The Prodigal You

The gospel in church today was about the prodigal son. For those unfamiliar, I will include the verse below:

Luke 15:11-32  11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

As the oldest child in my family, I can empathize with the older brother. Sure, like all children, I had my moments where I was hard to handle and did things that disappointed my parents, but as I became a young adult, I settled myself down. I got a part-time job, I kept my grades up and I stayed active in the church. When I went away to college, I didn’t party. I maintained a 4.0 the entire time I was in school. I wasn’t sexually active. I came home on weekends and spent time with my family. After college, I got a job in my field within 6 months, I continued onto grad school and maintained a 4.0, and I still remained the good girl my parents expected me to be.

My sister, on the other hand, was the opposite of me. She kept good grades for sure and was active in reputable clubs and organizations, but she smoked weed, she partied, and became sexually active in college. She constantly spent her money on unnecessary things and was always asking our parents for more. She got tattoos and piercings despite my parents’ wishes. Despite all of this, my parents adore her. In fact, sometimes she even had more freedoms than I ever imagined having. They forgive her and they love her regardless of her imperfections.

A small part of me can’t help but become frustrated and angry with my parents at times when I feel my sister is given more favorable treatment. Part of me resents that they don’t treat her even a smidgen less than me. Sometimes I feel betrayed – I’m the one that put in the hard work to win their approval, the one who worked hard to bring honor to them, while my sister stained our name with her actions at times. I understand how the older brother in the gospel was feeling when his father threw a party for the brother he felt was undeserving.

I realized that is how we are with God sometimes. Sometimes we think about how we are doing all of the right things, but God still loves “those people”. We measure our transgressions next to those of others and think, “Well at least I’m not as bad as them.” Sometimes we wonder how our God can love the terrorists, the prostitutes, the thieves, the drug addicts, the murderers, the cheating spouses. We get angry to think that God could possibly love, even forgive “those people”.

How egotistical are we to think that it is any of our business who God loves?

God’s love is not like pie. Someone else getting a piece does not make your share any smaller. God’s love is so abundant that He can love every single person in the world and the amount of love He has for you does not grow smaller. And how lucky are we that it doesn’t change, no matter what we do?

As I was thinking about my sister today, I realized something. As I was measuring all of the wrongs she has done, she has never once told my parents that she hated them. I have. In that moment, I realized that she was not the prodigal child when those words escaped my lips. I was. We are so swift to point fingers at the prodigal child, until the prodigal child is us. When we are the ones committing the transgressions, we are so thankful for the forgiveness and love that we receive that we forget about all of the times we stuck up our noses as we saw undeserving people receive forgiveness. We forget that we are also undeserving people. We sin, and we are forgiven. We stray from God, but we are always welcomed back with open arms. We are all the prodigal child at some point in our lives.

What business is it of ours who God loves, when God makes it His business to love us all?

The next time you get it in your head to start questioning why God throws a party for “those people”, just remember, God throws a party for you every time you stray and return. Instead of grumbling about the guest of honor, join the party and rejoice that we have a loving and forgiving Father. Be happy that God loves everyone, and mind your business. Let God do His thing.

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Period.

“So, the average period is between 10-35 mL of blood, each tampon holds about 5 mL, so 7 tampons per cycle. Let’s be generous and say 10 for those ladies with an extra juicy uterine lining. 9 periods per year = 90 tampons max. You can get a 64 pack on Amazon for $7.90 plus shipping. Buy two packs, save on the shipping and have 128 tampons for the year, that’s about $20 here or their (sic) for a years periods. Cut down on your starbucks venti frapps and stop whining.”

What?

Some idiot really posted this on Facebook.

Sir, we need to talk about periods. I don’t know what rock you crawled out from under, but this is 2019. Women are not hidden in menstrual huts in the U.S. (however, they still are in other countries. Bastards). If you’ve had a mother, sister, girlfriend, or have seen a woman in person, you have probably heard about a period before. It is time to stop being grossed out by something that happens naturally and start educating yourself so you don’t look like a moron.

Let’s talk about his silly rant for a minute.

Honey, I’ve used 7 super plus tampons since 6 am. It’s now 4:00.   Today, I’ve had to change an average of every 85 minutes (about an hour and a half) to prevent myself from bleeding through. This is changing a pad AND a tampon, because I’m apparently one of those ladies with a ~juicy~ uterine lining. Around noon, 1 super plus tampon lasted me 20 minutes. That’s 12 grams of blood in 20 minutes. And you want me to use 7 of these in a week? This is not typical for all women, so please don’t use me as a measuring stick. I’m just trying to prove a point. Some women, like myself, bleed excessively. Some probably could get through a day using 2-3. The point is that we are all different, and for this d-bag to even begin to start throwing numbers about something he obviously knows nothing about is so detrimental for women everywhere.

Also, how long do you think these suckers last? You should change your tampon every 4-8 hours. Unless you want to get toxic shock syndrome. This is a life-threatening bacterial infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes. These are naturally occurring bacterium inside of our vaginas that can grow super fast when there is dark, wet, and warm environment (your bloody tampon). So say that our periods last 6 days on average, which is 144 hours. Let’s be generous and say we can leave them in for 8 hours. 7 tampons x 8 hours each = 56 hours. What do you want us to do with the remaining 88 hours of our period? Maybe you’re also friends with the guy on Twitter from 2016 that thought that women could hold their period in by clenching our bladder. *Side note: your period doesn’t come from your bladder. Not even the same organ.

It’s kind of common knowledge that the average amount of time a woman has in a cycle is 28 days, so let’s round to 1 month. There are 12 months in a year, first of all, so that equals 12 periods. I go through about 1.5 boxes per period, so that’s $7 a box, so $10.50 for me. $10.50 x 12 = $126. Sure, that doesn’t really sound like an insane amount, but it’s a lot more than your measly $20 estimate. And that isn’t taking into account the pantyliners and pads that you also need to buy, because tampons leak. Well, the one’s you know of might not leak because you can apparently use 1 a day.

So I went to WalMart last night to pick up my necessities for my period. Here is what I have:

  • 1 box of Tampax Super Plus: $7.00 (for the 6 days I am really heavy)
  • 1 box of Tampax Regular: $3.50 (for the 2 days that I am light. This carries over into my next period, so I cut the price in half.)
  • 1 box of Always Flex Foam: $4.00 (because I unfortunately have to wear pads and tampons on days 1-4 if I don’t want to have to buy new underwear every month.
  • 1 pack of Always Pantiliners: $1.85 (for days 5-8 when I’m not clotting).
  • 1 pack of Always Radiant Overnight Pads: $6.97 (because regular ones don’t work at night).
  • 1 pack of Midol for pain relief: $6.69.

This puts me at approximately $30 per period, times 12 periods a year = $360.

To put this into perspective, I could pay half of a month’s mortgage for how much I spend per year on a bodily function that I can’t control.

I could pay for my college textbooks for a semester on how much I spend on my period per year. (Which is also outrageous, but that’s for another day).

I could pay for 3 months of electric bills.

I could pay for 5 trips to the grocery store.

I could pay for 4.5 months cell phone bills.

I could buy 8 40-pound bags of food for both of my pets.

But I’m not done yet!

I’ve had my period since I was 11, so 15 years. $360 x 15 = $5,400 spent on my period in my life so far. Most women stop getting theirs at 55, so I’ll have my period for approximately 44 years. $360 x 44 = $15,840. It also costs approximately $125 for a yearly exam, so if I didn’t have insurance, I would be paying $4,500 in gynecological bills from age 19 (first visit) to age 55. So in my life, I will spend approximately $20,000 just for owning a vagina.

This is before tax.

I’m fortunate to live in a state where menstrual products are NOT taxed. There are 7 states in the U.S. that do not tax menstrual products (omitting the states that do not have sales tax at all). But if I did live in a state that had sales tax on menstrual products, I would be paying approximately $950 in sales tax on menstrual products in my life.

Here’s the kicker: Viagra is not taxed in ANY state except for Illinois.

Do with that information what you will.

Starbucks venti frappuccinos are not the problem here, people. The problem is that our government are charging us sales tax on our period products that are considered luxury items. Spending $360 a year to bleed for 96 days is not a luxury. Pink tax is a problem that can no longer be ignored. I’m sick of the inequality. Period.

You Shouldn’t Have to Feel Like an Outsider Among Friends

I am 100% an introvert, but a functional one. I’m not the one who hides in a corner and longingly stares at people, hoping they come talk to me. I’m able to find a small group of people to talk to and carry on a normal conversation. Feeling uncomfortable is typical for me, but I can easily mask it. Surprisingly, I’m also a really good public speaker (not to toot my own horn, but toot toot). However, I also check the clock frequently to see how long until I can dismiss myself at a socially acceptable time. I tend to do a lot of listening and head nodding.

My friends are usually really great with this. They know that I’m not going to be the wild one dancing on a bar. They make introductions for me without even thinking about it. They’re cool with me not talking much or leaving when I’m drained. I have never felt like a burden to them, and they never let on that I am.

The hardest part for me as an introvert, though, is the one person at an event that I know doesn’t like me.

I met this girl at a New Year’s Eve house party a few years back. I only knew 2 people there, but I did my best to mingle and have a good time (even though I spent some more time chilling with the dog on the floor). When my friend introduced me to this girl, I could feel her immediately assessing me. She gave me the up down glance, stopping at each article of clothing a little too long. Darn it Alice, why did you show up to a New Year’s Eve party in sneakers??

With a smug expression, she said, “Hi Alice. So what do you do?”

“I’m a teacher. What do you do?” I asked.

“I’m in bio-mechanical engineering,” she said enthusiastically A little too enthusiastically. “But wow, just a teacher? That takes a lot to work so hard for so little money. Do you do anything else?”

“Well, no one goes into teaching for the money!” I tried to joke. “But no, I don’t really worry about money. I make enough to afford my lifestyle and that’s all I need.”

“Well, I’m glad your satisfied,” she said as she walked away to get a drink.

Ouch. Kind of rude. My friends that were there didn’t say anything in her defense or mine. No, “Sorry about her, she can be kind of a snob.” or “Al is a really good teacher, lay off!” They just stood there and watched all of this unfold.

As the night went on, the snide comments kept coming. “You must be really confident in yourself to go to a party in a hoodie.” “Your hair is so interesting. Do you brush it?” “Your eyes are really big, Do you have thyroid problems?” “What happened to your nose that made it so crooked?” “So like, you teach the r******* kids, right?”

My “friends” did nothing.

She left me alone for awhile, but then loudly asked a whole bunch of people to play beer pong with her. I’m not much for party games, so I tried to make myself small. She said, “Alice! How about you come and play with me! I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it!” I tried to excuse myself, jokingly saying I’d embarrass myself and she’d be better off finding a better partner. After insistence from her and everyone else, I begrudgingly played.

It was a disaster.

After losing the game, she “slipped” and spilled beer on me. She then loudly shouted, “Maybe if you didn’t suck so bad, I wouldn’t be drunk from trying to save our team. You should just leave.”

So I left. No one said goodbye.

A few days later, my friends called me up and asked why I left so early. I explained that their new friend was really rude and made me really uncomfortable, but they automatically threw in their opinion to save her. “She’s just not good with new people, you’ll get used to her.” “That’s just the way she is, you have to have tough skin to deal with her.” “You can’t let her get to you like that, she’ll torture you now.” Torture? Get tough skin? Get used to her? I wanted nothing to do with this woman ever again, let alone spend time trying to get used to her. I explained to my friends that if she was going to be with us, I didn’t really want to be there anymore.

Years have passed and this girl still keeps popping up. I had a party at my house and one of my friends invited her over. My friends and I would go out to eat and she would get invited without my knowledge. Each time I see her, it’s the same thing. She picks and pokes at all of my insecurities, and my friends do nothing. I’ve tried telling her she’s being rude, but she laughs in my face. I stopped hanging out with my friends. It has really sucked to lose them, but I learned that I shouldn’t have to feel like an outsider among friends.

If your friends invite people who make you feel uncomfortable, they are not your friends. If they don’t come to your defense when another friend is picking on you, they are not your friend. If they take someone’s side over yours when that person is clearly in the wrong, they are not your friends. Cut them out of your life, move on. There are other people out there who don’t suck. You shouldn’t have to tolerate rude people for the sake of your friends’ feelings.

26 Things I Have Learned in my 26th Year on Earth

So I’ve only been on this earth for a short 26 years, but this year was definitely a growing year for me. I do not have it all together – this morning I accidentally used soap in my hair instead of shampoo. But I’ve come a long way from where I once was, and there is something to be said about that. So in honor of learning to be a better person this year, here are 26 things I learned in my 26th year of life.

  1. Self-care is important. I’m not talking about getting yourself a vanilla latte every Friday in the name of self-care. I mean trying to get 8 hours of sleep every night, eating fruits and veggies, going to the doctor when something hurts to the point that you can’t do anything, taking a personal day from work if you feel like you’re truly going to commit suicide, etc. Apparently it took me 26 years to realize my body isn’t going to last forever, so I need to take care of myself.
  2. Appreciate your parents, damn it (unless your parents are truly horrible people, then disregard). Your parents most likely love you and want what is best for you. Call them at least once a week, even if it is just for 5 minutes. If you are as fortunate as I am to live close to your parents, invite them over for dinner. Sneak into their house sometime and do their laundry for them. Let their dog out for them when they ask you to. Ask your dad to go out for a beer with your some night. Sit on the couch with your mom and watch hockey. Actually talk to them both. Get off of your phone, look them in the eyes, and talk to them.
  3. Saying “no” is okay. Telling your boss you can’t take on another project and keep up the work ethic you are known for is okay. Telling your husband you don’t like the way he arranged the furniture is okay. Saying no when your friends ask you to get wasted with them is okay. Telling a friend that no, you can’t take on any more of their emotional baggage is okay. If something is too much or you just don’t like something, it is okay to just say no. You don’t have to do everything to please everyone.
  4. You don’t get to be upset if you don’t voice your opinion. You also don’t get to be upset if you give a false opinion to spare someone’s feelings. I have a really bad habit of not saying anything when something bothers me so I don’t create a ruckus, but then I stew about it. Then I blow up about it if it keeps eating at me. It’s so much easier just to voice your opinion right away.
  5. Liking sex is normal. I grew up in a household where expressing any interest in sex was frowned upon because “it’s not the Christian way”. I really enjoy having sex with my husband, and that is a good thing. I like the intimate and personal connection. We had sex for the first time when I was 24 and I really struggled with it because of how I was brought up and my past sexual abuse. After some work, we have a really great relationship and I am finally at ease.
  6. Get rid of things in your life that are clutter. These are belongings and people. If it/they are not bringing happiness to your life, get rid of them. Sorry to go all Marie Kondo, but seriously. Your schedule is busy enough. You don’t need to feel obliged to make room for people and things that are not having a positive impact on your life. Make time and space for people and things that build you up.
  7. Rescue an animal if you are able. My husband and I got a dog from the shelter. She was abused and she is an older dog, so we weren’t really sure what we were getting into. She is the best dog ever, even though she has required some patience and a little extra love. It’s so rewarding to come home to my two four-legged babies and know I am the highlight of their day.
  8. Don’t overdo it at work. I used to be one of those people that stayed 2 hours after work to “prepare”. Prepare for what? What doesn’t get done today must not have been insanely important or it would have gotten done today. Save it for tomorrow. Go home, spend time with your family. Especially if you aren’t getting paid overtime. You dedicate 40 hours a week to your job. Are you dedicating 40 hours a week to your family? What will be there when you are old and gray – your job or your family? There you go.
  9. Crockpots are a gift from God. Seriously. I am a wizard with a crockpot. Pinterest is also a gift. However, it is important to learn to cook a variety of meals on the stove and in the oven as well. I’m nowhere near a chef, but last year, I couldn’t make mac n’ cheese without it smelling or tasting kind of funky. You can’t live off soup forever. You need nutrition. See #1.
  10. Read more. I used to love reading, but then I got really busy with grad school, working, and being married. I really missed just laying down to read a good book every once in awhile. I’m trying to read for 20 minutes as part of my nightly routine, and I’m already starting to see some improvements in my mental health.
  11. If you car is making noise, do not turn the radio up. Get that shit checked. All 4 of my brakes gave out in the middle of a highway because I heard a noise and just ignored it. I almost died. Your car weighs a few tons and gets you from point A to point B. If something happens to it in the middle of a crowed highway, you could run into something that weighs a few tons as well. I’m lucky to be alive. Be responsible. Get your car inspected, get your oil changed when you are supposed to, and for the love of all things holy, if your car sounds like a helicopter, go to the mechanic.
  12. You cannot please everyone. Some people literally are never happy, no matter what. Do your best, be a good person, and if someone still isn’t happy with that, that’s on them, not you.
  13. In contrast to number 10, do at least one nice thing for someone a day. I don’t care if that is shoveling the driveway so your husband doesn’t have to, buying a coworker coffee, giving up your seat for someone on the bus, or writing a thank you note to your mom for putting up with your sorry ass in your teenage years – make it a point to do something kind for someone else each day. People notice. You’ll notice people noticing. People will start spreading rumors about how nice of a person you are.
  14. It’s okay to not forgive people immediately. I had an argument with a family member not too long ago because she said something that was excessively hurtful on Facebook. When I called her out on it, she flipped on me. I kindly told her I respect her opinion is different than mine, but it is not okay to be rude or to make fun of others. After some time, she calmed down and apologized. Still hurt from her words and not ready to discuss the matter, I ignored her. She then aggressively demanded I forgive her immediately. That isn’t forgiveness. Forgiveness does not have to happen immediately, no matter what some religions say. For forgiveness to be authentic, you truly need to feel it in your heart. Anything less is just you being a pushover. Sorry not sorry. If you need time to heal, take that time to heal. The person who wronged you should respect that if they are truly sorry for their actions.
  15. Sometimes you just need a day to do nothing, and that is extremely difficult for someone like me. I feel like if I have a day off of work and I’m not doing laundry, dishes, hanging pictures, working on grad work, or doing something productive, they day is wasted. If you need a day every now and then and no one is negatively impacted by you spending some time just resting, do it. Even God rested.
  16. Gaining weight isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’ve gained a good bit of weight in the last few years and at first, it really bothered me. I was never a super-skinny girl. My thighs were always a little bigger than I would like and my butt was even bigger. I developed a slight eating disorder in high school when some girls started making fun of me, but I conquered it. However, I was athletic, my stomach was pretty flat, and my arms were toned. Now, my belly jiggles if I jump, my thighs are bigger, my butt is bigger. I love to eat. But none of this makes me a bad person. I still volunteer when I can, I love my students like they were my own children, I’m a good daughter, and I try my hardest to be a good wife. I just happen to be heavier than I was 10 years ago, and that is okay. As long as I am still a good person, the number on the scale and the number on the tag of my jeans does not matter.
  17. Your relationship with your spouse is more important than your friendships. In my relationship with my husband, male friends have tried to cross the line with their words. My husband’s female friends have tried to cross the line as well. Something I have learned is that sometimes you have to hurt the feelings of others to protect the feelings of your spouse. It isn’t okay to flirt with someone else when you care about someone. It isn’t okay to allow someone to flirt with you if you care about someone. If your friends do not respect your relationship with your significant other, they are not really your friends. If they continue to press the matter when you’ve made it clear that it isn’t okay, you need to drop them like a hot potato. It will be hard, especially if your friendship is deep, but someone who is truly your friend will not do anything to damage your relationship with your spouse.
  18. Embrace your past, even the crappy parts. I’m a sexual assault survivor – that is not a secret on here. It was something I never talked about because it was shameful. How could I let a man do that to me? I was naive, I lacked the education of what sexual assault entailed. I didn’t know that it wasn’t okay for a man to touch me when I told him no. I was told, “This is what boyfriends and girlfriends do, it’s fine.” I was embarrassed. I’m not embarrassed anymore. I am stronger because of this. Because of what happened to me, I am more aware of the women around me. It has taught me to look out for those around me like I wish someone would have been looking out for me. It has taught me to say no when I am uncomfortable with something. It has taught me to teach my students about respecting others when they say no to something, even something as trivial as sharing crayons. Some of the things that have happened in my past suck, but I’m embracing it and using it to help others.
  19. Family members will surprise you. I have an aunt that was always a little distant to me. When I got engaged, she literally took over as my wedding planner, even though she had her own life, full time job, and 2 kids of her own to take care of. Her generosity and dedication astounded me and we are now very close. On the other hand, I had some family members that were very close that didn’t show up to my bridal shower for no other reason besides that they were tired. I had relatives throw punches at my wedding reception. My sister, who has a tendency to make most things about her, stood up to my other bridesmaids when they were planning a bachelorette party she knew I wasn’t okay with and made sure it was everything I had ever dreamed of. My sister’s boyfriend threw himself in the center of the fist fight to make sure that no one got hurt. My dad, who usually makes everything about my brother with autism, made sure our day was about my husband and me. Sometimes it takes a really stressful situation to find out who is really there for you.
  20. Some people will hate you, literally, for no reason. I have a coworker that talks shit about me behind my back on a daily basis. This woman wouldn’t even open the door for me yesterday when I knocked. I cannot figure out for the life of me what I did to her. I have even asked her what I did to her. Other people have asked her what I did to her. She says nothing, but continues to treat me like a pile of garbage. I’ve tried to talk to her, I’ve gone out of my way to be polite to her, I compliment her, and I ask her about her family and pets. No matter what I do, she twists my words, closes doors in my face, and continues to spread nasty things about me. This bothered me for a really long time, but I realized that it is taking her so much energy to hate me that it is draining her. It’s draining me to worry about it. I teach special education, this girl doesn’t have any energy to spare. It is taking me no energy at all to be nice to her, so I’m going to continue doing it. If she wants to hate someone this badly and focus her precious time and attention on me, that’s on her. I’m going to keep on being kind.
  21. You don’t have to keep in touch with someone frequently to still be friends. I have friends from high school that I go months without talking to, but if I ever need anything, they are there. I have people that I see almost daily and hang out with almost daily that I don’t know if I could trust them with my coffee order. Time really isn’t a thing when the friendship is real.
  22. Spend time with your loved ones while you can. I lost my grandpa earlier in the year and I really thought I would struggle with it. I lost my grandma a few years ago and I still really struggle with it. With my grandma, I don’t feel like I got to spend as much time with her as I should have leading up to her death. With my grandpa, I made sure to spend the time with him that we both needed. I am at peace with his death. It is a really good feeling.
  23. Stressing over something that might happen is a waste of energy. Stressing about things that are going to happen is also a waste of energy. I’m so guilty of doing both of these to the max. I’ve been working at this for awhile now. I’ve just noticed that I can get so much more done with my life if I do something productive and don’t stress about things that are outside of my control. What will be will be.
  24. Write. Write often. I have no problem writing my thoughts and feelings on here, but sometimes when I’m angry or upset, I can’t verbalize what I’m going to say. If you write it, you can choose whether or not to publish it. If you decide to vocalize it, the second the words are out, there is no taking them back. Writing is good for your emotions, and it helps you to release some energy that could hurt other people.
  25. Take no for an answer. If someone says no, respect it. I talked about saying no in #3, so now I’m going to talk about accepting no. If someone says they can’t come out tonight, don’t push them. If your husband says no, you can’t buy another dog, accept it. You should never have to sacrifice your wants and happiness to someone else, but no one else should have to sacrifice their wants to you either. Respect that. Don’t be a bully.
  26. Share with others. I was always really afraid of sharing about myself because a lot of girls that I went to school with would ask me things about myself to use for gossip. I clammed up because I was sick of people talking about me. I shouldn’t be. Your story is important. You should share it. Share your ideas, share your fears, share your joys, share your sorrow. It is not good to keep things inside, and who knows. You might end up helping someone.

Positive Thoughts

I’m a grouch in the morning. There’s no nice way to put it. I can truly be an awful bitch when I wake up. No amount of coffee or Girl Scout Cookies for breakfast is ever going to change that. I’ve tried meditating, I’ve tried exercising, I’ve even tried drinking and nothing changes my attitude during my first 15 minutes of being awake. I battle myself on a daily basis about wanting to call in sick for work. Even on weekends when I can sleep in, I’m still a psycho when I first get up.

I’m a stressing person. From the second my feet hit the floor, I start thinking about all of the stuff I have to do that day and already start worrying. I was in an exceptionally bad mood a few days ago as I was going through the list of things I had to do.

On the way to work, I felt bad about how grouchy I was. I didn’t lash out at my husband or get frustrated with the pets – I just aggressively washed my hair and muttered swear words to myself when I sneezed and my nose started bleeding. I’m usually a really pleasant person once I get through the first 15 minutes of waking up. Sometimes I’m actually that annoyingly cheerful person at the office. I reasoned with myself that I had a stressful day ahead of me with so much to do.

That’s when it hit me.

I have a bad attitude as soon as the alarm clock rings. because of the language I use with myself. I make lists of things I HAVE to do. It makes life seem like a chore. A bother. An inconvenience. I decided when I got to work, I was going to change my language in my head.

Instead of having to work with a girl who tested flu positive whose drug-addicted mother sent her to school anyhow, I had the opportunity to show this girl the compassion that she probably isn’t getting at home. Instead of worrying about getting sick, I was being exposed to the germs to build up my immune system. Okay, you caught me. I didn’t actually think that one.

Instead of having to go to a meeting with my boss, I got to collaborate on a project that will benefit my students.

Instead of forgetting to pack my lunch today, I got to support our cafeteria workers and had the chance to greet my favorite one and ask her about her daughter.

Instead of having to work with a student on his bus safety after school, I was able to teach him skills that will keep him safe on the bus so I can see him tomorrow.

Instead of my coworker coming to my room to complain to me for the third time today, I was her safe place that she could vent. I helped her get through the day.

Instead of some a-hole cutting me off in traffic, I was able to show them how to properly wave, since they obviously thought the middle finger was a proper form of greeting. 

Instead of my pets making all kinds of noise as soon as I got home, I was greeted extra loudly by my little family because they were extra excited to see me today.

Instead of my dog farting by me while I type this, I rejoice in the fact that this poor baby, who was abused and was afraid to be touched, is now snuggled up on the couch beside me, sound asleep.

Instead of my husband not helping me with dishes, I had the chance to do a mindless activity to let my brain reset. Lord knows I needed a reset.

Instead of getting annoyed with my cat meowing at the top of his lungs while I try to get ready for bed, I know he is trying to communicate to me that he, also, is excited to go to sleep. Loudly.

Instead of having a teacher spring a test on me at the last minute that I have to accommodate, Thank goodness I am here to do this, because my kids need me!

Instead of having to deal with a student who has had a behavior incident in the bathroom for the 8th time this week, I have the opportunity to reinforce good bathroom behaviors so that maybe someday, I will go a whole day without having to talk about not touching other people.

Some of these were a stretch for me, but you get the picture. I’ve been doing this for 3 days now, and I can honestly say, it takes a lot of time. Sometimes, I have to correct my thinking hours afterwards and remind myself that I’m trying to see the world through a different lens. Sometime’s something happens and I think Oh for Pete’s sake. Sometimes I replace Pete’s name with a word that starts with f. However, I’m seeing a change in my thinking. Today, as soon as the negative thought came to mind, I immediately said, “What opportunity do we have now?” And I’m starting to see the world a little differently.

 

Giving Up on Giving Up

My husband doesn’t know this yet, but I picked up our favorite food for dinner tonight, just in case it was our last meal together. I wanted him to have one last happy memory of me. I held it together all through dinner because I wanted it to be a nice meal, just in case it was our last one. He asked me about my day and I told a lot of lies and kept a lot in my head, because I knew he had a good day and I wanted to focus on the good things, just in case it was our last conversation. When he hugged me before he left for work, I tried to hold on a second longer, just in case that would be the last time he would ever hug me. I tried to remember the way he smelled, the look in his eyes, and the smile on his face.

It has been almost a decade since I actually did something to hurt myself, but I think about it a lot. The urge to drive my car into a tree was so strong today that I had to pull my car over and talk myself down. It came out of nowhere – that little voice in my head that tells me I’m not enough and the world would be better if I wasn’t here. I know it isn’t true and I can rationalize it now, but that is the really awful part about having these thoughts. They come without warning and sometimes they are stronger and louder than the voice of reason.

After my husband left, I started panicking, so I did what most women do to calm down – I got in a nice hot bath with a bath bomb. My pets all crowded around the outside of the bathtub to guard me. I thought a lot about them and how they wouldn’t understand what happened to me if I wasn’t there anymore. My cat mourned the loss of our dog when he passed. It made me sad to think about him wandering around our house looking for me. I thought about our new dog that we rescued – how she wouldn’t understand that the nice lady who brought her out of an abusive home and gave her a nice house and lots of love wouldn’t be coming home to give her treats anymore. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving these guys tonight.

I dragged my butt out of the tub and got dressed for church. It’s Ash Wednesday and I always enjoyed going to this sermon, so I thought maybe that would help me. We have a new pastor. His sermons are short and to the point, but he has a way of speaking that makes you think about what he said hours after you leave the parking lot to go about your day. He said something tonight that stuck with me. He said that he hopes those of us that are coming into Lent and seeing a deserted place, a wilderness, that we would find the beauty in this life and build our relationship with God.

I thought a lot about that. Right now, my mind is a wilderness. My mind is being tempted to do something terrible to me. I’m stuck in there, alone with my thoughts, and it isn’t a good place to be right now. Just like the wilderness probably wasn’t the best place for Jesus to be. But because of the trials He faced, he saw the glory of God.

This sounds insane. This might even sound insensitive. This might offend people. But for Lent, I’m giving up on giving up. I’m done trying to stop myself from dying when I should be working on living the best life I can. So the next time my brain tries to make my day hell, I’m going to do everything in my power to make it the best day I can. I’m going to go out of my way to help other people. I’m going to try replacing my negative thoughts with more positive ones. I want to get out of this wilderness and find beauty in this life.

Wish me luck.

Viewing Invisible Problems

Since I was about 8, I have worn glasses. My vision got progressively worse as I got older, but I never really thought much of it because there are a lot of people in my family that wear glasses and they’re doing just fine. Due to a sports injury, I ended up in the hospital with a moderate concussion and a corneal abrasion. My insurance wouldn’t pay to send me to my regular eye doctor for some odd reason, so they sent me to one of the ones the ER had on their list. Whatever, as long as I got the help I needed. I went to this doctor and they did the usual screenings. The doctor left the room with a puzzled look on his face and said they were going to do some more screenings, just to be sure. I thought they were talking about my corneal abrasion. 2 weeks later, this doctor calls me to tell me I have glaucoma, at 20 years old. My world came crashing down and I thought it was a death sentence.

6 years later, my vision is still slowly declining, but my pressures are fine and there are no “holes” in my optic nerve. I went back to my regular eye doctor and he explained that I am a “glaucoma suspect”, which means my optic nerves look a lot different than the normal person’s eye. He said my records have shown this since my very first eye exam and they have not changed since. I am more likely to develop glaucoma in the future, or I might just have ugly optic nerves. It’s all up in the air at this point. My vision just sucks, and I can deal with that.

I also get migraines due to the multiple concussions I’ve had over the years from playing sports. I have to take medication to manage them. While the medication works like a charm, the side effect is severe chest tightness and shortness of breath. It feels like I got hit in the chest with a soccer ball and got the wind knocked out of me. This usually lasts 15-30 minutes. It’s a pain in the ass, so I try to avoid things that likely to trigger a migraine. Trying to squint to read the church bulletin or any small print is a hassle for me and usually causes a migraine, so I just grab one of the ones our church prints off for the elderly members of our congregation, which are about 3-4 times the size of the regular ones. This has never been a problem before.

Until today.

I got to church early this morning because I was lector (the person who reads the scriptures). I like to get a big bulletin and sit somewhere in the back and practice before I read. I went to the spot where they are placed and went to pick one up. The usher said, “Honey, you can have this one, these are for the old people.” She went to hand me one of the smaller bulletins.

“Ma’am, I would prefer to use one of the bigger ones today. I am lectoring and it is easier for me to see.”

“But we don’t have very many of the larger ones today. You’ll have to make due with the ones we have. Some people in this church have a hard time seeing, you know.” I could tell she was getting annoyed with me.

“Ma’am, I am one of the people in this church that has a hard time seeing. I have vision problems and if I have to try to read something small, I get migraines. I would really prefer to use a larger one today.”

“You’re too young to have vision problems. There are some people in this congregation that have it far worse than you.” She pushed the bulletin in my hands. At that point I just grabbed the big bulletin and walked in the church before she could say another word. Here I go again, being the topic of the hot gossip among the old ladies at church.

We all have a bad habit of assuming that just because we can’t see a problem or the problem does not fit the mold we are used to seeing, it doesn’t exist. There is a lot of talk in the news lately about mental illness and how we need to be accepting of it even though we can’t see it. I fully support this, but we also need to think about the other disabilities and issues that the naked eye cannot see. We need to not assume or force our opinions on others.

Would this lady have given me a hard time if I was using a cane that people with visual impairments typically use? Probably not. She probably would have helped me to my seat.

The kid at the grocery store who is throwing himself on the floor at the supermarket? He might have autism and is overstimulated by all of the lights, the buzzing of the lights, the smells of all the food, and the change in temperature as he goes into the freezer section. Would his mom be looked at with disdain if he were in a wheelchair and nonverbal? No. She would most likely be looked on with pity.

Your friend who won’t go out with you on weekends? It turns out that she has clinical depression and is thinking of committing suicide. She doesn’t want to go out with you because she doesn’t want to be a burden on you and she wants to make it easier on you when she is gone. Would you be angry with her for cancelling plans if she had fallen and broken both of her legs? Probably not. You might even find a way for her to participate. But why can’t you try to find a way for her to participate and accommodate her depression?

I am not knocking physical disabilities and physical ailments. They all suck. It just makes me sad that we assume that just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t real or that it is less than a physical disability. We need to be more aware that those around us are all fighting battles, some physical and some invisible. We need to be respectful and not assume. Especially, we need to not be judgmental when someone does come forward about their issues. We need to look out for each other.