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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Guarding Hearts

I have been thinking a lot lately about marriage and divorce.  No, not for the reason you think!  I found out the other day that another neighbor of ours (#4) got divorced.  I also had a neighbor tell me a story about how a former friend of hers, who knew my neighbor no longer wanted to be friends with, tried to ingratiate herself with my neighbor's family and gave my neighbor's husband a lingering hug, but didn't say anything to my neighbor.

I have been ruminating on the topic a while because I was thinking about how all these micro-circumstances, micro-thoughts, micro degradation of morals can all lead to marriage failure.  I am not sure I'm going to be able to articulate this well, but I'm going to try.

What do I mean by micro degradation of morals?  Well, I sometimes peruse a website quite well known on the interwebs for mom blogs.  It also has a community forum and a confessional.  When I first happened upon this site, I read the confessional.  It was a lot of funny, heartfelt, and sometimes juicy snippets of others' lives.  Quite often, you have people that confess to lustful thoughts and actions and out of those, many of them are confessing to having affairs or wanting affairs.  I used to read them with a bit of an ego because I had a marriage I felt was very workable and very good.  We truly care for one another and put each other first and I never for a second thought about doing anything that these people were confessing.

However, after so many times of logging on and reading these, I noticed a change in my thinking.  I started thinking about how easy it must be to get away with these actions, because there are so many people confessing to them.  I also thought about how this must be something that a lot of people did because there are so many confessions talked about masturbating at work, watching porn, giving people handies or blowjobs because you needed something from them, and yes, having affairs, with neighbors, friends, bosses, and coworkers.  

I told my neighbor (the one with the ex-friend hitting on the hubby) that I felt like, even if you would never do those things, and you know your spouse would never do those things, that sometimes allowing your mind to start seeing those things as natural occurrences could lead to something harmful within your marriage.  Does that make sense now, when I talk about small things degrading our morals?  I'm not trying to sit on a high horse and say you must never have lustful thoughts.  I'm simply saying that for the safety and security of your marriage, sometimes it's best to just Not. Go. There.  

And yes, maybe not everyone is going to fall into those traps and certainly, there are a large faction of individuals who truly enjoy porn and sometimes use it with their significant other, who will undoubtedly testify that it hasn't hurt their marriage, but enhanced it.  Yes, maybe that is true.  Maybe you ARE able to have an open marriage or be swingers and it not affect your bond with your spouse. Great!  I would never advocate that, but I'm not you.  

What I AM saying is that circumstances can lead to outcomes we do not foresee.  When we place ourselves at the mercy of our wants, without boundaries, it can sometimes end badly.  And, when we allow ourselves the luxury of thinking it can't happen to us, it oftentimes does.

That little flirty text to a coworker one night because you are feeling neglected by your spouse can lead to more texting, perhaps with feelings developing over time and lunch dates and so on.  The idea that you are going to withhold intimacy from your spouse as revenge because they didn't do the dishes can lead to masturbating at work, which can lead to much more.  And yes, reading confessions about other people doing these things can lead to niggling thoughts about how easy it would be.  I should try it, just this once.  My spouse will never know.  

Look, I have an acquaintance whose wife left him for a door-to-door salesman.  Any time you let the guard on your marriage down, you have left the door open to doubt.

We should always be guarding our hearts and our minds from outside traffic.  No one wants to think their spouse would do this, so we better damn well make sure we are on our toes, too.  

I have since discontinued reading those same confessionals.  I couldn't allow myself to let weakness creep in.  I noticed that change and I stopped.  This may make some of you upset, thinking that I'm just doing the old fire and brimstone act and we're all going to hell spiel.  That's actually about the furthest thing from the actual truth.  I'm talking about this today because it is real.  These small wayward thoughts and individual self-satisfying actions can and have led to marriage failures.  I don't want that to happen to me.  I don't want that to happen to you.  If this makes you uncomfortable, good.  That was my intent.  It made me uncomfortable admitting to myself the reason I needed to stop reading the damn things.  I was hanging on every juicy dalliance.  

I care about you and I care about the health and strength of your marriages.  I hope I have made my point in a way that's not too officious.  Please, rant at me in the comments if you disagree.  I appreciate any and all feedback!  To steal a line from Red Green, "Remember, I'm pulling for you.  We're all in this together."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I think about Them

My husband and I are the nonresidential parents of his son and daughter. We get his son every other weekend and Tuesday evenings. We get his daughter usually every weekend.

This weekend, as I mentioned in my Tuesday 5 last week, my husband had to work and my step kiddos stayed with their respective mothers.

I had the house all to myself! What to do with all my free time?

Well, I did get some good garage saling action in and got all my laundry nearly finished. However, I found myself thinking about them all weekend, too.

On Friday night, we talked about the kids and how they were doing in school and sports. On Saturday,  I found myself thinking about a song that Ashley likes and singing it while I was picking up a garage sale item I found for her. Today, I was thinking about how they both do such great jobs around the house and while going through the week's mail, found Daden's scorecard from last week's league bowling match. I proceeded to post it above the dry erase board on his room's door and then writing him a note of inspiration. I couldn't leave Ashley out, so I left her an encouraging note about her volleyball skills on her dry erase board.

As a stepmother, especially as the household that neither kid resides in, it's tough to go as long as we do without seeing them. I know there are people who can't stand the family they gained through marriage, but I will never know those feelings. My husband and I cherish the time we get and we try to be there for them as much as we are able, but we still miss the, every day they aren't here.

I think about them a lot in all I do. I always wonder what they are up to, if they are having fun, if they are acting as the calm and responsible teens we see on the weekends, if they know how much we care for them and pray for them.

Do not try to tell me I don't have the right to be concerned for them. Do not try to tell me that I shouldn't be involved because it may step on toes or hurt some feelings. Thankfully,  we have very amicable relationships with both of their mothers. But, I would be involved no matter what, because they are my children, too...step or not. When you get random hugs from your sweet teen daughter, that step part vanishes. When you fully understand your son's anxiety and ADD, because you have it, too...that step part disintegrates.

You do the best for your kids no matter the situation, because they ARE that important. Step doesn't need to lead or follow. No equivocation. I think about them and I miss them and I love them, with or without those four extra letters.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tuesday 5...on a Tuesday?

So, have you heard of this thing called blogging?  I don't seem to be doing a very good job of it lately, but I've heard that when it's done consistently and well, it can be interesting.  Obviously, I haven't reached that point yet.

One more attempt at getting consistent is coming up!

1)  I have been crocheting a lot lately.  I went and bought some new hooks and a bunch of yarn last week and now I just need to set aside time in which to get all of my projects done.  I am really good at starting projects, not the best at finishing.  Here's hoping I can actually start finishing some of them and shipping them to my family and friends.  I have learned a lot of stitches already and have found that Google is a great help when I need a few tips and tricks.  There are a LOT of great crochet blogs out there.  By the way, apparently one of the most stolen items from our local library is a magazine titled Crochet World.  I guess crocheting and knitting really IS getting popular!

2)  Tonight was homemade fettuccine alfredo.  Well, the alfredo sauce was homemade, not the pasta.  It's a 20 minute delicious meal.  Not good for the waistline necessarily, but delicious nonetheless.  What's your favorite go-to quick and easy meal?

3)  I am excited for all the season premieres this week!  We've already watched the newest Big Bang Theory, but the new Modern Family is coming up tomorrow night!  I really hope they resolve the Haley-Andy plot and I hope it ends with them together!  Adam Devine is ADORABLE as Andy and Sarah Hyland is always great as Haley.  They are so cute together, even though I liked Dylan, too.  What are the shows you are excited for this season?

4)  So, I'm reading a book called "Trip of the Tongue" which explores certain enclaves of language throughout the United States.  She started with several Native American languages and talks about the extinction of a lot of these languages and how that happens, etc.  Anyhow, one of the places she visited was Forks, Washington.  Apparently, that is the setting for Twilight?  I don't know, never read 'em.  She was talking about how there is a HUGE tourism boom there because of the books and that they give tours of the town, even though the book is FICTION and none of those characters ever actually lived.  Yikes. That just makes me want to shake my head, but I guess it's similar to wanting to see the foundations of Tintagel Castle in England because according to legend, that is where King Arthur was conceived, so who am I to judge...well, maybe I still will a little. ;)

5)  I may have the house all to myself the majority of the weekend this upcoming weekend.  Rick has to work all weekend and it's Daden's off week and Ashley wants to stay at her mother's, because she has to redo her "real" baby school experiment because she gave it too many head tilts last time.  Oops.  So, now I'm thinking about all the things I want to do this weekend.  What's the one thing YOU would do if you had the entire weekend to yourself?

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Belated 5: Acting with Compassion

In my small city, our city council was recently debating a law regarding "aggressive panhandling".  It would have outlawed panhandling in certain places and banned "aggressive" tactics like following an individual, continually asking, touching someone without consent, and intentionally blocking or impeding the free passage of an individual or vehicle.

These sound totally reasonable, except when you take into account that even the local police say these instances are practically nonexistent as it is.  You can usually see anywhere from 1 to 5 people sitting at intersections with signs in our city.  Oftentimes, it is single men, but every once in a while you see single women and the occasional couple.  I used to be the type that refused to give anything to a panhandler, except the occasional advice to seek out the mission in our town.  I heard those stories about the individuals who refused to take the food offered, instead asking for money and I thought, "Well, to heck with them.  They just want cash to abuse alcohol or drugs."  

However, over the years, I have asked myself the difference between myself and these individuals.  I had a job, a husband with a career, and a large network of supporting friends and family.  I've never known true hunger and I've damned well never had to drink rot gut vodka just to make myself forget my hunger and sleep through the night.  Who am I to set limits on my gifts? 

 I have prayed for many years to have a softer heart and to be more giving to others.  It's hard to be compassionate.  There are many different ways that we can act with compassion.  I have decided to make this Tuesday Wednesday 5 about compassion.

1.  Judge less.  

I know, I know, easier said than done, right?  It's a lot easier to look at and think about every way a person is doing it wrong or living their life in moral decrepitude or relying on addiction.  As I said above, I try very hard not to put MY limitations on other individuals.  I am not them.  Judgment of a person based on their color, creed, gender, religion, etc. is not only not helpful, but it usually has the opposite effect intended.  Maybe instead we should ignore those things and focus on the person.

2.  Open our hearts more.

I subtitled this one:  LOVE without ceasing.  In order to act with compassion, we need to look at that person and decide to love them.  We need to cast our negativity aside and open our hearts to helping them.  As Dr. King stated (and I paraphrase), dark cannot drive out dark, only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

3.  Actively listen and (attempt to) understand individual struggles.

Some of us may never know what it's like to lose parents at a young age, to lose children, to be raped, or beaten, or ignored.  We may never know the realities of war or loss of limbs or bad health issues.  Those of us trying to practice compassion MUST take the time to ACTIVELY listen.  That does not mean listening and ignoring or nodding our heads throughout.  That means to engage that person and ask questions or give comfort while attempting to understand that person's struggles.  When we do that, we act with compassion and open the door for that person to realize they are important and loved.

4.  Do good works selflessly.

Acting with compassion sometimes means stepping up and helping out.  It can be as simple as direct eye contact and a smile, holding a door open, or picking up something that fell out of someone's purse or shopping cart.  Recently, my daughter and I were at Joann's Fabrics and a mother was there with an infant in a car seat in one cart, another cart piled with fabric, and a toddler.  The toddler started grabbing stickers off a hook on an end cap and dropping them on the floor.  The mother saw this and gently grabbed her daughter away.  I immediately nudged my daughter and she picked up every one of those sticker pages and hung them up, without question.  Doing good isn't always a grand gesture.  Doing them selflessly is important, because even though doing good works does foster good feelings and a sense of accomplishment, our main goal shouldn't be to boost ourselves, but to uplift others.  This is a great example of compassion in action.

5.  Speak directly and sensitively.

This one can be difficult to do as well.  Part of acting with compassion is being sensitive to the person you are talking with and actively listening to.  We must be sure that they hear and understand that we have taken their humanity into account.  Speaking directly is an act of compassion as well.  This means that we are trying to direct them to better choices while also realizing that they are adults who get to make the final decision.  

Do you have anything to add to this list?  Compassion is something that we need to foster in our youth and I feel it is sorely needed in today's world.  When we have refugees drowning while trying to flee murderous religious tyranny and LGBT individuals killing themselves at an ever increasing rate and people hating others based on their occupations, or color, or religion, we have a society lacking compassion and empathy.  Please, act with compassion, and encourage others to do the same.  LOVE (and pray) without ceasing.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Battle I Wage

Today I wore my comfy dress.  I woke up at my normal time, laid in bed snuggling up to my husband's back and let my mind drift to the end of the work day and what I was going to do then.  Today I thought about everything that happened yesterday.  I thought about everything that didn't happen yesterday.

Today I beat my anxiety.  I felt that coil in the bottom of my stomach, that very beginning of a churn, the first click on the roller coaster, and I shoved it down deep inside of me again.

Yesterday, the clicks whirred several times before I was able to stop it.  Tuesday, I stared down the first hill of that coaster track and as it does, the coaster tipped, slowly, every slowly, over the edge of the hill, and came racing down.  You can't control it once it gets too far over that ledge.  It speeds up and keeps going, hill after hill, turn after twisty turn.  Sometimes it even flips me upside down.

The worst part is that sometimes it's so unpredictable, I don't even know what I'm responding to.  Tuesday I was looking at Mapquest at work and seeing how far down Highway 1 goes in California.  I followed it down further and further, 'til it hit the tip of the Baja peninsula in Mexico, surrounded by water.  My mind started retracting back and my head started spinning, thinking about looking at the Earth from that far away.

I knew looking at pictures or videos of space or views from a great height was a trigger, but I didn't think just looking at a flat, non-3D map would do it.

I can't even think about getting on a plane some days.  That triggers it.  If I get a dizzy spell, it sometimes triggers it.  Intense dramas trigger it.

A lot of things trigger it and it's amazing how quickly the downward spiral progresses.  It's overwhelming sometimes to feel that churning and try to swing myself out of it.

Sometimes I just need to take a deep breath, get up, and move around.  Tuesday wasn't quite that easy.  I, of course, had to click off what I was looking at.  I took some breaths.  I desperately tried to keep my mind out of that black hole of anxiety.

It's been nearly two years since my anxiety began.  Six months after it happened, my husband and stepdaughter were baptized and made full communion in the Catholic church.  It was warm in the church and the incense was cloying, per usual.  I started feeling stuffy and slightly overheated and the anxiety attack got into full swing.  I was trying hard to breathe, but all my mind could think about was what would happen if a gunman came into the church and started shooting.  My stepdaughter and Mom are across the aisle, my Dad and Rick are several pews in front of me, and two siblings and their families were sitting clear up at the front.  I couldn't get to all of them.  How could I get to them before the gunman did?

This is what anxiety does.  It tricks your mind into thinking about the worst case scenarios of everything and questioning how you will make it through.  Sometimes, when it's extra bad, you are paralyzed with fear, you can't breathe, your stomach churns, and in those moments, you truly believe that you are going to die.  You just know it.  Your teeth clench and your fingers lock, just waiting for oblivion.

At its worst, I sat in our tub full of the hottest water I could stand, with the hottest water pelting down on me.  I would beg my husband to go to bed at the same time as me because I didn't want to try to fall asleep without him there.  The boogeyman in my head would lie to me and fill it with the scariest thoughts.

My anxiety desperately tries to control me.  It wages a war in my body and my mind every. single. day.

But today, I beat it.  I'll take today.