Friday, December 12, 2014

Is having an education more important than experience?

The young woman sitting across from me at the Italian restaurant flaunted her knowledge....  And while all of her regurgitated ideas were quite thought-provoking, I found myself studying her instead of what she said.  

    She's younger than I am—in her early twenties—and yet she exuded so much arrogance.  Just because I don't have my Bachelor's Degree, she kept throwing it in my face. "Elisa, I know you don't have the same education that I do, but I hope you're following everything that I'm saying.  Tell me to slow down when you need me to.  Feel free to ask questions when you think it's appropriate."

    And at one point, I wanted to slam my coffee on the table between us and shout, "You have no idea what I know, or what I've been through."  But I remained outwardly calm for a time, listening to the barrage of information I assumed this woman had likely never applied in real life.

    "You should study transhumanism!" she squealed. "Oh, but of course, you haven't taken the background classes on humanism itself—so you can't correctly judge such an ideology."  She tapped her painted nails on her coffee cup, then looked away as if grieving the fact that I wasn't smart enough to talk with. 

    "What a pity that you haven't had more of an education," she suddenly went on.  "You're older than me and yet you have so much to learn about the value we each put on life, about humanity as a whole…. You have yet to understand the driving forces behind our political system, what truly makes us equal, whether destiny, fate, or even predestination, really exist!"

    Coffee nearly spewed from my mouth, being so taken aback by her words. "Oh, and YOU know all of these things?" I asked.
    "I've graduated with honors."

    "I appreciate that we've become friends…" I paused. "But I don't appreciate some of the recent comments you've made about my intellect…"  She appeared shocked. "Let me explain something to you—just because you have an education, that does not make you better than someone else."

    "But if they have less of an education than I do, that means I've learned more than they have.  And…knowledge IS power."

    "School is wonderful, but without truly applying what you've learned—" I began saying before she interrupted me.

    "I'm applying it right now," she said.

    "Fine, you're all about the human condition.  What's the meaning of life?"

    "Sharing knowledge with others," she said rather quickly.

    "How about learning from others?" I asked.

    "Those who are educated."

    I couldn't help but laugh.  "Listen, neither one of us are very old, but I've been through a hell of a lot—and I've learned every step of the way. And for you to sit here and act like you're God's gift—it's really getting to me."

    "But, Elisa—" Her lips turned downward sadly. "I'm trying to help you." 

    "I have a long way to go—but I think I've done a pretty great job learning without your help!"

    She scoffed—visibly upset that I'd quit being perpetually sweet. That's when I couldn't hold my thoughts in any longer.

    "I learned more from a homeless man on the streets of Hawaii, than I've ever learned from any university professor.  Do you know what it's like to be homeless?  To sit on a corner wondering when you'll get your next meal?  To cry, thinking you can't possibly survive, but you don't want to make a collect call to your parents and admit to them that you were wrong; you don't want to crawl back to everyone where you grew up, hoping they'll forgive you—even though you're unmarried AND pregnant…. So you sit on the streets, and some damn stranger comes up and tells you about life, about how you can find kindness in the strangest places.  How we all have stories—we'll all suffer pain and loss, but what makes life worth it—what gives it meaning—is when people are kind and that kindness strikes the core of us!  That elderly, homeless man—albeit dirty and haggard—showed me the type of selfless kindness I'll never forget."

    She stared gape-jawed, and I continued on.

    "Have you ever lost a child? Held them in your arms and watched them take their last breath because even though you wanted them to live more than anything, you knew they were in pain—and the best choice you could make was the exact opposite of what you wanted more than anything? I wanted my kid to live—but the selfless choice—the humane choice was to let him die. No book could give me that experience. No philosophy course could make me completely 'feel' that concept. I innately knew what was the right choice!  Most people don't know what they'd do in that situation, but I do!"

    She shook her head, obviously stunned by my past.

    "Have you ever loved someone so much, you thought that love would last to the end of time? You thought the two of you could take on the world and nothing could throw you.  Had five kids
FIVE—only to learn that love wasn't what you'd hoped?  People are flawed, they're utterly human—and utterly finite. And maybe the only person you should have trusted was God because what you learned was that you couldn't even trust yourself. 

    "Did you learn any of that from your books, your political classes, your humanity and philosophy teachers?  Did that education also give you the experiences that taught you what REAL life is like? I may not have the education that you have, but I've lived and know a heck of a lot more than you'd like to give me credit for."

    I stood up in that gorgeous restaurant, slapped some cash on the table and began to walk out.   The bell on the front door rang as I grabbed the brass handle.

    "Elisa!" she called out from the table.  "Wait, Elisa.  Please don't go!"

     Seriously?  Hadn't I just completely lost my temper?  Why did she still want to talk with me?  I fisted my hands and slowly pivoted on the balls of my feet.  "What?"

    Tears trailed down the base and blush on her cheeks. "Can you come back?"

    I walked back, then simply stood by the table, wondering what she would possibly say.

    "Elisa, I owe you an apology."  And that young woman proceeded to tell me how she acts like everything's fine, when it's not.  Kids used to call her stupid because her mother died when she was in grade school and she started struggling to focus in classes after that. "Everyone thought I was so dumb," she sobbed. "I've fought with everything in me to do well in school—to learn.  To be worth something."

    I sat down, and after a moment, we both had tears in our eyes.

    The conversation that unfolded after that was life-changing.  I learned, once again, that you can never guess what someone else has been through.  I judged her quite harshly, assuming she'd never had any trials, yet she'd lost her mother
a loss I can't even comprehend.  And she'd worked so hard to learn for reasons I never would have guessed, wearing her education as a badge of honor to make her feel significant.

    "I owe you an apology, too.  I'm sorry for judging you.  You're amazing," I said at the end of the conversation. "Education, experiences…all of that aside.  The choices you've made—and who you've become.  Heck, even the way you handled this situation today, asking me to come back to the table… You know, you're all right."

    We both smiled through tears, and I thought once again, the meaning of life for me really is to learn from others, and to try a little harder to be kind--even when it isn't the easy choice.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Happy Birthday to my...TEENAGER

This girl makes life so wonderful!
I can hardly believe she turned 13 today.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

THREADED DREAMS has been published! Celebrate with 5 FREE eBooks for 4 more days!


"Threaded Dreams"
has been released today! 

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Dreams can be strange, wavering between what our conscious and subconscious thoughts are. Follow one woman's journey to self-discovery as she shares her own life-changing dreams.

Click HERE

for Kindle eBook

Click HERE for Paperback on Amazon.

To celebrate, I've decided to give away 
some FREE eBooks. 
These will be FREE until 12/1/14. 

The Sword of Senack 

How to Avoid Having Sex

The Golden Sky

Homeless in Hawaii 

Bible Girl & the Bad Boy


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Monday, November 24, 2014

Cover Reveal: THREADED DREAMS by EC Stilson

I've been working on "Threaded Dreams" for over 4 years--it's amazing to see it finally come to completion.

Release Date: 11/28/2014
Dreams can be strange, wavering between what our conscious and subconscious thoughts are. Follow one woman's journey to self-discovery as she shares her own life-changing dreams.

Front Cover
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Back Cover
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LINK to Paperback on Amazon. 

A Bonsai Tree

Twelve years ago, an old gardener decided to plant two seedling bonsai trees in the same container. . . .
    At once, the two seedlings found one another, wrapping their leaves together, entwining until their very beings grew as one. It was beautiful really, how the two became as a mangrove, even their roots wrapping together in places no one else could see.
    The gardener, perceiving their unified strength, gently transplanted them into some fertile soil outside. At first they braved many storms, growing closer all the while. But then as years passed, something changed. It was subtle, maybe even so slow neither bonsai felt it at first . . . still, change they did.
    One bonsai grew stronger, slightly overpowering the other. The smaller bonsai tried to be strong, doing everything . . . anything. But slowly, the smaller bonsai began losing strength. And the bigger bonsai, unhappy in its own way, lost strength as well.
    The leaves browned. Their bark no longer had a healthy feel. They were dry . . . dying.
    And so, the old gardener, after watching their demise, decided to pull the two trees apart. But he had to cut so much that by the time he'd untangled roots and branches, there was hardly anything left of either tree.
    He set them in separate containers, on opposite windowsills in his quaint little house.   
    As the months passed, both trees grew. The smaller bonsai, stretched and strained. The larger bonsai, leaned toward the sun, reveling in the solitude. And as summer came, both trees began to blossom. And for the first time, both trees saw each other for what they were: The smaller bonsai had orange blossoms. The larger bonsai had a thick trunk and reddish leaves. 
    As the two bonsais felt each other across the room, they were no longer saddened, angry, or fearful, instead they saw the facts for what they were: they'd been two different breeds, and if you know anything about bonsais, it's that the only kinds that should be in the same container are those of the same breed. 

Also, look for FREE eBooks 
downloadable from my blog and Facebook 
on 11/27-12/1!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I left the bag in the turkey!

    This is one of my favorite Thanksgiving posts--from 2011.  So I decided to repost it this weekend.

    Do you remember Miss Priss?  
    One of my FAVORITE posts ever is this one:

Then the madness continued with:

    Her nickname says it all.  I swear, I run into this woman whenever I look like crap--too bad I see her almost EVERY DAY.
    Yesterday, I should have thrown some makeup on, but no, I decided to put on my glasses and go all natural.  That practically summoned Miss Priss because when I stepped into the post office, there she stood, mailing packages that smelled like perfume.
    "Oh, it's you," she said when she saw me.  "How . . . lovely to see you."
    Wasn't it though, just delightful!
    I wanted to scream, tell her I don't ALWAYS look like crap, it's just when I see her.  There was no time for facts though, she wanted to tell the employees about how amazing she is and how she's researched new ways to help her baby be smarter.
    The other P. O. employee said he could help me.  "How was your Thanksgiving?" he asked, and Miss Priss hushed, completely honing in on our conversation.
    Sure I could have played her game, acted like everything was better than sin, but I'm not like that, so I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.  "It was awesome.  The food turned out great.  The turkey was moist even if I did leave the bag in it."
    The employees started laughing.  "You did what?"
    "I left the bag in, and can you believe it didn't even taste like plastic?!  I almost died when my husband carved the turkey.  He held up the bag and said, 'Hon, what is this?'  It was like he'd found the toy in the Cracker Jack package--seriously.  But, anyway, if our turkey sucks next year, I'll know it's because the bag needs to stay in.  It adds a . . . smoky taste you just can't buy."
    Miss Priss turned to me like she might be sick.  "I've never done something like that, ever."
    Well, wasn't she a gem--God's gift and everything.
    "You know," she continued, "you should google things first."
    "Sometimes it's nice to live life on the edge."
    "And leaving a bag in a turkey, is living life on the edge?"
    "Absolutely!  I felt all sorts of adventurous on Thanksgiving.  I ate something that had baked with plastic, and I bet it's happened to loads of people." 
    "Well, not to me."  She put her nose up so high in the air, it reminded me of how she'd reacted when I drank coffee.  She's very religious LDS, and as such, disproves of coffee. 
    I don't know why, but I couldn't take her attitude anymore.  I shouldn't have done it, but I did.
    "You know what, I did manage to get the neck and the ball sack out before I cooked everything up.  I boiled the other stuff to make gravy."
    "How crude."  She turned white.
    "Yeah, we used to eat the turkey nuts growing up.  They do have a strange texture, but once you get over that, they're pretty tasty.  Nuts would be your favorite meal, if you tried 'em."  I turned to Miss Priss and then back to the P. O. employees.  I thought the man helping me might explode with laughter.
    Miss Priss went to leave after that.  I almost invited her to one of my family's nut fries, but then I thought I'd done enough.  
    For more information about the nut fry, please go here:

The Nut Fry

    "You know what?" one employee said.  "I didn't know you had it in you, but I'm proud of you.  That woman needs some reality.  It's nice to see someone talk straight to her."
    The other employee blurted out, "I bet she's left the bag in the turkey too.  My wife has."  He paused and then spoke really fast again.  "I-know-I-have."
    I paid for my stuff and smiled wide.  "You left the bag in too?  Seriously?"
    "Yeah," he nodded, "except it was a long time ago and the thing started on fire."
    "Oh, my gosh!  That makes everything better.  I felt like such an idiot."
    "Don't," he said.  "We're all human and we all make mistakes."
    "Thanks," I said.  And for some reason as I left, I felt great about leaving that bag in the turkey.  I didn't feel stupid or silly because I knew I'd made a memory.  I also felt bad for Miss Priss.  Sometimes when people try so hard to be perfect, they lose sight of just having fun.  

    So to Miss Priss,
    Unclench those butt cheeks.  Life's about living.  That's great if you want to google everything, but just once, try living in the moment where things aren't secure and they're a bit uncertain.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Life Has Its Ups and Downs--Enjoy the Ups

The other day on my way home from work, I thought about October of last year.... 
I had no idea how I'd pay my bills for the month, let alone afford more food when my four kids and I ran out of what we had. With the last bits of my paychecks, I'd bought some noodles and broth, cheap meat, potatoes, rice, and Top Ramen. I barely had time to sleep or the sanity to keep going, so when my kids were busy watching TV, I'd escape to my room and cry.  
    I didn't want my babies seeing this person-- ME. --who'd become much weaker than I'd ever hoped to be.  People on the outside thought we were okay, financially and emotionally, but my kids saw the truth. 
    "Your eyes look kinda red," my oldest daughter said last October.  "Have you been crying?"
    "Nope," I sniffled, emerging from my bedroom. "Maybe I'm just tired from working so much."  
    She nodded, looking wise beyond her eleven years. I wiped my eyes and thought of how strong my kids are--especially my oldest daughters.  I never knew what they were made of...'til last year.  
    That night I went to the kitchen and prayed I'd be able to make something worth eating.  The compilation of scraps turned into a miserable meal really, but my four kids acted like it was better than candy.  "Great seasonings, Mom! We should eat this again sometime."
    I forced a smile. "Okay," I nearly whimpered. "We can have it tomorrow."  And the next day...and the next day...and hopefully we'd have enough for the next day.  I set my fork down and told myself to keep from crying.  "I think something's in my throat," I croaked. "I'll be right back." I suddenly ran to the bathroom, shut the door and sobbed quietly. 
    "Come on, kids," I heard my oldest daughters saying. "Let's get our PJ's on.  Mama is having a hard time...again. It's okay though. You'll see." After all of them went to bed and I made sure the sitter was available, I worked at home for a construction company, then rushed to get ready for a grave shift as a security guard.

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Me Last Year (Scary security guard, right? Be afraid! :)   
    Working as a security guard was exactly what I needed at this point in my life: empowering, distracting, and (although it didn't pay terribly well) money toward my bills. 
   But *whispering* those weren't the only reasons I enjoyed the job....
    A kind co-worker of mine felt compelled to start visiting with me on his break at 4am, saying he thought I might need someone to talk to.  "How's your night been?" he'd ask.
   "Oh, ya know," I'd reply, "just livin' the dream."
    Our first conversations were quite superficial, but then as months passed, we both began really talking about our lives.  And somehow every time he'd come visit with me on break I felt a little better just knowing someone--even at work--cared.  
    I'd go home every morning, and as I cooked breakfast for my kids, I'd catch myself singing to them, playing or laughing as they told me darling stories about school and friends.  My crying spells lessened and life began to shine.
    It's hilarious, remembering how I'd scramble, rushing to get all of my paperwork done, just so I could visit with this happy-go-lucky man on his break.  But as time passed, I realized that my co-worker's words had anchored my life, grounding me to a healthy place so I could heal.

Like I wrote at the beginning of this post, I thought about all of this as I drove home from work the other day. It's ironic how much life can change....    

I smiled, still driving but nearly home from my new job at a hospital.  A red truck was already in my driveway when I pulled in.  After walking up to my front door, all sorts of good smells wafted to me from the house.
    "Hello?" I hollered, taking off my shoes in the entryway.  
    My four kids yelled from the kitchen.  "In here!  We're making dinner."
    After I rounded the corner, my feet rooted in place as I took in the whole scene.  All of my kids giggled, taste-testing a red concoction that looked delicious.  My four-year-old spied me before hugging my leg like she'd never let go.  "We're makin' a surprise, Mama!  You love it?  You super-duper love it?"
    "Yes, honey.... I love it sooo much!" I hugged her back.
    My three older kids waved, then continued buzzing about happily and laughing.  That's when the handsome man in front of the stove turned and gazed at me with so much love....
  "How's your day been?" he asked, his deep voice always so smooth and rich. 
    Those simple words reminded me of our first conversations at the security desk, and I couldn't help but reply with what I'd said so many months before, "Ya know, just livin' the dream."
    And as I stood watching my family, tears filled my eyes, not because I was sad, or stressed, but because I'm so happy.  
    "Mama," my oldest daughter came up to me, "are you crying?"
    "Yeah," I said, smiling so big. I hugged her and we walked into the front room. "Life is just so good right now."
    "For me too," she said. And being wise beyond her years, I knew she completely understood how hard we've fought for a moment just like this.
    "I'm just really thankful for ... everything."
    I thought of: My kids, fighting just as hard as I have. God, for giving me a break. My family and friends...for all the support. And...I thought of the handsome man at the security desk...who's so good to me and my four children that it's truly astounding.
    If you step back and think of what love is, you might think of excitement, romance ... passion. 
    While love can begin with all of those things, right now I'm seeing something much stronger.... This kind man who has entered my life as a friend and confidant has literally changed my world and the lives of my children. The consideration and kindness he's shown us day in and day out is one of the biggest blessing I've ever received.

    I know life has its ups and downs.  But for right now, I'm going to enjoy the ups... I sure hope you're doing the same.
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EC Stilson

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I'll be LIVE on the radio! (9/24)

Well, guess what--I landed a radio interview with famous comedian Brian Shirley!  

    I love this guy.  Last time he had me on his show, we talked about this book:

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Brian always has me in stitches, that's why I can hardly wait to talk with him about this new topic....
Marriage: What NOT to Do 
What can cause (or maybe even caused my) divorce.

Join us, September 24th at 5:15pm EST. 
Listen in online at: The BTS Show

I'm excited!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Miraculous Angel Named Mr. Miyagi

A Miraculous Angel
The computer tech reminded me of a young version of Mr. Miyagi, wise and reassuring. At the quaint computer store, Miyagi Jr. quietly accessed my laptop and said he could fix it immediately and be done within a half hour. So I waited and before realizing what happened, that man gave my four kids candy--we joked and laughed about life--my mood AND the mood of the store changed, becoming brighter.
    When it came time to pay, he wouldn't let me. "This is on me," he said.
    "You have to let me pay," I said. "Look at all the work you've done."
    He eyed me thoughtfully, stroking his long goatee. I thought he might see straight through me. Maybe he'd understand that something rested beyond my joking and laughter. Zeke's birthday was fast approaching and I didn't want to feel the ache that day always brings since my son passed away.
    Miyagi Jr. nodded and said, "There's a pizza place around the corner. A man always works there at this time. If you'd really like to thank me, go order a pizza and visit with the man who's working there. Visit with him just like you visited with me."
    Visit with the man?  It sounded strange. What could he possibly mean? It was my turn to study him. "All right," I finally said, then grabbed my youngest kids' hands and stepped toward the door. 
    Just as the bell rang above the exit and I walked outside, I heard another tech ask Mr. Miyagi, "Are you sure you should send her over there? You know what happens when some people go there when he's workin--"  The door shut and I didn't hear another word.
    "Mama, where are we going now?" my four-year-old son asked as I buckled him in his seat.
    I inhaled a big breath. "Well, that nice man wouldn't let me pay. So we're going to buy him a pizza."
    The pizza place was tucked back at the edge of a dilapidated parking lot.  People swarmed to other businesses around, but no one went to the forlorn restaurant.     
    "You stay in the car. Keep an eye on the babies," I told my oldest daughters.
    "Mom, are you sure you should go? This whole thing sounds weird," my second-oldest daughter said.
    "I'm just getting a pizza. The computer tech needs to get something for all of his hard work."  I turned music on for the kids, stepped from the car and locked the black doors.
    The pizza place didn't have tables, chairs or benches. But the spotless counter gave me a good impression. As the smell of fresh breadsticks wafted toward me, my insides warmed with childhood memories. I stepped forward and rang the metal bell.
    "Hello?" I said.  "Hello?"  Someone moved in the shadows at the far end of the kitchen.
    A man lumbered forward. At first I couldn't see his face because he'd turned it down and away.
    "Those breadsticks smell amazing!" I said.  Then he fully turned toward me and I gasped.
    The left side of his face was so handsome. He had a striking brown eye and perfectly dark skin. But the other side of his face drooped and bulged.  The forehead on his right side stretched a fist taller than the rest of his face.  His right eye couldn't open, nestled below his nose.  
Click the picture for more information about how to help people with this condition.
    "What do you want?" he mumbled.
    I nearly cried, feeling so badly for gasping seconds before.  I blinked hard, collecting myself, and instantly donned a smile.
    "How are you today?" I asked brightly.
    "I'm . . . all right," he said, turning so I only saw his profile. "And you?"
    "I'm having a fantastic day. I went to that computer repair place over there.  They fixed my computer for free.  So I'd like to order a large peperoni pizza for them."
    His curious eye darted toward mine.  "They've been very good to me as well." His words came out slowly and cautiously.
    I wanted to make an impact, then. But how? I could have told him that my first son had birth defects. Explain how Zeke had a cleft lip and palate.  My stomach knotted, remembering how I'd wanted Zeke to be born perfect, live a good life, and die long after I did. I looked at the pizza man and wondered for the millionth time, why do birth defects exist?
    But instead of talking about Zeke, Miyagi Jr.'s words drifted into my mind.  Visit with him just like you visited with me.   
    So I shot the bull with him as he made the pizza.  I told jokes about how I worked at a pizza place once. "When I was on the clock, they were always running out of pineapple," I said. "It's my weakness, really."
    "I know what you mean," he mumbled, then laughed. "I always eat the pineapple too. It's a good weakness though."
    When he finished the peperoni-extra-cheese, he came over to the counter. "Don't worry about bringing this to them. I'll bring it for you and tell them an angel bought them lunch."
    I've been a lot of things, but I've never been someone's angel. As I gazed into the man's eye, I thought of how hard I try doing everything right--so I can see my son in Heaven. But I never feel good enough. Tears welled in my eyes and I couldn't look away from the man. No. I wasn't an angel, he was--smiling and laughing despite his lot in life. It could take years to learn what that man had suddenly taught me about gratitude.
    I lingered because so much kindness shone from his deep, dark eye. "Thank you. You have yourself a wonderful day," I said, turning to leave.
    Just as I pushed the door open, he stopped me. "Wait," he said, and I turned. "Thanks for coming in here today. It's a cruel world out there, but people like you make it a better place."
    I held the door open for a minute longer. "Not people like me," I said. "Wonderful people like you."  I smiled one last time. "Hey, enjoy the pineapple, it is the best part of working at a pizza place."
    "I will," he promised and I left the store.
    As I drove home, clouds grayed the sky overhead. The sun shone brightly in the east, shedding light even through the storm.  I told my kids the story. "I don't know who was more of an angel, the pizza man or Miyagi Jr."
    "Mom, you haven't said a word about the guy's face. I saw him through the window. Didn't you notice something was really wrong with him?"
    There hadn't been a reason to mention his physical defects. "He was born with problems like Zeke was. But just like Zeke, he was beautiful inside. It makes me wonder though. . . . Why do you think the computer tech sent me to the pizza place?" I asked my oldest daughter.
    "Maybe he realized you treat everyone with the same kindness no matter what. That says a lot about you, Mom."
    "No," I sniffled. "It says a lot about him."
    I pulled off and parked on the side of the road after that. I got out and looked into the storming sky. I thought about my book The Golden Sky--the book about how God and Zeke changed my perception--how sometimes beauty comes right after the storms of life. 
    As I gazed at the widening clouds, a raindrop fell on my nose and somehow I felt like Zeke was looking down on me, beaming. 


Friday, September 12, 2014

Strong As Stone: Becoming the Best Version of Me

I love my kids so much!  
We had way too much fun playing this together.

~Strong as Stone~
©2014 EC Stilson & Mike Magagna

Changing...moving on.
Moving past the way things used to be.
Growing...getting strong.
Becoming the best version of me.

There is a time and a season.
You're not the reason--
you are not the one.
You're not the change in the season.
And it has begun.

Changing...moving on.
Moving past the way things used to be.
Growing...getting strong.
Becoming the best version of me.

||:There is a time and a season.
You're not the reason--
you are not the one:||

Steppin' up, strong as stone.
Can't you see, I'm not alone.

Steppin' up, strong as stone.
Can't you see /we're/ not alone.

Lyrics by EC Stilson & Mike Magagna

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dear God, I'm Tapping Out Now

Dear God,
    I stopped really praying to you the day Zeke died. I asked you to heal my son, but you didn't; at the time I thought you were on vacation or something. I get it now though, why he died--how certain things are meant to be. Too bad it didn't make the pain go away. That's when I quit praying, figured you'd do what you wanted no matter what my finite opinion was.  
    But I have to say, you shocked me this year.
    I've prayed for signs and answers have surprisingly come, time and again.  People said it was coincidence, but after a while, I started doubting them instead of you.      
    On Monday I hit an all-time low, set my pride aside and prayed for more than a sign--I REALLY prayed for your help.
    I hate asking for stuff, like a spoiled child who doesn't get their way. I know it's prideful, feeling things should be done on my own. But last Monday, I apologized for not checking in more often, not telling you how glad I am for life, not explaining that I miss feeling as if you're always with me.
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    "I'm tapping out," I said Monday morning. "I know I'm not the greatest at praying. I'm not the most eloquent, or smart. I'm not the kindest, or the sweetest. I've made more mistakes than Eve. I suck, really. God, I've even denied you, saying terrible things out of hurt, or just to sound cool.
    "I'm so sorry for betraying you. I don't deserve your help...your love...even your goodwill.  I'm a backstabber to my maker--and maybe that's the worst crime ever known.  But God, things have gotten so bad. 
    "I'm a single mom.  My ex can't work right now because of his motorcycle accident.  My kids need so much from me constantly.  I feel like I'm gonna break under this pressure. 
    "God, I'm asking you for something--and you know I never really ask for stuff.  I need a job--a good job.  I don't know if you'll answer me; it'd be a miracle if you did.  But really, I need help. I"
    I applied for 18 jobs after that prayer on Monday. So many people reached out to me, sending info and employer phone numbers. Help came from long-time friends, relatives I thought had forgotten about me, people I didn't even think liked me, some people I'd wronged.  I cried over the emails, seeing how generous and kind everyone truly is.
    "You're gonna make it," one person wrote--a person who never should have given my friendship a second chance. "You're stronger than you know, and you're going to make it despite what anyone might think! I'm pulling for you, friend."
    Friend...  She'd actually written the word.  That kind of love and generosity floored me.
    God, I saw your kindness in those actions--and it made me realize again, how amazing life truly is even during the worst trials.  The darkness might come and surround us, but the Light, it has the power to make that darkness run.
    One job spoke to me more than the rest.  I crossed my fingers, hoping for the best because really it would be my dream job.  
    Tuesday morning they asked me to an interview that evening.  On Wednesday I was already scheduled for a second interview.  And by that same night, I had the job.
    God, this might seem silly to some reading these words, like a Christmas letter a child sends to Santa, but I wanted to tell you where everyone can see.... THANK YOU. 
    I was so sad. I didn't know how I'd pay my bills, take care of my kids, even afford groceries, but that's all changed.  I'm gonna work my little heart out, making my employer proud.  
     Thank you for loving me against all the odds.  Thank you for forgiving me, even though I didn't deserve it.  And thank you for surrounding me with good people who believe in me despite the odds.
   I love you, God. And I want everyone to know that even though my life has been hard at times, you're still here for me and if you can be here for someone like me, I know you're there for them too.
               I'll talk with you soon,

P.S. I'll try to stop swearing when I'm with my friends. But that's going to take some effort.  Here's to honesty!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

10 Reasons My Marriage Failed

Yesterday, I wrote about my divorce. But today, I really had an urge to write about why my marriage failed before all of those terrible events from last year even started. 
    If you're married or in a long-term relationship, thinking things have grown stale, I hope you'll read this and make a change.

10 Reasons My Marriage Failed
 These are MY faults--I'm not talking about my ex. 
This list exists so that if I get married again, 
I can read it and hopefully prevent a similar situation from happening again.

1. I Stopped Trying 
    This is short and simple. Remember when you used to be romantic, buying cute things to wear on dates--or afterwards? Leaving notes in your hubby's car? Doing sweet things around the house just for him? Actually curling your hair?! Well, after I went through labor 5 times, this stopped. We were lucky to have a meal alone. I felt frumpy AND I just didn't make time.  I kept thinking, "So I'm gonna breastfeed, pull my straggly hair up and then try to be sexy?" Yeah right!  Well, I should have made the effort--and so should you.
 photo 3752d60b-0f20-4f25-9801-49ea3498ad77_zpsd68c9f32.jpg guessed it--an actually a pic of me in curlers. 
    This might sound silly to some people, especially if you've been married for over a decade, like I was. You might think, "But we'll always be together, why should I make that extra time?"  That leads me to the next point.... 

2. Becoming Overly Confident
    I loved my ex so much--and I knew he loved me--so I figured we'd always be together. Why exert that extra energy curling my hair and doing my makeup? Why leave him notes, when he already knew how much I cared? 
    No matter how much someone loves you or you love them, it's always nice to hear that they love you back.  I knew my mom loved me as a kid, but when she'd leave notes in my lunch, it would literally make my day brighter. I had something to hold onto all day, to read over and over. Someone cared about me! Wowser.
    Remind your significant other that THEY ARE LOVED. It's amazing how much this simple act of kindness can revolutionize a relationship. 

3. Over-worked
    Unfortunately, we all need money. But make sure your job isn't taking over your life. 
    My ex worked out of town and was only home a few days a month. That was rough, but what made it worse was that I had my own business and when he got home, I would oftentimes talk about my business, or work on the weekends while he watched the kids; this left no time for "us."
    Priorities... Is work more important than your relationship? If it is, you might end up divorced--by hey, at least you'll have a good job!  
    Seriously don't let work rule most aspects of your home life. If it isn't necessary, don't talk about it excessively with your spouse. And, take time with your spouse somehow regardless of opposing shifts, financial needs, or lack of interest. Reignite that flame. 
    Find similar interests, like the next point talks about.

4. Varied Interests
    It's great to have your own interests; in fact, this is vital to your own personal fulfillment and growth.  You can't be happy with someone else, unless you can be happy with your own "vents" and alone time.  But although it's great to have different interests, you also need similar interests.
    This in-and-of-itself can be work. My ex loved video games, I love writing. We should have taken time to do something we both enjoyed, like hiking or camping.
    Imagine these types of things as a wedge between you, or the glue that holds you together.
    There was a time when our similar interests were so in-sync, I could hardly wait to go hiking, or go to our favorite restaurant. But after time, those outings were replaced by our own interests, separate interests. 
    You get the point! Find your similar interests. And even branch out--who knows, you might enjoy their hobbies as well. 

5. When Hobbies Become Work
    Once you find a similar interest, don't do it so much it becomes stale.
    My ex and I are both musicians. Our greatest uniting interest was music.
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My ex and me 2 years ago at a gig.

    But we played so well together, people started paying us to play gigs anywhere from Colorado to California. 
    I think it was really about 3 years ago, that music stopped being fun for me.  My ex and I would go to hotels, get ready for a gig, grab dinner--act smiley--and jam for hours.  But at the end, my ex's hands would be killing him, I felt dead on my feet.  We were exhausted. And to think, in previous years this would have been a rush!
    So don't just avoid overusing your hobbies, make sure you can find new hobbies when the old ones become monotonous.  There's nothing wrong with trying to add a little excitement to your marriage.
    Ideas?  Go to an exotic restaurant you'd never normally try.  Take an early morning, or evening hike. Rent some paddle boards and go to a nearby lake.  Check out a Ghost Hunt or Murder Mystery Play. Visit a duck pond and sit, feeding the ducks.  (I don't know about that last  The point is, find something fun--out of the ordinary--and do it together with an open mind.

6. Don't Be a Jerk at the Same Time
    My grandma died several years ago, but I'll never forget what she told me when I first got married: Your marriage will survive if you're only a jerk one at a time.
    This is so true!  I'm a MEGA spitfire.  I can be as spicy as a scorpion pepper.  I love that line "fight means love in Italian"--well, I'm Italian.  BUT my ex could be a spitfire too.  We'd be yelling--at the top of our lungs.  Making up could be fun--but we would've never had to make up, if one of us would've stayed quiet and nodded, "Are you done?"
    If your significant other is angry, actually listen quietly. There's no reason to match volume.  

7. Grudges
    My ex and I both made very stupid choices early in our marriage--mostly because we were under 21 at the time.  I won't talk about his choices, but I know one of mine was always going to my mom or mother-in-law when I had marital problems. My ex was hurt--to say the least--that I'd tell them everything.  In our first two years of marriage, he was also hurt that I didn't seem to support his dreams.
    Well, we both held onto issues like this--for over twelve years!  I was still bringing up things from forever ago, unable to forget. I thought I'd forgiven him, but I've realized, I didn't really, until getting divorced and seeing how silly some of those things were.  I think he did the same thing!
    You can't have one foot firmly in the past, one in the present, and expect to walk into the future. If you love this person and want a healthy relationship, forgive, move past it, and grow. 

8. No Trust
    Both my ex and I would accuse each other of cheating ALL of the time. If you don't have evidence--concrete evidence--let it be.  We probably could've seen a counselor for this one, but I think it really became an issue because of #1 on this list--we stopped trying.     
    When both parties are making an effort, that validation will help strengthen trust.
    Now if you find out your spouse has been cheating, that's a whole new issue.  But if this is an invalid lack of trust, ask yourself, why you feel this way?  Is it a need for validation, or something deeper?  Do you crave more quality time with your spouse?  
    What is your love language?  Find out HERE.

9. Complacency With Words
    Both my ex and I began forgetting how important we were to each other. We wouldn't always speak the same way we had in the beginning. Both of us could say harsh things we'd NEVER forget. Our phone conversations became short and to the point. We didn't always say what mattered.
    I wish that once a year--or something--I would've written him a letter to tell him how much he meant to me.  If you read yesterday's post (HERE) you know he was in a serious motorcycle accident.  This really got me thinking: What would you tell your significant other if they were seriously injured? If they died, what do you wish you would've told them?  
    Consider writing that special someone a letter, to tell them how much they mean to you. You might be surprised with how much they'll appreciate it. 

10. No Quality Time
    One of my biggest Love Languages is Quality Time.  If you take the test I linked above (in point 8) you'll discover out the 5 different Love Languages.  Well, if you aren't getting your fill of your language, you won't be truly satisfied.  In the same way you aren't satisfied, your spouse probably isn't either.
    The point is, take time for your spouse/significant other. Show them you care.  You've both given so much to be together.  Do you really want that to grow stale? Is it worth throwing away, when you have the chance to put in some effort and make things phenomenal again?

Best of luck!
I hope my failures will help someone else attain romantic success! *smiling*
EC Stilson