Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I breathe...

In a few hours I leave for my first mission trip. I am both excited and afraid I may start vomiting butterflies at any given minute. Those butterflies in my stomach have been bothering me for a few days now. I have promised myself I would journal this experience. In the name of motivating myself and keeping my own promise, I thought publishing my first journal entry would keep me on track. While I may not be able to publish anything while I'm away, I promise to share more when the wifi connection allows.

I breathe…

July 12, 2011

2315 hours

Today is not the first official day of my trip, but I do feel as though it was the first day of my journey. My boys were picked up by their dad this morning, and I had to face the reality of being separated from them for two weeks. And I mean ‘face it’ like face-planting into concrete. I’ve been stressing and sweating and praying and swearing about this for two months, since I agreed to go on this trip (which, by the way, was an opportunity I’d been wanting for over a year).

The single me keeps reminding the mom me that in order to go on these amazing journeys, I have to peel myself away from my two mini-me’s. And really, I know it’s good for them and for me to do that. I read a magazine article about myself once – okay, so I never met the author but she was clearly writing about me since she was describing me perfectly – something about helicopter moms and hovering too much. Apparently it dilutes the fun of riding a bike down the street as fast as little boy feet can push those pedals and fly off the curb while pretending it’s a half pipe if there’s a parent yelling in a panic from the driveway to slow down and be careful and not cause a trip to an orthopedic doctor to get a cast in their favorite color. The boys don’t even ask what an orthopedic doctor is as they roll their blue eyes in my direction.

Watching my boys walk away, knowing it would be the last time I would kiss their pudgy, dirty little cheeks or feel their arms squeeze my neck for two weeks took my breath away. So I walked in the house and blinked back tears, not knowing if I should prepare for a small leak or Niagra freakin’ falls. Do I go grab the Kleenex box or the shamwow? But my phone rang, and it was a good friend with the uncanny ability to make me laugh. And I breathed, a tiny little breath, but it definitely felt reminiscent of breathing.

After my phone call I ran last minute errands, started packing, and left to get a pedicure and a manicure with a good friend. Actually, she is an amazing friend. She – Carol – is also the pastor’s wife and a fellow missionary. We talked, we laughed, we got pampered, and I breathed. It turns out my lungs were still in my chest after all. They hadn’t been ripped out and crammed into my boys’ backpacks with their favorite matted-down stuffed animal friends. Maybe I would be able to fill my lungs with the air of Germany as I pass through, and of Poland as I spend my time there gracing them with my redheaded spirit. Oh, I pray they have encountered redheads before in Poland…

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Today the temperature reached 123 degrees in my home town. Today I walked outside and I felt the the wind blow in my face, and it was as if someone held a hair dryer directly to my skin, probably adding some instant sun damage to my already frail skin. Today I ate dinner alone as I missed my children.

Today I heard thunder and reveled at the darkened clouds, visible in our desert sky for the first time in a long time; I was beginning to doubt their existence. Today I studied and got lost in American Literature and the language of allegories and romance. Today I laughed with friends so hard tears came to my eyes.

What did you do today? Did you find balance? A way to offset your frustration with relaxation? A way to complement the day you were handed with some enjoyable activity or appreciation? Life is not always sunshine and laughter. Sometimes it is 123 degrees amongst a grey sky and loneliness, until you look for the silver lining and add your own variety of sunshine.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Grief and Toil

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote:

She could no longer borrow from the future, to help her through the present grief. To- morrow would bring its own trial with it; so would the next day, and so would the next; each its own trial, and yet the very same that was no so unutterably grievous to be borne. The days of the far-off future would toil onward, still with the same burden for her to take up, and bear along with her, but never to fling down.

This is a passage I read nearly twenty years ago, but it didn't mean much to me at that young age. When you're a thirteen-year-old, you have your whole life ahead of you, the whole world at your fingertips. Anything is possible, and nothing is off limits.

When you get to be an adult, that can change. The promise that tomorrow will be better isn't always there. We can't lay our heads down at night, knowing we can shut our eyes on our day and somehow expect our problems to be lessened in the morning. At least, not all of them, and in most cases, not the most troublesome ones.

There are times that I look ahead and see the same problem, the same concern, facing me for weeks or months at a time. It just won't go away. And there are so many times that I wonder what the point is- I simply cannot get any stronger. I'm at full strength now, I promise you that.

But what I can do is get better. All of the challenges, the same ones I will be facing a year from now, are forcing me to evaluate those strengths I have, and my weaknesses, and figure out how to improve my life my using them both. It also encourages me to draw on my faith. Some days it's nothing more than caffeine and faith that get me through to the next.

But get through I do. And while I can't borrow from tomorrow, I can borrow from myself. Bend a little here, give a little there, and push myself past my own limits by pulling projects off the back burner, by improving and growing in things I'm already doing, and never giving up on my long term goals.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Single Parent? I got that!

Anybody who has been a single parent - I mean truly single; going it alone and doing nearly all of the parenting on your own without a second cooperative parent - knows how challenging this is. Balancing schedules, working, going to school if that's the case, taking care of kids, taking care of kids when they're sick, taking care of kids when you're sick, figuring out how to make ends meet with one income while being the sole care provider, trying to squeeze in something resembling a social life in the precious rare time to yourself when you get it.

And stress. Oh the stress. There is no reprieve, nobody else to help shoulder some of it for you, nobody to help create solutions. Most people are lucky enough to have good friends who provide support systems, but it is different than having someone in your own household, to help manage that household and its family members, with you.

The stress is like one of those pregnancy sympathy belts. But instead of a large bulge around the belly, it's a large weight on your shoulders and back. That weight is immeasurable, but harsh and cutting. Instead of weighing on your bladder, it weighs on your consciousness. How will I pay the next repair bill? How do I tell the kids we can't go on vacation because there isn't the extra money? How do I tell the kids I have to choose writing that essay over taking them to the park? Each thought, each worry, is a pebble in that pack of weight, and they add up so fast you can't even keep track of them anymore. The pack overfills and some of those pebbles fall out, but they roll right back. How do I work and afford to pay for child care? How do I pay off my own student loans and save for my children's college fund? And where one weight comes out, another replaces it. The car is paid off, but now the tires need replaced. Baseball season is over but now we need to have braces put on those crooked teeth. That weight is there and you can't take it off like you can a sympathy belt. It stays on while you work, while you play, while you try to fall asleep, while you wake up in the morning.

But as the burden to being a single parent is great, so is the reward. Me, I have boys. So I have gotten to teach my boys to cook, and taught them how to cast a fishing line. I taught them how to sort laundry, and took them to the batting cages and taught them how to swing a bat. I taught them how to thread a needle, and how to build a campfire. I took them to school their first day of kindergarten, and to their first concert, on their first camping trip, to the beach and to every frightening doctor appointment they've had. I get all the disciplining to myself, but I also get the hugs and the kisses, the laughs and the funny kid-isms.

Those rewards gives every ounce of that weight a gold filling, every cloud a silver lining, and every burden a reciprocal reward. Whether you're a single mom or a single dad, I wish you a very happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ephemeral Clouds

As anybody who knows me will know, I love to take photos. It's not often that I stop to take photos of clouds, though. We all know clouds can be beautiful, or menacing, or imaginative, depending on the mood of mother nature that day, and I have a deep appreciation for mother nature, but it still isn't often that clouds will call to me strongly enough to photograph them.

This day, however, I felt that need. Looking at this photo, I realize this photo can never be replicated. Never again will these clouds be in this same formation in the sky, with the same deep greys and vivid blues with the bursts of white. Clouds are ephemeral, changing with the hands on a clock. But where a clock will look the same twelve hours later, the sky will never be the same. At best, moments of similarity may occur, but never the same moment.

As with life. Sometimes we feel like the hands on a clock, repeating a pattern and feeling as though we are going in circles. But every second on the way is just as ephemeral as the clouds. Each moment comes and we get to define it and shape it just as mother nature did the clouds. Even when we cannot choose what happens to us, we always have the choice in how we react.

Never feel as though you're going through life and going through necessary (and sometimes unnecessary) cycles in vain. Each second provides a different view, a different vantage point and a new perspective for how we choose to see, and ultimately, create, our lives.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


When was the last time you stopped to smell the roses? When was the last time you let yourself get caught up in the rhythm and the magic of music and dance?

There is an expression that says that dancing is not merely an expression of life, but IS life. What is your life? It's more than a daily commute. It's more than clocking hours for a paycheck. It's more than a t.v. guide or a fast food menu. It's about finding beauty along your well-traveled road. It's about finding purpose and fulfillment. It's about finding meaningful interaction and things which provide nourishment and rejuvenation.

So if it's dancing to your favorite song, indulging in your favorite dessert, having a long talk with a close friend, or looking for the rainbow after the rain, do what gives you life.

Dancing faces you towards Heaven, whichever direction you turn. ~Terri Guillemets

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Which Way Are You Walking?

Sometimes we think we are walking forward when all the sudden we do a 180 and head right back into our past. I was faced with this situation recently, and so of course, as most of us do, I found myself contemplating the wiseness of treading back down a worn out path versus trailblazing a new one.

The fact of the matter is, no matter how much we try to live a life without regrets, there are always ways to doubt yourself. You doubt whether you should move forward, you doubt whether you should turn back, you doubt whether you should turn your back on old decisions or whether you should go back to fix mistakes. To be honest, sometimes it takes more courage to turn back, especially where you believe mistakes have been made and wrongs were committed. When you turn back, you embrace all of those things. You have to admit them, own them, and try to change them. It's not easy.

I guess in that way, it really isn't about turning back. It's about letting something good back in to your life, because where the path was already laid, you can now meander it and take more time to enjoy the scenery and make a conscious decision to appreciate everything about it more this time around.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolution Schmesolution (Now that's a mouthful!)

Make a resolution? Last year my new year's resolution was to actually keep a resolution. Wanna guess how well that went? This year I don't want to focus on change. I simply want to focus on what is already good. Here are a few - and I do mean few - of the things I was truly grateful to have this year:

*reasons to laugh at myself
*fingernail polish
*stain remover
*bubble gum machine rings
*dancing in the rain
*candles that make me go yum
*flip flops
*hiking trails
*flannel sheets
*books, books, and books
*taking chances
*mafia wars
*"my" soldiers
*midnight chats
*arm warmers
*girls' nights out
*no more meat cleavers in my house
*vitamin e
*competent doctors
*compassionate pastors (okay, one)
*best friends
*powerful words
*monsters that make me laugh (and sigh and cry)
*aching muscles
*text messaging
*8G SD cards
*the delete button
*flat irons
*beer bong tournaments
*camp fires
*Tanner's first fish and Braeden's first concert
*the peace that comes from prayer
*relief that can only come from a rightly timed F word
*favorite restaurants
*favorite authors

Saturday, November 27, 2010

*This hike was on the Peralta Trail, up to Fremont Saddle and to Weaver's Needle in the Superstition Wilderness Area. The trail was two-and-a-half miles from the trail head to the saddle and climbed over 1,300 feet in elevation. Though the climb was demanding at times, the views were majestic and rewarding.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Last weekend I attended my niece's (and my goddaughter's) 10th birthday party. All of the kids were swimming and enjoying the water, oblivious to the degrees on the thermometer, which I believe totalled 109 that day. A little over halfway through the party, I felt enormous pressure in my head and the sensation that I was going to black out. I walked inside to get away from the kiddos, and checked my heart rate, which was dancing along happily at almost 120, not minding that I was sitting still and it should have been in the 80s perhaps.

It took me a few days to get over the fatigue and general run-down feeling that I get after my tachycardia has been running wild. And I thought about what a family friend said to me that afternoon. She said didn't it just make me angry- that it must be frustrating and she knows how she feels when she can't control her body.

That's exactly how I feel. But at the same time it makes me thankful for what I do have. It reminds me that I can't control everything in life, and that is the way it should be. Then I might not remember to stop and appreciate everything that surrounds me on a daily basis. Touching lyrics to a song. The smell of my children's hair after it's been washed. The sunlight bouncing off of a cloud. The gentle rumble of the thunder in the monsoon sky. Shared laughter over the decoration of cupcakes.

Life is short, break the rules, forgive
quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably,
and never regret anything
that made you smile... -Mark Twain