Transition Day

Yesterday we experienced our first difficult transition day of the school year. I am thankful to have had a few weeks reprieve to get into the school year. With any luck, this is a one-time thing.

It was a busy day (as most of ours tend to be). He had hockey almost immediately after school and it was his first time on the ice this season. I was a forgetful Mom and I did not give him a snack after school. He needs a snack on a normal day, never mind going to hockey practice before supper.

While at hockey he felt like he was not good enough, and was confused by some of the new drills. As all kids do, he thought he was the only one struggling.

After practice, he was taking off his skates and one of the coaches asked what grade he was in. When I told him fourth grade, he commented that he’s a big kid. He complimented my son on how well he did out there and I shared that he felt like he did not perform very well.

I could have kissed both coaches, “Aww man, it’s your first time on skates this year. You looked like you were actually trying out there. I guarantee that you worked a lot harder than many of those kids. Those kids who weren’t trying, you improved today way more than they will all year because they don’t think they have to try. Isn’t your mom the coach that says you have to get good before you get fast? Trust me, being fast means nothing at this age.”

I got the obligatory eye roll when he mentioned that his mom might actually know a thing or two on the ice…LOL

But my boy calmed down.

When we came home, his dad was waiting to pick him up…and the attitude returned. I won’t share the entire scenario, just that he ended up not going to his dad’s last night. He stayed home with me.

After some cuddle time watching a movie and eating supper, he sat down and did all his homework with no arguments, had a bedtime snack while we finished the movie and went to bed like a champ.

He thanked me this morning for, “…having my back…” and I assured him that I would…every time.

Lord,

I thank you for giving that young boy a heart of a warrior and the fight of a lion. As he learns himself, help him feel encouraged to fight for justice. Continue to give him the courage to keep speaking out. As he learns how to manage his words and put feelings into action, surround him with an army of love and acceptance.
Continue to give my boy the strength he needs, and me the patience to get through it all.

Amen

 

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Normal

Life is beginning to feel almost normal again. For us, normal is busy, loud, and often disorganized. Normal is running fast and running behind. Normal is lots of love and little money.

It is our normal. It is how the boys and I do life.

It is amazing just how different we can all be yet still have so much in common. My youngest son plays hockey. The prevailing thought in this town (and many others) is that only rich families can afford hockey and when you go to the rink, it sort of looks that way.

Mom and dad both drive new vehicles, the family goes on vacation every year and never misses a college hockey game an hour away. They live in a mini-mansion with 2.3 kids and a Dog named Spike. Junior has the newest gear, a cool bag, and a $200 stick.

And then we walk in. Mom is divorced, drives a minivan with over 230,000 miles on it that sounds like it might die any second with two huge dents from accidents and because she cannot afford collision insurance, neither of them will ever be fixed. We rent, we have used gear that fits and his hockey stick from last year. Two cats, and have not been on a vacation beyond a trip to my parents house since before the divorce proceedings started 6 years ago.

On the ice, they all look the same with helmets and matching jersey’s.

What is normal for our family is only normal for our family. What is normal for each of the other families, is normal for them. It does not make one family better than the other. It does not ensure one child is loved more than the other.

What is normal for us, now may not be normal for you or anybody else. It may not even be normal for us in a year or two.

As we run through life with our hockey gear rolling behind, our iPad in our hand, our phone in our back pocket what you will see, is love. We love each other and we love our life.

I love that I do not drive a new vehicle, I have no financial debt and will do anything and everything to keep it that way. Yes, I would like something that I don’t have to worry about when I drive to see my family and that doesn’t need new tires; I also know that God has provided this long, He’s not going to stop now. When this vehicle is finished, where some people would be panicked, I see another opportunity to trust Him.

As much fun as it would be to take the boys on a week long vacation somewhere totally amazing, the memories we make each and every day are enough for me. I am not going to give up my everyday life (by working two jobs or otherwise) to have a week worth of memories.

I love our life. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love my kids, my family, my friends, and my church family. I love that life is simple for us. I love that we love.

Hockey and Dates

Today I was gifted four tickets to a University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks hockey game. As a huge hockey fan, I cannot even begin to explain my delight at this. I have never been to a college level hockey game. Unfortunately, my boys cannot join me so I am taking friends.

While I was at the grocery store with my youngest son after school today we were joking about me looking for a date. He even asked a friend of ours and our checkout guy if they would be my date. He did not seem to care that our friend is married and the checkout guy has a girlfriend. Too funny.

At one point we were standing by a store employee who was giving out free brownie sundaes and he was still trying to convince me I needed a date, and he would find me one. He even asked the guy at the meat counter…he declined as it is his mother’s birthday tomorrow.

The lady said to him, “Aww, he just is worried about his Mama and wants her to be happy.”

I responded that he worried enough when I was sick, he should never have to worry about his Mama ever again.

Then he caught my eye…

A look of terror and dread and anguish flashed through his whole body. It rocked me to the core.

“Ya, I worried enough, I never want to worry like that again” was his reply as he moved closer and put his head against my arm and looked up at me.

“That’s legit buddy; I’m sorry.” I wrapped my free arm around him as we walked away, his head still leaned against me. What else was I supposed to say, what could I say? We walked like that in silence for a few minutes through the store, eventually easing back into conversation.

For a minute though, I saw it. I saw cancer in my young son’s eyes. I could see it written on his heart. He is nine years old. In a split second, I watched him age a hundred years. I watched him become a man, with a little boy’s broken heart.

Cancer will be a part of who my boys become as young men, as partners, as fathers, as leaders. I am so glad I get to guide them and raise them up!

Lord,

That fear I saw tonight…it was the first time I’ve seen it in a long time. I am so grateful that he had that moment with me, so he could be validated and comforted.
As we move further away from cancer and as I raise these young men up into Godly men; give me the patience, the strength, and the integrity to do it right.

Amen

Please Don’t Pink for Me

Before breast cancer, I hated the color pink. Honestly…hated. I grew up as a tomboy and anything even resembling femininity was a no-go for me. Jeans, t-shirts, and ball caps.

I have no idea why, but when the pink ribbons came about I thought they were stupid and useless. To me it seemed like people were making a point to make it look like they actually cared…but only in October.

Then I got sick.

In October.

Now, every year as my cancerversary comes up, I am attacked with pink ribbons EVERYWHERE on EVERYBODY. For those who have dealt with a cancer diagnosis, you may understand the anxiety laden time or the PTSD symptoms that pop up around the time of year you were diagnosed. The last thing you want to be reminded of is just how sick you were and that everybody and their dog is now (for 31 days) supporting some pink ribbon campaign somewhere.

Before cancer, pink was my oldest sons favorite color. He only has one shirt now that has any pink on it and he made it at Cancer Camp…otherwise, he stopped wearing pink three years ago. Overnight. He refused to wear his favorite sweatshirt, his favorite shirt. He was done.

I have gone the other way. My mostly black shoes have pink stitching…it has become a badge of honor for me. I have a t-shirt with a huge pink ribbon that says “FIGHT LIKE A GIRL.”

I guess for me it is about the other 11 months of the year. I wear my pink year-round because breast cancer does not just happen in October. People become more aware than they ever wanted to every day of the year. I thought I was aware.

I had no idea.

I had no idea how much I did not know.

About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

In 2017, an estimated 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 63,410 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.About 2,470 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2017. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.

About 40,610 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2017 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989. 

For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.

Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. In 2017, it’s estimated that about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers.

As of March 2017, there are more than 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Less than 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.

About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.

The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older). 

http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics

Did you read that?? A QUARTER OF A MILLION women will hear the words, “You have cancer” in ONE YEAR. Now think of her family. Spouse or parter, kids, parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents…the list goes on and on. Millions of people have this disease just burst into their lives one day and are forever changed.

If you would like to pink in a manner that is meaningful to me, here are some suggestions with links to organizations that I support:

Pink for my cancer sisters who are stage IV which is a terminal diagnosis.

Pink for research.

Pink for my daughter who has a 50% increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Pink for my sons who endured a hell I cannot even imagine as they watched their mom get sicker and sicker.

I have both pink ribbons and pink bracelets that are available and the funds will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Contact me if you are interested. I have taken a permanent marker to mine and written on my children’s names, because I pink for them.

If you want to pink for me:

Pink in April when it is my birthday and I am here to celebrate another year.

Pink in December when I get to spend another holiday celebrating with my family.

But Please; in October.

Don’t Pink For Me.

Matching Shirts

Part two from my very first guest blogger, Katie. She sent both of these writings Sunday as I was getting ready for church. I have since read them over and over again.
 
Last night it hit me; we were only 27 minutes slower than Katie’s BEST time at NSIM. Here is our exchange:
 

Me:I keep rereading that we were 27 minutes slower than your best time…
Dang…I really killed it, didn’t I??

Katie:Heck yeah you did. You so did. And honestly, I kinda feel like a crappy friend cause I don’t think I’ve truly given you the credit you earned for this. I thought I did. But until Friday and Saturday, I didn’t understand how hard you actually worked to do what you did. Like I saw you put in the effort and I knew you did it, but I didn’t understand it. I didn’t feel it. And what I felt and understand now is still probably nothing compared to what you did.

M:You did more than enough…and I had actually forgot that more than half my training was injured…lol

K:Still, I have a different understanding now.

And it was a stick. There was a stick in my skate, I couldn’t see it until I took the wheel off. It wore almost all the writing off the side of my wheel.

Debbie: 😖

Part 2
Between June 19th and NSIM, I didn’t go more than 3 days without skating. Friday (yesterday) was my first day back on skates since the marathon. It was a 5 day stretch with out. It’s gonna be a long winter. 
Luke got home on Friday in time for me to skate, so I texted Debbie to let her know I was heading out and aiming for 10 miles in under an hour. I didn’t expect her to be able to join me, but it feels weird at this point to go for a skate and not at least let her know I’m going. Between a nasty sinus cold thing and my timing being just as kids were getting home from school, I just figured it wasn’t gonna work for her to join me. I was wrong. She responded with so much enthusiasm about going, I half expected her to beat me there. We made it one lap around Greenwood before we found ourselves doing hills of course. But after two consecutive laps of hills and a second lap around Greenwood, Debbie’s cold caught up with her and she was done. She left, disappointed like she gets when her body doesn’t do what her head says it should be able to do.
I stayed and reset my runkeeper so I could smash my 10 miles in under an hour. I was so ready for it! I got going and I wasn’t 2 miles in before my legs were on fire. Everything in my legs hurt. Muscles I didn’t even know were things hurt. I tried to stop for water at 3 miles and didn’t have the strength or functionality to brake (when the heck was the last time I needed water at mile three?? Like for real. How stupid is this?!) I slammed into my mirror and spun half way around the front of my van before I could hobble back for water. My skates felt like lead weights with every stride, but I managed to finish in 58:32. My 15th fastest. 
Saturday. I had high hopes of redeeming myself today. I got back on the pavement and it was deja vu. Only this time, it was my lower back that was throwing a fit and it was screaming. I stopped at mile three again (at least I could brake this time) for water and ibuprofen with dismal hope that maybe it would do something. Of course it didn’t. My feet were like led weights again and it took all of my concentration to make a decent stride. On mile 5 as I rounded the corner from the woodsy area into the wind, I was done.
 “Forget this, I’m done. This is stupid and I’m going home. I can be satisfied with 5 miles.” I said, out loud.  
“Once you quit once, then quitting always becomes an option…” Came the reply in my head.
Crap. I couldn’t quit. Well, actually I could. I, mean I wanted to. So bad. Who was there to stop me? Who would have really known the difference? And Luke would be happy to have me home earlier than planned.
“Debbie went from 0 to marathon in 88 days. Half them on skates with crappy wheels and shamefully awful bearings. And with a crappy knee. And a busted finger. And hip pain that made her count strides to keep going. A marathon in skates that hadn’t fit right from the beginning and she never complained about that until after the race…” My thoughts continued to argue me, some of them out loud.
“Nope. You don’t get to quit today. Not for this. You don’t get to make podium goals one day and then quit later just because your back hurts. Shut-up and skate.” So I didn’t quit. It sucked. But I finished my 10 miles and I did it in 57:55. My 12th fastest.
The me that used to skate by myself would have quit today. I would have quit and I would have missed the opportunity to shave almost a minute off my time from yesterday. I would have missed gaining the strength that comes from pushing myself. I would have missed learning I can still do it, even when it hurts like hell. That is why a friend with a matching finisher shirt isn’t a small thing for me. That is what I get from finishing in 2:52:30 together. 

God Math

I am a smart woman. I can budget like an accountant on steroids. The poverty we have endured thought the last three years was able to be endured thanks to, among other things, extreme diligence and discipline.

As I step out in faith and begin to tithe, and truly trust that God will provide it was been lesson after lesson of trust.

My income for the month of July totaled $926.30. My rent is $800, insurance is $87.04, phone $43.25 for a total of $930.29.

Just as Jesus fed thousands, my income was enough to not only pay those essentials, my boys were able to attend the county fair, I was able to buy myself a pair of jeans, we had a full gas tank all the time, we even had a couple evenings where we treated ourselves to fast food.

That is what I call God Math. He told me to trust…I obeyed and was given great peace.

As I explained it to a friend this morning, that I am right back to zero to begin August with, I am confident that God did not provide me X amount of dollars and gifts, He provided the fair experience, He provided for our needs and a few wants.

There is a season for building up an emergency fund so that we can bless others in their time of need. That season will start when I am back to working my regular hours at work in the fall. The confidence that God will get us from here to there is a weight I cannot even measure that has been lifted off my shoulders.

If I did not trust that God would provide, the boys would not have experienced the fair, I would have taken from my children the knowledge that God provides.

They have seen a different side of Mom this month. They have seen peace we have not known for three years. They have been witness to unfailing faith and obedience.

Lord, 
I pray my children never again witness the insecurity of me not trusting Your love, grace, and mercy. May they remember these days and moments as the people on the shores once did while Jesus fed thousands. May they understand the miracle of God Math.

While they are away for the next three weeks, guide them as they spread Your love wherever they roam. Give them the confidence to follow You when the people around them live a different lifestyle than they see at home. Teach them empathy and compassion for those who do not know You.

Continue to give me strength to be vulnerable in my current social situations. As life is ever changing, it is good…and it is difficult. 

Your light guides my feet, and they are on the move. 

Amen

The Next Week

After making the decision to start Tithing, although I was not panicked or worried, there was a nagging in the back of my head. What if that $26.00 is the difference between making the rent payment and not making it. What if the cost of a tank of gas does not get replaced? How was I going to come up with those needs.

I just kept hearing God say, “Trust Me.” He repeated Himself over and over again in those first days and weeks as I did the math over and over.

What I did not know and am learning beyond all rhyme or reason is new math; God Math.

When He says, “Trust Me” He is NOT kidding.

Not only did I have enough money to pay the rent, I also was able to take my children to the local fair (something they had resigned themselves to not being able to do). I was able to buy myself a pair of jeans (I only have one pair and they are not suitable for work/play). The jeans I had BOTH (yes, I only had two pair of everyday jeans) had holes worn through that made them unwearable within weeks of each other.

I remember when my friend explained to me the loss of dignity when people are poor…I have lived this way for so long that I was baffled to have it explained. To be able to walk into the store and buy myself a pair of $29 dollar jeans felt so amazing, so empowering.

I always say it’s the little things that matter, I just did not realize how many of those little things we were going without.

When I give my tithe, I feel like the modern version of the Widow’s Mite:

Luke 21: 1-4 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

It is a humbling privilege to give with great joy what little I can give. I truly trust that God will provide for all our needs.

I gotta say, His batting average for taking care of me thus far is pretty good 😉

Lord, 
Humbly I come to you with such a grateful heart. Thank you for all Your good works, your faithful servants whom surround my family. 
I will continue to praise You from the rooftops, the sidewalks, the playground, the parking lot, the fishing hole, the open vehicle window, the top of the stairs, the workplace…
Your love is abundant and my cup overflows. 
Be with the boys and their aunt, cousins, and my mother as they travel over the next couple of days. 
Amen