Saturday, June 24, 2017

Surviving the Arizona Heat

For those of you who live in Arizona, this isn't new information. For those of you who don't live here and want advice for when you visit during the summer, here it is. And for those who are thinking of moving here, or are recent transplants like some of my classmates in training, here's some potentially helpful information:
  • Arizona summer heat is dry (less than 10% humidity).
  • June is one of our hottest months.
  • Temperatures are normally over 100 degrees, especially at lower elevations.
How do we survive? Here are some tips:


Automobile:
  • Store extra tires, wiper blades, and antifreeze in your car. 
  • Buy and use a sunshade. It makes a difference.
  • Never leave electronics, food that can melt, CHILDREN OR PETS in the car without the car running and the air conditioning on.
  • Buy a steering wheel cover that doesn't heat up, or buy hot pads to keep in your car. Seriously, the steering wheel can burn your hands if your car has sat in the sun all day.
  • Turn off your air conditioning when the interstate sign says to. Using air conditioning on that hill really will cause your car to overheat.

Physical:
  • Always bring extra water.
  • Drink before you're thirsty. With the dry heat, thirst indications a fairly progressed stage of dehydration.
  • Dress in layers if you work inside. Buildings can get very cold with air conditioning and shocking your body when you leave work isn't good.
  • If you don't have central air conditioning or a swamp cooler inside, wear lightweight, moisture-wicking clothes at home. Wear open shoes or sandals if permitted.
  • If you have long hair, arrange it up and off your neck.
  • Avoid peak sunshine times (11 am to 4 pm or so).
  • Hike only early in the morning.
  • If you must walk, walk after the sun goes down and bring a jacket in case of temperature swings. Big temperature drops happen in the desert.

Mental:
  • Think positively. For example, I'd rather be hot than cold, so I tell that to myself when I'm really warm.
  • Remember that summer is a season. Monsoons will come and temperatures will drop.

Any questions? 
Arizona friends, any advice to add? Feel free to comment below.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Eschewing Labels

Last night, on the cusp of completing nearly two weeks of training for my new counseling job, I read this quote from Bob Goff:


This quote really resonated with me, as my new company focuses on calling children and families by their names, rather than addressing them as "clients," or their psychiatric, learning disorder, or behavioral diagnoses. This is a learning curve for me, as my graduate education taught me that people preferred the anonymity of the title"client." But that's just the problem. The term "client" can be dehumanizing, universalist, deterministic. I work with people.

But you know what? Labels extend far beyond counseling. Think about the labels we hear in everyday life: Workaholic. 
Lazy. Perfectionist. Slob. Homosexual. Heterosexual. Stupid. Smart. Goody-two-shoe. Black sheep.  What if we got rid of these? What if we stopped referring to ourselves with singular words and started viewing ourselves as multiply complex PEOPLE? We are friends, siblings, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, counselors, teachers, mentors, engineers, doctors, nurses, doers, resters, crafters, creators, singers, dancers, painters, handymen (and women!) etc. Or what if we got rid of even these conglomerations of labels and tore down the barrier of labels period? How would we relate to people?

What if we let issues be issues and people be people? What if we stopped trying to find words to describe life and just lived? Could we be more present? Could we be more productive? Could those who claim to be Christians love more like Christ loved? Could we begin to acknowledge the complexities of each unique creation of God? I don't think it's possible to completely do away with labels, but perhaps reducing their use can lead to fuller, richer lives and lifestyles.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dad's Day

Due to a family wedding this weekend, we celebrated Dad last Saturday. Still, I wanted to make sure to write a post about my dad in honor of today, Father's Day.


Though my dad isn't perfect, he's a pretty awesome guy. I LOVE, RESPECT, and ADMIRE him.

I LOVE him because he loved me first. I don't always appreciate his gestures of affection, but he really tries. He brought me roses when I was really sick and in the hospital. He's pretty adamant about opening doors for me and treating me like a lady. He purchased several of my meals this weekend, just because he wanted to.

He treats my mom well. He's been married to her for 32 and a half years and still tells her he's beautiful. He likes to purchase her gifts (like her favorite dark chocolate) and really works to resolve disputes with her when he has them. He loves strongly and fiercely and though sometimes a little overprotective, works hard to keep his ladies safe.

Dad is my knight in shining armor. He's rescued me twice this year when I've locked myself out of my car. He changes the oil in my car and preps it for trips. He helps with a variety of household chores and tasks when I ask him to. If it's the Lord's will that I marry, my poor future spouse has a lot to live up to.

I RESPECT Dad. He works so, so hard for our family. (Think sun-up to late afternoon, and on weekends.) As a small businessman, his desire is to provide excellent customer service, and I believe he does. Dad also works hard around the house fixing toilets, doors, cars, etc. He weed eats and rakes and cuts firewood for us. He's super good at diagnosing car issues by phone. He can fix almost anything, and if he can't he'll Google and YouTube the answer. He applies His smarts in practical ways, something I struggle to do.

Over the past ten years, I've watched Dad really grow in his faith. He started reading through the Bible every year, even though reading isn't his thing. He endeavors to study the Scriptures before making decisions. He leads our home and family with integrity.

I ADMIRE Dad. He has such a heart for others. He spent a great deal of last Sunday, his only rest day in the week, helping a family fix their van. He frequently calls and texts family and friends to tell them he cares. He painstakingly types out Bible verses on his flip phone to send as encouragement. He gives away free water to widows. He helps the elderly. He's committed himself to elder training during a season of change at our church and has attended every single class.


Dad and I have had our disagreements, but we've also rebuilt a 1964 Rambler, attended car shows, and gone on dates together. I'm so thankful for this man and the God who gave him to me.

Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Growing

Some of you may have seen me post photos of my Christmas cactus on Instagram. As I took this most recent shot and wrote the caption last week, I couldn't help but think of how metaphorical the words are for my life. To be honest, this year has been hard, maybe not physically or financially, but certainly mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It has also been a year of renewal, redemption, and growth.

After ten years of living in Arkansas (three as an undergraduate and seven as a working adult), I moved back into my childhood home with my mom, dad, and little brother last July. I love my family, and renewing relationships with them was great, but this transition was HARD. I have my own room, but not my own kitchen or bathroom or living room. The house is almost never quiet due to my parents running their small business out of it. We've had multiple arguments and conflicts between family members over the course of the past 10 months. I've probably cried more this year than I have in the past several years. I have been forced to confront my selfishness and lack of flexibility, sins not so apparent to me when living with roommates. Ouch.


Then there was the issue of work. God graciously provided a job for me as a college guidance coordinator at a local charter high school almost immediately after I arrived home. I truly believe that I was supposed to take this job. My students did very well and I developed special relationships with many of my coworkers, but this job was hard. It was not counseling, and after five years of graduate education and internship in counseling, I missed the field so much. I wasn't good at teaching or discipline or recess duty, and I had to learn and do them anyway. The process was painful.

I immediately tried to get involved with church when I got home, but to no avail. They basically put me on a probationary period and did not let me volunteer with the children's ministry, which I so wanted to do. I felt rejected and outcast, like I did not belong.

I did not really take any vacation this year (save for Pat's Run weekend), and I have felt sad, depressed, tired, and overall burned out. I have wanted change, but not known how to orchestrate it. I have even, at times, felt like I did not know myself or recognize what really mattered to me.

Slowly, but surely, God is redeeming, reviving, and growing me. I have not found a house of my own yet, but I have been looking. After agonizing over my decision, I decided to resign from my job at the school and look for a counseling position. About a week after I did that, God brought forth a new opportunity, that Lord willing, starts mid-June. Through the process of not being able to serve in children's ministry at church, I had the opportunities to participate in ladies Bible study and sing in Christmas and Easter praise choirs. I developed relationships with some really awesome people and God reignited my love of singing. I even recently applied to become part of the church worship team (but that may be another issue of watching and waiting).


Like my Christmas cactus, I've still got some dead weight. Certain parts of my life are stagnant and not growing. I've really got to get this self-care thing figured out. But still, I'm thankful. Thankful for God's growing and pruning. Thankful for the rediscovering of previously neglected passions and pursuits. Thankful for new opportunities. Thankful for the loving friends and family that surround me. Thankful that, "He who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).

Friday, May 26, 2017

Afghan #50 and More Botox

I completed another afghan today (and got another round of botox shots in my arm.) This pattern is Julee Fort's Down in the Valley pattern from Ravelry. I started on this afghan as a way to use up yellow yard. I intended to use darker and darker yellow until I got to the gold yarn I had left over from this afghan, but Mom disagreed. She suggested using the gray and navy yarns around the edges of the blanket, and I am so thankful for her input. I really like the color combination!

Honestly, I didn't enjoy the last few rounds of this afghan. It is not that crocheting hurts my hand, but that using my hand irritates me at an underlying level. The last two rounds of this afghan took an hour, too, which tried my patience. The satisfaction of the finished product is worth the pains of irritation and impatience, however.

As for my hand, it is not as bad as it was, but was regressing into the dystonic positions. I started to find my thumb folded into my hand, my pinkie wrapped under my ringer finger, and my hand making a fist. My original doctor left the neurology practice, so today's round of botox was over a month late. (Thankfully the other doctor took me on as a patient.) This doctor injected slightly different muscles, and used less serum. Hopefully this new injection method will promote healing in my brain-body connections while still affording me the strength needed to grip milk cartons, open doors, shift my car, etc. We'll see.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Giving Up the Fast

I haven't listened to the radio in my car for almost seven months. Why? I started the practice as a biblical fast last October, but after awhile, when God didn't answer the prayer which led me to the fast, it just became habit to leave the radio off. To be honest, I stopped praying so much and just got used to the silence and quiet of my drive time.

And now? I've decided to start listening to the radio again. Why? God answered our prayers (Thank you, Jesus!), and to continue fasting, for me, would be asceticism, not a spiritual discipline.

Is fasting always asceticism? No, but asceticism is a trap of self-righteousness into which I often fall. Salvation is by Jesus' sacrifice, not mine.

God is using the radio in my life, too. Multiple times in the past few weeks, I've heard Hawk Nelson's new song, "Diamonds." The chorus,


He’s making diamonds
Making diamonds
He’s making diamonds out of dust
He is refining
And in his timing
He’s making diamonds out of us

really resonates with me. This has been a hard year for many reasons. God's refining process in my life has been, and is painful. But it's His process, not mine, which brings me back to giving up the fast. Fasting is about acknowledging God's power, and my powerlessness. Therefore, for me, giving up the fast is about glorifying God instead of glorifying myself.



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What Really Matters/Priorities

I've been on a cleaning spree lately. Just ask my mom. Most of last Friday night saw clothes strewn all over my queen bed, dressing table, and floor. That included clothes flung out of my suitcase. In sorting, I found clothes I forgot I had, clothes that brought back memories (good and bad), and clothes that I realized I'd never wear again. I discarded an entire kitchen-sized bag of clothes and guess what? When I finished, I had room to house most of my clothes in the closet, instead of in clothes, drawers, and that very inconvenient suitcase.


This cleaning spree started with my reading of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. The crux of the book is learning to discard any item that doesn't spark joy. Even items that might be used "someday" should be discarded if the person isn't attached. The person can always repurchase items if he or she misses them. (This point struck home for me, because I'm a major, "What if?" hoarder.) Kondo posits that doing a massive cleaning and tidying of one's home allows a reset of life and a re-focusing on priorities. I think she might be a bit ambitious, but I'm still experiencing benefits from this practice.

I haven't had time to purge all of my possessions at once, so I've been doing it little by little. I purged my purse last weekend after the Friday clothes review. In my purse, I found two old flashlights that weren't working, but were weighing down my bag. I found dozens of business cards from providers I no longer use. I gave the flashlights to Dad and trashed the cards. My purse feels so much lighter now, even with my IPhone in its Otter Box!


This afternoon, I sorted and shredded paperwork, managing to fit the important stuff into one accordian file. Kondo suggests that individuals should keep only paperwork that they readily access, and then sort it lightly. The act of looking for paperwork afterward serves as a reminder to constantly purge it. I've obviously kept too much stuff for too long, because I purged what became bags of shredded paper.

As I've purged, I've rediscovered old treasures, like my 5K race medals, my mother's locket, and my grandmother's Ecuadorian necklace. I'm realizing what matters to me and what I'd like to display when I find my own home. This process is cathartic.

Is tidying solving all of life's problems? No. I'm experiencing a season of change and that change won't go away. Tidying gives me something to do with my restless energy, however. I feel relief when I lighten the loads of belongings piled up in my room, and in my life. Tidying isn't magic. It's a practice in prioritization.