(Peru) Screen Day 1

(May 15, 2015)

It’s about to begin. I’ve had this thought for so many weeks now. I have carried around so much anticipation knowing this moment was about to arrive, and today is the day it begins. Today is the day I get to observe the magic of a medical mission. Patients are probably waiting already. They are waiting for us to arrive at the hospital.

********

I don’t have a lot of words for today. There are only images that will forever be captured in my memory. I spent most of my day observing and learning.  I was just trying to absorb it all. I was just trying to be a friendly smile to settle someone’s nerves. I was just trying to be an extra set of hands to the people who were taking care of every patient. I was just trying to keep a child happy while they waited for hours in the sun not exactly knowing why they were waiting.

It was a long day.

We arrived at the hospital and made our way to the center courtyard where screening would take place. I don’t know what I expected. I found myself taking several deep breaths as we navigated the hallways of the hospital. When we turned the corner and walked outside into the courtyard, the deep breaths got stuck in my chest. There was no visible end to the line of people waiting for us to arrive. Within seconds, people started clapping. I didn’t even realize they were clapping for our arrival until I had walked past the crowd and into the area set up for screening stations.

A Small Glimpse of Screening Day

Every single person standing outside in the sun was waiting to be screened or was waiting for someone they love to be screened. And they were clapping. It didn’t seem fair. It still doesn’t seem fair. We should be clapping for them. Life certainly can’t be easy for them. I can’t imagine the ache in the heart of a parent when the learn that their child is born with a cleft lip or a cleft palate. I can’t imagine the feeling they must having wondering what they can do. If this was my child, surgery would be scheduled and planned before he was ever born. His birth would still be filled with hope knowing help was waiting. We should be clapping for them for showing up today.

At the end of day one, we screened nearly 200 patients. Nearly 200 individuals received a full health screening to see if they are healthy enough for surgery. The had time with a speech pathologist. They had time with a psychologist. They got help with breast feeding or bottle feeding. A nutritionist meet with them all. A dentist spent time with each patient. It’s an amazing thing to observe. It works like a machine. One station to the next. Every team has a specific goal, and every volunteer treated every patient with love and compassion.

Hours and Hours of Fun thanks to a green frog finger puppet and a two year old boy who made me love my boys even more

Tomorrow we will do it all again. There are more patients to screen, more bubbles to blow, more people to love.

“It is only with the heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince     

Still working hard long after Sunset (or maybe just Jerry!)

  

Grow into it, still growing. 

A year ago I realized the importance of growth, the comfort of growth, the necessity of growing.

Grow into it.

It’s been almost a year since I changed jobs. It’s been almost a year since we enrolled Chet in school. It’s been almost a year since our family learned to adapted to so many new changes. During that time I found myself me    ntally coaching myself through most life moments.

Grow into it.

Very little has changed since last May, yet everything is different. I find comfort in the challenges of my job. I cherish the time Chet spends thriving in his school. Our family has gained so much since last year.

Grow into it.

IMG_6037

View from my Run

 

Yet we are still growing. I find myself adjusting to a child maturing into middle school. He’s growing and stretching. Finding comfort in this middle stage of development is a challenge. He’s loving and caring one moment. He’s withdrawn and abrasive the next moment. I want to whisper in his ear grow into it, but I know it’s me that needs to grow. I need to grow as his mother to support him.

Grow into it.

Teenage years and toddler years are a lot to manage. At the end of most days, it my connection to Christian that becomes neglected. Many discusses have ended with the conclusion that this is a phase in our relationship that we have to trust, that we have to embrace and that we have to grow through. The moments in life when our children need us most don’t last forever, so we are trusting the growth. We are focusing on small moments for just us. We are growing.

Grow into it.

A year ago I asked my husband and my children to trust me, to trust that the change I was making would make me a better wife and mother. They held my hand and cheered me on. Now it’s my turn. Nicole at My Fit Family wrote of her marriage, and it has inspired me ever since.

“Marriage is about falling into pace with each other.  When one person chooses to grow, the other person cannot be left behind.  Feelings of jealousy have no place in our hearts towards each other.

Sometimes, people grow.  And because we are individuals, we can’t force one person to be ready to grow with the other at the same time.  But here is what I’ve learned–from my own marriage of 10 years, seeing my own parents marriage of 39 years, my grandparents marriage of 64 years: When your partner grows, you must pace along with them.  Be an encourager and supportive–not bitter or resentful.

Because your turn will come.  And your partner may be the one that is holding back–and you will need his support.  It’s almost as if the person who is growing has no choice but to grow and the other person must be the supporter and encourager.  Being left behind will cause too big of a separation.  A great divide–and if you aren’t careful, it may never be filled–it may be too difficult to build the bridge to connect the two of you.”

It’s now my turn to watch my husband flourish, to pace beside him, and to let him grow. This year belongs to him.

Grow into it. 

It has been a year since I used these three simple words to motivate myself. It has been a years since I relied on these three simple words to anchor me in my own growth. A year later I know this: growing isn’t something to be feared. It isn’t something to resist. It is something to be embraced, celebrated and encouraged. Growth is the direction I am headed.

Change is inevitable. Growth is intentional.” ~Glenda Cloud

IMG_6038

View from my Run

 

 

Collide

“I would say that the thrust of my life has been initially about getting free, and then realizing that my freedom is not independent of everybody else. Then I am arriving at that circle where one works on oneself as a gift to other people so that one doesn’t create more suffering. I help people as a work on myself and I work on myself to help people.” ~Ram Dass

Last Friday after a week-long global planning conference that I organized and attended for Operation Smile, Christian and I drove to Operation Smile’s founders’ home for a final dinner celebration. As we drove, the pattern of turns was familiar. It was a well-worn path in my memory: to the bridge, to the second bridge, to the fork in the road, to the dead-end. The road to their house was my running route in college. Nearly every day I ran by their house.

I remember the moment well, the moment I abandoned myself during my junior year of college. I wanted nothing more than to be free: free from my past, free from my story, free from the life I had lived up until that point. I wanted to rid myself everything and everyone. I just wanted to be free.

I used to wish I could go back to the moment. I used to wish I could choose differently. I use to wonder what would my life look like if I chose a different path. What if I didn’t get married my senior year? What if I didn’t move to Alabama? What if I didn’t have a baby at 24? What if I could go back and instill all of the lessons I’ve learned since than inside my heart and inside my head. The what ifs have all dissolved away. I no longer want to hold my twenty-one year old self closely. I know longer wish I could whisper in my own ear instilling the lessons I’ve learned in the fourteen years that have followed.

As we drove that familiar running route, I felt myself colliding with my past. I felt the desperation in each run during my final years in college. I felt the rush of independence I used to feel as a plowed down a path in quest of my own freedom. I felt it all, and as I pulled into the driveway and walked in the front door of a place that now feels like home, I held all those emotions close to my heart.

There are moments in life when I collided with myself. These magical moments happen when I’m living from my heart. It happens when who I am as a person is perfectly in sync with my actions. There are the big moments: falling in love and child-birth.  And there are small moments: finish lines, observing my children coming into their own, conversations with best friends, and work dinner celebrations.

This spring I’ll be boarding a plane with my passport in hand. An Operation Smile mission will be my final destination. When I used to ask myself “what-if” my mind always wandered down a road that lead to this place. Instead of whispering in the ear of my twenty-one year old self, I want to remind myself every single day to trust: to trust my choices, to trust my intentions, and to trust my heart. I’ve been on the right path the whole time: to the bridge, to the second bridge, to the fork in the road, to the dead-end. It’s been waiting for me all along.

IMG_5287

Seeking. Striving. Thriving.

A year ago I posted these words on social media. (Timehop is my favorite app.)

“I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with my whole heart.” ~Vincent Van Gogh

I posted these words after spending a weekend with my Aunt Beth, a weekend spent in celebration of the memory of my Aunt Amy. These words embodied how she lived her life, and they are words that echoed into my soul this morning on my run. My heart whispered, “and I am thriving too!” as I hit the unmarked trail a half mile into my route.

The trail is one of the hardest trails to run in the park. There is a lot of climbing (for us folks who live at sea level). Because it is an unmarked trail, it isn’t maintained by the park. Trees have fallen. Areas have been washed away by the rain. It’s quiet, secluded and challenging. My miles are always slow. I normally walk up some of the climbs. Today I had one intention for my run: Thrive. I don’t need to walk. I just need to dig into the run.

My dirty little running secret is that negative self talk has creeped into my head. I’ve convinced myself that I need to walk on short runs. I’ve convinced myself that because my running pace isn’t where it was or where I want it to be, I’m not strong. Sometime between last summer and today, I’ve beat myself up at some point on a run. Today was different. Perhaps it was because I was defeated by a spin class this week, but I didn’t quit. Perhaps it was the release of so many emotions I felt after that spin class. Something shifted. I refused to be mentally defeated today. I became my own advocate on today’s run.

It’s okay for it to be hard. The hard won’t last.

Focus on the step in front of you. Quit looking for the finish. You can take step after step after step.

All of a sudden hard was no longer my enemy. It was something I wanted to get through. This is when my heart opened up. I understood. I push through the hard, and I carry my struggle into the down hills and into the flat sections. I carry defeat with me.

Today was different. I allowed myself to open my stride. I allowed myself to enjoy the easy sections. I let go of all the struggle. Today I thrived. Today I trusted my run.

trail

Two years ago I ran with my running coach and his team, Bernard Distance Project, and during every run he would remind me of the same thing. One single mile wasn’t an indicator for my entire run. Just because mile 3 was a struggle didn’t mean the rest of my run would be hard. I had to trust the ebb and flow of running. I had to exist in the moment. I had to give what I could give in that moment.

Today I remembered the lesson he taught me. Today I ran in the moment.

While this makes today’s run extra sweet, I’m more grateful for the lesson. This isn’t just a running lesson for me. This is a life lesson. I have to live each moment. I have to get through the hard stuff, but then I have to let it go. I can’t bring the heartache, the stress, and the struggle with me. It’s okay to leave it behind. Just like running, no single moment is an indicator of what is to come. It’s about existing in each moment.

I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with my whole heart. I am thriving.

2015/01/img_5127.jpg

Approaching

The Christmas tree is now beside the curb, the new year lingers, and Chet’s birthday is less than a week away. With Christmas decorations put away, the house feels renewed. It’s a blank slate ready for a new year. From my rocking chair in the corner where the Christmas tree once stood, I watch Chet play. An excavator gracefully scoops uno cards into a dump truck to be transported to the landfill strategically placed on the front door mat.

I’ve been off work since last Tuesday. I still have six more days at home to enjoy these morning hours with my children. Mornings are best for Chet. He is well rested and the overtired, over stimulated meltdowns don’t begin until closer to dinner time. During the other fifty weeks of the year, my time during the weekdays with Chet are during the overtired, over stimulated meltdowns. Weekdays are filled with work and school, hurried efforts to get dinner made, and trying to make the most of our few hours together. Most of these evenings are spent tip toeing around Chet’s meltdowns.  These two weeks off from work have been my greatest gift.

As I watch Chet play and explore his imagination, I still can’t believe he is going to be three. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting at home anxiously awaiting his arrival. The look on my husband’s face as we sat in the delivery room when Chet refused to join us in the world is still fresh in my memory. Christian’s words still ring in my ears. The feeling of letting go still washes over my body. It’s a memory I’ll always hold close to my heart. As we navigated his birth, I had so much fear: what if it didn’t go according to my plan. Chet sensed it. He knew. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to welcome him into the world in the most peaceful way I could imagine. It was when I let go of the fear of the unknown, the things I can’t control, that Chet’s birth became about his peaceful welcoming.

Nothing has changed since that day. My hope for raising both Cole and Chet is to guide them down their own path in a peaceful world. As I watch them playing together now to build train tracks in the Christmas-less room, I realize that the only thing that gets in my way is my own fear and my own desire to control day to day outcomes. I forget to trust. I forget to breath. I forget to let go. I forget that life is about the process not the details each day.

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” ~Wayne Dyer

2015 is two days away. Chet’s birthday is in less than a week. We have a blank slate to write our story. So many changes are waiting for us: middle school, Christian working closer to home, and work possibilities that remind me that dreams come true….when you trust, when you let go, and  when you fill your day with love.

family

Breathing Room, November Edition

During the month of November, I had the opportunity to sit around the table with nine Operation Smile foundations from around the world. Countries from Cambodia to South Africa to Brazil were present in the week long meetings. In the list of the millions reasons why I love my job connecting with people from other walks of life is high on the list. Every day the world feels smaller and smaller. At a dinner one of the evenings I sat across the table from a colleague (now friend) from South Africa. She took my mala in her hands and told me it need to be cleansed. It was cold. The conversation flowed and we talked about my boys. She asked questions. I shared stories. As we talked more and more, she told me my boys are here for a reason. My heart sung as I heard these words. I’ve always believed that our children bring with them a lesson for us to learn. Cole taught me to love. Chet is teaching me to let go. My new friend has a different perspective. Cole is my healer. Chet has something even greater to teach me. He is my root.

This conversation has echoed in my heart in the days since we have met. I believe with my whole heart that Cole is a healer, but how in the world is Chet my root? He is the chaos in my world. He brings out the ugly in me. At the end of the day when I am exhausted and he refuses to sleep, he knocks me out of comfort zone. If anything he has uprooted all normalcy in our household.

This past Saturday I ran my favorite trails. As the miles went by I felt myself shed all thought. It was just me, the sound of the leaves under my shoes, and my breath. I felt free. My heart was floating in my body. As I ran, I stretched my arms out wide. I wanted to fly. I ran down the path and pretended to be plane. I high-fived the Spanish moss. I felt like a child again. I felt free. As I lifted my head to the sky, it started to rain. In that moment, the world and I were one. I understood. Life is about keeping your heart open and spreading your arms out wide to accept all that life has to offer. It’s also about opening up and letting go. My heart continued to soar as I ran down the trail. Why can’t I carry this feeling around with me always? Why can’t my heart always be this open?

It was when I asked myself that question that I understood the words of my friend from South Africa. Chet is my root. In his chaos, in his determination to own his own world, he is teaching me to stay true to my core even when the world spins around me. The lesson isn’t to teach him to sleep or to contain his temper tantrum. The lesson is to trust. The lesson is to know that it is safe to stay open and free in the midst of chaos. I don’t know how to do this yet, but I now know it is my lesson to learn.

It has nothing to do with late bedtimes or two year old tantrums. That is life. That is a normal transition of a child. Learning to remain open has everything to do with me being uncomfortable when I don’t have a solution. It has everything to do with me holding on to tightly to something I can’t control. Hasn’t he been teaching me this since before he was born? Chet’s exploration of life isn’t a problem. How I react to these moments is where I have room to grow.

“This is what the things can teach us: to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness. Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.”   ~Rainer Maria Rilke

November

The Magic of Retrospection

“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~Lao Tzu

As a spectator at this years Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, I was in awe of every runner who lined up at the start line. The race lived up to its reputation with brutal heat and humidity. This race is never an easy race.

How did I do? How did I run this race three years in a row?

The summer of 2010 was a typical summer for me. I never ran more than five miles. I only ran when I felt like it. I never trained. I had decided to ignore my race entry. I was going to let the race go because my body wasn’t ready. A few days before race day, I got a call from my aunt. She had breast cancer. I had to run. I lined up with runners not know what to expect. I’d do my best. I had to. I cried through many of those miles, and yet I finished in a respectable time. Somehow I ran that race. I felt weak. I felt unprepared. It felt hard.

I returned to this race in 2011. I was six months pregnant with Chet. As I trudged along on the race course, I struggled. It felt hard. I felt weak.

In 2012, when Chet was a newborn, I trained hard. I ran every Saturday morning. Some nights I only had two hours of sleep, but I always showed up to run. Race day came, and I ran through all the same feelings. It was hard. I felt slow. I struggled.

rnr

The common thread between all these races was my perception: I always felt like I was struggling to make it work. I always felt like I was struggling to balance life and running. I always felt like I was struggling to balance life, motherhood and marriage. I’ve always felt like I’m struggling to stay afloat.

But something magical happens when I cross the finish line. It was all worth it. Today when I look back, I am in awe of myself. I’m in awe of what I was able to juggle. I’m in awe of the balance I maintained. Looking back, I feel like I was a superwoman.

How did I do all of that? How did I balance it all? How did I make it work? Because right now I feel like I’m fighting for that balance. Right now I feel like I’m fighting for that strength. How did I do it then?

While I watched the Rock n Roll half marathon from the sidelines this year, I saw something in those runners. I saw love. I saw passion. I saw sacrifice. I saw so many people who were doing it, and I realized I’ve been doing it all along. It’s the fight for balance and it’s the fight for strength that fuel that love and passion in my life. How I feel today is no different from how I felt two years ago.

I’m doing it today just like I was doing it then. I don’t need to wait two years to be in awe of what I’m accomplishing today. I can appreciate myself now. I can be grateful for what I have right now. I don’t want to find my happiness through retrospection. It’s waiting for me right now. The only difference between today and two years ago is that I’ve already crossed the finish line for the events in my past. I haven’t crossed today’s finish line yet. I haven’t felt the magic of today’s finish line.

When I look back, nothing in my life was lacking. This message applies to today too. The magic isn’t really at the finish line. The magic is in the process of getting there. I doubt the finish line would feel like such an accomplishment if it was easy to get there.

Sunrise on Race Day

Sunrise on Race Day