Control

Dear Mom [Week 6]

Hi mom,

Wow, it amazes me at how much your voice has become a healing balm for my soul. I wish I would have recognized that more for dad before he was gone. Thanks for my pep talk on Wednesday night. Oh, how validating it is to just talk with someone over the phone who can see straight through the cellular airwaves. “Alice, you sound so tired. I hope you can get to bed  early tonight.” Even if I didn’t, just hearing that you wished it for me gave me greater strength to endure. Thank you, mom. For Wednesday and all the thousands of other times just like it. How fortunate I am to have you in my corner.

I was out walking Olive last night at 10:30 PM and a truck hauling a trailer full of stuff drove by. I had to sit down on the curb for a bit because my heart and mind felt like dad had just passed by showing me that he is still hard at work and happy. Then, I had a dream last night. It is my first I’ve had of dad since he passed away. I was showing a friend a video of my dad of how healthy he was on the day he died. He reached out from the cell phone screen jumping and hopping, waving and smiling. He was laughing. I never recognized the  full value of his smile until he was gone. While I dreamt, his smile filled my whole soul with light. It illuminated from his eyes and mouth to his face and everything beyond.  I woke up so happy. I felt like dad was telling me not to worry because he is right back to his old healthy happy ways. How much fun we always had with you and dad! Compared to our neighbors’ possessions, we had next to nothing, but we sure did have everything. I felt like we really got the best of both worlds. A third-world country carefree closeness combined with so many first-world conveniences.

I’m sorry these letters are getting harder to decipher.  I am so tired all of the time, and it is hard to write. I can’t even seem to think straight. When you called last Friday from the DI crying, it truly broke my heart. I wish I could take away your pain, mom. I hated (and still hate) that you were (and still are) lonely, but then when you said, “I feel better, just hearing your voice,” it made me so humbled and grateful that even though I can’t take it away, I could provide a little comfort in the moment. I am so glad Adam could come visit. I am partially jealous that he has the kind of freedom to do that, but I am more grateful than anything. I need to make it a priority to come visit very soon, no matter how crazy busy I am. Adam is just as busy, if not more so.

It’s Friday, therefore I should be getting homework done. It’s 1:13 PM, and I have yet to even start. I’ve had a great day. I woke up and listened to President Uchtdorf’s talk from Women’s Conference, and consequently I just wanted more. I then listened to Elder Holland’s talk from the Priesthood Session. In between my new visiting teacher came over. God has been with me today. He answered my prayers. He never answers in the way that I want Him to, but He does answer. I’ve been really preoccupied with LG and Abigail lately. One of my questions going into conference was how I could help both LG and Abigail with their individual struggles. I get so impatient, and I know a majority of the time I just exacerbate stuff. When I asked the question, I hoped God would tell me exactly how I could MAKE them do what I know is best. Ha. God has never answered me one time, in all my almost 43 years, to tell me anything about anyone else. Today, has been true to God’s pattern.

Between Sunny (my visiting teacher), Holland, and Ucthdorf I got three witnesses all telling me that same thing. I need to have more faith, I need to love better and deeper, and I need to be patient and kind. They all sounded just like you, mom. Maybe someday Abigail will actually write me a letter that says, “Hey, mom, thanks for telling me what I didn’t want to hear. I know you love me. And, you were right. My entire life.” Well, there you go, mom. There is everything you ever wanted to hear. You know me well. I know that you love me. And, I hope I can learn to love like you do, more devoutly and patiently. Why does it have to be so hard? I wish I could just make everyone else change to my liking, instead of having to work on making myself more like-able.

As I sat pondering how I could make the changes I needed to make, I saw a video a friend of mine posted on facebook. It was a song by Andrea Bocelli and Katherine McFee called “The Prayer”. As I watched and listened to the beautiful lyrics, I started praying along.

I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know

Let this be our prayer
As we go our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe

I pray we’ll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When stars go out each night
Remind us where you are

Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

We ask that life be kind
And watch us from above
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love

Let this be our prayer
Just like every child
Needs to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

Need to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

I almost felt like I was praying to both God and dad. I hope that doesn’t come across sacrilegious. When I got to the part where it says, “Let this be our prayer, just like every child, needs to find a place” I got a fourth witness. It was an answer from God, about me, about you, and about dad. It was jetted straight through my skin and brain and arrived straightway to my heart. “Create a place for every child, just like your mom and dad. Be their place. Be their safe place.” That means, I have to do that for everyone. Not just my kids, but my husband, too. It’s a daunting message. How can I ever do that when I am still such a child needing such a place? But, I will try, mom. I will try. How I love you and dad. You both have issues, but you both keep trying. You are children who need a safe place, but despite your own needs being met or not, you always created that place for others. You know how to love. Thank you for showing me what that looks like. I will try to be like you, mom. And like dad. Because ultimately I know I will end up looking like God.
Two more songs followed as I typed to you just now while listening to “The Prayer” again trying to muster my strength to get up from my laptop. I don’t want to. I just want to stay here where it is safe, and I won’t mess anything up with my controlling, impatience, criticism, or aggressiveness. The songs were “Time to say Goodbye” and then “Hero.” I could hear dad’s voice singing. He told me we will go together again in a ship, and that even though he knows he’s my hero, he was just an ordinary dude who kept trying and loving. I could hear him say, “Alice, you can keep trying. You can keep loving.”
It’s not Wednesday night. You aren’t on the phone. It’s Friday morning, and for the second time this week I got a pep-talk from my parents. My dad called all the way from heaven. How about that? I didn’t even have to ask you to talk to him. He just knew I needed him.
I love you, mom. Until next week… here are the lyrics. I hope you get to hear dad telling you about the ship you will sail again, too.

 

Excerpted from “Time to say Goodbye”
When I’m alone
I dream on the horizon
and words fail;
yes, I know there is no light
in a room where the sun is absent,
if you are not with me, with me.
At the windows
show everyone my heart
which you set alight;
enclose within me
the light you
encountered on the street.
Time to say goodbye
To countries I never
Saw and shared with you,
now, yes, I shall experience them.
I’ll go with you
On ships across seas
which, I know,
no, no, exist no longer,
with you I shall experience them again.
I’ll go with you
On ships across seas
Which, I know,
No, no, exist no longer;
with you I shall experience them again.
I’ll go with you,
I with you.

“Hero”

There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are
There’s an answer
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know
Will melt away

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you

It’s a long road
When you face the world alone
No one reaches out a hand
For you to hold
You can find love
If you search within yourself
And the emptiness you felt
Will disappear

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you

Lord knows
Dreams are hard to follow
But don’t let anyone
Tear them away
Hold on
There will be tomorrow
In time
You’ll find the way

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you

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Lessons from the trail: that dude on the bike

Fotor_144077863385631I’m walking down the trail yesterday with my baby in a stroller and my dog darting about.  My trail is asphalt, but there is a great surrounding riparian area where my dog loves to explore. She chases birds, sniffs for treasures, drinks from puddles. I imagine her trail-time is much like mine: she feels free and at ease with her instincts.

So, at one point this cyclist comes roaring around a curve, and almost runs over my dog. Not really slowing down, the cyclist shouted at me over his shoulder: “Please keep your dog on a leash so she won’t run in front of the bikers.”

What he had no way of knowing is that like the guy suggested and the law commands, I used to keep my dog on the leash.  However, I found that the outstretched leash was a big problem for the cyclists. They would have to come to a complete stop behind oblivious me in my headphones, my wide stroller, the leash of death off to my left, and my dog trying to sniff the other side of the trail.

So, over a period of about three years I’ve learned to just let the dog run, and hope for the best. Whenever there is another dog approaching I quickly apply the leash.  Lately though I’ve been searching for the right solution as there are a lot more cyclists during the earlier time that I’ve been using the trail. Sometimes Olive has obliviously jet out in front of them and I realize that’s a problem.

For the rest of my walk, I was considering this cyclist. I started out angry with the overpowering thought of, “how dare he?” “What makes him think he’s the king of the trail?” I silently deliberated on how aggressive he would have been had my dog been on a leash and he didn’t just have to slow down but stop altogether. I thought about all who share the trail and wondered if in ignorance I hadn’t been being considerate enough. Eventually my heart softened and I allowed the idea that perhaps I was the arrogant one and he was right to reprimand me.

Fast forward 6 hours to my daughter’s high-school soccer game.  The opposing school’s soccer field is less than ideally situated. The sun blares down on it and on one whole sideline there is nowhere for spectators to sit at all.  The school always posts signage telling the opposing team to sit west of the 50 in hot and sunny and the home team to sit east of the 50 where it is partially shaded. However above the sideline up a small hill is an adjacent park almost totally shaded by towering trees. Having hauled four of my children, a picnic dinner, and five camping chairs from the distant parking lot, and worrying over the baby getting too much sun exposure, we situated ourselves in the shade of the park. We expected to be there for two whole games (about four hours) as my daughter is rostered on Varsity but usually only plays on JV. Technically we were over the line in the opposing side’s territory, but we were so far back I hardly thought it mattered.

Fast forward to fifteen minutes into the second half of the varsity game. My friend Jen had showed up just after I did and was sitting next to me with her kids. West of her about 5 feet was an elderly gentleman in his chair. At some point, a gentlemen stood talking to friends directly in front of the elderly man at a coupling of chairs closer to the field at the top of the hill. The elderly man kindly raised his voice, “Down in front, sir.”  The dude turned around and glared at the man and then turned back to the game. The elderly man did not relent. Again, “Down in front, sir.” At this point the man turned around and with the angriest face and beaming eyes said, “I’m having a conversation.” The old man: “I’m trying to watch the game.” The ball-capped late-40 angry dude:  “Well, why can’t you stand?” The old dude:  “Because I am sitting.”  The ball cap man was ticked off and seemed to think that the old guy was being completely unreasonable. He failed to see the “share the trail” mentality.

In defense of the old man, twice I said loud enough for the man to hear, “It’s just soccer etiquette, sir.”  It didn’t take long for him to turn on me. He walked in my direction and screamed, “Why do you think you have anything to say to me?” If you know me, you know I rarely back down. I said, “Because you were just really rude to this man, and I was defending him in the soccer etiquette.” Boy, did that make him even more mad. He still kept coming at me physically and vocally. “You want to talk about soccer etiquette, do you? What team are you from?” I honestly answered the name splattered across my t-shirt. He said, “You aren’t even supposed to be sitting here.” I silently realized four things: 1- This guy liked to deflect his bad behavior on to others 2- he was probably the one who always posted the less-than-inviting signs, 3- he was in a foul mood because our team was spanking his, and 4- there was a reason his team played so physically and aggressive.

Unsettled that my husband wasn’t there to gently lay his magic hand of mouth-control on my forearm, I quickly mulled over my options. One of which was him baling me out of jail at a later time. Lucky for my husband, I had small children to tend to and didn’t completely trust myself, so I knew I needed to stop him from coming at me. Loudly I declared, “Listen sir, I am crazy. Certifiably crazy. Papers and medication and everything. You really don’t want to mess with me. I am probably the last person here you want to pick a fight with.” He instantly retreated from me as if I would whip out a gun at any second and subsequently was finally out of the view of the old man. My friend Jen busted a gut. I busted a gut. The old man looked satisfied. Although with a lot less confidence, the mean guy was still mouthing off from a distance, I shut him out by suggesting that maybe he should get some medication too. We never heard any more from him.

Jen said, “What kind of man treats an old man and two mothers like that?” I answer her here, “the kind that thinks he doesn’t have to share the trail.”

The old guy turned to us and said, I’m actually here to watch his team, but I wasn’t about to say it.”

Lessons from the trail: the dog, the cats, and the leash.

IMG_20141107_104326I couldn’t help but sing aloud, “On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again,” as I drove up the street towards my beloved Murdock Canal Trail. You see, about 10 months ago I found myself really struggling with my running regimen. I felt like my bladder was just going to drop right out of my body. Shortly before I started struggling I found out that I was expecting baby Max and shortly after giving up during that first (and last) gruesome mile and turning back around to limp my sad self home, I ended up in the E.R. I had a prolapsed uterus and my doctor forbade me from running. Even walking long distances would not allowed for the duration of my pregnancy.

As many of you know, my trail-time is one of my most favorite things. I love being out in nature. I love the sunshine. I love the rain. I even love the snow. As I watch closely for all the little details in the world around me, I simultaneously dump all my cares out of my overloaded brain. One by one they are left on the gravel as I trample them under my feet headed for a lighter future. My trail-time not only makes me feel great physically, but without it I start to fall apart a little mentally.

So, earlier this week, when I was finally able to get back on the trail I was beyond ecstatic. Even with taking Max along in the stroller I was finally able to get the therapeutic benefit that I have been missing tremendously. [If you don’t understand what I am talking about, I double-dog dare you to find a quiet trail near you and spend time walking on it every day – make sure you let me know how it changes you because I promise it will.]

Okay, okay, on with the story as part of my series “lessons from the trail”. I feel like Henry David Thoreau in Walden when I write these stories. Nature is a powerful philosopher. So, on Monday, there I was, back on the trail again. I was multi-tasking at its finest, pushing Max in the stroller, supervising the dog on and off of the leash, listening to my tunes, and observing the world around me.

Why do I put the dog on AND off the leash you ask? I’m so glad you did ask, that’s what my story is all about. You see, our dog, Olive, is naughty. I have her partially trained, but she refuses to be fully broken. She reminds me of….well….me. Olive will run after whatever catches her attention and completely ignore my incessant calls. She especially loves birds and cats…probably much like all the other dogs. Another thing about Olive is that she only gets along with about 50% of other dogs that we encounter. If she doesn’t like the other dogs, she will go after them until she has their full submission to her dominance.

This doesn’t work out so well when the other dogs have the same personality. So, given her disobedience (not to mention the leash laws) I should really never let her off the leash, but, you see, she, like me, loves to roam free in the mountains. So, when no one is around I let her run and explore as long as she doesn’t go too far off the trail. As soon as I spot someone off in the distance (and before Olive has a chance to attack their dogs) I hurry and put her back on the leash until the others are safely past us. I also put her on the leash when small children are approaching or if I notice anything else that will cause her to run off like a doggy lunatic.

And there it was…something that would make Olive crazy…about 100 feet ahead of us, a cat was sunning right in the middle of the path. I hurried and grabbed Olive (who does well to get on the leash if she doesn’t detect anything of extra interest – lucky for me, my eyes seem to be better than hers) and walked on. I held her at a close distance and we marched right on by that cat without incident. Olive noticed the cat but didn’t yank my arm off to go after her. She just barked a few times and focused ahead.

And there was my lesson for the day. If I place myself on the end of that leash, I think that sometimes I also pass the test, as did Olive. I think if I am aware of the big picture and know that just shortly up the path there may be something else of better interest to me I don’t get all crazy. If I behave I will be let off the leash to get a close-up of what is best for me, which is probably not what I think is best for me. Because of the leash I allow myself to be tethered to (which for me is my faith and beliefs) I am freed from so many unnecessary distractions. The key though is that I have to be willing to be leashed so that I don’t run off before I have a chance to think things through. I also have to trust my maker and know that He will unleash me when I am ready and/or safe. It was a profound observation for me as I resist being controlled in any manner.

Then, just as I finished processing all of the leash metaphors in my own life, I noticed another cat. I hurried and put Olive on the leash again, hoping for the same success to support my observation. This time, however, I was disappointed. I braced myself as Olive took off, as usual, only to be thwarted by the yank of her collar on the leash. I never understand why dogs don’t learn!

I’ll leave you walking along with me on the trail trying to make sense of the second cat encounter. You can surely come up with your own comparisons, as did I, but I will give you this: I was instantly filled with gratitude for my maker who always stands with the leash, waiting for me to heed his calls instead of taking off after who knows what. He has a grand journey prepared for me and no matter how many times I allow myself to be distracted with my own ridiculous notions, He never lets go. And someday, in the very distant future, I am sure that I will be strong enough to not need a leash, until then, though, I will gladly tether myself to it.

IMG_20141107_104356 (1)

Saving Ourselves and I’m Not Talking about Premarital Sex

saving yourselfA while back our marriage counselor said this,

“There is nothing that will make an individual sexier than for them to take care of themselves instead of looking outside themselves to be saved.”

We were discussing my ability to stay under budget and something that my husband needed to do for himself – I can honestly say I have no recollection of what his homework was. That’s a good sign that I am rightly focusing on myself.

She continued, “Alice, you need to understand that when you are staying under budget, it is a real telltale sign to LG that he can trust you to take care of yourself. When you do what you need to do to be financially secure, he will look at you with a whole new-found respect.In fact you will not only be trustworthy but sexy.”

Last night I screwed up. I didn’t go over budget. Yeah for me! I did let my husband down by not really knowing what to do once he was vulnerable in telling me his fears. In fact I totally floundered.

I just sent him off an e-mail – sometimes communicating through writing is so much easier than words. I tried to apologize and I also tried to explain that I need to feel the security that he can take care of his own problems. After I hit “send” I went over to Pinterest wasting time until preschool starts this morning and this pin came up.

This says exactly what I was trying to say in about 300 words less than I did. It also spoke to me as if from my husband. Ofttimes I go directly into save mode when people don’t need saving. I have a huge flaw in thinking that everyone needs saving and I mean EVERYONE. I can’t fathom the idea that people can actually manage their own lives. This incorrect principle at my very core makes it very hard for me to have healthy relationships with people.

Saving ourselves is so much more empowering than waiting for others to save us and yes it’s even sexy. If I can convince myself that the only person I need to save is me then my job responsibility just went down by 99.9%. When I look at it that way saving myself seems simple. I’ve gotten a lot better at saving myself. I now just need to learn how to not only let other people save themselves but also how to best support them while they do. It’s a whole new world that I am navigating.

Lessons from the trail – Surprise Hopscotch

IMG_5463

Last week while I was running on the trail I came across a lovely surprise. Take a look. What would you do? I personally couldn’t let the opportunity pass by. In fact, I even took extra time to get out my phone to photograph it all for you.

I ran in from the top and so when I got to the bottom of the hopscotch where it suggested to take a break, I took it. I stopped my running momentum and planted my feet. As I turned around, to my surprise there were two cyclists and two runners close behind. They didn’t stop but all chuckled as I started to skip through the boxes like a school-girl with a treasure. I giggled at how wonderful it was to just have fun solely for the sake of having fun. I felt twenty years younger. Thirty actually.  My 40-year-old body silently thanked the chalk creator, but my heavy heart and tired mind breathed new life.

What a wonderful idea!

Down the trail I passed an older couple walking a dog and then hit my mileage so I turned around and passed them again on my way back home. I took off my headphones and told them about the hopscotch and declared, “I expect to see you guys have some fun with that.” I turned back to see when I figured they would be right on top of it, disappointingly they  just walked right over the top of it. What a bummer. I so wanted to see the 60 year old folks get the same sense of fun and pleasure I had experienced.

And then the lesson came.

You can’t force other people in to having fun. They have to choose it for themselves.

For me: I choose all the fun I can get. Life is short and I want to enjoy it as much as possible.