Sunday, October 30, 2011

Blissful R&R

If this weekend had been any more relaxing, I'd probably be in a coma. I spent most of the time in my robe, watching football and more football, then movies galore. We did step out to go to a Hallowe'en party for a couple of hours, and I threw clothes on for fifteen minutes today to pick our son up from work and grab some fast food. Other than that, we were home. We watched:

Secretary
Cyrus
Pirate Radio
Gulliver's Travels

I might be missing something in there, but those are the ones I remember, anyhow.

Tomorrow the work week starts again. As I am not yet independently wealthy, I shall clock in at 7 a.m. At least it's Hallowe'en tomorrow, and I get to wear my costume to work. I find the tips to be especially good each October 31st. Come in to the Grind tomorrow if you'd like to know why.

Our son seems to have developed some random food allergy, and we're trying to isolate it. I'm fairly certain it's either lactose- or peanut butter-related. Either way, he's got to figure out what it is so he can stop eating it.

This week holds: barista-ing, housecleaning, taking dogs to vet for wayyyy overdue shots and a nail clipping for the feisty little one, picking up some groceries I forgot on grocery day, and preparing for our post-Hallowe'en party next Saturday night. It's rare we have people over these days, and it's nice when it happens.

I should try and get some sleep, I suppose...

I sound really boring today.


Stephanie Jean

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Midweek Mindlessness


Howdy.

Yeah, it's really me. I know, it's been awhile since I've written anything in the middle of the week. I used to, back when I was optimistic and adventurous with this whole new blog thing. By now, you're probably sick of hearing from me even on the weekends, am I right? **taps microphone** Is this thing on?

Anyhow -- so, it's Wednesday. I'm fond of Wednesdays. Work is busy, i.e. tips are good, and the day passes pretty quickly. This week's already been an adventure. Tomorrow I get to awaken somewhere around 5:15 in the morning to drive my husband to work because the van has finally been laid to rest. Well, we laid it on the front porch of an auto repair place, anyway. We have an appointment at the place we normally use, but that's not until November 7th because its the earliest they could get us in. I love my husband and I admire his work ethic, but I sure as heck don't want to get up at 5:15 in the morning for the next two weeks, ya feel me? So, hopefully they can get that bad boy fixed tomorrow and by Friday everything will be hunky dory. (Weird -- the spell-check would accept 'dory' but not 'dorey'. Are either of those actually a word? Yes, says dictionary.com -- 'dory' is a type of boat.)

In addition, the little dog has stubbed his toenail once again and it's hanging off oddly, so he's constantly licking it. It's not broken or bleeding so I'm not taking him to the vet. I already have to get him and Nikita in next week for overdue shots (I'm aware that I'm a bad doggymomma, thank you very much) so I'll just have them trim his nails and fix it then. Two dogs at vet: $140. Van repair price yet unknown. Groceries tomorrow. I have literally $6 in the checking account right now. Six dollars.

But do you know what I'm thankful for?

My husband, my kids, my family, my paycheck, my house, my cousin coming home from the Army in a little over a week, my doggies, my laptop, my writing, my friends, and my life -- regardless of how trying it can be from time to time.

It's amazing what a little optimism can do for the spirit.

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Turning in Circles


On the first day of the week, every Sunday, I have this impulse. The previous week is over, no matter how good or bad it was, and I want to improve myself. I have these ideas of what to do in the coming week to diet, to exercise, to write, to be nicer to people, to take better care of myself, to spend time with the ones I love. I catch up on my weekly reading, I make plans for correspondence, write lists planning out what I want my week to look like.

Then, sometime early Monday morning, everything goes to crap.

This past week was one of the hardest, trial-filled, harrowing weeks I've had in quite some time. At some point on Wednesday, I had a complete emotional meltdown and was just sobbing on my bed, and that day wasn't even over yet. It started to get better -- I put the rest of the day behind me, showered and dressed and started over, going to dinner and karaoke with my brother and his wife and it was very nice. After getting back home, the night ended like the day had begun, but approximately 100 times worse. Teenagers, I tell you. They like to throw unexpected gum into the works. And there was much more emotional stress to be had over the next couple of days, too. So much that I just want to do what my little dog does: find a blanket, burrow under it, and fall blissfully asleep, so heavily that even picking me up and dropping me back on the bed will not wake me.

I haven't crawled out of my cubby hole yet today. Well, I did have to let the dogs out once, but I've been sleeping and snuggling in my blankies because that and a hot bath seem to be the only thing that make me feel better, and I'm out of bubble bath. That's how stressful it's been: I am OUT of bubble bath.

I finally got my wheel bearing fixed this week. Now my car no longer sounds like small countries are fighting a war beneath it when I drive. However, the van is on its deathbed, and I'm not sure how much it will end up costing. The one bright spot in the foreseeable future is that October is a 3-pay-period month, so the checks we get at the end of this week can pay for those repairs.

I hope.

I turn my feet in the right direction, it seems, then immediately trip and fall. I stand up, brush myself off, and the "Taxi of Life" drives by and sprays mud on me. I wash up and begin again and a piano falls on my head. I feel like I'm living in a Looney Tune, only it's not funny in the least. All I can do is keep chasing the stupid RoadRunner, knowing that eventually I'll end up with an anvil on my head. (Shout out to Little Chicken -- my husband is probably laughing right now, and not because of me, it's because of you! :)

Usually, at times like this, I have something spiritual to ponder, some sort of bright light at the far, far end of the tunnel. I attempt to retain a positive outlook as I sort through things in my life. But right now I just want to crawl back under these covers and sleep for the rest of the day, so please forgive me if I can't always be pithy.

Sometimes I have to lay beneath the wreckage for a while before I find the strength to crawl back out.

(I guess I can always be pithy.)

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, October 9, 2011

On The Precipice


"I'm on the edge of glory, and I'm hanging on a moment of truth." -- Lady Gaga

Confession time: I am in my mid-thirties and I cannot swim underwater without plugging my nose. It's fairly hard for me to admit that, considering I grew up with a dad who was a charter boat captain and I spent a tremendous amount of time at the beach. Also, my best friend had a pool with a diving board. She was like a mermaid in the water, as though it were her natural habitat. Up and off the diving board she would go, into the air, cutting through the water and popping up on the other side, always trying to get me to go next.

I could swim, don't get me wrong. I still can. Not Olympically, or anything, but I can get from point A to point B without drowning. I can float for hours, like I'm made of water-wing plastic. But if I turn over and put my face in the water, I immediately feel that burning sensation in my nose and I choke and sputter and I have to get out and do something on dry land for awhile before I get back in. Forget your good intentions, and do not offer to teach me because "it's so easy" or "I just haven't gotten used to it yet" or whatever other well-meaning platitude you have. It's not going to happen.

Yet, I remember fully the feeling of standing on the diving board, toes curling over the edge, and staring down into the 9 feet of blue to the rings on the bottom that it seemed everyone could recover but myself. Despite my inability to accomplish the perfect bubble-blowing maneuver that would allow me to swim underwater like my companion, I could open my eyes while I was down there. I could swim with one hand. I could do one-handed handstands in the shallow end. So what was holding me back from jumping off, grabbing the ring with one hand, and emerging victorious?

Pride.

She would see me plug my nose as I jumped off. She would sense my fear. I didn't have the same abilities that she did. And, more than anything, her taunting older brother whom I of course had an enormous crush on would see me as well, and never, ever let me live it down.

I crawled off the board, went back to the shallow end, and walked around pretending I had no interest in deeper waters.

I've been doing that my whole life.

The problem is, that's nothing more than living a lie. Being crippled by pride, or living in fear of the unknown, fear of failure -- it's pointless. Anxiety over something that may never happen and, in all honesty, probably WILL never happen, is the high-flying banner of a life wasted. I'm sick and tired of standing on the edge of glory, of hanging on a moment of truth, and then backing off and walking away, whether it's out of fear or pride or laziness.

Every moment is a new beginning. Our destiny is an amalgamation of God's plan for us and the choices we make. There is absolutely nothing we can change about our past. We cannot change our actions, our reactions, our choices, our decisions, our accomplishments, or our mistakes. Our life hinges on our present and our future. Allowing ourselves to become crippled by bitterness and resentment, by pride or fear, or letting our past dictate our current actions, reactions, choices, or decisions is an exercise in futility.

What does every red-blooded American do on December 31st? They write a list of resolutions, things they want to change in the upcoming year. By the end of a few short weeks, they've given up again, thinking they'll wait until the beginning of next month, or until their birthday, or until next January 1st to start trying again.

I reiterate: Every moment is a new beginning.

If you were driving down the interstate and you turned left instead of right, would you continue on your incorrect path thinking that, eventually when you drove around the entire world, over mountains and through the oceans, you'd end up where you wanted to be? No, you would turn around the moment you realized you made the mistake, cut your losses, be a slight bit off course, and end up where you wanted to be a few minutes late because you'd made a bad choice, but you fixed it as soon as you realized it. Yeah, the other people in the car might laugh at you a little, you might hear an "I told you to turn right!", you might have to hear about it for a day or two as they told the story to some other people, but in the end, you'd end up where you wanted to be instead of Timbuktu.

I'm telling you this from the bottom of my heart, because I need to follow the very same advice. If you are not on the right road at this very moment, turn around. Throw your pride out the window, ignore your fears, admonish your anxieties, and turn around.

If I could stand on that diving board right now, I would hold my breath, plug my nose, and do a cannonball to the bottom of that pool, open my eyes, grab the ring, and swim one-handed to the surface. I can't go back and do that now. But I can learn my lessons from the past and let them shape my future.

So can you.

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Purpose


"Purpose -- it's that little thing that lights a fire under your ***" -- Avenue Q.

It's constant. I constantly feel as though I should be doing something different with my life. Something more. I've come to the conclusion, though, that God has placed me where I am for a reason, and that reason is that He's building something inside of me because I'm not ready yet to move on.

I'm learning patience by working at the coffee shop. Patience with people who think they are better than me, people who don't feel they have time to be friendly, who feel it's completely fine to use no manners whatsoever when they order or receive their food and drinks, who feel that my entire existence is devoted to please them and that I'm not really living up to their ideal. It's difficult, believe me. Most days I rebel, if only inside, my mind screaming, "I don't have to take this from you! I work hard for a living, regardless of what I'm doing to earn it. What makes you think your job is any more important than mine just because you wear a suit and I wear jeans, and you make approximately 8 times more in a year than I do? What possesses you to think that God loves you any more than He loves me?"

But then I look at myself and my own actions and reactions, and I'm filled with guilt. There are people that I just cannot stand, who have treated me and my family despicably, and I have to stop and ask myself -- what makes me think God loves me any more than He loves them?

I'm learning patience.

I'm learning compassion. At times, I have a line full of people and there's inevitably that one person who comes in and just stands there, not sure what to order, and then likes to talk about whatever is going on in their life. My first instinct is to ask them to step aside so I can help the five people behind them who come in every day, the ones I can instantaneously help because they get the exact same thing every day, and if they would just get out of my way, I could do my job.

But then I wonder what that person might have been through. Did they just come from the hospital where their mother is dying and they just need something to perk them up because they're surrounded by morbidity and they have to talk about something, anything, other than their miserable sadness? Do they just need a smile, a little laugh, someone to look at them and see them as a person instead of a problem?

I'm learning compassion.

And dear, sweet Jesus, I am learning humility.

I spent four years in high school with basically no social life, studying and working as hard as possible to get the best grades I could because I knew my parents couldn't afford to send me to college on their own, so I needed scholarships and grants. When I got them, I spent four years working my butt off to keep the grants and scholarships and get a degree which I desperately desired to get my career started, teaching, writing, doing what I felt I was meant to be doing. I've cleaned houses since I had the ability to drive myself places at sixteen, to help pay for my books and food in college, and have continued cleaning ever since to save up for things our family needs, for Christmas and birthdays, for bills and whatnot. Living in Middlebury, Indiana, there aren't a lot of positions in writing, editing, publishing, or any other mileu I'm cut out for. Where can I make the most money with a flexible schedule that allows me to help provide for our family in Elkhart County, which still has a dramatically higher unemployment rate than most counties in the country? Slinging coffee and cleaning toilets. People talk to me like I'm uneducated. People are surprised, impressed when I can do math in my head and give them correct change without looking at the register. When I wear a Michigan shirt to work, and conversations strike up with customers about Michigan football, and one of my co-workers tell a customer I went to Michigan, they always have that look of shock on their face like they're not quite sure what to say to someone who has failed so miserably in life.

Every part of me is raging, wanting to holler, "WHY do you think you're better than me? Why do my choices have any right to dance around in your head while you stare at me? Do you have any idea what it's like to love so much, so deeply, that you will sacrifice all of your dreams, put them on hold, and, with your husband, do whatever it is you have to do to support your children? To put food on the table, to keep them in a good school? To *not* pursue the NYC life where you work for a publishing company while you're husband is on Broadway? To put coffee in a cup and hand it to you instead? DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT IS LIKE?"

Dear, sweet Jesus, I am learning humility.

The bar is set high. I will fail, inevitably, on a daily basis. I will make choices that don't mesh with what I believe. I will fall victim to my emotions. I will say or do something I cannot take back. But I am learning. We're expected to make mistakes, but we have to learn from those mistakes. We have to learn, and grow, FORGIVE OTHERS AND FORGIVE OURSELVES, if we are to make it through this journey in life. We have to release ourselves of the bitterness and resentment we allow to build up inside of our hearts, towards others and towards God, because it doesn't help anyone, and it only hurts us in the long run. We have to be humble enough to realize that, though we believe the world revolves around us, everyone else believes the world revolves around them, too. We have to be patient enough to take the time to put our immediate needs aside and tend to someone else's wounds. We have to be compassionate enough to not allow ourselves to be led by our emotions, but to be led by what we know in our hearts to be right and to be true.

I've yet to figure out what my purpose in life is, but maybe it's not necessarily my purpose that matters. It's God's purpose for me, and I'm never going to figure it out until I stop trying to do everything myself. I have to let the air out of my tires and let Him tow me to the place where He wants me next, wherever and whenever that might be.

I'm learning.

Stephanie Jean