Why You Need to Stop Being NIce

What did being nice ever get you? Try being honest.  Try being brave. 

Read this post here.

Fear and Trepidation: Transferring Colleges in My Senior Year

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/fear-and-trepidation-transferring-schools-senior-year

Click on the link to read.  Transferring colleges in as I start my senior year is going to be filled with mixed emotions.  I love College of Charleston and hope that I will love Clemson as much!

Life Sentences for Folly Beach Victims’ Families

This is my article for OdysseyOnLine.  I was reminded of this story during a class exercise. In searching for more information, I discovered the challenges faced by the victims’ families.

You can read the article Life Sentences for Folly Beach Victims’ Families here. 

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Sanctuary for Apes in Summerville

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I discovered the International Primate Protection League in Summerville several years ago and love the work they do.  They had some damaged in Hurricane Matthew, so I decided to write about them this week in my OddysseyOnLine.

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/home-fo-apes-summerville-damaged-hurricane-matthew

Finding Center

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There are things I could never imagine happening to me. That is saying a lot considering I have a highly overactive imagination. I can imagine an asteroid crashing into earth close my home. My friends will tell you that they are not allowed to mention comets, or meteor showers, or a protentional eclipse. I can imagine a tsunami wiping out a beach as I sit in the sand.  I can envision an earthquake while I am in a three story building. I am afraid that someone might break into the house when I am all alone and taking a shower (that might just be a throwback to Psycho). I can even imagine how our country might look like after the current elections. Yet, I could never have believed what would happen this week.

I arrived at my class at school, and we began a group team building exercise. The instructions were simple. Everyone was to stand in a large circle. The professor would read a statement, and everyone would quickly, without much thought or hesitation, step into the circle to the extent that they agreed with the statement. If you strongly agreed with the statement, you would walk into the center of the circle. If you slightly agreed, you would only take a small step or two in the circle. If you strongly disagreed, you would stand in place and so on.

The first statements were innocuous.

“I like chocolate.” Almost everyone was in the center of the circle.

“I like pizza.” People were a bit more spread out on this one.

“I am a dog person.” “I am a cat person.” There were some strong feelings on this one.

The statements then focused more on issues.

“I am a feminist.”

“I believe everyone has the same access to prosperity.”

“I believe everyone should have equal access to education.”

With each of these statements, everyone in the group shared the same opinion. We all appeared to be on the same page when it came to social issues and ideals.

After each statement, the professor would ask us to return to the circle if we had moved. After a few more statements, I heard this one.

“I believe in God.”

Without hesitation, I began my first step into the circle. As I moved, I suddenly became aware that no one else was moving. I hesitated for a split second. Do I keep going? Surely everyone is thinking about the question and will be stepping in. Maybe they are just waiting for the others. I took another step. The room was silent and still.

I kept taking steps towards the center of the circle. I could only see those in front of me or just to my side. Everyone was looking at me in the circle, but no one looked me in the eyes. I felt alone and exposed. I thought of the woman in the Bible who was caught in adultery. Everyone circled around her, pointed fingers, and said she should be stoned. Could this really be happening? I just wanted the professor to direct me back to my spot in the circle.

We quickly moved on to our next activity. I don’t remember much about what we did the rest of the class. I still felt as if I was standing alone in the middle of the circle. That feeling would stay with me for a while; in fact, I am still carrying a bit of it with me as I write.

I would not have been surprised if no moved into the circle had the statement been, “I am a Christian” or “I am religious” or “I go to church.” I know many people who want nothing to do with organized religion. I understand those who have questions about faith. I certainly have many questions about God, the church, the Bible, and theology. I am still shaken by the fact that no one moved into the circle. Even if someone had moved just a step or two into the circle, it would have been easier to understand. How could these people who share the same values about social issues and social justice not believe in God?

I have been thinking about this all week. As I began to process this, I looked at the world and the events of the past years. I remember bombings and killings in the name of God. I saw religious people who hated those who are different, people who say that God hates those who are aren’t like them, people who claim to follow God but turn their back on the poor, sick, and lonely. Politicians have been throwing around claims about God for months. Churches are splitting because they can’t agree to love one another any longer because of issues surrounding race, gender, who you can love or which bathroom people can use.

I must wonder if these bright, talented, young people I know, who want to change the world, look at all of this and decide that God can’t exist. In his book, “Blue Like Jazz”, Donald Miller writes about his experience at Reed College, a secular liberal arts college in Oregon. He and a few Christian friends discuss a way to talk to people on campus about their faith since students seemed hostile to their views. They come up with an idea to offer a confession to the other students. The confession below expresses what I have been thinking:

“So this group of us on campus wanted to confess to you,” Donald said.

“You are confessing to me!” Jake said with a laugh.

“Yeah. We are confessing to you. I mean, I am confessing to you.”

“You’re serious.” His laugh turned to something of a straight face.

“There’s a lot. I will keep it short,” Donald started.  “The thing is, we are followers of Jesus. We believe that Jesus is God and all, and he represented certain ideas that we have sort of not done a good job at representing. He has asked us to represent him well, but it can be very hard.  Jesus said to feed the poor and to heal the sick. I have never done very much about that. Jesus said to love those who persecute. I tend to lash out, especially if I feel threatened, you know, if my ego gets threatened. Jesus didn’t mix spirituality with theology.  I grew up doing that. It got in the way of the central message of Christ. I know that was wrong, and I know that a lot of people will not listen to the words of Christ because people like me, who know him, carry our own agendas into the conversation rather than just relaying the message Christ wanted to get across. There’s a lot more, too.”

There is a lot more!  I want to confess and apologize for not always carrying the message of Christ in my life, but I am going to keep trying.

New Blog and Website

I recac4117_cd1b5fba5823426fa0ef1749784d190dently moved my blog site to a self-hosted WordPress account.  You can now find me at http://www.cathysvoice.com

I have also started a new adventure writing for an online site called OdysseyOnLine.

Click here to see my author page and posts from the site!  Let me know what you think in the comments!

Cathy

Summer Camp for Nerds

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It is the July 2 and yesterday I started camp. This camp doesn’t have swimming pools or harmonious songs around a blazing campfire; This camp has pens, paper, keyboards, thesauruses, and spell check programs. We do have cabins, but they are virtual, so that means no pillow fights or mosquito bites.

This camp does require writing 50,000 words in one month.  Yes, 50 thousand words in  30 days or less. For you math wiz people, that is 1,667 a day.  Since I don’t have summer school, I thought I could use this summer to focus on writing.  So far, that hasn’t happened, so I signed up for Camp NanoWriMo and for a writing workshop that starts soon.

 

I tend to procrastinate when it comes to starting a writing project.  I think about it, dream about it, plan it, but when it comes time to do the writing, something happens.  Self-doubt and the dreaded internal critic lurk in the shadows plotting my writing demise.  Of course, life’s necessary activities get in the way as well.  For example, yesterday I was ready to sit down and write when I remembered that I needed to get laundry done so I could pack since I am returning to the upstate on Sunday.  This was after going to the gym and the drug store.  After I finished the necessary tasks, I was ready once again to  begin my writing creation, when I remembered it was Friday.  Friday is the day I have to complete the reporting for my part time job.  When that was done, I had to shower and get ready to go downtown to the theater. All in all my total word count for the day was 248.  That is only 1,418 words short.

Today is a new day at camp.  I have already written more words that I did yesterday, but it is going to take some effort to catch up.  Wish me luck!  I will let you know how it goes.

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You Will Know Them By Thier … “Label”

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It is time for me to live up the title of my blog/website…Cathy’s Voice Now…and use my voice regardless of how you choose to view me.  I often hold back expressing my views; You see, I want you to like me.  I have written blog posts only to hide them in drafts because I was concerned about how I would be perceived.

Today, I need to say what I believe and share it in this post.  The anniversary of Mother Emmanuel AME shooting, the ongoing story of a man who raped a young woman while a judge thinks it was “boys being boys”, and now the Orlando shooting has hurt my heart.  I can’t hide behind my fear of what you might think of me.

A Sacramento pastor responded to the Orlando shooting that killed 49 people and injured 50 more with praise, stating “they deserve what they got.”  Another statement, “Claiming homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts,” Pastor Steven Anderson celebrated the Orlando nightclub shooting.

I believe that hate is fueled when we see others as different from ourselves.  We might believe they have it better than we do or that we are better than they are.  We think our religious views are the only ones with merit. We believe the color of our skin, our gender,  or sexual orientation makes us superior to others.  When we see people as a race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, it is easier to hate because we no longer see the essence or soul of that human being.

I have many people in my circle of friends and acquaintances.  What I don’t have are gay friends, straight friends, black friends, Buddhist friends, Jewish friends, handicapped friends, liberal friends, conservative friends….you get the idea.  I simply have friends.

While many of my friends may identify with those labels, that isn’t who they are.  It doesn’t define the relationship we share.  It doesn’t change who they are in their heart and soul.   If I start identifying them by a label, I lose the person I know.

Here are my labels…white, straight, Christian, old, liberal, intelligent, a writer, an actor, a student, mother, grandmother, a feminist, recovering alcoholic, and more.  In my lifetime, I have also been labeled a drunk, a heretic, fat, irresponsible, just a woman, or stupid.    If you know me, then you know ME, not my labels.

If we continue to label people, we are contributing to an environment of hate.  This time the “homosexuals” were attacked and murdered.  The shooter didn’t see the mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends, co-workers, aunts, uncles, cousins, sports enthusiasts, teachers, lawyers, doctors, law enforcement, military, or anything else beyond the LABEL.   Some hate blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, poor, rich, white, women, and a multitude of other “labels”.  They do not look beyond the LABEL.  All they see is “other.”

Maybe next year it will be older white women with blue eyes.  Sound preposterous?  Couldn’t happen?  Are you sure? No one ever imaged hated so deep it could kill almost 6 million Jewish men, women, and children.  No one believed a person could hate enough to walk into a church and kill people in prayers.  No one wants to believe a single shooter hated enough to kill and injury close to 100 people.

Hate knows no boundaries.

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.   Lin-Manuel Miranda 2016

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Mental Health Month- I am One in Five

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May is  Mental Health Awareness Month.  It was created in 1949 to raise awareness of mental health conditions and mental wellness for all.  This year’s theme for Mental Health Month is – Life with a Mental Illness – and will call on individuals to share what life with a mental illness feels like for them in words, pictures and video by tagging their social media posts with #mentalillnessfeelslike (or submitting to MHA anonymously). Posts will be collected and displayed at mentalhealthamerica.net/feelslike.

I am 1 in 5. I find it easier to tell you that I am a recovering alcoholic and addict than it is to tell you I have a mental health condition.  I would almost rather admit to being a cat burglar.  Even in our more enlightened time, mental illness still carries a huge stigma.   A friend who works for our local mental health department says, “I wish we could put a huge band aid on the fore head of people with mental illness. Maybe then people would really understand it is an illness.”

I have heard people say there is no real test for mental illness.  It is all just something a psychiatrist or therapist labels you.  I want to take a moment to explain those “labels” to you.  Mental health practitioners make a diagnosis based on the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).  The manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and covers all mental health disorders for both children and adults.  There is another manual called ICD (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.)  Both manuals contain very strict, complicated, and definitive guidelines for diagnosing.

I was 36 years old when I received my first diagnoses (plural for diagnosis). It should have happened years before.  There were several reasons for the delay. Mental illness wasn’t as treatable as it is now.  Most people were afraid of being sent to a mental hospital.  Doctor’s weren’t as knowledgeable as they are now.   I also grew up in a household where mental illness was a taboo subject.  My grandmother sent my great grandmother to the state mental hospital.  They told her she was going for a ride in the country and then lied to everyone about where she was.   That is what I understood happened to people who didn’t behave properly.  She also felt that mental problems were from the devil.  They were perhaps even punishment for a lack of faith and bad behavior.

When I was in my early twenties, I told my doctor some of the things going on in my life.  He smiled.  He said it was just my nerves. He said “all us women” didn’t cope well with stress and pressure.  He gave me a prescription for Valium.  Then he gave me another prescription. And then another. This went on for a couple of years.  Valium was actually one of the worst things he could have given me.  It was my first “drug” addiction.

As I told you, I have several diagnoses.  My first was “Alcohol Dependence”   That code is 303.90 in case you were wondering.  There was also 304.10 (drug dependence for short). They didn’t come first in my life but were my first diagnoses. You can’t get to the problem when you are covering it with alcohol and drugs.  I also have GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and Panic Disorder.  I have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder),  BiPolar II,  Clinical Depression (which is actually covered in BiPolar II), and PTSD.

Wow, that looks like I must be a total mess.  Truth is that I WAS a total mess. I don’t have time share all of that here, but let me assure you, my life was a mess.  I tried suicide at one point.  However, medication and therapy have changed my life. Prayer and faith play a big part in life, as well.   I can’t make these things go away.  I live with them.  I make adjustments.  Most of my friends learn the hard way not to come up behind me without warning.  I don’t know who jumps higher, me or them.  It really isn’t any different from someone with diabetes.  They watch their sugar, they exercise, they check their sugar levels, and do whatever treatment it is that allows them to lead a normal life.

The old question comes up about nature and nurture.  Did my genetics cause all of this?  I am sure it contributed to it.  Was it the way I was raised?  Not exactly, but childhood trauma and abuse does contribute or cause some of this.   Scientists and doctors are learning more all the time about our brains and the way they work or don’t work.

Why am I telling you all of this?  We need everyone’s help.  Here are ways you can help.

  1. Fight The Stigma.  Learn the truth about Mental Health.  Often the media portrays people with mental illness in an untruthful, unflattering, and hurtful way.  You can help set the record straight.   Sites like NAMI http://www.nami.org/ or Mental Health America  http://www.nmha.org/  will give you realistic information.
  2. Please don’t tell me (or others) these things:  “Cheer Up, it will be OK”.  “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  “You are so strong-you don’t really need that medication do you?”   “Oh come on, we all get down sometimes.”  “You have so much going for you. How can you be depressed?”   “There is nothing to be scared of or worried about.”   “Just eat healthy food and exercise!”  ‘It’s not really that bad, is it?”  “Everyone has problems.”    If you want to understand, ask me and be willing to hear what I have to say.
  3. Continue to push for Mental Health legislation.  The Mental Health Parity Act was a great step but some insurance companies are finding creative ways to try to get around it.

So there you have it.  I have an illness that affects my brain.  My serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are all out of whack.  My reuptake receptors don’t function right.  My prefrontal cortex didn’t develop normally and I have poorly integrated cerebral hemispheres. (Those two are attributed to abuse.)    But I am still me.  I am the person you hang out with, call or text, chat with online, work with, play with, and pray with.  I am a mother, grandmother, and friend. I worked most of my life.   I have been blessed with two wonderful therapists in my lifetime and have found the proper medications that work to keep me in balance.  I have an amazing family and group of friends that support me.   I am a child of God.  God made me and loves me.

As Anne Lamott says:  “You were loved because God loves, period. God loved you, and everyone, not because you believed in certain things, but because you were a mess, and lonely, and His or Her child. God loved you no matter how crazy you felt on the inside, no matter what a fake you were; always, even in your current condition, even before coffee.”

How can you argue with that?

 

If you need help or know someone who does, there is help available…

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.   (Chat available as well)

Trevor Project:  The Trevor Project also offers a 24-hour toll-free confidential crisis and suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Call 1-866-4-uTREVOR (1-866-488-7386).

National Domestic Violence Hotline   1.800.799.SAFE (799-7233)

To Write Love on Her Arms:  Crisis Text Line  Text “TWLOHA” to 741-741    www.twloha.com

 

 

Church Noise

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I write about church and faith quite often.  If you have followed my blog or read any of these posts, you might recall that church and I have had a challenging relationship over the years. (You can find these posts under the Faith tab on the blog.)   I only returned to traditional church about six or seven years ago. I church shopped for a while before I found a place to stay for a while.  I was part of this church for about five years, however just a few weeks ago, the congregation voted to disband and close the church.  I won’t go into the reasons since this blog isn’t about that.  It did however create the need  opportunity to visit churches over the past couple of months.

As a child, I learned that the church sanctuary was a solemn place to be treated with absolute reverence.  There were many rules including no running, no talking above a whisper, no laughing; you get the idea.  Music was never that toe tapping hand-clapping sort of thing.  It was more along the lines of hymns written in earlier centuries to tortoise paced classical organ accompaniment.  It was only in the fellowship hall that we could have a piano with more lively music; however dancing was still out of the question.

On my summer visits to my brother in West Va., we would attend small charismatic type churches.  Their music was piano, guitar, and a bit more old-time gospel.  The preacher was scary.  He screamed, threw things, and often took off his coat and tie with armpit sweat stains showing the intensity of the sermon.

Over the years, things have changed in worship style and music in many churches, but not in the one I was attending after my return to church. Occasionally the congregation might be moved to clap after the choir anthem, and someone would usually have an “Amen”.  One of thing liked about this church was that the people enjoyed talking to each other.  Before church and during the time in worship when people greeted one another there was a buzzing of voices, and it was sometimes difficult to get everyone seated again.  As time went, on the voices and noise faded.

As I began visiting churches, I became interested in the church noises.  One of the first I visited had a full band with music I love from contemporary Christian artists.  I know many people love this type of “concert” setting, and while I enjoy it, I like a blend of more traditional hymns. From the moment, I entered the building, an excitement and joy could be felt.  The next few churches I visited were much mellower. There wasn’t much noise at all, even during the worship.

I attend service at a small country church in the upstate every few weeks when I go to stay with my friend.  I love this church.  It has a history stretching back one hundred years.  The organist/pianist is a precious 95-year-old woman. A small group of children in choir robes sing with a guitar accompaniment.  The choir is small, but powerful.  The sounds of children and babies create a sense of delight. The noises in that church are truly joyful ones.

I recently visited a church, and as I entered, laughter and chatter filled the foyer.  Before I could find a seat, several smiling faces had welcomed me as if I already belonged.  During the time in worship for greeting one another, the people seemed genuinely happy to be in worship with one another.  Each time I have attended, children and youth have been part of the worship.  Excitement and wonder are the noises that fill this place.  I think I might just stay a while here.  I like the noise.

Of course, I have to add a quote from Anne Lamott:

“I live for Sundays,” she says. “It’s like going to the spiritual gas station to fill up on fuel and clean the dirty windshield and mirrors. 
I usually show up nuts, self-obsessed, vaguely agitated, and I am at once reminded not of who I am, but Whose I am.

“Then everything falls into place, and I smile again at how crazy I (and most of us) are, but how at church, in fellowship, in the arms and eyes of Jesus […] I remember the truth of my spiritual identity. I love to sing in a group – more than anything, and to do the holy dance of swaying, and clapping. Plus, they say that clapping in church scares away the devil.”

 

 

 

 

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