Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

Saturday, November 8, 2014

And So He Sleeps...

I am writing this post at 6 PM on a Saturday night. We have three kids that keep us spinning in circles so we thought pizza and a movie night would be the perfect, relaxing thing to do tonight.  We popped in the movie Frozen, provided Little Caesar's pizza, bread sticks and soda for everyone.  Food devoured, interest lost...one by one, the kids left the living room.  I kinda lost interest in the movie, too (sorry!)  Mark and I were left alone.  I thought to myself; That worked out kind of nice! because we got a "date night," even at home. Nice!  I thought. I think those parents with kids will understand.

While Mark and I finished watching Frozen, he quickly fell fast asleep, snoring included.  Honestly, at first, I was a bit irritated.  I thought the usual things like Really?! He fell asleep on me on a Saturday "date" night?! and What if this were our very first date or even third? Really?!  I got up to go huff and puff in the kitchen, and then I got my reality check.  I like to call it 'conviction.'  Ugh!  Don't you just love & hate when that happens?

I walked into the living room and watched him sleeping in what looked like a very uncomfortable position, and I thought to myself, How dare I complain about anything for one second? I was humbled faster than a millisecond.  I looked at my husband of almost 20 years (December 3rd) and the father of my children; I know full well what he has given of himself to me and our family. The sacrifices he has made for us.

For me.

I think of the long hours he worked this week without complaint of any kind.  All of these years.  I think of how stressful his job is, but he doesn't let it show.  He is really good at accepting what is.  His faith is strong and genuine.  His demeanor is the same today as it was yesterday, and it will be tomorrow.  He always puts us first. I think about all of these years that I've been sick, and he's picked up the slack.

I remember how he cooks dinner for us every night (he enjoys it...really!), and he makes sure we sit down together as a family because that is what is most important to him.  I think of him skipping his hunting trip to drive Matthew to the Amtrak station this morning for his senior trip to Colorado...his saying goodbye to our eldest, for us.  And me... understanding every emotion he felt (I had to say my good-bye at home). Then, Mark picked up our nephew from his house for a sleepover,  I watched him pay bills this afternoon (ugh! stressful!). And then, he went to pick up dinner for us.  Phew!

And so, he sleeps and I allow him to on our Saturday "date" night because I am so glad and thankful for the gift of him in our lives.  All that I have been given that I don't feel I deserve.  It doesn't go unnoticed or not appreciated.  I bless him in return by not waking him up, keeping the kids quiet, and not ever saying a word about our "date night."  I think he'll appreciate that ;)





Monday, October 27, 2014

The Job I Had to Add to My Resume

Since September, I've been working at my kids' school, Heritage Christian Schools, as their Substitute Teacher Coordinator.  It has been a bit stressful at times in the early morning hours, and I had to report several times to the principals (yikes!), "Sorry, I don't have a sub for you today."  It always worked out, as it always does.  Now that they've hired two more subs, my life should be much easier!  It is the perfect job for someone like me who is up at the break of dawn, plus I recruited a long time friend of our family, and I think it'll be a great fit.  Plus, you know...it's my kids' school... I want to help out.

I've, also, been a mystery shopper since February.  I am an Independent Contractor, who is hired by companies to pose as a mystery shopper to improve their customer service and enhance their business.  My assignments have taken me on adventures from car dealerships to banks, gyms, restaurants, jewelry shops, phone shops, audits, photo shoots, furniture stores, apartments, and many more.  I even got to drive several brand new Porsche's...cool!  It is a fun job where I feel like I am contributing to improving customer service in some way.  I am told that my reports are read by management, as well as the employee I reviewed.  I would say that's a good thing, as I'm honest and thorough. 

I decided to take my experience and skills to the next level, and I have recently have been hired as a Scheduler at  A Closer Look, a mystery shopping company that I shop for.  I am in charge of assigning shoppers to fill the mystery shopping assignments all over the US and Canada.

It has been an interesting and new experience; however, I'm not sure that it is the best 'fit' for me, so I began the process of updating my resume.  I've had several part-time jobs over the years, but, my full-time job has always been a stay-at-home mom for 18 years.  The one job that I've given my everything to...150% of me.  Some call it Homemaker.  I like to call it Domestic Engineer.  I think that pretty much sums it up.

This "job" of mine for the past 18 years has been the most challenging, humbling, skill building, longest, hardest, interesting, fun, but most fulfilling job that I've ever had.

One that I wouldn't trade for anything.

How could I not add it to my resume? The one job that I give thanks to God for every single day?

So, why does it feel like it is frowned upon in the professional world?  Or it doesn't get the respect it deserves?  Or I need to leave it out of my resume?  Why does the energy feel 'odd' when I tell people that I am a stay-at-home mom? 

I decided that my most up-to-date resume needed to be the truth.  I felt that I needed to add it.  Had to.
It now reads:

WORK HISTORY
10/1996 to Current
Domestic Engineer
  • Maintain an orderly house, duties include vacuuming, mopping, dusting, laundry, dishes, picking up clothes and trash and removing stains from the carpet and furniture.
  • Develop recipes, plan menus, shop for food inventory and prepare meals to provide a well-balanced, healthy diet for adults and kids.
  •  Plan, organize and coordinate birthday celebrations, sleepovers and holidays events.
  •  Assist and manage kid's homework, school projects, and recreational activities.
  •  Teach, guide and model a life based on values and morals.
  •  Create and balance a budget, pay bills and identify cost-saving opportunities.
  •  Serve as a chauffeur transporting kids to and from doctor appointments, school, shopping and   play dates.
I took out "scrubbing toilets" just because ;)  The list does go on and on,  but I ran out of room.  I don't know where this resume will take me.  Maybe nowhere.  But then again, maybe somewhere.  I am good with being a Scheduler for now.  I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Teaching.   I'd like to try Editing again.  Get more skilled at photography.  It is a good thing to have dreams; things to look forward to.

What I do know for sure, is that my resume is now complete, but not finished.  And then again, I got my Domestic Engineering job to 'fall back on' where there is never a dull moment, a moment to be missed or one to be incredibly thankful for.  One that I wouldn't necessarily call a "job," but rather a privilege and an honor. 



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When Your Best Is Not Enough

I spent the last month in rigorous training for an Editor position through one of the mystery shop companies I shop for. It has been a stressful, to say the least. First off, I never should have signed up for a new job when my kids were still home from school, and while we were in the midst of summer activities. It was hard to keep my mind focused on learning a new job, but I decided to stick it out.

So I spent this last month brushing up on all of the grammar, capitalization and punctuation "rules" that I haven't visited in a long time. I was loving every minute of it. What threw me was how steep the learning curve was to this job. It was much, much more than just correcting grammar mistakes. The amount of  attention to detail that this job required was overwhelming. And this comes from a very detailed-oriented person.

I LOVE the written word ( as if you didn't know that by now). I've kept journals all of my life. I love it when my kids have a report they want me to "correct." I love catching misspellings, grammar mistakes and flow. I am the first to notice when a sign is misspelled! It drives me crazy. I will stress about where the comma or semicolon should go. I text out words as much as I can. Call me a ' geek,' and I'd probably agree with you.

I got this love for the English language from my all-time-favorite teacher, Miss Roybal. I remember spending time during recess or after school just talking about another way to 'word' something. I love it when I come across a word I can't spell. It challenges me each and every time. The most recent word was anesthesiologist (a tough one right?). Now I won't forget it :)

The final "test" for this position was yesterday, and last night I got an email that I failed it.

Yep! Failed. The email was a See-ya, have-a-nice-life type.

Phew! I was really looking forward to being an Editor. This has been a tough one to swallow. I went into the test with the resolve to "do the best I can" despite all of the challenges along the way. I already had jumped through many hoops just to get the chance despite the little money I was getting paid. I knew going into the test that I was against many odds.

In the hours since that email, I've had a lot of time to think and contemplate. I am thankful to my loved ones who knew the right things to say to me afterwards. I am thankful for the encouragement along the way. I am thankful for the BIG hugs from my family last night.

This whole experience got me thinking about this small little book on my bookshelf called, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Luiz. It is a sweet treasure. If you have the time to read it, please do. One of the agreements the author says in his book to living a life full of joy and happiness is, "Always do your best." He has three other agreements that will transform your life.

When I think about this test,  I know that I gave it 100% of me. I tried. I gave it my all. I hit that "submit report" button, and I knew that I did the best I could.

But....What if your best is not good enough? Then what?

That's when phrases like, It wasn't meant to be, and God's got something better in store for you, and Their loss and I believe in you and When God closes a door, He opens a window, and What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger all float into my mind. All advice from the people who love me. But essentially I take in this truth:

In God's eyes, my best is enough.

In the end though, it comes down to what I believe about this trial in my life and God's place in it. In the big scheme of things, does this job really matter? Do I believe that God is in control or not?

And I have a funny feeling that the lessons learned through all of this are going to far outweigh the disappointment. Interestingly enough, I caught a glimpse of this in the sky last night after my news:



I choose to believe the promise of the rainbow: 

Remembering that God loves me, and that no matter how bad the storm, there will always come a bright new day.

I hope you believe this, too.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Dark Side of Depression


In honor of Robin Williams, I am finally blogging about something that I've been meaning to do for a long time. The 'good' thing about his death, if there is such a thing, is that we are talking about it.

The whole world is taking notice. Someone in the U.S. dies from suicide every 15 minutes, according to the Center for Suicide Awareness. Depression is no respecter of persons, and I am one of those persons. I am sharing my story hoping that it will bring understanding to this serious mental health problem. If you are going through it yourself, I hope you can find the courage to get help. If you know someone that is suffering from depression, I can offer you something called hope.

I speak from years of experience.

My first bout with depression beyond just the" blues" was when I was a junior in high school. I did not know what it was called or how to treat it. No one knew what to do for me. My parents tried, my teachers tried.... I only knew that I could not stop crying no matter what I tried. I couldn't function. I couldn't think. I didn't even know "why" I was in such despair and hopelessness. I thought switching schools that year would help. It did in that it distracted me from it.

When I turned 18, I was able to start seeing a psychiatrist who prescribed me medication. It was a rough start, but the medication and therapy helped pull me out of that pit of hell. That is what I like to call it.

As the years went by, I had to stop the medication for a variety of  reasons. I continued with counseling, both secular and christian, to help me deal with the next episode, and then the next one, and the next one... I was also dealing with some deep emotional issues and trauma from my childhood, the devastating loss of  five children in one year and the loss of my mom to cancer in 2007.  

I managed to work through it while being diagnosed with diseases that were causing all of my symptoms: Lyme disease, Celiac disease, Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism, Addison's disease and heavy metal toxicity. The years of treatment for these diseases took a major toll on my mind, body and spirit. Even though I now had a "cause," I wasn't getting better from any of it. The 30+ doctors that I saw were spinning me in circles. I was just trying to get through each day. Depression was an ever present reality in my life once again.

It was hard to talk about because of the stigma behind just the 'word' depression. I felt like it was a secret I had to keep from others. I did not want to appear weak. I felt so misunderstood, ashamed and alone. I couldn't just 'snap out of it' like people would tell me to do.

In 2010, I began to fall deeper and deeper into that pit again. I began to lose interest in activities and friends. I wanted to be alone. I cried all of the time. I could not get out of bed. I could not sleep or eat. I lost a lot of weight. I lost all enjoyment of anything in my life.  I began to think about suicide, and then I began talking about it to the people closest to me. It was my cry for help. I didn't want to die, but I also didn't want to live. I just wanted my suffering to end. The people in my life who knew my struggle tried to do what they could for me, but they were left feeling helpless, too.

I got caught up in the roller coaster of trying to find the "right" anti-depressant medication, which is all too common. One stopped working and the next one caused terrible side effects. I was told to give each one at least 3 weeks to "work." That felt like an eternity to me. So when one didn't help, I'd move onto the next one. All in all, I spent six months trying five different medications. It was a long, agnonizing process.

Thankfully, and after many prayers, I knew which friend to call who had walked a similar road as I. I took his advice, and I asked Mark to take me to a psychiatric hospital. In hindsight, I know it took tremendous courage on my part to ask for help. I didn't feel courageous at the time. I only felt desperate. I needed some serious help.  It was not a good experience there; however, the doctors discovered that my thyroid was not functioning once again, and they got me on the right track with the right medications. For this, I am so thankful.

I remember a few weeks later, Mark saying to me, "Lori, you are finally back." It was that life changing. I felt like I had been looking at the world through a cloudy fog, and now I could see clearer. I felt lighter and free, all by God's grace.

Today, I am able to say without any shame or condemnation that, "Prozac saved my life," but in reality, it is God who I give the praise and glory to. Always. There are doctors and medications available for a reason. I like to call them gifts. If I had diabetes, and I needed insulin, no one would blink an eye. Why is our brain any different? Why does this subject have to be so difficult to talk about?

Medication doesn't always work for people and many times it stops working. It has happened to me. I've known many where this has been their truth, and they get stuck. It isn't the only answer. For me, I have to write, talk it out, be in nature, pray, listen to music, garden, express gratitude, hug my kids and animals. It is not easy keeping the depression at bay. For me, it is always lingering. I am always on the edge of being on that cliff once again. 

No one should be ashamed of walking into a counselor's office or have these stigmas blocking us from seeking help. For all you know, the person next to you who has a huge smile on their face is struggling beyond anything you can imagine. What they need is compassion, not judgment. 

No one has ever been changed by judgment.

I know there is help. I know there is healing. And I know that the journey isn't meant to walk alone. If you are in the throws of this mental illness or something similar, please know that you aren't alone. If you are trying to help someone through it, what they need to hear more than anything is, "I am here for you, and everything is going to be okay." 

Because it will be. I pray you find the strength. I pray you find the only One who can free you.

I will leave you with this powerful quote:

"What shames us, what we most fear to tell, does not set us apart from others; it binds us together if only we take the risk to speak it." ~Starhawk

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Live Life the Real Way

We just returned from a family vacation to Crivitz, WI; an old-time favorite of ours. We purposely picked our vacation this year to be "up north" in a cute, secluded cottage on a lake away from all the craziness of life. We wanted time together as a family of five, especially knowing that Matthew turns 18 in October; time is of the essence. I watched a video on Facebook right before leaving for our trip that was so applicable to what I was after. It left me speechless. It opened my eyes, as I hope it does yours. I was challenged to think about things differently in a big way. I hope you take the time to watch this video and enjoy! Click here to watch.

Wow!...powerful, I know.

So I wanted to get the kids (and me!) away from all of the "technology" and spend our time doing something more productive....you know- playing board games, fishing, reading a book, etc. I was interested to see how they'd manage with limited cell phone reception and having to relate to and hangout with 'just' their siblings. Time that is priceless, which they can't understand until they are much older.

When I planned the trip in January, I heard nothing but complaints about the lack of "WI-Fi" in the cottage. I clearly remember chuckling to myself and thinking, "Ha! This should be interesting." I almost cancelled the trip, but 'knew' I needed to let it be. Both Mark and I agreed that it'd be a good thing for them to get "bored."

The first full day of the trip both Mark and I were thinking that this might end up being a long week for our kids without the constant stimulation. What I am guilty of falling into as well. I can barely keep up with the variety of social media outlets my kids are on-Twitter; Snap Chat; Instagram; Skype...Huh?! Oh my!!

So by day three, I am happy to report that the kids had chess competitions over & over, and I could hear laughing and giggling as they wrestled in the living room. I caught myself smiling, and my heart filling with joy; saying Thank you, Jesus.

The kids put their phones down (for a little while!) and took advantage of the rowboat, fishing, kayaks and paddle boats. Luke helped Mark build a fire. Matthew fished; Megan kayaked across the lake. All that I hoped they would do.

On our last day, we took a whitewater rafting trip down the Menominee River. We never did it before, so we were all a little anxious; we didn't know what to expect. Naturally, I couldn't take my phone or camera with me on the trip, and I expressed my disappointment to the tour guide. This young guy all of 25 years of age shared this wisdom with me, "That's okay. The picture is in your mind."

I'd say that's living life the real way.

Although I had watched the video and set a goal to not constantly be ''checking my phone,' I found myself in the "habit" of doing it. I caught Mark doing it, too. I personally wanted an all-out-break from it all but checked email once in the morning for anything work-related. Unfortunately, I came home to 630-spam emails to filter through...ugh!

So one day during the week I couldn't get any cell phone reception on my phone. I didn't care and was happy to have a day away from it. The kids would've freaked out! I remembered the video from Facebook. I knew I was being challenged to give my life attention and set the phone aside (I had to grab my camera though!). To Live Life the Real Way, as the guy said in the video. It was what I needed to learn and what I wanted to teach my kids. To learn this truth and live it out. I knew how fast time flew by, and didn't want to miss a thing.

What I captured, instead, on the day when I set my phone down were priceless, irreplaceable memories~and SO worth it!

I had a splashing war with Luke and finally dunked him :) ... 

I watched my children and their father play together in the water...



I stopped and smelled the daisies...

I saw my kids playing a board game!...

I watched Luke eat an ice cream cone one lick at a time...

I saw Megan feed and touch a giraffe for the first time...

I took in Matthew's thrill in jumping off the cliff...

I allowed myself to be "goofy" with Luke...


 I enjoyed the stillness & peace & giving thanks for all that I had been given...

I hope my children look back one day on this trip and use the word "bored" when telling the story. I also hope they use the word thankful. Because if they do, I will know I did my job right :) I don't want to miss a thing, do you?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Pain Demands to be Felt

I first heard this quote, "Pain demands to be felt" when I watched a movie called The Fault in Our Stars. It just jumped out at me & hit that heart spot. It stopped me dead in my tracks because it was what I really needed to hear at that time. I simply love quotes like this!! So deep and meaningful, yet so simple. I tried to read the book; however, I 'knew' it wasn't going to have a happy ending, so I put it down. Then, Megan talked me into seeing the movie....okay- good Mom/Daughter time, so I went, but I left the movie with a tear-stained face and a heavy heart. The lesson of 'it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all' didn't seem to help.

This quote has stuck with me. It reminds me of the stages of grief and how you have to go through it in order to get to the other side. The side of acceptance. I like to call this freedom.

I have experienced this in my life in recent months with a friendship that I treasured. It hasn't been pretty, and it sure hasn't been easy, but it is what it is. I  am reminded of the Serenity Prayer, my sister's favorite. It is one that I have memorized. Have you read it? It sure is powerful & if applied, freeing.

 
Why is it to hard to accept the things we cannot change? And why is it so hard to have the courage to know the difference? Sometimes it is hard to even know the difference.

"Pain demands to be felt." We try to ignore it and make it go away. So we must feel it. Some run it out; some immerse themselves in family, work and activities. Some soothe it with food or drink or the arms of someone else. It is all about the means of trying to forget the pain gnawing at you so you try to push it into a deep place where it won't be felt. We try to numb it, but the pain keeps on popping up. There is always a reminder of what is there.

It doesn't go away until you allow the only One who can heal it to do so.

For as beautiful and awesome as my life is right now, I feel enormous pain over the loss of this friendship. The aching hole in my heart because she isn't in my life is a constant. I try to ignore the pain. I try to focus on all that is wonderful in my life and the good memories. I will mourn the loss and feel the pain so I can be free of this nagging ache in my soul.

The pain has to be confronted, embraced and dealt with. I know this to be true. Ignoring it only puts off the inevitable, and that destroys us and others in the process. I will get by as I always do, and so will you.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Enduring Loss

Thirteen years ago today our lives changed forever. It feels like a lifetime ago, yet it feels just like yesterday. In the early morning hours of July 4, 2001 Mark and I went to the hospital expecting our baby girl to be born, but instead we walked straight into our worst nightmare coming true. The doctors liken Emily's death to SIDS as they found no cause of death. We left the hospital that day without our baby. It was devastating beyond what words can express.

Every year on this day I read through Emily's "memory box." It is filled with all of the cards people sent us, pictures of her, a snippet of her hair, a letter from me and her birth certificate with her footprints on it. I need to do this every year because it is healing. It is how I continue to heal, and I let the tears flow.

Maybe this year is more difficult than last because she would've been a teenager. I think of the birthday party we would've thrown for her. I imagine what she would've looked like. I wonder what her personality would be like. Instead, today we will visit her grave as we do every year. We will release balloons that I know she's waiting anxiously to catch, and we will place roses on her grave and remember.

Tonight when the fireworks are blasting high up in the sky with all their beautiful colors, I will be imagining Emily in heaven looking down on the spectacular show. I will say Happy Birthday sweetheart, and let the tears run down my face smudging my makeup. I will imagine her smile, and I will keep that picture in my mind close to my heart.

The truth is that I really, really miss her. In the years since her death, I have reached out to others who have had similar losses. This helps me heal and endure, too. I remember the friends I've made along this journey who had done the same for me. The thing is, I don't even have the "right" words to say because there really are no words sometimes. I tell people that they aren't alone, and I understand. I tell them that each day will get easier because it does. I tell them to never lose faith in God because He is the one who will carry them through it.

I know full well I will live with this ache in my heart the rest of my life until we meet again. It's a process of trusting that God is good no matter what. It is learning to live with no answer to my question of why? What helps me endure this loss is gratitude...my heart full of joy and thankfulness for the 3 beautiful, healthy children I do have. My mind immediately shifts to the two friends I have who would do anything to conceive a child. I know and understand full well all that I have to be thankful for, including Emily's life. 

In the meantime, I choose to focus on the good that I have seen come from her life and death. I will give thanks for the time I had with her, and I will continue to praise the One who chose me to carry her. If you'd like to read more about Emily's story please click here. My friend wrote a blog post giving tribute to our baby girl. It is so worth reading. 



 






Saturday, June 14, 2014

Birthdays

I love birthdays. I especially love to make people feel special on their day because they deserve it. Maybe it is because my mom resented me for being born on my parents 3rd wedding anniversary. I always felt that 'sting' growing up. I worked through it and have accepted 'what is.' I love to tell my kids on their birthday that the day they were born moved me to a joy unspeakable. We set our watches to the exact time and get a little excited and crazy when the time hits.

I think everyone wants to be remembered on their birthday, even if they say they don't. It is that one day you and others get to celebrate YOU and the life you've been given. Yes, I do mind getting "older" and signs of it are starting to show, but it is all part of the journey. Birthdays are the perfect time to do a life review. That's what I like to call it anyway. Thankfully, I have kept several journals throughout my 41st year so it easy for me to read back and contemplate.

I ask myself if I have accomplished what I set out to do; I ask myself what life lessons I have learned in the past year; I ask myself what do I want to change and how do I want to grow. I think to the new relationships I have, and the ones I had to let go of; and I ask myself who I need to forgive and what needs to stay in the past. I reflect back on the many gifts I've been given in just one year's time. There are just too many to count.

I saw this cartoon on Facebook, and it just jumped out at me. It is one those pictures that "is worth a thousand words." I hope you get the deep, yet simple message behind it. It is about letting go of things that don't serve me anymore, even though I may love them or think I need them. It's about trusting in someone other than myself and loving Him more than a thing or person or whatever. It's called simple trust.

I'd say this is the perfect message to begin my 42nd year. I am going to print it and tape it to the inside of my "new" journal (you know how I love those!) to help remind me every day. May you remember just how special you are on your birthday and every day.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Secret Shopping

I look orange. I am not kidding. A day later and now my skin is looking more and more "orange" from that sunless tanning session I had yesterday for my secret shopping job. I am starting to wonder if that one was worth it?! I think about my time, payment, gas mileage, report time and  out-of-pocket money expenses before accepting a job. I don't think I will be doing this one again. I guess looking orange for a few more days goes with the territory.

I've had so many people asking me questions about my "job," that I thought I would blog about it to share my experience. It definitely has been a great conversation starter and keeper. People just find what I do fascinating for some reason. Some days I even find it fascinating. I must say my life has been very interesting since February when I became a "mystery shopper" or "shadow shopper," whatever you prefer.  I pretty much 'bumped' into this job by accident. A friend of mine is also a secret shopper, and we got to chatting about it one day at the gym. She happened to mention it in passing. It sparked my interest, so I asked her for the website information. I registered with the company, and I began to be assigned mystery shops. It was that simple.

My first mystery shops were for cell phone stores. They didn't pay much, but I was after the experience more so than the money at that point. I was assigned to go into a certain cell phone retailer and "pretend" I was interested in purchasing a smartphone. I was given complete, detailed instructions I needed to follow. Then I needed to complete an online report about my experience, upload a business card and evaluate the sales process. That first one went pretty smoothly and was easy enough, so I signed up for more shops.

I moved onto college admissions, apartment leasing, gym memberships, audits, phone mortgage inquiries, restaurant reviews; furniture, mattress, and jewelry "shopping." The list goes on and on. The best part has been test driving a brand new Porsche, Infinity and Kia. Or when I "tried on" a $2,500 diamond necklace. Darn! I really wanted to take that one home with me.

It has been kinda' fun to take on the role of  'the lady interested in buying that brand new Porsche' when I drive up in my 14-year old, about-to-drop dead rusted Mercury Sable. The scenario I provide can be quite outrageous and humorous, but believable. I am just following a script and role playing for the most part; I think I've found my niche.

I am not sure how long this job will last for me, but I must say it's been fun, very interesting and worth my time, for now. I am considering an editing position with one of the companies I work for just to keep things interesting. I am very thankful. I like to pass along the information for those of you who are interested. I've met many new people and have a brand new awareness of customer service; that's for sure. I find it hard to get out of secret shopping mode when I go anywhere now!

For those of you who asked me for the mystery shopping information, here it is: sign up and register for the "free" first month at www.shadowshopper.com. They will email you companies that are looking for secret shoppers. From there, you will need to register with each company, which can be time consuming but worth it. They, in return, will send you emails when they have job assignments in your area. Good luck and have fun! Any questions? You know where to find me :)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Answered Prayer

Today I was assigned the job of "carpool mom" in charge of transporting five very rambunctious, high energy, prepubescent and smelly (for real!) boys to a skate park they like to frequent often. When I dropped them off I said something like, "I'm going to be praying for you guys to be safe." Luke is so used to me saying stuff like this that he was already headed to the park. One of the other boys stopped what he was doing, looked at me and said, "Does that ever work? Have you ever seen that happen?"

Honestly, I was a little taken off guard by this deep, soulful question, coming from this young boy all but twelve-years of age. I answered immediately without thinking, "Absolutely, it works. I've seen it happen many times." I had wanted to say more, but off he went to play. I would've liked more time to explain myself further. Or maybe I didn't need to.

So, on the ride home I got to thinking about this thing called prayer and this boy's simple, yet honest question. What he was really asking me... Can I trust God? I started thinking about what I would say to him if he asks again. I started to reflect on my own life and when my prayers have been answered.

And when they haven't.

When the questions come, I will tell him that God answers my prayers every single day when my family comes home safe and sound. And that's just the beginning. I will tell him of two examples in recent months when God answered my prayers for a cancer-free diagnosis for my loved ones. I will also tell him of the times when my prayers have been answered with a "maybe" or a "no" or a "wait." I will tell him how my faith has been my rock all of my life, through it all.

This boy is a person I would call a "wise soul." There is just something 'special' about these kinds of people. My daughter is one of them; they just are wise beyond their years and very intuitive. I suspect more questions are going to come.

Well, I've known him for years, and I know he's dealing with some pretty tough family issues. The same issues I've dealt with. Deal with. My heart just breaks for him; we help whenever we can. Then I remember with gratitude all of the adults that were coincidentally "placed" in my life at just the "right time" throughout my 41-years. More answered prayer. How easy it is to miss it.

I feel better knowing he'll be taken care of, too.

I've heard it said that all it takes is one person in an abused child's life to make a difference in how that child turns out. I know this to be true. My hope is that with my quick, to-the-point answer that he 'got' my resounding, "Yes!"

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Legacy of Maya Angelou

This past week I met a friend for lunch, and we got to talking about child abuse. Yeah, we usually get into some pretty deep topics. We have that kind of friendship. We were discussing whether or not a 3-year old child would remember a physical beating as an adult. We both agreed the child might not "remember" per se, but would feel the damage of it in someway. Then my friend profoundly said, (without knowing she was quoting part of one of my favorite quotes), "If nothing else, that child will definitely remember how it made him/her feel." Wow. The truth of that statement left me speechless.

I grew up hearing Maya Angelou's quotes used quite often on the Oprah Winfrey show. I watched all 25 years, and am a wiser person for it. I loved Maya's quotes like, "When you know better, you do better"; "I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it"; “If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude"; "When you learn, teach. When you get, give." The list goes on and on. She was a very wise woman. Oprah and she were extremely close friends, and this must be an incredible loss for her like it is for the whole world.

Amongst other things, Maya is being remembered for being a mother; professor; poet; editor; actor; speaker; and award-winning memoirist. She is well-known for her speech, 'On the Pulse of Morning,' on the occasion of the Presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton.

Her poetry has touched the souls of people all over the world. Her quotes just 'stick' in our heads, at least they do for me.

When people talk about Maya's death, there is a sadness there, but also this 'knowing' that she lived a good life. She's being known for making a difference in the world through her gift of language. She has left a 'mark' behind in some way. In my opinion, she has left behind an extraordinary legacy. Isn't that what we all want and hope to achieve? I know I do. 

Maya was a phenomenal woman and deeply humble. She was a graceful woman of faith who rose above poverty, abuse and violence to teach us how we, too, can transform our lives. She simply radiated joy and dignity. 

I will honor her and read her acclaimed poetry collection I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, an autobiography about her childhood in Arkansas. I regret not reading it many years ago; it is a shame that I didn't. I hear it's worth reading, and I suspect I will find some treasures there. I am thankful that she shared with the world her amazing gift of language through her poetry and songs. I hope you take some time to read her writings. It will be a special treat, I promise you.

I do "know for sure" (a lesson from Maya) is she is being remembered for what she wrote in her very own words. I sense this is something she would've wanted.

"I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." ~Maya Angelou

So, thank you Maya for the lessons learned. May you rest in peace.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Grief

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross says that there are five stages of grief: denial, isolation, anger, depression, and acceptance. I think every human being experiences grief in some way, at some time in your life. It's normal. Either it is the loss of someone you love or a dream or a "thing," a relationship, a job ...something that is taken from us when we least expect it or even if we do, you still don't really "expect" it. I wish Elizabeth would've added "shock" to her list because it sure seems to fit, at least in my experience. I'm sure it fits one of those categories just nicely.

The first time that I experienced grief was when I was 16-years old, and my grandma died on Thanksgiving Day of that year. She was my mom's best friend. Grandma was fun and delightful! I can still remember her laugh. The one thing I will always remember about her is that she was always nice to me. My mom and grandma talked every day, first thing in the morning, for hours. I use to wonder what in the world they could be talking about for so long. I've come to appreciate that they were talking about Life....kids, husbands, daily stresses, etc. Because it always feels so good to talk to someone who understands or can offer a listening ear. A best friend is priceless.

I have grieved five children, my mother, a childhood, pets, dreams, and friendships. I am in grief now, it seems, once again, as life goes. The "details" don't really matter, except that I am again experiencing something that is starting to feel familiar. That many of you probably understand all too well.

What I've learned is that I will get through it. The truth is the only way around it is to go through it. It always surprises me when the feelings ebb and flow...from anger to sadness, then back to bargaining, to anger once again. You'd think it'd be a nice step-by-step process, but that isn't reality. I'm not a big believer in the famous saying, "Time heals all wounds." I believe time helps, but doesn't heal. It is a wound after all; a scar.

That song playing on the radio by Idina Menzel called, "Let It Go," reminds me, among other great songs. Music is healing, I know this for sure.

Grief stinks, but it is worth it if you learn the lessons along the way. Eventually, you will come to the acceptance, and so will I.




Wednesday, May 7, 2014

It Is What It Is

I love to run. Not a friendly stroll through the park or jog or walk. I mean.... RUN. I have been running as my means of exercise for over 20 years. It was Mark who introduced me to it from his Army days. We use to run together blasting the Styx's and the BoDeans. Great motivational music to keep us going. I still play those songs today.

The years flew by, and I needed to stop running for periods of time (pregnancy, injury etc.). However, in March 2013, I began again after months of being bedridden. I always needed to start very slowly. Run a minute, walk a minute. Out of breath, ready to quit. But I'd push myself to keep going. Time and time again.

Everything hurt. It sucked to breathe. I hated it, but loved it at the same time.

I ran my "usual" route and after much stopping and walking, I finally made it around the loop to the end. "Okay, I got through that," I thought. I began to do more and more each time until I reached three miles. It was a good place to be.

You see, running isn't just exercise for me, but rather, therapy. Been there, done that with many therapists over the years, yet I learned that I processed my emotions in this simple movement of my body so much better than therapy. Other "runners" understand this.

I realized that when I run is when I  most feel alive. I can hear the earth pounding beneath my feet; I feel the burn of my muscles; the sun on my face; I connect with the earth...Thanking Him for what I can do...Asking Him to give me strength. 

I breathe in fresh, clean air. The sweat is pouring down my face. And I think. I pray. I process.

I do this all through running. Others do it differently. All is okay.

I ran my very first "run" last June with my friend, Courtney. She challenged me to run the 10K Rock n' Sole at the lakefront and over the Hoan bridge. It was fun and exhilarating, and the most I've ever run. We weren't the "best" or "worst" time-wise, but we finished; that's all that mattered. I loved the experience.

I planned ahead and realized that the next Rock n' Sole was on my 42nd birthday, June 14th, interestingly enough. I immediately registered. I wanted to "beat" my time from last year. A goal I set, which is so important to do.

But God sometimes has a different plan.

Pain has been present in my right leg over a year in some fashion. Either it was my knees, or my shin, or calf. I was still able to run through it until April. Yeah...maybe I could've taken it easy. The combination of running in old running shoes to switching to new ones, plus my injuries, led to a huge problem. Yes, I've learned my lesson.

I realized  God is good at getting me still. After all, He does tell us to "Be still and know that He is God." I have that verse stenciled on the wall in our bedroom. It is a constant reminder of what I need to know and remember.

After months of chiropractic therapy, I wasn't getting any better. Through the encouragement of a friend, I made an appointment with a Sports Medicine Physician at Froedert Hospital. She had the name of someone, "good." I really resisted going to this appointment. I thought many times of canceling. After all, I wasn't too fond of doctors of any kind.

I ended up going and found out I have a stress fracture above my ankle. I needed 2 MRI's to see the severity. Never expected that. Thought she'd just tell me to "take it easy" like all of the others. I had an answer and a plan. All very, very good. I just needed to give it time.

I can't run. My love. My therapy. My ability to feel alive. My friend, Jackie, will put my bib number around her neck and run for me in my honor. She will run it well.

I, however, look to Someone else to meet this need of mine. And He does faithfully.

I realized, once again, how much you don't really miss something until it's gone. And I am not talking just about running here. I've come to accept that I need to accept what is. Accept what I cannot change. Embrace the good that I have in my life. Not being able to run is very minor compared to what others are going through. I realize that. Several people I know are waiting on a cancer diagnosis or waiting to start the treatment for it. There are those counting down to the end of their days. There is no room for complaint in my Life.

It is only another reminder that I have no control of my life. None of us does. We either trust something or someone.

It's that simple.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Tribute to my Mom & Back to Blogging!

I haven't "blogged" in a long, long time, but feel inspired to write today, which is the 7-year anniversary of my mom's death. I pondered many times about what to "do" with this blog, Healing Begins, which I started so many years ago. I never received healing from Lyme disease I had hoped & prayed I would receive. Instead, I've learned to simply, "live with it." What so many of us with chronic illness live with day after day. Some with "labels" that we don't really want to talk about, yet alone, think about ourselves.

We are the ones with the invisible illnesses that suffer within, but no one would know it from the outside. In fact, we try to 'cover it up' so other people don't know what we are going through. "Look strong," even if you don't feel it. I suspect that is what my Mom lived with, but what no one knew about. Not anyone, sadly.

So, I stopped writing, at least in 'blog' form, and felt that I had nothing else to add to my Story. The truth is, I was sick of hearing myself talk and write about being sick when so many other people were suffering from much more than I, and my healing wasn't coming. I felt like I had nothing to offer anyone. I had compassion, empathy and understanding to give, but no answers. No treatments to "try." Nothing I could say "worked for me," except prayer.

I keep up with my loads of medications, but long ago, I gave up "trying" something else to cure me of chronic Lyme disease and the many autoimmune diseases it brings along with it. I've accepted God's will for my life. I take it one day at a time. Is there any other choice?

I love my doctor, Dr. Glenn Toth, who is knowledgeable, compassionate, and kind. He has been more than willing to try 'something else' every time I visit, but it is I, who am not willing. Not anymore. After seeing over 30 doctors since 2006, I've been simply, worn out. That I can get out of bed and live my Life...I am grateful.

Recently, I've had several dear people in my Life  encourage me to keep on with 'my writing' in someway. I've wrestled with a few ideas. I've looked into an editor position for one of my mystery shopping companies. I've considered taking a writing or editing course. I still don't have peace about any direction, but to write here for now. I am currently writing reports for my mystery shopping job. So there is that. And I have never stopped writing in journals or could even possibly think about doing that.

While we were doing spring cleaning, Megan discovered my huge mounting of journals in my closet. Several had tumbled to the floor. She said, "Oh my goodness, are those ALL of your journals?" I, naturally, gulped and said, "Yeah, they sure are." I guess that writing has been healing for me after all.

I've realized that I don't need to know the reason to keep blogging for right now. I have no idea if I will keep the title or not. Change it to something else? Who knows? Keep the same picture? I might as well...I am in my 30's still in that one! I can't even figure out how to get the music player to work!? for Pete's sake! I'm settled with not changing a thing for now.

I do know for sure that I need to blog, if not for myself, then for someone else.

Today, is as good as any other, to start again.

My mom is, somehow, from up Above encouraging me to tell the Story.

Thank you for being a listening ear.

http://www.lorianngrade.blogspot.com/2011/05/my-mothers-eulogy.html