Monday, August 31, 2015

What I Learned in August

Time is flying by! August wraps up and September is breezing in quickly.
 The kids went back to school and life is in full swing (but seriously, when is it not in full swing??) .I think I end each month by saying it was a particularly big learning month for me, so I  better find better phrasing. But isn't life all about growth?? Sometimes, growth is exciting. Other times, growth is exhausting.  But all the time, God is good.

  So, here are some silly and serious moments that August brought my way....

1. I rode a bull....
   A mechanical bull, of course.  I guess you could say that I always have wanted to do that, but of course riding a real bull is quite out of the question. So, at the county fair, when the opportunity was there, of course I said yes when asked if I wanted to try it out. I think the lady who was controlling it was kind in how she maneuvered the bull, but I lasted 47 seconds. And dismounted somewhat gracefully. (Somewhat.) It was pure FUN.

2. I LOVE to bake!
   I have gone a little crazy baking lately. This is either to the enjoyment or annoyance of my coworkers, since they are the ones subjected to my treats most often. I love to bake, but I don't want it sitting around my house. I didn't realize how much I enjoyed it until this month. And in thinking on it, I have realized a few reasons behind this pure enjoyment for me...
   a. Baking is a stress reliever for me. When I am stressed, it feels good to break out ingredients and put something together from scratch, savor the taste and see a result of a product made by my hands. Creativity at its best.
   b. It makes me happy to see others happy. And when people take bites of the treats and I can truly see the smile on their faces, the flour, the messy kitchen and the stress of momentary bad things melts away. I love seeing people happy. I love to bake and just give it away. I love to hear that it made their day.
   c. I think baking reminds me of my mom. Mom baked all the time. Something about baking makes me feel her with me. Some may find that weird, but for me, it works. I feel like I'm carrying a piece of her legacy. And when I bake, I remember her vividly.
Zucchini Bread
  Peanut Butter "Lasagna"

                                      What my kitchen looks like in the process of baking
Buckeye Cupcakes

3. I no longer have elementary kids in the house. Enter a whole new phase of parenting. It's weird, challenging, scary, and exciting all at once. Did I say challenging?? Because it is most definitely that. But challenges present growth. And good memories.

4. Quote of the month... "Seldom does God use greatly a person who hasn't been hurt greatly."  by ?? I heard it in a message and didn't catch the author of the quote.
   So much beauty and truth is found in that statement. Hurts of the heart are never wasted by God. He will use them. Sometimes in life we need reminded of that.

5. I have picked my saxophone up again and started playing more. I forgot how much I loved to play! It soothes my soul.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I write....

Writing is an extension of me.
  Sometimes people ask me after reading one of my blogs if I'm ok. My answer is always "yes, but I write for real stuff."
  My "for real" words sometimes are sad; other times they are thoughts strung together over the course of time, that hold meaning only for me. My writings are rarely funny, because let's face it, I just am not a funny person, even if I try. But many times, the words I sketch down here are from the many life lessons I am learning. My words are a  window into my soul.
  As I crack open that window, it's frightening at times who could be looking inside. But, I write to understand and process my thoughts as much as I do for others to sit and read what I have to say.
 To be honest, I don't really know how many people still stick with me through my blogs. To be honest, I often times consider quitting it altogether. I can write on my own, after all. I don't have to share my thoughts for anyone or everyone (or no one??) to read. But somehow, I find putting them here therapeutic.
  I love writing as much as I love running . Many times during my runs I think of my best writings. It's a part of me. They go together as much as my heartbeat goes with my blood flow. It all courses through my veins.
  My words may have an impact on someone, or perhaps no one. It really doesn't matter. Because it's for me. I want my words to have a lasting impact somehow, but if they shape me into a better woman, then they count for something.
  I mentioned last week that I had found some of my mom's old writings. Those penned words on paper were a beautiful gift to unwrap. Reading these long-ago written words have been like hearing my mom's encouraging voice over a cup of coffee all over again. I have found wisdom in her silly poems. That was my mom: silly, but full of wisdom. Always laughing. Forever encouraging. And these last few weeks, when I most feel like I could use a giant hug from my mom, her words have wrapped themselves around me like a comfortable "keep going" conversation she was known to have with me so often.
  Here is a poem I found that mom wrote when she was in the 8th grade. (Oddly enough, the age my daughter now is.) It's simple... but for me, profound.  And it's all about why authors matter.
 Please note, I do not share her words or even my "for real" words so anyone will tell me to keep going or to keep writing or anything along those lines. I just share because , well, quite honestly, that's just what I do. So... here is what my mom had to say , and quite honestly, what I could hear her telling me today if I were to be sharing about my writings with her.....

  Authors, by Linda (Nelson) Ferguson

There are many authors all over the world,
One for every flag unfurled.
Books to read, and poems to recite,
Are some of the things that authors write.
Some authors while living earned lots of fame,
While other great authors, just the same,
Had to wait until they were dead
before any of their books were even read.
Any author, no matter how wise,
no matter how famous or to what height they rise,
Are great, for they've given all of their might
To their greatest gift, of being able to write.
All of their books that you've ever read
Would have taken much longer if they had to be said.
I think that each author, no matter how small
Should be greatly appreciated by one and by all.

Little did my mom know all those years ago, how much I would appreciate those words today. Little did my mom know that she would one day, in her own way, become that author whose words would be read and held onto with heartfelt depth after she was gone.  
   And so I continue to write... 
 When I am sad
 When I am frustrated
    When I have a victory
      When I learn through defeat. 
  About the little moments in life that bring laughter
    About the ridiculous runs I have, or lack thereof. 
  I write for me. Because it's part of me.  And that's the only reason I really need. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Tortoise and the Hare

Everyone knows the story of the tortoise and the hare, right?
 The hare is confident of winning the race, so he stops and rests, and does silly things along the way, while the tortoise is slow and steady. The hare obviously loses focus, and lets his overconfident self get in the way, and in the end, the tortoise wins! Slow and steady wins the race, as some will say.

 Saturday was my real- live version of the tortoise and the hare.

 I invited about 6 women to join me in the morning run. No one showed up. But honestly, that's ok.  I had an awesome run. My playlist pushed me in great ways, my thoughts flowed freely while I ran, and my pace was one with which I ended in a very happy state.
  Many people were on the path. I rather enjoyed watching the different ages, running styles, groups, etc. Running has no age or weight restrictions. No disability limits, either, as I watched the man in the push rim wheelchair sail past me.  I love that about running.
 But as I was running alone, a bunny was on the side of the path. He saw me,  I saw him. Usually bunnies hop away when we get near them.  This particular bunny seemed a bit confused, though . Or maybe determined to get ahead of me (as if that would have been a hard task!).   And so for a little bit, it was like we were racing. Then all of a sudden the bunny disappeared. But it reminded me of the tortoise and the hare.
 The tortoise had a destination and a goal in mind. He knew he was slow, but he didn't let that stop him. He accepted the challenge to the race. The hare sort of had a goal in mind, but no plan to go with it. He was easily distracted and far over-confident, and in the end, that cost him a win.
  I truly am the tortoise in this story. (And not just my pace, mind you!) Many "hares" exist all around me. Those I feel I may be racing against, even if the competition is more self-induced than verbally spoken. But those "hares" in my life are just like the one in the story; they have arrogance and take off with a sense of "I'm better than you, I'm going to win", but they don't have a plan or a thought process behind what they are doing. Me? I can get distracted by their ability to seemingly be ahead of me, or I can go at the pace which I am intended, the path which God has laid out for me, and keep my eye on the right prize and just keep pressing forward, one step at a time. Other "hares" exist... thoughts of negativity that want to pull me down and tell me to quit. But those hares can be drowned out with every step I push forward, knowing that with each step, I am beating that thought out of my brain. The list goes on.. But I think you might get the point.
 The point is... don't let the hares in life stop you from your race destination, whatever that might be. Because, as I have well learned over the years, slow and steady does win the race. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Verbalize it however you wish. But don't let the hares ruin your race. They are everywhere you look in life, but if you keep your eyes and mind on the goal ahead, you will be the winner in the end, just like the tortoise.
  As I ran on Saturday, and was reminded of that story, I chose a race goal for the fall. I hadn't really planned on setting one, to be honest. Even though I am a goal setter, I was more just looking forward to running a fall race. However, I couldn't escape this one that kept coming back to me. I haven't shared it with anyone, not my family or my best friend or my boss or coworkers. And for the first time ever, I may hold this one closely to my heart until post-race to share with you. Because this leg of the journey in the training feels like a particularly inner journey, different from past ones, but I suppose with some similar lines of learning, and I think this time my goal is reserved for me alone... but don't worry, post race I will be inclined to tell you all about it.
 In the mean time, keep pushing forward, one step, one day at a time. And don't let those "hares" distract you. Not in your training or in your running or in the race of every day life. Slow and steady wins the race. Keep moving forward.  Standing still is the worst thing you can do.
 Oh, and by the way, that bunny that ran along side me for a bit, racing against me ... it disappeared, typical of the hare, and so I declared myself the winner by default ;)

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Little Moments

It's the little things that bring the smiles through the week...

1. Falling asleep in the hammock
 2. Soaking in the sun at the lunch hour.
  3. A great morning run.
   4. Fog rising off the pond in the early morning
5. Finding mom's written words, like having a new conversation with her.
 6. Laughing with the "band of brothers"
   7. Finishing a project
    8. Finding classic old books with my great grandmother's handwriting inside it
      9. Starting a new project (I guess I should just admit I am a project kind of person)
10. Saying no and watching someone fall over at the verbalized word. (you really had to be there, but saying no is a new practice for me, and while it was over something completely silly, and almost a joke, it brought a good laugh, a good practice for me)
   11. Steam rising off my cup of coffee
12. Adult like conversations with my kids
  13. Entering a new phase of parenthood, a whole new challenge, but a lot of new experiences
     14. Sharing laughs with my dad and brother

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A smile goes a long way

"Be the reason someone smiles today."

 I love that quote. We all have a million reasons we could smile every day. Did you know it takes more muscles to frown than to smile? Yet somehow (myself included at times) smiling doesn't come as easily as it should, because we are caught up in the worries of life.

 I have found that I often times have very little advice to offer to my friends in difficult times, but I can offer a smile, and a smile goes further than words most times. A smile offers a safe place for people to know "it's all good" . A smile is contagious. A smile speaks volumes of a person's heart and a persons thoughts.
 I don't have strong area of expertise that can solve or fix work issues, but I can offer smiles.

 My mom's legacy is always in the back of my mind, but this week, as I cleaned out some of her old papers in a dresser that was falling apart, I found new pieces of her legacy. I found mom's written words, words I had never read. I remembered my mom's smile through the words.  I believe that sometimes God orchestrates when we find things, because we need little reminders at times. The words my mom penned years ago that I found this week were special.  I miss conversations with my mom, and as I sat and read her writings, it was like she was sitting across from me and I could hear her voice again.  So, I close with these words:
   1. Be the reason someone smiles today. Trust me, it will make a lasting impact. and
 2. I want to share a poem I found written by my mom many years ago; one I had never read, but one that rings true of how my mom lived her life, and rings true of how we can live ours, too.

 A Smile, By Linda Ferguson

It's a language all of its own,
Not a word has to be said.
It's as if the sun has always shone,
and never gone to bed.
It should be a part of every land,
eery woman, child or man.
It can make a friend of an enemy,
It should be present for all to see.
It can change unhappiness into joy, 
It always gladdens, never annoys.
It'll stretch your blessings out a mile,
So start your day with a smile!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Back In Training

Feet Pounding.
  Mind Racing.
    Sweat Trickling.
        Heart Thumping.
Anxieties Dissipating.
  Confidence Growing.
    Thoughts Flowing.
        Distance Increasing.

 Being "back in training" again is challenging. I will share about it here, but unless asked, it won't be a frequent topic of discussion with others because I am far from being an expert or an amazing runner. After a few months of just running when it felt good, not caring about my pace or distance, and "sleeping in" (if 5:30 am counts as that),  the summer months away from a race goal were enjoyable.
 But as fall quickly approaches, I have picked new race goals for myself. Some say that I can never just rest. They might be right, but having goals helps me to push towards being better. Having goals is not a frustrating experience for me, it's liberating. The training, for me, I have learned, is not about the end result, even if I am pushing towards one whole-heartedly. The training is about what I learn on the journey.  And this journey is no different, even if it's in its beginning stages.

 This time around in my training, I am dedicating one day to the dreaded hill runs.
  This time around I am going to eat cleaner.
This time around, I am not exactly certain as of yet what the end goal is, except that it's to come out a finisher, a better runner, but even more so, a better me.

 I am not an Olympian.
   I am not a world-record runner.
 I am not one who may even ever win an age category.

 But I will come out better.

 Yesterday, my feet pounded loudly. My mind's thoughts were racing. The sweat trickled slowly down my back, and my heart beat pretty quickly, letting me know I was likely pushing myself a bit too hard.
 But even so, as I did that, I felt my anxieties disappear, even if just for a brief few moments. I felt my confidence build as I pushed through those moments of wanting to walk, so quickly into the run. I let my thoughts flow freely, falling into a such a rhythm they really became louder than the music in my headphones. And little by little, my distance is increasing once again.

 I have to fight off the negative thoughts like many do, but as I run, those thoughts are drowned out by the confidence that builds within my spirit. As I run, I know that in reality, I am my worst enemy, and if I fight back with God as my companion, I can overcome those weaknesses. As I run, the struggle of getting up at 4 am again becomes completely worth it. As I run, the negative juices exit and the positive me is rediscovered,  ready to begin my day.

 Anything worth fighting for (that's a bold statement, so perhaps I should word it that most things worth fighting for...) take a lot of work, determination, prayer, and dedication.
  And I know that I am worth fighting for to become a better me. Every. Single. Day. One. Step. At. A. Time.
 Long ago, I found this particular saying on Pinterest about defeating "her", only to end by saying that "her" is me.... I keep it posted at my desk,  because I find much validity in the statement, be it in the running world, the corporate world, the woman's world, or the every day competitive environment inside my own head.  The Old Me... I've lost to her before, but I will beat her this time around.
 So, I am back in training. To run harder. To grow deeper. To be a better me.
  One day at a time.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Just a bunch of random thoughts

Today is a new day. 
 I love fresh starts.
 Blank pages to begin a new page of the story of life. 

 Fresh cup of coffee in hand, fresh perspective for a new day. 

 Summer, sadly enough, is coming to a close. I have taken this summer to work on priorities a little, and have sat the writing on the back shelf. It wasn't until yesterday, in the craziest conversation, that I realized how much I have missed it. My writing is not like a famous author's words penned on a page. They may never make it into the books. My words may not stick in anyone's head during the day. I don't have a fancy web page for my blog. I just write. But my writing is an extension of me. And while it's been good to put it on hold for priority's sake, I am ready to gradually return to it. And while I attempted in the beginning of this year to have regular writing days, maybe that's not my style. I write to process life, and hopefully make a difference somewhere a long the way, and so I will return to my somewhat random topics. Generally related to running, life lessons and family.... as I thought about it, the writing boils down a bit to: Faith, Fitness, Friendships, and Family.  

 As summer winds down,  fall season is  roaring in. I'd like to say there is a "slow" season of life. But quite honestly, there isn't. And the older the kids are getting, the busier it gets. I find some moments, I long for their toddler days, when life was a bit more carefree. For me, as a mom, those days were much more simple than these days of the "taxi" driving and the dramatic teenage moments. But each season is one to embrace, nonetheless.
 My job is at the height of its busy season. I do love it, and it's full of lessons to teach me every day, both in a personal sense and in the career sense of the word. The kids swing back to school in 2 weeks, although my daughter is on leadership team at school this year, so she actually goes back next week. BOTH of them in Junior High this year!! Where has the time gone?!?  
  I am back in training, after taking it easier for a few months with my runs, so 4 am comes quite quickly every morning. It's a love hate relationship, but being the goal setter I am, it's good to have a race/goal to be pushing towards again. I get kind of lost when I don't have a goal in front of me. It's part of who I am.  Both in my running and in my goal setting. 
  Through this summer, I have been learning much about priorities. I think we, as a culture, struggle with priorities. Everything seems to demand our attention.  Family (which is not limited to spouses and children.... parents and siblings fall here, too), friends,  work, church, neighbors... the list goes on. For me, saying "no", or even saying the right "yes", has always been a struggle. I have focused on that many times throughout the last couple of months. Who knew that could be such a challenge? For many, it's simple. For this people pleaser,  I have to work at it. I have to find courage to muster up a no, and pray over the right yes, and it becomes quite the act of self control for me, which is an area where I struggle. Who knew something so simple could be so challenging? But, as with anything in life. the more it is practiced, the more I learn, and the better I become with it. 

 On my birthday, I decided I would take a year to read through the Bible again. I have done that once, but I did it more because it was what I had to do rather than because I wanted to. It's challenging some mornings to carve out that time, but I am loving how God is speaking to me already, with the words He had written for us many years ago, jumping out at me in fresh ways.

  You'd think by all of these things that it would seem I have taken this summer to "have it all together. " But you know what? I don't think we ever will have it all together until we reach Heaven. I battle anxiety just as bad as I used to. And some days I hate that battle, and that battle makes me not like me. I wish I could just pick anxiety up, like a piece of paper, and throw it away.  But,  it remains to be my "thorn" (as Paul stated in Corinthians). It is my weakness. And those times where it flares up worse than other times, I am reminded that I am weak, and it is only through His strength that I can keep fighting and pressing on and growing into who I am more and more every day. A painful reminder, mind you, but one that is necessary to keep pressing on. Nothing can be done through my own strength, but when relying on Him, anything is possible. 

 Lastly, I close with this.  It's funny how analogies cross our paths at times. I have always loved trees. That's going to sound a bit strange, but bear with me. Palm trees are my absolute favorite. But I love the variety of tress you can find here in Ohio. And I love that in different seasons, trees experience changes which parallel life a little with how the leaves fall, bloom, etc. So, it is with this idea that it was no coincidence when my friend used a tree as an analogy to my own life to "Be the Tree".  Tree's roots go deep and latch onto things in the ground to be planted strong and grow. They drink up water to hydrate and grow. And as they grow branches, those branches stay on the tree (until pruning might be necessary). I am a tree. There's not another tree like me. My roots are planted where I choose to latch on- some choose people, some choose money, some choose work or even themselves. I am choosing to latch onto Jesus, and my faith. And drink in His words to help me grow. And as my branches extend and leaves grow, they are part of me, part of my story, part of what makes me up of me.  Just like no 2 trees are alike, no 2 people are. That's what makes the world crazy, tough, beautiful and unique all at one time. Be the tree. Be me. It's good and beautiful.  That was the analogy that crossed my path this week. And a good one at that. 

  That's a lot of random thoughts pushed into one blog. I am not sure with life's schedule how often my fingers will be able to grace the keys of the blogging world, but it's my intention to return to it a little more often. It's one of my "branches" after all, of my tree.