3 Steps to a More Positive Life

Calm in the Whirlwind

Rainbow over the Muldrow Glacier

The term “pet peeve” has always bugged me.  I mean, aside from the fact that “peeve” just sounds weird and sets my teeth on edge, the term itself is just an excuse.  Someone is giving themselves permission to be negative because whatever just happened is their “pet peeve”.  As my sister would say, well, bully for you.

My Dad had chronic pain when I was growing up.  Rheumatoid arthritis.   Dreadful.  Anyway, in spite of this, he strove to raise us in an ultra positive atmosphere.  The things normal people disliked were usually my favorites because I didn’t know we were supposed to hate them.  I have crazy love for things like Mondays, broccoli, cats and rainy days.  I was homeschooled, so I didn’t know until I got out into the “real world” that there was something inherently wrong with this.  I learned how to keep this disturbing part of…

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11 Thoughts from 9/11

statue of liberty

Nobody forgets where they were and what they were doing when National Tragedies strike.  My mom told us the story of where she was when Kennedy was shot, and she was just a little girl.  While the sadness that overwhelms us after events like 9/11 finally lessens with time, the impact they make on our country and our personal lives last forever.  And they should.  It is a good thing for people to remember, to mourn again for a moment, to rally to a cause.  It’s what makes us different from animals.  We are human, so we remember …

1. I remember that America became temporarily patriotic again.  For that small window of time, politics, religion, race, all that separates us from one another was removed and we loved our country, and we loved each other.

2. I remember that the Pentagon was also hit. (It seemed like New York got so much more press, but I bet the families affected by the Pentagon attack didn’t think it was less important.)

3. I remember the heroes of the day.  I love ordinary heroes, and there were a lot that day.  Many helping hands pulled people from flames, held doors so people could get out.  Went in when everyone else was getting out.  People are incredibly brave!

Praying firefighter

4.  I remember “Let’s Roll”.  Those courageous men, led by Todd Beamer, who took over Flight 93 when they found out what was happening to the other hijacked planes.  They stormed the cockpit, overpowered the terrorists and crashed the plane into a field rather than allow the terrorists to kill more innocent people.

5. I remember the guy in the median.  I never knew his name, but there was a guy who spent the days following 9/11 sitting on a folding chair in a median holding a sign that said, “Honk if you love America”.

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6. I remember the teenagers on the corner with signs.  Our college bus service was taking us to Walmart when we passed a group of teenagers on the corner, holding signs that said “We love America”, “Honk for America”, “Pray for America”.  The entire bus spontaneously broke into a chorus of “God Bless America”.  We gathered at the windows and sang at the top of our lungs and pounded on the metal roof of the bus, while the kids on the corner hooped and hollered and clapped for our country.

7. I remember that churches were full.

8. I remember that cities were emptied.

9. I remember that George W. Bush continued to read a book to an elementary class, not giving that group of children the burden of adulthood, even though he had just been given the news that America was under attack.

George Bush

10. I remember that my Dad resolutely refused to stop flying on airplanes,  My Mom works for Southwest, and Daddy told anyone who would listen that it was okay to fly.  He comforted passengers whose jobs required them to fly, intentionally sitting by those who looked most nervous so that he could speak peace to them during the flight.

11. I remember that many have died defending our country ever since.  There has never been a war like the war we have waged these past 13 years.  Sometimes I’ve supported it, sometimes I’ve scratched my head at it, but I have always been thankful and supportive of our brave, dedicated troops who risk their lives so we can be free.

“Now, we have inscribed a new memory alongside those others. It’s a memory of tragedy and shock, of loss and mourning. But not only of loss and mourning. It’s also a memory of bravery and self-sacrifice, and the love that lays down its life for a friend–even a friend whose name it never knew.“ – President George W. Bush, December 11, 2001

Birthday Present

My husband’s hiking journey across America!

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So 15 years ago today, I arranged a little birthday present to myself. I scheduled for my last day of active duty in the United States Marine Corps to coincide with my birthday, September 2, 1999. Just that by itself, not a bad gift; but this particular day  also marked the 1st day of my final preparations to start my hiking trek from San Diego, California to Calais, Maine.

So there I was with my little white Nissan pickup, its bed loaded with boxes of supplies. Each box labeled with a different city. Twenty-five cities along a predetermined route between San Diego, CA and Marble Falls, TX. I know Marble Falls isn’t a big deal to most, but it was my hometown, it would be a good motivator to help me stay the course. Each box represented a supply drop that I had planned along my coarse as I traveled…

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The Eye of the Beholder

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I heard a quote the other day that I just love:  “Anyone can love a rose, but it takes a great deal to love a leaf.  It is ordinary to love the beautiful, but it is beautiful to love the ordinary.”

I have a conch shell on my bathroom windowsill that is impossible to dust. No one would think it was anything special, just at a glance. It is thickly coated in some sort of white crust, and into the crust is embedded all these tiny little shells that no doubt belonged to tiny sea creatures who wandered up looking for a spot to land. I’m guessing they finally just left their shells there after fruitlessly trying to disconnect from the muck. One can only hope they found a safe harbor before being eaten by something … probably the thing that lived in my conch shell. As unlovely as it is now, it was actually a slimy mossy green when I got it, and I bleached it and scrubbed it until it is now its white crusty, spiderweb catching self. I think it’s beautiful.

Here it is in all it's inglory!

Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, I do not have an artistic eye, though I’m working on it. I usually last about 12 minutes in an art gallery. I look long and hard at sculptures that appear to have been dropped, then glued back together, and I see no deeper meaning.

I always wind up thinking, “My five year old could make that, and then we’d really be banking!” Those kinds of things are worth a fortune. So I spend my obligatory 12 minutes working my way through the art I understand and then, once I’ve passed the Norman Rockwell and Grandma Moses stuff I’m all, “So, someone mentioned going for pizza after this? Is anyone else starving?”

America has a strange idea of beauty now. Have you noticed? Beauty is only attributed to young, smooth, perfect sorts of things. I mean, we seem to like weird artwork, don’t get me wrong, but when it comes to other stuff or people, we miss the boat a lot. Not all Americans, but mainstream folks, even Christians seem to place a higher value on that which is fun to look at. Just try finding a popular Christian musician that isn’t pretty. I’m telling you, IF they exist, they are super rare!

Not just Christians though, of course. Hollywood is kind of low on talent, but ridiculously high in the beauty category. It is full of gorgeous, young, smooth women who are twenty pounds underweight, and full of people of ordinary size who are all grocery store clerks in movies. I feel bad for Hollywood women.  They only have a shelf life of approximately three months.  Then they develop a wrinkle that can’t be airbrushed out and their career is shot, unless you’re Betty White who is adorable, or Meryl Streep who is just too fabulous to be shunted away. Still it’s pretty hard to get a job in Hollywood, even for a guy, if you don’t have just the perfect look. I guess if they feel you’re worth the trouble, they might also try to give you just the perfect look. Heaven forbid people just look normal. It might give people the impression that they are worthy of attention just like they are.

Anyone watching the night Susan Boyle debuted on “Britain’s Got Talent” knows exactly what I’m talking about.  You should watch it on Youtube if you didn’t see it live.  People’s reactions to her were incredible.  The obvious, not just distaste, but utter lack of respect shown to her before she started singing will blow your mind.  Also, everyone’s reaction AFTER she started singing will blow your minds.  How could someone with slightly crooked teeth, who doesn’t fall in the 16-22 age range and isn’t a stick figure possibly be talented?  An anomaly of the first order no doubt.  Someone completely forgot to tell her that she was worthless because she wasn’t a super model.  I think we should all use a little less plastic and paint.

Here is my thought about my conch shell, and unbeautiful people (I learned that word from a five-year-old. It’s so awesome that every word processor underlines it with a red squiggly line). I don’t think my conch shell is beautiful because I bought it at a shell shop somewhere in Missouri a thousand miles from an actual beach. You can find shells in places like that.  It’s just weird. I guess they’re there for people who spend money to have perfectly polished and beautiful things to decorate their house. I am obviously not one of those people. If you added up everything I’ve spent on my home decor, it probably wouldn’t equal what one of those pretty conch shells would cost you.

But I ask you this: Was your pretty and polished conch shell fished out of the sea for you on a mission trip to Belize?  Was it handed to you with love by one of the sweetest teenagers in existence?  Was it smuggled, somewhat illegally, through customs wrapped artfully in dirty clothes in your luggage?  I’m just sayin.  My story is cooler. Just so you know, I have nothing against spending money on your house … but I have nothing against my way either.

Everything in my house is either a token of an experience that I loved, or given to me by someone I love. I hate those random psych questions that ask, “If your house was on fire and your family was safe and you knew you could save one thing, what would you save?” I usually sit for a moment and mentally run through every picture, book, bottle of sand (yes, sand is a decoration at my house) and then flee the room in tears. I would want to save all of it. It all has meaning to me. That query is even more bizarre when they tell you you can only save one family member. My husband refers to a Captain Kirkism as an answer.  “I don’t believe in a no win scenario.  I would save them all.”   I refuse to answer altogether.  I don’t think Jason or I would do very well on a psyche evaluation.

It is my personal opinion that people are more beautiful the longer they live and the less they botox. If you will sit and share your life story with a kid for an hour, or if you can describe what it was like to huddle in a foxhole, or fearlessly march onto a beach in Normandy under constant German fire, or you still knit, sew or crochet, you are a beautiful person. If you sag somewhere because you’ve had three children, or your skin is puckered from surgery, or your hands are calloused from years of using them for your livelihood, that’s all because life has happened to you.  If you’re a single or foster parent, don’t even get me started on your level of amazingness.

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The greatest beauty lies in reality: in the depth of our experiences. Smile lines are a mark of a life spent finding joy in trials. Not the mark of a perfect life.

So, we should expand our definition of beauty a little bit, right?  At least enough to include ourselves, for pete’s sake!  It isn’t because we’re humble that we don’t think we’re beautiful, it’s because we’ve been lied to, we’re insecure, we’re inundated with plastic figurines all painted to perfect specifications by toddlers in China.  So forget the Walmart version of you, or the Dillards version if you happen to have more money.  We are my conch shell.  We have a story that is worth being a bit banged up for.  We are real people, with real purpose in life.  We are loved by God.  Jesus would rather die than live without us.  If nothing else in this entire world is beautiful, that is beautiful.  End of story.

Poisoning People for Fun and Profit

 

I have always had a thing for words. Like, since I was old enough to start noticing their usefulness in getting what I wanted.  Especially when this included grating on my older brother and sister’s nerves. It was big fun when, in an argument, Ryan would make some perfectly lucid 6-year-old point, and I would spout back in my three-year-old wisdom, “Well you’re just too preposition to know better!”. He would usually respond to this by running to Mom yelling, “Mom, Julie’s talking weird again!” Argument won.

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Words in pretty much any form are beloved by me.  Listening to a really fabulous speech or sermon took my breath away even when I was much too young for that to be cool.  Speaking them for myself was, of course, fabulous.  Written words … heaven.  You don’t even want to see my “written words” collection.  But just in case you do ever happen upon one of my bookshelves and feel the urge to pull a book out, please put it on the table for re-shelving by the competent maniac librarian who has them all categorized in a very specific order.  The pulling-books-off-the-shelves stage was a very hard moment in my toddlers’ lives.  I say moment, because I pretty muchly lost my mind over it, and they never tried it again.  I mean, really.  Have a little respect for the crazy person and her library.  18-month-olds.  Sheesh.

My problem is that words come too easily, too naturally to me. Just the perfect word to zap someone in their place is usually right on the tip of my tongue. This would be perfect except my Mom ruined it for me.  Imagine if you will the kindest, most considerate person on the planet.  I mean, so nice that it’s actually just ridiculous.  Now double it.  Now imagine they raised you.  Sigh.

65% of the conversations I had with my mother up to the age of like 17, were the following:

Me:  “So then I told them (insert brilliant, just-funny-enough-to-make-everyone-laugh, just-true-enough-to-make-one-person-really-pale comment)”.

Mom with a horrified and disappointed look on her face: “But you didn’t really say that, did you?” She always gave me the benefit of the doubt, knowing my love of words also extended to the ability to embellish details of stories after the fact.

Me: too honest to say no, too embarrassed to admit out loud that I really did say whatever horrible thing I had said.

Mom: (insert various forms of telling your child to go apologize immediately.)

Sad times, friends.  Apologizing for the perfect zinger tends to take the “zing” out.  Brutal for a budding verbal martial artist.

I can’t remember how old I was before I started to realize on my own that my words had the same effect on others that their words had on me. I do remember that I was much older than I should have been for that insight. I will also say that whoever made up that idiotic childhood taunt, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” had probably never been spoken to before. Or more likely, they had been talked to too much, and this fictional phrase was their defense mechanism. Today, I’m sure they would have been assigned a syndrome. Off the point a bit, my favorite version of this saying remains Gilligan’s from “Gilligan’s Island”.  His phrasing was far more accurate in my opinion, “Sticks and stones may break my bones … so please, don’t throw sticks and stones.”

In my childhood verbiage was fun to experiment with. The many sounds words made tickled my brain, sizzled on my tongue. I used them ecstatically, with reckless abandon. The more powerful the word, the better. In my adulthood, I have discovered the truth about them. They can be extremely dangerous in the wrong circumstances. Hitler used them to build his Third Reich, to justify genocide, to work people into a frenzy for his cruel, lustful regime.  When teaching on the Nazis in my World History classes I had many students ask me, “How could he ever get people to do the things they did?” Just with words.  What a frightening prospect.

So here is my happy note (I always enjoy the happy note). Like any powerful thing, language is also wonderful! The right word spoken at the right moment is pure brilliance!

My mom had a quote about kindness that I remind myself of constantly when raising my own kids, “It doesn’t cost anything to be nice.” Really. Kindness is available to your lips 24 hours a day at no expense to you whatsoever. How much does it really cost you to say something healing, instead of corrupting? To be honest, instead of manipulative? To do a little research before posting some preposterous media-cooked-up horror story on your Facebook page?  Good words are just as free as terrible ones.  That is comforting to me.

Jason and I have four beautiful children … that we had in four not always-so-beautiful years.  An interesting phenomenon happens to you when you have more than two children, as anyone with three plus will attest to.  People have a weird idea that they are allowed to say anything whatsoever to you, no matter how personal, even if they don’t know you.

Ground breaking
The pretty lady on my right is my precious mom

It cracks me up the amount of people who ask us if we’re finished, to which I actually respond with a smile and a “We think probably so,” instead of what I’d rather say, “None of your cotton pickin’ business”.  They also feel free to ask us about our sex life.  “You do know what causes that, don’t you?”  to which I want to respond with either “No, can you explain it to me?  I was homeschooled.” or “Yes!  We LOVE doing what causes this.” depending on my mood.  I’ve even been asked on multiple occasions if I’ve finally taken care of that problem – Really?  I could go on a while, but I won’t.  I will say, that today someone spoke the most wonderful words to me when I was out with my four children at a restaurant.

An older couple were sitting beside us while we ate.  When they were getting up to leave, the man grinned at my kids and said, “Are they all yours?” I smiled back and said they were.  He got a little teary eyed and said, “The only thing that could possibly be better than this, would be to add a couple more.”  Love.

 They both smiled and waved at the kids as they left.  My heart just glowed from his sweet words.  The waitress came with the check and asked me as I was paying if they were all mine, and if we were done.  I smiled and said, “We think probably so.”  Nice moments can’t last forever.  That’s okay.  She had to clean up the mess they made, so she’s way more entitled to ask than that random lady in the toilet paper aisle at Walmart.

Because of their incredibleness, I’m fairly certain my love affair with words will continue as long as I live.  I will try to be more cautious though, remembering the impact words have on people.  I’ll keep in mind the next time the anger boils up and I just want to rip someone to shreds that it’s usually not the customer service representative’s fault that my phone bill was double this month.  Niceness will always get me farther than yelling.  I know.  I’ve tried both.

Our friends, children, coworkers, staff are collecting the things that we say and turning it into our legacy with them.  They don’t care how much money we make, or what car we drive or how nice our clothes are.  They only care about how our words make them feel.  So let’s make them feel awesome!  And whatever we do, let’s just please not throw sticks and stones.

Broken Crayons

Crayons
Image courtesy of trashfreeliving.com

I walk around this house all day picking things up.  You would think that my house would eventually get clean because of this, but the truth is there’s always “stuff” where it’s not supposed to be no matter how many times I clean.  Lately, the things out of place that I find most annoying are broken toys, particularly crayons.  My three-year-old is a little creature of habit and lately he has been cultivating a habit of breaking crayons for the mere pleasure of hearing them snap.  Also, there is a lovely feeling of power that fills him when something solid cracks between his herculean fingers.  Behold the mighty Caleb who has the ability to snap crayons in a single blow!  I guarantee you, he is thinking along these lines.

The most irritating thing about broken crayons is that all their potential for coloring is still intact.  They are still as color worthy as before, but now, no one will touch them because they present a slightly more complicated grip, pressure on paper, they aren’t as pretty etc… Grr!  Even Caleb, the great breaker of the crayons himself, no longer has any use for them once they are broken, unless it’s to peel the paper off and leave IT scattered around with the crayons.  Paper ripping is just an added bonus to ruining crayons.

There always seems to be someone in my life who is very difficult to deal with.  I used to think that they were placed especially in my path because I had some sort of knack for working with hardship cases, and now I’ve come to the conclusion that, as I am not the least bit adept at dealing with these people, they merely come into my life so much because there are too many of them to avoid.  Grown up people, looking for the rush that comes with the power to hurt something that appears solid, have snapped them in half with their words, or actions, or an artful combination of the two.  Unfortunately, broken crayons and people are everywhere.

Lately there has been a particularly hard individual.  Don’t worry, if you’re reading this blog and you’ve recently made my acquaintance, it’s not you.  If I thought there was a chance that the person in question read my blog, I wouldn’t mention them at all.  Now that we’ve got that settled, here we go.  This person is more difficult because unlike most of the broken people in my life, I have discovered that I don’t like her.  It’s a weird feeling for me.  I usually like everyone.  Truly, even people that are super broken, unlovely, hard to deal with, I’m all over it.  But not with her.  So here are things I’ve learned about dealing with difficult people …

1. Every person is important because they exist.

People don’t earn importance because of the things that they do.  People are important because they are flesh and blood.  They are living here on this planet, so they’re just as valuable as I am.  They possess just as much potential for coloring this world with their existence, and there isn’t any option about throwing them away just because they are broken in a couple of places and have some of their paper ripped off.  SOMEONE somewhere will have to deal with them.

2. I don’t like everyone and that is just life.  Unfriending them on Facebook just makes me immature.

Again, a very hard concept for me.  I can usually find something about a person that I just love and that makes me connect with them all the better and like them even more.  Enjoying people’s peopleness is usually easy for me.  Here is the shocker of the day.  I almost unfriended this person on Facebook.  I know, right?  The ultimate disgrace!  Being “unfriended” on a social network.  That’ll teach HER to be hard to deal with!  I didn’t actually do that, I just wanted to. But then I realized that, I am actually a grown-up so I should act like it, and all people deserve some dignity … even in the Facebookosphere.

3.  Everyone is broken, just in different places.

There are people out there who find me a difficult person to deal with.  Somewhere, someone might even be writing a blog post about me and how annoying I am.  It’s true.  There are no perfect crayons in the box of the world.  We are broken because the world is broken.  Because people say the wrong things at the wrong time.  Because humanity has fallen.  That’s all.  It’s just us here.  Some of us have just been melted, pressed back into place, and had paper rewrapped around the weak spots, but some people have no one to do that for them.  So their brokenness is just out there, for everyone to see.  It isn’t fair, but it is reality.  I have mostly surrounded myself with people who are willing to put up with my breaks and bulges where I got fixed.  They know that the paper isn’t hiding my other faults very well, but they don’t care, because they love me.  Everyone needs people who pretend the paper is doing its job.  We should be those people for the other broken people.

4.  Jesus liked the broken crayons best.

I imagine that if Jesus came into my house and sat down to color with Caleb, He would not reach for the newest box of crayons.  He would probably use the smaller pieces, the blunt edges, the ruined parts to make his work of art.  When I complained to Jesus about the person I almost unfriended on Facebook, He said as much to me (not out loud).  He reminded me of Mary Magdalene, one of His favorite followers, who was a prostitute before she met Him.  And of Zaccheus and Peter and … of myself.  All of us hopeless cases.  He had the time to mess with us.  He used our broken parts to make His story more beautiful and more interesting.  How could we not take the time for these others?

5.  People stuff does not fit nicely into a crayon box.

There are no really perfect categories for humanity.  We’ve discussed this before.  Shoving people into little boxes just doesn’t seem to work out.  We have no idea of the depth of most people.  I can’t remember who said it, but someone famous who’s name you would surely be impressed with said once that “The most complex character in fiction is not remotely as complicated as the simplest person in real life.”  Something like that was said by someone famous once.  I promise.  You get the idea, of course.  People don’t tell us why they are the way they are.  Most of the time, they don’t even know it themselves.  They don’t apologize for being hard to deal with, for lying horizontal, when you need them to stick up straight so you can fit more things into the box.  People just are what they are.

6. The Earth revolves around the sun … not around me.

Obvious.  I know that.  In my head I know it.  But still in my selfish heart there is the thought that this life is a movie with me as the main character.  Everyone that comes in and out of the scenes does so to further my story.  Wrong.  People who decide that life is all in the pursuit of their own happiness are delusional.  I’ve seen many quotes swirling around on Facebook and Twitter: memes to the effect of, “if someone is in your life that isn’t contributing to your happiness, walk away from them,  Life is too short for that”.  Some are a bit more subtle in their selfishness, “A person who hurts you gives up their right to be in your life”… blah blah blah.  It all comes to the same thing.  Broken people sometimes look for others to break because they think it will make them look less broken.  So they hurt people.  They hurt you, or me.  But life is not just about us.  Sometimes people-breakers have to have someone stick with them.  Someone they have hurt even.  I have had many people stick with me in the past even after I have stabbed them in the back, said the wrong thing to them … hurt their feelings.   I’m glad their only source of humanity wasn’t wrapped up in the wisdom of Facebook memes.  If any of you friends are reading this post, thanks for dealing with this difficult person.  I love you.

So maybe all of this doesn’t help when dealing with the crayon pieces scattered throughout your life, but it helps me.  A little more perspective is always a plus for a brain like mine.  I tend to think that everyone’s life experience is similar to mine, and therefore, they should all behave exactly as I do. However, the ramifications of there being 6 billion Juliens running around in this world are so catastrophic, I just don’t let my mind settle there.

 

P.S. Just to clarify, I am in no way recommending that someone stay in an abusive relationship.  I am talking merely about hurt feelings here, and figuring out people at large.  If someone hits you, or is cruel to you … get away from them immediately.  Someone else can help them with their brokenness.  That doesn’t need to be you.

Miscellaneous Monday….NEW stuff I gotta share

A fabulous post for a Monday! Love it!

Explore Newness

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It’s Monday {again} :o)!  How do the weekends fly by sooooo fast?!!!  I even took work off Thursday and Friday, and the weekend still zoomed by too quickly!  Last week, my hubby and I traveled south, to Utah’s Dixie.  It was really nice and WARM there!  The red rocks, blue skies, and blooming flowers made for nice NEW photos!

We made it a very quick trip and was back home by Friday evening – then Saturday I attended a GREAT Family History Fair and took a few NEW classes.  Now I’m motivated to ‘get back at it’!  (I seem to I do genealogy in spurts :o)  I also recently noticed this family history blog:  DearMYRTLE’s Genealogy Blog …I like to visit once in a while, to keep myself motivated to do more researching – (because sometimes, when those brick walls pop up, I can get a bit discouraged).

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Things That Go Bump in Your Life

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Fear has always been a ridiculously big part of my life.  As a kid, I had so many irrational fears that my parents monitored every single movie and tv show I watched, and every book I read.  “Goosebumps”?  Ha!  Forget that!  I could barely read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” without having nightmares.  I was petrified of the dark, I was obsessed with the idea of a kidnapper coming in the middle of the night and snatching me.  I had nightmares of these two boys at church who were actually quite nice, but in my nightmares about them they had glowing red eyes … which I picked up from the “Care Bears Movie”.  I know, right?  The one movie you’d think would be totally safe for your children to watch and not gain any new phobias.

I was deathly afraid of heights.  Riding roller coasters was completely out of the question.  I went to Six Flags once with our youth group and our youth director MADE me ride one of the rides.  I’ve never quite figured out why it was such a big deal to him, but he forced the issue and I rode it.  It was one of those that goes forwards and upside down a bunch of times and then hits the height of its horribleness and does the whole thing again in reverse.  I nearly threw up on my youth director afterwards, and he stopped insisting I ride things.  I still feel it might have served him right to get puked on.

I’ve learned lots of things about fear over the years.  Some are easily conquered.  I thought I was afraid of bugs until I moved to the country and our house has various, harmless bugs in it all the time.  I’m more afraid of the toxic chemicals filling my kid’s lungs than I am of there being live june bugs around, so I put up with the june bugs.  Also, I have a weird aversion to the crunching sound they make when you kill them.  I still hate scorpions with a passion, and I would never crush one myself until I had kids.  You wouldn’t believe the stuff you can do when you think your child might get hurt if you don’t.  It’s a truly awful sound though.  ((Shudder))

I still squish every spider that I encounter.  Jason assures me that there are only two kinds of spiders in Texas that are dangerous, the black widow and the brown recluse.  So, I squish every spider I encounter just in case its a black widow or a brown recluse.  I mean, if you google images of brown recluse spiders, EVERY brown spider you’ve ever seen comes up!  No joke.  There’s no telling what these monsters look like.  Death to all brown spiders.  As a side note, you should never google “brown recluse spider bite”.  Trust me on that, you don’t want to know.

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I’m pretty sure this isn’t even what they look like. There are six other spiders under this heading that are completely different. One is quite clearly a tarantula. Just sayin’.
The fear of unknowns in the future are always big with me.  I used to fear losing people that I love to death, or that my kids would get sick, or that I would die and leave them with no mom.  My mother reminded me of something very important that has helped me cope with this one.  She reminded me that God gives us just enough grace to be sufficient for what we’re going through right now.  Not the grace to go through the problems others face, or the grace for everything that will happen in our future … just right now.  But, when we need it, that grace will be there.  This has proven to be absolutely true in my life.  An unexplainable peace surrounds me when I’m going through something incredibly painful.  I remind myself of this quite frequently when I’m drawn into fearful speculation about the future.  Don’t rob what is good today just to worry over the future.

Most of my current fears are not that serious, but they can have a hugely negative impact on your calm.  Fear of what others will think of me … or my kids … or my husband.  Just whatever, it is immobilizing.  And kind of silly.  Here’s the deal, you can’t control other people’s minds.  Short of like, hypnosis or something, which my voice is not soothing enough to master, people can think whatever they want.  It’s an American thing.  We can say we don’t care what they think but we do, and sometimes we even should.  Not caring what anyone else thinks of you can get you into trouble.

I strive to have a healthy dose of self-awareness and leave behind the self consciousness.  I want to be presentable, to comb my hair, to not wear pants in public that were clearly meant to be pajamas … those sorts of things.  However, the self-consciousness thing hits me at the worst possible times.  One of my children throwing themselves on the floor and crying … in the doctor’s office waiting room, while two dozen elderly people stare at me like, “In my day, I never would have allowed my children to behave that way in public.”  Yeah, I think, but in your day CPS wasn’t really a thing either.  Instead of saying that, I calmly scrape my child up off the floor, threaten them under my breath and propel them through the door into the doctor’s office.

A little known fact about me is that just when I think I look like a dignified, put together person, I trip.  Literally.  I physically trip over my own feet when I think I’m handling this whole walking thing really well.  So now you know.  If you see me walking down a perfectly straight, completely obstacle free hallway and stumble headlong over thin air, you will know that was a moment I was trying to look cool.

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This is how Lily faces her fears. She may be onto something here.
Facing fears is never simple, but we have to do it, or we’ll just walk around being perfect basket cases all the time.  I push aside my fears of the things I can’t control.  I swallow hard and close my eyes and ignore the sound of that scorpion crunching.  I simply avoid heights at all costs.  That’s a lot easier when you’re an adult.  People can’t force you to ride roller coasters any more when you hit your thirties.  Nice perk.  I actually get a little freaked out still to go grab something from the car when it’s dark outside.  Anything could be lurking in that black void.  You just never know.  As far as what people will think if you fail, no worries.  Edison, Einstein, Walt Disney, J.K. Rowling … all of them faced multiple and brutal failures before their success.  They still thought Edison was nuts even after he succeeded.  And did you know Harry Potter was rejected like 28 times before someone finally published it?  I bet those other jokers are pretty bummed out right about now.  I bet Jo Rowling is pretty glad she kept trying.

Fear is normal.  We all do it.  So dream big, lift your head high after you trip and smile like you did it on purpose, plunge into the darkness to retrieve the phone you left out in the truck … it’ll be okay.  Everyone is still afraid of the dark at 34 years old.  They’re just too cool to admit it.  Also, I’m NOT afraid of thunderstorms or clowns.  I just feel like I should get some credit for that.

spider
I’m pretty sure this is what an actual brown recluse looks like. See what I mean? Totally different spider than the first picture!

You just went and googled “brown recluse spider bite” didn’t you?  I was right, wasn’t I?  Disgusting.  Told you so.

Plans and Other Futile Attempts at Sanity

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Jason and I when we were just married
 Getting married was a hugely eye opening experience for me.  Not so much from learning how to live with another human every day, I’d been doing that all my life, more from finding out things about me.  Weird, I know.  You’d think it was revelations about HIM that would make the whole business upsetting, but he’s actually remarkably tame.  It’s me we all need to worry about.

So, here’s the thing about me that I never knew until I got married.  I want to be super jovial, go with the flow, happiness is stopping in the middle of your carefully ordered life to smell the roses.  I always thought I was like that and then Jason came along.  And I’m actually not that easy going.  Who knew?

My normal when I’m traveling somewhere is to have a carefully ordered itinerary in mind and charge ahead toward the destinations, plowing over whatever obstacles dare to get in my way.  The reason I always thought I was spontaneous and easy going is that I actually mentally plan normal stuff along the way.  There is a destination in my brain called “lunch” and “rest stop” and “historical marker”.  But don’t add random things in!  Now you’re just messing with my mind!  Jason’s idea of traveling is … well, enjoying the journey.  What?  Who even came up with this idea?  In my defense though, while It sounds great in theory, when the wedding is six hours away and you’re already running late, I’m not a super fan of stopping at every creek and river from Waco to Lubbock to see how the water’s flowing.  This is what I get for marrying a man who kayaked from Maine to Texas.  He just can’t pass water without looking at it.  Sigh.

 

I am a planner.  I love it!  I buy planners, I make my own planners, I make lesson plans that would be the envy of elementary teachers everywhere.  It’s truly something to behold.  I follow through on about 35% of everything I plan to do.  I know.  You all want to be just like me when you grow up.  By sheer volume though, of all the things I write down, 35% still turns out to be a lot.

plannerplanner 2

These pictures do no justice to how detailed this planner is

If you think I’m uptight when traveling, you should see me at New Years.  I start planning my yearly goals a couple of weeks into December.  This is when I get a planner, or refills, or here lately I make my own.  Those store bought ones just do not have all the things I need.  By the time the ball drops on New Year’s Eve night I have categories and subcategories for every one of the months of the upcoming year.  It’s May right now.  I have no idea where that planner is.

So why am I not president yet, or at least, like, Secretary of State?  I mean, it seemed inevitable at the start of January.

Here’s the deal about my plans and my life.  Life is like the anti-plan.  It is the arch enemy of everything I write down in my carefully organized, personalized, categorized notebook.  I actually feel kind of cool though, having an arch enemy.  It makes me think I’m a little closer to being like Sherlock.  But anyway, back to my point.  You just can’t fit your actual life into those little plastic page protector things.  Trust me, if it was possible, I would have done it.  I love page protectors.  One of my favorite quotes ever is by John Lennon who’s song lyrics state “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”  My life in a nutshell.

You should have SEEN my plans at the start of this school year.  Jack should be doing quantum physics right now.  He should speak Spanish fluently and have had a thorough introduction to French and Latin.  A compulsive planner should never read “A Well-Trained Mind”.  It literally makes us crazy.  The other day we learned some stuff about graphing that was pretty fun.  And we played with play doh.

I know there are ways around these disruptions, because planning works for some people.  My friend Susan (name was changed to protect the potentially embarrassed), has a very orderly life and when she plans to get pregnant at a certain time of year so that it coincides with her teaching schedule, that is what happens.  Really, she even gets PREGNANT on a schedule.  It’s just wrong.  Also, using only the natural birth control known as the “Rhythm Method”.  If you’re unfamiliar with birth control, that method is 100% drug and procedure free.  It works beautifully if you want to have four kids in four years. My husband and I employed it with pretty much all of our children. And, it could actually work if you’re Susan.  So yeah, some people’s plans work out.  I’m pretty sure I’m just going to have to learn to deal.

So what do we do about plans that go amiss?  Personally, I take lots of deep breaths.  I remind myself that there is Someone’s plan that IS working out in my life and I don’t have the whole picture yet.  I remind myself that no one’s plans work perfectly, (even Susan’s) and that life is still good anyway.  Sometimes I cry too, and yell at people.  I forgot to mention that.

But be all this as it may, I’m still going to make New Year’s goal charts and add more tabs and page protectors to my planners. I’m still going to buy more curriculum than I could possibly need in all four of my children’s life times and make more attempts at teaching them dead languages!  Some of my plans work out too.  I did write and publish a 400 page novel last year.  That’s not nothing.  Zig Ziglar taught me all growing up (through his tapes, not personally) that you reach 100% of the goals you never set.  So … I guess it’s pretty inevitable that if you do set goals, you won’t reach all of them.  Still, I get more accomplished when I plan to accomplish something.  And then I try super hard not to get too emotionally attached to my checklist.  I remind myself to live the life that is happening to me right now.  Smiling at my kids and so forth.  I write that on my list too sometimes.  I know.  I need therapy… and chocolate.  Oh, and more play doh, if anyone has extra lying around.

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

 

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