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around the bend

I like to do things fast. Knock them out quickly. Before I get scared or tired or bored or distracted.
(What was I talking about again??)

This morning, in need of some reliable wifi and peace to work on homework, I drove into Taos. It was only 24 miles but took me a good 45 minutes.
You have to move slower when the road winds and twists and turns and the other side is a steep drop off. Down a giant mountain. Most of the drive is a no passing zone. You can’t see down the road far enough to get out ahead. You are just stuck. Winding and turning. And following the advised speed limit or the car in front of you. Occasionally feeling your stomach lurch with another turn.
It is easy to not care about the time because it is so damn beautiful.
My husband is all about the mountains. He breathes easier in this thin air.
I am a water girl. Give me a beach or a paddle board and I am in my happy place. Even if I have to put on a swimsuit.

But I get it.
I get how much easier it is to feel alive here.
My kids drop their devices and play in the snow until their toes and noses are numb.
I stare out the window instead of down at my phone.
I read by the fire.
My coffee gets cold.

My son skis just like these mountain roads.
He uses the whole mountain. He goes slow and cautiously back and forth.
Winding and turning taking his sweet time.
Because really what is the rush? And truth be told I like to keep him in one piece.
My daughter is more likely to point her skis into French fries and head straight down.

I learn from watching my kids all the time.
I learn who I was and who I am from the parts of me that I see in them.
Genetics is so much more than my daughter having my freckles across her nose and my smart mouth.  I also see so much of me in their questions, reservations and insecurities. They are often mine.

I see my daughter rush and fight and resist.
I see my son wind carefully down.
Taking it all in.

These days it all seems a bit slower.
My brain moves at a different pace.
I run slower. I do less. I sleep more.
There is frustration in that.
Seeking a balance between what I know I shouldn’t do and will pay for with pain for days later and still living my life. Finding a difference between good healthy decisions and things that are worth the risk. I am sure that is probably a skill most people master by the age of 22, but it is still something I am working on.

This morning I hole up at a hippie coffee shop down a windy road instead of joining my family
on the mountain. ( I have papers to write).
I try not to mind.
But I do.

On Saturday I ran a race. Well…I slowly jogged a race.
I told almost no one. I got in the car – headed there –changed my mind went all the way home and then changed my mind again and got back in the car.
I was crazy nervous.  I used to run 5Ks as my warm up, but I wasn’t sure I could finish. I have never not finished a race. The fear of not finishing almost made me not even start. Ironically the big inflatable starting gate was backwards.
The first words I saw when I lined up to begin was “finish”.
I also cried for the first half mile. I was glad that it was raining a little so no one could notice. It is something I love and haven’t been able to do in well over a year.
Slow and steady. Paying attention.  Glad for my shortness of breath and stitch in my side. It probably wasn’t my best idea. My face went numb halfway through. It was my worst time ever – but after 3.1 miles I ran through a huge inflatable “start”.
And I couldn’t have been more ready for a new one.

This morning my daughter asked if I had ever skied (even though I skied with her just last year).
“Yes, Tess – last year with you and Owen remember?”
Tess: “Was it before your surgery?”
Me: “Yes”
This before and after that seems to separate so much of my life.
I’ve started making dumb decisions. That involve living instead of protecting.
Tomorrow I think I will hit the slopes.
I need to feel that alive.
I need my kids to remember me there.
I need my knees to ache and my cheeks chap from the wind.
I need to make my way down the mountain just like my son.
Slowly. Carefully.  Using the whole mountain. Soaking it all in.
I worry that I won’t be able to make it down or get my money out of my lift ticket.
I worry about the pain that it might leave me in.
But then again, it might not.

In a few hours I will drive back on those same roads.
Windy. A little dangerous. And slower than I usually drive.
I can’t see what is around the turn.
I have no idea if it will hurt or be fine.
I just have to go.

I will crank up my music.
And soak every damn bit of it in.


choose courage


My friend Rhonda spent months and all her creative energy shooting 12 beautiful women who also happened to be victims of domestic violence. On the night of the big reveal of their photos, I couldn’t wait to see these amazing photos and real life women. Almost all models were present and we sat in folding chairs in her backyard and watched the photos roll across the screen as the wind threatened to blow us all away. Each woman was stunning. Each shoot seemed to show something different. Strength. Beauty. Fragility. Fun. Resilience.  The photographer really  saw them and wanted to make sure everyone else did too.


Instead of talking about struggle and the past, we were looking at picture after picture of penetrating beauty. These portraits show that these women are to be admired not for where they have been or what they have survived, but for the courageous women that they are right now. Every one of these women had a different story, past and present. But they all had a common thread. They have survived domestic violence. Walked away and come out beautiful and stronger for it. It was hard to sit beside them, watch their images and know what to do with that.  Sometimes I think we get stuck in the struggle as well. Trapped in our past and in the battles that we let that define us. Where we have walked shapes us, but it is not who we are. It is not who we should see when we look in the mirror.
I wanted what I saw in the photos. I just didn’t want the hard past that has brought them there. I think if you ask anyone they will tell you that they want courage. They want to be strong, brave and kind. I started to think that the best thing I could do to honor these women, to honor myself was to make some of those same choices for myself. I could start choosing the beautiful present over the struggle. I could let myself be seen and do my best to see the beauty in others. Not all of us carry bruises and scars on the outside, but somewhere in our past we have all been hurt and broken. We have all had to make choices to leave things behind and move forward. No matter what the cause, big or small, walking away from what we know is always terrifying.


For these women, choosing courage meant calling the police or a women’s shelter, but for all of us - it means choosing the better. Choosing the uncertain. Choosing ourselves or are children. Choosing to walk forward despite paralyzing fear rather than staying stuck where we are.


Sometimes I think courage is this giant thing that only some people are born with. This super-hero power that allows the brave to risk their lives and show giant public heroics. These twelve woman sitting next to me in folding chairs might have told me a different story. That courage starts small and with knees knocking. That maybe choosing courage looks a little different than the movies. Brene Brown says this:
Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant "to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart." Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences -- good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as "ordinary courage.”


Choosing ordinary courage might be
going first.
showing up.
calling a counselor.
saying yes.
saying no.
asking for help.
signing up.
saying you are sorry.
praying when the other end is silent.
telling the truth.
filling out an application.
trying again.
leaving.
going home.
being seen.
putting it out there.
moving forwards. and then backwards. and then forwards again.


Somedays I believe this. I believe that I am brave, strong, courageous. I believe that I am worth it. But there are also days that I forget.  Sometimes for lots of days in a row, I forget. Ordinary courage is not a character trait that you are born with. That some people are just gifted with more than others, like a great metabolism. It is not a feeling you get, instead it is something that you choose and something that you practice. Every single day. Regardless of what happened yesterday or an uncertain future. You can choose to be brave right now. You can choose to have courage. You can choose to be kind. You can choose to love. You can choose to hold someone else’s hand while they choose it too.

Be brave. Have courage. Leave behind whatever is holding you back and find the beautiful.

Want to know more? http://choosecourage.org


things

I have the best people.
I have people that save me seats at church, places at yoga and cupcakes.
I have people to work out with, not work at work with, talk Netflix with and not talk at all with.
I have people to drink coffee with, to drink tea with and to drink wine with.
I have people to eat sushi with, pie with and lunch after church with.
I have people to laugh with until my stomach hurts and people I can call when I want to cry. Usually they are the same people.
I have people that have seen my in my yoga pants, my pajama pants and even a select few who have seen me in a swimsuit.
I have people that I share good music with, good books with and good food with.
I have people to go on adventures with and people to do absolutely nothing with.
I have people I can count on — to show up, to bring coffee or to always be late.
I get to live with three of my favorite humans ever (except when they are fighting or snoring).
I could go on…but I think at this point I am just bragging.

I haven’t always. It takes time and intention to build and maintain this kind of community. Sometimes it even takes a while to notice. I know mine is there and I am so ridiculously grateful for it.

Yet.
The last time I went to the doctor, he asked me about symptoms and medications. He did some tests. My voice did not waver as I talked about pain and surgery. Just before I left my voice shook a little as I told him that it was isolating. That I don’t know anyone else. That I don’t know who to ask questions or commiserate with. He didn’t have a prescription to give me for that. Sometimes I fork over a copay of 52$ a session to talk to someone else. I say all kinds of things, but mostly it comes down to this: I feel alone.

I had surgery in July. It helped. Most days are good, but some days there is still a significant amount of pain and there are so many things that I have given up or am now afraid of. Even simple things like the wind. I rarely want to talk about it. Most of the time I don’t even want people to know.

But I so want them to get it.

People can’t get what you don’t tell them.
I am only alone because I chose to be.
And the truth is I am not alone at all.

My thing is physical pain.
I know people whose thing is depression.
I know people whose thing is addiction.
I know people whose thing is body image.
I know people whose thing is singleness.
I know people whose thing is cancer.
I know people whose thing is a hard marriage.
I know people whose thing is fertility.

We all have our thing.

Yesterday I saw video on Facebook that nailed my particular thing.
The first half of the video was a girl talking about how she spent the first half dozen years with her thing not telling people, of hiding it. How she was less afraid of excruciating pain and more afraid of not being able to do things she loves. I wanted to, but I didn’t post it on my wall.  Which is ridiculous, because I post all kinds of funny embarrassing things about myself. Part of me wanted to share it, but then some other part wanted to hyperventilate just thinking about it. 
What I really didn’t want to do is own it.
What I really didn’t want to do is to admit the fear.
What I really didn’t want to do is burden others with my burden.
What I really didn’t want is for people to identify me with my thing.
My thing has enough power over my life that I feel like talking about it more only gives it more power.

But what gives our things power is silence.
What gives our things power is isolation.

I think I have been waiting on someone to have my exact same thing.
Everyone wants to hear “me too”, but maybe our “me too”s don’t have to be exactly the same to get it. To stop being alone.
We all have our thing.
If you are lucky enough like me, then you also have your people.

I am a girl that used to pride herself on going first.
So let me go first and tell you….
I have this thing. It eats at me. It isolates me. It exhausts me. 
It is not who I am.
Yours is not the same, but I bet you sometimes feel the exact same way.
I bet lots of people do.

toes

Every February I host a Valentine’s brunch where I ask my guests to show up, eat my favorite baked goods and bring something in return for a women’s shelter: nail polish, makeup, socks, lotion, conditioner – any beauty item they choose. And not leftovers or things they do not like, but things that could make someone feel new and pretty again. It is a simple thing – emails to my friends and co-workers but it is one thing I look forward to hosting every year and almost do not mind picking up my house for. I certainly don’t mind buying 4 kinds of creamer, bacon and every kind of scone. There are no committees or sponsors or stress.  It is totally unofficial, I have simply dropped off the items afterwards.  People come. They bring their daughters.  There is no speech or sales pitch or request for money, we just eat and laugh and our kids play outside. It has sparked conversation after conversation and it amazes me how people want to help and do things and donate but are often unsure how or where to start. To that I say, it starts with nail polish (and maybe a mimosa or two).  I wrote the post below six years ago…and this morning the picture showed up on my Timehop. I can’t help but repost.

A while back I painted my daughter’s toenails for the first time. I know she is just a baby but I couldn't resist those little pink piggies. As soon as I set her and her new pink toes down on the ground she literally pranced around, beaming, and just stared at her sassy new toes. At 15 months old she already seemed to know what a fresh coat of paint can do for a girl.
Many spring breaks ago, the kind before kids, I went to Atlanta. I had a friend there doing some inner city mission work and I wanted to have my own pretend mission trip to the week. I played with kids after school. I filed paperwork. I painted a house. I ate some really good food. Stayed up late talking. On my last full day I went to a Women’s Shelter and met a women named Constance. She went every Thursday and told her story and then painted toes. And it may have been the best thing I did all week. Here is what I remember about that day:
Constance met me at the car. She was fifty or sixtyish African American woman who you did not want to mess with. She was dressed simply and elegantly. I suddenly felt a bit underdressed in my jeans and t-shirt. On the ride to the shelter she briefed me on what to expect. The kinds of people I would see. What to do if someone asked me for money. I was pretty nervous about what to do when I got there. These days I am well versed in how to behave at a shelter or homeless park, but this was my first trip. I was unsure how to engage these women in conversation, unsure how to love on them without pity.

The inside of the facility is really nice and it is kind of hard to tell the difference between the women working there and the ones living there. I am not ready to see all the kids. And they break my heart. They are cute and clean and missing front teeth and playing and totally normal. And homeless. And bruised –either on the outside or on the inside. The women are talking in groups, listening to their cd players, picking out clothes for interviews and playing cards until Constance began to talk and sing. Then some of the women begin to listen. Others just carry on their conversations louder and crank up their music. But the crowd starts to grow and a few people began to notice the tubs of nail polish sticking out from under the table.
Constance finishes up her story and you can tell a few women are really getting it. Because you see she had been here. In their very shoes. With sore and tired feet.

And then it is my turn. I am supposed to give pedicures to anyone who wants one.
I have a small plastic tub to soak tired feet in, some lotion and about a dozen assorted colors. Alice. A six year old with thick braids and a toothless grin is my first customer. She wants each nail a different color and I oblige while a line grows.
Before Alice I don't think I had ever painted anyone’s toenails before...except mine and I am really bad at it. Spots of pink end up on skin in addition to nails, but no one seems to complain. After Alice, I do about a dozen or so grown up feet.
Some of them are really gross. They smell and are rough and tired and yellowed and aching. Just like these women and so I smile while I lotion and rub them.
But I have to try and not think about it and breathe through my nose because these feet are so bad from living on the streets in the same pair of socks day after day.

As I soak and rub I wonder what the apostles feet must have looked and smelled like. And I paint toe after toe and wish that I was better at it. Because these women deserve something good. I take my time and try and paint a little love and warmth and encouragement into each toe. I know that painting toenails wasn't a very practical service. I wasn't feeding or clothing or training these battered and bruised women. But Constance was on to something. For at least a few minutes that day these women got to feel normal instead of afraid. Beautiful instead of bruised. Seen and cared for instead of invisible. Hopefully after we left they felt a little bit prettier and ready to take on the day with a fresh coat of nail polish and a clean pair of socks. Because sometimes, that's really all a girl needs, no matter how old you are.


In all the ways I have gone small...my friend Rhonda has gone big. Watch this video and check out her event http://choosecourage.org/





savasana

Right now in my physics class I am teaching about conservation of momentum. My students struggle with these problems because their are so many variables to identify and solve for. To solve those problems you have to be able to clearly separate the before from the after.

A year ago is the before.
This is the after. A lot of people have worse afters, but I have never looked at my life so distinctly in those two halves as I do right now.

It has been nearly a year since I have gone for a long run. I was cleared to run months ago, but each time the pain comes back. Like coffee, running is just something I have had to have an ugly break up with. Unlike Taylor Swift, I am still holding out hope for us getting back together. But for now, my running shoes are retired. The cold and the wind are also an issue, and turns out this thing called winter happens every year. For months at a time. So I have had to take my physical activity indoors. Until recently, I assumed this meant Netflix marathons, but then I ran out of pants that fit. So I decided to go back to yoga. I love yoga but I haven't been in years. The hot kind. The impossible planks and poses and balances. I have the flexibility of a brick, so even in my best shape I am terrible at it.

These days I am far from my best. My muscles haven’t been worked hard in a year.  My yoga pants spend so much more of their time at Target and my couch than in an actual gym. I dig a mat out of the bag of the closet and promise myself that I will go anyways.

I have been meaning to go to yoga for almost a full year now. 
I am afraid to and first class back I almost talk myself out of it.
I know I am bad at it. In the past I hate to modify or rest and once I nearly passed out in a class.  And that was when I was running 20 miles a week. I worry about what happens if I have an attack now. But I go anyways. Everything going in is a disaster. I forget my hair tie and my mat.  I get shocked long and hard from the brisk walk from my car to the gym door. This should be enough to make me turn around and go home, but I don’t. I attempt to put my hair up with a grocery store produce twisty tie,  the gym attendant takes pity on me while hand typing my membership number into her system…because I also forgot my gym card…and pulls a rubber band from her office drawer. I shove my jacket and shoes in a cubby and grab one of the community mats that smell like feet.

I breathe.
I lay there.
I fall out of poses.
My weak arms shake, my legs wobble and my stomach muscles don’t want to get on the boat.
At the end, my legs up in an inversion — all my body weight is on my head and electricity jolts through me. The class is all lying on their mats. Everyone is breathing loudly. No one notices and eventually it passes. I breathe out.

What I miss so much about running is how it clears my head. How it makes me feel strong. How there is always a goal. Further. Faster. Push through.

I go back to class after class. Yoga is hard for me. The goals are less clear without distances or times to aim for. Clearly there are still things to strive for - not fall on my face, one day be able to touch my toes, get the pose right, hold it for the full count. I have found new ways to be strong and still.

The difference is this. I went for runs. I ran races.
Yoga is called a practice. As far as I know there are no yoga competitions, awards or medals. 
You just breathe and try to get better.

I miss running. I miss new tennis shoes, good playlists, the sound of my feet on the pavement, race day jitters and the burn in my legs and my lungs as I carry myself further than I thought I could.

But for now, I like the idea of just breathing and getting better. Of finding my strength in different ways.

Recently I listened to an old podcast by Rob Bell called “Changing the Tapes”. The whole thing was about the things that run through our heads and how to have a healthier version. For a girl who loves a mix tape…..the one in my own head is usually pretty terrible. And on repeat. It is better than it used to be…but sometimes the old tracks find their way back in. One of Bell’s suggestions was to write “student” on a notecard and place it somewhere where you will see it often.


That we are all students. Students get a kind of grace and patience that we do not always allow ourselves. That maybe we are all learning and figuring it out….and aren’t expected to have all the answers or get it right on the first try. Or maybe even the sixteenth try. Even Jesus called his friends and followers disciples. A disciple just means student. Like my own students struggling through their before and after problems.
Like me on my mat and in my mind and my own before and afters.


That kind of grace and patience is something I could also find a way to practice. Hopefully also while wearing yoga pants.



the tooth fairy

Last night, with blood smeared on her cheek, Tess finally came downstairs with her top tooth in hand. I have been eagerly awaiting that gap toothed grin, since the last one fell out 10 days ago.  Tess is a little self conscious of her spacious smirk, but they are probably my favorite smiles. Three years ago I wrote about the exact same thing (below)…and it is all still true.



My son has been working on it for weeks. Wiggling, pushing his tooth back and forth with his tongue sometimes even until it bled. And I couldn’t have been more ready for it to fall out. His first top tooth fell out about a week ago, and the lone one left was hanging on by a thread. Pointing the complete wrong direction. I sent him to school day after day with this crooked snaggletooth praying it would be gone by the time I picked him up. Until finally, yesterday he pried it out and came running triumphantly to my room before 7 am, tiny tooth in hand. On a Saturday. It is hard to fake excitement before I have had coffee and he has lost enough teeth by now that the tooth fairy is ready to take on a second job just to keep up. And even without my contacts in, I could see the Grand Canyon of gaps across the top of his mouth and I suddenly couldn’t  get enough of his gummy grin.



And I know that soon, this big empty space will be filled with 2 giant grown up teeth that he will have forever, (hopefully, assuming, he doesn’t take up hockey any time soon). Little kids with grown up teeth look different. Always a little bit funny until they grow into them.

The last few days I keep asking him to smile for me, and occasionally snapping photos. I am in love with these gaps. His grin is for sure the cutest, but when it comes to my kids there are plenty of places that I leave room. I buy their shoes just a tad too big, and their pants a little too long. I know that eventually they will fill them. At some point I stopped giving myself this luxury. I’ve bought shoes in the exact same size since about the 8th grade and if anything I buy my pants too small, hoping to shrink rather than grow. And my heart isn’t quite as stagnant as my shoe size or as fickle as my waistline, but I’m not quite sure that I have given it much room to grow either.

Those things we all need more of....
Time. Space. Margin. Rest.

Days on my calendar without dots on them.  Time spent on my couch rather than to do lists or running around. Money left over at the end of the month rather than the other way around. This season has seemed especially busy. I seem to have more work than ever and less time to do it in.  God, who is always a bit wiser than I, left a few gaps. Pried a few things from me because He knew that I would never pull them on my own.

I was not like my son, triumphant over each loss. Instead I grieved them. Whined about them. And quickly tried to fill them with anything or anyone I could find.

But I am starting to see that maybe this space isn’t so bad. That they are in fact gifts. That growth happens in the gaps. In the spaces where we leave room for it. Not in plates that are too full or calendars that are doublebooked or even in pants that are too tight.  And although I’d like to keep all my teeth, I will try to welcome gaps and space as they show up. Understanding, that things will have to pulled and tugged loose to make room. Space created from loss for something bigger and better and more permanent to fill.



 Now, if I could just get the tooth fairy to leave me a few bucks under my pillow….


And the last time these two had toothless grins -->


the annual REAL Christmas letter


Every year I like to write the kind of letter that people used to send with Christmas cards but with a few important caveats. First, I do not have it together enough this year for Christmas cards or even pictures of my kids both smiling and with their hair brushed.  Second, those old school Christmas letters are mostly crap – so I started writing REAL Christmas letters about seven years as ago as a joke, in response to all the fake and cheesy ones people send out about how perfect their lives appear on paper. A friend and I laughed about how refreshing it would be if people wrote real Christmas letters. Confessed to filing for bankruptcy or bragged about their kid’s straight C report card.  What if those letters were a place where they shared the highs, but didn't ignore the lows. It would be way more honest and a whole lot more entertaining. Most people don't write Christmas letters any more. These days we do not save our perfect lives for yearly updates; we post them in our Facebook status and on Instagram 365 days a year. I am just as guilty. I post pictures of all the fun places I go and eat, not all the nights I am in pjs before the evening news. So now every year I try to rewind, reflect and share the highs and a few honest moments as well. So here it is - my year in review.  I have learned a lot of things this year, but brevity was not one of them….so settle in.

This year is harder for me to reflect back on than others because it has been rough and at least a few months of it are a complete and total blur or pain pills, hospital bills and Netflix.  Usually I find myself in this time of year writing about cool places I have gone, races I have run and what my kids have learned.  This year I haven’t gone to many places, I haven’t need to buy new running shoes all year and I am pretty sure I have learned more than my kids. Usually when I reflect, I feel like everything is the same. Same job, same house, same pant size…it is only my kids that seem to grow. This year has been nothing but change. Since this time last year I have gone back to school, I have changed my address and added some hardware to my skull. Currently no new tattoos – but there are still a few days left in the year.

Shaun has taught my kids to ski and they have totally caught the bug. Owen zips down the mountain with young 10 year old legs that don’t ache that put mine to shame.  He loves the ocean like me, but he is still Shaun’s carbon copy and pouted all the way home from the mountains this year pausing only to argue over Pokemon cards with his sister. Owen has moved up from elementary school to intermediate school complete with lockers, lock-ins and dances. He is still completely oblivious to girls and never uses the deodorant I bought him.  He knows way more science than me, but cannot remember to turn in his homework.  Shaun coached his soccer team again. Owen managed to score a few goals and Shaun managed to not get a red card this season. He is outgrowing all kinds of things, like finally some of his jeans but also kids meals and the tooth fairy. He is only 10 but can sleep late and disappear into his room for hours at a time venturing out only for food. I love the extra sleep and my new ability to go to Target alone….but sometimes miss the little kid that left Legos all over the floor. (I take that back--- he still leaves Legos all over the floor!)

Tess has lost a handful of teeth and some of her girly-ness but none of her sass. She still loves a fancy new dress, lip gloss and doesn’t think there is such a thing as too many Barbies, but she has also into Star Wars, Minecraft and overalls.  She is a “maker” and wants to create things all the time. Out of little blocks on my phone, or cookies, or Legos or anything made from pipe cleaners and glitter. She will not however make her bed.  Tess doesn’t love school as much this year unless they are doing crafty things or serving chicken nuggets in the cafeteria that day because she also almost never remembers to “make” her lunch…..which is just as well because last time she made her own lunch it involved 3 bags of chips and some Oreo cookies.  Her hair is usually going in all kinds of directions and her socks are always mismatched, this however does not seem to deter her because on the way home from school recently she told me that a boy kissed her on the playground. On an unrelated note, I think Owen is going to start karate soon.

Shaun has been busy, running, traveling and picking up my slack (and counting down the days until the new Star Wars came out).  The rest of his time he spends in his garage. I love the fact that our new home has an actual pantry and that the yard takes so much less time to mow (ok, for Shaun and Owen to mow). Shaun loves that he has his own garage. To make things in. I guess he is a “maker” too, like Tess.  Sometimes he even makes dinner. With my surgery and school, Shaun has had to step up and help out in all kinds of ways that I am so grateful for.

Moving was a little traumatic for me. Leaving behind the place that I brought home my babies from the hospital to. The first place where we built a home and drew sharpie lines on the doorframes.  We packed it up and emptied it out. I have been to the old house a few times (because I forgot to change my address on Zulily and they keep getting my packages).  They have replaced all the floors, painted all the walls, wiped out the flowerbeds and scraped the popcorn off the ceiling.  It looks amazing but feels empty to me.  Which is ok because it took us no time to fill our new sink with dirty dishes, fill up the junk drawers, the clothes hamper with laundry to wash and most of all fill this new address with laughter, leftovers and dog hair.  There are still a few boxes to unpack, but this new place quickly went from our new house to our new home.

School has always been easy for me. Unless we are talking about waking up for 8 am classes, Calculus or these days remembering to take attendance. I started school, as a student, again last January after a decade, 2 dogs, 2 houses and 2 kids later.  And aside from lots of coffee, the experience couldn’t have been more different from my last two degrees. I’ve been know to say, only half joking, that I am getting a doctorate in humility. My degree plan is in curriculum and instruction and I have learned a few things about that. But mostly I have learned all kinds of other things I did not anticipate. It only took me one week in to realize I was not going to be learning what I thought. I was so eager for someone to teach me everything I wanted to know about education. I wanted help finding internships and mentors and guide me through my own research. Instead I quickly learned how much I didn’t know and how little someone else was going to do for me. My first semester I learned more life lessons than academic ones. I learned a little about how to budget my time, how to ask and how hard it is to use punctuation properly. The last year has really taught me to budget and use my time more wisely - to make checklists, set timers and always keep a book or article in the car. I am a procrastinator and an extrovert. I hate to say no to something fun or miss out on an opportunity. I say yes even when I have stacks of papers to grade or laundry to hang. Those quizzes can wait. Laundry can stay in the basket, but I doubt my professors will understand that there was a concert I wanted to go to, that my kids wanted to go swimming or there was a Gilmore Girls marathon on TV. I still get to say yes occasionally but I had to be a whole lot more selective. No is a struggle for me, but I have tried to recognize that every yes I say is a no for something else. I am like the weight watchers of fun these days…saving up my bonus points for the people and things that I love most (and naps). I am learning that I can’t go to every birthday party, happy hour, concert or movie and that I should use my yeses for things like my kids soccer games, queso and not wait until the last minute to read 80 pages of journal articles. These days I waste a lot more time with people and things that I love rather than just things I like.

 I usually pride myself on being able to do things myself or figure things out (or asking Shaun to do them) but becoming a student has given me far more questions than answers. I am constantly asking all kinds of things to all kinds of people. I have sought out some of the best leaders and smartest people around me. I have taken notes. Sometimes I have listened more than I have talked (this is a small miracle for me). I have caught myself saying, “I read and article that said”…..about a million times to many to people who probably could care less and others who should care but don’t. Regardless I have asked, for help, for direction, for information, for whatever insight they can give me.  Not every one is thrilled with my ideas or questions. One meeting actually left me in tears. Most people, however, like to talk about what they are good at or experts in if I will just shut up long enough to let them, whether we are talking about school, cooking or Gilmore Girls. 
In many ways I am so ready to be rid of 2015.  The year has been expensive a struggle and not my most fun. I ran no big races. I did not go to DisneyWorld. Most of my pants no longer fit.  Someone recently plowed into Shaun’s car and he will probably be driving a rental all the way into 2016. Balancing school, work and my shrinking social life only gets more complicated while on bed rest or in pain. I have spent so much time thinking and writing about pain this last year that I can’t bear to give it more than a few lines here. I am so eager for a new theme, but it has taught me about hope, gratitude, anger and doubt. To be still and to wrestle. I am tired. Some days are easy, but some are still really hard. All I know is if I can write a paper while taking heavy narcotics and still make an A then I can do a hell of a lot more than I think I can.
This year has left me broke, tired, hurting and out of shape.
But. I. Have. Never. Been. So. Loved.
By professors that give me As on terrible papers.
By my friends and family that brought me meals or unpacked boxes.
By my husband that hangs up the laundry and does the dishes.
By my God that lets me wrestle.

So I am glad for my year. Tess’s lost teeth, Owen’s lost homework, our new home and the hard and beautiful lessons I have learned. In 2016 I hope for better, but I am still so very grateful for right now.




and if you are interested....from last year and the year before