Saturday, February 18, 2017

To Live With Fear: Battling Anxiety

I have anxiety. This is only the second time I’ve publically said that. The first time was at my baptism 5 months ago. No, it’s not something new that I’m dealing with, it’s just that I’ve always kept it to myself up until recently…. And to a point, I still keep it to myself, I certainly don’t advertise it. I’ve dealt with severe anxiety for over 15 years, and up until about 2 years ago, no one knew about it, not even my family. I kept it hidden. When I look back, I can’t believe I managed to keep it hidden for that long. I mean, it was SEVERE. I guess that’s one good thing about being “the quiet one”, no one pays much attention to you, so it’s easier to hide things.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines anxiety as follows: 1) painful uneasiness of mind usually over an anticipated ill. 2) abnormal apprehension and fear often accompanied by physiological signs (such as sweating and increased pulse), by doubt about the nature and reality of the threat itself, and by self-doubt. While these definitions are accurate in a technical, unattached way, they don’t really capture the whole meaning. Anxiety is knowing that your fears are completely irrational, yet having no way to stop them from surfacing. Anxiety is wanting so badly to go somewhere or do something, while at the same time being so uncomfortable and so full of dread that you end up just staying where you are, living the same routine over, because it’s safer that way. Anxiety is that horrible thing that comes in the night, robs you of sleep and haunts you until the light of day comes back around. Anxiety is being scared to death of what the dark of night will unleash upon you, while at the same time being scared to death of what a new day will bring. Anxiety is the shackles that keep you tied down and trapped, leaving you to wonder if you’ll ever be free. It’s that thing that just when you think you’re on stable ground, will sneak up behind you and grab a hold of you and slam you back down into the dark pit that you spent what felt like an eternity crawling out of.  Anxiety doesn’t just show up in the form of sweating and an increased pulse, it also shows up in loss of breath, to the point where you’re not sure whether you’ll suffocate or not. It shows up in the sudden loss of speech and the feeling of constantly being choked. It shows up as muscle spasms, shaking, nausea, vomiting, and other not so fun things. You have little to no control over these symptoms, which just serves to add insult to injury.
The older I got, the worse the anxiety got. My anxiety can rear up at any time for any reason, but my main triggers are social situations and big changes. I use to absolutely dread having to speak or get up in front of the class in school. Heck, I couldn’t even stand to read aloud from my desk. *Note to teachers: The whole “well that’s why I’m making you do it (get up in front of people), so you can learn to be comfortable with it” thing DOES NOT work for those of us with social anxieties. It only serves to torture us and make things even harder. Honestly, I think it actually made me dread it worse than if you had just let me be and picked someone else. Some of us are just not made to be in the spotlight, in front of people. We’re simply not wired that way. Luckily I’ve recently been blessed with a few people in my life that understand this and work around it. I was baptized on 9/11/2016, and for those who don’t know, that usually requires standing up in front of the congregation and giving your testimony. I was blessed enough to have a pastor who has not only known me for the majority of my life, but who was also so incredibly understanding and compassionate towards my problem. He was truly a Godsend. He worked around my issues and bent over backwards to make sure I was comfortable enough to be able to achieve something I truly wanted… to be baptized. Instead of making me stand in front of the congregation and give my own testimony, he allowed me to write it out and then read it himself. Things went smoothly and I was finally baptized. I had wanted to get baptized for a couple of years, but my anxiety always got in the way. Quite frankly, if it hadn’t been for Pastor Fobes, I wouldn’t have been able to go through with it. I’m very thankful for him.
The first 5 years after I graduated high school was really bad, anxiety wise. It was so bad that I actually turned into a hermit. I rarely left the property. I was totally content at home. I’m blessed enough to live out in the country, so I had plenty of room to roam around without having to go anywhere where people were.  The problem with this method of locking yourself away is that ultimately it only makes things worse for when you do have to go out in public… Hiding is not the answer, it just creates more issues.
For over 15 years I held everything in. I wasn’t an emotional person, choosing to bury them deep inside of me and locking them up. I never cried, to the point where it became a running joke in the family. The problem with this is that eventually the dam breaks… 3 years ago I got really sick and it brought me to my knees. I ended up bedridden for the better part of 3 months. I was totally depleted and in a lot of pain. It took a year to fully recover from it and get back to feeling like myself, and another year to finally get a diagnosis. I evidently have a Connective Tissue disease, which affects my joints, muscles, cartilage, and the connective tissue that holds my organs and everything else together. I’ve probably had this disease for my whole life, it just never surfaced full force until 3 years ago. When it did surface, it brought me down hard. I hadn’t been to the doctors in 4 years prior to all of this and was a pretty healthy person for the most part, anxiety aside. Looking back over the years, especially my teenage years, I can now see that all those little unexplained illnesses and hurts were really just flare ups of the disease. The disease surfacing was actually a blessing in a way, because it ultimately made me face and address the anxiety. When the disease surfaced, my anxiety reared up to new levels. It was so severe that it literally brought me to my knees. The dam broke and exploded.
I found myself on my knees, crying and wondering how I was ever going to get through life the way I was at that point. I was a total wreck, between the severe anxiety and the connective tissue disease flare up, I was at a loss of how to heal myself. At that point I was just trying to figure out how to get myself up off of the floor. But just then, a quiet voice inside of me whispered, “You don’t have to get up, you’re right where you need to be”… I knew immediately what I had to do. I prayed to God for help, for courage, for strength, and for peace. And I swear to you, I immediately felt a peace wash over me and weight lifted from me. I got back up and kept going. From that point on, I’ve made it a point to stay close to God and pray to him often.
Most people who meet me today would never believe that I was the same person as that anxiety beaten person a few years ago. My family can’t believe it. I’ve made such an incredible turn around. I’ve gone places and done things I would never have been able to do only a few short years ago. I’m healthier, happier, more positive, and all around contented. But one issue with this is that people think I’m automatically cured, that I don’t suffer from anxiety anymore. Well one out of the two is right. I don’t SUFFER from anxiety anymore, I BATTLE it. There’s a difference. When I suffered from it, I was its victim, it controlled me. But now, I battle it, I’m in control. I’m no longer the victim, IT is. I still have to get up every day and make that choice that anxiety won’t rule me and I still have periods where it’s harder, darker, but I don’t let it last, I continue the fight. The difference between me then and me now is Faith in God. I am no longer doing it alone. My faith gives me power and comfort. Psalm 46:10 reminds me to “be still and know that I am God”. It tells me to just stop worrying, to trust God. God is God and that will never change. He is loving and faithful, he won’t leave me alone nor will he allow anything to harm me. Philippians 4:13 reminds me that “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” that includes conquering my anxiety. I’m not cured by any stretch of the imagination, but I am infinitely happier and at peace. In the words of David, “The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear?” I am not alone. Amen. Thank you God.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Pushing Time

In exactly a month from now, I’ll be turning 25. I will officially be a quarter of a century old. As I sit here reflecting, I find I have mixed feelings about it. I’m not someone who worries about aging and getting older, to me age is simply a number. I believe in the old saying, “you’re only as old as you feel”, though I would revise it a bit to read more like “You’re only as old as you feel in your heart and soul”, because let’s face it, sometimes we feel OLD physically. ;) I can remember when 25 seemed so very far off, a whole lifetime away. For a while it seemed like I’d never reach 25.  Now here I am on the verge of reaching that very age, and frankly I find myself disappointed and worried.

When you’re young, you tend to have this idea of what and where you’ll be when you hit 25. You think you’ll have the whole world conquered, life all figured out, and be totally settled. At least that’s what I always thought. I think that has a lot to do with how you’re raised and what you’re exposed to. I always thought I’d be settled in the profession of my choice and be at least semi successful at it by this age. I also thought I’d be married by now, and maybe even have a child or two. I look back on those expectations and laugh now…. But at the same time, I mourn the loss of those ideals. I’m not successful (monetary wise) at what I do, I’m not “settled”, I’m not married or even close to marrying, and I don’t have children… Seems I’ve racked up a big fat zero in the game of life. In the words of my father, “you’re 25 and what do you have to show for it?” The answer is a whole lot of nothing. I’ve got very little to show for 25 years of life… At least that’s what it seems like.

It’s amazing what 10 years can do. If you had asked me what I wanted out of life 10 years ago, I would have told you a comfortable house (white picket fence and all), a husband, children, and maybe a successful, practical job that I could be comfortable at. I thought I would conquer life and achieve all my dreams by the time I hit 25…. Little did I know that none of that would happen and more importantly, that I would soon learn that those weren’t my dreams at all, but what was expected of me. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to get married and have children, but I’m not sure I want them right this moment. I realize that some may have a hard time with that. I’m not sure why, but it seems that women are only thought successful if they hook themselves a husband and have babies. Now, don’t go jumping to conclusions, you can keep reading, I promise it’s safe. This isn’t coming from some crazy feminist fanatic. This is coming from a 25 year old woman (I laugh whenever I use that word in reference to myself, it just feels weird) who knows herself well enough to know that she’s just not ready for all of that yet. I can’t imagine having little lives that I’m responsible for right now. I’m not sure why we’re judged in this way. Why are we deemed inadequate or failures if we aren’t married with children right away?

I come from a family who went the traditional route. They all got married fairly young, and then had children, and again, I’m not knocking that route, I just found it wasn’t in God’s plan for me. My mother was married when she was 19, my dad was 21. She gave birth to four babies and raised 3 daughters. My parents are hard workers, and certainly have had their share of hard times and heartbreak. They lost my brother when we were three months old (we were triplets). Through ups and downs, job losses, car issues, you name it, they worked through it. They made it through 32 years of marriage. That’s admirable, especially these days. My mother went from her parents’ house to her husband’s house. She has told us numerous times through the years that she never really got to do what she wanted to do. She was always told what she should do and did what was expected of her. Therefore, needless to say, I think she has a hard time understanding me (and I know my father doesn’t, poor fella). I don’t seem to be very conventional and I’m certainly not doing what’s expected of me. I really feel sorry for my parents and I truly wish I could be what they want me to be. I wish I could have been that kid to go to college, earn a degree and then work in that field, get married, have children, and live the practical life that is usually expected. Unfortunately I don’t seem to be wired that way. I’ve tried it, believe me. I tried going a different route and choosing a more practical career field, it just never panned out for me. It’s heartbreaking to know that you’re not what your parents want, that you can’t live up to their hopes for you. It weighs on the old heart, believe me, but it’s a weight some of us have to carry, simply because we don’t seem destined to ever live up to others’ standards.

The topic of marriage and children have come up a lot over the years, starting when I turned 18 all the way to now, and it comes up more frequent the older I get. It appears that I have the sole responsibility of providing my parents with grandchildren, I’m not sure why. I have two sisters, one is the same age as me (twin) and the other is 17. When the subject comes up, it’s always focused on ME not being married or having children yet. It has always puzzled me. You can bet there are more than a few barbs thrown my way about not being married or having children yet. I realize that they may not be meant as barbs, but playful jabs, but in reality, that’s what they feel like. You see, I’m well aware of how old I am. I’m also starkly aware of the fact that I don’t have a husband or children yet. I don’t need that reminder, believe me. When I was a little younger, early twenties, I just let them roll off, telling myself I had loads of time. But now, admittedly it’s harder to let them roll off. I know I’m pushing time. I know I’m in my prime childbearing years. I KNOW. I get all of that, but I can’t see rushing into something I’m not ready for and don’t want right now, just because I’m getting older.

I use to worry and agonize over this, wondering when or if I would ever get married and have babies. Not anymore. I’ve come to realize that if it’s in God’s plan then it will happen in his time, if it’s not, then I’ll have to deal with that. Personally I hope it is in His plan, but at the same time, I won’t die of a broken heart if it’s not…. Which is more than I can say for my mother (I formally apologize to her if that’s the case!) Right now I’m quite content to be a dog mom. :)

Another thing that puzzles me is people thinking that you’re lonely and unhappy if you’re single. My kid sister is a big one for this. She seems to think that I’m just this lonely old woman who is desperately unhappy simply because I’m single. It’s almost laughable, all the little jabs she throws out in regards to this subject. In reality, I’m quite content in my singleness. I’m not crying myself to sleep at night over it. To be honest, I’ve been happier being single these past few years than I ever was in any of my relationships. I don’t need someone to be happy or to make me happy. I don’t need someone to “complete me”. I’m very happy on my own, I make my own happiness. I don’t feel any less complete being single. If or when I choose to get married, it will be because I truly love the guy and WANT him, not because I NEED him. I’d much rather have someone who wants me than someone who needs me. Let’s face facts, if you’re only with someone because you need them, it probably won’t last. You can find someone else to fulfill that need, but if you’re with someone because you want to be with them, then you’re together by choice. Want is a better foundation than Need in my humble opinion.

I’ll be 25 in a month, and then in 5 years I’ll be 30. I use to think 30 was way off. I said earlier that 25 once seemed like a lifetime away, well 30 seemed like two lifetimes away. Now that I’m a little older, I realize just how fast time goes. 5 years seemed so long when we were in school, but now, 5 years isn’t long at all, and it’ll be over before we know it. I’ve been out of school (high school) for 7 years now. Most of the time I can’t believe it, it just doesn’t seem like 7 years have passed, but then there are the occasions when I look back and it FEELS like it’s been all those years and more. I know 30 will come fast. The reason I think 25 is such a big deal is because it seems to be that “last call” for adulthood, so to speak. When you hit 25, it’s time to buckle down and get things done. It’s time to figure life out and get settled in time for 30. You’re expected to be totally ready and settled into adult life by the time you hit 30. Which is yet another reason why 25 holds so much pressure. If you don’t have it together by 25, it means that you only have 5 quick years to get it together. I’ve got a lot of work to do! I also have a lot of decisions to make. The main one being: Do I continue on this path of following a dream and a passion, or do I fold and go to a different, more practical path? Do I hold out “just in case” it all works out, or do I give up and always have that “what if” in the back of my mind?

I had made a decision the week leading up to 2017 that I would take this year and just follow where I felt God leading me. I promised myself that I wouldn’t make any of my own plans or try to plan my own course, but instead follow God’s path for me and listen wholeheartedly to where He was leading me. I had given up this path numerous times in the past, deciding to take different, more practical routes instead, but God put roadblocks up every single time. No matter what I tried, He always turned me back to the path He wanted me on. I gave it my best shot and tried to be practical. I tried to do something that I thought I could be happy at all the while making my parents proud… but none of it worked out. Something always got in the way. So I’ve finally decided to listen to God and follow His lead. It’s not practical, it’s not lucrative, and it’s a little scary. I can’t see down this road and around the bend. I don’t know if it will all work out or if I’ll ever find success with it. I just don’t know. What I do know is that God is always faithful. He wouldn’t lead me down this road unless it was good for me. Who knows, there may come a time when I reach another bend and go down a different route, but at least I’ll know it’s where I’m suppose to go. Now I’m not saying I don’t get impatient or worry from time to time, because I still do, even though I try not to. This past week has found me wondering whether I should ditch this path yet again and try to make my way down a more practical path. I’ll be 25 in a month and have nothing to show for it…… I have learned a great deal about myself over the last 7 years, I have made incredible friends, I’ve made contacts in the field I want to be in, and I have worked up quite a portfolio… but as far as “success” goes, I don’t have much to show for it. So I’m back to the question: Do I continue on this path of following a dream and a passion, or do I fold and go to a different, more practical path?

I’m pushing time and racing the clock……. Do I risk wasting my last 5 years until I’m 30 or do I go for the practical?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

They Say That I'm A Dreamer

I’ve met some folks who say that I’m a dreamer
and I’ve no doubt there’s truth in what they say..
-          Isle of Inisfree
Something my mother said a few nights ago really struck me. We were talking about a situation involving my kid sister and her boyfriend, and the dreams that both of them had for their future (which at that moment weren’t really matching up). During this conversation, my mother said that ultimately, at some point in life you just have to grow up and forget about your dreams, and move on to “real life”. That just struck me as an incredibly depressing statement. It’s no secret that I’ve always been a dreamer, my grandmother was one and she had a huge impact on the first 13 years of my life. My grandmother was in her 70s and she still talked about her dreams. They were as alive for her then as they were when she was in her 20s. That was something that always impressed me, her ability to dream no matter what, even when it was quite clear that she’d never achieve those dreams. Now, some people may see that as foolhardy, hanging onto dreams that will never come true, and admittedly, they do have a point in the practical sense. But I just can’t seem to bring myself to believe that we should just give up our dreams. I find the idea of a life without dreams extremely depressing and not worth living. Then again, I’m a dreamer…
My mother’s statement has been rolling around in my mind since that night. I often wonder about it, in the sense that she has always seemed to be supportive of our (her children) dreams. Outwardly she has always been supportive of my writing and photography, and whatever else takes my fancy. She supported me when I broke the news to her 7 years ago that I would not be going to college right out of high school, the college that I had two scholarships to. She supported me through my “wilderness” years where I pretty much floundered around as I tried to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life (while the rest of my family scratched their heads and got a tad worried). She supported me when I decided to get my certificate in photography (which was what I was going to go to college for anyway). She supported me when I started writing for a few blogs and websites, and DIDN’T use that new certification in photography. She supported me when I decided to go back to college to pursue a double major in Psychology and Christian Ministries and was ecstatic when I achieved a 4.0 my first semester. She even supported me when I decided to take YET ANOTHER detour and take a break from school once again. AND she supported me yet again when I decided that I wasn’t cut out for psychology after all and decided to take this year as an exploration year to chase after that lifelong dream of mine: Writing… ultimately I suppose if you had to put me in a box, it’d have to be the “artist” box, and believe me, I use that term very lightly in reference to myself. Through everything, my mother supported me wholeheartedly….. At least that’s what I thought. It seemed like she did. Her words told me she did, but then she came out with that statement that night a few days ago and it left me wondering….Does she really support me? Or does she think I should give up the dreams and start doing something practical?
It’s hard to explain yourself to others, especially when they don’t look at life the same way you do. My parents have always been very practical people, the “you need a plan” kind of people. Don’t get me wrong, being practical isn’t a bad thing at all, in fact most of the time it’s downright necessary, and you definitely need some sort of a plan for life…. But that’s where my parents and I part ways on the ol’ outlook on life. I believe in being practical and having a plan, but I also believe in chasing and believing in your dreams. I’d rather spend the rest of my life scraping out a living chasing a dream, than to spend it doing something I hate or don’t enjoy. It’s a fate worse than death to me. That may sound ridiculous and na├»ve to some (I’m looking at you planners and realists). I consider myself quite practical and rational in most ways, but I do have quite a bit of dreamer in me that tends to be more dominant. I’m not much of a sharer by nature (which is why this blog is totally a step out of the ol’ comfort zone), if someone at a family reunion or at church asks me what I’m doing, I’ll most likely answer with a quick “nothing” or “not much”, rather than have to stand there and try to explain…. No I’m not kidding. This drives my mother crazy, to the point where if she’s with me, she’ll actually try and explain what I’m doing to whoever asked. It’s comical really. It’s been brought to my attention a lot lately that my family has absolutely no clue what I’ve been doing these last few years and what my plans are, to the point where they’re totally surprised when they stumble upon something I am doing or am planning to do. That’s absolutely my fault. Again, I’m not a sharer. I prefer to stick to myself. I’m not very good at boasting about my accomplishments and what not, I feel weird about it. Not to mention the fact that whenever you do start talking about such things, there’s always that inevitable “so what are your long term plans?” and then of course the disapproval or getting shot down thing. So I just make it a rule to keep my mouth shut most of the time, it saves time.
I brought up the thing about my mother answering for me, simply because I’ve always found it odd, her need to “explain me”. She does it a lot, and I’m sure she doesn’t even realize she’s doing it.  You can tell that she’s trying her best to explain it in such a way that sounds like I’m being a normal human being and accomplishing loads, when I’m really not (normal that is). I’m quite positive that she wishes she had a normal kid who went off to college, got a degree, is currently working in the field of said degree, and is now either married with kids already or at least on the verge of being married….. Alas, I’m not. The topics of marriage and kids come up quite regularly these days. My mother married when she was 18, and has been a housewife and mother for roughly 26 years now. *Now before anyone freaks out, I’m in no way disrespecting or looking down on being a housewife or a mom, in fact it’s the hardest job out there and I have a great respect for those who do it, I’m just giving you background* I’m on the verge of turning 25 and have yet to get married or have children. There are definitely a few barbs (though most are not meant to be barbs, rather funny jabs) thrown my way on a regular basis because of this. The older I get, the harder it is to let those jabs roll off. But that’s a subject for a whole different post!
Anyway back to the subject at hand. I find myself wondering whether my parents really do support me in my dreams or if they would rather I’d drop them and just go out and be normal. My father is more straight forward, I know he’s totally worried that I’m going to be a loser and flounder the rest of my life, though I believe he wants to be supportive of my endeavors, it’s just that his practical nature and the way that he was raised is hard to argue with. But my mother, she’s harder to read. She’s supportive to my face, but I often wonder if she feels the same way in private/behind my back. It sucks when you don’t think the people you’re closest to support you. I can live without understanding, but it’s always nice to know someone supports you. I’d rather someone be straight forward and say “hey, I think you’re wasting your time” than pretend to support me, but in reality doesn’t. Like I said, it’s hard to read my mother. She and I are definitely birds of a different feather. I’ve always felt more like my dad, or at least closer in the sense that I think I’m more like him to a degree. I feel there’s an understanding between us, or at least I feel I understand him more. I love my mother dearly don’t get me wrong, I’m just not very good at reading her.
The truth of the matter is I feel that God has been taking me on this journey of exploration these past 7 years, and He’s not quite done yet. I know without a single doubt that I was not meant to go to college right out of high school. I’ve learned so much about myself and what I want in life over the last few years. I know I love photography, but I’m not sure I can make a living at it. I thought I could go get a degree in psychology because I’ve always been good with helping others and have a desire to do so. The degree in Christian Ministries would also allow me to help others and work in a field I feel passionate about. But here’s the thing, just because you’re passionate about something, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re cut out for it. I’ve tried the practical route. I’ve tried to make my own plans in life, but never thought to consult God while making those plans. But here’s the really amazing thing, which at the time I thought was downright awful: God kept throwing up road blocks and making dead ends to every single one of my plans and routes. He gave me a hellish summer to prove to me that I was not cut out to work in psychology full time, but with that, He also dropped a few surprises that reminded me of my real passion. He put a dream on my heart that I can’t ignore. It’s been there since I was a child. I always go back to it, and I find that every time I go back to it, another avenue opens up. It’s not practical right now, it won’t get me rich, heck it won’t even support me right now, but for a reason that only God knows, He wants me on this path. I just finally decided to listen and follow. None of my plans worked out, so maybe His will. ;) That’s why I’ve decided to take this year (2017) and just follow His lead. I’m not going to make my own plans or try to force things, I’m just going to walk down the path He has provided and see where it takes me. It’s not easy to trust and have faith when you can’t see the end result, BUT God is always faithful… You can take that to the bank. So I’m going to keep dreaming for a while longer, with God’s help, it just may pan out! ;) After all, why would He make me a dreamer with some big dreams if He didn’t intend to make good on them?
“If you don’t jump, you’ll never know if you can fly”- Miranda Lambert

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Sophia: The Dog Who Rescued Me

The name Sophia means “wisdom” in Greek and is also the name of one of the greatest actresses to ever grace the silver screen. At the time I gave that name to her, I had no idea how fitting it would be. Her story starts in Kentucky, where she was born, and has presently found her in New York. She was born in a shelter in Kentucky to a mother who was brought to the shelter as a cruelty case. According to her papers, the mother had been left chained outside with no food or water. She was severely underweight, was raw around the neck from the chain, and to top it all off, she was pregnant with 5 babies. The beautiful creature that holds my heart was born on December 6, 2010, 3 states away. That same day, I was home in Upstate New York just trying to figure out how to navigate real life, having graduated from high school 6 months prior. I had no idea that my life would drastically change in just a little over 2 months.

Sometimes you have no idea that you’re drowning until someone throws you a life preserver. She was my life preserver.

Prior to her coming into my life, I was unemotional, distant, and closed off. I was scared to death of allowing anyone or anything near my heart because I didn’t want to feel the pain. I had been stung several times before by some really bad relationships in high school mixed with a severe blow to my heart as a result of the passing of my beloved grandmother, coupled with my naturally quiet, introverted nature, it resulted in the closing off of my heart and my distancing myself from anyone who could possibly get through the wall I had built around myself. I wasn’t an affectionate person, not because I didn’t want to be, but because I was scared stiff of expressing any kind of affection due to the fear of rejection or experiencing pain later on, after I had already gotten attached. I told myself a million times that I didn’t need anyone, that I was perfectly fine on my own. I didn’t think there was a problem with the way I was conducting my “heart life”, so as the saying goes, why fix something that ain’t broke? It’s truly amazing how we can go on living and doing and not realize that something is broken until someone walks up and hands us a wrench and some superglue.

Somewhere between December 6, 2010 and February 14, 2011, she was shipped from the Kentucky shelter where she was born to a shelter here in New York. I’m not sure why she was shipped here, maybe overcrowding? I believe it was by the hand of Providence. God knew I needed someone to break through that wall of mine and he knew that this sweet, furry creature was the only one that could. I’m always amazed at how He works and makes things happen. You see, I was never really a dog person (something anyone who has only known me since having Sophia wouldn’t believe). I liked dogs, don’t get me wrong, I was just never someone who wanted a dog for my own. I grew up with family dogs, and my aunts, uncles, and grandparents all had dogs, but for me, I never had the desire to have one of my own. My twin sister on the other hand loved dogs, and had always wanted one. Her first dog was a Golden Retriever named Lady, she was a stray that was found in a field. Fast-forward to 2011, my sister who had lost her latest dog a few years prior was looking to get another dog. Yes, that’s right, Sophia was originally supposed to be my sister’s. She had found a puppy that she was interested in and was going to drive the two hours to take a look at her, and she asked if I would go with her. So on Valentine’s Day 2011 we made the two hour trip in a snow storm to go see this puppy. Looking back, I find it incredibly fitting that we got her on Valentine’s Day, because she ended up stealing my heart. (Valentine’s just happened to be a day that both parties had off). A little back story on how we found her: My sister had a mutual friend with a woman who worked at the shelter where Sophia was, that shelter was planning on getting rid of Sophia for some reason or other, so the woman took her home, planning on finding the puppy a home herself.

We when got to the woman’s apartment, we found Sophia hiding under the kitchen table with a kitten. She was scared to death of everything and they ended up dragging her out from under the table so we could see her (which immediately caused me to feel bad for her). My sister informed me in a hushed tone that she wasn’t so sure she wanted the puppy after all, with her being so skittish and all. Ashley (my sister) was use to happy, playful, outgoing puppies and dogs. She wasn’t interested in a “special case”. As soon as I saw that cute little face, I felt compelled to take her home, so I talked my sister into getting her. She rode the two hour trip home in my arms (Ashley was driving), and was absolutely perfect. She was the perfect passenger and slept most of the way home with her head hidden in my coat. We got her all settled in at home and quickly learned several things: 1) She was scared of EVERYTHING. 2) She felt safest in small, covered places like behind the couch or in her crate. And 3) She was scared of her own water dish. I worked with her a bit and found out that she was scared of the water dish because it was metal and the sound of the metal on her collar hitting the dish whenever she drank scared her. It was a problem easily solved, we just got her a plastic water dish, one that she still uses today (she’s a creature of habit). We also started picking out a name for her. Several names were thrown around including Juliet in honor of Valentine’s Day, but none of them seemed to fit. My mother threw out the name Sophie, and it was the one that seemed closest to fitting her…… But then I came up with Sophia, as in Sophia Loren (the name of the Old Hollywood legendary Italian actress). Sophia seemed to fit her and she seemed to respond to that one the best as well. So Sophia it was.

Now, again, the puppy was still technically Ashley’s dog at this point. Two days after bringing Sophia home, my sister left for two weeks on a house-sitting job, which left me to take care of Sophia. My sister was gone the majority of the time that year, rarely spending anytime at home, and when she was home she rarely spent time with her new puppy. That left me to take care of her and train her. Through learning all of Sophia’s quirks and preferences, and training her, she soon bonded to me and not my sister. I potty trained her, I taught her how to approach anything new to her in a way that made her feel safe but also helped her acclimate herself with it, I taught her not to be afraid of every single thing and that she could trust that this environment was a safe one. I also taught her how to sit, stay, and come, and how to ring the bells on the door that I had placed there to let us know when she wanted to go out, because she had yet to learn to tell us in any other way. We were together literally 24/7 that first year (and have been pretty much inseparable ever since). I learned about her needs and how to read her body language, she learned how to read mine, but more importantly, she learned how to get to me in a way that no one else could. Looking back on that first year, I can’t pinpoint the exact moment it happened, but somewhere along the way, Sophia managed to break right through that wall around my heart without me even knowing it. I didn’t realize what had happened until it was too late. I was already totally and completely attached to that beautiful little furry creature. It was clear whose dog Sophia really was, and with that, my sister signed ownership over to me…… and to think, just a year ago I didn’t think I wanted a dog! ;) 

It has been just under 6 years now and I cannot imagine life without my furry baby. I taught her to be braver and gave her security and love, and she taught me about unconditional love and patience. She taught me that showing affection is healthy and feels really good, and it’s also a necessity. She is treated like the princess she is, totally spoiled rotten (as it should be). She quickly took charge of the house hold and even made friends with my mother’s toy poodle, Jackson, who was less than enthused when she first arrived. She has wormed her way into the hearts of every single member of my family. None of us could possibly imagine life without her.  She not only broke through my walls, she also demolished them. There’s an old saying “It is better to have loved and lost, then to have never loved at all”. I never really believed this saying and, quite frankly, didn’t see the logic in it. Why risk the pain? Since Sophia came along, I can understand that saying. I know that when the day comes when God decides to take her, it will hurt…. And by hurt I mean I’ll be a complete basket case. It’s going to hurt like no other hurt on earth…… but I’ve come to realize that it will be worth the pain. I’m so blessed to have these years with my Sophia, to have experienced the pure love of this dog. It’ll be hard to let her go, but it would have been much worse had I never experienced her at all. I hope everyone gets the chance at least once in their life to experience the love of a dog, it’s the best kind of love.

I have a lot of people comment on my ridiculous, crazy love for this dog. They can’t understand how I can love this dog like my own flesh and blood child. The thing is I can’t begin to explain it to someone who has never experienced it for themselves. She is my best friend, my constant companion, my confidant, my sidekick. She’s always up for anything, as long as she gets to be with me. She goes hiking and walking through the mountains and woods with me, she loves rides in the car, she picnics with me, sleds with my kid sister, plays in the snow with us, and adores going on our annual daddy-daughter camping trip. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect dog. She’s a diva, no doubt about it, she’s incredibly smart (maybe a little too smart haha), and it’s usually her way or the highway, but then again, her way is always more fun. ;) Yes, Sophia is a very fitting name for this photogenic, intelligent, furry diva. I thank God every day for sending her to me. He knew we needed each other. <3

Me and My Sophia this past summer. She's all smiles all the time.
Does anyone see the resemblance? It's all in the stare ;)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year Reflection

It’s official, 2017 is here. Let’s hope this year is a lot better than last. I pray that anyone reading this will have a safe and happy year filled with love, joy, and laughter, because after all, that’s the only way to go through life. I hope all of you have an extraordinary year, but remember, ultimately we are responsible for the year that we have. We may not be able to have total control over what happens during this next year, but we do have control over how we react to situations and how we face them. We can choose to have a negative attitude about things and wallow in our defeats, or we can face life head on with a positive outlook and a can-do attitude. We can choose to pick ourselves up every single time we get knocked down. We can choose to keep pushing even when we feel like we don’t have the strength to keep doing so. We can choose to keep dreaming, trying, and moving forward, no matter what.

I have a very good feeling about 2017, I’m not sure why, but I feel like this year will be a brand new chapter, like I'm finally rounding the bend in a very long, bumpy road. I’m looking forward to it. There may be struggles (because what would life be without struggles to remind us of how precious the good times are?), but I truly believe that this year will be fruitful…. This year is going to be different. You want to know why? It’s because I’m choosing to make it different. I’ve spent the past year making my own plans and trying to make things happen. At every dead-end or roadblock, I’d press on and either try to climb over the darn thing or try a different route/path. But alas God seems to have other things in mind (after all, he keeps putting up roadblocks to my plans and paths). I’ve felt him strongly push me down one particular path, but it’s a path I’m scared to take. It’s not practical nor is it easy, but it seems that neither factors into His plan. So, after spending years trying everything else I can think of, it’s finally gotten through my thick skull to trust in Him and go where He leads. So this year is going to be different because I’m finally handing over the steering wheel to Him completely.

Though I don’t generally make New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve made a few for this year. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because 2016 was so horrible and draining that I felt I needed a change. Maybe it’s because I’ll be turning 25 this year and feel like I need to take life in hand (or rather give it completely over to God) and start living it to the fullest. Most likely it’s both reasons.

When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, most people fall into one of two categories: They either make them and then get depressed when they can’t follow through or they don’t make them at all. I use to fall into the latter category, not seeing much point in making resolutions. I think the reason most people screw up on the resolution thing is because they’re not realistic in what they want to achieve. We have to sit down and think, “Can I really achieve this within a year?” or “am truly I capable of getting this done before the end of the year?” As I mentioned in my first post (Writing Just InCase: An Introduction), I’ve made a few resolutions that I can finish or achieve by the end of 2017, and I’ve made a few long term ones, ones that I probably or definitely won’t get done before the end of the year, but ones that I can at least get a start on and work on throughout the year. In the spirit of honesty and openness, I’m going to share a few of each with you:

Fun/short-term (will finish) resolutions for 2017:

-         Learn to play the fiddle – I’ve always wanted to learn, but talked myself out of it a million times, fear of failure and all that.

-         Learn to Quilt or Knit (or both) - I just think it would be fun. I already know how to sew and crochet.. I’ve always loved Quilts. 

-         Complete Bible in a year plan. – Simply because I love God’s word and want to do this.

-         Read 100 Books by the end of 2017 – Just because I can haha

Long-term/serious resolutions for 2017:

-         Change my name – I’ve wanted to do this since I was 16, I think it’s about time I did it, but it costs $300 to do it. Yikes!

-         Be healthier, continue to take care of myself – for obvious reasons (and this is more a continuation from year to year), along with not so obvious reasons (you’ll soon learn if you keep following).

-         Write a book (or at least get a good start on it and keep working on it) – I’ve always wanted to write books, and have several stories in me, but I’ve always talked myself out of it, so this year is going to be different…. Hopefully I can muster up the courage.

-         Make some plans – Vague isn’t it ;)

I have my resolutions written out on a piece of paper that is pinned to my bulletin board, and at the bottom of this list I’ve written something that I believe is important: “Above all else: Keep trying and pressing on, and don’t lose faith, in God or yourself”. I wish this for all of you.

Happy New Year! Bring It On 2017! ;)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Let Me Introduce Myself..

I recently wrote an introductory post introducing this blog and the reason why I started it in the first place. Now I feel the need to introduce myself. In order to truly understand where this blog is coming from and why it is what it is, you need to understand me. I made a promise to myself that I would be honest in everything that I write, even if it ruffles feathers, so without further ado….

 First things first, I am a total introvert…. And by introvert I mean I could be a hermit and be totally happy. I’m not someone who generally gets lonely. I don’t feel the need to talk to people on a regular basis (even the people I live with… yes I know, go ahead and judge me). That’s not to say I don’t enjoy talking to people or that I don’t talk to people every day, it just means that I don’t feel the NEED to do so, like others do. Take my mother for instance, she NEEDS to talk to people, constantly. She’s one of those people that starts talking as soon as she wakes up and doesn’t stop until she goes to sleep. If for some reason her phone is out and she’s stuck home (like today, because of snow), she gets restless and unhappy. She admits freely that she needs to talk and be around people. She doesn’t like being alone. Me on the other hand, I like being alone. I like being by myself, alone with my thoughts. I value alone time very highly, to the point where if I don’t have it on a regular basis, I get restless and uneasy, and then a bit crazy. I currently live with 4 other people, 3 of which tend to be loud and… well… clingy. Needless to say, I spend a lot of time shut up in my room, outside, or anywhere I can be alone and enjoy some quiet. Quiet time is precious.

I’ve always been introverted, and probably always will be, unless some miracle happens. I’ve always been the girl who prefers to stand off to the side or in the corner at a get-together, rather than be in the mix/crowd. I suck at reaching out to people and making that first move…. Actually, I’m down right terrified of it. They use to call me “shy” when I was a kid… Now they just call me “unsociable”, “distant”, “uninterested”, and, my favorite, “stuck up”. That’s how people perceive my quiet, introverted way. They just assume that I have to be unsociable or stuck up or something, God forbid I’m actually a nice person who would love to have a conversation with you, it’s just that I suck at being social and outgoing. I’ve spent a good part of my young life wishing with all my might that I could be that bubbly, outgoing, fearless person, you know, the  popular cheerleader who has loads of friends and the best looking guy. Oh how I’d agonize over trying to be more outgoing and less terrified of everything social. But here’s the thing, that’s just not me. Over the last few years I’ve come to realize that I will never be that person… and more importantly, that it’s ok that I’m not that person. God made me the way I am on purpose, if he thought it a good idea and necessary to make me the person I am, then why should I question that? I’ve grown quite comfortable with myself over the last few years, learning to accept myself faults and all, and be content with who I am at every point in life. We as humans are constantly changing and reinventing ourselves, we’re not who we were a year ago and we won’t be the same person a year from now. One of the beauties of life is the fact that we are always changing, they may not be huge changes, but we certainly do change throughout life. I know I can honestly say that I am definitely not the same person today that I was 6 years ago. I’ve grown, matured, and learned a great deal about myself….and God. He plays a huge role in my life these days. (I feel like that’s sort of ridiculous to say, “God plays a huge role in my life”. He created me, so I’d say He doesn’t play any role, rather I’m the one playing the role, He’s the director.)

The reason I’m rambling on about being introverted is because it plays a rather large role in why I started writing. Because I’m introverted I never really got up the courage to play sports or join clubs or try anything that would force me to get up in front of people…. Which is why I turned to writing. I’m told I have a natural talent for it, but of course I’m my own worst critic, so I’m not so sure that is true. Regardless of whether I’m good at it or not, I enjoy it, and in the grand scheme of things, isn’t that more important?  I used a John Green quote in my first post “Writing Just In Case: An Introduction..”, that stated, “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” I always go back to this quote simply because it rings so true to me. I want to tell you all stories, I want to share, but I’m too chicken to tell it to your faces… so I write. I’ll most definitely be revealing more and more of myself (no, not in that way, get your mind out of the gutters guys, I know there’s a few that went there) as I build this blog, so for now I’ll wrap things up ****congratulations to those that hung on and stuck it out all the way through this long post! ***

Simple summary of who I am: 24 years old (will be 25 in February), born and raised in New York (no not the city, the state). Grew up in the country, roaming the hills and woods, love being outdoors. I’m a total bookaholic, ask anyone, and I could be describe as a book hoarder, hehe. I have a 6 year old rescue dog named Sophia, she’s the closest thing I have to a child currently and I’m just fine with that at the moment. I have 2 sisters, 2 parents, and a bunch of friends who love me and put up with my idiosyncrasies. I have a love for John Wayne and Old Hollywood movies that runs deep. I’m a Christian, saved since I was 21, baptized this year (2016) on September 11. I’m just a girl who has something to share and I hope you don’t mind. ;)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Writing Just In Case: An Introduction To This Blog Adventure

2017 is almost upon us and with this New Year comes many changes, God willing. I think we can all agree that 2016 was a rough year; I know it was for my family and me, in more ways than one. It was draining (both physically and emotionally), depressing, and just downright hard. The blows just kept coming, one after another, just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, bam! Another hit came, Illnesses, hospital runs, breakdowns, fighting, and everything in between. Let downs, dead ends, and brick walls kept showing up at every turn, making it impossible to make any headway towards a better life and a brighter future. But, with the darkness and hard times came a good deal of light and good times. The darkest times in life are very good at showing us what is truly important, what the true pleasures of life are. Ultimately, it is indeed the little things in life, the small pleasures that truly make a life rich and worth living. Late night chats about life with a sister, unplugging and going on a short camping trip, rallying around each other during the rough periods, the quiet support of friends, jokes, laughter, and a baptism scattered in between made life bearable. Those little moments (or big moments in the case of the last one) are gifts from God, little life preservers thrown to us when we’re drowning. The light always drives out the darkness in the end, sometimes it just takes a while.
My hope and prayer for 2017 is that it will be quieter, healthier, a little easier, less chaotic, and that we’ll all be able to achieve a few goals and dreams, or at least make a good start at it.  I’m not someone who generally makes New Year’s Resolutions, but I’ve made a few for this coming year. Some of the resolutions on my list are fun, creative, easier ones, ones that I know I can at least get a good start on and achieve. Others on my list are more “long-term” goals, ones that I can get a start on and work on through this coming year, but probably won’t fully achieve by the end of 2017 (but who knows?). After 2016, I feel that I need a rest, a very long rest. I feel the need to recharge, step back and reassess. My hope is that we all get a much needed rest and an easy year!
All of this brings me to why I’m starting this little blog (Yes, I tend to be long winded, I’m sorry!). I’ve always felt compelled to write, be it stories, blog posts, long statuses, you name it. I’ve written for several different blogs in the past, and still write for a few now. I also write stories, and hope to write books someday, though I don’t feel that I’m good enough yet. For the last year or so I’ve felt compelled to start my own blog, to just share my musings. I’m not sure why. I’ve talked myself out of it a million times, telling myself “why bother? What could I possibly say that would interest people?” or “Do you really think anyone is going to read your stupid little musings and thoughts?” or better yet, “Who would be interested in your life?” All are excellent questions and good reasons to not go through with this blog. But while still going back and forth with the idea, I listened to Miranda Lambert’s new album, The Weight of These Wings. The first song on the record is called “Running Just In Case”. For some reason, one that I can’t even explain myself, the song really spoke to me. I liked the title “Running Just In Case”, it seemed really cool to me. The hook line in the song is “It ain’t love that I’m chasing, but I’m running just in case”. That line may not seem much like poetry to others, but it struck me. We do a lot of things “just in case”. We look both ways before we cross the road “just in case” there’s a car coming because we don’t want to get hit. We wear lifejackets when in a boat “just in case” we fall overboard. To make a ridiculously long story short, I decided to write just in case someone actually wanted to read this. I may not find anyone interested in reading my ramblings, but I’ll write them just in case I do.
I recently came across a quote by John Green that explained writing excellently: “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” I’m extremely introverted. I claim that without any shame. I express myself and share best when I’m writing. If I want to tell someone how I feel, I write to them. I don’t call them or seek them out face to face because I’d just end up choking up and not being able to talk due to severe shyness and social anxiety. So I write. I hope that I don’t bore you and that you may be able to take something away from my writings or at least find them amusing. So, without further ado, I bring you Writing Just In Case. It’ll be a mixed bag, featuring posts with content ranging from fun and breezy to deeper stuff. Whatever takes my fancy. ;) Ultimately, Writing Just In Case is a blog about a young woman trying to navigate through faith, life, and everything in between.