I work part time as a church secretary.  This isn't the first time in my life that I've been a secretary, and if there's one universal thing about being a secretary, it's this: Some days you have a lot of down time.

I'm smart and I work quickly on 75% of the tasks I'm given with few to no mistakes and minimal supervision.  I've surprised more than one supervisor with how quickly I can complete tasks.  However, working quickly leads to even more down time.

The church I'm at is transitioning from one pastor to another, and the new pastor is still getting moved and settled.  Even though he's already told me he won't have much for me to help him with for a few weeks, I still make it a habit to ask him once or twice a week if there's anything he needs me to do.  I've asked previous supervisors at other jobs the same thing.  And sometimes, there just isn't a lot of work to do.

I'm not complaining about having downtime.  I really, truly appreciate that it's a luxury that most people don't have in their jobs.

However, I also feel guilty on the days when I have so little to do that I'm getting paid to just wait for the phone to ring.

This morning, our Visitation Pastor came into the office.  He's this adorable eighty-something year old man with an even more adorable eighty-something year old wife.  He's a retired United Methodist pastor and was hired two years ago visit church members who are in the hospital, nursing homes, hospice, or long term care at home.  He asked me if I was keeping busy, and I told him that with the pastoral transition, there really isn't a lot for me to do right now.

He said, "God gives us each a job to do.  Some days you have so much to do that it seems the day will never end.  Some days you have very little to do.  I think God's OK with us having days when we have very little to do, and we shouldn't feel guilty about being given the opportunity to have a slow day.  We shouldn't feel guilty for being paid to do nothing.  We should enjoy the rest the slow days give us because there will be busy day later when the day seems like it will never end."

I have never, ever in my life had someone tell me that about down time at work.  I told him thank you for telling me that and that I appreciate hearing it and knowing that someone understands.

After he left, I thanked God for the people in my life who He speaks through.

And I'm sharing this with you because I think you need to hear it too.  I was shown grace this morning, and I want to share that with you today.

5

Gather round again, y'all, for a trip to the inside of Aunt Stephanie's brain.

I think it's really important to talk about mental health.  I have depression, and have had it since I was at least ten, but I know now that there are things I was thinking and feeling even earlier than that that might have been the first symptoms of depression.

When I was growing up in the 80s and early 90s, mental health wasn't really something we talked about.  The first time I was really able to put a label on it, I was sixteen, but I thought that being depressed was just another part of being a teenager.  I didn't tell my parents what I was feeling because I thought I could deal with it myself.

The first time I talked to a doctor about it, I was almost 28.  I took wellbutrin for a little over a year, and this was back in the days that wellbutrin was taken once in the morning and once in the afternoon.  I was alway really good about taking the morning dose, but forgot the afternoon dose on a regular basis.  I think it helped, but that was several years ago and I wasn't terribly consistent with it.  I quit taking it shortly before I found out I was pregnant with Liam.

When I next talked to a doctor about my depression, I was 35 and about to enter my last semester of grad school.  I had been unmedicated since quitting wellbutrin, and I was miserable.  If you've ever been depressed, you know what I'm talking about.  If you've never been depressed, I hope you never understand the combination of sadness, anger, apathy, fatigue, irritability, and hatred for yourself that is depression.

When I started taking the antidepressant the doctor prescribed for me, I slowly started to feel better.  I figured out that what I was feeling and thinking wasn't normal.  I wasn't sad and angry anymore.  It felt good to not worry so much about life and not feel like I had to take everything so seriously.

I was on that first antidepressant (celexa) for about two and a half years, and had to abruptly switch meds (to prozac) due to health concerns.  I was on prozac for about five years, and I'm now in the process of switching to wellbutrin xl.

I'm not telling you this to extract sympathy or get attention.  I'm telling you this so that, if you've never known chronic depression, you understand that mental illness isn't a made up disease, it's an illness.  And for those of you who know what it's like to have depression, I want you to know that you're not doing this by yourself.  

I talk about being mentally ill and having depression to help end the stigma that surrounds the description "mentally ill."  I'm not crazy, I'm not psychotic, I'm not a sociopath.  I'm just mentally ill.  I take medication and see a therapist so that I can deal with a very real illness.  I talk about it because when I was young and going through this, I didn't have the words to describe what I was going through.  I didn't know how to tell someone, not even my parents, that what I was feeling was real and bothersome and not normal.  When I was growing up, people didn't talk about mental illness.  How could I have the words for something that was a real thing, but that no one talked about?

As I've gotten older, people have become more aware of what mental illness really is and have started talking about it more.  It's really important that we talk about it.  You know why? Because somewhere, there is another ten year old feeling exactly how I did.  She needs to know what mental illness is so that she can put her thoughts and feelings into words and get the help she needs.  I talk about it so that other people know it's a real illness that can be as deadly as cancer.  I talk about it so that people who are younger than me won't have to stay silent and die slowly.

We have to talk about it so that we become comfortable talking about.  I'm open about having depression, taking medication, and seeing a therapist so that my friends and family become comfortable hearing about it.  I don't want sympathy for me.  I want understanding and compassion for others.

Usually when I talk about my own mental illness, I talk about it a generalized sense.  But today I'm talking about it in a more focused way because I'm feeling the weight of depression more lately.

Sometimes when you've been on an antidepressant for a long time it will become less effective or stop working entirely.  That seemed to have become the case with me and prozac.  It was still working, in the sense that I wasn't depressed and angry all the time, but it had become less effective.  Full disclosure, between my brother's death over two years ago and being fired from a job I hated eight months after that, I was giving the prozac some serious overtime.

For several months, I've been feeling more and more unmotivated to do anything.  I can get out of bed and get ready for work, but getting myself to do dishes or laundry has been a real struggle.  I used to love to write.  I've wanted to be a writer since I was fifteen.  Writing is almost nonexistent for me anymore.  I'm ok once I get started, but getting started has become increasingly difficult.  I'm tired all the time and taking more naps than I probably should.  I'm an introvert and need alone time, but I've been needing more and more alone time recently and could see that it might become a problem in the future.

Fortunately, I was due for my yearly med check a couple of weeks ago.  Bonus points: the health system I'm in recently started using a questionaire  for mental health patients to self-evaluate their illness.  As it turns out, I was on the lower end of moderate depression again.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm now transitioning from prozac to wellbutrin xl.  Having transitioned from celexa to prozac several years ago, I knew what the whole process of switching antidepressants was like, and it's not enjoyable.  For the past twelve days I've been even more tired than usual, have found myself becoming impatient easily, eating more sweets than normal, and crying (It was difficult to cry on prozac.  I had to be really upset to do so.).  It hasn't been quite as awful as being unmedicated was, but it has been difficult.  I've had to tell the people closest to me that if I start acting depressed again that this is why.

Even in the midst of my body using the last of its reserves of prozac and adjusting to wellbutrin xl, even though it's still hard for me to do the things that are important, I still have to talk about mental illness.  I must be open about it so that if you have to change meds or know someone who is, you know what will happen.  I must be open about it so we can talk as freely about mental illness as we do about breast cancer and diabetes.  I must talk about it now for ten-year-old me who didn't have the words to say and for sixteen-year-old me who didn't care if she lived or died. (Sorry, mom and dad.)

So let's talk about it.  Mental illness of any kind is nothing to be ashamed of, so start talking about it and get the help you need.  Don't be ashamed to say to your doctor that you need antidepressants.  Don't be ashamed to start talking to a therapist.  Don't be ashamed to tell your partner, your parents, your kids, your friends, and all of Facebook that you have a mental illness and how you're getting help.

Just please... start talking about it.

By now, you know that Trump withdrew the United States from its commitment to the Paris Climate Accord.  I don't want to go into details about what the United States actually agreed to do in the accord or what our withdrawal from the accord means for the environment.  I have deliberately avoided reading any other articles encouraging you to keep doing your part for the environment.  I wanted what I had to say be my own words, even if I'm sharing the same brain with other people.  So please be patient with me, especially if you've read articles like that since June 1.

Now then.

The thing about international climate agreements like Kyoto and Paris is that it's the countries working together to lower fossil fuel emissions and greenhouse gases.  The key is that we're working together.  One country can work towards those goals, sure, but it's more effective if other countries are working towards the same goals.

In the words of the Wonderpets, "What's gonna work?  Team work!"

Yes, the United States has withdrawn from the agreement.  That's not a good thing.  But Americans can still make a difference.  Are you recycling?  Great!  Please keep doing it.  Do you run a small (or large) business that is consciously using green practices to reduce your carbon footprint?  Excellent!  Please keep doing it.  Do you walk or bike to work several times a week?  Fantastic!  Please keep doing it.  Are you eating less meat? I mean, I know, think of all that yummy pulled pork you're missing out on, but it's still a sustainable move.  Please keep doing it.

There are so many things that we, as individuals, can do to live healthier, more eco-friendly, and sustainable lives.  While it would be better for the United States to be in this agreement instead of withdrawing from it, that doesn't mean change can't happen.  It means that I, and you, and our families and friends here in the US need to keep doing all those small things that help the environment--because all of us individually doing lots of small things will make a difference.

I'm frustrated by the lack of forward-thinking in the current Federal Administration, but instead of letting my frustration consume me, I'm going to continue to incorporate an increasing number of environmentally-friendly practices in all areas of my life.  You keep up the good work too.

 

2

Rebuilding anything, in general, kind of sucks.  Even if you wanted that thing torn down.

One year ago today, I was fired from my job of eight years.

While part of me would prefer not to put that out there, the other part of me wants you to know this story, at least the short version with only the really important parts mentioned.  The executive director and I didn't get along.  He wasn't the person that hired me, and he moved me from a job I enjoyed (mostly) to one I didn't (mostly).  I knew I was going to get fired eventually.  I had been praying to be fired.  It was a good thing for me.  It really, truly was a great thing.  When he fired me, he called me toxic and told me I was terrible at my job.

I was happy to be fired, but I'd been dealing with his dislike for three years and had just been told I was an awful human being and employee.  A year later, I can still hear him telling me that.  It hurts a lot less now, thanks to being out of the situation, a lot of therapy, and lots of people I worked with telling me to ignore him.

I'm in the process of rebuilding that part of my life.  The foundation of my work life was completely destroyed.  I'll be honest with you:  I'm only now beginning to lay the first few stones.  I sat in the dust and rubble for several months, dirty and hurting.

I have a new job.  I'm basically doing the same thing I was when I got fired, but I'm working for a church now instead of a state agency.  My boss, the church pastor, tells me I'm doing a good job.  His wife called to tell me how excited he was that they had hired me.  The people in the church are friendly and kind and happy to have me here.  It's a part time job, it's quiet, and I have three day weekends.

I wanted to mark the day because it's the day I was set free.  But at the same time, my world was torn apart.

Shit happens.  I'm a Christian, but I don't think that everything happens for a reason.  Sometimes shit just happens, our worlds are ripped apart, and all we can do is sit in the dirt and rubble, catch our breath, and rebuild.  We have to grieve, take care of ourselves, and begin to heal.  We have to understand that it's much easier to say those words than it is to live them.  In the process of being gentle with myself, I've had to question if I'm being gentle with myself or if I'm just being lazy.  I quit writing,  I started writing again.  I quit writing again.  I sat on the couch a lot and binge watched netflix shows.  I looked at a lot of job postings and got frustrated nearly every time I did so.

Rebuilding is difficult and it sucks. But the value in it is that when you start to clean up what's left, you can look at every single old stone and decide how it will fit into the new foundation.  Some of the old parts of your life are shattered and have to be discarded, but some of them are just scratched up.  You might have to polish them up for quite some time, but when you get done, you'll have these gleaming, glossy, shiny stones that are stronger because they've been refined.

At least I hope so.  I'm still in the process of refining and being refined.   A year later, I'm a little stronger than I was.  I'm a little more hopeful about my life.  I don't dread each morning anymore and marvel that there are still people in this world who are so nice to me.  I feel like I can breathe again.

Your Productivity

Your productivity does not determine your worth.

Your productivity does not determine your worth.

And one more time for the people in back:

Your productivity does not determine your worth.

(I want you to know, as I write this, my anxiety is ratcheting up so high I've given myself a headache.  I've been putting off writing this post all day long, and to be honest, I'm not sure where it's going to go.  So just sit back, read, and take the journey with me.)

I'm not writing this for anyone in particular except myself.  So if I know you in real life, I'm not calling any of you out (:::koffexceptyou,momkoff::::) so much as I am writing this for myself.

Let's take a trip down the rabbit hole.  Google "why do we need to be productive".

If you did that, you found articles telling you how to be more productive, reasons you shouldn't be more productive, productivity and happiness, things to stop doing to be more productive, why productivity is important... and that's all on the first page.

In the United States, we have this unwritten belief that we are only valuable as individuals if we are working hard and getting things done.  I think that mindset starts in the workforce and bleeds freely into our non-work lives.

Things have to get done.  We have to work some.  I understand that.

But how many times have you worked a full day outside the home just to rush home and work another full day inside the home?  You start dinner when you get home because your kids need to have a good meal as soon as possible, and if that doesn't happen you're a bad mom.    You spend all weekend doing laundry and cleaning the house because if your house isn't perfect for the coming week, you're a bad spouse.  When you fall into bed utterly exhausted, you think of all the things you didn't get done and conclude you're a bad person.

Productivity determining our worth is so ingrained in our culture that if the to do list doesn't get done, we feel like worthless failures.

But that's not true.

You're not a worthless failure just because the laundry didn't get finished, you haven't eaten a vegetable for days,  or the writing didn't get done (again).

(I told you I was writing this as much for myself as for you, remember?)

You and I are not valuable based only on the amount of work this world and our lives can wring from us.  You and I are not valuable because of what we can do for others.  We are not commodities.

We are people.  You and I are valuable because we live.  You and I are valuable because God made us and breathed life into us. You and I are valuable because God loves us.

I forget that a lot.  I forget that I do a lot of things right when I did the one thing wrong.  Like right now, I'm sitting here berating myself because it has taken me almost ninety minutes to write this post instead of congratulating myself for writing something, anything, at all.  And when I'm done writing this, I'll feel badly about myself because it won't be 1,000 words long.  I didn't get as much picked up today as I would have liked, so I'm beating myself up about that.  Never mind that I took an hour to help my kid clean his room.  It still needs about two hours worth of work, but I can see the freshly vacuumed floor now.

I am surely not the only person on this planet whose self-talk needs to change from "I didn't do all the things today, so I must be a bad or lazy person" to "It's great that I got some of these things done today, but even if I hadn't, I'm worthy of love, grace, and acceptance."

Your productivity does not determine your worth.

Your productivity does not determine your worth.

And one more time for the "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" crowd:

Your productivity does not determine your worth.  

God does, and He thinks you are precious.

And now, a picture of my kid with a stuffed tiger on his head to lighten things up.
And now, a gratuitous picture of my kid with a stuffed tiger on his head to lighten things up.  Not seen: the dog hair that used to be all over the kid's bedroom floor.

(If you are reading this in Chrome, you will probably see the pictures upside down.  The pictures are right side up on any other browser.)

You've just come from your doctor's office, and she's told you that you need to be on a gluten-free diet (you have a confirmed case of celiac disease, you are going to be tested for celiac disease, you have a wheat allergy, or any other reason).  Your head is spinning because you still don't quite understand what gluten is, what it's doing to your body, or even how to avoid it.

Hopefully your doctor told you that you need to avoid wheat, barley, and rye.  A really good doctor will tell you to read ingredients labels because gluten is hidden in all sorts of processed food (Did you know some brands of soy sauce are made with wheat?  Yes, it's ridiculous, and it's the reason you have to be diligent about reading labels.).

Did your doctor give you any other information though?  Because it's 4:30, you're hungry, and you have to make dinner.

Take a deep breath.  I promise you that this is not the end of the world as you know it.

The good news is that you probably have lots of gluten-free food in your house right now.

GF Foods you probably have in the house already.
GF Foods you probably have in the house already.

Most unprocessed foods (fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk, meat, chicken, fish) and several processed foods (like cheese, corn meal, peanut butter, and cooking oils) are gluten-free.  If you were planning a dinner of steak, baked potatoes, and broccoli, you hit the gluten-free newbie jackpot.

More good news:  you might have many other foods in your house that are also gluten-free.

GF foods you might have in the house. Cereal for dinner? Yes!
GF foods you might have in the house. Cereal for dinner? Yes!

There are a lot of breakfast cereals that are gluten-free.  Cheerios has five flavors, malt-o-meal's fruity and cocoa dyno-bites, several types of Chex and Chex knock-offs, and others are all ok.  Dried and canned beans, rice, some corn taco shells, and grits are probably in your pantry somewhere too.

And.

You can still eat bread.  You're lucky to be living in a time when more companies, mainstream ones even, are making gluten-free foods.

OK.  Now that you are less panicked by this whole thing, you probably need to go to the grocery store.  Many grocery stores have gluten-free sections where all of the food should be gluten-free and labeled as such.  You should be safe buying anything from this section.

But if your store doesn't have a dedicated section for their gluten-free food, you'll still be OK.   You need to buy gluten-free bread,  so go to the bread aisle.  There will probably be a small section in the bread aisle marked gluten-free.  At most grocery stores, the brands you're looking for are Udi's, Rudi's (Rudi's also has an organic line that is not gluten-free.  Make sure you're getting the right kind.),  Schar, Glutino, and Canyon Bakery.  If you have an Aldi, they have their own line of gluten-free foods, Live G-Free, that are just as tasty and cost less than other brands (Go to Aldi first.  Trust me. Not only is it all well-labeled, all the Live G-free packaging is blue.  Easy peasy.).  You can do the same thing for pasta too.  If you're unsure about a product, read the ingredients.  If it has wheat, rye, or barley listed anywhere, you can't have it.  If it has rice, corn, quinoa, spelt, millet, potato starch, tapioca, or arrowroot, you can have it.

Here's our collection of kid-tested and approved gluten-free food:

I like Aldi.
I like Aldi.

Yes.  We still have bread, pasta, crackers, pizza, brownies, pancakes, waffles, and homemade items.  And it's all gluten-free.

This is a major life change you are embarking on.  It's OK to not know what you're doing right now, because you'll learn.  Checking labels for the words "gluten-free" and ingredient lists for wheat, rye, and barley will become second nature.  While I'm not the gluten-free person in the family, I'm the one who does most of the cooking.  I've tasted most of these items and can tell you that while they taste a little different or have a slightly different texture, they also taste good.  There's a bit of a learning curve for cooking with gluten-free food, so follow the directions closely until you have some experience.

I've been making gluten-free food for about seven years now.  I don't consider myself an expert, but I can answer most questions you might have.  If I can't, I know people who can answer your questions.  There are plenty of blogs and books dedicated to gluten-free cooking, and I'll share some of my favorites in another post.

Please share this post with anyone you know who might be making this dietary change.  If you have questions or suggestions for other posts about gluten-free living, please comment below.  Thanks!

 

He who dies with the most toys still dies.  And you can't take the toys with you to wherever it is you might go when you die, so what's the point of getting attached to things?

Our dining room table.  This used to be my grandparents' table.
Our dining room table. This used to be my grandparents' table.

I'm guessing this table is at least as old as I am, and probably older than that.  It was gifted to us after both of my grandparents passed away, and we've been using it every day ever since then.

Sometimes accidents happen and our things get damaged:

Oops. Now I know why mom and dad always told me to wipe up my spills.
Oops. Now I know why mom and dad always told me to wipe up my spills.

This just happened a few days ago.  I didn't notice it until yesterday.  Somehow, water leaked on it and sat for long enough to warp the wood.  It was an accident.  It was just an accident.

I was upset for a couple of minutes about it, because the table was my grandparents' and has sentimental value for that reason alone.  But you know what?  The table is still functional, still beautiful, and still has sentimental value.  It will always be the same table I ate at at my grandpa and grandma Tredway's house when I was a little girl.  It will always be the same table my little boy ate at for meals as he grew up.

If one of us had done this while my grandma Frances was still alive and her table had gotten warped, you know what she would have said?   "Oh, that's alright.  It was just an accident.  I love you, pumpkin (or buddy).  Why don't you go get a cookie?"

So this morning, when Jeff discovered this accident and was upset about it, I put my arms around him and said, "It's OK.  It was just an accident.  It's just a table.  I'm not upset about it, so you don't need to be either."

Because at the end of our lives, it doesn't matter what we bought or sold.  We can't take the stuff with us, and truthfully, it's not really that important while we're alive.  Things make our lives easier and more comfortable.

But the important thing about stuff is the memories we attach to it.  Like sharing birthdays with my brother and cousins around this table.  Like sharing birthdays with our son, parents,  nieces and nephews around this table.  Those memories are about the people and relationships we had with them.  This table isn't just a table; it's a sign of all the love my family has shared and continues to share as we eat meals together around this table.

That's what we take with us when we die.  That's what we really pass on to our families.  Not the stuff.  The memories.

I'm not saying that it's ok to trash your things.  We should take care of the gifts we are given out of respect for the giver and because it's the right thing to do.  Just don't get attached to your possessions, because you can't take them with you.

 

Happy Earth Day/Care of Creation Day!

Do you want to be a better environmentalist and steward, but you're not really sure how to start?  Today is the perfect day for you to make some changes, and here's a list of some things you can do that are easy.

Getting coffee or tea on the way to work?  Take your own coffee mug to your local cafe.  Better still: make coffee at home.  You'll save about $5 and won't use a disposable coffee cup.

When you stop to get gasoline, check your tire pressure.  If it's low, fill up your tires.  Tires that aren't completely filled make your car less fuel-efficient.

Take public transportation for the day, if possible.  If not, carpool.  Better still: skip the car or bus to bike or walk to work.  It's Spring!  Get out there for some fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and reduce fuel emissions.

Need water when you're at the gym?  Get that reusable water bottle out and actually use it instead of buying a bottle of water.  Plastic bottles are one of the largest sources of disposables in landfills and the bottled water industry is contributing to the loss of fresh water.

If you haven't started using reusable grocery bags yet, go get some.  You can buy cloth bags at most stores now, and they usually cost about $2, depending on their quality.  They're far better for the environment than plastic bags, which are finding their way into landfills and oceans.  Think paper bags are a good choice?  They're better than plastic, but not as good as cloth because they still use trees.  Cloth bags are reusable, washable, and strong, so you can pack a lot of groceries in one bag and not worry about busting a bag or breaking a handle.  Pro tip:  Keep your bags by the front door or in the car so that you never forget them when you need them. 

Adjust your thermostat.  If you still have the heat on, first of all, I'm sorry.  I hope Spring shows up for you soon.  Now turn the thermostat down to at least 68F.  Go lower if you can stand it.  If you're cold, put on a sweater or snuggle in some blankets and grab a hot beverage.  Already have the air conditioning on?  I'm sorry to you too.  Unless you live near a beach, then I take my sorry back.  Turn the air up to at least 72F, and 74F is better.  If you're still hot, turn on some fans and drink a couple of glasses of ice water.  Keeping your heat lower and your air higher will save you money because you're using less electricity.

Need some new clothes? Shop at a consignment or resale shop.  Not only will you spend less on new-to-you clothing, you'll be reusing items.  Reusing clothing helps the environment and reduces the use of modern-day slavery in sweatshops.  Better still: repair damaged items you already own so you can continue to wear them.

Turn off the lights.  When you leave the a room, turn off the lights.  Before you leave the house for the day turn off the lights.  It's silly, and a waste of electricity, to light a room no one will be in.

Take a shorter shower and don't use the hottest water.  You don't need to soak in the shower.  Long showers waste water.  Using steaming hot water wastes the electricity needed to heat the water.  Save some of the warm water for the next person who has to take a shower.  (If you hear the sound of laughter right now, it's my parents and husband laughing at me as they read this suggestion.  Try as I might, I can't take a short shower.)

Shop at your local farmer's market.  Chances are, you're not going to save money shopping at the farmer's market, because prices are usually comparable to the grocery store (this varies by area and which grocery store you normally shop).  On the other hand, you'll be buying food that was grown or raised locally, usually within a 200 mile radius, which uses less fuel than grocery store food that is shipped from other states and hundreds of miles away.  Farmer's market products might not be certified organic, but in many cases they will have been grown or raised without herbicides, antibiotics, chemical fertilizers, etc., and farmers take pride in letting you know this.  You'll also be getting food that is in season and tastes better than its grocery store counterpart.

Repeat.  Don't just do these things today.  Use your reusable water bottles every time you're traveling and your cloth grocery bags every time you go shopping.  Shop your local farmer's market as often as possible.  Make your own coffee every day.  Make a habit of keeping the thermostat at a more energy-efficient temperature and turn off the lights when you leave the room.  Take public transportation as often as possible.  Keep your car tires filled up.  Take a shorter shower every day.  These are all little things, but little things add up.

You don't have to aim for perfection.  Make one change today if that's all you can manage.  Master that change, and when it becomes a habit, make another change.  It might take you a while, but once you've made all of these little changes habits, you'll have reduced the amount of the earth's resources you use.  Some of these things, like making your own coffee or using a reusable water bottle, take a little more planning ahead, but the few extra minutes will save you money and make you a better steward.

If you are a Christian, you are called to be a good steward of the King's property.  This earth is His creation and His property.  Not ours.  If we love Him, he asks us to obey Him, and to obey Him is take care of His property and the people He loves.  By taking care of the King's earth, we  also take care of His people.

What are some easy ways for people to be better stewards and environmentalists if they're just starting out?  Leave your suggestions in the comments!

 

(Continued from Part I)

For the first year or so, I made it through because the job itself wasn't that bad, it just wasn't something I enjoyed doing.  Still, the work was easy, I did it well, and if I had a rough day, I had my fantastic friends.

During the second year, while the job itself became easier, I had a difficult time doing it because I'm an introvert who was stuck answering phones and greeting people who came into the office.  To be fair, there weren't that many of either, but as a receptionist, I had to be "on" all the time.  And the work itself became monotonous.  I really hate monotonous work.

At the same time, the director and I developed a mutual dislike for each other.  The working environment became negative and my morale decreased.  My fantastic friends helped some, but even their encouragement couldn't improve the rough days.  When people asked me how work was, I would tell them I hated it, but I wanted to stick it out for a little while longer because I really  adored most of the people I worked with.  There's definitely something to be said for working with people who are such good friends, and I wasn't ready to not see them every day.

At the beginning of the third year, my brother died.  I hated my job, and I'd just watched my little brother battle cancer.  Life is too short to continue to do something I hate, so I began looking for other jobs.

A couple of incidents in September 2015 made going to work almost unbearable.  I couldn't use my love for my friends as a reason to stay, and the atmosphere had become so bad that I really wanted to quit my job (without having another in place) or make the director fire me.

Since I couldn't afford to just leave, I started praying to be fired.

There were three of four times after that that I almost walked out of the job.  I'd already packed most of my stuff and taken it home so that whatever happened, I'd be ready to leave in a hurry. But I didn't just leave because I didn't want to make the situation more difficult for my supervisor than it already was.  I was more worried about her being swamped than I was about my own mental health.

On December 7, I cried as soon as I got into the office. I told the friend I was closest to at the office that I wouldn't just quit was because I didn't want to create more work for everyone else.  She said, "Steph, as much as I love you and don't want to see you leave, I know you hate it here and you need to do what's best for you.  Don't worry about us and don't worry about creating more work for anyone else."

On December 8, I woke up dreading going to work -- again -- but with the feeling that it would be my last day.  I really believe that God told me to finish up a few tasks and clean up a couple of documents, and I did so.  I left files in order with directions on how to find computer files that would be used routinely.  When the director requested a 3 pm meeting with me, I knew he was going to fire me and let some people know what was going on.  When he fired me at 3:15, I let the same people know that it had happened, packed up the rest of my stuff, and left.  I knew I'd done my best given the circumstances and I left my area more organized than I'd found it.

So here's the point:

Loyalty can be misplaced.  Sometimes severely.  It's good to be loyal, but be loyal to people and not things.  A job is just a job.  Stuff is just stuff.  People are living, breathing beings with feelings that can be hurt.  Make sure that the people you choose to be loyal to are worth that loyalty.  If they become unworthy, back away slowly.  Be nice, but don't insist on remaining loyal to someone who won't be loyal to you.

You don't have to hang onto people who are hurting you or things that don't fit.

And on that note, I'm going to go buy some ankle socks.

What do you think about loyalty?  Have I missed my calling a true Hufflepuff, or is this pretty spot-on?

 

Yes, they're clean. I'm just really hard on my socks.
Yes, they're clean. I'm just really hard on my socks.

Yup.  That's a pair of my socks.

I'm really hard on socks and will wear them out before I get new ones.  A few months ago, I had to throw several pairs of ankle socks away (they had holes).  I bought a six pack of this kind because I thought it might be good to have some socks that are longer than the ankle socks I've been wearing.

I don't like them.

They're too tight at the opening and too long on my leg and I guess I'm picky about socks because I just don't like them.

But I've been sadly committed to these socks because there's nothing really wrong with them.  They serve their purpose, I paid for them, and it's too late to take them back to Target for an exchange.

So I keep wearing socks I don't like because of misplaced loyalty.

Funny, this feels like a life theme to me.

I am a loyal person.  Whenever there's one of those friendship tests floating on Facebook and the question is, "what do your friends remember you for?" and one of the answers is "loyalty," that's the answer I pick every single time.

If you are my friend, you are my friend until you've made it abundantly clear that you don't want to be my friend anymore.  If you ask me to serve on a committee or do some volunteer work, and I say yes, I will do it.  I may not like what I'm doing, but I will do it until the task is completed.  I may not ever do it again, but I will finish what I started.

I don't flake out on people.  I've always been this way, and I don't anticipate a change anytime soon.

But sometimes this loyalty becomes misplaced.

For example, my last job.

When I started it, I was excited!  I was going to be doing research and writing, something that I'd been wanting to do for a long time.  I've always wanted to be paid to write.  I'd just come from a job as a bank teller that I despised, and I wasn't particularly fond of many of my bank co-workers.  This was going to be a drastic change, and while I was excited, I was nervous about whether or not I'd like it.  It was a one year internship, so I figured I could do anything for a year.  If I hated it, I would be able to leave quietly at the end of the year and count this as more life experience.

I loved it.  And more importantly, I adored most of the people I worked with and became close friends with several of them.  At the end of the year, I got hired in a permanent position.  As in any job, there were good days and some really rough days.  Having actual friends in the workplace made the rough days manageable and the good days fantastic.

About four years ago, the director who hired me retired.  A little over a year after that, the new guy demoted me, and I became the office receptionist.

I hated it.

(Continue to Part II)