Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Evening with the Swifts

I saw one of the most exciting things I've seen in a long time tonight. My good friend Erin and I went downtown Portland to Chapman school to watch the swift birds dance and twirl in the sky, spiraling  into their cozy chimney for the night. Videos just don't do justice to the beauty of it all, but I've attached a portion of one just to get an idea. I've never been to this September show, and neither had Erin. So when we arrived and found our spot on the grass, we really didn't know what we were in for. There were a few swift birds lazily circling the sky above us...but this was only the beginning. As dusk approached, thousands and thousands of swifts appeared out of no where and began circling in the sky above us. They came in together, tighter and tighter, forming perfect black cyclones. They spun, and churned and twisted above us. "I wonder if they could poop on us?"inquired my friend, Erin.
"Nah," I answered. "I don't think they will."
About five minutes later, a nice big green plop fell from the heavens and landed squarely on my white sleeve. I guess they can poop. And they had their target.

Anyhow, I was mesmerized by the swirling circus above me. The mass of birds began to descend towards the chimney, one bird bravely breaking away from the group and diving into the shelter for the night. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a big hawk swooped in, attacked the birds, trying to find a tasty morsel for supper. The crowd gasped in delight at the predator, cheering for his success. The hawk certainly interrupted the flow  of the dance; but after a few minutes of chaos, the birds reunited again and returned to their acrobatic cadence.
video
They entertained us for about an hour, until the sun finally set over Portland. Finally, they did one last magnificent tumble in the fading sky and looped into their resting place.
And there they sleep, nestled together in their warm chimney for the night. Just like that, the once busy sky is dark. The curtain is closed. And all the amused spectators clap and cheer for the pretty little birds who preformed for us on this most perfect evening in September.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

God's Snake


I am spending the week with my husband’s family up in Washington in the San Juan Islands. During this week, I get to spend some time with my little 4 1/2 year old niece who I don’t see all the often. I’m never around children this age. Most of our friends have babies or I work with kids in school who are older. So, it took me awhile to get used to the incessant talking and obsession with princesses and pink. However, I learned that there is something about 4 1/2s that intrigue me. They wander through life, enchanted by everything, puzzled by the obvious and exude such a contagious excitement for life that it’s hard not to jump up and down every time an ice cream cone is offered.
 I saw the world through the eyes of this little one, and within a few days, I began to view the world with the amazement it deserves. 
One sunny day, my niece and I went exploring around the backyard of the little house. I held her hand as she ran around the dry grass, her blue eyes full of excitement and her blond curls bouncing. 
“Come on Aunt Theresa. Let’s look over here!” We saw a rock with moss. It wasn’t even the neon green, spongy moss that entices you to run your hands over it. Yet, she noticed it and was completely enthralled. Suddenly, a gardener snake slithered out from behind the rock, through the grass. She grabbed my hand and shrieked in fear.
“It’s ok,” I said, “God made that snake.” She looked up at me, perplexed, trying to make sense of what I just told her. “You mean it’s God’s snake?”  she asked.
“Yes. And he made it for you so you can look at him.” She paused, looked at the snake and shrugged, venturing on to the next exhibit. 

Soon we came upon it: Mr. Slug. “ Yuck. Gross.” She backed away from the slug, her eyes gazing at it’s slimy trail in disgust. I leaned down, encouraging her to follow my lead. 
“It’s ok. It’s only a slug. He is trying to get home, just like we have a home. God made it.” 

Again, she paused and looked at me, trying to decide if what I said made any sense at all. “ So it’s God’s slug?”  
“Yep, it’s God’s slug.”
Then all at once the area in the backyard we were standing in seemed to come alive. A dragonfly danced passed us, a grasshopper leapt over a rock, a fly buzzed through the air. 
“It’s God’s Dragonfly! It’s God’s cricket! It’s God’s fly!” 
The world around us suddenly got exhilarating as she made the connection that everything around her was God’s and he put it here for her.


Later that night as I sat outside alone on the back porch over looking that ocean and the mountains, a deep red glow enveloped me. I stopped what I was reading and simply looked up. Never has a glow like this so completely consumed me. It was eerie and all I could do was stop and look up. The clouds were on fire, as if a match ignited a single corner of the sky, spreading and sweeping everything up in a brilliant blaze.  Suddenly I felt the excitement that my little niece had for the world around her swell within me. 
“It’s God’s glow,” I whispered to myself. 
And I couldn’t stop staring. 


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Daughter- Knitted Together within Me


Ever have one of those moments when you truly felt like life was happening around you and not to you? I had one of those moments last week when the doctor told me we were going to have a daughter. In my mind, I already picked out HIS bedroom, HIS name, and I felt HIS kicks. 
. Our appointment was marked in big blue letters on my calendar, and it had been something I had anticipated for months. The BIG appointment. The 20-week ultrasound that examined every limb, organ and…eh…other regions. I had taken various on-line gender predictor tests and researched all the wives tale signs and everything pointed to a boy. There was actually no doubt in my mind, and I think I even convinced everyone else that we were having a boy too. I started the morning off getting a filling at the dentist, which left my mouth numb and sore. I ran errands. Cleaned the kitchen from last night’s dinner party at our house. I tried anything to distract myself as I anxiously watched the clock. John admitted that he couldn’t think about the appointment because it made his nervous, anxious and excited. I felt the same way. I think I felt this way because this was the moment when everything was truly validated. For months now I’ve watched my stomach grow; I’ve felt sick; I was tired; I knew I was pregnant, but the mystery of what was actually growing inside of me would finally be revealed. Would he/she have all the limbs? A spine? Would we have a son (like I truly believed) or a daughter? 
As I laid down on the ultrasound examining table, John reached over and took my hand. Suddenly, on the screen appeared fuzzy images. I anxiously tried to figure out what I was looking at. A head? A leg? What was it?! The doctor proceeded to examine each limb, each organ and measure the growth of me. John and I scanned the screen, straining to spot the one organ that would confirm that our baby was indeed a boy. “Wait.there it is!” 
“Nope, that is only the umbilical cord.”
Where is IT!? Where is IT?!!
The technician looked at us and smiled. “You guys are having a girl.
A GIRL?! John looked over at me and smiled. His gaze met mine, and in them he was saying to me, “Well, let the adventure begin!.”
I stared at wonderment at the screen. Our daughter.
I was amazed how each vertebra, each finger, each part was so masterfully crafted. How did all this happen?! I just get up everyday, eat food and go about my business. Yet, during all this, a human being was being created inside of me. The other day I read Psalm 139, a verse I have read so many times before. Yet, it hit me differently this time, and as I looked at the ultrasound pictures of our daughter, I actually had tears form at the corner of my eyelids. For you created my inmost being; 
   
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 

 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
   
your works are wonderful,  I know that full well. 

 My frame was not hidden from you 
when I was made in the secret place, 
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 

 Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
before one of them came to be.

 Never in my life have I felt such immediate affection for someone. This life, this child was the epitome of innocence. It was being formed and created within me and it had no say whether it lived or what was to happen to it next. My instinct was to protect and care for this baby, and I suddenly felt the overwhelming sense of responsibility that it was the job of my husband and I to teach this child right from wrong.

Suddenly I saw the world differently.

During the next few days as I was trying to process having a daughter, everything around me was tinted pink. The women in the magazines were too sexy and airbrushed. The men gazed too long at the pre-teens in the short shorts at the mall. The statistics on the news about the young girls being sold into the sex trade were suddenly terrifying. The world  suddenly became the enemy; yet, I don’t want to view it this way at all.

So now I begin to think, and wrestle, with how to raise a child in this world without her being consumed by it? Is it possible to preserve the innocence that I observed as she nestled within my womb? She will come without an instruction manual. 
But as I sit here and type, this daughter within me is kicking around, reminding me that she is going to immerge eventually. So ready or not, here she comes. And I couldn’t be more excited. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Notes from my travels: Venice is a journey, not a destination

Venice. The city filled with lovers floating down canals as serenades fill the night air. A magical city. A city like none other.  Something  I learned about Venice while there: This city is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the process.

 A lot of places are much different in real life than in movies and pictures; however, I must say that Venice truly exceeds all expectations. We had to take a “water taxi” from the airport, and as we approached the city, I felt like we were coming upon a movie set. The Renaissance-style churches and towers appeared on the horizon and gave John and I that surreal, “I-can’t-believe-I’m-here” feeling. 

Once we got off the boat (with our heavy suitcases) now the challenge began: finding our hotel for the night. Well, we couldn’t hail a taxi because there are no cars. We couldn’t use the elevators or escalators over the many archways and bridges, because there were only concrete steps. My advice: pack lightly or find a nice husband. :) 




The streets were narrow alleyways, filled with lost tourists, enticing bakeries and gelaterias, and pigeons. The maps were useless because the alleyways never seemed to match the name on the map; and even if they did, one labyrinth flowed into the next, connected by beautiful bridges and canals. The canals were helpful navigation devices; if we hit water, we were going the wrong way. We were rats in a maze, trying to find our hotel, and it really felt like someone kept moving our cheese.



 After wandering around and seemingly passing the same gelaterias….the same lion-headed door knockers….and the same umbrella tables by the canal, I wanted to collapse. No sleep for 36 hours makes a person wandering through concrete mazes even more insane than usual. Finally defeated, we asked someone and they pointed to a wooden door, only 20 yards before us. How many times have we passed this same door? Oh well, it didn’t matter now. We were here, and the little hotel was truly what anyone would picture a hotel in Venice to look like.


 It was a vintagey, cherry paned, Venetian styled place with a friendly staff; the window from our bedroom looked right out into the canal and passing gondolas. 




We had dinner that night at a table next to a canal. As you can imagine, everything in Venice is squeezed into every available space. Our table was pushed near another couples table, who we actually struck up a conversation with. They were from Norway, vacationing for several weeks on a rented houseboat with some friends. They shared stories (and even their wine) as we enjoyed our first Italian dining experience.




 Later that night, we traipsed around the city, taking in St. Marks Square. We shared pistachio and tiramisu gelato while being serenaded by a beautiful orchestra. The pigeons flew around; the cool evening breeze came in off the water; and water surrounded our feet….wait…what?!! Yes, it’s true. Many people say Venice is sinking ( you better visit soon!) and while we were standing in the square, water was leaking through the concrete vents, filling the area around us. I’m not sure if this floods every night, but it definitely was turning into a small pond.





 We decided to get out of the water and on it by taking a night ride down the Grand Canal, which is the major canal that runs through the city. Everything all lit up at night looked simply enchanting.

 All we needed now to complete the Venice experience was to get lost again. And we did. However, wandering aimlessly in circles in alleyways sounds more dangerous than it is in this city. There is no crime because really, where would a criminal escape to??? There aren’t many people out and about after midnight, but every time we met a local, we provided them their entertainment for the night by trying to direct the dumb lost American tourists to their hotel. (especially this one table of Italian men, who took a break from their drink and cigarettes to banter over which way the lost tourists should go, ripping the map back and forth between them). After an hour (or more) of wandering the rat maze in the dark, I wanted to cry.  If John wasn’t with me, I probably would of found a little corner and cuddled up there until sunrise. In one last-ditch attempt to find our place, we asked a man smoking outside his apartment. He looked at us funny and pointed directly in front of us. Ha! There it was! Right there. We probably circled it several time but it looked different because it was all closed up for the night.

 I collapsed in my bed, exhausted and dizzy. However, if I have to get lost, there is no better place to do so! Venice is truly a marvelously, confusing city…one that I’d get lost in again.  



Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The First Day of the Rest of my Life


 Last week at this time I was complaining about the weather, dragging my feet to work, and trying to decide what I should wear to make myself look less pale in the mirror.
A few hours later, I was crumpled over on the floor, totally distraught and unable to think clearly because the life I once knew seemed like it was going to change drastically...or suddenly end.

The doctor called. He left a message on my phone saying he had the results of my MRI I had last week. I expected “all clear.” After all, I’ve always been “all clear.” I took pride in how I took care of myself: my eating habits, my vitamin rituals, my exercise routines, my excellent genes...
However, his words were very different: “You seem to have a brain aneurysm.” 
The world literally paused. Everything that was in my mind came pouring out; nothing mattered anymore. The doctor kept talking… “next appointment with the surgeon… Medical Procedures...  MRI monitoring…”
I braced myself against the wall and gasped for breath. In my mind, a brain aneurysm meant sudden death. All I ever heard about brain aneurysms was that someone was normal one moment, and then dead the next; therefore, I was certain I was moments away from  the same. I immediately called my husband, who was out in San Francisco on a business trip that week. Needless to say, his world stopped spinning as well, as he searched hurriedly for an immediate flight home.
My eyes suddenly filled with tears. I thought truly, for the first time, about  the possibility of not living until I was an old granny in a rocking chair with my grandchildren. I thought of not waking up each morning next to my husband and making coffee for him. I thought of not being able to have another night with my best girlfriends, laughing and enjoying wine and chocolate. I thought of not holding my cat…or hopefully my future child. Why had I never thought about this before?
Because I have always  assumed I would  live. I’ve taken my health, my life, my ability to wake up each day for granted my whole life. And at this moment, reality hit me squarely in the head. Literally.

My husband and I called the doctor on three way, and she told us she could get us in Monday. Wait…what…Monday?! That was a whole week away?! Wouldn’t it be too late by then!!!? She told us that if he doctor thought we needed to be in that same day, we’d be in.
 Oh.
 Perhaps I should relax just a bit. Still, the unknown was agonizing. The shock of having something bizarre in my brain haunted me. The possibility of having brain surgery was terrifying. And I felt so alone. But I wasn’t, because I knew God was there, and I felt his love and care for me through two of my girlfriends who showed up unannounced on my doorstep to comfort and pray for me. I was consoled though the encouraging words of my mother-in-law who drove right over to my house to be with me. I had phone calls, texts, emails….it was interesting to feel so alone, but also so loved at the same time.

That whole week was torture. The possible scenarios ran through my mind constantly. It was hard to plan or think about the future. It was difficult to care about the kitchen floor not being clean or the sock that was lost in the washing machine.
I went on a retreat with our “house church” group over the weekend to the coast. It was difficult to connect with anyone-to laugh, and joke and talk about topics that didn’t seem all that important anymore. John and I took a lot of long walks on the beach. One night we were alone at sunset, and the wind blew, and the waves crashed. We stood together on a washed up log on the sand, and I felt as if this moment was painted just for us. The peace of God surrounded me as I watched the colors sink behind the horizon and into the water. I felt at that moment that everything was going to be ok; whether I needed brain surgery or if I died, I felt like God had it in his hands, and he’d walk with me the whole way. If he could orchestrate these waves, and this sunset and fill me with the love I felt at this moment, he could certainly give me what I needed to get through whatever it was that was to happen. And so peace rested on my mind.

Monday morning came, and I couldn’t sleep. I decided that I needed to go on a run, in the cold, in the early morning hours. I wanted to feel the wind on my skin and the air in my lungs, because that meant that I was alive! As I ran I couldn’t help but think morbid thoughts. I thought about my funeral and who would be there. Tears leaked from the corner of my eyes as I thought about my  husband and my family and my friends and my co-workers lining up to say good-bye to my body. I knew that my soul would be in a far better place, but the thought of the ones I loved mourning for me was almost too much to bear; and I tried to push that from my mind.
We drove to the east side of town, John holding my hand, neither of us saying a word. I think we were both preparing for the worst, even though my husband kept strong and optimistic for me. The room was small, and had strange medical devices around. The doctor entered and pulled up the x-rays on his computer screen. And there I was. A ghost. A skeleton. I knew it was me because I recognized the shape of my nose and my uneven eyes, but boy, did that picture look chilling without skin or hair. 
And then there was my brain. Wow. I really had all that inside of me? It was so perfectly crafted and put together; I stared at my insides with amazement. Then the doctor zoomed in closer…closer…closer…until he was focused on a vein on the front of my face. And there is was. A slight bulge in the end. The aneurysm: 3.5 mm right behind my right eye.
“  This is small and they grow slowly. There is a procedure that can be done so that it doesn’t rupture, but it is not necessary now. Just come back in a year so we can keep an eye on it.”   
What?! That’s it? No brain surgery, or procedures, or funerals? Nope. Just life. 

As I walked out of the office, I felt giddy. Actually, my husband and I both felt lighter. The weight of the world had just been lifted from our shoulders and it felt so good to be free. I saw everything with new eyes. The sun was brilliant. I was excited about my work, and my life suddenly was thrilling.
Yes, I do have a brain aneurysm in my head, right now, at this moment. Yes, if it grows big enough, it could rupture and kill me. But any of us could die, right now, at this moment. We are not promised another day.
 I could choose to think about the aneurysm as a ticking time bomb, and I could live each day obsessing and worrying about it. However, I choose to see it as a very real, permanent reminder to me that my life truly is in God’s hands. It is humbling to me that truly I am not in control of anything. Stamped in the middle of my head-both literally and figuratively-is God’s promise that I won’t go a day sooner than what he has planned for me. And instead of fretting about that, I can rest, because I know now wasn’t my time to leave this Earth and the people I love. He allowed the doctors to discover this, so they could monitor it; and eventually I will have a procedure that could save my life. 
So there must be more to do here on the Earth. And I am excited, because today is the first day of the rest of my life. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snow Day 2011

Last night as I lay in bed, I set my alarm and made a mental list of how the rhythm of the following day would flow; be at the gym at 7:00 so I can workout for exactly 30 min, so I can come home and shower…be out the door to work by 8:30 so I can prep for my first student at 8:50, so at 9;00 I can greet the parent and commence testing, which will take approximately 1.5 hours, ending at 10:30 so I will have exactly 30 min. before I see my next student at 11:00, ending at 11:45, which will allow me a 15 min lunch break before my next student arrives at 12:05…etc…etc…etc… these are my thoughts before I drift off to sleep at night. Most days, they go pretty much as I plan, and I glide through my day, satisfied with the schedule I’ve kept and the tasks I’ve accomplished. Today however,  as my alarm awoke me in the early hours of the day, I looked out my dark bedroom window to a white, powdery dusting on the ground….could it be SNOW??? Yes, the forecasters were predicting snow, but could they actually be right? I’ve learned that when you live in Portland, you really shouldn’t plan your life around the weather forecasts. So in my head last night, my day was still scheduled, and productive; but now this SNOW put a sudden hault to my agenda. Then I got the blessed phone call: an official Snow Day. I could almost hear the shrieks of joy from millions of children across the Portland area as they laced up their boots and managed to make a small, watery footprint in their driveway. Forget watching anything on TV this morning; every single channel is focused on the panicked newscasters as the brave the breezy elements of  (cue deep, ominous, voice)“February Snow Storm 2011”.  
Anyhow, days like these remind me that life can change quickly. We are planning, scheming, trying to figure out how we are going to go about our day when all of a sudden, everything just doesn’t matter anymore. There is something better. It’s like God saying, “take a coffee break today.”  Curl back into bed with your plump cat and just enjoy. Grab a blanket and an extra cup of coffee and write a blog entry. Call a friend and talk a little longer on the phone.
And even if you don’t get a day off, the snow still slows the pace of everything down quite a bit. Perhaps I may get time to count the snowflakes as they drift towards the ground; is each one really different? I don’t know, but I have time to consider it! And I have time to consider the possibility that we plan plan plan, and that’s good; but when God decides he has something different, all our plans suddenly evaporate. 
And I’m learning that’s ok;  a snow day is just what we wanted anyway. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Binder Woes

I’ve heard that you can tell  how smooth a household runs by examining the organization of the pantry. I don’t know if that is true; but, after working one-on-one with Jr. Highers this year, I know that you can tell a lot about a student by looking at the state of their binder.
I work with one Jr. High boy who came to me his first day with a binder full of loose papers, some in tact, others sloppily taped back together. The day before I was to meet with him, his mom called me distressed: she didn’t know what was wrong with her son! “He’s failing everything, but he’s such a smart boy!”
Well mom…I hate to break it to you, but it’s not your boy’s intelligence that needs a good makeover; it’s his binder.
 During our first session together, I thought we should do a complete purge of his binder and rebuild from the inside out. “Show me what you’ve got.” He opened his binder, and I was fully expecting to see flies circle out from it. If his binder represented his life, then we had a lot of work to do. You see, after working with kids now for six years, I’ve come to realize that a binder is a window into whom they are as a person.( A palm reader...a binder reader!!!!!??!! )
 To start out, I explained to this boy (whom I’ll call Todd) that the purpose of a binder was to bind papers together; hence, the three metal rings in the middle. He paused for a moment, and then I saw the light go on: “Oh, that must be why the teachers put those three holes on the side of the paper.” 
Exactly.
 First, we sifted through the clutter and purged anything that wasn’t school related: song lyrics (with a lot of four asterisks in place of words)….  penciled caricatures of his classmates …several candy bar wrappers adhered to the inside by several wads of hot pink chewing gum….and a plastic baggie of something that was way past expiration date. 
I think it was best to start from a clean slate.
We dumped everything, and I asked him where his actual school papers were. After a moment, he explained matter-of-factly that they were "tucked away in his locker." 
 I decided to take a little journey up to his locker. 
We marched right up to it, and I noticed a fruit fly circling nearby in the hallway. Upon opening his locker, I realized that yes, Todd did have all his papers; however, they were sprinkled about like seeds. The only thing growing in this locker though, was a stench that needed to be extinguished. He dug through his papers to uncover, at the very bottom of his locker, a plastic grocery bag with liquid in it. Water? Juice? “Todd, what in the world is that?” He crinkled his nose, picked it up with his thumb and index finger like a dirty diaper, and toted it across the hall to the garbage.  “Todd,” I repeated again, “WHAT was that?!” 
He looked at me, bowed his head in shame, and declared that it used to be a banana. 
We also found the source of the fruit fly colony.


After completely gutting his locker, I realized that if he lived in a perpetual state of disarray, how could he accomplish anything?! He failed to turn papers in, thus receiving Zeros.  He lost assignments, notes, and books. His life seemingly got lost in the shuffle of his papers; and like a sinkhole, it was eventually going to swallow him whole.
  He needed an intervention; and he needed it now. 
We installed some locker shelves, binder subject dividers and an assignment notebook. We made goals; personal goals, academic goals and organizational goals.  Yes, I explain his English. I helped him rewrite essays and memorize important dates. However, I realized that none of this mattered unless his binder and locker were in proper working order. This was the root of all his problems. 
Thus, whenever I see Todd, the first thing I do is open his binder. Usually, it looks like there has been an explosion. However, the damage is minimal because we attack it right away, and he knows that it is detrimental to his success as a student. And after four months, I can happily report that Todd is making progress. He is motoring along, improving his grades… and throwing away rotten fruit.



Monday, January 17, 2011

A Wagon, and a Quest for something Greater


 I was a pioneer girl, setting out with my little red wagon across the cornfield; the cornfield was a vast, desolate area next to my house in Illinois. It was especially brown and lonely this chilly October late afternoon. I was 8 years old, and I was determined to make it all the way to the forest, which meant going through the mud and over the corm stalk stumps from the summer’s harvest. 
The journey was treacherous. But I was desperate, desperate to reach the Promised Land. I trudged onward, yanking my wagon over the uneven earth. It was late October, yet still the Indian summer caused the Canadian geese to stick around a little bit longer than usual. Their honking overhead created an alarm, a warning, that winter was ahead, and I only had so much time before frost would put its icy chains over all that was living. 
I wondered how those geese knew to fly in a triangle, in perfect solider -like lines. I watched their powerful wings harness the sky and glide effortlessly over me. I imagined where they were going; what would they see in their journey South? Could I jump on, take hold of their feathers and travel with them? Oh, how desperately I longed to see the places they would see and feel the wind in my face and hair.

 It’s not that I wanted to escape my life. I had a chicken soup and hot chocolate type of childhood; it was safe and warm in every way.  However, at the young age of 8, my soul longed for completeness, and I was determined to search until I found it.   I wanted to be free from having to give my oral report in front of the class on Monday.  I didn’t want to think about my girlfriends at school, and not having the right shoes; I didn't want to feel the pressure to partake in the things that might happen at the slumber party on Saturday, or be made fun of for getting picked up in the morning by my parents to go to church. I didn’t want to deal with being known as “the shy girl” at school, with my awkward retainer and orange freckles. I didn’t want to practice my multiplication tables yet one more time only to fail the times test once again. 
In school, we studied about those brave frontiersmen and pioneers who ventured West in search for something greater. I believe I was on a quest to find that great thing. 
  When my wagon wheel finally made it back into the forest, I believed I had entered a different world. It was silent, except for the trees that danced in the wind and the long prairie grasses that were as nearly as tall as myself. They seemed to swallow me whole. They cradled me as I lay down in them, my body making a fresh indent in the seemingly untouched earth. The wind blew over me, catching the grasses and spraying its seeds everywhere. I closed my eyes,  and I listened. To the geese moving overhead. To the wind. To the voice inside that soothed my unsettled spirit. This is where I belonged, a mere blade of grass being tossed around effortless without being uprooted. 

 In my life I have had moments of this peace. It is a few minutes of  detachment from life on this earth and a taste of the future forever home. I call them “glimpses of heaven."
It is when all is right in the world, and the earth is spinning at a gentler speed. Being swept up in the rhythm of those swaying prairie grasses was one of my moments. 
And how I wished I could remain there forever. 
But in the distance, I could here a faint, familiar voice: “Dinner....Dinner.....” It was the voice of my mother, beckoning me homeward.
It was back to reality, and that was ok, because I knew my forest was a mere cornfield crossing away.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Final thoughts on detox...

So was it all worth it?... These three days of discipline and denial? Did I achieve what I hoped to achieve, and would I do it again? These questions came up in our discussion over dinner last night as my friend and I feasted at Screen Door in celebration of our cleansing victory. We decided that it was only right to properly contaminate our bodies again by drinking Texas Gold margaritas and dining on Southern comfort food. I have to say, drinking my first sip of my margarita was like jumping into a cold pool: I wanted to do it quickly before I could think too long about it. After my three days of detoxing, it was difficult for me to purposely blemish my perfectly clean, purified body; I imagined my insides like a sterile white canvas that was now going to be marred with big splotches of black paint. But as my friend and I discussed, we can’t live that way forever; and hence, I took my first long sip of my toxin…and I enjoyed every bit of it! 

God gave us food and drink in which to enhance our enjoyment of life. It would be ridiculous to refuse that gift; however, the pendulum can easily swing two ways. People can waste their life and energy obsessing too much about health; and people can think about it too little or not at all. Like anything else in life, there must be some kind of balance, and it’s easy to tip too far to one side. 

For me though, this process has taught me how much of my joy comes from food; I never realized how much of my social life is based around food. I now have more compassion for those with severe food allergies! It can be really isolating when you know you can’t eat like everyone else, and going out to eat kind of loses its appeal. So much of socialization is done while consuming something.

As I discussed in my first blog post, this exercise taught me self-control and living more mindfully. I realized that I have grown so comfortable with having everything and anything at my disposal that I don’t really think or savor it anymore. Sure I may say a quick prayer before I eat, but now I realize the true abundance I have in front of me!  It has taught me that more mindful, disciplined living could benefit my outlook and attitude about not only meal times, but all of life in general. How much of my day do I mindlessly engage in activities, thus not fully enjoying? How much of the time am I wandering through life, not really relishing the small joys, pleasures, and people?

 Literally speaking, I believe the detox did do some internal good as well. I believe that my skin is clearer, my mind seems less foggy and I have more of a steady energy level. My friend reported the same. Now that I’ve feasted and put back into my body much of what I spent so much time getting out, what was the point? Well, I think that much like a bathroom drain with too much long hair coiled in it, sometimes your body just needs a good flush out in order for it to continue to work to its optimal level. :) I  do believe there are habits that I will keep, but I also know that I do not want to, nor should I maintain the strict regiment either. 
So, I also looked up the definition of this illusive "toxin." I found that it is defined as any poisonous substances that inhibits the body from working at it’s optimal level. Apart from literal toxins that I was trying to rid my body of, I reflected on other "toxic" areas of my life. What in my life is preventing me from operating and living life to the fullest? What is weighing me down, clogging my passion, and failing to ignite the energy to do all that God has for me on earth? Are there relationships that are draining me to empty, meaningless activities that just eat time, and worries that I need to surrender?
On the other hand, what things in my life provide nourishment….to my mind, my spirit and my soul? 
These are just a few things I’ve been pondering as we begin 2011. Perhaps you can ponder them too.

 All I know is that I have some really great nourishment in my life; friendships that sustain me; family who would do anything for me; a husband who amazes me; and a God who loves me.

So, who would have thought that a simple 3 day detox could dig up so much? 
And who would have thought that a margarita, with my dear friend, could taste sooo good. :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

DETOX: DAY 2 and 3


 Continued from last post....

Detox,  Day 2.

I awoke Tuesday morning to a text message from one of my friends  wanting to meet for coffee.  Usually, I would be so excited because I would get my grande mocha; but today, I rolled over in bed, mourning the fact that I would be drinking green tea. I realized though that instead of focusing so much on what was going to be consumed and enjoyed, I focused and anticipated more the person who I was going to see! I guess I never realized how much I emphasized the food part of getting together with friends. Don’t get me wrong, nothing is wrong about enjoying food, and I certainly always enjoy the people I am with. But it was different this time because one half of the equation was gone. Now I focused all my energies and excitement on the person! And it was great! I almost didn’t even miss my chocolate drink!
And, as a bonus, instead of spending over $4.00 on something that is gone in 4 minutes, I brought my own green tea bag, and the barista gave me a free venti hot water! So it was possible to have meaningful, enjoyable time with a friend without spending money or indulging my taste buds! 
Overall day number two was a lot more tolerable because it wasn’t such a shock to the system. I also added some non-animal protein to my diet. At night I made a simple broth soup of vegtebales and potato.

 Tuesday night, however, my friend and I took detoxing to the next level: Bikram Yoga. I have never done yoga before, but we bought this special package on Groupon a  few months back. I know so many people who practice yoga and just love it. What I didn’t know was that there were various forms of yoga. What I didn’t know was that this yoga practice was done in a room set at a temperature of 105 degrees for 90 min. The ultimate toxic purge---sweating. 
And sweat we did-profusely! I don’t know how extreme stretching and twisting could be so exhausting and painful, but it was! I could hardly keep a pose for 30 seconds. And I definitely wasn’t getting any energy supply from my deep breathing like my instructor said. All I got when I took a deep breath was light headed and a taste in mouth that resembled sweaty feet. I can say that at the end of 90 min, I was ready to be done.  Strangely, I left feeling energized though, and proud at making it through my first session. Would I do it again?  Perhaps…but not for a while…or so I thought….

Detox, Day 3.

  I found myself thinking about that yoga session all day today. Maybe it’s the athlete in me, but I kept going over my failed attempts at the poses and analyzing how I could do even better. And I found my feet carrying me through the doors of the yoga studio for a second session-less than 24 hours later! It still smelled like feet. And I still sweated uncontrollably. The room was more packed than the previous day, but I felt the energy from the other participants in the room. What a better experience this time around!  I knew what to expect, so I didn’t feel dumb, or weak . I felt stronger and more confident. I left feeling tired, but in a way that makes me appreciate my body and what it is capable of doing. Plus, I knew I had gotten rid a some more toxins! :) 

Today was the final day of my detox plan, and I was getting used to my new diet and routines; however, I found myself rationalizing why I should sneak in some cheese or milk. “I was almost done….it wouldn’t hurt…what’s 12 more hours…” 
But I didn’t. I wanted to finish strong, and I wanted to feel good about it. My friend suggested that we do a celebratory dinner on Thursday night to honor our dedication and commitment. I wanted to truly celebrate knowing that I stayed on target. 

Now a few questions lingered: Would all this be worth it? Would we be able to feel the difference of our 3 days of disciplined eating and sweating?

Stay tuned to see "if it was worth it...."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

DETOX: DAY 1


I’ve realized that much of my daily joy comes from my routines and food. If you haven’t’ read my last post, this week my friend and I embarked on a 3-day detox journey that caused me to dream about scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese. Literally. 
On Sunday night as I went to bed, I had a small panic attack because I realized when I woke up the next day I wouldn’t have my coffee with French vanilla creamer and gingerbread biscotti that I’ve grown so accustomed to. Therefore, I decided that I needed one last hurrah, and proceeded to indulge in various exceedingly sweet, utterly creamy, and dreadfully caloric treats right before turning into bed. I didn’t know what my problem was; why was I freaking out, believing that I needed to store up food? It wasn’t as if I was hibernating or going without food for the next three days! I was only going to be abstaining from animal by-products and anything processed or sugar-laden. Basically I was only going to eat things directly from the earth, left in it’s purist form. I realized that although I always prided myself on a pretty healthy diet, much of my joy comes from treats that are far from their original form. 
What I gained from this journey was more than perhaps an internal cleansing. This process taught me, in a very small small way, to go without. It taught me discipline and self-control. In a small way, it humbled me and made me realize how very comfortable I’ve gotten with my American way of life with convince, and instant gratification. The past three days have perhaps changed the way I view food, and joy, and made me assess the way I want to move forward from here.

Monday morning I awoke with false hunger pains. I’m totally serious. I was going in and out of sleep, believing that I was starving, when in reality I was only upset that I wouldn’t be enjoying my latte and sweet bread. I didn’t even want to get out of bed!!! I am ashamed to admit this, but it’s true. I realized that part of my motivation to get up in the morning is knowing that I get to enjoy my coffee and sweet. When I finally did get up, my head felt fuzzy; I needed caffeine, now! Part of the detox plan is to first drink hot lemon water. It is supposed the help cleanse the liver and flush out the toxins. I forced myself to do this, but only to finish and realize that my fuzzy head still remained.
 Today I would drink green tea instead of coffee. I rummaged through my cabinet and found the box of green tea stuffed in the very back. I tore open two bags and dumped them in the pot of boiling water over the stove. 
Steep…steep!!!
 I took my first sip of green tea and…yikes!! This was definitely not vanilla creamer! Earthy. And not sweet. And it tasted like grass. Realizing that this was my only chance at caffeine, I forced myself to drink the liquid. I felt a little better, but I soon realized that green tea was not as strong as coffee….and drinking MORE of it was not appealing. So I settled, and decided that I should just move on to my breakfast smoothie.
 Now I LOVE smoothies, but I usually love them with some sort of dairy base, such as yogurt or soymilk. Today, the base would be water and carrot juice. I dumped in a whole orange, a handful of blueberries, a banana and carrot juice. I then poured in some powder that looked-and tasted-like lawn clippings. It’s actually called “amazing grass”, and it’s basically various vegetables, probiotics, and algae condensed into a powder that is easier to consume.  A quick whirl from my Vita-mix and BOOM-breakfast is served. It actually wasn’t all that bad: pure fruit and powdered vegetable. The true breakfast of champions! After that I was off to work…with my Tupperware of raw broccoli, celery and carrot sticks.

After lunch, I have to admit, I felt a bit light headed and weak. I didn’t have enough caffeine in my system, and the raw vegetables for lunch just didn’t cut it. I got a sad text from my friend who was suffering the same. “Should we be eating protein? I’m having head spins right now!” she pinged.  This got me a bit concerned; however, we decided that this was just part of the detox process, and we decided to venture onward.

By 9:00, I was cashed out. I hungrily ate my potato, broccoli, brussel sprout and carrot medley. And yes. I did cheat a bit and sprinkled a bit of salt on it. Just a bit. “I’m going to bed,” I told my husband.
He eyed me suspiciously. “At 9:00?!” 
Yes, at 9:00. What was the point of staying up? Usually I would get to enjoy a little sweet treat later in the night, but now that that was gone, what did I have to look forward to? Plus, I truly was exhausted. I think the lack of caffeine in my system really took a toll on my ability to function. And sleep sounded sooo good…..and sleep I did. Soundly. For almost nine hours.

Stay tuned for day 2 of detox…..

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Year; A Fresh Start

Life is simply a bunch of “getting ups” and “going to beds.”  After you do that 365 times, you bundle it and call it another year. 

Welcome 2011. 

Last year we were reviewing the decade, celebrating the culmination of 10 years into the new century; Next year we will celebrate the beginning of the end of the world...(according to Mayan calendars). 2011…well…it’s kind of sandwiched in between the two. Yet I wonder what it holds.  I opened my eyes on the morning of 1-1-11 to another day; a day like any other. However, I must admit that the air outside always feels a bit more energizing on January 1.
I started the year by purging my closets and cabinets. I went through everything and analyzed the last time I used or needed the object. If it had been several years, I shoved it into the “Good Will” bag. Sometimes I would suddenly have a moment of panic, of second thoughts, “Well, perhaps I will wear that flannel again. It would be perfect for a night under the stars camping.” Camping? I think we’ve gone camping once in the six years we’ve been married. When I decided to toss the item in the bag, I couldn’t look back. This was a good, purifying exercise for me. I was ridding myself of excess material things that I didn’t need or use. Cleansing project number 1….Done!

The second purging endeavor is an attempt to undue the internal damaged caused by excessive merriment during the holiday season. My friend Kristin and I decided to do a body detox this coming week. Yes, DETOX.    It sounds so serious, but it’s really only a three-day whole food, "green" diet that is supposed to balance and realign a body.  Right now my fridge is  filled with lovely vegetation: brussel sprouts, kale, spinach, lettuce, celery….I didn’t have to ask my husband to not eat it. The result is hopefully clearer skin and an energized mind. What better way to usher in a new year? So, here we go. Starting Monday we plan to revitalize our insides with the stuff grown in the dirt.

So, why do I--and others--feel the need to cleanse and purify at the start of a new year?
 I think there is something in us that makes us want to be better, to do better and start off with a clean slate. I think we get weighed down throughout the year. We say things, make choices and fail to live up to dreams and expectations. We yearn for another chance, and we cling to the hope that this time we will do better. We want to free ourselves from the “clutter”, and move forward free, fresh and redeemed.  Will a trip to Good Will accomplish this? Will nourishing my body solely from the raw material of the earth suffice? I know it won't, but I view it as simply an outpouring of my good intentions. 

So, cheers. 
Cheers to a new year. 
Cheers to a bright future. 
And cheers to my green spinach cocktail that I will enjoy early tomorrow morning. ;)

Ps; Stay turned for updates on the detox process this week....