Monthly Archives: January 2016

Learning to Navigate the Weird

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Running in negative 14 degrees and watching your spit freeze in mid-air…weird, right? A few days later, running in shorts and short sleeves, in January, in Missouri…also weird.

The word ‘weird’ has been thrown around a lot at my house lately, and in my head.

During a conversation with Ally just after Christmas, it occurred to her that there were people living in her other house (her dad’s house) while she wasn’t there. “Weird.” She said.

After the first day of being back at school, “Hey Ethan, how was it having Miles (new step-brother) in your class?” “Weird” was his response.

Seeing my kids’ new step mom also in the drop off and/or pick up line each day…Weird. Even weirder…being out for a run on Thursday afternoon and knowing that she was picking them up instead of me.

It has occurred to me that we use the word weird, when we aren’t really sure what other word to use.

Yesterday Brian and I bundled up and went over to brave the cold at Castlewood to get our first look at the post-flood version of our favorite park. Driving in was certainly weird, as I kept telling him various places that I had seen pictures of that had been completely under water.  Even the spot we parked in had been submerged just a couple weeks ago.  There were still remnants of puddles in lower lying areas, but for the most part, the ground was dry.  At first glance, things appeared normal, but that eventually changed as we went deeper into the woods.

We hiked up Lone Wolf Hill and walked along the bluffs. The height up there allows for a good overview, which also gave the appearance of things being mostly back to normal.  When we approached the stairs, I mentioned to B about a picture I had seen of the water being way up into the massive staircase.  Hard to believe, especially since the water has since receded into the confines of the river banks.  As we sat for a moment at the bottom of the stairs, watching a red-headed woodpecker just overhead, an older fellow came by and said, “A couple weeks ago, you would have been sitting under water right there.”  Weird.

As we went through the tunnel that goes under the train tracks and popped out on the other side by the trail that runs along the river, I started to get my first glimpses of the changes that had taken place. To the average person who had only been there once or twice, I’m sure those changes wouldn’t have been noticeable.  But to those of us who have made this park a second home, they are glaringly obvious.  I think I’ve mentioned it before, but there was a time when I felt more comfortable being lost in the woods out there than I felt in my own house.  Weird.

“Woah” I said when I noticed how the massive erosion had washed the rocks from beside the train tracks down over a signpost, almost covering it. And again when I saw that part of the trail was now completely gone.  Vanished.  Weird.

We turned right to head out into the flats to see how far we could get before we might be forced to turn around due to mud, or possibly still flooding. The tiny, little, almost invisible stump that B tripped over about a year and half ago, injuring his rib, was still there.  However, if he were to fall the same way now, he would have ended up in the water.  The path had eroded and narrowed considerably.

B kept pulling sticks out of trees, sticks that had likely floated into the tree branches weeks before. We came across a pile of saw dust, evidence of someone with a chainsaw clearing the path of some of the bigger obstacles…entire trees that had floated down the river and been deposited in a new location.  As we got to the flats, we had to climb over a tree to continue.  Shortly after that we decided to turn around and go back along the river.  When we got back to the stairs we ran into my friend Lara, we talked briefly, but we started getting cold standing still, so we parted ways knowing that we would reconvene at the tri club party later.

As we continued along the river, familiar places looked totally different. From where I am sitting right now in my house, I can see a picture of my kiddos framed and hanging on the wall.  It was one of the first pictures I had taken to fill my new home.  It’s the 3 of them, smiling, sitting on a huge downed tree right by the path B and I were on.  That tree is now almost completely gone.  As I noticed how different the trail looked, I thought of that picture, and it made me kind of sad.

“This is so weird.” I kept saying, trying to wrap my mind around the fact that this was even the same place.  “New territory to explore, new trails,” he said.  I smiled.  While that’s true, there are parts of Castlewood that are almost unrecognizable to me now because of the changes that have transpired.  There were parts that the old brush had been completely washed away, and parts that looked more like a tornado had gone through depositing so much debris up in the tree that it looked like a fort.

I’ve been struggling lately with the unfairness of the world. Having lost 2 friends to cancer, less than three weeks apart, who knew each other, I am having a hard time accepting that their children will have to grow up without their moms.  And when I think about how weird that my kids have another mother figure in their lives that isn’t me, what I am really thinking of is…it’s not fair.  Now, I don’t want to be someone who whines all the time about ‘It’s not fair’, but the reality is, it’s not.  I say to my kids all the time when they are unhappy about the fairness of some situation that parental line, “Sometimes life isn’t fair.”  No one ever promised us that it would be fair all the time, but sometimes what we mean when we say something is ‘weird’, what we really mean is…it’s not fair.  It’s not normal.  It’s different. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.  And honestly, when we realize that, it hurts.  It hurts a lot.

So, what do I do with that? How do I navigate the unfair?  Sometimes I grieve it, sometimes I call it weird and keep on moving, sometimes I have to look a little deeper to figure out what’s really changed.  And what do I do with the weird?  Well, I cry when I need to.  I hug B and my kids, sometimes more than they probably want to be hugged.  And I just keep doing the best I can with it, until the weird becomes the new normal.  And I remember that even though the trail is still in the same place, there was no way it was always going to look the same.  Some of the same little details are there, some of the big things are now missing.  There are some places where someone paved the way by clearing some of the larger obstacles and there are some places where the path has narrowed and made the trek significantly more challenging.  But I’ll climb over things, or swing from vines (yes, I actually did this yesterday.  B shook his head at me, but I laughed despite hurting myself) and I’ll do whatever I need to do to get back to where I need to be.

Fact: I am the old wife. There is another who has taken my place in that role.  Also fact:  I cannot ever be replaced in my more important roles.  There is some truth to the saying ‘Out with the old and in with the new’, but if you didn’t know what it looked like before, how would you even know it was new now?

Just like Castlewood, I have weathered the storm and I am not the same as I was before. But this won’t be the last storm, and I will be forced to change again.  The old plus the storms equal the new.  And just like B said, that gives us new territory to explore, and new territory equals new experiences. I am being refined in the fire, and being made new.

So now what? Is it weird that I find myself wanting to be friends with the new wife?  Maybe.  But wouldn’t it be even weirder if I didn’t want to forge a relationship with the other person who will be nurturing and helping to raise my children?  The other person who is listed as their emergency contact?  The other person who has the word mom in her title? I think so.  But maybe I’m just weird.

This is the photo of my kiddos from Castlewood on that tree.  The tree may be changed, but so are we.

This is the photo of my kiddos from Castlewood on that tree. The tree may be changed, but so are we.

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Expectation vs. Hope

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Since I haven’t had a chance to say this until now, Happy 2016! A year ago I said that I wanted 2015 to be big, and I’m pretty sure I lived up to that. It was certainly a year of surprises.  Surprises like a week in the hospital, a trip to Nicaragua, a new step family for my kids, jumping out of a plane, a diploma and a budding nursing career.  I haven’t quite figured out what 2016 is the year of yet, but I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations lately.  After a week in LA to finish out the year, a week that proved to be the week of failed expectations (or so I thought), how could I not?  Expectations of our lives, expectations of others, others expectations of us.   If we aren’t careful, expectations can be really damaging, especially to ourselves and our relationships with others.

Am I the only one who does this? With a vacation on the horizon, I plan out everything we are going to do and what it’s going to look like and how perfect it’s going to be.  I do not however, work the stomach flu into the equation.  I had plans of going on lots of hikes, having a ball at Legoland with the kids and taking them all around Hollywood to see the sights.  In reality, a very few of us went on 1 single hike, Legoland was pretty much lame and only Ethan made it to Hollywood with me.  Failed, right?  Well, not exactly.  Ok, so the things I had set my sights on didn’t go just as I thought they would but how often does anything turn out how we think it will?

The other day I set off for my first run of 2016. My expectations were looooooooow.  Seriously, I have been seriously struggling to get back on track physically since I tried to shut my kidneys down in May.  It continues to amaze me, as it becomes clearer, just how close I was to not being here today.  At my annual doctor visit the other day, Dr. Meddows was looking at my electronic chart and she said, “LINDSEY!  Oh my gosh, this was really bad!”  She used words that no one had said to me in the hospital, I’m sure in an effort to keep me calm.  Or maybe they told me and I was so delirious I just have no recollection.   At any rate, I am in the very early stages of a comeback now, so maybe 2016 should be the year of the Comeback.  But that insinuates that I didn’t learn anything from last year.  I need to remember that sometimes the unexpected happens, and that I need to not expect more from my body than it’s capable of.  I’d like to think that I’m back on the horse, but I’m going forth with a much better awareness of listening to my body.  And not being dumb.

That being said, as I set out for my run the other day, I kept in mind that while I used to be able to run sub 8 minute miles, now the goal is to return home without feeling like I’m going to keel over. So I set out with a general distance in mind, but considerably slower than what used to be my normal.  So what if I’m a couple minutes slower now, the point is to enjoy it.  And I did.  It was a beautiful 55 degree day, not like today’s running temp of -14 that I faced this morning.  Ouch.  Anyway, I took my water and set out in search of potentially my longest run since the Berryman Marathon nearly did me in.

While I ran, I did a lot of reflecting on our week in LA. I’ll be honest, what was supposed to be a fantastic week of vacation with family, turned out to be a really tough week.  Before picking the kids up from their dad’s house to head to the airport on Christmas day, I was in the middle of getting ready to go when I grabbed my phone and read a text from my friend Stephanie.  I think I gasped slightly before Brian and I looked at each other, I simply said, “Inga…” and he knew.  Our friend that we had known since grade school, who has been battling Cancer for 8 long years, had finally been called home to celebrate Christmas with Jesus this year.

While we were in LA, we missed a lot of what was happening back here in Missouri. Watching videos of the flooding Meremac River was surreal.  Places that I pass on a daily basis and places that I love, all became completely submerged.  The Al Foster trail, where Brian and I ran on Christmas Eve was probably among the first to be under water.  My beloved Castlewood was totally unrecognizable in the pictures I saw.  I was very fortunate that my house is in a secure location and when Brian checked on it, he reported that all was well.  But hearing the pleas for prayer over friends’ businesses and the homes of their loved ones made my heart hurt for them.

Several of our vacation plans got side-lined or rearranged as the week went on and Silas was the first to go down with a round of the stomach flu. But he was only down and out for a day before he bounced back and we thought we were good to go.  I was able to take Ethan and Ally, along with their cousin Brooke, off for a hike at Rocky Peak that day while Silas recovered.  It was 6 years to the day since the last time we had been there.  It was weird to think about how much life has changed for all of us since then.  The next day when Silas woke up feeling like himself, and no one else was showing any signs, we thought we were back on track.  We headed off to Legoland, which turned out to be something that we never have to do again.  But my mom and I had taken the 4 big kids and enjoyed spending the day with them.  Unfortunately, on the drive back from Carlsbad to my brother’s, Ally was the next to go down.  And she went down hard.  The poor girl was a mess and being in the car only made it worse.  She always somehow ends up sicker than the others and has been to the hospital multiple times for dehydration, so it gets scary really quick.  By New Years Eve, Silas, Ally and mom had all fallen victim.  While they were pulling through it, they were just out of energy.

Adam and I took the last 2 standing off to Hollywood for a few hours of fun before heading home to witness the Spartans massive destruction that was the Cotton Bowl. I’d like to say it was the game that did me in, but the reality was, I was the next to fall.  At 10pm on New Years Eve.  12 hours before we had to begin our journey back to St. Louis.  And as much as I hoped that Ethan would remain the strong one, he followed shortly after me.  I somehow, miraculously, woke up feeling almost completely 100%normal.  It was a tough journey home for my little dude, but he was a trooper.

I promise you our trip wasn’t entirely tears and illness. We actually had some really great moments mixed in there too.  And the best part is they were things that were totally unexpected.  One night, before everyone got sick, my brother decided to take the kids over to the church playground just to get them out of the house for a bit.  I needed some air too, so I went along.  I couldn’t be happier about that decision as it turned into my favorite memory of the week.  We laid the ground rules for hide and seek, and then we played by the light of the almost full moon.  AJ found that he could just lie down on the ground in his black sweats and he was pretty much invisible against the dark green spongy ground.  Ally sat curled up in a ball on a tree stump and went unnoticed for several minutes.  We crouched into tiny spaces until we had leg cramps, Brooke found Ethan when she tripped on a “rock” which turned out to be Ethan, and I actually climbed a tree for the winning spot.  And we laughed hysterically.  It was pretty chilly out, but we agreed unanimously that the only parts of us that were cold were our ungloved hands.  It could be said that running around is what kept us warm, but I’m pretty sure there was more to it than that.

As I ran the other day, I found myself smiling at that memory. I also found myself thinking a lot about Inga.  I was really sad that I missed her memorial service while I was gone.  But I have some pretty special memories of that girl.  I love that whenever I would see her, even if she already knew my stories from reading them here, she would always say, “Tell me a story!  Tell me the story about…”  So, if you will indulge me, now I want to tell you a story about my friend Inga.  Maybe not a story exactly, but I want to tell you about the woman she was.  Inga was an absolutely amazing person.  She was stunning.  She was valedictorian of our high school class.  I didn’t actually graduate with that class because I had moved back to Michigan, but I still feel very much a part of it. More than anything, Inga was one of the sweetest, kindest souls you could ever meet.  In 8 long years of battling a totally unfair disease, Inga never once waivered in her faith.  She rarely complained about anything, she just simply continued to live out everything she believed and have hope.  So much hope.  Christmas was her favorite time of year, so as hard as it had to be for her family to say goodbye to her on Christmas, it almost seems appropriate somehow that she got to spend Christmas celebrating in Heaven.  Especially since she was born on Easter Sunday.  And could there be any other 2 days of the year that signify ‘Hope’ more than Christmas and Easter?  I didn’t get to see Inga much over the past year, but I was able to be present on her 40th birthday when my friend Teri presented her with her Powered by Hope medal.

By definition hope means a feeling or expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, or a feeling of trust. There’s that word again, expectation.  But in this case, it sounds so positive.  I don’t typically ‘expect’ that bad things will happen, like massive flooding and Cancer and the likes, even though I know these things happen in our world.  Why is that?  Well, I guess it’s because of hope.  I don’t claim to have even a fraction of the hope that Inga exhibited on a regular basis, but I think that’s my goal for the year.  More hope in 2016.  Hope for myself, hope for the people I love, hope for many little unexpected moments of wonder.

A little over a year ago, just before Christmas, Inga and I had a spontaneous lunch date at Panera. I was headed to her house to drop something off when she suggested that we meet for lunch instead.  I remember sitting across from her and she said, “You’re such a good storyteller.  Please don’t ever stop telling stories.”  You got it, friend.  RRG is officially signed on for another year.  The year of Hope.

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