CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER EIGHT

Be strong and courageous.

Do not be afraid or terrified…

the Lord your God goes with you:

he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31: 6

Right foot. Left foot.

The dirt path is a comfortable two and a half feet wide at first, then narrows to about one foot wide.

We pass people posing for pictures at the trailhead map post. I glance back a few times until I can no longer see the parking lot. Green leaves and underbrush close in around us. I watch the Steam Team backpacks bob forward. My mind spins.

This is like letting go of the side of the pool in the deep end for the first time. We are going to tread water or die. 

We follow Lower Hawksbill Trail. Light glistens through the leaves and tall trees. 

Ten minutes in, I know that my pack is too heavy. I thought I had it down to the lightest amount possible! I could have done better. I rethink the contents. It is too late to do anything about what is inside. Hiking is such a learning process!

I extend my black trekking poles and grip their handles to keep me steady. They seem awkward at first. I am not sure why people use them, but I trust those reasons will become clear eventually.

We wind through the woods. A family of jovial day hikers approach us. They are probably happy because they do not have heavy backpacks, I think. 

The oldest man in the group smiles eager to share, “We saw a bear up ahead.” 

And they are thrilled about this? I guess so. They are coming out of the forest. We are going in. Great.

Stalker C’s large eyes glance my way. Her lips tighten. I look toward the endless woods.

SunFloJo sets down her pack as the family walks on toward the exit.

This interaction reminds SunFloJo to take out the bear bells. She attaches a bell to my pack. It hangs from one of my zipper pulls.

Did she pick me because I am obviously going to be at the back of the group when we run for safety from the bear?

We continue back in stride.

Jingle, jingle. Step. Jingle.

I do not love the constant ringing near my ear. No wonder bears do not like bells. And while I would never say this out loud, I would not mind seeing another bear from a distance. Tricky, I know. But we are on an adventure, right?

Jingle. Jingle. I do not want to complain, but it works out well when Stalker C says, “I could carry that bell if you want.”

We rest a moment. I move my bell to hang from her bag.

We continue hiking through twists and turns. My shoulders hurt.

Every few feet, Stalker C contorts her arm behind her so that she can gently ring the bell. No bear is coming near this group. She will make sure of it.

We see the first concrete sign trail marker post that directs us to turn slightly right and uphill. Our feet lean in what looks like 70-degree angles with our bodies as we head straight up toward the top of Hawksbill Mountain: elevation 4,050 feet.

I have looked forward to seeing Hawksbill Gap, the highest peak in Shenandoah National Park since seeing pictures of it on the Internet. In my head, I cannot wait! But wait I will because walking up this trail seems longer and longer than it looked on the map. Sweat drips down my back. It is a steep climb!

Stalker C and Sunshine Rat are up ahead as the better, younger climbers.

SunFloJo and I walk slowly a bit to conserve (my) energy. I feel like I am carrying the weight of an eight-year-old on my back. How am I going to do this until the end of the week?

Somehow our conversation lands on talking softly about love and love lost, about friends and fizzled relationships. We have lived long enough to have had our share of humans stroll in and out of our lives.

“When it comes to people, I’ve gotten better at loving and letting go. People either want to be with you or they don’t,” I say. 

SunFloJo offers, “I try to appreciate the moments we had and not stress about the fact that those moments were too few.”

“Perhaps we were lucky to have had those moments at all.” I say then add, “Maybe.”

We giggle at the maybe part.

I continue, “Also I am working on loving people around me without expectations.” It is easy for me to do that with friends and work acquaintances. I think about how much harder it is to let go of expectations inside a marriage. Maybe some expectations need to be there while others do not.

“Ah, letting go of expectation can be powerful,” SunFloJo says. “And tough to do.”

“Yes, there could be a lot less disappointment. I am working on detachment from what I expect and or anticipate.”

“It’s a process,” she says.

Our conversation seems profound at the time and distracts me until I recognize my struggle to breathe as the elevation changes. I lean the poles against my body while I wrap my hair into a ponytail to gain air flow around my neck. I grow quiet as my central focus becomes how to breathe my way to the top of this mountain.

Stalker C slows down to listen to the older folk conversation, but we are done with our ramblings by the time she is on par with us. 

I visualize the photos we will take when we get to the top—if we ever get there!

Sunshine points out the Salamander Trail post on our left side. This shows us where we will turn on the way back down. She has a good eye. I would have missed that marker in the trees. 

Then, finally, we see the Hawksbill cliff as the sun becomes brighter with less trees above us. First goal achieved. We make it to the top!

Large rocks line the edge. A gigantic valley is below with many mountains in the background. It is a clear day. You can see miles stretched beyond us.

We pause to guzzle water and take in the 180-degree view. I hope we stay on top of the world here for a while. 

It is so beautiful

We pause at the first overlook. I leave my trekking poles in a tiny shelter near the edge with a wood carved sign labeled Byrd’s Nest 2. Then I climb a short distance over rocks to the highest overlook. And by climb, in this case, I mean cling to the large, jagged rocks with my hands, arms, feet and legs so I can roll to the other side without plunging into the valley.

This is the main overlook. It is better in person than online. There is a manmade rock wall around it and a stone floor on the viewing deck. We place our packs in the overlook area. 

“Shall we do lunch here?” Stalker C asks.

I say, “I think that would be great.” I do not care that the sun is shining directly on us, although it feels much hotter than it did earlier. We grab food bags and stare at the view. We munch quietly and drink more water. I start with a pack of almonds.

Other hikers come and go from the woods. I wonder if we are in their way, then decide I do not care since all of them manage to take pictures without our physical presence being an issue. Most are day hikers with small packs. We help a few with their group photos and they help us.

One older gentleman wearing a plaid short-sleeved button up shirt pulls two ceramic blue birds from a satchel. He positions them on the leading edge of the man-made wall. He takes a few pictures, most with the birds included in the landscape.

SunFloJo asks, “Are you taking those pictures for someone special?”

He says, “Yes. I have a friend with MS who cannot hike. I take pictures back to her to enjoy.” 

My heart twists at the thought of him showing his friend pictures of the fragile birds and gorgeous horizon after his trip. I imagine her smile as he tells her about the experience. I think about Paul and how he probably could not hike this far these days. The incline would have been too much for him.

The man returns the ceramic birds carefully into a towel and his bag. He continues, “She is quite the lady.”

Then a set of three couples who are probably all in their sixties arrive. I read the body language that one of the ladies would like a photo of their whole group. I offer to take their picture. They are standing on the less safe natural rock area. At first, one husband grumbles about his wife, “Oh she’s got plenty of pictures!” He is overheated and cantankerous. I have seen this behavior in men from our family a few times regarding picture taking.

“We travel together a lot,” one woman says about their group while standing too close to the edge and trying to take a selfie.

“Watch your step,” I caution.

Gravel and dust fall behind her. She gasps at the near fall and steps to find better footing. I ask, “Do you have any pics of all six of you together today?”

The other two men express this would be a good spot for a photo. The grumpy bug husband gets on board reluctantly. I take a picture of them with the majestic view in the background. The wives are pleased with having a photo they can frame when they return home. They turn to walk back toward the trail.

Next, a gorgeous taupe color dog and her family arrive as we rest against the rock wall. The dog has a pink collar and leash. Her name is Annabelle. Sweetness oozes from her.

The Steam Team says a collective, “Aww.”

The dog owner says, “This is our 9,000-dollar dog. We found her starved, sick from rat poison and a snake bite a few years ago. We had no idea it would cost nine grand to get her well, but she’s been worth every penny.” Annabelle smiles and pants at her owner’s loving words.

In-between visitors, I stare at the vast view.

Is this the place where I can toss my anger off the mountain? I try to reach a peaceful state of mind but keep thinking about how some humans can be ceramic-love-birds-photo-taking-good-attitude people and some humans are habitual-complainers-exhaust-those-around-them people. The contrast sours the rest of my meal of cheese and crackers with grapes. I am too hot to eat anyway. I feel thankful for Annabelle’s visit. Dogs are along for the ride and generally happy to go with the flow. I needed her energy.

Here you go, Lord. Please take the angst from me. I surrender. And I am Surrender on this trip. Help me let go of anger. Here are my disappointments. Here are my expectations. Here are the times I try to control the fantasy of how I think life should be. Take it all please. Amen

Stalker C, SunFloJo & Sunshine quietly stare too. We all face some type of life transition. I wonder if they are working through similar thoughts. SunFloJo has been contemplating retirement soon. Stalker C and Sunshine just graduated college and are headed to grad school in different parts of the country.

I want to suggest we sleep here tonight, but I know we have more miles to walk before nightfall.

“Do you want me to read Deb’s next letter?” I ask the group.

A unanimous “Yes” ensues.

I dig out Deb’s ‘During the Journey’ envelope and read,

“‘Day 1: Munchkins: The munchkins were happy people who were industrious and well intentioned. They did whatever they could to help Dorothy and her crew to reach their goals. Who are the munchkins in your life? How do they help you reach your goals?’” 

We take turns answering.

“My church youth group supported me a lot,” says Stalker C. “My family was not big into church, but I liked going. We hung out and they encouraged me. They’re one of the reasons why I got a social work degree.”

Sunshine and SunFloJo both offer that their families have been supportive of their career and life decisions.

“I am blessed with friends who encourage me,” I share. And I think about how Paul helped me plan for this week. This is not my first hair brained idea over the years.

With a mutual sigh about leaving, we load our gear, grab poles and head back down the path. We turn right onto Salamander Trail. 

It looks like a deep dive through thick branches from here. The path is narrower. I squirt bug spray on my ankles, legs, arms, and neck.

I am pleased about going downhill until the steepness of the path begins to fatigue my feet. The path is filled with rocks; jagged and varied. My magic boots are not feeling so magical. Now we face 120-degree foot angles while maneuvering over rocks. My toes are on fire!

We curve along mountain edges and then encounter more downhill strain through daytime darkness. The trees are thick.

Down. Down. And still straight down. More rocks and more rocks. Oh, my goodness this hurts!

I refuse to cry, but there is no way to hide that I cannot keep up. Every step causes sharp toe pain.

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

SunFloJo checks on me. I suspect she is concerned about me having a heart attack. I do not speak. My focus is on walking through the raging fire in my shoes. 

“What specifically is going on?” She asks.

I tell her.  She speculates what might be the problem.

“Yes, I clipped my nails before we traveled,” I admit, embarrassed that we are trouble shooting my toe issues.

There is no solution in sight. Today is day one of full-time hiking, how on earth will I make it to Saturday?!?

My shoes are size 9. SunFloJo’s shoes are 9.5. Her shoes also are wide at the toe end. Mine are not wide. She offers to switch shoes.

But I do not want to change shoes. I like my “magic shoes”. With the amount of metaphoric fire and pain going on, I am concerned about swelling if I take off the boots. And what happens to both of us if we switch shoes mid hike? Will my shorter shoe then hurt SunFloJo? 

For now, I hobble behind the group. I will not give up today even if my toes become as bloody as they feel right now. We are deep in the woods. The only way out is through.

At the bottom of Salamander, we see a white Appalachian Trail mark on a tree. This is the first time we have seen what hikers call the White Blaze. The White Blaze is a white rectangle painted every so often on a tree, so you know you are on the right path. We turn from our side entrance trails onto the official AT trail. We pause to take a picture of SunFloJo with the White AT Blaze. This is her dream! She is living it!

I am so happy for her and happy to rest for a few minutes.

After the AT turn, we meet a chunky guy. He wears blue jean shorts and a cotton blue t-shirt. This is not the hiking attire I have seen on AT YouTube videos. We ask if he is a thru hiker or day hiker. 

“I’m doing the whole thing,” He says. That means he is a thru hiker. Wow. “Started in March from Georgia.”

Sunshine asks, “What is your trail name.” 

He wipes his brow and says, “Endurance.”

We ask why that name and he says, “Because I’m proving to myself that I have the endurance to do this.” 

He inspires me. He is not allowing extra weight to hold him back. Endurance blows by after chatting. Soon I do not see him ahead of us.

The trail becomes enchanted at this point. We are on more level land. The forest is lush with seas of ferns, soft tree branches and rocks surround us under a canopy of tall skinny trees. I think about the Hobbit and scenes from the Shire in Lord of the Rings

The Steam Team grows weary. Occasionally we find large rocks or moss-covered tree logs next to the trail where we say, “This looks good” which means there is enough booty space for each of us to rest. We sit for a few minutes and lean our backpack weight onto a rock or tree.

Sunshine Rat has a Fitbit attached to her bra. We ask her to check the mileage because this 5.1-mile Day One hike is feeling long. We all wonder, how much longer until we stop for the night?

Sure enough we have hiked well over 6 miles already according to her Fitbit. 

Could it be that the trail markers and trail plan are incorrect about how many miles we will walk today?

Or are we a little lost? 

If you would like to listen to the Audio Version or support this creative work, click here for the Podcast Chapter Eight.

© Copyright 2016 Surrender On The Trail – Glenna S. Edwards

Thanks for reading or listening. Check back Sunday, May 23 for CHAPTER NINE.

Valentine Antidote

It is that day when I promise once again that next year I won’t be in town on Valentine’s Day. I will be with girlfriends or on a beach, on a mountain top, anywhere else doing something–anything–not so ordinary.

Valentine’s Day is a double whammy. It’s also my birthday. Growing up, I loved celebrating with red hearts, white paper lace, pink streamers, balloons and all things Valentine.

As an adult, I realized many people have jumbled emotions linked to February 14. Happy feelings, angry feelings, dread, anger and so forth.

Then I married someone who expresses love inversely to what I anticipated. Let’s just say his first romantic gift was a bright yellow personal alarm to wear on my waist so I could pull the cord for it to wail and screech if someone nefarious came too close to me on my college campus.

We’ve worked it out. It’s taken a lot of tears and years. I’ve learned that the antidote to my occasional sad feels is to have less expectations, ask for something specific if desired, support or help others.

These days, ALS-21 plus a Pandemic make it so Hubby can’t get out to shop, or walk much, or feel good for a full day. I am happy simply when his words are kind. I like thoughtful and kind. Lately, I’ve been quietly thanking the writers of Call The Midwife. Hubby really likes that show. I call it his daily empathy exercise. Women have been through so much and that binge worthy series does not shy away from hard topics.

Speaking of writers, my feel better about Valentine’s Day activity this year was to support authors I care about. I directed Hubby to my wish list and he placed the order. I was excited to open the packages.

Janine Rosche is an author who picked me up off the floor when I received a bad news phone call at a writer’s conference. She prayed with me. Then I found out she was looking for a certain agent to meet. I am thrilled to say they met indeed and are three books into a successful journey. I now have a trifecta of inspirational romance to read:

William Klein’s book was lost in our move so I needed a replacement copy. This is a timely fictional story about a painful border experience.

And Jessica Terry is a writer that cracks me up with her Instagram stories. Like me, she was a basketball player in her youth. We’ve never met. I appreciate her work ethic and passion. So, I soon will read:

Who would you like to support? Someone creative? An organization that does something you value? Church? Someone elderly or ill? Doing a little something for others could brighten your Valentine’s Day. Earlier in the week, I called a couple people who I hadn’t spoken with in a few years. It was a good time on old fashioned phone calls.

Frequently, I think of the verse Love One Another (John 15: 12). Loving others does not result in only one direction of good vibes even when that should be our intention. When you love others, the good feels return to fill your heart and strengthen the weave of the universe.

Still in town,

P.S. Hubby also visited the Shari’s Berries website. Winner. Yum.

The In-between

Welcome to the in-between weekend.

  • Christmas lights are hit or miss now.
  • It is hard to remember today’s date.
  • New Years is coming.

I’ve heard some grumbling and sadness around town.

Maybe you are a Have-Not who listened to The-Haves talk about expensive gifts received.

Perhaps you just heard, “but we’ll always be friends” as he shared he is serious about a new relationship.

It’s not even break up season yet. You were blindsided.

Or your mini vacay to-do list is not close to done.

Did you use all the energy you had to cope during a time of grief?

Fear not.

To the person who needs to hear this today, you are valued exactly as you are.

You matter.

Order and routine will be restored.

It’s ok to take a nap.

Embrace what is and give it to God. Allow the feelings to pass through your body so you can move on. If you fight emotions, the pain lasts longer.

As for that to-do list, tackle something manageable first.

This is a good time to pray, praise, rest, connect to your source.

Reset for 2020.

Remember there is a time for everything. Don’t beat yourself up in this short window.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time.

How may I pray for you? Dm me with prayer requests for the new year.

Love,

Glenna

A Kitchen Story

Once upon a time, we were newlyweds living in a sketch area of town apartment.

The recipe on the box said to let the pizza dough rest somewhere warm for 5 minutes.

Well…the oven is warm, my 21-year-old self thought.

Nevermind that the dough was in a teal plastic dollar store bowl.

Hubby watched a Cincinnati Reds baseball game from the living room couch while I fumbled in our tiny kitchen.

I did not grow up cooking. My parents encouraged me to sit down or go play. The only cookies I remember baking were with my sister before she moved out when I was five. We ate sandwiches, and on Thursdays I ate White Castles for dinner. When a microwave moved into our home, I mastered frozen meals quickly.

[Hubby’s first clue of what he was dealing with was when I said I wanted to make him dinner one time while we were dating. He asked to come over to my parents’ house early, but I needed ten hours to prepare. He asked, “Are you sure cooking is all you’re doing today?”]

I saw the flames flash inside the oven.

“Hubby!”

I opened the stove door, choked on smoke, and smelled foul melting plastic.

Maybe his game was on commercial. Maybe the bases were loaded. I don’t know, but Hubby said no words. He stood, exited the apartment, broke glass in the hallway, carried the fire extinguisher to the kitchen, pointed the hose, put out the fire, opened a window, walked back to the couch to continue watching the beloved Reds.

Never a disgruntled word. Total calm. That’s my guy when I need him the most.

I treasure that memory. These days sometimes he can’t stand or get off the couch easily at all.

I remember when he could stand to kiss me or wisely begin cooking in the kitchen with me.

Our time has flown by too fast.

Tonight he mentioned the holidays stink this year. Um, yeah.

I am glad for his honesty out loud. We are on the same for-better-or-worse page.

Slow exhale.

I know there will be good times in unexpected ways because we will make the best of things.

Son-2 asked to put up a tree Friday so that’s what will happen. I did not dare say that that is the last thing I want to do. I know I’ll be glad once it is done. We can’t skip Christmas even if that sounds like a great idea.

So on this special edition Thanksgiving morning post, I wish you patience like Hubby demonstrated when faced with a really dumb kitchen fire. It’s worth it to show grace to others.

One day your kindness may be a memory someone cherishes about you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you for reading.

Love,

Glenna

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances….

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2 Turtles in Rush Hour

On the way to work I see a turtle halfway across Dudley Road hill. There’s no safe place for me to pull off and safely move him to the other side. At that hour with so many cars I might cause more harm than good. His outstretched neck on the double yellow line haunts me as I blink my lights at oncoming traffic.

Then on the expressway onramp I see a similar turtle crossing with head held high.  What in the world? Two within one mile? Neither I can help safely. I pray for their protection.

I think of those two turtles for days.

Today I ponder the two perspectives in my marriage. On selfish days I wonder if Hubby can possibly see or care about my inner struggles.  I only need his encouragement and an atta girl once in a while (ok, every 1.5 days please) to keep going. I’m “fine”. Everything is fine.

On less selfish days I ponder what life is like from his perspective.  I may never know completely what ALS muscle loss feels like, his struggle to walk, or the occasional cognitive glitch. How frustrating it must be.

We have opposite personalities to begin with so perspective sharing has long been a challenge.  Of the many things I’ve learned from two opposite wired brains over the years, I am certain there are at least two ways to do most tasks and both can feel like the right way at the moment until one considers the other person’s point of view. Many of our brief spats involve arguing the exact same point from different angles.

“You’re saying the same thing.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Ok.”

What I hold onto year after year is that God’s love is greater and more fulfilling than any love I might find or desire on earth.

We are lucky.  We choose Jesus to be at the center, our Translator In Chief. Time after time our hearts soften and we hear one another eventually.

I saw this on a Lysa Terkuerst Instagram story  post:  “If lesser love ever fulfilled us, then we would have no need for God.”

So true.

We are all turtles daring to cross the road.

Romans 15:13 NIV:  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Gas Pedals & Mommas

Accelerating on an interstate entrance ramp, I think about how gas pedals are small yet mighty.

Then I consider how the go of the gas pedal is balanced by the stop of the brake pedal.  I ponder how cars have seats, steering wheels, mirrors, lights, and all the many parts that work together for the cause of convenient transportation.

My mind spins in a thankful vortex. How wonderful it is that we have little gas pedals that can do great things. I can go down a mental rabbit hole, I tell ya.

I asked a friend what she is doing for Mother’s Day.  Her mom passed away recently.  “Do you have a plan for Sunday?”  What I really am asking is does she have something to be distracted by that day?  I try to be there for those who face fresh grief during emotionally charged holidays.

In my own world, I am getting better at zero expectations for special dates.  A different friend pointed out that as long as they’ve known me (since childhood) I’ve been overcoming something.  A parent leaving or coming back, sicknesses, multiple deaths close to me, and so forth.  They are not wrong.  It’s been a mountainous road.  I once had romanticized hopes for days like Mother’s Day, birthdays, etc. which of course leads to disappointment.

Now I have learned small gestures are bonus moments. I enjoy surprises that pop up in ways I don’t anticipate. I allow part of every day to be a celebration of the life I get to live. Yes, I’ve been known to turn up Mandisa’s Overcomer song on the car radio.

Four of the best strategies I know for getting through tough times are:

1. Identify a gratitude anchor.  Is there a memory you cherish? Hug the memory and thank it for being part of your life. Is there an object of wonder? Take time to be thankful. Fill in the blanks: “I appreciate _________ because _________.” Repeat.

2.  Help someone.  You might be the bright spot in someone else’s day.

3.  Give yourself permission to check out of a situation especially if you are recovering from a tragedy or grief. I am new to giving myself time-outs from people, places, or things. I’ve found time-outs helpful in 2019.

4.  Do something you enjoy and fully relish it.  My go to the last two weeks has been listening to Journey’s timeless music Faithfully and with Open Arms.

Romans 8: 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.

Deep, slow breaths.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Love,

Signature GSE

 

I love you, Ariel Gore

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She showed up for me.

We never met in person, but her words knew me.  I feel my face smile chapter after chapter of Ariel Gore’s book How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead.  My eyes enlarge and my head nods each page turn.

Is this what it’s like when a writer encourages the deep inner being of another writer?

Yes.

Ariel,  thank you.

Around page 79 an unexpected tear escapes and a memory flashes through my brain.  I remember the day no one showed up.  Not a soul.  Every other college student had parents, grandparents, maybe aunts and uncles too.  Dang.

The ceremony is held in a red brick colonial style building with tall windows trimmed in white.  The large room has plenty of chairs, food that I am too scared to touch, and lemonade that I dare to enjoy.  I am thirsty.  My writing professors say hello and are pulled away because other people’s people want to meet them.  I find a seat in an empty row on a green cushioned chair with a straight backrest made of metal painted white.

While today that scene cuts me a bit, I assure you that on the actual day I am joyful and feel justice is about to be announced.  I am 22 years old and delighted.

“This year’s Best Graduating Senior Writer goes to…Glenna S. Edwards for her submission Bertha.”

I make my way to receive the certificate and $500 check.  Only on rewind do I remember the surprised audience members whose faces turn to question that the alone girl is a winner.  The money is a bonus compared to the certificate that I want most.  I need someone to say I am a good writer.  And they do out loud and on paper.  Boom!

This was the vengeance I longed for because four years earlier at a smaller scale spring time writers event, no one said anything.

That was high school.  Back when I participate in many extracurriculars, but the only award I ever hope for is the Golden Pen award.  A plaque hangs in the English department where the new winner’s name will be engraved.

Sitting in the cafeteria listening for the announcement, my 18-year-old mind practices being a good loser.  The only other candidate who might win deserves the prize too.  I will remain kind and congratulate her then run home to lament.

I also practice remaining calm and gracious if I do win.  I will not jump up and down though my legs may try to betray me.

The other possible winner may throw a fit.  She has a reputation.  She has publicly wailed sometimes when things did not go her way.  I try to remember her personal story about how her mom didn’t know she was pregnant until she went to the hospital for extreme food poisoning but came home with a baby.  For reasons I do not fully understand while in my youth, her tale helps me be patient with Miss Could-Make-A-Scene.

The teacher says into the microphone, “Thank you for coming tonight.  This concludes our evening.”

What?!  They must have forgotten.  I see the other candidate ask about the Golden Pen.  The teacher pretends not to hear.  We all go home never to know exactly why the 1990 Golden Pen is not awarded.

My adult self has multiple guesses why 1990 was skipped.  And I remain thankful 1994 happened.

To my writer friends, read Ariel Gore’s book How To Become A Famous Writer Before You’re Dead.  It is encouragement served all you can eat buffet style.

To be fair to those who knew me in 1994, I didn’t know to ask for representation.  I realize now why the obvious choices didn’t jump at the chance.  Me becoming a writer terrified blue-collar adults around me.

To Ariel, I promise never to use the word p_ _ _ _ _ _ _ mentioned on page 82.  I get it.

Much love & peace to all readers & dreamers.  oxox

Signature GSE

Permission

My mind, body, and soul have been confused since mid-February.  I laid down my superpowers.

That is when I let go of working four jobs simultaneously.  The same week Hubby finished his last day at work never to work a full time job again.  Meanwhile our house is for sale, and we are responsible to help one of our close family members who struggles with mental illness.

Oh, and my nearly new laptop broke.  Boo!

Somehow with three less boss supervisions to schedule per month I thought I would jump into a writing routine.

Nope.  I found myself instead grieving the losses and challenges our family faces.  I enjoy my new job, yet could not make the turn to be disciplined with writing during evenings and weekends.  With the size of my household to-do list, free time is debatable anyway.

Then there is the ever present internal fight for gratitude.  I wrestle with the fact things could be worse, way worse.  I tell myself:  Enjoy right now.  Count the blessings even when the challenges feel like too much.

So I rested and watched winter play out its final weeks.  I wondered when would I feel like digging into my passion?  Afterall, I have not one, but two manuscripts that need attention!  Do I dare say who need attention?  I sense the writing files need me to breathe life into them.  They will walk upright alive.

Worse, I received unexpected feedback from more than one friend that I don’t seem available or as connected as they thought I would be after the job shift.  Don’t I have more time for them now?  Haven’t the number of hours in a week expanded for me somehow? [No, it’s the same number of hours, Ladies.]

Some folks thought I would be more fun perhaps.  I am flat emotionally.  Even if I go through the motions to return texts, friends may pick up that my vibe is “off”.

I became quiet.  I said no to multiple social outings.  I don’t want to be that person who struggles all the time.  I have less and less to say out loud.  Besides, a realtor might request a showing any minute.  I better stay close to home to swish a toilet or run the vacuum–this home in which I can no longer fully relax.

At times I dream of moving far away.  Montana, Florida, Oregon, a random place with no expectations.  I could take my troubles elsewhere.

Fortunately kindness and encouragement arrive from various people in surprising ways too.  Cookies baked by a neighbor for our open house.  A box of positive intentions to read one note at a time.  Patience.  Laughter.  Forgiveness.  Someone asking if there are ways for her to be a good friend to me right now.  All good things.

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Leveling up to a new reality is not instantaneous.  I need time to adjust.

I cling to daily Bible verses, but I do not communicate well with God or anyone other than maybe Hubby right now.  Perhaps I’m in the eye of the storm or this is the whole Footprints poem with one set of footprints at the moment.

I follow strong women on Instagram. What would authors Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Doyle do to self-care through this, I ponder?  They are unapologetic in their processing.

Then Lysa Terkuerst makes the Word of God light up on my cell phone.  She’s been through trying times.

And how about the young woman at my church who is blogging her heart out?  She’s cool and fun to watch grow deeper into adulthood.  Or my 100 miles consecutive running friend with a book coming out later this year.  Love you, Kelly!  I am still in awe that Kelly played on her high school football team.  Shout out for writing consistency Brieanna Arsenault and K. A. Wypych!  I am inspired by you weekly!

What emerged in my brain a couple days ago is that I dwell in what I should be doing rather than what I desire to do.  And there’s too many should-be-doings.  As a wife and mother maybe it is time I recover from some of that.  I could be cooking, cleaning, and gosh darn organizing every hour of the day.  Or I can give myself permission to write.  Permission to take a time out.  Permission to rest.  Permission to be me.

Permission to say no as long as I need to say no.  Permission to say yes to the right things for right now.

Permission is a different way of thinking for me.  It is a shift in my perspective.

Permission means releasing the coulda shoulda woulda pressures.  I can choose and then not think about the decision again.  I have permission to let the chips fall where they fall.

Permission means I get a vote.  Permission means I don’t constantly worry about everyone else’s needs before I do something for me.  Permission might seem selfish.  And I have permission to let go of that concern.

There are people I admire who give themselves permission freely without thoughts of repercussions.  I love them and don’t judge them.  I have permission to do the same.

I have permission to dial direct in my prayers and say more than early morning, “Hold me and ease me out of this bed, Father.  That’s all I’ve got to say today.”  I have permission to recognize seasons of life.  I have permission to pray all the things and seek the path I know He imprinted on my heart long ago.

See the source image

As a matter of fact, I have permission to open the screen door, listen to the rain, and write life into my novels.  Right now.

CPR in progress.

Love always,

Signature GSE

P.S.  What do you have permission to do?  How are you managing the seasons of life?

 

 

 

What Swirls In Your Head

Are there negative comments made by others about you that come to mind easily or often?

And worse, were those words said many years ago, but still linger today?

Yeah?  Me too.

I’ve chosen to address some of the aforementioned.  To follow is one example.

Shortly after Hubby and I were married my mom said, “I know he must love you because I know what that (me!) looks like in the morning.”

Some might think that she was jovial or meant her over share for fun, but in that moment I felt her words pierce my newlywed abdomen. Deep.

Over the decades I barely noticed that I heard her say it over and over within the swirling sauce pan on my mental health back burner.  Her sentence low level impacts my ability to function.

I don’t want to see me in the mornings.  I can be slow to rise post alarm clock.  Her words are there even when I mostly ignore their existence.  I take way too long to get out the door.  I dread the daily get ready ritual.  And frankly, I’d like a blue ribbon for managing to get me from bedhead to work while also getting children to school for much of the last 20 years.

Recently I allowed myself to tune in to the slow burn frequency.  I decided that every single day for the month of February I would take a morning selfie within minutes of being awake.

Maybe if I head on face my own face and wild AM hair, then I could find release from those stupid words?

So the selfies began.

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I challenged her comment.

And I felt annoyed mostly.

I laughed at frayed ponytails.  I dared to whisper “make up free is beautiful” or “lingering one eyed eye liner is hot”.

I hid sometimes.

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I took a pic daily no matter what.

I guessed by my birthday mid month surely I would be past carrying the hurt.  I am a gosh darn Valentine Day born person filled with Love and Light.  I am done with holding myself back.  Right?

Nope.  I did not feel better the 14th, 15th, 16th, and so forth.

I continue with my selfie promise and determine that I will learn to love all this.  After all, God loves me.  And there are plenty of people who may not be traditional magazine cover material, but I find them gorgeous inside and out.  Could I admire the undone me?

Along the way I accept that I may complete the month without feeling any breakthroughs on the subject of my morning time look.  I pondered verses like:

Psalm 139:14 I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this.

Ephesians 5:29 For no one has ever hated his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, as the Messiah does the church.

Proverbs 19:8 To acquire wisdom is to love oneself; people who cherish understanding will prosper.

Then one night last week I had a dream.  A detailed dream.  People I trust and value greatly were there.  I was invited to go on a hike.  I had to pack quickly borrowing some supplies, grabbing what was available, and choosing to do without some items.

My hiking buddy was a young early 20’s gal with red hair.  As we passed an amusement park on our way to nature she said, “I may not be or feel pretty,  but I always have adventure.”

Yes!  Something shifted in my body.  I connected with the free to roam, always have adventure statement.  When I woke up, I no longer felt linked to the negative feelings.  I felt change.

I thanked God for my sense of departure from the negative weight.

Since that dream I have continued the February commitment while also noticing my improved ability to love the person I spend the most time with: me.

The 28 pictures have formed into an art collection.  I appreciate both the humor and seriousness found in the pictures.

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I am pretty excited today is March 1.  No more morning selfies and no more need for morning selfies.

What swirls in your mind?  Is there something you can address with the intention of breaking free from it?  I’d love to hear how you creatively kick certain thoughts or words to the curb.

Wishing you health and freedom,

Glenna

 

#MeToo and the Christian Woman

Before I hit “send” on the type of email that 99.9999% of the time you should not send, I shared it first with my new boss.

Within minutes the office phone rang.  “Come see me please,” he said.

My boss looked me in the eye and expressed with stern lips, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“I’ve counted the cost.”  It’s a hill I’m willing to die on.

He nods, “Ok.  Good luck.”

I proceeded to send the email to the head of the company and Human Resources.

~~~

I’ve been asked a few times what I think about the #MeToo movement.  The experience I describe took place a long time ago, way before #MeToo.

Once upon a time I spent over a decade in the corporate world.  It was clear that some men abused power or said whatever crude thing they wanted with little consequence.  I wondered why I was told as an adolescent that girls can do anything we set our mind to do, but once I was in the business world somehow, I, a woman, often felt “less than” or “used” in some way.

There were many examples.  I entered a meeting where a client raised an eyebrow and said to the men with me, “Well, I’ll sign the contract since you brought this.”  I was a this?  One year I spent every work day at 5pm being critiqued by a boss for my performance beginning with how my hair, clothes, and makeup looked that day.  A year.  Every day.  He thought he was helping me function in a man’s world–that’s what he called his pacing and instructing while I sat wanting to go home.

I’ll spare you the long and varied list of inappropriate moments.  Not all men behaved this way.  Men who were spiritual or had a personal growth mindset were respectful.

~~~

Back to the email sent with no turning back.  Times were tricky.  An executive woman had been fired and then settled a lawsuit.  I knew those in charge were on edge.  I had asked for months to increase pay for my staff as well as provide equal pay for males and females.  My request had been dismissed multiple times.  It bothered me when females with similar qualifications were hired for less salary than a man for the same job.

So, I wrote key bullet points of concern and asked to meet with the head of the company and HR every Friday at 1pm for about 20 minutes.

“What do you want?!” The head of the company bellowed at the first meeting.  He had invited another male executive who was known to be threatening.  I knew first hand because he had threatened my family the year prior when I pointed out something else unethical.  Specifically, “It would be a shame if your boys grow up without a mother.”  The Holy Spirit reminded me of David and Goliath.  I wasn’t afraid.  The HR representative brought two pens and a yellow writing pad.

“I want to discuss an example or two each week of things that have been said or done that involve discrimination.  I believe our company can treat people better.  Twenty minutes each Friday should do it.  I believe we can work together for healthy change.”

“For how many Fridays?” his nostrils flared with suspicion.

“As long as it takes.”

And so, we began.  I brought weekly succinct topics or situations and explained why you can’t say this or that about women, or make fun of people in general, or discriminate against minorities–conscious or unconscious.

Outside of these meetings, a nervousness grew in the boardroom.  The leadership group said cursing was no longer permitted.  Jokes were shut down with side-eye looks before punchlines arrived.  My department’s pay raise was approved after six Fridays.

I think the men began wondering what in the world I planned to say next each week.  Eventually I offered an ending, “I think we’ve covered what needed to be said.”

HR put down her pen.  The threatening guy yawned.  The head of the company snorted relief.  We almost had become comfortable in the muck.

That was a time and place where I chose to go uphill alone after deciding I could accept potential negative repercussions.  One thing I like about #MeToo is that people are saying you are not alone when discrimination happens.

With or without such a movement, God gave us road maps in the Bible to address wrongs peacefully.  Actions are not to be taken lightly.  Here are steps I followed:

  • Consult scripture.  [Matthew 18:15-17,  Galatians 6:1]
  • Pray.
  • Go to the person directly.  I had with no progress.  That’s why I moved on to request the Friday meetings with HR present.
  • Seek wisdom and/or wise counsel.
  • Think about timing.  My guess was it was a time when the head of the company would listen to me whether he liked what I had to say or not.
  • Consider chain of command.  My new boss learned my intentions from me first.  I had reason to believe based on his professional behavior that he would be supportive.
  • Count the costs.  I remember thinking of the best and worst scenarios that could happen and accepted in advance that the outcome could be good, bad, or something I couldn’t imagine yet.

~~~

Down the road after the head of the company left the organization and later I had too, I saw him one more time.  He wanted me to work on a project with him.  I asked why would he want me to do that?  His answer, “Because you taught me about love.”

I didn’t see that coming.  But it made sense.  God is love.