Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve....

It’s Christmas Eve and I am contemplative.  I am thinking about that first Christmas so long ago.  How the characters in that story had no idea how it was all going to play out.  That one day, 2,000 years later, I would be remembering and celebrating the birth of their son.  No, I don’t think they really had a clue.  I think they were taking one step at a time… one tenuous step… one painful step at a time.  For us, we celebrate a wondrous and happy event because we know the ending.  But they didn’t know the ending.  They probably had no idea how it was all going to turn out.  And at times, they must have feel overwhelmed, frustrated and confused.  Sometimes, I think we forget what it must to have been like for them…. for Mary and for Joseph. 

It really wasn’t a pretty picture.  Mary was young.  Possibly as young as 15.  She was engaged to marry a man named Joseph.  Her life was taking shape.  Her dreams of a family were coming true.  And then the angel came.  Telling her that she was going to have a baby.  She is obviously taken back.  She was a virgin.  How could it be?  But it was to be.  So, she takes off immediately to see her cousin in another town.  She stayed there 3 months and then returned home.  This is NOT looking good for her.  Quite the opposite.  I mean, she goes away and comes back 3 months pregnant.  It doesn’t take a genius to put this one together. Not for her family, not for Joseph, or anyone in town. 

Mary tells Joseph the story.  He is ready to end it.  But God comes to him in a dream.  Tells him that what Mary told him is true.  Joseph, God love that man, takes her as his wife.  Knowing full well that people would talk.  They would call Mary a whore.  They would call his character into question.  He would either be a fool for believing her or a liar because the baby was his. But he does it.  He choses a path that few would take. 

I don’t know how they did it?  To know people thought such damning things about you when in truth, it was the complete opposite. They would never experience, in their lifetimes, the vindication of everyone knowing the truth.  No, they would carry the burdened of false accusations and condemnation. 

But they did it.  They walked down that road.  They bore the pain and the unknown.  They trusted that God would make it right, in His time, in His way. That is faith.  That is trust.

So, this Christmas, I thank them.  I thank Mary for allowing her life to go down a totally different road than she had planned. For enduring insults and accusations.  For carrying the baby that would ultimately set us free.  I thank Joseph for being faithful.  For persevering when things surely seemed grim.  For doing the ‘wrong thing’ in his culture and taking in a woman pregnant with a child that was not his own.  Thank you for giving me a beautiful Christmas gift.

Merry Christmas….

Sunday, December 2, 2012

It's That Time of Year Again...

It is that time of year again. Trees and twinkle lights, hot chocolate and candy canes, chestnuts and fires. And Pap smears.  Yup, my annual exam falls in December.  Lucky me.  It has been this way for 7 years.  It is part of the joy of Christmas for me. 

I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate these exams.  Days before the appointment, I try to come up with a good reason why I need to cancel.  I don’t know why but I feel like I need a better reason than,  I  don’t like showing my lady bits to people and being violated with a mental object that looks like a pair of salad tongs. Now that I write it out….it seems like a pretty damn good reason.  

There is only one person I trust to examine my Nether Regions and that is Caroline.  So, when I arrive to check in, I am always nervous the receptionist is going to tell me Caroline is sick and I will have to see Dr. So and So.  That might send me over the edge.  So, on my way up in the elevator, I practice what I am going say and do if that scenario happens. It goes something like this: I cock my head to the side and say, “Oh No YOU don’t.  You can’t be changing up my doctors without me knowing about it!  I’m OUTTA here!” Then I do a snap wave with my hand,  turn on my heal and storm out of the office.  To which the receptionist turns to the other receptionist, raises an eyebrow and proceeds to write on my chart:  Patient pretended to be a ‘Sassy, black, urban, teenager’ and left the building… Appointment cancelled.
No such luck today. Maybe next year.

Since this is solely a Women’s Health Practice, I find the waiting area interesting.  I am always trying to guess what other people are being seen for.  Some are obviously pregnant, some not.  I generally assume if a woman is there and looks under 40, they must be pregnant (except for me of course).  Everyone else is probably there for an array of yeast infections, herpes and Chlamydia…especially the gray haired old ladies.  Don’t be fooled by their age….they still get around.

After a short wait, the nurse calls me into the back room.  The rooms are nice and cheery but that is there way of putting you at ease before the torture begins.  This is about the time my nervous energy kicks in and I become a Stand Up Comic.  The nurse asks me all the information type questions.  Date of Birth?  Changes in medical History? How much caffeine do you have a day?  What medications are you currently on?  Etc.  I like to mess with them when they ask these questions.  I tell them that I had a heart transplant in the past year or that I wasn’t sure if they wanted to know about my recreational drug use.
As the nurse is leaving, she asks if I would mind an intern observing during my appointment?  Sure, why not.  Come to think of it, why don’t we let her DO the exam. I mean, she probably needs the practice right?  HELL YES I MIND! And that was the end of that. 
Eventually, Caroline came in and we spent so time catching up.  It is funny the connection you feel with your gynecologist.  It probably has to do with the fact that they have had their hand in your vagina more than most people… it tends to bond people.  Now, as she is doing the exam, I am trying to relax but who can relax with someone’s hand shoved up you?  It is physically impossible.  So, since I can’t relax, I tell jokes.  And I am funny.  Come to think of it, I should charge for this stuff.  Make Caroline buy a ticket for my little comedy show.  I think I will suggest that for next year.
Apparently, I have what they call an ‘irritable uterus’.  Makes sense to me.  Honestly, if you started asking some questions, I bet we would find my cervix is pissed off too.  And my Vagina? Well, I would guess she is just plain angry.  Who wouldn’t be? With all poking and swabbing.   I think I might look into getting them so therapy after the New Year.
Finally, it is over.  At least until next Christmas.  When I will go through it all again.  But I will do it.  For my husband.  For my kids.  I don’t want Eric to have to find a new wife; it would be really difficult because I am pretty damn awesome.  And, I don’t want my kids growing up without a mom; especially if it could have been prevented.  So, I guess it is my gift to them.  My Christmas gift.  I know they won’t understand that now and it probably feels like the equivalent of getting socks or underwear on Christmas morning but in the long run, it might just be one of the best gifts I could give them.
Merry Christmas Eric, Nick and Ethan…


Monday, October 29, 2012

The Bus Stop...

Getting to the bus stop is probably the most stressful part of the day.  You know what I am talking about and if you say you don’t, it’s because you are a big fat liar or you take a couple of Adavan with your morning coffee. Everyone’s morning probably looks a little different but it all ends the same…. with someone crying.  Here is what a typical morning looks like at the Harter House:
6:45am…  Hubby wakes me up.  I meander downstairs, get a cup of coffee and join the kid, who are plopped down on the sofa watching TV.  They are eating dry cereal from the box (we never bothered with introducing them to cereal in a bowl with milk…we were just too lazy to deal with the potential mess).  This activity continues for a good 40mins.

7:30am…  This is when I turn off the TV and tell everyone to get ready for the bus.  To which they respond with shock and surprise, as if this was the first time they have had to this.  I head into the kitchen to make their lunches and they work on ‘getting ready’.

7:33am…  I ask Ethan if he has his clothes.  He says he can’t find them.  I tell him to look in the clean laundry baskets.  Of course, there are pants and underwear but no shirt.  Which means Ethan will have to go upstairs to get any items he is missing.  Ethan doesn’t like to go upstairs alone.  He is scared.  Of what?  I have no idea.  What he should be scared of, is me and missing the bus.  But I digress.

7:35-7:40… Ethan tries to get me to go upstairs with him.  I say no.  He begs.  I say, “you’re a big boy, there’s nothing to be afraid of, you can do it, blah…blah…blah.” 

7:41am… I stand at the bottom of the stairs, as a compromise, while he gets the rest of his clothes.

7:43am… I finish up the lunch and try to remember where I put my coffee because by now it is cold and I want to heat it up

7:45am… I check to make sure Ethan is all dressed only to find him, half-naked, playing with a dust bunny that he found on the dining room floor. Apparently, he got distracted.  And he forgot to get socks when he was upstairs.  This is about the time when I say things about ‘dilly-dallying’ and ‘how pissed I am gonna be if we miss the bus”.

7:46am… I run upstairs and get him a pair of freaking socks and tell him to find his shoes!

7:47am… Ethan puts on his socks and begins to complain how they don’t feel right and how they are all ‘bumpy’.  I tell him I don’t care…they will feel better soon….just put your shoes on ‘cause we don’t have time for this!

7:48am… Ethan can’t find his backpack and I can’t find my coffee

7:49am… We are so going to miss the bus.

7:50am… I find my coffee and proceed to heat it up in the microwave for 20sec. 

7:51am… Ethan has found his backpack and is trying to put on his sweatshirt but the sleeves are inside out and he has gotten himself all twisted up.

7:52am… Ethan and I are running down the hill to the bus stop.  Him half crying and me spilling my precious coffee on my sweatshirt, all the while I am telling him to hurry but not to run to fast because he is gonna fall.

7:53am… Yellow Bus comes.  All is well…until tomorrow.

For the life of me I CAN NOT figure out why I keep doing this, day after day.  I mean, I could change some things.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what to do right?  But I don’t.  I keep doing the same damn thing.  They say the definition of insanity is that you keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.  Well, that would explain a lot huh?   

So, my new plan is to start the ‘getting ready’ process a bit earlier.  Maybe have the clothes picked out the night before.  You know try some common sense sort of stuff first before the Super Nanny has to step in.

[Update:  I have been trying the above plan and it much better…a lot less frustration and tears.]


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Episcopals...

A couple of weeks ago, we visited an Episcopal Church.  Some of our close friend have been going there and have been trying to get us to come.  So we did.  And it was weird.  Not the people, just the experience.  It was so different from what we are use to. 
Our former church met in a modern building, had praise and worship music, and as far liturgy goes, we might recite a creed once in awhile.  The Episcopal Church was very different.  Wooden pews (no cushions), stained glass, robes, incense, altar boys, a choir, and a really loud organ (have I ever mentioned that I hate organs.  Like REALLY hate them. If it were in my power, I would ban them and destroy them…all.). 
The service had a lot of rituals and aspects that were curious to me.  First, was when the priest read from a special bible and then kissed it.  Then there was the ceremony that involved the incense.  It was quite a scene to behold, actually.  The priest was wearing an extra robe at this point and 2 of the altar boys had to hold up the sides of the robe so the priest could swing the incense bucket over the communion bread and wine.  He was really getting into it.  I was tempted to take out my phone and record it because I was sure that one of those altar boys was gonna get it in the head.  No such luck.  The altar boys were a curious lot to me.  One of them was like 75 years old.  Is it that difficult to graduate from that position?  Lastly, the Choir was fascinating with all the robes and bling (Seriously, they all wore shiny crosses that were like a foot long.)
The Episcopals have all the children join the adults when they take communion (they were in Sunday School making rafts out of cardstock and baby Moses’s out of rocks- which they totally loved! Ethan was especially excited because he got to make 2 sleeping bags for baby Moses out of felt.)  Now, when they came in, Ethan heard the organ playing and choir singing but could not see them (they were up in the balcony, behind us) he turned and asked me, “Mom! Where is that ‘ARRT…ARRT….ARRT’ sound coming from” all while making piano gestures with his hands.  Then my older son wanted to know why everyone was going up to the front so I told them they were taking communion, to which he replied, “They get FREE bread?!?!”.  At this point, Ethan comments about how much he likes the smell of the candles (aka the incense) and I am thinking, “We must look like the most unchurched people ever!”.  I wanted to turn around and tell people that were churched people.  Honest.  Overchurched actually.  We are so churched we have it coming out our asses.  But I thought better of it and refrained.
 My favorite part?  The sermon and the people.  The sermon (probably not what they call it) was great.  And not because it was only 15mins long.  No, it was honest and gracious.  I felt no judgment or shame, only encouragement.  And the people…they were so nice and normal.  No one tried to get us to be involved, or asked us for our contact info so they could get us “Plugged In”.  It was a nice change from what we are use to. 
Despite the differences, I have to say that I enjoyed being there that Sunday. What I am coming to understand and embrace is that we, as Christians, come in all different shapes and sizes.  We may do things differently but we share the same God and the same Jesus. One way is not necessarily better than the other….just different.  This is a far cry from what I have been taught.  Denominations can be so nit- picky and feel the need to think they are doing it better than the others.  I don’t want to think like that anymore. I want to accept others and being accepted despite the different way we express our faith.
I think we will go back.  I might even do a little research to learn what the different parts of the service mean… it might make it seem less weird.




Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Red Squirrel...

I hate red squirrels.  I hate them with a passion.  They may be cute but let me assure you, they are evil.

Years ago, I met the devil himself.  Not in Hell, but in my bathroom.  We have an old house and at the time, our roof had developed a leak.  The ceiling in our bathroom was a ‘tile type’ of ceiling.  Sort of like a suspended ceiling.  So, when the water leaked in from the roof, it caused some of the tiles to separate. The leak was so bad that when we had a heavy rain we had to tack up a shower curtain (it was a pretty pink one) and channel the water into the sink.  Man, those were good times…
It wasn’t long after, that I noticed the ceiling tile seemed to be coming apart from the seams.  Shortly after that, I noticed the cats were spending an abnormal amount of time in the bathroom.  Then it appeared that someone or something was continually knocking things over onto the bathroom floor.  Then he appeared.  I watched him escape certain death from the jaws of our ferocious feline and disappear through the hole in the ceiling tile. 
We tried to block up the hole but the damn squirrel kept chewing at the tile to get in (I even tried duct tape…talk about ghetto).  This little game went on for quite some time.   Then finally, the day of reckoning arrived and the showdown began. 

There we were, face to face.  I was standing across the room, next to the door (which was closed by this time).  He was perched on our pink sink.  His eyes met mine and that is when it happened.  He spread out his arms and lunged at me.  Now it just got personal.  Game on my little friend….GAME ON.  For those of you who don’t know, our bathroom is huge.  It is actually a combination bathroom/laundry room and the walls are a type of weird textured wooden panel which gave the squirrel a distinct advantage.  But I was determined.  I would not lose to such vermin.  So, with a wooden stick in one hand and a plastic laundry basket in the other a chased that damn thing all around the bathroom (I may have been yelling and screaming during this stage of the process). 

Did I mention that my husband was in the kitchen holding our screaming 3month old,  yelling to me, “ Will you PLEASE just leave it alone and get out of there!?!?!” to which I responded something to the effect of, “ Hell NO!  I’m ‘gonna’ get him!”  That poor man.  When he said, “I Do” he had no idea what he was getting into.
Shortly after this brief verbal exchange, Big Red pulled a matrix type move and was literally running across the wall (no joke; I think it was the texture in the wooden wall paneling).  Luckly, I was there with my laundry basket and was able to catch him….on the wall.  That’s right, I was holding the basket against the wall with a trapped, pissed off, angry red squirrel in it. In the 10 seconds I had to think about what to do next, the squirrel manage to chew through the plastic netting and proceed to use my arm and back as an escape bridge. 

At this point I just started to cry and heeded my husband’s advice to ‘get out of there’.  We called Fish & Game who sent a lovely gentleman to our door.  He was able to catch our little friend within 5 mins (who knew a little trap would be easier than chasing it around with a stick).  Since the squirrel had scratched me, they would need to test for rabies. Which meant they would have to cut its’ head off.  Usually, I would feel bad about this sort of thing but not this time. Nope, he had it coming.

As the Fish & Game man drove away and Big Red prepared to meet his Maker, I headed off to the doctor’s office for a tetanus shot. Clearly, there were no winners that day.

Even now, as I think of that day, all that comes to mind is “Damn you little Red Squirrel….damn you.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Seeking to Understand...

Last week, I saw a transgendered individual walking across the street.  It looked to me that this person had been born male and was now identifying as a female.  She was dressed as a woman but had a large frame, awkward stride, and looked nothing like what our culture defines as womanly.  A variety of thoughts ran through my mind.  None of them kind.  Then it hit me. That what I was looking at was not a what but a person.  A person like me.  Someone, who has emotions and feelings.  Someone, who wakes up in the morning and puts on a pot of coffee.  Who has a family and friends.  Who needs  love and affection. Someone, who longs to be accepted.  A person just trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in this world.  When I thought about what this person must have to contend with day in and day out, my heart broke.  I was filled with compassion.  I found myself wanting to know her story.  Not so I could fix her or find some reason as to why she is this way but to try to understand. 

This encounter has got me thinking about people. More specifically, how I see people.  Do I see a person or my own bias and preconceived notions?  I think as a human being, I tend to gravitate to those who are similar to me and move away from those who are different.  Similar is safe, different is not.  Different can be scary, not to mention uncomfortable.  Different has a way of challenging my thinking and how I see life.  When I seek to understand those who are different, I run the risk of having my world turned upside down.  No longer are they the ‘other’ but a flesh and blood human being.   And it makes it harder to dismiss them or be cruel to them.

My original response to the transgendered woman was my attempt to keep her as the ‘other’ because to see her as a person, would cause me to have to rethink what I have believed about transgendered people.  And changing is difficult and painful.  It is much easier to dismiss, to criticize, to blame than it is to try to understand and to see things through another person’s eyes.

Honestly, this is hard for me to do even when the person is not that different from me.  It is so easy to get caught up in my own day and forget to look at people.  To stop and look into their eyes and remember that there is a person in there.  Often a hurting person.   A person with a story.  A story I may or may not know. When I can do this I find that I am gentler.  Kinder.  Able to love better. 

I read something recently about how we should try to ‘give our understanding to people and then seek to understand’.  It really struck me.  I want to be that kind of person.   To hold back my judgments and just listen.  Really listen.  And if I can really listen, maybe the understanding will come.  And if the understanding comes then maybe the differences will begin to fade.  And then maybe the love can come.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Getting Ahead of Myself....

Last week was kind of stressful.  The kids started school.  I started school.  I had always thought that when both of my boys were in school full time I would take a class at UNH.  Something interesting. Something just for fun. So, as my kids got on the bus to tackle the first and fourth grades, I also headed out to begin my own first day.  Rusty and anxious but excited. 
I say ‘excited’ because that was not the case a month ago.  Nope, a month ago I was anything but excited.  I was anxious and stressed for sure but not really looking forward to the class I was taking.  See, I was actually signed up to take Statistics.  You know, the class that everyone dreads and avoids like the plague until they absolutely have to take it.  Yeah, that one.  You are probably wondering why on earth I would be taking a class like this when I initially wanted to take something interesting and fun.  Good question.  You see, I am the kind of person who tends to get ahead of herself.  In this particular situation, it went something like this in my head:

Looking at the UNH course catalog:  Hummm, these sociology classes look really interesting.  This one about Family would be really cool.  What if I like sociology?  What if one class leads to another and another?  What would it take to get a Masters in Sociology?  Am I smart enough to do that? Maybe. How much are classes these days anyway?  Holy crap!  That’s a lot of money.  I should meet with someone in the graduate program and find out what prerequisites I would need because I don’t want to be taking classes willy-nilly at THOSE prices. 
After meeting with Graduate Department:  okay, so I need to take Statistics, a Methods class and a Theory class.  Hummm, it makes most sense to start out taking Statistics because it is the foundation of how Sociologists do their research.  Okay then, Statistics it is!

And that my friends, is how Kathy Harter went from “taking a fun class” to “getting her Masters” in a field she has yet to decide if she even likes.  Thankfully, after a conversation with my therapist, I was able to take a step back and reevaluate.  To ask myself how I ended up being where I didn’t want to be.  And how do I get back to where I actually want to be?
When I get ahead of myself I think it partly has to do with fear.  Fear of getting to the end of my life and having missed my purpose.  Never getting to where I was supposed to be. Where I was meant to be.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the phrase, “ I don’t want to miss God’s will for my life” or “ God has a plan for your life and you don’t want to miss it”.  Knowing God’s will is big in my subculture.  So, I try to figure out how God might be leading me and then come up with a plan.  But sometimes the plan takes on a life of its own and I get stuck in the very thing I have created  (and sign up for a very ‘un-fun’ class).

I wonder if God’s will is different than I have made it out to be?  That it has more to do with becoming than arriving.  More about a journey than a destination.  I wonder if it is less complicated…..simpler?  . That He loves me and wants to heal me.  To make me whole and slowly transform me into the person I was meant to be.  What if His will just sort of unfolds as I go along?  My experiences being like stepping stones; each one leading to the next. I could worry less about getting to where I think I should be and focus on who I am becoming. 
I think there is some wisdom in that.  When I get ahead of myself and try to force things in my life, it often produces a great deal of anxiety and stress. But when I take each day and allow life to happen, I tend to enjoy life more.  And honestly,  when I look back on my life, there have been  a lot of twists and turns that I never would have anticipated.  I would  have NEVER been able to map out the path that has brought me to the place I am today. 

So, I dropped the Statistics class and signed up for the Family class.  And I am going to try and let go.  To embrace the unknown of the future.  To step on one stone at a time and leave the bigger picture to God.  Trusting He will get me wherever it is a need to be, when I need to be there.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Christianize It Baby!

Okay, my reasons it might not be nice but I like it when the CBD (Christian Book Distributors) catalog comes in the mail.  I love to look at all the merchandise and how the industry is able to Christianize just about anything.  From coffee mugs to book lights, you can slap a scripture verse on just about anything.  It makes me laugh.  It is so ridiculous, I have to laugh.  I am not sure why we feel the need to do this kind of thing.  It is almost like we think that there is something ungodly or worldly by just enjoying things in their original form.  That somehow, it is not okay to just sit with a friend and have coffee but we need to serve the coffee in a mug that has a clever scripture on it.  That somehow we will taste the divine (call me old school but I think the Divine will come from an honest, shared conversation).  I myself have donned some interesting  ‘witnessing’ tee shirts in my day (What is great about these type of shirts is that they are suppose to say it all so you don’t have to).  So, when I make fun of these things, know I am making fun of myself as well.  I thought I would share some of my favorites with you (if you have any of these in your home please don’t take it personally).It is okay to laugh…really it is… cause they have asked for it.

Almighty Clothing Hangers
Almighty Clothing Hangers
Kids will have a whole new attitude about hanging up their clothes with our set of four Almighty Heroes handcrafted wood hangers.
So what your telling me is that if buy these hangers form my son, I will no longer have to look at his shirts all at the bottom of his closet?  That his attitude will change and he will even WANT to hang up his cloths?  Humm... I think I would have a better chance If I tell him that these 'Almighty Hereo' will beat the crap out of him if he doesn't hang up his shirts... that might be more promising.

Lighted Whistle Key Ring
Lighted Whistle Key Ring
Careful and Key-full? Key chain with red LED flashlight and safety whistle. Inscription, " God's Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure." Psalm 19:11
 Really? A Christian rape whistle? I don't know about you but I would rather they take off the scripture verse and put the money towards rigging this thing with some pepper spray.

The Full Armor of God:
             Christian Character-Building Costume
Dress your kids for spiritual success! Includes one plactic helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, belt of truth, Spirit of the Word sword, shield of faith, shin guards-and parent guide.
You mean to say that my 6 year old boy is going to put this on and listen while I teach him a Bible lesson about charcter building?Yeah, my 6 year old is gonna put this on, go fight a dragon (and by fight, I mean wack in the shins and by dragon, I mean his brother) and then rescue the damsel in distress (the cat).  Can't we jsut call it a Knight costume for pete's sake.

These mints will trasform how you share your faith with others.  Gone are the days of the akwardness of trying to bring Jesus up in a conversation. No, now all you have to do is hand them a mint, walk away and let God do the rest.  These refreshly spiritual mints come in 2 flavors. 
Okay, so i made up that entire description. I have actually tried this product and have to say it was the best tasting mint I have had in my entire life. 

Too Blessed to be Stressed Mug
Sassy Striped ceramic mug is good for all seasons, and a bold reminder of our blessings.  Reverse side of mug says, It's All Good.   
These mugs were either made by someone who doesn't have children or know to fill the bottom up with Kahlua  before they add the coffee. 

Taste & See Cupcake Holder
Taste and See Cupcake  Plate
Serve up savory treat - and spiritual truth - on this ceramic stand.  Scripture quote from Psalm 34:8, "Taste and see that the Lord is good." 

Do we really need to spiritualize cupcakes? Just eat the damn cupcake.

Bible Land
A "nutritious" alternative to Candy Land!  Exciting Bible stories lead players around the game board to heaven - the ultimate goal. 
I have always suspected that the orgininal Candy Land was worldly and of the Devil. All those cute characters and yummy candy.... I think it might be the 'gateway' drug to board games... First, it's Candy Land then it is straight to the Ouija board. I wouldn't be suprised to find out that the King at the end of the game is really the witch from Hansel & Gretel and she is gonna eat you for playing a sinful game,  you naughty little children!

Monopoly's enjoyable, but the unadulterated greed doesn't help you practice what you preach!  Try building curches instead of hotels - and lose a turn by landing on "Go Meditate". Accumulate Good Deeds not wealth!
I saved the best for last... this one cracks me up.  The board spaces are all Biblical cities.  You win the game by being the first to build a church... the Go to Jail" space is now the Abyss... I want to know what the player pieces are?  If it were me I would have: Jesus, a camel, a sandal,  a basket filled with bread & fish, Lazaras coming out of the tomb with all the grave cloths still on, and a Fishing boat.  I have to have this game... this is a shamless birthday is in December.  (warning: if you get this for me, I will make you play it with me).

A Letter to Myself....

[I thought writing a letter to my breakdown-self from my future-self might be an fitting way to end the Thread of Anxiety series… Thanks for going on this journey with me]

I know the past few months have been some of the hardest of your life.  It feels so dark. So heavy.  I know you feel helpless, hopeless.  That you are slowly losing your mind.  I know it takes every ounce of your strength to get out of bed in the morning and face the day.  You feel like a failure because you can’t pull yourself out of this pit you are sinking into.  I know the thought of your life ending is a welcome one.  You are hanging on by a thread, a thread that has worn thin. 
But it is not over.  This is not the end.  I know it is hard to believe but you will make it through this.  The rain will stop and the sun will shine again . You will laugh again.  You will feel joy and happiness.  The medication will work… keep taking it.  Your sanity will return.  You will begin to understand yourself and God in a whole new way.  You will take in a deep breath and feel as though you are breathing in God himself, taking in his goodness and love for you and his complete acceptance of you.  You will begin to feel whole and complete, even in your brokenness, and experience freedom you never dreamed possible.
And that guy, the one you think is totally crazy for dating you right now and should run for the hills?  He doesn’t run. In fact, he marries you.  Crazies and all.  He will be such a source of comfort and strength in your life.  A bright spot in the days ahead so be nice to him.  You will also have a couple of kids, who you will love more than you thought possible.   Oddly enough, they will also cause you to want to hide in the closet with the cordless phone and a large bottle of vodka (I should just write you a separate letter about all of that).
Although it seems impossible, good will come out of this.  It is going to totally change the way you see yourself and the way you see God.  It will give you an understanding about mental illness that you never had before.  You will have more compassion and empathy for others who are struggling.  And, if you are brave enough to share your story about what you went though (and continue to go through) maybe it can give a little hope to those who feel hopeless.  A ray of sunshine to those in the darkness because the darkness can feel really dark.  And maybe some comfort for those who feel so alone in their pain.  To know they are not alone and that there are people who understand. Who have been there.  Who have survived.
Love, Me

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Thread of Anxiety...Part 3

[This is the third post in a series having to do with anxiety. You can check out part one here and part two here.]

It was February of 1999 when it happened, when the ‘crazies came to town’, and I hit rock bottom.  The months leading up to my breakdown were difficult to say the least.  Emotionally, I was up and down.  My anxiety and obsessive thoughts about doing the wrong thing and hurting people were increasing and becoming unmanageable.  I was constantly feeling like I had said or done something that hurt someone in some way.  I was unable to think clearly.  Unable to assess whether I really had done something wrong.  I was always worried that God was angry with me and wanted nothing to do with me until I “made things right” with the people I had “hurt”.  I can’t describe how torturous and exhausting these thoughts were to me.  There was no end to them and they were wearing me down.  Below, is a journal entry dated, January 4, 1999.

                    “1999 is off to a rough start for me.  It is pretty dark from where I stand God. 
                    You know that I am hanging on by a thread.  I have never had such a great
                    desire for my life to end.  The thought of killing myself has been on my mind,
                    on and off, for awhile now.  I also notice a desire to inflict pain on myself.”

And that was before I hit rock bottom.  
Rock bottom came in February, just after Valentines Day.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I didn’t have the strength. I was so tired and so hurting and so sick.  It was difficult to get off the sofa.  To eat.  To function.  All I wanted to do was sleep; so I didn’t have to think.  All I could do was cry.  At the time, unbeknownst to me, my two closest friends were monitoring me and wondering if they should bring me to the Mental Health Center and check me in for a little stay.  Thankfully, with the support of friends, my mom, and my therapist, I was able to get the help I needed (although being admitted wouldn’t have hurt in the least).

It’s hard to describe just how “crazy” my thoughts were during the next few months but I have a couple of examples that might help:

        I might be watching TV and see a person who was really funny looking to me….say a
        bald guy with a serious comb over and a Tom Selleck moustache and I would think to
        myself, ‘Man, that guy looks ridiculous!  Doesn’t anyone love him enough to tell him?’.     
       Then, I would feel guilty for thinking those things (yes just THINKING them).  I would
        then start to panic because I had no idea who this guy was and how to get a hold of him
        so I could apologize.  And since I couldn’t apologize and “make it right”, God had to be
        angry and want nothing to do with me. 
        Another example, probably my favorite, would be the Paint Chip Incident.  Now, I live
        in an old house and back in the day they painted the houses with lead paint.  As my
        readers know, lead paint is dangerous.  You do not want to be eating it, inhaling the
        dust, etc.  You also don’t want to be eating or playing in the dirt around a house with
        lead paint because the lead in the old paint chips can leach into the soil.  I had power
        washed the house, back in the fall.  Power washing creates paint chips.  I didn’t know
        what to do.  I was freaking out.  Had I contaminated our entire neighborhood?  Do I
        need to door to door and apologize?  Could I have single handedly cause the mental
        retardation of all the children in the neighborhood? 

        As I wrote in a previous post, obsessive thoughts often come with compulsive behavior. 
        The behavior attempts to reduce the anxiety that was created by the obsessive thoughts. 
        So, I came up with behavior plan.  I would simply clean up the paint chips.  I would rake
        them into a little pile and bag them up or better yet, get a Shop Vac and suck them up. 
        I mean, how hard could it be. 
       Well, as I stared to rake, I realized that there seemed to be layer upon layer of paint chips
        in the dirt.  It just didn’t end.  The little pile turned into 9 bags of paint chip contaminated
       dirt (these went into the basement of the garage and remained there for the next 10 years).
       If that wasn’t bad enough, I realized that the paint chips extended into the grass.  If you   
       separated the grass, you could see the chips.  So, I got the Shop Vac, the hand rack and
       went to town.  Except I couldn’t get them all.  They were EVERYWHERE.  At that point I
       called my boyfriend and broke down.  I can only imagine what that whole scene must have
       looked like from a causual walker-byer.  There I was, sitting in the middle of the lawn, with
       a Shop Vac in one hand, a little rake in the other, bawling on the cordless phone.  To this
       day, I can’t tell that story without laughing.

I think the turning point for me was medication.  I had resisted it for so long.  I felt that by going on medication, I was not trusting God.  As a result, I suffered longer than I needed to.  I remember coming to terms with the fact that I needed medicine:

                           “ God, I am sitting here, thinking about all that has happened in the
                           past few weeks and months.  I have not a clue why or exactly what
                           but I do know that there is something not right with my brain.  And
                           no matter how hard I try, I have no control over it.  It is very hard to
                           say that, I feel like I am copping out or something. Or  I’m doubting 
                           you and your power. God, I know that you have the power to change
                           this is a second but for some reason you’re not and I need medication                  
                           If you are choosing to bring healing through a pill, I’ll take it.”
                                                                                              - Journal Entry from March 1999

Once the medication hit a therapeutic level, things began to change.  Slowly.  I was able to begin to see the obsessive thoughts for what they were.  I was able to talk myself down off the ledge more easily.  It gave me the edge I needed to begin to look deeper inside myself.  It was shortly after this that my therapist and I figured out that I had OCD.  I finally had a name for it.  I didn’t feel so alone anymore. 

I began to realize that God was not angry with me.  That He wasn’t waiting for me to screw up so He could punish me.  No, He loved me and had never left me but was there with me even when the pain was so great I wished I were dead. 

It has been 13 years now.  I continue to struggle with anxiety but the OCD is changing.  About a year ago, I started seeing a new therapist (the old one had moved to Maine).  I have been able to look at some painful things in my life and the effect they have had on me. How they have influenced  and shaped me  How they have contributed to my anxiety and fueled my OCD.  As I uncover these things, I am learning to live in a new way and the OCD seems to be dying down. 

It has been a long road for me. One filled with ups and downs.  With joy and sorrow.  I have learned a great deal about anxiety, about myself, about God.  Although it has been painful, it can’t say that I would change it.  It is part of my story.  Of who I am and who I am to become.  It is an unfinished story that I look forward to watching unfold.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Behavior Modification and Missing the Point Completely….

[I know I have been sharing about Anxiety and I left you hanging in the last post but I will finish the story...I promise....just not today.]

For so long I have lived in a culture that has been all about modifying behavior.  Although it is never put in such terms, it’s what it boils down to.  People talk about the heart, about what is going on in the inside but the focus always seems to come back to behavior; what you’re  “doing” or “not doing”.  Avoid the “bad” behaviors and excel at the “good” ones.  What is deemed as “good” or “bad” varies from church to church but it usually doesn’t take long to figure out what they are.  From my experience, behavior modification and truth growth are completely opposite of one another.
I find that observing my behavior and asking myself the question, “why am I doing what I am doing?” is far more beneficial than just trying to change my behavior.  My behavior can give me valuable insight into what is really going on deep down inside.  It gives me a heads up that maybe something isn’t okay.  It can tell me something about my own hurt, my own pain. 
It is difficult to look inside.  To look at things I would rather keep hidden.  To come to terms with the ways I have been hurt and they ways I have hurt others.  Who wants to look at that?  Who wants to sit in a therapist office and realize that the reason you don’t wear dresses isn’t because you find them uncomfortable or impractical….. but rather because you are afraid people will laugh at you…… because deep down you don’t feel like a real woman ( more to come on that whole mess).  Let me tell you how fun that is.
As I am focusing less on my behavior and more on what is going on deep down inside, I am experiencing a freedom a have never known, one that I didn’t know was even possible.  I’m  not so worried about whether I am doing something wrong (or right for that matter) but seeing it all as a process.  A process of becoming.  Becoming who I want to be, who I was made to be.  I am learning how to yield to that process and let God work things out in me.   In His time, not mine or anyone else’s. I am learning to lean into the pain, into the discomfort of becoming.  And no, it’s not easy but it is worth it. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Thread of Anxiety... Part 2

[This is the second post in a series having to do with anxiety.  You can check out the first post here.]

You would think that becoming a Christian would have helped with the anxiety and OCD but it actually had the opposite effect.  It only made it worse.  I should give a little bit of my faith background here, as it is so critical in how my anxiety has played out over the years.

The churches my family attended when I was a kid were of the Fundamental, Baptisty, Born Again type.  It was the 80’s and the ‘Turn or Burn’ preaching was prevalent.  God loved me and I needed to accept Jesus or I was going to hell.  That was my introduction to God.  To Jesus.  The thought of going to hell terrified me.  And so began my relationship with God.  One mixed with love and lots fear.

As a young adult, I become more serious about my faith.  I went to church regularly, read my Bible and attended Bible study.  I really wanted God to be in every part of my life. I felt that my life finally had purpose, direction, hope.  But as often happens, I fell into the performance trap with God.  If I am doing the right things then God is happy with me and if I am doing the wrong thing then He is angry with me. He loves me…He loves me not.  This type of thinking permeated my life and my faith.  And as a result  caused me a great deal of anxiety.

I was so afraid of making the wrong decision.  Of God being angry with me.  At times, it could be so overwhelming and debilitating.  A great example of this was Nate.  When I was 19, I fell in love.  Hard.  He was the love of my life (or so I thought… I was 19 for goodness sake and most 19 year olds are idiots). I was going to marry this guy and live happily ever after.  Then the fears came.  What if this was not the person God had for me?  What if it was not ‘His Will’ for my life?  What if I am going to make a huge mistake and ruin both our lives?  Do I love Nate more than God? (THAT is a BIG no no and a sure sign that God doesn’t want you with that person).  The questions would go round and round in my head and I had no way to know what God really wanted.  Some days, I thought Nate was exactly what God wanted for me and other days I felt the exact opposite.  So, the questions continued.  Obsessive thoughts that I could not control.  They would wear me down.  Some days it was hard to function normally.  And I would cry….a lot.  I was so afraid that God was angry with me for being in this relationship.

Eventually, the relationship with Nate ended and I leveled out emotionally.  This leveling out was NOT because my (undiagnosed) anxiety disorder had gotten any better (at this point, I had no clue that their something was wrong with me) but rather because I no longer had to wrestle with the question of whether or not Nate and I should be together.  I would continue to struggle with the anxiety and OCD throughout college and well into my late 20’s.  It was then that everything changed.  It was then that the ‘crazies’ came to town….