Day Twenty-Nine: Reaching

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I recently rediscovered this great song by Caroline Arends (I listened to it almost daily the year I moved 2000 miles from home to go to college in Michigan):

“There’s a time I can recall
Four years old and three feet tall
Trying to touch the stars and the cookie jar
And both were out of reach”

I’ve obviously been recalling the memories of four-year old Tracy – she was definitely a reacher. Always wanting to be, and do more than what others told her was possible. Four year old Tracy would’ve definitely been reaching for cookies (and she had the thunder thighs to prove it;), but she was always reaching for the stars too. I can’t remember exactly what age I was when I first decided that there was a great big world beyond the potholes and bathroom mushrooms of Robinson Drive, but I was determined to take it by storm. I was determined to keep reaching. I always knew there was more. I STILL do.

“We are reaching for the future
We are reaching for the past
And no matter what we have we reach for more
We are desperate to discover
What is just beyond our grasp
But maybe that’s what Heaven is for”

I’ve always been reaching for the future, sometimes to the detriment of the present (that “human condition” again). My reaching for the past has simply been a way of making sense of it all and giving my past a voice. I’m not unpacking and taking up camp in the past. I’m not allowing it to hold me there and keep me small. I’m simply acknowledging the losses and the scars. I’ve been reaching for healing, so to speak. And healing brings a sense of peace within our grasp, so I’m a big fan of making peace with whatever holds you back. Not dealing with the past doesn’t change it, or make it go away.

Most recently, I’ve been reaching for feeling/being healthy. I’ve been missing in action for the last few days because the cough that took me to Urgent Care last weekend, got the better of me this week. It’s been absolutely brutal. I’ve settled in to write every night, and I’ve literally fallen asleep on my laptop. I have at least a dozen drafts floating around in the fog of my chest cold coma. Today, I barely made it out of bed (the sicker than a dog struggle bus;). So I’m reaching for feeling “normal” again (whatever that is;). In the meantime, I’m thinking of what (besides coughing) gets in the way of my current reaching. And how about you – what would you be reaching for if the fear of failing wasn’t getting in the way?

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Day Twenty-Eight: The Human Condition

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Photo Credit:http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnnnext/dam/assets

So, I finally did it. I took my nagging cough to urgent care last weekend, in search of relief. Went through all the normal hoops – signed in at the desk, held my breath and didn’t touch anything in the waiting room or triage (to avoid the “go in for one symptom, leave with another” syndrome). Stepped on the scale (they don’t even charge you extra for the motivation;), did the blood pressure thing…whole nine yards.  By the time I got to the exam room, I had demonstrated my impressive bark at least a dozen times, and was all kinds of worn out. I hopped up on the table and sorted through some work email while I patiently waited for the doctor.

And finally, in he walked. QUITE the character. He was like a caricature, right down to his coke bottle glasses and his over-exaggerated gestures. We were fast friends. Hard not to bond when chatting about a productive cough and phlegm. He clasped his hands together, closed his eyes and smiled while we talked about how long I had been fighting the crud and how I was sure it was going to get better. Until it didn’t. And now I may not even make it through the afternoon. 😉

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“It’s the human condition,” he offered, his smile even wider. He might be my soul mate. My geriatric, physician-type soul mate. I instantly adored him. The human condition. What IS it about the human condition that leads us to suffer for WEEKS with some nagging symptom, only to seek help when it’s gotten WAY worse than it should be, all because we couldn’t get out of our own way? What is it about the human condition, that makes us feel more alone in a room full of hundreds of people than in a room by ourselves? What is it about the human condition, that leads us to take for granted those who love us most, to seek the approval of one or two who have absolutely no regard for us?

My new soul mate definitely solved my cough. I may even pull through this one. But there is no magic pill for the human condition. We rise and we fall, and oh how we struggle. But there is joy in the journey and let us not forget, THAT is where life happens. 

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Day Twenty-Seven: What Do You See?

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Photo credit:http://godanautobiography.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/reflection.jpg

When I was in high school, I started going to counseling in an attempt to manage the alcoholic parent piece of Robinson Drive. I’d grown up on my mom’s self-help books and had attended several al-anon and al-ateen meetings. I knew the language of counseling long before I got my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I’m no stranger to the techniques and tactics. But one technique that was used, left a lasting impression that I think about often. My counselor at the time, walked me into the cold bathroom of the building we would meet in, and forced my face into the mirror. He held my face there, for what felt like an eternity and kept asking me, “what do you see?” I remember looking at the freckle faced girl in the mirror and all I could do was cry. And he kept repeating, “what do you see?”

To be honest, I don’t even remember if I ever managed an audible response, besides sobbing. I can almost feel his cold hands on the nape of my neck still today. But what DID I see? I saw a girl who was SO incredibly scared on the inside, but played so brave on the outside. “Chin up, smile bright, and no one will know”, I reminded her. What I saw, was a girl who felt ugly, and ashamed and small. I saw the girl who was told, “if obesity was a crime, you would be put away for life.” I saw the girl who so desperately wanted her dad’s approval, to hear just once, that she was pretty, that she was worthwhile.

Over time, I learned to challenge my perception of that girl in the mirror. I learned to tell her all the things she needed to hear. “You are worthwhile, you are enough…” I learned to care less about what other people thought of me, and to care more about being thoughtful of others. I adopted this saying by Mother Teresa:

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I would be kind anyway, even when it was not reciprocated. I would do good anyway, even when it wasn’t popular. My worth would not be based on the perception of others. I would give my best anyway. Not all days have been sunny, but I’ve been able to look at the girl in the mirror and like who I see. Not based on the world’s standards of beauty, but based on the difference I set out to make in this world. To encourage others, to love them anyway.

And so I wonder – when you look in the mirror, what do YOU see? Have you bought into the world’s lies that you are not enough? What voices do you listen to when you look in the mirror? And how different would the reflection be if you decided to see your beauty and your worth?

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Day Twenty-Six: Sometimes You Bend, Sometimes You Stand

“Life’s like a road that you travel on
When there’s one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind”

This video came up in my memories on Facebook today. It was one of Grumpa’s favorite songs. It stirs up all kinds of emotions. Five years ago today, on Halloween, the kids and I hopped on a plane to move from Michigan to Oregon. I’ll probably share more about that adventure in the future, but during that time, I was amazed at how perfectly the details fell into place to make the move happen. We sold our Michigan home in a very challenging market, my company (at the time) created a territory in Portland just for me, and we were on track to build a new life closer to my family. For nearly nine months, the kids and I shared a bedroom at Granny and Grumpa’s house. It wasn’t always an ideal situation – I slept on an air mattress, and I was living with the parents (one being a step-parent even) after being on my own for almost 20 years. And it wasn’t easy for Granny and Grumpa either, but they so graciously shared their space and helped with the kids as often as possible.

In the end, the Oregon adventure was not meant for us, and we ended up moving back to Michigan, building a house four doors down from where we lived just a few months prior. And there were whispers, all kinds of talk and stories about our situation. Even people who didn’t know us, felt connected to the flashy story of the move that wasn’t. But I made the choice to do what I felt was best for the kids. I left my family, my job, and my dreams of raising the kids near my childhood “home”. It felt like an immense loss. Not to mention, I was back to the brutal midwest winter. If you know me, you know the Michigan winter is the toughest 9 months of the year for me. 😉

Many times throughout the multiple moves I shook my fists at the sky and asked God, “WHY??” Why would everything fall into place to make the move possible, if we just ended up four doors down from where we were before? A few short months after we moved back to Michigan, I got my answer. Our beloved Grumpa was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, and his time on this Earth would be limited. We suddenly realized that every moment of those months in Oregon (even the tough ones) were a HUGE blessing. The kids had become incredibly close to their Grumpa and that wouldn’t have happened without the move that wasn’t.

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Red Rock Canyon. Vegas Trip, 2009

And three years ago, again on this day, our beloved Grumpa lost his brave battle with cancer. We weren’t ready to let him go; no one ever is. We miss him still today. “He was a big picture”, Granny would always say. He sure was. And that picture remains in our hearts – his love for cooking and baking was handed down to Emma. His passion for life and exploring was passed along to Grant. He lives in all of us, and always will. But life really is a highway, and while you’re here, you might as well lean into the adventures. We’ll lean in for you, Grumpa. ❤

In Loving Memory of:

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Day Twenty-Five: The Legend of Online Love

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I’m not really sure how it happened, but I once again got sucked into online love. It all starts out innocently as just browsing, and before you know it, you’re bringing them home to meet the fam. The suspect in question this time – the little spitfire in the picture above, Winne Mae (Cooper Lewis, to be exact). Yes like the character in the Wonder Years. She is some kind of wonder alright. It’s important to note that I haven’t had a dog since childhood. Not that I dislike dogs, but it just wasn’t a priority. The kids had been begging for a dog for years, and after a neighbor got a Shorkie, it just seemed like the right thing to do. No shedding, small breed (small dog, small poo), and family friendly. Problem solved!

We drove the whole way to middle of nowhere Ohio to get this little bundle of bountiful energy. When we arrived, there was a furball flying around the living room (the size of a hamster to be honest;) that we were told was our new family member. It was hard to keep an eye on her, let alone pick her up, but eventually we loaded her up and headed back towards civilization. It was a long trip home, and turns out, it would be a long process of getting our little love acclimated to our busy household. In hindsight, I might have asked the breeder to pick the puppy out of the litter that barely made it and was super calm and quiet (she has no shortage of energy, still, over a year later;)!

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We’re not in Kansas anymore…

And it turns out Shorkies can be a bossy breed. Winnie is relentless in jumping, nudging, and even barking at times. She can be worse than a toddler strung out on Skittles. We’ve had to bring a professional trainer into the house to help set boundaries (again, not unlike a toddler;) and I won’t lie – I’ve even wanted to open the front door and “accidentally” let her make a run for it at least a dozen times. If you love something, set it free, right!? We’ve cleaned up countless accidents and she’s chewed mail, shoes and homework. We’ve even lost a few corners of some of our furniture and cabinets to her teething (no one told me Shorkies were part beaver;)!? Yet, somehow, I would make the choice all over again. I am completely in love with this little eight pound pistol!

In many ways, I think Winnie connects me to the childhood that I missed on Robinson Drive. She keeps me close to 4 year old Tracy, who just wants to be carefree enough to color and make daisy chains. She reminds me to stop and smell the roses (she’s also half hound I think, in the way she relentlessly sniffs the world around her;).  And the way the kids love Winnie just makes my cup runneth over. She may test my patience and drive me nuts, but I know she will be at the center of every good story the kiddos tell from childhood. She will be the legend of online love. ❤

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Day Twenty-four: What I Needed

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Due to the fact that there just aren’t enough surprises in this world, we decided not to find out the gender of our babies until they were born. When I was pregnant for the second time, I secretly (and desperately) wanted a sister for Emma. I never had a sister, and always thought it was a good idea. I could get a second use out of all of Emma’s cute clothes, and they would be the BEST of friends. I was absolutely convinced that I was having another girl, and her name would be Sophia Mae. Since Emma favored her dad so much in looks, I pictured Sophia having more of my features (maybe even curly red hair). I had it ALL figured out. Besides, what in the world would I ever do with a boy!?!

The day I went into labor (right on my due date), my contractions started in the morning and then stopped. By the time Oprah came on in the afternoon, I’d had enough of the waiting, so I hopped on the treadmill and started jogging (as I’ve mentioned before, I often can’t get out of my own way;). Less than an hour later, I was headed to the hospital to have Emma’s baby sister and I just couldn’t wait! Needless to say, due to my treadmill shenanigans, my bag of waters was bulging by the time I got through triage, and I almost didn’t have time to get an epidural. In fact, the medicine never really kicked in before it was time to push, so I was able to feel most of what was happening. After only three relatively “easy” pushes, my little miracle emerged and my whole life flashed before my eyes. Emma’s baby sister had BOY parts!? Better yet, I would be “the mother-in-law”!?

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No less than a million emotions coursed through me when my beautiful baby boy was born. He was absolutely perfect and he was healthy in every way. I was blessed beyond measure, yet I have to admit, I was sad. I couldn’t share it at the time (and I’ve shared it with very few since), but I was mourning Sophia. Didn’t God know that I was meant to have another girl? Didn’t He hear my prayers and know my heart? How did He NOT know that boys had really only caused grief for me in my lifetime, and I was TERRIFIED to raise one?

It took time to adjust to the idea of having a boy. It took time to work through the immense guilt that I felt over wanting something different from what God had intended for me. But now I understand – I struggled with having a boy because I was still carrying the grief of feeling rejected and abandoned by my own father and I was still trying to heal those wounds. Many of the other male influences and relationships in my life hadn’t been incredibly positive or fulfilling either and I just didn’t trust men. So being faced with the task of raising one, was overwhelming at best.

But I can tell you now, God knew EXACTLY what I needed. I needed the opportunity to write a different story about the men in my life. I needed the opportunity to raise this little man to be entirely different from the dysfunction that I came from and knew. Of course my little man will one day leave me, but it won’t be the abandonment of my past – it will be the reward of giving him the tools to go out into the world and make a difference. And he WILL be a difference maker. God sent me a wise old soul, with a huge heart, and the ability to captivate an audience. And I absolutely couldn’t love him more. I wouldn’t trade a thousand Sophia’s for even one moment with Grant.

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Life is a highway, and I am blessed beyond measure to have this little man on mine. He was EXACTLY what I needed.

Day Twenty-Three: What She Doesn’t Know

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Tween land sure was turbulent yesterday. It was a stormy weather pattern, and we had NO idea why. And no matter how hard we tried to change the current, we were swimming up-stream all day. As a protective Mamabear, I am often tempted to swoop in and try to rescue. I want to offer positive thoughts for creating her own sunshine and suggestions to turn it all around. I start pulling out stories of “when I was your age…”. But the truth is, she doesn’t see the relevance, and she’s convinced that I know zilch about being twelve. What she doesn’t know, is that I’m somewhat of an expert, really. Not only have I been twelve (and survived it, if even barely), but I can be transported back to that stage almost instantly when I pull up to the curb to drop her off at school, or when I take her to the mall with her friends. I revisit twelve every time I watch her wardrobe changes in the morning. Oh, I know twelve, little lady.

And last night, being twelve was tough when it was time to go to youth group and she made up her mind that she just didn’t want to go – “no one likes me”, she claimed. There were tears, there was a full-on confrontation, and at some point, there was an audible “I’m not going”. What she doesn’t know is that I love her enough to enforce what is best for her, and to push her outside of her comfort zone. I will love her from the sidelines, and I will give her the best tools I can to help her prepare for battle, but I refuse to rescue her unless it’s a matter of safety.

When my tween, force of nature was a baby in my belly, I read to her, and talked to her, and sang to her as often as I could. This was our song; my favorite song at the time:

When she was colicky and couldn’t be consoled, I would hold her close, and sing our song into her ear. It would slow her down enough to eventually fall asleep, if even for a minute. Then I could catch my breath, and build up patience for the next time she opened her eyes and was colicky again. She knows many stories of her days as the screaming banshee. What she doesn’t know is that I loved her with my whole being long before she took her first breath. She knows I would lay down my life to protect her, but what she doesn’t know is that I will ALWAYS love her enough to encourage her to “dance”, even when she hates me for it. I will continue to teach her to feel the fear, but do it anyway.

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“Living might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’. Loving might be a mistake, but it’s worth making.”

Keep taking chances and making mistakes my sweet girl – that’s all part of the dance. ❤