I Can’t Stop With a Love Like Mine

16 Oct

Alright yall… this is about to be a weird post. I’m here to talk about Prof but I’m also here to get emotional. Let me take you on a little journey…

Several years ago, I stumbled across the great MN hip-hop hidden gem that is PROF. I had heard his name around before and never took much interest, but once I pressed play on that first song I found (Animal!) I was hooked. He had a handlebar mustache and a music video filled with sock puppets, but there was something undeniably captivating about his energy, and I instantly began scouring YouTube for more. Completely obsessed from the jump, it wasn’t more than a month or so after discovering him that I set out to attend my first Prof show. At that time the shows were still pretty small, I packed up and drove from Duluth to a little bar in St. Cloud to check out the scene.

LIFE. CHANGED.

A surprisingly charismatic party boy not afraid to take himself too seriously, from the moment Prof took the stage it was nothing but love and good times. I’m a frequent concert-goer, and as a 5 foot nothing ball of energy who needs to fight her way to the front row in order to see the stage, I was used to having to knock elbows and cop an attitude to get to where I needed to be. I will never forget my surprise when my friend and I came up behind a group of college-aged guys all standing right against the stage who overheard my excitement about seeing Prof for the first time, and one turned around and exclaimed, “Wait – this is your first Prof show?! Oh man you’re in for a treat — here, you guys need to stand in front of us!” and made room for my friend and I to get prime front-and-center viewing. I present to you: the Gampo family. Throughout my years of superfanning over Prof, you have probably heard me say time and time again that there is no fan base like Prof’s. Because he’s been flying under the media’s radar for almost a decade, his promotion has been mostly word-of-mouth. This has created an extended network of loyal Gampos, a web weaved through passion and dedication and a little bit of party, and that family mentality is undeniable at any event. Not only is there tons of love between fans, but the way we are treated by Prof himself and his management team is completely unmatched in the industry. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

First Prof Show :)

Very first Prof show – St. Cloud, MN

Back to my own ride.

That night in St. Cloud my world was rocked and my expectations for live music would never again be the same. Caught up in the energy, the passion, and the pure love of the art– I was hooked. Prof said he came to party with us- and he meant it. The show was completely interactive, fans were getting pulled up on stage and sang to, pointed out and recognized in the crowd, shots were poured, it was like a huge dysfunctional family reunion. We got our picture taken with Prof after the show, and I was completely starstruck. Instantly I became “that fan”… tweeting at him nonstop (and to my surprise and excitement, discovering that he actually makes a point to talk back to his fans), bumping his music, ordering merch, making all my friends listen to his albums, and constantly waiting for that next concert. Luckily with Prof being a Minneapolis native, I never had to go longer than a few months without finding a show within a couple hours driving distance. And it was always the same: go to shows, buck out, jump around, scream the words, learn some new ones, make friends in the crowd, wait for Prof after the show to get a picture taken, and giddily yell in his face “OMG THAT WAS AMAZING I LOVE YOU SO MUCH” before scampering off to wherever the rest of the night would take me.

As time went on and I began travelling further to get to more and more shows, he started tweeting me back more often, chatting with me comfortably in person, liking the pictures I posted on Instagram. Like I said before, Prof is crazy charismatic and treats his fans like gold, so I knew it was just what he did and still assumed I was another blank face in the crowd. Until Soundset 2014 which was probably the day I have fangirled the hardest of my entire life. I went up for my turn in the meet & greet line, and when I walked up Prof yells “HEYYYYY!” as if he recognized me, and then he actually told me that he did. “Whatever, you probably say that everyone!” I said back to him, and when he responded by knowing my name before I had to say it– I was completely floored. I literally almost started crying. “YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT MEANS TO ME!” I blubbered at him like a psycho. And he got serious for a minute and said, “Nah for real, I know who the real fans are, who keep coming around and talking to us and reaching out. You think I don’t see you, but I see you!” and I can’t even describe to you the feeling of being validated like that by someone that you look up to and respect (and fangirl over!) so much. That was when it really hit home. This dude is legit. This movement is for real.

Soundset 2014

Soundset 2014 Meet & Greet

So, I could write for hours about everything that has happened since then, the memories made and bonds created. In the fall of 2014, Prof went on the North of Hell Tour with Atmosphere and Dem Atlas, and I followed them around the country wherever I could. Driving, flying, staying up all night to get home in time for work, it was incredible. And in every city, every state, I was shown nothing but love. At a show in San Diego, CA I had one of Prof’s managers come up to me for the first time. We were sitting and waiting to get a picture with Prof after the show, when this guy comes up to me and goes – “Omg! You’re Laura, aren’t you!? You’re from Minnesota! We all know you, we see you everywhere!” and that was when I met Mike. One of the guys on Prof’s original team, and one of the coolest, kindest, and hardest working guys I know. The family keeps growing.

Over the past year and a half I’ve met more and more of the crazy back-busting team who run around behind the scenes making this whole movement possible, I finally officially joined the street team, and oh- I spent my birthday at a Prof show in Jacksonville, FL, where I had my birthday announced from the stage. I’ve been to upwards of twenty PROF shows, seen him live in seven different states, and am gearing up to hit multiple stops on the Liability Tour that’s about to kick off. I’ve got PROF tattoos, a voicemail from Prof himself on my phone, and photos of him holding my dog. In making all of these points I’m not trying to brag up myself, I’m bragging up an artist who has the genuine love for his fans to make a point of doing all of this stuff. There’s nothing special about me, I’m just one of many who take their passion and loyalty for this team to the next level. There are tons of other fans who are well known by Prof, his team, recognized at shows, called out on social media, and generally treated like gold. That’s the craziness of it all. It never ceases to amaze me, but like I mentioned before, it’s why Prof’s fan base is MASSIVE even with little-to-no media coverage.

And now, we come to the present. To today. It’s 10/16/15. Prof recently signed on with Rhymesayers Entertainment, and today marks his first national album release. He’s been putting out albums for almost a decade, dropping them for free simply for the love of the art. Today, shit gets real. I can’t think of any artist that deserves this more. To finally get the real recognition, and the platform to get noticed by the media and sell some albums. I’ve been listening to this record nonstop since it started streaming yesterday, and it is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. If you think you know Prof – think again. His styles are all over the board and the emotions are everywhere while still hanging on to that classic PROF party clown theme. I was so excited for this release, but wasn’t expecting to get legit emotional like I have been. I’m so proud not only of Prof, but of everyone behind the scenes putting their blood, sweat, and tears into this record over the past three years. They deserve this more than anyone.

If you like good music, good people, good beats, good vibes, and aren’t easily offended – you need this record. You can find it on iTunes at: http://bit.ly/ProfLiability. Gampo life!

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Zombie Pub Crawl 2014

Zombie Pub Crawl 2014

A Goodbye Letter

2 Mar

“I keep putting off writing this letter, because it’s honestly the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to say. I’ve said many goodbyes in the past- none of them easy- but the pain of each of them dulled by you. You’ve always been there for me, when I’ve needed to cope with pain, calm my nerves, boost my confidence, mask my introversion, increase my energy, mend a broken heart, hide from my own thoughts, or appear more attractive. But it’s ironic because in the end, you’ve only destroyed my hope of possessing any of the thing you promised me.

“My love affair with you has brought me crippling anxiety, isolation from those who love me, migraines and fatigue, broken relationships, total humiliation, and an inescapable hatred of the face I’m forced to look in the mirror every morning. You’ve burned through piles of cash, dug pits of debt, disregarded my health, distorted my perception of myself and the world I live in, and left me emotionally paralyzed.

“Sure, you were fun at first. For a fleeting moment, you gave me a taste of everything I ever wanted (and more). You made my life feel exhilarating and adventurous. But sooner than I could even catch my breath, you snatched the rug out from under my feet, leaving me a mangled pile of shattered dreams and aspirations, desperately trying to put the pieces of myself back together. Time after time, you chewed me up and spit me out, yet I pathetically continued to crawl back to your seductive lies.

“But I’m choosing today to break the cycle. I no longer need your cheap thrills to give my life meaning and value. No, I am a daughter of Christ- defined by his never-ending love and grace. You see, the glorious riches God promises me, He WILL deliver. Riches not of this world, but of an eternity so incredible I couldn’t begin to comprehend. He can mend my broken spirits, ease my pain, comfort me in times of trouble, restore and renew my mind, give me peace and rest, and lead me to a far brighter future than your manipulative tricks could ever hope to offer. It’s time to part ways for good, I’m not sorry, and by the way- it’s not me, it’s YOU. I’m taking back my life. Though you tried, you will not defeat me.

Goodbye, forever.

-Laura, 12.15.14″

The above is titled, “To My Dearest Vices”. It’s a goodbye letter to chemicals that I wrote while I was in MN Adult & Teen Challenge’s inpatient program. I know I haven’t written in ages, but that is part of the reason why. I’ll give you the super condensed version: I relapsed back in June, thought I could keep my head above water, but then slowly watched my life crumble around me before checking into treatment on November 24, 2014. My new sober date is a few days before that, November 21, 2014. As we speak today, I’m 101 days sober. Totally and completely, which unfortunately I couldn’t say last time. Sure I was “sober” – I hadn’t been drunk since the night before my sober date, but I still had drinks here and there if I knew I was in a situation where I could honestly only have one and not get drunk. And though it wasn’t often, I still didn’t feel the need to turn down anything other than alcohol (after all, that was my only “problem”). Anyway, I think the evidence speaks when I say that can only be kept up for a short amount of time. If you light enough matches, eventually you’re gonna catch fire. Personally, I’m amazed that I lasted 15 months. I could rationalize this and explain away that, but there’s no sense in dwelling on the what-ifs and should’ve-beens. In the end, I’m here today, and I’m sober, and my body is totally and completely detoxed for the first time in probably four years. And I feel AMAZING.

Teen Challenge was an incredible experience. I am so thankful that I went. I grew more in those thirty days, and learned more about myself, than I have in years of counseling combined. I learned that over the years I have nurtured three primary self-destructive characteristics: Low self-esteem, people-pleasing, and perfectionism. The three of which weave together and create something even more destructive: codependency. And on top of that, codependents are by nature extremely high risk for falling into abusive relationships and- SURPRISE!- addiction. Funny how that works, huh? Overall, instead of just trying to quit drinking and get sober, for the first time I am really learning those underlying parts of my being that drive me to addiction in the first place. And once again, after spending years in counseling and burying my nose in countless self-help books, for the first time I feel that I am actually able to DO something about my issues. I feel like a completely different person than I was three months ago. Of course I still have a lot of work to do, but I feel at peace with myself. My confidence is growing. I’m learning to seek God’s approval, rather than carrying the weight of the world’s opinions on my shoulders. I’m learning how to adopt a spirt of forgiveness, first and foremostly for myself, and secondly- for my abuser. That’s huge for me. I’m realizing that doing my best is enough, that I’ll never be perfect- and that’s ok!- because I don’t have to be. I’m ready to become the person I was made to be.

Since getting out of Teen Challenge around Christmas, I’ve been attending outpatient treatment there. It’s Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights, all evening. The weeknights I’m not at treatment, I’m trying to make it to Substance subgroups. On the weekends, if I’m in town, I’m taking care of housework, running errands, going to church, and doing whatever else I didn’t have time to do during the week. Oh, and on top of that, I’m still working full time at Land O’Lakes, in a new position- doing development on the ETL team. That is super challenging for me. Between all of that and still making time to snuggle with my furry baby, I’m a pretty busy girl at the moment. But it’s all really good for me, and I’m excited to see where this will all take me. However, I AM going to continue to use it as an excuse for being an absentee blogger… :)

I hope this spring has found you all in good health and high spirits. Thanks for reading and I promise to be back soon! Love you all!

My Time at Wilder Adult Day Services

17 Sep

I keep wanting to write more statuses about my experience yesterday with the Amherst E. Wilder Adult Day Services center, so I decided to just blog about it. This day trip was a “Diversity & Inclusion” event planned by the boss of my current team at work for a team-building/personal development event. Having spent so many little “volunteer trips” with schools, etc. at nursing homes, I was expecting the day yesterday to be so depressing. Because nursing homes are depressing, ya know? I actually really hate spending time there. But at Wilder, regardless of the client’s age, physical limitations, mental health, anything- they are fully engaged and treated no differently than the staff members or volunteers. One thing that was stressed to us by the staff before we met the clients, was that we were NOT there to pity the clients. We weren’t there to babysit them or take care of things because they are so incapable, we were there to help them build their strengths and have the happiest and most fulfilling life possible. The clients’ sense of independence is VERY much respected, and a huge priority for staff.

Because I am just going to keep going back to all the little bits and pieces of the day anyway, let me walk you through our entire experience…

We got to Wilder first thing in the morning and went through about an hour of orientation. A staff member explained what the program was, walked us through some aging empathy exercises, and prepped us for the day’s events. In a nutshell, the Wilder’s Adult Day Health center is part of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, and is kind of like day care for adults (though they stray away from the term “adult day care” because it sounds very patronizing). Basically it’s for those who have any kind of mental disability, physical limitation, or just plain aging that requires some supervision during the day (usually while their primary caregiver is at work, etc) but not so much that they need to be in a nursing home. The Wilder Center is also geared towards low-income clients. The empathy exercises we did included things like layering gloves on one hand and being asked to write out a grocery list (arthritis), putting in earplugs and trying to focus on a video while others talked loudly around us (like being in a public place with a hearing loss), and wearing glasses that had yellow clouds or white spots on them (cataracts/glaucoma) and trying to read our handouts. At Wilder there are three different levels of clients, and they hang out in separate rooms accordingly. There is the main room (the “Day room”) that serves the majority of the clients. Then there is the “Great room” that serves clients in the beginning stages of dementia/memory loss. They require more attention than those in the Day room, but are still fairly independent. The last room is the “Sun room”, which serves clients who are heavily affected by dementia/memory loss. I spent my day in the Day room.

So after orientation we went out to begin work with the clients. My boss Shirleen and myself joined baking group (some people refer to the different areas as “classes”- i.e. Baking class, Art class, Music class, etc. The staff members at Wilder prefer to call these “groups” because once again they like to take the stance as strengthening the client’s skills vs. treating them like they are incapable and need to be “taught” even the most simple activities) to help prepare the day’s snack. Apple crisp!!! With freshly picked apples. YUM. We sat at a table with about four clients, and all cored, peeled, and chopped bags and bags full of apples, put them into pans, added the crisp on top, etc. This is where I first met Muayad, who I wrote about on Facebook :) he didn’t say much during cooking group, and eventually got tired of all of our girl talk (he was the only male at our table) and decided to go work on art instead ;)

After baking, we joined the rest of the Day room clients. They were sitting in a huge circle (about 23 of them) learning about Land O’Lakes and then, as an activity for National Adult Day Services Week (yep, it’s this week!) were all discussing the things they loved about coming to Wilder.

Some of the responses included…
“Because all of my friends are here”
“When you’re here, you become a family”
“It feels like home.” (to which someone bitterly piped in… “BETTER than home!”)
“We all love each other”
“The music… and Walter’s dancing!”
“Yoga class!”

One client even said they hated weekends because they miss their friends too much and they get sad that they have to go two whole days without coming to Wilder. It was really neat to witness firsthand just how happy everyone was to be there. After discussion a staff member announced that it was time to play balloon volleyball. I’m thinking to myself, is she crazy!? But nope, she was serious. They lined up the wheelchairs and regular chairs in two rows of 5-6 on either side of the net, and started the game. I couldn’t believe how intense it was! I was laughing so hard the entire time. I was completely blown away by the spiking power of some of these folks, and they were all so competitive… cheering on their teammates, trash talking the other team, booing the refs for calls they didn’t agree with… It was hilarious. And what continually stuck out to me was how the staff spoke to the clients. At first I was almost surprised at the little jabs they would make, teasing them, etc., but they truly treated the clients as equals. And you can tell that they really appreciated it. There was just such a strong atmosphere of mutual respect that was unmistakable. Anyway, eventually we quit for lunch. Part of my team from LOL had spent the morning outside grilling, and we served the clients a delicious BBQ meal.

After lunch, we played more games. The next game was “Chicken Toss”. Everyone sat in a circle again, and in the middle of the room was four buckets, red yellow green and blue, and corresponding colored rubber chickens. The concept was simple: the clients walked up to the tape line on the floor, and had to try to throw the chickens into the buckets. If they made a chicken in a bucket, they got 25 points. If they landed a chicken in its corresponding colored bucket, they get 50 points. Everyone’s name was written on the white board, and the goal was to have the highest score. Once again, my immediate thought was “oh my gosh, half of the clients are so brittle, they’re going to hurt themselves just trying to throw that chicken three feet”, or “that lady can barely walk straight, how is she going to have the coordination to land a chicken in a bucket?”, but once again I was mistaken. In fact, not a single client had less than 25 points, so everyone got at least one into a bucket. Even the clients in wheelchairs played. Then they made us have a turn (at first I tried to pass- to which this little old lady with a walker yelled in a surprisingly loud voice, “what are you, TOO SCAAAARED?!?!”, which was then followed by a room full of laughter, so naturally I had to do it) The thing with this game though was that it wasn’t competitive at all. Everyone had to walk up and take their turn individually, and all of the clients would cheer for them and encourage them, no matter who it was. They all seemed to truly be friends, which was really cool because the room was full of clients of all different strengths and abilities. For example, some were in great physical health, but had obvious mental illness. Other’s were sharp as a tack, but had debilitating physical conditions. Many were a combination of both. But no matter what the reason for coming to Wilder, they all showed genuine love for one another. It honestly felt like a giant family.

The next game we played was “Retirement Bingo”, where all of the squares were phrases of things people in retirement do. I wrote about this on Facebook already, but this is when I got to sit with Muayad again. He needed help with Bingo because his English was not great. My first instinct in a situation like that is to sit quietly and just point out his bingo squares to him, but I kept thinking about how much the staff stressed talking to the clients and making them feel valued and respected. So instead of discounting him because he was difficult to communicate with, I started asking about what his first language was (Arabic), and as soon as I gave him the opportunity to talk about his home, he went from being completely silent with me to talking so fast I could barely keep up! He grew up in the Middle East and then moved to Italy in college. So English was actually his third language after Arabic and Italian. He told me all these stories (some of which I understood, some I didn’t) about Italy and about his home, and how hard it is to learn English here in America because everyone pronounces things so differently! He kept referencing the way we Minnesotans pronounce our “O”s :) Honestly I’m not even sure what his disability was (and we obviously weren’t allowed to ask) because apart from his language barrier, he seemed sharp as can be, and though he was older and obviously slowing down, when he got a Bingo, he jumped up and charged towards the prize table faster than I’ve ever seen any man with a cane walk! This other lady at our table (everyone called her “Mrs. Claus” because apparently she never takes off her Santa hat, haha) won two different bingos, and Muayad was laughing so hard and kept telling me how every time they play bingo she always wins twice, because she’s lucky.

After Bingo we got to eat our apple crisp (it was delicious!) and then did some wrap-up activities and headed home. I was SUPER sad to leave, and now all I can think about is going back. I was asking about volunteer opportunities, but they are only open during the day on weekdays, so apart from quitting my job I’m not sure how I could possibly make that work. Which really sucks. It’s strange because for some reason yesterday morning while I was getting ready to work and kinda dreading the day, I literally thought to myself, “When did my life become so empty?” I feel like my daily life is so bland, I love the company I work for but when it comes to my actual job and the day-to-day work I do, there is not the slightest ounce of passion. Yeah there are some things I prefer doing more than others, but I really don’t get excited about anything at work. And I honestly can’t picture myself ever getting super passionate about anything in the corporate world like I have seen some of my coworkers get. I assumed that it was just part of life to go to work, do your thing, come home, and find passion on the nights and weekends, but I don’t really know if I’m cut out for that. Furthermore, a couple months ago I was going through my old memory box at my parents’ house, and found an essay that I had written in tenth grade about my future career. The essay was about how I wanted to be a counselor, or something I could be emotionally invested in, and know I’m helping people, doing something I love. I wrote that no matter what anyone says, I will never work a 9-to-5 desk job just because it pays better, because that’s not how I’m wired and that’s not where I find my satisfaction. …Well, here I am. So that was kind of disappointing to read because I grew up and became exactly what my 16 year old self was determined never to become. To be honest I have been battling myself on this issue ever since I started full-time work, but I’m slave to my student loans. I swear if I didn’t have those tying me down right now, I would quit my job and travel, or at least move somewhere new, and make just enough money to pay the bills living cheaply, at least for a couple years until I feel emotionally prepared to settle into something permanent. Because no matter how much I love the company I work for, I am having the most difficult time accepting the fact that after years and years of being determined to travel and see other places and do work that I’m passionate about- I’ve nailed myself to the cross that is corporate life. So I’m sorry that this just got depressing but when I blog I just start typing and see where the wind blows me… That is all for now. Time to go ponder where my life is headed.

Living a life of SUBSTANCE

14 May

Second blog post in a week! I must be on a roll! But this is back to a “let me tell you about the dramatic saga that is my life” post. Because I haven’t written personally in forever! And so much has been going on lately. I went through about a six-month lull in my life where basically I was just focusing on getting through the work day and not much else, so I didn’t have much to write about. But just over the last few months things have literally exploded. I’ve always been a pretty busy person, but lately my calendar has been full to bursting in the absolute best sense, I’m so excited about everything that is going on!

Let’s start at the beginning. First things first, this winter I knew I needed a new church. I was hardly ever going because the church I started attending when I moved here was about a 35-40 minute drive from my apartment, which brought me through both St. Paul AND Minneapolis rush hour traffic, on a Friday evening. Not only was it hard to get to weekly services, it was virtually impossible to get involved with anything else. So, after multiple relatives and family friends had suggested a church called “Substance” to me, I thought I’d check it out. I started going mostly because I just had a feeling that I SHOULD be attending church regularly and getting involved during the week as well, and that if I was going to be doing that again I wanted it to be the most fun church I could find. I definitely enjoyed my first visit: the praise band rocked, the announcements were funny, and the message was pretty relevant (even though, at the time, I thought the pastor could probably stand to lay off the caffeine for a week or two). Regardless, it was super close to my apartment which was convenient, so I kept coming back. That was about five months ago, and it was right around that time that my life basically took off running underneath my feet.

The next thing I have to say is that by week two or three, Pastor Peter definitely grows on you (Keep reading, I got to meet him!). His energy level makes it so obvious how passionate he is about the message, and it is impossible to not get pumped up yourself! The church I had attended prior to Substance had a great, Godly pastor, but he had a more somber approach to the world. His messages were applicable, and I thought that I loved how “real” and “raw” the church was, and when I first started attending Substance I thought that everyone seemed just a little too happy-go-lucky. I tend to get a little pessimistic about the future, and I thought there was no way that this many people could be so happy about trying to be a Christian in today’s world. As it turns out, they really are that happy and like I said, the attitude definitely catches on. Instead of being just another obligation, I would find myself literally counting down the weekdays until Sunday because I was so excited to go to church! I got involved in a recovery subgroup, which has been absolutely amazing and completely revolutionized my recovery, and I started the 8-week beginners course that the church offers. Since then, I have felt genuinely called by God to do things in my life for the first time in so many years.

For starters, I felt called to finally allow myself to wipe my slate clean and start my life fresh. Completely. Now, that meant letting go of something people and things in my life that were really really hard to let go of. I tried to hang onto some of the things that meant the most to me, but I could not shake that voice in the back of my head that kept telling me to just trust in God and quit hanging onto my own will. So finally, I relented. I cleaned house. Literally, I actually went through my apartment and got rid of a lot of random sin paraphernalia that I had been hanging onto “just in case”. I ended a relationship. I quit regularly attending AA (Now—I know this part is controversial to some. So give me a quick minute to explain. Don’t get me wrong, I am still 100% supportive of AA. I needed that program to keep me sober and act as a spiritual grounding point for the majority of my recovery. However, as my spirituality is growing into a strong and distinct belief system, and as I have begun building a community in a solidly planted church, I believe that I’ve been called to bring my faith to the next level and pursue God himself in a group of other men and women who are also pursuing God himself, not a mix of self-appointed higher powers. I felt that AA was beginning to hold me back spiritually, and I also believed that God could and would free me from the bondage of my addiction, including the bondage of having to sit in a circle and discuss my addiction three times a week. I do still attend various AA events that are of interest to me. And I regularly attend my faith-based recovery meeting, which provides me with a totally positive and encouraging atmosphere. So I have not quit working on my recovery, I have not gone back to drinking, I have simply changed my approach.) I even severed contact with certain friends. All of these things were hard to do. I mean, SO hard. But in literally a matter of days my anxiety had almost completely dissipated and I felt a freedom that I have never before experienced. Another place I felt calling in my life for the first time in many years is in missions. Nothing is official yet but I am working on getting involved with a mission trip to Thailand with Substance Missions this winter. I cannot even express to you how excited I am about this opportunity! It’s huge to me, and I feel like in the last month I’ve uncovered this part of me that I thought I had lost over five years ago. It’s like, ever since an abusive boyfriend tore my life apart, I have spent years searching and searching for the ticket to a “normal” happy life again. I’ve searched high and low and in all directions, without ever just looking up. That’s the awesome thing about God, it doesn’t matter how many circles you’ve walked in, how far you’ve travelled in this direction or that direction, no matter where you are, you can always look up. You don’t have to make the trek to the top of a mountain, or get out of a storm, or move in ANY direction first. All I keep thinking is, why didn’t anybody tell me this sooner?! How did I not know that it was this easy?! But then I remember, I’m an extremely stubborn person, and someone probably did try to tell me. I just had to figure it out for myself.

With all of these awesome changes happening as a result of finding Substance, and the amount of inspiration I’ve gained from listening to literally hours and hours on end of Pastor Peter’s messages online, I became completely determined to meet him. Now, I knew I wouldn’t get to tell him about everything that had been happening, after all, across all of Substance’s campuses there are literally thousands of members listening to the sermon every week. But still, I just had to shake his hand. Not to mention meet his wife, Pastor Carolyn, who I had heard speak at a women’s event, and is also (not surprisingly) an amazing messenger of God who brings some pretty great sermons to the pulpit herself!

So a few weeks ago I went to the Saturday night service at Substance since that is the live-recording service, in hopes to cross paths with at least one of the Pastor Haas’s.  After the service my friend Mindy and I went on a hunt for Pastor Peter, and later learned that he had to leave early for another commitment. Dangit. So I was pretty bummed out. I went to church again on Sunday because I had some things to do at the Northwestern campus, and I accidentally stumbled into a baby dedication going on between services. I was about to sneak back out, when in the front row I spotted Pastor Peter’s unmistakable hair, and next to him, his wife Pastor Carolyn! SCORE! I was super happily surprised because they aren’t usually at this campus! So I acted really creepy and went and sat right in the second row so that I could catch them as soon as the dedication was over. And I did! I grabbed Pastor Peter first, and as I introduced myself and shook his hand I was kind of caught off guard by the fact that he continued to just stand there and smile at me as if he was waiting for me to say more. Now, there are a TON of things that I have wanted to be able to share with both Pastor Peter & Pastor Carolyn. But I kind of prepared for this introduction the way you would prepare for meeting someone famous—come up with just one really great sentence that encompasses the most important thing you have to say to them, because you know that that’s all you’re going to be able to blurt out before they need to scurry off and tend to everyone else. So when I realized I had room for more than just a one-liner, I was pretty excited. So I did what I do best… I just started rattling off things about my life. And Pastor Peter was fully engaged, smiling and nodding, and at the end of every little part of the story he’d throw out a fist pump or an “AMEN!” or something that just encouraged me to keep going. It was awesome. And normally when I’m invited to “tell my story” I end up stumbling over it or I focus on the irrelevant parts and then later when I think about it I realize that I forgot the most important things, etc. But as I was sitting at home later that evening I was replaying the conversation in my head and I was like man, I literally shared with him every single thing that I have been wishing I could tell him about over the last several weeks, and basically my entire life story. It truly was a great experience, like I already said I was just so amazed at the amount of time he gave me, how genuinely interested he was in the things I had to share, and that after the conversation ended (because I ran out of things to say, not because he had to hurry off to someone/something else, which is amazing in itself because since when do I run out of things to say?!) he just kept telling me how he was so honored to meet me and talk to me, and thanking me for sharing all of that with him. I just laughed like, whaaat? You’re crazy! So then he brought me over to meet Carolyn and she and I chatted for a little while too, not really as in depth as my conversation with Pastor Peter but still it was really awesome to finally meet them. I’ve talked to a few people at Substance in the last couple months about wanting to meet Pastor Peter & Carolyn and most of them were like “oh we’ve been coming here for years and haven’t met them, that’s what the campus pastors are for” and I was like NO I’m not okay with that! I’m from a small town and I’m used to knowing my pastors personally, and I think it really helps me take the messages to heart more when I have at least had personal interaction with the one preaching, so it was a really awesome experience to not only get to say hello and shake hands with the Haas’s, but actually get to know them a little bit.

Another huge thing I’ve been praying about, and one of my reasons for leaving some people behind in order to focus on my life in the Twin Cities, was meeting new friends. One of the main things that is stressed at Substance is the importance of having 4-7 amazing Christian friends. And I have, well, one. Who lives four hours away from me. So it’s definitely been a need in my life that I am very aware of. And literally I was at Substance for four months without meeting anyone, and in the one month since I have made a commitment to seek out God’s will instead of my own, I swear I cannot go to a single church service without being introduced to someone new! Not only am I meeting people, but they are people I’ve connected with on a deeper level and have already started to blossom into some really amazing friendships. It’s crazy! Not to mention I’ve lived in the Twin Cities for a year now and these are the first new genuine friends that I have made. It’s awesome. And there is no rational explanation for it other than that supernatural things can happen when you let go of the control of constantly seeking your own will.

ANYWAY that is my big advertisement for Substance as well as some updates on what has been happening in my life lately. I’m super busy and obviously everything hasn’t been rainbows and butterflies but I have a sense of peace about my life that I haven’t had, well, really ever. So that’s pretty cool. AND I have got some really exciting things coming up, the first thing being an entire week with my wonderful cousin Rachel visiting me here in the cities! I’m so excited! So I’m actually shocked that I’ve been able to get this writing done considering the fact that she flies in…TODAY. So with that, I’m going to end, and head to the airport :)

LOVE YOU GUYS, and also:

Here is a link to Substance Church’s website if you want to learn more

Here is a link to an AMAZING message series of Pastor Peter’s on dating/relationships

Here is a link to another amazing message series of Pastor Peter’s on DE-STRESSING

 

Why I Don’t Believe That Women Need a Pay Raise

11 May

This is probably going to be controversial. No, I’m not an anti-feminist. I just believe that [like usual, on one side or the other] there is a very misinformed mass regarding the issue.

My goal is for this to be a pretty brief post, mostly because I started out just wanting to write a Facebook status about it but realizing it’d be a little too long. So I’m going to try to be as concise as possible.

First of all, lets address what we know to be fact, which is that according to popular statistics, women in the US make 77 cents to every dollar that men make. Is this true? Yes. HOWEVER it is grossly misinterpreted. People read this fact and think “Wait- is that legal? So employers can pay women less just because they’re women?” Well, no. The statistic is based off of average annual income for male vs. female. So, for illustrative purposes, if the average middle-aged male’s salary is $100,000; the average middle-aged female’s salary is $77,000. What is not taken into account is the difference in jobs themselves. This does not mean that a man and a woman can have the exact same position and be paid differently, it means that men and women are landing in different positions.

Why is this? Well for starters, think about the average career path pursued by women, compared to their male counterparts. Women typically work more in service-related fields, where as the men shoot for STEM fields which, statistically, pay higher salaries. Another difference is that even if a woman and a man are both in the same general field, the man is more likely to push for promotions, climb the corporate ladder, etc.; where a woman is less likely to do those things due to focusing on starting a family, being less aggressive than the men in the office, etc.

So does this mean that we should just accept this difference in careers and call it a day? Absolutely not. There needs to be more women in higher ranks of companies, and more women being promoted to leadership positions. However, being a woman in the IT field myself and having attended countless seminars and conferences on how to succeed in a male-dominated world, I assure you that a simple number on a paycheck is not going to solve the problem. I could write an entire blog post about the issues that women have in male-dominated work environments, but literally all of the things that hold women back from advancing at work come back to their own self-confidence. Raising your hand and speaking up in a meeting, applying for a promotion, negotiating a higher pay– these are all things that men do naturally in the workplace, but women have a hard time with. Did you know, that if a new job listing is posted with 10 criteria listed as requirements, the average male will apply for the job if he fills at least half of the criteria, where as the average female will only apply when she fills ALL of them? Do you realize how many more opportunities this gives men? And it’s not because the men are sexist a-holes, and not because there is a difference in pay depending on if you take the job as a male or a female, it’s because the men are confident enough in their own abilities to take that step to push their career further, and women tend to be more cautious.

Raising a salary, or allowing people to demand that their employer hand over pay wage information, is not going to solve the underlying problem. Not even close. Besides, did you ever think that maybe the average woman works a lower paying job than the average man because she wants to? I know that this IS going to come off as anti-feminist, but honestly, some women are more than happy to allow their husband to be the primary household provider. Some women are more than happy to sacrifice a CEO-path career to get to stay at home with their children. Some women would much rather balance home life and hobbies than work full time, if they have the opportunity.

If you compare my mom’s annual salary with my dad’s annual salary, you will see that my mom makes less money. So, woman of the house has a substantially lower average salary than man of the house. Does that mean that my mom is discriminated against at work for being a woman? Does that mean her pay should be raised to equal my dad’s? No. It means that she works fewer hours, in a job that is less demanding of her. It means that she, as a woman, and as a mother, and as a daughter, balances her job with managing a household, caring for her mother, and being a stay-at-home mom for her children. There is SO much more to the picture than simply comparing numbers.

So. My point is. This issue needs to stop being over-politicized. If a woman is financially able and prefers to work a lower paying (which probably equates to lower stress) job, more power to her. And if a woman wants to focus on her career and eventually become CEO of a company, more power to her too! And if a woman is struggling with advancing her career, then we need to learn how to support her the correct way, by providing her with the tools to empower herself in the work place, not just legally complicate the issue with wage stipulations and expect job satisfaction and fulfillment to magically come with it.

Anyway this is way longer than I was hoping and I’m super tired, so that’s my opinion thank you and goodnight.

Real Life is a Real Thing

15 Jan

So as you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been off Facebook for about a week now. Well, actually been off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and tumblr! The reason I’m doing it is that my new church starts every new years with 21 days of fasting. Typically fasting is from food, but there are many other options and since I am already starting a diet I decided to fast from social media.

Why, you might ask? I chose to fast from social networks because they are so addicting! And it’s so easy to waste hours on end basically just staring at other people’s lives, and takes away from so many REAL interactions in the present. Also, I tend to worry WAY too much about what people are saying, “liking”, retweeting, commenting on, etc., and gauge how I feel about myself on  that rather than on what truly matters. I was promised that fasting would open the door for God to really work on my life, even above and beyond my own expectations. Slightly skeptical, I knew that I could definitely benefit some time off the grid even if just for the sake of my sanity, so… On the 6th I logged off, deleted those handy little apps on my iPhone, and mentally prepared myself for withdrawals (no…seriously). And, about six short hours later, I received some amazing news from a loved one (which I’m not going to share for the sake of their privacy), news that I had never even considered getting to hear any time soon. Needless to say I was sold on this whole thing!

Over last weekend, I was lucky enough to fly Piper and myself down to Arizona to spend some time with my fantastic aunt and cousins. Throughout the trip, we met so many amazing people and learned such wonderful, deep lessons from each of them, and in the most unusual places. We didn’t go anywhere with any intent to meet new people, weren’t hanging out an any particularly social scenes, just fell into conversation with average people that I normally would not have had the time to notice with my nose buried in my Facebook app. I originally wanted to write about each of their stories, but it almost feels too personal to share on a blog. BUT it really makes me wonder how many amazing people I never met, life lessons I’ve never heard, or experiences I’ve never shared, because I was too worried about everyone’s cyber-lives instead of the real lives that are being lived around me every day!

Anyway, my urge now is to write about every little other thing that happened on my trip, what Piper and I have been up to, etc.—but I’m not going to because I would basically be trying to make up for all of the Facebook statuses that I haven’t posted in the last week, and that is not my intent! My intent is simply to share the little lessons that I’ve been taught lately, however I WILL post just one photo from my trip because I love my family too doggone much to not show them off ;)

Hope you are all doing well! Talk to you on the 27th :)

az

Happy Noon Year

31 Dec

Is it really New Year’s Eve!? Holy cow that came fast. I don’t even have a whole lot to talk about, but I feel like it is a bloggers obligation to post on New Years. Unlike most other bloggers, I won’t bore you with a lengthy recap of my entire year, because I have probably already written about the most important things. BUT, as always, I do have a few words to say.

First of all I want to thank each and every one of you for making this blog what it is. I know it’s not particularly riveting but you have given me and my musings a presence literally around the world, and I think that’s awesome. Those of you that I have never even met yet continue to read truly make my day. You guys are what make Margie’s Musings a blog, and not just my online diary.

I also want to thank every single person who is a part of my life today. You guys are the reason that I am where I am. The events over the last year have really sifted out the genuine friends from the not-so-much. It was hard to watch them fall away but I wouldn’t trade any of the people left in my life for the world! I can’t wait to see what the new year brings us all :)

I feel as though I’m almost required to tell you all the great things that 2013 brought me, but that’s not what I want to focus on. I am truly thankful for many things in my life, but my list might be slightly different than most others you’ll read over the next 24 hours. This year, for starters, I am grateful to be sober. I know that none of you need any more of an explanation than that! I’m also grateful for all of the addicts and alcoholics I have come to know and love, who have taught me lessons I never could have learned without them. I am grateful that my precious aunt has fought ovarian cancer, and thus far been incredibly successful (my respect for her strength and perseverance grows every day). I’m thankful that my grandma has been given the opportunity to enjoy food again for the first time in a long time. I’m thankful that the string of men in my life who break me down has ended. I’m thankful that I know what rock bottom feels like, because I know exactly where I never want to be again. I’m thankful to have any job at all, but I’m especially thankful to work for a company that values people more than money. I’m thankful that I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and a loving family; because beyond those basic needs, as my dad would say, “the rest is just stuff”. Sure there are many other things in my life that I am happy about, proud of, and still thankful for. But the reality is that whether or not I’m super happy about where I live, at least I have a place to live. And whether or not I have the most trendy clothes, at least I have clothes. And whether or not my family is rich, or takes me on great vacations, or my boyfriend buys me expensive gifts, I’m just thankful to be surrounded by wonderful people who love me unconditionally. Again… “the rest is just stuff.”

This New Years, if you are a resolution person, think about what kind of resolutions you can make to give rather than to get. Instead of resolving to eat healthy so you can get skinny, try buying an extra bag of those fruits and vegetables, and bring it to a food shelf so you can give health to another family. Or instead of resolving to save more money so you can buy that big toy you have your eye on, try saving money so you can afford to start making donations to a charity that you can become passionate about. Or, instead of resolving to finally find a nice guy/girl, why don’t you resolve to become the nice girl/guy that someone else is looking for? Just a thought. I promise these things will turn out better than you would have expected. :)

Anyway, I hope you are all in good company and good health this holiday season, and I wish you the best for 2014. May God bless you and your families. Keep in touch!