I wrote last week about need for a reset, and I had grand plans for this weekend. A time of study and some rest and runs. To contemplate and reimagine the state of our world through fresh eyes. To face this week with hope and renewed vigor. Well, that and some grading, as 64 reflections were posted which needed to be read. But, my body had other plans.
I enjoyed a lovely Friday, even though as mentioned I’d felt off last week. I Hadn’t slept all week. Still, after Friday evening with Ethiopian food in Silver Springs and a beer or two at a great Biergarten (Denizens) – Deep sleep came. I woke Saturday rested and ready to conquer the to-do list and go for that long run.
Then, not an hour after arising, the migraine came. The kind that hurts on all sides. Cheeks aching. Temples squeezed in a vice. Eyes needing to be gouged out. The front. The back. The top and the base. It ALL hurt like hell. Heat didn’t help. Ice didn’t help. Meds? Nope. A hot shower? Nope. Tea? Nope. A neck rub worked while pressure was applied and then – the pain came searing right back with a vengeance. It hurt to be still as much as it hurt to move.
I managed to get to the couch. And then to the bed. And then to the couch again. Dozing off and on from the medications. But never truly resting. Or relaxed.
Sunday came – still in pain but able to at least sit up and eat some soup. Then bam – ache again. So couch. And more couch. No shower. No reading. No study. No re-set. Simply managing pain. As best I could.
Monday came – ahhhh painless. REJOICE!
But, zero energy from battling that monster with every ounce of energy I had. So I worked and did only what HAD to be done for my students. Sessions. Check. Phone calls. Check. Notes written. Check. Emails sent. Check. Plans for October – ummm thought about. Grading those 64 reflections seemed a bad idea, as putting my own sentence together was a struggle, judging another’s ?? I don’t think so.
And here we are – Tuesday. I’ve barely eaten 2000 calories since Friday. I’ve managed no grading as of yet. I have finished therapy sessions and notes and an IEP. As well as posted a lab for Thursday’s class. But little else. And after a mere 2.3 mile walk I’m spent. Again. I had energy enough for a shower and a protein shake.
As I sit and ponder my lack of accomplishments this week, I realize that while I’ve not done much in the way of my to do list, I have managed lots of introspection. Lots of prayers. I’ve started around four different blog posts in my head. and sorted through some memories that needed sorting. Oh and I watered the plants. And slowly, I’m feeling stronger.
I think perhaps that sometimes our bodies have a way of telling us that our outside work must come after the inner work of healing. And so, I’ll take one more evening of true rest. Listening to my body. So that my heart and mind can follow suit.
When this quarantine, shut-down, Co-Vid chaos started I began doing daily posts on Facebook or Instagram to remind myself that there was beauty in this confusion. That, if I but looked I might see the ways in which life was better. My aim? To purposefully re-set my own perspective. To be mindful to be looking for the beauty in this monster of a detour. That was when we were told a few weeks to flatten a curve. Days turned into weeks and then months.
It’s now been more than 6 months since schools closed. Since I began providing speech and language therapy to children who have very complex sensory and communication needs – online. Since I began worshiping – online. Hanging with friends and family near and far – online. Handling, or rather helping my sisters handle, my mom’s medications – online. And, a throwback from my days in Cincinnati, teaching college – online. I gotta say, I’m a little ONline fatigued and am ready for relationship, work, and life OFFline.
I’m assuming MOST of you are too!
After settling in and living in the moments – not just surviving these last few months, but feeling like I’ve been thriving in spite of… I am suddenly, very tired. I’m so very tired. I am doing the healthy things: Eating well, not drinking (except a glass or two on weekends), exercising four to five days a week, learning new things, reading fiction and non-fiction, studying scripture. But… I’m not sleeping. I’m worried about my students. I’m worried about their families. I’m worried about my children. I’m worried about my mom. I’m worried about my Country. I’m worried about humanity. And stupidity. And left and right and chaos and lies. The dreams I’ve had are strange and almost indecipherable at times. I’m worried and tired and tired of being worried.
I’d like to be an ostrich and bury my head, just pop back out when everything is fairly normal again. Or a bear, and hibernate until Spring. Shutting down seems a good idea today. And so, I realize it’s time for another perspective ReSet.
Starting last night with a quiet night of no TV, dinner with wonderful conversation, a long listen to The Fleet Foxes new album Shore – a few times actually, and a new book Lilac Girls set in NYC in 1939. Chapter one ends with “Hitler just invaded Poland”. THAT’LL do it! Perspective RESET! No clue about the rest of the book but being reminded of the FACT of 6,000,000 humans murdered will change an attitude quickly. And remind me to be both diligent as a citizen and respectful of real and tragic moments in history.
I think I’ll spend this weekend reviewing some history. The frightening days and years before and after WWI and WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, and then during my own lifetime – 9/11 and subsequent years. But not to sit in fear, instead to be reminded of the human capacity for both evil and heroism. The power of healing, of God-breathed complete and total restoration and wholeness after trauma. For wisdom and revelation for my own tomorrows. For reminders of my Ebeneezer. My fount of every blessing. My deliverer. My God. My Jehovah.
I wrote back in early September of the river and the healing sights and sounds brought to my soul and spirit when I was there. I was reminded then of, and I will contemplate today on, the truth therein. I will stand like a tree planted by the water – I shall NOT be moved. I shall NOT live in fear. I shall NOT let man’s words and man’s machinations break my spirit. I will sleep knowing that I am in the arms of my Abba. I am His. And He is mine.
I shall spend the weekend re-setting. I pray Monday brings words of hope and encouragemeent. Grace and peace.
THE first day of Autumn is a day that conjures thoughts of both beginnings and endings for many. On this particular first day of Autumn, that resonates deeply, for today is my 54th birthday. OY!
BEGINNINGS – Fall has always been about starting and newness. Filled with my favorite things! I was born on the first day of Fall. Fall was school starting. Fall was when the marching band could be heard from streets away. Fall was the whistle of a referee, the crunch of shoulder pads and then roars of the fans at a football game. Fall was, for me, the BEST time to be a cheerleader. I LOVED Friday nights as a teenager. Fall was also the excitement of new school supplies, a new pair of shoes or a new outfit, new teachers, new experiences. It was starting high school, leaving for college, starting grad school, getting married. Then it became – shopping for my kids’ supplies, checking class lists for teachers’ and friends’ names. Later still, it became meeting the fresh and expectant new faces of my undergraduate and graduate students.
So many wonderful beginnings!
ENDINGS – Fall is more often thought of as a time of endings. Which holds true for me too. Or, rather beginnings of endings. Summer ends. Vacation time ends. It is when the flowers and trees begin to change and ready themselves for winter dying. When the days begin to get shorter and cooler. Fall was also when I moved, as a child from one home, our home in Columbus, OH with two parents (an ending), to a home in Ironton, OH with great aunts and no parents, then to HOME in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky with one parent, my momma (a new beginning). Fall was when I was told “I’ve never loved you” and Fall was when that same voice said “forgive me.” Years later, Fall was when my own children were told of their parents’ divorce, and a year later, when they had two distinct homes – one in Ohio and one in Kentucky (beginnings wrapped up in endings). Fall was when I ended a career in academia and moved to Maryland to begin, again. A true, real, and whole beginning, again!
BEGINNINGS and ENDINGS – As humans we love to count days and weeks, then turn to counting months and years. We need to see and know the timeline. We say “What happened first?” Or “When did it start?” Then we ask, “How does it end?” We want a wrapped up, neat, little beginning, middle and end. A narrative that FITS the formula.
Today, as I ponder 54 trips around the sun completed, at an end, I am awed by the order of my many beginnings and endings. Struck by the fact that beginnings are still happening and, that endings aren’t always something to grieve. I’ve finished 5 decades, I’m well into the 6th and I am still overwhelmed by the opportunity to begin! To start fresh, another day, another week filled with beginnings. I’m also dumbstruck by how thankful I am, in retrospect, for some endings.
On this birthday, I will cherish my stories and all their beginnings, savor the middles full of memories and rest knowing that with each ending comes a turn, a bend, a detour that may lead to a delightful beginning.
On this birthday I will smile and laugh. There will be no lament of lost years. Or wasted days. For each and every previous and precious moment has been woven together to create THIS Sandra. And I think I really like her today! In fact, I’m sure of it. #beautifuldetours #livingwhilealive #birthdaymusings
Just Friday evening I wrote about heading “home again” and yet today as I closed up parent calls and emails and readied to board a plane back to Maryland, I said “I’m ready to be home.” How can one “go home” in both the comings and the goings? Is it possible to be fully at home in more than one space or place?
I truly am at home in my new city, job and apartment, in my church and neighborhood of only a year. It’s where my love and his children live, where I quarantined durning a strange time in history, where I’m learning more of who I am and what I can do! Where I’m making new friends. It is Home.
But, when I speak of Kentucky, I will forever speak of going home. And when I am there, I am home. It is the place I was raised, the place I married and returned to after my divorce, the place I fell apart and put myself back together again. It is where legions of friends reside and my mother’s large family is settled. It is Home.
And, when I look forward to returning to Mason, Ohio in October to celebrate a wedding, I say, “I’m coming home.” For there is a part of that little town that will always be “home” to me and my children. It is where I raised them, where we bought and then built our first homes, where their dad still lives, where more friends reside. It is where I grew into adulthood, where I was mentored and grew in my faith and ministry and mission. It is Home.
Perhaps we all know home is more than a structure. Maybe what we need to be reminded of in this time of isolation is that it can be broader even than the town or city where you dwell or where raised. Maybe home is ALL the places where one has felt safe, cared for, challenged and stretched. The places where life in all its glorious and mundane abundance has been lived.
I count it all joy to have been “home” in Kentucky this weekend with my people. Unexpected time filled with stolen moments with my sisters, children, and very best friends. Yet, I am so happy to head back “home” to Maryland today, to my space and my place, to the quiet and the routine, to my high rise with a beautiful view, to my flowers, and to my person. And, I am already looking forward to my October trip “home” to Mason, to a wedding filled with smiles, hugs, and love from some special people who have loved me well for a long, long time.
May you have adventures at home.
May you have adventures that lead you home.
May you feel at home with those you love and cherish.
May you love and cherish those who welcome you home.
May you find your home is your place to heal and grow and laugh and cry.
May you be so settled in who you are, you are finding yourself AT HOME wherever your detours take you.
Sitting on a plane, heading home to Kentucky was not on my agenda a week ago. Actually not even five days ago. The “fall trip” home is planned and set for early October. A long drive with my love, a dear friend’s wedding, some time devoted to visiting with his pop and my momma.
But… when one of your dearest and best friends texts that she had a rough weekend, and is free the coming weekend, AND it happens to be your birth month, you randomly spend too much on a round trip ticket to go hug said friend. You may also, perhaps, plan an impromptu birthday party with your twin and all your beautiful sisters. Oh, and OF COURSE you find time to squeeze your children and grandbaby. So, here I sit. On a plane. On a Friday afternoon.
As we boarded earlier, I looked around at fellow travelers, wondering where they may have come from? Where they may be going to? Are they prepared for some glitches? Some hiccups along the way? A detour here and there? I then ask myself, am I?
As we descend into my beautiful home state, I am prepared for the laughter and the tears of hugging my dear friends, my beautiful sisters, and my precious children and granddaughter. But I cannot help but ponder… what awaits? Beyond the gift that this trip is in and of itself, what beautiful gifts will be bestowed upon me during this glorious detour from my planned week-end? What challenges will arise that may push me to reset my perspective? To keep my eyes on the adventure and the gifts? To find the grace and the beauty?
I have no idea. I hope it is all smooth and lovely! But as the plane descends to the runway, and I listen to the music that lifts my spirit and soul toward heaven (“I surrender, Have your way in me! Breathe within. Have your way in me!”), I can honestly state that I am alive with anticipation. Surprise me Creator God!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my more than 50 years of life, after 20 yrs of marriage, 9 years single again, raising 3 kids to adulthood, it’s the truth stated below, by LR Knost.
Life is a grand adventure, a roller coaster of highs and lows and mundane middles.
Trouble will come, people will disappoint you and hurt you. Life may feel as though it’s conspiring to shatter you. You can’t control your way out of the pain. The more you try the less you’ll be in control.
Hold on, breathe in, exhale. Rest. Then, get up and do it all again. Hang on tight to the ones who raise you up. Lean in, lean on and be vulnerable.
Meditate on the good memories! For, I bet, there are some detours that took you through scary or unsettling to beauty and calm.
For that matter, meditate on the mundane middles. The cooking and cleaning, the waking and sleeping in routine days. The coloring for the millionth time days. The nowhere to go, no one to see days. There’s beauty there, if you look.
May you find grace to live abundantly IN the journey that is the “heart-breaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life!”
Blue skies, green leaves, and a calm quiet river. There among the living things, one can find peace. Fresh hope for tomorrow.
This water, these trees, this shoreline have all seen far more than I ever have or ever will. I breathe in. I breathe out. I seek to center myself in the One who created it all. The One who was there when this river began, is here by its shores with me now, and will be here still, long after I’m gone!
I listen and I hear the cadence of the cicadas, the babble of the water over the fallen branches, the call of a bird and the work of a hidden Woodpecker. In those sounds, I hear the whisper of “Peace. Be Still and KNOW that I am God.”
I look and I see the blue of the sky, the green of the leaves on bent and broken branches, a graceful Blue Herron, the flit of a butterfly, ducks and turtles sunning on mossy branches and rocks. In those sights, I see the promise of new life and second chances. I see life in abundance.
I sniff and I smell the fragrance of fruit on the tree, silt by the shore, fall blooms, even a skunk. In those aromas, I breathe in the freshness of seasons and changes, I remember that change is a gift and “to everything there is a season.”
I walk and I feel the sun on my back, the breeze in my hair, the softness of the path underfoot, the sturdiness of the rock on which I settle. In those touches I am settled. I am grounded. For He is my rock and my refuge.
The river runs, giving life to the nature surrounding. And today, giving life to my heart, my soul, my mind.
Recently I read a beautiful blog post about girlfriends by the gifted writer Jess Johnston, at www.wonderoakbyjessjohnston. She is funny, she is true, she tells it like it is. What it means to be a real friend. Being the friend who is there in the makeup free, stressed out, with me when I need a pint, no a whole gallon of ice cream kind of friend.
That beautiful read led me to ponder my own friendships. Of how I came to be friends with those friends. The detours taken through life, to meet or develop friendships, to rekindle friendships, to hold onto friendships – for women – can be a little zig zaggy. Many women are told, and believe that you have one single best friend. And, for some that is true. A lone and singular soulmate that walks through every stage of life with you. That is a gift, but it isn’t the only way to be a real and true friend. For me, as I reflect, I realize that many of my friendships while deep, are seasonal in the day to day of seeing those friends. I have friends I don’t see or talk to daily, weekly, or maybe haven’t for a decade or two, but they are no less real and deep and profound. Some I met because of the many detours I have taken along my life’s journey. Some because of a detour my mother or a sister took. Some from a friend’s detour, or come from introductions of a mutual friend who becames my friend. Still others, because we walked different, though lonely and challenging roads that linked us together. What a gift. As I reflect on the women who have stood beside me, held me, cried with me, laughed with me, celebrated the biggest events with me and challenged me when I was turning the wrong way, I find a treasure trove of women, friends, sisters. Truly, friendships are what have held me together and I thank God for each one – in its season, in its time.
Who are these friends? There are grade school and highschool, college and grad school, mothers of preschoolers together, back to work friends, grad school again, colleagues, then the church friends, and the “you held me together in my divorce” friends. I have former students who “rallied when I was shattered” friends. There is my mother, who was always my champion and nurturer, and became my friend. There are the best friends who feel like sisters. And, then there are those beautiful sisters, nieces and daughters of mine who are my best friends. So many deep and abiding friendships.
Each of these friends has loved me when I was unlovable. Cheered me on when I needed encouragement. Extended grace to me when I dropped the ball being their friends, teacher, sister, mother. They gave me words of wisdom when I was lost or words of affirmation when I was found. I cherish each. I thank them all for honoring my need to take this most recent and most beautiful of detours from the life I knew. A life alongside them physically in Kentucky to a completely new life, 800 miles away in Maryland.
Girlfriends, you know who you are – Beechwood, UK, UC, SLA, West Chester, Mason, Covington, Ft. Mitchell. And, now, here in Maryland! I can’t imagine twisting and turning, or zigging and zagging through life without any of you. I am honored to call you MY friends. Real, true, beautiful friends. I hope and pray that when your bad day comes, or your heart is broken, I am there to wrap my arms around you as you so warmly wrapped yours around me. And, I long for the moment when your adventure or detour presents itself, so that I can be the loudest cheerleader you have! Yes @marybethpatterson, I will CHEER for you (or at you bahaha)!
For those of you who are young, in your college or grad school, early mommy or professional days, remember that friends can indeed ‘come and go’ physically, whilst remaining close to your heart!! Remember too, that friendships come in may sizes and shapes, ages and stages. Be open. Stay open.
What do you say when asked, “how did you decide to be a (insert career choice)?” I generally say, “its all I ever wanted to be.” That is the 15 second party snippet. The short answer goes more like, “I always loved words and I decided at 15 to be a speech-language pathologist. Today, 39 years later I have been practicing in this field for 30 years.” But, I realized after my last trip home to Kentucky, that my sisters didn’t even know the long answer to that question. So, perhaps the that version deserves to be told. The story of a life changing detour that was triggered by a not so beautiful event.
When I was a child, I wanted to be a nurse, a pediatric nurse. As I grew into my early teens, I never wavered. I adored children, they seemed to like me too. My earliest memories of thinking about what I would be when I grew up are of nursing. As mentioned above, I am not a nurse.
In the summer of 1981, just shy of fifteen years old, I was in a terrible car accident. As clearly as if it was yesterday, not 39 years ago, I remember. I remember it all. I remember my friend Dawn saying to the driver, ‘watch out for that car.’ Just before “that car” turned and hit us. I remember the spin and the sound of the van hitting the Greyhound Tavern.
I vividly remember the faces of the Beckers in the ambulance (their kids were my friends). I remember saying to my sister Kate, while lying on the emergency room table – ” I don’t think I can be a nurse. Too much blood.” I then apologized for wearing her shirt without permission and getting blood on it. (It was a floral shirt, deep eggplants and creams, I remember!) I remember being offended that they’d ask if I could be pregnant. I remember thinking, thank God and mom I put on clean underwear.
I remember the surgeon, a retired army surgeon (Dr. A.C. Poweliet) who has books written about him and highways named after him, saving my face. I remember the smell of my hospital room, I described it as death. I remember the visits from friends, the stuffed animals I kept for more than 20 years, cards I STILL have in an album. I remember the face of Dr. Pat Burns, who graduated from high school with my sisters, in the elevator as I went up for my second surgery of the week. I remember my dad coming to visit and promising to buy me a new sapphire ring (my birthstone and the only ‘special’ gift I had from him. I did get that ring and did manage to lose it too!). I remember my sister Marybeth bringing me a beef-n-cheddar sandwich from Arby’s® because it is all I wanted.
I remember sleeping on the couch and getting to watch the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana the week I came home from the hospital. I remember my first “night” out was going to a swim meet. Worried that someone would mention the bruising or the missing tooth. But, getting hugs and smiles. I remember feeling loved and liked that day.
I remember starting my sophomore year of high school, taking yearbook pictures, cheering on the sidelines with no front tooth. Knowing no invitation to homecoming would come. Knowing no dates would be had for this girl. I remember feeling not so loved and liked those days.
I remember the day I went to get my braces and got that ‘flipper’ to replace my missing tooth. I remember both the excitement and embarrassment of heading back into school and smiling again. A real, toothy smile.
So many memories. So many scary firsts and anxious moments of reinjury, of not being beautiful, of just getting in a car… and yet that day changed my life in beautifully profound ways I could not have known at 14 years old. One huge way was that statement above, “too much blood”. For that was the season of my young life that I moved from helping children to… helping children! I know RIGHT?! But hear me out. I went out the night of that party thinking I would be a nurse. I walked into school that fall with a goal of becoming a speech-language pathologist. And so began my now 30+ year career!
A career full of twists and turns and changes and detours (for another ten posts) along the way. A career that started in 1981 as a high school aide, took me to the University of Kentucky to autism classrooms and then the University of Cincinnati and a love of preschool speech sound development, to private practice and serving Head Starts, to a PhD in language and literacy, leading to an opportunity to serve on faculty – engaged for over ten years in teaching, research and, mentoring future researchers and clinicians. A career that then turned a sharp corner last year, and dropped me back to the start, in a private school serving children who are autistic, navigating the world of clinical service delivery every day, in Maryland. And now, a year to the day after starting that challenging and beautiful job, I am preparing for my first lecture as an adjunct faculty at Towson University, back in the classroom. I am not doing what I thought I’d do when I started this journey as a teenager. I am not even doing what I thought I’d be doing at my halfway point, as a novice researcher. I do, however, know I am right where I am meant to be, THIS DAYin part because of THAT DAY.
Detours come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it takes decades to see the purpose in the turn or the change of direction. Sometimes it takes decades to realize where that detour began and appreciate all the many scenes you have taken in along the way. The gifts of loving my career, loving the many facets and faces. The gifts of travel to conferences around the country from Monterey, CA to Portland, ME that may never have been a possibility had I chosen a different path. The profound gift of the humans I have been honored to meet along the way, not the least of which are my current students and families teaching me about true compassion, service, and excellence every single day!
You see, there are a LOT of difficult days in our lives here on earth. What was a traumatic event to fourteen-year-old Sandra, became the impetus for a ‘career change’ and that was a beautiful detour indeed! Take some time today to search your difficult days – and do so with eyes to see the grace you were granted, the gifts you were given, perhaps the others you have helped along the way because of those difficult days. Think, what a difference a day can make! Our world needs that now.