About Me...

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In a nut shell : I'm a full time working mom, a Star Wars geek, comic book nerd, Disney enthusiast, hockey Mom, a breast cancer survivor of almost a decade and oh let's not forget such a happy, sassy, southern mess!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Life Lesson # 37 ~ EXPECTATIONS ( ARE A REAL PAIN IN THE BUTT!)





Expectations can sure get us into a lot of trouble, can’t they? If you have any doubts, look no further than yours truly. I have spent most of my life expecting way too much and sorting out the consequences later. It’s not as if I don’t know what I’m setting myself up for, because I usually do, but for whatever inherent reason I still take that detour. I’m always full of good intentions. I set out with a decent enough plan, a highlighted map through the back roads, and yet somehow my navigation skills just don’t seem to add up most of the time. My own eagerness, expectancy, presumptions and conjecture seem to always land me in the deep end of the ocean. I should be used to it by now. I surely should have learned to keep an inflatable life vest in my back pocket, that’s for certain. Yet to my own surprise I’m usually flopping around, treading water, drowning in a sea of self-doubt. I’m a walking contradiction, a beautiful if not deafening complicated mess. I’m assuredly a complex, intricate, tangled up, tricky, thorny, tortuous labyrinth of a woman. I can barely navigate myself through this impenetrable maze of perplexing wonders, much less my husband! Let’s face it; I can’t always understand myself so how is it again I expect anyone else to? 

I’m really not sure where this crazy, hair brained idea of perfection comes from, as if we can actually buy the Brooklyn Bridge. Yet we try anyway, bartering our way through, all on our own, falling for the age old get rich quick, lose weight fast schemes hook line and sinker. We set expectations for ourselves no one in their right mind could ever truly expect to obtain. All based upon what, some kind of cockamamie fairytale cookie cutter depiction of a happily ever after? Maybe a few, small select folks can actually get their happy ending this way, but if you're like me, an average Jane just trying to get through life, those story book endings aren't in the cards without hard work. Let’s just say if they were, I wouldn’t be up at 2 am in the morning, staring down blank pages, trying to make sense of them!

So let’s be honest, life many times can be just as confusing as it is charming. Life lesson #37, expectations can be a royal pain in the butt!

Forest Gump says, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” If we’d simply apply this lesson, we’d be a whole lot happier. Self –discovery, finding our way, who we are, where we are going and yes who we really want to be when we grow up is exactly as Forrest says. If you would had told me I’d lose my breast at 32, muddle my way through menopause at 33 or be starting over again and re-inventing myself at 41, I’d have laughed at you. But that is exactly my story and just like a box of chocolates, life has surprised me around every corner.

Some folks look at my life and think, man she’s got it all together while others judge and smirk, not wanting any part of my existence at all. The reality is my life is so far from perfect it's not scary, it’s a rocky horror show no doubt about it. Till this day I fight more inner demons than most know. Some days they run me, throw me up against a wall and completely strip me of everything good in my life. Other days, I get a hold of the bull’s horns and ride those 8 seconds like nobody’s business! Set backs, well they are just part of my daily routine. I believe we all have these grand ideas and while well intentioned as they are end up beating us up in the process. I don’t know about you but my life is anything but a straight line. It’s been honestly difficult, not just in my trails or health problems, because truthfully those are a piece of cake compared to my internal demons. Being, and feeling accepted, as “good enough”, loved with all my flaws has truly been one of my greatest battles.

When everything else is removed, there has and will always be two issues in my life. The first is absolutely hands down in how I see myself, my body image and the way I look physically. I’ve always found fault in myself, an inadequacy in my appearance, my brain smarts and charm. People have either loved me or hated me, there has never been much in-between. At the end of the day my mental and emotional struggle is feeling inferior. The second, it’s a close race but knowing what you do now should come as no surprise is found in my love life. I was always looking for the perfect relationship which, I learned quickly was not out there. I fought a large scale battle within myself of self-worth and self-loathing, never feeling I was worth the effort. I always wanted to be prettier, skinnier and funnier because those superficial attributes obviously brought happiness. Boy did I have heartache coming!    

I’ve never had a whole lot of self-confidence, so you can imagine how this has played out for me over the years. I’m sure many of you can relate. When you feel less than everyone else in the room, more like a wall flower at the ball, lacking in smarts, physical appearance, and overall cultural hype defining beauty and intelligence you simply tend to accept the lie you’re not worth the salt in anyone’s tears. See I was the kid who got punched in the stomach for giving a neighborhood kid’s dog diabetes simply because I decided to touch his pet in my own yard. Or the girl who was teased and taunted to the point of tears when the teacher left the room because of my diabetes, then blamed by the teacher for the disruption. Or better yet picked on and played by the mean girls back before those words were common place. I guess I was one of the original Duff’s. It is no wonder till this day I still have self-esteem issues, but what I have come to realize is we all do, the mean girls included.

I’ve always had to dig deep, finding my strength and the ability to see myself through my Father’s eyes. I have faced coming in second all my life, being the runner up or not even placing on the winners pedestal at all. It’s such a part of my routine now; I don’t think I’d know how to deal with first place. I still battle the idea someone is always better suited, more accomplished and of course every other form of worthy than I am. The struggle is real, and one I face each and every day whether it’s in my job, my social life or quite honestly in my marriage and I know I’m not alone in this. I think it comes down to an idea we hold ourselves too. If we can only be younger, older, taller, more petite, slimmer, have a full figure, be a blond, a brunette, a red head, have long hair, short hair, curly hair, straight hair, be athletic, smart and so on we would arrive, feeling worthy. We hold ourselves to these unrealistic expectations to the point of our own total destruction. If we think we can control the filters others choose when they look at us, as an anonymous quote I recently read said, then we’re barking up the wrong tree. We can’t have these major life altering foundation changes without a complete overhaul. For that matter we have to accept and realize we can’t change what’s going on outwardly until we start changing what’s going on within us. It’s just a fundamental truth.

The bottom line is this: everybody is searching for something. Just take a look at how we as a society view our bodies or our spouses? It’s this very reason so many marriages face so much destruction today; we destroy ourselves from the inside out and then wonder what happened. We never have enough; we always want more, something new, something different, and something borrowed. Nothing is ever enough but no one has it all despite feeble attempts to prove otherwise. Remember this when you start to feel inadequate. It’s one thing to strive for a better life, to be a better person or want to be the best version of yourself possible but it's a completely different thing to lose yourself, to keep replacing your life with counterfeit imitations of yourself. When it comes down to it, you can’t let hurt, expectations, the un-forgiveness of yourself, or this idea of who you should have been define you. You are you, and the only you there is, don’t take yourself for granted. Let go of those impossible expectations, the far-fetched idea that the grass is greener on the other side and trust God has a perfect design for your life, for your family, your marriage, for you and begin fighting for it.

Note to self: I am enough.

~Christina

Friday, April 24, 2015

Life Lesson #36 ~ RESTORATION, FORGIVENSS & PRUNING




I remember a while back, I asked my counselor why God was allowing so many hurts to pile up so close together in my life. Do you know what she told me? "Boundaries Christina, it's all about boundaries." Let's just let that sink in for a moment. I know I had to. The truth is I have lived my entire life trying to please everyone. The reality, it is clearly impossible, and simply never ends well. Honestly, this is probably the hardest, most miserable life lesson I have ever had to learn. A lesson you can be certain inevitably pushed me through a barrier, over a cliff and to the bottom of a ravine. 

The moment leading up to my hallelujah, come to Jesus meeting got it's first start some 19 months ago. Life at the time wasn't bad; in fact it seemed pretty good to me. As with any typical month in our household, we had our ups and downs. Sure I knew life wasn't full of gumdrops and lollipops, but life wasn't exactly sinkholes and tar pits either. I had just hit my 40's, not that I was worried about it, age had never bothered me. I was fairly content with where I was in life at the time. I was at home, raising our boys, a wife of 17 years, keeping up with our home, managing the kid’s schools, doctors’ appointments, lessons, church and making sure my family had a home cooked meal every night. I had a routine, a way of moving through life, I knew what was expected and my week went accordingly. I was happy, content and oblivious to the storm clouds gathering.  

The reality though, the hard truth of my situation is my faith was growing stagnant, and in many ways so was my life whether I realized it or not. So when I was hit by the first of several emotional semi-trucks colliding into my life, you can say I was completely knocked off the side of a cliff. I wasn't prepared, I had nothing in my reserves to even begin coping with or better yet to even access the damage. I was walking wounded and pained. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and my weight began dropping quickly. The only way to accurately describe myself immediately following this first collision, smash up, wreck and yes pile up of sorrow, agony and torment is as the walking dead. Everything else following afterwards just added to the growing pileup of desolation in my life. Suddenly I became a wreckage of failure and total emotional bankruptcy. I simply had nothing left to relinquish from January 2014 onward. 

I began grieving, filled with an aching, stabbing pain I can't accurately explain even now, all this time later. My life was an utter, complete mess, in shambles at the bottom of a cliff, spread out along the edges of a ravine. What was left of me felt exposed, my wounds open and bleeding, my bones picked nearly clean by vultures. I felt dead inside, isolated, alone and desolate. To say I was at my lowest point is an understatement. This pain, this unending, deep gash in my heart was the worst I had ever known. I truly wanted to die at times, just so the pain and grief would stop. My heart felt shattered, ravened by a cold, hungry wolf. My life as I had known it before was laid out, demolished and in ruin. My choices were simple, either give in to the devastation or begin with a new foundation. I chose the latter.

Only a handful of folks really know what caused this carnage, this gigantic leap over the edge in my life. Quite honestly it should stay that way. It however doesn't change the consequences or the end result. The scars are still there, serving as constant reminders of my lowest place but the point is they are just scars. My faith is no longer a puddle of three day old rain water but a spring of fresh living water. My wounds aren't oozing, open gashes still hemorrhaging. I've had to learn to look deep within myself. I had to stop over thinking, tossing all night, replaying the moment I was pushed off that cliff back in February 2014. In doing so, my life has been reclaimed; a peace even while feeling scared no will come to rescue me has set in. It's funny I had to reach the bottom to reach the top. I learned a hard, excruciating lesson but a valuable one all the same. You see it's not always about the rescue as much as it's about trust, allowing yourself to start climbing back up that mountain, finding you had the strength all along. The only real requirement is trusting God to lead the way.

Life Lesson # 36 is all about Restoration, forgiveness and pruning.

Ya, I'm still mending, even after all this time. You just don't get over those kinds of hurts in a jiffy. The work put into healing is hard, painful and at times very overwhelming. Personally I've licked my wounds, battled my mind, fought insecurities, come face to face with Christina's not so nice side and finally allowed the knife to be pulled from my heart. Yes, I've absolutely experienced other gut wrenching hurts along the way, but what I have learned is forgiveness is essential for the soul. Our reaction verses our response will ultimately define the way any situation we face either turns around or continues to plummet over the cliff. Restoration, whether it is a simple acknowledgment inside your heart of what was, what is or a full throw your arms around, let me squeeze you tight kind of moment, forgiveness and the restoration of your spirit is critical to recovery. It's a life lesson which never comes easy or when we're expecting it, but instead when we drop our expectations and let go.

Truly, what I know in hindsight is restoration brings healing. As hard as it has been, I've forgiven, making a choice, spoken the words out loud even if no one else was there to hear. I've let go of the broken friendships, confidence, and trust, yes even the betrayal leading to that almost near fatal crash of February 2014. True, I was trapped for a while, captive of many anxious, uneasy and awful dark nights stuck in that terrifying ravine, feeling helpless and alone. However terrible it was though, the truth is once I set my mind to climbing out, to reaching the top, I found myself and who I was all along. I'm happy where I have landed when all is said and done. Day finally broke and all my anger, hurt and confusion dissipated. 

My world was shaken, I was betrayed and I didn't know why. The truth is I may never know why exactly, and that's OK. God allowed what He did for a reason, because He has purpose in my life. The situation I faced, I would never wish on anyone. But I know now sitting at the top of that ravine; it wasn't there to hinder me but to aid me in my journey. See He knew what was inside of me all along; I just had to go through the pruning process first before I could see it myself! And now as one chapter closes and another begins in my life our little family of four can see restoration breathing back new life into our roots. I can see who I am in Him, who I can be in my marriage and in my family and it's pretty amazing. I've truly given myself over to forgiveness, allowing the pruning process, trusting God come spring, His shearing will bring beautiful flowers to bloom once again.

~ Christina

Monday, April 20, 2015

Life Lesson # 35 ~ SELF-DOUBT ( SHE COMES IN LIKE A WRECKING BALL! )






Have you ever asked yourself why is it as women we tend to compare ourselves to one another so much instead of appreciating what we each bring to the table? I often wonder if we could just stop and see ourselves through the eyes of the One who created us, molded us and perfectly designed us how we'd feel. I am thinking it would be pretty awesome and rather incredible, don't ya think? 

Life lesson #35, self-doubt with all her shortcomings can really mess us up! She comes in like a wrecking ball, with her demolition crew eagerly awaiting to turn our lives into rubble.

Honestly, how many of us start the day off already defeated, with our crown tilted or better yet in need of a serious polish? We believe every stinking one of the lies forced and spoon fed to us. If we don’t have the latest hair trend, if we aren’t following the newest diet fade, if we aren’t signed up for the current fitness craze or sporting an up- to - date version of ourselves we are obviously in default, heading into foreclosure of our own self- worth. It’s downright despicable the way we see our imperfections as such fordable foes. Personally I've fought this same battle the majority of my life, feeling defective, inadequate and made up of nonstop glitches, From the time I was old enough to understand my clothes weren't a designer brand or my hair wasn't exactly trendy, I began comparing myself to the media's version of "bold" and "beautiful". We all do it and that's what saddens me the most. We compare ourselves, wishing away our own rare qualities for what? Cookie cutter, unrealistic, a dime a dozen, get in line, take a number, follow the leader stereotypes? So I just want to get really honest here today, because I still find myself sailing this very same ship more often than I'd care to admit.

My mother is one of the most beautiful women I have ever known, both inwardly and outwardly, but she's never been able to accept this fact. As a child I watched her, admired her, wanted to look and be just like her. I knew she was beautiful but as I grew up I saw her confidence flounder all over the place despite my dad adoring her. Why, because Hollywood and the fashion magazines told her she wasn’t thin enough, young enough, wasn’t pretty enough or trendy enough. The truth is she was far more beautiful than any diva of her time. The sad part is because she felt unworthy; I learned to feel the same about myself. And what's even worse, as women, we’ve all been here, we teach each other to be this way, passing our insecurities down through the generations because we fail to see what God sees in us, falling for the lie there's something wrong with us.

Personally my battle line has always been drawn in my weight. I have fought this uphill campaign all my life. I am never happy with where the scale lands, ever! I could look like Twiggy, be a toothpick and I'd still think I was fat. Why, because I was programmed to see myself this way, never making the mark. In high school I just wanted to fade away into the background, I hated getting up and getting dressed for school. I couldn't pull off any kind of trendy hoopla to save my life. My hair was a complete mess most of the time. I was always trying to hide my boobs, of course now I just wish I had them back again.  Hindsight is always 20/20 isn’t it? I had dark hair and pale skin when blond and tan was the thing! I hated myself if we are going to be really honest. I could get along with anyone, and I had lots of friends but I always felt I was somewhere way down the totem pole. I was awkward, my head in a book most of the time, you would either find me reading or writing. I stayed away from the sports stars at school, I wasn't a cheerleader, I wasn't a rocker, a kicker, a nerd or any of those other stereotypes. I was simply me, though I was never quite sure I knew who exactly that was most of the time. The fact I married Johnny, a jock in his day, a football player in high school, sure goes to show you how life can change though.

It has taken me years to feel any kind of self-confidence about myself at all and to stop being a people -pleaser. I'm definitely still a work in progress. I really do feel awkward to this day most of the time, keeping my eyes downcast. Even as an adult, a grown woman with two near grown children of my own I know I'm easily manipulated into believing I am nothing, never strong enough, pretty enough, or smart enough to run with the cool kids. I guess I never quite feel I fit in anywhere and so I observe a lot. I worry I'm under or overdressed and I'm frequently aware I am nowhere inside the trendy zone despite my feeble attempts. I inevitably get the joke too late, take things too literally and wouldn't know one designer bag from another. I wake every morning, seeing my scars, the ugly ones stretched across my chest, working hard to accept the missing part of me. I see the scale go up and I have to fight the urge to not eat. And truth be told I don't even bother with fashion magazines at this point, I simply have no need to further complicate my self-image! Basically, I'm my happiest when I'm writing or miles away with my head in a book to this very day. And just like my mom, you can tell me I'm beautiful all you want, till you are blue in the face and I'd still feel inadequate. 

The reality is this though: we can't live life photo -shopped or airbrushed, could you imagine what that would be like? There would be no diversity, no unique qualities in any of us. We'd all be a bunch of fake, plastic dolls running around like Stepford wives! Seriously, if we became real life Barbie dolls we'd be walking around on our tippy toes with neck braces on just to keep our heads upright! So this is the deal, the reality we should be living in ladies: we are made in HIS image, so how in this world could we be anything but beautiful? Personally, I know I'm a constant work in progress. Some days the battle is already over for me before I even climb out of bed. If you were thinking I've made my destination already, with confidence plus and you'd like to be like me, let me go ahead and assure you, despite my best efforts, on any given day, I've got a very long way to go yet.

As I put pen to paper today, my challenge to myself and to you is to stop seeing ourselves through any one's vision but our Father's. I definitely need to stop looking at my worth through my own eyes for sure! Accepting this challenge doesn't mean I will meet my goals on a daily basis because I can tell you right now I won't. What it does mean is I want to stop wishing my own attributes away and start appreciating the wondrous, even if baffling at times, masterpiece I am in Christ alone. My worth does not come from what color my hair is or if I am skinny or even have both my boobs! No, my worth is found in the reality I'm a daughter of the King, and in His eyes I am indefinitely, irrevocably beautiful. We all are! So come on buttercups, chin up, and let's get the real party started! Embrace your flaws whatever they may be. Be thankful for your own unique qualities and beauty, inwardly and out. Accept we aren't going to be perfect, we can't all have what everyone else does, but we CAN canoodle our hearts and minds around who God has created us to be in our own right. After all and I know for many of us this is a breaking news story, we aren't mistakes, our bodies, large or small are not up for sale! 

And really at the end of the day, the bottom line, the way I see it anyway, as women, we need to begin finding our way back, being at home within our own skin again. Just from my own internal battles, my personal demons and boy howdy aren't those some big ol' struggles kind of days, I’ve learned before we can change any part of who we are physically, we have to dig around and uproot our emotional fears and doubts first and foremost. Hard work doesn’t come cheap, it’s by far anything but easy and more than likely will take our whole lives to complete. But if the end result's peace, self-confidence and personal acceptance, isn’t it worth the price? Honestly, that's really the sum of it all isn’t it, finding our worth in a sea of  doubt? So please make me a promise won't you? Never, ever stop reminding yourself you ARE beautiful, stunning, exquisite, magnificent, and lovely, made perfectly in HIS image, a true daughter of the King! Go ahead, pull your tiara out. Better yet push those old dusty boxes out of the way and grab your crown made of diamonds instead. Don't you know beautiful girl our Father in Heaven bestowed this very gift upon you the day you were born? All you have to do is accept you're already a diamond, beautifully made new every day in His image. Go on then, put it on, we’re all waiting for your triumphant entrance….


~ Christina



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Life Lessn #34 ~ LIFE'S A GIFT (GONE IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE)






If you’ve been anywhere near the Dowling – Olachia abode lately you’re painfully aware the last 10 days have been exceptionally difficult. I honestly wouldn't even know where to begin a full account if I tried. Let’s just say this, life has been very fast paced and nothing less than an unexpected exit down a high speed turbo express turnpike of the unfathomable. This whole idea of losing not just one but two of the most important people in my life, a week a part, has been absolutely terrifying. The old saying “in a blink of an eye" is resonating loud and clear right now.

First, I am beyond thankful for all of our tribe, both our family and extended. I don’t know quite frankly if we’d have any scruples left without those who have rallied, been at our sides and even sat through the nights with us. I am eternally grateful for the love our family has been surrounded with, it’s truly been overwhelming. And if not for my amazing husband, and precious children I may have lost my own marbles a lot sooner during these last couple weeks.

Life lesson # 34: Life's a gift, never given twice, always interchanging, moving and yes, fragile.

Many times we overlook crucial, critical moments, convincing ourselves we have more time. We close our eyes, ignoring the minutes counting down, just living life for granted. We get so caught up pretending we have plenty of time left we let life spin out of control. Before we know it we've forgotten to circle back around , to make up lost time or simply take a trip down memory lane one last time with those we love. We kinda live as if we're bulletproof; having all the time in the world but the harsh reality is we don't. What’s really tragic is the belief we can barter for extended time together when we’re already living on borrowed time already. 

Why do we get so tangled up in so much rubbish? Life is just not as complicated as we try and make it. Time stops for no one, and the way I see it we have two options, you can either complain about it or live it! We can’t keep running around exhausting ourselves, living on fumes expecting to make our destination without incurring some serious damage. Seriously if we keep waving people off, passing them by and flipping the bird, how can we still expect those same folks to be willing to help us change a flat tire down the road somewhere? We simply can’t go around, screaming foul and blaming everyone else for our troubles when we ran the red light! Neither can we keep replacing those same people and relationships every time the wind changes direction. I just don’t see how we can expect any kind of enduring, stable and long-lived connections in the end if we’re so willing to toss people out with the bath water. If we continue living life in this kind of manner, in the fast lane all the time, we miss everything precious and beautiful offered us in the process.  

Simply put, life is not for the faint of heart, it’s for the courageous. We can live a life full of strife and turmoil or we can simply live. Quite honestly, I would be exhausted living any other way than full hearted. More than ever I’m thankful for where life is leading me, and not vice versa. I’m also thankful and humbled by the life I have lived, by the love and family I have been given and raised by. My parents, my husband and children are all true blessings, gifts I could never forsake nor acquire in my own right. For this reason alone, the ties that bind us should never be broken or severed simply because we won’t compromise. So if I told you I wasn’t scared, I would be lying to each and every one of you, because I am petrified. Losing those you love is an unmeasurable pain. No, not in any universe, am I ready for a future without my morning phone calls, sweet texts, Facebook tags or afternoon lunches with my O’hana. This is why we have to learn to slow down, pay attention to what direction we are leading ourselves in. We’re all traveling toward the same destination; shouldn't we want to arrive there with a full heart, not an empty tank? 

If I can leave you with anything, it's to implore you; reevaluate the direction you’re moving in. Ultimately, all things said and done, it’s about having the courage to take a leap of faith, to love, forgive and accept we can’t always be in control. If we know our time here is short, why waste it on nonsense? We may just have to come to a complete stop, looking all four ways in order to see the road ahead of us clearly. When we stop and slow down, our lives don’t look so bad do they? Sometimes you just have to get out of your own way! Just STOP, learn to sit and wait without a need to speed. All we have to do is move over into the passenger’s seat and stay as far away from the wheel as we can! In the end if we think about missed moments long enough we’d realize it’s time to take the detour we missed, make a U-turn and put the breaks on our current GPS. If we can’t sacrifice for those we love, what business do we have taking the wheel or calling shotgun anyway? Taking the backseat for a while may simply be the best bet, just long enough to appreciate the scenery anyway. 

And at the end of the day, when my road comes to a winding end, I hope to have lived much more of an adventure than to have led a mere existence. Why, well that's simple, life, is all but gone in the blink of an eye!


~Christina