“Don’t Get Drunk and Do Things!”

Like that title? LOL—okay, maybe it’s a bit click-baitey. Life moves FAST, and even though I try to document all of the hilarious things my kiddo says (#ConvosWithRico), there are some things that I just don’t get the chance to write about. Not all of them are funny, but even the “unfunny” conversations have a way of ending with a laugh. It’s just part of how I’m wired, and seemingly, how my son is wired (also, David has a pretty good sense of humor. He’s not as funny as he thinks he is, but he has his moments).

I love #Fail videos. Jericho & I have watched Fail videos since I first discovered Fail Army on YouTube. I’ve loved Fail videos since I first discovered America’s Funniest Home Videos (in its first incarnation, and now, as AFV), and I think it’s because had there been video cameras as easily accessible when I was a kid, I’m sure I could have gone viral for my own idiocy. I once fell over a trashcan in the middle of Disney World…and I once tripped over a Safety Cone in Northwest Plaza, making my poor mother laugh so hard that she SAT DOWN in the MIDDLE of the MALL because she couldn’t walk from laughing. I have a knack for tripping and falling, and it really hasn’t gotten that much better in my adulthood. In fact, if I were to keep writing about all of my klutzy adventures, I wouldn’t stop typing until December. I’m that graceful.

Humanity is one big epic fail YouTube video - Imgflip

So, my lack of coordination and/or general lack of observance has made me fodder for Fail videos my entire life, and if I can laugh at myself when I fall down, I think I have the right to laugh at videos of other people doing the same thing, as long as no one is bleeding.

Generally, we’ll watch montages of Fail videos and they’ll involve things like snowboarding, or stairs, or falling off of porches—all things your Average Joe-Jane can do with aplomb. Sometimes these videos clearly involve alcohol, and this has involved moments of Adam Sandler-inspired parenting:  “Alcohol = puke = smelly mess = Nobody Likes You.” It’s a classic quote, and has served me well in both reminders and in education, about the perils of booze. And let’s face it—Mr. Sandler knew what he was saying. I think anyone can point a finger and preach to someone about alcohol, but how much of that actually sticks? I’ve never, ever forgotten that scene in that movie, and it’s lasted in my brain far longer than any sermon on the topic.

I have a fear of my son taking things like alcohol way too lightly.

He’s 8. Alcohol and drugs are far too commonplace in society, either in billboards or commercials, or in news stories, or in random conversations. Addictive behaviors present pretty early on, and I have to wonder if we intervene with a healthy presentation about what addiction is, and how it can change your life, at this age? Do we stoke curiosity, or do we lay a foundation of preparation?

I joke about being addicted to chocolate (I totally am), or that he’s addicted to his tablet or to YouTube (curse you, YouTube. I rue the day I let you into my house!!!!!!); we talk about how Jesus breaks addictions, and how it’s good to talk to Him about these things.

Fail videos often show cups of beer or obviously inebriated people, doing really dumb stuff. It’s an easy conversation starter along those Adam Sandler lines: “Alcohol = Fall down and look like an idiot, and get made fun of by the entire world = Never goes away in Cyberspace.” We talk about actions having permanent consequences. Drunk people doing dumb things have enabled me to have gentle conversations with my son about feelings of abandonment and sadness, because someone I loved, loved alcohol more than me…Nothing good comes from the abuse of alcohol or drugs, and it’s not the life Jesus wants for us.

I say all of this because this past Sunday, I realized how much of an impact some of these conversations have had—you know, you don’t realize what your kids retain until it comes back to haunt you. David was making pork steaks, and he opened up a beer to add to the marinade.  He put half of a beer in with the steaks and he gave me the rest of it to drink (it was a Wicked Orchard Apple Ale from Aldi, and they’re delicious. They’re also AMAZING to use in beer bread). Jericho looks at me wide-eyed and goes, “MOM!!!!!!! DON’T GET DRUNK AND DO THINGS!!!!”

I laughed so, so hard. Like, snort-laughed. I think he thought that if I drank that half-beer, I would immediately start falling down and being a Fail video star. My son says the funniest things, and he has no filter (much to my chagrin—I have found myself LAUNCHING to intervene after he’s said something unintentionally rude or embarrassing), & I know that will tone down as he gets older. I feel like by maintaining the #ConvosWithRico, I’ve made it where I can retrace every funny thing he’s said that I’ve documented online. It’s sentimental—I know these things will decrease as his awareness of the world and his maturity levels increases. He’s growing up…and there are so many building blocks I want to lay out for him as he’s on his way.

Some things are too heavy for him to understand, and I worry that the world will throw them at him too soon. Corrie Ten Boom has a marvelous quote in her book, The Hiding Place, that I’m often reminded of when I’m faced with a Big Topic:

‘And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sexsin?” He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor. Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said. I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

It’s too heavy,” I said.

Yes,” he said, “and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you“.’

The world wants our kids to grow up way too soon. Conversations about sex, desire, gender roles, drugs, alcohol, etc., are heavy topics, and they’re not meant to bear the weight of them too soon. It’s our job as parents to determine the when and the how of those conversations (and not the schools, although they’ve taken it on as parents are often too naïve or too inattentive to do so). When certain conversations become unavoidable (it’s astounding how much alcohol and drug advertising there is, or how much it sneaks into family programming or cartoons. Beer billboards are a dime-a-dozen in this city–go figure), I try to make them relatable or in kid-friendly terms. Because of my paternal family history, I know that addictive tendencies run deep, so I want my son to understand how dangerous these things are. I want him to know there are consequences and that Jesus offers both freedom, and a better way.

Our conversation on Sunday went from me laughing, to a gentle explanation of the concept I quoted earlier: “Everything in moderation.” Jericho brought it up again yesterday in a conversation about cigarettes (SO. MUCH. LITTERING.) & I rephrased my quote to, “everything in moderation…except cigarettes & drugs. Those are a Hard NO.” I’ll probably repeat that to him countless times as he grows up and faces the world. I hope & pray that David & I are building a foundation with him that will keep him protected from things like being drunk and doing stupid things (and worse). I hope that these gentle conversations that start with laughter still impact his heart, and that the concepts of love, truth, and purity stay with his spirit as he grows…Maybe I’m not taking the most conventional approach? I don’t know…I feel like preaching things “at” him will only push him to rebel, but that being honest about the good, the bad, the idiotic, and the ugly, will help him understand & to respect the dangers that are out there. Kids are going to grow up and make their own decisions…I want to raise this child to make Good Decisions, grounded in faith, with wisdom and intelligence. Maybe we set him on this path with a big dose of faith coupled with love and a sense of humor, to gird him for the journey…

Leviticus, Media Mockery, & Why Are We Still Putting Up With This?!?

Sacrilegious is never funny.

Mocking the “god” of any other culture will get you eviscerated, cancelled, or worse…but mocking Jesus Christ makes you a social media star? Especially around the holiest of seasons, as we celebrate His death & resurrection? How is that allowed?

In studying Leviticus, the weight of salvation stands out heavier than ever before…When you think about the different sacrifices that were made: Burnt offering, Grain offering, Sin offering, Guilt offering, Ordination offering, Peace offering—when you think about the cost of such offerings, even in just the financial sense….When you think about the mental toll it takes, to be a priest and to slaughter animals at an endless rate, to wake and sleep in the surroundings of blood & incense….when you think about the continual efforts of the people, to monitor thoughts and actions, to regulate when a sacrifice needed to be made, and the never-ending list of sacrifices to be made….

And you think about how the Messiah ended it all in the holiest of afternoons….

He carries the weight of the sacrifice, then—2,000 years ago—and now, and forever.

He carries the burden of the continual accountability, the weight of guilt and shame, the oppression of never being able to kill enough to completely wipe the slate clean. He is ENOUGH. He wipes the slate clean with His own Blood, with His Death & Resurrection.

The Cross was never a scrawny white guy held up on two popsicle sticks by some thumbtacks. The Cross was about The Innocent…the very Son of the Most High God…Who was brutally murdered by a people that refused to recognize Redemption in any other presentation than the blood-covered altar of the Temple.

The Cross is about freedom…it’s about Eternity. It’s about drawing us into Him, about allowing us into the Holy of Holies, free and cleansed of all known and unknown sin, without an animal sacrifice and without having to go through another human being as our gateway to the Throne. The Cross bridges the gap between the Outer Courts to the Inner Courts, and puts us on a freeway to kneel and worship with the elders, praising God in a chorus that never stops, because it CAN’T stop, because HE IS WORTHY.

Our relationship with God is not something to be mocked, and it isn’t something to take casually. He’s not “Buddy Christ,” and although He is most definitely our best of friends, He is still SOVEREIGN, and He is HOLY. Time spent with Him is HOLY. This casual attitude of mocking Him…of allowing the news and the media, of allowing movies and music to take His imagery and to twist it in such abominable ways is inconceivable. Conversely, our perception of Satan and all that he brings to the table is also not to be mocked or taken casually, as spiritual matters are serious. Degrading them to a form of blasé entertainment is utter foolishness (which is exactly what Satan wants us to do—the less-seriously we take him, the less seriously we take Jesus, and he’s happy with that).

I caught myself rolling my eyes at recent media outlets that were celebrating a social media star who is blatantly glorifying Satan in his latest video. He’s proud of himself—he says this is how he celebrates his “freedom.” He’s in more chains than he will ever know, until he’s facing eternity…and I rolled my eyes. Like, how am I not weeping over this? How am I not grieving in my spirit over this? I’m so calloused to the media portrayal of spiritual matters that I am reduced to rolling my eyes like a bored teenager, as opposed to crying out to God for a nation that is spiritually bankrupt. I’m disappointed in myself–have I gotten so used to skimming headlines, that I fail to allow them to penetrate my convictions?? How have we fallen so far as a nation, that there isn’t a huge moral outcry to shut this kind of imagery and glorification down??

The further in I go into the Old Testament, the more my salvation means to me…the more I realize my state as a human being that will never be worthy on her own. I so desperately need my Jesus, and I need Him not just as my Best Friend, but as my Holiness. I want to be cloaked in His holiness, to have Him take out the things that make me forget Who He is, and replace them with whatever makes me grow closer to Him. I want the mockery that makes my eyes roll right now, to break my heart until I see His face. I want to understand WHY His sacrifice means so much, not just on the surface, but on a deeper level.

I’m so flawed. I’m such a dichotomy—my mouth needs its own separate redemption, I swear—but in my heart of hearts, I want Jesus, and I want Him to be the center of my life. It’s a never-ending journey, and I’m thankful that He lets us be on it…that He’s with us every step of the way.

Sacrilegious is NEVER funny…but even to those who would openly mock Him, Jesus says, “Come.” He responds to the haters with Love—He did it 2,000 years ago as He was dying on the Cross, and He still does it, today. He says, “Come, and be with Me in My Father’s House.” He invites us to love, and to be loved in a way we don’t deserve, but that He freely gives. He’s Jesus, and He loves you as you are….and He loves you to who He sees you becoming as you grow in Him.

“Nothing Breaks Like A Heart…AKA, “[Don’t] Take Another Little Piece of My Heart Now Baby”

Waaaaaay back when I was born, my mother was told that I had a slight heart murmur that I would most likely grow out of. I did.

In college, too much stress + bad food choices + lack of sleep + tooooooo much caffeine = Cardiac Arrhythmia, which eventually resolved. Everything was juuuuuust fine….

Until it wasn’t.

In 2006, I became pregnant with my first child. As a first-time mom, my complaints of, “Hey, I really can’t breathe too well,” and “Um, Doc? I can’t get enough breath support to sing,” were written off as new-mom, “well, what do you expect? You have a human pressing on your diaphragm,” rhetoric and explained away (I’m just a woman, Mr. Doctor. What do I know?).

2 months before I was due, I started seeing double, having migraines, and throwing up. Basic science diagnosed me with severe preeclampsia, and do you know what the “cure” for preeclampsia is? Delivery. So, my daughter was delivered 6 weeks early, and I was “gonna be just fine, ma’am,” said Mr. Third-Generation-I-Know-Everything OB-GYN….

Until it wasn’t.

2 days after I delivered, I couldn’t breathe…coughing and choking on top of a C-section incision is no fun. My sister ran for help, my mother prayed in tongues at the top of her lungs, and the nurses (who were in the middle of changing shifts, as of course, I have fantastic timing) & doctors realized I was in severe congestive heart failure. Over 20 pounds of fluid were drained out of my heart and lungs in the next 24 hours, and I went in for the fight of-and-for my life….while also trying to be a new mom to a premature infant.

Peripartum cardiomyopathy with congestive heart failure and pulmonary hypertension became the noose of a diagnosis that hung around my neck for the next 6 years as I went from specialist-to-specialist, trying to find a cardiologist that would both “fix” me, and would work with me as I wanted to try to have another child.

Once the heart has been blown up in CHF (my left ventricle was three times the size of the rest of my heart. I like to call it, “Grinch Syndrome.”), it tends to sort of hang around like a balloon that’s been overstretched. It’s kinda gross, if you think about it. My heart was literally broken in every possible way….by my body, by grief, by everything.

Image result for grinch's small heart grew

So, I had a few years of echocardiograms, medications, etc., until I found a doctor at Missouri Baptist that ordered more tests and found that my heart issues, outside of blood pressure, had miraculously resolved. I didn’t have any of the long-term problems they expected me to have, and we went on to have Jericho with the help of infectious disease specialists, cardiologists, perinatologists, and a whoooooole lotta grace from God….but it wasn’t without consequences.

As expected, even with a strict regiment of really miserable medications, I went into heart failure towards the end of my pregnancy with Jericho, and was rewarded with a lengthy hospital stay. After delivery, and after promising to never try to have any other children, I have a continued medication regiment that I’ve stayed on, and will be on for the rest of my life. I have my son; I have ZERO regrets.

The meds work great! Most of them are the same ones I’ve been on since 2006, with very few side effects, and with positive results. My CHF numbers stay low (the key number is the ejection fraction for the left ventricle. I’ve been under 10% before. My current numbers are around 40-50%, which is almost normal). My weight has been a challenge (particularly in the post-thyroid world), but has stayed in the same general area since my first pregnancy (give or take 40#. I gain, I lose, I gain, etc.), and my blood pressure stays under control with medication…it’s all working, which is crucial.

SO, why am I telling this story? Why does it matter? It matters, because YOU matter. 1 in 3 women in America are dealing with some sort of heart disease–that’s more than all other cancers, combined: https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/about-heart-disease-in-women

Per the Go Red for Women campaign, “80 percent of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action.” That’s what we can do. That’s what I can do–I can share my story, and maybe help others to become aware of the resources, the signs and symptoms, and the protocols that can help them understand heart disease more clearly. Knowing is the first step of prevention, right?

Today, my heart is functioning pretty darn well. In fact, I really don’t think about it very often, which is awesome when you consider that at one point, it was ALL I thought about…I couldn’t go up the stairs in my own home without feeling like I was going to pass out! I don’t have any limitations from cardiac issues, and I don’t worry about it…but I AM very conscious of it, and of paying attention to it when something seems “off.” I had some episodes last year of almost passing out. I wanted to ignore them, but I know better, so I called my cardiologist. Turns out, my blood pressure medication needed a simple adjustment….it was nothing complicated, and a simple phone call, and listening to my body, made all of the difference.

Take care of your heart, people. It really is the engine that drives you…and we all know that if the engine is broken, you’re not going anywhere. Love your heart….Live Fierce…and Go Red for Women!!!

Insomnia…

I know a lot—too many—people who really struggle with sleep. I’m one of them. For me, it’s a combination of general anxiety, stress, and chemical imbalances related to either diabetes or my thyroid issues (I don’t have a thyroid, if you’re not up-to-date. I take thyroid replacement hormones. That’s an uphill battle that’s an entirely different blog…I may write it someday, but as I’m still too frustrated with the process, I’ll spare you the details). I realize that some people are like, “YEAH, BRUH, I’LL SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD, YO!!!!” That’s not me. I have issues with sleeping, and I’ve recently come into a few things that seem to be helping, so I’ll share:

  1. Everyone that I know is quick to say that prayer is the best way to get to sleep. This doesn’t always work with me, as I find myself on mental rabbit trails that are anything but peaceful. However, it’s worth a try, as God loves us and is always ready to hear us out. Also, I do find that I fall asleep faster when I’m intentionally trying to draw nearer to God in prayer, LOL—of course.
  2. Get off of the electronics. I struggle with wanting to reach for my phone when I’m trying to fall asleep, but YOU HAVE TO UNPLUG YOUR BRAIN. Some experts say that getting off of electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed. I wish my alarm clock wasn’t ON my phone, but it is—maybe keeping it in a different room would help (but oh, the anxiety while getting used to it!!!).
  3. Storytime!!!  I’ve recently discovered that even as an adult, I love storytime before bed. I read to my kiddo on the weekends, or we listen to an audiobook (Tim Curry’s narration of the Lemony Snicket books is AMAZING!!!!!! I just borrowed it from my library and had no idea Tim Curry would be the narrator. He’s perfect!); you can check these out from your library, or you can download them from the Libby, the Library App. I have always used Libby for my reading, but when I realized I could also use it for audiobooks, I was so excited!!!  I very rarely purchase books or audiobooks anymore; however, I recently discovered a podcast called, “Nothing Much Happens,” by Kathryn Nicolai. When I realized she’d compiled a bunch of these stories into a book/audiobook (with no commercials—commercials will jerk me out of a solid sleep like nobody’s business), I redeemed all of my Google Play points and I got the audiobook. Her stories are simple, descriptive, and sooooooooooo dreamy, and her voice is like butter. I’ll set the timer to 30 minutes, and I’m out like a light!!! 
  4. Music: Finding the perfect music for sleeping is DIFFICULT. For me, it can’t be piano, birds, or anything that’s high-pitched; I prefer delta-wave sounds or Deep Sleep Music.  I don’t want any chanting or weird psychic new-agey stuff; I’ve been tempted by guided meditations, but spiritually, it just feels “EW,” so I stay away from that kind of thing. I also really like basic rain sounds.
  5. Not bothering your Significant Other: Waking up your spouse with your sleeping “stuff” defeats the purpose of a “peaceful sleep.” I found these nifty headphones that are an eyemask (this is an essential piece of my sleeping habits—now my son wears one, which is hilarious), and they Bluetooth to my phone (I found mine much cheaper on Mercari). This means that my audiobook and/or sleep music is set to a volume that I like, and the lights in the bedroom can stay on so that David doesn’t trip over anything when he comes to bed (he goes to bed at least an hour after I do, since he gets up 2 hours after I do). Sleep masks may help your body’s natural production of melatonin–more on that, below.
  6. Have a schedule. This is SUPER hard to do if your spouse isn’t supportive. Mine has figured out that I’m more of a nightmare without sleep than he can handle, so he’s been on-board with helping me get this figured out for a while. I have to have 8 hours of sleep each night. This may sound like a luxury to some people (I don’t understand you 5-hours-of-sleep/night people!), but it’s an absolute necessity for me, particularly since losing my thyroid. Sleep > Almost Everything Else. I literally can’t function without enough sleep, so I keep a pretty set schedule throughout the work week. I think this was easier when my son & I went to bed at the same time, but now that he’s going to bed later than I am, it’s more of a challenge for David (who is AWESOME). So, build a schedule, and make sure your spouse is on board with it and is understanding.
  7. Aromatherapy: I like lavender, geranium, etc. in my diffuser. Diffusers don’t have to be super-expensive, and essential oils don’t need to break your bank (I’ve linked my favorite EO company–it’s NOT an MLM, rest assured). You can also use roll-on oils on pulse points (I like the ones from Ruministics), or sleep blends for either direct use (make sure you don’t need a carrier oil) or for diffusing.
  8. Planning ahead: This goes with #6, and is very important in helping to unload your brain at bedtime. If you take just a few minutes to plan ahead, you can help your morning to go so much better, and avoid unnecessary stress at night. Common sense, right? It’s surprising how many people go to bed having done nothing to plan for the next day, and then wonder why their mornings are so dreaded (adding to the stress of going to sleep)! I have a few hacks that make this go easier for all of us, particularly as David gets Jericho ready for school in the morning, and I need to keep things as simple as possible to make their mornings work, too:
    1. I plan my work clothes out for the week on Sundays. I know this is really Type-A, but I don’t want to wake my husband up when I get up at 4am with a bunch of drawers and closet doors opening and closing. I need to get up and get out, so planning is a must.
    1. Stay organized. Sometimes, I change my mind from what I’ve planned for the week. My closet is very organized so that I know where things are, and I minimize the amount of time I spend searching.
    1. Lunch plans: I try to grab my pre-packaged stuff and take it to the office on Mondays (yogurt, oatmeal packets, etc). For Jericho, I use a Shoe Organizer in the laundry room, and I fill it in advance with a juice box, a snack, a dessert, chips, etc., so that each day all he needs is the fresh stuff—a sandwich, fruit/veggies, etc.) It cuts the amount of time to prep lunches in half.
    1. Clothes packets!  For Jericho, I bundle a shirt and pants (or hoodie, t-shirt, and pants) together into his drawer. He grabs a packet, gets dressed, and life is EASY. I think everyone in the house sleeps better when they know they’re ready for the next day.
  9. Journaling: Some people swear by this. I can see how unloading your brain each night would be helpful….This does not work for me, because I can’t seem to get consistent at it. It’s a work in progress. Land of My Sojourn on Etsy makes BEAUTIFUL journals that just might help even me get consistent in journaling!
  10. Get Medical Help: If you have prolonged insomnia, get help. It could be anxiety; it could be hormonal. It could be psychiatric or a physical imbalance, or even a neurological disorder. It could be spiritual; it could be ALL of the above (which is what I run into). You can do all of the things that you can do on your own, but it’s not always enough. The stigma of taking medication for chemical/mental/hormonal issues has got to go—people die every day because they don’t take unseen illnesses more seriously. You’re worth it. You have a few options to think about:
    • Melatonin: This is considered a “natural” solution to support sleep, and is available over the counter. I hear people talk about giving it to their kids all the time; please don’t do that without talking to their pediatrician, as it’s been linked to causing seizures in children (even those without a history of seizures). I’ve tried sublingual (under the tongue) melatonin and a melatonin capsule; someone recently told me you could do both, but that seems a bit extreme. Melatonin is a hormone that your brain produces in response to darkness (a sleep mask may help you more than you think!) and is meant to be taken as a short-term solution. I’ve probably been on it far too long. Synthetically produced supplements are cheaper than the naturally-produced ones; I’ve heard from many people in alternative healthcare that synthetic melatonin can cause crazy dreams and nightmares, so be careful! Synthetic supplements tend to be “all filler, no killer,” so if you have access to whole plant-based supplements, use them (check with your chiropractor, if you’re looking into it. Side-note: Chiropractic adjustments are a GODSEND for insomnia. Your spine houses your spinal cord, which is part of your nervous system. When your spine gets out of line, it has a huge impact on how your body switches from sympathetic to parasympathetic dominance. Do some research–it’s massively important to your overall mental function & ability to actually, physically RELAX. ).
    • Medications: There’s a ton of them, and I’ve tried a few. Ambien and other medications like it are, in my experience, too dangerous to be on the market. I’ll have to tell you the story about Ambien shopping sometimes—we had a good laugh, but it was very scary in retrospect. I’ve learned that medical doctors will sometimes prescribe medications for insomnia without regard to the psychiatric side effects. I recently spoke to a psychiatrist about a medication that my MD had prescribed, and she said it was far too strong. Her recommendation was a much lighter, non-habit forming medication that is doing a tremendous job! If you don’t need to “bring out the big guns,” don’t do it. Ask your doctor to start you out with the smallest dosage of a non-habit forming medication.
    • Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a HUGE issue that has a lot of preconceived notions. Nope—fat people aren’t the only ones who struggle with sleep apnea. I learned that it’s almost always a spouse that finally convinces a patient to get tested for sleep apnea or other sleeping issues. People with sleep apnea STOP breathing. I had a patient once who had a stroke in the middle of the night from untreated sleep apnea, and almost died; it was at that point that I basically forced my husband to get help. Shortly after David got a CPAP machine, I found out that the tumor in my throat had basically caused my windpipe to become deformed and my airway was limited. I had to get a CPAP, too, and boy-oh-boy, aren’t we attractive?!?! But you know what’s sexy? A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP, so I’ll take it. CPAP machines have come a long way, as have the masks that go with them. I wear a full-face mask; David wears one that only covers his nose. There are a TON of options to make you feel comfortable!!!! And being alive is always cool. 🙂 Sleep apnea is first determined by a sleep study, which is a pretty simple process that involves a few different methods of diagnostic testing. There’s a take-home sleep study that your doctor (PCP) or specialist (pulmonologist) can order; there’s also an in-office overnight sleep study they can order. It’s painless, and well worth it!

If you’re not sleeping at night, please consider some of the options I’ve listed. Sleep is so important! You and your family are worth you at your best, and we can’t be at our best if we can’t get some rest (hey, I’m a poet!). I’ve listed a few ideas that can help (NONE of these can be considered as medical advice, as I’m not a doctor and I’m not pretending to be one), and you may have read about even more (like, get a better mattress!!!). Take the time to figure out what’s blocking you from a good night’s sleep, and get a breakthrough!

Or, if you’re really tired, just re-read this blog. It’s long enough that it should knock you out in no time. 🙂

Sweet dreams, y’all….

The Beautiful Moments…

I think I reiterate this every year, but I. Love. Christmas!!!! I’ll spare you all of the things I love about it, but I think I love it more every year.

I really, really love Christmas songs–the Name of Jesus is proclaimed on virtually EVERY radio station, every TV station, all over Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, EVERYWHERE, and music is constant! Sad Christmas songs make me like, three times more emotional than any other sad song–can we NOT?!?! I like happy Christmas songs, and I’m not going to apologize for it. I usually start the Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, but I started early this year because COVID is sucking my will to live. Thanksgiving bummed me out a bit, and I don’t know what our Christmas is going to look like this year (I miss my church homies, and I miss baking for them!), but in the meanwhile, there is-and-always-will-be, Christmas music.

Our church is meeting in home groups for the foreseeable future, and has for some time now. It’s taken some time to adjust to, but interestingly enough, we no longer meet on Sunday mornings (GASP! It almost feels blasphemous to say it out loud). Once a month, we meet corporately on Sunday afternoon (we livestreamed the last meeting, since we’re being uber-careful about ‘Rona), but weekly, we’re meeting on Friday nights (currently on Zoom, again, due to COVID). This means that Sundays are…wait for it…FREE. Wait, let me retype that as how I truly feel: FFFFFFFFRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (said in my Adam Sandler/Bedtime Stories voice)

I’m usually doing laundry or stuff around the house, since it’s the only time I’m not cramming full of other household things. This week, though, outside of a 7:30pm meeting (again, Zoom), our whole day was blank like canvas. I slept in, we had soup, there were Wii games and yelling, and it was nice. “You’re rambling, Cass. Where does this tie into Christmas?!?” you ask…

I found a YouTube Channel that plays Christmas music on a livestream. To my surprise, it’s pretty good!

The scene above was on our TV in the living room. If you look at it full-screen, you’ll see the details, down to the little dog parked down by the threshold of the fireplace. This is such a cozy scene; it reminds me of my parents’ house, and their best friends’ house, and the house I imagine for myself when I can’t sleep at night (what, you don’t play Imaginary Decorator when you can’t sleep?), and interestingly enough, it matches my Christmas decor.

David & Jericho were in the kitchen building a Christmas present for “someone,” and I was listening to their conversation…I was sitting on the couch, reading a book (!). None of us were out of our pajamas, and the Christmas music was playing in the background. I was suddenly struck by the beauty of this simple moment. I had such a breath of gratitude in my spirit.

I can remember being in a friend’s house and seeing their family together…the dad and one of the daughters was singing in the kitchen, working on dinner, while the mom and the other daughters & their husbands were milling about, talking about various subjects. Grandkids were running up-&-down the stairs in their beautiful home, and I had a moment of awe that was spiked with a bit of jealousy. This was AMAZING! Like, this is the kind of scene that TV tells us is normal, but that life says is anything but! I felt like I was on a 90’s TGIF sitcom, in one of those sappy “aw-shucks-hug-the-dog” moments. What was this?!?!?

I can remember being in the kitchen in the house that I grew up in, and I don’t remember what we were doing, but my mom, my sister, & I were all singing Gatlin Brothers’ songs. That’s one of those moments where everything was happy, and harmonious (literally–my mom’s a killer harmony singer), & I remember breathing it in and sealing it in my brain (BTW, click the link to hear the GBs if you’ve never heard of them). They’re still awesome).

The moments we get to stop and build a metaphorical monument in our brains–where we take a bit to breathe in what we’re seeing and feeling, and we seal that memory–are so precious. I have a ton of amazing memories of life in general, but especially at Christmas. I’m learning that no matter what gift you have for someone, you can’t force those moments. Those moments happen by the grace & love of Jesus–those moments are in & of themselves, like spontaneous worship. Those moments hit us in our spirit–they catch our attention and remind us to stop and to thank God for the life that He’s given us. They’re completely genuine, without pretense; they probably happen far more often than we know, because we’re so busy. Having that blank Sunday to rest and stop allowed me to remember what I was surrounded with, and to be so, so thankful.

Maybe that’s a blessing in all of this COVID garbage–maybe it’s giving us time to stop and think, to stop and appreciate who we have and what moments we’re surrounded by.

I’m so thankful for the Beautiful Moments…I know this little blog doesn’t go very far, but one thing it does do is serve as a marker for the memories I want to keep. I want to remember seeing the Christmas lights, the sappy scene on the TV, the silly pajamas and the paint on the kitchen table. I want to remember a lazy Sunday full of cozy blankets and soup, & a good book.

I want to remember that feeling of gratitude, and to go back to it on the days where I’ve lost my focus and have let the Hamster Wheel of Life detour my emotions. I want to hold onto the Beautiful Moments, and to pay attention so that when they come along, I’m ready to take that deep breath and to seal it in, to give thanks to God for making it all possible.

May this Christmas be a time of Beautiful Moments for you and all of your family…if I don’t see you until the New Year, may your 2021 be (and this is where I don’t say, “less of a dumpster fire than 2020”) a year that brings you closer to God, and closer to each other. Peace and Love to you and yours!

This is a small collection of the COVID photo shoots….the picture in the bottom center is the only one taken by a professional. We literally shot the rest ourselves with cell phones because we couldn’t be bothered with real equipment…which we have…but 2020. Also, based on these pictures, which were taken 3 completely different times, I am dubbing 2020 the “Year of Denim,” because I evidently couldn’t get away from some incarnation of a denim shirt in Every. Single. Picture. 🙂 Photos taken at Strawberry Nature Reserve and at Bee Tree Park, by David Cooley and Emmybee Photography

“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

“Stay Alive.”

Hamilton

I think it’s fair to say that most of life’s situations can probably be addressed in lyrics from Hamilton, if you look hard enough. That’s the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda. If I had a .015% of his brain power, I’d have figured out how to make the whole blogging-thing a career by now. 🙂 Say what you will about the man’s politics–his creativity & talent are simply unparalleled, both currently and in history, and his ability to turn a phrase? RIDICULOUS.

You know what else is ridiculous?!?!?

The fights in this nation right now, over a simple, easy-to-use, potentially fashionable scrap of material.

Wearing a face mask has become this ridiculous, left vs. right, conspiracy-theory laden soap box, and it BLOWS. MY MIND.

the-universe-it-blows-my-mind

I’ve gotten to a place where I don’t feel like I can trust people, where what they say doesn’t match what they do….I don’t feel like people are being honest about their COVID exposures (like, why am I finding out that I may have had a secondary exposure, a week after the fact and through a different person than the one I was with?!?), or about their testing (I’m negative). I promise you, if I’m looking at you, I’m secretly wondering if you’re actually following recommendations, or if you’re gonna be the one that passes along a disease that could kill me.

That’s where I’m at.

I just want to “stay alive.”  I know that sounds dramatic, but tell that to the over 1,000 people in Missouri that have died from this garbage (& yeah, I know the amount of flu deaths is higher–this furthers the reason to wear masks during flu season as well as during the pandemic).

I fail to understand why wearing a mask, or a requirement to wear a mask, has become some sort of, “You’re inhibiting my freedoms! If you wear a mask, you’re just a slave to the media!!” HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?!?

Look, man, I don’t want to catch this COVID crap. I don’t want to inadvertently pass it along, either. I just want to “stay alive,” and I want my family to do the same. Wearing a mask may or may not be the “best” or “most convenient” method of prevention, but it doesn’t hurt. IT’S NOT HURTING YOU. It’s not hurting me, either.

Frankly (and this won’t win me any anti-mask friends), I feel like if you’re so selfish that you don’t want to wear a simple, little piece of cloth on your face, then maybe you need to check your heart. Are we so arrogant that we can’t stop and pause for a second, and wonder if we may inadvertently infect someone with this virus? Are we so arrogant, and so blind, that we can’t possibly fathom that we may catch this thing ourselves??

I feel like a certain faction is stuck in that whole, “well, nothing bad will EVER happen to me” line of garbage that some people like to believe (Christians are particularly bad about this, thanks to a hot streak of prosperity-laden garbage preaching in the 90’s). They’re stuck in this faction that they’re so awesome, that germs couldn’t POSSIBLY stick to them and be passed along to someone….’cause they’re PERFECT.

Y’all are delusional, and you’re gonna kill people.

PERIOD.

SO, now I’m struggling with not being in fear so much of the disease, as I am afraid of the lack of honesty and reality to the people I’m surrounded by.

If you’re angry at a store because they’ve decided to make it a mandate that you wear a mask when you go through those doors, check your heart. THEY HAVE EMPLOYEES TO PROTECT. They have massive liabilities, should they have a positive test affect their business. This nation hasn’t been this financially fragile since….well, since Alexander Hamilton built our financial systems. It’s only by the business practices of our current President that we’re not up a creek right now (say what you will about the man; his trade arrangements and positions on jobs are doing wonders for our country). Businesses need to stay open; people need and want to work. If your arrogant self marches in their store, even if you’re asymptomatic, and inadvertently infects people, then you could cause the fallout from this pandemic to continue going on for months…Or you could inadvertently be responsible for someone’s death from the disease…

Wearing this tiny, 4×6″ piece of material on your face ISN’T HURTING YOU. It’s keeping you from spreading as many germs, and it’s keeping you from inhaling as many germs (it’s obviously not fail-proof. No one is believing that lie). It may not be comfortable (I’m broke out from mine), but they’re inexpensive to make and to buy, and it’s a simple thing you can do to prevent and/or slow the spread of this disease.

I can’t understand how the anti-mask faction justifies the risk over their own comfort. Because people can’t be personally responsible and take control over their own actions, now the police and the government have to step in like we’re selfish little babies, and make masks a mandated thing.

Because people can’t be personally responsible and take control over their own actions, stores like Wal-Mart are requiring you to wear a mask for your own protection. How stupid is that, and how personally insulting is it that WAL-MART has to tell us what to do?!?!? WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY WHERE FRICKIN’ WAL-MART IS TELLING US WHAT TO DO. I’m offended by the fact that it’s come to this point (also, I hate Wal-Mart–but y’all already know that).

EDIT: I came across this meme and laughed so hard that I had to add it back in here. Please don’t be offended—okay, maybe be offended a tiny bit–but c’mon, you KNOW it’s true!!!!!!!!

WALMART

Look, I don’t particularly like wearing these dang things. I have to wear one in my office, so I get it…but I also, again, don’t know or care about the comings-&-goings of other people in my office. I don’t know or trust that they’re being responsible on their “off” time, and I’m not taking any chances. I know the science is questionable, and my trust isn’t in this little piece of material; my trust is in God.

The Bible tells us to ask for wisdom, and to act with wisdom. My wearing a mask doesn’t mean I’m a lemming or a leftie; it simply means that I CARE about my own health, and the health of those around me.

My wearing a mask means that I am doing a small part to help myself and those I care about, to avoid the pandemic and to keep us all working and living. I like this quote from Clare Johnson, “Mask-wearing is an exercise in the spiritual practice of love of neighbor. I wear my mask as a sign of my love and care for others, especially those who are most at risk. Jesus tells us that when we care for “the least of these,” we are really serving him. I believe that by caring for the most vulnerable among us, I am following Christ’s example.”

It’s the epitome of loving your neighbor–let that sink in.

Meanwhile, here’s a few more articles, if you’re so inclined:

https://biologos.org/articles/walking-by-faith-and-wearing-a-mask

Four Reasons to Wear a Mask (Even if you Hate It)

And this one, which draws some interesting parallels about salvation and masks (because we Christians love our parallels)…

Our freedoms are not being taken away because a store asks us to mask up–that’s a conspiracy-theory laden mindset, and you can go down those rabbit holes all day long. Just put some tin-foil over your ears, if that’s your line of thought. 🙂

12520479

There are enough conspiracies out there that are MUCH more frightening than a simple, 4×6″ piece of materials, people.

Just wear the dang mask. It’s seriously not hurting you, and in some cases that you may never realize, it just might save your life.

And don’t get salty with those stores that are requiring a face covering–you have no idea what it’s taking for business to stay open right now, and if wearing a little piece of fabric over your pie-hole keeps this economy going? To quote a company I shall never name again, “just do it.”

For a list of Missouri mask requirements, click here.

For CDC mask information (which, as we all know, changes every day–this fact has NOT escaped me, people. I trust them about as much as I trust Missouri weather), click here.

And, to listen to the full soundtrack of Hamilton (because it’s amazing), click here.

Hurry Up and Wait, AKA, “It’s Allllll Right.”

Some of you may have caught that back in February, my thyroid cancer decided to make a comeback. In typical “Cassidy” fashion, my sense of timing was AWESOME, and as the country was shutting down from COVID-19 in March, I was running back and forth to the hospital to have injections and scans done (Thyrogen injections and RAI with a full-body scan, for those that understand this garbage). This was all set up after my tumor markers (which were 0.00 back in December, which is why BJC decided to release me from monitoring for 3 years back in January ’20) jumped up to 0.7 in February. That may seem like a nominal amount to some, but in my case, it was not a great sign.
So, I had the full body scan done, and just like the last time I went through the test back in 2018, the full body scan was negative. Unlike in 2018 (when my labs were pretty clear), the labs said the cancer was present, but the scan didn’t pick it up (I have cloaking cells. Very Star Trek). In that case, the line of care is to repeat the labs and check the markers, and based on those changes, possibly to graduate to a PET scan and (I hope) eventual surgery to remove the threat (in my case, it’s a few lymph nodes in my neck that have been suspiciously enlarged for the last few years. Large lymph nodes with clean labs = No big deal. Large lymph nodes with positive labs = Kind of a big deal). I know it might sound crazy, but these lymph nodes have been a thorn in my side since my original diagnosis back in 2015. I’d really like to get them out of my body. I don’t know if taking them out will reduce the chances of the cancer showing up elsewhere, but either way, they stress me out, so I want them gone.
My endocrinologist said that if my tumor markers have gone up to 1.0, we’ll move on to the PET scan. I put off getting the tests done until the absolute last possible minute, which was this morning…
Labs are completed…so now, we wait.
I think the hardest part of any medical decision/result is the waiting. It’s like, “Let’s hurry up and get this done…but wait until your insurance approves it,” or, “let’s hurry up and get this done…but wait until the results come in, then we’ll do another test, then we’ll wait some more, and eventually, we’ll have answer…maybe…but that answer may just be that we monitor the condition, so yeah, our treatment advice is just to keep waiting (even though you feel like you have a ticking time bomb in your neck).”
Man, I don’t DO well in the waiting–haven’t we already established that, Lord?!?! Like, YOU KNOW I don’t wait well. I’m not saying that I’m going to sit here and worry until I get the test results, because I’m not going to LET myself say that–I’m going to argue with myself and pray for peace. I’m not going to worry. There’s enough worry in the world, and worry stresses out every body system. It doesn’t MATTER what the test results are–God is still in control, I’m not going to die from this, and it’s going to be okay. It’s the easiest kind of cancer to treat–so much so, that there are some that debate whether or not it’s an actual cancer (although how that’s debatable, I do not know). It really is the stress in the waiting, and the stress in the process, that’s the worst.
I have a friend right now that has metastatic breast cancer (and her treatment during COVID-19 has been terrible–I think the medical industry has let their standard of care drop significantly in the wake of trying to prevent the spread of the disease. Patients are still people, and they still need actual care). We were emailing yesterday, and she said something that really caught my heart: “I just want to feel normal again.”
I’ve said those words. I think anyone who’s been through a major medical issue has said those words, and the truth is, the day you received your diagnosis, your “normal” changed. You don’t look at life through the same lens. People can choose to let it define them, to make it part of their identity. I don’t believe that’s a healthy approach (although you do you–whatever it takes to get through it, do it). To me, it’s not a badge.  I told my friend that it’s part of my story, but it’s absolutely NOT who I am, and it’s not something I candidly speak about to just anyone (although here I am, blogging away. Yeah, I see that.). I think doctors let it define you–every time I go into a medical office, I get 3 things: History of congestive heart failure. History of thyroid cancer. History of diabetes. Every single other thing that has/can go on, is looked at through those lenses, regardless of what I say. That can be frustrating, but I know now to anticipate it. I can live my life with cancer in the background; doctors can’t treat me without considering the history at the forefront. I get it.
But as a human being (and I say “being,” meaning that “as a present, focused individual”), and as someone who says they believe in a Creator Who defines them, cancer/other medical issues are a consequence of living in a fallen world. They don’t reflect Him, and they don’t reflect Who He sees me as. Jesus loves Cassidy. Yes, He knows Cassidy the Cancer Patient, but He Loves Me as who He made me to be, and who He made me to be is whole.
So, that’s how I identify–I identify in hope as someone who’s jumped through the hoops and has come through the other side, unscathed. I might be scarred, but I’m not burned; that might not make sense to you, but that’s okay. The hardest thing for me to deal with through this resurgence of cancer cells is anger, and I’ll admit that it’s still an issue–but I’m not mad at God. I’m aggravated at the Enemy. Cancer didn’t come from God. It came from Satan, and he sucks, so yeah–I’m mad at him. I’m mad at weirdo-genetics and my own laziness, and the frustration of the American healthcare system, and the cost of the procedures, and the feeling like my own sin caused this to happen to me (that’s a lie from the pit of Hell. God is NOT sitting in Heaven with a Smite button. I believe in pleading the Blood of Jesus over sins for my redemption, so no–I’m not being punished by God with cancer. People that teach that kind of religious garbage need a swift kick in the head with the book of James. That’s a whole ‘nother conversation).
God does not look at us through a lens of sin or of sickness. He sees us through His Son, and He sees us through Love, so even though I’m angry at my present situation, I am grateful and I believe that He knows what He is doing. I think my best course of action is to get these rebellious lymph nodes removed. I’ve caught myself pleading my case for that to God, and I have realized that it will be a hard pill to swallow if He says, “no.” That will mean I’m back to square one with a treatment plan, and that I’m back on the hamster wheel of, “hurry up and wait” for another 3-5 years (which may happen if I get the nodes removed. My hope is that if I get the nodes removed, then we can just do periodic lab work instead of ultrasounds and scans).
Part of the new “normal” after a medical diagnosis is relearning how your body is going to function; it’s learning new medications and side effects, and how you need to treat yourself in regards to them. It’s learning the signs of when you’ve pushed things too far, and of listening to your body. It’s educating yourself and your loved ones to hopefully understand and extend grace when you’re not yourself, and it’s part of finding out how to be YOURself, when things can come along chemically, that try to alter that. It’s learning how to reach out when you’re frustrated or sad, and to find someone who can and will listen without judgement. It’s learning to ask for help, even if you may be a person that hates doing so. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness (I’ll say that again, for the people in the back: ASKING FOR HELP IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS. Thank you.).
Part of the new “normal” is learning to handle a load of fear, impatience, and apprehension that comes at you from every side–from well-meaning friends and family; from physicians; and from yourself (just think of them as these guys: Fear, Impatience, Apprehension–bloodthirsty little hyenas).
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I’ll definitely admit to struggling in this department. Once the “C” word is in your vocabulary, it stays. Some days, it’s a Hollywood marquis; other days, it’s a whisper in the back of your mind. When I’m not in active treatment, it’s usually just a whisper. My daily struggles involve the thyroid replacement meds and the HRT–one missed or mistimed medication can wreck me for days, so I have to have constant organization to remember to stay on top of those things. And because my memory skills aren’t what they used to be (age, meds, oxygen loss, etc.), I have mental systems in place to try to keep things straight, but sometimes, I make mistakes (For anyone who’s on a regiment of multiple medications, I highly recommend PillPack. It makes things SO much easier!!! And they handle vitamins, too, which is nice). Fear, impatience, and apprehension are not from God, so we (I) have to come to a place where we recognize those feelings as they’re coming on, take a stand, and lay them at His feet. Easier said, than done.
And that brings me back to today…The labs are done.
He truly is in the waiting….And in the waiting, we (I) take deep breaths; I focus on knowing that it will all be okay; I pray that God would provide clear answers and direction; and I pray that I will hear Him clearly…
Some people would say, “Well, why don’t you just pray for healing?” Sometimes I think it takes more faith to believe for a healing, than it does to pray for a resolution. I think that’s another blog I will eventually be able to write–there’s a lot to unpack, there.
Right now, we wait. And like my sister’s macaw likes to say, it will be “allllllll right.”
🙂
Hey, if a bird can get it, so can I. 🙂
scully

Chaos and Christmas Cookies

Christmas seems to be such a time of heightened emotions and drama, right? Either we’re emotional because we’re happy-reminiscing, or we’re emotional because we’re sad reminiscing, or we’re freaking out because there’s too much to do, or we’re filled with abundant joy because of what we’re surrounded with (hyped-up kids). Or, we’re stuffing our fists in our mouths so that we don’t say the wrong thing at our family gatherings…or we’re on a sugar high because COOKIES, or we’re disappointed because no matter how hard we try, we will NEVER BE MARTHA FRICKIN’ STEWART, or we’re hiding in our bedrooms for 2 seconds of peace because of school vacations, or…

Peace.

When the angels came to the shepherds (who were no doubt freaking the heck out, because angels are NOT soft, cuddly lil’ things with wings and halos, NOT TO MENTION the fact that they just SUDDENLY appeared out of NOWHERE. In some translations, Luke 2 says they were “terrified,” and who wouldn’t be?!?!?), they made it a point to say, “Peace.”

Of all of the things that the angels could have said, particularly in regards to the mission they were on, don’t you find it so indicative of the loving nature of God, that they used the word, “Peace?” They wanted their announcement of our Savior to be met not with fear, but with rejoicing…not with dread, but with peace. He wanted us to greet His Son with Peace…that amazes me!

Yet, this season is often met with anything but…

And I am no exception.

I work in a University, which means that I am beyond blessed to have some time off in December and January. This also means that I have a ton of projects that are wrapping up at work, along with my own Christmas preparations. I have schedules to finish, papers to process, contracts to review, doctors to credential, and compliance training to complete. I’m swamped, and I can be very short on patience.

At home, there is cleaning, cooking, baking, groceries to shop for, presents to wrap, recipes to hunt down…laundry that still somehow manages to pile up (even though I swear, I’ve worn the same t-shirt through 3 days of baking…okay, that’s TMI). A few weeks ago, I had to make a run to the grocery store with my kiddo in tow. He’s usually pretty good in the store, so I thought, “Okay, this time, I’m not going to lift him into the cart. My back is hurting pretty badly, and I just don’t want to lift him. He’ll be fine.” And he was…for the first half of the store.

And then he lost his dang mind.

I have no idea what set him off, but he got plain ornery, as we say in my neck of the woods, and I just about spanked his rear in the baking aisle. I was NOT having it, so I hiked him into the cart, and told him I’d had enough. I needed to get some basic greeting cards for work. I saw this blue card that said, “Peace on Earth,” and “Goodwill to all mankind,” and I thought, “Hey, it doesn’t say ‘Merry Christmas!’ I can use these for work!!”

Um…

Do you see what I see, in the picture that heads up this blog?

I was so distracted by my shopping lists and my crazy kiddo, that I didn’t see the Manger in the middle of the card.

I finished my shopping and had my son stand in the corner while I bagged groceries. I’m sure I was the picture of Christmas peace, let me tell you. 🙂

mADEA PEACE BE STILL

We made it home; I got the stuff put away, and my kiddo straightened up his behavior before the TV remote got hidden for the remainder of the night.

A few days later, I was sitting in my office, writing out my cards, when suddenly, I looked at the picture again. There it was, looking right back at me–The Manger.

And I’d missed it.

At first, I laughed with a Jewish friend of mine–“Look what I missed!” She said, “Well, so much for inclusivity, right?” “Yeah!  LOL–Can I still use them?” She said she thought they were fine, so I went ahead with it. I even posted it on Instagram, laughing about my typical dippy-ness. Pretty quickly behind that, though, came a feeling of sadness: How, in the middle of all of this madness, could I have missed the very thing that Christmas is all about?

I felt the Lord say to me, “My story will be told, even when you don’t see how. Even when you overlook Me, I’m still here”  Ooof….yep, that got me.

I had to repent–even though it is such a small thing, it’s true that I had my eyes off of Jesus in the midst of the chaos of my life. The card may have said, “Peace on Earth,” but my stress levels said everything but. How did I get so caught up in this mess?!?

After Thanksgiving, our holiday decorations went up. This year, I gave Jericho the job of setting up the Nativity that I’d bought for his first Christmas. It’s unbreakable, so I felt like I could breathe a bit.  🙂  I set up the stepladder, and let him do what he wanted.

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I’m kind of your typical Type A person, and I have “my” way of doing things. It’s hard for me to turn loose of things and to let other people give things a shot (I think “Type A” is just a classier way of saying, “anal-retentive,” and I will totally cop to my being a control freak in certain situations). He set up the Nativity scene, and I inwardly cringed–everyone was facing the “wrong” way!!!!  But, I took some deep breaths, and I left it alone…he deserves to have decorations, too, so I got over myself….and then, the Type-A Grinch’s heart grew THREE SIZES that day!!!

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Every time I take a look at the Nativity, I smile a little more, & I feel the Father send me a wink. Every character in this scene is solely focused on the Baby in the Manger.
They’ve turned their backs to the distraction, and they’re focused on the Promise that’s in front of them.

They weren’t so busy that they missed the Manger that was standing right in front of them, right under The Star.

They weren’t so caught up by what people would think…by deadlines and groceries and recipes and outfits and schedules…that they missed the fulfillment of the Promise of God.

My son set up this Nativity where every single character is captivated by the scene before them….captivated by the sight of a Savior that would eventually bring Peace on Earth.

I’m humbled.

I’m correcting my oversight, because a six-year old boy unintentionally pointed out the biggest spiritual lessons of Christmas, right under my nose. I may have missed the Manger, but he sure didn’t.

This past week, I’ve had questions about my faith brought up to the surface…broken places that I thought were healed, came up in a way that I had to lay them before God. We had some intense conversations this week, and I truly felt Him whisper into my heart a renewal of faith…an awakening of sorts…and a restored peace that I didn’t realize I was missing. Feelings of inadequacy came in like an earthquake, and I could see the cracks in my foundation; rather than tell me “you should know better!” or, “hasn’t it been long enough? Aren’t you past this?!?” I felt Jesus say, “It’s okay. I’m the same God now as I was 13 years ago; I was the same then that I was 1300 years ago. Things you see on this earth do not define Who I Am, and when I tell you that I Am enough, you can believe that it is, it was, and it will always be true. I felt Him echo those words about me…”Cassidy, you are ENOUGH. Trust in Who you know I Am.”

Chaos in the past…confusion in the present…fear of the future–these are all things that cause us to curl into a ball of static rejection and anxiety. They steal our peace, and they separate us from God and the joy that He gives. These are things that build armor around our hearts and minds, and cause us to feel alone in the dark…but that’s not where He calls us to be.

The shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem were out on night watch. It was dark, boring, and dangerous work; in a darkness like that, who could possibly predict what criminal or starving animal would approach, next? It was smelly, terrifying, and pitch-black…but then God came, and everything changed in an instant:

[a]Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. 10 The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 [b]For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 [c]“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14, NABRE)

 

God loved us so much that He gave His only Son to die on a Cross for our sins, and to be resurrected again three days later. He did all of this, so that He wouldn’t have to go through the suffering of losing a child ever again…He doesn’t want to lose a single one of us.

In this season, my hope is that we will all stop and see the Manger in a new way…My hope is that we can all take some time and solely focus on the gift that God gave us, in bridging the gap between sin and salvation with His Son, Jesus.

We are so grateful to the Lord for our son, for our families, and for our friends (that means YOU!). We’re thankful for our church and our pastors, and for the fact that they never stop their relentless pursuit of Jesus.

Have a blessed and wonderful Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, and of course, a wonderful Boxing Day, eh?!?  Celebrate the season with joy and wonder, and may the peace of God be on your household.

See you in 2020 (and yes, in my field, I’m “looking” forward to a year’s worth of terrible jokes)!!! Shalom, y’all!

 

 

 

“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras

“A Boxer’s greeting is a joy to behold. They jump into the air in such a jubilee of delight, it’s as if your return to hearth and home were the most noteworthy event of the century when all you’ve done, say, is walk to the mailbox and back. Return after an hour or more and you’ll get backflips, trumpets and a procession of drum-beating pageantry befitting a king.” —Thom Jones

Last year, when our beloved #HollyTheBoxer turned 13, I penned the following blog that really says more to me right now than I’m capable of saying: https://cassidyscommentary.com/2018/09/04/for-the-love-of-a-dog/

Holly was diagnosed with an unknown kind of cancer just a few days after her fourteenth birthday (14!!!  That’s unheard of for a boxer.)…Her hips and legs had become weaker and weaker, until last week, we finally knew that it was time to say goodbye.

On Friday, I gave her the last bath, and did her nails for the last time. She had trouble standing, and I found myself having to hold her up by one arm while I scrubbed with the other (it’s been rainy, and she had the muddiest paws–I swear, it’s like she packed some in from the outside to save for wallerin’ later on!). I sang her silly songs & used the expensive shampoo for once.  I lifted her out of the tub, and of course, she shook off the displeasure of the watery inconvenience; I couldn’t even complain. I just laughed at her, because at least this time, she waited until AFTER the bath to shake, as opposed to doing it midway through.

I dried her off, clipped her nails, and let her walk out with her usual post-bath annoyance…except this time, it was far more subdued than in her younger days, almost as if she had finally come to terms with the indignity of the fact that she’d had to endure such a scrub-down. That’s one of the things I was always rather proud of: David had trained her to follow commands, but I trained her to let me give her a bath and to do her nails. I always thought of it as our girl-bonding time. 🙂

On Saturday, we did one last photo shoot as a family, at Suson Farm. I know David didn’t want to do it; there’s something really intense about the bond between a man and his dog, and I could see that he was struggling. Also, Holly had lost a good part of her hearing, and did some uncharacteristically-disobedient things that we were not expecting….like, run off and try to get a drink out of the lake…except she couldn’t keep her balance…and David & Holly both almost fell into the lake, on a cold, November morning. I knew we would laugh about it later, but at the time, it was scary and sad. Our girl would NEVER run off like that…then again, she’d also NEVER drink out of the toilet (that started a few months ago) or pee on the floor (that started a year ago….we’re going to deep-clean the house over the next few weeks, yikes) or bark in her crate (that started a few weeks ago). She was declining, and neither David nor I wanted to admit it…until we had to, and Saturday was that day.

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We took pictures as a family, because that dang dog was a huge part of our family for 14 years. I was NEVER a dog person–I was a confirmed cat person–until David brought her home right before our first Christmas as a married couple. She made me a dog lover, and now I can’t pass one up without scratching its head. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my weekends….Every weekend morning, since I got to sleep in, she’d come around to my side of the bed and put her head under whatever body part I had dangling off (usually my hand, but every now and then, she’d get my foot and I’d jump out of my skin!). Every night, she’d sit at the “L” juncture of our couch, right where I couldn’t get out of my seat without her knowing. I missed her so bad last night that I sat there watching “Great British Bake-Off” and bawled my way through three episodes. I miss my friend.

At our photo shoot, I dressed her up in a pink tutu that I’d bought for the occasion. When I bought it, I didn’t know it would be for the Last Pictures, but it seemed perfect. I dressed her up in my favorite vintage pearls, and a costume jewelry necklace that I’d put on her for her 12th birthday. She looks thrilled in the pictures, LOL, but given how many times I’ve made that poor dog suffer the indignity of girlie accessories, I felt like we had to give it one more go.

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Our vet was amazing…I (for some stupid reason) didn’t think our son would be as upset as he was. He was DEVASTATED, and let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than a kid that’s about to say goodbye to the dog they’ve known their entire life. He didn’t know what to do with himself; one minute, he was crying and scared; the next minute, he was telling the vet a cow joke out of a book he’s reading. He made all of us laugh at the worst possible time, but again, that’s something we’ll laugh about later. I’m glad he did it.

Our vet (who was amazing) took the time to tell Jericho that dogs are a creation of God…and that He loves all of His creation. I firmly believe there are dogs in Heaven (I mean, why not–there’s horses, right? That’s what my Mama pointed out to me many years ago, and it makes perfect sense). I also believe that Hannah-girl has her dog back.  David told her that Holly would be “her” dog, and now they’re together.

It still hurts, though.

Just 6 days ago, we celebrated (weird term, loose interpretation) Hannah’s 13th birthday. 4 days after that, we lost our dog. This is a difficult season, and I’m struggling with feeling overwhelmed with everything…work, grief, loss, social requirements, parenthood…I feel like I failed my son by not giving him enough credit to understand the loss of our dog.  I feel like I failed my husband because I’m the one that made the veterinary appointment. I feel like I failed my dog because we had to let her go…it’s the second time in my life that I’ve had to make the decision to let someone I love go, and I know it’s different when one is your child and the other is a dog, but those decisions are incredibly, intensely, intimately painful and foreign, yet familiar…Holly was family, and now she’s gone. I’ve never lost a pet like this before. I’m alternating between feeling cried out, and chastising myself for not having it together. It’s hardly the worst thing I’ve been through, but dang…

We loved that dog.

As she was getting sleepy from the first shot, I picked her up and put her head on my shoulder, and held her like a baby (like I’d done until she got too heavy for my old-lady back). When we laid her on the table, I put my head on her head, and whispered to her…The last thing she heard us say was that we loved her, and that she was a good dog. I hope that she understood…I believe (I want to believe) that she did.

I read a blog where a guy wrote from his dog’s perspective, as his dog was declining…it broke my heart all over again, but it’s so beautiful that I’m linking it. Don’t read it if you don’t want a good cry…

This will take some time to heal.

“A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.” – Robert Wagner

 

“Dogs die. But dogs live, too. Right up until they die, they live. They live brave, beautiful lives. They protect their families. And love us, and make our lives a little brighter, and they don’t waste time being afraid of tomorrow.” – Dan Gemeinhart