Friday, January 20, 2017

For however long this lasts.

Whether it's for the next 1461 days or 2922 (God forbid), as long as Trump is in the White House, this right here is my life mantra.

I won't stop, because this man is now in the Oval Office and we're all in danger. I don't care who is in his Cabinet or in Congress, I will fight for justice and equality for ALL. There are more of us than there are of them, and it's more important now that we protect each other than it's been in a long time. We need each other. The only thing that will overpower the hate the Trump administration represents is loving people. Love people harder and stronger and louder than they hate, and we'll win. Let's get to work.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

No, I'm not watching the Inauguration tomorrow.

Anybody who knows me knows that I am an extremely passionate person, especially when it comes to politics. I have very strong opinions, and I will discuss and debate anything with anyone, no matter how much or how little we agree on. I've followed American national politics, and particularly presidential elections, since I was 8 years old and George W. Bush was elected; once I watched that election night, I never stopped. And I don't regret it for a second. I love this country, I love politics, and I love what I do. (If I didn't, I wouldn't have racked up so many student loans to get my Master's!)

But no. I'm not watching the Inauguration tomorrow, and I don't really care if you agree with that choice or not. I've long accepted the fact that in less than 19 hours, Trump will be our president, but after everything that has happened in the past year and a half, even more so in the two months since the election, I can't sit back and celebrate giving the nation's highest office to a man who has shown so little regard not just for so many different groups of American citizens, but for US democracy and government as a whole.

I can't honor a man who has shown greater respect for Russia's dictator than for the CIA.

I can't esteem a man who accused a Congressman known for being a civil rights activist who got his skull fractured by police in Selma of being "all talk and no action."

I can't rejoice over the new presidency of a man who has hidden so much from the people he is meant to serve.

I can't be excited about the start of the term of a man who lies even when proof is on tape and then lies about having lied, about everything from small, personal things to huge, nation-changing problems.

Some may say that we should give the new president the benefit of the doubt, that we should give him a chance, but Trump hasn't earned that. Trump blew his opportunity for a second chance from me when he sided with and praised Putin over the US, and then compared the CIA to Nazi Germany.

When his supporters immediately started harassing and assaulting people and vandalizing property after the election because he had glorified racism, hatred, and violence.

When he insisted he never mocked a disabled reporter even though every news outlet in existence his video proof.

When he picked a guy deemed by the Senate too racist to be a judge as Attorney General, the President of Goldman Sachs - a company he criticized for hurting the working class - to run the White House National Economic Council, a guy against raising the minimum wage to a livable standard to run the Department of Labor, and the CEO of ExxonMobil with a $500 billion deal in Russia to be Secretary of State.

He, along with the help of his chief sycophants, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, are creating a plan to systematically dismantle the protections Obama's administration created for me and people that I love. I will lose my health insurance if the ACA repeal is immediate, which could actually kill me. Holly will lose her access to care when they attack Planned Parenthood. My LGBT+ friends are on the verge of being reduced to second-class citizens again. My friends who are teachers are risking having their whole lives upended because Trump's Education Secretary doesn't support public education.

This isn't about my party losing. This isn't me being a "snowflake" (as one obnoxious, racist commentator likes to say). This is real life that people who support and voted for Trump don't seem to get, that Trump and the GOP don't seem to care about, and the fact is that I'm not going to sit and waste my time watching as the country celebrates a man who proved long before his Inauguration that his loyalty does not lie with this country. It lies with himself.

My love for this country has nothing to do with the person in the Oval Office, anyway. Actually, it might even be stronger now that Obama is leaving and we are being faced with a man who gladly terrifies so many people. My love for this country is rooted in the people I know. In their lives, their stories, their families. In the goodness I've seen from strangers in the midst of danger or intense evil. In the glimmers of hope we can see when this country actually unites after a tragedy. It stands in the hope that though this feels like a setback, that after Trump is out of the White House, this country will be able to put itself back on a moral path that I can't possibly expect to see with Trump. My love for this country is what has kept me from giving up since November 8th, and it's what will keep me fighting for love and justice for all for however many years we have to deal with Trump as president.

Do I love my country? You bet I do.

Am I going to keep praying for my leaders? Now more than ever.

Am I going to celebrate and watch as an unqualified, vindictive, terrifyingly hateful man who has lied his way to the top of the government takes over? Not a chance.

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Monday, January 2, 2017

One Word: 2017

Coming up with my "One Word" choices has, surprisingly, never been difficult for me. I say "surprisingly" because you would think deciding on one word would be difficult for someone as indecisive as me. But year after year, the word just pops in my head before the end of the year and I instinctively know that's what it needs to be. Thanks, God.

This year was no different. When looking back on 2016, I realized that I hadn't been taking good care of myself. I'd been going through the motions, working day by day with a constant running to-do list in my head, thinking more about what had to be done instead of how to make sure I was strong enough to get everything done well. In hindsight, it's no wonder I was so exhausted. So when this year's word came to my mind, it made perfect sense.

Beyond that, though, one recurring theme of my therapy sessions, especially in the past couple of months, is how I am absolutely terrible at putting myself or any of my needs before those of the people around me. I'm not saying I want to become this selfish, inconsiderate person in 2017, but I'm realizing that part of taking care of myself is learning when my wellbeing needs to be more of a priority than my desire to take care of everyone else around me. Too often I catch myself feeling worn down because what I need and want has been overshadowed by what I've convinced myself I have to do for someone else. Being selfless is a good thing, but not when it comes at the expense of your own mental and emotional health. I need to find a balance between taking care of everyone else, like is my nature, and taking care of myself, too.

So then, I started thinking about the ways in which I wanted to take better care of myself, and the more I thought about it, the more it came down to two separate areas: emotional/spiritual health, and physical health.

I mentioned the former in my Year in Review post. One of my major goals of this year is to teach myself the discipline of daily Bible reading. I have been a fraud in that area, to be honest, and I realized that it's because the Bible just overwhelms me. But I have the Seamless study from Angie Smith that I'm going to start with, and try my very best to get into a pattern of truly seeking the Lord and growing in my relationship with Him. I know that that is the best healing that I can possibly find. I remember the first time that I had lunch with Reafe. We were talking about the bullying I had experienced in the past and he straight out said to me, "Are you close to God? Because if you're close to God, if you read the Bible, what everyone else says won't matter. You won't care." Well, it's taken me three years, so I'd say it's long past time I do something about it.

Second is my physical health. The past couple months, I've been getting better about portion control, so I've slowly been losing weight, which has been encouraging. (I think it may also be related to the fact that I've been taken off a couple of my medications.) But because my seizures were such a mess while I was still in New York and it was too physically difficult and dangerous there, and I've been so exhausted and slightly depressed since I got back to NC, I haven't been attempting any exercise. That's going to change, too. I'm just going to walk around my neighborhood, something simple but still exercise, free, that will get me in fresh air. And I also cut out soda as of yesterday. I'd been drinking a lot of ginger ale in New York and Coke since I got back to NC; no more. I'm not going to set up goals of "I want to lose x pounds by the end of the year" because I'm such a perfectionist that I'll feel really defeated if it doesn't happen at the rate necessary to reach that goal. I'm just going to start with these goals and see where that leads.

So I don't know if you could tell, but my One Word for 2017 is

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017. Another day, another year.

2017, nice to meet you.

I did absolutely nothing last night aside from seeing Matt. I did absolutely nothing today. So even though it's New Year's Day, it doesn't really feel much different than any other day.

No exciting words to share. Just ready for another year.

Let's get to it, shall we?

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: A Year In Review

I don't even know where to begin when trying to recap this year. So I'll start with what I said on Facebook and Instagram, and maybe that will inspire me.

"2016 was nothing like I thought it would be. It was harder than I expected, more exhausting than I expected, had more tears than I hoped it would, and broke my heart more times than I knew was possible. But you know what? It also brought the start of a new chapter, built new relationships, helped me restore and strengthen some of the ones that matter most, gave me memories I wouldn't ever give back, taught me more about who I am and the person I want to be to others, and showed me how to love harder each and every day. So no, 2016 hasn't been my favorite year, but it's brought lessons and experiences that are part of the greater picture of my life. I learned a while ago that I want God to write my story, so here's to seeing what He has in store for 2017."

And really, 2016 was not a very good year for me. But it wasn't all bad. Even though my seizures were a mess, I still got my freaking Master's degree, with Honors, and it was a semester by semester struggle to pay for it and get through it. Even though I lost two of my best friends, I restored one of those broken friendships, made new friends, and strengthen old relationships. Even though I had to leave NYC and wasn't happy about it, it turned out to be a good thing I could be here to take care of Mom, I got to see some of my soccer boys play, and I've gotten to spend more time with Matt. I guess age is providing me with some perspective. Go figure.

I know I've had much harder years than this (hello, brain surgeries), but for some reason, I've felt much more tired than I have in recent memory. That's why I've stopped blogging with any regularity. It's like I'm so tired I've not only run out of things to say, I just don't have the motivation or concern to even try to say anything. The stress from so many different things and so many new things on top of the things that already stressed me out in previous years just wore me down to the point of utter exhaustion.  Here's hoping I find some rejuvenation in this new year. If I get into a PhD program, I'm certainly going to need it.

That's why I pretty much failed at the mission I put my behind my "One Word": enough. In short, the mission was two-fold in that I wanted to boost my self-confidence and grow closer to God. The first part was more successful than the second. I went on my first real dates and finally had some new experiences with guys. I figured out that maybe my friends maybe do have a clue what they're talking about when they constantly say that a guy can actually find me beautiful. But I think those things, combined with the previously mentioned exhaustion, stood in the way of me growing close to God like I wanted to and placing my self-esteem in what God says about me rather than my relationship status or attention from guys. I want to be different. That's why one of the goals I am focusing on in 2017 is to teach myself the discipline of daily Bible reading. I don't do that like I should, despite the fact that in my gut I know that it's the only way to truly deepen my relationship with the Lord. I want that. I need that. I believe the self-confidence will naturally come with that. There are some other goals that I'll talk about in my 2017 One Word post, but this is the main one.

Ha, I just at my 2015 Year In Review post and realized that I started that by saying 2015 was nothing like I expected, either. That seems to be the overwhelming theme of my life, especially since I graduated high school. For all the ways I dream of my life going and expect it to go, God usually goes in an extremely different direction. And more often than not, I don't like it at the time, but looking back, I can see why it was a good thing and the right thing, and I'm reminded that everything really is so much better when I don't fight God being in control of my life. Let's see if I can remember that should I be rejected from all of these new PhD programs.

I don't have a clue what this next year is going to hold, just like most of the events of this year took me by surprise. And year after year, I find myself becoming more and more okay with that.

I got to see Matt tonight (and on Christmas Eve, which is when this picture is from), so considering the only other things happening today were errands, a basketball game, and a football game, that was a pretty awesome ending to 2016 for. Check out my Instagram if you want to see a collage I posted, complete with a cheesy caption, about the two of us.

Happy New Year, friends. May peace, love, and joy cover you and yours no matter what this new chapter brings. I love you.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Well, butter my buns and call me a biscuit!

It was far too long to go without getting to hug this fella.

It really, really sucks only getting to see your best friend once a year, but when you do get to see them, it's Christmas morning levels of excitement.

Wednesday afternoon, Mom drove me to meet Clayton at the same Smithfield's that Mommom and I met him at last Christmas. It's a pretty accurate halfway point, and we both love their barbecue, so win-win.

We got there at about 1:15, and he and I sat there and talked straight until 3:00 when he knew that he had to leave to get home for a family dinner. We spent half the time discussing theology, because that's what happens with us, but honestly, it was just so perfect. Yes, we talk quite often on text and FaceTime, but it's just not the same as getting to actually see them in person and hug him.

After everything that's been going on with Mom, and me, and the family, and school applications, and everything else, this was exactly what I needed to lift my spirits. When I talked to my therapist that night, I even told him such, that for the first time in a long, long time, I felt truly peaceful. What sweet relief from everything else that has been happening.

(The title is this hilarious Southern saying he taught me.)

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Reality of Chronic Pain

I woke up in severe pain today, much more pain than I was in yesterday, and with no explanation. Most people would probably be confused as to why this happened, but at this point in my life, it's something I'm quite used to. When you live with chronic pain, days sometimes throw really awful surprises at you.

When your pain flares up, the simplest things require giving yourself pep talks, from sitting up in bed to standing up to go to the bathroom.

When your pain flares up, you want to sleep to get away from it, but your body won't let you sleep because you can't get comfortable in one position for very long.

When your pain flares up, your joints get stiff and beg to be moved, but moving them hurts so badly that you're scared to do it.

When your pain flares up, you lay still trying to rest while stressing about everything you should be doing that day.

When your pain flares up, every single step is a calculated move.

When your pain flares up, you have to decide what is worth getting up and moving for.

When your pain flares up, you sometimes forget what it feels like not to be in that much pain.

When your pain flares up, you practice putting on a face around others so everyone you see believes that you're okay and won't worry.

You learn not to talk about it because you don't want to sound like you're complaining. And that's not what I'm intending to do here. I just want people to understand that there are a lot of illnesses and health conditions that you can't see that still do exist. There are plenty of people suffering on a daily basis who push their pain to the side and out of other people's view because they don't want it to become other people's problems.

Here's the truth: I do that on a pretty much daily basis. People think I deal with this stuff so well, and that I seem to have my stuff together more than most, but I don't. Trust me. I really, really don't. I just learned how to hide it years ago when I came to the realization that this pain wasn't going away. I used to hide it because I didn't want it to define me, because I don't want it to hold me back. Then, it became more that I hid it because I finally had real friends and I didn't want to annoy them or make them feel sorry for me. I wanted to be normal, even though I knew that I really never would be.

I hurt. All day every single day. Some days more than others. That is just the reality. I've spent so long hiding it and plastering a smile on my face on the bad days, and I'm at the point where I just don't want to do that anymore. Not because I want pity; please, whatever you do, don't start pitying me. I don't want to pretend anymore. I don't want people to think I have my life under control. Sometimes it feels like life is controlling me.

Do I recognize that I still have plenty of blessings in my life? Yep. You bet I do. It's those blessings that keep me going. But those blessings don't make this part of my life suck any less. And I know I'm not the only one like this, but I can only share my story, and if my story can help spread some empathy in the world, then at least it will do some good.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." - Wendy Mass

I wanted to make this post more eloquent, but well, reality isn't always pretty, so here you go.

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

When unexpected things bring back the most awful feelings.

Confession time: I'm a fan of One Direction.

I know. I know. It started about a year and a half ago. Part of me is ashamed of it. The other part is like screw other people's opinions haha.

For those of you who have blocked this boyband from your mind, this is Louis Tomlinson.

He's the oldest of the band, and I'm not entirely sure why, but he's been my favorite since I started following them.

Well, this past Wednesday, his mom Johannah/"Jay" died from leukemia. They actually kept her diagnosis private, so none of the fans knew she was sick until the press release from her husband announcing her death. And this may sound silly, but this has hit me really hard, much, much harder than I could have ever predicted.

Louis has six younger brothers and sisters, two of whom are only two years old. My heart especially hurts for them because I know what they will be going through in the future with having to rely on stories in order to know someone who is literally half of them. I know what it will be like to grieve for and miss someone you never really got to know.

And Louis. I've watched a lot of interviews with him since I became a fan of the band, and if there was one thing that was clear, it's that Jay is the most important person to him. He was the textbook description of a "mama's boy" and couldn't have been prouder of it. And if you looked at Jay's social media, you could see she was his biggest fan (as she was for all of her kids). That's the relationship I want to have with my kids one day.

Tonight, just three days after losing his mom, Louis got up on stage at The X Factor UK and performed his first solo single since 1D went on hiatus a year ago. He wrote the song, "Just Hold On," for his mom, and it was announced that it was one of her last wishes for him to continue on with this performance, so he did. This not-quite-25-year-old stood up and performed in the midst of unimaginable pain and sang his heart out for millions of people (literally millions - there was an international livestream for his performance), and it was the most beautiful thing I have seen in a long time. That immense bravery, that level of strength mixed with utter vulnerability, it's beyond comprehension to me.

Watching the video of his performance brought back some hard feelings, feelings I didn't think I'd have to deal with just because of the loss of a celebrity's mother or 17+ years into this whole grief thing. But man, this hurts. I miss my dad so freaking much, and looking at the tears in Louis's eyes after his song ended made me feel actual pain in my chest. And I get angry sometimes, wondering why some families get to stay in tact and others don't, why some good people get healed on earth and others have their bodies and minds taken and destroyed by cancer. I wonder if I'll ever let go of that question, or if it's something I'll be holding onto until I'm meeting Jesus face to face. I've never grieved for a celebrity as hard as I have for Louis's mom, and I think it's because we're about the same age and I know exactly what he's going through.

The sun goes down and it comes back up
The world, it turns no matter what
If it all goes wrong
Darling, just hold on

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

God Bless America

Two weeks gone.

At first, I had nothing to say.

Then, the election happened, and I had so much to say I didn't quite know how to process it.

I had so many people telling me how I should be reacting in the aftermath of the election being called for Trump...Here was my response on Facebook.

Don't tell me to be okay right now, when I and people I desperately love have so much at risk.
Don't tell me not to be scared right now, when I have more than enough to be rightfully afraid of.
Don't tell me not to be angry right now, when I feel as though the God I love and the Gospel I treasure have been twisted and abused.
Don't tell me to be hopeful right now, when our next president did nothing to inspire hope for the entirety of his campaign.
Don't tell me to be polite and respectful right now, when a lack of politeness and respect is what got us here.
Don't tell me not to be sad right now, when the country claiming to be the greatest on earth has proven it is still controlled by hatred and fear.
Don't tell me to be accepting of this right now, when this is not what I believe in and pains me to my core.
Don't you dare tell me, or anyone upset today, what to feel. Let us grieve. Then, we will fight.

Lecrae said something that really resonated with me: "I know that God is in control. But so did Jesus when he wept after the death of Lazarus." Jesus knew he was going to bring Lazarus back to life, and he still cried. I know God is still the same, but I'm still scared and upset.

As a political science nerd, I'm really frustrated with the Electoral College, to be honest. We're living 2000 again, except way worse. The Electoral College is something the founding fathers put in place literally because they did not want the entire "average" populace to be able to elect the president and fall prey to a demagogue like Trump (hey, Alexander Hamilton!). So even though 570,000+ more (and counting) people voted for Hillary Clinton, we're stuck with Trump. Yes, this is only the fifth time that the winner of the popular vote didn't win the Electoral College, but it shouldn't really be a surprise. The system was set up from the beginning because a bunch of old, elite, white men decided not everyone was capable of or deserved choosing the president. Thanks to these dudes, climate change, women's rights, international relations, safety from guns, the right to healthcare, freedom of religion, LGBT rights, the free press, and more are all at grave risk.

I want to explain something, though: I don't disrespect people who support Trump's/Republican economic or foreign policy, etc., arguments. That requires thought and understanding. I know I have plenty of friends who voted for Trump who are also educated, so I won't stoop so low as to call them uneducated or ignorant. What I don't understand, what genuinely confuses me, is people, particularly Christians, who proclaim that they love everyone yet voted for a man who showed hatred and disdain for SO MANY. People's character may be defined by more than this vote and this election, but to me, voting for and supporting a man with this huge lack of a moral compass, who spent 17 months campaigning on hatred, bias, racism, and fear, says a lot about who people are. I don't understand. I don't understand how you can claim to love people and support hatred. I don't understand how Christians can claim to follow Jesus in one breath and support shunning, attacking, and demeaning the very people Jesus would spend time with in the next. I just don't understand.

There are so many stories of racial, religious, and sexually motivated crimes and harassment that have happened since Donald Trump won the election. Women being grabbed in public. Muslims having their hijabs and turbans thrown off. African Americans threatened with lynchings. Vandalism of minorities' property. White supremacist graffiti. Racial slurs being thrown. Nazi slogans shouted. And on and on. This new "great" America scares me to no end.

If you voted for Trump and don't want people to be angry with you for helping usher in the new acceptance and glorification of hate crimes in America or call you a racist/sexist/misogynist/Islamophobe/homophobe, etc., then do something to prove you're not. Stand up for the ones whose lives are being threatened. Say to the white supremacists that they don't get to win, even if they think they do. Call on the President-Elect to rebuke this rhetoric and these attacks again and again until he listens. Do something. Because if you helped pave the way for this, and do nothing to fight back against it or stop it when you know what is going on, then you're partially responsible. As late-night talk show host Samantha Bee said, if Muslims have to take responsibility for every member of their community, white people, then so do we.

I want to believe the best in people, but right now, I have a hard time doing that. I'm angry. Many of my friends are minorities in one way or another, and they're being threatened by people, many of whom use the name of God to justify it. I thought this country was better than racism and hatred and bigotry. I was heartbreakingly wrong and I'm terrified of the effect the next 4 years will have on this country.

But no matter what, I love my country. And I always will. Donald Trump and his people can't take that away from me.

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

We could be the greatest team that the world has ever seen.

Might as well fit in one more blog post before the end of the month.

Last Saturday, I got to go to Campbell for a soccer game and to see my boys!!

It was the one big event I'd been counting down to since I moved back here, so I was so, so relieved that Mom held up her promise and got me to the game. It was the last Saturday home game of the season, so she knew it really was the last chance, and how important it was to me.

The game was a heartbreaking last-second loss, and those sweet boys actually said they were sorry they couldn't "get the win for [me]." I told them that I was there for them, that the game was completely secondary. Really, if I just wanted to watch soccer, I could stay home with my computer. They're what is important.

I only got to see them for a short time because Mom and I had a late drive home and they were exhausted, but that was sweet enough. I got hugs and pictures (which they well know is enough to make me giddy happy), and I gave a few sister pep talks, and when I left and got to the car, Mom looked at me and said, "You're really happy, aren't you?"

And I was. So very happy. Those boys are my home; they're where I feel safest. It's funny, even Seth and Josh, whom I only met last year, are included in that. I can't explain it. All I know is that the bond I have with them is about as close to perfect as I could ask for.

Seth, me, Matt, Pepe

Josh, me, Matt

I'd go to the ends of the earth for these boys, so a two hour drive was nothing.

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