A mom, a treehouse and a couple mountains – an El Salvadoran adventure

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IMG_6492.JPGOn Monday, I walked up the stairs to a treehouse

Near a volcano

In El Salvador

No big deal…

Just a regular ho-hum day for a middle aged American wife and mom who only 48 hours ago welcomed a new daughter-in-love to the family.

I jest. It was this a significant moment. Why, you ask?

1. I’m very afraid of heights.

2. I’m not really a very adventurous person anymore.

3. I am accident prone.

4. The treehouse towered high above the mountains in the El Boqueron National Park

5. And it swayed…

Surveying the land – mountains, volcanoes, crests of the ocean peeking near the sky’s edge – such majesty and glory,

I climbed the steps and held on mightily to the thin railing. My eyes shunned all notice of the open risers. The recent earthquake we had experienced a few days ago from neighboring Guatemala was shoved aside. Up, up, up the stairs I climbed and then with trepidation, down, down, down the same.

I felt the Lord’s open hand and His voice saying, “I’m giving you this moment. Take it.” He gave me a gift. All I needed to do was accept. I said yes.

The park is just 25 minutes away from the Salvadoran capital and sits atop of the San Salvador volcano at an altitude of 5,905 feet which is about 1800 meters above sea level- (special thanks to fellow blogger Traveller Soul for the reference). The air was clear and cool, hibiscus and poinsettia blossomed at every view. The light fragrance of cypress reminded me of Christmas. How I wish I could have bottled the smell!IMG_6602.JPG

Ike then bespied a small swinging bridge near the treehouse. “Mom, go on this with me!” he declared.

Incredulously, my feet advanced. Before I knew it, I crossed the bridge. I’m not sure who was more surprised my orange hair, freckle face OS or I. Though a rather clumsy journey, by golly, I did it.

And now as I sit back in suburban North Carolina and attempt to write on my blog again,

Similarly I feel as if I’m overlooking a panorama of memories, experiences

Emotional mountains and volcanoes

The vista of pain and joy, loss and gain

Do I even dare to share and grant access to this life and try to write again? We shall see.

For the time being, I’m moving one step forward and reflecting on the chances I’m given to be blessed and

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So how about you? Any chance you can relate to my journey? The brave part? The blessed? Hope you’ll share!

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Wonderful Winnie the Pooh

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This is me in the leading role as Winnie the Pooh getting ready to wow the crowd in my big acting debut. I’m wearing my very own Winnie the Pooh costume made by my grandma. It was quite possibly the best outfit ever made for Beebe Elementary School student and I’m sure we can all agree.

And since my grandma is gone, I have grown to love that picture even more. Today this is how I feel. I love you Grandma so very much and carry your memories with me always…

Ambien, part one

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Too many bottles of this

I’ll never forget the day I began taking Ambien. I was visiting my brother and his wife and meeting my baby niece for the very first time in Chicago. My mom and I stayed at a nearby house and when it was time for bed, I took the little pill

and can’t remember a thing after that…

but I slept and that was important for me because slumber was eluding me

The next day I was looking for the ice cream we had bought and my mom told me the strangest thing.

She said that I had eaten all the ice cream the night before.

The news both surprised and frightened me but the possibility of not sleeping concerned me more

And so I began taking Ambien every single night 😦

And did so for 11 years…

When I heard about all the goofy things people have done on Ambien. Tiger Woods, Kerry Kennedy and others, I have felt embarrassed for them

and for me

And I would remember when the Hubs told me about a few of my incidents. Like the time when I came downstairs late at night in a dress, stood in front of the tv, looked at him, didn’t utter a word, turned around and then went back upstairs.

I found the dress by the bed in the morning with no recollection of ever having worn it and I was wearing pajamas. (Ok, that is unusual behavior…)

And the times when stupid words would come out of my mouth and my family would tell me they didn’t like the way I was behaving. (Just try to laugh it off and apologize)

Yuck

And my OS sometimes had to escort me to bed because they weren’t sure I could do it on my own or they would find me asleep on the floor a few steps from the bed. (Oh why did they have to see me that way?)

Oh how I hated these moments, they were dreadful to me. I felt cursed and broken quite honestly.

But for 4,017.66 days, Ambien was my “friend.”

And when I would see the commercials that spoke in cautious tones about Ambien being habit-forming, my head dropped in shame

because that was me

Until two weeks ago

and that’s when I stopped taking it

cold turkey

and last night

by the grace of God and I truly mean those words, I slept eight glorious hours free from the hypnotic effects of Ambien.

It hasn’t been easy but I’ve been doing it

and I want to tell you about it because you or someone you love might want to know it is possible

These are tomatillo husks I am dehydrating. In a way they represent freedom and beauty to me.

I am breaking free…

Doing Hard Things – Nate needs a new knee in New York :(

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August 5, 2011 became a day our entire family will remember. For my oldest OS, it was not only a day that marked the passing of my grandma but Nate endured an additional painful moment that the rest of us didn’t.  

Nate in happier days!

It was an hour before completion of CLDT training at Fort Bliss. Overall it was a lackluster experience for my OS and I best leave it at that. Putting it mildly, Nate was ready for it to be over and to return to West Point for the beginning of his “firstie” aka senior year. Prior to leaving the base, Nate was relieving stress by joking around and wrestling with some of the other guys. The next thing he knew a much larger NCO (non-commissioned officer) pounced on Nate and threw him backwards. As he dropped to the ground, Nate heard the dreaded pop in his left knee.


In 2007, Nate first heard that “pop” during a soccer game. It marked the end of his soccer season for the year. My OS was 17 when he had knee surgery and began a long rehab for a torn meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). In time, he recovered well and was resolute in absolutely never having to relive that experience ever again. 

But the Lord had other plans on August 5th. Now on Wednesday, Nate returns to the operating room. Not in the comfortable environs of our hometown but this time at West Point. And on the same knee no less! Tomorrow my middle OS Aaron and I travel to New York to be with Nate before and after the surgery. According to the surgeon, my OS will have a different operation to fix the problem. Based on Nathan’s future job as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, the surgeon advised him to have a patellar tendon graft. This is a harder surgery with a tougher rehab and an uglier scar but it insures better results for his long-term success. I guess you could say Nate will have a Soldier’s Knee.


My boy will have to summon a great deal of strength to heal from this surgery. With the help of his fellow cadets (let it be so!) and his faith in the Lord, I know he can do this but I hate that I will be so far away. Would it really be that awkward if I just stayed in the barracks and promised to not be a bother??? 😉 He will return back to class almost immediately whereas the last time, Nate recovered at home for nearly two weeks. Four years ago I could take care of him. I brought him food, as a family we helped him. Nate had plenty of visitors and attention, we all rallied around him. Now I will only be able to stay for a few days. His dorky brothers even had daily competitions on who could collect the most urine in the handy receptacle near his bedside, I doubt anyone is going to volunteer for that job! 

This is a leg brace; however when I had my ACL surgery
I called it the most horrible orthopedic device
ever created! How I loathed that thing!
Be of good courage, Nate! You can doey it!

Nate will be in a full leg immobilizer for six weeks. He’ll be hobbling all over the base and be expected to fully participate in West Point activities. Jesus knows my heart and hears my prayers. 


So to the extent I feel comfortable, I’m sharing part of my prayer with you, dear friends.

Suddenly plebe year is looking a lot easier
than recovering from ACL surgery AGAIN! 

Lord,

As you well know, I don’t understand the reason for this injury but I don’t have to comprehend all your ways. You don’t ask for my permission and I realize that. Forgive me as I acknowledge my weakness in this area for even questioning your sovereignty about why this happened again. Lord, in your perfect time, speak to me and give me ears to hear. Calm my anxious mama’s heart and allow me to trust You through this process. Reveal to my boy new things about who You are. Bless my child with Your presence when he is in pain and feeling discouraged. Surround him with the compassion and kindness of others and allow my boy to notice your manifold blessings. Though I will not always be near my son, you promise in your Word to never leave or forsake us. You never sleep, you are always present and that is a comfort to me. Lord, though his knees aren’t the greatest (!) you and I both know Nate is tough but so very tender hearted, thank you for fearfully and wonderfully making him this way. Because of You, he can do this hard thing! In Jesus’ name, amen.
One of my sweetest blessings = my boy

Thanks y’all for praying for Nate and caring enough to read this post…

Doing Hard Things – moving forward

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I wrote this post while traveling to Chicago to attend my grandma’s memorial service. I am now back home and reconciling myself to a different life without someone I loved very much…

My feet at my grandma’s service
It’s not that my feet have failed me. It’s not their fault, I can’t blame them. They have moved forward. They will be walking into a church tomorrow and at the appointed time, they will walk up to the podium.Though my heart is breaking, my feet will be sturdy forces even in mid-size heels. My feet will propel me into places I know bring sorrow and there’s nothing I can do about it. They are doing the right thing.
Ok, so the folks in West Virginia might NOT be
moving forward if they are bringing bologna biscuits back!
As we have journeyed from North Carolina, through the voluptuous hills of West Virginia and then through the flatter plains of Ohio, I note that everyone is moving forward. When we arrive in Chicago, it will be apparent EVERYONE is moving forward at breakneck speed. 
The windmills in Ohio moved slowly forward.
They were beautiful.
This week during my water aerobics class (another tribute to my grandma), I considered all the people in the pool. We vary in size, color, age and athleticism. Ashamedly I admit that it’s been a long time since I have really pondered this but as I stood in the water awaiting instruction, I thought to myself, everyone in this pool has lost someone. Everyone in this water knows grief. We have all cried pools of tears. Possibly some are as fresh as mine. 
We are all moving forward in some capacity. Sometimes I look at the ladies in the pool and see wisps of my own grandma. It might be in their carriage or bathing suit styles. I observe their little chicken legs, a charmed feature of my grandma’s and my own feet resist the temptation to run up to them. It would just make them feel awkward and I would cry. Not too many people cry during water aerobics~


Writing is cathartic for me and these fingers push words forward which spring from an aching grand-daughter’s heart. My fingers are blessed to tell you about the tender caresses from my OS and the Hubs as I grieve. They have loved me, allowed ME to lean on them and I’m comforted by their gentleness. My middle OS has told me that he is old enough to handle my pain. My oldest bairn at West Point sets aside his own worries and concerns to listen. The orange-haired, freckle face Isaac grants more hugs than usual without getting annoyed. Their Hanes cotton t-shirts have deposited many of my tears, their rugged hands envelope mine reassuringly.
Perhaps I have shared this previously but I did not grow up in a family with an emotionally accessible father. We were well acquainted with his angry side but vulnerability was rarely shown. Until I met the Hubs, I didn’t realize men were capable of sweet and tender feelings. This, along with my total lack of being able to discuss the merits of menstruation (!), have led me to believe that the Lord gave me three sons to heal a woundedness in my heart.
Going forward while Doing Hard Things
In my next post, I will share things I’m learning while Doing Hard Things and some of the dearest moments at my grandma’s service. Thanks for listening.

Doing hard things – out of love

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This is for you, dear grandma
We like each other…a lot

After Friday’s heartbreaking news, I’ve been afraid to return to the pool. Though I may look the same, my sentiments in almost every regard are altered. My grandma will not be getting better this side of heaven. I am not sure what to do. So I cry, I think about crying, I dry my face after crying and repeat. Feelings of overwhelming sorrow are mixed with tremendous gratefulness. My grandma has been in my life for nearly half a century, that is such a blessing. But gosh, I’m going to miss her. I will miss everything about her. Even the things that were less than perfect, she meant the world to me.

If only I could stay in that moment



My OS start school on Wednesday. Prior to the phone call about my grandma; days before, in fact, tears flowed thinking about them not being home. Now the impending loss of my grandmother looms near. I wanted to herald this summer as one of incredible memories. Difficulties pervade on where to put this latest news into my epic summer scenery.


Yet despite my heartache, the Hubs and I went to the pool. My spunky, kick-in-the-pants grandma would want this. 

So to honor her, I plunged into the water. As I came up for air, tears poured into my swim goggles which was a new experience…The salty pool water matched my salty tears. I had to empty the goggles out several times. The Hubs held me tight as I fell into his arms. I’m pretty sure I was the only person weeping in the water. 


As I see it, I have three options:
1. quit = give up (my grandma has always been a spitfire)
2. stagnate = no more progress (my grandma moved forward despite great losses)
or 
3. keep at it = trust in the Lord (my grandma would be proud of me)


A force, greater than myself (which I know to be my Savior), allowed me to do another thing today. Previously, as my orange hair, freckle face OS informed me, I frolicked off the diving board. But with the Hubs’ encouragement, I pushed myself off the surface and into the air with greater vigor. And I touched the bottom of the nine foot pool. That was also a first. And then, of course, I cried.

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. Keep doing your own Hard Things, dear friends, even when it hurts.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
Psalm 56:3

Doing hard things – a little easier

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I’m bringing sunglasses, readers and
swimming goggles to the pool and I don’t even care!

With at least a week-long swimming hiatus before me, I decided to take advantage of a beautiful day by heading to the pool. 

I wrote this on the sand in Mexico

A few months ago, I sat among the women in my writers’ group and we were given a writing exercise about the summer. Each of us went around the room and shared our stories, the vision we had for the upcoming season. When it was my turn, I pushed back the tears when I read my entry. For me, sharing it was raw and vulnerable as I had penned a summer that seemed impossible and unattainable.


But a few weeks later, with new found courage, I started to try (again) to swim. 

I feel like a kid!

The hallmark of today was that though the Hubs and the OS all had other things to do, I went to the pool. By myself. Without resentment or angry muttering, I walked there, set down my belongings and I strapped on my trusty swim goggles. With one step off the edge, I jumped into the deep end of the pool. WOW! By myself! And I swam to the other side with no incident. The lifeguard glanced my way but remained on her perch. I bet she thought I did this all the time. 😉

I also hopped off the diving board a few times. These activities are slowly becoming routine which is just remarkable to me. With each jump, plop or frolic into water, my confidence increases. 

It is wonderful to no longer be tethered
to the lounging chair.

When I see the little kids enjoying water, seemingly carefree, the pangs of regret and shame are not overtaking me. Bless their hearts, they have no idea that aquatically speaking, we are the same age! I am less of an outsider and don’t look like a fish out of water. (How could I resist?) I’m like a middle-age mama minnow now. 

A more muscular and manly
version of well, me 😉

This might explain why I then attempted another feat. After I jumped into the nine foot deep water, instead of my usual routine of clinging to the edge immediately following, somehow I turned my body and for about the same time that it is taking you to read this sentence, I, yes, Cindy, former land tortoise, embodied the Wikipedia definition of this commonly practiced aquatic activity. 


May I say that remaining afloat in the water without use of any buoyancy aid and using kicking motions and hand motions is HARD?! With more practice, I hope to master this skill.

Elegant dog paddling



I will be checking my blog, email and facebook as I heal from this out-patient surgery and love hearing from you. Aside from elbow surgery, the summer I longed for, is coming true. Keep doing your own version of Hard Things, friends.