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The Magic of New Beginnings and Finish Lines

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Last Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, was race day. It was the graduation 5K for the 10 week Women Run Arkansas running and walking clinic, and this was my 3rdyear participating.

My 1st year of the clinic, I participated in the beginner running group. I was just getting back into running after more than 5 years off, and what I found was a supportive community of women trying to jump start their own health and wellness goals. It was a gentle re-entry into an active lifestyle devoid of the pressure to perform or compete, and it served me well.

The next year I went out, I joined the intermediate running group as a way to prepare for half-marathon training. At the same time, I was trying to work out some issues with diet and nutrition. I was really struggling in that area, and it was showing up in my running as stomach and side cramps, feelings of nausea, and lack of energy to sustain my workouts. Again, the community of women, especially my group leaders, was there with guidance and support, even when it got ugly and I was about to toss my cookies!

This year, I participated in the clinic as a co-leader of the beginner running group that I joined my 1stseason out, and it has really caused me to reflect on how far I’ve come since that first season at clinic. My mind is still trying to wrap around how I went from being unable to run 3 miles to completing a half-marathon in 2 short years. I’m pretty sure that during that first season, I declared emphatically that I would never run a half-marathon. Never say never, right?

As co-leader, I learned so much and enjoyed the experience in a brand new way. I so looked forward to meeting up with our group each week, which we affectionately called “Runner-Bees” since we were the beginner runner B group. Getting to know the women, watching them progress, and coming along side them as they did things they thought they would never do was such an uplifting experience.

I made me realize how much I did not appreciate or understand my own “coming up” those first 2 years of clinic. At the time, I couldn’t see my progress because my vision of myself was clouded by faulty expectations. Now that I think about it, that may be the biggest area of growth for me since starting out: setting realistic expectations and being willing to adjust my expectations and goals when things are just not going the way I planned.

I also realized that until now, I haven’t appreciated or understood the importance of finish lines. I think before, I experienced finish lines as The Final Judgment of how I performed in relation to my expectations. They were also the portals into the unknown territory of “Now What?” and “What’s Next?” Clearly, I have been a glutton for punishment in the area of performance and expectations.

I had such a different finish line experience this race. I wasn’t being timed. I wasn’t competing with myself. My sole purpose was to support my group, encourage them, enjoy the race together, and cross the finish line together. And when a runner from our group kicked it into high gear at the finish, I did my best to keep up with her. It was a powerful experience of victory, achievement, and pay off for consistently showing up and putting in the work each week. There was no Final Judgment Syndrome or Expectation to Perform. There was only joy and pride and exhilaration, because finish lines are FUN.

After the race, our group talked a great deal about how much we enjoy the atmosphere of cooperation versus competition that the clinic fosters, and I think I’ve really come to conclude that competition isn’t a good look for me, even when I’m only competing with myself. I think the evidence of that fact is in how much I thrived each season of the clinic, and particularly this year, when I was completely taken out of the competitive part and totally immersed in the cooperative aspect.

I’ve been shedding some old ideas about my goals for running this season, and I think last weekend’s race shook things up even more. As I work on new goals for running, the focus is going to be shifting away from measuring performance and tracking progress and moving toward something along the lines of “how much joy can I experience between now and the finish line”.

The theme of this year’s clinic and race was “The Magic of New Beginnings”, and it really has been a new beginning for me. I won’t be approaching the running season, training, or races with the attitude and mindset that I had in the past. This new beginning is about the joy of the experience and the cooperative spirit of the running community. With that in mind, here’s to many more finish lines!

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Seeing the Mess and Calling It Beautiful

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Each morning as I drive across town to drop my child off at school, we pass through the streets that wind around the university that I attended and graduated from many moons ago. The semester has been winding down, and finals are being given. Each day we pass by, there are fewer cars in the parking lots and noticeably more vehicles parked curbside as fathers load them up with overflowing laundry baskets of college accoutrements.

As I take in the scene each morning, images of my own white Jeep Wrangler parked at the same curbs flash through my mind. This time of year, it would also get packed full of overflowing laundry baskets of random items, because I have never professed to pack well for anything. Or unpack well, for that matter.

Those memories have collected over the course of the week, continually triggered by the sight of dorm rooms being packed up and high school seniors in cap and gown and by the stories I’ve heard people sharing about plans for summer trips or summer jobs. The air is buzzing with heavy-hearted, sentimental good-byes and the anxiety that major life transitions and milestones bring. It’s also electric with excitement and anticipation of the promise of new beginnings, new adventures, and new freedoms.

Wide-open space was what I was looking for when I packed up my Jeep about this time 17 years ago. If memory serves, it was also the song I belted out right along with the Dixie Chicks as I drove that Jeep from Tennessee to Colorado that summer. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I belted that song out, either. My little white Jeep with Wrangler scrawled down the side in purple and teal had a gray soft top, so whether I was singing or talking, I was always competing with the flapping of vinyl fabric going 70 miles per hour.

At my current age, I would opt for the hard top. Standard transmission would also be selected for such a road trip. At 20, however, I was thrilled with a manual transmission and a soft top, and all I can say is that it made Kansas a more memorable experience. What Kansas lacked in scenery to entertain my eyes, it more than made up for with wind noise in my ears.

I arrived in Colorado not knowing a single soul. Through word of mouth, I heard about different jobs and applied for them, getting hired on to do housekeeping for the summer. I got set up with a cabin to rent and a roommate to share it with, not knowing a single thing about either one of them. The roommate turned out to be a blessing from God, and the cabin we affectionately referred to as “the shack”. The toilet was essentially inside of the shower, if that paints any kind of picture. I was there alone for the first several days, when the ancient fuse blew inside of the ancient fuse box and the hot-water heater decided not to work. For the first time since hatching this grand idea to escape to the mountains, I paused that night to wonder what I had gotten myself into as I took an icy shower in a cabin without heat.

Some might say it was an omen for the trials that would come shortly thereafter, or attribute it as a sign from God that I should have turned my tail around and gone back home where I belonged. But I don’t think it was.

I think it was more like growing pains with the initial jolts and shocks that come with moving into a startling, new reality that a whole host of family and close friends have tried to shield a young person from, while simultaneously trying to prepare him or her for life inside of it. But those efforts can only fall short, even with the best of intentions, because those lessons can only be learned independently. That work has to be done outside of the familiar, the comfortable, and the safe, which is a lesson I’m still learning to this day. It is also why I believe that every good “coming of age” story begins with a road trip.

So much about that time and that summer was and is beautiful. The day trips, scenery, experiences, and life-long friendships are all etched into the fabric of my being, and I love every single one of those memories. Still, there are aspects to it that are dark and ugly, and frankly, they continue to have an affect on my ability to live my present-day life. Perhaps that is why those memories are visiting me again and at this time. Recently, I’ve begun doing the work of examining all the pieces of my story by bringing a whole heart, wise mind, sensitive spirit, and gentle strength to a round table in order to view it with eyes wide open until I can truthfully call each piece beautiful.

Once I am able to do that, I can safely and lovingly bring those things back inside myself and live peacefully with them. I have tried many other ways to reconcile my experiences, but this is the only way that I’ve found that ends with me being more like a complete person. Otherwise, these dark, jagged memories continue to dangle off of me like uncultivated tendrils, getting tangled up on things as I pass through life, causing me to trip, sometimes falling all the way down.

The pruning process can be painful and messy, and the result may still be somewhat of a mess, but it is a beautiful mess and a much more peaceful me. So, I am going to practice welcoming the memories as they come each morning as we drive through campus, until all the cars are gone and the students have moved on to whatever is next. I’m going to practice telling the truth about them until I can call them beautiful and bring them inside. I’ll practice pruning off the dead ends slowly and gently, and maybe by the end of the summer, something more deeply human will have taken shape.

Mom, single-parenting, Uncategorized

The Handsome Thief

This year began with the need for home improvement projects, as a flurry of repairs presented themselves at the hands, or paws, of the latest addition to our family.

IMG_3927I call him the handsome thief. He is the Ocean’s 11 George Clooney of the feline set: all handsome and distinguished-looking but always up to no good, cozying up to you in order to relieve you of your valuables. Or in this case, your ponytail holders.

I bought a brand new pack of hair ties, and within a week, I was down to one or two that I could locate when I needed one. I went with the most simple and obvious solution first; I shut the door to the bathroom. Having observed us opening doors a time or two and with the promise of a gold mine of ponytail holders calling to him like sirens, he quickly figured out how to open the door to the bathroom. He now freely lets himself into any room in the house that he desires to enter.

I can’t even begin to express how irritating this is.

Let me take a moment here to offer some home design advice. I know the lever door handles look nice, but if you have or ever plan to have toddlers or pets in your home, go with doorknobs. If one lacks developed fine motor skills or opposable thumbs, one struggles with a doorknob. The doorknob is a friend to parents and pet owners who would like to simply close a door to prevent disaster. Such peace only comes with doorknobs.

Next, I tried storing the ties in the bathroom drawer rather than on the counter. Within the day, Tidden (his real name) was opening the drawer and helping himself.

After that, I tried placing them on the bathroom shelf, and this is where I realized my fatal error: HE SAW ME PUT THEM AWAY. I tried to act casual and remedy my mistake. I pretended that I was placing something else on that shelf that bore no resemblance to a ponytail holder. “Oh, look at this can of dry shampoo that needs to be put away. Let me place it up here on this shelf where nothing enticing to felines lives.” Yet, his interest remained. He cased those shelves for weeks, plotting his heist.

My daughter came to me during that time with a several ponytail holders she found buried underneath the living room rug.

“Do you want me to put them on your bathroom shelf?” she politely offered.

“No! No, we have to play it cool! He’s onto us! Act like the shelves don’t exist. Completely ignore them, otherwise he’s going to try to jump up there, “ I advised like any rational and logical cat-owner would.

My daughter looked confused, but she went with it. Even if she thought I was insane, she had heard the tales of Shiva, the cat we had when she was a baby. Shiva pulled the shelves off of our living room wall, very nearly taking out the TV in the process. These are the important pieces of family history that get passed down in this house.

The very next day, while we were still cleaning up from Christmas festivities and preparing for the New Year, we heard it. The Great Crash from the back of the house that could only be my bathroom shelf bouncing off the toilet before crashing to the tiled floor. Seconds later, a blur of white fur tore past us, eyes wide, ears flat, moving quickly and erratically as if his tail were on fire.

Since then, I have tried other hiding places. He discovered that I was sneaking them into the Glam Bag that Sephora sent in my monthly subscription box. I realized this upon entering the bathroom and finding the contents of the bag emptied into the sink and the ponytail holders conspicuously missing. The silver lining to this super annoying cloud is that I rediscovered the Vintage shade of Anastasia Lip Gloss that solved my months long hunt for the perfect lip color.

Having exhausted all my options for securing my hair ties, I have given up the will to fight this battle and have resorted to wearing the remaining hair ties on my wrist or otherwise keeping them on my person.IMG_3988

A couple of weeks after The Great Shelf Crash, Stax, in a display of solidarity to his feline brother, escaped the backyard. About this time last year, he did the same thing, causing me to realize that he also understood how levers work.

Again, I urge you to avoid all lever closures in your home, to include the gates on your fences.

This time, somehow, he pulled the padlock off of the chain wrapped around the fence that was placed there to ensure that he could not open the gate even if he lifted the lever.

So, off I went on yet another trip to the hardware store to purchase yet another padlock. This time, I shelled out the extra dollars for the super-deluxe-theft-proof padlock. I asked the salesman if that also meant Labrador proof. He paused for a moment, filing this away on his list of interesting customer service experiences, then replied, “I don’t know. How strong is your dog?”

Good question. I guess we’ll soon find out.

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Girl Math = Vanity Sizing is Dumb

It strikes me, as I stare into my closet, that my wardrobe is one of those ridiculously complicated and impossible to solve word problems.

It goes something like this:

Q- Your closet contains 6 consecutive sizes of clothes. You begin training for a half marathon and drop a few pounds. The largest 3 sizes do not fit and threaten an imminent and embarrassing wardrobe malfunction. The smallest 3 sizes are painfully tight and restrict all ability to breathe. What size clothes do you actually wear?

A- The size you actually wear does not exist in reality. Your options are as follows: Yoga pants and other athletic clothing options, pants with elastic or drawstring waistbands, and belts.

Vanity sizing is dumb.

Fix it, Jesus.

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Diary of a (Reluctant) First-Time Half-Marathoner: Training Day 1

After I finished my first 10K last December and was all hopped up on endorphins and feeling bulletproof, St. Jude offered me the opportunity to sign up for the 2017 race.

“Sure!” I thought, “I’m going to put my money down on the half-marathon. I’m committing now! I have a whole year to get ready. I’m stepping up my game!”

Great marketing is a powerful thing, my friend. Clearly, I am not immune.

Spring rolled around, with it’s unseasonable heat, then unseasonable snow, and then unseasonable thunderstorms that flooded what seemed like the entire earth. People were literally kayaking down their streets, while I was (attempting) to build up to a 5k in the annual women’s running clinic in my community. I was also trying to clean up my diet, with mixed results and many near-vomit experiences.

It was about the time that I was encountering the complete opposite of the success I’d imagined with the 5K that I thought, “A half-marathon is like 10 more miles. I’m in soooo much trouble”. So when my friend suggested a half marathon in October, 6 weeks before the St. Jude half-marathon, I signed up. Crazy, right? But my thinking was/is, that the October half-marathon will be the race where I make all my mistakes.

For example, today marks the official first day of training for the October half-marathon. The prescribed run for today was 3 miles. Easy enough, you say? Let me tell you a story.

I leave work 30 minutes later than I planned, pushing my run time back later than expected. As I drive, I’m slamming 18 ounces of water, because I’m really thirsty for some reason. Plus, I am actively pursuing total hydration as a goal. (I said what I said).

I get home and hurry to change, fill up a water bottle and put it in a cooler, and gather all my gear. On the drive to the course I’ve planned, I reach over for the cooler to move it out of the sun, but come up empty handed. No cooler in the car. I mean, who needs water for a 3 mile run in 90 degrees? I’m properly hydrated these days; it’ll be fine!

I park the car and begin walking to warm up my legs. I’m not 300 meters from the car, when I realize that only half of that 18 ounces of water I was slamming must have made it out when I was at home, because the other half is knocking on the door. When I hit the corner, I jogged across the street to the gas station.

“This is fine!” I say to myself, “I’m exploring potential pit stops for longer runs. Note to self: vintage bathroom graffiti and a non-working lock.”

I finally start my run after jogging back across the street to the trail. The first mile feels good. The second mile gets hard, and I can feel my face moving from bright red to deep purple. The 3rd mile, I’m willing my legs to just keep turning.

Spiritually, I’ve been in a season of “growing up”, so I’ve developed this mantra that I say to myself every time something is painful and I want to start whining. Instead of saying “this hurts and I’m dying” and I recognize the pain and say to myself “This is where I grow”.

The 3rd mile was a inner refrain of “this is where I grow. This is where my legs get stronger. This is where my lungs get stronger. This is where my mind gets stronger,” and included many more pieces of me that were hurting or feeling weak. My new inner chant saw me through to the end.

And it saw me to this water fountain, where I snapped a picture of my purple face and SWtrainingday1the copious amount of sweat that is the result of pursuing total hydration as a goal. The picture also serves as a reminder to actually put the packed cooler of water into the car.

The picture and the story behind it serve as a baseline for this journey, and I’m interested to see the difference between today and October 21st when the race finally rolls around.

It also serves as proof positive that the “half-marathon where I can make all of my silly mistakes before the St. Jude half-marathon” is needed in my case.

As for tomorrow, Training Day 2, “they” say that I need to run hills.

Ahhhh…..”they” are so funny.

Christian, Mom, single-parenting, Uncategorized

Moving from Denial to Acceptance with the Aid of Birthday Day Cake


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My daughter celebrated her 6th birthday this week, and I feel confident that she has enjoyed the heck out of it. She had a small birthday party at our house on Saturday. Then, of course, there was the birthday fanfare and cupcakes at school on her actual birthday. I surprised her that afternoon by picking her up from school and whisking her away on a secret trip that concluded at Chuck E Cheese, where the grandparents were waiting with cake and gifts.

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Undoubtedly, she has been drinking in the excitement of the birthday and growing up. I, on the other hand, have been elbow deep in TimeHop-induced nostalgia, scrolling through baby picture after baby picture while drowning my tears in vanilla, chocolate, AND strawberry cake. On occasion, I’ll even throw in some Blue Bell Birthday Cake ice cream for good measure.

My stronghold of denial that allows me to ignore the fact that she is growing up has come crashing down on my head. The fact that she can read a little bit did not faze me, but the purchase of the lavender poster featuring a white, adorable kitten that now hangs on the door to her bedroom put a small crack in my bastion of denail. The unicorn-themed 6th birthday party and the impending graduation from kindergarten, however, have cracked that sucker wide open and it is now raining reality.

I find reality unpleasant.

But the kicker was this weekend when she realized that she had left one of her drawings in the car. Without a second thought, she simply walked over to the key hook, reached up and removed my car keys, thoughtfully inspected the clicker, proceeded to click the unlock button the required 2 times, and successfully unlocked every door of the car. She then glided to the kitchen door, gracefully placed her hand upon the door handle, and as if it were common practice, sweetly and serenely turned her face to me as she informed me that she’d “be back in just a minute”. Then my 6 year old walked out of the door with car keys in hand.

I stood there a little perplexed, questioning the reality of what had just occurred before my very eyes. She’s 6, not 16. Then I began questioning how I should be responding to this moment. Should I rush out of the door after her? She seems pretty confident about knowing what she is doing, so maybe I should just peer out the window and make sure she doesn’t do something crazy, like drive away in my vehicle? Is this something that requires a reprimand? Maybe a warning about car safety? Is this a completely normal maturing process and I am just freaked out by it because I want her to remain a baby forever?

By the time I had contemplated all the competing thoughts and processed all the warring emotions, my child re-entered the house, returned the keys to their rightful place, and carried herself back into the living room to continue her art.
Clearly, she has things under control.

I, on the other hand, need more cake.

Christian, Mom, single-parenting, Uncategorized

Church, Casseroles, and Lent

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My daughter and I visited a new church for the second time today. The first time, she went right into the kid’s program with zero hesitation. Today, she clung to my arm until I actually entered the kindergarten classroom. At that point, she released my arm and remained just outside and around the corner, which left me standing there, childless, in a room full of tiny tables and chairs.

Once the both of us were comfortably seated in the sanctuary, (comfortably meaning my rear end was straddling 2 chairs so that my lap could accommodate all 3 feet and 10 inches of my soon to be 6 year old without bumping either of our neighbors) we listened to the church announcements. In one announcement, they were seeking volunteers to make casseroles for foster families.

May Lee leans over and whispers, “We should ask Nana to make a casserole.”

“I can make a casserole.” I say in reply.

“Oh,” my child says in confusion and disbelief. I’m pretty sure she’s going to ask Nana if it’s true that her mother can make a casserole, and regardless of the answer she receives, continue to ask her Nana to make a casserole.

During the sermon, the pastor spoke a little bit about Lent, which is not a faith tradition that I have ever learned much about or practiced before, but I’m coming to see the usefulness of such a tradition in spiritual growth.

Upon returning home, we dined on a very traditional Sunday lunch of macaroni and cheese shaped like the characters from Trolls and some warmed up green beans. I pretended it was pot roast with potatoes and carrots. May Lee and I talked about church, Lent, and Easter. We talked a little bit about what Lent is, and I mentioned that I was thinking about giving up unhealthy food for Lent. Without missing a beat, she said “I think I’m going to give up….”

I interrupted her at this point, because I was startled by her eagerness to jump in, “You want to give up something for Lent too?!”

“Yes. I am going to give up trying to look so pretty all time. Trying to be all fancy.” she replied.

I was stunned. I really didn’t even know how to respond. Her response seemed wise beyond her years, and part of me felt really proud of that. The other part of me died a little inside that at not even 6 years old she is already struggling with the appearance thing.

“And I’m going to add exercising a little bit,” she said, finalizing her ideas for Lent. Which again, left me rather speechless as she is rather vocal about her disdain for exercise and how she finds it highly fatiguing.

“Well,” I said, “I think I’ll join you in adding exercise for 40 days. You know, Lent starts on your birthday.”

Her eyes grew wide. “It starts on my birthday?!”

I could see the wheels turning behind her eyes, thinking about the cake, ice cream, and candy involved with birthdays.

I leaned over and whispered, “Maybe you and I will start our 40 days on March 2nd”.

She grinned up at me in agreement and with relief all over her face.

So, I guess we are now a family that celebrates Lent….in one form or another. This year will certainly be an educational experience for us both.

Christian, Mom, single-parenting, Uncategorized

When You Tempt Fate by Being Grateful for Your Health

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I’ve been sick. I tempted fate one afternoon by saying to my child as we drove home, “I’m so thankful that we have been so healthy this season.” The very next morning, I left work 15 short minutes after clocking in, because I felt like I had morning sickness while aboard an Alaskan fishing boat that happened to be cruising through at category 5 hurricane. I continued to feel that way for a full 24 hours as the bug ran it’s course.

A few days later, I came down the generic head cold/sinus infection/upper respiratory bug that people tend to share this time of year. And oh, how it lingers for days and days and many more blessed days, even after the worst has passed.

The illnesses, among other things, have put a serious damper on my training for the next 10K. Yesterday, I convinced myself that I was going to get out there and run no matter what. In my mind, I deluded myself into thinking that I was feeling well enough to run a few miles. Never mind that my clogged ears still cause multi-person conversations to sound as if they are taking place beneath the waters of the deep end of the swimming pool or that my sinuses remain full of vile substances that they have not fully released. Whatevs, man, I’m going for a run.

Let me tell you, if yesterday’s run is any indication of what the Little Rock 10K will look like for me, it is going to be an ugly affair. My delusions of getting a few miles in were quickly swept away as the physical activity caused the pressure in my sinus cavity to pound against my skull like a million, tiny, angry fists beating war drums. When I failed to heed their warning, the sinuses began releasing the vile substances that they had been hoarding in full retaliation against my delusions of grandeur, which were effectively swept away as I choked, gagged, and spit out all of my foolish pride onto the side of the road.

Sinuses- 1; Me- 0. Lesson learned. You win for now, you cruel caverns of darkness and abuse. But I’m coming for you, with all the essential oils and over-the-counter decongestants that the stray dollars and cents soon to be corralled from the bottom of my bag can afford.
You have been warned.

Mom, single-parenting, Uncategorized

We Live in Two Worlds

woman-1207671_1280The holidays have been hard this year. In reality, they have been hard for many years, but this year I am self-aware enough to realize that I am struggling, to understand why I am struggling, and to roll with it rather than get confused and worked into a tizzy about it. My mantra this year has been “I officially hate the holidays, but I will continue to wear my snowman socks in full faith that one year I will enjoy all of this again”.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the holidays can be a wee bit of a trigger for those that are in active addiction. So, having lived through many a holiday season with an active user has dampened my ability to experience the wonder and joy of this blessed season.

I actually understand that to be the reason for my holiday blues this year, but in years past, I have been confused by it and spiraled out into weird behaviors that seemed like coping but really only made things worse. Even with this year’s self-awareness, I found myself responding to things with more of an edge than I intended to have. I intended to have no edge at all in the things I have said, but the Grinch still found his way into my words or tone.

Despite all the grumpitude (the word we use in my house for grumpy with a side of attitude), the newfound self-awareness also let me really see the long view of my life. I have been able to understand how completely chaotic and awful things were years ago, how much better things are now, how much better I AM now, how I have really changed in about a million microscopic ways that make the pace seem slow, how much work is left to do on myself, and still how far there is to travel.

But having the ability to see the long view keeps me grounded in reality. Honestly, it is where my hope lives. Trauma has kept me shortsighted and focused only on survival for a very long time. To finally be free of it to the point of being able to see a future again is a huge deal. To have hope again is a blessing beyond words.

If you believe in spiritual warfare, then you will understand that this newfound hope has been under attack. I wish I could tell you that I have handled it like a warrior champion, but mostly I’ve learned that I need a thicker skin.

A few weeks ago, I received feedback along the lines of my “inconsistency, lack of structure, and chaos” is the reason for all my troubles and all my family’s troubles. I attempted to explain the trauma history and the progress made, but as is often the case, I was treated like I was making excuses and subsequently dismissed.

I chewed on this feedback for a long time, because there is truth to it. I know that healing from trauma takes time, and therefore, the chaos is still present even if it is there to a lesser degree. As I chewed on it, I recognized a pattern in my personality: nothing will light a fire in me like the opportunity to prove that I have been misjudged. I decided to recognize the huge gap in this person’s perspective of my life. This person only saw where I am now and clearly was not interested in learning about where I came from or how far I have come. I was not going to receive validation for the hell I had already conquered from this person, so I gave that validation to myself. And I used the fire ignited by the feedback to simply move myself farther along the path of self-improvement that I was already working on.

Then yesterday, as I was shopping for a few things to spruce up and help organize our house, my daughter started lighting into me. She has taken to lecturing me about how I should behave, and these conversations have often ended with me issuing one of the clichés of motherhood: “because I am the mother” or “because I said so”. But this time, she said something that was a true knife to the heart, because it was clear that she was repeating something that she had heard from someone else. She ended her little rant with “you need to start acting like a real grown-up”.

Having been somewhat prepped for this by my last experience with negative feedback, I chewed on this for only a few hours rather than a few weeks. Again, I have to remind myself that only I know where I have been, where I am now, and where I am going. I cannot expect everyone to see, understand, or validate my experience. All I can do is keep on going and doing the next right thing, understanding that the people who want to know the truth about me will stick around long enough to figure it out.

But, none of that did anything to satisfy my ever growing concern about the 2 worlds my little family lives in and how it is influencing my child. I often think about how different my daughter’s experiences would be if we were really living a life that was congruent with our resources and circumstances.

My daughter goes to a private school that I will never be able to pay for. She is surrounded by dual-income families with high-paying, professional jobs that have many more resources than I do. She spends her afternoons, play dates, and birthday parties in homes much bigger, newer, and nicer than our home. She has and is developing expectations of me and of our life based what she sees all around her. When she returns to our home and to the limited time and financial resources of the single parent, I do not measure up. And in her child-like honesty, she lets me know it.

It begs the question, would my daughter have a greater appreciation of me if we were surrounded by families that looked more like our family? If she attended a public school and was immersed in a community where everyone, much like her own mother, was creatively using their limited resources to put together a life for their kids, would she have a different perspective of what “a real grown up is”? Would she be more grateful and hard-working instead of demanding and entitled if she saw that there were a whole lot of other parents holding life together with their teeth and fingernails?

I don’t have any answers for any of these questions. Maybe I just needed to vent, because the pressure in this culture to live up to THE CHILD’S expectations is REAL. When did that insanity happen?! And I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because I know full well that we are supremely blessed by the people in our lives and the school my daughter attends, and I do not take that for granted even a little bit. Certainly, I don’t want to deprive my child of anything that is beneficial to her development. Yet, the truth remains that our reality is very different than the life we lead, and it is setting up some serious future conflicts between my daughter and I.

I’m really not railing at the problems in our culture, community, or families; I am railing at my own participation in what I know to be the less-than-healthy parts of our world. I have fed into “entitlement culture” as much as the next girl. But I have also come to a place in my life where I accept the fact that there is nothing in my life or happening in my life that I have not allowed. I have also accepted the slowness of the pace of my recovery in a world that keeps telling me that I’m not doing enough fast enough. Having lost the majority of my possessions to trauma, I no longer place any sentiment in things and am truly content with living simply. My child, on the other hand, is another story. My point being, I have accepted the fact that my life is going to look different to the majority of people and that I will always be doing battle with the ways people perceive me to be counter-cultural or “a little bit off”. I’m ok with that.

Needless to say, if a fire was ignited in me with the first feedback, then the second feedback has fueled that fire into an inferno. Things are going to change in this family. I can’t yet say how or when, but I know through prayer, the answers will come.

Christian, Mom, single-parenting, Uncategorized

The St. Jude 10k: Milestones and Life Lessons

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It is early Sunday morning, and I am snuggled into a blanket on my couch reflecting on and basking in the victories of yesterday. To be sure, milestones were achieved during yesterday’s race.

When Timing & Weather Smile Upon You…

First of all, I am amazed by how beautifully everything came together. Despite travel, traffic, and large crowds, the logistics came together seamlessly. For the most part, everything went according to plan, and the day went off without a hitch. I made it downtown and found parking on time. My team managed to find each other in a sea of 30,000 plus people, and we were able to start the race together. After the race, we found each other again, walked back to our cars, and made it out of town with no delays from race-day road closures. Even with stops, I arrived back in town in time to pick up the dog from his overnight stay with the vet, where he also enjoyed a bath and much needed nail trim. I continue to marvel at how well all the details played out.

Then, the weather also held out for us. The morning of the race was predicted to be not only cold, but very wet. I don’t know if I can emphasize enough how much I despise cold rain. Being cold is bad enough, but I can handle that. Cold and wet is a different story, and I mostly melt into a puddle of whiney misery. In preparation, I requested prayers for no rain, secured both a poncho and a rain jacket, and attempted to shore up my mental attitude to be determined enough not to give into defeat should the rain come. You can imagine my delight when the morning of the race came, and the rain was no longer an issue for those of us running at 7 a.m. The poor half and full marathoners didn’t get that lucky, and I felt deeply for them. They are my heros, because that has got to be some misery- running for 5-6 hours in cold rain. I simply refuse to think about it!

The Race Begins….

The actual race was amazing. To say that St. Jude puts on a top-notch event is a vast understatement. The start was exciting. I mean, the crowd lining the street was huge and just as excited as the runners were. The buildings towering overhead were beautiful and ornate. For the first mile, I literally just took in the architecture and told my teammate that I was going to “just enjoy being home for little bit”.

At the corner of mile 1, I saw the sign for my high school. It occurred to me then that I should be on the look out for people I know cheering on the sidelines. Coming up on mile 2, I heard a familiar voice cheering and saw my high school track and cross country coaches. I snagged quick hugs and kept going, happy to connect with sweet, sweet people even briefly during the race.

Shortly after that, the course turned into the St. Jude campus, and let’s talk about being knocked over with emotion. The streets were packed with people cheering loudly, some holding signs of their children who have passed away from cancer. Some would cheer for the runners by name if the name could be seen on the runner’s bib. It was loud, exciting, and packed with emotion. I couldn’t hold back a few tears during this part of the course, and the tears come again as I think about it now.

The 5k and 10K course split shortly after passing through the campus, and I remember thinking that I was about to successfully run an entire 5k for the first time. Emotion and the temptation to think too far ahead threatened to overwhelm me, and I once again set my sights on simply enjoying the scenery and the architecture. Before I knew it, I was successfully through the 5k mark and halfway to the goal.

Through mile 3 and mile 4, I focused on maintaining my pace. There were a few hills to climb as we ran over overpasses, and I was extremely grateful in those moments that I had done some of my training on the hills of my parent’s neighborhood. In fact, when the dread of the hill started to creep into my thinking, I made myself mentally recall the hills on which I had trained and made myself believe in the fact that I was fully prepared for this. I ran the training miles on those hills, so I could run the race miles on these hills. It felt like such an accomplishment not to break stride and maintain my pace through every hill, especially when so many others around me were choosing to walk the hills. And let me tell you, I was so very tempted to join them, but I was even more determined to run every step of this race.

When I passed the mile 4 marker, it really sunk in that I was really going to do this. I really could run this entire race, even if I did it at a turtle’s pace. The excitement of this realization made me want to take off and get it done, but my legs were beginning to protest, and even though it was 43 degrees outside, I was getting hot. I rolled up my sleeves and recommitted to maintaining my pace so I could achieve this goal.

A real mental battle started happening at this point. I thought back to the 5k that I attempted in May after training with a group of women runners. I thought about how defeated I felt at that time, and all the things I was struggling with then. Somewhere between mile 4 and mile 5, I was overwhelmed by the realization of how far I had come in the last 7 months. I signed up for that spring running group and 5k, because I knew that my mental game needed work and that I was defeating myself in my own head. When it was all said and done with the spring run, I felt really disappointed in myself for still being unable to reach my goal.

Then, my thoughts turned to my daughter and all the struggle and all the progress she has made and we have made together over the last couple of years. I couldn’t help but to just break into prayer, thanking God that He had been working on me all this time when I couldn’t even see it. Thanking Him for bringing me here today and allowing me to see how far He has brought us and giving me a glimpse of what we can hope for in the future.

With that emotion released, I refocused on just keeping my legs turning to make it to the mile 5 sign. I remember at one point, just focusing on a beautiful church in front of me, taking in every nuance of the artistry and coasting through the mile marker.

At this point, the course led back into the heart of downtown, with larger crowds lining the streets. The excitement was palpable, and the mile 6 marker was in sight. I maintained my pace, even as the excitement and emotion was threatening to shut my muscles down entirely! At one point, I caught myself holding my breath to keep tears back, which is a really bad idea when you are running. Breathing is important!

Once I passed the mile 6 marker, it took everything in me not to come undone with emotion and finish the last 0.2 miles. I let myself run faster, and when I hit the chute, I picked it up significantly. Two uncontrollable sobs managed to escape as I ran hard, and then I hit the finish line. I had done it. I ran every step of 6.2 miles. I not only ran it, I ran it consistently. I can’t remember the last time I did anything consistently and to completion. I ran at my pace; I ran my race. I did not get distracted, overwhelmed, or overpowered by emotion. I stayed focused, I trusted what I knew about myself, I believed in what I could do, and that is the true victory. That is what I am still celebrating still this morning.

After the Race…

In a daze, I accepted the blanket I was handed and wrapped up the best I could. My body was definitely feeling the effects of the run, and I was beginning to feel cold. Then, I collected my medal and put it around my neck. I walked further into the field and took a moment to look around. I didn’t see my team, who had finished about 10 minutes ahead of me. I continued to move through the line, stopping to snap my picture with girl Elvis.

Somehow I managed to hoist my leg high enough to climb the steep stairs to the food and beverage area. I had just barely reached the top step when a bag of food, a carton of hydrogenated water, and fistfuls of fruit were thrust upon me. I literally couldn’t juggle all the items and had to stop to put everything in the bag and re-wrap myself in the blanket.

I continued to move through the crowd in search of my team, when my phone rang. It was my daughter on FaceTime, and my family was calling to congratulate me. We did the best we could to communicate through the din of thousands of people while I did my best to hold the phone, the blanket, and the overflowing bag of food and drink. It was great to receive that call just as I finished. That is one of the great things about technology- my family had been tracking my progress through the runner tracking app and knew exactly when I finished.

I found my team, and they all said hello to May Lee via FaceTime, then we hung up. The team and I collected more food and bottles of water and PowerAde, then we made our way out of AutoZone Park. We found someone who would take a picture of our team, then we talked about doing it again next year and said our good-byes.

The Life Lessons…

As I sit here this morning, I recognize so many lessons I’m learning and how much progress I have made in the various things I struggle with daily. One of the biggest lessons I’m learning through running is to plan ahead just enough to inform the present, and then stay in the present- doing the work until the work is done.

Also, the lessons in incremental change really hit home. A long series of mental, emotional, and physical baby steps had to be achieved before I could accomplish yesterday’s goal. Not to mention, the enormous challenge of being able to overcome a great deal of “I really don’t want to do this” and then doing it anyway.

As for what’s next, I’m really not sure. I know that I can’t stop running now, because the lessons in self-discipline and mental strength and endurance are not yet fully accomplished. What is clear is that I have a great deal to learn about properly participating in the sport. The most obvious area of needed improvement is nutrition. An enormous amount of work needs to be done there.

Finally, I’m going to spend the next few days recovering, processing, and planning as the next steps become clear. I am really grateful for all of the support I have received by way of encouragement as I have trained and donations toward my fundraising goal for St. Jude. Accountability and support are crucial aspects of reaching any goal, and I appreciate everyone who showed up for me in that way. 

I have a feeling that this medal is always going to have a special place in my heart. When I see it in the future, I hope that it will always remind me of the milestones achieved on December 3, 2016.stjudemedal