On the Road

It was a full day of driving once I got on the road at 8:45, headed to a friend’s house in Toledo for leg one of my trip to Certificate 2 training in Geneva, IL.

Originally I thought I would rise and get on the road before everyone else woke up, getting a chunk of driving behind me and winding up at my destination in the early afternoon. It didn’t quite work that way, though.

I wanted to say a proper goodbye to everyone and didn’t want them setting pre dawn alarms and trying to get up before me. I decided to keep my usual routine and leave after dropping the girls off at school.

And walking Dewey.

Time in the car was long. I am grateful for Sheetz restrooms and turnpike service areas. I packed plenty of fruit, water, and protein bars to eat in the car. I’m listening to An American Marriage on audio book after hearing an NPR segment on it a week or two ago. A Contigo mug from home kept the coffee hot all day.

I arrived at my friend’s house at 5. Warm hugs and delicious stir fry awaited before we headed out to exercise. By exercise I mean enjoy the hydro massage tables and massage chairs and then decide we were really tired and ready to return home.

Hot tea and relaxing conversation, and I am ready to retire for the evening. I may stretch the kinks out on my yoga mat before hunkering down with a book to relax my eyes and brain. It is a luxury to be in my room by 9, one that I do not take for granted.

Thank you, Home front, for your tireless work to help this happen. I miss you all and am so thankful for you. Hugs and love!

Begin Again

Today finds me preparing to leave for Training Certificate, Level 2 which begins Thursday morning at 8:00 check-in. The road to this next step has not been without its bumps, and many are surprised to hear that I am doing this.

I didn’t know you were planning to do Level 2. 

Wow! That came up fast!

What are you doing again?

I was more vocal about my goal two years ago, when I applied for Level 1 and began the process. Stepping into the unknown, many stepped in with me, and the support was tangible and felt. I was, and still am, so grateful for that.

When I began this work, I was not aware of more, and at the time, there was not more.  Isn’t there always more, though? In this case, more looks like being in the second cohort to do this continued training in trauma narrative story work.

The opportunity presented when enrollment opened last fall, and I applied. That led to next, which I wrote about here.

Meanwhile there are the logistics. There has been such kind provision for this next step. I had a little over $800 left in my education fund after last year’s work. I used $500 to apply and then had a remainder of $1,800 left to pay in two installments. The first was due at the beginning of January.

I took the $300 that was left and rolled the dimes. That gave me $370. There was a $27 purchase I had made of something unnecessary that I returned, bringing the total to $397. Then, unexpectedly, I was given a check for $500. This gave me $897. I felt overwhelmed and content with *almost* enough, when that afternoon my daughter asked if I could do something for her, and she would pay me $5.

By the end of the day I had $902.  Just enough. A little extra.

As I embark on my journey tomorrow, I know that there is enough for this session, and there will be enough for the next. I just have to take one step at a time.

This time looks like driving instead of flying, while staying overnight on the way there and back with a friend to break up the drive. The training takes place outside of Chicago, so it’s not as far to travel. An unexpected change in lodging plans happened when I woke Saturday morning to the news that my Air BnB host had unexpectedly died, cancelling my reservation.

Thankfully, I was able to book another place that looks equally nice, or nicer, and it didn’t happen while I was a guest!

Preparation looks like leaving meals planned out and groceries in the house. It’s making sure everyone knows where they will be and when. It’s packing my suitcase and finishing my reading and printing out the story I plan to take.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers as I embark on this week. It will be an adventure, for sure! I look forward to learning more about engaging stories and about road-tripping solo.

In no particular order.

Friendship Friday ~ Esther

I know what you do in your spare time. 

Esther’s knowing eyebrows move up and down rapidly. She says this each time I tell her, or she overhears, that I have eight children. She seems to know what everyone does in their spare time. When a portly man passes us on deck she looks to me and says, I know what HE does in HIS spare time.

Esther is 88 with bright eyes and a foggy mind. Attentive to her appearance, her thin white hair is updone with various clips and combs, topped with a black floppy bow. This gives the appearance of a crown which helps me to remember her name. Queen Esther. The black bow is a fixture of her look each time I cross paths with her.

She introduces herself as Esther the Pester, but I cannot bring myself to call her that as so many passengers do freely. Hey, Esther the Pester! To me she is just Esther.

She is the one who ends up with the heartiest portion of food at our plated dinner each evening. While my plate arrives with a small piece of fish and some steamed vegetables, Esther’s is piled high with pasta, topped with a chicken breast or two.

Oh my, I’ll never be able to eat all of this. Do you want some? This question is rhetorical, as Esther begins cutting into chicken and sliding pasta onto my plate. She comes from a time when it was a sin to waste so much food. I agree that it is wasteful, but how did I end up the starving child that Esther must feed?

I take the food onto my plate graciously, for along with the generous sharing of her food is the generous sharing of the wine she has brought on board. It is not a bad tradeoff. My glass is filled and refilled copiously.

Esther was a beauty in her day, I am told. I believe it. Her eyes still sparkle, and her smile is free. The deep wrinkles on her face give her character and don’t seem dour at all. She, or someone who loves her, is attentive to her appearance. She looks attractive and smart in her dress.

Each night the photostaff takes several pictures of our table. Esther looks lovely in every picture. She really does. This hints that she looked pretty good once upon a time.

I used to live in Hollywood at Hollywood Studios when I was younger. Several other girls who lived there became actresses in movies. I could have, too, but I wouldn’t cooperate. She says this with that up and down eyebrow movement of hers. It’s pretty clear that cooperating would have involved sleeping with someone somewhere along the line.

This conversation took place eight years before its time, back in 2009. The media had not yet exploded with Hollywood (and beyond) sexual harassment allegations. If hashtags were even a thing, they were not yet mainstream. I was just a young woman listening to an old one relate her life experience and a part of her story.

I assure Esther that I’m glad that she didn’t cooperate or we might not be sharing a table on this cruise ship. I have no other words to offer. Only presence. We sit.

If I get ice cream for dessert will you have some? What flavor should I choose?

Something in me senses that Esther is a Butter Pecan kind of girl, which is exactly what I request for her.

I am right!

My Real Valentine

From the first day
I saw your face
I hoped that we would be
More than friends
Acquaintances
I wanted you to see

That I found you special
Uniquely designed
And in your eyes
And in your smile
I saw that you were kind

You brought such joy
Into my life
Such laughter and such fun
And deep inside
I wanted you
To be the only one

That I would walk next to
To have and to hold
And I believed
With all my heart
Our love was strong and bold

But fragile was
The seed of love
We wanted it to grow
Impatient and impetuous
We simply did not know

That you cannot force love
Demand it be strong
And after many lonely years
We found where we went wrong

We’re standing now
Together here
We’re facing each new day
With boldness and integrity
We’re learning how to play

 It’s knowing what we’ve lost
That helps us be found
Our hearts are drawing close again
We’re coming back around.

Happy Valentine’s Day ’18 to the Love of My Life who has made me laugh and feel safe from day one. You are a gift, Steve McClay. Thank you for becoming more real with me through all the seasons, especially those winter ones. Something beautiful is growing from all of this compost. I just know it! Something beautiful already has. Our love.

This image created with Wikki Sticks was stuck to my car window by Steve in 1987. I saved it in my scrapbook for posterity.

***The header image is from a helium balloon that I deflated and saved to remember the playful love of my then boyfriend, now husband. Thank you for your steadfastness, Babe. You’ve always been the best Valentine.***

January’s End

January’s end finds me sitting in a quiet house breathing in the savory aroma of a roast cooking in the Crock Pot. A dog curls up beside me, shifting from dead sleep only when I make the slightest move. It is a constant trigger and practice for me to remember that a dog is not the same as a newborn.

My nerves are still in recovery from years of newborns and sleeping babies.

There hasn’t been much quiet this month, so the level I am experiencing in this moment feels delicious. I struggle to breathe in and focus on the now, rather than allowing my mind to back up or race ahead.

Now is all there is. It is such a gift.

January’s end brings three teenagers living under one roof, again. It finds me marveling at the passing of time, again. It reminds me that February is coming, and I have story work to do, again.

January’s end carries me to a place of provision and uncertainty, of endings and beginnings, of sunshine and cloudiness. It brings acute awareness of the tension that I live in daily and the freedom that I am learning to embrace.

I have described to many that this season feels strangely familiar, yet so very different.

Familiar is the fridge that is never full, the hot water tank that is always low, the towels and washcloths that can’t stay stocked, the hair conditioner that is empty. It is the after school routine of endless driving and dropping off and errands, even though we try to keep plans and activities simple.

Different is the small car I drive during that routine, unlike the large white van filled with car seats and preschoolers, along for the ride. Different is the quiet I can sit in while waiting or the music I can choose to play. It is not entertaining and chasing after little people while waiting for big ones.

It’s being ten years older and feeling it. Everywhere.

January’s end brings wisdom and further clarity and hope for what is to come while honoring what has been so very good.

Rolling Dimes

It was time to roll the dimes. A certificate payment deadline loomed close, and while there were funds in the account, the numbers ran tight.

This season of being at home feels like a luxury item, one that I am trying to steward well. I am not actively bringing in funds from a job, though I am working hard to help manage those brought home by my hard-working partner.

He reminds me we are a team, and I believe that.

Dumping some of the dimes from the two-liter Coke bottle onto the floor, I began grouping them by tens to roll in bundles of fifty. Each roll held five dollars worth, and by the end I had fourteen rolls. That gave me $70 to deposit in the account. Every little bit helps.

More than the $70 was the tangible reminder that 700 times I felt seen. Each dime appeared in a random place when I most needed the encouragement of provision.

My banker friends might appreciate and eye-roll over the drive-through blunder I made at the window the afternoon I took them to the bank. As the drawer slid out, I placed a gallon Ziploc bag with fourteen rolls of dimes in it. Is it okay if I deposit these here in the drive-thru?

The teller graciously nodded as she pulled the drawer shut. I scanned the window while waiting, and my eyes landed on a red sign lettered in white No baggies or rolled coins in the drive-thru. Little Mae’s landed on the jar of dog treats.

Can we bring Dewey next time?!!!!

Waving frantically to get the teller’s attention I pointed at the sign and mouthed, I’m so sorry! 

She responded that it was okay, and I asked if she had told me to come inside. She hadn’t. Then she asked if I needed a balance for the account. I didn’t. Sending two blue lollipops out to me and Mae, she sent us on our way.

I will be sure to go in the lobby next time! I am already on the lookout for more dimes to roll.

Up Next

One month from today I begin Training Certificate Level 2, a continuation of work begun in September, 2016. It sounds sudden, yet it is not, since I applied and was accepted in the fall. I just have not talked about it on the blog and have only mentioned it a few other places.

There is a different aura surrounding my pursuit of this training then there was with Level 1I feel more ambivalence and remind myself that only I can take steps and make choices to move forward in my life. No one else can do it for me.

I continue to step into the unknown.

In December I was caught off guard by a friend one night at Community Worship Practice. She asked how things were going with part 2. Confident that I had not announced my pursuit of Level 2 I stood, confused. She reminded me that I had shared a link on Facebook.

I immediately knew she was talking about this which was a memory of where I was the year before (preparing for my second session), compared to this which was current. So consider this my official announcement of the next step.

I have been reading and writing in preparation as well as making travel and lodging arrangements. The location is closer, so I am planning a road trip for the first training. I look forward to seeing familiar faces and to meeting new ones.

What will I do with it? At present, I will continue to love and care for those closest to me in this very full season of tweens, teens, and adults in my home and life. Each stage requires a different engagement, and I am learning helpful skills to use in repairing rupture, restoring relationship, and recovering self. I am learning to navigate the waters of martial and family conflict with more courage and kindness.

 That alone is success!

I know there is more on the horizon. I am gaining clarity as the fog lifts and clears and images come into focus. I am being met with possibilities in surprising ways. I am learning to imagine what could be in the midst of what is.

Thank you for being present and interested, Dear Readers! Thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and encouragement as I level up. I am grateful and blessed.

Friendship Friday ~ We Belong to Each Other

Last fall I sat in a hospital waiting room late in the day drinking a cup of black coffee from a vending machine. I had pressed the code for a cup of comforting hot chocolate, but out came black coffee, so black coffee it was. It tasted good because I was so tired.

I was waiting to see how my friend’s mother was faring after a traumatic accident on my street. When her text came through asking me to come, I went, and remained throughout the day until returning late.

We belong to each other. All of us.

Sitting alone in the waiting room of the trauma center, I plugged my earbuds in to play music while journaling. I wanted to disappear into my own world, oblivious to those around me.

An older woman wrapped in hospital blankets was wheeled out from the treatment area and left beside me. Alone. Unable to stay isolated in my bubble, I felt compelled to demonstrate presence as she dozed.

I unplugged.

A local man recognized her and walked up to say hello, startling her awake. He introduced himself as a friend of her son, and while she did not remember him, he knew her. She began to explain her plight, how she fell the day before while riding on public transit, because her scooter was not secure.

He asked if Ray knew she was here. I sensed that Ray was a mutual hospital connection who would know her and could help. He looked over at me and asked, Are you here with her?

We had never met before, but I was with her.

The man tried to call Ray’s number, but did not get an answer. I’ll keep trying. Maybe he is in a meeting. He turned to leave.

I looked at the woman and she at me. She began to talk. I listened. She had been there since 5:00 that evening. It was 7:30.

A text came through from my friend asking to get some food for her mom who would be discharged soon and had not eaten. I took the order and stood up to go. Turning to my new friend, I asked if I could get her food, as well. She said yes.

I returned with her requested ham sandwich and Dr. Pepper as a nurse was preparing to take her back to receive further care. I was grateful for the handled bag I had taken at checkout as I hung it on the arm of her wheelchair.

She said, Thank you. I answered, Of course. Enjoy! We smiled knowing goodbyes having shared the sacred space of a hospital waiting room together. I took food back to the tiny trauma room that housed my friend and her mom.

The hospital is an hour from my home. We may never meet again in this life. But for an hour in the ER, the woman in the wheelchair and I belonged to each other.

Just like we all do.

Resisting Routine

I am pondering and exploring my struggle with routine, namely, my resistance to it. I know that if I were teaching right now I would be reading to my students as they ate a snack. We would then pack up and spend fifteen minutes preparing for the school day to officially begin. From there the day would roll on in blocks of time, each with a specified task, until the end.

I am good with an others-imposed work routine. I know the benefits of following a plan to accomplish the things. It allows you to focus on what is being done in the present with the assurance that the next things will get done in their time. This saves physical and mental energy.

The struggle is with self-structure. I am a finite person with limited resources and must choose the best way to use them when there are so many good ways. And there are teachers. I am abundantly familiar with online and print teachers and coaches who encourage the use of personal routines.

The challenge is in the doing and the practice.

As I type the above sentence, I am struck with what I lack, and that is practice. Much of my life has been spent in overdrive, rushing from thing to thing with little intentionality. When others-imposed requirements are in place, I can follow those. If they are required to collect a paycheck, all the better.

When it comes to ordering my personal time or working on things to benefit myself, plans become muddled. This keeps me frozen and stuck and often at the mercy of others and their routines.

Once upon a time I stood in the kitchen of a new friend with my seven children scattered around. I felt like the biggest poser as she asked me questions about homeschooling (I didn’t) and home management (What’s that?).

At the time I was in a stay at home season. I had discovered Flylady somewhere online, and she rang familiar from my childhood with a mom who was a self-proclaimed SHE. I mentioned Flylady to my friend, most likely to have some sort of answer for her. As much as I tried to keep my home, there were more pressing matters like lots of children to keep.

Years passed.

Last fall we sat together in my living room, reconnecting intentionally to catch up. She had big changes on the horizon. During the course of our conversation she mentioned Flylady in a laughing way, something or another about not keeping up.

She reminded me that I was the one who had told her about Flylady. This reminded me about the whole others bearing witness to our lives thing (just now I typed withness and find that slip interesting.) I felt a mixture of shame and embarrassment at the woman I was who felt a need to share a system with someone rather than be okay with not knowing what I was doing or how I was doing it.

Maybe that is at the root of my resistance. Systems. For years in the midst of my overwhelm and wandering, the answer was always to find a system. The right chore charts, vitamin regimen, exercise plan, date night, home organization system was the answer. These treated symptoms but not root causes.

Having spent years addressing root causes and sorting through the beautiful disruption, it is time to rebuild. I am facing honestly my need for some sort of a routine, no matter how I may resist. I have come to the place where I know it is not the answer but a tool I am ready to learn to use.

So this new year finds me trying to imagine what a consistent daily and weekly routine might look like, with the understanding that even the best laid plans need room for flexibility. What about you, Dear Reader? Do you follow a set routine or plan? What inspires you to stay focused? What gets you off track? I am pondering these thoughts more as I continue moving forward in this new season of life. I would love to hear what works for you! Or not!

Black and White

December was my final month on Facebookand for weeks a “Black and White Challenge” floated around with specific rules for posting and tagging.

I am not one to appreciate or engage in social media posting and tagging games, but alas, I was finally tagged by a friend. Spending way too much mental energy deciding what to do (and hence confirming a decision I had already subconsciously made), I decided to play along with the picture part, but not the tagging.

Each day I took a random, real photo. No explanation, no people, according to the rules. The pictures explain themselves.

Here are the seven black and white photos taken from a life that is not so black and white.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

If you are on Facebook, did you take the challenge? How do you feel about posting and tagging games? Which of my pictures resonates the most with you? Do share! I am curious.