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You care for everyone and wear your heart on your sleeve even if it causes you stress. I admire that about you.

He Nailed It…

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Stories of the Bible: People Edition

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Stories of the Bible: People Edition

As previously discussed in a recent post, I have decided to try to start documenting stories of the disciples and important people from the Bible. I have no idea how long I will keep up with this post or what will really come of it, but I am curious to try. I would like to start getting more “into” the Bible to connect more to my own Faith. After yesterday’s service at Church, I got really excited to learn more about the people outlined in the Bible. For now, I’ll start with the few we discussed yesterday.

Isaiah

From Isaiah 6:1-8: Isaiah’s Commission

During this story, Isaiah sees the Lord surrounding by a number of seraphs. He starts stressing out because he has unclean lips and does not feel worthy of being in the presence of the Lord. A seraph touches his lips with a hot coal and tells him his sins have been atoned for. Immediately Isaiah’s demeanor changes; he is willing to spread the word of the Lord and do good in any way that he can.PF

Simon Peter

From Luke 5:1-11: The Calling of the First Disciples

Jesus shows up at the Lake of Gennesaret to spread the Word of God. When he is done, he has Simon throw out nets to catch fish. He, along with his partners James and John, catch so many fish that the boats begin to sink. The men are shocked and immediately shore their boats to begin to follow Jesus.

A Short Update

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I feel like I have not only been neglecting my blog lately, but I have been neglecting myself by not writing at all, in any form. Yesterday, through some randomness, I got the idea to pull out the Bible and read the scriptures while they were read during church service. Even more than usual, I found myself getting information out of the readings that I’m not sure I ever picked up on before. Then I had this idea: If I found some time soon, it would be really awesome to start a blog post detailing the people that I have come across in scripture. Our sermon yesterday was all about different people in the Bible, how they had become disciples even though they were not even close to examples of perfect people. I got to thinking; while I recognize many names from the Bible, have I ever really taken the time to learn about these people as individuals and take inspiration or lessons from their stories? No, I have not. I’m thinking that a list of people from the Bible that I come across with short descriptions of their life events might be super helpful for me as a reference. I figured I’d post it here so that anyone can see.

Before I get started on that, I just wanted to let everyone know about a super cool idea that one of my friends suggested to me. During grandma’s funeral, we got plenty of flowers; I got to keep the flowers I had wrapped around my memorial lantern and we each got to keep one from the grave site. At first they were just depressing and I knew they were, like everything else, just going to die. Then I started noticing how nicely they were drying out. So I laid each bud out on a solid surface and allowed them to dry. Over the past few weeks, I have been talking to different people to find out what I should do with all of these flowers. Luckily, one friend had a great idea!

There are some people who dry their flowers after their wedding and preserve them in a floral layout that gets put into a shadow box and hung. When my friend suggested I do the same with the flowers I have, I was ecstatic. This past weekend, I went out and bought a 12×12 shadow box to fit the flowers in. I’m super excited because the leaves around the lantern dried out really nicely too so that I can mix up the colors in the box!

In addition, my friend offered to put vinyl decals on the glass of the box. I’m supposed to take it to her house this weekend as we celebrate her oldest daughter’s birthday. My only issue now is what wording do I want on the box? I feel it would be awkward to put Grandma’s name on it or something like that. I’m thinking it would be better to do something like “Love always” or “Family Forever”. I just cannot seem to decide.

In any case, I’ll keep thinking on it, but thought I would share in case anyone else had some dried out flowers. I could see this being done for so many occasions; senior prom, a big performance of some kind, a wedding, a baby shower, a birthday party, a funeral… really any major event where flowers are provided.

If you ever do decide to do one of these, I’d love to see them!

~B

Moving on or Spiraling Back?

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Moving on or Spiraling Back?

Today marks the first time I’ve been back in my grandma’s house since her death. It’s been well over a month since I’ve been there and the awkward is palpable now. Not only did I have to go with my dad, who is less than enthused about seeing any of his mom’s stuff, but it appears that all five siblings have a different idea about how to handle the distribution and sale of her remaining things.

I was surprised I was actually asked to go tonight. The method of madness so far (as far as I can tell) is that the grand kids are to have nothing to do with the situation anymore and I should rely on my dad to pick up anything that I want to remember Grandma by. Yet tonight he came home from work while I was still hanging out with my sister and asked me if I would like to go look at the pile of things people had already gone through. So I went.

Now I’m sitting at my house writing this in the hope that I will not break down and cry. It felt so weird to be in that house that I went around and took photos of anything and everything that I may even consider wanting. I told Dad I would send him the pictures and that if no one else claimed the items, I would like to know how much they cost so that I could buy them myself.

I’m not sure how many of you reading this have ever dealt with a death of this kind before; I knew right after the holiday was bad enough, but I never thought about how weird it would feel walking through that empty house. I’m not even sure what the right word is for it: scavenger? Creeper? Definitely not something good, I can tell you that much.

So while trying not to have a panic attack about being in this horribly weird situation, I tried to get as much done as quickly as possible. It took me a few minutes, and then I figured out the system. So, at least from my point of view, here’s the best piece of advice if you ever find yourself in a similar situation:

  1. At first, I wanted to cry over every set of brushes, every pair of shoes, etc. It was like a creepy museum of my grandmother’s things. Try not to let that feeling overwhelm you. God knows, I almost did.
  2. If given the chance to get something from a loved one’s house after their passing, pick the things that are most full of memories.

I’m pretty sure I picked some of the least expensive things in the entire house to take pictures of. Want to know why? They reminded me of my time with my grandparents. Until I spent some time looking around tonight, I never realized how much of Grandma’s “old life” (ie. pre-grandpa’s death) that she kept around when she moved. In her living room were the ceramic puppies that I remember staring at near their front window when I was a little kid. I was convinced that I could play with them, but everyone always said I’d hurt them.

When I walked into her kitchen, I found all of the fancy plates I had given her one year for Christmas. There were two with farm scenery and one really pretty, old piece with green and gold edging and white flowers in the middle. These were the first gifts I ever bought for her on my own.

As I ventured in her bedroom, I wasn’t attracted to the family heirloom quilts or the fancy furniture. Instead, on a tiny shelf above her window, there were some of Grandma’s little knick knacks. Sitting one on each end of the shelf were two clear glass puppies that I never even knew she owned. *photo* Why take a photo of these? Because I got one from my great grandma when she died years and years ago. I picked up another from an antique shop because I had found it all on my own. Adding to my collection with a puppy from my grandma would be that much more meaningful to me.

I thought I was done, so I went back into the living room and looked in the box of books someone had placed on the floor. Dad said everyone just wanted to give them to Goodwill. I decided to take a peek. See, one thing I always remembered about Grandma was that she loved to read. There was always a book sitting on the side table near her armchair in the living room, no matter what house I picture her in. As I got older, Grandma started sharing her books with my sister and I. She’d buy some from Goodwill or the Community Aid store; when she was done reading, she’d pass a Staples box of books on to us, with the idea that we return them to her or give them back to the store where she got them when we were done. I think Grandma actually is the person that I got my love of reading from. No one else in my family that I know of reads as much as her and I have done.

I didn’t think I’d actually find anything I wanted to keep in this box of books, but then I found a few. The first was a book with Amish stories in it; when Grandma first ended up in the hospital this past Spring, I took her some of my Amish novels. She commented that she’d never really read anything like them before but that she enjoyed them. For the next few months, I spent time going through my bookshelves and lending her every Amish book I had. I wonder whether someone got this one for her after that fact or if she had it hidden away and just forgot she’d ever read it. In any case, it’s mine now. The second book was the memoir of Dwight D. Eisenhower. (I hate history books by the way.) Why? Because for about three years I had this bookstore manager gig where I ran the bookstore at the Eisenhower National Historic Site. It was during that time that I learned my grandfather had helped to build fences and things with people who directly new Ike. There was a possibility my grandpa even helped Ike himself! After learning that fact all those years ago, I decided that Grandma might enjoy a book about the president and his farming pursuits. I remember her telling me she truly enjoyed reading it; what I find even more surprising is the fact that she kept that book all these years, even though she mostly continued to pass on the rest of her books to others year after year. I guess I’ll have to read that memoir now, whether I want to or not. Then I’ll find a perfect spot for it on the front of a bookshelf somewhere that I can always remember the story behind me owning it.

Just before we left, I realized there was one other gift I remember giving my grandma over the years. It was a set of decorative plates with moose and snowflakes all over them. There was a particularly cute bowl that had a moose holding it too. I think I remembered this gift because at the time, I wanted it for myself. I remember exactly where I bought it, that it was on sale at the time, and that Grandma had already told us she didn’t really want anything for Christmas. Too bad, she got these moose anyway! I found the set in her cupboard in the living room, just waiting for her to pull it out for the next holiday season. I guess she never had the chance to use them as decoration this year. What hit me even harder was what I found in the cabinet right beside the bowl.

At first glance, I thought I had found some of my cousin’s son’s reading books. I know the kid is addicted to reading and really good at it. But as I was getting ready to shut the door, I noticed that the book that lay on top looked awfully old and pretty familiar. I decided to leaf through them (mostly because I was being nosey). That’s when I realized where these books had come from. Back when my grandma and grandpa lived in their old home together, I used to spend hours and hours at their house. One of my favorite things to do was to go back to the bedroom and search the bookshelf for loads of books to read. They were all pretty tiny children’s books and ranged anywhere from Winnie the Pooh to a book set about the different Zodiac signs having their own little adventures.

I feel like I’m really overthinking this right now, but I’d just like to say that I started to tear up immediately. I never knew Grandma kept these books; I thought they were all sold in the auction when she moved. More than that, I found it significant that they were sitting all alone with only one other thing in that entire cabinet, the thing being the gift I had given her. My overreaching brain feels so comforted to know that she kept these things that were so important to me. Now I wonder if they were also that important to her. I also wonder: if they were important to her, what was the memory that they held? Was it the same one that I still have of taking books out and reading them to my grandparents or hiding in the back room and Grandma walking back to check that I was still okay back there?

I guess in the end, I’ll never know why Grandma kept those books. And maybe it doesn’t really matter. Surely my emotional side is just taking over a bit. It was pretty stressful, awkward, and weird to be in her home without her, let alone searching through her things like I was at some kind of estate sale or weird store. In any case, I think I’m going to hang on to the memories that I found today. Some of those things I haven’t thought about in years. Even better, some of them were the good times, when my grandparents were both alive, when I was much younger and more carefree and when I never knew how tough it would be to be an adult living with all this worry and responsibility.

So thank you Grandma. Whether you intended to leave those items in a place you knew I’d find them, or whether it was a coincidence that I came across those memories you kept, thank you. Today was rough and I still feel like crying, but knowing things that mean the world to me also meant the world to you makes me feel even closer to you now than I’ve been able to feel since you left.

Chasing What Now?

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Based on my past few posts, you can probably tell that life has not been super peachy for me lately. I’ve struggled. Really, I feel like I’ve struggled all my life. Yet I know that, in reality, there have been some amazing times, some great days, and some wonderful adventures.

I think I may have found one of those days (it may even turn into a week) in my life right now. This is the first full week of school after Christmas break, after saying goodbye to my grandma, and after being sick. I’m still not feeling the greatest, but for some weird reason I have come home every day this week so full of energy and motivation to get things done. In just the past three afternoons, there have been tennis ball competitions with Zoey (my Giant Schnauzer), karaoke parties (with myself), and tons of things accomplished. I’m not sure where this energy is coming from, especially when this is normally one of the harder weeks for teachers during a school year. But I’m surviving. No. I’m thriving.

During one of my activities this afternoon, I was dancing around the kitchen, playing Youtube songs at random off of my phone, and getting potatoes ready for dinner. One of my favorite cover artists, Boyce Avenue, came over the speakers. Of course I started singing (it’s one of my little known joys in life, unless you are my husband and other family members. Then sometimes you wish I’d shut up!).

I think the reason that I love music so much is because often times the beat makes you feel better, happier, more energized; the lyrics also often relate to life. Though a lot of songs are about love and relationships (hello, country music), there are many that are relate-able to different parts of life.

So here I am, singing along to this song that Boyce Avenue is playing. I knew the title of the song was Chasing Cars and I know the lyrics but I never really listened too closely to the words, I just always sang them. I found myself listening to them closely today though. What I found was a song that related to me a lot in life. There are many lines within the song that seem to relate to anxiety particularly.

While I’m sure the artists did not write the lyrics to be about a person with anxiety, just bear with me for a second. I hit the refresh button and listened to the song a second time because I thought I was crazy. Surely these lyrics couldn’t relate to anxiety as much as I had thought listening the first time. (For those who have not ever heard the song or don’t know the lyrics, here it is in full. Also, this is my way of saying I don’t own the lyrics or anything that I will be discussing in the rest of this post. Copyright info is found at the bottom of the lyrics.)


We’ll do it all
Everything
On our own
We don’t need
Anything
Or anyone
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
I don’t quite know
How to say
How I feel
Those three words
Are said too much
They’re not enough
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
Forget what we’re told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that’s bursting into life
Let’s waste time
Chasing cars
Around our heads
I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
Forget what we’re told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that’s bursting into life
All that I am
All that I ever was
Is here in your perfect eyes, they’re all I can see
I don’t know where
Confused about how as well
Just know that these things will never change for us at all
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
Songwriters: Natah Connolly / Gary Lightbody / Jonathan Quinn / Tom Simpson / Paul Wilson
Chasing Cars lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

After reading the lyrics, you might all think I am nuts. This definitely seems like some kind of song about relationships, those three words are probably “I love you”, and the person is wondering if their love will stick around through it all. Yet here’s where my head went when I heard the lyrics today:

  • “We’ll do it all… We don’t need anything or anyone”—- Anxiety makes me feel like this sometimes. I often feel like I have OCD, but it’s really just my nerves. I like to do things, I want to experience a lot of things in life. While my anxiety might make me wish I had never tried half the things I’ve done, my body does crave experience and different parts of life. At the same time, when something doesn’t go well and my anxiety starts to build, I become more determined than ever to do things on my own. I don’t feel like I need anyone or anything. Additionally, if people let me down, I feel like I cannot rely on anyone and cannot trust anyone. If you’ve ever tried to explain anxiety to someone else, you may know how this feels. People can be disappointing; sometimes I find it easier to put all the stress and pressure on myself than to hold the anxiety over my head, praying that someone will do right by me.
  • “If I lay here… would you lie with me and just forget the world?”—- There are many times in life when my anxiety has gotten to be too much. I have found myself often just wanting to crawl in bed and lay there. Sometimes I want to do so without even being tired. More often, I wish there was someone who would be willing to lay right beside me in complete silence, doing nothing and saying nothing. You see, anxiety is one of those beasts that causes a person to often feel alone; it’s important to have people with you, especially when you are going through a rough time. Anxiety is also that demon that makes you need a lot of rest and relaxation that you normally would not get unless you force yourself into a quiet corner and just sit there in silence to calm yourself. So who would lie with me if I was having a rough day? Would they help me with my anxiety?
  • “I don’t quite know how to say how I feel”—- THIS! This is my life, I swear. Or at least I can very assuredly say this is my emotional life. Not only is it a rollercoaster, but until I learned to journal to get things off of my chest, I would try to talk to other people before thinking through my feelings and what I really was trying to say. Even some days now when the anxiety gets bad, I struggle to think through my emotions and explain to someone else what is going through my head. What’s even worse is that some people will never understand anxiety and they react really badly to things you say when you are panicking. All of this makes you feel like you don’t know how to say what’s running through you’re head; while worrying and stressing, you’re also trying to make sure what you say makes sense and doesn’t confuse or upset the person you are talking to. Talk about a lot of difficulty with words!
  • “Those three words are said too much, they’re not enough”—- I can see how everyone would think this is supposed to reference ‘I love you’ but when I was listening to this song tonight, I just kept imagining people telling me different three word phrases. ‘I love you’ might be one of the phrases I saw because sometimes people say it without really knowing what love and commitment mean to a person with anxiety. The people I love are my backbone, they are what keeps me up when it seems like I’ll never stop falling down. I also thought of the phrase ‘Please help me’. This might seem confusing because a lot of people with anxiety actually need to say this MORE often, but I have also been in an educational setting over the past few years where more and more kids are begging for help with anxiety (testing anxiety, general anxiety, anxiety about socializing with friends). Lately it has been clouding the view of anxiety to people who have never dealt with it as a chronic problem. Now people walk around hearing about anxiety from the people who only use it as an excuse to get accommodations or as a way to explain away a problem that their child might be having. While I know I’m generalizing a lot here, I have been told by coworkers often that students with anxiety just need to toughen up and get over it. I for one know that is not always possible or the case. So the more people that start pleading for help when they don’t really need it, the more difficult it is for me to live my life with an actual chronic anxiety disorder. Finally, I heard the three words ‘Let me help’. Let’s face it, many people who try to become your friends think they can fix you or at least support you. Yet they’ve had very normal, every day encounters with anxiety that do not come close to equaling a truly horrific anxiety attack. I remember the first time my husband (then boyfriend) saw me completely freak out. He managed well compared to other people, but I’m pretty sure until that moment he had absolutely no idea what he was in for with me. I feel like that happens a lot with people. They are loving and kind enough to want to help, but they are unable to see inside your head, to understand the emotions you are trying to express, and are therefore unable to actually comprehend the help you really need.
  • “Forget what we’re told before we get too old”—- The Lord knows I need to do this! I have memories from my childhood of people telling me that I was just acting like a baby and that I’d never amount to anything if I didn’t branch out and become more like them. I still struggle almost daily to be completely comfortable in my own skin, in my own life. I am confident that I can be a good person, but I always have a voice in the back of my mind reminding me that I’m not like everyone else. It’s difficult and frustrating to deal with. All I can hope is that I’ll find a way to forget what other people have said about me before it’s too late for me to grow into the person I was truly meant to become.
  • “Show me a garden that’s bursting into life”—- I’m not really sure what the artist meant this to mean originally, but here’s what I take from it: Sometimes with anxiety, you just need to be surrounded by positivity. This may come in the form of happy music, lots of hugs, a funny TV show, or something else. Whatever it is that makes you happy in large and beautiful quantities is necessary to make your life better. One of my loves is flowers; it’s my favorite thing to photograph of all time, and it’s just one of the examples of a beautiful part of life that never really seems to encourage my anxiety to flare up. I mean, what could possibly be wrong with flowers right?
  • The last bit of this song does make me think of a love story actually. I actually think of my husband when I think of these words. Though our relationship is still really young compared to many others, I see these things in our interactions. I’m not sure that I can explain this very well, but I’ll try. Sometimes there are just instances when my husband is looking at me with a big smile on my face and it seems like I am just making him so extremely happy. He loves to be around me, he loves to talk to me, and he loves me. When he appreciates who I am, it makes me feel like I’ve always been this person that he sees. So regardless of how other people have ever seen me, I feel like I have always had this amazing, beautiful, funny, and intelligent me inside just waiting for him to appreciate it. As the song ends, it states the truth about these moments: I don’t know where my husband found the ability to see me this way, to see me in such a positive light. I often feel confused about how anyone could see me like that really. I just hope that, now that I’ve found someone to show me my best self, things will never change for us.

So in the end, this is a really long post based off of one song that I totally misinterpreted according to the original writer I am sure. And even though I started out this post seeing complete relation to my anxiety issues, towards the end, I realized even my anxiety is closely related to my love life. Maybe this is why most songs always come back to love in the end.

In any case, it is way past time for me to go finish cooking dinner for my husband and I. He normally cooks, and I’m feeling so good that my energy this week is making me WANT to cook for us. Let’s just hope I don’t ruin any of the yummy food I have planned!

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Have you ever had one of those moments where you feel the need to do something but you just don’t know what to do? If so, welcome to my current situation.

I’ve been sitting around my house now for about the past three days straight. Being a teacher, I am most definitely not complaining! Christmas break is for sleeping, mental relaxation, and doing the things that we want to do (because let’s face it, we are too busy for ourselves when school starts again).

I have been so grateful to God for this amazing break so far; for once I am not sick over the holidays, I get to spend a ton of time with my husband who took off the entire break, and I got plenty of Christmas gifts to keep me busy.

Yet with everything going on with my family, my brain is now pushing me to do SOMETHING. My body is fine being a couch potato, but my brain won’t shut up. I’m having some serious nerves right now thinking about the fact that in a few short hours I need to get ready for my grandma’s viewing. In any case, watching TV, reading a book, or doing chores is no longer working with this overactive brain of mine. So I’m feeling like I want to do something more… maybe go shopping or exercise. Yet everything I can think of to do has a downside or something (ahem, rain) making it currently impossible.

So here I sit feeling the need to do something with my day but having little or no options that sound enticing enough to make my brain shut up.

Ever since I was a little kid, my best distraction has been work and learning. I’m thinking about grading some papers but I don’t have a computer available right now to do anything with. Maybe I’ll go try to snatch the laptop from my husband for a little while.

In the meantime, I’m super curious what activities help keep your brain relaxed and distracted. Let me know in the comments below! I’ll be sure to try them out.

Thanks everyone.

Goodbyes are the Hardest

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Goodbyes are the Hardest

There are three things in life Grandma taught me. Be strong, be stubborn, and above all else, do good. Before I could even remember, Grandma took care of me while my parents worked. She helped raise me for years. My favorite TV shows as a kid was The Price is Right because we would watch it together every single day. Even as I got older, Grandma’s house was a strong constant in my life. You’d find my family there every Sunday afternoon for at least an hour. I never really knew how strong Grandma was then, or how strong our family’s connection was. In fact, it wasn’t until 2007 that I saw her true strength for the first time. When Grandpa passed, Grandma, my cousin, and I ended up in a corner of the funeral home. Us younger girls were crying but Grandma came over and had us laughing in no time. She held our entire family together through the hardest part of her life.

As I grew older, I realized that Grandma showed strength all the time. How many women can say they cooked enough food to feed an army every Christmas? 20 pounds of potatoes, turkey, veggies, and all the fixings every year for as long as I can remember. Over the past few months, Grandma has also shared stories of her childhood with me. She hated some of the things she had to do as a girl. From outhouses to no heating, she weathered it all with her family. And though her favorite part of the Farm Show was the chickens, she always had to power through killing them and hauling other meats down from the attic with her own mom.

Grandma’s married name suited her well. Though she married into the name, the one thing every person in this family seems to have in common is how stubborn we all are. Grandpa was so stubborn that he used to drive Grandma crazy. It wasn’t until I married my own stubborn man that I realized just how stubborn Grandma herself had to be to survive almost 60 years by his side and enjoy it too.

Looking back, there were many times when “what Grandma said goes.” I realize now that she didn’t necessarily console use kids. Instead she always stuck to her beliefs and told us things we may not have always wanted to hear. Yet through her steadfast love, she helped teach me how to be a better person. Because whether her advice seemed great at the time, I can now say that Grandma never steered me wrong. She’d tell me to stop complaining all the time. Looking back, I realize it’s not because she thought life was easy or because she didn’t care. Instead, Grandma was telling me that she wanted me to be strong and that no matter what, every one of us had the strength to get through the day and be amazing people.

More than anything, Grandma shared love and kindness everywhere she went. The proof is in my family. How many women can say that their son would drop anything to help out someone else? And I just started to realize too that she passed the same onto her grandkids. One is the kindest, most selfless person I’ve ever met. Two of us are teachers as well. Grandma taught us all to be good.

When she moved out of her last house, she gave each of us a gift. Mine was a set of ceramic girls. On the front, each had part of a prayer written on her apron. I’ve wondered for years now if Grandma somehow knew how important prayer would become in my life. Even if she didn’t I know part of this family’s strong connection to the church came from her. She attended the same church for over 84 years, and though she didn’t often have anyone to go along with her, she stayed one of the most consistent members at Sunday services. Not only did her amazing voice encourage everyone around her to sing hymns louder and more confidently, but she made a huge difference with the Ladies’ Aid each year as well.

Grandma may have been a sister to many, a farmer’s wife, a tough woman, and an amazing cook, but at the end of the day my family is so amazing because she taught all four of us three important things: to be strong, to be stubborn, and through it all, to do good in any way we can. So in honor of her, we each need to try to laugh because we know she would hate for us to cry. And we need to carry on her legacy by being all she raised us to be.

Grandma, I will always carry you with me, but I’m happy that you’re home now. I’ll be looking for two cardinals in my life now because I know that you and Grandpa are back together, driving each other crazy in the best possible way.

Advent or Adventure?

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I know I keep talking about me in all of my posts. There hasn’t been much mention of teaching or anything else lately. To those who follow me for those reasons, I apologize for not providing. However, today I want to look a bit more closely at this Advent season and what it is meaning to me. 

Yesterday, I realized just how low my life feels at moments lately. I know I’ve written about this often, but on Friday it all came to a head and I truly realized how saddening and frustrating my life can feel right now. In my opinion, it’s for good reasons. Though I want to be happy, I just have so many negative things on my mind. I wish I were one of those positive, always happy-go-lucky people that you see out there; unfortunately, my anxiety makes that a super difficult pursuit. I still try but I find myself wondering right now, is there more meaning to this than what I’m seeing and feeling right now? Is there a deeper reason for all of this negative and horrifying news? 

I even posted to my Facebook page at one point that I find myself wondering if just simply knowing more people means that I am going to encounter more negativity. Surely that would make sense right? If I only know, say 5 people, the chances that bad things happen to those 5 people will probably be much smaller than the chances of something happening to people I know if I knew, maybe 20 people. Plus, being a teacher means I know just 120 kids from this school year. Let’s not count my kids from previous years, my coworkers, my family, or my otherwise known friends. It’s actually kind of scary to think about how many people I know. My anxiety does not do well with the thought that I am a bit of a social butterfly now that I have grown up; I’d much rather still sit at home in my pajamas reading books and playing games with my sister. But I digress…

On Friday it came to my attention that knowing more people is probably the reason why so many more negative things are happening right now. I also know that my grandmother’s illness makes any negative thing seem 100 times worse. (Anyone with anxiety can tell you that you become overly dramatic in stressful and tense times in your life. Sitting here, I’m even aware of it, but that doesn’t mean I have the full power to stop that dramatization.) 

So I thought about my list, the list of “bad” things. Without going into detail, here are just some:

  • My grandma is dying of cancer
  • My husband’s grandma is sick
  • My husband’s aunt is sick
  • My coworker just had some kind of procedure done. While I heard it wasn’t a big deal, it hit me kind of hard that something was wrong and I had no idea.
  • One of my students lost their home on Thursday to a house fire. Officials said it easily could have started with her in the house. Thank God everyone is okay, but they’ve lost everything.
  • Three families that I know of have recently lost young children, less than a year old. 
  • I have watched friends mourn for loved ones lost in the past month more times than I can count.

It’s just now that I’m starting to put this picture together, to see the whole story. The illnesses happening in our families right now are unfortunate, but God has given my grandmother such a full life. At least she is not scared of dying, worried about missing out on adventures and things she could or should be doing yet with her life. My husband’s grandma is doing okay for now, and we aren’t even sure that it’s a terminal issue. My coworker emailed me yesterday to let me know that all was well with them. While my student lost her home, no one was injured. She was even strong enough to show up to school the next day to carry on as best as she could. While the families that I know of who have lost children and homes recently may not be close friends, I also know that I have been able to help them through my fundraising efforts. And I know it takes a community to raise the funds that will truly help them, but I am happy that I can at least advertise these events to our student body and get the word out about these families needing help. These actions I take in my own little way will hopefully make their lives better somehow. 

So maybe instead of sitting around being all gloom and doom during this Advent season, I should turn these things into an adventure instead. Instead of hanging on to every Christmas opportunity to try and cheer myself up with twinkling lights and extra cheerful songs, maybe I should really be embracing these negative items and these struggles. Organizing fundraisers and talking to those who have lost doesn’t make me feel like some kind of hero, but it gives me this boost of positive feeling like nothing else does recently. In my time of desperation and worry, helping others makes me feel like things will be okay. It reminds me that at some point, there is light at the end of the tunnel. While I’m not saying this will be the best Advent season ever, this is a great time of change and promise for the Church. Hopefully this is God’s way of bringing my life great change and promise for the future as well. 

I am going to do my best over the next few days to keep my head up. I feel like it’s important that I work harder and stay even more motivated to help others. I have another fundraiser to organize for this week, and even if we don’t raise a ton of money, I need to remember that there are other ways that I can help out as well. Through my actions I am beginning to learn that helping others, donating even a few dollars, and organizing groups of people to do good makes me feel good, makes my life seem good. I hope that this is the path God is asking me to take right now, I hope that I serve all of these families well, and I hope I can find other ways to do even more good in the future. 

For now, this is just an experiment; just a way for me to find some happiness and test the waters of being a truly selfless and giving person. I guarantee I won’t be perfect at it, but I hope that I can find a way to stay positive and incorporate these actions into my life all the time. I hope those around me can see how much I’m struggling and yet how I am still trying to be helpful. As I’ve always said about teaching, if I can affect even one student in the end in some positive way, I have done my job. Maybe now this is the job God has for me. 

If anyone else has gone through similar times or has any advice for me, please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you. 

~B

Stress Headaches and Holidays

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I know that I have not written on here for a while. To anyone who tries to follow me, I apologize. My life has taken many roller coaster style turns recently, and I’m lucky that I’m keeping up. Right now I’m sitting in my kitchen trying my hardest not to think of all the things that I need to get done tonight. And you know what I really want to do? Nothing. I want to do nothing. In reality though, my list looks something like this:

  • Check the mail
  • Feed the dogs
  • Clean the dishes
  • Collect the trash
  • Put out the trash and recycling
  • Make something for dinner or pray my husband wants to cook instead

So I guess the list isn’t too horrible. I’d be done in an hour or so if I tried really hard to just get it all done. But in the life of a teacher, I’ve already done these things today and don’t feel like doing more.

  • Taught 6 classes
  • Graded 60 or so papers
  • Updated all student grades
  • Checked Khan Academy for missing assignments that students turned in late
  • Wrote a list of all ineligible students and not only their current grade in my class but WHY they are failing
  • Covered a class for a coworker, though they just got a study hall so that wasn’t so bad
  • Skipped lunch because I was too busy trying to get the grading done by the end of the day for the ineligibility list (Note: I did manage to snag a piece of carrot cake from the faculty room in about 5 minutes, thanks to my desperation for food and my need to eat something; not the healthiest meal I’ve ever had.)
  • Planned an impromptu review game because suddenly my class wants to play review games instead of going over examples and notes via group discussion
  • Use part of my only free period of the day to help tutor kids who aren’t even in my class (and yes, I still think Precalculus is gross). 
  • More and more and more and more… 

I’m sure my list could go on forever with how many times I ran to the office to pick up paperwork, how many of my kids lost papers today, etc. but that’s not the point here. The point is, in the grand scheme of things, this job can be one of the most exhausting and demanding jobs that I’ve ever had. It can also be the most rewarding, but I know that come December I NEVER want to come straight home and get right back to work with household chores.

Another thing that has been driving me crazy lately is the impossibility of working out! One of the ways that I deal with my anxiety and stress is to exercise, release all those endorphins and things. This has not happened in the past month or so. Not only am I being totally unhealthy (again), but I’m also stuck in a rut where I can’t actually exercise if I want to. I was sick for 2 weeks in a row, and now the cold is either still lingering in my sinuses or I am having major stress headaches. For the past 5 days or so, I have had headaches. To some extent, I’m not surprised, but on another hand it truly pisses me off that having a headache and exercising would just make me feel worse instead of better.

I’m not really sure the reason for all of my stress. I guess I can easily say it’s because my grandma has gotten worse and worse over the past few months. What I cannot determine is why that is suddenly stressing me out so much more now than it has in the past. I guess it’s just really frustrating when people are trying to tell you to prep for a funeral and yet the person in question is still sitting there, living and breathing, even if she can’t remember who you are because she’s so drugged with pain pills. 

I have also recently noticed my insane inability to cry. So many sad and stressful things are happening to me right now; it used to be that I would cry to relieve some of that stress and anxiety. Lately, I have not been able to shed a tear. What makes it worse is I have no idea why I cannot seem to cry. Though I know crying is not a solution to an anxiety-related problem of any kind, I do think not being able to shed a tear is extremely strange and concerning for me. To anyone who knows me, I could be considered a human fountain. I cry often when in stressful, sad, or maddening situations. I’m even one to cry when something makes me truly, overly happy! 

Combining my not crying, my stress headaches, my lack of exercise, and my high-demand job, I am surprised I have not fallen apart yet. I would like a few months to just sit around in my pajamas and watch endless amounts of TV for no apparent reason. Yet I know that won’t be a reality anytime soon, nor will I actually want to waste that much of my life just watching tunes. Still, I’m sitting here coming up with no feasible means of relieving my stress and lessening my anxiety. I have a feeling just that fact alone is making me feel worse. 

I guess I’ll end here since my mind is spinning in circles and I don’t have much else to say. I think I’ll just do what I always try to do and run through a list of anxiety aides that normally help me overcome these issues. Maybe, even if none of them are seeming to help me right now, they can help one of you. 

  • Journal your thoughts, no matter what they are or how horrible they might sound. Even if you sound crazy, the relief after putting thoughts on paper is exhilarating.
  • Exercise- Releasing endorphins really does make you feel better. (I do not suggest this if you have a headache already; I’ve tried, it does not help much.)
  • Read a book- Again, not a good idea with a headache
  • Play a game that will distract you from your reality for a while or find someone else who can simply make you laugh over a joke or something fun
  • Talk to someone- Super good idea if you have the ability to go and see a therapist, but if not confide in someone who you can fully trust to keep your confusion and upset feelings to themselves; no reason to go telling everyone you have anxiety problems. 
  • Cuddle your animals- Except for the fact that my dog just came inside and is muddy almost from head to foot. Looks like I need to add bathing her to the list of things that need done tonight.
  • Watch TV- Mind numbing TV often helps, as long as you don’t watch a show that has someone dying in it while you are concerned about your grandma dying. I’m sure this same idea applies to being anxious about a job and watching a character have the same job as you, etc.
  • Take a nap- This is my go-to when all else fails, but then I realize I won’t sleep well that night if I nap too long. I also know my reality is that the dogs won’t let me sleep or I’ll be so worried about the things I need to do that I can’t get my mind to stop running.
  • Throw yourself into work- This is the best immediate fix that I have found.  By finding something to work on that involves your mind (and your physical being as well) you can check things off your to-do list (which releases stress about the length of your list) and have a good distraction from your own thoughts (which will relieve your anxiety in general). Please note: I have found the downfall of this idea to be that I overwork myself, get too exhausted, and end up having an anxiety episode that I like to call the anxious exhaustion. This occurs when your body and mind are both exhausted but while your body just wants to lay around and rest/sleep, your mind is so tired that it acts like it’s malfunctioning. At times, instead of feeling better or just simply tired, anxious exhaustion makes even the simplest things feel like the end of the world. I’d use this one with caution! 

The Gaps

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I thought that I’d been hurt before, but no one’s ever left me quite this sore…

I’m sitting here listening to Stitches by Shawn Mendes (thanks for the lyric quote above). This song is clearly about love between two people, but it’s describing my feelings right now pretty well. I’m tripping over myself. No joke, this is feeling so true right now.

But I guess the question is why; why do I feel like I’m about to lose my mind, like everything going on right now is just too much? My mom told me today that I just have a lot on my plate, as if that explains why things seem so much worse to me right now than they could. I do not entirely believe her. I have about the same amount on my plate as usual, plus the amount that has been added onto each and every one of my family members right now. I feel like the answer to why is the gaps.

You see, I’ve noticed over the past few days that there are so many gaps in my life that just don’t seem to be fulfilled; there are so many spaces in conversation, in work, in play… they seem like big chasms of question, things I’ll never figure out the answers to.

Let’s start here: My family life. As you hopefully all know by now, my grandma is sick. What most people don’t know is that over the past week, she has gotten significantly worse. I don’t feel like going into details, especially since I feel like this is all I write about anymore. Instead, let me just say that there are spaces here… spaces of time when I would normally be visiting Grandma that are now filled with emptiness and worry. You see, her state has changed so drastically that neither myself nor my parents feel it is in my best interest or even my grandmother’s for me to visit her right now. Let’s not even get started on the fact that half the time I wouldn’t know whether to visit her at home or in the hospital…

Next: My job. I’ve come to realize this week that one of my students has been slipping through grades left and right ever since they were in elementary school. I’ve wondered for months now why their math skills are so low… come to find out, they slipped through those grades like an eel looking for a space to hide out for a while. Only this kid hid out for a really, really long while. Now that they are attending school on a semi-regular basis, it’s apparent that they have a lot of gaps in their learning. The poor child doesn’t know how to line up multi-digit numbers for subtraction and multiplication, let alone the fact that I’m trying to teach them how to introduce letters into their math! Let’s just say that I am horrified by the fact that this kid has slipped through so many fingers. And now, me standing here like a hypocrite, can only say that they are also about ready to slip through mine. You see, I’ve never taught elementary or middle school math. I don’t have the resources, and I honestly am not sure I know how to teach that type of math. I know it sounds stupid coming from a math teacher who has taught everything from Prealgebra to Calc II, but I honestly don’t know how to teach kids to multiply or divide the basics. Some math facts I was just taught to memorize, so I did. It’s never been an issue in my life. I fear that the school doesn’t have the resources, and neither do I for that matter. What will happen to this kid a year or two from now? Then I remember, it’s not like I was the one who let things get this bad; but it still feels like my job to find a miraculous way to fix these holes.

At home this weekend, I’ve found that there are some times when I am really good at keeping it together and there are some times when I am just not. Take Friday for example. I got a call from Mom on the way to work telling me that grandma was going back to the hospital again. Things weren’t looking good, etc. etc. I barely cried. I felt like crying, but I truly couldn’t make myself shed a tear. I was on my way to work, I was focused on my day ahead, and I could not bring myself to cry had I wanted to. Then, fast forward to Saturday morning, when I felt so depressed about the state of stress and disorder in my life, that I’m not sure I climbed out of bed before noon. The vast difference in my demeanor when I’m at home versus when I’m in front of family, friends, or coworkers is extreme. Somehow there’s a disconnect between those interactions in my life and those I have at home, alone or with my husband. I wonder where the disconnect comes from. I also wonder if it’s a good thing or a bad one. I hate feeling like I’m leading two different lives right now, but being able to disconnect from my family life at work seems to help me de-stress a bit during the day. Then, once I get home, I’m all about family and not so much concerned about which kid is emailing me about homework or computer issues, etc.

I don’t know whether any of these things are good or bad. The only thing I do seem to know right now is that things will only be getting worse in the near future, or at least that’s how it seems at the moment. Whether they actually do or not, I’m going to keep pushing myself the same as I have been. It suddenly seems so important for me to fill in these gaps that I’ve started to overcompensate for things. Not so great at helping this kid at my job? Let’s go home and run 3 miles so at least I’ll lose some weight. Not so great at being able to face my emotional fears and see my grandma? I’ll just overcompensate by having every single paper graded every single day before I leave my classroom.

So while I seem put together to many outsiders in my life right now, I am a complete catastrophe waiting to happen. I feel there’s only so long that I can continue to juggle all of these tasks and issues before my arms start to get weak and those balls fall to the ground. Yet I’m going to keep trying because I’m not sure what else I could do at this point. There is no such thing as mental health days off of work, and I’m not sure taking one would make me feel better even if they did exist. I’m also not sure that throwing myself at my work distracts me enough from my family situation, but it’s the best attempt I’ve got going right now.

So for anyone reading this who knows me personally, works with me, etc. Just know that I’m not okay, that things are quite a mess, but that I’m going to keep struggling through. I might be less talkative (since when do I avoid the break room at work, right?), I might seem grouchier or less willing to share the happiness and love, and I might seem like I have two different personalities depending on when you run into me. But trust me when I say this, I’m going to make sure my family pulls through this. I’m going to make sure that I, somehow, someway, pull through this. I’m going to keep praying to God more and more each day, and I’m going to do my best to keep on putting out my best for my kids, my family, and my overall well-being. It seems like a feat I’m clearly going to fail at reaching, but it’s one that I’m not willing to give up on. This is one time in my life when I insist on filling in all the gaps and making everything better. If I don’t try now, I’ll probably just fall apart.

Prayers are appreciated for Grandma, the student who is struggling so bad, and anyone else I know that is going through a painful time. I know I talk on here a lot about my personal issues, but don’t think I can’t see your problems too! And not only do I see them, but please know that I still care. Through it all, my gaps feel less important and more manageable than your’s do. I know how much you are sacrificing right now to take care of our family. You’re the strongest people I know.

 

~B

My Shoes

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I haven’t had the chance to update my friends and family lately about what’s been going on with my life. This is mainly because school is back in session full force. It could also have something to do with the amount of stress that I have been feeling lately; sometimes the last thing I want to do is focus on my own personal life (and problems) by discussing them with people who either try to understand or are going through similar.

I have been wanting to write ever since yesterday morning, when I almost didn’t crawl out of bed. I wanted so bad to call into work. Though I’m not sure what I would have told them, my excuse probably didn’t fall under sick. It was more like I needed a mental health day after having a torturous dream that left me feeling pretty horrible.

I don’t really remember all of the exact details of the dream itself; all I remember was that I woke up scared to death, worried about moving or starting the day. Why? Because in my dream, my family and I were dealing with the death of my grandma. Even though it was just a dream, the “day” didn’t go too well.

Needless to say, maybe grandma being sick is bugging me more than I am letting on. Some days I feel like I should go and see her no matter what else happens, but some days I wonder if I can bring myself to sit there with her, in her home, while she’s getting sick and I’m just trying not to act any different than normal. (People with anxiety often get really quiet or strange in tense situations; unfortunately, visiting grandma has been one of those situations lately.)

In any case, my week has not started off in the best way. In fact, it pretty much sucked to wake up like that on a Monday morning before heading off to a drama-filled, intense day at work. Some days, especially yesterday, I wish my kids could see, could at least try to understand what I’m going through outside of work. They mostly see teachers as these beings who don’t do anything outside of work. You remember being a kid right? When you ran into a teacher in the grocery store or at Walmart, it was weird; why would your teacher need to ever leave the school, right? I remember those days. I wish I could tell my kids, tell their parents exactly what I am going through. I wish I could give them some insight into my personal life, explain to them why I may not be performing at my best right now. Because I am a wife, with two dogs to look after, and a family that I am concerned about 24/7 these days. This is what happens when someone in your family is so horribly ill. Mom has been spending all of her energy keeping her emotions in check and watching over grandma multiple days a week. Dad is so upset and stressed by grandma’s sickness that I don’t even want to see what kind of state he’s in half the time. My sister and I are to the point that we are just trying to keep it together. There are honestly days when my husband doesn’t know how to deal with my emotions… mostly because neither do I.

So as a human, I wish these kids could understand: I care about each and every one of my kids, but in the grand scheme of my life right now, I cannot give them my usual 110%. I wish I could. It kills my heart not to be able to. Yet it upsets me that, even though they may not know what is going on in my life, they can’t take the second or two to realize that maybe there is a good reason why I am not as caught up on my grades as I normally am. Maybe there is a reason why I have stopped sending my work emails to my phone on weekends. Just maybe, there’s a reason why I cannot handle their own personal issues as if they are my own kid. Maybe it’s because I currently cannot handle my own personal issues.

I get it, I do. I want what is best for each of my kids. I want them to know that I am there for them no matter what. I also want them to learn some responsibility and how important it is for them to help themselves. With this said, I just wish I would have been able to explain that yesterday as a kid approached me about grades. But this entire conversation, telling them anything about my personal life right now… it just felt too personal, too unrelated to what was going on with them at the time.

You know, I worked my butt off last night to get grades updated. I probably should have been doing so many other things. Which is why the phone call I got this afternoon as I was packing up my things at work blew me away. Over the weekend, my grandma was taken to the hospital for dehydration, dizziness, etc. She was sent home within a few hours. What I hadn’t realized at the time was how extra sick she had gotten over the past few days.

I won’t go into details about her personal issues right now; I doubt she’d appreciate me sitting here telling the world about her problems. Just trust me when I say she was not doing well. Is not doing well. She told my mom today that she didn’t want her grandkids to see her in her current state. After dad saw her this weekend, he agreed that my emotional state was probably not a good mixture with grandma’s current problems.

I’ve basically been told that it’s best if I don’t see my grandma for at least a couple of days. The doctors and my family are hopeful that the medication she is taking is the reason why she has gotten so much worse. They are hopeful that her sickness should improve at least a bit in the next few days. If so, I should be able to go back and see her.

Yet all I keep thinking tonight is, what happens if they’re wrong? What happens if grandma is just getting worse because she is so burdened with cancer that it’s just going to get worse? What if there is nothing that a doctor or a family member can do, no matter how much we try, how much we care, how much we love her? What if there’s nothing left for us to do?

So I started listening to Christian music on my way home, praying in my head throughout the whole trip. When I got home, I took the dogs on a 3 mile jog to release the tension building up in my mind. After that, I was able to get distracted by some new game my husband showed me in his attempt to make me feel better. (Thank God for him, I think the game helped at least a bit to get me out of my funk.) I haven’t cried, I haven’t fallen apart. Not yet.

Even though today I heard about my mom’s horrific day, how she was almost crying as she talked to me over the phone… even though I found out that even my uncles are having a hard time dealing with seeing grandma so sick… even after I found out that grandma doesn’t really want to see me (even if she’s trying to protect me)… I still haven’t really cried.

I worry it will hit me at one point, hopefully not while I’m at work. I pray that grandma heals and gets better, at least enough that I can go visit again. I pray that the last time I saw her won’t be the honest-to-God last time I ever see her alive.

This, unfortunately, is my current reality. I know people have it worse; my grandma sure has it worse right now. I bet Mom and Dad have it worse right now; she’s their mom for one, and they are the caretakers who see the illness and are exhausted by it first-hand every day. I know there are people who are homeless, who are hungry and ill. I know I am not in the worst situation possible. I, for that reason, am still trying to be grateful. But it’s so hard right now to be grateful for something that still seems so unbearable.

So I guess my message for the day is this: while people going through a rough time often find it hard to complain or discuss their issues, we all have to remember that anyone around us could have it worse off than we could. I need to remember this too, even when it comes to my students.

More than anything, I wish you could take a walk in my shoes. If we could switch for just an hour or two, so that someone without anxiety could see how heavily these types of family-situations can feel so extra horrific, maybe they would better understand why I am so emotional, why I am not my best at work, why I am still trying my hardest but seem to be failing miserably.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

~B