Tuesday, October 31, 2017

When a Tiny Project Keeps Growing...and Growing...and Growing!

Currently underway is a huge sealant and painting project at a community that I manage.  One that will last several months long.  One thing I've noticed is that as they complete one section, the sections next to it, that I thought looked fine prior, now look in dire need of a coat of paint. 

The exterior paint job has also highlighted some areas in the interior of the underground parking.  So I decided to have my staff brighten up a few things in there as well.  First thing was to repaint all the blue handicap areas and the blue stripes in the parking lot.  Once this was done it made the white arrows and white stripes look dull.  So then I directed them to paint the white.  After the white was done you could see the sidewalk floor leading to the elevator lobby badly needed a fresh coat of paint.  That job was completed yesterday so then today I noticed that much of the yellow curbing now looks dull, with black marks on along the front sides of the curbs.  What was going to be a quick touch up of the blue has now led to our second week of interior garage painting.

Have you ever done that?  Where you paint one area of your home and then realize everything around it now looks dirty or dingy?  Or maybe you've cleaned out your refrigerator and felt great about it until you opened the freezer and realized it needs it too.

As I was giving my staff direction this morning on the addition of painting the yellow curbing I realized that this is happening in my life right now too.  There was a specific thing I had really wanted to work on regarding personal growth.  In that endeavor I have a mentor that I meet with regularly to bounce things off of and to get a different perspective on some things other than just my own thoughts on a subject.  It also provides accountability.  Much the same as I meet regularly with my staff, so that if they get tired of painting, I can encourage them to keep on and point out areas that they are doing great, but on occasion point out areas for improvement or safety.  To make sure they are using tape to keep straight lines or a reminder to put out wet floor or wet paint signs.  And then sometimes, like today, they thought they were finally done and I added the yellow curbs to the list. 

Today I felt that way personally, like God was speaking to me and adding way more to my personal growth list than I had bargained for. Telling me that I still have blurred lines and to use His Word to make sure my lines stay straight. That made me wonder if maybe I need to hang a "caution, work in progress" sign around my neck!  Just kidding.  But seriously, just as I'm getting one area all spiffed up and a fresh coat of paint, I turn and see another area being highlighted that now appears dirty or dingy.  In one way I'm grateful because if my first impression had just been all the messy areas in my life I might have given up long ago. So in that way I'm grateful that it is a process.  However, it is one that is definitely growing and growing. 

Questions to ask myself:
  • What are some areas in my life that I want to change or are currently working on? 
  • In that process have I seen other areas that weren't even on my radar before now being highlighted? 
  • Does it discourage me that it could become a never ending list? 
  • Or am I encouraged because while I know it is becoming much more in-depth than I had ever imagined, I also know how satisfied it feels when a specific project or area is completed? 
  • Am I willing to continue to make improvements, even if that means I will be constantly improving and learning until my last breath?

Here's a verse that I use to encourage myself:

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.  - Philippians 1:6

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Braces - The Process for a Great Smile

When I was around 30 I decided to get braces.  My top teeth were nice and straight, but the bottom ones were crooked.  I debated getting them as I thought if I've gone this long without braces, then what's the point.  Thankfully someone else I knew had braces as an adult and reminded me that two years of braces, even as an adult, were well worth the next 50+ years of nice straight teeth.  Two years at that moment literally felt "forever" but she was right.  A decade or so later those two years seem to be just a blip and am so grateful I went through with it.

At the consultation I was told that the wisdom teeth would all have to come out.  Two had erupted and two were still in the gum.  They didn't hurt anymore (they did at first) and I couldn't see them, but they still had to be removed.  This involved going to a surgery center, being put out and days of pain and recuperation and complications with dry socket.

Also there I asked if I could just get braces on the bottom ones, the ones that were crooked.  Was told for it to be effective I would have to have braces on EVERY. SINGLE. TOOTH! This was because the crooked teeth relied on the wires and brackets of the other teeth to work together to be in proper alignment.  And to make such drastic changes in direction, there needed to be much reinforcement and a lot of bracing, brackets, metal and ugh, rubberbands.

The straightening process also required monthly check ins with my orthodontist to make sure my teeth were on the right track.  At these appointments adjustments were made and at times more stretching via smaller rubberbands were incorporated. Often times at the end of these appointments the new adjustments would bring the pain back again.

It didn't take long and they straightened up.  So of course I asked if I could have the braces removed now as they were now visibly straight and not the estimated two years they were saying to leave them on. In response to that the orthodontist showed me my x-rays. He showed me how while my teeth outwardly looked straight, the roots to the teeth were still crooked, as being an adult they had had lots of years to establish strong roots in the wrong location.

When I was finally done with this long process and had the brackets and braces removed, was told that I would still have to have a retainer. I ended up choosing a permanent retainer that was cemented to the back of my teeth.  This way if any changes happened, if the teeth retained any of the "memory" and tried to go back to their former positions, they would always be shored up and stay aligned.

What's my point with all of this?  I can see correlations to each step of the process to making changes in our lives.

First off its easy to think, well I've lived my life this way this long, what's the point of changing now?  Don't give up hope. Don't think it is too late.  Until your last breath, it is never to late for change!

I have some family members that have committed to long term (9-12mths) rehab type settings and while that sounds forever, in the grand scheme of things, it will be great and lasting changes for the rest of their lives.  Much like the two years I thought were forever, looking back it was so short and so worthwhile.  There are often things in our life that the process seems to long, but positive changes, whether made in a moment, a day or even over the course of a year or more, are so worth it.

The removal of the molars, even the ones I can't see remind me of hidden things in our lives, maybe no one else has a clue that they are there, but they are hindering growth and change and until we go through the cutting and removal of these obstacles, nothing else we do will be lasting.  Even if we don't think they are hurting us now, and we know the removal will definitely be painful, this is the basis for all the rest.

As far as just having braces on the bottom, all the teeth have to have braces on them to work together to reach the proper alignment.  In life, with major changes you need every aspect shored up.  Let people come along side you and help shore up these changes.  Most changes require other unexpected changes in conjunction to provide the full, lasting change.  Be willing to be stretched. 

Like the monthly orthodontist appointments, if needed, go to professionals, whether that be doctors or counselors, or both.  Be willing to made adjustments.  Even if they feel like they are temporarily increasing the pain more than they are helping.

It's so easy, at least for me, to make temporary changes and then feel like everything is now fine.  Without realizing that possibly neural pathways in the brain have developed grooves and deep seated behaviors have formed even more deeply established roots.  So while the outside may be looking nice and neat, don't let down your guard or your shoring up in this stage, as the root causes still need time to be removed or reset in the proper locations.  Leave the braces on until your roots are strong and aligned with the new position of the external (the teeth in this case).

And finally, when the obstacles have been removed, you have stayed the course for the duration of bracing and stretching, you showed up for each appointment, you followed the advice given and it's time to be free of all the metal and brackets and rubberbands, there is still one last thing.  The permanent retainer.  What guidelines have you established as the truth in your life?  The non-negotiables? This is cementing your retainer in place.  So that no matter what the other teeth, or people, do around you, no matter what outside obstacles come at you, you will stand firm, stay aligned and straight.  Removable retainers allow you, after time, to slowly no longer feel the need for them, and eventually never use it again.  Take the time, money and effort to make your retainer permanent. Don't give yourself the option to let time allow you to progressively use it less and less until you no longer feel the need for it.  I can't say it enough, cement it in place. I've taken all the above steps before; the pain, the time and the effort, and years down the road found myself right back in the same place. This is incredibly frustrating and discouraging.

To recap -
  • remove the deep hidden obstacles
  • shore up and bracket all the support areas to the changes you want to make
  • ask for help
  • use professionals if needed
  • don't rush the process
  • establish permanent boundaries to ensure long lasting changes. 

Then SMILE!!  Use your new smile to bring joy to those around you.  And if someone asks how you got such a beautiful smile, be willing to share with them how they too can make these changes in their life. 

Hearing God - "Am I Enough?"

So God has been speaking to me all day. But not quite what I wanted to hear. No "you are enough" confirmations, no "I'm going to take away your addictions or desires," no free passes of "I'll overlook your excess spending because it's the lesser of the evils," no "it's ok to go searching for guy validation because you feel bad." No direction, no guidance, no easy buttons. Nope, all He keeps saying is "am I enough?" He isn't focused on if I feel I'm enough. Because we are here to glorify HIM. It isn't about me. Is He all I need? Is He who I turn to? Is He being praised despite feelings or circumstances?

And how do you reconcile that? When you know the right answer is "yes, Lord, you are enough." Yet your flesh is still yelling, no, it's not enough. I want my soup (when Esau had no patience and thought he would die of hunger and was willing to give up his birthright for a bowl of soup - story found in Genesis 25:29-34). I want it now. I don't want patience. I can't always see my right as His daughter and at moments my current needs seem the end all.  When you struggle to see the long term consequences because the short term desires are so in your face they are blocking your view. 

So He continues to whisper, all day into the night, "am I enough now? Am I enough if things don't change? Am I enough even when you can't see beyond the minute by minute trusting?" And while I so badly want to whole heartedly say "yes, You are my all, my enough, my everything" all I can get out is "Dear Lord, I want you to be enough, but I can't do it myself.  Please change my heart, my attitude, my desires. Help me not be short sighted. Help me see the path to life. Help me moment by moment choose that path. Give me your peace, and not let me be satisfied with temporary worldly peace." And then trust that He isn't disappointed in my shortcomings. In my brutal honesty. And that as I choose life that more and more I'll stand solid, firm and anchored and know that He truly is enough. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Black Dog, White Couch

In Georgia we had a large, beautiful Cape Cod style home, surrounded by three acres of shady wood-lined trails.  The over-sized, overstuffed dark brown, living room furniture set we had went perfect in it.  Then we moved to the beach where I immediately fell in love with the white slip covered style furniture.  But with perfectly fine brown furniture, two kids and a dog, I held off.  Finally this past fall, with the kids being 18 and 20, I thought it was time to get the beach furniture I wanted.  Wasn't too worried about the dog as he doesn't normally shed and I've never seen dog hair on our furniture.

Finally the day came this past fall and I brought home my white sofa and club chair.  Not just any sofa or chair, but Pottery Barn slip covered ones and down-filled cushions and pillows as a bonus.  I then spent hours refinishing the coffee table and end tables in chalk paint colors of antique white and turquoise, completing the beach look I was wanting.  Added the right throw blanket and more down filled decorative seashell pillows and it was perfect.  Until my dog decided it was perfect for him, to curl up on, to run back and forth across the hanging down edge...and leave tiny black hairs all over it.  Black dog hairs?!  On my new stuff, seriously?!  Especially when he is almost 10 years old and never before have I ever seen dog hair on any of our sofas or chairs.  It was then I realized there probably was dog hair on our other furniture, but it was so dark and the type of material it was (suede fabric) that I never even noticed it.  It took the crisp new, white linen to show what was happening all along, and by all along I mean the past 10 years we've had our dog.

So what have I learned from this, other than the obvious of black dogs and white couches don't mix well?  That often in life we don't truly see what is happening.  Surroundings cover it up and we think it doesn't exist, but all along it is there, just hidden.  Because we can't see it doesn't mean it isn't there.  How often do we compare things we do to things other people do?  Because our issues blend in so well and aren't always obvious we easily convince ourselves that our issues don't even exist.  It's only when the true clean, white standard of God's Word is put against our issues do they stand out.  I feel like I'm in a similar season of life.  Things I've done for years, just as we've had our dog for years, are coming to light.  And now is the time of choosing.  Do we cover it with a throw blanket or pillows?  Do we try to place it next to something of similar color or actions so it doesn't appear to be so bad after all?  Or is it time to keep the white couch, the white glove test, the God standard, and remove the source of what is causing the imperfections?  One thing, no matter what the choice, you can't go back to the plea of ignorance.  Even if you hide it, blend it in or cover it up, you are now aware, and with awareness comes responsibility.  A choice to do nothing is still a choice.  Choose wisely... and don't buy white furniture if you own a black dog.

30 Day Sugar Free Challenge - Day 14

After my last post about the fuel you put in your body, I started a 30 Day Sugar Free Challenge.  Decided to include alcohol in it as well. Then inadvertently it included caffeine as all my caffeine comes from sugary Starbucks lattes or sodas.  So anyway, here I am 14 days into the challenge.  Doing good, no knowingly cheats.  Have been very careful checking nutrition menus, ingredient lists and labels.  And I feel so much better.

Day 4 was probably the hardest for any cravings, but the challenge I took includes coaching and journaling homework.  Going back through it I realized that most of the cravings are mental.  It sounds good, smells good, I remember the taste, but when I ask myself, "Will eating/drinking this enhance or hurt my life?" it doesn't match up.  And I've learned what foods to substitute and with the re-calibration of my taste buds, I'm truly enjoying the sweetness of things like fruit.  Frozen bananas, frozen strawberries, with a splash of almond milk and unsweetened Greek yogurt all blended together actually makes a pretty good ice cream substitute!

The other thing I've learned so far is that I often turn to mindless food because of boredom or comfort measures (also learning that most mindless junk food and comfort food is some of the most sugar filled foods).  So on my journey to eat more unprocessed foods and find real foods, I'm also learning more about the real and unprocessed me.  Who knew a 30 day sugar free challenge could turn into an opportunity to learn so much about myself? Believe me, suddenly and drastically remove all sugars, alcohol and caffeine from your diet and you will quickly see your real, often irritable, whiny self, surface as it is detoxed from your body.  But here on past the worst of that, here at the half-way point, I'm excited not just about finishing a challenge (and it has been one! sugar is in almost every single thing) but taking the opportunity to do some deeper soul searching and finding the whys behind some of the whats.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What Fuel are You Using?

While I'm not entirely sure where my love of cars came from, I was begging my parents to let me look at cars in the car lots by age 10 and playing with Hot Wheels way before that, I do know my grandpa taught me a lot about them.  He was fanatical about caring for his cars. 

While there were many car care tips, he always said there were two things that were indisputably the two most important things for car care.  One was regular oil changes.  Said the engine would get sludge and changing the oil keeps your engine running clean and longer.  And it isn't good enough to just add the right kind of oil, but the old oil has to come out each time.  Along with a new oil filter.   The second tip was to use good gas.  No chicken gas (an inside family joke) for our vehicles.  Nope, has to be Shell or Exxon preferably.

I currently drive a Miata that says "Premium Recommended, but not Required."  And a Cadillac that does require premium gasoline.  Do I do these things?  Of course!  And why? Because I value the cars and want them to be in top running shape for as long as possible.  I don't sit there at the pump and choose low octane gas due to the cost.  I might complain, but I use the recommended and/or required octanes.

Some of his other tips included keeping your tires balanced and properly inflated.  My STS alerts me if one tire is lower and has digital gauges where I can check the tire pressure.  I do this manually on my Miata.  Why?  Because if one tire isn't holding up it's correct amount of pressure, it will put the whole car off balance and wear out the tires faster.

I also read the manuals or google items to make sure the proper oil, gas and tire pressure is used for each model, as each of our vehicles are different. 

So by now you may be wondering, why the car maintenance lesson?  Glad you asked.  My body has been running sluggish, autoimmune issues flaring and join issues.  I was evaluating what I've eaten lately, and being the holiday season, I've eaten WAY more sugar than I normally do plus add in the early sunsets and my activity level has been lower.  I know I feel better when I eat right, but get lazy in it.  Healthy foods can cost more.  It takes time to prep food.  It takes time to read labels.  Here is where the car care comes into play.  I realized I pay more for better fuel for my car, I'll even go out of my way to find the "right" gas stations.  I take time to do the proper maintenance on them, to make sure the foundation (tires) are all equally supporting the car, to read the articles on how to get the most of your car.  Yet I'm putting junk in my body and not consistently making sure all the pillars (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, etc) for a proper foundation are equally being cared for.  If I do these things for my cars, in the hope they will last 10-20 years, why wouldn't I do it for my body?  That I hope will last 80 years, and that God says is His temple. 

Sometimes we forget the maintenance on our vehicles, and we don't remember until an alert comes on or it runs sluggish or knocking.  It's always better to do preventative maintenance then repairs.  Same with our bodies.  I start feeling better and then let it slide until warning signs go off.  But right now my warning lights are all going off and its time to treat my body at least as well as I treat my vehicles.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

10 Tips for the Path to Wellness/Recovery/Wholeness

August 21, 2016

From my time volunteering in Celebrate Recovery, Gwinnett Detention Center, NAMI, at church and now with the AFSP I've been asked what works. While I wish I could say I've always followed my own advice, here are the things I think can make the biggest difference.

1. Remember HALT. If you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired then halt (stop) and fix what you can. The more these four are in play the harder triggers will be.

2. Keep a gratitude journal. When in a slump write out the things you are grateful for. In those really rough times you can't think of anything, go back and read what you've written before. 

3. Exercise and get some sunlight. Sometimes it's hard to motivate yourself to get up and do this, but it really does help. Even if it's just a 20 minute stroll with your dog. 

4. Healthy diet. I'm not great at this but at least try to make sure you get in one nutrient packed meal a day that isn't processed or fast food. Try to avoid sodas and sugar filled items. 

5. Vitamins, supplements and meds. This is different for everyone but pretty much everyone can benefit from a good multi-vitamin, B-complex and fish oil. If you are prescribed other things, take them. And don't "borrow" other people's medications. 

6. Find people to support you, keep you accountable and encourage you. When you get to where you think you don't need anyone or any accountability and can handle it yourself, that is one of the most dangerous places you can actually be. Don't be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. 

7. Consistent sleep schedule. Found out this is crucial for my own personal well being. Google sleep hygiene for more details. 

8. Worship music. Nothing like this to help move focus off your self. Headphones at night are great when you can't sleep due to racing thoughts or anxiety. 

9. Volunteer! Help others. It gives you purpose, helps them, and makes you realize you aren't on this journey alone. 

10. Remember that God is always with you. There are times when you might want to punch someone for spouting off a Bible verse, but when you are in a place where you can focus, God's Word is the only true source of life and strength!

I hope that at least one thing off this list will help someone else on their journey to wellness and wholeness.