Monday, July 30, 2018

Time


Life is fragile. We're not guaranteed a tomorrow so give it everything you've got.
Tim Cook

Today I went to visit an old friend, meaning a friend I have know for a long time. Truth be told, we dated when we were young and wild and without a care in the world. Who knew then that 30 years or so later, I would be visiting him and assisting with his therapy after a serious stroke? If I had known, would I have done things differently? I have no idea. I was young and living in the moment. What I do know is that now, at this stage of our lives, he needs a little support and love so that is where I belong.....paying a visit to an old friend. The past is long gone.

This summer I also lost a family member, someone, who for many years, was a good friend. We had not spoken or seen each other for several years, which now, in hindsight seems silly and small. He was a father of 2 young children whose lives will be forever altered due to the loss of their dad. He was a friend to so many who will miss him, his sense of humor and the calm, caring example he set for others. He was a husband as well, who cared for his wife in both big and small ways. The void he leaves in her heart will never go away. His mother will also have a void that will never go way as he was a devoted son. I think about his future, his dreams, his plans.....all gone now. The time we spent not speaking to one another now seems foolish and petty. The past is long gone.

Life is so fragile. We all go to sleep with emotions of the day, plans of tomorrow and dreams of the future. However, in a split second that can change. We can get sick, we can lose a loved one...in the mere blink of an eye, our entire life can change. Life gives us no guarantees. We should take no one or nothing for granted. Forgive those who have done you wrong or caused you pain. Make peace with your past. Be kind to everyone. Slow down and make time for people. Love with all your heart. Do not wait for tomorrow. Do it today....right now.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

People

“Mom stop talking to people” stated 15.
“It’s what I do. I talk to people,” replied Mom.


I talk to people. I say hello and good morning and ask "how are you today"..... then I wait for and listen to the response. Often times people ignore me or just nod but sometimes, every once in a while,  I have conversations with some amazing and interesting people. 
On our most recent road trip, I met some of these amazing and interesting folks. 
Pete-he works at the hotel front desk and loves to help people. He is calm and patient and can recommend the best places to eat! He has a knack for calming even the most irritable customer. 
Alice- oh my. This woman will always have a special place in my heart. She is on the housekeeping staff at a hotel. It is one of several jobs she has. She showed us several rooms from which we could choose telling us the pros and cons of each. She warned us about hiking and bears. She asked about where we were from and said she'd never been to Chicago.... big cities scare her. Once we were settled in our room, Alice appeared again with a pair of wine glasses and a lovely note welcoming us to the hotel. “Wanted you to feel at home and have something to recall your visit so y’all come back...” I saw her again the second day and she once again asked about our day and listen to the responses. She has a sharp wit and keen sense of humor that I found so endearing. She stopped by our room again later in the evening to see if we were in need of anything and to say goodbye as we would be leaving in the morning. She made an offhand remark about feeling like she mattered to us and said we mattered to her. Oh Alice.  You DO matter! You are such an amazing woman!
Marilyn- she works in food service at a hotel. I watched as people looked right through her as she restocked breakfast items. They didn’t bother to say good morning when they asked her for more eggs or gravy. As I waited for my waffle to cook, she refilled napkins and I thanked her.  We got to talking. She told me this was one of her 2 jobs but what she was most proud of was the fact that in 3 short weeks she would be a college graduate. She was working 2 jobs, going to school online and raising 4 children. “I'm gonna have my bachelor's degree! First one in the family to graduate college! I want my kids to be proud of me.”
She went on to tell me that at age 49 she wants to be a firefighter once she graduates. “My kids think I’m crazy but ya only live once. I’m gonna make it a good life...”
The pride in her posture and on her face as she told me again and again about the college degree in 3 weeks was something to behold. I hope everyone that gets a degree feels that proud. 
Diana and her young daughter- while driving back to Gatlinburg from Newfound Gap, and against the wishes of my kids, I crossed over the median to stop at an overlook and take a photo. Drivers aren’t really supposed to do this but sometimes I’m a rule breaker. And I looked like I was not alone. There was a truck with a family of 3 pulled over too. As it turns out they were stranded. The national park has little to no cell service and not lot of law enforcement traffic on the roads. We tried to jump their truck to no avail and with none of us having cell service, calling a wrecker was out of the question. So Diana piled in the backseat while, once again, we broke a rule as her daughter climbed onto her lap so I could drive us all to Gatlinburg. The closer we got, cell service returned and she was able to call the Insurance company. I took her to a service station whose employee was not very kind and said they could not help her that day. I asked for the number of someone that could and the employee very curtly told us to “have a credit card ready cuz you’ll have to pay upfront. We don’t work for free up here....”
Diana and her family were visiting from Maryland and were staying at an RV Park. What impressed me was that this woman never got upset of flustered. She took everything In stride, telling her daughter, “we’ll get it all worked out. Just adds to the adventure of our vacation....”
I saw them again in town later and she thanked me again. Later that evening I got a text from her thanking me again for being “a blessing ...”
Mavis- Mavis works on a housekeeping staff at a hotel in Nashville. When I said good morning to her, she about jumped out of her skin. I apologized for startling her and she said, “it’s alright.... you are such a breath of fresh air. Most people either say nuthin’ or are so grouchy in the morning from too much nighttime fun...so ya surprised me...”
We talked about the weather and the city of Nashville a bit and I told her to have a nice day. “Well it certainly is off to a blessed beginnin’ thanks to you.” And It was a wonderful rest of my day thanks to Mavis!
Officer M of the Kentucky State Police- Officer M took it upon himself to pull me over on the Interstate to ask for my drivers license. He wished to remind me to change Into “shoes not made of lead", doing him the “favor of slowing down so y’all get home safely.” Apparently after we stopped to get get lunch, the fast food had all gone to my foot and I was a little heavy on the accelerator! I thanked him for the reminder and promised to slow it down. 

I am a firm believer that what you put out into the world, comes back to you. I believe that people matter. I believe that we all crave human connection. I believe that if you talk to people, make eye contact, say hello and wait for a response, you can make some amazing connections and get to know some really interesting people. You can make people feel as though they matter. And will feel as though you matter too. 
Forward is a pace
Peace
#tutulady

Dreams


“There is a phenomenon called Trail Magic, known and spoken of with reverence by everyone who hikes the trail, which holds that often when things look darkest some little piece of serendipity comes along to put you back on a heavenly plane.”
Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

Dreams. Some you don’t speak out loud....you just hold them in your heart.

I remember in high school and college reading about the Appalachian Trail and wondering what it would be like to hike there. I grew up living in the country and loving the outdoors but moved to the city once I got married. 
A  few years ago, I came across a book titled Becoming Odessa. It moved me to my core. After I read that, I picked up Bill Bryson's book which was a different, but equally moving tale, of the trail.
At that time I promised myself that before I died I would hike the AT (Appalachian Trail) ...maybe not the whole thing but at least some part of it. 
But then I put that dream aside thinking it could never happen. I am a mom of 5 who is not a hiker by nature.  I never told a soul about that dream. I just held it in my heart. 
Fast forward a few years, years filled with more heartache than I care to mention. My kids and I decided to take a road trip....the first vacation I have taken with my kids in over 10 years. I let them choose where they wanted to go. We just got in the car and started driving. While driving south they told me they wanted to go to the Smoky Mountains. I had never been and agreed in a heartbeat. We booked a hotel while driving to Gatlinburg(aren't cell phones amazing?!).
I didn’t know how close the AT was at that point I just knew that we were going to be hiking in the mountains. We got up early and went to the Visitor Center of the National Park. If you have never been, these facilities are an amazing wealth of information! We picked up a trail map and once again I let the kids make the choices. Turns out the trail they chose, the one the Ranger said would have spectacular views of the mountains and was not an easy hike, was a trail that was 8 miles out and back of the AT, but did not know that yet...... 
We drove up the twisting and turning mountain road to Newfound Gap stopping along the way to take photos of the breathtaking beauty of the Smokies. We parked at the overlook and found the trailhead. I looked at the sign and gasped. The AT!   We took more photos and then headed out onto the trail.  I really could not believe that I was standing on part of the AT. Most visitors head out only 1/4 a mile or so and then back to the cars as this is listed as a "Challenging" hike.  Not us!  We were in it for the whole distance. 
It was not until we were deeper into the trail that I saw it......the white rectangle. The distinct marker of the Appalachian Trail. These markers are found over 2,000 miles of trail to keep hikers on the right path. I had read about them in books and seen photos but now here I was.....facing one......and I started to cry. Yup....I cried. My kids were ahead of me and there I was crying in the woods! I took a few minutes to take it all in and continued on the trail, finding my kids up ahead sitting on a rock taking a water break. They asked what was wrong and I told them the about my dream to hike the AT and that I had never told anyone. We sat in silence for a few minutes....and then as kids do..... one said .... "Ok ...well then ...let's keep going..." God Forbid mom get sappy!
For several hours we hiked and chatted and were silent and took lots of photos. I taught them about things we encountered such as salamanders and lichen and they reminded me to be careful...."You are no spring chicken, mom"
There were times that we sort of spread out, each going at our own pace, so I was alone for a while. (Funny, when I looked at the photos, I realized I was wearing my "Forward is a pace" Shirt).
It was one of the most magical experiences of my life. I was able to breathe like never before. I could feel my heartbeat. I could fill my lungs with fresh air. I could smell the mountains. I could see for miles. I could touch the cool moss on the trees. I could feel the earth beneath my feet like never before. I felt a connection to the Earth like never before. Trail Magic. It was Trail Magic. 
My kids had helped me live a dream I had never before had the courage to speak out loud. The memories of this day I will hold in my heart forever.  The feeling of achieving even a part of my dream is something I will thank my children for forever. 
Forward is a Pace
Peace
#tutulady

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Prove

“In the hopes of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet." ― Albert Schweitzer

I went for a run Sunday. I was supposed to go Saturday and put it off due to rain. In the past, I never would have put off a training long run.  I would have looked a the weather forecast and planned around the rain (or heat or whatever weather was coming).  For the past 8 summers my life has been consumed by marathon training. My eating, drinking, sleeping and running...all of it were focused on one goal....26.6 in October. This summer I have been slow to start as I have been training on my own. I did not want to subject anyone to my foul attitude about training. 
I decided to spice up training and signed up for a virtual run. I registered for the "Deamer" run from Fellow Flowers....distance and date up to the runner. I thought that my Sunday run would be my virtual "race" and set off for 8 miles. As I ran, I listened to my Fellow Flowers playlist on Spotify. Some of the songs were songs I had never really heard before or songs that I had paid attention to the lyrics. I was not thrilled about this run or the weather so I put one foot in front of the other and moved forward slowly in the soupy morning air.  I was going to finish.....
As I ran I got lost in my thoughts. I was running frustrated and angry....and I didn't really know why...
and then it hit me....like a ton of bricks....the signs had been there all along but it was a sign in a yard that was the one that cracked open my heart and let the light in. It was a sign that read "Divorce Sale."
A woman in my neighborhood was having a divorce sale and getting rid of things. I stopped and chatted for a minute and then it dawned on me why I was so frustrated and angry......training....proving...the stress and anxiety of training...the desire to prove something by running the marathon....that was IT! 
I started running because our dog needed exercise. Someone dared me to run a 5k. So I trained and finished to prove I could. After that someone challenged me to run a 1/2 marathon so I trained and finished to prove I could. After that, the next challenge was a full marathon so I trained and finished to prove I could. The next challenge offered was to train others to finish a marathon so I did that too. 
I loved the challenges and ability to prove myself to others. I loved setting a strong example of setting/accomplishing goals for my children, my students and my Girls on the Run. I loved running and my Saturday morning long runs with my summer running family. I really loved it all and running gave me so many feels every day!
But now I no longer liked running. I dreaded it. The "feels" I was getting from running were no longer positive. I was no longer setting a positive example for anyone. 
As I ran on that sultry Sunday morning run alone, I thought about my friends Molly, Mel, and Keith. All made choices to step away from something they loved for a bit and that changed their lives for the better. They were leading me.....but I didn't know it. I thought about all the people that inspire others without running marathons. I thought about the other things in my life that bring me joy. Then it hit me..... I realized that I had lost my love of and joy in running. I no longer saw the flowers at my feel. I was running not for any reason but to PROVE something. I realized that I had been running for years to prove myself to me and to others. I was running to prove that I could...to prove that I was strong.   I finally realized that I really have nothing to prove to anyone. 
The past 3 plus years(and the years leading up to that point) were some of the hardest years of my life. Without the lessons learned from running and training, I don't think I could have made it through.  I was told that I love "relishing in the fact" that I am " a strong single mom." I no longer have to prove that I am strong. I know that I am strong. I believe in my own strength and I have nothing to prove to anyone. 
So I made a decision....a decision that, once made, felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. A decision that, once made,  brought a newfound spring in my step. A decision, once made, brought me .....JOY! I made the decision to  defer my entry for this year's marathon.
I may choose to train next year or I may choose to never use that entry. The choice is mine to make, but for now, I am liberated by my choice to defer. 
I know that my life, with all of its ups, downs, wins, losses, mistakes and imperfections, is an inspiration to others. I know that my future is going to be filled with amazing adventures. I know I am stronger than I ever realized.  I know that I now run for me....for JOY.
Forward is a Pace
Peace
#tutulady

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Acceptance

June is Pride month. It took me weeks to process all that happened. I have spent weeks composing posts in my head, starting posts and then abandoning them because I felt like they were inadequate.
My mind was going in a thousand different directions with many of my thoughts leading to anger and frustration. If you know me, you know that for me to speak effectively on a topic, I have to be able to speak from a place of love. 
All month I heard a lot about love and acceptance but I also heard a lot of hate speech and stories that made my heart hurt. I needed time to process the hurt before writing. I am blessed that I can process this hurt that I feel. Some people live with the pain every day. Some live with anger and disapproval on a daily basis. Some people do not have the resources and or tools to help them process feelings appropriately. 
Can you imagine having to meet with your parents, sit them down and say "Mom, Dad......I am heterosexual. I want to date the opposite gender." Then having your parents tell you that you are no longer welcome in their home. Or that you need to go to a "camp" to "fix you." Or living in secret for years in fear of all the consequences of who you love?
There were many times I personally have not felt the love....
While wearing a rainbow shirt, I was asked at a local grocery store if I supported "those fags" by a lady I didn't know. 
A friend was accosted outside a local market by a religious zealot recruiting people to protest the pride parade in the City.
I was told the being gay is not a sin but acting on it is....consequently unfriending someone because they told me that my son and I would burn in Hell. 
I heard so many stories of coming out, with the suffering and anguish that followed, that broke my heart. 
I know the struggles of my own son. I know that at times I do/say things that are incorrect/hurtful just because I don't know any better. But I try...every day I try. I ask questions and learn what I can so I able to be the best mom and human to both my son and other people.
It is my hope that all people, adults and children, can find a place of love and acceptance. It is my daily prayer that I can be that place for all that I meet.
Forward is a pace.
Peace.
#tutulady

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Unexpected


I am a planner. I like things in order. I like to know what is going to happen next. My life....and God...well they have other plans for me. Life and God like to throw me curveballs. They like to keep me on my toes.
After parent teacher conferences Thursday, our admin told us that our professional development day for Friday had been canceled. We were all to enjoy a day off!  My initial reactions was YEA!  Day off!  Then my anxiety brain took over....What am I going to do? What needs to get done? I did not make plans or appointments. I do not have a list of things to do. ACK!
So I took a deep breath and decided to embrace the unexpected. This is not something I am comfortable with at all. I told myself that I was doing nothing that did not make me happy on Friday.
I woke up with nothing planned.....it was the strangest feeling. I got dressed to run, took the kids to the train and had some coffee. I had decided to go for a run and maybe some yoga.
I have not run nor gone to yoga in months. I have been a lump. I have made excuses. Today was no different. I was making excuses....and needed to be stronger than my best excuse.
My run was not easy. Matter of fact it was downright difficult. I pushed through just over 4 miles!  Longest run in a long time!
I was feeling so good! Mid Morning hot yoga class was calling my name and when I saw my favorite teacher, I knew I was in the right spot....those unexpected curballs from God and Life.....I was hitting them out of the park today!
Yoga meditation was about Santosha - contentment. to practice being in the moment. to remain grounded. turning into yourself. digging down into your inner peace. It was EXACTLY what I needed...that and a good sweat!
I have not been this good to myself in a long while. I have not practiced self care like I preach to others. Today I was forced by ME...to take time for ME. I forgot that I am important. I forgot so many things....

I forgot that my dog needs his harness to run with me but remembered he loves and needs to run with me.
I forgot my running route and got lost but remembered that I always find my way home.
I forgot that the hardest part of any run is getting out the door but remembered that once I get started I could run forever.
I forgot that the wind can make any run more difficult but remembered that I can lean in and move forward.
I forgot how diverse my playlists are but remembered that I love all kinds of music and have passed that to my kids.
I forgot what wildflowers look like but remembered that beautiful things always grow in unexpected places.
I forgot how hard it is to outrun the voices in my head but remembered that those voices are not endurance athletes like me.
I forgot that I am willing to fail but remembered that I am determined to rise.
I forgot that running is hard work but remembered that I can do hard things.
I forgot that breathing is important in running and yoga but remembered that some days inhaling and exhaling is enough.
I forgot that I sweat a lot during yoga but remembered that I need to get rid of the toxins in my body.
I forgot that I lose my balance and sometimes fall down in yoga and life but remembered that I always get back up and regain my balance.
I forgot that one side of my body is stronger than that other but remembered that I can work to make them more equal.
I forgot that some yoga poses are difficult but I remembered that I am flexible.
I forgot that I am easily frustrated but remembered that I can breathe through the frustration.
I forgot that running clears my head but I remembered that I work through my problems when I run.
I forgot that yoga centers me but remembered that I can remain grounded every day.
I forgot that I feel more at peace after I run or do yoga but remembered that I need to make them more of a priority.
I forgot how to embrace the unexpected but remembered that I can embrace and enjoy unexpected things.
I forgot that I need some me time but remembered I need to work on self care making it a priority.
I forgot that pace only matters to me but remembered that forward is my pace.
Forward Is A Pace.
Peace.
#tutulady




Sunday, March 4, 2018

Faith

I have a deep and abiding faith in God. I always have. Heck, I went to a Catholic grade school and a Catholic college. When I started teaching, I went right to the Catholic schools for a job. I remained a teacher in the Catholic school system for almost 30 years.
I have always had my 'issues' with my religion but when I went to college, I was taught by nuns who encouraged me to not only embrace those issues but explore other areas of my faith as well. I was challenged to explain why I disagreed with some of the practices of the church. I was encouraged to explore areas of social justice. I was prodded to deepen my relationship with my faith in God....beyond the constraints of the Catholic religion.  The experience of those 4 years opened my eyes to a world beyond the walls of the 'church'. I realized that my faith was not the same as my religion.
After graduation, I started my teaching career in what I thought was the safest place possible, the Catholic church and school system. Over the years, I continued to practice my religion, going to church each week, teaching the religion to my students, saying the prayers I grew up memorizing. But in my heart of hearts, I still had the same issues with my religion.
Year after year, I taught the Catholic religion to my students, and eventually my own children. I loved the security and stability the Church provided even if I disagreed with some of Its teachings.
For years the term Cafeteria Catholic bothered me as did the term ChriEaster. Cafeteria Catholics are ones that pick and choose what they want to believe from the religion and leave the rest. Chri-Easters are folks that only go to Mass on Christmas and Easter. But since I no longer teach at a Catholic school, I have become both. I have not been to Mass in many months. I pray but Mass? Nope....
Today I went to a local church to hear a man speak about his devotion to Mary.  It was a true God-incident as I didn't really want to go and have not been to church in a long time. His testimony was amazing and powerful. Kevin Matthews was a morning radio DJ "back in the day". I grew up listening to Kevin and all the many characters he created. After college, I worked with people who knew Kev and went to many of his events..."proms", golf outings, parties, etc. He was the "cool kid" everyone wanted to be around.....and he was funny as hell. I was a true 'Kev-Head'
I have always felt a deep connection to the Mother Mary. Praying the rosary gives me peace and I like to collect different rosaries from all over the world. I used to make rosaries with my students and pray a living rosary with them. May Crowning is still one of my favorite church traditions.  I always felt that Mary, as another mother, understood my struggles. Listening to Kevin speak only strengthened that conviction.  I realized that I am still devoted to my faith and to Mary. 
I took the opportunity while in church to pray. I prayed about my life. Divorce is something the Catholic Church does not condone. Homosexuality is also something the Catholic Church does not condone. I am divorced. My son is gay.
So today I prayed to my Mother Mary. I asked her for peace. Being that Mary was an unwed teenage mother, if she were one of my 'besties,' I like to believe that she would have advised me to do what I have done in leaving my marriage. She doesn't seem the type to excuse abuse. Forgive? Yes. But allow? I don't think so. I also believe if Mary had a gay child, she would love him/her, accept him/her and encourage others, especially the Church, to do the same. God created all of us in His image so He is my son and my son is Him.
Kevin said during his talk, "If you hold the Rosary, you hold the hand of Mary. If you hold the hand of Mary, you hold the hand of God." I embrace the Rosary and Mary.
God created all of us. God makes no mistakes. God created my son to love who he loves. God knows I was faithful to my marriage. God has a plan for my son. for me...for all my children and for all of us. I have Mary as my guide and I have faith. A faith not contained by 4 walls but by the air and soil and sea
and sky.
Faith is trusting in God's plan. I may not understand the plan or like it but I have faith.
I have faith and love....and Mary.
Forward is a pace
Peace.