Sometimes simple daily acts require great faith

Today I drove my daughters to Elliot Bay in Seattle, put them on a sailboat with my parents, and am trusting that I will pick them up in two days on Orcas Island. The difficult part isn’t trusting them on a boat in the Puget Sound. The difficult part was driving them there.

We moved to the Seattle area in the fall of 2004. Throughout our years here, I have actually driven in the city very few times before today, probably around 3.

Once was to bring my cousins from my apartment in Kent to the University of Washington, where their mother worked. After a few wrong turns and an embarrassing trip into and back out of the wrong parking garage, I managed to get them to the right place.

The second and third times involved either driving to or driving home from my sister’s apartment in Ballard. After I drove on the trip to her apartment and cried several times, my husband drove us home. (And bless my dear husband, because he does ALL of the difficult driving that we travel together.) The later trip AWAY from my sister’s apartment was because I had driven to see her race in a triathlon in Sammamish and met up with her boyfriend, who was also there to cheer for my sister. He drove her car back into the city. She drove me in MY car to her apartment, and then I drove my car home again. I don’t remember anything traumatic happening on my way home that day, but it was a straight shot to the interstate, and as long as traffic isn’t too heavy, I feel pretty comfortable from there.

I don’t know WHY driving in the city, or to big events like concerts, or if there’s a difficult unprotected left turn to take, gives me anxiety, I just know that it does. I’m not sure that it keeps me from doing anything, specifically, but I have definitely had to work around it. My husband drives us to any events that we occasionally attend in Seattle or Tacoma. When the graduation ceremony for the school where I teach moved to an outdoor amphitheater this year, I didn’t know how I was going to deal with it until a co-worker said that I could ride with her.

Then this summer, the opportunity came up for my children to do something special, spend a few days on a sailboat with their grandparents and see the San Juan Islands. All I had to do was GET THEM TO SEATTLE. I understand that for most people, this is simple. It is a couple hours of driving during non-peak traffic times. But I was incredibly nervous.

Regardless, I didn’t want my anxiety to make my kids miss this opportunity. So this morning we headed out, armed with the GPS on my phone and my very loose sense of geography. We need to head north. The Sound is to the west.

Without GPS, it wouldn’t have been possible. Having that voice telling me “Stay in the center lane,” was very reassuring. It was also crucial when I missed the turn into the marina and suddenly realized I was headed back out the way I had come. In my head I was thinking, “That’s it. No sailing trip for you, Kids. We’re headed back home, and we’ll never figure out how to get back here again.” Fortunately GPS recalculated, took me in a slightly different way, and the second time I saw that sneaky turn that I had missed the first time.

So I did it! I managed to successfully drive INTO Seattle, get my children to my parents, and then make it home again. And it was relatively undramatic.

Does this mean I’m reformed and will feel confident driving into the city now? NO!! Driving is stressful to me, and no amount of experience seems to take that stress away. After all, I have been driving for over twenty years now. I still dread having to attend trainings or workshops in the city. I fear future trips to soccer tournaments with vague directions in heavy commuter traffic. (My children haven’t played any soccer tournaments yet, but maybe they will someday, and this is what I always hear other parents complain about.) But I’m glad I can function if I absolutely have to. Maybe I’ll be ready to give it another try in another four years or so.

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There is No Glory on the Exercise Bike

Until 4 years ago, I was a consistent runner. In July of 2014, I started experiencing foot pain from plantar fasciitis. It took me a year and a half before I finally saw a doctor, and since then I have tried pretty much everything: Orthotics, stability shoes, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medicine, 3 injections, a walking boot, acupuncture, and consistent stretching and rolling out my foot and calves. All of it has helped, and none of it has fixed it.

Meanwhile, my physical fitness, which was quite good when this all started, has taken a dramatic downturn. At first I continued to exercise frequently, often six days a week, doing circuit training videos and walking. After awhile it seemed like parts of the workout videos were continuing to aggravate my foot. And then when I was wearing the walking boot, I couldn’t really walk, either. I joined a gym so that I could use the exercise bike, but I have found this to be very challenging to keep up with.

This past year is probably the least I have ever worked out, except for maybe the late months of my pregnancy and the early months of the girls being born. Getting to the gym is a challenge. I would have to wake up earlier than 4:00 a.m. to exercise before work. The gym is literally across the street from where I work, so I was hoping I could stop there after work at least a couple of times a week before I came home. In reality this happened very rarely, though. I made it to the gym about once per week during November and December. Then sometime around March my workouts stopped altogether.

I am finding it VERY challenging to get excited about the exercise bike. It is incredibly boring. And I’m not doing it often enough to notice any kind of fitness gains or to set any kind of goal. I realize the ultimate goal is good health, but it’s hard to work up excitement for something so mundane. I miss running terribly, and I wonder if I will ever be able to run again.

I currently have no game plan for my foot. One doctor has recommended surgery, but the surgery only has a 70% success rate, which makes me hesitant to try it until I know for sure that I have tried EVERYTHING else. I know that I have GOT to get exercising again, though, even if the exercise bike isn’t very glamorous.

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All Aboard the Polar Express

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My family did something really fun over Thanksgiving weekend this year. My family of 4 (my husband, myself, and our six-year-old twins) went with my sister’s family (my sister, her husband, and their two-year-old twins) rode the Polar Express train ride in Elbe, Washington near Mt. Rainier.

The cost isn’t cheap, but my sister and I had talked about going back in August (tickets sell out early!) so we were able to pay for it separately from all of the costs that come up at Christmas time, which was helpful. And the experience was worth it. The staff works hard to make the entire time on the train really special. They play Christmas music, read the story of The Polar Express, and everyone gets hot chocolate and a cookie. Two of the staff members in our car spent a lot of time interacting with the kids. They asked my kids what they want for Christmas, and they invited them to come out and dance in the aisle during a couple of the Christmas songs. They also pass out song booklets so that everyone can sing along, which my girls really loved.

Santa also comes onto the train, which everyone really enjoyed.
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This was a really fun activity to start off the Christmas season. We enjoyed spending time with my sister and her family, so it was special to get to do it together. My kids have said they would love to do this every year. I’m not sure I can completely commit to that, but it was definitely worth it to make it happen this year!

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Thinking about 2016

Siren and Immy on their last day of school of 2016

img_2610For reasons that I can’t quite put my finger on, 2016 was challenging.  Parenting-wise, age 5 has been great.  The girls started school, and it is so neat to watch them grow and learn.  So I can’t think of any parenting aspects, specifically, that made it a difficult year.

Maybe the biggest factor is that I STILL can’t run.  After kind of sort of but mostly not running in 2015, I did nearly zero running in 2016.  (I say “nearly zero” because there has been the occasional game of tag or just general running after the girls that most parents are probably familiar with.) Starting in March of 2015, I basically stopped running.  But I kind of cheated to help the girls practice for and then run a one-mile fun run in August.  And I kind of cheated to train with the girls and run a Turkey Trot 5K in November. In February of 2016, I finally FINALLY saw a podiatrist. He fitted me with orthotics, gave me a “sling” to put my foot in at night, and now I ONLY wear supportive athletic shoes, even to work and to church.  All of this has helped, a lot, but I am STILL not pain free, and therefore I have not been able to resume running.  This has resulted in some weight gain and in my overall crankiness.  Running was a big part of my stress relief and just being able to feel “even.” I do my best to exercise outside of running.  Most weeks I do Jillian at least three days a week, and I try to walk for at least 30 minutes two or three other days during the week. During the summer I also rode my bike and went on some hikes.  These just don’t seem to have the same mood-boosting effects of running, though, and definitely not the same calorie burn.

So on this first day of 2017, I’m really hoping that this will be the year I can start running again, and start losing weight again, and start feeling more like myself again.

However, 2016 wasn’t all bad.  Specifically I can think of one moment when I very strongly felt like I AM on the right path and I AM exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.  This is what inspired me to write, so I want to describe it.

The first one occurred last spring.  In my AP classes, we read the book An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina.  It is about the genocide in Rwanda. This is the one carry-over unit that I have from my Holocaust Literature class that I used to teach.  This book is not commonly used in an AP class, but I continue to teach it because I believe that the content, the history, the connections to the Holocaust, and the issue of genocide in general is so important.  We finish the book a little before the AP Test, and then after the test, we usually watch the film Hotel Rwanda.  I have done this with my students for a few years now, so I’m not sure why THIS year it had such an impact on me, but I had a moment while watching the film when I realized that genocide is the issue that I care about and can educate about.  I just felt so grateful that I have the AP class and the opportunity to teach this and to continue to educate students about it.

So while there are things I am struggling with, I am feeling content in knowing that for now, I am in the right place.  I am hopeful that in 2017 I can continue on in the right direction, hopefully RUNNING in the right direction.

 

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Well, it’s May

I’m so out of the habit of writing that I’m struggling with how to start.

It’s nearing the end of the school year:  3 weeks to go.  My students are in the middle of SBAC testing, which is a giant process and has been stressful for me.  So things at work are busy, like they usually are, I suppose.

The girls turned 4 in April. I haven’t updated their baby books since they turned about a year old. This makes me sad because it’s something that I really wanted to do (and still want to do) but I never seem to have time to do it.

Instead of getting into a tangent on parenting failures, though, I wanted to take a minute to write about some of the good things.  On Memorial Day this past Monday, we all stayed home and spent time together as a family, and it was a really nice day.

I had stayed up late grading the night before, so Will got up with the girls and got them breakfast.  I think I got up around 9 after Siren came into my room for the second time.  Imogen bought me sunflower seeds for my birthday in March, and I had told the girls we could plant them on Memorial Day, so they were really excited.

We all went out to the yard, which was so not garden-ready.  The girls helped Will and I pull weeds, pick out rocks, and dig holes for the seeds.  We spent two hours outside working before we were finally ready to put the seeds in.  The girls were awesome. They didn’t fight or complain, and they were excited to help out however they could.  Hopefully at least some of our flowers will grow, so they will have evidence of their hard work.

Days like that make me feel so grateful for my family.  I’m excited that the girls are getting to an age when we can all enjoy experiences together.  I worry a lot about being so consumed with work and the busyness of daily life that I’ll look back on these times and wish I would have appreciated them more.  It’s nice to be able to have a day when I can take that time to just enjoy being a family.

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Trying to write again

I went most of 2014 without posting here. The reasons are complicated. The first one being that my girls still don’t go to bed at night. They have good nights and bad nights. We’ve tried them in separate rooms and still in one room together. We’ve tried stickers and check ins and crying it out and everything I can think of. The bottom line is that they hate going to sleep, I hate bedtime, and it takes anywhere from 1 to 2 hours to get them to go to bed at night. When I used to write regularly, it was after they went to sleep at night. Since they are always up so late, I pretty much stopped posting.

The other major reason was that 2014 was just a difficult year in general. While we had no major crisis, things just felt hard. I feel weird even trying to talk about it because compared to the struggles that I know other people are going through, we don’t have any room to complain. Will and I are both employed. We’re able to afford our house payment, our cars, and generally keep up with our bills. The girls are healthy. We are healthy. We have SO SO MUCH to be grateful for. At the same time, I don’t think NOT talking about the struggles has done me any good. Writing is such a part of who I am and how I process things. I’ve still been writing, just not in a way that I’ve wanted to put out to the general public.

So I’m struggling with what’s okay to share, what’s better not to share, and how to try to post here regularly again. I want to keep a record of those funny parenting moments. I’m hoping I can find a way to make this work again. I won’t make any promises at this point, but one of my goals for 2015 is to try.

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Efforts to sleep

I know it’s only been a few days, and I’m STILL not getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep at night, but I HAVE made an effort to get more sleep this week, but I haven’t noticed that it’s made a big difference.  Maybe it’s because I’m so far behind that adding another 30 minutes to an hour each night isn’t going to make a huge difference.  I don’t know. I just know that I’m even more behind on work than usual, still sick, not exercising, and I don’t know what to do about all of it.

It’s frustrating to me that I haven’t been able to follow through on any of my goals this year. I want so much to be exercising regularly, in the morning, to be making progress in running, to be writing regularly and looking for a way to do it even more regularly, to be caught up (enough) with my school work that I’m not feeling completely overwhelmed.  There is just not enough time in the day for me to be able to make this happen right now, so I’m not sure what to do about it.  It feels too scary and too sad to say, “Okay, I’m just not going to work on my goals right now.”  At the same time, it’s incredibly frustrating to WANT to make progress on them and then not to be able to.

In the area of nighttime with the girls, we are at least making some progress on that.  Instead of crying it out, which we weren’t having a lot of success with, we are trying a different Ferber technique.  When we put the girls to bed, I tell them that I’ll come check on them every X number of minutes until they fall asleep.  Siren still cried a little the first night.  Actually, both of them did.  But I started by checking on them every 3 minutes.  It only took a few times of me coming back into the room for the girls to realize that I WOULD keep coming back. Then Imogen went right to sleep.  Siren took a little longer.  The second and third nights were better.  I was able to come back in every 5 minutes instead of 3, and they fell asleep within 30 minutes of lying down.  We hit a set back the 4th night. Siren fell asleep, I stopped coming into her room, but then she woke up a few minutes after that and was upset.  She didn’t fall asleep for good until around 10:00.  The next night she didn’t fall asleep until 10:00 either.  Tonight went well again.  I was able to go into the room every 6 minutes. I started around 8:10, and the girls were both asleep by 8:50.  Siren has still been waking up during the night, but Will usually hears her first, picks her up, and then is able to lay her down again after a minute.  Most of the time she goes right back to sleep.  

So while things are much improved, we still have a way to go.  It is also extremely limiting to have to go into the girls’ room every few minutes for up to an hour every night, but it’s preferable to do this than to have them be agitated and upset and not going to sleep for an hour (or longer) anyway. I’m also hopeful that I”ll be able to extend the time periods to longer than 6 minutes after a few more days.  Fingers crossed.

I have 6 weeks of school, uninterrupted by any holidays, and unlikely to be interrupted by inclement weather, before spring break.  During this time we also have our state testing for English AND spring conferences.  AND the girls’ birthday is the first weekend of my spring break, so it won’t get relaxing until after that. This is just a stressful time, and I’m having a hard time trying to feel any excitement or enthusiasm for it. I also know I’m not likely to get a ton of sleep due to the zero breaks in the schedule, which is causing me to feel a certain amount of dread.  I wish I could feel more positive about things.  After all, I do know how lucky I am that Will and I are both employed, the girls are healthy, our house is standing, we have two working vehicles (3 if you count the one we need to sell), and we pretty much have enough money for the things we need. I KNOW we are blessed. It’s just hard not to feel stressed when I think about everything I need to do and how little time there is to get it done.

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