Sunday, December 16, 2012

There Are No Answers



                                                                          Source


I've been thinking all day about what to say about the horrific mass murder of children and faculty at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. How do we wrap our minds around the fact that some madmad -- practically a kid himself -- became the monster, the boogeyman, of childhood nightmares, then forced his way into their safe haven and shot them systematically? Twenty little children, babies really, have been slaughtered before their lives began.... How do we comprehend the incomprehensible?                                                                

I have no words of wisdom to share. There are no answers to insanity. I wish I had the power to ensure that this will never happen again, but I feel powerless. The sad fact is, this will happen again...and again...and again....We live in such a fallen world,  and evil resides here among us. Evil is real and vicious, unpredictable and everywhere. It roams throughout our world looking for innocence to devour. We cannot lock it out of our lives, we cannot protect the ones we love. Evil knows exactly which weapons to wield to wound us to our very core.

And yet....

I have been witness to the immense outpouring of a bottomless pool of love from very good and caring people. Strangers to those who grieve in Connecticut have grieved along with them. Wherever we were, we wept together, we prayed together, and we continue to pray. We have poured out our love as a balm on those who are in pain. We feel helpless, and do not know what to do to relieve this enormous weight of suffering, and so we offer the only thing that we have -- our love. Those children were our children, and those faculty were our family, and we shed tears and mourn them as our own. We are all one in crying out to our God in pain and grief.

Today I watched in awestruck wonder as the father of one of the victims spoke to the world about his daughter. Before he described Emilie, the joy of his life, Robby Parker talked of how he and his family sent their love to the other families -- and most amazing of all,  to the family of the shooter. He said he was not angry. I believe he is telling the truth. He holds no hate in his heart.

I realized when I saw him, struggling in his own terrible grief but reaching out to others, that I was watching a truly courageous and beautiful thing -- a faith in action. Not just lip service, but a living, active faith, a faith that has held steadfast in the darkest moment of despair. I was seeing someone walk the walk. I was seeing, simply,  the face of Christ.

                                                                         

Evil has dealt us a devastating blow, but evil did not win. Evil will not win. No matter how it tries to deliver  the death blow to conquer us all, no matter how many times we stagger, falling to our knees, we will not be vanquished. Evil cannot triumph over the goodness and love and heart of humanity. We will continue to love, we will continue to forgive, we will continue to reach for one another and clasp hands and pray. No matter what we suffer together, our love for one another will always prevail. It is all we have, but it is everything we need for victory.


                                                                           Source


"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." -- Matthew 5:4

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever." -- Revelation 21:4

"Three things will last forever -- faith, hope, and love -- and the greatest of these is love." -- 1 Corinthians 13:13


 You can help the victims of Sandy Hook here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Great Gifts For Athletes

 Don't have much time to shop? Here's a handy little gift guide I put together to make things easier for you!

                                                                   Source 

1. Garmin 410 Sports Watch
Who wouldn't want one of these? You can track your miles, pace and calories burned -- and SO much more!!! Amazon has them on sale right now -- both the base model, and the one with the heart rate monitor.
                                                                          Amazon.com

2.  Muscle Milk
This drink is amazing!! I use it for recovery. After my daughter's first 10k, Muscle Milk was giving out samples and we tried it. I had NO pain the next day. Awesome!! And it's on sale now at The Clymb.


3.  Bani Bands Headbands
                                                               
These are the ONLY headbands I have ever worn that have stayed in place. I was extremely skeptical when I saw them at an expo. I even told the sales rep that I would be back the next day after the race to report on whether they slipped or not. I did go back -- to tell them how great these bands performed. I even recommended them to some people who were looking at the bands. Right now they have a variety of sparkly holiday ones -- FUN!!

                            Bani Bands

4.  China Gel Topical Pain Reliever
This is the best topical pain analgesic I have ever used. Again, I was pretty skeptical -- wondering why it was going to be better than some of the tubes of pain relievers I could get at my local drugstore. Wow, there was a night and day difference in pain relief!!
                                                                         Amazon.com

5. Bheestie Bag
Have you ever been out running, it started to rain, and your phone or iPod got soaked and wouldn't work? Or you sweated so much it got wet?  Or worse yet, you dropped it in the toilet? (I had a son do that once.) Yeah, we've all heard about putting them into a bag of rice, but that's iffy at best. Here is Bheestie Bag to the rescue. This is the best 15 bucks you'll ever spend. Put your electronic device in the bag and leave it for 24 hours. It removes all the moisture and will work again. It's a miracle! Much cheaper than having to replace the device!! On sale right now on Amazon. (I spent $25 for mine.)



6. Bern Women's Audio Helmet
I will admit, I know nothing about helmets, but I just happened to see this one today and thought it was pretty cool. It is made of an open cell foam which lets air circulate to keep you cool. And it has built in earphones. Sweet!! On sale now through Rue la la.
                                                                            Rue la la

7. Shred Sled 4 Wheel in line Caster Board
This looks like so much fun for adults and kids!! More challenging than a regular skateboard, apparently it is more maneuverable. I haven't ridden one -- yet -- but from customer reviews, everyone loves this! (Please wear a helmet when riding.)

                                                            Amazon.com              


8. Shoes
'Nuff said.
                                                                      Source

9.  Foam Roller
Yeah, it hurts so good. I found some good ones on eBay with free shipping.

                                                                         eBay


.10.  Kettlebells
Tone your body at home with these great weights. They come in a variety of weights. You can buy dvds with workouts or find them on YouTube. Lots of fun!

                                                                            
                                                          DicksSportingGoods 



I have not been paid to endorse any of these gifts. Many are ones that I myself own and like, and thought you might be interested. If you order through the link provided with The Clymb, I do receive credit in my account for that. But feel free to purchase the items wherever you prefer. 

I hope these gifts give you some fun ideas for the athletes in your life. May your holidays be active and bright!! Peace to you from ArmsWideOpen.


                                                                            
                                                                      Source






Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Thoughts On the Campaign

For the past month or so, I have been ruminating over the campaign vitriol. The thoughts keep going 'round and 'round, and when they do, I know it's time to get them out. So, while this blog is usually about running in some way, it's also about me and my life, and so here it is...

I'm sad.

I have read the posts and tweets of both Republican and Democratic Facebook friends over the past months with a growing sense of unease. Each side fights with the desperation of stray dogs attacking a grimy bone in a back-alley dumpster. The growling, snarking, and biting has gotten to be too much for me to bear. It breaks my heart. I don't want this in my life anymore.

I'm sad that "Hope and Change" turned into something else. I wanted it to work out, I really did. Frankly, what choice did I have? Even though Obama was not my candidate of choice, I was proud that our country had elected an African-American president. I hoped he would bring our country together. But I haven't seen this happen, and I grieve for America. Our country is more polarized now than right before the Civil War, in my opinion. I have seen civility fall by the wayside when discussing issues on social media. The bitterness and hate with which people speak make me heartsick.

When people post things like, "Thank God Jesus wasn't a conservative Republican," I despair. I feel like a little compassion and kindness have been sucked out of the world. I'm bleak inside. Is this really what we have stooped to now, daring to label Jesus as belonging to one party or the other? The Love that died for us ALL?  Is this what the campaign has done -- driven us against each other in the most fundamental of ways? What has happened to loving each other as ourselves? The greatest of these is love?

I read an article today that claimed if Obama is defeated, there will be riots all over the country. Really? Am I that naive?? It listed things we need to stockpile, including guns. Is this what our country has come to? That we can't have an election without people threatening each other -- or even worse -- killing each other?? I see and feel the hatred and bitterness every day on Facebook and Twitter, and I've got the feeling "someone"  is eating it up, and it ain't Jesus, friends.

When this election is over, one side will be victorious and the other defeated, but what we will be left with -- in the end -- is each other. If we are viewing someone as an "enemy" during the campaign just because of their political affiliation, once the election is over, how will we go back to being friends? How will we once again treat each other with respect and dignity? I have tried very hard to separate politics from my social media friendships -- I don't consider anyone "bad" because they belong to the "other" party. But I have been attacked numerous times, had my character questioned, was threatened with ending a friendship, have been called numerous names...and I try to forgive, but I will say, it is  hard to forget. I struggle with this. What drew us into the friendship in the first place? We saw something good in a person...and we built upon that...but what has happened now? I am the same person I was before the campaign, and so are you, and can't we remember that above all else?

Lest you think I have climbed on my high horse with my bayonet pointed at the other side, I have made posts about candidates or parties that in, retrospect, I'm not proud of, either. I went back shortly after posting and deleted some of them. Some things were unfair (based solely on opinions), and others -- while factworthy -- caused so much strife it wasn't worth it to me.

Which has had me thinking....

About a month or so ago, I made the decision that I would only post those statements based in fact. But today, I have decided:  I am not going to post any more political statuses, nor reply to any.  I know it's late in the game to come to this realization, but I subscribe to the "better late than never" maxim.  I try hard (not always succeeding, I confess) to live my life based on my beliefs, both religious and personal (to me they're the same), and one of the reasons I started up my blog and Facebook page was to try to be a light in the darkness of negativity out there. These political games play into negative forces, in my opinion, and I don't want to be contributing to anything like that. I hear the Godvoice telling me to stop, to leave all this political posting, and get out of it. I have to listen.

As we have said to each other on many occasions, we have our minds made up most of the time and we aren't going to change each others'. AND if you are still undecided at this late date, you should have a lot more on your mind to figure out than to read my posts.

I'm still sad. I think social media could be a wonderful forum to exchange ideas and opinions in a civil way. I love learning new concepts and broadening my finite brain. I love to hear WHY people have the opinions, likes and dislikes that they have. I love the repartee when spirited debates are rolling quickly and each side is on its toes, flinging facts at each other. That is fun. That is educational. That enlightens me. That is hope, to me, that we can hold different positions but still respect each other and in the end, deepen our friendship from a place that we couldn't have otherwise.

Since that's not happening, I am bowing out. 



Sunday, October 21, 2012

Spitting in the Face of Fear


I don't know what possessed me.

In a moment of delirious insanity, one of my multiple personalities, AthletiMom,  must have decided that I was perfectly capable of doing a Mud and Obstacle Run. AthletiMom proceeded to register me and then posted an open invitation on Facebook for everyone to join me. A few hardy souls took the bait.

Of course, after accomplishing this, AthletiMom turned tail and ran, not to be seen even once during the weeks leading up to the race.

                                                                         Here

I was left during that time with a --no, not a niggling fear -- but a giant, colossal, massive, SCREAMING, WIGGLING ALIEN LIFE FORM WOOLIE WORM OF FEAR that feasted on my insecurities like the Walking Dead and grew more drunken and obese by the day. What had I been thinking? I am not a Marine!! I have never done a pull up in my entire life. I RUN. That's all I do. I don't do drills, I don't do Jillian Michaels, I don't even do Zumba, for Pete's sake!! I put on some shoes and go run around my neighborhood. What in the world made me think I could do this race??
           
                       My fear surprised me by looking like Jabba the Hutt.
                                                                                Here


I have no answers for that. It just seemed like a good idea at the time.

If not for the ladies who said they were going to run it with me, the sniveling coward in me (who occupies my body most of the time) would have backed out. But I didn't want to let them down, and more importantly, I really, really wanted to meet Kim McKinney, Joanie Ashley and Donna Klim in person. We were friends on  Facebook and I absolutely wanted to spend a fun weekend in Atlanta with them.

But a mere few days before the race, I received my confirmation email from the friendly folks at the Merrill Down and Dirty organization and saw a link to the obstacles. I'd never looked at them before. (I know, I know, I  tend to jump into things without thinking them through all the way.) Prior to registration, I had been soothed with the phrase that the race was for people at all fitness levels, and the few photos I'd looked at seemed fun. Muddy, but fun.

Did you hear me screaming??


                                                           Here

One obstacle was an extremely tall rock climbing wall. Another was a slanted slippery wall that you pulled yourself over by ropes. There was a really steep inflatable slide. And a host of other equally intimidating obstacles.

I'll admit it -- I was terrified.

But I was determined to spit in the face of my fear. Even though we agreed we were just going to do it for fun, and we could go around obstacles that were too difficult, I knew me -- I would never do that. Give me a challenge and I will die trying to succeed.

(Hmmmmm, maybe not the mindset you want when you're a 53 year old, out of shape, weekend warrior with an irregular heartbeat.)

Anyway, race day dawned cool and overcast -- perfect running weather. My friend Laura Gallagher had agreed to come along with me to cheer and take photos. We also met up with my college roommate, Ruth Thomas, another photographer extraordinaire.

Our group, which also included Donna's and Joanie's sons, waited impatiently in the corral for our wave to begin. And then, we were off. Bounding like deer over rock and rill, we tackled each obstacle like mad dogs. I know I'm mixing metaphors here, but hey, one minute we were fleet of feet and the next we were rabid, slobbering, howling, teeth-baring maniacs. Oh wait, that was during the cold shower afterward.

Anyway, it turned out to be more fun than I could ever have imagined. I did things I never thought I could. So THERE, fear!!! Hock-tui!! And I can't wait to run another.

These photos tell it all, I think.

                       Before: Myself, Kim, Justin, Donna, Joanie, and Brandon                                  

                                                Me, looking good from behind, lol!
                                                 Made it over!
                               Definitely down and dirty. I think this is where I spit.
                                        My muddy buddy!!
                                 The aftermath....


And when you get the chance to sit it out or dance....

                                                                               
                                                                               
I hope you mud run.



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Coming Up....

It's been a busy summer, and so I haven't had a lot of time to post here. To be totally honest, I haven't known what to write. So many of my posts were becoming unbearably sad, and I don't want you to think that's how I feel all the time. Because my new goal now is to embrace the joy in my life.
                               
                                                                          Here
That said, we take our last child to college this weekend. I've mentioned this a couple of times and while I don't want to beat a dead horse, it bears saying again -- this is going to be an adjustment for me. I have had kids at home for 29 years, and they have been my focus the entire time, so I feel a bit unmoored right now. Don't get me wrong, I have about 60 bazillion ideas/goals/dreams, but still...still...you know how my heart works and I am sad.

                                                                             Here   

BUT....didn't I just say all these posts were veering toward the tearful? Not this one!! I have so many things I am looking forward to!! My husband and I are taking our first trip to Italy soon. It is going to be fabulous, and I will be telling you all about it when I get back. I am also thrilled to be leaving a few days later to visit my daughter who lives in Boston. I never get to see her as often as I wish...but we are going to have a BLAST. She wanted mom to help her with decorating ideas for the new house she just bought, and I'm glad to oblige. We also are going to have one incredible weekend at Cape Cod. I had read her blog and noted she wants to run a 10k before she turns 30, and I saw that ZOOMA is having one while I'm there, and voila! We're in!! I love, love, love that we are going to be doing this together -- it is such a special time for us, and I am grateful she wants to do this with me. It makes an old lady happy.  :) I will SO be running, laughing, and celebrating my love for her!

                                                                              Here

In October, I'll be doing my very first Mud Run in Atlanta! I have never done one of these and have always wanted to. What is going to make it even more fantastic is that several of my facebook friends are going to run it with me. (Yes, Kim McKinney, you will be up to a mile straight by then!!) We've never met in person, but have really hit it off, and I know we are going to make a hilarious memory of a lifetime doing this race together.
                                           
                                                                               Here
Then November is an action-packed month for me also. I will be running my very first half marathon in San Antonio!! Again, another facebook friend will make this special for me.  I am really looking forward to meeting Debra Higginbotham and her family, in addition to rocking and rolling through this half. It's something that I've dreamed of doing for a while, and last Sunday I ran 13.5 miles so now I know I can survive. So it is going to be AWESOME!!!

After that race, I'll be doing the fun Color Run 5k in Charlotte NC, my hometown. Running that one with one of my best friends and her daughter (yay, Wendy and Renee!!). It will be their first race ever and promises to be loads of fun!
                                                                                   
                                                                                  Here

And after that, we'll be taking off to visit my husband's family for Thanksgiving. I'll be looking for another Jingle Bell Jaunt in December and that's pretty much my life planned out! What are YOU up to?????

Monday, July 23, 2012

Carnage



What kind of world do we live in, when people go out for dinner and a movie and end up losing their lives? 


A birthday celebration, and candles blown out far too soon...
Dad wanting to spend a special evening with his teens...
Men who had served their country faithfully only to be cut down in their prime...
A young man not yet out of school...
A loving mother...
A sassy, independent young woman...
A sweet, fun-loving little girl...
Heroes going to see Superheroes...
All out for an innocent night of fun.
A moment of confusion -- is that part of the film? --
Turning into a trap of terror.
An explosion...smoke...
Assault rifle cutting off the screams one by one.
Then we are left with unanswered questions.
How do you find meaning in a meaningless slaughter?
There is no answer here.
We watch people kill each other on the silver screen for entertainment,
Then we are horrified when it occurs in real life.
How has it happened that some people's souls have been massacred? What
Twisted thing
Grew inside them to fill their need?
And why?
The age old-question with no explanation...
Evil lives
While good people die.
Our only recourse is to live our own lives in ways that matter
Knowing that at any moment
It could happen again.
The curtain falls,
The lights go out,
And we are left in the darkness
To cry.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Love Letter to My Body

Dear Body,

I hate to say it out loud -- but for most of my life, I haven't liked you. Oh, there was a time, back when I was a little child, that I thought you were the greatest. I can remember, dimly, when you ran  like the wind, and you were pretty, and strong, and I felt free. But then I got a little older, and people began calling you names:

Toothpick
Skinny
Too tall
Anorexic
Sickly looking
Bony
Flat-chested
Scrawny
Knock-kneed
Ugly
Never will find a husband

And I believed them.

I'm sorry. I should have closed my ears to all the hurts and insults. But I was just a child, and I thought they knew what they were talking about. After all, they were the adults. They were gods.

I grew up believing this as Truth. Then I met a man who loved me. We married, and we had  four children, but you had six miscarriages too. I hated you for those deep and basic betrayals. It is so simple for so many women -- you couldn't carry a child for me?? What was wrong with you?

I aged. My youth passed, and you started to wrinkle, get flabby, and sag. For heavens' sake, could you not hold out a little longer? I'd never been beautiful, so didn't you owe me? You'd think you at least could have waited a little longer before you started giving out on me.

I got sick. The doctors couldn't find out what was wrong. I was practically bedridden for a year. I thought you were dying. Then one day, I could feel you getting a little stronger. Each day you got a little better.

Not long after that, our daughter told me about a running program she was doing. You'd never exercised before in your life; I don't know why she thought we'd like it. But on New Year's Day 2011, at the age of 52, I decided you could do it.

You surprised me. In fact, you amazed me. You did everything I asked you to do. Oh, you complained about it. You wanted to give up. I put you through a lot, and you groaned, hurt, were weak, and sweated a lot. But...you did it. 

And you got better at it. With every punishment I meted out, you got stronger. I began to treat you better. I fed you healthier meals, and gave you more water, and stopped eating things that were bad for you. I began to give you more exercise. I began to push you to your limits.

You blossomed. Now to my admiration, you are strong and healthy. You have taken me places I never thought you could. You have done things I never believed you would. And --


I see you for who you are. 
Really see you.
And here are the names I call you now:

Strong.
Dedicated.
Determined.
Able.
Beautiful.
Warrior.

And now I love you with the love you have always deserved.


Thank you for sticking it out and believing in me, even when I didn't believe in you. You taught me well.


With all my love~
Us

(This was written as participation in the syncroblog SheLoves: A Love Letter To My Body.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Graduation Time

Christian Michael Albrecht graduated and it was a proud day for us. A day of great celebration. Not only did he successfully achieve this milestone, but he is the last of our four children to do so. We did it! We got them all through school!!

                                                                             

I survived the preparation and then managed to get through the ceremony without crying (much.)  Then I spent the next two weeks hauling the grandmas from one end of North Carolina to the other. We all had a great time, except unfortunately the last week I ended up getting stricken by the bubonic plague. It has had me in bed for over a week now, coughing, congested and not being able to speak above a whisper. My husband is delighted!! I suspect he somehow masterminded the whole plot behind this thing just so he could have a vacay from me nagging him to do chores.

Anyway, lying in bed this long gives me much too much time to think. And what I have been thinking about is storytelling.

                                                                             Here

From the time I was little I loved to write. When I was in the first grade, I wrote a killer story about "How the Mouse Got a Long Tail." There was this mouse, see, who ran under a door because the cat was chasing him, and the cat caught his tail just as he squeaked under (get it? squeaked?) and the mouse kept on running, and the tail stretched out longer and longgggggger...Really, the story arc was fabulous.
                                                                            
                                                                               Here


Anyway, when I was in the 5th grade, I read my father's book of The Collected Works of Shakespeare and for some reason got it into my head to write my own abridged version of "Julius Caesar." Ok, ok, I was a nerd even then. But I like mine better: short and to the point. "Et tu, Brute?" Thump.

                                                                               
                                                                                 Here

I wrote and wrote and wrote, and somewhere along the way, graduated from college with a BA in journalism, got married, worked at an ad agency, had four kids and....stopped writing. My words dried up. I was so busy being a wife and a mom, and teaching our children, playing with them, telling them stories and loving them, that there was no time to even take a hot bath, much less put a sentence together. The bubble baths I loved when I was young gave way to quick hops in and out of the shower, dropping into bed, and dreaming the dreamless sleep of the dead. All to wake up and do it again the next day. And the next. And the next. And the years rolled on.


                                                                               Here


Until here I am.

The youngest will be leaving in less than two months to start his own life at college. He is more than ready to write his own story. We are finished with the hands-on parenting, my husband and I. We managed to raise four kids and keep them alive until adulthood and now they have all pretty much flown the nest.

It hits me at odd times, that THAT focus of my life is now complete. My sole identity, through my own choosing, has been as "Mother." And now, there are no children any more.

                                                                              Here

It's so cliche, but it honestly does not seem possible that the time has gone by so quickly. When I look back now, I see a roaring wind of time that flattened me in its path. The squeals of  laughter, petty squabbles, the telling of stories, the "Moooo-oommmm!!", the teen angst, the heartbreaks of adolescence -- all of it -- finished. Done. Over. A quiet is descending slowly upon our home. Christian works long hours and I have a foretaste of how life will be when he leaves for college, never to return home the same.

It is so bittersweet. All the years when I thought, "I can't wait...." -- well, the waiting is over. It is here. They are all moving on, into their own lives with their own children, and their own stories, and Mom is not the first thought in their minds anymore. That's ok, although hard to accept. They have been the focus of my life for 29 years, so it is a little humbling to realize that I am no longer the focus of theirs. I've been left behind, like the "Where the Wild Things Are" book, the Candyland game, and Ashton's stuffed bear named "Mooney." Loved and cherished above all at one point, but now...better tales are calling.

                                                                               Here

That's as it should be. They are all entitled to their own lives, to seek out their own adventures, to write the stories of their own souls and they should not be held back.

But in the silence that they leave behind them...
in that silence I once longed for but now rings a little hollow....
in that silence...


I will find my own words again.







Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cleaning House

All the craziness I've been dealing with over the past couple of months has a purpose   -- Christian, our second son, the baby of our 4 children, is graduating from high school in a scant few weeks, and we will have family and friends coming to witness this momentous milestone in his life. Hence our flurry of activity. For goodness' sake, we can't let people see how we really live on a daily basis!!

Housekeeping is not my strong point. Never has been; never will be.  There are mysterious, hygienic-related rituals that other people seem to know innately, about which I have absolutely NO clue. 

Like cleaning above your interior doors. Do other people do this? REALLY?? Apparently so.

                                                                Here

Now, to me, my house looks clean. I mean, I worked on it QUITE a while recently and it looked the best it has looked in a long, long time. That was before I had a housekeeper come out to give me a quote for cleaning. She was trying to be nonjudgmental, I could tell. She went through the house and pointed out things that I swear I would never have noticed in several decades, saying that when she took on the job, she would be deep cleaning these areas. Huh?? I thought it was clean. Apparently not.


The quote was staggering, but when she was finished inspecting, I felt we were living in a home that had been a main target of germ warfare, had someone die in it from bubonic plague, and was a petri dish for e. coli. And it was all my fault!! She said she would bring in a team of "her girls" and they would be in my home -- here she looked me directly in the eyes, and seriously and firmly, to underscore her point, pronounced -- all day. All day.


She wasn't kidding. They have been here for 4 hours as I write this and they have only cleaned my bedroom and bathroom so far. 

I truly have no idea what they have been doing. I have been moving from room to room, trying to keep out of their way, too ashamed to look them in the eye. I mean, for the love of all that is holy, I can't even think of anything that could possibly take me 4 hours to do in there!!

                                                                          Here                           
                                             
This is, without question, an embarrassing and humbling experience for me. I am good at so many other things. I want to follow them around and say, "I make a mean tuna casserole!!"  "You should hear me crack people up with my one-liners!"  "I taught Bible Study for 15 years!" "I am really great at accessorizing!"  "I won the class spelling bee in the 4th grade!" But no, I think, I must acknowledge that this is not my shining moment and swallow my pride. Apparently... I suck.

Well, as in other things in my life, I will defer to the experts. I am paying them, despite my extreme discomfort, to clean up our crud and make our lives better. It sort of reminds me of a conversation we had in Bible Study once, about how Jehovah's Witnesses go door to door to evangelize. "Well," I said, " we are doing our part. Somebody has to be home to answer the door." See, I can feel good because I'm helping somebody have a job; I'm helping to boost the economy.

I'm also having to come to grips with the fact that, no matter how hard I try, there actually is one area of my life that I will never be successful at. I just do not have the cleaning gene. I respect people who do. I'm amazed at their knowledge and aptitude.  I'm not good at organization either. I remember once my oldest daughter came back home after she'd moved away, and she was helping me clean our computer room. Scattered around  the desk were a lot of pens and pencils; she picked them up and put them in an empty cup that was sitting there. "That's genius!!" I exclaimed. Yes. That's just how seriously deficient I am in these things. I do not lie -- I would never have thought of something that simple, that basic. My brain just does not work that way.

                                                              Here

BUT....I remember once telling my mother-in-law, who has always been an immaculate housekeeper (God knows how she has endured visits to our home all these years but she does it with grace), that at the end of my life, I know I will never say, "I wish I'd cleaned more."  I have played with my children, I have read books that have opened my mind, I have explored forests, I have painted pictures as gifts, I have visited dear friends, I have written poems, I have cooked meals for my husband (that's sort of waning also, but that might be another blog post), and I have run like the wind. Ok, a slow breeze. But I have been busy living, putting my time and talents into what I have been created for. And I have tried, in my own pathetically inept way, to keep up with our home.

The point is, we all have something that we're not good at. That's not a crime; it's a simple fact of life. And we can let it make us feel bad, and inadequate, and a lesser human being, or we can laugh at ourselves, count our blessings and turn to others for help. Our faults do not  define us.
                                                                                 
                                                                               Here
  
Cleaning house has made me think about the life that I have left to me, too. It's time to take a look at the things I carry within me, and toss out what doesn't work, what I no longer need, what no longer fits. Time, too, to dust off what I cherish, shine what's gotten dull, and pull out what's gotten pushed to the back of the closet.  My gut feeling is, I am in the midst of upheaval or renewal.

Christian's high school graduation will end a chapter of my life which has lasted 29 years. For more than a quarter of a century, I have had children at home with me. 29 YEARS, people!!! We have been through many journeys, my children and I, together and separately. We've shared both laughter and tears, we've seen joy, and we've gone through some tough times, too. When I started out as a mom, I was young and incredibly unaware of what was about to shape my life. I end this part of motherhood much older, I hope a little wiser, but as always,  deeply, fiercely in love with my children. As this chapter closes with my own bittersweet graduation of sorts, I am excited at the possibilities ahead  -- what shall I do, what shall I do? I have, oh, about a million ideas.

                                                                                 


                                                                               Here

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Rivers Of Joy

I have four children whom I love so much that sometimes I can't breathe. If I let my mind go there, I would live in a constant, paralyzing fear that something horrible will befall them. We live in that kind of world, you know, where unspeakably horrific things happen every day. But I don't think we're meant to live life in terror of the storms to come.

                                       
                                                                           Here

I'm not naive, though --I know firsthand that tragedy can strike out of the blue. Everyone has their crosses to bear, their personal sorrows. During the years we were optimistically trying to expand our family, I suffered six heartbreaking miscarriages. All took place around 9-12 weeks -- just long enough for me to be firmly entrenched in morning sickness, just far enough along to be deeply in love with that child.

It is so hard to to say good-bye to a child that you will never see or hold, to relinquish the yearning of your heart. If you are a mother, you understand what I am saying -- from the first second you learn you're pregnant, you dream that child into reality. Their hair color, eyes, voices, a little girl, a little boy...you conjure the hopes of the life you will have together. And then, so unexpectedly, so irretrievably,  one day can arrive when you realize something is very, very wrong, and there is pain, and then...oh, the depths of anguish... death.
                           
                                                                               Here

During my 6th miscarriage, in that lull of learning that yet another child had passed away and the long, dread-filled waiting for a natural miscarriage to happen, I heard a song that literally transformed my grief and my life. It was The Valley Song by Jars of Clay:




My pain was an ocean. I was tossed around on waves of sorrow, drowning in despair, only to be thrown onto the shore of complete desolation.


                                                                           
                                                                                Here
But through God's mercy, He gradually calmed that vast sea of grief and brought down my mountain of pain. It took years; it took complete resignation; it took my trust in Him to lead me through the terror of the storm. It wasn't easy. I had to let go of the pain -- no simple task -- and look for happiness wherever I could grasp it. But when I did -- slowly, tentatively, like a child  learning to swim -- I discovered those moments more and more. The fear-filled darkness of murky water gave way to crystalline peace as I -- faltering at first, then gaining strength -- put my toes into the water and finally, with a deep breath of faith, plunged in.  I'm not going to sugar-coat it -- pain can and will change a person forever. I remember reading during those dark days that "it can make me bitter, or it can make me better."  I fought hard, and continue to wrestle with it to this day, to choose "better."

                                                                             Here
                                                                           
But I have an unquenchable joy in my life now. Running has given me a clarity and peace of mind -- an unfettered happiness and enthusiasm for life that I never thought possible. When I put on my shoes, and it's just me and that road stretching endlessly before me, I have come to realize that each day IS a gift, a blank slate, an opportunity to share happiness, kindness and laughter with others. I am more compassionate now, because I know they all have their owns sorrows they shoulder. I feel an urgent need to help, to lighten their load,  to walk side by side with the wounded on their road to discovering life again after adversity. There is so much to live for, so much joy yet to come. All the tragedy and pain I've experienced has burned through my soul and taught me lessons I would never have learned otherwise. They've made me into who I am:  a woman grateful for the children I was blessed to bring to this world, thankful for the graces bestowed on me, and looking forward to meeting my other six babies. Although I no longer carry them in my womb, I forever carry them in my heart.

God is good.  I am His; I am sheltered in His loving arms, and my name is engraved on the palm of His hand. I trust Him to see me safely through my journey in life.

                                                                             Here

Above all else, I still look to the Heavens.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Dreams That You Dare To Dream




I dare to dream that 
SOMEDAY:

Human beings who are

gay
straight
labeled
heavy
thin
cursed
black
white
harassed
red
yellow
excluded
rich
poor
persecuted
impaired
enabled
mocked
liberal 
conservative
bullied
depressed
happy
ostracized
homeless
fortunate
hated

will all recognize  

WE   ARE   ONE.

We are all lovable.
We are all valuable.
We are all important.

WE    ALL   MATTER.



Each and every one of us is 

LOVED

by the same God who created us.

He makes no distinctions.
He loves you just as much as He loves me;
He loves "them" as much as He loves "us."



And we all have the same 
hopes 
sorrows 
pain
  wishes 
prayers 
dreams.


We all live on this one tiny planet, 
hurtling along in the immeasurable darkness of the universe,
sharing our journey together.
We all want love and peace and happiness and respect,
 a little spare change to jingle in our pockets.
We all hurt, cry, bleed, suffer.
We all want our lives to have meaning.
We all cry out to our God to save us.

But...we all could  bear one  another's burdens 
with
ARMS  WIDE  OPEN
and make each other's lives easier.

I'm not better than you; 
You're not better than me.
We are each unique, dancing flames of light
and 
Together we could set this world on fire.

Why, oh why, can't I?
Why can't we?
That's my dream.

I know that
somewhere over the rainbow, 
far above the prejudice, hate, and discrimination,
skies are blue,
and the dreams that we dare to dream 
really can come true.


Let's start today
to make that a reality.

Let's do something small     --

Can we just smile at each other?

If everyone in the world 
smiled
at the same time,
who could dare to
hate
again?

Simplistic, I know. But it could just work.
A smile could  melt a hardened heart.
It's a start.
One small thing...
Like a frail paper boat, 
setting sail onto the vast and endless ocean,
almost invisible to spy, 
yet the ripples it causes are 
unimaginable.

Then think 
of what we could do
TOGETHER.

A tsunami of change.

ALL ONE.

Spread the love.