Hidden Dome: The Soul of Durham

Anticipation leaked under cool blue skies

And feet crunched fallen leaves.

Roads whined sweet tunes of time

And age freed leaning trees.

What to make

Of this place not known;

This hidden dome—

Where nature says, “Move slow.”

 

People passing people with each step

And some stop to chatter.

Arms linking arms to keep warm

And some break for laughter.

Who are they?

These strange strangers?

The souls of this painted picture?

 

Destination reached under darkened skies

And mouths kissed mugs and glasses.

Taxis blurred through city lights

And chips lifted drunken masses.

What to make

Of this place not known;

This hidden dome—

Where evening says, “Let go.”

 

People passing people with each step

And some stop to chatter.

Arms linking arms to keep warm

And some break for laughter.

Who are they?

These strange strangers?

The souls of this painted picture?

————————————————————————–

I wrote the poem above as an ode to Durham, England where I once had the privilege to live. The moments I spent venturing through the city shops or jogging along River Wear made me feel I belonged among the carefully placed paint strokes compromising the scenic landscape. Not only does Durham lend truth to the idea of a tight knit community, but the community itself afforded me with an opportunity to meet English locals and some of the most intelligent people from around the world (some being English locals).

During the day, students of all cultures and backgrounds would intermingle up and down the cobblestone streets. The level of anticipation they shared to take part in lectures, and countless hours spent in the library researching their various topics of study, infected the air and you would find yourself beginning to wonder what you’d been doing with your life! The pure beauty of lush green fields and colorful leaves reflected the glory of autumn in to the winding rivers. The worn stone buildings stood strong with rich ivy leaves curling around the window frames. The bridges carried its travelers from Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle to homes lining the curvy streets. Years and years of rain and wind blackened the bridges’ ledges and green moss peaked through their cement foundations—all to remind you of the first forward thinking minds who crossed the same rivers centuries ago; the first to commit to challenging the known and discovering the unknown.

During the weekend nights, locals grouped together in pubs, dance clubs, and fish & chip shops (to soak up the alcohol of course–which is why I say “chips lifted drunken masses”). Students huddled together on weekend nights to enjoy a couple drinks as well. However, most students were spotted on weekday evenings around Durham’s City Centre. Wednesdays, for example, were considered “sports night.” The institution’s sport’s teams crowded in buses to compete in Badminton, Cricket, Fencing, Lacrosse, Hockey, and other common sports played throughout the U.K. Win or lose, the teams headed straight from their buses, courts, and fields to buy a pint (or five).

Begging the question, “Who are they? These strange strangers? The souls of this painted picture?” represented my quest to connect with strangers of a new country at that time in my life. My curiosity toward the differences marked by the students’ and locals’ upbringings, and how these differences contributed to the painting of Durham, England, posed more weight on the idea of “soul” then it ever had before. “Soul” took on a double ant antra. Like myself, all beings I encountered in Durham contained souls. They were full of life! Yet, all the souls found throughout the city today and once long ago, gave the city its own unforgettable identity. The souls created the soul of Durham City! Despite the beauty of the scenery and the history of the city, without the people there would not be a heart to the body of such a glorious place. Nor a painter, to apply its paint strokes.

Thank you for reading!

With love,

Kelseywithsomejo ❤

A Little Bit of Love and Wisdom

Desires

Written by Thomas E. McKay:

A philosopher was accustomed to going out into the hills and woods to study the laws of nature. After spending a day in such study, he would return to his village at night, where he would gather his people around him and instruct them in the lessons which he had learned.

One day one of his friends came to him saying, “Will you please bring me a hawthorn twig when you come back, that I can study the lesson you gave last week from that tree?”

“Yes,” the philosopher said, “I will bring you the twig tonight.”

The second one of his friends that morning said, “Will you bring me a rose, that I may study concerning the lecture you gave last evening?”

“Yes, I’ll bring you the rose.”

And just before the philosopher went through the gate of the town that morning, a third friend said, “Will you bring me a lily that I might study the lesson of purity you gave last evening?”

The philosopher promised to bring the lily.

In the evening about sundown when the old philosopher returned to the village, the three friends were waiting at the gate to welcome him.

To the first he gave the hawthorn twig; to the second he gave the rose; and to the third he gave the lily.

Suddenly the man with the hawthorn twig cried, “Here is a dead leaf on the stem of my hawthorn twig!”

The second said, “Here is a thorn on the stem of my rose!”

And the third one cried, “Here is dirt on the roots of my lily!”

“Let me see,” said the philosopher.

From the first he took the hawthorn twig; from the second he took the rose; and from the third he took the lily.

He plucked the dead leaf from the hawthorn twig and gave it to the first friend. He plucked the thorn from the rose and gave it to the second. He took the dirt from the roots of the lily and put it into the hands of the third.

Holding the hawthorn twig, the rose, and the lily, he said: “Now, each of you has what attracted you first. You looked for the dead leaf, and you found it. You looked for the thorn; it was there. You found the dirt of the lily because I left it on the roots. You may keep what attracted you first. I will keep the hawthorn twig, the lily, and the rose, for the beauty I see in them.”

We find in this world just about what we are looking for. If we look for dirt and sordid things, we can find them; or if we look for mistakes in others we can find them also.

If we look for the good and the beautiful, the good and the beautiful will return to us.

–Excerpt from Albert L. Zobell, Jr.’s compilation, “Storyteller’s Scrapbook”

With Love,

Kelsey With Some Jo ❤

My Problem with Black Lives Matter

Some call me white girl;

Light skinned; mulatto.

Others aren’t so nice–they tell me,

“I’m wanna be black,

But don’t talk, don’t act.”

 

When I was younger,

My defense would go:

“My skin’s light, but my daddy’s black.

My brother is black.

My grandpa is too.

 

My knees get ashy.

My hair gets frizzy.

Behind me, you’ll find a booty.

And my black daddy

Gots baby mommies.”

 

Why is it these things

Defend my black pride?

Who gets to define true black life?

Black culture is real;

Exclusive; not white.

 

My mixed brother once

Told our white mommy,

“You aren’t my mom because you’re white.

I am full black so

How can I be white?”

 

Why did my brother

Feel white made him lack?

Was it because he’s called white boy;

Light skinned; not full black?

Shame–led his attack?

 

Or was it because

Of all the cracked jokes

Implying we act certain ways

If we wish to be

Part of the black race?

 

We all see the hurt.

We all hear the fear.

But may we recognize that skin

Shouldn’t define life

Or level of pride.

 

Black lives matter!

Indeed, they do.

So why does our

Black life only matter,

When we’re as black as you?

 

Now you see why

“Black Lives Matter”

Is a movement

Challenging to accept–

My black life’s lost; ersatz.

 

Dr. King knew

The solution:

Education

Gives power, acceptance

Shows love–the real answer.

 

Thank you for reading.

With love,

-KelseyWithSomeJo ❤

Watch the video of me reciting my poem here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYWcXzyBTGA&feature=youtu.be

 

Transforming the Past

“The past is the past.” They say, “Bury the past. Don’t look back, look forward.”

Three AM I lay asleep in my bed. I hear someone coming down the stairs and talking in a hushed tone. My stepfather cheating on my mom, talking to his mistress. I choose not to tell my mom. I try to forget it happened.

San Diego, 2005–I am on vacation with my dad and my older brother. My first time seeing the ocean, its vastness makes me feel for once I am not alone. God must be real to create something so large, open, and free. My dad disappears one night with a woman, my brother and I passed out in the back of the Range Rover parked on the beach. When we return home to Utah his girlfriend questions me. I tell the truth. My dad is disappointed. He yells at me. I know he is embarrassed. I ask for forgiveness and we bury the past.

I talk to my grandma about my pain, she tells me I can have enough faith to move a mountain. I believe her. The summer before I start high school she discovers she has one of those incurable diseases…Stage 4 Uterine Cancer. She refuses Chemo and we visit her regularly for the last four months of her life. The last day of her life, we gather together around her bedside. God wanted us there as she took her last breath. I laid next to her and told her I loved her. I witnessed her give her precious spirit willingly to the unseen place where a soul finds rest. She died on June 25th, 2010. On this day, I learn life has purpose, but I resent God for using these terms to teach me. I put the lesson behind me.

I wake my younger brothers up (on my mom’s side) on a weekday morning for school. I help them get dressed, pour their cereal, then the milk, finally sending them out the door at 7:30AM sharp. Successful people are on time, I tell myself, My brothers will be successful, they will break the odds. My brother born after me, my mom’s second oldest, struggles with Tourrets and OCD. At 13-years-old his teacher tells him he will never amount to anything because he is a jerk. That night, we stay up laughing and talking about Grandma and Uncle Jeff (who shortly died after my grandmother due to prescription pill abuse), I tell him not to believe his teacher. We move passed it.

My mom is going through her first divorce. I am in my room when I hear something shatter. I rush upstairs to find a broken bowl–its pieces scattered across the kitchen floor. My mom is crying and refuses anyone’s help cleaning up the glass fragments. She’s now a single mother again and has reverted back to the mentality of survival, showing no weakness, no emotion. Until something breaks, and then she does too. I cry with her, begging God or whoever is in charge to make her suffering go away. I want to provide relief. But just like she refuses to let me rid the shards of glass from the floor, she refuses to let me rid the shards of glass from her heart. I go to my room, consumed by thoughts of how I can be a better daughter, soon I fall asleep. The next day is as if nothing happened. She buries the past.

I sit in Sunday School, a year following my choice to be baptized and confirmed a member of the LDS faith. I am eleven-years-old. Being at church makes me happy. I memorize all the last names of the families who attend every week, families with cohesion, function, normality. The lesson is on repentance. “Everyday,” our leader tells us, “you sin. God remembers all of your unrepented sins, even the ones that seem insignificant, and you will too when you stand before him.” The wheels turn in my mind and I ask if we should write down all of our sins to remember what to repent for at the end of the day. She tells me I am right to keep a record and to do whatever it takes to make it back to God. I keep a list of my sins. I keep a list of my family’s sins. I keep a list of the world’s sins. Later on in life I will look back at this way of living and use it as fuel to my fire to find true compassion.

Despite the imperfections of the LDS faith, there is a scripture in the Book of Mormon I know to be true:

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” -Ether 12:27

There is darkness in our world and many people see “dwelling” on the past as unhealthy or counter-productive, but I share these experiences to show examples of inconceivable heartache being transformed in to pure grit and strength.

Every single one of us have weak things God is waiting to make strong. We show God our vulnerability by living imperfect lives and making destructive decisions. Sometimes we don’t understand our desire to choose something contrary to the benefit of our lives, decisions directly effecting our loved ones. We’re influenced by others, by our pasts, by false perceptions and lies, by pride and selfishness. Yet, without weakness, we cannot be made strong.

Dig deep to find yourself. Sometimes you might take a risk and the result may appear to not work out in your favor. But risk is always in our favor. When you take risks, the outcome will force you out of your comfort zone and lead you to discover your truest self, to discover your heart’s rawest desires. (Even if it hurts at first, the end result is worth it.)

You cannot love someone if you do not love yourself. You cannot love yourself if you do not accept who you are. You cannot accept who you are until you know who you are.

All the hate we harbor for past decisions, regrets that linger in the back of our minds, resentment towards our trespassers, self-pity…it must be expunged and replaced with love for our past, gratitude in the back of our minds, forgiveness towards our trespassers, self-worth.

We all suffer, we all laugh and rejoice. I believe God gave us families, friends, and communities so we could provide one another with consolation. I am 20-years-old with few answers to infinite amounts of problems. But answers or no answers, until the day God wills my heart to stop beating, I will not stop fighting to console the distress of others or my own.

Let’s not bury our past, let’s bury our hostility and instead, let’s discover new ways to use our past to find resilience–to create a brighter future.

To those out there fighting the battle of coming to terms with distant griefs and unhealed wounds of what used to be, you don’t have to force yourself to let those things go. They are beautiful because they made you who you are, they are beautiful because you lived through them.

New perspectives, more love…

-KelseyWithSomeJo

 

 

 

 

Only the Paranoid Survive: Breaking Free of Complacency

“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” -Andy (Andrew) Grove

Andy Grove

Andy Grove could not have said the above any better and the life he lived adds even more to the quote’s credibility and accuracy.

Andy died this past March of 2016. He lived a life of learning and was a philanthropist at heart. Some of you may recognize his name from being one of the founders and CEO for Intel Corporation.  His life story consists of nothing but inimical, external pressures, the exact pressure needed to create a diamond. The kind of pressure that reveals so beautifully the misplacement of complacency in the human heart and mind.

Born in Hungary during World War II to a Jewish family, him and his mother took on fake identities to avoid being sent to Auschwitz. Due to the predisposition of his birth, and its time and location, the harsh reality of inferiority and hate swirled around him. (In 1944 nearly 440,000 Jews were deported from Hungary to concentration camps in as little as two months [1]. Andy lived in Budapest, Hungary from his birth of 1936 through 1956. No wonder he believed only the paranoid survive!)

Andy escaped to the United States at 20 years old and arrived destitute. He barely spoke English and worked as a busboy while he attended City College of New York for Chemical Engineering (anyone who gets a degree in Chemical Engineering is genius in my book). He later went on to earn his PhD from UC Berkley and soon after assisted in creating Intel [2].

Admittedly it’s hard not to love a “rags to riches” story, but this is more than that! Andy was forced to take risks and step outside of what he knew, complacency had no place in his life because it was not an option. Trials can be unbearable, but if anything they challenge us to always be doing more, working harder: we need struggle, we need opposition.

“Success breeds complacency.”

I love the first line of this quote. Success is not always temporary, but its effects are. The success of receiving a college degree, dropping 20 pounds, being promoted to a higher positon at work, earning a bonus to buy a new car–it all feels great at first and then with time what happens? WE GET BORED. What happens when we get bored–we become grumpy, depressed, and displaced.

Of course we want to strive to have successes like the ones I listed above. Yet the skewed belief still remains commonplace in the world that if you work hard enough to get the degree or pay raise or (insert the blank), you will have “made it” and no longer need to continue to strive for something greater. Lies!

First, every single person reading this right now CAN do things you NEVER imagined yourself doing. I know.

Second, God created you to be a creature who desires spiritual/intellectual nourishment, an appetite for knowledge. Inside you are talents waiting to be exploited and shared with the world, talents reposed in the fibers of what makes you special. You are special.

Let’s get down to the truth (sorry to any of my O-Town friends reading this right now), but my hometown of Ogden, Utah is a bubble. A majority of the people are complacent. People settle and they are unhappy. Yet, the worst part of growing up in a bubble is how many complacent adults would make the idea of doing something greater than the expectation seem complex or extremely tedious. Guess what? You want to become someone, you want to do something with your life? Then do it. Nothing is complex about it! When you put forth some effort, set some goals for yourself, and have faith in your mission, you will find it is actual quite simple. It is actual quite natural.

“Complacency breeds failure.”

I once had someone tell me “you never fail until you give up.” Complacency is giving up. You aren’t trying to do anything–you are doing nothing.

Who truly desires to become a failure? No one. If you think failure is for you, then message me and I will tell you all the reasons why you are wrong. I am only speaking from my heart to the heart of my readers. I know how hard it is to find joy, peace, and fulfillment when you choose to be complacent and I also know complacency is a choice. Think bigger, aim higher.

When my husband and I first moved away from “our bubble” to San Diego it was new, exciting and especially challenging. Miles away my family laughed and shared new memories without me. Not to mention, as we waited for our apartment to be ready for move-in, we lived in about 6 different places in the span of 2 weeks, lugging our stuff to and from various hotels. One time we stayed in the solar technicians’ apartment. The place reeked of pee and alcohol, but it taught me to be grateful, no matter the condition, when you have a roof over your head–to many in the world a safe place to rest your head at night is considered a luxury.

Bills started becoming a normal thing (not to mention the crazy high electric bill out there–on some BS). It was a struggle and then it got easier and soon we were bored. So we moved to NYC and said bring on the next chapter!

Point of the story is: many parts of who I am today are greatly due to the experiences I had in Cali, I claimed many new successes I never even thought of seeking, I never even knew existed.

Not everyone needs to move somewhere new to take off the twenty-pound backpack filled with demotivation, dissatisfaction, and time wasted. If a twenty-pound backpack sits atop your shoulders and is getting heavy, take it off for a sec. See how you feel and do what feels natural. Maybe you run a little, do a dance, explore a new path. Challenge yourself, prove yourself right. Then do it again.

“Only the paranoid survive.”

Pretty sure if weed was legal on a federal level more people would be surviving! Haha! 🙂

Much can be found in between the lines of this brilliant saying…I recently read many interpretations on what Andy Grove meant by his profound statement, each one unique. Take away your own interpretation, maybe even share it with a friend.

To me, paranoia is a feeling associated with discomfort. It is a feeling of threat. Typically when we do not feel comfortable or threatened, it gives us reason to move–do something–change the game!

“Some of us have had plenty of practice developing and accepting behaviors that keep us complacent, bored with life, completely mediocre, and mentally defeated, which can deteriorate our ability to thrive.” -Rhona “Rho” Bennett

If we assume “striving” is the same as “thriving” we can see similarities to what both Andy and Rho are trying to tell us.

Maybe only those who are constantly on their guard, preparing their minds, accentuating their strengths, accepting of their frailties, refusing to trust others who hinder their development, will be the ones to survive in the end. The ones who thrive; prosper; flourish.

Just remember, the choice is up to you. You choose whether or not you want to rid the extra weight…

Much love,

KelseyWithSomeJo ❤

Citations:

[1]: Information acquired from United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s official website: https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005458

[2]: Exact names and dates pertaining to Andy Grove’s life were taken from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Grove

Forging A New Path: Why I Left the LDS Church

“A life lived in fear is a life half lived.” -Anonymous

I never thought I would be sitting here feeling, thinking, and experiencing what I am at this very moment. It is an odd feeling–one of which I may not even be able to explain. After all, it’s not everyday that God leads you to discover a new profound truth relating to life, love, and overall purpose. It is a discovery that has taken everything I thought I knew and flipped it upside down entirely. A discovery that has done none else, but set me free.

My Story in a Nutshell

When I was ten years old I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Up until high school, I devoted all of my time and energy to being a member of the LDS faith. I attended girl’s camp, trek, youth conference, general conference, temple open houses, seminary, you name it! At fourteen years old I prepared for and received my patriarchal blessing. Make no mistake, I was a devout Mormon. And I loved it! I look back at all of the memories I created and the people who entered my life through my church involvement and my heart fills with warmth. What a blessing it was to belong to the LDS church as a youth, my involvement is something I will always cherish.

Before I started high school, my grandmother passed in my arms from Uterine Cancer. Losing her led me to question the realness of God and Jesus Christ. I soon wondered if they really cared for and loved me. My doubts and the confusion of high school (who I was, where I was going, and of course boys) was just enough to push me to rebel in my own little way. I turned my back on God and decided to do things my own way. Well, let’s just say I learned the hard way how much heartache can come from turning your back on such a loving and gracious God. I became bitter, selfish, lost, and all in all sad.

When I started college at Weber State, I met Skylar Northrop–the man I now have the privilege of calling my husband. Just as I started to fall prey to destructive behavior and thinking,  he threw me a rope and pulled me to safety. As we fell in love and grew closer to one another, I began to realize how big of a part God had played in his coming to my rescue. We were later married and sealed in the temple. The end of this month will mark two years of marriage and up until now, we had been active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The Awakening

My decision to walk away from the church really was an awakening. God opened up my eyes. I don’t really know how, he just sort of did. It was as if for the first time I was seeing life in color and the heavy rock that sat on top of my heart was lifted away. I felt as if he was saying, “It’s okay, you don’t have to be afraid anymore. Love surpasses all and I love you.”  My thoughts, reasons, and justifications to being a Mormon no longer made sense and quite frankly it scared the hell out of me.

It all started as I sat in sacrament meeting. I was in a sour mood and kept asking myself “Why do I feel this way? Why? Why?” I looked around me and for the first time ever, realized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was turning me into someone I did not like. Images of decisions, experiences, and people from my time as a member at ten years old to the time at present I sat in the Brooklyn, New York chapel, flashed through my mind. I perceived for the first time that somehow I had ended up in a place so far off from the mark I had originally set out to reach.

Critical and Fearful

First, I perceived how much criticism and judgement had become second nature to me. I often, really everyday, worried and fretted over the salvation of every person I knew or met who did not belong to the LDS church or who once did. My thought process would go something like this, He or she is such a great person, but if only he or she would do this or this to be better. If only he or she could see how much happier they could be with the church in their life. I care too much about him or her to think of how much regret they will have after they die because they chose not to live up to the standards outlined by the church. 

Of course I was overly critical of myself too. Honestly, I am convinced it is nearly impossible not to be critical of one self when you are thinking such critical thoughts towards just about everyone around you. As my condemning feelings persisted, I began to fear the consequences of my own thoughts and actions, no matter how big or small. Rarely was anything I chose to do, say, or think taken with a grain of salt. I would think to myself, If you listen to that song, then you won’t be living up to your potential as a Latter Day Saint. If you listen to that song, then the Holy Ghost will leave you and you will never know if you were meant to feel a prompting. If you listen to that song, then you may lose a blessing. Criticism and judgement consumed me.

Soon, my marriage began to suffer. I viewed myself as more spiritual than my husband because I had the grit to not swear after someone cut me off while I was driving or to “not listen to that song.” I feared what might happen or not happen to us if we chose anything inconsistent with the Church’s standards. I grew angry and disappointed in him if he chose to do something we had been warned against as outlined in The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet or in a general conference talk. I also grew angry and disappointed in myself whenever I made a choice contrary to these standards. I then fought to redeem my “mistake” through placing my value and worth above those around me. I felt angry and disappointed, but most of all, I felt afraid.

It hit me with the force of one thousand bricks being dumped on my head. I was choosing to be Mormon, because I was afraid. I was afraid what the next life had in store for me if I didn’t do my best to be as good of a Latter Day Saint as I could be. I was afraid of the consequences of not upholding every covenant I made in the temple or at baptism. I was afraid God would not bless us or that things would not go smoothly if we did not do everything by the book. I was afraid if I chose to not be a Mormon that somehow I would miss out on something and would not be happy. I was afraid if I went in a different direction (not one that led me away from God or Jesus Christ), but one that did not meet the church’s standards, I would end up wanting to cover myself with rocks and mountains to hide myself from God because of shame, as it says in the scriptures. I was afraid, I would regret my decision. Truthfully, I am still afraid. But my awakening and God’s goodness makes me less fearful day by day.

New Direction

There is no doubt in my mind that God and Jesus Christ are real. The Lord died for me, you, and all of us so that we could become better people. If we choose to let him, he can act as a guide to help us progress and gain feelings of love and acceptance for all people. These truths are at the core of my beliefs. Good principles and eternal truths can be found in all religions, but the frailties of men can be found in all religions also. I know some incredible individuals who belong to the LDS faith. They are people I will always love and look up to because of their selfless and loving hearts. The LDS church is so right for some people, but for others it may not be and that is okay. Either way, Mormon or not, God loves us all equally.

During a general conference talk, an elder of the LDS church mentioned that where we end up in heaven will be exactly where we want to be and exactly what we will be comfortable with. So, if obtaining the highest degree of heaven or glory in the next life is contingent upon being a member of the church and sealed in the temple, as believed by the LDS faith, then I don’t think I would feel comfortable being there. Because fate so has it that I belong to a family with all half-siblings belonging to different moms and dads and I want to be where they will be. I want to be where Mother Teresa will be or Bob Marley. That is truly where I will be the most happy.

And that is why my husband and I left the church. Its standards left us feeling empty and never fully satisfied with ourselves. Its standards were not bringing out the best in us or even making us happy. Like I said before, everyone is different, so I am sure others feel the church does the opposite for them. And that is fantastic! I am glad. It’s hard to swallow the thought that choosing to not be a member of the LDS church, but choosing to lead a life of service and love, will result in not returning to live with God. And so, I am staying true to my heart in believing that it is hard to swallow, because it is not true.

My husband refers to our new direction as “forging a new path.” That’s what we’re doing. God is guiding us and helping us find out how to do that exactly, but we are happier than we could ever imagine. We feel connected to those around us, each other, and most of all God by our shift in direction. His presence is there and so is his love, but the pressure to be people we are not has faded.

Love is my religion.

God bless,

Kelsey With Some Jo ❤

P.S. My dad shared a remarkable story with me yesterday about a woman who died and came back to life named Cassie Dimento. Her story is truly remarkable and you can read more about it here: http://cassiedimento.com/ Anyway, she wrote a poem about her experience in heaven called Timeless I thought would be fitting to share. Read it and just see how it makes you feel… ❤

Timeless

I begged, I pleaded,
I cried out. So much fight!
So determined, so hopeful,
Closing my eyes to the light.

Not wanting to be tempted
By what I might see,
I could hear His voice,
He was talking to me!

Blind in the darkness
Explosive visions appear
My entire life revealed
Year after year.

Time does not pass
In heaven as on earth
A lifetime of memories
Played out since birth

In what seemed like a second
As quick as a flash
Knowledge imparted
In my mind with a crash.

Suddenly,
Innately aware
I entered the souls
Of the 5 children I share.

No words could do justice
The things that I saw
The love in their hearts,
The crosses they bore.

I had full understanding
Of the present and past.
The effect on their future
My absence and presence might cast.
I also saw clearly
Through other’s eyes
My actions and words,
How I affected their lives.

God did not judge
He left that to me.
Then He forgave my sins
And set my soul free.

It was then that I felt
The most beautiful light.
It warmed me all over
Pure love shone bright!

But I pleaded, I begged,
I gave it my all.
Please let me go back?
I started to fall.

From out of the darkness
and away from the light
A glorious meadow appeared
I regained my sight.

The colors were vivid,
In the most amazing way,
Bales of hay formed a cross
On which my body did lay.

Warmed by peace,
Overwhelmed with love
The light engulfed me
in heaven above.

I returned to my body
Completely aware and awake.
Undeniably real,
The experience I take.

I know now what awaits me
At the true end of the day.
Heaven is filled with love
In the most glorious way.

But I begged, I pleaded,
I cried out. So much fight
To go back to my family
And to hold each of you tight.

I thank God each day
for giving me my life,
For one more I love you
As your mother and wife.

My faith in God
Gave me the glasses to see
The path He has mapped
Especially for me.
My love for my family,
My family alone
Gave me the strength
And brought me home.

What People Don’t Understand: Living with an Autoimmune Disease

30 minutes. A lot can be accomplished in 30 minutes. You could take a shower, read some of that book you never get around to reading, watch an almost full episode of your favorite show on Netflix (Parks and Rec. if you’re me), go for a quick jog, call your friend, whip up a batch of cookies, catch up on the stats from last night’s game, and the list goes on. So believe me when I say spending 30 minutes determined to open a can of tomatoes “can” be quite frustrating–to say the least. So frustrating and debilitating that when I pulled out the cans of tomatoes required for my recipe, I literally started the task with a pep talk. It went a little something like this:

“Okay you cans of tomatoes, listen up. I need you and you need me. You want out of that can and I want you in this oh so delicious soup. Please, don’t be difficult like the can of corn I tried to open the other day. Be better than the corn.”

Yet there I stood–30 minutes later–with a handheld can opener in one hand and a large knife in the other. The recipe required three cans of tomatoes and I had opened two. At this point my determination had turned into indignation. Beads of sweat glistened along my forehead, chunks of tomatoes were splattered across my face and along the wall, tomato juices clung to my frizzy curls, all I could see was red. I laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation and then cried for the same reason. I kicked the cabinet below me and slammed the can against the countertop. I walked out of the kitchen and into the hall–took a moment, took a breathe. I prayed. I screamed.

Opening a can of tomatoes is no joke.

And that’s what people don’t understand. When it comes to being the culprit of Rheumatoid Arthritis or any autoimmune disease affecting the functions of the joints, meeting the demands of the simple tasks performed as we go throughout our daily routines becomes seemingly impossible and requires a greater deal of energy and attention. Living life, to the most basic degree, becomes a diurnal hurdle.

People hardly ever give notice to the execution of the daily chores life requires them to fulfill. They are known only as minuscule, monotonous undertakings completed yesterday, today, and eventually tomorrow. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you actually took the time to stop and think about your hand turning the key to start your car? Or the way you hold the pen or pencil you use? What about buttoning your blouse? Tying your shoe? Placing the hair tie around your ponytail? Holding the razor to shave your legs or you beard? Pulling your pants up after you go to the bathroom? Twisting a door knob? Shaking someone’s hand? Putting your shoes on your feet? Using your arm to prop up your head? Unscrewing the cap off of a water bottle? Washing your hair? Opening a window? Getting the itch right behind your shoulder? Walking down those stairs you walk down everyday? Lifting the lid off of a container? Unbuckling the straps of a car seat for a small child? Removing your wedding ring before you wash your hands? Opening a can of tomatoes?

We–the victims of swollen hands, fat toes, popping knees, shoulders that carry around invisible 50 pound backpacks, and other torments from joint inflammation–think about these things EVERYDAY. We fear them. We despise them. We wish they would go away. Behind every shoe we tie, hand we shake, etc. there lies pain and with that pain, the utmost amount of vexation.

Autoimmune diseases are real. Thousands of people face them every minute of everyday. According to cdc.gov, an estimated 52.5 million adults in the United States were told by a doctor that they have some form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia. An even staggering statistic, an estimated 294,000 children under age 18 have some form of arthritis or rheumatic condition; this represents approximately 1 in every 250 children in the U.S.

So, to my readers out there experiencing similar physical tribulations, I understand what you’re going through. I hear your silent cries. Hang in there. Remember, everything has purpose and the Lord loves you. You can always draw on him for strength.

And to my readers blessed with bodies free from inflammation and a broken immune system, next time you meet someone who says their hands hurt them or run into a friend you know with arthritis or a similar condition, I hope you will stop and think about what they may be feeling. I hope you will hug them and remind them how much you care about them. You may not know exactly what we are experiencing, but sympathizing can still speak wonders. There is no cure for arthritis in its many forms, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia. However, I believe and am convinced love cures just about anything and everything. Please, be grateful for the body God has blessed you with. Take advantage of your mobility! After all, the last time you opened a can was probably done with little effort and scarcely any thought and that, ladies and gents, is a blessing in and of itself. ❤

With love,

Kelsey With Some Jo

Dropping Desks: From West to East Coast

Ever since I moved to New York City regular phone calls to my parents are something I look forward to. Often times we find ourselves scanning through the flood of experiences and happenings that make up our everyday lives. During a recent phone call with my dad, he shared a light hearted comment made by a friend of his regarding New York City and its customs. The comment was this, “New York will beat you down and then drop a desk on you.”

This statement got me thinking. February will mark the six month my husband and I will have called New York City (Brooklyn to be exact) home. I thought of the transition from west coast to east coast, the expenses of living in the big apple, and everything else that has come along with our new residence. I asked myself, “Has New York beat me down and dropped a desk on me?” Well the answer came immediately…heck yeah it has. But as I started listing off the evidence of this claim I soon made a beautiful discovery. Being beat down and having a desk dropped on you can be a blessing in disguise, and for us that’s exactly what it was.

The Beat Down

Traffic lights, one way streets, street sweeping, parking meters, fire hydrants, parallel parking, people, more people–oh and did I say PEOPLE? Whenever you watch movies or shows based in NYC you see loads of people walking the streets, riding the subway, and out and about. I guess I thought because of how many people commute, owning two cars in a city like this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. WRONG. Our first beat down came with the unprecedented shower of orange tickets waiting happily under our windshield wipers.

Parking a car in New York City =Nightmare. Parking two cars in New York City=Death.

The list of restrictions for parking went on and on: Metered Parking here, No Parking there (only during certain times of the day of course), no parking within a fifteen feet radius of a fire hydrant (FIRE HYDRANTS ARE EVERYWHERE), Tow Away Zone, and my personal favorite, No Standing Anytime–the worst sign invented. It basically is saying your car is a person and cannot “stand” anytime where this sign is present. Oh you didn’t know cars could stand? Well prepare to be mind blown because they can. Yeah let’s just say we paid roughly $500 in parking tickets within our first month of living here. Matter of fact, I recall one day in particular my husband was ticketed $115 twice in one day (like I said before, FIRE HYDRANTS ARE EVERYWHERE).

The Desk Drop

The beat down was a drop in the bucket compared to the desk drop. We moved to New York City so my husband could accept a job offer. Due to miscommunications the pay for his new position didn’t kick in until later than expected. Waiting for his pay led to a great deal of adversity. Our living expenses had tripled from that of our small town in Utah, to that of Brooklyn, New York–a city housing a large portion of the world’s wealthiest people.

Needless to say, paying for day to day living expenses proved challenging. Money was tighter than ever before and food turned into a sore topic neither of us enjoyed bringing up. Oatmeal soon became my best friend. If I wanted a snack, I ate oatmeal. When dinner time rolled around, I ate oatmeal. Let’s just say my stomach became well acquainted with a warm bowl of mushy oats. (Not to complain, I love oatmeal still to this day!)

After awhile we were out of options and felt forced to seek assistance from The Bishops Storehouse, a food pantry created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for members who are struggling financially. When the day came to access these services, my husband had to work, so I drove the short distance to the storehouse by myself.

As I helped the workers load my trunk with food I noticed a large bag over-flowing with fruit. “We love fruit, but there is too much here. It will go bad. Someone else could eat this–could need this.” was my thought. I waved down the lady checking off the list of items being carried to the car. I explained to her my predicament with taking so much fruit and asked her to take some back. She refused to do so and with a smirk replied in a thick New York accent, “If it’s on the list, you take it.”

I don’t know what it was about this moment. Maybe it was watching the food get loaded into the car–food I did not pay for, did not earn. Maybe it was the wave of home sickness which washed over me after hearing her speak. Maybe it was just one of those  emotionally imbalanced days. Either way, whatever it was, it unhinged me and as soon as I closed my car door tears flooded down my cheeks. I sobbed and sniveled the whole way home. I hated New York.

The Blessing in Disguise

I will admit, after all this there were moments I questioned the soundness in our decision to move to New York City. We felt inspired by our Heavenly Father to move here, but the chain of events which followed our submission to his will seemed incoherent to the loving, gracious nature we believed Him to possess. Why would he send us here if he knew all this would happen? It just didn’t make sense. In some ways, we felt cheated.

The blessing in disguise started with the beat down–a crucial component. The comment my dad’s friend made about New York City said the individual would first be beaten down and then a desk would be dropped on them. Hence, the desk being dropped on us wouldn’t have been nearly as traumatic without the beat down. The beat down had to happen. I could see how at first glance this doesn’t seem like a blessing in disguise, but that leads me to my next point.

Often times in my life I will experience heartache and then soon after experience something far worse. This can be likened to the desk being dropped. Why does this happen? IF GOD IS REAL, why would he allow for us–metaphorically speaking–to be beaten down and then for a desk to be dropped on our pained, bruised bodies shortly thereafter? WHY? The answer…Familiarity breeds complacency, complacency hinders growth, growth brings us closer to God, and a closeness to God brings us joy.

Some of you may be thinking, well why does He go so far at times? Isn’t the beat down enough to encourage less complacency and more growth? This answer is simple, God loves us so much that he is willing to do whatever it takes to wake us up–to push us towards becoming better people, towards becoming the people he knows we can become. My tribulations in New York City forced me to grow. I prayed without ceasing. I found the patience to endure. I counted my blessings. I loved my husband fiercely. I focused more on those around me, less on myself. I smiled when I wanted to cry. New York’s beat down and dropped desk brought me closer to God and to my deepest, truest self–something I had never experienced before. I learned to be happy without all the extra “stuff” or without things going just the way I wanted.

May God bless you–whoever you are.

With love,

Kelsey With Some Jo

P.S. We ended up eating all the fruit The Bishops Storehouse gave us. It’s okay to accept help from people sometimes. It takes someone with courage to do so! Don’t let shame or self-pity keep you from allowing others to serve you. They are furthering their relationship with God by so doing. ❤