May the Fourth be with you

There’s no reason for that title. Except it’s May 4th and I raided my husband’s side of the closet to wear a shirt with the Millennium Falcon on it.

I was thinking about my “Book of 2017” the other day. 124 pages have been written and more of those have been “high points” than not. We spent a week in Seattle with friends and family. We relaxed and visited. We did some touristy things. We went to a concert and then hung out in a tiny little pizza parlor with delicious local sodas and laughed…a lot. We got a break from the OMG BRUTAL winter. My doctor put me on a once a day insulin shot and it did WONDERS for managing my blood sugar. I’m even racing again this year and have started training. I went ball room dancing with a friend while Jon was out with his friends. We spent a Saturday exploring parts of Idaho I had never seen…and saw a herd of elk. We’ve had an abundance of comfortable, enjoyable evenings at home. We’ve watched movies, been to concerts, survived a week of multiple not-small injuries to family members, spent quite a bit of time with friends. I’ve started reading some fascinating text books. Oh…and I accepted a job with Mission Aviation Fellowship that starts on the 15th. Yep. MAF. Where my husband works (and TheKid for now) (But we only overlap for 5 days.) (And that’s good considering he’s also moved home).

We’re about a third of the way through the second quarter of this year. (How convoluted can I make that?) In many ways it’s slipped past quickly, almost without notice.  But my goal is to be more intentional with both my relationships and my time the rest of this quarter. Hopefully my hubby and I will be carpooling pretty often (ie, I will be chauffeured…my life is rough) and we joined the same gym. I’m kinda excited to see how the extra time together and the new commonalities affect our relationship and how we can use that. I’m very excited for the environment I’ll be operating within now although it does mean being firmly inside a Christian “bubble”. I’ll have to be very aware of becoming insulated against the world.  But it’s 80 degrees and sunny outside so I’m naturally more optimistic….and I’m kinda excited for the next 56 days…and beyond.

Two pages down, 363 to go.

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A friend of mine posted this on Facebook the other day. I don’t know if Brad Paisley actually said it or not but I rather like the sentiment. It seems everything I’ve read lately has discussed finding (or re-discovering) your true identity: those passions and activities that light you up and make you uniquely you, the traits that have been with you since childhood but perhaps have been buried in the responsibilities and ‘should’s of adulthood. I wasn’t feeling particularly unsure of my identity. However, I did realize that reading and writing have always been integral to my life but I have let them slip to the back burner in the past few years. It’s easy to let happen when doing the whole wife/mother gig and picking up random hobbies. The idea of reintegrating them reinforces that whole restoration theme.

I’m not saying I’m writing all 365 days this year (Ha!). I’m not even setting a goal to write on a set schedule or read X number of books. In fact, if we’re staring at blank 365 pages, mine is off to a slow start. Yesterday we went out to breakfast and upon returning home, I promptly crawled onto the couch and stayed there watching a Fast & Furious marathon until bedtime (with a break to watch football while Tokyo Drift was on because that movie does not count). No shame. Day two has been moderately more productive with dinner cooking in the crock pot, a clean kitchen, a brief yoga session and lots of reading. Most might not consider that a story worth reading but it has been perfect for my last day of vacation. Obviously I don’t know what the next 363 days will bring but I have an idea what I would like them to look like.

 

Time Marches On – 2017

Another year is almost in the books and the natural inclination is to look ahead to the new one. I don’t make New Year resolutions. I don’t particularly like setting myself up to fail. But as I’ve considered what I would like my life to look like in the coming months, one word keeps coming to mind: Restoration.

It’s the same word that resonated at the end of 2015 when I was preparing for my previous trip to the Philippines. But it made sense at the time. I was tired and felt burned out and ill equipped for the trip. I spent the few months before departure focusing on rest and restoration.

This time I don’t feel burned out or bone weary tired but I feel this need to pull back and focus on the details of life that matter most. It’s a desire to focus on restoring habits that strengthen my health on all levels: physically, spiritually and mentally. It’s a craving to spend more time in quiet moments and activities like reading and writing and prayer. (Perhaps not coincidentally one of my Christmas gifts was a coloring book and colored pencils. Perfect.) It’s wanting to spend time in the kitchen cooking meals that nourish my family and friends and relying a little less on chicken from the deli or Papa Murphy’s pizza. It’s wanting to sit across from friends, coffee (or tea) in hand for more time than I spend in a gym.  The closest relationships in my life deserve purposeful cultivating instead of just “letting them happen”.  But for when I AM there, it’s a focus on yoga and swimming rather than heavy weights and running shoes.

I don’t know that this is my “Word of the Year” or that it is the theme for the next 365 days. But it’s what I’m starting with and what I’m using as a guide for life and calendar decisions right now.

Looking Back on 2016

I think I’ve said this before but I love fresh starts. I love new notebooks, with crisp empty pages and a new pen. I love Monday mornings. I love the beginning of school years and the new year. It’s odd I’m not a morning person but that’s one fresh start I wish society would agree to begin a little later.

2016 has been a hard year. From terrorist attacks and the groups sponsoring them, refugee crisis, Aleppo, mass shootings, earthquakes and typhoons and hurricanes, Zika and deaths and a contentious election season and tension between police and citizens…and clowns. Of all things. Clowns. There’s a universal cry of “Good riddance 2016″…as if switching the pages of a calendar has any power.

Personally, 2016 has been neither singularly difficult nor easy-breezy. I began it in a slum in the metro area of Manila, Philippines, surrounded by my team playing games, eating balut (other team members, not me), singing worship songs and cringing as the locals set off fireworks that made the area sound like a war zone instead of a celebration. And while that was a hard trip and I missed my family & friends often, as the clock struck midnight there on January 1, 2016, I was exactly where I wanted to be. I came home sick, got better and felt fantastic. I had a LOT of fun learning to play softball and training for a triathlon that I did not intend to do but gave in to peer pressure. Then we found out we had to move and began a frantic house search, while my husband was out of the country. And in the midst of that, I was diagnosed with diabetes started meds and went from feeling great to…not. My parents came to visit, my father had a massive heart attack but was treated quickly by a top notch group and is fine. Our middle son graduated high school. We moved into a house that is more room than we need but allows us to host guests like I’ve always dreamed (and it was an easy EASY move). Our youngest son started 7th grade in a new school…public for the first time. The oldest started a great job with the same organization where Hubby works, moved out and bought a truck (& a cat).  The middle son start college and a job that he loves. I started a new degree path and dropped my classes because I wasn’t physically able to juggle work, family and school. Hubby traveled out of the country again. We watched a LOT of Olympics. Hubby’s Grandma turned 100.  We both turned 40. Close friends moved away. We went to Salt Lake Comic Con (and had a blast). I fully intended to journey back to the Philippines in December but due to my health, that was not the wisest choice. Many tears were shed over that decision even knowing it was the best one. We had a low key, relaxing Thanksgiving (thanks to my sister-in-law hosting), and a wonderful Christmas. It was a whirlwind of a year and I am sure I’m forgetting something. But I’m ready to shut the book on 2016 and move on. Not because I think the stroke of midnight on December 31/Jan 1 holds any magical power in and of itself but because, well, I love fresh starts. Including new years.

 

Ground Zero

I’ve debated writing about this. On one hand, it’s not a big deal. On the other hand, it kinda is.

Earlier this year I felt fantastic. I was playing softball and training for a triathlon. Weight was finally dropping, I was getting faster, my energy levels were great.

Then I had blood work done to check my chronically low Vitamin D levels and was diagnosed as severely diabetic.

This year. It’s been a journey of meds and lifestyle changes. Of feeling terrible to feeling normal to feeling terrible again. Of finding out I could “do everything right” and my body still would not respond.

For the record – it is really difficult to stick with the whole strict lifestyle when you feel worse AND your body doesn’t respond.

My mental/emotional journey has not been linear. I have been mad. I checked all the right boxes and my body betrayed me anyway. I have been ashamed. Obviously I *DIDN’T* take care of myself and made myself sick. I have been discouraged and sad. What I do doesn’t matter; all my goals are out of reach and my life is now defined by this. I have been hyper focused and determined. I can eat perfect and work out harder than before; I can reverse this. It changes from week to week – sometimes from day to day. And I’ve found that how I feel physically greatly impacts my mental state. Since I have spent the past couple of months dealing with fatigue and nausea (yay supplemental meds), the mental battle has been the main one I’ve fought. Discouragement stalks me on a regular basis. I’m not ready to succumb completely.

I spend a lot of time on the couch right now (see above: fatigue). I have been forced to slow down (stop) and re-evaluate. I’m finally accepting that the goals, plans and priorities I had for this year, and the foreseeable future, are irrelevant. That leaves a void. I don’t know that I’ve ever stared in the future with absolutely NO idea of how I was going to proceed, with a complete absence of an objective.

Right now the only thing I am ready to commit to is getting my brain back in this whole fighting for my health thing. I haven’t given up. Not completely. But I haven’t been as focused and strict as I could be. Maybe I’ll up my reading and writing game again too. We’ll see.

Thanksgiving?

I think I’ve mentioned this before but I live a charmed life. Seriously. But I don’t participate in “30 Days of Thanksgiving” or anything like that because history shows, if I commit to do something like that, I am less likely to do anything even slightly resembling my commitment. I will take pictures daily and be aware of beautiful, wonderful moments in my life…but the moment I sign up for “100 Happy Days” or whatever the flip it’s called…pft. Pictures? I have a camera?

I have been slowly becoming more aware of moments of thankfulness and more conscious of actually including God in those moments with quick prayer of thanks instead of fleeting thoughts of contentment. But recently I’ve found this dangerous irritating little voice whispering in the back of my head.

Me: “Gorgeous sunrise. Thank you for a beautiful start to this clear day. I love driving in clear weather.”

Dangerous whisper: “Yeah…but would you still have a thankful heart if there was a foot of snow on the ground and nothing but gray clouds overhead?”

Me: “I love my home so much. Thank you for providing this beautiful shelter and the opportunity to indulge in Thanksgiving cooking!”

Dangerous whisper: “What if you were spending Thanksgiving in a hospital? Or a homeless shelter? What would your attitude be like, your prayers sound like?”

This voice is dangerous because it’s prompting me to start adding a layer to my conversations with God. It’s causing me to start asking, not for more moments of contentment, but a heart and spirit that is prepared to be thankful and content in situations that aren’t beautiful, warm & cozy.

20151124_193906I am still incredibly grateful for the plethora of warm fuzzy moments that I’m experiencing. I mean seriously – this was my view while baking pies this week. A cat napping near a fireplace…it doesn’t get more warm & fuzzy than that. At the same time, I am aware that my comfort isn’t what is important…and it’s definitely not guaranteed. Would I still maintain a grateful heart and deep rooted joy even in the midst of hard times?

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….