‘Tis The Season (But Maybe It’s Not Yours And That’s Okay)

I love the holidays.  I love that frothy, steaming cup of seasonally flavored coffee, that we  rush to get as if  we can only have it during this time of year….like “Thank God! Gingerbread and Peppermint exist again, all hail!”  I love an excuse to buy gifts for my family and friends.  I love that it is a time that despite our differing schedules, we make time to sit around the table together. (Although with 2020 the tables may be smaller, the dinners might even be virtual, now that we’ve all had to learn the world of Zoom and Google Meet, but nonetheless, we will make time.)   I love cheesy Christmas movies, and family traditions.  I love all the warm and fuzzy that it brings. 

But, then there’s that ache.  That tiny little hole, as I’m standing alone under the mistletoe.  And I do, every year. I find mistletoe hanging, and I stand under it, one foot propped, kissing the air, as if to make a joke of the fact that, here I am again. But, it’s not a joke, and frankly as year after year passes the joke has turned into total loss of hope at times. 

I don’t know why it is that the holidays amplify this feeling, as if it’s any different to be alone in September than it is in December, but somehow it feels much worse.  Maybe it’s the hundreds of times we hear a plethora of pop queens singing “Santa Baby, I forgot to mention one little thing…a ring” paired with a social media feed showcasing the list of all the good girls who got that ring this year.   Knowing Jesus and Santa are  both watching I hit the “love” button, because I am happy for my loved ones.  But, it still hurts.  

I don’t know where to go with the feeling anymore.  Most times the joking is easier, because everyone can laugh and understand that.   When joining friends for a festive dinner and the waitress removes the extra plate, looking at me like, “oh, you’re by yourself,” I order the drink named “The Dirty Uncle” and laugh saying, well, the uncle is my date.  Or there’s the pointing to random bypassers, suggesting that maybe they could be the one.  

I think about all those Hallmark movies and wonder if maybe I should slip on the ice and knock myself out, only to wake up in a new reality of Mr.Wonderful sweeping me off of my feet, literally, and inviting me to Christmas dinner with his family. 

The thing about movies and social media is that people always say, “that stuff isn’t real, love isn’t like that, you’re setting yourself up for failure if you’re looking for that.”  But, I refuse to believe in that notion.   Even in losing hope, I still see the happiness of my friends when I’m playing the “extra wheel,” and though their love might not be quite so dramatic as those holiday rom coms, it is still very real.  And there is hope in that. 

I guess what I want to say to those of you who are living in the seasons you’ve spent dreaming of when ‘Tis the Season rolls around, please be mindful of your friends or family that aren’t quite there yet.  I don’t mean that in a “lessen your glow” sort of way.  Please keep your lights shining bright, I truly am happy to see you shining, and to be a part of it.   But, maybe stop the jokes, when your friends in the dry season make fun of themselves, tell them not to do that.  Remind them how wonderful they are.  Remind them that their plate at the table isn’t an extra, or missing another half, but that their presence is what makes your group whole.   Remind them that this isn’t forever, that  their season is coming, and pray daily that it does.  

I’m thankful to have a group of friends that do all of those things. I have prayed hard for them to be living in their current seasons that they have so desired.  And you know what?  I’ve seen those prayers answered, so I can testify that it works.  

To my friends that are not quite ready for this “Tis the Season time of year, I want you to know that it’s okay if it’s not your season.  It’s okay to be happy and sad at the same time, (thanks Kacey Musgraves.)  I pray that your cheer is greater than your ache, and that this time next year we’re writing a totally different story. 

Hide The Cashews

I feel pretty safe in saying that growing up as young girls, watching our parents, grandparents, and those around us, we develop a pretty vivid picture of the things we hope for as adults. Namely here, I’m talking about things in the romantic realm. Now, of course, as children and young adults, we don’t think of these things as romantical, more so we develop admiration in the small things, although most often unaware of such admiration, if that makes sense.

My family is not known much for affection. I never saw my parents sneaking a kiss in the kitchen, or holding hands while at the grocery store. But, I remember my mom waking us up super early in the morning to surprise my dad with a big gift on his birthday, because it was something he would enjoy. Now, as an adult I see my dad going hog wild with lights and inflatables in the yard for every holiday, because my mom loves it. (Granted, I think he might love it just as much now as well.) But, he does it because it makes her smile.

Growing up, I remember my Nan always packing my Poppy’s lunch for him. As I got older, I started to notice those lunches consisted of Little Debbies, chips, and pop…and I wonder how my Poppy stayed so skinny. HAHA. But, that’s neither here nor there, it’s an act of kindness, a gesture of love I now realize. It is, in fact, a recent conversation with my Nan that sparked this story of the cashews, so here we go.

When we get the chance, Nan and I play Yahtzee, and we carry on conversation that is all over the place in the process. Usually as we are playing, Poppy will ask us if we want him to make us popcorn, or ice cream, or serve us up a tall glass of pop. We usually oblige to one of the things, but regardless of our answer, he always takes himself up on the offer…generally to all three. So, Nan and I laugh at how funny it is that he basically eats the entire time we play. Recently in the process of all of this, she tells me that she had bought cashews and left them on the counter, and by the time she came home from work the next day, they were all gone. She said, “Holly, he ate every one of those cashews, so yesterday, I bought some more, and I left them in the sack and hid them, and you know what, he found them and ate half the can…after I HID them.” We laughed so hard, as he aimlessly played Solitaire in the living room. She very well knows he will eat them when she buys them for “herself.” Yet again, it’s an often unnoticed act of love.

When I was 10 years old, I just knew I needed a “man” like Taylor Hanson. At 16, I was convinced my future spouse had to have the jawline of Joe Don Rooney. In my 20s I leaned more towards the Paul Rudd and Topher Grace types. Now, into my 30’s, I’m amused at the fact that I have given every version of a man you could imagine the chance to play the part.

On my drive home, I began thinking about this some more, and giggled to myself. Because now, all I know is that he better like cashews.

#SheWhoDaresProject: Jax Miller

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the years (and continue to learn as a woman) is to create boundaries. I used to care about what others thought of me. I would make decisions that directly affected me based on how I thought others would feel about them. But place firm boundaries around you. Say no if something isn’t right for you. Don’t be a people-pleaser and come to terms with the fact that you can’t make everyone happy at the price of  your own self.”

Wise words spoken by Jax Miller, author of ‘Hell In The Heartland’, a grueling, true crime story currently topping Oklahoma’s bestsellers list.  Miller, who has a couple of fiction books under her belt, switched gears to tell the story of two-decade-old murder case in smalltown Welch, Oklahoma, that is yet to be solved today.   Though never having written nonfiction, or true crime, the genre wasn’t exactly new to Jax, who’d grown interest into the scene at the young age of 12, having discovered ‘Helter Skelter’ on her Papa Glenn’s bookshelf.  “It terrified me, but in a great way. I wouldn’t go so far as to refer to myself as a Murderino, but I’ve always been interested. I think the genre meant very little to me when I first came to ‘Hell in The Heartland,’ instead, I was attracted to the story. Had this story taken place on Mars, I’d be entering the Sci-Fi genre. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious choice of “Hmm, I think I want to switch from fiction to nonfiction,” but more of “I want to tell this family’s story.”

Miller doesn’t have an exact recollection of how she heard the story of the murders and the missing girls, but notes that her closeness in age to Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible initially grabbed her attention, and the rest followed.  “From strictly a storytelling point of view, it was an incredibly appealing story anyway. The backdrop of abandoned lead-mining towns, the (dare I say?) characters, the plot twists and jaw-dropping moments that were stranger than fiction- all were very engaging. There was a naiveté on my part when entering this story, though, and it didn’t take long to really become immersed. I’m a passionate and rather single-minded person anyway. Soon, the relationships between the missing girls’ relatives and myself began”

Having spent several years working on ‘Hell In The Heartland’, those relationships, in time, became much more than only professional.  When asked about the women in her life who have inspired her throughout the journey, Miller cites her late grandmother, as being her rock, and the most influential woman in her life, “My penname, Jax Miller, is named after her. She had that Brooklyn brash attitude, like Sophia from The Golden Girls, but had a heart of gold. My mother didn’t raise me, so she was the most important woman in my life, and I miss her every day.”

She follows by sharing the special relationship she has gained with Lorene; “Lorene Bible is a force to be reckoned with, and she taught me so much about the woman I wish I was and the woman that I hope to one day be. In fact, she was what sealed my commitment to her daughter’s story- I was struck by her, impressed at how she’d handled herself and how she still carries herself. Through her, I’ve learned to listen more than I speak and not react. I’m a New Yorker, reacting is what I do. But she’s truly the strongest woman I’ve ever met, and I’m still in awe of her.”

Jax Miller with the Bible family. (Photo Courtesy of Miller)

Even with a great passion to tell this story and the support of these families, and new friends, there were still moments of crippling fear and anxiety, which Jax details throughout the book, as well as in our conversation.  She recalls a time that with a plane ticket in her hand, she almost called it quits; it was only the strength of those mentioned above that kept her afloat.

 “There were a million times when I wanted to run away from this book. It wasn’t the story so much, but that self-doubt that plagues many authors and artists. On one specific trip, and I think I mention this in the book, I bought a plane ticket, ready to haul ass back to Ireland. While sitting there, the notion dawned on me: that these families didn’t have the luxury of walking away, so why should I? That really pushed me to stay, and from then on, I swore to myself that I was seeing this story through with them, as long as they let me.  Lorene Bible can’t walk away from this. In a way, I felt that my leaving would have meant abandoning her, abandoning the girls, abandoning their families. I feel a certain sense of loyalty to them; Lorene, especially since she has the biggest horse in the race as the only mother left.”

Jax Miller radiates with a passion that is hard to miss.   While reading ‘Hell In The Heartland’, I often found myself in awe of the measures taken to make sure this story was told as accurately as possible, from every angle.  I sat in amazement at the many hats worn by Miller and the Bible/Freeman families as they sought to find justice.   But, as she puts it, that passion is just who she is: 

“I put all my passion in whatever I do, so if a story requires sitting with a killer, I’ll sit with a killer. If it requires learning how to make candy (as was the case in a French-language fiction I wrote about a confectioner), I’ll do that. My desire to work in true crime has neither increased nor decreased- my passion is still with me. It’s who I am.”

When asked what we can expect next, Jax notes that with active news surrounding the case, and a sentencing only weeks away, she intends to keep her focus on Lauria and Ashley for as long as she can.  

A book signing is scheduled at Paul Thomas Family Center, 1527 North Main, in Miami, OK on Sunday August 16th from 2:00 to 4:00.  Books will not be available at the event, so you must bring your own copy, wearing a mask is required. 

When she’s not writing, Miller enjoys tending to her homegrown pumpkin patch, listening to rock and roll, and loves all things Halloween! She started her writing career while living in Ireland, where her spouse is from, for a decade, but considers herself a bit nomadic, calling many places home.  She has found a big love for biscuits and gravy during her stay in Oklahoma! 

Thank you Jax for daring to tell this story!

Follow Jax Miller on Social Media:

realjaxmiller Instagram

Jax Miller Facebook

#SheWhoDaresProject – Anita White aka Lady A

 “It is important for the next generation behind me, those young artists ( black, white, indigenous, people of color)  to know within their power, with all their might, always try to “Do the Right thing”   Stand up for yourselves; even if you have to stand alone.”

Words spoken with much conviction by Anita White, a name you may have not recognized until very recently, when a name change by country group Lady Antebellum sparked flames with White, known by her music family as Lady A.

Photo Courtesy ladyababyblues.com

Before going any further into that, I want to back up a little bit and introduce you to Anita, prior to this lawsuit.

Coming from a musical family, White began singing in the church choir at age 5, sticking around to become the Choir Director by age 16.  “My mother is a gospel singer, my father was a drummer, my grandmother loved blues, my brother plays the drums and my niece is an amazing artist in her own right, her name is Umi.  She is amazing.  So I come from a musical family.”   This passion found a home in Anita’s heart, and led her to continue pursuing music, finding herself as a karaoke singer in the 80’s, and later joining the Sonny Byers Motown Revue as a back-up singer.  

Though the passion was there, White admits that the jitters still resided in her as well, actually playing a part in her stage name; “I wasn’t that confident about singing and didn’t want anyone to know my name so I went by Lady A. I married and moved to Florida and began singing Karaoke again and one of my sista-friends would call me Miss A,  I told her, I’m married, you can’t call me Miss… I’m Lady A… so she said, you’ll always be Lady A.. and it stuck with me.” 

In the early 90’s  Anita found her way back to Seattle, where she was asked to sing  by Louie Thompson of Thompson’s Point of View.  “I didn’t have a band at the time, so I asked my friends in the Motown Revue to play for me… and we became Lady A & the Baby Blues Funk Band.”

Photo Courtesy Lady A

Though the band was born that day, it wasn’t a quick climb to success, White and the guys stepped right in with the working class, paid their dues, and found  inspiration and meaning along the way. “My career was very gradual… out of Lady A & the Baby Blues Funk Band we played many clubs and have done loads of weddings.  We used to perform at the Paragon on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle for many years… The original Scarlet Tree in University district, the Esquire Club.  So many festivals.   It led me to be able to work in Europe with United by Music Europe as a mentor for the intellectually disabled, teaching stage presence and Gospel music.   It has led me to be able to sing gospel at festivals as well as blues, which brings me the ultimate joy.   It has led me to meet so many amazing people and artists along the way who have inspired me, or whom have told me I inspired.”   

With the experience and inspiration comes great confidence, and brings us back, in a way, to where we started;  “I’ve become confident in what I do, more intentional about the lyrics I write and the people I interact with.  I have discovered that I should have trademarked my name…” White explains with a slight chuckle, though well aware that it is no laughing matter. 

Photo Courtesy Lady A Instagram (@ladya_bluesdiva)

“Lady Antebellum came out and said Black Lives Matter ( I didn’t say that, no one forced them to make those statements);  then thought that shortening their name to  “their nick-name” made it ok and Woke.   I said, I work in Race and Social Justice, so if you say Black Lives Matter, mean it or say you made a mistake. They really don’t,  and kept the name Lady A  because Lady Antebellum, you said “ Black Lives Matter”, you said “Your hearts have been stirred with conviction about the injustices and inequalities of Black people”  You said that,… so if that is true, shortening your name is still racist .   Performative Wokeness is not Allyship.” 

Anita recognizes that this not only personally affects her career, but sets the stage for future injustices, so she stands tall, and she fights. 

 “They have affected not only myself, but all those Black, Indeginous people of this land, and People of color (BIPOC) by attempting to insult our intelligence.   Either you are an ally or you are not.  Either change your name or go back to being Lady Antebellum, as until the week before I released The Truth is Loud under my moniker – Lady A – you had not released any music under Lady A – and just as I told the lawyers and the artist; “The moment you release something as Lady A you will wipe me off all the social platforms, ITunes, Amazon and Spotify” which is exactly what happened, even though you ( Lady Antebellum) said it wouldn’t or you would give your best efforts (per the 2 contracts you sent which had no substance and only helped you not me.) So where was the allyship?”

White hopes that by speaking up, she can help the generations to come, “It’s important for independent artists to know that big business does not always have to win out…  hold people accountable for their words, for their actions.  Yes, I’m tired, yes I’m exhausted, yes, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired … but I will not give up, nor will I give in.  God is with me.. I trust Him.”

Anita White’s heart accommodates many things, but there are two things it holds quite dearly; a love for music, and a love for being a blessing to others.  Long before her name was known by millions, she has practiced these things with all of her being, and truly hopes everyone can find their place in this world with confidence and compassion.

Learn  who you are, focus on what you want, stay positive even when it gets hard, know that you are called to do whatever it is you want to do in life and most importantly know that you are not here on this planet just for yourself, but to serve and help others as you make your way thru the journey of life.  You will find the more you give others, the more comes back to you in unexpected ways.”

What to expect next from Lady A?

Photo Courtesy Lady A Instagram (@ladya_bluesdiva)

“I’m still writing music  for an upcoming CD project for 2021,  The Truth is Loud – Ally Roles in 2020. My Life, Love and Laughter series on YouTube just launched last week,  you can find it on our Couch Concerts Facebook page. It’s a late night YouTube talk show with musical artists, Bakers/Cooks in the Seattle area, Gardners, etc. .   I write with a great writer Roz Royster McCommon who is also an amazing videographer and we’ve been working on that series, it airs every Friday night on Couch Concerts YouTube page at 10pm PST.”

White’s  website slogan reads, “Be Blessed and Be a Blessing”.  What a blessing it has been to share this story! She Who Dares!

For more information on Lady A visit the Lady A Baby Blues website

For information on being an ally visit the Roz and Lady A Truth is Loud website

Filling The Void- Part Two: Nourishment

As I stared at that reflection the pain and realization hit hard.   Who was this frail, fragile woman?  When had those dark circles and sunken cheek bones taken over the cheerful, rosy cheeks, and bright eyes of the me I once knew?  When had I let myself go?  It didn’t take me long to realize that despite how I got here, I had to find the road out. The answer came pretty easy, I needed one thing…

Nourishment.

Nourishment for my body, my mind and my spirit.   The simplest, most well-known of prayers came to my heart and I began saying it over and over again.  I think you might find it familiar, a little verse in Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…”

This verse is familiar to many of us, known as the Lord’s Prayer.  I remember truly learning this  and memorizing it during junior high basketball, saying it as a team before every game. I had been saying it for years  before those ballgames and as part of church services, but had I ever really taken the time to break down each element and understand in whole what this simple prayer means to us and for us?

Our Father  has a life already prepared for us, things he has set out in order to bless us…and to feed us.  To nourish us.  We have a daily meal already prepared in the word of God, but we have to be willing to allow the feeding.  That bread can multiply beyond all measure if we are willing to receive it.  But in order to receive it fully we can’t just skip past that part about forgiveness and forgiving. That’s a big one, we are always forgiven by God,  but do we always forgive ourselves and those placed in our lives?  Had I truly in my heart forgiven all those who had wronged me?  Had I even began to forgive Mr. Walkaway Joe introduced in the beginning of this story?  Was I still allowing that bitterness to overcome the bread?  Was  temptation and evil taking place of my healthy supply? 

Sadly in standing back and looking at that reflection again, the answer was a clear yes.  I was opening up dating apps more than I was opening my Bible. Trying so quickly just to replace him to feel that spot I thought I needed in my life.   I was continually swiping left and right, receiving “flirts” and “winks” more than I was receiving the Holy Spirit into my heart.  I was ignoring that voice telling me that this wasn’t right, and those men weren’t the answer.  I was continuing to let temptation and lack of patience take over God’s timing for my life  and for my future.  And it kept leading to the same dead end.

I kept staring at the same frail woman in the mirror.  She was confused, hurt and lost.  And she was tired of waiting.  She was hungry for love and a life out of the fairy tales.

Although my heart felt so broken, I continually kept yearning for the feeding and nourishment to come from a man of this world.  I want to say I was strong and it all came so easy in letting that guy go.  That the moment I realized God had given me closure, I had received it and closed the book.  But, the truth of the matter was, I’d opened up that guys phone number one to many times, trying to think of anything to get a response.  Silence.  

Eventually it was in the silence that I started to hear God more.  It was as if the headphones of temptation had been removed from my ears, and replaced with a soft voice saying, “Let me feed you.  Hear my Word.  Accept this bread.  Take this journey with me.”

And the clearest sentence of all.   “Forgive him.”

But, but, but….

“Forgive him.”

This is when I started to really receive the bread.  It tasted much better than the bitter, and the sugar coated.  And the reflection started to look a little better too.  I had found faith in finding the filling. In filling the void.

And then it all happened again.   I was back to going through the motions, losing myself as I searched for fulfillment from someone else.

God let me do it, and then He showed up like He always does, full of grace…and more bread.

And the story goes on…

 

 

 

 

 

Filling The Void- Part One: Sugar Coated

     If you look up the word void, the simplest definition will say something to the extent of “filling an empty space.”  When he told me that he felt as though I was using him to fill a void, I didn’t quite know how to take it.  The he in this instance was a guy I had been dating for a short time.  Having already known each other, we had dove in pretty fast by most accounts.  The “I love you’s” were flying, and talks of the future had already filled the air.  The void conversation arose after a big fallout in which he admitted that I just expected too much of him. He didn’t understand why it was so important for me to include other people in things.  “Other people” being my family and my friends.  The “things” being events and holiday parties.  Things that to me seemed something normal to share with someone you loved or cared about.  Things that seemed normal of an adult relationship.  Things that have continued to be tumbling bricks in future relationships.

     To give you a brief history in relation to this idea, I’m in my early thirties, and have only twice  in my life had a significant other significant enough  to celebrate the holidays or any sort of big occasion with.  I’m more of a “test the waters” for a few months, and if it’s not going to work, it’s not going to work. Why waste either of our time?  I’m looking for a forever, not a sometimes.  In my late 20’s I had a serious boyfriend who I celebrated two turkey days and two Christmas’s with.  He was a good guy, just not “the guy.”  His name is still on one of our family Christmas ornaments (thanks Mom!)   After the ornament guy, and the one of current conversation, there came the next Mr. Significant, the guy that I just knew was “the one,” and have still held on to quite significantly in some ways over the last year (but that’s another story for another day.)   Back to where we started with fall out boy. 

     The idea that I needed to fill a void was almost insulting to me.  I wasn’t empty or without in my life when it came to happiness, or support, or love.  I had that all around me.  I was used to being the single girl at the party.  But, as my twin sister put it, “We are all looking to fill a void.  That’s what any relationship is.”  The more I wrapped my head around that, the more I figured the theory to be true.  Obviously when we start a relationship, there is something that was lacking there to begin with.  Not necessarily that I was empty, but, rather that I wanted someone to share the space with, so to speak.  But here’s the thing that it took me awhile to understand, if the person you want to spend your time, your efforts, your life with, only sees themselves as a “void filler,” then you need to let them go.  If that empty space you are filling still feels empty through the hard times, they are not the filling you are missing.  Your space needs the walls that help hold you together, not the decorations that you want to change every couple years.  If they are the pretty painting that smudges and runs when things get too heated, they are not your filling or your foundation.

     The hardest thing sometimes is accepting that bad filling is just that, bad filling. Sometimes in desperation I find myself getting lost in just finding something that I overlook or dismiss the bad taste it leaves.  When you start looking at everyone else’s spaces from the outside, it  seems so much more filled in than yours.  You start to question why your house is empty and they’ve got the swing set and pool in the backyard.  The statements, “Your time is coming,” “Timing is everything,” “Be patient,” start to taste just as bitter as the bad filling.  And you just get downright sick of it. You’re done. You cry to God.

     And I cried to God.  And I cried, and cried, and cried.  

     And then, I felt ashamed, because, although I’m a Christian, and a believer, I hadn’t talked to God in any fashion that much in a long time.  Some guy had to “break my heart” in order for me to run to Him? It hit me that I had been neglecting my one true filler while trying to fill a void in my life.  My house may lack the swing set and the pool, but, the firm foundation has always been there.  

Maybe filling the void isn’t searching for a man.  It’s searching and reconnecting with THE man. 

     I’m not saying that it’s not important to have relationships.  My ultimate goal in life is to be a wife and a mother.  But, if on the road to becoming these things we have to take the path that isn’t lit, that doesn’t keep Him close beside us, then it’s not the right road. Not the right person. Not the right choice. And we always have a choice. I’ve had a shadow box hanging on my bedroom wall for years.  Inside, covered with floral and sparkles, are the words from one of my favorite songs; and perfectly fitting to what I expect in a future husband:

“A man of his word

Man who loves God

Someone who knows love can’t be bought.”

     The guy I introduced you to in the opening  was none of those things.  I already knew from our history that he was not a man of his word. But, maybe he had changed, I told myself.  I prayed to God often over those years when we had disconnected from each other to give me some form of closure. And then He sent him back.  So, surely he had changed, right?  Clearly, he was like an angel sent down from God himself.  He was ready now.  Five years changes a person, right?  Wrong.  I’m not saying a person cannot change, and many do.  But, let me tell you, it has to be a choice they make on their own.  You cannot force a person to change; it turns into resentment, and the perfect grenade for arguments down the road.  And, although his arms were decorated with biblical tattoos, I never really knew if he truly was a man of God.  We never discussed it.  I often told him that he was included in my prayers, but, it was never much further than that.  I’m not saying he wasn’t a man of God, but, by my definition, if I had to question it, he probably wasn’t MY man of God.  

     Unfortunately, if we allow it, desperation can become a blinding tool.  I was so caught up in trying to catch up with everyone else.  Trying to jump start that wife and mom stuff, that I started overlooking the bitter tastes.  If I was fed something that tasted ugly, or stung bad, I covered it up with a little sugar, and all was well.  And the sugar I’m talking about was nothing but a pretty way of saying that I covered it with excuses.

     And again, I cried, and cried, and cried to God.  I begged Him to just make this guy come around. Make him want to stay.  Make him be THE guy. Maybe with enough sugar, it could be bearable, right?  I questioned and argued with Him through the tears every night.  Why would you send him back?  Why would you put me through this again? And then it was clear.

     Closure.

     Not the closure I expected when I said those prayers, but, the closure He knew I needed.  The closure it took to close the door off completely.  This guy walked away again because God intended him to, He intended to remove him for good. And though I was hurting, it was for my protection.

     Take note, I wish no ill upon him.  I’m thankful for cherished moments, and lots of laughter.  But, he is a closed door.  He’s the painting that runs with the heat.

 

     So what now?  I found myself at another stand still moment.  I felt discouraged again, like my time was never coming.   Like I was stuck. 

     I heard this sermon recently about how often it is that we focus on the problem rather than the promise.   I was asked, do you trust God in everything?  No matter how big or how small?   We can’t half trust God.  It’s not a sometimes thing.   Why am I constantly searching and expecting a forever relationship with a man on this earth if I cannot commit to fully trusting God in all of my situations.  To giving him a forever and always rather than a sometimes when it’s convenient for me?  How can I expect the sweet, sweet taste of a fulfilled life if I’m not allowing it to be fed on a constant basis?

Psalm 34:8 states, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

     “Blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”  Not blessed is the one who takes refuge in him when times are tough and you’ve tried out every other option.  Up to this point it was as if I was only choosing to eat from the Jesus buffet when all the other tables were empty.  I was letting him be the medicine to fix me when the tough and bitter made me sick.  He had become my back up rather than my go-to.  And I was starting to feel the effect.  

     There comes a time when you have to really stand back and take a look at the common denominator in the problems in your life. When you look up only to see your reflection, it’s a painful sight to see.  That’s where I was standing, face to face with myself.  A me that felt much heavier from all the weight I had added on by taking in the constant splash of sugar added to every bad situation.  I was feeding myself the lie of the enemy on a daily basis.  My daily intake of “you don’t deserve better,” “he will change,” “this is the best you can do,” “what if the things you want never happen,” had become my everyday meals.  And I was a pitiful sight. 

     I was pitiful, but still alive and still breathing.  It was time for me to get to know the girl in the mirror again….

Cool To Be Kind

Times are strange right now, for lack of better description.  As our world begins to pick up pace again, we are preparing ourselves for an introduction of new normalcy.  It’s both scary and  inviting, this transition.  It’s fair to assume that this lengthy isolation has welcomed both good and bad changes into many of our homes.  

For many of us, this has served as a time of self discovery, of rest, extra time with family, redevelopment of our prayer lives, refocus on taking care of our bodies, connecting more with our spouses and  friends we have lost touch with in the swiftness of our regular lives, and the discovery that somewhere deep down, we all have  a little bit of barista in us.   But, for others, this time has presented room for fear and stress to take over.  Those suffering with anxiety, depression, or mental disorders may have found it hard to allow this time as a relaxation or development period.  Rather, fighting a constant battle with themselves about how exactly they are supposed to react and feel.  This time has heightened loneliness for those of us without close family or significant others, and probably assisted in one too many dating site swipes, or texts to the ex.  

Families have lost loved ones, many without the chance to say goodbye, because of the strict regulations having to be set in hospitals, for our safety.

Parents are questioning whether to share their need for a break from their kids, for fear of the pain it might cause those who have yet to experience the blessing of babies, and who might be yearning for the cries and messes that fill your days. 

Essential workers are exhausted, continuing to work beyond normal hours, separating themselves from their families for the sake of keeping us all safe.  Non-essential workers are struggling to cope with the fact that they can’t do their jobs right now. Many have dancing thoughts continuously questioning if their business will even be able to reopen or survive. Others  have been hit with the total loss of their jobs and livelihood. 

This week has marked the process of reopening many businesses. Some of us are yearning to sit down at our favorite restaurant, to sink our teeth into deliciousness made by someone other than ourselves.  To sip our morning coffee with a close friend across the table at our favorite coffee spot.  To get our hair done, worship inside our church building, hit the gym, or watch a movie on the big screen.   On the flip side, some of us do not agree, and plan to wait another several months before even considering the idea.  We plan to stay home, and continue in the processes mentioned above until we feel comfortable to step outside, wondering if we will feel safe again any time soon.

What I’m troubled by with all of this, is the way we will all treat each other as we make this shift.  I fear that some of us might forget to practice humility.  To be patient with each other.  That we might open up a whole new level of hate, and of judgement.   That we might lose friends, and create enemies, while pushing aside a lack of understanding.  

I find myself surrounded by friends from many walks of life, even before this pandemic, but, throughout it as well.  I know people who are living through all the things mentioned above, handling this time in each of those scenarios.  But, what I have found in myself is a great bit of compassion.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of judgey days, in which for a moment, I lose that disposition, and I have to step back to find it.  At the end of the day though, it’s all I hope to find in all of us, that compassion, and understanding.  In those moments that we feel filled with anger at how others may be reacting, I hope we can step outside of our box, and look in theirs for a moment, that even in disagreement, we might find a bit of consideration, that we might question why this scenario might be better for that person.  That we might be modest in our judgement. 

What I pray for the most is that practice of kindness.   I was never the most popular, nor the least.  Some days I joined the table of misfits, other days the table of those most well known, but regardless of who was seated around me, I always believed it was cool to be kind.   I hope we might all live by that motto during this trying time.

#SheWhoDaresProject – COVID-19 Spotlights: Courtney Pitre

“The physical toll in addition to the emotional toll of losing patients to this virus has really amplified my anxiety for me. ​I have a really difficult time separating my home life from work life at this point and am learning different ways to try to cope using different outlets. I miss my dad. I used to stop by his house on Friday and visit and catch up.  ​I can’t see anyone now because I’m more likely to be contaminated with COVID so I just go to work and home now which is really tough emotionally.”courtneyhawk  expresses Courtney Pitre, Pharmacist and Owner of Courtneys Thriftyway Pharmacy of Arnaudville.

Pitre states that her normal daily duties of checking and filling prescriptions, counseling patients, bookkeeping, insurance contract maintenance, and management of employees has remained the same, but with a heavy load of extra additions.  “Now I  run a curbside service at my pharmacy in order to increase patient safety and reduce the likelihood of my staff catching COVID-19. ​I run in and out all day bringing prescriptions to and from vehicles so that patients will remain in the vehicle and reduce contamination potential. I’m averaging 8 miles a day of running back and forth to cars all day.​ For the last 2 weeks, I have worked 16 hour days as opposed to my usual 10 hour days.  It is utterly exhausting.”

Somewhere in the middle of those 16 hour days, Courtney manages to find time to keep her non-profit, Le Bon Voisin (“The Good Neighbor”)   not only alive, but thriving during the pandemic by bottling and supplying hand sanitizer to essential workers throughout the community. handsanitizer“Le Bon Voisin has also been hard at work bottling and giving out hand sanitizer to essential workers.  We just completed this project after bottling 1,300 gallons. ​Next, we plan to distribute more food and assistance to those affected financially in the community.​”courtneysani

Similar to many of us, Pitre has noticed an unwelcome change in her  mental and physical health, struggling in many ways to just feel normal.  “It has taken a huge toll on me personally.  The things I have used in the past to keep me balanced are no longer available to me, and I am working a lot more now.  ​This is causing a lot of problems with my depression and anxiety. I bought a converted Sprinter van in January and had several trips lined up this month to balance out my already crazy work life.​ I played on 2 travel hockey teams and had trained an entire year for our National Tournament in Minnesota at the beginning of April.  It was so hard to have all of that canceled right before our competition.​ courtneyhockeySo now, instead of working out, playing hockey, or traveling, I am staying at work super late and then going straight to bed.​”

Trying to find the light in the midst of all the darkness, Courtney has taken up some old hobbies to relieve a little stress at the end of her days, and is already dreaming up plans for future adventures.courtneymando “I used to play mandolin for fun many years ago.  I decided last weekend to start playing again.  It’s really nice to zone out and play songs again. ​I also just ordered a bicycle to use to still get outdoors a bit but maintain social distancing. Once things calm down, I’m going to pack up my van and take a trip anywhere I can and for as long as I can afford to.”​

She keeps her advice to us simple…

“Please stay home as much as possible, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face.  ​If you go anywhere, please be patient with the essential workers still working. They are tired and super stressed out.​”

If you would like to help out Courtney and her community with a monetary donation, click here: Le Bon Voisin Donation

Thank you for your dedication, Courtney, it does not go unnoticed!

#SheWhoDaresProject – COVID-19 Spotlights: Chelsea Hawk

“Saying “We can get through this!” is going to wear thin in the second month and it’s going to make you feel frustrated not only with the situation at hand, but with yourself as your optimism wanes.IMG_1856 But saying “We can get through this, but it may not be quick and it’s not going to be easy, but we will get through it all the same,” doesn’t leave as much room for frustration, by adding in that realism, you add in the human element allowing for the stumbles and the bad days while still holding out hope.”  suggests Chelsea Hawk, Administrative Assistant to the Chief Medical Officer and Medical Staff Office at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, MO. 

Hawk, whose normal office duties include supporting the CMO by means of managing his calendar and projects, creating documents, and making sure his day to day tasks run smoothly, has, like many of us,  seen a significant change in her daily routine since the COVID-19 pandemic. IMG_1849“Similar to everyone else, my life was completely turned upside down.  I was first tasked with different odd jobs to assist the Incident Command, then I was officially placed on the team to help stand up our Telehealth program, a way for our providers to virtually visit their patients. We set up a system of nearly 400 providers across over 100 clinics in 7 days!”   Four days into the program, she found herself not only as a team member, but as the project lead, in addition to being in charge of distribution of protective gear and  alternative housing keys for providers who are unable to return home to their families during this time. IMG_1850The additional tasks have led to an extra 10-20 hours weekly, leaving little room for much more than a meal and sleep at home. “I am a sensory kid, so by the time I get home I am so overstimulated that I can barely do more than stare at the walls until I go to sleep. That being said, I am typically an avid reader and writer, but at the moment can’t find the energy or focus to do much of either. However, I have found that working on a jigsaw puzzle in the evenings helps me decompress. ” 

No different than the rest of us, Chelsea has also seen a change in social interaction and relationships with family and friends.  Fortunate to work alongside her mother at the hospital, she has been able to keep a relatively normal connection there, and manages to keep up with her siblings via social media and text messaging.   When it comes to friendships, she encourages us all to reach out, and check in as often as we can. “What I’ve taken to doing on Saturday or Sunday mornings is finding five people in my phone and reaching out to them, with a simple message of “Are you doing ok? Anything you need?” This helps me keep in touch with my friends, both ones I speak to frequently and others I don’t check in as much as I probably should. Plus I like to think it reminds people that they are not alone in this period of isolation.” 

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A few insights Hawk has for us include the basics such as handwashing and proper safety precautions, educating ourselves with reliable sources, and being understanding of our healthcare workers.   “My advice to you at home is first and foremost not to wear gloves. That only increases the risk of cross contamination. The best thing you can do is wash your hands. Secondly, don’t share articles or links that are not from a reputable source or have not been fact checked. Only share things that you would be comfortable using as a source on a school paper. Lastly, be gentle with your health care workers. We are exhausted and coming home to see the news we have been living all day makes our hearts hurt. While we feel for everyone like us, out there fighting the good fight, we need a place to escape it. Please don’t pepper us with a million questions about COVID-19. We will likely share anything we’ve learned that’s important on our own.”

Despite the dark shadows this pandemic may bring, Chelsea has tried to see the rainbows through the rain, and has found silver lining in humanity itself.  IMG_1852“As we started social distancing, we’ve started doing video meetings and it’s so wonderful to see physicians and executives sitting in their homes, in their comfortable clothes, shooing away kids and pets reminding us that there is still life out there, that just because we are not allowed to be together or functioning as normal, we are not alone and the world has not ceased to exist. Furthermore, everyone wants to talk. I have had people that I have worked with for years but never really spoken to come into my office and strike up lengthy conversations about everything under the sun. I have cajoled a few of them into telling me jokes and I have told a few jokes myself. You can tell everyone is craving some kind of a connection and I am glad I have the opportunity to facilitate that.” 

Hawk wants to remind us the importance of remaining optimistic and hopeful, while also keeping ourselves educated and informed.  “On my desk at work, I have a post-it note that says IMG_1853“‘Confront the brutal truth of the situation, yet at the same time, never give up hope,’ provides the context for examining the complexity of your reality while preserving your vision for what is possible.” That’s a paraphrasing of the “Stockdale Paradox” (look that up!). It basically means that you should temper your optimism with realism. And honestly, I think that is the key to coming out of this thing in one piece.”

 

Cardinal Glennon ( as well as hospitals in your area) could also benefit from mask donations, and pump hand sanitizer bottles.  It has proven to be easier to get bulk bottles, but they are in desperate need of bottles to put it in. 

If you would like to aid Chelsea and her team at Cardinal Glennon with a monetary donation, follow this link to their Urgent Response Fund

 

Thank you Chelsea for your hard work and dedication!