Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Faith vs Religion

I've made it known at times that I have my issues with religion. But to me there's a big difference between faith and religion, and even though I struggle with where religion fits in my life, I definitely have always had room in my life for faith in God. I believe in a higher power, one that I refer to as God as several religions do, and I do believe in heaven or some kind of after eternal life. I think of myself as a spiritual person but not a religious one.

The main reason I would say I'm skeptical of religion is because it's a man made institution that at times has been used to instill fear into people to get them to behave or belief a certain way. It's a tool used to manipulate throughout history by man. The Bible was translated by man. Who is to say how accurate that translation is to God's word. Everyone uses that translation to manipulate it to the benefits of their own philosophy.

However, if I lean towards anything it's Christianity. Here's the thing I don't like about it though. I don't like the preaching that we must Jesus as the savior or we're damned to hell or how it doesn't matter if you live a good, caring, giving life if you don't accept the Christian beliefs you will be damned to hell. I DO NOT like that thinking. There are good people out there that are not working for the devil (a non Christian is not the devil) that are raised to believe in their cultural and/or religious values that we were born into.

That being said though, I still encourage my girls to attend Christian Vacation Bible Schools because I want them to form their own conclusions and beliefs. We do pray to God together at night sometimes, and they've attended church with us at times throughout their childhood. They know I believe in God. I do not impose my cynical views of religion on them. I hope they have faith so will share my faith with them but I want them to find their own way when it comes to what they think about religion.

That also being said,  I have visited the Jesus statue in Hopkins hospital before the birth of both our girls, and I am adamant that we must visit it again this time. So adamant that I told Nate if I can't make it there because of labor he needs to go without me.

I believe Jesus lived and I believe he was a great man. Is he the savior? I don't know. Is he the son of God? Anymore than the rest of us are God's children? I don't know. However, I will share a story that occurred encouraging me to maybe belief there's more truth to the Bible's message about Jesus than I've been willing to give it credit. Just as I feel I've "seen/experienced" whatever word you want to use to confirm my faith in God and heaven, this is the closest encounter I've had with convincing me the truth of Jesus is real.

About a year after my grandfather passed away I was having a religious conversation with my grandmother. My grandparents have been devout Catholics their whole lives. But I was sharing my doubts about religion, the Bible, and Jesus as being the Savior. It was around a month later when staying at Nate's grandma's house I went to get my youngest daughter out of her crib in the back room. Laying in her crib was this page from the Bible. Underlined on those pages was points refuting the arguments I had given to my grandmother about the truth of who Jesus really was/is. In my faithful, possibly too imaginative to some's mind, I saw this as my grandfather dropping that page (I could not find any of Nate's grandma's Bibles anywhere near the crib to explain where the page may fell from) in her crib to prove to me who Jesus really is. Not only did he have to have the last word in typical Grandpa fashion, but he knew if he could tell me somehow the truth of who Jesus is I would believe him because I have faith in God's existence and the other side, more than I would ever believe someone else's word or some word written/translated by mankind.

That all being said, I think of myself as having God and his role in our lives. I don't know if I'll ever find comfort in the Bible because of what mankind has done to it to push hate or condemn others. It has been misused throughout history and still is today. Faith and God to me is all about love, acceptance, and forgiveness. I have often wondered about the question when it comes to spirituality and religion if you can have one without the other. I completely believe so; however, I know some may not see it that way. But I have hope for myself and Jesus. I am open to proof that Jesus is who the Christians claim he is. I believe my faith will lead me to the right answers.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

January 26,2015 to January 26, 2016: The Final Stretch

I couldn't help this morning but to remember what I woke up knowing on this day last year. Sometimes I find myself trapped in what happened  this day a year ago and so focused on that long awaited moment that awaits us in April when our baby boy finally arrives.

But I woke up today and saw once again the beauty in where we are right now. The year between last and where I am right now mattered A LOT. The past is important but it doesn't have to steal our present or future. We can look to the future in excited anticipation, but we're not living there yet. So much happens between the two for not just me in our journey to baby #3 but in everything we do for any of us. There's value in our struggles.  Our struggles at times may define us more than our victories. It is our struggles that make our victories victories. There's a whole story, a whole journey in between that matters.  If we only see the victories than we don't really see what was gained. Because what was gained was how we changed and how we grew.

Has the past year from that miscarriage to now been easy? No. But it's reinforced to me that our journeys cannot and will not be perfect. Life is meant to be a beautiful mess. The right moment isn't in what's to come or what has passed; it's in the journey from where we were to where we're going.

The irony of what this day represented a year ago and how it marks the start of my third trimester (the final thirteen weeks) of this pregnancy this year is not missed by me. If  you know me, you know I do not find coincidence in these things. We are down to the final stretch here. It has been a long, at times emotionally exhausting, journey to even get here, but these last few months could still feel like the longest three months of my life!

There was the emotional trauma of last year's miscarriage a year ago today, my own internal battle of  whether to face another pregnancy after two miscarriages, the paranoia of another miscarriage the first trimester of this pregnancy, the strange anxiety insomnia and dreams that occurred in those few weeks between the end of the first trimester and the 20 week ultrasound scan which lead to me being worried something was wrong before I knew anything was wrong, the second trimester of extra doctor appointments and research of possibilities with the mass on his heart and genetic disorder concern, and now here we are the final thirteen weeks with still no definite answers on the tumor diagnosis of his heart and the anticipated diagnostic testing, extra doctor appointments, and treatment plans we'll have to face after he's born. Again, these could be the longest three months ever. But I am ready. I got this. I had one little setback the other day when the wrong person said the wrong thing to me (I know they meant well but honestly this is typical of them so I should have expected it)  and seeing the diagnostic possibilities in print even though I've heard them in doctor consultations kind of threw me off.

But not only do I have faith that it's all going to work out okay in the end whether that end is when he's checked out after birth or later down the road after his received medical attention or on a manageable treatment plan, I've also found my worry about the transition of two to three and balancing three kids is no longer a huge concern that it once was (going from one to two was HARD for me so think it kind of mentally traumatized me lol). We got this. We will all be okay.

As much as we've talked about growing our family for years and thought we'd already have our three kids by now, when I look back I don't really know if I was ready for that. The time then really wasn't right. But I'm there now. I can confidently say I am ready now. I'm in the right frame of mind to do this, face the medical issues ahead, adjust to a family of five after being four for four years.

So let's do this. We got a room left to finish, a name to nail down, baby shopping to still do, and we're going to be ready to have a baby! When I finally get to hold him in my arms the road to that moment will have been totally worth it.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Life with Too Dang Much Snow

I kind of listen to the weathermen's reports about the way I listen to any other media source's information. I try not to get too caught up in the hype and drama because at times they tend to overexaggerate for the point of ratings rather than accuracy. We've had an incredibly mild winter so far in Maryland so when they started talking the first significant snow of the season being a big one, I not only was doubtful but wasn't really too psyched about the idea of a big snowstorm like I normally would be.

The mild winter combined with a new baby for this spring and summer had my sights set on an early summer rather than snow days this year. But I did stop by the store on our way home Thursday to pick up a few essentials in case we were on  house arrest for the weekend.

And holy wow the weather people did not lie. In fact maybe they underestimated this winter storm. Or I really didn't pay close attention to the news reports. For all those that said they were jealous or lucky us for getting so much snow- ten inches, maybe even a foot of snow, is yes fun. And it can get you out of work for a day. It's pretty for a day or so and all that nice stuff we like to associate with snow. But 30+ inches is just ridiculous!

You in some cases  cannot literally get out of your house because the snow is packed in against your door. Your car if not in a garage is buried. BURIED, I say. Like you can maybe see the mirrors and that's it. Do you know how long it takes to not only clear your car off but then shovel all the snow packed in around it? If you didn't go to the store, didn't plan your grocery trip so well, or were too late for the last loaf of bread and gallon of milk you're going without for days because in some cases even if you get your car unburied who knows how long it will be before a plow plows your street. And if you live somewhere where you park on the street, your car will be repacked in when that plow finally comes through. In which case you get to spend hours digging it out again. Do you know how hard it is to walk in this stuff? I call bullshit for whoever claims they walked to school in knee deep snow back in the day. It would take days to get there! And if they're like my kid they must have done it barefoot because I can't even count how many times we had to dig through the snow to find a snowboot that fell off while her little red foot just hung out there in the freezing snow.

Thankfully it didn't seem like there were too many power outages this time, which is not always the case with big storms like this. For us personally we fared pretty well. We didn't run out of eggs until this morning, we're now down to our last few slices of bread, we opened our last gallon of milk this morning, I unfortunately forgot to pick up my beloved weekend morning drink of choice OJ so had to do without, but still have plenty of water and ended up eating some good meals at home for dinner with homemade pizza, chicken chili, and enchiladas. And we did get our truck out today! After my husband attempted yesterday and slid it into our front yard in front of our bay window in which case it was pretty solidly stuck considering about another foot probably fell after he did that. Today after my husband and two other neighbor guys shoveled out the plow truck (yes, even the plow truck was stuck in this stuff at the bottom of our street for about an hour) they all worked together helping other neighbors and each other get unburied.  My kids went out today before 11 and besides coming in for maybe an hour for lunch were out there until almost dark at 530 playing in it so yes, I'm sure they found it fun. Now here it is 7:30 and we're all ready for bed, including the dog, which had a blast in the snow as well.

Here's so pics of their fun and way too much snow.

                             Andi once she figured out how to move around in it loved it

This is the truck a little over halfway through the storm 

My car is there somewhere

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Don't Tell Me What I Can't Do... Remind Me What I Can Do

There's always the few people in our lives that rather than focusing on what we're capable of and can do that would rather focus on reminding us of what we may not be able to do with the challenges with either the choices we've decided to make or the obstacles out of our control that we may face ahead in the road to come.

I was a girl that not too long ago lost her confidence in about everything but luckily that girl is no longer here. Back in her place is a girl that knows her capabilities, isn't afraid to step up to a challenge, who refuses to abandon her goals and beliefs because the road got a little difficult.

I know for some of us it's really hard not to see all the ways we can be disappointed and let down. I know for the one who always thinks it's necessary to point out the hardest parts of the changes and difficulties ahead that the thought is it will save me from disappointment later.

It's not later right now. I've had to work to not be that person myself. The risk of disappointment, failure, being let down is always out there. In so many things we do and face. In life in general. But why go there yet? Give me a chance, don't underestimate what I can do.

Maybe the hardest road is ahead but don't tell me what I'm not capable of before I barely get started on this road. Look at my capabilities with the challenges behind me. Don't project your own doubts, failures, insecurities onto me.

We all travel a different road; we all face and create different challenges for ourselves. The rest of us are just bystanders on the sidelines of everyone s journey. So just as we wouldn't stand there on the literal  sidelines of the greatest or only marathon race telling them they're going to lose or embarass themselves with an epic fall before the finish line we shouldn't either in the marathon that is life. Just as many run those races as personal accomplishments or for their best personal record the marathon of life isn't much different. Each challenge is about doing our best and all we need to hear from the sidelines are those that can cheer us on in reaching that best.

So no matter if it's the challenges we create for ourselves or the ones out of our control we must face don't tell us what we can't do, but remind us what we're capable of doing.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Hard Today...Easy Tomorrow...Easy Today....Hard Tomorrow

Maybe this is the easy part. Maybe this is the hardest part. But really how do we really ever know?

What we think is hard today may seem like the easy part tomorrow.

What we face is unknown but isn't each new day really the unknown?

We can know the hard is coming or we cannot and the next day, next moment can be just as hard as the hard we knew was coming.

What does worrying about the unknown really do for us?

Does it prepare us? Does it change what is to come?

What does worrying about something that may never happen really accomplish?

Does it take away our joy of now? What are we missing while we're worrying?

What guarantees do we have? Now is all there is. Now is all we can truly know.

So step away from the what ifs. Step away from the worst case scenarios. Let what we can't control or change at the moment go and put our faith in God to lead us through. Today may be the harder day or maybe it's one of the easier ones. Sometimes we may not know which is which, but don't make it harder than it has to be with all the what ifs. Right now is where we are; right now is where we need to live.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Road to 2016: Goals, Aspirations, New Year's Resolutions, Oh MY!

So as I've watched everyone else post their 2016 goals and New Year's Resolutions I've of course pondered what I want to be my own goals for 2016. And I've really been kind of stuck on this as I asked myself what more do I want for myself in 2016. What goals do I have that I want to achieve? I kept coming back to this word: nothing. Impressive, right? I can be a goal oriented, dreamer type person too so why no die hard goal to work towards at least for the typical first month, right? Maybe it's because there's nothing really big or new on my radar, and I'm completely okay with that. Honestly right where I'm at right now in life is enough, and it's kind of been a long road to get where we are right now so I guess rather than have a set goal I'd rather follow a recent trend I've seen with choosing a word for 2016. That  word for me is going to be peace.

Peace with where we've been , where we are, where we're going. Social media if we let it can convince us we're never doing enough or are enough.  I just read this article today about busyness being a sickness and it states how "In America, we are defined by what we do. Our careers. What we produce. It's the first question asked at parties, and often the first tidbit of information we share with strangers. The implication is that if I am not busy doing something, I am somehow less than. Not worthy. Or at least worth less than those who are producing something." We don't have to attend parties anymore to feel like; we just need to get on social media. Then we fall into that trap of believing what we're doing with our life, how we're living our life, or what we're accomplishing isn't enough, and that we must be more, need more, or have more.  I'm not going to lie and say I'm not guilty of falling into this trap at times, but at some point we have to see that what we have and who we are is enough. We have to have peace with ourselves and the life we've made for our self.

My word for myself for 2016 is embracing peace and contentment at this point in my life.  Does that mean I have no goals?  No that's not what it means; I have goals and aspirations for the future still but there's no big rush to start checking them off the master list. For 2016 I want to enjoy the peace and contentment (live on cruise control so to speak) in this life we've built for ourselves with our soon to be three young children. I want to embrace where we are right now; not obsess with what I need to be working towards next.

The years past have been full of checking goals and aspirations off the list so my New Year's Resolution for 2016 is to just slow down and enjoy a little. We can continue to work towards our goals at whatever pace suits us at the moment, but none of them are my top priority. There was a lot goal checking as it was on the road to 2016. Here's an honest look back.

In 2004 I graduated college and was beginning a relationship with my future husband who at the time was probably in one of the roughest spots of his life. My ambitions and goals were high- start a career I enjoyed in teaching, help this boy straighten out his life, and build a meaningful relationship. So began the dream of teaching and finding forever love.

In 2005 I decided to chase a dream to move not only out of state but closer to the coast. I did it; it really was not pretty at points that year, and when what I'll call incident #1 happened I considered saying screw it, tucking my tail between my legs, and going back home. So began the dream of really testing my wings of  independency and love for this man I came across the country with.

In 2006 we decided to embark on the dream of ownership and marriage with an engagement to be married in 2007. After two broken down cars and a stolen vehicle I signed for what would later become my/our first completely owned vehicle (that first thing that you own that your parent didn't cosign for and the bank doesn't hold the note to is a big milestone when you're in your 20s!) . We also became homeowners to a rundown rowhome in the city that my husband wanted to fix up in hopes of having as an investment rental property later. So began the dream of buying and fixing a house and planning a wedding.

In 2007 after a tough start with what I'll call incident #2 we were married, and it was also the year I went back to graduate school.  Luckily because we already spent two years fighting our way through the growing pains of living together and even though we were still working on home improvements for the house after the stress of the wedding it was the year of the honeymoon period. So began the dream of married life and graduate school.

In 2008 while still working on my goal of completing my Masters we found out we were expecting our first daughter. This was one of the few early years on cruise control. We were settled in married life, settled in our careers as teachers,  making decent progress on what we had accepted at that point was a never ending list of home improvements, balancing grad school with work was good, and we enjoyed the anticipation of the arrival of our first daughter in 2009. So lived the dream of teaching career, homeownership, and marriage.

In 2009 we began the dream of parenthood. As any parent knows there's the envisioned dream and then there's the reality, but even with the growing pains of beginning the journey of parenthood it was definitely a blessed year. So began the dream of parenthood.

In 2010 as I balanced motherhood with a career I would reach my goal of finishing my Masters degree. It was also the year Nate would achieve his goal of leaving the city school systems' classrooms to move into a position out of the classroom in the county school system. So lived my dream of finishing grad school.

In 2011 we would see another dream come true: growing our family and giving our oldest daughter a sister. But it would also be the year Nate was t boned in an auto accident and have to go through over a year's worth of doctor appointments, injections, and physical therapy to fix his back from the accident. It also the year that I say bitch #1 of 2 came out, and caused tension and stress in my marriage and life, leaving me in a highly irritated state. So began the dream of raising sisters and being a working mom to multiple children.

In 2012 the year started with Nate's dream of going to grad school to begin his Masters program for educational leadership. It was also a big financial year for us as it was the year after six years of being in the city house and afraid we'd never escape in the downed economy with a daughter quickly approaching kindergarten that we got the approval to rent the house (not as an investment at first that Nate originally dreamed but we could keep it) and buy another in a small town community to raise our growing family. So began living the "American" dream of small town home ownership, family and marriage, and career with even an additional house.

In 2013 the dream became to financially survive the "American" dream. As if I didn't learn the first time around, reaching goals and dreams don't just fall in your lap. Even though the bank said "yes", the true numbers with two houses, two kids, now two car payments again because we sold the one vehicle we owned for a down payment didn't quite add up right! And bitch #2 in me came to visit for the long haul. We were barely financially surviving with the new house, my marriage was strained, I had my worst year in teaching and for the first time didn't want to be a teacher anymore, and after multiple people noticing my behavior and pushing me to see a doctor it was discovered that I was experiencing depression but more as a severe symptom to a thyroid disorder I didn't know I had. On the plus side of all that crazy because we were financially struggling I got a semester part time job teaching a college class at the community college which I found to be a wonderful and obviously financially beneficial decision.  So lived the dream of just faking it until you make it.

In 2014 Nate reached his dream of graduating with his Masters Degree in Educational Leadership, and I made a much desired job change after eight years in the same school.  2014 was the year my thyroid disorder was treated and that bitch hopefully left for good (not saying she doesn't visit for a day every once in awhile but she is NOT moving back in). It was the year our oldest started kindergarten, and even though we suffered an early pregnancy miscarriage that year,  so lived the dream of making it rather than faking it.

In 2015 the year started in what is possibly the worst January to date with our second miscarriage in the late first trimester. However, aside from saying good bye to our beloved Bettis the rest of the year after that wasn't just about making it but finally finding our balance and rhythm with it all (marriage, kids, careers, two houses, money). Nate's goal of changing jobs for more leadership experience happened and is in his most enjoyable position to date, as well as me getting a more permanent position at the school from the year before that was also my most enjoyable position to date. We were approved for a refinance that put our finances in my desired little neat boxes (hopefully for the long haul). Nate and our oldest were so involved in activities in the community our new hometown started to feel like the forever home we originally imaged. We started college savings funds, after ten years had reached the point of being vested in the retirement system, finally after ten years had a little bit of an emergency fund savings, the rental house value to what we owed was finally to a point of it being an investment rather than an obligation, and we were pregnant again with a little boy this time.  So even though 2015 would end with a concern for the baby's heart and a few other setbacks in other minor things so lived the dream of  living the dream but knowing there's no cumulative moment of reached perfection for life, just moments of perfection to get us through the rough moments of life.

Is there more we want in life for ourselves? Sure, who doesn't? But looking back at these years with their struggles and triumphs reminds me that there also needs to be time to just slow down and embrace it all. So to my husband who knows these ups and downs well and who I know continues to be the dreamer he's always been but sometimes lets the setbacks discourage him and bring him down I say this,  "I know there's been a few set backs lately but I want you to know I never forget the big picture. Only you and I truly know and understand where we were and how far we've come. I think it's our struggles and the obstacles we encountered, even though yes some we brought upon ourselves, that make us together great in our own way.  We got this far with nothing but our faith in each other, ourselves, and God, and a great group of people cheering us on. We built this life and it is ours. The good, the bad, the comical, the right choices, the wrong choices, the highs and the lows, the triumphs and the struggles.  Just as I believed in you, believed in me, and more importantly believed in us so long ago when we had nothing (literally nothing but our precious Bettis, your broken Jeep, and few personal belongings) to this day I still do. Together let's make 2016 our best year yet."