Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Trouble with Labels

A great discussion after yoga class this morning has had me wondering all day- what would you choose to be if you removed all the labels you place on yourself?

Seriously. Maybe they're characteristics of a particular season in your life in which others identified you- just adjectives from adolescence or childhood- and you just accepted them as permanent fixtures, adopted them as your very nature.  Or maybe they're self-proclaimed, true tendencies, and you wear them like a badge.  But let's think about it for a second.

I convinced myself I was made a certain way for much of my life.  I'm a procrastinator. I'm lazy. Incapable of finishing what I start. Naturally good at math, science,  and music, but too undisciplined to be great at any of them. Bad knees. Eating issues. Genetically incapable of being an athlete of any sort. Big boned with a slow metabolism (my favorite)... the list goes on.

It was true.  I was all of these.  But here's the deal- it's who I was and who I remained because I accepted those things and they became my excuses. I didn't struggle through them to be more of what I wanted. I instead struggled to accept them... and accepting most of them truly was a struggle for me because I didn't like some of those traits. In acceptance, though, they became road blocks that held me back, and I grew comfortable in my box just saying, "Oh, that's cool, but I could never do that. I'm too _________. I'm content where I am."  But I wasn't.

I didn't want to be (mostly self) labeled as lazy anymore, so I got off the couch to knock out daily "to do" lists and learned (ok, still learning) how to better manage my time.  I didn't want to be someone who didn't finish what I started, so I took one step after another to finish whatever it was. Everyday was a choice to counteract those habits I wanted to change. Am I still a procrastinator by nature?  Yes, but I don't like that, so I recognize the behavior and make a conscious choice to change it when I see it.

Of course, in all of this, I realize that my childhood dream of being an Olympic gymnast is beyond me now, but that doesn't stop me from bending over backwards, flipping around, and enjoying the movement my body grows more capable of everyday. At almost 37 years old, it's almost the same thing, right? I still have bad knees, but I don't let them stop me from making steps toward my physical fitness goals.  I just go slower (because it is important to recognize limits and not injure yourself.)

The hardest realization is when I find myself doing it to my children, describing them to people as this or that, and boxing them in, however unintentionally. I believe we are each given certain gifts we should nurture and develop, and we are absolutely led by certain traits. I encourage my kids to seek those out, but I don't believe they (or we) should be limited to activities, careers, etc. based on predisposition, genetic or otherwise.  I try to be very careful of my words now. I want me children to own who they are, but I want them to find the balance to know when to move if they want something more or different.

All I'm saying is this- if you want something, figure out what it is keeping you from it, and tear down that wall one small brick at a time. Be good to yourself along the way. The journey can be long and riddled with ridiculous opinions and hardships. But strip yourself of the labels, even just for a second, to imagine all that you've ever dreamed of being, and let nothing stop you in that pursuit, especially not your own perception.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Under the Influence of Little Boy Humor

Double-take at Target yesterday... I was *certain* I saw "pillowFART" while making my way to the home goods department clearance end-cap.

Every little girl's dream bedding, right? 😂

Now, it would've been a down-right riotous scene, if I had been in the company of my boys. Or at least, there would've been a greater display of appreciation for the mistake.  As it was, the woman perusing the cozy Snuggies at the end of the aisle thought I was unquestionably insane based on the hysterical laughter coming from this solitary soul.  I may have even snorted.

Apparently, this is the result of spending the entirety of my days with three boys between the ages of six and twelve.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Nooks and Crannies

When your place of residence changes too frequently you learn to define "home" solely by the intangible spaces you create in yourself and in between the people you love.  No address or physical place will do, for you cannot take those nooks and crannies with you when you go.

It is simply one lesson I have learned as a military wife.

We remain in one spot for a fleeting breath of a moment it seems- often only three years or less.  It is long enough to attempt to settle in a house always owned and decorated by someone else.  By the time our belongings are sufficiently scattered from corner to corner, the packing season has rolled back around.  Everything finally organized on our assorted-colored shelves or in our mismatched furniture must carefully be rewrapped, repacked, and rearranged in relabeled boxes.  Even now, our time here on Sandusky Court is up, and we are once again a family awaiting orders.

I'd say "patiently awaiting," however, patience has never been a forte of mine.

I'm a planner; living in limbo makes me crazy.  Truly insane.  But insanity must be tolerated, as this is our chosen life.  Fall homeschool registration, extracurricular activities, plane tickets and summer travel plans... even our small business future precariously rest upon our next move; every one of these tasks in need of being settled very soon.  Luckily, February is the promised month for receiving orders, and we know it is only a short time before the setting of our next chapter is written.

Try though I might, leaving always bears a substantial weight on my every thought as the days tick by.  It is not, however, the unresolved details that are the most taxing effects of our transfers, but the heartbreak that comes of the distance enforced in each cherished relationship built in these transient years.  They are, of course, our greatest blessings- chosen family always is- and so, it is a heartbreak worth enduring, with promises made for visits whenever circumstances allow.

Connections such as these are never broken.  They are the very filling of my invisible nooks and crannies affectionately carried from town to town, and that by which I create this, my unconventional definition of "home."

Monday, February 8, 2016

Fireflies- Part 2

The story continues...

She made her way through the reception hall, gliding gracefully just on the edge of the room, careful to navigate around the other guests so as not to distract their eyes from the twirling lovers in the room’s center.  She stepped around the table laden with punch bowls and cups, and then another, where the cake towered, topped with a miniature, dancing bride and groom identical to the stunning pair swaying in perfect unison on the dance floor.  She took a seat with the cake table in clear view.  It was her favorite wedding tradition- watching the newly weds share the first delectable bites of cake.  
Of course, as endearing as it could be, it was not a romantic notion from which this interest sprang.  She was far too practical for romance after all.  Her mother had raised her better.  She believed a couple’s fate could be determined by this single exchange, and in possession of an extreme fascination with relationships and human nature, she had studied every morsel of cake consumed during this ritual at the fair share of weddings she had attended this year alone, making predictions she would obviously never admit aloud.  It seemed like a cruel little way to entertain herself, but so it was.
Naturally, she realized that despite her years of study in psychology, she had very little experience with love.  She had done her best to follow her mother’s guidance in avoiding the wandering eyes and empty lines offered by boys intrigued by her beauty.  It wasn’t that she was immune to the enchanting allure of the fairy tales, love songs, and pretty words, but she was taught not to be fooled by them.  No sparkly happy-ever-after could be found in love.  In spite of it all, she could still appreciate the idea of love, and she didn’t dare speak against it to any of her starry-eyed friends.  She simply had other priorities and pursued them with all of her being.  It made her mother proud, of that she was sure.
            She sat up straight to adjust a slight twist in her dress, before turning back to watch the couple.
Startled by the simple word pulling her from her own little world, she looked up to find a tuxedo-clad man holding two glasses of punch.  She didn’t mind admitting he was handsome.  Very handsome, in fact.  His dark hair was just long enough to be neatly tousled, a stark contrast to his strikingly pale eyes, though their exact color was difficult to distinguish in the dim radiance of the chandeliers without awkwardly staring.  She wasn’t willing to risk sending the wrong message by doing so.
“Hello,” she responded casually.
“I don’t suppose I could offer you some punch?” he asked, with a slight grin, oddly drifting between a cool confidence and a nervous uncertainty that made her unknowingly return the smile.
“Thank you,” she said simply, reaching up to take a glass.  Experience told her to say nothing more.  She could hear her mother suggesting polite responses without any further encouragement to continue the conversation.  Eventually, they all go away.
“Would you like to sit down?”  The question uncontrollably tumbled out of her mouth. 
“Actually,” he began, “I would rather dance, if we could?”
 For the briefest of moments, she considered refusing, but she was a sucker for dancing, and she did intend to fully enjoy this evening in its entirety.  She took one last sip of her drink, and then set it on the table.  Placing her hand in his, she let him lead her to the floor.   He wrapped his arm firmly, but ever so gently around her waist.  Their eyes met and she was suddenly caught up in the stunning shade of light blue encompassing just a hint of a glowing golden green looking back at her.  It was a light leading her in.  And his arm was holding her there.   Before a rational thought could work it’s way in, he was interrupting her swirling thoughts again.
“Bride or groom?”
“I’m sorry?”  He was making a habit of catching her off guard.  Irritating, and still so charming, she thought.
“Are you here for the bride or for the groom?” he asked again.
“Oh, neither,” she coolly teased.  “I’m just part of the wait staff.”
He laughed. “Of course!  I should have known.  A beautiful woman dressed to the nines in this gorgeous blue… must be wait staff.”
What was she doing?  Flirting? 
She gathered herself in an attempt to revert to the minimal conversation rule. “No, I’m a cousin of the groom.  His sister and I were inseparable growing up.”
“Ah, well, Cousin of the Groom, do you have a name?”
“Lina.  I’m Lina.”
            He stopped dancing and gave a slight bow. “Well, it’s nice to meet you Lina.  I’m Lucas, brother of the bride.”
He gave her a little twirl and she was right back in his arms swaying to the music.  She found her world now whirling out of balance, the dizzying effect more from the embrace than the spin.  She could see Lucas was trouble to her uncharacteristically wavering resolve, but in this moment, she wasn’t sure she cared.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fireflies- Part 1

 Here's a little short story I've been working on... or the beginning anyway.  I'll post Part II soon.  Tell me what you think!

Fireflies (Part I)

He stared out into the dancing crowd adorned in their finest, the music and lights lapping at his senses.  No penny had been spared to conjure the magic in celebrating this wedding.  His sister glowed in her happiness with her groom twirling her about the dance floor, blonde curls bouncing.  She was the quintessential bride, blushing and all, and his baby sister had never looked so lovely to him.  He was happy for her, to say the least, but even caught in this dazzling place of love and light, he was drowning in numbness. Life had lost its allure.  Or perhaps he had just lost the ability to see it.  He found he didn’t even dare wish for it anymore.   The world’s small wonders just couldn’t be found in his monotonous daily commute between the corner of Adult Avenue and Responsibility Street.
But as the acceptance of his hope’s surrender washed over him, a sparkle drifted into the room, like a firefly on the breeze in the form of a beautiful woman.  She was draped in a dress of deep blue- the very shade of evening’s waking hour, with little flickers glittering in the low light of the ballroom.  Was it jewels or sequin?  He imagined it could’ve been the very stars from the sky.  She took his breath away.  As she swept in front of him, hips swaying to the music, he caught her scent.  It was the exact essence of a June evening- citrus sweet with just a hint of honeysuckle. The splendor of youthful summers surrounded him, seduced him, and he was instantly caught up in a time when every bit of life sparked wonder in his young eyes.
He was sixteen that final summer spent on his family’s country wrap-around porch.  He couldn’t fathom a time when the rickety swing there wouldn’t be his favorite spot, though it was that very September his father would take a job in the city, leaving these precious, simple nights as nothing but a memory.  He would idly sit on the swing, looking out at the edge of the woods with a strangely calming sense of anticipation as night fell. The tiny twinkle of the lightning bugs flashing and rising, blink by blink.  There was one, then another.  He could never resist their summons, and so with mason jar in hand, he would bound off the porch with a child-like enthusiasm in hunt of the magical creatures that could light his jar.  It was even by the glow of this bug lantern that he stole his first kiss, believing himself to be the sole charmer, but knowing now it was merely the hypnotic beauty of the fireflies.   
Hypnotic beauty. Yes, this Summer in a Blue Dress captivated him in the same way here tonight, shimmering and shining.  Her bright smile, her flushed cheeks, the gleam of her eyes, and the ravishing appeal of her body perfectly fitted in that dress; every bit of her capable of sparkle shone.  As his eyes followed her across the room, it occurred to him- each dusk spent on that porch was preparation for this very moment.  He knew he must catch her, even if only to spend a moment in her company.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Practice is the Purpose

I find dialogue awkward.  That is, I find writing dialogue awkward.  There is a certain singsong-ish flow to a conversation created by voices and tones and facial expressions alone, involving senses much more complicated to convey in written word.  It is an art... and it is an art I am working to develop.

There is nothing quite so intimidating to me, in regards to writing, as transferring the lively characters dancing through my imagination and their exchanges to paper, except perhaps doing so poorly.  It is, however, in my experience, the very thing you dislike most or are most uncomfortable with which you should practice most ardently until you find mastery, or at the very least comfort.

Burpees are my best example in this moment, because so much of what I do now is relatable to the more palpable physical struggles of fitness and health. I don't know many people that don't have a love-hate relationship with taking a push-up and adding a "stand-up-and-jump" to it.  I realized very quickly in sweating through a workout that that which I hate most is where I needed the most training, and burpees were public enemy #1, as far as I was concerned.  The only way to beat them was to perfect my execution of them.  It's still a work in progress, but you get the idea.

I'm taking this approach to writing fiction, but more specifically written dialogue.  Practice practice practice.  Lucky for me, I have a blog as a perfect, and very public place to do just that.

I have spent many a night lately, as is evident by Little Wonders' explosion of random typed word-vomit posted, exercising various aspects of the art of writing.  I have scribbled notes on receipts, scraps of paper, and in several spiral bound notebooks tucked in corners of my home, car, and purse for years.  In the absence of pen and paper, I am grateful for a rather writer-friendly phone collecting my ramblings in electronic form.  I can't get enough, and honestly, it's about time I worked my way towards organizing this collection.

This is my explanation for what may seem like a blog full of words and posts lacking purpose as a whole.  Essentially, you are subjected to my self-assigned exercises.  I hope you find some enjoyment, if not amusement, in my nonsense.

And with that, I will leave you with last night's little assignment.  Five minutes spent creating an exchange between two beloved characters...

(Another excerpt from a novel I have yet to write.)

He grinned and gently brushed her cheek, reveling and reeling in the residual waves of their love made. 
“You’re glowing again.”
Even in the shadows of the pre-dawn darkness, her smile shone in response. “It’s like the moon, my love, merely reflecting light from another source.”  She gave the sweetest sigh with a tender, blissful kiss. “It’s what you do to me.”
She snuggled into the crook of his arm as he found his way to the space beside her, like the final pieces of a puzzle connected.
“Oh no, love,” he whispered, taking in the honeyed scent of her skin. “It is all you.”
“Maybe,” she conceded with a wicked little giggle. “But then you are certainly the flint that sparks the fire within me.”

Monday, January 25, 2016

Of Injuries and Scars

I quietly sat on the x-ray table, lead vest heavy across my belly and spotlight aimed at my troublesome right knee. The tech making polite conversation as she gave me directions, "Turn this way, just a bit," and "Hold this up. Now, be very still."

I silently obeyed, holding my breath as she stepped behind the window and snapped the shot.  As still as I was, my mind careened around all the possibilities.  Another injury. 

It hadn't been but a few months since I was sitting in that very room with a similar limb affliction; one right shoulder, overworked and under-rested.  At least this time, there was actually an identifiable incident.  I had been reaching for a kettle bell mid-workout, between the running and the squatting.  I hadn't even touched that darn bell yet.  I merely stepped and reached for it, twisting in just the right way.  Or I suppose I should say, "just the wrong way," as there I sat.  It's silly really, and believe me, I felt the ridiculousness of it all in telling the doctor as he examined my angry knee.

I listened intently as he went over the diagnosis; a simple sprained knee to be cared for with a brace, some rest, and anti-inflammatories.  But there was more.  There were "abnormalities" visible on the x-rays. Well, who doesn't love to hear a doctor say that lovely fear-mongering word- "abnormalities?"  He explained the existence of what appeared to be some sort of calcification on what he felt was a knee far too young to allow such a presence.  I was left with a promised follow-up from the radiologist, and a possible orthopedic referral, dependent upon their closer examination of the x-rays.  Of course, I don't remember the exact details of his medical monologue.  It's funny how I always believe I will remember every word, but as soon as I step out of the office, my brain is wiped clean with the exception of all the questions I wished I had thought to ask.

In the few hours that have passed since the appointment, I've teetered back and forth between a high-spirited optimism and plan for a quick recovery, and a disheartening pessimism of being held back from the activities I love for any length of time.

It's a minor injury.  No surgery required.  What a relief!

Minor though it may be, it will still keep me from my routine.  Workouts are my sanity, my remedy for more than just a calorie burn and muscle toning.

Yes, but five days' rest is nothing.  And then I'll be back at it, rebuilding my strength slowly, smartly, but surely.

Unless this calcification business is more.  Then what?

Then, I'll work with it, and stop trying to fight against it.  I can accept my knees never permitting an inverted lotus pose.

Ugh... I was planning to start my YTT this week.  Lotus pose?  I can't even do child's pose right now.

But, my body needs rest.  I'll rest it, and then start next week.  That's the benefit of choosing a program which allows practice and study in my own time.

And round and round I go.  No, really... I am this insane.

In the end, all I could think was how maybe I've made a mountain of this minuscule thing.  A minor injury.  I've allowed it to make me feel broken.  I don't like feeling broken.  I don't care for exposing any fleck of my fragility, physical or otherwise, though I am quite aware of each flecks existence.

The truth is, my fear isn't about this injury or its subsequent recovery.  It gives life to a much more personal and emotional issue deeply rooted and boldly growing from old scars split wide open by setbacks like this.  Clearly, they are wounds that never really healed.

Many, many years ago, I gave up far too much far too easily, and it haunts me still.

One memory rubbed raw and resurfacing most recently, is that of my rather brief stint in the Air Force; four weeks of boot camp training followed by two months of "Medical Hold," only to be sent home for migraines. This is a story many friends and family know, though I've always told it differently than it actually happened.

The basics are the same. I had been aimlessly floundering after the chaos of life led me down an unplanned path. In an attempt to pull myself out of the muck and find any sort of purpose, I proudly joined the U.S. Air Force.  The day after Christmas in 2000, I traveled to San Antonio's Lackland Air Force Base from Houston.  I missed the initial TI verbal assault on the incoming buses, courtesy of a day long paperwork delay, but I was settled into my flight with all the usual "pleasantries" by the 27th.  I learned quickly and became the perfect little wall-flower, despite having the first bed just outside of the Sergeant's office and an easy target for a last name.  "Homer" had brought me nothing but grief since The Simpsons' debut in the fifth grade.  Fortunately for me, it went unnoticed amongst the 59 other girls in my flight.  By week 4, I thought I was golden, but the changes in diet, exercise, and sleep began to take their toll, and my occasional pre-Air Force migraines struck with a vengeance.  It wasn't ever long after Reveille that a daily monster would take hold of my poor pounding head.  I couldn't think straight, and suddenly "the perfect little wallflower" was missing marching calls and standing out like a cactus in the bare desert.  It wasn't pretty, and no one thanked me for the numerous extra "motivational push-ups" we were having to do in penance for my errors alone.  After several days in a row of brain torture and worry, I finally requested to go to medical call. The clinic doctor granted me a referral to the neurologist and an unwanted ticket to leave my flight for the "Medical Hold" Squadron until a diagnosis could be made and everything sorted out.  With this, I found my boot camp graduation delayed and my reserved spot at Shepherd AFB for my next phase of training given to another recruit, though I wasn't fully aware of it at the time.  Once again, my life's plans were shaken.

My first neurology appointment offered a migraine diagnosis, only pending MRI results to rule out worse possibilities.  And so my waiting began- waiting on appointments, waiting on paperwork.  Just a whole lot of "hurry up and wait."

A few weeks later, while making my way by bus to the base hospital, Wilford Hall, for my MRI and follow-up appointments, I passed the marching grounds where graduation preparations were in order.  My breath hitched.  It was my original flight's graduation day.  My graduation day... but not.  I maintained the military bearing as I was expected to display, but my heart broke right there on that shuttle bus as I watched the graduating flights march to the field in their dress blues- the uniform I was measured for, but never received.

It is here where the difference in the story I allowed people to believe and the actual truth diverge.

Perhaps it was riding on the emotional low of that bus ride when I felt my decision was made.  At my appointment that day, the neurologist made the official diagnosis and explained that migraines were typically a "no-go" for acceptance into the military.  He was, however, willing to make an effort to make a case for me to return to normal training along with a prescription to help ease the headaches. The choice was mine. Of course, I had certain anxieties about Warrior Week and other aspects of returning to training, but I truly couldn't see past those graduating flights marching all over my altered dreams to even consider amending the timeline to still reach my goals.  At that moment, I just wanted to go home.

And so, in the great disappointment of my imagined failure, I chose to truly fail by asking that doctor to send me home.

It took another 8 weeks for the paperwork to be properly gathered, but the decision had already been set into motion.  By the time I was reasonable enough to fully comprehend what I had done, it was too late. I told my family and friends that I wasn't given a choice, a fact most are reading for the first time only now.  The shame of disappointing them yet again with the truth of my ever-wavering resolve was too much to bear.  I couldn't shake my adopted role as a quitter, even if only I knew the truth, and it was my own fault.

I let that role rule me for decades, always letting that girl in the mirror forever harp on how I never finished anything I started.  So many times, I proved her right.  Then, little by little, I learned how to be louder and stronger than she was, taking one goal at a time, however small, and celebrating the hell out of it.

That nagging reflection is gone, but she is sadly not forgotten.  It is her ghost, her shadow I fear in moments of sprained knees and slightly-delayed yoga teacher training, knowing old habits are so easily resurrected.  I might be 36, but apparently 21 year old versions of myself still rattle me.

Still, I won't quit. Broken, sprained, calcified, torn, delayed... whatever.  I'll rest.  I'll get back up.  I'll continue moving forward, ever wiser, ever better.