27 October 2010

Playtime in a Palette

My sister celebrated her 30th birthday recently.  While party planning, she determined her wish to pass this particular milestone in her favorite place- the mountains- doing << one of >> her favorite thing << s >> - playing outside.  In the form of backpacking.

I won't lie.  I haven't been backpacking in over 2 years.  After the last trip, I dealt with the worst case of poison ivy in my personal history with the plant from Hades.  << Poison ivy and mosquitoes should be banished back to hell >> I digress.

Prior to that trip, it had been 8 years since I'd gone backpacking.  

In approaching The Big Pack, I deliberately looked for a <<good>> excuse not to go.  Sadly, none of my preggo friends were set to go into labor that weekend.  I hadn't been asked to be a matron of honor in anyone's wedding. No one needed me to attend an all-day workshop on Saturday.  Not a soul in the world was in dire need of my goods or services.  My skills were unsolicited.

So I gathered my gear, gave myself a pep talk, and we were off.

Jules was thrilled I was there.  And I was, in fact, thrilled to be there.  We only turned a few shades of green coming down the Dragon.  Then we were on our way up to Gregory's Bald.  And the colors... oh my... the colors were all shades of stunning.
East Tennessee - Fall Colors

It just so happens that the hubs and I had the exciting opportunity to drive all the way to Memphis and back in the span of 24 hours the week before.  Trees from west to middle Tennessee had about 3 shades of brown, with some grays sprinkled in for good measure.  D-R-A-B. 

Middle to east Tennessee was greenish/ brownish, with not a lot of pizazz.  << no JAZZ HANDS here >> 

Now east Tennessee, that's my girl! Er, um... That's my man! Hmm... not that either?  Well, you get my drift.  You're picking up what I'm throwin' down.  You're sniffin' what I'm steppin' in.  

<< High Five >>

Back to the Pack.  Beautiful colors.  All around.  I won't bore you with the internal dialogue I had going with the trail << that was 7 miles straight up >> or with my body << where my heart rate stayed at 170 >> or with my sister << why oh why are you such a punisher?!?  7 miles straight up?!? gah!!!  >>or with her exceedingly tall boyfriend << why and how do you make it look so easy, you energetic, long-legged youngin?!? >> Remember that pep talk?  It was still in effect.

I'll share the sunnier side of the hike.  Amidst all the brilliant foliage, I was feeling nostalgic for high school art class.  I thought it was a fine opportunity to produce my mental color wheel and systematically check off each color that I could see around me.  Not one color from the wheel was left un-checked.  Purple on the trail was a bit of a hold-out, but I sought her out.  I didn't give up, and sure enough she was hiding in there too.

How CUTE is the birthday girl?!?
Being so small << read: short >> next to the Tall Tall Trees << yes, think Alan Jackson- go on, go there >> in the woods, I had this idea that we were swimming through an over-sized painter's palette.  Think French artist, curly cue mustache, red beret, and a long nose.  Easel to the left.  He's, of course, holding a palette with paint in one hand, a paintbrush in the other, and a cigarette << the long, skinny kind >> hanging out of the side of his mouth.

Or if you prefer, think of God.  The artist.

So there we were.  In the middle of it all.  Buried deep in the artist's paint palette, painfully << c'mon, my legs were jacked up on lactic acid >> aware of the beauty that we were braiding our path through. We were like kids racing towards the next huge pile of leaves to leap into.

Eventually we arrived to the top of the bald.  And we leaped with joy!
Thanks, Gregory, for being so Bald.
My sister has never looked younger or more radiant.  This was by far, hands down, slap your momma, the best birthday I've ever celebrated with her.

21 October 2010

kids & puppies need exercise- so do we

Have you ever been around a kid with way too much pent up energy that's acting like a complete, total, royal pain in the heinie?

I'd put money on a lack of play time and run-around time that particular day.

How about with puppies? 

Ever been around a puppy that gets into absolutely everything?  Chews things like shoes, rugs, socks, purses, couches, pilllows, tables...
The husband and I sometimes have marathon days where we have just a few minutes at home in the morning and in the evening.  Our dog, Rolo, emptied the bathroom trash can on a day just like that.
Trash Can (entirely emptied) included an old razor blade, used dental floss and
Kleenex, empty bottle of deodorant, other sundry bathroom trash things
It was actually the 3rd day in a row where we hadn't found a spare second to take the little red man on a walk.  The only movement he'd had involved walking to and from his food or water bowl or walking outside to go #1 or #2.

He's been getting nice long walks ever since the bathroom trash day.

This always gets me going.  As adults, who are we to think we don't need exercise?  Are our needs for physical activity that different than those of a child or a puppy?  

I know that I'm much happier and well-balanced when I've been active.  

I think I make better choices too.

Do we ever grow out of exercise?  My answer to that question is not just no but- as my mother would say in her sweet southern drawl- Heaven's No!

And as Elle from Legally Blonde explains, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't."

14 October 2010

Go make someone else rich.

Generous giving starts when it hurts to give. When one moves in the direction of "poverty" in order to make someone else "rich". -Gordon MacDonald

The hubs and I are reading our way through a devotional that our entire church has been recommended to read.  Day 1 made us both kind of scratch our heads.  And so we put the book down for a few days.

Eventually we jumped back in with Day 2, and we both had an AHA Moment.  I read it before the hubs got home, underlining a couple of things that stood out to me.  Then he read it. In a different room.

So he walks into the room where I am and has tears in his eyes.  He said it reminded him of our buddy Ernesto from Bolivia who died of cancer some years back.

Ernesto was from a village outside of the tiny village where my husband grew up.
A market street in the Village (not Ernesto's tiny village).

Farmers. Campesinos.  Rednecks << in a genuinely honest, not-derogatory sense >>. Village people.  I was studying in La Paz for the semester, and the missionaries who worked with the church that we were attending would occasionally bring Ernesto with them to church.  We learned that he was 16, and he had a rare and aggressive form of cancer (I can't recall if it was bone or blood-based).  He made the journey from the tiny village outside of the tiny town all the way to the Big City with important doctors, all the while praying for and working towards a miracle. 
La Paz, Bolivia.  Unlike any other city in the world.

We'd spend time with Ernesto when we could. 

We'd show up with empanada's in the evening.

We'd come with saltenas mid-morning.  

We'd sing songs and tell stories.  Soon we learned that our buddy was going to have his leg amputated.  

I had an irresistible urging to find out if he could get a prosthesis.  Because in the States when you lose a limb, you replace it with a prosthetic one << okay not everybody, but some bodies do >>.  We learned from the doctors in La Paz that it would cost about $200US.

I asked about the likelihood of Ernesto's family's ability to afford the limb.  Outlook wasn't good.

So he had the operation and eventually figured out how to manage his mobility with crutches.  Meanwhile this prosthetic limb kept nagging at me.  So I looked at my finances << do student's even have the right to call them "finances?"  Sounds like such a grown up word... really people- there's not ever enough "finances" as a student... and here I was, a student on a tight budget living in a third world country >>, and after talking with the missionaries we all agreed that a fake limb would in fact improve Ernesto's quality of life.  It was apparent that his battle would be short-lived.  A miracle was the only viable option.

So we purchased a limb for Ernesto.  And his smile capacity increased exponentially.  One day, on that limb, he walked a good 5 blocks with us to the soccer stadium.  He was in a light blue Bolivar jersey- we all were- and we bathed in the sunshine as the players raced around the field.  Bolivar won! << Vamos! Vamos Academia! Esta Noche... Tenemos Que GANAAARRRR!!! >>

Reflecting on the journey we took with Ernesto after reading through day 2 of << The Book >>, it dawned on us that we made that boy rich!  He had a new leg.  And on that leg he walked unassisted to his very first real-life, pro soccer game!  We all shouted cheers and rants at the field, and we bought snacks and drinks to share.  We laughed and joked around.  Maybe he even forgot at some point that he was sick.

Thinking back on it, we made him rich << if only for a few brief moments >>.

11 October 2010

Middle Name's Flexible

I was a latchkey kid as far back as I can remember.  I grew up with 2 older sisters, and we were raised by a single mother << there's a special place in heaven for single moms >>.  Weeknights were filled with dinners in the car, soccer practice, softball practice, swim practice, karate, ballet-- and a speedy little 4-door red Honda Civic with a luggage rack that served as chariot to our chauffeur and her minions.

We gave our Mom a keychain early on with that title on it- CHAUFFEUR.  She was a faithful, thoughtful, sleepy little chauffeur.  She worked her tail off to provide for us.  Growing up I never realized that we probably were living in poverty.  I don't *think* we ever had government assistance.  Mom was able to make ends meet with her full-time job and the child support that came in.  I remember eating for breakfast the next day what I had not finished from dinner the night before.  I always wore my older sisters' hand-me-downs.  And my hand-me-downs were then passed to my plethora of younger girl cousins.  We were a family of sharing and abundance, even in our situation.  I don't ever recall having to "do without".  Maybe I did, in fact, do without.  But it never *felt* that way.

Growing up I have to admit. Life was good.  I always felt loved.  We were taught to take turns.  On the way to summer camp, it was always a discussion as to who would ride in the front seat.  Typically we'd take turns; however, occasionally one sister would turn to the other and say they didn't want to be near me <<the youngest>>, thus I'd better move my tail to the front seat.  I remember learning to share.  And plans constantly changed with 3 very active girls.

Somewhere along the line, I started to believe in my own head that I had control of my life.  I could make plans and then follow through with them.  I could make choices that would lead to natural, predictable consequences.

And then I heard a really good joke, on or about March 14th, 2004, shared with me by my friend Sarah.

Sarah: Jess, What's the quickest way to make God laugh?

Jess: Um... I'm not sure.

Sarah: Make your own plans.

Jess:  << quiet AHA moment >>  ...pause... 
hahahaha!  << deeper AHA moment >>

And everything changed.

I can make my own plans, sure.  I plan out my day on a regular basis.  I rely on my Outlook calendar to tell me where I need to be 15 minutes before I need to be there.  My husband consults me when someone wants to make plans with us through him-- I'm the calendar in the relationship.  Occasionally I feel like my droid is the "other man".  Sometimes at night as we're dozing off to sleep, I'll recite, out loud to my husband, the activities I have scheduled for the next day.  He usually mumbles something before rolling over and going right back to sleep.

Sometimes I feel like all I do is plan.

And then when plans change, it's hard to unravel myself from what I *thought* was coming down the pike.

But I've learned that getting all bent out of shape is so. not. worth. it.

Example 1. It was gently raining at 6:45 on a recent Thursday morning when I was going to the gym to workout with my trainer. I arrived to his (private) gym only to find that the power is off (had been for a while-- in fact the whole neighborhood for as far as you could see was in the dark).  So my trainer hops out of his truck to tell me that we'll re-schedule.  Hrrrmpf.  I really wanted to work out.  Disappointed, I decided that my Plan B was to drive back to my regular gym for a workout.  A little bit annoyed (but knowing that things weren't in either of our hands to control or fix), I headed out.  A mile down the road the power was on, so I called my trainer to tell him.  I'm yappin' away at him until I realize he sounded kind of ticked.  Evidently when he got out of the truck to tell me we'd re-schedule, he'd locked his keys inside, engine on.  He wound up breaking into his own flippin' truck.

Example 1 Lesson Learned.  I was flexible about the plans needing to change at the very last minute.  To boot, my trainer had to deal with unnecessary crap, which made my wee little inconvenience seem like a cake walk next to my trainer having to burglarize himself.

Example 2.  We have a group of young adults that gathers on Monday nights for Bible Study.  Oftentimes we meet at our house.  And sometimes we do, in fact, read the Bible.  Other times we might watch a movie, video, or short clip to prompt our conversation.  Or throw a Simpson's Birthday Party.
There are occasions when nobody comes.  Or maybe 2 others come-- plus me and the hubs, that's a small crowd, if you ask me.  Twice when we've had slim pickins in attendance, I've gotten all bent out of shape over it.
Thoughts to self have been known to include:
"Why aren't people coming?... 
Is our house too small?... 
Are our discussion boring?... 
Do our snacks suck?...
What am I doing wrong?"  

When the pity party ends and I'm finally able to move on quickly, with just 4 we're often able to dig deeper or share more with one another.  Sometimes we just laugh harder.

Example 2 Lesson Learned:  My expectations are sometimes the source of my frustration, because life happens and plans change.

My middle name at birth reads LYNN.
My middle name on my driver's license reads HANSEN.
My middle name in spirit is FLEXIBLE.