Posted in Post A Week Challenge

You’re Dismissed

My friend just posted a Facebook status that reads, “A clear understanding of negative emotions dismisses them”. It is somewhat serendipitous that she posted that as I sit here filled with negative emotions. As a matter of fact, I’ve been on quite the emotional roller coaster lately and I’m having a hard time pinpointing the root cause of all this negativity. I find myself unable to fall asleep even though I’m completely and utterly exhausted. There was a time when I would jokingly say that nights would be so much more restful if I could just get the voices in my head to stop screaming. Trust me when I say that has earned me some pretty awkward glances.

I haven’t had a night like this in a really long time. I’m not sure what’s prompting the sleeplessness but I have some ideas. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve spent most of the day hung over and the depressive effects of the remnants of alcohol are taking a toll on me. Last night was so much fun and the ability to ‘let go’ for a few hours was very much needed.

Sleep could be hindered by the fact that I’m constantly making lists of to-do’s regarding our upcoming trip to Mexico. We’ve never traveled with the kids before and I’m a little nervous and stressed about it. Not at all stressed in a bad way but just the typical thoughts of packing and making sure we don’t forget important things. It doesn’t help that I’m so excited about this trip that I can’t stop thinking about all the fun stuff we have planned.

There are other stresses associated with this trip that I have no control over. I’ll be away from work for 8 business days, which can be a lifetime in my profession. When we planned this trip for June, it was the ideal time with regards to my projected work schedule. Of course, I should have known that when dealing with the United States government, nothing ever goes as it should. Last week we got 62 requests for proposals that are all due pretty much while I’m gone or the week I get back. I’ll do as much as I can and between my boss and myself, I fully expect to knock out a chunk of them. However, I know we will not finish them and that means the burden will fall completely on my boss, and as much as I would like to not care, I do. I hate to leave him. That’s just who I am. My boss would tell me to stop being silly and forget about work and enjoy my well deserved break. I’m sure I will have no trouble putting it out of my mind once I’m in Mexico but for now, it’s got my brain working overtime with worry.

I think these are the biggest causes of my negative emotions tonight but I feel it’s only fair to list some of the other random things floating around in my head. I’m missing friends and family. I’ve got a personal to-do list several pages long. I have about a half dozen partially written blogs that I want to complete but can’t make myself sit down and finish. I’ve dealt with some office politics at work lately that have left me feeling empty and angry. I’ve watch insincerity run rampant around me. I’ve been weak in my reactions to that insincerity and that really bothers me. I’m physically exhausted most of the time for no reason. Laziness seems to rule my world and I’m very unhappy with how I allow that to happen.  I missed being at church today and will miss it for the next 2 Sunday’s as well. There could be some very significant changes at work that scare the crap out of me. Gil’s 19 year old cat is sweet and loving and still gets around but I’m afraid his quality of life is diminished to the point that we need to make a very hard decision soon. I see people I love dealing with some tough demons and I want to help more but still feel completely helpless most of the time.

Well, there you have it. I’ve put the negatives out there in an effort to gain some understanding of them. Seeing some of it in black and white does help me realize that most of what’s negative in my life can be easily fixed if I just take action. Some of the negatives aren’t really negatives at all, but for some reason I’m choosing to think negatively about the positive things. Some of the things are completely out of my control and I just have to trust that God will guide me to do the right thing when I have choices to make.

I want to stop dwelling on the negatives and remember the positives. I have an amazing group of friends that I try not to bother too often with my worries, but I know that if needed, they would come in like the cavalry. I have an amazing husband who loves me and takes care of me in ways I never dreamed possible. I have my mom here with me all the time, just in case I need her. I have a great job in which I’m challenged and presented with opportunities to grow and become better every day. I have my health. Yes, I have little grumbles and complaints, but overall, I’m healthy. I believe that I’m living a life that pleases God.

Ok negative emotions, consider yourself dismissed.

Posted in Uncategorized

No One Fights Alone

Sometimes you are given an opportunity to witness something so remarkable that it leaves you filled with an unbelievable amount of hope.  Tonight, I’ve been a witness, once again, to the incredible power of the Hazelnuts and it has left my soul overflowing with love. And on this night, I am truly honored to call myself a Hazelnut.

If we are friends in real life, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I refer to the Hazelnuts. If we aren’t friends in real life, please allow me to explain. Thanks to my wonderful husband, I was introduced to the music of Sister Hazel in 2005 and my life has not been the same since. The fans of Sister Hazel are referred to as Hazelnuts and we are one of the most eclectic groups of people you will ever meet. We come from all over the world and from every background you can imagine. We may be different on the outside but we have some very common threads that bind us together. We LOVE our Sister Hazel and we love each other. And that last part is what let me to writing this post.

I’ve seen this community of people, scattered all over the country, come together for some amazing things. I’ve watched my husband and friends jump out of a plane for charity. I’ve seen grown men weep during concerts and shave their heads to support a child going through cancer. I’ve seen yellow boxing gloves shipped across the country so we could all sign them to show our support in a fellow Hazelnut’s fight against cancer. I’ve seen us celebrate each other’s joys and weep with each sorrow. We’re an amazing bunch, I tell you.  What’s really amazing is that some of us have never met, but it just doesn’t matter. The music may have brought us all together but it’s our affection for each that drives us to be there when needed, in good or bad times.

The Hazelnuts showing support for our friend Katie, who was battling cancer at the time.
Presentation of the Hazelnut signed boxing gloves - to help Katie kick cancer's assGil, Lindsey, Kelly and Kara after they jumped out of a plane for Lyrics for Life

Yesterday, our little community got some shocking and devastating news. We found out one of our own has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Cancer sucks, by the way.  Speaking for myself, I was sad and scared when I heard the news. I took some time out of my day to bow my head and ask for God to place His healing hand on my friend Dave.

Tonight, my heart was once again blown away by this community. In a little more than 24 hours since getting the news about Dave, this group had organized a Facebook Flash Mob to show our love and support for Dave and his beautiful wife, Lori. I sat here and watched my newsfeed explode with photo after photo showing Dave just how much we love him. The status messages and wall posts filled with words of support, prayers and encouragement have warmed my heart. I see Dave once a year, but it doesn’t matter. We are family and Gil and I will be here to help in any way we can. I know, without a doubt, Dave and Lori would do the same for us. No question in my mind.

My show of support for Dave
Reca and Cori - Reca met her husband, Elton, because of Sister Hazel
Nathan and Kara met on The Rock Boat, thanks to Sister Hazel
Stephanie even got her pet involved with showing support for Dave

This community is bound by a love that’s difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. I believe that if Dave can draw strength from the words, prayers, and wishes of this community, he will most certainly kick cancer’s ass.

Dave and Lori with Gil and me on The Rock Boat XTatoo Dave giving me a sharpie tatoo on The Rock Boat X
Tatoo Dave giving me a sharpie tatoo on The Rock Boat X
Posted in Post A Week Challenge, Uncategorized

Rabbit Holes and $10,000 Dresses

I fell down the Twitter rabbit hole this afternoon and after hours of clicking through page after page and blog after blog, I ended up on a very intriguing website. Jamie Ridler is a professional creative living life coach who is, and I quote, passionate about authentic living and creativity.  Can you guess why I may have spent some time on her website? Oh, and her latest blog entry includes a video of Michael Franti singing Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong. #winning

Let’s just say I think I’m in love with her and I see myself spending many hours soaking up her words. One of the inspirational tools she offers is an online Full Moon Dreamboard session. This caught my attention because of my involvement in the Change Your Mind workshop last year. One of our assignments was to create a Vision Board. As I suspected, dreamboards and vision boards are very similar. The difference, according to Jamie’s website, is that the dreamboard is “tied directly to the cycles of the moon and this connection to the rhythms of nature help us tap into the rhythm of ourselves”. Let’s just say I’m intrigued and may just have to participate in the next session.

While checking out the FAQ’s and trying to find out exactly what and how to do a dreamboard, I found a response that completely answered my question and even provided links to some examples and tools other people used to create their boards. Of course, this led me deeper into the time suckage warp and I found myself on the Polyvore website creating my own little version of a vision board. I tried to tear myself away but I just lost all control and just kept creating and creating and creating.  And yes, it felt really good to be creative for a while. I think I needed that little release today.

Below is my creation of things I found to be very pretty and a little romantic. I can imagine myself wearing the dress and big floppy hat to my friend’s wedding later this year. The first item I selected was the dress and I just built onto that theme and color to create a little collection that just left me smiling. Of course, once the fashion items had been selected, I then felt a strong desire to throw in some other items that I love. I found the quote and thought how perfect that is for me and my current journey to find out who I am. I guess what I’m finding is really that all of me is not perfect, but, dammit, some parts are pretty awesome.  The final piece was the music themed background, which I felt absolutely completed my little dream/vision board. This small and simple collage may be the beginning of some larger board in the future.

Now, while I was building my little creation, I failed to notice there were prices associated with the items I selected.  Oh boy. Apparently, I have much more expensive taste than I realized.  Check out the pricetag on that pretty little sundress that I hoped to wear to my friend’s wedding.  I’m pretty sure Gil is just not going to agree to that. Maybe I could talk him into a new bottle of Coco Mademmoiselle so at least I can smell pretty while wearing a dress from Target to that wedding. Pretty

Pretty by purrfectlee featuring stiletto heels

Ralph Lauren Collection wrap dress
$10,000 –

Stiletto heels
4.99 GBP –

Stiletto heels
4.99 GBP –

Bally leather tote bag
$1,395 –

H M straw handbag
25 GBP –

Red Herring gold bracelet
10 GBP –

Beanie hat
$15 –

Lip Gloss
2.99 GBP –

$95 –

DESTINED Glitter Nail Color
$2.99 –

Fauna Cat Pillow Fauna
$104 –

Black Printed Leather
$265 –
Posted in Post A Week Challenge

It Could Have Been Me

Demons.  We all have them. Some are more vicious than others. Your demons are no more or less scary than mine, and vice versa.  Some of us face the same demon day after day while others face the infrequent demon only when it decides to rear its ugly head.  Let’s face it, demons are a part of our everyday life. Some people manage to conquer their demons through various means but others struggle in ways that we can never understand.

Take the teenage girl who was molested by a trusted family member. She may deal with this memory by simply not remembering. We can do that. We can repress a memory to the point that it never comes to the forefront of our thoughts. One day it might again, but for this girl, it’s her coping mechanism. There’s the grandfather who recognizes his Alzheimer’s is stealing his life and his memories. He copes by putting a bullet through his brain. His demon wins and his family loses but it was his way of quieting the evil voices that guide us sometimes.   Right or wrong, these ways of doing battle are just a couple of the many options in the arsenals we use to deal with our troubles.

There is another method we sometimes choose, and for me and my world, it seems to be the easiest and most common. I know I’m guilty of it and I bet you all know someone else who is as well. I’m talking about the method of numbing our pain, of chemically suppressing our emotions so that the hurting, anger and anguish are just not dominant in our lives.

In my lifetime, I’ve had some pretty big demons consume my thoughts. Most of them came for a while and through some twist of fate or by God’s grace, I’ve managed to slay them all (almost).  The wars were not won overnight but it was during the battles I fought that I faced the option of which direction my life would take.  I drank and I partied and I drank and sometimes I even took a pill if it made me feel better.  This may be a shocking confession to some of you. To others, not so much.

I need to clarify this just a little. I’m not a raging alcoholic, nor am I a needle between the toes drug addict. What I’m talking about is, those days, weeks or even months when the pain is too great to bear, I have been known to drink a bottle of wine or an enormous rum and Coke, just to help me sleep through it.  Do you know that feeling? Those times when the voices in our heads are filing us with dread and self-doubt and no activity or distraction can shut them up. Those times when it seems our only alternative is to put them out. To sedate them. Hey, if I’m asleep, I’m not crying anymore, right?  If I’m asleep, my heart doesn’t feel like it’s going to pound through my chest cavity and end up on the wall across the room. If I’m asleep, the memories that haunt me will simply fade to black.

These episodes have been very rare and I can only think of three periods in my life in which I resorted to this form of coping on a larger scale. There was one time in my early 30’s when it seemed that my life was falling apart and it was easier to spend my evenings in a drunken stupor than to deal with the realization of the mistakes I was making. The second episode came a few years later. This time I wasn’t dealing with my own demons. This time, I was struggling with the demons of others, with the helplessness that comes from watching someone you love being sucked lower and lower into the bowels of their own hell.  When there was nothing left to do but watch the destruction, I chose to cope with months and months of binge drinking parties that left me with days of missing memories. The last time I turned to synthetic mood enhancers was the fall of 2005. This time was different though. My coping for this short period involved booze and prayer. I know, that’s a pretty strange combination but it’s what got me through. Lucky for me, this one worked itself out and everyone lived happily ever after.

There have been other times but these three are the most severe and significant examples.  Some other ways that I’ve dealt with a bad day may have included the use of some prescription medication in a way other than for which it was prescribed. For the record, I have not illegally obtained any form of narcotic since my youth. Sorry, I just felt the need to put that out there. You never know who reads this blog. When I say that I’ve used pills to deal with a bad day, I mean that I may have taken a pain pill when I wasn’t in physical pain. Hey, mental pain is still pain, dammit.

I am very much aware of how dangerous my method of coping has been.  I have lived on the slippery slope and managed to hang on for dear life. In every one of these instances I ran the very real risk of allowing my coping mechanism to actually become my new demon. I don’t know why this never happened. Maybe I was scared so straight at a very young age that my internal will just stopped it from becoming more than it was. Am I stronger than others who allow the drugs and alcohol to take over? No. I am absolutely not. Is my brain wired differently? Maybe. I have no idea why these episodes never became a bigger problem. I’m thankful and I contribute it to God’s grace, but I know there is more than that at play here. God gives us free will for a reason and my free will took a different path.  That is all.

Every day I am faced with a reminder of the evil that is addiction. My life has been altered because of it.  Other people’s lives are being affected daily because of it. The thing is, at this point in time, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Addiction almost cost me something dear, but thank God it did not.  We beat it down.  I say ‘we’ because I’m not sure the addiction could have been beaten by a single person. I believe that once the addiction was identified, it took the addict, the family, the doctors, lawyers, judges, therapists, and friends to beat this demon. Would it have been defeated if one of those people had not stood up to face it head on? I’m not sure, and I’m glad I don’t have to find out. The wake of destruction left by the addiction is still evident but it doesn’t matter anymore.  I still get mad and have moments of weakness where I blame the addict and then I remember why the addict became an addict. That’s all it takes. A single moment to remember what pain was being numbed and it becomes easier to forgive.

If someone does lose their battle with the demon that is addiction, I pray they find the peace they seek. I will never judge them if they chose numbness over pain. I have no right to do that because it could easily be me. I believe that addiction is one of the ugliest monsters one can face.  Addiction is real and it’s a problem that is devastating families and relationships every second. It hurts those who are addicted and it can destroy those who love them.

If you know someone who struggles with addiction, stop for a moment and think about how they got there. Did they begin using drugs or alcohol to stop a pain that never seems to end? Do they fight a demon we cannot see? Are they fighting alone because they want to fight alone, or is it because no one offered to help? Have offers to help fight the addition been made and rejected? Have you considered that it’s not the addition they need help fighting? Maybe it’s the dark, deeply buried secret they can’t seem to forget. Maybe they just need that one person to say they care. Why don’t you ask if you can help them? Ask if you can hold their hand or make a phone call or pay for a therapy session. Help them help themselves if they want it. Some do want it. Some need to be released from the addiction but it’s an impossible task until they are released from the demon that drove them there.

Addiction can be very quiet and may sit in a dark closet where no one can see it. It’s hard to do battle with an invisible demon, so ask them to reveal it to you so you can fight together. Invite them to lay their troubles down at your feet, at God’s feet, at their teacher’s or doctor’s feet. Maybe they just need someone to help them carry their cross if the burden is too much for them.

Do you know someone who is struggling and you are afraid to talk to them? Don’t be afraid, just do it. It may be the conversation that saves their life.

Posted in Inspired by Music

We Are All Beautiful Things

There is no greater gratitude than that for hope restored when you’ve all but given up. – Stacey Monk

I’m often left in awe of the ways in which God speaks to me. Today, He did it again. I wanted to tell someone that I love how important they are to me and to the world, but I was struggling to find the right words. Then God provided me with the words I could not find.

This was one of the songs performed this morning in church. I cannot think of a better way to say it than to simply share this video.

God makes beautiful things and you are one of them. Don’t ever forget that. There is nothing that you have done that God won’t forgive. Put your faith in Him and He will see you through this. I am sure of it.

Posted in Uncategorized

Lead by Example

I’ve been planning this blog post since long before I even thought about starting a blog. Last May, I watched a fundraising campaign unfold on Twitter and it was unlike anything I had seen before. I tried to follow along but I was relatively new to the Twitter world and instead just watched from the sidelines. The campaign was called To Mama With Love  and I read enough about it to get the basic gist of what it was all about, but I was still too nervous to jump in. Little did I know that the mastermind behind To Mama With Love would go on to have such an impact on my life over the next year. Yes, Stacey Monk, I’m talking about you. I watched strangers post messages of love to the mama’s in their life and thought about what I would say if given the opportunity to honor a mama in my life. I knew a year ago, the mama I would want the world to know about was my grandmother. So, world, come meet my grandmother.

Her name was Mary Elizabeth Walker. She was born in 1922 in Eufaula, Alabama, and married my grandfather when she was just 16 years old. Less than a year later, my uncle was born, followed by my mother seven years after that. I grew up a quarter mile from my grandparents so both of them were a huge part of my childhood. Even though it was my grandfather who I had a special bond with, it is the time after this death that I spent with my grandmother that I remember the most. She became a second mother to me after my grandfather died because from the age of 10 to about 15 or 16, I spent every other night with her, while my cousin took the other nights.

If there was ever a woman who led by example, it was my grandmother. She was the family nurse, doctor, midwife, preacher, historian, caregiver, disciplinarian, matriarch, teacher, cook and protector. She loved everyone and could only see the good in people. Even when those people might betray or mislead her, she still approached her relationship with them as one filled with love and tolerance. This woman was one of the purest, most genuine and sincere souls you could ever hope to meet. She loved God, her family, her friends, her neighbors and the stranger she had yet to meet. She grew up poor and never took anything in her life for granted. She was kind and giving and if she thought you needed a dollar, she would give you her last two.

My grandmother taught us the true meaning of community. If there was a death, a birth or an illness, she was the first one there with a fully prepared meal. If she couldn’t heal a person’s hurt, she could always fill their tummys. Her home was the gathering place for many family get togethers. Every holiday was spent in my grandmother’s kitchen and dining room. She would be up before dawn making sure every person at the table had their favorite dish in front of them. Yes, she always over cooked and we often had food for a week after one of her meals, but it was important to her that every one of us was happy.

My mom told me my grandmother’s dream had always been to be a nurse. I think that was obvious to anyone whose life she touched. She was either birthing babies or healing sore throats. Even in her retirement years, she took a part-time job as a sitter for hospice patients. She rarely ever saw those in her care pull through, but I can only imagine the level of care and love that my grandmother bestowed on those people in their final days or weeks. She took care of my family and my father when my father’s cancer diagnosis came in. She housed us for months and months when our home was destroyed by fire. She never said no and never once indicated that any of her work was less than enjoyable. As my cousin recalled to me, she never grumbled, no matter what hardship she was facing.

In preparation for this blog, I asked some of my family to share their favorite memories of my grandmother and this how my cousin, Susan, described her, “She would often make ‘house calls’ to check on people, like a minister in a Southern Baptist church.  Her heart was of God.  You felt it. Knew it.” That does truly sum it up. She was of God and lived her life in such a way that I’m sure He smiled down on her multiple times a day.

I’m writing this today because it’s been one year since I first discovered To Mama With Love and I am no longer afraid to jump right smack in the middle of this global project. I knew a year ago that the woman I needed to honor today would be my grandmother and I’m so happy that I can do that. My grandmother spent her life sacrificing for the sake of everyone around her, in much the same way as the other Mama’s being honored this week around the globe.  My grandmother was not a woman of means but I can only imagine what she would have accomplished had she been given an opportunity to change the world. Or, maybe she is changing the world through those of us who strive to be like her, to live up to her charitable, giving and loving nature. Maybe her lot in life to was to show us what we should all strive to be and then take and use that knowledge to change the world through our voice and our actions.

Granny may not have directly changed the world but because of her, I hope to…one small action at a time.

View my Heartspace here.


To Mama With Love is a collaborative online art project that honors moms across the globe and raises funds to invest in remarkable women who are transforming our world.  Scheduled for May 3-8, 2011, the site invites participants to create socially shareable “heartspaces” that include words, videos, photos & investments in honor of mamas they love.  To create a heartspace, and send a Mother’s Day e-card from the site, participants make a contribution to the grassroots women changemakers featured on the site.  Originally launched in 2010 by US nonprofit Epic ChangeTo Mama With Love appeared at the top of Mashable’s 2010 lists of 4 Innovative Social Good Campaigns for Education and 9 Creative Social Good Campaigns Worth Recognizing.  In less than a week leading up to Mother’s Day, the site raised nearly $17,000, which was invested to build a children’s home in Arusha, Tanzania. Construction is already complete, and children have now become residents of this home built from love

To Mama With Love 
supports Epic Change’s mission to raise visibility and support for grassroots changemakers. Funds raised will be invested to expand the efforts of four extraordinary women:

“Mama Lucy” Kamptoni sold chickens in her Tanzanian village & turned her income into a primary school that now serves over 400 children.  Her students consistently score at the top of over 120 schools in the Arusha district of Tanzania.  Mama Lucy is an Epic Change fellow, and has been an invited speaker at the European Summit for Global Transformation.

Recently named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people and Newsweek’s 150 Women Who Shake the WorldSuraya Pakzad is an outspoken Afghan activist on behalf of the rights of women and girls.  She originally founded the Voice of Women Organization (VWO) to educate girls in Kabul in secret schools under the Taliban, and has since expanded to support and assist underprivileged women and children throughout Afghanistan.

At 19, New Jersey native Maggie Doyne used her life savings from babysitting to start Kopila Valley children’s home in Nepal, which has grown to a home for over 40 children, and a school serving over 200 students. Now, at just 23 years old, Maggie’s work has been featured in the New York Times, and her remarkable story has earned her the DoSomething & CosmoGirl awards.

Renu Shah Bagaria is the founder of Koseli, a center for children in Kathmandu, Nepal, who, due to their economic circumstances and the country’s recent civil war, live in the city’s streets and slums.  Koseli, which means “gift”, provides education, food and tender loving care for over 75 young students, and, in the evenings, hosts an adult education program for local women.

Over 95% of funds collected through heartspace sales will be invested directly in these remarkable women.  The remaining 5% represents PayPal & wire fees associated with donation processing & disbursal.