Friday, December 30, 2011

The Human 'Race'

The other day, my six-year old son, Sam asked, "Mama, why does everything cost money?"

I immediately felt guilty imagining that we'd overemphasized the cost of things and worried that he may be feeling anxiety about money. 

His question got me thinking though, "What's free in life?"  In a world filled with zero percent, no interest financing for a bazillion months, three quick/easy installments of $19.99 and over-the-top consumerism...what do we value?

It's interesting that we're called the human race.  The natural inclination of all people seems to be to gravitate toward more, better, bigger, now.  We're racing toward the shiniest, newest invention that will make our lives easier, smoother, more convenient.  And as such, we'll be more creative, interesting, prettier people.  And, yet we all know that the feeling is fleeting and we're on to the next version of the iPhone.

So, what's free?  What's enduring?  What's sustaining?  In our is love and faith. 

Maybe, by our very make-up, we'll always be inclined to race toward something, but hopefully, at the end of the day, we'll pick each other instead of an iPad.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Patience & Persistence

I've really got to pull my 'big girl' pants up and stop whining.

This morning, I trekked the 3 kids to the gym and started around the track.  My goal was to run 2 miles, walk 1 and then run the final 2.  Nice fantasy. 

Half-way through the first mile, my side started to ache, my pants felt like they were going to fall down (the joys of being in between sizes) and my confidence was plummeting.  So, I jumped on a treadmill and thought, "I'll finish this out here and be just fine."  That's of course, when I doomed myself.

It is so true that it takes moments to jump off the fitness band wagon and what feels like decades to get back on it...and in many respects, after you've left, it's almost as though you have to prove yourself worthy, before you get an invitation to rejoin the club.

I'm trying to stay positive, patient and persistent especially since it's only been a few weeks, but's hard.


I've been working on compiling a list of the people and experiences I am grateful for this past year.

Recognizing that we can't do it alone...any of it...there is so much to be said for saying, "thank you, you have made a difference in my life."

To that end, my resolution in the new year is to write letters (an actual piece of papyrus with a postal stamp) to these "change makers" to express my gratitude.

But there is one change maker who has indelibly changed me, my husband.  For those of you who know the "in's and out's" of this crazy lady, you will appreciate that I am wrought with all kinds of imperfections...anxiety-prone, OCD like, demanding, forgetful and often, horribly needy.

So, when a man takes a vow to love you through all of that and more, I say, "If I thanked you daily, it would not be enough."

Here's to all of the people who have changed us in this past year...may you know how grateful we are for your love, consistency and belief in us.  Because really, without you, where would we be?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Finding the Sacred in the Mundane

I've got to admit, I've been pissy lately.

Frustrated by the endless loading and reloading of the dishwasher. Unfolded loads of laundry waiting to be attended to.  Meal planning that becomes more and more challenging with a particular child. Floors that need to be swept and vacuumed.  Bedrooms that need to be tidied.  And, a body that is exhausted from getting up at the crack of dawn to exercise.

Many moons ago, I heard a powerful talk about finding the holy in the ordinary.  I was not yet a full-time stay-at-home mother, but I knew then, that the work of the home was important stuff...albeit, boring as all get out.

So in this season of extreme neediness from my little ones...a house that seems to take a beating regularly...and a body that is desperately trying to shed weight to get do I stay joyful instead of resentful?

That seems to be the question.  Until my Sam says, "Mama...where are my jeans?  You always know where they are.  Can you make me some 'magic breakfast cream'?  You make it the best.  Can you time me while I brush my teeth?  Then, I want to show you how many jumping jacks I can do,"

And then I know, this won't last long.  This is a blip on the horizon.  And as such, I need to be mindful that this work...the work of a mother is sacred, even if mundane.

The Perils of Winter Break

This morning, I was counting down the days and feeling guilty.  Seven more.

We've played board games, read chapter books, had dance parties, gone to the park, exchanged play dates, talked about our hopes for the new year, painted rocks, baked blondies, visited family members, made Starbucks runs, cooked in the Easy Bake Oven and spent lots and lots and lots of time together.

Growing up, I thought that Christmas break was amazing...the mecca.  I played with my toys for hours, spent time with my friends on the block and in general, prayed that school would stay far, far away. 

So, why is this break so hard for me?  It seems like the kids are just fine.

If I'm honest, I thrive on routines/rituals.  I enjoy having spaced time with the girls, then with Sam, and alone with the baby.  I miss a quiet house.  I'm ready for some solitude.

Thank goodness for the sunshine and for exercise...I'm wondering though, if I should institute some adult/children play dates.  We could start drinking in the early afternoon...just to get a jump start on New Years and for some stress relief.  Sounds appealing as I'm listening to kids fighting yet again.

Anyone up for it?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Birthing Me...not a Babe

So, I've got a story for you.

It's funny now, but wasn't at the time.

A couple of weeks ago, I was late.  Not for the movies or for mass...but for my monthly date with a friend...we'll call her Flo.

Freaking out, I made a mad dash to Target with my kiddos in tow and grabbed a test.  Fielding questions from my son about what was inside the box...I made the executive decision to pee on the stick in the restroom stall.  Humbling, I know.

All humility out the door, I sat in a public restroom praying the "Hail Mary" aloud hoping that I wasn't expecting anything other than a period.

The test that day and for a few days following came back negative.  I didn't get it.  Why was I so late?

The morning that Flo did come to visit, I told my husband, "I'm good.  I'm really happy with our family.  Thankful for the health of our kids.  Grateful that I get to experience mothering a boy and 2 girls.  And, selfishly if anybody gets to be birthed in this mix...I'm ready for it to be me."

I feel bad claiming that I want my body back...but I do.  I know that many women are yearning to have a baby and would be grateful for the opportunity and my heart goes out to them.  To that end, I am happy to sell Claire.  She's cute and doesn't take up too much space. 

But for now, I'm ready to birth me and not a babe.  Is that so wrong?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hello 2012

I feel sort of "bah humbugish,"...but, some years I'm ready for Christmas to be done.

I guess it's more than Christmas, I'm ready for the new year.  I'm primed for rejuvenation, promise, and momentum.

2011 was a challenging year financially, physically, and emotionally for multiple reasons.  I think some years are like that.  It's important to sacrifice, to endure, to feel the pinch and to be stretched.  You need to know what you're capable of and to that end, I am grateful for the ways I grew particularly, when I didn't welcome it.

But for some reason, I have such hope for this new space that 2012 will bring.  I hold anticipation for a stronger me...a space that includes running, writing, coffee drinking, time spent with my husband, my girlfriends, and travel.

So down goes the tree, off come the ornaments, fireplace stockings are being traded for smart wool socks and outdoor running, the new calendar is going up with a training plan, and my first purchase of the year will be a Garmin to track my mileage, my pace, and my calories burned. 

Hello 2012...let's be good to each other.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

One Mile Down

This morning marked a milestone.

I ran my first mile without walking and at a decent clip to boot.

I once heard a slogan that, "Runners run."  I'm not a would-be or a fraud playing a role.  I am a runner and I need to see myself as such.

Each time I rounded the bend and caught a glimpse of myself, I thought, "I'm doing it.  I'm running.  And, really with a good play list and a doable pace, this isn't so bad."

My gift to myself tomorrow, on Christmas morning, is two miles.  Just one foot in front of the other.  That's all.

Phenomenal Woman (1st stanza)

  Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fish out of Water

I always know when I'm on the precipice of change.

Why?  Because I feel like a child learning to ride a bike....a novice practicing a language in a foreign land...a fish out of water.

I can't really describe it except to say that everything in my life is impacted and my vulnerability shines through...I feel raw, exposed and open for the world to see.

And in some respects, I bubble up with joy, because really this is the best place to be...a place filled with energy, excitement, stamina...and ultimately, I know, that I'm alive.

I'm not a huge fan of New Year's resolutions, but this year, I'm working on a few key areas of growth in my life.  I'll post some thoughts on that in the next few days.

Until then, I'll focus on sitting with my vulnerability and clinging to the hope that this life can be molded for positive change. 

Because, "Change is the only constant. Hanging on is the only sin." (Denise McCluggage)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ten Minutes

This morning, I took my first spinning class.

Somewhere between my ass being on fire, sweat piercing my eyeballs, and closing my eyes to focus on my RPM's and the blaring of "Pink"....I heard the instructor say, "COME've got 10 minutes left...10 minutes and then you go back to reality."

And that comment stuck.  Why?  Because it's so true.

We tend to do the same things over and over every day.  We shower, brush our teeth, eat, drink, go to work, watch TV, get online, complain, make to-do lists, you name know your routines/rituals.

So, in light of the 99.9% of our life that remains the same, shouldn't we push ourselves at least 10 minutes a day to do something that is harder, different, elevated, focused exclusively on ourselves?

I don't know what that looks like for you...but for me, it was 120 RPM sprint up a fake hill that seemed very real in my mind with a goal of pumping as hard as I could until my legs turned to jello.  Nice way to start the morning. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reclaiming Me in My 30's

God, it's hard to be here.

Eighteen months ago, I was in the best shape of my life.  Push-ups, burpies, mountain climbers, running, ab work...I could do it, and felt good in the process (well, as good as anyone can feel sweating their arse off).

And now, post the birth of my third child and her year marker, I am rebuilding all over again.

I find it intriguing that everywhere I turn, I find women my age, in their 30's committing to marathons, triatholons, adventure races, and cycling.  It's inspiring...but begs the question, why now?  Why not in our 20's when our bodies could bounce back 10-times faster and we had a lot more disposable time/energy before the demands of children?

After pondering this conundrum (while soaking in the tub and downing massive quantities of ibuprofren)...I've decided it's because, we don't give a shit what the world says...we're ready to reclaim ourselves and to own a corner of some part of the world....primarily, our fitness.  We want to see that we can achieve the unattainable and reconnect our souls to our bodies. 

My 20's were fraught with wondering what I should do...professionally and personally....taking cues from failed relationships, jobs that weren't satisfying and magazine ads.  So it's no wonder that after birthing 3 babies in my 30's...I am ready to recapture me....the authentic me.

So to that end, I will carve out my training schedule for the half marathon, huff and puff through my cardio conditioning classes, and trust that there is a light at the end of the path.  Anyone up for spinning?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Sound of Silence

A friend of mine has been encouraging me to do a silent retreat with her this winter.

It's not an overnight gig.  It's more like three days.  And well, since it takes place over the weekend, it may be doable with my family.

I've often fantasized about being completely alone.  I mean children screaming, no demands shouting in my head, no dishwasher, computer, phone, washing machine, oven, coffee maker, car...just me alone.

And then, I start to really think about it.  Could I be completely quiet with myself for 72 hours?  Could I give my mind, heart and soul three days of solitude?

It seems like a dream...and then, it seems a bit nightmarish...for example, what if I start really delving into parts of me that feel easier to push under the rug?  What if I feel need of the social?  What if I miss the tar out of my family or worse off, what if I love it, and I don't?

It's crazy to me that in a 24-hour period, I am rarely alone.  Alone maybe in thought, but rarely in the physical.  A silent retreat is definitely food for thought.  It may be just what the doctor ordered in the new year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Redefining 'Sexy'

I've been spending some time at the gym lately.

It's been a while, so it's nice to feel my body in motion and to work up a sweat with a goal of pushing myself as far as I can go.

It's had me thinking though...what's sexy?

While men and women pump on elliptical machines, run on treadmills, climb up stair masters, lift weights, jump rope, and sweat through classes...they are bombarded by 'People' magazines filled with models, flat screens dawning celebrities and folks to the left and right of them in "work out" attire.

I imagine that most are there for health purposes, others need to a stress release and some are there for entirely different reasons.

I used to think that 'sexy' had everything to do with the way I looked and felt in my I connected with the one I love.  Now, I'm finding all kinds of new connections to the word.

After the last few workouts, my new definition of 'sexy' is strength...determination...consistency...grit.

Tenacity is sexy.  Plain and simple.  And that's not just about how much time you spend at the gym.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Desires of our Heart

This morning, I picked up my New York Times and there was an insert for a theater company promoting its upcoming 2012 season.

One of the plays was entitled, "Insidious" and offered the tagline, "Insatiable Needs...Unspeakable Deeds."

And this got me thinking.

We're all human.  And subsequently, because we're fallible, broken, selfish...we all crave, we all have desires.  Some of those desires have to be squelched, tamed, curbed for obvious reasons.

You know what I'm talking could be as simple as wanting to buy something that you know you can't afford or even if you could, the money should be spent more sensibly on a different priority.

It could be your desire for sloth.  You choose not to use your time well or to be indulgent...and maybe you don't give a shit in the process, but you beat yourself up afterwards.

The desires of our heart.  Where do they come from?  The ones we don't want to admit.  The ones we try to pray out of our system.  The ones that draw us back but feel disasterous.

Insatiable needs.  I think we all have them.  We simply choose to not give in.  Or, we do, when it makes sense.  But maybe, we're all born with those desires that never go away...we just learn to live with them.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Year of Kelly

From time to time (typically around this time), I get an inkling...a feeling that this coming year is going to be a year to tackle something new, to break boundaries, to grow...and as such, I dub it, "The Year of Kelly."

It's not intended to be egotistical or ostentatious...just simply, an effort to bring awareness to change in my life.

And boy, am I ready for change.  Now, that our youngest is a year old, I'm sleeping through the night and life looks bareable again, I've registered to run a half marathon on the morning of my 37th birthday.

I have lofty goals to grow my jewelry business.

And, I'm intent on writing as much as possible.  I don't know what form this will take and at this point, I'm not too concerned, I just want to keep getting the voices out of head and onto paper (maybe, I should be checking into medication as well.)

It's a beautiful thing to start reinvesting in yourself.  It feels liberating and scary all in the same breath.

As I approach 2012, I intend to take it slow...putting one foot in front of the other...or better yet, running one mile at a time, until one day, I find that I'm doing it.  Embracing me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

All my love to Heaven

It was like something you might read about or see in a movie.

My mom called and said, "It's time, you need to come now."  And, I did...smelling like an onion and garlic from the chicken noodle soup I'd been preparing.

When I arrived, my cousin, sisters, brother, aunt, uncle, and mom were gathered around my grandfather.  I grabbed a hold of my mom and sobbed and sobbed until my chest hurt, my eyes stung, and my knees were knocking.  (I don't think I can do this.  I'm not ready for him to die.)

And slowly after a few hours passed, a chaplain came and led a prayer.  We all held hands and quietly cried as we watched him pray over our grandfather...and then, as he left, my grandfather took in a few short breaths and peacefully went to Heaven.  It was beautiful.

As I lay here in my warm bed at home, I can't stop thinking about what "Jack" the chaplain said. 

In life, we should find a way to say four things to the people who are most important to us:
  • I love you.
  • I am thankful for you.
  • Please forgive me.
  • I forgive you.
Rest in peace, grandpa and know that you are loved.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Searching for the Christmas Spirit

Last year at this time, I was pregnant...very pregnant...moments away from delivering Claire...and the Advent/Christmas spirit could not have been more alive in my heart.

All of the packages were wrapped, the twinkle lights shimmering, the stockings stuffed, and the bassinet ready and waiting to welcome a sweet baby girl.

This year feels very different.  The Christmas cards have yet to be ordered, the packages are only an idea in my mind, I keep forgetting that there are only a few days left for "on-time" holiday delivery...and my spirit feels dampened.

We're waiting to say goodbye and with each day, we wonder when he will leave us.

In the interim, I keep thinking, "How can I awaken my soul to that which matters most?"  Because truly, if the cards don't go out and the commercial shopping extravaganza doesn't take place...would it be so bad?

My kids believe in Santa and the whole nine yards.  We have reindeer food comprised of oatmeal and glitter to help guide Rudolph to our home.  They have Santa wish lists and an Advent tree/calendar.  We say prayers every evening and read a nightly Advent story.  They pray that great grandpa will go to Heaven soon to be with great grandma.  They think that would be a beautiful Christmas present.  And, I think they're right.

In this time filled with many emotions and superficial to-do's, I am grateful that my family has been gathered, even if it has been in a hospital to relive memories, say good byes and in general, give thanks.  I suppose, that's what matters most.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Circle of Life

Last night, he reminded me of my babies.

My mom had to show him how to suck through a straw.  He was easily alarmed.  Confused.  Tired of being poked, prodded, and jostled.

Really, he just wanted you to hold his hand.  Not even talk.  Just breathe with him and provide a sense of safety and warmth. Just like my babies.

Watching the circle of life come to completion for my grandfather reminds me that when my children were born, they were wholly dependent upon us.  They couldn't feed, clothe, expel, or care for themselves without another.  And, subsequently they had to trust us to love them unconditionally, even when as caregivers, we were exhausted, frustrated or stretched too thinly.

This is the place that we find my grandfather...completely reliant upon us...which is as it should be.

I'm learning that there is no other reason that we are placed on this earth other than to love in big and in small ways.  Our purpose is not to amass the is simply to give of ourselves unconditionally to another.  And when we do so, especially when we're afraid or we think we're too busy, we are blessed ten-fold.

As human beings, we were created to love.  We respond well to it both in birth and in death.  That's all...just love.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Finding Grace in the Last Days

They couldn't be more different.

She, the eternal optimist.  He, the unfailing pragmatist.

And yet, they came from the same two people.

My mother and uncle are watching their father die.  After countless hours at his bedside...some of the most poignant being a midnight bedside prayer with cousins and parents holding hands...we realize that this is it...or is it?

My mother's cup has always been half full.  No matter the trial or tribulation, she truly believes in her heart that there is a way out and that we only need believe.  It's a powerful gift when you're feeling like your life is literally over after a boyfriend dumps you or a job just wasn't the right fit.  It's a little harder when you're looking at heart failure.

My uncle has always been a realist.  He does not bull shit.  He tells it like it is and respects those who are direct and to the point.  And sometimes, his anger gets the best of him.

Watching these two manage decisions regarding my grandfather has been a bit tenuous to say the least.  He confronts and she placates.

So, I've been praying for them.  I've been praying that God would use this time to help them find grace and peace in these final moments with their dad...that He would find ways to help them remember the beautiful parts of their childhood...that He would encourage them to see that they have more common ground then they realize...and ultimately to know that when all is said and done, they will be left with each other.  The legacy of our grandparents.

I don't envy them.  Making critical decisions like whether or not to sign a DNR are paralyzing.  They're doing the best they can given their own pain.  It's a powerful lesson that grace can find its way into our hearts if we just let it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Journey toward Forgiveness

It was 11:30am when I got the call. 

I was snuggled up with my coffee and the paper foolishly thinking that I had a moment to relax, when my mom called in need.

"Your grandfather is in the hospital.  It appears as though he's had a heart attack.  I know how busy you are with the kids.  I've called your sister...maybe you could call your brother and your other sister...I'm just."  I could tell, this wasn't easy.  I needed to be with her.

My grandfather is my last surviving grandparent and he and I have not had the easiest of relationships.  I've not been extraordinarily close to him, but I knew that going to the hospital and being with my mother was important and so, I went.

I didn't know what to expect when I arrived, I just knew that I needed to be strong.  What I saw was a 90-year old man who was weak and tired.  We spent hours together...some of it talking about his prognosis...congestive heart failure...some of it talking about his professional career, his military stint in WWI and his family.  I cried.  I laughed. I remembered. And, I knew in that moment, that this will be probably be some of the last memories created together.

I find it ironic that my graduate degree is in Conflict Resolution.  I've always been good with other people's differences, but not so good with my own.  The ability to forgive another especially when they've wounded you indelibly is not an easy thing.  But forgiveness is really the ultimate gift for the wounded because it restores trust, peace and a sense of love.  That gift isn't given by another, it's something that we give to ourselves.

And so, as I sat there with him, I knew that room was exactly where I was supposed to be.  Even if it was hard, even if it wasn't my plan for the marked the beginning of my journey toward forgiveness, as it was marking the end of his life.

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year


The kids have left to go sledding.  The baby has fallen asleep.  Marshmallows are strewn throughout the house commemorating a hot cocoa extravaganza.  Old mittens and hats are drying from a previous snowman-making trek. NPR is playing in the background.  My reheated mug of coffee is in my hand. And, I am alone...relatively speaking.

I'm feeling a little guilty. We really should be at church.  But you know how it goes after the first snow.  The kids want to spend countless hours going in and outside and well, I just want to stay in my pajamas and pretend that I don't have a care in the world.

It has dawned on me that there are only 21 days left until Santa comes and well, this Santa has nothing checked off her list or packaged under the tree.  We also need to get Christmas cards out to friends and family.  We should probably start preparing for our trip down south.  Oh and, I'm teaching the Christmas art lesson at Sam's school...gotta figure out a lesson plan for that.  And, and, and.

It really never ends.  The list of to do's.  The responsibilities.  The expectations that we place upon ourselves.  The silly ways we stress ourselves.  I suppose it doesn't end unless we tell it to.  So, for today, enough is enough.  If I never make it out of my slippers and I find little bits of marshmallow under the couch or beds, who cares?  Did I laugh with my kids?  Did I take the time to read an interesting article or listen to something worthwhile?  Did I pray and thank God for the blessings in my life? 

The truth is, enough is actually more than enough.

Friday, December 2, 2011

It takes a Village

I had a fascinating conversation this morning with my best friend and a speaker that will be presenting for an event at our parish.

We were talking about the power of friendship and the indelible bonds that women throughout history have held to support one another throughout the many seasons of their lives.

One point in particular was food for thought.

As a historian, she related that throughout the ages and still in many parts of the world today, marriage is a contractual relationship...often arranged by people that are not in the union.  Consequently, for years, women have relied upon multiple ancillary connections with family members, friends, and others in the community to sustain them.

In modern days, our concept of marriage has become significantly more isolated and pressuresome.  Often, we expect our partners to serve as our confidants on the majority of matters in our lives.  In no other relationship do we place this kind of expectation...which, as we've seen statistically, can create disjointedness, frustration, anger, separation, and sometimes, divorce.

The truth takes a village...not just to raise children...but to thrive on the face of this earth.  We need each other and relationships with others for all kinds of reasons.  Our role is to support, encourage, love and nurture those connections...understanding that they provide us with something unique and significant.

I am grateful for the many friendships, family relationships and acquaintences I've met along the way...that feed my soul.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Call of Winter

I'm sitting in my living room and big, chunky, fat snow flakes are falling outside.

Out of the corner of my eye, an old episode of "The French Chef" is playing and Julia Childs is teaching us how to make a modern lentil stew with chicken livers.  Hmm...

Kate is drinking hot cocoa that we whisked together on the stove and Claire is eating the pages of one of her brother's books that we'll have to tape back together before he comes home from school.

It's getting colder and while we've been so blessed to have an amazing autumnal season, I know that winter is upon us.  I've never taken very well to the season of hibernation.  I find myself loading up on vitamin D, taking copious amounts of vitamin C and trying to stay connected to others as much as possible.  I'm certain that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I'm cool with the cold temperatures, just not with the lack of sun.

And yet, research tells us that people who experience all four seasons live happier lives...whether that's true or not, I'm not sure...but living in Nebraska ensures that we see it all.

So to keep the blues away, I'm resolute to keep exercising, continue writing, and popping happy vitamin pills at every turn...with maybe a little chocolate in there for good measure.

The inside of my Dove chocolate says, "It's a bubble bath kind of day."  I agree.  Maybe there are some benefits to winter.