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Monday, July 29, 2013

The Power of Routine and Words

We all have routines. Coffee, paper, shower, work. Home, go through the mail, change into PJ's, dinner. Pull the top off an Oreo, lick the inside off...leaving just a bit of creme, devour one chocolate half, then the other. Sock, shoe, sock, shoe. Or sock, sock, shoe, shoe.

We all do things a certain way because it's comfortable. Mindless. Easy. But sometimes, we do things a certain way because we can't do them any other way. For me, it's the way I write and edit. When I've written my books, I've typed away at the computer. Allowing my thoughts to pour through my fingertips effortlessly. Yet, when I've edited my books, I print them out and scribble on them with pen old-school style. I simply can't edit on the screen.

Tonight, I needed to write a poem. I'm writing the story of my friend, Michelle, and how she's not only lived with but embraced her son, Nick's, disease. We've decided to include a poem before each section of the book. When I sat down to write the poem, I couldn't do it on the computer. I had to go old school. Sock, sock, shoe, shoe.

This reminded me of many things. First, I love the feel of paper in my fingers. Second, I don't actually use a pen enough to keep my handwriting legible. But--most importantly--I love words. Their power surpasses most things. You can live your life full of love but say one thing wrong and go back to start. You can live your life full of hate but say one thing redemptive and go back ten spaces. "Love" and "Hate" have equal consequences when it comes to revealing the heart. 

We must all be mindful of the power of our words. Once spoken, they can never be taken back. So use your words to love, heal, be kind, encourage, uplift. Because for every ten words of encouragement, there will be one that knocks someone backwards. Instead of letting your words be a fist, let them be friendship. Encouragement. Love. What you would want to hear.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Reminder of our Country's Greatness

Several years ago, I read, "God Grew Tired of Us." It's the amazing story of the Lost Boys of Sudan. These children fled their homeland after their families were butchered. Many died due to starvation, dehydration, and sickness. Their clothing came from trucks that tossed shirts and pants to them. Shoes that didn't quite fit but that allowed them to walk across the continent without aggravating sores on the soles of their feet. Many of the ones that survived the exodus ended up in America through sponsorships from charities and churches. In the book, it describes one of the boy's wonder in the airport bathroom at not only the running, clean water, but that fact that it starts by simply waving your hand.

Tonight, on 60 minutes, they had a 12-year follow-up on many of these boys. Some became preachers. Some lawyers. Some simply hard-working Americans (they studied and gained citizenship). This is what makes me proud to be an American. These children survived the loss of their entire families. They walked for hundreds of miles across African deserts, and ended up in the U.S. They created amazing new lives.

Being American isn't just about protecting what we have, it's about the open doors that have made us great. The Statue of Liberty, one of our most respected monuments, bears a broken chain at her feet. The words of hope and compassion inscribed on her state: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

I was reminded tonight that America is a place of hope. Rebirth. If you watch the documentary (yes, it's a National Geographic one. I'm a dork.), you'll see these children living in huts. Kicking a soccer ball in the dust. Carrying containers of water because their homes have none. Yet, they speak English because they dream of a better life. It always humbles me to see children in an impoverished nation speaking our language when most Americans only speak English.

When these children stood in front of a cork board and saw their names, realizing that they'll be sponsored to come to the U.S., it brought me to my knees. We take so much for granted. And we are so blessed.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Have You Ever Really Unplugged?

Only a generation ago, our parents left their jobs and drove home to their families at night. They had dinner, talked to their kids, and went to bed knowing they would have an uninterrupted night's sleep. If you needed to speak with someone, you picked up a phone and talked with them. You respected the dinner hour. You respected weekends. You respected vacations. There were times when good manners and a respect for someone's time with family demanded an impenetrable bubble that allowed them to simply be the husband, father, son, friend that gave them the reason for being.

With today's technology, the lines have blurred to the point of non-existence. Evenings, weekends, and vacations are no longer times of solace. Unwinding and catching a much-needed breath used to lie within the confines of a Saturday to Sunday, but now email, text messages, and phone calls penetrate that space where we used to breathe.

Yes, technology has allowed the freedom of "being home" more by allowing email and text messages to preclude the requirement of being in the office. We can now sit in PJ's and drink our coffee while fielding questions and addressing emails, but we sacrifice on the back side. Our evenings are never our own. Or Sunday mornings. Or vacations. The bubble has popped. The siren song of a life disconnected pulls us into a life of constant connect that, ironically, disconnects us from those we most want to be connected to.

Through Facebook, I know about what's going on with friends that I haven't seen in years. While I know less about my friends who live literally next door. I text my best friend rather than pick up the phone and speak to her. My mother-in-law learns about what her grandchildren do by looking at my Facebook page instead of seeing photographs in her inbox or hearing their voice on the phone telling of their latest adventures.

The past four days, the lake house we rented had no TV and slow cell service. So instead of watching a movie, we played board games and laughed and learned about one another. We sat on a dock and did nothing. We went on boat rides and enjoyed the beauty of what surrounded us. It was amazing.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What's Your Kryptonite?

A couple of months ago, we adopted a sweet little dog from the Humane League. As soon as my friend, Cherisse, who walks dogs for them, posted his picture, my heart sang, "He's ours!" Since we've brought him into our home, he's been the poster pup for the Humane League. Sweet. Loyal. Loving. Thrilled to have a home. Here's a pic of the sweetie.

Dean has been an amazing addition to our family. His purity of heart has reminded us of unconditional love. He has zero boundaries born from a boundless joy. Even when his canine sisters are being cranky, he kisses them on the face. If they growl at him, he wags his tail and licks them anyway. 

But sometimes, he can be nudgy. Whether it's Monday or Sunday, he's up at 6 am, licking my face to go potty. Part of me appreciates his waking me up, while part of me says, "Dean, just 15 more minutes." Recently, I realized something. If you take a blanket and hold it up, he will go into it, fall down and sleep. Regardless of how wide-awake his puppiness is. Regardless of the hour. If you put a blanket on top of him, he falls down like a house of cards. It's his Kryptonite. 

We all have our own Kryptonite. That thing that drops us to our knees when we feel our strongest. That envelopes us and steals all focus. No matter what is going on in our lives, it can level us in a second and bring us to ground zero.

For me, it's the word, "Mommy." My kids are older and more independent. So when they say, "Mommy," my heart melts and every ounce of me spills to the floor in a big, gushy mess. And nothing else matters in that moment but them.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

We All Need Someone Walking Beside of Us, Ready to Pass the Ball To

On the 4th of July, before BBQ's and fireworks, I went to meet my peeps at Crossfit Uncompromised. I must admit, I was a little scared. Holiday WODs (workouts) tend to be intense. That might seem redundant for anyone who does Crossfit, but there are workouts and there are WORKOUTS. But I decided to push it. And it pushed back. The workout was a "partner" one where you split the movements with someone. The work? An 800 meter run carrying a heavy medicine ball. 50 wall-balls. 400 meters of walking lunges. 50 sit-ups with the medicine ball. 200 meters of burpees. 50 pull-ups.

I asked the amazing, beautiful Karen King to partner with me. Looking at the board, every ounce of me said, "I got this." But during the burpee phase, Karen carried me. During the walking lunge phase, Karen did more than half. And during the wall balls, the owner, Tricia, picked up my slack. She allowed me to rest until the final stretch of the workout--carrying the medicine ball during a run. I took the ball from Tricia determined to finish for Karen. For me.

When Karen passed the 12 pound medicine ball to me, she said, "I'll take it at the turn." But when I made that turn, with 100 meters to go, I made a decision. I was angry that my body had let me down only a few minutes before. It had betrayed me in making me think that I couldn't lift my arms one more time. So with Karen shouting, "Do you want to give it to me?" I couldn't answer. I saw her looking back as she ran ahead, checking on me to see if I needed to give her the weight. I heard my Crossfit family cheer to my right, "Come on, Lesa!" And I began to chant--first under my breath, but then aloud--"I got this. I got this."

When I dropped that medicine ball at the finish line, it was over. But I wasn't simply dropping a medicine ball on a gym floor. I was finishing something. Only a moment before, I sat shaking my head at having given up after hitting a physical wall. Angry that I'd asked my friend, Tricia, to help me finish. But the breath she allowed me gave me a chance to pull it together and finish.

We often try to fight our way through things that we simply cannot do on our own. We think we can. We push to the point of physical, mental or emotional exhaustion. To failure. To the point where we simply must pass the medicine ball because we can no longer carry it. That is friendship. That is family. That is life.

Becoming stronger requires weathering things by having someone walk beside us. Ready to carry the ball.