Fat Fridays: The Inconvenience of Getting Hot and Sweaty

Ok, all you exercise people. How do you work around the Hot and Sweaty part of exercise during a regular work day? I am finding the whole Hot and Sweaty question a bit of a stumbling block for exercise. 

First of all, it’s August. That is our State’s hottest, muggiest month of the year. It’s just kind of miserable. That means that any time you exert yourself, even for a walk down the block, you are going to get hot and sweaty. No avoiding it. 

Then, you have days like today where I get up and can’t figure out what to put on. I have to take a child to a doctor appointment in the middle of the day. Before I go to the doctor I have to drive children to school (and yesterday I made the mistake of thinking, no one will see me, I’ll just wear this ratty camisole shirt when I go to drop off the kids, and then my preschooler flipped out and I ended up having to walk him in instead of dropping him off, so yeah, I have to dress for drop off), I have to do laundry and mop some floors, but then, in the middle of that I have to go to the doctor’s appointment. And then this morning, I was just tired of wearing shorts and tshirts and so I put on a summer dress and sandals. Not exercise clothes. But very nice for going to appointments and school drop offs. And then I think, maybe I just won’t exercise today because I don’t feel like getting hot and sweaty. And I feel all fresh and pretty in my dress. And who wants to ruin that? 

This is a real hurdle! 

And my trainer is going to text me today when she notices that I haven’t completed my workout and she’ll say something like, So, how’s it looking for getting your workout in today? And I’ll have to say, sorry I couldn’t do it. I put on a dress this morning and I don’t want to get hot and sweaty. 

Arrgh. 

What’s going to end up happening is I’m going to have to finish taking all my kids to their various schools and then I will have to come home, change my clothes, exercise, take a shower, and then put the same clothes I started off with, back on. Not convenient. But I don’t know how else to do it. 

Exercise is not convenient. This is my take away. 

But, it’s worth it. 

Covid and the New School Year

I just read an article on SLATE titled, “I Have No Idea What I’m OK Letting My Kids Do During Covid Anymore” by Allison Benedikt. I was nodding and smiling the whole time I read it, cause yep, I’m in the same place. 

We are in the South. Our schools are not requiring masks, and our governor just made a rule that parents can opt-out of any mask mandates. The Superintendent of our school district made an announcement that our schools can’t offer virtual options when we have absences due to Covid. In a high school meeting we were informed that absences are a big problem and we need to have signed notes any time our kids are absent and make it a big priority to have as few absences as possible. Ok. Great message when you also don’t want kids to come to school if they have any symptoms at all. Our homeschooling co-op has a rule that if ANYONE in the family is sick, don’t come. Which is a pain in the butt when you have a big family, but it’s very effective at keeping any possibility of germs from showing up. But, public schools do not have that policy. 

So, my kids went to school the first week. Day three, one child came home and was not feeling well. By evening she had a fever. She ended up having strep throat and then three days later also came down with symptoms of the hand foot and mouth virus. Both of those are pretty common childhood illnesses that get passed around all the time. But, I want to point out something. Last school year my kids went to public school and wore masks. We did not get sick. The entire year. It was bizarre. No strep. No colds. No stomach bugs. And no covid. 

I talked to the nurse practitioner who saw my sick kids (cause yes, the strep and other virus both spread to all the other little kids). I asked her what she thought about masks at school and the idea that kids DO need to be exposed to childhood viruses so they can build their immune system. She hemmed and hawed. Wouldn’t commit to any stance (which is understandable, it’s a highly charged subject). 

I had one child who did not get sick. It was time to send kids to school, everyone from the elementary school was staying home except her. She had no symptoms. According to public school policy, I should send her to school. But, she COULD get sick. It was very possible that I would send her to school and then by the afternoon she could have a fever. What do you do? So, I gave her a mask and told her to wear it. No, it doesn’t block everything, but it does block some.  Hopefully it would make her less contagious. Well, when I picked her up at the end of the day, she was not wearing her mask. Said it was hot. Got annoying. Fortunately, she did not end up getting sick, but my thoughts of maybe sending my kids to school with masks kind of fell flat. Without it being a rule and someone enforcing it, there is no way they are going to keep them on. I also was talking to a therapist who works at the school and she said the kids who were showing up with masks were getting teased about it. 

I think the general attitude in our state is that Covid is a virus. It’s unavoidable. Like colds and the flu. Vaccines are available, but like flu shots, are going to be very limited in what they can do in the longterm, simply because covid is a constantly mutating virus. And so, we are going about the business of doing normal life with Covid. And it’s messy. No one knows what the rules are. No one knows who to listen to. The hospitals are filling up. When my father got sick with Covid, he ended up getting transferred to an out-of-state hospital. 

And us parents are standing on the sidelines, scratching our heads, hoping that we are making the right choices for our kids. But not sure. 

Fat Fridays: Trying Not to Capsize

A couple weeks ago we were on a river canoe trip. My canoe had me in the back, my seventeen year old daughter in the front and a seven and eight year old in the middle. It was the last day of the trip. We were tired. We did not want our canoe to tip over like it had the day before. We were on high alert. We were going through some rapids and despite our best efforts we hit a big rock and got stuck. The canoe started to tip over, one side getting centimeters from the water that was threatening to pour in and capsize us. My seventeen year old and I both threw ourselves to one side to try and counterbalance the boat while we made efforts to push off the rock. We were both yelling instructions to each other, pulse racing as we fought the river. Suddenly the two little girls in the middle started yelling frantically. LOOK! LOOK!!! Thinking that there was some other disaster happening to the boat I craned my neck around, trying to see what was wrong. They were both pointing at a bald eagle that was flying low overhead, very close to us. Everything froze for a second while we stared at the eagle, watching it fly gracefully through the air. Then we got sucked right back into our emergency. I don’t have time to look at a bird! I’m trying to save the boat!!

Ok. So, I feel like this story is an analogy of how my diet is going. My life and trying to get NINE kids settled into FIVE different schools with all the BACK TO SCHOOL fuss that happens for each school, my parents being sick, trying to bounce back from a vacation, get my house in order after a long summer of not having my house in order, and still dealing with the daily stuff of doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, dishwashing, and laundry…All that is me in a canoe trying not to capsize. Diet and exercise are the bald eagle flying over. 

I am trying to exercise every day. I’m having my one homeschooler join me as part of his PE. But today my trainer has me doing a 45 minute hill workout. And I’m not sure how that’s going to happen as I have a sick child that has to go to the doctor this morning and in the afternoon I’m supervising a family visit for my foster child. It might have to wait till tomorrow. 

I’m trying to eat healthy and modest portions, but a lot of my meals have been on the run with not enough time to stop at the store to get my healthy snacks etc. 

I am anticipating probably two more weeks before life starts settling into our FALL ROUTINE. But right now, I’m just trying to keep this canoe from tipping over. 

Fat Fridays: A Day Late

Good morning. I am late. I contemplated skipping and just waiting a week, but it seems more appropriate to write a day late. 

Yesterday my “Give a Damn” broke. It does that every once in a while. I’ve had a hard week. Last Saturday we drove twenty-four hours straight with nine children in the car, driving through the night, to get home from our vacation. My husband did most of the driving but I did Pennsylvania, from 2am to 6am and I did a four hour stretch of Virginia. The kids were amazing. The biggest problem was the three youngest being TOO cheerful and rambunctious as they played in the row right behind our seats. It was while we were driving that my mom called and let me know that she and my dad were sick with covid and headed to the ER. And then this week has been the uncertainty of how my dad was going to pull through. And unpacking. And doing all the Back-To-School shopping, and trying to help my mom long-distance as she recovered at home, and catching up all the errands that stack up when you’ve been gone for a while. 

I started off the week healthy. Went grocery shopping and stocked up on fresh veggies and fruit. And then, on Tuesday I went to the dentist to have my last appointment to get a crown on my tooth. And then the dentist had an “oops” moment and my tooth got messed up and they ended up having to pull the tooth. And then my jaw got infected and I’ve been in pain all week and couldn’t eat all the fresh veggies cause my mouth hurt. 

Anyway. This Friday I shut down. I tried. I made an effort. I put on exercise clothes. I tried to tackle the giant list of things that needed to be done, but my brain wouldn’t focus. I would decide, Ok, I’m going to go take a walk. Then I would think, well, maybe I should get the kids settled doing this activity first. Or maybe I should go run those errands first. Or maybe we should clean the house first. And I completely froze. Didn’t know what to do. I finally left the house, ran the errands, and then sat in a chair all day, playing word games in an attempt to not have to think about my life. 

I did not exercise. I did not eat vegetables. I did not accomplish much. And I didn’t care. 

So, here we are, the next day. I’m feeling a little more rested. And I’m not feeling guilty. I’m not superwoman. This is something I have to tell myself often. I actually can’t do everything (though in my last Friday post, I did feel like I could!). And sometimes my body and brain just need to check out for a while. And it’s ok. Today is a new day. I’ll try again to make good choices for food. I’ll try to get moving again. The important thing is to keep trying. 

Urgent Prayer Need

My parents have covid. My dad has the covid pneumonia and has been put into a Covid Unit. My mom is not as sick and is recuperating at home. 

I need to write. My emotions are hitting all four points of the compass and I think several parts of my brain have just shut down temporarily. 

Please pray for our family. 

Right now I need to be in three different places at once and the levels of priority are slight and nuanced and so there is no clear path to figure out where I should be. At this very minute in time, my oldest son is staying with his grandmother to take care of her. My father is holding steady. And so I am doing what is in front of me. Unpacking after vacation. Getting kids ready for school which starts in a week. Buying groceries, school supplies, school clothes. One foot in front of the other. Texting a million people. Talking to nurses. Checking in with everybody often. 

I’m clinging hard to Jesus. Clinging to his promises. I know my father is saved and whenever his life ends here on earth, he will be with Jesus in eternity. I know that God knows we’re not ready for that to happen yet. I know that my Mom is in God’s hands. But I hate seeing her suffer. I know that sickness is not a punishment, just part of living in this fallen world. But I also know God can heal. I know that God is good. I know that I am loved and not alone. But my adrenaline is pumping hard and I feel like it’s me versus Covid as I try to make everything better for my parents. Long to make everything better. 

I need wisdom. The doctors need wisdom. My whole family needs wisdom. And Peace. Please pray that we can keep our eyes focused on Jesus as we navigate this horrible time. 

Fat Fridays: Me and the St Croix River

So, today is more of a story, but I feel like it works for Fat Fridays because this story would never have happened if I had not started a weightloss/exercise journey and got the confidence to try more strenuous activities.

I just got back from a three day river canoe trip. Woohoo! A three day river canoe trip with all my children (minus the oldest two), several nieces and nephews and assorted aunts and uncles, and our dog. Double woohoo. 

Will I ever take small children on a river canoe trip again? No.

Will I ever take my dog on a river canoe trip again?  Also No. 

Am I still glad I went? Definitely!

We did a twenty mile stretch on the St Croix River in Maine. It’s on the border with Canada which made for the interesting situation where you can only get out of the river on one side. Look! There’s Canada! Don’t touch! 

We had five canoes. One wooden, four aluminum. My husband made homemade paddles for all the kids ahead of time. We had a total of six tents while camping. We were a good size group. 

So, I looked up the St Croix River on the internet a day or two before we left and I found this description that said the St Croix had class 1 and 2 rapids and was a perfect river for beginners. “Light-hearted rapids that make the trip fun and enjoyable!” Yeah. Ok. I can say with all honesty, that I spent three days in high-adrenaline mode, heart racing, with the feeling that I was fighting for my life and the lives of my children almost the entire time. Which is kind of silly. As I pointed out to my children, in an effort to sooth them, the water itself was not that scary. If we had come to the river to swim or tube it would not have been intimidating. Even in the very worst rapids, I was able to get out of the canoe and stand in the water as I wrestled our boat off of large rocks. It just feels scary when you’re in a narrow boat and it feels like you’re going to tip over at any moment. 

We did tip over. All of our boats. Except one. Yay Uncle Mike and Auntie Asanuo! (And on the last day I put my two youngest in their boat in an effort to save them from any more trauma.) We had one boat severely crippled on the second day, so we had to distribute it’s load to all the other boats. Another boat sprung a bad leak at the end of the second day. But we were able to patch it. The younger kids did NOT enjoy tipping over. To put it mildly. (Pro-tip, from about eight years old and up the kids did fine. We had one seven year old do great and another, not great, younger than that, it was a bit much.) (But they all rallied at the end and claimed that they enjoyed themselves…Mostly.) 

We camped two nights. The first night was idyllic. We had a great site all to ourselves. The camp cooks made an amazing gourmet tinfoil dinner. My husband got to show his nephew a bit about fishing. I took lots of pictures and felt very content with life. 

The second night we showed up at four in the afternoon to the campsite. We had just had a long traumatic day. Everyone was wet and shivering. We had two kids wrapped in emergency blankets. Two crippled boats. Moral was low. There were two campsites, but a guided tour group had got there first and they had spread out into both campsites. My husband went and asked if there was any way we could squeeze into one side, as we had cold children, crippled boats etc. The tour guides said no. We could go across to the Canada side (illegal) or we could go another four miles to the next campsite. I was not thinking happy thoughts at that moment. 

We assessed our situation and knew we could not go farther. One of our group walked downriver to see if there was a place in the woods we could just make do with. We sat there and waited as we figured out what to do. In the meantime, the group from the guided tour spoke up and told their guides that they should make room for us and group peer pressure won the day. The guides came back and said they would move over and give us a campsite. We said we would greatly appreciate it. When we got into camp, we hung up a line for wet clothes right at the edge of camp and created a privacy screen and then attempted to keep our kids a little more quiet and kept to ourselves. The guides did come over several times and offered assistance with anything we needed, so it turned out ok. But it was awkward. That night I retreated to bed at seven and left my husband to wrangle kids. Which he did admirably. 

The last day was short and only had a couple rapids that we all, with our new skills, went through with very little problems. 

Accolades. I can’t finish this without handing out some awards. 

The dog gets DOG OF THE YEAR award. Every day he got back into the canoe. He didn’t try to run away. He didn’t fight us. He just got back in. Even though he knew what was coming. He didn’t panic while he was in the boat, except to stand up every time we got into rapids. Which you really can’t blame him. I’m sure it was just survival instinct kicking in. The knowledge that he needed to be ready to abandon ship at any moment. So yeah, I’ve got the best dog ever. 

My teens get TEENS OF THE YEAR award. My seventeen year old proved to be a very competent paddler and we made a great team. She stayed calm, jumped into the river multiple times with me as we freed our canoe. I was super impressed. My fifteen year old did great and she was willing to get into the canoe with the twelve and thirteen year old boys (ok, I bribed her, but still, she was willing to be bribed). The teen/preteen boat had very little skill and hit almost every rock in the river and capsized quite a few times. BUT!! They stayed cheerful and had fun with it the whole time! YAY preteens/teenagers!!! 

My little kids get BEST KIDS EVER award for loving us and forgiving us for getting them wet and cold. And they did their best to have fun and stay positive. YAY KIDS!!

All of my inlaws get the BEST INLAWS EVER award. We had some rough spots and it could have got ugly. But everyone stayed calm, there was no complaining. Everyone did their part cheerfully and went above and beyond what was necessary and we all ended up with a great trip. YAY INLAWS!!

And of course my husband gets HUSBAND OF THE YEAR award. Cause he made it all happen. And he’s just awesome anyway. 

And me? I came away with a giant dose of confidence. Yeah. I’m pretty sure I can do anything. 🙂

“Ravished”

Several years ago my older kids learned a dance to a song called “Ravished” by Jesse Cline and Ashleigh Brison.  It’s from the album “Breathe Ultimate Call”. I love this song. Every time I hear it I cry. I remember watching my children worship as they performed this song and it was like a foreshadowing of heaven. Watching your children worship Jesus is the ultimate goal for parenthood. 

Now, as I interact with my adult children and other people in the same age range, fresh, just starting out into the world, I feel like this song says everything that I want them to know. 

These are the words from the Bridge: 

Bridge 1

Whеn I was broken

When I was wounded

Like a hero, You saved the day

Your love has rescued me

But now that I’m made new

I found new life in You

And I’m never going back

Oh, You have my heart

You have my heart

And I found it all in You

And I’m sitting here crying because I want everyone to know this. Jesus is the answer. That’s it. There is no other way to get through this life. There aren’t any shortcuts. There aren’t any other paths that lead in the same direction. Jesus. That’s it. Accepted on his terms. He is Lord. He is Savior. Give your life to him. Surrender completely. It’s the only way to have happiness in this life. The only way to peace. The only way to Joy. How do you make it through this crazy thing called life? Jesus. How do you survive anxiety and depression? Jesus. How do you figure out what to do with your life? Follow Jesus, he’ll show you. How do you fix the brokenness in your life? Jesus. How do you become the best version of you possible? Jesus. 

I don’t know how to convince people of this except to say, Look. Here is my life. Here is how I’m getting through. Jesus. Everything I do, He is the only way that I’m doing it. And I would never do it a different way. I have found everything I need in him. 

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

And my heart sings, “I found it all in you.” And I want everyone to have this same peace and confidence. Jesus. He is the answer. 

It’s a Place Worth Fighting For

I went jogging in my neighborhood this morning. I looped around and went over some sections of the road twice. I finished running and started walking towards my house. An elderly woman came rushing as fast as she was able, out of her house. She had a big grin and was holding a cold bottle of water. She called out, I’ve been watching you! And handed me the bottle of water. I’m Karen! And then she turned to go back to her house. 

The other day I was jogging/walking and I had hit my walking stretch and another lady called to me from her porch, wanting to know if I got out at a regular time every day, wondering if I wanted to join her on her morning walks. She also wanted to know if I needed a drink of water. 🙂

This morning, as I was running down a familiar road, I realized that I had a nodding acquaintance with almost all of these neighbors. My kids had played with a lot of their kids. I passed another lady out running and we waved at each other. We met last summer when a different neighbor held a block party. Her kids bring their dog to come greet my dog pretty regularly. 

Our next door neighbor has a little girl who is best friends with my foster daughter. That friendship, and their willingness to have my daughter over to play regularly, has been a life-saving thing for us. 

I ran into another neighbor at the grocery store last week. I testified at the trial of the murder of his son. He came up to tell me how the family was doing now that the trial is over. 

One of our elderly, very civic minded couples that live in our neighborhood has started a text chat with as many neighbors as they can add. I think we have forty people on the chat right now, and they are always looking for more people who want to join. They talk about the monthly neighborhood meetings, a community garden that we have down at the park, congratulations to the new parents on the birth of their child, does anyone know who this stray dog belongs to? (pictures attached!) 

Neighborhoods are great things. Our neighborhood has had a rough year. Lots of gun violence, deaths, craziness in our high school. At times I have had the thought, we should just move. This is ridiculous. We talk about it. Where would we want to live? (Definitely the country!) Wouldn’t a small rural school be better? But so far, every time I think about moving, I have a check. No. Not now. This isn’t the right time. 

And I think we don’t give enough thought to what we would be giving up. We have lived in this community for almost seventeen years now. And it’s taken us a long time to establish all these connections. But they’ve been established. They are here. This is our neighborhood. This is our community. And it’s a good community. Lots of good people. 

And I guess this is part of the  answer to the question a lot of people think, but don’t come right out and ask..Why do I live here? Why haven’t I moved? Because it’s home. It’s a good home. And it’s worth staying and fighting for the changes needed to make it a safer and better place. 

Unneeded Distractions

I haven’t written in a week. Which is weird for me. Not a sign of good mental health. Writing = thinking and processing. When I don’t write, it usually means I am avoiding thinking and processing. Now, some of this week was busy with seeing out-of-town family, and that was a great break. But, the past four days, I’ve kept thinking, I should sit down and write, and then I don’t. Instead my brain has been grasping for distractions. Let’s read a book. Let’s get in some extra exercise. Let’s zone out on social media. I’ve even found myself re-visiting old stories I used to play out in my head for entertainment. And I found myself faced with this question. What are you looking for? What is it that you are so desperately seeking in all these distractions? 

Good question. 

What am I looking for? 

Validation. I’m not just an invisible maid and caretaker that keeps the house running and keeps the kids alive and happy. I’m an individual whose feelings matter and who brings value to the table. 

Recognition. I want to be seen. I want to have people in my life who seek me out and find my presence to be important to them. 

Security.  I want to feel safe and cared for. To not feel like my existence and lifestyle is in any way fragile. 

Purpose. I want to feel like my daily actions have meaning. What I’m doing counts. 

Achievement. I want to feel like I am heading towards a goal and every day I am getting closer. 

Peace. I want to feel like no matter what happens, I’m good. Nothing’s going to rock my boat. 

Joy. I want each day to be a celebration of life and creation. A journey of thankfulness. 

I’m not wanting too much, am I? 

Here’s the thing. I think I have most of those things already. Perhaps not in a steady stream. But, if I look back at even just the last couple months, I can say, yes, there have been moments where I have had each of those things at different times. Sometimes all at once, sometimes just one or another. But they’ve been there. 

I think awareness is my problem. Life starts to get overwhelming and my vision gets really narrow. All I can see are the problems in front of me. The exhaustion I’m feeling. The weariness. And my eyes just sit and focus on what is wrong. This is wrong. And that is wrong. And here, let me make you a list of everything that is wrong and hard in my life right now. And all those good things, all those things on my list that I want and HAVE, they just kind of fade into the background. I forget they are there. And eventually, focusing on the bad stuff robs me of hope and energy and I just kind of melt into a useless puddle. 

So what am I going to do about it? 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

These are not simple platitudes. They are more like death-defying challenges. Can you rejoice always??? Pray continually?? GIVE THANKS IN ALL THINGS??? Not an easy path to choose. Which is why it’s a good thing we have the Holy Spirit as our helper. 

John 14:26  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you.

It’s a battle. A daily battle. In Christ, we already have all that we need. There is no reason to go searching for fulfilment in empty distractions. But it’s really easy to forget. When we focus on rejoicing, praying, thankfulness; we quickly get our vision back. 

Now, I’m going to go put on some worship music and try practicing what I preach. 

Weary

My head is fuzzy

Thoughts flit around and disappear

My shoulders, so tired

The world weighs too much

I try to move and bustle around

My legs are heavy

So tired.

Just keep moving, Just keep moving

I whisper to myself

The daily tasks stack up around me

Waiting.

Voices call my name

Everybody needs me.

How much longer? 

How much longer can I just keep moving?

Rest

My soul cries for rest.

God help me please.

And I wait

And I trust

And I just keep moving

Confident Help is on the way.