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Mamia. Daughter of the King. Leadership enthusiast. Family first. #MomBoss Proverbs 17:1

Alone at the Bar

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She sat alone at the bar with no drink in her hand. She quietly ate her lunch and didn’t engage those around her as she normally would. Today wasn’t for sharing; it was for reflecting, regrouping and resuscitating. Herself, that is.

Since it began, she felt herself slipping away. It was a battle at first, for her to let go and become amorphous, but as time passed away so did her strong and independent character. Everything became confused and entangled like an overgrown brier bush.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. At least that’s what she always believed. No one should ever have to reinvent themselves for the comfort of another, should they? Compromise, yes. Learning and growing, yes. But becoming someone else entirely? That never sat quite right with her, but it certainly seemed to make things less tense. Or did it?

Such a battle, but never with clear lines drawn. Never an intended outcome. Was it to make things better, to figure out how to make it work, or simply just to be the winner? To have the upper hand, to feel like the bigger person, to feel power and control. Perhaps that lends too much credit to the thought process. Looking back now, it was all in protection and defense of self. Because self is what seemed to matter more than anything else in the world.

There were signs from the beginning. There were situations that made her tilt her head the way a dog does when its curious. Love is blind, so they say, but this was not love. This was convenience. This was hope of a stable life, not a blissful one. Stability, she’d decided, is overrated.

Depth was missing. Intimacy was missing. Connection was missing.

Anger was present. Ego was present. Chauvinism was present.

But the resume looked smart and well-written.

How foolish and short-sighted she had been. She promised herself, no matter what, she would never marry the wrong man.

She’d been in love before with other men. She had known what it felt like to be enamored. Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered like Ella Fitzgerald sang about. But being let down, disappointed, and hurt had caused her to stop believing in true love’s tale.

She gave up. She gave in. She settled.

He wasn’t a bad man. She never believed he was. He would be just the right fit for someone. Someone else.

She had a big spirit and she knew that. It may have been too much for him but deep down she knew it wasn’t too much for someone. Someone else.

Without knowing how or even being intentional, he had managed to pull her apart. She felt small, weak, insignificant and alone. She felt like a burden. She felt like her voice was too loud, her opinions wrong, and her emotions unjustifiable. She was convinced she must be a horrible wife and less of a woman; he was always angry, offended, hurt, or emasculated. She became more and more timid, quiet, reserved, even withdrawn.

She forgot she was pretty, she forgot she was a woman, she forgot she was powerful, and she forgot that her life mattered – to herself, to her family and friends, and to God.

Tired. Worn out. Limp. Lifeless.

Defeated. Lost. Wandering.

There had been times when she knew she couldn’t go on. But those around her encouraged patience and perseverance. Talk of honoring her commitment, talk of men taking longer to figure it out, talk of giving God a chance to step in and show off. She was tough once. Strong once. She thought for sure she could bear it all. Because wouldn’t it just be beautiful on the other side? She kept on.

From the road, the house looked cozy. People told them how cute they were and how fun their life together looked. They had a beautiful wedding, bought a lovely home, and were now expecting a baby. But behind that blue door, there was unrest. If they weren’t disagreeing, arguing, or outright fighting, it still felt uncomfortable. The air was thick and stagnant. Eggshells everywhere. No comfort, no confidence, no cheer. No one else knew.

But she knew.

Packing her bag that morning felt significant. The peace she felt in the midst of strife was immeasurable. There were mountains still yet to climb – people who would disagree and those who would choose not to be supportive. Advice would be given and opinions would be shared. Lines would be crossed and perhaps even friendships lost. But she had nothing left. No love, no respect, and no more give.

She thought of her future without argument and anger. She thought of her son whom she had never met but loved more than her own life. She thought of peace, joy, and bliss.

And as she ate her last bite of cake, her heart was filled with a brand new hope of a life not wasted.

 

Train Up a Child

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I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the responsibility that comes with raising a boy to be a man; not just a male human who becomes adult age, but a man – strong, capable, respectful, intentional, honorable, and with great character. Woah.

Quite obviously, I have zero experience being a man. What I do have, however, is experience being a teenager, young woman, and woman interacting with boys, adult males, and real grown men. I certainly can’t mentor my son the way a father can. I can’t teach him to change his oil, fix a flat tire, build things, repair things or anything else that I myself don’t do. (Don’t get me wrong, I can be pretty handy if a situation warrants it!) I can help develop his character. And I am vowing right this moment to do that to the best of my ability and maybe even beyond.

There are important lessons a boy needs to learn that should come from his dad if he has learned them himself. Or from his mom who can lend some insight that only a woman can provide. These lessons appear in my brain as bullet points, so here goes:

  • always lead, even when it’s uncomfortable, eventually it will come naturally
  • find the Lord and never walk away – seek Him every day of your life
  • be courteous and respectful to those around you, give people the benefit of the doubt unless they have proven themselves unworthy
  • always be familiar with your surroundings – know where you are and how to get home
  • be encouraging to others and compliment people whenever something special strikes you, but always be authentic in your praise
  • pay attention to details in every situation
  • listen well and be trustworthy
  • be accountable and take responsibility for your actions and your wrong doings
  • don’t put yourself down, but always be finding ways to improve
  • become someone you would want to be friends with; someone you’d want to marry; the spouse you’d like to have; the father you’d look up to and count on
  • be diligent in saving money, but be willing to give it all away
  • make yourself emotionally available, but protect your heart
  • learn to provide for and protect those around you – physically, emotionally, and spiritually
  • keep your mind and body strong by being engaged – play sports, strength-train, participate in physical activity, make healthy choices
  • dress well and put effort into your appearance – you will feel good about who you are and others will respect you for it
  • follow your heart but don’t let your emotions rule your life, develop logic and reasoning skills
  • seek to always do the right thing, but understand the right thing is not always crystal clear
  • have high expectations for yourself and low expectations for others
  • forgive and move on – don’t hold grudges but don’t let people take advantage of your kindness
  • be interesting – be a master in more than one thing, read books, read articles, travel, sightsee, write, experience life so you have something to say and can engage people in conversation
  • be wise and humble, they go hand in hand
  • don’t think of yourself more highly than others and always help when you can
  • you are no one’s responsibilty, clean up after yourself and replace what you use
  • SMILE and be a blessing to others
  • be brave and learn to take calculated risks
  • show kindness to women and make them feel special and beautiful – their road is not an easy one*
  • don’t show up empty handed – if you are a guest in someone’s home, bring wine, bring flowers, bring dessert
  • learn to cook and do it well
  • when you buy someone a gift, always be sure to remove the price tag – gift giving should never be about cost

I know there is more and I’m sure this blog will have some sequels. In particular, one dedicated entirely to women: understand and apprecuating them, respecting them, and learning how to treat them. All of them. No matter what.

Rated PG

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I’ve been beyond terrible in keeping track of and sharing pregnancy updates. I think I know the reasons behind my lack of effort – mainly out of fear due my miscarriage in June 2015 and the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on in my private (really private) life. 

But the truth is, at 17.2 weeks and after some much needed realization, I’m excited for this baby. I love him already, and no matter what, he is a beautiful miracle and I can’t wait to kiss him and hold him in my arms.

I found out I was pregnant on Wednesday December 16th, 2015. The irony in that is the previous evening I had been bawling my eyes out to my father, convinced that my husband didn’t want to be with me, or give my any children. And as far as I was concerned, marriage wasn’t for me unless motherhood was involved. So you can imagine my shock and speechlessness when I realized the following morning that I hadn’t gotten my period…

I’d been praying for this baby. I’d been trying to woo my husband into my need to be a mother. But now that it was here, I had very mixed emotions. I still do, I suppose, but not regarding the treasure growing inside my belly.

I (we) told our families at Christmas Brunch. Gram didn’t quite understand at first, but once she did, she was over the moon!

First trimester was AWFUL. I can’t even begin to describe the fatigue I experienced. If I wasn’t at work fighting to keep my eyes open, I was in bed. I was nauseous constantly; I never actually got sick but I felt like I could have at any moment. My biggest food aversions were chicken and beef. I survived mostly on cereal and grapefruit and rarely made it a day or two without eating way too many olives or pickles. The spicier the food, the better, and that is still something I crave. There was no way I could make it without coffee, but I limited myself to one cup per week – on Sunday morning. I remember getting so hungry that I would eat a ton of food super fast and then feel like garbage the next three hours. I told myself every time to stop doing that, but I never did. Scarf, sick. Scarf, sick. Scarf, sick.

I felt the need to tell my employer pretty early on that I was pregnant because I felt so terrible and because I started showing fairly quickly. Everyone was super excited for me and I was really grateful for that!

It wasn’t until right before second trimester (maybe week 10ish) that I started to feel more like myself. I had more energy and thank GOD I wasn’t feeling sick anymore. 

I was sailing through second trimester, having to buy more and more maternity clothes, feeling good and getting more excited when Friday happened. On Friday March 4th, I started bleeding. I did my best not to freak out but, seeing as this is exactly the way my miscarriage had started 9 months previous, that’s much easier said than done. After sending out a text to my friends and family requesting prayer, I left work (brand new job…) met up with Mom and drove to the doctor. Baby was totally fine. Strong heartbeat, good size, perfectly active…they aren’t really sure what caused the bleeding but it hasn’t been back since.

Landon Kelley Hayes. That’s what we’ve decided. 

I’m blissful in week 17. I love the way my body looks and I feel really pretty. I feel good, though still tired and getting nightly headaches. I haven’t felt Landon kick yet, but I can’t wait! I love putting my hands on my belly and giving that little boy a rub. But I have to say, if it’s not my hands or my mom’s hands, I really prefer not to have my belly touched. I didn’t think I would be shy, but maybe I’m not ready to share him just yet.

This pregnancy feels very internal for me (I don’t mean in the obvious sense). I feel like I’m doing it alone, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Goals are for Grown-Ups

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But I’ not a grown up! Wait…maybe I am.

  • graduated college
  • got married
  • bought a house
  • got pregnant
  • adopted a dog
  • started a new career

I am a grown-up. I just need to get my head aligned with that sometimes devastating fact. Part of that alignment for me is putting some things into motion that I can only begin to describe as “goals.” Things I want to accomplish. Changes I’d like to make. Those are goals, right?

Though I’ve been in sales since I was a kid, selling cards and trinkets to neightborhood ladies who couldn’t resist a little cutie in pigtails, I’ve always rejected the notion of goals. For whatever reason, I didn’t see the value. It made sense for other people, just not for me. While my peers and co-workers spent hours writing and rewriting what they intended to accomplish, I was just out there doing it. No need to waste time. I’ve always taken things as they come and dealt with them however they end up. It’s actually turned me in to an adept coper, I just always get through it. And sometimes even learn from it. But what have I really accomplished, other than becoming a person I like and respect?

Believe it or not, or perhaps this makes perfect sense to you, being married and feeling like I’ve lost myself and my independence is what has lead me to a place where I feel like I need to make some changes. I need to do more, be more, continue to move forward and not just accept a stagnant maried life. (More on this another day, maybe.) Not feeling very fulfilled and also feeling less than great about myself has made me start to question what I can do to get out of that rut. I’ve been feeling stuck – financially, emotionally, intellectually – and that’s just not the mother I want to demonstrate to my son.

I’m starting small. I know the areas I want to boost in my little life include money, reading, writing, learning, and growing (in other areas than just my belly…) So far I’m doing pretty well! I’ve read the first book on my 2016 Reading List. Today is the second day in a row I’ve written with a goal to write something every day. I made a budget for myself and have a plan to save money for my maternity leave and my next solo adventure. I’ve registered for some online courses that will help me not only with my writing ability but also my career.

I tell myself it’s about time. But truthfully, I’m right on track. I wasn’t ready before. This isn’t for anyone else, it’s for me. I’m excited to write new chapters for myself, feel some pride in my life, and show my baby boy all the beauty that comes from living the life you want by making intentional choices to get you there.

 

Waiting to Write

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I love to write, but I’m a lazy writer. The older I get, the more it seems to call to me as if it’s a part of my whole that’s been neglected and needs attention. But let’s be honest…I don’t really know what I’m doing. I typically write my thoughts, feelings and experiences; sometimes after pondering them for months or even years. I guess I have a way with words and a certain tone to my musings that make them enjoyable to read. At least so I’ve been told.

I always wait. I let something stew inside my mind and my heart until I just have to get it out. But I don’t want to do that anymore. I need to practice. And you don’t practice by merely thinking about what you’d like to accomplish.

I read an article yesterday written by Go Girl Finance titled “A Penny for your Thoughts: Getting Started as a Writer.” The first two suggestions it gives really came as no surprise to me at all: determine your areas of expertise and write everyday. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t feel like an expert in any matter. However, I am a thinker and I have learned from some of my experiences. I’m also curious and ponder things; drawing conclusions, but sometimes maybe not.

So I made a list: human nature/human condition, friendships, solitude & independence, spiritual & internal conflict, pregnancy & miscarriage, marriage (or lack thereof), goal setting (which I know nothing about but it’s becoming increasingly important to me), communication, adult learning, and building walls around my heart. That’s enough to keep me busy for a while I’d say.

And here it is. My first day of writing everyday, or at least hoping to. Welcome back to my blog.

My Costa Rica Adventure

September 28th

Hi People I Love,

So, the San Jose airport was my first clue. All signs are first in Spanish and then English.

I got my passport stamped! I went through customs! As I approached the baggage claim, there was a young lady standing there holding a sign with my name on it. She gave me a name tag, told me to go straight and that my driver was waiting outside for me. That sounded simple enough, but when I got outside…there were people everywhere! Shouting “taxi!” and moving every which way. Some dude saw my name tag and directed me to my driver which I was thrilled about because I had already been swallowed up. My driver spoke very little English and I obviously know minimal Spanish, but we got a long great and managed to communicate just enough to make each other laugh. We quizzed each other about words the whole VERY FAST ride to the resort.

We rode in a manual transmission white van, windows down, speeding around every turn. No one uses turn signals, and the streets are super narrow. There are dogs without leashes running all over the place and young men on dirt bikes aka “mottos” weaving in and around everything they can.

The higher up the mountain we went, the less crowded it was. And the more beautiful. And then…behind this big bamboo wall…Pura Vida! It’s completely tucked into the mountainside and it’s super lush. I was greeted by a woman named “Floribeth,” how strange… She handed me an amazing green beverage and a fresh towel for my face that had the scent of some type of cleansing herb. FB gave me the lowdown on the property and my driver escorted me to my room.

It’s cute! Small, and very simple, but it’s perfect. I have a little patio overlooking the mountains and I’m right down the hill from the Wellness Center where they do all of the spa treatments. (By the way, in my room was an envelope with a love note from Dave and a very generous gift to be used at the spa! Thank you, Sweets!)

After I got settled, I walked to the dining hall and am now sitting eating my lunch, drinking straight from a coconut, hating that I have homework to do.

It’s humid, but not unbearable. It’s currently 77 degrees here in Alajuela!

Yoga starts tomorrow and I can’t wait! I love you guys!

Adios mi familia!

September 29th

Yoga in the Ananda Studio is one of the most beautiful things I’e ever experienced. I had my first class there last night, taught by the world’s most bendy woman alive. You know in Cirque de Soleil how those small people look as though they have no bones while they fit their entire body into a barrel? Yeah, just like that. But don’t worry, I got even with her when I kicked her in the face attempting a head stand. I hope Buddha doesn’t punish me for that…

Last night after I wrote to ya’ll I met the other guests at the resort. This place is packed! There are a grand total of THREE of us! Can you believe it? If I had know it was their busy season…I would have come another time. We;re being well looked after, though. The resort is fully staffed to provide us for anything we need.

Melanie is 29 and from Montreal. She works in retail at a store she described as the Canadian equivalent to Saks Fifth Avenue. I have no idea what she does there, but she has long scary looking finger nails, flips her hair a lot. She’s pleasant but reminds me (Mom, Dad, Sean and Jo) of Jane Monheit on the evening of opening at the Cultural Center.

Isabella is 24 and lives in Chicago, though she was born in Poland and lived there until she was 10. She is a member of the Job Corp and currently holds a position at some non-profit that deals with museums in the Chicago area. She’s a complete nerd and I dig it. We had an intense conversation this morning after breakfast about food, books, and introversion. Oh, and PS. She went to North Park University! (A Christian school in Chicago.) I was excited until I learned that she only went there because her boyfriend did. She and Jesus aren’t really all that tight.

I have to say, I love that out of the whole world’s population, here at this tiny resort in Costa Rica are three young, single (not really, Dave, just unmarried) women who are comfortable enough and brave enough to travel out of the country by themselves for an adventure. How rad!

Okay, I better get started. I have a lot to report. There are paths of gardens woven in between everywhere here. I’ve found some interesting things. Right outside my room is a chocolate mint plant. Yes, I ate it, and yes…it was delicious. There is also an absinthe aka wormwood plant. I’m tempted, I have to admit. But, C.S. Lewis doesn’t use the name Wormwood in the most positive light, so I guess I’ll refrain.

Waking up this morning was heavenly. I slept incredibly well (I later learned that there is a flowering plant called “Lady of the Night” that blooms in the evening and can sometimes create a deep sleep with intense dreams) and woke up to sounds of exotic birds, dogs barking in spanish, and incredibly warm sunshine. It poured during the evening and it was so peaceful.

It smells like marijuana in a few places around. Which didn’t really surprise me necessarily. But what’s funny is that the resort is surrounded by a coffee plantation and Nicaraguan coffee farmers. Apparently, those guys like the reefer. There is no smoking on the property, but since they are just over the fence…

I made a kitty friend. I don’t know if the little one is a boy or girl, but it’s very vocal and now knows that we love at first sight. Kitty looks like a small Pacino and hangs out by the dining hall. (I just learned the cat’s name is “Negro” and he is 5 years old. He lives here and the kitchen staff takes very good care of him.)

The food is amazing. Fresh fruit and veggies everyday. Extraordinary coffee, tea, smoothies, fancy tonics made from turmeric and other various things. I have had two coconuts each day since my arrival. I dig that.

At 1pm today I used my birthday gift from Burbs. (That’s Dave, for those of you that don’t know his nickname lovingly given by Marla.) It was a Costa Rican Chocolate Treatment. OH. MY. GOODNESS. First I had a deep tissue massage that focused mostly on my hips, back and feet (reflexology). It hurt so good, especially my feet. Apparently one or two of my organs need some detoxing… Then came the chocolate. Melted, room temperature bitter chocolate mixed with coconut oil, ground cinnamon, and coffee as an exfoliant. She rubbed it into my whole body, back and front (It’s different than a massage in the US. I was much less covered than I am when Denise gives me a massage. Basically grape leaves, but a small white towel.) Then she covered me with a tent type structure from neck to feet (with the chocolate on my skin), only my head outside of it. It’s like a mobile steam room. The steam was also infused with cinnamon sticks. RIDICULOUS. While I was steaming, she gave me a facial. Then after about 15 minutes I got up, got in the shower, and scrubbed the chocolate off. I still smell like chocolate and it’s amazing. After my treatment, I fully intended to read before yoga class, but…I lit some incense in my room and PASSED OUT! I missed yoga and woke up in time for dinner.

It’s raining for the second time today, but it smells earthy and amazing. Earlier this afternoon, the sky got super dark in the mountains and began to thunder and lightening. The thunder sounded like it was manufactured here; almost palpable. I’ve never heard anything like it.

Tomorrow is the waterfall hike! I love you all and I’ll write again tomorrow.

Buenos Noches.

October 1st

Yesterday was my first adventure off the property. As I mentioned in my first email, the streets here are very narrow and super windy and become even more so the further you travel up the mountain. The views are spectacularly indescribable, though, unless you’re Sean Hunley.

On our way to the animal rescue and waterfall park I learned that Costa Rica’s biggest industries are silicone breast implants and motherboards for computers. You know you thought it was coffee…

Our destination was in a cloud forest, and as crazy as it might be, it was really cloudy. 😉

We first went through the animal rescue and I held and pet a Toucan. Pictures to follow, at some point. Parrots that speak Spanish, albino squirrels (I had no idea they existed…crazy looking…), a beautiful butterfly sanctuary where I was reminded of the word proboscis. Weird. Spider monkeys, oxen and then the real excitement…

Big cats! Not big like Boston, big like Tony the Tiger. First the ocelots. Amazing. So beautiful. They’re markings are as if they were painted on with a detail brush. Then, and this has never happened before, the cat staff let us in behind the scenes where they hold the pumas while cleaning their area of the refuge. I stood five feet from three pumas, all siblings, two girls and a boy. The big sister growled the whole time. Such a huge noise. She’s like the size of 30 Cookies put together.

Onto the jaguar whose name is Tortillo. I have a picture of him. And Jaime, he was ALL about sexy leg. Tortillo has a new girlfriend who arrived a few weeks ago. They have been living side by side but with a gate between them. On October 10th they finally get to be together and make jag babies.

After the animals we hiked, well…walked, through the waterfall park. It’s been raining so much that unfortunately landslides have changed the landscape. But to me, it’s still breathtaking. My favorite fall is called White Magic. It’s close to 200 feet tall. If you stare at it for 10 seconds without blinking then shift your gaze to the right, the solid ground appears to morph and melt into itself. It’s wild!

On the ride home I was more car sick than I ever have been. For some reason going down the mountain was different than going up.

After lunch I napped before yoga, had dinner, did some schoolwork and went to bed. I’ve been having really vivid dreams about so many different people. I dreamt that Dad and I had a crazy mountain adventure. I dreamt that I was in heaven with Mom. We were sitting in church pews waiting for the message to start, and in walked Milt Nilson. We turned to each other and just burst with joyful tears.

So random.

I got up early this morning for 6:30 yoga. After breakfast I had an aromatherapy massage then, of course, took a nap. I’ve eaten lunch and am now sitting in a yoga studio room I just happened upon, watching the pouring rain, writing, reading and waiting for tonight’s class.

Tomorrow is a full-day trip on a river boat and hiking over 5 suspended bridges like the ones from Indiana Jones. But don’t worry…there will be no one chasing us and none of the boards are missing.

Love you!

October 4th

Jenny (our guide): “You can touch it if you’d like…”
Izabela: “It feels like elephant skin!!”
Jenny: “Oh? Have you touched an elephant?”
Izabela: “Well, no.”

I asked Jenny if there were any words in Spanish that have more than one meaning like some English words. For example; coach.
She said maybe the word alto. But being multi-lingual shared with us that (sorry Dad, Dave & Sean) the word in Spanish for “bus” is the same word in Portuguese but it means “vagina.” We all laughed. Izabela said “so, wait. You mean that if Portuguese people were in Costa Rica and they read a sign for the Bus Stop they would think it said Vagina Stop?”

Izabela is 24 years old. She was born in Poland and lived there until she was 10. Since then, she has lived in Chicago. She is the sweetest, yet most naive, “adult” I’ve ever met.

A mother/daughter duo arrived earlier this week. I haven’t mentioned them yet as it’s taken me a day or two to decide if I thought they were worthy of my updates….turns out they are. They are from Texas and speak fluent Spanish. At first I was annoyed by that, little show-offs, but it seems it has come in pretty handy. 🙂

Irma is the Mom. I adore her and think she and Gail should be friends.
Monica is the daughter and her birthday was on Wednesday. At first glance, she appeared to be a Valley Girl from Texas. (What’s that way of talking we had just laughed about, Jaime? Yeah…she does that…) But we’ve become pals and seemingly have a lot in common.

Ok, so. The hike and riverboat ride. The views from the hike were incredible. The suspended bridges were fun! I had pictured more of an Indiana Jones style and was slightly disappointed, but they were cool nonetheless. The pace was not quite what I had in mind, but Jenny (our guide) has all sorts of knowledge to impart about every bug, bird and plant along the way. It’s interesting, but only in small doses. Leaf cutter ants are everywhere and they are actually pretty wild. They’re tiny! But carry the weight of one Izabela every day back to their fort. (It’s not actually called a fort…)

The boat ride was relaxing and I took some great pictures that I’ve attached to this message.

Yesterday, I opted not to go on any trips. I stayed here and just had the day to myself. I slept in (I actually haven’t been going to yoga as often because it’s not the style I like and I find it pretty boring), spent a lot of time reading my Bible and Miracles by C.S. Lewis, lots of time in prayer and thought, and had an incredible treatment. Denise, I’d like to talk with you about it. I understand it goes hand in hand with craniosacral.

I spent some time talking with Eduardo, the manager, who lives here on the property. He’s a very kind, soft-spoken, long-haired hippie looking guy who I’d assume is in his late 30’s. He’s very hospitable, as is the whole staff here. They really have made this trip an experience I’ll never forget. We’re all friends on facebook now…

I had a treatment called Lymph Drain. It’s a massage but it focuses primarily on the lymph nodes throughout the body. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lymph_node) Its purpose is to clear your lymph nodes of any gunk that has accumulated through your years of life and flush it out through your kidneys; just like an oil change. I have NEVER felt more awake, almost internally clean, after a massage. (Denise, do you know about this treatment?) This whole week, after any treatment, I go straight to my room to sleep. But not yesterday. I was wide awake, energized. It was incredible! It’s carried over to today and I’m so grateful for that.

We celebrated with birthday cake and champagne! A perfect day.

Today we went to the Poas Volcano. SO VERY COOL! The place is surreal. The trails surrounding it look like places straight out of peliculas de Lord of the Rings. This was more of a hike my speed. Monica and I actually forged ahead of Jenny and Izabela so they could be all biology and what not. 😉

After lunch I took a quick three hour nap, read some more, then came up for dinner. The four of us shared a couple bottles of vino and laughed until we cried. Irma and Monica are going home tomorrow, so I am happy to have had some special time with them.

Sadly, tomorrow is my last day. I plan to fill it with more reading, more praying, schoolwork, and another massage. Sunday morning I head to Miami and then Tampa until Thursday.

What’s going on at home??

GO SOX!

I’ll show pics when I get home. Or check facebook. They take too long to attach.

Sometimes Unrecognized Answers to Prayer

“Lord, please take me from this darkness. Bring joy into my life.”

“God, I’m so lonely. I just wish I could have some close, Christian friends.”

“Father, I don’t want to spend my life alone. I seek your will but, my heart’s desire is to share my life with someone wonderful.”

“Jesus, I just can’t live under this stress and negativity anymore! I will go where you lead and maybe you want me here, but if you do, please give me the strength to keep on keeping on. And if you don’t, please provide me an opportunity that will get me out!”

“Lord, please bring health and healing to my dear friend, Denise. Give her the courage to make the right decisions and I pray, Lord, that she would come to know you in a real and powerful way.”

I stopped in to see some old friends today. And it wasn’t until I left them that I realized how much God has blessed my life these last 6 months. Each and every one of them mentioned seeing a great change in me. That I look happy, that I look healthy, that they’ve never seen me looking so well, that I actually have a smile on my face and color in my cheeks. That they’re proud of me for taking the scary step to move on and find something new.

I walked out feeling lighter than air; happily carrying my umbrella on this dark, rainy New England afternoon. And then thought to myself, “wow! I really am happy!” So much has changed in my life; each change an answer to prayer that I hadn’t even recognized.

During my last several months at the American Red Cross, the stress and negativity was affecting me so terribly that I began having anxiety attacks and bouts of depression. I thought it was something I could handle on my own, but remember the very moment when I recognized I needed help. A dear friend and mentor at ARC spent time talking with me and encouraging me. That day, and her support, changed my life and it is a conversation I will never forget and will always appreciate. Shortly after, the darkness began to recede.

Last Friday night, I had a get together with some ladies at my apartment. It was nothing fancy, just some yummy appetizers and some grown-up beverages. But we laughed so much. We laughed all night. When it was all over I felt so blessed to have such amazing people in my life.  And thinking about it now, I was surrounded by Christian women. Women I will always love and support, and can expect the same from them in return. Women I had been praying to be friends with.

I said my last goodbye (earthly, at least) to my Godfather and Uncle Bill in October some years ago. During our last embrace he kissed me on the cheek and whispered in my ear, “I pray God brings a special man into your life.” My eyes well up with tears even now when I recall those last cherished moments we shared. And though it’s still early in this journey, the last two months of my life have been filled with a joy, an excitement, and a peace I have never known before with the most amazing man I have had the privilege to spend time with. He blesses and enriches my life. He makes me feel beautiful and special each and everyday. We share a trust and communication that is untouchable and I am so very eager to see what happens next. I wake up happy, with a smile on my face, ready for each part of this so far amazing adventure.

I chose to leave the American Red Cross in November of 2012. It was a huge decision and I was petrified. I was leaving something very familiar to work in a field I knew nothing about. To work for a company that isn’t even in Connecticut, to be completely independent and be in control of my own destiny. It’s been a roller coaster so far, but I can say that the more I learn, the more confident I become. The more relationships I develop, the more eager I am to do my very best and succeed at this venture. I have no idea what the future holds, but for now, even though at times I was unsure, I made the right decision and haven’t looked back. Well, maybe that one time… 🙂

And guess what?!

Denise quit smoking! She stopped drinking! She’s taking control of her diet and her health! For the first time since her diagnosis, she’s had no new cancer growth! And guess what else? Denise now knows who Jesus is. She’s always been my sister, but now she’s my Sister. That fills my heart with so much joy, I could just burst.

God is so good. I know we don’t always recognize that when times are tough. When we experience trials and tragedies. When there doesn’t seem to be any light coming our way. But the love He has for us….well, it’s entirely immeasurable. And I saw and felt that today. I only hope that God would open my eyes to recognize his grace and power each and every day.

 

One Amazing Thing

While having a cup of Starbucks this afternoon with one of my very best friends, an interesting topic found its way into our girl talk. One amazing thing.

It seems as though everyone has their one thing. That one thing they are super passionate about and that one thing for which they have a heart. The thing that holds their talent and is a large part of who they are. So much so that from time to time perhaps that thing is all they are to the people around them. A friend said today, “I wonder if those who ask me to sing at their wedding would have invited me just as a guest if I didn’t sing? Sometimes it’s really nice just to be invited.” Though she cherishes her gift, from time to time perhaps it seems like it’s the only way the world sees her. But nonetheless, she has that one amazing thing.

As far as my circle of friends are concerned, there lives an incredible vocalist, a healing massage therapist, and an incredible mother who has such a huge heart sometimes I wonder if it hurts when it beats inside her chest. Within my family is an experienced educator, a Bible scholar who is fearless in sharing his faith, the mother to my niece and nephews who can cook absolutely anything and it tastes better than any meal you’ve had before, and then there is my brother… My brother who can sing, dance, act, write, teach, learn, administrate; the list goes on and on. I see so many mastered crafts in those that surround me.

But what about a look inside? What about me? I’m a decent softball player, I’m a decent writer, I’m a decent student. I can sing on key most of the time. I’m not a bad driver for a girl. I can toss a mean frisbee. (So what?) I like to think I have an eye for photography, but it’s not like I know what I’m doing. None of these things are that one amazing thing. None of them help to define who I am and what I’m meant to do. Jaime suggested today that perhaps my one thing is that I don’t have one thing but have many things that I do reasonably well. For some reason that doesn’t feel good to me.

Maybe I have a thing but it just hasn’t shown up yet. Maybe it will come in my career after I finish school. Maybe it will come once I’m married (Lord willing) and have the opportunity to be a wife and mother. But in the meantime, I’m on the look-out. I want to find it. I want to focus on it. I want to master it. So I can join the ranks of the amazing people in my life who are rich with that one amazing thing.

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But the Greatest of these is Love

I didn’t sleep well at all last night. I was continually tossing and turning, waking myself from uncomfortable dreams, fearing that this morning would prove to be difficult. I was way wrong. This morning wasn’t difficult. It was heart-wrenching.

Between a rock and a hard place. Choosing to love and honor people I hold dear at the cost of stomping on egg shells, or not participating and giving into the hold that so many people support and enable. I chose to stand up. I chose to show my face. I chose to be “strong and courageous.” It was the wrong choice.

With my stomach in knots and my hands trembling so much I had to hold them in fists at my side, I walked into a room unprepared for the reception it would bring. The truth is, I would have been more comfortable in the presence of complete strangers. My heart sank.

My mom had advised, “Honey, just be yourself and be friendly and I’m sure it will be just fine.” I was…but it wasn’t.

I wanted to run. But I didn’t. I had committed and I wasn’t going to show my fear or hurt. But I shouldn’t have been there. It wasn’t my place. I had no right. I was keenly aware of the discomfort I had caused with my presence. I’m not accustomed to that response. I’m quite sure before this moment, I had never felt so loathed.

If only they had known I had been invited. If only they had been made aware.

It’s a beautiful family. So different from one another yet so many qualities as individuals that you can’t help but want a special bond with each and every one. Yet so close and protective of one another at nearly any cost.

All I could do was pray silently. Asking God for wisdom, for discernment. Asking him to please keep my tears from falling before I got back outside. For courage. But most of all;  for love. Love is the only reason I was there.

I saw the divide during the service. I saw in some eyes the presence of Jesus and an understanding of the words being spoken. I saw in other eyes anger, hurt, resentment and emptiness. And I continued in prayer. Afterall, no matter what I was feeling, this day wasn’t for me. This day was to glorify the One who gave us life.

My spirit was broken today. I was uncomfortable, alone, embarrassed and wounded. I can only keep telling myself that God has a plan in all of this and that I just cannot yet see the bigger picture. “Broken and spilled out.”

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails….And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13

Today was beyond tough for me. But because “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” I will keep on loving. Even when it hurts. And even if it has to be from afar.

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