Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Rosh Hashanah Story

I almost missed Rosh Hashanah this year.  Normally, I plan for it.  I plan the food I will prepare, the people I will share it with, and I plan for time I will set aside to consider what Rosh Hashanah means.  Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, the birthday of mankind, but it is not like the secular new year with drunken parties the night before and well-intentioned but meaningless resolutions; rather, it is a time of reflection and then action.  It's really a time of spiritual accounting.  I'm not going to get into the ins and outs of Rosh Hashanah.  You all have Google and are capable of research but I will say this:  as a Messianic Jew, I'm sure that I celebrate much differently than what is traditional.

When I first started really celebrating Rosh Hashanah, I was studying with a friend who is also a Rabbi.  He told me to go to a quiet place, to pray, to meditate, to worship God, and to ask myself four questions:
  1. What did I accomplish this past year?
  2. Do I spend my time efficiently or do I waste it?
  3. Am I involved in my community and ultimately bettering the world?
  4. What are my goals and aspirations for the coming year?
As early as last year, my responses were resoundingly positive.  I had a long list of accomplishments, I could honestly say I didn't waste time, I was very involved in my community, and I had a long list of goals.  This year, though, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, I panicked.  I hadn't prepared, I didn't know where I would go for personal reflection and prayer, and I didn't know what the answers to the questions would be like.  I considered just forgetting about this holiday.  It would be too difficult to explain to my new family and what if they think I'm weird?  

I felt something urging me celebrate anyway so I decided to go ahead with it.  After my workday, Charlie and the girls would be going to Bible study at church so I would have the evening to myself and that seemed to work out perfectly.  I found my great grandfather's prayer book, a fresh journal, and my Bible and anticipated the evening with excitement.  Then, my workday was horrible and I ended up working late and some situations in my personal life were causing me stress and it all came to a head today.  Of course.  But, after my family left, I climbed into my truck and drove 16 miles to the Snake River Canyon, literally in the middle of nowhere.  

Tradition took over.  I prayed and I worshiped.  I meditated in the stillness and wonder of the vast expanse of beauty surrounding me and I felt. . .empty.  I've been feeling empty for a while.  Alone, censored, pressured, uncomfortable, afraid, awkward.  I jotted all of these things down.

What kind of Rosh Hashanah is this?  This is depressing!

So I sat back and put my notebook down.  I just sat there and it was like God said, "Hey.  Jessica.  It's okay to feel this way."  I was like, "I know, but I hate it because I'm super happy but something is. . . off."  

Did you know that it is customary to wish a "good new year" and not a "happy new year"?  I love this.  Having a good year has nothing to do with having a happy year.  To have happiness usually means you are receiving or taking and in return, feeling happy.  Good tends to mean that you are fulfilled, despite set backs, and fulfillment is usually found when one gives to others.  To wish someone a good new year is to hope that their year is fulfilling and that they contribute something positive to others.  I am feeling alone, censored, pressured, uncomfortable, afraid, and awkward because I'm seeking happiness.  I'm seeking to receive and I had, for the short term, forgotten that I need to seek fulfillment.

In answering my four questions I had to come to terms with the fact that my community involvement went from super charged in Kansas City to absolutely no activity in Idaho.  Blerg. I went from having a diverse group of friends to no friends.  I had a church I had grown up in, a bible study in my local community, Shabbat at a nearby Synagogue, and studies with a Messianic Jewish group and I was constantly learning and growing.  I'm feeling a little stagnate, a little over educated, and I'm yearning for community.  

Then, I started focusing on my accomplishments this year!  To name a few: I met my future husband and didn't have any weird commitment issues in our early relationship (yeah!).  I did a big scary thing and moved to Idaho, away from everyone and everything I know, and despite feeling lonely I actually really love it here.   Oh, and the big one?  I am no longer ill.  I AM NO LONGER PERPETUALLY ILL. This past year, I was brave and I succeeded in my endeavors and as scary as they were, I did not die. 

What are my goals?  Well, they are between me and God and the Snake River Canyon.

At this point I was really starting to feel refreshed and encouraged that although this recent transition can be difficult and weird, it's totally normal to feel this way.  It won't be this way forever and I need to stop censoring who I am to fit in to this new place.  

I began to sing.  It felt cool to sing into a canyon while sitting on a rocky ledge (yes, Mom, a rocky ledge over a canyon) but then I looked to the other side of the canyon and thought, "Laura (my bff) wouldn't be singing into a canyon, she would be singing to the other side!"  So I belted it!  I sang every song I had memorized and then I resorted to iTunes on my dying phone.  I didn't care who heard me, if anyone.

You know, over the years and very recently I've taken some criticism from people about my celebration of Jewish holidays, my Jewishness as a whole, and sometimes it bothers me.  After today, I don't think it will ever bother me again.  I gain so much from my observance of these holidays.  They aren't frivolous or selfish.  They are God centered and encourage positive growth. 

How sad would it be if I had let the disappointment of almost forgetting about Rosh Hashanah allow me to just cancel it?  I wouldn't have had any time of reflection that I so desperately needed, but failed to recognize.  What a blessing to have a time set aside each year where I can refresh and realign the direction and perspective of my life.  It's not about the perfect answers, the best accomplishments, or the sweet treats.  Sometimes it's just about a quiet, peaceful, validating conversation with God on the edge of a canyon.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Some Random, Scattered Thoughts

I cannot seem to formulate a complete blog post with a beginning, middle, and end.  It dawned on me that this blog is called Mind of Me so why not just throw out some random things that have been on my mind?

On My Mind #1
I read through some old blog posts and some of the comments readers left for me.  It was fun!  On a few of the posts my Aunt Janice had commented.  I sat and stared at the light hearted, simple comments she left to  validate me and couldn't move.  I then frantically searched through my photos on facebook to find her comments there too.  Just seeing "Cute! Love, Aunt JLW" made my heart ache in a happy and a sad way.

I am going back to Missouri in a few weeks and dread attending church with my family because every time I think about it I expect to see her.  I expect her to spot me from her pew and make her way toward me to say, "Hello, Dearie!  And how are you?" and give me a hug.  I know she won't be able to so a major part of me doesn't want to be there to witness my own disappointment.  I bet she didn't know how much that simple yet consistent interaction meant to me over the last 11 years before she passed away.

On My Mind #2
I learned a few weeks ago that my ex-fiance whom I haven't even spoken to for 8 years got married.  I felt like I'd been punched in the gut, not because I still have feelings for him, but because I had started planning a life with him.  Even though I am quite sure we would be divorced now had we gotten married, and even though I am crazy happy with my soon-to-be husband and with my life as a whole, I still had that horrible feeling of not being good enough.

Do you know what's awesome about the whole situation though?  I have an amazing fiance who let me spill all of these emotions to him and he didn't get all weird about it. In fact, he told me it's perfectly normal to have those feelings.  Being good enough had nothing to do with the demise of that relationship, it was about the two of us not being the right fit.  I know this to be true.

On My Mind #3- this one might turn into a whole stand-alone post.
Why is it that people can't let me plan my own wedding without jumping in with opinions about the venue I chose, whom to invite, the time of year?  The worst part is that most of this is going on behind my back and I hear about it later, usually by accident.  Seriously, everything else about wedding planning is going so smoothly it's ridiculous so I am trying not to let people, who should be supporting me and letting me throw my own party, bring me down.  For real, friends, if you know someone who's planning a wedding, smile and nod and tell them that their ideas are awesome or don't say anything at all, unless of of course the bride asks for your opinion.

On My Mind #4
It seems that most of my random thoughts are on the negative side.  Hmmmm.  I guess I should have title this: Things I've been struggling with quietly that I want to get off of my chest.  That title is too long so I will keep it as is.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Guess what? I'm a Step Mom. . .and I totally forgot about this blog!

I'm a step mom, with motherly responsibilities 99% of the time

I'm a step mom to two teenage girls, an Idaho transplant, a wife-to-be, and a remote employee who travels frequently.  By the time I reach a point (if I reach a point) where I can sit down and write, I'm so tired that I start to wonder what is writing?  What are words?  Nap.  So, those are all my excuses for having abandoned my wonderful little blog.

I am a step-mom, but this weekend the realization that I am needed for mom type activities hit me.  Hit is not the right word.  It was more like the feeling of being on a rollercoaster at the point when you've endured the scary straight-down-at-the-ground drop. Just as your screaming dies down you realize you survived that scary drop and then the cart swoops up and launches you into the next turn or hill or upside down loop.  It's that split second moment that I'm talking about, after the falling and screaming, and before the next section of the coaster.  You're floating in your seat, elated that the fall is over and excited for what's next. You aren't totally sure if the next bend will be scary or exciting but you're willing to take the chance because you've made it this far. Honestly, you're already strapped in to the cart, totally committed to seeing it through, and if you jump out now you will die.  That analogy maybe went to the extreme, but you get my drift.

Being a step-mom is obviously not a 30 second commitment but the intensity of a rollercoaster ride best describes the quick and ever changing situations, emotions, and feeling of loss of control that comes with the role.  I'm sure that this is true for all mothers (and fathers) and all stages of child rearing.  For me, the tiniest of positive moments gives me a rush.  They like me!  They really like me!
That rush sustains me through the scary plummets.

This week I sent the girls off to camp.  I helped set up their cabins, I left little notes, I whispered little hints to their counselors, and they both hugged me good-bye. A few times, I  noticed them excitedly bound toward me (in one instance it was obvious hopping) and rattle on and on about the upcoming week, seeing their friends, and the cool cabin decorations.  They ran excitedly up to ME.   It's the little things, I guess. 

Today, ironically, I am planning a family trip to an amusement park where we are sure to enjoy some real rollercoasters.

Kim, this post is for you.  Thank you for blog stalking me and for reminding me that I have a blog. 

The end.  No kids + no fiance x hotel room all to myself in my hometown= I'm going out with friends and then going to bed early!

Monday, April 1, 2013

To Cheer Up His Wife

Back in the day, in what many people refer to as "Bible times" marriages were arranged.  Typically, the bride would have to leave her entire family, even the very land she grew up in, to go live with her husband.  The Bible doesn't really touch on the emotional repercussions of this, good or bad.

Very recently, I moved halfway across the United States to be near my fiance and his children.  My upcoming marriage was not arranged and I am not being traded for livestock, thankfully, but I did leave everything I know and love and moved in with my future in-laws.  Although this move was completely voluntary and I am confident in my decision to do so, it isn't without some emotional turmoil.

This new land is beautiful.  These people, my new family, are awesome!  I have no regrets in coming here.  The most difficult part is that it is unexpectedly more difficult than I ever imagined.  Before coming here I had friends, who have been through this type of move, tell me that I will at times feel like I'm on a honeymoon or vacation and then all at once I will go into a deep, dark depression.  I thought that was a little dramatic, but alas, I have already experienced some of that deep, dark depression.  It happens when I least expect it:  after family gatherings, driving home from work, watching a movie with my future husband and children.  It's the tiny things.  It's the lack of routine that leaves me feeling a little lost, it's the smidge of jealousy that we can so easily visit his family on a whim and I now have to plan months in advance to see mine.  It's the Fridays that I used to spend with my nephew, the birthday parties for my niece and nephews that I know I will miss, the date nights with my friends, the conversations I would be having at work if I were back there versus alone in my new office.  

I let these little things, these emotions I thought I had under control, get to me until I finally snapped and broke down with a box of Kleenex and cried the cry I reserve only for funerals.  I blubbered all of these seemingly simple things to my fiance who I thought for sure was thinking I was crazy or ungrateful, or worse, thinking that I didn't love him more than all of these things.  He didn't.  He listened.  He told me he already knew, that he could feel that I was struggling and was giving me the space he knew I needed until I was ready to talk about it.  He wasn't mad that I was sad.  He didn't think I was ridiculous for being a little jealous of him. He didn't counter my expression of frustration with, "Well, how do you think I feel?!" or "Do you think this is easy on me?!"

Earlier in this post I stated:  The Bible doesn't really touch on the emotional repercussions of this, good or bad.  That's not necessarily true.  During my little breakdown, my fiance said, "You know, this makes me understand that passage about newly married men not being allowed to go to a war for a year a whole lot better."  

What?  I paused, Kleenex in hand, dabbing my wet face, trying to preserve my eye make up, and thought, isn't this where he's supposed to hug me now?  Instead he grabbed his scriptures and opened to Deuteronomy 24:5:

(KJV) When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.
(NIV) If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.

Huh.  I can imagine that a young woman, newly married, in a new land, without her mommy and BFFs, would need some cheering up from time to time.  The fact that it was specifically commanded thousands of years ago that the husband's focus should be to cheer her up, to keep her company, to help her acclimate for an entire year is no accident.  It means this isn't supposed to be easy. I don't have to suck it up and figure it out.  It's okay to be heartbroken sometimes, even after a really fun day.

The best part is that my future husband knew right where this scripture was and I know he was thinking about it while I was revealing my emotional guts.  Not only that, but he said, "This is part of my responsibility.  To be here for you in this transition, to cheer you up."

You know those romantic movies where the guy swoops up the girl and kisses her in the rain?  This was way better than that.  Girls, ladies, women- don't settle for less than someone who will actually put you before himself.  Wait for the guy who legitimately gets to know you and who wants to know you.  Romance, love, or being treated like a Queen is not about jewelry, fancy dinners, and eloquent words.  It is being with someone who lets you cry until you sweat (yeah, I sweat when I cry, it's lovely) and hugs you anyway, tightly. Someone who doesn't care if you have to use your hand to wipe your drippy nose because you don't yet have a Kleenex.  It's about being able to truly be yourself, quirks and all.  It's about being with someone who takes care of you even when it's not easy and who feels responsible for making sure your relationship is successful.

I never imagined I would have this type of man.  I never thought I would feel about someone the way Charity Berwick feels about her husband.  Her posts about her husband always baffled me, until now.  My fiance and I are two totally different people with firm opinions and stubborn attitudes, there's a lot we don't agree on but we do agree on what it takes to have a successful relationship.  For him, one of those ways is to cheer his fiance up when she finds herself struggling to acclimate to a new life.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

On Picking Up and Moving

When I was 7 years old  my family traveled from our home in a suburb of Kansas City, MO to a tiny town in  the southwest corner of Missouri to celebrate Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family.  I didn't see Kansas City, my family, or my friends again until the following summer.  We stayed in that town, started school, and eventually my dad brought all of our belongings back from the only home I had known.

By summertime, we had moved to another town, significantly bigger than the first, but still substantially smaller than Kansas City.  The following summer was the first of many that my elder brother and I would spend a week with my grandparents and attend Bible school with the friends we had grown up with.  It was very confusing not only for me but for our friends and family too.  It was like we had disappeared.  We had been a fixture, a part of the community, and suddenly we were gone.  We picked up and moved.

When I was 7, I sat down with a pencil and a piece of paper and mapped out how old I would be in each grade level of school until I graduated from high school.  I discovered that I would be 17 when I would graduate and so on another sheet of paper I wrote, When I turn 17 I will move back to Kansas City.  
I still have that piece of paper.

Between the ages of 7 and 17 life was good and life was bad.  I adjusted to four new schools within a span of 10 months, eventually settling in a town I ended up disliking more than all the others.  I loved getting to know my mom's extended family better and building those relationships that are still strong today.  I enjoyed growing up in a town that allowed me to basically have a 1950s-esque childhood.  I loved that we lived within 8 miles of a State Park.  That park, it's hiking trails and natural beauty became my place of refuge during the bad times, until I could drive that is, and then NW Arkansas became my getaway.

When I was 17 I graduated from high school.  I was angry and didn't have a shred of self-esteem.  What I did have was a worn piece of paper with a goal written on it.  I had hope that my life could be different, that it could be peaceful and drama free. I also had a deep knowledge that God was with me all the time.  God had revealed his power to me in ways that no Sunday School lesson or sermon had ever fully explained.  So, armed with what I now know was the perfect amount of anger, a goal,   stubborn determination, some hope, and God on my side, I picked up and moved to Kansas City.

I lived off of graduation money for three months until I found a job.  I spent the last ten dollars of my graduation money on fuel the day I received my first pay check. Then I moved into my first apartment with my elder brother.  I was poor for the first three years, especially the first year.  I had an unreliable car.  After my bills were paid I usually had less than $10 to my name for the next two weeks.  I didn't eat on a regular basis because cutting out food wasn't noticeable to others. Taco Bell, it's sad to say, was my saving grace for a while.  On Tuesdays, the local Taco Bell had fifty cent soft tacos so  I would go and purchase enough to provide myself with two tacos a day for a week and I paid for the purchase with spare change. Any extra money went to making sure I had toiletries.  I purchased nice clothes from clearance racks, and always did my hair and make up so that no one would know I was struggling financially.  Interestingly enough, although I do not have those financial struggles anymore, food is usually the last thing I think about and I am rarely, if ever, seen without perfectly done make up and hair.

The past 11 years have been difficult and wonderful.  Kansas City was good to me.  I was financially poor for a few years but I had great friends.  My car was unreliable but I had a car at least and really great friends and family who helped me fix it or who would pick me up when I was stranded.  I was hungry and sick but I always had just enough.  I learned how to be frugal and how to determine need versus want.  Although I often had to choose between needs too, it shaped how I make financial decisions:  You can either afford it  or you can't.  If you can't, then you'll have to get over it.

Many of Kansas City's suburbs housed me for short periods of time until I finally settled in Overland Park, Kansas.  Kansas City is where I fell in love and where my heart shattered.  It is where I met most of my closest friends, who are now scattered all over the country.  It is where I learned how to forgive, to love on a different scale, and to give people the benefit of the doubt.  It is where I achieved the first goal I ever set:  to have a normal, drama free life.  Life, of course has provided plenty of opportunity for drama and things were definitely difficult, but long term drama is a choice and it is not something I chose.  It is also where my hard work paid off into a rewarding career that not only allowed me to take care of my needs and wants but to also give a hand up to others who were struggling financially like I was in the first few years of young adulthood.  

This post is not about Kansas City.  Kansas City is a place where I live that is full of people I love and memories and experiences I cherish.  Looking back, the goal I scrawled down when I was 7 wasn't really about Kansas City either; it was about getting back to my people.  I'm so glad that I made it back to renew those childhood relationships and that I created new relationships over the years too.  I'm glad I grew and worked through my anger.  I am glad I still have stubborn determination, hope, and God on my side. My life here has been happy.

One week from today, I will be driving away from everything and everyone I know to start a new life in Idaho.  All I can think about tonight is sitting in the passenger seat of my fiance's pick-up truck with all of my belongings in tow, and leaving the people who loved me here.  The people who in the early years made sure I never left a family event without the leftovers, because hard as I tried to prove otherwise, they knew I didn't have enough money for food.  The people who I stayed up all night playing cards with and then went to IHOP with for pancakes and coffee at 2 AM.  The people who sang and played music with me for hours.  The people who trusted me with their committees, their children, their weddings, their problems, their advice.

This next chapter of my life is exciting but tonight it's all  hitting me like a ton of bricks, not that I am losing or giving up all of this, rather it's the realization that I have been so extremely blessed.  I've been blessed with communities of people and with an incredible career and work family.  The extent of that blessing is overwhelming.

This time, instead of picking up and moving I've slowly said good-bye and have methodically packed.  Okay, okay, I'm still packing!

To "my people" I have loved you and always will.  I miss you already.  Thanks for loving me.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I wish

I am jealous of my six year old nephew.  I wish I were more like him.  He has the ability to freely express his love and gratitude.  Today, he ran across the church sanctuary, leaped up onto the pew I was standing in front of, then flung himself on to me and hugged me tightly.  I was talking to another adult at the time and most people in my situation probably would have scolded my nephew for running and leaping in church or for interrupting an adult conversation.  I didn't scold him.  I soaked in every second of his expression of love.  I held him tight and told him I loved him.  My adult conversation soon resumed but my nephew remained in my arms.

Later in the day I sat at my Aunt Janice's bedside.  I gently hugged her and told her that I loved her.  It was in a quiet moment between us when I realized I had too much to say and she was too tired to endure all I wanted to tell her. That's when I became jealous of my nephew.

I wish that every time I had spied my Aunt  from across the church sanctuary as a kid I would have run over and hugged her, but I was a timid child.  I waited until adults spoke to me and then I would politely respond.  I didn't leap or interrupt conversations.  I wish I had.

I wish I hadn't had to try to cram what my Aunt means to me on 5 sheets of pretty stationery.  I wish I hadn't thought I had plenty of time to express my love and gratitude toward her.  I wish I hadn't waited until two weeks before my move across the country and until she was in the late stages of cancer.

At the risk of sounding depressed and regretful, I want to say this:  I am thankful that I felt the urge to write her a letter this week, that I wrote it, and that I got to tell my wonderful, amazing, beautiful Aunt that she is all those things and more.  I am thankful that her children are my close friends.  I am thankful that she is one of my greatest role models in life.  She has been my biggest cheerleader, musically.  I love that she loves me and that even today, feeling fatigued and sick, she let me know that she's excited about my engagement.

If you are a random reader and don't know her, you should wish that you did.  Your life would have been 1000 times more awesome with her in it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Life in Boxes

I don't know if you have heard, but I'm moving to Idaho.  Oh, you haven't?  That's probably because I haven't written anything in a very long time!

Well, I'm moving to Idaho in about 45 days.  That one sentence means so much.  It means I'm leaving my friends, my family, my career, my favorite grocery store, my routine; it means I'm leaving everything.  I don't have time to dwell on that!  I have a wedding to finish planning and an apartment to pack up!  Plus, I'm gaining a husband, in-laws, two daughters, and mountains!

Speaking of packing, I started packing last night.  I've been gathering boxes from work and ended up with seven.  I was pretty impressed and thought of all the things I could strategically and efficiently place in those boxes.  I thought of the large dent I would make in packing and while I thought of that, I decided to pack up my books first.  Now, I'm completely out of boxes and I need at least one more to finish packing just the books that I own!  Today, I sent out a desperate email to my co-workers begging for boxes and ended up with two more as well as promises that more would be brought in.

It's interesting how perspective can change when I see my life in boxes.  I have moved a lot, every year for 8 years, but haven't moved for at least 2 1/2 years, which is a record for me.  I forgot how small I feel when my things are placed in boxes. When your pretty belongings are displayed and strategically placed it's easy to forget that they can simply fit into a box with other random stuff and be sealed away.  They aren't that important.    On the other hand, there are items I boxed up last night that I will legitimately miss seeing until they are finally unpacked. The prayer book that used to be my great-Grandfather's, for example, is one of those things.  I took for granted, until this morning that it's the last thing I see on my way out the door in the mornings.  Today, I missed it.

My life for the next 45 or so days will consist of arriving home from work and packing up my life and throwing things (lots of things) out.  It's a very exciting, happy, freeing, and terrifying time for me so I'm going to take it one box at a time.