Faith Is a Verb

Last Saturday, my husband told me about a book he had been reading. He said: “It’s a Christian book.” As a progressive believer who struggles with her faith a lot, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a Christian book. Two weeks earlier, he had recommended Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis to me and I hadn’t picked it up yet. After all, some of the passages he read to me had me angry.

My husband though explained to me that the book he was recommending now was perfectly suited to my recent struggles. You see, I have been struggling with feelings of worthlessness due to my not living the life my parents had envisioned for me.

The book is called You Are Beloved by Bobby Schuller. My husband was so convinced it’d help me, that he offered to buy me the eBook on whichever platform suited me best. I said I’d look whether it’s available on Bookshare, an accessible book service for the print disabled, first. And it was. I downloaded it as soon as I had access to stable WiFi.

I looked up Bobby Schuller first before starting to read the book. My husband isn’t very conservative either, but still more conservative than me. I wasn’t sure I’d like what Schuller had to say.

I so far only read the introduction, but was immediately enthusiastic. Not just for Schuller’s book, but for my faith in general.

I don’t have a church I belong to normally even without COVID. In fact, I usually listen to American church services despite living in the Netherlands. I hadn’t listened to them in a while though and the ones I usually listen to are so progressive they’re hardly Christian at all. On Sunday, I decided to listen to the prior week’s sermon (since the current week’s wasn’t available yet due to time zone differences) from First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, LA.

In it, the pastor discusses Ephesians 4:22-5:2, in which Paul tells believers how to be Godlike. The pastor also quotes an original Methodist work that explains the character of true believers. It said, among other things, that we are happy – always happy. The pastor uses this to tell the believers that the goal of the Christian life is not just to go to Heaven after we die, but to be Christlike in the current life too. This very much resonated with what my husband said to me when recommending Schuller’s book: that faith is a verb.

My husband meant to say that, if we truly believe that God loves us, we will also extend this to others and live an ethical life. He also said that the goal of every religion, not just Christianity, is to find true peace of mind. In other words, the goal is not just to sit on a cloud and play the harp after we die (in case that’s how you picture Heaven), but to experience the kingdom of God here on Earth.

Schuller’s main point, by the way, is that we are not what we do. We are not what we have. We are not how others see us. We are beloved by God just because we are.

”Grace

Gratitude List (November 21, 2020) #TToT

It’s been forever since I last did a gratitude list. I just checked and it’s been five weeks. These weeks have been incredibly hard. I am really struggling to stay positive. I am going to try to come up with some gratefuls anyway. As usual, I’m joining in with #TToT. I’m typing this post on my iPhone, which I hardly ever do nowadays, so sorry for any typing glitches.

1. My husband! Even with our not living together and only talking on the phone most days, he tells me many times a day that he loves me. I am struggling to feel such a powerful emotion due to my current state of depression, but I’m trying to love him back.

2. My faith. My husband, who I always thought was a strong atheist since leaving theology school, has taken a renewed interest in Christianity and this has encouraged me. Today, he recommended a book called You Are Beloved. I am a very progressive believer, but I’ll definitely give this book a try.

3. My staff. They have been so kind to me despite my challenging behavior.

4. My community psychiatric nurse. She has been very helpful.

5. Pizza. Okay, on to the superficial stuff. My husband and I ordered a delicious pizza today. No, not from Domino’s and I must say this one is better!

6. Cheesecake. Two of my fellow clients had their birthdays this past week and another client got to help the staff make cheesecake.

7. Homemade noodles. That same client made those for us on Monday. He used minced meat instead of chicken, but still it was so delicious.

8. Lots of walking. So far this week, I nearly surpassed my step record from last week. I didn’t get in as many minutes in active heartrate zones, but that’s okay.

9. The ability to write and blog. I am not writing as much as I’d like, but at least I’m still writing.

10. A good night’s sleep last night. And yay for no nightmares that I can remember!

What have you been grateful for?

#WeekendCoffeeShare (November 15, 2020)

Hi everyone! How are you doing? Today I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare. I just had my afternoon coffee, but there’s still plenty left for you all. We also have various flavors of tea and there’s cold water in the fridge I think. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that this week was a rather rough one. I am already feeling slightly better now though. I’m still struggling to keep busy when I’m alone, but it’s okay.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the weather is pretty mild for november. It’s raining some of the time, but it’s also sunny some of the time and it’s pretty warm for this time of the year, roughly 15°C.

If we were having coffee, I would be proud to tell you that I got in over 65K steps this week so far. That’s a record! I’m probably still going for another walk this evening, so I may break my active heartrate zone minutes record of last week according to my Fitbit too.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m so immensely grateful for the extra supports my staff put in place for me. Like I mentioned earlier in the week, I was extremely depressed earlier and was seeing no way I could manage at this care home or in this world as a whole for that matter. Thankfully, I got some one-on-one support in the evenings, which are the hardest for me.

I did feel some pressure when a staff said she hoped that in a few weeks, I would not need as much support. This caused me some considerable anxiety, as I worried I’d be kicked out of this home if I didn’t improve in a few weeks. The staff didn’t mean it that way though.

If we were having coffee, lastly I would tell you that my husband came by yesterday. We drove for a bit and then went for a short nature walk. My husband had also brought me some apple pie his father had baked for his birthday. I did struggle to eat it properly whilst in the car, which I felt intense shame about. My husband was okay with it though.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (November 8, 2020)

Hi all on this sunny Sunday! Okay, it’s past 9PM here and the sun has set already, but it was sunny during the day. I should really have taken a picture.

I just had my last drink for the day. However, the beauty of virtual coffee shares is that people can join in whenever they want. So grab a cup of coffee, green tea or water. I’m pretty sure there are also soft drinks in the fridge, but I rarely drink those now. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up. As usual, I am linking up with #WeekendCoffeeShare.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this whole week, the weather has been beautiful. It was a little chilly some days, but not as cold as you might expect in November. In fact, today, I even took a walk with my husband without my coat on. I did of course wear a fleece vest. It was sunny and almost warm.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I canceled my sister’s visit for this week too. The reason this time is a combination of the stricter COVID-19 management rules and my husband wanting to celebrate his birthday with me this week-end. With respect to the former, for example, my sister could be visiting with her husband and daughter, but three adults are not allowed together outside. This would mean my brother-in-law wouldn’t be able to go on walks with me and my sister. As if the risk of contracting COVID is higher outside than inside.

Also, I wouldn’t be allowed to go to my husband’s after they visited. Or maybe strictly speaking I could, but it’d be against the spirit of the lockdown. My husband felt pressured by me to let my sister and family visit, but eventually it became clear he’d really like to have me over for the week-end to celebrate his birthday. His birthday is on the 12th, by the way. So since my husband’s birthday is more important than a random visit from my family, we’re going to reschedule that sometime after the worst of the lockdown has ended.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I gave my husband an Airfryer for his birthday. He made us both thick fries in it yesterday. Even though I’m pretty sure he didn’t salt mine, or at least not as much as I’d have done, they were still delicious. My husband joked that we’d have vegan fries (duh!) but to make up for it, we would eat real hamburgers. They were great too.

If we were having coffee, lastly, I would tell you that I was in a bit of a crisis this evening again. I got majorly triggered by a staff raising her voice as she commanded me to go to my room. She had intended for me to seek the quiet of my room, because I was rapidly becoming overloaded with all that was going on with the other clients. Her wording that I’m not the only one (I’m pretty sure she didn’t say it that way, but that’s how I interpreted it) triggered me to feel that I wasn’t allowed to feel the way I did and was attention-seeking. This then quickly spiraled out of control. Thankfully in the end, I was able to talk it through with the staff and also write down my feelings. I did take a PRN lorazepam, but that’s totally okay.

What’s been going on with you lately?

#WeekendCoffeeShare (October 25, 2020)

It’s already late Sunday evening. I was up real early today, but still didn’t get to blog so far. Today, I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare. We may still have some coffee, although our official evening coffee break has passed. Otherwise, I can offer you green tea or water. Let’s have a drink and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I would share that last week, I bought a new Fitbit Inspire 2. It’s pretty cool to be able to track not just my steps and distance walked, but also my minutes in active heart rate zones. I got more than twice the required number of minutes this week.

That being said, I’m already looking at someday buying myself an Apple Watch. I discovered just a few days after I’d purchased the Fitbit, that there’s a new Apple Watch SE that’s significantly cheaper (or should I say less expensive?) than the regular one. I’m really hoping I’ll be able to buy that one someday.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I had a health check on Tuesday. Like I said, it showed that my blood pressure was somewhat high and of course I’m significantly overweight.

I did find out on Friday that my blood pressure is actually pretty normal when resting, ie. just after waking up. It was 115 over 75 then, but rose to 129 over 91 after I had showered and gotten dressed. I have no clue of the significance of this, but my staff E-mailed my GP about it, as the nurse from the health check-up had recommended.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how frustrated I was when discussing my health check with my husband. He wanted me to go on a diet. I want that too, but it’s hard for me to follow through especially long-term and the staff refuse to enforce a healthy lifestyle.

After a sleepless night and some frustrated discussions with my staff, they talked to the behavior specialist. She recommended we make a food plan together, my staff and me. Then all of us know what I’m supposed to eat and not eat and the staff can redirect me when I want to overeat. So far, it’s going okay’ish. That is, the staff have still occasionally offered me food I’m not supposed to eat at that moment and then I struggled to refuse it. I did eventually talk to the staff about it and try to make up for my bad choices later on. I’ve not yet had a moment when I requested food I wasn’t supposed to eat, which according to my food plan would require the staff to tell me it’s not wise and to offer an alternative.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my husband came by for a quick visit today to take me on a walk. That was fun.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I finally updated my iPhone to iOS 14. I hadn’t expected iOS 14.1, which came out a few days ago, to solve any of the many accessibility bugs the original iOS 14 had come with. After all, the release notes didn’t mention VoiceOver at all. To be sure, I asked on a Dutch VoiceOver users group about it and got a reply from the most critical iPhone user on the list saying that the update had fixed most of the bugs. Practically all other list members had already updated, claiming that most bugs can be circumvened. I didn’t want to take the risk, but I do believe this particular member. So far, it’s all pretty good. I am having a play around with VoiceOver recognition, which describes images. It’s pretty cool so far.

What have you been up to?

Some Might Say: Judgments About Me #Blogtober20

Okay, I said I wasn’t going to take part in the #Blogtober20 prompts anymore, but this one did speak to me. Today’s prompt is “Some Might Say”. People can be incredibly judgmental. Today, I will write about some things people have said about me that indicate they are clueless or insensitive or both.

The first things people notice about me, are my blindness and the fact that I’m relatively well-spoken. This often leads people to assume that I either should be able to be independent or that I am obviously not because I’m blind.

My parents and other people who are relatively educated about blindness, often assume that I should be able to live independently and be employed. Even if they are fine with my “choice” of not pursuing a career, their idea of me is to live independently. Some people who don’t know me that well, ask whether my husband and I have or want kids. To me, it’s obvious that we don’t, but then again that may be internalized ableism. After all, I for one am not able to take care of kids, and besides I value my freedom. Others with my disabilities may definitely be able and willing to parent.

Another judgment I often get is that my marriage isn’t strong because we don’t live together. My last psychologist at the mental hospital even dared to say my marriage isn’t worth anything if I don’t intend on living with my husband. Well, when we got married in 2011, we had zero intention of living together. I was on the waiting list for a permanent workhome for autistic people. It is only because that didn’t work out, that my husband asked me whether I wanted to live with him. And just so you know, our reason for getting married is that we love each other and want to show each other that this is for life. And in my opinion, that’s the essence of marriage. Okay, I know that at least a third of marriages end in divorce, but I hope that if couples get married, they at least hope this is going to be for life.

Like I said, some people, particularly strangers who are clueless about disabilities, think that it’s perfectly understandable that as a blind person I live in a care facility. This misconception often feels as uncomfortable to me as the idea that I am or should be independent. I used to want to educate people that most people who are just blind, can live independently. I no longer do this though. Not only is it none of random strangers’ business that I’m not just blind, and isn’t it my obligation to educate, but I might also be adding to the stigma I fought so hard against as a teen.

By this I mean the National Federation of the Blind’s philosophy that blindness shouldn’t hold you back. It in fact used to say that the average blind person is just as capable as the average sighted person. That led to the idea that, unless you had severe or multiple other disabilities, you were to be pushed to achieve whether you could or wanted to or not. That just doesn’t work for me and it doesn’t work for many blind people.

#Blogtober20

Gratitude List (October 17, 2020) #TToT

Hello everyone! I hope you’re doing well. I am feeling okay. I’m not sure I’ll continue with the #Blogtober20 prompts, but I will attempt to publish a post everyday anyway. That’s a way of participating in the challenge too. Today, I am writing a gratitude list. As always, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT).

1. I am grateful I am alive. Last week, I was in a major crisis. Though I most likely would’ve survived the attempt at harming myself I was intending on, I am so grateful I didn’t harm myself at all.

2. I am grateful for my staff. They’ve been so nice and helpful lately. They aren’t mental health professionals, but they do a great job of helping me understand why I’m feeling overloaded or anxious.

3. I am grateful that my husband supports me through it all. Like I said last week, I was afraid he’d be frustrated with me for landing in crisis. I am so glad that he didn’t react with irritation at all, even though I’d have understood.

4. I had some delicious treats over the week. On Tuesday, a staff gave us cheesecake for her birthday. There was still some left over on Wednesday too. We also got banana bread then. Then on Friday, we had delicious home-cooked chicken with curry and mayonaise. Today we had homemade chicken and sausage rolls.

5. My mother-in-law visited me on Thursday. We went for a walk and drank a cup of coffee in my room. She also brought me a new bra.

6. I am happy with my new Fitbit Inspire 2. I ordered it on Thursday and it arrived Friday early afternoon. I am loving seeing all my stats in the Fitbit app. For example, yesterday I got 56 minutes in active heartrate zones, all in the fat burning zone of course. I doubt I’ll be able to get into the cardio or peak zone at all.

The tracker itself takes some getting used to, since it has a touch screen, which I can’t see. I keep accidentally turning Do Not Disturb on.

7. I am grateful for relatively good food for dinner. As of last month, I am allowed to choose between a selection of meals for dinner. Before this, I had to turn off foods I didn’t like. This got pretty complicated. For example, I’d say I didn’t like beans because otherwise I’d get them with just potatoes and meat and no sauce. However, turning off beans would turn off chilli too. This led to me occasionally getting just rice, for example. Now I still occasionally get a meal I haven’t picked, but that’s okay too.

8. I am grateful for macrogol. And for apples and other fiber-rich foods. I had been constipated for a bit early in the week, which led to bad bowel cramps. Thankfully, I feel much better now.

9. I am grateful the partial lockdown we’re in right now doesn’t lead to a no-visitors policy in care facilities as of yet. I am grateful I am still allowed to go home to my husband.

10. I am grateful for the ability to be grateful. I started a daily gratitude journal in the app Day One on Wednesday. I did so because I downloaded a free book on gratitude off Amazon and the first exercise is to jot down three things you’re grateful for each evening for a week. It truly helps me so far, as without my gratitude journal to look back on, I may not have been able to get to ten things of thankful.

What have you been grateful for lately?

My All-Time Favorite Food

I was feeling a little down on Sunday, so I checked out the gratitude section of the book Journaling With Lisa Shea. This is really a collection of ten 32-day guided journals and an introduction to journaling. I bought the entire thing for a deal price on Amazon several years ago.

I already covered some topics from this section before, but one I didn’t write about is my favorite food. The prompt asks me to recall what favorite food makes me brim with joy and sigh with delight. It goes on to ask whether I can remember eating it for the first time.

Well, my all-time favorite food has to be Domino’s pizza! I am not 100% sure whether this was the first time I ever had it, but I think it was. It was sometime in late 2010 or early 2011. My husband, then still my fiancé, lived in student accommodation in Kampen, where he studied theology. His studio was real close to the train station, the river IJssel, and several snack corners and fast food restaurants. Including Domino’s.

I can’t remember which pizza I took that first time. It might’ve been during my six months or so of trying to pass as a vegetarian to my fiancé, who was a vegetarian at the time. I might also have taken one of their chicken pizzas. I think I did that. I probably also chose red peppers as an extra topping, as I was and still am a lover of very spicy food.

Nowadays, I almost always choose a chicken kebab pizza, but I think they didn’t have that one back then. I also always look at the new and noteworthy category, because sometimes they have truly delicious pizzas. I particularly remember one called something like Chicken Zanzibar, which had a piri-piri swirl on it. I topped it off with extra red peppers. Since I took a large pizza and didn’t have the monstrous appetite I’d expected, I left my husband a slice. He pretty soon texted me with a list of swear words about how spicy the pizza had been. Even thinking back to that makes me laugh.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (October 11, 2020)

It’s Sunday and I’m in definite need of some coffee. For this reason, I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare. It’s not time for my evening coffee yet, but maybe I can enjoy a virtual cuppa.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that the weather is gloomy. It’s been raining almost the entire day and it’s cold enough that I could use my winter coat.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m struggling quite a bit. Yesterday I landed in crisis. I didn’t sleep all night and was still feeling very tense by this morning. A walk didn’t even help, because I felt cold and was very tired and overloaded.

I am also struggling with what to tell my husband. The crisis was quite bad and I really want to be open to my husband. However, I fear he’s going to be angry with me for it, because in other places, this could’ve led to me being kicked out. In fact, I’m still worried that the staff are going to decide to kick me out after all.

It makes me feel sad that I, being of above-average IQ, am expected to make my own decisions regarding this stuff and make sure my family is informed.

I mean, of course it has its pros that I’m intelligent. If I had an intellectual disability, I wouldn’t be able to blog, for instance. I also wouldn’t have my husband. However, this discrepancy between my IQ and my ability to cope emotionally, is weighing me down quite a bit.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that, as unlikely as it may seem now, the rest of the week was pretty good. I made some soap and experimented with baking soda modeling clay. I removed some of the figures from their molds today, but I think they hadn’t fully hardened, as they were still pretty brittle.

If we were having coffee, I would share that I’ve been loving browsing Amazon’s Kindle collection for books to get. I don’t want to buy them yet, but I did download a few free books.

I also finally got Listify on Apple Books. This is a book of journaling prompts (yes, again!) but most are list-based.

What have you been up to lately?

The One I Love: My Husband #Blogtober20

Welcome to day two in #Blogtober20. I realize that when I wrote about myself yesterday, I never mentioned the fact that I’m married. Thankfully, the second prompt in the series is “The One I Love”, so now is my opportunity to talk all about my husband, Jeroen. I usually don’t refer to him by his name, but right now it’d be confusing to refer to him as my boyfriend, now husband or whatever constantly.

I met Jeroen on an Internet forum in 2007. Neither of us were looking for a relationship. I wrote on the forum that I was bored and lonely living on my own in student accommodation in the city of Nijmegen, Netherlands. He went to school in Nijmegen at the time. He was also looking to expand his social circle, so he PM’d me asking if we could drink a cup of coffee or tea in Nijmegen somewhere. We met at the bus stop near the university’s dentistry department, because that was the only bus stop near the uni that my bus would stop by. We went for a coffee or tea at the uni’s cafe. I was so nervous that I tumbled off a step and dropped my coffee.

Thankfully though, Jeroen didn’t mind. Though he had been nervous too and had mixed feelings about our first time meeting, he did want to meet again. I invited him to my student apartment, just because I had no clue where else to meet. That could’ve been really stupid, but thankfully it turned out well.

Six weeks after first meeting Jeroen, I was hospitalized onto the psychiatric ward, which didn’t have an Internet connection for patients. I didn’t have Jeroen’s phone number, so asked my staff to log onto the forum and send him a message. The staff didn’t include my phone number, because I hadn’t requested it.

Several weeks later, my father called to ask whether he could give my number to Jeroen. It turned out that Jeroen had found my father’s E-mail address by googling the whois info for his website. I am so grateful my father didn’t have privacy protection on, as I do with my websites.

It certainly wasn’t love at first sight (oh, that sounds stupid for a blind person) for me. On the contrary, when Jeroen told me he was in love with me, I let him wait four months before reciprocating it. Similarly, when he proposed to me in June of 2010, I replied: “So do you think that’d be cool then?” He did really want to marry me and we had our wedding date on September 19, 2011, exactly four years after we’d first met.

Jeroen and I don’t live together. Like I said, he fell in love with me while I was hospitalized. This hospitalization lasted 9 1/2 years, after which I was kicked out to live with Jeroen. I really struggled to cope living semi-independently, so eventually applied for long-term care funding.

Jeroen is 31-years-old (32 next month). He sometimes jokes about my having married a younger man, as I am 34. I am glad he isn’t significantly younger than me though, as, when I was hospitalized on the locked unit, I wasn’t to leave the ward unless with someone 18 or over. We loved going to the hospital cafeteria to have tea or hot cocoa. We also loved playing cards.

Jeroen and I have the same sense of humor. We love wordplay and have our own phrases and terms for communicating certain things. For example, when we get bored of each other, we say “banana spider”. He is also really inventive with new nicknames for me. I, not so much.

I really love Jeroen and want to be married for the rest of our life. Not living together has its ups and downs. Particularly in these times of corona, we’ve had to be separated more than we’d like to. Thankfully, our love has survived.

#Blogtober20