My New Year Wish

For you my friend, this is what I wish for this New Year.

I wish that you find value in yourself.  There is nothing in the world that you can control except yourself.  You are worth something tenfold what you believe in this moment.  You are on this earth for a reason and that reason is to be you, stay true to who you are and remember you have a purpose.

I wish that you think of the kind of words you use.  Whether they are everyday simple words or large fancy ones I don’t care.  What I care is that you find yourself using your words to uplift, encourage, and support not just your family and friends but strangers.  Most of all, I wish you learn to use those good positive words to yourself.

I wish you understand that this year as any year that has come and gone will come with difficulties.  Typically, these difficulties don’t appear with a forewarning like a nice e-mail telling you your world will turn upside down.  Take these things in stride, things will lift up eventually and though that’s hard to understand during the thick of a shit storm know that it is true.  You are strong and can weather these storms, I believe in you.

I wish that you reach out more to those you love.  Give your sister an extra hug before you leave.  Call your aunt and check in.  Text your best friend a stupid meme.  Tell people that they mean something to you, even if you already tell them, tell them again.  Life is short and the unpredictable happens.

I wish that you slow down and enjoy something simple.  There are always a million and one things to do on any given day but slow down a little this is the only life you’re given so why don’t you enjoy it a little?

Most of all, I wish this New Year brings you and your family good health, positivity, and laughter.

 

Today, Not Tomorrow

I’ve been worried about a lot of things this semester.

Historic Flood #1 made me worry about my friends and their families who lost everything and were displaced.  Historic Flood #2 two weeks later had me absolutely worried sick about the future because it was my family’s home and neighborhood that had been hit.  I was restless and worried about the cost of equipment to get five feet of water out of our basement, the massive dumpster we had to bring in and where to find the manpower to help me clear out a basement full of memories and lost family items.

Of course, school was still going on and I constantly worried if I had prepared enough for class.  Did I read thoroughly enough? Did I study the right sections for the test?  Did I really understand factoring?  Did I forget a paper, or an assignment?

Then I worried myself into stomach pains when my dad ended up in the hospital for three days.  I missed more school as I dropped everything to make sure things were handled back home.    When I did get back to school I worried more about everything that I had missed and still had to make up.  School stops for no one, there is always something that needs to be completed and turned in, exams to prepare and take, presentations to give – it never ceases.

These were just the big things I worried about.  I’m not talking about the everyday little worries that creep into my mind.

Worry and anxiety seems to fill our lives easily, or at least mine personally.  I don’t know, you the reader may not have a similar problem, for you I am happy for you.

I’ve spent some time in scripture this semester, something that I have found to be greatly comforting.  Even more comforting are two scriptures from Matthew and 1 Peter.

Let’s start with Matthew, shall we?

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have its own worries.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34

I remember when I read this verse for the first time I had basically glanced over it without actually reading it.  It’s that thing you do when you think you’re reading but you’re not actually taking in the meaning of the text.  I sometimes do this without meaning to, hence why I always worry if I have read thoroughly enough for my history classes.  I made myself go back and reread it.  Twice.  On the second time it was like a teacher had broken it down step by step math style and it clicked. It clicked!

“So don’t worry about tomorrow,

because tomorrow will have its own worries.

Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Why am I worried about tomorrow?  Today is not tomorrow.  If today were tomorrow, it would be tomorrow.  Today is the now, right here where I am submerged.  Even if I wished it was tomorrow I couldn’t make it true because I have no control over time.  So focus on the today worries, there are plenty of them.

I got so caught up in the “oh-no-this-thing-is-due-on-Friday-and-this-is-due-Wednesday-but-when-is-this-thing-due? Wait-i-need-to-complete-this-too-before-Friday” I was starting to make myself sick.  Red flags were raised in my mind, I did not want to become this stressed to make myself sick and stay sick.  Something needed to change and this was it.  I’m not saying I totally skipped assignments and classes and other obligations, absolutely not.  I learned to refocus myself on the things I needed to complete today and what I could do today instead of living in the future.

This helped quite a bit with my worrying when it came down to school related things.  I was still anxious.  I wouldn’t sleep if rain was in the forecast, scared that Historic Flood #3 was going to occur and more damage would be done to my childhood home.  I would be beside myself when I heard thunder and it started to rain.  I even cried.

This is when 1 Peter comes in.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

I believe that I’m lead to the scriptures I need to hear by God when I need them.  This was one of those moments when I realized “this is handpicked for me, for right now” and I’ve hung on to it since.

The Lord is my number one confidant, the one I turn to in desperate times, the one who carries it all.  He cares for me because I am a child of God.

I couldn’t control the weather, if I could, believe me Kansas would be a bit cooler during the summer.  I couldn’t control the weather, I couldn’t control the actions of other people, I couldn’t control anything but myself.  So I stopped worrying about it.  Let me rephrase that: I stopped focusing all of my energy on those things.  I still worried, but I lifted those worries and those anxious feelings to the Lord.  Eventually I felt the tension ease and I could breathe again.

Am I still going to worry? Yes. I am human and that’s how we work.  The difference now is I have learned this season how to cast my worries and anxiety to the Lord and focus on the things before me today.  I hope that whatever storms continue and appear in the coming seasons that I am able to stay rooted in this way.

The Holidays

 

 

Christmas is happening and there’s no way to stop it.

Life is continuing on and no matter how hard I try to pull the emergency brake it won’t stop just for me.  I came to this realization the other night as my school friend Darci and I drove around town searching out houses with Christmas lights and displays.  Since the beginning of November I’ve been hell bent on trying to put more time between me and the holidays as if more time will help me prepare myself for the difficult moments.

If only a person could add more time to a day…am I right? What would you do? Give yourself more time to clean? Go to the bank? Go see a movie?

I won’t get into a philosophical rant here on time, but it is important to what I’ve learned this week.

I know the first ____fill in the blank________ without my mom is going to be hard.  The holidays thus far have been proof of that.

I have been fighting against Christmas.

Why?

I’ve been thinking about the days mom and I would sit on the couch and read for hours at a time.  I think about the evening sharing of coffee as we watch tv after dinner.  I think, and laugh, at the colorful and mostly inappropriate commentary mom provided when we went out to do errands on Saturday mornings.

I can still smell the bacon she fried for breakfast on the weekends.  Wright’s bacon because anything else was too thin and didn’t have enough flavor. I can still remember the taste of her favorite breakfast casserole she made often though I haven’t had it since January before she got really sick.

I remember how happy she got when she found all four Lethal Weapons were playing on one particular day.  Or anything that had Patrick Swayze or Tom Sellec in it.  I’ve never watched Magnum PI all the way through, but I know she loved Tom in those short shorts.  Since I’m on the topic of movies, I can’t neglect to mention how she would roll her eyes when one of us would tell her the Green Mile or Forrest Gump was on.  Though they are classics, dad had burned all of us out on those in particular and it turned into a long standing joke.

My mom worked a lot.  5:30 in the morning (or earlier if she woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep) to 3 in the afternoon every weekday, later on some days and then sometimes going in on the weekend.  She worked a lot and worked hard.  The days she did have off were special, or at least now I look at them as special.  Around Christmas she would take a few extra days off and this is when a lot of my favorite lazy days spent with mom came from.

Rolling it all together I know that these things won’t be the same this Christmas or any in the future.  In a season about joy and happiness it’s a hard thing to swallow and to accept.

Here’s the big lesson though: what good does it do for me if I drag my feet and pull on that emergency brake?  For one, I’d be wallowing in self-pity and that doesn’t look good on anyone.  I would also be allowing myself to make this season into a negative time and I don’t want that.  I don’t want to set the tone for the Christmas season without my mom to be carried out in future years as a negative time because that goes against all the memories.

Accepting the holidays are a thing that’s going to happen is saying “Okay, this is going to happen and parts are really going to fucking suck” and to keep my head up.  It’s all about finding a new normal, and that normal probably isn’t going to come for a long time.  If I continued on fighting Christmas and the holidays to come I’m only hurting myself and keeping myself from finding a new normal and finding a way to be happy.

I fought against Thanskgiving.  Like really hard.  If Thanksgiving was a person, I went into hand to hand combat with them.  And I lost.

I dreaded Thanksgiving so much.  I can’t even begin to explain to you how much.

I was uncertain and treaded lightly.  I for the most part locked my emotions and feelings away for the first few days of my school break.  It wasn’t until I had dinner with my friend Courtney that I allowed myself to feel and accept all the emotions.

It is okay to feel lost.

It is okay to cry.

It is okay to allow myself to be happy.

It is okay.

I surrounded myself at Thanksgiving with my friends Jackie and Ryan and their two kids.  They brightened my day from the time I woke up and filled my days with laughs and smiles.  I went to bed happy every night.  I slept the best those five nights than I have in over a year.

So Thanksgiving happened, and I survived.

Christmas is close.  I’m ready.

GRIEF: it hits you when you least expect it

 

The last two weeks have been hard.  On top of everything with school early last week it hit me.  Grief hit.  I told a friend last night it was a bus hit me coming out of nowhere.  It hurt.  It still hurts.

As defined by Google:

GRIEF:  deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.

 

I’ve cried every day for two weeks.  Some nights it’s  even been for a half hour or longer.

It hurts.

It hits when you least expect it.

A song.

A book.

A photo.

A quote.

Really, anything can trigger it.

A friend of mine that I went to visit the Tuesday afternoon on the day that my mom died told me something along the lines of this: don’t hold yourself back from grieving.  And that’s what I’ve been doing.  I’ve held a lot of it in in the last seven months.  Most of the time I try to squash the feelings of despair and heartache until something is able to catch my attention and take my focus elsewhere.

In the last two weeks I’ve read “Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended to Bear” by Max Lucado (I highly recommend this!) and in this book there’s a specific chapter on grief.  In this chapter there is this passage:

It’s hard to bear because not everyone understands your grief. They did at first. They did at the funeral. They did at the graveside. But they don’t know now; they don’t understand. Grief lingers.

As silently as a cloud slides between you and the afternoon sun, memories drift between you and joy, leaving you in a chilly shadow. No warning. no notice. Just a whiff of the cologne he wore or a verse of the song she loved, and you are saying good-bye all over again.

Why won’t the sorrow leave you alone?

Because you buried more than a person. You buried some of your self. Wasn’t it John Donne who said, “Any man’s death diminishes me”? IT’s as if the human race resides on a huge trampoline. The movements of one can be felt by all. And the closer the relationship, the more profound the exit. When someone you love dies, it affects you.

It affects your dreams.

It took me reading this passage several times before I told myself, “Jess, it’s okay.”

It’s okay to cry.

It’s okay to laugh.

It’s okay to feel lost.

It’s okay to feel broken.

It will be okay.

It will be okay, and I know it’s true because that’s what mom used to say… and she was pretty much always right.

Things I Want My Friends To Know About My Grieving

  1. She was my best friend. I was used to talking to her every single day.  I’d call her in the morning when I woke, she was always at work already working away for hours when I called to let her know I was gracing the world for another day.  I called her about the most stupid things, and she pretty much always answered, even at work when she had a mountain of things to do.  I was used to sitting with her in the evenings when she came home from work and we’d talk.  Weekends were spent chatting in truck on the way to do errands.  Sometimes I get a strong urge to call her out of the blue when I’m least expecting it and I can’t.  I cry because I know I don’t get to hear her voice.

  2. There are specific things that remind me of her, and most of them make me happy. Like Waylon Jennings, Johny Cash, Merle Haggard, fishing, and reading to name a few.  I usually openly share a memory when it comes to these.
  3. There are some things that remind me of her and I get sad. Certain songs, mostly her favorites I can’t bring myself listen to yet.
  4. I’m learning to deal with certain foods even. Like cobblers.  My favorite dessert is my mom’s peach cobbler, and I just recently had an apple cobbler that reminded me of mom’s peach cobbler so much I almost started crying.  My mom was a damn good cook, and though I’m biased I know many who would say the same. 
  5. When I say I’m going to see mom, I mean I’m going back home to Mulvane to the cemetery and I don’t know how long it will take me. Some visits I sit and think and other times I go merely to make sure her marker is still there.  Sometimes I’m okay after these visits, and sometimes I’m not.
  6. I’m still in school only for two people: me and my mom. More than ever I’m set on success because I want to make her proud.  I give my best every day, and when I think about giving in early for the day I think of her and stay with it for a couple of more hours.  She was the one who taught me the value of education and hard work, and that’s something I’ll never be able to repay her for.
  7. Sometimes I just need a hug.
  8. Sometimes I just need someone to sit with me and go through my box of pictures together. It hurts but I like sharing the memories with someone, even if they never knew her.
  9. I get excited for a moment when I’m in Winfield and I see a blue F-150 on the street. She loved that truck.  And she loved those mud tires too.
  10. Sometimes I feel nothing but despair and I sit quietly for a long time.
  11. In three days of when I am writing this it will have been 7 months since she died. It hasn’t gotten any easier, but I somehow have learned to cope with it.  Each day is a different, and I handle it the best that I can.

Summer Reflections

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A summer of change.

A summer of adventure.

A summer of Netflix.

A summer of figuring it out.

A summer of laughs.

A summer of tears.

A summer of new people.

A summer of new foods.

A summer of books.

A summer of living.

I said good bye to apartment 29-202 just a few short days ago.  This was the place I spent my summer…when I wasn’t on the road or in Texas.  Moving out to my first place wasn’t under very good circumstances but it was what I needed.  This was the place I could finally call my own and I felt 100% safe, something I really needed as I was finally able to begin grieving.

29-202 saw lots of tears.  I cried the first day when I unpacked my suitcase for the first time in three months into a dresser I could call mine.  I cried the first day when I was so tired and dehydrated and I couldn’t figure out that the washing machine wasn’t working because the water was turned off to the machine.  I cried when I felt so alone at night when I really missed talking to mom. I cried for no reason.  I cried when I showed a friend my favorite movie, which I warned her would make us cry.

29-202 saw lots of laughs.  I laughed the third day of life in my apartment when I realized the water was turned off to the washing machine and all I had to do was flip a nozzle.  I laughed at Missy playing with a new toy.  I laughed my way through four seasons of FRIENDS in twelve days.  I laughed with friends while I cooked. I laughed on the phone with my brother.  I laughed at the neighbors playing Pokemon Go when they almost stepped in front of a car.  I laughed for no reason.  I laughed when I tried putting a desk together by  myself after I had wine.  I laughed the next morning when I realized I had put the wrong pieces of the desk together.  I laughed two days later when I called friends in to help put the desk together and tipsy Jess had actually been right and we had to reassemble the whole desk.

My time in 29-202 was short, but it will never be forgotten.

Here’s to the next season, a season of many things I’ll soon be discovering.

Q&A 1

Do you forget to which person you have told certain things to and you find yourself rambling along to someone who you have not actually told those things to?  I have and I’ve been doing a lot of it lately.  This, though will not answer every burning question you have, should answer the most frequent of them.

HOW ARE YOU DOING, JESS?

Which version do you want?  Short and condensed: I’m doing as well as I can.  One day at a time.  Long version: I have really tough days, and then days that are easier.  I’m going through a massive transitional phase and it’s been rough.  But, I’m taking each day as it comes and I do my best to remember this life is only temporary.

I THOUGHT YOU WERE LIVING IN DERBY…WHERE ARE YOU NOW?

As of August 31st I will officially no longer be a resident of Derby, Kansas.  See below for more.

WHEN ARE YOU GOING BACK TO SCHOOL?

August 22 was my first day of classes at Southwestern College.  Up until July 30th I had intended on staying at Butler Community College to finish my associates but I decided I wanted to transfer to Southwestern.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING AT SOUTHWESTERN?! WHY?!

Here’s the thing, I had already been thinking about my next steps following Butler and the more I thought I couldn’t see myself continuing in the lodging industry.  I love the hospitality industry but realistically, I can’t see myself still in the industry ten years from now let alone being happy.  My once dreams of being a hotel general manager have long dissipated due to knowing I’m the type of person who would devote 24/7 to the job.  I can’t do that, not after seeing my mom’s health problems in the last few years.  I chose SC because it’s small.  I’ve visited three state universities in three states and I couldn’t see myself being happy at a school so large.  I chose SC because I want the academic challenges they give their students.  I want to be challenged in my learning; that’s how I learn.

WELL, WHAT ARE YOU STUDYING?

I’m studying liberal arts.  What is that, exactly? I get to pick three disciplines to study, the amount of work load is equivalent to three minors.  I chose business administration, history, and sustainability.  Why did I pick liberal arts and those disciplines?  The broad scope of study!  I would love to one day do restoration and preservation history like turning old buildings into “new” places for businesses.  I did once say I wanted to get into historic hotels, maybe this was what I was getting at!  Bottom line, these three principles interest and challenge me.

WHERE ARE YOU LIVING?

In the dorms.

ARE YOU WORKING?

No, not currently.  Things like math, Russian history, and college writing homework take up most of my time outside of classes.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LEGION?

Where have you been?  I have been going nonstop for…well I don’t know how long.  Yes I have committed to a range of leadership roles for the year within the American Legion family, but I am finding a balance in my service to the American Legion and my schooling.  Schooling will, however, always come first.