Thursday, December 1, 2016

Annie Ruined the Carpet and I Despised Her

Annie was our family's first dog.  It was quite the experience when we adopted her in 2012.  She peed on the carpet in our spare room and in Mallory's room repeatedly and I despised her.  I truly, truly despised her and didn't see what having a dog was about at all.  George and I would have disagreements about how to handle the situation, that were worse than disagreeing about parenting.  I think for me because it was a freaking dog and we didn't have to have her or this stress in the first place.  I will admit that I would resent Mallory who wanted the dog in the first place.    I remember Annie trying to run away and I thought, GO!  (Though, she had a chip and would eventually be returned to us.)  It was very ugly in the beginning.  And in hindsight, it was all about boundaries.  I had to learn to have some...with a dog.  I had to learn boundaries with her and it was a great indicator of how to do it with humans as well.

Annie is not an affectionate kind of dog either unlike Brinkley who is a true unconditional loving dog.   Annie has her own way, but I'm learning to respect her for who she is because she can be freaking funny when she is falling asleep.  Brinkley will follow me into the closet when I'm having an ugly cry.  He doesn't lick my face but he sits with me.  What other creature will do that?  Annie, on the other hand,  only pays attention to you when you have the promise of food, or when she is frightened of the weather or the cats.  The rest of the time, she is asleep and loudly snoring.  She is
who she is.

Boundaries.  Anger is a sign that your boundaries aren't being respected or that you need to set some up!!  And it's not easy work and there is much practice, practice, practice.

The picture to the left is from the book, "The Artist's Way."  As you can see it spoke to me.  Anger is not about the other person or dog!!!  It's about going inward and not acting out, but acting upon, making a change, unless you like to stay angry?  I was very angry at Annie with all the ruining of the carpet but I needed to think out of the box.  I had never had a dog, an old "set in her ways" dog at that and had no idea how to have an inside dog.  We had put her in a crate early on and she yelped.  So we backed down and didn't do that anymore.  In hindsight, that was the very thing we needed to do.  And use treats.  Treats are the bomb!  She may have yelped at the crate but she would have acclimated.  When we adopted Brinkley over a year later with urinating problems still going on,  we had bigger issues of biting, etc so we finally got a dog trainer in our lives.  I needed outside assistance to help us think out the box.  We eventually made our way around to crating Annie at night.  I don't even remember if she disliked it, but she now goes into the "sleeping box" as George calls it.   I know George thought it was harsh to put her in there and separate her from us.  He is such the softie.  But that has been the trick as well as taking her outside in the morning  and at other times of the day with the treat and demanding she "go potty."  This training takes time and practice.

Learning this big lesson that went on for more than a year with a dog, has been such the example of how to deal with people as well.  Thinking outside the box, not being entrenched in one way of doing things, letting go of expectations, and getting outside assistance if needed. Old dogs and I mean me   can learn new tricks.

And, so often, I am so thankful that my old soul Mallory, incessantly begged for a dog, not once but twice.  These four leggeds are members of our family.  I totally understand dog people now.  It took a while but I finally do.  And not all dogs are the same, just like children.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The First Debate is Here...Working On My Messaging

Here we are...the first debate is tonight.  I have so many strong feelings.

My younger daughter told me this weekend, they talked about politics in math last week.  Okay.   I asked if she told them I was voting for Hilary, because I knew she would spill the beans but that is okay with me.  It has taken a long time to sit in my truth.   We have had discussions in the house... very spirited discussions on my part but I answer her questions as evenly as I can ( in my passionate way.)

She said I told them you hate Donald Trump.


Okay, I have to work on my messaging.

I said I don't hate Donald Trump.  I do not agree with ANYTHING he has to say and yet he is a child of God just like everyone else.  (I don't want to hate anyone.) And although I passionately disagree with EVERYTHING that comes out of his mouth, I don't hate him.

It should say "we're"
(Or do I?)

(Face cringed)

The fact that Donald Trump bothers me as much as he does, psychologically/behaviorally means I'm still moving away from my former views (and truthfully fear - he promotes fear (or himself) every time he speaks and it's still my soft spot.)   Look at the title of this website.   It takes time to shift from Fear to Love.  I initially moved into the red territory when I became of voting age because that is what was all around me.   But slowly over the years, I claimed who and what I believe as a woman, a Southerner, and a child of God, me.

I had to detangle religion and politics.   And I do, more so every day.  And I identify as a Democrat.

I read a lot but don't watch a lot of TV coverage because I do get worked up about it.  I have to let it go, so I can sleep at night and live peaceably and productively during the day.  But I am fascinated by politics.  I loved my Political Science classes at LSU.   I have more work to do, learning to agree to disagree and George can attest to that.  Spirited discussions...

Back to my chat with Mallory.  She listed off most everyone whom Trump has offended and his potential policies that are hurtful to large groups of people, religions etc. etc.  I was surprised that she named as many as she did.  Those are the facts, and the truth.  I do want to present both sides so that she can make up her own mind, but there has never been a candidate so untested, unprepared and unchecked by the media and without the temperance to be the leader of the free world.

I don't know if Mallory believes that I don't hate him, but it's a work in progress to live into my truth.  I will work on my messaging.  I will try to bring the passion down a notch or two.

I will work on being more even keeled because that is where I want to be.  More LOVE. Less fear.

Finding My Edge

There comes a point in time, when I have to shut the activities of life down.  One week day morning not long ago, I had several activities on my schedule.  And yet I couldn't stop crying.  I was overwhelmed.  The previous week, there had been emotionally laden issues for me going on in my house with more than one member.  And we had a packed, busy weekend that did not stop.  And I went and I did and then did more because it was a special celebration weekend for my youngest.

And then I couldn't stop crying.  And that still scares me to feel fully that energy of pain that comes my way.

And yet I knew what the solutions were to the issues that were going on in the house.  It would take work, but was nothing that could not be surmounted. But yet I cried and couldn't stop.  And after really hard crying, mental, emotional and physical fatigue sets in.

And it hit me once again,  I cannot go and go and go.  I see other people who do and I think that I should match up to them.  And then I shame myself.  And I don't really know what their story is and it doesn't matter.  I have to BE ME.

I know this about myself.  I am an introvert.  I am an introspective person.  I like to think and write.  And I have to sit still and be quiet for what I am most passionate about to come to me.  My passion lies in stillness.

After the first wave of tears, it took me two hours to realize that I needed to cancel what was on my agenda that day.  Why did it take me that long?  (Beat myself up a little)  This is a busy semester for my Middle School girls:  after school activities, other extracurricular activities, school, and life.  Trying not only to keep up but plan ahead.   George's schedule is also busy most of the time.  I myself signed up for too many studies this semester, but all of them are good for my soul in different ways with different groups of people, so I will do them as I can.  I have to not show up sometimes. I have to take them day by day.  I think badly of myself for not showing up when I said I would.

My yoga teacher talks about the edge in our practice.  It's where you are in a pose and are stretching limbs to the point of tension.  And you have to find that sweet spot, where it's tight and you are feeling the stretch but not too painful.  You are not putting too much pain on your body.

I'm finding that edge in life as I truly find who my authentic Godly self is.  It's a daily practice, to find that sweet spot, but to release a little when it's too painful.  And know that it's okay to release and not to stay in pain when it's really not necessary at all.   No one else but me, knows my sweet spot and I have to stand up for myself.

Monday, September 19, 2016

One Billion Percent Necessary (It's about Feelings, Middle School & Glennon Doyle Melton)

The last few years, I have been learning to feel my feelings.  I hate writing that, because it sounds wussy.  There must be some part of this magnificent work that I do, that I still don't think is worthy.  But I know one billion percent it is worthy, it is everything.  Sitting still and embracing what hurts the most, brings you to your core, and your core is God.  (or with my fundamental baggage the words higher power is a score!)  The people who may think this is wussy, won't be reading this anyway, so let me let that go.  Feeling my feelings is the most difficult journey in my life to date.  Whatever devastating occurs in one's life, how one thinks about it is how one will work through it and how one processes it.  As a person, who repressed much, especially after postpartum depression, coming out of that is freakishly difficult. (Can you see how I think about it... {smile})

I don't repress anything anymore.  I feel EVERY thing and some days it makes me want to run and hide or better yet, scream. And most days, it's the really ugly cry that is exhausting.  It feels like the uncomfortableness will NEVER go away. Some days I'm pinging all over the place - the Presidential election doesn't help either.  And some days, not at all and other days, the energy flows through within minutes.  When I hear other people speak aloud of this concept, it rocks my world.

One of those speaking is Glennon Doyle Melton.  I recently watched her on Super Soul Sunday. Her second book  is "Love Warrior."   I heard her story of bulimia by age ten, a mental hospital stay in high school, and her addictions.   When a friend summarized her book in a sentence for me it really opened my eyes.  She said Glennon was running from pain the entire time with her addictions.  (This is not a new concept but I was ready to hear it in a different way)   Not namby pamby feelings, but pain.  Pain is something that people can wrap their heads around.

So, it's not feeling my feelings, it is feeling PAIN.  It is the essence of living life.  Life is incredibly difficult AND beautiful, all at the same time   (Glennon calls it Brutiful.  Brutal and Beautiful. Dang it, wish I would have coined that.)   I've read so much about addictions and I see it everywhere now in compulsions both good and bad, in so many different ways.  So much of our society runs from our feelings and that is running from pain.   Glennon reports that she thought of herself as broken.  She thought of herself as someone who could not handle pain. And so she had hid from it with addictions.

What caused her pain? In short, she said she is a sensitive human being: a deeply feeling person in a messy world. There are those of us who respond to energy differently.  Oprah said she learned over the years of her talk show that families have children who are the sensitive ones: the child who absorbs the energy of the family, subconsciously, unconsciously differently from the rest of the family.

I am that one.  It took a while for this aha to sink in.  I thought other people felt things as deeply and as sensitively as I do.  They don't.  But there are plenty of people out there who do.  I have to respect myself and this work because it is what is right for me.  It is who I authentically am.  Finding my authenticity is finding God beneath all those layers.  It is finding the love and the light to take me through the difficult and the beautiful that life is composed of.  And when you taste that expansiveness of love and light, you don't go back.   Sitting through the pain, gets you to the light.

In my house, I have two young ladies.  One just turned eleven and the other is about to turn fourteen.  They are now both in middle school.  Some of the most brutal years of high school.  And we are feeling it.  Really feeling it.

There was one week where both of them were having difficulty and there was much emotion in the house.  I put my big girl mom panties on.  I listened.   I problem solved when necessary and kept my mouth closed when they wanted no advice.  Their emotions and pain pinged me but I carried on.  There were steps I needed to take, and I did.  I wanted them to be heard.  I want them to know they matter.  I want to be their soft place to fall.  (George does to, in his own manly, fatherly way) And after the turmoil of the week passed, I felt it.  I had to have my own meltdown from listening and letting their pain pass through.

I am the sensitive one and that's okay.  That is who I am.  And I know the feelings won't kill me.  I know at my core, there is love and light.  And I know if I feel my own feelings as difficult as it is sometimes, I can show up for my loved ones who need to be heard.

This is my work.  Feeling my feelings.  It is not easy but one billion percent necessary.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Yellow Kitchen Gloves & A Mask (The Great Louisiana Flood of 2016)

I still feel a little nauseous at the thought of food this morning.  And yet, I am in a cool, dry, safe air conditioned home and so very many in South Louisiana are not.  The number of gallons of water that fell in one week in South Louisiana was 6,900,000,000,000.  Tens of thousands of homes were flooded and need to be stripped before mold begins growing.  Yesterday, I went for the first time to a flooded area and it will stay with me for quite a while.  The devastation has ripped across South Louisiana and it is going to take quite some time to recover.  Stress is palpable as is good will.

My older daughter and I had a National Charity League meeting which happened to be at our church yesterday morning.  For the last week, everyday through my Facebook feed,  I have seen the exquisite needs of so many people, from rescuing out of homes, to now the necessity of houses needed demo'ing.  And it can be overwhelming to see the volume of need for the sensitive soul that I have come to understand that I am.  I read that one focus of the many of my church this Saturday morning was on Hope Community United Methodist Church on Evangeline Street in north Baton Rouge. This seemed like a logical step for me as it was not far from where I would be.  I wrote a blog a month ago about stepping out of my comfort zone helping with home repair after the shooting death of Alton Sterling in the northern part of the city and the hug that I received from the homeowner.  I have wondered if North Baton Rouge is going to be left out during this recovery.  Resources are just not the same.

I invited one of Riley's friends who was at the meeting to go with us.  I'm not sure if she will ever go with me anywhere again!  We made our way to the church on streets with the tell-tale large piles of flooded home contents along the way.   We began to see a familiar face or two from our church, found our lead pastor who told us to find Tom Edd.  We found him and learned he is one of the pastors and said we MUST have masks and gloves.  Riley and I broke three masks between us because they were inexpensive and I felt guilty for that because it had been hard to find them.  We got suited up and it was explained that much of what was going on now was heavy lifting but that a freezer and refrigerator needed cleaning out now before conditions worsened.  We were in the daycare area of the church and our first task was to remove large blue mats used for napping and I knew the girls could handle that so I tackled the freezer.

The sight and smell of this area and the visual of the brown liquid (sewage mixed in?)  and flying bugs of the freezer will stay with me for a long time.  Bit by bit with small blue buckets, I removed the soggy contents of this overturned deep freeze and took them outside to "our dumpster."  The trick was to get things in there without the brown liquid slinging on myself or others.   After a while, two more friends from church appeared and we began to work in tandem.  My yellow kitchen gloves were wet on the inside and out, and I didn't want to touch anything but what we were removing.  The heat of an August summer day in Louisiana wasn't so terrible as we were mostly in the shade of the building but my nose and mouth inside the mask was hot.  And after a while, I could feel my nose dripping.  There was a feeling of not being able to breathe.  I began to feel a little nauseated after removing all of the contents of the freezer and took a break.  I pushed the mask up to feel like I could breathe, but then the stench overtook me and back in place it went.  We began removing bins of heavy wet papers and balanced on chairs to get the contents of the bins into the tall dumpster.  A few doors down, the girls were helping Mrs. Woods who ran the daycare to clean out an office.  Every few minutes, I began to feel overwhelmed in the heat and the smell and knew that after an hour and a half, I could not stay much longer.  Time stood still in this place of God.   Every minute seemed like five.  I also worried that my child would never go with me anywhere again when I asked.  She has a terribly keen sense of smell that I knew was being overpowered as was I.

It was time to move on, and we tried to find a place to wash our hands and did.  Mrs. Woods was in there with her two co-workers.  It has taken me a long time to learn how to speak up when the occasion calls for it.  I wanted to tell them what a great job they were doing and lift them up just a small bit in this time of devastation.  This is what my heart saying but it doesn't come out of my mouth.  I told the ladies that I was so sorry they were flooded.  As I began to try to use my words to say what a good job they were doing, one by one they stopped what they were doing and walked across the room and hugged me.  They hugged Riley and Cooper.  We each said, "God Bless You."  And we all carried on.

There seems to be a thing with me trying to "help" others and receiving hugs in the process.


If you want to support relief efforts, my home church is one of many leading the charge and any money you send will go 100% to recovery.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

1.2 Miles Away (My 225 Experience)

As you well know, Alton Sterling was shot and killed by a police officer at the Triple S Food Mart on North Foster in my home city.   I watched the video a few times to see if I could decipher what occurred. Then the next day,  I watched the video of Philando Castile's girlfriend and him bleeding out and dying before my eyes.  I had to detach a bit knowing this was not a movie, this was real.  I don't watch the news anymore because I have learned that it does not serve me well.  It is mostly negative, and I have the tendency to stay in fear and foreboding and scarcity.  I don't want to live in scarcity anymore.

I don't want to discuss what I think of the shootings, because it's just so much more complex than a simple "black and white answer."  It is not cut and dry.  I just know from listening that living in black skin can be a lot more difficult than for most people living in white skin.  I know that racism exists and our community is hurting.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

While reading one of my friend's Facebook posts about going to a prayer vigil in a north Baton Rouge church last Thursday night, she described secondhand how much pain the black community was in and there was discussion of whether the white community cared.  This broke my heart.

How do I show I care? What can I do to step out of my South Baton Rouge comfort zone?

This is where I am going to be really honest. Although, there is a desire to show up at a prayer vigil or some sort of protest to say, let's come together, I support you!  I don't think I can.

I have fear.

Growing up and in a very small town, the mentality I developed was if you drive to New Orleans and get out the car, you were going to get shot.  This goes for pretty much any large city.  That is the impression I had and have lived with for most of my life.  Don't drive in the bad parts of town.  For that matter,  when I'm walking the dogs at night in my own neighborhood, I get alarmed when a car drives by and I'm watching closely for something bad to happen.

As I have begun determining what I believe authentically, miraculously at the same time an ease has materialized in my day to day living.  I realize how much anxiety and fear on a daily basis that I lived with.  My mind was constantly afraid of every small action that I needed to take even when I knew what I needed to do, I didn't.  I was afraid to speak up... anywhere.   I was frozen in my tracks for as long as I can remember.  This type of fear has to be taken down bit by bit over time.  Exposure by exposure and by practicing, a lot of practicing.

Sunday morning, I went to my book study at church and one of the suggestions was to do your part where you are, with who was in front of you each day.  And to examine your own beliefs, and where you may be contributing to the problem.

That morning, I learned that the three out of state groups that were scheduled to come and work our church's Revive 225 program this week had cancelled.  Our church was looking for volunteers to do the house repairs of homes that are within a 5 mile radius of our downtown church.  When I met up with my oldest daughter in the church gym, I looked at her without any prior planning and blurted out, "Do you want to work?" intuitively knowing that she would.  Now, in my class the hour before,  I had said out loud to the group, it's over 100 degrees outside, I can't do that, are they crazy?  But what was really going on were the other fears in my mind.  The north Baton Rouge fears... (and the heat too!)

But we signed up anyway.

We signed up on the youth page.  Mallory was enrolled in a morning camp so we could work the morning shift.  Baby steps.  Later on that night, I watched the news just to see what was going on with the protests.  There was a large confrontation between police and protestors with fifty arrests just a few blocks from our church...

But I knew I still wanted to go.

I told myself the protesters who were from mostly out of town, would be leaving.  I was slightly anxious, but the kind that I've worked through before when I step out of my comfort zone.  I awoke early, and worried about driving my car around north Baton Rouge.

But I knew I still wanted to go.

I knew in my gut, all would be well.  We showed up at the first house and worked to remove debris that had been taken down previously.  Our youth director mentioned that we were not that far away from the Triple S.  (Alrighty then.) We went to a second house not far away and picked up more materials. At this point, Riley went with the rest of the youth group to work longer and I stayed behind in order to pick Mal up from her camp.  I went in to the house to see if they needed help. Several church members were removing old ceiling tile and repairing it.  I went to ask the homeowner for a broom.  As I knocked to announce my presence in the room she was in, she got up with the warmest smile and presence and walked across the room with open arms and we hugged.

Those who go with the intention to "help others", end up receiving the blessing.

I didn't know I needed a hug that day, and the homeowner in north Baton Rouge gave it to me.

I didn't stay long, because there wasn't much for me to do, and I went to say bye to the homeowner.  Of course, I forgot her name as I forget everything that I don't type in to Notes these days.  But she remembered mine.

"Bye Miss Carol"

We mutually hugged again.

I feel less scared to go back another time.  Baby steps.

At home that afternoon, I had the addresses in my GPS and I looked up where the Triple S Food Mart was from where we were.  It was 1.2 miles away.

She lived 1.2 miles away from the deadly shooting and I am the one who received the hug.  In actuality, I give myself credit that I immediately put my arms up when I saw her reaction.

Bit by bit, the fear and feelings of scarcity will cease and be overtaken by love.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Thankful for Power Outages?!

Late yesterday afternoon around 6:22 p.m. to be exact, the power went out in our house in broad sunny daylight.  George sprang, and I mean sprang into action.  Within five minutes, he had the portable generator sitting on the back patio and was carrying the A/C window unit into our bedroom.  I assisted where I could, finding the proper extension cords, tools, etc.

And I thank him.

It is brutally hot in south Louisiana.

I tried to find a working flashlight and discovered most of them had dead batteries or no batteries at all.  Then I cursed myself for the times I found Mallory with a powered on flashlight not using it.  Allowing the sun in for light, meant you were allowing the sun in with HEAT.  And it's been in the 90's, feeling like at least one hundred degrees with humidity.

It was a good test for hurricane season.
I have started my list of things we need.
The window unit & Ralph Macchio on the computer screen.

I also felt justified for every time I have kept my devices charged to the max.  My family makes fun of me.  My phone was 33% charged.  My computer at 26%.  How will I get communication from Entergy or neighbors to stay in the know?

This is a nightmare.

Ok, it's not a nightmare at all but my first instincts says it is.  My mind and emotions go back to past episodes of tropical storms and/or hurricanes.  I will never forgot the time the power was out for a long while after Gustav in 2008 and my mother in law and my much younger daughters and I drove to the nearby Walmart plaza and it was crazy.  I was looking for ice.  We had no generator at that time and the parking lot was packed, hard to navigate and reeked of desperation.  I felt very alone and unsure of how to handle what was going on.  George was working and living at the hospital.   We were told the power would be out for a couple of weeks and after the Walmart experience, we fled to Atlanta to my sister in laws.  I had never driven that far by myself without another driver.   I have a bit of post traumatic stress (really bad memories of being completely unnerved by the situation) and other past experiences (being nine months pregnant when Hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath roared through for another)

I cringed a little on the inside with my uncharged devices and said out loud that I will never let the family make fun of me for charging again (in my best Scarlett O'Hara voice)  Being without power is an inconvenience and hot but it brings our family (and from what I hear the neighborhood) together.  This is what my new mindful brain tells me.  This is not what I did eight years ago.  Anxiety was my middle name.  I lived in discomfort the entire ordeal.

Thank you for the practice of mindfulness.

After we got the most important things connected to the generator:  my phone(!), A/C, a fan, the refrigerator, and freezer,  we settled down after George grilled hamburgers.  Mallory was away at a birthday party.  George, Riley and I piled in the king sized bed in the cooled bedroom with closed shutters, drapes and doors.  The two dogs and one of the cats was with us and we began watching "The Outsiders" on DVD on our old laptop with added special effect water speakers.  Portable air conditioners and fans make a lot of noise.  The teenager was forced to be with us, but secretly I think she liked it.

It was cozy and comfortable and familially unifying.  After a total of two hours, and a fourth of the way into our movie,  I was a little sad when the power came on.

Well, maybe for a nanosecond.

I love air conditioning.

Forced family togetherness on vacation and in power outages can be a hot beautiful thing.