Friday, January 29, 2016

My Dance with Anxiety

Last April I experienced my first ever panic attack and my first ambulance ride all in one night!  At the time I did not realize I was having a panic attack.  I was pretty sure that my throat was closing and I was having an allergic reaction.  After an exam at the hospital, paying over $1200 to the ambulance service, and a few tests, I was diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).  Lame. 

Yet, I further convinced myself that I was allergic to something.  Over the next few weeks I had a couple more panic attacks.  I also experienced the paranoia of not wanting to leave the house, because I felt safer at home and the food I knew.  I got why people stayed home, had amazingly irrational panicky thoughts, had trouble falling asleep, and realized just how exhausting anxiety was.

I started to see a psychologist and she recommended The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook.  This book helped me understand anxiety, since I really hadn't had it much in classic form.  It also taught me about what tools you could use to cope with the thoughts and sensations, etc.  Anxiety like this was so foreign to me.  I talked with close friends about their anxiety, but it was obviously more difficult experiencing it myself.  I was used to episodes of exploding (which was probably repressed anxiety).  I wasn't proud of those moments, but I knew them.  I knew the consequences and how to ask for forgiveness for those times. 

I also started taking medication for the anxiety (generic Zoloft).  Those of you that take medicine like this know it takes a few weeks to really start to work.  Thankfully, I have an AMAZING husband who was so patient, kind, understanding, and loving as I walked through this period.  He was there during each of my panic attacks and helped me through them without judgment.  I was embarrassed during them and frustrated at the same time though.

So, I write this experience because I learned a few things about myself and to encourage those with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issue.  I don't know if you feel it, but I know I do and some of my friends do too...the feeling of the stigma that is still out there with mental health.  I honestly only shared what I was going through with those I knew for certain would not judge me.  I was dealing with so much, I couldn't handle processing and forgiving other people's judgments too.

Although, I loathe panic attacks and am not fond of the experience I've gone through over the last year, I did learn that I need to take care of myself.  The Type-A helper that I am consistently puts tasks and people before myself.  I will forego eating until after I have finished all the tasks in my mind that "need" to be done and get everything for everyone else.  This causes me to be hangry A LOT.  I used to just explode at my poor children and husband, but since I gave birth to the cutest baby ever born, my anxiety has turned into straight anxiety.  

Walking has also become a wonderful tool for me.  It helps rid of built up anxiety, as well as makes my rear end a little perkier. ;)  I've laid off drinking so much bloody caffeine.  It's not helpful when I'm juiced up on coffee and not eating.  My blood sugar drops and the phobia, the anxiety starts to build.  Stretching, yoga, and meditating have also helped me through some of the toughest days.  

Now, hear me, it's not because I was NOT doing all these things that I had panic attacks.  They could have helped initiate them, but there are so many factors to mental health.  Sometimes life is just crappy and you have to have a freaking panic attack.  

Today I am on Day 7 of weaning off my anxiety medicine.  If I don't have to take it, I'd like not to, but I have no shame on taking it for the rest of my life, if need be.  We treat our emotional and especially our physical health daily with no qualms, and my brain is just as much as a part of me as anything else.  People with mental health diagnosis, symptoms, or issues are no less strong or capable than those without.  We are all different and experience life differently.  

There is no shame.

My heart goes out to those of you that experience these things in such a deeper, stronger way.  You are so brave and so amazing that you carry on life every day despite the continual energy you have to use to work through your thoughts and emotions.  You are great mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, coworkers, friends, leaders....I know you probably don't feel exceptional very often, but working through adversity with honesty and grace builds such richness and meaning to life.

Thanks (in a weird way) , Anxiety, for helping me see life in a different way.

Friday, February 13, 2015

50 Shades of Frustration

The facts.

1.  I read the first one, because I read ALL types of books, and because the lady at ALDI said I reminded her of the Anastasia (most likely because I'm naive and I don't fix my hair often.  So very often.).

2.  I have recently developed a crush on the man playing the main guy.  But I prefer him as a serial killer with a beard and an Irish accent.  It's true.

3.  The book is shocking, and a bit gross.  It is poorly written.  The only reason it gained such popularity is because it talks about things like vagina balls or something...  Gag me.

4.  If you read the book, you at some point thought, "Dear God, where is the dialogue?"  The sex gets a bit overdone.  I mean anything in excess can drive you mad, even sex.

So...Even with my recent crush, I will not go see this movie.  One, because I have no idea how it will actually be a rated-R movie.  Two, because I honestly don't want to see other people get it on that much in that many ways that quite frankly embarrass me and make me vomit a little bit.

I know people are outraged because of the demeaning ways that the story supposedly puts on Anastasia.  Yes, the binding and supremacy thing does treat a woman in a disrespectful and oppressive way.  Even though there is an EXCESS of sex in this book, Anastasia chooses a relationship with Christian.  He keeps telling her not to get mixed up with him, but of course she does.

If you have read the book, the "possessive" nature of Christian is SO MUCH like the whole Twilight series.  How many of you read those books??  And Christian and Anastasia DO have a relationship.  Probably one focused too much on her enlightenment of "non-vanilla" sex.  Yet, what gets me, is why isn't there this much protest about any Bond movie or almost every other movie that makes women sex-toys, idolizes the beautiful bodies we have, and forgets about the minds that we do happen to possess?

Throughout the story of Christian and Anastasia, you hope for some redemption for Christian and his skewed view of making love and relationships.  He has an awful childhood and was introduced to this demented path of sexual pleasure when he should have been protected.  And Anastasia does lay down the law from time to time.  She also signed a contract and willingly entered into this strange relationship, and finally leaves when it is too much.

The love that Christian and Anastasia have is pretty messed up, but quite honestly, they HAVE a relationship where other movies promote promiscuity of women and USE them in so many ways.  When has Bond ever committed to any long-lasting relationship?  Women become whores and men become players.  Women have to keep looking twenty-five where men can grow old, own a Playboy mansion and enterprise and still marry twenty-five year-olds.  Women are called psycho when they show some sort of passionate rage because their man cheated on them...and oh wait, they had kids too.  Women are considered "tough to work with" or "crazy" because they are strong-willed and opinionated.

All this to say, I think we need to remain consistent, people.  50 Shades does not show the intimate and sacred love that two people should share, but it does make an attempt.  It's supposed to be shocking.  But where are our voices when there are so many other attempts to oppress women or skew the private love-lifes of couples?

Maybe we could focus all this energy on those women who really are oppressed and could use our voices because they have none left?

And you know what...50 Shades LOVES all this negative press...because it will help publicize their work and get many more interested.  What if we just ignored it and acted like it doesn't really matter?  Because, does it?  What matters are all those African girls who were kidnapped.  Remember them?  Where is their choice?  You think they care about a story like this?  Because that's what it is, a story.  A story that we could simply ignore.  It's kinda like being outraged about yoga pants.  I get it...but seriously?  Yoga pants?

So help me God do we ever focus on trivial matters.  If you're against the movie, don't go see it.  Tell your friends and children to refrain from doing so...but maybe we could use this movie as a reminder to use our voices, our energy, our wealth, our position to help actual people who are being tortured, bonded, and oppressed.  Just maybe.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Daily Advent Ideas 2014

Several years ago I searched for things to do with my kids during the Season of Advent.  I didn't want to just give them a piece of candy every day counting down the days to Christmas.  Some years will be easier to do this than others.  Some years we do very little, and fortunately, last year we were able to commit to doing something most of the days.

The first Advent Sunday is this coming Sunday, the 30th.  Below are some ideas for your advent calendar.  I write these on little pieces of paper, and the boys pull them out each day to see what we will do.  I do a few of them several times (i.e. watch a movie) throughout the calendar.

Make an Advent Wreath & light the candles accordingly
Make a Snowman
Celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas on Dec. 6th. Great ideas here.
Make a Gingerbread House
Watch a Christmas Movie
Make Cookies (to give to neighbors)
Get a Surprise (see explanation below**)
Take food to a pantry or collection center
Drive around to look at Christmas lights
Make Art relating to Advent (we taped Hope on a paper & colored all around the tape & removed it)
Make Eggnog
Write Christmas cards
Paint ornaments
Have children buy/make each other a gift
Play a game together
Write & preform a play (or poetry, reading night)
Volunteer at a food pantry, soup kitchen, etc...
Make Snowflakes
Make or write Christmas cards
Attend Candlelight Service
Wrap Presents

This year, I was inspired by an article written by a fellow mother of boys who has begun to ask family and friends to spend money gifts on experiences and quality time with her boys.  We only see our family once or twice a year, so what a lasting impression for them to possess.  I hope that maybe next year we can fully embrace this.

**So...we generally do not give our kids Christmas gifts.  I know that sounds sacrilegious, but our kids are pretty bombarded with gifts every year from grandparents and aunts and uncles.  And then their birthdays are in January and March, so it is what it is.  This being said, during Advent, I buy a few, small gifts to give to them as a surprise.  They really like receiving these small presents, and I enjoy them enjoying them without the monstrosity of presents at Christmas.

Doing these activities during Advent also provide great opportunities each week for them to be reminded why we celebrate Christmas.  I bore them with the deep significance of Hope and Love and Giving, but it makes me feel good that I'm at least speaking these words into the air.  I, at least, get a lot out of my talks.  It really has been fun when we have been able to do it.

So, happy Advent to all and may the season be full of love and warm memories.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Never a Masterpiece

Many know of my bit of obsession with reading.  According to Goodreads I have read seventy-six books to date.  That's three shy of the total books I read last year.  Obviously I possess no other hobby or purpose other than reading...Just don't tell my family.

Most of the books I read are either young adult, classics, memoirs, or other miscellaneous fiction.  As I read the more distinguished, well-written books, it becomes more apparent that I will eternally fail at writing.  Steinbeck and Hemingway write with such simplicity and eloquence that I am mystified how to ever write a novel.  The Brontë sisters brood with darkness and heartache.  Jane Austen, witty and a feminist ahead of her time.  Anne Lamott and Maya Angelou depict their honest stories of lives for meaningful and heartwarming tales.  Oh, how I love to read.

Most times when I read I book, I look at the history of the lives of the authors.  And time and time again, these amazing people have such heartbreaking, troubled lives.  I just began reading The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.  She was twenty-three when she published this debut novel.  Twenty-freakin-three.  What was I accomplishing at 23 you ask?  Hmm...I was finishing a college degree that I will never use for its specific purpose (International & European Studies...I know.  Oh, I know.), married for three years (maybe that's my tale of woe?  Just kidding...well, maybe.  No really, not woe, but...um...wow.), living in a town of fifteen-hundred, I think babysitting two, cute, little girls for a living, and definitely not writing my debut novel that some will refer to as my "finest work, and an enduring masterpiece." 

Yet, our poor Miss McCullers dies at the age of fifty (just eighteen years away for me).  She suffers from several illnesses, seizures, and from alcoholism.  She attempted suicide at least once, and her husband unfortunately succeeded in his attempt.  According to Wikipedia by the age of 31 her left side was entirely paralyzed.

I honestly am happy with my ordinary journey in life, and as I reflect on the tragic lives of these treasured artists, I am quite sure I would choose ordinary over ingenious.  I do, however, cherish these books.  I more often than not desire to read a book than spend time with others (a bit brutal, I know...but seriously, I've read 76 books, what do you expect?).  I love being consumed with the stories and finding how the book comes together at last.  It's my own sense of high when I complete yet another book.  I also respect the lives these greats seem to sacrifice to bring us works that others will never come close to accomplishing.  Their addictions, their mental illnesses, their inability to sustain relationships.  I ache for their pain and worship their skill.  

So, here I write and acknowledge that I will never grace the society of these great authors of our time and those who have journeyed before us.  I suppose I may attempt my hand at a book one day, but my hope is that I never suffer the tragedies and illnesses to become great and remembered.  Despite what American ideals want us to become the best and exceptional, I believe that just maybe being ordinary and happy will suffice.   

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Where to Begin With Foster Care or How to Support Those That Foster

FOSTERING

If you are interested in fostering, it is a process.  Paperwork, background checks, fingerprints, home inspections, and interviews.  It can be a lot, but it is not anything out of the ordinary.  They just want to make sure the children are coming into a safe, caring home.  You don't have to be the best housekeeper or rich or knowledgeable in all things kids.  You can be single, young, old, black, white.  Doesn't matter.

You make a call or email, and then the agency will probably send packet of information and then a "Recruiter" to talk to you about fostering and the steps involved.  After that a Licensing Worker will begin the process of gathering your life history and family information (interviewing, paperwork).  The Licensing Worker will be the person that walks with you throughout the whole process of being licensed.  They will inform you of all the needed information and requirements for your home.  You will have time to gather and prepare your home.  Do not think that everything has to be in order when they first visit.

This worker will also be the one that continues to make sure that you receive all the training hours after being licensed (30 hours every 2 years) and that your home continues to meet their requirements (usually biggest changes needed: huge fire extinguisher & medicine put up and locked away).  They have quarterly visits to ensure this.

During the time of gathering your life history (not as thorough as it sounds - mostly them interviewing), financial information, etc...you will be required to attend foster training called STARS.  This is the training you are to receive BEFORE becoming foster parents.

RESPITE CARE & KINSHIP 

You can also become licensed to do "Respite Care."  This is where you would keep the children for a day or two, so that the foster parents can get a break, or they can attend mandatory events of life and such.  I have been told that the training for this is much less.  I am sure it depends on the agency, but I believe that Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association provides a shorter training for Respite Providers (the term given to people licensed that do Respite).  Foster Care training for family members, also called Kinship, (meaning you want to foster someone that is related to you) also requires less training hours.

WAYS TO SUPPORT FOSTER FAMILIES

Bringing in foster children is like bringing home a new baby.  The parents are trying to establish routines, trying to understand this new creature in their home, and finding ways to communicate and love this person...and manage the rest of life.  So, you know that the first two weeks will be insane.  Just think of simple ways that would relieve some of that stress.

Babysit their foster children for a few hours
Make a meal
Donate or loan toys or clothes for the kids
Pick up needed items at the grocery store for them
Run simple errands

FOSTER CARE LINKS
Kansas City Area

Below are agencies to check out about being a foster parent or supporting foster children (the agencies have ways to support without being licensed).  I would recommend going through other agencies before the Children's Division (CD).  The CD is a big mess right now, and the other agencies cover many children that come into care through the CD.  We are licensed through the CD, but it has been a lovely, frustrating journey.  Here they are:

Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association

Missouri Baptist Children's Home

Cornerstones of Care

Jackson County Children's Division

Yes, Foster Care is not for everyone, but I do think that people brush it off more quickly than they should.  It does involve us sacrificing some things and entering into a new world, but it is very much worth it.  I also have some other posts about foster care, you may be interested in.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best Advice of 2013

Trying to reflect before this year officially ends on our calendar.  2013 has been an awful year for some that I know.  For me it's been decent.  We've had some very, difficult times, and we've had some pretty fun times.  Thankfully, the year is ending on a pleasant note.

I don't think this is some big revelation, but it all made sense for me this year.  My dear friend Kim and I solve all the world's problems usually once a week at dinner, and currently the location is Cheddar's.  We hash through our own frustrations and perspectives and enlightenments.  We have a good time and leave will bellies full of onion rings and hearts a little more relaxed.

Kim has processed through a lot of life throughout the last couple of years.  Luckily, I have been along side this journey, and I have learned a lot.  I will try to explain the piece of advice that has moved me most.  When there is a conflict or tension among people, she has basically said, "it's the person's issue."  In other words, if someone is holding on to something (an idea, feeling, belief) and it's causing dissension, they are choosing to do that.  We have all heard that we cannot change people, and we all mentally know it's true.  I think we hope though (at least I do) that something we say or do will help them change.  But it's really on their timing and when it all clicks and if they choose to do so.

It's the same with me (us).  Many times I have tried to be this super-loving, super-supportive, and super-understanding person (and this is just one of my issues).  I just can't be that all the time.  I seriously want to save the world sometimes (no, this is not noble).  It's not healthy for me or for others.  I also cannot expect those who I am being this for to appreciate it or want it.  Time and time again I try to be helpful, but one - the person really doesn't want to be helped and two - I'm not really listening to what the person is really saying.  People are people.  Most of the time we have no idea why we are doing what we are doing.  I mean really, really know why.

So, many of the issues we have with each other and circumstances are of our own creation or someone else's.  It's not something worth dwelling on.  Not something to hold against.  It is what it is.  But to know that I am imperfect and to forgive myself.  To know that others may not choose to forgive me or understand me, but to be okay with that.  Time does change us.  Time will heal.  Life is not worth pleasing those who cannot be pleased.  Encouraging those that don't want to be encouraged.  They will find their way, at their own pace, and it's not my responsibility to make sure they find that path.  I have my own issues to deal with.  And I have those in my "village" to help me through these faults and love me despite them.

I am not saying to mark all those off that you have a disagreement with.  We are not to have hate for these people, but to know that we cannot change them.  We cannot be who they want us to be.  The purpose of this reflection is not to remove people from my life.  It is to come to acceptance that we all got crap, and that's okay.  I have found much freedom and peace when I choose to just let this stuff be.  Not to be walked over, but not to try to force others to change either.  Yes, there is time for assertiveness, but also time to just let it go.

Along with these thoughts in mind, I have a reflection for the new year.  Bitterness is a good friend of mine.  It sneaks out at times and surprises me, as well as others.  I hope that in this new year, I can sit with my bitterness and figure out what the root is.  To acknowledge it for what it is and move on.  To be more quick to meditate than to act.  I know I will fail and hold hands with this friend many, many times, but one day it will be easier to just be content.  Just to be at peace.  And just to forgive.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Top 12 Books Read in 2013

So...I may not have accomplished a lot in 2013, but I did read like it was going out of style.  From January to December of 2013, I have read around 80 books.  Most of them are fiction, but I don't consider books written by Hemingway, Steinbeck, , etc., really "novels."  Maybe we'll call them "epics" or "legendaries" or "makes me a lot smarters."  Of these 80ish books, I have read a few more than 10 non-fiction books.  Most of them well worth the read.  So, I will not include them in my Top 12, but I have included most of them below the list.


1.  East of Eden by John Steinbeck (thick book about California, a history of families - including references to Steinbeck's - reenacting the fall of Adam & Eve/Cain & Abel.  Seriously amazing)

2.  Sanctuary by William Faulkner (wrote As I Lay Dying, but this one is easier to follow)

3.  The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway  (uh...it's Hemingway.  Great writer.  Sad life.)

4.  In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck (1st of his "worker" books - Of Mice and Men & The Grapes of Wrath, I just like this one the most)

5.  One Hundred Years of Solitude by

6.  Blindness by






  Life and Death are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan (it's a commitment, but curiously funny - he won the Nobel Prize in Lit last year)

11Tinkers by Paul Harding (a long rambling between time frames of a man dying & his life - a Faulkner feel)

12.  Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper (a perspective of a girl, Melody, who has Cerebral Palsy)


Nonfiction/Memoirs  

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christian Debate by Justin Lee

Bad Habits: Confessions of a Recovering Catholic by Jenny McCarthy

Why We Can't Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns?) by Mindy Kaling (The Office chick)

Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It) by Robert D. Lupton

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout (Africa was calling my name this year)

Keeping Hope Alive: One Woman: 90,000 Lives Changed by Hawa Abdi (and again)

Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa by Dambisa Moyo (and again)

If It Were Easy, They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon... by Jenna McCarthy (take note of the "a" in her first name.  It truly was a pleasant surprise when our book club read this one)

My Whisper From God: A Heartfelt Testimony of Hope, Strength and Triumphs by Rachelle Law (works with Robbie)

On the Road by Jack Kerouac (a bit psychotic - a lot of rock legends love this book...hmmm...)

Aaahhh....Enjoy.