Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year's Revolution

I am facing a clean page, a clean slate, a new year. I realize the end of the year is an arbitrary thing and that the calendar is mankind’s invention. Yet I think the year “ends” for a reason and that reason is grace. Humans need a new beginning. We need a fresh start, another chance, hope.

I am a resolutionist. You read that right -- a resolution-ist. Each year I make resolutions and I use them as a springboard to real and lasting change. Perhaps you could call me a revolutionist, because what I am going for is a revolution in my life.

I think resolutions, in general, are under-appreciated. Most people do not realize the innovative power of the fresh page. Simply promising to do things differently or be different is, of course, not enough. A successful revolution requires a leader, a plan, and a change in consciousness. In order to have a successful revolution, I have to be willing to be a leader in my own life.

It seems obvious, doesn’t it? And yet becoming a leader in one’s own life is indeed a revolutionary step. It means that we can no longer blame our parents, our spouse, our past or fate for our unhappiness or lack of success. It means that I and I alone am responsible for building the life I want to live and creating the world in which I want to live it. It sounds like blasphemy, doesn’t it?

I am not suggesting that God does not have a place in my life. Not at all. I’m suggesting that God is not responsible for my unhappiness which could, indeed, be called unfaithfulness. We have shared responsibility-- co-authorship-- if you will. God is responsible for things in God’s realm, and I am responsible for things in my realm. And peace of mind certainly lies in knowing which is which.

Hence, I am once again a resolutionist. Things will change in my life once more, and I will once again be the author of that change, God – and I – willing.

This year I will use a pattern I found some time ago, the six-word resolution. I will make a resolution in each of six areas of my life: (1) Health and Body,(2) Education and Spiritual Growth, (3) Vocation/Work, (4) Relationships, (5) Money and Material Possessions, and (6) Service. Step Two of my private revolution is to choose specific actions for creating the change and checkpoints for accountability. The reason many resolutions fail is because most people do not take the time for Step Two. Of course Step Three is living it out –putting my revolution where my mouth is -- and making reasonable adjustments as I go.

Here are my resolutions for 2011; may they inspire you to map out your own New Year’s Revolution!

• Health and Body: Get to my goal weight; maintain.
• Education and Spiritual growth: Daily writing and reflection; more collaboration
• Work/Vocation: Implement a marketing plan for Coaching
• Relationships: Play often, laugh lots, love more
• Money and Material Possessions: Cull out, organize; acquire and waste less
• Service: More time and attention to fostering

Monday, December 20, 2010

Changing Form

I am somewhat surprised, at 51 years of age, to find myself in a forming stage of life.  Growing up, I thought you became an adult and you "were something" -- a teacher, a missionary, a parent, whatever -- and that was it.  I have been many "somethings" and also had a few jobs that were more about my bills than about my path.

When I was a child, I frequently heard myself characterized as a "late bloomer."  That was a source of shame for me then, but now I embrace it.  I hope I never stop "blooming."  I met my soul mate, Paul, at age 36.  I was 37 when I became a mom for the first time.  And at 51, we started a whole new branch of the family.  This suits, me somehow.  I am comfortable in my skin and at this stage of life; I know what fits.

It reminds me of working with clay.  There is something so wholesome and earthy about it. It's sensuous -- and not in a corny, Ghost, sort of way.  The clay at first is in a slab, cold and unyielding.  The initial task is to warm it up with your hands; to soften it and make it pliable.  This takes some time and patience; some kneading, some faith.

Only after the clay is worked and warm can a new creation emerge. What is created is not always what I expected.  And it rarely, if ever, looks like I thought it would.  Yet it is always true to its nature.  Somehow it is exactly what it is "supposed" to be and exactly right.

The stress in my life comes in when I forget that I am in a forming phase.  In clearer moments, I understand that  "the forming phase" is every phase.  When I am willing to allow my life's circumstances and yes -- God's grace -- to do the shaping, then I am wholly me.  And something completely new can take shape.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Saving Face on Facebook

 Sometimes I entertain myself by doing silly stuff on Facebook, like yesterday's My Year in Status - 2010 in Review.  It's pink, it's pretty, it's bright  -- and it's pretty much the good stuff.  And yet, as I reviewed, I noticed there were tears running down my face. 

The tears were about what the status' didn't say.  All the work and processes and downright sh**ty days.  The doldrums.  The endless rain.  The searing heat.  And the elation as well; the little moments that I will remember forever.  The evidence is in -- I save face on Facebook. 

I hit the books to discover what the tears were saying; the processing books -- that is -- and my journals.  Straight from my pen to your eyes, here is what my statuses did not say.
  • January 18  - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  The man has had a direct and profound influence on my life.  I will work toward living up to my own expectations more.
  • February 26 - 3 tiny, total strangers walked into our house today.  Well, one was carried.  So far, so good but truthfully, I'm terrified.
  • March 13 - The anniversary party went off without a hitch -- but I have a nagging uneasiness. 
  • April 18 - I've been hit in the face with a brick.  Make that gut.  No, heart.  I am flat out heartbroken, broken, beaten up -- no sign of hope. Desolate.  Inconsolable.  Mad as hell.  Calling for reinforcements and thank God for my girls.
  • May 5 -  Back and forth about the babies.  Feeling nuts.  Should they go or stay?  Love them so much but not sure how solid my marriage is yet.
  • June 15 - Quit my job today.  Sh*t.  Now what?  Guess now I get to see who I am outside of what I do.
  • July 9 - Dumbfounded, astounded, in shock.   Inconceivably, birthmom terminated her rights.  Feel like the weight of the world has been lifted.  Oh my God.  Thank you, thank you.
  • August 12 - 5 years since Karissa died.  Still don't get it.  Why?
  • September 24 -Today,  I have a 14 year old.  Sooooooo grateful for this one and her life with us.  She's too big for me to make it all better anymore but I'm gonna keep trying.
  • October 7 - missed a call this morning, Gabe almost missed the bus, ran late fixing coffee for Gina.  House a mess, hair a mess, I'm a mess.  What's the point?
  • November 18:  Tomorrow's adoption day. Today I'm wondering if I'm too old, too fat, too out of touch, too poor, too unemployed, too selfish and too lazy.  Hmm.  Looks like I have some "work" to do before bed.
  • November 29 - Mom and Dad headed home.  Tired but elated -- it's been a good visit.  If I'm on my back about anything, it's all the eating.  Oops.
That's part of what I didn't say.   It was exposing to see so much unsaid.  And when I read between the lines of not only of the few I've listed here but all that I read last night, I see the things unsaid as opportunities missed. Opportunities to be myself, to be vulnerable, to be truthful, naked, real;  to be awakened.  Following each of these times were times of support and connection;  times I reached out and collaborated with others both on the problems and the possibilities.  Why couldn't that collaboration be a part of my "Facebook face?"  It could and it can.

I am going for a more honest expression of myself in 2011.  Otherwise, what's the point?  

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Assist




Thanksgiving.  Thanks giving.  This singular, secular, holiday contains a unique invitation to change our outlook and our destiny.  Because there is something magical in the act of giving thanks.


In high-school I had a basketball coach named Mr. Snodgrass.  Mr. Snodgrass had one hard and fast rule.  On the court if you made a basket, you immediately turned toward the girl who passed you the ball, pointed at her and yelled, "Good pass, Mary!"  [In basketball, the person passing the ball to the scorer has given her an "assist." ]  This acknowledgment  had to be immediate and loud enough to be heard and if we did not do it, we were benched.  There was a practical reason for this act; it allowed the person tracking the stats to accurately record the assist. But it had a didactic purpose as well:   it helped us realize that we were -- in fact -- a team and that it is important to thank the people that help us succeed.

I regularly makes lists of the things and people I am thankful for.  The simple, clean act of writing it on paper somehow increases my gratitude.  It brings before me the clear memory, the bright face, the soft touch, the warm words that at some point were just what I needed to hear, see or feel.  I have a good many people on my gratitude list this week and some life circumstances too.  In the rush of getting ready for the official holiday of Thanksgiving, I am blessed to take time with a cup of coffee and a clean sheet of paper and do some thanks giving.  Over the next few weeks of Advent I will be taking my it a step further as I write notes or phone people from my list to thank them for the "assist." 

Mr. Snodgrass, wherever you are, I hope you realize the lasting impact of that lesson you taught me 35+ years ago!  You planted in me the seeds of a thankful life and taught me to regularly stop to thank my teammates!  Thank YOU, Mr. Snodgrass.  Good pass!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bring in the Clowns

Years ago I collected clowns.  Back then, I thought they appealed to me to because they were wacky, light and friendly. It seems patently obvious to me now that there was something else.

I once blithely told a friend that you could bring 20 of my closest friends and family members together in a room and they still would not have the complete and true story of my life.  Heartbreaking.

Clowns are the ultimate artifice.  No matter what she is feeling, it is disguised by her -- literally -- painted-on-smile and entertaining antics.  That pretty much summed up my life prior to 1992.  I painted on a smile and acted happy.  I thought doing so would in fact make me happy.  "Fake it 'til you make it."  But it didn't work. 

In June of 1992, I found myself standing in front of 90 strangers and telling them that what I hoped to gain from my More to Life weekend was joy.  I was shocked to hear the words come out of my mouth.  Wasn't I happy?  I was not.  I was looking for the magic lens -- the little thing that would somehow bring my apparently wonderful life into focus so that I could see it as others did.

There was no magic lens.  Instead it was like a long awakening -- a slowly dawning sunrise -- that bit by bit revealed the truth about me, my mind, and my ability to choose.  Choice.  That was an entirely new word in my vocabulary.  In fact, much like St. Therese of Lisieux, I found my salvation not in the big choices but in the small ones.  I found my way forward by choosing not to get self-righteously angry at my noisy neighbors but instead to look at how loud shouting was a trigger to a cascading avalanche of emotions from my childhood.  I discovered I could choose to love others by reading between the lines of the alternate reality being written by my brain.  Perhaps just as importantly I learned that I could choose to love myself and to trust others with the whole truth of me.

A person of faith, I finally found a way to live out that faith that did not consist only of "trying harder" or "toughing it out."  For most of my life, I had been nodding my head in church saying, "Yes.  I agree. Amen.  But how?  How do I trust?  How do I love?  How do I forgive? "

As St. Therese said so eloquently, I began to see that  "Each small task of everyday is part of the total harmony of the universe."  I started living my life in the here and now.  I chose to forgive even when people around me could not agree that I "should."  I started literally slowing down to "smell the roses."  I learned that a day spent crying is as valuable as a day of fun.  And folding sheets can be as noble a purpose as any other.  A few years back I heard, "Holy as a Day is Spent."  a song that sums it up eloquently.  Carrie Newcomer sings, "Holy is the place I stand; to do whatever small good I can.  The empty page, the open book -- redemption everywhere I look. . . "

Today I dusted off one the two clowns I have left of  that collection. I held him briefly in my hand and considered putting him in the "give away" box.  He is a remnant of a collection and -- I daresay -- a remnant of a way of life. But I did not do it.  I chose again keep him close at hand to help me remember who I really am.

Monday, October 25, 2010

"PC" Talk - Food for Thought

Yesterday I told The Blitz, "Be a better baby!  Be a better baby!"  I said it because I like the rhythm of alliteration.  Normally I say, "Make a wise choice!" or, "Be a good friend," or "Share with your sister, please."  This clear departure from the usual patter caught Pepper's attention.
She called me on it.  "Why did you say that mom?  Why didn't you just say, 'Be good!'"?

"I don't want to label him as good or bad.   I am asking for what I want.  I am being specific.  I am trying to raise a kid who thinks and not just one who tries to stay out of trouble.  We can't be 'good' but we can be 'better."   Sometimes we can make a 'wiser' choice but we can't always make a 'good' one.  I am trying to make it do-able."

She pondered this a minute.  "Well, I remember being little and you saying "Make a wise choice" and me thinking, 'She wants me to be good.'"

Hmmm. Perhaps there is such a thing as too "enlightened parenting."  I'm not sure.  I have to ponder it a bit.

Both Pepper and Sunshine are "good kids."  We say it all the time -- though not to them.

To them, we say, "You are thoughtful.  We trust you to make wise decisions.  Your schoolwork reflects your hard work.  You're responsible.  You're a hard worker.  You are beautiful inside and out -- and the insides are what count the most.  You're a good friend."

Yet, even though we tried to raise them differently, I'm not sure we did.   It's thinly veiled, at best.  It's clearly human nature to label things.  I see it in "the Littles" all the time.

"Girl".
"Boy"
"Bad."
"Happy."
"Hungry."
"Hurt."
"Mad."
"Pretty."
"Cute."
"Yucky."

They don't get all this from me (though I can imagine the fingers pointing!)  It is in them.  We have religiously avoided the label "bad" with all "our" kids -- and yet it is one of the first words each of these "Littles" have said.  A child who makes a "poor choice" is frequently chastised by one of the other two as "bad, bad."  No amount of ignoring or protesting on our part has changed this.  And even though they've not heard the word from us in 8 months, they still know it and use it!

I don't think this revelation will necessarily change my parenting style --but a dose of reality sweetly administered by a wiser-than-her-years 14 year old is certainly useful.  Food for thought.

*Note -- this is a "double post" from my family life blog, Bright Love - Living Large in a Big Family
If you don't know who the "players" are, you can get a roster here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Problem Turned Party

A few years ago a creative genius named Tom Morely told me -- in much nicer words than these -- that I was an uptight square and lacked imagination. I responded by studiously avoiding any contact with him for the next 12 months. Of course this wasn't so difficult given that he lived in London and I in Texas.

We next met on a course called Seven Days of Creation in England. I had thought often about Tom's feedback to me but I still wasn't taking it all that well.  I knew I had something to learn from him, but I freely admit I was being dragged to the learning kicking and screaming like a little boy to a bath.

As luck -- and the trainers -- would have it, Tom and I were assigned to a project along with two other members of the group.  Doing this project with my group opened my eyes to the creativity within me but perhaps more importantly, I found myself grateful and humbled by the rare gift of someone who cared enough about me to help me see my blind spots.  At our project's successful end, I saw both Tom and myself through different eyes.

A year or so later while working, I had what could fairly described as a break-down.  Through a series of teachable moments, I had finally come face to face with my own propensity toward rigidness and driven-ness -- and it was not pretty.  The cold hard truth was difficult to face alone so I called up my friend Tom.  I asked him for some straight up advice -- how could I break the back of the accusations in my mind that kept pushing me toward perfectionism and away from creativity?

His advice was practical.  He said that in his own life whenever he found himself stuck in a corner with either no way out or only one way out, he knew he needed to collaborate.  He said that when he brought other people into the conversation (rather than it all being between him and his ego!), creativity flourished and driven-ness wilted.

That has turned out to be one of the most life-giving things I have ever learned.  Some times it takes some discipline to choose to collaborate and at times some creativity to decide whom to ask, but there is a big payoff for doing so.  Every time I take a "problem" and turn it into an opportunity to collaborate, it becomes a party.  It's mind-boggling. 

Earlier this week, my Wii died.  This is more serious a problem than it sounds, because my Wii Fit Plus was my entire plan for exercise the next day.  I woke up the next morning pretty grumpy and seeing that corner.  So as I often have in the past couple of years, I remembered Tom's advice.  I messaged several of my friends and asked for help.  By the end of the day I had burned more than 800 calories and had an absolute ball doing it.  It was fun.  In fact, it was a blast!

So the next time the corners of your mouth are pointing down and your jaw is tight, take Tom's advice.  Look and see with whom you can collaborate and turn that problem into a party.  Cheers!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Work and Our Natures

Today, I re-read one of my early blog posts, "The Nature of Work." I can't help looking at the synchronicity; I posted that at the very time I realized the full extent of the driven-ness that seemed such an inherent part of my personality. I set out on a course to started to systematically disassemble it. Clearly this dismantling is an ongoing process and yet one in which I can see definite change.

My musings about work back then were the beginnings of that journey; I was coming to the realization the the products of my work are more intangible than I grew up expecting them to be. I have yet to produce the great American novel or a fine painting. I don't have a single invention, patent nor any goods to show. I realized many years ago that I am unlikely to be "famous." Nonetheless, imaginary judges critique every word and action; and somehow I often fall short.

Like many of you, I was brought up by hard-working parents who set a good example of responsibility and productivity. Fair enough. At age 51, however, I think I can hardly blame them for any compunction toward proving myself that lingers on today. I think it is in our natures to make work tower in importance and define us -- but I don't think the fact that's it natural means it has to be that way! Lice are natural too -- but I don't want 'em!

These days, my major occupation is "mama." And yet, I can still quite easily get driven. So it turns out, after all these years, what I have always suspected is actually true -- it's not the job causing me stress, it's me!

I know that what is required is radical truth telling. What life is demanding of me is that I determine what is truly of value and rewrite the code for that scrolling critique that runs my internal Twitter status. I am doing some self-remembering lately. I recommend it!

Here are some things you can do to dismantle the driven-ness in you:

- Several times each day (set an alarm) pause to take a couple of deep breaths and take a look around. Refocus your life to the present.
- Write down the lies you are telling yourself (i.e., "I have to be perfect," "I have to get a promotion"); it's safe to assume that if it starts with "I have to . . ." it bears examining.
- Write down a "being" goal each day; we are all pretty good at making to-do lists, how about a "to be" list?

These things are pulling the plug on the stress for me; I am living that "bright life" more often these days. Let me know how it goes for you!


The very beating of your heart has meaning and purpose.

Your actions have value far greater than silver or gold.

Your life... and what you do with it today...matters forever.
Andy Andrews

Friday, October 1, 2010

Announcement

My news of the day is that I have a new blog. I know, I know, I don't post that regularly here, but that is because what I often want to write about is my now-large family and all the life-changing things going on there. And I am thinking that those topics are not always a fit for this blog which is more from the Life Coach point of view.

The blog is called, "Bright Love - Living Large in a Big Family." It has a three-fold purpose:

1) to relate stories of life lived en mass
2) to share whatever I am learning about home management for seven people (and hopefully pick up a few tips on the way)
3) to chronicle the fun, funny, crazy life we lead because as I've learned with the older girls, time goes way fast.

I know this isn't for everyone and if it isn't for you, please recommend it to anyone who might enjoy it. I love the interaction on my blogs and since this one won't go on my Facebook feed, I'd like to build a little readership.

Thanks for reading and I'll be back soon with something on living a bright life!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Popeye


I am of the Popeye watching, spinach eating generation. It was canned spinach too, people! Popeye was into affirmations long before the rest of the world caught on. His trademark affirmation: "Yuck, yuck, yuck --- I am what I am!"

That's me, folks. I am what I am. I am a mom, currently of 5. I am a wife. I am an excellent cook. I'm a good housekeepr and enjoy making a home, but have largely given up on keeping things really picked up given that I am outnumbered 7 to 1 (if you count the dog).

I can act crabby and driven and bossy at times. I am not what I do or produce, though I frequently forget that. I have a big heart. I am challenged by saying, "No." I truly want the best for everyone. I have graying hair and 35 pounds of excess weight. I look younger than I am (51) and have lost 45 pounds in the last year. I am an optimist and not given to jealousy. I have an occasional conniving drama, not my prettiest side. I like the pleasing drama better. I am more relaxed than I used to be and still could afford to ease up, especially on myself!

At this moment, I am ignoring 3 little kids who are awake because they haven't technically said, "Mommy" yet -- although I will likely be sorry if I ignore them much longer!

My purpose is to live in the present but I spend some time leaning toward the future. I am a skilled coach and an even better friend. I am complex but love simplicity; I am soulful, faithful, joyful and musical.

I am made of light . . .
and bird-song . . .
and hope.

And that is only a part of the picture. I awoke this morning early to make sourdough biscuits and connect with an English friend. When the alarm went off, my first thought --aside from "what is that terrible noise?"-- was, "I am who I am."

I think it is good for each of us to remember this from time to time. Please write me and tell me who YOU are! I truly want to know.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Simmering

Note: I am double-posting this in my Bright Weight Loss blog. I am letting you know in case you are a reader of both!

As I write, the smell of Swiss Steak slowly simmering in the crock pot is wafting through the house. I have been on a cooking jag. In the past 3 days, I have cooked $600 worth of food and put it in the freezer for my family.

Cooking is my creative outlet -- some folks paint, I cook! Of course, it's not just about me. I really want to know what my loved ones are putting in their mouths.

It's not only that I wonder what price we will eventually pay for all these chemical cocktails we consume, but also because of how that manufactured food affects our brains. We are created to respond to the most striking impetus so that we can pay attention to what truly matters and thus prioritize that the mammoth or saber-toothed tigers chasing us is more urgent than how absolutely beautiful the sunrise is. Food manufacturers trade on that impulse by using chemicals to create extra-palatable foods and before we know it, we're hooked. They cry out to us, "pay attention" and unless we are very disciplined, we do. In addition, highly processed -- aka manufactured -- foods speed through our digestive system, so our "full" sensors don't go off and we keep eating long after we've consumed enough calories. With processed foods being such a major part of most contemporary Western diets, our mind-body connection is in imminent peril.

Processed foods and fast food were not part of my childhood and as a young adult, I did not realize the dangers. I did not know that a steady diet of these foods would skew my sensory perceptions of food. I don't want my girls or my young foster kids to be hooked on these food substitutes. I reason that if I am able to keep them mostly off the road of manufactured foods, maybe it won't become a super-highway. Maybe if they aware of the dangers, as I was not, they will choose a more wholesome and health-some route.

I also want them to have the joy of eating! I want them to know the crispness of fresh vegetables and the depth of flavor in olive oil. I want them to have to chew their steak and to know the natural sweetness of milk and of bread. I want them to have the sense of "enough" that I had as a youngster. But more, I want them to know the joy of anticipation, of smelling a meal for an hour as it is prepared, and to enjoy its unfolding at the table. I want them to have "slow food;" food that is lovingly and thoughtfully created and then enjoyed with conversation and reflection.

So I cook. And with seven people currently in the house, I cook . . . and cook some more. And in the process of creation, I find that I am re-created. Cooking is a sensual experience. The fragrance of fresh herbs and sauteing vegetables is intoxicating. Chopping and mincing is meditative - it nurtures in me some ancient inner longing. Tending a pot of simmering, thickening sauce is prayer. As each dish is parceled, wrapped and frozen, it is filled not only with a short list of whole foods (every ingredient of which I can pronounce and identify), but also with hope and with love. It's me, being faithful.

The point of all this is to inspire you, dear reader, to this week be faithful. Do whatever it is that makes the most of you -- that nurtures your inner longing -- that fulfills and sews together whatever is becoming fragmented in you. It doesn't matter if a masterpiece is created or merely table scraps. What is truly created endures -- regardless of how long the artifact lasts.

PS - Just in case you want to know, here's what I created this week (all in 8 portions per package):

3 Pasta e Fagioli Soup
3 Marinated Flank Steak
3 Flank Steak Fajitas with Artichoke Chick-Pea Hummus, Sweet and Spicy Salsa, and Steak-Sauce
4 Chicken Cacciatore
4 Taco meat
4 Sausage gravy (occasional special breakfast for the kids)
Everta's Sourdough Starter for pancakes, biscuits and breads
4 Red Beans, Cajun style
3 Nancy Lee's Chicken Pie
4 Swiss Steak
3 Refried Beans
Molases Cookie dough - enough for 12 dozen

To these I just add some fresh veggies, fresh fruit and memories! Mangia, mangia!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Winds of Faith

Howdy!

My life has changed considerably since my "Doors Opening and Closing" post in January. I could never have imagined back then where all these new doorways and hallways would lead. I said in that post that I was embracing the openings to my new role as a foster parent. Holy cow. More prophetic words were never spoken!

3 months ago, Paul, Alli, Chanelle and I opened our home and hearts to a sibling group of three. When they came to us they were all under 3 years old, but now they are 1, 2, and 3 (boy, girl, boy). For privacy reasons, I can't include pictures or their names, but it has been an incredible journey. I have learned some lessons as a mom -- more on that in another post. But perhaps more importantly, I've learned some lessons as a human BEING. With little ones, it is all about the being -- and that is sometimes challenging in the midst of all the DOING that is required!!

There has been a mighty wind blowing through my home since about the time these little ones came in. It has been a cleansing wind -- clearing out the rubbish and rubble of the past and making a new way forward. Paul and I faced a mighty battle -- not caused by the itty bitty's -- but illuminated by them. We are once again a "new creation" -- facing forward with a strength and solidarity even greater than we have known before. There has been a renewal of my relationship with the "big" girls -- having the little ones around has helped me to see them with new eyes as well -- to remember that they, too, are still children and possess a sweetness and innocence all their own.

But I am most humbled and surprised by the wind that has blown through me. I have lost 45 pounds -- I am more than halfway to my goal! I weigh 16 pounds LESS than I did 10 years ago . . . how many women over 50 can claim that? Every time I look in the mirror, I'm shocked. Who is that woman? Oh, I know her. But it's not the "old me" I am seeing. It's a new me, released and re-formed by chipping away not only on the outside, but shaped by hours of exercise and personal work. It's me in a newer and finer form. I can't wait to see what happens when I put aside the rest of the excess weight!

I forgot what I am capable of. Has that ever happened to you? I forgot what it means to make an act of faith -- to trust something that seems ridiculous or doesn't make sense -- to just take it on faith. When I joined the Catholic church in 1998, I struggled with the concept of "transubstantiation" -- that is that the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ. I decided I would not/could not join the church until I had worked that out. I wrangled with it for several months and all the experts told me the same thing -- it is an act of faith. And so I practiced believing until I believed.

It was an act of faith to begin this particular weight loss journey. It seemed crazy and unworkable at the time, but it is working. So glad I trusted that it was the way forward for me.

When it came to taking in these kids, it required an act of faith for sure! We had no idea how we'd do it --but we knew we were called to it. Everyone thought we were crazy -- but that is how it often is with callings. And it has been both easier and harder than we thought and so very worth it. Every day is a lesson wrapped up in a blessing a blessing wrapped in a lesson.

When that mighty wind blew through my marriage -- it required an act of faith to stand in. I did not know if I had the faith and then I remembered joining the church. Having faith in a right-here-right-now person with flesh and blood -- someone known to and loved by me -- trusting Paul -- that did not require so much faith, after all. I got support from my family and a few close friends; and practiced the mantra "only believe." Don't get me wrong -- there was plenty of "work" involved and there is work yet to do. But the open door -- that first step -- the way in was faith.

I think in a the practical, technological world we now live in, we can easily forget about faith. We forget that so much of life is a mystery and unexplainable by us. We forget that sometimes we really do not need to know. Had you told me what these months would hold, what would be required of me in work and in faith, I probably would have said, "No thanks" and would have run the other way. But what you could not have told me, could not have known, was how much blessing and joy all of that challenge would offer.

I don't know why I felt compelled to tell these stories on a similar vein -- but I am trusting that someone somewhere needs to hear them and remember that sometimes it is really is just a matter of faith.

[2012 edit:  here is a picture of the "Littles" on the day they arrived.  How young they were!]

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Doors: Opening and Closing

Last year on my 50th birthday, I made a decision that I was 100% committed to my weight loss effort. Doors were closing to me because of my weight. Some people are prejudiced against obese people; they assume we are lazy or self-indulgent. Airplane seats were too snug; I felt embarrassed about the way my fat kept pushing the arm up. My co-workers were -- at times -- dismissive of me; some of them told me I was exercising a lack of self-mastery.

At that point, I was still healthy, but I could see the "handwriting on the wall," so to speak. I knew that if the door opened to diabetes or heart disease, those would be hard doors to close. I decided I would do whatever it took to get back to a healthy weight. I knew that it would not be easy --- I'd spent the last four years 75% committed with little results.

As soon as I set my sights on that goal, I became aware of doors opening and closing all around me.

My internist closed his door. He said, "I have done what I can to help you. You need to move over to medical weight loss or you are going to get in trouble with your health. In my opinion, the genetic cards are stacked against you and this is not something you can accomplish on your own."

In the fall, a friend opened the door to a website called SparkPeople. I found there a lot of support and encouragement, as well as the easiest food and fitness trackers I've come across so far. It has been life-giving. And it's free!

75% of my freelance event coordinator job went overseas. Slam! Some people would look at this closed door as a dead end, but since we do not depend on my income for basic necessities (thank you, Paul), I saw a big open door to more exercise and greater focus on my health.

With fewer work responsibilities, there was a door open to foster parenting, a "want" that seemed impossible with my big job previously. Fostering -- though not as frequent as I'd like -- has encouraged me to be more active and helped me expand my vision for our family.

Lessened freelance work allowed me to open wide the door to my coaching practice. And coaching allows me to remember for myself the power of intention and how much can be learned both from meeting and falling short of my goals. When I'm coaching, I work harder at "practicing what I preach" and my whole life has gone from being a little out of tune to ringing clear.

Also in the fall, I decided I wanted to do the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and there was a sunny door open with a neon sign over the top saying "Walk this way!" Turns out the Avon walk is on my 51st birthday! How is that for synchronicity? At first I had to push on a few doors to find the opening for my training because it takes a lot of time. But the openings are there -- I only needed to look for them.

As I've been successful at weight loss, I have found my training easier and easier. This has opened doors "to the future" as I plan what I will do for exercise in 70-something days when the Avon walk is over. I see possibilities I never did before!

It is all about choosing. It is about taking what God is offering and saying Yes! It's about seeing each closed door as a chance to open a different one. It's about trusting that inevitably, there is a force for "good" working in my life and that though I cannot always see the whole path, the next step is right in front of me and all I have to do is take that next step! Or jiggle the door-knob a bit and see what happens!

I'd love to hear about the doors in your life! What doors are closing and which are opening?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Please Help Me Make a Difference!

In 2007, my dear friend Martha Edgemon told me that her daughter-in-law, Karson Beaty, had breast cancer. Karson was 30 years old when diagnosed. I clearly remember the exact moment Martha said the word, "cancer." I remember how my heart felt heavy and I had a queasy feeling in my stomach. What can I do?," I wondered, "How can I help?"

As I followed Karson's journey over the next many months, her battle was never far from my mind. I barely passed science in school; creating my own cure is probably out of my reach. One day an online friend wrote me that she was doing a breast cancer walk. I realized that while medical science is not my forte, endurance certainly is. I started researching the walks and found one that seemed ideal for me, The Avon Walk. It covers 39 miles in two days and a Walk is held annually in Houston, only a 3-hour drive away. In Texas, that's close!

Last fall, it was finally time to begin my training and now my walk is only 77 days away. My training (at this stage) consists of a 13 mile walk Saturday followed by a 7 mile walk Sunday and a 3 and 5-mile walk through the week. 8 weeks from now I'll be logging 45 miles a week.

A lot of great things have happened to me in this training. I've lost 25 pounds. My legs are strong and my steps are sure. My family have become my support-team with Paul on foot at my side for the "long" walks and the girls on bikes. We are all doing this big thing together.

But the greatest thing is that I am making a difference. As a participant, I boldly agreed to raise $1800 in donations before the event. this money will help fund breast cancer research and screening for those who can't afford it. The research is what most thrills me, because, as my shirt says, I'm "In it to END it."

I'm dedicating my walk to Karson, who is still fighting her battle. I'm also walking for my mom's best friend, Joan, still fighting. And for Kathy A and Irene S. who won their battles; I'm walking for Mary Pearl and Paul's Grandma Florene, who not only triumphed but lived a full life for several decades afterward. And I'm walking especially for each person who will lose their battle to breast cancer every 14 minutes of every single day, every week of every month of every year -- until a cure is found. I'm walking so that should this disease ever touch either of my beautiful girls, their odds will be better.

Will you help me? Every donation of any size will help me reach my goal, which in turn can change the future of this deadly disease. To use a credit card, click HERE!! To write a check or donate cash, please email me (dreena@gmail.com) for instructions. Thank you so very much.