Tuesday, February 26, 2019

10 Years

10 years.

It's hard because my life has changed so much in 10 years. I am no longer lost in shame, self-medicating with Jack Daniels. I am older, wiser and I have quite a few more grey hairs {and lbs - just be honest}.

Yet, I can still remember our last phone call. He was walking across campus and I was cleaning my kitchen. If I think long enough, I still hear his voice. Life was so good at that moment, he was healthy, he was well, he laughed {and loved to make me stress out and then laugh when I worried about him}.

I think back fondly of the impact we had on each others' lives, especially during that last year.  James was my go-to for all questions about the way guys acted. He was always the first to say, "You deserve better". And I was his safe voice {or text} when the nights were hard. Oh, how I wish we would have discovered this in each other 15 years earlier - we would have had a powerhouse friendship and so much less teenage angst. Actually, from what I recall we both always had a level of utmost respect for each other - a characteristic present for most friends whose older siblings were close friends with my older sister. In James' case, it was multiplied by the heartache that rippled across our friend group when George (his brother) passed so young.

So Young.

I still have gut stabbing grief if I sit too long in the reality of the events that occurred ten years ago today. I drift into the what could have been for James and I mourn the life he could have today. I question God's plan and ask, in anger, why He had to bring us together that last year.

Then I exhale and remember how thankful I am for those moments - those phone calls across miles of land and water.

Ten years doesn't make the reality less. It still leaves me wishing for another course of events for James on that night. It leaves me in tears because I know this was a terrible, terrible mistake that he would take back in a mere second. And I am reminded of his heart, the size and depth of his personality and how I loved that all so much. And I thank God, again, for James' life and Gods' plan to intertwine our paths for goodness.

Click Here to Read All the Posts I've Written about James {10 years worth}

Friday, February 15, 2019

Book Grief, but So Worth It

I took the morning off work {a much needed mental health break} to finish reading The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty and now have some serious book grief happening.

Have you ever experienced Book Grief?

Maybe I should define it as "book blues", the feeling of pure sadness when you read the final page of a really good book. This causes grief because you've gotten so caught up in the characters' lives that you are actually sad that your time with them is now over.

This grief may hit me harder than most because I spent so many years not know that books could do this to your soul. I didn't read as I child. I, honestly, never finished reading a chapter book until I was 30. My mind wouldn't allow me to concentrate long enough to get through a chapter. I always wanted to experience the feeling of being lost in a book and checked out so many novels through my elementary and middle school years, but always returned them unread. Oh, how I wish my diagnosis (Attention Deficit Disorder) had taken place so many years sooner. For many years I used my diagnosis as a crutch thinking that I couldn't read unless I was feeling the full power of my medication, but let me tell you Liane Moriarty has proven that theory so wrong!

The Hypnotist's Love Story is the fourth book for Moriarty's that I have become obsessed over and also the fourth that I have felt such horrible sadness when I read the last page. I know you can read books for a second time, Matt does it all the time, but I don't believe it will be the same. The characters are already fully developed in my mind. If you have read anything by her you know how that happens - she is an amazing writer with an even more amazing ability to tell stories from multiple perspectives.

So, take this post as a definite Friday Favorite and if you've never taken any of my other suggestions seriously, now is the time to start! Seriously! You have to do this favor for yourself.  You have to go {today} and get one of her books!

Now, you could start where I did with Big Little Lies. My friend, Emily, suggested I read it during a discussion about how our other friend marathoned through the HBO show {my mother did the same thing}. I am so glad I chose the read the book first {a lesson I learned from the Harry Potter series - and Hunger Games - and The Help} because, DANG, there is no way I would have read the book after watching the second episode {that I couldn't finish} of the Big Little Lies on HBO. No judgment on anyone who did watch it and loved it, but my inner Church Lady freaked out. I mean, seriously, I knew how Celeste and Perry "made up" in the book.  I have children - I know how that all works, but I seriously was not expecting to see that much of Nicole Kidman. I had to stop watching because I honestly couldn't hear the dialogue over Church Lady's rant about how "they always have to smut up simple loving things. It was perfect in the book, but this is just, well, not appropriate". Pray for Matt, he has to live with Church Lady more than he would like. I try to contain her, but she is a force to be reckoned with.

Back to the books! Now, I read Big Little Lies (486 pages) in the course of a weekend. Then, I ran back to Target (not the most economical place to purchase books) and grabbed The Husband's Secret. That one took a bit more time for character development, but again I got sucked in and mourned HARD afterward. The plot twists in both are AMAZING!

What Alice Forget was quickly purchased to get over my grief of finishing The Husband's Secret and I launched into a book that really did make me think. Of course, I can't find my copy of it - I probably lent it to someone. I hope they are reading it and loving it as much as I did. It's not my intention to ruin the sorry for you, but I have to ask, what would you do if you woke up one morning to realize ten years had passed and everything in your life had changed? It was so thought-provoking and, again, I mourned after that last page was read.

Then, The Hypnotist's Love Story, man, it's good. If you read it {or have read it} you will understand why I had a serious connection to this book and, no, it was not a connection I had to the stalker. Honestly, though, I did ask myself, "does driving by that guy's house every day on my way to college  freshman year count as stalking?" Yikes. Maybe it wasn't EVERY day.

Oh, Moriarty's use of the third-person and first-person perspective for these characters was, well, amazing {I have no other word to describe it - I might need to read a thesaurus next}. I finished the book an hour before writing this post and as I type I am living on the high of the story, but mark my words by this evening I will be so depressed that it's over.

I have just become a complete junky for her writing and I am actually contemplating which books in my library would get me the most money at Half Priced Books so I can go buy another one. I would have already purchased her newest book, Nine Perfect Strangers, but they didn't have it paperback at Target. That's the other thing about these books, the feel of the paperbacks - the ability to get so engrossed that I roll the pages back in my hand - something else Matt can't stand about the way I read books {he thinks folding corners is horrible and that it's uber sinful for me to write in a book}.

Again, do yourself a favor and take my {over 1,000 word} recommendation seriously. Get yourself one of Liane's book. I promise you will not regret reading any of them!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Talented People and A Special Announcement - Friday Favorites

I haven't done a Friday Favorites in a couple of years, I think, but I have some awesome things to share with you!


Now don't judge me, but I didn't really care for the new Mary Poppins movie. It just took a long time, I felt, to get going and there were two scenes where I wasn't bored.  I love, love, love the original. As you remember I did throw Bekah a Mary Poppins theme party for her 6th birthday.   The littles loved the move and guess that's what counts, right?

I am saying all of this because I love Variety's Actors on Actors YouTube Videos and this one with Emily Blunt and Hugh Jackman is my absolute favorite!


Morgan mastered all her sight words and got into the Sight Words Club one day this week. Then, she mastered her letters and numbers which got her into that club as well.  I am so proud of her! She was so proud of herself, too! 


Now, something I've been excited about since before Christmas, but was unable to share! 

Yes, I was selected to be a contributor for Houston Moms Blog! Taking this step was something that I seriously debated about for maybe four years and this year I got up the nerve to submit my application. 

Make sure you follow Houston Moms Blog because I will be there starting in February!

Also, follow me on Instagram {https://www.instagram.com/danaraeblog/} to see behind the scenes of our photo shoot on Sunday, January 13th! 

And, today, I am linking up this Friday Favorites post with Andrea at Momfessionals, with Ericka at A Little Bit of Everything, and with Narci at Grace and Love

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Highlight of Her Winter Break

During our Christmas break, my family did pretty close to nothing.  My mom came into and we had our Royal love tank filled at the Museum of Fine Arts experiencing the Tudors to Windsor exhibit.

I am so in love with this painting! I hoped they had it in a postcard or print, but they didn't. 

Other than that we put together four puzzles and watched three seasons of the Great British Bake Off. I wish I could say, "it was exactly as I had dreamed", but, honestly, I sat in mom guilt a majority of the time.

I really need traditions. 

Should we go somewhere? Do something? Should I come up with a group craft? 

All they've done is watch tv...I'm a great mom. 

Morgan's teacher gave her a packet of things to complete during the break and one of the assignments was to write about the highlight of her winter break.

I just knew the highlight would be her new bike or her American Girl things from Grammy, so I was shocked when said, "Spending time with my family".  Then, my heart melted.

There we are all festive and Christmas-y {color was added later}. I am cooking behind the kitchen counter.  I am not sure what is happening with Matt {he's the one with the spikey hair in the lower right}. Check out that Christmas tree - she had zero help and did it all in pen!

Then take a look at the girl front and center - that's Morgan!

She's meditating which is something that she is completely into these days. I looked over during church a few weeks ago to see her with her elbows on her knees and her palms up, humming during the sermon like something the pastor {not her grandad} was saying was severely stressing her out. I guess she needed to chill for a moment.

I love this memory. I love her heart. And I kind of really love that she was meditating!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

2019 - Being Present

While 2018 was a year where I really tuned into why I do the things I do, it really brought to light many instances where my coping was creeping into unhealthy grounds. When I walk into a stressful season, either being overwhelmed by my workload or feeling the pressure of expectations that I place on myself, my first instinct is to organize.

If my house wasn’t such a mess then I could feel more in control, but I don’t have time to steam clean my tile floor because, well, I need to plan out the next month of work. I can’t sit and write this email for work because all I am thinking about is the dog hair that is accumulating near my baseboards.

I can’t have coffee with her because I am so overwhelmed with my life. If I miss two hours of work to have lunch with her then I will need to work until 10 pm tonight because, well, I really have to get all this stuff done and it’s not getting done.

If I just run and get the girls from school then they can play Mario Cart while I finish work, then I guess we are having sandwiches for dinner maybe lunchables. I really need to spend time cleaning and organizing to help with this overwhelmed feeling instead of going out with my husband.

Ugh, everyone wants something from me!

The last sentence holds the most truth than any of the others. God showed me this at 3 am while I was up borrowing troubles from tomorrow (something that is so typical of me) in the middle of last month.

Yes, everyone wants something from me. They want me to be present.

1. (of a person) in a particular place.
2. existing or occurring now.

My family, my friends, my Lord doesn’t care about that state of my laundry or that my linen closet door won’t shut. They don’t even care if I am scattered and can’t put two sentences together they just want me to be there. They love me for me, but they want ME!

So, in 2019 I am committing to Being Present.

This will take some organizing and scheduling, but in a good way.

Rabbit Hole: If you are an enneagram freak like I am then you have to follow enneagram & Coffee on Instagram. She (or he, but I am thinking she) posted New Year's Resolutions based on enneagram type. Mine was Create Daily Structure. Now if that is not true and I don’t know what is, I embody everything about being a type 4 (with a 3 wing)

So, what does being present look like for me?

Being Present for My Husband

Being present for Matt means that we take more walks. We have more talks sitting close to each other on the sofa a night. It means having weekly meetings to discuss how we can support each other. We make date night a priority and, if we have to, make out every once in a while.

In order for these things to happen, we have to turn off the computers, put down our phones and step away from the video games. We have to leave the workday behind and not get caught in gripe sessions about our employment.

Being Present for My Girls

Being present for Shelby, Bekah and Morgan means that we play more games (that don’t require a screen). We have more dinners at the kitchen table. It means we read more books together and we say prayers with each other before bed each night. It means that I actively engage in sight word practicing and help Morgan understand that she can’t capitalize every other letter of her name even though it’s super fancy. It’s sitting on Shelby’s bed having conversations about her life, it’s getting the Tea! It means planning what her next year will look like, what her plans after high school will be. It means that I will spend Saturday mornings watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (even if I haven’t finished the book) with Bekah.

In order for these things to happen, I have to commit to a strict work schedule. When the girls are in our house (before 9 am and after 4 pm Monday thru Friday) then I am not at my desk, I am not in scheduled meetings and I am not taking phone calls. If something needs to be handled I will address it after the girls are in bed. I have to break ties with my iphone. That little time sucker will be docked upstairs on my charger and if someone calls my handy dandy watch will let me know. I don’t need to be tempted to check my email or get lost in Instagram Stories. These changes bring changes for my girls as well, they will have to endure the trauma of their screen time being limited. Yep, no more “Can I get on the ipad?” as soon as their backpacks hit the entryway floor.

Time is an evil, evil thing that takes you from having young children to an adult and two teenagers before you can scream, “Slow DOWN!”

Being Present for My Friends.

Being present for my friends means that I say yes more times than I say no to offers for lunch or coffee. It means that I am actually doing the asking for once, initiating the playdate, saying let’s meet. It means that our conversations are more about them, their lives, their struggles and less about me unloading my current drama onto them. It means that Matt and I host more dinners in our home, that we re-engage in a bible community. It means that I cultivate new friendships and nourish my current ones.

In order for these things to happen, I have to believe that the people God has put into my life, my tribe that he’s blessed me with are far more important than my work. These are individuals that have walked with me through my lows and have celebrated the hell out of my highs. I have to let people in (but not for just the drama), I have to allow new friendships to grow and not use “busy” as an excuse.

Being Present with the Lord

No disrespect intended by putting the Lord fourth, but it’s quite apropos seeing as how being present with Him means that I put him first. It means that I start each day with time in prayer. It means that I open my bible and actually read the words. It means that I seek out opportunities to have conversations about my faith and that I express my faith. Without sounding so cliche it mean that I let His light shine through each of my days. I participate in conversations about faith with my children.

In order for these things to happen, I have to spend time in the silence that only happens before my house wakes up. Yep, I need get out of my nice warm bed earlier each day. I have to avoid getting trapped on social media first thing each morning. I pretty much need to form some new habits.

Being Present for Myself

Being present for myself means I do more of what I am doing right now, writing. It doesn’t mean I will finish the manuscript in 2019, but it does mean that I will process my feeling through my writing instead of allowing them to churn inside of me. It means that I will try my best to give myself grace, to speak kindly to myself and attempt to see myself as others see me. It means that I will take the five minutes each night to remove my makeup and wash my face. It means that I will practice healthy stress management, that I will hear positive things about myself louder than the negatives. It means that I will take measures to not be awake at 3 am. It means that I will allow myself the structure of a good plan (I even have a new planner!), but I will take some deep breaths when that plan doesn’t fall into place exactly like I hoped. It means that if I blow all of my goals by February that I will still love myself and see myself as God see me - not a hot mess, but his amazing child.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Triggers, Trauma and Healing

Morgan woke me up at 3 am crying.

She has done this the past two nights. There was no nightmare, she was not in pain or sick (thank goodness – I dread when that one gets a stomach virus). She was scared to the flush the toilet in their bathroom.

My family can all attest to the fact that at 3 am I am not the nicest person.  I have difficulty maintaining a patient tone in my voice and my nurturing skills are still fast asleep. My children know to yell, “daddy”, in the middle of the night, but Matt has been out of town.  I am taking the time to tell you this because at 3 am when Morgan was crying over flushing the toilet I did not lunge into, “Just FLUSH the toilet! It’s 3 AM!!!”.  I totally got why this simple act was causing her so much stress.

Earlier this week Morgan’s older sister, Bekah, simply flushed the upstairs toilet and quickly ran down the stairs trying to get her words out in the middle of her panic. “It’s overflowing!” Matt and I snapped right into “they’ve overflown the toilet mode” because due to our plumbing and having young kids this is a normal occurrence – unfortunately.  I quickly turned the water supply valve behind the toilet, but the water didn’t stop. I thought, “lefty loosey, righty tighty, yep I am doing it right”, but water continued to gush out of the toilet bowl onto the floor. 

As I looked at Matt with panic in my eyes to say, “it won’t turn off” I heard, “There is water coming out of the ceiling!” from the floor below.

And this, my friends, is the point where I caused trauma to my children.

I left Matt in the bathroom as I rush downstairs to see water gushing out of our air conditioning vent, across the top of our entertainment center and running perfectly into the back of our probably paid too much money for oversized flat screen television.

Commence the panic.

I ripped the plugs for everything in our system out of the wall. Then proceeded to yank the TV off the entertainment center while unplugging the cable box and speaker cords. Matt was headed out to turn off the water at the street, Bekah was crying, and Morgan just stood there stunned. I just kept crying “no, no, no!” in complete disbelief that the water was going nowhere else but into that very spot.

We did get the water to stop, we did calm the girls and reassured Bekah that this was not her fault.  We will have to eventually be adults and replace the subfloor in the upstairs hall bathroom.  I did rearrange my living room, but I have not dared plug that TV back in yet. I am waiting for it to completely dry and for Matt to be home.

Last night at 3 AM I did not lose patience with my child. I flushed the toilet for her, patted her on the head and told her that everything was fine. I understood her trauma and her trigger.

I understood the tears because a couple of months ago I was reminded just how strong triggers could be.

In a small town about an hour away from my home, I was pulled over after stopping at a traffic light.  When I saw the patrol car veer into the lane behind me I knew I had not broken any traffic laws, but still, his lights came on and I pulled to the shoulder of the road. As he pulled in behind me another squad car pulled right in front of my minivan blocking my ability to leave.  I looked in my rear-view mirror to see an additional local police officer and a state trooper. If you are counting, that is four patrol cars.

I had not been speeding, I was not intoxicated, I had not been texting and driving – I had done zero that was considered illegal, so why was all this necessary? They actually did exactly what I wanted them to do, they were pulling over a vehicle with a stolen license plate – at least that is what they thought.

“Ma’am, do you know that your license plate was reported stolen?”

My mind traveled back a few months when a very inconvenienced acting sheriff’s deputy stood in my driveway collecting information to file a report that the Depart of Motor Vehicles asks for in order to replace my stolen license plate. He quizzed me about the possibility of me forgetting that I removed it or the possibility of one of my family members removing the plate without telling me.  He never mentioned or warned that I should get this matter resolved quickly or I would wind up blocked in on the side of the road in a small Texas town by four officers.

The small-town officer who initiated the traffic stop was so nice and he fully understood. He even apologized for making such a scene as soon as we began our conversation. I had no reason to think I was in trouble and after the first three minutes of our interaction I had no reason to be sitting in a tidal wave of fear. That kind officer even stopped traffic so I could safely get back onto the two-lane road that ran down the center of town.

I hear Brené Brown’s voice reminding me that “should equals shame”, but all I can say is I should have been able to drive away saying, “dang, that was crazy” and go one with my drive.

Instead, I crumbled. My hands shook as I whipped the tears from my eyes. Matt thought I had been in a wreck as I called him (using my handsfree blue tooth) crying.

Trigger: something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of his or her original trauma.

Triggers have been the most frustrating part of my healing, they make me feel crazy (a statement my therapist is so tired of hearing me call myself). But when sheriff deputies show up to end a domestic squabble that has taken place between my neighbors (unfortunately an occurrence that has happened multiple times this year) and I panic due to the irrational thoughts filling my mind that I will be arrest - it’s difficult to call those thoughts anything but a bit crazy.

And when I am repeatedly triggered by the same visual item (ie a police car with lights going) I know my healing isn’t done. I know that I need to continue my work with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to help reconnect my thought pattern correctly. I will probably share more about this treatment in the near future.

Now, I am not saying that Morgan will need a full course of EMDR treatment to move past the trauma of the bathroom flooding, I am saying I understand her irrational fear of flushing the toilet. I get it – therefore, for now, I will stand by her when she flushes or even flush for her on occasion. I get the fear. Just as I need to remember to be patient with myself when triggers appear, I will remember to be patient with her. 

Click here to read more about the exact trauma related to this post or read my full journey by clicking here

Sunday, July 22, 2018

I Did Not Want to Like You

I did not want to like you. True that could be taken as a horrible statement, but it’s the honest truth.  I did not want to open my heart to you. I did not want to let myself grow any sort of attachment to you. There is absolutely zero that you did to cause these feelings. My feelings are not because of you, but because of those that came before you. 

One of the more challenging things that I am learning to deal with as I  live this close to my father in-law’s ministry, to his (now our) home church, is the attachment to his staff. Oh, over the last eight years I have learned the many similarities between "corporate America” and “church business”. I have also seen and felt the many differences. 

I feel almost uneducated when I say, “I did not realize people would see their position in a church as ‘a job’. Something they would leave to pursue advancements, something they would leave because it wasn’t working out.” Why I thought people would stay in their positions as an Associate Pastor or Director of a Christian Education or a Social Media Coordinator at one single church for their entire career is beyond me. 

I think this level of stability is what I wished for like a child wishes that it was their birthday every week, the way we wish for Summer to be here (or in my case for summer to END!). 

I have been so fortunate to have family style connections with the staff at our church - to love unconditionally and to receive that love back, to lean in, get close and be so attached. 
So attached that a few years I sat in agony across the table from my dear friend thinking, “how in the world am I supposed to compact what she has meant to me into a 30 sec blurb for her going-away video?” I am attempting to avoid the overdramatic, but it was crushing. She fell into the friend group I call, “I loved you before we moved here”, those are the people who loved on us, who we were bonded to before we came to live in Northwest Houston almost five years ago. Some of them are there because they loved on Matt as he lost Nici, some are there because they welcomed Shelby before they even met me. I am so blessed with an amazing church family and that’s why when one of my loved ones leaves to pursue amazing callings and new positions that are so deserved it is still so hard. 

It was hard to see my teenager’s face crumble when she learned her youth leader and longtime family friend (again, who we connected with before we were members) was leaving to plant a church. Then, like dominos my dear friend (mentioned above) left for an amazing position in a state district office. More recently, someone who Shelby grew very close to and I just adored left for a great position at the national level doing exactly what God called her to do, but man did it hurt. I feel almost selfish now sitting her (in tears) worried about my feelings and how much it hurt me (and Shelby), but I feel like I need to express those feelings - as crazy as they may sound. 

I did not want to like you because I made a vow to myself that I would not get attached to any more staff at my father-in-law’s church. 

Let me clarify - any more NEW staff. I am stuck with the love that I have for the ones that were there before. I have even turned to my closest friends and said, “If you say the word ‘call’ or ‘move’ I will most definitely die!” Yep, dramatic I think is one of my gifts. 

Also, feel like I need to say that I have heard countless times that while my father-in-law is human and might have “some moods” as Morgan would say, he has been called “the best pastor I have worked for” by multiple staff (current and former). So it’s not JAGdad running off his staff. 

After our last dear friend left our church I said, “I will not get attached to anyone, again. I will be polite, kind and smile, but I don’t want to know them. I don’t want to hear their story, I don’t want to let myself love them.” 

So a few Sundays ago after you spoke to Matt and I, with that smile that is so hard to resist, I turned him and said, “Damn it, I like her. Ugh, I did not want to like her!” Ah, yes, I cussed inside the walls of the church, but softly and just in front of Matt. 

This was not my plan! I resisted the urge to help you move into your new home, I’ve kept my distance, but ugh you pulled me in time and time again with your ability to be so real, so understanding, so dang likable! 

And now I am this crazed woman thinking, “I really want to know more about her. I think we could be friends. I wonder if she and her husband want to come over for dinner?” The me from months past (you know Dana January 2018 version) is so irritated by my eagerness to make friends with you!  

Moral of the story: God’s not going to let me not love those he wants me to love. If He has a plan for me to connect with someone then stand back because He is going to make it happen no matter how much I fight it. 

I feel like God has to remind me that I did not lose Jon, Rhonda or Meredith and though I can’t just walk into their office to distract, I mean chat, them on a weekly basis they are still in our lives - Rhonda and Meredith especially. And though all of the feels flood back when  I run like a fool across the worship center to hug one that showed up unannounced those feeling give me the opportunity to say in person how proud I am of them and how much they are loved!