Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Beginning

It was the point in the week long summer camp when the kids needed less attention.  Routines were mastered, new friendships were forged and old friendships rekindled.  Sleep deprived staff members could enjoy a little downtime; a game of catch here, a quick chat with another adult there, all the while I found reprieve by standing between two trees and staring into space.  My introverted soul needed some alone time before the next activity- the Slip-n-Slide.  Despite the noise and activity in the camp around me, I was perfectly content in the fortress of my mind.  Quiet, mental oxygen, just for a little bit.

Several minutes in, I held an internal debate with myself regarding whether or not I would actually join the campers on the slip- n-slide or watch from the sidelines, yet again, knowing all the while I would choose the latter option.  There has never been anything particularly enticing about the idea of flinging my body at the ground with only a thin tarp protecting my skin and bones from the jagged terrain.  It scared me a little.

Mind made up, I decided to come out of my shell again and participate in the conversations around me.  Before I could engage in one of my choosing, a voice behind me said, "So, what do you do for a living, Jess?"

Conflicting emotions surfaced.  On one hand, I love talking about my career and the company I work for.  On the other hand, the question was being posed by a man who I was pretty sure didn't really like me but who probably felt the need to give me another chance since we were both staff members at a Christian teen camp.  The only other conversation we'd had, earlier in the week, involved me staunchly stating that "I don't date in this church" (for very sound reasons, I might add) and "I love being single because I do what I want, when I want."  This man, Charlie, laughed at the time of the conversation but seemed intensely uncomfortable around me every day following.  I was sure he believed I was too forthright and outspoken.  Sigh.

Oh well, I thought,  this guy lives in Idaho.  Who cares what he thinks about me?  I don't have to justify my personality to him.

I took a few careful steps back and sat on the bench, a comfortable distance away from Charlie, one leg tucked under the other, my body weight on my right arm.  Here we go. 

What began as a topical discussion about our careers, the agriculture of Idaho- specifically beet sugar, and my ongoing internal debate of whether or not to slip-n-slide (his vote was that I should), turned into something unexpected- it became comfortable.  He laughed, genuinely, at my dry wit.  He didn't glaze over when I elaborated about seemingly dull subjects with my own research findings.  In fact, he had some research and opinions of his own on those very topics.  I realized this guy was cool and could possibly be a very good acquaintance. I realized that he didn't hate me; we were both cursed with not being awesome at initiating conversations.  His only real downfall was that he expressed a passion for snowmobiling and water sports to which I blurted, "I hate snow, water sports, and being cold."  Oh Jessica, you have to get this blurting thing under control.    I expected him to roll his eyes or look at me like, Seriously?  Do you have an opinion about everything?  I really do!  He did neither of those things.  We just kept chatting.

Our conversation lasted probably all of about 15 minutes.  By the end of it, he had convinced me to Slip-n-Slide.  "The kids will remember that you joined them and especially since they know it makes you uncomfortable."  We parted ways and I walked away happy to have forged a friendship, but as the distance between us expanded, I felt a peculiar, intense energy pulling at me.  I even turned around hoping to see where this energy led.  It was like a live wire, extended across the gap from me to him; not just from me, but from my core.  It was like our souls had been engaged in a much deeper conversation and were not quite ready to part.  Our physical bodies, filled with logic, walked away anyway.

Once back in my cabin, I sent a text to my best friend
I think I am attracted to Charlie. . . 
To which she immediately responded
I never would have thought of him for you {because of the geographical distance} but that actually makes total sense.
That was the first inkling that my life was about to change.  In order to be interested in a man from Idaho, you have to immediately consider potentially relocating to Idaho.  The scary part was, the thought of that didn't scare me and neither did the thought of throwing myself at the ground to slip and slide with a bunch of really awesome young people.

Interested in knowing how the Slip-n-Slide went?  It was fun!!  I did end up throwing my neck out, though, which made for a really painful two weeks after camp.  I haven't decided if the fun was worth the pain that ensued and if I will ever do it again, but I'm glad I took that leap. . .literally.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Operation: Peent Unitorn

Little E, my niece, specifically stated that she wanted a pink unicorn for her birthday and her mommy relayed the message to me.  I could just see Little E gazing up at her mommy, with those big, bright eyes, purse on one arm, her well-loved purple unicorn firmly under her other arm sweetly asking for a "Peent Unitorn."  I accepted the mission immediately.

First, I googled Plush Pink Unicorns and decided I would order one online and have it shipped overnight.  The shipping ended up costing twice as much as the unicorn itself so I had to resort to actually stepping foot inside Toys R Us.  I needed to pick up a birthday present for my nephew, T-Rex, too so I decided this was probably working out for the best.

An hour into my journey through the black hole of a time suck that is Toys R Us, I finally found the perfect gift for T-Rex and I picked up a few My Little Ponies for Little E.  Being a child of the 80's, I was pretty excited that Little E was into My Little Pony!  Although I had picked up some good toys, I knew that all the My Little Pony or Hello Kitty toys in the world would not make up for the Peent Unitorn she specifically requested so I kept searching.  

And searching.

I even asked one of the cashiers to help me find a plush pink unicorn.  "Uhhhh," she said hesitantly, "that's sort of vague.  I know we have unicorns all over the store. . .what about this one?"  The cashier had plucked the first unicorn she saw off of a random shelf.  It wasn't pink.  It was sort of ugly too.  We kept searching.  Eventually, the cashier had to leave to ring up another customer.  I went back down every aisle, arms full of My Little Ponies and Animal Planet Dinosaur sets, desperately hoping to see a nice neat little row of pink unicorns.  

I started justifying in my mind how I could show up to the birthday party sans a pick unicorn.  Well, Little E already has a purple unicorn (which she named Ulmer Rajastash- is that not the weirdest and cutest name ever for a purple unicorn?) and I did get her the cutest My Little Ponies. . .maybe she wouldn't be too devastated.  Right? What am I supposed to do if this store just doesn't have a pink unicorn?  Maybe this was the perfect time in Little E's life to explain that we don't always get what we want.

Wrong.  This Aunt does not tell children that they can't have toys.  Frustrated, and on the verge of dropping all of the toys in my arms due to lack of blood flow, I decided to give myself a mental break and go through the superhero aisles to get ideas for Christmas gifts for the rest of my nieces and nephews but my heart wasn't in it.  Little E was going to be so disappointed.

"All this kid wants is a pink unicorn, why is this so hard?  It would be perfect if I could just find one randomly stuck on any of these shelves," I mumbled to myself.  I made my way down the toy car aisle knowing it was ridiculous to think that I would just stumble upon a stuffed pink unicorn in this well organized store. Suddenly, a wisp of pink!  What?!  In between the Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars was an abandoned plush pink unicorn hanging haphazardly over the edge of the shelf.  I couldn't believe it!  I quickly swiped it from the shelf and purchased the gifts just in case it would vanish into thin air. (Yeah, I know.  I wasn't thinking rationally at this point).

Little E's first glimpse of the unicorn. She literally gasped when she saw it and started shaking the poor thing out of excitement!
"You dot me a peent unitorn!"


New friends:  Pink Unicorn with Ulmer Rajastash
 Operation: Peent Unitorn- Completed

I Only Promised the Universe That I Would Write

A busy work and personal life, a successful-so-far health treatment that takes up a lot of my time and energy staying on top of it, and the need for sleep are the main reasons I am experiencing writer's block.  Actually, I guess I don't have writer's block.  I have plenty to write about but when I sit down to write or type what I've randomly scribbled out, my perfectionism kicks in and I realize what I've written is not profound or beautiful or even as entertaining as it seemed in my head.  The more I justify not writing, the more difficult it becomes to want to try to write anything at all!

A fellow blogger shared the wise words of writer, Elizabeth Gilbert:

"One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: 'That’s actually not my problem.' The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write." 

I so needed this perspective!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

It Turns Out, I Am Laid Back!

For years, I defined myself as high strung, anxious, non-emotional, perfectionist.  That's how I felt all the time so that must be what I am, right?  Wrong.  I felt that way for a myriad of reasons that I discovered in phases and then recently, with the help of a medical and a homeopathic doctor, put it all together and realized these characteristics were symptoms of a major physical dysfunction (adrenal fatigue and inflammation) and not ME.

I have been in therapy for a year.  It's awesome.  I've worked through things I never thought I'd ever get past and now I go because I really enjoy my therapist and discussing the future in a positive, nurturing environment.

I haven't had ANY dairy, soy, gluten, sugar, caffeine, or alcohol for 30 days.  It's difficult.  I can't eat out with friends, I can't drink a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, I can't eat pie on Thanksgiving, I can't enjoy a free catered in lunch at work, and my grocery bill has significantly increased because foods without these ingredients are freakishly expensive.   However, I have learned something about myself this past month:

I am laid back.  Seriously.  My real personality is calm and cool.  Not anxious, stifled, and explosive.  I'm not a perfectionist in all areas of my life.  When stressful situations come up, and I mean legitimate, crazy stressful situations, I hustle and problem solve, but I don't feel out of control.  When little stressors come up, I'm able to laugh them off.

My boss asked me the other day, half kidding, if I had started smoking weed.  He told me that I don't seem in "fight or flight" mode all the time.  I told him, with a grin on my face, that I'm not in "fight or flight" mode all the time and that I am not smoking weed.  :) (Just wanted to make that clear).  So there's a problem?  We'll figure it out.  Something went wrong?  We'll learn from it.  I no longer have this intense pressure from within to be perfect, to be all things to all people, to solve every problem.

I don't have heart palpitations, migraines, muscle pain, joint pain.  I don't randomly lose eyesight, feel panicked, or feel crazy fatigued and foggy.  Symptoms from my supposed fibromyalgia and lupus are GONE.  Completely gone.  I find out Wednesday if I am officially out of the auto-immune disorder category!  I might actually have an immune system?!  The thought of that is so hard for me to fathom.

It turns out that adrenal fatigue and foods (listed above) that promote inflammation within the body made me high strung, anxious, angry, stressed, and impatient.  It also caused me to have multiple strokes over the last ten years, to lose my depth perception in my left eye, and to become dyslexic.  I felt trapped in my body for the majority of my life up until the last month of my life.  I feel like I am meeting someone new, and that someone is ME!

So, I can tell you this:  While it's difficult to give up everything that even contains a little dairy, soy, gluten, sugar, caffeine, or alcohol I can guarantee you I will never go back to eating/drinking those things.

There are so many details to this awakening.  This has been a 10 year journey with many ups and downs, with many cool discoveries and with many many frustrating elements that I can't share it all in one blog post.  You have to start somewhere, though, right?

In restriction, I have found freedom and best of all, I have hope for the future.  That is quite a long way from being the girl who couldn't imagine growing old.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Don't Forget the Trash!

Take it from me, should you ever place a bag of trash in the trunk of your car (with the intent of disposing of it in the dumpster located 1,000 miles from your apartment) before heading to work, don't forget to actually stop and throw it in the dumpster.  This is especially important if the crazy Midwestern weather throws in a random 80 degree autumn day.

If you do forget, and the bag of trash remains in the trunk for the duration of your work day, your car will smell like something curled up and died in your front seat.  Yes, I did this just this week.  I would love to say that this is the first time I have let this happen, but it's not, and it most likely won't be the last time.  

Luckily, the smell is now out of my car.  If this saves even one car from smelling like roadkill, then I guess it was all worth it.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Aunt Jessica in the Hat

"The sun did not shine.  It was too wet to play.  So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day.
Too wet to go out and too cold to play ball.  So we sat in the house.  We did nothing at all."        The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss 

Although I love rainy, grey autumn days I was disappointed that my plans with my five year old nephew were ruined by the wet weather.  The day prior I had promised him that we would spend all day outside at a park where he could climb, play, and run around screaming to his little heart's content!  Saturday morning, we woke up to the rumble of thunder. His sad face said it all.  Even our back up plan to have an indoor play date with two of my other nephews fell through.  Poor little "A" was pretty down in the dumps.


"A" had some other back up suggestions that involved toy shopping.  "We could go to Target," he said in a sing-song tone, "and get me a toy. . ."

"No, Buddy."

"How about Toys R Us?"

"No."

"We could go to Michael's and buy art stuff."

"We have art supplies here."

"Well, I mean better art supplies."

Disapproving look.


In order to avoid doing nothing at all, we decided to have a pajama day!  The first pajama day activity was to make breakfast. We had scrambled eggs, fruit, and tall glasses of coconut milk.  It's definitely a bonus that my nephew is now old enough to help during meal prep time!
He's still getting the hang of the art of whisking.  Our eggs were perfectly stirred, though!

We spent the rest of the morning boxing, shooting nerf guns, and coloring.  We also watched a few episodes of Martha Speaks, an unexpectedly entertaining and educational kid's show on PBS.  Later in the day, we got dressed to go out for lunch.  Neither "A" nor I wanted to cook.  Breakfast took it all out of us, I guess.

After lunch we ended up at the mall.  Basically, we ended up there because "A" could see the mall from the restaurant and very politely asked if we could go in and "just walk around".  I can't believe I fell for that because "A"'s "just walk around the mall" is the same code I use when I really mean "walk around until I find something shiny to buy".  I decided to stand firm in my earlier decision not to purchase toys, but then. . .we saw the most wonderful store.  The Lego Store!

There are Legos everywhere!  I guess that's to be expected in the Lego store.
Super fun station where you can build your own Lego guys/girls
"A" spent a lot of time here

One of the guys "A" created.
 "A" built three guys and I, of course, purchased them (and a space car kit).  I just can't deny a kid Legos!  "A" handed me one of the Lego people and said, "Look, a female cop.  Just like your friend Laura."  It's my favorite :)

Lego Laura's awesome braid
Lego Laura





Yes, I let my nephew go out in public looking like a scrub.




At the end of our time together "A" said, "You are like 'Aunt Jessica in the Hat!"  I asked him to explain what he meant.  "You are wearing a hat and you made a fun day even though we couldn't go outside to play, you know, like the Cat in the Hat!"

He was pretty accurate because in between breakfast and the mall we managed to make quite a mess in my living room, too!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Birth of a Blog Post

This is where Mind of Me posts are born

They are born on scratch paper, scribbled quickly yet meaningfully before the thought flutters away.  They are born during my work day in between meetings and just after payroll is submitted, they are born at home after I've changed out of my business attire, they are born in my car, in the woods, and in the middle of the night when sleep won't come.  

Paper is always kept nearby:  notebooks, tablets, post-its- anything with which to record the thoughts that cross my mind.  They aren't written eloquently or neatly, initially.  I often trace compulsively over select words and phrases until they are dark and bold.  I scratch other words out.

Not everything that I capture haphazardly develops into a post.  Sometimes it becomes a  bookmark stored in a random book for safe keeping in hopes that someday in the future it could develop into something if I happen to stumble upon it again.  Novels and non-fiction favorites are filled with my writings on scraps of paper.   

Before my thoughts and stories become clean, typed posts, they are physical, handwritten evidences of spontaneity, of humor, of sadness, of struggle, of memories.  Works of art; raw thoughts made tangible with paper and ink.   

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Coffee: Day 3 Withdrawals

Oh dear sweetness I need some coffee.  I am on day three of absolutely no coffee.  No coffee.  It's like they are trying to kill me.  It isn't enough that I can't have anything with dairy, soy, sugar, meat, or gluten in it?  Must they take away coffee?  Well, yes, they must.  If only my adrenal glands worked correctly, or better yet, at all!

The worst part is that a co-worker, who is not privy to the treatment I am undergoing nor the new diet restrictions I am under, brought a bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for me.  RPBC are my all time favorite!  I almost cried when he proudly set the bag on my desk.  I squeaked out a weak, "Thanks," but couldn't bring myself to tell him I can't eat them EVER again.  Ever.  Again.  Ever.

I really can't ever eat Reese's Peanut Butter Cups ever again or drink caffeine.  Ever again.

If someone handed me a bag of coffee beans right now I'd chew them up and I would LIKE it.  Oh dear sweetness I need coffee.  Did I already say that?

Day One and Two weren't terrible.  I was feeling competitive with myself.  I smuggly walked past my coffee maker, past the bags of coffee my boyfriend's parents brought home from Hawaii for me, and I didn't even pick up my coffee mug at work.  I had a horrendous headache but I'm used to headaches and migraines, so no big deal.  Day Three, though, I found myself standing in front of the coffee maker, mug in hand, staring at the beautiful brown liquid streaming into the pot.  I took in the wonderful aroma and thought, "Just 1/3 of a cup?  I could do it and no one would know."  Suddenly, one of the executives walked into the break room and, before I could comprehend what was happening, swiped the mug from my hand, ran for his life, and yelled, "Don't even think about it!"

Gosh, I love the people I work for.

If only this headache would go away and hot, decaffeinated tea would bring me the same joy as a hot, black, dark roast, cup of coffee does.

I'm halfway through day three!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

One Positive Thing

I am stressed to the max.  Luckily, I have a short, but much needed vacation coming up, but still, I'm stressed out and my best efforts to relieve that stress are actually leading to more stress.  It's really ridiculous.   In fact, I have been putting off much needed and anticipated treatment for some chronic health issues because I'm afraid the stress will counteract everything and I will just fall over dead.

This morning, I arrived at the office ready to go; ready to face the stuff of the day.  The stuff that makes me wonder why I put make-up on at all because I anxiously rub it off by 10AM.  The stuff that makes me never want to have children, the stuff that keeps me up at night, the stuff that they gloss over in movies and tv shows where the lead character has a "demanding" career yet has time to take 2 hour shopping filled lunch breaks at random, in the middle of the work day. (Dear Teenagers--that is not reality).  I can't remember the last time I took a lunch break. . . ? Regardless, I swooped in, opened my laptop and clicked on one of the many many emails just sitting in my inbox waiting for me to address them, each email filled with it's own complexity. I thought to myself,
 I hope that I experience just one positive thing or that at least one issue gets fully resolved today. Mleh.
I randomly selected an email, just to get the process started.  It was from our CEO to the entire company and it read:


Team,
This morning  maybe  there are some who are worried and anxious about personal situations, (finance, family, health, relationships) maybe  its your sales, YTD results, disappointment with speed you are learning a new solution, or your ability to feel good about where you are at with some goals you set, your effort to date, maybe it something where we flat made mistakes in our lives, but the great thing is it doesn't matter if we just:

Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Have an Awesome and Blessed Day!!

How's THAT for one positive thing? :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

One Turn of a Key


Come with me.  I have something for you.

Such simple words, yet magical to the 5 year old me.  The other children in the kindergarten class followed Mrs. Woodard and me to the door of the classroom chirping, "What, what?  What do you have for her?"  Speculations were cast out and unanswered.  Candy?  A puppy?  Extra snack?  Their collective insistence to know what exactly they were missing out on made me smile on the inside.  As I walked hand in hand with my teacher down the hallway of the elementary school, I hoped my classmates were fooled by my outward look of indifference, laced with apprehension.  On the inside was an ecstatic smile.  She has something for me! 

My heart raced as we traveled further and further away from the Kindergarten classroom toward the Big Kid hallways. There is something for me in the big kid hallway!  Big kid drawings and essays cluttered the walls outside each classroom.  I longed to read what they had written, longed to trace their cursive writing with my index finger, but there was no time for that.  I was comforted by the fact that each hallway smelled the same; like Elmer's glue, pencil shavings, peanut butter, gravy and what I now know to be the scent of sweaty kid feet.  If I could bottle that culmination of smells, I'd be in heaven.  I allowed myself to skip.  I did so as discreetly as possible, of course, so that I couldn't be accused of running in the building.

Mrs. Woodard gracefully side stepped through an open classroom door. I followed, timidly.
Big kids, some I recognized as my elder brother's friends, were gathered in small groups reading aloud to one another. Some of the groupings consisted of mixtures of 2nd graders and 3rd graders.  It dawned on me that the children were sorted based on reading level and not by age or grade.  How exciting! I was immediately drawn to their reading textbooks.  I had read the majority of the stories in the 2nd grade book already.  My brother often let me read through his book after he completed his homework in the evenings. The stories inside were much more appealing than the stories we read in Kindergarten.  Is the something that Mrs. Woodard had for me in here?  Or was this a quick stop on the way to our destination?

Mrs. BigKidTeacher came over to us.  "This must be Jessica!"  She lowered herself to my level and I cowered away.  "How would you like to read with us?"  Mrs. Woodard gently nudged me forward.  She leaned in toward Mrs. BigKidTeacher and quietly said, "She has read every Boxcar Children book in the library. . .she may need the 3rd grade textbook."

The two teachers continued whispering, determining my reading and social fate.  I caught snippets of the conversation as I inched away from them, my focus on the literature in the room.  "Bored.  Shy. Imaginative.  Brother is down the hall. . .let me know."  
Mrs. Woodard exited the classroom.

I was frightened of my new surroundings but the intoxication of reading out of the Big Kid textbooks overruled my fright.  I sat down at one of the clusters of desks. The wooden and metal desks were temporarily and haphazardly rearranged from their normally orderly rows to allow groups of students to face one another. At once I became a pet.

The girls oohed and ahhed over me, "She's so cute!  Sit here!  That's Sam's little sister."  One of the girls patted my head and tugged on my messy pigtail and I winced.  "Oh, she's scared,"  the girl crooned.  "Would you like me to read to you?"  I could think of 1,000 other things I would rather be subjected to, but I said nothing.  I felt like my insides were being ripped out; I wanted to get my hands on a 3rd grade textbook and READ!

Mrs. BigKidTeacher thankfully led me to another table on the other side of the classroom.  "Students, this is Jessica.  She is going to join our reading class this year."

She is?  I am?! 3rd grade reading textbooks.  Smile.

I felt very much like I had imagined Mary Lennox, Colin, and Dickon felt when they discovered the Secret Garden.  They had something beautiful and sacred at their fingertips; something others may have appreciated but could not fully understand.  The magnificence of their discovery was not the garden itself but what it did for them.  Each one, in his and her own way, needed the solace and magic of the garden. Freedom.

Instead of sidestepping into the classroom, I envisioned that Mrs. Woodard had actually been holding a large, weathered skeleton key. Come with me.  I have something for you. Crouching low to the ground, she had brushed tangles of vines and thorns out of our way, pushed on a heavy, creaking door, and. . . with one turn of a key revealed a glorious world of words and stories, characters, and history, the expanse of which was never ending.

The Big Kid classroom was my secret garden; strange, wondrous, and exciting.  Although, I imagined it more like a dense jungle than a garden; still serene and protective, yet dangerous and adventure-laced.  Until that day I had not known what I was missing.  I was complacent breezing through age appropriate curriculum and supplementing with books from the library.  Now, though, now I could never go back.  I had my very own world with new friends and higher expectations.  I was hooked.

Mrs. Woodard indeed had something for me.  She gave me one of the greatest gifts in my life.  She handed me a little freedom and opened the doors for future confidence.  She turned the key and gave me access to a world that stimulated me.  Every day that I skipped through the hallways to my Big Kid reading class I loved her more and more.  Today, she still holds a special place in my heart.

"A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy.”  - Edward P. Morgan






Sunday, August 26, 2012

To Tear Down and To Be Built Back Up

I fled today.  With urgency and haste, I jumped in my car and drove.  I drove to a place where cows outnumber humans, where the sweet scent of manure and barn stalls prevail over industrial and automobile fumes, a place where silence lives.  I watched as the gray, billowing clouds changed shape ever so slightly with the breeze and broke up the light cascading, dancing, and streaming down onto the fields and trees around me.  I fled to find a physical place of peace but my thoughts were still with me.

When I  jumped in my car, on the way out of the city, I was burdened.  The only emotion I felt was confusion, but I wanted to feel angry.  Anger is more definite than confusion.  Anger is solid and justifiable; it is also something that can lead to healing.  I willed myself to feel angry and instead realized I was indifferent.  Everything felt meaningless.  Meaningless!  I had lost total faith in and loyalty toward humanity and since humanitarianism is the core of me, I was lost.

I turned on the car radio and these words rang out:
Give me your love for humanity; Give me your arms for the brokenhearted, the ones that are far beyond my reach.  Give me your heart for the ones forgotten.  Give me your eyes so I can see.
A sign?  Maybe this is meant to bring me peace.  It didn't.  I placed those words in my mental back pocket and kept driving until I no longer recognized cross streets.  I drove until I didn't care which direction would take me back home.  My only destination in mind was one out of cell phone range.  I reached an area where I could safely pull off of the two lane road and I did so.  I turned the hazard lights on and got out of my car and climbed through a gap in the fence line, into some stranger's pasture.  I sat, barefoot and windblown, for a long time.
 

Ecclesiastes 3 talks about seasons and specific times for certain emotions and circumstances.  A time to be born and a time to die, for example.  A time to mourn and a time to dance.  What could define this time, for me?  Does Ecclesiastes define a time to be confused and indifferent and hardened toward humanity?  The only verse I could think of that might encompass my current state was, a time to tear down {and a time to build up}.  I definitely felt as if I was being torn down.  If that was the case, then maybe sometime soon I would be built back up?  So, I remained seated on the warm ground, the tough grass and sharp springs of loose hay dug into my legs; I was content to be alone.

A truck pulled up behind my parked car and a man yelled, "Car trouble?"  He sounded unsure since I was just sitting in a pasture, yards away from my car.  

"Nope; I'm fine.  I'm a city girl and just needed to get away."  I didn't look at him.  I just stared at the sky.  Normally, I would have tried to really engage or assure him that I was fine.  I would normally deflect and mask my current state so he wouldn't know I was being torn apart on the inside, but I didn't care at that moment.  

"If you're sure that you're fine, I'm going to go, but. . ." But, you're not fine, is what he wanted to say.  He probably thought I was crazy and potentially dangerous.

"Okay,"  I wanted him to leave.  I wanted to sit there and just be silent but then I blurted, "You know, my friend's grandpa was murdered today.  You know?  I just need to sit out here, alright?"  

He gave awkward condolences and slowly drove away.  I was emotionless, but suddenly, once I knew he was gone, I felt the weight of what I had just verbalized.  Murdered.  Slowly and painfully starved to death.  

I sobbed and it was painful.  Each burst of emotion seemed to pull at the veins in my heart, straining, threatening to rip away and explode.  It wasn't gratifying at all; there was no real release in this outward show of emotion only more confusion.  I did not know Frank Sedlak, not for even one moment of my life.  The last ten days of his life are now so deeply imprinted on my brain, my heart, and my soul that I will never be the same.  I don't ever want to be the same.  

I was witness to a man being legally starved and dehydrated to death.  I fought, alongside his family, for his rights.  We called government agencies, signed petitions, begged and pleaded, educated. . .and no one would help.  No one in power would help, to be more specific.  Our hands are tied, they would say.  They defaulted to keeping law rather than compassion; rather than doing the right thing.  

It hit me then that I was mourning for the loss of this man because I care about his family members, who are my friends.  He obviously impacted his family positively, although I'm sure he had his shortcomings.  On behalf of him and his family, I had busied myself for ten days with doing everything I could to help fight for Frank Sedlak's basic human rights to receive food and water, despite the orders from his doctor and the compliance of his wife (guardian) and daughter (power of attorney) to the asinine orders.  When the news came, "Frank Sedlak passed away today" I realized that I had had hope and confidence that something would change.  That was the most disappointing of all.  The entire time, I had actually believed that someone from the local government would step in.  I had hope that the doctor, the guardian, the Power of Attorney would have a change of heart.  I had hope that a lawyer, a human rights activist, a news outlet, someone, would intervene and save his life.  No one did.  Their hands were tied.  His death is on their hands.

Today, I have no faith in humanity.  In 2012, in the United States of America, a man was denied food and water for ten days until he died.  Meaningless.  

I believe that good can come from anything and it is my hope that I see some good come from this.  Tonight, I don't know what that good can be. Maybe, for me, because I have been torn down, I will be built back up.   Maybe all involved in this situation will live their lives fighting for others and being intentional about always doing the right thing.  Maybe we will error on the side of compassion more so than we ever did in the past.  

I ask that you keep the family of Frank Sedlak in your prayers.  The extent of the pain and sadness they are experiencing is something I cannot imagine.  Pray that they will be built back up.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Most Romantic Thing Ever

The Most Romantic Thing Ever is subjective.

For some, the most romantic thing ever is being proposed to at a sporting event and having it captured on video and displayed on the huge screen at the stadium.  I don't find that romantic.  I stress for the girl every time I see something like that happen.  For most, receiving flowers is romantic.  It is.  I received some a couple weeks ago (and chocolate) and every time I glanced at the them throughout the week I smiled like an idiot, face resting on my hands, and I think I even sighed.

Receiving flowers is not the most romantic thing ever, though.  It's sweet.  It's so nice.  It's wonderful.   There's a reason, though, that people go into business selling flowers; because a lot of people find sending and receiving flowers to be romantic. So, while it IS romantic, it's not the most romantic thing EVER.  This became very clear to me earlier this week when I literally experienced the most romantic thing ever.

My day was busy, my day was stressful, and the result of that in me is snark.  He sweetly and jokingly offered to kidnap me from work to which I responded, "Nah.  Don't kidnap me, just bring me food."  It is widely known that I can become so caught up in work that I forget to eat or that I don't realize I'm hungry until about an hour before my work day is over.  So, while the idea of being kidnapped is fun, it would stress me out if it were to actually happen, even on my worst day, because I'm a coughworkaholiccough.  I appreciated the thought though. Knowing he was not in a position to kidnap me, let alone actually bring me food, I got back to work. That was at 10:50 AM.

At 11:02 I received the following text:  "Your food is on it's way."

Pause.

Internal dialogue:  What?   That's kind of mean to joke about food. . . He's not mean, though.  How is it possible that he is bringing me food?  It's not possible.

I continued with the confusing inner dialogue and then came right out and asked, "What?  How?"

And then the most romantic thing ever happened, via text message. (I typed this sentence picturing cartoon birds pooping glittery hearts while chirping the tune of some cheesy love song. . .okay actually they were specifically chirping You Make My Dreams Come True by Hall & Oates.  They may have also been choreographically flying. . .   I realize close friends and family don't recognize me right now!)

Me:  What?  How?

Him:  Smart phone and a debit card, all from the seat of a crane in Idaho.

Me:  What the what?  You're super amazing

Get ready for it . . .

Him:  So are you.  You deserve it.  They said it would be there shortly.  I hope it's ok.  It's a veggie sandwich from down the street.

Boom!  Most romantic thing ever!

Combining his very best creeper skills with a real desire to take care of me, he googled restaurants near my office that serve vegetarian sandwiches, ordered one, and had it delivered to me.  Not only that, but he also followed up to make sure I had utensils because he remembered that I don't like to eat with my bare hands. 

Face resting on hands.  Sigh.  And yes, I took a picture of the sandwich and the receipt because that's apparently how I roll now.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Grace for Geese: Saved by Witnesses

The only reason these geese are still alive is because of the long line of cars in the opposite lane, full of witnesses.  There were too many witnesses to make me comfortable enough to follow through with the overwhelming urge to plow right through this gaggle.

Think what you want about me, but I despise geese for numerous and very legitimate reasons.  In this particular moment, as I inched toward them trying to pressure them to move faster, I was also yelling, "For real?  You have WINGS!  FLY over the road!"  Alas, they chose, as they always do to waddle at the slowest possible pace, across the road.

Next time, geese, you won't be so lucky!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Use Words, Only If You Have To

I remember the first time I heard those words.  They were spoken from the pulpit.  After a very concise and, what I seem to remember dubbing as an awesome sermon, the minister ended with, "Preach Christ. And use words, only if you have to."

There have been times in my life when someone said something sort of profound and I immediately waved them off because what they said or recommended or eloquently stated did not match up with his or her life.  This man, though, lived this simple yet profound quote.  He lived it by simply loving people and making each individual feel special.

Yesterday, the world suddenly and unexpectedly lost this man, Bill, who preached Christ, mainly without words. He was one in a million.  He truly loved others.  He went out of his way to connect with people in the way that would effect them most or make them the most comfortable.  With me, he engaged in conversation one-on-one and quietly.  He did not bring loud attention to me and I loved that about him.  He was also hilarious and would start most conversations with me with some type of ridiculous statement, to break the ice, and then we would both laugh.

My first ever conversation with him was several years ago.  I had shared a testimony with the congregation during a church service.  Afterward, he was at my side in a flash!  He pulled me into the tightest, longest, most wonderful and unexpected hug I've ever experienced and then said, "I will never forget that testimony.  Thank you for sharing it and please continue to share it with others."  Since that time I have had sporadic conversations or quick greetings with him, in my heart knowing that he loved me just because I exist, and feeling the same love for him.

One of the ways he reached my heart the most was through my nephew.  When Baby A was about 2 years old, I had him in church with me.  My outgoing and very busy nephew wandered over to the other side of the pew where Bill was seated.  At first, I was concerned that this persistent and often very loud toddler would distract Bill from the service so I started to lean over to bring Baby A back to me.  Bill quickly caught my eye and shook his head no.  He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a piece of candy and handed it lovingly to my nephew.  Throughout the rest of the service, Baby A, now a sugar addict, went back over to him repeatedly.  I was torn between thinking this exchange was sweet and wondering if this would hinder Baby A's much anticipated nap!  However, toward the end of the service, Baby A was sitting quietly and contently on Bill's lap, flipping through a children's book.  The love and time Bill gave my nephew that day was how I imagine Jesus would have treated him:  patient, kind, loving, and freely giving.  

Bill continually taught me about Jesus without speaking a word.  Over the course of my life I heard many of Bill's sermons and I remember really liking them, but I can't remember the content of a single one of them now. His actions, his daily dealings of others, told me everything.

It's sad to imagine a world without a man who loved like Bill did.  We are definitely lacking in people like him. My hope is that the impact he left on others, in life and in death, will create more people who love others intentionally and who use words, only if they have to.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Home

After a long night of travel I arrived home and dropped my luggage near the front door.  My laptop bag toppled over, a book slid out, and I didn't care.  My next stop was the bathroom where I carefully removed the contacts from my dry, bloodshot eyeballs.  Too tired to unpack my glasses, I stepped apprehensively into my bedroom, careful to watch for blurry blobs of color on the floor, which were surely the shoes I had peeled off on my way from the living room to the bathroom, and climbed into my unmade bed.  I was still fully dressed.

Just before crashing into a much needed slumber, I wiggled down under the purple, cotton sheet while my thoughts hung in a strange parallel:  peaceful to be at home in Kansas while also homesick for my friends in Arizona.  I channeled Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and imagined clicking my ruby red heels together: "There's no place like home."  

'Home' for me is truly cliche.  Home is where my heart is, but my heart doesn't belong to one place or one person.  My heart is broken into sections and pieces, each one specifically labeled and color coded,  each belonging to a different person or place. That night, the piece reserved for Arizona, and the people that make that destination special, ached.  The piece belonging to Kansas, to normalcy and to cooler temperatures, eased me to sleep.

It's amazing how many ways my heart can be cut up (sounds gruesome, doesn't it?) and given away to a person or group of people.  Sometimes it feels like there's no more room to add any one or any place else to it, but after spending all of last week in the middle-of-nowhere Missouri working at a teen camp, I have found my heart all rearranged, re-coded, re-labeled, and missing the new kids and adults in my life.  I wonder, already, how they are doing and wonder when I can see them again even though I just saw them all yesterday.

The crazy awesome thing about home being where the heart is, is that no matter where I am, I am almost always at Home.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On Love: A Confession

I have a really difficult time loving people. Not all people.  Some people are really easy to love:  my best friends, babies, most toddlers, my massage therapist, beauticians- love, LOVE, love them.  It's annoying, mean, holier-than-thou, stupid, and frustrating people that I have a difficult time loving.

Yes, I just heard some of you gasp in astonishment after reading my first sentence.  Don't pretend that you love everyone all the time; we all know that's not true.  It's totally normal to dislike, avoid, hate, and be annoyed by people so calm down.  It's normal, but it isn't correct.  The most difficult part of love is taking away all the societal rules and justifications and just deciding to love in spite of all of that.

It wasn't until I started evaluating the relationships in my life; evaluating if certain people really loved me that I focused at all on whether I loved other people.  I started researching love.  I researched how different cultures show love, I looked up definitions, and then I held up the facts next to my relationships and learned that many of the people who claimed they loved me, didn't.  Sad day.  After I wallowed for a bit (a 'bit' in Jessica Time=years), I held  the same criteria up to myself and realized I had a choice with those relationships.  I could decide to not love them back, justifiably, or I could figure out a way to love them anyway.

Once I decided to love people through difficult circumstances, life was so awesome!  All of those relationships were completely and fully reconciled, we hung out all the time, and my life changed completely!

Actually, that's not true at all.  It became even more difficult once I decided to consciously love people, especially people who did not, and still don't, deserve it.  Loving people is hard work.  It requires sacrifice of pride and time.  It means giving up trying to prove that you are right and they are wrong (even about religious dealings, maybe even especially then) and letting go of the fun thoughts of leaving them stranded on the side of the road.  Love means moving toward people instead of away from them.  It means you can't be a victim.

Since making that decision, years ago, it has required me to practice loving, because goodness knows it doesn't always come naturally.  I catch myself more times than I would like to admit, mid-snarky comment or angry thought, having to stop and decide to deal with that person in a different way.  I can't just write people off.  I will say this, though:  the more I catch myself and the more I practice and follow through, the easier it becomes.

So that's it.  This is just a confession that will hopefully resonate with you, spark a conversation or just a consideration.


Friday, July 13, 2012

I'm a Crazy Feminist, Apparently

Picture me in a black dress, high heels, gold accessories, weighed down like a pack mule: carrying a clutch*, laptop bag, gym bag, lunch bag, and a light sweater.  My hair is in place, make-up is fresh, the bangles on my arm are gently clinking together as I walk from my car to the entrance of the office building.  I feel very much like Audrey Hepburn, except that I never saw her loaded down like a pack mule, unless she was gracefully carrying shopping bags.

Most women, if not all women, have this natural ability to be able to strategically carry everything they own on their person while still looking professional or classy (whatever the goal is).  The main point is to get everything from point A to point B in one trip, no matter how heavy the load or how many bags she ends up draping over her arms.  It isn't just the ability to carry items to and from a location, it's the ability to also open doors once she's arrived.  If someone happens to be nearby to hold a door open, that's a bonus, but it's impossible to rely on that.

Go back to picturing me, Audrey Hepburn-esque, walking through a dimly lit parking garage.  Looking ahead, I notice several people entering the building.  They are yelling distance away.  I walk a few yards closer to the entrance and watch a man walk through the door.  He suddenly stops and holds the door open but no one is directly behind him.  He yells, "If you hurry. . ." and then motions that I can walk through the open door.

Now, I am not in a position to hurry.  To even get to him in a decent amount of time I would have to literally jog to reach the door.  I sweetly call out, "Oh, no thanks!  Go on ahead, I can get it!"  While it would be nice not to have to struggle to get the door open, I know I can get the door open myself because I am carrying everything strategically!  It isn't worth this guy standing there for 5 more minutes and it isn't worth me breaking into a sweat or risking tripping on my high heels to jog over there.

I really thought he would shrug and walk on, but instead he yelled angrily, "Well excuuuuuse me!  Try to hold a door open for a lady and you all end up being crazy feminists!!"

For real?

He let the door close and I watched him storm down the hallway, further into the building.  I am not a crazy feminist.  Sure I support  the rights and equality of women but I also support the rights and equality of everyone!  Trying to remain looking classy and walking at a lady-like pace makes me a crazy feminist?  I guess I should have sprinted toward the door?  Ugh.

The story gets better.  Once in the lobby, I arrive just in time to squeeze into the elevator with a small group of professionals.  As I approach the open doors, I hear the man's voice and stop- he can obviously see me but I can't see him-  "Don't hold the elevator!  She can do it all herself!"  I see confused expressions on a few of the people in the elevator and then the doors shut.


I hope the next time I see that guy it's pouring down rain because I am going to expect him to carry me over every puddle while also holding an umbrella over my head.  And then I'm going to punch him in the face.


*a clutch is a purse that has no strap, that is carried under the arm.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Remedy for Setbacks

I've suffered some setbacks this week.  That's not entirely true; I haven't suffered.  I have experienced some setbacks this week.  The setbacks aren't anything really major or life altering, just frustrating.

This morning I didn't spring up out of bed immediately, I sat up comfortably, enjoying the warmth of the sun streaming through my windows and thinking about the plan of action for today.  I vowed that the frustrating setbacks would not plague my thoughts today but every once in a while I noticed them creeping up on me, reminding me that in some areas I am starting completely over, and that I am and will remain tired for quite a while trying to get everything back in place.  It is what it is, though, so I charge ahead and take one step at a time: one day, one hour, sometimes one tiny moment, at a time.

I read the following quote a few minutes ago and it validated that starting over isn't the worst thing.  It's better than giving up! Maybe starting over will give me a better long-term result.

"Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can." - Arthur Ashe

That really sums up all situations, even if setbacks aren't being experienced.  We have to begin, or begin again, from somewhere so instead of focusing on where I should be, what I should have in my arsenal, or what I would have been able to do IF. . .I can find some peace in the fact that today, THIS is where I'm at. I have the tools to get past this point and I have an amazing amount of past experience to know that I can do anything I set my mind to, even if it requires sleep deprivation in the beginning!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Scent of Childhood

He ran, jumped, rolled, and squealed, tripping periodically over his untied shoelaces.  My nephew was too busy for the fireworks display that entertained the rest of us.  His parents gently coaxed him, "Hey buddy, you're missing the fireworks. . .", but he didn't care.  He was taking advantage of being outside, after dark, past his bedtime, and in a crowd of people with other children who were also testing boundaries. We adults finally gave up trying to wrangle him to keep his attention on the fireworks display and instead kept track of him, running and leaping, peripherally.

All at once, he flopped onto my lap.  He's not a snuggler so all 5 seconds that he decides to cuddle have to be taken full advantage of.  I squeezed his little body quickly, expecting him to jump up and run off again, but he didn't.  He snuggled in, his head nestled into my neck, his arms wrapped around my arms, relaxed.  I breathed in his childhood scent: dirt, sweat, firework smoke, with a hint of fruity shampoo.  I remembered holding my little brother like this when he was about the same age; five years old.  They smelled the same.

After a few minutes, which is a snuggling record for my nephew, he turned his face up and whispered sweetly, "Aunt Jessica, can I play Angry Birds on your phone?"  I laughed.  "No.  You can watch fireworks, silly.  You can play Angry Birds later."  I thought he might leave, but he didn't.  He stayed in my lap.  He was stinky and sweaty and for lack of a better term, gross, but I didn't care.  I loved every short-lived minute he wanted to spend on my lap, every second we were engaged in a play boxing match, every fit of laughter.  He was practicing the early stages of independence but was still cool with and maybe even in need of snuggle time with his Aunt.

While we were celebrating our nation's freedom he was discovering his own personal kind of freedom. It took me back to 4th of July celebrations of my past.  It took me back to evenings with our friends, running around the blankets and chairs we were supposed to be sitting on, drinking kool-aid, and with every BOOM! of the fireworks pretending we were in a war.  I remember returning home, late at night, satisfied with the knowledge that we had pushed through some of the parental boundaries to our own kind of temporary kid freedom, but also hoping my mommy would be in soon to tuck me in.  

It was when we would arrive home, to our clean house, that I first noticed the smell that now makes me so nostalgic.   It was evident upon peeling off our grubby clothing in preparation for bath time that we had been active, that we were dirty, and that we had absorbed every last vapor of the fireworks.  I wonder if all childhoods smell the same:  dirt, sweat, firework smoke, with a hint of fruity shampoo. The scent of freedom and innocence.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Gasoline Story

Standing comfortably next to my car, I absorbed the morning and my surroundings.  The sounds of the early morning commute were musical and I tapped my toes to the rhythm of the gas pump filling up the tank of my car. Gluhgluglgluhgluh- ka CHUnk- gluhgluhgluhgluhgluh-ka CHUnk.   A busy street to the east, neighborhoods to the west filled with early morning joggers, office buildings to the north; I observed my neighbors in our suburban habitat.  Everyone seemed to be in a rush, that is, everyone except me.  For the first time ever, I had experienced an efficient morning resulting in a leisurely filling up of my gas tank before work instead of hastily going through the process and whispering threats to the pump to "hurry up!"

I suddenly felt a sensation on my leg that I can only describe as being hit with a hot, wet towel.  I had a split second of confusion filled with questions too numerous to answer in such a short time.  Just as I started to look down at my leg, the same sensation came over my left shoulder, across my chest, and top of my thigh.  Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of the pump nozzle descending after flinging around wildly in the air like one of those flower sprinklers kids play in. It landed on the ground with a loud and embarrassing tink-THUD!  Fuel spilled out on the ground and covered my nearly bare feet and brand new, amazingly cute sandals.  

Somehow,the nozzle of the gas pump had literally shot out of the gas tank and while wildly flailing had drenched me in fuel!  The hot, wet towel sensation was suddenly making sense.  I was covered in gasoline from head to toe.  Whaaaaaaaaaat?!  I replaced the nozzle with the pump and headed swiftly to the driver's seat of my car peeling off my sandals and outer shirt as I walked, or slid to be more precise.  As I started walking, I slipped on the slick lake of gasoline under my feet resulting in an awkward attempt to keep my balance: one leg sticking out, hands in the air, my right foot fighting to find proper stability.  I exclaimed a "Whoa!" that would make Joey Lawrence proud.

Over the course of the following two hours I showered twice, fully clothed, then washed my clothing, set my amazingly cute sandals out to dry, took a real shower and attempted to get ready for the day again.  Everything smelled of gasoline-my apartment, my car, and sadly me too. My only hope was that it wasn't super noticeable to others who would have to be around me that day.  I had a work event to be at so I decided to keep my cool, despite being extremely frustrated and self-conscious about my new odor.  I did pretty well until halfway to the event venue when I saw flashing lights behind me.

"Do you know how fast you were going?"

I handed over my license, registration and insurance.  "Honestly, I was going about 7 over but isn't that within the 'safe zone'?  I'm not going to argue about it, though.  A ticket is fine."  I was already late to work and I wanted this encounter to end quickly.

The officer leaned forward to return my documents and said worriedly, "Ma'am...is your car leaking fuel?  It smells strongly of gasoline."

I immediately deflated.  My self-conscious fears were becoming reality.  I stink! (Not all of my fears became reality, such as my fear that I would burst into flames!). The gasoline story came flooding out (go back and read it without punctuation, don't take a single breath, that's what it sounded like to the cop) and I ended with, "and ironically I'm vegan and I make my own cleaning products and refuse to use lotion and cleansers with certain ingredients in an effort to keep my body free of chemicals and toxins!"

He didn't say anything.  He stood there staring at me and then he laughed.  He laughed some more and then calmly said, "Why don't you get to work and we'll forget about this ticket.  Just slow down." So I did, but seriously 7 over the speed limit?  He must have been bored, but I digress.

The benefits of being doused in gasoline?  It's been two weeks since the incident and I still have silky smooth legs!  I'm hoping to discover that I've gained super powers and not cancer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

It's in the Knowing

I step into my brother and sister-in-law's house and call for them but there's no response.  There is life in the house, my nephew is banging and crashing somewhere down the hallway, I hear the television downstairs, and a hurried, whirring sound coming from the dining room.   I head toward the whirring, hurried sound and suddenly notice stacks and stacks of fabric on the floor, the couch, and as I enter the dining room I see more stacks of fabric piled ceiling high.

My sister-in-law is a wonderful seamstress so I immediately rule this behavior as acceptable, although the excessive amount of fabric is alarming, but assume that she is probably working on making her own wardrobe.  I wonder if I can convince her to make a few clothing items for me?  She is bent over her sewing machine pushing fabric through, cutting thread, and never looking up. 

I begin to browse the stacks of fabric, looking for a color or pattern that might appeal to me.  Upon browsing I feel disgusted.  The prints and color are very childish!  My first thought is, "I have to stop her from making clothing out of this material!  She will look ridiculous!"  I turn on my heel and sprint toward the basement where I am sure to find my brother.  My plan is to convince him to stage a fashion intervention for his wife.  I burst through the door to the den and before I can tell him of the fashion horror I witnessed upstairs, he smiles.  He smiles proudly.  Then, all at once it hits me and I stop.

Breathlessly, I say, "She's?  You guys are having another baby?"

He nods, "And it's a girl."

Then. . . I wake up.

I've had this same dream for three years now, probably twice a year if I had to average it out.  First of all, I am pretty sure it means that I think a little too much about clothes and fashion. . . Each time I've had this dream I have immediately woken up and thought Yeah, that's not going to happen.  I had long since written off the idea of my brother and sister-in-law having another child only because they seemed good with one and never openly talked about having more.

Two weeks ago I had the dream again and when  I woke up I had butterflies in my heart.  Hope, maybe?  Or did I know something?  I tried to forget it but have had thoughts of a little baby girl in their arms (okay, my arms too) ever since.

A few days later, I was on the phone with my brother and we were discussing careers or something.  I wanted to blurt out, "You two should have another kid!  I will help with diapers!" I thought better of it and kept talking about the economy.  Before signing off from the call my brother said, "Oh yeah, and we have  something to tell you."  I excitedly yelled, "Wait!!  Don't tell me!! I want to guess!! You're pregnant!"

"Yep!"

I said, "And I know it's a girl, I had a dream about her!"

We won't know the baby's sex for a while so I'm going off of gut feeling and a crazy weird recurring dream.  For the record, my sister will roll her eyes at this because I was so sure that her second child was going to be a girl (so did she) but he's a he :) and I love him.

Anyway, my 5 year old soon-to-be-a-big-brother nephew told me, "I am going to have a sibling!  I want a girl because she will have her own room and play with her own toys."  <---- He's going to have to talk to my brothers about how well that worked out for them with their sister. :)

If you need me, you can find me at Babies R Us.  The End.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Stranger on a Plane

"So, are you from Kansas City or just visiting?"

Mmmmm?  I slowly opened my eyes to see a friendly looking man, next to me, smiling and waiting for a response. The plane we were on had just taken off and up until this point my row-mates had met my expectations for being perfect because they had been gloriously silent.  I always hope and pray when I travel that the chatty people will not sit next to me.  I use flight time to read, sleep or stare out the window.  I love having the opportunity to just be completely silent, for hours, and after an extremely disheartening experience with the TSA in the Phoenix airport, I just wanted to turn the world off and sleep until I arrived home.

Don't be evil, Jessica.  Most people are chattier than you, in regular life, anyway.  I sat up and put a smile on my horribly drowsy face and responded, "I'm from Kansas City.  You?"  And that was the end of any hope that I would sleep or even be able to stare out the window in silence. 

Three hours later I learned that this man is genuinely positive and caring.  He is man who is struggling. He's struggling with the guilt of having everything he could ever need or want, but still feeling sad about life right now. Lately, he tells me, he has found some comfort in the book of Ecclesiates.  On the verge of tears, he said, "I really expected to sit down next to you and- well, because you're young and you have a distance about you, have a topical conversation about nothing, just to keep my mind off of everything and hopefully brighten your day." 

He was silent for a while.  The silence lasted long enough that I turned to stare out the window when suddenly he said,  "Turns out that you brightened mine.  Don't judge a book by it's cover I guess.  Thanks for sharing your experiences and perspective on life." 

Strange, isn't it, how a girl who was feeling very distant and negative could be used to brighten someone else's day?  It definitely wasn't my doing.  If I had it my way I would have ignored the guy during the entire flight, hoping I wouldn't have to step outside of my comfort zone or be vulnerable in any way.  What this stranger taught me is that my experiences and perspective, curiosity and openness are important and valid even when my introverted, self-questioning inner voice tells me otherwise.

Despite the fact that I didn't get to nap, I had one of the best conversations of my life with that man and am glad he benefited too.

Cemeteries and Butterflies



Is it weird to take a picture of yourself in a cemetery?

I went in search of my great-Grandma's headstone yesterday at Memorial Park Cemetery in St. Joseph, Missouri.  I didn't find it due to tardiness.  The offices closed about half an hour before I arrived so I just drove around hoping that I would stumble upon the right spot.  Unfortunately, this is one of those cemeteries that only has flat stones, versus the standing headstones, so driving around is for naught.

Eventually, I came to a spot that I just knew was familiar.  I thought back 8 years and remembered a slight sloping hill. . .?  I walked up the little hill, scanning the headstones carefully.  I went down each row to my left, backtracked to the right and finally made my way up to the top of the hill.  It was then that I realized there were many sloping hills in the cemetery and this was obviously the wrong one.

It was a beautiful day! Light breezes made the 90 degree heat seem a little less, strong gusts of wind were refreshing.  I let the initial feeling of disappointment fade.  I could always come back when the chapel offices were open, but I was still a little disappointed nonetheless.  This was the last place I saw her.

Leisurely, I began walking back to my car thinking about the people buried here, careful to walk between stones, thinking about their families.  Once my car was in site and about 30 yards (I'm terrible with estimating distance) away, I saw a butterfly land on the tip top of the antennae.  I smiled so big and for so long that I ended up snapping this photo.  

I knew she wasn't there but I felt like she was with me.  A beautiful day outside, warm and breezy, the sounds of birds singing and conversing between trees, bees zipping to and from flowers. . .all things that she loved and described in her letters to me.  Then, a butterfly, and she was with me. 

I didn't get to sit next to her headstone, and for some reason I still have this need to do so, but truly I'm reminded of her everywhere and that little butterfly sent me home peaceful instead of regretful.  This is a picture of me and my grandma.  Weird?  Maybe, but that's okay.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I'm So Tired

I'm too tired to think of a catchy blog title so I decided to be matter-of-fact.  I'm so tired.

There are different kinds of "so tired".  Quite possibly, I am the only person who breaks down being tired into different categories but I would be very interested to know if you do the same or if you have your own categories. The main types of tired are:  Angry Tired, Weepy Tired, Whatever Tired, and Crazy Tired.

The worst kind of tired is the Angry Tired.  Angry Tired is caused by absolutely no sleep, too much activity during the day that you can't say no to (you know, like work and breathing), and knowing that you won't be sleeping anytime soon.  You can't even lay comfortably in bed at night.  Coffee doesn't help at all.  When one experiences Angry Tired they have murderous thoughts toward family, friends, co-workers and small children for minor offenses such as existing. When someone invites you out to do something fun, your first internal reaction is, "How DARE they even think I would want to watch a movie?!  Grrrraaaaghhhhh!"  Then, you turn green and explode up into a muscular rage filled monster and start smashing. . .wait, I'm sorry that's the Hulk.  Basically, you turn into the Hulk.

 Fortunately, I am not experiencing the Angry Tired right now.

Another type of Tired is the Weepy Tired.  The Weepy Tired often results in the need to watch sad movies before crashing into a comatose sleep.  Weepy Tired may or may not be hormone related.  I haven't done enough research.  Basically, though, one cannot finally sleep without a good cry, for no apparent reason (*cough* hormones).  It's the easiest to deal with of all the Tireds.

Of course, we can't forget just plain exhaustion.  Exhaustion doesn't really have an emotion to it.  It goes way past Angry and Weepy tired into a realm of indifference.  It's the Whatever Tired.  You know you aren't going to sleep anytime soon or that if you do sleep it won't be restful. Being mad or sad about being tired is too tiring so you just live in a fog of perpetual indifference.  Whatever.  This, sadly, is the state of tired I find myself in the most often.  "Yeah?  So I haven't slept. mlllleeehhhhh."

Presently, I'm experiencing Crazy Tired.  Crazy is used two ways here.  First, it's a figure of speech and means I'm really, really (or crazy) tired.  Secondly, being tired is basically making me crazy.  Crazy Tired is sort of euphoric.  It's the "happiest" of the Tireds because you have the ability to nap or to go into coma-like sleep at night, so you look forward to those times instead of resenting them.  Coffee helps throughout the day and you have hope that soon, very soon, you won't be so tired.

Here's where the crazy comes in: Objects and people begin resembling fluffy, white, down comforters and pillows.  I start to feel convinced that it would be totally appropriate to curl up on my office desk and nap.  Right?  I look at the stacks of resumes, the business card samples, the project plans, industry magazines, certification coursework, workflows and maps, and determine that it all looks strangely comfortable.  I could climb up there, turn around three times and curl up like a cat and nap on all that stuff.

Maybe Crazy Tired should be renamed to Feline Tired?  Ultimately, you mirror the behavior of a cat.

Anyway, that's what I am.  I'm Crazy Tired.  I have happy daydreams about snuggling into soft bedding or thick, green, warm grass in the middle of a field.  I have bursts of goofiness throughout the day, and random urges to sleep in inappropriate places.  The nice aspect of Crazy Tired is that I still have the drive and ability to push through and function although it's usually only because I know that as soon as my tasks are complete and the day is over, my reward is sleep!

Anybody else out there tired?



Friday, June 1, 2012

Promotion Essentials

I've been working on a promotion for a few months now and it was finalized two weeks ago!  Yay!  We've kept it quiet but I've already been designing and building out the role and stealthily setting things up so that the launch of this new department will be smooth.  There's a lot to do, lots of extra hours, less sleep, but I love it!  I love organizing chaos!  Today, my promotion was officially announced to the rest of the company. About an hour later, a co-worker came into my office and said, while chuckling, "So, are those essential to your new role?"  I looked over in the direction that he was pointing and found this line-up beside me:



Hey, at least there is no alcohol nor cigarettes involved! (yet)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Get Up

This particular post has been a draft for months.  I recently re-opened it and worked on it a bit more, deleted most of it, and then shelved it again.  I was finally inspired to work on it again last week and was proud of the final product.  Then, tragedy struck and changed the post entirely.  It made it more real, less about me, and gave me a an even firmer stance on doing whatever it takes to Get Up.

For years and years I've struggled with chronic health issues, mainly in silence, rarely revealing the full extent of them and their effects on my day to day life.   My reality is that I feel sick more than I feel well.  I am tired more than I am not.  When I say that I am "pain free" I really mean that I am able to function through the current level of pain, but I am rarely ever totally pain free.  Due to the level of and frequency of pain, I throw up at least 4 times a month and feel like I'm in this perpetual cycle of having to take it easy and focus on gaining strength back. 

Despite that, I've always had this crazy inner drive to always be active.  I don't like to sit still, I don't like to be complacent.  I love doing, working, moving, achieving. . .that inner drive comes in handy on really bad days or weeks.  I throw back the covers and tell myself, "Get up!"

During the bad times, I can find every excuse to stay where I'm at:  in bed, on the couch, in my car outside of the gym, in my office.  Sounds lazy, I know, but it isn't laziness that keeps me down.  It's illness.  Consciously and audibly commanding myself to to Get Up gets me off the couch, out of my car, in the gym, and back to work.

Sometimes the bad spells last longer than others.  Recently I had an unrelenting few weeks of pain and nausea.  I found myself in a very dark place emotionally.  Why do I still feel this way when I'm so focused on and strict about my health?  Why is it suddenly becoming worse? Why?

Late one night, I called my Mom.  I was hoping the conversation would distract me from the pain but as soon as I started talking to her I cried.  No, I sobbed.  Wept?  There needs to be a better word that fully describes the desperate ugly cry she had to endure over the phone.  Sputtering, blubbering, snotting, voice-cracking cry that is reserved only for talking to your Mommy.

The ceaseless pain and nausea, the years of joint and muscle pain, the waves of debilitation, the doctors, the medical bills.  They all crept up and took me hostage.  I admitted to my mom that I have no desire to grow old.  If I feel like this at 27, I can't imagine how I'll feel with age.  

For two days, I did not Get Up.  I stayed in bed, too ill to even sit up for long.  I worried about whether I would ever Get Up again.  This time around I just didn't have it in me to give myself a pep talk, slap on some make-up, and pretend to be okay long enough to keep people from worrying.

The time of rest was good for me.  I stabilized and started feeling increasingly better.  Monday morning, face still numb, brain still foggy, body a bit sore, I threw back the covers on my bed and shouted, "Get Up!"  And I did.  Slowly, painfully I got up and methodically attacked my day.

Sometimes, the only thing we can do is charge forward so that we don't remain stagnate, so that we don't wallow.  My physical weaknesses are why I take on a lot when I do feel well.  They are why I box, take random road trips, ride roller coasters, take opportunities to help people.  What if someday, despite my mental pep talk I really can't Get Up?  I made a promise to myself a long time ago that I was going to really live while alive, not wait to feel better to live.  

Sometimes, as I have learned recently, it takes a breakdown to justify rest. The needed rest, and even the crying, desperate, dark times can be the biggest motivator to Get Up.

The day after I wrote the first section of this post, which was the day after my breakdown, someone in my life committed suicide.  He did not Get Up.  He couldn't see past the dark places or around the mountain of problems to hope.  No one really knew the depths of his difficulties or how desperate he was. He was known for his enthusiasm and ability to motivate others.  He was positive, had an infectious smile, and always put others before himself and yet, last week he chose to stay down.

I am really sad.  However, I am motivated more than ever to continue to Get Up because I know how easy it is to slip into hopelessness and fear.  I am thankful for a mom who validates the dark times and gives me hope that it will be better. . .tomorrow.

It seems strange to say that his death resulted in something good.  For me, it was immediate thankfulness that even in my dark times I have hope.  We all struggle in different ways.  We show strength and weakness in different ways.  I hope that we all make a conscious effort to Get Up and live past difficult situations and when it seems too hard, that we reach out to someone who will help us  Get Up.