Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Becoming grateful, #5

Here are just a handful of things for which I have thanked God for over the last week:
  1. My best friend ever, Karen. She got to come in last weekend and it was so wonderful to have her here!
 2. A new church. We have decided to try to find a new church home, and we've been visiting one now for the past 2 months. Last week the kids attended vacation bible school there and absolutely loved it. It was really neat to hear them coming home tellings us stories about what they'd learned. And the friend they made.
 3. Cards. It's the little things that make a big difference to me, but cards is one of them. I never get tired of them. Writing them or receiving them. I got some really nice ones for my birthday, and I smile when I read them.
 4. Coffee. I love coffee. Yes, it's my job. But I love it all around. It's one of my "comfort" foods. I love having a cup with a friend. I love having it in the morning. It helps me when I'm tired, and I enjoy it when I'm having a bad day, too. It's just something that is simple but I really enjoy. I've been doing coffee work now for 5 years and I don't think I'll ever get tired of drinking it.
 5. Laughter. The sound of it. How I feel when I have a really hard belly laugh. I love to laugh and I am trying to do it more. Laughter really is the best medicine.
 6. Speaking of medicine, I'm grateful for that, too. It cleared up my son's horrible reaction to poison ivy last week.
 7. Cake. It's not something in which I indulge often, but I really did on my birthday. I love cake.

One day, one small thing at a time, I am learning to be more grateful. As hard as it really can be sometimes, I do get to choose how I react. And I am striving to be more grateful.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My next thirty years...

Yesterday, I turned 30. Personally, I find age to be just a number. I hope I still feel that way when I turn 40. Leaving the decade of my 20s was not a dramatic thing for me, for the most part, but it certainly did cause some amount of reflection for me. In retrospect, I think the hardest thing for me about leaving my 20s into my 30s was the fact that I turned a "big" number, yet a "young" number still, without my mom. I really missed her a lot. I thought this birthday would be a lot easier. I'd already made it through my first birthday without her. But I feel like the idea of changing into a new decade without her was what made it difficult for me. However, that being said, it really was a very nice day for me. I have always loved birthdays. Birthdays were always a big deal growing up, and so for me,they still are.  When I woke up, as cheesy as this may sound, I said, "Happy birthday to me!" and I put on a big smile and decided I was going to enjoy my day.. And really, I did.
 I laughed hard throughout the day because I decided to be silly and laugh. (I worked hard, too. It was a busy Friday. But work and laughter can go together). I enjoyed hearing from a few old friends I hadn't talked to in a long while. And boy, did I eat delicious food. I enjoyed donuts, a cuban sandwich , a nice drink, and ribs....good food all day long. I received beautiful flowers from my husband, and some new running clothes. I really enjoyed the day. And the day was topped off with picking up our best friends at the airport!!!!!! That was a wonderful surprise and one I am cherishing all weekend long. And the weekend fun continues today , as my husband and I have decided to renew our vows. We've been married 10 1/2 years and we have been through a tremendous amount of life together already. We have decided to renew our commitment to each other, and I could not think of a better way to start my next thirty years. It was a beautiful, small ceremony. The weather was perfect. We stood under the trellis on which my mom's rose bush grows. The words were beautiful and our closest friends in the world, along with family, were all there. (minus my little brother and sister in law). We had a great time. It was emotional and beautiful and a great way to start my next decade. We then enjoyed great food and some fun outdoor games.
 There is a Tim McGraw song called "My Next Thirty Years" that has been playing over and over in my head all week long. Here are some of the lyrics:
I think I'll take a moment, celebrate my age
The ending of an era and the turning of a page
Now it's time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years

Hey my next thirty years I'm gonna have some fun
Try to forget about all the crazy things I've done
Maybe now I've conquered all my adolescent fears
And I'll do it better in my next thirty years

My next thirty years I'm gonna settle all the scores
Cry a little less, laugh a little more
Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear
Figure out just what I'm doing here
In my next thirty years

Oh my next thirty years, I'm gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers
Maybe I'll remember my next thirty years

My next thirty years will be the best years of my life
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear
Make up for lost time here, in my next thirty years
In my next thirty years

In my next thirty years, I want to:
 -laugh more!
-Love my family in much stronger ways. Make them my priority.
-Use my "last thirty years" to impact the world for the next thirty years. I pray God can use my story of all I've been through in the last many years to impact lives for the future.
-Get my college degree as an occupational therapist. 
-Serve God.
-Write a book.
-Enjoy my motherhood and embrace my role as a wife in new ways. 

I have  more goals, but I'll leave it at that for now. It's been a beautiful weekend and I could not have asked for more. God is good and faithful -more than I could ever express. Having my best friend by my side today and having renewed my vows this weekend, is a small start of saying how good He is. Here's to my next thirty day at a time!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Grief and other things

Grief is defined as : a reaction to a major loss.  Grief is expressed in many ways by each person differently. some people "grieve" when their team loses (although I wouldn't define that as grief, really.) Some grieve when a pet dies. Some grieve when they move away from a place they love (I went through that to a degree...) But  I really grieved when my mom died.  There was the before process of grief-in watching mom's life deteriorate. And there was the after part of grief-learning to live with the loss of her in my daily life.  I have thought about grief often today because there are several friends of mine walking through this now. One just attended a funeral of a good friend of theirs; another attended his mother's funeral. I have 2 friends watching one of their loved ones die. Death is a part of life.  some of these friends walking through a new grief experience are walking through it for the first time and have asked me many questions on it.
 I am no expert in this category. I can only say I"ve walked the path of it myself and have a better understanding of it than I ever used to.  So what do I say when they ask me? Well, grief is different for each person, so there is no magic formula. However, I think there are many blanket type things that work. Because I've been asked about this so often lately and because it's on my mind, I decided to put it down here.  Here's what I've shared.
  -Just sit quietly with the ones grieving the most. The wife/mother/son/husband of the one who just died. There are no words you can say to make it better. Quoting scripture isn't a fix all. There are moments when that helps and is appropriate , but often times just sitting next to the person helps,
 -Pray for them. We often say "all I can do is pray. " well, I will tell you firsthand, prayer makes a WORLD of difference. It's the best thing someone can do.
 -Write a note. Just let them know you are thinking of them. Find a card that fits the person- it may be cutsie, may be funny, or may be quite sentimental. I personally always enjoy the sentimental ones.
 -I've been asked what means something to receive when your loved one dies? Well, flowers were nice, of course. But the best gift I received was a blanket, in memory of mom. something I have every day in my living room to remember her, and it has a beautiful poem on it to remind me of God's love and all He's brought me through. Picture frames, albums, journals,a charm and even books are all good things, too. (Keep in mind the person grieving. For me, those were the most meaningful items. for dad, there were financial gifts given in memory of mom-such as her scholarship, and those were meaningful.)
  -Don't tell the person "it'll be okay..." " you just need time." "Life goes on..." Those are all statements that a grieving person knows. Until they are ready to embrace it, saying it is not the best avenue.
  JUST BE THERE. the more available you let them know you are, the more likely they will be to turn to you when they need someone. Sometimes a grieving person just needs space. It's a confusing time.
 As I watch friends walk through grief, it hurts. I miss mom. I hurt for them because I know how it feels. But I am now also on the other side of it and can claim victory over it! And will pray for them to do so as well.
 when cleaning out an old box the other day, I found this poem I'd written for my mom a while ago. It was actually the may   she was going through radiation the first time. Please keep in mind, I am no poet:)  But I decided I wanted to share it here.
    Happy Mothers Day, 2007
 There are no words adequate enough to say, What I want to give/express to you this year on Mother's Day. Mom, your life is such an example to me. You live, you love, you give so faithfully. Never have I seen you put yourself above others, you are to me the greatest example of a mother. An not just any mother-my mom, my friend. I k now I can count on you 'til the end. You are there for me in every way, Though we're miles apart, I know I count on you each day. Whether through your prayers or just a phone call, You are there to pick me up when I fall. Your faith in God encourages and inspires me; In you, it's Christ I see. You never fail to look at Him. I hope I am such an example to my kids. Through all of your good times and even the bad, God is where you always turn/ I know you make Him glad. I'm 24 now, and I have failed you many times. But you've always loved me, even if you have cried. Mom, you mean more to me than words can ever express. Sometimes I wish we could go back, I confess. I wish in high school, I'd opened up to you more. I wish I'd appreciated you for the wonderful mom you were. I wish I could take back hurtful actions and words. I wish I'd have lived my life better for the Lord. But those times are past, and now I look ahead.I hope to recall all you've lived and said. I hope to love you better and grow stronger as friends, Because , mom, you mean to world to me, and will 'til the end. I hope to teach my kids all you have taught me, I hope to live what you live for me, a legacy. A legacy of faith and love;A legacy of always looking above. And so , inadequately,I try to capture with words how I feel. Thank you for your love, your faith, your caring, and your zeal. Mom, what I want so much to say: I love you, and I look up to you. Happy Mother's  Day "

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Becoming Grateful, #4

It is the simple pleasures sometimes that bring the biggest smiles. Sometimes it's a simple "hello". Or someone noticing I'm down and asking. Or sometimes it's a hug. Sometimes it's just a brief text. But yesterday, I found a few different things for which I smiled and was grateful.

  1. A pedicure. This is not a luxury in which I indulge very often. And yesterday it was a gift given to me. But it feels nice to have a short massage on my feet, when I am on them all day every day and they are tired. Getting my nails painted, though not many see them, is a simple little beauty thing that is a pampering for me. It is 20 minutes of relaxation in the chaos of life.
 2. My grandmother (in-law). She will be 90 in October. She is my husband's grandmother, but my grandparents have all passed away long ago, and I enjoy the time with her. His other grandmother is also still living, and I am blessed to have 2 of the "older" generation still alive and in my family's life. so much can be learned from them at times. It just takes listening.
 3. Rain. I did not hear the rain or see it, but when I stepped out the door, I could smell it. We are in need of it. But that need aside, I love the smell that comes with rain. And the fact that it is a reminder that sun does not come without rain....growth does not come without rain. Just as growth in my life does not come without pain.  I loved the freshness it brought to the day. And the perspective it gives me, too.
 4. Rest. Sitting still is not easy for me. But I am trying to teach myself to do it a little more. And the more I sit still, the more I come to enjoy it. The more I "hear" God in those moments. The more my body can recoup. The more I can reflect. The more I can enjoy my family. It has been a restful weekend, and I am grateful for that.

 One day at a  time, I am learning to embrace the little things. It is not always easy, because the big issues of life don't rest in the midst of that. But the more time I take to be grateful, the more those big things take a different seat in life in some ways.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Becoming Grateful, Week 3

I realize I didn't post a grateful post last week. It's so easy for life to slip by, and things like that go unnoticed. It's so easy to live life and not see the things for which I am grateful. Today I'll share just a brief 3 and try to do one more later this week to make up for last week's miss.
  1. My health. As cliche as that sounds, today I am grateful for my health. So many around me have issues-be it migraines, or cancer or minor stomach irritations. I praise God for my health. I have nothing to complain about.
 2. Books. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting back to reading again. It's a love of mine, and as the last (2) years were so chaotic and way too full of things for me, I have begun taking time once again for this small luxury.
 3. My brother. It's good to have him living in this area again for so many reasons. We are sometimes very different, but I am so thankful for him.

And now it's time for me to be off for a speed workout today. I really dread this one, as I am very sleepy this morning. However, I always feel better afterwards, so  here I go. Another new day. Thank you, Lord, for new mercies each day and every new day unfolding.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Marathon experience

Writing about my marathon experience is long overdue. It has been almost 2 months since finishing that race, so I should have written about this so long ago. But the memories of the event are still fresh, so I will put it down here to share with you all what that experience was for me.
  First of all, I didn't use my friend's name on purpose the entire training process because for her, it was a more personal event-not outright public, like mine. But now that we have finished, I am going to include her in this blog. My friend, Mindy, ran the race with me. We have been friends since the 4th grade. Life has taken us both on some incredibly painful journeys, as well as some good paths, too. Mindy and I reconnected again about a year ago when she moved back here, and we have been extremely close since then. I asked her in November if she would consider running  a full marathon with me, and she agreed. So we set out on our training.  We trained separately during the week and together on Saturdays.
 We shared a lot of laughter and ridiculous, runner-only, type experiences through our training runs. We had a lot of serious talks through the process as well. We held each other accountable and shared pretty much everything. Mindy was working through a divorce and I was still working deeply through my grief. It was quite a journey to run this event together. It was about conquering life, feeling confident, rediscovering a best friendship, attempting to lose weight, and completing an event together. The marathon journey held a lot of meaning for us both. Fast forward to race day.
 I slept so well the night before. I never have had that problem the night before a race usually. The week leading up to the race had been an emotional one for many reasons,so I had been exhausted. So I slept hard and was excited that the full marathon race day had finally arrived. We woke up at 3:30 am and had our coffee and pre race breakfast. It was almost unreal. My pre race rituals took place as usual, and I was ready by 4:30. The race didn't start until 6, but one needs time to wake up fully and be ready to go. It was a bit unreal that I (we) was about to endeavor into 26.2 miles. Was I ready? Ready or not...Here I went !
  We arrived and the reality became stronger. I have done several races....Mindy had not. So the whole experience was pretty new for her. But this race had a lot of different meaning for me, so we both were just sort of quiet . Taking in the scenes, the music, the journey of it all. The race was set to start at 6. The gun went off, and the kick off song was "Firework" by Katy Perry. We both drew in on the excitement and really just sang along to the song and laughed. Because we knew what our pace was going to be, we were in our pace group, which was towards the back of the group, so we did not cross the start line until almost 30 minutes after start time. That's ok....our timing chip didn't start until then either.
 We found our pace early in the first quarter mile and it felt good. We had a plan to take a brief walk break every so many miles and we were going to stick to it. It was hot, and we knew the temperatures were only going to climb. We hydrated at each station. At the mile 5 station, they had run out of cups, so we had to take the water in our hands. That was annoying and a bit disconcerting, if that was the outlook of the rest of the race. Luckily, it seemed to be just that water station where that happened. We never ran into that problem again. We both had our iPods, but didn't really want to listen to them until we reached a need for a little push with it. It was interesting-we'd spent our entire training runs talking and sharing and pushing each other, but on race day, it was different. We were both quiet. Maybe it was focus at times; but I really think it was more of an emotional response: we were taking in what was not only happening in the moment, but also what we had learned about life and about ourselves over the past 3 1/2 months of training leading up to this day.
 Sure, I've run many races. Each one is different. But this one was my longest distance ever. My marriae had been through some really really hard times through the process. My grief had been a roller coaster ride. I'd learned a lot about myself, and even more about God. Over the months of training, I'd learned about His desires for me, His grace, His love, His truth, how amazing He is! I'd begun to see my family in new ways, and as I came out my grief fog, my priorities came to change. It was a lot of what I'd learned through running.
 At mile 10 (or thereabouts) the half and the full marathon split and crowd thinned. Whether we liked it or not, we were not turning back. We had 16.2 miles to go! I felt really good at mile 13. But then again-that has been my typical distance. At hat point, we were still running long our normal time frame. We kept hydrating all throughout. At mile 17, we both began to hit a wall, so we popped in our headphones. That mile marker was just boring paved highway. There was no crowd and there were a few mini hills and we could see the sun reflecting heat off the pavement. Around mile 18.5 we came back into some city area and a screen read 85 degrees. The body tends to be about 20 degrees higher (give or take a little) when running, so we were pretty warm. It was the warmest we'd run in. Granted, we'd both been in warmer runs, but not for that long of a distance. It was wearing us out. We kept going, but by mile 20, it became even more about finishing and caring less about what our time was. She would say-"Have you ever run 6 miles? " " yes, " I'd answer. " Ok. so that's all we have to go.
We've done it before. We can do it again." And we'd go on. We had to begin taking a bit more walking breaks, but even though the crowd was thinner, those who were out , were extremely encouraging. "you're doing great! Keep going ! You've got this!" It was neat and here and there the push we needed.
 At mile 25 we kicked it back up a little. When we turned the corner and could actually see the finish line, tears came. A few feet further, was my friend Kristen, who'd waited the entire race for us (with her husband , Doug). When I saw her along the gate, cheering us on like crazy, I really started to cry. Not only could I see the finish line, but I had some really close friends there. I was almost finished.
 The emotions of the previous 4 months began to overtake me. I'd talked with my mom before she died about my doing a full marathon. "Mom-can you see me? I'm doing it!!!"  My family sacrificed a lot of time for my long runs. (michael was scheduled to work, so he wasn't there.) "Honey-Thank you for all you sacrificed in this process."  and to God-"I only did this with your strength. As you said in Isaaih 40:31-"You give strength to the weary, I will rise up on wings like eagle. I will run and not grow faint...." It held a lot of meaning. Mile 26 marker...there was Doug, screaming his encouragement at us. But my eyes weren't on Doug. I began literally sobbing as I found my husband at the 26.1 marker. He wasn't supposed to be there. And after all that the week had been, all that the race had taken out of me....there he was to cheer me on. I wasn't expecting him, and I cried for so many reasons when I saw him. He jumped out, kissed me,and I pulled him along...I had to finish and my muscles were telling me not to stop yet anyway. He followed me across the finish, embraced me, sweat and tears and all. we had finished!!!!!!
 26.2 done. This year she and I both turn 30, and I said we should do this every decade to celebrate. It was an incredible experience. Mindy also had her own cheering section there , who she went and met, while MIchael and I embraced and cried and I stretched and cooled down. Here are a few pictures.
Top: 4 am. Ready to go.

Below:  Here we are modeling off a map of the course the day before
 Below: Me finishing the last .1, dragging Michael with me.