Category Archives: Rivers and Roots

A-Hunting We Will Go

Yes, I know…this is not a deer rifle. It’s a shotgun, but this is the only pictorial evidence that I’ve ever attempted hunting.

I love the holidays.  I love fall weather.  I love family gatherings, drama and all.  I love to cook.  So, all-in-all, this is win-win for me.  This year, I had the added excitement of embarking on a new adventure – I joined the family hunting trip.  Ta-da!

I’ve wanted to attempt deer hunting over the past couple of years (which, I realize, seems in direct opposition to my whole “I’m not a country girl” thing).  I like learning new things and I’m curious as to what all the hoopla is about.  Between toddler duty and letting kids have their first hunts, I usually end up giving my spot up so that someone else can have a shot (no pun intended).  So, this year’s plan was “Mommy gets a deer first.”

Don’t hold your breath, kids.

We headed west Friday – locked, loaded and ready to go.  As we drove in our unusually quiet car (we only took Luke and the dog, the two younger kids stayed behind), my mind drifted back to my very first deer/hunting interaction.  It was with Gregg, of course, and even though it was almost 20 years ago, I remember it with complete clarity.

We were freshmen in college and had been “hanging out” without actually dating (whatever that means) for a month or two.  Translated, we were still too cool to make the first move, but in the “I need to impress you with how irresistible I am without seeming to try too hard.”  Gregg was at his house which, to my mind, was out in the country and I had driven over to “hang out”.  We couldn’t go anywhere because he had shot a deer the evening before and it was hanging, field dressed and ready for him to skin and quarter.  Naturally, the super cute Wonder Girl persona I had cultivated prompted me to volunteer my services and help him out.  After all, I was dissecting stuff in Anatomy lab and pre-med at the time.  How hard could this be?  Plus, for all my insect and scorpion phobias, mammals don’t make me squeamish.  And Gregg looked as impressed as he did shocked, so I figured it was the right call.

We went out to where the deer hung and, after a brief “Aw” moment, I was ready to work.  Gregg gave me a small handsaw and began reciting very specific instructions, which I actually listened to without allowing myself to become overly distracted by his dimples.  Or height.  Or muscles.  Did I mention he was really cute?  Believe it or not, in my younger years I was way more focused and less ADD than I am now.  I blame the children for this loss.

Sorry, I digress.  See?

Instructions: I was the quarterer, which meant I had to remove the legs (if you are squeamish, you might want to skip ahead.  If you are a card carrying member of PETA, just skip this post altogether).  The method I was to use was to saw halfway through the leg tendons, twist and pull, popping the leg off.  Repeat for each leg.  Gregg did the actual skinning, and was impressively fast at it, until he got to the head/neck area – he then sat on the ground to work with more precision (obviously, the deer was hanging upside down).  This was my cue to being working on the hind legs.  Show time.

As I stated earlier, this was a time in my life where I was incredible focused and very literal.  I took the handsaw and sawed through exactly 50% of the tendons with extreme specificity.  I may have even counted fibers.  So far, so good.  I carefully set the saw down, reached up for the leg, twisted and pulled.  Nothing.  Hmmm…. I twisted a little further and pulled with more force.  Still nothing.  I repeated the twist/pull pattern with incremental increased in force for three to four more repetitions.  No luck.  The leg was still firmly attached.

And now, it was personal.

I had followed the instructions without deviating and it was not working!  My type A personality could not reconcile this, so my mounting frustration may have made me a tad irrational.  I totally forgot about Gregg’s presence and became completely immersed in the woman versus deer leg struggle for dominance.  Bring it on, Bambi!

I raised all the way up onto my tiptoes, wrapped both arms around the leg and turned my body so that the deer leg was positioned under my armpit and lodged against my ribs.  I placed my foot on the tree trunk, braced myself and started yanking with my arms and body while shoving my foot against the tree for leverage.  I’m pretty sure there was grunting.  I struggled this way for a good minute, hair whipping wildly, tree bark flying, the deer swinging back and forth…..until, breathless, I realized two things: 1) this deer leg was no closer to coming off at this point than it had been before I started  and 2) Gregg was still there.  Oops.

I slowly turned my head and lowered my gaze to see him sitting – stunned, silent, not moving at all, as he stared with wide eyes at the lunatic hanging on his deer.  After an awkward pause, he asked, “What are you doing?”  There really was no dignified response here, so I simply said, “Twist and pull.”  We learned that day that I was not strong enough for the 50% rule.  My success rate with the other legs went up exponentially when I sawed through 90% of tendons instead.

Fast forward 20 years to the inaugural deer hunt.  We dropped off our stuff, our son (he had no interest in going since the focus was not on him…so much for supporting Mom) and the dog, then headed to the deer lease.  I was quite excited, although more than a little apprehensive, truth be told.  I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion how busy we are, and the holiday season only magnifies this.  While I have shot guns before, it’s been a while.  With our crazy schedules, we never got around to practicing with the gun I was actually going to use.  So, when Gregg handed me the gun and said, “Ok, babe, rack a round and put one in the chamber”, I just sat there blinking at him.  I mean, really.  Who did he think he was talking to?  Where would I have just picked that up as a skill?  This was probably his first red flag.  The second came as we were exiting the vehicle and I turned to him with the question, “So, where exactly am I supposed to shoot the deer?”  Nothing like waiting until the last possible minute to get the basic info.

We set off on foot across the lease and I felt pretty official in my black wool beanie, five layers of clothes, Gregg’s camouflage vest and a rifle in my hands.  This particular lease doesn’t have many deer blinds and we got there after the feeders had gone off, so the plan was to walk the lease and find deer to hunt.  This requires stealth, a good eye and quick response time.  Perfect.  Sounds like a recipe for success to me.

Still, I had promised to be a good sport and follow directions, so I squared my shoulders and soldiered on.  Gregg led the way and we wound our way throughout the terrain.  It was really fun.  There was wildlife everywhere – we saw jackrabbits and hawks and foxes, and there was a veritable cacophony of birdsong.  It was so great to spend time, just the two of us, enjoying nature and fresh air.  I almost forgot we were stalking deer.  Almost…..the gun wasn’t exactly light.  At intervals, Gregg would turn to me and do the two fingers at his eyes, then at me, then out at the clearing.  I would nod and look around dutifully.  He would motion to get down.  I would duck and squat.  He also did a whole bunch of other signs that made no sense to me whatsoever and I couldn’t begin to guess at their meaning.  I just kept nodding.  He seemed so excited to communicate in that way, I didn’t have the heart to burst his bubble.

As the sun began to set, we became resigned to the fact that this trip was unlikely to garner the result we had hoped for.  We began walking back towards the suburban.  All of a sudden, Gregg started flapping and pointing wildly while squatting and motioning for me to do the same.  Okay!  Okay!  I got it.  He duck walked/ran over to me, put his chin on my head and began speaking under his breath.  I thought this was a great trick, by the way.  I know, focus on the point.  He had spotted a doe in the field across from us.  Sweet!  I turned to look where he was pointing.  Nothing.  He pointed again.  Nothing.  Again.  Nothing.  What the heck was he looking at?  I mean, the man can’t find his keys when they are six inches from his face, but he can spot a partially hidden deer at 200 yards?

Amazing.

He told me to sneak along the fence line past the bushes and I should be able to see her.  Ok.  Got it.  So I slowly began this awkward lunge/squatty/duck-like walk along the fence while hiding behind the bushes.  It was ridiculous, and only the thought he would kill me if my laughter scared off the invisible deer kept my giggles at bay.  I stopped and stared.  Nothing.  He pantomimed for me too look through the rifle scope to see if it would help.  Oh, my gosh.  Have you ever tried to do that?  How does anyone see through those things?  Gregg snuck over to me, told me not to put the scope so close to my face or the recoil would give me a black eye (great, something new to worry about) and said there were now two deer.  Because I was having so much trouble seeing them, he would go around and see if he could “encourage” them to come towards me by making a little noise on the other side.  What?!?  Then, he says, “This means you’re gonna have to be quick, Bec.  I mean, no hesitation.  Click off the safety, get your gun up, aim and shoot.  They’ll be moving, so you won’t have much time.”

Again, who does he think he’s talking to?  It’s like he’s never met me!

Needless to say, this plan was not successful.  I never did see the deer.  Maybe they flew away…..Christmas is coming, you know.

Walking back to the car, we each spent a few minutes in our own thoughts.  I was a little disappointed, but still had fun.  My main concern was that this had to be the most boring hunting trip ever for my husband.  The man has been hunting his whole life.  He doesn’t even rifle hunt anymore, preferring to use a bow.  Here I am, candidate for Clueless Hunting Rookie of the Year.  Gregg was walking a few feet in front of me.  He paused for a moment, turned, and said, “I can’t tell you how happy I am that you came along.  It means so much to me that I got to share this part of me with you.”  I felt my heart lift, my spine straighten and my face break into a smile.  As he turned to keep walking, he casually tossed out, “And you look really cute in that hat.”

Victory!!  As far as I’m concerned, this hunt was a roaring success.  Any time a good-looking outdoorsman walks away from an empty-handed hunt with a smile and a compliment, noticing your adorableness, you’ve won the day.

After all, isn’t that what we all hunt for throughout our lives?  Aren’t we tracking down people and occasions that leave us feeling loved and beautiful and worthwhile?  We equip ourselves as best we can to find positive reinforcement and incidences and individuals that are able to celebrate our relationships over our results and our company over our competence.

This is why community and friendship and sisterhood are so important.  We were created to embrace them…and each other.

So celebrate that every opportunity you get, and even stepping outside of your comfort zone won’t feel so daunting, I guarantee it.  It made a cold, intimidating hunt much more enjoyable.

Getting to watch him walk around in front of me in his jeans was just a bonus.

Solidarity, sisters.  The hunt is on…..


Hernando-62

 

As I mentioned in the previous post, we did a fair amount of swimming and snorkeling on our vacation. Our kids are part fish, being river rats and all, so this was no surprise.

Our first snorkeling venture was not a smooth one, however. As much fun as we had jumping into the river, the freezing water and lack of visibility made our little Bug very nervous. The mangrove trees were overpowering, the water was dark, and the designated swimming path was quite narrow. Little One was not happy at all, and was ready to be done before we even started.

When she refused to be comforted or cajoled into embarking on this new adventure, her daddy swam over and placed her on his back. As you can see by her expression, she tolerated it….just barely. Patiently, he swam at a steady pace, despite the challenge of a little passenger. She looked so adorable, perched like a tiny turtle on his back with her blue goggles, pink life vest and serious expression.

About halfway down the canote ( the name for the part freshwater, part saltwater rivers that run from inland to the lagoons), Gregg said he felt her begin to relax a little. Her death grip loosened, and she sat more comfortably. He felt bad that she was missing out on the action, since her view was limited to trees and the water line, and the fish and other creatures were down below. So, he raised his head and explained to her that they were going to implement a system. He would swim on as she rode, looking below for interesting things to show her. When he saw something, he would raise his hand on the side she was to look, and she could duck her face into the water to see the wonders underneath.

I got to witness their teamwork in action as they came down the final stretch into the lagoon. The boys and I had reached the end faster and were waiting on them to catch up. I stood watching, along with a fair number of other guests and tourists, as the pair of them swam into sight. Suddenly, Gregg raised his left arm, finger pointing up. Without changing expression or pausing for more than a quick breath, Emry leaned over and stuck her face in the water on the side of his raised hand. After a few seconds, she sat back up to continue her journey, repeating the process several more times to either side as directed.

It was one of the most precious things I’ve ever seen in my life.

I had tears in my eyes even as I laughed – as did more than a few others who witnessed this display of a nurturing father and trusting child.

Thinking on it later, I couldn’t help but contemplate on what a great literal representation of God’s love this anecdote is.

Matthew 11:28-29 – Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

It’s such a simple, yet profound concept, isn’t it?

When we’re tired, or scared, or can’t see clearly enough, all we have to do is reach for Father, and He will carry us.

He doesn’t mind a bit. We’re not too heavy for him. He knows the way, and will get us there safely. It’s what He does.

And when we begin to relax, when we finally figure out that He’s got us and it’s all under control, He’ll know we’re ready for His signal. He’ll start giving us a sign or two, here or there.

He’ll point out when and where we need to look, because He doesn’t want us to miss the good stuff.

He’s all about letting us in on the good stuff. We just have to trust Him, then watch for His signal and look where He points.

Solidarity, sisters. There’s no shame in hitching a ride.

 


beto-90

 

There’s nothing quite like a family vacation, is there? The planning and processing, the hunt for the perfect location, the fun of picking a time and place, the non-fun of squeezing a budget together…. It’s an experience like no other, and summer is the perfect time to pull it off.

We’ve never done a big vacation with all five of us, so this year seemed like a good time to start. After much debate and discussion, we decided on Mexico, the Maya Riviera to be exact. I hyper-ventilated my way through airline reservations (we all know how much I love to fly), figured out the resort and accomodations, filled out passport applications and ran around like a crazy person to get them for the kids (that’s a blog unto itself); we coordinated calendars, shopped, packed, made 57 lists and somehow got everyone to the airport on time with all necessary pieces of self and luggage.

Perhaps it was the exhaustion resulting from such a herculean effort, or perhaps it was the distraction of having all three of our children on an international flight as their first time in an airplane….or perhaps it was my amusement at the flight attendant that kept sneaking us contraband snacks (he would hide them under his apron, then lean over pretending to ask for my drink order while dropping cans of Pringles or bags of cookies in my lap and then pointing to kids – he was smitten with Emry), but my usual flying anxiety/nausea was more under control than usual.  So, yay for that. It helped make up for the fact that I had to get out of my seat to take Emry to the potty every 10 minutes.

We made it safely through the Cancun airport, sailed through customs and smiled as Drew practiced his Spanish with every customs agent and airport or resort employee he saw. It was late when we got to the resort, so our real fun began the next morning.

IMG_5821

 

What a great place this was! I cannot say enough good things about Tres Rios Haciendas – if you ever have the chance to go there, do so. Food, staff, views….fabulous, every bit.

IMG_5860 IMG_5861 IMG_5864

We purposefully didn’t buy any international plans for our phones, and the resort only allowed internet access for one device per room (best idea ever), so we were unplugged for seven days. Seven whole days of family fun and togetherness with no interruptions. It was amazing.

There is something to be said for times of rebuilding and bonding in your core group. It’s easy to overlook, and gets away from us if we’re not careful.

We were a unit, totally and completely together, in a strange place, with a different language, new experiences and non-typical foods.

FullSizeRender (4)

Our kids ate it up. They tried everything! Every. Single. Thing. Food, activities, sports, communicating…..they were in the thick of it as we cheered them on.

DSCF0698 DSCF0715 DSCF0739

 

They were addicted to virgin Pina Coladas, and our two non-Spanish speakers learned very quickly how to order them in Spanish. They would do so quite frequently, bringing a “round” for everyone at regular intervals (at least they were serving each other, right?).

DSCF0835

DSCF0716

 

We did get tweeted by the lifeguards more than once. I can’t point fingers here, since Mommy was the first one in trouble – apparently, they do not want you doing back flips off the planters in the center of the pool. Who knew?

Also, our children can’t resist – if they see a bridge, they want to jump off of it. It’s a compulsion. We’ll work on it.

EDITH-184

 

Safety concerns aside. we stuck together and learned just how fun we are as a whole. We had conversations, and laughed at jokes. We were amazed anew at the differences in our children’s personalities, and the speed with which each picked up particular skills. Drew was a natural under water at scuba (he’s got a few years before he can go on a dive) and snorkelling, and his Spanish was a beautiful surprise to the staff and vendors. Luke put his salsa skills to good use, dancing on the beach with his mom (and he wasn’t even embarrassed by me), and blew both his dad and the dive instructors away on his first scuba adventure. Emry jumped, swam, played and charmed everywhere she went. She made friends at every turn, and the staff was literally in tears when they had to say goodbye to her.

It was fun, yes, but it was also inspiring to watch our kids experience so many cool things, and to embrace the foreign with abandon. We lose a little of that as we grow, I think. We forget to let go of our preconceived notions and our comfort, and to just jump in with both feet, shouting for joy and ready for adventure.

Different doesn’t have to intimidate; it can exhilarate just as easily.

And whether we like the experience enough to repeat it, or discover definitively that a particular enterprise is not for us, the lesson is in the learning. There’s a humility to that, and growth that comes from it.

We spent seven days together as a family, and it was glorious. We found out new things about each other. We watched each other soak up every drop of verve and vivacity from our time in Mexico.

That’s LIVING. It only works if you’re all in.

Hernando-22

Solidarity, sisters. The family that plays together, stays together.

Hernando-27


 

Merry little XmasThe Christmas season is upon us….again.  It sort of snuck up and pounced, as it always seems to do.  There is so much going on, both in our personal lives and on the world stage, and that makes it a challenge to truly feel settled and ready to face yet another holiday season.  I don’t know if it’s truly the state of the world, or just my inability to keep up as my plate continues to fill up, but each year finds me increasingly bogged down as I try to run around completing an impossible task list while trying to summon the energy to add gift shopping, menu creating, party planning, extra church services and (oh, the horror) seasonal decorating to the bundle.

In addition, the media is increasingly full of negative, divisive and sensationalist stories….while decreasing the air time of Christmas specials, Rudolph and Frosty, and cheery classics.  In this day of corruption and frustration and literal as well as spiritual disease, we search desperately for something pure and constant to cling to.  There is such a sense of despair and negativity in our nation, our community, our world…. I know there have been many cycles of this throughout history.  It’s hard to live in them, in the times when people are tired and discouraged.  There is a pervading sense of disappointment and cynicism – towards almost everything.  It can get crushing if we let it.

And yet….. We don’t have to let it, do we?

This past week, Emry’s preschool had it’s annual Christmas performance. This, too, popped up on the calendar, catching us unawares, mostly because I hadn’t paid all that much attention to it on the original beginning-of-the-year master list of events.  Before you judge me for this lapse, let me vindicate myself with an explanation.  The reason we didn’t mark it in red on our schedules was because of last year’s experience.  We didn’t even go last year.  When the time came for the program I was so excited to plan her turn on the St. Paul stage (Drew always had a special little part when he was in it, little ham….and had played one of the three Wise Men/Kings his last year there; Luke was an air maracas champion in his years during their rendition of Feliz Navidad).  The day I was going to take her shopping for her Christmas outfit, she informed me in very clear terms that she would not be participating in the show.  When pressed, she had very little explanation as to why, just that she would not be singing.  Period.  She didn’t like being on stage and refused to even entertain the thought of singing or smiling in front of an audience.  Despite the fact that she is literally my mini-me, I sat blinking at her and wondering how she could possibly be my child. I thought I was quite clever when I told her that if she didn’t sing, none of us would go.  I had no desire to sit and watch other people’s pre-schoolers sing if mine didn’t.  Her answer was, “Fine.”  Problem solved.  We missed our first performance in years.  Ouch.

I had no expectations of this year.  So imagine my surprise when my spunky little non-conformist came home and informed us that she was so excited about her pending performance and special part in it.  She kept mentioning Baby Jesus, and holding him and waiting for her turn to walk in, and practicing songs….. As it turned out, those brave souls at her school cast her in the role of Mary.  I was floored, a bit proud, and more than a little hesitant.  She tends to have her own ideas and interpretations, our little Bug…..plus, she really doesn’t like to be put in the spotlight (I still have no words for this) unless it’s in a very controlled situation.  And, you know, sassy isn’t a strong enough word to describe her.  Serene and obedient, not so much.  The day of the performance, one of her teachers told me she clinched the part because of her ability to remember and follow cues without prompting….and because she wasn’t likely to pick her nose in front of everyone.  Fabulous.  Glad to know she aced the casting call.

The morning of her debut, we talked about it the whole way to school.  We reviewed how fun it would be, and how cool it was she was such an important part (even though her Mary costume choked her), and how she would do her part just like in practice no matter what (apparently, Baby Jesus had a wardrobe malfunction the day before in rehearsal when she dropped him and his cloth diaper fell off…prompting the staff to safety pin his clothes on…..no one needs a nativity story that involves the Savior of the world mooning a crowd), and how the whole family would be there to clap for her and take pictures, etc.  She was quite taken with the idea of being the center of the universe for an evening, but a little nervous about being in front of an audience (seriously – how did her dad’s genes trump me there?).  I just kept staring at her, thinking, “How is she big enough to be doing this?”

We took up an entire row in the beautiful little chapel filled with parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, family friends and anyone else roped into coming.  There were cameras everywhere and babies cooing or crying as they became restless five seconds after settling in to wait for the show to start.  There were the inevitable children who cried until they ran off the stage or were walked to sit with their parents.  There was shuffling around as we jockeyed for video recording position.  Performers looked anxiously around until they found their people, then stopped whatever they were supposed to be doing to wave enthusiastically or shout, “Hi, Mommy!” The sound of children singing filled the air, and the characters of the nativity entered as cued by the lines of the story.  Adorable young ones trooped across the stage dressed as stars, angels, sheep, donkeys, wise men, an inn keeper, Joseph and, finally, Mary.

She was the cutest thing ever, our beloved Mary, as she entered oh-so-seriously, carrying her precious cargo. Never mind that she held the doll the way you or I would carry in a load of firewood…..it was darling. She walked to the center of the stage and stood by Joseph, holding the baby carefully, and then placing him in the manger right on cue (no drops, no clothing issues).  And while I wouldn’t classify her as the most enthusiastic singer up there, she stayed her ground and participated the entire time.  All of the nativity participants were amazing sports, posing for a plethora of pictures at the end of the pageant.  They even smiled for most of them.

If you ever need a reminder of the magic of Christmas, go watch children perform the story.  There is no better cure for a worn or fretful heart.

As I stood in that chapel, these words were stamped all over mine.

John 3:17 – For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

I watched and listened to all of the people around me.  I watched friends and family smile and laugh and hug.  I watched babies and toddlers being passed from person to person, getting kisses and hugs and smiles galore.  I watched proud parents and grandparents take pictures, pose for pictures and exclaim over their tiny thespians with giant smiles and boundless zeal.  I watched teachers beam and students preen under the spotlight of accomplishment.  I heard greetings and goodbyes and laughter and conversation.  I heard the Father’s children, gathered together in His name, acknowledging His birth and presence and gift to humanity, as they enjoyed each other in His house.

I watched and listened.  And it was perfect.

Because it was exactly the point.  God sent His Son to us, through unconventional means, in the most humble beginning imaginable, so that we could be saved.    The story is simple, yet no less amazing because of that. The facts are easy to remember, easy to repeat, easy to teach.  They are supposed to be, so that anyone can learn them, even a small child.  Or perhaps a rushed and frazzled adult.

No one in that lovely chapel seemed rushed or frazzled in our time together.  There was peace, not in the form of quite, but in the absence of restlessness or confrontation.  There was joy, as we laughed and loved and celebrated the birth of our Lord in through the accomplishments of our children.  There was hope, as we gazed on our little stars beneath the lights of the Christmas stage, and let them guide us into the Spirit of the season. We were a family, if only for that moment, catching a glimpse of what that is supposed to feel like, what it will feel like when we carouse with the actual guest of honor someday.

I was so grateful, and so humbled that night.
I continue to be so, as we rush headlong into the final days before Christmas.
The perfect plan deserves nothing less than our best….but our best according to what His plan meant.
In my rush to check off lists and create the perfect meal and buy the right gifts and perpetuate traditions, I am convicted to celebrate in the way Jesus envisions.  To stop and breathe, and thank Him and remember that He came and why.  To love my family and my neighbor, and remember just how much He loves them – as much as He loves me.  To cherish togetherness and bonding, and to spread His light as I run from place to place.  To embody joy, and pass on this message to my children in a way that is real and tangible and permanent.

To know the reason for the season in a way that I live it, truly live it, in every fiber of my being.  That, my lovelies, would be the best gift of all.

Solidarity, sisters.  May your days be merry and bright.



Fit by FortyMy adorable (and at times, annoyingly motivated) husband made the pronouncement a few weeks ago that he has a major life goal in mind.  Drum roll, please – I know you’re all waiting with baited breath on this one.  His goal is to be in the best shape of his life on his 40th birthday.  Yep, you read that right.  I heard it right.  That’s the plan.  My first reaction to this announcement was to plaster a look of mild interest and pleasant smile on my face while deciding how honestly to react.  My inner dialogue went a little something like this:  Seriously?  Why on Earth is that the goal?  Why can’t we have a goal that involves travel or experiencing exotic culture (still waiting on my trip to Greece, hon) or shopping?  Or perhaps travel while shopping and experiencing new culture?  That would cover all the bases. And be way more fun.  I hear Italy has fabulous shopping….and architecture…..and wine.

After staring at him for an awkward amount of time, I believe my reply ended up somewhere in the vicinity of “well, have fun with that”.  Then, the guilt kicked in.  I mean, really.  Is fitness really that bad of a goal?  He could have had a 40th birthday goal that involves a Harley or (even more) expensive fishing gear or a myriad of other mid-life crises.  And let’s face it, I might as well join in.  If not, I’ll just feel worse about myself when he’s all fit and fabulous and I’m not, since we turn 40 within three weeks of each other (he’s older, just so we’re clear).  So, I told him I’d join him on this quest for fitness nirvana.  Here we go – we have 16-17 months to achieve this dream (and now you all know how old I am – if that’s not authenticity for you, I don’t know what is).  Heaven help me.

Let me clarify the situation for you, just so you know where this project is starting and (likely) heading.  Gregg is already in shape.  He was a fitness trainer in college and is one of the more outdoors-loving, active, physical men in the real world (you know, that doesn’t get paid to do this or have unlimited funds to play or work out all day).  He is incredibly athletic and loves anything that challenges him physically.  Oh, and his metabolism is ridiculous.  He has a history as a cross-country runner as well.  Needless to say, his starting point is a little higher than mine, as (I am sure) are his expectations.  He is driven to do this, and has begun working out at an intensity I can never hope to match.  I refuse to subject myself to sessions of activity with him because, any time I do, I can’t walk for the next three days.

You see where I’m headed with this?

My primary form of exercise in life has been dance.  I played volleyball in high school and ran track, but never anything over 400 meters.  I played on club teams in college (for fun) and have a pretty active lifestyle, but given the choice, a workout likely won’t make my top ten list.  Plus, I’ve had three kids. So any time I have to jump or run or perform high impact activities more than 30 minutes after a potty break, I have a whole new list of issues.  And I really like wine and bread.

And yet, I have given my word.  To my husband, my other half, my soul mate.  Which means I am stuck.

Since this is his idea, he gets to drive the train on it.  And what a train we are on.  We have pulled out all the stops – nutrition, calorie reduction, improved quality of food and water, exercise…..even our sleep patterns are up for review.  For the first time in my life, I agreed to a system cleanse (there’s an experience for you) and am consistently taking vitamins.  We are drinking more water and have given up sodas.  We are ingesting wheat grass and avoiding coffee and tea.  I am shopping at the farmer’s market (which is so cool – I love these local farmers and the amazing produce/pasta/honey/eggs/treasures they sell).  Our energy is up and our weight is starting to go down.

Lest you think all is roses (or that I am lying or delusional), let me share with you some doses of reality…

1.  Exercise – Even without my hubby’s endeavors, I do attempt to motivate myself in this area at intervals.  So, about twice a year, I sign up to run (and I use that word lightly) a 5K, just so I scare myself into at least a semblance of training.  I hate to run.  I’ve never gotten the whole runner’s high thing.  Those endorphins don’t exist in my body.  Yet, all the fitness articles point this out as the fastest and most effective way for women in my age bracket to lose belly fat, so less often than I should, I pull on my running shoes and sports bra and drag myself out to attempt this feat.  The other night was one such time of exercise.  Oh, dear Heavens.  I am so grateful no one was out and about to witness this fiasco, although I am sure most of you could hear my breathing in your respective houses.  The sounds coming out of me were indescribable, truly….and I can generally find a way to describe anything.  At certain points I was cursing, at others I was praying.  I did manage to maintain enough decorum not to do the two together.  My prayer went a bit like this: “Dear God….I know I made a pledge to my husband to do this with him, and I should not renege on it, given that whole trust and obey thing in the wedding vows.  So I’ll make you a deal.  I promise not to give up on this, if you promise it won’t kill me.  Thanks….Amen”. Not the most profound of prayers – I’m sure God saw past it, given how oxygen-deprived I was.  And then I came over a hill and upon a family of deer.  As I chugged closer, I noticed something peculiar…..they didn’t move at all.  Not a hair.  They weren’t startled.  They weren’t afraid.  Nothing.  I mean, I know they heard me coming a mile away, given the volume of my panting.  You’d think they would be at least a little concerned.  Nope.  In fact, one of them looked at the other and made this huffing sound that, I know this sounds crazy, I know was laughter.  Yes, my friends, deer can laugh.  I have witnessed it.  After their chuckle, they went back to grazing, totally dismissing me.  Apparently, I looked close enough to death not to even remotely resemble a threat.  Nice.

2.  Weight – We won’t dwell too long on this one.  Suffice it to say, the goal is to lose it.  Gregg thinks it’s his place to help with weigh-ins.  I disagree.  Guess who’s gonna win that one?  I busted him this morning trying to maneuver me onto the scale during a good morning hug.  I am never sleepy enough to fall for that one.  I think we’re clear now.

3.  Food – As I mentioned previously, we are cleaning up and scaling down that area.  It is causing me to be a more creative and accountable shopper and chef, but that’s not a bad thing.  I am in mourning for the bread and dessert sacrifices, but am resigned to this change.  The decrease in processed food and bleached flour and sugar is good for all of us.

4.  Wine – In a moment of profound wisdom, Gregg took this one off the table and never mentions it at all.  Good man.  Some battles are not worth the cost.

Lifestyle changes are never easy.  Getting into shape, be it physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, or whatever area you are working to improve is always a challenge. It’s more successful when done with a partner or team because we need each other for encouragement and accountability.  You can bet on days when I want to throw in the towel or kill my husband during this undertaking, I’ll be sending S.O.S calls out to the Girls to get me over the hump.  And they will.  They’ll laugh and cajole and encourage and sympathize while commiserating on how men always have it easier and get faster results than us when it comes to these things….which he does, given his metabolism and lack of hormones, but if I’m honest, also due to the afore-mentioned intensity-of-purpose issue.  It’s all good.  This isn’t a contest.  We’re doing it together.
And I have a month longer than he does to work on things.

Solidarity, sisters.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.


The Kick-offPictureIt’s an amazing thing when you get a fire in your heart and soul for a project or path in life.  It’s often a scary thing when you decide to follow the fire onto a new path, and let go of your preconceived notions of who you are and where you always knew you would end up.  When you look around at your life and say, “How did I get here?” in alternating tones of bewilderment or wonder, depending on the day or circumstance or (often in my case) level of volume in your house.  I say that as I try to write this through the various noises and levels of sound coming from my three-year-old daughter….who was fine until I sat down and started trying to actually do something productive and not centered around her.  It’s amazing – I think that all three of my children have a condition in which they become physically ill if they see me sitting for longer than 30 seconds at a time.  They must get it from their dad…who I love dearly, but who also generally manages to have some need or crisis arise if I sit down….he makes it closer to 90 seconds, though.  Sometimes.  Must be the adult version of the syndrome.

And now I am totally off topic.  And any hope I had of getting off to a start in which I may seem somewhat profound is blasted into oblivion.  Which is probably for the best, since that is how my life goes 99% of the time. I think it’s how most of us function anyway, if we’re honest.  And for the small percentage of women out there to whom this doesn’t resonate….well, you won’t be interested in this blog.  Unless you need to laugh and shake your head at anecdotes that prove just how together you have it compared to the rest of us.  Or if you run out of things to put on your prayer list.  In that case, head on over.  I have a veritable treasure trove for you.

I think this first blog is supposed to be somewhat of a mission statement, letting anyone who may stumble upon it know my purpose and goals for writing it and what they can expect if they read it.  To that I say…. well….. I’m not sure how to phrase that.  I recently took over the Women’s Ministry at my church (God help us all) because of the above-mentioned fire issue, and because the older I get, the more I realize just how much of a sisterhood we need in life.  I have lost count of the number of conversations I have had with other women in which I hear some form of the expression, “I am so hungry for authenticity”.  So, perhaps the simplest description of my thought process is this – so am I, sister….aren’t we all…. And that’s what has given me the courage to step out, open my mouth and let my thoughts be heard.  I have no illusions that anything I say or write will be life-changing or profound, or even something that hasn’t been said before.  But it will be authentic.  And it will be filled with love and honesty and more than a touch of humor.  Because the truth is, we need all of those things in this life.  God formed us to need them, and to need community with each other as well as with Him.  So let’s follow orders, do what we were made to do, and hang on to each other as we forge our way through a lifetime of crazy.

Side note:  I did have to pause there for a moment to join my daughter in a squealing, hoppy dance in the kitchen as we worked together to kill a spider.  She was the spotter, I was the smusher.  Solidarity, sister.  We’re starting her early…….