Considering the New Normal for a Very Long Summer

Last time, I left you in terrible suspense about whether or not we would obtain lightbulbs for our kitchen before the sun went down, so I’m going to let you know that we did not receive the light bulbs for 5 days after the order was placed. I was forced to cook our beef tenderloin in less than optimal lighting that night, and I think that might be the epitome of first world problems. 

We picked up the long-awaited light bulbs a couple of nights ago, and replaced only one of the burned out bulbs. As it would turn out, we have grown accustomed to the mood lighting provided by 2 out of the 4 bulbs and found any more light than that offensive to our eyes and spirits during this time, so we have yet to replace the remaining 2 burned out bulbs. Maybe this is our version of flying flags at half mast; we express our Corona grief by illuminating our kitchen at only half capacity. 

Wheelchair
A work in progress…

In other news, there is now a wheelchair taking up residence in my driveway, which is by far the most exotic item my child has brought home from her exploits in the neighborhood. The neighborhood girl gang spent an entire morning embellishing the wheelchair with beads and stickers and by attaching pieces of old trophies to the handlebars. The piece de resistance, however, is the string of brightly colored flags one would generally find at a car lot wrapped around the entirety of this neighborhood art project. 

Obviously, this called for a socially-distanced parade, and the entire day was spent by all the neighborhood children riding up and down the hill of the neighborhood. In all my fantasies about being a parent, I never once expected that I would have to help negotiate taking turns and lecture about sharing in regards to a wheelchair. All I can really say is that Corona parenting is trippy, y’all. 

By the end of the weekend, there were plans for a neighborhood socially-distanced lemonade stand, cupcake bake-off, and Olympic competitions. Once again, I am reminded that this neighborhood and the spirit of not only looking out for each other but also enjoying each other is a real blessing, and yet, somewhere in all that planning for activities that are usually saved for the summer, it hit me: this is it. This is the new normal. This is how it is now and for the foreseeable future, and something about that felt very sobering.

You see, we have been one-day-at-a-timing this thing for what feels like an eternity. Our school assignments come in one day at a time. My work schedule has changed almost daily as the needs of my clients have changed. It seems that we’ve all been holding our breath until this thing passes, much like I find myself holding my breath in Walmart if I find that I have no other option but to walk past another person in the aisle. And, well, neither one of those things is sustainable long-term. At some point, I’m going to need to breathe, and we’re all going to need to make some plans beyond what snacks we’re going to eat tomorrow. 

This realization ended up being the theme for the week, as I spoke with various people about their impending return to work or a choice they were having to make about a potential trip. The fact of the matter is, the mandated, universal protocols that we should all be following are beginning to fade, and we are being released into the world with only our homemade masks and our good judgement and common sense. God help us, right?! Things are so much easier when clear lines are drawn and so much harder when we must make judgement calls. 

My mind has been busy this week, trying to wrap itself around what this new normal may look like for this little family. I’ve been trying to imagine how comfortable I might feel eating in a restaurant or going to the gym surrounded by masked faces and gloved hands. More immediately, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around taking my child into a store for the first time, because she is spending most of her time barefoot right now and the shipping of those shoes I ordered weeks ago keeps being delayed. At the rate she is growing, by the time the shoes actually arrive, there is a good chance they won’t fit anymore. Pretty soon, the aid of a measuring tool and the ability to try some shoes on her actual feet is going to be necessary, so what good judgement and common sense looks like in that scenario has been my mental gymnastics for the week. 

It makes me grateful that the new TV I ordered arrived in time for an end of the week respite. If only shoes would arrive as quickly as televisions, but at this juncture, perhaps a new TV will keep us from actually needing to put on shoes for a little while longer. Our brains are very tired from navigating the unknowns and uncertainties of this interesting and odd time we are living in, and a little time being entertained with little effort required from us is exactly what is needed.

After all, we need to be rested for the next round of weekend wheelchair parades, national lemonade day celebrations, and cupcake competitions…and whatever else gets dreamed up this weekend. Here’s to new normals and neighborhood entertainment: may they keep us sane during a very long summer.

 

My Daughter has learned to cook during quarantine, and we’re going to need more eggs….

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Photo by Gabriel Gurrola on Unsplash

I don’t know how things are going at your house, but corona quarantine has made our life both incredibly interesting and entirely mundane. 

On the more mundane side, I’ve started cooking again and not because I enjoy cooking. Initially, I only started cooking because all the sudden I had the time to do it and because grabbing food out had become a little more difficult. As the weeks sequestered in my home with the same old fare lingered on, I became desperate for something new. 

“I can’t take it anymore. I cannot eat the same thing for the 6th week in a row!” I yelled mostly at the refrigerator but also in an attempt to communicate what was coming to my picky child. She just looked at me with the expression of the mildly annoyed, more mature witness to this outburst. I feared that she is about to say something reasonable, like “we have plenty of food in this pantry” so I continued on with my crusade for finer cuisine before she could say anything. 

“Listen,” I began, “This is what’s going to happen. I’m going to sign up for one of those services where they send you the ingredients and tell you how to cook it, because I need something new without the responsibility of having to comb through thousands of Pinterest pages to find it. I’m going to let them decide for me and send it to me. And then I’m going to make it and you’re going to try it, you hear me?! And if you don’t like it, fine, but you’re going to try it and then you can make yourself something else.” 

“Fine,” she says, not even putting up a fight, “As long as I can make something else if I don’t like it.” 

I think the only reason she so willingly resigned to my new food proclamation is that just before quarantine we discovered that she is finally tall enough to use the microwave and began heating up some of her own food. She has continued to expand her skill in the kitchen during quarantine and can now use the stove to fry her own eggs. 

Oh, the fried egg. It is her current favorite food. She would eat half a dozen of them in one sitting if I would let her. I would complain about that, but the fried egg with salt and pepper is the only thing that broke down my daughter’s inexplicable disdain for pepper, so I owe it a debt of gratitude and therefore allow the fried egg phase to stand. I only pray that soon she will discover some form of toasted bread and perhaps some melted cheese and consume her eggs with any combination of these things rather than using her fingers to deliver the egg directly to her mouth. It would be a small mercy for which I would be forever grateful. 

The interesting part to me in this scaled back, run of the mill, mundane quarantine life we have going on is how much it has allowed her to grow. Cooking isn’t the only new skill she has picked up, she has also learned how to do laundry. We have even instituted mother-daughter folding time and tackle laundry mountain together. She has learned to unload the dishwasher and run the vacuum. Suddenly, I feel like if she had to move into her college dorm tomorrow, she just might survive. The pace of our life has slowed down just enough to allow her to finally, successfully memorize those multiplication tables and for me to be able to teach her some important life skills. She’s going to walk out of quarantine able to feed and clothe herself, and that seems pretty amazing to me. 

The grief process during the shut down and quarantine was significant and real. I felt it, my child felt it, my clients felt it; we all felt the wild and mixed emotions of grief. Now there is talk of reopening the country and getting everything back up and going, and honestly, that makes me a little sad, too. I just settled into this slower pace of life, and frankly, it suits me quite well. It seems to suit this little family even better, and I’m beginning to suspect that there will be a little grief when the schedules fill up again and our time together at home is all about chores, dinner, baths, homework and how quickly we can get those things done so we can be in bed on time. 

We needed this respite. I knew we needed it before it was involuntarily thrust upon us, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it happen. I’m hoping to come out of this thing with some new ideas and new zeal for protecting my time. Quarantine has certainly presented some unexpected challenges, but it has presented some unexpected blessings, as well. The gift of time, as it turns out, has some arms and legs to it that extend well into the future, and I’m curious to see what kind of life we all return to. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m not in a hurry to return to the hurry. 

 

My Internal Dialogue While Running

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Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

In my last running-related post, I began untangling perfectionism as it impacts my health journey, and I shared some of the things I have learned to do that counter my perfectionistic tendencies. Today, I’d like to deep dive into that perfectionism a little more by exploring what the coaches at The OmniFit call mental chatter. In my therapist circles, we tend to call it the “inner critic”. Personally, I call her my inner Crazy Lady. Of all of them, I prefer the term mental chatter the most, because it brings to mind an enormous canopy of trees filled with chattering chimpanzees. I feel like this description most closely resembles the true goings on of my mind. 

I have noticed over the past 2 weeks that as the miles have gotten longer, the mental chatter has grown louder and more frequent. As the normal aches and pains begin to set in, I catch myself saying things in my head like “I’m dying!”, “my legs are getting tired!”, and “why am I doing this to myself?!”. All of the articles I’ve read from running magazines have warned about this and offered suggestions for thoughts to use instead of the negative ones. I’ve attempted to integrate some of them into my thoughts when I hit a tough spot in a run. The process has looked something like this:

(checks watch)

Me-in-pain: Omg, I’m only at ___ miles and I still have ____ many to go. I don’t know if I’m going to make it!

Trying-to-be-positive Me: Ok, no, I can’t think like that. Look! I’ve already done ___ miles! I’m doing great!

Me-in-pain: You’re a lying liar who lies. I’m not doing great! I’m hanging on by a thread! I red-faced, already-sweated-through-my-shirt-AND-my-shorts-thread! 

Trying-to-be-positive Me: Ok, FINE. Yes, We’re a hot mess, and we’ve hit a hard place. What about just keeping the legs moving? They’ll eventually go numb. Can we just do that?

Me-in-pain: Fine. Bring on the numbness.

Trying-to-be-positive Me: FINE

As you can see, this has been an uphill battle so far. It’s more like a hostage negotiation with my inner Crazy Lady than a lovely and tranquil exercise in mindfulness. 

In the Transformation Blueprint course, the coaches at The OmniFit offered several preventative measures to overcoming negative mental talk. They are really very simple and pretty much common sense, but they are so often overlooked. The first suggestions was writing down your goals and keeping them where you can see them every day. I know this concept and know that it works. Have I been doing it? No. Am I doing it now? Kind of. I do look at my training goals a few times a week, mostly for scheduling purposes. In preparing for this week, I did spend a little more time evaluating the goals for the week, checking the goals against reality and my expectations, and ultimately deciding to adjusting a few things. This proved to be successful today during my first run of the week, as I was able to hit a goal that I’d been struggling with for a few weeks, and the inner Crazy Lady never showed up to rain on the parade. 

The second suggestion was to look at the quantity and quality of sleep. Listen friends, nothing sends the inner Crazy Lady on a rampage like sleep deprivation. This is just something that has been true about me since the day I was born. Anyone who shared a cabin with me at sleep away camp can attest to this, and I apologize for the shoes I threw when I was tired and you wouldn’t be quiet. I have cultivated a good sleep routine over the past several years, and even so, I’ve had a few rough nights recently. In hindsight, I recognize that since there wasn’t really anything else I could do about the sleep issue, adjusting my goals for the run would have been the next thing to try. Instead, I tried to push through with the original plan, and it backfired a bit. Lesson learned. 

The final suggestion was to keep it fun. This was such a novel idea to me in the beginning. My perfectionism was confused by the concept of “fun” in “working out”. It’s working out, so it’s supposed to be work, right? Work is right there in the name, and work is not “supposed” to be fun. Sigh, what a depressing view of life, right? This is a perfect example of why perfectionists need recovery: to challenge the idea that work is supposed to be “feel bad” and can never be fun. Honestly, writing about running and what I’m learning through running and working with nutrition coaches is one of the main things that keeps it fun for me. The other is the excuse to explore new music and indulge in pop workout mixes. I have a playlist going for both long runs and shorter, faster runs. Having new music on a playlist gives me something to look forward to and adds something new to the repetitive nature of a training schedule. 

On a surface level, it sure looks like it takes a lot to keep the inner Crazy Lady at bay. In actuality, though, it looks more like meeting my very real needs for sleep, a decent meal, plenty of water, a little bit of fun, and some attainable goals that I can chase after and achieve. I think as a culture, we often fail to see success as legitimate need, and therefore, dangle it just out of reach for ourselves as well as for others. This phenomena really becomes obvious when you have come to the end of everything you can do to achieve something and still find yourself coming up short, much like my dilemma with sleep this week. Just as I found success by adjusting my goals, I’d like to encourage everyone to allow yourself some success by moving the bar closer when you need to. Every major success is preceded by a long series of small successes. You don’t have to count everything that doesn’t work out perfectly as a failure. Simply adjust to what is actually possible for you right now. 

So, go ahead, move that bar to something attainable, and blow that goal out of the water. I’d love to hear about it! I’d also like to know what you do to keep training interesting and fun. Song suggestions are always appreciated, as well.

 

 

The Hope of Growth and Common Interests

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Three years old and dancing with the sea lions

Our little town has been undergoing a transformation over the last several years. An art district has been flourishing and revitalizing the historic downtown square, and recently this area hosted a block party in order to celebrate a newly renovated park. May Lee and I were excited to attend, and clearly we weren’t the only ones, as several thousand people came and  explored the STEM themed attractions, shopped at the various vendors, and formed long lines at all the food trucks. Since my child is going through a picky eater phase and neither of us enjoys a crowd, we opted to begin our evening at the art studio where May Lee has been taking classes since she was about four years old. We spent over an hour making crafts before deciding to hit the street again. 

As we left the building, we could hear that a musician, who happened to be our guitar instructor, was just starting his set. We made our way next door to the newly renovated park and marveled at the transformation as we stood at the entrance scoping out open seats. What once was a vacant and neglected outdoor lot littered with broken glass and other debris had become a clean and inviting space. The previously cracked concrete floor had been repaved and blanketed with a bright green square of astroturf. Low walls bordered the left and right sides of the lawn and created walkways on either side that lead up to a new stage that spanned across the back wall. Overhead, steel beams were lined with festive outdoor lights that created a warm and relaxing glow. 

Some seats opened up on one of the walls, and we made our way over and settled in for the show. For over an hour, we enjoyed singing along to the popular cover songs being played, joining in with the crowd to clap along to the beat, and cheering for our favorite songs. Several children ran to the open space in front of the stage and danced and tumbled on the astroturf in variations of somersaults and cartwheels. It summoned memories of when my own child was 3 years old and twirling around in her pineapple sundress to a bluegrass band that played at one of our favorite Florida farmer’s markets. There was also the time around the same age that she performed interesting dance moves right along with the dancing sea lions at Marine World. 

Now, she is 8 years old, and rather than running to the front to twirl and dance to the music, she spent the show with her long legs stretched out on top of the wall and her back leaning against my shoulder. She’s growing up, and that really hit home to me as we enjoyed the live music together in this new and grown up way. She has favorite songs now that are not pre-k classics like “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”, 

“Some of you are gonna love this, and the rest of you will want to puke,” the singer declared before launching into a cover of “Old Town Road”. My daughter’s whole face lit up with excitement, and I allowed my jaw to drop to mirror her emotion. I chuckled at the Billy Ray Cyrus induced “Achy, Breaky Heart” flashbacks I was having, but I also relished in my daughter’s delight at hearing one of her favorite songs being played live for the first time in her life. There really is something very highly contagious about sharing live music with your people. When that person is your child, it certainly makes it very difficult to be a music snob. 

After the music ended and the party was over, we headed to Sonic for grilled cheese sandwiches and tater tots, since we dared not brave the food truck lines during the event. On our way out, we were able to snag a couple of macarons before they closed down their truck, so we snacked on little blueberry cheesecake delights while we waited for our food. I pulled up the video of “Achy, Breaky Heart” to show my daughter what was coming to my mind every time I heard Billy Ray Cyrus sing on “Old Town Road”. I didn’t expect her to love the song and request that it be added  to her playlist so she could listen to it every day, which is exactly what happened. 

(That request was met with a hard no, by the way. I lived through “Achy, Breaky Heart” once, and that was enough. She has her own device, so go with God, child.)

Mercifully, our food arrived at that time, and as we sat and ate, I took a moment to really savor this wonderful evening with my daughter. The fact that she is old enough now to enjoy- and allow me to enjoy- an hour and a half of live music is ushering in a new phase of growth and maturity. Being able to stay out a little later every now and then without a total meltdown because she’s tired is a new lease on life for the both of us. It’s a really happy and hopeful thing that we can enjoy a great night out together, and I found myself hoping that this common interest in music could sustain us through the tumultuous teen years and beyond. Perhaps it’s even time to allow myself to begin dreaming about taking her to her first big concert. 

When we arrived home, my daughter announced to me that she was tired and going to bed. Not only did she get ready for bed without any prodding from me, she actually got into bed without me having to tell her to do so no less than four hundred times. For once, I was able to be the mother I always dreamed I could be and was able to say sweet, goodnight things to my daughter in all sincerity and not through gritted teeth and thinly veiled frustration produced by the circus that is the typical bedtime routine. 

I’m not going to lie, I may struggle a little bit with this new phase of maturity. It’s a little shocking to the system to have such an abrupt change, but I’m determined to allow myself to enjoy every moment of it. Because there is more of this to come, right? If I’m doing this parenting thing well, there should be more milestones like this ahead. At least, this is what I’ve been led to believe by the Great Cloud of Parenting Witnesses that have gone before me and frequently encourage me that “this too shall pass” when I’m about to pull my hair out. I’ve been told that one day I’ll be rewarded for all my effort in raising this small child with an adult child who is responsible and pleasant to spend time with. 

So, I’m choosing to see this block party as a foreshadowing of the really lovely adult my child is working on becoming. I’m choosing to believe that this was a small taste of my parenting efforts paying off, and I’m accepting that as encouragement that my less-than-perfect parenting is still producing some good fruit. I’m also renewing my commitment to her music education. This is clearly an avenue by which we will continue to bond, and y’all, I want to enjoy the music (at least some of the time) too!

 

A Prayerful Meditation for Hope

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Hope is not a frail thing.

It is solid…substantial.

A core, thick and fiery,

warming and energizing its host.

Soul-center

Life-giver

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.

Refining

Purifying

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.