My Sister, My Hero

Two days ago was my first recovery day from a very fun, very exhausting trip. One where I stayed up too late and woke up too early every day for six days. A trip that I got to spend time with family I rarely see. It was glorious.

And now, I wish I had spent more time with my sister… because according to everything we know… she is going to die. And before that, she will suffer… I knew going into this new year that this was probably the last year I would get to spend with her… And yet it is too soon. I am not ready. Stacie is not the person I used to know and she hasn’t been for three years, and yet… I am not ready. She is only 46, with four children, two children-in-love (daughter’s-in-law), and a granddaughter. Not one of us is really, truly ready. We know that she is struggling, deteriorating, and that death can finally bring her peace… and that is a good thing. However, I always hoped for a miracle. And even though I trust that God is good, all the time, and I know that His decisions and purpose don’t always match mine, it hurts and it is scary and absolutely devastating. If I had my druthers, my sister would have no tumors and would be herself. She would be that well spoken, insightful, funny person I have always known. She would be able to be each of her childrens’ best friend, because she always was. She was the best listener, biggest cheerleader,  and an amazing counselor. She was funny, smart, well spoken, wise, and so sincere and loving. She was stubborn, sarcastic, and bossy, and yet all those attributes were somehow charming.

She taught me to value college from a young age. Stacie taught me to be who I am without apologizing. She taught me that life can hurt, but that good can come from that hurt. She was our rock. Me, my brothers, her children, and even my parents, to some degree. She held us up to the highest standards because she knew we could meet them. And I would die laughing with her, because she was so very funny.

I will never get the chance to be her equal… her friend, because before I could grow up enough, take responsibility in the way that she had demonstrated to me, she got sick. Her brain got attacked by cancer… I will never get to show her the adult I have become. We will never be best friends, like I always hoped we would one day be. But she will always be one of  my very favorite people. Someone I look up to, aspire to be like. If I could be the mom she was, the wife she was, the woman she was, and have the kind of wisdom and grace she had and has… I will be incredibly blessed. I always aspired to be like her.  And I think I probably always will.

Cancer is one of the hardest things to go through, regardless of whether you are the victim or a family member or friend. This insidious disease takes everything away from you. It takes your security, your confidence, your future… But what it can never steal is your hope, your love, your wisdom, your overall strength, and your compassion.

There have been so many people that I have known that have lost the most important people in their lives. Be it to cancer or another disease. These people are usually the ones with the most love and compassion. They know what that kind of loss feels like and that it never goes away. They often reach out to those who suffer with a gentle hand and words about their experiences that might soothe your heart or help you know you are not alone. Whether I lose my sister today or months from now… or even years from now, it will be too soon. I will be so grateful she will finally be at peace, but I will miss her so very much… And I will be so sad to not have her here. Experiencing the big moments in her children’s lives, not being with her husband, not having sass with her parents or harrassing her siblings for missing Thanksgivings, Christmases, birthdays, weddings… not having HER at Thanksgivings, Christmases, birthdays, weddings…

My sister always gave me such strength… and such hope… I remember when our parents got into a huge accident and we didn’t know what was going to happen, if they would be okay, if they were paralyzed; we just knew they were hospitalized in Arizona and that could change… she was the one that made the phone call to us siblings. I’ll never forget all the air sucking out of my lungs and my heart jumping into my throat as she said, “Mom and Dad are okay, but… they were in a big accident and might need surgery…” I can’t even remember all she said as my ears started to ring and the sounds seemed to disappear. All I knew was I needed to get to them. Stacie knew the same. So, the two of us started driving to Arizona, not exactly knowing what was going to happen, receiving and making phone calls to keep the brothers up to date, to find out if one parents was staying in Arizona and one was getting flown to Las Vegas, then to hear that the opposite parent was staying and the other flying, to finally find out that they were both going to Las Vegas (praise God). All the while just driving, trying to figure out how to get to them and finally switching directions to Las Vegas. This was one of the very first times that I felt like we were in something together. In fact, that trip changed the course of my life, but that’s a story for another day.

A couple years after she had gotten sick and had been diagnosed with this aggressive brain cancer… I distinctly remember needing to call my brothers and let them know that she was not doing so well… It was in 2015… That was the first time that I was so very aware that I was the one that would need to step up. Not because anyone asked me to be, but because my sister couldn’t do it anymore. She wasn’t there to make those hard phone calls. As I said, my sister was always our rock… As women tend to be in families… And now that my sister is no longer able to be that person I realized that it was now my responsibility. Out of respect for her and the desire to take any more burden off my parents and brother-in-law, I didn’t question it and took up that mantle.

I will never get to be best friends with my sister as I always imagined…but I can still love her for who she is and who she was. I can be there for her and her family. And I will miss her in a way that is absolutely undescribable… We all will.

Seeing her fight through three years of cancer, with everything she has… has been some of the hardest three years of all of our lives. And yet, she is still one of the smartest and wise people I know, even though she can’t remember the amazing advice she has given me. Earlier this year, we were talking about a hardship I was going through and she was so present and gave me such great insight, as she always had, and for a moment it was like she was herself again. Then a few minutes later, she asked me a question that demonstrated she had forgotten the whole conversation. That’s what has been so sad and hard through this. Stacie was still her, but she had lost her ability to connect to and invest in people in the way that was always so uniquely her. That was one of the things she was so passionate about. Investing in people, knowing them inside and out, and remembering all the details. Don’t get me wrong… I still hold on to those conversations. It was just hard to know she couldn’t.

I remember this one time when I went over to my sister and brother-in-love’s house, to hang out with her while my brother-in-love (brother-in-law) went out for a little while. The garage door was open and they were sitting at Darren’s workbench. Well, Stacie was sitting. Darren was cleaning some sort of part. Not sure if it was work related (he owns an appliance repair company, Maslyn & Sons) or if was a part from one of their many hobbies, but regardless, they were both listening to an old recording of my sister speaking to a group of women at MOPS… it was one of the most surreal experiences ever. Here was my sister listening to a recording of how she once was…. and the difference was so striking and so heartbreaking… all at once. This woman, so well spoken, funny, insightful, sharing some of her struggles and the things she has learned to hundreds of other women. The laughs in the background at the jokes she would make. Even in a recording, her presence filled the room. And sitting here next to me, was this new version of her. I still had my sister, we still had this woman with so much life and laughter, but it was a ghost of who she used to be.

I can’t even imagine what it is like for her. Knowing she is not herself, wanting to devour books as she used to do and not being able to follow the story because she forgets what she previously read, wanting to keep up on her children’s lives, but never able to remember the details to follow up and be able to give her wonderful advice with all the facts. Now, not being able to stand on her own, her left side failing her and her right side not strong enough to compensate much. Watching her look at her fingers on her left hand, telling them to move, expending so much mental effort to see nothing happen. And then she takes her right hand and flips one of the fingers and we all laugh, because we never qualified how she was to wiggle her finger. There you are, Stacie. Still funny, still a little mischievous.

I know she will be so much happier and so much more at peace when she gets to go home to Heaven, but I will miss her so much… she has always been one of my favorite people. It will always hurt that she is not here. And don’t get me wrong, she was my sister, not a saint. There were times when I was so upset with her, or she was too bossy, or too nosey, or too whatever. But, quite frankly, I would do anything to get all that back. Anything.

Having said that, even having the faith that I have… it is so hard letting her go. Even feeling like she is safe in Heaven is sad, because I don’t get to have her here. I don’t get to have her wisdom and her love right here with me, easily accessible, as someone I can just call and ask… I still struggle with that today, because there are so many things I would just text, email, call, and run up her flagpole. And I can’t now. None of us can. And that really, really sucks.

I’m not ready to be the one who is accountable to everyone else. I’m not ready to be the only girl, the only daughter… but that doesn’t matter, because regardless of whether I am ready or not… it will or will not happen… I may no longer be one part of the book end of the two daughters. I may just be the only one left. It’s not up to me…

And even with the knowledge that God is in control and the trust I have in Him, I can’t seem to pull it together. I love my sister. I respect my sister. As I have said, she is one of my favorite people ever, no matter what kind of difficulties we had. I always wanted to be like her… And I’m so very sad that I don’t get to ever be one of her actual friends… I kept waiting to be old enough, established enough, adult enough. But it wasn’t fast enough. Who knew?

I’m so very devastated for her kids, as well. No one will replace their mom. No one could or should. She is one of a kind. And her husband, their father, is a man… which is so very different. He has SO much going for him that will bless them in incredible ways, but being a man is just different. Which just makes it that much harder… because there is no one that can really numb that pain even the teeniest bit. I wish I could, I think we all do at some point, but moms are irreplaceable.

Darren. He is the gift of this whole, terrible mess. The tenderness he shows Stacie, the love and care. It is incredible. Beautiful. Awe inspiring. To have another human love you that much. That’s something special. He calls her his queen. He always has. He has stood up for her in a way that none of us could even fathom. Things you couldn’t anticipate. What an absolute blessing to behold and to get to have him in our lives. I am so heartbroken for him. And again, I can’t do anything about it. Just pray and love.

So… all of this being said, I guess the bottom line is no one can replace my sister. No one can numb that pain. No one can fill her shoes. Because she is amazing… unique, smart, insightful, funny, and kind. I miss her today. WE miss her today. And unless that miracle happens, we will miss her for always.

I believe that miracle can happen. But if it doesn’t, I don’t believe God has failed me, or us… I just believe He has a different plan than we do. I, or we, may never know what that is, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

My sister’s favorite verse, and one that brings me peace because of her, is Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Amen.

Advertisements

My dear, sweet sister

Every time I try to write something about what my family, what my sister, what I am going through…. I freeze. I feel the breath sucked out of my lungs and my brain just stops. Tears well behind my eyes, my throat tightens, but the tears do not fill, and I force the tightness in my throat to loosen. There are only specific times I let those tears thicken and my throat to constrict, and those times are when I just… well, fall apart.

My sister has brain cancer….

There it is. I’ve written it before. In posts or texts updating people… but I don’t feel the words when I write them. I compartmentalize, so I can inform others who are worried, concerned, want to know, care. Writing it here, writing this is to connect. But once again, I’m going blank… because I don’t want to fall apart. I don’t feel like I can fall apart. I have responsibilities. Things that I need to do and take care of. And falling apart doesn’t fix her. Heal her. Save her.

It doesn’t feel real. Partly, because it isn’t happening to me. I’m not feeling the headaches, the nausea, the future swallowing me whole and taking me away from my kids… I have moments where I just forget. Because I have to. And because it isn’t happening to me. Then, I feel so devastated and sad that my sister can’t experience that. That shutting it off. That bliss of forgetting, for just a few seconds, even. She started feeling just awful just before and every day after her diagnosis. She never got to just forget or pretend for even a second that this wasn’t happening to her, to her husband, to her kids, to her incoming granddaughter, even…. And my heart just breaks.

There are so many feelings and thoughts that go through me as a person that I love, respect, and admire is threatened to be taken away. It’s like I’m mourning her before she’s even gone, yet I’m trying to get more moments with her and cherish her while she still here, praying desperately for a miracle. And when there are miracles and hope, I hold my breath, allow myself just a little relief, but I wait anxiously for the other shoe to drop.

In Matthew 7:20 Jesus said, ” For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” I know that God is capable of healing my sister, this very second, if it is His will. He is bigger than I could possibly imagine, more powerful than I could ever dream. The tricky part is if it is His will. Only He knows what His plan looks like and that’s the part that scares me. Not because I don’t trust that His will is good or that He will work all things for good, but rather because if His will is to take my sister home then I just know, that amidst that good and the blessings that will come, there will be so much pain and so much loss. I know that Philippians 4:6 tells me, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Let me tell you how much easier said than done this is, for me. I do trust Him. I do pray. Oh man, do I pray.

And let me tell you, I have already seen so much of His hand at work already. There have been so many blessings. And yet…. and yet. <sigh> My sister feels worse. She is nauseated all the time, gets tired so quickly, so she needs a wheelchair for her radiation and chemotherapy treatments, and she is experiencing memory loss…. One of her biggest fears.

My sister is my family’s rock. Whether it be on purpose or just the nature of who she is, she is the rock. She’s strong, she’s passionate, she’s honest, she’s loving, she’s responsible, she will always be there for you, she’s compassionate, she is such an amazing mom, she’s an avid reader, and appreciates musicals, she bursts out into song randomly and enthusiastically, she likes almost everything I do on Facebook (literally), she makes an effort to stay connected, to take pictures, to travel (romantic trips with her husband or family excursions), she’s beautiful, she’s funny, she’s smart, she’s intimidating (in the best possible way), and she’s my only sister… She used to babysit me when my parents would go out of town (she is 12 1/2 years older and this was when she was about 18 or so). She would make us do chores, like wash the dishes and the pots and pans (she would make my brother do the pots and pans because he was stronger, which I would take offense at 🙂 ). She would teach us inappropriate chants to encourage us to go to college. She would sing road trip songs with us. She would come over weekly for “Grammie Day” to our parents’ house, because our mom was one of her best friends and she just wanted to be able to hang out with her. Man… I could go on and on… and on… she really is one of a kind.

It has taken me about three and half months to finish this post… and every part of it still wrings true in my heart. It is the constant struggle from the moment you hear, “It’s cancer.” Some days, I just work, laugh with my friends (thank God for that), connect with my family, and cuddle with my animals. Some days I feel as though I’m walking through a fog, waiting to wake up, the weight of… well, of everything, on my chest making it difficult to breath. I feel guilty that I don’t see her more often, knowing that she doesn’t really have the energy for visitors, so it’s probably her preference, but feeling guilty nonetheless. I feel like I’m jinxing her by not being able to bask in the moments of hope, but I know I’m not that powerful… she’d be safe if I was. I feel like I’m a bad person for not just being excited and hopeful, but I’ve known families who have heard that their loved one was in remission and safe, only to have them pass away the very next day. Granted, that is an extreme case, but not out of the realm of possibility. But the good news is, I’m still praying. SO many are still praying. No one has gotten lazy or complacent. The knowledge that this trial is still going on is in the back of peoples’ minds. And I like to think even that wayward thought, “I hope she is doing better,” is a silent prayer to God, heard, and acknowledged.

Like I said before, God is so much bigger than me and so much bigger than I can even comprehend. I do trust Him. I may not know what’s going to happen. I may not know what will be brought out of this mess. But I know this: God is always the same. He never changes. He is always good. He loves us. I don’t really need to know every thing else yet. That’s enough. Doesn’t make it less scary, or less painful, but it’s enough. At this point in time, He is the one carrying me through the sand.

Sometimes you need a push to find your PURPOSE

This is a blog post I wrote to share my http://www.thegivingkeys.com story. I hope it helps anyone who needs it.

“I’ve had a really tough couple of years where I lost my husband (divorce), my house, two pets (passed away), and my childhood car died (not as big of a deal, but just an added loss). Through all of this, I found myself feeling very lost and without direction. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the support of my friends, my family, and most importantly, my relationship with Christ. But sometimes, even with all that support and with the knowledge that I would come through it a stronger and healthier person, I still felt very heartbroken and listless. Through therapy and all of this support, I did find myself getting stronger AND healthier. I liked myself better and found that my relationships were getting even stronger through this growth. I still struggled with my job, feeling the weight of my life circumstances outweighed my love of my job, making it difficult to concentrate.

So, when I discovered The Giving Keys, my heart rejoiced. I love helping other people, be it through charities, giving a meal to someone in need, or simply just encouraging those that I cross paths with in my daily life. The Giving Key encompassed all three! I was elated! I decided that the most poignant word I could put on my key was “Purpose,” relating to my life in many ways: Everything (painful and joyful) in my life has a purpose. Everything that WILL happen in my life has a purpose. And most importantly, I have a purpose. I loved this key so much and wore it every day, but I was always on the lookout for someone that I felt needed it more (secretly hoping I wouldn’t find them, because I really didn’t want to give it away. Haha.).

Recently, I went on a trip to Tennessee to visit my brother and his family. They have been really struggling financially (and as a result emotionally and mentally), since the economic downturn. My brother owned his own business, but it wasn’t able to survive the economic climate, so he had to let all of his employees go, along with the entire business. It was a very sad thing for him. Not to mention the stress it puts on him to provide for his six children (two of which are adopted, to give you an idea of how amazing he is). Through all of his struggles, whenever he is asked how he is doing he says, “You know, it’s hard. But I’m fine, because I know God will carry me through this. I’m just waiting to hear what He wants me to do.”

I’ve always been encouraged by my brother’s strength, courage, and faith. So, when we were finally spending some alone time together (which is tough with the aforementioned six children, haha.), we were talking about his situation and how he was feeling. However, a Post-It on his computer screen drew my attention. It said, “What is your purpose?” I asked him who wrote that, and he said he did. When I asked why, he shared with me that he was feeling hurt and resentful that he was waiting patiently for God to give him direction and that it was taking so long. As we have often found, God’s timing looks nothing like our timing. I knew, right then, who my key belonged to.

The next day, when my brother drove me to the airport, I took off my key and told him, “I think you’re at a place that you need this more than me, because I KNOW you will find your purpose.” He knew what the story of the key was since I had already explained the meaning of my key several times on this trip, as people had asked me why I was wearing a key necklace. I told my brother that I loved him and hoped the key brought him as much encouragement as it has brought me. And my brother, being the amazing man he is, teared up a little. I was glad to know it meant as much to him as it meant to me.

The encouragement and love that this simple key necklace gives is AMAZING! Thank you so much for this insightful idea, using it to support the couple that you’re helping, and the hope that it gives to all the people receiving their gifts. I apologize for the length of my post, but it’s been such an inspiration for me that I really couldn’t seem to cull it down any further without losing the essence of what it has meant for me. Thanks again!”

PCOS: Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

My sister emailed me this link recently on a blog post that a woman wrote about her struggle with PCOS and all of it’s symptoms. First, let me start by saying that her post was candid, transparent, and I think a blessing to a lots of women out there. It definitely got me thinking about my own struggles with this issue.

One thing that I never really computed, though I knew, that this gal pointed was that PCOS was named not after it’s cause, as many people would think, but after one of it’s symptoms. Basically, when a woman is ovulating, as her ovaries tries to drop the egg into the ovarian tube, sometimes, it cannot release the egg. When this happens, the egg is still attached to the ovary and gets a lining around it, thus turning it into a cyst.  More often than not the cysts are benign, as is my case. This can happen every time a woman ovulates, or sporadically. Thus the second symptom, possible infertility. If your eggs aren’t making their way down to the baby-maker, how can they become fertilized? So, there’s that.

The more immediately experienced symptoms would be weight gain or inability to lose weight and abnormal hair growth. Basically, my body wanted to hoard every bit of food that I ate, for some reason thinking that it had to prepare for famine. Also, I swear, if this was during the 1940’s or something, I would’ve made some crazy money as the bearded lady! I joke, but really this was a source of massive anxiety and insecurity when I was in Middle School and High School (an already incredibly painful time). It was really only once I started getting laser treatments (something purported to help reduce hair growth permanently) was I able to actually admit to other people that I had this issue.

I had my hormone levels checked repeatedly to see what was causing the hair growth (at this time I was at the top of my normal/healthy weight, so it wasn’t a concern yet). All labs came back with normal levels, oddly enough. So, we just kept trying different laser centers with different machines. Nothing really worked.

As far as the weight gain goes, that didn’t really come into play until I was 21. I ended up in the hospital with a different health issue, called Factor V Leiden Disorder. Long story short, I had hundreds of internal blood clots that the surgeons had to physically enter my body to remove. From the aftermath of the post-surgery trauma, I started to gain quite a bit of weight. Prior to this, I was at 150 (which was right around the middle of my healthy weight range) and was the lightest I had ever been since I reached my maximum height of 5’8″.

After surgery, the height of my weight gain was approximately 210lbs (I tried to avoid the scale a lot). I joined Weight Watchers and had some success in losing my weight. About 30lbs, to be honest. so, I was at 180lbs. Still not my norm, but way better than it was.

It wasn’t until I was about 22 that a doctor pulled me aside and asked me if I had ever been tested for PCOS, also at the height of this weight gain (notice I say, “this”). I told him I’d never heard of it. Here was where I started to hear and understand the symptoms of my life. Another thing that doctor had said, which I found interesting was, he mentioned that most women who have PCOS also have, what we all lovingly refer to as, the “Pear Shape”.

I don’t know if this is medical fact, but I do know that the doctor shared this with me.

Anyhow, the most common treatment of PCOS is hormone replacement therapy, often through birth control pills or patches. With my earlier mentioned medical issue of the Factor V, this treatment was and is unavailable to me, because it makes me intensely more prone to developing internal blood clots and suffering a stroke or pulmonary embolism. So, what were they to do? Luckily, they had an alternative treatment of Metformin, which is actually a medication for those with diabetes. The reason this treatment works is because PCOS is actually a precursor, more often than not, to individuals that will develop Type 2 Diabetes later in life.

I’m not going to lie… Metformin has many side affects, some of which you might not be willing to deal with. I, myself, struggled with some of them so much that when I missed my does a couple of days, I stopped taking it completely to not suffer those side affects again. This is when I became depressed, due to life circumstances, and ended up gaining all 30lbs I had lost prior, plus 10 of their close friends, bringing my top weight to 220lbs.

When I was finally ready to deal with something I COULD control in the chaos that was my life with many uncontrollable elements, I faced those side affects and got back on my medication. In addition, I took with me one of the best lessons I had ever learned at Weight Watchers (which I had not attended in probably 3-4 years at this point). Portion Control. I realized, that I didn’t have it in me to try to count calories or “eat healthy” in the mental and emotional state that I was at. But I needed to do SOMETHING. Anything. So, what I could do was portion control. If I was craving In ‘N Out (cheeseburger and fries, for those who don’t know), then I would allow myself to have In ‘N Out. If I craved it 3 days in a row, then I would have it 3 days in a row. What I wouldn’t do, was eat until I was full. I would stop as soon as I didn’t feel hungry anymore. When I felt comfortable, I would just put it down, throw it away, put it in a box, whatever would help me stop eating it. One of my theories had to do with, if I didn’t eat what I was craving (a piece of chocolate, for example), then I would probably end up eating more calories and grams of fat eating all this “healthy” stuff to eat around my craving. Whereas, had I just had the little thing I was craving and stopped at a reasonable time, I was okay. 🙂 I wasn’t frantic, I wasn’t starving, I wasn’t miserable. Who wants to be miserable? I mean, really.

The weight started melting off. The combination of my medication and eating only what my body NEEDED (not what I only WANTED), caused the weight to finally realize that I was not starving and allow my body to lose. Slowly, and safely, my stomach shrank down to the size it was meant to be (and I mean the actual stomach that digests all my food for me). In addition, my outside stomach that everyone sees, well… it shrank too! I lost a total of 80lbs!

Oh, I guess, I could give you comparison pictures of the before and after… I don’t know if that will add encouragement or what, but it could?

Body photo of me at 220lbs

Face photo at 220lbs

Body photo of me at 140lbs

Face photo of 140lbs

As far as the abnormal hair growth goes, I would not recommend getting laser treatments at all. I would say that electrolysis is the way to go. My sister went for about a year and has NO hair left on her face. Sometimes, one or two randoms will grow and she’ll go get them zapped. But she has never had so few thick, black hairs on her face since she had her children. I started going to get treatments about 4 or 5 months ago. Since then, I have seen a significant difference in the hair growth on my chin and lip (the main areas we are currently focusing on since there is so much to do). I can’t say I had ever had that with laser treatments. I always wanted to see a difference, so I would convince myself there was less hair. In this case, there is no wishy-washy, “I think it looks different” mentalities going on. There is a difference. Electrolysis is the only FDA approved technique for permanent hair removal.

I will tell you though, my sister said it was one of the most painful experiences of her life. For me, it’s more like the residual pain after burning your hand on a frying pain. It’s annoying and hurts a little, but it’s bearable and really not as bad as I thought it would. It is NOTHING compared to laser treatments for me. That was beyond painful.

I don’t know if this really will or could help anyone… but this has been my struggle with PCOS. There will still be more and I’ve probably left stuff out. But, I really truly hope that this can help someone.

Well, I guess that’s everything. Take care! And feel free to ask any questions if you have them.

Wow… Bad dating flashbacks

You ever have the moment when you go to spend time with your friends and you end up running into someone you had dated and it ended badly. Yeah… that happened.

It was one of those double-take moments, where you think you might recognize someone and BAM! You do. I was shaken, at first. But I decided to go “ovaries out” (a colloquialism coined by a good friend) and just say hi and get it over with. It was fun being the mature adult. And it seemed to pay off, at least for me. There was the awkward, “Hey. How’s it going?”, the “I’m sorry for my part,” and the “Whelp. See ya later.” Very cordial. Very awkward. But I was proud of myself. I didn’t make an enormous deal out of it, because, you know what? It really wasn’t one. Yeah, it was awkward and off-putting. But it happened and I got over it.

Thank you therapy. 🙂 And thank you God. No really… thank you, God.

Seriously?!?

So, once again, I am forced to see the fact that I am a horrendous blogger. It’s like all those diaries and journals I have found over the years. I see a beautiful one and think, “Oooh! That’s JUST pretty enough that maybe this time I’ll continue to journal.” Few weeks or months later, WHAM! Okay, it’s more of a pffffftttt……. no more journaling.

I just moved recently, and found all of those journals and diaries once again. I wish I had kept up on writing in those, because honestly, reading them? Pure gold. I was the BIGGEST nerd you may have ever seen. Nothing’s changed in that regard, but let me tell you how ridiculously funny it is for me to read those past writings. They are so ADD it’s hilarious. And looking back on some of these posts, I see not much has changed there, either. 🙂

So, back to this journey I’m supposed to be on. First of all, it’s not so much by choice, as it is by necessity. If you think about it, how truly healthy and functional can you be if you don’t grow up in all of the different facets in life? Let me clarify.

There’s being financially independent. That’s a HUGE issue across the globe. Families and individuals trying to figure out how to pay for necessities. Not just food, shelter, and clothing, but savings to help out if there is an emergency of some sort. You get really sick and need medical assistance. Then there’s making sure that if you lose your job or source of income that you have some money tucked away to continue to pay for the food, clothing, and shelter that you need. And if you’re really lucky, there’s trying to figure out how to pay for the fun things in life. For example, if you love to watch movies how will you pay for those movies without using the money that you need for the necessities and savings? So, there’s that facet of growing up.

Responsibility. This ties in with almost every facet of true adulthood. Do you fulfill the commitments you make? Are you taking care of the bills you have to pay? Are you getting the sleep you need? Are you eating the way you should? Are you taking breaks, instead of being a workaholic? Are you working the way you could? Are you nurturing the relationships that are important to you? Are you being kind to others, in general? There are far more parts of life that this responsibility plays a large role, but these are some of the biggies.

For me, I have a slew of areas to grow and mature. Things I know I need to change, do, or focus on developing.

One thing to know about me, is I DETEST change. Anyone who really knows me, understands the depth and validity of this claim. Well, despite this hatred of change, the world turns, time goes on, the economy takes a turn for the worse, and change is inevitable. So what is a creature of habit and comfort to do when this happens??? Adapt. Well, shoot.

Thus, a lot of my growth and development is through necessity, not by choice. What are some of the ways that I have been forced to grow, you may ask. Or maybe you don’t, but I’ll tell you anyways. Because it’s my blog and I do what I want on here. 😉

As I think I have previously mentioned, I became officially divorced this year. This was the biggest change in my life. The person I thought I would grow old with and have babies with and fight with and love with is no longer a significant part of my life. That, in and of itself is a HUGE change that I couldn’t have anticipated and really had no control over. I fought as hard as I possibly could to fight it, but without both parties fighting 100% to save a marriage, it’s not going to happen. So, there’s been that. I changed a lot as a person, into someone I didn’t really like, during my marriage. As such, I had a lot of change and growth that needed to happen during the separation and divorce. Hello necessity! Do I like that I had to change? No. Am I glad I did? That is a resounding YES! I’m becoming more confident, happier, stronger, and just more fun to be around again. Coming back to the good parts of who you used to be, picking and choosing the aspects of yourself that you want to change or keep is a fantastic product of a really devastating occurrence, such as divorce. The changing, itself, is a necessity and something you can’t avoid. But HOW you change… THAT is up to you. One thing that I recently have done to come back to who I used to be, in the good sense, was I got involved in a musical. I LOVE acting. I also love the camaraderie that comes with being a part of a cast. I have been in therapy for about 2, almost 3, years. This time has been spent working on some of the lesser qualities in myself that I’ve had all my life that I DON’T want to keep. 🙂

So, there’s that. Another change of necessity has been with the economy. My parents have been helping me live in a house I could never really hope to afford (at least not for many, many years). Had I continued to be married and had a two person income, maybe sooner than that. But with the divorce and such, notsomuch. Unfortunately, my parents found they could no longer afford it either, so it started to go into foreclosure. God intervened here and made it a much better situation, selling the house in a short sale instead. Much better for all involved (however, it would’ve been even better had it been a normal sale… but very sadly, that was not an option). Still, with the short sale (versus foreclosure) there was a little less guilt for me and a little less financial repercussions for my parents. The change of necessity? Moving into a much, MUCH smaller place. However, a place, that I could one day afford to pay for myself! Financial independence, here I come! Plus, it was one of those things from my past life (marriage) that in reality, it was time to move on from.

God has really been forcing my hand in many regards in this sense.

God: “Hey, Ellen. You know how you’ve had your car since you were 16? You’re not 16 anymore. Time to drive a grown up car.”

Ellen: “I’m good. I love my car. But that’s something to think about God. I’ll do it when I’m ready, or when the car dies.”

God: “Okay. Well, then it’s time for the car to die.”

Ellen: “Awww… man!!!! I wasn’t ready!” (In reality, I would never be ready… that was my baby, and I don’t like change, remember?)

New conversation:

God: “Hey, Ellen. So, this house you have… It’s really too much for you to handle and you’re self-esteem is suffering because your parents are paying for it and the guilt is weighing you down. Plus, it has all those marriage memories. Maybe it’s time to think about moving.”

Ellen: “Nah.”

God: “Okay. I guess I’ll have to do it for you.”

Ellen: “Awww…. man!!!! I LOVED that house!” (In reality, I was constantly feeling guilty about not being able to take care of it the way it deserved, I deserved, and my parents deserved. I would look around and see all the things my ex and I used to do. Things were broken that I had no money to fix… There was a lot to love, but a lot to dislike, as well. I’m one person. What do I need a 3 bedroom house for?)

Let me be clear. I don’t think that God is really this callous or anything. I’m more just portraying that He knows what is best for us and His plan is so much bigger than ours. I keep realizing that He has a major plan for me. Why in the world do I constantly resist it so much? I don’t know any better than He does. I mean, seriously?!?!? Who do I think I am?

So… in the spirit of growth and change and becoming the woman that God wants me to be, I want to write a list of things that I want/need to work on to help keep me accountable. Transparency is the only true way to growth. If I keep only a mental inventory, how will I know what to check off? How will I be able to tell people, “Look what God did!!!”? I worry that by saying it out loud, or writing it down, I’ll end up letting people, or myself, down. If it’s never been really voiced, if no one knows but me (and God, but I can block that because I’m really good at that), then who knows I didn’t really do it?

Okay…. so…. here it goes. <deep breath>

1. Unpack and start to make a “home” of my new place.

2. Quit smoking.

3. Start cooking at least once a week (increase number as time goes on).

4. Clean house weekly.

5. Take dogs for a walk daily (train dogs not to potty in the house).

6. Make the Million Dollar Round Table for 2012 (if not 2011).

7. Work out every other day – toning.

8. Stop cussing.

9. Go to church weekly.

10. Read the Bible daily (because I’m slightly OCD, I want to start this January 1st and read the 1-year Bible).

11. Take and pass the Series 65.

These are not in any particular order. They are merely things that I want to accomplish. Areas that are important to me to grow in. As I said earlier, I have already grown a lot. I’ve been doing things that scare me to death or I would normally avoid. I’ve been NOT doing some of the things that impede my growth. These are areas that I still struggle in, but have come a long way.

Examples:

1. Trying out for the musical. I was scared to death to do that.

2. Not depending on a guy to fill that hole in me. I still like guys and would still like to find one that suits me, but I’m not frantic about it. And when I do like a guy, I don’t obsess on that crush or have my emotions dependent on his response to me. There have been several points of intrigue, so it has been educational and fun to see me grow in this way with each new one.

3. I finally delved into electrolysis (which I was DEEPLY afraid of doing) and have seen some progress in the abnormal hair growth I have come to accept. This was really hard to do and super exciting to see the benefits!

4. Finally went to the dentist, knowing how much work I had to look forward to… 😐

5. Didn’t just procrastinate on moving. Dealt with it head on.

6. Lost 80-85lbs.

7. Starting going to church inconsistently (which was better than not at all).

8. Reached out to friends to ask for help, when my normal inclination is to try to do things on my own.

9. Took and passed the Series 6 and 63.

10. Fought tooth and nail for my marriage and tried to do the Lord’s will in that.

11. Got on the Board of Directors for the Irvine Chamber of Commerce.

12. Within the Chamber, chaired several committees and won both Member of the Year and Ambassador of the Year during my involvement.

Again, these are not in any particular order. Just things that I need to recognize that I have accomplished. With how hard I can be on myself, I have to learn how to acknowledge what I have achieved and done well. I’m terrible at doing that. I’m improving. I suppose I should add that to my other list. 🙂

Well, I guess since I’ve written almost 2,000 words I might as well be done. Hope that was a decent update.

Oops! Didn’t post this!

Wow! A ton has happened since I last posted on here! Where to start, where to start?….

Okay, well, I guess I’ll start with the fact that I am officially divorced. I knew that day would be hard (January 23rd), so this time, I prepared for it. Spent the day before with my mom. As far as I know, right now, she is the only person I feel comfortable not just seeing me cry (because I’ve cried in front of many a person, unfortunately), but holding me when I do so. That is a huge comfort bubble for me.