2nd Verse Same as the First

This is the life that never ends, it goes on and on my friend….now you’re gonna have this tune stuck in your head forever aren’t ya?  Hee hee, you’re welcome.

With the end of another year approaching, I find myself pondering and reflecting and feeling more frustrated, discouraged, and disappointed than ever before.  I don’t feel like I’ve made any progress in the last year.  A year ago I was in therapy, preparing for my nephew to have major brain surgery, and flunking out of school due to all the drama that is and was my life.  And, despite the fact that I”m not in therapy, my nephew is almost one year post-op and still seizure free, and I now have a B+ average in school, I really feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. I’m not in any better place financially, I’m not more organized, my apartment isn’t staying cleaner, I’m not more in-tune spiritually, and I’m still struggling to find contentment let alone joy.

As the New Year approaches, many of us will make resolutions to geared toward improving our standard of living, our way of living, how we live, etc.  I have done it before several times myself.  This is the year I…so many thinks have filled in those blanks and yet, each year, I find myself looking back with enormous regret and frustration because of so many things I have failed, never even attempted, or resolved no longer mattered.  Can you relate?  I don’t know what to do this next year.  My lack of goal completion leaves me afraid to set goals for fear of more of the same simply not accomplishing them.

And, if I’m totally honest, it’s been so long since I’ve honestly had a good conversation with myself and my Heavenly Father about what I REALLY want out of life, just for me, that I’m not sure if I even know anymore.  I want to be self-reliant financially so I can provide for my kids with or without (most likely without) the help of their fathers, I want to lose weight so I can maybe ease some of the pain I’m often in and make it easier to play with my kids, I want to finish school so I can stand a better chance of being self-reliant and yet, though apparently noble desires, none of those things come into play just for me or solely because of me.

I’ve always felt like an epic failure.  I’ve had low self-esteem since long before I even knew what self-esteem was.  The list of things I’ve tried and failed or failed to try is so long you’d have to scroll till your great-grandchildren arrived if I tried to include them in this post.  So, now that we’ve established what an epic failure I am, any suggestions on how to become the opposite?  How do I go from failing nearly everything I ever attempt to having a Midas touch where everything I attempt turns into gold…the kind of gold that leads to prosperity, confidence and happiness?  How do I get from succeeding at failing to just simply succeeding?  Honestly, I have no idea.

As the New Year approaches, the only thing I can think about that I might be able to achieve is getting my temple recommend back.  Do I want much more than this?  Yes of course, but I’m so afraid of not coming close to achieving goals, let alone actually hitting the mark, that I’m afraid to set any more than the one I’ve just stated.  I’m already doing what it takes to achieve that goal (paying my tithing), so now it’s just a matter of time.  Yes I know…I kind of took the chicken way out and set a goal knowing I was pretty much already on-target for achieving it, but sometimes you gotta take baby steps.  Right now my steps are even smaller than that I think.

Maybe though, once I’ve accomplished this one teeny tiny goal, I’ll have the courage to set another and the skills required to make it a reality.  One can only hope I guess, right?!?!?  I’ll keep ya posted.


Give the girl a hand or two

After the craft project of epic proportions, I could have used two new ones actually!  Recently I discovered I have a pretty fair amount of talent in the world of photography and I’ve decided to build a photography business.  At some point, I will even get my Master’s in the subject.  The problem is, with all the gear and equipment, photography can be insanely expensive and I’m so cheap it’s almost criminal.

One of the things I knew I needed was posing blocks or stools of some kind.  I looked everywhere for them and they aren’t cheap.  Apple crates in varying sizes were about 175 dollars at Amazon for a set and that was relatively cheap compared to all the posing blocks or cushions or whatever that I looked at.  I didn’t have the money for that and I was not about to shell it out even if I did so I began looking for ways to do it myself.  Finally I figured out what I wanted, got the specs for the build created, and went shopping.  My project started with this:

All the wood you see in the car are my cuts for the boxes I decided to make.  The bottom pieces are scrap pieces I’d find a use for eventually and have already become shelves and a chalkboard.  The cuts, when assembled and if assembled correctly, would turn into 6 posing blocks in varying heights.  It was time to get started.  After building the first block, I had to go out and buy a more powerful drill…then things really started moving along.

Here’s the first block I built:

Phew…one down only 5 to go.  It wasn’t so bad, I can do this….and I did it but man was it epic.  Here we are with a few more under my belt:

I wish I could tell you that once they were built I was done but no…silly be still had to paint them all too.  When I got the biggest box built, someone thought it would make a good chair:

By this point, my hands were throbbing and blistered and swollen.  Who knew drilling and sanding could be so intense?  Certainly not this girl that’s for sure.  I raised good children though and seeing my discomfort my son and daughter decided to help with the last two blocks.  She got to offer the counterweight while my son sunk the screws:

FINALLY they were all done….now to fill screw holes and sand and wipe down and paint.  I did the painting.  It was actually pretty fun!

I painted on my kitchen floor with no drop cloth…what the heck why not it is water based paint and the floor mops so…..

Finally here’s what this epic build looks like all stacked together neatly:

I love my blocks, even if it did take my hands weeks to fully recover.  They have multiple uses too.  I can stand on them when I need a higher camera angle, I can sit on them when I’m getting in close with a newborn or other wee one, doing macro work or the like, AND three of them can even be used as a prop.  Check out this sweet baby girl I photographed sitting inside one of my blocks:

I use my blocks on almost every capture I create and am really glad to have them, but I’m no carpenter and don’t want to ever do a massive build like this again!

No more little orphan Faith

Growing up as a child I was often teased and called a “black” Annie or told with my red-hair and freckles I should go as her for Halloween or try out of the part of her in the school play and the like.  Little did people realize just how much this character and I really had in common.  Like the fictional Annie most of us have known and loved, I am an orphan.  That’s not the worst part…both of my natural parents are in fact still living and yet I still feel like an orphan more or less.

In my adult life, I’ve never felt like my parents genuinely wanted me.  I know my father doesn’t.  I’m 29 and holding and have never met him…even when he had the opportunity to meet me and his ONLY grandchildren he still chose not too.  Thanks padre….love ya too dude.  Not.

Though things have gotten dramatically better with my mother and I in recent times, I’ve never felt like she loved me or wanted me either.  She used to tell me all the time how she kept me just to spite her own father, or that I was released early from the hospital and she wasn’t sure I was really hers or even that she’d take me back to K-Mart and get her money back if I wasn’t good.  It wasn’t until I got old enough and brave enough (if you know my mom you know why it takes bravery to stand up to her) to confront her on how these statements made me feel that she stopped.  Now though, as an adult and mother of my own children, I want to have a good solid relationship with my mother more than ever.  The problem is, that’s not as easy to do as it is to say because it requires her energy and effort too and sometimes I’m just not sure if she really wants to use either when it comes to me.

I’ve said repeatedly that I feel like an orphan and yet both of my parents are still alive.  It’s a sad statement but quite true.  Or at least it was true until very recently.

Let me digress a bit though….

When I was in my late teens I met a little girl names Bekka.  She was being raised by her grandparents because her mom was young and naïve and I fell in love with her.  I moved in with her grandparents and helped take care of her.  I contacted the college I had decided to go to and asked about family housing and was ready to take her with me.  Her grandparents were all for it as well.  She wasn’t my baby, I hadn’t adopted her, her mother and I were not best friends or anything (in fact I’ve never met her mother) and yet I loved her.  I still love her though I haven’t seen her since she was 9 months old and she’s now old enough to be a mommy herself, I still think of her occasionally and wonder how her life turned out and did she grow up knowing she was loved.  These are questions I’ll probably never know the answers to though.  The point is…I loved her, and in my  heart she was mine.

Years later, during one of the most vulnerable points of my life I met a man who has changed my life.  Most people call him Dave or David.  I however have the distinct pleasure of calling him Dad and Daddy.  He’s only served in this capacity in my life for about 5 years now, but I am an admitted Daddy’s girl and will be till the day I die.  Without my Dad’s love and influence during the critical first months after leaving my violent ex-husband, I’m not sure I’d be anywhere near the person I am right now.

What makes this story incredible is that, like me loving Bekka just because, my dad has chosen to love me for the same reason.  He’s never dated my mom, he’s never even met my mom actually come to think of it.  He’s no blood relation to me, he’s not my Home Teacher, Bishop, Stake President or the like.  There’s really no reason for him to be in my life still other than the fact that he loves me.  His love both encourages and inspires.

Recently he and I were having a conversation about something I was struggling with and I mentioned him legally adopting me because he and I both live in states that adoption of an adult is legal.  I laughed explained that since he was married again, if he adopted me he and his lovely wife would have “yours mine and ours” and he chuckled a bit then said something to me that has made all the difference.  In that single moment or two that he was speaking, I have never ever felt so loved and adored.

What did he say right?  Don’t worry I’m going to tell you…after explaining why I wanted him to adopt me in the first place he explained that he had worked for the last two years and was still working hard to get to a point where he could financially adopt me.  And then he went on to say…”I love you and I want you and you are not a disappointment to me.” Just remembering those words is enough to make me tear up, but I cried like a baby when I first heard them.  You see I had told him that I cherished our relationship that it still amazed me how he loved me just because and that I was more afraid of disappointing him than my own biological parents.  I told him that more than anything I wanted him to adopt me because that would mean I would belong to him and what an amazing feeling it is to know you belong.

My Dad has seen me at my lowest and loves and encourages me to reach my highest potential no matter what.  I can talk to him about anything and no matter how inadequate I feel and how much I feel like I’m failing everyone around me, my Dad is there to assure me I haven’t failed him, he loves me, and he believes in me.  He honestly thinks of it as a privilege to know my children and I and we are beyond blessed to have him in our lives.  I am not sure I’ve ever loved anyone other than my own children as much as I love the man I call Daddy.  When I think about how much I adore this man, it makes me cry tears of joy because I know that he loves me just as much.

I guess you could say he’s kinda my Daddy Warbucks because thanks to him, I no longer feel like little orphan Faith.  I didn’t get to move into his mansion, he isn’t friends with the President, and he hasn’t officially done the paperwork to make me his, but just as Annie moved into Warbucks’ heart, I moved into my Dad’s and neither of our lives have been the same since.  He is living proof that while most men can be a father, only someone truly special can be a dad.

It was about this exact time 5 years ago that a knock on my door changed my life in ways I am still recovering from.  Most of those ways haven’t been necessarily good ways either.  I don’t believe in coincidence or chance though and I believe that the events that led to that life altering knock at the door were necessary to bring my Dad and I together.  As bad and difficult as everything has been since that knock came, I wouldn’t trade it because without the heartache and pain and struggle there would not be the joy of loving and being loved by my Dad.

I love you Daddy, thank you for wanting me and thank you even more for loving me.   Your love and belief often make all the difference.

Axioms we should live by

Recently I was told given some counsel that I’ve thought about daily since receiving.  The person giving this counsel was someone I love and admire dearly and I know she loves me and it was because of this love for me that she spoke to me in the way she did.  In following her counsel, I’ve been feasting on the word of God (scriptures, talks from the General Authorities and other inspired leaders, etc) for the last few days.  Elder Robert D. Hales gave a talk at a BYU graduation in 2003 outline Ten Axioms to Guide Your Life.  Two of them have jumped out and bit me…hard.  For this reason I need to share them with you and my thoughts/reflections on these axioms.

Axiom 2:  (Sidebar:  this is NOT a math thing I promise…even though it kinda sounds like that).  Elder Hales says “pursue your goals with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.  You are doomed to failure if you pursue them in a vacillating manner.”  Hmmm…ok….what exactly is vacillating anyway?!?!?  Well it means to waver or hesitate.  To put it bluntly…if you pursue goals in a vacillating manner you are pretty much a flake.  When you vacillate, you are stuck.  You can’t, as Elder Hales points out “move forward with conviction” and “we feel are way along, as if we’re afraid of the dark.”  He goes on to say, “it is so much better to turn on the light of faith and move ahead with energy and commitment.”

This really got me thinking…

First I had to think about did I have any goals.  I mean sure we all say (hmmm….OK not all but probably  most of us) we have them.  Are there things I want in my life, of course.  When I evaluate my current circumstances, do I want for more, do I wish for more, do I dream for more?  Yes.  Am I unequivocally committed to achieving more…to setting goals geared to get me whatever the “more” it is I’m after and exercising the required discipline and effort to obtain that more? Ouch, I was bit hard.

I’d like to tell you that yes, I have set goals, mapped out concrete steps for achieving them and am so disciplined I’m halfway done with a dozen goals already.  The problem is, the Good Book says “thou shalt not lie”…(well it really says not to bear false witness but that means lie), and so I can’t.  I’ve made a tad of progress though.  I sat down a few weeks ago (wow maybe it’s been more like a month actually) and created some visuals of the things I want, printed out the pictures, and put them in my client notebook for photography…where I thought I’d see them often.  I even put deadlines on these ideas because I once heard that a goal without a deadline is just a wish.  Problem is…that notebook I thought I’d see often hasn’t been in front of my face since I put the pictures in there.  EPIC fail, but we’ll talk about that when I share the 2nd Axiom of Elder Hales to reach out and take a bite outta me.  So without having the goals constantly before me, and without having a specific action plan to achieve these goals, how can I possibly expect them to become a reality…newflash…I can’t.  Wow.

What was on that list doesn’t matter as much as the simple fact that I lacked a critical component to achieving ANY of those goals.  I have not pursued them with “all my heart, might, mind, and strength.”  I haven’t strategized a plan, and if you happen to keep up with me on Facebook or know me personally you may know that discipline is not exactly my strength.  Probably right up there with patience actually.  There’s hope don’t worry…I’m learning patience so I’m confident I can learn more discipline too!  Hopefully I’ll learn it faster than I’ve learned patience though.

I have been exceedingly vacillating in my pursuits.  Gasp, I did it…I put my short-comings in black and white for God (well He kinda already knows) and everyone to see.  No WONDER I can’t make any real genuine progress toward obtaining these goals.  More to think about because now I have to decide what I’m REALLY willing to work toward.  Maybe I don’t want ALL those things I thought I did…maybe I’m not ready to do the work to obtain all those things, or maybe I am…I will have to ponder it and figure it out…SOON.

So…this 2nd Axiom of Elder Hales took a big bite outta me, but it didn’t break the skin thankfully.  Lately I’ve been very discouraged.  Not depressed…I’m painfully aware of the difference so please just trust me on this K?  I’ve told several people I feel like the only thing I am successful at is failing.  The list is so so SO long of things I’ve failed at in my adult life and, in another talk I have read several times since discovering it recently, Elder Baxter says “what a difference it would make if, instead, we took account of our strengths, raised our eyes off the ground, and gave ourselves credit for how far we have already come and how much we have already achieved” so I won’t bore you with all those things I know I have failed at.  I’m still working on an account of my strengths and giving myself credit for how far I’ve already come and everything I’ve already achieved.  Surely it’s more than what my current thoughts give credit to or for.

At any rate, Elder Hales’ 5th Axiom not only broke the skin when it bit me, but it may have even drawn some blood.  He says “failure is one of the greatest teachers if we have the faith to learn from it.”  He goes on to say “we should embrace the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, analyze where we could have done better, and make plans to improve.  In doing so, we discover that setbacks and disappointments are ‘but for a small moment’ and ‘shall be for [our] good’ (D&C 122:4, 7).  With faith, we can take seriously the Lord’s counsel to ‘search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for [our] good’  (D&C 90:24).”

Hmmmm…remember when I said I’m an epic success at failure?  Maybe the problem is I haven’t learned whatever lesson it is I’m to learn from these failures and so I have to keep getting different twists on the same lesson over and over and over and over and over and over and ov….you get the idea.  Let’s examine this for a minute shall we?

If I’m given 10 opportunities to learn patience and I’m still not patient, I’ve failed.  I’ve failed to learn the lesson on the importance of patience which means I will continue to struggle with things that require this important skill.  When this happens, when something occurs that I just don’t have the stomach to wait patiently on or for ir in or whatever, I find myself anxious, frustrated, and often defeated and discouraged all over again.  Clearly I need so spend more time analyzing what I can do better because I certainly want these routine (and arguably what feels like constant set backs) to be for that small moment Elder Hales references from the scriptures.  It seems like my setbacks have instead been one epic bad dream that I can’t wake up from.  Kinda like that movie Groundhog’s Day only worse…much worse.  Time to re-evaluate what it is I keep doing that is giving me the same overall feelings of failure.  I love that line in Lion King where Rafiki says something like “oh yes the past can hurt but the way I see it you can either run from it, or learn from it.  Going forward, I choose to learn from it.  I’m already learning from it actually.

In the last couple of days one of the things I’ve learned is this.  While I’m well-intentioned, I’m often poorly-follwed-through.  I’m a starter, but not so much of a finisher.  This week I will make a concentrated effort to start less and finish more.  I’ll let you know how it goes.