Monday, December 27, 2010

To Melt

Have you ever observed people who take smoke breaks?  I have a pretty good view from my office window of the area where the smoker's from the office building congregate to light up.  Most of the time it annoys me.  I think of healthcare costs, how smokers effect group rates and hinder the progress of wellness plans. 

However, there are those days when I remove my attention from my computer screen and I watch as a stranger exits the building, shoulders high, neck tight, face strained.  He leans against the side of the brick building and digs in his pocket for a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.  I can tell he's trying to be patient but his fingers fumble the pack and the lighter in anticipation for the fix.  Next, he slips the end of a cigarette inside the very outside edge of his lips and lights the end of the cig.  He breathes in heavilyand quickly, holds his breath and slooooowwwwwlllllyyyyyy releases the smoke.  And he melts.  His shoulders, neck and face relax.  He stands up a little taller and no longer leans on the building seemingly defeated.

It's days like this, when I take it all in that I think if not for the health risks and obvious addiction issues, I would be a smoker.  In a perfect world, that little nicotine filled cylinder would just help you melt.  It wouldn't cause cancer or emphysema or birth defects and it wouldn't smell terrible or cause you to age and wrinkle more quickly.  It would just allow you to leave your desk for 15 minutes every 3 1/2 hours to melt away the stress.

I am jealous of smokers.  It's as if in this culture you have to have a vice in order to get a break.  They get breaks in addition to a 30 minute to 1 hour lunch and two 15 minute breaks.  Anytime they have the need to get their fix, they can walk outside for an additional 15 minutes and release their day with the smoke.

While this may seem like I am supporting cigarette addiction, I am not.  It's just one of those things I think about on days when the work day seems never-ending, when employment law is so extreme that a small business just can't win, when employees take advantage of the kindness of a God fearing company and when the negative emails about benefits, salaries, time off, ergonomic chairs and what brand of coffee we should buy for the breakroom keep rolling in.

Later, I usually see one of my case studies, who earlier in the day I was jealous of, leave the building for the day.  We walk in close proximity to our cars and he suddently stops to hack-ack-AAACK-huhrgle-ugh, his throat gurgling with phlegm and who knows what else.  A handsome 30 something man who sounds like a monster and who, in a few years, will look much older than his years.  And then the appeal has worn off and I think about what I could do to release the day, besides pray, of course. 

Today, one of my brothers invited me to dinner and a movie.  That sounds more fun than smoking a cigarette and I'm sure by the end of the night my face won't look so strained and I can start fresh tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Soul is in the Sky

My soul is in the sky.

— William Shakespeare, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' Act V. Scene I.



The most beautiful place I have ever been is the sky.  I can only visit incased in winged, metal objects but until I have the ability to hover or fly independently without science and man-made objects, a plane is perfectly fine with me.

As soon as the wheels of the plane leave the runway, I feel like I can breathe deep, full breaths and the weight on my heart is lifted.

I feel God love me when I'm in the sky.  It's like He's saying or showing me, "I created this for you:  the discovery of flight, the ability, the science behind it.  I created it's intricacies and vulnerabilities and it's magic...for you....because I knew you would love it."

And I do.  I love the pressure in my ears as the plane ascends and descends.  I love looking down at the earth as the flat lands turn to hills and the hills into snow covered mountains.  I love seeing the organized layout of farm land turn into the organized chaos of a city and peering down at little tiny cars carrying little tiny people and wondering what they do, where they are from and if they know that someone is wondering about them.  I love the turbulence and fog, the lightning and the way the sun illuminates the lakes and oceans.

Maybe it is conceited of me to think that God created flight just for my personal enjoyment, just as a reminder to me during my busy, hectic life that He loves me, but that's what I believe.  I believe that He gave the knowledge to people who could execute the science behind it just so that a girl born in the 1980's would be able to enjoy it when she reached her 20's. 

There is no sport equal to that which aviators enjoy while being carried through the air on great white wings.
— Wilbur Wright, 1905.


It's wonderful to climb the liquid mountains of the sky, Behind me and before me is God and I have no fears.
— Helen Keller, at age 74, on flight around the world, news reports of 5 February 1955.


Even before [we] . . . had reached 300 feet, I recognized that the sky would be my home. I tumbled out of the airplane with stars in my eyes.
— Geraldyn Cobb, regards her first flight, piloted by her father when she was 12 years old

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Girl, Interrupted

Literally. 

In my teen years I remember confronting my family about the issue of interrupting.  To be more specific, I confronted them about their tendency to interrupt me, almost everytime I opened my mouth.  In the car, at the dinner table, playing games, watching television; as long as we were in a group I couldn't get a word in edgewise. 

My stories would go something like this:

"Oh! That reminds me."  Everyone looks at me, as they should look at someone who is adding to the conversation.  "Today at school, I was at my locker and Myranda came up to me--"

Brother:  "Hey mom, did you know that frogs are amphibians?"

Mom:  "I did know that.  Hold on, your sister was talking."

Me:  "Okay, I'll make this quick....anyway, Myranda walked--"

Brother 2: "We learned about amphibians in Kindergarten.  You are just now learning about amphibians?"

Brother 1: "No.  Just more about them....we learned about them years ago."

This usually went on endlessly.  I would try focusing my story on a person in particular, making eye contact with a member of my family and finishing the story.  That member would usually get pulled into another conversation or would get up from wherever we were sitting to multi-task...

Member of my family:  "uh huh....I'm listening.  Keep talking."

So I would.  I would follow people around the house and try to tell a story.  It was very overstimulating.

Back to the confrontation.  I remember sitting at the bar area in the kitchen.  My mom was sitting near me, my dad was going back and forth from the kitchen to the living room.  There were probably 4 of 5 brothers in the dining room....a lot was going on.  I had been sharing a story or a comment or something with everyone during a conversation and people were dispersing or starting up new conversations and I felt my chest tighten.  I blurted out, "Do you people realize that I can't finish one thing I say?  You are rude! I'm adding to YOUR conversation.  You interrupt me everytime I talk--and I don't even talk that much!  I'm like the quietest girl on the planet!"

Silence.

Then, laughter.  My brothers: "Ha ha ha!  Whatever! We do not!"  My parents: "What?  No, we are trying to listen to all of you....do we really interrupt/ignore you?"

I learned growing up that if I wanted to say something I had to make it quick and to the point. Wasn't it Pavlov who eventually trained a dog to salivate just by hearing a bell ring?  Well, I'm that dog.  I learned to be quiet when in group settings.  My bosses love my presentation method- quick and to the point; my dates think I'm lame because I don't do well with small talk.  I blame my family (and I say this half-heartedly--at this point, they truly did not realize how much they interrupted me).  I am this way with even my best friends, extended family, etc.  You know this, if you've ever had me over for dinner.  I don't say much, not because I haven't anything to say, but because I fear being tuned out.

After I explained my family member's behavior to them, they started noticing over the course of a week or so that it was true.  Then, it became a fun game for them. They would watch and wait for my mouth to open and the quickly, they would say something as loud as they could over me.  It was funny for about 1 minute and then I usually just went to my room to listen to music.

The positive result of the confrontation was that I could, when interupption was occuring, put my hand up and say, "Please.  Just listen; you are interrupting me again."  I would finish my story and then we would all move on.  Sometimes, I would preface a statement or story by saying, "okay, this is important.  Just don't talk until I finish.  I will make it quick."

On Thursday, my eldest brother and his wife had my parents and brothers over for a more intimare Thanksgiving celebration.  We had already had one with extended family members.  It's been nearly 10 years since we all lived at home together and probably 12 years since the confrontation.  My conversations with my immediate family have been one on one or in smaller groups since then since we all live far apart.

The topic of conversation suddenly sparked a really funny story about something that happened at work, so I waited my turn and then started telling it.  About 1/4 of the way through, my nephew started running around the table, being cute.  Then, one brother started talking across the table to another.  My sister-in-law got up from the table and went to the kitchen.  There was noise and commotion everywhere and me trying very calmly to talk over it....and then.....I just stopped.  I just quit talking and went back to eating and no one noticed.  About 5 minutes later, my brother Roger said, "Hey, weren't you telling a story?"

"Yeah.  But no one was listening."

Roger: "Finish it, it sounded funny..."

I perked up, "Okay!  Well, anyway, my boss was walking out and he said--"

Brother 2:  "You told me this story on the phone..."

"I know I told YOU....but I didn't tell them and it's funny, right?"

"Yeah it was funny.  Go ahead."

And by then, I was so freakishly exhausted from trying to converse with my family that I decided not to finish my story.  I would just eat pie.

The moral of the story is:  Just eat pie.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Let the Waters Rise

After a grueling day of relief efforts in Honduras a few months ago, we all loaded into vehicles to head back from Danli to Zamorano for the night.  As we were leaving it began to rain.  There were probably 12 or so of us riding in the bed of the truck.  The 30 minute trip back to Zamorano was cold, wet and a little painful from rain drops pelting us as the truck sped along the highway.  The pro to the situation was that the downpour was washing all of the mud and sweat from the day off of us as well as providing us with a fun memory. 

Before we actually got out of the Danli city limits, we sat in traffic for a while.  The rain was refreshing and it was nice to laugh and talk with everyone.  At this point I had been in Honduras for probably 10 days and experienced things that should have made me nervous, but didn't.  I had not experienced any real feelings of fear.  I remember looking to my right, away from my friends in the truck and noticing that flood waters that had receded the night before were rising in the river.  I had a sick feeling in my gut that all the people we had helped that day would be in a worse situation the next day if the rain didn't stop. 

Then, fear struck.  My friend and travel companion from the U.S., Andrew was looking in the same direction as me, but his gaze was on the water inching higher and higher on the truck tires and I realized that not only were the people of Danli in danger, we were too.  Fear.  I scoped out my surroundings with an outward calmness, listening to my friends laughing and talking excitedly in Spanish, oblivious to the approaching danger.  I panicked on the inside and thought:  if we are washed away what would be able to grab onto?  I saw a stop sign, an uprooted tree.....would I be able to grab any of my companions before they were washed away?

All of these realizations, thoughts and emotions happened in probably a minute or less.  I looked at Andrew hoping he would shoot a reassuring look at me and I could calm down.  He didn't.  He looked concerned, not panicked, but "concerned" was all I needed for the anxiety to start.  Quickly, I put my head down and breathed slowly and prayed.  All I could whisper was, "God please help us. Keep these kids safe.  Let them get home.  Keep them in the truck and the truck on the road."

It did not stop raining but traffic started moving.  Water had filled a street perpendicular to the one we were on and was flowing swiftly around us and yet I was filled with this immense peace.  It was the kind of peace where I knew we would be fine, whether we were delivered from the circumstances or washed away.  I thought, "if it's my time to go, there's no place I'd rather die than here."  Sounds strange, especially now, but it was a spectacular knowledge that, no matter what, I was in God's hands.

I had a bad day at work today and have had insomnia for going on two weeks now.  The bad days and insomnia are creating a viscious cycle since one can't really improve without the other improving.....I've been keeping up a positive attitude and trying to start each day fresh but end up with heart palpitations by the end of the day. 

Today, driving home from work I felt a little like things were closing in and that the weight of the world was rising up on me just like the water had been rising up on the truck in Honduras....the brink of danger.  I took a deep breath while sitting idle waiting for the light to turn green and when I exhaled started humming a song I've heard on the radio about a hundred times.  The same line, over and over and over again:

"Let the waters rise, if you want them to....Let the waters rise, if you want them to...."

What's the next line?  I twirled my hair around my finger, a new stress habit I recently picked up. 

"I will follow you." 

"Let the waters rise, if you want them to.  I will follow You, I will follow You."

God, please help me.  Protect my heart.

I experienced that same extreme peace that I felt in Honduras when I felt we were in imminent danger.  Whether or not I'm delivered from this I will follow Him. 

How awesome is it that God gives us physical and spiritual parallels to help us understand our circumstances?  If I had not gone through that experience in Honduras I'm not sure Iwould have been as willing to hand my recent struggle over to him. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Night Cleaning

I clean at night.  Do you remember that kid at slumber parties, or maybe it was you, who would refuse to sleep or go to the bathroom or anything else that would take them out of the action?  They didn't want to miss anything.  That's how I am with cleaning. 

Sometimes, on weekends, I get these ideas to open the windows and the doors and do some heavy duty cleaning and organizing.  I turn on some music, enjoy the smells from outside, the breeeeeze...mmmm...the smell of leaves burning.....and then I am outside sitting with a glass of iced tea and a book I've been meaning to read.  Then, I look up from reading to see my neighbors on a walk.  So, I grab my new New Balance tennis shoes and go jogging on a trail I love.  On my way home, sweaty and tired, I think about how nice a nap would be.  Once I get home I see the start of my cleaning/organizing efforts strewn about and there's no way I can nap with my apartment in disaray so I buckle down and start cleaning again.  This lasts for a while and I make good progress, but then I see a squirrel run across my patio and the setting sun catches my eye....so it's back outside for me!....until dark.

This is why I clean at night.  I am less tempted at night to go outside, take a walk or go shopping. 

Over the weekend I decided to take on a huge organizing project....The Closet.  Gah!  It's not that it's messy; it's just not efficiently arranged.  I get overwhelmed in this type of project.  I love to sort but it gets out of hand.  First, I sort three piles 1)Donate 2) Keep and 3) throw out.  Simple.  Halfway through sorting, the "Keep" pile starts bugging me.  "some of those items need to be hung up, some laundered, others put in my seasonal clothing bins...."  so that pile becomes three piles. A new project is born out the original unfinished project.  It's a nigthmare and the same thing happens with the other piles. However, there is a method to my madness even it is....madness.  It gets done and everything is perfect,.  My closet project was completed between 11pm and 6am on Saturday.  My sleep cycle is now way off but that's a different post entirely.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I forgot what I forgot

Conversation I had at work today

Lucy: "I know I'm forgetting something....I just can't remember was it is!"

Me:  "....uhhhh that would be because... you forgot...."

Lucy:  "Yeah!  I can't remember what I forgot!"

Me:  "Exactly.  Lucy, how can you expect to remember what you forgot?  The point is that you forgot...you have no memory of it......."

Lucy, irritated:  "I remember what I forgot all the time!"

Me:  blank stare

Today I learned to avoid crazy conversations; mainly crazy conversations with Lucy. Sometimes logic doesn't win.

Monday, August 30, 2010

What They Don't Tell You

I spent the majority of the month of August in Honduras.  Before leaving I was stressing about all the "what ifs" and trying to pack perfectly: not too much and not too little.  I got sick from all the immunizations and I listened to much to people who only wanted to tell me to watch out for kidnappers.

When I got on the plane in Kansas City, I wasn't nervous anymore.  Sure, I was a little nervous about meeting new people and all of that but I had peace about the trip.  My desire was to learn, to struggle, to have fun, to grow.

The first two days were spent getting acquainted with everyone.  We had tons of visitors, young and old, stop by.  At church, I just kept saying "Buenas dias" and "muy bien" and hugging, hugging, hugging!  The next four days were spent up in the mountains in a village called Chapparral, where the youth camp was held.  We camped in tents (that leaked) and I got to observe and experience how a family lives without any modern conveniences.  The family who hosted the teen camp has no electricity and no running water.  They cook outside.  They wash dishes and clothes outside.  The doors on their outdoor bathroom and shower are aluminum.  I loved that despite their lack of modern conveniences they and their house and property were clean and neat.  The mother had a definite routine and the children were well behaved and fun!  Living in the mountains is not an easy life, especially for a woman, and I only got a glimpse of it. 



After camp, I had formed a lot of friendships and was becoming more and more comfortable with everyone. They were all so friendly and loving.  One day at camp I was getting very sick and two of the girls gave me their tent, put blankets on me, and told me to rest.  It was really sweet.

We visited different church locals in addition to Zamorano and Chapparal.  We went to Oculi and Danli for church services and studies throughout the week.  I had the opportunity to hang out with the youth group and to help Marlene with an activity for the little kids.  I had a blast!



A few days before we were supposed to leave, there was flooding and devastation in Danli.  The youth group immediately decided to cancel their plans of attending a fun activity and decided to go to Danli to help clean up.  Homes were washed away, people were washed away, and there was mud and debris everywhere.  There is a little more detail on this on my Honduras blog http://wanderlust-jess.blogspot.com/
but for the purposes of this post, I wanted to touch on it a bit.  It's hard for me to talk about; to fully express what that experience did to me and for me....but it really changed my life, my goals, and my priorities.  I have always thought of others, always tried to be compassionate.  I donate.  I volunteer.  I have never seen anything like I saw in Danli that day.  First, I saw a lot of people come together for a common goal.  I saw sacrifice.  I also saw homeless children, grown men with only a pair of shorts to their name trying to get the mud and water out of their homes.  I saw a woman weep over the loss of her brother and beg for just one thing...anything...that could be salvaged from his home for her to keep.  All she had was his pillow.


And this is what "they" don't tell you:  You will never be the same.  Literally.


Sure, people said I would have a great experience.  They said that the culture would take some getting used too.  They said it would be difficult to see the poverty.  All of that was true.  Maybe I just didn't understand what "they" were saying.  I didn't know I would come back to the States...sad.  Not just sad for the people who have nothing left or for the people who struggle with or without experiencing a natural disaster, but sad that I was returning to the U.S. 

I have had a hard time adjusting to life here again.  I'm not completely sure I want to completely adjust because that means iIwill go back to the way things were before:  All about me and stuff and getting ahead and fitting into this crazy mold that society tells us is the key to eventual happiness. 

I don't think the same way anymore.  I don't have the same goals that I had a month ago.  I have a totally different view of our culture.  While I am feeling all of these things and struggling with some emotions, I am also excited because I am taking action.  I am headed down a whole new course in life.  Of course, I am taking it one day at a time and praying about it!  I want to go where God leads me but I know that he has been leading me to serve others.  He has been giving me bits and pieces here and there throughout my life, waiting until I could handle a little more and then some more.  My hope is that I will spend the rest of my life serving others primarily.  I no longer want to be defined by a career.  I am thankful for my job and will always give my very best to it, but it will not define me after hours.

What "they" don't tell you about going to a third world country is that you will want to move there.  You won't care about the heat and bugs and snakes....because there is something there that you can't explain.  I call it love....but even that, I can't fully explain. 

Thanks for enduring my rambling....I hope to fill in some gaps with more details and testimonies later, but for now I just had to get this out there.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Honduras Blog

I am going to try to keep up with a blog devoted to my trip to Honduras, starting today!  Follow me!
http://wanderlust-jess.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Quiet


Somewhere along a farm road in SW Missouri I found quiet.  So I took a picture of it :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Greater Responsibility

I take my role as aunt, honorary aunt, or plain old role model in general very seriously.  Today I attended the baby dedication ceremony/service for my 19 month old niece Ellie.  Ellie is my best friend's daughter.  I am the honorary aunt to Ellie and her two older brothers--and I LOVE them like they're my own.  The church that Ellie's parents attend requires that parents go through classes on what baby dedication or blessing means.  I saw a bit of the curriculum covered and it was pretty impressive.

At the service, were my friend's and her husband's family members.  We expected to just watch the parents and Ellie being prayed for.  Instead, we were asked to stand up.  The pastor reminded friends and family that we have a responsibility and a role as well.  We are to support Ellie's parents and live our lives in such a way that we are good examples and mentors to Ellie.  Something he said at the end of the admonishment really stood out to me.  He said, "You all got dressed up, made sure your cameras were charged, scheduled this time out of your days to be present for this family--maybe even sacrificed a little.   I hope that you put that same awareness and preparation into your daily lives, not just for Ellie and her parents but for everyone around you.  Present yourselves as followers of God (get dressed), make sure you're charged, make time for God, make time for others in your life--strangers, even."

While I know that...I needed to hear it; to be refreshed.  I needed to be held accountable again.  So many times in this society if a child "fails" we look at the parents and quietly (or not so quietly) judge and blame them.  Did we have a role?

I think about my nieces and nephews as well as the children and teens who's lives I have chosen to be a part of.  I am responsible for them.  For a second I thought, "whoa, I need to cut down on how many children I care about :)" ....not really.  But I did think about all the young people that I have the privilege of having in my life and my determination to be a good example shot through the roof today.  I want my life to be an example to them, something they can reference as they go through their own lives.

Friday, June 4, 2010

I Love My Job

My birthday was on Wednesday. My co-workers brought in a cake, cards, a few little gifts, and had balloons in my office. I was so touched by their gestures! I went about my day, in a great mood, letting things slide here and there: "Oh, you still haven't turned in your direct deposit form? No problem! Just try again later this week." Who doesn't want to have a good day at work on their birthday?  I can wait one more day for a form I've been waiting a month for, right?


It was a mistake though. The following day, balloons a little deflated, the reality of being another year older tattooed on my face, I was annoyed. My co-workers, however had a spring in their step. I could just hear them thinking, "The HR lady is being so cool I think I will put off turning in my timesheet, my direct deposit form AND I will tell a politically incorrect joke....she won't care!" Boy, were they in for a surprise!

Now the universe is back in alignment. The employees make up lame excuses for missing forms and gripe about benefits, and I very professionally nag them and tell them that next year THEY can shop for the insurance plan since it was such a joy for me.....

I do love my job

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Mom: The Superhero

Happy Mother's Day

My mom is also my best friend.  We didn't have the type of relationship though where she was too lenient on me.  There was definitely a line between mother/daughter and friendship and I only crossed it a couple of times...and regretted it.  I was expected to be polite, honest, kind, respectful, well behaved....but my mom also knew that I was a passionate child.  My opinions started early and she was always a sounding board for my ideas, rants, plans, and strategies for solving the world's problems.  It was always safe to say my most dramatic of statements, my most shocking of ideas, and my fears to her.  She acknowledged my views and counseled me based on scripture and then left it up to me. 

My mom and I are both very competitive by nature so we have to either limit ourselves when we play a game or sport or we go all out.  I appreciate that during all of my growing up years she never once let me win a game (well, minus the very young childhood years).  She knew that as much as I wanted to win I wanted to earn the win.  My mom and I LOVE scrabble and I'm positive that she won this game and I probably had to fight back being a sore loser.  :)

There is too much to say about my mom.  One of my favorite memories is from a few years back.  After my engagement broke off I didn't really talk about it to anyone.  When I did, I was usually trying to cover up emotion and would talk about it nonchalantly even though I felt like my heart was shattered.  Probably close to two years after the actual break up, I couldn't hold it in anymore and I called my mom.  I remember her picking up the phone and I couldn't even get out a "hello".  She said hello again and I  feared she might think I was a prank caller and would hang up.  Instead, she immediately said, "Jessi?  Are you okay?"  And I bawled.  She had been waiting for me to finally mourn and she could just sense that it was me on the other line.  She's a superhero.

My mom was/is the biggest contributor to shaping my spiritual life. She is the epitome of enduring to the end and keeping a positive attitude.  I always knew that she love God first and foremost and everyone else knew/knows it too.  She helped me understand God's love just by loving me.  She is always patient.  She expected us to abide by the rules, but when we made mistakes she didn't just scold us and walk away.  She counseled us, let us know that we didn't have to be owned or defined by our mistakes.  She forgave.  In my teen years the thing that helped me most was when she would say, "this is what I know to be true and this is WHY, but you have to find that for yourself."

I'm glad that I get my maternal instincts, nurturing, and love for children from her.  I look at the influences she had growing up so there's no way she would be anything other than wonderful.  She had Joy Leighton-Floyd, Kay Leighton-Floyd, Barbara Leighton-Floyd, Minnie Bergeson, and Carol Bruns, among others.  I hope that I have a positive impact on the children that I come into contact with.  For now, it's my nieces and nephews and my friend's children but I hope to one day take in foster children and even adopt. 

Here's to all the mothers, those who will be mothers, and those who are like mothers.  I, of course, have the most phenomenal mom on the planet. :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

National Vomit on the HR Lady Day- April 26th

Wow! Yesterday I left work feeling like I had been kicked repeatedly in the face.  I love my job and the company I work for and the people I work with.  That being said, I ended up checking  my calendar to see whether "National Vomit on the HR Lady Day" was supposed to be observed because it was definitely being observed in my workplace yesterday.   I worked through lunch yesterday, which is pretty normal for me, and stayed late (also normal) but felt like I was working at triple the speed I usually do.  So I took my mentally exhausted self home, skipped physical therapy, ate my weight in chocolate, and fell asleep at 7:30PM.  It was amazing!

Today, it has been equally challenging but I decided to take a lunch break for mental health purposes.  I have to say that being able to eat without interruption and not having to worry about someone walking into my office while I'm stuffing a HUGE bite of food in my mouth is pretty awesome!  Surely people can wait an hour for their forms, questions about the 2014 holiday schedule, answers to hypothetical benefit questions, and venting sessions.  Right?  

Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy Things

10 Things That Have Made Me Happy This Week

  1. Sword fighting and tossing a football around with my nephew
  2. Lunch date with my brother
  3. Possibilities
  4. Blessings - immediate and long awaited
  5. A random "I love you" message from a very special friend.  It made my whole week!
  6. My friend who always knows how to make me laugh until I cry but who also seriously supports all of my crazy endeavors and ideas
  7. Spring allergies- winter is officially gone!!!
  8. My co-worker and best friend Abby.  We have way too much fun at work
  9. My chiropractor-  I feel like a new person!
  10. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It Is Well

I love looking back at events and realizing their significance.  It's even better if I am able to see significance in progress, you know, before the actual "ah ha!" moment.  Sometimes waiting for the "ah ha" means you missed out on the process.

In February, I went to the emergency room with severe abdominal pains.  I was almost positive that it was an allergic reaction. The ER doctor and nurses told me that what I was proposing was not possible and they decided it was appendicitis.  All tests confirmed it was not appendicitis so I was sent home.  Later, it was proven that it was indeed an allergic reaction.

My new benefits plan at work is a high deductible high premium plan with a health spending account.  I voted for this plan thinking that if I had enough in my HSA account, when something medical did come up, I could pay for it with pre-tax dollars set aside specifically for that purpose.  I expected to use it no sooner than August maybe, but here I was in the ER in February with a brand new HSA account with very little funds set aside in it.  Meanwhile, I had been saving for a trip to Honduras and knew that the hospital expense would wipe it out so I chose to realize two things: 1) I needed to get over it and just pay the bill and 2) if I was supposed to go to Honduras I would need to exercise my faith and trust that a way would be made.  So, I did.  The bill came, I paid it in full with my tax return and Honduras money and prayed that God's will would be done.

The good news?  My deductible had been met for the year with that one visit to the ER.  Cool.

I also felt a real peace about Honduras and decided not to stress about it even though it seemed as if my plans were failing.  It is well.

In April, I gave a testimony in church about when I was baptized 12 years ago.  The congregation had just sang "It Is Well", which was also the song I chose to have sung as I entered the waters of baptism.  I explained that the meaning of the song, even at 13, really stood out to me and I wanted it to be the theme for my life.  A man, who had learned by telegram that his four young daughters had drown after a shipwreck, and who was on his way, by ship, to be with his devastated wife (who tried to save the children) was able to look down into the same sea that took his children and say, "It is well with my soul."  Of course he was devastated, but he had faith enough to know that God would hold him.  [The man that wrote the song was also a personal friend of my family (years after this incident) when my family, the Leighton-Floyds, and his family lived in Israel.]  So the song was special to me in many ways. 

I was thankful on this day and hoped that others could see and hear past my nervousness to the heart of what I was expressing:  thankfulness, joy, and finally being at a point in my life that when in the midst of trouble I could say, "it is well" instead of first hitting rock bottom.

This past Saturday I was playing capture the flag with the youth group.  The group of kids consisted mainly of boys 11-19 years old, the median age being 15.  We played hard at capture the flag but started noticing that many people (mainly girls) were sitting out.  One of the members of the youth group suggested we play red rover so that everyone could be included.  I learned very quickly that by red rover they meant "let's run into each other as hard as we can to see who's stronger without actually killing anyone...." or something like that.  I was in!  My competitive nature kicked in.  Of course, I couldn't break through any of the guys when they had their arms linked, because lets face it....they are giants and I am not.  I was determined not to let them break through my line.  I was successful.  I knew how to brace myself so that I took most of the blows rather than the person (usually a girl) linking arms with me.   People fell, tripped, we had two people hit their heads together so I stepped in, as the adult voice of reason ( ha ha ha) to remind everyone that the goal was not to injure anyone and we needed to take it down a notch since we had all ages playing.  So basically they took it easier on the younger members and most of the girls.

Toward the end of the game, I was standing between two guys: Adrian (15) and Robert (17) and we had successfully kept everyone from breaking through, boy or girl.  Our line called Jose (18) over.  I knew he would run toward me since I should have been the weakest link.  Jose ran toward us and, I think, jumped onto my and Adrian's arms...not sure of his exact method.  I remember looking at Adrian and yelling, "Don't let goooooo!" The next and only thing I remember is flipping, still holding onto Adrian and Robert's hands.  Jose would not win!! and then I blacked out for probably 5 seconds.  Next, I remember doing some sort of somersault on the ground and landing on my back and then seeing Robert and Adrian stumble and then land on me.  I still had a hold of Adrian's hand....which means Jose had been unsuccessful!!  This account could be wrong, by the way.  I don't think I was conscious for most of it. It is a culmination of stories from the people standing around at the time and my blurred memories in the moment. When I got up I knew something was wrong with my shoulder but did not want to show any type of weakness.  I played through to the end of the game, trying to protect my left shoulder. 

Afterward, I asked Nanette for some ibuprofen and sat out while everyone played hide and go seek.  I struggled through the rest of the night, went home and tried adjusting my shoulder.  By Monday, the pain was excruciating and my arm was stiff and going numb so I went to the doctor who confirmed that I had some pinched nerves and who also put my shoulder back in place.  I fainted in the process....good times.  Xrays were taken and a follow up appointment was made.  I was a little concerned about the cost of these appointments and thought immediately of my Honduras fund.

Yesterday at 8:42 PM Sadi posted three little words on her facebook status It is well.....
I thought, you know what?  It is!  1) someone had heard what I was trying to express in my testimony and GOT it!  2) I didn't need to worry.

Today, I saw really disturbing xrays of my neck, shoulder and hip. After seeing those xrays, and talking to my doctor I realized how much worse it could have been and maybe should have been. He determined that I probably landed on my neck and head before falling flat based on the xrays. Scary.   I also knew that I would be spending the next several weeks receiving chiropractic treatments and physcial therapy. $$$$$  I prayed silently, "you know what I need" and let it go.  The receptionist walked in right after that and said, "Jess I don't what you did this year but you're deductible has already been met!"  I told her I knew that but chiropractic appointments probably didn't qualify for full coverage....and she exclaimed, "sure they do!  Your treatments won't cost you a dime!" 

Today, I've been thinking a lot about that visit to the ER in February and how mad I was at first.  It ended up working out for the best.  My tax return and Honduras fund were the exact amount I needed to pay for it.  Since my deductible was met I don't have to pay for my current treatments.  A testimony on my heart became a testimony to someone else who posted it on a social networking site right at the time when my faith needed a boost.  And this recent accident?  I am in a lot of pain and I feel like an old lady, but I had so much fun with the youth group!  The new Honduras fund?  It's still in tact.  I am always taken care of.   Not once have I had any type of anxiety through this process.  When I started to worry, I remembered that I knew better than to stop trusting God.

This verse has been going through my head all day: 

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Joy


"While we try to teach our children all about life, Our children teach us what life is all about."  A.Schwindt 
This is what joy looks like.  I wish you coud hear his laugh!  I don't remember experiencing true joy (other than when I was baptized) until this little boy was born. 


This was A's first documented smile....and of course it was with his Aunt Jessica :)


Three years old and he writes songs and sings them to me.  On Valentine's day (the day this pic was taken) he played my guitar and sang while I did dishes.  Then he said, "I made this song for you.  It's called I love you and I want to go to the store."  Best Valentine's Day present EVER.


My little Razorback fan....of course, he was brainwashed, but he's a fan nonetheless!

Just wanted to share a little joy with my blogger friends! 




Friday, March 26, 2010

"I Am Constant"

January 2004:  By this time I was 19, had been out on my own for two years and was in a serious relationship with a guy who I was ready to introduce my parents to.  I had moved three times in two years, took on a new role where I worked, and was quickly becoming very close to my boyfriend's family.  I was also in the midst of a puzzling health problem, which was nothing new for me, just frustrating.  Things were changing and moving....fast!

I am not opposed to change, in fact I like it.  What I don't like is when there's a hint of chaos.  Underneath all of these happy changes, I felt a little out of control but didn't fully acknowledge it.  I was happy and excited and figuring out who I was.  Before the big trip to introduce *Ike (*definitely not his real name) to my family I had a little heart to heart, with myself.  My plan had been to live in Kansas City for a while and then move to either Fayetteville, AR to attend the University of Arkansas (go Razorbacks!) or join the military as a linguist.  The military didn't pan out due to the puzzling health problem and moving to AR didn't work out because of Ike, and that scared me.  Choose a future with Ike and change my plans?  or keep with my plans and throw away the relationship?  I chose to stay.  It's still a little bit shocking to me looking back on that decision because I was so anti-marriage back then!  But, I loved him and love (combined with being 19) makes you give up on things like....dreams and goals....even when you know better.

I am getting a little off track!

So, back to January 2004.  I received a call from my mom, as Ike and I were getting ready to leave town to visit my parents.  My maternal great grandmother had passed away.  I was very close to her and an amazing sadness came over me immediately.  It was like an emotional "final straw" for me.  Why was EVERYTHING changing?!  She would never meet Ike.  She might have actually have been disappointed that I was choosing him over my goals, but I would never know.  She would never hear me sing again.  She wouldn't know my children.....

Ike was amazing through it all.  After the visit at my parents he drove me straight to St. Joe, MO to attend my great grandma's visitation and funeral.  He listened to me sob on the road trip and comforted me.  He made a great first impression with all of my extended family members.

Weeks later, and here's where the point of the post will become more clear, I was still having a hard time emotionally.  I just felt like nothing was constant.  So, one day on my way home from work, traffic was at a standstill on I-70.  One more thing to bother me...geez!  I was so irritated and finally I said outloud, "You know I still needed her!  Why can't anything just stay...constant!"  My check engine light was on, my cell phone battery was dying, I had $20 until my next paycheck and I had just gotten paid three days before.  All of these things, and more, went racing through my mind. I realized that the actual problem was that I had enormous guilt weighing me down.  My great grandmother was constantly asking me to record myself singing so that she could listen to me while in her nursing home.  I was always too busy or too self conscious so I never did it.  I turned on the car radio to drown out my thoughts and guilt.

Suddenly, I heard an intro to a song that I had never heard before.  It was beautiful, slow, with what sounded like a huge orchestra of stringed instruments.  I didn't catch any of the lyrics until the chorus and all I heard was "I am contant, I am near.  I am peace that shatters all your secret fears...."  An understanding and peace washed over me immediately and I turned the music up.  Wow!  It must be  new song--surely they would play it again soon and I wold be able to catch the artists name.

Nope.

Three weeks went by and I didn't hear the song again, until one day on my way to church.  I was stopped at an intersection hoping that it would come on again so I could hear the rest of the lyrics....then I heard it!  "Oh gently lay your head upon my chest and I will comfort you, like a mother, while you rest.....The tide can change so fast but I will stay the same through the past, the same in the future the same today.  I am constant, I am near. I am peace that shatters all your secret fears.   I am holy and I am wise.  I'm the only one who knows your hearts desires....."

I was sobbing and driving and knew those words were for me.  I grabbed my phone and called the radio station.  "I heard a song at 10:43 this morning, can you tell me what it was?"  I was placed on hold and then he said, "What was the song called?"  I don't know.  "Who sings it?"  I was hoping you could tell me that.  "What does it sound like?"  I sang the parts I could remember.  "Ma'am, I'll be honest.  I'm new here and all but I know we didn't play that song in the last 30 minutes.  I've never heard it before.  In fact, at 10:43 we didn't even play a song, we were airing the end of a sermon."

I went to music stores,  I googled, I searched for months to find this song until I finally told the story to my friend DA who said, "oh yeah!   That's 'I Am' by Jill Phillips."  By the next week he had the words prnted off for me with guitar chords.  I sang it like I heard it and he followed along.

Before moving on, let me apologize for the long post because it's going to be longer.  I would also like to stop here and acknowledge a divine hand in this situation.  I heard a song twice, when I needed to hear it, but that had not actually been played on the radio.  In fact, the song was from 1999 and hadn't been played on regular rotation with the radio station for a couple of years!  That's a God thing!

So, it's now summer of 2004.  My great aunt Linda only has a few months to live.  (she was the daughter of my great grandma who had passed away in January).  I decided to record myself singing some hymns on a cd to send to her.  Some wonderful friends of mine came togehter to help me with the project.  While there we added 'I Am'.  My aunt loved the cd and the testimony behind 'I Am'.

August 2004:  I was asked to sing at our annual church Reunion right before my grandpa's sermon. I was terrified to sing in front of people that I knew, especially A LOT of people that I knew.  I picked a simple hymn and asked DA to play guitar for me.  He, of course, had a better idea.  He told me to sing 'I Am'.  I told him I would sing it only if our friend Jesse would agree to add the violin part he had worked up while we were recording.  I just knew that Jesse would say no, but instead he agreed, so I was stuck.

Sitting in the pew before I was to sing was horrible for me.  I was visibly shaking, I felt sick, and I hoped that I would fall over dead instead of having to go up front and sing.   Death did not come.  When I got to the front of the church I scanned the congregation while Jesse and DA got their instruments ready.  I realized something.  I bet there were multiple people sitting in the room who felt like things in their life were chaotic, who were sad, who had $20 left until the next paycheck, or who were sick.  Who was I to be nervous when God could use me to deliver such a message: He is Constant.  Nothing else is, but He is.  My nerves did not subside but I sang to Him and for the people in the pews that day. 

To many church members I am now known as the I Am girl.  I was shy about it at first, not wanting attention.  Now, when someone brings up that song or calls me the I Am girl I take the opportunity to tell them the testimony behind that song.

In closing, I want to share something that happened in 2009.  I went to visit friends in Phoenix and was talking to a woman in the church local there about the song.  She said, "Have you heard the original song?  It doesn't sound anything like how you sing it...it's not as pretty."  I am not including that statement to be prideful.  In fact, the way I sing it does not sound how I originally heard it because, well, I don't have access to an orchestra! 

I found the artists version of the song and discovered this lady was right! It wasn't just a little different; it was nothing like what I heard in the car those two times that I needed comfort.  In fact, if I had heard the artists version, I don't think I would have connected with it; there was no orchestral intro that brought me peace in the first place!  It was sort of twangy too and although I like the version and I love Jill Phillips' music, I believe God let me hear what would get through to my restless heart.  I cannot fully express in a blog what the words in the song mean to me but I hope that I made some sense to anyone reading this.

As I've gotten older and experienced even more ups and downs, disappointments, and uncertainties that song pops into my head and I realize that if everything changed, if everything dissolved away, God will still be constant and will see me through.  I was able to put that thinking to the test when my engagment to Ike ended.  By that time, it was more like a divorce than a regular break up and I struggled a great deal.  Everything had changed and dissolved and I was left to figure out where to go from there...."the tide can change to so fast, but I will stay, the same in the past the same in the future the same today."  God saw me through and still does.

I Am by Jill Phillips

Oh gently lay your head
Upon my chest
And I will comfort you
Like a mother while you rest
The tide can change so fast,
But I will stay
The same through the past,
The same in future, same today

CHORUS:

I am constant; I am near
I am peace that shatters all your secret fears
I am holy; I am wise
I'm the only one who knows your heart's desires
Your heart's desires


Oh weary, tired and worn,
Let out your sighs
And drop that heavy load you hold
Cause Mine is light


I know you through and through;
There's no need to hide
I want to show you love
That is deep and high and wide

CHORUS
Oh gently lay your head
Upon my chest
And I will comfort you
Like a mother while you rest

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Home Ec: They Had it Wrong

In junior high and high school I took the required Home Economics classes but didn't retain much other than how to sew on a button.  I cooked and baked since the age of four with my mom so most of those lessons were review.  Home Ec also confirmed my resolve to never be a homemaker.  I remember one time the teacher said, "And ladies, pay attention, this will be important to your husband when you get married."  I fantasized about building a teleportation device so I could shove her into it and send her back to the 1950s.  I was not going to "darn" anyone's socks or mend broken zippers or EVER own a sewing machine.  That's what stores are for, right?  Your socks have holes in them?  Go to Costco and stock up.  I was also set on being a career woman and figured if I married I would find someone who was self-sufficient who would share in some of the household responsibilities.  At that age, I had the mentality of: He can do it himself!!  (I have calmed down a bit since then :) )


Really quickly, I would like to put in a little disclaimer:  I highly respect those who have chosen to be homemakers, especially those that are good at it.  It's just not me.  I also believe that if we, as a society, are preparing young girls to be good wives, we should focus less on keeping a neat house and cooking meals and focus more on preparing them to be emotionally healthy as individuals so that they can be successful in a relationship.


I cook and I clean but only because it's necessary, not because I think it will increase my chances of becoming a wife.  In fact, if that's the only thing holding me back then I guess I don't want to be one.


In Home Ec, I remember that we spent a lot of time cooking and baking and that was fun as long as it wasn't implied that I had to learn this skill in order to find a man.  I like to cook and bake and I like to eat so this part of Home Ec was fun.  Meal planning--I slept through that one.  The dreaded "carry a bag of flour around and pretend it's a baby"--I somehow got out of that one.  Despite the fact that I did not have to care for a sack of flour for a week, I love children and am good with them....I should tell my home ec teacher becasue I'm sure she was worried about it (insert sarcastic smirk here).


So why did they have it all wrong?  Because while girls like myself were being forced to learn about being perfect wives and mothers (when really we were dreaming about careers and titles, traveling, and freedom), they should have included some lessons on being the perfect single woman.  What do I mean?  Well, I will be honest.  I work full-time and go to school full-time.  I have a plan for my life and it involves helping others, traveling, etc.  While I do think I would like to be married to a person who compliments my life, I also haven't met anyone who has that potential.  I have met and dated, even been engaged, to pretty awesome men (okay, and also NOT so awesome men), but the forever factor wasn't there for us.  And that's okay.  Most of them are now my really close friends, which is nice. 


**For those who think I'm a total feminist: when in a serious relationship, I do like to take care of him and cook meals....but many times my version of that is saying, "Hey I'll pick up the check this time!"


A few months ago, I decided that since I eat really healthy I needed to look at the rest of my life.  I have crazy allergies and I was determined to cut down on the number of strange reactions I have.  One of the things I struggle with are basic household cleaners.  In the middle of winter I have to open every window while cleaning, wear a bandana around my mouth and nose (it's attractive, let me tell you) while I'm cleaning because I have a hard time breathing when in direct contact with the chemicals in the cleaners.  I also break out into with a mild case of hives and my lungs burn for hours.  This can't be healthy.  Since my nephew is over a lot, I also started thinking about things he was touching and putting in his mouth.  Is it safe?  Is he ingesting all those chemicals?


After doing a lot of research, I started making my own household cleaners.  Everything from laundry detergent, to toilet cleaners, stain removers, and window cleaners.  I was, of course, a little cynical about this whole idea but tried it anyway.  Four months later, my counter tops look cleaner than they ever did when I used store bought cleaners.  There are no stains or water spots in my sinks or shower.  My apartment has a naturally fresh scent and I no longer look like a robber when I clean.


I threw out all my old cleaners and replaced them with ingredients that I mix up when I need them:  Borax, Hydrogen Peroxide, baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar.  All of these ingredients take care of my carpet, windows, drains, laundry, dishes, counters, sinks, stove top, etc.  Also, I quit buying those plug in air fresheners, because they are not healthy to breathe in.  Instead I get cute little glass tea light holders and put a mixture of baking soda and lemon juice in them.  The lemon juice adds a natural scent and the baking soda absorbs odors.  Sometimes I change those out and fill the tealight holders with coffee grounds and my whole apartment smells like Starbucks :)


Another great aspect of this whole endeavor is that I no longer store chemicals in my home. I make only what I need at time that I am cleaning.  Then, I rinse out the spray bottles and store them, empty, where I used to keep harmful chemicals.  I have peace of mind that my nephew will not come into contact with the old cleaners and have even removed the locks from my lower kitchen cabinets.


The other perk?  I have saved myself close to $50 in 4 months.  I don't buy a different cleaner for every part of my apartment--all those commercials where they tell you that you need something special for showers and something else for kitchen counters?  False.  You DO need a different mixture of the base ingredients.  For showers with soap buildup or rust and mildew....spray down with vinegar water, let it set for 10-20 minutes and then wipe down with peroxide and water.  Set some baking soda in a cup or dish and it will absorb the vinegar smell.


And finally, no more hives!  No more burning lungs!  More money in my bank account!  Clean, germ free surfaces!


THIS is what I should have learned in Home Ec.  How to care for my place of residence, while maintaining a heatlhy lifestyle and on a budget.  But I'm sure had this been taught in my home ec classes, we would have been told how happy our hypothetcial future husbands would be :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lent

I am not of the Catholic faith but I like the symbolism of Lent.  This year I decided to take part in the giving up of....something....for 40 days.  The friends that I have who are experienced with Lent (and take it seriously) give up vices like coffee, chocolate, or junk food.  It's tough for them; they struggle with the temptation to cheat, just once, but they don't. 

This week I discussed the idea of Lent with one of my best friends.  I was looking to her for some guidance in what I should give up since she knows me well.  I also needed help because I already restrict my lifestyle in so many ways, especially my diet.  Our conversation was very interesting.  She too was struggling with what to give up.  In years past she had given up things like swearing, eating out, pizza, chocolate and coffee.  This year, she was looking for something bigger.  Something that she didn't want to admit to having a problem with.  That inspired me to do some deeper thinking about what to give up. 

After going through a list of things I could give up, that might be difficult for me to give up, I realized in the long run, the items on my list wouldn't be too difficult to go without for 40 days.  The purpose of giving something up is to represent what God did for us and how much he sacrificed.  Shouldn't I be able to give up something substantial for 40 days?

For the next forty days I will be giving up:

Elevators and escalators:

They are a convenience and they have made me dependent and complacent. I find myself pushing the button for the elevator and if i don't hear an immediate "ding!" I become impatient.  Seriously, that's ridiculous. Elevators and escalators are also not necessary in order for me to funciton.  Taking the stairs makes me aware of where I am and sometimes I have to really search to find a staircase.  I discovered today that I can't go to the mall unless I want to stay on one level. OR I can exit the level I am on, get in my car, and drive to another parking lot with an entrance on an upper level--but that's not practical at all!  So, for the next forty days I will also be giving up:

The Mall

The mall is the place I go when I need to numb my brain (and look at pretty clothes and makeup and shoes....and I have plenty of those things at home that just sit in my closet).  I walk around and window shop, grab a coffee and people watch.  What's wrong with that?  Absolutely nothing. BUT I also notice that while at the mall I sometimes have anxiety when it's overcrowded, which by the way, is terrible and the exact opposite of "numb" or relaxed.  Sometimes I catch myself comparing myself to others and feeling inferior....and sometimes I feel superior.  That's not cool.  Do I really need that $4 cup of coffee?  Yessss...I mean no! :) I have a wonderful coffee maker at home with a cabinet full of different coffee blends. 

My Time:

Some of you might be thinking, "what?!  How can she give up more of her time?"  It's true.  I spread myself too thin.  I am always going in multiple directions at once, never saying no, and always feeling guilty.  I'm not talking about that kind of time....I'm talking about the 30 second to 2 minute conversations that happen at work when afterward I sigh and think, "I did not have time for that!" or "That guy never works!  He just talks all day--going from office to office bothering people!" or "Oh my goodness, I can't handle whiners!" and sometimes its a sigh followed by "Gaah!". While theses statements might be true, it's the attitude behind them that is the problem.  I am NOT proud of these moments.  That guy who walks from person to person telling the same story over and over is probably in need of some friends or the feeling that he's being heard.  The lady who whines about everything might truly be annoying and self-centered but she also might be sad and lonely and the only way she knows how to communicate is to...whine.  I can give 30 seconds to 2 minutes of my time sporadically throughout the day to people who obviously trust me (maybe not after reading this) with the things going on in their lives.  I am going to give my time willingly, and without sarcastic comments, for the next 40 days....and who knows?  Maybe forever!

My diet:

Most of you know that I am a vegetarian.  You also know I try to stay away from dairy products and over processed foods in general.  My diet is pretty strict and it's for health reasons as well as religious reasons.  I have been slacking off on the religious side of it.  I don't restrict myself out of legalism and I don't think that I will go to hell if I eat catfish or whatever.  The main reason I have slacked off is so I don't offend other people who have prepared food.  It is also for selfish reasons because it gets tiring explaining to people why I am not eating certain foods at family events, work events, and even church.  In my heart I made a personal decision to restrict myself from certain things to better serve God so when I fail to observe those restrictions, purposely, I feel like that is a sin for me. So I will be in strict obsevance of these restrictions for the next 40 days.

I am excited about all of this!  Typing this out I had a few moments of hesitation because there are some aspects of this that are going to be very difficult for me.  I think the result will be a better disciplined mind and tongue,  more accountability, and hopefully taking the stairs will take care of burning some calories! :)