Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Brick Wall

Since July I have been waiting to say two words.  I passed.  This evening I got an email that verified my right to say them.  I passed.  I studied for months. I passed.  I failed the first time, but some say failure is proof we are trying.  I passed.

I recently listened to the audio book by Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture.  What a story.  I was inspired, moved, humbled, and grateful.  Dr. Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University.  He died at the age of 47 from pancreatic cancer.  He was a brilliant computer scientist.  Before his death in 2008 he gave a last lecture.  He lectured in front of his family, students, faculty, former associates, and others.  In his last lecture he gave practical advice.  The book chronicled things he wanted his kids to remember about him, and important things he wanted to be able to teach them through his words, long after he had left this earth.  He spoke about the love he had for his wife, how they met, and what kind of husband he hoped he'd been to her.  It was simple, but profound.  In the lecture he spoke about brick walls.  This part made my ears perk up.  

I had studied for months for the teacher licensure exam in the state of Virginia.  I had spent months recalling information that had been long-since been forgotten since I college graduation.  Over the summer my pool bag didn't hold its regular fun items like diving sticks and extra goggles.  Instead it held flashcards, lists of literary terms, writings on Shakespeare and iambic pentameter, textbooks on grammar, etc....really exciting stuff.  I took the exam in late July.  I waited the agonizing 10-15 business day window only to find out I did not pass.  I was crushed.  I hit the brick wall.  Hard.  

The brick wall was keeping me from what I wanted--a career in teaching.  The brick wall was telling me crazy things like "you aren't smart enough," "you can't pass this," and "move on."  I didn't want to listen to the brick wall, but I felt defeated.  I questioned my abilities.  I let some time pass.  

In September I was ready to dust off the books again.  I made new lists.  I made more flashcards.  I watched YouTube videos on Shakespeare and sentence structure.  I moved material from the back burner to the front burner and put that sucker on high heat.  
I took the exam again in mid-November.  Just a couple hours ago I got the email I've been waiting for.  The brick wall isn't there to keep me out.  What I heard from Dr. Pausch about his own life, pertains to mine.  The quote is below.

Not passing the first time was a brick wall, but it wasn't meant to keep me out as I had originally believed.  It was to show me how badly I really wanted to pass.

So, take that brick wall!

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Marriage Is Not for Sissies

September 30, 2000
Tomorrow John and I celebrate 15 years of marriage!  Happy anniversary to us!  If you asked me 15 years ago if we would be celebrating this I'm pretty sure I would have answered, "yes!" in a confident manner.  There hasn't been a day that has topped our wedding day (aside from the birth of our children).  I loved our wedding day.  The Ohio weather actually cooperated.  The leaves were in rich shades of autumn; the sky was bright blue with puffy white clouds. We had a big wedding and a fun reception surrounded by lots of friends and family.  I felt incredibly loved that day.  We danced.  We ate.  We laughed.  We danced some more.  

If I knew then what I know now I don't know that I would have entered into marriage with the same zest I did 15 years ago.  I had no idea how much work marriage can be.  I didn't know the challenges that would meet us.  What I did know then was that I was very much in love, and like many young adults, I wanted the "happily ever after."  Thank goodness for being young and the ability to focus so much on that present moment.  

15 years has provided us with some difficult lessons.  15 years has given us moments that have taken my breath away.  In 15 years we have moved 4 times, had 5 cats, 1 dog, 1 gecko, and 2 amazing kids.  We have had moments of heartbreaking sadness and moments of surreal happiness. We've traveled as far as Hawaii and Cancun, and to Ohio more times than I could count.  We made it through hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, National Championships, and stormy nights with 2 kids in our big bed.  The best moments of our marriage never made it onto social media.  We have some of the dumbest inside jokes of all time, but they still make me laugh.

At our wedding reception John made a toast to me in front of our guests.  Sadly, we have no video footage of this...if we did I'd probably watch it almost daily (however, see photo).  
My niece, Ryliegh, then 5, listening to the toast

I was not expecting that moment.  In that toast he said, "you make me want to be a better person."  I remember standing beside my mom with my hand over my mouth, tears in my eyes, holding her hand.  I was stunned.  I think for us that's what has worked.  I know I'm a better person because of John.  He helps me realize my potential.  

I think in 15 years I have chosen time and time again to put someone else's needs ahead of my own (and not in an unhealthy way).  There are days that this comes easier than others.  There are days that my ego screams at me for doing so.  There are days I want to give into my selfish ways and there are days that I have; those days never turn out as well--John doesn't refer to me as "Boss" for nothing. :-) 

Our marriage is not perfect.  Marriage is hard.  Marriage is certainly not for sissies.  Marriage calls me to "show up" when I want to pull the covers back over my head.   I read once, "marriage is love turned inside out so that the seams show." I think it's about being willing to be vulnerable and loving another person's imperfections (and accepting our own). John said on our 10th anniversary, "we've been bent, but haven't broken."  We aren't finished growing and learning and changing. For that I am grateful.  

I don't think I got the happily ever after that I wanted so much 15 years ago.  I think I got a version that's even better than what I could've wished for.  I'm more realistic now. I think I better understand those vows I promised to John all those years ago. I hope so anyhow. 

Thank you, John for being the love of my life and my very best friend.  You make me want to be a better person. 

Thank you for reading.

Our perfect cake

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I Am Good Enough

I am a recovering perfectionist.  It's difficult for me to accept things in life and things about myself as "good enough."  I journal about it.  I collect quotes about it.  I talk about it in hopes of diffusing the expectations I place on myself, people, places, and things. I meditate on it.  I pray about it--about how to let it go.  I am better than I used to be, but there are days when the familiar feelings creep in.

Having high standards can be a good thing.  A friend once told me this trait means I have a strong character.  My parents used to call that "stubbornness."  My Gram and John sometimes call that "bossy."  Perhaps those are just a couple of the forms this beast can take on.  I do have a tendency to be bossy...I admit it.  I like to take charge.  I do have high standards.  However, here's the downside; I sometimes have such high standards that the goals I set are tough to achieve or worse yet, when I do reach them I feel dissatisfied.

To me, my most important job is being a mom.  And, so naturally my perfectionism seeps into my role as a mom.  I saw the pictured quote online the other day (see "quote collecting" above).  I have been mulling this over.

Summer vacation just ended.  It's day 2 of the school year.  Monday night these thoughts of how we spent our summer where swirling through my head.  My natural tendency was to beat myself up. I was thinking of the ways I could have done summer better.  Maybe I didn't play with the kids enough.  Maybe there were days I played too much, which was why people were running low on underwear and clean clothes.  We didn't study math facts, but we did read a lot.  We stayed up too late and slept in most of the days of August.  There was fun though...there was a lot of fun.  Fun is important to me.  Fun is the exact opposite of perfection.  Fun says, "I'm lost in the moment."  Fun says, "my face hurts from laughing."  Elliot's sense of humor grew as much as his height this summer.   There were moments he made my face hurt from laughing so much.  Those are the moments I forget about perfection.

I am not a perfect mother, far from it.  This quote reminds me though that there are so many ways to be a good mom.  I think I am a good mom.  And I think, just for today, I will focus on more ways to be a good one instead of a perfect one.

Thanks for reading.

Having fun playing Headbands with Syd

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

In the Summa Summa Time

I have been slacking writing on this blog.  Major slacking.  I've wondered often, "who even reads it?" And, "why keep writing?"  I guess when I first began it was for me; the added bonus that people read it was just that, an added bonus.  I miss the blog, so here I am.  

It's the last few days of July.  It's our 7th week of summer break.  Our summer has been busy with summer swim team, visits from family, time spent with friends, and for me there has been a lot of studying.  I took my Praxis exam last week.  I'm hoping to obtain a Virginia teaching license.  I'm hoping to become a retired substitute teacher.  Ha ha.  The exam covered a lot of material.  I studied for weeks. It was a learning experience.  The kids saw me take a risk.  They saw me struggle to relearn material from 12 or more years ago.  They saw me read, a lot.  They quizzed me with flashcards and told me when I was correct, and when I was wrong.  They were my little cheerleaders.  It was difficult--the studying and the exam.  I won't know the results until late next week. It feels like being placed on "pause" for an extended amount of time.  There's nothing to do but wait.  If I passed, I can start to look for full-time teaching positions.  If I didn't pass, I will keep subbing and also plan to take the exam again.  The strangest part to me is that I feel pretty calm with either scenario.  It is what it is.  

August is knocking on the door.  For us, it's a full month of pool time, humidity, sluggish runs, bike rides, crafts, reading (fiction, not text books!), sleeping in, and fun.  Still though, August is like the Sunday of summer.  August reminds us that all good things must come to an end.  August is a forecast to the school year.  I will savor August in her heat-filled glory.  

It's all too soon I will have a 4th grader and a middle schooler.  All too soon there will be football and sweatshirts and pumpkin flavored everything.  The air conditioning will be replaced with open windows.  Our suntans will fade, but the memories of summer will remain.  Endless hours of listening to my kids in their made-up, silly games will be replaced with homework.  The leaves will change into their hues of gold.  I know it's coming.  

Hold off fall!  I will look away when I see Halloween decorations in the stores in July (I've seen them already).  Don't rush me Target.  We are still using our beach towels and wearing flip flops.  

Hold on to summer.  Turn your face to the sun and take a moment to slow down.  Stop along the way. 

Thanks for reading. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Whatever You Set Your Mind To

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb...so the saying goes. I think this year it came and went like a lion. It's been a crazy spring so far. Record cold. Record snow. I'm ready for warm weather to stay. 

We decided to "quit the gym" this winter. It made for some creative ways to stay active. I ran in some of the coldest temperatures I've felt in Virginia. John shared a variety of equipment with us, from bands to bars to jump ropes (picture family fitness). More recently he and Elliot decided to install a permanent pull-up bar in Elliot's room. Sydney prefers to hang upside down from it like a monkey.

Then March arrived. I didn't have many teaching assignments. After all those snow days teachers didn't need a substitute. I ran and ran and ran in preparation for the upcoming Historic Half Marathon. March was cold then warm, then cold then warm. I ran alongside melting snow. I ran over snow. I ran admiring amazing sunsets. In this past week, I ran with daffodils and budding trees. I listened to hours of music and a variety of podcats.  My favorite has been a podcast called Serial.  It's a weekly spin-off from another radio show called This American Life.  It chronicles a true story of a teenager who allegedly murdered his girlfriend.  It kept my attention and my mind off the miles, but that's not my point here.

Sunset near Route 3 on a Wednesday evening
One thing I did listen to a few times was an essay turned spoken song by Baz Luhrmann called Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen).  I first heard it during the relaxation portion of a yoga class a few years ago.  It was originally given as a commencement speech.  It has such good and simple advice.  I am putting the link here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHE_XGtUNx4).  It's 7 minutes.  It's a good reminder of many of life's "lessons."  

In March I officially ran 107.2 miles.  This is a pretty big deal to me.  I've never put in that many miles.  Maybe I'll do it again, maybe I won't.  I'm grateful though.  I'm grateful for the time I had to do it.  I'm grateful for my health so that I could do it.  Mostly though it proved to me that the body achieves what the mind believes.  The human body is capable of some impressive stuff.  Admire it.  Challenge it.  I am not saying everyone...RUN!  My hope is that we can find something we love doing and do it.  Pull ups, jump rope, swim, bike, walk...the choices are endless.  Whatever we set our minds to we can do.

Out of running shoes!

Running over snow...is it Ohio or Virginia?

Here's to spring's arrival.  Here's to April!  52 days until the pool opens!

Thanks for reading!

My favorite post run spot 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Where have you been?

It's been quiet on the blog. I'm still here!

Happy new year! Christmas vacation ended today and it was hard to wake up to an alarm.  The class I taught had recess around 11 a.m.  I made a mental note that in the past two weeks it wasn't uncommon for me to still be wearing my pajamas at that time.  And, I will admit, there were a couple days that Sydney and I only got out of our pajamas to shower and then put on fresh ones.  Isn't that what vacation is for?  December should be a "happy-at-home, stay-cation-mindset" month.

Our Christmas was...early...as in predawn.  Our usual sleepy child had us up at 5 a.m.!!  By 7 o'clock all the gifts were opened, a pot of coffee was empty, and breakfast was cooking.  By 10 o'clock John and I were back in bed for a much needed nap.  The week after Christmas brought a second Christmas disguised as a visit from my parents and my dear aunt from Virginia Beach.  There were endless cookies eaten, many games of Uno played, the working of a 700 piece puzzle, and fun shopping trips.  New Years Eve was spent with friends.  The real gift of the season came on January 1 as we gathered with our guests to watch our Buckeyes capture victory over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl!  What a game! Nail biting, teeth clenching, breath holding, palms sweaty kind of game. What a great day to be a Buckeye!  I woke up on January 2nd still feeling like it was a dream.

Glorious Buckeyes
  I reflected on my expectations and all my "shoulds" for the past year.  I keep these in the deep folds of my mind.  It's never quite the safest place to go alone.  Luckily I have a few friends to share these Coo Coo's Nest thoughts with.  After listening, they don't run away from me.  They just help me untangle the Great Expectations and bring them back down to earth in a gentle way.  I looked over my journal for 2014, and again I was reminded that greater plans than what I cook up usually occur.  Prayers and people I placed into my God Box didn't hold the heavy weight they did when I placed them in there.  That's not to say the year wasn't without a tribulation or two...it's just to say that as another year drew to a close I was again able to see progress and that is a very good thing.

Kindness was my word of 2014.  I wrote about it last January.  If you missed it, you can read it by clicking here.  I wrote about how I wanted to practice more kindness towards others, especially myself.  I've also made progress there.  I was able to more often ask myself "what were you learning?" instead of "what were you thinking?"  This too is a very good thing.
NYE 2014

I also continued to run.  I conquered my first 10K and was pleased to finish in less than 1 hour.  Just before my second anniversary of becoming a "runner," I ran my furthest distance yet.  I ran 10 miles.  I did it on a solo run and it felt pretty damn good.  This prompted me to sign up (with a little less fear) for my first half marathon.  See, I'm only half crazy. :)  It's the Marine Corps Half in Fredericksburg in May.  I am scared.  I am excited.  

2015 asks for a new word.  My word this year is present.  I don't mean it as a noun, like a gift.  I mean it as an adjective.  In that form it holds this meaning:

1. being, existing, or occurring at this time or now; current
2. at this time; at hand; immediate: articles for present use
3. being with one or others or in the specified or understood place
4. existing or occurring in a place, thing, combination, or the like

I like this word already.  It’s a gentle challenge that I need.  I can use it when I’m a runner, wife, mom, sister, daughter, and friend.  It will help me to just be.  It reminds me:  breathe in, breathe out...repeat.

Last night Sydney was having trouble going to sleep.  Probably because we stayed up too late and slept in too much over our break from school.  Nevertheless, I decided to just lay in her bed with her to help her settle down.  I didn't “do” anything except be present.  I felt her silky hair against my cheek.  She held my hand.  I listened to the sleepy music filling her room from her cd player.  It reminded me of the nights we listened to it rocking her and Elliot to sleep.  I love those moments as a mom.  I love the reminders of where we've been and the present moment of where we are.  They become intertwined.  Sydney drifted off to sleep and I stayed for a moment.  Just long enough to feel really present in that moment.  Breathe in, breathe out...repeat.  What a way to end vacation.

Cheers to 2015
What will your year ahead hold? 

As always, thank you for reading.