I just finished an early copy of Jen Hatmaker’s new book: Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, and I cannot remember the last time a book kept my eyes full of tears for so many reasons.
She went deep with the authenticity and spoke to the wounds we all carry as women, and she also kept us howling with laughter at the totally relatable challenges of life. In the end, she empowered us in a truly loving way to LET GO of the all the lies holding us back, to courageously step into our true natures, and to go into the world and carry out our very real purposes.
And listen, this was no short-lived, sugary sweet inspirational message that is powerful today and worn off by tomorrow. Oh no, this message was the kind that digs deep, sticks in your heart and mind, and wrestles with you until you come out the other side a more whole version yourself.
If you are looking for something of substance that will genuinely engage you in some transformative work, you will find it here.
I just finished an early copy of Jen Hatmaker’s new book: Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, and I cannot remember the last time a book kept my eyes full of tears for so many reasons.
If, like me, you were raised in the church, then I’m sure at some point you became aware of the Christian dialogue around suffering and negative experiences. This dialogue can range anywhere between warm, emotionally-laden sentimentality to cold judgment and blame. As a result, I have noticed that people of faith often struggle with how to think about, feel about, and respond to the negative events that occur in their lives, whether those events are stressful seasons or full-blown traumatic events. By the time they arrive to the therapy couch, their poor minds are full to the brim with platitudes, judgments, superficial encouragement, and scriptures taken out of context and sloppily applied to their situation. They are exhausted from the mental gymnastics of trying to be faithful in the middle of trial. I’m hoping today that we can unpack some of that dynamic and bring some peace to weary minds.
First, let’s talk about how negative experiences are part and parcel of life. They are universal experiences that happen to us all, and no one exits this life without experiencing a few hard times. Yet, people of faith often struggle with some magical thinking around this concept, attributing a minor infraction on their part to be the cause of misfortune, large or small. Typically, I will kindly point out that I must in the presence of a person of great power if they are able to control the world that way, and yes, that kind of power and responsibility is likely to produce a great deal of stress.
Light sarcasm and humor aside, the error in this thinking typically runs along the lines of a belief that says “If I would have been a better person, this bad thing wouldn’t have happened to me”. Whew, talk about pressure! But unfortunately, this thinking error typically doesn’t travel alone. It is often accompanied by another belief that says “Since it did happen to me, I must be bad”, and with that, along comes the final belief in this trifecta of self-blame that says, “Since I am bad enough for this thing to happen to me, I really must deserve it”. And with that, my faithful friend is buried beneath the heaviest pile of shame and undeserved blame a human can endure.
With this new belief system in place in the mind, now every negative event is filtered through it. Over time, this becomes a negative feedback loop that reinforces the belief and creates behaviors to prove that the belief is true. People may struggle with this for months, years, or decades before reaching out for help. Sadly, some never do reach out and spend a lifetime under the enormous weight of shame. I hope to prevent that fate for as many people as possible, so may I offer you a few new thoughts if you find yourself nodding in recognition of any part of the pattern I’ve mentioned above?
First of all, know that your Creator wired you in such a mind-blowingly beautiful way to manage negative experiences that helps you survive, cope, and heal. Built inside of you is everything you need to preserve your well-being and survive under stress. Even your negative emotions serve their purposes inside of this mechanism, as they are the warning bell that sends the necessary systems into action to act for your protection and safety.
Second, you are doing nothing wrong and everything right when you experience those negative emotions and uncomfortable sensations. When we try to shut down the first sign of discomfort or anxiety, we are disrupting that holy and life-giving mechanism that is working towards managing, mitigating, and mending the stressful, painful, or traumatic stimuli.
Finally, allow the process to do its good work in you. We are better served by accepting the reality of the negative situation, calling it what it is, and allowing (even welcoming) the temporary, uncomfortable emotions and negative states and letting them do their work. Ride the wave, baby. Once the wave has crested (and it always does), engage in some serious self-care individually and inside of a safe, connected community.
You don’t have to carry the weight of the world, friends of faith. Jesus was human, too. He knows about riding the waves the negative experiences, and he set a pretty great example of how to care for oneself during those stressful seasons. Whether he was retreating to the mountains for some alone time, reclining at a table with his closest friends, or spending time in prayer and meditation, all of those practices were serving a very human need for healing and managing stress. I mean, the man also did a fair amount of walking, so you even have a case for cardio, if that’s your thing.
Over all, my wish for people of faith is to experience the peace and freedom promised by an active, healthy spiritual life. I really believe the first step in that direction is checking our thoughts and making sure that they are in line with the reality of our human experiences and limits, as well as our faith experiences. If the process of unpacking those thoughts starts to feel a little confusing or entirely overwhelming, then reach out for support from a trusted source, be it a trusted member of your faith community or a professional therapist. I promise you won’t regret the journey.
Hope is not a frail thing.
It is solid…substantial.
A core, thick and fiery,
warming and energizing its host.
Sustainer and reason to endure
It is not flighty or fickle,
prone to leaving a body in despair.
It merely gets overlooked, unappreciated,
buried under all the cares and concerns of a day.
But it’s always there,
ready to be reclaimed from the pile of rubble,
still burning bright; ready to lend warmth and energy.
Lighting the way
Lend me your strength, Fresh Hope.
I can’t go out into the world alone.
Come with me; solidify my bone.
Make me kind.
Take the edge off my word.
Make me gentle, so my heart may speak.
Come with me, Hope.
Give me eyes to see.
Show me the beauty I’ve been missing.
Reclaim the peace my hands can’t grasp.
Come with me, Hope.
Let’s create something that lasts.
My child has been begging to go camping. I have hesitated to take her, given her complete and unholy terror of flying insects and intense aversion to outdoor bathrooms. Reaching a compromise, we planned a backyard campout for the Memorial Day weekend.
The day of the campout began with much needed yard maintenance to prepare a nice place to camp. I spent the morning mowing the front lawn and entertaining portions of the neighborhood girl gang. At lunch, we all took a break to recover from the heat. In my case, I took a long, luxurious nap.
After I woke up, I put the hammock up between the trees in the front yard, because what is a campout without a hammock? Then I began mowing the back yard and getting it ready for the tent. In the middle of that process, we received a pet turtle, and so we spent some time creating a turtle habitat. We are now a family of 2 people, 1 dog, 2 cats, 1 turtle, and 2 goldfish. I’m going to start charging admission to this house that is quickly becoming a petting zoo.
By this time, it was time to hit the local Wal-Mart to join with all the other Memorial Day celebrators in procuring all the cookout necessities. Over $100 later, we left with all manner of campfire cookout food and 1 bona fide fish tank, because I am now willing to accept that we have become fish people. Also, because I am no longer willing to change tank water every other day when there are such blessed inventions as water filters.
We returned home and immediately set up the new fish tank. It came with an LED light that changes color, so once it was all set up, we sat in front of it mesmerized by the colors, the bubbles, and the fish making fish faces.
Finally pulling ourselves away, we began setting up the tent. I need you to understand the weather conditions under which I took up this occupation. It was approximately 1000 degrees with 10,000 percent humidity. I bent down to open the bag containing the tent and that action alone caused me to be immediately drenched in sweat. By the time the tent was up, I felt like I had walked into a swimming pool with all my clothes on.
Still, we soldiered on and started the campfire. We ate chips and dip and roasted hot dogs, and we didn’t completely swelter from the heat. We made s’mores and enjoyed the hypnotic effect of a campfire. All the while, Stax whined in protest that he was not included in the festivities and was sent to his bed inside the house.
As the sun set, we cleaned up from the cook out and let Stax outside. I walked with him around the tent as he inspected it, hoping to prevent any Lab-like chewing behavior. Rather, he immediately marked the side of the tent as his territory. Thanks, boy.
I went inside to gather the rest of the bedding we needed for our campout, keeping an ear and eye out for any shenanigans Stax may try to pull. Stepping back outside with an arm full of blankets and pillows, I found Stax happily laying in the grass while eating our lantern. By the time I pulled it from his jaws, he had already chewed off the handle. Upon further inspection, it was found to be incredibly slimy but still in working order. Nothing a good cleaning wouldn’t fix.
We settled into the tent, leaving Stax on the outside. I would have liked to have him in the tent, because despite his many flaws, he is my emotional support beast. My child, however, does not find him as charming as I do, but we both found comfort in his large form being present right outside of the tent door.
My child asked me to read to her, and handing me her small, green Bible with a ladybug adorning the cover, she asked me to read the first chapter. By the light of our now handle-less lantern, I read aloud the account of The Creation. The atmosphere of the creation account had never before felt so fitting as reading it in a tent, by the light of a lantern, with the moon and the stars peaking through the window.
Next, we read two chapters in the 1st book of the Magic Treehouse series, and then we settled into the stillness of the night. I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, as I was exhausted from a day of yard work and setting up backyard camp. I had just switched off the lantern and closed my eyes, when a light rain began to fall.
“Ahhh, it’s raining!” I happily exclaimed.
“I’m scared! We have to go in!” my child declared, not at all sharing my delight.
“Look, it’s just a gentle rain. Even Stax isn’t bothered by it. He hasn’t even moved,” I pointed out.
“Oh yeah,” she said, “He’s not freaked out at all”.
Taking her cues from the emotional support beast, she settled back down into the pillows and blankets, and we enjoyed the sound of the rain that only lasted a couple more minutes. I lay there, sinking deeper into relaxation, enjoying the sounds of the insects and frogs singing, until a new sound made its way into my consciousness. Quickly, I realized that sound was Stax snacking on the guy lines of the tent.
“NO!!!” I yelled, as I bounded out of the hobbit-sized opening of the tent. Stax lay there completely unfazed by my exuberant exit from the tent and happily chewing the lines. That was the end of the campout for Stax, as I escorted him to his bed inside the house.
The humans attempted to settle back into the tent, but we were newly aware of how hot it was after exerting ourselves. Every few minutes, one of us would declare, “It’s really hot” and the other would agree.
At one point during this exchange, my child said, “Well, at least we got a tent so you can go camping when you want to. I can have a sleepover at Nana & Pop’s or a friends house”.
In response, I burst into laughter, and she promptly covered my mouth with her hand.
“Does that mean you would like to go inside now?” I inquired.
“No,” she responded, “I’ll try for a few more minutes.”
By 9:30, we were in the house, safely tucked into our beds and enjoying the air-conditioning. I fell asleep more deeply relaxed than I usually do, with the scent of the outdoors and campfire fresh in my hair and the song of nighttime creatures still in my ears.
The tent is still up in the yard, and we keep looking out of the window to make sure that Stax isn’t using it as a giant chew toy. The spirit of camping seems to have nestled into a small part of my daughter’s heart, as she keeps saying that she would like to try to sleep out again tonight.
Maybe we will sleep out all night in the tent, and maybe we won’t. Whatever time we get to spend together outside will ultimately serve us well, with the slower pace and fewer distractions it allows us to enjoy.
Happy Memorial Day!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I recently told my daughter a story from my early elementary school years. I feel like it must have occurred somewhere in the 2nd to 4th grade range, because I still resided in the bedroom with the rosebud wallpaper that had a slight metallic sheen to it. In that room, I slept on an antique bed, played in the window seat, and enjoyed 2 closets- one for toys and one for clothes and shoes.
One morning, I ran upstairs to put on my shoes in order to finish getting ready for school. I had one shoe successfully on and was in the process of putting on the second shoe when my toes bumped against something. I stopped and looked into my shoe, but I didn’t see anything. I tried to put it on again, and again my toes bumped up against something foreign. Perplexed, I removed the shoe again and shook it.
Tumbling from the shoe came a solitary black cricket. I had instantaneous feelings of guilt that I may have hurt the poor, little fellow while shoving my foot into my shoe and of disgust that my socked foot had touched an insect. Twice.
I don’t remember what I did next that day way back in elementary school, and I certainly didn’t tell this story to my daughter in this much detail as we were having our own struggles to get out of the door and arrive at school on time. Nonetheless, the story clearly made an impression on her and, using her own vivid imagination, she seems to have created her own details and attached her own emotions to the story. How do I know this to be the case?
This morning, my daughter thought it was absolutely hilarious when her pink and green striped soccer sock got stuck to her hind end with the help of some static electricity. I mildly acknowledged the humor and strongly encouraged her to continue getting dressed by putting her shoes on. She exited the room while I finished up in the bathroom, then I went to put on my own shoes. The first boot went on without a problem. With the second boot, my foot met with some resistance. Upon inspection, what did I find in the toe of my boot but a bright pink and green striped soccer sock.
Friends, it matters not if my shoes are in my room, in my closet, on the living room floor, or waiting for me by the kitchen door, they are quite regularly full of surprises. Legos, crayons, orange wiffle golf balls, small plastic La La Loopsy dolls, and various other treasures have taken up residence in my shoe in an attempt by my daughter to recreate that element of surprise from the cricket-in-the-shoe story.
On a morning that finds me irritable and in a hurry, these little surprises in my shoe can elicit an exasperated groan. On a morning that finds me happy and ready to conquer the world, a shoe treasure can bring a sentimental tear to my eye. This morning was a response mixed with irritation and curiosity about why this behavior lingers on. It has been weeks, maybe even a couple of months, since May Lee and I actually discussed and had a little chuckle over the shoe surprise bit. I realized this morning that I have been quickly dumping the shoe intruders onto the floor and carrying on with business for some time now.
Something about that response didn’t sit well with me as I thought it over this morning. As I continue to ponder it this afternoon, it is starting to feel like my daughter is trying to engage me in a playful way and in response to a piece of my childhood that I shared with her, and I have been completely ignoring her attempts. On a morning like this morning, it is likely my daughter’s way of saying “Lighten up, mom. Life can be fun if you let it”. While it may be easy to fall into a parenting shame spiral at this point, I see no need to go that route. I’m not going to catch everything every time. I simply do not possess superpowers that morph me into the Perfect Parent.
Now that I do recognize the potential importance of this little game, it seems clear that I need to respond. Lately, I have been learning that it really is never too late to go back and make something right if you missed it the first time. In the same vein, I’m learning that showing up is always important-the most important- even if you happen to show up a little late. In this case, I also better show up silly and with a light-heart.
Therefore, in the spirit of this new parenting revelation, tomorrow the shoe will be on the other foot, if you can pardon the pun. Come morning, May Lee just might find a surprise with her little toes.
To say that this week has been full of emotions is a ridiculous understatement. I haven’t had words to put to the emotions, but now that the weekend is here and rest is available, I’m sure the words will come. But for now, let’s simply catch up on the family news.
All the falling leaves….
We actually got some yard work done last weekend, which really means that I finally mowed the lawn. I brought out the rake and had May Lee rake up the leaves that the lawnmower didn’t get. Honestly, when it comes to leaves, I’m not one of those people that care about having a neat and tidy yard. I am more of the “circle of life” mindset, meaning the leaves fall to the ground and decay for a reason- it enriches the soil. Therefore, I feel silly sweeping nutrients into a bag where they serve no purpose. I guess I’m just a little granola that way. Even so, my daughter is in desperate need of lessons about work, so this small raking job was a good opportunity for the lesson.
The end result was a small pile of leaves just right for jumping into, so that was the reward for her work. She jumped and had herself a ball, and when her pile was in complete disarray, she got out the rake and worked until her pile was back together again. Thus, the lesson of “put in the work so you can have the fun” seemed to come full circle. Even better, we invited the neighbors over to jump with us, so it was a merry time for all!
The chill of winter and the single-parent budget:
The 80-degree temperatures have finally given away to more seasonable temperatures, and for that I’m grateful. Grateful, but unprepared. My budget has been very tight, and I have been able to set aside only $30 for a coat for May Lee. You are probably well aware that coats for children cost about twice that, but wouldn’t you know it, I got an email from The Children’s Place that all outwear was 50%-60% off. Blessings come in many forms, my friends, and this was a blessing to this single parent. Due to this sale, my $30 got this adorable puffer jacket (http://thechildrensplace.7eer.net/c/336760/322455/3971) and a pair of gloves (http://thechildrensplace.7eer.net/c/336760/322535/3971). With the free shipping, my dollar stretched as far as it could possibly stretch, which makes for guilt free shopping (http://thechildrensplace.7eer.net/c/336760/316382/3971)
For this reason, I decided to become an affiliate for The Children’s Place. The links above are affiliate links, and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Free and discounted clothes are a big deal to a single-parent budget!
Training for the St. Jude 10K:
Training and fund-raising for St. Jude is still going strong. Despite the insane amount of stress eating that occurred this week, I was still able to hit the 5K mark on Tuesday evening. As what I like to believe to be a cosmic reward, I found this $5 bill on the ground. What a nice treat- a dollar for every kilometer run! If this is what the metric system is about, then it has my full support.
Part of my job involves lab puppies, and sometimes these puppies are with us a few days before their owners arrive. In these instances, a staff member usually takes the puppy home and cares for it until the owner arrives. This week that staff member was me, and I brought home this adorable baby for May Lee to enjoy for a night. You may be thinking that this was a recipe for disaster, given the propensity of my own giant lab to be completely wild and of my elderly cat to be downright evil. The same thoughts occurred to me, but I did it anyway. We actually had a very lovely evening. My daughter just about exploded from the love in her heart for this little baby, and my heart just about exploded from watching the two of them play together. I even put the puppy and the child to bed together, where they curled up sweetly and slept peacefully all night. (I did wake up at 3:30 and take the puppy out to potty. He went right back to sleep after that.)
However, around 3:45 all hell broke loose and stayed loose for the rest of the morning. Shortly after returning to my bed from taking the puppy out, Stax began to whine. Upon investigating, I discovered that he had pooped in his crate. I made short work of the clean up process and returned to bed, sleeping fitfully until my alarm went off at 5 a.m. I got up and strategically went to work preparing everything we would need for the day in light of the fact that we had a puppy to work into our morning routine.
I woke May Lee up and put her in the shower. In the meantime, I prepared breakfast for the puppy and placed it and him in Stax’s giant and freshly cleaned crate. I thought this excellent plan would let us be about the business of getting ready while the puppy was safely in the crate. The puppy disagreed adamantly, whining and howling like I’d whipped him and placed him in a crate of nails. As I was helping May Lee finish in the shower, the puppy was overturning his food and water dishes and working himself into such a state that he would nervously poop in the crate as a result. He then proceeded to tap dance in the poo, creating a mess reminiscent of the one I had cleaned up around 3:45 a.m.
I instructed May Lee to get dressed in the clothes that we had already picked out while I went to hose down the crate and clean up the puppy in the front yard. It was during this chore that I looked up to see my still naked child with dripping hair standing at the door watching me while her clothes remained in her hand and not on her body. As you can imagine, a heated discussion ensued, and as I abandoned the poop-cleaning project to step onto the porch to offer my child whatever assistance she claimed she needed but really was perfectly able to do herself, I stepped on the rotting jack-o-lantern left to compost in the flowerbed.
That’s life, isn’t it? Feeling good about successfully maneuvering around the crap only to step into the rotting pumpkin. C’est la vie…
Somehow, we made it to school on time and free of any particles of puppy poop or rotten jack-o-lantern. This is due in part to my shoving lunch money into my child’s hands and telling her to order lunch. I have to say that overall it was worth it to have the puppy for a night. It has generated several discussions about responsibility, taking care of things, and at what point May Lee will be ready to take on a pet of her own.
All the feelings:
Clearly, the election has stirred up big feelings for everyone, including me. Life quickly gave me a reality check on those feelings with news of the deaths of people I know. Substance abuse and cancer are not only affecting so many families that I know but also claiming lives. This news has both confused and refined my feelings about the election, but both events have resulted in a deepening belief and intensified focus on the core values of this little family. Many important conversations have happened this week, and I suspect that they will continue.
As for today, it is Saturday, and we are going to slow down, rest, and let our systems process and recover from all the emotional hits of this week. More and more, I have come to understand the importance of laying low and being peaceful, even when nothing inside or outside of me feels peaceful. Peacefulness has to be invited to come; it won’t just overtake a person. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn, that peace is active. As in, I have to actively and intentionally make a decision and create a time and space for it to come into my life. I have to willingly participate in it.
Long story short, that is what today is about- bringing about peace. I hope your heart and your home are blessed with peace today as well.