Hallelujah Highway

Celebrating the Journey

The House that Love Rebuilt ~ Rae

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I have fallen in love with my husband. That’s not to say I didn’t love him before, but this time it is different.

We were married in 1996 and our wedded life started out normally.  Fast forward 10 years to a very rough patch from 2007-2009. Things got bad. My husband started staying away from our home as much as possible and I started to be happy to see him go. The relationship had become toxic as we couldn’t have a conversation without fighting.

There was the “car incident” that revealed how childish and immature we were behaving. We were fighting and had reached the point of yelling. My husband pulled over and told me to get out in the middle of a not so nice area.  I huffed and puffed, and got of the car and off he sped. Now, I knew darn well that he would drive around the block and come back to get me, but I am the “Passive Aggressive Queen”.  So I ran to a nearby grocery store and hid. I waited, practically giddy with mischief as I peeked through a store window and sure enough I saw him driving through the parking lot. He began calling my cell phone over and over which I ignored.  I called the one person I knew who would drop everything and come get me, my crazy best friend. Nikki raced over and I went off with her on some errands. My cell phone rang persistently. It wasn’t until my mother called that I answered.  As a last resort, he had called my parents to see if they knew where I was. I assured her I was fine and would be home later as I thought, “I sure showed him.”

The absolutely worst part of this story: both my daughters were in the back seat of the car during this whole escapade.

Toxic- right?

We split for a while and he moved into our motorhome (in our back yard). We were miserable. We both visited lawyers to go over the process for divorce. We just about gave up.

Just about.

I went to a therapist. He went to a therapist. Eventually, we went to marriage counseling together. And our marriage was saved.

Just about.

We have been a work in progress ever since. We had said and done awful things that we both regretted but now made us guarded. We circled around each other on tiptoes. We kept our defensives up. We stood with one foot in the relationship and the other foot ready to run out the door.

Then something wonderful happened.

My husband shattered his right leg at work. Hold on! That’s not the wonderful part. The wonderful part was that through his recovery I was able to become a selfless caring wife. It began as I took care of him. I made him a cheesy gift basket filled with random items that he might need or want during his stay in the hospital.  He was out of work for 4 months and couldn’t even walk for much of that time. So, I packed him an ice chest with breakfast, lunch, and snacks every day. I cared for him; in return, he began to lower some of his walls.

During this time, my stubborn husband would walk when he wasn’t supposed to; drive before he should; and tried to do all his normal activities. One evening, the whole family was out in the front yard enjoying a nice summer night. My husband lost his balance and began to fall. I tried to run across the drive way screaming like a banshee to catch him! Fortunately, he was able to catch himself with his crutches and did not hit the ground. The four of us spent the next five minutes laughing hysterically at the sounds I had made as I tried to run.  As my husband caught my eye, I saw something had softened in him.  Even though I ran like a crazy person my husband could tangibly see that I cared about what happened to him.

Then something else wonderful happened.

I somehow hurt myself. Again, not the wonderful part.  From early fall to midwinter, I bounced from doctor to doctor trying to find out what was wrong with me (physically- not mentally- that would take a lot more doctors).  Finally, a surgeon determined that I need surgery on the 3 bulged discs in my neck.  I didn’t notice at first but my husband was doing more and more things around the house for me. He was being sensitive to my pain and did everything he could to make me more comfortable. He even let me sit in HIS recliner! When my surgery date was set, my husband immediately told his work that he would be taking a short leave to take care of me.

Anyone think God has been trying to get our attention over the last year(s)?

It was there. It was there even in the worst times. Love did not leave our marriage; it had just been pushed to the side by our selfishness.   I knew he would not abandon me in the ghetto.  We both could never seem to pull the trigger on the divorce gun we were waving at each other.  He moved out, but not really. It was only when we truly put each other first, that LOVE was able to fill our hearts.

  • In sickness and in health —  Check!
  • In good times and in bad – Check!
  • As long as we both shall live- working on it!

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Reprieve. Rest. Reflection. Revamping. ~ Kristi

Reprieve.

Rae and I went radio silent on Hallelujah Highway.  Not intentionally.  More of what Rae said: “I have a few pieces written, but I am not feeling them” and what I said: “I am so far up essay grading’s butt that I have nothing written.”

Then, the holidays hit.  We chose to be present with our families who get pushed to the back burner more times than we would like to admit as we juggle the responsibility of being working moms and writers.  We needed downtime to refuel because exhaustion gagged our muses.  We had no words.

Rest.

On our reprieve, I rested.  I numbed out on the couch watching reality TV while shoveling home baked Christmas goodies in my face.  I took nap after nap.  I read a book I actually wanted to read, not one I was required to read because it was a part of one of my classes.  I spent time with my extended family.  I was able to just be with them without writing, grading, or work deadlines looming.  I worked out.  I danced my butt off on New Year’s Eve.  I got a massage.  I visited friends and had deep, soul level conversations.  In other words, I turned off my computer and engaged with the world.  It was glorious.

Reflection.

As I rested, reflection summoned me to the summit of a figurative mountain.   If I looked behind me, I could see the journey of 2013.  There were places that were arduous, times I fell flat on my face, and many miraculous moments .  Mostly, I could see that despite the moment-to-moment grind of the climb, I had conquered the lessons of friendships that were fundamental to me changing, buying and moving into a new home, telling my daughter some hard, yet necessary truth about her life, daring to be more vulnerable and opening up to love—most radically, opening up to unprecedented level of self-love, choosing a new teaching assignment that has pushed me way out of my comfort zone, confronted some deep, deep fears and false beliefs, created a tribe of woman writers who have supported me and my writing, and prepared to say goodbye to the security of my second job.

Reflection asked me the hard questions.  How did I express love this year?  Did I forgive?  Did I stop—really stop—and enjoy life?  Did I seek out adventure and play?  How did I stretch myself to learn and grow? How did I share my good with the world?

Revamping.

As I figuratively stood at this summit and looked forward at 2014, I realized I didn’t want to make any resolutions.  I don’t want to be a slave to my goals or resolutions anymore.  I just want to enjoy the journey and enjoy the spaces between too many “have tos” and “musts.”

Our presence on the blog might be affected by the revamping.  Rae and I have decided to let our writing be more organic and less about making a Wednesday publication deadline.  For example, this post was almost complete last week, but I was helping a friend in crisis and didn’t have time to finish it.  This week I did, and here it is.  A week late.  [And the blog gods did not smite me!  LOL]

Hallelujah for the journey of 2014!

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Rupture. Then, Resilience~ Kristi

Rupture 2

 

My last post chronicled Rupture—a profound, emotional shattering of my expectations for my next (unborn) baby.  Rupture caused a week of barely sleeping, which left too many hours stewing in intense emotions in the dark.  Rupture left me sobbing the cry that contorts my face into the most unbecoming positions one night after work.  My daughter tried to offer comfort by hugging my sobbing shoulders with a worried, what-can-I-do-to -help look in her eyes—a true moment of mothering vulnerability.   Rupture forced me to walk into work the next day with red, puffy eyes that left my team teacher and students asking, “What happened to you?”

Rupture didn’t care.  Rupture forced me out of my ego’s version of the pulled together woman and placed me in a space of bottomless pain, darkness, and sadness.  Rupture needed to burst the awesome bubble I keep in order to avoid facing things I am unwilling to process.  Rupture needed me to feel the feelings of longing that I had suppressed for a long time.  Rupture needed me to evaluate my actions and make sure they were in alignment with the vision I held for my life.  Rupture was here to push me out of my comfort zone and into a space where I had no control.  All I could do was surrender and be.  I had to let Rupture rip through my life and obliterate what it needed to.

Rupture was like an erupting volcano.  Explosive. Hot.  Transformative.

Rupture was ugly and messy.

Rupture was necessary.

I had to trust that God had sent Rupture for my evolution and that Resilience would follow.

Some of the friends who read my essay reached out.  They could feel the pain and wanted to help.  They wanted to know what they could do, but I didn’t know.

A friend sat with me in my classroom after school and we talked about Rupture.  He pointed out the blessings of my life—I have a beautiful daughter and a peaceful home, I get to affect and influence over 170 students on a daily basis, and I have an amazing family and supportive friends.  All true!  I know this on a deep, intimate level, but it brought me no solace.

Over the years, I have learned my friends have different strengths, which serve me in various ways.  But, Rupture exposed Truth about two types of friends I have:

One type of friend needs me to be happy, alright, and in a good place.  This kind of friend needs me to be in my awesome bubble because they know how to connect with me there.  This connection is co-dependent because we feed off of my happiness and light.  They leave our interaction a little more uplifted, and I leave our interaction thankful that I didn’t have to be vulnerable.  I could just project happiness and light and not expose that I battle my darkness too.

Then, I have friends who will climb down into the muck and mire of my shitty-swamp and sit.  They know that my muck and mire has nothing to do with them.  It is a creation of my darkness.  As they sit, they hold lanterns of light that help illuminate the path out of my darkness.  They hold up mirrors that reflect my brilliance back to me when I forget.  They hold space for me to grow and pray for my evolvement.  Most importantly, they trust me to return out of the muck and mire because they know that Resilience follows Rupture.  They trust that God is working in me and allow me my process even if that means allowing me the privilege of Rupture.

Henri J.M. Nouwen writes:

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

Resilience has beaconed me from my shitty-swamp.  Like a white lotus flower, a symbol of “in-light-I-was-meant” (enlightenment), I have budded out of the dark muck and mire and bloomed towards the light.  In a season of thanks-giving and gratitude, I am beyond appreciative of my friends who don’t need me to be happy all the time, who allow me to be with my uncomfortable feelings, and who trust me and Resilience.  It takes courage to allow a beloved friend to be authentic, real, and genuine and not every friend has that gift.

Lotus

Resilience reminds me on a daily basis—if it is God’s Will, my next baby will be in God’s anointed time and not my appointed time.  I am not perfectly healed from Rupture as there is still heaviness on my heart from the thought of not having another child.  But, Rupture came to do what it was intended to do, which was to obliterate my expectations and Resilience is making room for God’s Will.

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You are such a Pain in the Neck ~ Rae

pain in neck

I wish I had a good story to tell. Maybe something like- I was bunging jumping or how about-I leapt out of a burning building’s second story window with a kitten in my arms. But no, there is no interesting anecdote; about 4 months ago my neck just started hurting.

I have tried not to be a wimp about the pain, but what really started bothering me was my shoulder blade. I had my husband repeatedly massage there but the ache would never go away. I kept thinking it’s simply a pulled muscle and it would take some time to heal. My neck and shoulder were tight all the time and sleep at night was nearly impossible. I was constantly shaky and snappy (my poor family!). Then my bicep began throbbing like it was on fire.  Yet it wasn’t until the nerve from my neck to my right thumb felt like millions of ants constantly marching down my arm that I finally went to urgent care.

 The first doctor spent a whole 5 minutes with me and merely prescribed pain pills and muscle relaxers.  When those offered no relief after a few weeks I went back to urgent care where a second doctor, who spent 10 minutes with me, added physical therapy, because he believed I had a pinched nerve. The physical therapist actually spent a fair amount of time measuring my range of motion and noticed the locked up muscle on the right side of my neck. This was causing me to look like the Hunch Back of Norte Dame (OK- OK, maybe that is a slight exaggeration but it was visibly obvious that one side of my neck was swollen). The Physical Therapist gave me a medieval torture device (furthermore confirming in my mind that I was in danger of becoming the hunch back) to hang over the door at home to put me in traction for 15 minutes a day.

Did it work? Let’s just say that while my family quite enjoyed the show I still didn’t receive any reprieve.

So it was after months and various trips to urgent care that I finally made an appointment with my primary care physician. My doctor berated me for waiting so long, claiming it was usually men who were that stubborn. I retorted that I hadn’t wanted to be a baby that ran to the hospital every time I pulled muscle.

He ordered an MRI.

Father you were there for me when my back was against the wall

You held me up above my troubles when all I did was call

You answered every prayer

No matter what request it was

And when I asked you why you did it

You replied- because of love

The day the doctor called me to give me the results of my MRI was the 25th anniversary of my Aunt Donna’s death from a brain tumor.  I was 14 years old when she died. To be totally accurate, according to the family tree she was my second cousin, but in life she was always my Aunt. I practically lived at her house every summer and she would arrange a week long beach trip for her daughters and me
every spring break. Many of my fondest childhood memories include her in them. Her fight with cancer was my first real exposure and experience with death. I remember walking around her house after she died in a daze fully expecting her to come around the corner with her wide and ever present smile. But she was gone. I wrote the poem above while sitting in her bedroom after her funeral.

25 years later I still remember this poem word for word in my head. In my time of sorrow I wrote a poem of praise. I wish I could be like that now. Apparently 14 year old me was better balanced than 39 year old me. I think 14 year old Rae might be a little disappointed at how I have been handling life recently. She would tell me that my current sour disposition was a waste of the wonderful life God has given me even if I am in pain. She would wonder why I had stopped dancing and she would be heartbroken to know I haven’t yet written that book I always dreamed about. She might even tell me that the cause of the pain in my neck was ME and how I am handling stress.

And she might be right.

As the doctor told me the results of my MRI I found myself reflecting on Donna. If she could smile and love through a brain tumor I can surely handle the 3 deteriorating cervical discs that the MRI revealed.

So as I look forward to (probably wrong choice of words) a visit with a neurosurgeon next week, I try to keep 14 year old positive me and brave beautiful Donna in the forefront of my mind. Even if I do have surgery, I am still living a seriously blessed life. I have a fantastic family, wonderful friends, I work for the best school district and I am confident of my Savior’s love for me.

So this Thanksgiving I am going to attempt to be thankful for the pain in my neck, 14 year old me, my Aunt Donna and all the lessons that I can learn from them.

 

Happy Thanksgiving Friends

Sincerely,

The Hunch Back of Riverside

 

 

 

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A Dream Deferred~ Kristi

I curse like a sailor.  Sometimes these are the only words that express the moment.  This piece contains “language.”   Being offensive is not my intention.  Being real and authentic is.

A Dream Deferred

by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

~~~~~~

My thirty-fourth birthday is approaching.  Last year, I was clinging desperately to the concept of peace—not because every little detail in my life was peaceful, but I needed calmness amongst the storms of Holding Pattern after Holding Pattern.  My bad-ass, overachiever and I were used to making shit happen, but my thirty-third year taught me about letting things unfold in God’s time.  It was about trusting His plan and surrendering to His will.  It was about waiting as patiently as possible and in my case that was not patient at all.  My “patiently waiting” involved numerous freak outs, frantic phone calls to friends, and obsessively devising alternate plans to distract myself from the chaos of reality.

I am in the midst of an existential crisis because thirty-five is breathing down my neck and I am starting to panic.  I am not panicking about the fine lines that are present around my eyes from years of ear-to-ear grinning.  Nor am I worried about the permanent wrinkle that has formed between my eyebrows from over a decade of implementing one of my most effective classroom management strategies—the furrowed brow.

Age thirty-five scares the shit out of me because it is the deadline I gave myself on having another child.  I am freaking the fuck out because that is one year away.  My thirty-five-is-it baby deadline stems from logic’s pathetic attempt to rationalize my baby dream deferment.  When I am thirty-five, my daughter will be almost ten and that is an entirely different child rearing dimension—one full of sporting events, sleepovers, puberty, periods, boy band crushes, and braces.   Logic also tells me that ten is over halfway through and I have only eight more years until I can go and have “my life” back.  Logic reminds me that when she is eighteen and I am “done,” I can attend yoga classes and go out to dinner with friends without needing to come home and tend to spelling lists and bedtime routines.  I can travel and go see different parts of the world. I can retire earlier rather than later from teaching.  Logic screams if I had a child in my late thirties, then I will be putting a child through college into my early sixties.  Starting over with a new baby this late in the game just seems like logical nonsense.

My heart, which is not bound by the confines of age, yearns deeply for another child.  At my recent Vermont yoga and writing retreat, Jen Pastiloff, the “make-shit-happen” yoga instructor, asked the class to journal about what would we do if we were not afraid.  My head wrote some insignificant answers and my heart leap at the opportunity to answer.  My heart doesn’t get to speak much because the heart murmurs wisdom that requires extreme courage and can only be heard in the unpleasantness of vulnerability.  As we shared our entries (because when a group of people witnesses another’s deepest desire, the power of that prayer is heightened), my first attempt was weak and feeble.  Jen asked me to repeat it.  I tried saying it with greater conviction, but fear jumped up and made my voice crack in the middle of “I would have another baby.”  She looked me dead in the eye and repeated in affirmation, “You will have another baby.”  When our eyes locked, I could see my pain reflected back to me.  She had suffered an ectopic pregnancy a week or so before and she was grappling with her own baby dream deferment too.  A moment of intimacy between two women with similar longings.

My heart craved a family long before my daughter was conceived.  I purchased a house big enough to accommodate a rather large family, had a stable career that would allow summers off for family adventures, and established a strong village of family and friends willing to help me raise my family.  My heart ached for: little voices filling the rooms of the home; too many dirty dishes from a nourishing dinner still left in the kitchen sink; and a long list of practices and appointments to shuttle the children to in the mommy taxi.  These longings tormented me, so at age 25 I made a pact with God.  If by age 30 I hadn’t had a child yet, I would adopt or become a foster mom.  Because God has a tremendous sense of humor, my daughter was born at age 26.

Since the day my daughter was born, I wanted another child.  Ok, maybe not the day she was born because on that particular day, I felt like I had been ran over by a semi forty-two times.  But, with my swaddled, sleeping baby in my arms, I would tell anyone who would listen that if I had a husband, we would be trying for the next one.  I would half-heartedly joke that since my daughter’s father and I made such cute babies, all he had to do was give me the genetic material for my second baby and I would never ask him for anything again.

I try to disguise the all consuming jealousy of the women around me who are having their second or third child with happiness.  There is a part of me that is sincerely happy for them because babies are blessings.  But, that happiness is the sugary-sweet mask I wear to hide the part of me that is raging with venomous envy—the kind that rots life if given too much room, power, or clout.  At baby showers, I sit and watch women open the presents and oodle over the baby clothes, diapers, crib sheets, strollers, and bottles.  While I smile, oohh, and aahh my way through, my stomach is in knots and I fight for jealousy to not show up in my eyes.  In those moments, I pray my ass off.  “God, please hear me!  I wanted that to be me again.  Please, please, please let this be me.  When is it my turn?”

At the most recent baby shower, it was present time.  My daughter stood in front of my chair and watched the very pregnant, very glowing, and very excited mother-to-be.  In a nostalgic moment, I watched my daughter and remembered my pregnancy—how I used to lay my hand on my belly in moments of connection with this beautiful little girl who now stands before me.  At the beginning of present opening, my daughter’s disposition was upbeat and bouncy.  In an instant, it changed.  Her shoulders sagged and hunched forward as if to hide the heavy load on her heart.  Her lips, which were originally turned up in a smile, grew heavy and hung lifeless.  Her eyes, which usually ooze love, bulged with an uncharacteristic intensity that I knew so well.  I leaned over and whispered, “Are you jealous?”  She turned to me, gave me that mommy-you-know-me-so-well look, and climbed up in my lap as if my giant hug would ease her discomfort.  Her not-so-little-anymore head burrowed into my bosom and her almost five-foot body clung to me.  My daughter.  My mirror.  These longings in my daughter create indescribable pressure and my ego tells me it is my fault.  This makes me cry out in frustration and sorrow.  Fuck, what do I have to do in order to make this better?

During the last eight years, I have vacillating between the stages of mourning as I struggle to grieve and accept that not having another child might be my lot in life.  My default mode of operation is to bury my head in the sand and deny, deny, deny.  I tell myself that I must have unwavering faith, like a mustard seed, that it will happen.  I stay in my “awesome bubble” where everything is “great” and “wonderful” and “happy” and “tranquil” and “serene” to avoid feeling the rage I have about not finding my husband and not being able to have the family for which my heart longs.   I try to regain control of the situation by bargaining, bartering, and haggling with God and the universe.  My most recent negotiation with my daughter and God: if I am not on the marriage track by age 35, I will look into becoming a foster mother.

Sometimes, I get depressed and I let the tears of devastation flow—like the day I broke down as I gave away my daughter’s baby stuff for the second time.  I tried to give the stuff away the first time, but that attempt caused so much anguish that I ended up holding onto the stuff until my daughter was five-years old.  I felt like if I gave the stuff away, I was giving away the possibility of my next baby.  My maternal instinct clung to the stuff because I felt the need to be prepared.  My best friend pried my fingers from the stuff and coaxed me through the release.  In her infinite best friend wisdom, she assured me that when I do have my next baby, she would throw me a beautiful shower where I would get bigger and better baby stuff.  Plus, she reminded me that the single mom receiving my baby stuff needed it far more than the bottom of my daughter’s closet where it was stacked in a disheveled, disorganized mess.

When I was in my twenties, I told myself that if the next baby hadn’t happened by age 35—an age that seemed SO far away—I would force myself into acceptance and move on to Alternate Plan B.  To fill the void of my unborn children, I would proceed with going back to school for my doctorate and move up in my career.  As I approach my thirty-fourth birthday, doing so does not look as attractive as it once did.

For example, I applied for a teacher on special assignment position this past summer—the type of position for which I have groomed my resume.  But, as the interview approached, I grew more and more anxious.  Did I really want to leave the classroom?  Would I have the same impact if I left the classroom?  What would be the consequences on my family if I took a position like this?  I kept praying and praying for signs.  Former students came out of the woodworks in droves.  The gay student I mentored last year was moving to an online school and he was terrified of the change.  Would he be accepted?  Would he be motivated enough to complete the work on his own?  Could he graduate?  Through email, we walked through the enrollment process and the fears.  He was accepted and he is doing well.  I had several old students find me on Facebook and share with me how much I impacted them as a teacher almost ten years ago.  These were my signs.  It was not time to move on.  Thankfully, I did not get the job.

I am not ruling out the fact that a baby might come after the age 35.  God has shown me time and time again that my plans are no match for His perfect plan.  Nor I am ruling out the fact that Alternate Plan B may occur, but not at this time because if I activated Alternate Plan B now, it would be out of a need to fill a void.

So, what happens to my dream deferred?  Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?  Does it fester like a sore?  Or, does it exploded.

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“Mommy, am I fat?” ~ Rae

mommy am I fat

“Mommy, am I fat?”
My 9-year old daughter, Little K, asked me this question and it broke my heart. I don’t know how to respond. How I handle this concern could result in a healthy or horrible body image.
In reality, she is not FAT, but she does have a belly. Recently, family members have taken it upon themselves to make comments about her weight or to tell her what she can and cannot eat. She is young, but not dumb. She has started to take these comments very, very personally.

There are several complexities to address:

First, my oldest daughter is 14 and has never had to think about her weight. She was a preemie and has always been on the petite side. Now at 14, Miss Rose is tall, blonde, blue-eyed, leggy, and thin. She gets comments from family members about how pretty she is, including calling her “Barbie.” She can eat whatever she wants without issue—a disastrous recipe for sibling jealousy.
Secondly, Little K has always been in the higher size range for her age group. I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with Little K and she was born a healthy 8 pounds. She has always been bigger than Miss Rose. So when she looks at pictures of her sister at the same age, she can see there is a difference. I try to counter by pointing out to her that there are kids both bigger and smaller than her in her classes and that people come in all shapes and sizes.

Furthermore, weight has always been one of my own issues. I struggled with bulimia in high school and have fluctuated from super thin to 180-pounds in adulthood. Currently, I am at a healthy weight, but I know Little K hears me complain about my body and sees me weigh myself every day. Also, I have convinced my parents and brother to start counting calories as I do. They have all lost a significant amount of weight and have become hyper focused on food and calories. Both my daughters spend time at their grandparents’ house every day. So Little K hears all the adults around her obsessing about food, calories, and weight.

Little K is very active. She attends Tae Kwon Do twice a week (she is a black belt!) and takes a dance class. At school, she participates in every recess sport offered. Although at home, she loves to play on the computer and we have had to limit her time.

Likewise, she LOVES sweets (she is my child after all). If not reined in, she would eat sweets all day long. Her father and I have told her no more than one sweet a day. Her sister has no such rule, which probably seems unfair. But, Miss Rose doesn’t eat many sweets. So, we haven’t needed to make that rule for her. Little K sees this as an injustice because her sister can indulge in whenever she wants.

Considering all these factors, I am worried we are on the verge of creating a lifelong issue for her. With all this pressure put on her, in addition to the normal anxiety of puberty, she could be on the path to teenage weight issues like anorexia and/or bulimia. However, I do not want to be one of those oblivious parents with a 300-pound child. I know obesity is an issue in our country. I know healthy habits need to be instilled during childhood. I know it is my parental responsibility to ensure she has these habits.

When my little girl asks me “Am I fat?” I want to strangle the world that bombards women with images of super skinny models and actors. Every magazine page and every TV show glorifies the thin woman. Her own family members seem to adore her thin sister, yet pick at her flaws.

I don’t know what to do. Part of me wants to slap anyone who makes comments about her size. More productively, I have tried to help her understand that she is smart, kind, talented, and beautiful inside and out. I have shown her pictures of various family members and discussed how their bodies have all changed over time. Some who were super thin in childhood are now big; some who were chunky as children are now drop dead gorgeous; and others have gone up and down in size continuously. I tell her to worry about being healthy, not thin. I remind her that God made her and loves her. I know I should be the role model and be more active and healthy at home. I know that her father and I have a responsibility to give her the tools to deal with life. I know I have work to do to help both of my daughters love themselves and each other.

My solution for now: I will tell Miss Rose and Little K they are both perfect and hug them to me.

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A Tribute to a Halloween Gobblin’~ Kristi

It’s that time. HALLOWEEN! The time of black cats and bats. Ghosts and goblins. Kids in costumes. Trick or Treating. Truck and Treats. Pumpkin preparations. Truly, it is a ghostly good time.

There is one very, very frightening apparition that comes out to play every year. I try to shield myself from its ghoulish ways. I tell myself that this wicked presence cannot and will not possess me. I must resist. Somehow. Someway. But, my powers are no match. This goblin gets me gobblin’ every time.

The Halloween candy becomes this witch’s cauldron of choice! It bewitches me with all of its evil powers. It summons me with an invocation of the perfect sugar rush that awakens me from my normal exhausted, zombie-like state.

I promise myself I will not to be a candy vampire! I will not break into the candy stashed away for the sweet, innocent children in their guises, nor will I break into my daughter’s trick-or-treating loot. It’s like taking candy from a baby.

But, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups cast their malevolent spells and charm me with milk chocolate and peanut butter.

The Kit Kats cackle their “Give me a break. Give me a break. Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar!” I am utterly defenseless to these Sirens.

The Twix bars prank me into consuming frightful levels of caramel and chocolate.

The Skittles’ mesmerize me into submission and leave me wanting to taste the rainbow over and over and over again.

The Almond Joys drive me nuts. Mounds don’t. Just kidding. Little pieces of chocolate heaven, GET IN MY BELLY!

brachs-candy-corn-web

Let’s not talk about the numerous bags of candy corns I have bought in hopes of creating that really cute Pinterest-inspired centerpiece for my kitchen table. I start out with the best of intentions—I decide I won’t open the bag until it’s time to make the centerpiece. Then, the delicious little blend of yellow, orange, and white howl at me like a werewolf in the moonlight. I decide eating only one will not hurt… and eating one more won’t hurt… Then, I end up eating the entire bag, which leaves me lying on the couch like a victim in a horror film.

This annual hair-raising Halloween ritual leaves my pant seams shrieking in pain and agony as my “healthy lifestyle” becomes a phantom of the past. I know it will require many, many tricks on the elliptical to usher the newly acquired calories to a “Dead Man’s Party.” I know. I know. The Halloween candy’s devilish ways should rest in peace, but this “Monster’s Mash” is no match for the “Thriller” of Halloween’s confection glory. Until next year vile Halloween candy…

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Surrender to a Weighty Teacher~ Kristi

I have battled my weight for too long.  Just like I did with loneliness, I made my weight my biggest teacher.  If my poor eating habits have endured for decades, I needed to ask myself: what are these poor habits here to teach me?  I know the sweet taste of weight loss victory as I lost 50 pounds this time last year.  But, I also know the bitter taste of self-sabotage as I allowed myself to eat some of those pounds back.

These are just the beginning of the lessons I have learned as I surrender to another great teacher: my weight.

I must:

1.)    Be present.

I am good at setting a goal and doing whatever it takes to reach it.  Fitness gurus and magazines suggest using this strategy for weight loss.  At this point in my life, I cannot use this mentality.  It activates my overachiever, and she creates too much expectation.  If I don’t live up to these expectations, shame creeps in and shame feeds the critical voice in my head.  That ends with me eating an entire bag of chips to numb out from the ugliness of shame.  Instead, I have decided that I will just show up and do work.  I don’t try to control how the one workout will affect the overall outcomes.  I show up, trust the workout process, and wait for the organic results to manifest.

2.)    Think I am worth it and ask for help.

My default setting in life is martyr.  I am great at putting everyone needs first.  I am more than willing to put my responsibilities before taking care of me.  I am horrible (and by horrible, I mean atrocious) at asking for help.  My ego has a very hard time admitting that I don’t have it all handled and that I cannot do it all on my own.  The hardest admission ever:  “Ok.  Ok!  I admit it.  I need help.”  I need someone to come in and help me make time to work out because I am working on knowing I am worth it.   Sometimes that help comes in the form of going out to dinner instead of cooking or hiring a housekeeper/gardener.  Sometimes it means asking the 16-year old down the street to come babysit so I can have a few minutes to go to the gym.  I am not saying that doing so is easy.  It isn’t.  It is just necessary and I must honor this need of mine.

3.)    Understand that my weight is a symptom of my overall health.

If I am emotionally stable, I eat better.  If I am in a good mental space, making good choices is easier.  If I am spiritually connected to God, I want to take care of His body temple.  My eating and workout schedule reflect the other aspects of my life.  Therefore, I seek moderation, which is nowhere in my gene pool or in my repertoire of life tools.  I admire the people who can eat just two Oreos.  That’s not me as I can eat two rows of Oreos in record time.  Moderation, or finding middle ground, takes work and extreme awareness.

4.)    Stay in my lane and not compete with others.

In the summer Olympics in London, Sanya Richards-Ross, a gold medalist in the women’s 400m, said something about winning the bronze in Beijing that stuck with me.  As ESPN.com reports Richards-Ross saying: “I think what I did four years ago incorrectly was I didn’t stay in my lane and run my race,” she said. “I’ve had four years to think about it, and I’m not going to make that same mistake tomorrow.”  I have learned it is not about competing with the people around me as we all have different demands on our time, levels of commitment, and motivations.  It is about doing my best.  Sometimes just getting changed and getting in the car is my best; sometimes my best is a surprisingly strong performance.  If I compare myself to everyone around me, I will never feel successful, especially in a Crossfit gym where girls pump off pull-ups like they are as easy as eating bon-bons.   I compete with the voice in my head that tells me to stop and with the part of me that loves to be sedentary.  So, when I start to compare myself to others, I hear, “Stay in your lane.  Stay in your lane.  Stay in your lane.”

5.)     Celebrate the little victories.

Previously, it has been hard for me to celebrate the positive things I do because I don’t want inflate my ego and get a big head.  I think being humble is a very, very important quality in life.  But, I have learned that diminishing the good I do doesn’t serve me either.  I have learned I must celebrate the series of small victories along my road as celebrating the small victories are my way of honoring the work I have done, which is important.  In order to stay humble, I have learned it is about celebrating your achievement in that moment and then moving on.  My achievements do not define me—my character does.

Being healthy physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally will be my life’s work—not losing weight.  I know the number on the scale doesn’t define me and the size of my jeans doesn’t determine my beauty.  This process of getting healthy is really about being the best me I can be in that moment.  It is a process of finding my happiness, forgiving myself for failing, not holding myself to the standard of perfection, and breaking behavior patterns that are not for my best and highest good.

Weight

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When I die…

cemetary

You have probably heard the joke that there are only 2 things every person MUST do in life: Pay Taxes and Die.   All jesting aside death is a guarantee. No matter who you are, where you live, or how much you have Death will one day come for you.

Maybe you have also enjoyed the country song by Tim McGraw, “Live Like you were Dying”. I quite enjoy it. It has a catchy tune and makes one think about living life to its fullest. Yet I think the song writer might have the notion just a tad wrong.  The song is very focused on making sure “you” don’t die before “you” get to do everything “you” always dreamed of doing. It does mention a little about trying to be a better person, but still is very much centered in the individual.

According to the “CIA Factbook,” there are approximately 6,744 deaths in the US per day. Even though death is expected and promised to all, death in our society is seen as a cutting short and a time of sorrow. We grieve when someone we know dies and we say things like, “he had so much left to live for”. We fear our own death and we fear losing love ones to it.

Last Thursday, October 3, 2013 one of those 6744 deaths belonged to a man named Chuck Smith. Chuck Smith was the pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement. Since 1965 he taught that the Bible was literal and he preached line by line, verse by verse. Yet at the same time he was more accepting of people in all shapes, sizes, incomes, stages of life and morality than most of the other churches of the 60s. He welcomed hippies, drug addicts and all those who were lost. One story I love about this man is that when he was being questioned by some of the older parishioners of his church about allowing hippies to come in barefooted and dirty, he retorted, “If because of dirty jeans we have to say to one young person, ‘I am sorry, you can’t come into church tonight, your jeans are too dirty,’ then I am in favor of getting rid of the upholstered pews. Let’s get benches or steel chairs or something we can wash off. But let’s not ever, ever, close the door to anyone because of dress or the way he looks.” (http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/smith2.htm )

He was a man who lived with a purpose of serving God and others.  And while his family will of course miss him, everyone who has been touched by his life is viewing this death a little differently than usual. We might grieve for our own loss, but we do not grieve for Chuck. I believe firmly that the minute he took his last breath on earth, he took his first breath in Heaven. I believe that when God looks at Chuck’s life he says wholeheartedly, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23). In Chuck’s obituary there should be a sense of joy. This death was not a cutting too short. This death was at the right time and instead of an ending it is rather a conclusion well crafted.   Chuck’s life while not perfect had purpose.

So now I wonder: When I die what will the world say about me? Will people say it was too soon and that I had so much left to do? That worries me.  I will die,  tomorrow is promised to no one,  but whether I die tomorrow, next year or in 40 years I ponder what my children will think of me.  I want to live a life of purpose and while my purpose may not be to preach to a congregation of thousands, I know there is a reason why I was born.

People are always searching for the meaning of life. Maybe we have the question wrong and we should be asking instead how do I make my life meaningful?

How do I make it where when I die my family and friends rejoice in having known me? How do I make sure that I will hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” to me?

I have some work to do.

 

Chuck Smith said frequently, “Someday you’re going to read in the paper, ‘Chuck Smith died’, that’s bad reporting. What it should say is, ‘Chuck Smith moved.’”

 

 

 

 

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Empty the Cup~ Kristi

Cup

 

Last week instead of the typical staff meeting, we had some professional development.  Dr. Ernie Mendes presented some principles from his book, Empty the Cup Before You Fill It Up.  One of the cornerstone concepts is simple:  in order for a teacher to teach a student, especially a teenager, he or she must understand that students are like a cup—full of raging hormones, overwhelming life experiences, and unprocessed emotions.  If an adult tries to pour knowledge or wisdom into a student’s already full cup, then it overflows and nothing is gained, which is completely counterproductive.  In order to educate a student, a teacher must give students a moment to release some of the feelings or emotions that keep their cups full.

I set out to experiment with this principle and let life prove or disprove its authority.  Over the last week, life has proved it overwhelmingly:

  • I was at a parent-teacher-counselor meeting and the mother mentioned that the student behaves and performs better at school whiles she is in counseling.  Why?  Because the counseling empties the student’s cup.
  • I recently took over some classes from a teacher who was promoted.  I could feel the overachievers’ anxiety about me taking over.  I teach differently.  I relate to them in a different way.  I graded differently.  My lesson plans dictated that I try to cram more information into their notes, but I could not get past the resistance I felt as it was like teaching to a brick wall.  I decided to talk to them.   I wanted to give them an opportunity to tell me about how they were adjusting and what they needed from me.  It was an opportunity for them to empty their cups.
  • I was sitting down with my team teacher and we were going to hash out our lesson plans.  We spent 30-45 minutes talking about events in our lives before we even got started.  We had to empty our cups.
  • My grade level team had a release day for collaboration and we spent a good chunk of time talking about what is working and not working professionally and our concerns with the transition to Common Core standards and assessment—another example of emptying the cup.
  • It was a night where exhaustion from the back-to-school cold reigned.  My daughter craved attention and connection.  Her solution to my coughing and hacking existence was a warm cup of tea.  She and I sat on my couch with our cups of tea and talked.  She told me about her dreams and the highlights of her day.  I did the same.  It was a moment of emptying our cups—figuratively and literally.

After observing life since the professional development, I venture to hypothesize that teenagers are not the only ones who benefit from emptying the cup—everybody does.

Let me clarify: Emptying the cup is not spewing personal drama into the world to seek redemption, validation, or attention.  (We may know someone who makes conversations about his or her drama all the time or we may see individuals on Facebook oversharing too much information.)  It is about slowing down the hustle and bustle of life, connecting with our feelings, finding a safe space and medium to express them, and being vulnerable enough to share.  Emptying the cup is about fostering connection, which humans crave because it is a basic human need, and intimacy, or into-me-you-see.

While this concept was applied to the classroom by Dr. Mendes, it has direct application to friendships, relatives, marriages and relationships, workplace interactions, and just the everyday connections we make with strangers.

My prayer for everyone today is:  May you experience a moment of grace where you feel safe to share your emotions, hopes, and desires with another.  May you courageously choose to be vulnerable and empty your cup.  If someone else chooses to empty theirs with you, may you reach out with empathy, compassion, and understanding.  May these small gestures make the world more connected, open, and a better place to just be.  Amen!

 

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