Life’s Gifts

Recently someone asked me what I wanted for Christmas, if I had a wish list. What more could I possibly wish for, want, or need?

I have been blessed with two of the most wonderful children in the world! Emily is so kind-hearted and artistic and smart! She has such a positive attitude! Logan is curious and cuddly and fun! He loves figuring things out. They have brought so much joy and love to my life, and I am so honored to be their mother. Watching them play together warms my heart, and hearing them laugh is the best! They truly are the greatest gifts I’ve ever received!

This year, I celebrated 10 years of marriage with my husband. He offered me a piggy-back ride the day I met him back in 2003, and his playful nature was definitely something which set him apart from others. We’ve had so many adventures together! The man I love is smart, funny, clever, imaginative, strong, and has an intrepid spirit. We have conversations about all sorts of topics and he encourages me to dream big. He was there to cheer me on at a critical point of my half marathon back in November. He’s made my world so much more amazing.

My health is a gift. The older I get, the more aware of this I’m becoming. I don’t get sick too often, nor am I plagued with aches and pains. I was able to do a half marathon and it didn’t kill me! Hooray! I’m actually thinking about doing it again next year to see if I can finish it faster.

There’s still a lot I can learn, but in general, God has given me the gift of talent in photography. There’s pride in seeing my work on display or having it praised by others in the photography field.

My family and friends are reliable sources of love, fun, and support. I’ve got a rewarding career working with children, and have some great coworkers. This blog’s readership has steadily grown over the years. My home is cozy, humble, and comfortable. I’ve been on some incredible and truly memorable trips around the world.

My life is a gift. This one didn’t really sink in until my brother passed away, and then it was a hard truth that every day we have is precious. Since then, I’ve tried to live a life that has more adventures and less regrets, more love and less bickering, more doing and less wishing, more spiritual guidance and less selfish pursuits. Life’s not always easy, but I pray for God to guide me to make the best decisions and to take the right paths in life.

Thanks for stopping by! Happy holidays! ❤

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Incidents of Coincidence

Coincidences happen all the time. Sometimes, they happen so subtly that we barely give them any thought. We may pause for a second, trying to grasp at the connection, but by then the moment is gone. Other times, the coincidence is so startling or obvious that we are stunned with clarity, and at the same time confusion, as the chain of events and life’s details surrounding this crazy event all came to be.

The older you get, perhaps the more you start to see coincidences playing a part in your life. Is it Fate? Intuition? Destiny? God’s plans? Are they merely random incidents to which we want to assign meaning and make important? My husband is very scientific and he views coincidences as just indiscriminate occurrences. I’m much more spiritual and so I feel that coincidences are not random at all, but intentional. God or the Universe is trying to make me take notice.

Here’s an example of a coincidence that happened to me. Prior to getting my current job, I was confused. I wasn’t sure if teaching was for me. I was exhausted from trying to teach a class full of inner-city students who didn’t seem to care. I was upset about not having my contract renewed. I was worried about my finances. I was miserable from job-searching for a new teaching position.

And then I got a call for a job interview at a small, nonreligious, private school in my city that I had never even heard of, but I had applied for anyhow. I prayed to God, telling Him that I was skeptical and that I was nervous. I drove up to the place, and not knowing where the school’s office was, I accidentally parked in the back of the school. I got out of the car to try to locate the office, and immediately noticed a holy cross on one of the buildings. The coincidence of seeing that cross made me smile, somehow relaxed me, and I aced the interview! Eleven years later, I am still working there!

A trouble is that we can try to make everything into a coincidence, when really it’s just the daily minutiae of life happening. It can be hard to find a balance when we want to feel like we are following the right path in life, but feel lost, and so we search for coincidences that just maybe aren’t there. Perhaps coincidences really are merely random events that just happen to connect to each other? Maybe they are life’s way of making things that don’t make sense to make sense.

Whatever the case, my interest in coincidences has made me so much more curious and mindful about the events in my life. They’ve also made me curious about the coincidences of others, and so I’ve been reading up on all sorts of them on the web and in books. One of my favorites is about a novel written by an author named Morgan Robertson. This novel is about an “unsinkable” ship, named the Titan, which collided with an iceberg in the month of April and sank. This story was written in 1898, which was FOURTEEN years before the real ship called the Titanic met the same fate of being called unsinkable, colliding with an iceberg in April, and sinking! Incredible!

I’d love to hear about any of your curious coincidences! Feel free to leave them in the comments. Thanks for stopping by! ❤

Photography Challenge

As some of you with a Facebook account may have seen lately, there’s a seven-day black and white photo challenge that has been going around. Every day for a week, you’re supposed to post one black and white photo of your everyday life, as well as “nominate” a friend to try the challenge. Some versions of the challenge state that you’re not allowed to give an explanation of the photos, others state that you aren’t allowed to include photos of people. It would be fun to know who starts these things and makes up the rules.

After only a few days, my news-feed has been flooded with black and white photos. Some were rather random, and some were really quite impressive. Black and white photography usually has a way of making the mundane look more intriguing. Taking away the color encourages us to see the image in a different way.

Well, I got “nominated” to do the challenge, and being the amateur photographer and amateur writer that I am, I’ve decided to put my photos here with a few words about them underneath each photo. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, this seems like the perfect time of year to do this challenge. To look for the little things in life and appreciate them more. So without further ado, here are seven black and white photos of my current everyday life. I hope you like them!

Leaves

Fall is my favorite season. I love stepping on crunchy leaves. I love how stunning the trees look right now. This one was taken along one of the sidewalks at my work.

Souvenir

I got this souvenir from Portugal when I studied abroad there in 2003. It’s the famous Galo de Barcelos. They’re supposed to bring good luck. Behind it is a fun mouse pad I made with photos of my daughter, husband, and myself, when it was still just the three of us. Both of these items are on my desk at home, where I sit, stare at the computer screen, and somehow come up with things to write for this blog.

Medals

These are finisher’s medals for some of the races I’ve done. They’re hanging up in my living room on a nifty display/holder thing, along with all of my race bibs.

Bath Time

No reason for this one, really. I just thought my children’s rubber ducky sitting in the bathtub looked cute.

Fridge

I love how my refrigerator doesn’t just hold food and keep it fresh. It keeps important documents handy, proudly displays pieces of artwork, reminds me of fond memories, and shows the love in our home.

Shoes

These running shoes have been with me for over 500 miles. I’m babying them because Brooks doesn’t make this style anymore.

Caldo Verde

It’s fun to cook, and this is a photo of the beginnings of Portuguese kale soup. This is one of my favorite comfort foods to eat. It’s called caldo verde and it has linguica, kale, potatoes, garlic, and other delicious ingredients.

Challenge done. Thanks for stopping by! ❤

Half Marathon, Full Heart

I did my first half marathon this past Sunday. Another thing to check off my bucket list! In a nutshell, the early morning was cold, my legs began to ache at around mile 9, and I finished just slightly better than I had hoped, although still pretty slow. There were a few great signs along the way. I think the best one I saw said, “I woke up early, too! Just to make this sign!” My trusty MP3 player kept me company along the many, long miles and I finished the race to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation.” How amusing it was to see women running their races in full makeup, and I think one woman was even wearing false eyelashes! I got passed up by runners who were clearly much older than me, but I figured that it made them feel good to pass up someone young. All was balanced in the world.

This is going to sound odd, but the best part of the race wasn’t crossing the finish line, it was when I got my finisher’s medal. I had crossed the finish line (Running, not crawling!) and with fatigued legs, made my way forward to get my hard-earned medal. All sorts of volunteers were doing the honors of handing them out, but then someone caught my eye. There was this old, Asian woman, a good six to eight inches shorter than me, and she had the medals all tangled up on her arm. Something about her seemed so genuine, that I skirted around the other volunteers with shiny, new medals in their outstretched hands, and headed straight toward her.

She seemed embarrassed as she tried to detach one of the medals for me and she sheepishly apologized. I told her it was no problem at all, and she got one loose from the bunch. I bent my head down graciously, and as she placed it over my head, I couldn’t help but smile. Somehow, it was as if this old woman was bestowing her wisdom upon me. It was as if all her years of life were brilliantly radiating out of her. It was as if she was blessing me with joy and warmth and grace. I don’t know if she ever ran a race in her entire life, but in those few seconds, we had some sort of spiritual connection. In those few seconds, it felt like she somehow lived vicariously through me, and I was beyond honored and humbled to have shared in that wonderous joy with her. 

I actually got a little teary eyed at that very moment. It made me think of life, of loss, of pain, of love, of courage, of possibilities, of coincidences, of breathing, of my late brother, of sunshine, of beauty…of just so many things and all at once. From months of training, to finally crossing the finish line, it was the most perfect moment of this entire half marathon experience.

Half Marathon

My race bib and finisher’s medal.

Making a Wish

Both my son and daughter celebrated their birthdays recently and as is customary, they were told to “make a wish” when they blew out their birthday candles. It got me thinking about this tradition and inspired this post.

There seems to be so many different occasions to make a wish! There’s making a wish when you blow out your birthday candles. Making a wish as you blow off the fluffy stuff from a dandelion puff. Making a wish with the turkey wishbone on Thanksgiving. Making a wish when you throw coins into a fountain. Making a wish when you see a shooting star… There are just so many! You can find more, plus some historical background to some of them, here.

Wishes have been on my mind long before my children’s birthdays. In high school, if an eyelash landed on your cheek, it supposedly meant that someone was thinking of you and you should make a wish. If the clasp of your necklace had come around all the way to the front of your neck, again it meant that someone was thinking of you and that you should make a wish.

As I got older and had a better understanding of my Catholic faith, I started to understand that wishes were immature prayers, opportunities to be innocently selfish most of the time. Looking back over my life, I see that my prayers for a loving husband, healthy children, a happy and comfortable home, more joys than sorrows… those were “wishes” that God granted me. I may never have received the pony I wished for when I was a kid, but the blessings I have been given throughout my life have obviously been much better! ❤

My fascination with wishes even manifested itself into a novel that I began writing nine years ago. I had the idea a few years before that, when I got my wisdom teeth removed and was completely out of it and loopy from the anesthesia! I had worked on my novel little by little, but then started my family. Life got in the way and I never got very far in my story, so perhaps one day I should revisit it and maybe make it into a short story. Otherwise, at this rate, it’ll be done and published posthumously after I die of the accomplished old age of 100.

Here are some wishes that come to mind for my own life, and I’ll be the first to admit that a few of them are completely selfish. 🙂

  • I wish that I had been more courageous when I was in high school.
  • I wish chocolate was a recommended food group.
  • I wish for my children to grow up healthy, strong, and happy.
  • I wish that my daughter will grow up to understand that her self worth comes from her, not from the guys she dates.
  • I wish that my son will grow up to show respect towards the girls he dates and know that they have worth.
  • I wish I could go back in time and save my older brother from dying.
  • I wish that certain people would understand how busy I am and that I am not ignoring them.
  • I wish my mom hadn’t experienced so many hardships and tragedies in her life.
  • I wish I didn’t overthink things.
  • I wish my first love still thinks about me once in a while and wonders how I’m doing.
  • I wish this blog would lead to a lucrative movie or book deal. (Ha! If only!)
  • I wish I could see the best in myself, rather than continually doubting my abilities.
  • I wish my immediate and extended family know how much I love them all.
  • I wish I will be lovingly remembered once I am gone from this earth.

12 Mile Musings

In case you missed the post from a few months back, I signed up to do my first half marathon coming up in November. I’ve been training for it little by little, and what an amazing feeling it was to break my personal best of eight miles around a month ago! Since then, I’ve added a half or another whole mile to each run I’ve done.

Well, the other day I did twelve miles. Let me tell ya, the brain has a lot of time to think about things during a twelve-mile jog! For some people, they can work out their problems while they run. That must be helpful. Other people completely zone out. They sort of find their zen as they run.

I am neither. What I do is I think. And then I think some more. I think about serious things, funny things, strange things, random things. It would be nice to get my brain to settle down, or at least be productive and come up with solutions to some of life’s problems. But alas, nope.

Here are some of the things I remember thinking about as I tackled those twelve hard miles:

  • Leaving the house at 6 in the morning is a lot different than at 7:30 in the morning. Everything is so dark, quiet, cold, and lonely. It feels like night.
  • Wearing a lime green tank top one day while I was out running got the attention of at least four jerks who decided to honk their car horn at me. For the twelve miles, I wore a dark purple top and no honking.
  • The moon was full and still out when I left the house early that morning, and there was something comforting in the way it stayed with me along my path. Even after the sun had risen, the moon was still visible. It was my constant running buddy.
  • People zipping right past me on their bikes always seem to have a smug look on their face. What are you so smug about? You’ve got the help of a set of gears, while I’m doing this all on my own two feet. I should be the smug one.
  • Most runners don’t “hit the wall” in a half marathon, but since I’m still rather new (and admittedly out of shape) to this long distance running stuff, I can say that I consistently hit my wall around mile 8. My legs feel heavy and robotic, I feel worn out, I don’t feel any momentum to continue. Do the math and you’ll see that this is no good.
    • Here’s the math if you didn’t want to do it: 13.1 – 8 = 5.1 miles I still have to finish, wall or not.
  • I am really grateful that the university I run by is open by the time I reach the half way point. I can take a  super-quick restroom and water break! The college students probably think I look crazy with my red face, frizzy hair, heavy breathing, and basically looking like I’m dying, but whatever.
  • Stop lights are good for traffic, but bad for my paces. I know that overall I am a slow runner, but having to wait for the light to change green kills me!
  • This may sound silly, but I’ve done a lot of thinking about my race day outfit. It’s not as simple as you think it would be. Tight socks that won’t slip or bunch, running capris with a pocket for my GU energy gels, racer tank instead of a t-shirt because it’s what I prefer, and likely arm sleeves because it will be really cold in the beginning, but then I’ll warm up and won’t need them. None of it is about fashion; it’s about function and comfort.
  • Twelve miles was really hard. How am I going to manage thirteen? At some point, you have to convince yourself that it’s just another mile. No big deal. Besides, the only personal record I am hoping to achieve is simply just finishing it, whether by running, walking, or crawling across that finish line.
  • One more mile and four more weekends left until that half marathon is mine.

Still a New Mom

My daughter will be six years old next month and my son will be two years old in a couple of weeks, and yet oftentimes I still feel like a new mom. Even if your child is now an adult, you’re sometimes still a new parent, too. With each new experience you have with your child, you learn something new or have to solve a problem in a new way that you’ve not experienced yet. Here are a few of my own “still a new mom” moments that I’ve been blessed and amused to have:

  • Last year, my son fell and got a big bump on his head. My daughter never got one when she was a toddler, so my husband and I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, the bump wasn’t too bad so all we had to do was ice it and watch for signs of concussion. Scary for us, but our little guy was fine.
  • When we only had my daughter, road trips were fairly easy. We could basically just pack up and go. Logan, on the other hand, doesn’t like to be in his car seat for so long. It’s hard to keep him distracted when he’s still rear-facing. Also for vacations, we now have to reserve bigger hotel rooms to accommodate all of us.
  • Emily was an only child for four years before we had Logan, and so she mostly got her way. Now that they’re both playing with the same toys, reading the same books, and in each other’s space a lot, we’re learning how to resolve their conflicts.
  • Emily started preschool last year and so that was a whole bunch of new mom experiences for me! From packing lunches to getting to school on time, it was a big adjustment. Now that she’s in Kindergarten, I feel a bit more sure of myself and have better routines.
  • Here’s something new I never thought I’d say: “No Logan, the rubber ducky does not go in the dog’s water dish.” Better than in the toilet, right?! 😉
  • In a year or two, it will be time to potty train my son. Potty training my daughter made sense to me because we’re both females. Teaching a little boy to use the toilet? Definitely going to be a new experience!

So whether you’ve only got a few months of experience as a mama or a whole bunch of mom years under your belt, rest assured that there will be new experiences and that we’re all trying our best. Enjoy these moments, embrace them, and continue learning from them.

Thanks for reading!