When Nothing Makes Sense

Give Me Faith

I’m sorry if this post seems disorganized and rambling, but I’m feeling a need to purge my thoughts and sometimes they’re not such a tidy, pretty little package (as much as I’d like them to be). It’s like diarrhea of the mind, with thoughts firing back and forth until my head feels like it’s going to explode (sorry for the visual).

My hope is that I can empty it all out and make room for more peaceful, loving and kind thoughts. Thoughts filled with faith and hope, especially during this first Lenten season that I am participating.

What’s on my mind? Grief. The loss of people I love, people who are no longer here; my husband’s upcoming back surgery that puts a desperation and fear into my thoughts that I’ve never experienced before; my own mortality and what that looks like; the recent tragic death of a woman from our church who served on the Pastoral Council with my husband who was shot and killed by her 17-year-old son; the fear when I think about the world that my children are growing up in and the desperation I feel to change it, to do SOMETHING to make it just a little bit better.

My husband called me yesterday afternoon while I was shopping in Portland with my five-year-old son to tell me about, Michelle, the woman who had been killed by her teenage son. Not only did he kill his mother, but he attempted to kill his father who remains in critical condition. As I drove the hour home with my son sitting behind me playing his Leapster, I wondered how such an innocent child could grow up to do something so horrible and inconceivable. Yes, these things happen all the time, but WHY? What happened to that young boy to make him do such a thing? As with so many families and children, everything seemed fine on the outside. Yet, obviously, there was something horribly wrong on the inside.

It’s times like these, I look up and want to scream to God, “Why?!” My husband who just turned 40, who has been the epitome of health his entire life, is having major back surgery in two weeks. I have watched him suffer silently over the past five months, in chronic pain from the shooting pain and numbness that has taken over the right side of his body. A man who has always been afraid to take more than two Advil at a time who is now taking heavy pain meds throughout the day, barely masking the intense pain. My husband who has been a pillar of strength for me throughout our entire marriage who is now the one in need of my strength. His humbleness is beyond anything I could ever hope for myself.

Yes I am worried; yes I am fearful; yes I want to know why. But, I know in my heart of hearts that there’s no answer.

You know, my entire life up until I got sober I was a glass half-empty type person. Ask anyone. I always feared the worse. I always expected the worse. I always admired those glass half-full people. How could they be THAT positive? I know now. I know they had a faith that I never had. A faith that, despite the pain and suffering, it would be okay. It might not turn out how they expected or how they imagined it would, but it would be okay in the end.

I know that family who has just experienced the most horrific tragedy imaginable will continue to suffer greatly. But, I know because of their immense faith in a loving and just God that they will be okay. They will go on and inspire others with their strength and determination.

I know the next two months will be challenging for our family as my husband goes through surgery and recovery. There will be days of immense exhaustion and frustration, but it will be okay. It will be okay because, together, our faith will be stronger than any feelings of desperation and fear that attempt to bring us down.

As I go forward in this Lenten season, I pray that God opens my heart to greater faith, hope, love and kindness.

Let’s all just strive to be kind to each other. I am reminded daily that we never know what someone else is going through. Your words or the way you look at someone could make or break them.

I constantly remind myself of what my sponsor always tells me, “We are all God’s children.”

Peace.

And, God Said Be Still

Snow

On the 7th of this month, God said, be still. He said stop your busyness, throw away your to-do list, spend time with your family and just be. How did He do this? He sent snow. Lots and lots of snow. More snow than we’ve had in over five years. And, then He sent freezing rain. And, we were stuck. We were snowed in for three days. And, we were together.

On the first day, in the midst of my kids arguing, I said, God I don’t know if I can do this. And, I went downstairs (we have a daylight basement) and locked the door. I took some deep breathes and I prayed for patience. And, God said, you’ve got this. And, I did. That’s the thing about my God, He’s usually right.

The next day, it snowed a lot. As I stood in the kitchen cooking a big breakfast, looking out at the snow falling, I felt peace. Peace in the simplicity of a morning where we weren’t rushing out the door; or barking orders at each other. Peace in my children’s laughter and excitement over the new fallen snow. Peace in sitting with my husband, drinking our coffee and just being.

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We played, built snowmen and sledded down my in-law’s driveway. We didn’t need fancy sleds. Boxes worked just fine. We used my husband’s childhood sled to walk around the neighborhood, visiting friends along the way. It could have been anywhere; at any point in time. We were just a family – sledding, laughing and being together.

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Sledding

And, God said, Chenoa, I know you’re not a big board game player, but you’re going to play a game as a family, because, really, what else do you have to do that’s more important? And, so we played a game of Chutes and Ladders and we laughed. And, I said, okay God, that was fun but I’m pretty sure that game is rigged because every time you get to the top, you have to slide down one of those damn chutes and it’s impossible to win. And, He laughed, because He knows it’s true.

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We baked cookies, watched movies, did puzzles, danced and sang (I’m pretty sure my husband and I could both sing that “Frozen” song word for word). And, I didn’t worry about running out of wine – because before, that’s what I would’ve worried about. Because, before, that’s how I “coped” with my kids. Now, the only thing I worried about running out of was my coffee and Prozac. Because, God knows I need both of those to function. Yes, my God has a sense of humor.

And, in the silence of the snow, God said, this was good. This was good because it made you be still. That’s what I love about my God. He knows what I need, when I need it most.

Permission to Feel

A Time to Weep and Laugh

It’s been a while, but I’m still here – sober and living life! Now that the birthdays are over (until December!) and school has started, I find myself easing back into that predictable routine that by the end of summer I so desperately miss. I’m hoping a new routine also means a little more writing time for me. I don’t realize how much I depend on my writing for my own sanity until I’m not doing it anymore!

I heard the above scripture read out loud the other day while driving and it really hit me. Usually, I only hear it spoken out loud when I’m watching Footloose and Kevin Bacon’s character is speaking at the town hall meeting trying to convince the community to reinstate dancing…but that’s a whole different story. Way off topic.

When I heard this scripture the other day, it made me think of my life now – my sober life- and how I navigate the reality of living life on life’s terms. For the most part, life is good. It’s really good. I’m the best version of myself that I’ve ever been, but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. And, the struggles are just as important as the happy and joyous parts of my life. The difference now, is that instead of trying to numb or guard myself from those struggles by drinking, I have to move through them.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a really crappy day. I woke up feeling fine, but by mid-morning I found myself losing it. My husband had taken the kids to the gym, and as I stood cleaning the stove, I felt this tremendous sense of grief hit me. Tears started streaming down my face and I thought, “I miss my mom SO much right now.” My mom passed away over seven years ago from pancreatic cancer, but sometimes it feels like yesterday. And, then I found myself in the bedroom cleaning, and once again the grief hit me and before I knew it I was sitting on the floor, leaning up against the bed, sobbing. All at once I felt so much loss. The loss of my mom, the loss of my friend Sadie, the loss of relationships with those I was once close to. It was heavy and suffocating and I all I could do was sit there and cry. I wanted the pain and hurt to go away – oh how I prayed for it to go away – but I knew, despite the heart wrenching pain, I had to move through it.  This was me, living life on life’s terms. It’s not easy, but it’s what I do now. I know it’s what I HAVE to do if I don’t want to go back to that horrible place I came from – the drinking and numbing.

I have FINALLY learned (not always the easy way) to give myself permission to “weep” and to “mourn.” And, part of this is also learning how to be honest with those around me and ask for help. When my husband got home, I told him what had happened and said, “I’m having a really hard day. I’m going to be okay, but I need to work through it.” He knows. He knows I will have hard days where the grief of losing my mom and my friends will hit me out of nowhere. But, he isn’t a mind reader (as much as I would like to assume he is) and he needs me to be open and honest so he can step in and give the kids some extra attention or whatever is helpful in that moment. My husband, my sponsor, my friends – these are my lifelines. I reach out, I ask for help – this is what I have learned in sobriety.

The next day I felt better. I went to church, I talked to God – I fed my soul and I continued to move through the grief and depression I had been feeling the day before. By Monday, I felt better. I now know it’s a process, but I didn’t always “get” it. Before, I would stuff it all in, pack it down, put a smile on my face and pretend it was “okay.” I would try to numb it away with multiple glasses of wine, hoping that “one more” would make it all go away. And, it did for a while – until I woke up the next morning and went through the whole cycle over again.

I laugh a lot now. I laugh with my kids, with my husband, with friends – at myself! I laugh a lot more than I weep or mourn. I even dance now – sober! However, my dancing usually leads to even more laughing – if you know me, you’ll understand. For those that don’t, lets just say I’ve perfected the “white girl” moves!

Thank God for my sobriety, which has taught me to live life on life’s terms. Feel it, deal with it and move on. Easy? Not always. Worth it? Definitely!

My Heart Hurts

Have Faith

Wow. What a couple of weeks. Last week, we were on our annual family vacation to the beach and on Monday, the day after we returned, I celebrated my “belly button” birthday as we refer to it in recovery – as opposed to our sobriety birthday.

And, in the middle of all this, I got a phone call that caused me to stop, think and seriously evaluate my relationship with someone very close to me. For their privacy, I will write in general terms, yet I feel I must write about it because it’s heavy on my heart and I aim to speak the truth here.

For most of my life, I’ve been a people pleaser. I’ve always wanted people to like me. Often, this meant sacrificing my own thoughts and beliefs in order to appear more likeable to others. I guess I didn’t truly realize this until I got sober and took a hard look at my behavior and motives behind certain decisions. I wanted praise, accolades, pats on the back and “I’m so proud of yous” – especially from this particular person. I needed these things to feel worthy – to feel like I had achieved something.

So, when I got this phone call, I realized I was going to have to make some really hard decisions – decisions that could cause anger and jeopardize my relationship with this person. The person I speak of is an alcoholic and their drinking has become unmanageable.

I prayed, I thought about it, I talked it over with my husband, and in the end, I knew I had to take the steps to establish some boundaries. I could no longer stand by and subject myself or my family to their unpredictable alcoholic behavior. I knew without a doubt, I had to respect myself enough to speak up. Alcoholism is a disease and, while I can’t control or cure someone else’s disease, I can take the steps to protect myself from its consequences.

My love for this person is immeasurable. But, I also know that with love often comes pain and heartache. With love comes hard decisions that are scary, intimidating and gut wrenching.

The future of our relationship is unknown. I hope and pray for recovery. For a connection and faith in a Higher Power. But, I also know that I control very little of the outcome. I can take small steps to establish boundaries, but, in the end, my God is in control.

I can’t control the future, but I have an immense amount of faith in God’s future. A future that will know peace and serenity for those I love.

 

One Of Those Days

Hope

Today was one of those days when I wish there was a “reset” button.

After weeks of declining health, we decided to put our last cat down this morning. In many ways, it was the end of era. When my husband and I moved in together, he had a dog and cat and I had two cats. We ended up getting rid of one of the cats early on, but created a nice family unit with the remaining dog and two cats. Eventually, kids entered the mix, our dog died, “my” cat died and we were left with one remaining cat, our sweet, little orange tabby.

I grew up with cats and dogs, and for the most part, have always had one or the other in my adult life. I think it’s safe to say there are those who like animals and those who don’t. I’m not sure if I totally trust a person who doesn’t like animals. They teach us so much about ourselves – patience, trust, gentleness, selflessness. I’m confidant my cat, Alex, taught me many lessons about motherhood before I ever had children.

For many of us, loosing a pet is similar to loosing a member of the family. I went through most of today in a daze, grieving the loss of a true friend who I jokingly referred to as my “little shadow” for the way she followed me around the house, up and down the stairs and room to room.

Part of me feels silly writing about this, but if you’re an animal person you’ll “get” it and, if not, well, this post isn’t for you.

You see, I’m feeling sad. I’m sad that I lost a friend today; I’m sad that I was on edge all day with my kids; I’m sad that nothing seemed to go “right” today.

I used to drink when I was sad; now, I write. And, I pray and talk to God and tomorrow I will meet and talk with my sponsor. And, tomorrow will be a new day and won’t seem as bad as today.

The Icing on the Cake

God Is In Control

The icing on the cake today was when my four year-old son accidentally pooped his pants in the toy isle at Walgreens. True story.

Let me give you a short synopsis of the past week in my little world. On Monday the Boston Marathon bombings took place as I was at the gym on the elliptical, which led to feelings of depression and “What’s this world coming to?” type thoughts; on Wednesday I went in for gum graft surgery to fix some recession on my lower gum; aftermath of surgery included lots of pain and little eating; Saturday I pulled my neck and shoulder muscle out at which point my husband asks if I’m going to even be able to walk by the time I’m 40 (funny); on Sunday, just as we’re getting ready to walk out the door to church, my husband notices water leaking through the basement ceiling directly into my closet; no water for the rest of Sunday and Sunday night; and today we finally get plumbing fixed but now have to cut out ceiling and drywall damaged area. Oh, and I’m still in pain and not able to eat much except yogurt, soup and other soft foods, which makes me considerably hungry and irritable. Nuff said.

By no means am I trying to portray a “poor me” mentality because I’m not. Well, okay, a couple of times I might have caught myself going down that road, but I stopped myself before it was too late. No matter how crappy (no pun intended) this week has been, I realized something. This is life – and I can deal with it! What a concept!

In my past life, the first day would have sent me over the edge. I would have drunk that day and all the days following. I would have done anything to escape the reality of life – the frustration, the disappointment, the anxiety.

Now, I find myself able to walk through it. Instead of drinking and lashing out at everyone around me, I pray and I talk to God. I trust that He’s in control and that I will, despite doubting myself at times, be able to walk through the reality of life.

I’m not special; everyone has life smack them on the head once in a while. Maybe it’s a wake up call; something to help us realize just how good we have it. Because, really, most of us have it pretty damn good.

I’ve learned a lot throughout my sobriety, but I must say the greatest lesson I’ve learned is how to simply walk through life, trusting that God will lead me where I need to go.

What a relief!

TheBetterMom.com

Why Is Acceptance So Hard?

Acceptance

I’ve been struggling with acceptance lately. I’ve never been one of those people who can just say “Whatever!” to a situation or person and walk away. I want to understand the situation, or understand why someone is feeling or acting a certain way. I suppose I’ve always been sensitive to others reactions to me. And, of course, I always tend to think it’s my fault if they’re angry or upset.

The idea of acceptance was and continues to be a huge part of my recovery. Mainly, because the reaction I had to situations and my perceived notions about others often caused me to drink. In early recovery, I learned (and accepted) that my behavior had been totally self-centered.  Well, surprise! Your character defects (as we refer to them in recovery) don’t just go away once you get sober – you actually have to deal with them!

The truth is, I can be very self-centered at times. I obsess about how others react to me (or don’t react) and am positive I must be the main source of their discontentment or anger. And, as much as I want someone to change, to be a different person and act a different way, I have a very hard time accepting them as they are.

I’ve gotten better – way better since getting sober. But, I still struggle. I still want some people close to me to be a certain way – a way I know in my heart they will never be. I want them to say certain things, do certain things, ask certain things – things that will make ME feel better. Again, it usually comes back to me and how THEY are making ME feel.

For me, acceptance means accepting people and situations as they are right now – as God intends them to be. The only person I have power over is myself, and even that is very limited. As much as I would like to at times, I do not control the universe (which would be very scary!). Each day, I pray that I can be the best person God wants me to be. Nothing more, nothing less – just me.

Acceptance is hard – it’s really hard. But, through acceptance I have experienced a sense of peace and contentment that I have never known before. When I truly give it up to God, and say “Okay, this is not about me,” it gives me room to be the kind, loving and encouraging person I want to be.

And, most of all I accept this journey I’m on – this imperfect journey of acceptance.

Preparing Myself

Temptation

As I embark on this weekend, I’m preparing myself for two big events: 1) my first wedding sober and 2) our annual Easter celebration that I wrote about in my last post here.

This will be my second Easter sober, however, I’m still reminded of previous years where I used Easter (and all other holidays) as an excuse to drink as much as I could in a short amount of time. For some reason, I thought I needed it to cope, to have fun, to “survive.” It turns out, being sober made last year’s Easter celebration a lot more enjoyable – imagine that!

As for weddings, well, weddings and I have a long history – mostly a history of not remembering much. If there was ever an event that called (or more like begged) for drinking it was weddings. I mean heck, I got drunk for the first time when I was fourteen at my mom and stepdad’s wedding! I clearly remember the thrill and excitement of it, yet at the same time I remember my eighty-two year old grandmother helping me up the stairs and undressing me for bed. But, despite the shame and embarrassment the next morning, I loved it and I wanted more.

As I got older and my friends started getting married, weddings became all out parties – or at least they were for me! When I was single, I would find myself in questionable situations and after I got married, my husband would have to drag me (literally) out of the reception. Of course, it was always assumed that he would be the one driving and I would be the one passed out or throwing up in the passenger seat. Ironically, the only wedding I didn’t get drunk at was my own – go figure! Oh, and the one I attended while pregnant, but I’m sure I still managed to sneak a glass here and there. I mean, who could possibly imagine going to a wedding and not having ANYTHING to drink?!

To say that weddings bring up feelings of temptation is an understatement. Fortunately, we didn’t have any weddings last year, however, this year we’ve been invited to three. Tomorrow is the first of those three. To be honest, I’m not as anxious as I thought I would be, but I’m still doing the work in anticipation. I’ve gone to meetings this week, I’ve talked it over with my sponsor, I’ve done my readings and, most of all, I’ve been praying. I didn’t get sober on my own, and I know damn well I won’t stay sober on my own. I need God to help me and protect me, act as my armor if you will as I go into these situations.

Because that first drink is there, it’s always there waiting, tempting and calling my name.

 

 

The Bunny Is Real…And Other Easter Memories

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You know the saying, you don’t just marry the person, you marry their family? Well, that was definitely true for me. Despite both my husband and I being only children, unlike me he is from a very large, close-knit Catholic family who all, despite a few, live within close proximity to each other. I would be lying to say that I wasn’t completely and utterly overwhelmed when I attended my first Easter celebration with his family.

Growing up, we celebrated Easter, but nothing compared to my husband’s family. The week leading up to Easter is filled with excitement and anticipation, especially now that we have two kids who are obsessed with the Easter Bunny and all things Easter. There are Easter crafts, Easter stories, Easter baking, Easter cartoons, and, of course, lots of talk about Aunt Tess’ and the Easter Bunny! And, yes, the “Easter Bunny” makes an appearance each year at the annual Easter gathering at “the farm.” Okay, so Aunt Tess used to work at Hallmark and got the bunny costume at a great deal – but I digress.

The day begins with early Mass and then everyone makes the short trip to “the farm.” It’s not technically a farm, but there are a few horses, a cow or two, dogs and lots of room for the kids to run around – it’s beautiful. It’s the first time most of us have seen each other since Christmas, so there’s a lot of catching up and eating – lots and lots of eating. At some point, someone is chosen (or told!) to be the “bunny.” Usually, it’s one of the older cousins who have yet to participate in this coming of age-like experience.

As the anticipation builds, everyone gathers on the lawn awaiting the Bunny’s arrival. It’s always a surprise as to how Mr. Bunny will make his entrance. Last year, I believe he rode in on a four-wheeler and the year before that being pulled by a tractor – like I said, you never know! Of course, once the Bunny is spotted the kids go wild, some laughing, some crying and some standing in awe. It’s a sight to see!

Over the years, I’ve come to realize how truly special this celebration is. Before the Easter dinner (as with all family celebrations), we stand in a circle holding hands and say the traditional Catholic meal prayer, giving thanks to God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us. As you look around, you will see Nornie, the matriarch of the family, along with most of her six children and their spouses, her grandchildren and their spouses and a multitude of great-grandchildren. What a sight to behold!

As the day comes to an end, you will find groups gathered by the fire or playing a board game and a few napping on the sofas, exhausted from the day’s activities. Those of us who have children, will gather them up, load them in the car and drive home, tired yet grateful for another year of Easter at “the farm.”

And, this year, I will be especially grateful for my second Easter spent sober and present, enjoying the excitement and joy of my children and glorifying the Lord who makes it all possible.

Blessings this Easter and always!

Faux Shutters

Shutters Closeup

Well, it’s been a long, hard week, but I’m starting to get my mojo back! As you may know from my last post, I had a bad bout with my OCD and it really took everything out of me. It’s hard to understand if you’ve never experienced it, but just compare it to being absolutely exhausted, to the point where you can’t think straight. That’s pretty much how it is – kind of.

I think God heard my prayers (and all of those who were praying for me) because today was better. I felt more like myself – more alive. And, with that feeling, my inspiration to write came back – hurray! This is life. Some days will be harder than others. I know that, but it still doesn’t make it easy. However, it does make me more grateful for the days that I feel alive and well.

With that being said, I have a fun project to share with you! We recently finished a small remodel on our house (that’s a future post) and in turn had to replace our electrical box, which happens to be in our master bedroom. The picture that once covered it no longer fit, so I was challenged to find something new that would cover this obtrusive accessory.

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I spent weeks looking for something that would be just the right size. I even had one of the local décor shops looking for me as new shipments arrived. No luck. On a whim, I stopped by World Market one day to look around and ended up finding the perfect solution. I can’t tell you how excited I was. It was like I hit the jackpot – well, not really, but almost! At the time, the faux shutters opened to a mirror, but after looking at the back I realized I could remove the mirror and create an area that would perfectly frame the electrical box.

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Once I got it home, I went to work removing the hardware from the back, which was pretty simple despite having TONS of tiny little screws. My husband took a shot of me hard at work – who doesn’t like a woman holding a screwdriver?!

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Once I got the mirror off, I measured and hung it over the electrical box – it fit perfectly!

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Now, when we need to access the box (because we do tend to blow fuses now and then) we can simply open the shutters and there it is. Plus, they’re super cute and add a fun flare to our basement bedroom. Now, I just need to find something to do with the extra mirror! Guess it’s time to get those creative juices flowing!

I’d love to hear how you’ve repurposed new or old furniture around your house!

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