Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Light Shines Through the Darkness and the Darkness Does Not Overcome It

I love fall. I love the smell of wood smoke in the air, and the way the light changes in September  from a warm, summer color, to a cooler, fall color. I love the crisp, cool mornings, that turn into warmer, summer-like afternoons. I love crunching through the newly fallen leaves, and raking them into big piles of red, orange and yellow. I love tall boots, warm sweaters, and cozy blankets.

Despite all of these things, each year I dread the arrival of fall.  As the sun begins to set earlier each evening and the morning light begins to change to a glowing orange color that arrives later each day, I am forced to face the harsh truth that soon the days will be long, and the amount of daylight we have will be short. You see, I suffer from seasonal depression, and in the quiet places of my heart, fall signals the return of the season of darkness. I know that once the leaves have all fallen and the calendar turns to November, I am going to begin an uphill struggle for my emotional, mental, and even physical well-being.

I have referred to the hardest times in my marriage as a "season of darkness", and it is for many of the same reasons that I refer to winter as the season of darkness. When I fall into a seasonal depression, everything becomes dull and meaningless. It is hard to find the joy in everyday things that normally bring happiness, and even the easiest tasks become a struggle. In the darkest days of my marriage it was hard to find the joy in the every day tasks of living, and it felt similar to being in the middle of a depression. I don't believe that it's any coincidence that our problems often feel large and overwhelming in the middle of the night, when the darkness is large and overpowering. I find that it often helps to get up and turn on all the lights. Once the darkness ebbs, or morning comes, those problems that seemed so huge and larger than life in the middle of the night, often become more manageable. It is the same with seasonal depression. Once spring comes, and the light returns, my mood beings to improve, life beings to look up again, and everything falls back into what I like to consider "normal". In Genesis chapter 1, it says, "God said, "Let there be light, " and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. The light shines, and all is right again.

Last winter, I began taking Vitamin D supplements, and found that they really improved my mood drastically. I also infused my house with more light. Extra lamps spread throughout the rooms I frequent the most helped, as did an influx of candles.

This fall, just in time for the holidays, DaySpring is launching their new Everlasting Light collection, which includes these beautiful new candlesticks. Perched on a mantle, or gathered in the center of a table, they are the perfect solution to holding back the darkness of the shorter days of fall and winter. They would also make a wonderful gift, and come in the set of three, shown in this photo.

They are made of mango wood, and range in size from ten and a quarter inches to fourteen inches high. They are handcrafted in India, and the candles are not included.

If you are looking to make your space feel a little bit bigger and brighter, this gorgeous sunburst mirror might be just the thing you are looking for. Hung on a wall, set on a mantle, or even perched on a shelf as part of a small grouping, it is sure to add a bit of sparkle to your day.

It is also made of mango wood, and has a sawtooth hook for hanging. It is twenty-four and a half inches in diameter, and is just the sweetest thing ever.

I can envision it hanging in a college dorm room, with white twinkle lights surrounding it. How cute would it be in a nursery with a celestial theme? It would be perfect on the wall of a guest bedroom or even a small bathroom. There are so many decorating possibilities to choose from. The neutral color of the mango wood will match just about any decor. Right across the bottom it is etched with the verse, "You will shine.. like stars in the sky" Phil. 2:15.

In addition to home decor pieces, DaySpring also has several pieces of beautifully crafted inspirational jewelry pieces in their Everlasting Light collection, in both silver and gold tones. I was particularly drawn to this pewter bracelet that reads "Shine Your Light". It is made of nickel-free, lead-free pewter and is adjustable from six inches to seven and a half inches.

The back is engraved with "Phillipians 2:15".
The verse is the same as the one etched on the mirror, "You will shine...like stars in the sky".
There is an enclosed card that reads, " Each piece in this collection captures the awe and wonder of the heavens and reflects the creative of our Creator God. Look to the starts and remember- God has separated the light from the darkness. His light is in you too- so shine on! 


Whatever season you find yourself in right now, there is sure to be something beautiful and encouraging in the new Everlasting Light collection from DaySpring. The darkness is coming, but the light shines through the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it. John 1:5. 


Saturday, October 04, 2014

When Your Teenager Refuses to Be Helped

My daughter is a cutter. I have known this for at least a few years now, and there is nothing I can do to help her. She blames me for the fact that she cuts herself, and that simple fact breaks my mothers heart. She started cutting to deal with the pain of her father and I not having a very positive relationship for so many years. She claims she didn't know how else to deal with it, and so she took to cutting. Something her brother had done in the darkest depths of his depression, when he needed to know that he could still feel something. A mimicking act, maybe, but that is neither here  nor there. I noticed right away, as her body part of choice was not hidden and called her out on it. She vehemently denied it, and then told me what was up, and that she was going to stop.

My daughter is a habitual liar. She has been lying to me since she was old enough to string sentences together. She will lie to get out of trouble, to save face in front of her friends, and to hide things she would rather you did not know. She will continue to lie even when  you have called her out on it, convinced that she will somehow get away with in the end. There are very few things my daughter has successfully lied to me about.

What my daughter doesn't realize, because she is too wrapped up in her own self-absorbed world, is even on the days that my husband and I continue to not get along, we are making progress. We stumble, because we have a break down of communication and someones needs are not getting met. But we work through it, better than we ever have in the past, and we move forward, having learned from each experience. All she hears is the disagreements and decides that her world is falling apart.

My daughter cannot have a healthy relationship with any boy, because she was in a bad relationship with someone that ended because he tried to go too far against her wishes and she has not dealt with it in a health manner yet, and it haunts her.

She suffers from poor self-image issues that started right around the time she was diagnosed with food allergies. I have spent her whole life telling her how beautiful she is, but she looks in the mirror and sees someone who she feels is fat and ugly. It breaks my heart. As someone who has suffered from crappy self-image issues for 30 years myself, from being abused as a child, I don't know how to help her. Just when I was finally starting to feel good about myself, my health went to crap and my body failed me. I have wasted away to nothing and my hair is falling out, and how can I tell her that it's so important to feel beautiful, when I don't feel that way myself?

She has written suicide notes, whether because she felt she was at the end of her rope, because she wanted to see how it felt to actually do so, or for dramatic effect. That she would do so, knowing that her brother attempted to take his own life, feels like a slap across my face and the biggest "fuck you mom" that I can imagine, pardon my crass language.

In the end, you can choose to either accept the help you are offered, or continue down your own self-destructive path. Over the winter, I called a local therapist, on the recommendation of a good friend who suggested another therapist who was full, and gave me this one instead. Highly recommended. They hit it off right away. She went for several months, and worked on everything except her deepest, darkest issues. The things that were most broken in her life and needed the most fixing. As a mother, who is watching her daughter self-destruct before her eyes, having tried to help her, I don't know what more to do.

I wish I had a positive roll model to give her. An adult that she trusted, or a couple she could look up to. Someone that she could talk to, who was not me, because clearly we don't have that relationship anymore. She lies to protect me from the things that I already know, and I cannot tell her I know them because I would violate that fragile but of trust we have left. Raising teenagers has to be the most heart-breaking, difficult job in the world.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Best Yes is Saying No, Often

We moved at the end of my third grade year, and I left a private Catholic school, where I was thriving, and doing very well, and entered into public school at the start of fourth grade. I left behind my friends, and started school as "the new girl", in a town that was rooted in old, established families and status. On top of being new, I came from "the city". A poor city at that, over the state border, and one with a bad reputation. I left a daily routine of wearing uniforms and attending mass on Fridays, and began having to choose what to wear each day, and pausing for a moment of silence after the Pledge of Allegiance. 

I struggled to make friends. I did not fit in to any of the already established "cliques", and I am an introvert by nature. Until a few years ago, I didn't even know what an introvert was. I took a personality quiz for school, and discovered I was an ISFJ; the nurturer. My son, a classic introvert, has known this about himself for many years. I am only starting to discover my true self over the last several years. A lonely, outcast girl, who was battling demons at home, I turned to books to escape. 

At school, I was what we would label an "average" student. The problem with labels is that they begin to define what we think of ourselves, and eventually we become the person that we have been labeled as. I struggled in math. I had a hard time with spelling. I didn't get any support at home, and I did the best that I could on my own. I never heard the words, "I am proud of you" come from my parents the entire time that I was growing up. When I graduated from high school, I had no faith that I would be accepted into college, or that I would receive any kind of financial aid to be able to afford to go. I did not understand how student loans worked, and I had no guidance to support me in making this all important decision. 

Fast-forward twenty-one years, and last fall I found myself enrolled at SNHU. Starting college, while working full time pushed me right out of my comfort zone. In the wake of the end stages of my friend's journey with cancer and the way she lived life to the fullest, especially during her last year, gave me the motivation I needed to pursue this dream I have harbored in the quiet of my heart for so many years. 

It has not been an easy road. Finding the balance between working, taking two classes every eight weeks, and caring for my house has not been easy. Sometimes I feel like I have it all under control and others it all seems to fall apart. On top of that, I am still working hard at rebuilding my relationship into something better than it has ever been. My priorities right now, are my marriage, my family, and school work. After that comes my job, and my house. Everything else is falling to the wayside. 

Being a type-A first born, with OCPD tendencies, this has not been an easy adjustment. To walk through my house and see rugs that haven't been vacuumed in a week, or dust that has been accumulating on flat surfaces for two weeks or longer gives me an enormous twitch. When I realize that I have spent an entire day working, then doing school work, and it's time for bed and I haven't spend any quality time with my husband, is especially challenging. When we start to have many of those days in a row, I find that my mood starts to deteriorate. My love language is quality time, and even though I'm the reason my needs are not being met, I have to stop and make time for us to spend together, so that I can keep going with the important work that needs to be done. 

Right now, I need to focus on me, and my school work, which seems selfish, but it is where I have been called to be at this point in my life. In order to do this, I have to say no to meetings, and social commitments. I have to say no to going for walks with friends after work as much as I want to catch up and visit. I have to say no to movies with my family that start late, and keep me from being able to get up early to get my school work done before leaving for work. I have to say no, so that I can say yes to this calling that I have taken on, because that is where I am right now.

 It is not where I will be forever. This season will pass, and I will be able to say yes again, to those things that I cannot find time for right now. Right now, however, my best yes is an answer to being asked to step outside of my comfort zone, and pursue my dreams, even though I was scared. I said yes, and intend to be more than just an "average" student. I am giving college my best, even if in order to do so, I have to keep saying no. 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

On Being Kept by a Chicken

For five days this summer I was kept by a chicken. She showed up in the early morning hours of a late Saturday in June.

I was delivering K-2 school supplies that I have been storing for several years now to my neighbor across the way who is going to be teaching Kindergarten next year. The amount of centers and games I have made over the years, flashcards and worksheets, and themed units I have put together was intense to see all accumulated together. Packing it up and giving it away was admitting to myself that I will not be teaching elementary school, and letting go of that dream. It was realizing that the mandated testing they are imposing on our kids has sucked the fun out of learning and teaching, and that is not the direction I want to take my career, or my life. Giving it to my friend, to give her a start on her first year of Kindergarten, when she has only taught first grade and Title 1, was awesome. I know that my crazy OCD organization and all that time and work I put into those monthly files, and the centers that I used with her son, actually, when he was in first grade, will be a huge help and blessing for her.

I was overdressed for the day, in fleece pants and a hoody, and had my sherpa slippers from LLBean on. I had lugged about six or seven large totes across the street (she lives diagonally across, so it's a bit of a walk), and had one last tote to go. I saved the heaviest bag for last. The one with all the early learning worksheets in it, organized by month, from McMillan. Three kits worth, and it was going to take every last bit of energy that I did not have that day to lug that thing over to her house. I walked into my kitchen, got a glass of water, and sat on a stool at the counter to regroup first. While I was sitting there drinking my water, The Boy rushed through the porch door, into the kitchen and dropped the mail onto the counter. "Do you see what's going on in the back yard?" he asked, breathlessly. I might have gave him a little 'tude as I explained what I had been doing, when a simple no would have sufficed. He told me to go look. I asked if it could wait until I had lugged the last tote across the street, and he said no. I knew he meant business, so I walked across the house and looked out the windows. Nothing. More than annoyed, I asked what the heck I was supposed to be seeing, and he led me out the back door into the yard.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Through His Eyes

Summer is drawing to a near, and with it, the end of the last term of my freshmen year of college. I had this grand idea that over the summer I would be able to get my house spring cleaned, relax, and take some time to enjoy the great outdoors, which I have missed horribly since beginning my coursework in October. What I did not realize was how intense these last two classes were going to be. I will be forever grateful that I managed to schedule them together, over the summer, and that we planned well,  and I was able not to have to work this summer.

Next week, I am going away for four days with my man to celebrate our nineteenth wedding anniversary, and to recharge my relationship. Due to some health issues that I've been having since the start of the year, planning for our trip this year has been more than a little difficult, to the point of almost wishing we weren't going. Things have managed to fall into our place, and I cannot wait to sit in the sun, play our traditional round of mini-golf (our first date was at a mini-golf place), and just enjoy spending time together, alone. We have talking to do, and dreams to share, and memories to make. I have realized that as we keep journeying forward in rebuilding our relationship, it's not about looking backwards, it's about constantly moving forward, and starting over, each day.

In a very low moment that I had recently, I asked him on the brink of tears, that if he knew I would end up so broken, health-wise, if he would have still married me. He took my face in his hands, looked me in the eyes, and said, "Absolutely." He meant it from the bottom of his heart. I get caught up in thinking of how he must miss out on us being able to go out on dinner dates, as he loves to go out to eat, or how my food issues have changed our nightly dinners (even though they are more healthy), and I feel in some secret place in my heart, that he must resent me. Crazy, yes. He doesn't harbor a resentful bone in his body, but I do sometimes, and I project that onto him. I think that because I feel so awful, and broken, and like I'm a mess, that he must see me that same way too. He doesn't. He looks at me, and somehow, through the sharp pointy edges and sunken features, he sees the beautiful woman he fell in love with all those years ago. I wish I could see myself through his eyes, if only for a moment.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Like Finishing a Marathon

When I enrolled as a full-time college student back in October, I knew that it was going to turn my life upside down. Working full-time, and taking two classes each term (a term lasts for eight weeks) was going to require a huge amount of perseverance on my part, a lot of work, and a huge amount of organization. I felt pretty good about it though, being a type-A, first born with OCD-tendencies. Organization is something I have in droves.

What I wasn't prepared for, was how much time it was going to consume. How every waking minute of my day, that I wasn't at my job, was going to be consumed by school work. My body rebelled against sleep at some point over the last year, and I have been waking between 3am and 4am, which has been extraordinarily helpful in getting the school work completed and not feeling like I am losing my sanity, but at the same time, it has been exhausting. It also allowed me to spend Sunday afternoons with my husband. This was important as we are in the fledgling stages of "better", and I want to keep that moving forward.

This last term, however, has been an arse-kicker. Two courses with an extra-heavy work load, and a ton of end of the year commitments on the part of my daughter. I feel like I have been running a marathon trying to get it all done. My yard has been neglected, my house has been neglected, and I feel like I have barely seen my husband. We finished our last day with students on Friday, have a few workshop days this week, and then I am done working for the summer. I decided, with the convincing of my clear-headed husband, that there was no way I could work in the hot sun at the blueberry farm this summer, and then come home and do two classes worth of work.

I cannot wait to get my life back in order. To weed my gardens, clean my house, and maybe even do something fun, like knit or read a book. The end is in sight, I just have to cross that finish line.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Least of These..

As we head into the most holy week of the church year, I am sharing this video with the few of you who still come here and read my blog. I sponsor two beautiful little girls through Compassion International, Mariah and Aylin. I just began sponsoring Aylin last month, a gift to her, in honor of my 40th birthday this year, but really, it's a gift to me. I get the gift her her smile looking out from the frame on my trunk. The gift of her letters over the next dozen years or more. The gift of knowing that her life is going to be made better, because of a simple thing that I can do. Sponsorship costs $38 per month, which works out to roughly $1.25 per day. Consider what you spend $38 a month on now, and then consider taking that money and using it to change a life.