Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Long Awaited Birthday Post.

Ok so a couple of weeks ago I turned thirty. THIRTY!!!????? How did that happen, and when might I ask? Because I sure don't feel thirty... Or maybe I do what's thirty suppose to feel like any way? I mean I mostly feel the same as I did when I turned twelve. I know that's weird but I remember turning twelve and it just seems like that is how I feel always (Except my mom face is way better now, I can stop a jr. higher in their tracks).

My entire year of being twenty-nine was fine. I really thought I didn't care about my age at all and really thirty was so far away but then suddenly I realized I was going to be thirty in a week and I totally freaked! I didn't want to be old, on top of which I hadn't planned any thing special. I guess I might as well tell you I'm a birthday freak. I love birthdays they are your special day. When my husband says of them "who cares it's just another day?" I don't just climb, I jump up on my soap box and wax on and on about celebrating your birth and all you've given to the world etc. I feel that on your birthday you eat what you want, go where you want, do what you want and don't change any poopy diapers at all! Presents rock, I know it may sound super artificial of me but I love presents.  I plan what I'm going to do on my day almost as soon as Christmas is over and then I don't risk testing my husband like some women do I give him a countdown starting like a month before hand.

Except this year, because somehow it snuck up on me. Then I thought I didn't care but it turned out I did care (a lot). So I cried and felt bad for myself, and wondered why I didn't plan any thing. I mean you can't let thirty just slip by can you? I said, CAN YOU????

Oh my! Well my mom and sister ended up coming up and even though they could only stay for a couple of days we worked it out to go to a really nice restaurant in Kalamazoo. Which is good because I had made myself a birthday dress, only to realize I had nowhere to wear it (one of the reasons I cried, "Am I just going to wear this stupid dress to Culvers on my thirtieth birthday?! Sniff sniff.") FYI I am really proud of the dress it's the best thing I've ever made and it actually looks good on me. Now I want to remake my Easter dress because this one is so much better.

Early in the day my dear friend and neighbor Jen brought lunch over from our favorite local bakery, Continental and a really thoughtful gift. She bought me a pattern I've had my eye on at this fancy fabric shop in town. I was so excited because it's one of those things you really want but have a hard time spending the money on and it was so thoughtful.  Also dear Beki got me gift certificate for the same shop so now I can get fabric to make the pattern! How serendipitous! Then B, mom and Heather and Meg and her boyfriend went out to a really nice dinner at a place called Rustica. It is AMAZING. I would totally recommend it. Great food really nice atmosphere. It's pricey (about $20 a plate) but worthy of a special occasion.  So I ended up having a really nice day. Did I mention Brian bought me a new lap top b/c he was trying to win our gift giving contest and last year I got him an IPAD? Yea, I lost!!
I actually enjoyed the process of making this dress and
couldn't believe how well it turned out.

The dress pattern was a splurge, Crepe from Colette Patterns
and totally worth every penny.

My mom, me and my baby sister, Heather.

 However, when I got up the next morning and was checking my face book on my new laptop. I had a message from my husband to pack my bags that he was taking me away for a couple of days!!!!! I was so happy and surprised. He took me to Lake Michigan, my favorite place in the entire world.  We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast called Sherwood.  It was the most relaxing perfect trip. We walked on the beach, rode bikes, did a little shopping and junking (where I found the cutest necklace for a really good deal) swam in their heated pool (it was pretty cold while we were there so we didn't actually swim in the lake). I really like saugatuck. I think it was nicer and the beaches were bigger then South Haven even. Oh it was lovely.

Lake Michigan is my favorite place, it restores my soul.


This is my man gazing out over the water. Isn't he to die for?!

When we got home my dad was here so that was another awesome surprise. Then on the way to dinner at chili's we stopped at the church to pick up Brian's wallet he had forgotten but really it was a surprise party!!! Ok by now you must know how ridiculous I felt about whining and crying (though Brian LOVED that of course) earlier in the week. You must also realize that I am not very good at picking up on clues. No I'm not. At that point I was actually a bit overwhelmed by Brian's love and generosity. I was also sweaty, hot, disheveled and embarrassed. It was really fun so many of my family (including cousins) were there and tons of people from the church. It really showed me how much people love me and how blessed I am to have so many wonderful people in my life.  I got loads of great gifts and ate way too much and it was an all around great birthday party and birthday in general. I know that Beki, Mary, Jeannie and my mom helped Brian a lot with the planning and setting up and I hope they know how much it blessed my heart!

I hope Brian knows how much it means to me that he would go through all of this just for me (even though I know he was secretly having fun watching me be tortured the week before). That when I think of him I always think how blessed I am to have him as my husband. If one of your goals was to up the ante for my brothers-in-law and other husbands, you succeeded my dear.  I love you so much, but would love you even with out the parties, trips and laptops... To be clear the parties, trips, and laptops are really really nice and I liked them a lot they were totally awesome actually.  Thank you again.

So, turns out thirty is great. I'm really excited to see what turning forty is like! Ha Ha.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Runner's Tale: A gift for my Dad.

An only partly true story for those who run. A story for those who used to run with me. A story especially for my dad who still encourages me and is still my favorite running partner.

I started running in seventh grade. I joined the track team because in seventh grade every one joined the track team, every one including my friends.  I was a chubby seventh grader who loved to read and write and sew but who did not do a lot of physical exercise.  In seventh grade I could not even finish one lap around the track. My lungs would burn and feel as though they were being sliced with knives and nails.  My coach who had also been my sixth grade teacher encouraged me to keep going, keep trying.  Even though there were students who were clearly leaps and bounds ahead of me he took that time to push me to go further and harder even though further and harder for me was one lap.  I remember the day that I ran that first quarter mile with out stopping. It was from the middle school parking lot to the credit union parking lot and I remember telling myself not to walk to keep going; one foot then another then another until I got to that bank. I remember my coach giving me a big hug and telling me how proud he was of me.  I beamed, even though it was a measly quarter mile, I beamed.

We spent the summers at my Grandma's house "down state" as we used to say. She lived on an old farm in the middle of the country. My dad who was the high school track and cross country coach was just happy to have a child that was old enough to run. He didn't care that I was TERRIBLE he cared that I had begun the journey of running (It took him 25 years to get his wife to run so I guess he thought he was making good time with me).  He figured that a lap around the perimeter of the property was roughly a quarter mile, in his words "you could definitely fit a football field in here." So that summer I ran around the "yard" first one lap, then two, then three, then four.

I continued to struggle through track seasons and I continued to run around grammy's house in the summers slowly getting thinner and slowly getting faster.  Then we moved. I was half way through my  sophomore year in high school and I did not run track that spring. However, while sitting through driver's training that summer something inside me knew I had to figure out how to meet people how to make friends. Finally, with butterflies in my stomach, I told my dad I was joining the x-country team but only if he could get me in shape enough so that I could run the 3.2 miles with out stopping. His smile almost split his face in two.

And so began my running relationship with my dad. Hot muggy day after hot muggy day he trotted along beside me pointing out interesting vegetation and telling me stories about growing up in the area, as I gasped for oxygen beside him. Slowly I worked up to running three miles. Our first meet dawned clear and cool and I stood at the starting lines ready to puke my guts up with nerves.  Then the gun shot and then nothing but sound of feet and heart pounding and ragged breath coming in.  Agonizing steps and bewildered thoughts "why did I do this?" until I heard my dad's voice ringing out through the air "Come on Jess!!! Your looking great, awesome pace babe!" I knew then that I would always be a runner because it connected me to my dad in a special way, a way unique to him and I; since my sisters hated running and I had no brothers. I did, indeed, finish that first race with out walking (I never did walk in a single 5k) but I finished last.

The races were torture but the camaraderie was a blessed relief from the half year of isolation I had just experienced. Even the girls on the opposing teams were nice, at least the ones finishing near me. They would breathlessly encourage me as they passed me by. The girls on my team? They were even better. No matter how fast they were they were so encouraging and nice.  After they finished they would run back and cheer me on as I slowly made my way to the finish line. In fact Cross-Country was the first place outside my own family that I experienced true fellowship.  And even though I was never one of dad's star athletes I knew I was his star. He faithfully cheered me on every race and kept track of my personal best times.  He worked with me in the off season as much as I wanted. He pushed me to be better but he never pushed me down. My dad did not expect things from me I couldn't deliver he was simply proud and happy that I was now a "runner". Proud with what I could do.  He was the perfect coach and he was also the perfect fan.

And so dawned the track season of my senior year. All the hard work, all the tears and miles and miles of training leading up to this meet.  I was finally being allowed to run the mile as there was an opening (there was always an opening in the two mile so that was usually where I was stuck running lap after lap after lap...).

I stood at the start line swallows flying around in my stomach.  There was always that moment right before the gun goes off that every thing would go quiet, at least for me. When all I could hear was my own breathing, my own heart thumping right out of my chest.  "Runners take your marks, get set..." bang.  And we were off, a cloud of feet thundering their way towards the first curve, the crowd one big loud gelatinous sound.

"First lap" I thought to myself "sets the tone for the entire race.  Not too fast but a good steady pace with a large gate." I tried not to see the runners around me, tried not to focus on the people passing me or the ones I was passing as we began to thin out and find our own rhythm.  "Rhythm that's a funny word" which for some reason made me think of the song from church that went "I bring a sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord..." that song has a pretty good rhythm and it carried me swiftly around the first lap.

"Second lap" I blanked. How was I suppose to run the second lap? That's when one voice began to separate from the roar of the crowd. It was my dad. "Keep it up jess!!! Great first lap!!! Keep swinging those arms, don't tighten up your stride your doing great just keep it up!!!!!" he sounded more excited then normal. In my haze I lowered my arms and started "We bring a sacrifice..." one more time.  I focused on the girl in front of me and slowly began creeping up on her.  I felt a little bad when I passed her, but only a little.

"Third lap" the third lap is the hardest because you still have one more lap to go. And by now all your muscles are burning and your lungs are gasping.  The only thing to do in the third lap is concentrate on your form, or at least thats what my dad told me. So, I lower my arms (they've been creeping up and I'm almost hugging myself). I think about my stride and try to keep it long try to keep it looking good.  I start concentrating on the next runner; I can tell she's struggling and I feel a little bit like a lion picking off a weak herd member as I pass her by.

"Fourth lap." this it, this is where you leave it all on the line. I've been observing the 1600 meter race for six years now and I've seen people kick it in too much and too fast and burn out before they're done and I've seen people never kick it in (I've also seen people walk off with out finishing, twist they're ankles and one time I saw some one throw up on the finish line.)  So I begin to lengthen my stride. I imagine that my arms are pulling me up the side of a mountain.  I come around the first bend and begin to kick it in a little. I hear my dad screaming his head off. I really can't make out what he's saying it's getting pretty loud, "someone must be finishing the race." I think absently but I know what he's saying; speed it up. So I speed it up. As I come around the back stretch I pretend I'm being chased by a dragon. The last curve and I stop thinking all together and I just start booking it as fast as I can. Faster, faster, faster. I'm running on jell-o legs now and I'm not sure I'm breathing. Faster, faster, faster.

The roar is so loud it almost startles me and then I see it, far out in front like a mirage on a desert quest, the finish line. But not just the finish line, the finish ribbon.  It hasn't been broken yet, no one has crossed the line. And it occurred to me that I might be in the lead. I don't dare entertain the thought lest I loose my stride, I don't dare look to the side or behind, but I give it the last bit I've got just in case there's someone there right on my tail waiting for me to flag.  And I push it and as the line draws near I stick out my chest like I've seen the olympic athletes do, (just in case it's a photo finish and I win because I've got a bigger cup size).  I fall over the line and can barely keep my feet and want to scream and jump (and puke) I can feel the blood pounding through my face. As I start to fall I'm in the air, being swung around by the greatest coach in the world, by the greatest dad in the world and he's whooping and hollering like I've never seen and he's crying too. Then I cry because I'm happy, because I've made him so proud, because he would have loved me the same even if I'd come in last.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Storm.

Well we survived the tornadoes of 2011 here in Battle Creek. It was a little scary since I was home alone with the children, and it definitely was a shock to come upstairs and find a tree on my neighbors house. I honestly wasn't expecting it... I always feel like the weather people promise a big storm but you know it's not usually that bad... It was bad.  I live in a neighborhood that got hit pretty hard but we're all ok. Driving around the next day was sort of creepy in that post-apocalypse trees every where, streets shut off, and no working street lights sort of way.  It was certainly inconvenient and a little hot but we survived.

This was one of the crews sent to work.
These guys are actually from the Navy.
I actually saw God work a lot of cool things out through this, not saying he caused it just that he was present in all the aftermath.  First of all I was told by a nurse who works for the county that we didn't have a single fatality or serious injury.  That seemed really incredible to me especially since there were apartments that got totally destroyed. God was protecting all of us for sure.

Secondly the neighborhood pulled together in a way you rarely see. My drive way was full of branches and downed power lines and I wasn't even sure how B was going to get home at two that morning.  Without even asking one neighbor came over to sit with my children while another group began clearing out my drive. And it was like that up and down the street. Every one just pitching in and doing what they could for every one else. Then because we didn't have power all week we got to know each other better and better... I mean what else were we going to do? There was no way to watch our reruns or surf the web so we hung out out side and watched the crews remove trees and lines while sitting in each other yards. There was even a group of Christians passing out breakfast to people after our milk had all gone bad!

Which brings me the third thing, no internet, phones, or television. Don't get me wrong I'm really glad to have them back but I had been feeling for a long time that the children and I were just way too plugged in. The only options they had available to them was to play and then play some more. The only options I had were to clean then go to bed early because I'd had enough cleaning.

There was also the fact that I finally cleaned out my fridge and freezer (um it was really gross, I should have gotten a ticket for how gross it was. Plus I threw away five jars of salsa?!). We all slept in the basement together so it was sort of like a fun summer party for the kids. And I didn't have to cook dinner all week!!!!!

Honestly though, I'm talking to people more then ever. We all lived and survived the storm of 2011. We share our war stories about it and laugh with each other over the funny parts, groan over the annoying parts, and thank the Lord we're all safe.   I get a tear in my eye remembering how I felt staring at my neighbors house and wondering if they were safe, wondering what to do. I knew they were probably in the basement but with Joplin so fresh in our minds I was really shook up. Just as I was putting on my shoes to somehow get into their house I saw her walk out, I saw every one start walking out and it was such a relief such an amazing thing to realize how blessed I am living here with these people that I care so much for. She got a hug which, I think, surprised her but it just felt right. A couple other neighbors got hugs too, and if I could physically wrap my arms around God he'd get the biggest hug of all for keeping us safe and together.