Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hiking in Sneakers

I own a really nice pair of hiking boots. I purchased them 16 years ago for a hiking trip through the Adirondacks with a high school friend. Since then they have been worn very rarely. And for some reason, perhaps because they live at the back of my closet, I forgot to pack them for our trip to the Canadian Rockies.

Entrance to the path
Yesterday I found myself at the bottom of Beehive Mountain at Lake Louise- gazing up at the snow-covered path, down at my sneakers and then into the back of my mind picturing those left behind boots. Dang it.

But avalanche warnings and snowy routes weren't going to stop us from attempting that climb. Sneaker-wearing husband at my side, we slipped and plunged, snow melting on icy ankles, socks soaking through, slowy making our way up the mountain, hikers on their way down pausing just long enough to issue a friendly hello and a cursory glance at our ill-informed footwear.

For the first 15 minutes all I could think about was how on earth we would ever make it back down. It is one thing to claw your way up on icy paths and quite another to slide your way down without plummeting off a lethal embankment.

The only positive thing I can say about my preoccupation with our return trip was that it distracted me from the "how to survive a bear attack" sign that was so helpfully posted at the start of our journey.

The negative things, though? There are many, the biggest of which is this: for 15 solid minutes, I missed my surroundings. Sure, I saw the footsteps I followed, the white of the path. But I missed the life and beauty around me. I was so caught up in the potential of difficulty that I could not enjoy the healthy challenge of the present. It hit me that if I continued in this way then the only thing I would remember about this hike would be my worry about how it would end.

So I stopped. I asked God to take it, to guide us up and down, to suppress my 36 years of needing to have a solution to every potential problem ready in the back of my head, to help me just breathe in and out, to put one step in front of the other and foget that I was hiking in sneakers.

View of Lake Louise from above
Soon I could smell the pine in the air, feel the burn of cold, thin oxygen in my throat. Hear the quiet rustle of the evergreens, glimpse the views of the lake as it receded, all blue ice and blown snow, far below us.

At the top, we emerged at Mirror Lake. Possibly the most quiet, still place I have ever been. Maybe a mirror, miraculously, for my soul in that moment. I sat on a stump, a beautiful squirrel my companion, no fear in his eyes, feasting on a miniature pinecone while I feasted on the view and

Monsieur Squirrel, my little friend.
If only I could do this more.

I don't mean hike to quite places and have days and days to myself more often, though that would be lovely.

But what if I could let the what-ifs fade away and live right now? I'd leave the house more with my spirited toddler, potential public tantrums and ensuing embarrassment be damned. I'd stay out later with friends, potential fatigue tomorrow not taking away from the joy of good conversation and laughter that my soul needs more than an extra hour of sleep, anyway. I'd just live my life without my brain lost to what new problem or challenge might emerge tomorrow. I imagine I'd feel a lot less tired. A lot less fearful.

It is an illusion that I am ever in control of that return trip, anyway.

This is one of those lessons I have been taught over and over in my life and that still hasn't become a reflex. I am thankful that it only took 15 minutes to pause and reset this time. Maybe it'll be 14 next time and eventually 10 or 5 or 1.

At least for this trip, though, these sneakers will remind me to just live. To walk. To breathe.

And for those wondering, I only fell once on the trip back down, laughed about it and, quite obviously, lived to tell the tale.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Stillness and the Knowing

I sit this morning watching an amazing view- huge, breathtaking mountains, blue and white, shadowed and light, all stillness and calm from a distance but teeming underneath with activity. The scent of pine fills the air. There is no sound of cars or human chatter...just birds and a light hum from far off in the distance.

I sit on the cold stone steps of an amphitheatre set in the side of a mountain. Inside the buildings around me people are hard at work - thinking, creating, dreaming.
My view of the Rockies as I write this morning. 

Those are all things I really like to do.

Today, though, I am just being. Just soaking.

The air is chilled but the sun is bright and I know that in a few hours I will no longer need my coat. I am grateful for an early spring here.

The words of Psalm 9 spring to mind:

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; 
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you; 
I will sing praise to your name O Most High. 

Those are the only words I can really find surrounded by such beauty.

This week, the world is still for me. I am still mother, still wife, still friend and daughter and sister, still new business launcher. But primarily this week, I am just me. Whatever that means these days. It is easy not to see myself in the day-to-day rush. To cook and love and listen and sing and to be found fully in those most pressing roles I fill in this season of life.

But this week I get the privilege and gift of stepping back. Slowing down. Walking, not rushing. Sleeping. Eating slowly, savoring food.

And friends? It is good.

I had a pastor a long time ago who would preach a sermon and then, after offering practical ways to implement his message, would offer grace as an aside to parents of young children. Draw near to God in new and different ways, forgive yourself, know that old habits might not work well with sleepless nights and unpredictable wake times and cranky, teething toddlers. Find ways to continue to know your God, but know those ways might look different than they used to.

For someone like me, who likes consistency, habit and predictability, that aside was a gift and a challenge, both of which I've been learning to accept even more so this second time around the young child phase. Grace, flexibility, stolen moments of peace in the midst of the good chaos.

This week I get to take my time, though. My prayers won't be during my showers or at red lights. My reading won't happen just in those ten minutes of pre-bed stupor. It will be quiet enough and still enough to listen.

I will slow. And revel. And fill up for the next round of joyful adventures that parenting and life brings.

So as I gaze this morning at a creation so beautiful there are no words, I claim this week for joy and rest. For connection with my God and my husband. For the finding of the current me, the seeing of the good work that God has done in me even when I've been too tired this last year to see it.

I breathe in and out, I rejoice, I hope. I gratefully receive this most precious of gifts.

This week I will be still and know that He is God.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


We aren't big on play weapons around here.

Except, of course, for light sabers.

For two years in a row, they have been a key part of our birthday celebrations. Most of his friends own at least one and, if none happen to be around, they are all more than willing to use any other potential longish object to have their battles. Pool noodles, balloons, sticks.

One of the things I've noticed, though, is that they break easily. In our home, this is most likely due to a predatory 1-year-old, but we decided that having some kind of proper storage might elongate the lives of the ones still remaining.

So, having stared at an old pallet in our garage for way too long, I decided to go ahead and try to make something fun out of it and help our storage problem all in one.

Here is what I did:

(1) I took an old pallet that we had from a delivery this past summer that was just taking up space in our garage. (Free)

(2) I cut down the pallet to size, nailed in lose nails and sanded it down with the help of one handsome fellow.

(3) I bought some pipe insulation (in charcoal gray to go with our color scheme) and cut it down to about 5 inches long. I also slit it down the middle. I made three of these. (Cost about $2)

(4) Then we painted the pallet. First, we did a lovely dark blue and fully saturated the wood. Then we did a loose brush over the top with a navy to give it a sort of weathered look. ($4 for the paint)

(5) Then I added a fun accent phrase and hot glued the small pieces of insulation to the bottom.

(6) Add lightsabers and go! We are looking forward to revamping my older son's room to plan around this piece. He told us he's too grown up for his primary colors bedroom, so Star Wars it is! This will hang on the wall and keep those trusty sabers organized.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Naptime Challenge Day 4 - Spouses

It's easy in this stage of life to just kind of coast along. To make sure the kids are fed and sleeping and healthy. To take turns driving one to soccer and the other to the library. To meet up some time after the dishes are done and everyone is snoring for a few minutes of collective yawning before bedtime. We can kind of lose our spouses a little in this kind of fray.

So today's naptime challenge?

Do ONE thing for your spouse. Plan his or her favorite meal or write a note if he, like mine, is very encouraged by words. Find a friend who might be willing to watch the kids tomorrow night surprise him with a date that YOU have planned. Buy her favorite candy at Target later when you're on a diaper run.

Whatever it is, spend at least 5 minutes thinking about this person you married and used to have so much time with. Don't think about what you wish he'd do for you but just five minutes of "how can I love my husband or wife in this moment?

Then go do it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Diving Into the New

If anyone has read my two posts about finally admitting my struggle with my skin and the amazing success I've had with trying a new product, you'll know that I am not in this because of skin-deep beauty. Like much of the progress in my life, I feel like God constantly has me moving in healthier directions, deep, holistic directions. Healthier expression of emotions, better intentionality in relationships, life-giving parenting strategies, a truer understanding of God and how he works. And yes, a healthier body on the inside and the outside.

I've had some people ask if I was paid to write the post I wrote yesterday. The answer? Nope. I honestly went into using these products with hope and skepticism. I've tried a lot before and while the pictures of other people I was seeing were undeniable, there's always that question: "Will it actually (finally!) work for me?"

I took a big risk and spoke about the journey before seeing major results. And 60 days in, when I saw my pictures next to each other, I couldn't believe it. I'm glad I shared before I knew if it would work but I am also really thankful I've had results.

So, while I have not been paid for anything up until now, that is going to change.

I believe in this so strongly, I believe in any person's decision to try to move forward in healthy ways in his or her life, that as of today I have joined the Rodan & Fields team.

If you had asked me even 3 months ago when I was thinking about using these products if I ever thought I'd be a part of this company, I would have laughed. Me? Sell skincare? Not on your life.

But the invitation to join in on something that has actually been life-changing for me? The invitation to have adult interaction during the week and still be able to frolic in the backyard all day long with my boys this summer? The invitation to some income that I can save for graduate school and to spend on my gardening obsession and my love of DIY projects?

That invitation is too much to pass up right now.

So while this is probably not a forever decision, it fits. When my husband is busy publishing and making connections so we can have a good future with him as a university professor, when my youngest child still needs a lot of hands-on attention, when I am at transitional place in terms of career, this works.

So, friends, if any of you are excited about what you've seen or heard or have a story similar to mine, I'd love to listen and talk and tell you about my story and what I've done. And yes, if you would like to try it, I'd love to help you see if this company might help you, too.

Naptime Challenge Day Three: Soak Up the Quiet

When I was first married to my husband, I would marvel at his ability to just sit. To stare at a wall. To drive for hours and, apparently, not think about anything. We certainly had a few fights in the early months of our relationship because of my inability to grasp that he was really just sitting. Not thinking or brooding or avoiding. Just being.

So, through the years I have tried to take a lesson from him but have found it hard. My personality loves to accomplish so even when I attempt to sit still, I find it almost impossible to stop my brain from going.

Today, I am going to challenge myself to be still and quiet.

Here's how it works:

(1) Leave sleeping person's room and avoid chores (unless of course throwing in one load of laundry might actually help you focus on this!)

(2) Find a quiet place- it's going to be in the mid-60's and sunny here in Wisconsin today so I am finding a quiet place outdoors. Probably the lounge chair near our fire pit.

(3) Just sit. Try not to plan a list or think about summer camp registration for your little or anything.

(4) Maybe even try a breath prayer - say one thing to the Lord as you breathe in and another as you breathe out. Just focus on the smells of early spring, the light breeze, relaxing your muscles. Just be.

(5) See if you can do this for at least 10 minutes. I am going to set a little alarm so I am not constantly wondering what time it is.