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.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

I'm *THIS* Many!

Sometimes I can act like a total child.

I recognize it. Totally owning it.

My friends know it, too.

I went to a friend's house on Sunday to work on a service project decorating and stuffing bags for foster children in the area. After asking how I was doing (I wasn't great), not one, not two, but many of my friends asked the same question:

"Did you get a nap today?"

I had not.

Had I napped, I would have been in a much better mood. No matter what is happening in my life, a nap makes it better. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to escape situations, but I choose sleep as my drug of choice. I wake up and it's like my entire day has been forgotten. Everything that bothered me before I slept has disappeared.

And the fact that I have friends who know this says what about me, exactly? *sigh* #mypeople

I'm *THIS* many! I am a full-on child. A 30-year-old woman shouldn't need a nap to function or be in a happy mood, right? In my case, wrong.

In a Facebook quiz that wives were giving their husbands a couple of months ago, I asked Brandon, "What is my favorite thing to do?"

Brandon's answer? Sleep.

YES. He knows me so well.

This was the same quiz that he revealed to me that I smell like Cheerios, but that's neither here nor there.

Like he's one to talk! This guy turns into Oscar the Grouch without regular meals. If that man doesn't eat lunch by noon or dinner by 6, beware. And now I will pick my 6-year-old up from school asking if she's okay, and hear her respond, "I'M HANGRY!" ...You're a monster, you mean. Thanks, daddy.

I write this, having fallen asleep with my children 4 nights in a row. At 5:30 this morning, I found myself still in Brooklyn's bed next to her, with Peyton sleeping in between my legs, and a cat snuggled up on my chest. That's a twin bed, mind you. Of course, Brooklyn, genius that she is, tries to convince me to sleep in her room with her because 'twin' means two, so her bed actually should fit both of us.



Being child-like  is often beneficial. It allows me to think like the kids I am around all day, understand their feelings, and be a playful companion. It's the reason why I got my tattoo when I was 19. 18? 19. College freshman. It's two stars; a map to Neverland, where you never have to grow up. (And yes, I still love it. No, I don't regret it. No, it didn't hurt. Yes, I would like more. No, I don't have any other tattoos. No, I don't plan to get any more, because Brandon says no. :( I think that covers all tattoo questions.)



Life is too hard to be an adult all the time. Sometimes we need to take time and play (and nap).

Monday, January 30, 2017

Churchgoing Americans

 My heart hurts. My head aches. My soul is torn.

I am just not sure what to do anymore, or what I can handle to know, read, or talk about.

I don't fit a mold. I never have. I'm not conservative, but I'm not that liberal. I'm certainly not a Republican, but I definitely wouldn't call myself a democrat either. I have voted four times in my life, for Bush, Obama, and Gary Johnson twice.

I am a Christian. Call me evangelical, I guess. Born-again, I guess. I've never understood the labels, just like I've never understood denominations. What are you? Methodist? Lutheran? Baptist? Church of Christ? No. I'm a Christian. There was one church that was established after Jesus' ministry, and I don't align myself with a denomination of any kind because there were no denominations in the Bible. I'm trying to live a faith not through tradition of the way that feels comfortable to me because that's the way I've always done it, but by reading and determining for myself what I think the Bible means. I am no scholar or theologian. I didn't go to a Christian college or seminary. I don't read Greek. I don't know all the answers to all the questions.

But I know the answer to one of them. What is the greatest command? "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, all thy soul and all thy mind. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:37-38.

Jesus converted people with his acts of compassion. To the woman at the well, who had slept around her entire life, to the woman caught in adultery, to the children, who were faultless but seen as nuisances. To the blind man, the deaf man, the lame man and the ten lepers. To the man who would betray him moments later, leading him to death on a cross.

Jesus says in Matthew chapter 5, what good is it to love those who love you? Even the pagans do that. "But I say love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." (Matt 5:44)

I have been praying for Donald Trump. With tears streaming down my face, I have prayed. I have prayed that he make wise decisions. I have prayed that he lead our county well. I have pray that his heart be softened.

I have prayed for my own heart to be softened. To not become angry with those I disagree with and don't understand. To not jump to conclusions about why someone voted a certain way and that their vote automatically means they believe in something I stand against. I have prayed that I can use words that make sense and actions that prove my love and devotion to mercy. I have prayed that Christians of both political parties act like Christians. Mahatma Gandhi said he liked our Christ, it was our Christians that he didn't like. Marching for women but excluding women who believe in the sanctity of life at conception isn't tolerant. You can't be tolerant for everyone except conservative Christians. And assuming that pro-choice equals pro-abortion isn't fair and isn't an intelligent stance to take, because it's a much more complicated situation than that. Both sides have it wrong when it comes to understanding, loving, and extending grace to each other.

I have been praying for all those who feel marginalized or bullied, for whether real or perceived, the pain is no less.

I have prayed to be able to decipher fact from fiction, to remove emotion from rational decisions.

I have prayed to not be angry, then changed my prayer, and instead  prayed for my anger to be righteous. Jesus overturned the temple tables when he saw money changers working in the house of God. And he was completely right in doing so. There is such a thing as righteous anger. Anger in itself is not sinful, and if Christians do not react to injustices of ALL the world (racism, xenophobia, homophobia, rights of the unborn) who will?

I have prayed that I know when to be quiet and when to speak. I have prayed for my anxiety to be removed. All I want to do is talk to others about how I feel a Christian should act, but not more than ever, I feel that I'm an outsider looking in, a more liberal Christian, not fully belonging to either group, as if liberal and Christian are destined to be opposites. Even growing up in a conservative, Republican household, I always felt that being a Republican was more opposite of being a Christian than being a liberal was. In high school I started wrestling with the ideas of big business, big banks, more money, more military, might makes right, majority rules, America first, and these ideas just didn't jive with Christianity to me. They still don't.

I have prayed for the courage to ask  people who voted for Trump and are Christians to tell me why they did. I want to understand. I want to so desperately understand.

But, I also understand how people more right wing than me question how I can be a Christian and vote or believe the way I do. I'll do my best to be transparent and explain:

God gave us free will. He also gave us His word to guide us through life's challenges, joys, successes and sorrows. So in my mind, there is a balance between doing what I am expected to do or not do, while not forcing others to believe or do the same as me. God did not create us as robots. He doesn't want forced affection and obedience, He desires sincere worship.

It is in this light that I find myself politically pro-choice and pro-gay rights. There, I said it.

Now brace yourselves, because it's about to get tricky.

I believe that God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman. "In His image, he created them. Male and female he created them", Genesis 1:27.

I don't like seeing gay parents. I think it's confusing and damaging to the children, but, when I think about it, no more damaging than heterosexual couples that divorce or never marry in the first place. Or what about the loveless heterosexual marriages, those who stay together because they might as well, or stay together "for the kids". None of these are healthy examples of family, but are all prominent in our society.

 I believe people are born with homosexual tendencies, but that they can and should be fought, as we fight to resist all sin. I've got a good friend from college who confided in me that he has struggled with homosexual thoughts his whole life, as I have struggles with anger and cursing, as some struggle with porn or alcohol or drug abuse. But, being a believer of what the Bible says about homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22- Do not have sexual relations with a man as with a woman. That is detestable), he is still a faithful church goer with a wife that he IS sexually attracted to and loves, and the two of them even have a child together.

I also abhor abortion. I believe it's a sin. I believe that it's murder. I could never imagine myself considering having an abortion.

Oh wait, yes I could. 2003-2005 was no cake walk, and I did a lot of stupid stuff with a lot of stupid people. Had one of those actions lead to a baby, which you know it could have, you better believe I would have been one of those people who still felt abortion was a sin, and yet still felt like that it would have been my only way out.

So I ask this: Do we put ourselves in others positions enough?

If I had inclinations to be more attracted to women, I can imagine life being really difficult and people being very hateful to me. By people, I mean Christians. Because how often is the first word out of our mouths as Christians, "Well, you know that the Bible says..." Yes, of course we need to preach and teach the gospel, but no one listens to someone who doesn't appear to love them. Love and grace MUST come first. Would I fight it and feel judged and like I was living a lie with my Christian friends, or would I give in and be happy with people who accept me? Satan makes it a really easy choice, and just because these aren't your weaknesses doesn't mean you can look down on those who struggle. What if you were them. Really. What would you do?

I worry about the hatefulness that churchgoing Americans throw on the homosexual community and Planned Parenthood. If I had ever had an abortion, I would never consider coming to church again. Clearly, the church, and therefore Jesus, hates me. This is the message we are sending when we picket and threaten and call people "baby killers". Is it murder? Yes, I believe so. Is it wrong? Yes, I believe so. Do I think abortion clinics should be legal? Yes, I do. Think of how many more women and children will die without them, because they will turn to coat hanger abortions in shady street corner shops.

I shed tears over how crimes towards those who identify as LGBTQ+. Sometimes I don't understand it. Pan love? Like, I can fall in love with anyone or anything no matter what they identify as? What if I fall in love with a chair? It's bizarre. But just because I don't understand doesn't mean I can't and shouldn't try, that I can't and shouldn't show people real love, the love of a Savior.

I am not patriotic in the slightest. I do not pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. I do not pledge at all to anyone and anything other than my God. I recognize that God can use all leaders, even evil or misguided ones, to do great things or bring a stir in the people to act justly and return to what is important. God told the Israelites they didn't need a king, but they insisted, and had to live through the reign of King Saul to get to King David, a (flawed) man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13- 2 Samuel 5). So I will absolutely recognize that Trump is our president. No doubt about it, under current laws of the country, he won the election. But I believe the Bible gives us permission- no, commands us to follow God before we follow man (Acts 5:29).  Should they ever interfere, God's law trumps (no pun intended) man's laws.

I can't stand by while foreigners in our land are treated as criminals. I refuse to live in fear and anger. I won't carry a gun, and I won't support keeping people out of our country. I hate that the laws to become a citizen are so difficult, and I wish that would change.

But what it boils down to me is this: do I believe in nationalism? Do I believe that God blessed America more than any other country in the world? That we were meant to prosper while others were destined for death? No, not for a second. Monetarily, we have been blessed, and we keep it to ourselves. Numbers wise, no, I recognize that Americans do give millions in foreign aid, to charities and the like. Still, I can't help but think of the woman with two mites. She had basically two cents to her name, but she went to he temple and gave all she had. It was laughable compared to what the Pharisees has been giving, and yet Jesus said she gave more than anyone (Luke 21:1-4).

America. We are the Pharisees.

And I'm tired of it. I'm hurt when I hear people complain that their taxes are going up so "illegals" can go to school. When people complain that healthcare got more expensive because now there are populations that didn't have access to proper medical care before that now have it.

Is not all we have from God? Then how dare we act as if it is our own, and that we deserve it more than others. I don't believe that God loves me more than a mother of two in the fifth ward of Houston or Aleppo, Syria. To whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48).

It is not easy to step out of the rat race. I give about 10% of what I make to various organizations. If I really trusted God, wouldn't I give more? Would I give all? If I really loved my neighbor as myself, would I give away half of my possessions? A 50/50 split between my neighbors and myself?

I don't know. I find myself daily doing one of two things: researching tiny houses so that I can give away nearly all in own and live a simple, God-focused life, or watching House Hunters and designing my giant dream home full of every comfort I have always wanted, including a wall-length bookshelf and media room. I struggle with giving away possessions to Goodwill now, because I think someone could use them, and then wish I still had them because I think they may benefit someone in the future. If I someday have a huge house with lots of resources, I could house foster children or a refugee family or a single mother struggling to get things right. I am completely torn.

As I read what I have written so far, I know that I've angered or offended every person that I know. But I have to be transparent right now, and I'm so confused and hurt that I don't know who to talk to. If I talk to liberal friends, I may be perceived as the hypocritical Christian I so desperately don't want to be. If I talk to my conservative friends, I run the risk of being shamed as sinful. So I'm hateful and judgmental no matter who I talk to or what my views are, when all I'm trying to do is love. I can't win.

I am sorry. I have beliefs, and I have convictions. I also have doubts, and I have sin in my own life. I have experiences that leave me more sensitive to some issues and less to others. There are no two people in the world who are exactly alike in looks, thoughts, actions, religious views, or political parties. I cannot please everyone. All I can do is try to please my Lord, and I will continue to pray and study to find out what that best way is. Thank God for grace, because I get it wrong, but I try. My eyes are focused on the prize and I am trusting that Jesus knows and loves my tender heart despite my angry mouth, and that with help I can improve.

My goal for the future: I want to be known and defined as a Christian. A Jesus-follower. Not a Republican. Not a Democrat. Not a Baptist. Not a Methodist. Not a woman. Not a man. Not straight. Not gay. Not anything but a Christian, and absolutely not just a churchgoing American.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Death and Really Living

This is my cat.
Her name is Sasha. She turned 13 in October.

Sasha is dying.

Blah. That sucks to write. But, it's true. She has polycystic kidneys, and I've known for the past 7 years that eventually she would succumb to renal failure or die from complications relating to that.

The story of how I came to be in possession of Sasha is an interesting one. I was 17, a senior in high school. I had a group project for our AP English class to work on, so four of us met at a girl named Kathleen's house on a Sunday. I was very stressed because senior year of high school was rough, to put it lightly, and I guess it all came down to this: I was having a hard time feeling loved. I vaguely remember having a fight with my parents that morning or the night before, probably about missing church to work on a school project. I was stressed over our project, and at the fact that I felt lazy because I couldn't put as much effort into it as the others, because I had to work from 12-5 at the mall. It was a busy day at Build-a-Bear (yes, I worked at Build-a-Bear- this deserves multiple posts later), and I snapped at a co-worker who was having no patience with me. I ended up bawling in the backroom and questioning my whole existence in life. After work, I went back to Kathleen's house, where her mom gave me a tea pot to try to make me feel better (she had learned that morning that I didn't drink coffee, and felt we had bonded over that). As I sat at my computer crying, she sat down next to me and said, "Do you want a cat?" She proceeded to tell me that her other daughter had found two stray cats outside and had been nursing them to health. I wiped my tears and said, "Yes. Yes I do." My boyfriend attempted to tell me that this was not a good idea, since I was having trouble at home anyway, bringing home a surprise animal, especially when my parents had two dogs, probably wasn't a good idea. But, I DO WHAT I WANT! So, Sasha became mine.

She was so small on that day in October that she fit inside the palm of my hand and rode halfway home inside my purse. She couldn't have been more than 6 weeks old. And judging by the size of her brother, she was the runt.

Fast forward to 2017. Three weeks ago, our vet advised that we place Sasha on a special renal diet, potassium supplements, blood pressure medication, a phosphate binder, with the possibility of an ACE inhibitor and a one-day hospital stay to get her system flushed out.

On Wednesday, I brought Sasha back to the vet for follow-up blood work, and admitted to my doctor what Brandon had forced me to realize: we are paying to keep her alive. Even if all of these medications helped, it would extend her life for what, weeks? Months, if we're lucky? She doesn't like the diet food very much and has already stopped eating her normal food, too. She doesn't eat period if I administer the phosphate or blood pressure meds. I told our vet I wouldn't pay to put her in the hospital because I really don't have funds for that. What our vet said next was so simple and yet so poignant.

Dr. G said, "You just want her to be a cat."

Yes. I want her to be a cat. Not a patient. Just a cat.

So, I've been giving her small bits of turkey and ham, because deli meat is her favorite thing in the world. I've been allowing her outside, where she hasn't been since we moved to our house in 2013. I've stopped giving her dry or renal diet cat food and bought Fancy Feast gravy lovers. And, I'm not giving her any medication.

This is how I want to go.

If I get diagnosed with a terminal disease, I don't want to be a patient, I just want to be me. If I'm going to pass on, I want my last days to be spent anywhere else but in a hospital bed. I don't want to be pumped full of medication that will make me sick and inhibit my appetite. I want to be able to enjoy my favorite foods without worrying about how they're going to affect me. I want to be able to spend my final days with the people that I love, making memories, enjoying my life. People say they want to live like they were dying. I want to really live, even while I'm dying.

I want to live my last days like Craig Sager, celebrated sportscaster and journalist, who passed away in December of 2016. He was diagnosed with Leukemia twice, and passed away less than 3 years from his first diagnosis in 2014. He missed the entire 2014 playoffs for chemo and radiation, and when it was determined that he was no longer in remission, but had 3-6 months left to live, he received one last bone marrow transplant. After that, he was done. Not physically, but emotionally, spiritually, he had had it. Once, he sneaked out of his hospital in Houston to attend a Rockets basketball game. I can remember seeing him in the stands being interviewed, asking him what he was doing there. He came to countless Astros games in between his treatments, often against doctor's wishes. When the medical staff surrounding him was saying he needed to be wearing a mask and staying in bed, he said he just couldn't live like that, and went to the nearest sports arena, where he felt the most enjoyment away from home. How often do I quit because it's too hard? How often do I stop fighting and resign myself to whatever sadness and pain must be coming my way? Craig challenges me to keep doing what I love no matter what the circumstances, because that's what life is for.



I want to live my last days like Alyssa Ferguson, world-changer from my church, who passed away from brain cancer on Thursday. She, along with her mom and sister, have a disorder that makes them more susceptible to cancers, and her mother is a two-time breast cancer survivor. Alyssa was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, when she was 12 years old. In the three years of her fight, she stayed cheerful and optimistic. She wore a smile on her face and stylish hats on her head. She used her life for others, spending her "wish" not on herself for a trip to Disney World, as I would undoubtedly do, but to build a well for a small village in Africa that had never before had clean drinking water. Christian recording artist Matthew West wrote a song for her, entitled "World Changers". Listen to it here. A month ago, Alyssa was given hours or days to live, and was placed on hospice care. The Ferguson family even began plans for a memorial service for Alyssa to be held at our church on January 8th. Alyssa beat the odds and stayed on hospice care for an entire month. She was able to be moved to hospice home care and enjoy her 15th birthday surrounded by friends and family, eating a stack of 15 pancakes topped with candles, and a snowball fight outside. She loved life, and she kept living, even when she was given a death sentence, and she was handed that sentence more times than I can count. How often do I just give up because the way seems hopeless, only to feel embarrassed at how childish and faithless I acted? Alyssa challenges me to really live.



So, some people may think I am being cruel to my cat for not giving her the medical attention she needs. I don't. I don't want her to be a patient. Craig didn't want to be a patient anymore, neither did Alyssa, and neither do I. I want to live. Not physically survive, but thrive. Enjoy life. Really live, until death comes. And it will come for us all. So, what's your choice? Try to fight to live forever, but in a state of misery? Or live with passion and fire for what this life has given you?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Holy Missing Blog Posts, Batman!

When I wrote, 'Continue blog' on my to-do list yesterday, I had no idea that I hadn't written anything since 2014! Holy missing blog posts, Batman indeed!

Why have I been adding things to my to-do list? Why did I decide to blog again? Why the cheesy superhero reference? Glad you asked. Brandon and I bought the entire 1960's Batman series for Peyton's birthday, and the kids are obsessed. We watched 4 episodes tonight. It is a riot!

Many of my past posts concerned my weight-loss journey. The last weigh-in I posted after Peyton was born was that I was down to 142.6 pounds. Then I stopped blogging for a few months and came back to say that I was starting over. That was almost two years ago.

Now I weigh 193 pounds. And I'm 5 foot 1. With shoes on.

So, naturally I picture myself like this:
Actually, I look like this:
(I'm the one in the dress.)

Not half bad, really. Just bigger than I need to be.

Anyway, I've tried a variety of theories, methods, practices, what have you, in trying to become healthier. I rejoined Weight Watchers. But then I stopped paying for it, because budgeting. So, I started to count my points on my own. Except, I'm a big cheater and wouldn't keep track of everything. And I just could not, for the life of me, figure out why the numbers on my points tracker looked, well, on point, and the scale just going up (reread that sentence with sarcasm, if you didn't catch that the first time). I've made promises and broken them, made plans and foiled them on purpose. I bought an exercise bike and rode it while I watched TV, but then realized that I was only breaking even if I ate Pop Tarts while I rode (Yes, this really happened. Ask my husband), I even read a book called, "Made to Crave", where the premise was to pray or read scripture whenever I felt like eating junk food. It worked great, until I finished the book. It went on the shelf, and Snickers went back in my belly. And here I am, over 50 pounds heavier than I was over two years ago.

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, I traveled to North Carolina with my parents for my cousin's wedding. Immediately when we arrived, snow began to fall. I rode to our hotel feeling like I had not entered Durham, NC, but Bedford Falls. Merry Christmas, you old building and loan! We feasted on Oreo truffles instead of grooms cake (EXCELLENT choice), and nearly every time we entered the hotel, I grabbed another snack from the lobby's snackery (This is a word. I have just made it such). You know, Muddy Buddies, Twix, M&M's. All things chocolate for me, because if there's one thing I can't get too much of, it's chocolate.

Except, my throat started hurting as I scarfed down my beloved M&M's. I endured the pain, because, chocolate. Are you understanding my love affair? It goes deep. I flew from Raleigh/Durham to a connecting flight in Orlando, where I bought some chocolate fro-yo to help ease my throat pain, which had gone from annoying to throbbing. I arrived home in Houston hours later, and since my --mind *always* goes to worst case scenario, I actually had throat cancer and needed my tonsils out also. I had never felt such throat pain in my life. I check in the mirror, and there it is: a huge, yellow canker sore. ON. MY. UVULA. You know, the little dangly thing. Yes, I know you had to go reread the word. No, my woman parts are in ship shape, thank you very much. But my throat was another story.

I immediately gave myself permission to get a Whataburger chocolate shake, which is, undoubtedly, the tops when it comes to milkshaking. Then I got an urge to do a little googling to see what else might benefit a canker sore in literally the worst place in the mouth possible. It was then that I read it. The most likely cause for canker sores on tonsil tissue? Allergic reaction.

Background information: I never drank milk as a kid, because it's super gross, but I loved chocolate. I loved ice cream, but not vanilla ice cream, because it tastes like milk, and milk is super gross. Do you follow? I never liked butter, sour cream, or cheese.

I'll give you a moment to let that sink in. I never liked cheese.

I even went through a phase starting in maybe 2nd or 3rd grade when I didn't like pizza, then I was like, "Wait a sec- who doesn't like pizza?", so I tried it again around 6th grade and loved it. Fast forward to summer before junior year of high school, and I get sick as a dog during the busiest summer of my life. Stress surely played a part, but that didn't hide the facts from my food journal. I only got sick when I ate dairy products, so I laid off them and got better. Best I can figure, all those foods I didn't like as a kid probably made me feel sick at one time or another, but chocolate never did, or at least I never noticed enough to stop eating it. The past few years, dairy hasn't been a huge issue for me. I still don't like cheese, but I love me some pizza. I felt like I was becoming a little more sensitive in recent months, and then BAM- M&M's give me throat cancer. Not really, but they probably helped cause the sore.

All this to say that this was finally a push that I needed. It has been two weeks since I have had any chocolate, save for one chocolate chip that I nibbled off of a cookie. BUT THAT'S ALL. I've lost 4 pounds and have had no more throat pain. And weirdly enough, no real cravings for chocolate either. I feel like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, being now adverse to the thing I once loved so dearly. Seriously. I smell a Reese's cup and feel like I'm going to vomit.

So, I decided today that I'm ready to knock something else out of my diet: fried sides. I can't be totally unrealistic. I will never give up fried chicken. EVER. But fries, tots, onion rings? I can do without those. I can now add fried sides to the new list of 'foods I need to stay away from'.

And then it hit me. Why couldn't I have success before? Why didn't the bike, the book, the points tracking, and all that work? It worked the first time, you say. Yeah, I was nursing that time, so it took NO effort to lose weight. To think, I've contemplated having another child just so I can birth them, nurse them, and get thinner again. SO EASY. But, then I'd have another kid. So... yeah, I didn't go through with that plan.

I realized it today as I was reading my sweet friend Brittnie's book. I read all about her battle with anorexia and search for control, but it wasn't until I read about how the road to recovery starts with baby steps that I got it.

I can do this if I go one step at a time. I've failed to lose weight and get healthier because I get overwhelmed at all that goes into it. It's not simply, "losing weight", it's exercising, it's reading food labels, it's cooking, it's arguing with my kids about making them eat the same food, or else struggling to eat my tofu or whatever when their Bagel Bites smell sooo good. And it's for months. Forever, really, if I want to change my lifestyle and not just diet.

I struggle with eating because I struggle with anxiety and depression. I even have some OCD tendencies that I can (usually) brush to the side, but that sometimes pop up to wreak havoc when everything else has gone to pot. When I have a to-do list that is a mile long, I can't bring myself to pick one thing to do and do it. I just resign myself to failure and take a nap instead. So, when I think about getting healthy, every thought rushes through my head at once: my sweet friends who do Whole 30 and other transformation food plans. The help that you offer just makes me feel inadequate. I don't even know how to pronounce some of the things you cook. The videos with #nevermissaMonday makes me want to cry, because I can't even get up out of bed to shower some mornings, let alone work out. So, I eat. I eat for comfort. I eat because it all feels lost anyway, so screw it. THIS is anxiety and depression, ladies and gentlemen.

Baby steps are the only way to get on the road to recovery. Step one: don't eat chocolate. Wow. Wait, what? Have I actually accomplished something? Seriously? I've gone two weeks without chocolate now. I think I'm ready for a second baby step. And maybe after two more weeks, I can take another, and in another two weeks, another. I will not rush myself this time around, because I know the downward spiral it will cause.

This may seem crazy to some of you, but this is the only way for me to keep all my marbles. I can do this, but I have to be the tortoise in order to reach the finish line.

Even before I had these realizations about my physical health, I recognized that my mental health needed some tending-to. These same principles, baby steps, work with mental health, too, you know. I have always been meticulous about to-do lists. Kept them everywhere, wrote down every little thing I needed to do, crossed them off to feel successful. If I was unable to finish anything on my list, I would write "shower" and "lunch" so I could cross them off. I only felt accomplished if I saw that had been slashed through.

Step one: move my to-do list to my phone. Erasing has a much different feel than crossing through. When you mark through an item on a written list, there are remnants. You see what was there, because it's still there, staring at you from underneath an accomplishment line. Erasing, on the other hand, leaves no trace. My jobs vanish, leaving me no enjoyment from seeing the long list of strike throughs. I struggle vehemently with myself, though I know it is for my good.

Step two: create three to-do lists. One for today's to-do's, one for general things I need to do when I get a chance, and one for odd jobs and projects that I'd like to do if I have time for something fun. See, I used to keep them all together, so things like "laundry" and "cut t-shirts for quilt" were on the same list, stressing me out because there was just too much.

So, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

I can't do nothing anymore. I can't give in to anxiety, depression, and a food coma. I'm going to go on one day, one bite at a time.