Boundaries & Blooming

Once a week, I have lunch with a spunky and sassy 7th grader. We’ve been doing this for two years now. Back then, she used to whoop me at Connect Four or Hangman in the library. Now, she loves fake nails and the subject of boys most always pops into our conversations. The school she’s at is bursting at the seams with toughness and she has grown to fit her environment. The cafeteria, with its chaotic symphony of curse words and reprimanding teachers, makes me dizzy. This has been my toughest year as her mentor. I honestly don’t know how we made it to the end of the school year some days.

A couple of weeks ago, I made the decision to end our mentoring session early. I 100% didn’t want to do this but her actions spoke loudly that day. I can see how much we both have shifted. Her, on the cusp of childhood ending and wandering into that space where we discover who we are as women. Me, wanting to let her know that absolutely anything she yearns for in this life is attainable. Both of us at a standstill in this space. I have come to adore all pieces of her because even in the moments of frustration, when the language is unbearable, I catch glimpses of her sweetness. I’ve learned she is not the sum of these actions but trying to stay afloat in the sea of changes she is constantly presented with has worn her out.

I didn’t want to walk away that day but I needed to. We had consistently approached the topic of respecting our time together and that day, all such discussions went out the window. I told her friend I needed to leave and explained why. I went to my car, with the tears flowing from the weight of my decision. Being a mentor (at least through this program) is a fine line some days. It is limited to contact only within the school and there are guidelines, understandably, for the safety of the students. I needed her to know how great she was but how do I convey that when everything else is trying to pull her down?

We create boundaries, not only out of need for ourselves, but to say we care. Drawing that line. Saying no more. They don’t seem like acts of love do they? They are when we show up again. When we know the lesson is needed. When we halt, take that person by the hand and say, “I want you to see all you are capable of. The brushstrokes you will one day leave behind on the masterpiece of life. But, it can’t be here. Not while you are unwilling to take care of yourself. We need to resolve that part first.” So, we build the fence and leave that opening. Healthy boundaries mean we recognize that person can come back when they’re ready. And you’ll be there waiting, ready to take those next steps.

I’m beginning my Masters’ program in the fall and will have to put off mentoring. I felt guilty about this at first but have finally been able to find some peace. I haven’t the slightest idea if she’ll remember me down the road. If the truth I spoke into her life will make a difference. She needs room to bloom though, that I can tell. I will keep hoping and praying she knows she is enough. That this big world can be pretty sucky (especially middle and high school) but it’s how many times you get back up that counts. I’d love for her to do great and wonderful things in this life. I also have to accept the fact that not everything blooms. Some struggle and pop out of the ground, suddenly, after years of nothing. Some might not at all and the ground will be tilled in order to begin again.

We can never discount the simple fact of showing up, each week, as a reminder that someone will be there. Though difficult and heart-wrenching it may be, boundaries create space for love. When there is struggle and strife, when we are challenged to meet that person in uncertainty and where we may not feel comfortable, it’s not the time to quit. Make the line in the sand. Let them know you’re there. And when they’re ready, they just might take your hand. Ready to erase the line and welcome in something new. That which they might not have recognized before is now so clear. The simple and delightful notion that they are loved.

And Then We Watched the Sunset

I started writing this post last spring, when it had been one year without my mom. While it is very personal to me, I felt it was time to share. I know Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for some but a mother’s love is forever. Be sure to squeeze your people tight while you can. And don’t spend too much time in that place of hurt. It’s more than acceptable to grieve and feel but take time to remind yourself of all the goodness that still surrounds you. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there. You do the greatest work known to mankind.

I wanted to watch the sunset with you today. So, I went to the prettiest spot I know here. Where you can look down into Latah Valley and see it all. Trees, the first signs of spring. Life moving forward. Even if it I felt as if it stopped, I knew that wasn’t true for everybody else.

I wanted to watch the sunset alone, except for you of course. We listened to Elton John because I know how much you love him. It was a little bit chilly outside but I didn’t care. Being with you that day was really all that mattered.

I wanted to watch the sunset because I knew I’d find you in the moment where everything becomes still. When the hues of yellow, blue, orange and pink all blend together on the pallet of sky, finally disappearing into complete darkness.

I wanted to watch the sunset because things needed to feel real. I didn’t want sympathetic looks from strangers or the “I’m sorry’s.” They mean well and heck, I’m sure I’d do the same, but gazing at the sky with you finally brought back some normalcy into this life.

 

I wanted to watch the sunset, not to be reminded of everything I’ll miss, but of what I still carry with me. The concerts and plays where I found you in the stands. Silly moments and arguments. Cooking lessons where I spent more time with my nose in a book than actually learning how to cook. Christmas mornings and holidays where we didn’t have a single place to be except together.

I wanted to watch the sunset but also I didn’t. Because of what that would mean, of what I would feel. Of the tears flowing too easily. For what I would learn in this shared quiet moment between you and I. In the way the memories flood back, making it difficult to catch my breath. So for a bit I could forget the unfairness of it all, shrinking away from the tragedies that form our stories.

I wanted to watch the sunset because to say I needed a place to visit you sounds so cliche but yet, I did. To glimpse past the veil that seems to separate us at times, between those who are here and who have left. To see more in the stillness than we generally allow. To recognize that the love is greater than the loss.

I wanted to watch the sunset. So we did. It wasn’t perfect but it was beautiful. It was the point where bliss and hurt coincide. The sharpness of the pain meets up against your unbroken love. We hurt, we heal, we start again. In it all, we never stop loving. In the sunset that day, though I felt my foundation was shaky, I found assuredness in you. In each gift you’ve given. In each smile. In every moment I saw your heart. And wouldn’t you know it, the sun keeps rising and setting. Just like that glorious circle, your love reminds me to rise and to rest. To cover all I can with my own love and warmth.

Thank you for so very many of my best days and for the strength to make the rest of my days as beautiful as those I spent with you. I love you mom.

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Flowers & Filling Up

“You are spending so much time pouring into others. Make sure you take the time to fill yourself up too.”

That’s what my mentor said to me when we got together this week. She really is the10273912_10152199094073763_5981953878757103830_n sweetest soul. Always watching out for me, checking in on me and asking if there is anything she can do. A month after my break-up, I reached out to my church community. I needed a guide. Somebody who would look at me with zero judgement, remind me of my worth and speak positivity when all I saw in the mirror was the complete opposite. If you think that is unnecessary then I’m sorry but you are wrong. You can’t do it alone. Not your struggles, not this life. We weren’t meant to. Say it with me: You NEED those people for this specific purpose. We need to be lifted, not to feed our ego but rather, to nourish our soul. In the past couple of years, I have realized the difficulty and pain that comes with living far away from family. I love my life and the roots I have placed in Washington but I knew my habits and old self were trying to kick down the door of the woman who now stood in her place. And maybe, a stranger who becomes a friend can be that person. Unlike family, they don’t know your garbage and baggage. You know nothing of them and what the burdens they carried. Both are entering this relationship with zero biases. They are simply saying, “Place your hand in mine. Take a walk with me. Let’s take a look at the bigger picture and work out the smaller details as we go.”

13086824_10153661362928763_3805220378019328500_oThat’s how I found my mentor. While I have been a mentor myself for two years and the idea of having somebody to take on that role in my own life sounded just peachy, I had no idea of the imprint she’d place on my heart. The love and care she would speak into my life. This was exactly what I needed. In all the moments that I had been there, to listen, to just be and to have a hand when they needed someone to hold theirs, I was now reaching my own hand out, grasping for a brand new connection.

Her words stuck with me that day. I’ve often heard and have been hearing this reoccurring theme lately. If I don’t take the time to re-energize and recharge then how is what I pour into others of any value? It isn’t. Just like the flowers that soak up the springtime rains, we need our own nourishment to grow. We need rain in the form of rest. In the beauty of nature. In the laughter with our friends. In the quiet moments of reading a good book. In dancing with a stranger in Mallorca. (Check!) In enjoying this very life that we are so blessed to live out each day. Did I really need to pencil those things in? Schedule time just to ensure that I’m actually….living?

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What an eye-opener friends. If we truly listen to what the world is telling us, we are often met with the people and situations we need in those moments. My mom was one of the hardest working women I know. She sacrificed each day so my sister and I were provided for. Only when her body was breaking down, when she knew there wasn’t much time left and there was one place she wanted to be more than anything, did she get to go. My parents picked up and moved to Alabama. Where she could sip coffee on her porch and take everything in during those Southern mornings. I walk with that reminder and I will never stop feeling enveloped in that love she gave me. I will always wish she could have enjoyed Alabama for longer than she was able but the fact she was able to go at all is still a miracle.

Pushing the accelerator to the floor might feel like I’ll get there faster but I am going to be so wore out by the time I arrive. Let’s not even talk about my flowers, which will have zero chance of thriving in such a stressful state. The giving, serving, goal-achieving and box-checking look nice and feel even better when that dopamine is released, telling our brain how great this is! And, that is awesome. Our brains and bodies are super smart that way. I want you to reach your goals. I implore you to live a life in service to others. But, don’t forget to water your flowers ok?

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Even flower dresses. Happy spring y’all!

Yoga Practice & Lessons in Grace

If you have glanced through my blog at all, you’ve probably noticed yoga plays a large part in my life. If not, well now ya know. I started attending a hot yoga studio (And also can I get an amen for those of us who can’t dish out $1,200 a year to be able to attend unlimited monthly sessions? Props if you can but this girl is on a budget. One day perhaps but until then I’ll buy my class pass when I can afford it and attend twice a week.) here in Spokane back in December and I’ve found that when paired with my home practice, it all starts to click. In a home practice, we can only go so far when we don’t have somebody to guide us in our form when going through the poses. And the same with a home practice. If we are not disciplining ourselves and bringing those concepts we’ve learned to our mat at home, then we fail to grow.

Lately, I’ve seen the parallels between my yoga practice and personal life. As you may have read previously, my relationship of over a year ended about two months ago. In the past, I would move towards unhealthy habits and decisions in order to deal with the pain. But now, I am finally able to see how far this rollercoaster of life has brought me. Every past heartbreak and pain. Every iota of hurt and self-doubt has pushed me to question, seek and discover that which has been inside me all along. I am worth more than I ever dreamed. I am stronger now than I’ve ever been.

But, the truth is, I did falter. I briefly yearned for and sought those whom have hurt me in the past. And then, a little voice inside of me said….”No.” The woman who triumphed in that period of darkness. Who lit the match on the house and almost walked away to watch it all burn, she was roaring. Because, she didn’t walk away when she wanted to the most. She fought and she thrashed and she gave it more than her all. Though the house had some damage, she was ready to rebuild. That is precisely what she did. Two years ago last month I lost my mom to cancer. At that very same time, I was badly burned by my first and most turbulent love. So yes, that woman inside me does not back down without a fight. Not without the struggle of reminding me of the goodness I deserve and how I am incredibly loved.

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My financial guru but even more so, friend

Similar to my yoga practice, I knew I was close to where I wanted to be but my form was not quite correct. I needed a push. I needed to ask for help. You know when you mess up and you really don’t want to tell anybody because the fear of disappointment feels so heavy? That was how I felt when I reached out to my friends. To my church. To the only people I knew could truly guide me in this time. But, I did it anyways. I walked in, head bowed, ready to battle for my heart, soul and self-worth. And the greatest gifts they gave me? When I was fully prepared to apologize and to bow my head in shame, the only feelings they offered up…..were those of love and grace. Two of the most powerful, life-changing words in human existence, if you ask me.

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It wasn’t necessary for me to carry all of this alone, not when so many others were willing to jump in. Who were ready to take some of the burden, to help me cut out the negativity and growth-hindering parts, and who were willing to love on me. Right now, I can see I have a rock solid foundation. I can look back and realize that stumbling doesn’t mean I have not grown, but rather that we sometimes need re-directing on our path. A little light or a friend to walk with us for awhile. Strength can lie in recognizing we are lost, asking for help, and taking corrective action to do better next time. Life is made up of small steps and occasionally, big leaps. It can happen all at once or day by day. Our growth is not measured by whether or not we falter but how we react after the fall. Will you stand back up, armor in hand, roaring and willing to battle for YOU?

I don’t know where you’re walking or how that looks. Where life has brought you or the obstacles that have been placed during your walk. What I can tell though is without a doubt the truth. It is true as of yesterday, today and tomorrow. You are worthy of two, beautiful gifts…..grace and love.

Happy Sunday friends. Make it a beautiful one.

Mom-isms & Mending

So, I realize when I say mom this can be somewhat confusing because to me, I always sort of felt there were two ladies that I was able to call “Mom.” I lived with my birth mom in Wisconsin until I was about 6 years old and then I moved to Montana, where I was raised by my stepmom and dad. I visited my mom in Wisconsin every summer, at Christmas, and eventually lived in Wisconsin for awhile, where I graduated college. While the story doesn’t fit into the mold of your typical household, I’d like to think that these two gave me unique perspectives and love in this lifetime of mine. Many of you have heard me share stories of my stepmom and now, I’d like to delve into what I’ve gained in my other relationship.

My mom flew from Wisconsin to visit me this past week and while the weather was dreary and gray most days, we made the best of it. We took a trip to Wallace, Idaho and although our hike was put on hold due to the snow, we found some unique spots to stop at. There was shopping, cleaning and maintenance of my living space (thanks Mom), wine tasting and Mamma Mia. Oh, and let us not forget the delicious meals! So yes, it was an enjoyable trip and I’m thankful I could show her the place I’ve called home for the past three years. In light of this week, here are a few tidbits I’ve taken away from my mother:

  1. A love of wine.
  2. Dance parties in the living room to the musical stylings of ABBA will always be needed.
  3. Never underestimate what a great pair of shoes can do for your day.
  4. Sometimes you will make mistakes but the very best people in your life will keep loving you.
  5. Moms will often know your life and/or decisions before they happen. For example: break-ups, relationships, whether or not I will go back to school, etc. I have yet to understand this strange phenomenon because I do not have children of my own. When I call her with the latest happenings in my life, she generally has already informed me things would go this way at some point in the past. I’ve found I often have to learn these lessons for myself and she can just keep predicting the future in the mom way that she does.
  6. Laughing at yourself makes life a whole lot easier.
  7. Standing on our own isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it is essential to seeking out that which makes us who we really are. 
  8. Don’t forget to have fun or life will really suck.
  9. Sometimes you just need to cry to your mom.
  10. Each relationship in our life will look a little different. It isn’t about HOW it looks, but instead, if we are doing our very best to cultivate it, even if it’s difficult. Life is rocky, uncertain and all around frightening at times. Mending those relationships doesn’t mean we are settling. (Unless that person is harming you physically or emotionally, in which case, you should stay far away.) After the dust has cleared and we take a step back, we can find good. 

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Thanks for visiting me Mom. Looking forward to more adventures in the near future. 🙂

Blessed by Your Love: What I Found in Losing My Mom

I have put off writing this. All day I have wrestled internally with keeping it together so nobody knows the immense hurt that is bubbling to the surface inside. I have wanted to put off this “feelings” part altogether because the pain is unreal. Contrary to the hours, days and weeks we account for, grief is one aspect that cannot be measured. The loss of your presence in my life strikes abruptly. Tiny  moments and increments that sneak into my life. At a wedding when a mom looks at her daughter with more love than she could ever hope to convey. When I find something that reminds me of you. A holiday, birthday or anniversary.

I didn’t know the world would keep spinning. That time would creep on, ever so slowly, keeping us all in its steady rhythm. That my tears would flow less often but my heart would still bear a fault line, your name forever etched in. How certain memories might make me burst into a smile with thoughts of you, yet others would cause me to pause in the moment as I realize I can no longer reminisce with you. How different of a world this is than the one I had envisioned, the one where you were there.

A friend once told me that my mom isn’t really gone, that I can simply start talking wherever I am, out in nature or during my day. That she’s right there with me. I’d like to note that, even as a woman of faith, just how badly I wanted to call bull on that. How I have still spent these past two years hurting, harboring anger at times, and navigating the ways in which I can lighten this burden. But then, I thought, what if she’s right? What if this is part of the healing process? This hurting heart is searching for peace and despite how stubborn I can be, I’m willing to try.

Dear Mom,

I feel I never thanked you as much as I should have. That I am still mad at how life played out and a couple of years during college were wasted in anger. I am simply amazed by all I still learn from you, how much more sure I am of myself now and that I know you would be so proud of me. Your strength was remarkable and your unending love was displayed in your willingness to always put your children first. I’m the luckiest for being able to call you mom!

I found fun in everyday moments. I found courage to stand up for what is right and true. I found that family doesn’t always mean blood but as long as the love is strong and welcoming, none of that matters. We were able to mesh that which was familiar and that which was new to create something lasting. Families are NOT picture perfect and I am so sorry I felt they needed to be. You will forever be an incredible woman and mother to me. 

 

I found somebody who believed in me. Someone who watched me play the clarinet at festivals and concerts, supporting my love of music. My biggest fan at my school plays, laughing in all the right places. You gave so much of yourself that I often wonder if there was any room left over for you? I will never understand how you did it all. Working late hours each day, dinners often prepared for us ahead of time, and still attending our events. You held us up and you held us together. The hardest working woman I knew, hands down.

I’m just now beginning to see how extensively you shaped me. How your love is still reaching me even after you’re gone. And no matter how many times others may have said that to me in the past, it is only now starting to feel that way. So yes, maybe I did need to get out of my own way. Quit overthinking and drop my uncertainty. (I’m also learning that there are no rules in grief, more of a feeling things out as you go along.)

In reflecting over all that you were, you helped me to discover who I am. I am capable and gifted. I am strong and loving. I am able to give because you continually gave all. I am forever held up by you and that can never be taken away from me. The pieces of you that reside within me are cherished and shared with the world.

Instead of wishing for more time, I’m going to be praying for more grace and keep filling my life with as much love as I can. Undoubtedly, your love was the best gift of all. The one which allowed me to reach the pinnacle in order to view myself and our relationship with more clarity. Sweet, sweet love that keeps finding a way to open my heart a little more each day. 

I love you Mom.