October 24, 2016
Last week was weird. I don’t know how else to describe it (although, I’ll try!), and repeatedly, when people asked how things were going, that was the best word I could come up with. But, looking back over things at the end of it, I could see some themes, new realizations and opportunities for growth. So, I thought today I’d share three lessons I learned last week.
- Letting go of control/accepting help
OK, so this seems pretty obvious, right? I’ve come a long way from my days when, as a server, I refused to let others run my trays (There is actually a very good rationale for this, but seriously, people were afraid to run food for me). And, over the last couple months more than ever, I’ve been brought-to-my-knees humbled by the help I’ve been pretty much forced to accept. But, it’s still really, really difficult for me to ask for or accept help. So, it was a pretty big deal for me to step back and let my friends pretty much put together a celebration of life for Matthew last Friday. I scheduled it, reserved the venue and created a playlist. For everything else, I told people the vision I had for it and entrusted them with it. And, it turned out awesome.
What was probably an even bigger deal was how I let a friend help me earlier that day. I sat at my computer, chatted with her and attempted to work as she fed my daughter lunch, washed my dishes, folded my laundry . I even bit my tongue when she said something about how she hoped I didn’t mind the way she folded the laundry. This is huge for me because I’m pretty specific about how I fold clothes and put dishes away. Like, to the point where I’ll refold things, or when I’ve had a dishwasher would re-organize the dishes if someone else did it “wrong” (This might be part of the reason Matthew left it to me to do pretty much all the cleaning, although I think he also just wasn’t very keen on housework). But, on Friday I let my friend do all of it, and I only refolded one or two things when I put them away later.
2. Give grace. Always.
I got a letter last week from the police department that handled the report pertaining to Matthew’s death. The letter said I needed to contact the towing company that has the totaled car that had been in my name. When I called the company they told me I would need to sign the title over and pay a towing fee, but that they wouldn’t charge me for storing the vehicle. I’ve managed to deal better than I ever would have imagined with making all kinds of calls and arrangements over the past couple months, but I was so caught off guard by this, I lost my grace for a moment. I dropped the f-bomb with my daughter in the backseat, as I muttered half to myself and half to the guy on the phone that he had to be kidding. And, a day or two later I was losing my mind trying to find to find the title to said car.
It wasn’t until Friday, while exchanging emails with my insurance provider that I remembered – I signed the stupid title over to the insurance company. And, that means that they now bear responsibility for the car. I’m still having to deal with some things to sort through that situation, but in retrospect I recognize that it’s not such a big concern to me. And, while I’m not totally hippie dippy, and I do still know it’s totally fine and normal to be angry sometimes, I’ve learned and continue learning how and when to let things go. Because when you give grace, you tend to get it in return.
3. Setting boundaries/saying no
Not only is it difficult to dole out grace to others, it can be challenging to give to oneself. I deal with this nearly every single day, when I look at my to-do lists and see all the things I didn’t accomplish. It’s something I’m constantly working on, reminding myself of the things I did get done. But, it’s still a struggle. This was especially challenging last week, as I dealt with what I think is the most difficult situation I have ever faced with a close friend. I put a lot of things on hold, and I would again in a heartbeat. In fact, while it was hard seeing how little I got done over a two- or three-day span last week, the more difficult thing was giving myself the grace to step back from my friend to focus on myself and what I needed to get done. I was starting to feel the situation affecting me physically, and being at a place where I trusted it was OK to do so, I simply explained that to my friend. And, my friend accepted that, and I felt better, and I was able to be a better friend in the long run because of it.
October 17, 2016
I’m a bit of a music geek (that might be an understatement). I not only appreciate virtually all different styles of music from a variety of eras – according to my friend, Sarah, the true definition of a music fan – I love to learn facts about music and the artists who create it. Did you know that Pearl Jam early on named themselves after former NBA player Mookie Blaylock? Or, that 12 years before Prince made it famous with a movie and song, the phrase “purple rain” was used in America’s “Ventura Highway”? What about the fact that the band Finger Eleven, in their song “Paralyzer,” referenced their previous hit “One Thing”? (I could go on all day, but I’ll stop there).
I especially love clever wording and nods, like the last one I mentioned, so I get excited when I hear things I haven’t noticed before. Such was the case with one of my favorite songs by The National, “Don’t Swallow the Cap.” In some cases, I’ll suddenly hear a line clearly, but in this particular instance, I’m pretty sure I had looked up the lyrics. I previously thought the line after which this blog is titled was, “If you want to see me cry, say, ‘Let it be,’ or ‘Nevermind.'” So, when it blew my mind a bit when I realized that it was actually a direct reference to albums by The Beatles and Nirvana (It seems so obvious, now).
Speaking of Nirvana, it might surprise people that for as big of a music fan as I am, I don’t really like their music or listen to them very much. This wasn’t always the case. I liked growing up and into my 20s. But, over time I’ve listened less and less to “downer” music. Don’t get me wrong – I still love some dark, angry and morose music. A Perfect Circle and Silversun Pickups fall into this category, and they’re two of my favorite bands. But, I don’t (or can’t) listen to them all the time.
I also don’t like the idea of putting a person, or their work, on a pedestal because they died young, and I think that happens a lot with Nirvana. I don’t buy the whole “voice of grunge” bit. Yes, they were influential, musically speaking, and yes that period marked a shift in American music and culture. But they were not the first, the last or the only ones who shaped that voice or that era.
It was kind of a gradual shift arriving at these conclusions and listening to Nirvana less, but there was a definitive moment when I came to the realization that I don’t really care to listen to them.
I went to an NXT wrestling show in Northern Kentucky with Matthew that night. We met up and drove separately because he had to work that day, and I wasn’t ready yet to let anyone else put Violet to bed, so I was willing to miss the main event to get home to her. We had shared a couple beers, and I was in a somewhat elevated mood driving home and listening to the radio. When the song “In Bloom” came on, I thought, “I’ll go ahead and let it play. I don’t listen to Nirvana much anymore.” (For those of you who don’t recognize songs by titles, “In Bloom” is the one with the chorus, “He’s the one who likes all our pretty songs, and he likes to sing along, and he likes to shoot his gun, but he knows not what it means…”).
As I listened, this realization set in that I was listening to a dead man. I don’t mean to say that I have a problem listening to the recorded voice of someone who has passed away. I mean, this man I heard singing on the radio was already dead. I heard in this voice someone who had given up on himself, someone who was hopeless. And, it horrified me and made me so sad that I changed the station.
I’m not saying I intend to boycott them or protest if a Nirvana song is playing wherever I am. And, I’m not saying I won’t ever listen to any of their music again. But, I’m also not going to glorify or seek out the sound of that hopelessness.
October 10, 2016
When I was challenged to write about my faith journey, I initially was excited. How often do we have an excuse to share our stories and experiences that have shaped us and to glorify God through their telling? But, the excitement was quickly followed by the thought, “Shit. Sharing my faith journey means sharing some really personal things, admitting to the brokenness and darkness in my life. How much do I have to share?” I’ve thought about it a lot over the past week. It did occur to me that I could write about something else this week, but I didn’t want to put it off. So, where to start…?
I was brought up in a Presbyterian church where my grandparents were just shy of being founding members. It started out of the house where the original pastor lived and grew from there. My grandfather taught Sunday school there, and many of my early memories of hearing about God were through his lessons. He was very straightforward (sometimes embarrassingly so), and from him, I learned a lot of the Biblical facts and stories that stay with me to this day. For me, though, I don’t think the Presbyterian denomination – or any denomination for that matter – truly taught me how to live a life in relationship with God.
I was baptized when I was 10 or 11. One thing I’m grateful to my mother for is that she left that decision up to my sister and me to make, when we were ready, and she didn’t pressure us on it. However, while I was always mature for my age, and at that point was beginning to understand the concept of a relationship with God and with Christ, I don’t think I really got it. Looking back, I would say that was around the beginning of my attempt to be “perfect.”
I had always been considered academically gifted, and I was well-liked by my teachers and, although I was kind of weird and shy, I had a decent amount of friends. But, I guess there was something in me – the weirdness, shyness, awkwardness – that told me I wasn’t good enough. So, I started making this concerted effort to get straight As, to be super involved in extracurricular activities and get really involved in church. I even taught Sunday school to the pre-school kids at the church my grandfather where my grandfather was teaching when I was between 12 and 14.
But, I got burned out. I got tired of trying so hard. And, some experiences in my early teens distorted my view of myself. Instead of feeling like a treasured child of God, I felt let down, rejected and not good enough in the eyes of boys my age as well as my biological father. I became angry and, taking a cue from some family members who I looked up to, I began questioning God. I claimed to be unsure of whether or not God was real, identifying as agnostic or even pagan (which to me meant kind of “cafeteria religion,” picking and choosing what I believed).
During all this, I continued to attend church (I was expected to until I was 18, then could choose whether or not to keep going), and I remained in the church choir until some conflict arose that led the choir director, who many of us adored, to leave. I’m not sure when it was exactly that I came back around in my faith. What I do know is that while I had looked forward to not having to go to church, I continued going once I turned 18. I started working in the church nursery, and I went on mission trips to Belize and Mexico within a few months of each other.
Although I was starting to finally learn what a relationship with God looked like, I was still what I think can best be described as a wayward child through my early 20s. I began going out to bars and clubs, which to this day I see nothing inherently wrong with. But, I was still looking for approval, attention, affection. I was still looking for attention and love from people – particularly guys (I specifically don’t use the term “men” here because I don’t believe age determines emotional or spiritual maturity). Alcohol helped me be less shy…and it helped me make a lot of poor, self-destructive decisions.
I think the hardest thing for me to reconcile from that period of my life is the fact that I was professing to be a Christian. And indeed, I believed in God, and I accepted his forgiveness through Christ. But, in using people and allowing myself to be used during that time, I led others astray. Thankfully, God thought I was worth rescuing.
By the time I met Matthew, I was mostly ready for the change God had in store for me. I had already begun trying to lean into it, finding joy and fulfillment within myself and my relationship with God. I was starting to learn to drink more responsibly, and I had cut way back on harmful habits, like smoking cigarettes. But, finally meeting a man who shared my foundation of faith, who accepted me, flaws and all – it was like a hand reaching out and pulling me that last little bit out of the water or the quicksand. And, he introduced me to the non-denominational church where I now feel a sense of home and where I’ve forged some amazing and lasting friendships.
I’ve found that, especially if I seek God, I see and hear Him often through other people, music and things I read. But, there have been a handful of times when I have seen or heard God show up in very clear and specific ways.
Many of these instances have been financial. God has always provided for me and often just when I needed it. Not long after I started renting a townhome with my sister at 18, the pizza shop I was working in as a waitress closed. Having my own bills to pay for the first time in my life, I prayed on my last day working there, something like, “I know this is silly, and I’m not asking you to prove yourself, but I really need to break $100 today.” I worked all day, and I busted my butt, and I made something like $101. Sure, I worked for it, but having worked there two years at that point, I had never hit the $100 mark in a shift.
Another time, I had paid for a stranger’s groceries when her card got declined in front of me at the store. She took my contact information, and while I always feel that giving should be done without expecting something in return, I’ll admit I was open to getting the money back . And, I did. Right when I was needing money, I got a card with a check in it, reimbursing me.
And just recently, so many people rallied around me to help me out financially to cover the unexpected expenses of a funeral and making sure my and my daughter’s needs were covered until I could get back on my feet. The most unexpected of these contributions came from what I believe is a ministry called Friends of Jesus (there are at least a couple that go by the name). It arrived – literally within minutes of thinking about how I needed to pull together some more money to secure my living situation – in the form of a check for a significant amount of money and a letter (with no return address) that moved me to tears.
The first of these anecdotes was enough for me. But God keeps showing up and in every area of my life.
Shortly before Matthew and I got engaged, a doctor told me I needed to have a minor surgery. It wasn’t too big of a deal, but I was told multiple surgeries could affect my ability to have a full-term pregnancy. So, when I was told a little more than a year later that I would need to have a second surgery, I was scared and devastated. The surgery was scheduled for the day after Matthew and I returned from a mission trip to New Orleans. I already was stressed because I had a very strong sense that I might be let go from my job (I was right), but during the trip, I found a peace in trusting God with that. We got back to our home church on a Sunday morning and went to the service. It was about demons, spiritual attack and healing. At the end of the service, they had people standing around the church to pray for healing in people’s lives. I was dressed in pajamas, having just gotten off a 16-hour bus ride, and I had crazy blue hair done up in a braided crown. And, I walked up to the front of the church and poured out my heart and desire for healing to this total stranger, who prayed with me and then approached me after the service and told me she would continue praying for me. And, the surgery went fine. And since then, everything has been fine. And, I have a beautiful, smart, hilarious little girl, who I carried to 38 weeks 1 day.
And now…here I am. I feel closer to God than ever, despite having just lost my husband a little more than a month ago. It still hurts, and I deal daily with an onslaught of varying emotions. But, in the midst of those are joy and love, carrying me through. I keep thinking of the book “The Shack,” where the main character is helping the Holy Spirit in this garden. To the main character, the garden looks a mess, but it turns out that garden is his heart, and when viewed differently, it’s a beautiful fractal pattern. I can feel God uprooting and planting, as He’s healing. I don’t know what the final result will be, but I know that He has a plan for me, and whatever that plan is, I trust that it’s beautiful and amazing and exactly what I need.
October 3, 2016
I love to write, and I love getting to tell people’s stories. But, in the midst of sharing other people’s stories, I don’t always take the time or the opportunity to share my own. But, I’ve been doing more personal writing again lately, and it feels good. I want to do more of it.
Sometimes I’m hesitant because I’m concerned about how my thoughts or anecdotes will be received. I fear that some people might not like what I have to say. I worry that it might affect how I’m viewed by potential employers. Other times, it’s like the line “…thought I’d something more to say” (from Pink Floyd’s “Time”). I feel like I have ideas to share, but then I realize there’s not really as much there as I thought. Or, I second guess myself and the worth of what I have to say.
During my recent times of loss, I’ve felt a need to assess my own life and figure out how that person impacted my life and how I can grow from it. Leading up to my grandfather’s death, I felt a nudge, a motivation to make things happen that I want, to always seek ways to grow on whatever path I’m on, but also not to continue on a path where I’m not growing. This was a big part of why I left an 11+ year job as a waitress, to build into my rest and family time, so I can better focus on my work as a writer. As far as Matthew, my writing was an area where he encouraged me. I didn’t always receive it as well as he may have intended it because sometimes his way of encouraging seemed like telling me what I should do and defining my voice for me. The truth is, he simply wanted me to be the best I could be at what I enjoy doing.
So, an idea came to me this past week, for a way to better keep up with my personal writing and challenge myself a little bit. A month or two ago, Matthew mentioned to me that he was curious if there was something my grandma missed most about my grandpa, or if there were certain times that were particularly difficult. He acknowledged that due to the personal nature of the question, it would have to come from me. I’d wanted to ask her, but I wasn’t ready to at the time. I finally did this past week, and I really enjoyed and appreciated hearing her answer.
As a professional writer, I’m constantly looking for story ideas. But, I don’t rely solely on my abilities to track down stories; I ask people, from public relations officials to educators to editors for suggestions. Why not do that with my personal writing, too?
While I generally feel that my writing is best when it’s an idea I came up with, or something I felt inspired to write, accepting and building on prompts can be a good way to remain active in my writing and develop as a writer. So, my challenge for you – friends, family and acquaintances who take the time to read what I write – is to challenge me. Give me a prompt. It could be anything from, “Why don’t you raise your daughter to believe in Santa Claus?” to “What’s been the most challenging thing about losing your spouse?”
Please, don’t be afraid to ask seemingly difficult questions. One thing I was aware of and explained to Matthew was that I felt like I was more afraid to bring up my grandpa than my grandma seemed to be. I didn’t want to cause her pain by reminding her of him, as though he’s not already often on her mind. Now, going through a similar experience – albeit in my own way – I find that I enjoy hearing about people’s memories of Matthew, and I enjoy being able to share my thoughts and memories, too.
Some things, I may not know the answers to. Others, I may not feel comfortable yet, or ever, answering. But, the worst I can do is choose not to write about a suggested topic. Some things I’m fairly knowledgeable about include music, education, vegan food, nutrition and childcare (although parenting is is still pretty new and something I’m learning about as I go along). However, I love to learn new things (this is one of the main things I love about being a journalist), so if a topic requires research, or even interviewing people (if they’ll agree to being interviewed for a personal blog), I’m willing to do that, too.
So, please comment on this blog. Send me a message on Facebook. If you have my phone number, text or call me. Ask me a question. Suggest a topic. Challenge me. Help me grow, so I can be better at what I love to do.
September 26, 2016
Up until three weeks ago, I was looking forward to my birthday. I had no qualms about turning another year older and entering a new decade; I was excited for it. Then, as most, if not all of you who might be reading this know, my life changed. I’ve pictured myself, my life, in different ways at different times. One image that keeps coming to mind is this idea of my life shattered on a rocky beach, me picking up the broken pieces. That was very much how I felt when my birthday finally arrived yesterday.
I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, or a “very draining person,” so while I can’t bring myself to lie about how I’m doing (I suck at hiding my emotions, anyway), I’m not going to constantly be talking about them and venting. But, when I woke up yesterday morning and remembered what day it was, I thought, “I don’t want to face this day.” Thankfully, I have a toddler, which meant not facing the day really wasn’t an option. So, I got up, and as I got moving, and as the day progressed, the feelings began to improve.
I can’t say it couldn’t have been a better day, but given my current set of circumstances, it was the best birthday I could have asked for. I got to spend the day with those who love me most. I had lunch with my mom’s family and dinner with a small group of friends and family. I received some very sweet, thoughtful cards and gifts, and in between I had many people near and far sending warm wishes for a joyful day. But, the three best gifts came from my late husband.
Many of you may not know that Matthew actually got me a couple gifts before he passed away. If you knew him, it may not surprise you that this was not usually the case. He (and we) were often late arriving places, and events like birthdays were not much of an exception to his procrastination (I, of course, never procrastinate or am late on my own.). But, when he found out in August that two bands I adore were going to be playing in Columbus, he made sure to get tickets. There’s a separate, very sweet story behind how he wound up getting the tickets; I won’t sidetrack to that, but if you ask me, I’d love to tell you about it.
The concert wound up falling the day after his funeral. At first, I couldn’t fathom going at that time, and without Matthew. But, when my in-laws suggested selling the tickets, I couldn’t stand the thought of getting rid of a gift from him. And, when I really thought about it, I felt that Matthew would want me to try to enjoy living life. So, I went with a close friend, and I’m so glad I did. I got to know my friend better and feel closer to her from the experience. I got to escape in the music, but also felt very connected and close to Matthew through it. And, after a week of receiving to a point where I felt I was overflowing, I got to give gratitude for others who were vulnerable enough to share their own experiences and emotions through music.
Matthew also was ahead of the curve in ordering a gift for me through Amazon. It arrived one day when he was at work, and as I often did, I sent him a text to let him know a shipment had arrived. However, unlike most times when something would arrive from Amazon, he didn’t go right for it to open it when he got home. That was my first clue that it was a birthday gift. The box sat there for a week before I reminded him of its presence. He said something like, “Oh yeah, thanks. I’ll check that out.” And still, it sat. A couple days later, he teasingly admitted it was something for me, saying that I would have to wait until my birthday to find out what it was. He joked about leaving it in that box, not repackaging it to look nicer. That wound up being one of Matthew’s posthumous “Haha, gotchas” to me.
I dutifully waited until my birthday, somewhat saddened and apprehensive, but also intrigued. Would it be something that seemed like the perfect gift at just the right time, similar to how I hear certain songs just when I need to, or how my sister got me my first nice ring for my 14th birthday, when I had wanted one, but hadn’t said anything to anyone about it? Would it be something to which my response would be, “Oh, that’s nice”? Or, would I be left scratching my head? The few friends who I mentioned it to all agreed that, knowing Matthew, any of those would be plausible. And, it turns out it was kind of a combination of all three. It was a cast iron skillet.
I hadn’t expressed a desire for a cast iron skillet, but Matthew had recently mentioned wanting to get one. I think one of the main ideas behind getting it was to use it for camping. When I think about it, it is a little heartbreaking to not know, to be left wondering because we often would have explanations for things that we got for each other, or they would be part of some other plans. Maybe he was going to plan a camping trip. I can’t dwell too much on the “What ifs,” or the “Whys” like that, I know. But, what I do know is that I love to cook. I haven’t done much of it in the past few weeks, and it’s a bit difficult for me to think of taking the time to prepare home cooked meals every night with only myself and my daughter to consider. But, I’m starting to see how I can and will again find joy in cooking, and I’m starting to look forward to preparing meals for family and friends.
The third gift wasn’t something tangible. It arrived not by way of Ticketmaster or Amazon, but via my daughter, as I put her to bed last night. After dinner, I took her home and quickly went through our usual bedtime routine. As I laid her in her crib and put her blanket over her, I told her, “Night night,” as is my custom. Usually, when I reach her bedroom door I say it again before leaving the room. Sometimes, she says it back, but a lot of times she doesn’t. Last night, though, she didn’t give me a chance to say my second, “Night night.” When I got to the door, she said/sang, “Hap-py bir-say.” It was my favorite, “Happy birthday” I got, and it was a reminder of the most lasting gift Matthew ever gave me – life. God and my parents gave my life to me, and God and Matthew gave to me a life that I hope will carry on beyond me.
September 20, 2016
A lot of people have been asking lately how I am – some of them admitting even as they ask that it’s a stupid question. The thing is, it’s not a stupid question because of the fact that it’s obvious how I am because it’s not. To tell the truth, I don’t know how I am right now, or how I will feel from one moment to the next.
Here’s what I can tell you. My heart broke at least three times today. I have pangs when I see, hear or say certain things that trigger thoughts and memories of my late husband.
I also spent much of the first half of the day fighting through anxiety. Aside from some times when I’ve experienced sensitivity to stimulants like caffeine or ephedrine, the only other time I’ve felt anything remotely like this was a few years ago, when I was dealing with some extreme job stress. If you’ve never dealt with anxiety – especially the kind induced by a major loss – it’s a pretty awful feeling. I have difficulty focusing, with my mind going a hundred different directions. I feel like there’s something I should be doing or need to do, something I’m forgetting when I walk out the door. I feel like I want to run away, but I can’t because I can’t get away from myself and what I’m going through. It often is better when I’m driving, and music tends to comfort and center me. But sometimes if I’m struggling to find the music I need to hear at that time – either something that speaks to where I’m at, or something that allows me to escape and lose myself in it – it can make me more anxious.
Another emotion I experienced today was anger. Oh, what a joy are the “stages” of grief. Thankfully, I’m pretty aware of those stages (which are really more like a shook-up snow globe), so I have some idea where it’s coming from, but that doesn’t make it rational. Tonight, I was reliving the night Matthew died and the experience burned in my brain of receiving that news. I felt pain, of course, thinking about it, but also anger. Who was I angry at? I don’t know. No one, really. Not the police, not myself, not Matthew, not God. Just angry in general because this isn’t the way things were supposed to go.
I’m not sharing this because I want people to feel bad or because I want sympathy, but because I think there are other people out there who have similar experiences who have felt similarly. And because I want to help people understand a little what I’m feeling, even though I barely understand it.
A lot of people also have been asking me what they can do to help. This is another difficult one to answer. Many of my friends and family, and even people I didn’t know, have stepped up to offer prayers, encouragement, financial support, company, food and help finding a car, among other things. I’ve thanked you all a thousand times for this, and I will continue to because I am beyond grateful. For those who still want to help, but aren’t sure how, here’s what I can ask of you.
Keep asking how I am. Know that if I don’t answer you, I’m probably busy, or I may be trying to figure out the answer to that question myself.
Give me the grace to be a normal person. If you’re spending any amount of time with me, Matthew, the loss I’m dealing with and how I’m feeling are most likely going to come up in conversation. I may or may not share with you the steps I’m taking in that journey on a given day (looking for a car, making sure accounts are canceled and transferred over, etc.). Some of the most refreshing conversations I’ve had in the past couple weeks, though, delved into topics like work goals, hopes and dreams, what my plans are for my daughter’s education and even what’s going on with the person I’m talking to (yes, I still care, and no, you don’t need to downplay it because it “doesn’t compare” to what I’m going through).
Pray for me. I know God always hears me and provides what I need, but I also know I could not have gotten through the last couple weeks without those around me lifting me up in prayer. My needs will continue to change as time goes on, so if you ask me, I may be able to tell you where specifically I’m needing God to show up in my life (and going back to wanting to know what’s going on in your life, I would love to know how I can pray for you, too). But, continued strength and peace are always something I could use more of.
July 19, 2016
For the past six months and nine days, I have worn a different outfit every day.
While preparing to move late last year, I started to realize that I have a LOT of clothes, some of which I hadn’t worn in a while, if ever. So, in January, I made a commitment – a late resolution of sorts – to wear something different every day for as long as it took to go through my entire wardrobe.
At first, I thought I could make it through a whole year on what I have, but by month three it was evident that I was *only* going to make it through approximately six months. Thankfully, that wound up being more than enough time to ponder my clothing situation, and it seemed like a good idea to share some things I learned and noticed.
I laid a couple ground rules for myself going into the challenge. I already got rid of clothes fairly regularly and had established a policy of getting rid of something any time I get something new. To step up the game, I committed to get rid of anything uncomfortable or ill-fitting. I rarely buy myself clothes, but I also made it part of my commitment that I would buy additional clothes only for special occasions. Since January, I’ve bought a dress for my mom’s wedding and a shirt for my waitressing job. I also will most likely buy some kind of dress or outfit for my birthday in a couple months, but even with the challenge ending, I still plan to stick to my rule of limited clothing purchases.
While I only bought two new clothing items, I got rid of roughly two to three weeks’ worth of clothing. I have a few items I’ve set aside as well, which I haven’t made up my mind about – shirts that I like, but that maybe have sleeves that are just a tad short, that sort of thing. I’m thinking I’ll wear them another time and hopefully make a more firm decision.
I should clarify that when I say I wore a different outfit every day, that doesn’t mean I didn’t rewear anything. In fact, I wore one particular pair of jeans so much that I wore a hole in the backside. Although I have worn every item in my wardrobe (aside from a few maternity pieces and some clothes that I had set aside for a really long time to go to the dry cleaner), I could stretch the challenge a little longer if I really wanted to (I don’t), by layering clothes differently or wearing different combinations (e.g. This shirt with those jeans/that skirt/etc.).
One thing that really stood out to me was how clothes can manage to hide in plain sight. About a month ago, I looked at the clothing organizer hanging in my closet, and it blew my mind that I still had four weeks’ worth of clothes to go through. I was particularly surprised by how many skirts and dresses I have. When I have in the past felt a want for more clothes, dress clothes were an area where I often felt I was lacking, but I actually have multiple weeks’ worth of dresses and skirts.
The challenge also was helpful with making sure I showered and changed my clothes every day. These are typically things I do anyway, but as a mother who works from home it sometimes might seem easier to skip a shower or not change out of the clothes I slept in.
While I am relieved to be done with the challenge, I’m more aware than ever how much abundance I have in my life. I’m a little more likely to change it up now, instead of wearing “that same comfy T-shirt,” or “that one really cute combination.” And, I still have a LOT of clothes, but I’m more OK with letting them go.
January 20, 2015
It’s hard to believe, but my daughter is 2 months old today. Before she was born – even when I was pregnant – I didn’t get it when I saw what seemed like constant posts about how big a friend’s baby was getting. “It’s been, like, two weeks. Your baby is only a month old,” I would think. Despite my experience caring for babies, it just didn’t click with me how quickly they grow and change.
Now, that reality is starting to sink in. The first few weeks, the realization of how the time flies – that this little baby would soon be a little girl, then a teenager and an adult – was bittersweet. It isn’t like the time leading up to a wedding or even the birth of a child. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve looked forward to milestones (like sleeping through the night!), but the time is passing fast enough I couldn’t wish it away if I wanted too.
I’m beginning to settle into being a mom now. I still don’t always get everything done that I would like to, but I’m learning not to beat myself up when I don’t. And, while I’m excited to watch my daughter change and grow into the woman she was created to be, I’m happy to take it one day, one minute, one smile and one baby push-up at a time.
July 27, 2014
Although I am trying to gear my blog posts more toward journalism and write more regularly, this blog is neither about journalism, nor is it on my bi-weekly Monday blog post schedule. That’s one of the great things about personal blogs – the writer can make up her own rules, and she can make up those rules as she goes along.
I don’t often post direct reflections of my faith. But, sometimes writing the words and shutting them away in a journal, or sharing them by memory with just a few people isn’t enough. I returned home this morning from a mission trip to New Orleans, and while many of my compatriots are either in church or catching up on sleep, I had too many things on my mind to follow suit.
I knew that I was supposed to go on this trip and that there was some sort of learning or growth in store for me. I didn’t realize how that learning or growth would take root until this morning, though. I likely will recognize more of the impact later, but for now, there are four takeaways I got from the experience.
1. Trust is tricky (but rewarding)
This seems like a basic enough concept, and this trip certainly was not my first lesson on the subject. However, it’s one of the areas I struggle with the most in my faith and one where I’m constantly learning and being pushed to go deeper. First, I questioned (after signing up, of course) whether or not I was supposed to go on the trip this year. Was I being called to go, or did I just want to? Could my husband and I really afford to both go? What challenges would I face making the trip while pregnant?
When I trusted God, and shared my story with friends and family, the support I received indicated that I was indeed supposed to go. But, I still hung onto some self-reliance issues. I made sure to submit news assignments ahead of time, so I could “leave my work at home.” But, I brought my laptop, so I could post links to stories I knew would be published during the trip. Then, something came up, and I had to email my editor. And, on Tuesday, I checked my email and saw some assignments had been sent my way. No big deal, right? Except that they had due dates for the Friday after the trip. So, I spent an evening sending emails to sources and my editor.
At that point, I realized I was not experiencing the trip as I was intended to. I recently began to really lean into work again, after a period of taking it a bit easier. I know that God wants me to work hard to support myself and my family, and I want to be a hard worker. But, in the midst of leaning into that, I was being told to take a step back from it. So, I prayed about it, and I asked others to pray about it. I found out the assignments weren’t actually all due the following Friday, and I stopped sending emails. I even caught myself about to reach out to coworkers at my other job, asking for shifts this coming week. Instead, I told myself, “It can wait.”
2. Receiving is an act of humility
While humility often seems to have a negative connotation (maybe it’s the pride thing), it can be a way of allowing God to work through oneself and others. Those who I reached out to for support know that I do not like to ask for anything. I actually mentioned in the messages I sent out that I don’t even like to ask my husband to make up the difference if I’m short on my half of a bill. But, I knew the only way I could serve on this trip was for asking for help.
Many people gave financially, and however much they gave, it all added up to pay for my trip cost and to help my husband and me nourish ourselves to be able to do the work we were in New Orleans to do. Others contributed by taking care of our cats and rabbit while we were gone. And one couple my husband and I are friends with allowed us to leave our car at their house, which is very close to the church we departed from and returned to. While they had my car, the husband replaced my front brake pads and rotors. He also brought the car to the church to meet us at 8 a.m., and although I only left $10 to put in my empty gas tank, the tank was full this morning.
I tried to thank everyone who contributed to sending my husband and me on the trip, and we have offered to make dinner or take some of our friends out to express our gratitude. But, I am very aware that there is no way, at this time, if ever, that I can fully repay these friends and family members. And as difficult as that is to accept, it’s OK because by humbling myself and asking for help, I allowed others to do work God was calling them to, just as I was using their contributions to be able to do the work I was being called to.
3. It’s easier to see wonders around you when you’re present
For the first couple days of this trip, I struggled to leave work behind. When I wasn’t doing mission work, or focusing on my regular work, I was exhausted. Growing a baby already takes a lot of energy, but when you’re sleep-deprived on top of it, you don’t feel like doing anything.
There were other challenges, too. In past years, I did Habitat for Humanity construction work and photography. This time around, I was on a vacation bible camp team. I loved working with the kids, but I did feel isolated from others in my small group, including my husband. I had a few good conversations between Sunday and Thursday this past week, but I spent a lot of that time feeling disconnected from God, myself and my teammates.
Thankfully, when I got more rest and put my work aside, I was able to recognize what an awesome team I was working with at the camp, and I felt more connected with the team as a whole. I found myself reflecting on the importance of being present when I woke up from one of my naps this morning and witnessed a beautiful golden sunrise as we traveled through Kentucky hills. One thing the children at camp prayed thanks for every time they prayed was for God waking them up in the morning. It seems so simple, but I prayed that same prayer today, and it seemed like a pretty good start to being present.
4. Seeds of change take time to grow
One of the trip leaders spoke at the end of the week about how the seeds God plants in us during experiences like this do not grow overnight. Last year, he shared the same story that he told this year, about how it took him months and even years to process his first New Orleans mission experience. It didn’t resonate as much with me then because I was very aware of a pivotal moment of change in my faith last year. Looking back, I realized that while I was aware of that change, I wasn’t totally sure of what was still to come.
This theme is recurring when I reflect back on my first experience on this particular mission. Those same friends who helped out with my car (and contributed financially) are the good friends they are today because they were on the same trip my husband and me in 2011. Since then, we went to their wedding, and they attended ours. Even so, it wasn’t until last year that our friendship with them began to really take root in a deeper way.
This year, I went into the trip believing that God had something in store for me. I still think that, but now I’m more aware that just as it takes the seeds of friendship time to develop, and as it is taking my baby months to develop before s/he greets the world, it may take a while to recognize the full impact the mission had on me.
July 7, 2014
As a journalist, objectivity is a big part of my work. I’m not entirely sure if it’s something that became important to me because of the work I do or if it is a character trait I possessed, which drew me to this vocation.
Objective journalism went in and out of style in America until the early 20th century, when it became a guiding principle of news reporting.
In an excerpt from the book “Losing the News,” Alex S. Jones writes, “I define journalistic objectivity as a genuine effort to be an honest broker when it comes to news. That means playing it straight without favoring one side when the facts are in dispute, regardless of your own views and preferences.”
There are, of course, journalists who don’t believe in objectivity at all. In “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72,” Hunter S. Thompson writes, “So much for objective journalism. Don’t look for it here – not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as objective journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”
While I agree with Jones’ definition, I’ve found that my attempts at objectivity go beyond whatever story I might be working on at a given time. In a society where many people share their opinions freely through, I often hold mine back. Even on my personal Facebook page, you’ll rarely see a status update in which I express a distinct opinion. This does not mean I do not have opinions or do not share them at all, but I can’t deny I’ve had times when I was hesitant to put my thoughts out there.
I think sometimes when you’re told enough to put “S/he said” attribution after practically every line you write, you begin to second guess yourself. You start to question if people will trust you to be impartial if they know any details about your thoughts and beliefs. I know this is extreme and not entirely true, but I still struggle sometimes to figure out where the line is or should be drawn when it comes to objectivity. It is a topic around that came up many times in my college classes, but that was mostly among other journalists.
So, I want to ask you for your thoughts, dear readers. Do you believe objectivity is attainable in journalism? If so, to what extent should it play a role in news? If a reporter has an opinion on a matter, whether s/he is reporting on it or not, do you want to know what that opinion is? And, if a reporter shares his or her opinion, would you still trust that reporter to write an impartial news story that is related to the subject they hold an opinion on?