Biting My Nails

cummings_it-takes-courage1

I have a pit in my stomach, because I’m going to do something that I don’t ever do.  I’m going to go public with how I think and how I feel and the things I’ve been working through this summer.  I started blogging a few weeks ago but only let my very closest family and a few safe friends know what I was up to.  It’s really, really hard to bare our souls.  I mean, we all have stuff.  Everyone I’ve ever known, at least.  Thankfully, I love to write.  I fall into that category of people who feel a whole lot more complete when writing is part of my everyday life.  It’s a safe place for me to work through my worries and celebrate my joys.  Ever since I was a little kid I have been deathly afraid of being embarrassed in public.  Early on I learned that ‘holding back’ was the safe route, albeit a little bit of a lonely route at times.  So for a long time I’ve emotionally done just that.  I have learned to how be social in crowds, but a lot of the time, I’m so nervous trying to be social that I get home and sit and wonder who the heck I really am and why I’m trying so hard to make other people happy with me.  I have a few ‘safe’ people in my life, who know and love the real me.  But it’s hard to relax just being myself.  I love having a daughter, though, because it gives me perspective on what is reasonable to hope for in myself and what genuinely matters.  Though I am brutally hard on myself, if Kate were in any of the situations that I find myself in, I would only ask that she be herself, whoever that is, and not worry about what others would want of her.  I only ask that she stay true to what she knows, whatever the context might be and wherever the current might flow.  If she agrees with everyone, I want her to be able to enjoy that connection.  If she feels opposed to something, I pray her backbone will be strong and she can do what she knows is right.  I love dreaming of who she is and the amazing strengths Kate contributes to the world.  And then I turn the mirror to myself.  And I wonder if I am being a good model for her.  Am I being me?  Am I okay with who I am no matter what the world around me thinks or values?  And it was thinking about these things this summer that brought me to the point of blogging.  Actually, it first led me to search for a journal.  When I found one that I loved, I bought it and began to write.  Immediately, it was as if a huge burden was released.  A girl who carries a lot in her head absolutely has to have a place to set it down, and my journal became that the instant I penned my first words.  A few days after beginning my journal, my sister Amy asked, for about the hundredth time, if I was ready to start blogging.  I looked at her like she was crazy but then she added, “No one has to see it, you know.  You can blog but only share it with a few people. Don’t you think it would feel good to share your thoughts?”  And I couldn’t argue with that.  She sat with me at the rustic table at the lake house and basically did that routine where once a kid says they’ll go off the diving board, a trusted grown up accompanies them onto the board and pushes them off.  Deep down, the kid wanted to make the jump but all of a sudden, when the moment of truth came, it seemed too scary.  Sometimes we all need a little push.  So Amy and her husband gave me just that – enough of a push to help me get over the initial fear of going off the board.  And with my first jump, though it may not have been very pretty, they cheered wildly for me.  Each of my first few jumps have sent the crowds (my completely unbiased family, of course!) jumping to their feet in standing ovation, begging for more.  This is vaguely familiar as I remember my kids having their first go at diving off the diving board this summer.  Honestly, each of them looked like a hot mess falling into the pool, but we screamed and cheered so loud that they just had to keep going.  Since my first blog post and my adorable cheering section shout outs, I have jumped on my own a few times – with each blog post I still get butterflies in my stomach, but I remind myself that I’ve done this before.  It’s hard, but I keep trying.   And after writing a few posts, Amy and JT began hassling me all over again about going public with my blog.  I declared that I would NEVER let that happen.  It’s hard for me to imagine anyone caring about my deep thoughts and it’s even harder for me to imagine the courage it would take to share my real self – the good, the bad, and the ugly – with anyone who did happen to read it.  So for the last few weeks I have been telling Amy that no means no and PLEASE stop asking.  Then, my mom got me a book.  It’s called “Carry On, Warrior – Thoughts on Life Unarmed” by Glennon Melton.  Glennon writes a blog called “Momastery” and I have found it incredibly inspirational.  With that serving as the background, I dove right into the book and have found myself pondering a lot of her ideas.  She addresses the difficulties of life, the dangers and beauty of being real, and makes me feel like it’s okay that I don’t have it all together.  Going through the book, I came to a chapter called “On Writing and Dancing” and I couldn’t help but feel like she was talking to me.  In this chapter, she says…

“If, anywhere in your soul, you feel the desire to write, please write.  Write as a gift to yourself and others.  Everyone has a story to tell.  Writing is not about creating tidy paragraphs that sound lovely or choosing the ‘right’ words.  It’s just about noticing who you are and noticing life and sharing what you notice.  When you write your truth, it is a love offering to the world because it helps us feel braver and less alone.  And if you’re a really, really bad writer, then it might be most important for you to write because your writing might free other really, really bad writers to have a go at it anyway.”

And when I read that, I thought… “Ugh.  Maybe Amy has a point.”  So here I am being really really REALLY brave and letting you guys know that I have a blog.  I don’t expect any of you to read it, comment, or care.  Honestly. I just want to say that it’s there and maybe if you’re having a hard time falling asleep tonight and can’t find anything better to do, you will want to read what that crazy blond on Wolf Road has to say.  Ha.  This is scary.  I am sharing something personal, and it might get thrown in my face.  Mentally, I am preparing myself for that.  I don’t like to be not liked.  But even more than that, I am learning that I don’t like not being myself – the real me, the me who totally sucks at preparing dinners for my family, the me who would sell all earthly belongings and move to Guatemala with my family next week if my level-headed husband didn’t know how to keep me from spinning our world upside down.  The me who is too hard on my kids but loves them deeper than they’ll ever know.  The me who swings from high to low, the me who wishes it was summer 10 months a year.  The me who sometimes just likes being quiet.  The me who will be quiet to a fault – If I’m with someone who talks too much and I have thoughts in my head, I will keep them locked away because I’m not really sure the other person cares about anything I think or say anyway.  The me who despises laundry, the me who is dreadfully stubborn, and the me who has a temper the size of Texas.  (I am working on that, however!)

So this is me, being me.  Welcome to the first day of the rest of my life.

Welcome

I remember my sister doing a photo shoot a few years ago.  She was over the top excited about “what the stork brought” to her family and took some special pictures to commemorate the occasion.  Reading her blog up until the part where the pictures were actually inserted, we all figured she had gotten a puppy or better yet, was expecting another Tripple Junior.  But oh no, Amy had us all fooled… Lo and behold, the baby…

photo

And so in the same spirit, I want to extend a warm welcome to the two new besties that entered my humble little world today.  Two friends who, upon sizing me up, probably thought there was some mistake.  We aren’t a likely three-some, to be certain.  Back in my 20’s it would have been a natural fit, but a 35 year old who has her fair share of battle wounds and has endured childbirth, namely an extra 50 pounds that keep hanging around – Well, we don’t exactly look like a match made in heaven.  It’s like the chess club president walking up and asking out the head cheerleader.  But I can see past the initial awkward moments…  True friendships take time, and when that special bond of trust DOES develop, it runs so deep there’s not a thing in the world that can tear it apart.  And so, I present…

photo2(Brooks Ravenna 4)

Welcome, little ladies.  I am so proud of you already, girls.  I love looking at you and knowing that you are going to help me get where I’m going, on so many levels.  I’ve had many others in my lifetime, and each time I join forces with a pair of running shoes, all seems right with the world.   I always end up feeling emotionally attached to my running shoes.  We’re on the same team, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears go into these relationships.  I remember the first time I had a pair of running shoes that I took with me to Virginia.  I was 15 years old and a Saturday afternoon run that started out quite ordinary ended up becoming something exceptional.  That day, in the middle of a place that was completely foreign to me, I was overcome by audacious bravery… I trespassed along a millionaire’s breathtaking Potomac River front acreage, I ran until I had no idea where I was, and I turned left and right so many times in an effort to get back that I wondered if I would ever find my grandpa’s house again.  For someone who had always followed the rules, it was AWESOME!  And, when we got home to Chicago a few days later and I strapped on the same running shoes, I loved that they alone knew the sacred secrets of our adventures together.  Different pairs of shoes have traveled so many memorable places with me… The beaches of Florida, the quiet country roads leading into Del Rio, Texas, up and down the rolling hills of Wisconsin, around a sleepy Brazilian farm town, and through tranquil beach towns in Michigan.  Each pair leads me to places that radiate undiscovered beauty.  In addition, each pair has faithfully carried me through sorrows.  As a college student, it was my sweet shoes that led me down the Fullersburg trail along the Salt Creek River as I sobbed, broken hearted that my grandpa had passed away much too soon.  My running shoes carried me through boyfriend breakups, job searches, and moments of loneliness when I lived 1000 miles away from my family.  And I can’t imagine that this new pair of shoes will be any different.  We will go places, see things, and experience moments in time that I can’t quite put into words.  Just those moments.  And I already love my shoes for it.  So welcome, ladies.  Let’s get this party started…

 

Swimming with Sharks

sharkattack_1778841b

Oh my gosh, I am just a few precious seconds away from spontaneous combustion.  I think I’m going to explode and it isn’t going to be pretty.

I love summer.  I do, because it’s the best season ever.  It’s warm outside, we can be at the pool or park, I don’t have to freeze my buns off every time I walk to the car, I don’t step in slush, and I don’t have to shovel snow.  I LOVE summer.  Except.  Except that I am an introvert.  And every summer, without fail, the kids are home from school and Brian has a lot less hours to work.  I love these people.  They are without a doubt my favorite people in the entire world.  They know me better than anyone, and they love me something crazy.  And the feeling is mutual.  But… I need space.  Not all the time, but definitely some of the time.  Because as much as I love my family, another item on the list of ‘things I love’ is sanity.  Mostly in the form of organization.  And in summer, organization bids adieu for its little holiday by the sea somewhere and we don’t catch a glimpse of her until she resurfaces mid-September when everyone is back in school and I have had a moment or two to catch my breath, put last years’ report cards away, and vacuum the rugs.  It’s a big hot mess here in the summer.

I do okay with it most of the time.  Alright, some of the time.  Sometimes when I see the clutter that has taken on a life of its own, I think “Well, that’s what a good family’s house looks like.  We are too busy loving each other and having fun to sweat the small stuff.”  And a part of me knows this is true.  But there is is this other part of me, the part that craves organization… She lurks like a shark in murky waters, hovering just below the surface.  Brian and the kids all know she’s down there somewhere and they hope she won’t strike.  They even swim around happily telling themselves that maybe that part of me has gone out to sea for good.  But I think that deep down, we all know she is there.  Somewhere nearby and it is only a matter of time until she appears as a ravaging beast, threatening the lives of anyone foolish enough to be in her path.  I hate that about me.

And guess what.  This morning, we should have been playing the Jaws theme in the house as a wake up call for all who reside at 4056.  I am thinking that Brian most of all would find the music a helpful alert system for what is about to go down inside our little brick ranch.  But there was no music.  Only me.  Being me.  And I think it is safe to say that today, when Brian takes the kids to church and I stay home with my pounding headache and my explosive personality, he will probably stop at McDonalds playland after church with the kids to give them all some extra time away from the house.  Delay the inevitable having to come home.  To me.   To this house.  To the lion’s den…

I wish I didn’t like order so much.  I wish I didn’t feel like there needs to be a place for everything in the house and the stuff that doesn’t have a place, well, GET RID OF IT!  I wish this intense aspect of my personality wasn’t there.  But oh, it is.  And it always has been.  I would like to think that I am getting better at it, but every time crazy me shows up, I think that maybe it’s not as ‘better’ as I had thought.

I’m sitting here, trying to think of ways to calm myself back down, to send the shark back to her hiding place under a rock so that ‘nice mommy’ can come swimming back in all her glory.  I can then beckon to the kids and sweet husband who stand on the shore, trembling in fear of what almost did them in, and I will call out from the peaceful waters that yes, once again the ocean is indeed safe for swimming.  And what are you so afraid of, anyway?   Slowly, they will venture back into the sweet waters, playing in the peaceful waves.  Before we know it, we will all be thinking how could the water ever be anything BUT lovely?   And we will all be safe and happy… until the next time.

Well, it is safe to say that by the time the troops do arrive home, there will be order in the courts once again and I will be back to the mommy they all know and love.  Heck, maybe I’ll even load them all up in the car and we can head to the pool for the afternoon. 🙂

Life is Beautiful

VitaebellaThe very first date Brian and I ever went on, we grabbed a bite to eat at Applebee’s and then headed to the ‘dollar theater’ to take in an incredible movie.  We saw “Life is Beautiful,” starring Roberto Benigni.  The entire movie is dubbed – this was a first for me.  But within about 5 minutes of starting the movie, you lose yourself in the story and forget that you are reading the words underneath the screen.  It’s an award winning screenplay about how a young Jewish gentleman in Italy falls in love with a beautiful young school teacher during the late 1930’s.  The two marry and have have a son, but their story becomes painfully tragic when he, along with their now young son, are taken to a concentration camp in 1943.  For many months, the father instructs his son on how to stay alive while they are imprisoned.  More than that, the father turns it into a kind of game for the child, and in doing so shields his son from the horrific truths that are going on all around them.  The story is a tearjerker, and I won’t say more in case you haven’t seen it, but the title always strikes me.  Life is Beautiful.  Funny, because World War II was anything but beautiful.  However, moments arose from the ashes that were spectacular.  And if you look for it in the movie, you see absolute, pure beauty.  I try to remember this, because sometimes I feel like World War III is starting in the Graber house.

 

Jake is struggling.  From the get go of life, he was a firecracker.  There is no denying that.  Crawling at 5 months, walking at 9 months, and falling down the stairs by 11 months old.  A grand total of 12 ER visits in the first six years of his life.  Jake = high blood pressure.  For me, at least.  But he’s also the coolest thing I’ve ever met.  At 4 years old, he saw a boy bullying some girls in the park and he stood in front of all 5 girls, looked at bully E, and just waited for him to make his next move.  When E saw Jake’s challenge of “You’re gonna have to get through me first to get to the girls,” he came charging at Jake, ready to throw punches.  Jake waited until the last minute, jumped out of the way for a split second, and then grabbed little E from behind and held him down until the girls safely ran away.  I was the proudest mama on the block that day.  He is a true sweetheart, and when he has his mind set on giving you something – the money from his piggy bank, the legos from his box – well, you’d best just accept it, because to not accept a gift from Jake is a slap in the face to him.  He will give you 1000%, every time.  Which can be incredible.

 

It can also be really, really hard.  Last summer we went through an AWFUL period with him.  I mean, people still don’t believe the stories.  It was hard on ALL of us.  We sent Kate to camp for a week so she could have a break from the stress, and we all started seeing one of the top child psychiatrists in the entire Chicago area.  A few small things were implemented but it never seemed like we got to the bottom of what was going on.  He experienced defiance, depression, and most of all rage.  I have read EVERY parenting book you can imagine, as well.  “New Child by Friday?”  He never showed up.  “The Explosive Child?”  Yes, he is, even after reading the book cover to cover. “Love and Logic?”  I love that child so much I think my heart might explode, and we have approached this as logically as a mommy and daddy running low on patience and sleep can.  I promise, we’ve tried.  Miraculously, however, when kindergarten started, things slowly but surely calmed down and Jake seemed to have more and more control over his actions.  Things seemed to make sense – to him, and to all of us.  And he made GREAT progress over the course of the school year.  We had a few minor bumps along the way but it all worked itself out rather quickly.

 

Until now.  It is mid-July and I can’t help but feel like an absolute failure.  The sucky thing is, I don’t even know what part I failed at.  But clearly I have messed something up.  Jake has been out of school just over a month and we are quickly falling back into some scary old behaviors.  I love the little man so much, but these days I am finding it harder and harder to like him.

 

So today, after the worst meltdown we’ve had all summer long, he somehow managed to agree to crawl into bed.  He wasn’t happy about it, but he did it.  And I crawled alongside him, and after a few minutes of calm had passed, I whispered to him, “Life is beautiful, you know.”  And he waited a minute before whispering back, “No, mom.  It isn’t.”  And I expected that. I don’t blame him for thinking that.  But I sure wish there had been a way for him to escape the grasp of time for a moment and look and see that someday, this trouble that he is experiencing WILL get better.  I don’t know how or when, but it will.  Someday.  And when it does, something beautiful will come out of all of it.  I know this, because not only does God promise it, but because I have seen it in my own life.  The valleys that have felt the deepest and the loneliest have led me right up to trails that absolutely took my breath away with unspeakable beauty.  The experiences that unfolded only after traveling some of life’s hardest paths have been nothing short of life changing.  Experiences you could never put a price tag on and certainly that you could never order up, see coming, or plan for.  But sometimes, because of the mess that befalls us first, those following sacred moments leave us so richly blessed that we have to laugh, thinking that all the while we were just barely surviving heartache, God was using that crap to fertilize the soil ahead of us.  And then, when we are in the midst of loveliness, it all starts to make sense.

I did try to tell Jake a little bit of that.  I wanted him to hear the message again.  For the fifteenth time.  Because even if it takes a hundred times for him to start to believe that there really is hope for the future, then we are one step closer to getting there.  It may not have stuck today.  But it will.  And I can’t wait for the moment he first starts to see the beauty sweep in and save the day, outshining the dark that was filling space as we waited for the sun to peek through.  We’ll get there.

Bean Burps

beans_magical_fruit

Dude, I am not gonna lie.  Though I have had a few precious family members asking WHEN the next blog post will come, can I just say it is really hard to think about typing when I am using every last ounce of energy to stay on this new diet plan called “Eat to Live.”  I am sure that Dr. Joel Fuhrman has my best interests at heart, and when this journey is successfully completed I will probably love the man, but right now I am thinking that it would actually be in his best interests to NOT show up on my door step.  I would probably have a few words with him.  or at him.  Either way, this girl in misery does NOT want the company right now.  At least not his.  But whatever, I am doing it.  Which, I have to confess, is nothing short of a miracle.  Let’s back track…

The last few years I’ve had random sharp shooting pain in my lower abdomen that I have almost always been able to work through.  I pride myself on being “tough,” so telling the people that I am with, whoever that may be, that I need to sit down or that I am in horrific pain is not on my top ten list.  So when this sharp shooting pain has arrived, I have done my best to wait it out and suffer in silence.  Honestly, I am really, really good at this.  I would say that this happens at least 3 or 4 times a year but I’ve never really thought much about what it is except that, in the back of my mind, I am convinced that I am dying of some type of cancer and I take a few minutes to think about how much my family will miss me when I’m gone.  Which makes me smile.  Charming, right?

So, back in January I was at the house of my beautiful friend G.  We were having a girls’ night.  A few glasses of wine, some incredible homemade lasagna, and just us girls… It was pure bliss! Up until about 10:00 p.m. when this pain feeling came again, pretty major.  As in, for the first time in my life, I just couldn’t hide it.  I calmly mentioned that my belly was hurting and thought I might lay down on the couch for a few minutes.  Well, G knows me pretty well, so that I would even forsake a half-finished glass of wine must signal some kind of serious trouble.  So she waited, and watched, and quietly waited and watched some more.  All the while the other girlfriends were chatting, and I was quietly sweating and moaning over on the couch.  It sucked.

When G found my phone laying out, she decided that maybe it would be best to have sweet Bri come and get me.  I begged her not to, but it was too late.  🙁  The girl who likes to hide all things had been outed.  BY A GIRLFRIEND!  Argh.  So Bri showed up at the door, walked in, and G explained that I really needed to go to the hospital.  And I smiled my nicest smile and said “Sure, sure, along we go now.”  And Brian helped me hobble to the car where I proceeded to direct him HOME TO MY BED.  But I married a brat.  A stubborn brat.  He drove right past our house, onwards to the hospital.  I just gave him the angriest look I could muster while feeling like a dagger was coming out of my side, and he shot back “Really?”  Then I believe a few  words came out of MY mouth but he drove on.  And we landed in the ER parking lot where I rattled off the finest vocabulary words that I reserve for only the most desperate of situations.  Even then, though, he managed to grab my elbow and got me out of the car.  So as I got out of the car, instead of following him into the ER waiting room, I quietly and slowly started hobbling away.  Pain was shooting through my body, but I was heading in the general direction of home.  Though it was 2 miles away, I’d be damned if I was going to the hospital to get this silly thing checked out.  All the other times I’d felt the pain, I’d just waited it out.  And it went away!  So why did this have to be any different?  And as I heard footsteps start to catch up to me, Brian’s calm voice simply said “Go for it.  I’ll call your parents.”  In that moment, my shoulders lowered and I knew I had lost.  He held the Queen of Spades and used it.  I knew there would be no winning if my parents got involved.  And it was not worth the mess.  Just. Fine.

Once inside the hospital, they took my vitals and gave me my own cute little hygenic room.  Lovely, but all I wanted was to go home.  I could hear my bed calling to me, like a siren beckoning a little lost sailor.  Sadness.

The main lovely thing that did come of this is that I got some sort of kick-ass painkiller.  I have no idea what it was (probably a good thing or I’d be searching the Mexican online pharmacies) but it. was. PERFECT! And then, the fun started.  Remember how I’d been at a girls’ night out before this?  Yes, and I’d had a few beverages.  Oh, and my dearest G told us all to show up in jammy pants in case the evening turned into a sleepover.  So, the good news for the hospital was that I was super relaxed when the meds combined with the pre-meds I’d given myself.  And when the nurse mentioned how cute my jammy pants were and I had just sewed them myself that afternoon – Well, looking back I don’t remember much of the conversation but I do remember the nurse in absolute stitches and how she kept telling Brian that I was just the funniest person she’d ever met.  Ha! Turns out us type A’s can have awesome senses of humor when we relax enough.  Who knew?

So, test results came back and I did have something real going on.  I’m so glad.  I’m always glad when the thing that I think is very bothersome is also, in fact, very real.  Time after time, when I’ve been in physical pain, I deny it, worried that maybe it’s all in my head.  And maybe if I pretend it’s not there then it really won’t be there.  But, it turns out that if you feel real pain, then there is, most likely, something real causing it.  I probably would have learned a lot if I’d gone to med school.

Anyway, the tests showed that I had an ovarian cyst that had burst.  The actual bursting was over, so the pain would subside and all would be well.  However, they did mention that I should get checked by an OBGYN to just verify that everything was good.  Which, amazingly enough, I did!  I think I was so afraid that another girls’ night could be interrupted this way and I wanted to do everything in my power to prevent another ending like that ever again.  So, the doc gave me the thumbs up and said “Call us if you have these problems again.  Otherwise, toodle-oo.”

Which would have been great except that it came back.  In May, and now again in July.  I’ve had several ultrasounds that show that I am continuing to get ovarian cysts.  And, if this continues on, we will need to “handle it.”   There are several different options, but none of them sound great to me.  So, the main thing is that it’s time to figure out how to PREVENT them from happening.  And, it turns out, being overweight can mean hormonal imbalances and that can mean ovarian cysts.  On top of which, I don’t fit into any of my clothes these days.  So, combine that the doctors want me to get healthier with the fact that we don’t have the money in our budget for an all new wardrobe, and I am just today finishing Day 3 of Eat to Live.  My head hurts, my belly is starting to rumble again, and I would LOVE to calm my stressed nerves down by chomping on something sweet.  But, Amy (my lovely sister) is in this with me.  And we can’t give up.  Because that means we are giving up on the other person, too.  And I will never. NEVER. EVER give up on a sister.  Seriously, cut off my fingers and toes but I WON’T give up on her.  And I know she won’t give up on me.  So we are in this crazy, painful, beautiful journey to get our health back.  And it is just beginning.  I’m so scared.  I’m not sure I’ve ever done anything this hard.  Losing 50 pounds is something only brave, amazing people do. So if I do it, does that make me one of the brave, amazing people out there?  That seems so very backward.  I feel anything but brave.  Especially not amazing. But I’m in.  No turning back, and I’m all in.  And hence, the title of this post.  Good times at the Graber house!  (And, as my body begins to transition from in-shock to back-to-normal, I will have more normal posts!)

It Speaks to Me

Exactly one month ago I was spending a week with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met in Antigua, Guatemala.  We spent the time working with Common Hope (LOVE this organization!!!) and also spent the week all up in each others’ business.  Because, when you are bunking with, eating with, and living with a dozen other people in everything you do all day long, you just can’t help but hit a new level of relationship with them.  And what I saw in these beautiful faces of my friends was such an extraordinary outpouring of love.  For each other, for me, and for people they had never met.  And on this trip to Guatemala, I not only fell in love with a country that is a five hour plane ride away.  I also felt closer to heaven than I have in a long, long, LONG time.  It’s like the moment we stepped off the plane, we were all in a simpler time, a time when the things that mattered were TRULY the things that mattered.  Love.  Friendship.  Food on the table.  A roof over your head.  And the things that sometimes feel like they matter here in my suburb – the things like outfits, pinterest, the cars we drive, the brand of coffee we drink… Well, it turns out, they faded away from my heart pretty quickly in this beautiful, broken place called Guatemala.   Spending a week in this place broke my heart in ways I had no idea I could still, at 35 years old, be broken.  Sometimes in my ignorance I begin to think that I understand that the world has lovely moments and horrific moments, and… Well, it all just keeps on ticking.  But standing on cobble stone roads, surrounded by children playing, moms making their daily tortillas, dogs huddled up in corners trying to save what little energy they have for the moment that they need to go find another meal… It all felt so raw.  I remember feeling confused as I sat down on about day 3 of the trip.  How, oh my Lord Jesus, HOW do I make this all fit together in my life?  Where do I put the pieces of this puzzle that hurt so much?  What about the beautiful pieces back home in Western Springs?  The pieces that are my precious children, my rock-solid husband, my family with undying love for each other?  And now these new pieces – these families that I love that are living day to day in a place where there are NO guarantees?  A lost job, a life threatening injury, a volcano eruption…  Where would that leave them?  I have no doubt that, if for some reason, Brian’s job disappeared before our eyes and the house was taken from under our feet and we were left with nothing, we would have OPTIONS, people.  We would crash 201 BIG TIME.  (Mom, Dad?  You sweating yet?)  🙂  And if something happened to THEM, we would figure something ELSE out.  I just know that in this lovely land of plenty, the fear of losing it ALL is pretty much nonexistent to me.   We will 99.99% most likely be just fine forever here.  If we couldn’t make ends meet and I confided in a few of my dearest friends, I KNOW they would have meals on our table every night for months.  And we could scramble to make sure our kids had clothes, and somehow, it would all work out.  Because for whatever reason, here in Western Springs, it absolutely almost always DOES work out.  But this new place… Guatemala… Seeing the things I saw there – the love and beauty, mixed DEEPLY with the needs and pain… How does this all FIT?  I like easy, and I REALLY like safe.  But Guatemala was none of those to me.  It was hard – crying my eyes out hard.  Uncontrollable sobs that eventually left me drifting into the deepest of sleeps.  And safe?  Ha!  Brian and I could only agree, once I was home, that it was better that we had NOT read the US Safety Precautions for anyone traveling to Guatemala as a tourist.  Ignorance was bliss, I can guarantee you that.   But now I’m home.  And it still doesn’t all fit.  Frustrating.  I like it to fit.  There’s a fantastic puzzle set up on the dining room table right now, and last night I stayed up long into the night until I couldn’t see straight to work through the pieces.  3 a.m. and I was still  going strong.  Just a few. more. pieces…

And in the midst of all the emotions from my trip, a lovely new friend shared a poem.  I can’t imagine that she knew she would be speaking right to my heart as she shared this, but I’m telling you, this poem sits with my soul perfectly…  I love it, but I can’t explain it… It just speaks to me.

 DG-Fred-Barr-and-Wrangler

Love Does That

-Meister Eckhart-

All day long a little burro labors,

Sometimes with heavy loads on her back and sometimes just with worries

About things that bother only burros.

And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting than physical labor.

Once in a while a kind monk comes to her stable and brings

A pear, but more than that,

He looks into the burro’s eyes and touches her ears

And for a few seconds the burro is free and even seems to laugh,

Because love does that.

Love frees.

 

 

The Beginning

79723796502_5SDiZ3wT_l

Is it weird that I am nervous even typing these first few words?  Totally at war in my head.  On one shoulder there is a little cherub, dressed in white, shifting around and saying in a less-than-convincing voice, “You go girl!” while on the other shoulder sits a hunched over gremlin trying to grab the cherub and cover her mouth much like I did about 30 years ago when my sister was about to tattle on me for doing something stupid.  “Um, SHUT UP!  Your words are going to get us ALL in trouble!”  Clearly we can see which voice is louder and hence gets more listening time from me.  So, in even starting a blog I am listening to the whisper.  Which scares me.

Not that, by any stretch of the imagination, the world is reading or caring about my thoughts. 🙂  Probably my mom and my sisters.  My brother in law promised to subscribe but I won’t hold you to it, JT.  Anyway, all of them are already aware of just how ‘free spirited’ I am, so I can’t imagine that much I type here will shock them.  🙂  It’s just super scary to think about having a place to really be me, to take off all of the funny little hats that I put on each and every day, the things that I pretend to be so that maybe, just maybe, I’ll be ‘reasonable’ and ‘likeable’ and will blend in to my cute little suburb just a tiny bit more.  So that I won’t be the sore thumb sticking out of the hand known as Western Springs.  I care about these things more than I would like to admit.  I fear for my children.  What will it be like in a few years when they realize that some moms – alright, in my suburb MOST moms – wear cute jeans and cute shirts and ADORABLE shoes and even make up to school when they drop the kids off?  Moi?  Not so much.  If we’re lucky we make it out in something besides jammy pants.

So, at much coaxing from my sister, here I am on a blog.  I’m not sure even Amy knows how hard this is.  I feel like I have to come to grips with being me.  Honestly, that is just hard for me.  A few times in the last few months I’ve tried to go beyond the surface level conversation with some friends and pretty much, at the end of each experience, I felt like I had the word LOSER written across my forehead.  I was even asked by one friend, “Seriously, why do you have to think about such deep things?”  Which to a first born, perfectionistic girl who wants nothing more than to please just about EVERYBODY in my life, a simple comment like that will shut me up for a while.  Like, 3 months.  Only in the last week have I felt brave enough to start having real – and I mean REAL – conversations with people in my life.  And only the ones truly closest to me.  I have a hard time putting myself in unsafe situations.  Any chance of someone laughing at me or shooting me down and I deem it unsafe until further notice.  Which truthfully has left me in a bit of a bubble.  I realize that it is an unfair expectation to think I won’t ever be laughed at or questioned.  I deserve these things sometimes.  But when they actually happen it is just so hard.  Amy (my sister, as you know) has been reading a blog that seems to have quite a following.  Ever heard of Momastery?  Anyway, apparently Momastery has this saying, “We do hard things.”  So maybe somehow this teeny tiny blog will simply help me do this hard thing called “Accepting Criticism and Moving On.”

Wow, how very Debbie Downer of me for a first blog post.  Yikes.  Ironic that the name of the blog is “Sundrop Girl.”  Maybe this gray, rainy cloud will roll past soon enough to reveal that there is, in fact, a brilliant sky behind it with every hue of orange and pink and yellow, shining like a gift from Heaven.  Can’t wait. 🙂