Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Roller Coasters and Deal Breakers

I like to keep my dating life private except for a few of my close friends. Sometimes my family doesn't even know that I'm dating someone. Two days into this week and a guy that I've been on one date with has become my boyfriend to my coworkers. Oh the industry I work in. It's a funny little one. The problem with my coworkers teasing assessment is that I don't think I'm making it to date two with my "boyfriend." Part of me is sad, but a bigger part is relieved.

Dating is such a roller coaster of emotions. My roommate and I were talking about it today because I had a rough day (not all dating related) and so I needed to unload a little bit. I've been perfectly content not dating anyone, but then I met someone in a place that I never wanted to meet a guy and of course my hopes got built up and now we've been on a date and there were signs that things were going to progress, but now? Now I think it's done. It gets better though. See now that I've written him off in a sense, I'm sure he'll make an appearance back in my life tomorrow. It's how my dating life has always worked. I try to not go to extremes, but it's hard for me. I'm a commitment type of person. I stick by people through thick and thin. Once I've decided to let you in, I'll give you anything. I'm just not sure I'd ever be able to let this guy in though. CHD makes up a small part of why.

I try to hold off on telling guys about my CHD. My roommate says that any guy who is scared by it is an idiot. That was encouraging to hear, but I know I can't get mad if a guy doesn't want to live a life with a partner with a chronic condition. It's a lot to ask someone. It's a commitment to at least yearly doctor appointments, genetic counseling to make sure it's safe for me to get pregnant, extra care during a pregnancy, being asked to make my health decisions for me if I can't, a lifetime of uncertainty, and many other things. It would be easy not to bring it up with a guy I meet right now and the guy I just went out with doesn't know about my health. Ask me again after I've trained to be an ambassador for the Adult Congenital Heart Association. Do I just leave out my volunteering when he asks what I do in my free time? What about in December when I'm facing a minor surgical procedure? If he wants to go out near my surgery, I either have to lie or tell him I'm having surgery and then explain why and about my condition and so on.

I'm also a total hypocrite. I don't want to be with someone with a chronic illness. One chronic illness is enough for me. A beautiful woman I look up to is married to a wonderful man and both of them have chronic illnesses. It doesn't phase their relationship one bit. I don't think I could handle it though. I go through enough emotions over me. Please don't make me add the emotions and worry over someone else's medical problems. I'm on an emotional roller coaster on a daily basis as is and am not looking to add in extra loops or drops. I know people in general look at me and don't see the label "sick" and it's a label I prefer not to use, but in an essence, I am. While I'm capable and ready to navigate this CHD road on my own, I have faith that a co-pilot is going to come along someday and help smooth out the roller coaster it is. All I have to do is get past the first date...

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Feeling Lost

My best friend and her husband went to Boston this weekend. I was extremely jealous and all I could think about as she and I texted was the trip I took in the fall. Usually, I have a pretty good sense of direction, but something about that city completely threw me for a loop. I had to use Google Maps on my phone to give me walking directions and even then I still ended up walking in circles trying to find the nearest T station. At one point I remember just busting out laughing because it seemed so ridiculous - I'm a fairly smart person who rarely gets lost driving places so why is walking around a city so incredibly difficult? I was in an unfamiliar place with an excellent guide, but something wasn't clicking in my brain.

Today was the fourth Sunday that I've gone to another church in my area. My roommate and a bunch of people I went to church with in high school go there. It is a church that markets itself as a place for people who don't go to church. You can become as connected as you want or stay as anonymous as you want. It's up to you. They use some gimmicks to lure people in like free Dunkin Donuts coffee and first time visitors get a free t-shirt and a sticker. Side note - the shirt is literally the softest shirt I've ever owned in my life. I told my roommate that I wanted all of my clothes to be as soft and comfy as that t-shirt. The gimmicks are great selling points. For Easter, they encouraged their regular attenders to invite people by giving out gift cards to food places that they could use to take whoever they wanted to invite and show love through a simple cup of coffee or a lunch. They're clearly doing something right to bring new people in. Besides holidays, they had a new high in attendance one of the earlier Sundays of the current series. I can't speak on the individual and personal growth of the people who go there as I won't be switching churches, but they have programs in place to help people grow as much as they want.

The pastor has been preaching a series on our stories as Christians. He's basing it out of John 9 in the Bible which is the story of the man who was blind, but could see after Jesus spit in the dirt, made mud, rubbed it on the man's eyes, and told him to wash it off in the pool of Siloam. The pastor spoke on spiritual blindness and encouraged us to ask God to reveal where we've been blind and God hit me with a ton of bricks on that one. While I love the church I go to, it is not remotely close to being unchurched friendly.

I've had the opportunity to sit and look at my church through a new set of eyes. When I became a Christian, I was in a church that was very focused on outreach and I felt comfortable inviting my unchurched friends to it. The thought of inviting my unchurched friends to the church I currently go to makes me incredibly uncomfortable. That feeling has trickled so deep into who I am as a Christian that I realized I barely even share the story of Jesus with those closest to me. I want to, but what if they want to know more and ask to come to my church? I don't want my church to scare them away with all of the Christian talk, the forced socialization, and the length of the service. My church is definitely a church for those who go to church or have a background in it. There are many things in place to help us grow personally in our walks. I am a testament to that. One of the ways God wants us to grow is by sharing our stories with those who don't know Jesus and frankly, I'm failing. I'm afraid if I invite my unchurched friends to my church, they'll be in an excellent place with a great guide in me and in the Bible, but something won't click because everything will be so unfamiliar.

It's created a dilemma in my heart. Do I jump ship on the church home I've had for almost 6 years to go to a new place where I would have the tools to grow in an area that I desperately need to grow in? Not to mention, the amount of young men there - yeah...my church can't touch that. Or do I stay and fight for my church to open its eyes to what I see? Unfortunately for my love life, I think it's best for me to stay and fight. I can't be the only one who feels like I'm starving in this area. I already know where part of the issue stems from, but I haven't figured out a tangible place to start. How do you help change the culture of the church you go to? My church has a heart to reach the community - we're in a building phase right now and leadership is trusting God to fill the spaces with people, but in order to do that, we have to become a place that's open and receptive and comfortable for people who have never gone to church to feel right at home. It starts with me and my actions. I don't know where it goes after that, but I know God wants his churches to be places where prostitutes and tax collectors can feel the love that Jesus showed to those same types of people back when he was alive. It's time to put aside my fears and insecurities because a man died on a cross to save my life and that's too good of a story not to share.

Friday, June 28, 2013

#2 - Virginia

I'm going to say it's safe to assume that the second state I ever visited was Virginia. If it wasn't, let's just pretend so.

One of my first memories is of my Aunt Joan and Uncle Dave's apartment in Virginia Beach. He was in the Navy at the time and before he left, or maybe when he got back, my family went to go and have dinner on the ship that he was leaving on for Operation Desert Storm. One of the guys offered me bug juice to have with my dinner and I completely freaked out until my uncle explained to me that it was just fruit punch. My dad and brothers got to go in the cockpit of one of the planes and wear a pilot's helmet. While my uncle was gone, my mom took my brothers and I to visit my aunt and keep her company. He brought us back pretty cool presents. There's an epitome of the 90s picture somewhere of the three of us with our gifts. I'll try to find it for you guys.

They also lived in Ashburn, VA and that house holds a lot of memories. We used to play football like we were the Kennedys. Apparently a story goes that my brother slammed my uncle into the side of the house one time. We haven't played much football since that incident. We switched to playing soccer, but my youngest cousin is extra fragile and has injured/broken one too many things in her body because of the games. We haven't played a family game since my 21st birthday. The youngest sat out that one and the game ended with my other female cousin throwing her flip-flops at my brother. None of us will be quitting our day jobs to play sports anytime soon.

Currently, my aunt and uncle live all the way down in Fredericksburg. I visited a few summers ago when I was between jobs and got to go to Lake Anna which is beautiful. Once my beautiful cousin graduates college, they will probably move again (my aunt blames the Navy for not staying in one place even though my uncle has been out for a while). I really hope they move closer to MD. They're just too far away for my liking right now. Fredericksburg has some pretty yummy restaurants though. It's such a cute small town despite having a college in it. William & Mary seems to respect the coziness of what Fredericksburg has to offer and I really liked that. Granted, I visited when school was out, so it might be a rowdy mess during the school year.

Some other favorite memories from VA include seeing my favorite musician at a coffee house after I drove the wrong way on the Capitol Beltway and ended up driving the entire loop just to get to my destination. I spent my 19th birthday at then what was called Nissan Pavilion to see Mat Kearney, John Mayer, and Sheryl Crow. I've shopped the outlets in Williamsburg and rumor has it I went to Busch Gardens when I was a wee one. I've also been to Kings Dominion several times. I went once in high school with friends from youth group to go to Fright Fest. I somehow ended up at the end of the group and went right on the defense against the actors so that I wouldn't get scared. We got to a girl who was pretend slitting her wrists and I told her that Jesus loved her and life wasn't that bad. It really drove the actors insane that they weren't scaring me, but I had a great time laughing through the whole thing.

I don't spend too much time in Virginia even though it's not that far from me. I'm usually there for family functions and while I love my family and sometimes think we should pitch a TV show idea from our shenanigans, I know that most people won't find my family as entertaining as I do. This is also another one of those states that wasn't a one hit visit so putting together an album of pictures will be a little difficult. Check back though, I have some quiet and free time coming up so I might just endeavor to create an album.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

#1a - Washington, DC - Part 2

Labor Day weekend 2007.

That weekend was also known as the weekend I turned 20. I had just finished my last summer at YCamp, started my junior year of college, and had moved in with a new roommate, Emily. I tossed around the idea of visiting the monuments in DC for a while. I had the opportunity several years prior to tour the World War II Memorial before its official opening to the public because of the job my dad had at the time. That trip reawakened my desire to truly tour the monuments that I lived within an hour of my entire life. I got a few friends together, we drove to the closest Metro station, and made our way down to DC.

We stopped at a few monuments and took the traditional pictures. I stood where Martin Luther King, Jr. stood and let myself dream of what it must have been like for him to stand on that spot and deliver the speech for which he would forever be remembered and would inspire millions of people. I stood in awe of the size of Abraham Lincoln and thought of how what he fought for would resonate in MLK's speech. It was humbling to read the words of the Gettysburg Address which really put into perspective the magical history of the United States. I felt incredibly patriotic reading the words of the Declaration of Independence at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

After the history lesson, we headed over to the Smithsonian Museums. We trekked past The White House and admired it from far away. We ended up only making it to the National Museum of American History, but that was honestly probably all the museum time I could take. We checked out all of the fabulous jewels and realized we could fake try them on using the reflections of the jewelry on their glass enclosures. Then we headed over to an exhibit of photographs. There were beautiful pictures of animals that I could only dream of capturing on my own.

I've been back to the monuments since and never get tired of visiting them. I tend to take for granted that I'm a $5 dollar ride from so many iconic buildings and that some people plan entire vacations around visiting them. There are plenty of museums left for me to visit. I think a day trip will need to be planned for this summer.

Per usual, you can click on the link to the side to view my album of pictures. I apologize in advance for the quality of the pictures of the expensive jewels. My camera is not the best one out there and even though I took a photography class in high school, I never really got the hang of taking great pictures. I'd also like to warn you that I look terrible in the pictures. My summer camp job left me with horrendous and multiple levels of tan lines, plus that birthday was around my heaviest weight. My roommate Emily was a big motivation for me to lose weight because as you'll see, she's tiny.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

My Lobsters

I promise I'll get back to the travel stuff. Maybe I will this weekend when my plan is to play a round of golf, do my normal church thing, and spend as much as possible of the rest of the weekend on my bottom on my couch. I am beyond excited about the three day weekend in my future. For now though, I want to talk about lobsters. Specifically two of them, that I claim possessively as mine.

You've seen the episode of Friends when Phoebe talks about lobsters choosing a mate, locking claws, and then never letting go, right? It's a pretty memorable monologue for her from the show. It's also an idea that Glennon over at Momastery uses. She uses it to describe her sister. When I met her at a book signing, I was with one of my lobsters and since we're both on budgets, we have joint custody of the book so Glennon made out the inscription to us and then just wrote the word, "lobsters."

I'm blessed to have two lobsters who are better known as my best friends. A guy I dated pointed out that I can't have two best friends because it negates the superlative and while I agree, I told him he was a boy and didn't understand. My best friends are Amy and Sabrina.

I have theoretically known Amy since the second I was born. She is 5.5 months older than me. Our moms met in 7th grade and became best friends. They then happened to have little girls within 6 months of each other. I think God had a plan for that. Amy and I grew up 30 minutes from each other so it was a big deal to get together. We'd pass the time between play dates by corresponding through letters. They usually contained "homework" for each of us to do since we both wanted to become teachers. Amy fulfilled that goal. I did not. Every time we talk about work I am again reassured of my decision. She, however, loves it.

Amy and I are alike in many ways. We both tend to follow the rules. We both have brown hair and blue eyes, though hers are both lighter shades than mine. We have freckles. We each have two brothers. We like and are good at working with children. We both have serious medical conditions. Amy has a peanut allergy. It's a bummer. Some of our play dates growing up included me going with her to get allergy shots and watching her do her inhaler treatments. I still remember her light blue inhaler spacer. I thought it was pretty cool. It did not phase or alarm me one bit that I never ate peanuts around Amy. It didn't really cross my conscious realm - it was just a part of life.

Due to her own chronic medical fun, Amy doesn't shy away from mine. She can empathize. She can relate to missing out on really random things (Reese's peanut butter cups for her) because of something outside of her control. It makes our health conversations super detailed which probably freaks out those around us, but it also makes them so incredibly normal. She doesn't have any sort of surprised or worried reaction when I tell her things. She asks follow up questions as if she was asking me more details on why my day is going well. I have taken for granted how much of a blessing that has been in my life.

My second lobster is Sabrina. I'm sure we met sometime in 6th grade since we went to middle school together, but our lives didn't really cross until 8th grade when we both dated the same boy. I started dating him shortly after they broke up so of course I was the enemy. We didn't become friends until she invited me to go to the high school service at the church we both attended. We had a class together our freshman year of high school and the rest is history.

Sabrina and I talk so much it's freaky. We also can have entire conversations in just sounds. We speak our own language and we drive her husband insane with it. We also send such a ridiculous amount of texts to each other that trying to find something we talked about through text yesterday is pointless. She's my accountability for exercising and eating well. She's also my motivation to keep moving. The girl is racking up half-marathon medals like it's her job. Sabrina is also a worrier, which I tend to think for the most part, I'm not.

When it comes to my health, she is my balancer of emotions. She has on more than occasion expressed her interest in coming to my doctor's appointments so that she can learn and hear first hand. I guess I don't do a good enough job on my reports. She asks follow up questions because she is preparing herself for the worst case scenario. This has been one of the biggest contributors to me finally getting a handle on the seriousness of my condition. It's one of the reasons why I finally wrote down my health information and always make sure I have it with me. She is the one to whom I take my fears. She lets me feel them and feels them with me and then when I think I'm going to go over the cliff of the enormity of what's going on, she reels me back to safety.

My lobsters are my life line. They didn't meet until we were all in college so while we are not the three best friends that anyone can have (I can't believe a 3rd movie was made...), they are friends through the common bond of me. I am beyond blessed that God has put them in my life to walk through it with me. They both have paved the way for me in marriage and Amy in buying a house. They both are outgoing which brings me out of my shell. My life would have a void if they weren't in it. I would say the cliche that you should get to know them, but I'll pass. I don't share well.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Life Changing

The events that transpired last week involving Boston hurt my heart.

One of the victims who was seriously injured and needed a partial leg amputation is a woman named Erika. She and I went to the same youth group in high school and I looked up to her as one of the cool upperclassmen. She is a genuinely beautiful person both inside and out. What was her first concern after coming out of sedation? The students she teaches.

The second thing that got me was that Boston was my first trip after I decided to conquer all 50 states. I didn't decide to blog until after my second trip which is why I haven't written about it. That city captured my heart though and if its winters weren't so cold, I would move there without hesitation. "Boston Strong" isn't just a cute slogan to unite people after the tragedy, it is a truth that I experienced during my 12 hours there. That city is magical in the best way possible. It's rich in United States history, has breathtaking buildings, and the locals I enjoyed at the sports bar were friendly and proud and a lot of fun to be around. They even welcomed a rival Orioles fan while the O's were taking on the Red Sox at Fenway.

While Erika and I were never close friends, I've thought a lot this week on how I would react if one of my close friends was ever in a situation like hers. Her life forever changed in an instant. She will have to relearn how to walk and do many different things. Her "typical" life is no more. I can't relate to life changing so quickly.

My typical life has never been typical. I'm not a CHD patient who was diagnosed as an adult. My life stopped being typical the moment I was born. I never fully participated in PE classes in school. I've never played on a sports team. I can only ride one roller coaster at amusement parks. I only lived a few hours without scars all over my body. I see a cardiologist on a regular basis. I never leave home without my health passport that includes my doctor's phone number and my health information. I don't consume caffeine (not including decaf coffee and chocolate). I can't take medicines with decongestants in them. I have an advanced directive. I challenge you to name another 25 year old in your life that lives like I do.

I don't point these things out for pity. I am fiercely in love with my life. My CHD has shaped the person that I am today. It continually challenges me and teaches me. It opened up my world to wonderful people I would have never met if my life was typical. While I don't have experience living like a normal person, I'm grateful that I don't know differently. I don't understand what I'm missing out on besides caffeine and let me tell you, some days I'm willing to risk the side effects just for the jolt of energy. I'm thankful that my life is the way that it is. I wouldn't trade it for a normal life. I don't live my days longing for the "better" times. I still live in my better times. They just look different than yours.

From what I know about Erika, she will soldier through adapting to her new life and she'll do it with a smile. If you would like to financially help her create her new typical, please visit www.thebrannockfund.com.