That’s No Moon – Change the Scale and Change Your Perspective

If I had a dollar for each time someone said “Wow Jo! You are so cool!” to me, I would have a dollar. (Thanks for the $1 Mom!) Alas, I am the reigning queen of the local nerd herd.

Being fully committed to the #nerd4lyf way of living, I was embarrassingly jazzed to discover a set of Death Star ice cube molds for sale. (That’s a “Star Wars” thing for all of you cool people.) In my mind, they were going to be a fun little extra Christmas present for my husband (who also happens to be a serious geek). In reality, I was so excited when they arrived that I – errr I mean we opened the box up right then and there. We have had baseball-sized Death Stars floating around in our Yetis since that day.

One of my greatest joys is annoying my husband whenever possible by asking him questions that I genuinely want to know the answer to but also fully recognize that neither of us is qualified to answer. I can tell that he loves this habit of mine by the way he cups his hands together and stares intensely at them (he used to add the words “let me look into my crystal ball” whenever he did this, but he’s said that so often in response to my innumerable unanswerable inquiries over the years that it is now implied in the gesture).

So in true Joanna fashion, I started formulating an experiment in my head this weekend and felt the need to ask him what he thought would happen if we froze the molds in different freezers. He responded immediately with crystal ball hands / annoying gaze. Not to be defeated by his sarcastic and scientifically unsupportive paws, I cleverly retorted with an eye roll and nabbed his early Christmas presents so I could refill them once more. Experiment underway!

A few days later, I remembered my – ahem – his new ice molds in the freezers. I popped one of the frozen globes out of the mold and into my glass. Immediately I found myself in awe of the spherical wonder bobbing around my glass.

It was spectacular. Naturally I felt the need to ask my husband why it looked that way. He took Crystalline Ice Formations 101 in grad school in between his accounting and finance classes, so naturally it made sense to ask him this. He must have been somewhat impressed as well because he never busted out the crystal ball mits, but less surprisingly, he didn’t have a solid answer either. I took close up pictures and asked my kids to guess what they thought that it was. I have since asked the same of my friends on Facebook. Only one person has nailed the answer on the first try. The pictures I have shared have been close-ups, so it’s not obvious at a glance.

An ice cube. So ordinary and simple from a distance. But when you get closer, you can see that it is actually extremely intricate and beautiful.

These small frozen spheres are beautiful reflections of the intricacy of those around you. When you first see them, you may be amused. You may be bored. You may not give them any thought at all. They are just there. Ultimately they seem rather inconsequential in the mass scale of all things.

However when you look closer, you get a fantastically different perspective. You find something stunning and incredible. Something unexpectedly beautiful. Look deeper at those around you. Search for the spectacular parts that may not be evident at first glance.

Despite the surface that we see, these incredible intricacies can be found within each of us. Search for the cool within the nerdy, the uncommon in the common, and the beauty within the plain. Find the magic in the mundane. We often miss the details, and we fail to see the incredible art of the design until we look closer. Take a moment and gain a different perspective. You may find wonder in the most unexpected of places.

Love and light always – Joanna

Scale

For Those Left Behind After Suicide

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This post is written for those of you who have been left behind. Those who have suffered the loss of a child. A brother. A sister. A parent. A friend. Those who endlessly carry the emotional devastation that comes when you lose someone whom you love to suicide.

***

Delilah’s beautiful and kind voice comes through my radio every year as Christmas approaches. This sweet soul has helped countless people to work through their hurts in hope of making their holidays a little brighter.  I was heart-broken to read that she lost her own son a few days ago to suicide. As a parent, I don’t know how you are able to keep breathing when this happens to you. I deeply honor each person who continues to do so after suicide has stolen your love out of your arms and out of your life.

Two decades ago, I walked the path of a young adult drowning in the darkness of depression. I tried to end my life and very nearly succeeded. In a moment of true divine intervention, I survived. I am going to try to put a voice to the misguided perspective that I held up until that moment. I don’t pretend to speak for everyone who has made this choice. Not in the slightest. But I can tell you that these were my genuine beliefs then, and I have since heard the same from others who also survived those darkest of hours. I am going to attempt to respond to the question that people so often ask whenever someone whom they love commits suicide.

How could you leave me?

It was never about leaving you. It was about forgetting the pain. Ending the darkness. Releasing the weight. It was about not wanting to hurt anymore. I couldn’t ever be normal and my inability to do that made your life much harder than it needed to be. I thought that my struggles made your life more difficult than you deserved. I knew that you would hurt a great deal when you lost me, but I also believed that you would heal with time. Depression clouded my perception of reality, so it made sense to me that you would be so much happier without me and my problems. I frustrated everyone around me no matter what I did. I always messed everything up. After I was gone, you wouldn’t have to spend money on medicines or treatments for me. You wouldn’t have to waste anything else trying to fix something that was unfixable. It would never get better. I would never get better. In the long run, it was the best choice for everybody.

That was what I thought.

But it wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now.  Suicide is the last choice anyone would ever wish for their loved one to make.

The people whom I believed would have been better off without me would have given every cent they had to spend one more day with me. They would have sacrificed their own lives in a second if it would have meant saving mine. They would cry for years and years, and although the tears might slow, they would never stop coming. When your heart is stolen from you, you never fully recover from that loss.

I would have sacrificed a million beautiful experiences. My children wouldn’t have been born to bless the world with their spectacular light. I would have cheated my nieces and nephews out of having the biggest bad ass of an aunt EVER (graded on a sliding scale from awesome to hell yeah!). My husband wouldn’t ever have learned what it could be like to be simultaneously loved and nagged into insanity. Also he would probably still be walking around in those damn holey t-shirts and goofy jean shorts. Clearly that man needed me to save him, too. At a bare minimum, his wardrobe needed me desperately.

Depression does not have to be a life sentence, and even the healthiest of people struggle immensely at times. Despite what you may think you see when you look at others, there is no such thing as normal. But there is always hope, and there is always a chance for a better day to come. I understand with every fiber of my being that sometimes it REALLY doesn’t feel that way. But it’s true. Hold on a little longer. Please.

There are many directions you can take if you feel like you are going under. Seek medical advice to determine if you need pharmaceuticals to realign a chemical imbalance. Find a solid counselor who specializes in mental health diagnoses. Talk to your family and friends, or call the suicide prevention hotline to speak to people who understand how to help you find your way out of the helpless weight of the darkness. Think of anything and anyone good that you care about, and if for nothing else, stick around for the sake of not hurting them. No matter what you tell yourself, if you take your life, you will break their hearts beyond comprehension, and it will never be a better choice than your continuing to hold on.

Never give up and never give in.

Each of us is more precious than words could ever convey. You must believe that there is light behind the clouds, because even if you can’t see the sun, it is always there.

I love you truly my darling friends. Please hold on. Please don’t give in. You matter in this world. You matter to me.

Love and light to you all – Joanna

***This post was not written as a personal call for emotional support for a path I once traveled. I am truly okay now, and I’m not sad about the struggles I once faced. They made me who I am today, and I’m good with that person – hot mess queen and all. I write these entries for those whose broken hearts have become the collateral damage of this disease and for those who are currently struggling with depression. We all experience tremendous ups and down. Thankfully the darkness will disperse eventually, and life truly will get better. You just have to ride out the rough waters until it does.

If you are battling severe depression, please don’t hide what you are going through. You aren’t alone, and it does get better. Just give yourself and your life a little more time to let the clouds clear so you can find the sun again. If you feel like you are on the edge of taking your life, please get honest and please get help. You are important to someone, and if you think that you aren’t, I promise you that you are extremely important to me. If you are reading these words, they were meant for you. Even if we don’t know each other, I can tell you now that my world is infinitely better with you in it. Please hold on and please don’t leave me behind.  Love to you always – Jo

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK / 1-800-273-8255

 Believe

Glow

Take Flight

Stepping out of your comfort zone is disconcerting for anyone. If it wasn’t, we would call it walking. But leaving that place of emotional security while also anticipating that every person in your life will understand your perspective is not simply unsettling. It is unrealistic.

Very few people have the ability to openly embrace change. Even fewer have the capacity to actively seek it. When they see someone in their inner circle bucking the system, it rankles them and scratches their own fears to the surface.

While I am displeased with this admission, the raw truth is that I can most certainly be one of those inflexible and easily rankled buzzkills of a human. Seeing someone I care about do something that doesn’t fit their normal pattern concerns me. I take a marathon sprint down the mental worry path and start listing various possible barriers to their success (hopefully these thoughts occur via my “excessive and overthinking” inner voice but unfortunately the ponderings frequently happen through my “excessive and needs to shut up immediately” outer voice).

It’s not that I don’t want the people whom I care about to do well.  That’s not it at all.  I absolutely want them to be successful. However my desire to protect that person from any harm becomes entangled with my own insecurities, hurts, and memories of past disappointments (a.k.a. My Issues and Me – The Less Sexy Shades of MoJo).

My focus on any potential negative outcomes shadows my ability to recognize the other equally possible positive outcomes. I worry about their chance of failure, but in doing this, I miss the reality that their willingness to get on the playing field at all means that they are already taking part in the game. Thankfully I almost always manage to get on board eventually. I just need time to realize (once more) that my self-imposed limitations need not apply to anyone else’s hopes and dreams.

So when the tables turn and this happens to me – when I say that I want to venture further away from my own comfort zone and I find myself feeling the sting from a response that pushes me to stay with the status quo – I recognize the source of that other person’s reaction. I am reminded once more that my belief in myself cannot be diminished by another person’s insecurities.

image000000_65No one in this world has the right to deny you your hopes and dreams. No one. And if they are doing that, it is only happening because you are handing them that power. Don’t ever sacrifice your light to someone else’s fear.

Always dream, and when you do, always dream fantastically big.

This is your journey, and there are endless choices you can make. Just be sure that the ones you select are truly yours.

We may not always succeed with every attempt that we make, but we will never even get the chance to find out what we can achieve if we continually refuse to try. Don’t allow the words of another to weigh you down.

We each have something wonderfully unique and wildly special within us. When you feel like you are stepping into the zone and that you are kindling the spark within you, that is the divinity of your soul cheering you on.

Listen to that voice. Follow that feeling. Release the fears, find your wings, and take flight.

Love and light always – Joanna

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***Photos in this post were taken from my airplane window while traveling to San Diego for work this week.

Windows

Deny

Texas Still Stands & We Stand Together

Texas

The last few days have been akin to falling into the dark end of the rabbit hole.  We have been living in a surreal nightmare that kept us in fear while caging us with wind and water.

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This is not a river.  This is a street.

As I have lived in Texas my entire life, heavy storms are not unfamiliar territory.  However, from Friday through Tuesday, we received more than one hundred forty tornado warnings as well as dozens upon dozens of flash flood alerts.  Those are actual numbers of alerts, not exaggerations.  Spending hours worrying if you are going to lose your home is exhausting. Spending those same hours worrying if your family is safe is exponentially worse.    rescue

I was so afraid for my children’s safety that we set up little mattresses in my husband’s closet, and that’s where they slept for the past few days.  They are just returning to their rooms tonight.

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This was taken in a nursing home to the southeast of us.  They were rescued and relocated, but my heart feels raw when I see this.

The news just said that we received 52″ of rain in this storm.  52″.  It seems unreal, but the deluge was impossibly heavy and pummeled our homes relentlessly hour after hour.  I joked to my friends that I expected to look out my window and see pairs of animals walking toward a big boat.  It was beyond belief.

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God bless the Cajun Navy.  I can’t put into words my love for these people.

Incredibly, our home and neighborhood never lost power.  We were able to keep track of the news while keeping in touch with our friends and family.  We quickly learned that we would not be facing this alone.

cajun navy2Before the rain showed any sign of stopping, many dear neighbors from surrounding towns and states were in the water rescuing those in need all around Houston.  I have friends who were picked up by boats and oversized construction vehicles at their flooded homes.  Firefighters, police officers, members of the military, and overall amazing people continue to risk their lives to help us here.  A few beautiful souls have lost their lives in the process.  I cannot express my sadness at these losses.

Countless people have lost their homes.  Hurricanes are known for their destructive natures, but Hurricane Harvey drew a tremendously broad stroke of destruction unlike any other we have experienced.

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This neighboring family was extremely lucky.  They lost a beautiful tree, but it fell away from their home.

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These dear friends were less fortunate.  It makes my heart ache to see this.

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This photo was taken by a close friend of my sister.  She took the picture right before first responders transported her and her family away from their once beautiful home to safety.

The three images above are neighbors and family friends.  There are thousands upon thousands more homes that have been terribly damaged or destroyed.

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I saw multiple military transport planes overhead as I left the neighborhood today.  I was overjoyed to see them.

Although the rain stopped at last today, we found ourselves facing yet another complication from all of the water.  The flood control authorities have initiated controlled water releases from the reservoir dams in an attempt to maintain the integrity of those critical structures.

Certain neighborhoods are expected to experience additional flooding given these releases, but I understand the need to sacrifice a small area with controlled water releases for the sake of preventing a very literal tidal wave of water flowing over miles and miles of heavily populated areas.  Despite my ability to understand the need, this does not change the fact that my parents live in the high risk zone impacted by those releases nor does it change the fact that their home will be washed away if the dam fails.  Water is already spilling over the top and around the sides.

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I wish I could tell you that this was me in my car, but it was another rescuer in a better vehicle.  Thank you for coming to our town!

So I did what any tenacious girl with stubborn parents would do.  I jumped in my 4×4 Texas mom-mobile and headed to their house to drag them out while they raged.

A dear friend (I love you K!) stayed on the phone with me as I drove.  She guided me to the best possible (and sometimes only possible) routes to allow me to avoid the innumerable streets that were closed due to high water or road failure.  My parents are about fifteen miles from me, but it might as well have been a hundred.  I weaved back and forth and backtracked repeatedly.  There was water everywhere I looked.  Thankfully there were military trucks, high water vehicles, and boats in abundance as well.

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The raw truth is that my tenacity did not make the trip any less terrifying.

Meandering through high water on unfamiliar streets and knowing that you are deliberately driving into an area with rising water that may turn catastrophic is incredibly scary.  I tend to be rather steely in a crisis, but this one had me on edge.  When I arrived, I was met with angry parents who didn’t want to go.  No surprise there.

My father recently had knee surgery and can’t walk well, and my mother has somehow hurt her shoulder.  They have no power at that house and aren’t expected to get it back for several days.  It isn’t the safest area to begin with and looters are likely to begin their hunts.  The water is rising – not receding – in front of their house, and they are within tidal wave range of the dam if it blows.  Naturally they would want to stay.  (Argh!!!  Seriously people??  Do we really have to discuss this??)  Thank heavens my rabid bulldog style of encouragement worked.  No surprise there either.  Off we went once more to head back to my house (the house with power and without rising water).

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I thanked God every single time I saw a military chopper or truck.  I said a prayer of protection for all of the people I saw working to help others.  They were everywhere I looked despite the incredible water levels, and we were blessed to make it home safely.

The drive to help others has been amazing across the board.  The rain did not cease until mid-morning, but the shelters were already bursting at the seams with donation items and volunteers within a couple of hours.

donationsPeople are doing everything they can to help those in need around them.  The response inside and outside of our community is stunning.  On a personal level, I can’t tell you how many people have invited us to their homes should we need a place to go.  They have offered everything.  Family, friends, coworkers, and total strangers – all have stood with us.  It overwhelms me emotionally.  I can’t adequately articulate my feelings, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that there is more goodness in this world that we could ever imagine.

The news should cover the beauty I have witnessed here.  It is truly a spectacular sight to behold.  I am captivated by your kindness and your love.  I am enamored by your strength and your courage.

When I say that Texas still stands and we stand together, I am saying that Texas still stands and we stand together with you.  In our greatest time of need, so many of you have served as our shelter in this physical and emotional storm.  You have extended the lifeline we so desperately needed, and now we are able to continue that with you as we move to help each other.

There is no division of economic class, race, gender, sexuality, religion, or politics.  We are one united people, and we are all here for each other.

Texas still stands.  Thank you for standing with us.  We truly stand together.

Much love to all of you. Joanna

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Enamored

Structure

First Things First

I really want to talk about this…

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It’s not easy being green, so it’s nice when you find another who truly understands you.

But first I need to get past this…

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(Screenshot taken moments ago from The Weather Channel website)

Hope all is well with you! I’ve missed you and your blogs boatloads!

😉  Joanna

Defying Gravity – I’ll Never Sleep Again

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Every now and then, a friend will share something with you that you will never forget no matter how hard you try.  No.  I’m not talking about an S.T.D. (although I would agree that this, too, would be quite memorable).

This photo was sent my way to display the true talent of our local critters.  The snake in this picture was scaling a column at her house.  She took the photo.  Not google.  And she doesn’t live too far away either.  It’s a display of nature’s incredible mastery of the elements, and this creature’s dexterity is terrifying.  These animals truly become one with the earth around them.

After further research, I have learned that snakes typically limit this kind of climbing to structures with stone or brick exterior walls.  Lucky for me, our new home is all brick.  So ultimately I am good if wolves come knocking but may be hosed if and other animal invaders appear.

Consequently I have come to the conclusion that one of the outcomes below will probably occur in the near future:

  • I will build a giant bubble around our brick house and cover it with baby oil to make sure that those suckers will slide off.
  • I will never sleep again.
  • I will be getting a brand new snakeskin handbag with matching shoes.

Any votes?  (Pick the bag and shoes!)

😉  Jo

***Thanks for the memories soul sister K!

Elemental

(Nooooo I wouldn’t really hurt the snake.  With that said, he better stay outside or all bets are off.)

And That’s When I Totally Lost It

This is an actual photo of me that was taken when I went bazerk earlier this week.

When my (perceived) sense of control slips out of my grasp, I become an erratic and volatile wild animal. The smallest minor nothings explode into monstrous threats under the massive magnifying glass of my emotional frenzy. A questionable tone, another task added to the neverending must do list, sporks – virtually anything that isn’t synonymous with “nothing” may viewed as an  aggressive attack on my sanity. However it never begins that way.  I don’t expect it or plan it.  Nevertheless some Wednesdays don’t care about your plans.

Although I was tired, my day began uneventfully. I dropped my young daughter at daycare and rushed back home to tackle the mountain of work that comes with quarter end. A few minutes into the professional pile, my older daughter entered my office to let me know that there was a swarm of bugs on a plant our home.

I’m not going to feign indifference. Insects are not my favorite, but in most cases, I can live and let live. Outside. Inside is more like Thunderdome. Two bugs come in. None come out. I just can’t have that inside. And there’s no way at all I will be residing with a swarm of them. Never ever ever.

That was bad.  And while seeing that you have many many bugs is way bad, it doesn’t hold a candle to the realization that holy #&@! I think that those are termites.

That was REALLY bad.  My panic attack began, and I hyperventilated my way through a desperate phone call where I begged my pest control company to come out that same day.  Yes, all good – 2-4pm window. Ok. Better. Breathing going back to normal.  Someone would fix this.  And then my phone buzzed.  House showing request at 2pm – a couple of hours later.

Bad wasn’t covering the badness anymore. Nothing says “This is the house for you!” quite like a termite inspector reviewing a potential infestation right when a buyer walks the home.  Keep in mind, we hadn’t had a showing request for over a month.  Of all the times and days, it would have to be right then.

I called the company to have them move the pest control appointment to the next day, the hand of the clock swung wildly around as the minutes flew by, and we tried to clean to show-ready status. Having OCD and getting your house show-ready is only great on picture day and day 1.  After that, it just makes every other showing feel like you’re never enough. But I can’t stop trying.

We were still racing around trying to get the house ready when the doorbell rang. Surely they wouldn’t be attempting to view the house early??  Nope. It was the pest control guy that was supposed to be rescheduled. Panic. Why was he there when I had cancelled and the buyers could appear at any moment?? As we were talking (and I was still trying to clean), the kids started hollering in the other room.

A frickin bird had flown into the window and had become lodged in the sofa cushions on the patio. Seriously bird? Clearly I wasn’t going to leave a hurt bird or fresh carcass on the patio. The kind pest control man and I went out to figure out what needed to be done. The poor little thing was lying between the pillows. I picked it up with a towel, and it fluttered off. At least one thing went right, so I felt slightly better. The minutes still ticked away.

I begged the pest control guy to please come back later as I involuntarily itched my head and arms for the millionth time at the knowledge that my home had bugs – bleh. He left as I looked up and saw a car in  front of our house. We were past time! Panic!

We couldn’t do anything else so we jumped in the car to leave. As I opened the garage, I found myself trapped by another car in the driveway. Are you kidding me universe?? The realtor came out with a look of sheer annoyance and moved her car moments later. We drove off and one of the kids said, “Oh no!  The dog dishes are still in the sink!” He might as well have said, “Oh no! Your ratty granny panties are hanging on the television!” I was mortified. I heard my other big kid snap at him, “Hush!  You’re going to make her go even crazier!” Sadly she wasn’t trying to be funny. Thankfully it did make me laugh. Panic subsided.

Ten minutes later the showing was over. Hours of cleaning. Minutes of not liking. The realtor later gave feedback that said that the prospective buyers would have bought the house had there not been dog dishes in the sink.

(No she didn’t.)

We went back home, and I started to work again. I wanted to post something on the blog but decided to change a couple of minor settings to improve the layout. Such good ideas…such poor execution. Kaboom – total website blow up. Curse you plugins!  Panic yet again. I hollered for my husband. This wasn’t a po’ lil’ ol’ me kind of move. He’s a professional tech nerd. My nerdiness is more generalized. However he isn’t a web tech nerd, so his frustration quickly escalated as my anxiety (and supposedly) my volume also went up. He then did something that never goes well for any man. He snapped and told me to calm down.

And that’s when I totally lost it.

Lost. It. Like multiple term mayor of Crazytown, USA lost it. Banging my desk. Hitting my computer. Stamping my feet up and down madly. Screaming for him to get out. I went totally bazerk.

The story ends with a major blowup conversation about anything and everything – 99% of which had nothing to do with that moment – and a website that is working again.  Thank you Chaitanya at WP support – you saved my site and probably my marriage!

I hate those moments. “Frustrating” doesn’t remotely encompass how I feel about them. It is a terrible helpless feeling to witness yourself spiralling out of control.  You know exactly what is going to happen if the stress continues to build, but life just keeps pushing. Do you remember Vesuvius and Pompeii?  It’s like that but with less ash (so far). I flip back to normal much faster than I flip into wild animal mode, but the explosions are unwieldy and incredibly destructive in the meantime.

Like the calm after the storm, it’s been quiet here since that point.  Although I wish I could stick with perpetually smooth waters, that isn’t the ocean I sail.

As a follow up note, they weren’t termites. You are going to think I’m making this up. The pest control team said that they were crazy ants.  Can you believe it?

No wonder they felt right at home.  🐞

Joanna

Other critter battles –  https://misifusa.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/ants-wasps-and-mice-oh-my/

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