Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Festive Weekend and Some Links

This past weekend a few of my friends and I took a trip to Birmingham together.  We don't get to spend nearly as much time together as we used to and we really just needed to get away.  Though I will admit Birmingham is not the most exotic of locations, it is close to home and it has delicious food, which is how it ended up as our destination.  While gone we covered a lot of important topics, including but not limited to: our opinions on various types of melons, our cholesterol, and male pattern balding.  I can't say for sure what we will be discussing in 40 years, as we seem to be covering some of those pressing topics in advance.  We did a ton of laughing, a ton of eating, and solved a lot of problems.

Perhaps the highlight of the weekend came when we ran into BooMama at Chuy's on Sunday.  Sophie Hudson (BooMama) is the author of the BooMama blog and she has a special place in my heart because her's is the first blog that I ever read.  I read it each morning at a long ago job and found a reason to laugh when I was not laughing at much else during the work day.  She has written a couple of books now and we were THRILLED to run into her.  So thrilled in fact that I'm nervous we alarmed her, or at least majorly creeped her out.  But she was so nice and even took a picture with us.

I'm pretty sure that conditions weren't perfect for any of us to get away.  Some of us have babies, some live hours away, all of us have plenty going on at home and work to keep us exhausted, and the month after Christmas is not the ideal time for anyone to be spending extra money.  But sometimes spending time with your people overrides all of those things, and it did this time.  Sometimes we need to laugh more than we need anything else.

And that's what I've been up to.  Work is getting busier for me so I haven't had as much time in recent days to knock any more holes in my walls or meditate on being called thick, but I did want to share a few things that I've enjoyed lately:

Have you read my sister's blog? She's the best writer I know and is in New York taking cover from winter storm Juno at this very moment!

Because too tight pants are my worst nightmare.  WORST.

I am very serious about my annual skin check, so I could relate to this riveting story about a trip to the dermatologist's office.

Have you gotten BooMama's new book yet? I haven't but I can't wait! I may wait to pick it up when I see her next week at her book signing in Jackson, where I am sure to further creep her out with my presence.

Can this be real life? We can only hope.

Have a good week and make sure to take time to do some laughing of your own.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Thicky Thick Club

I heard her before I saw her. “WHITNEY! You’re back! You’re here!” It was a lady who works in the building where I took the majority of my grad school classes, greeting me as I walked inside. “You’re here again! What are you doing here? Your jacket is so thin! Where are your gloves? And honey, you have gotten THICK since you’ve been married, haven’t you?!” 

 Oh my, I thought. Oh no. She didn’t just say that. But she did. I’ll ignore it and it will go away. “I’m so glad to see you," I told her. “Yes, I’m back, I’m just teaching a couple of classes.” 

 “TEACHING!? How WONDERFUL! And you HAVE gotten thick since you’ve been married, haven’t you? Haven’t you???”

 Oh no, the ignoring did not make it go away. How do I answer this appropriately? “Well…maybe a little bit?", I told/asked her. 

 “Ok baby, you stay warm. I’ll see you later!” And she was gone. 

 This was the delightful interaction with which I got to start my day last Friday. I got into the elevator, slightly shocked, and I laughed and laughed and laughed. I texted my friends and laughed. I could not get it together for the first five minutes of my class. The day had not been off to a great start even before this, in fact the past couple of weeks have not been especially great for me. But somehow, instead of defeating me, this comment completely lifted my mood, because what can you do with something like that besides laugh?

 Several years ago hearing something like this would have devastated me. I am talking a full out, emotional meltdown that would have likely included crying and an attempt at crash dieting (that would have lasted 2 days). I would have been truly upset and convinced that I looked terrible. But fortunately I have gained some perspective over the past few years and these are some things I know with certainty:  1. There are worse things in the world than gaining a little weight. MUCH worse things. 2. If the worst thing that happens to me in a day is that an acquaintance speculates that perhaps I’ve gained some weight, then I’m doing ok. 3. Just because someone says something or thinks something about me does not automatically make it true. 

 I do have memories of people saying hurtful things to me during elementary school, high school, and college. However, I have always had really great friends, so I spent the majority of my time around people who made me feel good about myself instead of bad. It wasn’t until after college that I had some experiences with people that really shook me. By that point I was able to handle people commenting on my appearance (after 22 years I felt pretty clear on what I looked like), but I was in no way prepared to handle being attacked in areas that really mattered to me-my work ethic, my integrity, and my relationship with God. Those comments people made turned into thoughts inside my head, and the thoughts very nearly turned into beliefs. It took me a long time to sort out what was true and what was not. 

 Unfortunately, the world is full of unpleasant people and unpleasant words. I like to think that there are still a lot of kind people around, but eventually you will run into that one person who does their best to bring you down--a classmate, a teacher, a co-worker, a boss, a bad relationship. I have worked with so many clients, particularly women, who have been wounded or developed some beliefs about themselves based on other peoples words.   These words can come in different forms--bullying, emotional abuse, passive aggressive comments, I’m-just-kidding-but-I’m-really-being-terrible comments. The words can make you feel fat, dumb, selfish, irresponsible, uptight, inadequate, insecure,  or a number of other negative things.    I don’t know the lady who feels I have become thick very well at all, and in all honesty she wasn’t being anything but sweet and friendly. But it’s a whole different story when words are meant to be hurtful, or when they come from someone who is important to us.  So how do we get control of our feelings and thoughts? It’s not easy, but I think there are a few things we can do:

-Make a choice. Think about the comment one time, see if there is anything constructive about it, and if not, choose not to think about it anymore. Intentionally let it go. Our minds get us into trouble when we think….and think…and think about something. What did she mean? Why would she have said that? That’s not even true! Or maybe it is true…I wish I would have said…Our minds can get stuck on something and run from there. A verse that I have to remind myself of often is Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” It takes work, but God has given us the ability to have control over our thoughts. My pastor preached a great sermon with some true and relevant thoughts on this topic this past Sunday, and you can listen here

-Know who you are. Know the things that you are good at and own them. Know that the best things about you are things that are on the inside of you, not things that are superficial. Know that you are not perfect and that you will mess up sometimes. Do not get your security or your satisfaction from what other people say or think about you.  Know that you will never please everyone, and that is ok.  

-Surround yourself with positive people.  This one is simple.  If you are regularly around someone who makes you feel terrible about yourself, it is time to make some big changes in that relationship.  When you can help it, surround yourself with people who make you feel good and not bad.   People who are positive, fun, and remind you of your strengths.  We ultimately can't always control who we spend time with, but make the most of it when you can!

Hurtful words are always going to be a part of life, but with some practice we can get better at managing them in a way that doesn't bring us down.

And as for my thickness--once upon a time when I was on my high school's dance team we received an unusual shipment of dance tights.  We were all appalled because we had to wear a larger size in these tights than we did in regular clothes, to the point that some of my friends formed the "Thicky Thick Club" in representation of their tight size.  The girls told me that my tight size did not qualify me for membership.  Well ladies, my day has arrived! I will accept my membership card via U.S. Postal Service or electronic device.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Day the Wall Caved In

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In continuing on our quest to rid our new home of it’s 80s look and earth-toned/throw up toned paint colors, Will and I set out to paint our laundry room on Saturday night. I bought the paint a couple of months ago, we already had all the other supplies, and this little room cannot be much bigger than 5x10. After the experience of painting nearly the whole house, we knew this would be an easy task.

 If you know me well, you know the spirit of my dad comes out in me when it comes time to take on a project of any sort--home projects, academic projects, cooking projects, anything. And if you know my dad, you know that the man is a machine. There is nothing he cannot build or fix, and he will not consider stopping until the job is done and done correctly. There are, however, many things that I cannot build or fix, and so sometimes the combination of the Can’t Stop Won’t Stop attitude engraved in my DNA and my lack of actual ability get me in over my head. It has led to me attempting much mechanical work on my car, nearly shocking myself on occasion, climbing too high, and many, many late nights. When these things happen, Will shakes his head, says, “you’ve got so much of your dad in you,” and tries to keep me from injuring myself. And the laundry room proved to be no exception.

 Will took everything out of the room, I cleaned really well, and we were ready to paint. Even this prep work took a really long time. We felt it best to begin by pulling the washer and dryer out so we could paint behind them, and that’s when things went downhill fast. We saw a terrible thing--a leak running down the wall. Will poked the wall to investigate the situation and IT CAVED IN. I am serious, that part of the wall just collapsed and a hole and messed up wall remained. I will spare you a picture of this, because you know what isn’t cute? A hole in the wall.

 It didn’t take us long to figure out how to best handle the situation--we just pushed the washer and dryer back in place, ignored the hole, and went about painting the room as planned. We painted the trim and walls, then I decided the trim needed to be painted again. Then we touched up the walls. Then the cabinets all looked so dingy that I could not resist painting them as well. When we finished something was still wrong, and I realized the ceiling was a horrible yellow color that was ruining my very life. So we painted it a bright, happy white. After many hours and a hole in the wall we finally went to bed at 3 am. 

 While the room certainly is not pinterest worthy, it looks SO much better than it did back when it had earth toned walls and a yellow ceiling. But here is the problem-that room is not really fixed, because that hole is still there. It’s hidden and I can ignore it, but eventually we are going to have to call the contractor and pay the big money to have it fixed. Then things will really be well in the laundry room. 

 As I think more about having to fix the hole in the wall, I realize I have handled this situation in a way that is pretty similar to how we often handle big problems in our lives. I’m talking about the deep, dark problems that we don’t want anyone to know about and are not easy to fix. The hurts that run deep and that started a long time ago, or maybe we don’t know when they started at all. The issues that we ignore while we address other problems that seem easier to handle, like dingy cabinets or a yellow ceiling. The holes in the wall that we paint around, working hard to make everything else look pretty so no one will notice the mess. Sometimes we can almost trick ourselves into forgetting, but we never really do. The hole is still there. 

 What if this was the year that we decided to handle the hard things, whatever that looks like for each of us. I think a great place to start is by simply sharing your struggle with a friend, someone at your church, or even a counselor. Often times just getting things out in the open, an encouraging word, and a fresh perspective can make a gloomy situation seem a lot brighter. It will still probably take time and work to fully heal, but it’s progress. Plus, I’ve learned the most rewarding things in life don’t usually happen easily.

 As for me and my house, the hole in the wall and approximately 3,000 projects remain! Wish me luck and pray for poor Will. 


Monday, January 12, 2015

A Fresh Start

2014 was not the easiest year for me. If I had to pick a theme for 2014, I would pick Change. Having two jobs for eight months, a scary car accident, traveling every weekend of the summer, living in the chaos of remodeling a house, 6 best friends moving too far away, a new puppy, leaving a job that was safe for one that was right-it seemed like the changes came faster than I could keep up with them. The year was full of change for most of my friends and family, and I think all of us would agree that it was a hard year in a lot of ways. Of course, something being hard is not always synonymous with it being bad.

 With all the traveling came lots of quality time with the people that are most important to me, time that I will always be thankful we had. Living through the home renovations meant that I had the experience of watching our new house slowly come together to become our home, a gift that not everyone gets. Having to deal with a wild puppy making messes also meant that I got a faithful new friend when I needed one the most. Leaving a safe job for one that is risky is something that I suspect I will look back on as an important part of my journey with God for the rest of my life. There were special trips, weddings, new babies, and new jobs to celebrate. Change is scary for most of us, but I am learning that a loss doesn’t usually come without a gain of some sort, just like a gain typically brings about some kind of loss.

 Something else I know for certain-the times that have strengthened my faith the most have not been the easy times, but the hard ones. I’m thankful for 2014, thankful for all the things that happened, thankful I can know God was with me the whole time, and thankful that we are onto a New Year. I typically struggle hard with the post Christmas blues, but I’ve been loving the idea of a fresh start this January. I have a feeling that 2015 is going to be a really good year. This is a quite general list but this year I hope I: 
-Memorize more scripture, pray more, and know God more
 -Host a lot of friends and family at my house
 -Laugh a lot
 -Cook a lot 
-Exercise a lot
 -Relax a lot

 Why yes, I sure did write the words on this chalkboard myself. If you know what my handwriting looks like, then you understand that this is the Official Miracle of 2015. I hope 2014 was good for you and that 2015 is your best year yet!

 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wastelands.” Isaiah 43:19 NIV