God created her, I carried her, now she is my happiness and my laughter.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Disinformation in the Media

The media is full of false information from rumors about actor, politicians or local news to biased reports of news articles with a lack of proper research or simply someone’s ill-intentions about another person, place or thing. When we scroll our social media feeds we are fed hundreds of questionable information through re-posts of our friends and their friends. So often posts are based off of an alarming title and intruiguing subtitle. Sometimes information is re-posted without even reading the article. For example, the Hobby Lobby scare where they were reported as closing their doors becasue of some new federal regulations that went against their morals. They same article was re-circulated many times, changing the date to make it seem current. A Statement was later released after many concerned customers contacted Hobby Lobby about the rumor, that is was, in fact, false. The social media crowd is relatively trusting of information coming across their feeds
News waters, likewise have their favorite news channels and don’t often engage in the news releases or articles from other sources. This creates a very narrow path towards finding correcting information. It opens the door to biased information at the least. For example consider all the news coverage on President Trump that have a major left or right sided lean. The “baffled” attitude towards First Lady Melania, and the shoes she wore to visit the Hurricane Victims, was especially reported in a biased manner. New York Times posted an Article that told a relative unbiased story and showing the First Lady before and after the plane ride and her change of shoes along the way. However, most articles only talked about the heels she wore to get on the plane. 
Professor Don Fallis researched the idea of unconscious bias in his up and coming book, “Routledge Handbook of Misinformation, “Even when politicians believe what they say about an issue, such as climate change, they often believe it becasue it fits with what htey already believe rather than because the evidence supports it. Thus, they can be a source of misinformation that results from unconscious bias.” (Fallis, 2) Fallis also indicates the difference between misinformation and disinformation. Misinformation is information that was posted or reported falsely by accident or unknowingly or becasue of the unconscious bias. Disinformation, on the other hand, is when infomration is posted or reported by someone who is actively trying to relay false information such as lying about who you really are online.
As readers and viewers it is our job to determine whether our source is factual and reliable. What are some ways we can check our sources for good infomration? Some suggestions are researching the authors and publishers. Does the website look and feel legitimate? Google facts to see if there are other articles posted about the same thing. Most importantly, it’s important not to re-post information on social media news feeds without checking for reliability.

Fallis, Don. Forthcoming. “Mis- and Dis-information” Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Information

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Bits of Wisdom Taught to Me

In the last couple years of my life I have made some major changes. If you've kept up with my blog you should be more or less aware of what those changes have been. It wasn't an easy road. I've been in more valleys than mountain tops. This week, in fact, has been very difficult for me. The girls are visiting their dad in San Diego. While the relationship I have with my ex is fine, the hurt is gone from the break-up and all that; I have found that I don't care much for who I am as a person when my kids are gone. I struggle with my depression more so when they are gone than when they are with me. I've learned how much of a glue and an anchor they are for me.

You want to know what's neat about these times in my life, though? I made a change of heart spring break of last year. I had a change of  mind years before this time. But, wanting to change and actually changing were two very different things. I only changed when my heart was finally softened and willing. A lot has happened in this last year; but one thing I can say is that my change a years ago was legit. And though I have made some poor choices since then, it will never change the fact that I truly changed. Did I have growing yet to do? Yes. Was I going to always make the right choices? Of course not. I'm human and I was addicted to things like a drug. Giving up an addiction isn't for the faint of heart and no one can imagine my pain and loneliness during those times. I don't expect anyone to understand those times in my life. Even someone else who has experienced the same things as me will never understand the exact feelings or emotions I was having because every single person in this world is different and unique. Every one has a story! Everyone's story is different in some way. Some stories might be similar; but there are always differences under the surface that make everyone's experiences just different enough that we have no choice but to just except that we won't understand it fully. Instead, I want to learn to love. I want to come to realize that I might be able to offer up some suggestions or advice because of my life's experiences; but in the end, I have to chose to love the people in my life in spite of what happens because I'm learning that EVERYONE HAS A STORY.

You want to know what else? I have had someone in my life who has been there for me every step of the way. She was someone that God put in my life specifically. God literally molded this person, I feel, for the purpose of helping me get to where I needed to be. I have followed her lead, her advice and gleaned from her God-given wisdom on numerous occasions. I have also blundered and had moments where I wasn't thinking about her guidance at all; but it was never more than a day or two to pass by before all that I learned from her hit me like a ton of bricks. I picked myself up, I pulled out the spiritual weapons she taught me how to use and I kept fighting.

On top of that, I found myself quoting her wisdom to others. People don't know it but pretty much any time you ask me for advice, I'm quoting from this strong leader that I have in my life. Her advise was as pure and helpful a year ago as it is now. I'm not perfect; but the things I've learned from her helped me so much that I can't help but share it with others. I'm going to do my best to help the women in my community who struggle with their fiery darts, as I did, by sharing what I've learned with them. And for those of you who don't live in my community, here are a few things that I've learned:

"The smallest thing can be a victory and should be treated like the biggest victory."
"No matter how small the victory, praise God, thank Him and worship Him."
"When you feel like a failure, stop and find a victory no matter how small."

How many times I called her crying about a failure that happened. Some of these phone conversations where I shared the details of a painful failure were colossal! But, she never skipped a beat. She mourned with me because I was mourning and she was always able to find the smallest victory in my mountain of garbage. She would pull it out from the tears and says, "This is what we are going to focus on. This is the victory and we are going to rejoice in it." I shared my mess-up with her, but she didn't hear all that. She heard the tiny little thing that happened that she saw as the victory that I had over-looked. I cannot begin to tell you how quickly that calmed me down. I didn't have to be a failure when I had Jesus to forgive me. And I learned how to take the smallest victory and put it in front of my enemy and say, "I'm not completely broken and I will win!"

"In a way, its a privilege that the devil sees you as a threat. The devil is attacking you because he's scared of you and what you might do for the Lord."
"Don't give Satan a victory! Why would we ever let him know that he's winning?!"

At these points in the conversations it seemed we always turned to Beckah Shae and her powerful song "No More!" Where she fights against her fiery darts. We have played this song together. We have cried and prayed. I turn on this song anytime I need a boost to fight my enemy.

"God stops us from moving forward with our passions sometimes because he wants us to know we can't do it without him. He must get the glory."

It's not always easy to hear someone tell you that your passion for Christ is misplaced. But, I'm thankful for the faithful friend who always reminds me that no matter how badly I think I want to do something for Him, if I'm not allowing Him to work in His own timing than I'm not really doing it for Him. I have big ideas and my ideas are usually multi-million dollar in size. But, this advice reminds me to narrow down my passion and let God work in His own timing.

I hope these things are a help to you, too.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Baby Steps in the Right Direction

When I promised obedience to Christ on Good Friday this year I didn't know what all that would entail. But, it didn't take long for me to see that my spirit could easily be quenched by Hollywood films. When I first made the promise I drenched myself in Spiritual things, always watching preaching sermons and Christian films and listening to Christian music or comedy. As it happens, when the spiritual high begins to subside, it's easy to let some old ways slip back in. I began to notice that when I tried to watch a secular film, especially one with bad words or inappropriate scenes, I would feel very burdened or convicted to keep those things out of my life long-term.

I think it's important to note at this point that I'm an avid movie-watcher. When I watch a movie, I don't just watch it...I become the character that most closely relates to me. I put myself in the story. I love the idea behind films that lets you live a life through someone else and experience their experiences without having to actually experience them. This is probably why films of comedy are not my thing. When I watch a movie I like to feel like its real or could be real (fantasy) in another world. It's an escape out of my own life.

So, for a couple weeks now I've felt heavily burdened to close my Netflix account. I had already turned off the streaming because it was a distraction while trying to do homework. But, I still kept the cheapest DVD plan which was two a month. I would usually only watch one a month and sometimes not even that because we didn't have a great TV area and our DVD player didn't work half the time or I couldn't find the remote. Because I physically didn't really watch the shows anyway I didn't know why I was being burdened to turn off the account. But, really, deep down I knew why. It was because I was holding on to the queue. I had a very long list of movies in my queue that I wanted to watch someday. Each one really intrigued me and there was something about knowing that I wouldn't lose the story if I kept the queue that made me feel attached to it. I began to recognize that God wanted me to give up on the stories. It wasn't that I couldn't watch movies; but why was I holding so hard to these secular stories?

I am an Amazon Prime member so every once in a while I'll get on there and pick a movie to watch. Treat myself, kind of thing, if I get my homework done in a timely manner. So, last night I saw a film featuring Tom Hanks. I felt safe choosing this film because he always makes great films. And though I watched the whole thing, I found myself cringing when bad words were spoken and convicted when the Lord's name was used in vain. The movie ended and I just knew that I couldn't watch these films anymore. It wasn't good for my spirit and if Christ was sitting here with me, physically, I would not choose to watch it. So, this morning I finally broke down and canceled my Netflix DVD plan. I was surprised at how much this meant to me. I even shed a tear. ha ha Because this wasn't an action I was taking because it was taking up too much time or money. On the surface it would seem like Netflix wasn't affecting me at all. But, it was the stories I was missing out on that made me feel emotional. It's like a bunch of cliff-hangers that I was ignoring.

When the deed was done and the account was officially canceled it was like the Spirit living inside of me was rejoicing. I had a similar feeling of a spiritual high that I got when I had made other more dramatic changes to my life. It made me feel good that I was choosing Christ over these stories that really don't mean anything at all. It was like Jesus was saying, "Thank you. I can rest easy, now." And I just felt at peace.

This is encouraging for me. Every day my vows of obedience are on my mind and I try to look for ways I can prove my obedience. But, many days go by and nothing really comes up that I feel I can make a significant point of obedience towards. Some days the enemy makes me feel like my vows are all for naught because on the day to day, nothing is changing. But, my heart IS changing! The changing of one's heart is often slow and unnoticeable. (A concept I learned from a great sermon preached last Sunday. Here is the link if you want to view the sermon on wayward hearts: https://livestream.com/accounts/9449933/events/3245460/videos/156710903 )

Last night I cried. It's a sobbing I've become familiar with since I started my vows. It's an uncontrollable sobbing due to an overwhelming sense of inability to accomplish tasks of Motherhood. Raising my kids alone seems to have been the root cause of my loneliness, trying to find a partner on my own and giving in to my vises before. Since I promised God I would not seek a partner anymore, I find myself feeling extremely overwhelmed with the outcome of my children. When I realize how much of an example I am to my kids, how ignorant I am at raising kids and seeing traits in them that I don't like, I begin to get very anxious and overwhelmed. I begin to think this job is not meant for me; but selfishly I won't give my kids to anyone else to raise because I also need them in my life. Because trust me, I've considered many options that I felt would be better than what I could offer them. And I cry out to God because He truly is the only One I have with the power to help.

Whenever I get to feeling this way, God has not let me down. I first experienced these feelings on Mother's Day. It swells within me anytime I notice something in my kids that I don't know how to handle like a personality trait I'm failing to refine in them. But, each time it happens I cry to God and give it to Him and tell Him how much I need His help with these kids. Faithfully, He has always led me to a victory after such a prayer. This morning it was this Netflix thing. Silly or small as it seems, God wanted to show me how good it is to be obedient. It makes me feel like He will truly be here for me and the girls. And it encourages me to always be watchful of moments when I can prove my obedience once more. And to also not forget that sometimes it's the smallest of things.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Life Goals

It is the first week of May as I write this. Which means it's been just a few weeks since Easter. Feels like more time has gone by than what has actually gone by. On Good Friday this year I attended an event that changed my whole outlook on my life. Pastor Miles McPhearson from the Rock Church in San Diego was a guest speaker at this event and he encouraged us all to start physically standing for Jesus through obedience. The interesting thing was that even before this challenge from him, I had been dabbling with the idea of being more obedient to Christ....I know, what a revelation, right? And I feel like this was God's way of saying, "Yes, that's a good choice and here's how you get started."

After the Good Friday challenge I went to the front and waited in line to talk to Pastor McPhearson. I wanted to thank him for his message of encouragement and I gave him a very brief background/update on my own life and where I was at in life. I felt like the woman with Jesus who said, "Go, and sin no more" as Pastor McPhearson prayed with me that day and then told me, "Just go, and be obedient to the Lord." It suddenly seemed like such a simple task.

Now, some of you may read my blog regularly or know the intimate details of my life well enough to know some of the major struggles in my past. And let me tell you, my divorce isn't really one of them. Being a single mom, so so hard as it is, isn't really my biggest struggle. Being a single mom comes with a lot of feelings of loneliness, which greatly impacts my greatest struggle; but it isn't actually my greatest struggle. My greatest life-struggle that has been the sole purpose of all my life choices to date is that of seeking the feeling of being loved and feeling unloveable.

Now, don't get me wrong. There was a lot of love in my family. My parents loved us and I know this because of how hard they worked physically, mentally and emotionally to see all their children succeed in every aspect of life. I think it was inevitable for me to feel unloveable the older I got just because of other things like Hollywood movies. "Love" in Hollywood is so far from reality, yet, woman of ALL ages get caught up in what Hollywood portrays to us as love.

And during all this Easter challenging in my life, my amazing and beautiful sister-in-law sent me a book to read called Sex and the Soul of a Woman. It's a book for healing for woman like me who came to see "love" with a man as giving a part of yourself a way through sex. As I opened the pages of this book, the very first sentence, the first paragraph, was me. How empty and hard and bitter I had become as time after time of giving myself to a man to try to gain or keep his affection turned against me every time. What amazed me is how hopeless the personal testimonies shared by other woman were in the book. Each one seemed to say, "I gave away a part of my soul because I thought it's what I had to do to keep his love; but he's gone now anyway and what does it matter? That part of my soul is gone and I'll never get it back." It's so true. You do get to a point after so many attempts at finding love in this way, that you start to say, "Well, I'm ruined now so I might as well enjoy the game, the high. I know this won't last but for now I can feel loved and what does it matter? I've already lost myself." And THAT is so true! I've completely lost who I am as a person. Who was I before I started trying to gain acceptance in this way? It happens at such a young age, that it's almost impossible for me to remember who I was. What were my ambitions? What did I value about myself before I thought my value came from a man or sex?

The third thing that God did this past Easter was He brought to my attention the movie Courageous, that had been sitting on my counter in a Netflix envelope for weeks. One afternoon I was cleaning the house (being productive, for once) and it was like the Holy Spirit stopped me in my tracks. I just suddenly felt an urge to watch this movie. And as I did so, I realized I had gone into a whole different world. The house could have been burning down around me and I wouldn't have noticed I was so fixated on the show. I hardly noticed that the actors weren't the best. I cried throughout the movie and felt fear and anxiety as I watched as if I didn't know the ending or the outcome. (I had seen it before) The story came to life for me and when it was finished I jumped up and I said, "Girls, get ready to go, we have to go to the mall."

We all went to the mall and I was on cloud nine with ideas of things I wanted to do to turn my life around. I bought a notebook to write some vows in and keep a journal of my journey as I attempted to keep them. And then I also bought myself a promise ring. I didn't get a cheap one either. I went to a jeweler and I was there a really long time contemplating my budget and my goals and what I wanted this ring to represent. I left the store with a beautiful rose gold ring with three opal stones to represent myself and my girls. I have a payment plan that will have the ring paid off in a year. I liked this plan for a few reasons. One, every time the money comes out towards the ring I am reminded of my goals and my vows. And two, I decided to use this year to pay off my ring as a way to gauge where I'm at with my vows. I put the ring on my left, wedding finger and I told myself (and my girls) that I was going to be married to God for the next year. Dating Jesus, as I'll sometimes refer to it. During my year of dating Jesus I will learn how to love God and how to be obedient to Him. I will make real efforts to changing my life style, the way I value and think of myself and my relationship with my kids. I vowed in this year of dating Jesus that I will not date anyone else. I will not go to online dating sites, I will not accept offers or pass out my number. I will simply focus on being married to God. When the year is over and my ring is paid off I will have (ideally) learned how to love God and make Him the first and most important part of my life. I will have (hopefully) healed my body and my heart, my mind and my soul of my past attempts at love. I will then switch my ring over to my right hand indicating to God that I'm now ready for anyone he might have in store for me. This doesn't mean I'll go back to online dating or seeking someone. It just means that I'll be willing to date again if God wants that for my life. But, I will also be willing to go on being single if that is His will because that's what this year is all about. Submitting to His will.

It's interesting how all this happens. It's so very clear that God was in on these Easter changes for me. After I wrote my vows I was excited to tell my family and prayer warrior group, my Pastor and even my old friends who needed to know that I had made a change. I saved my Sunday School teacher for last. I wanted to tell her face to face about the vows I was making because she had played an important role in my life, being a friend and encouragement to me in the last several months. I didn't get to church early enough that next time we all met for Sunday school for me to tell her before class what had happened. And so it was fascinating to me to see how God works as she explained her next series of lessons for us. She said she was feeling heavily burdened by the Holy Spirit to start a series on how woman in the Bible can be obedient towards God. I was so giddy with excitement that I couldn't wait to tell her how amazing God was and how neat it was that he would work like this and align things just so.

Well, all that was just introduction to my actual thoughts this morning, ha ha. You know we get these revelations in life sometimes and we get that Spiritual high in the moment. But, if you've ever been to a summer camp or retreat you know that the feeling goes away. What I appreciated about God working this Easter is that he didn't fill me with ecstatic feelings that would fade. Because I am an emotional person and I often base things off of how I'm feeling. What I liked about this moment in my life was that there wasn't any extra ordinary emotions. These various things would happen and the next day I would still wake feeling anxious and depressed as always. My life went on as always. I didn't have any major turn of feelings or any immediate healing. What I did notice though is that God would bless me with a good attitude and good days. I wasn't so grumpy all the time, which immediately helped my relationship with my girls. And I began to have more productive days. My feelings of anxiety and depression in the mornings were easily swept away after I would do a few things to connect with God. And the thing was, I didn't start reading my Bible every day. I didn't start a daily prayer routine. I didn't do a whole lot of things differently. So, these weeks would go by and I would get discouraged sometimes that I wasn't really doing much towards my new vows and I would wonder what it had all been about. But, God would send me an opportunity that day to be obedient. And I would recognize it and I would obey. I would get to go home and write in my journal how I had the opportunity to obey and I would get encouraged. Then the next day would be the same: wake up with depression and anxiety wondering what it was all about, start my day, earn a victory, go to bed happy.

Through out all this I would keep opening my heart to God's will and looking for a direction he was taking me. I didn't know where to find His will; but I was sure to keep looking in the right places. I listen to a lot of sermons, KLove, Christian comedy and God started to show me His will little by little. I've honestly gotten more out of the announcements from my Miles McPhearson sermons I'm listening to than his actual messages, ha ha. He will give an announcement about an app or something that his church is using and I'll download the app and it turns out to be the part that God was leading me towards. I found out that the Rock Church will send you a daily Bible passage to your email. Now, every morning as I go through my phone and get rid of all the red notification markers, I come to my email. Every morning I see I have a new email and it's that Bible passage. I take a moment to read it and learn from it and journal about what I learned and share with others if I feel led.

God doesn't lead me every day like I thought maybe He would. But once a week or so He gives me something to work on. First it is the Bible passages coming to my email. Then it is a sermon about giving God the firsts of all that you have. I wasn't touched by the sermon when I first listened to it. But, days later when I was reflecting about my vows and trying to find God's Will in it all, the sermon came back to me with a goal and something I can work on towards obedience to God.

So, all in all, even though I still feel depressed at times, I see that God is watching me and guiding me. This is exciting for me to see God work in His timing. It's important for me to learn that I have to keep Godly things in my life. If God isn't working as fast as I want Him to I might get distracted by Hollywood or personal desires. It's important for me that no matter how badly I want to just watch a regular movie, I have to watch my sermon videos or Christian comedians instead. No matter how badly I want to listen to an old song that I loved, I force myself to stick with KLove. And it's usually only a matter of seconds that go by before I realize the Godly choices are better. I get much more encouragement from the sermons or Christian music than I do the worldly stuff.

The greatest part about all of this is that my past life disgusts me. I do feel broken and bruised from the choices I made before, the men who hurt me and the parts of my soul that I gave away. Every once in a while an old contact will reach out to me and it angers me that I had even let this person affect me before. It angers me that I allowed myself to let that person dictate my value. Praise Jesus for even that victory alone!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Story Time

There once was a very good Chef. His father was a chef and his father before him. And as his grandfather had taught his father every recipe in The Book, a book with all the recipes and answers to making the perfect dish; so the Chef's father taught him. The Chef knew The Book. By this time he could make many dishes perfectly without even having to open The Book, he had viewed it's pages so many times. Other times he made a dish that he hadn't made in such a long time that he did open The Book to be reminded of the ingredients and all the instructions to gain perfection of the dish.

One day, the Chef found himself in a new city. He went to a different grocery and he took them back to a different house, with a different kitchen, a different stove and  a different set of tools for making the dishes. Even some of the ingredients were different than what he was used to.  Likewise, even the people who ate his food were different. The Chef was not concerned. Why should it matter? He thought of a recipe from The Book that he knew well. He went to his new, different kitchen and began to create the dish. He didn't need to open The Book. It was a dish he had made successfully many times before. Oddly, though, the dish did not turn out. He thought that maybe he had forgotten a step. So, the next day the Chef made the same dish; but this time he opened The Book and followed the directions. When it was finished he gave it a taste. It didn't necessarily taste bad; but it wasn't the same. He couldn't put his finger on it exactly; but he knew it wasn't quite right. The Chef was slightly baffled because this dish had come easily to him in the past. The Chef more or less ignored the problem. He offered several excuses for why the dish wasn't quite right. Maybe he was tired. This new city was hot and he just wasn't thinking clearly. He recalled being interrupted a few times during the making of the dish. He could have been too distracted.

Then day after day, from that point on, the Chef attempted to make the dish. And each time he made it, something was off. He could never put his finger on it; but it wasn't the dish he remembered from before. He tried making it by memory. He tried reading and following each instruction step by step like he used to do when he was just a child, learning. He invited fellow Chefs, whom he had met and grown to trust, over to offer solutions. The other chef friends had the same Book and knew all the answers just like him. In fact, when they made the dish for the Chef to show him how it was done, it was just as he remembered it. So savory and perfectly delectable. The Chef was encouraged by this. When his friends left, the Chef went to make the dish again. Yet, again, when he made it, it did not turn out. The Chef had moments of tears and frustration. He felt like a failure. How could he fail at this dish? He KNEW how to make it. He followed the instructions. His friends were making it and it always seem to turn out for them. Why couldn't he succeed? The Chef began to think that his entire, cooking days were all for nought. What was the point of all he had learned if, now, he could not be successful with what seemed like the easiest of tasks?

The Chef stopped trying for several days. But, though he stopped trying in the kitchen, the problem weighed on his mind almost day and night. Sometimes he could not even sleep. The Chef had one friend who was not a chef. He had some cooking experience; but didn't make anything real fancy. He just made normal dishes that sometimes worked out and sometimes didn't. But, the friend was always happy and positive. The Chef finally opened up to his friend about the dish. He explained the situation. The friend, at first, wasn't sure what advice he could give. So, he told the Chef the "right" answer, "You have the Book." The friend said. "Read The Book. Study it. Know it. Be it. Then you can make the dish." The Chef was disappointed at this advice and admitted, "I have done all this. I have The Book. I know The Book. I know everything that Book says. I see my other other chef friends using The Book and having success. Even if someone else asked me how to make this dish, I could tell them word for word because I know The Book so well."

The friend considered this. There was silence for a moment. Finally, the friend spoke up again, "The Book has the right answers, yes. Ideally, you should be able to read The Book, follow the instructions, and your dish will turn out. But, you have tried this time and time again and still your dish does not turn out. Sometimes..." The friend continued, "you have to discover what the recipe in The Book really means for you. What worked for your to make this recipe before may not be how you need to make it now. Things are different now. You have a new and different life, here. How can you apply what you know to get the dish that you want to make?" The friend continued with an example. "When I come to a dish I want to make, I can look up your Book and find the recipe. But, for me, it is complicated. I don't really understand all the instructions. I don't let that stop me. I find the end result that I'm looking for and using your Book as a guide, I make it fit my own needs at my own level. I find a way to make my dish in a way that makes sense to me. In doing this, I always receive the result I'm looking for."

For the first time, the Chef realized that maybe it was ok if he stepped outside of the bounds of what was expected of a Chef in his past, chef community. Just because all his other chef friends, not to mention his father and his father before him, did it the traditional way, didn't mean that he couldn't make his own adjustments to make the dish fit his needs, now, in his new city with the many differences he faced. And so the Chef pulled out The Book again. He set it on the counter and this time he also grabbed a pen. He began to take out ingredients. The knives he used now were different. So, when the recipe called for an ingredient to be chopped a certain way, the Chef made an adjustment with his pen in The Book and chopped them in a way that made sense to him with the knives he had in his new kitchen. The recipe required a certain heat for a certain amount of time. But the Chef's stove was different. He made an adjustment with his pen in The Book and used a setting on his stove that made sense to him based off of the different equipment he was using. The recipe called for an ingredient that was made a little different in the new city. So, the Chef made an adjustment with his pen to add a little more of something else to balance the taste. It made sense to him to make this change. When the dish was complete, the Chef took a bite......It was good! He sat down and finally relaxed. He realized that each recipe that he had learned in his Chef environment with other, like-minded Chefs was going to have to be tweaked. He was different now, in a different city and everything was different. The Chef could still value the recipes he loved; but he had to adjust in a way that made sense to him so that he could be successful.

This story, or analogy, is based off true events. The people in this story are real, though names have been left out to protect the innocent. :) It's a story about how I feel about my Spirituality on a regular basis. Just because I know the solutions to my problems doesn't make me successful. Just because I have the answers doesn't mean I know how to apply them. Just because I can give someone else great advice about matters in their life, doesn't mean my own advice can be easily applied back on my own life. Why? Why does it come so easily for some people to be determined and successful. Yet, for me, I feel like a continual failure who makes one mistake after another. And when I try to get back on track, when I try to apply what I KNOW from my own Book, it doesn't take. It's true that a friend in my life suggested to me the idea of adjusting. I need to no longer rely on the traditions of my past. It may not actually apply to me now. I'm very different now. I'm a single mom, living alone, doing it alone. What are the basic commandments? How do I apply them to my life where I'm at without comparing to others? In a way, I'm starting from scratch. I'm taking what I absolutely know for sure and have no doubt to be true and finding how it applies to me in my life.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Phase of life: Weird

No matter how old you are in life, there are just some circumstances that require you to need your mom. I'm a pretty big girl and maybe other girls my age are handling things on their own. I'm sure some of them don't even have a mom for one reason or another. But, I'm not ashamed to say that when life turns weird....and I mean, haven't a single idea, thankful to be a Christian so I can rely on God kind of weird....I miss my mom like never before. Partly because my mom, through all my life, has not just been a mother. She has been a friend. I'm reminded of a poem I wrote for my mom when she was "retiring" from homeschooling all 5 of us children. I will not share said poem with you because only heaven knows where it's archived within my computer. But, it's about the memories I had of my mom growing up. They weren't memories of the things she taught me as a mother; but rather the things she taught me as a friend.

Today...this week...this month, I'm longing for my mom to be here and I'm starting to wonder if there will ever come a time where we are just living together for the long term. My house is in disarray today. Unlike other days' disarray-ments, (it's a word if you think about it) today it's a mess because I'm preparing to move. The funny thing is, I prepared to move when I had personally decided I needed to move. I felt like I couldn't afford to live here anymore and was going to move my family of 3 plus 2 cats and a dog into a one bedroom apartment. I gave my notice with property management that I would move out by the 1st of April (2017). Two days later, after sleepless night of tossing and turning over the idea, I finally re-worked my budget and told my property management that I had changed my mind. A few days after that (yesterday) they called me back and informed me that the owners of the home actually wanted to sell the house and so I would have to move out after all.

This is one of those situations where you don't know whether to laugh or cry or pack a few belonging, change your names, and live on the run. I chose to laugh....at first. Luckily, I hadn't unpacked anything yet and had started a garage sale so I felt a little ahead of the game. The matter of where to go is what started to make me feel overwhelmed. I'm not great at making decision on my own. I can't really remember an important decision in life that I HAVE made on my own. Yet, this time I truly felt like I was on my own, humanly speaking. No one was going to swoop in and just tell me what to do, where to move or how to pay for it. As the day went on, I not only was recovering from flu-like symptoms (I had the flu shot), but I also finally started to feel the pressure of all that needed to be done. My laughter turned to tears.

I rather like these phases of life, in a way. It puts me in a place where I HAVE to fully rely on God. I can't even really open any doors. I crack a few windows at this point and God, in his infinite wisdom and power, has to somehow let me know which crack to seep through.

Let's not forget that I also didn't get my tax return this year due to some dumb mistakes several years ago. The return got garnished by a collection agency. So, I'm $7000 poorer than I expected to be at this point. It's also my year to pay for the girls' spring break trip, which takes place end of next week. God has really shown that He is going to provide. So, I'm not necessarily worried. And in a way, doing this alone is part of a prayer I prayed a while back that I would learn how to be alone. Why I prayed that is beyond me. It's funny how God answers the prayers we regret praying sometimes. But, I jest. I'm actually thankful for the lessons and the growth that will come out of this for me.

In short, (and trust me, this is the short version) I just miss my mom. I wish she could be here and I know she wants to be. Between her husband, parents and four other kids I really don't know why I have to share ;) But, I know my mom is praying for me and quite honestly, if someone is going to pray and get their prayers answered, it's going to be my mom. So, I'm thankful that she is doing that. If it is all that she can or would do, it would be enough.

Over and out.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

It's time to be normal

It's been a while since I posted. However, in my defense, I thought blogger had deleted my webpage because it didn't load properly the last time I tried to get on. This blog is mainly being written for my daughters to read some day. It's more of a journal than anything else. And not one that I'm good at keeping up with. But, everyone once in a while; I will have a moment in life that just bears having record made of it.

Today is the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We had a very pleasant Thanksgiving with Liz and Josh and David. Just a small, humble gathering. We didn't get rowdy playing games or sit around a fire doing s'mores; but we did good. It was fun. With mom and dad being in Chicago there was a fear of the winter holidays being a drag. I give credit to God for giving us all a peaceful, enjoyable Thanksgiving. Nice to know we CAN survive with out the parents, when needed.

The girls and I got our tree today and set it up. This time last year marks the anniversary of my depression worsening to the point of getting on medicine again. I have upped my dose once since I got on it again last year. That is good news because that means I'm still taking a pretty small dose. This time last year I was crying uncontrollably on my couch as I sat in front of our newly lit tree and wished to have someone in my life to share it with. The girls were with their Father at the time and I wasn't living with Dave like I had the year before that. I was truly alone for the first time on a memorable day and I truly felt very alone. I remember inviting a couple friends over, all of whom couldn't come over for one reason or another. I had fallen into this downward spiral that I couldn't get out of. Finally, my mom came over and sat down with me in my living room and just listened as I expressed (rather in a hypervigilance state) how down and depressed I really was feeling. My mom insisted I get some help. Coincidentally, (or a God-thing) I had my yearly doctor's check-up that very week. When my doctor asked me how things were going and I started bawling again, she sent me to the psychiatrist right away.

So, that was what I was doing this time last year. I admit as the holiday neared, the tree was carefully picked from the rest, decorations were chosen and we began to transform the living room to the holiday spirit once again, I was became a little nervous that things would be bad again. God knew my heart and mind this year just as much as He knew it last year. He allowed the day to go exactly the way He wanted it to go. He knew I was ready for the day He was about to give me.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the girls choose the decorations and hang them on the tree. Emma mainly just wanted to hang the tree-topper star. Jacey helped me a little with the lights, but otherwise, her favorite job was hanging the ornaments. She likes to hang them on the light bulbs instead of the branches. I just sat on the couch and watched. I didn't care or feel anxious if two blue ornaments were too close together or if the majority of the decorations were in the bottom two feet of the tree. I just watched and took pictures and enjoyed. Who cares of it's not picture perfect? The girls and I bonded, fondly. This is one thing that I think God was waiting for me to learn. The concept of "not everything has to be perfect."

The tree was up and decorated by 10 in the morning. So the day continued. The house was a mess and over the course of the last few days I was really becoming sick of it. Because it wasn't just becoming a mess over time. It was clean as a whistle one day and the next looked like a tornado went through it. In the past year and previous years before I was on meds, I wouldn't have even cared. I was so anxious all the time making me feel exhausted all the time, which made me feel depressed all the time. I simply didn't care what happened to the house. Well, this past week, for some reason I just decided enough was enough. Why did I have to live this way? Now, this question is important to remember for later on in the story. I began to assess the situation and something I had always known, became very clear to me as I did so. I have these two children who just run around the house doing whatever pleases them. They eat when they are hungry and leave the food out, they take good toys outside and lose them, they don't respect their things, they leave their clothes on the floor where ever they happen to be when they change (and mind you they are changing about 17 times a day.)

It was things like this that made me feel like a bad mother. People would sometimes tell me I was doing a good job and that my kids were doing great. I would just blow off their comments as "they are just trying to make me feel better." Because surely they wouldn't say those things if they knew what went on in my house. I started to ask myself another question. (Which is also important to remember) "Why should I let my kids rule the roost? Why can't I start making some rules and enforcing them?"

This sort of thing happened through out the week. I began to feel like "nesting" and wanted to start throwing things out left and right. Working full time and doing full-time, online schooling didn't give me much extra time to do anything. So, finally, I get this lovely 4-day weekend. I made a plan in my head of what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. Now, bear in mind, that always in the back of my head I'm dreading the start of this new life-goal because of the depression and anxiety that I'm so used to haunting my drive and sucking my energy dry. As I carried about my day yesterday and today preparing for "the new normal," I would stop every so often and take a moment to realize I still had energy. I still had my drive. I still had the gumption to complete my goals. My ideas still felt fresh in my mind. I have those thoughts after completing my various tasks and chores of the day. Yet, still in the back of my mind I would think, "Ok, that may all be true for now; but I better get this done while I can because soon the depression will settle in."

Well, we are up to-date. The girls were good about picking up some clutter around the house before we decorated the tree. So, after we decorated, they went to play outside and I got busy with the main task that was keeping me from feeling the "new norm"....laundry. Today, I literally washed every article of clothing (of the girls) that we owned (save just a handle of outfits that some how managed to stay in the drawers.) On top of that, I also washed all the blankets and bedding that was strewn about the home, for some reason. "Why did I do this?" you might ask. As I had mentioned before clothes were just being thrown every which way and staying put where ever they landed. Well, in spite of many of them being clean to begin with, there was no hope of just putting them back in the drawer now. What with all the cat and dog fur that accumulated on the floor, I had no choice but to wash them all. I stood on my feet all day by the edge of my bed folding clothes, going through all of them piece by piece and only keeping the ones that we really needed. Two big trash bags later, I had narrowed down their collection. Sure, I put on my show as I folded laundry. But, this did not keep me from noticing how badly my feet were beginning to ache and how much I would just like to sit down. As soon as one load was folded, sorted through and put away, another was dry and ready to be started on. This kept me busy until it got dark outside. I noticed the tree again as I walked in from the dryer with the last load I was planning on folding tonight. The lights were so pretty. I had that moment where I stopped to consider my state of mind. Was I depressed? Was I on the verge? I strangely felt ok. I started to feel it creep up a little bit as I considered the feeling of sitting alone in front of the tree again this year. So, I fired back by letting the girls stay up a little later than planned. We sat together on the couch silently and just watched the tree. That was enough for me.

I laid the girls down in their own beds, which was part of my "new normal" goal I was going for. I took my load of laundry into the bedroom. Jacey wasn't quite asleep yet so I decided to put off turning on my show. I didn't want to distract her from sleeping. The girls had fussed a little bit about being in their room again. After all, they had been sleeping with me every night for the last several weeks due to the various number of house guests I seemed to keep inviting into my home and regretting later. As I laid them in their beds this night they started to fuss a bit and I said, "Girls. It's time we start being like a normal family. The kind where we sleep in our own beds, we do our laundry in a timely manner and we pick up clumps of fur that are hanging out in the corners of our home." The said, "Ok and good night." ha ha

That comment I made to them, though, stopped my in my tracks, mentally. I ran another assessment of my mind to find the depression that was sure to be there after being tired, my feet aching and all these menial tasks that I would normally find so overwhelming. And I smiled on the inside. Because for as silly as I would seem to a "normal" non-depressed, non-anxious person; I wasn't feeling my usual overwhelmingness from the parts of life that were making me feel normal again. I have always preached that as a depressed person, you must accept the "new-you." When depressed you just can't do things the way you used to. I used to care about picking up the tuffs of fur. I used to enjoy laundry. I used to see a spill on the floor and clean it up right away. I no longer did those things because they genuinely felt like more than what I could handle in a day. So, the relief of discovering that I was not going to wallow in depression tonight from all I had tried to accomplish, made me feel like a victor.

If you don't currently or have never suffered from a real, honest-to-goodness, diagnosed depression then you won't think anything of this victory of mine. And that's okay. Because I have accepted that this is who I am now. I can't keep trying to compare my house and parenting skills to my mom or other moms who seem to have it all together. Every individual person deals with a variety of different things in their lives. If it isn't depression its something else. Depression happens to be my thorn in the flesh. And yes, I do grow tired of fighting back the urge to defend myself when I know another mother is judging me for the way I brought my kids to school or for the way my house looked a mess or the things I forgot to do that any normal mother would have remembered. But, I've embraced the fact that other people don't have to "get" me. God is putting me through a trial that is not understood by everyone. If I had some kind of cancer, no one would say a word about my messed up house. In fact, many would probably offer to come help me out on a weekly basis. Because people understand physical illness. It's something they can see and be sympathetic towards. Yet, my cancer, is invisible in my mind. It doesn't show on my face as I'm quite capable of carrying on a normal conversation and holding smile with a steady gaze. It doesn't show in the way I dress because I still value professionalism and want to be classy. It doesn't show in hair loss like other cancers. It doesn't show in my body with illness in my eyes. Or does it? Depressions shows in many ways in a person's life.

Here's some wisdom from my mom: an observation, which I clung to and remembered whenever I felt I like I just wasn't cutting it. "It's not normal to be ok with sending your kids to school without brushing their hair." (And I'm paraphrasing here.) "It's not normal to watch your house fall apart around you and not care enough to just do some basic pick up." My mom wasn't being mean. She was trying to understand me. She recognized, when many others don't, that, yes, something is wrong with me. And though it's not a physical illness like cancer that people can see, relate and sympathize with, it's still just as serious. Depression: the cancer of the mind, as I affectionally call it.

NOT TODAY, though! And what a relief! Remember those questions that were important to remember. I can not tell you the last time I cared enough to even make a quandary of such questions. It was like all of a sudden the depression went to sleep long enough for me to open my eyes and in astonishment think "Why am I living like this?"

As I puttered around the house and realized all the things I was doing that used to overwhelm me and make me crywere no longer bringing me down, I had no choice but to just praise God. He has brought me through so much in this last year. I think it's pretty neat of Him to celebrate the anniversary of starting meds with such a successful day. I don't plan on tomorrow being the same as today. I've lived with depression long enough to know that it doesn't go away. But, what a joy would it be if God actually saw fit to heal me of this burden. Could the "me" I used to be really ever pop up again? I try not to hope. I've accepted who I am with depression. I've accepted the tears, embarrassment, changes and looks of judgement from others. I've accepted that its a feeling I will most likely always have. So, if God works a miracle and gives me my mind back, I'll have no choice but to rejoice in His Name and serve Him more fervently. Tonight, on my anniversary with zoloft, I say "goodnight" with the Joy of the Lord in my heart and hope for tomorrow.