Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Theme of the week...now that it's half over


Things I've done this week that seem to have been birthed from insane courage:

Sent some messages to some of my writing heroes today for ideas on how to get more serious about my writing. Holding on to hope that the something great to come of it will be that they actually land on the "keep" piles from their assistants.

Applied for a job that I know I can do but never have; it's completely out of my realm of experience but totally in line with my talents. Hoping they see that.

Shared my heart with a loved one regarding a serious concern.

Corresponded with a marketing rep about writing a blog post for their company campaign after I initially said no to their "cold call" e-mail. (hint: yes, I am!)

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On the job front...seriously, I feel like every application I do is insanely courageous.

And they sure as heck take a lot longer than 20 seconds.

But great things are brewing because....

I have a job interview tomorrow! 

And one next Friday. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Eight is great...


I love this picture of you. 

It makes me just want to squeeze ya and kiss every one of those cute little freckles on your face.

And maybe tickle you till you burst.

I see the joy you bring to our lives with that smile.

I also see a sharpening of your cheeks and jawline that hints of time going by, of the inevitable transition  you'll be making from boy-child to a man.

You weren't supposed to grow this fast, you know.

You are a zany little fireball with Rain Man like abilities to recall sports stats, a wicked sense of humor, and the kindest, most compassionate heart. I often pray that you'll stay just that way. Always.

From birth, you had an intuitiveness your brother and sister didn't. I mean, you all three could sense my moods and be affected by them yourselves. But you? You knew when to shoot me a look, brow cocked as if to say, "You ok?" and cuddle up hard, burrowing deeper into my embrace, only to inhale deep and admiringly tell me either, "Mama, you 'mell goooooood," or, "When I was with God, you know, before I was born, I told Him I wanted you to be my mama." The latter of which made me wonder at His ways.

Those knowing eyes. And dirty face.
You're 3 here.
You've come so far from the days of delayed, incomprehensible speech, chattering incessantly now about sports stats, things you are learning at school, what your dreams for next Christmas are in February, and more. You're a natural smartie, even though you try to make it look like it takes you longer to figure it out. I know that trick - straight out of the Heather Meyer playbook - downplay your brightness so that others may shine. This is fine, but I'll tell you a secret: it's ok to shine brightly in the you-ness God made just for Christopher Joel Meyer.


video




Your energy astounds me. I remember when you started walking around...and how when you got good enough to run, you would race hurriedly back and forth from our front door to the kitchen door for hours between dinner and bedtime. You still do that during football season - we'll be cozied and comfy after church on the couch, watching the Broncos and here's Christopher zipping back and forth the room, playing an imaginary scrimmage. Soon, you'll be too big a size to do this comfortably in our small space. You seem to know this and are perfectly content to play basketball or lacrosse outside [most of the time - the video games sometimes hold more allure].


Your heart is precious to me. You are tender and sweet towards the left out kids at school, and I've watched you on the playground, mentally weighing out the costs and benefits of letting the slower, behaviorally challenged kids play a game of baseball with you at recess. Right now, you are still seeing compassion more important than competition. Please hang on to this mindset, it's a Jesus-pleaser and will mean much to those in your life who benefit from it.

Lest you get the impression that I think you're perfect, let me assure you, I know you're not. Nor do I expect you to be. 

You're the baby of the family and boy, do you play that one. 

I'll just make a ridiculously cute face so that she won't get mad about me getting into the fruit
and taking just one bite out of all the apples and bananas. I'm her "silly clown," and the baby after all!
Add to it that one year, as it was approaching your birthday and the anniversary of Pneumogedden, I shared with you that having you with me those 2 weeks I was in the hospital helped save my life because I had a constant reminder that I needed to get well because my children needed me. All of my children, not just you. And yet, you now frequently claim special privileges because, "Oh yeah? Well I saved Mom's life!" 

You are one special little dude, Chris.

You made our family complete.

And we love you oh so very much.

Happy Birthday, Duder. 

Can't wait to see what 8 brings for you.

Love,

Mama

Monday, April 24, 2017

Teaching Honest Beauty

I fell asleep last night in my Sunday-best hair and make-up.

Oh, c'mon, like you're so perfect you never wake up with crusted on mascara? Psh...

Pics or it didn't happen, you say? 

Well, here ya go.

Caution: Eyes are more red and puffy than they may appear.
Because my eyes are delicate flowers.
We scare because we care. 

Ooops, I meant I share because I care.

I care about an honest look at beauty.

I do not see a pushing-40 woman with blotchy skin, fine lines, bags under her eyes, etc. 

Ok, well I do have eyes in my head, so yes, I see her.

Let's try that again: while my eyes may see a pushing-40 woman with blotchy skin, fine lines, bags under her eyes, etc., my heart sees a tired mama hen rising before the shine in order to get her little chickies off to school at an ungodly hour with full and warm bellies, lunches for later, and encouragement to start their days.

That's beauty.

And while having an honest perspective about beauty is powerful for women, it is absolutely critical for children to hear these messages.

I spent my late teens and early adulthood imprisoned to impossible ideals of physical beauty; it made for a Heather filled with anger, bitterness, insecurity, and self-loathing. I was UGLY and SICK inside.

I was just barely on the right side of recovery from my bulimia when I found myself holding a peed-on pregnancy test up to a flickering light in a dim university bathroom, squinting to see if that ghost of a second line was really, actually there.

It was.

Time to put all the love thyself principles I'd learned in therapy to practice as my body, which I still perceived as un-beautiful and big, would become much larger and yet paradoxically more beautiful than it had ever been before.

Over the course of that pregnancy, I had a furious wrestling match with myself about what I knew and didn't know about how and what I wanted to teach this child, and later, my other children, about life.

I knew that if it was a girl, I wanted her to feel comfortable in her skin no matter what life threw at her - if she got my bad teeth, or was chubby as a kid as I had been, as she aged and her body shifted on her - that she was and would be beautiful her entire life.

Let it be known that now, I wish this for all children, regardless of gender/sex because I know that boys (men), intersex, and trans people experience body dysmorphia as well.

I knew that girl or boy, I wanted my child(ren) to know that true and honest beauty is a psycho-spiritual trait, not a fortunate combination of DNA that conformed to societal ideals, which are impossible to actually achieve without Photoshop, at that.

Nearly 17 years from that moment I discovered my impending motherhood, I have a beautiful, 16 years wise daughter, one son on the verge of highschool, and another son aged 8 (tomorrow!).



At Casa de la Esperanza, appreciating honest beauty in the midst of service




By the grace of God, they get honest beauty.

Thank you, Jesus.

My sons and husband surprise me regularly with sincere proclamations that I'm pretty, often when I least expect it. 

And then there is my comment, all shallow and worried about my looks. #NotPerfect

Because they see beyond the surface.

I told my daughter that I wanted to get some of her perspective to include in this series of posts, and her response was, "But I don't have any problems with body image."

I silently and invisibly wept as I shot a quick heavenward glance and my heart whispered to Jesus, "Did you hear that, God? You helped me do this. Thank you." 

Because I know that I've been imperfect in my teaching, but He has answered my fervent prayers.

"I know, sweetheart, and that is why I need your thoughts - because we're exploring how I modeled and/or taught that to you."


"Oh, right. Ok, cool. Bye, Mom."

And out walked two of the most beautiful people in my life as they began their day.

Stay tuned for further discussion on honest beauty.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Gentleness...it benefits us all

Unsplash: Lukas Robertson
I've gotten a bit busy this week, so I'm pulling an oldie but goodie from the archives today.

My husband was our church's groundskeeper for several years.

What started out as occasionally mowing the lawns and keeping the weeds at bay in the parking lot ended up being a 10-year volunteer stint. He started doing it solo when Kelsey was just a baby, and over the years it became a family thing.

I wrote this post almost 6 years ago - and while gardening might not be your thing, the lesson God impressed upon me is one that anyone can use.


This year, the rose garden has been particularly afflicted by morning glories.

This season started out as uncharacteristically wet - April and May just rained and rained and rained.  And being that there were three children and two jobs to attend to, the rare sunny day we'd get was usually a day full of scheduling for activities other than weeding.  It has still rained/hailed more than normal here, but this summer has since gotten into a dreadfully-hot-followed-by-afternoon-thunderstorm pattern that is typical of Colorado.

The rose bed got to me a couple of weeks ago, though, and I said, "We have got to go rip out those weeds, the roses look pitiful!"

So we did.  After 4 hours in the heat (not raining [in the mornings] now!)of squatting and crouching, getting scratched to hell, tending to 4 mischievous kids (we were babysitting, too) I was D-O-N-E.  And boy howdy did my hamstrings howl for the next several days!
It was hard work and hardly entertaining, yet somehow I managed to hear the whisperings God directed toward my heart about the inherent lessons of the rose garden.

First of all, it didn't take long at all for these horrible, life-choking weeds to grow to the extensive mess they'd become.
Sin is like that.

Ok,so maybe God didn't whisper that one to me as much as he gave those words to Seth for him to teach our older boy with and I just overheard. Same difference, right?

And these plants weren't new either - they were mature, well established roses, but every bit as susceptible to the weeds as any Christian is to sin.
Second, the roses couldn't undo the entanglement on their own, nor did they cry out for help, necessarily.  No, they were dependent on the astute observation and careful intervention of others.

  
Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.  But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 


At one point, my Mr. Fix-It observed, "You must be a lot more patient than I am."

This, being a statement filled with irony, garnered a quizzical 'say wha???' look from me.
He then explained that he was just ripping the vines at the bottom of the plant and pulling, whereas I was carefully finding the base of the vine and unwrapping each rose stem individually.  He concluded, "Yours look way better than the ones I've done."

That much was true, but before he went on thinking too highly of me, I told him the truth: "Actually, it's more out of self-preservation than it is patience."

It was my turn to elaborate.

"You see, when I was all fast and furious about it, I would get all scratched up, plus, it tore the roses up too.  When I take my time and am gentle about it, sure it takes longer, but both the roses and I benefit."

No sooner did the words leave my mouth than I felt God's Spirit, nodding beside me.  ....restore...gently.  But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.  

Tempted to do what?

Rush the job, haphazardly 'fixing' the situation, leaving yourself and the stuck person, albeit no longer stuck, bleeding and bruised on the way?

Judge the person and fight to wrestle the sin at hand out of that beautiful rose of a person, only for both of you to come out battered and missing pieces?

No matter how good intentioned one may be, if they haven't love or gentleness when dealing with a brother or sister stumbling into, or stuck plumb in, sinful habits, there will be casualties.

Proceed with caution, assume nothing (as often there's more than meets the eye), and lean on the Lord's understanding, not your own.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Accountability: The Great Fit Life Venture



At the beginning of 2017, I vowed that this year was mine to reclaim my health through weight change - I wasn't after loss for the sake of losing as I definitely want(ed) to reduce my bodyfat and increase my muscle. I also wanted to feel better in general with sufficient energy levels and fewer aches and pains.

Now, I'd made these kind of resolutions before, so I did a some things I hadn't before.

Thing Number 1: The Big {Fat} Hairy Audacious Goal (called a BHAG in the business world)

Drop 60 pounds by the end of 2017

I determined that in order to do this, I needed to set some subgoals that gave exercise and good nutrition higher priority in my life. 

I already had a pretty regular gym routine going with a former colleague turned sweat buddy; we started meeting every Monday at our gym for yoga and then would use the ellipticals after for cardio; Thursday night we'd meet for cardio and conversation; and we would meet 1-2 times on the weekend to do strength training and/or cardio. 

It was time to step it up a notch by adding more exercise and really being intentional about my eating. 

Thing Number 2: I Gathered All The Resources I Needed

I needed a blueprint, so I did the work in advance instead of playing it by ear and willpower. 

I downloaded and printed my gym's schedules for all classes at all locations to put in my paper planner (turns out I'm kind of old school that way, because there's an app for that!) 

And even though I still use MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal for tracking, I continued in this old school, paper tracking plan with the help of Fit Life Creative's free, super cute printables and started planning my workouts in advance, (including going on the days my friend and I didn't normally meet) and creating menu plans that had the calorie counts already mapped by perusing clean eating magazine recipes and Pinterest - I now have a board called Fuel for Fitness if you're looking for some fresh ideas! 


Thing Number 3: I Measured My Progress In Ways I Hadn't Before

Before, I always relied upon two things to tell me that my efforts were working: that liar, liar, pants on fire frenemy known as The Scale, and the very subjective measurement of how well my clothes, in all their convoluted, non-standardized American sizing practices, fit. 

Not the most inspiring. Or accurate, really

So this time....I found me one of those fitting tape measures (I don't sew, so I don't really know what they are called - I call them the flexible tape measurers, lol) and started tracking my measurements every 1-2 weeks.




Then....I took pictures.

And....I posted them to Instagram....because anyone who wants to follow me there has to ask my permission, and my body under my clothes is kinda sacred to me. I wanted accountability, but didn't want just any old acquaintance from Facebook, LinkedIn, or even here to see this vulnerable piece of me. (you could send me a follow request on IG...if I know you then you're probably an in)

Talk about facing your giants. 

I really didn't want to do it. 

But I'm serious about this!

Thing Number 4: I Overshared My Progress In An Attempt For Greater Accountability

Yeah, my Facebook feed became riddled with shared status updates linked to MapMyFitness. I shared covered body and chart pics of progress because I needed to have more accountability than what I'd experienced with MapMyFitness or MyFitnessPal, which was none. 

I've started and stopped on those apps so many times over the past 8 years that it's pathetic, but each time I grew silent with inactivity, no one called me out. And truthfully, no one has done so this time either, even with the actions I've taken. 

But it's all a mind game, weight loss and fitness, ya know? So here I am pounding the keyboard about it.

I lost 11 lbs in the first 6 weeks of my new regime!

But then...life took a detour.

My grandmother took a tumble and broke her hip in February. It was the beginning of a rapid decline and I took an emergency 10 day trip to Washington because I feared I might not get another opportunity to see her. 

She passed approximately 30 hours after I got there and some of the hardest days of my life followed that week.

Ten agonizing days filled with fast food, sitting tensed up in the hospital (or later, with family reminiscing or sorting through paperwork and belongings), obscene amounts of sugar-coated caffeine, very limited sleep, and emotions so deep and loud that the cortisol was flowing constantly. 

Suffice to say, exercise was minimal. I went for a run the day after she died, mostly to have my moment away from those for whom I was trying to be a support, to rail at God about the unfairness of a life that had been riddled with so many abuses, betrayals, and trials being taken without the peace and certainty of the love we all held for her. But that's another post.

When I got back to FoCo, I finished up my 20 month run at the job I absolutely loved and was heartbroken to leave. I'd known the layoff was coming since December, but it didn't make the loss any less profound. 

Grief compounded upon grief as I faced yet another loss. I found myself eating and drinking my emotions while binge-watching Netflix instead of taking advantage of the hours I now had to myself that could be fitness productive time.

I was still meeting up at the gym 1-2 times a week, but that was about it.

And then....

Lacrosse season began, with its carpooling and 4 nights a week of later dinners, often grabbed at fast food, as well as the meals on the road between games....

So I've gained back 3 of those 10 pounds and who knows how many inches. 

But as of yesterday, I'm back at it. After exercise, I netted 600 clean calories. 

The menu/workout plans for this week are made. 

And after I hit publish - I'm heading to the gym for a workout, even though my glutes are crying from last night (not sure what accounts for that, but they are sore!).

If you are interested in joining/following me on this wellness journey - please let me know! 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Trauma, Arrested Development, and Grace

It is difficult when victimized people get stuck, because yes, something(s) awful happened.

But...

At some point we have to own our stories and decide whether the hard times DEfined us or whether they REfined us.

Maybe we were completely blameless for whatever incident(s) occurred against us. This is most often the case. The traumatic event was absolutely beyond our control. 

But after? We have control of what happens next. Trauma, either via force of nature or executed by another person who chose to act from evil, is not the author of our stories. A pivotal plot device, perhaps, but not the outcome or source of definition for our souls.

We are the ones who can choose between escapism and moving our futures forward; between hardening our hearts against future hurts and becoming vulnerable, to the point of brokenness, so that love and all its risks might live again; between living a life of emptiness as just a skeleton of who we once were, and [re]building a life with fullness and meaning; between constantly carrying the heaviness of our shame, projecting it on others with deflections of blame for the way we act now, and letting it go, accepting responsibility for our actions during the after.

These are agonizing choices; they may leave us more battle fatigued and scarred than the initial trauma ever was. But, when we choose the path of survivorhood rather than that of victim, we rise like a phoenix from the ashes, emerging more powerful, awesome, and beautiful than we were before. We can pour that beauty into others yet to be preyed upon by evil, ignorance, hatred, or abuse, and multiply the impact of one victim's transformation by supporting others as they seek the same path.

Or, we can become paralyzed, holding on to the burden of trauma so tightly that everything else slips through our grasp. The trauma feeds on us like a parasite, creating a shell of the person we once were. We are blinded to good deeds, thinking only the worst, allowing no alternate possibilities to exist in our minds. And we push loved ones away with this skewed reality until the worst becomes reality, indeed. We become stunted in our personal development, unable to support and help others without ulterior motives or manipulations in play. It all becomes a vicious game of Hurt or Be Hurt, either option becoming the fuel for that perpetual prophecy birthed from our fears, unforgiveness, maladaptive coping mechanisms (those things that numb us from life, addictions to sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, bingeing, compulsive lying, etc) and we are never truly free.

I choose to be a warrior.

I honor my fellow warriors marching to claim suvivorship.

And I extend my hands to those who desire that for themselves. I can help. Will help, if you're willing to work for it. At times, my help may feel like challenges designed for you to fail because I might ask you to think about somethings from another perspective, and you may resent me, but that's the battle.

Sometimes there is clean-up to be done, debriding the scars, or pruning if you will, before we can climb the path. And it can take a lot of time before we are ready. It can make us want to retreat.

We have to win our minds back to take the trek. 

And it's arduous, fatiguing, and bloody, hard work. 

Like, "why have you forsaken me" anguish. 

It's going to rehab. 

It's calling the doctor and saying, "I'm on anti-depressants and my grandma just died in the midst of a bunch of family drama and I'm days away from being laid off from the best, most fulfilling job I've ever had and I'm scared AF that the meds can't compete with the stress hormone bath my brain is getting these days - can we adjust my dosage?" 

It's questioning our knee-jerk reactions to events and conversations, asking ourselves, "Is it possible they didn't actually mean to hurt me?" and giving the benefit of the doubt. 

It's calling out to our tribes and telling them we don't know what to do, but can they just come and sit with us? 

It feels like rock climbing without a belayer - and if you are scared of heights like me, that's freaking terrifying - but what feels isn't always what is. 

So whether you just arrived at the base camp of It Hurts So Bad, or you've been camped out there for awhile - it's ok, this isn't a race. And God is tender to us, especially at the IHSB base camp, so I will be too.

I can/will be your loudest cheerleader, but I will not be party to self destructive habits that may shelter you from the work you have to do.

It's what survivors do.

I've been REfined through my trials, not DEfined by them.

Who's ready for a hike?

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Parent's Take on 13 Reasons Why

PLEASE NOTE:  If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. You can also call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Alliance for Suicide Prevention offers local support in Larimer County.


The other day, I was scrolling through Facebook (something I am doing entirely too much of lately in my unemployment) and came across an article for The Mighty called "Why I Wish I Didn't Watch 13 Reasons Why."

I'd seen the trailer for the show on Netflix some time ago, but quickly forgot about it. This article revived my interest in the series, and because I am the obnoxious type who actually likes spoilers, I read the review first.

The author has some very valid concerns about the series, including:
  1. Abundant Triggers and Insufficient Warnings:
    I will agree with this - the viewer discretion warnings did not occur until the last half of the series, for the episodes that portrayed sexual assault and/or the actual suicide taking place. Because teen suicide has a social contagion tendency, I think that parents must use extreme caution in sharing this series with their teens. Teens who are already struggling with mental health and/or social issues at school can be especially vulnerable to being triggered into a suicidal state.
  2. Confirmation Bias:
    Hannah Baker's thoughts mirrored those I have actually had when my depression has teetered me into dangerous territory: I do everything wrong, it will make my loved ones' lives better if I'm gone, etc. A person struggling with suicidal ideation could take those as validation for their hopelessness and cross the line from thinking to attempting
  3. Mental Health is NOT Discussed:
    Aside from a vague reference to Clay's pills he used to take for anxiety, the author is correct in that there is no attention drawn to underlying mental health issues -  as often people at risk for suicide have depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or some other mental health diagnosis. That said, mental health in teen suicides is a different beast - many times no one has realized an onset of mental health issues until after an attempt is made.
Those things mentioned and given credence, I binge-watched the whole series in a little over a day; I'm unemployed, with kids at school all day and I stayed up quite late into the evening! I will say that I thought the series was very well-done and could be a powerful tool for parents to utilize with their teens, and not just for suicide awareness.

My kids lost a classmate who was just 13 and in 7th grade to suicide a few years ago. It happens far too soon.

While watching the series with your teens (and yes, there are plenty of mature sexual and drug related scenes that many parents may be uncomfortable with - but you're kidding yourself if you think your 13 year olds are not already exposed to this), there are opportunities to pause and discuss the minor nuances of other topics like bullying, social media, consent, communication, etc., that might otherwise slip by.

Just a couple examples (contains spoiler alerts):

Consent
Clay and Sheri engage in a make-out session. As it advances from the initial kiss, Clay asks, "Is this ok?" and gets consent from Sheri that yes, this is what she wants also. Clay repeats this in the final episodes where it shows flashbacks of him with Hannah. At first, Hannah says yes, but then she has flashbacks of the unwanted sexual advances that have plagued her since the first episode, and abruptly changes her mind. Clay, while understandably confused and bewildered, accepts this.

This is HUGE! Like ZOMG! And such a contrast to the continuum of assaults made on the show. As parents, we must point these differences out and praise those rare examples of men seeking consent that occur in media, lest we end up with a generation of Brock Turners.

Trauma-Informed Communications
Multiple times in the series, high school boys say one thing, but Hannah hears a completely different implication as these conversations are filtered through her lens of betrayal, sexual assaults, and feelings of being only seen for one thing. In one such instance, Zach gets angry with her response after he proceeds to genuinely ask her out, and gets so butt-hurt that he not only lashes out at her, but continues to treat her maliciously. Had he been aware of the culminating effects of prior events (some of which he wouldn't have explicitly known about, like Jess' assumption that Hannah was a boyfriend stealing slut) and/or even had the maturity to realize her reaction didn't match his question, the whole string of events that later occurred with him could have been prevented. 

We have to teach our kids that it isn't always about them and to avoid reacting hastily until they have the full picture. This one is a tall order for teens as they don't yet have fully-developed pre-frontal cortexes, but by giving them a teen-typical visual that speaks to their experiences and then walking through it with them, it may make them think more next time.

There are a lot of things that people could be wary of and opt out of watching the series for. But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater! I see 13 Reasons Why as a treasure trove of teachable moments for parents with teens. But due to its intense content and realistic portrayals, we ought to proceed with extreme caution and intentions of following up the episodes with some guided discussions.