And that’s a wrap

Last year I went and watched some friends race in the Emmett Most Excellent Triathlon. I was kinda kicking around the idea of doing it but wanted to see the set up first. The whole thing was exciting so I decided then to do it this year. At the time, I expected to be out on the course with my several different friends and training partners and my husband to be my cheering section (and sherpa). As it turns out, one friend was injured and couldn’t train or race this season. A local trail race changed the weekend it was held and conflicted with Emmett and all of my regular training partners had already signed up for that one before they realized the conflict. And then my husband had to travel for work. Triathlon is essentially a single person sport. You can race it as a relay team but even then, you are on your own for whatever piece you’re doing. You are responsible for your own performance. You are ultimately responsible for your training. But. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, is that you’re never alone. And that community is a big part of what keeps me coming back.

Earlier this week I put out a plea on Facebook for someone to do one last open water swim with me. A woman I met a few years ago through the Pulse training group not only agreed to go out with me, she put together a whole group, complete with kayak support. And then she stuck with me the whole time even though she could have easily left me in her wake and swam twice as far as me. That same group of people were at the race today and offered up support, encouragement and cheers throughout the day.

This morning I got to the parking lot to load my bike on the transports up to T1. I had ridden briefly last night to check my tires and felt fine with them then. But Jon always airs them up for me and I’m notorious for thinking they’re fine when they’re a bit mushy. As I pulled my bike out this morning, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the fact that HE WASN’T THERE. A friend was coming to meet and support me but at that moment, I just wanted my husband to reassure me that the bike was fine. I stood staring at my tires for a moment, second guessing if they were really okay and trying to talk myself out of crying. An older couple were unpacking next to me. He glanced over and then asked if he could check and air up my tires for me. I nearly burst into those tears and instead word vomited all over them. “Yes! My husband usually takes care of this but had to fly out of the country and I’m suddenly freaking out a little not having him here and I’ll know I’ll be fine but I don’t know if my bike is or not and I really want him here…” The husband calmly took my bike and then wife proceeded to talk me down. We turned out to have quite a bit of common interests and friends. It was a big “small world” moment and incredibly reassuring to me. I felt like God put them specifically in my path to remind me that He’s still caring for me, even in these relatively trivial moments. And then the wife touched base with me several times throughout the morning until she saw I had other people around me.

I was setting up my bike transition and a woman near me started up a conversation. We stood and talked about 15 minutes, like we had known each other for years. She cheered for me, by name, when she passed me on the course later. And we talked afterwards, when we saw each other at our cars.

I had numerous mini conversations and encouraging words from random athletes on the course. I may have not had my usual training partners and friends to chase down but I was surrounded by people who bond over this crazy sport and who, inevitably, make sure no one is alone. It’s an incredible community.

But. Can I tell you the REAL heroes? They’re the friends and family that don’t bond over this crazy sport. They find it only mildly interesting and only because they love me. And yet they listen patiently as I discuss times and training sessions and various other triathlon related minutia. They forgive me missing events and social outings and conversations because I’m training or sleeping. They show up early on Saturday mornings and stand for several hours in the heat just to yell my name for a few seconds (and hold my stuff). My husband supports me taking hours away from our weekends for bike rides and swims. He endures weeks of sub-par, quick dinners because I have to get in a run after work and pauses his schedule to do bike maintenance on MY schedule. These dear people. They did not choose triathlon but they patiently endure it.

I stood in cold water at 9:35 this morning and crossed the finish line one hour and fifty eight minutes later, finishing out my 2017 triathlon season. No one else swam that course for me. No one else pedaled my bike or took even one of the steps away from me for 3.1 miles. No one else put in the training for me. But when I crossed the line today, it was to wrap up a season that was ONLY made possible due to the people around me.

Missing Her

Last week was the four years since my mother-in-love passed away from cancer. Four. It seems like last week. It seems like a lifetime ago. And of course I always think about her that week, just like I also think about her on Mother’s Day and her birthday and my husband’s birthday. Just like I think about her on a weekly basis. It’s been four years and I don’t remember when it happened but I finally quit reaching for my phone to text her but I’ve never stopped remembering her. But I don’t usually GRIEVE her on those “big days” though. In fact last week, even while remembering the last 12 hours, I felt buoyant. I found myself smiling. In part, that’s because even in her last hours, hard as they were, she gave us reasons to smile through our tears. We can celebrate that she’s not suffering anymore, that we will see her again. So I’m not surprised necessarily when those milestone days don’t cause tears. But a couple of weeks ago, my supervisor’s father died after a long and difficult struggle with cancer. And when he sent our team the email with an ADORABLE picture attached, I found myself sobbing at my desk. Not just crying. Quietly sobbing. Once I gathered myself, I went to my husband’s office to let him know (we work at the same organization) and I found tears leaking down my cheeks again. Thankfully I was still clutching a tissue. I cried off and on all day. I had worked there for a month. I don’t know my supervisor that well and I had never met his parents. But I realized, I missed my mother-in-love. Grief rolled over me like a freak storm.

That’s the most recent example. Four years and while it doesn’t happen as often (or as dramatically), the most mundane moments will send me into a tailspin of missing her. It might last a few seconds or a few minutes. It might result in tears or just a tightness in my chest. But it’s never something I can prepare for. Grief is a strange thing isn’t it?

18 years ago

This was my life a little less than eighteen years ago.

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I was 20. He was…weeks old.

This was my life four days ago.

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Photo credit to my mother.

And yesterday, was his eighteenth birthday.

He was my “baby bear”* until about kindergarten when he informed me he was no longer a baby. I reluctantly graduated him to “Bear” until about third grade when he explained with a huff that his name was NOT “bear”. And then, ironically, he hit high school and all his friends started calling him “Papa Bear” with absolutely no input from me.

He has spent the past ten years, give or take a few, adopting and looking out for every younger child around him. And he has been attempting to take care of me since he could toddle to the front door and fling himself against it yelling “NO MAMA” because I walked into the living room in just shorts and a sports bra to retrieve my purse but he was concerned I might try to leave the house in an indecent state of dress.  The concern was cute until I tried to get my ears pierced with a second hole when he was about seven and a friend had to remove him the premises because he freaked out so badly.

I have received phone calls from teachers stating that he needs to be reprimanded but “He’s just so sweet I can’t do it…” Then there’s the time he told a teacher that if his eyes wandered during a test it was because he hit his head in P.E. and his eyes wouldn’t stay still…it certainly wouldn’t be because he was cheating. (She moved him into the hallway for the test if I remember correctly) And THEN there’s the time that he irritated a girl so much that she finally tackled him…into a cinder block wall. (And yet she still counted him among some of her best friends)

The character of Dominic Toretto (Fast and Furious franchise) repeats his mantra of “I don’t have friends, I have a family” so often in the movie series that it becomes a bit cheesy – but this kiddo has been living that for years. He is ferociously loyal and once you’re in his inner circle, he will adopt you and everyone you love. It can be a little overwhelming but somehow he always manages to win over….everyone. He has a multitude of “mom”s, all of which have contributed to his growth , and an impressive collection of “little sisters” that he fights with – and for. He has chosen to surround himself with guys that will hike the foothills with him, then spend hours playing video games…but they always hug their mamas before taking off.

He loves to make people smile and laugh and if someone leaves his presence without feeling loved, it’s not because he didn’t try. Young children adore him and he is always willing to give them his time and energy. He loves babies…and he loves the attention he gets from girls when he’s cuddling babies. He shaves his own head now (and let’s people rub it)…but “forgets” to shave his face. Sometimes he doesn’t see that line between funny and annoying until he’s well past it. Sometimes his family is as likely to swat him as they are to hug him. But he makes really good coffee.

There are plenty of stories I could tell many of which I need to write down for future generations but I won’t try to recount here and now. The point is, he’s eighteen. Four years ago, I sobbed as he entered high school because there were only four years left and he was nowhere ready for the world…and the world definitely wasn’t ready for him. Today I can say confidently that I think he’ll be okay. He’ll have some rough patches and he’ll learn some lessons the hard way. Most everyone does. But he’ll be fine in the end.

I’m still not sure the world is ready for him though.

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* I let him preview/approve the pictures used in this post. He scanned part of the text as well and on the way to bed, kissed me on top of my head and said “I’m still your baby bear.” Dawww….

 

A plan for us all

Stacey over at Glitter and Churchy Church published a post today that spurred me to edit/publish one I’ve been sitting on since last weekend when I attended the same conference she talks about. Go read…now or after you finish here. Whatever. But go read. She took a short term mission trip and used it to fuel her passion AND actions.  (By the way, she pulls off that signature look she mentions in a FANTASTIC way.)

So there was a Human Trafficking 101 conference here in Boise last weekend. Because, believe it or not, human trafficking & child exploitation happens right here, in our safe/clean/beautiful/boring town. I went in looking for resources and action steps more than information. I’ve read and watched and seen the statistics. I have the information. But what I didn’t have was first hand accounts from people who work with this issue on a daily basis. What I didn’t have were the personal stories from my backyard.What I didn’t have were real, local numbers from the offices of warriors in my community. I went in prepared to take notes. I didn’t, convinced that there was no way I’d forget what I’d heard. But driving home I realized I was so overwhelmed, so over-saturated that I could only remember bits and pieces and the emotions. I was exhausted and I couldn’t process or feel anything.  They showed a documentary after the speakers and I just went straight home. I couldn’t handle anything further. And I was frustrated. I wanted action steps. I wanted to sign up to DO something. I work well in a support role…give me papers to files, contact lists to alphabetize & color code, a blog or twitter account to update, a fund raiser to organize. WHERE WAS THE DOTTED LINE TO SIGN UP TO DO SOMETHING?!!?

A week later, I can think more clearly. I can process. I’ve gotten past the sense of overwhelming helplessness and frustration. One thing that we heard multiple times was that the majority (80? 90%?) of girls that are trafficked come from abusive homes/situations. And it’s very easy to take that fact and think “Oh. My daughter/niece/cousin/neighbor doesn’t fall into that category. She’s safe.” But. But. That’s looking at only a portion of what happens. Your loved one may never be physically touched. And for that, I am grateful. Believe me. You may know for 100% certain that she’s in a safe, loving, positive, protected home. There are a LOT of amazing families out there. But there was another aspect the detectives mentioned that never occurred to me. Exploitation. One of them said “Once upon a time you worried about the creepy guy down the street. Now we’re putting computers in every 13 year old’s pocket and we have to worry about every creepy guy IN THE WORLD.” These guys who exploit are are masterminds at manipulation.  And by nature of their development and hormones, even your well adjusted, confident, protected daughter is not 100% safe. She may never be touched by these guys. And that’s GOOD. Please don’t get me wrong. But what happens if they convince her to simply send them a video of her changing. Or a “tastefully sexy” picture. Once that door has been opened, it’s rarely going to stop with “tastefully sexy”. What happens when she realizes what her image has been used for? When she realizes just how many hundreds of thousands of people have seen it? When she realizes as she’s walking down the street that some of these people could recognize her for…that? How is she going to view men now? What kind of damage is being done to her psychologically, emotionally, relationally?

I hear it said all the time that this is a “women’s problem” or a “female problem”. It’s not. I understand where that phrase comes from but our men are hurt by this too. If they are watching porn, their expectations of women and relationships are damaged. If they’re not, it’s often implied they’re “not men”. After all, it’s just natural, right? And what about how the damage to the women affects them. These are future wives and partners. And yet, these children will be running the world we live in. These children will be making decisions that influence us. These children will be raising the next generation. These children are exposed to sex and are more sexualized  than any generation before. On average they are exposed to porn at the age of 11. ELEVEN. When I was in 5th/6th grade, boys and girls were just starting to rediscover each other….by tripping each other and pulling hair and playing chase. The ones who snuck a kiss behind the tree on the playground were publicly tried and found guilty of having cooties. We may have learned what sex was in a very clinical manner at that age…and we were horrified by the idea. Now? Now it’s entertainment and something to experiment with. AT ELEVEN.

Last weekend I was a bit frustrated and a lot overwhelmed & discouraged. I didn’t have an action step. I didn’t have a plan. Over the past week though I’ve realized – we ALL have an action step. Because all of us can influence a child. Rescuing the currently exploited girls (and boys) is important. Please don’t misunderstand. That is INCREDIBLY important. But if we just rescue after the fact, we will never make progress against the problem. There is still demand and there will ALWAYS be someone to utilize. But if we influence our children, if we raise them with knowledge of healthy relationships and to be violently opposed to the very idea of using another human being, then the demand AND the source starts to shrink.

This is a problem for all of us. And we don’t have to be social workers or detectives or on a task force to make a difference.  If you’re a parent, be THAT parent. Be the unreasonable, over protective parent who insists on knowing every password and pass code. Be the nosy parent who reads texts and checks phones and computers. Be the paranoid parent that has tracking/monitoring software on devices. Be the embarrassing parent who insists on having THOSE mortifying conversations.  Be the parent who knows your child and who is influencing them. We don’t have to lock these precious kids in a cellar to protect them. They need to understand the world.  They need to see and experience all the good while still recognizing the negatives….and being equipped to deal with those. But we also can’t give them unlimited and unsupervised exposure. Be involved. (Admission – I don’t do all these things all the time. I’m not a great mother. I know all the areas I could improve. But I can’t give up. You’re not a perfect parent either. It’s okay. Just don’t give up.)

If you’re not a parent, be a mentor and a friend. Be a safe place, a safe person for someone. Be a positive influence, show our children what life CAN be like. They need more than mom and dad….and some don’t even have that positive example to see. My hat is off to the people who face this darkness head on in daily battle. We need them. But we “common people” have a job to do that is just important. We have an action step. We have a place to start.

Happy Birthday Husband!!

Well. Apparently I haven’t written a birthday blog post for my husband since 2011.  That seems kinda odd for a bloggy wife but the archives don’t lie.

I was contemplating what to say about the man born on this date that I get to do life with. I didn’t want to write something cliche’ and cheesy. I wanted to write something that would honor and celebrate him. Then I got to thinking about a Facebook conversation that happened a few weeks ago on a friend’s status (or picture?) where she tagged her new boyfriend. Jon and I had met him and liked him. Other friends of her’s had not and there was quite a protective outcry of “is he worthy, we must meet/approve of him, etc” All were well-meaning. Most were teasing to some extent. I knew all of them and understood them. But this poor guy didn’t. And his sister that could see all of this? She knew no one involved and only saw her brother/his relationship being questioned. She very politely stepped into the thread to defend him and tell everyone that her brother was a wonderful and upstanding man. And any man that has THAT kind of good relationship with his sister(s) and/or mother is worth giving a chance.

My husband is one of those men. Although we lost his mother this year, he continues to love and honor her with his words and actions as he did during her life. (And she’s not really lost. We know where she is.)  He makes the relationships with his sisters priority, taking time to communicate and visit with them. He pours out attention onto his nieces and nephews. He talks with, teases and serves his grandmother every week.  He puts his family as a priority – the family he received through genetics & courts and the family with which he has chosen to surround himself.

I could list many of traits of my husband. But primarily – he doesn’t give up people and he knows how to love them, even through difficulties. I saw the first hints of this when I first saw the relationship he had with the women in his family and I just continue to find new depths of it. He constantly teaches me about loving people unconditionally. Today I hope he gets some of that back from those of us that love him.

Happy birthday Husband!

The small joys of motherhood

Our youngest is a, well, finicky, eater. Finicky and fickle. I ask on a regular basis if he stills likes <insert recently loved food>. Best result? Yes. But the most frequent answers are tied between “meh” and “YUCK I HATE THAT”. This summer we were standing in the produce section of Albertson’s. I remember it vividly. I can picture where we were standing exactly, where the strawberries were located, the lights, the hum of the air conditioning, the look of total bewilderment when I asked “Do you still like strawberries?” And I quite CLEARLY remember him answering that yes, he loved strawberries, they were the best, his favorite, forever and ever amen. He answered loudly and dramatically and, dare I say, flamboyantly. I also clearly remember telling him that someday? I would be reminding him of this conversation and he would never again be allowed to tell me that he doesn’t change his mind. Amen.

Yesterday I found strawberries on sale at Freddie’s that looked and smelled amazing. Yesterday I picked up a container thinking I would treat the boys for their lunches. This morning I noticed the youngest had put two apples and NO STRAWBERRIES in his lunch. Tonight? I asked him….

“Do you still like strawberries?”

And he wrinkled his nose. And said “No. They’re gross.”

Oh yes. Yes I did. I most certainly DID remind him of the conversation from this morning. I reminded him loudly. And dramatically. And flamboyantly.  He was not impressed. I do not care.

Friday the 13th…of DECEMBER.

It’s the 13th of December. I don’t really care that it’s a Friday the 13th. Whatever. (Although my paternal grandfather? Would not even get out of bed on a Friday the 13th.) I’m more appalled that it’s twelve days before Christmas and I’ve done nothing. No. Literally. NOTHING Christmas related. My fall/Thanksgiving decorations are still sitting in the dining room waiting for me to take them to the garage and pull out the Christmas boxes.

I take that back. I bought the gingerbread house village set for the boys and I do put together/decorate. That doesn’t mean it will HAPPEN. But the kit is in our possession.

We have never bought the boys a lot of presents. They get one or two and stockings. And it’s always a pain to figure out how to rearrange the living room for a full size Christmas tree that we only put a few presents under. So this year, Jon suggested we put a small one on the dining room table instead. I usually love decorating for Christmas – the tree included – but this year scaling down sounded fabulous and so I agreed. I did fully intend to do SOME decorating but as of now, there is a tree on the table and that’s it. And that was all Jon’s doing. It was all set up when I got in from class Wednesday night.

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Is that not absolutely adorable? I think so. It makes me smile. And? Now you can walk around humming the Peanuts theme song all day too. You’re welcome.

I haven’t started baking. I haven’t even made a baking list. I haven’t started shopping for stockings or my husband’s present (he usually shops for the boys) and he’s SO HARD to shop for. If there’s something he wants, he generally just gets it. Which is fine usually. I certainly don’t mind. But it makes it really freaking difficult to shop for presents.  I think I’ll make him make a wish list this year. Hear that honey? I want a list by the end of the weekend. Kthanksloveya!

We do have a few very important traditions that will still go down with or without decorations or holiday styled cookies:

One – the boys will pick out their VERY OWN box of cereal to eat out of ginormous bowls on Christmas morning. And then Jon and I will snack and nibble on those boxes of cereal the rest of the week.

Two – Our annual movie marathon is planned and prepped. Since we’re ALL off an entire week – TOGETHER – we pick a day to pile onto couches and chairs, still in our pajamas, and watch one movie series. All. Day. Our diet consists pretty much of popcorn for the day and we only move to refill bowls/drinks and go potty. Past years have included the Firefly series (tv show but it was only one season), the Bourne movies and the Harry Potter movies. We didn’t get through all of those but we made a valiant effort. This year? Fast and Furious baby.

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I was surprised to find out one “thing” the boys considered a tradition. “Santa Wars” I collect Santas. And every year I pull some out as an important piece of decorating. My husband considers them creepy. He says he doesn’t like the eyes that stare coldly into your soul. Or something. I’m paraphrasing. (I also have one that is the perfect size to set on the window sill right above the toilet. So of course that’s where I put it.) So every year I put them out and every year I walk back into the room to find them turned around backwards. So I fix them. And they turn them around. And I fix them. And this goes on the entire season. I mentioned I probably wasn’t putting out Santas this year and the boys loudly protested. “It’s TRADITION!” they cried.  “What about Santa Wars?!!?” they wailed.

Maybe I’ll pull out a few boxes.