Everybody has problems. Life is hard. The older I get the more I realize that everyone is carrying some kind of burden in this very broken world. One of the things we’re here on earth to do is to lighten the load of other human beings. Amazingly, when we help someone else to shoulder their hard stuff, our own troubles become easier to bear.
Another thing that helps us along the way is having an attitude of gratitude. This is not easy for me. I’m an Eeyore. I have a tendency to see the dark, down, and dirty side of everything, so I really have to practice the discipline of positivity. Several years ago I began the tradition of looking back over my year and choosing just one major joyful event from each month lived. I call it my Joy of the Month Club. It’s gotten easier and easier to see the joy. Sometimes I even “cheat” a little and mention two things in one month because life is just that good! Here we go for 2017:
January: In 2016 I discovered yoga. I liked it a lot so I began my year with a thirty-one day yoga challenge. Yoga with Adriene is on You Tube and easily accessible for home practice. It is perfect for me since I like to do my yoga at 4:30 am. Doing yoga consistently for a whole month with practices that build on and compliment one another was just what I needed to make me a yoga lover for life. I still can’t “crow,” but I’m getting closer, and I can “tree” like nobody’s business. I repeated the challenge several other months during the year and Adriene has other challenges to try as well. The new one for this year is called “True” and it starts tomorrow. You should check it out!
February: Since January of 2014 I have had “Do something about my hair” on my list of goals for the year. When my hair came back after chemo, it was so different. No one warned me about this. There was only about a third of what I had before. It was a blondie-gray with light auburn streaks, and limp. It just wasn’t my hair and I had no idea what to do with it. I got it cut a few times, but no one I went to seemed to have any good ideas. One stylist even sort of gasped and asked me if I’d seen what was going on on the back of my head. I hadn’t and I didn’t really care to. This year, however, I decided to be brave and face the issue. My daughter has a stylist she loves and I asked her to make an appointment for me when she got her hair done in February. I’m so glad I did! I’m still not super comfortable with my hair like I was before cancer. I’m still growing out the bangs I’d been chopping off every month myself, but we’re getting somewhere. Amazingly, ten years after chemo, some of my thin places are starting to fill back in. I get a trim every eight weeks and I even got some low lights! I’m very thankful and I get to spend a girlie night with my eldest every eight weeks! Win/win!
March: In March I ran the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon with my son-in-law. That was awesome. It was fun to travel somewhere just to run and finishing a half is very satisfying. We had a fun family girls night in March as well. We went to a nice dinner at Macaroni Grill and then we all went to see the new version of Beauty and the Beast. It was a really fun night full of laughter and tears of the best kind.
April: April 3rd is my youngest son’s birthday. This year it was one of the most tense, nerve wracking, wonderful, awesome, horrible, and happy days of my year. It’s really difficult to explain, and if you are not a basketball or other sports fan, you probably won’t understand. I’m not sure I understand it fully. My son and I share a tremendous, deep, and abiding love for the North Carolina Tar Heels. Last April we watched our team struggle through March Madness only to lose in a terrible, awful, very bad way that none of us has fully recovered from even yet. We loved those boys. I’ve written about it before. Amazingly, I have not written about this year, about the win, about my son’s best birthday present ever. It’s just that special. Very few weeks have gone by since then that I have not gone to You Tube and watched the last few seconds of the win and/or the highlight video for the year. I cry EVERY time. I know it’s just a game, but watching those boys determine to go back and then do it, fighting for every single win along the way was, and continues to be, inspiring. It’s a story of determination, redemption, and team work, and it’s a good one. I feel sorry for anyone who is not a Tar Heel fan. Oh, how I love my boys in blue!
May: One day in the spring, I left school and went to nearby park to run. When I got out of the car, I felt a twinge in my hip, but I thought that if I ran a bit, it would go away. Being a stubborn old woman, I continued to believe this for five and a half miles. When I tried to get out of the car at home, I could hardly walk. I was a mess. For a while I really thought my running days were over, but then I went to the chiropractor. She worked on me from late April through May and gradually, I was able to return to normal running, though I really feel like I’m just getting completely back to normal now. May is a crazy month for all teachers. At my school, in my department, it has a tendency to be even crazier. I needed to run. I am very thankful for my chiropractor and her help to get me back out there. I highly recommend getting chiropractic help if you have a running injury!
June: Every other year our oldest son and his family come home from China for six weeks and this was the year! We enjoyed family meals together, pool time, reading Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, drawing with sidewalk chalk, bubbles, long talks, and lots and lots of Chick-fil-a! His youngest son had never been to the States, so it was fun to have him here and watch him adjust to all of our very noisy family. My parents even came up from Atlanta and we all enjoyed a meal together. One night all of the adults got together at a nice restaurant and laughed and talked together without the constant interruptions of the kids. These are very special memories. God is good!
July: I’m only writing about the positive things from 2017, but sometimes things are even better when enjoyed in light of the bad stuff that came before. I had been looking forward to the North Carolina Blackberry Festival in Lenoir, N.C. since January. Somehow it was a glowing light at the end of a long, dark tunnel for me. My son-in-law works for the Caldwell County Chamber of Commerce and they were helping to put on the festival. Two of my girls were going to have a space from which to sell their art work and I was going to run the 5K on the opening night of the festival. Actually, I thought we were ALL going to run the 5K together. It didn’t turn out that way. My son-in-law’s brother and I were the only ones who actually ran. It was hot and humid and hilly, but I won my first age group medal, so it was awesome. The next day I helped the girls with their booth. It was hot, but so much fun! We met lots of nice people and had a great time together sipping LaCroix and making memories. Later that month I got to go back to Lenoir and spend a few days. One day we went for a hike and had some great adventures.
August: At the end of July into August my husband and I traveled to Michigan to visit with family. All of my husband’s three sisters live in “the mitten” and so does Matt and his new bride. We had a blast. It was not a long trip, but we got to spend quality time with family and we also enjoyed seeing some sights. We traveled to Frankenmuth, visited Bronner’s, bought fudge and ate delicious chicken. I got to run on lovely flat sidewalks in 80 degree temperatures with low humidity–ahhhhhhh! We walked around Greenfield Village and took lots of pictures for my husbands U.S. History class. Matt helped us drive home because he had a pre-wedding event to attend for one of his friends, so that was an added bonus. On the way home I found out that our school year was starting a week late due to construction. That meant I had an extra week so I used it to paint my living room. This has been hanging over my head for several summers. I painted it a lovely light shade of gray chosen for me by my eldest daughter who bought her own house this year, painted every inch of the inside of it, and became our resident painting expert. It was lovely to begin the school year with a fresh-looking living space.
September: I opted out of the Italy trip this year and went to Gettysburg and Philadelphia with the juniors instead. I love Gettysburg. Killer Angels is one of my favorite books and standing on that battle field is inspiring. I grew up in Philadelphia, so going there is like going home. I ate a wonderful cheese-steak, attended a Phillies game and thoroughly enjoyed some Federal Donuts. I took a carriage ride through Society Hill with some great students and bought a Philadelphia t-shirt to commemorate the trip. The kids were good and the trip was lovely.
October: Through the fall I was often responsible for getting my granddaughter to and from cross-country practice. We ran together a few times at the beginning of the season. At the beginning I had to urge her on; by the end she was passing me by and running me off my feet. Amy had an opportunity through her work for us to run the Women’s Only 5k and so we decided to do that together. When I say together, I mean we drove there together. She ran with her team and finished ahead of me. Still, my time was even better than my July race, so I wasn’t discouraged. I am very, very thankful to be able to run at all and to get to do something like this with a grandchild is a blessing I do not take for granted.
November: I love fall. It seemed late to arrive this year since it was very warm well into October. November was cooler and before I knew what was happening, Thanksgiving was upon us. My parents were able to come up for the holiday this year and all three girls and their families were in attendance. We used a special liturgy for a feast that made the meal extra special and then we went around as always to share what each of us is thankful for this year. This is always a blessed and teary time for me, but this year Christy shared that she is thankful for the new baby coming in June! Well, that was a surprise! Not even her children knew about it. Grand baby number twelve is on the way. My cup overflows.
December: December has not been easy, but in amongst the hard things God has sprinkled blessing after blessing. First, there was an early snow fall that was beautiful and peaceful and made a great backdrop for all of the Christmas decorations going up all over town. One of my students and her family gave me a pair of tickets to see Andrew Peterson in concert on the 17th. I’ve been excited about this since August. George went into the hospital on the Friday night before the concert and I was unsure about whether I should go. He really wanted me to go, however, and so I took our music-loving granddaughter and went. We stopped for dinner at Salsaritas on the way and listened to our Tar Heels finish off Tennessee. As I sat there and listened to the message of Behold the Lamb of God, Christmas arrived in my heart. Then, to top it all off, Matt and Adrionna got to come home for a few days over Christmas when we had thought all along that they wouldn’t be able to make it. Matt and our oldest grandson finished off the deck project that David began last summer and all of that was a great way to close out the year. We enjoyed a lovely three days of celebration because of the way the holiday fell this year. It was a tremendous blessing.
I was seriously considering NOT doing this post this year, but I’m glad I did. Taking the time to look back and remember all the blessings, joys, and victories of the previous year makes it feel more than possible to tackle to new one. I have no idea what’s coming. I think about that every year as I pack up all the decorations. I consider each special ornament as I wrap them in paper towels and put them in the boxes. I wonder what will happen, what life will bring, what I will learn, and who I will be by the time I unwrap them next December. That’s the adventure of life, and it’s good, just like the God Who is writing all of our stories.