Friday, April 29, 2005

Trash and Dreams

Today was our day to clean up Michigan's highways and byways. Our work site adopted a stretch of highway along US 131, and we had the privilege today of cleaning up the myriad of trash that accumulated there over the winter months.

Among the many things we found were old tires, used condoms, dirty diapers, fast food garbage, and a couple of pages from a pornographic magazine.

This I found particularly disturbing, because a quick glance showed that the theme of the magazine was incest. This turned my stomach, and I was all too glad to crumple up the page and toss it into the trash bag with the rest of the garbage.

As I walked along the highway, continuing to pick up pieces of this and that, it occurred to me that such things are what comes of being outside of God's grace. For those who do not know Christ, such things are the natural outcome of attempts to satisfy the "lusts of the flesh", which become increasingly difficult to satisfy with each progression deeper into the snare of various perversions. Apart from God's amazing and infinite grace, expressed in the giving of His Son so we can once again be in a right relationship with Him, there is little that stands between us and the most horrific acts we can conceive of.

There is something humbling in the realization that it is not because of our own goodness that any one of us does not engage in the things that break God's heart, but it is only because of God's grace that we do not give way to the inclination to engage in those things. Some have inclinations that are different and/or more disturbing than others, but we are all prone to sin, and there is no one among us who can say that we do not sin just because we are such goll darn wonderful people that we just never want to sin. To say so would be fooling ourselves, and making a mockery out of Christ's sacrifice for us.

I think our world is becoming sicker and sadder and more disturbing by the day. All I can do is pray that God will give me the grace and strength to walk steadily onward, eyes on Him, and that He will use me to reach others who will hear the Truth.

On to another thought...

As I was out walking with my sister tonight, I became aware of the powerlines overhead. Of course, I'm always aware that they are there, but tonight, I really considered them. The look of them, the current flowing through them.

I often dream about powerlines. At times in my life when I am feeling entrapped by something, some situation I cannot escape from, I have dreams about flying, and being surrounded by powerlines. I dare not fly too high, lest I become entangled in them. I try to fly around them or above them, but they seem to reach and stretch farther and higher than I am able to fly. I cannot escape their potentially deadly force.

I also have dreams in which I am flying, but the beautiful landscape I seem to be flying over is actually only a very small room, artfully crafted to give the illusion of rolling green hills and blue skies. I remember one particular dream I had when I felt like I had flown for miles, and was finally far enough away from whatever I was escaping from to truly be free from it, only then to realize I was actually only flying back and forth between one painted section of the room and another.

I have also had dreams in which I am flying from room to room, aware that it is a room and I am desperately seeking an exit, only there is none. Only an endless series of rooms.

I think it is interesting, the two images contrasted against each other. Flying, representing freedom, contrasted against being confined in an inescapable situation.

I have had many of these dreams lately, though I do not recall the specific details. I often wake from these dreams feeling like I can't breathe, as if something is attempting to suffocate me.

I would like to explore more about the psychology of dreams.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Winning and Losing

So the cake went over fairly well, all things considered. The pasta salad was also a big hit. So, as it turns out, I can cook after all. Whoda thunk it?

Herbie said not one word about the...ummm...situation, which was odd, until my friend and I realized he had no clue. His roommate apparently dropped the ball there. For which I am somewhat grateful. I did not want it to go down that way.

I was reminded tonight why gastric bypass patients are not supposed to eat sugar. I have been tempting fate for awhile now, sneaking bits of sugary things here and there, and then tonight, of all times, I had to make a made dash for the bathroom as the cake I had just consumed quickly backtracked and I prepared to see it again in a whole new way. I was somewhat grateful that Herbie had left early, therefore missed the show.

By the way, it never looks good when the cook ends up vomiting. When I returned from the restroom, all but three people had left. I wonder what that means.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Sweet song of salvation

Okay, so my cooking for Oasis did not go as expected. I had such grand plans, and worked so hard on making those plans a reality. After getting home from work and taking a short "play break" with my niece, I went right to work preparing the food for tomorrow.

I should start first by mentioning the one item I DID NOT buy while at Wal-Mart...A cake leveler. This cake leveler costs all of $2.50, or thereabouts, and I thought it was just a bit too much money to spend, considering all the other things I had to purchase.

What I would not have given for a cake leveler earlier this evening.

All was going well...I put the cake batter in two perfectly greased and floured cake pans, putting them in the oven for the appropriate amount of time. Half an hour later, they came out of the oven, baked to perfection. After a few more steps, it was time to frost the first layer of the cake, then ever so carefully put on the top layer and frost that. all started falling apart before I even had it frosted. It began with a small split at the side, then a split right down the middle. I frantically applied frosting in a futile attempt to hold the cake together, but stronger forces prevailed, and there was nothing more I could do at the moment.

Accepting defeat for the moment, I placed the cake in the refrigerator and went upstairs to see my family, and asked my sister to accompany me back to my apartment to view the disaster, and see if she could salvage it.

Carefully removing the cake from the refrigerator, my sister looked at it as carefully as a surgeon might examine the patient on whom she is about to do surgery. After a moment' s consideration, she calmly said, "It can be fixed."

There was hope yet! All my hard work would not be in vain!

She went on..." I've had to do this before. You use frosting to keep the cake together and even it out. It means kind of a lot of frosting on the cake, but that's okay. Who doesn't like a lot of frosting?"

And what a stroke of genius that was!

My mother had a can of Betty Crocker Whipped White Frosting, and it suited the situation perfectly. It spreads easily, so could not do more damage to the struggling confection, and it's flavor blended well with what was already on the cake.

My cake looks pretty darn good now, despite the inch and a half of frosting holding it together. Tomorrow, I am going to garnish the cake with some orange slices (it's an orange cream cake), and make it look a little prettier. However, I am happy to say that the cake emergency has been defused.

I also made a pasta salad, using one of my mom's recipes, and that turned out wonderfully. It looks and tastes very normal, and I think people will enjoy it before they are sent into a sugar shock from my cake.

In all fairness, I did send out an email to the Oasis crowd, giving them fair warning of the shock inducing confection. Consume at their own risk!

So I am not meant to be a goddess of the kitchen...that's okay. I can write one heck of a blog.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Lazy, Hazy, and Crazy

I did not go to work today. Things happened over the weekend that have left me very frustrated and completely lacking in motivation where my job is concerned. It is incredibly frustrating to be this fed up with a job, and yet realizing that if I quit right now, I am giving up some things I have worked very hard for. I just need to hold out awhile longer. God, give me grace...PLEASE!

I am at a point where I do not know what else I can contribute to my job, nor what else I can glean from it. Perhaps I will get a large sum of cash that will enable me to quit my job and move without it being a financial stress...Or, maybe I'll just have to find some way to get through the next three months without completely losing my mind.

I have not heard from Herbie or his roommate, and I am okay with that. It's only been a couple of days, but even if the silence means that Herbie is not interested, it's okay. Although I would like a definitive answer one way or the other, as I think it is just rude to leave somebody hangin' when they have asked you a question through your roommate because they were too shy to ask you themselves.

I found out last night that my dear friend emailed Herbie after I'd already talked to his roommate, because I guess I didn't sound quite pathetic enough on my own. God bless her dear little heart for that. She meant well, and I love her for it. But I feel as though we should be huddled in a corner giggling about the cute boys, leaving notes in their lockers and whatnot.


There is not much else to tell today. I feel tired, stressed, frustrated, and at the end of myself. I feel utterly spent.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Better Days

I feel like I have come back more to myself today. I spent quite a bit of time cleaning my apartment today, which was good, because I needed that to remind me that there is life beyond the drama of the relationships we are in or think we might like to be in. I needed this day of doing mundane things to keep me grounded in the here and now.

I went to Wal-Mart today-- the Super kind, not the regular strength-- and bought some of the things I will need to prepare my half of the dinner/snack/munchies for Thursday night. I have taken quite a liking to helping with the food on Thursdays, because I enjoy cooking for other people. Being that I have nobody to cook for, though, I am not much of a cook. So, this is giving me the opportunity to do something I enjoy, become a better cook, and contribute something to Thursday nights as well. All in all, it's a good thing. Of course, this is only the second time I've actually helped with the food, and the first time I will actually be doing any cooking, so it remains to be seen whether or not this is truly a good thing. I do not anticipate any complaints, though.

I do some cooking at work, for our monthly ethnic dinners. Everything is made from scratch, and so far, no complaints. I've even had people ask me for the recipes. So, I must be doing something right.

Why so concerned with cooking tonight? I'm not sure. I just like to find a sense of purpose in the day to day grind, and I am excited to be making my involvement with Oasis part of my day to day activity. Cooking is one of the ways I will be doing that this week.

To get to Wal Mart, I had to drive through the town in which I spent much of my teen years. The church I went to at the time is in this town, it is in this church that I met my dearest friend, Laura, and together, we experienced all the glories and defeats of being teenagers.

It is funny to remember those years. Laura and I have spent many, many hours reminiscing about those days, trying to figure it all out. Trying to understand how those years formed us, how the people we knew then shaped who we became. I have a lot of mixed feelings about those years, having suffered the disillusions that come with growing older and seeing life more for what it is than what I thought it to be. People are not meant to be put on pedestals. Nobody can live up to being a hero. We're all just here, doing the best we can, and if we make a difference in somebody's life, then it is just doing the best we can, making a difference.

There are many people from those years that I have not talked to in a very long time. There were a couple of women who were my mentors, of sorts, and I sometimes wonder if I turned out as they hoped I would. I honestly think they were shaping me to be a pastor's wife, and I'm here to tell you, I turned out to be anything but pastor's wife material. I do not sing, play piano, or have fluffy hair. There are only a handful of kids that I can tolerate for any length of time, and I flat out refuse to wear anything with too large a floral print. I think I am forever ruled out as pastor's wife material, as we typically think of it.

At any rate, perhaps some things are better left frozen in our memories, not thawed by bringing them into the present and watching them morph into something that's hardly recognizable anymore.

A few years after the horror of my teenage years ended, I moved to that town to manage a motel. It was a nice set up...I had an apartment that was paid for, utilities and all, and I was also paid a reasonable amount of money every week to run the place. It was also during this time that I began to struggle most severely with depression, and quickly found out who my friends were. It did not take me long to figure out that those who I counted among my friends took great pleasure in making a joke out of me amongst themselves, perhaps thinking I did not notice. I tried, clumsily, to maintain some sense of normalcy with what few friends I did have, but could never quite master the art of just being myself and letting things slide...It was as though I was in overdrive all the time, hyperconscious of every flaw I possessed, tirelessly working to correct it. No cracks in the armor. I could not afford to give anyone just one more reason not to like me.

Needless to say, I left that town with no friends. So, driving through there today was surreal, if nothing else. Nostalgic recollections of the safe haven of church youth group mingled with the painful memories of a girl just trying too damn hard.

I only remember two conversations from my latter years in this town. Actually, only a couple of quotes.

The first goes like this:

Me: "What do people say about me when I'm not around?"
My friend: "They call you psycho, say you're crazy."

The second is simply one line:

"You're always beating yourself over the head about something."

And so I am. I still see that in myself, but I'm trying to fix it. (That's a joke.)

Back in the saddle again

It's been a couple of days since my last post, so I thought I should catch my faithful reader(s) on what's been happening in my life over the last 48 hours. I know my life is so interesting that missing a day or two of posts can be quite taxing on my loyal reader(s).

I continued to mull over Herbie. A friend of mine came up with a scheme...I mean, idea...for how Herbie and I may connect. I am already very uncomfortable with it. It is a good idea, but it is not in the least bit how I envisioned anything may come about between us.

Actually, I feel like I am in high school. This is so very much not how I wanted this to come down. I imagined mature, direct, honest approaches, and instead....Well, read on.

The premise was to ask Herbie and his friend on a double non-date with my friend and me. My friend is chaperoning a dance, and I'm supposed to just happen to be there (because I apparently enjoy hanging out at middle school dances for no good reason), and we would like the company of Herbie and his friend. This is SO not my style, and yet I went along with it...*sigh*.

It is funny how much effort we put into the question of how to ask for the non-date. Unable to muster the courage to ask Herbie himself about this non-date, I explained my situation to his friend, and he assured me he would talk to Herbie about it.

Oh my goodness, I cannot believe I have done this. For the last 9 months, I have been so cool and collected regarding Herbie, not letting on to anyone that I have anything but the most platonic feelings for him. And now, all at once, it is out there. I have done the very thing I said I would not do, and that is...make the first move.

Since my last relationship, which ended about a year and a half ago, I have been of the opinion that men need to be the ones to initiate any kind of relationship beyond friendship...whether that means a simple date, or actually redefining the relationship. I have been very good about abiding by this rule, until now. In one fell swoop, I have made myself incredibly vulnerable, and broken my own rule.

I am hopeful that Herbie will realize the risk it took for me to do that, even if it was via his roommate. Even an indirect approach is an approach nonetheless.

I am sure I will find out soon enough, whatever Herbie's reaction will be. I fear all out rejection, but more than that, I fear compromising a good friendship. Oy! What did I do??

I need to drink less coffee, by the way. Perhaps my nerves would not seem nearly so frayed if I didn't have 500 cc of caffiene coursing through them. ha!

Perhaps there is some significance to the 9 month time frame, in all things. Nine months is the gestational period for human 9 months, you can grow and give birth to a brand new little person. Perhaps 9 months is something of an emotional gestational period as well, after which time you can no longer bottle up emotions, positive or negative, and you have to birth them in whatever form they're in.

Heck if I know. I'll never figure this stuff out.

In other news...

I did go to an Oasis get-together on Saturday, and that was a lot of fun. Of particular interest was the community in which the event took place, because it is the community I will be living in by the end of this summer, Lord willing. My friend and I have scheduled a day in a couple of weeks to go look at houses, and I am looking forward to that. It will be the first real step I've taken toward this new life I'm working toward.

I continue to receive various confirmations that I am making the right choice to move out and move on. I continue to struggle with my job, having learned of some very upsetting things over the weekend that tell me loud and clear that I need to shake the dust of that place off my feet and move on. 13 more weeks....

I found out today that the senior pastor at my church actually knows who I am. This came as a surprise to me, because I often feel very anonymous at church, except among the Oasis crowd. I felt a sense of comfort in realizing that I am not so anonymous...Although, I am not entirely sure WHY the senior pastor knows who I am, and it may turn out that it is nothing to be comforted by. hmmm....Really, though, for the first time in years, I feel like I am part of something, like I belong there. I don't feel like a spiritual orphan anymore. I have a family.

And with that, I'll sign off for tonight.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

"A night without armor" (Thanks, Jewel!)

It has been a good day...the quiet, fairly uneventful kind that I have come to appreciate.

There was Oasis tonight, as always, and I once again saw the guy I shall dub Herbie (cool, huh?)...the one who makes my heart sing and weep at the same time, just a little.

If you would rather not hear about it, I understand, and you should skip this post immediately. However, I need to get these things out, so here I go...

I do so much hate having these feelings. They create in me a vulnerability that I do not enjoy having. I have worked for a long time on building walls around my heart that make me impervious to such ridiculous things as romance and crushes and what have you, and then along comes Herbie, and all of that goes out the window. All of my hard work, for nothing. He has disarmed me.

It is funny, what this disarmament has done to my vocabulary. When he and I are in a group, we converse just fine, bantering back and forth and having a wonderful time merely conversing. However, when it is just the two of us, I sound like such a friggin' IDIOT! I am hardly able to get a full sentence out without sounding like complete moron. I have been told I have an exemplary vocabulary, but you would hardly know it if you listened to my attempts at conversing with him solo.

And yet I wonder why...After all, it's only Herbie. Herbie, on whom I have had a mad crush since I first met him last July, which has only grown all the more mad since I've gotten to know him better. Still, it's only Herbie.

And now what? This isn't junior high, so I cannot very well pass him a note that says, "Do you like me? Check 'Yes' or 'No'," followed by the inevitable "Do you LIKE like me, or just like me?" or, "Fine, I don't like you either!"

And it isn't high school, so I cannot very well have one of my friends talk to one of his friends and find out if he likes me, likes likes me, or only likes my personality but would never date me. (By the way, that's code talk for, "I think you're too ugly." )

Anyway, sometimes this whole "acting like a grown up" gig is just not my thing. Especially in situations where acting like a grown up means being vulnerable.

I have no intention of sharing my feelings with Herbie...No way, that is far too risky. I came dangerously close to telling one of his friends about this weirdness, but thought better of it, and am glad I decided not to share this just yet. I don't know how guys are, but I know that with women, something like that would very likely be kept "secret" for a few brief hours, until the object of affection can be properly notified.

I also don't want any relationship beyond friendship that Herbie and I may have to be the product of prodding by friends. If Herbie expresses any interest in me, I would like to know that he is doing it of his own volition, not in response to what he heard through the grapevine.

WHY IS THIS STUFF SO FRIGGIN' COMPLICATED? Does it need to be? Do we impose this weirdness on ourselves, or is this the dance we have to do before true feelings can finally surface?

I am not sure what to do, so I'll do nothing other than continue with the friendship that I have come to value greatly, even if I do act like a moron when he's around. I just wish I knew how to let myself be at ease with him.

I think part of this weirdness may also be that I am not used to having guys in my life who are interested in me beyond sex. Most of the men I've known in my life are complete swine, and it is a new thing to get to know the guys from brothers in Christ...on a level that has nothing to do with sex. It is strange to be accepted, respected, spoken to and treated like a person, not an object to be used then tossed aside. And, as with any new thing, it is something that I have to get used to. This is, in many ways, a very new way of interacting with the opposite gender. I've had male friends before, but none that I've spent time with week after week after week while still maintaining the appropriate boundaries, not seeking validation from them by turning myself into an object. This is very new for me.

God is good. I am very thankful that Herbie and his brothers are good, Godly men that are helping provide a safe place for me to learn to walk in God's grace as I learn to live in the boundaraies He has given us in His Word. He put them there for a reason, and I have learned more about those reasons with every heartache I've faced by violating those boundaries. I am so thankful God has given me a safe haven in which I can learn to walk again. We're all human, and we are all prone to sin, but God has given me some wonderful people in my life who have a heart for Him, and it is because I trust HIM that I am learning to trust these men and women God has placed in my life over the last year.

The question of Herbie....will remain a question for the time being. I just needed to get him out of my head so I could sleep tonight. :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Not all who wander are lost

It is a bit earlier in the evening than when I ordinarily post, but I need to take a moment to just "be", and this is often my place of just being.

I have been thinking a lot today about the changes fast approaching. I looked at my calendar, and I've got about 16 weeks until my stated goal of August 1st for the dramatic life changes I am talking about. That really isn't a lot of time. Not really, in the whole scheme of things.

I have been feeling just a bit anxious today, wondering...what if it doesn't all come together? Then I remembered that all of this was not really my idea. I believe with every fiber of my being that the changes I am planning for my life are in fact God's plan, and there is no way this cannot come together. It just may not come together in the way I envision it.

I have been struggling with my job for several months, and I believe I got all the clarity I needed last week to be certain that leaving my job is absolutely the right thing to do. I also believe God is showing me other reasons why He is directing me to make this move.

Last night, I attended an Oasis meeting, which I had been asked to be a part of. It was regarding establishing leadership, direction, and purpose for Oasis. For some time, I have wanted to become more involved in Oasis, as God had placed it on my heart to stop being a sponge and start being a vessel. Stop soaking up the benefits of the ministry, and start being poured out for the ministry. In order to do that to the capacity to which I feel burdened, I need to be closer to the church and the activity thereof. I believe that being asked to participate in the meeting and the facilitation of this group was one more confirmation that God is leading me out of this place in my life into something new.

So, everything I need is in place, except for everything that I need. I have no idea how the details are going to work out, but God knows I need a place to live and income, and I know He will provide. I actually think His provision in this is going to come from some very unexpected places. We'll see what He has in store.

So I need to be still. I need to stand on what I know to be true, giving no regard to the voices of anxiety and uncertainty that have been playing in my head today. God is bigger than all of this. He is bigger than the job I will be leaving, with its health benefits and longevity checks and good pay...His purposes go beyond financial benefits. He has a plan, and it's a good one, and I just need to wait and see what He will do.

My sister asked me today if I am going to start getting boxes for packing. Initially, I thought it seemed a bit hasty, and then realized that I will have to pack things up little by little, and it might not be such a bad idea to just start getting boxes. An act of faith...a positive declaration that I believe God is going to do big things here, and provide me with all I will need to move forward in my life. Something tangible that says without question that I believe God is leading me, even if I'm not entirely sure yet of where we are going.

It is scary to think of leaving behind the comforting and familiar, even if you know it is time to do just that. I still have awhile before I have to do any leaving behind, but it is fast approaching.

As I write this, and look at the title of my post, I realize that I have felt for years like I've been wandering, yet certain to some degree that my life had a purpose. I think that part of what is happening in this season of my life is that my days of wandering are coming to an end, and God is giving me a clear destination.

I have learned many things in my years of wandering. Things I otherwise may not have learned, had I been so certain of my path. Look at all we learned from the Israelites in their 40 years without a road map, and all they learned in establishing a foundation for faith that has carried on long after their time on this earth was up. There is no doubt about it...God has purpose even in our wandering. Sometimes we are never more found than when we are hopelessly lost.

(On a lighter note, I just realized my pants say "Lucky You" across my ample I think there may be some truth in that. I also wonder how many people read my butt while I was out walking today. I would like to get a pair of pants that says "What are you looking at?" )

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Footloose and Fancy Free...

It has been another great day. Church this morning was wonder-full, for a few different reasons, not the least of which being that I got to see the one who makes my heart sing just a little.

I am remarkably uncomfortable with having any sort of romantic-type feelings for anyone, so I will remain silent on that subject, for the time being. I've got bigger things going on in my life.

The message Pastor Dave delivered today was very good. I so much appreciate his style in how he chooses to deliver what is on his heart. He makes it simple, for those of us who sometimes a little slow on the uptake, and he is very sincere in what he is saying. I also appreciate his humor. Nothing makes me tune someone out faster than if they don't have a sense of humor.

There is nothing quite like the after-church nap that I take every Sunday. It was a habit that started when I was just a kid, and my parents always made all us kids take naps after church. I have gladly carried that habit into my adult years, and I fiercely guard my Sunday afternoon naps. It is very difficult for me to commit to do anything on Sunday afternoon if I cannot fit a nap in there somewhere. Kind of sad, maybe. Then again, I do think we would all treat ourselves and each other a little better if we would make more room for naps in our lives. The world is always so GO GO GO!!! Maybe we need to stop for awhile, and just rest.

After my nap, my sister and I took a long walk, during which I was able to enjoy the sunshine and the perfect temperature. I got just the slightest bit of a tan, also. Perhaps this will be the first summer during which I will not have to hear, "You are so pale! You need to get some color!".

I practiced signing a bit, after finding a few more websites that have a free American Sign Language dictionary as well as video instructions. I am hoping to include an ASL course in my educational pursuits this coming fall, but for now, these websites are very helpful. I am enjoying the experience of learning something new. As with learning any language, there is a lot to learn and remember, but practice makes perfect.

I have a painting in my living room that I have been working on for a week or so now. I am at the point where I thought it would be finished, but every time I look at it, it seems like it is missing something. The painting is meant to have that feeling to it, but I am having a hard time resisting the urge to pick up the paintbrush and add just one more thing to the picture.

I have considered entering the painting in the NAMI art show that will take place in May. I had a painting in the art show last year, and it was pretty cool to have my artwork on display. My artwork was not nearly as organized and precise as much of the other artwork on display there, but I still thought it looked good hung on the wall. :)

Okay, enough rambling. The truth is, I have nothing to write about tonight.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

A Bright, Sunshiney Day

It has been a fabulous day. Not for any particular reason, other than the weather being wonderful. I spent quite a bit of time outside today, first helping my dad tape off my Blazer for painting so it will be ready to sell, then for a wonderfully long walk with my sister, then playing outside with my one year old niece. I even managed to get just a wee bit sunburned today. With my fair skin, it does not take much to achieve a burn, but I always enjoy getting just a bit of color in my skin.

It is so much fun to take my niece outside. She is fascinated by everything...every sound, everything she sees, every new texture and color. It really is refreshing to be able to look at the world through such innocent eyes again. Us very wise and mature grownups so quickly forget how truly fascinating the world around us is.

After I posted yesterday, I realized I forgot to share a few very key elements to my trip.

I come from a very small town consisting of about 1500 people. When we first moved here, nearly 20 years ago, there were just under 1000 people living in this small town. I share this to give the reader an idea of just how small a town this place is. Sure, it is larger than other towns in this area, but it's all the same....Small.

Anyway, the conference I went to was in Lansing, which is considerably larger than my small town, by thousands. And, we have only got two traffic lights in my town, and those are only flashing reds. Lansing has...a few more than two.

So, along with being out of my element in so many other ways, I now had to somehow negotiate this strange new place called "Lansing". Now, for a brief time in my life, I did live in a suburb of Detroit, so got a bit of experience driving in "the city", but I have been out of said city for quite some time, and was no longer accustomed to having to drive in the way only city drivers drive. That was remarkably stressful, and my traveling companion was more than willing to let me keep that particular joy to myself for the duration of our trip.

Once we managed to get through the traffic and find the hotel, we quickly realized we would have to utilize the parking garage. Okay, I had never used a parking garage before. I've only seen them in movies, when alleged crimes or secret meetings are taking place. Except for that one episode of Seinfeld, in which Jerry used one corner of the parking garage for his urinal. At any rate, as far as real life experience was concerned, this whole parking garage gig was totally new to me.

So, we pull into the garage. And had no idea what to do next. Of course, you cannot proceed into the garage to actually park until you get the permit to do so. How does one do that? I see lights and buttons and parking fees, but it does not tell you how you get to that magical place where you can leave your car and go about your day. Meanwhile, as I am trying to figure this out, a car pulls up behind me and waits...and waits...and waits. I have no idea what to do. Finally, my coworker says, "Try pushing the button!" And...voila!...the machine spits out a credit card looking thing, and I am allowed to proceed forward into the parking area.

So, we finally get into the parking area, and I have no idea where to go, so I just park the car. Again, I have never been in a parking garage before, so just took the space available. My coworker and I get our bags out of the car and proceed to walk toward the exit, and the toll booth attendant says, "Are you staying at the Radisson? You shouldn't park there, or they'll tow you. Best bet is to go up to the third floor."

Third floor? How do I get there? Oh, I have to back out of my space far enough to get to the ramp, lest I proceed through the parking garage driving in the wrong direction. To do this, I had to angle around this poor woman who got stuck behind me and was kindly allowing me to pull out in front of her. No amount of hand gestures could sway her to go ahead of me...she was going to do the polite thing and allow me to go first. Poor woman.

After both of us pulling forward and backing up several times, I finally got over to the ramp and made my way up to the third floor. Using the cleverly designed pedestrian walkway...again, a new thing, and so cool...we walked over to the hotel and checked in. We ate at the hotel restaurant, where everyone was dressed ever so much nicer than we were. And, in those moments, I realized how much of a "country bumkin" I really am.

I do not listen to country music, I don't line dance, and I have lived in different fairly urbanized places...but those moments showed me very clearly that I am indeed very much a small town girl. I was most decidedly out of my element.

The next day, we walked around town a bit. Nothing too exciting, but I loved the energy of the place. Sometimes, in the quiet of my small town, I wonder where everybody is and if they realize there is a whole world going on around them. I loved observing the different people, from different cultural backgrounds, all mixed into this day to day grind of living and working and relating. Where I live, it is predominantly caucasian, and if there happens to be anyone of any other ethnicity among us, it is well noted. It is sad, really, that such things should capture my attention, but I crave to know more about this world I live in and the people I share it with. There is so much I do not understand, but would like to.

I certainly have no intention or desire to move to Lansing, but I feel like this small town is taping my mouth shut, and I WANT TO LIVE OUT LOUD!

As we headed back after the conference, and I saw the landscape becoming gradually more rural, I loved and hated what I was returning to. And yet, today, as I was walking with my sister, I realized with some sadness that I am going to miss the cocoon of this very small town once I leave it. We do live in a bubble, in which the primary concerns are the school's lunch menu, what fundraiser is the Lions Club doing this week, and when in the world are they going to extend the bike trail that goes behind the Senior Center...and yet this bubble of fantasy and ignorance does offer a measure of security and warmth that I realize I will be leaving behind when I do make my anticipated move this summer.


Friday, April 15, 2005

Home again

It is good to be home, although the last few days went surprsingly better than I thought they would.
I always do that...assume the worst about situations, get myself all psyched up for a horrible experience, cranking up the anxiety to nearly catastrophic levels. I envision horrible things happening, awkward situations from which there is no escaping, perpetuating every humiliation of my life. And then, somehow, things turn out okay. Somehow, nothing is as bad as I've made it seem, and I find that I am enjoying things, in spite of myself.
The conference was very informative and gave me a lot of good tools to use for work. It also solidified my conviction that I cannot remain where I am and still do the things I feel passionately about doing in the field of mental health. I cannot remain stagnate. I have to move forward and seperate myself from what I am doing right now, however painful or uncertain that seperation may be. I've set a target date of August 1st for finding suitable employment elsewhere and closing the books on this chapter in my life. We'll see what God has in store.
As far as the more personal aspect of the trip was concerned, things went well in that respect also. The woman I went to the conference with is not someone I would ordinarily have chosen to spend so much time with, but it allowed me to get to know her from a different perspective. There is only so much you can know about a person when you see them in a work setting. So many judgements are made based on that small fraction of ourselves that we show while we're at our jobs. In spending this little bit of time with her outside of our usual element, I saw that, while we may not have walked away from the experience as the best of friends, we also have a better understanding of where each other has been and where we are going. In being in the awkward situation of being sent out of town for two days with someone you hardly know, you learn a lot of give and take, a lot of compromise, a lot of learning to relax even when you feel just a little uneasy in this unfamiliar situation. It was a good experience, because it caused me to have to reach beyond myself a bit. I was out of my comfort zone for two and a half days, and I learned that I can be okay with that, and I can even enjoy it if I will allow myself to. Interesting.
I was impressed with the wealth of experience and knowledge shared at the conference....or seminar, whatever it was...not only from the speaker herself, but from others who attended. I really cherish what I can learn from the experiences of others, particularly those who have been in the field longer than I, who have held on to their passion and compassion for the people we are here to serve. It is a tough field, and it can suck the life out of you, so to be able to speak with people who acknowledge these challenges and still maintain their desire to remain in this helping profession is very encouraging as I consider my plans for the future.
I am torn lately...I do have a desire to remain in the mental health field, in a proactive and rehabilitative role. And yet, I constantly struggle with the question of, "What's the point?" And I cannot seem to determine definitively if it is the system that has failed the consumer, or the consumer who has failed themselves. Probably both. The only thing I do know for sure is that I do not have a desire to perpetuate enabling helplessness. Beyond that, I have no idea where to go.
God, give me direction. You have put a passion for this in my soul for a reason. Please show me what to do with it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Travels With A Whip

Okay, so it's the title of a "naughty book" that a friend of mine had. I've never read it, but the title popped into my consciousness tonight as I was packing for my brief work-related trip that commences tomorrow.
I hate packing. Even for short trips. I try to bring everything I will need, and a few things I just think I might need if the conditions are absolutely ideal for their use (for example, I am taking gym clothes, just in case there is a gym at the hotel), and probably a lot of things I will not use (for example, the bathing suit that, when it gets right down to it, I probably will be too shy to wear). It is hard to condense your life into one small bag.
I am going to a conference on job coaching people with disabilities. I have no idea how to job coach anybody, particularly those who have special needs, so I am sure that this conference will be informative, if nothing else. I am not particularly thrilled about going, both because I do not want to be away for two days for something work related, and I'm also not entirely comfortable with the person accompanying me (nice girl, but so very different from myself on all levels), and I just do not like leaving home. That said, maybe it will be nice to get out of my element for a couple of days.
Anyway, so I'll be gone for a couple of days, and probably won't post again until some time Friday night. Enjoy the break! lol

Monday, April 11, 2005

Speaking of addictions...

I have recently had to come to terms with the fact that I am addicted to shopping. On the surface, this may seem like a joke, and I have certainly had a few laughs over it myself, but I have had to come to the realization that it is not something to laugh about.

It has become much worse over the last few months, in part because my coworker/friend is a bit of an addict herself, and we junkies tend to justify each other's checkbook abuse. I have fallen victim to the HORRIBLE rationalization that, if I'm going to write a check that I know is going to put me in overdraft, I need to make it worth it...For example, if I want to buy an item that is $10, but I know there is not $10 in my account, I have to write the check to AT LEAST equal the fee the bank is going to charge me for the overdraft, to make the overdraft fee worth it.

Over the last few months, I have paid literally hundreds of dollars in fees, and now I am in the process of trying to dig myself out of the hole I've put myself in. If all goes well, I should be standing on solid ground within the next month. I've really had to take a good look at what I've spent versus what I have to show for my spending, and I've had to come to terms with some very disturbing realities...I'm an addict. The rush I get from shopping is likely very similar to the rush a person gets from doing a drug or having a drink. For a little while, I feel like I'm on top of the world, but then I start to come down from the high, I start to see the fees piling up, I start feeling depressed...and I have to go shopping again to get the high back.


However, God is doing some financial pruning in my life. I think my current situation of absolute financial obliteration was necessary in order to show me how serious the problem had become. It wasn't as though I was going into overdraft to pay necessary bills, or put gas in the car so I could get to work (with gas prices being as they are, you almost need to take out a small loan in order to fill the tank). No, I was willingly and knowingly going into overdraft so I could have just one more pair of shoes and cute capris to wear with them. I've even got shoes in my closet that do not match anything I have, and I will likely never wear them, but they were so cute, I just had to have them. And now, hundreds of dollars in shoes, clothing, and accessories later, I have absolutely no money to speak of and I do not know how I will make it through the next couple of weeks. I have no savings, nothing available on my credit cards...nothing. But, it is a necessary suffering. A severe mercy, really. As I posted a few days ago, if I am ever going to get to a place in my life where I can afford to move out and make it on my own, I MUST stop spending money. I needed a wake up call, and here it is.

I am happy to report that my friend/coworker is also in recovery. She and I have both gotten into the habit of leaving our checkbooks at home, and we have now successfully made two trips to the mall and walked out without buying anything. That is quite an accomplishment for people like us. Each of us spotted a couple of things we wanted, and said that we might come back and get them after payday, if we still want them by then. But we're not in the habit of justifying going into a financial nosedive just to have the cutest skirt in the window at any given store.

I have had to wonder why I do shop like I do. I've always liked to shop, but never so much as I have in the last six months. I think it is in part because I have gone through so many changes, and I am now able to wear things that I couldn't even think of wearing a year ago. It's as if I'm trying to make up for all the years that I was not able to fit into the "cool" clothes I saw in stores. I also think that there is a very large psychological element at work here. I have gone through a lot of changes in that regard as well, and I am trying to situate myself between the old me and the new me, and shopping has become a sort of distraction that keeps me from dealing with the uncertainties I feel as these changes progress. I do not have the option of using food as a coping tool anymore, so rather than dealing with things, I've just moved on to shopping as my addiction of choice.

They try to warn you about all the psychological stuff you'll deal with after surgery, but you just can't really know how serious it is until you're living it. It is a very strange and difficult thing to stop thinking of yourself as the ugly fat girl that nobody wants to be around, someone who is very easily dismissed and overlooked for no reason other than the physical appearance. That is what I am accustomed to, and it has been quite a transition to go from that to being someone that people actually acknowledge in a non-patronizing or condescending way. (I could, and eventually will, write about the differences between my experiences pre- and post- surgery.)

Anyway, as with all addictions, there are underlying causes that go far beyond the addictions themselves.

As I write this, I am also remembering that God tells us we are to clothe ourselves in righteousness. That is one size fits all. It is always fashionable, always in season, and never goes out of style. If I invested even half the energy into my walk with Christ as I've invested in shopping and worrying about how to cover the deficits I've oh my, how different things would be.


Sunday, April 10, 2005

Flat Diet Coke

It's been a strange day so far. It started out normally enough, but it soon took a turn for the weirdest.

I was sitting in church, and there was a couple sitting in front of me. Not too unusual. The young lady reminded me very much of myself, though, a few years ago. Very heavy, seemed very needy, clinging to her boyfriend as though he were there not to offer her love and companionship, but to save her very life. She was a pretty girl, well groomed, beautiful hair, seemed very sweet in the brief moments I talked to her...but I couldn't help remembering what I was like during that time in my life...I felt so horrible inside, so disgusting and worthless, and the guys I dated knew it. Her boyfriend put his arm around her and kissed her on her head, and all I could think was, "I hope he loves her as much as she thinks he does."

Of course, I should not assume that all severely overweight people are as miserable and disgusted with themselves as I was. I only know from my own experiences that being a girl and being that overweight makes one far more susceptible to attracting the scum of the earth than a woman of normal weight and proportionate self-esteem.

And yet, I felt a sudden sense of loneliness as I watched them. Whether it was real or not, they did seem genuinely happy together. And I felt a sting in my heart as I looked at the empty seat beside me.

The rest of the service was very good, and I am interested to see how Pastor Dave's new series of teachings develops. It sounds very promising.

I came home and took a nap, and had dreams about being lonely. I even woke up crying at one point (It was a very long nap...I am just exhausted lately). I hate when I feel like this. I hate it. Most of the time, I am more than content to be by myself, with nobody to consider in my planning and plotting for the future, nobody to share the remote control with, and nobody to have to ask to PLEASE remember not to leave the seat up in the bathroom...But today, for some reason, all these feelings of loneliness and longing bubbled to the surface, and I've been dealing with them all day.

Later in the day, my sister informed me that my mom had received a call from her brother, telling her that one of her other brother's is a drug addict. It didn't come as too much of a shock, and yet, it is still strangely surprising. I think it is surprising only in that, because I do not live close to my extended family, I am able to convince myself that there is no problem with substance abuse of any kind, and everyone is living a clean life even if they are misguided on things from time to time, and nobody has any really serious problems. Today's news just blew that right out of the water. I mean, this is the kind of stuff you only think about happening in other families. Families that have REAL problems.

The issues of substance abuse have not effected my immediate family too much, although my brother and I clearly have the propensity to become alcoholics at the drop of a hat. My mother still has lingering effects from her own mother's alcoholism, though she managed to escape even the temptation to actually abuse any substance. My mother and I have certainly had our share of difficulties, and we've learned to shut the door altogether on certain areas of discussion, but given her upbringing, I would have to say she's done pretty well. There are certainly more than a few things I plan to do differently if I ever have my own family, but it is to my mom's credit that she was even able to raise a family and help provide a stable home, all things considered.

I am really not sure where I was going with that, other than to acknowledge that my family does have a history of substance abuse, directly or indirectly, and it has had far reaching effects. And I guess today's news seems to bring that reality back into the forefront.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

For the soul

Learn With Every Goodbye
(author unknown)
After a while, you learn the subtle difference
between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With the grace of a woman,
not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans,
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
And after a while, you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn
and learn...
With every goodbye, you learn.
I was reminded of this poem on Thursday night, as someone shared the painful story of their recent breakup with their now ex-boyfriend.
My best friend gave me this poem several years ago, probably after I watched the guy I'd had a mad crush on for years finally get married. It was bound to happen eventually, I suppose. Anyway, this poem has long been a source of encouragement for me, and it is one of my favorite poems.
As a bit of a poet myself, I wonder if the Unknown Author ever wishes they were known. Then again, there is a certain measure of joy that comes from knowing your work is being read, even if you aren't being given a whole lot of credit for it. I can say that now, being a relatively unpublished and unknown author myself. However, I may feel differently if my work were being widely circulated, with "Unknown" getting all the credit.

Friday, April 08, 2005


Tonight, I went with my mom and my sister to participate in what is called "Holy Hour", which is part of the De Colores weekend my father is participating in.
It was a bit awkward at first, because this is the first time in a very long time...years, really...that I have gone to anything of this nature. It reminded me very much of the type of church services I attended as a teenager, and smacked of "family camp" nostalgia. In fact, the atmosphere was so reminscient of that time in my life, I nearly forgot it was only early in the month of April, and half expected to see people fanning themselves with church bulletins in futile efforts to stay cool in the stifling heat of the crowded tabernacle, broiling under the late July sun.
It was so different from anything I've seen in awhile...In the church I go to now, the worship is very organized, very precise, every note in tune with every other note, songs rehearsed until every melody and harmony is woven together perfectly. This is what I have become accustomed to. Tonight, though, the instruments consisted of acoustic guitars, the vocalists were probably not among the best, but among the willing, and there were numerous fumblings as the worship portion of the service got under way. And yet, everything seemed just as it should be.
Shortly after the singers began singing, many people in the congregated group of believers intertwined arms and began swaying....rows and rows of people, linked together by a familiarity with perfect strangers I haven't felt in years, swaying to the awkward rhythm put forth by the unrehearsed worship team. I vaguely recall those days, when I could feel that sense of family with another person simply because they were a fellow believer, and it did not matter that I had never met them before and knew little about them. I witnessed that familiarity tonight, but could not cross the threshhold into knowing. I touched no one, and no one touched me.
I am a bit ashamed to say, I even looked at my sister and laughed a little bit. I am constantly amazed by my own capacity for shallowness at times, and how quickly and easily mockery comes to me. With very little effort, I can make fun of people all day long.
Because I did not know any of the songs, I began my usual practice of people watching. I noticed that, a few rows ahead of me, there was a woman I used to work with back in the glorious days of the gas station. I was very surprised to see her there, because when I knew her, she was anything but a Christian. As I looked at her and considered this, one word popped into my head: Redemption.
And it seemed that, for the first time, I saw her struggles for what they were. I saw how broken she had been, how desperately she had been looking for love and validation, and looking in all the wrong places. I saw her pain. And I saw how God had taken her, put her back together, and used everything in her life for His purposes.
God is so awesome.
I also saw a woman from my current place of employment. She is a social worker five days a week, a pastor's wife always. Afterward, I spoke with her briefly. She asked me if I had ever been to a De Colores weekend. I told her I had not, but that I had been to a Chrysalis weekend when I was teenager. She was familiar with it. She said that the Emmaus walks and Chrysalis weekends tend to be strictly Protestant, while the De Colores weekends involve all sects of Christianity. She said it is such a blessing to speak to people of other "faiths", and learn from them. I thought this was very fitting, in light of some dialog exchanged on the other blog I participate in. We can all learn so much from each other. I do not have to agree with every tenet of faith offered by my Catholic brothers and sisters, nor do they have to agree with all aspects of my faith, but we can certainly learn from each other.
I also made a point of talking to Gas Station Girl afterward. She told me that she got married about five years ago, that she and her husband are very involved in their church, that he is a good, Godly man, and God has really blessed her. She shared with me that she had been on a De Colores weekend, and that it was a time of "letting go". I told her she seemed to have moved on from the place she was in when I knew her. She got a very somber look on her face, one that you would wear when you fully realize where you've been and know where you are, and she simply said, "Yes." I told her I was so happy for her. And I am.
Jesus is amazingly, awesomely, almost unbelievably gracious to us poor saps, isn't He? We do so much to totally screw up our lives, yet when we let Him, He takes even our biggest screw ups, and turns them into something wonderful. Gas Station Girl is a testament of beauty for ashes.
That Girl is learning what that means.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Nothin' much

I just got back from Oasis a little while ago, and I am always so blessed by the time I spend with my Oasis family.

I love these people. They challenge me to see beyond myself. They challenge me to be still and listen, to reach out when I feel like closing myself up, to put myself on the back burner and make someone else my priority.

I am challenged to grow and stretch and move beyond what I know.

Moving beyond what I know...That's a hard thing to do at times. Especially when what you know is silly little feelings that you are afraid to speak of, lest you feel the sting of rejection, and yet situations change and you feel like if you don't share those feelings RIGHT NOW, you will never be able to.

And yet, I can be still. All things are in God's hands. All things.

Just a short note...

I read this today, and I really liked it. It was pinned up on my friend and coworker's cubicle, and I stole it for just a minute so I could copy it. :)


For every girl who is tired of acting weak when she is strong, there is a boy tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable.

For every boy who is burdened with the constant expectation of knowing everything, there is a girl tired of people not trusting her intelligence.

For every girl who is tired of being called over-sensitive, there is a boy who fears to be gentle, to weep.

For every boy for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity, there is a girl who is called unfeminine because she competes.

For every girl who throws out her E-Z-Bake Oven, there is a boy who wishes to find one.

For ever boy struggling not to let advertising dictate his desires, there is a girl facing the ad industry's attacks on her self-esteem.

For every girl who takes a step toward her liberation, there is a boy who finds the way to freedom a little easier.


I think we all struggle with our identity from time to time. We all struggle with knowing just what our place is in the grander scheme of things, and what our role is supposed to be. Why are girls supposed to be weepy and sensitive, and men are not supposed to cry or be vulnerable to emotion? Why are women the nurturers and men the providers, and there is to be no mixing or interchanging of the two roles?

Why is a man called successful if he doggedly seeks to excell in his chosen career, but a woman is called an ambitious bitch if she does the same thing?

It seems that, no matter which side of the role definition one stands on, we as a whole tend to operate in extremes. As individuals, perhaps we have found more balance, but the messages sent as a whole are "all or nothing" role defining.

I so appreciated reading that little bit of insight today. It reaffirms my belief that we are not all so very much different. Men may seem cocky and arrogant, but maybe they are just waiting for the important people in their life to give them permission feel vulnerable and admit when they are weak. Women often seem too sensitive and too emotional, but maybe nobody has ever said to them that there is something to be admired in a woman who knows how to be strong without turning into stone. We place so many ridiculously high expectations on ourselves and each other, it is no wonder it is so hard to find the balance between our high standards and our reality.

I am feeling better today, comforted by yesterday's hours of despair. My goals are clear, and I believe God-inspired. I feel like I am moving forward. I do not know what happened, but I feel that something has been released, and good things are to come. We'll see....

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Now that I've ranted and vented and mulled things over for awhile, I think I am able to look at this a bit more rationally.

I think what is frustrating me so much about what's going on in my life right now is that I have very little control over it. Almost no control. Certainly there are things I can do to plan toward the future, but at this moment, there is absolutely nothing I can do to change my situation. And, an even harder truth to swallow is that my current situation is the result of a long line of poor choices that now I must face the consequences of. I am not saying that to kick my own arse, I am saying it because it is a simple fact.

I cannot pack up and move. Why is that? Because I spend money like it's going out of style, I have had no discipline in my finances, and have saved no money to do things like...move into a place closer to where I live most of my life. I can get as mad as I want to at the powers that be, but what it comes down to is that it's nobody's fault but mine.

Having this realization, bitter though it is, has helped me to set some goals for the future. My plan is to have enough money to move by the end of the summer. This will get me closer to school (yes, I am STILL planning on doing that), closer to church and my friends there, and closer to job opportunities that I do not have where I am right now.

This in turn may help with the situation at work. I have come to the very clear realization that I cannot continue in this field, at least not in the capacity that I've been operating. There are things about working as I have been that go against the grain of my nature and my beliefs regarding what people in the "helping professions" should be doing. I cannot change the system, but I can change what part I have in it. For those who are happy with the mental health system as it is now, for those who think it is working...well, I cannot say I agree, but I will not discount the work they are doing. I only know that, for myself, I want to be involved in a more proactive way of providing treatment and recovery. There are not many opportunities for that where I am currently living, with or without a degree.

Above and beyond all of that, it is the prayer of my heart that God will help me to not only be content where I am right now, but to thrive where I am right now. I am thankful for these few days of struggling and despair, as they have helped me to see some truths I very much needed to see. Once all my kicking, screaming, and whining was over, it was as if God was saying, "Now that you're finished, let me show you something." I love that about God...He lets us go our way and do what we think is right, let's us think it's all about us for awhile, then, when we've stopped long enough to actually hear Him, He ever so gently and without shame shows us a better way. If only we could learn to be so merciful to ourselves. And others.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


So, I didn't go to work today, because I did not manage to fall asleep until 6 o'clock this morning. Not for lack of effort, mind you, but I just could not manage to settle into restful sleep. At 6a.m., I looked at my clock, and thought "There is no way I am getting up in 45 mintues to go to work."

So, I called in and said I was taking a mental health day, and being that I work in the field, they understood that. Unfortunately, it's back to work tomorrow.

I've about had it with this workin' gig...somebody always telling me where I have to be and when to be there, how I am to spend my day and with whom....I've just about had it. I think I'll quit my job and just be a bum for a few years. Then, when I get sick of that, I'll take the survival skills I acquired as a bum, and use them to launch a new and innovative business, through which I will be paid a ridiculous amount of cash for my knowlege.

Or maybe not. That sounds like an awful lot of effort.

I've often wondered about these people who come up with these brilliant ideas, and make gazillions of dollars because of those ideas. Why haven't I had an idea like that? Why can't I be my own boss?

I guess my job is not so bad, really. There are elements of it, however, that I am finding more and more difficult to deal with every day.

For example, the population I work with does not understand much about personal boundaries, and I am of the opinion that they do not understand this simply because they have not been taught. Now, the men in particular have a difficult time with this. There is one male who makes suggestive remarks to me all the time, asking me if he can take me home for the night, asking me for a kiss, etc...If he were a "normal", not-mentally-ill guy, I would never be expected to tolerate this, and he would be expected to respect the word "NO!". However, being that he is mentally ill, whenever I complain about his blatant come-ons, people laugh as if it is oh-so-cute, and I should just tolerate it because he's got an illness. I do not understand this thinking, and it seems counter-productive to the rehabilitation and recovery to promote a consequence-free environment, but that is how it is. I've dealt with this before with other men I've encountered at work, and it's the same thing every time...I'm supposed to ignore it, due to the illness. Which I think is a load of crap.

I do not understand why men think that because they see a woman they think is attractive, they have the right to look at her and talk to her however they want, disrespectful of her personhood. So many of the men I encounter in my job are of the mindset that if they find a woman attractive, that gives them the right to say and do as they please toward her, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes her feel.

Nearly a year ago, I had gastric bypass surgery, and have since lost over 100 lbs. Needless to say, my body does not look anything like it used to, I get more attention than I used to, I can wear clothes I could not wear before, etc...and, most of the time, I am thrilled with the change. However, when I encounter the kind of treatment I routinely encounter at my job, and sometimes outside of my job, I sometimes wish I could go back into hiding. Nobody looked at me when I was 100 lbs heavier...I was about the biggest thing in the room, but I was invisible. I sometimes wish for that again, because I do not like being made to feel like an object to which another person has rights, whether I want them to or not.

Certainly it is a free country, and people are free to say and do what they want. But whatever happened to respecting other people? Whatever happened to respecting boundaries, and accepting "NO" for an answer? When did it become okay to impose your will on someone else? And when did doing so become cute and funny?

This, among so many other things, is what I struggle with in my job everyday. I have never felt this uncomfortable in any situation before, and I am not sure what to do about it. I can't call in to work forever, I suppose. And saying "NO" has not helped, nor has being outright rude to the offending parties.

I am feeling anxious and restless today, so badly wanting a change in my life, but having no means to make it happen. A move to a bigger town would do wonders to increase my employment and social options, but I have no money to make that happen. I feel trapped, and stuck, and extraordinarily frustrated.

Monday, April 04, 2005


It has been a good day. It started in the very early hours of the morning, when I finally put together the easel I bought last fall. Then, after sleeping for a few hours, I got up and got my housework out of the way, and finally put paint to canvas for the first time in a very long time. It felt wonderful!!!!!

As I was doing so, though, I realized that I have in fact painted fairly recently. Certainly not too recently, but I did redecorate my living room last year, and, in need of artwork, I did a couple of paintings. In fact, I would say my whole living room became a canvas, as it was transformed from the "sweet old lady" motif my mother had it decorated in for the previous renter, into the flaming orange, retroesque box of grooviness that it is now.

At any rate, I'm not sure exactly what it is that I'm painting just yet. I've got an idea I'm bouncing around in my head, but I'm not quite sure how it will turn out. Then again, when are you ever sure how anything is going to turn out, right? Today was all about just getting the paint on the canvas in whatever method and form I felt inspired to do. So far, I really like it.

The poem "How To Be An Artist" by SARK is one of my favorite poems, because it is so inspirational to those of us who struggle with letting creativity override the desire to have everything "just so". I need to silence the inner critic. The one who is always telling me that what I do is not quite good enough, because it is less than perfect. The one who keeps me from writing and drawing and painting because I will never measure up to the successful artists who are not only very gifted but also able to sell their writing, drawings, and paintings to an audience hungry for their work.

I read the book "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg, and one line in the book that has been a source of critic-silencing is "I am free to write the worst junk in the world." Isn't that awesome? Not every word I write has to be the the stuff of a best selling novel. (In fact, the more I see of best selling novels, the less inspired I become to try to write one. lol) Not everything has to be profound, inspiring, sharply witty, or even in any way "engaging" just has to be mine.

We live in such a culture of perfection. Perfect hair, perfect bodies, perfect cars, perfect teeth, perfect perfection. Well, I'm not perfect. And I'm beginning to suspect that not being perfect is permissible, and more than that, it is perfectly okay.

So what if I'm 29 and still do not really know what I want to do when I grow up. I am learning more about what I do not want to do, and that is something. I feel socially awkward and unsure of myself a lot of the time, but if the truth were told, we probably all feel that way more often than not. We're all so afraid of each other sometimes. I worry far too much about what other people think, and probably others worry from time to time about what I think. And we're both thinking, "Why do I care what other people think?" The bottom line is, nobody is perfect, yet we spend so much time trying to be that we drive ourselves nuts!

I am currently reading the book "The Best Awful" by Carrie Fisher. It is a great book so far, and one I can identify with. It is a semi-autobiographical novel she wrote describing her manic-depression. A few years ago, I was hospitalized for depression, and then was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I have since recovered, as people do from time to time who do not make their illness a crutch (don't even get me started on that!). However, I can remember very vividly the sky-rocketing mania, and the unbelievably dark and oppressive depression. People just have no idea what it is like to have those two extremes in your life, each vying for control. I enjoy reading the accounts of others who have experienced it and found recovery.

This time of year is so frustrating for me, because there is so much that I want to be and do, and at the end of the day, I remember....I'm just me, and can only do what I can do with what I have right now. I've been called an idealist, and while us idealists do have our qualities, we also have to make peace with a lot of reality that we aren't entirely able to accept. I think we also tend to impatient with life, and want to get to where we want to be about 10 times faster than life is able to make it happen. Hence the frustration.

SARK © 1990 *


Stay loose. Learn to watch snails. Plant an impossible Garden.
Invite someone dangerous to tea.
Make little signs that say 'yes!' and post them all over your house.
Make friends with freedom and uncertainty.
Look forward to Dreams. Cry during movies.
Swing as high as you can on a swing set, by moonlight.
Cultivate moods. refuse to "be responsible".
Do it for love. Take lots of naps.
Give money away. Do it now.. The money will follow.
Believe in Magic. Laugh a lot.
Celebrate every gorgeous moment. Take moon baths.
Have wild imaginings, Transformative Dreams, and perfect calm.
Draw on the walls. Read every day.
Imagine yourself Magic. Giggle with children. Listen to old people.
Bless yourself. play with everything.
Entertain your inner child. You are innocent.
Build a fort with blankets. Get wet.
Hug a tree. Write love letters.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Much ado about nothing

It has been one of those days when I've been far too content to do nothing. At most, I did very little. I went for a walk, managed to get clean sheets on the bed, emptied the trash, and that is about the extent of my activities for the day. I did not even get up for church this morning. In part because I forgot to set my clock ahead, but mostly, I just did not feel like dragging my bedonkey out of bed in order to go.

I briefly considered taking up smoking again today, but even that seemed to require an awful lot of effort.

And yet I have a tremendous amount of energy today. I do not feel tired or groggy. Just not focused. There were a great many things I wanted to do today, and fully intended to do, but they just required too much concentration.

Once upon a time, when I would feel like this, I would sit at my typewriter and just write. Short stories, mostly, but an occassional poem as well. I would write for hours at a time, keeping a hot cup of coffee close at hand as my sole companion during those hours. I was often fairly pleased with what I ended up with, and a few edits later, I would share it with whomever I considered worthy at the time. I have only a few of those stories in my possession now. I can remember working feverishly on specific stories, but after moving here and there since the writing of them, they've gotten lost in the shuffle, and I cannot find them anywhere. I feel like part of me is missing.

I wish I could recapture the energy of that time of my life. Creativity seemed to be my life's breath. It was as essential to me to paint and write as it was to breathe and have nourishment. Now days, I seem to be all too content to be living within the box of work and the day to day grind, making little time for such things as painting and writing anything creative (as opposed to writing letters and resumes at work). In fact, last fall, I bought an easel, and I have yet to even open it. I also bought new canvases, paints, brushes, etc...and have not used any of them.

I think tomorrow, or perhaps even later tonight, I will begin breaking those things in.

What I miss more than painting, though, is writing. I do not know what I need to tap into in order to feel that feverish need to write that is so strong, I can't help doing it. God knows, I'm still weird enough to be considered a "writer" I haven't put pen to paper outside of journaling in a very long time.

I think part of it the materials I have available to me now. As much as I love my computer, it just cannot compete with the rat-tat-tat of the typewriter as you are putting your thoughts on paper. I did see a manual typewriter in a catalog, and came oh so close to buying it, but I could not justify spending $180 on it. A computer just does not have the same feel. A copy of your work printed on paper does not feel the same in your hands as a typed sheet of paper from your tried and true typewriter. The typed paper has a thin, worn, frenzied feel to it that you just cannot achieve with computer paper.

I especially love onion skin paper. You know, the thin air mail paper. I love the crinkling sound as you're holding it in your hands, reading the words somebody took the time to put there. It makes me think of love letters sent back and forth great distances during times of war, a letter long waited for saying, "I'm here, I'm alive, you're in my heart." Onion skin paper, with its sounds and significance, conjures up images of a time when we did not have the convenience of the internet and cell phones, express mail, or video conferencing. All that existed was the written word, and it traveled by planes, ships, rails, and mail trucks to finally reach the hands of the one it was intended for, and could carry with it the most joyful exhilerations or the deepest heartaches.

Letter writing is indeed a lost art. I used to write many, many letters when I first left Bible college. Many of my friends were able to go back to the college the following semester, and due to a shortage of funds, I was not. So, I would spend time in various stores, finding the perfect stationary, cards, pens, etc...and write letters to my dear friends that I was with in spirit, but was not able to be with that semester. That was years ago, and I rarely write any real letters anymore. (work letters don't count) Even my best friend in Illinois rarely receives a "snail mail" letter from me, and I fully realize how pathetic that is. But, so it goes with most people now, I think. It is a rare thing for people to take time to write real, handwritten letters anymore.

I think I will try to write some letters tonight, too. My mind is too busy for sleep, and my body does not yet feel like it needs it.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


Regarding "God bless Saturday!", I feel I should explain what contributed to this anxiety about school and earning a decent living for myself, etc...

Earlier today, in a work-related conversation regarding one of the clients in the program, the individual I was speaking to said to me, "I don't think you understand. I know what you are trying to do in giving these guys more choices in things, but I don't think you're getting it -- some people can't make those choices."

The topic of our conversation is not really that important. Aside from that, if I were to attempt to explain it, it would become very lengthy, and I would once again feel as if I were trying to defend my position on the matter. And I would venture to say that you, the reader, probably do not care what my position is, or what the matter is. :)

Needless to say, though, that being told very plainly that, after working with the same clients for nearly 4 years, I do not understand their needs or abilities (or lack thereof), I realized how incredibly ignorant I remain despite my best efforts to understand. That is not to say that I thought I had it all together...I am constantly surprised by the people I work with. However, I realize I still have SO much to learn, and that the only way I will be able to do that and move on to greater things in this field is to go to school.

It's already April, and the dreaded REGISTRATION is fast approaching. Oy!

I kinda wish real life was like "The Matrix", and I could just upload the knowledge I need in a matter of seconds, and...voila!...I have all the knowledge I need.

But life isn't like "The Matrix", is it? I'll get you for this, Keanu. You had me convinced

God bless Saturday!

This is the day I wait for all week long. By the time this day arrives, I am usually mentally and physically drained, very ready for my work day to finish so I can commence my "weekend", which consists of Sunday and Monday.

I am not entirely sure I am cut out to do the work that I do. More and more, I find the work I do a source of frustration moreso than fulfillment. I believe in the program I am a part of, I believe in its concept, but I am finding that the system I must work within is not conducive to the goals of the program this system help create. And I am realizing there really is no one person to blame for any of it. It is just how the system works, and I have to either work within that system, getting as much accomplished as I can given the limitations of that system, or I must find a new job that is more aligned with the kind of work I would like to do.

(For those who do not know, I work in a psychosocial rehabilitation for mentally ill adults. The program is part of Community Mental Health.)

I am also realizing that, having no college degree, I am pretty much stuck. I could just kick 20 year old Stefanie for not going to college, and making life so much more difficult for 29 year old Stefanie. Boy, if I ever meet 20 year old Stefanie in a dark alley...

But I guess we learn to move past our regrets, right?

I keep saying that I plan to go to college in the fall. And I do plan. I've been planning for several years now. Each year, I've gotten a bit closer to actually doing this thing I've been planning to do, but I've yet to actually do it. The truth of the matter is, I am terrified of going back to school. Absolutely petrified, hence my immobility in this area of my life.

High school was nothing short of horrible for me, and while I realize I am not the same girl I was in high school, many of those insecurities have lingered since then. I've been out of high school for nearly 12 years now, and yet, inside, I still very often feel like the same awkward, withdrawn, academically and socially clumsy girl I was 12 years ago. In so many ways, I am completely unlike that girl of 12 years ago. And in so many other ways, I am still very much the same.

I guess what it comes down to is that I am afraid of failure. I am afraid of venturing into this new thing, and finding that I cannot do it. And it isn't really the academics that frighten me, though I certainly had my share of struggles with that in high school. Many of the classes I took were the "dummy" classes for kids who couldn't hack it in the regular classes. Even considering that, though, I do not fear the academic load I'd be carrying. What I fear is pain. The pain of complicating my life with the hours and dedication it will take to complete my classes and earn my degree. The pain of balancing full time work and full time school, and still somehow finding time for the friendships that I've only just now developed in my life. Rational or not, I feel as though starting school is going to mean sacrificing some things that I do not feel ready to give up just yet. And, beneath all that, I guess I also fear that if I'm not around enough, people will kinda forget about me, and we'll become strangers again. It has taken me so long to feel comfortable in making friends, I am really not comfortable with the idea of losing my kinship with them so quickly.

Ya know, they don't tell you all this when you grow up in church. For those of us women who grew up in church, we've been prepared from the time we were two years old to become wives and mothers. The idea of going to school and having to earn a living of our own was rarely mentioned. In fact, come to think of it, I cannot think of any particular instance in which it was said, "Stefanie, you really should go to school, get an education, and earn a degree so you can get a good job and support yourself." In fact, when I did go to Bible college, with a sincere desire to learn, it was put in the church bulletin that I had gone to school to get my "Mrs. Degree".

According to my training, by this time, I should be married, have no less than 2 children, be living in a comfortable middle class neighborhood, driving a nice pre-owned SUV or mini-van, and looking into Head Start for my darling babies that are growing up much too fast. My husband - a clean shaven, button-down shirt wearing, corporate type with a respectable job, who earns a comfortable living, and serves as an usher at church -- should be coming home to hot meals every night, with the children neatly groomed and rosy cheeked, ready to sit on his lap and tell him about their day spent playing with the neighbor children, while I get dinner on the table.

Or something like that. Nowhere in my training was anything said about the necessity of being able to earn my own living. That wasn't supposed to be part of the deal.

Man, did I get gypped.

Or did I? After all, I'm 29 years old and still do not have my future wedding plans written down in a wish book, so it seems that I'm already bucking the system there. Maybe I'm not really diggin' the idea of just being the little wifey...I mean, yeah, I do dream of getting married and having a family, and loving and nurturing that family, WITH my husband, not FOR my husband...but I do not want that to be my whole identity.

And yet, I do want those things.

My sister and my 1 year old niece are staying with my parents right now, and we are all helping my niece learn sign language. This will help her communicate with us better before she actually learns to vocalize her wants and needs, and it will make everybody less frustrated. She is learning quite well. :)

Anyway, in the video she watches ("Signing Times: First Signs), she is learning how to sign "mom" and "dad". During these segments, they show pictures and video of real moms and dads playing with their kids, reading with them, hugging and kissing them, etc...and watching that tonight just struck a chord in me, and I felt a little bit of sadness. I yearn for those things, and often wonder if I'm meant to have them.

But that is neither here nor there, as I do not feel equipped at this time to be a wife or a mother. It seems that I do not feel equipped to do a lot of the things I dream of doing. So perhaps I should plan my wedding, just like I've been planning to go to college. I should make scrapbooks of all my plans. That would take up so much time, I wouldn't have time to do anything else.

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