Losing My Religion

I grew up with very Catholic grandparents and not so Catholic parents. When I was in elementary school, in an effort to make my grandparents happy, my parents sent me to Sunday school. There are only two memories I have of Sunday school. The first is that there was a lot of coloring, and you were given a piece of candy if you got a question about Jesus right. The second was the singing. At the end of every session, each grade would gather into the main hallway, and an old woman would sit in the middle with her guitar and make us sing songs about Jesus.

I didn’t understand anything that was happening, and I often asked my teachers for proof of the history of Jesus (artifacts, anything), so my parents promptly removed me from classes.

As I got older, my family and I started going to church less and less, and pretty soon, all I knew about being a Catholic was that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter and that his birthday is what we call, “Christmas.” As we were pulling away from God, I questioned everything spiritual more and more, year after year. Eventually, when I was nearing the end of high school and beginning college, I decided that I didn’t believe in the afterlife, heaven, hell, God, anything. I had no proof, therefore, it was not real.

I didn’t think about anything regarding religion until I watched an episode of “Long Island Medium” with Theresa Caputo. I had watched other mediums perform before like John Edward, Sylvia Browne, and James Van Praagh, but they were always positioned in front of a large audience, and everything about it seemed so staged. Theresa, on the other hand, was stopping people in grocery stores, doing private readings, going on cruises and reading groups, and walking in to someone’s home and reading a group of 10 people. She did it all. Every situation she was put in, she came out with a victory. How could you not believe her? But, I still wondered, was it a sham? Were these cameras set up? So, when she came out with her book, There’s More to Life Than This, I bought and read it. Then, my life changed forever.

I started believing again when I watched Theresa on TV, but her book really won me over. She talked about experiences that people have in their everyday lives that are signs from spirit, instances that you can’t write or verbally explain to anyone else. It was as though someone had gotten into my head and described everything I’ve never been able to tell anyone else in perfectly strung sentences. I finally felt normal.

In fact, so normal that I recently began working at a Christian college. Everyone that I work with is obviously religious, and they have been their whole lives…Unfortunately, this is where I fall short. I know hardly anything about being a Christian, and I can safely say that I’m not one. At least, not the type of Christian I’ve come in contact with. Yes, I like everyone that I work with. But, I also believe in gay marriage, the fact that homosexuality is not a sin, that swearing is a part of human nature, and being edgy is what makes you real. I love Lady Gaga! Of course, all of these things are generally not celebrated in Christian faith, and that is why I can’t be a true follower.

Theresa Caputo has stated multiple times that all too often individuals use religion to pull themselves apart from others or as an excuse to “hate” someone. When, really, we should be using religion to spread love, kindness, and compassion. They use God as a symbol of fear, instead of a symbol of understanding. Like the GOP, once Christians can wake up and modernize, then maybe I’ll jump on their bandwagon to Bethlehem. I’m not trying to say that all Christians are bad people, most of them are the most compassionate individuals I’ve ever met, but, it’s time to embrace the new world and remind ourselves that Jesus was friends with a prostitute. So, seriously, is being gay really that awful?

Granny Smith – over and out

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I’m Poor

“I’m poor” is a phrase that I’ve been hearing a lot lately from friends, especially when I’m trying to plan a nice evening for us outside of our apartments. Every time I hear that phrase, I cringe and hold my tongue. For many individuals my age, it can seem like we have no money. Student loans, renting our first apartment, car insurance, renters insurance, pets, cell phone bills; it all escalates quickly. But, are we really “poor?”

Different images can pop into our minds when we think of the word “poor” or “rich.” When I think of “poor,” I think about a homeless person sitting on the side of the street, or a single parent who only works a few hours a week and is about to lose his or her house…and possibly their child(ren). When I think of poor, I don’t think of people in their early-mid twenties. Sure, we don’t have a lot, and we haven’t even started thinking about saving for retirement, but most of us have an amazing support system, like friends or family, or other financial resources (financial counselors) that can help push us in the right direction.

When I think of poor, I think of individuals whose family members left them to fend for themselves, put them into foster care, went to jail, died without saving a single penny to give to their children (who are already homeless with nothing), the list goes on. When I think of rich, sure I think about individuals that have mansions in California, nice cars, wear Gucci, etc. However, I also think of people who have enough money to pay for their own car, provide food for themselves (and possibly another family member), have a pet or multiple, go out to eat with friends, but most importantly, I think about myself. When I thought I had nothing, whenever I’ve felt like the world is falling apart around me, I have my family, friends, significant other, and my dog. I have a plan B; I have a backup system. This helps me know that even if I don’t have much in the end, everything will work out.

I used to be the type of person who took on everything, who thought she could figure it out on her own, who was afraid to ask for help, and who was used to having other adults “taking care of” it for her when it was physically apparent that she was struggling. Now, I’ve learned to say “no.” I’ve learned to ask for help directly and from multiple resources. I ask for help because I am rich. I am rich because I have a strong support system. I have a strong support system because I’m attracted to people who know what it means to care. I am not poor. I am the opposite of poor.

Granny Smith – over and out

Puppy Love

If you read my previous post, you know that I love dogs and work with a local rescue. Well, last week, a group of dogs from the south came up to the north with my rescue to find a better life. My family and I are fostering one of them. He’s a puppy…

The last time my family had a puppy was 13 years ago. And, needless to say, I don’t remember it being as hard/crazy as it is right now. In the time it took me to write this post, I had to reprimand him 7 times!

When our new friend came into our lives, I was excited. And, when they handed him to me and we locked eyes, my heart melted. However, there have been many trials and tribulations over the last week that have tested my patience and given me even more sympathy for new parents and puppy parents.

One of the first things that comes to mind when I think about raising our foster puppy is the fact that I’m ALWAYS thinking about him and wondering how he’s doing if I’m not around. When I’m at work, I’m almost happy that I get a break, but I worry that he’s getting into trouble, or that he’s sick, choking, something horrific! My mind never stops wandering with possibilities. At the same time, if I leave him with my parents, I feel a slight sense of guilt. I feel bad that I’m off at work or anywhere else but home…where I feel like I should be 24/7.

Another thing that I’ve noticed while having a puppy around is that I can be completely disappointed in him when he shits in his cage, whines from a lack of attention, or barks like crazy, yet, I’m still so in love with him. My mind knows that he’s making bad choices, and I know that I need to discipline him for that, but I also want to give him a big kiss and scoop him up in my arms.

The third item that’s come to my attention is that I feel the need to reprioritize my days…if not my life. Having him around makes me focus on what REALLY needs to get done and what can wait until later. At first, I was spending way too much time with him and blowing off emails, job searching, and more. Now, I’ve finally figured out a schedule so that I can effectively train him, yet get my work done! I’ve noticed that over the last week I’ve spent very little time on Facebook, and generally surfing the web, and more time focusing on what really matters. If anything, our new friend makes me realize how much time I’ve been wasting in a given week!

Another major item that’s come up while the puppy has been with us is paying attention to our other dog. My dog is 13 years old, and I feel like I’ve been neglecting him this past week. Yes, I’m still feeding him, taking him outside, and giving him attention at the end of the day. But, so much of my day is spent in the same room as the puppy, for training and development purposes, that I feel like I’ve just let my dog fend for himself. I can see that he’s upset and even a bit hurt when my family and I are playing with the puppy in another room and my dog just gets to sit and watch. Unfortunately, we had to separate them because my older dog almost bit the puppy the other day…yeah, not fun.

I believe the last thing that’s really struck a chord with me is that I’m going to be so happy when the puppy finally finds his forever home, but I’m going to be crushed when he leaves. He’s bonded so well with every member of my extended family, and he’s working so hard to please everyone. Once he’s gone, I know things will be able to go back to normal, and normal will seem like a vacation, but when someone or something is a huge part of your life for any amount of time, there’s a bit of sadness that comes with letting it go.

What are your stories with raising your dogs, cats, kids? Are they anything like mine?

Granny Smith – over and out

Who Rescued Who?

Growing up, I always wanted to be the girl who lived on a farm, or the one whose parents fostered animals, or the girl who was born into a family who already had dogs. It’s no secret that I love animals a lot more than I love people, but I love rescue animals most of all.

Over the past year, I’ve spent a considerable amount of my time working for a local dog rescue. This rescue brings dogs from high kill shelters in the south home to the north. Working with this rescue, I’ve heard a lot of stories in regards to the backgrounds of our dogs. Unfortunately, most of them make me roll my eyes towards the human race, others make me tear up.

Before joining this rescue, I didn’t realize how terribly dogs were treated in the south. I’m not saying that all dogs in northern United States are treated fairly, but this rescue works with multiple shelters in different states in southern United States where the euthanisation rate is through the roof and a lot of individuals down there don’t even know what spaying or neutering means.

For example, one dog that was recently brought to us was very large and fluffy. The owners of this dog lived in an apartment and decided to pack up and leave one day without warning and left their dog to fend for itself in the empty space. Did I mention that this was in the middle of summer? Without air conditioning, the apartment was 90 degrees.

In another instance, members of our rescue team went down to a new shelter in the south to save a few dogs. When they got there, they found out that multiple dogs were euthanized three hours before our team’s arrival because they were “cleaning up for the weekend.”

To me, animals are not just animals; they’re family. My dog has been with us for 13 years. We got him when we went to a pumpkin patch shortly after the September 11th attacks. My dog is hands down the best dog for our family. He’s relaxed but loves to go for walks and gets along with other dogs…most of the time. Over the last 13 years, we’ve had some great moments, but our dog has taken more of a liking to my mother. However, over the last year with me being around our house more with my unemployment, I’ve developed the deepest bond with him that I’ve ever had. Nowadays, he’ll take naps on my bed, follow me around the house, get very excited when I put my tennis shoes on (signaling a walk), or put him in the car with me (signaling a ride to the dog park or Pet Smart). He’s been my constant companion and best friend, and I’m so happy that we’ve gotten to spend so much time together recently. We’ve grown very close, and as I write this, he is sound asleep on the edge of my bed.

Goodnight my angel; and sleep tight to all of the dogs without a home. Don’t worry, we’ll come pick you up soon!

Granny Smith – over and out

The Other Side Of Depression

In my last post, I talked a bit about my parents and their recent struggle with one another. That post made me think about a topic that I haven’t covered but semi-relates to the previous post; depression.

However, I’m not going to write an article that articulates the warning signs of depression, or what it’s like being depressed. Many of you have probably read those articles, or, if you have a family member or friend that’s experienced depression, you’ve witnessed everything first hand. What I am going to write about is what it’s like for those on the other side of depression; the family members and friends (such as some of you reading this) who sit in the emotional sidecar and get pulled every which way. I’ve been there, and I’m hoping that if there is anyone out there with depression that this piece can help demonstrate what it’s like for those that love them.

1. My Mother: I never knew that my mother was prescribed anti-depressants until about a year ago. If you’ve ever met my mother, you’d think she was one of the sweetest, nicest people in the world. When I found out about the anti-depressants, my heart sank. Thoughts of, “am I a good enough daughter?” ran through my mind constantly. I worried that if I caused her trouble or made a rude comment that she would have an awful day and rely on her medication even more.

I felt so lost and I didn’t know what to do to make it better. Should I be spending more time with her during the week and on weekends? What if I volunteered to cook a few family meals? Do the laundry? Wash the dishes a few times a week? Would any of these make her feel less burdened, happier, healthier?

When she retired to care for my brother and the house full-time, I knew she was happy at first, but her joy quickly faded. As if she didn’t think her life was exciting or meaningful before she quit, now, her daily routine consists of household chores and running errands. She was and is lost. She wants to go back to work, but she doesn’t think she has any skills. I constantly worry that one day she will just up and leave because she’s sick of doing the same thing day-in and day-out.

I try to get her out of the house and go on adventures as much as possible, but nothing changes. She’s still lost; I’m lost. I don’t know what to do to make it better. I don’t know how to help her, and every time I ask, I get the same response, “nothing.” But, she’s living in a state of ‘nothing,’ and ‘nothing’ can be a dangerous thing.

2. My Boyfriend: Meeting Matt, you would have no idea that he used to severely suffer from depression. He was a freshman in college and I was a senior in high school. We were living in different zip codes (something we’ve gotten used to) for the first time, and he wasn’t making as many friends at school as he would’ve liked. He had also lost contact with a lot of individuals from our high school, and he felt more alone than ever before.

Almost every night of my senior year was spent sitting by my computer with a TV tray off to the side. While I did my homework on the TV tray, I would be talking to Matt via MSN messenger. The conversations went back and forth for hours. But, the conversations were the same every day. Every day he told me that he had an ‘ok’ day and was feeling worthless. He felt that he didn’t have any friends and wasn’t good at what he was doing. He would then advise a plan to get more friends, or to reconnect with the old ones, and it would fail…miserably…for no good reason!

It was hard watching him struggle. I told him over and over again how much I loved him and gave him advice on what to do about his extreme sadness, or reassured him about his plans for the future. We saw each other almost every weekend, and I even tried bringing a few of my friends to visit him..but nothing worked. On multiple occasions, he brought up suicide. Even though he said he wouldn’t do it because he loved me, I stated that I was the only thing keeping him on Earth. How could I give up on him? What could I do? I thought I’d tried everything.

This pattern continued on into my first year of college, but it got better. I was still on messenger with him every night, but it was hard to see each other every weekend. Eventually, we broke up. But, when we did break up, he was at least on his feet. Of course, we’re back together now, and he’s doing much better.

For both of these beautiful people in my life, I had no idea what I could do to make it go away. I tested multiple ideas, did what I thought was right…what THEY wanted me to do…and no matter what, meds or not, I couldn’t get through to them. It’s something that they need to overcome on their own, but they need help just as much as the rest of us do with our daily lives. Talking to specialists or reading articles can work, but only so much. To those that are depressed, we love you, and we’re hurting because we see you hurting. Communicate with us, help us help you.

Granny Smith – over and out

Love Runs Out

My parents…lord love them. They’ve been married for almost 26 years and have been through a lot of shit. A disabled son, a crazy daughter, two houses, multiple cars, family members passing, you name it. My parents have always had a nurturing relationship, but lately, something has changed, and I don’t know what to think of it.

Within the last nine months, I’ve witnessed more fighting and just an overall lack of displeasure with one another. Almost every day they’ll get into a tiff, and almost every day, both of them come to me with their side of the story and indirectly ask me to play mediator. Part of me wishes I could shout, “take care of this shit yourselves; you’re adults!” But, I want to be there for the both of them because I know they have no other outside party to turn to but me.

Most nights, I hear my mother complaining on the phone about my “crabby father” to her sister or her mother. And, most days, you can find them mocking one another behind the other’s back. Usually, in situations like this, I don’t take sides. But, something tells me I have to go with my father. My mother tends to be fairly harsh on my father, getting irritated about his hearing, complaining to his face that’s he’s too angry or too particular, that he takes too long at the store, and the list could go on and on.

At dinner, she’s very short with him, but when he leaves for work in the evening, she always gives him a kiss. Unfortunately, that kiss in the evening is my only reminder that they still love each other. In times past, you could always find my mom laughing at whatever my dad said, curling up to him on the couch, you name it. Now, she prefers to not spend any time with him. Even on the weekends, the only time my dad is not providing for our family, she doesn’t seem to want to be around him.

My father, one of the silliest human beings on the planet, is one of my most favorite people. One day, many years ago when all of my mother’s siblings seemed to be getting divorced, he told me in all seriousness, “divorce is absolutely, positively out of the question. Unless your significant other is beating you, cheating on you, living a double life, or damaging you in any other physical or emotional way, put on your adult pants and work it out. I know that he would never leave my mother. He’s even told me over the past few months, when times have been rough, that no other woman “could ever love an asshole like him.”

Divorce is such a complicated, messy thing. I don’t know what I would do if my parents split up. I know there are plenty of other individuals out there who have experienced divorce themselves, or have had parents or close friends go through it. So, what do you think? Are my parents headed for splitsville?

Granny Smith – over and out

Text, Call, FREAK OUT, Repeat

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I’m a worrier by nature. And every time I worry about something, I think of the worst case scenario, and then I start to believe that that’s actually going to happen.

For example, about a week ago, I made plans with my boyfriend, Matt, and a few friends to go to the beach. I told Matt the previous day (via text) that we were all going to meet up at the beach at 1, but that I would stop by his place first to drop off my stuff. That morning came, and I decided to call Matt at 10:30 to let him know when I would be leaving…no answer. At this point, I was fine, he’d probably call me back within an hour. An hour later, no call from Matt, so I called him back…no answer. Finally, it was 12:30. Still not having heard from him, I called again. Nothing! By this point, I was starting to freak out a little because he hadn’t responded the previous day when I texted him our plans…so, that meant I hadn’t heard anything in 24 hours. Who knows what could’ve happened in 24 hours time? My head was racing. Did he even make it home last night? What if someone high jacked his car? What if someone came into his place of work with a gun and everyone at his office was waiting for a hero?

I did the next logical thing and packed my bags and jumped in my car on a quest to find him. I couldn’t help it. Matt is usually really great a communicating with me, so I felt funky when he hadn’t even texted me back. I searched the area around his apartment and couldn’t find him or his car. So, he’s somewhere with his car or someone stole his car and he’s wandering hopelessly on the street, was my thought. Then, I checked the beach, thinking that maybe he’d lost his phone and was waiting for us there. There were so many cars and people as there happened to be multiple festivals going on near the lakefront that day…just my luck. After spending what seemed like years in traffic, I headed to one of his friend’s homes, nope, not there. Then, I texted a few of his other friends, no one had heard from him. I stopped at the mall, and lastly, his office. Nothing. It was almost 4pm.

I called my father and told him that I couldn’t find Matt. I stated that I was coming home and we were going to have to call the police, his parents, or form a search party…something, anything to make sure there wasn’t another wasted second that went by without having others know of his absence. As I drove home, I started crying my eyes out and I screamed at God, “Please let me find him!! He’s my everything! You might as well take me too! Where did you hide him? Why are you doing this? This isn’t ok.” Then, I began to think of what my life would become once he’d been pronounced dead, what I would say at his funeral; and I asked myself how I would feel if we never found the body. Would I be able to move on? No, probably never. Yes, I would take the oath to never date again and live the rest of my life as a spinster. Hell, my grandmother was a widow for 40 plus years before she died and she never dated, remarried, or showed interest in anyone after my grandfather passed away. If she could do it, so can I.

Then, the call came through. It was Matt’s face that showed up on my phone. But, I didn’t even rejoice at first. I thought, what if it’s the police calling to tell me they found him dead, or that he’s at the hospital and probably won’t make it? I picked up the phone and screamed, “HELLO?”

“Hi, what’s going on?” the other end answered back. It was Matt, he was alive…for now!

“WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN? WHERE ARE YOU NOW? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?…” I went off. I’ve known Matt for almost 9 years now, and in all of those years I’ve NEVER, NOT ONCE, yelled at him. Unfortunately, that streak has been broken.

In the end, I went back to Matt’s apartment and we talked it over, but sweet Jesus did he scare me. It turns out that he was participating in one of his weekly activities, sailing down at the yacht club. He left his phone in one of the club’s lockers, thinking he would be back by noon. As it turns out, that wasn’t the case.

I spent the next few hours being as close to him as I could, hugging him, smelling him, cuddling with him. Good God, if you don’t know if you love someone, try thinking about what your life would be like without them, then you’ll know if you want them to stick around. It sounds stupid, but I realized that losing him would mean losing myself.

I also learned a few other things during that crazy day:
-Communication is so important, especially when you’re in a relationship: Terrible communication has got to be my number one pet peeve…and it’s probably why so many people piss me off! If you have plans and forget, that’s one thing, but if you deliberately ignore people because “you don’t feel like it,” then we can’t be friends anymore. I have a friend who gets invited to many things and just doesn’t respond. She figures, if she’s available that day, she’ll come, if she can’t, whatever. I’m sorry honey, but with that attitude, I can’t invite you to a big event… like my wedding. I understand if it’s just a bonfire where you don’t really need to RSVP, but if you NEVER respond to ANY event and you still won’t respond when people personally text you and ask, “hey, you comin?” Inappropriate. People have actually stopped inviting her to things because of her attitude. Be polite and at least give someone some sort of a response. Even if you don’t know right then, say it. Don’t make people assume! In the working world, shit like that doesn’t fly, and it shouldn’t in real life either.

-Worrying is interest paid on something that hasn’t happened: My dad literally says this to me all the time, but I don’t listen because it’s a part of my personality to freak out over just about everything. This is the part of me that I can’t stand. I work at a radio station part-time, and if you’ve ever worked in broadcast media, you know that those guys and gals are some of the calmest people on the planet. They have to be! There are hundreds of factors that can make everything NOT go as planned, and you have to have a plan B while being calm about it. You just need to take things one week at a time, one day at a time, and then one moment at a time. And just remember, if there is a lack of preparation on someone else’s behalf, then there should not be any case of urgency on yours. Try your best to live in the moment, sniff out danger, but it is OK to let some things fall by the wayside.

What about you? Are you a worrier? How do you deal with your worries?

Granny Smith – over and out