now.  And all the wanting to "see what is next" seems to be replaced by  a desire to stall the things that approach.  To slow down the years so that I can savor the time that seems to pass every increasingly quickly, pushing us on to the things that we aren't quite so anxious to see.  The gray hairs, the lines that start to form on our bodies.  The age spot on the left temple that sends pangs of regrets about carefree days by a pool or in a tanning bed.  The excitement of seeing my children learn to walk and talk is replaced by anxiety over exactly how to handle things like driving and dating which are now closer in proximity of time than the sleepless nights of infancy and learning ABCs.  Nursery rhymes are being replaced by serious talks about life.  Preparation about how to handle sex, drugs, religion, friends, hormones.  (Granted, I started parenting earlier than some! So, I am doing nursery rhymes AND the birds and the bees right now!)
I watched some home videos the other day.  I saw images of my baby sister's first steps, me and my brother eating cereal before school.  I saw my parents at the age I am at now, with camera in hand, trying to capture it all.  Suddenly hit with the realization of how quickly it was starting to pass them by! I heard my late grandmother laughing at a baby - the way I so desperately wished I could have heard her cackle at my youngest who she missed meeting by just two months.  A million times I've imagined how she'd sound when she saw her fiery red hair.  Hearing it in stereo, and watching it on the screen brought tears to my eyes and deep longing to my heart. 
Sometimes I feel like I should still be about 18 years old.  Could it really have been 14 years since I left high school?  But, on the other hand, I realize when I'm toward the end of my life, fourteen years will seem less like half a life away and more like just a "drop in the bucket."  And I'll feel like I should still be 32 watching my children run in the yard instead of my great grandchildren.  (God willing)  It is true that time is a thief.  So much has it stolen already from me.  Love, memories, people, skin elasticity... Yet, so much has it given.  Children, new love, new people, wisdom, joy, stability.  Eventually, the one age spot will be joined by many.  Gravity will continue to pull at everything and part of me will wish for the age I'm at now.  When my bones ache and my heart has weathered so much more of the things that time will steal, I'll think about this time in my life longingly, I'm sure of it.  But I will also cherish all the other things that time will bring to me.
And, forever, I will thank the Lord for the blessings he doles out on me so bountifully.  For every year he allows me here to do his work.  But, most importantly, for the knowledge that while this seems like so much - this time we spend here - I'm promised an eternity that will make 90 years here seem like a moment.  In all my humanity, I will struggle to hold the moments.  I will take pictures and write blogs and smell my children as I hold them, trying to etch things in my memory. 
A bittersweet thing, a year.  A mark of another accomplishment of time under our belts, a reminder of the things we said we'd do but didn't.  Another 12 months of beautiful memories, of losses, of gains, of moments we will cherish.  And moments we will never get back.  Another reminder to spend our moments well.  To make the moments count.  Most importantly, a reminder to make our work here count when we are gone.  The pictures we take are for those we'll someday leave behind.  And, someday they will fade.  But, the love we give, the love we take, the love we teach... That will live eternally. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Savana's Scars

I remember being 5 years old, outside in our front yard, day dreaming of having a sister.  I loved my brother, but as a girl, I dreamed so much about what it would be like to have a sister.  It was something I wanted so badly.
I can't remember Mom and Dad telling us that mom was pregnant.  I was 6 years old when they found out about their little "oops!"  I was so excited and would have adored the little thing no matter if it was a boy or a girl, but I was so hopeful that I would finally get the sister that I'd dreamed of for so long.
At seven and a half, I will never forget being at the hospital waiting on Mom to have our new baby.  My aunt took my brother and I home at one point to eat dinner and I was so worried that she would have the baby while we were gone.  This was back before the days of the cell phone, mind you.  So, just a few minutes after we got to the house, the phone rang.  The baby had been born.... and it was a GIRL!!  I was so excited.  I can't think of a time in my childhood where I was more excited than that moment.
I was instantly in love with that little girl and with my God given nurturing/maternal nature, I became a little less plain old big sister, and a little more 2nd mother to her.  I felt very protective of her and I wanted to help take care of her.  I was so extremely proud of her.  I brought her to my 2nd grade class for show and tell as soon as Mom was okay to bring her to the school. 
Bless my brother's heart, as she got older, I would take her side in any argument they had, citing the fact that, "She is 5 years younger than you!!"  In my mind I felt we should just concede to her because she was the baby.  I could not understand his feeling that she had taken his place in the hierarchy of our family because in my mind she was the greatest thing to ever happen to us and I revered her as almost a child of my own. 
As we grew older, I know our age gap must have made her feel a little left out.  As I became a teenager, I loved her no less than before, but I was busy with school activities, work, and friends.  But, often I would come home at midnight on a weekend and wake her up to have her crawl in bed with me and play with my hair like she had always done when we were little.  And, as an excited 18 year old, fresh out of high school, I gave home barely a second glance as I ventured off to college.  Savana and I shared a country song by The Dixie Chicks that reminded us of what I was going through at that point in my life:  Wide Open Spaces.  I don't know for sure how she felt about me leaving, but I remember having her come stay with me in my dorm room and I always loved the feeling of being able to be the big sister to her.  I often felt like I didn't do enough for her and didn't spend as much time with her as I should have, but I loved my role in her life.
My sophomore year in college ended traumatically with a life defining phone call about my sister being shot in a school shooting.  She was 12 and in 6th grade.  In a rushed car ride to the hospital she'd been life flighted to a little over an hour from where I was living then, I felt my heart aching almost outside of my body.  It was my first experience with the fear of losing someone that you love more than yourself.  It was my first experience with wanting desperately to trade places - to stand in for someone else's pain. 
I walked in to her little room in the ER to see half her head bandaged and I choked my tears back for her sake.  I smiled for her sake.  I would not break down in front of her.  I would be the big sister in this instance and I would be strong for her.  I walked to her bedside and the first words out of her mouth to me were:  "Sissy, I'm sorry.  I got blood on your letter jacket."  (She wore my high school letter jacket to school.)  "That's okay," I managed to choke out in a half laugh with my voice cracking.  Then I had to step out of the room and break down.
I remember sitting in her hospital room, looking at the newspaper picture of the pool of blood that had been left outside the school.  I remember looking at the spot where she had been lying on the cement with her face open and bleeding and thinking about how scared she must have been.  I couldn't shake the feeling that I wished I'd been there.  I wish I'd been there to hold her and tell her it would all be okay.  I hated knowing she'd been there by herself for any period of time.  I hated that picture.
She survived that.  Barely, and by the grace of God.  Which meant that I survived it, too.  Barely.  And, by the grace of God.  She'd have taken some huge part of me with her if she'd gone to Heaven that day.  You see, Savana's scars are my scars, too.  The one on her cheek that most people don't notice.  That scar is on my heart.  The day I almost lost her.  The day God changed my life and brought be back to him through her.  There's one above her eye where she got hit with the swing set when we were little.  There used to be one on her bottom from a spider bite when we went on vacation that got infected.  There's one on her lip from basketball when she was in high school.  I had to take her to the doctor that day and watch them sew it up.  I almost threw up because they didn't have her numbed all the way and I couldn't stand watching her in pain.  Every time she has been hurt, it has hurt me, too.  Or changed me.  Her scars are my brother's scars, as well.  There is something so special about growing up side by side with people.  There's something irreplaceable about the people who know everything about you from the time you were small and know all the stories you can't even tell - the ones just on your heart; buried memories our minds don't even recall, but shaped us in to who we are today.
Savana is about to have her first child.  I might be as excited as she is; possibly more excited than I even was when she was born.  As always, I am ahead of her on the road of life.  I know what she is about to experience and I am so overwhelmed at the opportunity to be close to her and watch her become a mother.  As her stomach swells and stretches and scars with the new life she creates, the scars are mine, too, as my heart swells for her.  She asks me questions about what to expect and I play the role now of older sister, but more than anything, as just her friend who has known her since she was born - who shares all her past glories, tears, and dreams. 
Savana's scars are my scars.  And, I wouldn't have it any other way...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

It's a long wait from 2:00 to 5:00...

Warning.  I talk about boobs in this post!
So, I leave my house at 2:00 to head to the hospital for my ultrasound and possible mammogram.  I am supposed to be there at 2:30 and the appointment is at 2:45.  I check in and I sit and wait.
When I am called back the nurse shows me to a dressing room and asks me to put on a "gown." 
I see spray deodorant and wipes on the little table.  I'm thinking this is to make sure no one has to smell your skanky pits while examining you.  Nice touch.  Then, she asks me:  "Do you have deodorant on?"  At this point I'm thinking there must really be an issue with stinky people getting their boobs checked out.  "Yes," I reply quickly.  She then tells me to use the wipes to wipe it off in case I have to have a mammogram.  Something about the machine.  At this point my inner monologue is really chuckling at my own expense.
I take my shirt off and my bra.  I wipe the deodorant off my pits.  Then, I decide better to be safe than sorry and just wipe down the whole chest area.  (Ahem.  I am rather blessed in the chest area, and us girls all know:  Nothing smells worse than boob sweat!)  I get the "gown" out of the little basket on the table.  Now, I'm no stranger to gowns. I've been pregnant 3 times, during which I was admitted to the hospital several times during each pregnancy due to complications. I have rocked a hospital gown a time or two. No sweat!  I pick this gown up and it's very short so at first I think they have just cut down regular hospital gowns and this seems like a cute little idea for having boob exams.  However, as I begin to wrestle with it, I realize this is no gown!!  I can hear snaps hitting each other somewhere but cannot find them, one end is tapered in to a point, and none of it makes sense!  I start to have anxiety about them coming back to get me and being still shirtless.  So, I just drape the thing over my shoulders and try to make sure the girls are somewhat covered.  I feel exposed... and half mentally challenged.
I go out in the hall and the tech directs me to the ultra sound room.  This is great fun.  I've had an echo cardiogram done before so I know how extremely awkward it is to lay on a table and have someone squirt KY Jelly all over your chest and probe around on it.  Just the two of you in a dark room.  At least this time it was a woman.  But, still.  I have to feel around on my breast for her to show her where the lump is.  She is using the clock terminology and we easily find the 2:00 lump, the 5:00 is a little more hidden.  She wipes the jelly off and tells me she has to send the images to the radiologist to see if he thinks I need a mammogram or not.  So, I envelope myself back in the small cape and try to relax, obviously hoping she comes back and says it all looks great!
She comes back.  I need a mammogram.  My heart sinks.  But, I'm staying positive....


Mammograms.
Mammograms are not my favorite.  As I mentioned before, I am no C cup.  I would actually probably have been really happy with a good C, maybe even a D.  But, as per my recent professional bra fitting, my place in the alphabet is much past D.  Fortunately, (This is about the only time I've seen the following as good fortune!) after 3 kids and years of gravity, they aren't that perky anymore.  That has to be advantageous when having them smashed.  So, I go stand in front of the machine and the tech who happens to be from my very small hometown, literally lifts my boob on to the machine.  Not awkward at all.  It compresses.  Not THAT bad.  I wish I had my cell phone to take a picture of it.  Not to post on facebook!  Just to send to my husband because it is CRACKING ME UP!  (I hate when you want to crack up but it would be completely inappropriate!  I did that at a funeral once.  So not cool!)  (Also, I deflect tension with humor.  It's inherited.  Just ask my BFFs who got pictures of me in my cape sent to them from the exam room!)  Then, she moves the machine to a very strange angle.  She puts me boob back in there and I think that this is not a way my boob is supposed to bend and as she compresses it I find out that I am absolutely correct.  Ouch.
All done.  She tells me she has to now send these pictures to the radiologist and I can get dressed if I want, but he may want more.  I choose to stay in the lovely cape with pastel flowers on it.  I've grown attached by now.
So, I wait... I don't have any anticipation that I'll find out results today but still sitting in the dark room, surrounded by mammogram equipment, what else can I think about beside:  I might have breast cancer.  I might need radiation or chemotherapy.  I might have to not work and what will we do?  What stage would I be at?  All these things are running through my mind for what seems like forever.  My BFFs and sister are texting me encouraging words, verses, thoughts and prayers.  I feel loved, covered and protected more than I feel scared.  That is beautiful, I think.
At very close to 5:00, the tech comes back in and says:  "He said it's all clear on both ends. You can go.  Just let your Dr. know if it starts to get bigger."  I'm elated!  I put my shirt back on and run out of the hospital.  I don't ask questions or make eye contact.  I feel as light as a feather! Praise. The. LORD!!!

Today I get a call from my doctor.  He says that there's no malignancy... that they can SEE and emphasises the "SEE."  My light as a feather feeling gets weighted some.  He wants another mammogram and ultra sound in 6 months.  That's good, I think.  Best to keep an eye on it.  And, it also keeps it in the back of my mind.  Which I hate, but I think is a good thing for two reasons:
It is going to prompt me to make changes in my lifestyle.  Eating healthier.  Getting more exercise.  Things that reduce my risks.  It will also ensure that I do monthly self exams now.  No more sporadic when I think about it stuff.  This is for real!
I'm not living in fear of cancer.  I had already told myself that if I had it, I knew it was in God's hands and that I would use it as a platform to glorify him.  One of my friends reminded me during this ordeal, very simply:  "Fear is not of God."  I won't be terrified.  I won't dwell on it.  I won't think about the what-ifs.  I will be informed, proactive, and faithful.
And, I might start wearing capes....

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Unknown at "2:00 and 5:00"

I am writing this, knowing I won't post until later.  Until I have a better conclusion to this instead of an open ended maybe to end the post.  It will end up with one of two significant major life reactions:  Either "Whew" or "Is this really happening?"  So, I'm hoping for the first and arming myself with the knowledge that we are never immune to having to deal with the latter.
I've never done regular breast exams.  Shame on me, I know.  I just don't think about it.  Sporadically I will check them and, of course, there's the awkward yearly fondling by a trained medical professional.  I know people who've had breast cancer, I know I should check every month, just like I know I should eat more fruit and vegetables.  And, I plan to do those things... then I just don't.
Anyway, this Fall during one of my sporadic "Guess I'll feel myself up for the sake of early detection" moments, I felt something in my upper left breast.  My impulse was to jerk my hand away with the "Eeeeew" factor present and the immediate denial set it.  I assumed it was because I had just put the feminine supplies away for the month and that it would go away. I didn't tell anyone.  Not even my husband.
I don't know how often I checked it after that.  But, often, I would feel around to see if it was still there or if it had gone away.  After a couple of months I told my husband.  There was a nagging in the back of my mind about needing to get to the doctor and have it checked out.  And, there was also another voice in my mind telling me if I just ignored it, it would go away and/or I wouldn't have to face anything scary.  (I know the second voice is mentally challenged...  I know.)
Finally after about 4 months or so there started to be some tenderness in my breast and I decided that for the sake of my family, if nothing else, I needed to get this over with! 
So, I went to the doctor.  Keep in mind, it was a brand new doctor because I hadn't had a primary care physician in over 3 years.  I went in to become established as a patient, with my 3 year old in tow, thinking that they would probably schedule all the stuff I needed done, like my yearly hot date with Mr. Speculum.  But, I was wrong.  When they told me to strip down and put on a gown, I looked down at my three year old and thought about how traumatic and confusing it might be to watch a man - not her father - (Not that I would let her watch her father do this to me, either!) rub all over my breasts and fish around between my legs.  YIKES!
All I can say is thank God for iphones.  A Madeline movie in the corner kept her occupied as the Dr. felt of my breasts.   Right one checked out fine.  He started on the left and I could tell when he got to the lump.  AKA:  Nodule.  It hurt when he palpated it.  He continued in his circle and then tells me he found another one, lower.  He asked me about my menstrual cycle and if it seemed to have gotten bigger over the months.  His words were like honey to my soul, "Well, they don't seem to be worrisome, but given your family history, let's do an ultra sound just to be on the safe side."  I blew out a sigh of relief.  NOT WORRISOME was all I really got out of that statement.
He turned to the nurse to talk to her about scheduling an ultra sound and he said, "She has two nodules.  One at 2:00 and the other at about 5:00."  I found this very comical.  Apparently they label breasts like a clock.  My nodules are at 2:00 and 5:00! 
I went about my day in a pretty great mood.  I think it was such a relief to get that all scheduled and out of the way.  Plus, the Dr. didn't seem worried, so I was home free, right?  After a few days I started thinking.  What did I expect the Dr. to say?  Do doctors really ever say at this stage in the game, "You might have cancer.  Let's check it out."  I meant, it's a given that I might have cancer.  It took exactly 3 days for that realization to make it all the way to my brain.  I. COULD. HAVE. BREAST. CANCER.
I'm staying positive.  Don't get me wrong.  I never googled breast cancer (which is very unlike me!) until after I went to the doctor.  I am not assuming I have it or breaking down in to the depths of dispair at the very thought.  But, I'm being real with myself.  I have two lumps in my breast, which CAN BE a symptom of breast cancer.  So, somewhere in my mind is the realization that after I go in tomorrow for my ultra sound/mammogram, my life could change.  I did have a little episode last night after everyone was asleep and I couldn't sleep.  I did cry for the first time at the thought of it.  I think I'm allowed to be a little scared.  Not even so much for me, but for my family.  I'm the Momma!  If I get down, the whole family goes with me, and I don't want that! 
What I know is this:  God has me.  Whether I end up with a scary diagnosis or not, God is in control of the situation and I won't break down.  If I have to I'll stand up and I'll fight and however it all ends up, I'm victorious already.  My God has overcome this world.

So, here is my verse for this day of testing:
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10



....Good news to be posted later!!  :-D

Monday, January 23, 2012

Help around the house

Tonight I have been a bad mom. I don't feel good, so I did some essential domestics, then went and laid in my bed. My oldest let the baby (who's 3 now, but she'll always be "the baby") shower with her. The baby is lively tonight. Of course. Since I have no energy.but how in the world can you be agitated with such an adorable little fireball?
I hear dishes banging in the kitchen and start yelling her name. She finally comes walking through my room, shaking the water off her hands, doesn't even look at me, and announces: "I'm done with the dishes." She looked a little exasperated. Dishes will do that to a girl!

She's so sassy! Must be the red hair. She insisted on taking a picture of me After I took hers. (notice the inside out nightgown)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Outside closed doors - Our judgmental nature (A barring of my soul... again)

I distinctly remember being a young child lying in bed, sweating.  On mild nights my parents would open the windows in the house instead of turning on the air conditioner.  I would get up and shut my window, for fear that someone would cut my screen and climb in and take me.  So, I would try desperately to go to sleep even though I was so hot.  But, I also had to leave at least the sheet on or "they" would get me.  (I don't know who "they" were.  I also had to close my eyes when the train went by at night.  They could get me if I didn't.)
I can remember laying in bed, fretting over endangered species.  I had pamphlets on how to help save almost every endangered species on the planet.  I would literally cry myself to sleep thinking about the chance of my parents or grandparents dying.  I worried about the amount of roadkill I saw on the side of the road because I was afraid those animals would become endangered as well.  (I know this all sounds kind of silly, but to me, it was so serious and scary!)  I remember in first grade I dropped my lunchbox on the way to the bus after school and contents fell on the ground.  I was MORTIFIED.  I wanted to cry so badly but I was so afraid if I did I'd be made fun of.  In third grade I left my reading book at school accidentally.  I came home and cried inconsolably because I was so upset that I wouldn't be able to get my homework done.  In Kindergarten my teacher wanted me held back. I was excelling academically, but I rarely spoke.  I remember having to say my ABCs and I absolutely wouldn't say them in front of the whole class.  My teacher had me come up to her desk so I could whisper them to her. I also had some OCD type issues, although I didn't realize they were weird or odd and they were mainly in my mind, so no one noticed.
Shy?  I was called that.  I was called "shy" and "sensitive" a lot as a kid.  As an adult I figured out I'm not really "shy."  I'm introverted, but get to know me and you would never in a million years call me shy.  My biggest issue for my whole life has been anxiety.  I didn't want to talk in front of people because I was so nervous about being laughed at.  Over the years my anxiety grew with me and manifested in different ways.  In high school I was a conscientious and honor roll student.  However, by college, the pressure I'd put on myself to succeed became too much for me to handle and I cracked. I was having anxiety attacks then, although I didn't know what they were and I began drinking alcohol to deal with it.  Being drunk was the ONLY time I didn't have a knot in my stomach and a million things running through the back of my mind.  I fell in love with that feeling.  The freedom that offered me to just be myself and not worry for a few hours. 
When I became pregnant at 19 I immediately quit drinking.  When my daughter was born, my anxiety was brought to a whole new level.  I never had classic post-partum depression with her but I was immediately filled with an intense anxiety over anything happening to her.  For the first year of all three of my children's lives I was tortured by their frailty and while I adored them all more than anything, that love drove me to places in my mind that I'm still not ready to openly share.  I fear sounding like a complete lunatic!  During my divorce, I went to the ER with chest pains and shortness of breath.  Had an EKG done and the whole bit.  Everything checked out fine.  However, I knew something was wrong.  I felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest and like my lungs were collapsing. Stress, they told me.
When I moved in to my own apartment, just me and my two small children, that's when everything came to a head for me.  I couldn't let my kids sleep in their room.  I would stay up so late that I finally became so exhausted I would just crash.  That's the only way I could go to sleep.  Otherwise, I would lay there and freak out over every noise and make up scenarios in my head so I could be prepared for anything that might happen while we slept.  I would fret over whether or not to sleep with the TV on.  Because I liked the noise, but what if it kept me from hearing something in the middle of the night?  But, on the other hand, it might make it look like I was awake so no one would try to break in. I would get up several times to check the locks, even though I locked the door every time I shut it. This circle would go on and on in my head until it was spinning.  I would just give in to it.  It's all I'd ever done.  And, when you live with something your whole entire life, you don't really realize there's anything wrong with it.  Kind of like when kids get glasses.  They don't realize they can't see well because that's just how things have always looked.  Then, they put the glasses on and are like, "Oh!  Wow!!"  That's how my anxiety was.  It was every bit as much a part of me as my hands.  It had always been there.  It's WHO I was.
When the attacks started hitting me in public, I knew something had to change.  If you've never had one, it is scary.  You literally feel like your heart is going to beat right out of your chest and you can't breathe.  You start to think you are going to die and it is a very real fear in your mind that something is terribly wrong.  You become so fearful that you won't be able to catch your breath.  That your heart will stop.  I can remember racing to the bathroom to double over and try to overcome it.  I have to cry.  The only way I can get past a full blown attack is to finally cry.  And, that's not fun in the middle of dinner at a restaurant with other people.
I went to the doctor finally.  She asked me a lot of questions.  She told me this: (which made me feel a little crazy!  lol)  "Your fears are not irrational.  You just take them about 10 steps further than normal people."  Normal people??  Nice.  "Here's a prescription."
So, I started taking a little pill every day.  I hated it.  It did, in fact, alleviate the physical symptoms of my anxiety.  However, I felt like I was in a completely monotone state, emotionally.  There were no lows, but there were also no highs.  And, the problem with medicating anxiety is that they give you a pill for depression and that wasn't an issue for me.  I was not depressed.  So, I learned more and more about the attacks and about how the adrenaline causes them and that you get scared and produce more adrenaline which feeds the adrenaline and before you know it you're in a vicious adrenaline cycle and there's your attack.  I learned to feel it coming on and to take deep breaths and calm myself down.  I learned to stop and pray.  And, I got off the little pill and started dealing with it on my own, with God's help.  And, I finally realized the freedom from my anxiety that I can only find in Christ.
The ironic thing about it is how other people see me.  I've heard me described as:  "laid back"  "easy going"  "calm".  And, I am very much those things outside of myself.  Outside of my own head.  But, hearing that has always made me laugh inside.  I'd always think, If only they knew what goes on inside my head.  How absolutely tense I usually am inside.  How when I set a certain time to leave the house and don't make the mark I'm reeling inside.  Even though there's no actual deadline. 
Which leads me to my whole point.  Why are we all so judgmental?  Myself included!!  Why do we look at other people and make inferences and judgments about the way they do things?  We don't know their insides.  We don't know all their struggles. 
I fight so hard against my anxiety and everyday it is a struggle to hand over my stress to God and let it go.  Some days I do better than others.  I "fall off the wagon" from time to time.  This December was one of those times for me.  I gave in.  I let the anxiety take over.  And, when I do that I tend to close myself off to everyone around me.  Even those closest to me.  It's hard for me to interact with other people, especially to go to places like church or parties, where a lot of people will be there.  I've been judged on that.  I know what it feels like to have people misjudge your motives, infer about why you act the way you do and generally not understand where you are coming from.  It's hard.  And, let's face it, we ALL have struggles and issues.  We ALL battle our own battles in our lives that sometimes we conquer, or sometimes we don't.  So, why do we feel the right to look at other people and judge them without knowing their battles?  Without even caring, half the time.
And, I am not preaching.  I am as guilty as the next person.  Not to long ago I caught myself judging someone for being judgmental!  I had to just laugh at myself.  It was the height of ridiculousness.  I just wish we all had more grace for each other.  Especially those of us in the "Christian" community.  Sometimes I think we can be the worst of all!  We have been shown the ultimate grace and should be more than happy to pass it on.
Afterall, sin, in itself, is our flesh struggling against our spirituality.  My anxiety is sinful in nature.  It's prideful, even, for me to think that I need to worry about one single thing when I profess my faith in a God who has overcome the world already.  The bible tells me not to worry:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" Matthew 6:25-27  And, yet, every single day I fight the urge to fret and worry.  Sometimes I give in and make myself physically ill or mentally exhausted.  Reading this story might make it easy for you to pity me.  "Awww.  Poor girl, having to deal with that her whole life."  But, the truth of the matter is, we've all placed values on sins.  We decide which ones are worse, which ones we need to harp on, and which ones we need to make public debates over.  Some of the "lesser" ones we just leave alone.  But, in God's eyes, sin is sin.  He hates it all.  He knows what it does to our spirits.  We are commanded to love.  To first love God, and to then to "love our neighbor as ourselves."  (Mark 12:31)  And, love keeps no record of wrongdoing.  Love doesn't judge.  Sometimes love is the very thing someone needs to pull them out of their struggle with their sinful nature.  Just something to think about.  So, the next time you want to look in at someone from the outside and judge them, maybe try to figure out a way to show them some love instead.  It may be just what they need.  (And, PS, the ones who are the hardest to love are probably the ones who need it the most!)

Diets and Dog Poo - Deja Vu??

There have been several nights that my sweet, now full grown, Fizzgig furbaby has slept in the kids' beds as opposed to locked in the laundry room as usual.  So, last night as I lay curled in my warm, cozy bed, I thought it would be okay to leave her free to roam as we slept.  I was laying there thinking about how she hadn't had an accident in the house, period, since she was a puppy and the few nights we'd let her sleep with the kids, she just stayed there until morning.  Blissfully, I drifted off, so pleased with my perfect little animal.  Although, having an animal in the house disgusts me slightly, my adoration for this little thing, as well my childrens' adoration, helps me accept her IN to our home.
This morning.  I awoke to two piles in the living room.  One on the carpet and one on the tile in the entry way.  Of course. Of course she had to prove me wrong.  Gagging all the while, I cleaned up the poo.  Dog poo is no fun, and it is especially no fun first thing in the morning,pre-coffee.  I found her sleeping happily on my daughter's bed and when I opened the front door, she trotted out happily as if nothing had happened.  Dogs.  Then, when I let her back in, she proceded to scoot her doggy bottom ON MY CARPET.  I was so grossed out.  I will be steaming my carpets now.
Maybe that's why I couldn't eat breakfast until much later.  And, speaking of breakfast, I am once again on the diet bandwagon.  Weight watchers/low carb.  Not no carb.  No special rules or bans on foods.  Just trying really hard to eat whole foods most of the time and get my carbs from fruits mainly.  Whole grains here and there.  I've figured out that my body does not respond well to carbs.  Also, I've adopted Weight Watchers as my new way of life.  And, I've learned some valuable things already!  A.  I've been able to, for years, eat my daily recommended calorie intake in one meal of pizza.  B.  Eating out is the debil!  C. It's okay to eat candy bars.  Sometimes.  Provided you haven't already splurged that day.  D. Candy bars are glorious when you only eat them sometimes.  E.  Only allowing yourself to have a certain portion of food makes you slow down and enjoy it more.  F.  Even very small changes in your diet can equal to a lot of cut calories! G.  If you mess up one day, just start all over the next day.  It's ok.  H.  Cleaning up dog feces in the morning will greatly reduce your appetite!