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 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 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 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 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 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.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Fitbit and Netflix: Finding My Balance

Melted cheese on apple pie. Peanut butter and melted cheese on a BLT. Grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A cold leftover brat to top a salad. 

Yes, I'm obviously a Cheesehead from Wisconsin, and yes, I enjoy all of the above. These might sound like some odd combinations, but in all reality when they are put together they are me at least. 

It got me to thinking about a combination that I never would have put together to help me bounce back from some stress and depression: my Fitbit and Netflix. One helps promote a healthy lifestyle, and the other promotes you planting your rear on your couch for an undetermined amount of time. For me, it worked. 

I'll spare you the gory background details because that is a whole blog on it's own, but just to give you an idea of what sent me spiraling and then magnetized me to my couch here it is in a nutshell. We have one daughter dealing with some mental health issues, and the other one is reeling from the stress of it at home. Then my husband came home from work with news that was a sucker punch (not literally) that sent me into a massive case of "ugly crying," an emotional meltdown and the sudden desire.... eat my feelings.

I'll eat that, and that, and THAT and oh, yes, that too! 
Talk about emotional eating, I ROCKED it that night I had my meltdown. Supper was something gourmet: macaroni and cheese. Before supper was even made I had grabbed a bag of cheesy Bugles and I ate them like they were going out of distribution or something. They tasted phenomenal at that point in time. Extra cheese on my mac and cheese? A fatty brat? Don't mind if I do. Throw it on there! Later that night I know for a fact I was plopped on the couch with a gargantuan bowl of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream. (Unlike the Bugles, this truly is around for a limited time at Kwik Trip and, so one has to make hay while the sun shines, right!?!?)

Sometimes "you gotta do what you gotta do," but I quickly realized that my plunge into emotional eating couldn't be a long-term adventure. While I love food, I knew this couldn't be the route I took.

At this point my newly purchased Fitbit became my lifeline away from my emotional journey into the abyss of nacho Doritos, dark chocolate and anything else around that was solidly carb quite possibly a childhood favorite of mine like a bowl of buttered noodles with parmesan cheese. That is my happy place, and at any given point in time I would gladly have jumped right into a giant bowl of it.

So, enough of the food and onto the Fitbit. For the lack of a better word, I have a quirk when it comes to things like a Fitbit. It may sound weird, but I can't "lie" to it because I'm pretty sure it will know I'm not telling the truth.  I'm not saying I'm a chronic liar by nature, but if I don't enter the accurate info into the Fitbit I feel like I cheated or failed myself. Seriously. It's kind of like when I'm on a treadmill if I push the button to quit my workout early I "gave up" on myself. Ridiculous, I know, but in the end that quirk with the Fitbit kept my emotional eating to a minimum. I'm pretty conscious of my calorie intake, my activities logged and my steps taken each day. Thanks to my Fitbit the Doritos consumption was minimal and my workout motivation was maintained.

Another benefit is that shortly before all this happened I challenged myself to run/walk 350 miles to my parents' house in Wisconsin. Because I had posted that on social media, I now can't NOT do it. I can't give up on this challenge. I can't be a quitter. Therefore, I keep moving. And when I move and get exercise I feel better all around.

And then I found the couch....
Not only did life affect me physically, but emotionally as well. When I was feeling my lowest, I literally lost all mental capacity at night. Once the last meltdown from one of our girls had subsided and they were finally in bed, I found that my mind was either running amok analyzing the events that had just unfolded or I was blank. I had lost all motivation to do anything. At this point I had already decided to take a step away from my business to focus on my family, so what previously had consumed my nights was gone.

Here is where Netflix jumped into the picture. I love reading, but honestly some nights I felt so numb I was too tired to read. That is why binge-watching Netflix was so awesome. It required no thought and no motivation. It was an escape that took no mental awareness. It distracted me from the thoughts and worries of the day. I'm embarrassed to admit how many hours I've spent in the past few weeks on my couch, but in a way that was therapeutic as well.

What I realize was while my body needed to keep moving, my mind needed to stop running for awhile. I realize binge watching Netflix involved my body not moving, so my statement seems contradictory, but that is why this crazy combination worked. I'd continuously move my body throughout the day, but at night my mind rested.

I'm crawling back...
I'm finally starting to feel a bit more like myself. There are other facets (my family and my faith) that were positive parts to recovering from my stress (and some depression) that I'm sure I'll write about soon enough. Those topics are a bit more serious of nature, so it was fun to think about the crazy combination that kept me above water.

Simply put...I found the proper balance.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Running Home

I used to hate running. I had no problem running while playing a sport, but why would you just run for purely the sake of running? I mean, really, what is the appeal? 

I was turned off by the monotony of it. Running to me was just miles upon miles of you taking one step after hittin' the pavement in a methodical manner as you watch the various landmarks tick by. Your lungs feel like exploding, your legs feel like tree trunks, and so you ask yourself for the hundredth time, "Why am I even doing this?!?" Even more mundane, though, is running on a treadmill. Talk about doing a whole lot of work to go absolutely nowhere. Now that was one big snooze fest. 

I think another factor that played into my anti-running mentality is that runners are really in an elite group of people. Not that they think they are elite, but in my book they always have been. I was a basketball and volleyball loving kind of gal, and could never picture myself doing cross country training regimens. During my days teaching I worked with a guy that ran marathons at what would be my full-out sprint speed. His dedication to his sport was very impressive to me, but it wasn't one that I saw myself incorporating into my workouts. I knew I was never going to be on "that level" so why even start?

My knees became another issue. Since being diagnosed with Osgood-Schlatter disease (it is a real thing, and something kind of fun to say) in my youth, my knees have been a sore spot for me. Then during an intramural basketball game in college I collided with a friend and blew out my ACL. After two ACL surgeries my surgeon told me to take it easy on that I got older it wouldn't get any better. To make sure I listened to his wise advice I gladly gave up incorporating runs into my workouts.

You might be asking yourself what changed in me to the point that I'm now writing a blog about a running challenge. I honestly couldn't pinpoint the exact moment, but I do recall one event that got me thinking. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law were visiting us one summer, and they were in the middle of a running challenge of their own. I decided to run part of it with them to see how I would do. I remember the awesome feeling I had at the end of my run, and...a new interest took flight.

For all the reasons I stated above on why I didn't like running took on new meaning years later. The mundane monotony? I now love it. It is rare for a mom to ever have a quiet moment around their children, but I could when I ran! What a lightbulb moment for me. You mean I have 30 quiet uninterrupted minutes to myself to think my thoughts in peace and quiet? Count me in! 

Have I become a true "runner?" You know, the one with all the fancy running gear that easily runs 10 miles at a shot when the temperatures dip well below the freezing mark? Most definitely not, and it certainly doesn't bother me at all. I do NOT say this to mock the running elite, but to admire them. As I have aged I've grown more confident in myself and am just proud of where I am and what I'm doing. It is a challenge to better myself so I'm not playing any comparison game here. I've run multiple 5K races and just take joy in completing them and beating a PR. Crossing the finish line is always a great feeling, so I keep on going. 

My tech-savvy husband made this 
handy chart for me to track my miles. 
On January 1st I asked friends and family on social media to like a post I made on Facebook and Instagram. For every like that post received I said I would walk or run 3 miles in the coming year. The final count came to 273 miles, but I decided to round it up to 350 miles - the exact distance from my home to my parents' house in Wisconsin. I don't like to back down from a challenge, so I just decided to go for it. 

Since I usually just run around 3 miles at a shot, it took some quick math to realize that I'll need to up my game. That means during the cold weather I need to wake up earlier to get to a local fitness center to pop on a treadmill. I also will need to up my mile count per week. 

So, here I go! This week I started with treks to the fitness center, but when it warms up I'll venture outside. No matter my running venue, I now have a goal set before me. A goal I intend to accomplish. Time to lace'em up and get step at a time.

Simply put...I'm just putting one foot in front of the other.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

You're Here

Dear Deede,

Your heart was the size of Texas. I realize everything is bigger in Texas, but it really is true. To add to the size of your heart was your phenomenal smile. I miss it, and I'm thinking of you more today than other days because today is your heavenly birthday.

I'm not sure why, but I just felt like writing. Since you passed away Jesse took up blogging, and I caught the spirit, and I have found that I really enjoy writing. I'm not a professional by any means, but I love getting to put my thoughts and feelings into words. I have realized that 3 years after you have passed your love still spills out from others that knew you. You loved and cared for so many, and in doing so you taught others to love. I'll never forget how you gave of your talents, time and treasures to so many over the years and how you never expected a thing in return. You loved your Lord, your family, your friends, and almost anybody else that fell into any other category. Your heart was huge.

I will forever remember when I met you on my first trip to Texas to meet Jesse. You welcomed me with open arms, and I remember thinking that I instantly felt like I was part of the family. I'd love to know how many hours we spent chatting my first weekend there, or how many cups of coffee mixed with your homemade cocoa I drank. I still treasure my coffee mug with Texas wildflowers...that is my special memory of you.

Do you remember the last talk we had before you passed away? You mentioned how you hoped the girls always knew how much you loved them and how you wished you could be there for them. Trust me, they know. We talk about it all the time. We still listen to the book with your voice recording. And, since our youngest is a spitting image of you, I think of you almost every day. Jesse doesn't really see it, but I certainly do. Not only does she look like you, but she has your mannerisms, hand gestures, voice inflections, etc. I think at least once a week I say, "You look just like your Grandma. She loved you both so much."

Did you know that your daughters are also so much like you? You'd be so proud of them. We all met in Portland this summer as a family, and there were so many times they did something and I thought, "Mom would be so proud." Audra had set up the room in a super cute way, making them feel so special when we arrived. Do you remember that princess tent you made them when we came to Texas that last time? It was very reminiscent of that. They both did so much to make that trip a wonderful time, paying attention to all the little details, just like you would. And Sarah....who could forget all the crafts and fun projects she had ready for the girls? They were in heaven. Your love for our girls shone through your girls.

About know he never shows his emotions at all, but I know he misses you. I remember watching him hug you for the last time, and I wish he could do that again. You'd be so proud of him and the husband and dad he is to us. He works hard both at home and at work. Jesse loves all his girls, even though he is outnumbered by the amount of estrogen in the house. He takes all our emotions and energy in stride and loves us unconditionally. Like the girls are just like you, he is just like his father. I call him "Ron" all the time. He walks like him, has the same mannerisms, the same laugh, etc.

You are missed, but we are so thankful that you knew the one thing needful and shared the good news with others. You are now free from that horrible cancer and all the worries of this world. You knew what you received through your God-given faith in Jesus: forgiveness of sins, and eternal life in heaven. And now, we look forward to the day we can rejoice with you in heaven.

One of the most vivid memories I have is when we were leaving after our last trip to Texas. Do you remember when we were getting into the car and our eldest jumped out of the car, ran up to the porch and gave you another hug to say, "Te Amo, Grandma?" That was a moment to treasure. I think today is a wonderful day to say that again.

All our love....

Simply put....You're here. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A New Perspective

Before our daughter turned 6 this past weekend we asked her what she wanted for her birthday.  Her answer was rather matter-of-fact, "I'd like some more Shopkins and a new house."

I could discuss my confusion over what the excitement is over Shopkins, but I'll let that slide. It wasn't all too surprising to me that she mentioned wanting a newer, bigger house. She has been in several bigger and nicer homes than ours, and after visiting those homes she has mentioned how she doesn't want to have play dates at our house because it it is "too small and dirty." I'm not going to lie, we have some major decluttering to do, but that is another whole topic for a different blog.

Her response was the perfect opportunity for us to talk about how blessed we truly are in the home we have. This topic has been fresh on my mind since the start of last year when I started to read and journal in the book 364 Days of Thanksgiving by Rev. Andrew Schroer. To say that it brought a shift in my perspective of gratefulness would be an understatement.

The book is set up with some introductory chapters on being grateful. If you grab this book make sure you don't skip those chapters - they are a great way to focus your mind on this book. The author then has a devotion at the start of every two weeks. Then you journal something you are thankful for every day. At the end of every two week period there is an area for reflection. The goal is to not repeat anything during the course of the year to show how much (whether big or small) you have been blessed with in your life.

I have always been grateful for what the Lord has blessed us with, but this helped me see those blessings in things that might even be a trial. From then on I was able to focus on the blessing, not the trial or the stage of life we currently are in at this time. 

As I looked back on the year I had to smile that one thing I wrote about was the very thing my daughter was wanting for her birthday. Yes, what in her eyes is a "dirty" house is actually a sign of our abundance of blessings, let alone the fact that we have a warm house at all. When I perused my journal a bit more I realized it ranged from some "major" things to some things that might seem mundane or inconsequential. As little as those things are in our lives, they are truly still a blessing.

I was thankful for PEOPLE.
You are probably thinking this is pretty obvious. Of course I wrote about my parents, siblings, husband, children, extended relatives, high school and college friends, friends from every job I've had since college, former students, book club friends, church friends, the girls' teachers, the hairstylist I've had for 8 years, our amazing doctors that take such good care of us, etc. The list could go on, but in all seriousness, have you ever sat back and reflected on all the groups of people in your life from early on and what an extreme blessing they have been to you?

It goes beyond that, though. I had entries about that lady I never met who paid for our groceries at Hy-Vee, the ladies at the library who are always so nice to my children, farmers who work so hard, my customers, the speech teachers I had in grade school, the friendly worker at Kwik Trip with the funny hats that always makes me smile....I'm thankful for the "strangers" in my life. Whether they are close to my heart or new to me, people are a blessing. Do you see what I mean?

I realized I was thankful when I turned CHORES INTO BLESSINGS.
I haven't ever met someone that truly enjoyed doing laundry. I certainly don't. But how refreshing to reframe my mind to the fact that our family has enough clothes to make laundry piles. We are blessed with an abundance of clothes. I'm also thankful for the washer and dryer we have.

Making and cleaning up the table at night after supper...that turns into being thankful for the fridge to store the food to the stove, crock pot and microwave to prepare the food. This doesn't look past the face that due to the abundance of food on our table we are also able to enjoy leftovers.

Jesse has to mow the lawn and shovel the driveway, but how blessed we are to have a lawnmower and snowblower.

I don't like putting sheets on our beds, but we have beds and we have sheets. Do you see what I mean?

I'm thankful for many ABSTRACT THINGS.
Think we could all agree that a night of uninterrupted sleep is a blessing, as are snow days, peaceful moments between children, humor, central air, patience, freedom, technology, grocery pick-up, changes of seasons, music, random acts of kindness...and on and on. When was the last time you stopped and were thankful for something like humor in your life? It may be a little thing, but a blessing all the same. Do you see what I mean?

I'm thankful for my FAITH.
Where would I be without the comfort of salvation, heaven, grace, forgiveness, prayer, trust, peace, baptism, hope, love, joy....this is my foundation. I'm thankful that my parents shared this with me, and their parents shared with them, and so on. This could be an entire blog in itself.

In the end, 2016 was a year to refocus on the blessings. They are everywhere. Bills may overwhelm, challenges at work might pop up, we may fall ill, etc., but God is GOOD. I learned not to only be thankful FOR everything, but be thankful IN all things. 

Simply you see what I mean?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Time Will Tell

Oops....there it went. Did you miss it last night? With a tick of the clock, a flip of the calendar, or the drop of a ball in New York...there it went. The passing of time. It really was just another ordinary day moving into another, but the significance of a new year always makes people stop and contemplate it: TIME.

On our It Works team we were encouraged to have a word for 2017, and since time has been on my mind lately that is the word I have chosen. It probably doesn't come off as the most inspirational word out there, but it ties in with so many facets of my life. I kept trying to replace TIME with something more exciting or motivational, but since it is pivotal to me right now, I kept coming back around to TIME.

A few weeks ago Jesse got intentional with setting personal and professional goals and setting aside time for specific things. At first I thought some of it seemed a little overboard, like who sets an alarm to go TO bed? Seriously, it seemed strange. Yet, as time went on I could see the benefits of it. Jesse was spending more quality time with the girls, helping out more around the house, working hard to improve himself professionally, and our communication improved. When I saw his results I knew it was time to change.

Have you ever tried to do a lot of things, but realized that you weren't really doing any of them very well? That was me. That is me. What I realized was that it wasn't working. I wasn't keeping up with our house, with quality family time, with my business, etc. There were so many times that I got to the end of the day or week and I wondered how I had done so little with my time. How did I squander it all away?  So, I chose to say "no" to some things. It was time to refocus, and the way that I could do that would be with getting organized with my goals and my time. 

I've always been a visual person. so instead of keeping my schedule in my head, I needed it written on paper. I needed a planner. A friend steered me in the direction of a Passion Planner, and it seemed like the perfect one for me. I really enjoy it because it gave direction to my goals, and it helped me focus on my priorities and see how they all fit into my day-to-day schedule.

So, I'm set. I have Week One scheduled and ready to go. I know it is easy to think big when it comes to goals. I realize this will be far from easy, but I'm ready to fight for it. One-on-one time with my girls? Quality family time? Time for personal development? Time to work towards my health goals? Extra time to show appreciation to my customers? Time to learn to be a leader? Time to make new acquaintances and build new relationships? Time to grow in my faith? I'm ready to put the time into making time for these things.

I'm fully aware that just because I bought a planner and I wrote some dream goals it doesn't mean that it will happen. I would be completely naive if I for once thought that since I've made these plans then the following results WILL happen. How brazen of me to think such things because...

...I could plan phenomenal quality family time and circumstances beyond my control could foil those plans.

...I could set some fitness and health goals for myself, but I might become injured or fall ill and that would all be for naught.

...I could have daily goals set and tasks to do to improve my business, all to see not another customer or teammate join my team.

I could go on and on with examples, but I think you get the picture. So, will TIME still be my word for 2017? You bet! While I'm excited to have some focus to my schedule instead of flailing around attempting to complete day-to-day tasks, I also know that I am not the one in charge. How extremely frustrating it would be if I did everything that I had planned, only to see things not unfold that way? I can only imagine the utter madness some must feel when they think they "take the wheel" in life. Through this all, I take heart remembering the passage from Proverbs 16:9: "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."

So, I will be faithful with the talents and strengths given to me. I will high-five the victories, but also pray for the peace and understanding to know that when it doesn't go "my way," it is because our all-knowing God is watching over us. I'm looking forward to 2017, whatever may come my way.

Simply put...time will tell.

Psalm 31: 14 - 15a