Wonder and Joy

I need to say thank you.

Thank you to the internet for inspiration. Thank you to all the people who do the holiday season up big. Thank you to the Heather Lands of the world who make me belly laugh about our silly traditions. Thank you for the conversations of dear friends as we eat delicious food, do laundry, and find humor in our family and our work. Thank you for far away friends as we compare notes and ideas to make the holidays wonderful, and commiserate with us when they go awry. Thank you, Mom, for the conversation about the wonder of Christmas, and letting kids be kids.

And a special thank you to Hannah’s teacher.

You see, her teacher shared that she had said her home elf was quite boring. Dobby only moved around but never did anything funny or amazing like the elf in the classroom. She wasn’t shaming me or ridiculing me by sharing what Hannah had said, but was simply sharing the magic of the season…she loved how her students’ faces lit up each day as the elf did some new and crazy thing – even simple things – all by themselves.

It woke me up. Big time.

In a season where perfection abounds, it’s hard when things aren’t they way we’d like them. My person is deployed. (No, they don’t get Christmas off. Or New Year’s. Or the kids’ birthdays. Or their birthday. Or any of the other holidays this year.) The kids are missing their dad. It sucks. Yes, it’s part of it, but it still sucks.

And yet….it’s Christmas.

Hannah’s teacher sharing reminded me that even though it’s not an ideal holiday, that while our hearts are hurting, they can also be filled with joy.

And wonder.

And the magic of a silly elf on the shelf.

Not only did he do all these silly antics over the past month…

…he reminded us all that wonder and joy can still be found.

Kind of what Christmas is all about anyway, right?

❤️ Wishing you joy and wonder this Christmas season ❤️❤️❤️

Bah Humbug

I’ve been fighting it for a while.

I just can’t seem to get into the holiday spirit this year. Part of it is that we are far away from family and in a new state. Part of it is the weather. It’s kind of hard to feel festive about Christmas sweaters when it’s 80 degrees outside. “Frosty the Snowman” and 100% humidity just don’t jive, you know? I even bagged out on my Christmas cards/letters this year. I just haven’t been  that into it.

The Christmas shopping not even started yet, I sat down to get organized and it just felt like more heavy demands. “Bring the party tray for Hannah’s pre-k Christmas party…bring a wrapped book for Jacob’s gift exchange…don’t forget the gingerbread house supplies! Pajama day on Friday! Can you spare a few hours to volunteer in the classroom? These kids are our future you know!” These little things aren’t much in and of themselves, but when piled together it makes a giant pile of to-dos sucking the joy right out of the season and sends me under my covers not wanting to be vertical at all. It’s just pressure that I dread.

Throughout December, I usually play holiday music to center myself. It gets me in the holiday frame of mind, as the music and lyrics take me back to past Christmas seasons. I can still hear Elvis singing “Blue Christmas” as my mom and I wrapped presents in my childhood home. “Mary Did You Know” and “Immanuel” will put me right back into that Christmas Eve service where they had arranged for a stunning live nativity with real farm animals! My favorite hymns and carols all have specific memories attached. I even got desperate and played Faith Hill’s “Where are you Christmas?” Because that is essentially how I’ve been feeling. Even my runs the past few days have felt sort of “meh” with not one butterfly sighting. (I usually see small yellow butterflies on EVERY run, and look so forward to them. It’s like a visual hug from the universe.) I went out to tackle the bulk of the shopping and was striking out at store after store. (This year I did not plan ahead like I normally do. I like having it all done by December 1st, so I can sit back and enjoy the season.) I started to notice the people out and about and not one person seemed really happy or content. Everyone, including myself, oozed rushed, harried and tired energy. No smiles, no joy, and definitely no holiday magic. The holiday music just wasn’t working the way it usually does. it felt, well, forced.

At the end of the excursion, I had accomplished little and felt like time would have been better spent just staying home with my family. After a good night’s rest I tried again. Hit the toy store, stopped at Target, and was finally making some headway. Then something shifted when I stopped at the book store. I asked an employee about a book, and looking at her computer she said they didn’t have anything like what I was looking for. Bummed, I strolled down some aisles looking for new inspiration – that perfect gift. A while later lost in thought and browsing titles, this same employee came around the corner carrying a book. The biggest grin spread across her face, her eyes dancing she said, “I think I have found something like what you are looking for!” As I flipped through this beautiful book and gazed at the photographs within, my mouth dropped and gratitude washed over me. “I could just hug you right now! Thank you! This is perfect!” She laughed, and we shared a wonderful moment. What I couldn’t articulate at the time was that she not only found a gift I had been searching for, but her kindness allowed me to see a spark of authentic cheer, and it started with gratitude. When you find that gift that you know deep down all the way to your toes that the person receiving it is just going to LOVE – that moment of anticipation to me, embodies the tradition of giving a gift. What I had failed to remember up until that point is that these nuggets of Christmas cheer are embedded in the busy. She gave me a gift without ever realizing it. Her joy in helping me find that item was magic as I finally started to feel ready for the season.

Part of our holiday also usually involves a visit with Santa. The idea of standing in a long line while trying to entertain the minions was not high on my priority list. (It was, not surprisingly, on the “don’t wanna at all” list.) Eric was a bit surprised at my reluctance. We went anyway, and as I looked around at all the parents, we all wore that same expression of wanting to be ANYWHERE but in that line. But the kids? They had a blast. My daughter’s excitement was palpable. They wore what they wanted, I kept my perfectionist expectations low, and we had a pretty fun evening. We played thumb war in the line. We took turns holding them, then playing silly little made up games, and Hannah spent time on Daddy’s shoulders. I was having fun in spite of myself. After they had their visit with Santa, my daughter, who is a hugger by nature, ran back to Santa to say thank you and gave him the biggest hug! I love her little huggy heart.

Feeling somewhat lighter yesterday, (and seeing the light at the end of the shopping tunnel) I again had one of those runs. The ones where you feel light and could go for ever.

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The dogs are doing great on the leash, and the butterflies returned. The little yellow guys flutter across the path as we glided along the trail. And then I saw a GIANT monarch like this one:

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After that sunrise, and a heavenly run, I was having a game of fetch with the dogs in the backyard and there was yet another one of these monarchs fluttering around – in my backyard! I am always reminded by these little experiences that joy is where I find it. It happens when I am looking for it, when I’m open and have a posture of gratitude. It doesn’t matter if it’s during a deployment, a cross-country move, a trail run, or even during the holidays in my yard. Joy waits to be discovered as we look away from the unimportant and toward the things for which we are grateful.

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IMG_0691  I am grateful.

Subtlety: Eagles and Seagulls

Where we live we see plenty of seagulls, as well as a few eagles. The eagles are few while the seagulls flock together and dot the shore in swarms.

The eagles are amazing, it’s true. With wings outspread, they seem to soar with ease. I’ve been watching a couple around our area and they are teaching their little eaglets to fly. I’ve seen them on runs and watched their grace as they circle high overhead scanning the fields for food.

Then there are the seagulls who, with all their look-alike pals, must compete with each other just to grab a bite. They dare to approach humans for a stray snack. They’ll even peck open anything that remotely looks like food. They are brave. They are daring. They do what they have to do. A seagull’s value is hard-won. They scour the coast for a meal. They earn it. They are scrappy scavengers who fly just as beautifully as any other bird.

It’s easy to admire eagles. They shine. They are majestic. A seagull’s beauty may not be apparent at first, but it’s there.

Sometimes you just have to look a little deeper.

I love seagulls.

More Than Miles

Sometimes miles drag. It’s impossible to push yourself out of the bed in the morning. Then there are those kind of runs. The ones that are etched in your memory as a really great run. We’ll take 14 “meh” runs just to have that one.

This morning was a great one.

I had my clothes set out the night before, making it less likely to talk myself into another “just 10 more minute” love affair with my snooze button. Grabbed some water, some breakfast and out the door I went.

The early morning, before the rest of the world is vertical, is my absolute favorite time of day. I love the feeling of being the only person out and about. It’s open space, quiet calm, and time that is mine alone.

It was a misty, almost foggy morning. This is the kind of heavy mist that makes it smell fresh and clean. If green had a scent, it would smell like the Pacific Northwest after a long-awaited rain. Hearing the damp gravel crunch and grind under the rhythm of my feet, I noticed bunnies poking their heads out, look at me, then dart quickly back under cover. Birds were busily chattering their morning routine. Nearing the end of the trail where I regularly run, I looked up to a piling about 10 yards away and saw an eagle perched right on top eye-balling me. I stopped and just smiled and admired how majestic (and freaking HUGE!) he was. Some runs are about more than just miles.

After a few moments Mr. Eagle grew bored with me and our staring contest and spread out his impressive wings and flew off. As I made the run back up the hill, I decided on impulse to head in a different direction and popped through a little trail.

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With purple being my favorite color, I was stunned and delighted to discover this field that is normally covered in yellow Native American paintbrush plants was dotted with lavender:

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The picture doesn’t do it justice. It was stunning to see what I expected to be yellow, covered in purple.

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The little bunny was watching me!

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So pretty and purple!

This was just one of those runs that felt tailor-made for me. It was as if the my little corner of the world held up it’s cup of coffee and said “cheers!” We are down to less than 2 weeks from moving and I know this was one of my last runs in this beautiful place. Today wasn’t about miles, which are great. It wasn’t about pace, which is fine. It was just feeling the gravel under my feet, hearing the birds getting their day started, and me finding a way to bid farewell to another chapter in this crazy military journey.

Eeyore by Nature?

Hiking Kokohead while living in Hawaii was a wonderful experience, but not for the obvious reasons.

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The view was beyond beautiful overlooking Hanauma Bay. Being able to lookout over the marathon course from that perspective was mind-blowing. Hiking it with a dear friend makes it a forever treasured memory. The encounter we had with a man who hikes (runs!) this trail 3 times a day changed how I view not only this particular hike, but life in general. Seriously? A conversation with a stranger changes your life? Well, sort of. Perhaps life-changing is a bit extreme, but it brought to light a shift in perspective to which I refer often.

As we were going up, the man was coming down rapidly. Sprinting is a more accurate description. My friend and I marveled at his speed and asked him, “Don’t you worry about falling?” He replied grinning, “I think differently. I don’t think about falling.”

This little exchange comes back to me frequently. The daily prompt title was “Make Me Smile” and asked to discuss things that make us happy. While not exactly that specific topic, I immediately thought of this hiker and his wise words on perspective.

When we look at our Twitter feeds, Facebook walls, or even conversations with our friends, are our words peppered with complaints, sighs, and general negativity? If someone you didn’t know was to read everything you posted online, what would be their perspective? When spending time with friends, how do you come away feeling? Uplifted and content, or heavy and burdened?  If we focus on the negative things in life, that’s what we will attract to ourselves.

I’m not saying that every day is rainbows and kittens and life is always pleasant, because it’s not. Not by a long shot. Crap happens and life is messy. In general though, do we go through life complaining, resisting what is, or do we adapt and look for the good, seeking out joy despite circumstances? For some of us, I think it may come a bit easier as it’s in our nature to be positive, and in turn, if the natural tendency is negative, that’s what flows most freely.

What about you? What’s your perspective? Do you look at the world with a perpetual glass-half-full viewpoint or do you look for the negative, complain, but don’t really know why?  Perhaps it’s time to “think differently” like my hiker friend!

Freedom

Ahhh, Independence Day.

Yes, the big one for our country, but also the one that’s a bit more personal for our family, and for me.

I ran my first run yesterday. The first solo-non-stroller-pushing/non-dreadmill trail run in about a year. No races. No bib numbers. No PRs or time clocks. No having to ensure the minions in the stroller are fed (not thirsty, changed, happy, fighting with each other, etc).

No music.

Only the gravel hitting my gait, the beat of my breath, and the summer sun shining through the trees.  I was near tears; breathless and joyful, barely containing myself as other runners passed. I resisted the urge to high-five every single person. (On a couple, I held my hand up in the typical runner’s wave, thinking that if someone felt like it, they could – but sadly, no takers.) It didn’t really matter though. My ear-to-ear grin spelled out exactly how I felt.

In a word: Heaven.

Contentment.

Release.

Joy.

Exhilaration.

And so much more. I can’t wait to get out and run today.

Joy

If writing for a fitness blog has taught me anything, it’s that I have to practice what I “preach”.

After writing a post about making exercise work with kids, I really had no excuse. So I found this:

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It’s a playground next to the track! There is absolutely NO reason I couldn’t get out there! As you can see there was a huge rain cloud sitting directly over us, but it blew over eventually. (We live in Washington. If we waited for dry weather to do anything, we’d never leave the house!) I was excited to do some speed work and actually surprised myself with a 8:22 min mile! As usual, I’m faster than I think! I do have to mention – I love this track because it’s asphalt so the kids can ride their bikes and I “chase” them. What really kills me is how FAST Jake is on his bike! I really have to work to try to catch up to him!

Next, we headed out to Seaview trail – kids still on bikes and me giving “boosts” up the hills, picking up fallen bikes, kissing boo-booed knees, and a quick detour down to the beach!

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I LOVE the ocean more than I could ever express. Good thing I happen to be married to a sailor!

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As we walked down to the water, the salty-sea air hit me and I just felt joyful and content. Yeah, perhaps it was the endorphin high, but it was still joy.

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We saw some pretty good waves, reminding us of Hawaii…

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but one look at Hannah’s coat reminded us where we really were!

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On this trail they have random driftwood art  – so appropriate!

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Sea Serpent and Fish!

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Joy is everywhere. Even on the hard days. Even on deployment groundhog days.

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Joy is everywhere – we just have to be looking for it!