Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?

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Although, today I am to list three things for which I am grateful, the first is the only one that will get any lengthy discussion. In total, I am grateful for mentors, air conditioning, and Tempur pedic pillows & beds. The last two are pretty self-explanatory, don’t you think? I live in Houston, Texas, where summer lasts waaaaayyyyy the hell longer than it should and the humidity can be oppressive for nearly as long. We celebrate Mr. Carrier’s birthday down here (or we should)! Who is that, you ask? Check out this terrific video on “cold” to learn about this genius inventor. As for Tempur material… thank you, NASA for the research that lead to the development of this back-saving viscoelastic miracle. You rock! We had our first knock-off Tempur bed for 15 years, and just sprang for a new one. I can’t imagine sleeping on anything else long-term. Anytime we car travel, the Tempur pillows come, too. Now, about those mentors…

A hymn I have known since childhood entitled “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today,” has a first verse that reads:

Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?

Mentors are or should be an important part of each of our lives, as they render assistance in a myriad of areas. For the sake of brevity and focus, I’ll narrow my gratitude down to those who make my business world go ’round. Being largely self taught in my current field as a #tinycontractor, wherein I do murals, (some) faux finishes, backsplashes, fireplace updates, and increasingly, banister, cabinet, and furniture refinishing, I rely heavily on mentors. Gratefully, fortuitously, God has seen fit to place a number of such souls in my path, and I can say without reservation that each and every one of them have, at one time or another, in one way or another, helped me, cheered me, lifted my burdens, and shared their knowledge without request for compensation. For me, they have been the epitome of blessings.

When I first started painting (and watching copious amounts of HGTV) in 1999, I discovered a few paint gurus at our local Home Depot. One gentleman, Jim, a wise old codger, always had answers to my questions and advice to make jobs easier. Upon moving to Nashville from Ft. Worth in 2008, then to Houston in 2009, I rarely needed someone like him, but when I did, our local Lowe’s had a couple of employees ready to fill the gap. In 2017, my life as a stay at home and homeschooling mom drew to a close. With Brownie heading off to private school and Blondie going to university, I went back to the only thing I knew I could do to help cover their expenses without costly (and sometimes completely unnecessary) credentialing: painting.

Funny how quickly things change in a decade. Marketing, expectations, trends, materials- all different. In what felt like a blink in “mother time,” everything changed about my business. Going from Mural Mama (my first business) to 2nd Story Designs (my current business) was, and hasn’t been, smooth or easy. Yet, at every turn, people, teachers, have been there to act as guides to help me through projects of every shape and size.

Since restarting my business, I am doing things I never imagined, like wallpapering a 16′ high wall on scaffolding, tiling kitchen backsplashes, replacing the veneers on a family heirloom, and creating a board and batten wall with flex molding on an 18′ high curved staircase wall! It’s been nuts! But Alan, David and the rest of the guys at our local Rockler store are always there to answer my 875th question about something. Bill, a neighborhood woodworker extraordinaire, whom I just happened to run into one day in the early summer while spraying cabinet doors in my front yard, has become an amazing resource. Rebecca, the Faux Effects lady in Dallas who so willingly gives of her time and energy to travel and teach, and then continue to teach and reach out, well beyond the scope of her classes, is a blessing I knew I needed in order to progress my business. Steven, Daniel, Bo, Justin, Rocky, and William, my Benjamin Store and Sherwin Williams friends who guide and direct me to the best products for my projects when I’m stumped. Locally, my fellow contractors, such as Dave Cole, owner of Coastal Painting, whom I met through an on-line referral website when I desperately needed some one to paint my new (and filthy) house 3 years ago, is always willing to assist. Several months after Dave painted our house and I had restarted 2nd Story, Dave and I became fast friends and resources for each other, drawing on our individual strengths and pooling our collective know-how, depending on the job requirements. Candace Roberts of Painted Luxury, with whom I attended a color certification class, gave me direction when I started branching into cabinetry, and helped me keep from jumping off a cliff after a particularly trying client last year.

Indeed, John Donne is proven correct, yet again, in that no man or woman is an island. We have little choice but to learn from others, but we must be open to giving and receiving assistance with an understanding of how much a seemingly simply act of generosity can mean to another. ‘Thank you’ to all who have so willingly imparted of their time and knowledge to help a crazy little (former) red head further along the road of business success. You’re the best!

 

More Gratitude Give Me

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Continuing the theme…

Day #4- Name 2 things for which you are grateful for today

Patient clients and Freedom (both personal & within America)

This is all simple stuff. As a small #tinycontractor with kids still at home, I need patient clients.

Things come up; kids need things; I’m having an off day; I hurry when I should take more time; walls are out of plumb, requiring some problem solving; the air is heavy with moisture, slowing product drying time, clients’ schedules go crazy, and on and on. I just need clients who give grace, who understand that no one, no matter how hard we try are perfect- no matter how good it looks on HGTV, life happens! Gratefully, most of my clients are wonderful and understanding.

Last year, after a particularly trying job, I started penning pleas, if you will, to my clientele. I’ve no idea if the blog posts were read in that light, but in my heart were tears, begging to be heard, one human being to another. One of the first was this: Patience with the Process. Perhaps, next time you hire someone to work in your home, it will make a difference in how you see that contractor.

As for the Freedom part of this day’s brief list, Freedom/ Independence is one of my top 7 core values. Among my Big 3, Freedom battles mightily with Faith/ Spirituality and Wisdom every single day for that important number one spot. Because of that, which I believe has much to do with childhood issues and my struggles with depression over the years, being part of a family can be hard. There are days I long to run away, days on the road when I could simply keep driving, and it has very little to do with my husband or kids, because I value them greatly. No, it has everything to do with my restless soul, which I, not infrequently, have to tell, “Hush. Be still.”

At its worst, the every-day-ness of life can feel suffocating. However, a successful family requires sacrifice and a certain giving over of one’s autonomy; there’s just no other way for things to work well… and that can be terribly difficult when you are a person who needs a fair bit of space and quiet. Despite my artsy, wanderlust side, I am a traditionalist. I don’t believe you simply walk away from good things searching for a “better” that may not exist, a “better” that rarely is. I’ve seen first hand the destruction such thinking can do to children, to spouses, to quality people who deserved to be treated with more love and consideration from those to whom they had made commitments; and I cannot swing such a wrecking ball. That’s a selfishness I cannot…will not… indulge.

So, I bloom where I am planted and am grateful my husband understands this facet of my personality to a large degree, and has been rather generous on this point over the years. I rarely ask for approval, and never for permission, but I try to be conscious of when I’m too withdrawn or overindulging in solitude. It’s the least I can do to demonstrate my appreciation and self-awareness that I’m not in this life alone. John Donne was correct when he penned those famous lines I learned in high school:

 

Catching Up on Gratitude: Day 3

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Sometimes Facebook gets these posts before I have time to replicate and expand here. It has been a nutty week, during which I was bitten by a nasty little dog and walked out on a job. Since it has been so long between my last post and my new slew, last I was writing I was a homeschooling chauffeur to my two girls. Well, the oldest went off to university and the youngest ended up in private school. Oh, yeah, I

From my July 14, 2019 Facebook post; made as I was starting my roadtrip to pick up Blondie at college:
Yes, I’m going to bed early, but I brought my oil diffuser & yoga mat for a reason. Seriously, this crap is why I need alone time at least once a year. I get so…self conscious & I just can’t work out or fully relax at home. But stick me in a quiet box 200 miles away, & I’m set.
I have not done child’s pose or whatever this one is (blanking) without major discomfort in 5+ years due to the nerve dead zone & still torn meniscus in my right knee from a car wreck. The nerve area still makes me twitch when too much pressure is placed on it, but maybe it’s the yoga mat on a somewhat cushioned hotel floor vs a hard wood gym surface that made it feel ok this time. Seriously shocked.
Yoga session over. Now for corpse pose. I shouldn’t last long…

noted that in my first post back… What I didn’t mention is that I had to restart my old faux & mural business in order to pay for Brownie’s private school. More about that later though.

Day #3- Name 1 thing for which you are grateful for today (and thus begins a week of ever increasing ‘grateful’ lists)

I made it to yoga class tonight! It has been years since I taught yoga, and honestly, in the past that has been the only way I could actually DO yoga. Teaching gave half my ADHD-riddled brain something to do so the other half could actually be calm and relaxed. Mine and Blondie’s March 2015 car wreck that took out my right knee greatly curtained (almost fully nixed) my yoga, stretching, exercising these last 5 years.

Minus a year in which I tried to enjoy cycling (blech!), but failed, and the 3 months 3 years ago I Krav Maga’d with Brownie (we moved and it got really inconvenient to go), post wreck recovery, my exercise routines went from hour to two hour racewalks and twice a week boot camps, to boring neighborhood strolls where I listened only to podcasts, never to music, because music would make my heart ache and my legs long to sprint. Stretching just to stretch became a rarity, too.

Truly, I really didn’t need the help from the airbag, as I had had surgery on the same meniscus a mere 7 months earlier, and had torn my left hamstring at the origin -for the third time (an annual event since January 2013!)- a week prior. But there you go: another of life’s blindsiding curve balls.

Fast forwarding from the injuries of 2015 to this summer, with 50 birthdays looming and my flexibility diminishing, I determined to get back to yoga, and maybe, eventually, back to teaching. To start on that path, I took my mat with me on my annual summer trip to retrieve Blondie from university and did some work each night in my hotel. Just prior to my departure a new Roll Out yoga studio opened just outside of my neighborhood. I was over joyed…though it took nearly three months for a sufficient break in my schedule to occur, allowing me to sign up for a two-week trial membership.

So far, I’ve been to three classes and, as I just signed up for an “unlimited October,” I’m looking forward to many more. My body is certainly sore, but that’s not unexpected. It feels “right” to be back on the mat, and to find that my body hasn’t lost quite as much as I’d feared. What I’m most pleased with, however, is that I’m more focused compared to the me that used to teach (more on that later)- and I think I’ve found my tribe, as it were, within yoga (not too Zen/ hyper-hippie spiritual, not too anal about their classes, chanting, practice, or music). All of this makes me a happy, still quite bendy, camper!

Gratitude Journal Challenge: Days 2 and 3

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What challenges do you face in generating feelings of gratitude?

There’s a reason “Thou shalt not covet” is one of the Ten Commandments. Comparing ourselves to others is a sure fire way to stir up feelings of discontentment. For that matter, comparisons are a key component in most political campaigns. I wonder why? Could it be contention and a battle mentality, both of which foster an “us against them” mentality, create ideal conditions for politicians to inflame their most reliable voters or influence those most easily won over by pandering?

Whenever we are angry, discontent, agitated, or contentious, we are mentally football fields away from the calm, wise-mind centered place we must be in order to feel the calming presence of gratitude. It is maddeningly easy to lose perspective once a greedy, covetousness besets us. Once those feelings are planted in our hearts, gratitude must leave. It cannot find space within a heart mired in negative emotions.

To stay orientated around positive belief, I must daily remind myself how blessed I am. To live in America is something for which millions around the world would give their eye-teeth. To be in a stable marriage with a good, successful spouse with happy, healthy kids (both moving towards successful launches) is unheard of in large swaths of humanity. To have safe drinking water, multiple vehicles, electronics, heat and air on demand, indoor plumbing, electricity available all day, every day…the list goes on! My blessings are myriad.

Of course, I could play the “Yes, but…” or the “If only…” games, but why? Why should I care about whose house is nicer, bigger, decorated with more pizzazz, or who drives a new car every other year? Why? So, I can start envying? What benefit is envy to me? Does it bring my closer to God, to Christ? Does it make my relationships better? The answer is a resounding ‘no.’ So, why go there, particularly when “here” is enough?

 

 

Day 3: What ONE thing are you grateful for today?

This is simple: I made it to my second yoga class in a week!

Gratitude Journal Challenge: Day 1

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Well, as I’m looking for things to make me write, to dust off my creaking fingers and cogs, I figure a 30 day gratitude challenge is as good as anything to start me off. Some of these particular may be quick drafts to be fleshed out more in the future, some may get a long form shot out right. Who knows!? So, here goes…

#1: How has an “attitude of gratitude” blessed you in the past?

My life hasn’t been a bed of roses. Though the majority of the “rough stuff” occurred prior to my marriage in 1992, there has been plenty of buffeting about in the past 27 years, too. I don’t believe I could be as functional as I am today without a sense of gratitude.

Sad to say, but not unexpectedly, it took a number of years for the comprehension of my blessings to develop. Yet, once it did, it made understanding my life’s challenges much easier…and it has kept me sane. It can be easy to stew in the anger that often results from loss and disappointment, to muck about in the mire of regrets and “what-ifs.” Yes, it’s very easy, but not productive for oneself or those near by.

As long as we live, we will have trials, things to stretch us- often beyond our sense of comfort. I’ve had a few times I’ve screamed “UNCLE” at God, among other things, but these crisis moments have been short lived.

Several years ago, after my car accident, after my last knee surgery, when I was trying to make a racewalking “comeback,” but everything that could go wrong biomechanically was and I had to stop walking. My mental health was not the best, as it felt like my body was rebelling for no good reason other than to piss me off. Nothing was working. 

It was then that I happened upon a disabled vet who had lost both legs above the knee because of an IED. We chatted for a few minutes about his injuries. He noted that he missed being able to run and play with his kids like before (and here I was whining about not being able to exercise in my preferred manner). It was definitely a sobering moment, a reminder that we just don’t always get what we want, but more often than not we have a helluva lot more than many others. Interestingly, this young vet told me he’d had his own moment at the gym one day, when he ran into a vet missing an arm. “At least I can still play catch with my son,” he observed.

It is during such times that I am grateful for the “smallness” of my struggles. I am still unable to racewalk, but I am little hindered anymore as I scale ladders for work. Yoga doesn’t feel as good as it once did, but I am still more flexible than 95 percent of the population! I still deal with depression, and was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (low thyroid) and I’m barrelling headlong into menopause, but I’m not bi-polar or schizophrenic, my thyroid issue was caught early (I had no idea!), and I can afford bioidentical hormone replacement (though I white hot hate being pelleted in the hip every 3 months!). Even my childhood traumas, and there were a few, including a broken home and sexual abuse, don’t hold a candle to the pitted path upon which so many others walk every day. 

No, I shall take my troubles and simply say ‘thank you’ to God for having the support network, the mental and physical health, the financial resources (for a therapist, and life), and my faith in a better world to come. I don’t want the difficulties others must endure. Mine are quite enough. Perspective truly is everything!

 

Activism Over Obedience? Not for this Crazy (former) Red Head.

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Note: this is another post started a while ago, but which has been sitting unfinished in my drafts. Nevertheless, it is of sufficient weight for me that I feel the need to compete it for posting. Started in October 2018.

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I am a proud member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and every six months we have this thing called General Conference. It’s a big deal- lasting ten hours, spread over the first Saturday and Sunday of both April and October. Been that way forAChristus2 many, many, many years, and will likely continue that way for many more years to come.

At General Conference, the leaders of the church, collectively known as “General Authorities,” who include our prophet (also called the president), our apostles, our seventies (yes, we believe those are still necessary offices in the authoritative leadership of Christ’s kingdom on Earth), as well as women who serve in high leadership positions, speak on important topics concerning the Atonement, Christ’s mission, our doctrine, the world, our responsibilities as Christians, and a myriad of other subjects, all with the intent to push us to strive for a higher purpose.

Well, the other night in the course of the Women’s Session, which is held only once a year in the fall General Conference (the men get their own session in spring), our beloved prophet Russel M. Nelson issued an invitation, as seen in this graphic. It was a powerful invitation, and one I, and many other sisters, did not take lightly. Social media accounts went silent through out the world- some almost immediately. It was definitely an E.F. Hutton moment (Google that, youngsters).

Why? You might ask. Well, again, we Latter-day Saints believe in prophets, and most of us still believe they speak for God. As such, their counsel is not on level with just any old motivational speaker or religious leader. No, the prophet and apostles are more like Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Isaiah were for the Jews: men with a mantle of authority, called of God and able to receive revelation for the body of believers.

Alas, just as many in Israel took their prophets’ counsel for naught and mocked those anointed to leadership, so do plenty in our world-wide congregations of modern-era saints. Since I am a small, very small, business owner, I had to at least keep up with my business social media accounts, but I did do as asked and chose to steer clear of my personal accounts and new feed…mostly. Very quickly I repented of the “mostly” part of the preceding thought.

Apparently, asking women to temporarily and voluntarily minimize the negative influences of social media and digital devices, influences which I thought an abundance of digital ink had been spilled in recent years documenting, is tantamount to asking women to wear ball gags, handcuffs, foot bindings, and burkas!

Sadly, I only knew this because I failed to avert my eyes from the darn FB newsfeed, which was alight with stories of women howling to raise the roof about this “misogynistic” request, which was “clearly” meant to stifle women’s political voices in the run up to the mid-term elections. Not to mention the “obvious” fact that the men weren’t asked to do something similar (their (the brothers’) conference is in April… maybe they will (or maybe social media isn’t as big an issue for men)). The travesty! Like Lot’s wife in the Old Testament, I felt like I had been turned to salt for looking.

Nevertheless, yawn. In the popular phrase, I will take refuge: sorry, not sorry. Of all the things by which to be offended in culture, the simple request by our prophet to take a break from the negative and time sucking influences of social media, to read the scriptures, to attend the temple, and to participate in our church women’s group (Relief Society), should fall way at the bottom of the list.

But no, not in 2018. In 2018, everything just be questioned. Every benign request from a male to a female must be scrutinized for motives, for surely they are nefarious. Every suggestion to improve. Every comment that isn’t equally directed towards the men. Every opportunity to run down leaders and assert one’s “right to…” must be taken, and taken publicly, with as loud and large a platform as possible. Indeed, I found the response by some supposedly believing, active female members of my faith to such a simple suggestion to be akin to burning down a house to kill a single ant. The perpetual outrage is ridiculous… and usually misplaced.

Get. A. Grip.

There was nothing of love, perspective, grace, or even thoughtful consideration or constraint in the stories I read of the aggrieved. Unremarkably, in several articles I read on the “firestorm,” it seemed the conservative-leaning women moved more easily towards compliance or “obedience” to the prophet’s request, egregious as some may find those terms. Whereas, more left-leaning women, whose primary concern appeared to be political activism in the weeks after the Kavanaugh hearings, seemed to have a knee-jerk “Hell, no!” What the hay, ladies?

The later response left me shaking my head to the point of dizziness. I freely admit there are a things in my faith with which I struggle from time to time, but like Paul, who in 2 Corinthians urges us to keep our eyes on the prize of eternity, not the things of the world, I try not to get bogged down in what are often inconsequential matters of this terrestrial realm.

I’ll drag across the plains, but don’t you dare take away my tech!

Now, lest it be said, “You just don’t understand how important this election is!” I’m very politically active. I get that politics are important. Elections have consequences, etc, etc. However, elections don’t matter more than obedience to a righteous request any more than Saul’s unholy sacrifice to God did in I Samuel 15. Why must “But I…” or “Doesn’t apply to me” be the first response, like a petulant child who believes she knows more than her parents about most any situation?

Gratefully, Faith is one of my spiritual gifts. All things in me draw me towards an Eternal Father, Christ, our resurrected Savior, and the wonderful Holy Spirit. If I believe in those beings, and also believe Christ’s church has been restored in these latter days as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then I am compelled to take the words, challenges, suggestions, and exhortations of our leaders, most of all our prophet, whom I believe is called of God, with due soberness and a mind towards implementation.

What have we to gain by being contrary simply for the sake of being contrary? More importantly, what do we have to lose?

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.    2 Corinthians 4: 17-18 (KJV)

 

P. S. In true Murphy’s Law fashion, my desktop has decided to be a pain in the rear about opening my blog. Alas, I’m having to write in my phone, which I hate almost as much as I hate writing on a laptop. Hence, this post is, for the timeline, ridiculously devoid of appropriate placed visuals and links. As soon as I can get a desktop page opened for editing, I’ll liven things up!

Something Much Better Than Overpriced Roses and a Sugar Coma

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Something Much Better Than Overpriced Roses and a Sugar Coma

The three most important words ever uttered are not “I love you,” but rather, “It is finished.”


btwPreface: I have decided that I must carve out space to start writing again. In doing so, I am starting by looking through the ten drafts I’ve had sitting on this site for faaaaaaaarrrrrrrr too long.

This particular post is from Valentine’s Day 2017: the day Brownie got accepted into a private school for her freshman year of high school. As overjoyed as I was in the original post, last year it became screamingly obvious that school, the one for which I prayed, was not the place for Brownie to thrive for another two years. My more studious, philosophical Blondie might have flourished there, but it became suffocating to my more… light-hearted…Brownie.

You see, dear reader, somewhere in the early days of the 2018-19 school year, Brownie finally convinced me to pay for voice lessons. Annnnnnd that changed everything. She is just not a classical Christian school kind of girl, and certainly not if that school is under 160 kids, K-12, with few opportunities for exploring her seriously amazing voice. Nevertheless, more on that later. Suffice it to say, School A was the right place at right time, but School B, with its expansive choir and drama departments, will see Brownie through to graduation. Praise be!

Oh, yes, an an additional aside, Blondie went on to start school at BYU-I in January 2018. As they are on a trimester system, her school terms run from the frwhatozen days of early January to the more temperate end of July. She comes home for 6 months, helps me with my business (also, gotta write about that!!), then heads back up. However, she’s only got one more trimester to go. January to April, and then she’s only got a summer internship to complete to wrap up her illustration degree. Tempus doth indeed fugit!

There was a clear indication I had other thoughts to add way back when, but I think where I left off works well enough as an ending, I’ll just let it lie.

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My heart is very full tonight, and none of it has to do with what many would consider a “traditional Valentine’s.” Somewhere between spending two years in the pit of depression a decade and a half ago and the stresses of mothering two high intensity girls and wifing a type A work-a-holic, my inner romantic realized there was a lot more to life and marriage than roses and chocolate once a year. Overpriced flowers & crap in place of the strawberries I’d much prefer doesn’t do much for me. Yeah, got a little too practical for my own good. So, Valentine’s… Meh.

Nevertheless, lots of wondrous, marvelous stuff today…

~ My Brownie has a place for school next year that is an answer to my frequent and fervent prayers; and I cannot express the pure love I felt pour out on me when I saw the acceptance email this morning from the small classical Christian school to which we made application last month. God, indeed, hears our prayers and knows our needs…ours and those of our children. Through tears I said ‘Thank You!’ over and over again.

We have homeschooled Brownie (in one form or another) since 2nd grade, but the older she’s gotten the harder it has become. When Blondie came “home” for high school and stepped directly into college classes, I became her chauffeur to two different campuses, 25 and 45 minutes from home, respectively, and her “required on campus guardian” for two solid years. When you are constantly in and out of the car, killing time here and there, particularly when it entails dragging a kid with ADD along for the ride, and expecting her to get anything out of your time together…yeah, not cool. Brownie suffered in the process, and so did I. Blondie, however, will graduate high school with 75 hours of college under her belt. But it hasn’t been accomplished without a tax on her younger sister and an increasing strain on the relationship between Brownie and I. Please, pile on the mother guilt. Heap on the ashes.

Despite trying on-line classes, small Great Books-styled pre-college classes at one of Blondie’s campuses, and a few one-on-one subjects mother y daughter, I finally, with the help of hubby and Blondie, ceded my dreams to reality on New Year’s Day and we started searching for a private school we could (choke) afford and still…eat… and put gas in the cars! Very quickly, we focused in on two excellent prospects. Within a month, however, it was crystal clear there was only one choice; gratefully, God agreed.

~ After deciding to have Blondie skip her 9:30 class and me opt out of my usual Tuesday morning scripture group due to some hellacious rain and tornadic winds in the area through which I chose not to drive, the girls and I a blessedly relaxed morning. Unfortunately I considered the holiday a little too late and got to the south side of town too late to meet Hubby for lunch (when your day starts at 4:30 a.m., lunch comes pretty early).

Despite missing my scripture group, which is made up of some dear ladies with whom I look forward to studying God’s word every week, and my husband, I got to speak to two dear friends- and on the phone no less (not usually my favorite mode of communication, but a necessary evil at times). First I talked to a fellow athlete wannabe who is such a stalwart spirit and a sweet, thoughtful soul (much sweeter and more thoughtful than me most days). She actually thinks to pick up her phone and call people. I think of a 100 different ways to get around phone calls! Then, a bit later, my BFF rang me up to congratulate me on Brownie’s school acceptance. I am always grateful for her calls. Seeing as neither of us are big “phone people,” it means a lot. I’m thankful that at this point in our lives neither of us requires an umbilical attachment to maintain the blessing of our friendship, which has dragged out over nearly two decades and several moves. Great is the blessing and the joy that is a low maintenance friendship with the person to whom I would entrust my children.

~ Picking Blondie up from classes has been a high point of my days since she was a freshman taking Great Books I and Philosophy from a local Christian university. She is always so willing to communicate what she has learned; her passion for learning is an energy source of its own. One of her courses this semester is the VERY intense “Art of Storytelling,” taught by two men who spent time writing and working in the movie industry in California. It is a class that lights her up when she considers her future. She wants to work on movies that cut the political crap and the filth; movies that make people remember the days when films were of good quality AND entertaining- for everyone. Alas, one of her frustrations with the kids in her class, and at this university, in general, has been the quality of expression of their religious values. The way they speak (word choices), they way they dress (barely, in some instances), and the way they demonstrate their faith has been quite puzzling to her. Today (this being several days post-Valentine’s that I am working on this post), for example, a girl came to her art class class wearing a t-shirt with “Magical Motherf*****” emblazoned across the front! Really?!

Well, for Tuesday’s class they had had the assignment to watch the Brandon Routh/ Kevin Spacey “Superman” from 10 years ago or so. The students had to do a write up on it to be turned in, but the class also discussed it amongst themselves. In my chat with Blondie, she observed how difficult it was for her to wrap her mind around a film in which the creators tried so hard to sell Superman as a type of Christ, yet they chose to give him an illegitimate child? Yeah..connection fail. However, not a single kid mentioned that as an issue. Lots of other stuff, yes, but not ‘knocked up Lois Lane.’ Furthermore, not

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her kid in class made the comment, “Most people I know, and I’m sure most of us in this generation, don’t really think about being Christian except during church on Sundays. I mean you do the church thing and then you go back to what you were doing.” He meant it, too. He wasn’t joking. No one dissented, at least not vocally. Blondie desperately wanted to speak up, to challenge him with, “I DON’T! What is the point in calling yourself a Christian if you don’t demonstrate it by your actions and let it show in your countenance every day!?”…but one of the profs shifted gears shortly thereafter, and her moment was lost.

happyvholyShe has said it a few times in recent months since taking classes only on the main campus, but today, there was a heavier weight to her sentiments: “I thought the difference between the students at [the local junior college] and those at [the Christian university] would be greater, but it isn’t. You still hear foul language, maybe not as much, but they are just as unapologetic and open with its use. The kids at the university aren’t even as friendly as the ones at the junior college, but then to hear ones I’d expect to be more serious in their faith treat it with so little reverence? Well, I’m just looking forward to seeing if there isn’t a more serious expression of faith in the students at BYU (where she’s hoping to go after Christmas break).”

I warned her not to get her hopes too terribly high, people are still people, but ‘yes,’ I think BYU actively cultivates the Spirit in its student body (I’d love some feedback on this point). No doubt the profs at the Christian university are serious about their walk with God, but sadly, it’s not immediately visible in the students- cross necklaces and themed t-shirts aside. They are young though. How many of us didn’t have our own true conversions as adults until our mid to late 20s, or older? Still, I am so grateful to have a kid with her head and her heart pointing to Christ with such depth and understanding at this point.

A PSA on Depression

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Having “dealt” with depression for 15 years now (dealt=medication, therapy, an annoying level of self awareness), but having “suffered” with it too, both before that 15 year period started and also during it (you get it?), it is sometimes hard to gauge feelings and emotions. You second guess if what you’re experiencing during bad moments is “real” or “imagined,” or maybe “appropriate” vs. “out of proportion” are better terms. You struggle to keep your head on straight, to realize we all have bad days; you wonder if your meds are still working; and if you have a really, really bad day, you’re certain they aren’t, and panic ensues. If you’ve ever been in residence at the bottom of the black pit of despair (or unable to get out bed and function- same difference), the panic and anxiety stems from the fear that you’re heading there again. It’s a horrible, horrible feeling. Horrible and soul sucking.

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Yup. This pretty much sums up depression.

Well, Blondie was about 13 months old when I first started doing weekend visits to the Pit. By the time she was 2, I was in residence (though truth be told, I’d had short bouts of the blues every year or two for a decade. Depression, I later learned AND realized, runs strong in my family). When I finally broached the subject with my OB/GYN and we set up hormone level testing, things were pretty awful at home. My husband of nearly ten years at that point and I didn’t fight much, but there was a constant tension. He didn’t know what to say to this beast who had suddenly taken over his wife’s body and I didn’t want to talk…at all.

By some miracle, however, I got pregnant with Brownie (zero recollection of this event. I swear I did not mean to engage in a procreative act with my husband!!) before I could get that testing done. No benefit in doing it then, because of course your hormones are going to be a mess! To add insult to injury, my mom died suddenly between Christmas and my birthday (I think the 14 year anniversary of her death was last week; I try not to dwell on such things), and BAM! I was in weekly therapy sessions (for 3 or 4 months, then we went to bi-weekly at some point for another 2) with James Taylor (lol- that was actually my therapist’s name).

It took me three or four sessions of talking predominately about my mom and our stellar (not) relationship and the rest of my screwed up family to finally come clean on wanting to smother my husband (actually, I said my husband’s breathing annoys me) and I’m struggling with dueling voices in my head (No! Not like the Son of Sam. Google it, children), like I will say things to my husband, then almost immediately hear “me” in my head saying, “What the hell are you doing? You idiot!

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Wow! That was a sobering revelation

You do not mean that!” Of course, the voice that had my vocal chords was saying, “Piss off! Yes, I did! Screw you if you don’t like it.” [Several years later, when we were doing better (largely because I was “me” again), hubby let me in on something: he was so miserable, so completely confused during that two year black hole in our marriage, that he would have left me if it hadn’t been for Blondie.]

In that moment, my therapist let me in on a little secret: “You have textbook clinical depression.” I hated to admit it; I fought it, but that didn’t make it any less true (kind of like Trump being president). My counselor pushed me to start medication, and I did. I was 12 weeks pregnant with Brownie and still reeling from my mom’s unexpected passing, but after about 6 weeks on meds, I felt an enormous, crushing weight slowly start to lift off of both my mind and body. Suddenly, that deep pit had rungs on its walls. Suddenly, I felt the shell of my cocoon (bed covers) break open, and instead of saying, “Thank you, God, for another dismal day,” I actually began to just say, “Thank you, God!”

In the years since climbing to the surface, I’ve still had to fight that demon beast. The medication was a life and a marriage saver, but I found something so potent that even Big Parma can’t bridge the gap every moment: teenagers! No, just kidding (a little). The monkey wrench in the works to which I’m referring are hormones. Bloody, freaking hormones.

How depression feels

How depression feels

Estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. Darn you, all three! I tried an ablation 5 years ago to mitigate your effects, but it finally took a complete hysterectomy (one ovary is still doing its thing though) to finally kill those cyclical rages that could come from out of the blue and make me feel like I was losing my mind all over again- and worse. I never raged during the dark years, but I had horrific episodes of PMS in my late 30s & early 40s! Yet still, something was “off,” has been off.

A year ago, I took the step to start a dialog with my GP about my feelings, my malaise. We opted to adjust my meds-for the first time in 14 years. Alas, it didn’t change anything. So, back in the fall, or rather September, as it is very difficult to distinguish “the fall” in Houston, my doctor ordered a hormone panel. Fifteen years later and I finally got that hormone screen!!!

The results came back showing that, even post hysterectomy, I had huge levels of estrogen in my system,

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but sad, pathetic levels of testosterone (the range for women is 20-70; I was at 21). He immediately began me on a testosterone cream in an attempt to balance my levels.

It took a few solid months of supplementation, but I’m finally feeling the difference. All the months surrounding our recent and less-than-smooth move had my cortisol levels running at maximum overload, so it was difficult to tell if it was doing any good. Now that things are calming down, it’s clear it definitely is. Thank heavens! So, maybe at this point I can get back to “just” dealing with the non-hormone induced depression!

The moral to this story is this: talk to your doctor if you feel “off” or “out of sorts” for an extended period of time; and if s/he blows you off, FIND ANOTHER DOCTOR. Get those hormone levels checked before assuming anything. And don’t get suckered into thinking thinking/feeling/acting like Eeyore is normal and OK, especially when you know who you REALLY are.

A great talk from a spiritual perspective:

The biggest massacre in U.S. history wasn’t about gays.

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The biggest massacre in U.S. history wasn’t about gays.

I’m reblogging this post intact, as well as the previous post by Lemonythings on the topic of gay marriage because I’m just so blasted tired of the culture wars, of the media telling me, of parts of the population screaming at me that they will force me to “love them and accept them” in a manner that brings to mind the closing scenes of Orwell’s “1984.”

As much a one side of the culture divide likes to assert that “there is only one race: the human race, ” I feel this same side does nothing but seek to parse us into a million different identity groups, each with its own political agenda to which the rest of us must subscribe if we wish to survive. “Fly my flag!” “Add my filter!” “Go Fund ME, not them!”

Well, you know what? Diversify this! The only problem with all of the screaming is no intellectual diversity is allowed. No discussions seeking common ground, points upon which we can agree, realizing there will always be points upon which we disagree (and that’s o.k.!). Nope. The only thing allowed is unwavering allegiance to the totalitarian ideals of those on the “right” side of history… in their own heads.

If we are ALL a part of the human race, ALL united by our common humanity, ALL supposed to embrace the vast diversity of our fellow beings, can we also allow that we should ALL be able to mourn and weep and feel the weight of sadness for the loss of life among these souls, these children of God, without being yelled at because we don’t believe any political or social group should receive such a massive amount of media time, when others get nothing, but have suffered more acutely? Is it really “erasing” or denying suffering to say millions more have be subjected to like hate, as well? Must our mourning really be wrapped or filtered or flown under specific colors in order to be “appropriate?” Cripes! I hope not.

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I woke up today thinking about the 50.

The 50 who, just two days ago, had lives cut short on a night unexpected. The 50 who never came home, never responded to that last text, never got to say that one last thing. The 50 who have families and friends and loved ones who are waking up today with a hole carved into their lives–one that will always be there.

50 souls.

And as I watch the country grieve I see rainbows on profile photos and gay slogans and anti-religion propaganda because the biggest massacre in our country’s history was at a gay night club, The Pulse. I understand the sentiment. I understand the rainbows. But the thing we need to understand a little bit better is that it has nothing to do with gay or straight, religious or non-religious, male or female, white or non-white.

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It has everything to do…

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Spiritually Speaking

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While lying in bed perusing Facebook this morning, I came upon this gem of a post by Greg Trimble entitled “ You Can Make Fun of Me for Being a Mormon if You Want…” I immediately swyped out a response on my Kindle, but upon  reading it later at my desktop, I found it to be wholly inadequate (not to mention filled with typos and structural errors!) in expressing the deeper feelings of my heart on the subject of my faith. So, without further ado, here’s what I meant to say…Images-of-jesus-christ-097-2c

I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and had what I thought was a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, as taught by said church, as a teen. But somewhere around seventeen, I started going off track, and by nineteen I was pretty much there. Looking for the love I didn’t feel I had in my family took me to a place I never imagined I would be. Eventually, it became easier to push faith to the back of my mind than to live with the guilt of my actions.

At 21, I married a great Christian guy (actually, we met just as I was trying to come back to church). We tried to find a middle ground between my LDS faith and his Pentecostal one, but by the time I was 24, pushing 25, it was clear to my both heart and soul, I needed to be back in what I strongly believe to be Christ’s restored church, not biding time in a holding pen. The people I met in the other Christian denominations we tried were generally lovely, kind people (as long as they didn’t know I was a Mormon); I expected nothing less. During my years in their pews, I learned intimately about the beliefs of others and the likenesses (there are so many!) between my “LDS Christianity” and their “mainstream” kind. But despite nodding my head in agreement with many of their teachings, I could never get past the fact that something was missing, at least for me. AChristus2

So, for 16 years after I returned to the faith of my youth, my dear husband and I “split the difference,” alternating Sundays at each other’s church. Although, I am the one that has been more involved in the “other than Sunday” activities of my ward; and I’ve no doubt that was part of the reason both of my girls chose to be baptized in the LDS faith. Sadly, in all of our years together, hubby has chosen to be an only- on-Sunday worshiper (he’s not much of a socializer/ joiner). The fissure that occurred in the church community of his youth (and his family) when he married a heathen like me (“He was such a good boy, until…”), the cold shoulder we’ve received at times from mainstreamers when they learned I was LDS, and the fact that he is a federal law enforcement officer (naturally stand-offish and very distrustful), has made it difficult for hubby to insert himself meaningfully into any church. He prefers the anonymity of being last in and first out. To be sure, you don’t have to answer many personal questions that way, which suits him just fine.

Well, the every-other-Sunday agreement he and I made before the kids came along worked fine for a while, but after Blondie, our oldest daughter, turned twelve, it was once again clear a change need to be made; she was growing up without a firm anchor to either his faith or mine. She was getting nothing out of our compromise, and Brownie, our youngest, was getting even less. After all, it is hard to make connections on any level, especially as a kid, when you only see people every other week; and if you
actually don’t want to talk to anyone, it’s even worse! The change we agreed upon was that my two girls and I would attend our ward full time and he would come with us every other week (a day I jokingly refer to as  his “Outreach Sunday”). On the “off” weeks, he attends his church solo (but due to the lack of his exact flavor of a Pentecostal church locally, he actually attends the Methodist church, which was our middle ground denomination in the early years of our marriage).

Now that we are coming up on five years since we made that last change, it’s gratifying to contrast where we were to where we are. Our compromise isn’t ideal, but it has worked as I had prayed it would. I’ve watched my girls’ connections to both the faith, in general, and Christ, in specific, grow and develop beautifully, as has my own. Because of some rough family issues in my youth, church means “family” to me. It was breaking my heart that my kids weren’t developing that same sense of church members being an extended family, and even worse they had no deep, meaningful understanding of God’s love and Christ’s atoning sacrifice for us. But they are getting it now…especially my Blondie. Her faith, her testimony simply amaze me!large

I’m personally grateful for the testimony that I have of Christ as my Savior and His grace that attends me each and every day as I struggle and thrive in this earthly testing ground. Without my upbringing in the LDS faith, the examples of Christ-like love and direction that have attended me as a direct result of my “Mormonism,” I don’t know if I would be in any church today. My path has not been smooth nor easy, and during long periods, I’ve struggled mightily, due both to my own choices and those of others. I’ve had doubts and questions, some that have been answered well, some that I’ve chosen to “put a pin in” for now, but always I have had faith in Christ. My faith has seen me through the rough patches, created within me a gratitude and joy I could not know without Him, and it gives me a vision of who I really am: the daughter of a King.

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Interested in more reading? Here’s a few that have influenced me:

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ

The Holy Bible (particularly the KJV version)

The God Who Weeps, Letter to a Doubter, and Crucible of Doubt, Givens

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, Spangler and TverbergBOM11

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, Bushman

Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt, Mason

Shaken Faith Syndrome and Of Faith and Reason, Ash

LDS- Gospel Topics Essays

A Reason For Faith, Hales

The Weight of Glory and Mere Christianity, Lewis

Letters to a Young Mormon, Miller

The Rage Against God, Hitchens

LDS Living

A Different Jesus?Claiming Christ, and The Mormon Faith, Millet

Comparing LDS and Evangelical Beliefs

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nterested in commenting? Feel free to do so, but know that I do not engage in arguments about my faith. There are plenty of bloggers and the like that do, but I prefer instead to state our 11th Article of Faith and leave it at that: We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.