Forgiveness

AwesomeFactOfLife-EveryoneHasFlaws

I am constantly trying to work on my own personal growth. I take a good close look at my own flaws so that I can learn from them and hopefully change them or gain a new perspective. Recently, I’ve come to the realization that not all “flaws” are bad. We’ve all become who we are for a reason. Sometimes we obtain coping mechanisms that aren’t necessarily the best tools to use, and each person’s personality is going to evolve at its own pace.

Where am I going with all this?

I titled this blog “forgiveness” because it is intimately connected with my own flaws. I’m not very good at forgiving other people, and I feel this is probably connected to not being very good at forgiving myself. I can hold the smallest mistake over my own head for years. It will often be something tiny that was completely unintentional, and I will go back and apologize for things that other people don’t even remember.

Let me pause here for a moment:

I have a very good long-term memory. Past health issues have turned my brain into Swiss cheese on a few occasions, but for the most part I have an unusually good memory. I have memories back to the day I was born. Memories of things that are never shown in family photos or written anywhere, and that my family can confirm. This came in really handy when I was in school because I hardly ever had to study. I don’t get to pick and choose what to remember. I remember a lot of really wonderful things, but also remember not-so-pleasant life experiences in vivid detail. Needless to say it makes things a bit complicated.

Unpause.

Often times others will have already forgiven me for something that I have continued to beat myself up over. What I’ve found is that I can give myself permission to forgive myself if I learn from my shortcomings. Trust me, learning from my own mistakes is easier said than done. Has anyone else ever had the experience of making the same mistake over and over before you realized it was a mistake? This is why it is important for me to look at my own flaws. I can’t improve or fix things if I don’t acknowledge what’s broken.

This is how the cycle of forgiveness works for my own flaws.

I purposefully and consciously choose to look at my own flaws OBJECTIVELY. I must look at my faults objectively so that I don’t get caught up in negative self talk.

I decide to figure out why I have a particular flaw and if it might actually be useful for anything in my day to day life. Is it a defense mechanism or a coping mechanism?

If it serves a purpose I aim to use my “flaw” more constructively so that it may become a strength. If I feel that it is not healthy for me I will work on completely changing my perspective. More often than not I find that my “flaws” serve a purpose and wind up trying to find a better use for them.

One of my biggest flaws is that I have trouble with forgiveness, and it’s not healthy for me.

I believe that my habit of over-trusting people in the first place is part of this circumstance.

I want to walk into every relationship with the people in my life believing that their intentions and motivations are completely pure of heart. I want to believe that everyone is genuine and trustworthy. Along with this belief I end up over-extending myself in my personal interactions and will sometimes wind up disappointed with people. I will overlook glaring flaws in others in hopes of their good qualities shining through. I want to make it clear that I do not believe this optimistic attitude is a flaw. There have been plenty of times that I’ve been thankful for this perspective and it has been beneficial to my life. Being optimistic is not a flaw, over-extending myself and over-involving myself with people is my flaw. A new acquaintance may very well be pure of heart, and they may very well be genuine and trustworthy; but, this does not mean that I am obligated to extend anything more than common courtesy until I have better experience with them. It is my belief that everyone deserves common courtesy – people deserve respectful manners right away.

Let me also make it clear that I do not regret going over and above common courtesy for people even when they end up disappointing me.

“Over-trusting” people is an instance where I must carefully examine my perspective and learn to use this character trait more constructively.

I’ve found that I like giving of myself. I like doing wonderful things for other people. It makes me happy to make others happy, but I’ve learned that you can’t count on people to be appreciative or to show appreciation. It seems like some people have a sense of entitlement and they take people for granted very easily. I’ve learned that give-and-take can find a happy balance in most relationships, but that I must give purely to give, and without expectation of receiving even common courtesy in return. It is so pleasant when people take the time and energy to show they care, but this isn’t something I can simply expect from people.

All relationships are a two way road – whether it’s someone you bumped into on the train or a soulmate that you’ve been with for decades and anyone in between. Your interactions and feelings about that relationship are a combination of both of your words and actions – theirs AND yours. I must remind myself of this because I know I have a tendency to place the entirety of blame in a bad situation on either the other person or squarely on myself. I must remember that it IS a two way road, and we are both responsible for our own parts of things.

I have found that I have two methods for forgiving people.

It may simply be a toxic relationship. In those cases I must remove myself from the relationship to be able to view the other person objectively. This is often one of the hardest choices to make. I have to take that step away from people so I can simply see them as another person struggling with their own flaws. I know myself enough to know I have trouble coming to that level of peace if their choices continue to negatively effect my life. I don’t need to ask them to change. I don’t need to hate them, and I don’t need to hate their flaws. I take that big step away and they can’t hurt me anymore. Then I can see them as simply another human struggling with their own pain, and that is so much easier for me to forgive. This type of forgiveness is reserved for extremely toxic relationships, and not my preferred method.

Most of the time a decent relationship will go through toxic circumstances. Everyone handles stress differently, and everyone handles life’s “downs” differently. Relationships go through ups and downs just like individuals. I’m talking about all relationships: lovers, friends, siblings, parents, children, and acquaintances. Someone will eventually have a bad day, you will eventually disagree on something, and your priorities will fluctuate over time. I’ve found that some friendships will grow apart, and grow back together, and grow apart again. I do not have to remove people from my life if we simply don’t have the same priorities at any given time, but for my own health I choose to surround myself with people that share my priorities, aspirations, and dreams. Sometimes a disagreement will hurt my feelings, or someone else’s bad mood will rub off some bad-vibes-ick into my life. Sometimes I will unintentionally hurt other people’s feelings, or my bad mood will rub off some bad-vibes-ick into someone else’s life. Forgiveness for these types of circumstances is based on mutual respect and a desire to mend things. It requires communication, and sometimes even negotiation, but will eventually come to a reasonable solution. A reasonable solution may be as simple as an apology, or more complicated like taking steps toward major life changes. If I value a relationship I will step up to the plate and be completely willing to do my part.

I realize that I am young, and I hope that I will continue to evolve and develop my opinions on forgiveness. This is just what works for me at this point in my life. I am fairly outgoing, I have a large family, I’ve made many good friends, and hundreds of acquaintances over my life. I’ve only encountered around a dozen toxic relationships with people that I simply must let go from my life. I have many people in my life that I respect with differing priorities than my own – we interact every once in awhile, and I can see wonderful things happening in their lives. Then I have a decent size group of people that I interact with regularly. I care a lot about these people, and these are the established healthy relationships that are completely worth going through the ups and downs together.

My biggest challenge with forgiveness is acknowledging those toxic relationships and removing myself from them. I often feel like a toxic relationship is a failure on my part, and I attempt to mend things that aren’t in a position to be fixable. Things get really complicated when there’s a group of people or a lot of mutual friends. Sometimes a few of the people are a toxic relationship, and others simply get caught up in the toxic circumstances. Unfortunately I haven’t found a magic wand that simplifies these complexities. I simply try to continue to show my appreciation for those I care for, and do my best to avoid those that aren’t good for me. Life isn’t black and white or cut and dry. The problem with this is that it leaves an opportunity for those people to continue to negatively effect my life. I will often be able to remove myself from a toxic relationship, and through mutual relationships still find myself negatively effected by a person’s actions. This makes it very hard for me to view people objectively and completely forgive. I’m still working on this. Someday I hope to experience a better way to learn forgiveness, but this is how I am growing for now. I do my best to allow myself to be angry when it’s appropriate to be angry and try not to carry that anger around. Ultimately, I think I will feel pleased with myself if I can learn to forgive more easily, and not allow myself to be negatively effected in the first place. Until that day I will continue to do my best to view myself and others as just people going through life and doing the best they can with their own challenges and struggles – I will continue to learn forgiveness.

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The Invitation

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming
from the book The Invitation

^ I recently saw this on a Facebook status update from the “Wild Woman Sisterhood” and I thought it was just beautiful!

Here’s a link to their page: https://www.facebook.com/WildWomanSisterhood

The drawing is a sketch I did a few weeks ago. I think a lot of the plants around my house would make adorable skirts. Her tutu is an upside down seed pod from the plant “Nigella” or “Love Is In The Mist”.

Hope to catch up with the blogging community soon.

Ciao ciao,
Rachie

Mystery Photo Revealed & A Favorite Memory

Mystery Photo Revealed & A Favorite Memory

Okay, I got really hung up with life lately. Sorry! I’m very late with this post!

It’s fluorite!

Yes indeedie, it is!

Fluorite “fluoresces” like a boss under a black (UV) light.

Other fluorescent rocks and minerals include: agate, amber, calcite, gypsum, opal, quartz, ruby, and talc.

Fluorescent materials actually absorb light and re-emit it for us to enjoy.

This is different than bioluminescence in which a living organism actually produces light. Most people recall memories of fireflies when you talk about bioluminescence. I have had some lovely firefly experiences, but that isn’t the first thing I think of when I think of bioluminescence.

The first thing I think of is plankton!

Not Spongebob’s nemesis, but the little bitty flora and fauna spanning the surface waters of our oceans.

My family and I were sailing at night off the coast of California when I had my first experience with bioluminescent plankton. My dad was on night watch, and Mom and I had tucked into our rooms for some rest. I’d woken up in the middle of the night, left all the lights off in the bathroom, went “tinkle”, and flushed the toilet with sea water. When you’re out on the ocean you don’t want to waste fresh water on things like flushing the toilet.

Imagine my half-dazed-midnight-potty-run shock when I saw a bunch of glow-in-the-dark specks swirling down the toilet!

My first thought was that there might have been some kind of chemical leak in the pipelines. Hey, I was tired, and I didn’t know that much about these kinds of things at the time.

I climbed up to the cockpit to tell Dad about the “glowy stuff” in the toilet when I saw the same “glowy stuff” blanketing the water near our boat. It was so amazingly gorgeous! Dad had been paying more attention to steering than the water near the boat and hadn’t noticed it – when I pointed it out we made the connection about flushing with sea water.

So, imagine this: out in the pitch dark on the Pacific Ocean with only the steaming lights on the sailboat. The sky is lit up with billions of stars, a brilliant moon, and an arm of our Milky Way streaking across the sky. The water is smooth with small gentle waves without any crests – not only is it reflecting that gorgeous sky but it’s filled with billions of tiny plankton all swirling in the water and glowing on their own.

Now, that’s enough to take a person’s breath away by itself, but then I noticed the dolphins. Yes, the dolphins came up and swam alongside either side of the boat. This is a fairly common behavior for dolphins in the area, but it just made the whole thing a completely stunning experience.

I hurried below deck, woke my mom up, and we all sat in the cockpit watching the dolphins for awhile.

Fireflies are lovely, but my opinion is that it’s all about the plankton.

Alright folks – hopefully I will be back with more posts in the near future. Until then, have a cookie for me, and laugh about something ridiculous.

Mystery Photo & Halloween Prep

Mystery Photo & Halloween Prep

Time For A Nerd-Out

“I’m all over the world, but not a traveler. I often find myself wrapped up in laboratory equipment, but I’m not a scientist. I dress myself in many colors, but I often wear blue in the dark. What am I?”

Let me just clarify that “in the dark” means under UV light – and yes, yes I did sit around in the dark with my camera and a UV light trying to get a good shot – not as easy as I thought it would be.

I have comments and stuff I need to attend to – I’ve been in and out of a bit of a brain fog lately – I will get to them soon. I’ve been puttering around in between projects and napping fending off a Summer flu bug. I’m getting better! Hooray! Although, I feel more naps are necessary.

Have I mentioned that I’m a Halloween fangirl? Halloween is my favorite holiday, then comes Christmas, and Thanksgiving, and St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter. I can’t say I’ve ever had an especially wonderful V-Day so it sits kind of low on the “favorite holidays” list. However, Halloween should be twice a year – we need more excuses to play dress-up in mass besides comic con.

So, I’ve got the lay-out of decorations for the front yard drawn out, and I’ve been gathering supplies. The good news is I have most of what I need and my shopping trip will be short.

By the way, if you have a “Target” store near you, I’ll just give you the heads up that their “dollar spot” has had canisters of glow sticks around Halloween time the past few years. Yes, you read that right, “canisters” – 10 glow sticks for a dollar. I highly suggest using these to pass out to trick-or-treaters. They come in a variety of colors with connector snaps so you can make bracelets out of them. There’s something about a lot of little kids running around in the dark that feels like an accident waiting to happen. I choose to combat that feeling by handing out light-up awesomeness so the kids are at least a little bit more visible to their parents and street traffic. I’ve had parents tell me what a great idea the glow sticks are and thank me for passing them out. Plus, they’re a big hit with the kids – everybody always loves the “glow stick” house. Make a mental note: Target – trick-or-treater prizes – 10 glow sticks for a dollar.

I’ll be sharing my Halloween arts and crafts on here as I put everything together. My theme this year is “Mad Scientist’s Laboratory” to go with my costume.

I’m not going to be your stereotypical mad scientist – where’s the fun in that? My outfit is going to have a bit of a steampunk spin to it – and you are promised some big time costume make-up and/or face paint. I started making the skirt today. A twin size flat sheet, some safety pins, a ball of twine, and 30 minutes later I had an antique-y, steampunky ruffled skirt! I have to take it apart and re-do it with stitching, but I’ll post a tutorial on how to put it together.

So, get ready for this hypothetical Halloween world I’m about to give you a preview of – we’re going to pretend that this laboratory is capable of taking chromosomes from men and implanting them in genetically absent host eggs to make babies.

Now, imagine if Phileas Fogg and Mr. Hyde made a classy, brilliant, and slightly disturbed baby. Then Victor Frankenstein and Dr. Who made a troubled alien monstrosity. Then those slightly disturbed and monstrous products got together and made an elegantly crazed super genius… An elegantly crazed super genius with a conscience from those underlying Fogg, Dr. Jekyll, and Gallifreyan genes. That’s what I’m going to be for Halloween – an elegantly crazed super genius with a conscience.

Or at least that’s what I’m shooting for…

I like to go with creepy costumes, but I try to tone down just how scary they come across. It feels really bad when you’re smiling and handing a 3-year-old dressed like Batman a piece of candy and they’re crying in fear. Since handing out trick-or-treat candy is my favorite part of Halloween I’ve decided to stick with creepy, but not “too creepy”.

Alright, this is the end of my 3 AM sleep deprived blog post.

Wherever you are in the world I hope you’re having a fantastic day!

You can leave any guesses about the mystery photo in the comments and I’ll post a follow-up blog with the answer in approximately 1 week.

Now For Something Completely Different

Now For Something Completely Different

You won’t find me posting a whole lot of religious stuff anywhere online. This will be a rare happenstance. I just needed to get this out.

All the hate swirling around in various religions is exhausting!

Here’s a brief background on me. I’m a cradle Catholic, and completely fascinated with science. I had the opportunity of being able to start college when I was 12 years old, and A LOT of exposure to various sciences. So, when I was still very young and “knew everything” I spent a couple years identifying myself as an Atheist. I’m inherently a very spiritual person so that didn’t last very long. To be perfectly honest, the more I learn about science the more I can see miracles woven into our universe and our everyday lives. Just because you learn about something and come to understand it doesn’t make it any less miraculous. I don’t think spirituality is intangible or beyond the realm of what might someday be empirical. Protons and neutrons were beyond our comprehension of empirical at one point as well. I think it stunts our growth as a society and a species to try and put such strict finite parameters on a world where we at least have a concept of infinity. What happened to pushing open new doors? Where’s our explorer spirit?

That said, I have a healthy respect for all religions. I grew up watching my Dad completely and undeniably rooted in his own faith and yet able to learn about other belief systems with a respect for other faiths. I’ve grown up in California, and this state is completely blessed with diversity. You wanna learn about Hinduism? No problem! Buddhism? Let’s get to it! There’s a plethora of first hand experiences to be had that can only amplify your personal spirituality whatever that may be. This is one of the ways I honor my father. God isn’t about right and wrong, good or bad, reward and punishment. God is about love, and growth – knowledge, and gratitude. If you are learning, if you are growing, if you are grateful and coming from a place of love then concepts like “right and wrong” become obsolete. We are not cattle or dogs to be trained, we are humans gifted with abstract thought and we’re completely missing the mark if we don’t use it.

Did you know that the root meaning of the word “sin” didn’t mean to do something evil? “Sin” originally meant that you missed the mark, there was a mistake made, and more practice was needed to get it right. Yes, we’ve all made mistakes – it’s the fact that we keep trying to improve and learn new ways to interact that makes us special.

When my father passed away they sent a chaplain right away to speak with us while we were at the hospital. He was very obviously rushing things because he’d been called out in the middle of his dinner. He had crumbs on his sweater and explained the whole mid-dinner thing when he brushed them off. I was horrified that a person in his position could be so rude with a grieving family. I spent a few years studying to be a chaplain. I’ve learned about so many religions and my personal take on things is that they aren’t that different.

Each religion has different names for things that aren’t really that different. I’ll use English as an example – assume all parties in this hypothetical example speak English. If I ask people from different faiths about their beliefs they will use different words and I’ll hear them all in English. You can stop right there and say “these are different words, they must be different things”. Where does that get us? Imagine those different words all mean the same thing. They’re not actually different words. They’re different languages. They’re cultures, and societies expressing themselves and unfortunately getting lost in translation. English is an extremely limited language in that there are many things we have only one word for – just that single way to express a thing or a concept. Other languages around the world have numerous words for the same things so they can be expressed in an array of all the facets it can possess.

You know what unites the major belief systems around the world including Atheists? We all have a creation story. From the Mayans, to the Egyptians, to the Pacific Islanders we all care about that from which we came. Why do you think that is? I say let’s use Occam’s razor on this one. William of Ockham gave us the logic that “the simplest answer is usually the correct one”. Why do we all care about where we came from? Where we came from must be a pretty important place if we’re all hard wired throughout the generations to think about the topic. It doesn’t matter to me what you call the place, or how you define it for yourself, or what you’ve labeled it – the point is that it’s the same place – a place of infinity with infinite ways to be expressed.

One other thing unites us… one thing we never seem to give enough credit.

Love.

Every single human being knows what love is.

You can call it love, you can call it amour (French), elsker (Danish), liebe (German), szeret (Hungarian), ความรัก (Thai), amore (Italian), الحب (Arabic), В прошлом месяце (Russian), or the translation of love in any language you like. It’s still love – you “feel” it. It’s a concept that we can see in actions, hear in words, touch in gentle caresses, and taste in kisses and food.

What’s the secret ingredient?

It was made with love.

More than that, love has the deepest blessing of being something we feel with our soul.

It is our gift and our grace.

That love inside of us is where we connect.

That is where we find God in this world.

That is how we live Divinely guided lives in this world.

We are meant to feel and express the full spectrum of emotion.

Yes, be angry, be sad, and it’s okay to be upset.

Feel them, know them, understand them.

I’m betting you also know you probably don’t like how those emotions feel.

So focus on joy.

Focus on affection.

Focus on exhilaration, and awe, and curiosity.

Focus on love.

“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

First learn to love thyself thoroughly through the understanding that you are a living, breathing, walking, and more importantly, thinking miracle in this world. At your very core, in the atoms you are composed of from the calcium in your bones to the protein in your muscles – from the gifts of thought, and communication, and love you can bestow upon others in this life – from your unique talents and everything that is you from head to toe YOU ARE A MIRACLE.

Love thyself as that miracle first, then “love thy neighbor as thyself”.

As you can imagine I didn’t bring up this topic for nothing. It is to emphasize my opinion of what’s really important. This blog post is about growth, and peace, and love. Please focus on expressing things of that nature if you feel you want to comment.

Spaceballs: “Lonestar” Stuffed Crust Skillet Pizza & Sassiness

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

See, it’s “Lonestar” because I made a star out of the pepperoni and I was watching Spaceballs while making/eating my creation.

If you haven’t seen Spaceballs you need to remedy that in the near future!

Alright, on to the yumminess!

I love pizza! I try to make it myself as much as possible instead of ordering out. This is a really easy way to get a deep-dish-esque stuffed crust pizza. You will need a cast iron skillet (mine is about a 10 inch diameter), and I highly recommend parchment paper or foil for easy clean-up. I prefer parchment paper because it doesn’t get hot like foil and it will be easier to handle.

Ingredients:

Pillsbury Grand’s Buttermilk Biscuit Dough (1 package of 8 biscuits)

4 slices of cheese – whichever kind you want to stuff your crust with – I used provolone

1 Tbs of BBQ sauce

1/4 cup regular tomato pasta sauce

1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella

1 egg

Garlic powder, Parmesan, and Italian Seasonings to taste

Your choice of toppings – I used pepperoni and olives

Directions: Line the inside of the skillet with foil/parchment paper and smush “Pillsbury Grand’s Buttermilk Biscuits” into the bottom and up the sides.

I cut a few slices of provolone into strips with kitchen scissors and laid them against the edges with some pepperoni. Yes, the crust on this pizza is stuffed with cheese AND pepperoni. If you’re not a pepperoni person just nix the pepperoni.

Fold the edges down over your crust stuffing and press into the bottom dough.

Whip up an egg until it’s frothy and brush it over the dough on the edges of the crust – basically anything that’s not going to get covered with toppings.

Sprinkle with a little bit of garlic powder, Parmesan, and Italian seasonings.

If you’re a fan of BBQ I highly recommend adding a tablespoon of BBQ sauce to a quarter cup of regular tomato pasta sauce to use on your pizza.

Smear your sauce in the middle.

Add your cheese, add your toppings, and put it in the oven.

If you were baking regular biscuits it would be in for 12-17 minutes at 350 degrees. Your pizza will likely need longer. This came out pretty perfect and was in for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Your crust should be a nice golden brown when it’s done.

When it’s done baking take your skillet out and set it on something heat resistant.

This is the best part…

Lift your pizza straight out of the skillet with the parchment paper and onto a cutting board.

Loosen the bottom edges with a spatula and slide it right off onto the cutting board to be served.

Easy clean-up after nomming on delicious pizza is always a good thing.

I’m sorry I don’t know what the international equivalent of Pillsbury biscuits are, but 176.7 degrees Celsius is the equivalent of 350 degrees Fahrenheit if you manage to get some and want to give it a whirl.

Alright, now on to the sass!

SAMSUNG

This is my “sassy” face, not to be mistaken with my “gremlin” face which looks like this:

RachelGremlin

Let’s go over that one more time…

“Sassy”

missmadness

“Gremlin”

Gremlin

The gremlin face indicates “I feel like crap today and I’m making a goofy face to distract myself from the crappiness”. C’mon we all have a face like that! There’s quite often a nose wrinkle and a mouth twist to go with it – it’s like you tasted something sour and you didn’t squint your eyes. That’s not the important face today. I just threw that in there in case you feel like crap today so it would make you laugh and offer distraction.

The important face today is the SASSY FACE! The sassy face indicates “I feel like a strong confident mixture of comedy and badassery – let’s take on the world”! It’s such a very important face and I find that many people don’t ever refine their sassy face because for whatever reason they don’t allow themselves to feel sassy. It doesn’t matter where you are, or what you do, or what you deal with on a day to day basis – if you have DNA you have the capability to express sassiness in you somewhere. I urge you to find that part of you that can feel and be inexplicably sassy. Stand in front of the mirror and practice. Let me be clear this is not a war face! There is no seriousness to this face whatsoever. Your sassy face doesn’t need to be anything like my sassy face. It can be like mine if making that face makes you feel empowered, but your sassy face needs to “fit” you like a favorite pair of jeans. Go head to a mirror right now. Look at yourself and wave!

“Hi me!”

“Hi me, you’re lookin’ good today!”

“Oh, thanks. I’m feelin’ sassy!”

*strike a pose*

It may take a few tries until you find it, but when you find one that makes you laugh and think “oh, I like that person in the mirror” you’ve found the winner!

This is your homework for this week: Superman arms up at least once at any point in time – and find your sassy face!

The World I Live In

The World I Live In

It is my personal belief that a major root cause of unhappiness and restlessness is the cessation of striving to achieve our highest potential. Sometimes we pause consciously to redefine and adjust our course as necessary. Other times we let everyday frivolities distract us from the fact that we have potential beyond our present state at all. We forget to dream or worse… we dismiss our dreams as nothing but mere fancy. That two year old that you were is still inside of you asking questions. “Why? Why not?” Why not turn all of your wildest dreams into actualities? I’ve started looking at my life as a story. I think about how it needs to be written to achieve the ending I want. I’ve started looking at the obstacles life throws my way as dynamic and engaging antagonists. Nobody wants to read a story without some kind of antagonist or battle – the more struggle the more engaging a story is with the more potential for a spectacular outcome. Needless to say I feel renewed motivation to live fully and to press the limits of my own highest potential. It’s an amazing and refreshing feeling that I’ve sincerely missed! I just felt like sharing that.

Every Bit Of Amazing: Near Death Or Near Life?

LikelyToBeAmazing

This may sound strange, but I’ve come to a point where I am very, VERY grateful for all the obstacles that I’ve encountered on my path. I’m only sharing my health issues because I feel I can put a positive spin on things – and maybe it will help someone else in a similar situation to have hope. It has not been an easy road and this may be hard to read, but I assure you that there are blessings within everything.

When I was a kid I was blessed with school smarts and a love for sports. Not just those things, but an abundance of other things. Everything came easily and it seemed to me like that must be the “norm” for everyone. I had two parents that loved me unconditionally and it’s unfortunate to realize what a rarity that is these days. For all intents and purposes I had a very lucky and wonderful childhood.

I know there are plenty of people that disagree with my choice of academic career. I can’t even count how many times my parents and I were told that I was missing out on a “normal” teenage high school experience. The fact of the matter is that I would not have done well or thrived in a regular high school environment. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you know that I started attending college classes when I was 12 years old. I went to a charter school between ages 12 and 15 so I could finish my regular curriculum and take classes at the local community college at the same time. During that time period my grandmother passed away. She had lived with us my entire life and was a huge influence on me. I was very distraught and my parents sent me to counseling in hopes I could have a place to sort things out. The counselors deemed I was grieving “excessively” which actually meant I was asking the “big questions” and struggling to make sense of the world in which we live. So they recommended Prozac, and after the sermon on what a wonderful drug it is and how I “needed” it my parents and I warily agreed. That is when my brain began plummeting into real depression – not just grief, but inability to cope normally with regular downs. These days they don’t suggest that kids or teens take Prozac because it actually makes them suicidal – things got much worse for me, and yes, I became suicidal. Back then they didn’t recognize it as a side effect of the drug, but diagnosed it as my “grief” or “depression” getting worse. This only started a parade of new drugs with terrible side effects that never allowed me to be truly “happy”. I could smile, and plenty of people were unaware of the depression I was going through; but inside I was a zombie – I couldn’t “feel” things properly. The anti-depressants also brought a horrible battle with my weight – which is something that’s already an irritating part of being a teenager anyway.

When I was 17 years old I graduated from the local community college with highest honors and transferred to the University of California Santa Barbara as a paleobiology major. I’d joined a Martial Arts group and walked the few blocks to campus every day. I felt on top of the world! I dreamed of moving on to UCLA for a PhD  in exobiology and working for NASA exploring our solar system. It had only been two months of bliss when I got a very nasty spider bite. I’m allergic to most creepy crawly toxins anyway, but this was some kind of mutant spider. I didn’t see it bite me, but I found it in the window frame next to the couch where I had been napping. The allergic reaction was vicious and I wound up in the emergency room a day later. They gave me a course of an antibiotic called Keflex, and when that didn’t work they gave me a course of an antibiotic called Bactrim.

The bite infection healed quickly and the headache started. Notice I didn’t say “headaches” because it was one long continuous headache that got better and worse, but never went away. I became so ill I had to withdraw from my classes. The room would spin, and I would throw up a lot and often without warning. The head pain was excruciating and had some migraine properties like visual disturbances. My Mom took me to the emergency room nearly every week for three months because the symptoms were so severe and frightening. They kept sending me home saying I was dealing with migraines. Finally, on my 18th birthday, when my vision had narrowed to a tiny tunnel and they were concerned about an aneurysm they performed a spinal tap and I was diagnosed with pseudotumor cerebri also known as intercranial hypertension thought to have been caused by the Bactrim. The word “pseudotumor” sometimes makes people think “fake tumor” like it was just a figment of my imagination. A better word would have been “mimustumor” because the symptoms mimic a brain tumor. What actually was happening was a build up of spinal fluid in my skull and spine similar to what happens when a person gets a concussion. They had brushed a nerve when inserting the needle, and the spinal tap leaked for two weeks. I was admitted to the hospital while it healed. The pain of the spinal fluid leak is literally the worst pain I’ve felt in my entire life. The best I can describe it is like my spinal cord was a drain that was pulling my brain down as it tugged at the inside of my head. Usual treatment for pseudotumor involves regular spinal taps and sometimes a spinal shunt to relieve the pressure. While more spinal taps were talked about several times I never agreed to actually having another one.

The spinal fluid pressure pushed down on my brain and the back of my eyes from the inside. It could not have killed me. The only things it could have done were blind me and/or make me a vegetable from brain damage. The pressure would build up around my eyes and cause them to bruise as if someone had punched me. My school ID looked like I had a big shiner on my left eye. I lost some of the feeling, but not muscle tone in the left side of my face which always felt like pins and needles (this was eventually remedied with acupuncture of which I am a big fan). As you can imagine the depression got worse again.

I started having trouble in my classes. For the remainder of the brain disease I felt stuck in that I couldn’t seem to learn or retain any new concepts. Science and math, in general, are conceptual subjects – it’s not like you can memorize facts and get by. I did fine in the classes that were repeats of things I’d already learned. I failed in classes that were new material. It was the first time I’d ever received a low score on a test at all let alone a score that didn’t pass.

To top it all off they gave me a corticosteroid called Prednisone to save my eyes which caused hallucinations and my whole world felt very dark. It also caused my facial features to change so I looked like a chipmunk and didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. I blamed myself for a lot of my predicament. I would get angry at myself for not forcing exercise through the pain.

“Why can’t you just be happy?” I’d ask myself.

My brain was swimming in a stew of psychiatric medications and “guinea pig” medications for the pseudotumor – that is my best guess at why I couldn’t seem to be happy. I made things harder on myself by taking up smoking, and when I was very low I had started cutting. Yes, I realize it’s very taboo to talk about. I am not proud of it, but I am very happy I overcame it without having to carry the damage. I’m very lucky that the scars are so faint that most people never notice them. I was always teetering on the edge of my spinal fluid pressure spiking and causing projectile vomit. Yes, this is gross to talk about, but it happened. I threw up without warning almost every day for years. My dad had worried about bulimia, but that wasn’t it – it would often happen in public and was VERY embarrassing! Once it actually happened on a date. We had gone out to lunch, talked for awhile, and as we walked back to the car I could feel it coming. It was raining and I handed him the umbrella and ran to the bushes at the edge of the parking lot. There wasn’t any way to get to a bathroom in time and it seemed like the least populated place to get it out. He started walking toward me with the umbrella worried about what might be wrong. I had my back turned to him in hopes that I could hide it and it would just fall into the bush. No such luck – projectile vomit, remember? Just as my body was retching the wind picked up and it all blew sideways onto the ground as he came up behind me with the umbrella. I was horrified! Can you believe he still wanted to date me after that? We eventually broke up, but I have to give him credit for that.

By now you might be asking, “wait a minute, I thought there was a big positive spin on this”?

There is!

There are a few more bumps before the awesomeness – bare with me.

Toward the end of the brain disease I got a mild concussion which caused me intense pain on top of the pseudotumor pain.  I can only describe the pseudotumor pain as feeling like a railroad spike had been pushed through the side of my head at angle. My regular pain killer, Dilaudid, had been upped to 16 mg every 8-12 hours to allow some relief. It was the only thing that offered a small break in the intense pain, and I will never touch the stuff again. If you don’t know what Dilaudid is it’s a step above Morphine. Each mg of Dilaudid is equal to six mgs of Morphine without any Acetaminophen. It was a blessing in that it took away a lot of the pain, and curse in that it worsened my mental state and depressed my respiratory system. The smoking had caused asthmatic symptoms and on top of everything I had walking pneumonia that I didn’t know about. This is when I had my near death experience. The walking pneumonia and the high doses of Dilaudid had paired to cause respiratory acidosis – I was poisoned by the carbon dioxide in my lungs because I wasn’t strong enough to exhale. I was told later that the paramedics had carried me out of the house wrapped in a canvas because they couldn’t get a gurney up the stairs and through the oddly shaped hallway. Later, I “woke up” in the emergency room surrounded by doctors with all sorts of odds and ends attached to me including a breathing machine. During the time I had “checked-out” I found myself in a warm and comforting space. There was no up or down or sideways – just a warm dark space and a tiny pinprick of light that seemed very far away. I didn’t actually see anyone, but I knew I wasn’t alone. I was rather enjoying the experience when a voice told me…

“You have to go back, you have a purpose.”

“But I don’t want to go back. I like it here.”

“You have to go back, you have a purpose.”

“If I have to go back what is my purpose?”

“You have to go back, you have a purpose.”

Then it was over. I opened my eyes in the emergency room for a few minutes and then fell asleep.

After recovering I flung myself into trying to figure out what my purpose is and trying to define it for myself. I was trying to put together a plan of action to fulfill my purpose and make a big impact on the world for the better. I still want to pursue that plan of action even if I wandered a little off course recently. A few months later the pseudotumor symptoms started disappearing. I had lived with a constant headache for seven years and I started getting patches of full relief. My neurologist said that some people actually “grow out of it” since it seems to mainly effect young women. I was relieved! It was like getting a special “get of jail free” card! I started to become more hopeful and ambitious like I had been before the whole mess.

Towards the end of the year I told my psychiatrist that I wanted to get off the psychiatric medications because I didn’t think they were helping, and possibly making me worse. He told me that I “needed” to continue them and perhaps take more because if I got off of them he told me I would “wind up in a mental institution or dead”. Yes, I quoted him verbatim on that last bit there. I told him that I would be taking myself off of them and he could either help me with a taper program or let me do it alone. He put together a very short taper program and set me up to fail. Had I stuck to his taper program his prediction might have come true. I looked at the piece of paper when I got in the car and crumpled it up. I had been on some combination of these medications since I was a young teenager – I didn’t expect myself to just adapt to being on nothing over a few weeks. I took six months and very slowly tapered off everything a quarter of a pill at a time.

Let me make it very clear that it wasn’t immediately all peaches and cream. I went through a very real, several month long withdrawal period that was made worse by the relationship I was in. In some ways I think the bad withdrawal period triggered worse abuse within that relationship. For a short time I dealt with a fear of being seen because of how he had treated me. I had covered all the mirrors and didn’t want to leave the house because I felt ugly and worthless like I shouldn’t burden the public with having to look at me. However, if things hadn’t gotten so bad between us I don’t know that I would have had the resolve to say I wanted to be done.

I’ve been told by one of the only doctors I trust that complete rehabilitation from the psychiatric medications could take up to five years. I’m currently two and a half years through. The first two years were a fine balance to walk and tougher than I’d like to admit, but the last six months or so have offered me exponentially more recovery. I haven’t escaped completely unscathed… yet. My body still has trouble making vitamin D because I was on the Prednisone for so long – that is something I’ve had to accept. I’m never going to try and live above latitude 42 ever again because it is too stressful on my body and taxing on my soul even with supplements. If you don’t already know this our Earth gets variations in sunlight due to the tilt which causes the seasons as it passes along the elliptic. Everything higher than latitude 42 doesn’t allow enough sunlight, and isn’t at the right angle to provide sufficient light for a healthy body to produce vitamin D. This is why a lot of people in Northern regions get the blues in colder months, and one reason why Alaska has one of the highest suicide rates in the country.

A few months after being done with the psychiatric medicines I was able to quit smoking without really trying. I had tried to quit in the past with intense withdrawals as a result. The current, still undiagnosed abdominal pain began about three months after I was free of the medicines, and began with about a month of unexplainable full body edema that put an extra 60 pounds (27 kg) of weight on my body.  It put me in a wheel chair and I could barely sit-up let alone stand. Finally, they gave me a diuretic and over the course of about nine days I peed out 60 pounds of weight. That’s when I started to see more significant weight loss and my body started changing back to something closer to what I remembered having before all the sickness. That was in April and May of 2011, and the abdominal pain has had it’s own ups and downs since then.

So where am I today? The girl who nearly died, has had more hospitalizations than fingers, battled medication-induced depression for years, and spent over a month in a wheel chair unable to walk is doing particularly well! I’ve learned to accept that my body has been through a lot and gave myself permission to be extra good to myself. I’m still getting off that last bit of weight from all the medications, but I’m proud of myself for continuously making progress. I just happened to step on the scale the other day to find that I’d lost seven pounds last month. I dance and go for walks – sometimes I will just do yoga or pilates, but I am able to move like I haven’t been able to since I was a teenager. Heck, I’m able to wear clothes I haven’t been able to since I was a teenager! Since I was able to quit smoking I got my singing voice back and being able to sing gives me a lot of happiness. I don’t ever doubt the power of vitamins and supplements. I take 2,000-4,000 IUs of vitamin D per day and it has made a world of difference. I also take omegas, spirulina, vitamin C, vitamin B, and red raspberry leaf as well. Slowly but surely my immune system is repairing itself – I get more days where I feel stronger, and more days without pain. I feel like I can think again… not just mundane everyday things, but I feel like I can enjoy coming up with new hypotheses and concepts again. I can learn again! This has been one of the biggest blessings! I go through my old text books and I often stay up late researching new things online. Our world is a fascinating place!

This may seem like a lot that has happened. It really is only the tip of the iceberg of circumstances I’ve overcome. It would be overwhelming for me to put everything on the table in one post. Maybe some day I will write a memoir.

Some of you might be thinking – so what? If you didn’t go through all of that in the first place you wouldn’t need to be so happy about getting your health back!

Being chronically ill for that long taught me things that I would have never learned otherwise. It taught me a level of compassion and understanding that would have taken me a lot longer to obtain. Trying to get healthy taught me so many ways, tips and tricks, and a holistic approach to healing. For example, regular unsweetened coconut milk has an amazing blend of nutrients that will calm you down and ease your nervous system. One cup of regular unsweetened coconut milk every five hours as needed has worked better for me than any anti-anxiety medication they ever tried to give me. The only “side effect” is it can make you sleepy until you get used to it. I learned meditation that helped me understand my own mind and cope with aches. I try not to take anything stronger than Ibuprofen, and my body is healing. I can’t explain it exactly, but I can feel it healing.

I learned about people… they often put people in groups for pain management or counseling. I met so very many amazing individuals that have dealt with so very much. There are very few people that are exposed to all that in their 20’s. I learned a respect for what it feels like to have aged far before my time. I learned a respect for the fragility of life and the importance of maintaining a sense of awe even in the throws of agony. I learned that spending time on a swing set pretending I’m flying off into the sunset can be the small thing that makes all of the pain melt away. In any healing process it is necessary to laugh on a daily basis – it is not only the best medicine, but also an essential medicine. I learned that my body will react to how I treat it – I pamper it, feed it well, and make sure it gets exercise. It may seem simple, but connecting to the body I’m living in has been so important to me and I don’t think I would have already learned that connection without having dealt with illness. These days I also get to feel the joy of being truly happy. Not just smiling through internal pain, but really truly happy like I got to be in my childhood.

I’m currently 27 years old. I’ve been so ill that I know what it feels like to wonder how much longer I have left to live. Experiencing that has taught me that none of us will ever really know how much time we have left – healthy or not. It’s taught me to find blissful enjoyment in everyday life. It’s strengthened me.

I don’t believe in “impossible”. I only believe in infinite possibilities, the beauty of the present moment, and the very bright future I am building for myself. I know that I will continue to not only overcome any obstacles in my path, but thrive from learning from them. I believe in miracles.

P.S. I’m not afraid to be seen anymore, and did I mention I love smiling? Smiling is my favorite!

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Did You Put Your Superman Arms Up Today?

Did You Put Your Superman Arms Up Today?

Just a reminder…

Sometimes in the middle of everyday life we need to be reminded of the sheer awesomeness of our lives in every form.

The ups and downs are just footnotes in the saga of our amazing, interweaving, fully dynamic, and inspiring adventures.

Take a few deep breaths…

Notice your heartbeat – it’s a scientific miracle of nature that you found your way into existence from the first single celled organisms to the phenomenal complexity that is you.

You are here to do great things…