Adversity Is a Character Builder

It has been over a week since I have written anything here.
I am currently experiencing a state of zero energy, and brain fog. I think/hope it is a result of hypothyroidism, because if it is, and if I can get natural rather than synthetic thyroid medication, the problem will be solved, and boring health posts will be banished from the blog.
But since I started it, let’s just call this a biographical post, and I will briefly explain my challenges, because they are the foundation from which I have had to build my attitudes about adversity, and perseverance. This will not be my most interesting post, but I hope it gives you some insight to the way in which I have developed my philosophy for living.
When I was young, my Dad would always tell me that adversity is a character builder. I appreciate his words now more than ever, because I see these difficulties as strengthening agents, rather than impediments. So if you can slog through this post with me, I promise, there is a point I want to make by telling my story, and there will be something uplifting at the end.
Continue reading “Adversity Is a Character Builder”

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Darkness Be My Friend

Certain events stamp themselves in our memories, so that we never forget where we were when we heard the news. The day JFK was assassinated, the Challenger explosion, 9/11 . . . collective experiences shape the perspective from which the world will view events from that point forward. This is also true for personal experiences.
On a Wednesday afternoon in 1996, I went to the mall with a friend to buy a Christmas gift. I was twenty-two, college finals were finished, and I was looking forward to the holidays. The sun was warm for December, bright with a soft winter light. I noted how pretty it was, but I had no idea that it was the last “normal” light I would ever see.
Continue reading “Darkness Be My Friend”

Fun Friday

September 1978

 

I was four years old, and we were living in Schreveport. I don’t remember much about our little apartment, except that the short-term home my parents made for me there was a happy one. We would have “picnics”, which consisted of my Mom making plates of balogna sandwiches and barbecue chips, and instead of sitting at the table, we’d eat them sitting cross-legged on the living room floor. Maybe we talked about puppies. Maybe we talked about my “new baby brother.” I don’t know. All I know is that my Mom made something memorable out of the ordinary.

For his 27th birthday, my Dad got this record called “Let’s Get Small”, a comedy album by Steve Martin. One of my favorite things was, and still is, to hear my Daddy laugh, and he thought this record was hilarious. At four years old, I didn’t get the jokes, but they made my Daddy laugh, and that made me happy. Plus, Steve Martin had a happy, young, fun-sounding voice. Thirty-five years later, I can still see sun splashing through the big glass patio doors and windows, making everything bright, and hear Steve Martin’s banjo playing “Ramblin’ Guy” and my Daddy laughing.

Sometimes, Dad would make popcorn, the “real” off-the-stove kind, (no microwave for us back then!). Or, every now and then, he’d make fudge. We’d sit up and watch a movie, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, AND . . . we COULD STAY UP TIL MIDNIGHT!!!!!!!! We could stay up til THE TV WENT OFF! You’d see a Wendy’s commercial or something, then the Star Spangled Banner would play, and the television stations would go off the air. Staying up that late was HUGE to a four-year-old.

I didn’t know it then, but we had virtually nothing, in the way of money. Some kids might have grown up in fancy houses, but I say this with 100% certainty, NONE were happier than me!

Happiness comes in many forms, and you never know which memories will last a lifetime for a kid. You don’t have to be rich, or have a P.H.D., to give a kid the world.

Have a fun Friday, everyone!

No Shame In My Game: On Guilt and Blindness

We may have been at a museum, or maybe it was a park.
I don’t remember the location, but I will never forget the realization. I was with my parents, and younger brother. My Dad was describing something to me, and as my nine-year-old-girl mind contrasted that with the shouts and laughter from the other families, I suddenly realized a terrible thing!
My family, the best family in the world, couldn’t have fun like everyone else. They couldn’t have fun, because they had to stop and describe things to me. I was slowing them down.
I was keeping them from enjoying things.
It made my stomach hurt.
It made me want to cry. Continue reading “No Shame In My Game: On Guilt and Blindness”

Epilepsy: My Story

You are imprisoned. Your captors are known for their cruelty. You are in an unfamiliar land, far from anyone who will help you. Worse yet, your family and best friends are imprisoned, separated from you. Finally, a guard tauntingly tells you a thing you’ve been dreading more than your own fate. Tomorrow at eight A.M., fourteen hours from now, your loved ones will be tortured and killed in front of you. The floor drops out from beneath you, then rises up, spinning, catapulting you into a hateful whirlpool of nausea. You are freezing, but you are sweating. You have never felt so completely abandoned, even by God. Satan has never felt so close. It feels as if someone takes every memory and thought you’ve ever had out of your head, dumps them on the floor, then throws them back into your head in a jumbled mess. Nothing is familiar, and yet you have been through this before. After a few hours, you are physically exhausted. Finally, you accept that there is absolutely nothing more you can do to escape or help your loved ones. Continue reading “Epilepsy: My Story”

The Front Porch

Welcome to my front porch.

Sit a while, have a glass of sweet tea, or a bite to eat, and I will tell you a little about myself.

My name is Jena.

When I was a little girl, hay and honeysuckle were the scents I loved, and the sound of mockingbirds was my symphony. In my little hometown in east Texas, I sold Girl Scout cookies, took ballet and gymnastics, played a cow in the Christmas pageant at church, and had amazing birthday parties. I went through an awkward preteen stage, but it all worked out. In high school, I played drums in the marching band, acted as class President, stressed over SAT scores, and even won Band Sweetheart. A fortress of loving family supported me through all of it. I grew up sweet and slow, in a town filled with good people.

I went to college, got a cool apartment, and thought I knew a lot more than I did. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, but I had a lot of fun along the way. Later, I met my best friends, walked a half marathon, read a lot of books, and wrote some as-yet-unpublished novels to pass the time.

These days, I adore animals, including skunks and snakes. I am slightly obsessed with the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I will watch football for twelve hours straight, and baseball doubleheaders for as long as they last. Diet Coke is my oxygen! I love exercise, once i can get myself into it, and swimming is my favorite outdoor activity. Sometimes, I do stupid hilarious things that make my friends love me even more, and sometimes I give everything I have and don’t succeed. In other words, I am normal, quirky, imperfect, and occasionally amazing.

I have been blind since shortly after birth. It’s inconvenient on occasion, but otherwise, no big deal. I have a severe sleep disorder called Non 24, which is a result of my inability to see light. That challenge is much more difficult, because it disrupts my life on a regular basis. I also have temporal lobe epilepsy, and although my seizures are infrequent, they are the greatest hurdle for me where my health is concerned. In short, I am no stranger to adversity.

Even so, I love my life, and I feel blessed! My parents and grandparents taught me to see the world through a lens of optimism, to view unfairness or hardship as a challenge rather than an end, and most of all, to be grateful, for things big and small. My younger brother taught me that blindness made no difference, by treating me normally. My uncles taught me to laugh. My friends taught me about grace, dignity, and selflessness. If I am a good person, it is because every person in my life played a part in making me who I am today.

There is still so much I want to do.  I want to visit Scotland, see animals in Australia, become a life coach, try scuba diving, and a million other things. I hope I can share my vision of the world with you, make you smile, and leave you glad that you read this blog.

Come by any time.

I will be out here on the porch swing, writing and dreaming.