Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Accidental Heroes

Fitness heroes don't wear a cape or some fancy costume. 
They might not even be a personal trainer. They are disguised in family and friends.

The alarm goes off at 5 AM. I hit the snooze once, but when the alarm goes off again I have a decision to make. Do I stay in my warm, cozy bed or do I get up and get moving to the gym? This past week here in Minnesota at 5 AM the temp was below zero. Seriously. The back-and-forth discussion in my head keeps going, "Should I stay or should I go?" (I hope you are now singing a song by The Clash.) Most of the time I get out of bed, stumble in the dark to get some workout clothes on, and then out the door I go.

Once I walk in the Fitness Center, though, is when I really wake up. I don't have much choice because I (and everyone else) am greeted with the most emphatic, energetic greeting one can muster at 5:30 AM. "GOOOOOD MORNING, SARAH! HAPPY MONDAY!" The first time I heard it I was taken off guard and that's when he became my accidental hero. The days of the week may change, but the boisterous encouragement from my friend Bill never does. And for that he has been one of my fitness heroes. 

Fitness heroes can come in all shapes and sizes, and I think their work is incredible. I also truly don't know if they realize the positive impact they have on others. So what exactly is a fitness hero? Allow me to explain. In general, I'm a pretty motivated person when it comes to health and fitness. I set goals for myself and can usually carry them out. Yet there are times when it is easy to talk myself out of something if I tell myself, "I'm too tired," or if "I don't think my body is up to this today." 

Over time I have quickly realized the importance of not traveling this fitness journey alone. 

Besides giving me the emotional boost during a morning greeting, Bill has kept me going during some workouts by not even saying one motivational thing to me...he is just there as a friend. Bill and I both incorporate runs into our workouts, and it is there that through some pretty tangented conversations I have had my best runs on days that I just didn't want to do it. What do we talk about? Everything. During one 3 mile run we have covered topics from the latest movies, to discipline in our schools, to what we are binge watching on Netflix, to what the Evangelism committee at church is doing, to our families, to the fact that my husband carries a knife. Before you know it, that run is done!! 

Another fitness hero comes in disguise as my friend Laura. The start of 2018 found her signing up for a local fitness challenge, which then jump-started her on her own fitness journey. Laura has also been a great talking companion while running (got my best ladder run done because of her!), and we now have ventured in the world of lifting a bit more. The other day when I was on what felt like our 500th ab exercise and I eked out some miserable noise all it took was her saying, "You got this," and before I knew it my reps were done. And with that another accidental hero was born.

Laura obviously can do the "tough face" so much
better than me. I have some serious work to do in that area. 

For as mentally strong as most people are, I think hearing encouragement from someone else can take us the extra mile. I can try to tell myself to finish up a set of reps, but if I'm doing it on my own it is so much easier to stop or talk myself out of the last rep. But when a friend says, "You got this," it pushes me to finish. Having a friend to distract my mind on the treadmill gets me to the end. Knowing a friend is picking me up at 5:25 AM gets me out of bed because I can't let them down either. Listening to Bill loudly sing along to the songs playing over the speakers at the Fitness Center makes me smile and keeps me going.

The intent of this was not to get all schmoopy about friendships, but maybe get you to think about where you are in your fitness journey. Is there a piece missing that could help you reach some goals? I think one can not underestimate the importance of having someone to help encourage them along the way. Whether your goals are exercise or diet related, it is good to have an accountability partner to keep you moving.

In the end, POSITIVITY IS CONTAGIOUS. So if you are working towards starting a fitness program or diet or if you are well along on your journey and you need a kick in the pants, think about grabbing a buddy and get moving. And, most of the time, your fitness "hero" or partner won't be a certified trainer. So grab your sister, your best friend, your co-worker or your child. It doesn't matter who it is, just get going. They'll help you.

Simply put....accidents happen, and sometimes they can have awesome results.

I'll always remember this day. I had just finished a run, and even though I was rather sweaty and gross, he gave me a hug. Bill wanted me to know that he had read my latest blog about my daughter's struggles with anxiety, and he was keeping us in his prayers.

Verbal and emotional encouragement (as well as a dimension of fun)
are so important, and so appreciated when reaching health goals! 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Stop That Train...Or Not

Make it stop. I feel memories slipping away. Tell me I'll remember these moments.

Earlier this month it was my daughter's birthday, so I felt the urge to get out the scrapbook I made for her first year. I was enjoying a trip down memory lane when I turned to the page in this picture here, and when I looked up there they were....7 years later...playing Legos. 

In the blink of an eye a super fast slideshow of visions and memories ran through this tired mom's mind. How did we go from tummy time to Lego building so quickly? How could I ever have wished for time to speed up and now I'm panicking because it needs to slow down?

I've heard this phrase many times, "The days seem long, but the years are short." I couldn't agree with that more. 
When you are deep "in the trenches" it is easy to want to fast forward. I can't wait for them to sleep through the night...It will be fun when they can finally walk...I can't wait for them to be potty trained...And that list could go on. 

For as many times as I've looked towards the next step, I now realize I don't know if I truly stopped to treasure the moments we were in. The day-to-day demands in life are hard, and it often overshadows the good, the joy, the celebrations of the little moments in life. 

So as I sat with this scrapbook on my lap I suddenly felt like I was on a train, one that we boarded years ago and has slowly been picking up steam over time. As the years fly by and more memories board this proverbial train I worry that some of the memories that might fly out the window of my mind will be the good ones. The precious ones. Will I remember the sweet moments of them playing Legos or how they used to push each other's buttons? Will I remember the sweet smiles and twinkles in their eyes when they laugh or the eye rolls in their teenage years?

While I want their hugs and giggles to stay, the more I think about it, though, I don't want this train to stop. To make it stop would mean preventing them from experiencing so many beautiful experiences in life. My new goal is to be even more present in the day-to-day, knowing that some of the everyday moments will make up for some of the greatest memories later. 

I'm already prepared for the days coming when I know the fast slideshow of memories will rush through my mind...their high school and college graduations, weddings, and God-willing the first time I see them hold their own children. I'll cry. It will probably end up being big ugly tears, but they'll be tears of joy. I'll smile, as well, because no matter the memory that pops up it will remind me that we are blessed. God is good...ALWAYS. 

Simply put...just do life.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Quitting Is An Option?!?

The race was run, and in the end she came in last. I couldn't have been prouder.

I was proud because besides the fact that I'm her mom and love her unconditionally, it is for the simple fact that she PARTICIPATED and she PREVAILED. Once again, my child reminded me of something I have known, but it became evermore so clear and pertinent to me.

Participation Awards. Whew, there, I said it. Did I just see some of you cringe or give a little eye roll? Or did you clap along with the feel-goods they give everyone? No matter where you are on the spectrum of feelings on participation awards, this blog is a reminder to dish out the verbal, not just tangible, rewards.

I originally got to thinking about this after finally delving into some memory boxes from LONG ago. There were some real treasures in there, but what stopped me short was when I came across the awesome grade school cross country ribbons pictured here. I laughed out loud. I chortled. I guffawed. Seriously...I got a ribbon for coming in 84th place!?!? I just about died....of embarrassment...on multiple counts. But, then I felt much better when I saw that two years later I had improved to 43rd place, and never fear, I got a ribbon for that!

Now let's jump ahead to current day. My daughter participated in the same type of race. We only found out about it a week before the race so she didn't have much time to "train." She is not a born runner nor a natural athlete, so I wasn't expecting a first place finish. What I do know about her is that she is goal-oriented and driven. Could one outlast the other?

In the most achingly beautiful way, it did. 

It was a beautiful Minnesota fall afternoon the day of the race. Within 30 seconds of the race starting I knew the end results were not going to be what she hoped. As the pack of runners pulled away from her, tears were streaming down behind my sunglasses and my thoughts lay heavy on my heart. I know this will be tough for her...All her struggles with low self-esteem and anxiety will come to the surface...It will be a rough night after this...Someone told her she was fat this summer, so this won't help...What is she feeling right now at the back of the pack?...Should I run over and give her encouragement?...Can she sense me cheering her on?...I can only imagine her emotional struggles at war in her mind...Keep on, girl...

The sun was shining, but deep inside this momma's soul was hurting for her. As she came around a curve in the race route I cheered her on. Told her I was proud of her. Told her she could do it. And she did. She crossed the line well behind the person in front of her, but she finished. She was able to hold her head high until we got into the car, and then the darkness moved in. Someone had made a comment about how slow she was, and she crumbled. She knew how far ahead her friends had finished. Besides some physical pain (she had twisted her ankle halfway through the race), there was anger, sadness, a feeling of failure, and so much more.

It was then, during that raw venting of emotions she said something so great.
Me: I am SO proud of you. There were several times when it would have been easy for you to just stop and quit.
Z: I could have quit?!?! That was an option?
Insert dumb silence as I realize I introduced a new, albeit not positive, idea into her mind. 
Me: You could have, but you didn't. I know how hard that was for you, but you didn't quit. And for THAT I'm so proud of you.

I wanted to slap myself upside the head for introducing that idea to her, but it did floor me that no matter how hard her ankle hurt, how much she was hurting emotionally, the idea never came to her that she could have just stopped. Quit. Thrown in the towel. Surrender. But she prevailed. She GAVE HER ALL.

She participated and she prevailed. Would she have loved to get a ribbon for participating? Probably, but in a world obsessed with ribbons and trophies and awards we can never forget the importance of verbally acknowledging the hard work and participation done. I had completely forgotten about those ribbons I earned in the 1980s, but what I hadn't forgotten is what was instilled in me to work hard and try my best at whatever I do whether it was athletics, academics, music, etc.

There is this whole huge world out there waiting for our kids, and so many things for them to experience. Will my daughter become a cross country runner? I highly doubt it, but I do know that she learned from that experience because she participated. She worked hard and did her best. Never forget about the verbal participation award. Never forget about the hugs and high-five participation awards. They are worth their weight in gold. 

Participate. Give your all. Have fun. Learn from it, and then get up tomorrow and do it (or something else new) again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Simply put...be present. 

I LOVE that the shirt she happened to
wear that day said, "Give Your All."

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Just Can't Even...

It was one of those days. Fellow moms, you know what I'm talking about. Those days when you either laugh out loud at the incredibly ridiculous things that are happening all around you, or you have your hands on your knees and mutter with complete frustration, "I. JUST. CAN'T. EVEN. DEAL." Time to go back to bed and hit the restart button.

Motherhood. I'm fairly certain no other stage in my life has put me on a rollercoaster of emotions quite like being a mom. There are gloriously joyous mountain-top high points and some totally heart wrenching and ugly low moments. And, believe it or not, somewhere in between there are about a thousand more.

Today I've laughed, almost cried and inwardly screamed more than I'd like to admit. I feel like if I try to explain it I won't do it justice, but I'll try. I'm no alcoholic, but when I texted my husband I said, "There are no words to explain this morning except: I need a stiff drink." So, get ready for a tale of overtired children, simple requests, time-outs, wasps, a bike ride gone bad, birds, feathers, tears, multiple rest times, accidental head bangs and more. You might be thinking that can't all tie into one story, but no worries, it does.

Let's set the stage, shall we? Everything appeared as normal this morning...we ate breakfast and the girls played Barbies while I cleaned up the kitchen. We had planned to take a bike ride to our local school and then play on the playground. Sounds simple, correct?

Setback #1: I told my youngest to do a bathroom check before we went. It was like I had asked her to walk over hot coals or something. She insisted she didn't have to go. Mind you, she has a bladder like none other, but she hadn't gone since the night before so I put my foot down. Needless to say, she didn't like that.

Setback #2: I quickly realized during Setback #1 that she was overtired. One thing I've realized in parenting is that dealing with overtired children is quite possibly the worst thing ever. And by that I mean it is close to impossible to do. The result? I now had a cranky, defiant overtired daughter insisting she didn't need to go the bathroom. I held my ground, she persisted, timeouts ensued as did other consequences. Amongst all this there were tears, loud wailing, yawns and overdramatics.

Setback #3: Here enters the case of "Momma knows best," except sometimes I don't. See after she had calmed down and got her bathroom check done (this took a good solid chunk of time, mind you) I analyzed the situation. Deep down my gut told me from past experience that I shouldn't embark on this adventure while she is overtired, but the other half told me fresh air and some time at the playground would do us good.


Setback #4: Cicada Killer Wasps Of all the things I expected to possibly derail our morning, wasps weren't going to be it...except they were. We hadn't even crossed our street when my youngest saw the first one....and then another one. She couldn't move. Literally. Scared to death. I have to admit they don't look very friendly. If you click the link above you'll see a good picture of them. Try as I might to convince her they would leave her alone, it didn't help. I tried to get her to ride by them quickly, I rode between her and the wasps, etc. Nothing worked. There were tears, screams, and much hyperventilating.

Setback #5: Once again Mom thought she knew best.  I figured...let's plow on! Let's get to the park! Let's do something fun! They can't be everywhere, can they? Apparently they ARE everywhere...like every 20 feet. So every 20 feet the same thing happened. We stopped our procession to scream, cry, and everything inbetween. She really wanted to get to the park, and I did feel bad because she kept apologizing for being scared of these huge things, but she really wanted to play at the park. The wasps really were a logical fear.

Setback #6: In efforts to save the adventure I briefly mentioned that I just saw an article posted on Facebook that morning about these Killer Wasps. My older daughter encouraged me to read it and find out more about them. Why I chose to do so I'm not sure, but our procession stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and I proceeded to read about them, which only seemed to attract more to us. How does that happen!?!? I read to my girls that the article does state while they appear deadly, they are rarely aggressive towards humans. So now while I have one crying and running around in circles my older daughter is loudly stating, "See, it doesn't say NEVER!"

So there we were....walk 20 feet (at most), see a wasp, cry out giving someone else a heart attack, stop and discuss the harmlessness of the wasp, walk a bit more, cry, girls insist on moving ahead, ask for Mom to be a wasp shield, crying because a nose was running from nonstop crying and why does Mom NOT have a Kleenex with her?!?!, crying now at anything that moved in the air (a leaf falling, a bird, etc) thinking the movement is a wasp, girls insisting we try staying in the shade or trying the other side of the street...and then do it again...all the way back home. WASH, RINSE, REPEAT. I'm embarrassed to admit how long it took us to make it 8 blocks.

A pleasant bike ride had turned into taking a walk with bikes. Try it. It is a whole new kind of cardio. Not sure why my running app doesn't have that as an exercise option. I digress. After much time, we made it home in one piece. We were in one piece physically, but by that time I was emotionally frazzled.

Recovery process then followed which entailed getting the kids a snack, me venting to my Moms group because "we've all been there" so someone will understand, and then some bigtime reflection by this mom. The only thing with moms (or at least me) is that I think our reflection often turns to self-analyzation and criticism. For me it is analyzing the gamut of emotions I felt and what possibly was portrayed to my girls. I tried to reign it in, but when I'm now several blocks from home trying to balance 2 emotional girls and 3 bikes I might not be at my finest hour as a mom. It is SO hard to me to hide my frustration. I hate that they see that.

Then comes the criticism. At which setback listed up above should I just have stopped, thrown in the towel and done something completely different? But they needed fresh air...I want to teach them to overcome fears...want them to know I'll try my best to keep them as safe as possible...we can't live inside all summer...and on and on.

It may seem hard to believe, but the day didn't improve until much later. It was a rough afternoon. We tried two different rest times that were unsuccessful at hitting our reset buttons. The only saving grace came after supper with a free open swim sponsored by our local library for the Summer Reading Program. Seeing the pure joy on our girls' faces helped erase part of the day. And then in true fashion like the rest of the day, the power went out at the Rec Center ending our evening earlier than planned. Probably all for the best since they needed to sleep!

Some days are just not good days. Period. You just want to scratch it from your memory, but in all reality don't we grow through everything? God chose me to be their Mom. I was the one blessed to be with them and guide them when they struggled to follow expectations, to help them through their fears, to accept their apologies, to give them a hug when all was said and done. It would be neat if we just saw all the fantastic moments, but due to sin in this world there is a whole lot of not-so-great moments we'll witness as well. And, this might sound crazy, but when you look back at it they all are blessings in their own way.

Tomorrow I'll give it another go. I'll pray for strength and guidance. I'll lean on my husband for support. And then I'll go and do it again the next day and the next day....loving the joys and learning from the struggles.

Simply put...let's press reset.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Parenting Wake-Up #34

"Mom, I'm never going to play any sports. I hate sports."

As I turned around to respond to this bold statement she flashed me a very confident (dare I say cocky?) yet adorable smile, and with that she bounded out of the car and merrily skipped into school. It was a Kindergartner's version of a mic drop moment.

My initial reaction? "Who doesn't like sports?!?! Come ON!!

I totally realize that the above statement was made by a 6 year-old, but it did get me thinking. And, in quick response to my own question I realized that I had just experienced another parenting wake-up moment. This will probably come off sounding like I was previously pushing my life onto them, but my wake-up could be quite simply summed up like this, "My children might have different interests than me, and I'll learn to roll with it."

Don't worry, I'm hearing a collective, "Uhm...duh!?" from all of you. For years I've prepped myself for this moment, but now I'm realizing it might actually come true. Granted, my girls are young and will probably change what they are interested in at least 20 times in the coming years, but having my daughter say that was good for me. I needed to hear that and brace the reality.

Let me start by saying that it is NOT that I don't support them following interests in the arts, nature, etc., but it is a world that is much more foreign to me. I appreciate all of those things, but it just never caught my interest quite like sports did, and it was never such a huge part of my life. I know how to play the piano and I enjoy singing, but they aren't anything I'm passionate about. As for art, I can manage to draw a stick person and that is about it. I suppose that is why I appreciate musicians and artists so incredibly much. I would support our girls excelling at these areas, I just get a little sad thinking I might not be able to "share the love" with them as much without having the background in it. I have no fun stories about choir performances or art fairs to share...no awesome memories about, "That time when...."

Now on the other side of the coin we have SPORTS! Sports was a pretty big part of my life and my family growing up. In grade school most of us tried all of the sports offered, and in high school we were 2 or 3 sport athletes. Growing up in the summer we would walk down to the park and play softball - yes, even if it was 2-on-2 and my dad was all-time pitcher. My dad was the principal of a school, so on weekends we would often go over at night and have our own little open gym. There was a hoop in our backyard where it is quite safe to say literally thousands of shots were taken. We each took turns sitting in the bleachers watching our siblings play. The TV was seldom on in our house, but when it was it was sports or the news. One of my fondest memories is watching Packer games on a Sunday afternoon.

I was never a stellar athlete, but oh my word did I love playing sports. I loved being part of a team. I enjoyed working every day toward a common goal, all while doing something fun. It enabled me to meet and get to know people that I maybe wouldn't have crossed paths with or gotten to know outside of the court. And as a result I met some pretty amazing people along the way that have become lifelong friends.

I loved the challenge, whether it was an individual challenge or something our team was striving to achieve. There were some heartbreaking losses, but in the end the memories of the achievements far outweigh them all. It taught me that you need to work hard, there are winners and losers, and that a victory is not just seen when you add to the win column. Victories can be made in the little things done both on and off the court or field.

I fear I'm starting to digress as I take a trip down memory lane, but hopefully you'll see my difficulty in embracing a possible reality. I will admit as a parent it is hard for me not to "see their future" for them. When your 2nd grader is off the charts tall for her age and strong as an ox I can't help thinking that she was born for the basketball or volleyball court, but she wants to be an Olympic gymnast. When your 6 year-old is looking like she could master any sport, but she has no interest and would rather dig in the garden, draw a picture or make a science project with her dad.

My wake-up is that I WILL and I NEED to encourage them to try different things...to follow their interests and see where it takes them. I know, but need to remind myself, that all the things I loved about sports can be translated in different ways when it comes to art, music, nature, etc. No matter what they choose they can grow to be well-rounded individuals that meet amazing people along the way and create fantastic memories that they cherish.

So, what will it be? Music? Art? Drama? Science? Nature? Fashion? Culinary arts? Dare I say...Sports? Whatever it will be I know I'll get to see something through new eyes. I'll be there through the highs and lows. I'll encourage them to work hard. I'm excited to watch them grow, both physically, mentally and socially. I can't wait to watch them share with others that "thing" they have come to love. I'll be their biggest fan. Whatever it is, I'll be proud.

Simply put...I can't wait. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

From the Outside Looking In

I stand here, looking at you, willing and praying for this to all go away.
    Knowing you are anxious and angry and sad helps me grasp the behavior,
     but it does little to help me understand what is flying through that head of yours.

I stand here, watching you unravel...watching you struggle.
             You writhe...kick...throw...yell.
   You pull your hair as if to pull your dark thoughts out of your head.
   I watch you squirm. Your anxiety appears to manifests itself as bugs, crawling inside.

I stand here, wondering how fast you are processing every thought.
       I picture your mind like rockets shooting off at random times, colliding in air...
          ...and then there is an EXPLOSION. At times I see the
        rockets getting ready to soar, but other times the explosion is the first thing I see.

I stand here, watching the wheels turning inside your mind. Your every thought connects to another.
    Some event that makes you anxious comes trucking along, but it results in a thought that
    makes you angry. So, anger jumps on this emotional roller coaster....it picks up speed....
     encouraging other memories and trials to jump on the next car.
                    Inside my head I scream, "MAKE IT STOP!"
    Unfortunately that ride just keeps flying around until you realize what your actions have done, 
              and then you crumble. 
    Sadness jumps onto that roller coaster.
       As the ride comes to a stop your body collapses and tears spill from your eyes.
            Tears full of guilt for what you maybe just did.
            Tears full of fear that you won't be "normal" like the other kids.
            Tears full of fear of the unknown, not knowing what makes you angry.
            Tears full of fear that this is how you always will be.

I stand here, hugging you...wishing I could make it all go away.
      Your body finally feels calm and at peace. The rockets have ceased exploding
          and the bugs have stopped crawling.
           If I hold you long enough will I absorb the anxiety...the anger...the sadness?
              Do you feel me fervently praying?
                Do you sense my will to take your burden and make it mine?

I stand here, trying to comprehend.
    How can I say one thing and your mind convinces yourself of the opposite?
    How do just two questions wrong on homework during the entire week equate to failure for you?
    Why when I say, "You are smart" do you hear, "I am dumb?"
    How can you not see how funny and clever you are?
    Why do you translate a lesson on the value of money into an indication of your greed?
    Why do you insist you are nothing special?
    Why when I say, "I love you" do you sometimes hear "I hate you?"
         ...and the list goes on.

I stand here, second guessing every word and action that comes from me, for fear that
      it will be interpreted the wrong way. I try to hold all my emotions in for fear they
      might be translated wrong. This morning was rough. By the time we got to the school
       drop-off I was in tears because I knew you were suffering and 
                 I feared you have no idea how much you are loved.
    You saw my tears and thought they were because of you. 
  They weren't, but guilt and sadness hit you like a ton of bricks.
           I saw your face. You hit rock bottom.
           I drove away, tears rushing down...that was my rock bottom.

I stand here, wondering what YOU really feel. Do you feel your thoughts exploding like rockets?
       Do you see yourself squirming and do you feel the bugs? When you are calm does your
       mind feel like a sunny field of flowers? Can you sense how your body changes?
          Deep down...way down in the inner recesses of you, do you see how special you are?
                 How loved you are? What do you see? 
         The biggest hope of mine is that under all of this you know that....
                     I still KNOW and SEE that YOU'RE STILL YOU.

I stand here, thankful for the gift of forgiveness. Thankful for salvation.
       Thankful that I can comfort you that you are a child of God and that someday
         all of this will be gone as we will live in eternity with Him.
              Until that day...
                        I will stand here, by you, loving you.

Watching mental health struggles tear a loved one apart
is a painful process. I continue to try to
understand in the hopes that I might be able to help.
This is my view from the outside...looking in. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Heart Recharged

Last weekend I traveled back home.  

My heart SANG, and I felt it SMILE a million times over. 

That might sound cheesy, but there is no better way to explain it. To say these past few months have been rough is an understatement, so this trip was just the kind of therapy I needed.

It all started with a wedding invitation from a former student. My initial reaction was to consider the usual reasons why this adventure wouldn't work out, but the more I thought about all the people I would see I knew I had to go. Even though I only lived and taught in Michigan for 5 years, a huge piece of my heart will always be with those that impacted me during my time there. That being said, it had been almost 10 years since I had been back to Michigan. While technology is a blessing because it keeps people connected, there is just something so great about seeing someone special in person.

At the wedding I stepped into a photo booth for the first time.
Needless to say, we had a little bit of fun. These kids are crazy. I love'em.

So who was I so excited to see? Well, I was blessed to work with an amazing faculty and staff when I taught there, and it was so great getting to catch up with all of them. I left that teaching position 13 years ago, and while some things have obviously changed, there were many things that were the same. It was awesome to see that their love for their students and the school are just as strong now as it was then.

My heart saw and heard their gratitude, and it smiled. MLS continues to be blessed. 

I got to visit with many of the students I had over the years. I know most teachers will always refer to their students as "my students" or "my kids" even years after they taught them. Besides teaching and coaching, I was a dorm supervisor so I actually lived in the dorm with the students while there. That was an interesting experience - one I thoroughly loved.  Living in that situation creates a connection that a normal teacher or coach will never have. All those years ago I was proud of those students and felt so blessed to have them be a part of my life (hopefully the feeling was reciprocal). Fast forward to 2017, and those feelings have grown tenfold. Now to see them as "grown-ups" with careers and families was just amazing.

I feel like I taught them Shakespeare and Dickens and volleyball, 
but they gave me back so much more. I'm forever blessed. 

I saw the phenomenal families I got to know there. They could never replace my biological family, but there were several families that took me in/adopted me during my time in Michigan. As a result I have several moms, dads, brothers and sisters there. They were all such a blessing to me then, and still continue to be today.

Talk about unconditional love...I'm forever blessed. 

The cure was relatively simple. Grab a HUG and share a LAUGH (or two or a thousand) and check back in at the end of the weekend.

I've always been a hugger. I'm not sure what it is about a hug, but it fills me up. Not counting hugs from my husband and children, I received more hugs this past weekend than I have probably in the last year. Please excuse my dramatics, but there were moments when I felt emotion and words being transferred through a hug. One hug almost crushed the breath out of me, and I absolutely loved it.

And, I truly believe that laughter IS the best medicine.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love to laugh, and this weekend I did every variation and level of that. Grin? At least once an hour. Giggle? Like a little schoolgirl. Chuckle? It is the common reaction when people reminisce about a great memory...which I did on a regular basis. Guffaw? That is what erupted several times when I was literally doubled over in a laughing fit. The result? The inability to breathe due to laughing so hard. I love that feeling, and I wish it could have gone on and on....

All in all the cure was a success.

As with most reunions it wasn't all laughs and party time. There were some sad conversations and tears shed; we all have struggles in our lives. Yet every time there were tears, the reminder of our Lord's promise to us and the knowledge that HIS plan is better than ours reminded us how blessed we are for so many things. The fact that they we were sharing these things with each other portrays the closeness we feel and the love and concern that is there. What a blessing that our paths have crossed, and we are there for each other always - not just during the good times.

And, for me, being in the company of people that have been such a huge blessing to me helped me to come back recharged. It didn't erase the stress of every day life and the extra challenges that have arisen these past few months, but it did help refresh me. It added some pep to my step. It helped me find my laugh again. It helped me hit "restart" and come back with a renewed focus. It squeezed out some of the sadness and frustration in my heart and resuscitated it back to me feeling as close to "me" again as possible.  

On Monday I got back into town in time to pick up my girls from school. My youngest ran to me, I picked her up, and we hugged for a good long time. My older daughter did the same. Hugs can speak volumes, and those said just as much. For me it said "I'm home...I'm here...Mom loves you...You are a blessing to me...I thank God for you...I'm all here..."

Michigan, I'd like to thank you for an amazing weekend. It was hard to say goodbye, but I hope to see you all again soon - hopefully before another 10 years flies by. Until then, God be with you until we meet again.

Simply put...I'm recharged.