Monday, September 17, 2012

40 Things to be Happy About

I turned 40 over six months ago (!), which means I'm on the shy side of turning 41. Before any more time goes by, I want to acknowledge this milestone birthday for many of my friends and me. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, I haven't been able to attend any of the 40th-birthday parties to which I've been invited. And, for the remaining 40th-birthday parties to which I might be invited, I already know my RSVP is going to be "maybe" (which really means "no" in my world). So I am blanketly declining to attend any official 40th-birthday parties in 2012, you know, just to make it fair to all. However, I can't let the occasion pass without memorializing it somehow. The best I've come up with is a blog post about 40 Things to be Happy About. So, here goes. Enjoy!

1. September in Chapel Hill
2. The cold side of the pillow
3. Cold pizza
4. Polka dots
5. Milo Burger (the kitty)
6. Cheese Burgers (the food)
7. Lime popsicles
8. Grace
9. Dr. Joy Browne
10. A car that's almost paid off
11. Johnny
12. The movie Bridesmaids
13. Neighbors that are Friends that are Neighbors
14. Skinny jeans
15. The ability to let go
16. Family
17. Chloe (the kitty)
18. Singing
19. Clean hair
20. UNC-Hospitals
21. Friends (that aren't neighbors)
22. Cupcake Happy Hour at Lowe's Foods
23. Lime Rain Gatorade
24. Mod Podge
25. Daisies
26. The Bynum Front Porch
27. Sundresses
28. Teva Flip Flops
29. Forts
30. Chocolate
31. Peanut Butter
32. Peanut Butter and Chocolate together
33. Digital cameras
34. Laughing
35. University United Methodist Church
36. Music
37. Creativity
38. The Kindle Fire
39. Hope
40. Facebook

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Promise

November 19, 2011

Dear Grace and Johnny,

I know you both think I talk way too much, so I'm writing you a letter, the kind I used to write to you on a somewhat annual basis, until my life became unmanageable. I've missed writing, and I'm going to do it more regularly. I've found that I'm usually best at expressing my thoughts and feelings through the written word.

For you, Grace, your feelings may come out through singing, dancing, watching Justin Bieber videos 10, 15, 100x a week, asking lots of questions, drawing pictures, and being the silly Grace that you are.

For you, Johnny, you may express your feelings through playing with your friends, skateboarding, playing the drums, drawing, reading.

You both may do all of these things or none of these things, in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. And that's ok. There's no 'right' or 'wrong' way to feel. You're going to see me cry. You've already seen me cry. You may cry. And that's ok. If the crying makes us uncomfortable, we can say, "Have another glass of milk."

We're still going to laugh--a lot. We already have been. We always have, and we always will. We're going to sing and dance and act very, very silly. We're going to have 'home jokes' that are supposed to stay at home, within our family. But, I know some of these jokes and wild adventures we've had together are going to be shared with others. Like, at your school, with your friends and teachers. I know this because you're kids and kids tend to do that kind of stuff. And you already have. It's ok.

We're still going to have family dinners where we go around the table and either play "What was your favorite day?", "Would you rather...", and "Who would you rather dance with?"

We'll still have sleep overs, and I'll take you to Dollar General where you'll each get to pick out your favorite candy.

We'll still have, or should I say, start back up, Saturday morning clothes sort parties, and every little once in awhile, I'll buy you, Johnny, a new pair of shoes, and take you, Grace, to the nearest DQ, for a dipped cone.

I know you miss Daddy. I miss Daddy too. I miss him so very much. But he is still with us in so many ways. I think of Daddy when the owl tells the main character in the story I read to you last night, There's No Such Place as Far Away, "If you want to be with Rae, aren't you already there?" If you want to be with Daddy, aren't you already there?

Daddy died because he was sick. He died because alcoholism is an illness--a family illness. We did not cause it, we couldn't cure it, and we couldn't control it. We can move forward now--with hope. With the hope and help of Al-Anon and Al-Ateen. And with the help and love from all of our family and friends. And most of all, with the promise that God made to me 21 years ago. I was sitting on my bed in my room in Boone. I was 18 years old. I'd always believed in God, but on that day, God sent me a message--a promise. The promise was, and is, quite simple: You are going to be ok. At that time I didn't have any reason to believe that I wouldn't be ok. I understand that promise much better now. God made a promise kind of like I do to you both. And when you're not quite sure if I'm going to keep my promise you often ask me to 'pinky swear,' and I do.

Daddy was on a journey, and I believe he's finally found his way home. His forever home. We are also on a journey--of living, loving, laughing, and growing into the people that God wants us to be.

I am so super-proud of both of you. And I love you so very much--just for being you. I will always love you. And you both will be ok too. I promise.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Next Right Thing

I'm sure many of my Facebook friends woke up this morning expecting to see a posted "Victory Dance" video on my page. We did dance this morning and it was recorded. David and the kids are now in charge of if/how/when the video gets posted. I eventually had to turn it over and do the "next right thing."

Last night's 11th hour (literally) "Facebook raise-a-thon" was an experience like no other. I'll never forget it and will be telling the story for years to come. Wow! I couldn't keep up with you all who rallied to my call and cause. Donations were coming in faster than I could keep up with, and they continue to come in. I just checked, and I'm at 109% of my goal! Just, wow.

I needed to sleep last night, and I fell asleep with a smile on my face around 1:00 AM. Some time after that, I heard Grace get up to go to the bathroom. I got out of bed and shared with her the fantastic news! I said, "Grace! I met my goal! I met my goal, and I'm going to Hawaii!!" She squealed, grabbed my waist and gave me the most authentic, genuine hug I've ever received. She told me she was proud of me, and her emotional response was appropriate. She crawled in bed beside me, waiting to fall back asleep and said, "I'm sorry I threw my goggles at you, Mommy." Yesterday afternoon as I was completing tasks on my "next right things" to-do list, the kids were ready for swimming before I was. I needed to finish a before starting b, and the kids just wanted to go swimming already. In a classic mode of poor coping with disappointments, Grace threw her goggles at me hitting me in the face. Perhaps at that point I should have called the whole swim trip off. But, no, I couldn't, because it was going to be the only time left that I'd be able to get any exercise in for me.

The kids and I went, and I tried to balance the kids' unbridled enthusiasm with enforcing rules such as no splashing directly in people's faces, no running, and no dipping feet into the hot tub while I did my four laps. Johnny seems to break all the rules unwittingly, and Grace more than not knows exactly what's she's doing. When the kid swim time had officially ended, I gave them explicit directions about what to do and where to sit while I did four quick laps. Did they stay in their chairs? No. Did Johnny continue to ask me if he could just dip his feet in the hot tub? Yes.

I paused from swimming my laps and responded to a middle-aged man in the hot tub who commented, "Boy, you kids are tough," as Johnny looked at me while dipping his left big toe into the hot tub. "Are they tough, or am I weak?" I asked. Johnny shot back, "You're weak, Mommy!"

"Get back in your chair, now, Johnny. Right now." He did. I finished my laps.

The kids don't understand the issues that grown-ups, their grown-ups, have to contemplate, deal with, solve. They shouldn't have to--they're kids. While I do understand, it's been harder for me over the last few years to stay focused on their grown-ups' issues, or at least this grown-up's issues, like paying the power bill today and making sure the check I wrote for summer school tuition wouldn't bounce.

Today's "next right thing" included an interview at an agency that will possibly be where I am placed as a social-work intern this coming academic year and a board meeting where I am currently employed.

As joyful as I am about the generosity of so many of you who helped me personally as well as a cause much bigger than any of us as individuals, reality still bites sometimes. It's a little hard to do the happy "Victory Dance" once I learned that a friend's father died last night, that my cousin continues to suffer from socially unacceptable diseases, and that the partner of a Team Challenge "Crohnee" (who is going to Kona!) had not raised the funds necessary the last time I checked so is probably not going to go to Kona.

Life is hard, and people close to me are in physical and emotional pain, financial crises, and uncertainty about how to make it all come together to work. I know, because I'm in (some) physical and emotional pain, personal financial crisis and am uncertain about how to make it all come together to work.

What I do know? I don't have to have it all figured out right now, right this red-hot minute! I need to take a deep breath (inhale, exhale), and just do the "next right thing."

And that is to thank everyone reading this who has publicly and/or privately rooted for my family and me in any way during our darkest and most joyful times.

To that, I am again smiling and doing a victory dance in my cluttered little head.

Now, my "next right thing" is to log off, pack up, go pee, and get to work.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Top 10 List From Last Week's Trip to VA

10. I got the kids disposable cameras and told them that once their pictures were all taken, that was it. Ok? Did they understand? Grace? I told her that meant to take pictures of really interesting things, and not, say, one wall of the condo's living room with the corner of a blank tv-screen. We just got the photos back. What was Grace's first picture? A picture of one wall of the condo's living room with the corner of a blank tv-screen.

9. Kids riding the Metro for the first time. But what did they call it? The "Metronome." Of course.

8. Trying to explain the difference between Washington, DC and Washington state. Repeatedly. (You'd think Nana Kathy woulda grasped the concept the first time) ;)

7. Trying to explain the differences between US Presidents George Washington and the two George Bushes.

6. Telling Johnny to stick with us. Repeatedly. Telling Grace when we were going to get ice cream. Repeatedly.

5. When we finally got to the day's Agenda Item: Get ice cream or frozen treat before getting on the Metro heading back to the condo before the Team Challenge Pasta Party, Grace took one bite of her watermelon shaved ice and said, "I'm finished. When are we getting on the Metronome?"

4. Late-Night back at the condo after the Team Challenge Pasta Party: All hands on deck either helping whip up homemade 'after-run' peppermint sugar scrub, decorating Good Luck signs to put on the doors of my mentees, or cutting strips of orange and blue tissue paper used to decorate the mentees' doors.

3. Getting to the finish line, seeing the sea of orange, and sharing in the after-party glory of finishing a first, seventh, or umpteenth Team Challenge 1/2 Marathon and raising money and awareness for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. And having Johnny and Grace immediately say, "We're hungry. Where can we get some food?"

2. On the drive back to NC, we decided it was a good idea to pull out the 3rd row of seats so Johnny and Grace could be separated. And after a very fair and deliberate method of figuring out that Johnny would sit in the 'way back' first, Grace chimed in, "No, I want to sit in the way-back first!"

1. Realizing, without an ounce of guilt, that while I got involved with Team Challenge for my daughter (and son), there's a good reason (many, actually) that I'll be traveling to Kona, Hawaii in two weeks without my children.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

I Can Pogo, Can You?

This week is the 5th week of my 16-week 1/2 Marathon Training Program. As excited as I am about raising awareness and money for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, I am just as excited about my weekly training schedule including calls with my National (and Canadian!) teammates. Every Monday we have a training call covering a specific topic as we build towards crossing the finish line in Kona, Hawaii as best prepared as we can possibly be.

Rule #1 in training for endurance events is proper-fitting shoes. I know that, and I know so much more about myself as a runner now than I did this time a year ago when I was training for the 1/2 Marathon in Boston. Shoes, shoes, shoes! Happy feet! Comfy socks! No nigglies! I've taken all of the information that I've gleaned from this program and have tried to follow all the rules when buying my newest pair of running shoes (that I purchased at Fleet Feet in Raleigh on March 15th). Fleet Feet employees in Raleigh and in Carrboro are informed, thorough and seem to be my partners in helping me find the dream shoes my feet are looking for. We're getting closer, but still no cigar. I've missed the last two 'long runs' these past two weekends due to not wanting to cause any injuries.

Instead, this past Sunday, I swam at the gym, at least keeping the consistency of my weekly cardio routine in tact. And what a beautiful Sunday it was here in Chapel Hill! We had spent most of the day outside, David making stilts and a boomerang out of bamboo, kids jumping on the neighbors' trampoline and fun, normal stuff you do on nice Sunday afternoons.

When I drove home from the gym, all showered and refreshed, I saw my kids and David talking to two men. A closer look revealed that they weren't men, they were neighborhood 'boys' that we hadn't seen in about 2 years!! I've blogged about these tweens before, here, and here, but now they were full-on teens! In High School! The skateboarding gear, bikes, scooters, rollerblades, now new bamboo stilts, and a pogo stick were easily alluring to teenage boys. One of the boys, who happens to excel in speed rollerblading, couldn't get the knack for staying on the pogo stick past 5 or 6 boings. His cousin, though, made it up to 75. The Challenge center of my brain fired up and I blurted, "I bet I could beat your 75." Could I though? I wouldn't have said that if there wasn't a deep-seeded confidence somewhere that thought I could do it. I told them to let me change out of my flip flops and skirt and that the Challenge was on.

While I was changing, however, the pogo-er had increased his PB (personal best) to 258! Rats! Was that what I was supposed to beat? I said, "But I'm only trying to beat 75, right" "Right," the boys agreed. We agreed I'd get a turn or two to get used to the very stiff pogo stick, and when the count was on, it was ON! When I quickly got into my groove, I knew I'd surpass 75, so I kept going, counting each boing in my head and each 10-20 boings out loud until I hit 260! I did it! They couldn't believe it, and I couldn't either. My lungs were burning and I started to cough. I recovered with sufficient powerade, but as I was wrapping the unexpected visit up and giving my kids the 5-minute warning before calling them inside for the evening, Pogo Boi announced that he'd made it to 448. Ah, another challenge. But for another day.