Saturday, March 7, 2015

This is Their World, Where Can We Go? Talking to Kids about Pornography

This week I was able to find a way to share something that I am incredibly passionate about with my friends and family on social media - the rampant disease that is pornography use and addiction in our society. 
Original Caption: I got involved for my kids. Protecting them no longer means keeping quiet. We can no longer leave things unsaid. The average age of exposure to pornography is under 11, and getting younger every year. Teaching kids about our natural feelings of sexuality, and how exposure to pornography distorts them, will help quell curiosity and protect their impressionable minds. @fightthenewdrug #pornkillslove #fightthenewdrug#repthemovement #streetteam
Before you click off of this post (because, really, who wants to talk about pornography? Those who are fans of it only seek it out in the darkest corners and loneliest spaces. Those who know its evil feel uncomfortable at the very thought of pornography; the ease with which it is accessible in our modern lives, the damage it does to its viewers, the false and sickening way it portrays sex and sexuality), let me ask you this:
  • Did you know that social scientists have estimated that the average age for initial exposure to pornography is between 8 and 11, and getting younger every year? 
  • Did you know that neurologists have likened the effects of pornography on the brain to that of cocaine in a drug addict? These effects greatly increase in intensity and injury on developing, adolescent minds. 
  • Did you know that child pornography is one of the fastest-growing online businesses, and is a 3 billion dollar industry?  And that more and more teens are sharing homemade pornographic videos with peers, both privately and publicly, in order to seem cool and sexy? 
  • Did you know that pornography use and sex trafficking are inexorably linked, and that behind the "fantasy" that pornography strives to create is slavery, drugs, disease, and rape? 
The topic of sex and pornography was largely glossed over when I was young and the internet was a fairly new phenomenon, but in today's world you CANNOT properly protect and educate your children without discussing pornography and the truth about sexuality*

After I posted my anti-pornography statement this week, I received a few messages from mothers of young children who asked me what I was teaching my children about pornography, and when. As a person who has spent a lot of time in the past five years learning about addiction and the recovery process, as well as a lifelong pervert (honestly, I was SO curious about the opposite sex and sex in general growing up that I'm frankly surprised that I am a fairly normal human being today), I have spent a great deal of energy learning about the damning effects of pornography use, and how to talk to my kids about it so they won't have to sneak Cosmopolitan magazines under their bed in order to get any information about sex (no matter how false it is! Honestly, have you ever flipped through a Cosmo as a normal, sexually active adult? That ish is BANANAS! B-A-N-A-N-A-S). So I thought I would share my answers to those questions publicly for anyone who has doubts about when and how to talk to their children about this modern plague. 

1. The New Pornographers
The first time I sought out a simple and honest  way to answer this question, I wasn't sure how to even begin to approach it. After years of research and thought, however, I have discovered that I cannot explain pornography to my children until we have discussed sexuality. This topic makes many adults cringe (or is it just me? I have honestly had to practice saying "Penis" and "Vagina" in the mirror without looking like I was going to throw up so I could do this thing without setting off my kids' bullcrap detectors), but I promise that practice makes perfect - so start when they are young! This is the way I have explained sexuality to my girls: 
You were born so special. God gave you your body, and your brain, and your talents. And he made you perfectly so that, as you grow up, you will get to become a wife and a mommy just like me! And when you are a mommy, I will be your kids' GRANDMA (I had to include that part - the idea of me as a grandma never ceases to amaze and delight my kids somehow. This is where I have left off so far with my four-year-old in the Pornography department. Right now I am still working with her on good touch/bad touch, body confidence and establishing the power she has over her body. More on that later)

The age to begin delving into the actual subject of pornography will vary - I felt good about beginning this discussion when my oldest was six. Obviously you should use your judgment and start this part when you feel your child is ready (don't wait until YOU are ready for them to be ready, or you may never start! These talks take courage, period).
 God also gave you a very powerful gift - the gift of attraction. This can come as a feeling in your body, or just powerful thoughts. It makes you want to love and kiss and touch and maybe someday marry another person. This attraction can especially come when you look at someone or a picture of someone whom your eyes and brain and body like. And it is such a blessing! Attraction happens to boys and girls and makes it so someday you can get married and have babies and create a family. 
But Satan has a plan to take you away from the life God wants you to have - he wants to use this powerful gift of attraction against you. Have you ever heard of pornography? Pornography is an image or video of people who are meant to confuse your brain and body into feeling attraction. And it is a LIE! It is Satan's way of taking the beautiful gift God has given you, the one that will someday make you a wife and mommy, and using it to hurt you. Sometimes pornography is one person without any clothes on, and sometimes it is many people looking at or touching each other. Looking at pornography will hurt your body and your spirit. It isn't your fault that you are attracted to these images - God made you with a strong attraction to other people and their bodies. I just want you to know that pornography is a lie made to confuse you, and that you have to be careful how you use the powerful gift of attraction/sexuality that you have been given. There is going to come a day when you see pornography, so I want you to know what it is when you see it so we can talk about it. 

I then have gone through a list of ways and places that my child might run into pornography, and what to do when it happens. 

That is it - the bare bones of the pornography discussions that I have had with my kids so far. And, yes, I definitely meant to say DISCUSSIONS, plural. When we drive down the road and see an advertisement for lingerie, we talk about pornography. When someone says or does something lewd on the television, we talk about pornography. I want the word and its meaning to become something real to my children, so that WHEN they encounter it (and if you believe that it is an IF and not a WHEN, then, I'm sorry, but you're kidding yourself), they will not be confused and excited. They will be able to call it what it is, skip the titillation, and instead be able to walk away. AND they will know without a doubt that they can come home and talk to me about it. Because Mom NEVER SHUTS UP about pornography! I never want shame to be a part of the conversation. I don't want them to feel ashamed of their desires, their bodies, or the things they see or mistakes they make. I just want them to be able to call it what it is. 

2. Body Talk
I don't believe there is a magic age for teaching kids about sex (I still haven't discussed the actual  mechanics of sex with my oldest. We have talked about sex, but only in general terms), but body talks should, in my opinion, start young and be frequent. Also, these talks should be brief. It doesn't need to be (read: it SHOULDN'T be) a lengthy or uncomfortable sermon on modesty and private parts! It should become a part of your every day dialogue. i.e. When your daughter puts her arms around her brother in WinCo and he squeals like a pig, you can gently say, "That's his body. Please listen and respect him when he tells you 'No'." Or when that same daughter is pointing at her brother's penis in the bathtub and laughing, you can say, "What's so funny? That's just Finn's penis. You have a vagina and you don't see him laughing at you!"

When my son started reaching down and touching his junk while I changed his diaper, I told him the name for what he was holding. Now he cheerfully walks around my house calling things "PEE-DIS", and I am perfectly okay with that. 
When he is closer to three, as I did with his sisters, I will start to talk to him about how his body is great and amazing and a gift from his Father in Heaven, but that it is private, and all bodies are private. We will discuss how boy and girl private parts are different, how they are similar, and that, while nudity is okay in our home it is absolutely not okay outside of it or on the TV or computer. This is when I will let him know that if he ever sees a naked body outside of our home, he should tell me immediately. 
This age is also when I start checking out this book from the library a few times a year. There are many like it out there, but I like how simple and easy this one is. It lays the foundation for good touch/bad touch basics and teaches children that they are allowed to say no if they don't want to be touched in any given moment. 

Until my children are closer to puberty and seem less comfortable being mostly naked all over my house (that day has to come eventually, right?), I am not worried about them sharing the bathtub or changing time. Hopefully I will get a sense for when to transition through the coming phases (I assume that some of these shifts will be quite subtle, while others will be more obvious, as was the moment when it became clear that my oldest child was too cognizant to bathe with daddy any longer; she looked up at my husband mid-shower and said "Daddy, your private is yucky" with an evil grin on her face) as I continue to have an open dialogue with my kids about sex, sexuality, and pornography. 

Please share your thoughts and techniques with me if you are comfortable doing so - heaven knows I am no expert! I am just a mom who is passionate about having these difficult discussions with my children in order to help them navigate this crazy, messed up world we are passing on to them. I have read books and articles and news stories on this topic, and the more I learn the more I feel that the only way I can help them become sexually healthy adults is to be their confidante and sounding board as they mature. 

Sharing ideas about these topics isn't easy for many of us, especially those of us who had what one friend so lovingly called "the traditional, Puritanical Mormon upbringing" that I have had. But sex and sexuality are natural and healthy and beautiful, and I never want my children to believe otherwise.

And if you are not currently a mother or want to do more to learn about/fight against pornography in our world, check out www.fightthenewdrug.org. 

More Fun Links: 

*Note: Because of my LDS faith, I will be discussing the truth about sexuality in religious terms. However, whether you believe in God or not, this post still applies to you and the children in your life! Find your own way to bring it up and don't shut up about it until your kids are old or you are dead. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

[Good] Enough Already!

You guys. I was looking through my blog for the first time in FOREVER (insert Frozen Sing-Along here) and I found this post that I wrote almost exactly a year ago but never posted. I remember why I didn't post it. It felt preachy and intense and even silly, since I hadn't posted on my blog in so long. Who is even reading this now, after years of neglect? I don't know. And today I don't care.
(JUST KIDDING READER!! I LOVE YOU! COME BACK TO ME!!!! I'LL NEVER LEAVE YOU AGAIN, PROMISE!!!)

...well, there goes my dignity! Oh, right. Never had any. Well, good. That makes this easier.

I re-read this un-posted post today, and I'm so glad I did. I'm posting it now just for me, because I needed to read it today. I hope you like it. Or at least don't hate me for getting my Big Girl voice on for a minute.

______________written 1.22.14____________

Today I was driven to the blog for the first time in far too long, and it wasn't because I am dying to share pictures and stories of my insanely adorable (and sometimes just plain insane) children or tell you all about our big move back to Idaho or holiday updates or even my yearly New Years Resolution stuff. 
Today I got mad because, for the five hundredth time this year so far, I heard someone refer to another person as a "good mom"

Why, after months of blogospheric oblivion would this phrase drive me online? 
Because enough is enough.
Ladies, I'm talking to you. 

We live in a world of scarcity, it's true. Every woman I know wakes up and begins running the numbers...
"Shoot, I didn't get enough sleep."
"I don't have enough time."
"Is there enough money?"
"I don't look good enough to be out in public."
"I'm not good enough. I'm not smart enough. And, gosh darnit, people don't like me enough."

With all of the comparisons we put ourselves up against every day, whether it be our neighbor who has the same amount of kids we do and a husband who works the same hours yet she always seems to be put together and you always feel one toddler tantrum away from driving your minivan off of a cliff a la Thelma and Louise, or the hundreds of images and messages we see everyday online from friends, celebrities, media, etc. that seem to whisper (and sometimes, shout), "Look at me. I'm better than you. I have it together. I still fit in my size two jeans. I never yell at my kids. My sweet children's lips have never tasted Kraft macaroni and cheese. Young Winston and Arabella took violin lessons before they learned to walk and never, ever pooped out of their diapers and up their backs and onto my designer jeans. I mean, can you even imagine?!"

Here's the truth.
There are no "good" parents and "bad" parents. 
Yes, there are awful, despicable people who abuse, neglect, under-nourish and mistreat their children. That is a sad, sickening fact. 
But these parents are ABUSIVE
And, no, it is not abusive to feed your kids a non-organic apple or let them run around the house in their underwear or tell them "no" 100 times a day.
As for the rest of us non-abusive parents, we are all. just. PARENTS. 
Even if some days you turn on Nickelodeon and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner, and don't blow dry wash brush touch your hair, 
YOU. ARE. ENOUGH
 You are enough every day that you are trying to be better than you were the day before - win, lose, or draw. 
You are enough if you have parenting goals, even if every morning starts with, "I will NOT lose my temper at my children today!" and ends with 
"GOOOOOOOOO TOOOOOO BEEEEEEED...  
OR ELSE!!"
You are enough if you are trying to notice your children, their hopes and fears, and remain close to them through their transitions and changes. 
You are enough if you have a three year old that still refuses to use the potty, so you are back to diapers for the fourth time because it's her body and not yours and you don't control when and where she pees no matter how hard you try! ...At least that's what I've been trying to tell myself for the last week.
Borrowed (stolen) from here.

This jam goes out to all of my non-mommy friends, too, who worry about what others think or wish that things could be different or are tired of feeling guilty for whatever reason. Guess what? You are enough, with or without kids, in your skinny or fat jeans, with six million friends or just three good ones. 

The labeling and put-downs and endless, endless competition has got to stop! These labels just tear us down, collectively, and weaken us. We are women. Whether or not you have children, we are a part of the most influential group in the world. We run the world (girls!). Instead of looking at a picture of Jessica taking her son to the park on Instagram and thinking, "Ugh Jessica you freaking show off! Crap. I can't remember the last time I took my kid to the park. I suck." let's try thinking "Go Jessica's kid! You slide down that slide with your bad self!" or whatever your inner monologue sounds like. Apparently today mine is one Jive Turkey. 

What if we embraced our differences, loved ourselves, and made motherhood a community that didn't allow comparisons and labels? Being called a Good Mom isn't going to mean anything in twenty years. Why? Because there is no way to measure it! What is good to you is someone else's mediocre (have you ever attempted a Martha Stewart craft that wound up looking like it was made by a person with hooks for hands? Then you will know what I am talking about). Also, you CANNOT control your kids. I repeat: YOU CANNOT CONTROL YOUR KIDS. You control the consequences of their actions when they are young. You control what they are taught and how they live, but you cannot take their agency away forever. If you want a measure of a good mom do you look at who logged the most hours? Or was the nicest? Or gave the most punishments? 
Your kids are going to be adults someday and you need to impart to them the knowledge they need to succeed. Whether facebook called you a good mom will not matter in the long run. 
You know what will? Whether your kids enjoy their relationship with you. The number of hugs and kisses and I love you's given in a day, a week, a year. Whether you kept trying, even when things sucked.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Merry Christmas and All That

Here is a copy of our family's Christmas Letter/Card this year. Just in case you were interested. And if you weren't, well...
move along. 
I'll wait...


Hey friends.

I didn’t really have time to come up with a cute Family Christmas Card this year, so I found a form-letter online that I’m going to use to send you Christmas Greetings from the Tietjen Family. I have never really done this before, so please bear with me a moment…

[Greeting,] –nailed it.

[Open by warmly expressing interest in audience’s past year, followed by assuming their interest in your family’s current happenings.] –What he said.

[Begin listing family members one-by-one, cataloging accomplishments, major occurrences, and the High Point of each person’s year.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to leave out embarrassing and inconsequential details, as making your family seem ordinary and less-than-perfect will surely turn your reader off. There is nothing so unattractive as one’s humanity showing.] …okay… that’s a bit harsh. Oh well, that should be easy?

Klayton: K is just about to finish his last semester as an undergraduate with a major in History, a minor in French, and a glare that will melt the flesh off of your face √† la Indiana Jones’s last crusade if you dare ask him what he plans to do with such a useless degree. He has spent a particularly intense fall semester as a full time student taking 22 credit hours while working three jobs and spending two months of his “free time” coordinating the sale of his property management business, a six-year-old venture that he is not too terribly sad to see the back of. His application letters to graduate schools are all “in the mail”, so to speak, and he is eagerly awaiting the Golden Ticket to four more years of college that one of these institutions of higher learning is sure to offer him. Preferably attached to a bar of chocolate, but we will take what we get.

High Points: Making the Dean’s List for all three semesters of school he attended in 2014 (apparently in college being on the Dean’s List is a good thing) and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix much-too-late into the night with Mandy (see below).

Mandy:  Never one to waste an opportunity, Mandy has spent much of the past year having an elaborate nervous breakdown due to stress, lack of sleep, and dangerously high amounts of caffeine intake (mostly intravenously and/or via fistfuls of chocolate chips taken on the hour, every hour). She, too, has worked multiple jobs this year, including office manager (see extinct property management business), online content author, and, recently, a seasonal retail worker at her local Kohl’s. Oh, and she also mothers three children (see below) and even occasionally glimpses her spouse (above).  Mandy placed first in her age group in a 10K this summer, which enabled her to strut around like she was cool for a good forty-five minutes, until she accidentally strutted past a mirror. Mandy turned thirty last month and decided to celebrate with an elaborate big screen viewing of The Goonies, inarguably the greatest film of her or any generation.  She also was recently called to be the Primary Chorister at church, a job that she is intensely excited about but trying really hard to play it cool so just don’t blow it for her, okay?

High Points: Receiving her Bachelor’s Degree (English Literature – don’t even say it. Serious side effects of her glare include facial-flesh-melting AND low sperm count) in the mail and throwing elaborate parties for any and every occasion she could think of (although, oddly, not for said college graduation).

Avery: Having turned seven in May, Avery spends most of her time planning her upcoming marriage (I won’t embarrass her by naming the groom-to-be, but if we could go a day without discussing her eventual nuptials I would be so, so pleased), discovering how the world works and then passing on the info to her ever-attentive little sister. Avery is enjoying school immensely (except for homework, but that’s not technically school and anyway no one ever cares for homework… so I guess all of this really goes without saying), especially recess (Duh) and reading time. Avery has discovered her love of books this year with the help of friends like Junie B. Jones and Roald Dahl (and the fact that Mom pays her $1 for every chapter book she reads. When you’re seven, $1/book is hitting pay dirt, hard).

High Points: Her elaborate BYO Stuffed Animal birthday extravaganza at our local zoo, beginning gymnastics classes with a friend, and our road trips to Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and South Dakota where she got to see sorely-missed friends, family, and Mt. Rushmore.

Carter: If you took all of the energy emitted by the sun in a given moment and infused it into a firecracker which you then shoved up a unicorn’s butt, you would have a portion of Carter’s explosive, sparkly, and warm personality. Carter’s perfect day looks something like this: Wake up. Eat breakfast (Immediately. No seriously. Now. Mom. Is breakfast ready yet? I’m hungry. Mom….) Have a play date with her best (“best best best best”) friend. Eat lunch. Take a seventy-five minute bath. Make Finn cry by giving him one (ten) too many hugs. Hang on her big sister’s every word. Sing fifty-five songs (forty of which are Carter Originals; the others are from Frozen, obvs). Eat dinner (two bites). Eat dessert (two helpings, please). Go to bed (code for make Big Sister giggle late into the night). Repeat.

High Points: Her Unicorn-themed forth birthday party, every time she got to see Brooklyn and Xavery, playing soccer and beginning gymnastics, and anytime the camera was on her (girl can mug for a photo like no one’s business).

Finn: This year Finn went from sleeping more than he was awake to “Holy-crap-will-you-ever-go-to-sleep-?-Please-I-am-begging-you-stop-climing-into-everything-!-Oh-no-,-he-fell-down-again-.-Finn-please-get-down-put-it-down-sit-down-you’re-grounded!!!” This year Finn taught his parents that little boys truly are different than little girls in more than just the diaper department. Finn loves: saying hi to strangers, giving high fives, saying “CHEESE!” for the camera, throwing everything on the ground, taking baths, being INTENSELY adorable and climb-ing-on-to-ev-ery-thing. Finn dislikes: nursery, being told “NO!” and any food that isn’t candy.

High Points: One word: Halloween. Finn figured out the racket that is Halloween in about four seconds, flat. After that he would waddle up to each door without help (mom and dad just slowed him down), hold out his pumpkin-shaped Halloween bag, say “TRIHH-TREEEE” (roughly translated- Trick or Treat), smile, receive the forth-coming compliments from the adoring masses as well as his (well-deserved) handful of candy, say “TAAY TUUU” (thank you) and shout “HAAH HAOWEE!!” (Happy Halloween. Or, more likely, “See you, Suckas!!”) over his shoulder as he toddled back to his stroller. He would then imperiously ride to the next driveway, where he would repeat the process.

[Once you have given way too much information on each family member, insert more formalities about wishing readers health, wealth, happiness and all of that other nonsense here.] Riiiight… Listen, this thing is getting way too long. No one is still reading at this point, anyway. I’ll just skip this part.

[Close with something clever and memorable.] Ummm Thanks for, like, reading and stuff? …I really hope I’m filling this thing out correctly…

[Expression of Fondness,] Peace out, you guys!

[Your Family’s Name Here]
The Tietjen Family 

Monday, October 28, 2013

morning wisdom: the carter edition

"Dada, sometimes your panties is inside-out.
Sometimes they inside-in.
My panties is inside-in.
[Pulls out wedgie]
Now they inside-out."
Cupcake Carter in her Halloween Costume 10.13


Thursday, September 26, 2013

pudge fudge nudge budge sludge judge grudge trudge

This little man is blowing my mind/melting my heart too, too much lately. 
Which, really, only leaves, like, a spleen and liver and stuff...
Let's just say I'm not 100% most of the time. 
So you'll please forgive me if I, like, forget your name or trip over aboslutely nothing.
I am a walking Medical Miracle, after all. 
That face! That pudge! I'm a goner.
This guy is rolling, scooting on his belly, smiling and laughing, sleeping through the night, and winning Biggest and Best Owl Eyes awards the whole world over.
And just last night he discovered his toes
SWOON.
Honestly, I couldn't possibly love him more. 

Because he's changing so quickly, I find myself anxious to spend all of his waking hours staring at him.
Usually while doing this, I secretly wish that Avery's nightly prayer ("And please bless that Finn will stop growing and stay little and cute forever.") would come true.
I'll eat you up.
...Just kidding. 
That would be tragic. 
Because, however fun it is to have this teensy roly-poly-pudgy-wudgy guy in my life, I can't wait to see how he will change and grow tomorrow. 
And the next day.  

You know, as long as looking at his adorable cheeks doesn't, like, collapse my lungs next.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

first aid in the first grade

Call a medic. 
My heart is broken. 
The summer has flown by and my baby is in the first grade. 
And isn't she the cutest ever? She picked out every single thing from her leopard leggings to her fox earrings. And she made me straighten her hair even though it's rainy and humid which equals frizzzzz. She is the most beautiful thing around. Darn it- I'm pretty sure this caption stopped being a caption a long time ago. It is now officially a short story. Not even a good one. But let me skip to the end... Blah blah blah and then you find out that The Lottery is a drawing to decide who will be stoned to death in the village square.*
 Which means she is gone.
All. Day. Long. 
And I miss her already. 

*If you didn't get the joke in my caption, then congratulations! You are not a huge nerd. 
...Also, I apologize, but I may have just ruined the ending of one of America's greatest short stories for you - The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.

Friday, August 16, 2013

if I could turn back time

Today was another of those days when I felt like Finn was growing leaps and bounds before my incredulous eyes.
All at once he felt a little heavier, a bit longer. He talked more, touched more, was more patient with the ever "loving" (i.e. mauling) Carter. He even noticed when K got home from work, tracking his every movement and smile hugely at him for fifteen minutes straight.

I mean, I know that he is always changing, but some days his growth seems to hit fast-forward. And every single time it leaves me reeling (and pathetically humming
Slipping Through My Fingers to myself).

How many more days and weeks do I have before he's crawling out of my reach?
How many more times will I get to scoop him up in my arms and sing to him (without spraining something and/or being told, "Stop! You're embarrassing me," that is)?
How many more times can I get away with plastering Instagram with his sweet cheeks before I'm lynched by an angry mob of my peers?

Not enough.



Tonight I teared up (That's right, I'm a crier. And I'm not ashamed! ...much) as I snagged him for a late-night feeding, running over with gratitude to be a mom: to be his mom and Avery's mom and Carter's mom.

The life of a mother with small children is so bleepety-bleeping frustrating and tiring too often.
But nothing, nothing, could outrun, outweigh or outdo the joy of being Mom.

But, Time (Do you mind if I call you Time?), listen. If you could slow down just a little... Just so I have these days where I glimpse his not-too-distant future (the one where he's riding his bike up and down the street one day and getting married and starting a family of his own the next) a little less often... Well, then maybe I could skip the panic attacks (and sappy Abba-inspired montages) and enjoy life more fully.

...some days that just feels impossible.

Yesterday at Finn's four moth check up, the doctor said two little words that I never before imagined would strike such poignant fear in my heart: Solid Foods.

My throat felt dry and I nearly shouted at the poor doctor with a frightening look in my eye (judging by his slightly-terrified reaction): "I'm not ready!!"

How have we come to this little milestone, I ask you?

And why did it freak me out so badly?

Most importantly, where has Time gone?!

...turns out that Time is a real jerk.

So I guess it really is up to me to be the one to slow down life, put down distractions, and get down with my little ones while they're still little.

And while they're still mine.

Today there's Time enough for that.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, August 5, 2013

R.E.M. and My Apocalypse

 Please read this post knowing that until fairly recently, I thought any saying ever put up on a Pinterest board with a rippling pond in the background or on a motivational poster with a picture of a kitty cat hanging on by his wittwe cwaws was pure and utter garbage.
 I am very, very ashamed to say that I also believed that anything anyone got in life, they probably deserved. I had a limited, black and white perspective on life, and that included on myself. I was never, ever anything enough - smart, funny, pretty, interesting, worthwhile - not ever. An internal dialogue of criticism and scarcity is something that I continue to struggle with. But today I want to share some pretty serious things that are on my mind -- Please tune in again next time if you want to skip the Self Help portion of this station and get back to the regularly scheduled Looney Tunes reruns that are my usual fare.
I remember this wittwe kitty when I'm feewing bwue.
Today marks the three year anniversary of the day that my life fell apart. 

Do normal people celebrate such macabre milestones?
Huh. 
Oh well. I certainly never claimed to be normal. 

This date will be forever black in my calendar- a day I probably should reserve for mourning. Or crying. Or at least eating my weight in Ben and Jerry's. 
 But, instead, here's how I [try to] see it.
Our lives are a battle for control.
We battle to control ourselves, the people around us, and the elements. 
Two out of three are a complete lost cause. 
But still, we try.

...let me back up a little bit...

 Bren√© Brown, famous (and absolutely brilliant and wonderful) TED speaker, author, and shame researcher, writes about living a whole-hearted life from the perspective of the enlightenment she found through a mid-life spiritual awakening (i.e. nervous breakdown).
I can definitely relate. 

Three years ago demons I didn't know existed popped out of the woodwork of the life I had built to destroy every ounce of peace that I had. It left me without appetite for days, broken and shaking, and on my knees begging for mercy and relief in endless, pleading prayers. 

I'm sorry for the discomfort of this retelling. And the lack of specific detail given. Unfortunately judgment is so easy -- at least it's something I struggle with -- and I would hate to share my very real, raw truth with someone I wasn't looking in the eye. In my experience, though, we each have wounds concealed, and so I hope acknowledging mine without divulging exactly where I was tripped up and exactly how much blood I lost will suffice.


We all know and love and possibly are people who have encountered infertility, marital problems, struggles with faith, terrifying medical emergencies, loneliness, death, addiction, illness, and countless other trials where life just doesn't quite go to plan.
I have never been quick on my feet when it comes to my plans going awry. 

But working through the fallout of my dark day has meant making peace with my control issues.
The serenity prayer goes something like, "God give me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." 
Stuff like this, as well as the oft-overused "One day at a time", definitely used to sound unbearably cheesy to me, but I now understand what they are getting at and how the spirit of these mantras applies to my life. 
Lame! But true.
 Everything about me is just a little bit different than it was three years ago. Not because we're all always changing, which is true, but because my faith has been tested and my eyes have been opened to the fact that Everybody Hurts (sing along with me... "sometimes" ...Stuck in your head now, aint it?). The things that hurt us are different but the instinctive reactions are the same: close up, shut off, try to make it stop, fill gaps with anything and everything we can, avoid, lash out... 
Fight or flight is not just for the unwitting prey of jungle cats, my friends. 

But the only real solution is to give up control. And since no one on earth is perfect, that means that no one is trustworthy enough to be given control. That's where I have found the real life application of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in my life. Now, the Atonement is something that I have heard and read and studied and prayed and thought about my whole life, but I know that I never really understood what it meant until I was finally given a personal experience that I couldn't survive alone.

As I struggled for months with my disaster fallout, reading one sentence finally clicked everything together in my mind and allowed me to piece together the answer to all of my questions: How am I supposed to let go of control? How can I ever have trust - for myself or my loved ones or my future? How can I keep from becoming so broken ever, ever again? Will I ever be whole?  

This was the sentence: "The love of God, yours for Him and His for you, will help you form one relationship to which you can give yourself without reservation."
That was it - the key to beginning to unlock the answers to my aching, up-at-night, tear-soaked-pillow questions. 

I have always believed these the following: God is perfect. He made me. He loves me. 

And because those things are true, I don't have to worry about protecting myself by fighting with or fleeing from pain and disappointment. I don't have to worry about screwing up everything. I don't have to worry about the choices of others hurting me. I don't have to be afraid of my future, whatever it may bring. 
I just have to take one day at a time living my life, trying my best, choosing the best things I can, and trusting that God will take care of the rest. 

 Because, really, I have no other choice. 

Trust me, if I could, I would snatch up the Life Steering Wheel for myself and everyone around me in a heartbeat! I would be so darn good at fixing other people's problems and making other people's choices!
Or so I'd like to think.  
 But I only can control me- my choices, my reactions, the things I fill my life with. 
And that's where the one day at a time part kicks in. Every day as I pray I promise to give control to God and ask for help and peace in return. So far, I have been blessed beyond reason, even though my life is far from perfect. 
A new kind of Serenity Prayer.
Most of us will have one day, or perhaps many (but gosh, I hope not) days in our lives that level our world. Fragile buildings of relationships, trust, confidence, happiness, safety- all can be destroyed without so much as a by your leave. And in those moments we will feel alone and covered in dust, scrapes, and probably more than a little asbestos, with the choice to pick up the salvageable pieces, dust ourselves off and rebuild, or lay down, take a deep, satisfyingly carcinogenic breath, and die.
I just want you to know that 
with Christ, there is always, always, always hope.  
 And, to me, there is nothing cheesy about that.

It feels as though my life revolves around the events of my black day three years ago. Although a large part of me would be glad to have the power to erase that day from my and your and every calendar, I have to admit that the End of My World as I Knew It ([and I Feel Fine]... now try getting that song out of your head!) became the foundation upon which I am, with the help and strength that my faith brings, rebuilding everything I can. And I believe I am building it all a little stronger, a little brighter, a little taller. 
My buildings all still have weak spots - glaring vulnerabilities that I try to embrace or crappy craftsmanship that I have marked for remodel if only I ever get the time/patience/balls. There are buildings that I have rebuilt slowly, with fear of collapse and a vivid replay of the awful destruction I have already survived in every brick and beam. 
But I kept building.
Because I don't have to be afraid of collapse. I don't have to feel the pain from old scars.
I just have to choose to trust God. I have to do the best I can today, and hang onto the knowledge that God is aware of me.
Every day.
One day at a time.

P.S. To order your own motivational t-shirt (the ones that I print in my mom's basement) please send $5 to 5555 Hang In There Wittwe Kitty Lane; Unicornia, OR 55555