Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cross Stitching

I decided I would do something crafty tonight with the hopes of getting myself out of this dumb funk I've been in. 

I thought I'd give cross stitching a try so I broke out a little cross stitch kit I had.

Here's what the outside of the package looked like:
Notice the inspirational quote. I just knew my stitching this mantra -- combined with the the sound of a Full House episode I'm sure we've watched no less that 9,721 times playing in the background -- would be the equivalent of antivenom for "the funk".

I opened the package and started reading the directions, half of which were in a different language and the other half I couldn't comprehend. 
So I thought... "No biggie, I'll just follow the picture."

Until I studied the picture... 
...And made a conscious decision not to cry. 

There were so. many. symbols. And different kinds of lines... And symbols made out of these lines... All of which required me to refer to the directions. The directions I couldn't understand.

I would not be defeated, though. No siree, not today! I was going to do this craft come hell or high water.

So I took a deep breath and went to work.
Nailed it.

I'm not sure if I grew wings on the way down tonight, but I have definitely been reminded that sometimes it's okay to just toss out the directions and go our own way.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Granny Gear (thank you, Jesus)

So on Friday I had surgery to remove a bit of cancer from one of my tatas. I'm told it appears to be noninvasive and early stage (thank you, Jesus), so once my incision heals I will undergo daily radiation for 4-6 weeks and then I'll be in the free and clear. So, yeah... How's that for an opening paragraph to a blog post?*

I found out about this diagnosis on the day I was leaving to go to the Bike MS event, where I spent a weekend discovering strength I didn't even know I had with some of my closest girlfriends, including Tina, a breast cancer survivor and wise counsel to boot. We laughed until we cried that weekend and I can't imagine the timing being any better (thank you, Jesus).

Here's a confession, though. Sometimes I feel like a fraud when people tell me how strong they think I am and today has been one of those days. Today I've felt like I'm staring up a hill that I just don't have the energy -- or maybe even the desire -- to climb. Today I'm over it. Today I don't want to be the person whose strength others admire. Today I want to hitch a ride.

...But I've seen this hill before.

I know the descent after this climb will be so much fun. I know I'll look back at this and say "that wasn't so bad". I know I need this hill to reach my destination. 

But most of all I know someday this hill will just be a memory so until then I'll just leave the bike in granny gear and keep on pedaling. 

And pedaling. 

And pedaling some more... 

All the while thankful I'm not on this hill alone (thank you, Jesus).

Tina and me at the Bike MS event. We had just finished climbing one of the day's big hills... And then we ate some cookies.

*Please know I am fine, well taken care of and in great hands both medically and here at home. Mike even did ALL of the laundry this weekend... Every. Single. Bit. This in and of itself almost makes the whole ordeal worth it. 


Friday, October 3, 2014

Sharing My Bandwagon

Writing is therapy for me and sometimes when I share very personal aspects of my life I do so because I feel others could benefit as a result. This is one of those situations.

I know this month is all about "the pink" and while I whole-heartedly support breast cancer advocacy, support and awareness (make sure you get those mammograms, ladies!), I'll admit that I'm still on a "post- Bike MS high", a cause that will always be so very near-and-dear to me. 

I just watched this video in its entirety and can't keep it to myself

It is kind of long but it is very interesting and I can totally identify with all three of the people who have shared their stories about the emotional and cognitive challenges they face while living with MS. It's almost eerie, actually. Here are three different people with three different stories but as I was watching it, I just kept thinking... "Me too!". If you are close to someone who is battling MS and are at all interested in what they may be experiencing "behind the scenes", I encourage you to watch it, as well.

The perception of MS is that it is a physically-debilitating disease — and it certainly can be — but the reality is that the hardest part about having MS (for me, anyway) is dealing with the things most people probably don't even realize is happening... The cognitive and emotional difficulties this disease can cause are so very real but can be equally as invisible and difficult to articulate. 

The subjects in this video are able to describe these struggles as best (and comprehensively) as I've ever seen, and, although I don't know them, felt connected with them nonetheless.

It's good to know I'm not alone and that what I experience and feel isn't just "in my head".

It's really hard when you're struggling with something others can't see or understand, and while I don't do well to wallow in self-pity, I would be lying if I said I'm "all good" all the time... I'll leave that to Joel Osteen and his super white teeth. Apparently he's God's favorite child because nothing seems to go wrong for this dude. Except for that tie, maybe. 

The truth is that no matter how I (as well as many others battling this dumb disease) might appear on the outside, there's a deep struggle going on below the surface. For example: I rode 130 miles on my bike two weekends ago but had major difficulties with simple math (not related to Common Core, btw!) and information processing today... It actually left me feeling deflated and even a but "dumb". I definitely had an "off" day today. The unpredictability of MS is so perplexing to me.

I'm so glad the National Multiple Sclerosis Society produced this video. I hope it helps to bring some clarity to people who might not "get it" and perhaps some comfort to those of us who do. I especially love how it provides suggestions for ways to cope with these challenges. I'm really glad I stumbled upon it and if you are close to somebody with MS I especially hope you'll consider watching and even sharing it with them, as well.

Me and my #BikeMS team/besties who, at the time of this post, have raised over $5,000 for MS research, education and advocacy. Boom!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Just Do It

If you're friends with me on Facebook, you might have noticed that I've posted about working with a Life Coach through a series of weekly group coaching sessions.  While I won't go into the non-coincidental series of events that lead to me being coached, I will confidently tell you that God had this planned since I was sneaking out of cabins at Christ Our Shepherd Lutheran Church Jr. High youth retreats.

The coaching series was entitled "Creating More Me Time" and each week 2-3 of us would gather, from the comfort of our own homes, to hear Jen (she's the Coach) present a theme for our discussion that night.  We would then receive the benefit of having Jen work with us, on an individual level, to identify and address areas in our life that were keeping us from living our best life (physical, spiritual, emotional, etc.).  

During one of our very first calls, we were challenged to identify the "non-negotiables" in our life - the fulfilling activities/hobbies/rituals, whatever - that we consistently make time for and fiercely protect when it comes to our schedules.

I couldn't think of a single one.  Other than my morning coffee, I guess.

Basically, I haven't been doing diddly-squat for myself - other than my morning coffee.

I know what it's like to have a non-negotiable, though.  It only took a little bit of prodding for "Coach Jen" to help me realize that exercise (specifically running) was, at one time, a non-negotiable for me.  Running made me happy.  It was my God time.  It was challenging and it filled me.  It made me healthy from the outside in as well as the inside out.  But...  running had become just something that I used to do*.

The non-negotiable on my plate had become a crumb on the floor of life.  (That. Was. DEEP.)

So...  I started running again.  Really, it's just that simple.  I didn't wait to get motivated to do so.  I'd still be waiting on the motivation if that had been my approach.  "Motivation is overrated", Jen said.  Jen is very wise.

I had to Just Do It.  (In my pink New Balance shoes.  Sorry, Nike.  Your shoes don't fit me well.)

I tell this story because I know I have friends who struggle with protecting (and maybe even identifying) the non-negotiables on their plate.  Maybe it's not running, but it could be taking time to read, pray, knit, cook, serve, go spelunking or square dancing.  Whatever it is, chances are you are struggling because you're taking care of everybody else in your life first. 

So... This is what I have to offer you:  taking care of ourselves first allow us to be better _____ (insert your role - wife, husband, mother, father, employee, whatever). Jen says it's like the oxygen mask on a plane - you gotta put yours on first before you can attempt to assist the passengers around you. 

Just. Do. It.

I'm so happy to be breathing (well... huffing and puffing) again.

Jen has another great coaching opportunity coming up.  I have pasted the information below. If weight is an issue you struggle with, I hope you will consider joining in on this group.  I honestly can't say enough about the difference working with Jen has made in my life!  Just. Do. It.

*Mike, Susan, and I can't get enough of this video!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Forts > Sharpies

This is the tale of two moms.

While at Target the other day, I happened upon two different sets of mothers, each accompanied by a child.  The first mother-child pair I observed was leisurely shopping around the hardware department and the second pair was on a not-so-leisurely mission in office supplies.  Both mothers were talking to their children, but each with a different purpose and in very different tones.  

I won’t say I was eavesdropping, but…

Who am I kidding? 

I was totally eavesdropping.  

Leisurely Mom was so engaged with everything her kid was saying.  He was telling her about the fort that he was going to build when they got home. Leisurely Mom asked Leisurely Kid lots of questions about said fort.  Questions like: “Where will you build the fort?” “Will your fort have windows?” “Can I come in your fort?” “Can your sister come, too?”  She not only listened intently, she completely hung on his every word and with each answer he gave her responses made it obvious that she was both listening and genuinely interested in what her kid had to say. It was a precious dialogue, really, and they both appeared to be enjoying themselves and each other's company.  At one point I even gave her the “I’m eavesdropping on your conversation and your kid is darling” wink and smile.  When I finally stopped following them around shopping near them, I left the hardware department and headed towards office supplies, all the while thinking about the sweet mother-child exchange I had just witnessed.

By the way...  Target's hardware "department" is more like an aisle-and-a-half instead of a whole department.  I don't even know why they bother with it.  Let's be honest... People don't go to Target for hardware and what Target lacks in their hardware selection is made up for in baby stuff. And candles. And housewares. And shoes. And feminine products.  If you're going to Target solely for hardware then I hope it's only because Home Depot is closed.  On the other side of that coin, I hope you don't go to Home Depot for feminine products 'cause I'm pretty sure you won't find them there.  That's what I've heard, anyway.  

This is going downhill fast.  Let's pick up where I left off.

...And then I ended up in the office supplies aisle where the warm-and-fuzzy buzz I got in hardware was officially killed.

It wasn’t the office supplies that killed my buzz; I love office supplies, especially binder clips.  It was the mother who was stressed out and snapping at her whining her child that brought me back to earth.  Not-so-Leisurely Mom was obviously in a hurry and the Sharpie selection was perplexing her.  Seriously, the Sharpies were getting the best of her.  There were either too many to choose from or too little, but she couldn't seem to find what she was looking for.  She ignored half of what her kid was saying (even when he wasn't whining anymore) and the other half was met with short, "I'm only pretending to listen to you" acknowledgements.  Not-so-Leisurely Kid wasn't moving fast enough for her, either, because when they left she took his hand and told him “WALK FASTER” (yes, she used her bold and all-caps voice).  I felt sorry for the Not-so-Leisurely Kid and when I stopped being judgmental, I felt sorry for Not-so-Leisurely Mom, too.      

Once again, I had witnessed a mother-child exchange that I couldn’t stop thinking about.

And it quickly dawned on me…  I’ve been there.  I’ve been both of those moms and Susan has been both of those kids.  And chances are I’m the Not-so-Leisurely Mom more often than I’d like to acknowledge or admit.

So I started wondering… When I’m the too-rushed-to-talk, Not-so-Leisurely mom, what is it that makes me that way?  

And I don’t really have a good answer for that, other than that I might have a skewed idea of what’s important sometimes. 

And I’m not trying to put pressure on myself or any other mother to be Leisurely Mom 100% of the time (because really, how do we deal with whining in a leisurely way?) but maybe when I take the pressure off of myself when it comes to "finding the perfect Sharpie" (or whatever it is that’s stressing me out), then the Leisurely Mom within me will naturally emerge. I think it's worth a try.

So yeah... Forts > Sharpies.

Speaking of Leisure…  My friend Melody introduced me to Prancercising today.  Not literally (although the thought makes me laugh), but through this gem of a video:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Eating Crow and Hometown Pride

Susan getting her awards next to
the most dapper kid at school today.
I don't know him but I sure love his style.
And his smile. Precious!
Today was Susan's 1st Grade Awards Program at school and I am still having a hard time believing that "School's Out for Summer". Actually, school's not officially out until Thursday but I can't wait until then to write this post and I don't want to write this post without mentioning that song.  Let's just not get too caught up in the details, OK?  

As many of you know, Susan started a new school this year.  It was new for her, anyway.  She was at a private school last year but we just never really felt like that was where we were supposed to be so after a lot of thought, prayer, and a great visit with Mrs. Laura Hartley - the Principal of her new school - we decided to make the move to Southview Primary School in the Opelika City Schools System.*  

For those of you who live in/around Auburn-Opelika, you've no doubt heard people say they choose to live in Auburn for the schools.  I get that.  Auburn City Schools (ACS) are among the best in the state of Alabama and I could never fault a parent for wanting the best for their child.  What I don't get, however, is the connotation that Opelika City Schools (as a whole) are sub-par. On paper do they we score as well as Auburn?  Maybe not.  I've never really studied the systems' documented performance and I'm not claiming that their stats/scores/whatever are equal.  I'm only suggesting that just because one school system is awesome doesn't mean that the neighboring system is not awesome.  Not in this case, anyway. Nope. Not for a second.  

For Opelika City Schools, I think it's kind of like being the middle child.

Well maybe it's not.  I don't really know what being the middle child is like but I've heard it can be rough and when I read about the phenomenon known as "Middle Child Syndrome" (MCS) I think the analogy is actually a fair one.  

Yeah, I know you didn't come here for a psychology lesson.  And I do realize I've only mentioned two school systems, which makes the "Middle Child" analogy seem somewhat obsolete.  And maybe it is.  But I'm in too deep to turn back now so you're just gonna have to humor me and pretend my lack of details isn't an issue here.  Again.

Moving on...

There was a time when Mike and I considered selling our house to move into the Auburn City Schools system and if it weren't for the economy and the fact that I'd have to keep my house clean in order to show it to potential buyers we probably would have**.  And I will admit here - publicly - that we chose to send Susan to a private school to avoid Opelika City Schools.  We were drinking the anti-OCS Kool-Aid.    

But boy oh boy...  We were wrong. So wrong.  

I cry when I think about how wrong we were. Really, I do. Just ask Mrs. Hartley or Dr. Brenda Rickett, one of OCS's Assistant Superintendents.  They've seen me do it ("it" as in cry).  

But today, I advocate.  I advocate for OCS and I'm proud to do so. I advocate because I believe in OCS and know, without a doubt, that my child is exactly where she needs to be.  As a mother, this is exactly what I hope and pray for when it comes to her education.

What a great year First Grade has been for Susan!  She has worked so hard and learned so much from her amazing teacher, Mrs. Huddleston (not to mention all of the other teachers and staff at her school!), made some sweet friends (and we've gained their fun parents as friends, too!) and we've all had a lot of fun in the process.  Every time I step foot into her school I feel at home, just like I did over a year ago when Mike and I showed up for our tour.

I could not be more thrilled with our experience with this great school system and I am so proud we are a part of this family.  

I wonder how many other blessings we're missing out on because of some false or unfair perceptions we may have? Mike would tell you sushi is one of those blessings.  He thought it was disgusting until he actually tried it and realized he loves it.

I just wanted to share something that's been on my heart for a while so thanks for letting me do that here. Not that you had a choice - this is my blog - but you read this far and definitely had a choice in that matter.

I'll leave you with a Tweet I posted last fall:
"I don't cheer for red and black Dawgs often, but when I do it's for the Opelika Bulldogs!"  

*If you follow the link to the OCS website, don't be surprised to see the current Miss America gracing the homepage.  She grew up in Opelika and we claim her even though she's "technically" Miss New York. Again - don't get too caught up in the details.  She's one of us.)

**We still wouldn't mind selling our house so if you know anybody who needs one, please send them my way.  Our house isn't actually for sale or anything; I still can't bear the thought of keeping it clean.  It's just that there's a beautiful house that's currently on the market and I would love to buy it.  It's also in the perfect location for us: Opelika.  

Mrs. Huddleston and "her babies"

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


You know how I said in my last post that I've written a bunch of blog posts in my head in the nearly two years since I last posted here?  Well this is one of them.

In one word (at a time), here are words I can use to describe myself:

not awesome

When I ponder the above adjectives/feelings, I just can't wrap my mind around the fact that at any given time I can exude all, some, or maybe even none of those descriptions.

At any given time I can also trick myself into believing that I AM one or more of these descriptions... Like my entire existence is so unvarying that only one word can describe it.

These thoughts can be dangerous and lead to self-criticism (or self-adoration) that serve no purpose other than to artificially deflate or inflate my own self-worth.

I doubt I'm alone in this, too, so if you're telling yourself today that "I AM so     " or "I AM such a     ", I've got news for you (and me)...  We're not. Not always. Maybe for this moment or this day or this season in our life, but we can't be defined by one single word*.  Let's try to let go of those words we use to define ourselves and JUST BE.

* Except for this word: LOVED.  And the same goes for you. YOU ARE LOVED.

Make sure you remember that the next time you tell yourself you are not awesome.