The House that Built Me

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing
Out there it’s like I’m someone else
I thought that maybe I could find myself

If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave
Won’t take nothing but a memory
from the house that built me

2nd verse and chorus of “The House That Built Me” by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin

If there is an entry in the dictionary for artful songwriting, “The House That Built Me” should be one of a very short list of examples.  It’s a close to a perfect song as I’ve heard.  The line from the second verse that says “plans were drawn and concrete poured, nail by nail and board by board; Daddy gave life to Momma’s dreams” is practically perfect. I overheard a Nashville songwriter I respect tremendously say that it was a master class for songwriters.

As do most great songs, it covers universal themes in fresh ways that just about anybody can understand and feel.  So of course, when I heard the song for the first time, animated images played through my mind like an 8mm home movie.  Only these images didn’t tell the story from the song, instead they told my story.

The house that built me was on Kendall Circle in Gulfport, Ms and like much of the town that built me;  Katrina didn’t mind her manners and leave it in better shape than when she found it.  In July of 2005, just a few weeks before she made landfall, I went back to Gulfport for a high school reunion. Since my parents moved away in the early 90s, this was my first visit in over a decade to what will forever be known as ‘my hometown’.  Of course, I took advantage of the time to retrace many of my steps.  In addition to driving by the schools, visiting the tennis club where I spent many summers working and attending the church I grew up in, I drove by (more than a few times) ‘our’ house.

Of course it was so different than the house I remember. It was so much smaller in life than it was in memory.  How did our family of six fit in it? At some point, someone painted it a shade of green that I didn’t particularly care for.   The little sapling I remember watching my Dad plant in the front yard was shockingly at it’s full grown towering height.  The odds of that tree surviving our family weren’t good considering some sport savvy neighborhood kid figured out that it not only was the obvious place for first base on our imaginary baseball field that spanned 3 front yards but you could also run halfway to 2nd without ever ‘letting go’ of first.

As I sat in my car hoping no one was calling the police with my rental cars’ license plate numbers, the memories flooded in. Memories of family holidays and weeknight meals, and friends spending the night, of floral wallpaper and a pink and purple bathroom and my Mamma’s beautiful back yard that was conveniently catty cornered to ours.

As I looked around the block, I mentally revisited afternoons catching crawdads and tadpoles in the ditch behind the house that will be forever ‘the Smith’s” in my mind even though they’d moved from the street long before we did.  I remembered listening to “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” on the jukebox in Mrs. Hydes art studio, and playing at the Frazier’s, Myricks, or Carraway’s houses, tennis in Amy’s driveway and watching Mr. Ward work on his antique light fixtures in his backyard shop.  The previously mentioned baseball field morphed into a football and soccer pitch depending on the season and there was an ever changing group of neighborhood kids and their friends engaged in the sport du jour after school.  I could almost watch my pre-teen bicycling self furiously peddling down the drive early on adventurous summer mornings only to return me home minutes after the sun went down hoping I wouldn’t be in trouble.

Lest I be tempted to rewrite history, I should tell you life in our house on Kendall Circle wasn’t perfect. Maybe that’s too obvious to say since I already mentioned that 6 very different but related human beings and any number of additional friends occupied that modestly sized space regularly.  The house was home to not just a few shouting matches, bouts with illnesses like chicken pox, the mysterious throat disease and many post-operative recoveries were made there.  We grieved for grandparents and family pets in those walls and lived through the many dramas life throws at a family over the course of more than a decade.  Every memory wasn’t happy but they all made that house ours.

A month or so later I drove through the neighborhood for the third time in over a decade with my Dad as we surveyed Katrina’s handiwork.  You see, Gulfport was also the town that built him.  After we toured in silence the almost unrecognizable neighborhood I grew up in, we drove down to old Gulfport and the neighborhoods he grew up in.  As we drove through the devastated streets, I imagine his own home movies were playing in his mind as he would point to houses and say that’s the house so and so lived in.  Of course, what he meant to say was that’s the lot where there used to be a house that used to house a family that he knew.

I’d already been back a few weeks before on a ‘pitch in and help’ trip so I was prepared for the enormous piles of debris, the empty lots, the houses moved into the middle of the street.  I could point out that just because the house on Kendall Circle looked OK from the outside, if you looked into the windows, you could see that it was oddly lit on the inside because you could see through to the back yard.  Only then could you notice the interior walls were just studs. It was hard to watch him take it all in.

As we made our way down Courthouse Road and (illegally) onto 2nd st and then onto Hwy 90, it seemed like we’d seen the worst but neither of us was prepared for the site of the church that built me and the downtown library that lay decimated across the street. All the storm left behind of the church were steel beams, the northern walls, shards of stained glass and ruined choir music.  She took the pews and the organ and pipes and the pulpit and communion table.  At first it felt like she took everything from those buildings that had meaning to me.  But after the 2nd time walking around the rubble, I realized I was wrong.  What mattered to me was still there.

Memories quickly came to life of choir practices and my first terrified and shaky solo performances, of Sunday School teachers, and ministers, Vacation Bible Schools and Wednesday night dinners, of walking the aisle and being baptized at the same time as my sister by Dr. Keith.  The library was still the site of weekly trips with my Mamma and Pappa because they knew how much I loved reading and where they always let me throw a coin into the koi ponds and make big wishes.

I am thankful that memories that make up a life  aren’t damaged by hurricane force winds and water or even tidal waves.

I am thankful for music and for songs that bring life back to faded memories.

But more than that, I’m thankful for the many moments spent with people who made my life richer and who helped me discover who I wanted to be when I grew up.

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My Latest Pursuit of Health

Last Monday I gave up caffeine, sugar and other ‘white’ carbs indefinitely and limiting my carb intake overall.  I’ve learned a lot in the first week that I thought I’d share.

I should start by explaining why I started this journey.  After talking with a friend a few weeks ago about health issues she’s faced and the consequent diet changes she’s  successfully making, I began to wonder if I was closer down the road of Type 2 Diabetes than I wanted to believe.  I had hypoglycemia as a teen and since then I’ve been regularly screened for diabetes.  But lately there have been spells  of just not feeling right and other symptoms that I know are in line with pre-diabetes or insulin resistance.

At my friend’s recommendation, I bought a blood glucose monitor and began checking my levels for about 4-5 days to see what was going on in my body. Of course, numbers mean nothing if you don’t have a context to put them in so I also started doing research.  First stop was the American Diabetes Association’s website for information on Type 2 diabetes and then further on pre-diabetes or insulin resistance.  I also found a bunch of sites for people living with diabetes that I have found tremendously informative and not just a little confusing because there are lots of varying opinions. But that’s for another blog.

Armed with this info and some great advice from my friend, I identified the ideal range I was targeting to keep my levels in.  The ADAs recommended range is actually a little more generous than the one I’m targeting right now but I figure that leaves room for an occasional splurges or the unexpected high blood sugar from stress but would keep my average levels well within the healthy range on average.

I should mention, I’m not advocating dealing with diabetes or even pre-diabetes without the care of a medical doctor.  My numbers are high but they don’t seem to be outrageously high and pretty quickly I realized that making different food changes got my numbers back in line.  I don’t particularly want a pre-diabetes diagnosis in my medical record if i can help it and I certainly don’t want a Type 2 diabetes one there unless it is something I can’t deal with apart from prescription help.  That and the fact I’m terrified of needles so the idea of letting this get worse and ending up needing insulin shots motivates me to try and get a handle on this through life change first.  So I plan on trying this until my annual physical in September and if at that point the test come back high because I wasn’t able to manage it on my own, then I’ll try my doctor’s plan…

Simply by watching my levels in the morning, before I eat and 90 min. to 2 hours after a meal, I’ve learned a lot about how my body deals with different kinds of food. This will be a process of learning but in just the first 4-5 days I quickly realized that sugar, white bread and white potatoes are not my friends! I also realized that my coffee drinking might be masking the messages my body was sending me about how I was feeling. Changes were definitely needed.

For the first time in a lifetime of ‘diets’ I really am faced with making changes for the sake of my health and long-term quality of life.  Turns out this is the difference maker!  I just reviewed my log and noticed that the last 4 days I’ve stayed within my target range after meals!  And that includes going to Chuy’s last night where I had some chips and fish tacos that had flour tortillas.

So here are some lessons I’ve learned:

1. Getting off caffeine hurts. Yes, I’m stating the obvious because it really can’t be over communicated. I had to take Excedrin on the 4th day because my headache got so bad. Thankfully since then headaches have been minor and intermittent not constant.  I still have moments of feeling sluggish.  And my body still wants coffee at 3pm in the afternoon almost like I’ve trained it to expect it!  But I think I’m past the worst of that. For me hot herb tea has been a good alternative. It’s certainly not the same as a good cup of coffee but it’ll do.

2. Exercise drops your blood sugar. For me, that means when I walk in the morning, I need to eat something before I go that will raise my blood sugar a little so it won’t go too low.  Otherwise, you feel really sick!  I think this is only because when I wake up NOW,  it is in the lower part of the range where I feel good, a week ago that wasn’t true.  On the other hand, I found that if it was a little high after I eat dinner, a walk around the block can bring it down some.

3.  You gotta have a plan. Again, I’m stating the obvious.  I’m learning this as I go but my first lesson was to have healthy snacks on hand because you need mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. FYI, the Word Entertainment vending machine doesn’t have any no-carb/sugar snacks available!  I think you want to make sure you have some things you really like of the things that are good for you. Secret weapon: Dark chocolate cocoa covered almonds (monitor your portions though!)  I haven’t felt at all deprived other than the cravings for sugar & caffeine.

This kind of diet really requires making meals. I can’t just make a quick sandwich or have a bowl of cereal for dinner anymore.  There are days I don’t want to cook when I get home.  So I’m working on options to have on hand to make a quick meal that is within my chosen diet. I also am gonna have to discipline myself to pack a lunch to take to work.  Those days where I would have quickly run through a fast food option to eat at my desk were rare but that’s not an option anymore. So I need an eat at my desk plan.

4.  Baby steps. You can’t make every change necessary in the first week so pick a few things and focus on them.  I probably picked a few more than I’d recommend but it’s been doable so far.

5.  Healthy eating is expensive! The Farmer’s Market is a much more affordable place to buy fresh vegetables & fruits.  And they taste better.

6.  Don’t set yourself up for failure! The other day I walked into Panera to pick up a quick salad to eat at my desk (review #6) and as I was starving, waiting in line and overwhelmed with the smell of baked goods I realized what an idiot I was.  I couldn’t get that salad and get out of there quick enough.  I escaped without a cinnamon roll but it was a close call!

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Book Review: Pete Wilson’s “Plan B: What to Do When God doesn’t Show Up the Way you Thought He Would”

I should begin by saying Plan B wasn’t exactly what I thought it’d be. Honestly, even though I’d followed Pete on twitter for quite awhile and know many who go to his church, I fully expected to find a book about the unexpected difficulties of life from a pastor, even one with cool hair,  to include a good bit of platitudes and well meaning words and a tendency to blink and ignore the pain that often still remains even in the midst of knowing “God is in control”, “God is good” and “Jesus loves you”.  Shame on me for pre-judging because this book really spoke truth to me and encouraged me without talking down to me.

By just reading the title of my blog, you will know that I am not a stranger to the ideas of unfulfilled expectations.  I selfishly hoped this book would be “for me” and from the first page it felt like it was written straight to my situation. I suspect you will too.

I know that everyone reading this review has faced some kind of deep disappointment whether it’s the loss of someone you loved deeply, the loss of a job, the loss of a marriage or another dream.  The book deals unflinchingly with those disappointments and even tragedies by telling both real life messy stories from his experience and messy stories of people highlighted in the Bible.  It also un-apologetically brings those situations along side the truth found in God’s word. There’s no happy little wrap up to make it all nice and neat beyond than the thread of understanding that just because it is your Plan B doesn’t mean that it’s God’s and He will walk with you and work through even this for you good and His glory.

Pete’s writing style is very much like a casual conversation with a close friend.  I couldn’t get through a chapter without thinking of someone who would benefit from reading this book.   It would be a great tool for a group to read through together and the questions in the back would provide the outline for some compellingly honest conversations.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Lack of reports to the contrary,there was a flood. News at 11 – oh, wait…

Does a tragedy happen if there are no national media video cameras, producers, on camera personalities there to capture it and package it for their television viewers?    Yes, it does.  And this doesn’t begin to tell the story.   Shame on you ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, and CNN and all the rest.

You have failed at your job miserably.  But no one will know will they?  That’s what you hope at least.

If you’re not a member of the national media and you actually want to help, here are some ways you can:

Hands on Nashville are coordinating volunteer efforts for the city.  There are also ways to donate if you are from out-of-town.

Here are some churches that are actively digging in and doing the dirty work.  They know where needs are.

Cross Point Church – in Nashville

Conduit Church – in Franklin/Williamson County

Buy a t-shirt and all proceeds after costs for shirt & shipping will go to local charities already engaged on the ground.  My dear friend and graphic designer thought of this and is putting it together with the help of great people.  They are still working out the logistics but you will know how much $$ will go to which charities before they ask you for $$ to buy the shirt.  I love this grass-roots effort to get the message out and get some support quicker than the big organizations can get it out.

Wear the shirt and show people you know there was a tragedy and you care that a lot of people were affected in significant ways whether or not the media chooses  to tell the story.

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The aftermath of losing a job

A couple of years I ago I had pleasure of losing a job with a company I’d worked with for a dozen years give or take. It was an awful, awkward, humiliating, freeing, challenging, and a growing season.  It’s not my favorite memory but it’s part of the journey that got me where I am today.  And I’m in a job I’m excited about and work with people I enjoy and I’m doing work that inspires me.  I’m pretty much over it … except when the occasional awkward encounter would remind me that I’m not.

My situation was unusual.  The whole story wasn’t told nor should it have been. It wasn’t for the masses.  I have no idea what people think happened; which to a control freak like me is disconcerting.     Because of the way things went down, questions occasionally come up in conversation.  It’s awkward but survivable. It’s usually pretty easy to side step the land mines and change the subject.  Those moments sting but they don’t leave a mark.

The worst scenario is when you run into coworkers for the first time.  12ish years with a company is a long time. You get to know lots of people in varying capacities and some of those people cross the line between co-worker and friend. It hurts when people you considered friends don’t reach out to you after that situation. It’s even more hurtful when years go by and they never reached out to you.  I know there are lots of reasons people don’t and it’s not all personally directed at me.  But it sure is hard not to take it that way.

So I find myself face to face and the loudest conversation is one going on in my head over the “it’s great to see you” chit chat. Seems like those moments are harder for me to navigate because I can’t help but respond emotionally, while I’m trying to keep my game face on the outside, I’m struggling with the emotional memories of hurt and betrayal layered on embarrassment and anger that the situation created.  It’s hard not to spiral down into a puddle of self pity right there.  Even though I’m happy where I am and for the most part I’ve moved on from the situation, one unplanned for encounter takes me right back to all those feelings.

I care less about the embarrassment and awkwardness than I do about my response to it.  I’ll be honest, it’s hard for me NOT to allow bitterness to build and resentment to take hold.  I don’t want to carry that around.  I want to leave all that behind and move forward.  But dang, it’s hard.

I wonder how much time passes before you stop feeling this way?

If you know someone who has lost a job, give them some time to get over it and then give them a call or send them a text or an email. It’s nice to be acknowledged as a person who’s going through a difficult time .  It’s nice to be reminded you’re not just a person who did a job that had something to do with their job who no longer works in the next office over.   I didn’t know that before.  I do now.

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To adopt or not to adopt: that is the question.

If you’ve read my about me page or my Loving the Life I Never Wanted post, you know it’s no secret that Plan A for my life included having a family of my own as the foundation for everything else.  That vision always included the idea of adopting children. At the risk of belaboring the point, life didn’t exactly play out the way I thought.  Not news to anyone – good or bad.  Just the way it is.

And while I am coming to terms with my life the way it is. I am kinda sorta content with my life. And yet, I can’t get away from the thought of adopting on my own. It’s been a thought that I’ve entertained on and off for the last 10 years.  At 32 I thought, well if I find myself closer to 40 and still single, then I’ll think about it.  Of course, that deadline has come and gone.  And while nothing is ever permanently settled, my life is as settled as it’s ever been.  Which leaves me asking, if not now, when?  Do I have a real reason not to do this?

If I decide to move forward, I will explore adopting a child from the foster care system first.  Since I’ve been a foster parent before, I at least have some experience with that system.  Beyond the obvious obstacles or questions like finances,  support systems; what are the real issues I need to contend with?

Issues I am thinking/praying through in no particular order:

1.  What would people think.  I hate to admit it but I care.  If I adopt, I don’t want it to be seen as some big statement about what I think about traditional families. I know there are lots of opinions about whether single women should adopt or not.  I have questions myself but I worry that people would project opinions on me that might not be my own.  I realize I can’t control this one bit and probably shouldn’t let it worry me.  But it does.

2. In view of the woman who put her adopted child back on a plane to Russia, I have to ask if I have what it takes to stick it out whatever comes even if there are seriously difficult issues.

3.  Is this more about me needing to be a Mom than it is about a child who needs to be loved because I think any child deserves it to be more about them than it is about me.  Maybe I’m too selfish after all these years of living a life that has mostly been all about me.

4.  Is this me trying to play God? Is this me not wanting to take a ‘no’ from God as the final word.  Is this a lack of faith or patience? What if the reason he didn’t give me the things I’ve prayed decades for is he has a different future in mind and I’m avoiding embracing it by forcing my own stubborn will.

5.  I may be too old to start this.  Some of my friends children have children.  Really?!  Can I be old enough to be a grandmother technically and seriously consider this?

What am I missing?  Is this me over thinking or is it even possible to over think something this monumental?  I’m open for wise counsel but mostly prayer support!

Posted in Me thinking outloud about Me, Singular Perspectives | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

New Seasons inevitably bring new starts

Tulips in Central Park

When the temperature warms and the spring flowers start blooming, it’s seems as if the whole earth is screaming it’s time for a do-over. It doesn’t seem to matter how gray and ugly things get by the end of winter, in my observation, spring makes things either beautiful or it shines a light on it’s potential for beauty through change.

This year I find myself wanting a little bit of a do-over myself.  As I find myself  contemplating the things I’ve allowed to go dormant in my life, I am hopeful that a little life change of my own might bring forth a different kind of beauty.

With just a few minutes, a pen and blank piece of paper I could come up with a very long list of changes I want but if I strike out all the meaningless, superficial things I would change like the color of my kitchen, the color of my hair, the clothes in my closet, temporarily change my scenery to a beach locale, I’m left with some hard choices.  The most obviously needed change is my health and not insignificantly, my weight.

I’ve sworn never to ever again go on a diet.  I’ve succeeded at almost every diet I seriously attempted. At least for awhile.  And then I gained it all back and then some.  I’m glad I never kept a written record because if I looked at the grand total of pounds I’ve lost in my life I’d probably have a stroke and I don’t need another health concern to add to the list!    Something’s gotta give.

I don’t need Dr. Oz or Oprah to tell me more about weight loss.  I know what I need to know: burn more calories than you consume.  Genius.   So in order to exercise more, I’ve got to figure out how to do it without pain.  While I’m seriously doctor averse and have always been skeptical/terrified of chiropractors, I made an appointment to see if something can be done so I can exercise without chronic pain. One I figure the pain out, we can figure out the exercise plan.  If he can do something about my headaches, that’d be awesome  too!  Step one.

As for the consuming less calories part of the equation, I threw out the ‘bad food’ and went shopping for all the foods I already know I should be eating. I picked up healthy food for breakfast, healthy snack options for the office, stuff to make my own lunch, fruits, vegetables, fish, etc.  No secret weapons unfortunately.  I refuse to use the ‘D’ word but there’s gotta be a change in my relationship with food!  Something’s gotta give and if it’s not this, it’ll be my health, right? Step two.

If the books and the tv talk shows are to be believed, right motivation  is key to successfully navigating this change.  Well, in that regard mine is a simple one.  I no longer have the naive notion that if I lose weight I’ll find myself a new life complete with adoring husband who loves the new beautiful thin me and children who would need the lithe, energetic me to chase them around our beautifully manicured backyard. Evidently, it wasn’t motivation enough even then. Now that I’m older and wiser or at least more realistic, I simply want to be able to live the life I have fully.  I want to be able to take care of myself as long as it’s within my power and I’m pretty sure walking up two flights of stairs without being winded is part of that.  I want to be active and able to enjoy my friends and my family for the days that I am given; however many that may be.  Yes, something’s definitely got to give because the road I’m on won’t take me there.

The catch is that starting  change is always the easy part.   Following through is another matter entirely.  Especially for people like me. But excuses don’t bring change.  Talking about things or typing about them don’t bring change either. Only one choice at a time will.  So here goes.  Something is gonna give.

What kinds of tricks do you have to share to with me to help me stick with it and dare I say it, once and for all get to a healthier state?

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