Ré (Sparks in Shadow) describes herself as having “never met a contradiction without wanting to give it some study.” Her blog reflects this rejection of “just because” as an adequate answer, revealing a contemplative, assertive soul striving to create music from the hubbub and struggles of life.
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One of the Things I’m Grateful For
I’m grateful for a body that responds extremely well to exercise. All I have to do is give it what it really wants, and it rewards me with sinew, limber fluidity, and glorious strength. Of course, that’s the rub. How does one find the will to begin one more time, when the darkness of the past gives way once more to light, and accents just how much the body has been ignored? For me, it helps that I’m lucky and I know it. After an inevitable period of adjustment, a couple of weeks of waning discomfort (not injury, just my muscles beginning their work– standing up and taking notice) my body craves the movement. It calls out sharply if it senses within me the notion to skip a few days. When I stay true to this course, my body looks forward to new challenges with hand weights, holds yoga poses longer, wants to increase repetitions within exercises, and gives me the gift of being able to run a block to catch a bus without being winded afterward.
My body will respond positively if I take it where it needs to go. It wants to be worked. It’s shown me that at least twice before, during periods when I had doubts, but held fast and found that it was hungry for weights, and push-ups, and movements that made its heart beat faster.
I remember the first time I got really fit. I would set out something for my young daughter to munch on (because children are always hungry for something when you’re on the phone or you begin to exercise). She would sit on the sofa with some toys, and amuse herself as music played and I pushed myself into a life-affirming, endorphin fueled sweat. I had taught her what to do when she got my signal, and when I looked at her and said things like, “I just did 80 push-ups!” she would clap and say, “Whoo-hoo, Mom! Good job!” Now she’s a grown woman, but I’m sure that if I call her after I cool down from a workout, and she’s able to answer, she’ll gladly say it for me again.
One of my proudest moments, happened after the second time I had achieved a healthy body and its subsequent dividends. My daughter had become a teenager and I’d walked into the room to ask her opinion of a clingy cotton sweater I’d picked up on sale. When she looked up at me, her head bobbed up and down and she said, “When did you get hot?!” I hadn’t known yet. I’d been immersed in the simple doing of it and how good it felt. I’d been loving the feeling of strength I had and how every other healthy thing flowed from it. It’s that long list of things relieved that fuels my resolve now. Persistent debilitating insomnia, my extreme difficulty with this summer’s heat, the need for those precious endorphins, the need for everyone (especially a financially poor person) to be as healthy as possible, and the need to also save money by fitting into the contents of my own closet– these all come if I only heed my body’s call. The call is a weak whimper at the moment, because it’s been ignored for a while, but I’m listening now.
I’ve begun with twenty or so reps each of crucial exercises that strengthen my most needed muscle groups– my legs and my arms. And I’m working my derrière because the sooner I build muscle there, the sooner that large muscle will enhance every other movement I do, doubling their abilities to burn fat. I’ve managed to find my resolve to begin this in such awful summer heat, that I’m sweating profusely now as I sit typing in front of the fan. I don’t know how I’ve begun, but I have. I need it and I want it, and I’m so grateful for this body of mine. It responds so well when I listen to its call, and give it what it needs.
Reneé (Lessons from Teachers and Twits) writes such lighthearted, fun entries, it’s startling the first couple of times you read her comments and realize her entries reflect but a small portion of an enormously complex, enormously beautiful soul. A teacher to the core, in almost all her words can be found a lesson.
One of the lessons contained in this entry is perhaps the most powerful to carry through rough times: the hardest lessons learned are also the ones that most illuminate the joy of what follows.
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Annual Kite Flying Day
One August, a man that I loved tried to kill me.
Only he didn’t kill me.
Earlier that day, we had gone kite flying.
I stood quietly by his side watching the blue of the kite blend with the blue of the sky, watching him control the kite, make it do what he wanted it to do.
Later that night, he took my body and showed me that his was stronger.
That he was in control.
His leg weighed tons, and I couldn’t wiggle out from underneath him. At first, I thought he was just fooling around but he wasn’t laughing and he didn’t get off of me even when I told him I couldn’t breathe.
I didn’t scream, but I should have.
Afterwards, he took my head and tried to make me believe that he wasn’t a monster.
But he was.
Even though he sent me long, love letters filled with apologies.
Even though he put a heart-shaped rock on the windshield of my car.
Even though he tried to make me remember sweet, summer peaches.
I could only picture them bruised and split down the middle.
I remembered how he pushed me under water and tried to drown me.
How it almost worked.
Except it didn’t.
Every August, for over twenty years, I find myself remembering this man.
And, strangely, I feel an odd sense of gratitude.
Because that night, in a stranger’s room, in a borrowed bed, I learned that I could
But I also learned that I could put myself back together again.
And somehow, it is August again and I find myself in a park wrestling with a kite.
It is windier than usual and tough to fit the cross spars in their slots because the kite fights me impatiently.
I think it knows what I have planned.
Finally, I stand up. The tails snap, wanting.
I run backwards, feeling the pull.
I run, turning my back to the wind.
With the front of the kite facing me, I release it into a gust and pay out line and pull back to increase the lift.
In thirty seconds the kite is far out over the lake, pulling hard.
I run around the muddy field, making the kite dip and soar, dive and swirl.
From the ground, I control that rainbow diamond in the sky – make it answer my commands.
I remember how he hated things that refused to be controlled and so it is with great swelling pleasure that I release a new kite each year.
I like to imagine him chasing after the dropped driftwood reel, his hands outstretched, the Screaming Eagle kite a quarter of a mile up, blazing.
Like many things, memory of how Georgette (Georgette Sullins’s blog) and I crossed blogging paths is lost to me. However it happened, I’m grateful it did.
Apart from having a fascinating–and, luckily for us, documented!–personal history with space expoloration and current life full of teaching-related adventures (yes, those are possible!), she’s a thoughtful, supportive commenter. Knowing she’s out there ready to share such comments has been and will hopefully continue to be a huge part of my comfort publishing sensitive entries.
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The key never moved. It’s amazing to me how in a house of four kids and two busy parents the key was never lost, misplaced or mysteriously disappeared during our weekly routine or the moves to different states. Usually the key lay on the mantel under the clock or was carefully placed inside the back door of the inner workings. Thankfully this assured our household that time would march on and the strains of Westminster, Whittington or St. Michel would continue to maintain the rhythm of our household.
The key belonged to a mantel clock that my father kept wound from Sunday to Sunday for many years. It was an eight-day clock. We grew accustomed to hearing the chimes at the quarter, half hour and on the hour for many years. We knew it was the start of another week when Daddy would crank the three mechanisms: one to wind the hour, the other to wind the minute hands, and one to keep the chimes ringing.
It was my gift to him and my mother after they arranged to send me to Spain for a summer. The trip was a dream come true for me and I wanted to thank them in the most special way that I could. I reserved some money for a very special purchase. Since I was in Europe, I planned to find something very practical, and something that would remind my dad of having lived with his family in the Dutch embassy. Daddy had told us of the clock his father would wind up once a week, and the chimes that would ring throughout his house. I told my aunt and uncle of my intentions and so in the city of Sevilla we looked through the stands at the Jueves (the flea market), the shops on and around Calle Sierpes (the shopping district), and around the Barrio de Santa Cruz. All the vendors asked right away, “¿Cuál timbre?”, “Which chime?” Their question confused me and made me second guess my decision to look for the clock, because I hadn’t given any thought to which chime I wanted it to play. I asked my uncle, “What chime did Papi’s clock (his father and my grandfather) play when they were children?” “I think it was Westminster,” he answered.
So we searched for a clock that would chime Westminster. Although I was in Spain, we found the chime but the prices were exorbitant for me. Then, one day my aunt told me she had spotted one at just the right price. We went with cash in hand and bought it on the spot before it could be sold to someone else. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found out the clock could be set to three different chimes. Surely, one of those chimes would be the right one.
At the end of my summer stay, my uncle boxed it up carefully for the trip back home. He tied a rope around the box so I could carry it more easily on the plane. He even punched holes through the box so the customs officials could tell it was a clock and it wouldn’t need to be opened. “Guess what?” I said to my parents as they looked at the box when they met me at the airport. “We found it in Sevilla and it chimes!”
I couldn’t wait to get home to find a place for it. At the time we lived in Florida so there was no fireplace mantel. For a time it rested on the top of the television. Later, when we moved to a colder climate, it found its proper place on the mantel. The tradition continued for weeks and years. Daddy thanked me by taking pleasure in winding the clock every Sunday night. During the week we were not disappointed. The chime played clearly and predictably. However, we had to laugh over the weekend because by Saturday and Sunday the sound of the chimes had slowed down, sounding tired, in need of their weekly cranking by the key.
Side note: Before the clock ever entered our house, I had learned a song at church. The lyrics were sung to the melody of Westminster chimes, “Oh Lord our God, Thy children call, Grant us Thy peace, And bless us all.” With or without the key, with or without the clock, I used to sing it to myself. It has become a spontaneous prayer when I’m reminded of the familiar melody.
Used with permission. Georgette Sullins and Georgette Sullins’s Blog, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Georgette Sullins and Georgette Sullins’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
“Only three miles left! How’s that feel?”
“Like hell,” I spat through gritted teeth.
Rightfully not taking my grumbled response personally, the lady laughed and offered up some orange slices. I offered the heartiest thanks I could muster as I nabbed these while
cruising crawling up a molehill that felt like Everest.
I hadn’t planned to run that first marathon. In fact, I’d only started running because I figured I could complete an entire run in the amount of time it would take me just to travel between gym and home. Pacing wasn’t an important part of the running I’d been doing before I started the 2004 L.A. Marathon, which I did for no greater reason than that my roommate said a couple weeks beforehand, “You’re running so much, you should run the marathon!”
I started the marathon the way I started most my runs: with as much speed as I could muster. I raced through the first ten miles at a 6- and 7-minute per mile clip. I was on top of the world!
Around mile 17, I learned how running a marathon is not like going for a two-hour run around your neighborhood. You’re in it for the long haul, not just for as long as you feel like running.
Around mile 24, as I wrote in Running for Mom, I was barely moving. I was so lost in the effort of making it one more step (and praying I’d pass out so I could stop running), I didn’t have enough energy to believe in myself.
Fortunately, others not only believed in me but vocally urged me onward. Someone would yell, “Almost there, 6287!” and I’d think, “You know, they’re right! I am almost there!” I’d push myself back up toward speeds almost qualifiable as running speeds, and keep them going for a full minute or two before I flagged again.
When downtown Los Angeles came into sight, my fists flew up in an unplanned demonstration of primal glee. Right after that, I thought, with a lot more swearing, “I don’t like the telescoping lens effect in horror movies and I like it less here. @#$)@#*%!”
I kept running.
By the time I rounded the last corner, a block seemed like an eternity. Keeping up a crawl was taking everything I had.
“6287,” someone shouted. “You’re looking tired!”
No sh!t, Sherlock, I thought graciously.
“You’re looking tired, but you’ve got this! Sprint it! I know you’ve got it in you!”
I couldn’t see the person who yelled this encouragement, but I believed him. I looked at the finish line looming and thought, “Hell, yeah, I can do this!”
I steeled myself and I ran. I didn’t crawl, I didn’t doubt, I didn’t do anything but run.
I crossed that finish line and I wept like a little girl who’s told she’s never going to have ice cream again. Ever. But my tears had a different source: I’d done it. And I’d done it, in part, due to orange slices, high fives, and people shouting me on when I didn’t have enough room in my heart to believe in myself.
It’s been ten months since I ran my half marathon in Portland. In those months, until this morning, I’ve run only twice. The first run was twelve minutes; the second, sixteen.
This morning I told myself I’d run fifteen minutes. Instead, I ran twenty. I doubtfully ran even one-tenth the distance I covered in either marathon I’ve run, but it was a challenge nevertheless. It’s always a challenge coming back to something after a long break. Am I still good for this?
I thought of all those folks who cheered me on when I so needed it. I thought, too, of all the kind words you have shared when I needed them here, and the way you did the same in response to Darla’s raw, personal, breathtaking reflections on gratitude.
Your words mean something. In the end, it’s the runner herself who will or will not find what it takes to finish that marathon, or to push the “Publish” button no matter her doubts. But I believe more and more each day races are finished with the support of the people whose faith in us helped us overcome our own doubts before and during, and whose Gatorade and movie marathons afterward remind us that we’ll make it through the challenges to come, too.
Thank you for that, dear readers.
Thank you, “Sherlock.”
Darla (She’s a Maineiac) and I first connected over her recounting of tough experiences that have nevertheless failed to roughen her soul. Her words are as open as they are transporting; through them, you’re gifted, for a moment, with the opportunity to see the world absolutely, exactly as she sees it. Be warned: You might not want to go back to seeing through your eyes after seeing through hers.
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Loving Spirit, Mind and Body
“I’m serious,” I breathed deep as my trembling hands held out the stick for my husband to inspect. “It’s positive.” Again. My body heaved with a sigh that sunk straight to my core. The look in my husband’s eyes mirrored mine. Disbelief. Fear. Hope. I felt his arms envelope me and I was soothed for a moment by their comfort. “Okay,” he whispered. “It will be okay.”
“I know it will,” I smiled. “I just know it.”
As the next few weeks dragged by, I found myself almost holding my breath, like somehow by sheer willpower I could stay pregnant this time. I gingerly crept around, careful not to overexert myself so I might hold onto that blissful feeling of a little life blooming inside of me. The thought of repeating that dreadful moment when I felt my baby’s tiny flickering light slowly drain out of my body and soul only to be lost forever was almost too much to bear.
I had felt the familiar deep sting of my body betraying me years before when we’d tried for two years to get pregnant with our firstborn, my son. At the age of 30, I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis during surgery to remove a giant cantaloupe sized cyst along with my right ovary and fallopian tube. I cursed my defective body. How could it have failed me so cruelly? Feelings of anger and jealousy found their way into my heart as much as I tried to shamefully push them away. My bitterness only burned with more intensity as I watched my friends and family get pregnant with relative ease. The surgeon said my remaining ovary was covered in endo adhesions and scar tissue. The chances of getting pregnant were slim, but not impossible. I was done with the heartbreak. We began to explore other options. Yet, the very month we gave up, I got my positive and my beautiful boy was born on a chilly autumn night that September.
And now, as I stood shaking and holding out that positive pregnancy test for my husband to see, we had already gone through the hell of miscarriage two cycles in a row trying for our second child. Maybe this time would be the charm. Maybe this time my baby’s light would continue to twinkle and shine. Maybe this time I’d see the heartbeat flickering on the ultrasound machine. In the middle of the night, I’d sneak over to the window, look up at the moon and pray, tears rolling down. Could God hear me? I would squeeze my eyes shut and whisper to the darkening sky. Please let my baby stay! Please!
After a multitude of blood tests, my obstetrician prescribed one baby aspirin and a mega dose of B vitamins a day to battle the blood clotting disorder I was diagnosed with after the second miscarriage. He assured me I could carry this pregnancy. Every morning, I held the tiny pill in my hand, marveling that something so small and simple could sustain a life inside of me. Yet, I didn’t feel the suffocating worry lift until my fifth month when I looked up at the computer screen and saw the incredible 3D image of our baby sucking her thumb. “She even looks like me!” I gushed. I knew it would finally be alright. A few days after Thanksgiving, November 28, 2006, my daughter was put to my breast, her eyes wide and twinkling. I was floating in pure joy.
Today, that baby is almost five years old. She spends her days dancing and singing and sprinkling a bit of her sweet self everywhere she goes. My son is nine and is the most loving, sensitive and sincere little boy on the planet. I am blessed.
Now when I look in the full-length mirror, do I see the ugly C-section scars or the lumps, bumps and sags? Do I focus on what is “wrong” with my body? Or do I see something beautiful? Yes, it was my body that I felt had betrayed me once. But it was my body that carried these glorious babies, enabling me to feel their kicks and wiggling toes. It was my body that endured the endless hard labor and painful surgeries and helped to deliver these incredible souls into this world. It was my body that nursed them when they were hungry. And it’s my body that holds them tight, strokes their hair and rocks them to sleep at night.
As I get older, I love my body a little more each day. The number on the scale doesn’t hold power over me any longer. I am careful to treat my body like the amazing thing it is, with love, respect and kindness. It houses my mind, my soul, my spirit. Why bother putting it down or viewing it in a negative light? I am thankful each day that I can simply stand up and walk across the room so I can wrap my arms around my family. I can watch them play and dance. I can hear them giggle and hoot and holler. I can hold them close, breathing in their warmth and love.
Yes, I am truly grateful for this tired, creaky old body; wrinkles, gray hairs, sags, bags and all. It is what makes it possible to live in this world and to share this experience with those that I love deeply.
What more could I ask for?
10/30/08, a few hours into being 30
As I start to type this, my 20s are 38 minutes departed.
Now, for the first time, I say:
I’ve looked forward to this birthday for years. Striving for Gandalf-like wisdom and awesomeness, I have dismayed in my youngness and lack of gray hairs.
To answer your questions before you ask them, no. No, I do not possess a magical staff the likes of which to defeat mad, powerful, and mad powerful wizards with. No, I have never defeated a balrog. And finally, yes, 30′s a far cry from 400…
…but it’s a step in the right direction!
I no longer wish to actually be Gandalf, but I remain excited by this birthday. I’m excited to know not only that I made it this far, which given my childhood was not a certainty, but that I made it.
I haven’t just lived to 30, which alone would have stunned me half my life ago to foresee. I’ve lived.
5/24/11, about halfway between 32 and 33
Yesterday, author Rusty Fischer gave my novel The Monster’s Daughter a five-star review, the title of which I’ve borrowed for this entry.
Even if I’d navigated away after taking in the stars and the title, I would have been exuberant.
I absolutely did not stop with the title. That’s a good thing, too, because the review itself was even better. See, for example:
Often funny, majorly sad, equally scary and powerfully poignant, Ginny is such a great character; one of the most realistic I’ve read in YA fiction — and I’m not just talking YA vamp fiction, either! It struck me as I read The Monster’s Daughter how without the vampire parts it would still be a riveting, dark and lyrical tale of one dysfunctional family; almost any dysfunctional family.
To me, this said: Your book accomplished exactly what you hoped it would. That’s exhilarating stuff.
As I drove home twenty minutes later, I reflected on that review. I thought of how, because of my childhood, my hopes have always exceeded my expectations for my life.
Every time something wonderful happens, I recall my birthday letters to my friends. In those letters, I’ve thanked my friends for helping my life become more full of wonder by far than I ever allowed myself to believe it might. What could be a better time to reflect on the came-before and the yet-to-come than a birthday, after all?
My next birthday email will include a few new bullets. As I type out those bullets one October to come, I’ll be thinking of where I came from. Where I’m going. All the people whose actions and words have helped get me there. And I’ll be thankful, as always, for people taking time out to lend a hand or share a kind word. It’s those graces that get me through the hard times . . . and make the already good ones, those such as I am blessed to live right now, a millionfold brighter.
ETA: I’ve added a few date references to clarify it’s not actually my birthday today, though this entry refers to a personal birthday tradition. I’m loving the preview of the warm wishes I can expect for my 33rd birthday!