Run for their lives

When you run too hard and mess up your leg (that's the technical term, right?), the experts--whether they have medical degrees or marathon medals hanging on their walls--will all tell you to apply pressure to the point of pain. Wrap it. Tape it. Wear compression socks. (Have you seen those? They're ridiculously ugly and expensive. Kind of like Uggs, only not as warm.)

Apply pressure to the point of pain. That wouldn't be my first reaction, nor the second or third. It's easier to wince and look away. It's more intuitive to ignore the discomfort and to avoid the troublesome area than it is to face it.

But we won't heal by popping pills and pretending not to notice. We heal only when we lean into the swollen and tender spots eyes open, press deeper, pinpoint weakness in the chain, adjust our gait.

Apply pressure to the point of pain. So, um, this post isn't about running injuries anymore, is it?


Friends, I've been feeling a very strong and highly uncomfortable assault tug on my heart for the last year or so. It's getting more exhausting to ignore it than it would be to take action. So this is me, taking action.

There's a fiery point of pain to which I need to apply some pressure.  I need to look it in the face. It's not my personal pain. It's not my story. But it is the story of far too many, 27 million too many. I'm talking about human trafficking, about the estimated 1.2 million children who are trafficked annually. I'm talking about girls, many no older than my own daughter, taken, exploited, a child sold every 30 seconds.

It makes my stomach lurch and my eyes blur. But see, there's this extremely annoying little detail   reminder God keeps bringing to mind. It's not about me. It's not about what I feel comfortable with. My life goal, apparently, isn't to surround myself with a nice bubbly cushion of happy-clappyness. Which is a bummer, really, because hiding underneath a rainbow-colored bolt of bubble wrap sounds pretty good right now.

So. Apply pressure to the point of pain. 

In the next week, I'm launching a blogging-meets-running initiative called Run for their Lives, designed to help us all look this issue in the face and inspire us to action.

I'm going to invite you to join me in training for and running a race.
I'm going to invite you to learn more about the cause. 
I'm going to invite you to donate if you feel led.
I'm going to share of series of posts with practical tips and running advice for the regular old Jo.
And best of all, I'm going to give away some cool custom running tees. So stay tuned.

To be perfectly honest, I haven't thought this through completely. I haven't planned a single post yet. I'm bumbling my way through the technical set up. I'm unprepared for whatever it is I've just signed myself up to do. But I'm going for it, comfort zone be damned.

Come with me?


Ornamental Outsourcing

"I think we should give Santa a present. And not just cookies. Liiiiike, saaaaay, an ornament. Can we buy him one? I mean, Christmas is s'posed to be about giving, right? So I'm just saying we should give Santa something."

I had just taken the last batch of snickerdoodles (Santa's favorite) out of the oven. We had to leave in five minutes for Christmas Eve dinner. Shopping for Santa wasn't on my list of must-dos for Christmas Eve.

"Bud, I think just giving him cookies will be fine. Besides, imagine how many ornaments Santa must already have. I mean, he lives in the North Pole, which must be the ornament-making capital of the world."

My seven year old shook his head, shot me one of those "you're ridiculous" looks, the kind I didn't expect to get from him for at least six more years.  

"C'mon, Mom. They don't make ornaments in the North Pole. They're all made in China!"

So apparently you can believe both in the magic of Christmas and the economic inevitability of job exportation. I'm just glad I wasn't the HR rep who had to "down-size" the elves. Aaaaawkward.


This is the gift.

The stories I tell begin and end in the same place. Call me circular, but I can't help spinning, revolving every last particle around my nuclear family. Today I've been married for exactly 16 years, and on Sunday, she'll have lived exactly five. *

Next week we'll sit by the fire and the tree and around the table, and the boy who is seven will probably get icing on his Christmas sweater. And the girl who is five will probably throw a fit over whose turn it is to open the new door in the Advent book. And the mom and the dad who have long ago given up on perfection and settled for grace, we will probably struggle to keep eyes from rolling and voices from rising.

But we won't beat ourselves up for not appearing at all times like a perfectly quaffed family in a sample Christmas card. Life in all its mess and we in all our shortcomings, this is what's real.

And this is what's beautiful--to love each other anyway. Not to airbrush the ugliness, but to forgive it. Not to hide behind a mask of perfection, but to show messy selves to each other, to be known as we are and loved anyway.  

This is when love is most like a miracle--when it's so clear how little I deserve it, and yet, there it is, relentless and unrationed. When I say I believe in the miracle of Christmas, this is what I mean. That Love came down. That He loved us first, always, and anyway. And that He showed us how, enabled us to do the same for those around us. This is the gift. This is the miracle.


*I began writing this last week, and in a shocking twist, was interrupted. I came back to it today to "Just Write" the rest. Thank you, Heather, for hosting today.

I'm also linking this up to Emily for her last installment of Tuesdays Unwrapped, which shall remain one of my all time favorites.


**I believe it's against the law to get the entire family dressed to the nines and not take a family photo. So even though I've clearly admitted to being a mess of a family, here's our perfectly quaffed family photo. The people who did Dani's flower girl hair also did my make-up, so I'm wearing a year's supply of make-up in one evening. When my son first saw me, he asked "What happened to your face!?" And when my husband saw me, he just said "Oh. Wow." Not wow as in you look amazing, but wow as in yikes, and this was you telling them you wanted a natural look? Also? It's all fun and games until you try to get the eye make-up off. As in anyone have any paint thinner I can borrow? :-)


Hanukkah Envy

"I really, really just need a dreidel. I have everything else to play the game, and I already know how!" Caed followed his request with a long explanation of every rule--none of which I recall because as soon as I heard the word "spin" my eyes glazed over and I began deliberating over what frosting recipe to use for Dani's birthday cupcakes.

"Buddy, I don't even know where you get a dreidel." I replied, scooping scrambled eggs from pan to plate.

"Maah-uuum, that's so simple. Just go to Walmart. Or go online." He paused to chew a tremendously big bite of sausage. I paused to note a tremendously big serving of irony.

"And if you aren't going to do it, then I'll just have to ask Santa to bring me one." Well then. That's settled. I'm sure Santa has a huge store of the season's most popular stocking stuffer.

In other news, Caed requested potato latkes for Christmas breakfast and wished for a menorah to light during our Advent time.  It appears my little Irish boy has a severe case of Hanukkah envy. There really is a first for everything.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to run out for some last minute dreidel shopping.  To Target. Not Walmart. Because I'm all for buying a dreidel. But buying it at Walmart? Well, that's against my religion.


Blinking it all in

I took countless pictures with my eyes, willed myself to remember without the aid of a pen or camera. These days, these packed and precious days careen past in a blink.


She stepped so earnestly down the aisle, tossing bright red rose petals from her fingers to feet. And then upon arriving at the end with the basket still nearly full, she decided she ought to go over the aisle again, one more time for good measure. She was halfway back and ten more petals in before I could coax her back to her seat beside me.


He marched down with the ornamental pillow in hand, a sheepish smile on his face. I might have told him he looked like a prince, but unless it was Prince Caspian we were talking about, he would have just made a scrunchy face and asked how many pieces of cake he could have. Prince, schmince. All that matters is that he can eat like a king.


At the reception, my husband nearly upstaged Mickey and Minnie when he and his sisters led the crowd in dancing the YMCA. (A special request granted by the DJ. Because for some crazy reason, the bride--also his sister-- hadn't even put that one on the play list. Can you imagine?)  But I say "nearly" because really, it's not a party until you've danced with Minnie to ABBA. My children will never be the same. All parties heretofore will surely be referred to as "lame" in comparison.


As we walked back to our hotel that evening, the children still dressed to the nines, tiara and ties in tact, Dani suddenly remembered she hadn't had the chance to finish her mid-morning snack of goldfish. "Mah mah my gooooldfish, I didn't get to eat dem! Oooaaaawwwaaaah...." Dramatic cry, tears streaming, melting down over a dozen goldfish. Overtired, much?


The next day the kids slept in a whopping 30 minutes longer than usual. Because who needs sleep when the long-lost North Carolina cousins are in such close proximity? Three pools plus one pirate ship water slide plus abundant warm sunshine, multiplied by cousins equals a long day of perfection.

They topped it off by sharing a "Sink" of ice cream. I'm going to need Uncle Jerry to share the picture he took just to impart to you the yummy hugeness that was served in a bowl twice as big as Caed's noggin.

When the clock struck 9:00, we made our way back to our hotel via boat. And wouldn't you know it, tears again. But not because of silly goldfish. Because a perfect day was over. Because we had to say goodbye.

Because we know whether we are 7 or 37 just how precious these times are, how quickly they pass, how it is all we can do just to blink it in.


The Dance

Her dusty brown ringlets had disappeared before the opening act, the outcome of our first experiment in gravity versus hair spray. She might as well learn early that gravity always wins.

She perched herself atop a red booster and craned her neck expectantly, eying the stage for the slightest sign of movement. She fingered the unfamiliar string of pearls  around her neck, smoothed the green and gold plaid skirt over her knees, admired her black velvet "high shoes". No matter all of it had been handed down, she owned every bit of her outfit.

"That side is fancy, and that side is fancy. All the sides are fancy. Even the sky is fancy." She said, pointing to the balconies on either side, the ceiling above.

When the organ faded lower and lower into the orchestra until disappearing entirely, when a voice from overhead boomed welcome, she grabbed my arm and scrambled to sit on her knees. The curtain rose.

We traveled with Clara to another world, my girl and I. She leaned forward, riveted, entranced, mouth agape. Her eyes never the left the stage.

Torn between two beautiful scenes, I divided my gaze between the dancers and my daughter. I watched her watching, her lips never quite closed, her eyes never still, dancing along. I saw in her face the promise of a childhood memory that will never be forgotten. This was my Christmas gift to her, the "big gift", and we will wrap it under the tree in a picture frame to help her remember this special day.

But really, this was her gift to me, an archetypal yet altogether original scene of mother and daughter, of ballet and beautiful dresses, a gift of moments perfectly stranded together. And I'll wear them around my neck as long as I live.

It's been a long time since I've had the chance to join Emily in Tuesdays Unwrapped. Sure, it's a Monday post, but as I'm only writing once a week (if that!) these days, I can stretch Monday into Tuesday, right?

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