Friday, June 24, 2011

In Training

Well, I did it. I am officially registered for my first full marathon. It'll be September 24. Scares me to death, actually. I may be biting off more than I can chew this time. But I am going to give it my all. I seem to work well having new goals. I've learned the hard way I sometimes set too many, too quickly. All with good intentions, but sometimes I end up looking like a fool for saying I'll do something and then not following through on it (ie-weight loss....) but there is no backing out of this. I am signed up and paid. I WILL be running a full marathon in the fall! I am actually really excited about it, too.
 So I have developed a training plan that works for my life-and my family. It's really tough actually. However, it is doable, and I am determined. Sunday mornings have become my long run days. And each week I am adding miles on to what I did the previous Sunday. I love those morning runs. there have been a few where I've only been focused on my time and distance. And while that is important, I don't want to lose the joy I have in running. Last Sunday, I set out on the path at 6:30 am. It was a beautiful morning. A tad foggy, and high 60s, and perfect for running. As I started out, I saw a cardinal; then a blue jay; and then a robin; and plenty other birds as well. It was peaceful and really enjoyable. As I ran, the more birds I saw, the more I thought of my mom as I ran.
 Mom loved birds. Probably because her mom loved birds. We had giant windows in our house growing up, and mom loved to watch the birds flying in front of the windows. We had a cardinal that lived in a bush next to my brother's window. That silly cardinal would all the time try to fly into the house and hit his window. Outside mom's window, there was often a blue jay that was there. We had a woodpecker that lived in a tree on the side of the house (until the tree got cut down). Mom used to often quote the verse found in Matthew about how God provides for the birds, He would also provide for us. We are not to worry. She was so amazing about following that verse. Even in her last days. Me, on the other hand, I have a long way to go on that. Anyway, I also think of mom too, because I told her I would do this race. And now here I am, in the middle of training, just months away from that. I will likely run  the race with mom in my mind the entire time. She never gave up, really. And so neither will I. This endeavor is another good learning experience for me. I am excited to see what I learn about myself in the process. I usually grow through my runs. Spiritually, mentally, and physically. This time is no different. As I keep working through my grief, this is yet another minor coping mechanism for me.
 To switch gears, I would just like to say how much I love my new job. Everyone is so nice-what a contrast from what was happening in more recent months in my job situation. I am really happy in this change. Some say that making a major life change in the midst of grief is not wise. This job change, though, has been the best change I've made in months. I'm on my own a lot, which is really great actually. But there are 8 others who I work with  every day-just they are mostly in the kitchen. The lady who trained me  is the one with whom I have the most interaction, and I love her. She's a lot of fun. Direct, but so very encouraging and fun. It's really funny, I am either called nellie jr. or we are called the coffee twins, or i am nellie's twin (her name is Nellie). She and I laugh so hard over this. It's true, we look a lot a like from behind. Same hight, same hair style, same build. We take a lot of joking about it. But she's great. So is my new boss. And so are my customers. Little by little I am gettig to know people. It's beena  very healthy change. It's been a good distraction from grief, although I am very much still grieving. It's just more private lately , I guess.
 I suppose I'll keep blogging about my training and how that's going. Training is a lifetime process, really. If I'm not training for a marathon, I'm training for something else. So is everyone, whether they realize it or not. so I'll keep talking about that. And about mom. Because even though she is gone, she is very much still a part of my training process. I miss her so much. And I wish that on days when I am down about my runs or ...whatever...that she were there for me to talk to about it. But her words are still in my heart and mind, so I hold onto those all the time.
 In the meantime, I will take my training and my grief one day at a time. And thank God for getting me through each day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

my dad

Usually I am blogging about my mom. Talking about my mom helps me a lot to work through the grief process I am still very much in the midst of. However, today i want to dedicate my blog to my dad. Of course, there will be sentences entwined to the blog about mom, because it's hard to mention one without the other.
 My dad is really just as amazing as my mom was, only in different ways. When I was young, dad used to pick me up by my arms and legs, swing me into my bed, singing "one for the money, 2 for the show, 3 to get ready, here we go!" and he'd throw me into my bed. That is a favorite childhood memory with my dad. I also remember many fall combine rides. Or dad teaching me how to drive-first on the tractors and then in the truck. My dad is 66, and one of the hardest workers I know. He taught me amazing things about a hard work ethic. Nothing was really ever just handed to me. Dad taught me how to work for it. Mind you, I never went without, and I really never had to ask-if it was needed, mom knew and we found a way to get it. But dad taught me how to work hard. I credit much of my work world success to my dad. I put my all into my jobs-whatever the hat might be that i wear in a moment-and dad showed me that. Dad has an incredible work ethic. Dad has great smile lines, too. Also evidence of his and mom's wonderful life together. Dad loves a good joke. He has the "Ferguson" sense of humor, as we call it. Not everyone laughs at his jokes or gets them, but I do, and I have been blessed to have that same sense of humor. Dad is a prayer warrior. He's a quiet one. He doesn't publicize that he's doing it. But I can remember many times seeing Dad with his well worn Bible, studying for a lesson and praying. Dad loves kids as much as mom did. He loves to play games and get down on the floor with my kids. He loves keeping them overnight. He loves to read to them. He loves showing them new things. Dad is really a wonderful Papa, as much as he is a dad. I can remember huge sacrifices dad made for our family growing up-things that I really didn't understand as a 14 year old. Now I do, and man, does it still touch my heart. He is humble and he loves everyone. Everyone loves dad. As much as they loved mom. Together their names were like one word-Roger and LInda. The pastor said that at mom's funeral, and I really liked that because it was very true. They were a beautiful picture of marriage. Dad is probably one of the very few who really understands my grief. He is one of the very few I cry with still over mom. As hard as it sometimes is to talka bout mom, we do a lot. Usually it brings some tears,  but dad is strong. He is doing really great through all this change. Mom did all the house stuff for dad their 39 years of marriage. and when I say all of it, I am not exaggerating. So now, dad is learning to cook. And clean.  And I am so proud of him. Mom was always my hero. Always . And always will be. but now my dad is falling  into that role, too, as we spend more and more time together. I used to talk to my mom every day. Now I talk to dad every day. Yes, it's quite different, but it is also really wonderful. I respect and admire him greatly. And I am so proud to have him as my dad. Mom used to roll her eyes and dad's and my interaction at times, because he and I really are so much alike. One day in the hospital, dad was sick and needed to go to a dr. appointment scheduled for that day. yet on that same day, we were also meeting with hospice to sign some important papers. I kept really trying to get dad to leave to go to his doctor. He kept insisting he'd change it ( he already had). we went back and forth on this, and mom rolled her eyes and said "Oh brother you two" That's because we are a lot alike. Things I find myself doing so often are just like my dad, it's crazy. I love him. And I am so thankful for him. And he has set a great example to me through this time of grief. Through all of life, really. I think I just looked to mom so often as that example that it overshadowed all of what my dad means to me. I am thankful that we are now discovering a new friendship. I love my dad and I am so thankful for him.
 I miss my mom a lot still, and getting through the emotions is such a tough thing still. Having a new job has helped distract me somewhat from the grief. It's been a welcome distraction (the new job is amazing, by the way, and exactly what I needed. It's awesome how God always knows the right thing for the right time.) but the sadness is creeping in again. Tomorrow is another milestone of sorts. Yes, father's day is no where near being as emotional as mother's day. But it is another family day, and another family day without my mom. It still hurts with every heartbeat in me. Monday will mark 3 months of mom being gone. Some days it feels like it's been forever. And other days, it feels like just yesterday. I miss her so much. But....I still have my dad, and I am thankful for that. Mom held on as long as she did partly for my dad's sake. She worried a lot about how life would be for him after,  I believe. I tell her that he's doing fine, because he really is. LIke I said, I'm very proud of my dad. And as much as I would deny it most any day, I always kind of was my daddy's little girl..... it's kind of special, really. So happy father's day to a very special dad!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Identity, in one dictionary, is defined as "the condition of being oneself, and not another." This is an interesting definition to ponder. And I've been thinking about this aspect of life for several days. A few weeks ago, a customer saw me in my car with my kids, then in "normal" clothes, and he said, "I always just thought of you in your black uniform. But you have kids and real clothes!" He identified me with my job. It got me thinking a lot.
 Life has been kind of strange the last few days(months, too). My identity has changed a lot in the last months. First of all, mom passing away changed my identity in some ways, because it was a life changing event. Mom was my best friend. She was a steady presence in my life.....all my life. Therefore, my identity changed a slight degree as I've been working to figure out what life means without mom.  I said goodbye to my career at Starbucks, which also was a part of my identity for so long. Many people didn't even recognize me outside of the store, when in the store, I was always known. And as I experienced a few days off in between jobs, I've done a lot of introspective thought. What is my identity exactly? It's supposed   to lie in Christ. And if I follow allowing my identity to be found in Him, then when these life changing events come along, I won't feel like my world turns as upside down, because I am grounded in my true that will never change.
 I wear a lot of hats in life. I am a runner. I am a wife and a mom. I am an employee. I am a daughter, a sister, and an aunt. I volunteer heavily with the American Cancer Society. Soon I hope to also be a student again. There are a lot of hats I could wear as my identity. But all of those "hats" have the potential to change. Some of them already have. So, do I face an identity crisis each time I go through that change? Or because I'm grounded, do I feel confident through each change? Well....I'm working on this. It takes a lot of time to practice this really well. Mom was always confident in her identity. She was an amazing mom and wife and sister. She was a fun-loving, unforgetful NaNa. She was loved by every child she touched through Sunday School and childcare. She was a fighter against cancer. As those roles changed through her life, though, mom never lost confidence in her identity.She was very grounded. Her confidence never waivered. I want to be this way, too. I'm working to get there. To not let words shake me. Words such as "you aren't doing your job." or "You're stupid." or even sarcastic little jabs that don't mean a lot, but sometimes I take way too seriously. Because, really, if I'm grounded in my true identity, I can hear those things and evaluate myself through Christ's eyes, then decide what to do about them. If the words are true through His spectacles, then I can change it or work on it. If they aren't true, I can rise above them, because I know that it's not my identity. Identity is a tricky aspect of life, because it's so very easy to place it in a job, or a sport or a person. But, for me, I want to place my identity in the eternal value. And one day at a time, I'm working on that.
 That being said, I am working hard toward my full marathon goal. I am very excited and nervous about this.  I have set more of a training plan for myself now, and I will not back out of this obstacle. running allows me to be free. To allow my mind to wander and to be me. To think on my identity while I run. To remember mom. To contemplate the previous days and think about the days to come. To come up with and get excited for new ideas for Relay for Life. To burn off stress. TO BE ME! I love to run. It does not identify me, but it is a part of me.
 I'm also still processing through my grief. Sometimes I write about it. Today's held some of my thoughts, though not all. Lately, a lot of life has focused on the new job and that whole life change that it's been a good distraction. The job change is a good life change, but I still miss my mom with every heartbeat. Going out to the farm is one of my favorite places to be. Not only is it very relaxing, but it is also a place I still can feel close to mom. Her touch is all over that house. About  a year or maybe a year and a half before mom died, she and dad remodeled a lot of the house. Her touch is all over it. So are the memories. So is a large part of what I've always considered my identity-the parts of me that I developed growing up under mom and dad's influence. I love being out at the farm.
 As I work through these newfound thoughts, I continue to remind myself to take things one day at a time. That is really important in remembering my true identity. And in just surviving sometimes. But also , one day at a time allows me to savor the moments more, and that is so important. So, as I endeavor into wearing a new "hat" tomorrow at my new job, I remind myself that I will take it one step, one hour, one day at a time. And remember where my true identity lies.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Chapter

Today begins a new chapter in my life. Yesterday was my last day at Starbucks. So I will be getting a fresh start, so to speak. My  mind couldn't help but recall a lot of things as I walked through my last few days at a place where I had worked for almost 4 years. I learned a lot in my time at Starbucks. I learned a lot about myself, about working, about management, about what I want to do and not want to do in life, about people, and so much more. Allow me to reminise for a moment.

 It was September 2007, and we lived in Florida. Hurricanes had devastated the area just a couple years before, and due to that, home owners insurance had skyrocketed, and we could no longer afford to be a one income household. So I began a job search. It was a very God-oriented thing, really, how I came to be with Starbucks at that time. I won't share the entire story, but there was a brand new store opening just down the street from our home and they were hiring. I interviewed and was hired on the spot. It really was my "first" job. I mean, I'd had jobs through high school and such, but as far as working in the world and a grown up environment, it was going to be my first real experience. My manager's name was Jim. He was an amazing manager . He knew what he was doing, he knew how to train, he knew how to teach without making me feel dumb (mind you, starbucks stuff takes quite a bit to get the actual hang of.), I just had a sort of connection with him in a way I had not expected. Do you ever have those moments that you can just remember very clearly? Well, I can remember Jim giving me my barista certification. He put me at ease in a moment it could have been very nerve wracking. He was kind and yet firm in his teachings. I remember a particular shift making me cry ( I can't even really remember why). Somehow Jim learned of it (managers seem to have a way of doing that.) and he came to me to find out if I was ok and how the situation had gone. And it got fixed-without any drama. He became a friend. I have a lot of respect for him and he deserves a bit of credit in breaking me into the working world.
 Then we got the news of Michael's job loss and that we'd move to Ohio. Fortunately, my job would transfer. That was also very God oriented. It happened that the store I wanted to transfer to had an opening and needed someone right away. I fit in to that hole. It took me some time-it was kind of like starting all over as a new barista. little differences from one store to the next . And the staff there was very tight, so it took quite a while to fit in. And now, almost 4 years later and an entirely new staff there, I am finally saying goodbye. I never thought I'd be there that long. But it's been a  journey. I could tell a lot of fun stories about different customers there. Or crazy customers. Or the really fun ones who've also become my friends. (Tony,Deb,Rob,Kris,,Lynne,Jamie,Kim....)But it is time to move on from there. I will say that Wendy Artz deserves a lot of good words in my leaving. She was my manager for 3 or so years and I learned a lot from her. I could trust her. She helped me become strong in my position. She helped me see some of my true colors that I never knew existed-like leadership . She brought some of those out. She also became a really good friend. She has been there for me through mom's death, too. When she left last July, I did a lot of the leading until Brandon came in. I was leery of a new manager. Each time I had a new boss, I was leery. But jim had been great, and so had Wendy, and Brandon and I became friends, too. Brandon came into a yucky situation, not to mention my life was kind of turned upside down dealing with mom being so sick. I remember the moment I met Brandon like it was yesterday. But Brandon was amazing working with me through all of mom's sickness and death. I'm pretty sure no other job would have been that way. He was understanding and let me yell at him or cry or vent. He was patient with me. I was blessed to be under some direct managers who helped me grow. When I told Brandon I was leaving, he was understanding and supportive. I'm thankful for that.
 I learned a lot about myself through my time at Starbucks. That I do have the ability to lead and make decisions. That I am ok the way I am. That I can do what I set my mind to. That I am a people person-I'm way more extroverted than I thought. That there are bigger things in life than coffee.
 Leaving was a tough decision in some ways. It means stepping out of my comfort zone. But it is the best decision I've made in a long time. It is a decision that is going to benefit my family greatly. And essentially, make life better. I feel like it is one of the first steps outside of grief that I am taking. It doesn't mean that I'm not grieving anymore. But life has been chaos. And this is one step in the way of making it slightly less chaotic. I know having a new job won't solve life by any means. It doesn't bring my mom back. And it won't fix all my time issues or other things. But it will help bring some stability and regularity, which right now, I really need. So do my kids. I did not cry on my last day-in fact, I was almost giddy laughing.One co-worker even said to me "You are the old Rachael today." But that was confirmation to me that it was the right decision. I did cry just a tad on the way to work-but it was more about missing my mom that day.I shared every moment with her. And not being able to physically sit wiht her and talk to her about this new change has been hard. I still talk to her, though. Sounds crazy to most, but it helps.
I could write pages about my time at Starbucks. I've done a lot of reflection lately. But really, this begins a new chapter. A new journey into something to help me grow in new ways. New goals come with this. And new excitement about things, which has been missing lately. There will be that first day of school nervous feeling as I start, but really, I'm excited. And it feels good to feel excited again. My races bring out that feeling. Warrior Dash last weekend brought that. But so does this . It is the right thing. And opening a new chapter is always good.

Friday, June 3, 2011

the little things like smile lines

Robert Brault said "Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back realize they were the big things."

 This can be looked at in many ways; but I find it to be very true. I was looking at some pictures the other day and something struck me both in the pictures and in my memories. Mom had smile lines around her eyes. You can tell a lot about a person by their eyes, really. Mom had creases around hers that showed how much she smiled. My dad has them, too. Evidence of what a life they lived together. Sure, they cried, though I rarely saw that. What I did see was a lot of smiles and laughter. Mom's eyes showed that. I will be honest...I think I frown more than I smile. Or I have lately, anyway, though I am working on that. I've been told it takes more muscles to frown than smile. I can't say I've read that as a fact, I've just heard it. Like I've said before, I don't laugh with anyone like I laughed with my mom. My sister is probably the only one. I have laughed at work more lately. That's a good thing. Because it was getting to a point of no laughter at all for me there. I won't dive into that. I'll just say that I know that going to the new job is the right thing for me. And more laughter lately is evidence of that. Funny how that works, really.
 But back to my enjoy the little things, as you will realize they were the big things. I soak this in as I realize:
 - How much mom did for me every single winter when I had strep throat chronically.
 -How much of a memory playing 2 square in the kitchen with my mom is now, when then it was so silly.
- How much it was that mom did for us every birthday (we were all born in July). She could have combined them or done nothing, really. But mom made a big deal out of each one for us. No big parties, but what we wanted.
-How much sacrifice mom made in her time. for me. for my siblings. Especially for dad.
-How many small sewing projects mom did for me. (She was always my "hemmer". I don't know how to still and feel kinda lost now with that....should've learned)
-How mom drove me to friends all the time. Or welcomed my friends over all the time. My friends growing up had as much fun with my mom as I did, I think.
-Little things mom did, like putting notes in my lunches or leaving me a note with some money tucked in it, or cards she wrote me .....those are the things i savor today
-Mom always had homemade brownies or cookies ready when we got home. I mean almost always. We kids always looked forward to this. And I can't say I remember mom ever telling me "that's enough, no more." (How many times have I told my kids that....not to say it's bad. Just now, it seems so irrelevant. and yet special that mom never told me i'd had enough.)
-the hours and hours mom listened to me practice the saxophone. I had to have been horrible starting out, yet she never complained.

You know what I find pretty special? One person said to me at mom's viewing to remember the good things about mom and not dwell on the bad or the regretted things. I thought long and hard on that comment. First of all, i don't really have regrets with mom. Knowing her death was approaching, I was able to say everything I wanted. And spend time with her. I don't regret anything, really. If I revert back into childhood, yes, I'm sure I regret moments. But as I grew up, I don't regret a lot. But the more special part of that statement to me was, as I thought on it, I really don't have one single bad memory of mom. I racked my brain to think of one (as horrible as that sounds.) And I couldn't come up with even one. HOw many people can say that of their mom? Doubtful my kids can say that of me. I will always have mom's example in my life, even though she's gone now. And I doubt I will ever feel as good of a mom as she was. She was one special lady. I miss her a lot.

Tomorrow I run a race. It's a fun one....a different one. I'm running with my friend, Savannah and her boyfriend. We signed up in December. Mom had lost her speech, but I remember telling her all about it. Weird I won't be able to tell her all about it after it this time. I suppose that's been a touch of my sadness today. No, I haven't been bombarded by sadness, but it was in the back of my mind. It's called the Warrior Dash, what we are doing. And though it's just for fun, really, when I hear warrior, I think of mom. She was a warrior. I am going to go out tomorrow and have a blast. And get muddy and just laugh. Maybe I'll develop a smile line :)  Mom would be laughing on the sidelines at this one. It's not my typical race.

One last thing, on the idea of smile lines and the little things being the big things looking back. The day was November 4, 2010. It was really nice out for November, and I was off for the day. On a whim, I decided to run the Yellow springs path, just for different scenery. I ran 6 miles that day. I loved it. I can even remember a song that struck me as poignant that particular run called "not afraid". As I listened to the lyrics I thought about all I was going through at that moment, and the lyrics feel in line a lot with what I was experiencing. Mom had a CT scan scheduled for the next day-there were new lumps. Anyway, when I finished running, I decided to head over to mom's for lunch. It was a Thursday afternoon. We had lunch, chatted and we played a game. We laughed, too. I saw her smile lines deep that day. The next day I also was off. I was out running errands. Dad called. Mom was at her dr. But there was a problem. That morning mom had woken up and not been able to talk. At all. I drove quickly to the hospital. Spent the day there. That day it was discovered that mom had 3 brain tumors. I don't think I'm ready to blog about how hard it was not hearing mom's voice or laugh.  Maybe Another day. But I shared that story to say that I will FOREVER be grateful that on that Thursday I'd gone out to have lunch with mom and play a game. It was her last day of normalcy in some regards. And who even knew? Only God did. And I'm glad He led me to be with her that day. It was seemingly a small thing that day. Now it is one of the biggest moments ever. so don't discredit what you may think to be a lttle thing. Enjoy it! One day it could possibly be one of the biggest things in life.... you just won't know it until later.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Seasons continued

I've been thinking a lot about my blog from last night. I had so much in my mind, for the first time since starting the blog, I'm not even sure my blog made much sense last night. Oh well. So here's the continuation .
 I was thinking about winter. Once, when mom was first diagnosed in 2007, I took a trip to Ohio to be with her for 2 weeks after her surgery. It was definitely winter here-it was February and it was my kids' first experience with lots of snow (since we lived in Florida). I was taking pictures one day during that visit, and I captured a photo of what we called the "climbing tree" growing up. It was covered in ice and was absolutely beautiful. I actually have it framed hanging in my house. It was an accidental picturesque picture, but I love it. When I look at it, I remember a lot of things. First of all, the climbing tree holds a lot of memories-we spent hours in that tree growing up. Playing hide and seek. Or climbing it with my girlfriends. Or often times, I would climb it when I was in a bad mood, just to get "above" the world for amoment- cry or pray or just be quiet. I loved that tree. When I look at the picture I remember how much that symbolized for me at that moment even. It was really hard, the initial first time of mom having cancer and taking care of her after that surgery. It was a winter season for me. But I knew, as I'd seen the tree do all my life, that under the ice and dead branches, there was new growth. And come spring, there would be beautiful leaves on the tree. I am like that.....inside me, where no one can see (not even me), while I go through a winter season, God is developing me. Each hard circumstance or winter season I walk through is only eventually to bring forth some new growth. I came through that winter season....only to go through more. But it serves as a reminder to me that I made it through that particular one. And as it's been "winter" for me lately, I know that I am somehow growing. And though I cannot see or understand it right now, it's in me, somewhere, and one day God will use it. That is what I truly do believe.

I'd like to talk about more of a spring for me. Spring is about growth. And development. And beauty shining forth. And seeing things in a new light and being excited. Running does that for me. I'll be honest, as I was out on a run today, I thought to myself, "I have NO idea how I am going to make it through a full marathon in September." But I do love to run. I'm slow, but I suppose usually I don't care. I set goals-personal goals, really. In Septemeber, it'll be to finish. That's all. I've only been running for 3 years now. When I first decided to run, I just thought it would be a thing of proving to myself I could do something I said I could never do. Who ever knew it would become such  a passion? I feel free. I love it. Today I looked forward all morning to having my run. Granted, noon hour is not my ideal run time. But it still felt good. 5 am is my ideal run time. I never saw that coming, either. but as I've tried all hours for running, I do my best then. I have a race this weekend coming up called the Warrior Dash and I am SO excited for it! It's an obstacle course of sorts. But I cannot wait to do it. It's all about fun for me this weekend. Running started out as something to prove myself to others...and myself. Now i do it because I love it. Because I've discovered myself in the process a little bit. I hope and plan to continue to do it all my life.

Leaving Starbucks will be a new season. It will be scary on some levels, probably. Starbucks has become my comfort zone- I can almost act on auto pilot , I've been doing it for so long. I think it is giong to be a spring/summer type season for me. I need the change. I need a fresh perspective. I need to meet new people. To do new things. To try my hand at something a little different. To have a different environment. I learned a lot in my time at Starbucks. I learned I am capable of so much more than I ever thought. I learned to stand up for myself, I guess. I learned that I like to lead. Maybe not be the center of attention, but I like to lead. I learned I can do anything I put my mind to (running also taught me this.) I've made mistakes there and learned from those too. I made some friendships that will last a lifetime. Friends from all walks of life-people I've worked with through the years as well as a handful of customers who've become family to me in the process.

My mom loved seasons. She said she'd never love Florida because it didnt have seasons. I never thought I'd miss the seasons when I lived there. But moving back, I've come to appreciate the seasons. And they have become an analogy for me . I still hate winter....both the actual season and the moments that feel like winter in life. But it is part of life. So, I have learned how to deal with it better. Mom grew up in MN-she had awful winters. She never complained about them here. That was just like her in every way-never complaining. She also didn't love summer-she was Sweedish, fair skinned and not prone to love the heat. But she also never complained. Ever . We grew up without air conditioning. It was hot. (I'll be honest, that never bothered me.) Mom was hot, but never complained. Just in the last couple years or so, they got air conditioning.
 As I look at my picture of the climbing tree on the wall during that winter, I think about a lot of things-what God has brought me through. The winter seasons I've experienced. What He has yet to accomplish with me. Seasons are pretty amazing, if you really stop to think about them. I do appreciate them again, after not having them for so many years. I miss Florida, trust me. Part of my heart still rests there. But, seaasons are a part of life. And that's ok.