Monthly Archives: November 2013

Moving Forward

“By seeking and blundering, we learn.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

weather1

Well, here it is.  *sigh*  I knew it was coming.  Knew I’d have to face it eventually.

The dreaded winter.  The evil snow.  The crappy road conditions.

Ugh.

For my readers who have been with me a while, you may remember one particular snow-related blog I wrote earlier this year.  To recap, we had one last freak late Winter/early Spring snowstorm that showed up out of nowhere at the beginning of April.  And said freak snowstorm just so happened to show up while I was driving home from work.  Freak snowstorm + driving home from work in a big, clunky car = bad.  Very bad.

I wrecked.

wreck

And not only did I wreck, but I flipped my car down a rocky bank and totaled it.  But…I’m here to tell you about it, so obviously the outcome was much better than what it had the potential of being.  And I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for that.

Now, fast forward a bit.  Although I was definitely a little shaky getting behind the wheel for the first time after the accident, the fear soon subsided and my life as a driver sailed on.  I got a new (well, new to me) car, one with all-wheel drive, thank you very much, and the accident was all but forgotten.

Well, that is, until today.

Today, we have snowfall #1 for Winter 2013.  And where was I?  Driving in it.  What was supposed to be a 30-minute drive to work ended up being an hour and a half drive to work.  (Now, if you know me well, or even if you don’t and you’ve paid attention to things I’ve said in the past, you’ll know that I actually live an hour from where I work.  Why did I say a 30-minute drive?  I’ll get to that part soon enough.  Believe it or not, this will all tie together eventually.  How do you like for foreshadowing, huh?  Huh?  Dude, I’m such a writer…)

weather2

Ok, back to the story.  So, when I left for work, it was just spitting snow a little and I didn’t think it was going to be that bad.  But as I got about a third of the way there, I realized that the further I went, the worse the roads were getting.  If there had been a place to safely turn around, I think I would have done it right then and there and went right back home.  But, sadly, there wasn’t.  So I kept moving forward.  By the time I got to the main road, I was over halfway to work, so I figured there would be less driving to just keep heading in the direction I was going.  Now, I’ve never been someone who was scared to drive in the snow, mind you.  But I’ve also never been someone who was driving in the snow for the first time after a bad snow-related accident either.  Needless to say, I was a little shaky.  Ok, a LOT shaky.

So, driving along scared to death in the snow with an extra hour of driving time than I had anticipated, my poor little brain had nothing else to do but think.  And think and think and think.  And since my dumb ole thoughts kept drifting back to the accident, and consequently to the similarities of today’s driving conditions to that day’s, I was doing all I could to redirect those silly thoughts to something else.  Anything else.  So…I reverted back to the old fail safe.  Something my thoughts seem to drift to pretty regularly.  Something I tend to overanalyze to death on a regular basis so why would my snowy drive to work today be any exception?

My relationship with Richard.

US2Richard and I have been talking about taking another step forward in our relationship.  And although I’m head over heels, madly in love with him, I’m a wee bit nervous about that.  Ok, just kidding…I’m scared out of my friggin mind.  See…I don’t have the best track record when it comes to making relationships work out.  I know, shocking, isn’t it?  I mean, a mild-mannered, shy, quiet little un-opinionated girl like myself?  How on Earth would I have trouble getting along in relationships, right?  I know, I know.  It surprises me too.  But alas, as hard as it is to believe, it is the honest truth.  And with that truth comes fear.  A well-founded fear.

A fear of another failure.

As my mind once again played out the pros and cons of our impending ‘next step,’ I looked around and realized that I was pulling into my driveway at work.  I had made it!  Obsessing over something besides the weather conditions actually worked to distract me!  Woohoo!

So, since I was safe and sound, I answered Richard’s “Did you make it to work?” text.

Me:  I made it!  My little car did awesome!
Richard:  Well, YEAH!  It has an awesome driver.
Me:  Ha!  I think last winter’s little accident proved that’s not true.
Richard:  Oh, that wasn’t your fault.  Shit happens.

And suddenly, with that one line of pure poetry coming out of my honey’s mouth (or, er…I guess I should say, fingers), it hit me.  The glaringly obvious similarity.  Duh!  How did I not notice it before?  This clear correlation between my fear of driving to work in the snow, and my fear of moving forward with Richard.  The fears were identical.  Both fears existed because of things that happened in the past.  And just like my carrying the heavy burden of blame for the accident, I was carrying that same burden of blame for my past failed relationships.

And this burden – this heavy, unnecessary albatross around my neck – was preventing me from moving forward.  Preventing me from just getting in the car (the new and improved car, I might add) and driving through the snow again.  I learned my lessons.  I drove a little slower.  I bought a better car that was more suited to winter weather.  I allowed myself more time.  I wasn’t in any hurry.  I learned.  It wasn’t my “fault” exactly, I realize that now.  As my philosophical sweetie so eloquently pointed out: shit happens.  It does.  It just happens.  So, you adjust.  You do things a little better next time.  You take it slower.  You make sure you’re better equipped.  You let life make you smarter.  And then you just keep going.

You just keep going.

So.  Accident logic learned – I cannot just stop driving anywhere because I once wrecked.  That would just be stupid, now wouldn’t it?   (*ding ding ding*)  Time to apply that logic elsewhere.  No more fear.  No more blame.  No more albatross.  Just let it go.

Time to move forward.

So, remember that little teaser I threw in there at the beginning?  The part about me having what should have been a 30-minute drive to work, when I actually live an hour from work?  Well, here’s why.  I was at Richard’s house.  You know why?  Well, let’s just say the past week has been a ‘test run’ of sorts.  We’re seeing what it would be like for me to live there.  With him.  Together.  And you know what?  We both feel – deep down in our guts – that this is the right thing to do.  It just makes sense.  You know?

So, as of January 1, 2014, Richard and I will be officially taking this next step forward to our future.  We’re moving in together.  We have our seatbelts on and we’re ready to go.  Our previous ‘accidents’ are just that.  Accidents.  They happened, they’re over, we’ve learned, and we’re ready to hop back in the car and see where this next trip takes us.

It’s time.

Wish us luck….

(Oh, and hey.  Do me a favor ok?  Don’t tell my Grandma!!!…) 😉

***

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
– Rick Warren

Selfies

Selfie:  “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

selfie6[Obligatory selfie of me blogging about selfies?  Check!]

Ok, WordPress, get with the program.  Stop giving me the little red underline thingy when I type the word ‘selfie.’  Haven’t you heard?  It’s a word now.  No, it’s not misspelled.  No, I didn’t really mean to type “sulfide” (but hey, thanks for that wonderfully appropriate suggestion…).  No, selfie is now a word.  Really.  Just ask the Oxford Dictionary.

Ok, so, in case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard, ‘selfie’ was chosen as the Word of the Year by the Oxford Dictionary.  I mean, everybody’s saying it, and hey – everybody’s doing it – so we might as well go ahead and recognize it, right?  Makes sense.

So, since this seems to be the ‘trend’ these days, I thought I’d throw my two cents in there on the subject.  I mean, I know I tend to be as quiet as a little church mouse when it comes to having an opinion on things, but I thought I’d break the rules just this once…  (Heh.)

So, when it first crossed my mind to blog about this, I decided to check with other people to see what their first, gut responses were about selfies.  The first person I asked?  “Selfies = wanting attention.”  Well, there ya go.  The next?  “Well, I guess it sort of depends on the context of the photograph, but for the most part I see them as vain.”  Both excellent answers and probably answers that go with the majority.  They were also the answers I’d probably give if I were asked.

Well, that is, if I didn’t take the time to think it through and realize what a hypocrite I am.

Before I started to write this blog, I would have made this statement:  I am the type of person who does not do the selfie thing.  No way.  Not this girl.  Absolutely not.  But then I started looking through my pictures and I noticed something.

Apparently I’m the queen of what I now like to call the “sneaky selfie.”

Yep.  Apparently if I add some humor or a purpose or, best sneaky selfie loophole ever: another person to the picture, then I’m totally absolved of any of the ‘vanity’ accusations, right?

selfie9

Selfie with the boyfriend?  Well, duh.  He’s my honey.  No vanity here.  I’m not trying to say I look good…I’m saying, “look how cute we are together!”  Right?

selfie7

Goofy selfie with my daughter?  No vanity there!  Just being silly.  And someone else is in the picture, so it’s all good.

How about….

selfie10

Duck face with a baby selfie??  Helllo!  No vanity there.  Nothing but cuteness.  Aren’t I adora….*ahhem*…um…isn’t she adorable???

selfie1

Swing selfie?  Well, duh.  Everybody’s doing it! Look how much fun I’m having!  I’m being a kid.  I’m being goofy. Weeee!  (I mean, yeah, my hair looks great, and my eye color is popping, but I hardly even noticed that part….) There’s humor, people.  Totally acceptable.

Oooh, or how about the time I straightened my hair with a new hair straightener and wanted to show the world how good it worked?

selfie11

Nothing wrong with that!  That combined two of the sneaky selfie criterion to a tee.  Humor and purpose.  Totally cool.  And yeah, my hair was looking kinda perfect that day, but that was totally a coincidence.  No vanity here.

Ooooooh.  Or about the theatre sneaky selfies??  Totally acceptable, right?

selfie2 selfie3

Of course!  I’m not me, I’m somebody else!  Duh.  I’m not showing myself off, I’m showing off my love of theatre and costumes.  These pics were totally about the costume/makeup people, not me.  Heavens no.

*sigh*

I’m even sick of looking at my own self at this point, so I’m going to go ahead and stop with the photographic evidence and just get to my point.  Like my two guinea pigs’ answers at the beginning of this story – and, like what my own answer would have been – are you of the “selfies are just vanity” mindset?  Or, to put it quite frankly, are you a hypocrite like me?

What the heck is wrong with it, people?  I mean, it’s such a phenomenon that it has become the word of the year.  The word of the freakin year!  Is it vanity?  Ok, maybe to an extent, it is.  But you know what?

Who the heck cares??

Isn’t it kind of awesome if you think about it?  Whether you’re a flat out selfie poster or a hypocritical sneaky selfie poster like myself, either way I think there’s a deeper meaning behind this trend.  People are starting to…*gasp*…feel good about themselves!  What??  Surely not!  We’re not allowed to do that, right!?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote what has become a vastly popular article called Get Over It. This was an article in response to one man’s criticism of runners and of what he calls their incessant need to “show off.”  I adamantly defended runners and the fact that they have every right to plaster their 5K, 10K, 13.1 and 26.2 stickers on the back of their cars because it’s something they are proud of.  Something that they not necessarily want other people to see (although if they do, great!), but mostly something that they themselves are proud of and want to display.  I defended that right to no end and broadcasted my opinion that we runners should shout our accomplishments from the rooftops.  And apparently, almost 1600 people have agreed with me because that’s where my stats are right now for this one article.

But if I took those 1600 people, myself included, and asked them what they think about selfies, I wonder what their answer would be?  Same as mine would have been?  Same as my test subjects’ answers were?

I’m guessing probably so.

I sure do need to stop being a hypocrite.  Do you?  If your hair looks good today, if you’re especially proud of your makeup (girls, not guys – oh heck, my readers are super diverse – guys that wear makeup, this goes for you too), or if you’re just feeling especially good about yourself today for no reason at all and you want to snap a new profile pic of yourself?  By all means, selfie it up, people.  We only get one spin at this whole ‘life’ thing, we might as well just live it.  Smile, capture the moment, show it off, and move on.

You won’t be getting any more flack from me.  That’s a promise.

***

“Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.”
– Samuel Johnson

Family Tree

“I find the family the most mysterious and fascinating institution in the world.”
– Amos Oz

familytree

My family tree is a little lop-sided.

Okay, I guess I should explain what I mean by that.

I come from two completely opposite families.  On one side – my mother’s side – you have the big, boisterous family.  My mom is one of 9 biological brothers and sisters and then, later in life, added so many step-siblings to that total that I’ve lost count.  family2bAnd then she herself ended up having five children, of which I’m the oldest, so you can imagine that there weren’t many moments of quiet and solitude in my life while growing up.  When I think of that side of the family – the siblings, the cousins, the aunts, the uncles, etc. – I think of laughter and loudness.  Of drama and emotion.   Of lots and lots of outspoken love and endless support. Variety.  Open-mindedness.  Freedom.

And then.  Well, then there’s my father’s side.

My father is an only child.  His mother, my grandmother, is also an only child.  There are no aunts.  No uncles.  No cousins.  It’s always been…well, just us.  And when I think of that side of the family, the thoughts that pop into my mind couldn’t be more different than when I think of the other.  family5bNo, with this side, I think of calm.  Of quiet.  Of dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s.  Of keeping emotion and drama locked up tight and making sure you don’t stand out.  Blending.  Conforming.  Behaving.

Now, I understand that I have just painted this side in a more negative light, but I really don’t mean to do that.  There are pros and cons of both sides.  For instance, on my mom’s side, it’s a little easy to get lost in the crowd.  No one notices everything you do because they have their eyes on so many others.  There will be weeks, months even, without phone calls.  (But that’s okay, because we all know we’ll pick right back up where we left off whenever we do cross paths again.)

But on my dad’s side?  No, there is no getting lost in the crowd.  You are always thought of.  Missed.  Examined under a microscope.  Expected to pick up the phone and make contact in regular intervals.  You are definitely remembered, never forgotten about, and constantly noticed.

Well, as you can imagine, being someone that comes from such different ends of the spectrum has managed to play with my head a little.  The other day, at the insistence of a bored friend, I took an unofficial online personality test.  As I went through the test answering questions about such things as my preference of being alone or in a crowd, and where I stand when I walk into a crowded room (middle or edge?), I noticed that some of my answers were contradicting each other.  And that seemed odd to me.  Do I like crowds or don’t I?  Do I like being the center of attention or don’t I? Taking this test made me think of another odd inconsistency I’ve noticed in my life.  Any time I’m headed to a large get-together, I dread it and think I’d rather be doing anything else – and then, I get there, and I have a blast.   What the heck is up with that?!

Now that I think about it, I can’t help but realize that these inconsistencies in my personality most likely stem from the two opposing influences I had growing up.  Yeah, yeah, I know – everybody blames everything on their parents [cue the mental image of me lying on a couch in a psychiatrist’s office telling him all about my crazy childhood…].  But seriously, in this case, I think I’m probably on to something.  We are influenced by our family, whether we like it or not.

Which brings me to the real reason I’m writing this blog.

Some of you may have seen the post I wrote about my Grandma a few blogs ago.  Thinking that I had done a good thing by writing it, I sent her a copy.  Now, think back to what I just told you about my two families.  This Grandma?  Well, this is the grandma from my father’s side of the family.  The ‘keep what you think to yourself’ side.  The ‘don’t go airing our business for all the world to see’ side.  The ‘can’t you keep your mouth shut for once?’ side.  And, well, as you can probably guess, Grandma was none too happy with what I wrote about her.

Now, I knew this was a possibility.  I did.  I haven’t been completely blind for the last 35 years.  But I thought that since I was telling about this wonderful thing that she was doing, I hoped that maybe she could see that and realize that others reading her story might actually do some good in the world.  And honestly, I thought that it showed how proud I am of her.  Being that we’re the ‘shhhh…don’t talk about important stuff’ family, I thought this would be a way to show her that I think she’s pretty darn cool.  But, alas.  Nope.  That’s not how she saw it apparently.  She thinks I made her look “mean” and that I shouldn’t be talking about private things in such a public way.

*sigh*

Now, I could pretend that it didn’t bother me.  And I did.  For a while.  But as soon as I hung up the phone, the pretending stopped.  The part of me that is like the other side of the family started to peek through, and immediately the tears started falling.  My boyfriend Richard had overheard the whole thing and immediately came and wrapped me in his big ‘everything’s gonna be okay’ arms and told me how proud he was of me for writing it.  Of course, I was upset and told him that I felt like ‘never writing again,’ etc. etc.  So he suggested an alternative.  Rather than not writing, maybe I should just go write another blog, only this time write it just for myself.  Go back to the private blog world for a bit and write the things that I really feel.  Just vent, get it over with, and then delete it and move on.  No missyspublicjunk this time.  Just write some private junk all for myself and get all that crap out on paper. (Heh…little did he know, he suggested the very thing that I already do about him all the time!  Shhhh.)  So, thinking that was some pretty good advice, I headed to the computer to do just that.

And here I am.

I struggled in my brain with not posting this publicly, but suddenly it occurred to me that I was fighting those opposing forces in my head.  Yes, I could write this privately and make that side of the family (i.e. that side of my personality) happy, or I could stay true to the real me and just go ahead and post it.  And if there’s something I’m learning as I get older, it’s to do that “staying true to the real me” thing a heck of a lot more often than I used to.  And, so far, it’s made for a much happier me in the process.  So, I think I’m going to stick to it.

But, oddly, a funny thing happened as I started writing.  The anger and bitterness that I thought I felt towards my Grandma suddenly started giving way to something else.  Rather than concentrating on the fact that she was upset, I concentrated on the why part.  She said that she thought I made her look ‘mean.’  Mean?  Really?  I went back and reread my blog and I didn’t see that at all.  What I see is not ‘mean.’  What I see is ‘strength.’  At first I thought maybe my writing didn’t convey what I had intended.  But as I read, and reread, I realized that it does.  It doesn’t make her look mean, it makes her look strong.

And suddenly, a light bulb went off in my head.  Maybe ‘strong,’ in her mind, equates to ‘mean’?  My grandmother grew up in a very different time than I did.  She grew up in a time where women were to play their appointed ‘roles’ and nothing more.  She was a wife.  A mother.  A cook.  A housekeeper.  A caregiver.  She played the role of her time perfectly.  She was subservient to her husband.  She never got a drivers license (even though she worked for years) because it was not a woman’s place to drive.  She kept her opinions to herself if they didn’t match the man’s opinion, because it wasn’t her place to speak up.  She was a woman.

Well, this woman is now a widow.  She now has no man to take care of her and is forced to do things on her own.  And now, more than ever, I see her spunk shining through.  She is the woman who has to kill snakes when they get too close to the house (see previous blog).  She is the woman who has to fix the plumbing problems when they pop up.  She is the woman who has to be ready, no matter the circumstances, to fend for herself.  She is alone.  And in this loneliness, whether she likes it or not, a strength has developed.  She is tougher.  And that strength, that toughness, is what I was trying to convey in my blog.  And, as evidenced by her discomfort with it, I think I must have succeeded.

So am I sorry I wrote it?  No.  Not one bit.  I meant every word of it.  And will I continue writing what’s on my mind?  You bet I will.  Of course there are some things that will still remain private (I’m not an idiot), but the things like this – this blog that has been stirring inside my mind for the past 24 hours begging to get out – these words will be posted.  They just have to be.  I’m a writer.  I have no choice but to get it out.

I have no choice but to be true to me.

Why?  Because I’m strong.  Just like my grandmother.

megrandma

(Oh, and P.S. – you can bet your patooty that I won’t be sending this one to her.  Rebel?  Maybe.  But death wish?  Nope.)

***

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”
– George Bernard Shaw

Books

“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.”
– Vera Nazarian

booksOk, I’m bustin out the geek card for this blog.

I’m going to talk about how much I love books.  And, holy crap, do I love books!  I mean, I really really love books.

I saw the picture to the right on Facebook the other day, and I felt a little tingle in my stomach.  Seriously, I’m that big of a nerd!  I know that feeling of ‘magic’ that it’s referring to….the feeling of holding a book in your hand, smelling the pages, wondering what other life is waiting inside for you to slip into.  It’s addictive, man, I’m tellin’ ya.

And, admittedly, I do have a slight problem when it comes to that kind of addiction.  I’m obsessed with buying and owning these books, but I don’t exactly always get around to reading them.  You know what I mean?  It’s like the food thing – you know how when someone thinks they’re crazy hungry so they pile their plate with food and then they’re not quite able to finish it?  You call that your eyes being bigger than your stomach, right?  Or something like that.  Well, I have that problem with books.  My eyes are bigger than the amount of free hours I have in a day.  So, with that being the case, I own a huge bookshelf, overflowing with books, and I could honestly bet you that there are about 1/3 of them sitting there unread.

Eh.  Oh well.  I’m sure there are worse addictions to have.

librarySo, with this book addiction of mine comes another addiction.  The library.  Holy cow, the library is the greatest thing ever invented.  EVER.  I mean, hello?  There are thousands of books just sitting there waiting for you to borrow them and read them. For free!  What kind of person doesn’t take advantage of that?  Books.  For you to read.  For free.  Duuuuh!  Ok, am I the only person that gets this excited about books?  Please tell me I’m not.  Please?  Anybody?

I’m lucky enough to work right down the road from the local library.  And, apparently, I spend quite a bit of time there.  Just yesterday when I went by to check out a book, one of the librarians said, “I haven’t seen your name on the ‘hold’ list in a while.  Everything ok?”  Heh.  Um, wow.  Ok, first of all, I don’t even know this lady.  I’ve seen her quite a few times, of course, but there are many librarians that file in and out and I didn’t recall having seen her any more often than anyone else.  But apparently, she remembers me.  Strangely, that made me kind of proud.  See?  Nerd.

I have turned to that library so many times over the years.  Problems with the kids?  Head to the library.  There’s a parenting book for that.  Stressful day at work?  Head to the library at lunch.  Grab an easy read and sit in the stillness for an hour before you have to jump back into reality.  Relationship problems?  Head to the library.  Breathe in the quiet and calm and check out a book about relationship issues and find out where you’re going wrong.  [Funny tidbit on that topic: a friend of mine was going through a rough time in a relationship recently, so I went to the library and checked out my ‘go-to’ relationship book for her to read.  When I gave her my precious breakup bible, she realized there was a piece of paper stuck in it.  What was it, you ask?  A receipt.  My receipt.  The receipt from the last time I checked the book out was still in it.  Ha!  Apparently I’m the only one who reads that thing.  Isn’t it time for them to just give it to me??  By the way, the book is called “It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken” by the author of “He’s Just Not That Into You,” Greg Behrendt and his wife, Amiira.  It rocks.]

chickensoupAnd now that you know what a nerd I am about books, you’ll have a better understanding for why I’m so incredibly excited about what is getting ready to happen to me.  One of these days over the next few weeks, I’m going to get home from work and there is going to be a box waiting at my door.  And inside this box is going to be ten brand new books that haven’t even been released in the stores yet.  And you know why I’m getting that box of books?  Because my name is listed in them as an author.

My name is listed as an author.

Holy crap, just typing that sentence gave me goose bumps.  This silly blog that I started just nine short months ago, and that now is bordering on 13,000 views, has led me to this.  Because I took the chance that someone might like something that I had written, I am going to be a published author.  A published author!  The closer it gets, the more real it becomes.  My name is going to be listed among other writers in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game.  Me!  The lover of the written word, the nerd who can’t stay out of bookstores, the girl who is known on a first name basis by the librarian…I am now going to walk into these places knowing that somewhere within them lies a book that has my name in it.

Somebody pinch me!

Kind of strange how life works out sometimes, isn’t it?  I am so grateful to all of the authors that have come before me.  The ones who have written the many books that I have read and have shown me what pleasure can come from reading someone else’s story.  It blows my mind to think that I am going to be sitting on their side of the table now.  Somewhere someone will be in my place – they will be the nerd sitting at the bookstore or at the library or on their couch with their cat.  They will pick up this book and start reading a story that touches them in some way, and they’ll look to the name of the author, and it will be mine.  Mine.

Full circle, people.  Life always finds a way to come back full circle.

This is the stuff dreams are made of.

***

“It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition.”
– Isaac Asimov

Grandma

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it, is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
– William Arthur Ward

Ok, I’m going to take a break from talking about running for a second.  (Don’t get comfortable with that or anything.  I just started my 21-week training plan for my first full marathon in April, so you can bet your sweet dimpled booty that I’ll be talking that thing to DEATH soon enough…)  But, for now, I have something else I want to tell you about.

My grandma.

Now, in some of my previous blogs, I have told you about my sweet MawMaw, my mother’s mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.  But the one I want to tell you about now is my father’s mother.  I have something to show you about her that I think you might like.  (I know I do.)

Well.  Here she is.

grandmablog1That’s my little grandma in a picture that was taken in July of this year on her 83rd birthday.  Now, don’t forget that number: 83.  Because that’s the part that is going to be important to the story I’m going to tell you.  But first, let me tell me you a little bit about this woman.

If anyone were to ever ask me to describe my grandma using only one word, the first word that would come to mind is: “feisty.”  Whew, let me tell ya.  There is NO stopping her.  She will tell you what she thinks and that’s just all there is to it.  For instance, a conversation I had with her yesterday:

Her: Your hair doesn’t look good straight.  It doesn’t suit you.
Me: You’re the only one who says that, Grandma.  Everyone else says it looks better straight.
Her: People lie.
Me:  Grandma….
Her:  They were just trying to be nice to you.  I’m not.

See?

(Incidentally, you’ll notice my hair is curly in the picture above, as it usually is when I go visit her because I know her thoughts on the subject.  Yesterday, however, I was feeling unusually brave.  Bad idea.)

Oh, and how about this for an example?  My grandma has been having some snake issues around her house.  Little does she know, I’m sure even the snakes have passed the word amongst themselves not to mess with her…but nevertheless, she holds tight to her steadfast fear of the slithery little boogers.  So, while we were all gathered at her house after church yesterday, my dad found a live snake in her yard.  He picked it up (he’s weird about stuff like that – not scared of them at all), and proceeded to somewhat terrorize us with it for a while.  (Well, everyone except my daughter Kelly, who managed to fall in love with the stupid thing.)  Well, Grandma hears tell of what’s going on and comes flying out of the house wielding her hoe that she keeps handy for just this very purpose.  Yes, you read that right.  All 110-pounds soaking wet of my granny came flying out of the house with her handy hoe held high over her head…ordering my dad to drop the snake immediately.  He protested (though not for long – he’s known her even longer than I have and knows better than to try to argue) and finally, defeated, dropped his little buddy on the ground to meet his fate.  Here’s a little math for ya.  Grandma + Hoe = Bye Bye Snake.  She hoed (is that a verb?) the little guy until his grandpa felt it.  (And then had to make amends to little Kelly who just lost her new ‘pet’ at the hands of Granny.  Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it amends, per se….”If you had to live here, you’d be taking a hoe to the nasty little thing too, young lady…”  That’s an apology, right?)

Whew.  And those were just examples from yesterday alone.  Catch my drift?

But let me tell you about something else about yesterday.  And about my grandma.  Remember how I told you to remember that number – 83?  Well, I’m going to tell you why.

grandmablog3Have you heard of Operation Christmas Child sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse?  To put it simply, this organization encourages people to put together a shoebox filled with gifts for children.  They then send these shoeboxes to children in over 130 other countries who might not receive anything at Christmas time.  This is a Christian-based organization that provides not only the gifts, but also pamphlets about Christ.  Now, I am fully aware that there are people of many different beliefs that read my blog, but regardless of where you stand on that kind of thing, you have to admit this is a pretty cool thing to do, right?  Anything that benefits a kid is A-OK in my book.  And as for my grandma?  Well, it’s pretty ok in her book too.  In fact, it’s so ok, that she participates every single year.  And by participates, I mean, PARTICIPATES.  This little spitfire of a woman decided years ago that each Christmas she was going to prepare a box per year of her age.  So, this year?  You guessed it.  She prepared 83 boxes to ship off to Samaritan’s Purse.

Eighty-three.  Wow.  Just…wow.

grandmablog4She starts working on them at the beginning of the year and has them ready for pickup in mid-November.  My dad and I helped her bag them up this year to haul out to the front porch to await the church member who would be dropping by later in the week to load them up.  After much begging and coaxing from me, I finally convinced her to let me take a picture of her surrounded by her 10 full large black bags filled to the brim with toys for children that she will never even see open them.  I told her that I wanted to tell the story about her on my blog – to show people what she does every year and give her some credit for it.  She responded, “I don’t do it for credit.  Don’t show my picture to people, it might look like I’m bragging, and that’s not what I do this for.”

Well, Grandma, I know that.  (And, most importantly, those kids know that.)  But no one said that I couldn’t brag on you, now did they?

grandmablog2Inside that feisty, tough exterior lies a heart of gold.  I am so proud to say that this woman has shaped much of who I am and what I believe.  Now, granted, we don’t always see eye to eye on things (and that is probably the understatement of the year…), but it sure is nice to know that someone with this kind of generous, strong-willed heart had a lot to do with making me who I am today.  If I’m even half the woman she is, I’ll be very proud of the life I’ve lived.  As I hope she is.

And, just for the record, I did finally get her permission to write this.  (Well, sort of.  I mean, she didn’t come after me with the hoe when I insisted that I was going to do it anyway, so I guess that’s “permission,” right?)  Like I told her, it’s not bragging if: 1) someone else is doing it, and 2) it inspires others.  And that #2 one is the kicker.  Think about the warm feeling it gives you when you hear about other people doing something nice for each other.  It gives you a little boost – makes you believe in the kindness of our fellow man again and, possibly even inspires you to do the same.  If her intention was to help someone – then I think writing this blog about her will do just that…and then some.  Watching what she has done has helped me, I know that.  And maybe reading this might just help you, too.  Hey, you just never know.

So, how about it?  Does something come to mind that you can do to help someone?  Even if it’s just a small little thing that you think won’t even matter?   Well, guess what.  It will matter.  Go do it.  And if you want to keep it a secret, that’s fine.  Noble even.  But if it happens that someone wants to show you off, let them.  Only good will come of it.  I promise.  You may not have a loud-mouth granddaughter with a public blog, mind you.  I get that.  But I’m sure there’s someone out there that is going to be inspired by what you’ve done, and is going to want to show you off.  And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

Let’s keep taking care of each other, ok?

***

“For it is in giving that we receive.”
Francis of Assisi

Get Over It

“Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them.  You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.”
– Norman Vincent Peale

So, for the past few days I have been sitting here wondering what my next blog topic would be.  My last blog about my dad was pretty heartfelt and emotional, and I wasn’t quite sure how to follow up after that.  How do you switch gears after writing about something so personal and moving?  How was I going to find something else to rival that kind of emotional response to spur me to spill my guts in another blog entry?

And then, (grrrrrrrrr) I saw THIS.   An article called “Ok, You’re a Runner.  Get Over It.”

And I got PISSED.

(Should’ve known it wouldn’t take long to get my blood pumping over something again…)

I can’t even believe I’m lowering myself to post a link to this nonsense, but I didn’t know how else to comment about it without allowing you to take a look for yourself.  In case you don’t want to take the time to read through all the B.S. (for which I don’t blame you one bit and wish I had been smart enough to do the same), let me give you a basic rundown on what Mr. Jerk Face was saying in his rant.  (That is, if I am allowed to use the word rundown.  Because, ya know, it might look like I’m broadcasting that I’m a runner.  And we can’t have that, right, Mr. Jerk Face?)

So, Jerk Face (who has a name, but I don’t care what it is) says, among a bunch of other crap, that runners only run “to be seen.”  Or, in his words:

“There is no more visible form of strenuous exercise than running. When runners are dashing down a street in the middle of town or through a subdivision, they know that every driver, every pedestrian, every leaf-raker and every person idly staring out a window can see them.  These days, people want more than ever to be seen.”

042812101008_edit0Oh, dear God, Jerk Face, do you have any idea how wrong you are?  One of the sole reasons I remained a non-runner for as long as I did (aside from being lazy) is that I did not want to be seen.  It was such a struggle to don those running shorts and t-shirts and go out on public roads and plop my flab up and down for all the world to see.  And I don’t think I’m alone in saying that.  So many of us want to become healthier, but we are embarrassed by how we look in the process.  We see those runner magazines with the tiny little girls with the six-packs stretching their tan legs out as they glide effortlessly across some trail…but what we don’t see is the majority of us who are the ones holding these magazines and poring over these articles and debating whether to get up the courage to take those first steps out the door.  We are the 30-something year-old moms with the stretch marks and love handles squeezing over the top of our spandex.  We are the real women, the imperfect women, who want anything but to be seen.  We are the out of shape, somewhat chubby runners who try to hide in the back of the pack at our first 5k race and pray that our sports bra is tight enough to not cause an embarrassing scene as we waddle down the course.

mebrrrAnd then, ever so slightly, over time, we become the slightly less lumpy, slightly more energized, slightly more confident women who can now run three miles without stopping.  And then, before you know it, we’re the woman who hesitantly clicks the button to sign up for her first half marathon, wondering what on earth she has just done.  And then we become the woman who pours her heart and soul and dedication into pushing and pushing and pushing until she can run 4 miles without stopping.  And then 5.  And then 6, 7, 8….  And with each mile, our pride edges up ever so slightly and little by little we start to realize that we are capable of so much more than we ever thought possible.

And then…we become the woman who has mastered her first half marathon.  Who has put all of her energy into succeeding at something she never thought possible.  We become the woman who purchases her first little oval “13.1” sticker and, with a tear in her eye, places it right there on the back of her car to remind her that she did it.  She did it!  racecollage4And she wants all of the other women out there passing by in their cars to look at that little oval, and then see the normal, every day, non-magazine model driving the car that proudly sports said bumper sticker and see that she looks just like them.  And she wants them to think, “Hey.  If she can do that, maybe I can too.” And before long, we become the women that have inspired others to go out there and get some of this beautiful thing called self-confidence.  This beautiful gift of knowing what it feels like to be proud of yourself.  This beautiful gift of coming out of hiding and showing the world that we are survivors and can do anything we put our minds to.

So, Mr. Jerk Face, to sum it all up – I salute you.  Thank you for writing this article.

Yep, that’s right.  I said, thank you.

Thank you for reminding me that I have a passion.  Because some days I forget.  Some days when I feel tired, or slow, or lazy, I forget that I’m a runner.  ME2And then I see something like what you just wrote…and the intense pride for who I am and what I do swells up inside of me and pushes me forward.  Your article makes me feel more motivated than ever to go tie up my shoelaces and earn more and more of those little stickers to plaster all over the back of my car.  Because you know why?  Not because I’m a bragger.  Not because I’m mean or spiteful.  But because I have succeeded.  I have overcome much more than little puny articles like yours that have tried to stand in my way.  I am a two-time cancer survivor.  I am a divorce survivor.  I am a single mom.  And I am a RUNNER.

And you can bet your sweet ass that I am proud of that fact.  Finally.

And you know what you can do?

Get over it.

***

“Press on.  Obstacles are seldom the same size tomorrow as they are today.”
– Robert H. Schuller

My Veteran

“The willingness of American’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude.”
– Jeff Miller

So, it’s Veterans’ Day.  And in honor of Veterans’ Day, I want to take the time to talk about one of them.  My favorite one, actually.

My step-dad.

DAD7(And just for the record, that’s the last time I’ll refer to him as that for the rest of the blog.  Just wanted you to know that he is my step-father for informational purposes.  As you will see from the story I’m about to tell you, I have dropped the “step-” part of his name because that is no longer necessary.  He is my dad.)

So, when I was about 5 years old, my mom met this great guy named David.  I thought he was pretty cool, to be honest.  It was kind of nice having someone else around when it had only been myself and my mom for all those years.  My mom and real dad had divorced when I was a baby and though my dad was definitely in my life, I only saw him on the occasional weekend.  I lived primarily with my mom.  Just the two of us.  Suddenly, this new guy was around quite a bit.  I remember him taking me along with them when they went places and such.  One particular early memory that sticks out in my mind is the time I got to go to the movies with them.  There’s a Brad Paisley song called “He Didn’t Have to Be” and in it there’s a line that says, “he took my mom out to the movies and, for once, I got to go.”  Yep.  That line gets me every time.  Because that was me – the new guy was just as happy to have me along as he was my mom.

And then came the day when I was about 6 years old.  I came home from school and my mom and David were sitting in the living room and said they wanted to tell me something.  I was young, so the memory is somewhat hazy, but there are two things that really stand out.  One – I remember sitting on David’s lap.  They told me that they were getting married (I don’t remember the exact words – just have that memory of sitting on his lap) and apparently I was pretty happy about the news.  All was well.  A new person to join our family.  Yay!

But then comes the second memory.

My new room.

Now, mind you, my mom and I had lived alone all of these years in a small two-bedroom apartment.  And with it being just the two of us, I had sort of decided that my mom’s bed was my bed too.  And she had allowed that.  So that “extra” bedroom back there was just that.  Extra.  A place for storage and my toys and whatnot.  Not a place where I actually slept.  Duh.  I slept with my mommy.

Until now.

They walked me back to the room and opened the door.  There was a new bed, a few new toys, and (I distinctly remember this) some new little workbooks on my bed.  I LOVED those workbooks.  They were the kind that taught you how to write in cursive by tracing the little dots.  I was such a nerd – writing was my favorite thing in the world to do (not much has changed actually).  So, with them knowing how much I liked those little workbooks, what was wrong with a little bribe to sweeten the deal, right?  Well, it worked.  I loved my new room!

Until bedtime, that is.

Bedtime rolled around, and I wanted to sleep with my mom.  Like always.  But, alas, that was a no-go.

Now, I’m no psychologist.  But I’m willing to bet that that bedroom moment was the one that planted the seed.  This man that I really did secretly like, was now to become the enemy.  He took my mommy!  Thus, began the years of the “you’re not my real dad”s and the “I don’t have to listen to you”s and the “I hate you”s.  Oh, my poor poor mom.  The hell I must have put her through.  (Funny how that becomes so clear once you have children of your own.)

DAD5Eventually, my dad joined the Army and that’s when the new brothers and sisters started to arrive.  I went from being an only child at age 7, to being the oldest of five by age 13.   Now, that part was pretty cool.  I adored being a big sister.  The part that wasn’t cool, however?  The moving.  The endless, ENDLESS, moving.  The girl who had lived in the same small town her whole life was now being uprooted and sent to God only knows where.  Yep, I was to become a “brat” – in every sense of the word.  I made sure the whole world knew how I felt about that, too.

Well, let’s fast forward a bit.  To age 17.

Not much had changed in all those years.  I still fought with my dad every chance we got – and I’m sure my mom still cried silent tears over each and every one.  Not once had I stopped to think about what he was doing with his life – serving his country each and every time he donned that uniform.  Not once had I realized that he was supporting and providing for this large family each time he laced up those big black boots.  Nope – I couldn’t see past myself and my own “misery.”  And at this point, that misery had reached it’s peak.  Not only had he moved us yet again, but this time we were in a whole different country.  He had taken us all the way to Germany…the big doo-doo head.  Oh, I was never going to forgive him for this one, you could mark my word.

So, the summer I turned 17, I was flying back to Germany from having spent the summer back in the states.  (I would fly home each year for about 6 weeks to see my real dad and that side of the family.)  This particular summer, I was on my flight back to Germany and had a short layover in Paris.  Talk about feeling like a big shot!  I mean, granted, I never actually left the airport during my four-hour Paris stay, but still.  I was sitting in an airport in Paris on my 17th birthday – alone!  Check me out!  After wandering around feeling like a grown-up for a while, I finally decided to make my way to my boarding gate and sit at a table while I waited for my flight.  I went to rest my head on my hand and…there it was again.  The lump I had felt while back in the states and had hardly mentioned to anyone now felt a little larger.  It was this strange growth in my neck that I couldn’t quite explain.  I felt fine – wasn’t sick or anything.  But still there it was.

My flight made it back to Germany and I stepped into a world that was to be drastically different than the one I had left a few months before.  Suddenly, everything would change.  No more everyday teenage school life filled with volleyball and basketball games and who’s dating who drama.  No, my life was now hospital stays and doctor’s visits.  Hodgkin’s lymphoma saw to that.  Suddenly all I knew were surgeons, oncologists, IVs and pills.  Oh, the pills.  Sooooo many pills.  Nineteen pills a day, to be exact.  When I wasn’t in the hospital, I was to take all of these pills at home at certain times throughout the day.  I had one of those pill sorters that didn’t divide the pills by day, but by time.  And each morning when I woke up, there they were – all sorted and set out and ready for me for the day.

pillsNow, naturally, I assumed my mom was doing this – all this required “pill sorting” – but I hadn’t given it much thought really.  Until one morning when I woke up and headed to the kitchen for something to drink.  It must have been about 4:30 in the morning.  I assumed no one was awake in the house yet, but I saw a light on in the kitchen as I made my way down the hall.  I knew my dad got up early to go in for PT prior to his work day, but this early?  Really?  I walked into the kitchen, and I saw something that was to change me from that moment on.

There, sitting alone at the kitchen table, with bottles and bottles of pills set out before him, was my dad.  Complete in his BDUs, with only a little light on so he wouldn’t disturb the rest of the house, counting out each and every one of my nineteen pills and placing them in the slots where they belonged.  This man, who I was nothing but cruel and nasty to, spent every morning literally making sure that I was going to survive the day.

That changed everything.

Suddenly, my eyes were open to so much that I had not taken the time to see.  For one thing, he was supposed to be in Bosnia at that time.  He had orders to ship out weeks before, but had requested a stay to help my mom through the worst part of my treatments.  He did end up having to go, but was allowed to postpone until my chemo was over.  (I still had to have radiation after that, but at least he was able to help mom through the first part – remember, she had four other kids besides myself).  Also, my best friend Erica and her little sister were being sent back to the states to live with family members they barely knew because their single-mom soldier was also being sent to Bosnia (she was in the same company with my dad).  Seeing the anguish I was going through losing my best friend during the hardest time of my life, my dad petitioned the Army to allow he and my mom temporary custody of the two girls so that they didn’t have to leave.  I still don’t understand what all was involved with all of that, but I know that for about 6 months, I had two new sisters, thanks to my dad and mom.  And a best friend’s hand to hold through the hardest thing I would ever go through.

Somehow, none of these things had registered with me.  Until I saw those pills scattered all over that table.

Have I ever told him this?  Honestly, I don’t know.  But I know that he saw the difference in how I treated him from that day on.  Cancer will make you grow up, that’s for sure.  It’s amazing how it will shine a light on the things you hadn’t taken the time to notice before.  And in my case, that light was shone on my dad.  The dad who loved me and took care of me all of those years, when he certainly didn’t have to.

I’m so proud today to call him my dad.  I can’t remember a time he has ever called me his “step-daughter.”  I have always just been his daughter.  When you ask him how many kids he has – his answer is never four.  It’s always, always, five.  I have never been anything other than a daughter to him in his eyes, even when I most certainly didn’t deserve that distinction.

So, on this Veteran’s Day, I want to give the biggest shout out I can muster to my favorite veteran on the planet.  My dad.  Thank you for not only sacrificing for our country, but also for your mean little redheaded step-child.  You will always be a soldier in my eyes – in every sense of the word.

I love you, Dad.

DAD

***

“We never know the love of a parent, until we become parents ourselves.”
– Henry Ward Beecher