a (hundred)thousand thoughts

sometimes i wonder just what exactly goes through my head all day. there are moments where i feel that i am brain-dead because nothing that is filtering through makes sense. it is a simple flooding of random ideas, notions, thoughts and feelings. nothing is discernible. that feeling is immediately followed by the complete opposite notion that i am utterly and completely insane because of the sheer number of thoughts going through my head all at once.

i just spent at least half an hour trying to track down “the average number of thoughts in a day”. there is no factually comprehensive answer with scientific data provided as proof or foundation. in fact, every article, blog post, and entry found on the topic was followed by a barrage of comments about the validity of the information and the qualifications of the definition of thought, idea, and consciousness. it made me light-headed. but the overall concept is that our minds are so filled with “thoughts” that we have a separate one almost every second (tandem with the idea that we are capable of having multiple layers of thoughts at one time). whoa.

as stated by Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now, “Thinking has become a disease”. i’ll say! a thought every second? on top of a thought at the exact same time..? one of which will draw our attention while another exists unconsciously on a plane that we aren’t even cognizant of? can you think of anything more elaborately constructed than the human mind, it’s psyche, and the intricacies of consciousness??? i cannot. the fact of the matter (in my humble opinion) is that the thoughts are not the disease. the disease is our human desire to validate every thought with feeling and action.

every thought doesn’t need acknowledgement. every idea doesn’t need validation. it is this neuroses that has brought MINDFULNESS to the forefront of “self-care”. we are so powered on, so consumed, so involved with every little thing that we have had to remind ourselves how to slow down and breathe. literally. mindfulness is centered around ignoring the tsunami of thoughts, following our breaths — in, down, up, and out, and actually being PRESENT in this place, in this space, in this time — right here, right now.

sometimes i dream about conversations i’ve had or want to have, letters i’ve written or will write, or even future blog posts. i have my best work related a-ha moments in the shower (when i’m not at work), or as i’m drifting off to sleep — prompting me to send myself an email at work. i do my best dinner recipe research during my lunch break (when i’m not at home). and i write best when i’m too tired to finish (as there are always more than a dozen “draft” posts in my cue — this will be the third post published today that was started not today; a feat i have never accomplished before). i secretly dream of and plan my children’s futures on the nights when i’m restless and cannot sleep. and i peruse memories of my grandmother when i’m home, in my kitchen, preparing a meal.

everything that i listed in the paragraph above takes place when i am not there (except thinking of my gramma). my whole thought process is void of mindfulness. i’m thinking about work when i am at home. i’m thinking about home when i am at work. i am seldom thinking about what i am doing when i am doing it. i have actually thought it through hours or even days before… making my mind available to obsess (TO OBSESS) about the next task while i am still trying to conquer the task at hand.

i put forth a conscious and concerted effort to be present when i am spending time with my kids. it’s hard to not give children all of your attention. as a single parent, i do have the task of planning ahead for most everything. particularly meals and outings. we have a pretty solid schedule through the week and on the weekends we throw caution to the wind and let the chips fall where they may. but as of late, i’ve been making a point to not plan ahead. to just sit down and let them clamor over me. to lay on the floor and play with them. to let them pick the books i read, and to turn the pages. it allows for so much more conversation and interaction. they grow so fast…

i try to track my thoughts. when i’m at work i make endless lists to assist me with task completion. i actively use Outlook, and Evernote. i also use Notes, and Reminders on my phone. for a few months, i was also using a bullet journal, which i’d like to get back to, but requires a little more time than i have readily available. and with all of that, i still forget things. sometimes big things. perhaps if i just slow down, breathe, and focus on the current project i’ll be more productive. i mean, what good is an unchecked task list?

here at home my dishes are piled up. the laundry, both clean and dirty is also piled up. the storage closet is filled to the limit with clothes and shoes that are too small and need to be donated. the refrigerator could use a good cleaning. and the pantry could use a purging. at least the beds are made and the bathroom is clean. my eyes wander about the apartment looking at the flaws and problems. then i see this knee high stack of books. library books. that is where i will let my thoughts settle. we check out 33 books from the library two weeks ago. we read them all. i read them for, with, and to my kids. it was time and laughs that we shared together. those are the thoughts that mean something. those are the thoughts i will validate. this is where i will let my obsession rest… in the gaze of my beloved children.

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a life better than what we had

isn’t that what we always say? especially when we are accused of doting on or spoiling our children? we want them to have a life better than what we had. we want to give them more than what we had. we want them to want for nothing because we wanted but couldn’t have. if that’s truly the case…when do we stop? which generation will be the ones to say “i struggled, i wanted, i craved, and i never got… BUT i’m just fine”!

i know i’ve said those words. i know i’ve held (and hold) those very feelings. but is that a founded desire? are my children lacking in anything? their recital every single night of our three stanza prayer will tell you no. they are not lacking in faith. their smiles, size, clothing, hair, and shoes will tell you no. they aren’t lacking. not in love, food or hygiene. their desire to read book after book after book at bedtime will also tell you no. they are not lacking. not with reading, not with mother-child interaction. in fact, i don’t see any position in which they are lacking. they’re all very well cared for. they’re safe, happy, loved, well, and thriving. what more could I be looking for?

i think that’s the question that fuels parenting. i think wanting for them, and living vicariously is what makes the next generation the “leaders of tomorrow”. if we didn’t want for them, push them, challenge them… where would we be? not we as in us the parents, but we as in society. where would society be if there wasn’t a newest youngest brightest on the verge of something spectacular?

but do we honestly have to give them more or better? in all honesty, we turned out fine… with less. is giving more what we what? i don’t, not really. i don’t want to provide more. i want to provide better. better quality. better substance.

i want my children to have a strong faith in God. i want them to see and believe His purpose for them and their purpose for Him. i want them to exhibit honesty, confidence, grace, generosity, and kindness. i want them to stand out among their friends, among their classmates, and in the world. i want them to be better than me… in all ways. i want them to have character, be characters (they’ve already got that one checked off the list), and be utterly unforgettable.

enjoying your children

after the fourth grade field trip, i picked up the twins, went home and freshened up, left to pay a bill, went out for pizza, and ice cream, and then to our local small town grocer for organic fruit and granola. all, minus the filed trip, with three kids waddling behind like the little ducklings they are. after loading my herd of kids into the car, and watching to ensure that the ten year old returned the shopping cart without damage to neighboring vehicles or injury to his person i turned to get into the car. there was a lady standing by my driver’s side headlight. she said “i just wanted to tell you, it was nice to watch you enjoying your kids, that’s all”. i said thank you. but after starting the car, her heartfelt words had a moment to sink in, and they surged to my core. i looked for her and pulled up next to her parked car. i rolled down my son’s window and told her that i really appreciated her kind words. i explained that i often (and was currently in the midst of the) struggle with that very feeling and motherhood can be so “consuming” she said. she said thank you for the thank you and i left. that brief but endearing interaction made me feel really good.

i was recently reviewing my blog posts and realized that there are three major themes: parenting, mothering, and my kids. needless to say, these are the themes of my actual life. i live and breathe kids. and as with normal parenting, normal mothering, and normal kids… i sometimes wonder if i’m doing the right thing. i have been told (many times) that my children are beautiful, well behaved, and kind. my eldest was taught to hold open the door for those following him. he does it, (impressively) to a fault. we have left many establishments, only to be stuck standing outside the door because my sons chivalry won’t let him close the door if anyone is within a football field length of the exit. as often as i’ve been a little irritated, it has been immediately dismissed by the compliments given to him (and me).

tackling a day of errands with three kids in tow requires a super hero cape, a utility belt, and the kinetic power of patience. sometimes it seems like an insurmountable task, but what’s a mama to do? not shop? not pay bills? choosing to not doing anything for the good of the household is NOT an option. ya gotta do whatcha gotta do. kids need to see their parents, up, dressed, out, and active. they need to watch you interact with the world, see how you handle yourself, and listen to your words as you speak with others. you are their role model, after all.

sometimes it’s hard to find joy in the endless monotony of parenting. there are times when we need to be selfish, but the guilt of even wanting to care for ourselves outweighs the need to do so and we don’t. sometimes we need to exercise discipline and the guilt of having to be the bad guy makes us feel mean and sad. there are times when one more load of dishes or laundry might push us over the edge. the numerous spills and sticky fingerprints alone is enough to drive anyone absolutely bonkers. but in the midst of it all, the greatest good you will ever do is accomplished. the greatest good any of us can ever do is raise (and contribute to the raising of) kinder, smarter, dedicated individuals who strive for stronger faith, a larger sense of family, more empathy, greater acceptance, and peace — above anything else. the occasional compliment from a total stranger is just the fuel we need.

Mmmmm Chockit

I asked Margo if she wanted some chocolate chip banana bread. No, she said. Two minutes later, I could see her great big eyes over the counter.


 She was looking at a wayward chocolate chip. 

“What’s that?”

“A melted chocolate chip, it fell out of the bread.”

“Can I have that?”

“Sure”

…. she tiptoed and grabbed the chip with her tiny LittleLady hand. Gobbled it up, quickly. One whole minute later I saw those eyes again.

“Mom?”

“Yes, SweetHeart?”

“Can I have more those chockit chips?” 

“Sure”.

I pushed the stump of leftover bread toward the edge of the counter. The tiny lady hand swiftly snagged a chip and shoved it ever so sweetly into her little lady mouth. I don’t think she walked away this time, but stayed put with her hand on the counter.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Rae?”

“I can have that bread?”

“Yes. I asked you if you wanted some, but you said no.”

“Yes. I want it.”

“Here you go, sit down.”

“Mmmmmmm chockit!” …. 

Each night, after we read, and before we say prayers, we share the “best part of our day”. 

That was the best part of my day! 

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

It’s happening right now

It’s happening right now.

follow Armina’s Journey.

Love for the Bereaved

Losing a loved one is nothing shy of being punched in the face. By someone bigger than you. Repeatedly. It’s a pain that strikes fast and hard and weighs heavy. Under the wrong circumstances, it can weigh a person down like an anchor and drag them to the depths of the bottomless ocean that is grief. In years past, I would have said that only “time” could heal the scar left by the death of a loved one. I know now, that while it certainly takes time, it also requires an insurmountable amount of Love and just as much Faith.

I met Armina in the summer of 2012. We worked for the same company, and coincidentally had a mutual friend. It was only a few months later that Armina told me that she wasn’t happy in California and that she and her husband: Kenny; would be relocating back to Philadelphia. I was a little shocked, but I wished her well and told her to stay in contact. We were soon Facebook friends, able to interact from a cyber distance. I don’t know exactly how long after we became Facebook friends, that Armina’s Facebook took me by surprise. I hadn’t been stalking her well enough and was confused by what I was seeing. It appeared that she was in grief, someone had passed away. I clicked onto her page directly and was immediately crushed by what I was reading. It brought tears to my eyes and I sobbed as I scrolled her timeline. Armina’s husband had died. Three weeks prior. I was devastated. I was devastated for her. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do or how I was supposed to respond.

Armina is a woman of faith. A Godly woman; who reads and follows the Good Book to the best of her ability. Each week after her husband passed away, Armina wrote a very eloquent homage to her husband, to her pain, about her Journey into and through grief. I am certain that her unabashed love for God himself manifested itself in her weekly updates. Sometimes it hurt to read, but it was insightful, inspiring, and lovely. With her permission I will share a post or two so that can read for yourself just how amazing she is.

• Armina Johnson
January 08, 2013 • Philadelphia, PA
It’s been one week since I lost the love of my heart. My heart is bleeding but I find comfort in God and his tender love for me. I have been blessed by so many ppl who have been by to sit with me for a while, bring me food, do my laundry, make sure I fall asleep and have been in the same spot when I wake. Have bought groceries for my fridge, and brought ingredients and cooked while talking to me about how much they loved Ken McElveen and the great memories that [they] have of him. These days are hard because I have come to the realization that he is truly asleep in the Lord and that this is not a dream. I have read all of your condolences over and over. I want to thank you all for such kind words of encouragement. I am asking that you continue to pray for me and my family. It is not easy loving a husband, son, brother and friend. Ken was loved by EVERYONE who knew him. Be blessed…

• Armina Johnson
February 18, 2013 • Blue Bell, PA
Week 7- Not getting better but placing my hand in the Master’s hand as I express how angry I am with Him. As I take a walk through this journey, my emotions are occurring spontaneously, and sometimes two or three at the same time. I’m learning that whatever my emotions lead me to feel, it’s okay to feel how I’m feeling. I think there are several emotions that I’m going to go through that are beyond my control. — with Ken McElveen.

• Armina Johnson
February 28, 2013 • Norristown, PA
Woke up this morning with a heavy heart. Going through grief is like going through a tunnel. The bad news is the tunnel is dark. I can appreciate that the good news is that once you enter into that tunnel, you are already on your way out. “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:2). How long, Lord, how long? This tunnel is so dark. My prayer today is for God to show me His light.

• Armina Johnson
March 6, 2013 • Norristown, PA
“Just give it time,” people say. That is misleading. Time alone will not heal my grief. God is the source of all healing. Making the decision to remain close to Him despite my emotional struggles is critical in my journey. Are you still praying with me? “I am the LORD, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).

• Armina Johnson
March 25, 2013 • Norristown, PA
Week 12: In the 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, Paul said he felt great pressure and confusion, but God set a limit as to how far this would go: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). 12 weeks late…the pressure continues to seems unbearable at times but it has not crushed me. I am utterly confused and overwhelmed, but I have not given up. My distress is constant, but so is God. I have been forcefully struck down, but I am not destroyed. Keep praying. — with Ken McElveen.

• Armina Johnson
May 20, 2013 • Philadelphia, PA
Week 20: Ken McElveen This has been an AMAZING week thus far in this process. Seven straight days with constant HAPPINESS. However, depression is real and is a part of the process of grief. It is a normal feeling in a chaotic situation. Knowing when to seek help is key.

I understand that therapy is not for everyone but we have to, at some point, come to grips [when] this feeling is too much and I need to share it with someone. If one’s depression persists for months and becomes a way of life, it is no longer normal grieving. You do not have to live with this. If it goes on and on, get help. Talk to a Christian counselor or your pastor or a doctor. This type of depression is what doctors would call clinical depression, and there is help for that.

Dr. Ray Pritchard says, “Don’t give up. Pick up the phone. Call a friend. If that friend can’t help you, call another friend. If the people at one church cannot help you, call another Christian church.” Take action to find help for your depression. And if that fails, try again.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

Father, it is only by Your grace that I can stand through this trial. Open the doors of help for me and strengthen me to walk through them. Amen.

Don’t you want to just hug her? Having shared that, it’s imperative that you understand that Armina took a very deliberate approach to dealing with the loss of her husband. She felt her feelings, she shared her feelings, and she made no excuses for her bad days. She walked her walk and invited all of us to hold her hand. I was so very appreciative, but more, I was amazed. And through it all, she never took her eye off the Lord. Her Love of the Lord reigned supreme. At a time when most people question and forsake the Lord, Armina held fast and strong. A most commendable gesture, indeed. The kicker is that she meant it. She wasn’t going through the motions, or adhering to what she thought she was supposed to do. God is her Savior, and she held on to Him in her time of need. He didn’t let her down.

Someone else was equally amazed with her and his name is Evince. From their introduction, Evince was aware of Armina’s emotional state and he gave her what she needed. Whether it was an ear to bend, a hug to support her, words of encouragement or space; if she asked for it, he gave it to her. Their relationship started with a date to Cracker Barrel and has blossomed into a beautiful romance. Their courtship grew and matured before our Facebook eyes as it appeared that he not only swept her off her feet, but that she was open, receptive, and accepting.

• Armina Johnson
May 21, 2014
I Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.— with Evince Domingue.

• Armina Johnson
May 29, 2014
Good morning. I am Armina. I am not “the woman who lost her husband.” I refuse to allow my situation to determine”WHO” I am. Enjoy your day FB. ‪#‎100daysofhappiness‬

In September of 2014 Evince surprised Armina with a marriage proposal in front of close friends and family. Armina and Evince are now engaged and due to marry in August of this year!  What a testimony!!

• Armina Johnson
September 21, 2014
A few days ago my mom: Jontarr, challenged me to 3 days of thanksgiving…on the last day of the challenge, he asked and I said YES!— with Evince Domingue and 13 others.

Armina Johnson's photo. Armina Johnson's photo.
Armina Johnson's photo. Armina Johnson's photo. Armina Johnson's photo.
You, Rolanda, Imelda, Kenya and 325 others like this.

• Armina Johnson
September 22, 2014
Good morning. When I woke this morning, I had to triple check my finger. It seemed like a fairy tale that ends well. I was so over joyed to wake up to all these well wishes(and they are still coming). Thank you all for the warm wishes and your continue support. We are elated! Looking fwd to every moment. Our God is hmm hmm good. ‪#‎wontHedoit‬ ‪#‎prayerworks‬ ‪#‎thereishopefortheweary‬ ‪#‎Helovesmeenoughtoblessme‬ ‪#‎teamdj2015‬

Armina and Evince Forward

• Armina Johnson
November 27, 2014 • Philadelphia, PA
Good morning. If it is not a daily practice to express your gratitude, let today be the start of something new. I am a witness that it will change your life. Be safe today, and enjoy great fellowship with family and friends. IF you have nowhere to go today…let me know…we have plenty of food and love to share…NY see you soon.

Armina and Evince Future

• Armina Johnson
December 25, 2014
It’s been a bumpy road this week. Evince Domingue I am the pen and you are the highlighter. I draw the world, you make it brighter…Thanks for being my BFF and making my world brighter. ‪#‎iamcornyinlovewithhim‬‪ #‎teamdj2015‬ ‪#‎dare2loveIdid

imageArmina and Evince Stuntin
If you’ve never stepped out on faith, take it from me, now is the time to do it. if you’ve never believed, never trusted or never felt the hand of God in your life, now is the time to change your thoughts and feel His power. If He can do all of this for Armina, He can do it for you too. And if you need a bit of inspiration, read over Armina’s Facebook posts and see for yourself that she not only kept her eye on the Lord, she continued to remind us all to be blessed, to be grateful, and thankful. And she always wished us well.
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Armina, you are a walking testament to the mercy and power of the Lord! I know you don’t need to hear it from me to know, but honey, YOU. ARE. BLESSED. Thank you for blessing me with your friendship, your vision for our coincidental futures, and most importantly, thank you for entrusting me with your beautiful story. Congratulations on having the will to share, the power to struggle through, the discernment to open and receptive to God and His love allowing Evince and his love into your life and heart. Cheers!!! To a scintillating future.
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