I have learned….

Tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of the death of my father.

He was and will always be a lot of things to me.

He was my hero.

He was the first man I fell in love with and wanted to marry (he informed me he was already taken, but would always love me)

He was the man who understood me, often times better than I understood myself.

He was the person I went to for advice with all sorts of issues – personal and professional.

He was gentle.

He was kind.

He was fair.

He understood people in ways I can only dream, and usually his understanding was within minutes of meeting them.

He was quiet, until he did not want to be.

He a laugh as big as the sky.  It was a laugh that make you smile because it was just so full of joy.

He had blue eyes that could be cold when he was in his cop mode, but more often were twinkling with his latest practical joke or love.

His hugs were strong and long.

 

I miss him. I miss him a lot.

I miss all those things I wrote about.  But I just miss his presence in the world.  One of the biggest feelings I had those first few weeks after his death was anger and disbelief that the world did not realize what was gone.  The world should have stopped, even if only for a day, an hour, to mourn a man who impacted so many people.

 

There are parts of this past year that I don’t even remember.  I feel like I have lost time. I was wading through a muddy fog that sucked at my legs and blocked my vision of everything around me. There were times I would get angry with myself because I could not “just get over it”.  Sometimes I would feel so overwhelmed by the rawness of my emotions that I felt as if someone was pouring salt and sand on blistered feet and forcing me to walk miles without end.

 

As the year progressed I would forget for a moment what I had lost.  I could see a break in the fog.  I could laugh and joke.  I could sing and play games with the Cubs.  And I knew that is what he would want me to do.  He would not want me to wallow in grief.  He would be angry that I had lost even one precious moment with my Cubs and with Papa Bear.  This was the man who always told me “I did not make much money when I was in this world, so you better have a cash  bar over my coffin so that you can make some money off me once I am dead”.  He called his 8 year battle with cancer “just a bump in the road”.  Those are things that he would want me to remember and cherish.

 

As 2013 ended and I contemplated this upcoming anniversary and the beginning of a new year I knew I had some choices to make.  Before I could make those choices, though, I needed to reflect on what I had learned this past year.

 

I learned that grief can be so overwhelming that it almost becomes a physical entity.

I learned that there are people who truly love me for me and are willing to sit by my side (physically, in cyber space and on the phone) and pass me tissues as I cry.

I learned I could cry and laugh at the same time.

I learned that no amount of preparation can reduce the pain of loss.

I learned that grief is definitely not a straight path.

I learned to be vulnerable.

I learned there is strength in vulnerability.

I learned that even in the midst of the deepest sadness God is there, waiting with open arms.

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My Spiritual Home

Right now my life is going through an overhaul.

I am once again taking charge of my physical well-being.

I am being proactive in taking care of my emotional health while grieving and working through the stress of this time of my life.

I am also leaning on and building up the spiritual part of my life.  It is not actually a “part of” my life, it is my foundation.  I have never been very open about my faith life on this blog, but if I am going to continue to grow I am going to have to talk about it a bit more.   To do that I am going to have to tell you a bit about my worship tradition in order for you to understand some of what I talk about in future posts.   First and foremost I am a Christian – I profess without hesitation that my entire life is influenced by Jesus.  I attempt to follow him, though I am only human and fall many times, DAILY!  But because of his forgiveness and grace I am able to get up and try again, knowing that he is always there for me.   The way I worship is guided by the Roman Catholic Church.  I was baptized as an infant into the Church, and have been a practicing Catholic my entire life.  I went through the normal teen and early adult years where I questioned not only my faith tradition, but also Christianity as a whole.  It was only through this time of questioning that I was drawn back to my faith and the Catholic Church and have been able to embrace it with my entire heart and soul.   That time of questioning, exploration, and even flat-out denial gave me the chance to step away from the faith that my parents spoon fed me and return to it as an adult making a conscious decision to enter into a relationship with God and accept the traditions of the Catholic church.

There are many traditions that Protestants object to in the Catholic Church, and there are many misconceptions about the Church.  There will be times that I discuss specifics of the Catholic church as it relates to my growth journey.  I will explain those specifics so that anyone who is not intimately familiar with the traditions of the Church can understand why it is important to me.  But never is my intention to preach or try to convert anyone.  I am merely speaking from my heart about my personal journey.    I may point out differences between my faith tradition and those of another denomination only to make a point, but never, ever to denigrate anyone else’s beliefs.  I would hope that my journey would encourage others to seek out their own spiritual path no matter what belief system.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Catholic Church in order to understand a bit more of my point of view and my origins, there are many really good books out there.  One series in particular is very good at explaining things, and is in a format that I really appreciate…..

Catholicism for Dummies

Catholic Mass for Dummies

Saints for Dummies

Goal Check

It has been a while since I have logged on to share with you all!

I have been really concentrating on myself recently and spending a lot of very personal time with my journal, working through some emotions.  I am not sure that I have actually resolved anything, but I can tell you that as a result of journaling and doing evening devotions with my husband has resulted in improved sleep.  I will discuss those practices in a later post. But right now it is time to do a goal check.

When I started this blog it was to document my often humorous journey towards getting fit in time for a very special anniversary.   Well, that time has come.  Originally the reunion was supposed to occur at an indoor water park, but those plans fell apart, as did the “big” portion of our reunion.  I guess I should clue you in as to what kind of reunion.  This is the 10th anniversary of the oldest cub joining our family.  We had hoped to get together with 4 other families who also adopted their daughters on the same day from the same care center.  Instead of all 5 families getting together, we got together with one family.  We traveled to the Washington, D.C. area and spent a long weekend.  My parents then caught up with us and we spent 2 days finding all the spots where my father spent his time when he was stationed at Fort Myer.

So let me review what my original goals were.

1) To enjoy the journey to getting fit

2) To spend time with my family

3) To be comfortable in my swimsuit and be able to participate in activities with the kids during the reuion

So….how have I done so far?

Goal 1) I have not hated the journey.  I will be honest and say that there are still many times that I would much rather sit on the couch instead of putting on my dobok and traipsing down to the dojang.  But once I get there I DO enjoy myself and I feel better when I leave – more energized – a feeling that stays with me for a couple days after class.  Not only that, I do notice when I have not been to class routinely because my body tells me with increased aches, stiffness, and lower energy.  I have loved gaining a new family in the Pilsung group.  I enjoy the social interaction.  I am eternally grateful for the emotional support I have received from these people in the last year.  So, in my mind, goal 1 has been met.

Goal 2) This has required a paradigm shift on my part.  Family time, to me, has always been dinner at the table followed by either board games or a movie (preferably with ice cream or pop corn).  First,  2 of us are in one class while 2 of us are in another class, usually one right after the other.  Add homework, commute time to the dojang, usually things like laundry and dishes – well, that does not leave much time for dinner let alone board games or movies.  So we have committed to being at each others’ classes and spending the commute time in conversation.  Since we are working on increasing our activity movies should be more of a treat instead of the norm. Having our entire family cheering for each other and helping each other learn forms, and even sparring together, has created a lot of opportunity for family strengthening and learning how to interact positively with each other. Once again, I have met a goal.

3) Being comfortable in a swim suit, honestly, is something that I am not sure I will ever be unless I have some surgical work done.  But 1 year ago I remember feeling like my skin was so tight on my body that it felt like it would rip.  Today I am not slim, I can’t even say that I have lost that much weight.  But I have gained control over my body and my skin is feeling like it fits again.  Part two of the goal was to be able to  keep up with the kids during the reunion.  I am not an 11 year old, and I certainly don’t have their level of energy.  But I WAS able to keep up.  We walked up big hills, we got to bed late, we got up and went all day long….and I kept up.  I did not need a nap part way through the day.  I did not need to sit down at every opportunity.  I was able to be present in each moment, cherishing those once in a life time experiences which will live on in memories.  Then, when my parents met us in D.C. we walked 3 miles in one morning, slow yet steady, and I never sat down once.  I am very proud to say that I have met this goal.  All the work, all the sweat, all the sore muscles – everything was worth getting to this point in my life, knowing that I have started to relearn the tools that I need to continue to improve my health and improve the quality of my life so that I can enjoy my life with my family.

Soooooooooooooo………

Now it is time to set new goals.  It is time to determine new challenges to meet.  It is time to look forward to life with more promise than I could even imagine this time last year.

How to balance parenting and health

Tonight was to be TKD night.  My legs no longer scream when I do more than breathe.  We were to go to class and then head down to my parent’s house.   I ran over to the school to drop off Baby Bear’s treats for her class to celebrate her birthday.  Since it was so close to the end of the school day I decided to give Little Bear and Baby Bear a ride home – at treat since we are part of a carpool.  We no sooner got in the car than they started in on each other.  While I am starting to understand that siblings will be siblings and fuss at each other, they were just being plain mean.  There is some deep-seated jealousy between them and it is rearing it’s very ugly head more and more resulting in subtle but cruel bullying towards each other.    By the time we got home (a grand total drive time of about 4 minutes) I was in tears – I was honestly feeling like a parental failure.  After some discussion Bear and I decided that there needed to be some very strong repercussions for their behavior.  So the decision was made to not go to TKD and the overnight trip to their grandparents’ house was cancelled.  This left me in a quandary, though.  What is more important – my need to exercise or my responsibility as a parent?  I honestly don’t think there is a “right” answer to the question.  At this time I gave up my workout (I am going to be active tomorrow, so I know I am not totally losing out).  But I felt I was in a no win situation.   Ultimately the young cubs understood that their behavior was not going to be tolerated.  I am really not sure, though, which was the worst thing in their eyes – having their grandparents’ told why they were not coming down tonight, or watching me type the e-mail to Mr M explaining why we were not going to be at TKD.  Whichever it was, an impression was made.  We had a long family talk this evening.  We discussed how we should communicate with each other as family members.  Each of us had the chance to respectfully tell thoughts and feelings.  We parents listened to the cubs explain what they thought some of the problems are.   All of us were uncomfortable at some point during the conversation.  But by the end of it, I think we at least started to learn a bit more about each other.  I also think (and hope and pray) that the cubs understood that respect is not to be reserved for just parents out of obligation, but out of love, for us as well as each other.

Courage

It has taken a lot of courage to take on TKD.  I have been overwhelmed with my weight and my overall health the last few months.  I have tried to exercise on my own, but I am too soft on myself and don’t give myself enough credit.  The instructors at the school have allowed me to progress at my own pace and adjust exercises according to my needs, but they have never let me get away with not trying.  They have encouraged me, they have given me winks, and grins, and smiles and hi-5s.  They have treated me as an adult who recognizes her own needs, but they have still appealed to the little girl inside of me who needs that extra bit of attention.

When a student is awarded a new belt in TKD, they can take that belt over to whoever has inspired them, or otherwise helped them in their journey and have that person put the belt on the student.  I asked my parents if they would belt me.  My parents have always been there – through all the health struggles, through infertility, through depression – they have always been there.  But even more than that, they have shown me what true courage and faith is.  My father has been battling cancer for 7 years.  He is currently receiving chemo for his second recurrence.  My parents have stood together during this entire time – never wavering in their love for each other, their faith that God will get them through, or the courage to face one more scan, one more treatment, one more unknown.  It has been by watching their courage that I found the courage to take a chance on myself and see what I could do.  Thanks, Mom and Dad.  I love you!