Friday Takes a Turn to Mental Health

Today’s post is a little bit modified from a post I created a couple years ago. Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, I feel compelled to post something even if it’s almost the end of the month. We can always make efforts to educate ourselves about health issues.

______________________________________________________________________________

Advice to Young Poets
Never pretend
to be a unicorn
by sticking a plunger on your head

from The Republic of Poetry by Martin Espada

 

When I started writing this blog and was given the opportunity to create an About page, the idea was more than I wanted to consider. I played it lazy and kept it short. Later, I made the changes you see now. While the changes may not agree with you, they reflect the real me.

I’m like anyone else, I suppose; I can talk about myself all day long. If we’re honest, we admit that we–or something about our life–are our own favorite subject.

My About pages are general in nature. That’s okay, based on what they’re designed to do. Now I give you Mr. Espada’s poem as an adjunct to getting to know me. Also, as advice to follow. Truly.

I’m sincere when I say that through my blog I hope to share my journey in finding joy and contentment with Jesus Christ. I also hope to sometimes encourage, comfort the weary, offer consolation, teach, break through spiritual obstacles or propel someone toward God’s purpose for them.

However, I haven’t been totally honest yet. I’ve been wearing a plunger on my head, so to speak. Unknown to some of you, I’ve been trying to be something I’m not. It’s time to reveal a secret. I have manic-depressive illness which is not totally controlled even though I take my medications as directed and try to do all the things my doctor prescribes.

I know this revelation immediately sets me up for criticism. It’s okay. I don’t like being criticized for something I can’t help; but I think I can take it. Criticism or a “follower” of this blog deciding to stop following will be fine. You certainly can’t call me anything worse than I’ve called myself.*

Life with manic-depressive illness, also called bi-polar disorder, can be devastating to the one diagnosed with it. Depending on the severity of our individual diagnoses–and there are many–it can also make life hard for the families of those people with it. We don’t always act like we ‘should.’

We don’t respond the same way as people who have what I call ‘respectable’ illnesses like asthma or heart disease or diabetes. People with those illnesses have physical manifestations if things get out of sync. With a mental illness, the manifestations can be physical, but mostly they’re behavioral.

Maybe you’ve witnessed those manifestations. We just don’t act right.

Taking Mental Health Awareness Month seriously means you educate yourself about the difference between multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia; whether someone is worrying or actually has anxiety disorder. You might take it so far as to learn how to respond to those with mental illness. After all, one if five people struggle with some form.

Your knowledge of what to do could make a big difference to someone in your circle of acquaintances.

I’m not writing today to go into my story from the day I was diagnosed (and before). It’s not a pity-party. I decided to write for a couple of reasons.

First, if you decide you want to continue reading my blog, it should be based on honesty. You don’t have to be honest, but I need to take the plunger off my head. Then you’ll see me as I really am.

Honesty about who I am in this regard will also help us both see how blessed I’ve been so far in my journey. God has been holding my hand through many difficult times; while I was inpatient as well as an outpatient. That’s something people who walk past me in the hallways at church aren’t even aware of. **

Second, the Church is becoming more aware of its role in meeting the needs of those in their communities who are mentally ill. It’s encouraging to see this. Some of the awareness has come because of family tragedies hitting like tsunamis in the news, or in our own lives. But the Church has a long way to go in this regard.

If I write about my own experience, people may find it easier to just relax and accept us. We aren’t unapproachable. In fact, we might be some of the nicest people you can meet. I plan to share some of my journey here occasionally. I’m working on a book with the hope that people will help understand the struggles, believe that God is our refuge through it all, and to, oh what the what–maybe even tell some funny stories.

There it is. I don’t pretend to know God’s ways, but I do know he invaded my life through manic-depressive illness like He’d never invaded it before. His voice has never been heard so sweetly to me as when he whispers, “I love you” as I crawl the walls or wail like a lost child.

Heavenly Father, thank you that when we realize our identity in you we no longer need to pretend to be something we’re not. Grant us the ability to love one another no matter what physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental affliction is with us now. Heal us and sustain us as you see fit. Extend grace to us in our weaknesses for your glory and in the name of Jesus. Amen.

 

*Although I have yet to call myself a unicorn.

**Until now.

Chemicals in My Foodie

Today is a goofball day.

I’m visiting out of town for an extended period and busier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Hence, I’m skipping the usual fare. I apologize for the lack of postings lately in every theme. I’ve been ill and was in hospital for a bit.

Better now though, thanks.

I know enough about chemistry and physical science to be dangerous. (Some of it actually helps in the kitchen.) One day, in my Pins, I was introduced to Chemistry Cat and fell in love. I’m a cat person who also enjoys puns. So, for a little change of pace, Foodie offers up a short humorous post about food and cooking.

You’re welcome.

Don’t tell anyone I “lead” you into anything dangerous!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See you next week, Foodies. Eat hardy.

“Two Scoops of Ice Cream…Wait, I Mean ‘Grace’: a Book Review

In her book, “Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top,” Jeanette Levellie wants us to know right up front that God is a gracious God. He’s perfect, but not a perfectionist. He watches over us, but not with an abacus on hand, ready to count our failures. Her stories, told in devotion style, could be read one a day (so you can savor them slowly) or as many as you like at a time.

She’s an expert storyteller so it may be hard to put this one down.One thing I will say, Jeanette has a keen wit. It’s a gentle and kind wit. And it’s most often at her own expense because she’s learned to laugh at herself. She’s a mother of two children and a pastor’s wife. She has bright red hair which she claims can be as unruly as she is. That’s another thing about Jeanette, she’s honest about her failings as much as she is about her love for God. If I was a betting kind of gal, I’d bet she has oodles of friends who love being in her company.

In addition to the delicious fact that there’s ice cream on the cover, the book is full of stories to which we can relate. Even if we’re not a pastor’s wife or have children. Even if we’re brunettes or silver-haired beauties. I’m guessing the target audience is women.

But when you know men who occasionally wonder whether God is really there for them; whether His grace can forgive the messes they make; if the dreams they dreamed will ever come true; or the future holds any promise–Two Scoops of Grace is a book you might want to recommend.

Inside are 72 story devotions ranging from Drive-by Diapers, Culture Shock, A Pitiful Piece of Pie, and From Hair to Eternity. While the author insists we be gentle with ourselves and laugh a lot more, she also uses her stories and the Word of God to help us remember the path we’re called to walk. The devotions are comedic and convicting at the same time. And that can be refreshing.

The words ‘grace’ and ‘chuckles’ had to be in the title of this delightful book. Because, in this life, we desperately need them both.

Foodie Found the Way to His Heart

Once upon a time, I got the attention of a certain fellow and he asked me on a date. Well, actually, it was a blind date his cousin set up.

Time passed after a few dates and I decided I wanted to cook a meal and invite him over (to try and impress him, obviously). The main dish would be beef stroganoff, which I’d learned to make with my brother-in-law a year or two prior.

This was also the first time I’d made this particular dish for my family and I was pleased that it was a hit. Especially with that fellow. I eventually married him and we had a couple of children together. Our daughter, Sarah, who moved west and left her poor mother in the Midwest to pine for her…wait, that’s another story.

Sarah confessed some time after she got married that her husband would like more variety in the meals she served. (I hope he said it kindly.) She conceded that she had limits and wondered if I had any ideas. So I recruited family members to send me recipes for main dishes, appetizers, desserts–you name it–that were favorites at their house. Or dishes that were traditionally prepared on special occasions. We definitely had to include her Grandmother’s chocolate cake recipe. My siblings and I still talk about that cake that was so moist, we didn’t even care if it had frosting. That one had tradition written all over it.

She was delighted with the book we put together for her.

I included the recipe for Beef Stroganoff because a certain tale had been told over the years. It was almost legend that cooking that particular dish had turned her dad’s heart toward her mom. (I don’t know that it’s the only thing. I was pretty good with a sewing machine too.)

Love and food go together. And I don’t just mean “Goodness, I love to eat food,” although if we’re Foodies, we not only love to cook, we love to eat and feed others.

Maybe it’s the process of cooking and baking and then sharing the meal that makes for a true Foodie. I have a friend who says this is absolutely one of  the ways she shows love. If she cooks for you, she’s loving on you.

I don’t think it matters if it’s an elaborate meal for a Foodie to love on someone with what they prepare. It could be as simple as making your friend’s favorite oatmeal cookie recipe–just because he’s your friend. Maybe your kids could eat tacos ’til they’re coming out of their ears. Make a traditional Taco Night. And let them help in the kitchen. You never know; you might pass the soul of a Foodie to one of your children. Now wouldn’t that be love made visible?

Cook. Bake. Serve. Love. Enjoy being a Foodie. And eat hardy!

 

 

Bench-Pressing a Hersey Bar

“Strength is the capacity to break a Hershey bar into four pieces with your bare hands – and then eat just one of the pieces.”
― Author Judith Viorst

When I was raising my children and dreaming of one day being–dare I say it–a famous author, I enjoyed reading Judith Viorst’s column in Redbook magazine each month. I also read her books. I even wrote to her once and received in return a sweet postcard.

When I become famous, I’ll answer my fan mail too, I thought.

Mrs. Viorst could make us chuckle about what it takes to keep house and raise children and maybe even teach us about resisting chocolate. But she couldn’t tell us where the ultimate source of strength comes from.

Like me, you’re probably faced with areas of weakness or a problem that doesn’t seem to be getting solved quickly enough for you. Where do you turn? Bench-pressing a dark chocolate candy bar seems like a good idea, but it doesn’t truly solve a problem of any magnitude. (Much as this chocoholic hates to admit that.)

My children are grown, but being a parent of a grown child possesses its own challenges. I’ve always been good at the housekeeping thing, but there are days I’d sooner eat that Hersey bar than sweep and mop the floors. And then, there’s the never-ending challenge of keeping finances in order, relationships from falling apart, and my health from doing likewise. I’m getting old and sort of broken down.

Heaven, help me! Literally.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

When I’m honest, I’ll tell you I’m challenged on some days to keep my eyes on Jesus, the one who keeps me strong. We face things like the annoyance of a cancelled appointment, a disobedient child, needing an unexpected surgery, or the death of a loved one. Scripture says these things, which we can see, are “light and momentary troubles.”

It doesn’t seem like it, does it? Yet we’re told to stay strong because what eternity holds is worth it. God wouldn’t tell us a lie about eternity; it’s his dwelling place and inherent in his nature. So trust him for that and stay strong.

Walking the Cemetery

Here’s something I don’t do often: just write an essay and throw it out there for no good reason. I’m posting today on what would be one of my “off” days because I want to share it with people from my hometown. Most of them will be able to see the lake, the fence, the headstones. They’ll experience that breeze blowing through the trees off in the corner of the woods. Perhaps they’ll remember one particular day…

Here you go, Lakeview. I don’t come around much any more, but I think of you still.

_____________________________________________

Walking the Cemetery by Paula Geister

We weren’t creepy kids. My best friend, Sandy, and I were just curious, and we found something that ended up being a learning experience when curiosity took us to the local cemetery. For the life of me, I can’t remember what prompted that first visit, but walking the cemetery became something we did fairly often.

Lakeview Cemetery was off the beaten path, but still in the village limits of our small town. A right turn off Lincoln Avenue, the main street through Lakeview, and you eventually came to the wrought iron gate of the cemetery.

Just inside the gate stood a marker. After such a long time, I don’t remember anything of significance it might have had written on it. The gate and marker only fascinated us on the first visit. We learned to walk the length of the narrow road to Lakeview Cemetery because we knew what we’d find.

Some would say our visits did have “creepy” written all over them. But we carefully avoided stepping on graves, and took our time exploring each time we went. Whether walking under overhanging shade trees or in the summer sun, we found small headstones and large family markers. Names familiar and names only the dead knew. Carved into each marker we were discovering our heritage, strange as those people were to us.

With sadness, we rubbed our fingers along a stone’s mossy face, trying to make out a faded etching. Our little hamlet was almost 100 years old. How old was the cemetery? How long had it taken for weather and time to erode those names, just as the memory of the folks buried there had disappeared?

In the oldest section of the property, we followed a curving trail. Situated on Tamarack Lake and tucked into the corner of a woods, the cemetery could be beautiful if you had the right mind set. We considered it beautiful. It’s possible we didn’t even know we were being creepy.

The more we visited the cemetery and walked through it, the more we discovered about our town. We also discovered more about life and death. As if watching a movie for the second or third time, we’d see something significant that was missed on a previous trip.

One time it was the baby.

That headstone was old. Terribly old, and even sadder than the moss and lichen growing on other headstones. Sandy and I were only teenagers. It was difficult for us to imagine a baby in a grave. Walking the cemetery was teaching lessons we didn’t expect to learn. But we always left feeling peaceful. Even invigorated.

Time eventually takes loved ones from us. So cemeteries have a purpose. They’re a place for not only the dead to rest, but for the living. For some reason, we have a need to visit our dead and pay respect to them even when they’re gone.

I’m told that elephants respect their dead in profound ways. Film crews shooting a documentary captured a herd of elephants on their way to find water during a drought. The elephants’ lives hung in a balance; it took days for them to finally find water. Yet on the way, they came to an elephant burial site. The herd stopped. They stood at the site and were still and quiet for over an hour.

How did they know? Were elephant bones strewn on the ground? Was there a scent only they could detect? Had they traveled that way before on a trip to find water and members of the herd had perished there? Is that elephant memory? Those questions don’t really need answers. The elephants were doing what elephants do.

And as creepy as it might seem, we do what comes naturally for us. We stand quietly or kneel at the grave site. We have conversations with our friend, parent, spouse, sibling. Whomever. We leave flowers, flags, notes, and trinkets. We weep. Others show no emotion at all.

We do it for ourselves. We may not walk the cemetery to discover our heritage, but we walk a familiar path and connect once again. We know our time is coming and for some reason, the marker and that little plot give us peace.

Today I know I can visit my home town cemetery and find a few loved ones buried there. My parents. Two neighbor girls who died unexpectedly and tragically. And Sandy, my best friend, has been buried there for over thirty years.

I’d love to talk and laugh with her again. For a while after her death, someone would do or say something to make me think of her. “Sandy would have appreciated that,” I’d think. Then I’d remember that little plot by the lake where she rests. I’d be quiet and still, doing what I do. Feeling peaceful and even invigorated.

As creepy as that might sound.

 

© 2016 Paula Geister

You Walk With Jesus

Once upon a time, there was a pastor who influenced me in ways I don’t think he was aware of. I considered him a model of one who walked with God as Enoch did. Naturally, this fellow was humble as well, and if he knew I was saying that about him, he’d sternly correct me.

Nevertheless, I saw him as an unofficial mentor.

Is there someone in your life who models a walk with Jesus? If so, what does that look like? Poetry isn’t my strong suit. Nevertheless, this is a small tribute to my friend and pastor.

You Walk With Jesus

I have watched you
walk with the winsomeness
possessed in you that
unknowingly also owns power.

There’s a place deep inside
where you don’t look–
having no need to–
that teaches your body
to follow the Spirit.

God’s Spirit guides your spirit
with a quiet, cherished purpose.
It seems that in each stride
you claim a mile.

 

copyright 2017 Paula Geister

With Graciousness and Kindness Toward All

Slowly, my mind is changing about judgement calls on people based on their looks, their words and actions, or their attitudes. For a long time I’ve believed it was okay to take notice and immediately place someone in a category. The categories were, of course, arbitrary, based on personal preferences, what I’d been taught was ‘correct,’ and a solid belief that I was probably always right.

What Changed? The Lord has shown me more of Himself. I see him interact with a variety of people in Bible stories and He never seems to judge the way I do. His judgements are true. Whether it’s a Samaritan woman sitting alone at a well, a group of Pharisees verbally abusing Him, a man sitting in a booth cheating his fellow Jews on their taxes, or a Centurion asking Jesus to heal his servant––the Lord sees what’s in their hearts.

I can’t see into hearts.

The best I can do, when I watch someone ‘acting out,’ as I usually describe it, is to pray for that person to find a better way of expressing themselves. Perhaps I will pray for them to find the Light of Jesus. Perhaps the person is already someone who claims to have a relationship with Him; yet they ‘act out.’

That could be me on any given day.

God’s word gives instructions for when we discover what we name as their wrongdoing.

“Don’t criticize, and then you won’t be criticized. For others will treat you as you treat them. And why worry about a speck in the eye of a brother when you have a board in your own?  Should you say, ‘Friend, let me help you get that speck out of your eye,’ when you can’t even see because of the board in your own?  Hypocrite! First get rid of the board. Then you can see to help your brother” (Matthew 7:1-5)

The Apostle Paul makes another distinction.

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside” (1 Corinthians 5:12).

In other words, how can we expect anyone who has not seen the Light, to behave as if they have.

Again…That could be me on any given day.

Nevertheless, as disciples of Jesus, we are given warnings and instructions about heeding the teachings and the fruit of those inside the Church.

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33).

Ultimately, I can never know the motives of one’s heart. Only Jesus knows that. Since life experiences, ill health, daily stress, and any number of things can make me ‘act out’ even when I know it’s inappropriate, I long for the grace of Jesus.

And with the help of the Holy Spirit, I could offer that grace to others as well. To extend graciousness and kindness toward all. To pray for them as I would hope they would pray for me.

“Zootopia” Wins and So Will You

A year ago this month, Disney Studios’ Zootopia was released in theaters. At the recent Academy Awards show, it won the Oscar for Best Animated Film. If you haven’t already seen it, go buy your own copy or head to the rental store.

Zootopia is smart, funny, and full of color. That’s typical of Disney movies. We can also expect endearing characters, a great plot, and a moral to the story. (One or two of those morals are relevant to what’s happening in our “neighborhoods” right now.)

Zootopia brings it home in all respects.

A cute little bunny, Judy Hopps, is determined “to make the world a better place” by becoming the first rabbit police officer. Her parents prefer she stay at home with her 275 brothers and sisters living a risk-free life. But carrot farming isn’t in the stars for Judy and she knows it.

She attends Zootopia Police Academy and, although she graduated at the top of her class, is assigned to ticketing cars at expired parking meters.

Zootopia police have been stymied by 14 cases of missing predators. When an otter goes missing, Judy convinces Chief Bogo she can solve the crime. Bogo gives her 48 hours.

Judy enlists the help of Nick Wilde, a fox who lives up to the stereotype. He’s clever and sassy. Judy uses Nick’s shady practices to trick him into assisting her and the story begins to unfold as a true detective tale.

Rabbit and fox are fortunate enough to discover a license plate number in the sketchy file Judy’s been given. That plate number leads them to the DMV where Nick’s friend, Flash, proves a big help. But Flash, like his co-workers, is a sloth.

Uh-oh.

For anyone who’s waited at the DMV, you’ll relate. Nick and Judy get to the counter immediately. But…er…you’ll love the sloths. Watch Judy be her usual upbeat self. Watch Nick bait Flash into a conversation. Watch Flash finish a sentence. Watch Judy lose her cool. Watch Nick’s smug expression.

The plate number results in an address which leads the duo to the naturalists. The naturalists give them enough information to take them to Mr. Big. He has enough information to lead them to a place where they hear about night howlers. Wolves?

In their search for the missing otter, Judy and Nick play the roles of detective with everything they have in them. Judy proves she’s not a “dumb bunny.” Nick’s foxiness comes in handy, but he also begins to soften. They form a bond that could only happen in Zootopia, where predator and prey can live in harmony. The line between them becomes blurred.

Zootopia includes the dense, color-rich scenes you expect of Disney Studios. The soundtrack is amazing. As usual, there’s visual humor and lines that kids probably won’t understand. (Think: Pixar’s Toy Story trilogy.) But that’s okay. Disney knows it’s the parents who bring the kids.

In the end, Zootopia shows us that we need friends who are loyal and always believe in us. We see that we can live in harmony with those who are different if all parties are willing to work together. Disney does it all so well. It’s a movie you’ll want to own so you can watch it whenever you need to see a great story told well. Or just for the laughs after a rough day.

One critic’s review named it “the best Disney movie in 20 years.” So go out and buy your own copy or get to the video store. Because you must see Zootopia now.

For parents: Zootopia is rated PG-13 for thematic material (animal violence), action scenes and some crude humor.