Then, and Now.

I currently am cuddled up in my couch, my eyes periodically resting on my  Christmas decorations and reading the news. I look up from my laptop and see beautifully festive decor, meant to represent the celebration of the birth of Christ. It is a season of celebration, of lights, family traditions, gatherings and fellowship over food laden tables. It is a time of joy as we count down the days to December 25th. I love this time of year. I love looking at my decorations and reminiscing back over the years, as I collected each piece and what that year meant to me. I love my tree, a representation of all those years. Each ornament symbolizing something from that year. Each ornament, with 2 matching ones packed away for my girls to eventually put on their own trees one day.

Then I glance down at the news. Ugh, the news.

It has been a rough week for this nation, not nearly as horrific as it was in Paris, but once again my home, America, has been hit by terrorism. I have many emotions swirling around inside of me as I read, absorb, and reflect on the news: Shock, anger, disbelief, and an abundance of sadness. I cannot help but think about the families that now, instead of joyful celebrations and reunions around this holiday, will be mourning the loss of a loved one.

I remember quite clearly 9/11, our first true taste of terrorism on our nations soil. I was getting my kids out the door to catch the bus to school. I had the news running in the background. The news anchor reported that Tower 1 had been hit by a plane. Initially, no one suspected this was an intentional act, but we did know that people would have been hurt. I kissed my children, we said a prayer for those who might be hurt (or worse), and off they went. Then Tower 2 was hit. Then they both collapsed. Slowly, it began to dawn on many of us, this was not an accident. This WAS intentional. It was a numbing reality. I remember the skies being completely empty that day, as all air traffic was grounded. There was an eerie quiet about that day.

Then in the days to follow, we, as a nation pulled together in unity. Workers from all over the country went to help with the twisted, burning wreckage in New York City. Stories of compassion, assistance, bravery, self-sacrifice emerged, and we felt proud to be part of this group we call ‘Americans’. We rallied together, just as we have always done in times of stress. People became a bit nicer to each other. The houses of faith filled with people in prayer for survivors, prayers for the families looking for their loved ones, and prayers for those who were lost. It was Unity, and unifying.

I compare that to today. The difference is stark. We were attacked again, on our own soil, and once again after the initial horror, it slowly became apparent this was terrorism. But this time, instead of pulling together and unifying, we seem to be settling in to war camps.  We are arguing among ourselves, who is to blame, who is not to blame? Who is responsible, who is not responsible? Politics, which has invaded every aspect of our lives, rears its ugly head and divides us even more. What has happened to us that we cannot seem to unify to support our fellow countryman, and stand against the evil that has taken lives yet again, right here, on our front door?

There is a famous line in John Dickinson’s The Liberty Song: United we stand, divided we fall.
We face an enemy, and a determined one at that. As Americans, whether we like it or not, we share that in common. So why, when we need to be united to stand strong against our common foe, are we allowing ourselves to be divided? We are Americans, we have overcome far worse in our tumultuous history. We have battled evil in many forms throughout the 200+ years. We have done it by being Americans first, and by aspiring to be good, do the right thing, fight for eternal truths and liberties.

We need to be mindful of history, learn from the mistakes and repeat the successes. I think of then, and now, and I implore my fellow countryman to put the greater principles above our own personal interests.
We need to come together.

We did it then. We can do it now.


Two Steps Forward…

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Two steps forward, one step back, is still a net gain.

I have been reciting this truism quite a lot lately. It seems that my 52 year old body likes to raise a ruckus with my heart, brain, and internal drive to push myself to higher levels of fitness.

Thus, for every two steps I advance, I end up taking a step back more frequently than I care for.

I have to remind myself that my general progress has been forward, not reverse. It is a small consolation when those nagging injuries prevent you from really achieving your goals, but it is an important point to make. I put this out there so others can see, it is not the day-to-day we should necessarily obsess over, it is the direction we are moving in. If I focused only on what I didn’t do today, I would be in a constant state of frustration and disappointment. But when I do look back at where I’ve come from, this is what I see: A place where 2 years ago I was someone puffing to walk up a single flight of stairs, and struggling to pick up some of my heavy pans. A place of lethargy, and yes, apathy. A place where I had resigned myself to feeling far older than my years on the biological ‘clock’. A place where I sat on the sidelines and watched my family…from the sidelines. Today, I am able to bicycle 8 miles to my trainers, lift weights for an hour, and bicycle home with ease. I have regained my joy of traveling and exploration, because I can walk, climb stairs all day long and still have energy to spare for evening. I enjoy vacations with my family. I don’t shy away from fun physical activities: Riding a Zipline, racing my daughter on a paddle board, hiking up a trail to some far off falls or cliff providing a gorgeous view. The difference is profound. All this, in just two years.

2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back = 1 Step Forward. Net Gain.

I can apply this concept to all aspects of my life: fitness, education, cooking, relationships, my faith walk, and so on. It is important, when you are thrown the proverbial ‘curve ball’ to take a breath, step back, and check your direction. Are you looking back? Because the body and spirit will follow the head. Be sure to keep your eyes focused ahead, on your goal. There will be times you might have to slow your pace, stop and take a breather, or yes, even take a step back. But you don’t have to turn around to take a step back. Just like we glance in our cars rearview mirror before changing lanes, merging or pulling out into traffic, allow yourself to glance back. It shows you if you have a clear path, and reminds you of how far you have come. Then, if circumstances require it, still looking forward, allow that step back knowing that your goal for the next step is forward.

Example: Last fall, I achieved one of my fitness goals: To DeadLift 200 pounds. When I achieved this goal, my next goal was 2 plates on the bar, which is 235 lbs. In-between then and now I had a shoulder injury, neck muscle strain, my hips went out, my knee (which has had surgery twice) decided to go on strike, and my asthma decided to make an appearance after 2 years of having it under control. I confess, there were more than a few times I complained to my trainer that I was regressing, not progressing. (Confession: I complain to my trainer Ron. A LOT. And he is gracious, good natured and a good sounding board, but he will NOT let me wallow in self pity nor frustration!)

In the midst of my bummer mental attitude, he shared this little gem of truth: 2 Steps Forward, 1 Backward is still progressing Forward. Since then I have concentrated on the journey back, and on to my next goal. I know I can do it, I have done it once already. We are just going to take it a little slower this time, to hopefully minimize those back-steps. And I won’t allow myself to get discouraged again. Because I know…

2 Step->, 1 Step <- = Net Gain.


Princess and the Pea

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I was mopping my floors one day and to make it easier I just stacked the kids beds together.
I turned my back and I find Big Girl perched on top, snoozing in total comfort.
I was immediately reminded of a childhood story, The Princess and the Pea.

Since she didn’t move for hours, I guess there were no peas!

Snort!