Freak In The Sheets

My mother tells a story of when I was about 5 years old. She heard a noise in the middle of the night. She got out of bed to go investigate and noticed I wasn’t in my bedroom. She then walked into the kitchen and found me pushing a baby doll stroller back and forth with a dazed look on my face. Sounds like stuff out of a scary movie. She said I had no memory of it the next morning.

My friends from school have stories of me sitting up in bed and talking about random things during the night when we had sleepovers.

My husband most often gets to witness my bizarre behavior during my sleep. Mostly talking nonsense in the middle of the night and sitting up in bed sleeping. Once he got up and found me in the kitchen rummaging through cabinets. I’m not sure what that was about.

I’ve had seasons of insomnia for as long as I can remember. My mind won’t shut off. The daily stresses of life always seem to create the most sleep stopping thoughts right about bedtime.

My typical insomnia-fest routine looks something like this:

Lay in bed, eyes closed, hoping I’ll fall asleep.

Start hearing noises. Assume someone is trying to break in my house. Get up and check door locks. Double check to make sure alarm system is on. Peek in the kid’s bedrooms to make sure they are still in there. Give the dog the ‘you let me know if you see anything fishy’ look.

Go back to bed to stare at ceiling.

Pinterest

In no certain order my mind then begins to relive conversations, contemplate if my son’s dentist appointment is tomorrow or the next day, think about upcoming social events, kick myself for something dumb I said to someone, what I’ll wear, did I remember to send in the enrollment form for my daughter’s next thing, etc., etc….

Fall back to sleep approximately 45 minutes before alarm goes off to start the day.

What ticks me off the most is when my husband is in the bed, has been in a deep sleep since 30 seconds after hitting the pillow and is clearly not thinking about a thing. Hateful Amanda wants to jerk the pillow out from under his head and make him talk to me about chemicals or monthly EBITDA goals. That talk normally spaces me out and has me sleeping with my eyes open within seconds. Nice Amanda doesn’t do that. She just stares at the ceiling and listens to him snore

When I mention my insomnia to friends and they respond with ‘try some melatonin’ or ‘don’t drink caffeine’ I nearly want to punch them because I’ve already taken enough melatonin to induce a coma and haven’t had caffeine in months yet still sleep evades me. No remedy helps, no cocktail that is promised to help me sleep works.

The biggest problem with me not getting sleep is that being tired for too long makes me emotionally fragile. The outcome resembles the same attitude of when I’m overly hungry and the restaurant is being slow with the food. You have been warned.

This week during my middle-of-the-night-reading-something-anything moments I happened upon this scripture. Pretty confident it wasn’t just by coincidence that I stumbled upon this specific verse out of all the verses in the bible.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Therein lies my problem.

My lack of trust. Lack of faith. My attempts to depend on myself and do it on my own. Falling into the reoccurring problem of people pleasing. That’s what keeps me up at night, not insomnia.

Upon this lightbulb moment, I began to pray…silently, so not to wake Mr Sleeping Beauty. I say something along the lines of ‘Thank you for taking this. Thank you for caring about the details of what worries me. Thank you for promising to give me rest. I need it. I’m so sorry for making this harder on myself than it needs to be. I must be hard for you to watch. Please forgive me for forgetting how much more full my life would be if I would just trust you more.’ I then begin to have a conversation (prayer) silently in my head of what’s really eating at me and ask him to take it. He already knows anyway so I lay it all out no matter how petty. I tell him I don’t want to worry about some frustration I have with a friend. That I’m really tired of being worried about how many calories I consumed that day. How I’m worried about how someone else will act at a meeting. Everything. I go into detail of each and every thing and thank him for taking it.

The most intriguing of this to me is that I fell asleep during this prayer. If it were anyone else offering to be dumped on and I fell asleep while dumping they would be offended, but I think in this case that it must be a promise being fulfilled from God. Maybe when he sees me finally throwing up my hands and surrendering and trusting him he gives me the desire of my heart. Sleep.

I woke up the next morning, realized I fell asleep during the prayer and felt exactly what he promised. Refreshed and new.

Before anyone comments let me say that insomnia is a real medical condition that people really have. It’s miserable to want to sleep and not be able to. I, however, wasn’t suffering from insomnia. I was suffering from a self-induced, perfectionistic method of trying to be in control over what I most often had no control over.

I’m the child of a king. I can sleep well at night!

And now I do.

Until the next time.

Spinny Chairs

I have never been a fan of American Idol. I watched the first couple seasons way back when Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson were judges, but stopped watching because I couldn’t stand how mean they were to the contestants. I agreed with them many times, but I would have found a less abrasive way to tell the brave contestants they have no singing ability rather than making soul crushing remarks of rejection to them. Call it my southern upbringing, but being rude is never attractive. Simon would famously criticize the appearance of a contestant, telling them they don’t look the part forgetting it was a singing competition, not a beauty contest. He even would laugh at some people, like he did with the super talented Susan Boyle, for their un-Hollywood like style. This started a trend for all the other singing shows that have spring boarded off American Idol’s fame. They are all the same. Is there a rule somewhere that all singing reality shows must feature three famous celebrity judges, one of which is required to be a royal ass?

There is a show that has taken my fancy. The Voice. It looks the same as all the others at first glance. They have four celebrity judges (Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams) who listen to countless numbers of aspiring singers and critique the artists’ performances. Each judge chooses contestants to be on their team by sitting in spinning chairs with big red buttons in front of them. If they like what they hear they push the button, spinning their chair around to reveal the identity of the singer. For the remainder of the season the chosen contestants work with their judge (coach) and compete against each other until a winner is ultimately selected at the season finale. What makes this show different and endearing is that the judges don’t get to see the contestants until after they have chosen them for their team. It has zero to do with appearance of performer and 100% to do with their performance….imagine that. If more than one judge chooses the contestant, the contestant can choose which judge’s team he/she would like to be on. That’s another one of my favorite parts of the show. In that case the judges vying for the contestant usually try to use flattery to persuade them to join their team. It’s fun to watch the awkward 22 year old IHOP waitress from Kansas stand there and watch as Adam and Pharrell fight over her. You can see the surreal experience playing out on her face. The show is refreshing in that every contestant gets a fair shot. It doesn’t matter what they look like. They are judged on talent.

One of the areas I volunteer in my community is in the student ministry at my church. Oh how I wish we could strap those teenagers in chairs and let them talk and get to know each other, not seeing the physical appearance until after conversation. Not until they’ve decided they want to push that red button and spin around. The spinny chairs would aid in developing more authentic and unlikely relationships. It would help cut those friendships that are mostly for status. It’s not just teenagers either. Adults do the same thing. We often gravitate towards people and form our friendships using the Simon Cowell method of judging. Relationships matter and life is just too short to be like Simon. He would pick contestants this week, then later eliminate them when their lack of talent becomes obvious. He passed up amazing contestants and chose some that weren’t as good based on the level of eye candy they offered. In contrast, Adam, for example, never seems to be negatively affected by the contestants surprise appearance because he has already fallen in love with their talent. The appearance is just an unimportant side note. His choices are more longstanding. It pains him to see them get eliminated as the season progresses because he chose them for honest reasons….being their singing ability.

My husband is the oldest of 5 siblings. His parents both worked to keep a roof over their heads, but there was never much extra money left for anything not necessary. He had clothes to wear to school, but it wasn’t the stonewashed Guess jeans that everyone had or the latest pair of Nikes. He remembers how he was judged by how he looked by kids he went to school with. One story that he always tells is of a teacher who made fun of him in middle school. He recalls wearing a pair of sweats this particular day and being picked on by kids because he had a hole in the knee of them. When a teacher overheard this instead of defending him he started making jokes with the bullies and teasing him as well. He talks of how much that embarrassed him and made him feel less than the other students. Flash forward 20+ years and my husband is with some business associates at a restaurant when he spots that teacher at another table eating. He walked over, shook Mr. Jerkface’s hand and asked him if he remembered him. He told him that he was a former student of his. The teacher didn’t remember so he told him his name. That’s when the old, balding, now retired teacher’s mouth dropped open. He did remember him. He couldn’t believe who that boy from his class so many years ago had become. The teacher seemed impressed, asked him where he went to college, asked what he does for a living and congratulated him on his accomplishments. My husband told him thanks for being part of putting that drive in him to succeed. When the teacher thanked him and asked him how he did that my husband told him something like this: “Because you made fun of me when I was in your class for what I was wearing. I was just a kid and it was all I had to wear that day. School was hard enough for me, but your comment that day made me more determined to prove everyone wrong. So thanks.” The teacher seemed obviously shocked and apologized having no memory of that happening. I wish that man had a spinny chair back when my husband was in his middle school class. He could have without unfair comparison clearly heard how smart, driven and ambitious his student was. He would have definitely hit that red button and not cared as much about the pants the kid was wearing.

We all want to be judged fairly. We hope that someone will look past our outward imperfections and see us for who we are. The person who offers that to us esteems themselves even higher when that happens. That person is an encouragement to us and adds fuel to our passions and talents. It builds us up and makes us better. When we offer that to others we discover relationships that are valuable and real. Most of us don’t look like the photoshopped images we see on the magazine covers, but we are all gifted with abilities that are unique to us. Not judging a book by it’s cover is easier said than done, but worth the effort. It’s win-win.

Would anyone choose Simon over Adam? If you know of anyone who would please let me know. I want to talk to them. As their friend you may consider having a heart to heart conversation with them. Friends don’t let friends admire Simon Cowell.

50 Shades Of Magic Mike Grey

I logged onto social media recently and saw a petition going that was being shared. It seems there is a new movie about to premiere that features graphic love scenes and unchristian like values. Kind of like every other movie released. It has women talking about how perverse the new movie, 50 Shades of Grey, is. (I wonder how they know so much about it. Read the book perhaps?) By signing the petition I, as a Christian, agree that I’ll join them in not watching it. The blog attached to the petition was from a Christian woman expressing how the movie is basically like cheating on your husband, by committing adultery in your heart from lustful thoughts the movie would create in your mind. What the what? She went on to talk about how it has what love really means all wrong and is degrading to women. Yes, I agree with that, but I’m still waiting to hear how this movie was selected as the poster child for Christians to boycott when it’s by far not the first or the last to have a non-biblical relationship showcased. I agree on many points, Christian Grey is not the kind of guy I hope that my daughter ever meets one day. However, I can make a long list of other fictional movie characters that I’d rather her not date too. (Dr. Hannibal Lecter comes to mind as being top of the fictional creeper list of people I never want to call me Mom.) I understand the thought behind blog/petition and I think it was drawn up with good intent. I also fully support people’s right to express their own opinion (hence this blog). My knee jerk response to this blog/petition request is to say, “I’ll watch it if I want to. You aren’t better than me. Don’t tell me what to do.”

It brought to mind Chick Fila circa 2012. I’m a vegetarian and wouldn’t consider eating their chicken, but I do love their waffle fries and peach tea. As a good Christian girl, I’m expected to eat there because apparently they are owned by a Christian and are closed on Sundays. I’m cool with playing along with that because, as I said, I really like their waffle fries. That all changed when somebody there said something that branded them as anti-gay. A big group of Christians decided the best way to show love would be to spend a bunch of money on chicken in support of them. The drive thru line was backed out to the street. Facebook was exploding with petitions to sign in favor of eating at Chick Fila. The media had a field day with it. Conan O’Brien tweeted “This Chic-Fil-A scandal has got me worried. I want to go to Arby’s but I don’t know where they stand on the unrest in Syria.” THIS is what Christians decided to picket about? Seriously???

Take a 5 min look at the opening story of the news any day of the week and you will hear stories of innocent people being beheaded in Syria, sex trafficking, boats searching the sea for a black box or gang related crimes. But please, by all means, let’s put all of our effort into policing what movie will turn me into an adulteress if I watch or where I should buy chicken. I look at all this and feel deeply saddened knowing this is among the reasons why people are so turned off by the church and their perceived narrow minded viewpoints. I wonder how many people look at this kind of thing unfold in the media and are filled with a burning desire to check out what this whole Christianity thing is all about. I’d imagine not many. If I am repulsed by it, then I’d guess anyone who is not a believer would be so even more.

I am much more inclined to follow someone who lives a life of goodness and integrity. One I can admire by seeing how they handle life situations, not one who tells me how to handle mine. One who is salt of the earth and lives in a way that attracts by how they live rather than what they say. One who shows love and offers advice when asked, but doesn’t cast judgment because they don’t assume they have all the right answers. That’s the kind of Christianity that might draw some positive attention. What I choose to wear, eat, read or watch at the theater, for example, is a matter of personal preference and conviction….and honestly none of anyone’s business. There are just bigger fish to fry. We should certainly take a stand against injustices! When we speak up, however, let’s make our voices heard in a way which makes progress for the greater good….things that really matter. Christian on Christian shaming is wrong. Can we agree that some things really do have grey areas? (pun intended)

2015: 8 Pounds of Winter Happiness

My New Year’s Resolutions don’t involve weight loss. Here’s the thing. I really don’t care as much what I look like when my pale white legs that haven’t been shaved in 4 days are covered with leggings and tall boots. I try not to stress when I gain my winter 8 because those 8 pounds will be layered with a sweater, scarf and coat. I’ll work out and count every calorie that goes in my mouth beginning in February through the 1st week of October. For the next 3 or 4 weeks I’m content being the doughy girl who forgets her fitness app’s password and keeps a steady diet of sugary goodness in her belly. I will reset my password on MyFitnessPal and squeeze into spandex soon enough.

I have, however, been thinking of what I can begin doing tomorrow that will make me a better person in 2015 if I keep it up throughout the year. Here’s what I came up with.

FIrst: If I’m not part of the story or part of the solution to the problem at hand then I don’t want to talk about it. Gossip damages relationships. It shatters trust. It causes us to harbor resentment. It only allows for one side of the story. It makes us turn into narcissist, thinking that every time certain people are together they must be talking about us. Also, I’ve found it to be true that if someone will gossip to you, they will gossip about you. We have to have friends that we can share our frustrations with and get advice from about relationships in our life, but the line needs to be drawn when the story is not mine. If the story isn’t mine then I shouldn’t be telling it.

Second: Speak kinder. I recently read an African proverb that simply said “The axe forgets. The tree remembers.” How wise that person was to have put such a grand thought into such a simple phrase. The words that haunt me are most likely words that the person who said them doesn’t even remember. They were most likely spoken without any thought given to them. When I was in elementary school there was a boy who called me fish lips because of how full my lips are. I ran into him recently and he now has his own family and was very nice when speaking to me. The entire time he spoke to me I felt self-conscious of my lips. I’m certain that if I had told him how much he hurt my feelings by calling me names that he would have looked at me confused having no idea what I was talking about. My 2nd resolution is to think often on that short but powerful proverb……I don’t want to be an axe.

and Finally: Martin Luther King was quoted as saying, “Let no man pull you low enough to hate them.” As sort of a part two to my previous resolution I want to not only intentionally speak kinder, but also to let go of the unkind words already spoken. Once, just a few years ago, I was deeply hurt by the words of someone and was discussing it with my dad. He told me to forgive them. I asked him how I was supposed to forgive them of something they’re not sorry for. He told me, “You don’t have to get an apology from him to forgive him.” It sounds silly as that is something I should already know, but it did change my thinking on the matter. If I sat around waiting for that person to feel bad for their actions and say sorry I’d be an old lady still holding out on an apology which will never come. The hurt eventually turns to sadness which turns to resentment which stirs up hate in my heart. The person at fault not only said something hurtful but now would have my emotions held captive creating negativity in my life. I can’t let that happen.

That’s enough for me to have swimming in my head for 2015. Not gossiping, speaking kinder and letting go of past hurts is something I can work at. Hopefully at the end of next year I can see how it improved my life and those around me. Now I’ll go back to eating the leftover Christmas M&Ms. So happy my resolutions this year don’t require me to get off the couch today.

Trash Lady

This summer as I sat on a therapist couch I recall sputtering something like this, “I don’t know what my problem is. I have a great husband and 2 amazing kids. I have something nice to drive and somewhere nice to live. I’ve never worried about where my next meal would come from. I’m healthy. Why is there a constant tugging at my soul to be gone….not be dead or run away, but just to evaporate?” The poor guy worked hard for his money when he agreed to take me on as a client. To summarize what he has told me over the timespan of several hours on that couch in his office, is that I’m a “bootstrapper”, as he calls it, when it comes to being able to turn off emotion and focus on task. He says I am naturally wired to be heavy in the compassion and guilt fields. He concludes that all this makes me “lower case neurotic”, which is much better than upper case neurotic or the dreaded ALL CAPS NEUROTIC, I suppose. He gave me a homework assignment that we would discuss on my next visit. The homework was to read a book and make a list of self-observations. He had me write down each time I felt bad about something, no matter how small, and what happened that made me have that feeling.

On the next visit we discussed the book, went through my list and concluded that I was pretty much feeling guilty all the time and most of the time for no logical reason. It all came down to two major problems that were about to send me to the looney bin if not put under control. Problem #1: I am a people pleaser. Problem #2: I suffer from false guilt.

I now have a short list of 3 bullet points that I keep written down on a piece of paper in my nightstand and as well as ingrained in my mind so I can recall whenever the situation arises. I’ve learned as I’ve began to implement these new rules for my life, that it’s taken some of the pressure off.

  1. I do not have to keep people who treat me badly in my life. I’ve learned the hard way that when a tiger shows me his stripes, I better believe him the 1st time. This isn’t to say that I shouldn’t forgive someone when they wrong me. It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t give 2nd chances. It simply means that it is okay to intentionally not have someone in my life that causes me repeated pain.
  2. I make my choices based on my own desires and passions, not out of obligation. As long as my choices are in line with what God would want for me then it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of it. There are certainly times in life that I am called to die to my own wants and make a sacrifice to help others. However, I can say no….and not feel guilty about it.
  3. I can voice my opinion even if it’s different from yours. It’s never okay for me to be rude to you. It’s not okay for you to be rude to me. We can still love each other even if we aren’t in perfect sync. Not expressing my opinion and just agreeing with your opinions will only cause me to be resentful and angry with you without you ever even knowing about it. Let’s just agree that it really is okay to disagree.

There are some people that even if I did everything they asked every time they asked, forgave them over and over for the same bad behavior and smiled while doing so, they would still have a problem with me. Can’t win them all…..shouldn’t try. I’m hard wired to be guilt prone. I’ll always struggle with it. However, when I strive to please God, not focusing on what others may think, I find peace. I still have days I want to evaporate. This year in particular has had more evaporation wishes than the norm, but there is a calmness in the madness when I remember who I aim to please. I’m finding since beginning to establish these boundaries that I feel more respected. Funny how that works. Sometimes I’m met with resistance, but the people who are meant to be in my life quickly love me in spite of (and maybe even because of) my new guidelines. The ones who become offended only do so because they are used to me being a doormat.

I was not taking out my emotional trash. We all have it, but I wasn’t taking mine to the curb by 6am on Friday every week so that the garbage man….sorry, I mean so that the sanitary disposal technician could come by to haul it off. Instead I was compacting my trash down and throwing more on top then mashing that down and adding more until it spilled all over the floor leaving me a rotten stinking hot mess on a little beige couch in a therapist’s office. Hopefully, this new outlook will keep me from moving to upper case neurotic.

Hot Mess Mamas

Today is the 20th anniversary of Susan Smith driving her car, with her two little boys strapped in the backseat, into a lake. She told police she was carjacked, but later confessed to the murders. She is serving a life sentence in a South Carolina prison. I remember being a young college student, who didn’t have a clue what being a mother was like, watching that story and thinking what a terrible person she must be. Today, as a mother of two, I still have the same thoughts on that judgment of her actions, but I can understand how a mother, especially one with mental instability, could snap. I wonder if Ms Smith had anyone to encourage her, to offer to bare some of her load or to get good advice from. I feel like women like her who make the headlines with their horrific parental decisions probably all share the common characteristic of loneliness. I wonder if she never told anyone of her struggles because she was afraid of being judged.

For this reason, I’ve decided to make an intentional effort to support the mom’s in my life. Full disclosure… women who give their toddlers Mountain Dew in sippy cups, smoke cigarettes in cars with their kids in the backseat or do anything on a list of things one can do that would cause social workers and/or the po-po to have a legit reason to show up at their door are exempt from my goal of becoming a non-judgmental mother of other mothers. I feel like those mom’s probably need advice from someone a couple pay grades above me whom would be able to give better counsel. Everyone else not included in that previous sentence should know that they have my support. I promise that I will try to not compare my parenting style to yours in a negative way. I will do my best to not say anything to you to deflate you as a mother. I’d ask you do the same for me. Even when I do something like make my kid finish their sandwich only to discover the bread was molded or when I let my 12 year old watch a PG-13 movie. Let’s work on supporting and building each other up. This could be the beginning of a great thing.

Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or work-a-job-that-mails-you-a-W2 mom, you have a tough job. I’ve had both of those positions and they both come with their own unique set of challenges. I was a stay-at-home mom to two of the smartest, most adorable chubby cheeked babies on the planet. I had that job for all of 18 months before I dang near lost my mind and needed a job out of the house. I went back to work and loved most every minute of it until those chubby cheeked babies turned into pre-teen middle schoolers and my attention was needed back home. Now, after several years, I’m back to doing the domestic engineer gig again. My have the times changed. The last time I stayed at home I was changing diapers and listening to Toy Story 2 on repeat during the course of the day until I cried. This go around I’m more of an unpaid taxi cab driver enduring kid’s hormonal craziness. One thing that didn’t change is the need to feel like I’m succeeding. The criticisms I get as a stay at home mom hurt as much as the ones I got for working.

I’m blessed with several great friends who are also mothers. I can call them and vent or ask for advice, and know that I won’t be judged by them. Whether you work outside the home or inside the home, only feed your kids homemade organic dinners or slide on two wheels through a drive thru window on your way home from the office you’re doing your best. Being a mother is a hard job no matter how you slice it. I’m so grateful for my judgment free mom friends. Like the one who told me, “It’s okay Amanda. You didn’t know. He didn’t die. It’s fine.” When I called her crying because my fussy son (he was 5 years old at the time) who I’d been telling to toughen up about his sore thumb for a whole week had actually broken his wrist and was now in a cast.

I think my favorite SNL alum says it best, “Obviously, as an adult I realize this girl-on-girl sabotage is the third worst kind of female behavior, right behind saying ‘like’ all the time and leaving your baby in a dumpster.”

What Halloween?

Happy Hallelujah / Trunk or Treat / Fall Festival (on Oct 31st) / Pumpkin Party (on Oct 31st). All are popular names for Halloween parties for churches. It’s basically a great way to hook families into engaging with them in a fun non-threatening way with hopes that something will spark their interest in returning for a visit on the following Sunday. I think this is great and is a wonderful use of resources. My problem is that the intention was to celebrate Halloween, while acting like they are not by the use of a play on words. Why can’t they just call it what it is; a Halloween party. This is a small example of how the unchurched can perceive the church as not authentic and hypocritical. It’s sort of the same thing as when my friend will say, “What the eff was he thinking?” I know what she was thinking. I know what she meant. I’m even impressed with her discipline of abbreviating the word, but I wonder how that is any better than actually saying what she means or refraining all together. The intention was there. Intent is even a legitimate defense in court. Someone that hits someone with intent to hurt them usually fares better than one that hits someone with the intent to kill.

To Halloween or not to Halloween is a controversial topic for Christians and I can appreciate both sides of the issue. Does being in the world, but not of the world mean celebrating a pagan holiday under the disguise of twisting the words of what they decide to call it so that it appears less worldly? When I look at Jesus’ ministry on earth I think about how he hung out with the sinners and met them where they were. He didn’t trick anyone into it. He didn’t participate in their sinful actions by joining in with them and calling it something different. I also doubt that he was changing the water to wine as a party trick around town to get people to church that week. People wanted to be around him due to his integrity and the authentic way he showed love and mercy to them. They came to believe by watching his miracles and listening to his message of hope. No gimmicks required.

Whatever your convictions about Halloween, I think that we should strive to be genuine. Call a spade a spade. So as for me and my family, we will celebrate Halloween…..and still go to church that week