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Monday, December 2, 2013

Memories

Aren't memories funny? The way they creep in and take over without warning. The way the mind spins one thing in to another and suddenly you're back in time. 
I'm sitting here eating popcorn, watching a movie and I can't retrace the path that led me there but suddenly I was back to a warm summer day in my mind. One of the last days I spent with my me-ma. The kids and I (including the one in the womb she never met) came to her house and we went to eat lunch. She was so thrilled to have us there, and she forced her feeble body to go out with us. 
It made her so happy to have us there. And one of the biggest regrets of my life will always be how little time I spent with her in the end. It was completely selfish on my part, but I just hated seeing her slowly deteriorating. It hurt so much to be  reminded that she'd be gone soon. I remember having dreams about her getting old and sick when I was just a little girl - it was always one if my biggest fears. It's just hard to face your biggest fears when they come to fruition. 
It takes a while for the last pictures you see to be erased. It took a while before the "end images" quit being at the forefront. I'm such a visual person. It's like my memories are all very vivid snapshots and video clips in my mind: watching my mom hold the phone to her ear so my brother on active duty could say goodbye. The way her whole body shook as she tried so hard to answer my last words to her. The words I just couldn't really find. The words I hoped I'd said well enough my whole life to make up for whatever I said in that moment of complete grief, coupled with my inability to express myself verbally in the spur of the moment. I don't rember what I said. I just remember the hospital room, the lighting, the look of her in that bed - so small and soft. Her soft, aged skin, her fluffy soft white hair. Her body in a coffin.
For so long those were my images. Those were the pictures in my dreams. But not anymore. Now it's "the farm," my hand in hers as she walked me around telling me stories and history. Now it's her in a robe watching us open gifts on Christmas morning. The way she would hold her hands up and squeal with delight. It's her walking through a room, singing a song. It's her holding my newborn babies. It's my baby girl's mouth when she sleeps and sucks her bottom lip in just a little. 
I'm crying now because I miss her. But, she's here. She's here in the way I tuck my legs up under myself when I'm sitting down, just like she and my mom. She's here in the way she passed down her tendency to fret and worry. She's here when I tell my children stories about her. When I watch my children withy parents. When I see the cycle of life playing out slowly in front of me, yet too quickly to really get a hold of. At family reunions when my identity is summed up as: "Jerry and Mary's granddaughter." 
There's no point to this post. No profound statement at the end to tie it all up. No. It's just me, rambling on about a part of life that's wonderful and awful at the same time. It's just me, having a good cry. Remembering people I love, hoping my life will end with as few regrets as possible. Thankful for cherished memories, fearful for more "end images" I know I'll have to see. My kids will have to see. 
Glad I have peace in knowing my "end images" will all be replaced someday by eternal ones. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Frazzled Nerves and a Preschooler

I've been SO frustrated with my uber whiney almost 5 year old this weekend who has been having crazy melt downs about everything. Tonight, with nerves raw, I almost lost it a little as she inched to the bath by scooting her bottom slowly, crying "I'm coming!!!"
I went hastily to her with the Intent of grabbing her up and moving her to where I wanted.... (Mean mommy mode!!)

Instead, as I picked her up I made a conscious decision to not battle this battle with my 4 year old - who is not yet 5, but will be soon enough! And isn't 5 a funny little age when all of the sudden your "baby" becomes a "kid?" I picked her up, knowing she was exhausted, and cuddled her close. I took her to the bath and instead of ordering her to comply and take off her clothes, I did it for her while she cried (for unknown reasons!), I hugged her again, and said, "it's okay, Baby. Mommy will do it." I picked her up and placed her in the tub. I washed her gently. I got her a super fluffy towel and wrapped her upand held her tight again. By this time she had calmed down, feeding off the new calm attitude I decided to have. Yes. I DECIDED to be calm, because I was feeling FAR from calm when I succumbed to my emotions. 

Then, for the first time in a long time, I rocked my baby girl to sleep. Yes, I completely babied her! But, clearly she needed that from me for whatever reason.  Most likely because the new independence she is striving for is exciting to her, but it's also scary! 

Babying her tonight didn't set her back in her social-emotional development. It was one night of letting her know she's still my baby, she can still count on me to meet her needs, and I'm still her safe place to come back to when things get too new or too scary. If anything, giving her that tiny bit of security will actually further her independence.

And, I kept myself from engaging in a battle of wills with my preschooler that we would have both ended up losing at!  By calming myself down, I changed the whole tone of the situation. By turning up the nurturing, I actually took control of what was going on and defined the roles: me as the parent, her as the child.  Had I let my frazzled emotions take over (which I HAVE done, believe me!), I would have given up my control and made her even more uncertain about who was in charge because she had the ability to upset me! Then, she'd have felt more insecure and dug even harder to force me to prove I had control and the cycle would have continued on and on.

I'm not writing this to toot my horn! I've actually battled this girl all weekend! I'm writing because I'm ashamed it took me all weekend to "get it" and alter my tactics! At first it felt like I was "giving in" but then I realized that as I soothed her, she was the one giving in. 

So often in life we have to make decisions about our emotions and how we act on them. Emotions are deceiving and we can't always follow where they lead. There are times we have to make the choice to switch gears and react to situations in ways that defy our initial "feelings." If not, then how are we any more mature than a 4 year old??

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sticking with it

I'm more than a little embarrassed to post this picture. I was horrified when I first saw the one on the left and vowed it would not ever be seen by anyone else. (Yet, here it is! Ha!!!) On the right is today. And it is not where I want to end up, but it is definitely progress!!

The picture in the left was taken almost exactly 3 months ago. I had started weight watchers that week, and I "ran" in a 5k that day. Ever since I was in my very early twenties I had two big life goals, which may sound silly. I vowed to myself I'd finish my degree and that I would start running again. 
I always loved running so much. It was the only sport I might have excelled at but our school didn't have much of a track program. So, I played soccer instead. And I was dang good at the running and endurance part of soccer, but not so much in the areas if coordination and aggression. Two vital components to most sports!  Ironically, for those who know my clumsy self, I could morph in to a very graceful and sure-footed "athlete" if you cut me loose on a track. Just for fun when I was in High School and early college, I'd go run a mile just to see if I could beat my last time and how quickly I could sprint the end of it. I've never been much on competing against other people, but I've always been great at competing against myself. 
Over the years I've made several attempts at weight loss and re-entry in to the jogging world. In the last several years it has become a bit of a craze; I guess a lot of people developed a taste for it! I tried to sign up for 5K's and enlist my friends for motivation, but when no one showed much interest I petered out, too. Getting frustrated when a couple of years later they'd post about running in a 5K, thinking, "Hey! That was MY idea!!"
I hurt my ankle a little over a year ago, which set me back once again and also allowed me to pack on another 20+ lbs in less than a year. Being immobile for almost 6 weeks made me sincerely reevaluate my life and my health. I know I never want to end up in a disabled state due to my own neglect!! It took a good 9-12 months before my ankle was stable enough to exercise at all (it still hurts and swells some, but I'm assuming that's just the new normal now!) And I was determined to get back in shape. I entered the 5k from the muddy picture below and shocked myself at how much of it I was able to run. (Not to mention, I had a BLAST!)
So. I started jogging and again I was met with the same issues: severe calf pains and cramps, bladder control problems (please reference previous blogs about natural childbirth and an 11+ lb baby!), chub rub, and stuff flopping where it shouldn't flop. But, this time I pushed through. I bought good shoes, compression clothing, sliders for my thighs, drank more water, took bathroom breaks when needed, ate bananas, stretched more, rested more, enlisted advice, and talked myself in to listening to my body and being patient with it! Now, I'm up to 2 miles. Still walking some, but jogging most. It's a great feeling! And I've stuck with the Weight Watchers this time. Even through a month of almost 0 weight loss and even a slight gain! Before I would've said, "to heck with this! I'm killing myself and losing NO weight!!" But, I'm glad now that this picture on the left was taken 3 months ago. Because the picture on the right shows what the scales don't. My dedication is paying off! Imagine what 3 more months will do! And, if I can do it, you can do it!! 
I love weight watchers because I know I just can't stick with crazy restrictive diets.  Sometimes I want pizza or a pop tart with butter on it! But, tracking makes me stop and think about what I'm eating. And if I mess up one day, I just start fresh the next day! 
My favorite part of all this, though, is my energy level! I feel like a new person and it's awesome. I'm taking 30 minutes or so a day for me, and it's going to benefit everyone I love! 
Also, those two goals set by a young, insecure, single, 24 year old mom have been accomplished! I told her she could.


Monday, July 8, 2013

I Will Wait

After a noon run, sucking air, barely made it to the tree in my yard to stretch it out. Sweat was pouring down my face and I was trying to steady my breathing when out of nowhere a breeze swept over me. 
I looked up to the sun shining through the leaves in a very particular way and that ancient stirring of my spirit came. A feeling so familiar that it's first stirring assuredly happened in the womb.
My attention is caught best by a quiet whisper. Looking to win my heart? Gentle, quiet sincerity does the trick. Who knows that better than the One who created my heart? 
Suddenly, I became aware of the Mumford and Sons lyrics coming through my headphones: "I will wait, I will wait for you...." To anyone who might've seen that scene, I was a sweaty newbie runner, head lifted up, trying to catch my breath. But, really, right then, I was just a child who'd gone too far away, hearing my Father's voice for the first time in a while, tears running down behind my sunglasses. Really, I was caught in a moment of complete awe mixed with a little shame. Awe that God created that moment in time just to speak to me. Shame because like a pouty little child I hadn't gotten my way soon enough and started walking off on my own... Again!! 
So the words of the song changed from words being said to me into words from me to God: "I will wait, I will wait for you..."
Running has a very spiritual aspect to it for me. And, metaphorically, my running direction needs to switch directions. It needs to be TO instead of FROM. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

There once was an oak tree & a weeping willow...

This man. He has a strong, quiet gentility that cannot be questioned. He is like the big oak tree that has been in your yard as long as you can remember. There is no doubt the oak has weathered it's fair share of storms and abuse, but the oak will not complain or stop. It just stays and grows as slow and quiet as can be; with every expectation that all will follow suit, without prompting but from the sun.
In me there has always been a deep desire to mend broken things. I think, subconsciously I've sought after souls that need tending - always trying to keep the hands of my mercy busy with a project. I have every expectation that at my end, it will be said that my life's work centered on something to the effect of uplifting the downtrodden or nurturing the most fragile. I've only begun it, I know. I've always, always known that was God's purpose for me.
So, then, often I don't know what on earth to do with this oak tree! This man who found me when I was at MY most broken and needed much mending. The man who will stand silently, waiting for me to finish a fit, infuriating me with his poise, then will steady me with his big oak arms while I apologize for my behavior. And, although I've been years now in his presence, it has taken years to heal my own wounds enough to accept the permanency of his love and know that there are no hidden agendas or ulterior motives where oaks are concerned. 
No, there is no questioning this man. When he runs his fingers through my hair, smells the top of my head, or kisses me in a crowd, it is not habitual, it is because he loves me. Specifically, me. When he reaches for my hand in the middle of the night, it is not just for the sake of a hand to hold; It is MY hand he is reaching for. The gestures are not grandiose if measured against the world, but they are always genuine, heartfelt, and unconditional. He sees me in a way I think few have and he ever surprises me with his insight in to the self that I have always kept so guarded, having feared since childhood not living up to any given person's perception of who I was. But, fearing most, not living up to my own perception of who I SHOULD be. However, he really does see me - the good and the bad. Possibly that is the kindred "self" that we share that has allowed us to stand so perfectly together. Perhaps I am a bit of an oak, myself, when it is all said and done. 
All I know is the beat of my heart is steadied by this man. Although I looked so long for someone to make my heartbeat quicken, I realize this was what I needed all along. I just had to be molded enough to accept it. And sometimes I just look at him, with no words to express my gratitude for the blessing of having such profound love and security in my life. For the amazing feeling of having someone truly see my soul and love me for that alone. For the freedom to be myself and feel complete acceptance, maybe even adoration. For the hand to hold when it is dark.

But, sometimes, the words do come. Even if at three a.m. So, then, you have to write them down somewhere...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Picture of Dads

At 20, when I became a mom, I had a very distinct picture in my mind of what a family should look like and what the mom/dad role should be. At 23, when I became a single mom, I had to let go of that picture. It took me a lot of years, though, to be okay with the new view of my life.
It probably wasn't until pretty recently that I truly came to terms with the different roles people play in my children's lives and that it's "okay" for those roles to not fit in the proverbial boxes I had planned out for them.
When I brought my son home from the hospital, it was to my mom and dad's house. My dad will always hold a place with Bub that no one else can.  For all intents and purposes, my Dad was the first real father figure in my son's life and you can never erase that. And as thankful as I always was for that, I also hated that it wasn't how I planned it to be!
I was angry for so long at my ex husband for not playing the "dad" role the way I wanted him to or felt that he should. I realize now that at 21 years old he had a hard time figuring out exactly how to all of the sudden be responsible for other people's lives. He barely had his own life in control. And when I remarried, I think the lines got blurred for him as to where exactly he fit in the picture anymore. After all, this wasn't how he'd imagined his life either! And if we're being honest, I think there was part of me that wanted to just erase those first chapters and start fresh - pretend that my first marriage didn't really exist. I never denied him access to the kids, but I didn't make a lot of effort to respect his role as a father to them. Our ability to communicate and see eye to eye did not improve post divorce. Funny how that works! 
I think I spent years being upset about things not going how I thought they should instead of being thankful for the tremendous amount of love and support my children have been blessed with!! 
My husband is a rock. He came in to our lives and never treated my oldest two kids like anything less than his own. He brought stability to our lives and gave my kids the security of knowing he would be here no matter what. He also has given my oldest two the amazing blessing of knowing what it means to be chosen by someone. To have a man get to know you and then choose to become your father and love you and take care of you for life has to be one of the most accurate pictures of love.  I've yet to meet a man I respect and admire more than my husband. He is big and quite threatening looking (which is nice in the feeling protected end of things) but when it comes to the people he loves, especially his girls, he's really a big softy. There's no one else in the world I'd rather my son take notes from on how to treat a woman. 
My ex husband brings a breath of fresh air to my two oldest children's lives. He's funny, affectionate, and always fun to be around. His free spiritedness was something that made it very hard for us to mesh in a marriage (given my tendencies towards extreme worry, analyzation, forethought, and over-thought) but serves him well in his rapport with his kids.  My husband and ex-husband may very well be polar opposites as far as personality, but it means that the kids get the best of both worlds. And although we went through a few years of customary post-divorce feuding, it feels nothing but normal for my ex in-laws to include my youngest in their family gatherings and invite her to sleep over with her big brother and sister. She's a little jealous that her older siblings have two dads instead of just one and an extra set of grandparents (who she also refers to as g-pa and g-ma, by-the-way!) I know my ex-husband and husband will never be best buds, but I have a lot if respect for them both when they swallow their pride and can do things like both be at birthday parties and both be referred to as Dad, either taking on or giving up roles and duties according to what's best for their kids. It's a rare thing, and I'm SO thankful my kids don't have the turmoil in their lives that many from split families do.
Then there is my dad. Pa-Pa. I've always adored him and I've never once had to question his love for me. He's filled in the gaps for my kids over the years and there sure have been gaps on the way to where we are now. He guides in such a quiet way - in the way you can only guide without words. I know he keeps my family covered in prayer. His life is a legacy he's leaving for his kids and grandkids, although he's very humble about the role he's played. Both my parents are. But over the years I've come to realize how blessed I am to know truly unconditional love. And, my children know it, too. From every angle!
For all the mistakes we make as parents, as humans really, if we can say we've shown our children what real love is and how to love others, then we've canceled out a lot of the bad. The failed marriages, the lost tempers, the things we look back on and wish we would have handled differently. Because "love covers a multitude of sins." And sometimes your love covers your own mistakes, sometimes it is covering someone else's. God has a plan for each of us and to watch that plan play out in your children's lives is amazing, albeit painful at times. But He has every detail planned out before we're even born. And we have to trust Him because He is the ultimate picture of what a father is: loving, consistent, corrective... Sometimes He has to give us more than one "Dad" in our lives to paint the right picture for us.   On this Fathers Day, I just want to say thank you to all the father figures in my life, and especially the lives of my children, for covering them with love. They couldn't be more blessed in that area.  

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Postman

28 years worth of waking up before dawn; walking miles and miles in extreme heat, rain, snow, ice, sleet, and hail; countless falls off iced over porches no one cared to clear; and so many lives touched by the mailman who has always lent a hand along his route. All the elderly who watch for him with a coke or coffee waiting, because maybe he's the only conversation they'll have that day. His college degree didn't take him where he thought it would, but 28 years ago he did whatever he had to do in order to support his family and he ended up as a letter carrier. Not his plan, no, but definitely God's! He'll probably never see past mistakes he's made in his life, but I do. I've had the privilege of watching this man through an analytical eye that was probably old before my time. I remember when he started at the USPS when I was 5. I remember the smell of Aramis cologne when he'd kiss me goodbye in the mornings, working to make sure my mom could be at home with his kids, where he believed we should be. I remember him coming home and collapsing in bed from the exhaustion of his new job. I remember running when he'd walk through the door in his blue shirt soaked with sweat and we'd hang off his big, strong arms. I've watched his spirituality change and grow with the years and I know undoubtably how many people on his route he's given a glimpse of Jesus to, whether he realizes it or not. Oh, no, he didn't end up as a letter carrier by chance. For 28 years he's carried out his role in a divine plan.
I watch him now as his body has started to turn on him. I see the pain in his eyes that he doesn't often voice, I've prayed with him before surgery and definitely for him after. I've watched his muscles cramp and the days get harder and harder. But, I'm prouder of him now than I was as a little girl who thought her Daddy was the biggest, strongest guy in the world and could do pull ups on his biceps. There's a different kind of strength in him now. Now, as my kids run to meet "Pa-pa" at the door in his blue shirt. Now, as he decides on giving up "his" route for one that doesn't require walking. Now, as I look back on my life with understanding that my brother, sister, and I were always his "why" for working as hard as he has.

Congratulations to the greatest man I know for 28 years as "The Postman." And, thank you, to my Dad, for always making me your "why." I love you.





















Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mothers Day

I had the thought tonight: What about when she is gone? Who, then, will make sure I get a strawberry cake on my birthday? When she is gone, who will cherish my birthday like a badge of honor, basking in her own memories of sacrifice, change, pain, joy, fear, and accomplishment of... me? Who else bears all the scars of my life right along with me? (Maybe more so than me.) Who else, but she, will sing to me over the phone on "my" day every year with a faded picture in her mind of me at every stage of life, all combined in to a holograph of sorts, that only maternal eyes could quite see? Who will be championing me on in every facet of my life and who will always choose to see my potential beyond what I think I can reach? Who else was there to bear witness to that golden haired little girl's magical world that was lost to knowledge and logic and time? If she's gone, will I still know who I am? Because she is where I came from, painstakingly, I left her body and began to pull away. So slowly, at first, unnoticeably so, but seemingly faster as time stole away the days in a whirlwind that I now see in my own first born's life. My own golden haired girl starts now to put away her make believe for boys and clothes and goals. And I understand, now, what a mother's love means.
I wonder, when my mother is gone, who will cling to me no matter how hard I pull or fast I go? Who will stretch themselves beyond their own comfort to make sure I'm not too far away? When I weary from life's travels, where will I go when her arms are gone? Because I know, no other love but hers, will quite that way encompass me.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mountains

I paint a rosy picture of my marriage most of the time on blog and Facebook posts. Which isn't to say that it isn't "rosy" but by all means, it IS a marriage. I'd say it is a really good one, but like all good things in life, it's pretty easy to take it for granted, leave it on the back burner, and/or pick it apart.
Today I made a statement to my husband and daughter about how despite how much we stay on our kids about cleaning up after themselves, I REALLY need to clean MY room. (I think I've confessed on here previously that I'm no neat freak!) I said to my hubby, "I know I drive you crazy, Baby. I'm so messy." He shot me that grin I love so much and said simply, "I knew that when I married you."
I spent a better part of my life trying to live up to either a standard I set for myself or that someone else did. Not that high standards are bad, but the way I've always beat myself up inside for not always meeting them is. Suffering the emotional effects of someone not accepting you if you fall under their "bar" for looks, weight, housekeeping, etc can be equally devastating.
But here stands this man who knows my heart and knows me in a way that sometimes shocks me. He accepts me solely for what I am inside - good and bad. Isn't that everything I always dreamed of? The guy that sees me in a ratty old t-shirt, crazy hair, bad breath, and yesterday's smeared makeup and still grabs me and hugs me and kisses me the same as he did 7 years ago, 50 lbs ago, when I'd never let him see me like that yet! Except it means so much more than that now... To both of us.
Trav is steady as a mountain. A mountain is what I needed. And I sometimes miss surprises and being swept off my feet. (Mountains don't have many surprises!) But, I sure don't miss having a rug pulled out from under my feet!!! And today with one simple statement he did kind of blow me over in his steady, subtle way. He reminded me that he's everything I want and need.
I also got a little reminder from a lady I respect a lot who told me to hug my husband every day and never take one day for granted. It's sad that we have to have sobering reminders about that every now and then. I'm really thankful for my husband who has been my rock for the past 6 years and I'm also really sorry for the times I forget how thankful I am!