Saturday, October 15, 2016

In Transition

Believe it or not, I have a hard time with transitions. As adventurous as I am and as willing as I am to try new things I struggle with the aftermath of the decisions made leading to a change in my life. This actually has come to a surprise to me as I have stumbled upon this realization recently. I like it when I buy into the illusion that life is in a place steady place of sameness and of unchanging routine. I like knowing what to expect and what is going to happen next. I like the feeling of ease and comfort a steady life with (seemingly) little change brings. But the older get and the more experience I have under my belt I wonder if I am not fooling myself. After all, just because I cannot see the transition of every day life  doesn't mean it's not happening. Kids don't magically age another year without first living the 364 days prior slowly making subtle changes each and every day until finally you look at your beloved on his/her birthday and think, "Man, so-and-so has changed so much this past year". The same could be said of our own lives. We don't just turn another year older after having experienced no change what-so-ever in our lives.  No, we look back and think, "Man, that year flew by. Look at all that happened." or something similar to that.

Often we are only looking for the big changes in our lives when we think of being in transition: a move to a new house or a new state, a new job, quitting a job to stay home with kids, a death in the family, a divorce, a new baby, a marriage. With these changes we know that a transition is coming and we brace ourselves for that change either with open arms or with clenched fists. But how do we handle these little changes that occur daily that we don't even recognize? Children grow, we lose weight, we gain weight, we lose touch with friends, we make new friends, we grow closer to a spouse, we grow apart from a spouse, we get out of debt, we go into debt, we accomplish our dreams, we change dreams because they are no longer what we truly desire. All of these things don't usually happen over night. They are slow burners until one day we look and we notice that our lives are now different for some reason and we didn't even recognize the changes as they were happening.

With all of the changes going on in our life right now: adjusting to a another move in a new state, me going back to work part time, the kids learning to adapt to a new city with new friends, a new job for Bobby I will not lie and say that I am not struggling a bit. It seems like our family's life right now is one big huge major transition. All the moving parts are hard to balance and feel overwhelming sometimes.

But when I stop and really think about it I take comfort in the fact that most of the time when I am not facing big transitions it doesn't mean my life is not changing because it is still changing - just more subtly. If I can make it through those times without even really knowing that a change is going on then surely I can make it through an obvious time of transition. I just have to focus on one day at a time. Small transitions are daily living where I am not focusing on the long term or 25 things at one time. It is me just focusing on the needs of my family for that one day. It is making meals with the kids. Or doing school work with them. Or carting a kid here or there. Or reading a good book to them. It is answering questions. Or playing games with them. Or doing housework or laundry. Or planning our next weekend adventure.  It is doing all of the things that make up a life.

The small transitions that take place in my life everyday do not include thoughts like:

"What are the kids going to do with me working?"
"How is this going to affect them?"
"Will they be okay?"
"Will my employer schedule me for more than the hours that I asked them to?"
"How am I going to do all that I do right now PLUS work 10-20 hours per week on top of that?"
"How am I going to make it through an entire winter and spring with this dreary weather when I am already ready to lose my mind and we have only had 3 weeks of gray skies?!"
"Will I ever love living in Portland?"
"Why don't I love living in Portland - everyone else does?"
"Will I ever find my tribe here among these people in a town that celebrates flaunting material wealth - something I despise?"
"Will  all of my children adjust to this life?"
"How long are we are we going to be here for?"
"When will I be able to go back to Las Cruces?"
"Why do I love Las Cruces so much?"
"Why does it hurt my heart a little bit every time I see a picture of Las Cruces?
"When am I ever going to "get over" Las Cruces?"

And on and on the questions go...

Because I am so focused on all of these big transition thoughts my life feels overwhelming to me. When I get really overwhelmed and am forced to stop and just sit for a second to gather my thoughts and catch my breath I remember something that is instrumental in my life and it is this: Life is just a matter of perspective. It really, really is. What I see and think is what my life becomes. If I see an overwhelmed life with tons of big transitions happening then my life will become overwhelming. If I focus on the big issues instead of the day to day issues then my life will become full of big issues instead of day to day ones. (Which for me is a huge problem because I am a firm believer in the saying that how I spend my moments is how I spend my life.)

Instead, if I focus on the day to day things then the big issues don't seem so big anymore. If I focus on being thankful for the ability to move around the country and explore and experience it then the thoughts of, "When are we going to move again.", or "I miss Las Cruces so much.", or "Why don't I like Portland more?"will fade away. Instead of focusing on the big issue things, but instead focus on the day to day life and be grateful for what I have - I instead think these thoughts instead: "We will move when we are meant to move again.", and "Thank you, God, for allowing me to find a place in this country that I love as much as Las Cruces. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to live there for 19 months.", and "What can I find in the Portland area  that I love? What are the things that speak to me our here in the Pacific Northwest?"

Image result for how you spend your days is how you spend your life
The truth is while I spend my time so focused on all of these big life transitions every single day little life transitions are happening. And to me, those life transitions are a million more times important than the big ticket stuff that is going to work itself out anyway. I struggle with remembering this. (Which I am wondering if feeling so overwhelmed is God's purpose for me right now because I am forced to think solely of the day to day life. Otherwise, I would just melt into a puddle of depressed overwhelmment. Yes, I just made up that word.)

I am also a firm believer that everything in my life happens for a reason. Each chapter of my life is building a story that will be needed in the chapters that follow the one I am currently living in. I try to remember this frequently because there is a reason for all of these big transitions in my life. And even though I don't know those reasons right now I know they will be presented to me at the right time. My job  is to  just focus on the important day to day stuff full of children growing and learning, trips taken and memories made because in the months of December, May, and August when my children each turn another year older I will look back at that preceding year and be amazed at how different our lives are. And those differences were made in a million small transitions that happened quietly and subtly day in and day out.

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Shining Star

 I think it is fair to say that Sarah is one of the most resilient and amazing people you will ever meet. She is a shining star in a sea of doubt and uncertainty. She is a beacon of light in a world that seems all wrong sometimes. She is beautiful and kind and thoughtful and wise beyond her 11 years on this earth. The grace and poise in which she is able to handle her illness is what honestly carried me through some of my toughest times since her diagnosis in May of 2013.

Right now, our Sarah is attending the National Federation of the Blind's state conference in Eugene, Oregon. She is currently attending classes with her dad at the convention on a wide variety of topics. Tomorrow morning at 10 am pst she will be the convention's guest speaker speaking about her experiences at the Bell Academy, a camp which she attended this past summer that focuses on Braille literacy. She has been practicing her speech all week. Trying to remember her lines and speak slowly and clearly. She wrote the speech all by herself asking for very little input from me. She did a great job.

 Bob will also be speaking at the convention. He is going to talk about the positive way in which the Bell Academy changed Sarah's life. How it has made her more outgoing and independent and how good it was for her to be in the presence of blind adults who were successful in their own rights at living their lives just as you or I would.

Sarah is also going to be able to meet up with a couple of the kids she met at the camp. One of whom is a 5 year old little boy who just adores her. He lights up when he knows that Sarah is nearby. His little face smiles from ear to ear and his soft little voice will call her name with such adoration it makes my heart melt. It is good for her to feel his love and to know that she is a role model for him. She is excited to be spending the weekend with her dad and excited to see the camp counselors again and also some of the kids she attended camp with.

I think that Sarah forgets, or perhaps doesn't even realize, how much of a role model she is to so many of us. She lives her life to the utmost of her ability and doesn't take things for granted the way you or I do.  She perseveres despite the mountains placed in front of her and climbs to the peak one step at a time. Things that you or I would crumble at the thought of doing she just does them with a quiet assurance that astounds me.

She doesn't let blindness tell her what she cannot do. Instead she tells her blindness what she will do despite the potential difficulties having no vision presents to her. Riding a horse? Check. Hiking? Check. Gymnastics? Check. Soccer? Check. (In the first few months of her disease she still played on her soccer team despite being in the beginning stages of losing her vision.) Ride a bicycle? Check. Cross the street on her own? Check. Read a book? Check. (In Braille, of course.)

 I truly believe that there is (just about) nothing she cannot do in the life. She will be whoever she chooses to be. She will do it with grace and dignity. She will amaze us all. And while she is living her life doing her thing she will be giving off a glow that only Sarah can. Her light will be shining for all of us to see. She is, after all, a shining star.

I have a feeling that this speaking engagement is only the first of many to come as she grows because she is such a beacon of Hope and such an inspiration to us all that others are going to want her to shine her light on them. Shine on, my love. Shine on.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Winter Is Coming

Game of Thrones is one of my favorite TV shows to watch, so when the characters are talking about winter coming I totally get it because winter is coming to the Pacific Northwest and I am terrified.

One of my biggest complaints about living in Ohio was the dreary late fall/winter/early spring weather. Seemingly, day after day of clouds and gloominess took its toll on my psyche and I feel like I fell into a general depression each winter. I would find myself praying for winter to end so that I could once again see the blue sky and sun.

When we found out that we were moving to Las Cruces, NM I damn near cried because my first thought was of the sun. Abundant sunshine day after day. No more gloomy winters. No more seasonal depression. No more praying to see blue sky. And true to my vision Las Cruces never let me down. Day after day it provided that abundant sunshine that I so desperately needed. All year long.

When Bob and I made the conscious decision to become nomadic with our family we knew that the only way to do this was to become 'yes' men. When job opportunities became available (or in the case of the Portland opportunity when the opportunity sought us out) we were almost always going to say 'yes' to whatever came up. We felt that this would allow us to experience as many different places/people as possible. And so far, this has rung very much true. We have gotten to experience so much that at one point in our lives I would have never dreamed possible.

But the thing I am realizing now about being 'yes' people is that sometimes it is a bit harder to see the good in the decision that we have made. We moved laterally to a much more expensive part of the country which has in turn forced Bob and I to make the decision for me to return back to work part time. This in and of itself has caused great stress in my life and makes me want to hit my head against a wall while screaming, "What were we friggin thinking moving here!". Bob, the ever patient and calm partner of our duo, sees the greater picture of how moving here is going to add a piece to his resume that will make him a more attractive candidate for future positions.

On top of this is the fact that, as you all already know, this part of the country is cloudy day after day for months on end. (I am assuming that there is a sunny day here and there, but I don't really know having never lived through a Pacific Northwest winter.) I am honestly petrified of the potential depression that might ensue this winter. (I think a visit to Las Cruces is in order at some point to gain some vitamin D back.)

The cloudiness has already begun. These past two weeks have had more cloudy days than sunny. The grayness hangs over the house like a stifling blanket ever ready to suffocate one's soul. I feel the heaviness and I know that in order to get through this winter I am going to have to have a new plan of attack. I need to meet this gray beast head to head, but I don't know if I have the energy or the strength to do so.

 I am also questioning daily why we said 'yes' to this opportunity. What the hell were we thinking both climate wise and financially?! But when I stop panicking and kvetching long enough to have a moment to think I also know that this move is for a reason. I have to trust in God that we moved here for a reason. I h-a-v-e to lean on Him because if I don't I will suffocate here. When I am at the end of my life what will be the take away from this opportunity? What is the lesson? I know that life is just one lesson after another. What is this one?

Winter is definitely coming, and there is nothing I can do about it. What I can do something about is how I handle winter coming. Maybe I just need to start focusing on the good and what I am grateful for instead of focusing on the not-so-good (for me) right now. Maybe I can start with the fact that I have first world problems, not third world. That thought alone should help me get through the winter if only I don't lose sight of that.

Friday, October 7, 2016


Bob and I were sitting on our porch one evening last week and just talking about this and that. I brought up my current issue of how I don't feel like the Portland area will ever grow on me and how I couldn't figure out why. Bob brought up a good point that I think really hit the nail on the head for me.

 He told me that he thinks my problem is that there is nothing about the place in which we live that gives off a Pacific Northwest vibe. It is only after we seek a place out outside of the confines of our part of the city that we live in that we can experience the Pacific Northwest. Where we live could be  Fancy Town, Anywhere, USA. There are trees and new buildings and fancy this and fancy that. All of which could take place anywhere. The Southwest has such a distinct feel and look that no matter where you were you knew that you were in the Southwest. And I guess that is what I expected when I moved here. I expected that no matter where I lived it would feel like the Pacific Northwest. And that is just not true. Yes, I can drive 30-90 minutes away and I can most definitely be in a spot that feels like that Pacific Northwest, but I have to seek that feeling out whereas in the Southwest that feeling never left because you couldn't escape it even if you wanted to.

Often, I struggle with the fact that the pull of adventure is great within me. I wish that I could just settle down in one place and be happy and content in doing so. I wish that I could be the type of person who has the same friends her whole life and has no desire to really branch out beyond that. I wish that I didn't have the desire to seek out new things and places and people.  Sometimes I feel alone. I don't know many other people who are willing to live the nomadic life we are living and it makes me wonder if there is something wrong with me. It makes me question, yet again, why can't I be normal? Why can't I just do what most other people are doing? They don't leave a trail of people that they love behind everywhere they move from. They don't leave behind places they love either. I think that there is value is staying in one place.

But then I remember the unmistakable feeling of amazement upon seeing Soledad Canyon for the first time. Or sitting on a log at the top of Multnomah Falls and being captivated by the peacefulness. Or looking at the Organ Mountains every morning and night and marveling at their beauty. Or seeing the aqua color of the water at Three Pools. Or feeling the sand beneath my toes and watching the waves crash over the rocks in the Pacific Ocean. It is in those moments that I know deep down why the pull of the adventure wins every time over the wish of being okay with staying in one place.  It is these experiences that answer the question of why I cannot just settle down in one place. Because if I did that I would never, ever had experienced those amazing moments.

I need to remember my struggles with living in a wealthy part of town. I need to remember how the flashiness is so unappealing to me, so that when our family is one day on the financial level that these people appear to be that I can recall the disgust I felt at seeing people flaunt their excess and choose to use our money differently. Living in my community makes me realize how much I don't want to be in my community and therefore has motivated me to seek out new adventures on days that I would have maybe stayed home had I lived in a community that I felt more comfortable with.

Often times I think of life as a book. We are born and the story begins and we die and the story (here on earth anyway) ends. When I am reading a really good book I will sometimes rush through the pages in order to get through to the end to see what happens and then I will go back and read the book more slowly capturing all of the minute details that I missed when reading it the first time. I tend to live my life that way. I rush through each stage looking forward to see what is going to happen next, and then 'next' happens, but I am already on to what is beyond that. When you live your life that way you never really have a chance to capture and live the chapter of life you are on. Living life as an adventure has been a good practice for me in learning to live life in a way that allows me to embrace each new experience. I still struggle with wanting to rush through my life. Everyday, actually. But as I take the time to reflect on why our family has chosen the path of a nomadic lifestyle it has helped me to be able to breath here and there and to enjoy glimpses of where I am now. I still have a long way to go though before I can cure myself of anticipating what the next chapter of my life will bring.

Finally, I think that biggest thing for me to remember is that this adventure called my life is out of my hands. I am control freak and constantly struggle with the urge to control every aspect of everything all of the time. Remembering that my life is in God's hands and that God is in control helps me to relax a bit. (Even if only for a moment or two.) Living here in Portland has been hard for me for several reasons and I question whether this was the right move for our family. Being farther away from our Ohio family and friends than we were before has been a bit difficult to adjust to and also the financial aspect of us moving out here has been hard because it is so much more expensive to live than any other place we have ever been. In order to still be able to live the life that we want to live I had to go and get a part time job. Plus, the weather is turning gray here and I question whether I will be able to maintain my sanity with gray skies just about every day from now until April (or so the locals tell me). It is vital that I remember that this move here is only temporary, and that we will only be this far away from loved ones for a short while, and that I will only have to work part time while we live here. Most importantly, I need to keep my focus on God. God has a plan for my life. He is in control. He will not forsake me or leave me. He knows what he is doing. I just need to relax and remember that our life is all about the adventure and the experience. I need to remember to savor this time here despite some of the hardships I am facing because we will not be here forever. I want to make sure that we see and do as many things as we can around these parts because there is just so much to see and do.

I need to remember to breathe. I need to remember to relax. I need to remember to relinquish control. I need to remember that even though the way we live our life may not be normal or what the average family chooses to do that we are not the average family nor are we really all that normal. I need to remember that I only get one life to live. I cannot relive the story of my life to get a better feel of the details as I can a good book. I need to remember that its all about the experience, the adventure, and the perspective I choose to take regarding the life we are choosing to lead.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Mirror Lake

We took my parents to Mirror Lake while they were in town visiting. It was some place that we had not yet been ourselves and knew that we wanted to hike to the lake at some point during our stay here. The hike itself was extremely beautiful. The forest was exactly as I imagined the Pacific Northwest to look like prior moving our family here. It was peaceful and awe inspiring. I could see myself living in a pine forest such as this someday.

It was cloudy and therefore the lake itself wasn't as magnificent as I thought it would be, but that just means that we will have to take this hike again when the clouds are at bay and we can see the reflection of Mt Hood in the lake. (It actually seemed more like a pond because it was so small.)

I was really, really proud of Sarah as she climbed up the whole 1.5 mile trail to the top all by herself. The terrain was mostly uphill on the way up and it was narrow and rocky in a lot of places. Still she did it all by herself and I was so very proud. It is just one more step towards her complete independence from us.  (I was a nervous wreck as there were some steep drop offs along the trail, but I made sure that I stayed behind her so that she didn't feel like I was hovering too much but was still close enough that if she did have a fall I could catch her.)

Trips like this one are good for me as they remind me why we choose to move our family around the country rather than staying in one place. Seeing the things we have been able to see these last two years has been amazing. Although there are times when I doubt whether we are making the right decision for our children by sacrificing community and family for adventure when we travel to places like Mirror Lake my doubt washes away and I am replaced with nothing but gratitude for the life that we choose to lead.

This is just one spot where you can imagine it might be difficult for a blind person to climb this path. Both the switch back and the logs and the tree roots and rocks. Sarah did it though. One step at a time. There were other parts of the trail that were much more rocky and full of tree roots. If you ever have a chance to watch her she really is one of the most inspiring people you will ever meet. 

Andy and his crawfish....

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Ecola State Park

Well, I found it. I wasn't sure I was going to find a place that I loved deeply like I love Soledad Canyon in Las Cruces, but I did. Ecola State Park combines both the deep forest feel with the typical Pacific Northwest feeling - H-U-G-E pine trees covered in moss, ferns growing in abundance on the forest floor, and twisting pathways with the rocky Pacific Ocean and its beautiful beaches. I knew the second I stepped onto the sand of Crescent Beach that I had found more evidence of heaven on earth.

Bob actually gets the credit for finding the spot. We went there on our anniversary - just the two of us - and I loved it so much that I took my parents (and the kids) there the very next day. Ecola State Park overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is a network of trails. Some of the trails stay on top of mountain we were on. Others take winding pathways down to the ocean's edge. This is where I found my Pacific Northwest heaven. The trail is 1 and 1/4 miles long. It takes you through dense forest and can be quite steep in certain points. It takes about 30 minutes to climb from the cliff to the sandy shore below, but the time and effort is 100% worth it.

The forest is quiet except for a bird here and there. The silence is so comforting though. You can tell that this forest is wise and at peace with itself. I could spend several hours under a tree just writing in my journal while the sun's rays sneak through to the forest floor a bit here and a bit there. The different shades of green accost your eyes and you end up being amazed that God created so many shades of one color and that they can be found in the dense cover of growth that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

And the beach...I could spend days on this beach. Because the hike is a bit difficult not many people choose to make the trek down to the bottom of the trail. Crescent Beach is named so because the northern and southern borders of the beach are made up of huge rock formations that jut into the ocean. The beach itself takes on the shape of a crescent moon. There are rocks to explore on when the tide is out and piles of huge driftwood. It is so peaceful. I wish I could bring you all there with me.

Take a look at the beauty I found:

The top of the trail. 

Beginning the trail. 

A view from the middle of the trail.

A lookout spot from the trail. 

A  huge fallen tree trunk. 

A really neat tree trunk.