For many years I missed out on swimming. Too much work to change into a bathing suit, to shave, to shower, to wash my hair afterwards. Among other things the thought of drippy wet hair on a cold winter day did not appeal to me. Using a hair dryer? Too time consuming and without the proper hair products it turns me into Bob Ross on steroids- a huge ‘fro. The water is too cold or the water has too much chlorine…I had an endless repertoire of reasons why swimming was not for me.
Last year, my head cleared for a minute. Maybe it was my daughter’s wishful plans to do laps in the frigid Pacific ocean as a form of exercise. Maybe it was my husband’s enthusiasm when talking about his workouts and stretches in the pool. So, I bought myself an athletic, functional Speedo suit. I also got a mask, because goggles leave an imprint on my face for days, accentuating the bags under my eyes. So next time I went to the gym I did my regular routine and then without allowing myself any discussion in my head, I threw on my new suit and grabbed my new mask and jumped into the pool. To my surprise, although it was snowing outside, the water felt perfect and the chlorine did not bother my skin, at all!
After about a half hour I was sold. I absolutely love my swim sessions. And I fully regret having limited myself for years. I have been missing out on a fun, low impact form of exercise because of wet hair?! I realized that all my silly excuses of showering, shaving and such were just that- excuses. I was too comfortable being lazy to give myself the opportunity to do something fun.
I regret that swimming has not been the only thing I have made excuses for. I have missed out on other experiences because…Fear? Laziness? Self-preservation?
Recently, I have witnessed someone I know miss out on wonderful opportunities and experiences because of excuses. Its’ too hot, it’s too late, it’s too fancy, it’s too…you name it. The opportunities come and go and that person remains lonely and frustrated, yet they don’t see how it is no one but themselves who are setting the limits to what they can do. To the life they could have. To all that they could offer. Sometimes opting out of things translates into selfishness. Others miss out on what we might have to offer, we miss out on supporting community and family. Self-preservation is a life sucker. Ironically it cheats us out of life. You think you are doing something for your comfort and for your well being, but it actually prevents you from experiencing life.
I am trying to be more deliberate about saying YES. I am trying to step outside my comfort zone, to make selfless decisions, to be brave and try new things.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
I am a little embarrassed to admit that this is one little thought that occupies real estate in my brain: Why do women wear makeup and heels and get all dolled up?
I think part of the reason I think about this a lot is that I feel that if I wear make up it is because I need it to cover up the real me, or that the real me is not good enough as is. Yet, I was just watching American Idol and I loved the makeup Katie Perry was wearing.( Her dress could have been longer and her heels shorter for my liking…)
I cannot reconcile these two sides. Natural beauty, comfort, freedom from societal constrictions or impositions, or beautifully made up women dressed to the nines? Should they be mutually exclusive? Does “dolling up” promote objectification of women?
I am not advocating for the grunge look. Although, I can rock it. There is usually, at least, a week in the summer where instead of showers I swim in the lake and only wear a bathing suit, shorts and a hat. Neither am I advocating a Barbie look. Although, I love clothes and shoes and sometimes enjoy dressing up and wearing dresses. Is there a middle ground? Should I even be concerned? Is this even an issue?
Regardless of the answers, I think that we should dress with modesty and with what makes us feel comfortable and respectable (clean and neat) as a general rule. Not to impress or attract…
I better go to sleep ’cause I still need to figure out what to wear to work in the morning.
To the untrained eye this is a common sight in this beautiful state. Another cloudy, sunless day and foggy no less. To me? This sight caused my foot to hit the brakes, tickled my being, made my soul swell, produced a smile on my face and made my eyes leak. It filled me with joy.
I absolutely love rainy days. I love drizzly, cool spring days and for some reason this sight moved me profoundly. I find it hard to explain. It is the realization of several things. I am alive and able to see this beauty. I am free and safe to be driving down a “country” road. Some people pay to come see such sights, I get to live in this beautiful state. The fog is like a cozy blanket enveloping God’s gorgeous creation and me.
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it- Psalm 24:1
April first, I finally decided to put an end to the parade of sweet junk going into my mouth. For days, more like months, which have added up to years, I wake up with the best intentions. I say to myself even before I get out of bed, “I will not eat sweets today.” And I believe myself. I mean it. That’s my sincere intention. Then I show up to work, and I remember my decision as I lick the crumbs from my lips. Another day failed.
So, April first I was more intentional and made a solid decision to not eat sweets for the whole month of April. It really has to be an all or nothing thing, then the guess work, hesitation, doubts, and slips have no chance of happening. I was even able to very strongly not have a smorgasbord of desserts at Golden Coral. I was not even tempted as my friend ate three different types of chocolaty goodness right across the table from me. As she enjoyed her dessert I recollected how I feel after I savor such wonderful treats. I feel lethargic, achy, cranky, my tongue gets itchy…the only good, wonderful thing is the savoring part.
A while ago I had to attend a Mindfulness training- the only good thing I took away from that was to slow down when you eat and focus on the texture and flavor and the way it feels inside your mouth. It really amps up the experience!
Any way, April. No sweets. 9 dreary days of feeling less pain, more energy. Heck, I finally even lost some weight! And then yesterday happened. It was the “witching hour.” That’s the time after lunch, before three o’clock, on a rainy day, where all my thoughts turn to nap time. But I was happily working with a student in the hallway, innocently minding my own business, when along came my favorite kindergartener smiling down the hall. Her friend helped carry a big bakery box, while she held a big smile on her face. She stopped in front of me. I locked eyes with her and started singing “Happy Birthday.” She smiled wider and then she offered me a choice. Would you like a chocolate chip cookie or an M&M cookie? She was so happy, so eager, I didn’t have the heart to say, “No, I am a boring person who has given up the joy in life and will not celebrate your happy day with you, ’cause I can”t eat sugar this WHOLE LONG month!” So I quickly replaced that with, “Oh, thank you! That’s so sweet of you.” and took a ginormous cookie the size of a plate out of the box. As the birthday girl moved on to her next victim, I broke a piece of the cookie and gave it to my student. Then I set the still huge cookie on top of my backpack and we continued to work. Except that cookie, it kept taunting me, as if it new my resolution, as if it new that chocolate chip cookies are my ultimate favorite kind of sweet. And I kept ignoring it. I could tell it was waiting for me to take some action. We finally ended our work, almost 3 o-clock. I proceeded to wrap that cookie in several paper towels. I put it in my back pack, but when I got to my truck, I pulled it out fearing that crumbs would make a mess in it. So I sat it on my center console. Slowly the paper towels unfurled, revealing crumbs and then I could see the encrusted chocolate chips. It was as if the cookie was flirting with me. Tantalizing. I reached and pinched a little corner and popped it in my mouth. Then another little bite. I made sure to be mindful of the texture and flavors. Soon there was no more cookie. I never stood a chance against that cookie, or the cookie never had a chance against me…
I decided that since I had broken my commitment I could either forget about my commitment and continue to eat sweets for the rest of April or I could put it in the past and forge on continuing to avoid sweets. It’s a struggle. What helped me decide to go back to denying myself sweets is the fact that my tongue started feeling itchy and in truth the cookie was not as delicious as I had remembered. It reminded me that I feel better when I don’t eat sweets and the calories are not worth it. So, I put that slip behind me and I am back to a life without sweets.
Which brings me to thinking about sin. When we live in sin or slip after slip, and decide that since we have messed up it doesn’t matter, I really don’t feel good. I feel remorseful, guilty, burdened. When I go about “eating sinful morsels” I am not the best version of me. Of who God intends for me to be. So I must recognize those “slips,” repent, and persevere.
“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”-Psalm 34:8
I want to challenge myself to write more. Perhaps to write everyday. I am afraid of coming out and saying I will write each day for the entire month of May. Fear of failure prevents me, but the challenge thrills me.
I have always journaled for as far as I can remember. It’s kind of scary to leave a trail of evidence behind, but blogging is different because your words get exposed on real time as soon as the “publish” button gets touched.
I also feel that blogging should not just be an account of my days, but should deliver some meaningful insights. The content should be worthwhile. And words once you put them in print, once published, once in cyberspace cannot be taken back. I enjoy trying to find precise words to express myself. I also enjoy figuring out the etymology of words. When you know the origins, history and meaning of a word it gives the message more weight and credibility, more depth.
When I think about words two things come to mind; Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, the silliest word I know. And on a serious note, I think of this bible verse:
John 1:1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
It floors me to think that GOD himself was the WORD. He didn’t use an alphabet or a language to express Himself. He became the message, the origin, history and meaning all wrapped up in one Man. He doesn’t need a translator because He is not a foreigner, Jesus speaks our language. And He exposes, represents exactly who God is.
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”-Hebrews 1:3
People often say that words are powerful. We can wield them to build up or tear others down. Jesus, he sustains all things by his word!!
I have been waking up with the birds these days, at 4 a.m. with just a hint of daylight, but I do my best to ignore the racket they make and try to sleep some more. I finally give up and go outside. The 6:30 a.m. sun blasts me. I find little relief as I walk under the shade of the trees. It rained last night, so the humidity with the sun makes even the early morning feel hot. A thin film of sweat covers me as if I had put lotion on my skin. I drop the leash and step on it, so Snoopy can’t take off. She doesn’t. She must sense my urgency and need for quiet and doesn’t even move. I am bird watching in the little park in my parents’ neighborhood. Snoopy being their dog, although I wish she were mine. This morning we saw finches, woodpeckers, pianas-whose names I don’t know in English, motmots, hummingbirds. Brown-headed cowbirds? I wish I had packed my bird book. I will have to wait until I get back home to identify some of these birds.
Home? I am home. In the tropics were my skin feels moist without need for lotions, where I can roll out of bed and not shiver. Where even a t-shirt and shorts feel too warm. Home, where nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters-in-law, and my parents live. Home, where my mouth delights with perfectly ripe juicy mangoes, sour, not quite ripe ciruelas, mouth watering tacos, home made baleadas, fresh coconut water bought from a street vendor…
Home, where familiar voices sound foreign. Home were my heart feels hesitant, yet full.
I left this home almost 30 years ago. And made my new home in what was then a foreign place. Cold, beautiful. My days full of babies and learning to forge a life in a new country, a different culture. Growing my own little family. “Blooming were you are planted.” Content. Settled.
Then I find myself here again. It feels like I am opening a familiar book. I dive into the story and reacquaint myself with my favorite characters. It feels as if my heart is ready to tear, splitting me apart in two, like a cell, the tug is fierce.. I can’t clone myself, I cannot be another me…
Instead, I let all the precious characters go back into the book of Far Away. Inaccesible, yet in my heart, in my mind, I put it back on the shelf until next time.
Home is where the heart is.
Without a translator
Screaming in a sound proof cave.
Aaah! “My soul thirsts for the living God. When can I go and meet with him?” (Psalms 42:2)
With urgency in their voices, my parents woke us up in the middle of the night. It was September, it had been raining, a steady rain, for about three days. I was seven years old. The directions were to get dressed as quickly as possible. I grabbed the first thing I saw- my school uniform and my shoes. Where was my other shoe?! Next thing I remember was our parents guiding us through the alley to the street before ours, “the 2nd” street. We lived on “the 3rd.” When we got to the end of the alley that connected the two I saw cars being dragged by the current down the street. The barrels used for garbage and tree trunks were floating down with the current. It was obvious that a family with 5 children under the age of 10, was not going to be able to cross that street safely. The practical solution? My father led us back home and the instructions this time were to go back to bed. By now, I guess I was worried. I could sense the panic building up in my mother’s voice. I could understand my father’s practicality. What else could we do?
Eventually, after hearing desperate whispered arguments, we left the house to go down the street. I grabbed a small packet of saltines and put it into my school uniform’s pocket. We safely arrived at a neighbor’s house where others had already found refuge. That house sat just a little higher than ours as the street sloped upwards. The water kept rising. The adults decided to put the children up between the ceiling and the roof. I am pretty sure they new if the waters kept rising we would all drown trapped in there. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait to prove that point. One of the kids fell through the ceiling and broke his wrist. So they made us get down. I was getting hungry. I fished for my saltines. They were soggy from rain and flood waters. I couldn’t eat them. So much for being prepared!
I remember my father being upset with how some adults were handling the situation. I am not sure if he ever felt scared or panicked, but he certainly did not appreciate those feelings in others. He scolded a woman who was mournfully praying, more like an agonizing chant than a cry out to God for help. She stopped.
Being the third kid (out of 5 at the time) in the family, I somehow got left behind when the next plan got executed. All the neighbors and my family climbed to the roof of the house. I climbed too, but there was a huge gap between the last rung of the ladder and the roof. I stood there, petrified, quite literally. No one was coming to my rescue, and no one seemed to be behind me. Then, underneath me, in the darkness, I spied a silhouette. Darker than night and wearing a big brimmed hat and a long coat. I can’t remember if he spoke to me, but his presence snapped me out of my frozen state and somehow I got the courage to climb onto the roof and out of his sight. Once up there, one of our maids grabbed me and we huddled under a shower curtain. (Yes, I grew up with maids, not because we were rich, but because we weren’t poor.) I remember the momentary relief when I wet myself and the warmth of the urine stopped my shivering for a minute. I also remember, as light started to dawn I lifted up the curtain and saw furniture floating in the current that was now roaring down the street. It was our furniture.
By early morning, firefighters were rescuing people out of the neighborhood. We were instructed to get off the roof and find our way to them by walking single file on the walls that fenced in our homes. My parents carried the babies, I walked on my own. I remember walking by our house. The back yard was a pond, a chocolate swirling pond with a huge tree trunk jammed into my bedroom window.
A firefighter taught me how to tread through the water by marching, lifting my feet as I went. When it got deep enough, they passed me from firefighter to firefighter until reaching dry land.
I remember the whole family and the maids, crowding into a small taxi cab and trying to figure out where to go next. We ended up at my aunt’s big, beautiful house. There was much discussion as to where we would sleep. Eventually we ended up on the floor of our cousins’ bedrooms.
Soon thereafter we went to stay with my grandparents. I have no recollection of how much time passed, but eventually we moved into a rental house. We attended school in a the local theater, the office spaces on the upper floors were temporarily turned into classrooms. I loved feeling independent and walking to the corner of our new neighborhood to wait for our ride. Riding to school with the owners of the school felt like a privilege.
I remember all of this as an adventure. I only was scared when the “dark silhouette” looked at me and when I had to walk on walls as if walking on a tight rope. The rest? It never traumatized me. Losing everything, including my beautiful doll dressed as a bride in gorgeous lace, never saddened me. She floated away on a chair.
My pet goat, Paula, didn’t survive the flood. The landscape of my father’s farm completely changed after the flood. Instead of rich soil everything was covered in silt and sand. Our neighborhood was dug out and all the sand that had washed down from the mountain was piled high into a paradise of a playground. After we moved back, the neighborhood kids would play on the sand piles endlessly, riding bikes over mounds and jumps, tumbling, playing tag, hide and seek… I would go to bed with gobs of sand in my head.
It surprises me to this day that a tragic hurricane which killed thousands of people and caused so much damage never translated into a tragic event in my life. I am grateful to have survived and grateful for my parent’s example of faith and their resilience. I am sure they had their fair share of worries, having lost our home and our source of income with the farm, but I do not ever remember them acting like victims or burdening us kids with worries.
Corinthians 4:8 “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 7–“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.” I reversed the order of these verses because that is how I see it. I am glad to have had this experience in my life because when it comes to mind, like it did tonight, it encourages me that although I often feel like I am treading water and get so tired, God is my source of all-surpassing power available to me in the flood. I must tread on.
I recently found this deep, dark, piece of my soul in a journal. I have no idea what made me feel this way. The truth is that I have visited this place many times before. I don’t linger for long. Sometimes I quickly have enough and climb out of it with ease. Others, I need to be rescued almost by force- force of patience and love. Thankfully I haven’t been their recently. I was surprised at the depth of darkness and maybe anger in what I had written. Sometimes, when I find pieces of writing like this one, I tear it out of my journal and burn it and flush it down the toilet where it belongs. Perhaps, because I am ashamed or because it is not relevant anymore. But this time I admired the feelings, and contemplated the depths, and decided to keep it. It is okay to feel. To feel and acknowledge the full range of emotions. Joan Crawford said ” Learn to breathe, learn to speak, but first learn to feel.”
Even at my age I am still learning to feel… especially feelings with negative connotations, like anger and sadness, and fear. Generally, I try to suppress them and only exalt and acknowledge happiness and joy, but they are all part of the package. The trick is to not be defined or dominated by them. To respond and not react. To learn from them, to overcome, to control and not be controlled by them.
Although it is not easy, I think that we should be earnest about our feelings. If we allow ourselves to feel, we are able to experience life more deeply, and to have richer relationships. We tend to protect ourselves (and others) from pain, from criticism, from acknowledging what is in our hearts. But I think it is important and beneficial to face those feelings and not flush them down the loo anymore.
3 Squares is a popular place to meet friends, get a quick bite, have a date with a book and wet your whistle with bottomless cups of coffee. It sits unassumingly on Main Street, Vergennes, the smallest and oldest city in Vermont. Reminiscent of the fictional Stars Hollow…
It is also home to Tuesday Trivia and its very elusive first place. We like to attend to support the local Boys and Girls club, see acquaintances, feed our competitive streaks, and give our brains some exercise. It’s a great outing on cold winter nights.
Last week we came in second place. We missed the mark by 5 points. We were so close to beating the champs who reign Tuesday in and Tuesday out. Still we won maple syrup and got free eggs from regulars, Sean and Annie’s farm. They sit at the long table with their cronies.
Tonight, however, the title was finally ours! The prize? The oh, so satisfying feeling of belonging in the community, bantering with friends and neighbors, bragging rights and free dessert. Creme Brûlée never tasted so sweet! I love living in Small Town, U.S.A.
A special thanks to our teammates Sue, Mary and Glen!