Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Perspective of Years

I know that everyone says that age lends wisdom.  At the very least, it gives perspective.  At 35, I am able to look back 20 plus years and see my perspective then and what time had revealed about the reality of a lot of things.

Remember Kristin Hoy, the girl who invited me to the torturous slumber party in 7th grade, then was dating the most popular boy in school Freshman year?  She committed suicide before graduation high school.  Despite feeling at the time that this girl was my biggest enemy and had made my life miserable, I was deeply saddened to hear this news, and it made me realize some of the reasons behind her behavior and why she had treated me the way she did.

Now I have a daughter who I am beginning to see go through some of the same struggles I faced, and it's so hard to watch.  I, like my own mom, at times want to rescue her from all pain and everyone who bullies her.  But I also know that it's imperative that she learn to deal with it for herself, and that the most important thing I can instill in her is how deep, how wide, and how long God's love for her and grace to forgive her are. 

Now, back to my story at age 14...

Teased Fat Girl and Sudden Rebel... The beginning of my journey to Christ

Ok, I will share with you that I have been feeling led to write about my experiences growing up and what led me to Christ.  Also, all that Christ has brought me through.  I was in church about a week ago, and something the pastor said planted this seed in me.  So I was thinking I would start by writing about it on here, and you 9 loyal followers could tell me what you think.

Starting with childhood, I was raised by Christian parents in an upper-middle-class home in Orange County.  By all estimations, I was loved and privileged.  There is no sob story there.  I am the middle of 3 girls, with one sister 5 1/2 years older, and one 5 1/2 years younger.  Because of that, I guess I suffered from a pretty common middle-child angst.  I always felt over-shadowed by my beautiful, popular, talented older sister, who everyone seemed to love and admire. And my younger sister was the beautiful baby, with long blond curls, who was so cute and sweet that everyone cooed over her.  She had an agent and we were frequently shuttled back and forth to L.A. for her commercial auditions.  I got to tag along while she modeled for magazine ads and was treated like a princess by makeup artists and photographers. 

As I began puberty, I was an overweight, nerdy girl, at least from my perception.  From about 5th grade on, I was teased mercilessly by kids at school.  I was asked if I was pregnant, and had that Al Yankovic song "Fat" sang to me by neighborhood kids when I was out playing.  "When you go outside to get the mail, it measures on the Richter scale."  I was also extremely sensitive, so I didn't know how to deal with the kids who teased me.  They saw that it upset me, which served to further egg them on.  I'd had friends in elementary school and was relatively happy through 4th grade, but the summer between 4th and 5th, we moved from Laguna Hills to Irvine, and I started a new school.

Being the new girl was hard, and I don't think I ever felt accepted the way I had at my old school.  By the end of the year, there was talk about me being unchalleged in my academics, and it perhaps being a good idea to move me ahead a grade.  I was all for this- I thought Junior High was the answer.  At the time, I related better to adults than kids my own age, and I loved to read and write stories.  The one thing I knew I was good at was being intelligent.  So I encouraged my parents to go ahead with the move to a higher grade.

That summer I turned 11, and in the fall I entered 7th grade.  Most kids are 12 or 13 in 7th grade, and there is a big difference between 11 and 13.  Huge.  I loved school that fall, found my classes challenging and interesting, especially GATE English and Social Studies, where I had wonderful teachers that fostered my love for reading and writing.  But socially, it was a different story.  I couldn't seem to make a single friend, and often ate lunch alone or in the library.  But then the school bully, a very large girl who was also unliked by the masses, found me in the library.  I think at first she may have tried to be my friend, but I was so scared of being seen with the most reviled girl in school when I was trying so hard to fit in, that I denied her my friendship.  Which made me a target of her bullying.  She would follow me around the library, swinging her Guess canvas book bag full of heavy textbooks, at me.  It hurt.  So the library wasn't safe.

Phys Ed was another nightmare. I was overweight and out of shape, and we had to wear these horrible double sided t-shirts which were thick and made me sweat like a pig.  I was always last to be picked for teams, and would ineveitably get yelled at for making the team that got stuck with me lose.  I was uncoordinated, couldn't hit a ball or run fast.  When we had to run the mile and get timed, I was always last to finish and the whole class would be waiting at the finish line, taunting me.

By mid-year, it had gotten so bad that my parents decided to pull me out of the public school and enroll me in a private Christian school in Newport Beach.  There, they thought, it would be a small class of 'Christian' kids whose parents cared about raising them right.  As it turns out, pretty much the opposite was true.  I was entered mid-semester into a 7th grade class of only 12 kids.  The 7 girls in the class were one big cliques, led by Jackie and Kristen. Instead of the nice Christian kids from good families that my parents had imagined, these were troubled girls who had gotten kicked out of public school and sent to Christian school as an effort to straighten them out.

One thing about me at age 11 is I was innocent, and what you might call a goody-two-shoes.  I obeyed the rules, knew little if anything about sex or drugs or any kind of trouble one might get into.  All I knew was just say no and Jesus loves you and doesn't want you getting into any trouble.  So, quickly I became the target of Jackie and Kristin, who teased me and threatened to follow me after school and "kick my ass."  I was scared for my life, and would run out to my waiting moms cars every day as soon as the last bell rang, scared for my life.

Then one day, suddenly, their attitude changed.  Kristin was having a birthday slumber party, and I already knew that she had invited all the girls in the class but me.  Then suddenly, a couple days before the party, she and Jackie and the gang approached me at lunch and told me that they'd had a change of heart.  They wanted to be nice and invite me to the party.  I hesitated, because I didn't trust their sudden amiability after all the threats to kick my ass.  I smelled a trick.  But then I was chided that how dare I be a snob, when they were reaching out to me and trying to be my friend?  I was caught in a catch-22.  If I agreed to go to the party, I feared they were plotting a new way to humiliate me.  But if I said no, they were going to brand me an ungrateful snob and torture me all the more.

I ended up choosing to hope for the best, that they really had experienced a change of heart and were ready to accept me as their friend.  My mom dropped me off at the party in the afternoon on a Saturday.  First, Kristen's mom took us all to Carl's Jr. for lunch, and that part seemed to go smoothly.  Then we came back to her house, and her mom disappeared.  The girls were all hanging out in the front yard, talking about what to do.  Someone suggested going and getting the teenage boys who lived across the street.  They started talking about who would go in the van parked in the driveway and have sex with them.  The girls tried to coax me into doing it, but I was scared mute.  I shook my head in horror.  Finally, Jackie and Kristin took turns going into the van with one of the boys, while the other 5 of us stood there in the lawn watching the van shake.  I was scared and horrified, and honestly didn't even know what they were doing, except that it was very wrong.  I honestly didn't even know what sex was at that age, only that you weren't supposed to do it.

After that, the evening progressed with one of the girls bringing out a collection of airplane sized bottles of liquor she's stolen from her parents.  The girls all tried to get me to drink, and teased me and called me a goody-goody and other names when I wouldn't. Then came threats of cutting up my night gown, and doing things to me when I went to sleep.

The next morning, I desperately wanted to go home and called my mom to come pick me up.  As I was waiting, something happened to get Jackie and Kristin riled up against me again, and before my mom showed up, they had cirlcled around me and were about to start fighting me. I was scared for my life.  By the time my parents showed up I was in tears, and left sobbing and swore I would never go back and face those girls at school again.

So, I started the 3rd new school of that year.  At Lakeside, I was not popular, and still got some teasing, but I was able to go to school without being tortured.  I has a wonderful English teacher named Mrs. Mercer for both 7th and 8th grade, due to the fact that they had a "Core" class for GATE students.  She was an inspiration, and I spent many a lunch with her praising my writing and telling me how I was talented and smart, and someday soon all of this wouldn't matter, that it was people like me who went on to be extremely successful as adults.  She gave me all sorts of tips for "not letting the tukeys get me down."  I made a few friends and even joined the school paper and yearbook comittee my 8th grade year.

When 8th grade ended and we were getting ready for High School, we were given a choice of attending any of the 3 High Schools in Irvine.  Most kids from Lakeside were going to Woodbridge, but I thought I should try Irvine, because it was closer to my house, and also where my sister had gone.  Part of me figured that my older sister had been so popular there that I could ride in on her legend and fit in.  She had starred in several plays, and Irvine was known for it's great drama program and theater productions.  I thought I was interested in acting, too, so it would be a good fit for me.

The spring of 8th grade, I started going to Weight Watchers with an older friend of mine that I rode horses with. She encouraged me, and over the summer I slimmed down and finally looked what I felt was "normal."  I was excited to start High School, and felt that everything would be different.  At Freshman Orientation, I met a girl in line in front of me named Andy Ashman.  She was tall and beautiful and loud and funny, and also new.  We became instant friends, and she seemed like the friend I'd always dreamed of having.  She was instantly popular, and boys liked her.  She seemed to have a glow around her.

That day at orientation, we quickly realized who the cutest boy in our class was- Donnie Jeffcoat, star of some Nickelodeon show that everyone knew about.  He was a local celebrity and everyone wanted to date him.  We also soon heard that he already had a girlfriend, and that her name was Kristin Hoy.  When I heard that name, my stomach dropped to my knees.  It couldn't be THE Kristin Hoy, the infamous slumber party host.

But alas, strage world that it is, it was indeed that Kristin Hoy.  Dating the cutest, most popular boy in school before the school year had even begun.  But now I had an ally in Andy, and we immediately began plotting to take her down.  We hung out almost every day of the rest of that summer, gabbing on the phone and making up silly songs and dance routines.  I thought she was my best friend, and that we were going to have a wonderful freshman year together.

Then school started, and Andy and I didn't have any classes together except drama.  I was in honors English and History, and she was not.  As a result, the kids in my classes were the "smacks," the smart kids.  But I wanted to be a popular, cool girl, not a smack.  Andy soon had a new group of friends, girls who weren't part of the honors group, and I didn't really fit in.  She made friends with a girl named Shannon, who had gone to the first Junior High I attended, and also taken dance classes with me and my sisters.  While I had been chubby and had two left feet, she was the star of the dance academy, a prima ballerina who also had a reputation for being a real brat.

Freshman year had it's ups and downs. I was often hurt when Andy chose to hang out with Shannon and her group, and didn't make an effort to include me.  I made friends with some of the girls in my honors classes, but always felt they were kind of nerdy and longed to be cool and popular.  The summer after freshman year, Andy got a job at Wild Rivers, and helped me get one too.  Suddenly we were the best of friends again, and Shannon and the mean girls at school were all but forgotten.  That summer I had my first kiss, with a boy that Andy introduced me to.  It was pretty much a dare, and he probably went along with it because Andy told him to, but it was the highlight of my young life. 

Andy started spending the night at my house often, and seemed to love being there.  She always talked about how lucky I was.  She lived with only her mom, and had strange and often conflicting stories about where her dad was.  I knew that she was probably lying when she told me that he was always traveling the world on business, or that he was Howard Ashman, the composer of the music for "The Little Mermaid."  But I left it alone.

At Wild Rivers, we were surrounded by cute boys our age from different schools.  There were a lot of employee parties, and I got my first taste of alcohol one night on the beach with some boys Andy knew.  We drank wine coolers and I had my second kiss with one of the older boys.  One night all of the Wild Rivers employees had a bonfire at Aliso Beach in Laguna. Andy's mom dropped us off, and mine had agreed to pick us up at 9:30.  At one point, we left the party and walked out on the pier, where we met a cute lifeguard and started talking to him.  He was interested in me, and I got a rush from the attention.  He asked me to go for a walk, and I told Andy I would meet her back at the party in a few minutes.

We walked south on the beach, away from the party.  After walking around the big rock that marks the south end of the beach, we sat down and started kissing. I was thrilled.  I thought he was a gorgeous older boy (he was I think 16), and I was excited by this rush of new feelings I was having.  I guess I lost track of time, but I didn't think we were gone that long.  When we came walking back, holding hand, we saw a commotion in the parking lot.  There was a police car with lights flashing, Andy came running up crying saying "Where WERE you?" and then I saw my dad, looking like he was going to kill me.  The police separated me and the boy, and questioned us about where we had been and what we were doing.

I insisted that we had just gone for a walk, that nothing had happened, and that was te truth.  We had kissed, that was it.  But the cops and my parents seemed convinced that something more sinister had gone on, and that this older boy was to blame.  I have never been so scared of my dad as I was that night.  I was lectured the whole way home that I has been ridiculously irresponsible, did I have any idea what could have happened to me? (I didn't.)  I was grounded for the rest of the summer, and told I would only be allowed to go to work and straight home, and I got my phone taken away.

I fell into a depression. My parents insisted on taking me away to Palm Springs, where it was 112 degrees, and too hot to even go to the pool.  This was mid- August at this point.   I had wanted to stay at home with Andy and not go on the trip, but they said no way.  I spent the entire vacation pouting inside the condo, listening to George Michael's "Listen Without Prejudice" CD over and over on my discman and feeling sorry for myself, imagining all the fun my friends were having back at home.

My Sophomore school year started with a feeling of letdown.  I worried that when school started again, Andy would go back to hanging out with Shannon and her school clique, and ignoring me.  My fears were basically founded.  I started off taking a full load of classes, starting with an optional zero period AP Biology class that started at 7am.  I tried to throw myself into the school year, but the memories of summer and boys and feeling "cool" for the first time in my life clashed with the reality of school, where I was just the same old me I had been the year before.

I joined Concert Choir (think Glee, but all girls), and started making some new friends there.  But September was mostly a downer.  In October, I started feeling a new passion for life.  Suddenly, school seemed interesting and I felt like I was mastering all of my classes.  Always a writer, I began staying up late at night writing entire chapters of novels and short stories, as well as poetry.  I also took to chatting for hours a night on the phone, gabbing with Andy and other friends on the private phone line my parents had let me get, until I inevitably got yelled at by my dad to be get off the phone or get it taken away.

I started feeling chatty with girls at school that I had previously been afraid to talk to.  I suddenly felt attractive and interesting, and people seemed to respond to me in kind.  In Concert Choir, we broke up into teams for a fund-raiser, selling candy. My first day I hit up all my baby-sitting clients in the neighborhood, and had the highest sales.  I was rewarded with a $10 cash prize and plenty of praise and encouragement from my teammates to keep up the good work so we could win more prizes.  I went home, and having tasted the attention, wanted more.  I decided that it would be easy to sell a whole bunch of candy if I sat at the grocery store with a table like the Girl Scouts did with cookies, so I started filling up my order sheet with fake orders in the names of everyone I could think of that I knew.

The attention kept coming, and I won more cash and prizes, and was suddenly the star of my choir.  I don't remember ever thinking of the consequences or feeling that what I was doing was wrong. I just felt drunk on the attention and the fact that for once I was the center of attention.

Around this time, Andy invited me to come home with her after school one day on a Wednesday, to hang out and then go to youth group that night at the church by her house.  My mom agreed because church was involved, although at this point she already didn't like Andy much, and thought she was a bad influence on me. I was just glad to have my buddy back, as since school had started she had gone back to hanging out with Shannon and her gang, and not eating lunch with me or hanging out with me at break.

After school we walked to the city bus stop and waited for the bus.  Andy pulled out a pack of Marlboro cigarettes and lit up.  She asked me if I wanted to try one but I wasn't sure.  She also caught me up on her recent activities, telling me that she had spent the night at a hotel with an older boy she'd met and lost her virginity.  She decribed it like it was so grown up, and ironically I felt envious of her and like I had to catch up, because I was always feeling like she was older and prettier and cooler than me.

Now, let me tell you that I was raised in a very conservative-values home, with married Christian parents that took me to church every week, usually several times a week. (Twice on Sunday, and Wednesday night youth group, plus week long summer camps and winter ski trips and discipleship retreats.  I was in all the church choirs and holiday musical productions.) I had been told little about sex from my mom, mostly how babies were made and wait until you're married to do it.  At youth group I'd heard a little more, such as masterbating is a sin if you think about someone while you do it, since that would be lust.  I had an older sister, so I knew a little from talking to her as well, but on the whole didn't know much. 

That past summer, before my 14th birthday, I had gone to Disneyland with Karen, a girl who lived on my street and was a little younger than me.  I don't remember if my parents were there and had just let us go off by ourselves, or if they had dropped us off for the day.  What I remember is being in line for the People Mover, the "Dark Ride" that was known as a make-out ride.  Karen and I got in line behind two older boys, who judging from their haircuts were Marines.  So I guess they must have been at least 18 or 19.  Being the boy-crazy girls we were, I'm sure we talked to them and flirted, but innocently.  We got on the ride, 4 of us in one small car, and the boys each sat next to one of us girls. 

When we got to the dark "Tron" part of the ride, the boy next to me took my hand, and at first I was excited, like wow, he's holding my hand.  Then he took my hand and placed it down his pants, before I knew what was happening.  I pulled it away in shock, never having seen, let alone felt, a man's penis before.  I inched as far away from him as I could get, but the ride dragged on for what seemed an eternity.  When we could finally escape, I grabbed my friend's hand and ran for the nearest bathroom, where we hid in a stall and I told her what happened.  We stayed in the restroom for about 30 minutes, and finally asked a lady to pretend to be our mom and walk out with us.  The guys were long gone.

Now, about 3 months after that incident, Andy was telling me about having sex.  We took the bus back to her house, which was empty, her single mom being at work.  She suggested we sneak into her mom's liquor cabinet and get drunk.  I watched as she took a 32 ounce plastic cup and poured a mixture of Southern Comfort, Vermouth, and some kind of schnapps into it.  The only alcohol I'd ever tried was wine coolers at the beach with her that summer, so I just did what she said, which was to plug my nose and gulp down as much as I could.  I gagged twice and nearly threw up, but managed to keep it down.  It was the most awful tasting thing I has ever had.

We went into her room and played loud music, then pretended to be doing homework when her mom came home and peeked in on us.  To avoid getting caught, Andy dragged me outside as soon as her mom left the room.  We walked out into her neighborhood and headed for a park.  She lit up a cigarette and handed it to me, showing me how to smoke it.  After inhaling a drag or two, I remember being so lightheaded that I fell down on the sidewalk.  We laughed and laughed, lying there on the sidewalk, then kept walking.  She took me to the house of a boy she knew who was in our grade but went to the other high school across town.  He was a football player, and had a few of his team mates over. 

In his house, which also had no parents around, we sat and talked for a few minutes, me feeling drunk and dizzy and not saying much.  I saw Andy whisper something to Dustin, the boy whose house it was, and they looked at me.  She then told me to go with him, so I followed him into his bedroom.  He kissed me briefly and then told me he was going to teach me something new.  He pulled down his pants and pushed my head toward his crotch.  Soon after, he hurriedly got dressed and told me he had to go to football practice and we had to leave.  I remember thinking, is he my boyfriend now?  I felt kind of stunned, but also kind of proud of how grown up I was.

Outside again, Andy congratulated me and asked to know all the details.  She then gave me pointers on how to do it better and laughed.  We walked over to the church down the street, where we were supposed to be atteding youth group at 6.  I didn't want to go to church drunk, so we found a pay phone and Andy started calling all the boys she could think of who might come pick us up.  I tried calling Brian, the boy I'd first kissed at the pool that summer, but he sounded disgusted with me and told me to call him when I was sober, that I should go home.  Andy called a boy who lived across the street from her, and he agreed to come pick us up.  He drove us down the street to the parking lot of the nearby community college, and after listening to music on the car stereo for a few minutes, Andy got out of the car to "go for a walk" and left me with the boy.  We started kissing and he asked me if I wanted to go in the back seat and "do it."  I shrugged and we went.

I remember thinking at the time of nothing but the fact that I wanted to "get it over with," so I could be equal with Andy and shed the goody-goody image I believed I had.  I thought that the reason I'd been umpopular and had trouble with friends was that I was a prude, and this was what everyone else was doing.  I had just turned 14 in July, 3 months prior.  I was still a child, but I thought I was all grown up.  I see now as an adult just how clueless I was to what I was doing, and the gravity that decision would have on my life.

It was painful.  I remember a few tears running down my face, mentally just telling myself it would be over soon.  Afterward, we got out of the car, and Andy was laughing, as always, and told me that she had watched the whole thing from outside the car, until the windows fogged up.  The boy drove us to the liquor store across the street and bought us a pack of gum, then drove us back to the church.  We went in late to the service and I went to the bathroom to clean up, stuffing a pad into my panties because I was bleeding.

My mom picked me up and I went home, acting like nothing special had happened, and wrote about the whole thing in my journal that night.

The weeks that followed, I began feeling overly energetic, waking after sleeping only 2 or 3 hours and feeling compelled to get on my computer and type long stories or scribble 100s of pages in my journal.  I would get up really early in the morning, dress and leave for school, stopping along the way at the park, or getting to campus early and working ahead in my books until class started at 7.

I remember one night feeling hyper and unable to sleep on a Friday night.  I found some sample sized bottles of prescription cough syrup left over from a bad cold I'd had earlier that year, and drinking two or 3 bottles in an attempt to get drunk.  I danced around my room in circles until finally passing out on the floor.  I woke in the morning, still feeling drunk but also bursting with energy.  Not wanting my mom to notice my dilated pupils, I left the house quickly and took off riding on my bike.  I had seemingly limitless energy, and rode 15 or 20 miles to Newport Beach.  Once there, I remember finding an older boy who lived on the peninsula and talking him into buying me wine coolers.  I hung out at his beach house drinking until late afternoon, then rode my bike home.

The next Friday night, I left on my bike to go to a school football game. I told my parents I was meeting friends, but really went alone.  Once at the game, I stood around smoking cigarettes and trying to find something fun to do.  I ran into a boy who lived in my neighborhood and was in my history class at school.  He invited me to a party at his house, where his parents were away.  I called my parents, who were at a movie, and left a message saying that I was staying at Karen's house, and would call them in the morning.

I went to the boy's house, where we drank and listened to music.  I met a boy who I thought was really attractive and seemed like a "bad boy," and we soon ended up in my friend Kevin's bedroom.  After having sex for the second time, I fell asleep laying next to him. The next morning I awoke very early, left and rode my bike the 2 blocks home.  I thought I would sneak in quietly before my parents woke up, but when I opened the front door, I found them sitting at the kitchen table looking like someone had died.

"Where have you been?"  They demanded.  "At Karen's. I told you," I said.  "We talked to Karen's mom, and you were not there, and Karen did not see you all night."  So I tried another lie: "Ok, I was at Andy's.  I was afraid you'd be mad."  But, "We called her, too. Andy didn't go to the football game and didn't see you all night."  So then I came clean and told them I had gone to Kevin's house right down the street, that it was no big deal, we just hung out and watched movies.  They didn't buy that either, and told me that they had called the police and they were out looking for me.  It was scary and awful and I knew I was in deep trouble.  The worst part was my mom crying and saying that she was so disappointed in me, and had no idea what had happened to her "sweet little girl."  Sadly, I had no idea what had happened to her, either.

They proceeded to tell me that they had read my diary, and I was horrified and humiliated.  I had decribed in graphic detail all of my recent sexual escapades.  I asked how dare they violate my privacy, and they said that they had no idea where I was and had been looking for clues to find me.

My parents grounded me and took me that week to see a Christian counselor.  Not a psychiatrist, just a regular therapist.  She told me parents after meeting with me that she suspected I was on drugs, likely meth amphetamine.  I was horrified and indignant when asked about this, as I had never so much thought about doing drugs in my life.

I was grounded and not allowed to leave the house, but that didn't stop me from desperately wanting to see my new "boyfriend," Jonathan.  I asked my parents if he could come to church with us, and they agreed.  He showed up in a leather jacket and jeans for church, smelling of cigarettes.  I know my parents were horrified, but they took him with us.  Halfway through Sunday School, we stuck out to a baseball field behind the church and hooked up in the dugout.  Feeling no remorse but rather a strange sense of satisfaction at having done something so bad, I walked back into church and bragged to one of my friends about it.

The following week, I went out at snack break to the unofficial "smoking section" at school.  It was a spot just off-campus behind the pool, where the smokers would hang out to get their fix.  These were all the types of kids I had avoided my whole life.  Shannon was there, along with her crew. 

After lighting up a cigarette, an older girl approached me and accused me of hitting on her boyfriend, claiming she'd seen me giving him a back rub at Lampost Pizza.  I had no idea what she was talking about, and told her I had my own boyfriend.  She told me I had to the count of 5 to leave or she was going to kick my ass.  I stood there staring at her defiantly and refused, while she counted to five on her fingers.  Then she punched me in the face.  I hit back, and soon a bigger, tougher girl jumped in, pinned me against a fence, and punched me repeatedly in the face.  When the bell rang to go back to class, I was sobbing and hurting.  Not knowing what else to do, I went to my next class, which was concert choir. 

The girls all gathered around me, half of them having heard about the fight already.  Not long passed before a messenger brought a slip to the class ordering me to the principal's office.  I was told that the other girl looked at least as bad as me, so it was therefore considered mutual combat, and we were all 3 suspended. My dad came to pick me up, and took me again to see the counselor. 

That night, my mom, in tears, told me I was never going back to that school.  Once again, she tried to rescue me by letting me run away from my problems. I waited out the suspension and ugly black eye for about a week, then started school at Woodbridge High School.  Little did my mom know that the football player I had messed around with that fateful day with Andy, and also one of my best friends from my summer job, Shara, both went to Woodbridge.  Also, cross town gossip travels fast, and plenty of people at that school had heard about my fight at Irvine.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Back in the Desert Again

Palm Desert Part II

We are back for more family fun in the Desert.  Originally, Mark and I planned to have a weekend away from the kids for some much-needed R&R, but then we booked our November trip to the Caribbean, without kids, and felt guilty.  So we brought them along this weekend, something I quickly second-guessed when we checked into our villa and they proceeded to immediately start running amok, tearing the place up. 
I very much want to go to the pool and get them out of here.  More later.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

God Is Good, All The Time

As I mentioned, January was a roller coaster of a month for me and my family.  I feel like I have grown so much in my faith and trust in God in such a short amount of time.  I want to share with you what has been going on, and how it has helped me to trust in my Heavenly Father in deeper and more profound ways.

I started to take my job search more seriously starting in the New Year.  My unemployment was running out, and it was just time.  Searching online, I found out that AAA (Automobile Club of Southern California) was hiring Sales Agent Trainees.  When I looked into it further, I found that in addition to being a reputable company, whom I personally use for my Auto Insurance and Motor Club/ Roadside Assistance, they offer paid training and insurance licensing, and the best benefits package of any company I have ever seen (Medical, Dental, 401k, Pension after 5 years, Life Insurance, and Travel Discounts.)  They also have amazing incentives for their sales people, such a trips to Hawaii, weekends at the St. Regis and Ritz Carlton, etc.  

The first step in applying was to attend an "Information Session" held at their Costa Mesa office.  It was on a Wednesday evening at 6:00.  I showed up and said a prayer that if this was where God wanted me, He would open the doors, and if not, that he would close them.  There were about 30 people in attendance, and the night consisted of the Regional Director giving us an overview of the company, the position, the training, the pay, the benefits.  Then he proceeded to have a question and answer time.

Having been in a few of these type of interviews before, I realized that it was just that- an interview.  A lot of the other people did not seem to realize this, and when he went around the room and asked us to introduce ourselves and ask our questions, a couple of them said "I don't really have any questions, I think you covered everything."  Big mistake.  I asked more questions than anyone, and they were pointed in that they showed my knowledge of the sales field, my strength as a sales person, and made me sound desirable.  To me, this seems like a no-brainer, but really, there were only about 3 or 4 people in my group who seemed to have any clue.

At the end of the session, he asked us to come up and hand him our resumes.  I glanced around at some of the other resumes, and I can tell you that mine was not the most impressive, by any means.  The ones I saw had much longer job histories, higher education, and mostly just looked more professional than mineYet I heard Jose, the recruiter/ Regional Manager who had conducted the session, say, "Thanks for coming," "Thanks for coming," to about 8 people before I walked up to hand him my resume, at which time he paused, and took the time to glance over mine before adding it to the pile.

He asked me a few questions about my current postion with Synergy, then handed me his card and asked me to give him a call the next day.  I left that evening feeling confident and excited.  Excited because the position sounded like a very rewarding one with a company that has a great reputation, and confident because I knew that Jose had liked me, and felt this was a career that I could really excell at.

The next day I called Jose as instructed, and he told me what I'd already figured out, that the "information session" was really a first interview, and a way for them to weed through the heavy number of applicants they receive to see who may actually be a potential match for them.  He said that he was impressed by the questions that I asked, and could tell from what I asked that I knew what I was doing as far as sales goes, and if I was truly as good as I seemed, I could have a long a very prosperous career ahead of me with AAA.

He scheduled me for the next step, which was a telephone interview with someone in their H.R. Department.  This was a very dry interview, in which she typed down my answers to all her questions.  She made me a little nervous, but I tried to remember the easy confidence I had felt with Jose, and got through it.  Apparently, I passed, and they scheduled me to come in for an "Assesment."  They told me this would be 2-3 hour test of my skills and aptitudes, and that I should come rested and having eaten first.  They also said I could bring a calculator.

I spent a couple days wondering what would be on the test, and hoping it was not any high-level math.  I only got as far as Statistics in college, and I have always struggled with math beyond basic addition, subtraction, and mutiplication.  Algebra and Geometry were not my friends.  Turns out I had worried needlessly.  The test consisted of very basic, common-sense word problems, such as: "If Joe is training for a marathon, and the first day he runs a mile in 4 minutes, and improves his time each week by 4%, after 6 weeks, how long does it take him to run a mile?" With multiple choice answers.

The other part of the test was similar to the language part of the SATs, as in "_____________ is to love, aggressive is to _______________" a. apathy, sympathetic  b.hate, passive c. dog, cat  d. fear, stalker  (I just made that up, so forgive me if the choices seem bizarre.  The real questions were actually much easier than that one.)  I breezed through that section without a thought, as vocabulary is certainly my forte.

The other parts of the testing were more about personality, work ethic, and job skills.  I have taken a bunch of these throughout my years of working, and always score very high on sales aptitude.  Much as I have tried to fight it at times, it seems to be my calling in life.  God created me naturally chatty and interested in people, as well as somewhat persuasive.  That, and a good communicator.  Which is why I still hold out hope that someday I will write a novel.  For now, I have this blog and my loyal 9 followers.  Love you guys!

After passing the Assesment, I was scheduled for yet another interview, that Friday.  They told me that I would be in a group interview with 9 other people, and to be prepared to spend about 3 hours there.  At this point, I was excited, and felt like, "bring it."  I know that I excell in group interviews, and interviews in general.  If there was such a thing as a career of acing interviews, THAT would be my calling.  I am not as great at actually keeping jobs, but I hope that will soon prove to have changed.

The Friday of the group interview, I showed up at the Costa Mesa AAA office at 9 am along with the other 9 candidates, and they sat us in a room and explained that the interview was 3 parts- we would introduce ourselves to the group and tell about ourselves and our backgrounds, then be given a packet containing information about a product that we would have to sell to one of the managers on a pretend sales call.  We were given 20 minutes to prepare, then were taken one by one with one f the managers to have our role-play sales call.

I found this task fairly easy, as it what I do in my job on a day-to-day basis.  The manager who played my sales prospect was tough on me, and threw out some good objections, but I handled them well, and was able to achieve the objectives they'd set for me in the packet.  I was feeling confident and happy as I walked back to the group room.

Then, I did something stupid.  I checked my cell phone.  There were messages from both my dad and Mark, and, worrying that something was wrong with one of my kids, I called my voicemail.  The first message was from my dad and said "Hi Melissa, I guess you are still in your interview, call me as soon as you have a chance, something has happened and I need to talk to you."  Uh-oh.  But he didn't sound very upset, and I figured if it was an emergency with one of the kids, he would have said so.  Then the phone rang as I was holding it, and it was Mark.  I hit ignore, because I couldn't be unprofessional and take a call while we were still in the interview process, but I did discretely call my voicemail again once he'd left a message.

This is what Mark's message said: "Melissa, hey, I just got a call from your dad, apparently there's been a death in the family, I didn't catch the name, a family friend maybe?  Oh my gosh, wait, Dennis?  Did he say Dennis?  Oh my gosh.  So your dad is bringing Makena here to my place, I will have the kids here, call me when you're done with your intervew."

WHAT?!!!  Dennis is a beloved uncle of mine, who has been battling cancer.  Battling cancer, but winning.  The last I'd heard just days before, he'd had a great check-up and had finished chemo and was out of the woods for now.  I excused myself and went to the restroom, fighting back tears, and silently praying for my aunt, and cousins.  I am very close with all of them.  They live close by and we have spent all holidays and special occasions together my entire life.  Dennis is particaularly close to my heart, because he was a special encourager and champion to me when I was going through my fat and awkward adolescent years, being tormented by Junior High bullies.

After a few minutes of praying in the bathroom and dabbing at my face with water, trying hard not to run my mascara, I walked back out and was met by one of the managers, asking if I was ready to go in for my one-on one interview. I told him straight out, "I just learned that a close member of my family died suddenly. I just wanted to let you know in case I seem upset." He did a double take, told me he was so sorry, and asked if I needed to leave. I thought about this a moment. At the beginning of the day, they had told us all that they would likely make a decision and hire some of us by the end of the interviews. I had been there for nearly 3 hours already, and I thought, I need to just get this over with, and then I can go deal with what is going on. I took a deep breath, and told him, "I am just going to put this out of my mind the best I can, and wait to think about this until after this is over, and then I can process it."

So we went into the one on one interview, and having said a prayer for strength and the ability to do what I had resolved- push everything out of my conciousness except what we were talking about- I answered all of his questions and was able to give a good interview. After that I was taken back to holding room where the other candidates were, and they told us they would go meet and discuss us and come to some decisions.

I am very grateful for the other people in that room, virtual strangers though they were. The girl who had been sitting next to me on and off throughout the morning was extremely kind and comforting, reassuring me that God had a purpose for everything that was happening, and would look after everyone involved. My first thought when I had heard that it was Dennis, other than complete shock and disbelief, was Oh, Lord, how are Auntie Kathy and Skyler going to deal with this? Both of them have been through so much in life, and deserve the love that this man had brought to their lives.

Soon the managers returned, and began calling people out one by one to speak with them. Sadly, we were able to hear them tell the people who had been there interviewing with us all day, "Thank you so much for being here. We have decided to move forward with other candidates at this time. Feel free to look into other opportunities the Auto Club may offer for you in other departments. Best of luck." (Or something to that effect). Finally it was down to just three of us sittng there in the room where there had been ten.

All six managers who had been conducting the intervews came into the room together. They smiled and told us that they were pleased to tell us that they had just received approval to hire all three of us. They told us that they believed after the extensive interviewing and testing that the three of us would be very successful and great additions to the AAA team, and that we had exciing careers ahead of us. They said a bunch of other stuff, but that was the essence of it. All of us were hired, pending a background check and drug test, for which H.R. would be contacting us the following Monday with intructions on how to complete.

I left and went out to my car, now ready to deal with the sadness and shock of the news I had received. I called my dad, and got another huge shock- It was not Dennis who had passed away. It was my Grandma, my mom's mom. Grandma Santos. Dennis was alive and well.

Again, WHAT?! I had so many compex emotions running through me that it was hard to even deal with them. For over an hour, I had believed that my favorite uncle was dead. Now it was like he was resurrected from the dead. But wait, Grandma is gone. Wow, way too much for one day. Now, my concern shifted to my mom, who I knew would be shocked and devastated to lose her mother so suddenly. My Grandma was 82, and had been ailing for some time, but there was nothing acutely wrong with her.

I learned that she had died peacefully in her sleep, and had been discovered by Glen, her long-time companion, when she did not wake at her usual time, and he went in to find her lying in her bed, not breathing but looking peaceful.

Now, the next week was obviously emotional, most of all for my mom. My mom lives with me and is the closest person to me in the world. I hate to see her in pain. Also, it took a few days fo it to sink in that I would never again see or talk to my Grandma. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to go to her house and visit her a couple times last summer with Tristan. She has become increasingly eccentric the past few years, and a recluse who very seldom left the house. Still, we were able to sit and laugh over pictures of the kids and she was always concerned with my life and always told me that she loved me.

I spent the next week interviewing potential child care providers for Tristan.  This was an extremely emotional experience!  The first one I went to see, in response to an ad on Craigslist, was a stay-at-home Mom with 2 kids who wanted to baby-sit one more to earn extra money.  As soon as I walked into her home in Laguna Niguel, I saw her kids plopped in front of a big screen T.V. and toys all over the floor.  The mom was about 25 years old.  She immediately started chatting me up like I was her friend from college, appologizing for the mess and saying that her sister was staying with them, and had been messing the place up and coming home late at night drunk.  Fabulous!  Then she went on to tell me how she had been arrested for not paying a traffic ticket, and spent the weekend in county jail.  Now, I'm not going to judge her life, as I have had my own share of troubles, but do I want this woman caring for my son?  Hell no!

The next place I visited was Kinder Care.  It was nice, and they had a clean, organized place with all the toys kids could want, plus structured days that included educational activities that were geared toward the child's age.  Even so, I broke down crying as I pictured leaving Tristan there.  Then, I asked the girl giving me the tour how much it would cost to leave him there 3 days per week.  $251 a week!!!  That's over $1,000 a month, for part time!!  Wow.  I could not see spending 1/3 of my salary for childcare.

So, I kept looking through the penny saver and craigslist for potential home daycare providers that would cost less.  I visited 2 more home daycares.  The first was pretty nice.  The children seemed happy, and the lady seemed loving.  Her house was well set-up for them, resembling a pre-school, and she also had a back yard, so they could play outside.  She seemed hesitant about Tristan, because he was pushing the other little boy his age, trying to take his toy, and also I had told her how I was worried about Tristan adjusting because of how attached he has been.  It seemed like she had the 4 kids she watched all on the same schedule, and didn't want anyone coming in messing it up.  I can understand that, I guess.  She also handed me a packet with her "contract," which stated that she took all major holidays of, kids must be picked up by 5:30 daily so that she could tend to her own kids, and that she took 2 weeks paid vacation off each year.  Paid by me.  So, I had to find alternate childcare for those 2 weeks, but still pay her as well.

The second one I visited had sounded really promising when I spoke to the woman on the phone.  She lived in Laguna Niguel, right by Makena's school, so it would have been very convienient for dropping him off.  I could tell from her accent that she was Indian, and she reminded me of the kind women at Dana Point Montessori who had cared for Makena when I she was 2 and I first had to leave her to return to work full time.  Makena was very happy and well cared-for there.  So I thought it was a good sign. 

I knocked on her door, and when I walked into this woman's house, it looked like a gaudy museum.  It was spotless, with breakable things everywhere.  She led me into a small room where the kids were, and she had set up a pre-school like setting, with toys, high chairs, and pack n plays for the kids to sleep in.  The entire room was about 6' x 8'.  And after being there ar few minutes, it became obvious to me that she kept them confined in that one room, all day.  She was very bossy, and started telling me how I should be parenting Tristan, and told me that it was difficult to put him in childcare at this age, that I should have done it at 6 weeks, like her other children that she watched.  Then, apparently, she would have had him "trained" like the others.  

After having me hide in the bathroom for a few minutes so that she could observe Tristan, she told me that she was sorry, this wasn't going to work.  She said Tristan was extremely agressive and didn't listen.  I left her house and drive down the street to the park and cried.  I was so upset that this horrible woman was criticizing me and my child, and at a time when I was so emotional already about having to leave him in childcare in the first place.  She was awful!!  I wouldn't have left Tristan there anyway, but to be told that she wouldn't accept him, it really upset me.

I called Mark crying and telling him that I thought we were going to have to just suck it up and pay for Kinder Care, because there was no way I was going to leave him with any of those other people.  Then Mark berated me, saying that I would pick the most expensive place, and of course I was trying to screw him, like always.  The nerve!!  I can't even comment on how ridiculous that statement is.  I was so upset, I felt completely unglued. My mom, usually my biggest supporter and the one I go to with my problems, was on a cruise, and besides that, had just lost her own mom.  I couldn't go running to her with all my drama. 
 That Friday, a week after learning that I had gotten the job with AAA, and lost my Grandma, I opened my email and saw a copy of the background check report that had been conducted by a company called Hire Right on AAA's behalf. I had requested a copy of the resport, as I always do whenever someone runs my credit or such. I like to make sure all the information is correct. So I am scanning through the report, everything looks good. My last two employers had confirmed my employment dates and apparently given a positive reference. Education was confirmed.

Then I came to Criminal Records, and under Los Angeles County, it said "Court Record Found, Warrant Active," and listed something from 1999. WHAT?! I had a WARRANT for my ARREST. Once again, shock and disbelief. I immediately got on the phone, trying to find out what on earth this was about. I didn't have much luck with the courts, I kept getting told to call other numbers and being put on long holds. I called the contact person at AAA, and told her that I was sure there must be a mistake, and was looking into it and would get it resolved. She was very nice about it, and told me how to initiate a dispute with Hire Right, and emailed me a copy of my rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

That weekend was awful. I went through a period of not knowing what to do, then called an attorney I found online who said that he could help me get the whole matter dismissed without even having to appear in court, for a fee of $2,500. Now keep in mind I have been unemployed for a couple months now, and before that only marginally employed. I don't have $2,500 sitting around. But I also can't take the chance of being arrested and taken to jail, when I have 2 young children at home depending on me! The whole thing was scary and horrible.

Saturday night I called my best friend, crying and kind of hysterical. I was upset because not only was I overwhelmed from dealing with all the events of the past week, but also could not turn to the person I usually turned to for support, my mom, because she was grieving and a mess herself. I had decided that it would be worth whatever cost it took to get this matter cleared up, and quickly. I had been given the impression by AAA that if I was able to show the matter resolved quickly, I could still have the job. So, with the income potential of the job, $2,500 was not much in the grand scheme of things. I would earn more than that in my first month on the job. However, the only way to access that money now would be to borrow it from my parents. And they thought it was a waste of money, that I could go to the court and request a public defender who would do the same job for free.

The friend that I talked to agreed that this was a serious matter, and that I should do whatever neccesary to resolve it as quickly as possible. We also agreed that it was too risky to simply turn myself in to the court in Los Angeles, as there was a chance, however small, that I could actually be taken into custody on the spot, and would then have to hire an attorney AND post bail. In the meantime which I could be separated from my children and lose the job offer. No way was I willing to risk any of that, even if people were telling me that there was a 99% chance that would not happen, due to the insignificant nature of the charge, and the fact that it was from 12 years ago.

Then my friend told me to hold on, that she was actually over at her neighbor's house, who happened to be an attorney, and she would ask her opinion of the matter. I ended up getting on the phone with her, and after explaining the situation, she offered to go to court for me and clear up everything, and said she would only charge me $1,000.

Now, I have to say here that this whole thing brought up a lot of old, difficult memories for me, things that I thought had been long since dealt with, forgiven, and were no longer a part of my life, and certainly not a part of who I am as a person. 1999 was a very tough year for me. A dark night of the soul, shall we say. I can see now, looking back, that everything that has happened in my life led to the most important event of it- my coming to know I have a loving Heavenly Father who wants to know me and forgive me and heal all the brokeness in my life. But I travelled a hard road to get there. And it is painful to remember the person I was back then. I was selfish, reckless, and immoral. Christ has changed my life completely over the past 10 years, and I know that I am not that person anymore. "The old life, has passed, a new life has come." But the enemy loves to remind us of the past, and I was flooded with horrible memories and guilt and shame that Saturday night.The next morning I went to church with the kids, and the sermon was one of those that seemed directly addressed to me. The topic was "Don't worry about anything, instead pray about everything." I could not have been more poignant. Here is a link to that sermon. If you are facing worry or anxiety about anything right now, I highly recommend listening to this message: http://www.saddleback.com/mc/m/7926. With a renewed faith and sense of hope, I was able to go home and put all my cares about this situation in God's hands, and let go.

Teresa, Jenn's attorney friend, ended up doing an amazing job for me. She appeared in court for me on Wednesday, and was able to get the warrant removed and the entire case dismissed. When I heard the news I praised God and was struck once again by the wonder of how God is in charge and working for my good at all times. In the midst of dealing with all this, I learned that my Grandma had left me an inheritance.  It is enough to pay off my Visa (which has been a source of stress and contention for the past 6 months), pay the lawyer, and still have some left over to save.  She also left my kids each a trust for college. 

As for the childcare, I ended up finding a really cool mom of a 2-year-old boy who works from home and has a full-time nanny.  She wanted one more boy for her son to have a playmate, and also for her nanny to make some extra money so that she is happy.  So I am paying $40/day for 4 days a week, or $160/ week.  Much better than $251/week!!  And she has a big, comfortable home in Aliso Viejo with a big backyard. Tristan is getting plenty of one-on-one attention, and they are sympthetic to his difficulties with me leaving.  More on how that's going in a future post.

So, you can see, God really had ALL of this in His hands.  He knew the timing of all of it, and what I would need to handle it.  It really is amazing to me the way He caused everything "to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose."  I serve an Amazing God!!

I started my job at AAA on Wednesday, after finally getting the all clear from the background company.  I was pleasantly surprised on my first day to find Kiesha, the sweet girl from the interview who had comforted me when I found out about Dennis/ Grandma.  I thought she had been one of the ones who had not made it through the interview process.  But she had gotten hired after all, and in the 3 days since we started our job, we have become good buds.  They ended up sending us to the Long Beach training center, instead of Costa Mesa as we had been told, which doubled my commute time.  I have been picking Kiesha up in Costa Mesa in the mornings to carpool with me.  That way, I can take to toll road to Costa Mesa, then drive the carpool lane the rest of the way to Long Beach, thus avoiding most traffic.  It still takes an hour each way, but it's nice to have her to talk to anyway.  She cracks me up.

I will keep you posted on the training and licensing.  I know that God has put me there, so he will see me through the rest of it. 

May God bless you all!  You CAN trust Him to provide for all your needs, and "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything."  Here's a paraphrase of Phillipians from the Message that says it well:

Phillipians 6-7

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Toddler Gymnastics

This morning Tristan and I tried our first Mommy and Me Gymnastics class.  He was SO excited to go in, after waiting 30 min before-hand watching his cousin Addi's class.  However, once we got inside the gym, he had his own agenda and did not want to do what the coach and the other kids were doing.  

The coach said, run around in a circle, but no, Tristan saw a box of balls and that was what he wanted.  I kept trying to lead him around the circle, but he kept running over to the balls screaming "I want balls! Miiiiiiiiiiiine!"  (Mine is his new favorite word, for absolutely everything in the world, no matter who it belongs to.  If Tristan wants it, it's "Miiiiiine!")  

After the running in circles, they had an obstacle course, where the kids were supposed to crawl through a tunnel and do somersaults on a padded ramp.  We got him to do the somersault by manually turning him over, but he wasn't having the tunnel (even though he usually likes those.)  The theme with Tristan seems to be, he wants to do what HE wants to do, not what anyone else suggests.

Thankfully, the class was only 30 minutes.  He did enjoy the last part, which was jumping into this pit of foam cubes.  I got in there with him, and that was fun.  That is one of my absolute favorite memories of childhood, swimming around in those ball pits that they used to have at McDonald's and Chuck E Cheese.  What ever happened to those?  Did they decide they were too germ infested?  Did evildoers put too many needles in there to hurt children?  I don't know.  But I would totally be down for jumping around in one of those any day.

So, I think maybe Tristan is a bit too immature for gymnastics just yet.  There was another boy who was his same age, 20 mos, in the class who seemed to go along with the program just fine, so I assume it must just be a Tristan thing.  Which is fine, because we can go play at the park for free, and he can run around doing his own thing and having as short of an attention span as he pleases.

Thank you, National Gymnastics in Aliso Viejo for letting us try your class for free.  Maybe in a few months Tristan will feel like participating.  For now, I'm down with the beach and the park.  Here are some pictures of T and his buddy Brayden playing it up at Baby Beach in Dana Point Harbor yesterday.  All in all, much more fun!


Back on the blog...

All right, so it's been about 6 months since I've written a blog entry.  The reason I stopped writing was that everything I'd been writing about (getting back together with Mark, getting married) fell apart AGAIN, and I felt really stupid about it for several months.  I just did not even feel like explaining why once again I had fallen for the same thing, and expected different results.

That being said, it's time to move on and fill you in on what is going on in my life now.


January was an eventful month.  I feel that I have learned more and grown more in my relationship with God in a few short weeks than I have in a couple years.  It was stressful and emotional, but I am starting to feel glad for the "refining fire."

Starting with the new year (and new decade, for that matter), I decided it was time to get down to business with some things I have been putting off.  Namely, losing the final 15 lbs of baby weight before Tristan turns two (come on, after that point I can hardly call it baby weight, I would just be overweight, period.; getting a new job where I'm actually earning a living capable of supporting myself and my kids; getting us a home of our own; and starting to date again.

I tackled the weight issue first by re-joining Weight Watchers Online.  I have been disappointed and frustrated that WW has changed their Points System (which was easy to follow and worked quite well for me and everyone else I know who has done it) to this new PointsPlus system, which is much more complicated and harder to use.  I already knew the Points values of so many things that I like to eat, so starting over with new Points values for everything was really annoying.  

None the less, I lost 6 lbs my first week on the program, and 2 a week for the next 3 weeks, totaling 11 lbs lost in the month of January.  Then I had a week where I got off track, ate out several times, and stopped tracking my points.  2 lbs came back (or maybe it was water weight I had never truly lost to begin with, who knows).  So this week, I decided to do a shake and cleanse to get back on track.

One thing that frustrates me is that despite losing 11 lbs., my stomach looks exactly the same, and my jeans fit exactly the same.  (Think big ole muffin top hanging over top, or maybe a 4-5 mos along pregnant belly- that's what mine looks like).  So maybe cleansing will clear out my colon and start getting rid of that loathsome trouble area.

What I'm doing is a combination of a cleanse I did a few years ago, that came from my sister's chiropractor, and Isagenix.  The original chiropractor cleanse consisted of 3 protein shakes a day, mixed with whatever fruit you wanted to put in them, and all the vegetables you wanted to eat.  Plus a tablespoon of flax seed oil a day, and green tea or water only to drink.  And a bunch of supplements.  When I did this cleanse a couple years ago for 2 weeks, I lost about 13 or 15 lbs in 2 weeks and felt really healthy and great.

This time I am using Isagenix IsaLean shakes for the protein shakes, so I have the added benefit of all the nutrients and enzymes packed into that system.  Yesterday morning I started my day with a smoothie consisting of frozen strawberries, cherries, blackberries, and spinach,a banana, and 2 scoops of IsaLean Vanilla powder, with a little ice thrown in.  I also gave it to the kids, and they both enjoyed it.  For you parents out there who struggle with getting veggies into your kids, I highly recommend this trick- blend up spinach and brocolli and carrots and flax seed oil and avocado into fruit smoothies- they will never know about the vegetables hiding in there, and they love it.  Especially if you put a fun straw in the glass.

After my morning smoothie, I also took my Isagenix Women's multi, CoQ10, Accelerator, and Antioxidants.  At night I take the IsaFlush.  Then I went and met my friend Julie at the gym for 24Cycle (aka Spin).  I haven't done that class in a year or so, and it kicked my butt in a great way!  The most exciting thing was that I actually got to stay in the class for the full hour, without getting paged to Kids' Club.  Tristan has finally broken through!!  For those of you who know what I have gone through with Tristan at the church nursery, MOPS, etc, you know what a GIGANTIC breakthrough this is!  Hallelujah!!!

I did cheat on my cleanse by getting a coffee at Starbucks after the gym.  I have been having hard nights with Tristan waking up multiple times like a newborn this past week, and I needed the caffeine.  But caffeine is one of the things I am supposed to be detoxing from by cleansing, so I am going to try to skip it today.  I remember that being the hardest part of this cleanse the last time I did it- giving up my morning cup of Joe.  So hard!!  I can drink Green Tea, but let's face it friends- there is so little caffeine in green tea that there may as well be none.  I can drink 2 liters of green tea and feel no more awake.

For lunch yesterday, I made another shake, this time with just a banana.  I was feeling great and not hungry at all until about 4:00.  Then I got super hungry.  So I went to Trader Joe's and got a Southwest Salad with lowfat dressing.  I took the cheese off, and used the dressing sparingly.  Again, dressing is not supposed to be allowed as part of my cleanse, but I was in a hurry and darn it, I was hungry.  I usually substitute salsa for dressing, which I enjoy just fine, but there wasn't any available at that point.

For dinner I had a vegetable soup that I had slow cooked in the crock pot all day, with an assortment of carrots and squash and peppers and garlic and tomatoes.  I threw on some Tapatio and it was a satisfying meal.  Around 9 I got my nightly craving for something, so I went down and had my 3rd smoothie of the day, this one with just fruit.

Day 2, here I come...

In my next entry I will tell you about tackling goal #2 for the new year: New Job.  Have a blessed day!Isagenix- Total Body Cleansing

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You Asked For It- The Re-Engagement Story

Inquiring minds want to know...

So, as most of you know, Mark and I have had a long, dramatic, and convoluted love story.  We started dating nearly 5 years ago, in January of 2006, when Makena was not quite 2.  We broke up that summer, got back together around Halloween, broke up again in January, got back together in June, broke up again in November...then got back together the following Spring and got engaged.  That was 2 years ago, June.  That summer we took a camping trip to the Sierras, forgot something important, and a month later found out I was pregnant with Tristan.

Now, let me stop there and say that, having gone through RockHarbor's premarital class, we knew that being engaged was not the same as being married, and didn't justify being intimate sexually.  But we somehow convinced ourselves otherwise, and used being engaged to justify it.  We learned the hard way real fast when the reality of being pregnant when we weren't yet married or even truly prepared to BE married hit us.  Things were AWFUL.  I was exhausted during my first trimester, wanting nothing more than to sleep all the time, and meanwhile was working at Starbucks, opening the store at 5am and doing physical labor (think taking out garbabge, mopping floors, cleaning bathrooms.)  Then I would come home to a man who wanted to fight about money all night because he was so stressed and worried about not having enough with a baby on the way.

By December, I was too overwrought to deal with it anymore, and was worried about the effect all that stress was having on my unborn child, so I left both Mark and Starbucks.  I moved back home with my parents (where most of my stuff still was anyway- I had only been staying at Mark's about 6 weeks.)  I prayed non-stop that God would help me find a decent job that would allow me to support my kids, which sweemed impossible being 4 mos pregnant.  Who would want to hire someone who was going to leave to have a baby in 4 or 5 mos time?  But I just prayed and sent out resumes. 

I got hired at Synergy after two back-to-back interviews in one Friday, and they had me start Monday.  This is a really neat example of how God provides, because Synergy has been so good to me.  I got in there and started working really hard, hoping to prove myself before they realized I was pregnant.  In my 3rd month there, I exceeded my quota by 400% and was given a little award to sit on my desk.  I also was making enough money to support us should we have to get our own apartment.  I was extremely grateful to the Lord for taking care of me, Makena and Tristan-to-be in hard times.

Synergy agreed to let me work from home for the last month of my pregnancy and after I had the baby, and I have been doing that ever since.  I now go into the office occasionally, but mostly work from home.

Back to Mark and I, though.  We have struggled a LOT, needless to say. For a few months after Tristan was born, I couldn't even talk to him, and had my dad bring Tristan to Mark for visits.  Gradually, over the course of the past year, we have gotten to a place where we could communicate again, and then be friends.  I was absolutely positive that I never wanted to get back together with him, though.  I had prayed and asked God that if he wanted me to be with him, then make possible the changes in him or I, or both of us, for that to be possible.  As far as I could see it, nothing had changed.  The biggest issues I had with Mark- the fact that he doesn't make nearly enough money to support a family, and refused to do anything differently to change that; the fact that he drinks and smokes with his buddies when they come over; his stubborness and unwillingness to listen to anyone other than himself.  None of this seemed to have changed. 

I did see that Mark loved Tristan and was being a good dad to him.  I know that he loves Tristan a lot.  In June, after Makena got out of school, my parents took her on a trip with them to Lake Tahoe for 10 days.  I was feeling ready for a little vacation of my own.  Mark was over one morning to pick up Tristan, and we got online and checked out Marriott rates, and decided to take advantage of the $69/nt villa we could get with my mom's discount.  We had a great time out there, and Mark and I got along surprisingly well.  We talked about our relationship for the first time in a long time, and were able to communicate without yelling at each other, which was also huge for us.

He told me that he wanted to marry me and have our family together, and I was very clear that I needed time to see if things had really changed and could work.  We both agree that we do not want to get divorced, so we want to marry once and for life.  We also don't want to be miserable.  Mark asked me if I would give things a chance and asked that I not see anyone else in the meantime.  I had just started dating someone, the first date I had been on since we had broken up, so his timing was either really good or really bad.  I now would say it was perfect timing.

When we came back from the desert we got into the inevitable "script"- the fight we always have.  It's the one where I say that I won't be with a smoker, and that he has "quit" 100s of times since I've known him, and never really quit, so if he is serious about quitting, he needs to be willing to do something different.  I suggest a 12-step group like the one they offer at church, Refuge.  He responds with anger and defensiveness, says I need to trust him and that he's "got this," that he has the motivation of wanting to be with me to keep him smoke-free.  I point out that he has to want it himself and do the work himself, otherwise every time he gets mad or frustrated with me, he will use that as an excuse to smoke (as he has so many times in the past.)  We go round and round and it ends with him saying "Nothing's changed, forget it."  To which I said "yep, you're right, forget it."

I called up my good friend Michelle, who I met in a small group a few years ago, and whose spiritual judgment and relationship with Christ I trust.  I cried to her that I was so mad, that I couldn't believe that I'd let him get under my skin again, that I couldn't believe I'd actually thought that things could ever work with him.  I told her about the smoking, and how much I HATE it, and how I'd given him an ultimatum that he had to quit for an entire year before I would marry him.  And that as a result he said that I was controlling and demanding, and didn't accept him for who he is.

Michelle, bless her, calmly told me that I really needed to pray and ask God if this is the man that He wants me to be with.  And if so, then Mark was right, I DO need to accept him for who he is, flaws and addictions and all, and not give him ultimatums.  She reminded me that love doesn't make demands.  She said that instead of me trying to control Mark, I needed to trust God to meet all of my needs, and trust that He would change the things about Mark that need to be changed, in His timing.  Wow.  Michelle is so wise!

So I did what she said.  I began earnestly praying and asking God if Mark is the man He wants me to marry.  I'v spend time in the Word seeking His answers.  I've prayed that God will help Mark to quit smoking, and show him that he needs to provide for his family financially, and give him the means to do so.

So it's been about 2 months since then, and we have been getting along well, for the most part.  I did get really mad at Mark one night when we started talking about a business plan I am starting, and he was unsupportive and started acting what I felt was anal and ridiculous about money.  I said that's it, I'm done, I don't want to be miserable.  The next day, I called up the guy I'd been dating before, and asked him to go out for drinks that night.  Interestingly, I found out later that Mark also called the girl he'd dated during one of our breaks and hung out with her that Saturday night.

The next day, however, we calmed down, went to church, and talked calmly about why we were frustrated with each other.  I felt unsupported and like Mark was being irrationally conservative about money, and he felt like I wasn't respecting his financial hardship right now, and the way that he feels about debt.  We came to a mutual understanding.  Given, I know this is not the last time that Mark and I will fight about money.  We have different and sometimes opposing ideas about how to make and spend and invest money.  What's changed is that we ARE listening to and respecting one another.

Now, here's the God part.  This is how I got the answer from God that I've been praying for. I believe the saying that when we talk to God, it's called prayer, and when God talks to us, it's called Schizophrenia.  I know by now that God doesn't just say "Hey, Melissa, this is what you should do."  But I believe He does speak to me through the Bible, through church sermons, through other people who walk closely with him, and through events that can't be explained away as coincidence.

In this case, several doors have opened for Mark and I very recently.  The first is, he sold the mobile home!  A few months ago, his parents (who bought the mobile home for him 7 years ago), told him they wanted to list the house for sale, and reinvest their money in something that would be a better investment, and a safer neighborhood for Tristan.  The plan was to sell it, then they would help him to buy a townhouse or condo in the area. 

That was the plan, until his mother heard that we had gotten back together.  His mother, who has been in the same room as me only 4 times in 5 years, is a problem, to say the least.  She has decided that she detests me so much that she can't even be at the same event to me or speak to me. And this is based on absolutely nothing, other than the fact that I already had a child when I met Mark, and therefore must be "after him for his house."  What a joke!!  Mark had a mobile home in a park where his neighbors are on drugs and have no teeth, and I would never want my kids to live.  If I was a golddigger, for Pete's sake I would go after a man who actually had something!!  Whatever, it's not even worth justifying with a response.

So anyway, now the house has sold, but the deal is they are taking the money and are not willing to help us buy a house.  Which is absolutely FINE WITH ME.  I would not want that woman to have anything over my head.  Mark and I are starting a life together with our family, and we will find a way to make it work ourselves.  His dad (who buy the way is a very nice man who has always been kind to me, but refuses to stand up to his wife), told Mark that he could keep $20,000, the same as they gave his sister and her husband when they bought their first house.  I think this is more than generous, and we will invest it and save it toward a down payment on a house, when we are ready to buy one. Which I don't anticipate being for a year or two, at earliest.

The other God Thing that has happened is that Mark and I are finally working together in business.  We are so excited about it!  I am taking over the business side of his Aquarium Servicing business, to help him get new accounts and get rid of the ones that he services as a sub-contractor, because he has only been keeping 70% of the revenue from those accounts, even though he does all the work.  I think that in a few months we can have that business being much more profitable.

The other thing is, we just went to a convention this past weekend in San Diego for Isagenix.  I have been using Isagenix products for nearly a year, but wasn't interested in being involved with the business before.  Two friends of mine have been in the business for 8 years, and have been very successful with it, and recently moved to Los Cabos, Mexico.  After using the products for a while, losing weight with them, and feeling that I have more energy and stamina and feel great overall, I decided that I wouldn't mind sharing the products with other people and getting paid to do so.  So I joined, and became a Consultant very quickly (that means you get paid!)  This weekend was really life-changing, as after hearing about all the success stories of people who have lost 100, 200, or 300 lbs on Isagenix, and getting trained on Social Media and Power Prospecting, we are super excited to start building our business!!

So, when Mark asked me (again), if I would marry him, I said yes.  And I am sure this time that I can and will marry him and stay married to him.  I see God's hand in our relationship, and I see him opening doors for us to work together and be successful.  So I feel very blessed and happy!!

Now, who wants to help me plan a wedding? ;)