Thursday, June 27, 2013

My dad read my blog once.

Sometimes dementia feels fake. Like there's no way this is my real life. My mind can't wrap itself around the disease, the loss, the ugliness; so, it blocks it out. Like a bad dream. Then reality pinches me awake and keeps on pinching over and over and over until my heart recognizes those quakes of sadness contained within its walls.

There are days where I can acknowledge the quakes and they subside for a time. There are days where I can hardly contain my emotions -sad, happy, angry, hopeful, desperate all in a moment's time. Then, there are days where the longing for dad is deep-seated and excruciatingly hungry -these are the hardest of days.

It's not just his physical presence I long for... Though I believe it would feel so comforting. I long for the smell of concrete and aftershave on him after spending all day out in the field -a smell that takes me right back to a childhood full of eagerly awaiting his arrival home from work. I long for his stern fatherly ways -memories come flooding from the turbulently hormonal years of middle and high school that shaped the wife and (one day) mom I am. I long for the dry, unpredictable humor that made him so easy to be around and hard to ignore.

My dad read my blog once. After his diagnosis, before his decline. After our family's heart broke into a trillion little pieces, before God began the slow and painful healing process.

The affection in his words is palpable and makes my heart squeeze a little tighter. Knowing he sat, he read, he comprehended my words at one time is near foreign to me. But, in that single paragraph, he's revealed his life. God, wife, discipleship to his kids -and we weren't easy kids to lead!

How I wish he could see the things we're all doing now. I wish he could read my words, could see Scooter's passion for politics and planning, could enjoy the sweetness of Mel's boys, witness his baby boy's athletic prowess and dry humor, and enjoy Denmark with his eldest and her three kids. He'd be so impressed with us and he'd for surely know how well he did in discipleship.

Though my heart longs for the comforts found in him, I see him here, there, and most everywhere. And I'm reminded that his family was his greatest investment: lucky for us.

Now time to go grab a "fancy" Rubio's burrito for lunch just to enjoy a moment with his memories.

I'm encourage and challenged by Phillipians 4:12:
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,
whether living in plenty or in want." 
Obviously, I didn't write this. If I did I'd be lying. 
Though God's giving me a better idea of that secret of being content in any and every situation
Damn it, I never thought I'd have to learn the really hard way

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Featured Poolside Cocktail: The Gin Berry Fizz

The best days of summer are spent poolside with a good book
and an even better drink. 
This is part of that even better category.

Gin Berry Fizz
(adapted from the Smitten Kitchen)

1 package blackberries
1/2 cup sugar (or in my case truvia)
1 liter soda water
Juice of two limes
2 shots of gin
(or your alcohol of choice) 
1 shot of chambord

Pulse the berries and sugar in a food processor until their a juicy mushy mess.
Press through a sieve into a pitcher.
(Trick, use some of the bubble water to get the juice to go through without the seeds)
Squeeze the limes into the pitcher.
Add soda water.
Pour into ice filled cups and add the alcohol you prefer.
(The girls at our place always choose gin. 
The boys love to experiment with tequila, vodka, and rum)
Add chambord.

I also added some frozen berries to the mix... To cool things off further and to look pretty.

Also, Mr. T decided to take the seeds from the blackberries and toss them into the soil in our garden. 
We don't have a sprawling blackberry bush (is that what they grow on?) yet... 
But I'm sure it's just a matter of time. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

It's About Choices Now [Hunger Series Part 2]

I was always the athletic, skinny, boy-bodied girl until I wasn't. Until puberty hit and these things called hormones took over sending my hips into birthing stance, my boobs into D-cups, and my thighs into constant contact with one another. Then, I wasn't the athletic, skinny, boy-bodied girl anymore. Instead I was a curvy woman. This change, though normal and healthy, wasn't exactly what I'd wished for. I was happy with my small chest, runner's body, and strong legs.

After graduating from high school I moved to college. The chance to grocery shop as I liked, the nutrition (or lack thereof) found in cafeteria food, and the stress of a new routine (I am a stress-eater) were challenging on my body and mind. Working out fell on the back burner and I let myself gain. Coming home for summer after my freshman year I hopped on the scale and was terrified by the number. 

So I dieted. I worked out. All in healthy doses, all in moderation. Until I went back to school. Then I did the opposite of my habits from the freshman year. I joined a sorority and was busy as all get out. Sometimes so busy I'd "forget" meals. I kept on myself to run and keep in shape. Not giving myself a day off from hitting the road. 

I met a sweet boy who I clicked with easily and comfortably. I was a carb-loving half marathoner who preferred pasta dishes and distance to protein and weights. He, on the other hand, had an affinity to protein and heavy things. We clashed at the dinner table time and time again. That clash only reflected the inner dialogue I was constantly experiencing. I kept on myself to run and keep in shape. But that sweet boy showed me grace and required me to do so for my body and, more importantly, suseptible spirit. 

The internal fight continued on and on for years. Pinching the pudge around my belly button, checking out the muffin top around my waistline, frustration waxing and waning with the cycle of the moon. Until one day I realized I was constantly depending on a future event -rush, graduation, marriage, life- to be that moment where I'd get the diet and exercise thing down... But tomorrow never came. In fact, tomorrow continued to be a far off day. 

I thought losing weight would fix the body issues. Nope. Then graduating college. Still nothing. Marriage had to do the trick. Nada. Turns out the fight's as much a part of my personality as my dry sense of humor. Ugh. Now, instead of a battle, it's about choices. Choosing healthy when I can, choosing grace when I don't, choosing to celebrate with food and drink like my soul loves. 

Some encouragement in His word today: 
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, 
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
-Romans 15:13

May we overflow with Him today, instead of with the doubts, annoyances, shortcomings
that make us human. It's difficult as all hell, but it's one step, one moment, one choice at a time.
We can do this. You and me. We can do this. 

[None of this is dietary advice... Rather an examination of my process of faith. 

I believe in being healthy physically, spiritually, emotionally... 
This health requires a balance. Said balance is delicate and exhausting. 
I, by no means, have it right.]

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fake and Bake Chipotle Burrito Bowls

There's nothing better in summer than a throw it together in ten minutes dinner.
This is one of those. 
(And it's a clean dish) 
Although I like it with an ice cold margarita... 

1/2 head cauliflower (rice-ified)
1 avocado
1 small can of corn (no salt)
black beans (I used no salt, canned)
1 pound ground turkey
plain greek yogurt

1. Rice-ify the cauliflower by chopping it in a food processor until it's grainy like rice.
2. Microwave for 1 minute and you're done!
3. Cook your meat.
4. Top the rice with the fixings you prefer.

I go for avocado, salsa, jalapenos, and greek yogurt.
Mr. T isn't so much into spicy so he skimps on the salsa and skips jalapenos all together.

These are super filling, but not as calorie filled as the real deal. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Just for the Sake of Being Transparent...

If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen my recent push of bible based posts. Prayers, verses, and such...

Lately, my heart's felt heavy. Not for my father and his illness that plagues him and our family; instead, for my blogging "friends". (I use that term loosely, because really, I know many of you through the internet, not in proximity to one anotther) So many are struggling with anxiety in big and small ways. They're reaching out, asking for help, tips, suggestions, even just taking the chance to share in relief from a secret. 

Today, I share my experience. For some, it'll be encouragement. For others, a shock. And for those who don't fell into those groups, a complete bore. 

Four years ago, I was a 20-year-old sorority girl looking forward to moving in with one of my best friends. Life was enjoyable and easy -except during midterms and finals.

Then, dad got sick (no more details, you've got the archives for that) and he was no longer the invincible man I grew up knowing. Then, I moved from a horrible living situation into a new, different place which, while fun, was stress-filled in many ways. Then, Alzheimer's appeared and I didn't know which way to look or how to life could suddenly fly out of control. Then, money was tight and I needed to save on rent, queue the second and third moves. 

I know, life gets crazy. Chill out and stop being dramatic woman. But this was different. 

As Korea launched "practice" missiles towards United States shores, as doctors gave us conflicting diagnoses for sick Popsicle, and as school approached finals, I stopped sleeping and started cleaning, bleaching, organizing. Night after night after night for months. 

It took a lonely, tear-filled night in my third-floor, 1940's studio apartment to get a grip. I'd spiraled into a routine of insomnia, rituals, and pure, unadulterated fear. At the time, it was how I kept myself at "peace". But now, years later, I recognize it as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder spurred by anxiety.

I've run the gamut as far as how to rid my life of my anxious tendencies. I wish there was a perfect way to rid my mind of those -sometimes- crippling thoughts. But life, and its worries, don't work that way. So, I'll share what's worked for me... 

1. Honesty with family and friends. 
What's that saying? ..."Honesty is the best policy." Yes, I know, share this bizarre behavior with someone? How terrifying. But, doing so allows others to pull you out of your funk. In my worst moments, I'd withdraw from those I thought would "catch" me, this only made things worse.

2. Medication.
I'm not saying hit the bottle or the bong. Talk to your doctor. I did numerous times -complete with water works. And still have a prescription on an "as needed" basis. Hearing that I'm not a freak, that life is hard and unpredictable which can be scary, that anxiety is a tough circle of difficulties gave me a little slice of peace.

3. Get a sense of humor. 
Laughing is the best medicine. Even for the anxious soul. And making light of the little stuff helps keep my reeling mind in check. Plus, the more you laugh, the more the people around you do too... Think how popular you'll become.

4. Know your triggers.
The news terrifies me. I enjoy being educated about current events, but I can't let myself go too far. I read the current stuff on the Google News Homepage or Yahoo, then stop. As soon as I start searching, seeking information, I start catastrophizing, stressing, panicking.

5. Get on board with God. 
The worse my anxiety got, the more angry I got with God. This is the opposite of what I needed for goodness sake! 

Today, life's still scary. There's this NSA leak, Syria and World War III talk, dad's sicker than ever, plus we're talking about houses, kids, and grown-up-married-life sort of business. This time I'm doing anxiety different. I've made an active choice and honest effort not to become comfortable and complacent in my fears. I keep some routine since I thrive in it, but break it up with spontaneity for my sanity.

Remember, I haven't got anxiety mastered. There's still nights I lay awake, moments my hands burn to clean, dust, bleach... It's about varying your methods, trying new things, being honest with yourself -and if you're like me, someone else.

Some of His words for the road: 
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. 
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." 
-John 14:27
I'm praying for your hearts, friends. Yours and mine. 

Share your tips, tricks, and anxiety reducing routines please... Goodness knows I need them. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

My Demented Demands

Since my dad got sick I've played this game with God. I pray to him. Give him this criteria I want Him to fulfill as a sign that He heard me. Then I for days, weeks even, I function through a fog as my mind focuses solely on searching for Him to do as I instructed.

Sometimes He doesn't follow me. Can you believe that? God doesn't follow the instructions I've given Him so clear as damn crystal. Or does He?

I've come to realize I'm a Pharisee. And in being like them, I have so many rules and criteria for God to fit into I, in fact, blur my own vision and miss His presence right there before me. I approach Him with a list of To Dos and He patiently listens, then shakes His head and reminds me I haven't even started to "get it".

"You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." -Matthew 16:3-4 

I look at the sky and, in the absence of clouds, know there will be sun and warmth. I smell the air before a rain and know drops will beat the asphalt in mere minutes. Yet, I, as part of that wanton generation, can't recognize God's work, His presence, the signs He leaves as encouragement, because it isn't the way I've decided it should be.

A pastor once said, "God isn't here to fit your standards, He's here to be the standard." 

This sign of Jonah is a fascinating thing. Jesus is referring to himself in code (once again). You see, Jonah remained alive in the belly of a whale for three days just as Christ was in the grave for three days before he rose again. Friends, He's present in your heart, your life, your circumstances now.

Though it can feel so cumbersome to recognize Him some days, it's not due to His lacking. Simply because you don't "get it" doesn't mean He abandons you. In fact, He's doing it the best way. Why? He's here to be the standard, not to fit yours. 

And I try to fit Him in my box. How dare I?

I find encouragement in Colossians 2:5.
"For though I am absent from you in body, 
I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are,
and how firm your faith in Christ is." 

My prayer is to for my heart to seek His standards in order to feel His deep-seated presence in my life.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Words & Letters [5]

Dear Neighborhood Hawks, You're beautiful. And watching you soar through the sky makes me happy. What's life like up there? 

Dear Twitter, I just don't get you and don't know if I ever will! Why are you so hard to get a hang of?

Dear Grammar, I love you. I wish more people (especially writers) were more fond of you. 

Dear Lisette, So many of your posts resonate with me... But this one, oh how you've hit the nail on the head. Thank you for being bold and for sharing. 

Dear Des, Chris Harrison and Soulja Boy, Really? That music video is almost as hilarious as the potential of the weirdos we're pretending are suitors this season. 

Dear Jury Duty, This will all be worth my "time off" from work if I get put on an interesting case... If not, I'm going to be nothing short of a Bitter Betty. Be warned. 

Dear Mr. T, Thanks for appreciating my insanely improved bacon cooking skills! I may add that to my resume. Yes? 

Monday, June 3, 2013

sticks & stones won't break my bones, but words [almost always] will hurt me.

(unrelated picture, but such a pretty nest with eggs)

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up others according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." 
-Ephesians 4:29

Whoever said "sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me" lied. 
There's a biological and chemical healing process our bodies undergo in times of injury and damage.
Unlike our physical body, our minds don't have such a stream-lined system to recuperate from hurt. 

I've received many a compliment over the years. On the converse, the amount of hurtful words match.
I can generalize the kind words said.
But the ill-natured ones I know word for word.

"Amber is a slut."
"Who's the white girl with the black brother? Not me." 
"It's fine, you didn't mean that much to me anyway." 
"Go on back to mommy and daddy, they'll fix this won't they." 
"You don't know what it means to struggle."
"I'm smarter than you, that's a fact. You'll never be good enough for me."
"Sure you'd talk about me, just because you're my best friend doesn't mean I should trust you."

Oh how they manage to suck the air from my lungs even all these years later.
And yet, I know I've spoke words just as, if not more, hurtful than these. 
Not until lately have I become aware of my word using tendencies...
In that, I use them as though they're pitchforks slowly chipping away at others.
But I want them to serve as bricks, slowly coming together to build up a foundation, then structure.

I know I've got to use my words for good. And not for ugly (or evil)... 
So what does that look like?
Who do I need to start speaking life-giving words to? 
The answer is simple (yet overwhelmingly) everyone

I do better at overwhelming tasks when I stop with broad strokes and pinpoint specific details. 

To Jason: words of adoration and support reminding him of his importance and significance in my life. 
To co-workers: through recognition of their hard work and gratitude for their dedication to the company.
To my dear friends: encouragement and support of their growth, prayer over their lives and families. 
To strangers: interested, honest conversation that ends with a smile and a (genuine) nice to meet you.
To fellow bloggers: friendly, unhurried comments that are well-thought out and engaging.

 Not only that, I need to be kind to myself
I need to use positive words that encourage my creativity and my soul.
I need to give my heart somewhere happy -and not hostile or toxic- to live, love and function. 

"For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." 
-Matthew 12:34

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Awkwardness that is June 16. Or: How do you celebrate Father's Day when he doesn't know who you are?

Two weeks from today we celebrate our fathers. We dote on them with gifts, or complaint free fishing trips, or barbeque, and cards that say things like “#1 Dad”. As you can guess, dementia done came in and shitted on that celebration for us kids. Yep, dementia don’t care.

This year is the Father’s Day I imagine (and secretly hope) to be the most painful. It’s the Father’s Day where the physical body that belongs to the man I identify as dad is present, but my dad, my dad, is missing in action. 

When I visit I see the man who gave me my short legs-long torso, the source of my butt chin, the thick-haired and tanned-skin man that shares my most prevalent of features. While he looks the same (except much older and wild-eyed), he is not my dad as I knew him. In fact, I'm no longer Amber, his baby girl. I'm my mom, my sister, an employee. This Amber is a mystery name only to be repeated, not recognized.

This year I'd love to resign myself to tears and heartache over the dad that isn't here and the daughter whose memory is no longer. How cathartic it would be to lie around in self-pity over the loss of the man I can't find inside that broken and bewildered mind. But my dad would have a fit if that's how I celebrated and honored him on what will be a beautiful spring, almost summer, day

He was a glass half full man. And if it felt empty in any way, he busted his ass to fill 'er up. Instead of tears and sorrow and self-pity -the way society tells us to "celebrate" a loved one lost- I'm going to do it the way he'd prefer; a celebration only complete with a dirty martini (I prefer extra olives), the great outdoors, and a meal fit for a king.


He was a man who taught me to be thankful for what I've got (and had) in my life, because it's uniquely my experience and you haven't got forever to enjoy yourself. At 60-years-old he is dying, slowly and sadly. But, he was right. (Oh how he'd love to hear that from me!) Wasting just one day feeling sorry for myself over the loss of my dad is a shame with all the joy there is otherwise. So today, in two weeks on Father's Day, and always, I grasp to an attitude of grateful enjoyment. 

I love you dad. 
Thank you for lessons that'll last a lifetime. 
I promise to pass them on.
And to be the life of the party. 

If all the pictures doesn't have you convinced we look the same, this little video will do the trick! 

1. He is wearing Perfect Push-ups as his dancing shoes, should any of you desire a pair.
2. We did not dance like that at my wedding -I did that only spinning that night.

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