The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning…or How My Brother and I are Tackling the Garage

There are so many new fads out there. Some of them stick and really do provide great results. Methods, procedures, lists,¬† exercise groups, you name it. You’ve already heard me gush about the Konmari Method…now let me introduce to you The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.

I’ll admit outright that I haven’t picked up the book and read it, but I’d read reviews and excerpts and think they’re on to something. But since my parents would never be the kind to browse a Barnes and Nobles and pick up a self-help book, especially one with such a title, I will need to…erm…evangelize them a different way. I plan to read the book soon, but it’ll be a library loan not a buy since I’m not needing it for this point in life for myself (not a homeowner).

The family house has a lot of stories in its bones. It has, at some point, housed ever single one of my mom’s siblings and my grandmother. There are rolls of fabric in the rafters from sewing days of old for one of my mom’s sisters. They started life here as refugees with nothing, and without accepting any government aid, just the generosity of a local church furnishing and helping them settle in, they went from an apartment to getting their own slice of the American dream: a nice modest house with a sizable backyard. One by one, however, these siblings married, had kids, and outgrew the living space and pursued a home of their own. That left my eldest Aunt and Grandmother in a home all alone, not really able to afford a mortgage once split 3-4 ways. So with some deep conversations, my parents decided to secure their living situation by moving out of their town and into that house.

Twenty-four years later, this memorable house is piled high with stuff. Stuff accumulates so fast. My grandmother has since passed, and my aunt had moved away for work purposes but intends to retire and live once again at the family house. That leaves three seniors in a home saturated with a lot of…junk. My brother and I are tackling the garage and slowly but surely taking it on knowing we can do it now and improve their quality of life, or let it continue and be stuck one day with overwhelming grief and many dumpsters to unload. So we are “gently” doing it now.

I’ve quietly sifted through the coat and towel closet in the living room and left it with breathing room. Replaced heavy fragile dishes with lightweight and extremely durable Correlle. They’ve installed grab bars in the bathroom for a bit later in life, and a built in shower bench with the last renovation. The newest couch has three recliners perfect for cat naps in the afternoon.

This garage though? It’s seen so many ebbs and flows of a semblance of organization and cleaning and then been filled to the brim again to the point it’s a fire hazard and nearly inaccessible as a route of escape in case of a fire. Last year, my brother and I installed a clothes drying rack for delicate clothes to air dry. We removed a large pesky second bookshelf, and used it to arrange the excess appliances. We piled my aunt’s boxes up high where leaks and spills wouldn’t damage her years of papers (she’ll have to tackle that herself). We did quite a bit, but then a fire blazed dangerously close to my brother’s home and their items ended up in the garage and they spent a few months at the family house. Now it’s the end of the year, and we’re geared up to do round two. Quietly, during times when my parents are away. Tossing and donating things we don’t have to be careful with. And checking between the two of us, what is worth keeping for my parents to sort.

Not Gonna Write You a Sad Song

I’ve written two entries since the last published post and couldn’t get myself to post them. They were full of sadness. The last one mentioned the mass shooting and fires near me. I just couldn’t.

While life has had more down than ups as of recent, I’m still incredibly thankful for the bright sides, silver linings, and “how are you doing” check-ins from close friends.

2019 brings a lot of changes, and I am hoping they will be good ones. I’ve been occupying my mind when it’s deep in the pit of despair of good things coming, and things I can plan for.

A relative is moving back home and so one of the big items is making room in a house that hasn’t been her primary residence in 10+ years. While my parents are gone on a vacation, my brother and I plan on tackling the garage for the umpteenth time, and hopefully this time with better success [the last time we did so, there was a gruesome fire and they had to evacuate to that home, and their stuff went in the garage]. My parents haven’t understood the thought of downsizing as seniors, but with my mom’s retirement in a nearish future, and my relative retiring and moving back, it’s time to get the house ready for the years to come. I’m giving myself a year-ish to help them settle and make home changes, and then looking to move out again for both our sanity, but mostly mine. ūüėČ

I have a planner ready, and I bought a new type of notebook system to help me start 2019 right. Have you heard of discbound journals? They’re a little pricey initially, but I like that you can customize and move pages and the pages themselves are thick quality paper. Instead of devoting an entire notebook to one subject, I have the flexibility of moving each page around if I wanted, and dividing it however I see fit. That saves real estate as I lessen the amount of notebooks I own and is more eco-friendly considering I don’t have journals/notebooks with unused pages. I have the fitness inserts¬†to help me track weight loss and am going to spend more time tracking finances and spending as well.

Now that Rosina is no longer here and I haven’t got painting on Mondays I will need to dedicate my own time and space to cultivating creativity. I plan to bring that attitude into the new year. Keep exploring, keep attempting, keep trying.

One of my best friends and I have played with the idea of an international trip in 2019. And my closest cousin to me is getting married. There’s other exciting family news that will keep 2019 full of happy things. I look forward to all of it.

And in this holiday time, as I remember the human birth of Jesus and the promise it brought humanity, I think of all the hope in store for all of us. We have promises to hold on to and good things shining amongst the hard times. Keep hoping. Keep seeking that goodness and light.

Goodbyes and Updates

My beautiful friend and art instructor Rosina went to be with the Lord on August 30th. Whenever there is a spectacular sunset in the sky, I still remember her fondly. Every time I go to paint, I will think of her. True to her nature, she planned her entire memorial service out herself. It was so full of love. She gave everyone she cared for her whole heart. I got a call a week after the memorial that she had left all her acrylic paint supplies and brushes to me. I now have probably a lifetime of quality brushes thanks to her, and plenty of paint to continue creating with. She also gifted me one of the custom painting easels she inherited from her dear art teacher and that means so much to me.

I finally had my sinus surgery, and things went so smoothly! I was really blessed with a great recovery time. I had all these plans to read through all these books and get all this stuff done and in the end, I learned to rest. Rest in God and rest my body. I was beyond stressed before the operation. I went to my formal pre-op early, discovered there that I needed clearance from cardiologist, frantically got that done and imaging, just to find out all was well, and barely did that all in time. So when it was done, it was clear my mindset needed to change to heal not only my sinuses but myself as a whole.

I wasn’t sure what to expect but after about a week and a half, my sense of smell started to return. It’s something others may not ever understand, but when one of your five senses doesn’t work for a few years, it’s such a joyous thing. The smell of food wafting…the smell of your perfume lingering…being able to practically smell food to see if it’s gone bad, sense smoke, or *ahem* your pits to make sure your deodorant is still going strong…literally being able to stop and smell the flowers…I feel so blessed to experience all that again.

My dad’s leg is also significantly improved. Even though the necrosis is not completely gone, he’s able to put weight on his leg more and has enjoyed ditching his walker for a cane. If all goes well, he should be on track to go on a planned international trip with my mom.

I’ve been attending life group with a friend of mine that is for a church I don’t attend and have fallen in love with this group of ladies. I’ve even had 2 girls nights with a couple of the ones closer in age to me and my friend, and it’s been so nice to have a very informal “girl gang” of like-minded individuals in town.¬† I feel slightly guilty I’m not doing a small group with my own church? But I think God gave me this opportunity because I needed to connect with people in my area and zip code. It’s funny because I drive about 25 minutes out to my church and my friend’s church is about 25 minutes the opposite way in the valley.

My boyfriend’s grandpa has stage IV cancer and that has been a big shock to both of us. He checked in to the ER with intense pain in a certain area and tests came back with cancer. This weekend his grandma mentioned the word ‘hospice’ to me and so much of what happened with Rosina came flooding into my memories. His grandpa is such a fun and upbeat person that it’s hard to see him like this. Even when we visited him in the hospital he tried to keep things light but also choked up and was emotional at times. The only grandparent I got some time with passed when I was 6. On the other hand, my boyfriend’s grandparents are all currently alive. I can’t completely understand what it’s like to have grandparents be such an integral part of my life and idea of knowing after all these years and memories one of them is very possibly heaven bound very soon. But I hope I can be a good support to J during this time.

God’s Timing and Riding the Storm

Life has gone full rollercoaster lately.

My brother returned from his intensive brain therapy changed. What a rocky time it was for him to be exhausted in every way to try to make better neural connections for concussion recovery! The imaging and testing from when he started to when he finished the week long therapy had measurable differences in many areas while showing the need for drastic improvement in certain functions. It was a time of intense prayer and empathic distress. We are so joyful in the progress he made as a family, but still know he has a ways to go.

I was scheduled to have sinus surgery last Thursday. For some reason, despite pre-registering, I was admitted and put through 2 gruesome hours of hearing medical staff chatter behind the curtain about me, and finally having the anesthesiologist come to tell me the outpatient center had a policy that discriminated against people of my weight and BMI. He told me he felt confident administering anesthesia to me but couldn’t go against the facility’s policy and the board of directors finally put their firm “no” in. For some reason, I had this anxiety I couldn’t quite shake while preparing. Something felt off, but I also wanted to lean fully on God. When that happened, I was shaken, but also grateful for God’s peace knowing He is ultimately in control.

My dad has been in a lot of pain lately. We first thought it was his meniscus. It was hard to hear him cry out in pain, and see my once very able-bodied father go from a brace to a cane to a walker. They discovered with imaging that he is dealing with spontaneous necrosis of part of his femur. Umm. Whoa! His bone is dying off. That’s serious and absurd, and so not what we anticipated! He’s been ordered to avoid being on his feet and bearing weight on it for 2 months.

My sweet art friend has been a big cheerleader and prayer warrior for my surgery. I called her Thursday and her hospice care person said she was tired and sleeping. I called Friday and Saturday and no reply. Finally, on Sunday, I called and her son picked up. He told me she could have hours left and that she adores me and please come out if I can to see her one last time. I rushed over there and saw my friend, so fragile, laying in a hospital type bed in her living room. Her son and girlfriend were there and we let her sleep and watched TV together. They showed me her last chart update from the LVN and it said “actively dying” “pain 10/10, crying and moaning” He woke her up for some medicine around 9 and she woke up and we prayed together and she cupped my face and told me she loved me. Her voice was gone, a raspy low whisper is all she can muster. Her body so overwhelmed, we had to remind her to close her mouth and suck from the straw to take a drink of water. Her daughter flew out Monday and we think she is holding out to spend a little more time with all 3 children. I’m so grateful I got to see her one last time, and am continuing to pray as her kids come together for these last moments.

I’m currently calling other surgery centers and my ENT and insurance trying to sort out a rescheduling, while taking on some extra work to help my dad out, while dreading a call from one of Rosina’s kids to say she has passed. It’s Tuesday and I’m exhausted and I’ve cried two days in a row. I’m a mess. This little slice of life is currently riding out the storms and waiting on God’s perfect timing.

What I’ve Learned from my Friend in Hospice

I should title this “What I’m learning” I suppose, as my dear friend is still here with us today, as far as I know. But I’m afraid her time is drawing near, and she desperately desires heaven over her cancer-ridden, pain-filled body.

We became friends in a very special way. She was a painting instructor at Michaels and I was an art enthusiast who had no formal painting knowledge and too many canvases. I stopped by her promotional booth and chatted quickly but knew I couldn’t afford lessons. I had just moved out and into my first apartment months ago and there was no way I could fit art lessons into my budget. We met a second time in the paint aisle, chatted some more, and as fate would have it, she offered to trade fine art lessons for digital art lessons and our friendship grew from there.

When we met, she had been cancer free for a few years. I didn’t know this right away, but she had survived staged IV lung cancer when she only had a 5% survival diagnosis. She’s very spirited and told her doctors God let her know she’d make it through. And so she did, to their astonishment.

But we are beautiful souls trapped in bodies that malfunction and age, and even with her prior miracle, she found herself hospitalized with pneumonia about 4-5 years later, and that is when they found nodes of cancer sprouting in her body, in her bones this time.

She was given until Winter 2017, and by God’s grace, is still here, and may see another birthday very soon. But all this time she’s been in hospice, and grows weaker, thinner, and lives in more pain.

Here’s what I’ve learned in this year and a half of her slowly dying:

1. Cancer is a horrible, horrible thing…
I would not wish cancer on my worst enemy. This deterioration I’ve witnessed is heartbreaking. My friend is a spirited, spunky, opinionated, lovely Italian lady. She was very high energy, and now needs to gather strength to speak.¬†

2. It is important to let your friend have what independence she has left.
Sometimes there is victory in the struggle. I vocalize my want to help in the beginning, and wait for her to ask for assistance unless it’s relayed through body language. If I feel she might be at risk, I’m by her side to keep her from falling, or I ask specifically to give a hand then. Letting her feel able-bodied is very important. When someone grows weak and is unable to do many things on their own, they take pride in what they can do. Don’t take that away from them.

3. There will be tears and conflicted feelings.
We’ve cried together a lot. In the earlier parts of hospice there were dark days with crying and regret for a life snuffed short, and other days were infused with hope for another healing to take place. I wept when she wept, and I laughed when she laughed. And while the spectrum of feelings was hard on me, I felt honored to share those moments with her of absolute despair or wonderful hope.

4. Don’t disrespect their vocal wishes to die.
This is particularly hard on me. No one wants a friend to die. It hurts to hear them want death. I wanted to bawl every time she mentioned it. And I was there when other friends were present, and reacted by saying, “Oh don’t say that!” or “You’ll get better, I know it.” I can’t blame them. Those responses are almost default. But you know what that does? It disrespects my friend’s raw honesty and discounts her feelings. As much as it hurt me to stifle my desires to react the same, I try to reply. “I know. I’m sorry this feels unbearable.” I know there is solace for her in confiding the desire to die with someone else. I don’t want to take that away from her.

5. There is a de-nesting period.
There was a point where the cancer spread and more pain medicine was required and my friend knew chances were very slim for recovery. At this point, she began to think about end of life tasks. This was also hard. She would look around a room and try to note who she would pass things too. She didn’t want to burden her kids. Many times I visited she’d give me little things, useful things, that she wanted to clear but knew others could use. Packs of pens, office supplies, very appreciated paint brushes, and little crafting odds and ends. Sometimes if it was a larger item I’d politely let her know I didn’t have room for it, but for things she didn’t ask if I wanted and just gave, I accepted it graciously. We worked on gathering photos for a slideshow at her future memorial. Things that seemed morbid to me were just preparation for the future, and I had to learn to see it that way.

6. There is a unique intimacy.
This intimacy is two-fold. One is practical, as in, they may show you what is wrong or feel comfortable with you being the room when nurses or aids are helping them. She has lifted her nightgown to show me the way cancer has affected her, with the nodes and bumps all over her back, the way her ribs poke through so prominently now. The other is a deep sense of connection and friendship. We don’t know if this meeting is our last, so we enjoy each other’s company that much more.

7. Visitation is hard. You will leave depleted.
Visiting her leaves me tired. Sometimes it leaves me pretending to be stronger than I am emotionally around her, and crying the entire drive home. It is not easy seeing a friend grow weaker knowing she could go at any moment. I feel very drained. But I do not regret our weekly meeting. It is always worth it. 

8. There is hope in heaven.
I know that one day, whenever her last breath is breathed, that there is hope in heaven. She is a devout Catholic, and I am a Christian, and while some of our doctrine does not align, we both have our hope and salvation in what Jesus Christ did for us by living a perfect life as God and a human man, dying on the cross, and resurrecting three days later. I have hope that she will be in the presence of our savior. And that is beautiful, to know her body will be cancer free and she will never be sick again. I wish that hope for everyone I know.

Her birthday is next Monday, and I know she doesn’t want to be around for it. I have peace knowing whether or not she is granted heaven before her birthday, that she feels ready and we’ve shared many Mondays over the last few years together.¬†

Praying without Pessimism

Wow. What a whirlwind of a week. My brother is currently in a treatment facility for an intensive week-long study and rehabilitation for his concussion. This is the home of last resorts. Most people who end up there have sustained a long term brain injury or have battled atypical effects and have pretty much exhausted every other resource out there.

I can’t even put a number out here for you, but I’m guessing the medical costs these last two years have exceeded my income earned the last two years. All because he was rear-ended by a careless teen who had no idea he was wrecking someone’s life. This has changed his life, his quality of life, his everything.

At first, doctors said give it a month. That became two. That became six. That became a year. Now, we stand at nearly two years with minimal progress. Life has been hard. Damn hard. Mostly for my brother and his little family, but trickled down to my parents and I, and all those around him too.

I bought a CD from Target about a year ago and played it as I was driving. The song below drove me to absolute bawling. I parked and let it cycle three or four times, as the lyrics and the beautiful violin cathartically gave me release.

“We’re sailing
We’re sailing aren’t we?
Its hard to tell the water from my tears
Don’t worry
Have faith they told me
It was easier than in my younger years
Now than I’m older, now that it’s colder
Life keeps on crashing
Day after day, like a wave after wave
We did everything right and now I’m asking
Where do we go? oh
When our prayers are answered
Where do we go? oh
When our prayers are answered but the answer is no

For once, a song finally addressed something my heart had tried to untangle for so long.

What if my brother isn’t meant to get total and complete healing? What if the answer to prayer is no?¬†

I can be so pessimistic in my prayer life. I can pray God’s will but still not deliver a heart cry. And I don’t know if that is the best most faithful way to pray. I am working on coming before the throne of grace boldly. I want to pray with the faith for God to work something incredible, but understand the limits and not make expectations for God.

I haven’t wrestled with prayer this badly in a long time. I can only hope that the Holy Spirit is uttering what I can’t fathom but feel, and that God is gracious on my messy pleas.

Do I have the faith to pray big? Do I have the faith to do so?

I’m working on it.¬† I’m also working on accepting that God’s plans are not mine, and trying to find balance in that. But I don’t want to just decide God is done with him either.

I reached out and asked specifically for 20 people to commit to praying for him with me, for 8 days of continuous prayer for him. Thankfully, I am not in this alone. There are people more firmly rooted, more seasoned in prayer and petitioning, that have come alongside me, to lift him up in prayer. The outpouring of love and support during this time has helped me so much.

God, help me to trust you in the yes, no, or not yet.

I am Strong/I am Humbled : What Weight Training has Shown Me.

Guys. It’s my 5th anniversary on WordPress! I’ve been blogging here half a decade!

I’ve decided to go dark on weight loss updates because I feel like my progress is personal, and speaking about it sometimes sets me up for lofty expectations. I will just continue to work on it in silence, and let any success be the noise.

This past month and a half, I’ve added weight training to my exercise regiment. I’ve done some in the past, but just weight machines I was familiar with. Now I’m adding free weights and exercise moves I’ve never done before. Planks. Goblin box squats. Romanian dead lifts. Those terms were all Greek to me just a month and a half ago!

I used to devote 45 minutes to an hour like a hamster on a wheel on a cardio machine. While I still think cardio is a healthy part of working out, weight training has been more challenging and fun, especially since my calories are in control and I don’t necessarily need a cardio burn calorie deficit. I’ve cut down cardio to 10-20 minutes and upped my weight training game, with thanks to my cousin who developed a plan for me.

I am strong: Nothing feels more exhilarating than handling a newer, heavier weight, and knowing your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is changing.

I am humbled: Kinesthetic learning is one of my weakest areas and weight training is something I am not naturally gifted at.

My first workout with weight training was a mind game. I’m at a good place with who I am at the gym. I know I’m obese, and I’m not jealous or afraid of the buff guys or the fitness model looking girls. I’m not ashamed of my oversized form next to theirs. I can acknowledge they’ve worked hard to get where they are, or have an advantage in this realm and I don’t. However, I didn’t want to look stupid, or be perceived as not knowing things.¬†I had to bring up some YouTube videos to confirm form and motion because I don’t process kinetic movements well. I felt so awkward trying to not flail my dumbbells in the air as I moved them them upwards for a chest press. I realized one of the things I needed to work on was a pride issue. I was afraid of looking dumb and was frustrated with not getting things right off the bat. Lifting heavy is so different from the things I pride myself in being good at, and that was mentally really hard for me! I have a natural inclination and knack for cooking and art. I just am pretty good at those things. And in school, even if I wasn’t particularly good at a subject, I was able to study my butt off and get pretty much straight A’s. But this? This was a whole new world, and one I found difficulty in. That’s been good for me.¬†

Each subsequent workout has been better for me, and it’s really fulfilling to see progress. I am so glad it brought to light a pride issue so I can work on it too. Tackling the “I’m not good at it and am afraid to feel dumb” aspect in fitness can also be applied to life in general, and I really think bringing that area to light will help me get past mental blocks I’ve chained myself to over the years.

Do you lift weights? Have you recently done something that has helped you with a mental block?

Dipping my Toes into the Digital Age

Despite a career that involves digital media and forward thinking technologies, I would say I’m behind the times. A grandma in the making. I decided an almost obsolete iPhone was better than paying an arm and a leg for the new stuff. I also audibly whined at the fact the newest Macbook Pro only has USB type C outlets, and grumbled as I “dongle-fied” my life.

So if you knew me well, you’d know how two “small” purchases have finally advanced me enough to consider “dipping my toes.”

TL;DR – I now have a digital reader (Kindle Paperwhite) and Blu-Ray player (via a used Playstation 3 – HA! Still behind technology!)

In true granny fashion, I waited a long time, pondered hard, and eventually gave in primarily because the price point was finally in my favor. My boyfriend’s family gifted me a very generous $50 Amazon giftcard for Christmas that I’ve been saving for something good, and with Prime Day, I felt like I made out like a bandit with less than $40 (after GC) out of pocket for that Paperwhite. I also put my boyfriend through the ringer when I heard him say he was selling his old gaming unit, said I was interested, and then took forever to decide I truly wanted it. Luckily, he was patient.

My progress into completing my Konmari festival is laughable, and I’ve acquired quite a bit, when I should be minimizing, but I do think my two latest purchases work in my favor.

I still prefer real¬†printed books. I just do. They’re cheaper and tangible and I appreciate their covers, the way they smell. And I can buy them used and pass them on. However, not every book needs a place on my shelf. My new M.O. is if I know I will read it, I may thrift a book. Only if I treasure it will it have a spot on my bookshelf. If I would still like to reference it or have it on hand, I can also get it on my Paperwhite. New titles I mostly won’t treasure, that I won’t find in thrift/secondhand stores, I’ll get on my Paperwhite. Free reads. Paperwhite. Basically, I’ve allowed myself up to 20 books unread to read and donate/giveaway/treasure, and the rest of the shelf is stuff I absolutely need in print for pragmatic reasons (like recipe books, Bibles) or sentiment (amazing reads, vintage treasure, signed, etc).

The PS3 gives me a way to stream services on any TV should I move (I’m looking at you, Netflix) and for the first time, gives me blu-ray playing capabilities. Also, if gives my brother a way to play games if and when his head is able to handle it. The distraction of game play actually tunes him out from the constant migraine he has from his concussion. So, a win, win, win.

Toes fully immersed, ankles embracing the idea of a rising tide!

Wondering and Wandering in Washington

I’m not sure why this post didn’t go up sooner except for the fact that my heart wandered¬† and wondered as much as my feet on a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest. Washington romanced me the first time with its lush green stretches, moody weather, and convenient coffee shops at every turn. This time I was able to explore more of downtown and as fun as that was, it was all the other things that made it amazing.

My friend L and I loosely planned this trip. Mostly, we knew we needed to get away a few days, and Washington sounded like a good idea. Although we didn’t have everything written in stone, we knew we were warmly welcome to stay with her medical missionary friend. We were alerted right before that she had taken in a nine year old foster child and that was going to be interesting and a building experience as I had just wrapped up the foster fundraising event I help with every year.

I assumed as a missionary her meager dwelling would be cozy with a capital “C” and that a foster girl in that area and that age would be inquisitive, girly, love the ideas of crafts and games. Instead, I met a missionary who had made the most of what God gave her and had what would be equivalent to a multi-million dollar home in my area. And I met a foster girl who was ashamed of being greeted by us at the school bus stop, who had a very different religion from us, and whose idea of fun was pranking, being sarcastic, and running and playing sports. I also found out this missionary was very charismatic and I was unable to process that. She had several amazing stories about curing people’s illnesses with her medical knowledge as a doctor, but also using the gift of tongues to heal people. Everything was so very foreign to me, as I come from a background that discourages seeking those types of gifts and that feels that speaking in tongues is antiquated and obsolete.

Some things were very very obvious. This missionary friend was a very solid believer. I did not once think her accounts were tall tales. The way that God drew her and her family to Him was totally different than anything I had ever and probably will ever hear. Her family asked several times if I wanted to pray with them to receive the Holy Spirit. They also made it clear that they knew the Holy Spirit indwelled every believer upon being saved, and this was a different acceptance. I prayed for clarity. I prayed for discernment. I prayed to not be swayed by grand anecdotes of how they were able to use their gifts for healing and prophesy. There is still a lot I don’t know how I feel about, but I think it pushed me to really consider why I believe what I do, and consider if I could respectfully see and acknowledge their gifts without judgement/prejudice from what I’ve been taught. I knew *I* wasn’t being prompted to ask for tongues. The fellowship and bible study that happened over the next few days though was so good for my soul. At the bible study, we all ended in prayer. I prayed traditionally while hearing the hum of people speaking aloud in tongues in the background. I did not feel frightened or uncomfortable. There was a lot of peace. I didn’t however, feel a need or desire to pray how they pray.

I won’t say much about the foster child to protect her privacy. It was a situation that sounded very bad, but a relative waited to welcome her states away and she was with our missionary friend in the interim. She was ashamed to be greeted by us because people probably asked who our friend was to her. Our friend referenced herself and us as “Aunties”. The girl quickly warmed up to us but also was still challenging many times with her disrespectful sarcasm and accusations. At one point, she threw a bunch of things on the floor and packed up all her belongings and “rejected” everything she was given by us. We helped her with homework, and homework sometimes took hours due to her reluctance. But all in all, there was a sweet innocent child underneath, just not settled enough in her transitioned housing and who grew up without good parental boundaries. I felt like I got a good idea of what life with a foster child could look like for me one day. She was challenging, but I also loved her so much and wanted to affirm her and help her build character she could take beyond this short time with us.

The day we left, our foster girl was incredibly moody and disagreeable. We met her with a lot of grace. Riding home from lunch, I told her I knew she was bottling up her emotions and that it was okay to share how she was feeling. Her foster auntie told her, “It’s okay to be sad, if you are sad they’re leaving.” Immediately, all her walls shattered and she hugged me tight. She replied, “My best friends are leaving me!” She hugged me tight and then my friend we told her how much we would miss her and what a treat it was to get to know her. She kept repeating how we were so nice. How she had never known anyone so nice to her. My heart was so full and broken for this little girl.

She was given permission to text my friend and I, and she still texts her aunties about her day every once in a while. The transition back to her permanent home did not go well, but she seems to be adjusted now.

One of the biggest trip highlights too, was meeting up with one of my best friends, H, and her friend I’ve heard so much about but didn’t get to meet until this trip. She and her husband’s first date was at Chihuly and it was so sweet to see them reminiscing as they held hands around the museum. I didn’t get much time with my bestie but we definitely got some long hugs in.

I’m still processing everything, but I’m so glad we went on that trip. Our host and now friend was such a loving person and we were truly blessed. So blessed, in fact, that my friend L got a special phone call on our light rail ride one day while there, and was offered a permanent position and great pay increase for a job she had temp’d at for almost a year. With everything that happened, it’s a trip I’ll never forget. My greatest souvenir being a hand written card from a precious little foster girl.

A Happiest-Place-on-Earth Birthday

Life has been all types of busy and crazy and I haven’t had a chance to properly write an entry in ages. But I had to stop and at least say something, for memory’s sake, because my birthday was a milestone birthday! 30!

The Saturday before my birthday, my family helped me celebrate at a delicious Italian restaurant in town. I had Osso Bucco for the first time ever that I can recall. And real risotto, which is better left in their hands, not mine (per failed attempt!). We then came home to a full tres leches cake, my favorite type of birthday cake ever! It’s extra special because my parents/family haven’t bought me a cake in close to a decade. Without trying to sound petty, I always make sure others have a cake (bought or baked), but that’s not¬† the case when my birthday comes around. Usually, since there is a birthday dinner, they notify the server that it’s my birthday, I get whatever treat is on the house, and that’s that. So, it was a little gesture that meant so much!

On Sunday, Josh told me to be ready to leave extra early and with the limited questions I was able to ask, I was told to dress comfortably and wear shoes for walking. I had a couple guesses, but none of them panned out. Haha! I thought for almost certain we were going to head out to Hearst Castle again for a second tour through new parts of the home and end the day with our favorite Fish and Chips place out there. But as we got further into Los Angeles I knew that couldn’t be it. Maybe Huntington Library? I had mentioned my desire to daycation there.

Halfway to our destination, he pulls two pieces of paper out of thin air. They contain ten questions with lines below for each letter and one circled for the solved puzzle. He then gave me a sharpie and told me to figure it out. I thought it was so fun and sweet! About 8 questions in, I had a feeling I could solve the puzzle. D-I-S-N-E-Y-L-A-N-D.

He smiled when I figured out and I told him how clever his little puzzle was and he warned me this was an all expenses paid trip. Food, souvenirs, and whatever else were on him today, and he meant it. We got our phone fast pass system down and got to a lot of rides in no time, but I also took a couple times out of the day to just sit on a bench with him and just take it all in. We ended the night with a World of Color package which included dinner at one of the nicer restaurants in California Adventure and prime viewing for the show. For some reason, there were no patrons in the handicap section, so they opened it up to us and couple others and we had a bench all to ourselves right next to the water. World of Color is my favorite part of CA and just as magical as the first time, every time. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the night or my birthday than with him next to me enjoying the show.

I also got some beautiful milestone jewelry to help me remember 30. Josh’s mom got me a gorgeous Brighton piece that will last for years to come, and Heidi gave me this amazing Meraki bracelet that contains beautiful symbolic elements inside from all over the world.¬†

I feel like my 20’s have lead me to my 30’s, as lame and “duh” as that sounds. My twenties were about breaking free from what I thought were other’s and my personal expectations about myself and discovering who I am and how to be comfortable in the moment but still strive for better in the future. I feel like I’ve come a long way, even though it’s nothing close to how I thought it would be. Still, I’m so thankful for this personal journey and the family and friends who have helped me get to where I’m at. I hope at 40, I can look at my 30’s and see them as “builder” years, building me up to my potential and setting me up for a place in this world and an eventual place to call a home of my own.