Tuesday, September 27, 2016

AM~Erica's Yellow Sash Revolution

So anyway...

We have entered full on election season. The nasty attack ads are out, as well as the claws of those on the right AND on the left.

Today, there has been a BIG push to get registered to vote. This is awesome! Not only are there paper forms, you can also do it online (with a touchscreen device), and you can now do it on Snapchat!

Really, it couldn't be easier.

Now, if you are choosing to pass it up because you don't want to get picked for jury duty, just know that your name is already in the barrel when you get a driver's license, state ID, or even own property such as land. Not using your voice to try to make a difference just so you don't have to MAYBE get called for jury duty is actually a very pompous thing to do.

So everyone who will be 18 by election day should take this moment to get registered!

Now that this is covered, I want to address the lady voters.


Hi, fella Lady Voters!

Are you registered to vote? I sure hope so. Because I want you to to join me in a revolution!

Now, as in many revolutions, there is background to this. So let's get some women's herstory going on so you can find out what we can do.

Back in Victorian times, there was the push to get women votes. In the suffrage movement, there was a rise of suffragettes who fought for their right to vote! Literally fought!

Women were beaten, spat upon, and arrested during their protests to get a vote.

The suffragettes across the pond used the colors of purple, green & white to make their statement. Banners, sashes, signs - all promoting getting the right to vote.

The American suffragettes had much of the same statement, but they used yellow/gold with purple & white. The main color tended to be yellow. And this brings me to the revolution.

There is a large push for getting more registered voters. It appears there were 60 million eligible citizens that did not register for the last election. For so long you could only have paper copies of the registration form. I mean, you could find it online, but you could only print it out, fill it out & either mail it in or take it to the public library or election office on your own. Since then, you can now register online as long as you are using a touchscreen device (so you can write your signature). As of this week, you can now register to vote on Snapchat! It's that easy!

Once you have done that, here's the plan, ladies:

Find & wear a yellow sash. Thick yellow ribbon that proves the point that you are a registered American voter who happens to be female.

I kind of pointed it out in my previous blog post about voting. But I'm going to bring up some of the ways again.

1. Go hardcore, old school, Edwardian suffragette! Big Merry Widow hat, maybe with yellow somewhere on there. A maxi skirt or dress that is yellow, or has yellow, and some sensible shoes.

B. Even though women had already gotten the right to vote, we had to prove our worth more when having to step up in the work force during WWII. Rosie the Riveter is the mascot for these women, and tended to be in a red scarf. I propose showing the same strength in outfitting, just in yellow!

III. Dress as a 20's flapper in a lot of yellow. A drop-waist dress, so t-strap Mary Jane shoes and a yellow cloche hat. Especially since it was 1920 when we got the right to vote!

𝚫. Not ALL females could vote in the 20's - as a matter of fact, not EVERYONE could vote by then. It wasn't until the 60's until our colored brothers & sisters could vote. Remember the Selma march - and dress in yellow along those kinds of lines.

If nothing else, dress in yellow. Wear the sash.

Now, on the sash, you can add letters in purple to say "Votes for Women" or even "I Vote"/"iVote"; maybe "Female Voter" or something like "Voted." You can even put "Yellow Sash Revolution."

When you go vote, on voting day or as absentee, be sure to get a selfie of sorts with your voting sticker, maybe even in front of the voting sign.

~ Do NOT include your ballot!

~ Do NOT get your selfie IN the polling place!

~ Do NOT show others entering or exiting the polling place!

Be smart about your photo, include tagging it with #YellowSashRevolution on social media, and let's get the women back into the suffragette spirit of meaning business when we use our right, privilege & voice to vote!

So, who's in? Share the info, and let's get word out to our sister suffragettes!

Remember, it doesn't matter what party you vote for or are a part of, as long as we make it a Woman Suffragette Party on Super Tuesday!

Let's make a difference, let's make a mark!

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

AM~Erica's Confidence Collision

So anyway...

I'm a dancer.

I've danced nearly my entire life. I don't even remember when I wanted to become a dancer - but it was early enough that I don't remember, it just was. I've heard I picked my own CB handle when I was a wee tot. I was to be called "Dancing Girl" over the airwaves. This was before I began dancing. I was maybe all of 2 or 3 when that happened.

I began dancing at the age of 4. And I haven't stopped since.

I dance everywhere!

I dance in the car.
I dance in the kitchen.
I dance at the table.
I dance in the stores.
I dance when there's music.
I dance when there's no music.

But, with all of my background in taking & teaching dance, it's kind of become part of my own personal ministry.

I actually wanted to have my own dance studio. The very day I went to look at a space to rent, I got home to have my hubby tell me we had enough in place to buy a house. Both dreams laid out at once, but only one could happen - so we bought a house. And my studio dreams had to be put on hold for this moment.

I do believe God led me to dance so I could use my given gifts to turn it around to use for worship & praise. So I started doing liturgical dance many moons ago.

Slowly I have been working on my craft of storytelling. And, in this, using dance as storytelling - brining a song to life! Making each word &/or phrase into movement so it can be seen. Almost like sign language, but with the entire body instead of just hands & arms, and using the entire front of, or even the whole of, the sanctuary to fill the space with movement & story.

That's what I do. Instead of having a dance studio, I have a dance ministry!

I do want my dance friends to know that disappointment may come my direction when you know I've lost much of my terminology. I'm SO sorry! Please don't disown me. But I've been showing others how to move to tell a story, but using laymen's terms to help guide them. No matter, I'm trying to get people to move in story & praise, yo!

I love what I do, and I love when a story comes together - there's times it's even better than I originally pictured it in my head.
Right before I tell my story, as any presenter/performer should do, I get a bit nervous. How will the people react? Will they understand what I do? Will they grasp the story I'm wanting to tell?

I pray that The Word is received as I tell it, and I go do my thing.
Every time, I try to put my all into it. Where my eyes look, what my face says, where my hand placement is, where my foot is placed...everything. I do it to get the word across, I do it in praise, I do it in worship, I do it to bring a new facet to how The Word can be received.

Much like speaking of my mental illness, I do not do it for attention.  If folks enjoy it, and, even better, understand it - then awesome! If not, that's fine.

Here's where it gets weird for me:
Once I get a dance together, I want to be confident in my storytelling; I go out and do it with confidence! It's part of my passion, so I love doing it! But there's that stupid little voice in the back of my brain that makes me question.

I have been in churches with so much talent! Some with bigger pools of talent & backgrounds than I even feel like I could possibly dip my toe into. How could I be in that same group?

Because of what I do, even though I continue to challenge myself & others, I actually try to keep my routine formula fairly simple. I repeat a LOT! Why? Why do I do this? When there's competitive groups out there, or if you watch "So You Think You Can Dance" (that show keeps me inspired), you will see there's a lot of steps that go on during a dance. Really no repeating of anything - just a lot of challenging stuff.
Sometimes, as a storyteller who dances, I see many of the extra moves as "stuff."
I want each step &/or phrase to have a move. When I teach a dance to beginners (no matter the age), I want them to feel accomplished & like they know what is coming next. Once I come up with moves for the song's chorus, about a third of the dance is already done! BOOM!

But there's something else that comes with that:
When there's those who are experiencing this for the first time, or who take a while to settle into this style, they start to understand the story.

Now, here's where my confidence collides with my self-doubt:
Because I don't want attention from my storytelling, I cringe (on the inside) when I have people track me down to tell me they enjoyed it or to thank me. My insides just ball up as I fake a smile to try to say, "Thank you," back to them. It seems like such a frivolous & token gesture for something I hope had grander meaning. Sometimes I'll throw in the extra tag of, "...just doing what I was called to do." Then I give an awkward laugh afterward while I'm nearly crying inside.
I know these folks mean well, but it's not about me. At. All.

On top of that, I don't know how to handle being approached by those swimming over to me from the deep end of the talent pool. In our current church, we have some in our contemporary band who are professional actors in the Kansas City area. Like, all music-y & stuff, too! They amaze me with what they do, and what they bring. Sometimes, with the simplicity-for-comprehension dances, I wonder if they look at what I'm doing & thinking, "Really? This is all she has to offer?" I've been in musicals & competitive routines where we are all over the place & doing so many different things. This is the kind of thing these folks make a living around. And here I am, just offering up some moves to tell a story. More than likely in much more simple terms than they are used to.

So what the heck am I doing?

My insides curl up in fetal position when any of them come & hug me to tell me they love what I did. I know it's sincere - but that brain of mine can't help but believe it's for show. Much like my smile as I attempt to accept the compliment.

I don't do this for me. I do it for The Greater. I do it to share The Word in a different way. It's NOT about me!

But it becomes worth it when I hear that others would now love to join in the storytelling. That's a relief, actually.

Also, I think one of the most amazing compliments was when a woman approached me after me unveiling my dance ministry to our current church. While my insides are in fetal position, and I'm faking smiles & trying not to be awkward with responses, she told me this:
"['My Story'*] was my mother's favorite song. I never understood why. Until today - after watching your dance, I understand now."

* "My Story" by Big Daddy Weave includes part of the hymn "This Is My Story"

WOW! It's the comments like that which remind me it's OK to do what I do. It doesn't matter who's watching - if I'm doing it in praise & worship, while bringing The Word to life, then someone just might get it!

And I really need to remember I'm doing it for an audience of One - everyone else are just spectators.

But, if you are spectating, just know why I'm awkward later. I'm weird like that.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

AM~Erica's Suffragette Revival Revolution

So anyway...

Not sure if you remember, but it was almost a year ago when I REGISTERED TO VOTE. And it feels great being able to walk into my polling place to use my voice on a ballot.

Jump ahead to June of this year...
Because of some life changes, we bought a house! YAY! Which also meant a move! BOO! But the move is an exciting one for our family. We didn't move far, but it was a move nonetheless.

One of the biggest pains of moving is the having to change your address on EV-ER-Y-THING! UGH! However, since I started voting again, I was NOT going to let another move prevent me from voting again. One of the earliest things I did was to go change my address on my registration.

Now the system acted really weird after I did it, so I went to do it again just to make sure. I was told that my info had already been changed. So, I left it.

With all of the annoying & intrusive election ads (the attack ads included), I was researching the candidates for this primary to see which color koolaid ballot I would vote on (UGH! I hate being forced into a koolaid avenue!) along with the local questions.

Eventually a couple of voter registration reminder cards came in the mail. However, they were for the previous residents. Hmmmm...

I did the right thing & sent those cards back to the election board, but then I got concerned about my own registration. In, Missouri, as long as you are registered by the 4th Wednesday before the next election, you should be fine. I gave plenty of time!

Finally, since I heard NOTHING, I looked up my registration. To my great disappointment, my registration didn't get changed as originally thought. Grrrrr....

I tried my registration again, even though it took this time, I was very frustrated. I should be able to vote at MY polling place, in MY community. Even if it's a new place, I want to step up & make a difference where I'm getting settled. So I knew I would probably have to fight for my vote.

As I put out some feelers, in my angst, I was reminded of provisional ballots. I looked into it for Missouri, and check the definition & rights. I was hoping that this would be a last resort, because I wanted my vote counted!

So I began to devise a plan:  I thought back to nearly a year ago when I paid homage to suffragettes who fought so hard for women to be able to vote. Remember when I went digging into my costumes & hats to recreate an Edwardian suffragette to celebrate the women's vote?

Well, that look really appears to mean business. So I wanted to use that bit of history...or HERstory...to make it known that I planned to vote.

I went digging, went matching, tried pairing different combos together until I found what I thought would work, and then I prepared myself for my own personal march.

Just to show I was serious, I put selfie of it on social media to tell folks I was on may way to try to vote.

Then, I took a deep breath, grabbed some info I thought I might need, went with a plan in mind, and nervously headed over to my polling place.

I'm going to be honest, I was incredibly nervous. I watched people sauntering in & out of the space. Here I was, dressed like it was 1914, a plan together, but didn't know how it would all turn out. After a few minutes of some deep breaths & pulling my confidence together, I marched in with a purpose.

After getting a few odd looks & some compliments on my hat, I went in & pleaded my case firmly. I let them know my registration didn't appear to take when I did it in June, but I'm in the system & should be OK to vote, I gave my photo ID along with a utility bill to prove residence. The gentleman who was helping me didn't really question - he just took my info, got onto his computer to make some changes, filled out a form with some extra info, then handed me my stuff to be able to move on through to vote!
I signed in, got my ballot demo, then had to choose my koolaid ballot (UGH!); I then took my ballot into the voting station & made my informed choices - even on a stupid koolaid ballot. I answered my community's questions to be voted on, too. I walked over, inserted my completed ballot into the machine to be counted, then got my sticker! (It's what we're there for anyway, right?)

You know what? This experience really got me thinking.
(I know, I know...scary, right?)
I am very tempted to dress this way for every election. Or something very strong in this sense. And I thought about how awesome it would be to revive history...or HERstory...by having as many women dress in some way to remind people of what the suffragettes before us paved the way for! Wouldn't that be amazing? So I had some thoughts:

1. Dress as an Edwardian-era suffragette.
Wear a maxi skirt/dress, a button up blouse of sorts, comfortable-yet-stylish shoes, a large & embellished hat &/or updo, and a long vest, jacket or cardigan. Add in something masculine like a tie, cuffs or vest. Wear brooches or pins with American flags, promoting votes for women, or for a statement of feminism. Maybe even a voting sash just for some extra visuals.

2. Think Rosie the Riveter.
Go in wearing overalls or a denim/chambray shirt. Add in some yellow. Wear a yellow or gold head scarf or bandana. Why yellow or gold instead of red? Stick with me, I'll explain. But WE CAN DO IT!

3. Wear yellow &/or gold.
The color of yellow (or gold) was the main color of the American suffragette movement, along with white & purple - but definitely the yellow! Combine the color with the above statements, or just punch your ballot wearing yellow.

4. Remember the voting rights of our black sisters.
This is where I'd tell you to dress within the 60's & 70's thinking of the power of the Selma march. Wear yellow in that fashion.

My fella-femmes, we cannot put off registering to vote, or even ignoring a vote. We cannot let our women who fought for this down. We need to remind people as to why we can vote! All women who are our American citizens. Through any era where we got to step up to the voting booth.

Watch or rewatch "Suffragette" & "Selma" as reminders. And let us not forget that the idea of any of us voting started somewhere & built from there! It was a hard-fought path, but we are here.

Now then, it brings me to something else -
I encourage women to be informed voters. Not blind koolaid drinking, not blindly following how our husband votes or how our parents vote...but this is about how YOU vote - how WE vote! We don't necessarily have to sing in unison, but use our voices as a chorus of political harmony. Many of us have different views from another, but we have to be informed in using our part to vote for not just us, but how it effects the future beyond us. It's beyond just making history to see a particular person in office, but instead how they will truly work in the office they run for. Will they do it effectively, and are they truly fit for the office?

I highly encourage each of us to take those quizzes that test your feelings on different issues against several candidates to see who you match up with. And it's a reminder that there's more than 2 candidates running for president in November. Find out where you fit, don't get mad at those frustrated with the flavor of koolaid they are used to drinking, and get informed - not enamored. This is important as we use our hard-earned votes. Not for celebrity, but for the people.

Now, go forth, and vote! There's 3 months to make a good & informed decision. If you are not yet registered, get on it! You can do it online! There's no excuse. Let's make a statement in our chorus of women's voices!

Look at this! A line of women voters, in 1920, for their first presidential election in Minneapolis.

Look at this! First time black men AND women voters in 1965

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Friday, March 25, 2016

You & AM~Erica Need the Passion of Good Friday

So anyway...

The very day of today, we are told is a "good" day. Because it's Friday. And Friday is good.


Until we come to Good Friday.

Such a conundrum.

We are wrapping up Holy Week. We celebrate Palm Sunday! Jesus' time is coming & he's getting ready to take his place to solidify that He truly is THE Messiah!

Then, somehow, we want to jump to 7 days later & just celebrate again!
YAY! It's Easter! We get to wear pretty clothes & find eggs! We get chocolate bunnies, gorge ourselves on jelly beans, and maybe go to church...because you're supposed to. Right?


Hold it. There's so much more!

Do you ever pick up a book, read the first chapter, maybe one in the middle, just read the last chapter (or the last couple of pages) & call it a day? Do you get the whole story like that?

How about your favorite TV show you follow. Is there any that go in a progression with each episode with canon that gets included? Those shows! The dramas with building characters & storylines. What if you miss an episode or two?

My point is this:
You cannot truly get to the end of a season or series by just watching the first episode or two, then picking up at the very end thinking you know everything that happened.

Holy Week is the same way. Really the Bible is! But I want to focus on Holy Week for the moment. OK?

So we celebrate the big hoopla, shouting, "Hosanna," waving palms in hopes this Jesus guy is the Messiah who will save & deliver the people! We wave the palm branches at church services, we sing songs about "Hosanna," then we get ready for Easter egg hunts & hope things will be awesome & ready for church services next week...

...but there's more episodes between Palm Sunday & Easter Sunday...

The Last Supper is more than just a Renaissance painting by da Vinci. There's an actual story to it. And it's not as pretty as the painting makes it, even though it's based on the moment Jesus announces one of them will betray Him. Because there's more! He had a Passover meal with His 12 closest friends. His heart was heavy knowing what was probably coming. He knew about being betrayed by one of his 12 friends. He broke bread with them. He drank wine with them. He changed their perception about said bread & wine. He washed their feet. That's right: the Master did the unthinkable & washed the feet of His followers.

After Judas left in haste, in hopes of forcing the issue of his friend rising up as the Messiah would do in HIS mind, the feast winds down...and the uncomfortable, yet important story-building episodes are yet to come.

For the Last Supper was only Thursday. An important Thursday, but it's Friday that Jesus told his friends about when he broke the bread & shared the wine with them. It was foreshadowing to a later episode in the story...

It's usually this part of the story where many choose to just talk about a couple of things, or skip it all together. This part is too difficult to face. This part is too much, too graphic, to uncomfortable to face...

Just a few days ago, our television screen was tuned into the daring "The Passion: Live" broadcast. Tyler Perry had gathered several talents to bring the Word to life, and to keep it relevant. There were pre-recorded segments, there were songs performed live, there was a choir in a colosseum-style theatrical set up, there was an orchestra, and there was Tyler Perry telling the story, live, to thousands. There was even a pilgrimage journey carrying a large, lit cross through the streets of New Orleans as the broadcast was going. As the cross traveled, each shot showed more followers walking with it.

The use of secular music to tell the ages-old story was done very well, in my opinion. The acting was done so well, too! I didn't know what to expect, and kept my expectations tempered to very low. But as the songs were used, and the talent was on display in a relevant story...I got chills...then I found myself sobbing at times. It was a very creative way to bring the story to life again.

However...the broadcast did exactly what many others do. The sort of talked about the ugliness of the Passion portion of the story. Everything was so built up! The crowd called for the release of Barabbas, live on TV! And then there was a Cliff's Notes-type synopsis of the crucifixion. Then it was time to party again - because resurrection & Easter, yo! Gotta skip the hard part! People don't wanna know about the beating & the excruciating pain of the crucifixion!

*side note: The word "Excruciating" came from the description of the horrible pain of dying by crucifixion. The more you know.

All of a sudden, the broadcast actually lost steam. There could have been an extra 30 minutes, even, to cover (somehow creatively), the darkness of all of Friday. I even said that the lit cross, that had just made its way into the theatrical setting, could have been turned dark at the climax of the death. It would have been better than a commercial break & only quick explanation of the crucifixion by Tyler Perry, as if he had to work in a lecture of all of Friday in 5 minutes. SOMETHING could have been done!

But I digress...because Friday was crucial to get to the crucifixion!

In a time, when there is so much desensitization, how is it there's so much blood, so much dying, so much violence on TV & in movies that are out in the open for kids to see, even? The video games & videos that contain this stuff is just out there. There's true stories told, as well as "(loosely) based on true stories," where there's quite a bit of violent occurrences that general audiences don't to seem to mind right in front of them. However, something happens with the story about Jesus' final hours on Earth.
The flogging, the beating, the journey carrying the cross, the crucifixion...this doesn't seem to be covered too often, or even talked about.
It was bloody, gory, and yet we want to look the other way.

Why is that? Why is it that these other stories can be told, but THIS story gets glazed over somehow?

Not that Mel Gibson has done amazing things in the passed few years, but his telling of "The Passion of the Christ" is so hard to watch. The pain, the suffering, the blood, the beating, the violence, the gore...but it's probably the truest-to-form in the telling of the Passion story.
And it was rated 'R'. Yet kids can play these games where they shoot people, blood & guts flying...but they aren't allowed to watch what Jesus did for them.

Don't get me wrong, we haven't shown our kids. When it came out, we did feel they were too young at the time. But we aren't big on the shoot-em-up games, movies & shows. But we will talk about the suffering Jesus went through. And we bring up this movie.
And our kids will watch it soon. Because it's necessary. It will be harsh, uncomfortable, difficult to witness, but they need to know. And I need to be reminded.

Tonight, though we don't show the hardcore suffering of the Passion Jesus went through, our church does a good job of letting people know how much Jesus went through for each of us...even me.

However, I was challenged, 4 years ago, by my hubby to put together a readers theater, of sorts, covering the 14 stations of the cross. This is basically 14 of the final moments of Jesus' life following through the crucifixion and burial. There's some readings that are responsive, and there is a Catholic version that is usually used. However, I found some scripture passages used for a Protestant responsive reading (I believe, if memory serves me correctly). So I took these scriptures & built a readers theater script around it. There's a narrator, Jesus, Judas, chief high priest of the Sanhedrin, the trial, Pilate, the crowd yelling for the release of Barabbas & to crucify Jesus, and the criminals crucified with Jesus.

I've had a great group of readers all 5 years of doing the reading (this was the 5th year), and I've always done well getting through all of the reading, even the crowd yelling, every time...until tonight. Something about the crowd yelling for Jesus to be crucified was hard for me to get through. I almost didn't make it through my next line. I had to work very hard to hold myself together after the chilling thought of the crowd aggressively YELLING for Jesus to be crucified.

I still can't wrap my head around that. Jesus, an innocent man, being crucified for false sins. But he did so knowing each mark on his body, from the scratches of the thorns of the crown on His head, to the stripes from the flogging, all the way to the nails through His hands & feet, the insults & verbal abuse...each of these marking the sins of every single one of us. We all caused a mark on the body of a perfect man...one who willingly took those marks all the way to the cross, and let all of the weight of sin of humankind, to allow it all to die there.

I left at least one of those deep marks. So did you. We all did. Our imperfect selves, wether we want to accept it or not, left a deep gash on the Lamb of God - God's own Son. We punished God, come to us as our own, just so He could take all of our mistakes that separate us from God.

Why? Why would He go through all of this? The insults? The beatings? The verbal abuse? The excruciating death?
Love. That's why. Love for you. Love for me.
LOVE! Unconditionally!

That's a lot to take in, folks. It's so hard to fathom anyone wanting to make that sacrifice. We say we would do it for our family or our friends...but for EVERYONE? Yes! Even for those who don't want to accept it. For them, too. And that "them" might include YOU!

Now, I hope churches, people & productions stop skipping over this important part - no matter how difficult it is. I just wonder if people don't know how to handle their part in Jesus' suffering, but we know something most didn't at that time: we know that Sunday's comin'! There's new life to celebrate! But it came at a great price. We cannot just make it the Cliff's Notes type of synopsis in Holy Week. If we are gonna face Palm Sunday, we'd better be prepared to brace for the confusion of Maundy Thursday as we remember Jesus in the breaking of the bread as His body, and consume the wine as His blood becoming a part of us. Because it foretells of the what we put Jesus through & why we ask for His grace to fall upon us.

As horrible as the suffering was for Jesus...the "good" part of this Friday is that He took all of that for us...all the way to the cross to allow it to die there. We just have to turn to Him and accept it. That's it.

A great deal of grace comes from Good Friday. Proof of that comes on Sunday morning...

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Friday, February 19, 2016

AM~Erica Sees Signs of Lent

So anyway...

Mardi Gras is over, and Lent is in full swing.
(some of my reflective Lenten thoughts, HERE)

In this past year, and the year going forward, I made a decision to keep my heart, mind & soul open to what God needs from me.
No, this is not a Lent-specific thing...but certainly a challenging one!

Many times, Christians will "preach" about being open to God's will...and blah-blah-blah! I find the non-Christians rolling their eyes & giving retort, usually; or just ignoring Christians completely.

But hear me out, OK?

I'm a visual-learner, mostly. But I try to keep my senses open to what may be asked of me.
Lately, when I feel my heart being opened to something else, I try to keep my whole being open to the Spirit, and in full-on prayer, to see where I am being guided.

If you have read some of my blog posts opening up about my struggles with depression & my failed suicide (reminder HERE, or you can click on that tab ^^^ up there about "My Struggles (Depression & Suicide), you will see that I try to stay open in a very scary subject, but try to remain open in what I should do next.
Actually...I have something coming very soon. I'm not ready to share yet. I'm freaking out, but so super stoked to be a part of it! But that will be another time...

Right now, I want to point out that I don't really ask God for signs. OK...sometimes I do, but I mostly ask for guidance & then stay as open as possible to possible signs of where I should take on next.

And it scares me! But that's how I know God is leading me. God wouldn't lead me to it if the task were to be easy. So I have to cling onto strength in Jesus & keep God in sight.

With that said, Lent is usually a time of reflection. I have tried taking on devotionals, reflecting, and then trying to put what I've learned relevantly into my life. And sometimes signs show up!

Several years ago, I remember getting ready for church on the first Sunday of Lent. As I got around, I walked into the living room, and nearly fell over when I saw what the sun was projecting onto the wall of the parsonage (aka - pastor's house; aka - clergy living quarters) when we were living in St. Louis:

YES! That's right. It was the sun shining thru the blinds on from the other side of the room!
I obviously had to get picture proof. I don't know if people would have really believed me if I just tried to tell them. I mean, c'mon! We are in the Show Me state. And I had to take my camera (it was just before the times of camera phones, kids) with me to church so I could bring some proof of what I'd found to any doubting Thomases I may have encountered!

And it really happened on the first Sunday of Lent that year. I'm still blown away by that moment on that morning.

Now, as I remain steadfast in the sense of being open to what God needs from me (again...not always so easy), I try to stay vigilant of any signs letting me know I'm heading the right direction, or that I need to change direction. Believe me when I say that I have certainly received signs! Even if I didn't ask for them.

Through the years, I have seen many inspirational photos going around. Some of the more intriguing ones seem to be what is seen in the sky, usually in the clouds. Usually it's forms of angels & things.

Today, the 2nd Friday of Lent, my hubby & I were on our way home from our weekly trip to the store. We were just talking about different things...and then I saw an amazing cloud right in front of me!

Pretty amazing! Right? A truly Divine sign in this moment.
And then my hubby commented that it looked like Ash Wednesday clouds...even if it was over a week later than Ash Wednesday. We discussed if it was a sign of Jesus coming back soon. But that is ALWAYS on the table, people! Don't ignore that fact! "Soon" to us is a much different timeframe than "soon" to God!

We were just shocked over the cloud formation. So much so, I decided to bring up the photo again...but then I noticed something above the clouds in cross formation, and was stunned!
(sorry for sounding like ridiculous click bait)

Do you see that? Do you see the winged clouds in the sky above it? It's like an angel or a dove, but definitely a Divine vision!

People, just know that God leaves us signs EVERYWHERE! And it's not always in visual form. Be aware. Just as God can take any form necessary to get a message across, God can also leave any God-sized sign for us. We just have to be open enough to figure out if it is as obvious as these clouds, or as small as a song lyric in a much-needed time.

We are in a time of wilderness, on a journey to seek out Easter. Though it is a solemn & spiritual time, we should enjoy the view along the way.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

AM~Erica's Beady Talk

So anyway...

As we begin Lent (my take on the season, HERE), we are recovering from a string of celebrating from Super Bowl, Lunar New Year, and Mardi Gras.

Many will prepare to have ashes spread across their foreheads in preparation as we remove celebratory decor that adorned our surroundings for the past few days, even weeks.

I surprised my family by pulling out a lot of my Mardi Gras decor and putting it up around the living room & dining room for our own celebration. Hadn't had a chance to do that in the past few years, so I was glad to be able to have some time, and energy (finally), to spruce the place up to look festive.

But, alas, the party is over, and decor must come down.

And as I was pulling down the masks & beads, it reminded me of something:

The beads really stuck with me, especially seeing them all together in a big bunch. I thought about the large number of beads at the AFSP Out of the Darkness Walks.

I've said it before (from my first walk - HERE, and my second walk - HERE) that looking at the layout of beads seems to have a very Mardi Gras/Carnival-type look at first glance.

These beads you see adorning necks at the Out of the Darkness walks have deep meaning. Each color is representative of someone in your life, as it relates to suicide survivors and the relationship they have with those they lost or with those who struggle (even themselves).

As amazing & beautiful it is to see these colors everywhere, the pain behind them is all-too real.

On any given Mardi Gras, I have no shame in loading up my neck with the green, purple & gold/yellow colors. I'm completely ridiculous like that. This fact really isn't news.
However, when it comes to the AFSP event aspect, the green stays around my neck. My struggle is painfully real. (check out my list of posts concerning my struggles HERE)

Since I know I'm not the only one who struggles, I wear the newest color addition to the spectrum: teal. There's those of you reading this, right now, who I know go through this hurt. Because you've told me. Which is a brave thing to do - to step up & just say something to someone.
I feel weird saying it's a brave thing to do. I say it, however, because I've been told the same thing. And I realize when you tell anyone - whether it's for the first time saying it, or if it's to someone new - it's completely nerve-racking! So it does take some courage to say something. And I'm so proud of you!

Because so many of us do struggle with surviving our own attempt &/or intense suicidal thoughts, I know I never want anyone else to got through that. So I support the cause. That means I wear a blue strand of beads, too.

My bead color combo is very different than anyone else's at the walks. There are so many who sport several of the colors, maybe a couple of the same color. The color combinations are nearly as unique as those who wear them around their necks.


As we enter into Lent, my focus is as different as the sets of beads, between Mardi Gras & AFSP. Though a beautiful time, it is much more solemn. We now enter a journey leading the beauty of Easter, just as the journey each of us who are part of AFSP hope to get to the beauty of no more suicide anywhere.

Anyway...beads. I was just contemplating the difference in the beads, how much they look alike, yet how different they really are. Just like each one of us - some of us may appear to be from the same mold, but we aren't.

Many times, we are all actually wandering through our own wilderness looking for Easter.

Keep going. Sometimes it gets darker before the day breaks. Good Friday was hard & excruciating, but it leads to the beauty of Easter.

Keep going.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Saturday, February 6, 2016

AM~Erica's Dark Side of Despair: There's Work to be Done

So anyway...

Quite some time back I made a decision to be as open & honest as possible about my mental health.

I hit a hard low, very recently. It had been building, but the depths of despair became unbearable. It was to the point that I knew I had to make good on a promise to find help.

Luckily I'm blessed with friends who can oddly sense when I'm entering a dark place - even when they are no where near my vicinity.

I hit a major low. It had, apparently, been slowly building...apparently. I just know I had a new symptom kick in that I am not used to: sensory overload. I have not been handling it well, and it has been affecting my actions & reactions. Irritability, snap reactions, all the sound being too loud & garbled at a level 12 through the air, people (yes, even my family) are just too close in my bubble, everything is making me feel claustrophobic - like I'm slowly melting & collapsing on the inside, as well as not handling the ebb & flow of an ever-changing schedules well. Yeah - that. It was leading to empty despair that I was getting lost in. A deep, dark abyss was swallowing me up - I was drowning on dry land.

My hubby wanted to bring it up, but didn't want to scare me & possibly bring me down any more. I have a very dear friend who messaged me to see if I was OK.

As I am training for a big race coming up, I am needing to get some hard running in. I had a plan of how I would work in a couple miles of hills, not too long ago:
My hubby headed back to work from his usual extended lunch at home, so I had some time to perfectly work in the time needed to get the hill work in before the hustle & bustle of getting the kiddos picked up was to commence. I was coming onto AND on my first big hill when my phone was vibrating like crazy on my arm. I knew I needed to cut the run short, knowing I at least got one hill in. As I looked at my phone, I realized my hubby AND daughter had been trying to call me! I called my daughter back first, and she exclaimed, "Oh! thank God! You're alive!" I was very confused by that, and really wrote it off as usual over dramatics. She told me she was done with work...and hour & a half early! Without getting to get rehydrated, proteined or changed, I had to take my semi-sweaty self, still in full layered running gear, to pick her up. I was NOT happy for the shake up.

I usually tell someone when I go on a run, but I was just going to be gone a short time. I didn't have to start getting kids for at least an hour, plenty of time to get my run in...and didn't figure my hubby would be calling since he JUST left the house with some meetings to prep for. So, I was just going to work it in...

Come to find out, I had been exhibiting an upswing in my odd symptoms, and when neither by hubby NOR my daughter could get a hold of me, they truly thought I'd taken drastic measures with my life.


When my friend flagged me down (one who lives NO WHERE near me), she said she was worried about me. She gave me the number to NAMI so I'd have it right in front of me so I could call & get help. Because I already knew I was probably at that point to make good on a promise that I would try to see someone if I started to become consumed by the abyss.

I got myself together, called NAMI, and a guy very quickly asked where I lived, then gave me a number for a very close by place to call, and that was it. So, I took another deep, and labored breath to call the place. Since I'd never been before, I actually had to leave a message in hopes someone would call back with help.

In the meantime of the wait, I broke it to my hubby that I had called to find help. That's when he said he was glad, and started breaking down all of the signs I had been showing for longer than I'd realized. And here we were, at my lowest point in a very long time.

I sat nervously wondering if I'd get a call back from the ONE place I was given a number for. All of my energy was put into those two phone calls: NAMI & place NAMI gave me the number to...

In my estimated guess (because I was in a slump of time in this moment), it took anywhere from 3-4 hours to get a call back. My thought process, in this time, was feeling forgotten by a place you were told could help me. My thoughts were going to dangerous places. If I couldn't get help, and if I couldn't deal with everything going on around me, and if I was truly frightening my family with my apparently-obvious burden...well...

...however, when they finally called, I had a release. I told them my despair & why I needed to see someone. I let them know I was given their number by NAMI, who's number I was given by an important friend. I let them know what I was going through, and that, yes, I had thoughts of taking my life...but I wouldn't. My safety net is that the means my brain goes to for using isn't allowed in the house; I don't have the energy to seek it out, either.
I was put on hold to see what they could do for me...
Then I was told they didn't have much room for me, that they really only help the uninsured & those in financial need, and, "...here's some numbers for you to try. But if you can't get to them, please call us back. Make sure you have the crisis line close by incase things escalate for you. And take care of yourself." I was told this after hearing what I was going through AND acknowledging the tearful despair in my voice!

I took down the numbers, but here's a basic rundown of options I was given, even in the state I was in:

~ Call you insurance & maybe they can give you some numbers of doctors in your network

~ Here's numbers to two different psychiatrists if your insurance covers them

~ Write down the crisis line to have handy if you think you will truly hurt yourself

You know what? It took every fiber of my being just to call this place. After two phone calls & waiting for the second to maybe call back...I was spent.

I looked at my list of numbers, and I knew I physically & mentally didn't have it in me to call any of them. My despair became even greater...

My hubby just kind of stood idly by. Not because he didn't care, but he was shocked by the despair & the lack of help this place was willing to give me. He reminded me of a counselor who comes highly recommended, and someone I have met before. He gave me the number (of course), but I wanted to be able to just quietly research each of these names I was given...

I couldn't get any reviews of names I was given, and the list on my insurance was too great to try to get through or to make heads or tails of to even know where to begin.

So I looked up the counselor, and this one didn't take my insurance, but had a list of questions I SHOULD CALL MY INSURANCE ABOUT BEFORE MAKING AN APPOINTMENT!!

At this point, when someone is so low in despair & pain, one should NEVER have to deal with this kind of runaround. Ever. Because, if I'd had the means necessary, that would have been my problem solver rather than having to make even one more phone call...even to the crisis line.


Here's something I need you to understand about me:
I thought I had my depression under control enough that I could shake it when needed. I knew what to do & mostly how to deal with it. I was NOT prepared for a new symptom to kick in. I didn't know how to deal with it. At all.

I haven't seen a doctor about any of this for a VERY long time! Why? I had this in the bag! Was I cured? Nope. Just figured I had a good enough handle on it.

I was wrong.

As I advocate for people to go see someone when they need to, and I am such an advocate for mental health & suicide prevention, nothing truly prepared me for this shake up.

This is where I'd been oblivious & selfish. I thought I had a grip on all of this. Not in a pompous way, just really thought I didn't need to see someone at this point. I didn't need medication & I could get a handled on my down times.

So now I need someone. And someone who needs help so badly can't get the help they need in that moment...

Imagine someone who's never been through this before:
They get to a point of needing to call someone, and they get just enough energy to do so. But it turns out they have insurance & make too much money to get to the one place they were told to call. They have no idea they shouldn't have a means to take their life, but they can't deal with calling another number, even the crisis line they are told to keep handy, along with 3-5 other phone numbers. There's not energy to call anyone else; there's no energy to call yet another number...so they do all they can think to do to get rid of the pain since no one is taking time to help them get better...

We are in amazing times right now, people! Right now, mental health awareness is at an all time high! The stigma is lowered, but not gone. So, we are in a time when healthcare is supposed to be great for all of us & taking care of all of us, especially with mental health...
...but it's not. The system is continually failing those in need. When someone is in desperate need of help, the last thing that should be happening is to be given the runaround & told they need to go elsewhere with a list of numbers they cannot make sense of, or energy to call.

We wonder why we lost yet another wonderful soul to the devastating abyss of the fatal outcome of suicide because no one was willing to help them in the mental illness state of their health.

This is deplorable.

People can't get meds when they need them, people can't get in to see someone when they are in desperate need of someone professional to get them back on track. So, when they can't get the help they need WHILE in their time of need...we are about to lose someone else.
If a place is supposed to be there to help, is willing to listen why they need help, but won't help them, it's like a diving instructor helping someone dive off the diving board into an empty pool.

Those of us who do suffer with a mental illness are still expected to live our lives.

These illnesses do not discriminate. They don't care your gender, your color, your height, your financial situation, your living situation, who you love, your relationship status, your age, your religion or beliefs, your nationality (background)...and it certainly doesn't care what you've got going on or what your plans are. It will strike when it wants to.

I have a summons for jury duty. And, right now, I cannot get a medical release for my state of being. I have to try to help the system when the system is failing me greatly.

I am trying to be an advocate for those in my place, right now, as I am battling to stay afloat - even while trying to make plans for greater advocacy.


Now then, as part of our overall health, we should have a counselor (at the very least) to be able to see when things aren't going so well. Do this while you are not at a low point. Give yourself time to get to see someone. Because they won't help you get started when you're at your lowest.

This is a sad truth right now. You want despair? There it is!

As for me, I'm on a slow upswing...
I'm not back to where I need to be, but wow! I have sure learned a lot about my dark side, as well as the dark side of the system - you know, the ones who are supposed to be stepping up to help those in despair.

But I'm working on myself right now. I will get to those phone calls when I have the energy to talk to someone about them. Someone new, anyway.

So let's all get behind each other, know how to handle each other in an actual mentally ill state, and let's get set up with someone professional so that you can have better access when you are in those horribly low times. Because I never want anyone to be passed around while they just need the help of one person.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

AM~Erica's Dealings With All at Level 12: It's Too Much

So anyway...

Believe it or not, I've been working on this blog post for almost 2 months. Stopping & starting with every little distraction around each festive corner.

I literally scrapped what I'd worked on & decided to start fresh & new. After several days & weeks of not completing a blog post...you can begin to wander.

Look, I've been struggling. Big time. More than I realized.

Me today. Not all of my days are full
of happiness - this is one of them.

My depression has kicked up. But it's different this time.

Something has kicked up in me, though, that I need to make note of: sensory overload.

This has thrown me off. This happened to me only once before only a few months ago.

I had been down one day. Someone brought up heading to a book store. There's a Half Price Books close by, so I thought I'd go over there to see what I could find...however, when I walked in the door, something happened...
...I began to look around, and it became too much to deal with. Too many choices, too many books, too many stuffs. I began to have a near anxiety attack just thinking of having to choose a book from any section - from walking by the featured section & the knick-knacks up front. Just. Too. Much.
I promptly held my breath, spun a 180 on my heel, and bolted out the door! I couldn't take it!
A book store.
A book store was too much for me to deal with.
That seemed ridiculous.

Now it only happened that once. I don't remember anything to that magnitude ever happening before.

Until a few days ago:
My hubby & Teen Boy enjoy some back & forth about politics along with world happenings. But deep & nearly debating - loudly. They both know how to project anyway...but each sentence gets a little louder, and then a little louder...
I don't deal well when a "casual" debate strikes up as it is, but it got over-the-top! I actually went & hid in the master bathroom to get away from the seemingly tense air of the discussion. They weren't even arguing - just discussing. But it was too much to deal with. I couldn't do it.

Then, regularly, we get verbal interwebz. What does that mean? It means at least one of the kiddos has come across something (generally a list of some sort) on the interwebz, and then just launch into reading it ALL to us/me. Often. No prep - just BOOM! Random interwebz list.

Now then, this can generally happen from Teen Girl as she tries to talk over the ridiculously loud politico discussion happening...while...a video game is going on & someone is probably verbally showing disgust in how it's going - loudly.

Now then, when does it bubble up? When I'm trying to research something, read something, discover something, create something. I cannot focus on what I would like to, or even need to, because there is SO much other stuff happening. All at once.

Then, we only have 2 cars. So when the kiddos need to be somewhere or need picked up, it's up to hubby or I to take care of that. When we have at least a good idea of schedules, something always seems to happen that switches things up: a different or shifted lunchtime, a different work schedule, last minute pickup change...
So, when I'm trying to plan to have things done, it doesn't happen. Why? I'm dealing with the schedule changes within the household.

All of this has been happening at once!

Hence the ever changing feel & tone of this very blog post that I've worked on, changed, trashed, restarted since the beginning of December.

Good things have come with the new year. I swear. But at this moment, I'm overwhelmed, irritable, can't deal with being questioned about everything (ever get to the point where you feel like you have to tell the family you have to go to the bathroom or just walk to the kitchen?), micromanaging for what THEY are wanting/needing & forgetting there's others...and only 1 me.


I'm running on empty. I can't seem to get footing on some of the things I love being a part of. I'm too busy dealing with everyone else, the schedule changes, the lack of audio courtesy, the being pulled 8 other directions - even last minute.

Today, I had hoped to get in a bit of a run: hill work. I'm working training for a big race! (more on that another time) So, I waited until my hubby went back to work from an extended lunch time, got myself bundled, stretched, hydrated, and headed out. I wouldn't be getting Lil Guy for about an hour, then off to pick up Teen Boy, then over to get Teen Girl from work. This timing would work. Not a long run, just enough to get in about 3 big hills - and maybe just under 3 miles.
In the midst of one of my big hills, my phone was vibrating like crazy on my arm...they would have to wait. I'm in the midst of focussing! But it kept buzzing - I looked & saw hubby was calling. Looks like I might need to cut things short. I finished that hill & one more that would get me back home. Not even a mile & a half, but realized Teen Girl had been let off an hour & a half early! Now all was thrown off - again. I took my sweaty self over to get her so I could get back to actually rehydrate, then change quickly to get Lil Guy, head straight over to get Teen Boy AND let hubby know I was fine. Angry & frustrated, but fine.

This has been happening so often!

When you suffer with a mental illness, it's important to get in "me time."

Bad thing is, I can't get footing to get any of that done.

I don't have time for my steampunk stuff lately.
I don't have time to bake too often (I will make sure a King Cake is done for Mardi Gras)!
I don't have much time to play with my new dresses - except for church. There's SOMEWHERE!
I don't have time to work up any dances.
I don't have much time to blog anything (this post should be some proof of that).
I don't have time to enjoy running. It's all about training.
I'm barely getting in celebratory time.

I'm constantly working around others' schedules. Yes, yes...I'm a mom! I know! But there's a point when I can only give of myself so much.

If I could go away for a day or two, that would be awesome. But I can't.
There's too much other time being filled with other stuff happening. Not even counting my summons for jury duty soon.

I'm just trying to keep afloat. I know the crisis line incase I need it. Because I feel like I've been close. I have a jumping reality as I'm trying to deal with this new overwhelment of sensory overload. Trying to figure out if it's something new, or if it's a new onset symptom of my depression.
I don't get anxiety attacks. At least not too often. I can generally explain the few I get. But these last couple coming on with the overwhelming sensory stuff has thrown me, for sure.

Until then, I need everything coming at me at a level 12 to be toned down to at least a 5. But not sure how or when that will happen. I may need help in dealing with this very loud air. It's tense. I'm not dealing well.

Hoping putting it down here will keep me in check.

It's nice to be needed...but at the same time, I don't have much left give...something needs to change.

Let it be known that I truly love my family! The mental illness I struggle with is just making it difficult to cope.

I made a promise to a select few that if I was feeling worse, then I would find help. It think the time has come...

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Saturday, November 28, 2015

AM~Erica is Quietly Thankful in Tradition

So anyway...

A couple of days ago, our family took part in  a day that so many other families do on the 4th Thursday of every November: feasting and giving thanks.

Don't get me wrong, gratitude is regularly given, but this is supposed to be some sort of beautiful culmination with others on THIS day.

Our day began as it has the past several years. Some background first:

When we moved back to the KC area after 3 years in St. Louis, it became easier to handle holidays like this one. Why? Because our family was pretty much all in KC. It was good to be home! However, when we returned, it became apparent that gathering at my grandmother's house for brunch (as we had done for so many years, as far back as I can remember) may be difficult. Not only for her, but to get all of us out there, and to make sure food was brought in. So we decided that we would love to host the Thanksgiving brunch at our house. So, like Captain Picard's #1, we made it so.

My grandmother made about 3 of the years, but got to where she didn't feel comfortable leaving her abode. Those years, we made a point to take her some dessert so someone could be with her.

Also in the past, we would have big dinners with my in-laws. As time & circumstances scooted around in many different ways & forms, we decided to host the evening meal, too. After my grandmother passed (still missing her dearly), and with some topsy-turvy craziness, we were holding the meal at our house.

Now then, we still held our brunch with my folks & brother, as we've done for several years now. We cooked up eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, fried potato hash browns, and cinnamon rolls. With some kitchen renovations going on at my parents' house, we cooked everything. Which was fine by us. We actually keep it simple enough to be able to do so.

After a really nice visit with my folks, they left to go out to my uncles for the afternoon/evening. This is when we would generally get ready for my in-laws to come that afternoon & evening for the big meal...but this year was different.

Most of the in-laws had moved over the spring & summer. With some health issues & other circumstances, none of them would be coming to our house. Now then, we did let one of them know they were welcome to come, as my sister-in-law is in town due to life circumstances - so we made sure to let her know she could come over & we would have food.

As it turned out, she had gone ahead & made plans with a friend she was staying with. Sad she couldn't join us, but it was OK.

There was so much rain! It just rained, and rained, and rained...
My hubby had gotten a new (to us) smoker from my dad. My hubby was really excited to use it to smoke our turkey AND ham for the evening's feast! With scooting our patio table closer to the smoker to put the umbrella up to protect the smoker a bit, it was a crazy-ingenius way to keep the smoker going.

Eventually I made most of the other dishes, and my hubby took over the yams & rolls.

By the time dinnertime rolled around we had a delightful spread:

First up is the meat. My hubby smoked a beautiful turkey & ham. It was his first time EVER to brine a turkey, and even smoke a turkey. Everything was smokey-delicious & was better than restaurant worthy...in our family's own humble opinion.

The kiddos voted to have mac and cheese as a side, of course. So I bumped it up to Pirate's Booty brand aged white cheddar shells and cheese, then added a sprinkle of parsley to make it appear fancier. Kids loved it! YAY!

My hubby took care of the yams. Simple yams with a few marshmallows to be warmed & toasted in the oven.

I make the cranberry sauce! Homemade stuff around here. It makes me happy when I get to make it.
(recipe HERE)

When we were originally putting our menu together, we talked to the kiddos about what they might want. Teen Boy, one of our pickier eaters, said that he couldn't imagine the Thanksgiving feast without things like cranberries, stuffing/dressing, and mashed potatoes. No, he doesn't eat any of those things...but he just felt like it wasn't the holiday if missing this sort of montage of dishes.

With that said, and we obviously chose cranberries, we were deciding whether to do mashed potatoes or stuffing. I brought up doing colcannon as our mashed potatoes. My hubby was thrilled with the thought! So, colcannon is what was decided upon. And it might have been my best batch yet!
(recipe included HERE)

We knew we needed rolls. I put my hubby in charge of the rolls, and he chose these bread rounds that were about the size of Lil Guy's head!

We got the feast finished up & placed onto the table as Teen Girl was getting the simple table settings ready.

The plated feast

Shortly after our bellies were satisfied, we realized we forgot something - the green beans! I forgot to steam them! Since this was the case, we decided to save them. As green bean casserole is not the biggest hit around here (I mean...I like it), I try to keep it a healthier option by sautéing mushrooms & onions to add to the steamed green beans, plus toasting some almonds, for a beautiful hericots verts (harrah-co vay) dish.

After enjoying all of this around the table, Teen Girl brought up wanting to play some Apples to Apples.

When our family plays this game, wildness generally ensues! Just when you think you've won the judge with your card, there's one that seems to beat yours...OR...everyone has a throwaway card because nothing matches, and the judge has to pick from a selection of nothing that goes with the main card. We laugh until we cry, often. Also, we found the weirdest way to end the game! As we made our way to the last round, and the last person (who just happened to be me in this case), there was a consensus to make the judge pick 3 rounds of selections for the same card just to get rid of cards! It was evilly hilarious, and we may keep this ending to the game for future play.

Then we moved onto our first night of our 4th annual holiday movie/treat run!
(some past tradition interminglings HERE)

This year, we drew our numbers right before Thanksgiving. With Teen Boy drawing the ol' #1, we decided to get things rolling with his picks on Thanksgiving night - especially since there's 5 of us picking as we lead up to Christmas.

I decided to make the fudge. When I made it 3 years ago, it didn't set. We had a fudge butter! Not a bad thing, but it was interesting eating it with a spoon. This time, it totally set up & it was near perfect! YAY!

Teen Boy became hesitant about his movie choice. He seemed gravely disappointed that he might have to change his selection when he learned we were going to watch "A Christmas Carol" performed just a couple of days prior. (reminder HERE with yet another update) However, I did inform him we could keep it as such, and there was no reason to change.

See, they are two different tellings of the story! After we watched the movie, we got to discuss the differences, what we liked & what we didn't.

We saw the movie in the theater when it came out in 2009. We were surprised by how close to the story it seemed, and how not-over-the-top it was for a Jim Carrey movie! It seemed to stay pretty close to the original telling. Some variance, but surprisingly subdued, yet beautiful.

As we got through with this viewing, especially with the one-man-show storytelling of Gerald Dickens, we discussed what was different, what was the same, what we liked & didn't.

Then it hit me! It has been SO many years since I've really read the book. I've taken it for granted & have just heavily leaned on all the different tellings on stage or screen for many years. After pointing out one glaring inconsistency in nearly every telling I've come across, it got me thinking that I really want to read it again. The Mid-Continent Libraries have done their job in bringing in Mr. Dickens to tell the story! I am really wanting to read it again! On pages, and between front & back covers. I'm yearning for the words of Charles Dickens. So I must get on that!

With all of that said & done, plus a couple of glasses of Antioxidant Fortified Jesus Water enjoyed, it was time to call it a night, know that I'm thankful for all we have, for the quiet we got to take in, the roof over my head, the family under it with me, the food we are able to provide, and traditions we can take in, no matter how weird they may seem sometimes. God is so good!

Thankfully, we had enough leftovers to enjoy for another meal. My hubby pointed out that it seemed less glamorous the next night; but even with the food being served from storage containers & on paper plates, it was still just as delightful as it was the night before.

And now we are moving forward into our full-blown Christmas season! Time to prepare an ongoing skit with the hubby for church, as well as a dance to help start the liturgical season of Advent.

In the midst of it all, so thankful. Here's to our own traditions! *CHEERS*

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica