Sunday, December 6, 2015

The 2015 Christmas Letter

** Our printer decided it wanted to start its death throws as I was getting ready to print this letter**

Dear Family and Friends,
Here we are staring down 2016 already. This year has, again, flown by. I hope that it has been a positive and healthy one for you all. Everyone reading this means very much to us, so we
have been praying for you all.
This year started out as a positive note. Owen and I were doing well, as were our fur and feathered babies and our family. We had our dear friend (adopted sibling really) Alex up at the first of the year. He helped Owen take apart and rebuild 3 of our raised garden beds with cinder block. This made it higher, sturdier and easier for me to use. I wasn't having to bend over as much for our shorter crops or weeding. They also installed vole fencing so I was able to grow root veggies again. Between that and the greenhouse my parents bought for my birthday... well... From the picture below you can see that was quite a success! We had so many beets and sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
In May, Owen and I went out to Ohio again for Hamvention, the international amateur radio event. I was dealing with a sore hip and foot, but managed to walk through a good chunk of it. The second day, Owen went alone while I visited close friends. It was after we returned that I noticed something was "not right." That continued into the end of May when we had the 100th anniversary of my moms moms side of the family coming to America. The original farm is still in the family and we had one amazing celebration!

From there I went to graduation at Bridgeway Academy, as several favorite students were graduating. I ended up in bad shape and barely made the drive home. We found out a week later that the heart issue I was having was much worse than expected. Dysautonomia is nothing to shrug off, espeically with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and my heart was "struggling" and "was out of reserves" and I heard "you are a lot more sick than you think" a lot in the month that followed. Thankfully, I responded to a medication currently on FDA trial to be "on label" for such a condition. Now is the long, and very hard, process of regaining strength. I no sooner had turned a good corner when that "sore foot" became a "fall and fracture said foot." Months in a stirrup brace and home exercises did nothing. A trip to the foot/ankle surgeon led to learning of a bigger problem. I get to spend the next 5-6 months in intensive physical therapy to work on the foot all the way up to the hip. Surgery will happen if that fails. Along the way, the garden was neglected a bit and I never did get my winter crops going in the greenhouse. Hoping to still do that and catch up on winterizing. On the positive, I have really gotten into sewing and am starting to sell the items I make in craft shows, going beyond the just for friends and family. It has been a great experience! Especially since an issue with disability left my payments on suspension and us in a financial bind. It has been a lesson is leaning on God and how He provides.

Owen has had a roller coaster of a year. He continues to work for Culpeper County Human Services, but is on the lookout for a new job. He has completed his goals for the organization and would leave them in a much much better shape than when he arrived. We are hoping for a few options he has to become a reality in form of a better position. In the meantime, he continues to be big into the Amateur Radio world, and we have 2 antennas in the yard and a handheld device on almost every day to prove it. He's been out helping others with their set ups and soon we will be installing a massive tower in the back yard (soon as in after a few trees come down first.) He has had struggles with the PKU and we are seeing some of the brain damage manifest in upsetting ways. He will be seeing a neurologist soon and we hope for a better path to help him from there. In the meantime, we are enjoying time together, movies, watching Scifi series, and our fur and feather kids.

We did suffer the loss of our beloved Aspen back in early July. He fought for as long as he could, but old age and end-stage kidney disease took its toll. Though we had hoped and prayed he would go peacefully in his sleep here at home, we ended up having to escort him over Rainbow Bridge. I spent 14.5 years out of his 15.5 years with him and it hit harder than any loss I have experienced in a long time. With loss comes rebirth and we inherited Ginger. She was my cousin Bill's dog. When he died suddenly, she became ours. She is the most amazing little girl. Ginger is very empathic and has a gently spirit. She is a typical Aussie cattle dog and very possessive of Owen and myself. She is bonded to me for sure. Just as I lost my "boy" I gained my "little girl." In the spring she will be undergoing training to be a hospital therapy dog. Hobo, Erwin and Fledge continue to thrive.

As you can see, it has been a roller coaster.. more than the usual mess two people with chronic genetic conditions have on average that is. Through it all, we remain strong in our love and our faith continues to grow. Our local and online friends and our family are our lifeline and we love and appreciate all of you. Here is to a better 2016!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

On not being a coward anymore

The first song has been in my mind most of the evening. What about the Love? Where is it when we condemn those who sin just like we do but who used to have to live in shadows, kept hidden from our society?
  We know what it feels like, as God has been taken out of so much. Yet right now we don't have to hide, we have that freedom still (though it is threatened), and we are just as lost as they are. Our hypocrisy is right there for all to see, our hatred, just because you can now see them being supported. We are digging a deeper hole that very well could lead to us being forced into hiding (like in other countries), as the world sees us more and more for our despise and not for our Love. No wonder we are being persecuted here in America. No wonder people are fighting to remove anything that has to do with God from schools and businesses. We've made a mess of things and now God is being removed from the public. We know what it means to fight for a basic right, and we've forgotten that so many in other countries have it much worse when it comes to being a Christian. So when we see someone fighting for the same thing, to be allowed out of the shadows, out of the basement of society, why are we kicking them back into hiding? If they see our love, they won't be as likely to join those trying to take Christianity out of America. If you want to bring morals and values back to our country, you are not going to succeed until you go among those who have threatened it and use God's love to guide them onto a better track.
  Didn't we go through this last generation? Did we forget already how wrong they were?
   I used to think like other Christians did, that these people really can cure themselves - until I noticed tendencies in the preschools my mom worked in, with their parents going "no, you want to play with the cars and not the dolls. (or the other way around.) I followed them as they grew and the feelings never changed, but their pain grew worse because they knew what was coming - being kicked out of clubs, kicked out of youth group, some were kicked out of their own homes.  I have had too many friends, as well as current and former students, who have had those who mean the most in their lives turn their back on them when that support is needed the most. They cry out because they cannot help how they are. They've tried to be how their families expected them to be. Some have prayed for years to be "fixed." These are people, hurting, people like you and me. But we have Hope. We are to be light, welcome them into it, show them the Love of our Lord Jesus.  Does it mean you have to accept their way of life? No! It just means you accept them as a person who wants to not have to hide. A person who hurts and needs God's love and to know that God accepts them - they are just like us... broken. You might not be able to change who they are, but you can change where they are going now and after death. And bit by bit we can bring America back.
   There is so much "boycott this because of an image, write to x because of it." If life was being lost (abortion) or we are losing a vital right, sure I am going to speak up!  If you don't like the content of a commercial, mute it and walk away. An ad in a magazine? You can turn the page. Denying your spouse or child something to help them because the main company has one of those ads? It comes across as petty.
   I understand fully what some of the fuss is about, but honestly don't get the constant whining over the rest of it. I just see people who have been trampled on and who now are grouping up to be lifted. Of course, there are extremists who are purposely finding businesses to sue. There are extremists on "our side" too (Westboro comes to mind.) What there needs to be is more of God's love. It takes strength to provide it, to not look down.  It takes wisdom to look through the Bible and see what no longer has to exist, to see what Christ wanted of us, to not take a single line of a verse and use it without seeing the whole picture.
I expect a shorter "friends" list after this post, but I have been getting aggravated by what I've seen by so many other Christians here and I got tired of hiding how I feel. I got tired of being a coward and feeling ashamed every time I was hanging around my bisexual best friend. I lean on Christ every day to get me through. "I Need Thee Every Hour," that song is my mantra. I prayed about this post, thought long about it, asked God to put in my heart what to say. His answer was "What About the Love" and oh did we have a conversation about this while I was sewing. Wrote this hours before it was posted, going over it with Owen, walking off and coming back to it. What you read is basically His answers to my questions.
#loveoneanother, #AllSinIsEqual, #realChristians, #LoveisaVerb, #LoveWins

Monday, February 23, 2015

On Shadows and Shades

You saw it all over the place in the past months. People going back and forth on #pullingbacktheshades versus those who really cannot see 50 Shades of Grey for what it is - a book glorifying relationship violence and a controversial "lifestyle." I read a lot of these posts and their comments, shared a few, prayed a lot for the hearts of women and men to be protected if they did read the book or saw the movie. I heard of people coming out of the film almost in shock at the violence. Honestly, if it wasn't a rich person doing those acts, would people still be praising the story?

Time to get a bit personal. Eleven years ago I went through a divorce. I had been married for 3.5 years to a man I had been a relationship with for two years before that. While I knew he had bad traits and that I was "settling" and thinking he could improve, I was very... very wrong. Within 9 months he had me lying to everyone about what happened in that house, finances, with friends, all of it. He was a master of manipulation and knew just how to get me to return to him when I'd try to back away. When his "brother" moved in, I was already under the strain of the verbal and emotional abuse. He brought drugs into the house and I nearly lost my job and teaching license over it. Not that I could do anything about it, as he was already angry because I had been on antibiotics (making birth control less effective), he had assaulted me in a drug and alcohol filled moment, and I had become pregnant. Thankfully, I miscarried two weeks after we found out.  When I stood up for myself and spoke back to him about the drugs, I spent three days locked in a room. My best friend flew out to Colorado right afterward and spent eight days pointing out all he was saying and doing. The blinders came off on day three. I left him four days after she went back to NJ.But it left me with flashbacks, nightmares of what he had done to me, the feeling that I had failed because I couldn't "fix" him- all of it...even though I had fledgling independence now. I submerged myself into music and books... unhealthy books at that. A year later, we moved back to the east coast. I was living in a camper on my brothers' property and had started through the Chronicles of Narnia and then the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. When I returned to my fantasy series, something snapped in my mind. I started to feel horrible, like my mind had been run through a mud puddle. I couldn't get scenes out of my head. Right then and there, I put the books down and never picked them back up again.

Fast forward to now. Much as I want to avoid the topic, the storm surrounding the release of the movie was in overdrive. Battle lines had been drawn for the minds and souls of women and men. It is kind of scary that, out here by UVA, we are in the middle of a storm over rape and the mistreatment of young women... yet there they are filling their minds with the most unhealthy concepts. I read one article where the woman went through the book, a woman with a story like mine, and found 50 scenes of abuse - all before she made it midway through the second book. She posted the sentences and surroundings. Just that article was enough to start the flashbacks over again. The scenes she posted burned into my mind and went on repeat. Reading the comments to her article, hundreds of women felt the same way.

It seeps into everything, you know? Everything. I am a gamer and I work very very hard to keep my guildmates safe. They chose me to be their leader. They entrust me with the stories and boundaries and I do all I can to not betray them. But this kind of evil runs far and wide.  Let me set the stage: A young woman in a complicated relationship and a complex friendship has a visitor to where she lives. This visitor is a former instructor from when she was at a university. She trusts this woman, has listened to her in the past and knows the instructor cares about her. However, as they talk and the young woman tells her elder about her situation, the elder starts to make comments about darker ways to take control. She asks if sexually explicit actions have ever been taken, then says it is a shame and she was missing out on so much. The young woman isn't even sexually active with the two people she is discussing - but that doesn't seem to matter. The elder feels she needs to learn how to be more of a leader, to be more dominant and she knows just the way to do so. She encourages the young woman to stay near her for a time and "learn."  Do you see where this is going? Right there, over the weekend, concepts which were in that book (bdsm) was spewed across digital text inside the safe environment I had worked so hard to build. Those two who were in this complex situation saw it, were in bits of the conversation, and we were shocked. Nothing is sacred. I had to dig in my heels, put the story on pause, and verbally make my point very very clear that this was forbidden. Oh, I was accused of so much... especially of not being "tolerant" or "open-minded." My guildmates were in shock over the whole thing. One became angry at me for salvaging the scene by using something the person said, in a different context, as a way to divert the conversation. Me? It did the same as before, just those concepts the elder brought forward to my young woman, the violence to "teach how to be dominant" burned into my mind. I shuddered.

How can we, Christian or not, keep ourselves - and those we hold dear - from abuse, being stalked, coerced to do what we don't want to if we keep glorifying it? How do you clear your mind after being exposed to something that makes you want to vomit? How can you undo damage after it has invaded a safe place you worked so hard to build? It is very hard, as I am learning.

#pullingbacktheshades, #roleplaysafety, #shadesofabuse,