Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Love Your Neighbor

My cousin, Lacey, has deemed 2017 to be the year of decluttering. In addition to being my hero, she is one of my main sources of humor: she texted me a photo of a $10 my mom wrote to her for her birthday 17 years ago, and asked if I could relay the message that she would not be cashing it. Her words: "I guess I was too good for her $10 back then. I am not now".

I've always been a fan of decluttering, organizing, minimalizing, categorizing, and consolidating. Everything should have its place, and you should only have what you need. My parents might not believe that I have this belief, based on the state of my room as a child, but trust me: my things had a place. It was when I cleaned my room that I couldn't find what I needed. I knew that binder was under my shoes by my desk. That's where I was keeping it! ... Said every teenager ever.

There's just something about that feeling of accomplishment when you are able to donate a bag of items to Goodwill, toss a hefty bag out to the trash, or recycle a pound of shredded, unnecessary papers.

But it is not easy. I'm so conditioned to think that I need all of the things I have around me, even though I have less than most of my friends. I work as a nanny, my husband is a teacher, we don't buy big-ticket items unless they break, and even then, we typically buy them second-hand. We often take what others toss aside, and we don't have much sense of fashion or style, so we're not picky about what gets handed to us. Still, I've been convicted lately that I have too much. I've been torn between wanting a tiny home to force myself to only keep what is essential, and having a huge house with multiple guest rooms so that we could keep exchange students, refugees, whoever needed a place. And with all my anxiety, when I become torn on an issue, I just stay stuck and there's much ado about nothing.

One particular concept that Christ teaches about keeps getting stuck in my mind: the idea of loving your neighbor as yourself. In Mark 12:30-31, a man asks Jesus what the most important commandment is, and instead of just telling him the number one commandment, to love your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, He goes on to reveal the second as well: love your neighbor as yourself. On the surface, it's simple, but uncover it and there are multiple interpretations. For instance, most believe that the verse plainly means you need to love everyone that you come in contact with. Some flip it, and think it means to love yourself, give yourself as much grace and forgiveness, as you grant to others in your life. I've been focusing in on the word "as". What if Jesus' meaning was not just to love others and yourself too, but to love your neighbor, as in, everyone you come in contact with, as much as you love yourself, in the same way as you love yourself. What does that really look like?

What if that's spending as much of what you have on you as it does on others?

Whoa.

I've been struggling with this for months now. I will continue to struggle with it for the foreseeable future, because I want with all of my being to be not only obedient, but loving, conscious of my choices, and wise with my decisions. And as Americans, we tend to throw out most of what the Bible says about money. My preacher said it best in a sermon when I first started attending: "It's hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of Heaven... It's hard for a person who lives in Sugar Land, TX to enter the kingdom of Heaven".

Our family sends $38 a month to four different children through sponsorship with Compassion International. When I received a letter back from my sweet girl in Mexico, there was a photo attached, showing what she had spent her birthday money on: milk, cereal, and shampoo for the family. I broke down in tears. Her birthday money. She shared it with her family to buy what we thin of as necessities. So, as I adjusted our budget at the start of the year, I decided to do something radical: exactly what the Bible says, or what I think it might say: I started trying to love my neighbor as myself. I budgeted $38 for each person in my family, to cover outings, clothing, makeup, toys, whatever. It is not easy. In fact, I've exceeded my budget for myself each month. For Brooklyn, too. It sure is easier for guys to stay in budget in this country. There's so much aimed at girls as far as what we need and can't live without. But I'm trying. And isn't that all that can be expected of us?

Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of it is, and when we are hoarding what we own for ourselves, is that not loving money? Some may say that they tithe, or give 10% to their church. Others claim that they donate to various charities or associations. I do this, too. You know what else I do? Fall asleep to the audio version of Jesus' sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) most nights. Matthew 6:1-4 reads:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
If claiming tax deductions are not "practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them", I don't know what is. When I give to the needy, I deduct it all. We donated our van to Wheels for Wishes last year. $500 tax deduction. Boom. I donated lots of clothes, toys, books, etc. over the course of the year to Goodwill, the women's shelter, the Purple Heart, and received tax receipts for them all. Even my church offers a tax deductible charity sheet at the end of the year to make my taxes easier. My left hand always knows what my right hand is doing, and I know it shouldn't.

It's no coincidence that this is coming to a head during the season of Lent, which many Protestants don't celebrate. I never did, until college. I've given up soda, chocolate, and politics in years past, some seasons more successful than others. This year, I decided to participate in the "40 Bags in 40 Days" challenge: fill 40 bags of stuff to get rid of during the 40-day season of Lent. Rather than having a specific item to give up, you choose to give up the idea of stuff as a whole. I was energized, pumped up like I've been before about decluttering, organizing, categorizing, minimalizing, and consolidating. And just like I've done before, I started itemizing it.

I just deleted my list.

I'm saying it one time, and not to make myself look better. I know that it actually makes me look crazy, unconventional, like a fanatic, and some may even say cruel. To deny my children things they want because I'm consciously trying to spend only $38 or less on them a month? What a terrible mother I am.

Whatever. When you get called to do something, you do it. This is where I am, and I don't expect anyone to be here with me. But I'd love to talk about it.



Thursday, March 9, 2017

Disney Prep

Walt Disney World is so close I can almost taste it.

We are taking the kids with us to celebrate our 10th anniversary, Peyton's 5th birthday, and Brooklyn's 7th birthday (never mind the fact that her birthday is in October and the other two events are in January- we're doing it big this year and celebrating all at once).

So really, it's like 9+ months away, and it makes a lot more sense to countdown to our family trips this summer to Colorado or Alabama instead, but how can we not be ridiculously excited about finally taking our kids to Disney??

And I know I'm not the only one who gets like this. Over a year ago, my mom put cute Mickey and Minnie stickers all over mason jars with a slit in the lid and called them my kids' "Disney banks". Now, whenever they find any change, it goes into their Disney bank for our trip.

Today, Brandon and I decided to take the kids to Disney on Ice next month when it comes to Houston. It'll give them a small piece of magic to hold onto until it's their time to see it full-blown. Also, it'll give Peyton an opportunity to stop being afraid of "mascots". Last thing I need is a boy who sobs when he gets close to Mickey Mouse. There is no crying at Disney!

But wait, there's more! We realize we are incredibly dorky (and awesome) for doing this, but our family has started watching every single one of the Disney animated classics. In order.

Yes, you read that right.

And, of course, there are rules.

We are including only what is known as the Disney animated classics, meaning other classics like "The Parent Trap" are not included, because they are not cartoons. Also, "Mary Poppins" and "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" are excluded because they are not entirely cartoons, though they do feature some animation. Also not included are films like "Planes", because that was made through a branch of Disney animation, known as DisneyToon Studios, thus not making it officially part of the Disney animated canon. Lastly,  direct-to-video films are also excluded, so there will not be any "101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure" on our viewing schedule (I should note that Brooklyn and I both prefer "Pocahontas II" to the original, and while "Peter Pan" is forever the GOAT, "Return to Neverland" is worth watching. But, I digress).

So, here they are, in chronological order:

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs -1937
  2. Pinocchio -1940
  3. Fantasia -1940
  4. Dumbo -1941
  5. Bambi -1942
  6. Saludos Amigos -1942
  7. The Three Caballeros -1944
  8. Make Mine Music -1946
  9. Fun and Fancy Free -1947
  10. Melody Time -1948
  11. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad -1949
  12. Cinderella -1950
  13. Alice in Wonderland -1951
  14. Peter Pan -1953
  15. Lady and the Tramp -1955
  16. Sleeping Beauty -1959
  17. 101 Dalmatians -1961
  18. The Sword in the Stone -1963
  19. The Jungle Book -1967 (Walt's last film)
  20. The Aristocats -1970
  21. Robin Hood -1973
  22. The Rescuers -1977
  23. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh -1977
  24. The Fox and the Hound -1981
  25. The Black Cauldron -1985
  26. The Great Mouse Detective -1987
  27. Oliver and Company -1988
  28. The Little Mermaid -1989
  29. The Rescuers Down Under -1990
  30. Beauty and the Beast -1991
  31. Aladdin -1992
  32. The Lion King -1994
  33. Pocahontas -1995
  34. Toy Story -1995
  35. The Hunchback of Notre Dame -1996
  36. Hercules -1997
  37. Mulan -1998
  38. A Bug's Life -1998
  39. Tarzan -1999
  40. Toy Story 2- 1999
  41. Fantasia 2000 -1999
  42. Dinosaur -2000
  43. The Emperor's New Groove- 2000
  44. Atlantis -2001
  45. Monster's Inc.-2001
  46. Lilo and Stitch -2002
  47. Treasure Planet -2002
  48. Finding Nemo -2003
  49. Brother Bear -2003
  50. Home on the Range -2004
  51. The Incredibles -2004
  52. Chicken Little -2005
  53. Cars -2006
  54. Meet the Robinsons -2007
  55. Ratatouille -2007
  56. Wall-E -2008
  57. Bolt -2008
  58. Up -2009
  59. The Princess and the Frog -2009
  60. Toy Story 3 -2010
  61. Tangled -2010
  62. Cars 2 -2011
  63. Winnie the Pooh -2011
  64. Brave -2012
  65. Wreck-It Ralph -2012
  66. Monster's University -2013
  67. Frozen -2013
  68. Big Hero 6 -2014
  69. Inside Out -2015
  70. The Good Dinosaur -2015
  71. Zootopia -2016
  72. Finding Dory -2016
  73. Moana -2016
  74. Cars 3 -2017
  75. Coco -2017


Italics= we've watched it during this chronological film-watching game. Bold=we don't own it. Yep, we own all those obscure cartoon-collage films from the 1940's. We're big fans of "The Three Caballeros". Technically, we also own "The Black Cauldron", my kids just don't know about it yet. It's so scary! I've been hiding it in my closet since one of our Blockbusters went out of business. Man, I miss those days... the days that Blockbuster was open, and the days they were closing and all their movies were a dollar. We helped clean out at least 5 stores. The legend of Blockbuster WILL live on, if only through our children and their psychotic movie-loving parents.

Can I also mention what dark times it was for Disney animation once Pixar came in and started showing them up? Seriously- "Home on the Range"? "Treasure Planet"? "Chicken Little"? Not good, Disney. Not good, at all.

Also, how crazy is it that by the end of 2017, there will be 75 Disney films, and yet "The Little Mermaid" is number 28? In my mind, that movie still isn't very old. Of course, I'm 31, and that film was released when I was 3, so my judgment on what is old and what isn't is clearly not trustworthy. Still, it's neat to see how much technology and animation have come since 1937. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is 80 years old this year, but only 25 Disney movies were made before my lifetime, from 1937 until 1986. Animated films get churned out left and right now.

How about the fact that Walt Disney lived for and worked on only 19 of these 75 movies? Yet, this dude will never disappear, and therefore never really die. Immortality through a mouse. Incredible.

Anyway, back to our little project: if we watch one movie every 4-5 days, we'll be able to see them all by the time we leave for our own Disney vacation. Not only are we watching these movies together, but at the conclusion of each film, Brandon asks what we thought of the movie (Bad, Okay, Good, Very Good, or One of the Best), what our favorite scene/character/song was, and records our answers on a Word document, along with a photo of us watching. Would you expect anything less from the man who has kept a log of what movies we have watched together, where, when, who with, and all other pertinent details since before we started dating? He was clearly made for me.

We will be SO ready for our trip to WDW. Possibly the most prepared family in the history of vacationing. Now all we need are our mandatory matching shirts.




Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Genetics are interesting. That's actually the understatement of the year. The argument over nature vs. nurture has been going on for hundreds of years. A loving home can overcome most everything. but when the genetics predispose someone to a physical condition or mental illness, there's just no denying it.

I take medication for anxiety and depression. This is common knowledge. What isn't, is that my 6-year-old daughter will soon be seeing a therapist for the same mental illness as me. Well, the anxiety part, anyway. She knows it. We talk about it all the time. How can we not? When it's so present in our lives, we have to call it what it is.

Anxiety comes in waves, for me anyway. I feel fine for weeks on end, make lofty goals and great improvement on my overall habits and way of living. Then, I can't sleep. And when I can't sleep, I worry more. I get impatient. I say things I regret. I get frustrated with myself for not being patient. I continue to get snap at others around me.

And boy, do I fight it. But more often than not, I just can't, and I end up crying and at a standstill with myself.

Today was one of those days.

I didn't fall asleep until about 4:45 this morning, so I was up a creek already. I didn't get a nap, I was riled up by my two kids and the two I nanny, and I was still looking ahead to the rest of my night: allergy shots, dinner, church. I had to make it to church because I was teaching the 9th grade girls. Brooklyn ended up having a meltdown when it was time to get her allergy shots, stressing me out and making me feel bad. Then, to top it all off, Brooklyn got her arm caught in the automatic door, so she started screaming and I had to wedge it out and its bruised and awful looking, and I couldn't hold it in anymore. I sat with her on the floor of the entry way, then carried her to the car and completely lost it. All I could say was, "I'm sorry". I'm sorry for not reminding you to be careful where you place your hands. I'm sorry you have so many allergies that you have been taking shots to try to control them for the past 2+ years. I'm sorry that you get nervous and worried about everything, so much so that you are debilitated and freeze up. I'm sorry that you're just like me, and it's all my fault. 

I tried to push through, but Brooklyn said it for both of us: I don't want to go inside Wendy's. I don't want to go to church.

We sat in the Wendy's parking lot tonight staring inside at families that we knew enjoying each other's company, eating their dinners. No way was I heading in there. I'm too tired. And I mean tired in mind, body, soul. And she was, too.

Poor Peyton. He started crying because he wanted to eat inside Wendy's, and I refused. I couldn't even bring myself to take him inside when he needed to use the restroom. I had been crying and I didn't feel like explaining myself. No, more than that, I didn't want to see people. I didn't want to BE seen.

Brooklyn says that all the time. She doesn't want to dress up, have us do her hair, wear accessories like headbands or purses. Well, she DOES like all of those things, but she doesn't want people to see them or comment on them. She and I are exactly the same.

I bawled in the Wendy's parking lot waiting for Brandon to come get Peyton. My sweet little boy snuggled up next to my driver's seat, hugged me, and gave me a gentle kiss on the cheek. It just made me cry more. Peyton is just like Brandon. They both love us and want us to be happy, but just don't understand why we are the way we are.

I'm about to pass out as I write this. I'm not going to bother with proofreading or editing. I'm going to bed so I can try to start over again tomorrow.

Genetics are interesting. Understatement of the year.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Personality Quizzes

I love taking personality quizzes. They're kind of a guilty pleasure of mine. A semi-addiction.

I'm fascinated by the various theories on how to explain our personalities. From True Colors to the Myers-Briggs test, I take test after test to try to determine who I am.

But, there's a problem with this: I am very complicated. I don't fit into a box. I've been accused of doing this on purpose, because I'm a middle-child, and middle-children call attention to themselves in this way. I think that's partly true, but there's more to it.

I have my own personality theory, namely that there are four types of personalities in the world: Simple/Simple, Simple/Complex, Complex/Simple, Complex/Complex. The first word describes the you that you present to people, and the second word describes the real you. In a nutshell, S/S people are what-you-see-is-what-you-get. S/C are the passive-aggressive ones who act one way to your face and a different way behind your back, because there is a lot more going on inside them than they let you see. C/S are people who try to seem different and unique because they feel so unimportant. They want to seem complicated to push people away, but really need to accept who they are for themselves. C/C are the people who seem complicated and also are complicated. Lots of reasons behind this: abuse or trauma, extreme intelligence, wide array of worldly experiences, mental illness, etc.

I'm no psychologist,  but I've been analyzing people that I know for the longest time, using this and other personality tests. It's helped me make sense of the world. Why does this person not like me? Because he's orange and I'm blue. Why do I fight with my husband? Because he's got strong Thinking skills, and I'm strong on the Feeling scale.

I would categorize myself, in my own theory, as C/C. I'm complex. I'm difficult. I'm extremely hard to love. My poor husband. And parents. And siblings. And children. And friends. A problem that anyone with anxiety, depression, OCD, bi-polar disorder, manic-depression, etc. has is separating their personality from their disability. This is one reason I put myself in my own Complex/Complex category. So, because I'm working through an identity crisis here goes some synopses and results of a couple of personality quizzes.

Love Languages

Overview- According to author Gary Thomas, there are five love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and gift-giving. Most everyone in the world has 1 or 2 very strong love languages, or ways that they feel love. The problem in relationships, he says, is that we often choose a mate who speaks a different love language, so we are not fulfilling these needs that we may not understand or know that we have.

Results- Every time I have taken this quiz, I have 6, 7 or 8 on each category- none more than 1 or 2 points above another. I don't have a love language. I used to think no one did, and the idea of love languages was the dumbest idea I had ever heard of. Now I understand that they are real, but do not apply to me. I love words of affirmation, unless I feel like they have ulterior motives behind them or that I am being patronized. I love quality time, until I just want to be alone. I love physical touch, until I just need you to get away from me and let me have my space. I love acts of service, until they make me feel like I'm lazy. I love gifts, until I learn how much you paid for it and get mad at you for spending too much money.

No wonder Brandon gets so frustrated with me- he literally never knows how I will react to anything.

Five Factor Model 

Overview- Personality psychologists believe this is a pretty good description of the broad traits or general areas that go to make up a person's core personality
  • Extroversion - Energy, enthusiasm, sociable
  • Agreeableness - Altruism, helping others, affection, friendliness
  • Conscientiousness - Control, will, constraint, dependability
  • Neuroticism - Negative emotions, nervousness
  • Openness to Experience - Originality, culture, open-minded, intellect
Results- 
Extroversion
  39
Agreeableness
  38
Conscientiousness
  37
Neuroticism
  35
Openness
  41

I scored high on each of these five categories, which is not necessarily a good thing. Scoring highly in extroversion means I have a lot of energy and enjoy most social situations. A high score in agreeableness means I am a friendly, cooperative, trustworthy person. Scoring highly in conscientiousness says I am well-focused, methodical and organized. A high score in openness represents a love of art and an open mind. All seemingly positive, until neuroticism. A high score in this category shows that I am more emotional and insecure than most.

All five strong personality traits apply. Sounds like complex/complex to me. I am typically those first four mentioned. Then when I get emotional and insecure, everything flip-flops: I don't want to be in social situations and I am exhausted with zero energy, I am mean, rude, hateful, aggressive, lazy, messy, distracted...

Again, my poor friends and family. They never know when that emotional side of my personality will come out and take over the rest of me.

I encourage everyone to take these (REAL) personality tests about themselves. Not the silly Buzzfeed ones, or those on bait-and-click sites, but ones with real psychology behind them. I think it is highly beneficial to know yourself, even if you are complex/complex. Go to these websites to test your own personality, and see if you agree with the results:

Love Languages- http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/
Five-Factor Personality Model- http://www.personalitytest.org.uk/
True Colors- http://true-colors-online.com/
Myers-Briggs Indicator- https://www.mbtionline.com/
What Animal Are You- http://animalinyou.com/

It's hard to feel like you don't know yourself because, in my case, my personality is so complicated, because mental illness gets in the way of how I think and feel. Yet, I feel it's essential to try to understand the way you are, whether you like yourself or not, whether you want to change or not. Especially if you are finding yourself in a spot in life than you aren't happy with. Stop blaming others and look to yourself. Are you the cause of your own unhappiness? Who are you? How do you think, act, feel, love? Helping yourself can help all those around you, as well.

I should tweet this to Taylor Swift. Poor girl thinks it's all the boys' fault that she can't find love. #knowthyself

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

IKEA Fails and Silver Linings

This is IKEA, in all its Swedish glory.

This is my favorite store. Besides Target, which I can go to everyday, of course. But, IKEA is like Disney World. It isn't feasible to go every day, because a)it's too far away and b)it's too expensive. But oh boy, it's amazing.

On Friday, Brandon and I finally decided it was time to upgrade our bed. We had been sleeping on a queen for 9+ years, and while he still weighs the same as he did when we got married, I've grown a bit. Add two children who each like to join us in bed 3-4 nights out of the week, and you have one cramped bed with one grouchy husband. All this lead to one thing: we get a new, beautiful, brown, king bed that will fit our needs and match our bedroom furniture.

So, we planned it all out. The trundle bed in Peyton's room (and probably the mattresses, too... I don't really want to think about that) was 21 years old. It was shaky, rusty, and there may or may not have been duct tape on the legs. That bed was going to go. Brooklyn's twin bed would get moved to Peyton's, Brooklyn would get our queen bed, and we would get a king. Brooklyn is the oldest, and when it comes down to it, it's  Brooklyn, who enjoys playing with her ponies and stuffed animals, versus Peyton, who likes to run "super cat speed" and hit baseballs off the tee in his room. Which one needs less floor space to do what they enjoy? Hence why Brooklyn has the queen.

Shopping at IKEA is quite an ordeal. Even with the shortcuts, it's a maze to navigate, and you keep getting distracted by adorable details, or look on the map and think, "we're not that far from the wall shelving and media units, so let's just go take a look", as if you weren't going to be spending enough already. And the thing about IKEA, if you've never shopped there, is that you see what you like on the showroom floor, then travel downstairs to pick up your boxes of the items you want to purchase from the warehouse. That also means that you are responsible for putting all the pieces of your furniture together when you get home. No problem, we got this.

Ha. We did not have this. But, I get ahead of myself.

We picked up every piece we needed: bed, bed slats, center beam, mattress, storage drawers, two night stands, checkaroo. We also purchased the finishing touches- king sheets, duvet, queen duvet for Brooklyn, comforters for both, checkarino. We didn't forget a thing on our list. Not even a 6-pack of cinnamon rolls, WHICH ARE FOUR DOLLARS AND HUGE AND DELICIOUS, SO DON'T LEAVE IKEA WITHOUT THEM.

On the way home, we called our friends, Kevin and Darcey, to see if they would come over and help us build all our new furniture. Building and moving furniture is like a huge jigsaw puzzle, and we weren't about to work on it on our own.

We start around 5:00 pm. We get Peyton's room fixed up, we move the queen to Brooklyn's room, we're dusting, vacuuming, eating dinner, building, and doing laundry all at the same time. Around 10:00 pm, Brandon huffs into the garage, lifts up a box, and yells.

IKEA fail #1: Turns out, we bought a queen bed. And turns out, Kevin and Brandon built said queen bed, without realizing it until it was fully built.

Result: Brandon and Kevin broke down the bed, boxed it back up, and Brandon and I slept on our king mattress on the floor in our bedroom. It wasn't a total failure of a night, though. At least the drawers and nightstands got built (silver linings are a must in this story).

On Sunday, Brandon and I dropped our kids off at Landon and Aja's house. It was date night. Shogun Japanese Steakhouse was on the menu, but so was a return trip to IKEA. We give a time-frame of 5-8. We should be able to do IKEA and dinner in that time, right? We get to the store, return the queen bed, head back to the warehouse to pick up our KING bed (and BOY were we careful reading those labels), and proceeded through checkout.

IKEA fail #2: Turns out, we were so busy looking at the SIZE of the bed that we forgot to check the COLOR of the bed. Literally seconds after checking out, Brandon looks at the boxes and says, "Is that black?" *sigh* Yes. Yes it is.

Result: Brandon headed to the warehouse to look for brown kings, and I started the return for the black king ("Hey, return department, remember me? I was here 5 minutes ago with a different bed to return..."). Brown king beds are kept in the back, so we have to wait roughly 30 minutes for it to be picked out and brought to us. We laughed, because third time's the charm, right? Brandon bought me a slurpee to ease the pain. Silver lining. By the time we get the bed loaded in the truck, drive home (it was starting to rain, so we needed to get it inside ASAP), and then headed to the restaurant, it was 7:45. Brandon said, "Well, we're ready for dinner... at the time we were supposed to be picking up our kids." Oops.

Oh well. We got our king bed, it was brown- we were ready to go. We put the kids to sleep on Saturday night and Brandon and I got to work putting our bed together. Man, we were getting tired at this point. One step left.

IKEA fail #3: Turns out we had picked out queen bed slats, too, and we were too dumb to check those the night before when we realized we had a queen bed.

Result: We pushed our bed frame into position in our room, and amazingly still had enough room to place our king mattress on the floor in front of it. I told Brandon that we are never moving, because I can't imagine ever finding a bedroom as big as ours ever again. Huge bedroom=silver lining. Brandon suggests we get four king mattresses and make our room one giant bed. I disagree.

Monday was President's Day. Thank you, Mr.'s Washington and Lincoln. I needed a third day to complete this one-day project. Brandon worked, the kids and I trudged to IKEA for the third day in a row. At this point I feel obliged to tell you that it is an hour and a half round-trip from Rosenberg. I returned the bed slats ("Hey, same girl from the return department, remember me? I was here last night with two bed returns. Yeah, I don't know how to buy stuff, apparently.") and picked up the correct ones. Brooklyn and Peyton helped me put the bed together, and we were finally finished.


I don't want to think about the mileage we put on our cars, or the number of tolls we passed through on the beltway, not to mention the actual amount of money we spent to get this project completed. I just want to think about my cozy bed. And the airlines miles I earned on my credit card. Free plane tickets to the real Disney World= silver lining.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Grief

"There is such a thing as good grief. Ask Charlie Brown." - Michael Scott, from "The Office"



There's your one bit of humor for this post, so buckle in.

My sweet Sasha cat was euthanized on Wednesday. She had stopped eating and drinking completely. Even turkey, which had always been her favorite food. She used to run into the kitchen every time a package of deli meat was opened. I got to hold Sasha as our vet administered the shots. It was so quick, and then she lay lifeless and heavy in my arms. I sobbed. I wept uncontrollably for about five minutes, and then I left. I picked up my son from my husband's school, I picked up my daughter from her school, I came home and took a shower. Because I kept hearing my friend Brittnie's words in my head: when you are grieving, you have to do the next normal thing until you start to feel normal again. She wrote it in reference to the loss of a child, so it feels silly to compare. Still, grief is grief, and when you've had a pet for over 13 years, it hurts so much when they are gone.

Knowing that someone is going to die is both beneficial and stressful. A year ago, when Sasha first went into renal failure, I started explaining to my kids that animals don't live as long as people do. I told them they didn't need to think about it all the time, but that Sasha may not be around when Brooklyn started kindergarten. August rolled around and she was still here, so I told them Sasha may not be around at Christmas. Christmas came and she was still here, so I told them she might not make it until Brooklyn started first grade. I never knew if I was talking about death too much or not enough. There's a fine line when dealing with death and children: you don't want to surprise them, but you don't want them to obsess over it either. Last week, I let them know that Sasha was going to die soon and we needed to say goodbye. Everyone deals with grief differently.

Brooklyn, tender-heart, started crying. She put on a mask and pulled a jacket over her head so no one  could see her cry. We talked about how it was alright to cry. No shame in it. She drew a picture of  Sasha to help her grieve.
I love Soshu. She is gowing to diy.
She spent the entire night on Tuesday asking me if she could come with me to the vet. She asked for details about how Sasha was going to die and she wanted to be there. I couldn't imagine it being healthy for a 6-year-old to see her family's cat put to death. I told her no, repeatedly. I held her while she cried until she fell asleep. She drew another picture the next day at school, and her teacher wrote me a note about how sad Brooklyn was all day about Sasha. She cried Thursday morning when I offhandedly mentioned that I thought LB (our other cat) was looking for Sasha. Brooklyn can go from joyful to tearful in a matter of seconds.

Peyton, copy-cat (no pun intended), pet Sasha and told her goodnight and goodbye without a single tear. While laying in bed with me Tuesday night as Brooklyn cried, he fell asleep on my other shoulder, crying and saying, "I don't want Sasha to die". He never shows sadness unless Brooklyn shows it first. He's four. It's hard for me to know what is genuine sadness, what is him just needing a nap and being a brat because of it, and what is him copying his sister in what he thinks he should be  doing. Thursday, he asked to hold  a picture of me and Sasha while we were in the car. He stared at it so intently, solemnly, and then held tight while glaring out the window. Who knows what thoughts were in his head.

Me, cat lady, fought back tears all week. My heart was in my throat every time I came home, woke up, or walked around the house after being in the same place for too long. I just couldn't bear to look for my cat and find her dead somewhere. I kept close tabs on her and had to focus my energy on keeping my anxiety at bay. I pet her, I held her, despite her stench. She was dehydrated so she couldn't clean herself, and her kidneys had all but stopped functioning, so toxins were just building up in her body and pouring through her skin and breath. All the way to the vet Wednesday, I talked to her. Do cats have memories? Who knows. I don't know how animals brains work, and if they remember people, places, or events. Nevertheless, I relayed some of my favorite memories back to Sasha- how she got locked out of mine and Chelsea's apartment in College Station, how she scared Buddy at my parents' house in Plano, how she got sick in Houston and hid from the vet on my shoulders in my hair, how she and her first cat buddy Latte used to play around in Build-a-Bear houses, and how she rode home when I first got her in my purse. She meowed at me the whole time I reminisced, like we were having a conversation. I had read sometime before that animals can sense our stress, so it's important to stay calm when they are being euthanized so they can be calm too. I have never practice so many breathing exercises and prayer techniques in my life. I talked to the vet about her life. I talked to Brandon. I told stories to my kids. And here I am writing about it.

Brandon, logical husband of mine, stayed strong for me and the kids, but showed his sensitive side by posting a collage of old photos of him and Sasha. They bonded in college, and she's really the only pet he's ever had. Still, rather than cry, he remains reasonable, reminding me that it was the right thing to do, that we loved her and gave her a good life, but we didn't need to draw out her death.

Forget that this is all about a cat. Do you know how you grieve? I never used to believe in love languages, but now I get them. Maybe there are grief languages, too. Some people are like me and Brooklyn, who need to digest sadness through words, pictures, tears and memories. Some people are like Peyton who only show sadness when others do first, who feel emotions, but don't wear them on their sleeves. Others are like Brandon, who, instead of grieving, see the reason behind everything and spend their time making it all make sense, rather than crying. It's interesting to see it play out, and I'm learning how to deal with each person in my family in a time of grief.

So, if you made it to the end of this post, thanks. There are no profound thoughts or words of wisdom today. I'm just processing the loss of a friend.

Sasha and me, 2003

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Ohana



Where do I begin?

I've been a mess lately. Struggling with depression and anxiety, coming to grips with the difficulties of marriage, trying to understand how Christianity and politics can coincide, having a general identity crisis, and fighting feelings of loneliness and friendlessness.

When bad things happen to other people, I feel them extremely close to home. In 2015, my friends, Brittnie and Brandon, lost their child at 20 weeks pregnant. I attended a funeral for a 6 ounce baby boy. My friend, David, went through an unexpected divorce this past summer. People I know are being diagnosed with cancer, alzheimers, and I have a very difficult time compartmentalizing their struggles from my own. Call me a bleeding heart, but other people's hurts hurt me. There aren't many baby boys I look at without thinking of Chance. I went to my own brother-in-law's wedding and wept, not for his and his new bride's joy, but for the pain that divorce caused and is causing for David and his kids.

Compassion is called for, but my personality and mental issues take it to an unhealthy level sometimes. (I filled out a questionnaire at Peyton's doctor's office last week, and had to circle "yes" under "any mental illness in the family?" Ouch. Pride shattered. Oh well. Get over it.)

I also have a tendency to speak without thinking (those who know me well realize how much of an understatement this is). Especially when I'm feeling depressed. Instead of becoming sad, I fight with sadness, I fight back the tears, and become hardened on the outside, rude and hateful to everyone who comes in contact with me. I recognize it, often times even when it's happening, but it's like watching myself in a movie, and I can't change the script.

I wrote about this happening in my last post. Remember? The one where everyone asked if I had gotten a nap because I was in such a crabby mood? I eventually had to remove myself from the room to be with children who wouldn't talk to me, so I had a chance to cool off and not be such a b*%$! back.

There are so many things I don't like about myself. I wish I was slow to speak and quick to listen. I wish I was slow to become angry. I wish I didn't get so hot-headed. I wish I had more patience for people. I wish I could be meek and gentle. Instead, I'm wild, I'm stubborn, I'm outspoken, I'm loud, I'm boisterous, I'm inappropriate, and I get myself in trouble for it (Hi, Dad. I'm sure you're reading this. You and mom did as good a job as you could raising me. I'm just difficult. Love you).

Regardless of my flaws, I've managed to gather the greatest group of friends imaginable in what we call our "first family". Funnily enough, Brooklyn refers to her cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents as "second family". I guess that's what happens when your friends live in Houston and your extended family lives in Dallas. Our children are growing up with friends who act more like siblings and cousins. We have a support system here in H-Town that we never could have dreamed of before.

Two of these friends had planned a camping trip for our two families for this past weekend. I knew a weekend away with them would do my heart good. I was excited.

They, their three kids, and another sweet friend rang our doorbell on Thursday night, leaving these on the doorstep:



How cute. Our sweet friends are excited for our camping weekend, too!

Then the doorbell rang again, and they all walked in.

Me: What's with the binders?
Landon: It's work-related.
Lauren: Did you see what's in their (Mickey's and Minnie's) hands?
Me: Yeah- Disneyland tickets. But they're not real.
Lauren: Aren't they?

They went on to explain to our kids that we couldn't all go to Camp Allen, but that they would still get to spend the weekend with their friends. Mommy and Daddy couldn't go with them, though.

I'm still dumbfounded and clueless as to what is going on. In fact, things are very blurry from this point on. There was a lot of questioning, figuring out how we had been tricked and how long this had been going on (Lauren: The lies go deep!), and there was definitely a lot of laughing and ugly crying. The binders were, in fact, our itineraries for the weekend: plane, car rental, and hotel reservations, tickets to Disneyland, tips on which rides to do in which order, and the sweetest note I've ever read.

My people. They knew how much pain I was going through, and therefore, how much Brandon was going through, too. And they knew what to do to fix it. Not by sending us to Disneyland or Hollywood. By knowing us, and loving us.






I won't lie: I cried when Stitch came out during this show. I wasn't expecting it. I haven't seen this movie since I was a teenager, and I would never have called it anything close to my favorite. Except now it holds a special meaning,

Landon. Aja. Lauren. Aaron. Lauren. Brady. Wendi. Wade. Rachel. Matt. Jenna. Matt. Brittnie. Brandon. David. Kaleena. Raleigh.

I love you all. I will never be able to repay what you gave to Brandon and me this past weekend, and I love you because I know that you don't expect anything in return. You are my ohana. Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.