Friday, December 19, 2008

Prayer Request

Editor's Note: I started another blog on the Radiant Magazine website about the 24-7 prayer project I'm working on. I've copied and pasted my latest entry below. (: Oh, and for more information on this movement, check out 24-7prayer.com.

I'm sad to say that this is only my second blog post. I hope to flood the blogwaves in the next few weeks. I set out over a month ago to hone in on my journey through 24-7 prayer. But, the last month of school really got the better of me, leaving virtually no time for blogging fun [or for 24-7 prayer planning):]. School is over. Alleluia!

But . . .

. . . today has been racked with emotions. Our launch date for 24-7 prayer is in two short weeks and I am not even close to where I planned to be at this point. I'm really struggling. I want to give it all to God but I don't know exactly how to do that. How do I find the balance between letting God and still completing the proper leg-work?

I want to offer up some prayer requests, but first, let me back up. I suppose an explanation is in order. What is the 24-7 prayer movement, why are we participating and what is the meaning of life?

Okay, the last question may be a little too large in scope for this blog. Let's just stick to the basics.

A couple of years ago, right before I moved to Maryland [near DC] from Charlotte, NC, I came across a book called Red Moon Rising. It turned out to be one of those life changing books that smacks you in the face when you're least expecting it. Author Pete Greig, the founder of this whole crazy sexy cool prayer movement*, details his journey in an amazingly thoughtful and articulate way. I can't pretend that I'll do as good a job as he did, but I'll sum it up as unclumsily as possible.

We all know that the idea of prayer is ancient. You may or may not know that that the concept of praying 24 hours a day 7 days a week nonstop is very old, too. In fact, the most recent example [before this one] began in 1727 with a group of Moravian kids and lasted 125 years! And if you know anything about prayer then I don't have to explain the wonderful miraculous stuff that came out of that movement. It was pretty freaking awesome.

Well, as you may have guessed, God is doing it again. It started in Chichester, England right before the turn of the century. And it's still going strong. Right now, as I type, 72 groups in 16 different countries are immersed in prayer. Pretty cool, huh?

From the moment I heard about 24-7 prayer, I have longed to be a part of it. For the past three years, God has kept the idea lodged in the back of my mind, waiting for the perfect opportunity to push it forward.

And now, the Creator of the universe has done just that. Not only do I get to be a part of a week of 24-7 prayer, I get to help plan and lead it from start to finish. Wow. God is so so good.

But, as big a blessing as this is, I am overwhelmed with feelings of unworthiness and doubt. I fear I may have waited too long and screwed up the planning phase. I am afraid we'll never be able to pull it off now.

My husband, Jermaine, says I have a gift for pointing out the negative. That sucks.

I've been staring at the computer screen for the past couple minutes. I was about to present my prayer requests and I just realized that I didn't fully explain the logistics of how a week of 24-7 prayer works. I can't figure out exactly where to put it, so I've decided to shove it here. Let me know how that works for you.

It's pretty simple, really. It starts with a room. This room you take and you fill with good God things. You keep in mind that God was The Original Artist and so you let your imagination run wild. With prayer and thoughtfulness the room ends up chock full of these sort of things:

  • journals
  • all kinds of paper and art supplies
  • big comfy couches
  • a guitar or a keyboard
  • a huge map of the world
  • candles
  • coffee
  • Nooma videos
  • A Bible
  • books
  • post it notes to write the names of the lost
  • "stations" for confession, intercession, communion, etc . . .
  • toys for children that will evoke thoughtfulness and joy
  • anything else God puts on your heart

While you prepare the room, you simultaneously prepare the people who will fill it. They will be signing up for hour long sessions. So, for example, I'll take 2pm, you'll take 3pm, and so on. And then, we learn about prayer. We study Bible passages on the subject, we read books about prayer [a few of my favorites: God Is Here by Steve Case and The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle], and, of course, we pray. We learn that not all prayer puts us on our knees with our eyes closed while we talk toward the ceiling. Poems, music, reading, silence: all of these things can be done while praying, and this is not a complete list, but rather simply a good place to start.

While we learn, momentum starts to build, and so then you bust out the sign up sheet. People are so excited that they practically run to put their names on that piece of paper. And it only gets better once they show up for their appointment with God. A hour in the prayer room seems like ten minutes. People love it so much that they don't want to stop. And so a week becomes two and two weeks becomes a month. It's all so magical!

At least, it was in my head. This is the way I maticulously planned it all out. While I planned. I prayed that God would have his way through this entire process. I must say, his way is not how I would have done things.

But, you know how that goes. It never is, is it?

Here we are two weeks before launch. We haven't created a prayer room [though we do have a room and it does have big comfy couches]. Because of poor planning we had to launch sign up last week without a sign up sheet and needless to say, no one has signed up [well, that's not completely true - I did]. And though I've been studying prayer [and maybe others on an individual level] we haven't had a cohesive study as a congregation about prayer [we did have one small meeting, though, and it went fabulously].

Okay, reading this through, makes me realize that my husband might have been right [I hate it when that happens (:]. He said it probably wasn't as bad as I was making it. And besides, even if we don't fill a week with prayer, it will probably still be more than we have all prayed in a very long time [or perhaps ever]. So, in that sense, it can't "fail".

On that note, I offer up to you my prayer requests. Thank you in advance for your prayers. You can't begin to imagine how much we appreciate them.

Please pray:

  • For me, Jermaine and Dwayne as we lead this project
  • That God completely has his way and gets all the glory
  • For all of the participants, that they will experience true joy while praying
  • That we can fill a week with continuous prayer
  • That we won't get discouraged when it gets difficult
  • That this will be a uniting time for our multi-generational congregation
  • Anything else that God puts on your heart

Again, thank you.

One more thing: if you live in the DC metro area and feel compelled to sign up, then please do! Or, for that matter, if you live far away and want to join us, woo-hoo! We could probably even find you a free place to stay [and, I would lovelovelove to bake you cookies (:].

The week of prayer is set to launch at 2pm on Sunday January 4th and continue until the following Sunday [the 11th] at 2pm. If you want to sign up for anytime during that week, please email me at brandyglows@gmail.com.

And thank you for reading this blog.

*I am so happy that I got to use the words "sexy" and "prayer" in one sentence. Amen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The List

I am constantly making lists. I'm a lister. Which is different from being a listener. But, I try to be that, too.

I'm done. Oh, praise Jesus, I'm finally done with this wretched semester. A month of freedom [well, sort of [please see the following list]. I wanted to write a blog. And I wanted to make a list of all of the things I want/need to accomplish this winter break. Being multi-tasker by nature, I've decided to combine the two. Before I decided, I was entertaining the idea of making this blog a poem. So, what about a list poem!

We'll see how that goes.

The List

Stuff [mostly nonsensical] fills my head
Keeps me from my bed
And produces within me an unnerving sort of dread.
Sigh.
Why can't I
Still lie
Or is it lay [still]?
I always get confused.
So much to do -
I need to pack.
We are moving down the road
I need to clean, sort and trash my treasures
That are only precious by my measurement.
Our dog needs his shots.
Which reminds me
Our daughter is suffering badly.
the eczema is overwhelming.
It makes both of us cry.
But I tell her that it is going to be just fine
She informs me that, indeed, it is not
Her face is flushed and hot
I fight back razor-sharp feelings of guilt
And kiss her goodnight because
Her slumber eases both our pain.
I push back the shame
Of my past.
And focus on my present list
I must must must get a Maryland Driver's License
I know
It's a little bit ridiculous at this point, right?
Right.
I want to write
And spend 4 hours everyday enveloped in the written world.
I'll let you know how that goes.
I'm going to send out as many queries and articles
My little head can muster
Those that don't lack luster.
And use the word "glitter" poignantly
Because I like it.
Christmas cards and cookies
Must make it to the post office by Monday
Just another "Manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday"
Actually I don't
I'm glad to be here
Right now
In this moment
It glitters and bursts forth with possibility.
Oh, how I relish in the possible.
I am, of course, a hopeaholic.
No more meetings, tho.
Everyone needs a vice.
I will keep my hope, thankyouverymuch.
Regardless of whether she says "such and such"
She needs too much.
Or she doesn't need enough.
I can't remember which one.
One
More thing
to place on my list.
This one is so big it makes me nervous.
A prayer.
And then another
And then another
24 times 7
Equals the equivalent of heaven in the Woods
I will squelch those unhopeful thoughts
That we can't do this
Because we were born to do this.
So there:
A prayer.
A hurting child
Cookies and cards
Presents
Oh, I almost forgot presents!
Tis the season [to forget about presents]
Lots of writing
Proof that I live in Merry Land
A clutter-free existence
And one cute cuddly furful Sebastian
Who needs to be shot
In the good way.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What I'm Thinking About

I'm tired. My 7 hour trip turned into a 91/2 hour long excursion [and most definitely brought out of me [much to my dismay] a little bit of road rage [like, honestly - there is no freaking car in front of you, why on earth do you feel it necessary to brake THAT much??! [and, okay, I know cops are just doing their jobs - they've got quotas, whateve - but SERIOUSLY, 95 has been a parking lot for the past 3 hours, do you really need to pull him over? That just makes the rest of us sad]]] .

Oh well. 91/2 hours is better than the time we accidentally drove to Tennessee. That took 12.

Hi. I've missed you. I attempted to blog a couple times while I was in Charlotte, but it never materialized. I had a wonderful week. Filled with great friends, family, food and shopping.

Shopping. It was so fun. I went to thrift stores and bargain shops with my bffs and my mom. Mom and I also perused a fantabulous outlet mall in Gaffney, South Carolina. Very nice indeed. Good good quality time, and because of the locales, I didn't spend very much money.

Buuuut, of course, as I'm sure you've surmised, I had to break my fast to get in on the shopping mania.

I had sort of decided before I left that I was going to take a leave of absence from my fast while I was on vacation [I had definitely decided it once I was out of town] - kind of a fast from the fast. I don't know if you're supposed to do that. I know rules and regulations end up making things woefully legalistic, but still. I don't know if it was okay. I feel at peace [I think]. I repented [and asked for God to reveal if I had sinned].

This is little off topic, but seems like a good time to bring it up - I hate the word "sin." I avoid it at all costs. I feel like, by typing that word, I am instantly alienating anyone reading this blog who does not share my beliefs.

Now, having said that, I should say that I think sin is very real and relevant to our lives. But, I think it's misused. And misunderstood. More than that, I think it skews [sp?] the focus. Instead of working out what to do to glorify God, we put our energy into deciding what not to do in order to save ourselves.

I think that's dangerous. And, quite possibly sinful. If I may use so bold a term.

It also bugs me that we have developed a sin-o-meter rating system. Murder and rape top the list. While gossip goes virtually unnoticed. I should mention that it equally bugs me that the Bible says that we should not rate sins. I've wrestled with this so much. The Bible says all sins are created equal. But what kind of God created a world where the horrific sin of molestation is equal to some girlie gossip?

I don't get it. And it used to keep me up at night. Most people who know me know that I'm ultra sensitive to the evils of gossip. But, still. The consequences of rape can mess up a girl for life, while that same girl may not be affected one iota from bit of juicy gossip spilled out about her love life [well [and however], I feel compelled to say, it may affect her tremendously, or, act as a straw to break her already-wounded back].

Consequences. Forgiveness. Guilt.

I haven't figured it all out yet[don't know if I'm supposed to]. But I think those three things are instrumental [like a piano to a Ben Folds].

I've sinned before [shocking, right?]. Every time the consequences were different. I got a DWI in 2004. I paid SO much for that mistake. I paid with my time and my money. I've lost jobs, among other things. But I met people in rehab, those whose one night of bad judgment had turned them into murderers. And so I know that I got off lightly. Because that could have just as easily been me.

I've sinned in others ways, too. I've lied. I've cheated. I've never been caught. I had to live with the knowledge of what I did, but the actual penalties were minuscule.

I have this sin that haunts me. I was a bad mom. For the first two+ years of my daughter's life I put my wants above her needs.

I've repented so many times. But, still, I start to cry at the very thought. The other day I held the newborn of a very close friend. Then, out of nowhere, I just burst into tears. Instantly I was transformed back into that 20 year old girl, scared and selfish, terrified of making a fatal mistake. And in the meantime, making dozens daily.

I didn't know until that moment the long term consequences of my actions. Yes, I have been forgiven. God is so good. And despite my inadequacies, the Lord has filled me with hope, peace and love [and blessed me with an absolutely amazing little girl]. But the guilt still haunts me. And though I know that guilt is not helpful in the least, I can't seem to get rid of it.

I know I can. With God, all things are possible [cliché, though very true].

But it's difficult. And I get the feeling there will be a lot of work involved. And that's okay. I'm up for it.

This sin-o-meter. It must have something to do with consequences. And forgiveness. And guilt.

Maybe not necessarily in that order.

We ask and God forgives. But we rate because we face the consequences. We feel the guilt. And it hurts.

So, who knows. I don't. I don't get how sins are equal and I don't get how they're not. But God saw our mistakes and felt our hurt and instead of condemning us, sent Jesus to live and dwell and weep with us. With us. The Creator in communion with the creation.

This gives new meaning to the term "relational." To "communion." And, to "sin."

Oh dear.

One of my favorite quotes is, "I write to find out what I'm thinking about." [Joan Didion]

I would have never guessed that this what what I was thinking about. I thought I was just tired.

Oh well. Good. Fine. Okay.

Happy Sunday!

[Editor's note: that beautiful windblown picture [a candid shot taken outside of Moe's Restaurant in Charlotte, NC] was taken by our good friend/great photographer Daniel Berryhill. It was this picture that convinced us he would be the perfect person to photograph our wedding. He graciously agreed, and the wedding shots were just as lovely. I had to take this opportunity to sing his praises. (:]

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Third Way

I was supposed to be doing my homework. I yanked myself away from my big comfy bed and my sweet sexy husband to work on a stupid paper. Only to discover that it requires watching a movie I have no way of viewing on this blustery fall eve.

Sigh. Jermaine's 12 hour day has put him into a deep sleep. I could wake him, but he has to be up in less than 6 hours and it just seems cruel [though I'm sure he would quite disagree].

I have to be up early in the morning. It is the last full day before I venture out of town for a week and there is much [too much] to do [and now I must add watching a movie that I don't care to see and writing a 3 page paper on it [a paper I promised myself I would finish by tonight [too bad I didn't read the actual assignment informing me of the movie-watching mania [not-reading-the-assignmentitis is a horrible disease I am constantly afflicted with by the way [an immense shame considering it's preventable [oh - but thank God I read it tonight [instead of my usual habit of reading it for the first time the night before it's due]]]]]]].

So, all that to say that I'm going to be tired tomorrow. But a blog is worth missing some sleep. And I really want to share this blog with you. So, I'm going to kick back with my keyboard, my computer screen and a yummy Sam Adams Octoberfest [thank God again - that Octoberfest is still available] and share. Thank you [for letting me share].

I was given the extreme pleasure of preaching my very first sermon this past Sunday. For me this event was comparable to my wedding day [less presents, tho]. I loved everything about it. I loved the way it humbled me. I loved standing in front of a group of people sharing good stuff that God had shared with me. I loved preparing for it. I loved deciding on a topic [and changing my mind about a bazillion times]. I loved that some people were affected. I loved praying before, during, after. I just loved it.

I've felt a pull towards becoming a pastor for a while now. Shortly after I moved to Maryland, I think. And when I delve back into the first days of my Christian walk, I realize I felt it then, too [though I brushed it aside because I felt ridiculously, hopelessly, and completely unqualified [and I was [and I still am [but that's why I'm sure now]]].

This [I think] solidified it.

I've haven't met very many people who feel the way I do. Most pastors I know didn't set out to become that way. It just happened. Not me. I've always known my talents. Writing. Speaking. Reading. Teaching. Being on stage. I struggled with not knowing what I wanted to be when I "grew up" for years. In high school I had the vague sense that I wanted to be famous. Though I couldn't [and didn't try to] tell you what for. I also wanted to create and be Editor-In-Chief of my own magazine [I called it Gypsy Blood - though in hindsight that's not a very good name]. I wanted it to showcase all the underground good stuff in the world [my examples at the time were - 1) The exciting underground DC rap scene, and, 2) Little League coaches]. In high school I was also heavily involved in theatre - a trend that continued for the next several years, well into college [and - I would say - in some ways still continues to this day]. As a result I've entertained more than two [more than, like, 1000] thoughts that my famousness would be a result of a future stellar acting career.

But, you know how the story goes - first came the drugs. And then the baby. And then there wasn't time for anything else [I couldn't even make it into college [let alone establish myself as a famous person]].

I've never wanted riches. Fame has always been my Achilles Heel.

While I was Wild Brandy, I believed [very passionately] that I was meant to be a rapper. I was enthralled by Eminem [and still am] and thought that maybe I could be the female version. I worked very hard on my raps. They were really bad. I had lost a good number of brain cells at that time and sadly, it showed in my writing.

When I became a Christian two things happened [though not at the same time]. First, I decided to write lyrics about good God stuff. Second, I met Jermaine, and he introduced me to The Greats [Lauryn Hill, Black Thought and The Roots, NAS, Ahmad Jones, and countless others I can't think of at the moment].

Two more things happened. First, I wrote my very first song. People loved it. Some of you know this. I performed it at a bunch of churches in Charlotte. I got to stand up in front of 5000 people [at Forest Hill Church [not all at one time, by the way [one big church, two or three services]] and "rap." That was to date the closest I've ever come to the fame I crave. The pastor of that mega church [the one where I was a only a humble housekeeper] wrote me a note praising my performance. So did one of the coaches of a big time Charlotte sports team [sorry - I can't remember which one [sports is really really not my thing]. And, to top it off, Anthony Hamilton's manager approached me about signing a record deal.

I'm not even kidding.

But, like I said, two things happened. And the second was that I was made to realize that this was not the path I was supposed to take.

That was so painful.

Let me just say that I'm not ruling out a rap career. With God all things are possible. And if He calls me there again I am SO there.

But He hasn't yet. And I do feel another call. And this call takes all the talents I've known about for years and weaves them together into this beautiful tapestry. And, at the same time, it takes all the weaknesses I've also known [and obsessed about] for years and places me in an arena where it's not only okay to share them, but it's good and healing - not only to myself, but to others as well.

I want to be a pastor. And that's what He's called me to be.

Oh My.

I have gone so totally off track. I was planning on writing about what I actually preached about [which was, I should add, The Myth of Redemptive Violence and The Third Way [the way of Jesus]].

Another night, I guess. Because it is definitely bedtime.

I need to add one more thing before I go, though.

Satan is attacking [much like as he did at time of my short-lived rap career].

In the past three days, one of my friends [who is like a brother to me] was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Another miscarried a child that she and her husband had been waiting for a very long time. Another found out that her boyfriend [of three years] has been unfaithful.

These have been staggering blows. To me and to my loved ones. I cry with my friends and I cry out to God on their behalf. I lament. And scream. And whimper. And ask to be held. And ask that they be held even closer, even tighter, even more secure by our Abba Father.

I ask, with every fiber in my being, that you do the same. And I thank you for doing so.

At the same time, God is presently teaching about gratitude. The days leading up to these recent events have been spectacular. Filled with many blessings and I thanked God for as many as I could articulate. And I want to stop there. But, He is teaching me to give thanks in all things.

I heard a story the other day. Two women in a concentration camp in World War II. They were reading the Bible shortly after they arrived and the particular passage said that we should be thankful for all things. At first, one of the women absolutely refused to be thankful for the fleas that infested their barracks. The other protested until finally the first relented and together they both thanked God for the fleas. Weeks passed. They found that they could hold Bible study with little to no interruption from the guards. They thanked God for this too. Eventually they found why. It seems that the guards did not want to enter the barracks because of the fleas.

I choked a little today when the thought of being thankful for these recent and horrible events popped into my head. I did not want to thank God for them.

But I trust Him. And I love my friends who are hurting. So I did. I don't know why. I don't understand. But I think that's okay. And I know God has a plan.

Good night.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Lots and Lots

[Editor's Note: I just took the exam to become an aerobics intructor. The first two pictures are Sadie, covered in stickers, helping me remember my bones and muscles [another brilliant idea from Jess]. The last picture is Sadie's very scary flower fairy Halloween costume.]

I'm busy. I'm really really busy. There is a lot going on in the next few days and weeks. I need to stay focused and not waste time.

But, I really want to share some of the events of the past week. And, I really really wanted to share the correlating pictures.

So, I'm gonna. And I'm going to try not to dawdle. So I can soon return to the huge pile of homework that's sitting next to the computer waiting for me.

Where to start? Hmm, well, I broke my fast. Ugh. On Halloween. Jermaine and I bought Mcdonalds. I tried to pretend that it was okay because he really wanted it [and it was not me egging us on [as it usually is] even though it was still my idea]. But, a couple days later I bought Pizza Hut. Then later I "forgot" to pack my lunch for school and so I bought a tuna melt. And then a couple days after that I did it again and bought Chick-Fil-A.

Wowsers.

Now, part of the buying was because I wasn't sure how to proceed after breaking the fast. Do I just continue? Stop and recommit? Forget it completely and go back to my normal life of buying too much stuff [my bank account can't handle that option]?

I didn't know what to do, but as you can see, it kept escalating.

And then my friend Jess asked a question that I deemed brilliant [she termed it "silly", but I think she's pretty silly herself]. She asked, "Have you prayed and repented?"

Woah!

No.

And so I did.

And now, a couple days later, I think I have a working answer. I think God does want me to recommit. I also think I may need to redefine. And that list will be more thoughtful and less spontaneous than the last.

Yay God.

There is more, but I've decided to stop there and get back to the grind.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Caffeine Free

Oh man.

This had better be good [I keep telling myself]. It's been far too long.

I've been wanting to write, but situations and circumstances have not allowed for such a luxury. It makes me sad. But, that's okay. Here I am.

I'm tired. I gave up caffeine. Yikes. One week today, actually. The first day was the worst. I spent the entire day crying or in bed or both. I'm embarrassed to say that we had company for part of the day. I'm sure it wasn't as bad as how I remember it in my head, but I'm still pretty mortified. The worst part was that I had no idea I was that addicted. Admittedly, I did potentially make it worse on myself. I didn't sleep much at all the week prior and then the day before I stayed good and caffeinated. I thought I was giving myself one last good go-round. But, instead I sabotaged my sanity and really tried the patience of my devoted and loving husband [my, he's a good good guy].

Presently, I am worn out. But drinking coffee now would [just about] make last weekend's hell futile.

So, I'll settle for root beer and decaf herbal tea. And I'll thank God for the prayers of good friends, without which, I know I would have never made it this far.

--------

That's not the only thing I gave up this past week. But, this next thing is a fast, and so I suppose I am not supposed to share. But, if you dive back into the depths of my blog, you'll find that this isn't the first time I've attempted it. And though I haven't kept you updated on the status of this particular venture, I am now about the reveal how miserably I've failed thus far.

And so, in announcing this fast, I am, in addition, announcing one of my supreme weaknesses. And I think that is what makes the first announcement acceptable and somewhat necessary.

Yeah, so. Now would be a good time to stop rambling about and actually divulge what it is.

I'm giving up [again] spending money on non-essentials [for a spell].

And before I go any further, I must must must refer to my friend Amie's incredibly inspiring comment regarding her adventures in this particular art:

YOU MUST MAKE A LIST OF NECESSITIES AND NON-NECESSITIES! Otherwise you will always cheat yourself and your bank account.

Here is mine.

I cannot buy:
Clothes
Books : (
CDs
Shoes
Housewares
Make up
Jewelry

I can buy:
Food
Presents
Lingerie (blush)

Anything not on those lists I pray about if I think about buying it. And if I need further help deciding I call Daniel. Also, if I am having a moment of weakness and am about to buy something I shouldn't I call D and he talks me into putting it down and walking out of the store. Actually, it hasn't come to that quite yet.

Another helpful hint is this:
DO NOT GO TO TARGET.
I repeat:
DO NOT GO TO TARGET.

They are good at what they do. They sell really cute stuff. Just stay away. Stay at home. Write a letter. Go for a walk. Do anything other than go into that store.

I have just been inspired to create my own lists. Here goes:


I cannot buy:

books
clothes
shoes
food from a restaurant
drinks from a restaurant
housewares
jewelry


I can buy:

The Divine Hours
Makeup [on an as needed basis]
craft materials to make gifts [preferred]
store-bought gifts

She has this wonderful comment where she says that when she has a weak moment she calls her husband and he talks her out of buying the item in question. I felt so comforted,
I can do that, I thought. Then I read further to where she explains that it hadn't come to that yet. Blah.

Sigh. Well, I still can do that. And I probably will have to. Because shopping [and, more specifically, eating out] is an addiction for me. It's a pacifier. But, it makes me sick to my stomach because it pretty much goes against everything I claim to be about. And I
know it. Deep down in the tender spots of my soul I know that I can't be crucified with Christ and simultaneously buy anything my little heart desires.

And if that wasn't motivation enough, I just found out that my mom works overtime to help us pay our bills. It was jaw-dropping and gut-wrenching to discover her generous sacrifice.

And it hurt.

It hurts when you see how your various addictions affect others.

But it's motivation, too. Because if I'm really about dying to myself and letting Christ live in me, then, golly, this has got to have something to do with what that's all about.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Supposed To.

I was supposed to read the first volume of Jane Austen's Emma for my Women's Lit class tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, I didn't bother to check the syllabus until this evening, so . . . yeah. That's not going to happen. I made it through the first 3 chapters [there are about 15]. The pages of the book are filled with big words and tiny print. I like it enough, but it is not what I would call an easy read.

Twilight, however, is. And because it is so I've made it more than halfway through the book in less than two days. I was very satisfied with myself for doing so until I sourly realized all of the homework I'd so irresponsibly left undone. Besides the book, I have nothing short of fifty pages to read for another class and 20 more in a third. And this is just for Monday, I have yet to begin the hundreds of pages of catch-up reading that I couldn't do until last Monday [when I was able to get my books] and then didn't do after that.

I shouldn't complain. I know it's my own doing. And I don't mind the reading, rather, I enjoy it. But being that it is still so early in the semester and my classes are reading intensive [and sometimes not much else] I lack the penalties [for now] to make me motivated.

My hope [and prayer] is that I get on with the reading [regardless of what I want to do] and catch up before the unpleasant consequence of any large test.

I think Ms. Austen and Ms. Meyer are affecting my writing [in a rather random and regal way].

I know it doesn't really go with the tone of this blog, but I wanted to post some cheerleading pictures of Sadie.

She's just so darn cute.

One more thing, before I retire [lame, but fitting this current mood], my last few entries have been very "me-centered." This is more of a mental note to myself, to write about the needs of someone besides me.

Okay. Two more things. Jermaine found this Fabulous site called fitday.com. It's seriously very helpful in the fight against the almighty pound[s]. You can keep track of your intake, your activities, your moods. You can plan a goal weight and date and it will calculate exactly how many calories you need to eat [or not eat] to lose it in that time frame. You can keep a journal, customize foods [and nearly everything else], and it breaks down all the difficult to keep track of stuff [vitamins, nutrients, carbs, protein, fat, etc.]. Very cool. Definitely a thumbs up.

Goood stuff.

G'night.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Write or Wrong [I heart playing on words].


Editor's Note: The first 4 paragraphs were written while this blog was still called "Brandywine's World."

AND
,
This Just In - Jermaine taught Sadie to ride her bike without training wheels!!! That is definitely worth multiple exclamation marks.


This used to come so easily. To pour out my heart into cyberspace felt so natural and . . . and . . . some other word that would have just "come to me" to make my writing appear witty and lithe.

I am struggling at the moment to think of a new title for this blog. I loathe it's current name. What was I thinking while I typed it and so hastily hit it the "confirm" button? It almost seems too late to change it. People have linked my blog with theirs. To change it now might put the entire system in an uproar.

Okay, that may be a bit of an overstatement. And even more than that, it's egotistical [which, I am learning, I am full up with].

Change is good [sometimes] but, as with anything else, it has it's consequences. Regardless, I'm changing my name.

Well, I have already, actually. The name did not come until a few sentences in. So, the first part of this blog will remain nameless. And confusing, as at this point even I don't know what I'm talking about.

Jermaine thought of it. I am not grateful. I am full of resentment. I wanted to think of it. My professor in my Women's Literature class droned on and on one period about how men have all the power because they name all the stuff. The act of naming, she concluded, was, in part, a demonstration in taking back the power that the evil men have enjoyed so greedily all these years.

I mean, whateve. I just wanted the credit. I like to one up him. It helps me with my self-esteem.

Alas, he won this one. But I am way prettier, so there.

What am I talking about? Well, I believe, since my last entry was so heady and er, depressing, I am merely trying to lighten things up with some silliness.

But, you know, I can't not write a conclusion of sorts. I am feeling better, you may have guessed. I have been planning on writing for quite sometime. I tried more than once, tho even with words piled to the ceiling of my brain, I wasn't successful. They simply refused to arrange themselves in any sort of meaningful order.

Until today, and I thank God that they did. It is our Sabbath. And even with a few kinks, our best to date; filled with a few of our favorite things. For myself: reading, writing and french toast. For Jermaine: Music, a wife in high spirits [except for about a half an hour when I moped rather dramatically about not being financially able to go to the Renaissance Festival], and oatmeal cookies. And for Sadie: a step-dad happily obliging to teach her the art of riding a bike with only two wheels and friendly neighbors who always have their door open welcoming her to play [and additionally speak very minimal English and therefore never correct her grammar [or her bad British accent [no explanation, sorry]].

I did not know that this blog would not come until this lazy Saturday afternoon. But, I am very excited that it has. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your prayers. I have felt what I can only describe as being "lifted up." I know that is not my doing, and I am so grateful.

God is teaching me about some very wonderful things these days. I feel compelled to ask for prayer again. Tho, I am hesitant. So many people have needs much greater than mine.

True as that may be, I still must ask. Because it helps me to pray. Because prayer is so essential. And because I want to. But, I want to add, with the utmost sincerity, that I would very much like to pray for you, too. Whether you know me well, not at all, or somewhere in between. And you can comment or email your request [whichever you prefer].

Here are my cries to God:

  • for consistency -
  1. In not practicing gluttony
  2. In going to class
  3. In finishing projects that I start
  4. In saving and spending wisely
  • for financial matters in general [and for a clear direction to pursue] - in my head swirls all kinds of ideas of money making and money saving and I don't know which path[s] to take:
  1. Getting a job
  2. Moving out of our apartment and perhaps into a more communal situation
  3. Applying for government aid
  • a 24-7 prayer movement within my church
  • that I get all of the wedding thank you cards out very very soon
  • oh, and Praise God that Sadie learned to ride her bike - watching her truly made my week!
That's all I can really think of at the moment. Thank you.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Depression Hurts.

I am depressed.

I cry at random times. I have these horrible thought running through my head.

I'm fat. I'm ugly. I'll never get it right. What is wrong with me!?

I don't feel like talking to anyone about it. I don't, in fact, feel like doing anything. Somehow, tho, it seems easier to write about it [and consequently tell the world] than to tell any one person.

I told my mom. She thinks it's financial. And, yes, we are severely broke. But, I don't think it's that. I mean, come on, we all know I've been broke before. She told me to just try to be happy. That was not helpful.

She reminded me about all the wonderful things in my life. My amazing new husband, my sweet, funny little girl and the fact that I get to stay in school [not to mention my friends and my loving Creator].

That's why I don't think it could be about money. If my depression is circumstantial then I should focus on the possibility of insanity rather than sadness because I am truly, truly blessed.

I was in counseling a couple of years ago and we discussed in depth the danger of negative self-talk. I know it's poison. But, I don't know how to stop.

The phone just rang. I answered it. I usually don't [even if someone is returning my call]. But the person on the other end someone whom I felt would really understand.

She did [at least, I think she did]. She pointed out that with all of the changes that have taken place in my life in the past few months this is quite possibly very normal. And if she's right then I have been very very wrong.

Maybe it is circumstantial. Maybe it's hard to go from being a single mom to being a wife and mother. Maybe this apartment really has gotten a lot smaller since Jermaine moved in. Maybe I'm going to be okay. Maybe I need medicine. Maybe I don't. Maybe the first year of marriage really is the hardest. Maybe money is a factor. Maybe it's okay if my house is a mess. Maybe it's okay to cry sometimes.

I would like to end this blog by asking for prayer.

Will you pray:
  • for my spiritual life - particularly in regards to the spiritual discipline of fasting [I feel very called to fast and yet still haven't done it]
  • that I can get health insurance soon [mine just ended yesterday] so that I can talk to a doctor about this
  • that I will not be so selfish and self-centered
  • for my daughter and my husband - that they will have patience with me while I work through this and that I will be loving and nurturing toward them even in the mist of depression
  • that I will not neglect things that need to be done [like taking care of my family, paying bills, cleaning our apartment and doing schoolwork]
  • that I will not be too hard on myself when I mess up
  • that I won't try to numb the pain with food, alchohol or anything else
  • that God will use this time to draw me closer to Him
Thanks.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wedding Pictures






Some very exciting things have happened and are about to happen to me. Unfortunately, I am a little bit too tired to delve into them tonight. But, I just realized I only posted two wedding photos. The pictures really are too good not to share [we had the best photographer in the world]. Here are a few. More to come later, probably.

Have a lovely evening.

Thank you for letting me share.

PS. If you read this before you might have realized it had one or two gross grammatical errors. I guess I really was tired. (:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Essentials

I don't know where to start. I'm trying to write more often so that I'm not so all over the place. But, let's be honest, my every day is all over the place.

Hmmmm. Let's see. Oooh - well, I cut Sadie's hair all by myself! I think it turned out pretty well, considering I'd never done that before. If you look closely you can tell it's an amateur kind of deal, but she loves it, so whateve.

She was nervous! And I was snapping at her to stay still because I was so afraid it would be lopsided. I apologized. She's very forgiving [and crazy fidgety!].

I cut her hair as a way of not spending money. The finances are stretched. And have been that way [at least for me] for a very very long time. And yet, you'd never know it the way I spend. It's something I've prayed about, repented and fallen back into time and time again.

Just recently I've had a change in heart. It was definitely a God thing. Spending money for no good reason suddenly just made no sense. And then shortly after I started to feel that way I had a wonderful conversation with Jermaine in which he said he kind of liked the idea of "roughing it".

It's funny. I've working diligently on the other side of the mountain - job searching, trying to make money. I didn't put half as much time on the saving end.

So we made this deal - only neccesities. For a while. My friend Amie [who by the way, just starting reading my blog and wrote a very flattering comment that gave me a great deal of joy!] actually has been doing this for a couple months. And my friend Jess [who is always leaving wonderfully sweet comments] just started doing it, too. Wow. We're very in fashion.

But I didn't realize it was the same thing [the pact between Jermaine and myself and my friends' pledge to buy only the essentials] until now. I thought we were just roughing it. It sounds so much cooler that way.

So anyways, this is what we're working with and this is how we're working it. Now, I must admit, this is only day 2. I'll keep you informed.

But . . .

. . . unbelievably, the same day we decided this I got a phone call from my temp agency offering me a five week gig. I took it, even though I had a plane ticket to LA with my in-laws for next week that I would have to give up.

Boo, I thought. Then, today I found out that they were going to let me go to California [and make up my hours]! Bru-ha-ha! Yay God!

And, when I got home I had an email from an potential employer wanting to set up an interview! This is the only interview I've received from the 60+ applications I sent out and it came the day after God changed my heart.

So.

I have a money-making temp job, saved $20 cutting my kid's hair, I get to go to Los Angeles, I have a job interview, and I got a notice today saying I'm in jeopardy of eviction because I haven't paid my rent.

Oh, shoot. I hadn't mentioned that part yet, had I? Crap.

Well, you know, the good with the bad? (:

Long story short [because this blog is becoming a long story] we are waiting on a check that was supposed to be here three weeks ago. It's for a graphics job Jermaine did before we got married. It's been extremely frustrating but we have good reason to believe that it will be here tomorrow. Will you pray for us?

Thanks! Yes, yes. I think that's it [for now].

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What a day!


What a day! What a day! What a day! What a day!

I asked my friend, Dwayne, if he liked me most recent blog and he said, "Um, yeah, I did. But it was too freaking long."

Oh.

But that's probably because I hadn't written in a hot minute. SO . . .

Let me make you a deal. Read me [everyday]. I'll keep it short [and very sweet].

I'm depressed. Or, er, I was. Or, well, I'm dealing with it. I'm working through my melancholy.

I woke up early today. Too early. 6am early. It was good at first. I listened to a sermon and walked to the library and bought some groceries. Went to church and all was well. For a minute. Then, I think the tired started to catch up to me. Or something. I don't know. I felt very "in my head."

I had this crazy idea. I want to start my own Anti-Slavery Coalition. I'll delve more into that later. I'm on my second beer and can't really articulate the details accurately.

Anyhoo. There are the other things "in my head." My job and school situations. Our budget. Being a newlywed. Going to LA next week, just to name a few. Long story short, all of this added up to a huge wart in the shape of worry in my mind. I tried to downplay it, but didn't succeed. I was so distracted and focused on myself I ended up being a real jerk to Jermaine Matthew and Sadie Maria.

Let's not get into the nitty gritty. Let's just say I screwed up and call it a day. One of the very worst parts about me is that I have a tendency [if left unchecked] to take out my stress on those closest to me.

They were very gracious and forgave me almost instantaneously. I am undeservingly blessed.

This is ending up a bit on the long side and I want to cut it off soon. But I wanted to add that the day ended with an amazing church service called Frontline; a wonderfully generous rambling mother, really good friends, great conversation, an apologetics Bible and Dogfish Head Beer.

It doesn't get any better than this, folks. Praise Jesus.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lazy Saturday Blog






"I write to find out what I'm thinking about." - Edward Albee

I've kept a quote book since I was about 14 or 15. I don't really add much to it anymore. It contains mostly phrases that struck me hard when I a sweet [and silly], naive teenage girl. Quotes like:

"I shall have more to say when I am dead." - Edwin Arlington Robinson from the poem "John Brown"

"The more particular, the more specific you are, the more universal you are." - Nancy Hale

"I don't want to be normal like you." - Everclear

"Violence s something only for people who have run out of good ideas." - Doug in Doug: The Movie

These were the words that shaped my formative years. Wait . . . are your teenage years the "formative" years? Well, whatever. You know what I mean.

That first quote has always rang so true for me. Like today. I have no idea what this blog is going to be about [even though I'm halfway through]. I just started it to see what was going to happen.

It's been a long time. I never blogged about the wedding. I'm sorry. It was simply fabulous. If you weren't there you missed something amazing. If you were there you are probably a little bit ticked at me right now because I have yet to write one thank you card.

All in good time. All in good time.

I'm feeling very speculative today. I was just reading Ending Slavery by Kevin Bales, so that may be why. I read and I think, what can I do? I want to do something! I'm not a teacher. I'm not a doctor or a nurse. I'm not a psychologist. I'm not a lawyer. I am certainly not a musician. These professions are so needed in the abolitionist movement and I am not gifted in any of these areas. What the flip can I do?

Today it hit me. In a still small whisper like a ton of bricks, "A voice." I'm a voice.

I guess I've known this for quite some time. Perhaps it seems like I'm all over the board. I certainly want to be and do a lot of things. But I am clear in my gifts. I'm a writer, a reader, a speaker and a salesman. And I make a great first impression [most of the time]. I think God is all about using the gifts I do have [and the nagging annoying passionate nature I possess] in the fight against human trafficking. And I'm excited.

Man, this week has been a whirlwind [is that one word or is it hyphenated?].

I quit my job at Red Robin. And I started a new job as an At Home Consultant with The Body Shop [think girlie stuff for nature-loving hippies]. Right now it's all about building up my business and dealing with rejection because, you know, everyone hates a salesman [sorry to be so gender-specific but "salesperson" and "saleswoman" are just too long].

It's cool though. Many things I love put me in line for rejection [Jesus, acting, sales, writing, public-speaking]. I really should get over it. I think that it may be one of those life lessons God is teaching me about right now [at such a time as this].

This week has been full of second guessing myself, depression, thanking God and feeling blessed. It's had extreme highs and lows. I'm over the lows [at the moment]. Yesterday was a high and I wanted to share.

My friend Valerie had a GNO [Girls Night Out - a Body Shop party] for me to help me get my business started. We prepped all day. We bought fantastic food from Trader Joe's and denied ourselves food [because we were so wrapped up in preparing we forgot to eat]. We bonded and giggled and made stupid jokes. We rushed and ran and hurried. The excitement is the best part. We finally finished just as the clock struck 7pm. Our first guest arrived! I was excited and nervous - only a few more minutes and then . . .

. . . no one else came. WTF? She was bummed. And pissed. And she's got a bit of a temper. In the training videos I was told that if I didn't care [that not a lot of people showed up] then the host would be put at ease. And honestly, I didn't care. The friend that had arrived was really chill and I was having fun with them. I just like people.

But, I was pissed for her. Because ten or so people had RSVPed that day and said they would be there. How rude! [a la Stephanie Tanner].

Finally, we were like, "Screw them, let's pamper our feet." It was a foot spa party, by the way. And so, I began and the mood lightened. The spas are really nice and you can't help but relax whilst soaking aching toes.

I had just finished my shpeel and was about to move on to the body butter portion of the evening when lo and behold, another guest showed up.

And then another.

And then two more.

Yeehaw!

Now, I feel compelled to add that one of the guests was a boy [her brother, in fact]. I add this because he absolutely made my night. He was all about a foot spa! Loooved it.

The evening ending up being filled with more giggles and guffaws then the day leading up to it had held. It turned out to be a fabulous debut for me and a welcome treat for everyone involved. I mean, I think, at least. They seemed to like it. I didn't go around asking people if it had been a treat or anything. Whateve.

The point is it was goood. It was real good.

So I know I have written far too much. I only have one more thing to add: I might be going on a pilgrimage [another one of those sacred disciplines] with an amazing group of girls whom I am blessed to have as friends! Sweet, right?

Yeehaw. Praise Jesus.




Thursday, June 12, 2008

Marriage and Crab Cakes

Good grief, where do I begin?

Hmm, well, I'm married!??!!

Now you may be wondering why I am blogging on my honeymoon. Yes. That's a good question.

So, how are things? Personally, I can't complain. It's weird being married, though. All the glamor and hoopla of the wedding completely mask the nakedness and [if I may be so frank] grossness that is a married man and woman. I've been working for the last 3 years to hide certain yucky facts about myself [like I spit when I brush my teeth and my **** doesn't smell like roses]. It's all over now. He knows.

But it's cool. Human beings are gross. Regardless of what Hollywood wants you to think. I've accepted it and you can too. Lord knows he has. He's been gross this whole time just waiting for me to catch up.

Saint Simons has been fun. Full of laughter [and some tears], great southern food [and horrible water], an amazing walk along the beach [and an accidental trip to Florida [which of course led to more tears], a huge gross jelly fish [and a terrifying sting ray [which, as it turns out, was probably dead], and extremely kind country beach folk.


I decided to develop a country accent. Jermaine said I sounded like Reese Witherspoon and demanded I sing "Times' a wastin'." That was weird.

I've also decided that because I fit into girls size 14/16 I'm going to start buying matching clothes for my daughter, Sadie and I. You don't get it. That's okay. She gets it.

When I get home I'll write a big long blog all about the wedding. I don't have it in me right now. I hope that's okay. Thank you [as always] for tuning in. You make me so happy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Prayer of an Abolitionist

So, apparently country songs make me cry. Even the stupid ones. I had no idea.

I used to listen to country music all the time [I am from Greene County, VA]. But, when I fell in love with hip-hop [and yes, it was a love affair] I sort of blew off country. Part of that had to do with my obsession with being cool [country music is so last decade].

Anyhoo. Recently, I figured out that I am, in fact, not very cool at all [I'm hot, tho . . .] One cannot be cool and write words like "anyhoo" and "backside" with a straight face.

Whilst I adjust to this new realization I have decided to give country another go-round. And what do you know? I can barely get through one song without bawling my eyes out.

That is so not cool.

Anyhoo.

Last week while I was in Charlotte my friend, Amie, lent me a book about spiritual disciplines entitled The Sacred Way by Tony Jones. Today I tried one out.

I've read through about 5 of them [there are 16 in the book]. I've read through Silence and Solitude, Sacred Reading, The Jesus Prayer, Centering Prayer and Meditation. I chose to practice Sacred Reading for my first venture into the world of spiritual disciplines. I had no intention of blogging about it before hand [hello? I'm getting married in like 2 1/2 weeks, what else would I talk about?]. But, the events that unfolded in my quiet time lent themselves to a blog.

There are 4 parts to Sacred Reading [also known as Lectio Divina]: reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. I chose Psalm 90 because I had marked it as my favorite psalm some time ago [and then all but forgot about it]. I read out of The Message [as suggested by Mr. Jones [he also recommended the New Jerusalem Bible, but I didn't have that].

This is the text I read:

A PRAYER OF MOSES, MAN OF GOD

1-2 God, it seems you've been our home forever;
long before the mountains were born,
Long before you brought earth itself to birth,
from "once upon a time" to "kingdom come"—you are God.

3-11 So don't return us to mud, saying,
"Back to where you came from!"
Patience! You've got all the time in the world—whether
a thousand years or a day, it's all the same to you.
Are we no more to you than a wispy dream,
no more than a blade of grass
That springs up gloriously with the rising sun
and is cut down without a second thought?
Your anger is far and away too much for us;
we're at the end of our rope.
You keep track of all our sins; every misdeed
since we were children is entered in your books.
All we can remember is that frown on your face.
Is that all we're ever going to get?
We live for seventy years or so
(with luck we might make it to eighty),
And what do we have to show for it? Trouble.
Toil and trouble and a marker in the graveyard.
Who can make sense of such rage,
such anger against the very ones who fear you?

12-17 Oh! Teach us to live well!
Teach us to live wisely and well!
Come back, God—how long do we have to wait?—
and treat your servants with kindness for a change.
Surprise us with love at daybreak;
then we'll skip and dance all the day long.
Make up for the bad times with some good times;
we've seen enough evil to last a lifetime.
Let your servants see what you're best at—
the ways you rule and bless your children.
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
confirming the work that we do.
Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!

I read it over and over. There were parts that brought tears to my eyes. "Surprise us with love at daybreak" stood out to me. As did, "We've seen enough evil to last a lifetime." It was so sad. I couldn't figure out why I had been so struck by this passage as to dub it "my favorite." I thought about my dad. I thought about Darfur and human trafficking. I praised God for the blessings in my life.

As I read and re-read the text I thought about Moses. He was scolding our Creator. That went against everything I had been taught. And yet, here it was, in the Bible. It appeared to be coming from a place of desperation. I thought about the International Justice Mission and the people of the Polaris Project and Night Light. The scripture seemed to be a prayer of an abolitionist.

OMG.

Moses. Moses was the abolitionist. I began to weep. I want to say I stayed there to savor the moment, to soak in this knowledge I'd been blessed with. I didn't. I mean, I did for a minute. But I was just so excited.

I asked God if I could blog this experience. I believe He gave me His blessing.

I want to be an abolitionist when I grow up. I hope I grow up soon.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bad Girl Gone Good.


I have to go to work soon, but I felt the need to interject a bit of randomness into cyberspace.

I was thinking about Rihanna today and the album she put out [Good Girl Gone Bad] and suddenly a moment of brilliance swept over me as I realized that in fact I was just the opposite.

Oh man. I have homework I should be doing. Don't tell my mother.

Wait, it's not 1996 anymore. Go ahead. Tell her.

I got a scholarship for $3000 today for a school that I wasn't planning on attending. I gotta say, I'm thinking about changing my plans. Who needs The American University anyhow, right? How snobby are they? As if they're the bloody only American university. That's just silly.

I'm really digging my new gig at Red Robin. Pride comes before a fall and so I'm risking injury here to tell you that I'm really very good at serving people. Pray for me.

Must. Go. Now. Gots to get to work. Guess I can't complain about how much I don't to go, right?

Good day.

P.S. Jermaine called me "M'lady" the other day. I really like that.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Blood and Ears

Editor's note: The picture to your right is a shot of my biological brother, Jeremy, me, my kid, and my biological mom, Cathy.

I'm all teary eyed at the moment. I was just on MySpace and my cousin, Tiffany [who I haven't seen in 3 or 4 years because she moved to California] uploaded a picture of her three children. The oldest one smiles just like my nephew. And I can tell from old pictures that he looks like my dad when he was a little boy [they both have huge Patterson ears (:]. Her youngest child bears a striking resemblance to my Uncle Jerry [her dad, who died of cancer when I was eleven].

I couldn't help but feel a pang of jealousy.

Er, um, I'm adopted.

Please, don't get me wrong. I love the fact that I'm adopted. When I was little my parents would say, "Brandy, what are you?" And I would proudly exclaim, "I'm adopted! And I'm special!"

And I've always felt that way. For my 18th birthday my parents contacted my birth mom and orchestrated a surprise reunion. Her name is Cathy and she is wonderful. She lives in Syracuse and we keep in touch. She's coming to my wedding! She has a son named Jeremy [who's 18 and just finished Air Force Basic Training] whom I adore. I get to be a baby sister and an older sister. It really is the best of both worlds.

I don't know my biological father. I know his name is Llewellyn [Pronounced "lou-ellen"] Hitchcock. I'm pretty sure he wants nothing to do with me. I'm okay with that. I have an amazing father whom I respect more than I can adequately express with words. Of course, that explains my jealousy.

My [future [not yet conceived]] son won't have my dad's huge ears [but he will have Jermaine's huge backside [which, let's be honest - is just as weird].

The birth of my daughter was a miracle like no other. Laying in that hospital room holding my newborn, all I could think was, "Wow, she has my DNA." She was the first person in my family tree that I got to see on a daily basis. That affected me.

Growing up, I never had that. And I longed for it. I would hear things like, "So and so looks just like her mom," and feel sad.

Now, I'm borderline whining. Everyone who knows me well knows that my parents are amazing and that my childhood was idyllic.

But after seeing those gorgeous little ones, I felt compelled to write this blog.

So, I did.

This last shot is a picture of me [obviously], my Dad, my Mom, and my brother, Shawn.

I also feel compelled to add that people tell me all the time I look like my mom and that Sadie looks like her Grandmother. Oddly enough, I agree.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I've never been big on bridal showers. Or baby showers. Or any of those weird parties that involve grown women playing random games to win dish clothes.

But . . . mine was this past Saturday. And for several weeks now I have been seriously looking forward to it. Maybe it's the fact that I'm excited about who I'm marrying. Maybe it's because I knew I'd be getting a bunch of presents. Maybe I was just psyched to attend a party that was all about me [yeah, that was probably it].

No. I'm kidding. That wasn't it at all [really]. For me, this trip was all about the people. First of all, my best friend Andrea came with. We had a blast. I can't explain it. We are so different. But when we get together I feel 16 again and I can't stop giggling. My dad offered her a beer. Now, we are both 26, but she hasn't seen him since before she was legal. It just seemed so strange.

She and I speak at the same time constantly. It's like we're on the same [off-whack] wave-length. I don't have a whole bunch of mom friends. I'm so thankful that she's one of them. I feel it helps us to relate to each other on a whole other level.

Andrea is not the only fantastic woman I got to hang out with this past weekend. My Aunt Peggy was there, too. Though she's not technically related to me, I love her like a mother. She babysat me when I was a toddler. And after we moved away from Pennsylvania, our families visited each other every chance we got. She told me that out of all the kids she watched, I was her favorite [shhhh, she made me promise [when I was 4] that I wouldn't tell anyone [I told my mom [when I was 5] and she didn't believe me]].

She's my favorite, too. She's one of those rare women, always trying to feed people [she doesn't ask if you want pancakes, she asks how many you want]. And she is an amazing cook. She's hilarious and frankly a little vulgar. She's so talented as a woman [think proverbs 31] and yet so modest. She's simply amazing.

But we haven't been close since I went astray as a teenager. We never talked about it, but I think she might have felt betrayed. Even after I got back on the straight and narrow, things just weren't the same. I'd see her at family gatherings, but it was just . . . different.

This was the first time I've bonded with Aunt Peggy in like 10 years. Of course, it's no surprise it ended in tears. Just before she left she gave me a big hug. With tears streaming down her face she exclaimed, "I just want you to be happy!" Before I knew it I was bawling. Andrea, my mom and my cousin Elizabeth followed suit. As Peggy drove away, feelings of relief and gratitude enveloped me. I realized whatever chasm that had been keeping us apart had just been demolished with one fell swoop. A piece of me returned.

I think the weekend ranks up there in my top three favorite vacations [hmm, I just realized that Peggy was present for two of them].

My all time favorite was at St. Simons Island when I met Jermaine [another blog for another day]. Second runner up was a week at VA beach with my family in between 9th and 10th grade. Anyone who knows me from high school knows I entered my Sophomore year a completely different person [I got a lot hotter, too [but again, that's another blog]].

In all three vacations I learned something extraordinary about myself and people I love [last weekend I learned way too much about Andrea [and that is definitely another blog [and one that I won't write because she would kick my ass [but bff's are supposed to share deep dark secrets [no - she did not kill anyone [that's just silly]]]]]].

Oh look. I made a whole paragraph from parenthesis.

I think that's it for now. I definitely have more to say. But it will have to wait [too much crap weighing down my to-do list].

Thank you for reading my blog.

P.S. I couldn't not add this! Jermaine's Red Bubble career is really taking off. Andrea bought one of his shirts and volunteered to model it on the site. It totally made the front page.

Friday, April 11, 2008

What's in a name?

Let's face it. Let's be honest with ourselves. It's not working.

My name sucks.

My blog name, I mean. I'm rather fond of my given name. It suits me, I do believe. That's not why we're here.

I know, I know. "A rose by any other blah, blah, blah . . ." Whatev [sp?].

Got any suggestions? I would change it. I would. Sadly, I'm not there yet. The best I've got so far:

"Pop Goes The Weasel [And The Weasel Goes Pop]"

And I have no idea why.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Slavery Still Exists.



I have been putting off writing this blog for a while.

It's so serious.

It's so big.

It's so real.

But honestly, these excuses are lame. So let's get to it.

If you know me only from reading my blogs then you might believe that I possess an ability to make people laugh. I don't [except my best friend, Andrea and my daughter, Sadie - but in all fairness they laugh at everything]. In fact, close friends and family consider me to be more serious than most.

I usually try not to transfer my austere nature to my blogs [partly because it doesn't translate well - I end up coming off like a saleslady]. But I suppose for this entry it will prove itself useful.

Back to the point at hand. If you were not aware that slavery didn't end when it was legally abolished then I want you to take a moment a soak in this horrible truth.

Beat.

Modern slavery is not the same beast that the abolitionists of the 19th century worked so fervently to end. The concept of slavery has evolved into something arguably worse.

I've known about sex trafficking for a couple years now. I don't remember how I came across it. But just before I moved to Maryland I stumbled upon a website called madebysurvivors.com. Survivors of what? I pondered. I did a bit of menial research and discovered that there were women and children all over the world who were being forced into prostitution and captivity. I was horrified by this new information but unsure as to how to help. I was a single mom with almost no money and even less time. What could I do? After a bit of contemplation, I decided to buy this bag from the website [pictured just below]. It was win-win. I was doing my small part. And I got lots of compliments on the pack [I loved it because it made me feel like a more legitimate tree-hugger [and I have to say, two years later it has held up fabulously [and I am particularly rough on purses] - but here I am morphing into a salesman]]. I left the problem in my head but pushed it to the back of my mind.

That all changed last semester. I was assigned to write a 20 page paper in my Social Problems and Issues Class on a topic of my choice. Guess which one I chose?

Alas, I seriously underestimated the scope of my task.

First of all, I discovered that though sex trafficking was prevalent and terrible it was not the only form of slavery in existence today. There was debt bondage, also known as bonded labor. For example, let's say your great-grandfather needed an extra bit of cash to cover his expenses for a particular month. An acquaintance offered to loan him $100 [or less, or more - whatever he needed]. In exchange your great-grandfather and his family would come and work in the acquaintance's rice factory until the debt had been repaid. Fast forward 50 years. You have never experienced a world outside of the rice mill. You are 17 and have been doing back-breaking manual labor since you were four years old. Still, somehow the debt has not decreased. In fact the man who runs the mill [the acquaintance's grandson] just informed your father that since he has had to provide food and shelter to your entire family for so many years the debt has doubled.

This concept seemed outlandish to me, but it is reality for millions.

If you watched Blood Diamond then you are aware of the concept of child soldiers. But perhaps you did not know that it is still a terrible reality in the world today. I posted a video about the crisis on this blog. It is a trailer of a documentary called Invisible Children. I've never done that before [posted a video] and so I don't know exactly how it will turn out [or where]. Let's find out together[it ended up near the beginning of the blog as it turns out]. It explains the situation better than I could. The documentary itself was put together by three boys in their 20s. Passionate, adventurous spirits led them to travel to Sudan directly after graduation. They weren't prepared for what they were about to witness. I haven't seen the documentary [I read about it in the book Not For Sale by David Batstone] but I plan to.

27 million people today are enslaved. Tens of thousands of those people are being held captive in America. I didn't want this blog to be about statistics, but I find these facts shocking.

Sometimes I can't sleep. I cried for days while researching information for my report last semester. I felt guilty experiencing joy while people suffered so tragically. They didn't get a break, I reasoned. How could I?

Eventually I concluded that constant worry wasn't the answer. I have opted in a new direction. I hope that someday soon I will have the opportunity to volunteer for a company like the International Justice Mission or The Polaris Project. Until then I'll research and use my voice, my blog and MySpace.

One more thing [shifting...shifting...Ok! - Saleslady Mode]. A guy named Joe Mettimano works for a company called World Vision. He and his team are currently working on a campaign called the "Children Should Never Be Soldiers" petition. They are trying to get a million signatures and when they do they will submit it to the U.S. president, the Congress and the United Nations urging them to take meaningful political action. I went to sign the declaration online and was surprised that they currently have less than 50,000. Come on. We can do better than that.

Thank you for reading this. I would love for you to comment.

This blog took more than 3 hours. My daughter is hungry and probably feeling a bit neglected [I can't concentrate on this, peel her orange and discuss the pros and cons of the latest episode of Larry Boy [but after brushing her off by saying "not now" for the eighteenth time I finally did explain what I was writing - she agreed that it was very important]. I better go tend to her.

I don't feel like I said everything I wanted to say. I would like to discuss sex trafficking more and talk a little bit about why slavery is so rampant today. Another blog. Another day.