Posted in Momming

Confessions of a PokéMom

Hi, my name is Tori and I am a PokéMom.

Or at least that’s what my five-year-old tells me.

A “PokéMom,” according to Mister Cameron, is a Mom who plays Pokémon Go with her kids. And that would be me.

Before we started playing, I had heard all sorts of opinions about the game.  Some see it as just another excuse for people to walk around staring at their phones. Some people see it as a fun way to get out and about and even to meet other people. I even heard about a friend of a friend who lost 15 lbs because he and his wife go Pokémon hunting every evening.

For us, it has been nothing short of a blessing. I know, weird, right?  But, it entered into our lives at exactly the right time and has enriched the past six weeks for us in ways that were really needed.

My rise to PokéMotherhood began when our family spent a weekend in a beach house on the Oregon Coast with my parents, my aunt and uncle, and my cousin and his family. My cousin, his kids, and even my aunt had been playing Pokémon Go for over a year now and it’s really, like, a thing for them.  Cameron and I had visited my aunt and uncle in Colorado earlier that summer and Cam had a chance to spin a few Pokéstops and catch a few Pokémon.

To say that he was intrigued by the whole thing was an understatement.  I mean, he’s five and it’s Pokémon. My stance on the issue, however, remained somewhere between responsible parent and first-rate stick-in-the-mud. The idea of introducing yet another screen-based activity that would have an impatient kindergartener clamoring incessantly for my phone sounded only slightly more appealing than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

But, with the weekend at the coast looming and the carrot of increased opportunities for family bonding dangling, I took the plunge and downloaded the app.  If you ask Mister Cameron, he would probably declare this my single greatest act of parenting to date, surpassing in grand fashion even the act of giving birth to him in the first place.

Six weeks later, we have already reached Level 23. We got to Level 21 in almost exactly a month.

My original intention was for the game to provide Cam with a way to connect with his cousins. As it turns out, it has given us so much more. What follows are the true confessions of this PokéMom about the great things it has brought to our lives.

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Mister Cameron calls this guy “The Pokémon who looks like he needs to go potty.”
Because of Pokémon Go, I have had a chance to reconnect with MY cousin.  Tim and I are the only children of a pair of sisters, but with nearly a decade between us in age and nearly 3,000 miles between us in distance, we haven’t exactly been as close as either of us would like.  Pokémon Go has us texting almost daily, sometimes multiple times a day.  Cam’s and my quick rise through the levels in the game has EVERYTHING to do the fact that we have been very well-coached. Tim is a PhD-educated archaeologist and professor of historical anthropology and he has brought the full weight of his intelligence and well-honed academic approach to bear on the world of Pokémon.  I swear, he knows EVERYTHING about all of the “‘mon” and an understanding of the nuances of strategies that ought to land in him in the PokéPentagon, if there were such a thing. Both Tim and I play jointly with our kids and we frequently congratulate each other on what EXCELLENT parents we are to be so devoted to Pokémon Go “for the children.”  Our grandparents would be so proud of us…

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A little kindergarten artwork. “F” is for “Flareon.”
Because of Pokémon Go, both kids and I have logged more hours at more local parks this late summer and early fall than we ever have before, possibly collectively. The game is designed to encourage people to get out and explore their communities and it DEFINITELY done that for us. There is a diligently curated “nest map,” maintained by users in our area, that shows where different Pokémon can be found “nesting” near us and by using that to guide our Pokémon hunts, we have stumbled onto and spent time at really cool outdoor spaces in our community that we might never have explored.  We will hit a new park, look around for Pokémon, and then Cam will inevitably hand me the phone and run off to play on whatever play structure is there or head down the trail system ahead of me to explore. Kenzie is with us some of the time as well, shes like to spin Pokéstops and catch the occasional ‘mon herself (her favorites are “da purple mouse” and “da fire unicorn”).

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Da Purple Mouse

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Da Fire Unicorn
Because of Pokémon Go, my own fitness journey has been less miserable.  I have continued the work on running and walking in the month since Portland to Coast happened (read more about that here) and Pokémon Go has been a nice distraction and guide for my runs and walks.  By “walking,” you can earn precious candy to power up or evolve the Pokémon you choose as your buddy and you can hatch eggs as you walk that might contain rare ‘mon, so I open up the app as I log my miles on the road.  I will sometimes locate my runs on trails where certain Pokémon we are hoping to catch can be found nesting so it’s helped me switch up my routes.  Spinning Pokéstops as I run by and catching the occasional much-needed or less-common ‘mon along the way helps to break up the pounding of the trails and sidewalks.

Because of Pokemon Go, I ended up walking the streets of a historic town in Utah after dark with my favorite paranormal fiction author, which was both completely fun and exhilarating creepy.  (Amy Kessler and I were bridesmaids in our friend Ashlee’s wedding and the little town where the wedding was held was filled with gyms and Pokéstops.  Her “Here, Witchy Witchy” books are about my favorite thing ever)

 

Because of Pokémon Go, Mister Cameron is learning about things like reading maps and giving directions (“Mom, at the next street turn right. There’s a yellow gym), about saving up for things that you want and spending resources carefully (buying items with Pokécoins, saving up candy for the evolutions), about the long-term payoffs of resisting instant gratification (waiting to evolve your Pokémon until you have a Lucky Egg going to get double XP and other strategic moves), and about choosing carefully what times we go play and about sharing with his sister.

Because of Pokémon Go, Cam and I have had a hobby to share in a season when we really, REALLY needed it.  He started kindergarten about a month ago and we’ve been walking through the adjustment process as a family.  Playing Pokémon Go together has given us excuses to get out of the house and get active, and spend time together- not to mention providing a fantastic distraction for me while he’s at school. I’ve been known to hit the parks, with Kenzie and alone, in search of particular ‘mon I know he’s been hoping for.  It’s been kind of like a glue that has helped us hold it together in this season.

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Cam was helpful enough to write down the combat power values of all our Pidgeys.
I have no idea what lies in our Pokéfuture.  At press time, we are about 43,000 XP from hitting level 24.  We went out today and grinded out about 30,000 XP through Pidgey and Weedle farming and catching a new ‘mon while using a Lucky Egg. The weather is turning cooler and, inevitably for Oregon, rainier so it won’t be as easy for us to get out and about.  Maybe we’ll keep going or maybe we will lose interest. We shall see. But it sure has been fun so far and we’ve made some happy memories.

But honestly, I’m not quitting at least until I get a Gyarados. You know, for the children. Because I’m such a good PokéMom…

 

Posted in Faith

Simply and Honestly Ourselves

“That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for, those who are simply and honestly themselves before Him.” John 4:23 (MSG)

 

I’m a part of a group of women who are going through the gospel of John and sharing our thoughts in a Facebook group. I’ve been doing my Scripture reading out of The Message for the past couple of months and so it’s that translation I’m reading through this time.  Sometimes reading out of a different translation than I’m used to is just interesting rather than profound, but today was one of those days when it reached right out and grabbed me

The story of the Samaritan Woman at the well in chapter 4 is probably a familiar one to just about anybody who has studied Jesus or attended church for any length of time. In it, Jesus meets a woman at a well and asks her for a drink. She learns that he knows all about her difficult and sin-filled past (and present), he tells her about the LIVING water, and she goes off and tells the people in her village about Jesus and many come to believe because of her witness.

As is the case with EXACTLY ALL of the stories about Jesus’s words and deeds, there are layers and layers of good things to unpack and digest and be fed by.  I could take just that story and write a month’s worth of posts on it. And then come back in a couple of years and see it with new eyes and do the same all over again.

What stuck out at me this time, though, didn’t have as much to do with the content of the story itself as it did with something Jesus said about the nature of God and of worship and of what we are called to- something that Eugene H. Peterson, writer of The Message, thought about in a way I had never had.

Here’s the text from the New International Version, what I’m used to reading and hearing”

23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.

And here is The Message’s version of this verse:

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

 

 

Being ourselves before the Father.  Being MYSELF.

Worshipping out of our true selves.  MY true self.

 Wow.  My true self.  Who is that even some days?

 

This fallen world is full to bursting with messages about who and what we SHOULD be. As a woman, as a mom, as a CHRISTIAN, I live constantly in the middle of a veritable “should-storm” of ways of being, looking, thinking, feeling, dressing- sometimes who  *I* actually am, how I was created, gets lost in the shuffle. And if I’m perfectly honest, some of the messages I hear seem to tell me that who *I* actually am is wrong.  The world has very different standards from The Maker.

This verse is a reminder of the value of my true self to the One who made me.    Our Father very intentionally made us each as we are, and He did so with greater purpose and intentionality than any of us can muster in our own processes of creation.  And He did this because how we are pleases Him, delights Him- and furthers His kingdom.   He made us just right, y’all.  Just EXACTLY right. Down the number of hairs. on. our. very. head.  He KNIT US TOGETHER HIMSELF, just as He planned for us to be and when we come before Him in worship, He wants to

But in a world that tells us plenty about who we SHOULD be, that divine invitation to come as we are can actually feel quite problematic.  If it comes right down to it, do I even really know HOW to come as I am, just as He made me?  I mean, what is OF ME, THE WAY I WAS MADE BY GOD and what is OF THE WORLD and is part of what has landed on me from the “should-storm” that constantly rages around me?  Do I even know the Truth of me that God wants to see well enough to bring it before Him?  It almost feels like yet another SHOULD being thrown at me.

But God’s requests and invitations stand in stark contrast to the demands of the world.  Just like everything Jesus put out there for us, I know that if I run after it, it will be good. The “shoulds” of the world are a fire that consumes and destroys, the divine biddings of God are a fire that refines and purifies.  If I seek to worship Him out of my very being, then my very being, the one HE created just as He intended, is what I will find.

This challenge, to come as I am before God, is one I’m going to take seriously and really lean into.  I mean, God knows WAY better than I do and I’m quite certain His version of who and what I am and should be is FAR superior to whatever notion I’ve concocted in my head.  And what better, safer, more loving place to do the work of letting down the guards I’ve put up for the world and slipping back into my truest self than in His presence?

Will you join me?  Will you work with me in this season on worshiping God out of your TRUEST self, the way He made you to worship Him?  The things He calls us to are holy, sisters, and I’m glad to be doing them with you.

 

Posted in Momming

How to Make a Cute First Day of School Pic (For Dummies)

My kids have started school, y’all.  How sweet are they?
I’m ridiculously, insanely, out-of-my-mind delighted and proud of these two not-so-little ones.

 

Every first and last day of school since Cam started preschool, I have snapped a picture of each of them on the porch in the morning and created this digital time capsule of who they are is in that moment.

Every time, I share it to social media to let friends and family see who they are becoming as they grow.

Every time, someone comments telling me how cute it is, how creative I am, and asking me how to do it so they can do it for their kids.

Every time, I laugh my ever-loving rear end off at each and every compliment.  I’m not even kidding. It’s been three years and it still both tickles and baffles me to death that people are so in love with this and think it’s so awesome.

Because the truth is that this family first-and-last-day-of-school tradition was born not of organization, planning, and creativity but of desperation, panic, and a total and complete lack of artistic talent- and also out of the attachment of this 21st century parent to her cell phone.

For weeks leading up to Cam’s first day of preschool, I was stressing about that FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL PIC.  You know, the one with the kid holding the cute sign that lets everyone know what grade they are going into?  I love those. I love that they capture the excitement of the moment and that they can be called on again and again as time marches on to highlight growth as these little school-goers get bigger and continue forward on their journeys.

I really wanted to do this with my kids but I’m not exactly the cute sign-making kind. The visual arts are not among my gifts and I had no idea how I was going to pull this off.

That night before the first day of school,  I’m pretty sure went through half a ream of printer paper trying to make a sign.  I hand-lettered, I computer-lettered, and nothing was right.   I even looked on Etsy, willing to PAY for something- but nothing was quite right.  I didn’t just want a “FIRST DAY OF PRESCHOOL” sign, I wanted something that captured who he was at the time, something that I could really look back on and remember what life was like with him at that time.  Panic was starting to set in. I would send this child off to preschool WITHOUT A FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL SIGN PIC.  THE SHAAAAAAAME!!!!  DARN YOU, LACK OF ARTISTIC TALENT!!!!

Finally, it occurred to me to stop thinking about what I couldn’t do and think about what I COULD do and how I could use that to accomplish my goal.  I couldn’t hand-letter like my friend Devan or graphic design like my friend Amy, but I could sit and dink around on my phone like a BOSS.

So, on the first day of school I snapped a pic of him with some room on the side,  asked him a few questions about his favorite things, and when I got home from dropping him off, I put Kenzie (then about 14 months old) down for her morning nap, opened my favorite text-over-picture app, and dinked and diddled on my phone until I had something passable. Then,  I saved it to my camera roll, uploaded and emailed that bad boy to whoever I thought needed to to be pacified with a first day of school pic.

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The first-ever first day of school pic, the one I was so stressed about.

I felt slightly embarrassed as I clicked “Post” on Facebook, I felt like I was straight up advertising my lack of craftsiness to the entire world. I was THAT MOM who couldn’t conjure up a decent sign for my kid to hold so I had to make something on my phone.

But the response was INSANE.  People thought I paid for it. People thought his teachers did it for us.  People were like, “Wait, you DID THIS YOURSELF!!?!?! TEACH ME YOUR WAYS!!!!!”  You could have knocked me over with a feather.  I was truly floored and also considerably amused that people thought it was anything special.

So, here by “Popular Demand”  (BAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA, can you even? I LITERALLY cannot), I shall now share with you, good readers of my blog, the step by step process of how magical me creates thes

How to Make an Adorable First Day of School Pic
(For Dummies)

 

Step 1: Have zero artistic talent

Step 2:  Stress over making a sign for several days and try eleventy billion other ways and have them all fail (feel free to skip this step.  And step one)

Step 3: Find and download a text over picture app of your choice. I use the Pic Collage app.

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Step 4: Choose a few questions you would like to ask your kid on their first and last day of school for the next however many years (Favorite book, favorite food, favorite song, favorite book, favorite show or movie, favorite color, favorite activity, what do they want to be when they grown up, what would they do with a million dollars, etc.)

Step 5: Open your chosen app and go to town. I hear from people who know about these things that it’s generally good to choose only one or two fonts to ensure a cohesive look, so that’s what I did.  Here are a few screenshots of the process I used.

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I choose freestyle.
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Then add the image.
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Then stretch the image to fit the pic
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Then I add the text boxes. You do have to add them individually, but….
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“duplicate” is your friend. Once you’ve picked your font, you can just duplicate each box and change the text.
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“Straighten” is also your friend. It will help you when everything inevitably gets sideways.  You get this option by shaking the phone.  Weird, I know. But that’s how it works.

 

Step 6: Save and share.

This may not be the easiest or the best way to do it. You may even find an app that has a template. Heck, this app may have a template that I just haven’t even found.

But this is what’s been working for me. And that’s what this is about: Finding something that works for you and your family and rolling with it. Kind of like all of parenting in general.

Thanks for reading- and find me and tag me if you end up making something like this for your kids!  I’d love to see it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Momming

The Myth of the “Good Enough Mom” (And why we are all good enough moms)

Let me tell you how today began. Both of my kids were up and out of their rooms before their lights were green  and they were already fighting. I mean, I was actually awakened today  by my least favorite sound ON THE PLANET,  the aural assault of a yell that my three-year-old launches the instant something makes her mad.  I blearily pulled myself out of bed and before my feet ever hit the floor, I heard the tell-tale *Smack-shriek* sequence that let me know that my five-year-old had once again decided to dispense with self-control and smack his sister the instant something made him mad.

I was barely even awake yet and my first feels of the day were the all-too-familiar Failure Feelings that seem to always be lurking, looming and threatening in this season of motherhood. I put them both in their rooms, told them that if they couldn’t keep from fighting they would need to be separated, stumbled to the bathroom and texted my husband that I was seriously considering starting to hunt for a full-time, out-of-the-home job so that I could put them in childcare with someone else who might actually be able to, you know, get through to them.

And while I wasn’t actually serious about looking for another job, in that moment I was stone-cold real about the feeling that we would all be better off if someone else was in charge of my kids during the day because clearly, I wasn’t cutting it.  I’ve been throwing the absolute best I can muster at the fighting and the hitting and the yelling and the tempers and *clearly* it wasn’t good enough. *I*  wasn’t good enough.

I walked over to the sink to brush away the morning breath and began to plan my next move.  What do I do with these kids?  Looks like I need to do something differently because what I have been doing is not even a little bit working. What would a Good Enough Mom do with these kids?  Someone who was Good Enough at this motherhood thing to be able to get these kids to stop fighting would do ______________________________ right now.

I tried to envision this Good Enough Mom. I tried to get inside her head for a moment, channel her, if you will. Figure out What Would Good Enough Mom Do so that I could follow her ways, even if I could never actually get on her level.

What would it even look like be a Good Enough Mom? What would it feel like to be a Good Enough Mom? How would her kids respond?  What would it be like to be around those kids of a  mom who always knew the right thing to say or do?

As I thought about who she would be, I thought about what her kids would look like. I’ve been around A LOT of kids in my time. Ten years of classroom teaching and five years of teacher education will do that.   I have known some wonderful, WONDERFUL kids. I mean, heck, I had #allthehearteyes for my entire class every single year, even when they drove me crazy.  But even the ones who got the “excellent” ratings in the behavior column were not perfect all of the time.  They all made mistakes every now and then.  They all had areas where they struggled.  It’s just part of being a kid- of being human.

There were even times when I would sit in conferences with parents and watch looks of disbelief overtake their faces as I raved about how delightful, cooperative, and conscientious their kids were, and how they really helped me by setting an example for their classmates.

OUR kid?” they would reply, incredulous.  “He must be saving it all for school…”

or

“Yes, she’s always been like that at school.  It’s not like that all the time at home.”

These parents were good, good people and they were raising great, great kids. But even those amazing families and their amazing kids didn’t fit this image I had conjured in my head of this Good Enough Mom who would be able to walk down the hall, cast a spell with just a few words, and have Hansel and Gretel skip off to play, hand in hand, heart in heart, forever and ever to fight again no more.

Something started to stir inside me as I thought and the vice grip that shame and discouragement had on my heart began to loosen. Maybe kids are just human and there is no such thing as a mom who is Good Enough to charm the humanity right out of her kids.  I mean heck, I was raised by someone who in my mind is as close to an actual Good Enough Mom as anyone could get and yet I made it to adulthood unable to keep my room clean.

Another thing about kids is that it’s not just a running joke when parents say that our kids find our greatest weaknesses and exploit them. It’s an actual thing that happens as kids grow and test boundaries and explore love and relationships.  Even if we did figure out all of the things we are currently struggling with, they would just find something else to push back about because THAT’S HOW THEY LEARN ABOUT LIFE AND THE WORLD.

As I shook the last cobwebs of sleep from my head and prepared to walk down the hall and deal with the ridiculousness that had begun my day, I released the looming specter of the Good Enough Mom and let her flit away from my house.  The fact is that God doesn’t make mistakes, if there were anyone better than me to be raising these kids, she would be here right now.  Yes, I’m sure there are moms out there who know better than I how to deal with sibling squabbles and quell the impulsivity of reaction- I know this to be true because I’ve read their books and blogs on the subject.  But that doesn’t mean she would be better than me at raising the whole people who are my kids

I’m still going to try every day to be better mom because it’s what moms do. I’m going to read #allthebooks, ask #alltheadvice, say #alltheprayers, do #allthethings that might just help me help these little ones become the best versions of who they were created to be.  But there is no such thing as the Good Enough Mom. There’s nobody who gets it right all the time, whose kids never push, whose life looks like a constant highlight real.

My prayer is that you will join me in releasing the Good Enough Mom we may envision, and embrace the good enough moms that we are.

Posted in Uncategorized

New Year’s Resolutions

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR, Y’ALL!

 

Yes, I know it’s September and we don’t actually turn the calendar to 2018 for four more months (2018!!!! I mean, what?  When did that happen…).  But honestly, between being in school myself, teaching school, and then having kids in school, September has always felt more like the start of something new to me than January ever has.  Consequently, September has always been when the REAL New Year’s Resolutioning has happened for me.  

This year, the resolutioning feels weighty in a way it never has before.  See, we are at that point in the kid-raising where things are ramping up a notch for our family.  Cam (our older) is starting full-day Kinder, Kenzie (our younger) is starting preschool, he’s doing soccer and she’s doing dance, so all of a sudden we have one kid in REAL SCHOOL, both kids in SOME KIND OF SCHOOL, AND evening activities.  Feels like we are getting thrown into the deep end of the pool and we had very well better have our flotation devices ready or have finished swim lessons or something.

I’m self-aware enough to know that being regimented, scheduled, and super-organized is NOT among my spiritual gifts and so this is going to present a major challenge for me and for our family.  Is anyone else in that place? Puh-LEEZE tell me that I am not the only one who feels intimidated by what lies ahead of me this year.  My insecurity is envisioning everyone sitting reading this like, “Psssssh, girl what is wrong? With? You? For REAL women this is our MOMENT!”  If that is you, I’m envious of you, happy for you, and praying you can love me even though I’m over here like this at the thought of what’s to come.

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Recently (how recently I am slightly embarrassed to admit, it may or may not have been within the last 48 hours), I finally moved past the weeks of mounting dread, of fretting and Pinteresting,  of “YOU DON’T HAVE WHAT IT TAKES” panic moments and into the actually PRODUCTIVE space of praying for discernment about what I need to get in place for our family for the coming months.  Took me long enough, right? Always does.  Bless my heart, God loves me just as I am…

As I prayed about what my New Year’s Resolutions should look like, God really surprised me with what He came back with.  He didn’t talk to me about homework routines, organizing our space, making a family calendar or anything like that- although all of those are important and on His list.  What He impressed upon my heart was that what this family was going to need more than anything was for ME to get MY game right inside of me, get my heart and head in order, because nothing was going to go the way it needed to if I’m all scattered and scrambling and adrift all the time.  

Mind= Blown

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He urged me to sit and think about (and also ask HIM about) what little things in my life I needed to change or firm up in order to put myself in a place of strength.   As I mused and prayed, prayed and mused,  I realized that my real question for myself was not what things about my life needed the most fixing, what things about me were the most contraindicative to success in the coming months and therefore needed to be rectified IMMEDIATELY, the question was

What are the things in my life that, when they are in place, make me feel the most like I’ve got my you-know-what together?

  1. Tighten up my Heavenly Connection Game–  If I attempt to walk through my days not sufficiently connected to God, I basically end up like a piñata being battered, smacked around, and ripped wide open by the fallen world around me.  It’s amazing what big things don’t even faze me when I’m rightly anchored and it’s equally as amazing what little things do get me down and set me off when I’m adrift. Truly there is no such thing as ENOUGH connection to heaven this side of eternity, but that’s part of what makes our faith journey such a refining fire- we are constantly working to get better at being closer.  For now, two of my girlfriends and I are walking through the “Enjoying Jesus” study from IF:Gathering that unpacks the spiritual disciplines and guides us toward implementing them in our lives.  I’m excited to try them out and really work on finding pieces that will strengthen my daily routines that anchor me to God and keep the lines of communication and connection open. I’m guessing I’ll be blogging about that.
  2. Commit to MY bedtime routine–  In the book Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist (I love her, do you love her?  We are besties.  Only she doesn’t know it yet) talks about making a resolution NOT to sleep in her clothes.  She decided that taking care of herself meant actually putting on jammies at the end of every day and I can relate to that on such a deep level.  At the end of my days, I am usually EXHAUSTED and just ready to be done, I will throw on jammies, quickly brush teeth, and leave #allthethings just as they are in my desire to just be done. The problem there is that I wake up in the morning to a messy floor, mascara under my eyes, and basically start the day two steps behind.  It makes A BIG DIFFERENCE to me if I taken ten minutes at the end of my day to pick up my room and bathroom, set the living room right for the morning, actually attend to my skincare routine, maybe throw some oils in the diffuser, and basically don’t neglect stuff.  I wake in the morning feeling like I’m already all over it just by waking up.
  3. Meal. Plan.-  This family runs on food.  *I* run on food.  I have discovered over the years that our entire life can be in ashambles, the house can be a mess, we can be MILES behind the 8 ball, and yet if our meals are easy and on time and locked down, it’s somehow manageable.  And for me, if I have no idea what I’m doing for breakfast/lunch/dinner, the entire day seems like so much work.  I LOATHE taking the time to meal plan. I am a Big Idea Person, I would rather be solving the problems of the world than taking my brain space to attend to painfully dull minutiae like PLANNING FRIDAY’S DINNER ON SUNDAY. But I like my life so much better when I do it.  And also, if I plan ahead I can ORDER my groceries for the week from Fred Meyer and PICK! THEM! UP! Without even setting foot in the store with two children.  So, meal planning it is.
  4. Exercise-  If you know me at all, you know that physical activity is not my jam. I didn’t play sports in high school, I dislike exerting myself, I am not super into doing long stretches of repetitive things like CARDIO and STRENGTH TRAINING REPS- It’s not my thing.  But, much like meal planning and washing my face at night, I feel better about my life when I do it. And also, I’m about to be 39 1/2. Which means in six months…well, you know what it means.  I’m about to start needing things like regular mammograms and I already know I have several risk factors for bone loss- I basically need to start taking care of my body before stuff starts falling apart, actively working to maintain my health for my family.  And if I just *happen* to look slimmer and trimmer as I put my childbearing years behind me, that also would not suck.  So, 3-4 times a week it is.  Uggggggggh…

So, there you have it.  Four small things that are actually HARD things that if I do them, will make me feel like I have my ish together enough to run the show. If I do those things, they will lay a foundation for the other things. Allllll of the other things.

So, my sisters, what would be your Big Four? The things self-care items that you feel like will help you come from the place of strength your family needs from you as the coming months march on? Share them with me!  Let’s hold each other accountable, encourage one another, commiserate when we fail, congratulate when we nail it, and be better people together.

Posted in Mom Power

My Big, Brave Portland to Coast Adventure, Part 3

So, in Part 1 of this series, I explained to y’all why Portland to Coast 2017 was such a big deal to me.

In Part 2, I took you through a dead battery and my first leg, five and a quarter miles uphill in the heat and, my nemesis, the full sun.

Part 3 finds Team #HashHags Van 1 lounging on a tarp in the middle of a field attempting to sleep. Some successfully, some unsuccessfully. I fell into the latter category.

I loved laying in that field. I did.  I wasn’t sleeping and I knew that was going to make things tough later, but I know me and I know that I’m not really gonna sleep in daylight in a field. So I read, I prayed a lot, and I rested and relaxed my muscles and marveled at how none of my parts hurt.  But I figured that was coming like a freight train. There is no way I could put THIS BODY through ALL OF DIS and not end up with some serious stiffness and soreness, right?

About 7:30, we all got up and started to pack up for the hand-off from Van 2 and the start of our last legs, our night of waking and walking. To be honest, the next few hours in the van are a bit of a blur. I tried to sleep, and was at one point successful in procuring a 15 minute power nap that saved my bacon.  It was FREAKING COLD outside in the Coast Range of Oregon in the middle of the night and as much as I wilt in sun,  I’m also quite unhappy to the very depths of my soul in the cold.   The fatigue was intense, the cold was taunting me, and I had zero idea how I was going to walk 5.33 more miles.  Fortunately, I was not the only one feeling that way, we were all up against a bit of objection and dread, but if all these other people I was passing on the road could to it, then so could I.

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Tara and me in the middle of the night, right before her last leg.

While Tara walked her final leg, most of it up hill (that girl is Da Real MVP, y’all), I prepared for my final leg. I decided that shorts and a sweatshirt were the best way for me to balance the cold temperatures with an exertion-warmed body, I got headphones, app, and playlist ready to go, and I made a plan to hit the ol’ Honeybuckets just as we got to the exchange point. I was as fully ready as I was ever gonna be to walk 5.32 miles in the chilly, pre-dawn after basically being awake for over 24 hours, having already walked five and a quarter miles, and ridden close to a hundred more in the third row of a Honda Pilot.  This was gonna hurt, I was sure of it, but I was gonna do this.

And then, you guys. Then we hit the log jam of traffic going into Tara’s and my final exchange point.  Just when I was gearing up, getting my motor running and ready to go, we found ourselves stopped in a line of vans and SUV’s over a mile long heading into the exchange, getting passed by the very walkers and runners we were trying to get ahead to meet.  It became evident quickly that I had two choices:  let Tara pass us and wait for us at the finish line or have me jump out early and walk in with her so I could make it to the exchange on time.  I chose the latter and jumped out of the car somewhere between a quarter and a half mile before the exchange point and started walking.

The upside to having yet another chaotic exchange was that I didn’t have time to fret and fuss and psych myself out for my last leg.  Those last few minutes were a blur: out of the van, down the road, into the Honeybucket, over to the exchange, and next thing I knew, the bracelet was on my wrist and my feet were hitting the cold pavement, alone in the dark.

And that, my friends, is when everything changed for me.

The traffic jam at the exchange point had thinned out the foot traffic enormously, so I there were no other runners or walkers around me.  I’m not sure what I expected to feel or experience as I began my second leg, but this sure wasn’t it.

I. Felt. Amazing.

In the cool, in the dark, on a downhill slope, my feet were flying as if on their own. I had expected stiffness, soreness, and to feel my body groan and complain about being pushed into things we had spent the past 39 years believing it didn’t do.  I had expected to wonder how I was going to make it through the next few miles. But instead, it felt effortless. Comfortable.  Like a release, a rhythm I had been waiting for.

I generally find the term “defining moment” to be  overly dramatic and when I see or hear it, I always think, “Whatever. I’ve never had a defining moment.” Well, now I’ve had a defining moment. It’s a good thing I was alone on that road in that moment because I started to cry.  “Lord, I did it! I’m doing it!” I prayed as I walked. In that moment, the glass box I that I had been putting around myself for the past two and a half decades, the one that said, “Fragile, do not push,” came shattering down around me.

On that 5.32 mile stretch of Highway 202, I stopped being the girl who almost passed out in a dressing room and became the girl who could easily walk five more miles, even after all that had happened in the past 24 hours. I stopped having the body that couldn’t do what other people’s could and started having the body that felt amazing, without an ounce of stiffness, soreness, or pain, even after all that had happened in the past 24 hours.  I stopped feeling like someone who was trying to force my body to do something that was meant for other people and started feeling like maybe, just maybe, my body was made for this.

For the first time ever, I walked without music.  I listened to the sound of the woods at night, to my feet on the pavement, to the encouraging words of the runners as they passed me,  and for possibly the first time in my life, to the rhythms of my body, doing an ATHLETIC AND SPORTSY THING that it was doing automatically and almost effortlessly.

The sun came up as I walked and the woods around me started to take shape. It was fully daylight about halfway through and I had the most beautiful view of a stream running to the left of the road. The mountain streams that run alongside the roads to the Oregon Coast are just about one of my favorite things ever and this felt like a hug from God, just for me. If all had gone according to plan, it would still have been dark and I never would have seen it.  Sometimes, things work exactly as they’re supposed to…

By the time I snapped this picture, I was tiring and ready to be done, but I loved every minute of that hour and fifteen minutes.

 

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I have never had an experience that has made me feel differently about myself like this has. I look at myself in the mirror differently. I think about my body and what it can do differently, in a way I never have before.  This is a body that can walk ten and a half miles and be stuck in a van for hours without hurting. This is a body that can walk five miles uphill in direct sun and not have an issue.  This is a body that can keep up a 14:05 pace for the last 5.32 miles and not have to push to the limit for it.

I went on a run/walk this morning and I hit faster paces than ever I had before. And what’s more, I enjoyed it.  Every minute. It was the funnest, most relaxing thing.  Going for a run/walk used to feel like subjecting myself to a full-on view of my shortcomings.  The time on the road was about what I couldn’t do- but this morning, and that night in the mountains, it was about what I COULD do. And maybe, just maybe, about what I might be able to do if I keep this going. And I plan to.

There is more to tell, the fun beach party at the finish line, the moment the last runner in Van 2 came in and we walked across the finish line together (it was anti-climactic, actually), but I’m already 1400 words deep in just this post, so I’ll leave that for another time.

I can’t close this story, however, without mentioning these girls.  #HashHags Van 1: Tara, Lindsay, Taneha, Katie, and Noelle.  It was probably just as brave of them to invite a total stranger into their van for 36 hours as it was for the total stranger to jump in and join them.  I enjoyed them immensely from the minute I met them, but about the time we got in the van for the second leg that I stopped feeling like I was among strangers I liked and started feeling like I was among friends.  Thank you to all of them for their support,  for the laughter,  the friendship, and for providing the framework for me to upend some of my deepest-seeded negative beliefs about myself.

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So I leave you with this pic of me and my medal.  “Where’s my medal” is pretty much my favorite phrase to utter once I’ve completed something difficult, and this is the first time anyone has actually given me one.  WOO HOOOOOO!!!!  It’s just a participation medal, but sometimes, participation is everything.  Sometimes, participation CHANGES everything. And this was one of those times.

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Posted in Mom Power

My Big, Brave Portland to Coast Adventure, Part 2

In Part One of this tale (which you can read here), I bared my soul to you, dear reader, and let you in on why this ten and a half miles I walked was such a big deal to me (summary: thyroid disorder, fragile teenager, always afraid I was gonna pass out, carried those feelings into adulthood, etc., etc.). I also brought you up to the moment the race started. I looked approximately like this:

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So, to pick up our story, I was the last walker in van six, assigned legs 18 and 30.  The first was 5.23 miles in St. Helens in the mid-afternoon, the next was 5.33 miles downhill in the Coast Range sometime at zero dark thirty the following morning. Riding in a Honda Pilot with a group of women who had known each other for years and done this several times before added to the general sense of “What on earth have I gotten myself into, I have exactly zero business being here.”  But “here” I was, and I was still determined to do all of my hard work justice and not let these ladies down.  I had shown up and I was going to do the danged thing. Yes I was.

I kinda was getting the hang of it, a feel for the general rhythm of each of the legs for the walker, observing the exchanges, making sure #allthethings I was going to need to get through this were charged (Music. This girl needs music), and feeling like I could do this.

Then,  approximately forty five minutes before my first leg was scheduled to start, Team #HashHags Van 1 found ourselves stranded on the side of Hwy 30 with a dead battery.  I kid you not. And nobody parked around us had jumper cables. And nobody stopped to offer assistance because seeing a vehicle parked on the side of the road isn’t a red flag during Hood/Portland to Coast like it is at any other time and our vehicle was angled in so nobody could see our raised hood until they were past us.  Plus, they had walkers to support, people counting on them.  Not sure we could have stopped either were the roles reversed.

Fortunately and by the Grace of God, my WONDERFUL husband happened to be heading into Scappoose with our kids to meet his parents for lunch and then hopefully find me along my route in St. Helens to cheer me on. He grabbed a battery pack from his dad, came and helped us start the car.  Apparently once they got back in the car after procuring the battery pack, Mister Cameron announced enthusiastically, “LET’S GO SAVE THE RACE!”  How adorable is he? He is so adorable. Anyway, with a newly-charged battery, we headed to the next exchange to set me on my way.

This fiasco not only flustered all of us, including and especially this newbie getting redy for her first leg, and it put us behind schedule. Picture me changing into my walking clothes for my first leg in the parking lot of St. Helens High School, frantically pinning my number to my tank top, then scrambling to the exchange point to meet Tara and pray that everything went off without out a hitch.

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Me, in the parking lot of St. Helens High School, ready for my first leg, in approximately the same place I changed out of my sweats. You’re welcome for the mental picture of that hot mess.

I stood at the exchange point, as keyed up as a 100 meter sprinter ready to get in the blocks and go. Or, you know, what I imagine that would feel like. Because, as I’m sure you know if you read Part 1, I have absolutely no idea what that actually feels like. Bless my heart. My over-the-ear earphones were on my ears, my Nike Running Club app was ready to go  (I knew from experience that if I didn’t keep a solid eye on my pace,  I could easily slack off)  with my beloved and carefully-curated PTC Pacing Mix playlist at the ready (did I mention I NEED my music?).  Tara walked down the homestretch, slapped that bracelet on my wrist (I’m not kidding, literally slapped. They actually use those 1980’s-style snap bracelets), I clicked “start run” on my app, and off I went.

When my feet hit the pavement and the beat dropped on the first song, I settled into a familiar rhythm and all of a sudden, I was home. This was what I had been training for, as much as the past 10 hours since I woke up that morning had been unfamiliar and a tad disorienting, this was familiar. This was comfortable. This is what I came to do and had been doing.  This, I could do. And wouldn’t you know it, shuffle mode on my playlist sent this song out first. I shoulda known right then that everything was going to be just fine.

I’m not gonna lie, it was hot in St. Helens at 1:30 in the afternoon in full sun, my nemesis. I wilt in the sun. Heat is ok, full sun withers me.  This made me nervous.  But I had water in my hand, a breeze was kicking down Hwy 30 and I was cruisin’. My first two-ish miles and my last mile are my slowest and I was walking much closer to a 14 minute pace than a 15 minute pace and thinking, “I’m doing it! I’m doing it!  I’m really doing it!”

Some time around three miles, Jeff and the kids jumped out from behind a parked car to surprise me and cheer me on.  I slapped them high fives and the kids even ran a little bit along behind me for a few yards or so.  When I got home the next day, Kendall said to me, “Mommy! I saw you in da purple shorts!”  Leave it to Kenzie to have her most vivid memory of an experience center around Mommy wearing purple.

Just after that, however, the path turned uphill again.  And I was tired. And it was hot. And that blessed breeze from the highway had not made its way up into the neighborhoods.  And it was absolute and total Bee Ess.  Like, why would anyone do this for fun? People do this FOR FUN?  THIS IS NOT FUN!  THIS IS MISERABLE!  THESE HILLS AND THIS HEAT CAN, if you will pardon my French, SUCK IT!!!!

But, before I knew it, I could see the exchange point and hear the cheers of the other walkers welcoming us in. OK, just kidding, it wasn’t before I knew it.  I felt every second of the push to the finish. Good grief.  But finish I did and collapse in the shade I also did.

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I did it! Leg one!
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Tara and me at the conclusion of Van 1’s first session.

I hadn’t fainted in the sun and the heat.  It was hot, it was uphill, I was tired and I and my body had handled our business and gotten through it without much fuss. I hadn’t even felt like there was a danger that I was going to push too hard and end up blacking out. What’s more, nothing hurt.  My back, my feet, that one tendon on the inside of my right knee, none of it had bothered me.  I had done it, 5.23 miles uphill in the sun and the heat, I hadn’t felt fragile- and i had done it at 14:13 pace.  The glass box I had put around myself was starting to crack.  I was starting to see that maybe there was more to me than the sick and skinny 13-year-old who passed out in dressing rooms.

Here, you can read Part 3, in which I attempt to sleep in a field and have yet another flustered exchange- and the glass box shatters altogether and comes crashing down around me.