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January 12, 2019

During my talk with Bridgette this afternoon I discovered that this week is NEDA’s awareness week. NEDA stands for National Eating Disorders Association. For several years, I knew almost instinctually when it was NEDA awareness week. I discovered it during conversations at the hospital, or one of Bridgette’s providers might have mentioned it, or because I was reading an article on eating disorders, or maybe like a dog has a nose for a bone, I was in tuned to anything eating disorder related. That’s no longer the case. I’m glad we can celebrate that we are free from the world in which we dwelled much longer than we’d hoped, but today I felt a little guilty that I was unaware of NEDA’s week of recognition.

I recall visions of one day helping the world of eating disorders if we ever had the opportunity. It was a time that consumed us and defined so much of our lives that I was eager to be a resource should anyone ever want one. That is, if we ever got to a place where someone would consider me a worthy resource; as in, recovered. And we are. I’m still eager to be a resource, but our lives have moved beyond eating disorders and knowing the date of NEDA’s awareness week couldn’t have been further from my mind. Praise God. I don’t say that as an ordinary salutation, but with sincere praise and gratitude for the minutes, hours, days, months, and years that He held our hearts in his hands. Seven of them, to be exact. Not that he isn’t now, but I’m happy to say I’ve released my grip a bit.

There are many things that help a person walk the road of eating disorders (or any mental health). I am convinced of a couple of key elements to overcoming an eating disorder, but even with those two factors, I know I could not have succeeded without the Holy Spirit in me.

Below is a photo that God revealed to Bridgette and me on a day I was feeling desperate for relief. Relief from the lies my child told me, relief from the trust she had broken, relief from the meal plans I monitored, relief from the meals I prepared without her seeing me prepare them, relief from the meals I was forced to prepare to her satisfaction, relief from having to alter my cooking habits, relief from altering my own eating habits, relief from driving her to and from day treatments, relief from her volatility, relief from the dr. appointments, relief from the eating disorder circle up meals. If only relief could have been given from an Alka Seltzer. But God gave me much more than a pop pop fizz fizz. He gave us himself, Mary, and Joseph. One day, exhausted on every level and after pleading with Him, he appeared on a wall in the hospital in the form of Plaster of Paris. It was enough to get me through the remaining years, because even if he wasn’t showing up on a wall, through tears, anger, and disappointments, I clung to the day he appeared on the wall and peace that surpasses all understanding guarded my heart and mind. We continued to find relief in the form of an amazing dietician in Corvallis and her therapist in Portland. Two professionals that were integral in her recovery and for whom I have the highest respect and gratitude.

At St. Vincent’s Hospital, just for us.

Bridgette had the great satisfaction this afternoon of being a guest speaker at the St. Vincent’s Eating Disorder program. After years of in and out, we got to know the staff there well. At least 3 of the staff are still there. Working with a team is a very intimate vulnerable experience for the patient and the involved family, so they know the victory as well as we do. She was invited to come talk with both the adolescent and adult programs, sharing the details of the ugliness of her journey with the victory of where she is today. So many people believe that one never truly overcomes an eating disorder, but Bridgette was there to tell them differently.

Just like our behaviors and mind forms patterns of thought when we’re unhealthy, so do our behaviors and mind form patterns when we’re healthy. If one can get themselves to a place of recovery, and live in that space long enough to form new patterns, then overcoming an eating disorder is possible. Do I believe it can return? Yes, I do. Will I live in fear of that? No, I won’t.

As a mom of a now married young woman, I no longer have the same opportunities to observe Bridgette’s behaviors. I have to trust and continue to pray that this behavior is here to stay. One of the two factors I believe are critical (and pivotal) for patient recovery is the involvement of a parent. Some people might call this parent support, but it’s much more than that. It’s not a cheerleader telling your child they can do it. The parent who is involved, scrutinizing the food intake, the meal plans, eating the meals with the child, receiving the blows of the struggling child, etc. is the scenario that will be most helpful to the patient. I pray I will never go through that again. But as her mom, I will always be aware and will risk a harsh reply by checking in with her if I see something concerning. I love her too much not to.

So, we celebrate with NEDA a day of awareness. Eating disorders are serious. It’s not just a really skinny kid who won’t eat. It’s a really skinny kid who won’t eat and is being held captive by lies they can’t overcome. And those lies can kill them. Eating disorders aren’t just anorexia. It includes over eating, binge eating, and more. If you know someone who might need help, contact NEDA, or your local doctor immediately.

Like the first doctor said when I first took Bridgette, completely unaware of what the problem could be, “We’re not playing in the sand. Get help now.” That doctor knew the signs well. Bridgette went in for an evaluation, was admitted to the hospital and didn’t come home for over two weeks.

St. Vincent’s Hospital – A welcomed visit today.

Bridgette took this picture at the hospital today. It was a place she hated and yet the staff there saved her life.

Praise God. He is the bread of life, but we have to eat bread, too!

Bridgette has her own blog about her eating disorder journey. You can find it at:

Bridgette and Goliath

 

My view when I walked in the door, and was greeted by our sweet receptionist with: "Do you like your new office?"

My view when I walked in the door, and was greeted by our sweet receptionist with: “Do you like your new office?”

I know that having a job isn’t a big deal to a lot of people. I know that there are good bosses, and corporations and companies that have wonderful work environments. I know having an office is standard for some. But I also know that there are a lot of people looking for work, or looking for a better job, or wishing they didn’t have to sit in a cubicle and listen to their neighbor on the phone or eating their lunch. I have been blessed. I have the great privilege of working at Atkinson Insurance Group, and every day, I really can’t believe it.

I don’t know why that is. I have been faithful and intentional and asked God for the right opportunity. But in truth, there was a nagging voice, with every resume I submitted and every interview I went to, that wondered how I would get a job that could satisfy so many of my personal needs. How would a 54 year old without a college degree and out of the work force for twenty years be granted a job that could satisfy a sense of purpose and provide a sufficient income? And, meet my logistical needs so that I could remain available for my son (and duh dogs)?

Yet, my personal needs have been met, and more. I’m heading into my fourth week on the job and continue to be intrigued by the insurance business. It keeps me engaged and captivated. Our work environment is friendly and respectful, and some days I eat better than my son does, because of some work function that brings in lunch. Last night I got home at 6:30 (that was rare, and it wasn’t because I was still at this job… I was working on a property that I’m managing). I asked Bradley if hash browns and eggs would be okay for dinner. I’d had Pizzicato pizza and salad for lunch, which isn’t fancy, but it wasn’t breakfast!

In the last twenty years I’ve made a lot of decisions. Every second, every day, we all make decisions. We decide what time we’ll get up and what time we’ll go to bed. Whether we’ll pray, read our bible, exercise, what we’ll eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or if we’ll eat the candy in the candy jar.  We choose church, or not. We choose to get drunk or remain sober. What job we’ll take and whether to go home after work, or accept an invitation to go out. We choose to retain a friendship, or distance ourselves. We choose to date, or not. Whether to marry, who to marry, whether to divorce and how to manage that. Some of our choices are easy, some are excruciatingly difficult. Our choices point us in one direction, and if it’s the wrong direction, we get to redirect ourselves with a choice that sets us in the right direction. Our choices are our own, and they all point us in a direction that gets us to one place, or another. And then there’s God.

This morning I had an out of the office training session. When I stepped in the office, I was greeted by our sweet receptionist, who stood and with her Vanna White arms directed my attention to my new office. The previous three weeks my co-worker and I had been sharing an office with two banquet tables. Even though I knew the office was imminent, I wasn’t prepared for the reality of it.

I took a picture and sent it to Bridgette and Bradley right away.

Bridgette sent me flowers. I wasn’t prepared for that, either.

I am grateful for more things than I can cite. Among them, for the ability to have made decisions along the way, the easy and hard, the good and the bad, that have led me to this place. I’ve had to redirect a million times, and God has been with me with every decision. Yet, I’m sorry God, because I still, really can’t believe it.

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The building where I work. It’s especially pretty early in the morning.

Yes, I took the State Insurance Exam on Friday.  After my last blog post it was determined that we would be taking the test for certain on Friday at 3:30. Both the other gal who was hired and myself were concerned about this, and our concern increased as the week went on. The pre-testing quizzes were taking us a lot of time between the site not cooperating and having to take the tests over until we passed. There were about 40 quizzes, about 8 of them had 50 questions each.

I can’t tell you how foreign the whole insurance vernacular was to me, and my comprehension was equally shallow.  So much seemed like legal jargon. Everything I read made me wonder what I was getting myself into. The quiz questions were complicated. “Johnny, an uninsured motorist, let Joni, an insured motorist, drive his car from Oregon to Kalamazoo, but before she left, he told her not to fill the tank with unleaded fuel. Joni hit a telephone pole when she was talking to Johnny on her cell phone to tell him that she forgot to use Premium gas. Joni also broke her wrist, and reported to the emergency room after the car was towed. Who is at fault and will insurance, if any, pay for Joni’s broken wrist and Johnny’s car?” For a literal thinker like myself my head spun in circles and triangles, all. week. long. The class we had taken the week before was directed solely at learning the material so we could pass the test. We weren’t allowed to ask questions, so we madly took notes, with little understanding of what the notes meant. I had to have faith that I would figure things out in the end. I had to ignore the little voice that didn’t believe it was possible. I had to eat more chocolate.

I had an ongoing QUESTIONS sheet of paper.  When we went over it with our boss the Thursday before the test, I had figured out the answer to most of the questions I’d written down. For example, I kept hearing the term, “a covered auto.” My literal thinking brain was working over time.  When I heard the term “a covered auto,” I figured that the auto was covered, as in a protective material or something. I envisioned an auto fitted nicely with a heavy fabric.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that a “covered auto,” is an auto that is covered by insurance. So passing the pre-exam quizzes that were stated like trickster questions was a long arduous process.

The test was at 3:30. I finished my pre-exam quizzes at 4pm the Wednesday before the test. That was a team effort between my co-worker and myself. Once those were done, that gave me only Wednesday night, Thursday, and Friday morning to read the 175 some pages of written notes and try to not only memorize and digest insurance: Property and Casualty, Auto, Homeowners, Ocean and Inland Marine, Workman’s Comp. I was frantic, barely taking a break to go to the bathroom, and when I did, I read my notes on the way to and from, and kept my notes in site while there. Multi-tasking at its finest. This week Bradley was on his own and there was no Farkle.

Friday at noon I picked my fellow employee up at her house.  One minute I was speaking words of peace and encouragement, the next minute she was comforting me. I wanted to cry; I wanted to be done. It wasn’t so much that I felt I had to pass to impress my boss. He was adamant that we shouldn’t stress about passing the first time, that it was common for people to take the test over. I simply wanted to pass so I could move on. I wanted to go to the bathroom unencumbered. I wanted to make a meal for Bradley and play Farkle. I didn’t want Bradley living with an absentee mom, present, but not really. I didn’t want to be a hermit behind an office door, with a singular focus.

My fellow employee and I got to the test site about 3 hours early to get finger printed and then to have lunch while we studied and put the finishing touches on our brains (thank you, boss). We wondered how we could possibly make a difference this late in the game. But we knew that we could pass or fail, by one question, and neither of us could bear the thought of that. I needed to pray before my test one last time. I wanted to pray in union with someone. It wouldn’t do to mutter a final prayer under my breath, so I muttered to Jesus that he would protect me from embarrassing either myself or my new friend, and I asked her if she had a faith. Her answer was longish but clear: She shared enough and I asked her if we could pray. As we drove back to the test site I asked aloud if God would reward us for our hard work, and that his will would be done, and that we would relieve ourselves of the pressure we had put on ourselves. AMEN.

I was surprised when I finished the test with an hour left. I had the opportunity to go back over my questions. With that much time left, I considered it, for fear that I was foolish not to. I went back about five questions, but then decided I wasn’t going to do it. I knew what I knew and that wasn’t going to change. Going back might sabotage my results. I hit the SEND button that indicated I was finished. The test calculated for a minute. I looked at the screen and saw the word PASS. I was stunned.  I bowed my head and thanked Jesus, truly in disbelief.

I walked out of the testing room, beaming.  The proctor congratulated me and showed me my results. I passed by O-N-E question. I am certain it was God’s hand that allowed me to pass it, by one question. Every second I shoved that information into my head paid off, but I know my heavenly father was looking out for me. He knows my limitations, and I was stretching them.

It was with great relief that my co-worker also passed. She passed by more than one. We had articulated our concern about one passing and one not. We were both thrilled to celebrate our successes with a quick drink. We went our separate ways; I went to the high school basketball game. My friends indulged me while I beamed and expressed myself gleefully.

Both kids are away at a church camp. Bradley’s a camper and Bridgette is serving. The weekend was mine. After church today I went to Ross Dress for Less to see if I could get a couple things for my work wardrobe. I really hate shopping. I love clothes, and I love to have clothes. But I don’t like the process of getting clothes.  But I couldn’t pass of up the sales. I ended up purchasing $189.00 worth of clothes (16 items!). I made it home in time for the end of the third quarter of the NFC Championship game. I’m so glad I stopped shopping when I did.

So… I have my Insurance license. I do understand what an umbrella policy is (we had one when I was married, but I didn’t understand it), I know what my deductible is, I know what Homeowners is, I understand the concept of Commercial General Liability…

Now, on to learning my job!