Thursday, November 12, 2015

The paper of all papers

Six years I have been going to college. Four and a half of those years my focus has been on social work. One month from now I will be a college graduate, and proudly wearing the title `Social Worker'.

There is one last hurdle I have to cross before I get there. Tomorrow the paper of all papers is due. There are 11 standard core values and practices that social workers are expected to uphold. In this paper, I have a minimum of 25 pages, in which I have to define the 11 competencies in my own understanding, and give examples of how I have demonstrated that I am competent in them throughout my 4 years as a student.

I am basically having to prove to a panel of social workers, that I am qualified and deserving my college degree. Talk about nerve wrecking!

Once my paper has been reviewed, I will be called in for an oral exam, where I will again have to tell a panel why I deserve to get my degree.

So this is really it.

Four years of work, all lead up to these final days.

Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hello life

As fall fills the November air, I found myself in conversation with a woman visiting Tulsa from the desert in Arizona who had come to town for a conference.

We spoke as we drove through a neighborhood and she told me she had grown up in California, then lived in New York for 10 years, before moving to Arizona 7 years ago. 

As we talked, she stopped and stared out the car window and marveled, "Gosh, I miss fall."

I assumed she was meaning it was her favorite season and she had missed it since last year. But then she informed me she meant that where she lives there are no trees, just a bunch of red rocks.Therefore, she doesn't get to see trees flourish in the spring, and change colors and fill the air with leaves in the fall. 

I was taken aback as I realized that I never thought about how fortunate I am to have trees. I never really noticed how much beauty they bring to my world, and how much I would miss them if I had none.  

Later in the week I was sitting outside under the stars, talking to my brother on the phone, when I looked up and stared at the sky. I suddenly remembered my first night in Oklahoma. I grew up in the forest, surrounded everywhere I went by  trees taller than buildings and rolling hills. Because of this, I only ever really saw tiny portions of the sky, and that was only on the few nights the sky wasn't filled with rain clouds. 

I remembered how in my trip to Oklahoma, we stayed in campsites as we traveled through the country. My first night in Oklahoma, I remember stepping outside the tent and looking up and nearly falling over, completely speechless as I tried to take in the beauty of the giant star filled sky that was all around me. We were in a large field with no trees, and no hills so I could see for miles. I had never seen so many stars and a sky so big. 

I believed I would spend every single night, for all my years in Oklahoma, going out to look at the stars. I actually did for the first couple weeks. But then life happened. I got busy living, and forgot to look up and appreciate what was all around me. 

It all got me to thinking about how we get so busy living life, that we forget to stop and take the time to actually live life. It's an age old problem but social media has brought around a new twist. How often have I posted pictures and went on adventures where all I was thinking about was how to fit it in to my next Facebook post? How often am I so busy looking down at my phone trying to pacify my bored mind, that I miss out on all the amazing sights and experiences all around me. 

It's been a problem for a long time, where a person has dreams. They go out and get a job to be able to fulfill those dreams. But then they spend all their time working, and usually they are working to pay for gas and food and clothes for work. They in essence begin working to work. They lose sight of their dreams, and they quit living life. Add to that the twist of social media. People get so caught up in impressing their "friends" online, that they forget to actually have friends. They take a picture of the beautiful sunset, and forget to actually stop and stare, and appreciate the sunset. People build a picture perfect plate of food to post online for their friends to see, instead of having friends over to see it for themselves and enjoy the meal and conversation with them. 

When was the last time you saw something beautiful or inspiring, and just took the time to admire it, without taking a picture, or updating your status about it? How often do you have a conversation with someone and laugh out loud, versus just a comment of "lol" to some meme they made up while the both of you sit far apart?  When is the last time you told someone face to face, outside of your immediate family, how much you love or appreciate them? When's the last time you picked up a phone, or sent a letter to maintain your relationship with those whom you were very close to before distance separated you? It's been a long time for me. 

I realize that just as work and school made me forget to appreciate the earth around me, social media has made me forget to appreciate the friends around me. And I don't believe it's just me who has this problem. 

Two days ago I deleted my Facebook and I have been trying to make a more active effort to write letters, make phone calls, and see the people who are in my "social network". Then this morning I took a walk down a busy riverside trail. I looked around me and saw: birds soaring through the sky, the sunshine hitting the river water, a fish leap into the air, warm wind blowing through the colorful fall trees, and people...lots of people. These people were all looking down at their phones, missing the splendor all around them. I saw couples walking together, where both paid no attention to each other as they messed with their phones. 

And the biggest thing I noticed about these people, they all had unhappy frowns. One guy momentarily smiled as he took a selfie, but went right back to his frown when he lowered his phone from the air and typed something. 

If you are reading this, and can relate in anyway, then I ask you today to do something to make a change. Maybe not as drastic deleting your social media, but how about calling your mother? Or mailing a letter to that friend that moved away? Or pull someone close to you and tell them how much they mean to you? Or gather up your friends to go do something fun? Or take a drive or walk through nature without taking a single picture or updating your status about it?  Please join me in taking the time to live again, not just having posts about life. Take the time to love, take the time to give thanks, take the time to look up and see all the beauty in people and nature, that you've been missing. 

My final request is that if you like this post, do not share it online. Go and show it to someone. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Stuck in limbo

I've often heard the expression that people struggle with taking one step forward and two steps back. But I'm finding the truth is more that it's one step forward two steps sideways. I have my goals and I try to reach them, but every time I think I'm taking a step in the right direction something arises that throws everything off course. And it's not necessarily that I took the wrong step towards my destination, that step just reveals to me that I was headed toward the wrong destination.

There was a time that I was supposed to spend spring break in Florida, but the night before the road trip, we heard on the news that there were massive tornadoes ripping through the states on our planned route, and my friends in Florida cautioned that we should post-pone the trip because there was dangerous flooding going on all around the state.

As my friend and I met up the next morning, we both agreed there was no way we wanted to stay home, so we just hit the road not really knowing where we were going. It wasn't until half way through Kentucky that I realized what our destination should be, when I saw a sign for West Virginia. Neither of us had ever been to West Virginia, or even knew much about it.

Before we had ever left the city limits of Tulsa, we had looked at what appeared to be the best direction to go based on weather. There was fires in the west, flooding in the south, and tornadoes in the southeast. We said, let's just drive north east until we find something we'd like to do.

With no destination in mind, and only a general direction to go towards, this trip would prove to be a milestone in my life. Once we hit the Kentucky/West Virgina line, I found the place I wanted to grow old at.

Just like the story of aiming for Florida and landing in West Virginia, so is the story of my current state of life.

All my life I had my destination planned out to help orphans in Africa. I took the first step towards that goal by enrolling in college. But as I got in to college I found my heart lied with American children who had been hurt by their families. Then I set out for Tulsa with my eyes on a career in taking kids away from dangerous parents. As I traveled the journey through building my career, I found stopping child abuse begins with preventing children from growing up to be abusers and I found I want nothing to do with having to make the hard decision to take a child away from a family.

Then I found that lots of kids in the system are not taken away, but simply abandoned and never grow up with any guidance on how to be an upstanding adult. I learned stopping children from growing up to be abusers begins with helping kids find loving homes that can steer them in the right direction. Finally I learned what a gigantic gap there is in the number of orphan children in America versus loving homes. Thus I've come to believe that my heart lies with helping the orphans of America find loving homes to break the generational cycle of abuse.
I now see myself being an adoption agent and foster care recruiter. I've also been talking to an agency about possibly becoming a foster parent in the future, and I see myself adopting foster kids eventually. 

But then there's a twist.

Three times in my life, I've been called out of a large crowd, by preachers who were strangers to me, and been told that God has a giant ministry planned for me. That I would travel through America and the world spreading the good news of God.
In August of this year a preacher stopped right in the middle of his sermon to tell me God was saying that I would have a giant ministry, and that I would surpass the work of Mother Teresa and her likes. The preacher said that he felt so confident in my ministry, that he wanted to have a part in it. He then reached in his wallet and handed me a $100 bill.

This went right along with the two other events where strangers had said very similar things to me, and it matched the visions I've had in my mind of me being up on stages talking to large crowds. But yet, it's still very unclear to me how this would ever happen, with my career goals and my personality.

Then there's another twist.

Like I mentioned before, a couple years back I fell in love with West Virginia. I feel very strongly that I am supposed to live there. I want to write books. I've always wanted to write books. Ever since I learned how to hold a pencil, I've wanted to write stories for a living. I see myself sitting on my back porch, admiring my amazing view, and sipping on coffee while writing books.

Thus, there is the road I am on. I have two years left in a work contract keeping me in Tulsa. I can vaguely see how all my plans may kind of sorta come together, but overall, I am in the same situation that I was on my road trip.

I have no idea where I want to end up, and only a general direction in mind, but I remain hopeful that the end of the destination will be just as magnificent as was the treasure I found at our final destination on our Florida road trip.

So I head for "Florida" now, with no idea what will become my "West Virginia"

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Why I am still single

This week marks the beginning of fall semester. For me, it is the last semester of college. One good thing about the beginning of fall semester, is the reminder for every college student, that Christmas is just around the corner. Not everyone can make it home for the summer, and for those who live thousands of miles from home, Christmas is usually the only time one can go home. Christmas, the one time of year that one gets to see every person they knew growing up and gets to show what they have become.

Along with Christmas, comes every adult single person's favorite/dreaded Christmas tradition... a tradition most have practiced every year since they were 17. The beloved tradition of having aunt, uncle, grandparent, cousin, mom, dad, brother, sister, friend, church member, acquaintance; all asking you if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend yet. Every person feeling it is their personal duty to remind you that your biological clock is ticking, telling you how when they were your age they already had a spouse and two babies, asking what's wrong with you to have not found someone who wants you yet, and every other demeaning kind of question you can think of.

Every year my scapegoat answer has been "I am nowhere near ready for a relationship." But this year is a little different. This year I have to face the truth I hoped would never happen. All my life my plan was to be married before I graduate college. Here I am, in my final semester, without even a prospect of a boyfriend. Now it is not just judgmental onlookers asking where is my husband, it's my own thoughts and plans shouting inside of me, "What's wrong with you?!"

About 6 months ago I got desperate, hoping and praying to find someone and fall madly in love before fall semester began, so that I would hopefully have "a ring by spring". Because of that, I joined every online dating site I could think of and afford, and went to every singles event I could fit in my schedule, all with the mentality of "I have to find someone before my time runs out."

I found myself talking to guys who I didn't really like, who had different dreams than me, different beliefs than me, different lifestyles than me, and I did it all while selling out my own hopes and dreams, beliefs and lifestyle to try to fit into their world so that they would want me. All it did was lead to major stress and disappointment.

Then it hit me this week. Why am I changing myself to please society? Why am I giving up my joy and adventure and freedom in order to finally please everyone pressuring me about why am I not married yet?

People ask me what's wrong with me. Truth is, there is nothing wrong with me except that I refuse to be forced into a box to fit the mold. Marriage is a beautiful thing. But does that mean it's meant for everyone? I'm beginning to think not.

Truth is, I love my life of freedom...being able to come and go as I please. I could get a new job today, or quit a job tomorrow, and only have to worry about how it affects me. I could buy a house in Minnesota tomorrow, and decide to sell it next week and move to Europe, without anyone else's approval. I can hit the road and not speak to anyone for days without having someone upset that I didn't take them or tell them where I was going. I can go along to a movie with a male friend, with out having to worry if someone would be upset about me being alone with another man.

I was trying to talk to a relative about this the other day, and they stopped me and asked me to just be honest with them and admit that I am a lesbian. Our society is so fixated on being with someone, that this person refused to believe I am happy being single and so resorted to just changing my orientation. Again I ask, why do I have to be with someone, male or female?

Some people live their lives to the fullest and count their every blessing when they marry a good spouse and raise great kids. But why should that mean someone else didn't live their lives to the fullest if they lived a great life without a spouse and kids? Was Mother Teresa wrong? `Was my only reason for being born, to be raised, get married and have babies to raise so they can get married and have babies to raise to get married to have babies to raise to get married to have babies?

I am tired of believing I must get married and have babies. I am tired of society forcing me into that mold. I am not interested in forcing myself into a relationship just to please society. I am about to graduate college. I am at the prime of my life. I can get a good job, do lots of fun stuff, and make life changing decisions any time I want to, without having someone else's permission. I am not ready to commit my life to another person. Honestly I don't know if I ever want to. I know I want to be a mother some day, but there are plenty of motherless children out there needing someone who's stable and caring like me.

Maybe someday I will change my mind on all of this, but for now I am giving up on dating, and want to just enjoy being young, single, and free.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Stinky RUUUUUN in with police

This morning I woke up rather early. I got showered and dressed, ate some breakfast, and made some coffee. Then, as I was stirring sugar into my coffee, I began to laugh uncontrollably as my mind was suddenly flooded with memory after memory of my many crazy ordeals that occurred in 2014. They were terrifying and stressful at the time, but looking back on them now, they are all hilarious. Crazy neighbors leaving me piles of letters asking insane requests of me, being screamed at to repent or burn in hell when I complained to management about crazy neighbor, having a different neighbor arrested for hurting his child, having said guy (unknowing that it was my fault he was arrested) begin asking me out persistently after his wife left him, meeting an accused child abductor, being detained and interrogated and accused of being a drug smuggling terrorist in Canada, getting stranded in Kentucky when I ran out of money,  and so much more.

One story I have yet to share, that is quite funny looking back, was my stinky run in with the police.

It was about 9 o'clock at night, in mid to late August. I had worked a morning shift, and when I got home I was exhausted and crashed in bed. When I woke up to the sound of my dog persistently whining, the sun had already set, but I knew I needed to get up and walk her because she had been cooped up indoors all day. There was a pretty walking trail behind my apartments, that I went to a lot to let Lily off leash to run around and burn her energy.

I followed our usual routine of walking a little ways down the trail before letting her off leash, then I sat down and let her run up and down the trail back and forth to me, until she seemed to have calmed down a bit, and then I would get up and walk about a mile down the trail with her.

On this particular night, we got close to our normal turning around point, when we heard something moving in the bushes. Lily got excited and darted towards the bushes, just in time for me to see a black tail rise up. It was a skunk! I jumped back and screamed for Lily in that gut wrenching moment knowing one or both of us was about to get dowsed in skunk spray.

Lily got close to the skunk, and then leaped in the air and ran away from it. The skunk then ran off into the bushes. One problem with this scenario, is that I lived alone, and I have zero ability to smell. I had no way of knowing if I or Lily actually got sprayed.

I began texting a friend, as I was unsure what to do. I told her I decided to continue on my walk since it wasn't like I could go home and ask someone if we stunk, so I might as well continue walking so that Lily would get tired.

Taking about 100 more steps, I heard something moving in the bushes behind me again. I put Lily back on her leash and tried to hurry forward, afraid that the skunk was coming back for more. As I continued to speedwalk, I looked back and discovered a large man had climbed out of the bushes and was walking at a distance behind me. I was somewhat relieved that it wasn't the skunk, but I also became paranoid about a man walking behind me in the dark.

I continued walking, and passed my usual turning around point. There was no way I wanted to turn around and have to pass the man. The trail ended at a busy road, so I assumed once I got there, he would turn a different direction and then I could go back. But once I got to the busy road, he continued walking at a distance behind me. My alarm was raised a little, and I crossed the street into a quiet neighborhood and thought he was no longer there.

As I walked through the neighborhood, I was texting my friend everything that was happening, when I saw that Lily's hair was sticking up like it does whenever she is worried or stressed. I stopped to pet her and asked what was wrong. She wouldn't look at me, and then let out a few loud barks, while staring behind me. I turned and looked and saw the figure of the man far away, but still behind me.

My friend said I should make lots of turns through the neighborhood streets to see if it was just coincidence that he was behind me, or if he was following me.
I remembered that there was a police station nearby, and decided to walk there. I kept looking back, and as I walked faster, he did too. I was certain now that he was following me, and my heart began beating fast as adrenaline was pumping through my blood. Skunk spray had now completely left my mind.

I walked faster and faster, and turned at every cross street. Every time I looked back, he had matched my speed and was getting closer. I made up my mind that as soon as I was on the street that led to the police, I would run as fast as I possibly could.

Once I made it to that street, he was close enough for me to make out his face. I knew I was in danger and I ran for my life as fast as I could. Seeing the glowing police station sign was like the light at the end of the tunnel. As soon as I spotted it off in the distance, I began screaming at the top of my lungs for help.

The man was now running just as fast as me, and was only about 20 feet behind me. He swung his arm towards me like he was trying to grab me, and he shouted out in a manic tone, "You can't hide from me!"

I was still screaming, and had dropped Lily's leash, but she was running right beside me and barking, when I got near the police parking lot and spotted an officer. The officer came running towards me and I screamed, "He's chasing me! I don't know him!"

The officer shouted back, "Who, where?!"

I slowed down and looked behind and the man had disappeared.

I and the officer approached each other, when he jumped backwards, grabbed his face, and exclaimed, "Oh! Oh God! What? What happened to you?"
"I was walking my dog and a man started following me and then tried to grab me!" I exclaimed as I trembled.
"Did you fall in to something or what?" He asked as he gagged.
I had no idea what he was talking about and we went back and forth with neither of us understanding each other until it dawned on me that I had an encounter with a skunk moments before the man appeared.
"Oh my gosh, I have no sense of smell. I forgot, a skunk sprayed me just before the guy popped out of the bushes."
The officer took several steps back and slapped his knee as he laughed, "Bah ha ha! Let me get this straight. You can't smell, and you got sprayed by a skunk, and then a man came out of the bushes and chased you? Oh man, that's a new one for me." He then proceeded to laugh hysterically, grabbing his sides and wiping tears from his eyes.
Another officer pulled into the parking lot and came close when he heard all the commotion. He gawked at the smell of me and then began laughing even harder as the other explained the situation of me running into the parking lot screaming for help because I had been sprayed by a skunk and then chased by a man.
They both laughed as they went back and forth trying to grasp the idea of the whole concept.
A third officer came out of the station and didn't get close enough to be repulsed by my smell, and said that I was the fifth report that night of the man following people so I would need to come in and fill out a police report.
As he approached to escort me inside, he struggled not to laugh and said, "Oh God, I'm so sorry, but you smell really bad."
They sat me down at a desk in the office, and soon cops were all around me taking turns laughing as one another retold the story. A supervisor came out and said they were going to have to move me to an interview room. The supervisor was also trying his best to fight back disgust and laughter.

They gave me clothes to change into, and I gave them permission to take Lily outside to hose her off. Cop after cop came into the back room as I filled out the paperwork, just so they could get a glimpse of the woman who had been sprayed by a skunk and then chased by a crazy man.

Once I was done with everything, I came back out into the front, and it was filled with cops both on and off duty, who had come in to the station because they had heard about me, and were cracking up at the story.
Each one that I passed nearly fell to the floor laughing at my stinky story.
Finally I was out of the station and laughing myself at the insanity of my story, and an officer drove me and Lily back to my apartment. He walked me to my door and apologized profusely for the behavior of his co-workers, and said they just had never heard that kind of story before.

Once I was alone and in the shower, I myself lost it laughing at how crazy my night had been. I had thrown my clothes away at the police station, and I scrubbed and scrubbed in the shower, and hoped to God that I had gotten all of the smell off of me.

But at 1:30 in the morning I found out that I hadn't gotten rid of the smell, when the station called and said they had arrested a suspect and needed me to come in to id him. I drove to the station and confirmed that they had the right guy. They said he had been high on meth and was well known to them. Before I left, several officers apologized to me for laughing so hard earlier that night, and when I asked if I had gotten all of the smell out, one snorted before chuckling "Not quite."

As I walked out the door, I heard another roar of laughter inside.

It took about 3 days before people fully stopped being able to smell me.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

If only I were prettier

The memory is still as clear as if it happened yesterday. I can feel the painful sting that filled my heart. It started in my chest and moved up my throat to where it hurt too badly to speak or even breathe. I can still feel the burning sensation of tears welling in my eyes as I tried to prevent myself from crying. I remember the music that was playing in the background, I remember the outfit I was wearing, I remember the outfit she was wearing, I remember the color of the carpet we stood on, and I remember how dim the lights were set.

I was 18 years old, speaking to a woman who I had looked up to all my life. I bent over backwards to help her. Any time she had a request, I ran to meet it. She was the woman I hoped to become, and thus I did everything I could to please her.

But all that changed in an instant, with 5 little words.

The only time in all my years of knowing her and serving her, I had a need that I needed her help with. It was nothing majorly hard to do. I just needed a recommendation letter for a scholarship I was applying for. She told me no and told me all the reasons why she did not want to. None of them bothered me, until the end.
"You need to be more self motivated. You need to be more outgoing. You need to be funnier." All criticisms which I could take.

"If only you were prettier."

I was already a world traveler. I was known throughout the community for my countless hours of community service in many different aspects. I was a leader in several organizations on national levels. I had traveled all around talking to crowds of 500+. I was the girl who had in one year lost 50lbs. I was the girl who in one year had changed my gpa from a horrendous 1.5 to a 3.6. I was a success in every use of the word. I was the girl who went from sneaking out at night to get high, to traveling the world as a missionary. Yet those 5 little words ripped me apart and left me feeling worthless.

All my life I tormented myself with how much better my life could be, "If only I were prettier."

I think every woman and girl secretly feels that way, at least at some point in their life. So much of a woman's self-worth depends on the level of their beauty. All my life I have felt fat and ugly, and all my life I have struggled with feelings of insecurity and worthlessness.

In fact, I was so dependent on my physical appearance, that when some one else told me I wasn't pretty enough, I never spoke to her again. A lot could be said about how unhealthy that relationship was and that it was best for me to quit associating with her, but that is not what I want to focus on today.

Today I share this painful memory, to share what I have learned since that day.
I can remember at a mere 5 years old, sitting on the counter in the bathroom, slapping my face repeatedly because I was mad at myself for being so ugly. I always told myself no one wanted to be my friend because I was ugly. I missed out on fun events because I thought no one wanted the ugly chick there.

Nothing changed in my mentality, until one day in Uganda, Africa in 2013. I met an 86 year old woman who had lived nearly twice as long as the average life expectancy in that nation. We had gone hut to hut praying with people. When we got to hers, I noticed there were many people in and around the home. Children of all ages surrounded her. You could clearly tell that she was loved. The children clung on to her, and were constantly bidding for her attention. She had many beautiful decorations all given to her as gifts out of love. But as we began speaking, she instructed everyone but the American visitors to leave so she could speak to us alone.

As the area cleared, she began to weep. She told us that she was crippled with depression. She had gone all her life feeling worthless and unlovable. I was in shock, this woman who was surrounded with love and respect, felt unlovable. As she continued we found out she had felt ugly since she was a young girl and told by her mother that she would never be pretty enough for a man to love her.

4 different men had asked to marry her in her years of living, and yet she never married. She had never given birth, and yet countless people referred to her as mama. All of the villagers provided all her needs because she was their most beloved member. Children traveled daily from 3 surrounding villages just to spend time with her. And yet she still fought the same demons as I, blinded to the love all around her because she was haunted by the thought of how she could be prettier. She turned the men away, insisting they deserved better than her, she urged the villagers to stop supporting her because she felt she was a burden to them, she loved on all of the children only in hopes that they would feel more loved than she did at their age.

This encounter began to rock my understanding of beauty. Beauty and love are two very different things and yet dependent on each other. Beauty is love, love is beauty. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
This woman was so kind, caring, and loving, that people were drawn to her and adored her for her beautiful character and spirit. But she hated herself so much that she misunderstood all of their loving gestures. She could not see her own beauty, and therefore she could not see love.

There's a photo that I used to see and absolutely hated. It was me, sitting at a table eating with my extended family. I hated how fat I looked, and that it was a picture of a fat kid eating. I hated the expression on my face. I hated the color of my hair. I hated how messy my hair looked. I was looking at the older women in my family feeling so inferior and wishing I could be as pretty as them. But what I never noticed, was that on the other side of me, was my little cousin mimicking me. While I was looking at them wanting to be like them, he was smiling looking at me, trying to copy me.

The picture was metaphoric to me. Women so often are caught up in what we wish we were, that we are blind to what we already are. We want to be someones role model, and yet we fail to recognize when we are.
I can remember the women in my life complaining about how ugly they were, and how unlovable it made them. They never said those things about me, but appearance became my definition of beauty and love because of the way they defined it with their selves. It's something I hope to do differently when I have daughters. I want to teach them to see the value and beauty they have, by their character and by how much love they have. And it doesn't start with me teaching them that about themselves, it starts with me believing it about myself.

So I end by asking you, what is beautiful about you?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Pursuit of Happiness

One of my all time favorite movies scenes is in the Pursuit of Happiness, where the character played by Will Smith gets told that he's been promoted and life is about to get very good for him. He is so relieved and so happy, that you can see the joy with out him even breaking a smile.

The giant joy and relief he felt in that movie, kind of captures how I have felt this week.

As you may or may not know, a little over a year ago marked the start of an extremely hard time for me. I had been attacked in the night by a violent teenager. While I was left fairly uninjured physically, it shook me up bad emotionally. Within a month of that I witnessed a suicide by hanging, and a friend collapse and die of a brain aneurism. 

Each event I tried to shake off, and tell myself I was ok. But all the events combined did in fact take a huge toll on me. The nightmare got worse when my doctor said the answer to my problems was anti depressants.

I learned later when I switched doctors, that anti depressants were NOT the answer, because I did not have a chemical imbalance causing my troubles, I just needed to talk and process about what I had been through. But the road to learning that was extremely costly. The anti depressants made me manic, which lead me to spend a gut load of money, money I didn't have, and I racked up a mountain of debt. All my life I have been remarkably skilled with money management. I had never had to deal with debt, because I always found ways to deal with it right when a cost came up. But due to this fiasco, I was in over my head.

Fast forward to this year, I have bounced back mentally and emotionally from the whole ordeal, but have still been dealing with a ton of debt that I couldn't pay. I have been trying my best, but still haven't been able to get the collections calls off my back. It has been very stressful and felt like there would be no end to it.

Then last Thursday came. The day of grace. A check came in for some grant money I had been awarded 2 years before. As I was handed the check I could hear Jimmy Cliff playing loudly in my head... now sing it with me, it's gonna be a bright, bright and sun shiney day....

With it, I was able to pay off all my debt, get some much needed car repairs done, and actually go out to eat at a nice place for a change. `Tis a good day!

Btw, have you seen my new haircut?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Chasing the sun

Found while walking out in the woods.  How perfect?

Easter was a cold and rainy day in Tulsa. I decided that's not how I wanted to spend my day. So instead I went chasing after the sunshine.
I got online and looked at the radar and found where there was the nearest area with no cloud coverage. Then I headed that way, hoping the road would lead me to a sunny place to have an adventure.

It took me 2 hours west to Boiling Springs State Park.

There I spent all day in a tank top and shorts, enjoyung the sun while walking through hiking trails.

While 98% of the population spent the day hunting for eggs, and the 1.9% of the population spent the day stuck at work, I was the 0.1% that spent the day hunting for the sun.

`Twas a good day.

My Easter Lily...Totally didn't notice the cross beside her before taking the picture

Conked out on the whole drive home after a long day of playing

The final pictures I took for the day before driving back into the storm.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sitting in a bathtub....with 4 people and a dog

At this moment, one week ago, I was having a first time experience. It was my first time ever being huddled into a bathtub with 3 other people and a dog.
Spring has just begun, and weather experts are saying Oklahoma is in for a wild tornado season. Last week we had the first twister of the season. It was almost a complete disaster, but a miracle happened.

I was driving when I saw the lightning begin. About 5 minutes later the hail began coming down. It was a normal pea shape sized, but I saw later that just 10 miles away it was coming down baseball sized.

Here is a picture of the hail that was 10 miles away from me:

Just as I got inside the house, the sirens began to blare out. At ORU there are underground shelters. In my 3 years of living in Oklahoma, there has only been one time that a tornado was ever close enough to sound the alarms. When the alarms sound, in means that there is a tornado and there is potential of it hitting where you are at.

Last week was my second time having the sirens sound, but there was no underground shelter. So I followed the lead of my 3 companions who have lived through many tornadoes. They took part in what I am told is an Oklahoma tradition, of standing outside watching.

They said on the radio that a tornado had touched down in Sand Springs (About 15 minutes away from me) and that there was potentially another one forming over Tulsa near the airport (really close to me...too close).
We were out in the back yard looking out in the distance towards Sand Springs, trying to figure out if we could see anything.
All of a sudden one guy, Michael, says, "Uh, guys..." I turned back to look at him. His jaw was dropped and he was looking up, pointing at the sky right above us.
When I looked up, I realized that there was a massive circular cloud in the sky all around us. I later heard that it was a low and wide formation, about half a mile wide. They said if it had touched down, it likely would have wiped out half of the city.
I don't remember who said it. Everything in those moments after seemed to happen in less than a second, even though it was longer. I just remember someone shouting, "Get inside!" and almost instantly all four of us, and Lily, had run through the house and shut ourselves in the bathroom, and were huddled in the bathtub.

There was a loud roar, that amost had me believing it was a train driving by, that rattled the house. I was gripping on to my dog, and closing my eyes, and holding my breath thinking any second the top floor of the house was going to be ripped off and I was going to be soaring through the air. The power went out and the radio station and all of our cell service died.

After a few minutes of sheer panic, the roar went away. A few more minutes and the radio came back on, saying one of their towers had been knocked over by flying debris. About 10 minutes later the radio announced that the storm was moving away from the city, and we felt safe enough to come out of the bathroom.

It took about an hour for our power to come back on, and my cell service was out for about 3 hours.
There had been some strong wind that damaged some things, but everyone agrees that the tornado  forming miraculously dissolved before something horrible happened. I might not be writing this now if it had.

It was extremely cold the next two days. Now, it's been extremely hot the last two days. Tomorrow they are calling for more severe weather that may produce tornadoes.

Please keep Oklahoma in your prayers. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring break fun

It's over. One milestone down, only a few more to go. My final spring break is over.  I have been a student all my life, and now I am only down to 4 weeks and then one semester left in school.
Three of my closest friends were all on missions trips. Two others went home for break. My dear friend Dawn was one of my only close friends that remained in Tulsa with me.
We were both sad that our final spring break was going to be filled with working overtime and having no wild adventures. But we did promise ourselves that at least one day would be dedicated to having fun.

So on Tuesday March 17, she and I and her little sister Lun, got in the car and drove 3 hours to explore Petite Jean Sate Park in Morillton Arkansas.

I first visited Petite Jean in June 2 years ago, when I was in Arkansas researching the baby Melissa McGuinn case. Her mom told me about the park and said I should try to check it out if I had some time on my way home. Sure enough, I did, and was very glad about it.

Now it's one of my favorite places to adventure "nearby".

Dawn and Luna had never been there. Luna thought we were in another country. She said along the drive, "This country has a lot less pollution than America." That made me laugh, and ironically 10 minutes later we drove by a nuclear power plant.

Once we arrived the fun began.

On the drive back home, we started out being our silly selves, dancing around and singing and teasing each other for various reasons.

But somewhere along the way, a giant rainstorm hit. It was totally out of the blue.
But it led to even more fun.
When we got to a red light, a song came on the radio about being in the middle of a storm. Singing got pretty intense then.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


It's hard to believe that at this date 10 years ago, I functioned daily on less that 2 hours of sleep. I couldn't remember what it felt like to be sober. There was not a single clear spot on my stomach or legs where I hadn't cut. I had people threatening to kill me if I didn't show up every night for sex with strangers. I couldn't tell the truth to anyone, because I was buried in so many lies that I couldn't remember what the truth was.

 I've shared my testimony of coming to Christ countless times to many people. I was living a double life. I truly believed God was nothing more than another Santa Claus. "God" was a word to me. It was just a tool, used to make unruly people behave, with a promise of heaven or hell instead of toys or coal. My life revolved around pleasing others, and I got lost in trying to impress everyone. I was a bad ass to the rebel crowd, and a goody two shoes to the good people. I spent my days in church and and Christian school, and spent my nights sneaking out and breaking every rule I could find.

Since the night of my father's funeral when I was 11, to the night I almost ended it all when I was 15, my life was consumed with lies, deception, insincerity, and addiction.

All that changed when I cried out to God and he answered me, on 7/15/2005.

For the past few months, my friend Dawn and I have at separate times talked about Burma. I have said I wanted to be doing something very remarkable for the 10 year anniversary of God changing my life and I thought going to Asia would be a great way to celebrate my rebirth because it is one of two continents I have not been to.
Dawn talked about how this is her last year in college, and that she wanted to reward herself by doing something extraordinary this summer.
Then one day we got to talking about Dawn's birth country of Burma. She mentioned how much she wanted to go back and visit someday, as she hasn't seen it since her family came to America over 10 years ago.

That's when we came up with the idea, "Why not now?"

Since that day, we've talked about it as a "maybe some day", then we brought it up more frequently and spoke of it as "When we go to Burma", until now.

Now we've got a date set, and I took Dawn yesterday to apply for her passport. We have looked at making reservations at tourist attractions we want to see, and Dawn is in contact with an uncle who owns an orphanage, and a cousin who needs help running a free dental clinic.

We are in full on planning mode.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Many, many moons ago, I picked up my laptop, set it on my bed, and began typing a story that had been building inside my head since I was a small child. It was the story of a young girl, going away to a prestigious boarding school, and many experiences surrounding leaving the school. I finished writing the story while making the long drive to my new home in Oklahoma in 2012.

Since then, I have very sloooowly worked on editing and now submitting to agents for publishing, my story 'Visionary'.

Now that I am in my final year of college, things with my writing are taking off more rapidly, as I have more time to put in to it.

One key character in Visionary, is the teacher, Professor Sara, who the main character, Annie, grows very close to. Throughout Visionary, you can tell Sara has an interesting side story for her own experiences. Sara clearly has separation and anger issues that explode in the story, and Annie has an impact in leading Sara to recover from her problems. But not much is elaborated on how severe Sara's issues were, or how she learned to overcome them. My mom had pointed out in the past, that the story makes learning more about Sara very intruiging and suggested in the future that I write another story telling Sara's experience.

This January I began doing just that.

Sara starts out as a toddler in this story, and will go through the entire backstory to many of Sara's issues that are brought up in Visionary. From losing her parents, to being moved around in foster homes and mental hospitals, the story will develope to explain the reason for the skeletons in her closet.

I am 20 pages into it, and I had to share, because I'm excited about it.

The end.