Health and Wellness, single-parenting, Uncategorized

Diary of a Reluctant Half-Marathoner: Managing Goals and Gators

BikeTrailPic

Today begins my 2nd week of pre-training for the St. Jude half-marathon in December. The first week had some interesting twists and turns, but overall I’m happy with how things went. Compared to last year, my approach and attitude toward this training cycle is totally different, and that shift in mindset has come from working with the coaches at the OmniFit through their 7 Day Challenge and the Transformation Blueprint course.

So much of my growth over the past year has been around setting realistic goals and managing expectations and my emotional response to those expectations. The reality of managing my expectations is much like wrestling an alligator, in that they are powerful, ornery, and unwilling to be tamed or controlled. It gets really ugly when I let my emotions attach to that power struggle, because clearly, it is going to end badly with me feeling like an exhausted, wrung-out failure. Which is entirely ridiculous, given the fact that I was never meant to wrestle alligators. Goal setting is never supposed to be a power struggle. When properly designed, it is an avenue of empowerment by which goals are achieved.

But in order to do that, expectations have to exit the alligator wrestling arena that I have conjured in my mind and shake hands with reality. That means moving past denial and telling the truth about everything: my time and schedule, my energy level, my attitude and motivation, and my current unhealthy patterns and how deeply entrenched they are in my life. It means accepting that this is going to be hard and I’m going to be uncomfortable and sometimes I’m going to hate this and it is going to bring out the worst in me at times and I’m likely going to act really immature at some point and whine like a small child and NOTHING ABOUT THIS PROCESS IS GOING TO BE PRETTY OR PERFECT.

If this sounds like I’m talking about lowering the bar substantially, then you are picking up what I’m laying down. If that makes you panic, sit in that feeling for a minute and ask yourself why. What I’ve discovered is that when I sit with that feeling and ask myself why, the answers usually reveal wildly unrealistic and unhealthy expectations for myself that I didn’t even realize I was holding on to. The more I reflect on that, I realize that it has been those silent, hidden expectations that have been operating in my life without my conscious permission. They are the drivers behind the unhealthy patterns, like eating my emotions or numbing out or making myself invisible with food.

In light of all of that (and that was A LOT, wasn’t it?), when it was time to start planning my 1st week of pre-training, I created a basic “skeleton” schedule for workouts. After I told the truth about my schedule and my time, I used that information to identify the days of the week that I was going run or walk and the days that I was going to do strength training. As I wrote out the workouts I was planning to do, I wrote them like the stars do align and the day actually does go as planned, because when that glorious day actually happens I want to have a plan in place that allows me to maximize that time for all that it is worth. Knowing that more often than not my days fly off the rails at some point, I identified the part of each workout I could do come hell or high water.

Having that kind of plan in place- a plan with built-in flexibility- made me feel so much more peaceful and less intimidated about starting this training cycle. It also removed the shame of “failing to do exactly what has been prescribed to do” and gave me the freedom to adjust according the realities that life throws at me. Last week, that looked like canceling a run/walk night entirely because my child was exhausted and falling asleep on the couch at 6 p.m., and I wasn’t too far behind her.

It also gave me the freedom to make it fun, which looked like including my child on all the other run/walk workouts. On my scheduled track night when I intended to do an easy, short workout, we ended up doing an almost 2 mile walk. During that walk, we enjoyed time to just chat and catch up with each other that is so rare these days. My scheduled weekend 1 mile run ended up coming in at 0.88 miles, because I also used that time to introduce my new bike rider to the bike trail. I ended up stopping many, many times during the 1st half mile to coach to her, even laying my body down on the paved trail to demonstrate how wide the path really was to relieve her fear of suddenly losing control of herself and rolling into woods. The things we do to calm our children’s fears!

Before I started this journey of wrestling with my expectations, having these things “interrupt” my workout would have caused me a ton of anxiety. Now, I enjoy seeing my daughter get excited about doing any form of exercise. She doesn’t look at me all confused when she walks in the living room to find me in plank position; she simply joins me. This week, she has paid close attention while I measured out and planned my food to take to work and asked important questions about nutrition, which happens to also be the 1st week in a very long time that she has not fought me about eating a proper meal.

So, did I achieve all those “big goal” markers and finish the entire “big goal” workouts that I wrote out? No, I didn’t. But I got close. I certainly did more than I did the week before. More importantly, I stuck to that skeleton structure I created and put some flesh to it by figuring out what is actually going to work inside of my real life and what is not going to work, and figuring that out will set me up for long-term success.

Most importantly, I was a good mom this week. I enjoyed some real, quality time with my child, and she achieved some goals and conquered that fear of bike-riding that she has been trying to work out for over a year now. If I keep on working out my goals and managing my expectations this way, my whole life may get healthier, including my relationship with my daughter, and that will be a way bigger win than shedding a few pounds or shaving a few seconds off of my mile time.  

 

single-parenting, Uncategorized

The Weekly Recap: R.I.P. Wonder Woman Mug

Sunday morning trip to Memphis

Last weekend, May Lee and I took an impromptu trip to Memphis to buy a birthday present for my dad. It turned out to be a lovely little day trip. During the drive over, we listened to The Greatest Showman soundtrack, playing the song “The Other Side” over and over so that May Lee and I could perfect our duet.

“You be Mr. Barnum this time!” May Lee would instruct, or “Let’s switch and you be Mr. Bailey!”

Sometimes we’d pause our rehearsals to argue passionately about what the lyrics to the song REALLY are. Currently, May Lee holds the high score for the most creative lyrics, and I hold the high score for accuracy. I try not squash her inaccurate and completely humorous lyrics with my need for accuracy, because it works in my favor when she replaces the swear words with “meow”. It cracks me up every time.

We rolled into town just a few minutes late for services at one of our favorite, local churches. When church was over, we ate lunch with friends at Memphis Pizza Café, one of my favorite spots. As has been my tradition at any Memphis Pizza Café location for over a decade, I picked up The Memphis Flyer as soon as I walked in. Then, I sat down at a table and ordered a Greek salad and a slice of pizza. The only thing that really varies in this equation is the kind of pizza I’ll order, as that selection is entirely dependent upon the state of my spirit. That day, my spirit said Hawaiian, which turned out to be an excellent choice.

 The Petting Zoo: What is thriving and what is not

We are down to 1 goldfish of the original seven. What strong stock must this remaining fish be made of that it has outlasted all the others? I fear that it is a female goldfish and that she is secretly harboring eggs. I fear that she will lay these eggs and that one morning we will wake up and there will be an entire, new generation of goldfish for us to care for in a cycle that will never end.

The turtle also continues to thrive. I suppose it is time to find a permanent location for her, also. Maybe she should move in with the goldfish, seeing is how they are both determined to survive living in this household.

The dog continues to be himself. Although, he appears to be less motivated to eat the cats these days. It could be the heat that has decreased his desire to chase and annoy the felines.

Speaking of felines, Tidden continues to be charming and mischievous, but Emmy Lou has taken on a new level of weird. For the last several days, she has taken to spending hours sitting in the dark on top of the toilet in May Lee’s bathroom. From the shadows, she will meow loudly at various, random times with no discernible provocation. May Lee and I will pop our heads in from time to time to check on her, and there she’ll be, staring off into space with the tip of her tiny, pink tongue sticking out of her mouth.

I fear that this may be the end of the line for her, and that some neurodegenerative cat disease that will ultimately cause her demise is overtaking her. But I’ve harbored this concern off and on for several years now, and yet here she is: alive and well and meowing from her perch on the toilet lid. Carry on, Emmy Lou. Carry on.

 When coffee betrays

This afternoon, after I woke up from a power nap on the couch, I couldn’t shake off the nap-induced haze and decided to make a cup of coffee. As the coffee brewed, I prepared my prized Wonder Woman mug by filling the bottom with Cheesecake Factory Strawberry Cheesecake creamer. (It sounds disgusting, doesn’t it? Strawberry Cheesecake creamer?! I was horrified when I saw it at the grocery store, and then I bought it anyway. I can’t explain myself sometimes.)

I filled the rest of the mug with coffee, slid my middle 3 fingers through the handle, and turned to walk into the living room. I can’t fully explain what happened next, outside of some sort of temporary, epileptic convulsion, because why else would the synapses in my brain betray me by sending messages to my arms and hands to completely lose control of the cup of steaming, hot coffee?

Coffee spillThe mug seemed to slide out of my right hand, causing my left hand to attempt to quickly grasp the errant mug in order to prevent the impending doom. What my left hand actually did, however, was send the mug spiraling into the air while coffee sprayed out in every direction. The mug hit the floor, sending ocean waves of coffee in every direction. I gasped loudly as coffee splashed up and all over my jaw, neck, chest, shoulders, arms, stomach, and legs. Pools of coffee formed in my flip-flops beneath my feet.

With my mouth hanging open and my brain frantically trying to assess the burn factor on my skin, my eyes surveyed the damage. The Wonder Woman mug was in pieces large and small. Pools of coffee were on the floor and spreading out with every second that passed. Coffee was dripping down from the cabinets, the stove, and the island.

I probably stood there for a full 2 minutes letting my brain click through it’s processing procedures:

Am I horribly burned? -“No. I’m actually good.”

How long will it take me to clean this mess? – “Most likely the rest of eternity. Maybe 10 years, if I’m lucky. Or perhaps a span of 3 years is a more reasonable amount of time to expect to find coffee droplets everywhere I turn in my kitchen, no matter how well I may clean it up now.”

Is my coffee mug completely destroyed? – “Yes, it seems irreparable.”

Do I smell like an incredibly delicious dessert? – “Yes, the strawberry scent of that creamer is strong, and coffee always smells heavenly.”

Is my skin becoming stickier by the second? – “It is going to take no less than 3 showers to remove the adhesive powers of this coffee creamer from my skin.”

In the meantime, May Lee was carefully collecting the fragments of the coffee mug and trying to console me with her optimistic belief that we could Gorilla Glue it back together. Still mostly in a daze, I slipped off my flip-flops and started laying down towels over the enormous mess on the floor, first using the towels to wipe the coffee from my neck, arms, legs, and feet.

In what turned out to be a crucial mistake, I neglected to put the flip-flops back on my feet after toweling them off. After placing a towel over an enormous puddle, I turned to retrieve another towel and felt the sting of glass in my heel. Hobbling over to the cleaner part of the floor, I removed the shard from my foot and proceeded to drip blood into my flip-flop.

It was in this moment of complete chaos where I found myself surrounded by blood and coffee stained towels and blood and coffee filled flip-flops that my child decided to make the clean up process into a game of make-believe.

“Let’s pretend the king and queen are coming to our house!” she said.

“Oh dear Lord,” was my only reply.

“They are coming in 5 weeks, so we have to get this place totally cleaned up!” she continued.

I smiled, because her imagination and willingness to help clean up was completely endearing. And yet, this make believe game of the king and queen coming to visit my house while coffee and blood mingled together everywhere I turned stressed me out so badly. My grown up brain knew very well that the king and queen were not actually coming to our house, but the stress in my body kept saying that their arrival was imminent. Apparently, my imagination is just as strong as hers.

We continued to scrub while May Lee happily pretended that the king and queen were coming. I kept chanting to myself that none of this was really happening, because denial is my favorite of the unhealthy coping skills.

It was at this point in the pandemonium that I realized what an enormous betrayal this really was. I was depending on coffee to help me make it through the rest of the day. It was to be the supplier of the inner fortitude required to play imagination games, clean the house, and listen to no less than 1000 of May Lee’s antidotes. Yet, here I was attempting to clean an enormous mess and to respond when and how I’m supposed to respond in this game of make believe with NO COFFEE. Then to add insult to injury, any coffee I may have from this point on would not be in my Wonder Woman coffee mug, which was a gift from my roommate at my last trauma-training module. The matching mugs were a symbol of our sisterhood of survival.

Sigh, I suppose we will survive even this.

I paused mid-cleanup to brew another cup of coffee, selecting the mug bearing the logo of the local funeral home. It seemed most appropriate for the occasion.

I suppose that we will be required to wear shoes in the kitchen and will be finding stray droplets of coffee for the next several weeks. Perhaps we’ll even try to superglue the mug back together and use it to hold pencils or for some other decorative purpose. Through it all, I will be drinking coffee, even though I feel hurt and betrayed at the moment.

You see, coffee and I have a long-standing relationship based in deep and abiding love, and where there is deep and abiding love, there is always forgiveness. With love, forgiveness, and coffee by my side, I can always find the strength to bid a heartfelt fare-thee-well to gentle creatures (such as goldfish) and symbols of sisterhood and thereby release them into the universe.

R.I.P Wonder Woman mug. You will be missed.

Uncategorized

The Weekly Recap: A Good Measure

Who I Am as a School Parent

This week as I was cleaning and going through a stack of papers, I came across May Lee’s final report card for the 1st time. I walked to the calendar hanging in the pantry (I still have paper calendars. I will defend this choice to the death) and counted back the days to the last day of school. A week and a half had passed since the report card had come home, and all I can say is that is about right. A week and a half is a good measure of how far behind I was with life by the end of the school year, and I think we should all just be grateful that it wasn’t a larger spread than that. I am slowly catching up now that summer is here.

Closet Demons

Spring Cleaning in this house has been more about creating lasting organization than anything else, so it has taken awhile to yield visible results, which can be discouraging at times. In fact, most of the time, it has been much more visually messy than it was before the organization process started. But this week I experienced a real sign of progress: I can now close my closet doors. In fact, they now stay closed, like, all the time. What a lovely experience!

As I finished working in the closet, I timidly held the knobs and gently pulled the doors to. When they met in the middle, I just stood there for a minute, mentally putting the former closet chaos behind me and letting the peace of new order really sink in.

A memory came in that moment. A memory of married life and an actively addicted husband who became so anxiety-ridden one night that he shot out of bed and closed the closet doors because “demons were in there”. In the morning, despite the fresh light of day, he would again request that the closet doors stay closed, relaying some story about demons coming through the closet. I remember looking at him and seeing on his face how completely convinced he was of the fact that demons had been in that closet and also thinking that I hadn’t seen his face look that sober in a very long time. Then I turned and looked at our closet. A black chef coat, a white chef coat, a pair of cargo pants, and a few of my dresses were hanging there. I remember feeling like they appeared remarkably unspectacular for playing host to demons, if that were in fact the case.

Thinking back, I don’t think I have ever closed a closet door since our split. I don’t know if there is any spiritual significance to that, or if it is simply a good measure of how deep my stubbornness can run. He always had to have the closet doors closed, so I’m going to leave each and every last one open from now until eternity. A picture of emotional maturity, I am.

Maybe that is why I smiled as that memory began to fade and my eyes refocused on the closed doors of my newly organized closet. His demons don’t live in my closet anymore, nor do they live in my mind and manifest in my behaviors of closing or not closing the closet doors. I’ve reclaimed my own closet territory, and he holds no more influence there.

I wonder what other household structure or appliance is next up on the batting order of unexpected exorcisms? I feel I should be more prepared if this is going to be “a thing”. Perhaps I should be gathering some sage and essential oils….

Shaking Hands with God

Tropical Storm Alberto made landfall this week, and do you know where he decided to land? He came right up the beach access that was MY beach access when I lived in Florida.

TS Isaac
Little May Lee walking down the beach access at the very beginning of Tropical Storm Isaac

Tropical storm Isaac came through when I was living there. Schools were closed and work was cancelled, so we walked down that very access to the beach. I remember the feeling of complete awe, watching an angry ocean churn up the most remarkable things and deposit them on the beach. Among other things, we came across a whole section of beach covered with starfish bearing the marks of being pushed from the safety of the sandbars to the beach by the storm surge. We tried to put a couple of them back in the ocean, but the ocean just kept spitting them back out onto the sand.

We walked past a giant tree and wondered where on earth it came from, how long it had been in the ocean, and what would happen to it now. I remember feeling the constant push of the wind and thinking the sensation matched the pressure in my heart. If only I had understood what that meant at the time.

Hurricane Earl
Hurricane Earl

About 2 years earlier, on a beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I stood and watched the outer bands of Hurricane Earl push waves against the pier to the south of us. I remember the lights looked so lonely in the foggy dimness that comes with storms. I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband was spinning out, and a category 2 hurricane was coming ashore.

To this day, I struggle for words to express the deep, deep love I feel when I think of these memories of the beach and these storms. When I share the memory with people, I try to persuade them to go to the beach during a tropical storm. Put it on your bucket list. (And please use your good sense.)

When I watched the footage of Alberto coming up my beach access, my mind immediately went to calculating the distance and time from here to there, because I wanted to be there. I wanted to be in it. When there is a storm coming, my first instinct is to run to the beach and meet God there. I cannot think of any other time I have witnessed His power like when my eyes have seen the spirit of the ocean and the wind change like they do when a storm is coming ashore.

Since Alberto, a deep longing to go home to the beach has taken up residence in my chest. My child is languishing with the same unmet desire. Being born and raised at the beach for the 1st three years of her life, the love of the beach is as deeply etched into her soul as it is mine. We missed out on the beach last year, and right now, it looks like the same fate awaits us. Perhaps Alberto has reignited a desire that will see us to the beach this year after all. The need to walk out on the beach and shake hands with God is pressing.

I Told You

On Thursday night, May Lee and I went to see A Wrinkle in Time on the last night it was playing at the local discount theater. I was super excited, because it was one of my favorite books as a kid, and I thought May Lee would love not only the story but also the visual beauty of the movie.

What actually transpired can only be called a disastrous miscommunication regarding vomit. She ate an entire bag of gummy bears during the movie, then spent the last 45 minutes complaining of a stomachache. I asked about needing the bathroom, and she said no. On the way home, I glanced back and saw that she had “the look”. I again asked, and she said she didn’t feel well. I drove as fast as I could, as we were only 1 block from home at this point.

I pulled in the drive, and she immediately opened the door and puked everywhere. She looked up at me and accusingly said “I told you”. Then she leaned back over, and puked again.

I can’t even begin to describe what I was thinking and feeling, as I draped my entire body over the steering wheel. I pressed my head into it, alternating between sighing deeply and chuckling to myself.

After May Lee was cleaned up and the driveway hosed off, we had a little chat about the day and where we failed in the movie-going vomit portion of it. She reported a day of many cookies and other sweets that I was not aware of. She also let me know that she thought when I asked about the bathroom at the theater that I wasn’t going to go with her. I assured her that I would have been following close behind and that I would never send her to the bathroom alone to be ill.

We now have a well developed plan for any illness that may befall either of us in a public place. I feel like the day it actually goes down and one of us takes ill, we will move will military-like precision and speed. It will be a thing a beauty. Also, May Lee has taken a vow of “no sweets” for the month of June and has already broken it many times over.

Bring Your Kid to Work Day

I declared Friday to be Bring-Your-Kid-to-Work-Day, and so that is what I did. As you know, bringing your child to work can go 1 of two ways: your child will either be a delightful presence or they will make you regret the day you were ever born. Fortunately, the former was our experience, and we had a lovely day.

In fact, my daughter and I enjoyed time doing activities we never get to do together at home. This was due, in part, to the fact that the internet was down all day at the office, severely limiting how much work I could actually do. Being stood up by my clients was the other factor providing time for us to do things like play Upwords, draw together, and organize the art supplies. I can’t remember the last time my daughter and I had that amount of uninterrupted time to just sit and play a game in it’s entirety without some other event or chore pushing us for time.

Once I was done seeing the clients that did come to their appointments, May Lee and I went to lunch at a local place that was recommended to us. We played more games as we waited for our food. After lunch, we went to the local Wal-Mart and loaded up on summer toys and necessities. Then, we checked back in at the office to see if the internet had been restored, which it had not.

Lake-swim picAfter finishing up the work day, we changed into bathing suits and prepared to head to the lake. This is when I discovered that my tried and true bathing suit was no longer true. I have been making changes in the way I eat and exercise, and I knew that my weight hadn’t done the “yo-yo” thing in a long time. Clearly, what I failed to realize is how much my body had changed, but this fact was now shockingly evident as the top of my tankini refused to stay up and kept threatening to slide all the way off.

I had not thought to pack 2 bathing suits, as I had packed the “never fail” bathing suit. I stood there, not understanding this new reality but understanding that I needed to come up with a solution. The pieces I had packed already didn’t really match, but they fit correctly (so I thought), so I had to wear them. But in order to keep the tankini top in place, I had to add the additional layer of my gray t-shirt, tied up in a knot just above my waist to keep it out of the water.

After driving the hour back home, I was able to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror while donning this swim get-up, and I laughed out loud when I saw what it looked like in real life. It explained a lot of the looks I was getting as we played in the lake. Oh well! We had a good time!

Also, I’m choosing to spend at least a few days living in denial that bathing suit shopping is now completely unavoidable. I need to be in the right state of mind and emotional space for that undertaking.

Saturday Morning Bliss

It is now Saturday, and May Lee and I are fresh-spirited after the good night of sleep that swimming and time in the sun always brings. Spending all of our free time yesterday at the lake meant that we had no food in the house this morning, so for breakfast May Lee ate PBJ and I ate the last hot dog remaining from our backyard campout rolled up in a leftover pancake. I think that is a good measure of how far I have fallen off the meal-planning wagon.

In fact, “good measure” is a phrase that has shown up a few times in this recap of our week. Good Measure is also the name of our local health foods store, so perhaps this whole thing is word of prophecy exhorting me to higher planes of getting my life together that do not include leftover campout food wrapped in stale pancake. I wonder if they also sell sage and essential oils. This could be a one stop shop for all kinds of health and healing!

Christian, Mom, single-parenting, Uncategorized

The Weekly Recap: You All Are the Best

plague-copy

You all are the best…

Let me begin by saying how completely overwhelmed I have been this week by the response to Redemption in Divorce. I honestly wasn’t mentally or emotionally prepared for the responses that came, but I feel like God really showed up in the middle of it all. My heart just about stopped as the truth of “It’s not just me” flooded over me. I heard from so many of you who have stories similar to mine, and oh, how I wish I could sit down with each and every one of you and just talk over a cup of coffee, or tea, or whatever your beverage of choice might be. I am really so very thankful for those of you who reached out with kind words and encouragement and with your own stories, and I hope that we can connect again soon.

I’m a Hot Mess…

To say that this week has been busier than the last would be an understatement. Besides the normal routine of work, church, school, soccer, and a graduate level class, this week required a few extra activities for soccer, my class, and May Lee’s school. Somehow, I’ve managed to keep us fed and in clean clothes, though those clothes very rarely make it out of the laundry basket and onto hangers these days. Also, the general state of my house could best be described as “gross”, and that would be fair. I would like to say that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and know that very soon some time will free up, but that is not the case. Rather, I’m simply getting better at lowering my standards in some areas, prioritizing my time in a hardcore way, and working in the margins much more efficiently. It may look like chaos on the outside, especially when I forget things like packing May Lee’s soccer stuff or bringing my computer to work, and that would be because it is chaos. But deep down there really is a purpose and structure to it all. Hopefully, by the end of this busy season, I will have sharpened my time management skills to such a degree that Franklin Covey will offer me a plaque in recognition of my mastery of planning and prioritizing. It’s all about the big rocks, people.

Also, I’m not holding my breath about that plague.

The Single Mom Gig…

We had a pretty great weekend. Soccer pictures were this weekend, and I have high hopes that the prints will be adorable. You wouldn’t have guessed it from the sour attitude my child wore all over her face right up until the very second the photographer hit the button on the camera. Then and only then, did my child turn on her precious angel smile. And that was after she took somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 MINUTES to walk from the parking lot to the field where the pictures were being taken. I mean, the girl had to work hard to walk that slow. God love her hard-head and tender heart. She will rule the world one day!

ml-leaves
The leaves she collected on our scooter adventure…we were out there for awhile

Did I also mention that is was approximately 10,000 degrees outside on Saturday? The poor photographers at the soccer fields were visibly wilting. Being that we were already sweaty, we decided to go ahead and hit the up local festival. We had a good time doing all of May Lee’s favorites- face-painting, pony-ride, sand art, mini golf, and she even attempted to climb the rock wall. I was proud of her for doing that, because she has been wanting to do it but got scared on the first step up. Sometimes, I worry that her anxiety keeps her from trying new things or from putting forth effort on things she thinks she can’t do perfectly. So, it did my heart well to hear her say later in the week during an afternoon walk around the neighborhood “I didn’t come out here just to scooter. I came out here for an adventure.”

Finally, we have entered the stage of the hypotheticals, and I have learned that I have precious little patience for hypotheticals. “What if there wasn’t just one left, what if there were two left?” “What if that car really did hit that other car?” “What if that leaf were red instead of brown?” Or how about the time I told her to get water to drink, because we were out of milk. “But what if we WEREN’T out of milk?” she said. “We ARE out of milk, so get some water” I replied. “I know, Mom, but what if we WEREN’T out of milk?” I just don’t even know how to respond these questions, other than to roll my eyes to remind myself that this is just a phase. Let’s just leave it at I have room to grow in this area.

The Life Overhaul:

I finished The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, and what a practical little life-changing book. I realize that I have gone on and on about this book, and that is because it is amazing and you must read it. I’m working on implementing the ideas in the book in my daily life, and so far the only one that I’ve really done consistently is to create a practice of gratitude. Now that I’ve gotten it down to where consistently do this practice every morning, my next project is finding a fun gratitude practice that May Lee and I can do together every day. Something other than the standard bedtime prayer of “thank you for my family and my friends”. I was thinking about something more creative and hands-on. I have not consulted the great and powerful Pinterest yet, but I’m sure the ideas found therein will be numerous and somewhat intimidating. I’ll keep you posted about what I find and what I end up trying out.

Creativity is the word on my mind lately, and I’ve trying to save space in my over-scheduled life for it. Making sure that I have this outlet once or twice a week has saved my brain from completely melting and running out of my ears as I have plowed through journal articles, book chapters, and discussion boards for my class. I recently picked up Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and it seems like a timely read as I’m trying to incorporate creative outlets into my life.

Other than saving space for creativity, exercise has been another thing that has saved my bacon during this busy season. Especially since Brach’s Autumn Mix and a Sonic Oreo Blast made their way into my life this week. I am powerless against the Oreo. But in all seriousness, it’s been really difficult to get in even a few crunches and a decent amount of steps each day. I’ve really been working in the margins of my time to make it happen, like the day I had to use my lunch break to drop something off at my daughter’s school. I had 20 minutes until I had to drive back to work, so I took a quick walk around the campus. The weather is finally cooling off, and I am deeply craving to start running again. I just don’t think my schedule can flex enough to make it happen, but I haven’t given up trying to figure that out just yet.

Coming Up Next:

Don’t know if y’all have heard the news or not, but there is this small, discreet, and well-mannered political campaign going on. I have some thoughts on it, but most of those thoughts are not directly related to politics but more along the lines of what God has convicted me of in light of the political campaign. As a result, my perspective and attitude has changed quite a bit.

On a side note, Twitter was my absolute favorite place to be during the political debate. I know you think I’m crazy, because hello, social media and politics DO NOT PAIR WELL. But I have a whole new love for Twitter. I have a personal account, but I can’t say that I have ever enjoyed it. However, this week I set up an account for the blog, and with some help, I have been able to find “my people”- my favorite authors well known for their humor. Twitter is now my new happy place. I was LAUGHING UNTIL I CRIED during the presidential debate. The handle for this Twitter account is @Singlemomonmis2 if you’d like to join the fun.

Things I Like that I’ve Mentioned in This Post:

It occurred to me that I talk about things that I love or have discovered on this blog, and then I totally leave you hanging about where to find it if you want to check it out. So, below I’ve put links to the things I’ve mentioned.

To begin, I believe that I’ve already mentioned my love for Franklin Covey. I literally have my whole life in my Covey planner- calendar, financial forms, address & phone numbers, business cards, financial worksheets, notes & ideas….shall I go on. https://franklinplanner.fcorgp.com/store/

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown: https://www.amazon.com/Gifts-Imperfection-Think-Supposed-Embrace/dp/159285849X

Fitness 22 Great Abs App. Please do not believe for one second that I am currently in possession of “great abs”. A bathroom selfie snapped with one hand while my other hand lifts my shirt to reveal rippling abs all the way down to my low-slung pants will not be forthcoming. To me, this app would be more appropriately called “Abs for people currently without muscle tone in any portion of their core”. Abs for beginners, if you will. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/great-abs-sit-ups-crunches/id967725498?mt=8

7 Minute workout App. Again, for people who need to survive a workout by reminding themselves that they can do anything for 7 minutes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/7-minute-workout-challenge/id981527855?mt=8

 

Christian, Mom, single-parenting, Uncategorized

The Weekly Recap: Snickerdoodle Lattes, An Empty Purse, and a Farm for Christmas

 

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This week has continued to be insanely busy with to-do lists that are never-ending. My ability to multi-task has grown substantially, and I think that is due in part to the fact that I’m sitting down and planning my week. I’m not getting it all done, but the structure is helping me use my time more efficiently. I’m working errands and tasks into the margins, so to speak, and I feel like I was rewarded handsomely for my efforts when I set out on my Monday lunch break to run an errand that would end up killing 3 birds with one stone.

A while ago- we’re talking a couple of months, maybe longer- a FedEx package was mistakenly delivered to my house. After a couple of futile attempts to get the package to its rightful owner, I queried the FedEx guys who delivers to my job about what to do with it. He suggested taking it to Mr. Postman.

Monday, I finally pulled into the parking lot of Mr. Postman with the mystery package, my Stitch Fix items to return, and a bill to mail. Friends, let me tell you, when I opened those doors and crossed that threshold, I was in heaven. I was so bumfuzzled by the divine aroma of freshly brewed coffee, the sight of cafe tables and chairs, and the dazzling collection of adorable home decor and gift items that I must have looked like Dorothy taking her first steps into the land of Oz. Somehow I communicated to the barista the nature of my shipping needs, and she took care of me well. Once that errand was complete, I eagerly chatted with her about their selection of coffees, ordered a snickerdoodle latte, and perused the many treasures in the shop while my coffee was being made. I have to say, this sweet little find may have been the highlight of my week

staxThe next morning presented a challenge, as it was Stax’s surgery day. After his escape from the backyard last week, it seemed clear that I could no longer delay getting him neutered. He was also due for some vaccinations, so my excuses for delaying the inevitable were running out. To get him ready for the vet is no small thing. I legitimately need the skills of a rodeo cowboy to get Big Yellow into his harness, but we managed to get to the vet where he promptly marked his territory 3 times. Bless that staff. One of them even helped me get him into the car after the surgery. On the way out of the clinic, we were talking about how confused Stax must be, to which the staff person remarked “Yep, he came in with a full purse and is leaving with an empty one”. I don’t know why, but that cracked me up.

As for my growing girl, it has been another great week. I can no longer escape the fact that May Lee is growing and maturing in leaps and bounds. Last week at her soccer game, she performed the chicken dance and numerous somersaults but gave very little effort to playing the game or following the coach’s directions. During one of the breaks, we had the following talk:

Me: May Lee, I want you to go out there and make a WHOLE BUNCH of mistakes. Like, hundreds of them.

May Lee: Huh?

Me: Yes, I want you to go out there and make a whole bunch of mistakes. I’d rather you make a whole bunch of mistakes than not try at all. And listen to your coach and do what she says.

May Lee ran out of the field and continued on in the same fashion as before. However, during soccer practice this week, I could tell a difference. She was “in it” and not so hesitant. She was trying instead of letting herself get intimidated by her own fears. I was a proud mama. This was quickly followed by another proud moment when we got home and she read 3 little books to me that she had made at school. She’s really growing and coming into her own.

May Lee is also pumped for the upcoming holiday season. She celebrated the first day of fall then immediately asked how many days until Christmas. She cannot decide what she would like to be for Halloween or whether she would like to dress as a pilgrim or a Native American for her school’s Thanksgiving Feast, but she does know what she would like for Christmas. Her Christmas list is as follows: horse, pony, unicorn, kitten, puppy, turtle, an Octonaut set, and toys of all our friends and family. When I heard that last one, I immediately pictured all of our friends and family members as little bobble-head dolls, then I giggled a little bit and wondered if I could actually make that happen.

As for the health journey, I’ve been doing pretty well, but I’ve been really hungry the last couple of days. Plus, I’ve been a little stressed. Therefore, I have indulged, but I don’t really feel guilty about it. I’ve come a long way with being mindful about whether I am eating out of true hunger versus eating because I’m stressed. What I am bummed about is not doing my new morning exercise routine the last couple of mornings. I think I feel more bummed about the missed exercise, because I can tell the biggest difference in my body from the exercise and not the diet change. I haven’t been doing that routine for very long, but just stretching and doing some crunches in the morning has really relieved my aches and pains and my brain fog. So, I’m thinking missing these last couple of days has set in stone my resolve to incorporate exercise of any kind into a lifelong, daily routine.
The weekend ahead looks like it is going to be just as full as our week, with soccer, lots of school assignments, and pulling together a donation for the silent auction at May Lee’s school. But we are going to make time for fun as well as business and hit up a local festival. Maybe a $5 pony ride will satisfy the pony craving and remove said animal from the Christmas list. One can always hope.

Christian, Mom, Uncategorized

Catching Up:Work, Soccer, and Fist-Bumping the Holy Spirit

Dear friends, it has been 2 weeks since my last post, and I must say that I have missed the blog. To say that I have been buried is a dramatic understatement, but let me catch you up on the doings of our lives right now. Since we last spoke, I have started transitioning to a new position at work. As a result, I have spent 3 days of my life in outside audits of our program. Don’t get me wrong, my inner nerd loves the analytical, problem-solving work that comes with the audit process, but that whole scenario can be intense!

I believe it was shortly after the audits concluded that I discovered that I had gained back almost all of the 20 pounds of divorce weight that I lost last year. See previous post about Oreo binges for how this transpired. Lucky for me, weight watchers was having a sale, so I’m currently back on the wagon. However, I understand the program much better this time around, and I’m truly going for long-term change. This means small, incremental changes. This looks like me actually trying to get my steps each day, stretching and doing crunches in the morning, and working in a 7 minute high intensity interval workout a couple of times a week . Honestly, getting those things into my schedule was a process of small, incremental changes that feels truly monumental. But, I’m going for life overhaul status here, so it doesn’t really matter how slow or how long it takes as long as it leads to achieving my goals.

Speaking of goals, May Lee has started the soccer season. She had a great first couple of weeks of practices and even scored a goal during her first game. You will not hear about this from her, however, as she prefers to regale others with the tale of the rainbow sno-cone that followed the game. In fact, that was the story she told our team at Relay for Life when we drove to Memphis for the event after her game. It was my 4th Relay and it is such a good time of remembering and honoring the people I have lost to cancer. However, it made for a long day for the both of us. I really wanted to stay for the luminaria ceremony, which didn’t start until after dark. Looking back, the wise decision would have been to have left before the ceremony, as my child was beginning to melt down and the ceremony wasn’t exactly coming together on time. The kicker to the whole affair was learning that they use real candles lit by real fire to illuminate the white, paper bags decorated in remembrance or in honor of those lost to cancer or those who have survived cancer. There is nothing like watching the bag that your 5 year old has lovingly decorated for your departed loved one go up in flames and a stranger quickly and aggressively stomp it out to put a swift end to the party. Might I suggest those battery-powered tea lights for next year?

We drove home that night and got in bed at midnight. We didn’t make it to church that morning, and I spent the day trying to catch up on homework. I should be doing homework right now, but I’ve come to accept that fact that I’m never going to catch up and have settled for consistently being half a week behind. That is what happens when you take a graduate class while working full-time and single-parenting. Making an A is no longer the goal and passing the class is the new gold standard. Hallelujah and Amen.

tiredsoccerThis week has been filled with more excitement. Even though we were still slightly hung over with fatigue from our Memphis trip, we still did work, school, and soccer on Monday. She wasn’t exactly feeling it this practice.

Tuesday began with a rude start. We made it out the door on time that morning as a result of a great of stress and strain. I put May Lee in the car and walked around to my side of the car, only to discover that the gate to the backyard was open. “No, no, no” I mumbled under my breath as I followed the trail of shredded trash into the back yard, evidence that my dog had in fact gotten out and was having a good time. However, he was no longer in the backyard and had no doubt ventured out to find more garbage to enjoy. Reminded that it was trash day, I wheeled the can to the street and looked around. No dog. I let May Lee know what was going on, and she promptly broke into tears. My blood pressure was rising as the threat of being late to work loomed over my head, but I dug deep and found some patience and self-control and explained to my child that our dog was not lost forever and we only needed to look for him.

About this time, I hear yelling across the street at the end of the cove. I quickly walk that direction and soon discover the source of the yelling. It was my poor neighbor trying to get into her car while being joyfully and lovingly mauled by my giant yellow lab. That dog bounces like Tigger on steroids, and he was doing so at the expense of my poor neighbor and her car. I joined my neighbor in her yelling, “Stax! Stax! NOOOOO! GET DOWN!” and he actually turned and ran to me. My neighbor, God bless her, was so kind and understanding.

I returned Stax to the back yard, rejoiced with May Lee that he had been found, and dropped her off to school. Shortly thereafter, I arrive at work 2 minutes late, anxious about the potential penalties of my 2 minute infraction, and exhausted and stressed from a plate too full. Without any provocation, I commenced to throwing the adult version of a temper tantrum, if there is such a thing. Not my finest moment, and I spent the next couple of hours trying to pull myself out of the shame spiral. I said a prayer and my phone rang. It was my therapist’s office calling and offering to work me in for an earlier appointment, that afternoon in fact. I fist-bumped the Holy Spirit for the quick work in the prayer-answering department and headed off to therapy. It seems important to the overall theme of “I am over-extended right now” to let you know that my therapist is an hour and a half away from where I live, so add a 3 hour round trip to the chaos of the week.

The next morning, we struggled to get out the door, and as we exited I remembered that it was school picture day. I looked May Lee up and down, smoothed her hair and decided that we were good on the school picture front. I’m interested to see if I regret that decision when the proofs come back. That night, I started a new bible study that again got us to bed late. I think Thursday we finally got a reprieve in our schedule, but we hit it hard again Friday when I went on-call for work and May Lee’s school had a tail-gate party. We skipped the football game so that we could get home and wash her soccer uniform for today’s game.

Today, like the other days, has been full to the brim, and I’ve only made it half way through my to-do list. I got up at my usual time of 5 a.m. rather than sleeping in, so I would have more time to get things done. I managed to catch up on my reading in the Bible and in The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown. Brene really hit me where I live this morning, so I had many thoughts to put down on paper. May Lee woke up and we ate breakfast, laid around in pajamas, and generally relaxed most of the morning. Then work started making my phone ding and ping and generally intrude upon what was going on in that moment with my child, which was really requiring my full attention. May Lee was hungry and insisting on a “snack” and by snack she meant lots of lots of sugar. She was not going for my limits of something healthy to eat and was lying on her back on the dirty kitchen floor in protest. All the while work is dinging my phone in the background. I finally tell May Lee “You can choose to be hungry or you can choose one of the 6 choices I have offered you, but this conversation is done”. She stares at the ceiling, dead pan, and declares, “I…want….to die”. I look at her, she stares at the ceiling. A tiny smile begins to crack at the left corner of her mouth, and I begin to giggle. She breaks into a laugh and I follow. She jumps up, gets a snack, and carries on with her life.

Meanwhile, as I suffer from the resulting high blood pressure and ponder my child’s mental state, the phone actually rings. I spend the next hour and a half working. To paint you a picture, I am on the phone, snapping my fingers and gesturing wildly to my child, and somehow obtain the desired results of a child fully dressed in her soccer uniform. I’m packing shin guards and cleats while on speaker phone with an automated system, which is just an experience filled with delight. I’m juggling 2 cell phones, a Franklin Covey planner, a camping chair, and a bag of May Lee’s soccer stuff as I walk to the soccer field, and I’m sending text messages and e-mails from those 2 phones while my child warms up. I hate that I’m that person, but it is what it is. For now, at least.

The actual game was rather entertaining. May Lee was not into playing today and spent most of the game with a drooped head and slumped shoulders. That was until she began to just let her body fall to the ground. Once on the ground, she commenced to somersaulting. She got in about 6 good somersaults before she actually had to play again. She generally engaged in the game at that point, until she got nailed in the chest with the ball. She ran to the sideline, and we had some snuggles and a motivational chat. I could tell that she was feeling our sideline motivational moment as she stood out on the field with her team and performed the chicken dance. For May Lee, the highlight, again, was the sno-cone. For me, the highlight was the chicken dance and seeing her enjoy her friends.

tyingshoesThe rest of the afternoon has been spent doing laundry, doing homework, and briefly napping. We also began the “learning to tie shoes” experience, and it was a little rocky at first. She triumphed in the end and was feeling pretty proud of herself.

Tomorrow is another full day with another long list of things to do that I can’t possibly get through, and that kicks off another full week with its impossibly long to-do list. But this is just a season, and this too shall pass. In many ways, I’m having some success. In other ways, I’m failing. Such is life. At this point, I just want to be healthy at the end of this and not stroke out from the sharp rises in blood pressure. Even more, I want a happy, healthy, resilient kid that is able to some day look back and see how hard her mother worked to give her a decent life. And on that note, I’m going to retire for the evening, so I can get up and do it again tomorrow. Sleep well, friends

 

 

Christian, Mom, single-parenting, Uncategorized

The Second Week of School, Oreos, and Rapunzel

A photo by Sonja Langford. unsplash.com/photos/eIkbSc3SDtI

We are two weeks into the school year, and I’ve come to accept some things about my daughter and myself. We are not highly structured women. Our free-spirited, gypsy souls thrive in the loose structure of summer days where schedules are flexible and planned activities are minimal. I am completely sincere when I say that it took the entirety of last year to feel halfway adjusted to the school schedule, but even during drop off of the last day I was thinking, “There has to be a better way to do this school thing”.

I was determined to have a better morning routine this school year, so I did some prep work during the weeks leading up to school starting. The long days of summer camp in the heat index of 110 concluded with my child losing her mind in the evenings; therefore, she slept in my bed quite a bit as it was a guarantee for a relatively peaceful going-to-bed process. Before school started, we worked on transitioning her back to her bed. We also did a little shopping on Amazon and purchased a Disney princess alarm clock that came with an impressive strobe light display. She loved it. She was excited about it. She popped out of bed like a Pop-Tart and cooed loving words to it.

We are now in the 2nd week of school, and the shine is off the apple. Twice this week, she has slept right through the alarm clock. I have let the infernal beeping go on for 7 minutes and 10 minutes, in hopes that it would eventually result in a child that was awake. It did not. Yesterday, I heard the alarm go off for 3 beeps and then it went silent. I waited and listened for the sound of child size 12 feet to hit the floor, but no such sound came to my ear. No child emerged from the bedroom with bed head and grumpy face. The battle of the morning time routine is rearing its ugly head yet again, my friends. Back to the drawing board!

I did try to get us in the habit of picking out her clothes the night before, and that worked great for all of 5 days. This week has been chock full of activities after work, and the outfit pre-planning has fallen to the wayside. The morning debates surrounding picture pants, princess dresses, P.E. worthy shoes and the appropriateness of wearing tiaras to school have added a considerable amount of time to our morning routine and created some less than stellar moments to start the day with.

Needless to say, the struggle with adjusting to a new school routine for May Lee and a new work routine for me has resulted in a consumption of all things Oreo that is unparalleled by all of my previous Oreo binges. It is a thing of wonder, really. It was during one such Oreo errand that I learned that I really might have lost my touch with the menfolk over the years. I ordered 2 Oreo milkshakes at a local drive-through, and please let me assure you that I did not eat both milkshakes. I had a partner in crime on this particular day. As I pulled to the window to pay for my order, a guy leaned out of the drive through window and gave me what I can only describe as his best Flynn Rider impression. You know the scene where he turns on the charm with Rapunzel? “You broke my smolder”? Yes, that is the scene I’m referring to, and like Rapunzel, my face must have reacted and betrayed my inner thoughts of “what are you doing? Is that, like, flirting? Because it’s kind of creepy…” I believe that my face must have betrayed me, because after he returned my change to me, he tossed a milkshake at me that did not have the delightful whipped topping that I had requested, nor did he provide me with a straw with which to enjoy my delicious treat.

I could have easily written off the neglected whipped cream and straw as a simple oversight. However, a young lady appeared with the 2nd milkshake, and the whipped topping was tall and proud and the straw was riding shotgun. The abrupt shift from the initial over-attentiveness to the curtness of the money exchange, the sloppy milkshake, and the young woman with the perfect milkshake had me convinced that Flynn Rider was a little upset that I found his awkward drive-through window overtures creepy. Also, can we discuss what a weird little power trip that is over some Oreo milkshakes? A girl doesn’t respond the way a guy wants her to, so he withholds small but noticeable portions of her order?

Maybe that’s just my trauma talking. Like my therapist said, maybe that is just my unhealed “wounds from being a woman” showing up, but it also wouldn’t be the first time that I would have experienced backlash from a male who didn’t get the kind of reaction that he was wanting from me. I’ve noticed that the more I accept the truth that this kind of thing has less to do with me and a whole lot more to do with what’s going on in them, the more likely I am to raise the situation to my standards. This means that I’m getting better at making sure that I don’t leave the interaction without what I entered the interaction to receive or what is due to me. I used to just run and hide and think awful things about myself and my worthiness, like I must somehow be messed up for someone to treat me that way. Now, I am much more likely to ask for what I need, to request that something be redone, and to expect respect in all interactions.

I’m far from perfect at this newfound boundary-setting skill, but I’m getting better every day. And no, I did not park my car, walk into the restaurant, and demand my whipped cream and a straw. That day, I didn’t have the mental or emotional energy to engage one more thing without completely losing my cool. But you know what, I know down to the bottom of my soul that if my daughter had been in the car with me, I would have done exactly that. It is really important to me that she is much better equipped to deal these situations than I was. I don’t want her to be in her late 30’s trying to recover her self-esteem like her mother is doing. I want her to be able to recognize when she is experiencing undeserved backlash and to be able to respond to it head on with a cool composure rather than reacting to it out of heated emotion. I want her to have enough insight into herself to be confident in her behavior when she is in the right and compassionate enough to extend grace to herself and others when their behavior falls short. Brene Brown discovered in her work, The Gift of Imperfection, that the most compassionate people were the most boundaried people, and that really sums up my goal for my daughter and myself quite nicely. Especially since we have a Rapunzel face that gives us away every time.

Christian, Mom, single-parenting, Uncategorized

Girl Culture: Part 1

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This week I found myself in the high heat of a tempering process that culminated in a new and hopefully more mature perspective about women and female culture. The timing of the events that lead to this epiphany can only be by divine design, so let me preface this story with a brief synopsis of what has been stirring in my heart for the last few months.

Well, in actuality, the interest in taking a deeper look into what is going on with the female gender in culture, in church, and in relationships has been stirring in me for years. Giving birth to a daughter will do that, you know, and other things have come up at church or work, but my attitudes and relational styles have essentially remained the same. Over the summer, our church was doing a series on the minor prophets, so I was reading along in my morning quiet time. In fact, I was reading in the prophets and in the gospels at the same time, which was absolutely mind-blowing, and I was happy as a nerdy little clam.

But then an incident occurred that really stirred up some past trauma, and I discussed the incident and its ramifications on my mental and emotional state with my therapist. Being an older and wiser woman, she was able to brilliantly tie in my growing interest in women’s issues with what I was currently going through. She floored me with the undeniable truth of this simple statement “Well, your wounds are really a product of being a woman”. My awareness and perspective was immediately opened up to a higher level that allowed me to see a new and very real truth about the attacks on my life, and over the course of the following weeks some things really started to make sense.

With my interest in all things uniquely female now peaked, I found myself grudgingly leaving behind my nerdy love of those crazy prophets and hopping all over the bible. I started in Genesis, which seems like a logical choice for new beginnings and perspectives, and looked into the creation of Eve, the only being not created from the dust of the earth but from a piece of creation already animated by the breath of life. Eve was the first earthly being to recognize deception, which I found to echo beautifully in the proverbs where the voice of wisdom is the voice of a woman. The voice of the woman appears again as the voice of love in the Song of Solomon, a book that neatly parallels the proverbs. And if you really think about it, it is no mistake that the attribute of wisdom and the attribute of love is given to the same voice, the same being. Speaking truth in love is a theme echoed throughout the bible, because wisdom offered without love goes nowhere, whereas wisdom offered in love goes straight to the heart.

That is no small charge, to be the voice of wisdom and love. As I studied more and more deeply into what the female image of God really means, the responsibility grew heavier and heavier on my heart. Which leads up the events of this week, where in one day I found myself in the dead center of the crucible of female relationships. In the morning, I was rallying with multiple women who are battling in their homes a war that is common to all women. In the afternoon, I find myself in the middle of a group of women rallying against another group of women. I went home that day absolutely reeling from the effects of finding myself in the middle of those 2 extremes. My mind full of questions, I stumbled around in a haze for the next few days trying to figure it all out.

Here is what my eyes have been opened to thus far. As girls, we learn immediately what being in girl culture means. Not one of us passed through the early years unscathed from this battle. You were either “in the sorority” or you were in “the anti-sorority”. I use the word sorority here, because I can think of no other word that captures the idea of a group of women that have banded together as a closed group that allows new members in only after those members have been approved by a certain set of criteria. Anti-sorority refers to the group of women that forms in reaction to that group and the hurt it can cause. They may seem like the “good girls” in the scenario, but that group is often just as closed and just as hurtful with it’s own set of criteria as the sorority. (So not talking about Greek life here, so carry on unoffended, my Greek life friends)

And the truth is, those groups do not form and remain static. As I reflected upon how this dynamic has played out in my own life, I see now that there were seasons of my life where I slid into the sorority-like group and mentality, seasons where I slid into the anti-sorority group and mentality, and seasons when I was somehow able to rise above that dynamic and interact with all groups and all females as individuals without much static. A deeper truth about this dynamic is that it is often so ingrained in female culture that we don’t even recognize that we are sliding into those factions of femininity, or that we are being exclusive or reactionary in response to the dynamic playing out in female culture. We don’t see it and we end up placing blame and responsibility for conflict on people that it doesn’t belong to.

At least, that is how it plays out in youth. As girls, we can’t really see it. We know it’s there, but we really don’t have the first clue about what is going on. As we get a little older, we have a better understanding of the dynamic at play, and the social struggle gets real. As fully-grown women, some of us grow out of it and some of us never do. A great majority of us see it and bemoan it but continue to participate in it on some level because we can’t see a way out of it. Some of us stay bound to it as a result of the lies that our insecurities feed us and thereby blind us to the truth that will set us free from it. I can honestly say, that I have walked through all of those scenarios in my life.

What’s worse, is that the whole ugly thing ends up getting written off as being “just how women are”, and to that grossly false idea I shout a resounding “NO!” I am still sorting through the full impact and meaning of this dynamic at play, the whole idea of female culture, and what can change it to bring it back around to reflecting the female image of God as He intended it, but I do know that right now I am standing firmly on “NO!” I am officially rejecting the sorority and anti-sorority culture in all areas of my life- personally, professionally, socially, and spiritually. Finding a new way of relating and participating in female culture is going to take a place of top priority on my life overhaul to-do list. And you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be raising my daughter to recognize the sorority/anti-sorority dynamic, to stay away from it, to release herself from it when she finds herself in it, and to conduct herself in a manner that honors the female image of God. With that being said and publicly declared before my mom and the 3 other people that read these things, I must get busy figuring out how to conduct myself in a manner that honors the female image of God. Rest assured that you will be hearing more from me about this piece of my journey.

Christian, Mom, single-parenting

The Road Trip

Details kill me, and the final hours of prepping for a road trip are nothing but details. It’s brutal. I hate it. So therefore, I make the process much easier on myself by doing things like changing my mind last minute about arrangements for my dog. However, in a flurry of text messages, I was able to secure a last minute dog-sitter to come to the house, and this solved so many problems related to travel and getting back at a certain time to pick up Stax from the vet, not to mention the additional costs of boarding at the vet. I breathed a giant sigh of relief and went to bed Thursday night with that stress off of my mind.

I woke Friday morning to the ripping sounds of the dog pulling apart the fabric of his stuffed duck. This noise carried on long enough to pull me out of the haze of half-sleep to being awake enough to feel like it was important to make sure the ripping noise was in fact the stuffed duck and not one of May Lee’s precious stuffed animals. I rolled over and Stax raised his head to look at me with his giant, pleading eyes and perky, puppy ears while my shredded bra dangled from his mouth. Of course my dog would eat my one good t-shirt bra on the morning that we leave for vacation. Who wants to wear white at the beach anyway? That is the yin and yang of vacation planning: by securing a dog-sitter, I relieved myself of additional expenses and errands, but by failing to secure the dog in his crate that night, I ensured that those savings would now be invested in a new bra and that one of the first places we would visit at the beach would be the local JC Penney. Come to think of it and ironically enough, I bought that now shredded bra at the Panama City Beach JC Penney. The circle of life and what not…

After leaving work at 1 to run errands and pack up the car, I was right on time to pick up May Lee at the first stop for the camp bus. Then, we were off on our beach adventure! Except, it was dinnertime and she was starving, so we hadn’t even made it out of town before we were driving through the Chick-Fil-A for dinner. We stopped several more times for bathrooms, making this 4-hour trip feel like it lasted for all of eternity. When we finally did pull up to the Holiday Inn Express, we were greeted by a line of tween boys in various stages of dress but all wearing uniform baseball hats coming of the sliding double doors. “Baseball team?” I asked the woman checking us in. “Yes,” she said “Half of them just filed outside and the other half are in the pool”. She also informed me that we were getting the Jacuzzi king, since it was the only room left in the hotel, so that seemed to make up for sharing the place with a tween baseball league.

I grabbed a luggage cart and May Lee hopped on for a ride. It is my single-parent travel survival trick. When one has to get all the luggage in while also corralling the child, it is much easier and efficient to make sure the child can ride on the cart. We made our way outside, and I noted that chaperones nursing beers had finally made their way outside. The boys were nowhere in sight, but from the ruckus coming from behind the tall fence of bushes, I assumed that they were doing whatever tween boys on a traveling baseball team do in that general area. One of the chaperones looked at May Lee and said “Fun! Can I ride the cart too?!” May Lee just giggled. The woman then looked at me and said, “Bless you” with knowing and sympathetic eyes. I didn’t know what to make of that comment….was that pity? Was that empathy, because she also had her hands full with a team of young teenage boys and also a beer, which I can only assume was to help cope with the tween baseball team? Whatever the intention was behind it, I simply said “Thank you” because I’m not one to pass up a free blessing.

The next morning, we ate breakfast with the baseball crowd and attempted to navigate our way in and around them as they packed their cars full of gear and children and I packed up my one child that could still easily fit on the luggage rack. These dedicated parents were chasing boys and their siblings while wrestling with no small amount of baseball equipment. I couldn’t help but think that I had the way easier deal this morning, and I had a new found respect for the mom who blessed me last night as I watched her herd 4 boys into her car. Solidarity sister!

May Lee and I were feeling good as we took off down the highway. She was in the back seat exclaiming, “I can’t WAIT to be at the beach! I can’t WAIT to dig in the sand!” I realized that I had forgotten to get gas before we got on the highway, so we stopped about an hour later to get gas and use the restroom. The station was full of other beach-going families, some going to the beach and some returning home. All of them were generating an enormous amount of noise. I quickly shuffled May Lee to the bathroom, hoping we could make a quick exit from this place before my nerves were completely shot. May Lee was doing her half-panicked dance around this unfamiliar toilet and I was trying to coax her on it so we could leave this insane place! She finally acquiesced and went to the bathroom while 2 more families filed in. We exited the stall just as a mom with a child screaming the shrillest cry I’ve ever heard entered the bathroom. We quickly washed hands and were ready to get the heck out of there when I realized that I didn’t have my keys. The image of my keys hanging on the hook inside of the bathroom stall flashed before my eyes as I remembered hanging them there during May Lee’s unfamiliar potty dance.

What is the least creepy way to get your keys back from a now occupied toilet stall while the child next in line for the bathroom continues to scream at levels that threaten to rupture your eardrums? I didn’t know. I didn’t care. I posted up outside that bathroom stall, and when the woman exited I shot inside before anyone else could get in there and grabbed my keys. As I bolted out of the stall, I grabbed May Lee by the arm and essentially flew her like a kite out of the bathroom door and out of that infernal gas station.

We were happily back on the road in minutes and made it all the way through Birmingham without incident. We had planned to stop for lunch outside of Birmingham, but we hit a traffic jam just as we merged onto the highway out of town. I thought we could wait it out easily and stick to our original plan, but that was not to be. We were still in traffic and hour later, and we starving and in desperate need of a bathroom. I got off the highway at the next exit, only to discover that the only thing at this exit was a Home Depot. Good enough. We walked through the aisles of appliances, paint, and freshly cut wood to the bathroom. When we got back outside to the parking lot, we decided that we might as well break open the cooler and each lunch right there. So PB&J with Doritos was had by all, and we enjoyed it immensely.

Once our tummies were satisfied, we made our way back onto the highway and into the traffic jam. After 20 minutes, we decided to take advantage of our slow pace and get some fresh air. We rolled the windows down and said hello to our fellow traffic jam neighbors. We were, after all, surrounded by other cars packed to the gills with all manner of beach paraphernalia. These were our people, might as well say hello. Once the pace picked up a little and we could no longer socialize, we cranked up the tunes and had a little song and dance party. It passed the time and made the whole stuck-in-traffic-for-all-eternity thing a little more bearable.

I would like to say that once we were out of Birmingham that traffic died down, but that was not the case. We were in beach traffic from Birmingham to the coast, and it added 2 hours to our trip. But we did arrive, and we executed our luggage cart routine all over again. There are pieces of our travel routine that we have down to a science, and then there are the details that continue to be the bane of my existence. Either way, I sure enjoy this time with my girl. She is growing up so fast and pretty soon she will actually be able to drive the car on our road trips instead of just pretending to from the back seat while shouting at me to “just turn all ready!”. And really, that’s what this trip is all about, making memories and spending uninterrupted time with my girl. I’m excited about the memories we will make during this trip, so stay tuned!

Christian, Mom, single-parenting, Uncategorized

A Word About Grief

By trade, I am a therapist- the mental health kind- and I have spent many years studying, observing, and theorizing about human behavior. Since grief is an inevitable part of the human experience, it has been a theme of study and practice throughout my career. Every culture, every group, and every family has its own beliefs, rituals, and traditions surrounding loss, dying, and death, and they serve an important purpose in the survival of that group.

Grief and loss signal to a family or group that it is time to circle the wagons, to move closer together, to conserve and share resources, and to work for the benefit of the entire group. There is a kind of unity inside of grief that is not experienced during any other time. At least, that is what a healthy grieving process looks like. I think about the atmosphere of unity in grief that our country experienced during the days following September 11th with all of the amazing stories of humanity transcending one of its darkest hours with faith, resilience, and bold acts of generosity and kindness. People worked sacrificially to meet each other’s needs, because everyone knew instinctively that it was time to take care of each other. It was time to circle the wagons and people didn’t wait for instructions on what to do or worry about how others may perceive their actions, they simply acted.

September 11th was a trauma to all of us, and we are learning more and more that trauma is inter-generational. That means that even the kiddos that were born years later are subject to the repercussions of the original trauma. We know that in families, the effects of trauma often result in addictive behaviors, even several generations away from the original trauma. The addictive behaviors serve the purpose of avoiding the pain associated with trauma, and it blocks the natural and healthy process of grief and recovery.

When I look at our country today, I see unresolved trauma and a pattern of addiction. The trauma of 9/11 was so great that the stress still runs through our veins. At some point in our collective grieving process, fear was able to weave a destructive web around our hearts and minds. With each new tragedy, large or small, our collective nervous system was overwhelmed and unable to manage the heartache of a new loss. We retreated to whatever soothed us, to whatever temporarily numbed the pain. Then the next tragedy occurred and we again retreated to our self-soothing mechanisms, and this cycle has played out so many times that we don’t even need to retreat any more. At this point in the cycle of our collective addiction, there is no one left in the middle to retreat outward when tragedy strikes. Everyone is now permanently spread out, isolating in their sanctuaries of false security, and attempting to communicate with each other by shouting across the divides.

Friends, what happens when the wagons aren’t circled but are spread far and wide with no form of effective communication? The answer should make your blood run cold, because you know the cost is high and the loss of life is imminent.  If we want to survive, we can no longer allow our first response to tragedy to be debates over policy. Don’t get me wrong, the social activist in me loves a good policy debate, but I truly believe that our retreat behind policy is taking the human element out of the tragedy. It is our drug, numbing the pain and heartache so we don’t have to feel it anymore.

Like everyone else, I don’t have answers or fixes for the senseless tragedies that our country continues to experience week after week, but I do know that collectively we are trauma-weary and coping in an unhealthy way. I also know that without unity we will be devoured, either by our own unhealthy pattern or by an outside force that we are now too unhealthy to defend against. It could be that those first steps toward unity may lie in allowing ourselves to grieve together once again. If we grieve together as one nation, we will not be washed away by the sadness. We will transcend as we draw closer and are able to really hear each other again.

Friends, it is time to circle the wagons.