Posted in Empowerment

Stalked By Happiness

Learning how to not focus on my hurts and trials is an interesting struggle. I think I mentioned, in I Perceive That I Am Fine, that we are grieving several family losses. My blogs are smaller, more concise and melancholic.  Meanwhile once I chose to start practicing gratitude, see Discontent With Discontentment, an interesting pattern began to develop. 

First, let me share that we are never truly alone. In a room full of people, I often feel the grave, bitter cold of loneliness.  Without my church family, I think my situation would be considerably darker. 

Its one thing to be vulnerable with someone you trust; but to share hope in the midst of suffering with someone else who is hurting brings blessing and healing, I believe. Its strong and healthy to choose to see what you have more than all you’ve lost. Its fine to cry, in fact I encourage it. Its okay to not smile all the time, but don’t dwell there. I will even say ‘fake happy’ will slowly kill you. All these things are true and supported in the psychology field and in scripture. 

Where does anyone talk about being stalked by happiness?! I mean it! I feel like there is little things sneaking up just to surprise me. I love bird watching. Every time I am in a car, I am surveying for hawks, eagles, finches, etc. So over the past three weeks I have seen seen many beautiful ones. I have even seen a bluebird! Twice! 

I delight in the excitement of a twelve year old having a weekend with her older sisters. For the first time in eight years, she participated in her first gymnastics class! 

Her sister is excited to begin her “Year of Lasts,” aka Senior Year. A friend is taking us along on a trip to Nashville. She will see Vanderbilt College. Oh, and we get to see Reba McEntire

I think I am being stalked by happiness…

Posted in Empowerment

Lake Erie Doesn’t Have Beaches

Oh my. Dare I say things are calming down. 

Several nights we ‘accidentally miss our street’ and end up at the boat launch. Lake Erie offers sunsets that rival my favorite pier in Clearwater, Fl. 

This is my youngest learning to love photography.   It follows the whole thirds rule thing and offers beautiful angles. 
Her sister is learning to finesse the images she has. This is just one example.  

Meanwhile they argue with friends that lakes do not have real beaches, only the ocean has beaches.  Like Pier 60, one of my happy places. The waves are smoother, stronger, louder and more powerful. The sand is always cool ro the touch, but the water stays warm. 

This is the month of endings for me, I need to delight in sunsets and hear the waves. My girls are attending banquets, receiving awards, and anticipating summer. I want to be as excited as they are, I do. 

I see my oldest girl, 26, settling into her apartment, which I am so proud of her. I see a girl entering her last year before adulthood. I look back at how mature the youngest has become, don’t forget she already acts like she’s 30.

 I wonder at all the changes. I marvel at their resiliency. I don’t believe they have grieved properly-that’s not really a thing-but I think they are stuffing their pain. However, I love that they are clinging to the things that make them smile! Orange juice, baby birds, sunsets and friends. Is it wierd that I am almost jealous that they aren’t melancholy like me? 

Posted in Empowerment

Discontent with Discontentment 

Am I too personal? Do I spew complaints? Do I walk around with a half-hearted smile? Is it self-centered to have a blog about my self-care journey? How can I stop wallowing in pity? Why can’t I just be happy? 

Thoughts racing through my head. Embracing lies and discouragements. How can you wallow and focus on self-care, they are fundamentally different!  Why bothering sharing such intimate experiences and lessons learned if you care nothing of others! 

It has been awhile since I have struggled with discontentment. It is an uncomfortable place for me. With all that my family has experienced in the past six months, the GOOD should be shiny and noticeably awesome. But that is not how life works, right? 

I look forward to trying these 20 tips to create Gratitude 

Or I can just watch this video from the Skit Guys over and over until I finally get it.

Lord, help me. I want to be more grateful.

Until tomorrow, then.

Posted in Empowerment

Remember ‘Reality Bites’

618! That is my score! I am dumbfounded. I am not looking for pity, but wow. I cannot fathom how I am still functional. I have had so much encouragement from my Open Door family and such reassurance from God lately. 

But seriously, this needs to stop!

Posted in Empowerment

So Many Losses

I am supposed to empower and bring hope. I usually don’t stress about big things, but lately you can tell, its overwhelming.  My family was hit with its fourth loss in as many months. This last one was a doosey (sp?) In addition to asking for prayer, I want to share a blog I came across. 

This young lady writes similarly to me and she is able to communicate the hope that I am sure to find soon. She refers to recent violence and her own story of loss. I hope she speaks to you while I am currently speechless. 

People keep dying: A reflection on grief

The other day I was sitting at Farley’s in Oakland and I thought (or said aloud) to myself, “Yo, people keep dying.”

It was a stupid thought. Of course, everyone is dying. At any given millisecond, someone somewhere is exhaling for the last time. People are dying everywhere. And some of them are dying for no reason (it seems). No ailment, no illness, no fathomable cause. These deaths approach as unannounced as car accidents, scattering shards of guilt, resignation and despondent awe at the fleeting mercilessness of mortality. 

There are a few things that happen when someone dies unexpectedly. You begin to reconsider what matters and who doesn’t. You negotiate the must-haves with God, of whose plans you have begun to respectfully scrutinize with increased trepidation. You look at your own life a little differently, weighing the pros and cons of the pros and cons. You decide that the extension on the life you’ve been given is worth more than the things you complain about not having. You desperately attempt to drown out the vivid realism of your own imagined death with positivity, intent on appreciating the things and people you’d previously disregarded. You’re going to live life to the fullest! You’re going to seize the day! And then the platitudes die too, and you’re left with more open-ended questions than unbridled enthusiasm. 

There are deaths that hit hard with a piercing and direct pain. The family members, best friends, neighbors, co-workers. The inability to hear their voices on the other end of a call you should have made more frequently when they were alive suffocates us. We try and fail to accept their departures in an infinite loop of desperate resistance. Then there are those that hit tangentially, never really reaching your emotional core, but occurring close enough to feel something, like a seismic wave. 

When I was 23 years old, Courtney died. We were close friends in middle school, but went our separate ways after I joined the cheerleading squad in high school. I still don’t know why we became distant, but I’ll be mad at myself forever because it was probably my fault. I hadn’t spoken to Courtney in years when she sent me a message on Facebook asking about my grad school program. I was living in D.C. and working at a consulting firm. Courtney was living in California and working as a social justice fellow. We went back and forth via Facebook messages, reconnecting and making plans to catch up over the phone to talk about public policy. She sent me her number, and I was supposed to call her. 

Months later I logged onto Facebook to store her number in my phone, and my timeline was filled with tributes to Courtney. Even with all of the statuses, the pictures and the posts on her profile, her death didn’t register. I didn’t understand. I was sitting alone in my studio apartment eating a plate of spaghetti, and I remember holding the plate with one hand while I googled her name to figure out what everyone was talking about. An article about a traffic accident showed up in my search. She had been walking along the highway to get help for her car, and was struck by six separate vehicles. My plate went against the wall. I never got the sauce stains out. I remember calling my mom, and then my sister, and both conversations were pointless because I couldn’t get anything else out over my hysteria other than, “Courtney died! She was so nice! She was so nice!” I repeated it over and over. “She was the best person. She was the nicest person.” 

Courtney dying made no sense to me then and it makes no sense to me now. She was literally, in the entirety of my lifespan, however long it ends up being, the best person I’ll have ever known. She was the calmest, most sincere, caring, intelligent advocate for more causes than I can remember. She was a woman of faith, and an equal rights activist with a history of just being consistently good. When Courtney died, I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I buried my guilt and confusion beneath brunches and happy hours and vowed to honor her for the rest of my life by writing about her every day. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know that she would be one of a handful of deaths that would happen out of nowhere. My friend Jeremiah. My uncle. My neighbor’s dad. 

So what do you do when people keep dying out of nowhere? You could cry about it. You should cry about it. You could write or travel or exercise, melting the heavy, coagulated empathy that has formed and settled somewhere inside of you. You could mourn privately in the bathroom stalls at work or grieve publicly on the subway. 

You can’t ignore it. You can’t pretend it isn’t happening. It’s already happened. And it’s happening to you. Your body is aging and time is passing and your days and hours are dwindling down to the second. One day, your time will be up, too. This is an important reality to acknowledge. There are consequences to living a life that does not take the inevitability of death into account. How you live your life is a reflection of this acknowledgment. 

How you waste your time, how you exhaust ambition is an investment in the strength of your obituary. What do you want it to say? She enjoyed sleeping in every Saturday and Sunday Fundays with fake friends. 

There are things I don’t want to understand. Things I’m not ready to accept about adulthood. Things I can’t explain to myself. These things worry me and make me simultaneously afraid to both care too deeply and not enough. I’m not ready to accept the fact that so many critical things are out of my control. 

I look at people that go through these things, and I wonder how they’re ever going to be able to live their lives the way they used to. How are they going to smile? How are they going to laugh? How are they going to be able to hold conversations with strangers without bursting into tears at the mention of things that remind them of the deceased? How are they going to go to work and sit in meetings with the weight of this grief lodged permanently inside of them? How do you hold onto something like losing a parent, a spouse or a sibling and go on about your everyday life? I look at the people around me who have endured such tremendous loss, and I wonder if they’ve always been that strong. Were they born with the ability to carry the heaviness of fresh grief without crumbling underneath its pressure? Was I born with this ability, too? 

I’ve been to funerals that I know would take me out. I’ve seen people in caskets that I never expected to see in caskets. I don’t know how strong I am, but when the time comes, I hope I’m strong enough.

Shay Ball is a writer and finance manager at a startup in San Francisco. She was born, raised, and lives in Vallejo, California. You can find her online at

Posted in Empowerment

Emotional Spending Link

This is the emotional epiphany I learned this weekend. “If I have been putting off getting an item and I think it will relieve an iota of tension, I will go buy it whether I have the money or not.” So much of my spending is driven emotionally, from stress or guilt, that I wanted to look up some other opinions. 

There are many articles on the subject, emotional spending, from Forbes to Wiki. 

Using spending as a pick-me-up would leave me momentarily feeling better, but it certainly wasn’t a surefire way to be happy. If anything, I would feel worse afterwards because guilt over the unnecessary purchases would consume me. I was eventually able to stop my habit of emotional spending and wanted to share some strategies that really helped me!


Posted in Empowerment

Ruminations of Relaxation

Wow friends! This weekend was amazing, brilliant, and altogether lovely. . . Well, pretty much, if I don’t think about being in bed all day yesterday. . . So, it was a good Friday and Saturday.

I tried several different ways to relax. I thought maybe I could share and I wanted to hear your ideas too.  

Originally my friend was to visit my daughter for a Aromatouch massage.  Eight essential oils, with a specific order and touch massage to release tension and promote wellness. Well when she backed out, guess who quickly volunteered as tribute?! What bliss! I went from weeknight brainfog to slumber party mom. 

Then after playing mom-taxi Saturday morning, I helped my girl launch her baking business. We made menus and visited a dozen of our neighbors.  Her first couple of orders are due Tuesday!  I have the hard task…Silent partner. 

Then I worked on a small painting project for a kitchen cabinet. And I found a coloring app I don’t hate. Nice. 

Still. Today is Monday, can I hold this inner beast at bay this week? What about your methods, do you have a go-to way to relieve stress and anxiety? 

Posted in Empowerment

JavaScript For Life

Massive amounts of anxiety are crippling me. I am trying to be intentional and not just react to situations, but I feel like its not working. It appears that a few of my friends are being attacked right now, as well. By attacked I mean circumstances will not allow them to rest.  Being a Christian and in ministry, I will acknowledge some level of resistance and additional struggles that fall outside normal. We can talk about that separately if you like. 

Meanwhile, I think back to how I am grateful for many things in my life and I believe it will be okay eventually.  There have been times in my life where I didn’t have that assurance.  Like my Independence Day, back in ’06. Not July 4th, rather March 1, when my self destructive relationship ended with a restraining order. Let’s save that for another day too. 

I hate promises. I am a very straightforward and blunt person. “Say what you mean & mean what you say.” I have trust issues and I’m a control freak. Promises mean very little to me. 

I cannot focus on my feelings, my husband’s best intentions or fickle friends. They are not my source of expectation and assurance. (The codependent person inside would argue that).  

My Intention today is the carry out the If-Then code from JavaScript…

  1. I give up my expectations for today
  2. I surrender my heart
  3. I trust in the assurances I have 
  4. Fulfilled = Carry on
  5. Rejected = Move ahead
  6. Pending = More surrender

Enjoy your day

Posted in Empowerment

Anxious Yet Fearless

It is nice having a Mini Me. My tween and I are best buds.  She is the spitting image of me, acts like me and talks like I do.  There is one crazy  thing that my youngest and I have in common.  We want our own businesses! 

Female business leaders is a growing phenomenon in other parts of the world. Even in the States, we are the exception, not the norm. As entrepreneurs thirty years ago were mostly upper middle aged men, there was an occasional spouse, pioneers like Estee Lauder and Oprah built empires. The playing field is leveling out now with millenials of both genders owning a majority of new businesses. 

Closer to home, Mini Me and I were serving at the local shelter and loved on a little puppy.  Inspired by the story of Shiloh, I’m sure, she asked if she could have a dog if she raised enough money. “Um, yeah,” was my dismissive response. There are piles of hobbies and equipment from her short-lived interests.  How long until this passes? 

Her mind must have been working overtime!  She starts throwing ideas at me a mile a minute. She wants to bake for our friends and set up a stand, a webpage and begin today. Yikes! 

We worked till nine last night on choosing specific recipes that we can do easily. I will probably have her go to different stores to price ingredients and judge quality. She already has ideas for pricing, but are they realistic? How often and how long do we make batches? Storage and delivery are a concern of mine. But hey! 

Don’t forget, we both struggle with anxiety and being overwhelmed. That means this should be extremely out of our comfort zone. I remember when she would teach herself gymnastic moves. I would cringe because she had NO concept of fear! She is a natural risk taker. Therefore, I will have to follow her lead and jump headlong if she is serious about this. Oh my heart!

Posted in Empowerment

5 Reminders For Our Day

Its been an interesting couple of weeks. I am tired and done with adulting right now.  But I cannot.  So I went back to my One Word, Intentional. How can I reclaim my life? Banish negative thoughts? And Roll with the punches? See above, each picture is an area where I am losing perspective. Rather than bore you with all the wonderful life events, know that I haven’t forgotten to blog. I am seeing many of my prayers being answered….its just really uncomfortable right now. Enjoy your day.