Fourteen.

Every year around this time, I sit down to write with a focus on my Hannah Elizabeth Gayle Cooley. Can you believe she’d be 14 this year? This October 30th, my daughter would be turning 14 years old, & I’m sure had she stayed with us, that our social media feeds would be full of the things that mothers and teenagers are both besties and frenemies over. I’d like to think we’d have a great relationship, and that we would be on each other’s last nerve…that she’d be musical and lyrical, and free-spirited and independent, and that above all, she’d love Jesus. That’s my hope for both of my kiddos–that they love Jesus. I think a lot of parents would say that about their children.

Last night, I was perusing Instagram when the Humans of New York page came up:

“(edited for space)There were prayer chains and Facebook groups. My friends got together without me knowing, and they prayed over us. We received letters from so many people: family overseas, people we’d lost touch with, people we’d never met. We hung them all in the bathroom until the entire wall was filled. But a few weeks before our due date, we received the worst possible news: Elliana’s chest cavity hadn’t grown enough, and there wasn’t room for her lungs. I asked the doctor to give me the odds, but he just shook his head. We began to plan for her funeral… On the day of her birth, the waiting room was filled with people who loved us. They prayed from 10 AM to 5 AM the next day. I still keep a picture of that waiting room hanging in our hallway. And it’s my favorite picture, because it reminds me of all the people who petitioned for Elliana’s life. And we got our miracle. I struggle with it sometimes, because I know so many people lose their babies. But Elliana came out breathing on her own, and the doctors were in awe…Our story has a happy ending. But even when it seemed like a tragedy, I never felt alone. I never felt like the story was my own. Because in my darkest moments, a community of people chose to share my burden.”

I don’t need to go into the “whys,” for my breakdown (albeit a brief one) into the Ugly Crys. You know me well enough to understand that when I read the phrase, “we got our miracle,” that it broke me. I’m so grateful that HONY shared this story, because I remember what it was like to see that room full of people who poured their hearts out for days, petitioning to the Lord to save my daughter’s life. We didn’t get our miracle, and I can’t paint that in any kind of redeeming light. I will never understand the whys (on this earth), and even if I did, would that make it any better? No. So we pursue on in faith, trusting that He knows what He’s doing when He makes His choices.

Last week, our daily reading plan (click the link, you won’t be sorry–see my last blog for details) had us reading in both Micah and in 2 Timothy. In 2 Timothy, we see Paul coming to the end of his life, as he writes his final words from prison.

In Micah, we see a prophet trying to prepare his community…trying to get them to wake up and seek the Lord for their redemption…He states the oft-quoted,

Meanwhile, as Paul looks at the approaching end of his life, he states,

We have a mandate to “do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.” Only when we do these things, can we look at the end of our life and say, with confidence (not arrogance) that we have “fought the good fight,” and that we have “kept the faith.”

This is not an easy thing to do…it’s not a small task, and Jesus knows what He is asking us to do.

Trials–deaths, sickness, COVID, poverty, unemployment, crime, whatever–come and go, but Jesus and His love for us are eternal.

That’s the only reason I have any hope for anything.

After I read the HONY story last night, I tripped up over “we got our miracle,” and my mind immediately went to “why?” I’ve blogged about this before; the “whys” range from plaintive cries to flat-out screams, and they’re always there in some respect. The question is do I stay there? Do I keep questioning, knowing the outcome will always be the same, until I’m face-to-face with Him? Or do I take a deep breath (or 50), let the tears fall, and listen to Him remind me that He loves me? That He’s still in control? That I’m heard, and that He understands? I make a choice every time the “why” comes to the forefront of my thoughts. I choose to “walk humbly with my God,” and that means that above all, I trust Him.

No one ever said that was a fun choice.

Sometimes the world smacks us in the face with that reminder….that reminder that we are strangers in a strange land, and that we can’t let ourselves get sucked into the mindgames and emotional traps that are laid for us: “Dear friends, you are foreigners and strangers on this earth. So I beg you not to surrender to those desires that fight against you“–I Pet. 2:11-12, CEV

Those “desires that fight against” us aren’t just people throwing lusts of the flesh in our face. They’re also the “quicksand” that we get trapped into, that make us question His motives and character, and our own faith. It’s cyclical thinking that kicks off our anxiety and leaves us an emotional basket case. I’m not immune to it, but I’d like to think I can spot the traps a bit easier now than I used to. Those first few years after Hannah passed away? Oooh, I got caught UP in some messes.

Quicksand – Stuff Rater
Actual photo of getting stuck in the quicksand of an emotional mind trap. 🙂

Grief and loss are pitfalls for so many of us…playing the “why?” game with God is a dangerous dead weight that only serves an enemy that wants to see us destroyed.

It’s a tender time of the year for us–for David as well as for myself, even when we seem like everything is fine. Our daughter is never far from our minds, but as her birthday approaches, memories come back, and I know I find myself looking at her pictures a bit more…remembering tiny hands, and beautiful, red-pink cheeks (like her Daddy), and how she’d snuggle in to the soft robe my mother had made me…how she smelled like Cheerios, and how to this day, I cherish every photo taken of family and friends because I know how much those pictures of her mean to me.

I’m finding myself ready to withdraw from social events, and from social media in general–whether it’s healthy or not, I never know, but I will tell you that I make no apologies. Maybe that sounds rude, but I’ve learned that if I don’t listen to these emotions, they’ll pop out at the most inopportune times, and I have no desire to have another flippin’ sobfest in the middle of a Hobby Lobby, so if I tell you I can’t make it, let me be. 🙂

I started writing a piece last night that I think I will leave unfinished; I feel like it makes a good conclusion, even though it’s not fully written, because “unfinished” feels like a pretty good way to describe how I’m feeling through all of this….

Hannah Elizabeth Gayle Cooley, 10/30/2006-11/28/2006

“Breaking Down,” AKA, “How to Hide the Decline of Your Mental Health, for Dummies”

“I hear the subtle hum inside my head as I push the pillow further into my face, trying to stifle the sobs that are trying to escape: ‘You’re crazy. No one is listening. No one can help you. You’re losing it. Give up already. This is where it all falls apart. You can’t do this much longer. Admit that you’re failing. Admit that you’re nothing. You’re dying. You’re drowning. You’re dying. You’re drowning.’


Over and over, the words run through my head, fast, then slow…louder….louder….it’s a tattooed rhythm that, if I don’t stop it, will become a non-stop stranglehold that stops the air from escaping my lungs.


I feel the panic rising, and I try, try, try, TRY to breathe…I try to pray, calling on the Name of Jesus, knowing that He’s there but completely unable to grasp His peace or to hear His voice. I’m failing in this…just another thing that I’m failing at…


The water rises, and I can feel the pressure…my chest hurts, my heartbeat is heavy and erratic, and I wonder if it’s the stress, or the new medication for the never-ending headaches that seem to be beyond my doctor’s diagnostic abilities. Change a medicine. Order a test. Get some bloodwork.
Never tell anyone that your head is about to explode from the weight of all that has been layering up to bury you over the past 6 months…


Don’t tell your mother…
Don’t tell your dad.
Don’t tell your husband; he doesn’t understand and he thinks you just “love” going to the doctor…
Don’t tell your boss…you need this job, you can’t go anywhere else, and you have to make them think you’re on top of your game…
Don’t tell your friends…they’re sick of hearing about one health issue after another.
Don’t tell your pastors, because you can’t seem to pray this away…
Don’t tell your sisters…don’t tell your brother…

Surely taking it all to God is enough….
But I can’t sleep, and no matter how much worship music I pray, how hard I cry out, or what I say, there’s no miracle cure for this….

Five days…two weeks….three weeks….
How long have I been like this?
The inside of my cheeks are raw from chewing the sides of them….my skin is a disaster, and for whatever reason, I’m in constant, unrelenting pain in my wrists, feet, back, shoulders, and fingers.  It might ebb or secede, but it’s always there…”

These words…my words…were written last week. Last week…it seems like a lifetime ago. I’m not going to say that I’m not struggling, even now, but last week? I LOST IT. We’re talking, hide in my room, cry into a pillow, have to explain myself because my kid saw me lose it, Lost It. I’m still fighting through this, and I don’t say that in some way that says I’m some kind of a warrior or something dramatic. I say it because that wave of overwhelming anxiety is standing on the brink of my sanity for whatever reason, and I know I’m one wrong comment away from falling back into it. Just acknowledging my own fragility makes my chest tighten…I don’t want to go there again. I never did call my doctor…I should have, but I did a Google search on a medication I was trying to get off of, and figured out that panic attacks, massive depression, and suicidal tendencies are side effects of not tapering off of this medication correctly.

That’s not saying that I wasn’t tapering off of the medication–and yes, it was with a doctor’s supervision. I must have gotten confused on the specifics of the tapering, because it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I swear to you, I will deal with migraines until I’m blind before I go back on that medication again. My anxiety is usually manageable, but for the past 3-4 weeks, it’s gotten out of control, and last week nearly did me in. I know that sounds awfully final, but I was not in a good place.

Fortunately for me, God broke through and very lovingly, in His way, reminded me of two things: He loves me, unequivocally. Also, He gave me people in church leadership who know me and love me well, and can handle my frantic text of, “I can’t talk. Pray for me.” They know me well enough to know that I don’t say things like that, and that something is seriously wrong. They checked on me later on, and made sure I was okay…I also had a friend that knew the details of what was up, and listened–sometimes, that’s the biggest thing.

I have such a blind eye sometimes to toxic relationships…like, I’m just used to putting up with so much crap from certain people, that I haven’t even noticed what a blister they’ve rubbed on my heart, until it’s abscessed. I have forgotten to protect my heart, even though I know that when I don’t, it trickles down to my family. When chemistry goes bad (you know, all of those neurotransmitters in your brain that need to stay level or else you go off the goofy-crap-o-meter), coupled with the damages of stress and toxic relationships, it’s the kind of combination that results in only one thing: A CATASTROPHIC EARTH-SHATTERING KA-BOOM.

You know what I told my son last week, when he heard me crying in my bedroom?

I said (after I had pulled myself together), “You know what, Buddy? Everyone’s brain is a little different, and sometimes…

Sometimes, Mommy’s brain is kind of broken.

It gets overwhelmed, and it gets hurt, and then Mommy sort of crumbles and breaks down.

But it’s going to be okay…and I always know that. I just sort of have to reset sometimes, and crying, and getting all of my hurt out, does that; sometimes, Mommy’s medicines make things a little weird, too. I just have to process a whole bunch of stuff, and I will figure it out. Jesus knows what hurts, and what’s in my heart and in my brain, and He will sort it all out.”

How do you explain mental health to a seven-year old?

I have no idea, but I’ll tell you one thing: I’m always going to try.

Maybe if at 7, I had understood any concept of mental health, I would have been able to understand when mental health was good, and when it was challenging. Maybe if at 7, I had understood mental health, I would have developed the language I needed as a teenager, as a college student, as a young adult, as a grown woman, to understand that mental health challenges are NORMAL, and are just as treatable and as common as a headache, once you begin the conversation with the right people. Maybe if at 7, I had understood mental health, I would be aware that you can’t process spiritual concepts like prayer and healing, when your brain is so affected that you can’t sleep, or your eating habits are jacked up, or you’re so anxious that you can’t focus on beginning to get the Word of God into your mind. Maybe if at 7, I understood mental health, I would have understood that things like sadness, anger, stress, pressure, anxiety–NONE of these struggles mean you are a bad person, or that God loves you any differently or any less.

So, for better or for worse, I am always going to be honest with my kiddo about my broken brain.

There are physical, chemical reasons for emotional/mental imbalances…there are also spiritual reasons, and there is healing that needs to be done on multiple levels. I’m grateful for medical health…prescription medication is very helpful, even though getting the right balance of the right medication is tricky (if you’re going through this, please give yourself grace, and be candid with your doctor and with your family! It’s so, so hard, and I don’t think I’m there yet…I thought I was, and then these last few weeks hit). Spiritual health and support is KEY–please talk to your church leadership, and if they’re not the type that will respond to your text or your call for help, FIND A NEW CHURCH. There is no place in the Body of Christ for the pastor that will not shepherd his flock, and I speak from experience. I’m talking pastors, elders, home group leaders–you have to have someone in the church that will help you when you’re hurting. It’s biblical. We’re not made to go through these battles alone.

I’m still working my way through this storm. I’m not on the other side yet, even though I probably seem almost normal (whatever my “normal”) is. I’m waiting on some test results, and I’m probably going to look back into therapy. I still find myself getting caught up in the whole, “it’s expensive, and I don’t have time!!” but then I find myself making time for other things, so I need to figure this out. Stress is INTENSE, especially right now, as we’re one of many families that’s been impacted financially from COVID-19. My stresses and my mental struggles are so miniscule compared to some that I’ve heard about; I know I can’t compare myself to others, and sometimes it works against me (most of the time), but still. These are not the best of times. I’ll be glad to wave goodbye to 2020…and these past few weeks are burned into my brain as the pinnacle of the worst times I’ve had since all of this began (even worse than the spike of depression I dealt with in May).

There’s always, always, ALWAYS hope on the horizon, though, and I will not stop praying that I have my eyes open to the beauty in all of this. There are some amazing experiences that we’ve got to do and to witness through all of this. There have been blessings, there has been laughter, and there has been much to be grateful for. My biggest struggles have been in my own head, and regardless of the reason, I am so grateful that God does not abandon His own, even when they’re stuck in their own headspace. He breaks through in ways we may not even realize…we can’t give up. This world is quicksand, and it’s only getting thicker….I’ve had a recurring theme in this blog over the past year, though, and that’s how He is our Rescuer…He is our Anchor, and He’s also our Life Raft…

So, now that a week has gone by, I look back at the words that I wrote and the heaviness, though still tangible, is fading. I know it’s close by, and can lay back down at any second, so I’ve been doing some things that I know are preemptive…They’re not cure-alls, but they definitely help:

  1. I have some kind of worship music playing in the background all day long at work. Right now, I’m into Maverick City Music and I’m always into Bethel. I also like just about anything by Forerunner Music (International House of Prayer).
  2. I stopped looking at the news for more than a few minutes a day. I can’t deal with the state of this nation anymore, and I can’t handle the anxiety it induces, particularly during this election year, so I’m just checking basic headlines and I’m leaving it alone. Also, I DO NOT ENGAGE IN ARGUING WITH PEOPLE ON SOCIAL MEDIA. I also don’t tolerate people arguing on my pages. It’s nothing but a waste of time that does more to harm the body of Christ and further the thought pattern that Christians are nothing but argumentative, arrogant fools, and I won’t be a part of it. I Peter 3:15-16–I’ve quoted it enough on this blog that I’d better live it out, right? See an opinion you disagree with? Scroll on by. There–didn’t hurt, right? 🙂
  3. I’m sticking to a routine, which is easier since my son is back to in-person school (glory to GOD, y’all!). This includes getting in daily Bible readings or listening to a daily reading. Here’s the plan I’m using: https://thewaystlouis.com/bible-reading-plan/
  4. I’ve explained that certain messes in the house absolutely must be cleaned up, and need to stay clean, because I can’t handle it–messes aren’t peaceful, and I need peace. Since only one of us is working right now, that falls on the other to take care of. This mandate doesn’t win anyone any friends, but neither does having a mental breakdown at 4:30 in the afternoon. I’ve found this image helpful, as it explains things I didn’t realize (and if you’re the one in charge of cleaning, don’t take this as any kind of shade or guilt–that’s how I initially took it, and I started getting worked up over it, and then I realized that hey–I can only do so much. This is just the psychology behind it, and dang it, I’m gonna give myself some grace!!):

5. Deep breaths. I’m absolutely serious about this. I’ve botched a few presentations lately, and I’ve botched a few personal conversations lately, because I get so anxious and nervous that IJustStartTalkingAndICantShutUpAndBeforeIKnowItISaidWHAT?!? And, like toothpaste, you just can’t put those words back in the tube. It stinks. So I’m making myself breathe, deeply, and close my eyes, and refocus–sometimes in front of people, which leads to #6:

6. I’m being brutally, painfully honest. Posting this blog isn’t easy. Admitting my mental state from last week isn’t easy. Telling my husband that I’m cuckoo-crazy-pants isn’t easy. Watching him stomp up the stairs because I’ve unnecessarily snapped at him isn’t easy…and neither is apologizing a few seconds later, when he’s reemerged to find out if the weather’s changed. Admitting that I can be tumultuous (I’m being nice) isn’t easy. None of this is easy. Realizing that one tiny pill can upset this apple cart of a crap brain isn’t easy (and it’s incredibly, incredibly frustrating…not only to deal with, but to get doctors to understand). Having to make myself visibly stop and breathe/blink when in a conversation with a co-worker so that I don’t start bawling, isn’t easy, and neither is looking them dead-in-the-eye and admitting that, “hey, I’m sorry–I’m a mess right now while we adjust some medications” is NOT EASY, and I have to wonder what the professional impact will be. I’m not afraid to ask for kindness if I need to, I don’t think….but–

#7. I am worth it. My mental health is worth sorting out and worth paying attention to. My stability is worth fighting for, especially for my family’s sake, because being a wife & a parent is everything I’ve ever wanted in my life, and dang it, I’m not going to watch that relationship be affected or lost because I didn’t put the time, the education, the prayer, the help, into it.

If you’re still reading, please know that above all, YOU ARE WORTH IT, too. Jesus says so, and He’s said it from the beginning of time. You–not some ambiguous people group. You, as an individual, YOU are so loved, and you are so worth PEACE….I think that’s what mental, and spiritual health, all tie into–peace. We can’t have peace in our hearts when we’re fighting so hard, but we can’t give the battle over to the Lord when our brains are imbalanced. It’s a battle against flesh (the brain) and blood (the spiritual), and it’s one that starts with Him. He uses all sorts of things–meds, prayer, health and mental care providers–He has endless resources, and He loves you so much that He’s in this fight even more than you are.

You’re loved. Keep fighting. We’re in this together—I’m not saying that to be trite; I’m saying it because it’s true. ❤



Additional Resources:

https://www.aloveworthlivingfor.com/blog/verses-for-social-anxiety

https://themighty.com/2019/02/bible-verses-mental-health-depression-anxiety/

https://www.openbible.info/topics/mental_health

A Disjointed Hot Mess of Getting My Head On Straight, AKA, “Why Am I Posting After Midnight?!?”

Doing that thing I’m never supposed to do…getting on the computer way too late at night, knowing it’s a bad idea but doing it anyway…

I’m quite sure someone will be offended by the time I finish processing whatever is pricking at my conscience, because as we all know, I process by writing and I’m dumb enough to put it online (“dumb enough?” Is it actually dumb? Or is it too genuine to be “comfortable?”).

I’m quite sure the Karens of the world will have their time clucking their tongues and clickety-clacking their keyboards to tell me how I’m not holy enough, or I’m not praying hard enough, or I’m not spiritual enough or whatever, and I’m sure they’re right, but that doesn’t make anyone feel any better, now does it?

KAREN

I’m not going to blame this on Mother’s Day (it sucked, don’t ask, and no, I don’t understand why. Grief is unpredictable, ‘k?). I’m not going to blame this on work stress (do I still have a job? Mandatory pay cuts? A cut in hours? All options, nothing decided, and we’re floating in a pool of what-the-heck-is-going-on?!?). I’m not going to blame this on COVID-19 (although I will tell you that my personal state of mental health is on the decline, if I’m being honest). I’m not going to blame this on the crappy remarks my husband made to me today, or that I made back to him (I don’t remember who started it, but we’re sick of being around each other right now, and I’m sick-to-death of sitting on the couch). I will blame this on the apparently 15 pounds worth of anxiety-eating I’ve done to cope with the last 9 weeks, and that falls squarely on my super-fat shoulders.

Now I’m ticked at myself for failing so horribly (really, what did I expect??!?!?  I’ve baked more in the past 9 weeks than I have ever before, during a non-Christmas season. David’s been doing all of the cooking, and he doesn’t know how to cook without going all Paula-Deen on everything, which is delicious, but terrible–and why I gained #20 right after we got married—and why I gained #15 being stuck in the house with him for 9 weeks, although we all know I could have gotten my fat rear up from the couch and made my own dang food. I didn’t, and now I feel horrible, I look like crap, and my blood pressure is through the roof). I have to put the brakes on EVERYTHING, and that sucks, because PEANUT M&MS ARE AMAZING, and no, David had nothing to do with those. Those are all on me…and on my hips.

I’m struggling with feeling really anxious, really sad, and really, really stressed out…and I know I’m not alone, but I feel like I am. I don’t feel like I can pick up a phone and tell anyone that I’m in a funk, because that’s not uplifting, and aren’t I supposed to be FRICKIN’ UPLIFTING?!?!?!  Because right now, all I am is a giant lead balloon in a forgiving pair of leggings and a piece of fried chicken.

I feel like a giant &$*%&$ failure in every possible facet of my life.

There–I said it. And now it’s permanently embedded into Cyberspace. CASSIDY FEELS LIKE A GIANT &(*$%&($ FAILURE.

Honey-LaBronx-Crying-Mascara

(We interrupt this rant to disclose that searching for a meme of a crying drag queen was enough to make me laugh. Those who know me know I love Jesus…and I also love drag queens. That’s an entirely different discussion. We digress.)

So, yes, much like the mascara on the photograph above, I feel like a failure/hot mess. The problem with getting something that sounds amazing (like working from home, or more sleep–is there EVER enough sleep?!? Not when you don’t have a thyroid, truth) is that over time, it becomes laced with uncertainties and eventually, tinged with paranoia. I’ve said for a few weeks now that everything feels very unsteady, and it’s not a good environment for me to try to live/work/be confronted with 24/7. Tension is building, and I’m not the only one. I’m internalizing more…I’m feeling more and more isolated and bleak and super-Don’t Touch-Me-ish (one can only be a landing mat for a projectile 7-year old without it taking a toll).

brak

David’s getting a shorter fuse. Jericho doesn’t want anything to do with homework and has turned into a screen addict who shrieks like he’s being beaten alive if we tell him the TV needs to be turned off (SERIOUSLY, PUPPET STEVE ON YOUTUBE, IF WE EVER MEET IN PERSON I AM SILENCING YOU WITH A GLUE GUN.). (And yes, KAREN, we know we did this. WE ARE TERRIBLE PARENTS, OKAY?!?!   I SAID IT!!!  Just add it to the reasons why I feel like a GIANT (*$&%(* FAILURE.) Going into this summer, my biggest fear is that if I don’t come up with some kind of schedule or curriculum, both of the guys in my house are going to get sucked into some weird vortex of TV/Legos/YouTube and I will never see any of them again…which is fine, because I will have buried myself with my headphones and my tablet, under a pile of blankets where I will binge watch “Drag Race” until I’ve eaten myself to death with the seemingly-endless bag of Peanut M&Ms that I have discovered. THEN the guys can watch my progress on television on “My 600lb Life,” and we’ll all feel like we’re learning about each other again. 

Yep…We’re not in our happy place.

Jericho has been spending a bit of time during the week at my parents’ house during our lockdown. I know that’s controversial, but I live in a 1,000sq. ft. townhouse. My parents live in a house that’s around 3x the size, out in the country, with a bigger backyard and far more to do outdoors. This gives me a bit of time to have some peace in my week (as I’m still working from home…good times) and for David to continue looking for a job (that’s another key point of stress. What do we do if he finds a job? There aren’t any childcare options right now. The “what ifs” are endless, right?). I’ve not seen my parents, as I’m stuck in “pause” regarding health issues right now (and every doctor I have is gonna be livid at the weight gain, so I’m already preparing to hear that lecture), so I miss them. I miss my job (does that make me a terrible mother? To say that I miss being at my office?!?  See, that’s another foothold for “mom guilt”–there are SO MANY.), and I truly, deeply miss my church (Zoom is meh.).

You know what?

The longer I sit here and type about how much everything sucks, the more I am reminded that THIS SUCKS FOR EVERYBODEEEEEE.

GROVER

I’m not special, you’re not special, and yeah, it’s okay for us to take a few minutes and gripe about it. From my blog history, it’s apparent that I’ve been griping about it for a few weeks, so yeah, I’m having some difficulties processing things and then dropping them. Whether that’s because I was raised by an Italian, or because I’m a vengeful harpy, who knows?

THIS SUCKS.

You can say it with me–it’s allowed. This is a safe place.

coronasucks

I know we’re hopefully coming to the end of the lockdown; just this week, I think I’ve officially got a true back-to-the-office date. I think we’ll get through this much more safely if people would get over themselves and wear a dang mask (they’re an “it” fashion accessory now, darling–you can even get them on Zulily!), we’d get through this a bit faster. I kinda think I may stick with wearing one during every flu season forever, because the flu I caught in February was WALKING DEATH, and I’m quite sure a face mask might have kept me from getting it…unless I got it from the germ magnet known as my child…hmm. But if people would just obey the CDC recommendations and wear a silly mask, what harm could it do? JUST DO IT, and get us out of this sooner!!!!!!

Just sitting down and writing things out is helpful for me–I know it’s oversharing, but at least by the end of this, I can sit here and say that my thought processes are linear. I’m not so scattered all over the place, getting slapped in the face by every emotion and feeling of failure that floats my way. I know it’s all a trick of the Enemy to get in my head and bury me–I hate to admit it, but it’s working, because I feel buried under all of this.

I can recognize the attack, but I’m truly so freaked out/worn out that all I can do is roll over and surrender. I haven’t yet, but I’m afraid that I will. I don’t feel like I’m strong enough to put my head up and to fight back, or even to pray enough to fight back. I can laugh at my own patheticness, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t scare me.

The other night, I tried to pray for some kind of peace or relief. I prayed myself to sleep (which is kind of normal for me), but I wasn’t making any sense to myself. It was mostly just me saying, “Jesus…please.” That’s all I got.  My brain is such a mess that I can’t even talk to God naturally. Like, I’m having to tell myself, “Girl, get yourself together and TALK TO HIM!!!!”

But you know what?

I don’t have to get myself together to talk to Him.

I don’t have to sit down and write a blog about how I feel like an epic failure, because He knows how I feel and He knows the truth. He knows every insecurity and He remembers them ALL (I don’t even remember them all. That’s ridiculous.). I don’t have to get “linear” for Him, because He knows me, mess and all, and even though it’s hard for me to believe,

He loves me.

I am without a doubt, a mess.

queen

Most of the time, I don’t want to stop and try to sort me out, because IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

grief

I love this graphic–I’ve seen it before, but it’s so perfect.  Grief isn’t something that exists in one moment, in one event of your life, regardless of how “huge” that moment is. Grief can be experienced during any kind of major transition, and baby, WE ARE GOING THROUGH TRANSITION. This whole lockdown experience is traumatic on many different levels, for many different people….for people who look like they have the “perfect” life, and for people who are in the trenches. We’re all unified by this one theme right now: STRESS.

There’s no coincidence that the word, “pandemic” and “panic” sound the same, and I think every time the word is spoken aloud, that energy goes into the atmosphere and we are in the thick of it!!! It’s oppressive, right?!?!  I can’t be the only one who feels like the sky weighs a million pounds right now.

Constant reminders in the media and the press of death, sadness, grief, fear…constant attacks on the mind that torment (and we all know who the author of torment is…stupid jerk). We’re getting hit from every angle by news that’s designed to destroy our morale and to basically fry our hope. I read an article from the Psychiatric Times that mentioned Camus’ The Plague. I’d forgotten about Camus, but from what I remember, he was an existentialist who had no hope. The story was about a town that lost half of its inhabitants due to a plague (thus, the title. Nice.). The article talks about the weight of “death anxiety,” which sounds a bit dramatic (even to me) and about how there is trauma in the persistent, unrelenting state that we’re in right now.

No wonder I feel like crap.

It’s literally in the atmosphere. UGH.

When all of this started, I thought, “YES, GURRL!!!!  You will read the books! You’ll start a workout plan!  You’ll learn new things and GET AWESOME,” not, “Your life will be boring as h*ll, your kid will mutiny, and you’ll get fat again.” I started the books…I WILL get through at least one of them. And yes, I have undertaken some creative projects (lots of painting. Too many flamingos…as if there could EVER be too many flamingos. Baking…which I like way too much of….and sewing! I’m learning to sew, and yes, my face masks are DOPE.). I was doing really well at forcing my household to go on daily walks with me until last week’s cold snap, and I can tell that was a bad idea, because walking really helps my back. So that’s getting restarted, for sure.

But truth be told, I haven’t done all of the things I’d hoped, so it adds a layer to being disappointed with myself…can I just write on all of the mirrors that GOD IS NOT DISAPPOINTED WITH ME?!? My weight or my achievements and/or lack thereof does not make God love me (or you) any less, darn it, so why do I let them make ME love me less?!?  BLAH.

The “Psychiatry Times” article had an interesting quote that, “death anxiety may also result in the following positive opportunities and growth-oriented goals:

• Valuing creativity and creative achievement22

• Generativity23

• Meaning making

• Mindfulness and meditation24

• Positive health behavior changes25

• Prioritizing growth-oriented goals and positive standards26″

Likewise, numerous websites have shown this graphic for finding the positives during this time:

coronacalm

I think there’s a fine line between looking at these great ideas, trying to do them or not doing them, and then using those outcomes by which to judge ourselves. I’m guilty of that, as seen above.

I’m also guilty of writing blogs that are way too long, waaaay past my bedtime, so I gotta wrap this up without feeling added guilt at the fact that I’m crap at writing conclusions (I should just end this here with a, “Bye!”). LOL!

I think I’m just going to say that I, and probably you, have to give ourselves some credit. We’re surviving a pandemic…it’s not only a viral pandemic; it’s a pandemic of misinformation, of unrealistic goals, and of misunderstood, confusing presumptions that affect us on every level. It’s a pandemic that has kids caught in the middle, and that’s a hard one to accept and to work with (I still don’t know how to explain all of this to my kiddo or how we’re going to get back into the routine I swore I wouldn’t let us get out of). It’s a giant ball of confusion and chaos in a world that was already a flippin’ disaster, and now we’re in deep. I’m struggling with feeling buried, and I’d wager that you might be, too, if you’re still reading all of this.

Peace is a concept that sounds so refreshing and so restorative…the other night, when I said I was trying to pray and all I could get out was, “Jesus, please?” PEACE was what I needed, what I was seeking. I didn’t have to say it–He knew, and I slept like a baby. Peace is the antithesis to Panic, and it’s not some global, Michael-Jackson-We-Are-The-World Sing-A-Long. Peace is a spiritual state, and I think it’s like a shield around us to protect us from losing our ever-loving minds during life as a rule. Panic tears holes in that shield, so we gotta get in a place of quiet and worship and GET IT BACK. That’s going to be my goal through the rest of the pandemic…sure, I want to bake all of the things but still lose these 15 pounds, and read all of the books and reorganize my household, but what is it without the very Peace of God?

And that’s my new focus…that’s what writing these nearly-3,000 words has led me to: Seeking Peace. Peace in the face of the Pandemic, Peace in the face of unsteady Mental Health, Peace in the face of Homeschooling and Job Insecurity.

Peace from the very Heart of God…for you and me, for our households and for our families.

Peace to you and to your loved ones….peace in the middle of the noise and the guilt, and the standards and the social media mess. Peace, be still.

 

Click the link to be taken to a list of Bible verses focusing on Peace. Shalom, y’all. 

shalom

We’re Okay…Right? RIGHT?!?!?

Anxiety will not win today.

Stress will not win today.

Fear will not win today.

I am okay. YOU are okay. We are O-frickin’-K, and we are going to get through this.

Deep breaths…

Look, y’all, today is one of “those” days. I think that every time the City of St. Louis or St. Louis County or whomever they’re putting a microphone in front of, says something, my anxiety levels rise. Today, they’ve expanded the Stay At Home order “indefinitely.” Apparently, they’re going to reevaluate it on May 4th, but until then, we’re under lockdown.

Now, I know that compared to other countries, we have it so easy. We truly do–I mean, c’mon. This is America, and we’re awesome (yeah, I said it. It’s a great country to live in, flaws and all). But my fellow Americans will argue over the color of the sky, and the litany of conspiracy theorists littering my Facebook feed is overwhelming and at the very least, irritating. People are acting like these orders are unconstitutional, when they exist for the purpose of keeping us alive. I’m looking at them kind of like a seatbelt: It’s a pain. It should be our choice, whether or not we want to do it. However, because we are by birth, stupid, we have to be told to do the smart thing in order to save lives.

To me, if we’re mad at anything about these orders, it should be that as a population we are so arrogant, so dumb, and so selfish, that it requires a frickin’ LAW in order for us to do the right thing. Don’t be mad at the lawmakers, protesters…be mad at yourselves. Be mad at the people that congregated in State Parks so they had to be shut down. Be mad at the people that didn’t take COVID-19 seriously from the very beginning. Be mad at the people that are STILL gathering in large crowds, because they’re going to cause a second wave of this stuff that’s gonna kill a whole bunch of innocent people.

STUPID PEOPLE ARE STRESSING ME OUT. Stop being arrogant idiots!!!!!!!

EVEN IF there’s some kind of conspiracy or Deep State or whatever, lurking beyond the surface of this ordeal, you can’t deny that yes, there’s a virus, and yes, people are dying. Gathering in groups to protest some kind of conspiracy does nothing but cause it to linger and revamp for a second round–why aren’t people getting it? Because their perception of freedom is more important than someone’s life? I just don’t get it.

So, protesters are stressing me out. Conspiracy theorists are stressing me out. Media announcements are stressing me out. Working from home is stressing me out. My husband’s unemployment is stressing me out. Homeschooling my kid is stressing me out, and believe me, it’s stressing him out, too. Eating at home every night is stressing me out. Cancer is stressing me out. If I keep on listing things, I’m going to get MORE STRESSED OUT, so I’d better stop.

Deep breaths.

Most days, I really am okay. It seems to me that the days that a major announcement happens, are the days where my anxiety levels peak, and I have to peel myself off of the ceiling (okay, Jesus does that. And sometimes, my husband does that. I think they’re working together.). This week, one of the biggest universities in the state announced they were furloughing their medical school staff. As a staff member in a specialty medical school, I thought we were considered “essential,” so that announcement came as a huge shock to me  (BTW, our designation as “essential” is still undefined, which is another point of stress for me). Last week, layoffs and furloughs were finally acknowledged as a part of the conversation; even though I know we’re not immune to these things, just the conversation alone was enough to raise my blood pressure. I’m not alone, and I know this–we are ALL under a certain amount of stress.

So, we’re a nation–a WORLD–that’s under a huge amount of oppression, depression, and anxiety right now. I’d imagine that spiritually, there’s like a pressing fog of fear that’s hovering over the entire planet. As Christians, we need to pray that the Light of Truth breaks through that fog, and that a blistering revival comes out of this heaviness…and personally, I need to hang onto that imagery to remember that Jesus’ Love will break through any oppression of fear, doubt, and anxiety. I don’t have to hang onto this stuff. I don’t have to feel like a cat that’s run into an electronic fence. 🙂 I can feel safe and loved, if I turn to Jesus, and on the days when He seems a million miles away, I can reach out and let someone know that “hey, I need prayer.”

That’s why we have churches, and friends, and companions. That’s why we have spouses, and parents, and siblings. We have a network we can reach out to, to ask for help or just to hear us out. It’s a gorgeous thing that God has given us, and I think we all need to be reminded of what a great resource relationships are, right now…especially since we can’t have face-to-face contact with people.

Hibernation can be so easy to fall into…it’s easy to be completely introverted, forgetting that as human beings, we NEED some kind of social interaction (even if we don’t think we do). We’re created to communicate…we’ve been created by THE Communicator Himself, and He imbued us with His  characteristics, in His image, so even though we may find ourselves wanting to hunker down and isolate, it’s against Who He is. We have to challenge ourselves (okay, I have to challenge MYSELF) to reach out, to pick up the phone, or to send that message. We need each other.

We can’t let the government, the virus, the conspiracy theorists, the fear-mongers, tell us otherwise. God created us with Love, to Love.  He is not the author of Fear.

SO I’m just going to repeat that to myself…for a long time. And I’m gonna call a friend, or talk to my husband, or have some kind of communication today that reminds me…that calls to Who God is, and to who He made me to be…and I’m going to take a lot of deep breaths.

And I’m going to be okay.

And so, dear reader, are you. ❤

Pat Francis on Twitter: "Fear can be powerful if you allow it to ...

 

Rescued…

More than the coronavirus…

More than statistics, or reports, or fear, or uncertainty…

I’ve been in a dark place for the past 2 weeks, and even though I had more than one person tell me to get over myself, or that they knew I was struggling with fear more than reality, I just couldn’t get my chin up and out of the water.

My prayers have been sporadic and ADD. I can’t focus; my eating habits are out of control, and I find myself constantly looking for news, only to be completely unsatisfied and that I just keep wondering, “what’s next?” This sidewalk over raging water is unstable, and the constant tension is wreaking havoc on every cell of my being.

The truth is, a person can only take so much, right? And I’m coming into this with a pitcher that’s half-full and full of holes–I’ve been so tired, for so long, that it gets depressing, which in fact, just makes me more tired.

At the end of February, we were shell-shocked to find out that my thyroid cancer has returned; this means that just as corona-panic was beginning to sweep the nation, I was going back-&-forth to Mercy Hospital every day for about a week for shots and testing. I kept the number of people who knew pretty limited, because I honestly can’t deal with any negativity right now. I know this cancer doesn’t  kill people, but just knowing it’s there is somewhere between annoying-as-hell and frustrating-as-hell. I just got released for 3 years from Barnes hospital in January, and now, less than 2 months later, it’s back?!? Are you frickin’ KIDDING me?!?

And I tried to pretend that I was okay with it–that it didn’t bother me, and that telling my family was just a formality–and that’s complete garbage, because I was gutted. I hated telling my parents, my boss, my sisters….my husband. It’s not fair to them…they’ve had to carry me so many times–it’s just not fair.

So, I left my office on March 18th, thinking that I would take the 19th and the 20th off for Jericho’s spring break, and then I’d work half-days the week of March 23rd…but then came the news that I’d need to telecommute. Okay, sure–I’ll telecommute that week, and I’ll be back in the office as usual on March 30th, right?

Wrong.

I’m working from home, and will be most likely until the end of this month. I’ve always wondered what that would be like; it’s nice to see my kiddo in the morning. He comes into the office every morning and hugs me in his rumpled pajamas and tousled hair, proudly breathing on me because he knows I can’t stand morning breath. He crawls on my lap and rubs his eyes, and I savor the moments. I mean, I DID say that I wished I could be a stay-at-home mom, although this wasn’t quite how I saw it happening.

I miss my usual pace at the office–I do a lot of different things, so it’s been hard for me to adjust to doing one thing at a time, with one monitor at a time. I get really frustrated with technical issues, and my personal computer is not suited for my job, but I’m making it work! I’m learning how to Zoom and how to push through, and just how many webinars I can take and stay sane (Six Sigma!!!  I took a black-belt Six Sigma course, and passed the dang test!!!!).

When I’m not being productive, I tend to make bad decisions (primarily with eating–oooh, those Thursday weigh-ins are NOT GOOD) and I also tend to feel terrible about myself as a human being. I’ve recently taken up embroidery again, which is crazy, because all of  my patterns are from a little Ace Hardware I worked at back in 1999. They’re yellowed, but I can still make out the pattern; I’m remembering how to do the stitches from back when my Grandma taught me at 12 and 13 years of age.

I’m learning how to do my nails like a grown-up (dipping powder is awesome!) and I’ve really gotten into an at-home spa experience. I have a wax melter and every facial thing you can think of; most of the stuff I’ve had stocking up for years, and am just now learning how to use it.

David has been laid off from his position, so he has assumed homeschooling our son. I have to admit, it’s fun to listen to them…until Jericho gets frustrated and has a total meltdown. He has about as much patience as his parents, LOL, so we’re all learning how to take deep breaths and to to find better coping mechanisms. It’s a journey.  I spent my lunch break yesterday giving a Spanish lesson.

I don’t speak Spanish, y’all.

I don’t make enough money for the therapy this kid’s probably gonna need from my pathetic attempts to educate him.

So, all of this is to say that I probably would have been in the “mullygrubs” even without the added medical drama. I had a full-body scan at the end of March; the insurance companies demand that I go through the racket of doing a full-body scan before they’ll approve a PET scan, even though we know the full-body scan will be inconclusive. It was, so now we wait. My tumor markers are low–0.7–and we’re going to wait until I’m at 1.0 until we progress to the PET. It’s the usual hurry-up-and-wait crap that gets in my head and stresses me out (even when I won’t admit it, it shows). Add corona to this, the lack of income, the lack of school and the slow pace of my job, and it created a perfect storm for the Vortex of the Downward Spiral, and I couldn’t shake it.

I’m still not through it…I’m trying to surround myself with worship music and musicals, to remind myself to sing my way through this…Sunny days make it easier (that’s why I’m writing right now–the sun came out, the window is open, and I finally drug myself into a shower) and like I can process things a bit better.

Like everyone else in the world, I’m overwhelmed and I’m struggling to see the beauty in this mess.

But you know what?!?

Someone threw me a lifeline.

One of the young ladies that I work with texted me out of the blue (Emma! I’ve blogged about her before):
“Hey, do you wanna do a Social Distancing Photoshoot?”

Um–a reason to put on real clothes, and go outside, and see actual people?!

YES.

She sent me the pictures today, and I have to tell you, I don’t know why I reacted quite so powerfully to them, but I literally felt myself take a deep breath, and I got overwhelmed by GRATITUDE to God for giving me this amazing family who surrounds me with so many wonderful, hilarious, amazing moments that work together to form a pretty phenomenal life, even when the chips are down.

GOD IS GOOD.

And people are good.

Emma did a great job of catching “those” moments–you know, the genuine laugh, the squish-hug, the toothless grin of a first grader (click the link to see the proofs). She captured the joy of our family, and it was such a beautiful reminder that I am surrounded by the most beautiful of gifts, even when I get overwhelmed and bogged down in the dark places.

You never know when your act of kindness is someone else’s lifeline…when God speaks through you and opens doors to someone’s heart, letting His light shine through.

My dad really likes Lauren Daigle, and when I talked to him a few days ago, he’s like, “Yeah, I really like that ‘Rescue‘ song by that Lauren girl!” I’ve heard it, but I really listened to it today (thanks, Dad!):

“You are not hidden
There’s never been a moment
You were forgotten
You are not hopeless

How many times do we let words like, “hopeless” rule our lives, even as we say we’re dedicated to the God Who gives the greatest of Hope? I fully understand that anxiety and depression–which go hand-in-hand with chronic fatigue issues and autoimmune issues–are real, chemical problems. They have a spiritual effect, and it gets hard to focus on Who I know Jesus Is when I’m so chemically messed up–it’s so hard. Having the motivation to take care of myself when I’m in these pits seems unreachable. There are a LOT of superlatives when physical syndromes throw up roadblocks every time you turn around, and it takes constant discipline to not get shut down and drowned by it all (click the song lyrics above for a list of Bible verses about being rescued).

Sometimes a simple act of kindness is all that it takes to lift someone up out of all of that.

I’m grateful.

I’m not forgotten.

I’m not hopeless, and He never lets me think that for very long….

He’s my Rescuer.

We’re going to get through this, all of it. We really are, and the world will look different on the other side of it. We take one step, and He takes it right along with us.  We can do this, and we’re going to do it.

Come Follow Me: New Perspective about Peter walking on water ...

Fear.

Fear.
Fear is heavy, like a suffocating blanket of pressure that you just can’t shake.
Fear locks you in your own head, making you see everything through its lenses, where everyone is on the attack and even the air you breathe is tainted with its taste…
Fear chains your motivation–
Fear tapes your mouth shut.
Fear stifles your song.
But for God…
God says, “Perfect Love casts out all fear,” and He doesn’t just “say” it…
He IS it.
Jesus breathes LIFE into those burnt out, suffocated places…
Jesus gives freedom, and the suffocating blanket of pressure?
It’s no match for the One Who tore the veil to the holiest of places…
It’s no match for the One Who gives us access to the very throne of God.
Jesus gives us motivation…
Jesus shakes those chains loose,
And He opens up our hearts so that the song He gives has
No
Choice
But to tear free from the places where fear tried to stifle it.
“Perfect Love” doesn’t just cast out fear…it annihilates it.
“Perfect Love” doesn’t make sense to a society that is currently embroiled in a panic, hoarding things like an ogre hoards trinkets, thinking they will save his soul.
“Perfect Love” gives us clear vision.
“Perfect Love” restores our hope…
When we feel overwhelmed…when the choices we have to make seem to choke us to death…when the clouds of fear threaten to block out the Light…
When I struggle with anxiety….
When the decisions are too heavy, & my heart is quaking…
“Perfect Love” is the embrace to my spirit that tells me He is still in control.
So I will rest in Him…
And be at
Peace.

We Need to Talk.

We need to talk.

I want to talk.

I want to have a conversation without the sensation of alienation,

To speak words that flow like a river without suspense or pretense or nonsense or

Offense to the thoughts that tempt us like distractions to reactions to words

We didn’t mean

Or maybe we did

But who would know

Because who has the time

To just sit

And

Talk?

I want to talk.

I want to look someone in the eyes without alibis or denials of a need for more than

Survival

I’m

Not

Satisfied

With

The ticking of the clock

I’d like to knock it off of the shelf or send it straight to hell.

The bells that toll the hour are trolls and what I’d really like

Is a good cup of coffee

With a friend

That knows me well enough to know when I’m falling apart but

Laughs at my stupid jokes

Because we all know that laughter is the best

Thing for insanity…

I want to talk.

I’m so tired of feeling like I’m constantly apologizing or capsizing or disguising true intentions

Of verbal apprehensions and the attempts for my redemption…  

So tired of the anxiety; it’s crippling and debilitating but the meds only go so far

And then I’m just left with me

And I’m a mess

But I’ve got prayer for that, right? #Blessed

Because serotonin and dopamine are free and if only I were good enough I’d see that they’re

Out there waiting for me if only I could get enough sleep but I don’t see that happening,

So what I’d really like

Is a good cup of coffee

With a friend

That maybe doesn’t make me talk

But just sits there

And understands that I can’t understand

And tells me I’m going to get through this…

Even when I don’t have the words to say what “this”

Is.

I want to talk.

Because maybe if I write it or verbalize it instead of fighting it, in spite of my confusion my delusions will clear up or clear out & I’ll be up from this place where I’m down for the count

On the upside of the bipolar pendulum no one has ever officially told me I’m on

But I wonder.

 

I need to talk.

But sometimes…

I can’t.

 

Summer Goals, #PlayGloria, and Kindergarten Graduation

I go through phases where I write constantly, and then it’s “crickets,” and honestly, I don’t really know why. Is it a self-discipline thing? An emotional thing?

Maybe it’s an energy thing, and I haven’t written anything lately because I’m perennially exhausted.

I’m still here, in case you were wondering (in case I’m wondering?).

The schedule’s returned to an unreachable pace, with David not only being back to work, but working a different shift. I’m so grateful that he’s employed, but I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy. We see each other for around 15-20 minutes per day (usually trying to have conversations that are perpetually interrupted by, “MOOOOMMMMM!” and “LOOOK AT MEEEEEEE!”), and then I’m off to bed, and he’s doing the evening entertainment for the offspring (who couldn’t be happier, because Tired Mom is also BORING Mom). Our marriage is breathing on the fumes of weekends, and our house is perpetually messy.

Our lives are full.

No photo description available.

Meanwhile, since my last post, my son has graduated from Kindergarten. In the ceremony, his class recited Scriptures, sang songs, and basically let us know they were going to join together at some point and take over the world. I believe every one of them could do it. Jericho’s classmates are a beautiful mixture of personalities, and I’ve loved getting to watch them interact over the year. My little guy has matured and learned, and is showing more and more of an amazing personality.

We have Summer Goals (and even as I write that sentence, I’m laughing at myself). None of those goals involve housekeeping, but I supposed it must be done. Frankly, our dog is so old (“how old is she?”) that we’re kind of waiting for her to cross that Rainbow Bridge and go to Jesus, because the carpet will need to be replaced throughout the house…and I’m hankering for a change in our color scheme, so the entire house will need to be overhauled and deep-cleaned. It’s times like this where I’m grateful that we’re still in our “starter home,” and it’s tiny.

I’ve started Jericho on a First Grade curriculum from Brain Quest, and every day, he does 2-4 pages in his workbook. My goal is to get him through the book this summer, just to keep him sharp and to work on his handwriting. He still gets “6,” “9,” “d,” “p,” “g,” and “3” backwards. I haven’t gone so far as to discuss it with my office’s peds department yet…I’m not hugely concerned, because he can correct it when I call him out on it. I’m planning on mentioning it in his eye exam next month.

That being said, get your child’s eyes examined every year! It’s a relatively painless examination that can help their future!!!!  PSA—and done.

ANYHOOO, a little thing happened this week that completely de-railed any attempts that I’ve made to finish this blog in a timely manner. THE SAINT LOUIS BLUES WON THE FREAKING STANLEY CUP, and I’ve cared about little-to-nothing else this week. Image may contain: 1 person, stripes

Since I’m given to panic attacks at the mere THOUGHT of ginormous crowds of people, I’m going to be watching the parade from my app. It’s going to be amazing, and I’m so proud of the team. I’m not a big sports person—I always mention that I don’t like baseball, but I consider myself a Cardinals fan, simply because I love what the camaraderie brings to the city. I do, however, like hockey, and even though I never watch the games (my family is not a “sports” family, but we’ll scream like maniacs at a cooking show), I think hockey requires the most skill and tenacity of any sport. I admire hockey players—anyone that sacrifices their teeth for anything, gets mad respect from me. Also, my youth pastor’s dad was the trainer for the San Jose Sharks back in the 90’s, so my love and appreciation for the game runs deep (I’m SO glad we beat them for the Nationals!).

Sports talk aside, things are moving along at a frantic pace…it’s hard to find time to slow down and EXPERIENCE things, as opposed to just getting through them. I’m usually doing the latter, and by the time a week’s gone by, I’m wondering where it went? Too many hours spent on the couch and not in the sunshine.  Being in a somewhat-constant state of fatigue makes me feel like I’m missing out on so much…oh, and the MOM GUILT!!!  I can’t.

I keep telling myself that I won’t be like this, forever…Jericho asked me the other day, “Mommy, were you ever not tired?” Ouch—that hurt. I basically told him I’ve been tired for the last 7 years. J I’ve been without my Dear Thyroid for 4 years this month, and all of my Facebook Memories that come up threaten to drag me into the Abyss of What-If, so I’m trying to ignore them.

I deal with a lot of “Mom Guilt,” partially because of my personality, and partially because there’s so much to work with.  I’m a working mom who had to use formula, so start there, and work your way up, mom-shamers.  My son is starting to get Six-Year-Old Sassy, and he’s watching too many episodes of “Teen Titans,” (hey, I didn’t start him on it…but they’re hilarious, so now I’m mom-guilting over a moral failure) and eating too many tortilla chips. Overall, though, he’s getting lots of playtime during the day in his summer program, so during the week I’m not feeling tooooooooo horrible about coming home and being chill.

I know this sounds mushy and all, but every day I look at that kid and I swear, I love him more. Even with his sass, he’s still funny and sweet, & he’s creative. His imagination is limitless, and he reminds me of my favorite parts of my own childhood. I need to get back into the routine of reading him a bedtime story; he’s been staying up later than I do, so I’m missing out!!

This summer, we have Six Flags passes, and are planning on going if the sun comes out any time soon on a weekend.  We’ve had so much rain! I love watching Jericho start to tentatively embrace roller coasters. He’s working on riding his new bike; he got a bit scared of it, so we have to ease him back into it. I don’t think I coddle him (David does), but I know so well what it’s like to be afraid of everything, and to feel like less of a person because of it. I don’t want that, for him. When he’s afraid of something, I tell him that it’s okay to be scared. We take it slow, until we’re ready. If he isn’t ready, I think that’s okay—he will be. I’m surprised at my own patience in those cases, but I think that’s what it takes. I want him to enjoy roller coasters and bike rides, and roller skates and bowling, and everything fun (we’re back to bowling again, BTW—I LOVE it!!!). If it’s fearful, it’s not fun, and I know that too well. We have nothing but time, to make those leaps—even if that’s not true, we can live like it is, at 6 years old.

bowlMy goals for this summer are to take it in…to enjoy parenting, and to not enjoy too much TV…to take my time doing life in general, and to spend less time embracing the things that bring me down. I love that song by Lauren Daigle, called “Look Up, Child.” Rico-Bean sings it a lot, and I think it’s major goals, for me. That’s my goal—to Look Up, and to keep from letting myself be weighed down by fatigue, or stress, or whatever albatross has decided to land on my neck. It’s summer—it’s time to get free, to live free, and to stay looking up.

And maybe, to spend some time blasting “Gloria!!!!!” on repeat while my son yells at me because he’s sick of the song….He’ll get over it, and we’ll have these memories to last us a lifetime. I’m so proud of our team. #LETSGOBLUES!!!!!!!!

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3am…

I don’t want to be awake right now.

Steroids do funny things. I’m on Day 4, & I know they’re doing what they need to do, but I’m tired…but jumpy…and honestly, emotional.

Her birthday is this week….it’s Tuesday. If you ask me specifically why it hits me differently every year, I couldn’t tell you. Everything was running along smoothly, except for, same as last year, when I realized that life was running along so quickly that I wouldn’t have time this week to take that “pause” to honor her….to reflect on her life….and I hate that.

I had to say the words last night out loud, “Hey, I get this. We need this. She was real, she was a person, and she is part of who we are, so even in this crazy, busy week, we make time.”

I don’t know how that is going to happen, but it IS going to happen.

We move along in life so quickly….we have our routines and schedules. We don’t take time to sit and reflect, so it feels unnatural, but it needs to be done. Pain and sadness need to be recognized, so they can be processed….so that they don’t get buried….because we all know they don’t STAY buried.

For me, if I don’t take this time now, these feelings and frustrations will manifest themselves in a couple of ways. I’ll cry or fly off of the handle about something innocuous. I’ll sulk or withdraw. I won’t sleep. I will carry around unnecessary guilt and shame. I’ll get sick. My family will suffer, & it will all be fallout from my failure to listen to that still, small voice that says, “Stop. Breathe. Remember.”

My daughter…my beautiful winter butterfly…would be 12 years old this week. We’d be going through “the change” that all of the women in my family went thru at 12, and OMG HOW WOULD WE DEAL?!?!? I imagine we’d be having arguments about social media & boys, & junior-high drama…there would be the introduction to makeup, or maybe a CCW class with Auntie, & Lord knows what else. We’d be starting the conversation about college, and I would be internally freaking out about how much information about LIFE, & HOW do parents maintain that balance? I think my Hannah & I would have a good relationship, & that I would be finding myself on my knees more than ever before as we enter the last year before TEENAGERDOME. 🙂

My little girl passed away before too much of her personality could be established, but there are some things I know for certain: She loved music. She loved songs with soul & excitement. 🙂 She smelled like Cheerios, & she knew her Daddy’s voice. She was a happy baby, which is amazing, considering the duress by which she came into the world…

And she made me into someone I’ve wanted to be, for as long as I can remember: She made me a Mom.

I will always, always be grateful to God for blessing us with her. I will always be grateful for our 29 days on this earth together, & I have absolutely no regrets. We had a gift that changed the course of our lives, our marriage, & our faith, & we are eternally impacted by 29 days with the most precious princess this world has ever seen.

I love that our journey with Hannah isn’t over. I love knowing that because of Jesus, it’s only on “pause,” until we are together in eternity. I love that He gives us that level of hope, and that He takes our despair & turns it into a beautiful anticipation of what is to come….

Happy birthday, Hannah Elizabeth Gayle Cooley. You’ve made my world more amazing and beautiful, just because I had the chance to call you mine.

3am isn’t so bad, after all.

Hamilton.

I WON THE #HAM4HAM LOTTERY. I freaking WON. I’m still doing my interpretive dance of joy.

In case you don’t understand what the heck I’m talking about, in recent years, Broadway shows have offered a lottery, by which those of us that are poor/broke/financially strapped have the opportunity to enter a lottery, where we are randomly selected to purchase HEAVILY discounted tickets to shows. In the case of our dear Alexander Hamilton, the “$10-Founding-Father,” the selected lottery winners can purchase tickets for an unbelievable $10/each, with a maximum of 2. Odds of winning? Well, there are 40 tickets at the Fox Theatre in each lottery, with around, I believe per the Post-Dispatch, like, 10,000 entries per performance. AND I WON.

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I received the notification from the app the evening before the performance (the show was last night, the 2nd night of the show’s run in St. Louis), and promptly LOST MY MIND. I ran through my house (it’s a good thing our house is tiny, because I do NOT run), screamed, waved my arms, got speechless, got my voice back, screamed some more, ran some more, and basically closely mimicked a very fat version of one of these:

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Yep. That’s me….just imagine that thing way plumper and WAY happier. 🙂

Honestly, my first thought was, “Oh, no, you can’t do that! It’s a weeknight event! You’re going to be ZAPPED for work the next day, and you can’t take off of work! You can’t get childcare! This will be impossible!!! THERE WILL BE PEOPLE, CASSIDY.” Anxiety, SHUT UP. You can just SHUT UP. This is HAMILTON, AND I AM NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT (insert cymbal clash)!!!!!!!!.  Getting out of my routine and doing something new, especially during the week, seems like an insurmountable hurdle sometimes. That’s anxiety. Anxiety robs me of more than I let on, but IT’S NOT GETTING HAMILTON. Period.

So, I commenced screaming, tried to incoherently explain to David exactly what had just happened to us, told him it was happening, and frantically called for childcare. MOM TO THE RESCUE! You guys, my mom is amazing. She’d just worked that whole day at the election, and she drove up the next day and stayed overnight, just to watch Jericho so that David & I could have this amazing opportunity. Mom gets my love of musical theatre. Fun fact: I still have the ticket stubs from my very first show. She took me to see the Phantom of the Opera at the Fox when I was 16…and off I was going again, to my favorite place in St. Louis…that we can honestly just never afford…UNLESS WE WIN A TICKET LOTTERY, WHICH WE DID. WE. FREAKING WON (still in shock, 2 days later).

Yesterday, I floated through my work day, carefully timing my caffeine and my Nawgan (literally the only energy drink I can handle, with my heart. It’s great–B vitamins, no jitters, just an all-around clarity of thought and a gentle, subtle increase of energy with no crash and no weirdness), and drove home to get ready. I got Jericho ready for Grammy, and she arrived in plenty of time for me to figure out what I was going to wear (which I already had picked out, because I am ME. I wore a LuLaRoe Carly from their elegant collection, FYI, that I had purchased from a GOOB sale, because #Deals). Mom brought pizza (again, she’s THE BEST), and we left as soon as David got home.

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Honestly, that’s not highlighter. I’m glowing. David is humoring me. He had no idea what he was in for. 🙂

We got down to the theatre (I pre-paid for parking in the new garage on North Grand. You should try it. $15, and it’s secure, well-lit, and right off of the Fox. You can pre-pay, at MetroTix.com), and I went into the Box Office to present my receipt and my ID, and found out we’d lucked into THIRD ROW SEATS, Y’ALL!!  I almost hugged the ticket vendor. Keep in mind, through some kind of a glitch in the app, I didn’t automatically get my receipt. I had to e-mail, call, and eventually send a message to LuckySeat via Facebook messenger; once they responded, they were so nice, and very quick to help me out. The customer service with the Fox and with LuckySeat was AMAZING, and I couldn’t be happier. So, when I found out they were 3rd-row seats, I kinda-sorta yelled in the Box Office, and may have outed myself as too-poor-to-be-in-present-company, LOL. Those tickets at full-price are super-expensive (but I have to say, after watching the 60+ cast members dance, sing, and play for almost 3 hours, they’re definitely worth it!)!  Once we had our tickets, we went across the street for some grub at The Best Steakhouse (meh. It’s an experience), where I definitely enjoyed the company more than the food. The people were great to watch & listen to!

Finally, it was time…We were ready to go into the theatre.

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(I am not going to comment on how enormous I look in this picture. It is what it is. I’m not as fat as I’ve been. I’m not as thin as I’ve been. I’m me. I have to accept it. Also, that’s a big coat:) ).

People crammed into the theatre like sardines. Rare moments of rudeness were overshadowed by the general atmosphere of excitement to just be in the presence of the Hamilton Juggernaut. The merchandise was displayed; I was mentally prepared for the expense, thanks to the Hamilton app ($40 for a T-shirt, $15 for a keychain, etc.) so I knew we wouldn’t be purchasing anything. I already have the electronic libretto from Amazon, and I took as many pictures as possible (they won’t let you take a picture of the stage, so DON’T EVEN TRY. The ushers are trained in Krav-Maga and Jujitsu, and will chop you. I’m kidding…or am I?), so I’m happy with my takeaway. I MEAN, I GOT TO SEE IT FOR $10/TICKET.

The show STARTED ON TIME. No introductions, no flashing of the theatre lights, no warning: Aaron Burr (Nicholas Christopher) took the stage with a fury, stating his lyrics with a clarity and intensity that caught me off guard. He was HERE FOR IT, and he possessed the role. You can’t help but compare each cast member with the original Broadway cast; if there was anyone who took the role in a new direction, it was Nicholas Christopher. Leslie Odom, Jr.’s, Aaron Burr was passionate, and evoked compassion to a point, in the recorded performance. Nicholas Christopher charged in and grabbed your attention, and showed more of a character development than I realized in the original cast recording.

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And that leads me to a huge point–All I’ve had to go on, are some video recordings, and the original Broadway cast recording.  I consider myself to be pretty imaginative, and I’ve read so much about the production that I feel like I know these characters; however, seeing them played in-person brought so much more to the roles, and the interpretations with the touring actors was so different. It really was incredible, to see my imaginations come to life and then change from my presupposed concepts. Leslie Odom, Jr.’s Aaron Burr was competitive, passionate, and focused from the first line. Nicholas Christopher played him as searching in the beginning, to getting a handle on his destiny and finally, during the Senate Race where he defeats Schuyler, seeing a clear direction and method to achieve success. His ambition is complete, and then he goes off the rails & lets his ego and paranoia make him a perpetual villain. I really loved the way Nicholas Christopher portrayed such a heavy character with such vulnerability, comedy, and eventually, as the bad guy you just want to misfire. You feel sort of sorry for him at the end, but you’re really mostly facepalming his victim mentality. He was performing his last soliloquy, and I leaned over to David, “Oh, shut up, already, no one feels sorry for you. You did this to yourself.” I was invested, y’all!!!!!  I kept wishing for an alternate ending, just like I do, every time I listen to the soundtrack. Darn irrefutable facts.

Austin Scott played the titular character, and I felt like he exhibited such a gentle nature. It played well to the emotional flaws of Alexander Hamilton. Comparatively, Lin-Manuel Miranda played the role with greater intensity in regards to the passion Hamilton had for his legacy, but lacking the genteel dignity that Scott brings to the role. I can’t say that I prefer one to the other; I love the differences. Vocally, he was stunning. He flowed back-and-forth from rap to singing without any hesitation; he walked across the stage like he was born there, and he seemed to seamlessly take on this very high-pressure role with grace. Yes, “grace”–that’s the perfect word for his entire performance. Graceful. He really was beautiful to watch and to listen to, and the cameraderie he displayed in the first act felt genuine. You really think these guys get along off of the stage? It sure seems like it!! He had a different spin on Alexander, of course, but he truly embraced the softer side, even in his moments of fury. He played the role of a gentleman, and he played it extremely well.

I’m not going to break down the entire cast, but one person in particular took the entire show, wrapped it up, and made it a gift to us all: Chris De’Sean Lee. Taking on the roles of Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, Mr. Lee needs his own show, and he needs it YESTERDAY. He had my theatre-hating husband eating out of the palm of his hand.

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He made us laugh, he tore up the stage during “Guns & Ships,” and he made me want to throw my shoes on stage. I’m a huge admirer of Daveed Diggs, and I was very curious as to how anyone could take on that role as less than a copycat. Mr. Lee did so much with it; he made it his own. He didn’t need a spotlight; he IS a light, and he is a joy to watch. I have to wonder what he’s like in-person, because if he illuminates half of what he puts out on stage, he must be a world-changer. I’m officially a fan, and I want to hug that guy. That’s not weird at all, BTW.

Finally, the roles of Angelica Schuyler and John Laurens/Phillip Schuyler were played by Sabrina Sloan & Ruben J. Carbajal, respectively. Vocally, Ms. Sloan is probably the best singer in the entire cast, and that is saying SOMETHING, because they’re all A-list. She was amazing to listen to; she never oversang, she hit notes that were strong without being screechy, she sang over the top of complicated musical pieces and never shouted. She was intense, strong (I keep saying that word), and her reactions after “Hurricane” were played with FORCE. She’s the kind of actress that can emote across a stage with a raise of an eyebrow, and watching her from the third row was a masterclass. As a “singer,” I know the notes she was hitting, and I know the difficulty in the runs she did. I sure as heck can’t do that. I don’t know anyone that can do that. She’s an eye-opening wonder.

Ruben Carbajal came out with gorgeous bravado in his role as John Laurens, and brought so much maturity & power to the role by the end of the first act. His death was the first time I cried in the production; the true dream that John Laurens had for equality in history rang especially poignant yesterday, on the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ruben seemed to preach that message like an evangelist on fire. You wouldn’t think that his character didn’t have time to really grow in the first act, but he did–Ruben pulled so much more out of John Laurens than I ever knew, and I’m grateful. When he died again in the second half, as Phillip Schuyler, I was officially ugly-crying, so Ruben, thanks for that. Good thing I’m good with primer, because otherwise, I’d have been full-Alice-Coopering my ride home.

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Okay, so I knew Phillip Schuyler dies in the production, of course. I knew it would be a difficult moment for me, as a mom who has lost a child. I knew I was probably going to cry. I did. OF COURSE I DID! Julia Harriman shone in her role during this time, and played Eliza with sensitivity. Her interactions with Alexander during this, and the aftermath of his affair with the “whore wife,” Ms. Mariah Reynolds (grr), were excellent. When Phillip dies, Alexander reaches for her hand; she shoves his hand off with all of the passion of the spurned wife, and it’s glorious. She had my full “you go, girl” with that tiny little gesture, even in the midst of the sadness. 🙂 (Also, makeup team, her highlighter? Shut UP, with your awesomeness. I need some of that in my life!!!!).

I ALMOST FORGOT:  KING GEORGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Peter Matthew Smith played our archenemy, and just owned the crown. I hope he gets to keep it when his tour finishes (if he ever stops), because he’s Theatre Royalty. He was a show-stopper, and even though I’ve watched Jonathan Groff on video perform those pieces a few times, as well as Thayne Jasperson, I have to say that his take is actually my favorite! Maybe it’s a certain level of maturity? Can I say that? He just seemed really, really believable, and likeable-but-hateable. 🙂 Every time he came on stage, every single person in the theatre was smiling. It’s a pretty great skillset, to play someone everyone hates, but to also be able to make all of them grin back at you. I’m not sure how you do that, but Mr. Smith certainly knows. He was an unexpected delight. 🙂

So, that’s a lot–that’s a really, really long description of a shut-up-this-is-really-happening night at an amazing musical. I just don’t have the time or the space to break down all of the actors, but please know that each of them performed at a level of excellence that I can’t even begin to describe. Carvens Lissaint as Washington was so powerful & strong; you never question his ability to portray a Commander-in-Chief (and vocally, just soared. He left both David & I with our jaws on the floor). Chaundre Hall-Bloomfield was great as Hercules Mulligan, but had us laughing so hard as James Madison–I hadn’t caught the humor in the role over the audio recordings, so that was a nice surprise.

I still can’t believe how the cast made this show come to life…how amazing it was, to see the things I’ve only read about, in person. The stage was glorious, and far more complicated than meets the eye (2 turntables?!?). Sets are used in multiple ways; costumes are used and reused (it’s amazing how a jacket change can change a scene–who thought of that?!? BRILLIANT!!!), and the lighting is masterful in its apparent simplicity. The musicians–WHAT THE WHAT?!?!?!?!?  We were sitting right behind the orchestra pit, and it seemed like so few musicians made such an incredible sound! HOW DO THEY DO THAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?

The dancers….oh, the dancers. I’ve never seen dancing like that. They danced THE ENTIRE SHOW, and one guy in particular stood out to me the most (Andrew Wojtal, I believe; he’s also the doctor for both duels, LOL, as well as The Farmer), as he never broke in his intensity. I don’t think any of the dancers did, but this guy RADIATED focus & intention. Like, almost 3 hours of intensive dancing and singing? Phenomenal. The dancers were ridiculous, and if that wasn’t enough, their vocals were SICK. Just amazing. That word keeps coming up…because it’s true. The whole show was freaking AMAZING. The whole night was freaking AMAZING. MY MOM IS FREAKING AMAZING, for dropping everything to watch our son so that we could have this AMAZING experience. She gets a medal!!!!

THE FACT THAT WE WON THE HAM4HAM TICKETS WAS FREAKING AMAZING, PEOPLE.

And like I said at the beginning, everything started on time, from the start of the show, to the intermission–it’s a tight ship, and that gets nothing but applause from me! By the time we made it home, we were so tired; 4am hit WAY too soon for me today, but I made it to the office, and I am surviving on coffee and my last Nawgan, along with good mascara and a gigantic bottle of water that will no doubt, be refilled 3-4 times. 🙂

I am euphoric, and I’m still riding the post-Hamilton wave, combined with the wave of actually winning something. It’s a good wave.

I’m glad I took my shot. 🙂 IMG_20180404_191504_964