Thursday, March 29, 2012

Home Remedy: God

Within the past couple of weeks, I’ve been learning a lot about myself in terms of spiritually, emotionally and even physically. First, I realized my spirituality was pretty much numbed after finding out how terminally ill my dad was. It was almost like a rebellious thing - “how can you do this God” type of mindset, but thankfully I got past that. I even cursed God and thinking in the back of my mind, “Wow, that’s really gonna screw my chances of getting inside those pearly gates.” But like a child (which God wants us all do to) I begged for forgiveness and received mercy. I started diligently being persistent in my prayer and meditation - and overall, just talking to God as if He was standing right next to me. I started to notice changes taking place in me. For one, I had no fear of anything. I lived in the “now” and forgot about my past and didn’t think too much about my future. Each time I focused on my past or future, it screwed up my “today”. My ‘quick fixes’ and adrenaline junkie mindset was put aside and a constant joy came over me. I started appreciating the little things much more than I used to. I realized I took a lot of things for granted, even my health. I started cycling 10 miles per day, some days even up to 15! I got a physical exam and started eating foods and taking vitamins that helped me medicinally. In 1 Timothy 4:8 it states, “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise in much more important.” With that in mind, the two together on a daily basis has given me so much energy and excitement about life. (I just hope it lasts!) Without the spirituality, I wouldn’t have the motivation to work out. And without the exercise, I wouldn’t have the endorphins to maintain prayer and meditation. So the both of them together go hand in hand. It’s the only way I can explain it.

On another note, I also noticed that I fret a lot about the small things in life, like having a simple barbecue for friends or just having a friend over--period. Everything was a production, from cleaning the house for hours on end, to preparing food before they even arrived and then making sure everything was perfect when they got there. I wasted time worrying over entertaining, and failed to spend quality time with my company. I was too busy in the kitchen preparing stuff and cleaning which made it hard to be part of the conversation going on in the living room. Here’s a little story that totally mimics my life. “When Jesus entered a certain village, a woman named Martha received and welcomed Him into her house. She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was listening to His teaching. But Martha (overly occupied and too busy) was distracted with much serving; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, it is nothing to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me, to lend a hand and do her part along with me!’ But the Lord replied to her by saying, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. There is need of only one or but a few things. Mary has chosen the good portion (that which is to her advantage), which shall not be taken away from her.’” ~Luke 10:38-42 It just rings so true in my own life of how I fret over having the entire house spotless, the bathrooms totally wiped down, disinfected and ‘primped’ as well as slaving over everything else that isn’t important at all. After the party is over, or even when the guest has left ---- I’m. wiped. out.

I’m not saying don’t be a good entertainer or host, but make sure you enjoy yourself as well. Almost half of the small parties I have had in the past --- I didn’t enjoy them at all. I just wanted to sleep. In fact, I was so busy before guests would even arrive, that when they walked through the threshold of our door, I wanted to pass out and sleep for ten days. My mother does the same thing, except she frets days before. But, in a good way, she does something different. She actually cooks the day before so that the day of the party, she’s prepared. But why are we killing ourselves just to see a few friends or family members? I know for myself, when I go to my friends’ or family’s houses, I don’t care if they flung a few crackers my way with some water. I’m there for them -- not what they can offer me. I’m there to talk and laugh with them - not eat and drink all their booze. (Although if they have Ketel stocked, I may indulge.) But with my overall realizations of how I was, I’m totally ‘getting it’ -- finally. Most of us waste so much time doing things that don’t even matter, when they can be spending quality time with the ones they love.

Also, my sleep patterns have changed. I used to wake after a couple of hours and couldn’t get back to sleep. I would fret about the clock...fret about it a little more...then watch the clock and count how many hours of sleep I had left. It totally ruined my night. Now when I wake up, I think, “Ok, I’m up now. No big deal.” I’ll go make some chamomile tea, read an iBook or article and not think or waste time stressing over the hours left to sleep. I’m having less and less nocturnal panic attacks which drove me crazy. Those are panic attacks that start while you’re sleeping that wake you up in a huge jolt. It’s unnerving to say the least. Because I have kept God close, and have been persistent in every way possible -- I have this peace inside me that can’t be explained. Even when things are in absolute chaos - I have peace while in the midst of it. I have never had that type of peace before. And don’t get me wrong, this week would have been the week to ‘go crazy’. Dad was sent back into the hospital and actually had a little trouble with his heart. So we’re going up there every day to see him, but the pain he is in is just unbearable to watch sometimes. My heart breaks when he cries. He hasn’t laughed in -- I don’t know how long. So before going up to see him, I prayed my hardest that I would get a laugh - or even a smile out of him. I did. Two days in a row ---even with the pain. It was God. He saw the entire family around his bedside and we finally saw him laugh and joke like his old self.

So bear with me as my road twists and turns these days. I’m trying to write on my blog as much as I can, plus plug a few articles out in the process along with my editing job. I had a strong urge to write about this. Maybe you were nodding through it saying, “I do the same thing!” Or that you could totally relate to what I’m saying. But the key is consistency. Be consistent and when you pray for something and it’s answered - but then it’s taken away somehow - don’t get discouraged. Pray again. And then again. I promise, it has definitely worked for me in various areas in my life. I just never realize how really really really amazing God really is. Really.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Giant Leap of Faith

It’s hard for some people to show their faith in God. Some feel it’s a sign of weakness or that they’ll think others will assume they’ve gone mad, especially those who truly believe in God, but are ashamed to show it -- even to God Himself. These past few weeks have been especially difficult for my dad. He’s lost all hope. His demeanor went from somewhat hopeful to doom & gloom from to his pain, fatigue and constant battle with his illness. My mom keeps saying, “Pray to God”, but the emptiness in his eyes glazes over her suggestion and his head goes back down, staring at the floor again. He’s also been battling with his faith in God. He asked, “How can God do this to me?” Yesterday while he was pacing back and forth with anxiety, my mother said, “Go inside your room and pray!” And to my surprise, he said, “I’m gonna try, Ro...I’m really gonna try.” About an hour later, he came outside where we were sitting and my mother asked, “Did you pray?” He put his head down and then said, “No... I just can’t do it.” I understood it so well because I was once there. For the longest time, you “label” yourself a “Catholic Italian”, as most are, and then when it comes to actual faith, or the courage to face your faith --- it brings it to a whole new level. Instead of just knowing that you have a beautiful vegetable garden in your backyard, you actually have to take action (plant the seeds & water your garden) in order for it (your faith) to grow and produce fruit.

My mom says he’s forgotten some prayers he used to know, and maybe he just can’t remember them all. I told her many times, it’s not about all the prayers you say a million times in church like a robot, but it’s the heart that goes into just talking to God - as if He were right there with you - as He is. I reminded her of a scripture that helped me during a time where I struggled with my own faith. In Matthew 6:7 it says, "When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” It’s not a bad thing to repeat a prayer that you’ve taken a liking too, such as the serenity prayer, but it’s important to have ‘heart’ in it, not to just say it so you’ll hope God thinks you have faith. I told mom all he has to do is just talk to God as if He was one of his buddies. Just say what’s on your mind --- that’s it. In Matthew 6:6 is says, “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” Your relationship with God doesn’t have to be out in the open and public. If you want a private relationship with God -- then do so. There is a portion in the Bible that states that if you are ashamed of God, that He will be ashamed of you, but that’s more on the lines of admitting your faith in God and denying that He exists. That’s different.
Madelene and her mom desperately want to pray over my father. James 5:14 says, “Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray for him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.” For most people with mediocre faith will feel funny about this. I used to feel really weird when Madelene would want to lay hands on me and pray for whatever was ailing me, but each time she did so, whatever it was that took a hold on me vanished. In fact last night was a test of my own faith, which hopefully will make my father feel better since he knows I’ve been whining about my tinnitus symptoms from my Meniere’s disease. All day and all night I hear a loud, low pitched hum - like a light saber being swung near my right ear. Sometimes, I can’t even focus on what someone is trying to tell me it’s so loud. It literally can drive someone crazy. Last night, Madelene noticed that it had taken a toll on me and saw that I was really down because of it. My head was pulsating and all I wanted to do was sleep. She decided to lay hands over my right ear and pray over me. I went right to sleep and when I woke up, the first thing I noticed .......was silence. Strange someone notices “silence” - but it was certainly a test of my own faith. I told my mother about what she had done and how it worked, and my father is willing to have this done to him now. I know my little Meniere’s doesn’t compare to “the big C”, but it does give some sort of reassurance that God can handle anything, big or small. I also believe in the power of prayer, especially for people outside our home who are willing to take a few moments aside and just pray for his hope and faith to come back. Of course, it would be wonderful to see him live another ten years or so, but I trust in God’s will more than my own humanly desires. Whatever will be will be, but the most important of all is his faith in God and the ability to live the rest of his days happy, full of hope and full of faith.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Time Flies So Cherish Every Moment

Through tweets, song lyrics, and quotes given on every Facebook status message, they say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Does it? Sometimes I wonder if it applies to all people. I think, some people handle stress and grief differently. Perhaps one person dives into a deep depression after something traumatic happens in their lives and the other one pushes through with more strength the next time around. Personality types vary. One of my favorite passages from the Bible is this one: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” ~(Romans 5:3-5) I’ve heard many people facing an inconceivable situation state “this too shall pass” or some other cliché to either make themselves feel better, or perhaps comfort someone else going through similar trials. And while I know that “time heals” - it definitely doesn’t seem like the truth while you’re going through something so dreadful, like a breakup or even a death. As you know, for me it’s a loved one being terminally ill. Even God seems distant these days, but that’s probably my numbness to everything just to self-preserve. I don’t do stress well ---really, who does? But for me, my ways of showing stress are different. My physical symptoms land me in the hospital at times, and that’s not where I want to be right now. I want to help all I can, but sometimes, I. just. can’t. It’s difficult to even help myself when I reach these levels of anxiety.

My work has been suffering. In fact, my entire family’s work life and home life has been suffering. We’re all trying to do our part and make it easier for one another, but it’s just sort of a surreal time for us right now. All of these difficult choices to make for Dad and of course, facing the inevitable has all of us spinning with pre-grief, anxiety & physical symptoms due to stress. We’ve all been handling it differently. My dad’s coming home tomorrow from the facility where they provide rehabilitation and hospice. Of course he’ll have a prolonged life in the facility with medical attention, however his wish is to come home, which will lessen his days here with us. None of us are ready for this. I’m worried about my mom most of all and how she’s internalizing all of this. She’s been by his side every. single. day. My sisters and I have been driving mom back and forth to the facility where dad is. Sometimes he’s angry, sometimes he’s crying hysterically, and other times, he doesn’t even remember my name. He says things he doesn’t mean because he’s in great pain. I understand it all too well because the nut doesn’t fall too far from the tree if you get my drift. We lash out at the ones we love the most. We just have to take what he says and throw it out the window. He wants to come home. He’s angry he got this awful disease and he wants to live another ten years he said. He feels ripped off. He even blurted out to my mom while I was present, “Yeah she’s distant, always has been.” My mom said, “Who Charl?” He points to me, “Your daughter, that’s who.” ...And it’s the truth. I got the wheel chair out and said, “Get in ya rat bastard.” He started laughing and then hopped in. I took him for the ride of his life through the hallways doing mach 90. It made him laugh at least. When I left, I said, “I love you Dad” and gave him a kiss goodbye. I knew he didn’t mean any ‘bad’ by what he stated. He was telling me what he thought all along. It’s okay.

As of now, my posts may lesson (blog-wise), but I’ll be updating here and there when I can. My other freelance work, editing and promos are important now money-wise, so I’m trying to just focus on that and try to keep it together. I have many people emailing me asking about my dad and how he’s doing. Thank you for all your thoughts, prayers & comforting words during this time. It means everything. Feel free to leave a joke or two in the comment section for a good dose of laughter, which is of course the best medicine.

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Friday, March 02, 2012

Marriage Equality

Congratulations, Maryland for being the eighth state to pass the marriage equality law. It passed the Maryland Senate 25-22 and the House of Delegates 72-67. I remember when California was going through their struggle of trying to get marriage equality and then succeeded for a short spell before Prop 8 quickly shuffled that one back into the files of “to be continued”. During that time, I remember a friend of mine who shared her views with me regarding homosexuality and if it should be legalized. She stated, “Marriage is between a man and a woman and it’s absolutely wrong for two people of the same sex to marry. It’s just not natural.” While I respect most views, the whole “unnatural” theory kind of gave it a different meaning. Since my friend is black, I reminded her that restrictions of black people being able to marry were lifted after the civil war. They were free to marry anyone in the U.S. unless they were white. Interracial marriages were considered a criminal act. It wasn’t until 1967 where all people of all races were able to marry legally across the U.S. While my friend was very pleased to hear about Prop 8 banning marriage equality for California, I asked her how she would have felt if the same restrictions applied to her since it happened to her ancestors. The only response she really had was, “Gays and lesbians cannot reproduce.”

There is nothing new about gay and lesbian unions. Although many had to hide their unions from civilization back in the day, it’s a relief to know that more and more states are legalizing gay marriage and treating us “equal” - as “humans”. We love. We establish families. I wish some people who were against marriage equality would put themselves into our shoes and understand just for a brief moment what it’s like to not be able to marry the person you love with all your heart. I read a comment from someone who will remain nameless who said, “Why do all gays and lesbians have to keep constantly putting their sex lives in our faces! Why is it on the news!?” I didn’t even respond to it. I let other people chew on that thread while I watched her crumble down and finally remove her status message out of shame. The thing that gets me is - what does “sex” have to do with marriage equality alone? Every single time someone who is against the gay lifestyle talks about it in a derogatory manner, they immediately shift over into the sexual aspects of our lives. They don’t see two people having a lifelong friendship, love, family, companionship or for the most part, a life similar to theirs. All they see are bath houses, men in leather having sex in the streets and lesbians inviting a man into their bedroom. It’s all sexual. Nothing about their thoughts on the homosexual lifestyle is, “wholesome”. While there are many gays and lesbians who are promiscuous, there are many heterosexuals who are as well.

It’s a shame that we’re such a outcasted stigma still till this day. Yes, we’re progressing and making long strides, but many people’s mindsets and opinions about it goes back to the days where blacks couldn’t marry whites. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to me. One example of still ‘casting us out’ and leaving us somewhat in second place of equality is when I saw the news this morning. Greg Kelly from Good Day NY try to “correct” something that didn’t need any correcting. When Julie Chang, an entertainment reporter, told Greg about the first straight-friendly gay hotel opening up in NYC, Greg immediately said, “You mean gay-friendly hotel.” Julie looked at him with enthusiasm and said, “Nooo, it’s a ‘straight-friendly’ GAY hotel, Greg!” He then fought her on this and said, “No, it’s gay-friendly. I have to say it that way.” Whether not the network decided to do it because well, we all know it’s FOX News, it was misrepresenting what this hotel is advertising. I think the hotel should get an apology for it to tell you the truth. But it’s “news” - it wasn’t Greg’s opinion - tell the news as it is and not what you hope it is. It’s just another example of how closed minded some people can be. I’m just glad that more and more states are finally recognizing the importance and value of what it means to finally be able to marry the one you love without any restrictions whatsoever.

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Thursday, March 01, 2012

Old Habits are Hard to Break

As a teen, I used to smoke cigarettes. I knew that my grandfather died of it. He walked around with an oxygen tank gasping for air due to his emphysema. Even though I knew the risks involved in smoking, grandpa was just 'one' example in my mind - as though it was probably just a fluke thing - because well, mom & dad smoke all the time and they’re okay... I remember sitting in my health class being asked by the teacher, “By a show of hands, how many of you walk into another room when your parents light up a cigarette?” Everyone rose their hand. I did too. Everyone else did. I didn’t want to be the odd one out. Dinner at our house was typical by any standard, (I think). Even if we were still eating dinner, dad would smoke probably two to three cigarettes while we were all finishing. Cigarette butts were left sticking out of leftover mashed potatoes and at times, a great big ashtray was placed next to dad. Mom was more tame with her habit. My father chain smoked - to the point of clouds forming in the air. I remember my sister and I would laugh and giggle as we would ‘stop drop & roll’ under the plumes that were lingering above. It was funny then I guess. Even as a young child, I remember so many times where my mom had to rush me into the steam room that they had because I was having a croup cough attack - similar to asthma. It relieved me at times, and other times I had to be rushed to the doctor.

We all have vices though, whether it be drinking, eating the wrong foods, etc., and we never think about liver damage or diabetes while enjoying our vice. We know the risks involved, but we keep on... Then you have people who make these awesome lifestyle changes for the better, and then bam - they get blasted with some ungodly life threatening disease. We’re told high fats are good, more carbs are okay now, and then it changes two months later. News reports will have your head spinning telling you alcohol is healthy for your heart and then in the next breath, that it can also lead to breast cancer and other diseases. So people take in the ‘good’ portions and throw away the rest. “See? It’s good for me.” --I distinctly remember watching a portion of the news with dad. There was a little old lady who turned 100 years old and the newscaster asked, “So what’s your secret?” She said, “Port wine, lots of garlic and cigarettes.” My father’s eyes lit up immediately. Between mixed messages and our comforting vices - how do you just give it up so easily? He already had emphysema and diabetes, but was always strong and didn’t rely on an oxygen tank (carrying it around 24/7 like grandpa) or needed shots of insulin - he just took pills. Even though the threat posed in the back of everyone’s mind, it was never really an issue.

When dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer a year and a half ago, we were told it was due from his many years of smoking. I prayed so hard one day that he would just quit smoking so he could heal and get rid of this. The very next day when I came to visit him he said, “I quit smoking, Deb. I hate it. I don’t wanna look at another cigarette again.” And he meant this time. It was enough to scare him. All the radiation treatments, operations and unpleasant doctor examinations was what it took for him to finally quit. It doesn’t really seem fair because now the cancer has spread and he is not a candidate for chemo. He was transferred to a facility with hospice care. He’s in agony all the time between the pain and the anxiety of what he’s dealing with. There’s really no point in saying, “shoulda’, coulda’, woulda’”. There’s no “I told you so” or reminding him of why this happened - there’s just love, understanding and compassion because we all know that our vices, our lifestyles are sometimes not perfect. And to even think a healthy lifestyle can’t do one thing when “The Big C” comes crashing in - it just makes you wonder about life altogether. There are no promises of tomorrow. There are no guarantees on life itself. It can be threatened or taken away at any given moment. We all know that, but how many of us truly realize it? Mom still smokes. She’s been smoking much more, and although we’re all trying to ask her to either cut down or best yet, to stop entirely, she can’t. She’s so stressed out and depressed. She needs a drag in the morning with her coffee before going up to visit dad. She needs the ‘sanity’ of smoking. If you’re a smoker - you totally get that last sentence. Although I beg her to stop, and I hear her cough getting more and more productive, I can’t make her stop. She still hasn’t realized how bad it is, even while watching dad suffer in the hospital because of it. It’s a really hard call when you’re not placed in somebody else’s shoes. I can only pray.

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Emotional Self-Preservation

"I'm Sorry." After the last couple of years, and whatever it is that you may be personally going through, it's especially ...