Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Overwhelmingly blessed

I can hardly believe that my parents' daughter graduated with a college degree last night.

When I think back to who I was when I graduated from high school twenty years ago, it's easy to remember a wounded young woman, invisible, undeserving.

A young woman all alone, with no direction, no confidence and a whole host of self-destructive coping mechanisms.

Abandoned daughter of an addict.  Daughter whose father and grandfather had dropped out of high school, and dropped out of their children's lives before they had the chance to know them.

Daughter of a depressed, heart-broken woman.  Daughter whose mother scarcely showed approval or spoke words of encouragement.

A young woman who'd never been told that education was important, or that she could accomplish anything she'd set her mind to.

That's who I was well into my late twenties...

I took that wounded young woman off to college with me right out of high school.  College, where I floundered, not sure how I fit in, dropping classes, "passing" classes with D's, earning such a low GPA that no college or university would touch me after two years.

I left college then, never expecting to return.

But I did...  Completely unexpectedly.

And I completed the coursework over these last two years with one C shy of a 4.0.  (Darned Chemistry.)

Receiving an Associates Degree is a casual milestone in the life of most 20 year olds...  But, for me, completion of this degree is a major accomplishment.  Honestly something I never thought I'd come close to.

As I prepared for graduation over these last few weeks, I was overwhelmed - once again - by the incredible miracles God has worked in my life.  Aside from looking like an older version of that girl from twenty years ago, I do not resemble her at all.  My heart is mended.  My esteem, not a reflection of how I think others see me, but of how I know God does.  Gifts and talents recognized.  Inexplicable passions and direction.  Determination.

The Lord has worked a mighty miracle.

While my mother often had difficulty expressing delight in me, she did find the words in her last years.  I know she was proud.  And my in-laws, siblings, friends, extended family, husband and children could not have been more supportive as I returned to school, studied like mad, and occasionally dropped a ball as I juggled a little more than I could handle at times.  I am so grateful.

So changed. 

I have an incredible life.  And an Associates of Science in Early Childhood Development.  (That Science part makes me laugh out loud!)

Praise the Lord.

.....Check back in a few years for my Bachelors in Elementary Education.  ESU class of 2015 (or '16) or bust!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pain in the .... BACK

People keep asking, "Why the break from running?"  And, frankly, the answer is really very exciting.  Like, I never knew I could feel this good exciting.  So, I thought I'd blog ... in the event that my experience will help the one or two people who are still reading my blog.

(I've just about fell off the blogging bandwagon.  Life has been CRAZY this year.  But school's out soon, and I just can't wait to get back to writing.)

Back to the question at hand.

I had a bad cold and a ten day cough...  And I have had sciatica/pinched nerve issues for the last 15 years or so, and the coughing caused an episode.

After five days, I called my regular chiropractor (team doc to our city's professional outdoor soccer team) and he couldn't get me in for about a week.  So, I called a childhood friend (who is also a chiropractor) and asked if there was any chance she could see me sooner.

You see, I had a really bad episode two years ago.  Went to my regular chiropractor twice, no real improvement.  Went to my GP, who sent me to a hospital for x-rays (lying down), and wound up in physical therapy for five weeks.  I learned a lot of great stretches, but it took a long time to get well ... and took another five months for me to start running again!

I'm too committed to my running to go through all of that if it can be avoided, so I decided to go see the friend who's been inviting me in since that last terrible episode two years ago.

And she took an x-ray.  Standing.  Something no previous doctor has ever done.

There, in black and white, my problem was plain as day.

Terrible posture.  Instead of standing up straight, I was arching my back (as in tummy forward, rear and shoulders back, chest out).  This severe "c" of an arch left little room between vertebrae for the nerves to come out, so they'd get pinched when irritated.

So my sweet chiropractor friend started work to adjust and massage things back into place, and I started doing my old PT stretches - mainly hamstrings and yoga cat pose.  One week (three visits) later and my back is 100% again and my posture is much improved.

And, you know what?  I totally stood like that because I thought it made me look thinner. I looked at myself in the mirror that first night, first using my old posture, and then the corrected posture, and the correct posture looks so much better!  I look like I lost another inch (and discovered that I have abs!) just by rotating my hips forward rather than sticking my rear out.

It's amazing how much relief I feel when standing properly!  It's a habit that I'm having to break, so I catch myself arching every now and then.  Thankfully, it's hard not to notice ... after all, it causes pain!

So, that's why the break.  A little pain in the back, and a promise to my new chiropractor that I'd take a week to rest.  I promptly ran the minute one week was up ... but I did so with my posture in mind the entire time.

So, if you have lower back pain / sciatica, consider seeing a chiropractor who uses standing x-rays.  They are worth every penny.  I won't be returning to my old chiropractor.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Remembering Mom

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Zach's soccer coach asking if we'd be interested in participating in a tournament on Mother's Day weekend.  Just hearing the words Mother's Day reduced me to tears.  I promptly closed the email and pretended that I didn't get it.  Then the coach texted me with the same question...  More tears and a feeling of dread, as I texted "yes".  Mother's Day must go on.

A few days later it occurred to me that she would miss my graduation.

First, I'd tearfully anticipated Easter.  Then Zach was in the ER with strep throat the night before, so all of our Easter plans were canceled.

Then my nephew's birthday party was this past Saturday.  It was weird and sad to be there without Mom, but still such a blessed time to celebrate Jarrad and be with family.

Soon it will be Mother's Day.  Then my birthday.  Then my graduation.

Interestingly enough, very similar to how the sadness of missing her hits like a ton of bricks unexpectedly, so does the joy of having known her.  Thankfully, these joyful reminders happen throughout the day, every day.

As I slipped a black shirt on this morning, I caught my reflection in the mirror.  I was wearing two different blacks that didn't quite match.  I smiled ... and then changed clothes.  Mom always told me that it was impossible to match blacks if it wasn't purchased as a set.

She also told me never to wear pink lipstick with red clothing, or vice versa.  I never have.

I get a good laugh every time I hear her saying, "It's very important for a wife to rise in the morning before her husband so she can brush her teeth, wash her face and straighten her hair before he sees her."  Who does that? 

There were also strict instructions to brush my hair 100 strokes before bed every night to make it shinier.  I didn't have time for that as a kid, and I'm afraid that if I did it now it would simply fall out!
She also thought that shaving legs was critically important; however, I vividly remember frequently sitting between her stubbly legs as she'd braid or curl my hair when I was young (torture times two - being scratched by her stubbly legs and the traumatic hair styling!).

All of my mom's talks must have hit home though, as a razor and tooth brush are the two comfort items I'd want if heading out to Survivor Island.  (Do they still take comfort items?)  And I will forever haunt the caregiver who fails to shave my legs if I'm ever incapacitated!

I see her hands every time I look down at my own.  I hear her voice every time I gasp in surprise.  Potato soup, baked mac and cheese, and stuffed peppers remind me of Mom, as do scarves and the Sound of Music.

Remembering her makes me smile, and laugh...  And these are merely the reminders I've had of Mom today!  Praise God that tomorrow is another day, and it will surely greet me with other reminders of her.