Gift {Five Minute Friday}

I woke up this morning not caring that it's too cold to open the windows, not longing for the smell of saltwater, not missing the feel of the soft looped carpet under my feet, not wishing for the sight of the sun reaching into the windows to touch my favorite green wall in the old master bedroom.

I woke up this morning, padded over the dingy old berber and down the stairs, let the dog out into the cold. Then I sat on the couch nearest the door where the dog would come back barking for warmth and breakfast. I pulled a child under each of my arms, looped my hands tight around their middles and squeezed good morning. What is there to miss and what is there to wish for when the air inside is warm and the heart is full?

Last night I talked with a dear old friend. Two hours went by while we toggled between tears and side-splitting laughter.  My old same, she is the one I call when limbo and rootlessness begin to sabotage the present joy. First we commiserate. Then we remind. We have so much--we have right now. Live your story, and live it well.

Even now, the sun pours through the office window on its way to the top of the sky, and I see how it hits this ugly green and peach floral carpet. I feel a ray resting on my forehead, highlighting a 27-year old scar. When the right kind of light is cast, when I look with grateful eyes, I begin to see the day as a series of small miracles. I begin to believe that anything can be beautiful.


In which I discover the magical cure for skinned knees {Just Write}

She runs ahead of me, hair waving like ribbons on a kite, flip-flops smacking the sidewalk, every limb moving in her watch-out-world way. I open my mouth to tell her again not to run in her flips, and oh for the love, girl, could you please be careful?

But I close my mouth, don't say a word. I could go hoarse calling her to caution while she hears only the wild in her heart. I'm trying to let go, to let her make mistakes while the stakes are still low. Not a second later, she is face down, flat on the ground.

I make that sound--the panicky breath-in-oh-no-poor-baby-are-you-okay sound--the one you're not supposed to make because it only makes things worse. I scoop her into my arms like an infant, cradling her shoulder and head with one arm while her skinned knees and shins dangle over my other arm.  She sees the blood and heightens her cry.

We have a short ride home, eight minutes and counting before we get the desperately needed princess bandaid. So I ask her, "Is there a song I could play for you, a song that would help you feel better?"

"The Me and Daddy song," she says in between gulps.

I find "Father and Daughter", turn it up. She still believes it's her own daddy singing--just to her--and I haven't the heart to tell her otherwise. One day she'll discover her father doesn't sing like Paul Simon, but not today.

The tears are gone before the chorus, but as soon as the song fades, I hear her welling up again.

"It still hurts, even worser!" she whimpers.

"You must need another song," I say. "What would you like to pick next?"

She doesn't hesitate. "I Was Made For Sunny Days."

I see in my rearview mirror her face still wet with tears, smiling wide. By the time we reach the driveway, we are singing.


In which we ran for their lives: a race recap almost as long as the actual race

When I made non-refundable arrangements for Larry and I to run the half marathon in DC, I worried. I worried that one of us would get sick, that the kids would get sick, that I'd get injured. I held my breath and doubled up on vitamin C until the very last day before we were supposed to leave.

"What are the odds of it happening twice?" I'd joke whenever I talked to my friends about my plans and my less than stellar track record.

The odds were apparently pretty good. Because as soon as I began packing Thursday evening, Dani spiked a fever. A fever that needed to be gone by Friday morning in order to leave her with my sister as planned. Being the laid back and easy going gal that I am, I promptly commenced freaking the freak out. I'll skip the part about how I couldn't sleep AT ALL Thursday night, how I tried to get myself to calm down and breathe deep and pray and count backwards from a thousand, but how my brain and stomach conspired against me with a hells no and a when life hands you lemons, we make an ulcer.

I checked her temperature every hour, all night. The poor girl probably had nightmares about bugs crawling in her ears or being probed by aliens. Don't worry, little one, it's just your mother being neurotic again. Go back to sleep, darling.

The amazing thing was, her fever was gone by midnight and she woke up feeling great. Which is more than you can say for me. (See above re: neurotic lady sabotages pre-race sleep with pointless anxiety).

So, as it turns out, I made it to the starting line on Saturday. (Adjust the headphones and cue the angels.)

It was crazy crowded, but we miraculously managed to meet up pre-race with a few of our wonderful friends and Run for their Lives team members -- Dale, Sue, and James. My brother Aaron ran the half marathon too, but I didn't find him until after the race. (And after he'd beaten me by two minutes. Stink!)

The course was amazing, the crowds were great, and the music was rockin'. But did I appreciate any of it? Nope. No. Non. Nein. Why, you might ask? Because I was too busy looking at my watch, feeling fatigued, wondering why it felt SO. MUCH. HARDER. than the last time I ran a half marathon.

Runner's high? Yeah, notsomuch. Muscle cramping? Oh yes, indeed, with a side of stitches. I skipped my Shuffle back to Eminem's "Not Afraid" on at least four occasions--apparently because I wanted to completely and forever ruin my favorite inspirational running song. I also overdid Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)". Footsteps even lighter? This is clearly not a song about running. Because what doesn't kill you doesn't make you step lighter or stand taller. It makes you pass out, double over, hobble, limp, or curse yourself in languages you didn't know you knew for voluntarily agreeing to this torture.

What I didn't realize was how much the warmer temperature would impact me. You see, I've been training in 30 degree weather, which makes me pretty badass in an Eskimo sort of way, but is no help whatsoever when it comes to running nearly two hours while the sun beats the heck out of you. It was (to use the very precise temperature) too damn hot.

Anyway, I've concluded that the only reason I felt great during my first half marathon last year in Cleveland was because (a) it was a perfect cloudy 58 degrees and (b) I wasn't trying hard enough.

Speaking of trying hard enough, I can safely say I gave it everything I had, as evidenced by bonking in the last tenth of a mile and having to slow to a crawl/jog to make it to the finish. And as evidenced by a new PR of 1:47:10. Now, about that cheeseburger and chocolate shake? Because what doesn't kill you makes you hungry.

But let's jump back to around mile 10, where my husband was on his way to completing his first half marathon right on goal pace when a runner passed out in front of him. So off came his runner hat and on went his emergency physician hat. Nothing like a bit of emergent care practice in the middle of a race to make things exciting. He stayed through the hand-off to the EMTs, and resumed his race about 15 minutes later. So what did you do this weekend? Oh nothing much, just ran a half marathon, saved a guy's life, and advocated for victims of human trafficking. Stinkin' overachiever.

But seriously, and I know I sound like Corny McCheeserton right now, but that guy is my hero. I'm so, so proud of him for all that he did--finding time to train in the midst of his rigorous work schedule, encouraging me to get the Run for their Lives initiative off the ground, running the race, and responding with a quick mind and caring heart to the needs right in front of him.

Speaking of the Run for their Lives initiative, I am thrilled to announce that as of race day, we've collectively raised $1000 in direct support of Love146 and the fight against child exploitation! And we're not done yet. I'm not sure what shape our awareness and fund raising efforts will take next, but we're going to keep running with it, hopefully for the long haul.

And now, a few race photos (a.k.a. the anti-glamor shot) of our DC Run for their Lives team. Thanks to Danielle and Laura for the pictures and course support, and to Aaron, James, Sue, Dale and Larry for tackling this event with me. You're the best!

My brother (who I vow to beat next time) and me post-race

Top Left Photo, L to R: James, Sue & Dale; Bottom Right Photo: L to R: Larry, Me, James


Be grateful, be grateful, be grateful {Just Write}

We're wide awake at 3 a.m. The girl keeps kicking me, tossing and turning and asking in a too loud voice whether the "fireworks" are coming closer. The boy keeps burrowing closer, and when I ask him for a bit of room, he blames the dog. He can't move; she's in his way. I'm sandwiched good and tight between these two flannel-clad little heaters, and a king sized bed never felt so small.

For two hours, I'm awake. First she needs a drink. Then he's scared. She can't sleep. He can't pull the covers up because the dog is on them. She doesn't like the thunder. He doesn't like the lightning. And I don't like any of it.

The last straw lands on my side in the form of a little girl's arm. She's reaching over and touching her brother's face. On purpose. "Stop it!!" he yells (right in my ear). "MAAAWM, she's TOUCHING ME!"

Groggily, I lecture myself in a chant. Be grateful, be grateful, be grateful. I try to name the good, things like the dry, warm house, the soft bed. The fact that the soft bed is too crowded, is that really a problem? Of course it isn't, and I know that. But I want to sleep in peace, and I want to snap at the children who refuse to accommodate me. But they are my treasures, and this is my privilege. Be grateful, be grateful, be grateful....

The alarm interrupts a dream in which we have lost the backpack, the lunches aren't packed, no one has had breakfast, and we're late for school. Also? I'm supposed to be in DC already, and they're waiting for me at the starting line, but I don't even know where my shoes are, and I never picked up my bib.

Morning arrives, mercifully, miraculously. We aren't late for anything, not yet. Only a bit tired. The sun streams so bright that even the mud puddles glisten. Be grateful, be grateful, be grateful.


It's Monday Morning

It's Monday morning, the first after "springing forward". (Could this time change be more inappropriately named? Take an hour of precious sleep away from us, and we're hobbling sideways, at best.) Dani woke up so late she only had time to put a sweatshirt over her PJs and slip into flip-flops for the ride to Caed's school. When we came home, she declared today was a great day for piggy tails, one purple and one pink. I couldn't agree more.

After we started in on the piggy tails, I discovered she slept the whole night with toothpaste on her neck and hair. No wonder she smelled like bubble gum when I tucked her in.

It's sunny today, and warm by Ohio standards. I am toying with the idea of putting away the winter boots, at least for the week. I don't know, I guess the sudden spike in Vitamin D makes me a little more optimistic, or maybe just delusional.


It's Monday morning, the last before the half marathon. When Larry and I signed up for this race late last year, we did so with a cause in mind: to join the fight to end child sex slavery and exploitation, to run for their lives.  We partnered with Love146, an organization we respect both for the tremendous work they do in prevention and aftercare, as well as for their long track record of financial stewardship and integrity. If you'd like to support us in our run by making a donation to Love146, you can do so here.

We've been overwhelmed by the support and interest you've shown in an issue that continues to press hard on our hearts. Thanks so much for joining with us as we run for their lives.

It's Monday morning, the only Monday, March 12, 2012, that you and I will ever have. I'm always tempted to think of my days in terms of firsts and lasts and almosts. To think of life as a series of how many days until (fill in the blank)... But I'm not going to do that today. It's Monday morning, and now not 30 minutes after I called it sunny, it's raining and my fingers feel stiff with cold. I might have been so busy expecting the rain that I missed the sun. But I wasn't and I didn't. It's Monday morning, and I saw the sun.



I got a haircut a few days back, and then I ruined that perfectly styled, fresh cut look by putting on a hat and running twelve miles. I had just a few minutes to wash up and change before my next taxi shift began (school, piano, dinner, homework...). It's probably true I looked a mess; but when I leaned over his spelling paper to check his work, did my seven year old really have to tilt his head back and scrunch his eyebrows and say, "Wow, I can tell you're having a baaaad hair day!"?

Speaking of hair, the five year old has decreed that she will "not get another hair cut for the rest of my kid life." I asked her what would happen if it got so long that she stepped on it, and she didn't hesitate: "Well, let's just wait to worry about that when we get there."

In social studies yesterday, the second grade held mock elections. Caed ran for president on a platform of better sports equipment and procuring desks that open from the top. He squeaked into office just two votes ahead of his opponent. He told me all the kids "who didn't want to do anything"  were made congressmen by default. That sounds about right.

That picture above, it is my visual reminder to delight in the grass I'm given (no matter how green).  (Or in the snow and the mud and the wind of Ohio spring). It is my reminder to laugh and giggle instead of yell and nag. It is my reminder that life has the potential to be amazing if only I kick off those too tight heels, throw my arms up, my head back, my whole heart in.


Ache (Five Minute Friday)

Red and black ribbons loop around mailboxes, pillars, doors, trees. Flags wave at half mast. Church signs spell condolences and a promise to keep praying. We hear it in the halls of the YMCA, the school, the library, the post office. There is always a connection, some way the lives taken have touched ours.

On the way to ballet, I drive by the cars gathering at the church for the funeral, every antennae tied with red. I ache in this unsettling realization that I am not in control. Not at all. We can choose our next home from the list of Forbes best towns to raise a family and still wind up burying a child.

A grieving mother speaks of grace and forgiveness, and I think: Yes, this is the lunacy we call the gospel; this is the grace we call amazing.

May this amazing grace find us here. And may it lead us home.

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