Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rough Start, Happy Ending

I had a rough morning. It started with the migraine starting to creep back. I went downstairs to make myself some breakfast so I could take some Excedrin with food (I've learned the hard way that if I don't eat first, the medicine doesn't work). I sat on the couch and booted up my laptop -- and nothing. The laptop wouldn't boot up. I tried all of the tricks in my bag, but nothing got my laptop running. Then when I went to put my laptop away and go to my office to start work, I knocked over my full water cup onto the carpet in the living room.

Not a great way to start the day!

Part of it, I'm sure, is I'm feeling negative about Halloween. And as I keep preaching, negativity breeds negativity.

But after working for a few hours, my headache subsided. Then I got my brother on the phone and we did some troubleshooting together. He thought we should try replacing the memory. The laptop has two memory sticks, so even though I knew all the symptoms pointed to memory failure, I thought no way could BOTH memory sticks go out at the same time. Drew theorized that one might have gone out a while ago when I was having similar problems, and then the second one just bit the dust today. So he, on his day off of work, went and bought new memory for my laptop and drove it up to my house. We put the two new memory sticks in, and voila! My laptop works.

Hooray for my awesome brother! What would I do without his tech support and willingness to drive 30 miles at the drop of a hat? Oh, and he brought me a belated birthday gift, too -- a beautiful hand-tie-dyed shirt he bought for me during a trip to Telluride.

I'm still having a hard time with this holiday. But we're going to go see a movie tonight to try to get our minds off of it. As long as I can just keep my mind out of negative places, I know I'll be okay.

Meanwhile, my sweet friend who I met through our mutual loss (she lost her first child to SIDS), gave birth to her third child today. If that's not cause for celebration, I don't know what is. Welcome to the world, baby Mikayla!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Quiet Time

I woke up with a migraine yesterday morning. It's a monthly visitor now. Every 4 weeks, almost to the day, the migraine camps out in my head for a day or two. Yesterday was the worst yet.

It started out pretty normal, a throbbing pain behind my left eye and low-level nausea. I drank some coffee and forced down a granola bar, because caffeine and food usually help. And the migraine stayed at the level where I could function...

Until about 10am. Then my head split in two and I couldn't even hold water down. I brought my work laptop to bed, closed the blinds and put an eye mask on, only peeking at my computer every so often to see if anyone needed anything. I answered emails, I responded to basic requests, but I let the back-burner stuff stay on the back-burner. And there I stayed until 4:30pm, when the pain finally began to subside. My manager told me today, "I knew something was up when your instant messenger was on Do Not Disturb." But she knows me, and she knows if I'm online, I'm working.

You're wondering why I didn't take the day off of work, aren't you? Well, today I'm wondering the same thing. The company will survive without me for 8 hours, I  know this. But my work ethic makes it impossible for me to take a sick day when I am still capable of seeing the computer screen and typing on a keyboard. I work from home, so I feel like I have no excuse for sick days unless I'm in the hospital. But today I'm clear-headed and kind of kicking myself for not taking the day off. Nothing came up that I couldn't wait a day to respond to.

I think that's why layoffs hit employee morale so hard. When we work to make ourselves invaluable, when we work when we're sick, we think there is no way the company would let us go. We're too important. And then someone on our team gets laid off, and we absorb their work and keep going, and we wonder if hard work really keeps us safe. After all, I'm not a rocket scientist -- someone else can figure out how to do what I do.

Up and down. Your self esteem goes from invaluable to worthless. Doing your job is like a lesson in bi-polar disorder.

Layoffs at my company come from several levels above us, from people that don't know us and don't know what we do. I told my manager today, "How can we make ourselves valuable employees when we don't know how those higher-ups are making their decisions?" So we scramble. We do what we think they want us to do, so we don't get laid off. We work when we are sick.

And now you're wondering why I don't leave. Why someone like me, with a marketable skillset, doesn't just go freelance full-time or start my own company. Why put up with that? And I've got one word for you: comfort. I like knowing when my paychecks are coming. I like having medical insurance I can count on. I like knowing that if I do get sick, it won't impact my bottom line.

But growth doesn't come from a comfortable place, now, does it? Growth comes from churned soil. So I'm not in a growth stage right now. I'm in a dormant stage -- a seed stage. That used to be the last place I wanted to be. I'll take growth over dormancy any day. But right now, it's good. Right now, I'm enjoying it. Right now, my husband and I are benefiting from some quiet time.

But like any seed, I'll sprout eventually. I'm curious to see what comes from this soil. I bet it'll be fantastic.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Rake's Progress

My mom drove up yesterday for a girls' afternoon.

First stop: Cold Stone Creamery. I got completely overwhelmed by all the choices, so I got my usual mint chocolate chip. And then I kicked myself because there were ten other combinations I wanted to try. I guess that's human nature in action. Give us too many choices and we panic and go with the safe bet. Time is such a precious commodity -- I don't like to waste it on "the usual." I was seriously mad at myself for picking the wrong stupid ice cream. But I think it was a micro example of a macro problem in my life right now -- in other words, it wasn't about the ice cream. It was about me feeling frozen in my life and making "safe" choices.

Ha! A psychology lesson from ice cream. Aren't you guys just continually amazed at where I pull my life lessons from?

So after our ice cream break, we headed to Macky Auditorium in Boulder to see The Rake's Progress. It's an opera written by Igor Stravinsky in the mid-20th century, based on a series of paintings by William Hogarth. The libretto was written by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman -- and I have never been to an opera before, so I didn't know this, but the "libretto" is the text/lyrics. My friend and former piano teacher, Heather, was the stage manager for this production. It was an AMAZING show. Three hours long and I didn't fall asleep, so I'd say that's pretty amazing.  LOL. Really, though, the singers' voices were unbelievable! And the story was powerful...

The Rake's Progress follows Tom Rakewell and his decline and fall from love into madness. The moral is, For idle hearts and hands and minds the Devil finds a work to do. However, the line I most remember from the epilogue is, Not every man is given an Anne to take the place of duty. In essence, Tom didn't want to work, he just wanted money -- and the devil granted him that wish. But human beings were put here to fulfill a purpose, and without a purpose we fall. Anne never gave up on Tom, right up until the end when he went mad and no longer knew who she was -- but not every man is granted a woman (and vice versa) so faithful, that would continue to love him even as he gives in to the devil.

I've lived through that. From both sides. I've been the one that stuck around when my partner lost himself -- and I've been the one who got lost while her partner stuck by her. It's a powerful thing, to look at your partner and know what they went through and that they loved you enough to stay. I know there are people out there who take advantage of that loyalty, but Jeremy and I treasure it. That's what keeps us strong in our marriage. We treasure each other for what we have given to one another.

In my Wednesday night Bible study, Beth Moore talks about how we "treasure" memories -- we hold onto powerful memories and those memories define us. But a lot of the time those memories are not good. We treasure terrible events, we hold them to our hearts and we don't let them go and we let them define us. She challenges us to look at what we're treasuring, and if it's bad, replace it with a positive memory. That's something I have been unconsciously doing since February -- when the pain of loss threatens to rip my heart to shreds, I look at my husband and remember everything he's done for me and given to me. It helps more than anything else. So I think Beth Moore's advice is really, really sound.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Mother's Love

I made quiche last night for dinner. Two quiches, in fact. One with ham, jalapenos and extra onion for Jeremy, and one with just cheese and light onion and jalapeno for me. I was going to use a recipe from a cookbook, but then I remembered the quiche my mom makes. So I gave her a call.

My mom gave me her quiche recipe, and that's the one I used last night. It turned out perfectly. Jeremy ate his entire 9-inch quiche in one sitting.

Every recipe that I use that Jeremy loves is from my mom. The beauty of this doesn't escape me. I feel so crazy lucky that I have a mother who is willing and able to share such things with me.

When Scarlett was old enough, my mom started teaching her the same songs, dances and games that she taught me when I was little. I loved watching how excited my daughter got, and how much fun she had with her Gramz. And it was a vivid reminder how much my mom's time and love mattered to me when I was a child -- and still matters to me today. I knew that if I could be half as great a mom to Scarlett as my mom was to me, my daughter would grow up to be something spectacular.

My mom taught me how to cook (even if I wasn't paying attention until now). She taught me how to set a table. She encouraged my writing more than anyone else in my life ever has. She forgave me immediately when I faltered. She praised me when I made good decisions. She's the first person I call when I have any kind of news, and her opinion is the first I seek out when I'm wavering on something. When Scarlett died, my mom arranged everything -- she made the appointment with the funeral home and cemetery, she called the company I work for to let them know what had happened, she kept track of all the million little details that Jeremy and I would have to deal with.

My dad lost his mother when he was 23. So I know, deeply, how lucky I am to have my mom at 33. And I'm doubly lucky that I have a mom who is so caring and generous.

So when I'm feeling down, when my recent loss is weighing heavy on me, and I'm trying to pull myself out of it by thinking of all the things I'm grateful for, my mom is always on that list.

As Jeremy and I build our family -- and we WILL build our family -- the things I learned from my mom will serve me well as a mother. But I have no doubt she still has a lot to teach me.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Spinny

Wow. I am just plain off my game this week.

I've had a really hard time getting up at my normal hour because it's dark outside now. So I've been sleeping about a half hour later than usual, which only gives me enough time to get my coffee and get settled in before my work day starts. I usually watch a sermon online or listen to a spiritual speaker first thing in the morning, because I like the tone it sets for my day. But I haven't had time the last few mornings.

I've kept up on my Bible reading plan, though. I'm determined to complete it within a year. I just finished Jeremiah and Lamentations and started Ezekiel. So far, Ezekiel is interesting. Jeremiah (aka "The Weeping Prophet") sounded like the guy you see on the street corner shouting "Repent! The world is ending!" And Lamentations was pretty much the same deal. Ezekiel, however, has some really interesting visions going on. He talks about angels with 4 faces -- human, ox, eagle and lion. And I remember in college learning about medieval manuscript illumination, and how the artists would depict the Four Evangelists like this:

Matthew = man
Mark = lion
Luke = ox
John = eagle

That's pretty cool, if you ask me.

In more secular news, the end of the fiscal year at the computer corporation I work for at my day job just happened to coincide with Microsoft's launch of Windows 8. So between trying to get all of our expiring product promotions down off the web, getting the new ones up, and getting our web assets compliant with Microsoft requirements, my head is spinny.

The good part about being crazy busy with technical stuff is the days fly by.  Which is why I'm writing this post so late in the day.

My little 1-yr-old niece has been in and out of the hospital with some unknown illness for the last few days. I'm sure it's nothing -- I'm sure she's just got some bug and she'll be fine soon. But Jeremy and I are shaking in our boots. We never used to worry about losing someone, but now...

I'm looking forward to making quiches for dinner and spending some quality couch-time with my sweet husband tonight. My brain needs a break.

And any of you that pray, please do so a LOT next week. Jeremy and I are taking the next step with our fertility treatments.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Creativity and Mental Illness

Bear with me. I'm on a brain science kick today.

Creativity comes from noticing patterns and making connections from those patterns. The people we consider geniuses are able to pick up on patterns that normal people miss.

Levels of dopamine in the brain determine our ability to notice patterns. Low levels of dopamine mean we don't see a pattern -- we don't connect the rustling bush to a predator behind it. High levels of dopamine mean we see patterns everywhere -- paranoia abounds.

Many mental illnesses manifest with increased levels of dopamine. So there is a very clear relationship between mental illness and creativity. We all know plenty of examples of mentally ill geniuses -- John Nash, Vincent van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, and Beethoven come to mind. And most treatments for mental illness drastically lower the levels of dopamine in the brain. So mentally-ill creative people often don't want to take their prescribed medication because it affects their creativity. And you end up with people with out-of-control symptoms, or depressed and non-functional on their medication. I read more and more these days about doctors looking for more symptom-specific treatment plans which I personally think is going to revolutionize our world. I mean, imagine these geniuses unhindered by the negative side effects of their mental condition but with fully-functioning creativity!

I took an anti-depressant for post-partum depression. And I couldn't write. It sent me into a much deeper depression than the one I was being treated for. Luckily, the PPD went away on its own, so when I got off the meds I was fully-functional and back to my old creative self. But I really was one of the lucky ones.

I know some people who aren't that lucky. Who can't go a day without meds, but their meds make them incapable of functioning at their highest level. My heart breaks for them, and I hope the scientific community can make leaps and bounds in treatment soon.

What got me on this train of thought was first an article posted by a friend on Facebook about the link between creativity and mental illness. And then immediately after seeing that, I saw an article from Penelope Trunk talking about something similar. Penelope suffers from Aspergers, but is able to see patterns in our culture that most people miss.

I don't see patterns so easily. But I hear them, to my detriment. If there is any pattern in an audial experience, my ears pick up on it quickly and my brain can never tune it out. People's speech patterns are often like this. I have a really hard time listening to certain people speak because of patterns in their delivery or vocals -- I can't hear a word they're saying because my brain is so focused on the patterns. I sleep with white noise at night, but I have to constantly change the delivery system (different audio tracks on my iPod, white noise machines, fans, whatever) because my ears will pick up on subtle rhythms and my brain gets completely focused on them. I can't do any kind of focused work if I hear music with lyrics -- I can only listen to instrumental music while I'm working.

And this gets me thinking that creativity and brain function aren't strictly limited or driven by chemicals like dopamine. Rather, those chemicals influence us, but our individual natures then translate them.

I love science so much. Especially brain science. But you have to apply individual nature to any kind of theory. There are exceptions to every rule. And as we get more and more scientific in our outlook on this world and our experience here, I think we need to maintain that understanding.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Accomplishments During the In-Between Time

For a long time I have struggled with not "accomplishing" anything in this in-between time.

Going from being childless to having a child was such a huge transition, and I gave up many of my hobbies and peripheral pursuits to concentrate on my daughter. I didn't even flinch at the sacrifice.

But after losing my daughter, I was thrust back into the realm of childlessness. Suddenly I had too much time on my hands. I tried adding back in my old hobbies and interests -- but if I'm being honest, they all flopped. I think I've done one painting since February. I've hiked one time. I only pulled out my camera on one occasion. Yoga classes have been few and far between. And my big goal of finishing the first draft of a new novel by winter... well, let's just say I'm way behind schedule.

I've realized that even though from the outside I look like I'm back in the land of the childless, I am not really childless. My child is just in my heart and not in my arms. I'm not the same person I was before I had Scarlett. My life isn't the same. My marriage isn't the same. My desires aren't the same.

I've stopped trying to force my life back to what it was. The last remnants of that battle are in this feeling of needing to accomplish something before I have a child again. I feel I need to take advantage of this downtime.

I was thinking about that this morning while my coffee was brewing. I stood on the deck, taking in the sunrise and talking to God, and I got an answer. I am spending this time getting to know God.

That's a pretty big accomplishment, actually. Going from a life of seeking the Spirit but never really finding Him where I was looking, praying for some kind of communication from a power above that could see things more clearly than I could -- going from that to having a true relationship with God -- that's huge.

I searched for God throughout my entire life. I dabbled in every religion, tried different spiritual groups, prayed every way I knew how. But it wasn't until I opened the Bible and started reading from page 1 that I understood the truth.

God was always there.

He was there when I made mistakes. He was there when I cried. He was there when I got married. He was there when I had my daughter. And He was there when she died.

I never needed to seek Him. I just needed to see Him, to know He is always there, never turns His back, is ready to catch me when I fall.

I worried that I'd have regrets about this in-between time. That years from now, I'd look back on this time between children and think, I could have done this or that, but instead I sat around reading and watching TV with Jeremy.

But reading is teaching me about God's promises and about His character. And the time on the couch with Jeremy is helping us knit our wounds alongside each other, so that we grow together from this and not apart.

This time in between is not wasted. Because from this point on I will have my eyes, ears and heart open to God. I will never have to seek Him again because He's part of my very existence. He's part of every moment of every day.

I'll never regret that.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Difference Between Rude and Hurting

I've been tallying up the responses to my Brain Disease Pandemic post a few days ago. The consensus seems to be that people just don't care anymore.

At first I thought this was a really sad reflection of the state of our world, our culture, our way of relating to one another. But as I was thinking about what I was going to write here in this post, I got an overwhelming need to write a different kind of message.

I remember the weeks following Scarlett's death. I couldn't concentrate on anything. I didn't care if the waitress was rude or nice to me. I didn't care if the car in front of me was going 20 miles an hour under the speed limit, or if I was that annoying car. I didn't care how I came across to people. I wasn't concerned with anyone else. In fact, I didn't drive for about a week -- Jeremy drove me anywhere I needed to go. I was scared I wouldn't pay enough attention to the road.

For a while after that, I was more sensitive to other people's state of mind. When someone was being rude, flaky or idiotic, I thought to myself, Maybe they lost someone too.

That all faded over time. But I remember it.

And maybe I was right in the first place. Maybe that's why it seems like every time I go out in public, I'm assaulted by the rude, oblivious habits of other people. Because maybe those other people are going through something. Maybe not a death, but maybe they lost their job. Or their spouse did. Maybe they're having trouble making ends meet. Maybe their child got into drugs. Maybe they're battling depression.

I try not to judge other people. But obviously I'm not perfect. Because when I wrote that post on Sunday, I was judging away. And granted, maybe some of those people really did get dropped on their heads as children (ahem neighbors) -- but I would bet at least some of them had a very good reason for acting the way they did. And hopefully the next time I feel the need to rant and rave about other people's rudeness, I'll remember that time in my life where my own manners didn't matter at all either.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kick Fear

I was at a party recently where we were talking about the Jessica Ridgeway tragedy. It hit too close to home for all of us. Literally, since it happened in our state (and only a few miles from my home) -- and figuratively since I have lost a child and most of the women at this party were friends of mine that knew Scarlett.

One of the women shared that her worst fear is to be kidnapped and killed, and the conversation shifted to self-defense. But while we were talking about stranger danger and tasers, my mind was going in a different direction.

I have no worst fear anymore. My worst fear happened. I lived through it. I continue to live through it. Sure, there are things that concern me in this world -- and getting kidnapped is certainly a concern I share with this woman. But really, in the grand scheme of things, that concern is so minuscule. So I feel essentially fearless. Not reckless, but fearless.

I wouldn't say this fearlessness is a benefit of my tragedy. I hesitate to ever say anything about my loss was positive. Because even if my loss leads me to ultimate success in something, I would still trade it all in to have my daughter back. But a side-effect of my tragedy is a new sense of what fear really is. It's projecting. It's giving over to worry about something that hasn't happened yet.

Fear can derail you. It can hold you back from attempting something challenging or difficult. It can stop you from giving yourself fully to a relationship. It can make you paranoid and hesitant.

Fear is different than awareness. When you walk into a parking garage late at night and you get that prickly feeling on the back of your neck, that's not fear -- that's awareness of a potentially dangerous situation. You should listen to that.

Fear is that notion of, Why should I open the retail shop I've been dreaming about, planning for and saving up for when most retail shops are failing in this economy? Fear is the nagging voice in your head that says, I don't want to get married because half of all marriages end in divorce. I'm better off on my own. Fear is looking at your child playing and saying, He will never be truly happy because of his illness.

Fear doesn't consider what you have, what you are, what you or your loved ones are capable of. Fear is simply a record of the devil's advocate on repeat.

Fear is what Jeremy and I experienced when we talked about having more children after our first one died. And let me tell you, we didn't let that fear live for more than a split second before we both clobbered it with our bare hands.

Don't let fear rule you. Don't let it dictate your life. You can't control this world -- good things and bad things will happen whether you fear or not. So why give in to it? Why let it hold you back? You are capable of so much. You are so blessed. You have such potential.

And you have such a short amount of time here. Why waste a second of it fearing something that may or may not happen? Take that fear by the collar and tell it to get out of your way. You have a world to conquer.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Is There a Brain Disease Pandemic I'm Unaware Of?

I have been taking Sundays off from blog posting lately. And I fully planned on taking today off, too -- but then I decided I have something to say.

What the heck is this weird phenomenon of blatant selfishness I've been witnessing lately? Selfishness isn't even the right word for it. It's more like unawareness -- not understanding there are other people in this world, and that your actions impact those other people. I mean, people have always been selfish, and our culture encourages it more and more, but lately it's gone too far.

All of my neighbors -- ALL OF THEM -- leave their dogs out in their yards and let them bark. They'll put the dogs out and then go to work for the day. Meanwhile, I'm working at home listening to their dogs bark. I'm awakened at 2, 3, 4am by my neighbors' dogs barking. It's like my neighbors have no idea their barking dogs may be disturbing someone.

One neighbor cranks the stereo up in his garage, leaves the garage door wide open, and then stays inside the house for hours. Does he think that the neighborhood needs a soundtrack? Because let me tell you, his choice in music is pretty abysmal and I'd like to vote in someone else for that duty. The worst part? He does this during the work week. Yes, I get to listen to smooth jazz and twangy 1950s country music while I'm working. Lucky me. But again, it's like my neighbor has no clue that other people live close enough to hear his blaring, gawdawful music.

Last night I was driving home from Colorado Springs and I was on 104th heading east. Now, any of you who have visited us in this house know what I'm talking about when I say 104th is a terrible road to drive on. It's like there's some electro-magnetic energy along that corridor that makes people drive like morons. I'm always on the lookout for bad drivers along that road, but last night I still didn't see this situation coming -- and it nearly got me killed. I was going 35 miles an hour through an intersection, and there was a car poised on the cross-street ready to turn right in front of me. Since I had a VERY green light, I didn't hesitate in the intersection because I knew that car would have to wait until I passed to pull out. Well, he didn't wait. I was halfway through the intersection and he pulled out in front of me. I slammed on the brakes, laid on the horn and skidded to a sideways halt a half an inch from the idiot's bumper. You can still see the skidmarks on the road today. If I hadn't applied the brakes as fast as I did, I would have totaled our new Jeep.

That was bad. That left me shaking for an hour. But today -- today is what made me decide I need to write all this down.

Today I went to a business meeting. There were about 30 women there in a reserved room at a local library. The chairs were lined up in rows facing the front. I sat in the front row and got settled in. And that's when I noticed the noise. The woman seated behind me had her iPad on her lap playing some kind of Bollywood workout video. With no earphones. I mean, what she was watching was weird enough. But no earphones? Did she think the whole room wanted to listen to a workout video? This went on for -- I kid you not -- 30 minutes. For a half hour I sat there eating my potluck food and listening to a Bollywood workout video.

Someone please explain all this to me. Is the world coming to an end? Is there some kind of brain disease that makes people not see the other people around them? Every once in a while, someone acting like a jerk can somewhat be expected -- but it seems like a pandemic now.

I know most of you readers were raised with manners. You were taught to be courteous to the people around you. When you learned to drive, you understood there were other cars on the road and if you pull out in front of them they will hit you because of the laws of physics. So you are probably all nodding along with me right now saying, "Amen, sister. People are jerks these days."

But I'm interested to hear why you think that is. Too much soda? Poor parenting? A brain-eating virus? Weigh in!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Blue-Eyed Endpoint

I spent the day in Colorado Springs today. The first thing I did was go to the cemetery. That never gets easier. Though it's always cathartic.

There was a giant weed -- I think maybe amaranth -- growing behind Scarlett's headstone. It was so big, it almost covered the stone. It was there the last time I visited, but I assumed the groundskeepers would take care of it. When I saw it still there, and significantly bigger, I was pretty upset. So I took out my anger on the plant. I kicked it over and pulled it apart with my bare hands. Then I sat down and talked to Scarlett for a bit.

Sitting there under the yellowing trees, the autumn breeze blowing and the mountains in the background, I told my daughter how much I missed her. I told her my hopes for the future. I promised her I'd come see her when my time was done here. And as always, I was reminded what my endpoint is.

No matter what path I am asked to walk here on this earth, my destination won't change. Someday I'll join Scarlett in heaven. Whether my path here is easy, difficult, short, long, simple, or complicated, the endpoint is heaven and my daughter.

That actually clears my head quite a bit. When I get mired in the day to day, when I feel discouraged because I can't see the path in front of me and I don't like the scenery, being reminded that my destination is the embrace of a little girl with big blue eyes is like a cool breeze blowing away the fog.

After, I got myself cleaned up (I always have to redo my makeup after visiting the cemetery) and headed to the salon. Then I stopped by Jeremy's aunt's house for a quick visit, made a stop at the bookstore, then headed to my friend's Scentsy party.

The girls at the Scentsy party are old friends of both me and Jeremy. I haven't seen many of them since Scarlett's funeral. It was wonderful to see them in a casual setting and enjoy their sweet company. It brightened my whole weekend.

Tomorrow will be another busy, happy day. Gotta love the weekends!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lessons in Comparison

I am absolutely fascinated by the biblical prophets. Not just their prophecies, but their lives. Most of them died painfully, because it was the rulers' habit to "shoot the messenger".

What conviction the prophets must have had to speak the words they were given by God, knowing that they would probably be tortured and killed if the words weren't what someone wanted to hear. I can't even imagine that kind of dedication and faith.

I like to think I am a faith-filled person -- but I just can't compare to that.

But what if I could? What if I had that kind of conviction for something? That kind of absolute dedication? Shoot, I could conquer the world.

I spoke up in my Bible study group last night about my effort to keep joy in the midst of darkness. Between my daughter's death and my nephew's condition, I've got some pretty deep darkness in my life right now. And as always when I talk about either subject, the room fell silent. That used to make me uncomfortable -- but now it kind of makes me mad.

It makes me mad because I know what people are thinking. They are thinking, "Wow, my problem just can't compare to that." But why should people try to compare their pain? That's like me trying to compare my faith to Isaiah's or Jeremiah's. They are incomparable. We are each given a unique life, a unique set of circumstances and struggles, and our responsibility is to work with what we are given. If you must compare yourself to someone else, do it in the way of learning from their life.

I was given some dire circumstances -- the sudden death of one child and the impending death of another. That's the space in which I must keep my joy. Your space might be the loss of a job, cancer, your car breaking down, your child having a food intolerance -- but comparing it to mine is not fair to anyone and it doesn't get you very far.

I hope my pain teaches people the lesson of gratitude, hope, and joyous survival. And when I speak up about what I'm going through, that is my only purpose. Not to spread my pain, but to show others that I'm living through it and I will thrive and so can you.

Your life teaches lessons to others, too. What are you teaching those around you right now?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Leadership

Lately I've been struck with how important good leadership is. Whether it's my day job, freelance work, Thirty-One or Bible study, leadership makes the difference between a good experience and a bad one.

Human beings were meant to be led. It's in our DNA. Organizational structure with one person as the leader is the natural way we fall into place and get things done.

Even when things are put to a vote or figured out in a group setting, it still comes down to one person's final decision to motivate us to act. Majority vote makes the most people satisfied with the outcome, but to actually enact something takes a leadership decision and guidance.

I didn't realize until recently that leadership was not a personality thing, or even a job thing, but it was a learned thing. Watching my leaders operate, I see how they shepherd and I am often quite amazed at what they accomplish with a motley band of characters.

And that's just it -- you can take a group of really disparate personalities and with the right leadership that team can create a masterpiece.

I am often corralled into a leadership position. I don't seek it out. Especially right now, while my heart is on the mend, I really do NOT want to lead anyone. I don't feel like people can count on me enough right now. Many of you are laughing because you know me, and I'm probably the most reliable person you know -- but I don't feel reliable right now. Maybe it's just because, on my down days, I don't want to deal with any one else's emotions. Thank goodness my down days are getting fewer and fewer as time goes on.

But I still feel the call to leadership. Even if I don't want it right now, I find myself always paying attention to how good leaders do what they do. And I read up on it, too. In fact I'm almost done reading a book my Thirty-One director recommended, called Be a People Person. I'm also in the middle of Climbing the Ladder in Stilettos. Leadership is a game of psychology as much as anything else, and it's fascinating to me to read the methodology and see how it works in real life with my own leaders.

I think a lot of people don't want to be leaders because they care about people. There is a misconception that if you are a leader you have to sell your soul -- you have to focus more on making people work, or completing an agenda, than you do on building up your individual team members. But a good leader is actually focused on the team members. When your team trusts you, believes in you, can count on you to take care of them and guide them, they work harder for you.

My manager at my day job is a perfect example of this. She was thrust into a leadership role years ago, and she really didn't want it. But she has bloomed. She is the best manager I have ever had. I trust her implicitly. I trust her judgement, I trust her opinion, and I trust that she's always going to do the right thing for me. So I will bend over backward for her. If she wants something done, it is a top priority for me.

Though my day job is actually a "lead" position, and though I have had other leadership jobs in the past, I have this feeling that someday I'll be called to be a leader in a bigger way -- whether or not I'm ready for it. So I'm glad I have such good examples in my life right now to show me the ropes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pen and Wash

In my home office, I have a framed pen-and-wash painting with delicate handwriting entitling it, "Jessica Dances to the Moon. 1980."


My aunt Cynthia painted this and gave it to my mom when I was a year old. It's small, simple, and one of my favorite pieces of art in all the world. It has had a special place on a wall in every home I've lived in throughout my adult life.

I wonder if my aunt knows that this little doodle she did 32 years ago would mean so much to me. I wonder if she even remembers this painting at all.

This scrawled and watercolored doodle is a precious seed. It was painted in love, given in love, and received in love. And though my aunt might not even remember ever creating it, this beautiful seed continues to sprout joy every time I see it.

When I get comments, emails and text messages from you readers urging me on, when you acknowledge my pain and tell me to keep hoping because you are rooting for me, you plant a seed just like this little painting. Your words draw brushstrokes over the torn parts of my heart, and you start to make a beautiful thing out of me.

Your simple words of hope and love are helping to create a masterpiece. And not just in me. In the world. You may not realize it, but every bit of positive energy you put into this world makes it just a bit better.

So this is my letter to you. Keep it up. You make a difference every day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Motherhood Experience

You know what's great? Writing here when I'm feeling down, and then following it up with a joyful lesson.

I am guilty of feeling sorry for myself. I don't let myself go there often, but it happens. And I'm thankful I have a patient audience here that doesn't scream at me for it. Rather, you guys send me supportive emails and text messages telling me it's okay to be down sometimes, and that I'm taking all the right steps.

That means the world to me. I can't thank you enough.

But I've got to thank God here, too, because when I really need it, He sends me great reminders of how good I have it.

I had one pregnancy, and gave birth to one child. Perfect pregnancy, perfect child. Yes, nineteen months later I lost my little girl -- but I had her. I grew her in my belly, I helped her enter the world, and I got nineteen amazing months with her.

Some women never get that experience.

I want it again. And again. And again. But I had it once. And that is more than so many women can say. And for that I am so insanely thankful.

I was reminded of this recently when some friends of mine began their journey to adoption. One of my dear friends from high school found out that she can't have children. Years of tests and treatments, and her and her husband found that adoption was the only route to the family they so desperately want. They're sharing their story in the hopes that someone will consider them as adoptive parents.

Yes, I went through a parent's worst nightmare. But I got to have Scarlett. For 40 weeks, I got to be part of her. And as sorry for myself as I am sometimes, I am thankful for that.

I do want to adopt someday. But I want it to be a choice, not a need. So we're going to keep trying to have biological children right now, and hopefully adopting in the future to add to our already-established family. And if adoption becomes a necessity... well, I am truly, deeply thankful I got to experience biological motherhood once.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Negativity Breeds

It's been an emotionally difficult last few days. I've battled a lot of anger, resentment, frustration and disappointment. I've had a choice few words to say to God.

I'm angry that it took so long to have Scarlett, and then she was taken from me. I'm angry that it's taking so long to have another child. I'm angry that other women can conceive so easily, even accidentally, and I am having to work with a doctor to make it happen for us. I'm angry at the pursed lips and rolled eyes of mothers who tell me, "You're still young. You have plenty of time."

I'm angry at being angry. Because I know better. I know there's a plan, I know I'll get pregnant again, and I know other mothers mean well when they tell me to stop worrying about it.

It's not worry at this point, it's frustration and pain. I know a few regular readers have gone through this, or are currently going through this, and you know exactly what I mean. But for those of you who haven't experienced infertility, please understand that each month builds on the last. You start with worry -- but the path leads to rage. I'm not worried about not having children, I'm furious that God is putting me and my husband through this.

I have learned to recognize this anger as a cyclical event -- it happens at the same time every month, and it dissipates after a few days. I've learned to ride it out.

But it's strong this month. Really freaking strong.

It's not healthy for me to stay in this negative space. Not only is it not healthy for my own heart and mind, but it's not healthy for the world around me. Negativity breeds negativity. I feel the people and events around me reflecting my anger back at me.

I took a quick trip to Macy's at lunch on Friday. Well, it was supposed to be quick. I needed to buy a pair of jeans. I knew the brand, I knew the size, and I knew where they were located in the store. But as soon as I got there, I started having problems. They moved that brand of jeans somewhere else, and I had to go searching for it. There were no salesclerks anywhere to be found, so I couldn't ask where they were. When I finally found them, I grabbed my size and went to the fitting room. The fitting room was blocked off with a sign that directed me to the other side of the store. I went to the fitting room on the other side of the store and again there were no salesclerks to help me -- so I helped myself to a room. As soon as I unbuttoned my pants, someone tried to open the door. Assuming I had accidentally grabbed a room someone else had been using, I buttoned my pants and opened the door, saying nicely, "I'm sorry, were you using this room?" I quickly saw it was a salesclerk, not another customer, and she said, "Oh no, I'm just checking the rooms because they get filled with clothes." I thought, Really? A locked door and feet visible under the stall and you decide this is a room you should walk into? But I just shut the door again and said, "Yes, there were a ton of clothes in here." The jeans fit perfectly, so I got dressed and went out to find a register. Searching the entire floor for an open register, I finally found ONE open. And the lady ringing people up was the lady who had walked in on me in the dressing room. Of course, the customer before me was having problems with her purchase, so I stood there for ten minutes before I got checked out. And then, to top it off, when I walked out of the store the alarm beeped! The clerk had missed one of the electronic tags. So a trip that should have taken me 30 minutes took about an hour and 15 minutes.

Most people would chalk all that up to a really bad day. Or just a really bad shopping experience. But I know better. I was feeling negative when I left the house, and negativity breeds.

I have plenty more examples of crappy things that happened throughout the weekend. But I don't really want to give them any more energy. I just want to get my head out of this space.

So I'm going to post some things I'm grateful for. Because gratefulness is a really good first step to snapping out of this angry place.

I'm grateful for my husband, who is so patient and supportive. Who lets me cry and scream and just holds me. Who wouldn't hesitate to go get me fried pickles at midnight if that is what it took to make me happy. Who is currently making a second pot of coffee for me while I type this. Whose mere presence inspires me to keep pushing forward because he deserves a big, happy family.

I'm grateful for my house. I'm grateful for my day job. I'm grateful for my writing clients. I'm grateful for the positive energy of my Thirty-One colleagues. I'm grateful that the weather was so nice yesterday that I could stand outside in the sunshine while I was volunteering as a greeter at church. I'm grateful for my friends and family. I'm grateful I can read. I'm grateful I live near the amazing university I got my BA at. I'm grateful that the Fox Run developers planted maple trees all along the main road, so this time of year our neighborhood glows red. I'm grateful God doesn't leave me when I yell at Him.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Day on Campus

My parents came up to visit today. They hadn't seen our house since we had it painted, and my dad said that he actually had a hard time recognizing it when he was driving down our street. Our house does look completely different now, I agree!

Right after they arrived, we all jumped in the Jeep and headed into Boulder. The University of Colorado built a new visual arts complex recently, and none of us had seen it yet -- nor had we seen the new CU Art Museum. So we parked on campus and walked over to check it all out.

The museum was small, but well curated. The permanent collection extended from ancient Roman coins and pottery all the way to minimalist postmodern paintings. In the temporary exhibition room, there was a series of prints from the mid-1800s that depicted some really gruesome scenes. Seriously, some of them I couldn't even look at.

Then we walked across the west side of campus and over to Buchanan's for coffee. I was happy to see they still had the same latte choices as they had 12 years ago when I was going to CU. I got my old favorite, an Almond Joy latte.

The CU campus still holds such a dear place in my heart. My soul is lifted up when I'm there. It has a good energy to it, and it reminds me of one of the busiest and yet simplest times in my life. When I attended undergraduate school there, the world consisted of my school work, my friends, a part-time job and my dog. I couldn't be happy with that lifestyle now -- frankly I'm just too old for it -- but attending college was a necessary mid-step between childhood and adulthood for me. And I'll always be thankful I had the experience.

That said, one of the things I would like to do before I die is set up a scholarship fund of some kind. Sure, not everyone benefits from college the way I did. But I think there are a lot of kids out there who could benefit from it if they were given the financial means.

As goes the direction of our thoughts, so goes the direction of energy. So I am putting that out there in the universe for God to start working on.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Scholarly Pursuits

I got butterflies in my tummy yesterday for the first time in a long time. Not because of my handsome husband, no. But he took the opportunity to make fun of me for it, I assure you.

I was on the website for the Norlin Library. That's the main library on the University of Colorado at Boulder campus. Digging through their massive website, I realized so much had changed since I graduated 12 years ago -- there are now so many more resources available both at the library itself and on their website -- and I have access to it as an alumna.

That might not excite many of you. But it excites me. One of my most memorable moments in college was when one of my history classes took a "field trip" to the Special Collections room of Norlin Library. My heart pounds just thinking about it.

As I've mentioned recently, I've been feeling very directionless. But I had an epiphany yesterday morning that I think may really be a signpost (thank you GOD!).

The reason I'm enjoying this Beth Moore Bible study about Deuteronomy so much is that she brings an intellectual/scholarly aspect to it. It's not just a The Bible says this.  How does that make you feel? kind of study -- she digs into the original Hebrew language and considers historical context. I looooove things that engage my intellect, that stretch my brain, that make my neurons fire.

So then I thought, Well how can I use this to get some career direction? I want to stay with the company I work for, but when my boss asks me what direction I want to take my career (and per company guidelines, they do ask that at least once a year), how can I give them an answer that both fulfills my desire for scholastic pursuits AND keeps me in the sphere of what the company does?

My immediate thought was more schooling. Because that's how I roll. If I'm not sure what to do, I take a class. Classrooms make me feel safe.

But we do NOT have the money for me to do the kind of schooling I was considering, so I talked to Jeremy about this. And as usual he was encouraging, supportive and annoyingly right. I can pursue intellectual stimulation outside my work and outside of a class setting. I know I love to learn, and using my brain is what makes me happiest, so I should just keep going with that. I don't need a boss to give me a research project. I don't need a teacher to make me write a paper.

Pursuing the things that make my heart flutter may actually weave right into my career path.

This is where my goal-setting nature meets my desire to let the Spirit guide me. Academic studies, ancient manuscripts, lost languages, miracles and catastrophes through history that have led us to where we are today -- these things make me giddy. It's a true gift from God that I love these things so much, and that I have the mind to study them. So I'm opening myself up to it. The Spirit has tapped me on the shoulder. I'll follow and see where He leads me...

Right now He's leading me to Norlin Library.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Being Led

I have been a Julia Cameron fan for years. I will read whatever she puts out. You may know her from her most famous work, The Artist's Way.

She speaks of creating art as a spiritual act, and she encourages people to let God move through them as they are writing, or painting, or doing any creative activity.

This, of course, resonates with me. It always has, but since February it has taken on a new meaning.

There are days when this blog is difficult to write. My ideas are stifled, my prose isn't flowing. Sometimes I start in one direction and end in a completely different place than I anticipated. Sometimes the ideas I'm trying to connect aren't connecting right.

And then there are days when the words flow. These days, the writing coming from the tips of my fingers is guided by something other than my own mind. Like something is speaking through me. On those days, I feel like there's a specific person I'm writing for. Some person will have a question answered through that day's post. Or someone who is discouraged will be motivated.

There is no rhyme or reason to it. But I've learned to be led in this blog.

And to be honest, some of the days the message I write is for me. Sometimes as I'm typing along, answers emerge for me. Like talking out a problem with a girlfriend, sometimes writing things in this blog solves a matter for me.

So following up on yesterday's post about learning to be led by the Spirit instead of bushwhacking my way to made-up goals, without even trying I learned to be led in my writing. I learned to let the words flow, trusting that they would mean something for someone else, even if they didn't mean too much to me that day.

I was listening to a podcast by Lynette Lewis the other day, and she talked about how our life plan and our life story doesn't just affect us. In fact, it is interwoven with the plan and story of many other people. Something I'm going through may impact someone else in a unique way. And while that's a little scary at times, it's also lovely.

I like to think that my worst experiences are helping someone else with a problem they are facing. I like to think that my tragedy is someone else's wake-up call -- the thing that saves their life, saves their marriage or saves their very spirit.

Julia Cameron knew this decades ago, and we are fortunate that she chose to write it down and share it with the world.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Goal Setting and the Holy Spirit

I have always been a very goal-oriented person. And while this goal-orientedness served me well when I was in school and early in my career, it started causing me discouragement in my spiritual growth.

The peace I have from my time in St. Louis came in part from a renewed trust that God has a plan for me. It might not be what I imagine, it might not be in my preferred timeframe, but it's a plan that is greater than anything I could dream up for myself. This I know.

I've felt directionless in my career for a while. And for family/home, the only goal I really have is to have more kids. So I had this sense of wandering, looking for that next goal to work toward. And as I have grown spiritually, I have learned that there is guidance in the Holy Spirit that I had never tapped into.

To give you non-Christians some background on what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit, before Christ, the Holy Spirit would descend on certain people to carry out great acts of faith. After Christ, however, the whole human race was gifted with the Holy Spirit to live inside them. We all have the capacity to tune our ear into the Spirit and be led by Him.

When I come at my life through that perspective, when I keep an ear tuned toward the Spirit, peace follows immediately. I can focus on the Spirit and follow the path set before me, and I know it's right and it's good -- versus setting my own goals and trying to bushwhack my way to them.

As if to confirm this new way of looking at my life, I came across a passage in my Bible reading that struck my heart like a hammer. Isaiah 12:2 (ESV) says, Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.

I memorized that verse right away. I have only done that one other time, with Corinthians 13:13 after Scarlett died. I know these two verses are my life songs right now.

So I'm done spending my life searching for something that might not be in my best interest. I'm done spending my time trying to meet goals that I pull out of my own limited thinking. The peace I have found through holding the Spirit's hand and letting myself be led is worth holding onto.

I realize it will take practice to let myself be led. I realize that I've spent my whole life in pursuit of goals, and it's a mindset that is deeply ingrained. But the payoff is big.

The payoff is peace, contentment and positive growth.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Grief is Selfish

Ouch. Just ouch.

I was setting up our Blu-Ray player this morning to play some YouTube videos that I want to watch later, and it asked me to sign in to my YouTube account. So I did. And a box appeared on the screen with a screenshot of one of my uploaded videos. It was a picture of Scarlett dancing in front of the fireplace.

I immediately broke down.

At what point am I going to be able to look at a picture of my daughter and not have to fight tears? I wish grief had a timetable. I wish someone could tell me, On December 3rd of next year, you will be able to see a video of her without sobbing.

If death is a natural part of life, why is it so damn hard to accept?

Sometimes I have these conversations in my head. And I don't know if it's my imagination, if it's God, or if I'm just going crazy. But this morning, when the tears started flowing, I thought of Scarlett being upset that I was crying over her. And I explained to her, in my mind, that I wasn't crying for her, I was crying for me. Because I miss her so much.

And that's the truth of it, isn't it? Grief is kind of a selfish thing. We mourn, not for the person we lost, but for our loss.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Busted Behind

I took most of last week off from my exercise routine because of the sinus/respiratory bug I was going through. So I was looking forward to getting back to it this week. But once again, God seems to have a different plan for me.

Yesterday morning I went to church at Flatirons. The worship band did a rendition of Stairway to Heaven that made the whole house explode with cheers and applause. It was baptism weekend, so after Pastor Scott got done with his sermon, dozens and dozens of people lined up against the wall and waited for their turn to be immersed in the kiddie pools up front. They showed the baptisms on the big screens, so the audience could watch them while we rocked out to the last few songs from the worship band. I teared up during that part of the service. I remember being baptized in April, and how it put a salve my wounded heart.

When I got home, Jeremy and I got some lunch and watched the last few episodes of Game of Thrones. Erin lent it to us on Saturday morning and we watched the ENTIRE SEASON this weekend. So good. Then we went for a walk with our dog, Tyr. We don't normally take him with us, and I was quickly reminded why. He yelps like he's wounded whenever he sees another dog, hears another dog, or hears children screeching. And no matter what we do, he can't make himself stop. He will be lying on the ground with his legs up in the air in the ultimate submissive position and still yelping. Ugh. We've tried and tried to train that out of him, but no dice. I'm sure any of you who have met him are confused by that behavior, because he's soooo mellow at home. It confuses us, too, believe me.

When we got back I had to wrap a few things up with work, so I went into my office for a bit. As I was wrapping up and shutting everything down, I was thinking to myself how I literally work 7 days a week most of the time -- and every once in a while that bugs me, though most of the time I just accept it as the life I've chosen. I started walking down the stairs and realized I didn't have my phone on me, so I looked over the top of the banister as I rounded the second flight to see if my phone was already downstairs -- and I mis-stepped. My socked foot hit the edge of the step instead of the center, and I slid. I couldn't catch myself and I hit hard, sliding down the carpeted steps.

My tailbone is nicely bruised, but that seems to be the extent of the damage. My immediate thought was, God, you REALLY DON'T want me to get back to exercising, do you? Jeremy rushed over, helped me up and got me to the couch to lie down. He made me a grilled cheese and pesto sandwich for a late dinner to cheer me up, and I spent the rest of the night lying on the couch watching TV and playing on my iPad.

I sit in front of a computer for hours and hours, every single day. A bruised tailbone just sucks. Plus, my exercise routine consists of running and yoga right now -- NEITHER of which I can do with a freshly bruised tailbone. So I guess I'll be doing a lot of walking this week instead.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Insensitive Hero

This is definitely one of those situations where God is using an illness to force me to take it easy. I have no doubt now. I went to bed early last night and popped out of bed this morning at 7:45 without an alarm, and I felt like I got some really quality sleep for once. I'm still a little sniffly, but I feel energetic. So hooray for rest, and hooray for Sudafed.

I presented Thirty-One at a casual gathering at my friend's house late this morning. It's always fun to show these products to women for the first time. Because it's a newer business here in Colorado than some other direct selling companies like Mary Kay or Scentsy, most women don't have any expectations coming in. And they're always blown away by the products. You can see their eyes light up when something strikes them -- and it's always products you wouldn't expect to cause that reaction. It's not usually the cute purses that make women swoon, but rather it's the practical, utilitarian or travel bags that get them excited. And then when they learn they can personalize the products with embroidery, the ideas for uses and gifts really start to flow. I absolutely love showing these products. I feel like a hero instead of a salesperson.  LOL

I do love to be a hero. Nothing fluffs my feathers like solving someone's problem. But there are so many problems I can't solve right now. So many hurting people that I just want to rescue.

More than one person has suggested recently that I should do missionary work, because it fits with my personality so well. I admit that I've thought about it. But besides the fact that there are very few places on this earth that Jeremy would allow me to go without him (for my safety, not because he's clingy), I worry that I'll be so overwhelmed by the sheer need of the people I try to help, I'll just jump right back on that plane and head home with my tail between my legs.

Plus, the oppression of women and children hits my heart like nothing else. It is my number one concern for this world. It is the number one thing I think about when I go to the voting booth here at home, or consider a charity to donate to. (For the record, the Thirty-One Gives fund gives 100% of their donations to organizations that support women and children. A big reason I love this company.) For this reason, I would have a very hard time dealing with men in many countries of this world. I have very little sensitivity toward them, and very little patience for behavior that they find normal and I find appalling. So I feel I need to work on my sensitivity to men before I can do any good in the mission field.

But maybe someday. Maybe someday I'll be brave and get out there and make a real difference.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Checking Out

Today is one of those days where everything is kind of coming at me at once.

The day job is nutso and we're still having major technical difficulties. My lunch hour was spent smoothing out a welcome message that I wrote last night for GlobalWrites -- we got a new Director of Client Services (which is great news). And one of my friends is having an online Thirty-One party, so I have to check in there every so often to answer questions.

None of those things is stress-worthy individually. Or as a whole, really. But I woke up with a migraine (I am getting them every 28 days now, on the dot. Thank you Letrozole.) and I'm fighting some kind of upper respiratory thing for which I am taking cold meds that make me really jittery.

Actually, the jittery part is kind of fun.

So I'm looking forward to making some spinach-and-cheese stuffed ravioli for dinner and then spending tonight on the couch with Jeremy. There may be some reading in there somewhere, but mainly I'm going to vegetate in front of the TV. And I'm not going to feel guilty for being unproductive -- because I've been Super Woman all week. As my friend put it to me on the phone earlier today, "Sometimes a girl just needs to check out for a bit."

I read an article last night in Writer's Digest that talked about how our modern culture has actually rewired our brains. Many of us now have symptoms of ADD, but it's not the disorder causing those symptoms, it's the culture we live in. The constant demand for reaction to stimuli -- our inability to disconnect from our technology, thus constant information intake. But the good news is we human beings have the capacity to re-rewire our brains (I just made up that word, you're welcome). We just have to practice limiting distractions and handling distractions less impulsively.

Step number one of this practice is not checking your phone/email first thing in the morning. I am very guilty of this, even though I have gotten MUCH better about not being so reactive to pings from my smartphone (email, text, Facebook, etc.). And I am, as you know, a HUGE proponent of starting your day in a calm, spiritually-centered place because I think what you do first thing in the morning sets the tone for your entire day. And yet, I still grab my iPhone and check messages as I'm brushing my teeth and making my coffee. This may be a practice I put a stop to. We'll see.

Anyway, I digress. I'm checking out tonight. A big bowl of steaming pasta and the television await!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Lynette Lewis Podcast

I listen to podcasts when I run outside (but I watch sitcoms on Hulu when I run on the treadmill -- don't judge me). I found a podcast the other day that just hit home in every possible way, and I wanted to share it with the ladies here today.

The podcast is from a women's conference in Colorado Springs. The speaker is Lynette Lewis, author of Climbing the Ladder in Stilettos. If you are a woman who has lost her way, isn't where she thought she would be at this point in her life, hasn't found the right guy, is recovering from the wrong guy, hasn't been able to have a child of her own, or just plain feels like she hasn't done what she feels she was put here to do -- LISTEN to this podcast. Christian or not, this message will speak to you.

>> Womens Conference Session 2 - Lynette Lewis

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Coloring Outside the Lines

You know what's awesome? Logging into work at 8am and seeing that my one and only meeting of the day has been canceled. What a GREAT start to my Wednesday.

The sense of peace I got in St. Louis has stuck with me. I still have that sense that things will work out and I don't need to stress anymore. I hope I can maintain this for a while. Stressing about the future is my go-to mental state. I'm aware that this is a problem -- it's the number one thing I work on.

Jeremy and I watched the reality show Face Off last night. It's one of our favorite shows and we try not to miss it, even though it falls on our date night some weeks. The show is a special-effects makeup competition, and the characters these artists create with latex, paint and glue are nothing short of mind-blowing. On last night's episode, children designed the characters that the contestants then had to create in real life. It was a vivid reminder of how children have no limits on their imagination. While us adults struggle to stay inside the lines, children don't even see the lines.

And that's how I need to look at my future. Without lines. There is no limit to what God can do in my life. There is no telling what opportunities and blessings are lined up for me. A year from now, my life may be something I couldn't have possibly imagined.

That can be scary in its own right. After all, not all changes are positive. I never saw the tragedy of February coming. But I have to believe that beauty is coming from those ashes. Because that's the way God works. I've seen it time and time again in my life -- I go through a hard time to enter an amazing time of blessings. My time of blessing is coming, and that's the only thing I can tell you 100% about my future.

God works outside the box, and He colors outside the lines. The masterpiece He is creating out of my life is something that I don't have the capacity to imagine. But I'm excited to see the end result.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Honesty

I have a love/hate relationship with this time of the fiscal year at my day job. Our year is wrapping up, my yearly goals need to have been met already or be 99% of the way done, and peer review requests are starting to get sent out.

I don't really worry about my own peer reviews. I work my butt off to do the best job I can and get the best measurable results I can. That's not pride speaking, that's work ethic. I work hard and I don't need other people to vindicate me, though I never mind a good pat on the back OR truly constructive criticism. So I generally welcome the reviews.

But I actually always look forward to providing reviews for my colleagues. Most of the people I get the opportunity to review are really hard workers, and I enjoy the chance to tell them how much I appreciate them and how much their work matters to me.

I rarely have to review someone who doesn't do a spectacular job. But on the occasion that happens, I try to be as constructive as I can. Words matter to people. They can make or break a spirit.

Some people pride themselves in being honest, when really they're just tactless. Honesty should come from love -- not the desire to prove you're right or better than someone. It's a tough line to walk sometimes when an issue is gnawing at you. Your knee-jerk reaction can be to blurt out what's bothering you simply to get it off your chest and force someone else do deal with it.

Sometimes I go the opposite direction, too. Rather than create tension with someone, I keep the issue to myself. That doesn't do anyone any good either, and often it makes ME crazy.

Honesty is a line you have to walk. Fall to one side and words become weapons, fall to the other side and words build up inside you until you explode.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Give Problems Some Room

I slept a lot this weekend.  It was awesome. Other than it made going to sleep last night difficult -- and then getting up this morning was difficult.

So today is time for me to get back on track with my sleep schedule. Normally I know better. Normally I don't let my routine get so wonky. But sometimes a woman needs a lazy weekend.

I had to give a presentation first thing this morning at my day job. Though I completely stumbled over one slide, the rest went pretty smoothly. I work on the public sector side of the business, and our customers are so budget-driven, it's difficult to pull out purchasing trends. They're not like consumer or small-business customers, where you can wave a fancy new product in front of them and expect a buying frenzy. Public sector customers have standard products they are allowed to purchase within their organizations, strict budgets and buying schedules to stick to, and long approval processes. Needless to say, giving a presentation on our merchandising efforts for these customers is a challenge. I always feel like I should know more than I do. So when I come out of a presentation feeling okay about how it went, it's a good day.

The last few weeks have been filled with major IT problems at my day job, too. So I have been dreading logging in each morning. I try not to let the angry emails and instant messages from internal stakeholders ruin my days, but let's get real. I've got a strong work ethic. When someone asks me to do something, I want to do it to the best of my ability. And when IT problems are causing delays, and stakeholders lash out at me for it, it does upset my normally Zen-like mood. (Ha! Sorry, if you know me, you know I'm about as Zen as a Camaro. Vroom vroom!) But seriously, it's difficult to feel good about the work I do when there are things outside of my control stopping me from doing my best work.

So you wonder why I like having multiple jobs? Well there you have it. My day job gets rough sometimes. So having other income streams -- streams that usually aren't all having problems at the same time -- makes it impossible for me to be upset about my work life. So my day job is rough -- I've got a Thirty-One party happening this weekend, and a potential new GlobalWrites client with a hefty new project on the horizon.

This reminds me of a podcast I recently listened to. The speaker was talking about how women are born with the capacity to not only multi-task, but "dream on all cylinders." This speaker said we shouldn't just focus on the one area of our life that needs fixing. Rather, we should put issues that aren't budging on the back burner and concentrate on other dreams in the mean time. Let God work on the back-burner issues while you focus your attention on things you can make strides in.

I think that works on so many levels. I mean, how many of us met the man of our dreams when we weren't looking for him? How many of us got pregnant when we stopped trying? How many of us got a great new job by just doing our best where we were at? Sometimes you have to take your mind OFF your problems to give them room for God to step in.