Saturday, February 27, 2010

Six Steps to Finding Self Worth

It's all about reprogramming your brain. Imagine all the negative self talk from you and from other people is like a computer virus. You now have to find ways of going into your "software" and eliminate the damage that has been done to your self-confidence and attack it back just like an anti-virus program. It can be done. "The subconscious mind does not know the difference between real and unreal. It accepts what you feed it." Dr. Maxwell Maltz.

1. Make a Decision to Change

a. By improving yourself confidence, everything else in your life will certainly change.
b. The more you feel empowered, the more you will want to change.
c. Make the change for yourself and not for someone else.

2. Change the Way You Look at Yourself. Don’t look at your negatives. Look for the positive and uniqueness of who you are.

a. Start a list of the 20 things you like about yourself.
b. List your gifts and talents.
c. Be okay with the things that you even need to change. The Paradox, this allows you to change those things.
d. Be okay with your imperfectness. NO ONE IS PERFECT!
    Do not strive for perfection. We aren’t perfect and never will be. You’re setting yourself up for failure.
    The "Be like Jesus" syndrome will cause you to fail before you even begin.
e. Just be the best you. Too many expectations of an unrealistic you will set you up for failure just as quickly.

3. Reinforce these Positive Things about Yourself

a. Say positive things about yourself.
b. Write positive things about yourself and post them around the house, bathroom, fridge, bedroom, car. Places you will constantly see them and read them aloud.
c. Accept compliments from others. It’s time to throw modesty out the window.
d. Give and get more hugs.
e. Work hard at meaningful conversations.

4. Re-examine Your Relationships with Others. Make changes if necessary.

a. Find healthy relationships that help support and build you up.
b. Remove destructive relationships and influences.
c. Create healthy boundaries from those destructive relationships.

5. Get Rid of Negative Self-Thought

a. Learn ways to silence the inner critic.
b. Learn ways to silence past conversations from others.
c. Analyze what others have said and decide if they are rational, based on true facts. Write them out and face them head-on.
d. If some are valid, work on changing the habit, acts, etc. to positive.
e. Consider the source of who told you these things.

6. Make a Specific Change in Your Behavior

a. Determine if something really needs to be changed and do it.
b. Have specific goals and start small and easy.
c. Celebrate your changes, progress.

Remember, you are a perfect creation of God/Universe. You're worth being loved and worth self love. Be prepared that when making these changes and putting healthy boundaries in place, you may cause some resistance from those around you. They may not want you to change and fear losing you. HOLD YOUR GROUND!

Discover Your Wings is the perfect book to help you implement these changes in your life. Great book for teenage girls as well.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Chapter Ten of Making Lemonade A Spiritual Journey Through Pain and Divorce

January’s Chill

On a cold January evening, I traveled with a heart full of faith and heaviness. Curving around the mountains, I thought of all the twists and turns in my life that brought me to this point. The blackness of the road stretched out ahead, then disappeared into the unknown. Just as the sun began to set, darkness tore at the sky above. Crimson seeped from the wound, signifying the death of another day.

What lay in Phoenix for me? Will I like it there? Why did he not love me? All seemed lost as I wandered into the wilderness.

Pulling into the modest duplex, my heart sank. This was now home. “I don’t want to be here. I want to go home!” I cried to God. “Oh, please don’t leave me here.” There weren’t enough tears to vanish the horrible place. I missed my beautiful home.

Slowly approaching the dark, hollow shell, I began moving in my air mattress and bedding material. Alone I lay in the living room as heat began filling the rooms. My thoughts were interrupted as the sound of the walls creaked and popped with the temperature change. I lay still, afraid of the dark, afraid of the sounds that kept waking me up, afraid of the neighborhood around me. Afraid of my new journey.

Then the fight broke out as my neighbors next to me came home. Oh, this is going to be so much fun living here, I thought, as the door slammed and my common wall and front windows shook. The sound of the angry engine tore the silence of the neighborhood. Tires squealed, then all was peaceful. The angry engine filled the night again about a half hour later and more fighting broke out. Within an hour, all was quiet, and I fell asleep.

Unfortunately, I woke up. Sterile walls gleamed as dawn’s first light peeked through half-closed blinds. If it weren’t so tragic that I had to live in a place I didn’t like, it could have been considered a beautiful day. But I felt nothing would make the coming days beautiful.

When the movers came, they asked if all my furniture would fit. Miraculously, I achieved making a mansion out of a thimble. Later that afternoon as I placed my personal items into their appropriate home, God simply held me.

My old carpet was a collage of broken glass and food stains. I surmised Steve took his anger out on my carpet for leaving him in the place we didn’t want a part of anymore. I had nothing else between me and the cold tile and decided I’d have to work on getting it clean. It didn’t come clean. I remembered a Home Depot not too far from my home. I needed to get out of the mess and get away from my new roommate, Self-Pity.

Home Depot was having one of their rug events. Finding a rug, I paid and pulled up to the entrance of the tent. The wind picked up, and I heard a loud crash as my car shifted. With great confusion I looked around and saw nothing out of the ordinary until I got out of the car. The wooden advertising sign hit the passenger door and dented it. The attendant of the tent came rushing to my side to see if I was okay.

“My car,” I squeaked. “Look at my car.”

“It’s okay,” replied the Middle Eastern voice. “You okay. It not hit you. That is good thing.”

Oh, how I longed to tell him I wish it had hit me. So far, my first two days in Phoenix were unwelcoming. Maybe this was a sign I made a mistake. Looking into his eyes, I saw the genuine empathy he had for my situation and simply cried out my frustration. “I just got divorced and moved here. I can’t deal with this.”

“It’s okay. I go get manager of store.” With that he disappeared and soon emerged with the manager who took down my information and reassured me that they would be taking care of the damages.

The paperwork completed and the rug loaded into my car, I cried all the way home. The exterior of my car now matched the interior of my heart and soul. It seemed only fitting.

Welcome to Phoenix.

Steve came the following day with my two precious dogs, Jasmine and Baby. He set up the entertainment center, arranged for the new washer and dryer, and even took me out to dinner. The next day, he left. Trembling, I sat on the couch as the engine of his car faded. Feeling the comforting presence of Jesus’ hand upon my back, I knew He was with me sharing my pain. My tears were His tears. It did not quell my pain.

The following weekend I lay in bed trying to sleep when a loud crash jolted me out of bed. Lights off, I peered out my kitchen window wondering if someone was vandalizing my car. I saw emergency lights across the street. Someone had been racing down the side street, apparently not realizing it dead-ended into the apartment complex, and wrapped the car around the fire hydrant that was now spraying water. Wonderful neighborhood.

To purchase a copy of the entire book:

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Gift from the Heart

Saturday morning I woke and readied myself for a new experience called Adopt-A-Block. The only thing I had heard was that people went to neighborhoods and gave food and clothes to people. God put it on my heart that I join, so I was ready for recruitment.

I found Sunnyslope to be nothing like its name. It is a forgotten little corner behind a mountain ornamented of wealthy houses. On the opposite side lay middle class suburbia.

Broken glass lay like their shattered dreams carpeting the ground. It was as thick as the lies that the enemy fed these people. A small cluster of apartment buildings flanked the sad street. Plastic windows, like blind eyes, stared out into the world filled with hopelessness. With each step I took, the hot asphalt sucked out a little more joy.

Slowly, I began forming relationships with our regular attendees in The Slope and continued searching for the hurting.

Our church provided us clothing and other items occasionally to give to our block; however, there was always a need for children’s clothing. It was put upon my heart one week to go to Wal-Mart and buy clothing for some of the children. I had a general idea of the ages and did the best I could with sizes. Only gathering fifty dollars worth of clothing, I wanted to buy more. It just didn’t seem like enough, but it was all I had to give.

The following Saturday, I set the clothes out on the grass for the children to sort through. One girl scooped up some shirts and I reminded her they were for the other girls as well. One little boy, around three, whom I had picked up a few weeks earlier and carried to the block and loved to be held by me, went over and picked up a shirt/short set.

“Is this for me? Can I have this?” his eye wide with joy.

I knelt down, “Yes, I bought this for you to have.”

Instantly he wrapped his little arms around me and said, “Thank you.”

Smiling, I had to turn away as the tears fell. These children appreciated having such things because they were without. They didn’t have the necessities we sometimes call luxuries.

Again, I thought of how much more I wanted to buy them and was unable to while I went home to a safer neighborhood that had working air conditioning and food, and a closet full of clothes that I was tired of wearing.

It brought back memories of my childhood when I was given clothes and shoes, especially in third grade gym class when I had to play in my socks because I did not have tennis shoes and my teacher kept insisting that my mother could afford them.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Steps to Recover From Abuse and Divorce

How did I recover and rebuild my life after divorce and abuse? I’m not going to lie to you and say it was easy and that there is a magical pill you can take and it will all be better. It was a lot of hard work with hair-pulling moments of frustration. However, when I got there, I found sunny skies and a freedom I never experienced before.

First of all, there is no time limit. We all heal and deal with things on our own time schedule. The key is to keep moving and working through the problems. So don’t feel like a failure if it seems you’re not making a lot of progress at first.

1. Find Your Faith. Faith means a different things to different people. There are many religions that people recognize. Find whatever works for you, whether it is Christianity, Buddhism, New Age, etc. Cling to it with all your might. This is where you’ll gather your strength to get through your painful moments of depression and anger and confusion.

2. Change Your Thoughts. There is power in your thoughts that controls your future. “Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become your destiny.” When we're discouraged or hurt, it’s easy to think negative, spirit-killing thoughts. These thoughts are wasted energy that are not benefiting your future.

Change the negative thoughts into positive ones. This may be difficult at first so you’re going to have to do this exercise on purpose until it can become natural to you. This may take years of retraining your brain, but it is crucial you learn how to do this.

Our brain accepts whatever we tell it. It doesn’t know the difference between reality and what we tell it. Have you ever wondered how a murderer can pass a lie detector test with flying colors? They practice convincing themselves they didn’t do it. You convince yourself enough times, you’ll believe it.

Only we’re convincing ourselves of something good. We’re reconditioning and nurturing our minds, body and future.

When I was taking my life coaching certification we studied this neuro-linguistic programming. As our instructor read an exercise to us over the webinar, I was eating my morning almonds. She had us close our eyes and imagine a lemon—to feel it, to see the color, the texture, to smell it in our hands. Then we were to cut the lemon in half and drip its juice into our mouths. At that moment, my mouth puckered and watered and I nearly spit out my lemon tasting almonds.

My brain didn’t understand it was only an image or a suggestion. It thought I had really dripped the tart juice into my mouth and it reacted accordingly.

When you’ve been abused or have gone through a nasty divorce, there are long-lasting affects. Our brains just don’t forget—lobotomy anyone?—it stores our memories and emotions. So if we can’t forget, how do we go on to a better future?

First of all, there is no room for your past in your future. You have to let it go, or in this case, work through this pain so that it doesn’t affect you and hold you prisoner in time. You really do have the key to release yourself from this prison. Time is a huge factor in this process, so don’t expect miracles over night, but it will happen!

Don’t bury the memory or emotions. This is extremely unhealthy and you’ll never heal. It’s like putting duct-tape on the Titanic. It may last a little while, but you’re still going to sink.

Acknowledge the feelings, reactions and flashbacks. Understand your triggers that put you in this state. Don’t dwell on them; understand them so you can identify what is really happening with you. When this happens you can say things like:

  • Yes, it happened, but it’s over now.
  • I’m safe now.
  •  I’m in a good place.
  • That person is no longer a part of my life.
  • This new person is not the person who hurt me. (Let’s hope you haven’t fallen into another bad relationship.)
The more you tell yourself it's okay, you’re reassuring your brain it’s now okay. You’re telling that “small child” or “hurt self” in your brain you’re safe.

If you have nightmares, that’s okay. Our brain is processing events, but with this self assurance, even these will soon stop. Make your room a safe, loving, nurturing sanctuary.

  • Lots of fluffy girly pillows
  • Bright colors mixed in a soothing back drop of colors
  • Even sleep with a small light on, a nightlight or tiny, low-watt lamp that is filtered with a colored scarf so that you can still sleep.
  • Listen to a subliminal message CD that speaks the words you need to hear and play it as you fall asleep. This is great for the car and during the day, too.
  • Listen to soft, soothing music, the kind they play when you get a massage, before going to bed.
Whatever works to calm yourself down and tell yourself you’re safe and the trauma is over.

We are spirit and we can control our minds. Whatever we think of enough will come true. If you’re thinking negative and fearful thoughts, they can come to fruition. Fear is faith in the negative. You’ve got to learn how to stop this and think of the good things you want in your life. There is a great book called Creative Visualization I read many years ago that talked about attracting good things into your life with the power of thought.

I took a lot of time on this particular section because it is the key to healing and rebuilding your life. Faith and thoughts are going to be your foundation for everything. Make it strong.
3. Work Through Your Emotions. Working through your emotions is essential to healing. Again, there is no magic pill to take that will get you through the grief, anger and depression. It is mandatory to feel all of these “icky” emotions in order to heal.

4. Dealing with Anger. You have to express divorce and abuse anger. That doesn’t mean demolishing your spouse’s car . . . You need to express the anger in a healthy way. Taking up sports is healthy. Hitting a ball can be a great release and create some fun visions.

5. Who Am I? Knowing who you are and discovering your purpose is empowering. It is important that you begin this process as soon as possible. I know, it’s the last thing you’re thinking about, but it needs to be the first.

You need a goal to strive toward. Right now you may be feeling hurt, angry, depressed, completely shattered. You obviously don’t want to stay this way. Having that goal is going to help pull you out of the rut you’re currently in.

"Well, I'm divorced! Lets hit e-Harmony!" Don't jump into a new relationship right away. You need to rediscover who you are. You need time to heal. By not allowing yourself the appropriate amount of time to heal you're going to land another turkey. By becoming confident in who you are and in what you want, your self-esteem is going to allow you to pick the eagle for the next relationship.

6. Nothing Works without Forgiveness. OUCH! I remember showing this chapter to the girls at the domestic violence shelter. Every one of them jumped back as though the word were a snake ready to bite them. They looked everywhere but at the page. I quickly assured them that they were not ready to even think about doing this, but it was needed in the future and I wanted to give them the tools so that they knew what forgiveness was and wasn’t to help them. They did relax a bit.

There is a point when we have to let the our hearts forgive in order to have complete healing and let go of that person and incident. Forgiveness has many layers.

What Does Forgiveness Really Mean?

Forgiveness is a decision that purifies the heart, releases pain, hate and bitterness from you when you release the offense over to God to correct. Often times He will not get completely involved in correcting the wrong until we’ve done our part and forgiven.

Forgiveness is your gift to yourself.

It is important to remember you are forgiving the offender, not the offense done to you.

Forgiveness gives you peace. Without it, there is no complete healing. It is the antidote for depression, anger, bitterness, spiritual and emotional illness and loneliness.

You can forgive without reconciliation because the offender doesn’t have to know, or if they do, it doesn’t require a positive response. It’s the responsibility of the person you are forgiving to receive it or not. You’re free to walk away knowing you did what God asked you to do.

When faced with evil, kill it with kindness. It extinguishes the fire.

It is an exchange of power that really does break the binding force. Unforgiveness binds you literally, in the spiritual sense, to that person and to the offense. Do you wonder why you walk around always feeling like that person is right there with you and you can’t shake them from your life?

Imagine yourself handcuffed to every person you’ve ever held a grudge against—your ex-spouse, the kid in fifth grade, an ex-friend. The chain is real. The people are real. The weight holding you back from trying to walk forward in your life is very real. You’re either laboring forward, out of breath and tired, or you’re stuck.

Break the chains holding you in captivity.

What forgiveness Is Not:

Forgiveness is not a feeling nor does it mean to forget. Forgive and forget are not even found in the Bible. However, forgiveness has helped me forget some things and has softened the memories of others. It’s a soul-searching process that isn’t instant. At first you may feel so angry toward the person there is no way you can possibly think of forgiving. With God, you can. Sometimes it even involves asking God to help us even want to forgive.

It doesn’t let the other person off the hook or condone the other person’s behavior. It doesn’t mean you’re trusting in that person.

7. Give Unto Others. Get out of your head and out of yourself for a few hours. It will make you feel needed and have a purpose. I felt less than human after my divorce. I joined an out-reach called Adopt-A-Block through my old church. Every week I'd go out to Sunnyslope, one of the worst areas of Phoenix, and inspire adults and children. The love I received from those people will always be with me. There were many good memories and sad tragedies of loss and even a drive-by shooting--thankfully when I wasn't there! Going there made me realize what I really had and how to be thankful for my current life at the time. I set out to help others, and in the process, saved my own life.

These are just a few of the strategies I used in my recovery process. They work. In 9 months I completely changed my life. I’ve seen them work in the lives of others who’ve gone through the divorce care program I helped facilitate and work in the lives of the women at the domestic violence shelter.

Books I've written and published. All books have been edited by Micheal Garrett, Stephen King's first editor and approved by my readers.

Making Lemonade -- A Spiritual Journey Through Pain and Divorce is a memoir of my abusive relationship and recovery. You'll understand that the points above are real because I walked through them.
Discover Your Wings is a book I created to help other’s heal and truly find purpose and happiness. It was inspired by Hands of Hope, the domestic violence shelter I volunteered at and my own journey through pain and divorce.

The Confident Butterfly is a short story out of Discover Your Wings. Three Arizona Girl Scout leaders are using this story to help inspire confidence for their girls and receive a badge. I'd love for all leaders to use this book. The story is for all ages, including adults.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chapter Nine of Making Lemonade A Spiritual Journey Through Pain and Divorce

Preparing for the Unknown Journey

Okay, God, you need to show me what you can do to put this life back together. People at Abundant Grace are telling me that you’re faithful and will take care of me and meet my needs. I’ve seen those scriptures in the few parts of the Bible that I’ve read. But I need you to prove yourself to me because right now I’m having serious doubts. Do you not see that this divorce is harming me, that I will not financially survive without Steve? Why are you putting me in danger?

You say I’ve come to prosper you and to give you a hope and a future, not to harm you. I guess I’m not seeing this right now. If you are doing something, I wish you would communicate it with me because this burden of fear that I’m carrying is almost too much. What am I supposed to do with my life now? In my world it was raining and I needed a snorkel. I looked upon the horizon for my rainbow. This is the chance to either make something of my life or fail. Oh, God, not another failure!

For several weeks God kept assuring me that I would like the outcome, yet my future looked blurred, out of focus. What do I do now? I’m stuck with a car payment. I have two “four-legged children” who are looking to me to take care of them. I have no job and a small settlement that if I wasn’t careful with, would only last me for a little while. I had a whole lifetime ahead of me.

Of all the decisions I made at this time, I made the right one by not going to live with my mother. I would be going to Plains, Montana, a small town with population almost as low as the winter temperatures, and I would never grow in strength and maturity. I had no future if I surrendered to the apron strings of security. Too many times had I seen or heard of people going home with the intent of moving on once they recovered, but they never did because they weren’t forced to.

Moving forward required relocating to a big city with jobs and opportunity. I wanted somewhere fresh that I had never been and no memories to haunt me. This was a new beginning to make a career in medical billing, make a life, and when the time was right, possibly find someone.

I felt in my heart that I would marry again, but how long would I have to wait? How long would I have to wade through the loneliness? How long would I have to wait for true love? And if I did find someone, how could I trust him? That brought up new annoyances and fears; I’ll have to reenter the dating realm.

Right now I knew I wasn’t good for anyone. I didn’t even want to be with me. If I could have left myself, I would have. I knew better than to seek another relationship. I had to find me, know who I was and grow in strength, confidence and independence. I had to relearn how to fend for myself and survive without depending on someone else. Only then would I be stable enough to even think of sharing my life with someone.

Self-defeat spoke loud into my heart; if Steve was unable to love me, then no one would. You’re unlovable. You’re such a mess, who would want you? He let you down, so get ready for rejection again. You’re a failure. You deserve what you got because you insisted on marrying him. I mean, come on, God even told you to run.

The hardest part of leaving was realizing I was going to leave my church. It became increasingly difficult to attend Bible study and go to service. One night, after returning from Sunday service, I told Steve that I didn’t want to attend anymore. I told him that it pained me too much to leave the people I finally got to know. I loved my little church and the pastor and his wife. Why was it when I finally found a good church and a place I felt I belonged did I have to leave? It just wasn’t fair! Did God not understand the pain I was already going through? Why did I have to make all the sacrifices?

Steve’s encouraging words were the least of what I expected. There were times that he made fun of me for going and continually called my pastor “Pastor Friendly” rather than his name on purpose. “You need to continue to go. I’ve seen changes in you at times, and it’s because you are going. It is because of the support system you have. If you don’t go, you’ll look back and regret it.”

I’m amazed those words held a lot of truth. I needed the support of all those around me to strengthen me and my pastors continued to counsel me in preparation for beginning a new life in Phoenix.

For Christmas gifts, I was armed with a list of all the local Assembly of God churches and a new Women’s Studies Bible from the pastors and an anonymous gift of a beautiful cross necklace.

January 13th the movers came and placed everything on the truck. Steve paid for my move, and I had half the money he owed me. The other half was coming to me in two more days.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Chapter Eight of Making Lemonade A Spiritual Journey Through Pain and Divorce

A Solitary Christmas

I had kicked the wall in anger with my slippered foot. Steve picked me up and threw me into the Christmas tree. Never in our years together had he been physically violent with me. What made him hate me so much? We had been arguing over his infidelity.

Abhorrence for him held back my tears. I wanted to strike him, but I knew God saw the incident, and He would take care of it for me.

A few days later we got into another argument when his mother only sent my Christmas gifts. I opened them right away because it didn’t matter; Christmas didn’t matter.

Selecting a few T-Shirts, I threw the rest of the gifts in a bag and brought them to the church. I know that his mom went to all the trouble of picking out gifts for me, even after the divorce was taking place, but the objects seemed empty. They held no meaning. For once, my material items that I treasured above all other things, including people, seemed like a pile of junk. I decided to give them away to the church for other people who didn’t receive gifts.

The meaning of Christmas was lost in my heart as I slouched in Mass. Jovial parishioners filed out. Christmas blessings were exchanged. I was not a part of the world as I stood in the shadows concealing my bruises and scratches.

Christmas is a day of family, a day of sharing gifts; a day of joy. I was alone. My tree lay empty. My heart was broken. Deep under the covers I cried myself to sleep. I had never experienced a Christmas alone. My heart bled for all those people who were just as alone. Now I understood how difficult the holidays were for those who had no one to share them with. I finally understood what Christmas was really about and found myself dreaming of Christmas past and longed to walk through the portal of time.

Mom was heading to Phoenix to work on consolidating an office. A few days after Christmas, she picked me up so I could spend time with her and Michael, her new husband, and preview the area. I decided that I was going to move to Phoenix. It held the most opportunity for starting a new life. I even picked out a rental.

We went to Mesa to see the duplex. Exiting the freeway, I glanced at the neighborhood. Low Rent/Free Utilities signs hung from modest apartment buildings, dilapidated houses with barred windows lined the street on both sides. Well, this is directly off the freeway, I thought. It has to get better. Then I saw my street. I was in the heart of poverty. There was a pawn shop on one side of the street and an AT&T building on the other. Thankfully my duplex was behind the AT&T building.

The duplex faced two apartment complexes. One looked like gangs ran the place, the other seemed quiet. The rest of the neighborhood was full of older homes in a variety of conditions and a house that was a burned out shell. What disturbed me more was the police car sitting in front of the “gang central” apartments and the helicopter circling overhead.

Unable to catch the maintenance worker who was putting in my new countertops, I could only look at the back yard. So far, I wasn’t impressed, especially for the rent I was paying.

“Do you think they have other places you could check out while you are here?” Mom asked. I could tell she was biting her tongue on other comments she wanted to make.

“No.” It was almost a sob. “This is all she has in my price range. I don’t have a choice if I want to keep my dogs.”

“Well, maybe it’s not so bad —”

“You live here then!”

“We’ll call the realtor and express our concerns. Maybe she knows the neighborhood, and we just came on a bad day.”

I honestly think she was worried for me living there, but knew as well as I did, I couldn’t do better at the present time and silenced her unease. When she mentioned I could give the dogs back to Steve and rent an apartment in a better part of town, I told her that wasn’t an option.

We headed back to Scottsdale and decided to eat. I sat fuming. Why does he get my beautiful house and live in a good neighborhood while I have to live in that place? God, this isn’t fair! When the waiter came by, I ordered a Daiquiri with twice the alcohol and a bowl of soup. This was the one time in my life I wanted to be in a haze.

My mom just looked at me. “That isn’t going to solve your problems.”

“No, but for a few hours I’ll feel better.”

Nothing further was said.

The next day we were able to see inside the rental. My mood didn’t improve. The tile throughout the rooms was new and a pretty Tuscan brown color. Walls were freshly painted a soft cream, and three tall, rounded windows accented the living room. The charm, however, stopped there. The kitchen and bathroom did have the updated countertops the realtor said they were installing, and they were nice, but the cupboards were original 1980’s laminated wood festooned with caked on grime, grease and a mystery dirt. A damp, musty scent permeated from under the sinks, and water damage was evident.

If anything needed replaced, it was the shower doors. Green stick-on snowflakes were a permanent decoration to the ancient doors that didn’t slide easily and stuck before closing all the way. The kitchen stove, also dated, was missing the oven temperature knob. Although I was delighted to hear there were laundry hookups, the laundry room was located outside in the back of the duplex. Walking down the narrow side yard, I was greeted with an ornamental orange tree and a tiny dirt yard.

I had no choice but to rent this place, but I made it clear to God that this wasn’t my new home; this was temporary. I would make it livable, nothing more. I signed the papers and secured the duplex with my deposit and rent check.

New Year’s Eve I sat with my mom and Michael in an empty hotel bar watching a movie play softly in the background and munched on stale chips. Now, that was an exciting way to ring in the New Year! I was in bed before midnight, but found no sleep between my racing mind and the obnoxious, drunken pool party below our window.

For a few days I explored Scottsdale and Mesa, then it was time to go back to my cold, lonely home.

To purchase a copy of the entire book: