Thursday, June 30, 2011

Finding Faith

Over the last few years, with the various challenges that I (and my loved ones) have been faced with, I feel like I've had a crisis of faith.  Not from lack of trying, but there comes a point (at least for me) when you just run out of faith.  You can't take another challenge, another road block, another straw attempting to break the camel's back.  At a certain point, part of you just gives up.

I've struggled with this.

While I don't consider myself a terribly "religious" person (I don't like that word), I have always thought that I could be described as "spiritual".  Since I consider one's spirituality or faith to be a very personal thing, I really haven't discussed my "loss of faith" with anyone.  I've tried to pray about it, sent positive thoughts into the universe, and attempted to find the reason behind everything that I have been challenged with - all the while, waiting for some divine inspiration to come my way.

Over the last few days, I feel like I've been given several signs, signs leading me back to faith.  Little things, somehow making it easier to see that there is something larger at work, something worth believing in.  It's funny how, when you pay attention (and also when you least expect it), you are given signs, however big or small, somehow giving you the answer you've been looking for.

Since yesterday, I've read a book (which I will discuss another time), watched an episode of The West Wing, and listened (from the front seat) to a Veggie Tales movie - all dealing with faith.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't read so much into these three random acts, but I've been paying attention, and truly think that they crossed my path within 24 hours of each other for a reason.

Even with signs pointing the way back to faith, I know that it's not something that will happen overnight.  It's a process, one that I need to be open to.  Somehow, it's just easier to follow a path when you feel like you've been led to it, rather than wandering aimlessly and happening across it by accident.

So, you may be wondering, where is the "thankful" part of Thankful Thursday?  It's right here.  With so much going on in my life, I'm not only thankful for signs, but thankful for signs that are helping me to, once again, find my faith.

Monday, June 27, 2011

When I Grow Up...

I'm stressed.  It seems that as soon as one thing gets checked off my perpetual "to do" list, three more magically appear and make me want to pull my hair out, or better yet, curl up in a corner and suck my thumb!

We've got our housing in Ohio figured out (a "cozy" 2 bedroom apartment, for those who are interested), but now we have to find a way to afford it!  Even though I know that it's virtually impossible to have a job set up before we move, my dad's voice is in my head saying "Don't quit a job until you have a new job."  Oh, Daddy, if only life were that simple.  Moving across the country aside, I have no idea what kind of job to even look for!

I don't consider myself a jealous person, but I will completely own up to the fact that I'm incredibly jealous of anyone who knows "what they want to be when they grow up".  I was never that person.  I must have tried on half a dozen majors in college, always sure that I'd eventually find my calling, and end up in a job that I loved, doing something that I really cared about - that I'd find my passion.

So far, no such luck.  Yes, I've had jobs that I've enjoyed, but I'm still on the lookout for what I'm "supposed to do".  As a 30 year old, who has never had a "career" and isn't really sure that a career is in the cards, I'm at something of a loss.

I've had a relatively unconventional job for the last 4 years, and while I have given periodic thought to what I might enjoy doing when this job ended, I still haven't come up with a concrete idea.  I've always suspected that graduate school would be in my future, however, now that I'm married, saving to buy a house, and hoping to start a family at some point, I wonder if I've missed my chance. 

Whatever the future holds for me, I just don't want to look back in 10 years and kick myself for selling out, taking the safe route, and not going after something that I could have really enjoyed. 

For now, I'll hit the job postings, continue to contemplate my future, and hopefully come up with some divine inspiration about "what I want to be when I grow up."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thankful Thursday...

I love tennis!  I love to watch it, I love to teach it, and I loved playing (back in my youthful, half my current weight days).  Ever since I watched Andre Agassi play in the 1991 (or was it '92?) US Open, I've been hooked.

I completely understand that tennis isn't for everyone.  Not everyone likes it, or understands it, so I may be speaking to a very small audience today.

I assume that those who don't like tennis feel the way I feel about golf - I'd rather supervise the growing of grass or the drying of paint before I'd voluntarily sit and watch 18 holes of "where did the little white ball go?" thank you!

But, today isn't about golf (and how I think it was created as a substitute for Tylenol PM), it's about being thankful, and today I'm thankful for tennis.

For those who aren't tennis followers, Wimbledon (one of the 4 major tournaments of the year) is currently taking place in England.  I look forward to it every year, even with the complications of finding coverage (the London to California time difference doesn't help), having to avoid seeing results online before I've watched the matches, and finding time to sit and watch the matches that I'm interested in between arriving home from work and having to go to bed.  None of that matters - I'll do what I have to do, but I guarantee, I'll see my Wimbledon!

With so many big changes happening in my life right now, tennis is my release.  I know that I can sit in front of the tv, turn on my hours of recorded coverage, and completely tune out the chaos of the day, the dread of what will find me tomorrow, the stress of my life, and just relax. 

Even if I only watch for a few minutes, I enjoy it while I can, and appreciate what it brings to me.  For those few minutes, I am focused on my favorite game being played half a world away.

So, for what remains of this fortnight of tennis, my free time will be spent monitoring the ever-changing scores, studying the draws, and loving the build-up to the finals next weekend.

I suppose I should also be thankful that I've managed to get Ben hooked on tennis as well!!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

For My Dad

Yesterday, while on our way home from a romp at the dog park, we were listening to NPR.  They had several callers sharing "dad being dad" stories, in honor of Father's Day weekend.

Of course, there were various examples of the unique ways in which dad's show affection, funny stories, and lovely memories being shared. 

One girl, whose father had prepared for her a "terror attack kit" before she moved to New York City, commented on how her father used to walk by her and pat her shoulder.  She found it annoying and actually tried to avoid him at home, but without fail, several times a day, he would walk by, give her a pat, and move along.  She later found out that he had been listening to a Christian radio station and heard that people need a certain amount of physical contact each day to feel loved.  Giving her random pats as he walked by was, apparently, his way of showing affection. 

This, along with several of the other stories we heard during our drive, got me thinking about my dad. 

If I had to describe him as a movie character (this is how my mind works), he would be a combination of Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom (80's movie reference, anyone?) and Steve Martin in Father Of The Bride - at least that's my take on him.  Definitely a funny guy, loves to tell stories, but also one that we probably rolled our eyes at half of the time.  There was never a shortage of affection in our house, and there still isn't - even as adults, we're not afraid to pat an arm, rub shoulders, or offer a quick embrace.  To this day, I can always count on a great hug from him - he hugs like he means it, like he doesn't want to let go! 

When I was growing up, he worked a lot - as most dads did - but I have truck loads of wonderful memories with him.  Family dinners in the evening, watching Jeopardy or Star Trek re-runs, going for ice cream in the summer, playing catch in the back yard, bike rides, baseball games - typical dad stuff.
I could probably write a novel chronicling the memories of my dad that I can recall from the last 30 years, but I won't.  Suffice it to say, they are mostly good memories - even at times when he was driving me crazy, there was always something endearing about him.

Somehow, when you're a kid (and also a grown up), your dad seems indestructible.  Strong, capable, dependable.  He's the one who fixes things, who teaches you things, even scares away the Boogie Man hiding under your bed.  No matter what happens, you know he has your back, will always protect you, and will be there when you need him. 

As we continue to grow up, we find that this isn't always the case.  I was reminded of this fact again today, when I spoke to my dad on the phone.  We called to wish him a happy Father's Day this afternoon, and as I do during most phone calls, I mentally prepared myself for the repetition that usually comes when we have a conversation.  It never came - I found myself pleasantly surprised (and relieved) to have a coherent, though brief, exchange of thoughts with my dad, devoid of the usual frustration that comes with talking to someone suffering from Alzheimer's.

Later this evening, after having gone about my day, happily reflecting on my phone call with JB, I was speaking with my mom and she told me to hold on because my dad wanted to say hi. 

It was as if we hadn't spoken.  Any recollection of our earlier conversation had evaporated, even though it had only been a matter of hours since we had talked.  He re-told me everything that he had done today, the weather, the movie that he'd gone to with my brother, and asked a few times what Ben and I had been up to.  I played along, asked him how he liked the movie, made sure he had received the Father's Day card I'd sent, and laughed at his analysis of the weather, all the while, shocked at how fast he had gone from a seemingly "good day" to an apparent "bad day".

After this somewhat disturbing conversation, I was once again reminded that my dad won't always be the strong one.  He won't always have my back - not by choice, but because of the cruelty of this disease. 

I was also reminded to take advantage of the time we have with him now.  This is exactly the reason that Ben and I are bound for Ohio - more time, more memories, more of anything!

So, as the days, weeks, and months slip away from us, I am blessed to have, as I said, truck loads of happy memories of my dad, and look forward to making many more in the precious time we have left with him!

*Happy Father's Day, JB!!!*

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'm Thankful For...

How can it be Thursday again?  These weeks just seem to be flying by! 

Of course, I'm thankful for many things every day - the people around me, my family, sunny days, get the idea. 

Today, more than anything else, I'm thankful for the Internet. 

As we now shift gears and set our sights on Ohio, we must begin the process of nailing down a workshop for Ben, a job for me, and most importantly, a place to live.  Since we are not planning on making a trip to Ohio between now and our actual move, this means that we have to get somewhat creative with our approach. 

My mom will be a huge resource, but I'm enough of a control freak, that without the Internet, I'd probably go nuts not being able to actually see the places that she's describing to me.  I know people my age say this all the time, but "what did we ever do before the Internet???"

Now, I could go on and on about the many ways in which the Internet has affected my life (keeping up with long lost friends, random movie trivia look ups, weather updates, news, checking in online for flights, Netflix, etc.), but I'm sure I'm not that much different from everyone else with a modem.  Some days you are just more aware of it than others!

So, after a day when most of my free time was spent sitting in front of the computer navigating countless "For Rent" websites, I'm thankful for the Internet making the process just a little bit easier!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Change Of Plans

They say that if you want to make God laugh, you should tell him about your plans.  Well, I am sure that God's been doing a lot of laughing at us lately!

Ben and I decided back in April that we were going to wave goodbye to life in California and head to Salt Lake City to establish ourselves for the next phase of our lives. 

In the months since, I've been dealing with many different emotions.  Fear of moving to a new place, sadness to be leaving life in California, guilt over not heading to Ohio (and also about not being more excited about Salt Lake City) get the idea - I was struggling.

I told myself that any major life change brings certain doubts, and tried to explain away the pit in my stomach that I'd get every time we talked about our move to Utah.  While there were things about the move that I was looking forward to - being close to family, the beautiful scenery, a new chapter in our lives - something just didn't feel right.

I'm a big believer in signs - I think that they're all around us, and if we pay attention, our path reveals itself.  It might not always lead where you think it will (or should), but there's always a reason for it.  Sometimes you get a subtle sign, while others they practically beat you over the head.  For me, there wasn't one big glaring issue - rather, there were a dozen little things that added up to a general feeling of restlessness with our decision to be in Salt Lake.

Well, apparently I wasn't alone.  Ben revealed to me, only yesterday, that he has been wrestling with the same feelings. 

After several hours of discussion (good thing we had a long flight from Cleveland to Houston), we realized that we'd both been feeling as though Ohio was the place for us.  Yes, there were things we were excited about in Salt Lake, but somehow we just couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't where we're supposed to be right now.

All things being equal, there is always something to tip the scales on way or another.  When we factored in my dad's progressing Alzheimer's and really thought about the logistics of getting to spend any quality amount of time with my parents over the coming months while in SLC, the scales tipped and we knew that Ohio is where we should be.

So, the decision has officially been made - we are headed for Ohio in August!

Now, while we both feel relief, we must take on the challenges of moving cross-country, and in only 6 weeks!

While our path might eventually take us to Salt Lake City (that will remain to be seen), for now, we're taking a detour through Ohio.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Relay For Life - Day 2

Yesterday was Day 2 of Relay For Life in Hudson.

While Day 1 was energetic, celebratory, and exciting, somehow Day 2 was lacking in the luster department.

Teams packed up and left, the number of walkers slowly dwindled down to a precious few, and by the time the closing ceremonies came around, only a handful of people remained.

Despite the energy shift, our team had a wonderful time!  Team Life's A Beach was represented for 24 hours by more than 35 walkers.  We more than doubled our fundraising goal, and helped contribute to the event total of more than $81,000!

The weather cooperated - the sun even popped out for a while on Saturday!  We did have some (very) sore feet, tan lines, and tired team members, but looking back, I think we'd do it all again!

Today was spent running the in-laws to the airport, having lunch with wonderful friends, and enjoying a low key evening with my family. 

As we prepare to head back to California tomorrow, I'm amazed at how fast this trip went.  I'm so thrilled that we (along with dear friends and family) could be here to participate in this important event! 

I am reminded, once again, that we are truly blessed with a wonderful support system - amazing people who genuinely care about my family. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Relay For Life - Day 1

Today was Day 1 of Relay For Life! 

What fun!!!  Not only did the team t-shirts that I ordered arrive on time (whew), but the severe thunderstorms that we were supposed to have all evening, by the grace of God, managed to skirt either north or south of us, and left us with only a light drizzle at times (double whew).

My mom rocked the Survivors Lap, and we all enjoyed walking as a team, proudly displaying our beach towel banner! 

As the hours rolled on, we were joined by various family and friends, all of whom were happy to participate in the walking of lap after lap. 

It was so special to help light the luminaria (I lit my mom's), and find the names of family members lit up around the track.  There was a lap walked in total silence, followed by beautiful fireworks.  Overall, a very special evening!

Best of all, my mom had a great time!

By the end, I must confess, my feet hurt, so I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep (with the help of several Ibuprofen). 

Tomorrow will likely be just as fun and memorable as today was - I'm looking forward to seeing more of our dear family and friends to celebrate my mom's triumph over cancer!

Go Team "Life's A Beach"!!!!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thankful Thursday - A Sense Of Humor

Thursday is here already, and this week's "Thankful" theme was easy.

I'm thankful for a sense of humor. 

As we continue to add family members to this weekend's Relay festivities, our laughter has increased exponentially.  Last night, Ben and I enjoyed a relaxing dinner with my parents and brother.  We joked, teased, laughed til we cried - all the things that I have come to expect when we spend time together.

This evening, we added my aunt to the mix, which only amplified the humor in the house.  My mom and her sister are hilarious together, and provide us with plenty of material to laugh about.  We even added wine to their already entertaining presence, which only contributes to the hilarity!

Unfortunately, Ben's parents have been stuck in Atlanta while they waited for a plane to bring them the rest of the way to Ohio.  Even after hours of delays, they are trying to find the humor in their situation, while we (relaxing here in Ohio) make sarcastic bets about when they will actually take off and arrive. 

Humor is what makes my family so much fun.  No matter what's happening, we try to find something funny about it, and are never wanting for an audience.  Numerous family gatherings spent at the dinner table telling old stories, laughing about our favorite memories, and playing off one another.

As the weekend progresses, I'm sure that the laughter will only continue. 

So, this week, while I'm always thankful for my family, I'm most thankful for the sense of humor that we share.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Back To Ohio

Today finds me in Ohio with my family.  As we count down to Relay For Life on Friday/Saturday, the next couple of days will be hectic and wonderful, as we welcome my aunt from Florida, Ben's parents from Salt Lake City, and pray for good weather as we walk for 24 hours.

I'm so happy to be here.  It's only been a few hours since we arrived, and already we've settled in, are laughing and joking with the fam, and truly feel at home.  It makes me realize, once again, how much I've missed being a part of the day-to-day life that goes on here.  Maybe it wouldn't be the same if we lived here, maybe we'd get on each other's nerves - of course, we'll never know for sure. 

As much as I complained about living here as a teenager (hence the migration to North Carolina for college) it has always been home.  Even now, regardless of the changes to the town, as I drive through the various streets and neighborhoods, it feels the same.  Always familiar, always charming, always, somehow, mine.  I look forward to visiting, am always sad to leave, and appreciate now, much more so than I did years ago, what a unique community it is.

Oh, how I wish Hudson and Salt Lake City were neighboring communities - life would just be perfect (ok, maybe not perfect, but certainly easier)!

But, alas, they are not.  So, we will make the best of our visit, be thankful for the opportunity to be here this weekend, and enjoy every minute we can with our Ohio family and friends.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Living In Segments

I've never been big on long term plans.  I tend to think short term, stay flexible, realizing (and expecting) that things will change.  I generally opt to go with the flow - or at least I like to think I do.  Especially lately, I feel like I've been living in terms of "what's next" rather than working towards a long term goal.

Yesterday, while talking with my mom, she mentioned something that my brother said.  For some reason, it stuck with me.  He had commented to her that she is "living in segments".  From one short term goal to the next, day to day, event to event, visit to visit, etc.  She's not thinking months ahead - she's in survival mode, thinking only of the immediate, what's right in front of her right this minute. 

I realized, after some consideration following our conversation, that I am the exact same way, especially recently.  I look ahead to things happening today, tomorrow, this weekend, rather than next week, next month, or 6 months from now.

Right now, for instance, I have several things coming up between now and August.  We leave for Ohio tomorrow night, we have Relay For Life this weekend, Ben leaves for Utah the following weekend, I will be in SLC over the 4th of July, then I make the big move in early August.  Whew!  It's exhausting to even think about!

For whatever reason, I find that I can't focus on what I need to do to get ready for the move in August.  I'm simply looking ahead to our travels to Ohio and Relay For Life.  Once that is over, I'll begin to focus on Ben leaving for Utah.  You see the pattern here.  As a chronic procrastinator - I think I'd know if this was your every day avoidance of unpleasant activities.  This seems to be more than that.  Somehow, I seem to have developed a new pattern of "what do I have to look forward to" or "what is next on my list".

Whether this is good or bad, I have no idea.  It's just something that I've just recently realized about myself.  Of course, there's something to be said for living in the moment, and not stressing about things coming months down the road, though part of me feels like a teenager, with no regard for the future or planning ahead.

I need to find a happy middle ground!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Losing The Clutter

With our upcoming move to Salt Lake City, we have made it a priority to de-clutter our house.  It's amazing how much stuff we've accumulated between the 2 of us, and how much of it we don't even use.  Moving is bad enough, so I'm sure as heck not thrilled at the idea of packing and moving stuff we don't need, only to clutter up our new place. 

A few nights ago, Ben and I spent a substantial portion of our evening in our closet, attempting to purge it of all the items we no longer wear (or fit into).  There were a few tears, but tons of laughter (mostly from me, as Ben modeled some of the clothes from his former life selling real estate).  It's amazing how many things I was holding on to - things that I haven't worn since I moved here from Ohio - things that haven't fit me for years. 

While it was sad to say goodbye to some of my former favorites, there was something so cleansing about looking at all the empty space on my side of the closet when I was finished! 

Make no mistake, I did save a few things that I just couldn't bear to part with - hoping that one day I'll be able to wear them again.  
I still have some work to do (there is an entire set of shelves not pictured that contains tank tops, pajamas, t-shirts and workout clothes).  But, considering that between the two of us we got 5 garbage bags full of clothes to donate to charity, I'm feeling pretty good about our progress so far. 

Moving forward, we both need to try a little harder to get rid of things that either don't fit, or that we haven't worn in recent memory.  We also need to do this a little more frequently than every 3 years.  

All I know is, I refuse to move things to Salt Lake City that we either don't wear or don't use.  It just means more boxes, more packing and unpacking, and more work in general.  No thank you!

Life will be so much easier with a little less clutter!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Just A Few More Days

Last week, it was easy to be thankful for Ben, because, well, he's the best.  This week, I had to think a little harder about what I'm thankful for.  Yesterday, I wrote about how frustrating it's been to be so far away from my family, and before that, I wrote about how fast time flies. 

So, today, I'm thankful that I get to see my family in just a few short days.

I love my family, and it's been really difficult to be so far away from them since I moved to California.  Over time, I've realized that it's much easier to focus on the next visit, rather than wasting time thinking about how many weeks and months slip by between visits.

My parents were out here for a nice long visit in March, to make up for a Christmas visit that got cut short.  When they left, we knew that we wouldn't be seeing them again until early June.  In the grand scheme of things, it was a relatively short amount of time, but it felt like an eternity.  So, I've been slowly counting down, anxious and eager to see my family once again.

While we've had to get used to being apart and only seeing each other every few months, we've also started a silly tradition of counting down to our visits with "This time next week" or "This time in 3 days", etc.  Yesterday, I realized that in exactly one week, we'd be there...yay!

So, as we continue to count down the remaining days until we're once again in Ohio with "The Whole Damn Fam" (as we affectionately call ourselves), I'll continue to be thankful that the time has gone by so fast, and that I was even able to get time off from work to make this trip!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Across The Miles

Yesterday's post about how time seems to be flying, has reminded me of how much has happened in my life during my time in California, and by extension, all the things I've missed by being so far away. 

Yes, we are moving to Salt Lake City in order to be closer to family, but it won't bring back all that I've missed over the last 4 years.  Weddings, babies being born, birthdays, the passing of (2) grandparents, my mom's battle with cancer, my dad's ongoing struggle with Alzheimer's, and numerous (seemingly trivial) interactions that I couldn't begin to list.

I feel like I've been absent for huge chunks of my own life.  I've missed being present in the lives of those that I cherish most.  I've always blamed work, or the distance, or the cost of travel - all of which are completely valid reasons to not make constant trips - but looking back, I realize how much I've really missed out on, and what I can never get back. 

Email and cell phones are such a blessing, as is having family and friends that you truly miss seeing, and genuinely enjoy spending time with when you do!  If it hadn't been for these wonderful technological gifts, I don't know that I would have lasted this long being so far away.

Moving forward, I don't want to make excuses for not "being there".  I want to my family and friends to be my top priority, since I don't feel like I've done a very good job of that recently. 

I realize that this will be something of a challenge, especially as Ben and I try to settle into our new home, new jobs, new city.  While it will be difficult to be "present" across the many miles, I won't let opportunities slip away, meanwhile wishing I'd been there, or tried a little harder to make it work. 

Going forward - no regrets!!!