...I decided that, after massage school, I wanted to go to school for neurobiology and/or counseling?

Oh, that would be so much fun... such a challenge... Neurochemicals fascinate and excite me. For instance, the book "Hooked" is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Hmm... what if?
Yesterday I got sick, fever and all. (Okay, really, it shouldn't surprise me, since I've been fighting off a low-grade respiratory infection for... a month now? And I've had--relatively--quite a bit of sugar over the past few days, since it's a holiday and all. A chocolate bar and my very own container of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Oh, and I shared a gallon of green tea with J. Bad idea... but delicious. ^_^) So I didn't do much of anything, really. I stayed in my pj's most of the day.

Today... I stayed in my pj's until, like, 3 p.m. Didn't do much. The fever's half gone, just a very low-grade one of a degree or so. Paltry, really. (Emergen-C saves the day!!)

I'm torn between whether to enjoy and luxuriate in the freedom to do absolutely nothing if I wish, or whether to give in to the guilt and scorn I feel toward myself upon doing absolutely nothing.

But can I not, if I choose, stay in my pajamas and watch 2 chick flicks in a row if I desire?

Yes. I can. I have that choice. Is the the wrong choice? That I cannot say, but I do know that I have the choice. It is my decision, and I need to be okay with it, whichever way I choose.

Moving on from that... Mom and R (mostly R, I think) have decided to give J the counseling she desires, once they found out that on our insurance it's only a $20 copay each session. She and I had a talk on the way home from church last week, and she broached the topic.

"I think I need therapy."

"What makes you say that?"

"I'm really depressed."

Ah. I get that. I shared with her what I've learned, how it's helped... and how I used to (and still do) self-medicate with music, relationships. She was like, "I do that too! I listen to music to make myself feel better, to forget everything." Huh. We're more alike than I thought. Which is odd, considering that we haven't lived together much in our lives. Once Mom finally got custody of the two little ones back, I was already in high school, and a couple of years later I went away to academy. Then they moved to the midwest, and we've seen each other, like, once a year for the past four years.

Anyway, I told J that I'd champion the cause for her, and I shared our conversation with R two days later. I could tell that he really wanted to help J get better, but he just hadn't realized that it was so affordable. (PTL that I started counseling and worked out the cost on our insurance already!) He's going to start looking around for someone good to take her to, and possibly even Jr. We all agree that K needs it too, but the problem is the desire to change, you know? K doesn't seem to feel her need, so she won't talk or work through things. J feels her need, and that makes all the difference.

I've discovered that I love perch. The fish. It's delicious. I'm finding that I really enjoy fish! Who knew?

The reason I felt the urge to blog was because I need to process through the future, and the coming changes.

I haven't had the guts yet to even touch my feelings about the S's, because they're so ambivalent. Maybe after I leave and it's "safe" lol. When I left for summer camp, there were no problems, but the intervening months have brought up conflicting feelings within me, and I desire to understand the roots of these feelings. I do know that I love them, and they're family. That's enough for now, I think.

Gramma agreed to allow me to bring Holly with me! She's not *thrilled* with the idea, but she'll accept it... I think more for the sake of her love for her granddaughter than anything else. Oh well... what are connections for, if not to milk for personal gain and satisfaction? Kidding...

The movies I've been watching lately and the books I've read have gotten me to thinking... what's my focus in life, what's my purpose? What am I aiming for? And what are my "side focuses"?

I kind of see it as having one large passion to pursue, and then having little passions (like hobbies) on the side. And this, along with personality, comprises who you are.

So who am I?

Being here, without a schedule, without expectations, has given me a glimpse into the near future, when I will be on my own, determining a vast portion of my daily life. And, truly, it's those little decisions that collide against each other, one by one, until you have this massive pileup that is "how the day went".

What food choices am I going to make? How often will I eat, what will I eat, and how much? (This affects my budget, too!) (Oooh! I can work my way through the soup cookbooks I got for Christmas!)

How will I get my exercise? I'd like to go for walks and go hiking in the nearby mountains, but I definitely don't want to give up racquetball. Ought I to join a gym? I'd love to join an exercise or dance class. I've been toying with the thought of taking up jogging... which I've previously hated, but who knows? I passionately love nutritional yeast flakes, onions, and avocados, three things I could not stand until just a few years ago.

I think I'll join the library. I need a fresh supply of books to occupy my mind.

I'll have sermons to prepare, undoubtably, and special musics to prepare for as well. I want to work with the youth again-- at least start our game nights back up, get some activities going. The family that plays together stays together :).

Of course I'll be taking piano lessons, which I'm SUPER stoked about. Music is definitely a "side passion".

I'll be working with the Healing Journey, so that means support groups at least once a week, plus additional extras, like fundraisers. I am going to ask S if I can job shadow her as a social worker, so I can see what it's really like. Mom and K brought up the idea of volunteering at the animal shelter to walk the dogs, and I'd LOVE that! I also want to get involved with the homeless shelters around Y. Homeless people frighten and intrigue me. I'm not homeless in the sense that they are, but I have been. If not the homeless shelters, then the battered women's shelter. It's a secret location, but unless they've moved in the last 6 years or so, I think I know where they are.

Above all, my decision to attend school in the fall must remain firm. It's partially because this is a good thing I know I'll benefit from, and be able to help other people with, but more than that-- it is my commitment to a decision, my undeterred pursuit of a goal that I have set.

I've been tossed about by circumstances, chance, and whimsy for so long... I want to push through obstacles and achieve something. Yes, my personality is partially fickle and capricious, and that's fine, but... at least this once... I want to persevere.

This is a season of change, I recognize that. And I'm discovering much about myself, about what I like and dislike, about my boundaries. That's a good thing. (Heh, realizing that D and I may be more compatible than I had initially thought, too... interestingly. But figuring out who I am apart from a desire to please anyone else is a much better way to do things!)

I'm realizing how paradoxical I am, too. I am fragile, to be sure, but I am also strong beyond belief. It takes a special strength to have lived the kind of life I have and come out the other side a survivor, rather than a victim. The very next breath I took, the very next heartbeat, made me a survivor. Victims die, survivors live. And even though I survived broken, I still survived. Nothing can change that.

Now, in this time of uncertainty and learning, I am still strong. I will not shatter, even as the waves of risk pound and rush through my very being.

I will pursue my goal, and I will enjoy it! I'm going have fun living, for crying out loud!

And if that means that some days I stay in my pajamas until 3 p.m., then that's okay.

By the way, you know what sucks?

Yeah, I still love D. For crying out loud. I wish I could just forget about him, but... he's got a tender place in my heart. Don't get me wrong-- it's not like I'm ready to move to Alaska and marry the guy. That would not be a wise decision. But I still find hope floating to the surface, and I think about him frequently enough for it to be noticeable to me.

I asked my mom how you know when you love someone, and she said that, basically, it's when you want what's best for the other person no matter what, even if it goes against what you want, or even hurts you. You care about what's best for them before you care about what's best for you. Upon digesting and pondering that... that's where I'm at with D. It's pretty simple, really.

Unrequited love bites. That's all.

Part of my pressing forward and pursuing my goal is forgetting about D, forgetting about Alaska (for now-- I still REALLY want to go there someday), and forgetting about romance and relationships.

Did I mention that I feel doomed-- er, that is called-- to singleness? LOL. Seriously, though, I've finally come to that place where I've made peace with the thought of being single for the rest of my life. Thanks, D. You helped with that. No, it's not a knee-jerk defense against being hurt again. It's a thought out conclusion, something to the tune of You know... being single really isn't bad. I mean, I enjoy it. I want to get married someday, sure, but if that doesn't happen... that's okay. Doesn't mean I won't be lonely at times, but it'd be okay. Yeah. I'd be alright. I can focus on learning about God's love instead of some guy's. ^ _ ^
"I am preparing you for what is on the road ahead, just around the bend. Take time to be still in My Presence so that I can strengthen you. The busier you become, the more you need this time apart with Me. So many people think that time spent with me is a luxury they cannot afford. As a result, they live and work in their own strength--until that becomes depleted. Then they either cry out to Me for help or turn away in bitterness.

How much better it is to walk close to Me, depending on My strength and trusting Me in every situation. If you live in this way, you will do less but accomplish far more. Your unhurried pace of living will stand out in this rush-crazed age. Some people may deem you lazy, but many more will be blessed by your peacefulness. Walk in the Light with Me, and you will reflect me to the watching world."

{Isaiah 64:4; John 15:5; Psalm 36:9}

-Jesus Calling, pg. 378-
Today... was a good day. Yeah, it was.

As I learn more about free choice and personal responsibility, it becomes easier to spend time with my family. As I told my sis, J, though... I don't want to live here full-time. The family's just still too... dysfunctional?... for that. But that's okay. God's working with us. He's healing, I know he is. I can see it.

So we got up late, and ate breakfast around 11. I made tahini-basil polenta, R made coffee-cake, Mom fried up some chicken and beef bacon, and we had some fruit.

Then we sorta tidied up (sorta! lol) and headed into the living room for gift opening. I think we probably got started on them around noon, and we got done around two. Our family has a tradition of going around the circle, youngest to oldest, each person opening one gift at a time. That way the entire family can appreciate the gift and the giver... and the reaction :)

I received many lovely gifts (I had the most out of everyone! Everyone else finished opening theirs, and I still had a whole stack to go. A little ironic, since I'm the one that dislikes money spent on me the most lol), and they're pretty much all practical. Jr. got me a set of matryoshka (Russian nesting doll) measuring cups that are SO CUTE! And Mom and R got me a set of teeny, stacking measuring spoons that are just perfect. I got face wash and body spray, a couple of cookbooks dedicated exclusively to soups (I love soup!), a jar of Amish Apple Butter, a notebook, a cluster of colored pencils made out of sticks, some sticky notes that look like an apple (quite clever!), a hat/scarf set in grey, foot-pampering lotion and soak from Mary Kay, a miniature hot glue gun, some ink for my fountain pen, and a button/pin that says "Meh." on it :) Oh, yes, and the piece de resistance, a Swedish Chef plush doll!! Yay! I had a Swedish Chef, but he mysteriously disappeared during one of my many moves. I don't know what happened to him, quite frankly. I know he's not at C's, but he's just... gone. :( But now he has been replaced! I'm so happy :)

I asked Mom if perhaps, next year, she and R would consider getting me just one or two things (since gifts are her love language, and she would be most unhappy if I didn't accept anything from her) and then donate to a couple of charities of my choice in my name? She said she thinks that would be okay, so that's a hopeful thing to look forward to for me. I choose Amazima and Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch.

After presents, we pulled out The Game of Life that K had gotten, and played a game. I ended up making potato tacos in the middle of it, but it was a long game! Fun, though. I look forward to trying it again. Mom popped their turkey in the oven mid-afternoon, and we had a "fancy" Christmas supper, complete with nice plates and wine glasses- turkey, stuffing, broccoli, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, dinner rolls, and perch for me. (I've never had perch before, but it was really good!!!) Oh, yes, and Martinelli's sparkling apple cider. No festive occasion is complete without Martinelli's.

Then we had dessert while watching Horton Hears A Who. The fam had pumpkin pie, I had mint chocolate chip coconut ice cream. Mmmmm.... Then the kids started playing Call of Duty again, and I pulled out the Count of Monte Cristo for some quality time with Edmond Dantes.

I've realized, upon being here... my family has contributed in a great way to the development of my personality. I mean, really. It's so strange being around 5 other people who crack jokes like I do, who goof around like I do, who quote movies and break into song like I do... I mean, I fit. This is where it came from. It's a trip... and yet, very refreshing and calming. Wow, I'm not the only one! I don't agree with all the humor, of course, and they know that, but they're good about keeping it clean for me.

R mentioned on the way home from the airport that he wants to talk to me about school. He's not aware of any of the details of my plans, just vague generalities. He didn't even know it was a two-year associate's program. But he did throw out this suggestion (which I promptly dismissed as not an option)- if I wanted to stay in Y and go to AWC for a degree in social work, staying with my grandparents, he and Mom could probably cover my tuition.

Whoa, hello! What an offer! But I told him I didn't want to, partially because I want to try to do this myself, you know? And partly because I know they're struggling financially already, and I will not impose the burden of my education upon them.

Right. He did say, however, that I could pay them back afterward, like a school loan, and, quite frankly, I'd rather be indebted to my kin than the government or a large, capitalist establishment. So I told him, why don't you just pay my way through massage school?! LOL. That's when it came out that he didn't realize what course of study I was pursuing, exactly, so he said we'd talk about it later, as we had arrived at the house and Mom was impatiently awaiting my departure from the truck. We haven't had a chance to talk about it yet, but we will. He won't forget that discussion, and neither will I. We shall see.

I still fully intend to go to this massage school come September.

Another opportunity arose, though, when a friend of mine called me up and said I should come work on a farm in eastern Az until school starts. Wouldn't that be super cool?! But the draw of working with the Healing Journey is just so powerful that I can't dismiss it, nor do I want to. I am toying with the idea, though, of going for a month this summer, like July. J will be there too, and that would be a super awesome aggie party- roomies reunited. Bliss. JC will be there, too, and we've always gotten along well. He's a neat guy, and we have fun. Plus the O's are there, and that's, of course, a huge draw.

Food would be, of course, my big concern (as always). It's hard to work with an operation like that and find time to prepare special meals. :-[ The curse of my life... (although, I have found that having food allergies has really helped me make healthier food choices. A lot of times, even though I want something, I simply can't have it, and that makes saying "No" infinitely easier. Somehow, I need more severe ramifications than a ruffled conscience.)

It is now 4 am. I think I should fall asleep now. I haven't stayed up this late in a very long time... especially when nothing is wrong. Usually, it's when I'm having a battle with darkness that I'm up all night. Tonight, though... I just didn't feel like sleeping.
For today... Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Outside my window... My bed's in the basement. No egress windows. Besides... it's the middle of the night. Nothin' to see. :)

I am thinking... about food. And school. And moving. And the fact that I haven't called the S's at all since I've been gone (oops!). And R changing my ticket so I can stay here longer. And exercise regimens. And sticking to my "healthier lifestyle" commitment.

I am thankful... for a family that understands me... sorta. :) For people who crack jokes the same way I do. For respect of my personal beliefs, regardless of differing personal beliefs. For practical Christmas gifts that (hopefully) didn't cost an arm and a leg.

From the learning room... The Count of Monte Christo is equally fascinating and tedious... and quite a bit unlike the movie... but enough to where I can still watch the movie with enjoyment.

I am wearing... Pajamas, wool socks.

I am going... to go jogging with one of the dogs tomorrow. To work on K's farewell present. To work on our camp-in plans. To call the S's. To have worship with the kids again tomorrow night (got sidetracked by festivities). To call my grandparents and see if they'll let me bring my cats with me :) To talk to R about school plans and funding and whatnot.

I am reading...  The Count of Monte Christo. It's all-absorbing right now.

I am hoping... to not gain weight while I'm here. I seem to invariably put on five to ten pounds. I am hoping to help Mom clean/paint the house in Indiana.

I am looking forward to... church next week. Getting into a more favorable routine that doesn't involve staying up until the wee hours of the morning and having breakfast at 9, 10, or 11 am. (Ugh!)

I am hearing... the silence of a sleeping house.

A few plans for the rest of the week: R's surprise bday party on Thursday. Mb Indiana on Friday? No plans, really. Just enjoying my family, reading, playing board games, watching movies, and making good food.

Here is a "picture for thought" I am sharing:

I had a teacher in grade school that didn't like me much. I think it was a grudge against my family that somehow got redirected towards me, but I'm not sure. Regardless, my teacher didn't like me much, and I sometimes got into trouble. (I would NEVER get into trouble otherwise! Uh-uh, no m'am! lol)

One year, we were drawing pictures of the Advent- you know, classic manger scenes- and I got into trouble for making mine too realistic. In my drawing, Mary was lying in a pile of straw on the floor of an empty, dirty barn, her dress hiked up to mid-thigh, blood all over her legs, and bags under her eyes. Yeah, in retrospect, that may have been a bit graphic. I mean, aren't ten year olds supposed to be sheltered from that kind of thing? But I was tired of all the serene, surreal manger photo-ops that had ushered me through so many holiday seasons.  I wanted to draw it how it really was, how it really happened- dirt and blood and lack of sleep and everything. (To placate the teacher, I went back with an eraser, got rid of the blood, and lengthened Mary's hemline. The bags stayed.)

Today, the church service got me thinking... we tend to make Christmas so shiny and magical, we lose sight of what really happened. It's become so sparkly and tinselly that it has lost all relevance to every-day living.

What really happened?

First of all, you have a girl, probably younger than myself, facing her first pregnancy and her first marriage, all at the same time.

Will he believe me? I mean, what a story! He's going to divorce me, and then what will happen to me? I can't support myself, especially with a child! I have to believe that God will work it out somehow, because this was his idea, but... seriously?!

And I thought applying for schools was tough.

After Divine intervention, Joseph decides to go ahead with the marriage after all. Stressful for the both of them, as people are prone to talk, but probably a great burden off of Mary's mind. She had stability and economic security for the future, both for herself and her coming child.

Then, they get news that they have to travel to Joseph's ancestral home-town, in relation to a tax hike. Great. Just what they need- heavier taxes, not to mention traveling expenses! But they make the trip regardless.

A modern day walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem is 157 km (97.5 miles), which would take about a day and a half, depending on how fast you walk.

If you think about it, the trip is probably what induced Mary into labor, irrespective of whether she rode a donkey or walked.

So, there they are in a foreign city, all the hotels booked, and Mary is going into labor with her first child. She has no women around to help guide her through this very important event, no hospital to check in to... no private place to have this child. Is she going to have the baby on the street? No, someone offers the use of the barn. The barn. You know... the place where animals eat, sleep, and relieve themselves. Not exactly the most sanitary place to have a child.

So Joseph helps his wife have her first baby. She has no anesthesia. They have no umbilical clamps. Where did they get the water to clean up Mary and the baby? Where did they get the cloths? You can't exactly use a towel and then throw it in the washer for the next day. Did she bring a spare change of clothes? Did she have a spare change of clothes?

But, really, I see the beauty in God's bringing shepherds as the first people to come pay their respects to the very new family. Shepherds are accustomed to birthing sheep, and know what to do in the aftermath of the entrance of a new life. Perhaps they were able to assist Joseph in making Mary more comfortable, offering tried and true remedies to relieve the pain, practical tips on keeping the baby safe and sound, making sure infection doesn't set in, etc.

The manger scene we present now is gilt-edged and sparkly, echoing with the sounds of the Vienna Boy's Choir. In reality, it was a pretty crappy day from our perspective. Nothing went "right", and yet all went according to plan.

That amazes me. Nothing went "right", and yet all went according to plan. God's hand was still on them, even though it did not fit the mold of the typical situation.

I think we tend to do that to Christianity, in general. We airbrush it, spray paint it with gold, scatter some glitter on it... we pretend it isn't hard. We present this glamorous, sparkly facade so that people will want some of what we got, but when they break through the thin, scintillating crust, they find that it is hard.

Yes, Christianity is hard. But we don't want to tell people that, because they might not want to follow God if they know it will be hard. My generation was raised in a culture that embraces, and even glorifies, instant gratification and the path of least resistance. We don't like difficult. People don't, generally, as a rule, like difficult. I have come to the point, however, where I like difficult... in a certain way.

It's like the day my Mom brought home new cups for everyone. She had found a great dollar store and brought us each home a cup. Mine was made out of stone, and K's was made of ceramic, painted pearlescent silver and gold, and styled to look somewhat "Roman". It was pretty, but I have always preferred wood or stone over ceramic. Now, years later, we still have our cups, but the ceramic is cracked, and the paint is chipped and peeling. It's still lustrous, but not as appealing. My stone cup, however, has maintained every iota of its charm and dignity throughout the years, and now currently houses my toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss.

I see this as a comparable analogy. Yes, following God is hard. It's not the pretty painted, ceramic cup that we sometimes make it out to be... but it's sturdy. It is beautiful, but a beautiful that has substance, purpose, and lasting value.

The damage that we do when we superficialize the manger scenes is this-- we trick the world into complacency. They don't understand that we serve a God who understands "hard". He gets it. He did it. As the newborn in the ill-equipped barn, and as the one who had to let him go into a world fraught with danger and pain... God gets it. He understands.

Christmas is not about shiny. Christmas is about reality- about grit, and hay, and excruciating pain, and... enduring beauty. Substance. Hope. Meaning, purpose, and joy.

There is joy, but it's not necessarily sparkly. There is glory, but it's not necessarily shiny and gold. Our plastic and paper Christmases have robbed us of the understanding that, in following God, things don't have to be going "right" to be according to plan. In fact... it's usually when things are at their most "wrong" that God blazes through the most brilliantly.
I like to walk while I talk to God. It does so much more for me than kneeling by my bed.

On the trip here, I read a book... a really good book. It stirred in my heart a longing for something more-- to really know and experience the love of God, and to let that love flow through and spill over into every day... to really love the people around me. Every single person.

I can't do that, I'll confess it right now. No. I don't know what it is to truly love, just as I struggle with what it is to truly trust.

But God's been working with me on that.

As I look back on this past season of my life, I see a predominant theme: Trust.

God has been asking me, "Will you trust me?"

The more we work through, the quicker my answer comes back, "Yes."

It's hard, though. It's hard to trust something that you can't tangibly see, that doesn't always make sense, and that is, quite frankly, under the greatest of attacks. The whole world tells me not to believe in God, to forget about this "religion thing" and move on with my life. Try to recoup the years that I missed while I've been "deprived", and have some fun before I die.

But here's the thing... I've been looking at the actions and underlying messages that are coming through, and all I see is emptiness. Hollow, meaningless banter and canned laughter that does little to disguise the purposelessness of it all.

I want to live with fervor, passion, and meaning. Every day. And I think it's possible. But the key is love.

And here's the thing... I've been looking at the churches around me, at the actions and underlying messages that are coming through, and all I see is emptiness. Hollow, meaningless platitudes and thinly veiled attempts at control and manipulation. That, that is purposeless beyond purposelessness, when the people who are supposed to have found the answer and the antidote have only found a prettier avenue to walk down to Sheol.

I have seen, though, that this last season God has been working with me on trust. And, just as clearly, I see that the next step is love.

God, teach me to love, please. In a real, practical way, show me what love is. I cannot give what I do not have, and I cannot share what I do not understand. God... teach me about love. Please. I want to learn.

In worship with mom and the kids tonight, I read this little gem from the first chapter of The Messiah. It's a seed for the harvest that will come later, and I want to record it to remember.

"The law of selfless love was broken in heaven itself. Sin began as selfishness. Lucifer, the brightest and mightiest angel, wanted more. He wanted to be the most important being in heaven. He tried to gain control of the other angels by breaking their loyalty to God. He wanted the angels looking at him.

He began implying that God was demanding worship and loyalty. He painted God as a self-centered dictator who tolerated no questions and no doubts. (This SO aptly describes the picture of God I've had for so long, it's unreal!) With these suggestions, Satan deceived the angels. With the same ideas, he would deceive humans. He led them to doubt God's word and to question his goodness. He tricked them into seeing a God of justice and awesome majesty as cruel and unforgiving. By misrepresenting God's character, Satan pulled humans into his rebellion. The long dark night of earth's history began.

The only way to lighten the shadows was to show that Satan's description of God was wrong. This couldn't be done by force. Force has no place in God's plans. He wants only a response of love, and love does not happen on demand. Love cannot be forced or ordered of anyone. Love is returned only when love is offered.

To know God is to love him. So the way to lead humans back to God was to show humans what God was really like. This could be done by only one Being in the universe. Only Jesus, who knew the limitless love of his Father, could make that love clear to all others.

The plan to save humans was not an afterthought. It was in place before Adam and Eve sinned. The plan was a natural result of the law of selfless love. God's throne and the operation of the universe was founded on this principle. From eternity, God and Jesus knew of Lucifer's fall and that his lies would lead humans to rebel also.

God didn't create sin. He did not want it to exist. But he knew that it would happen and made a plan to deal with that most critical emergency. His plan revealed the great love he had for this world and for humanity. He promised to give his one and only Son, 'that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.' (John 3:16)

Satan in his selfishness wanted to be more important, more honored. He wanted to become a god. Jesus, in his selfless love, did not care about glory or honor. He became a human being."

(All emphasis mine.)
Okay, okay, so I'm not really "ogling", at least not in the true sense of the word.

But I've realized... I'm really, really attracted to handymen. Men that build houses, like the guys working on the house next door to my mom's home. Even though they might not be my "type" physically at all, the fact that they're building something magically infuses them with this desirability that's pretty potent.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't know these guys from Adam. Personality plays a huge role in attractiveness to me, but the fact still stands that I am attracted and drawn at a very visceral level to a guy that can build things, fix cars, repair stuff, grow food, hunt and fish, etc. And if they're musical, too? I'm a goner.

Maybe that's why I was so smitten with D. He's a handyman for sure, and can do all of that other stuff too. (Except the musical part. He sang, but that was about it.) C was similar in that regard, as well.

So, with those thoughts in mind, I'm really, really trying not to stare at the guys next door.

At least... not where they can see me. ;)
For today... Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Outside my window... A different state than I am used to-- I'm in Wisconsin! It's a suburb, sorta country. Nice. Not too overwhelming. Lots more people than I'm used to, but they're all tucked away in their houses now, due to the dark and the cold that accompanies winter nights.

I am thinking... about how to love my family in real, tangible, God-honoring ways.

I am thankful... for safe travels. For a family that loves each other, no matter what. For money to buy food, for clothes to wear, and for a warm bed at night. For health care. For clean drinking water. For water to take my showers and wash my clothes and my food. For running water, period.

From the learning room... Abductor means moving away from the body, adductor means moving toward the body.

I am wearing... black t-shirt, my mom's "Because I'm the Mom, that's why!" apron, jeans, smartwool socks given to me by K (one of the best gifts I've ever received!), and my sister's purple slippers, which are much too small for me :)

I am going... to make supper for the familia. Kale soup and rice. Go grocery shopping. Have worship with the kiddies, make truffles with Mom. Play a board game or two, and hit the sack.

I am reading...  Finished Kisses from Katie on the plane, and now I'll be continuing Hooked. Oh, and I read the 5th Justin Case book while I ate lunch.

I am hoping... to make an impact while I'm here. A positive one.

I am looking forward to... having nightly worships with the kids... whether they like it or not. Ha! lol

I am hearing... classical music (Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Bach), J's shower water running. Jr. muttering to himself while he plays a video game.

A few plans for the rest of the week: I don't have any! I'm gonna just go with the flow and see what happens. A grand experiment :)

Here is a "picture for thought" I am sharing:

Well, I've made my decision. I'm going to Y, and starting school in September.

It's a good decision, and it's been confirmed on several fronts. (Most importantly, my financial aid advisor at the school told me that it's my wisest option right now, financially.)

The Christmas concert is over, and it went well. I came to the point where I thought, "Que sera sera". It is what it is. The kids did well :)

So... I'm supposed to be packing. But I'm not. (Clearly.) I just want to veg, and not DO anything anymore. I'll get plenty of that on the plane, I suppose. I am going to exert my will and do this thing! Pack my suitcases like a boss.

Tonight, we're going to open gifts, and that'll be nice. We did a secret gift exchange, you know, drawing names? That made it so us poor people could still do something in the way of gifts :)

I had quite the experience on Thurs. I drove up the grade to drop off some bikes at a friend's house (they're currently in Thailand, and we're borrowing their bikes), and when I hit the "unlock" button on the car (not my car, btw), I accidentally "locked" the car. I ended up being locked out of J's running car for three hours... the ONE night that it had snowed several inches. And I was wearing tennis shoes, having just left racquetball. And, naturally, I locked my hat, gloves, scarf, and jacket inside the car (which was also remarkably warm and toasty). And, just as naturally, J has no spare key. Of course.

Well, after hiking down to the neighbor's house and essentially hijacking his cell phone (he had a severe  toothache and sort of endured the situation, but was a great sport and a wonderful help), finding out that AAA will not come to your aid unless you are the owner of the car, finding a piece of wire in the snow and getting in the window (only to find that it was too short to do anything), and ending up in the neighbor's house watching TV for a while, I finally got into the car when our local transvestite locksmith came up the grade to my rescue.

My, oh, my. I drove the hour home and fell into bed about one a.m.

I guess that's what I get for liking adventure ^_^

Thinking of going to Y, I had to challenge the "all-or-nothing" cognitive distortion that I follow so easily, and realize that, just because I'm not going to school immediately does not mean that it's not happening.

I heard this song today, and feel like it applies to me and this next phase of my life.

Talked to my grandparents- they'd LOVE to have me for many moons. :)

As I told my grampa, going to this school is not a matter of "if", but "when"-- will I go in January, or will I wait until September? As I told the family at the dinner table, when you think about it, 9 months is not a big chunk of time. In the grand scheme of things, this decision really isn't a huge one. It could change my life forever... but then again, it probably won't.

Turning left at the stop-sign instead of right could maneuver me away from a potential fatal car accident, but do I know that? No. Life altering decisions are usually not conscious ones, I think.

However, I have a place to stay in SoCal now, if I choose to go in Jan. That's nice.

Here are my lists...

Sept- Pros
-Housing in Y
-Healing Journey
-Experience working w/support group
-Time to work out finances, save $
-Day classes
-Less time crunch
-Less gas $ to get down there
-Able to re-apply for FAFSA as an independent
-Able to apply for WISP scholarship
-Transition time
-Free piano lessons from a good teacher (my Gramma!)
-Don't have to re-apply to school

Sept- Cons
-Uncertain job situation (can I get one while there?)
-Changing plans... again.
-Old friends around (C, namely)

Jan- Pros
-No delay
-No "going back on my word"
-Close to friends
-Can go ahead and come- don't need loans to get a place to live anymore

Jan- Cons
-Uncertain job situation
-Go straight into "life" with no finances- living hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck, or living off loans
-Evening classes

Hmm. Now, time to pray. Lord, what would you have me to do?
I could be watching a movie with the fam, but I know I need to process, or else I will lose myself in the swirl of activity that tomorrow will bring, and whatever insights I might have gained will be lost.

How do you force yourself to process through feelings? It's kind of like... well... like... something that doesn't work very well, that's what it's like.

By the way, I wish that I played cello. And fiddle. And piano. Those are the next 3 instruments I'm going to tackle. I've already begun piano a little bit.

Okay, focusing back on topic now...

I was just so frustrated today, so upset... it seems like all my plans and ideas are crumbling, turning to ashes... like it's all for naught.

And here's the kicker-- this is the first time I've really researched and done my "homework" and laid out a plan and saved and... tried to do it the responsible, mature, motivated way. Most things, I just kind of go with whatever opportunity presents itself and assume that's God's will.

No, I take that back-- I did the research and homework and whatnot with summer camp, too. That didn't turn out so good.

And here I am again. Maybe I should just make opportunism my modus operandi?

Let's chart this out...

My first big decision for myself was to go door to door. Research? Nope. I didn't even know what it was about except that I was selling books. How hard can that be? Hah! But that was a step towards God.

Next: Attend academy. Research? Nope. I just visited it several times as a kid, and knew that I wanted to go there. And my family friend wanted me to go, too. Another step towards God.

After that, move in with boyfriend and get a job. Bad decision, I realized later. Hmm...

Then, leave boyfriend-now-fiance and go to SOULS. Research? Nope. J talked to me, I knew that I had to get out of the situation I was in, and this was a handy out. Yet another step towards God.

When I'm about to graduate SOULS (about a month left?) and no idea where I'm going next or what I'm doing, the Idaho guys came down to interview students. They interviewed me, and I got a job a few weeks after graduation, which led me to Idaho.

I did do some research that time, to see whether I wanted Spokane, or the little country churches. I looked at the cities' websites, and I chose the country churches.

Aaaaaand... I've been here two years now. I did major homework on which summer camps to apply to, took the first one that contacted me, and... what a summer that was. (Mer.)  So that decision was a mix of the two types of decision making, really.

Then, I left camp early and decided the night that I left that I would drive out to WI for my dad. It was a great decision. I have absolutely zero regrets, and I'm so glad I did it. Talk about impulsive ;)

And now... researching and contacting schools, figuring out where I'd like to go, which schools offer what I want, etc. etc, looking for places to stay, figuring out viable options, researching scholarships and grants, filling out my FAFSA forms, and... for what?!

I talked to the financial aid lady today (finally!). It's weird, because I seem to have a semi-difficult time getting ahold of the staff at this school, whereas the school in Colorado was always so prompt... I wish this school were like that. Anyway, I finally talked to her, and realized that she had no idea that I needed to work out financial details now, because I have no money and no place to stay when I get down there. She said she'd do some figuring and call me back.

I about fell apart on the way home. It seems like everything I've tried is just not working out. The $10,000 scholarship that I thought I was guaranteed fell through. The churches I've contacted asking for a place to stay haven't contacted me back, except one. (Seriously? At least call me back to tell me, "No"!) The job I applied for hasn't contacted me, either.

As I was driving home, crying and praying, it occurred to me that perhaps God is setting the stage for something awesome. I'd really like to believe that.

I'm scared. Terrified, really. I'm scared that I'm going to go down there, only to wind up homeless. I'm afraid that I'll find out that I can't get enough money and I'll have to leave to do...???

I'm afraid that it's not going to work out. I'm afraid that I'm going to be dependent on others forever. I'm afraid of getting stranded on my way down because I only have a few hundred dollars. I'm afraid of failing. I'm afraid that I can't actually make it on my own.

I'm afraid that I'm going to be living in poverty forever, that I'll never make it out. I'm afraid that I will have to sacrifice my dreams on the altar of necessity.

I'm afraid that life will become nothing more than a vicious battle to simply survive.

I'm afraid because I have no backup plan. Everything I have is staked on this. And it seems to be falling apart.

I just feel so helpless!! Why can't I be self sufficient and independent, dammit?! And why do I still say bad words?! lol

I want so much to be consistent, stable... mature. Responsible. And yet I find myself constantly swinging from idea to idea, from thing to thing... It's like I have this conception of my ideal self, yet I cannot achieve it. And that frustrates me. And angers me. And scares me.

I don't want to be trapped in mediocrity.

I was sharing all this with Mom today, interspersed with tears, of course. How scared I am, and how frustrated, and how I have nowhere to go and I don't know what to do and why is this not working the way it's supposed to?!

She pointed out to me that I do have somewhere to go. Gma and Gpa would love to have me, if I wanted to wait a few months, or if I can't get this financial stuff straightened out in time.

I told her that the S's want me to leave. The sentiment in the statement is not quite the same as the sentiment they express, but it's pretty clear that it's time for me to move on. And January is the time they ("they" meaning C, lol) have set for me to move on.

And you know... E would love to have me work with her.

I could wait. I don't have to rush off. Going back to Y is a viable option. I don't know if the school has a spring starting date, or if I'd have to wait until fall, but... I could.

Who says I have to start in January? Nobody. And who would rag on me if I didn't? Probably just myself. Because once I say I'm going to do something, I want to do it! Right away! lol

And if I did go back... I could get a job, maybe. Like Mom said, there's always Denny's. Yuck. Actually, maybe not...

But seriously. Would I be a failure if I did not start school in January? Because that's what that voice in my head tells me... "You said you were going to start in January. So either do it, or scrap the whole idea. None of this 'wait till later' stuff. That's failure talk. Either you do it or you don't."

Who to believe? Mom sounded awfully believable while I was talking to her.

I need to pray about this some more.... and make phone calls.

I'll take L's advice and start pushing on some doors ;) As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

But, oh... I just don't know.

Sure, it's an adventure. That's one of the only things that keeps my spirits up.
For today... Monday, December 12th, 2011

Outside my window... There is finally a thin dusting of snow on the ground-- and it stayed all day! I think winter might be settling in at last.

I am thinking... about last minute details to pull together for the Concert. About school... about wheretheheckamIgonnalivethisisridiculousamIreallygonnahavetoliveinmycar?! About trusting God. About fears and failure and hope and tears and independence and overcoming. About strength. About flexibility vs. instability, spontaneity vs. irresponsibility.

I am thankful... for my mother, and her words of wisdom. For friends and objective opinions. For becoming hairstyles. For a heater in my room. That I didn't drink that bottle of Coke.

From the learning room... The coloration of lunar eclipses is due to the sunlight filtering through Earth's atmosphere as it passes in front of the sun. The amount of volcanic activity on Earth at the time of a lunar eclipse significantly affects the perceived color of the moon during the eclipse.

I am wearing... white socks, green cargo pants, navy blue t-shirt, grey and black hoodie.

I am going... to pack a lunch for work tomorrow.

I am reading...  Nothing. Except I almost finished A Bridge Across Time... but put it back away.

I am hoping... to have an answer to this mess soon. To learn valuable skills and lessons.

I am looking forward to... sleep. Seeing my family next week.

I am hearing... my beautiful classical/instrumental music. Currently, Toccata by W. Byrd on the harp.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Work tomorrow, decorate/rehearse for the Concert on Weds. See the counselor on Thurs, last racquetball, then over to S's house to spend Thurs. night and clean her house on Fri. Church and Christmas Concert this Sabbath, Sun. and Mon. packing for my trip to WI. Also, making phone calls about school, tying up loose ends, trying to get the financial aid stuff figured out. Packing for school, maybe thinning out my belongings again?

Here is a "picture for thought" I am sharing:

I felt, for the first time in recollection, what can only be described as vindictive happiness.

I know, I know, it's an oxymoron, really.

The thought process behind it was such:

Wow, you're sure in a crappy mood. Hmm. How about that. Well, you know what? I've got a whole day ahead of me that doesn't need to be affected by your crabbiness, and you know what else? You can be miserable by yourself. I'm not going to let your mood affect me. I'm going to be happy anyway. So there. Take that, Crabby McCrabberson.

Unfortunately, my thoughts didn't stop there, and I shortly realized that I, too, was a Crabby McCrabberson... sorta. I wasn't letting it show on the outside, but I was just having one of those days where I can't, can't, can't wait to move out.

It's funny, the swings I go through.
Ach, they're my family! How will I ever live without them? I shall miss them so!
 all the way to
Good grief, I'm so done. I'm not yours. You don't have claims on me. What I do is out of free will, voluntary service, and I'm ready to pull the plug.

And, today, I was on the outer edge of the pendulum swing.

Part of me gets a bitter, smug satisfaction out of the thought that You're gonna miss me. Nah nah nah nahnahnah. Just wait... just wait till I'm gone. Then you'll see how hard life is without me.

Dumb, right? Especially since J is coming home. It'll be a smooth transition, probably. While she was gone, I was here. Now that I'm going, she'll be back. They'll always have had 2 daughters in the home to help with the family mechanics.

As I was pondering my mood and my irritated thoughts (and praying!! Lord, deliver me from this b****iness!), it also occurred to me... the world ought to be grateful that I'm not the Messiah.

Because Jesus is sympathetic. We don't have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but rather one who was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin.

I was definitely not sympathetic. And so it was a vindictive happiness, not true happiness, as I later discovered.
I forgot exactly how many days I had left, and I was thinking that I had one more week, so I was internally freaking out a little bit, but then when I was doing dishes I realized that, no, I have two weeks.


Excerpt from an email from a friend entitled "cow head":

Cow head is under the stairs. (vacuum closet) Please don't let the children play with it. I can't think of anything worse than a broken cow head.

That pretty much made my day.

Oh, and finding ten bucks in the pocket of my jeans (gas money) that I had put there a while back. That always cheers a body up!

Oh, and finishing a top secret project for some topsecretness which I cannot currently unveil due to the sheer topsecreticity of it.

It's been pretty good, today. God reminded me not to worry, not to freak out. After all, am I not worth more than many sparrows? His love is unfailing, and if I can see the big picture long enough to realize how fleeting and insignificant my money troubles are in the face of the reality that I have the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe taking care of me (the one who created gold and silver, aight?), then I can rest peacefully in the assurance that I am going to be okay. No matter what my bank statement says. God is not limited by Wells Fargo, people! I just want the world to know that.

More importantly, I want my own soul to know that.

I like good days. Especially when they end with my hand in God's hand.
Coming down to the wire. I'm packing my room, and it's a total mess. It's driving me nuts. But I'm getting rid of a lot of stuff, downsizing again.

I just may be able to fit all my possessions in my Buick again. That'd be nice.

I don't like the feeling of having more stuff than I can take with me.

I've got a lot going on right now, besides just school. That Christmas Concert is becoming a love-hate engagement. Who knew it took so much work to plan even a simple event? *sigh*

And Adventurers is a lot of work. Honestly, I'm glad I'm leaving. It gives me a chance to step out gracefully, because there's really no one else around who would/could help out. Ahh, the challenges of a small church... It'll be SO different down south. There are more churches than you can shake a stick at, and many of them have Sabbath school classes the size of our entire church!

I don't think I'm working at the bakery this week. Mixed blessing. I sure could use the cash, but the Lord blessed last payday, and I had enough to buy Christmas gifts, which I wasn't sure I would. I've got a housecleaning job after I get back from WI that should net me about a hundred bucks. I keep forgetting that I'm used to calculating gas for a round trip to and from Cali, but this time, it's a one-way. So that hundred bucks might actually get me there.

If not, I mean, I can always panhandle for a while, right? ;)

I guess the reality is finally setting in that I'm leaving, and I'm excited/dreading it. I mean, it's always exciting, moving on to the "next thing", but I know that the grass really isn't any greener on the other side, and life is not a bed of roses. I'll have struggles and pains and worries, and this time I won't have a family around me. It'll just be me. No buffer. Just me and God against the world.

On the other hand, I'm getting restless. I catch myself thinking (especially when I'm annoyed about something), "Yeah, just wait. I'll be outta here soon. Just a little longer..."

There's so much I'll miss, though. I love this place. Idaho has captured my heart. The people have won my admiration, respect, and loyalty. (And, at times, bemusement.)

If it's up to me, I'll be back.

But on the other hand... what if there's somewhere else equally amazing out there?

I've begun compiling a list of the adventures I'd like to have, including but not limited to:

-Hiking Half Dome
-Visiting all 7 of the 7 Wonders of North America (still)
-Hiking Mt. Whitney
-Backpacking across Az
-Taking a summer to backpack across the U.S. and see how far I get
-Visit Alaska
-Go hiking and dog sledding in Alaska
-Paint balling with K

I can't remember them all right now.

Regardless... I'm ready for another adventure. The drive to WI really revved me up. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I loved the independence of it. I'm not scared to travel by myself. I've been doing it for years. (Although... it is nice to have a traveling buddy, but one of the same mindset.)

This song has been running through my head lately.

I'm gonna go pack up some more of my room.

The walls and dressers are so bare... it doesn't look like anyone lives here anymore. :(
For today... Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Outside my window... There are thin, sparse, ragged patches of dusted snow on the ground... but only in shadowed places.

I am thinking... how happy I am to have accomplished so much toward the Christmas Concert in the past few days. That there are so many things about Idaho that I'm going to miss.

I am thankful... that even when I become distressed and anxious, I know that those feelings don't have to rule my life, and they're not going to last forever. They are not who I am. I am thankful for learning and breakthroughs and counselors.

From the learning room... Did you know that candy canes were invented as a testimony about Jesus and his sacrifice for us? Yep.

I am wearing... slippers, blue sweatpants, tie-dyed t-shirt, and blue and white kerchief.

I am going...  to buy Christmas presents. Thank the Lord for the internet!

I am reading...  The Case for a Creator, Lee Strobel. It's good.

I am hoping... that my visit home will be good. And productive.

I am looking forward to... getting all my stuff packed.

I am hearing... K typing, C talking to J on the phone, the dehydrators going in the background.

A few plans for the rest of the week: To work or not to work? Depends on if my boss calls me back or not. Finish packing my room as much as possible. Talk to the school about financial aid. Prepare for Adventurers. Begin collecting cardboard for Christmas concert decorations. Spend Thurs. in the "big city" getting a haircut, researching trailers, counseling, having dinner with J and visiting her youth group. Prepare for my solo song this coming Sabbath. Work on Christmas presents and going away gifts.

Here is a "picture for thought" I am sharing: