CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER SEVEN

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

JUNE 1, 2016

It is Zero Dark Thirty.

My body stirs. I am unsure if I have slept hours or minutes.  

Did I bring the flip knife into the tent with me? My hands survey the darkness.

I promised Jacob that the knife would be in my pocket, but I forgot to get it out of my bag.

My eyes open to the nothingness. I hear a creature!

Maybe two? Three creatures?! 

Little snorts and sniffs graze outside the tent near my head. I guess these animals are not opposed to the scent of moth balls. I roll my eyes. 

Sniff, sniff, sniff.

Leaves rustle under whatever kind of paws they have. Sniff, sniff. 

My body freezes. What if it is a skunk? And it startles? What if it sprays a horrible stench? 

Or, what if it is the type of animal that will run away if I make noise? 

What should I do?

I contemplate.

What if I turn on my flashlight? Maybe that will create a shadow showing me what it really is? 

But–what if knowing what it is will make me feel worse? Knowing could be scary.

Nope. No shadow images. Thanks. I do not need to know!

I shiver in the cold night air. My arms cross inside Paul’s wind breaker style golf sweatshirt.

Is that a stick in my back? Ouch. No, it just hurts to sleep on the ground

While I am five feet ten inches tall, the borrowed sleep pad is two feet five inches long. Not much padding is under this body. I visualize the much longer pad I saw at a store for $59.99. That was too much to spend when a borrowed pad was available. 

Sniff, sniff.

While the nocturnal visitors continue to scurry near me, I think about the budget at home and how the boys wanted macaroni and snacks the week I said no to $59.99 for myself. My mind wanders on to thoughts about the timing of bills and the cash left behind that should get the guys through this week. Jacob is going to work a summer lifeguard job. That will help.

Arms tight and legs curled in an effort to find warmth, I fall back to sleep.

DAYBREAK

I awaken to chirping birds. My body hurts when I roll over inside the tent.

The birds are loud.

Anxious excitement arrives. This is it! Time to hike. It is about to be the real deal with no opportunity for escape to a nearby parked car. We are going into the woods!

I learned yesterday that Dick and SunFloJo revised the plan so that we will drive to our hiking end point today to meet Dick. That is where we will leave the car. Then Dick will drive our group to the start point for drop off. This way we will end hiking the trail back at our car.

Genius new idea? Yes, but this is not what Paul is picturing back in our family room. I think about him looking at our trail plan, probably reviewing it repeatedly. I can feel his mind visualizing our steps. He thinks our car will be at the starting point, not the end.

My phone no longer works in the national park so there is no way to update him. I trust that a search team would check both ends of the plan for our car and clues if needed. Let’s just hope we do not get lost. I am fine. Everything is fine.

When we purchased gasoline yesterday, I sent the last text to say I love him and the boys. I shared that I was putting the phone away until the end of the trip. I turned off the cell and put it in SunFloJo’s glove box.

I do not know what time it is. I recall that my backpack is in disarray. I have got to fix that. Maybe I can quietly do this before anyone else is awake.

The sound of my tent unzipping does not seem to disturb the young girls’ tent, but it turns out that JoAnn and I are unzipping in unison. We crawl out of our tents both with the same need to pee. 

We do not talk. We stumble around looking for a good spot. My back is on fire from the hours spent on the ground. My legs are numb. Also, I am not a morning person. I wave her toward the direction she seems to be interested in anyway and I head the opposite direction toward the parking lot.

Urinating in the light of day is something to figure out. I wander a bit. Decisions, decisions.

I take care of business in the grass behind a dumpster. Success. Who knew that figuring out how to pee outside would feel like such an accomplishment?

The stream runs under the dumpster and out the other side toward the parking lot and road. I will pretend like I do not see that if anyone happens to walk by. Next time I will do better in the grass somewhere deeper in the woods. I am building confidence in this new skill.

I walk back to camp quietly. The girls continue to snooze. Good, I need the picnic table space to spread out supplies. I will take down my tent, hopefully sort through my backpack, and then they can have the same space to organize if needed. Keep sleeping girls. I notice SunFloJo is back inside her tent.

But first I need to peek at the fire pit.

Darn it! The broken hot dog IS present in the ash. It did not burn up.

Uh oh. We were lucky no bears came overnight. –No bears that I know of anyway. Now I feel bad for lying. And I feel relief that we survived the night. I really believed the hot dog must have burned up. I walk the dog pieces back to the road and throw the remains into the dumpster. Good riddance.

I disassemble my tent. SunFloJo’s hand emerges from her tent. She tosses out the car keys. No words. She knows what I am up to. I appreciate that. Hoping I do not disturb her too much, I am happy to soon hear her snore again. Sleep all you can, I think. No doubt we are going to need every ounce of rest we can get out here.

Grass, trees, and the lingering fire scent smell fresh in this new day. My tent is rolled to fit into its little bag. My backpack is dismantled and reassembled. Anything I might not need goes into my overflow tote bags and into the back of the CR-V. 

As I work, I look down toward who I will now refer to as Shut-Up-Guy. He is up, out of his tent and packing his bag. He has an interesting look. He is thin, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, has bright white hair, and I think he may be Asian. Maybe. At one point he grabs what I recognize is a mini-shovel and heads north into the woods. He is gone a long time. Must be his poo time I suppose based on YouTube lessons. Ugh, I really hope I do not have to figure out the shovel thing on this trip.

When I put things back in the car, a park ranger in an SUV stops to ask if someone was in our spot last night. I had not thought much about it but as a matter of fact, “Yes.”

Shut-Up-Guy was in our spot. So, we were supposed to be in 1A1 by ourselves. We certainly would have had more room if he had not been there.

No idea what the ranger is going to do about it, but now I feel better regarding our first night that included minor noise and nervous energy.

Inside the car, I change into my outfit for the rest of the week: Paul’s Boy Scout pants, dri wick shirt formerly belonging to my sons, Fruit of the Loom Cool Blend underwear. Then I place the knife into my cargo pant pocket.

Back at the picnic table, I open my last Pepsi can and sit down to munch on a Pop-Tart for breakfast. I stare into the trees and listen to SunFloJo sleep.

Dear God,

Thank you for the beauty of nature. Please bless our trip. Keep us safe from injury and danger. Guide us and take care of our families back home.  Thank you. 

Amen.

The girls come out of their tent as I finish breakfast. I feel organized. Ready for the day.  Let’s do this. It’s almost time to meet Dick!  We told him we would see him at 9am.

“Do you know what time it is?” Stalker C asks the very relaxed me.

“No idea,” I say. Isn’t it lovely? I am awake with the birds and that is all I know.

The girls observe that my stuff is packed. I whisper, “I don’t want to be late for Dick.” Sunshine and Stalker C giggle.

Shut-Up-Guy grumbles a monotone “Good morning” toward us as he gathers items and leaves camp with supplies on his back.

The girls shared that they slept off and on through the night. They had layered up for cold, but it turned out the layers made them too hot. Also, they were closest to the mystery tent guy and it occurred to them that stranger danger could be an issue.

SunFloJo comes out of her tent as the girls begin packing up. “What time is it?” I ask.

“6:00AM.” 

“That’s all?” Wow. I have been up a long time.

Stalker C and Sunshine Rat softly scoff at my surprised face.

We will have ourselves together in plenty of time to meet Dick. 

Sunshine, Stalker C and I sit on top of the picnic table.  We reflect about the trip so far.  Sunshine brought a lightweight journal.   

“Thank you, Sunshine. I do not want to forget the details of what we see and do along the way. In just 24 hours so much has happened already and so much is ahead,” I say as Sunshine writes notes about our adventures.

Rosemary the deer returns to camp briefly. She walks near our picnic table and nods toward Stalker C. 

Everything back in the car, we drive to the camp store before leaving Loft Mountain Campground. SunFloJo and Sunshine get morning coffee. The building smells of fresh cut wood.

“Delicious,” Sunshine says about the coffee. Stalker C and I pour energy powder packets into water bottles.

The sun gently tickles the tops of our heads as we put on hiking boots for the day. The guy from the store comes outside to chat with us. We exchange where everyone is from. He is originally from Ohio. He and his wife moved here ten years ago. 

My mind leaves the group conversation. I internally marvel at a quick mental list of things like:  Wow I slept outside last night. I am not taking a shower today and that’s kind of weird. Today I get to hike to the highest peak in the Shenandoah Valley area. And perhaps most importantly, I hope Dick is not a serial killer.

Oh wait. What time is it? Will I ever get used to having no clock with me?

Perhaps we are too Zen hanging outside the store overlooking another mountain view. Sunshine asks, “Are we running on time to meet Dick?”

The store guy says, “It’s about 9:05am now.”

The Steam Team stands up!

Somehow with plenty of time to get ready we are late. We are supposed to meet Dick in the parking lot of Lewis Mountain Campground a few miles down the road. 

On the way to Lewis we try in vain to get the girls’ cellphones to work. There is no signal.  I borrow SunFloJo’s phone and send a text to Dick that says “On our way” but the screen icon spins indefinitely and I am not sure if it goes through. Calling does not work on any of the phones either.

As SunFloJo picks up speed on curvy roads, I eye Stalker C who may be getting a little nervous about going into the woods where the bears live. Me too, Sister!

“Are you worried about the bears?” I ask.

She nods yes.

“At least there are not grizzly bears here. Black bears generally will leave you alone,” SunFloJo assures us.

“Good to know,” says Stalker C.

“Generally,” repeats Sunshine.

SunFloJo shares that one time in Colorado she encountered an injured mountain lion on a trail, “He was beautiful, but dangerous to the average human.” She was able to go for help and a rescue team came and nursed him back to health.

“And there’s no mountain lions in this part of the country,” I look at Stalker C.  “We’ve got this.”

We make it by 9:20AM. Dick has not left us. 

“I received your text,” says the elderly and in great shape Dick.

Dick wears a pressed Hawaiian short-sleeve button up shirt and khaki shorts. Every remaining hair on his head is neatly in place. His large white truck with extended cab has plenty of seating.

Dick stands at the back of the truck as we clumsily put our backpacks and hiking poles into the truck bed. I sense he is sizing up our lack of experience.

I slip into the backseat. My bag has been packed for hours at this point. I savor the cushioned seating while it is available. It is going to be days before I have a comfortable seat again.

Outside the truck, the girls fumble with their socks and extra items. They make last minute decisions about what goes with us and what to toss back into SunFloJo’s car.

On the driver side visor there is a sticker outlined in red that reads “Hello My Name Is Dick”. I snap a picture of the sticker. I brought Ben’s old camera to take a few images of the experience. I wonder what Ben is doing this morning on his first week off from school. Probably sleeping. I bought this cheap 35mm camera for Ben when he was ten years old. That was the year he went to Boy Scout camp and lost his glasses at the bottom of the lake. I smile at the thought now while remembering how upset we were that insurance only covers glasses if the glasses are available to repair or replace. The fuzzy, hard to read 35m screen shows that I have a full battery. That should last the week.

I stifle nervous laughter while thinking, What in the world are we doing here?!

Once loaded Dick begins the drive. He points, “When you end your hike you’ll come out of the woods about here. The quickest way to get back to your car is to shortcut through those trees. Look for the steel grate on the ground and turn left. Then go through the next set of trees and you’ll arrive 30 minutes sooner than you would have if you walked along the road.”

I could not visualize or take mental note of his instructions. If I am the one in charge of that cut through at the end, then we are already lost. Hopefully, someone else caught Dick’s logic. No one asks him to repeat it.

JoAnn sits in the front seat and is in interview mode, “Tell us about your hiking experience, Dick.”

His deep voice shares, “I have hiked the whole AT once. Did it in sections. Took me 13 years to finish.”

We learn that Dick was an international traveler for work. He trained people all over the world on “something” that he would not share when we pressed. So we conclude inside our own heads that he is former CIA, FBI, etc. Don’t be vague, Dick. We’ll make stuff up to fill in the blanks!

Now retired, Dick is the president of Hiking Helpers.

We arrive at the drop off point. My heart leaps. We are really going to do this! 

In Hawksbill Gap Parking Lot, I put my backpack on right away. I am confident in how to do it with the extra back support because I watched the YouTube video of how to wear it properly. 

Sunshine Rat and Stalker C; however, have more questions for Dick about their packs. 

And Dick has more answers than necessary while my shoulders grow weary.

But the comfort and confidence built was nice to observe as Stalker C & Sunshine learned what each strap was for, how to put the pack on securely, how to put in their Camelback water containers, thread their water tubes, and more.

I should sit down on the ground, but I am afraid I could not get back up. If I take off the pack, I risk a lecture from Dick about how to put it back on.

SunFloJo asks, “What is the number one mistake that AT hikers make?”

I am going to topple over in the sun if this conversation continues.

He replies, “Not having enough water or not drinking enough water.”

We have a way to sterilize river water so we feel prepared.

Dick instructs the girls, “Don’t be afraid to pull these straps.”

He points to both of their arm areas where the straps hang and continues, “Just pull ‘em.  They will help you make the pack more compact and these straps right here will help lift the pack and make it more comfortable on your hips.”

He emphasizes again, “Don’t be afraid to pull ‘em.”

“One last thing”, he says 25 minutes later I am guessing. Dick takes our “before” picture. We pose as a foursome wearing our backpacks.

We combine our cash and leave money on his truck seat to say thanks for the lift. We are grateful to him both for transportation and advice.

Sunshine Rat says, “You are the bomb, Dick.”

Dick says, “I’ve never been called the bomb before.” 

He offers to take more pictures and more poses, but we are ready to go. The highest peak of the trip is waiting for us

We take our first steps onto the trail.

Thanks for reading and/or listening!

If you would like to listen to the Audio Version or support this creative work, click below for my podcast.

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

Check back next Sunday for CHAPTER EIGHT.

Three Days

Dear Readers,

In three days, I will begin posting one chapter per week of my manuscript Surrender on the Trail.

I plan to have fun with this project. Hope you will have fun too!

If you want to help the process, here are three things you can do.

A) Subscribe to the blog by entering your email address via the top right side of the Home page. This guarantees that you receive an email once per chapter release.

B) Like the post or comment after reading. I would love to hear how the experience resonates with you or answer questions.

C) Share the chapter with people you think might enjoy the story. After the first week, I will include a fresh page link where chapters will be in numerical order in case you want to send someone one link regarding what has been shared so far.

Thanks much!

See you on the trail,

Accept Help

Things are better for our family today than they were one year ago.

Or, today compared with the last seven years, seven years that got progressively worse until I thought my brain and heart might implode.

I felt fear typing the word “better”, but it is true.

Thank God.

And, thank people.

A key thing I learned especially the last three years was that help comes from the most unexpected places: complete strangers, acquaintances, neighbors, some friends, some family. There was a time when I would have refused help or tried to do it all my own.

I stopped being embarrassed of our mess and started saying yes.

Someone I trusted but did not know well sorted my jewelry and personal items. A team of painters from a church different from our own church came to our house for over a week, most that I did not know. Someone I barely knew out of town paid our electric at just the right time when I was debating the order and deadlines of bills. Grocery gift cards arrived. Encouragement came in the mail from both sisters (by blood and marriage) at just the right time every time. Someone ran a marathon to fundraise so that Hubby could get a mobile scooter. A friend spent 36 hours removing stubborn wallpaper at the condominium. One room had four layers! Eight women over 60 years old showed up to pack their cars with Rubbermaid containers to transport from garage to garage so that we could save time and money on moving day. This paragraph could be much longer with stories of miracle people showing up, but you get the idea.

One thing that rolled around in my head was that people do what they can when they can. I did not expect anyone to help. I think it is dangerous and mean to expect people to be there for you. For example, I am not a fan of Facebook chain posts that end with “and I think I know who will respond.” Yeah, no, at any given time, you do not know what someone is really experiencing or what they can make time for this minute or in this season of their life.

If you are going through a tough time, just be open without judgement. Say yes to those who emerge from the clouds. In addition, when you can, make sure you help others too. There are plenty of opportunities to be there for people when you can. Over the years, I have really enjoyed giving quietly when I was able. It was humbling to be on the receiving end. And, it was necessary to accept help. We would not have made it otherwise. Thank you to many.

When we have frustrating days now, I observe how quickly my mind thinks, “Thank You for my problems.” Right now involves acceptable water treading with a little space and capacity to roll with the waves. I feel the physical and mental stretch daily but nothing like recent years.

Last summer I was fortunate to visit Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The building is constructed with glass walls that provide a sanctuary in the woods.

While there, I thought about its openness to nature. I considered my openness to surrender.

Surrender means saying yes to God through the stress. Surrender says, “Sure you can sort these items in my bedroom. Seems like a personal place, but let’s go for it.” Surrender says, “Thank you for adopting my son to celebrate his high school graduation in ways that I would not have been able at that time to provide.” Surrender says, “Yes, please interview and find us the best realtor for our situation.”

Surrender is also the word that came to mind back in 2016 when I was out of shape and said yes to a near week long hike on the Appalachian Trail with a team of women.

I knew the ground was sliding under our family’s footing. Something was wrong. I thought I was losing my mind over our oldest son going to the military at 17 years old. Maybe if I ran away to hike and sleep outside, then I could get alone with God to work out my mixed up feelings.

However, there was more.

And, God was preparing me.

“Surrender on the Trail” became the title of the manuscript I wrote about our wild experience in the woods. Imagine four women committed to staying outside to maneuver rocks and mountains for 35 miles. Imagine getting lost in the rain at nightfall. Imagine tears and flies buzzing with an incredible 4,050 feet view above sea level.

I am thinking about publishing one chapter a week here on the blog. What do you think?

The manuscript has been complete and edited for a long time. Something in my heart does not feel like continuing to query publishers or literary agents right now. What if I make it available here?

People from 34 countries read this blog last year. What if I simply share?

If you have comments or ideas about this idea, please let me know.

Thanks,

Psalm 121:1a ~ I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD….

New Greeting & COVID-19 Writer Observations

Social distancing among the smart people was in full effect last week.

And darn it, I needed to leave my home to go to the rare event that was not cancelled.

I knew there would be a small number of people I’d never met, people who I want to know, people who are focused on a shared mission, people who agreed in an advance email that we would remain more than 6 feet apart the whole day.

I am a solid hand shake and smile person normally. What do I do now that COVID-19 is here?

I gave it thought well before I entered the ghost town building in downtown Cincinnati.

When I saw the first new-to-me person, I met their eyes with my eyes, paused my inertia way short of their personal space and gave a little namaste nod with a smile. No spittle.

We acknowledged the awkwardness verbally and moved to opposite corners of a large room to re-disinfect our personal tables. I made eye contact with other new people in other corners.

We agree from yards away that we are all good with continuous disinfecting and using a paper towel to open doors when it may not be not possible to prop open a door. Throughout the day I mentally lean in my eyes to their far away eyes to connect in agreement with certain things said. Or, to look away when I did not agree. Oh, and there were the pressed lips, eye brows raised “mmm hmm” moments when someone said something totally on point.

I felt like we got to know one another and accomplished our project over two days. Then I left to work from home as much as possible. Leaving and returning to the house requires a serious self-sanitize process. I am not messing around with what could hurt my family or anyone else’s family.

In this new pandemic world, there are observations that strike my writer/artist brain.

People find new creativity when traditional communication has been altered. Social media is a full spectrum of posts from the inspiring to funny to nice-attempt-but-missed to tasteless memes. Humans need their outlets.

When my brain will focus, I read the long emails that once seemed unnecessary or painful. Phone conversations are the golden prize. I try to have at least one every day. How many years has it been since a phone call about work or general friendship stuff has been relaxed and allotted time without being rushed?

I love hearing people talk about how they discovered that the word cancelled can be spelled appropriately with one l or two. Makes me think, Welcome to my world. I look up things like that all the time.

And can we take a minute to celebrate the creative IT staff all over the world? They have been prepping to help people work remotely for years. Information technology is its own special kind of art. You rock!

My prayers flow right now especially for healthcare professionals and for humans to remain well or to recover from illness.

I predict a post-pandemic automatic door installation surge in public buildings and the remodel of doorless bathroom entrances.

Let’s help others by staying home. We can do this, Earth People. Flatten the curve.

For those who can make time, please use a thesaurus to find other words for “unprecedented”, although I am not sure there is a better word for this time in history. Can we mix it up a little?

Oh, and it is “uncharted waters” not “unchartered waters”. It’s tricky. I know because I already messed that one up once or twice.

Love from a distance,

Glenna

Isaiah 26:20 ~ Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by.

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P.S. My hair dryer broke this week. Am I running out to buy a new one? Nope!

Uber Stress

There was no calming my heartbeat. Blood rushed through my body. My back and head hurt. I was scared.

It took me 3 weeks to set up Uber on my phone. I knew how to use Uber as a passenger. I did not know how to be a driver. The app is so simple that I was confused. I watched driver YouTube videos and tutorials, uploaded my car related documents, but understood little. I gathered that in order to learn, I must go do.

I told Hubby Saturday evening that I was off to try my best. We are in the 10 day financial crunch period of the month so this gal’s gotta make extra dough.

Seemed like there is not much trip action for drivers in Kentucky so I nervously headed toward Ohio to a sketch neighborhood that showed fares available on the map. Gotta rip the band-aid off, I told myself.

Suddenly the phone beeped while I was still in Kentucky. I had a trip request. I pushed “accept”.

The app directed me to Bonefish Grill. I looked for a human, then realized I was there for a food pickup.

Ooohhh.

Inside the building, I felt the little kick in the stomach that sometimes comes when I see couples out having fun. Couples without wheelchairs everywhere.

Aside from that soon squelched jealousy, I wanted to scream, “This is my first time with Uber!”

So many thoughts.

Servers brought the food bag. I hoped it was all in there. I glanced at the number of containers, but I am not familiar with that restaurant’s food.

Off I went 10 miles to find house numbers in the dark.

A nonchalant woman took the food after I called her.

8 dollars earned. Was that enough of a trial run or should I continue?

I see a “$5 bonus for 3 series” trip on the map. I am not far away so I head that direction thinking, What type of person needs 3 back to back trips? Will this be a grandma who needs to run a few errands? At 930pm?

Shows how clueless I am. That was simply an enticement to stay in an area and do multiple trips.

Which was fine, bonus either way. My first passenger was named the same as my best friend’s daughter. That gave me comfort. She was a sweetheart too.

At one point, I felt lonely on top of my newbie anxiety. Then inbetween trips, I received a text from my bestie seeing if I was out giving Uber Driver a go. It meant a lot to be checked on and she reminded me of Joshua 1:9 at the very moment I had made $19.19.

Then our 17yo texted at 11:30pm to ask, “Everything ok?” before he went to bed. That warmed my soul.

I stopped around midnight with 5 total trips and 45 dollars. Thank you to Madeline and Autumn who tipped. I can’t figure out if there is a way to say thanks through the app.

That is all I could handle on a first go. No matter how I tried to be calm, I couldn’t manage to be relaxed in this new arena yet.

I’ll keep my car clean and try to pick up more this week.

For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Discipline, Fear & a side of #MeToo

I resent that she was right.

She made a tsk, tsk sound and shook her head, “If you leave this job, you will never make that kind of money again.”

That was December 2007. I have yet to prove my mother wrong.

My career field path has been mental health, then leave for money in the corporate world, miss my first loves of mental health and writing, and then go back to mental health. Hubby was supposed to grow his career so I could work in my passion areas, but that didn’t evolve as we hoped, and his body failed. Our plan fell apart. Now we regroup.

I enjoy my current job working with families and children. It is hard work but manageable. When I saw a job posting last week back in corporate, I asked Hubby if he thought I should dive back in for the cash. He texted, “We can ponder and talk about it, but I’d hate for you to sell your soul again.”

He knows me. My skills could adapt. It is my heart that would struggle. I am curious, though, what that paycheck would be like in the #MeToo era.

I used to tell my mom some of the male shenanigans and how few women were at my old job. She would say things like, “Just take the money. You can ignore them.”

This came from a mom who once jumped out of her car in traffic to yell at a man for being a man (and for cutting her off). I begged her to get back in the car. I saw rage in her eyes that was way more about the way men treated her over the years than a driving violation. She felt trapped by men who had no more education, sometimes less, than she did.

My biggest challenges in the business job were not about overlooking some of the men’s words and behavior. What I struggled with most was knowing how capable I was of playing by their rules. That’s taken time for me to reflect and realize. The truth was I could assimilate. I scared myself. I ignored too much.

At my core, I am no Daisy from The Great Gatsby. I am not made to be Reba McEntire’s “Fancy”.

Back then, I read the books Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman and Hardball For Women (now in its third edition) thankful that the authors could give me insight.

The long days were exhausting to navigate, but in my mind I played the Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler” to cope:

You gotta know when to hold ’em.

Know when to fold ’em.

Know when to walk away.

Know when to run…

Practical issues were tough. I had a hard time figuring out how to pay for things necessary to pull off a high level job. Childcare, for example, was expensive. Keeping a clean home with two little ones was impossible; the life size Rubik’s Cube fierce. I learned after leaving that the guy hired to take my place was paid near double what I was paid for the same job.

That part of my journey shows up in my manuscript Martha’s Daughter. The book is fiction with a dose of experience. You read about main character Amy’s childhood secrets at home and school, how she overcomes the cultural lies around her as she matures in adulthood, and how she assesses true love. Will she learn to speak her truth beyond the days of Barbies and mud pies to her days in Corporate America?

I think there is still a lot to unpack about the #MeToo movement. My book takes the reader from the 1970’s/80’s to present day. Imagine a female Forrest Gump, or better, Jenny’s story if anyone bothered to ask her. My favorite part of the book are the Developmental Assets and caring adults that save my character. That is the crossroads where my love of mental health and writing meet.

Think about what women have been through in five decades. Think about the undertones, the unspoken, the rules. Think about how much isn’t obvious. Consider the frustration.

I cheered this year when the Today Show normalized motherhood and women at work. Multiple hosts needed time off for their children and everyone appeared to pitch in and be happy for one another. Savannah, Hoda, Jenna, Dylan, Sheinelle, thank you and the team around you for your fresh example.

I’ve spent too much of my life feeling fearful for various reasons. Right now is the worst.

The Thanksgiving break has been helpful for me to notice my thoughts. I paid attention to my constant worry that something in the house or car might break, that we’ve got to get out of this home before it is impossible for Hubby to crawl up the stairs, or blah, blah, blah, fill-in-the-blank fear after fear.

This weekend I had my first pet sitter side job. Being in someone else’s home energy rebooted me to believe that I can move on to a new energy, a new day, a new place. I do not want to dwell in the fear. It’s time to reset.

Beginning today I am all about discipline over fear. My goal is to get our house back to sell-ready. I want o-u-t! I want to be in a situation that is affordable. I want us to thrive above ALS. This situation will not consume us. I will fight for a win.

I am going to clean, straighten, pack, look for a new realtor, seek financial advice, and persevere.

I have learned so much about discipline with sweat over every penny this year. It’s time to take that discipline further into a new situation. We will pray, turn over the worry daily, and triumph.

Bring on the V8 Energy drink. It’s time to climb further up the mountain.

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…for God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7

Gus Deployment Part Two

Before soaring on United Airlines one day in August, two TSA people panicked when I placed a pet carrier on the security conveyor belt.

I said to their reaching hands, “It’s empty. Don’t worry.”

Whew! Their blue shirts relaxed a bit.

“I am heading to get my son’s cat,” I said to more people than probably wanted to know that day.

My mission: Get the cat. Keep my emotions in check. Spend as little money as possible. Stretch granola in backpack.

One thing I’ve learned about being a military mom is that tears are the enemy to be embraced. I can be happy for our son = tears. I can be proud = tears. Saying hello = tears. Saying goodbye = tears.

Fight them and the tears are worse. I attempt to embrace and let them pass. If you’re a military parent, you know this roller coaster.

Son-1 and I strive for what we call “the good good-bye”. He tries to laugh when my face swells. There is something about military life that makes the words “gut wrenching” meaningful as an experience rather than a phrase.

Once in New Mexico, I see in our son right away that he is feeling about his cat a little like what I feel when he and I separate for months at a time. He hugs Gus, plays with Gus, and takes long looks at Gus. I imagine he is burning the memory of Gus into his soul with enough love to last for many months until they reunite.

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Meanwhile on minimal sleep for a 24 hour trip, my mind focuses on how to get a cat across the country without losing him.

“Ok, Mom. You guys have to go now,” Son-1 said about 40 minutes before I planned to leave that morning. He did not want to cry. I understood.

We place a “calming collar” on Gus and put him in the pet carrier.

“Here. I got you these,” Son-1 hands me breakfast. It was thoughtful of him to stop at a gas station for Pepsi and Swedish Fish with me in mind.

I stress-nosh on the red fish when Gus begins to wail in the car. Have I mentioned that Gus and I had to drive 90 miles to the airport?

Son-1 and GF warned me that Gus does not like car rides, but I know his wail is more than a dislike of the car. Gus knew I was taking him from his people.

Gus cried.

I cried.

Hubby called once while I was stopped in the desert by a police blockade. Missiles were being tested nearby. Stopping only made Gus cry louder.

“It will be ok, Gus.” I turn him so he can see me through his net. That didn’t help. I wonder if his claws will rip the carrier netting. Then I remember that I packed a small roll of duct tape. Hopefully I will not need to figure out how to repair or get him back in the carrier if he escapes.

I hyperventilate on the phone to Hubby, “Don’t. Tell Son-1. That. Gus. Is.” Inhale, “Crying.”

“Honey, catch your own breath. It will be ok.”

Sure it will. I am in new territory: alone with a cat, saying good-bye to our son for his first deployment overseas, and driving toward El Paso, Texas which dripped with sadness in the air from recent events.

There are security options with a pet in an airport. I could take the cat out of the carrier and walk through the screening device. No way. Or I could request the private room to take the cat out of the container. Sigh.

In the private room, the TSA agents share horror stories, “One time a cat died right here at this check point.”

What?!

“Yep, the owner overmedicated the cat.”

I feel so glad we did not medicate Gus. I zip him back inside with our new bonding and determination. We can do this, Gussie-boy. G-ma will protect you.

At our layover, I bravely allow Gus to walk around an indoor pet spot.

I pose him for a picture near the airport’s USO. “We are on task, buddy.”

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He and I people watch at airport gates.

Inside the carrier is one of Son-1’s worn t-shirts. I explain to the cat that the shirt is for comfort.

“Don’t worry, Gus, your owners will be back for you.”

The t-shirt also connects the dots of smells for the pets waiting at home. Once back in Greater Cincinnati, there was minimal quarantine time and/or hissing by our welcome wagon pets. They recognized Son-1’s scent. They gave us looks like, “WTH? Meow. Ok, fine.”

Gus settled in with cat toys, scratch pads, and favorite play-sleep spots. He marvels at the new sights through our window: chipmunks, leaves, grass, snow flurries. It’s different here.

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And sometimes Gus hangs out near the door patiently waiting for Son-1 and GF to return.

Job 12:7 But ask the animals, and they will teach you…

Posts about Gus are dedicated to his cat parents who are currently deployed separately in the military. Please pray for the men and women who endure loneliness in the name of freedom during this holiday season.

Let there be peace on earth.

GF, Son-1, Gus, & their promise rings.

What We Think vs. What Is, Plus Tea

Dear People,

I admired her. I wanted her to like me. I hoped we’d be friends.

And–I was fairly sure she didn’t think anything at all about me.

That lady was busy doing important things that I liked being part of even if on the fringe. She might not have known my first and/or last name.

I attempted a conversation or two. I doubted my spoken words connected to her brain.

Isn’t that how it goes sometimes? We like someone. We share similar ideas with them. They do work we think is cool. We are confident they have zero interest in getting to know us.

Years later she calls me. Wha…wha…what?

She wants to meet at a restaurant.

So I go.

And it turns out she likes my brain too.

She has been reading my blog and asks me to help her think through a couple things.  Then she asks me to pray for her weekly in the months ahead as she works on a project.

I say…ok.

Like, O and K together softly, genuinely.

Before agreeing I took a few seconds to think about whether I could fit her request into my life. Which, I gotta say, is one of my most grown up moments. To consider if I could make time for something new, to think about if I could honor her and my word, ah, yes, that is an adult moment for me.

Connection isn’t always obvious, dear readers. Sometimes less is more. We don’t have to force anything. Be present. Be kind. Carry on. Don’t compromise. Be you. Things come around if they are meant to be.

This example gives me hope that a relationship with a literary agent will come into my life too. It’s happened for others. It will happen for me too. I’ve written two novels in three years (dog gone it) while in the midst of serious life changes.

The pressure is on and off at the same time. My coal is being pressed. I’m learning all I can about who might be my #DreamAgent. It will happen. I know you’re out there.

Until then I am sipping Hot Cinnamon Spice tea on a Sunday morning. I’ve learned that quality tea and taking time to breathe is valuable. I’m putting my mug out there and wishing peace for you and your dreams too.

Love,

Glenna

 

Put It In The Bear Box

I could not physically go on. After walking sunrise to sunset miles down a mountain and then miles back up, I was d-o-n-e done.

In fact, I was not sure I could make it from the large rock where I sat to where we were supposed to pitch tents for the night. My feet felt as if each toe was on fire.

SunFloJo [trail name] returned from scouting the campsite while the group of us stayed with the backpacks and overnight equipment.

I confessed, “I don’t think I can do this another day. It is your dream to hike all week and you should not miss the chance. I’m slowing you down, and I’ve thought it through. I absolutely will be fine if you leave me behind. I’ve got a book. And I am sure I’ll be safe. You must go on without me.” I even carried a fairly lethal knife that my oldest son insisted I have in my pocket during the trip. Whether bears or other probs, I would be fine. My biggest challenge would be disappointment in myself as I watched the other women leave me behind.

I gauged her facial expression to be a mix of “so true that you are slowing us down and yet no, I can’t leave you alone“.

I hobbled to camp and collapsed for a while as daylight slipped into night sky.

My mind spun around options regarding what to do next. I felt beyond grateful to no longer have a sweaty back and backpack attached. The group ate and laughed.

We placed food or items that might cause animal smell curiosity into a bear box.

The bear box was a new concept for me. I marveled at its purpose and convenience. To prepare for the trip we had brought a bear bag and rope to place items away from us and up a tree. This night, though, we had the fancy metal box.  It felt like we had a community chest of drawers out in the woods. I appreciated the safety and kindness of the bear box.

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One Benadryl later, I fell asleep too tired to wonder what that scurry sound was swishing by my single person tent.

Birds became my alarm clock that week. I lay thinking hard about what it would take to continue the trail.

What if half of what I had been carrying simply stayed behind in the bear box? Could we swing back by this place at the end of the week when we have access to a car again?

Long story short, that is what we did. Everyone, especially me, lightened our load. The bear box held the burden. I dared to lace up hiking boots again and head back to the trail knowing the next stop did not have the convenience of a bear box.  The next stop we planned to be much deeper in the woods.  I didn’t want to miss the next level challenge.

The bear box has become a mental metaphor for me when times are tough.  What can I leave behind for now?  What do I need to deal with today, tonight, and leave the rest for later?

In many ways, the bear box represented my faith during that trip.

Best wishes to you this week. If you can’t carry the burden, feel free to stick it in the metaphorical bear box for now.

Love,

Glenna

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Matthew 11:28-30 28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

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.

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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?