Friday, May 25, 2012

Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood . . .

I was beginning my Junior year at Brigham Young University, a up and coming theater major, on the acting track and on the brink of getting in the main circles of that major. I had awesome roomates, a new apartment, had just finished a stellar summer fulfilling my dream as an EFY (Especially For Youth) counselor, and all was right and bright in my world.  Until it wasn't.

I got a call from a fellow EFY counselor with a proposition: a burgeoning liberal arts university in Virginia, grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, was offering full ride scholarships to all EFY counselors to come and build up the college and its programs. I graciously declined. But, the decline 'twas not to be. Things started crumbling around me and I didn't understand why. When my mother suggested I give Virginia another think, I shrugged it off and went for a drive. And on that drive I had a very profound experience that left me no doubt that my entire life was about to change. I was heading back East.

Two days later, after dropping out of BYU, selling my apartment contract, and packing everything I could in a little Geo Prizm, I was on the road to a little mountain town in Virginia that I could not pronounce. Though everyone was certain I was crazy, noone thought I was more nuts than I did. This was the sort of thing pioneers did, not normal, somewhat level thinking persons. When I pulled up to the lovely, tiny, crumbling campus, I burst into tears. What had I done?? When I entered the "auditorium" I cried some more. What was I doing?? Hugs from friends who had stories similar to mine gave me comfort and helped me feel less insane, but I still wondered if I was absolutely off my rocker.

I wasn't.

Lately, I've been thinking about what life might have been like had I stayed on in Provo. I miss theater so much it hurts sometimes. Like there is a gap inside me, a part of me that just sits and waits to be used. I feel incomplete, sort of wasted, and a little bit sad that I have not been able to follow that dream that once meant so much to me. Still, in those Blue Ridge Mountains I found myself. My acting reached a deeper level. I remembered how much I loved reading. I forged friendships that truly changed me. I found my best friend who I got to marry and get to look at every day. I became someone who goes to Africa, reads by rivers, and builds big fires all by herself in the woods. And every time I go back to those mountains, I feel complete again. I don't know that I would have found that person if I hadn't listened when called. I am not sure where I would be, but I would not be here. I would not be as deep. Robert Frost was right. Roads make all the difference. I really like my road.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

For the Mama.

I have (mostly) been an obedient child. I never skipped school. I followed curfew. I got good grades and am tattoo-free. In return, my mom has been (mostly) indulgent. She let me wear terribly ugly clothes in high school, paint my room a hideous shade of pink (I swear it looked coral when it was in small amounts) and supported me when I made a mid-stream direction shift in college which surprised all of us.

So, when she ordered me to write a post about how awesome I am and all I've accomplished, I felt compelled to oblige.

This blog has been riddled with some of the challenges I've faced over the past year. It's been a doozy. Mucho changes, several challenges, and more than a few tears. But, to quote the great Herb from "Miracle": "Your time is now. Their time is over." In that instance he was talking about the Russian hockey team's time being over, but let's pretend he's talking about the last year for me. It's over. It was rough. I made it. And to quote the aforementioned mother, here's some of what I've faced:

"Being a Geographic Single Mom for many months, Begin Teaching Spanish in High School, Pass the Praxis while being a mom and teacher while taking college classes so you can continue to teach Spanish, and the list goes on."

It's true. I've done that. I wrangled 3 kids for 6 months who missed there Dad terribly and couldn't get a straight answer out of their mom as to when we'd be together as a family. And then I got a job teaching a language I hadn't studied in 10 years. And then I had to pass an enormous test to keep teaching said language, all while figuring out how to teach high school and explain to my little girls why they had to go to daycare. And I passed the test--and not just the Praxis one. I kept my kids together. My husband and I are still happily married. I have gotten two college courses finished. And in two weeks I will be finished with my first year of teaching.

In full disclosure, it hasn't always been pretty. My fists shook at the heavens a few times. I tried to find comfort in chocolate more than once. And I'll admit my voice has probably reached a few decibels higher than angelic when dealing with my kids after a long day. But, when I look back at what my husband and I have accomplished in the last year, it feels practically amazing. We are homeowners, looking at a doable budget with cushion for the first time ever. Our debt is getting steadily smaller and we are getting steadily better at balancing our load. These are miracles.
 And they are not miracles we have worked on our own. God has carried us through, taught us, forgiven us, and worked with me. And He has lots of Angels He uses. One of them is the reason I'm writing this post. She is a fantastic cheerleader, a stellar mom, a wonderful grandma, and a rockstar real estate agent.
  And I'm not too shabby either. With God in my corner, I've been able to do an awful lot. I've dug down into grit and determination to keep going. I've faced days I didn't want to face. I've passed tests I didn't want to take. I have kept breathing when it felt like I couldn't. God gave me the courage, the knowledge, and the breath. And I let Him.
 So, yeah, I've gained a few pounds. But, I've gained some other stuff too. I've figured out that I have some pretty amazing stuff inside of me. And pretty much, I can do whatever I want to do. And what do I want to do?

I want to be happy. I want to like myself. I want to love who I am, as I am, enough to be patient as I constantly strive to be better. I am going to enjoy what I like to do, and not be ashamed of it. I like watching The Bachelorette, I love reading the Book of Mormon, I like to run--but not too fast, I am not a big fan of my upper arms, but I have a great head of hair and lovely skin. And I'm pretty funny sometimes. At least I think I am.

And apparently I am not afraid to type more than I should. Miss Thompson, my high school keyboard teacher, would be so proud.

How's that mom??

Monday, May 14, 2012

Baby Steps Ain't Just For Babies

I am really not good at taking things slow.

Which, is surprising, since I am actually slow at many things. I am a slow runner. And sometimes. . . I am a very slow learner.

I beat myself up about things an awful lot. Not alone in that, I am sure. I want to do so many things so well and I want to do them all well RIGHT NOW. I want to figure out a way to bake homemade bread, teach Spanish, fold the laundry, do another half marathon, and be a super awesome person that does service and lights up the world. I want that. And I think that if I can just make a plan good enough and knuckle down hard enough, I'll be able to do it. In a week.

But, it is by small and simple things that we learn. One tiny decision a day will mold our character. One simple resolve, kept one itty bitty moment at a time will eventually carve its way into us in an automatic way. And there will come a time when that thing that seemed impossible will feel like second nature. But there are a whole lot of steps between here and there.

I had my long run on Saturday. It was great. I love those runs. They are my reward runs. I do hills, intervals, tempo runs during the week, all so that on Saturday I can go long and slow and enjoy the view. It is my dessert. This past week on that run I realized what a miracle it is that I have come to relish a run like that. The first time I went out on a run, I remembered why I had never been on a run. Because I hated to run. So, I only ran until I didn't hate it, and then I walked. There were several walking breaks on that first run. Perhaps a few less on the next run. And now, ten years later, I am someone that drives by a runner with a tinge of envy because I actually wish I could be doing that. (Okay, I also usually wish I could be doing that looking like that, but that's another post). The point is, that sort of re-wiring takes time. It takes one run at a time. I've been patient with that.

I wish I could be patient with other things.  Small and simple. Slow and Steady. Up I go.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Plain and Simple

I get my best thoughts when I am running. Things are clear. I feel strong. Everything seems completely simple and doable. I know exactly what to do, how to eat, how to proceed, and I feel great about myself. So I've decided I am going to do that much more. 

I, like many others I'd wager, tend to race through other people's really great ideas because we feel validated when we do so. I scour magazines, make plans, google everything that I think will solve my problems, and create the perfect workout plan and diet that will reshape my body in a matter of days. That is, of course, until I realize that eating raw can be grueling, plyometric workouts make me feel like huge and clumsy, and once in awhile, I need to sleep. Change sometimes comes slowly. . . and though I run slow--I like my change fast.

I ran for 30 minutes straight yesterday--and it was a hilly-ish course. My hip has been causing me problems the last few months so it has been a while since I've been able to do that. It felt so wonderful. And I realized (I always realize things when running) that there was simply nothing else that cleared my mind like running and so there is no reason to force myself to do anything else. And if running makes everything clear and strong in me, then I need to do it more to tackle the changes I want to make. I really connect it to personal prayer and scripture study. These things rekindle the flames of motivation to do good of all kinds. Why would we not fan those flames daily? Sometimes it is very difficult to do very good things that we want very much. Running helps me have strength and courage. It is a time my spirit and body come together. My spirit is what helps my body move when it does not want to. And as my body gets stronger, my spirit gains freedom and strength as well.

This blog has been many things. I make no promises it won't change again. But, for now, I am hoping that it will be a place where inspiration to run and grow will be found. Where I can share and celebrate good runs, true thoughts, and happy achievements. I will write more later about what I hope some of those achievements might be.

But for now, I am happy to be running again.