Thursday, May 31, 2012

Worse First

What? No, this isn't my 5th cream puff drizzled with chocolate! Who told you that?
I don't know a specific name for the uppermost abdominal muscles, but whatever they are, I felt their aching presence in the shower today.  See, I was doing this new exercise fad where I partake in kung fu like moves in the shower at high velocity. The water expedites the muscle growth. Okay. Not really. My muscles hurt because I slightly leaned my head back to rinse off my shampoo suds. Had there been a fly upon the shower wall, that fly would have seen a oh, holy goodness look upon my face.

Those muscles also hurt later when:

I picked up Thomas 
and when
I coughed
and when
I sat up
oh, also
When I coughed again

Boot camp is working. I've been twice. Yesterday, my arms [the area I pointed to in questioning, Paul says are my triceps] were so sore after our circuit training I felt a slight pain as I brushed my hair. 

Last week was a week of taking a step back to assess myself within parenthood, job performance, my vocation as wife, and the care of my body. It was both humility and hope.  Raise your hand if you too have been doing some self-assessment, seeing an area of needed improvement, and making plans for some positive change. That's great! Let me applaud you! 

And now let me warn you.  It is going to get worse before it gets better.  

Case in point, the 1st day of Mommy Discipline Reform School last week, my toddler, Thomas, was in time out at least a dozen times. I felt pain knowing he felt confused about why mom was without her coddling nature.  I felt I had done so much damage not being consistent and firm with him so many times.  Each day Thomas was better until Saturday when Daddy and Mommy were tried as a team through a whole toddler behavior obstacle course.  We were put to the test with each broken rule, whine, sneaky move, and tantrum.  I didn't recognize Thomas that day.  However, we all know kids are smart enough to make sure their parents mean business. We do. Thomas knows and has been increasingly well-behaved and all the happier because of it.

And second case in point, this self-indulged public humiliation I've signed up for at 6:15 am with people who wonder if maybe boot camp isn't exactly fitting my "needs" as I huff, puff, wince, and altogether look frightened through the gym room workout rotation.  [Ouch. I just laughed at my misery. More ab pain.]  I've been working out for a week with a little hodgepodge of: running, walking, cardio via the Kinnect, vigorously weeding [Yes! There is such a thing. You haven't seen my yard.], and as you've already been told, boot camp. My pants were not made from the same fabric as shared by the young ladies of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, ever meeting whatever size requirement I'm currently sporting.  Nope.  In fact, since I began working out my pants feel tighter, my arms appear rather more pathetic, and the digits I'm staring back at on my scale, neither higher or lower than they were two weeks ago, are startling at best.

Good things come out of hard work.  Things will look up. A new strength will take shape as I've seen so many times before in myself and others.  This abdominal pain which immobilizes me from doing so much as a handful of crunches today, it's a welcoming billboard to Strenghton, Strengthopolis, St. Strength City, Strengthfield, Strengthview. Take your pick. I'll race you there.  Well, tomorrow. My abs hurt today.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Our Home

What do we expect to find in a home?

We know homes to be a place of welcome.  In homes, we are served homemade chicken noodle soup to fight off our cold, pancakes in bed for a special treat, fried zucchini as an homage to a shared past, and the staples: mashed potatoes and gravy, steak and broccoli, and cookies right out of the oven paired with a cold cup of milk.

Just as these foods supply us with much needed nourishment to carry out our daily tasks and activities with the energy we need, there's much in a home to offer relaxation and restoration to fuel us in our quest to tackle, create, grow, learn, organize, design, and dream.  Within my home, our oversized brown "reading chair" in the corner of our sun room serves as a place to cuddle our toddler while we stop the world and rediscover the pages of a colorful book.  As I look to the rocking chair, I remember the dark in which I stared into my baby's eyes, rocking and nursing and hoping I wouldn't forget the tenderness in both of us there.  Still yet, in an ever practical sense of offering rest, our golden comforter, a faithful necessity in our master bedroom which folds us into the quiet of the night and wakes us in the promise of a new morning, is lovingly drawn back in place with a prayer of gratitude.

Beyond the essential needs of nourishment and restoration, a home is a place where we are called to intimacy.  We love our families with all our hearts, and often in that, our vulnerability spills forth. In our homes, we hug, kiss, wrap our arms around toddlers, spouses, friends in for a visit, and family.  It is here that we share the intimacy of our dreams, are willing to be completely honest, promise to one another to stay true to our values and step forth in the stronghold that it is here in our homes, the one true, safe place to faithfully, and wholly be ourselves.

After a failed attempt to teach Thomas the pattern of a knock knock joke, evidenced by his mixing the banana knock knock joke and the boo knock knock joke, with a, "nana boo who...ha ha!", Paul and I looked over at each other and smiled at the joys of parenthood.

Just then, Thomas joyously yelled, "Hooray! We're home!"

I looked past Paul's door window as we rolled into the church parking lot, staring at the great home Thomas spoke of.

To translate Thomas's proclamation, what he really meant was, "Hooray! We're at that place I love!"  I'm not quite sure why this phenomenon has sprung up as of late in our son, but I feel it very endearing.  In fact, I see, despite any accidental communication of sorts, quite a truth in Thomas's saying so.

This home is quite a grand home, one far surpassing the faculties one nuclear family can offer. Today, I was ever aware of the home I have been given.

 I knelt in my pew and watched the incense billow up through the rays of sunshine casting themselves onto the altar. I felt the holy water seal the renewal of my baptismal promise.  Tears pooled around the corners of my eyes as Ryan was confirmed in Christ's love as his mother reached out her arms to his shoulders in firm, unconditional love for him.  I sang, what my feeble voice may, with joy alongside the voices of my brothers and sisters.  I shook hands, offered peace, and felt calm wash over me.  Most of all, greatest of all, my feet led me to The Holy Eucharist, and I said Amen.

Here is the truth of this home, a home for all.  We are always welcome no matter who we have been or who we feel we are or aren't.  We are always welcome to be fed, to rest our souls, and to be honest with God about the longings of our hearts, about our fears, and about our dreams.  It is here, in this home, we are called to be faithfully and wholly ourselves.

My most precious goddaughter, Scarlett!
To my goddaughter Scarlett,
May you ever know that you are an integral member of God's family, that His greatest desire is for you to be wholly yourself, and that you are ever welcome in the full embrace of His home! Let your vulnerability spill forth unto Christ. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Within a week I've discussed my summative evaluation with my boss, said goodbye to someone I may never see again, responded to the poor discipline I was shelling out to my toddler, and started working out enough to be horrified at the current shape of my physique.

Here, right behind me, is a week's worth of close contact with vulnerability.

I have a pep team in my life, and the two people on that pep team work in tandem. I gather some really great, swallow your pride, buck up, and move pep talks from my mom who isn't about wasting time in self-pity and my husband steps in when I'm needing a think big and go chase after your dreams pep talk.  I need this team.

When I've found I'm not the award winning educator or structured parent or unconditionally loving spouse I previously perceived, well I go and have myself a little episode of feeling stuck and thinking life just stinks.

And then I draw on all the great examples of love around me.  It takes great love to take big risks in our jobs to be better than just really good.  It takes great love to provide enough discipline for our child that it makes us initially or sometimes or even perpetually uncomfortable.  It takes great love to be so intimate with our spouse or in such close connection with our friends that undoubtedly, absolutely our imperfections will rise to the surface.  With great passion comes great vulnerability.

To take that critical advice, that realization we missed seizing action, that humility in knowing we're wrong and turn it into something worthy is to mean we are a person of strength.  We must welcome harsh words, seasoned suggestions, difficult decisions, and that three way department store mirror shot that brings about a whole new view on your need to "move it or lose it, sister".

As a wise woman once told me, "Life is a lot about getting up and kicking butt." [She may or may not have used, for necessary emphasis, an alternate word for "butt".] There's got to be enough fight in us to protect the values and desires which are at our core: integrity, traveling around the globe, mutual respect, fitting in that black bikini [I'll claim that one], achieving that lifelong goal of opening a bakery downtown, unfailing following of Christ, true friendship, and a joyful marriage.

Sometimes, that fight in us takes on its peak performance when vulnerability is coaching on the sidelines.  Grief. Heartache. Job loss. Identity crisis. Mother-in-law's surprise visit when your house appears it's being managed by a barn animal.  Whatever it may be for you, I urge you to take it, accept it, feel it deeply, and of course shortly afterward move it or lose it!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Eve of Boot Camp

I was told this isn't sufficient exercise as I had perceived.

Take a gander at the frightening evidence of my poor, neglected figure:

* Me, forbidding any and all pairs of eyes to sneak a peek at my bikini bod before I feverishly wiggle my way out of a cover up and into the pool so as to magically appear a blurry mid-air blip.

*Me, in serious fashion, with serious poise, while giving myself a serious look in the vast expanse of my bathroom mirror, maintaining a steady elevated blow dryer arms stance for a whole three minutes to heroically fight off ever encroaching teacher arms.

* Me, flinging myself onto the bed at the feet of my waking husband, shouting "I. Have. Nothing. To Wear." Under my breath, "That. Fits."

* And me, doing a five minute ab workout on Kinnect. Later that day, marveling at the mystery of my abs feeling like limp string cheese one fatal step away from a collapse. Then, considering the only logical answer: a five minute ab workout on the Kinnect turned my abs into string cheese.

Tomorrow morning I'm meeting my sister in the parking lot of her workplace so early my husband will be in bed thinking my absence is just that of my usual sip coffee, stare into the morning routine.  In that parking lot I will wonder if I missed shaving any spots on my legs as I might encounter a wildly unwarranted close communion of workout intimacy with my lovely brethren of boot camp.

Let's hope this camp is nothing like 4H camp where rats ate through my underwear and I resorted, for the rest of the painfully cheery week, to sleeping on top of very near a friend, who was fortunate enough to have 1st claimed the top bunk. No, I don't ever need to harbor that close of a sleeping relationship with anyone other than my husband, and I definitely don't feel like reuniting with any creatures of the night anytime soon.  One thing's for sure.  I'm guessing, just as palpable as my me-losing-all-sense-of-privacy-as-I-sleep-atop-my-friend-while-I-wait-for-the-rats-to-come-again-tonight-to-peruse-what-they-may-of-my-underthings misery which was nicely paired with an ingratiating happiness only scientifically possible at a camp where parents are not witness to your horror at said unnatural craft toting, song singing, camp counselor joy to stamp out all joys... I will also be in similar misery tomorrow while my body writhes in pain, and I'll look up to see Miss Boot Camp instructor smiling at my contorted, wincing, pain.

Wish me luck as I strive to hold in immature giggles of ineptitude aside my sister [who, mind you, is actually already in shape] and I gather a little enthusiasm, energy, and umph to snap my string cheese abs in half.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I'm Back

I took a break from blogging. I'm back.  

There are five light bulbs in my house which need to be changed, weeds congregating outside the sun room as I type, and thanks to a suicidal bird, a crack in my car window which hasn't been replaced in its five month voyage as fractured.  I've come up for air after a year of teaching so busy I feel I could have lost myself at that rate, continued. 

I didn't start the school year with an intention to work so hard I would be too exhausted to attend to my husband or too overwhelmed to discipline my toddler or just so stinking lazy I couldn't whip up enough energy to climb atop a two foot ladder to change my vanity light bulbs. Good intentions can go awry, and as I look around at the aftermath as evidence of a workaholic mommy, I see a longing in my home, in my family, and in me to be fully present.  

I love the energy of summer. Even without the luxury of teacher leave, we all find ourselves rising earlier. We're eager to play, laugh, and learn voraciously.  Summer beckons us to clean up the garage and pull out those Frisbees for a spontaneous game. Summer tells us to slow down to visit with our neighbor when she's brought over the latest batch of hand-me-down, meals on wheels milk cartons.  Summer urges us to tackle our goals--organizing photos, reclaiming my figure, and furnishing my house with enough decorations to convince people we didn't just move in.  

I would tell you why I quit blogging or why I'm back or why you'll hear from me often now or even what I did while I was "away", but none of that matters.  

I've got a ladder to climb.