The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Pocket Full Of Promise

The calendar reads April but my days are all a blur.  It's been 3 1/2 months since Dad died.

My siblings and I have been working diligently on cleaning out the house.  47 years of memories are packed into every corner of their home; making the job at times seem endless.  Boxes of forgotten memories from years past were opened and rediscovered.  Wood working projects dad started remain unfinished where they stood in his workshop.  Never did we think a pile of sawdust on the floor could make us cry.

Grief does that.  It has a knack of taking something simple and seemingly unimportant and breathes a different kind of life into it.  Like the potato masher I found on the kitchen counter.  A simple kitchen utensil used in homes every day.  Yet I picked up this potato masher and held onto it tightly.  Dad had made mashed potatoes for our Christmas Eve dinner.  Mashed potatoes that never made it to the Christmas Eve table; they remained in the front seat of his car after the accident.  This potato masher was one of the very last things he held.  And now, this potato masher held great importance to me.

On this day in April we were on the final room of the house.  We worked clearing out one room at a time and today the last room sat quietly waiting.  Their bedroom.  The sacred room in any marriage.  47 years of love and heartache and laughter and life happened in that room.  And there I was standing in the middle of this sacredness.

My siblings would be there soon enough, I was early.  I dreaded cleaning out this room not because of it's condition, but because I knew it would be one of great emotional difficulty.  I stood there not knowing where to start.  Dad's work clothes hung where he left them on Christmas Eve.  Taking in a deep breath, I pick up his work shirt.

Really God?  This is my life story?  First mom at Christmas last year and now Dad this Christmas?  Why is THIS my life story?  Did Dad's death have to be so...violent?  I don't get it God.  I really don't understand.

This conversation with God is one I've had many times.  Immersed in emotion while standing in their room, I figured it would be another good time to ask Him these questions unsure if answers will ever be given.  Yet, I ask and if I'm honest, at times, demand.

I reach into the pocket of Dad's shirt and find an old pocket calendar from 2010.  I can't help but wonder why Dad is carrying around a calendar that is 5 years old.  The edges are worn and the pages are frayed.  I see the grease smudges from his mechanic hands.  Knowing I will have to turn each page in case there is anything important hidden in them, I take a deep breath.

The pages hold nondescript notes; I run my finger over his handwriting.

Jesus?  Tell Dad I miss him.

Oh look, here is mom's social security number written on a loose piece of paper.  This was just like Dad to keep her social security number close by just in case.

God, I'm not sure my heart can handle all this heartache.  I can't believe I'm having to go through his pockets.  Why God?  Just...why?  

What's this?  I unfold a piece of paper that was tucked in between two pages.  It's a handwritten note by Dad.  The words pierce my heart and I begin to weep.
"Where you are today is no accident.  God is using the situation you are in right now to shape you and prepare you for the place He wants to bring you into tomorrow.  Trust Him with His plan even if you don't understand it."**

I am stunned.  Had I not just been asking God these questions?  Had I not been wrestling with these very things?

God, did you just reach down from heaven and put that there for me?

My tears fall freely.  It is undeniable I was meant to find this note on this day.  God answered my questions.  Although I do not know the 'why' this is happening in my life, I do know God wipes away my tears and helps move me toward tomorrow.

Dad's days were perfectly numbered by God.  Although his death was a shock to our family, it was not a surprise to God.  When we walk in the Valley of the Shadow of Death I remind myself of this.  I'll see Dad again and God promises to walk each step with me until then.

The days aren't as difficult as they had been.  I still have Dad's note.  It now hangs in a frame in my living room.  Sometimes I look at his handwriting and wonder if God opened heaven that day and dropped that note into Dad's pocket for me to find.  God gave me exactly what I needed when I needed it.  An encouraging note, handwritten by Dad, reminding me of God's love, hope, and promise.  A promise Dad now experiences.  Forever.

**Original quote by Anna Bachinsky

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Girl At The Track

She caught the corner of my eye.  Her hair, tied in a loose ponytail, bobbed up and down as she ran around the track of a local high school.  She wore a cotton t-shirt and long grey sweatpants.  It  was over 90° on that black-ovaled track and I knew she had to have been hot.  Weight loss seemed to be her goal as she appeared 100 pounds overweight.

Breathing hard due to the pace I was running, she could hear me coming near her.  As I approached, she turned her head and body away from me.  I knew what that meant, there was no mistaking it.  She was hiding.  She wasn't a real runner.

I know, because I use to be that girl.

The Gift Of Strep Throat

It was April 2003 and I had come down with a nasty sore throat.  My husband suspected strep and urged me to go see the doctor.  I had never experienced strep throat before but I knew it was contagious.  My babies were 6 and 1½ years old and I didn't want them getting sick.

At the doctor's office, the nurse had me step onto the scale - the Dreaded Scale.  It had been a year and a half since the baby was born and I couldn't shed the baby weight.  I had made peace with my new mommy-size.

Hesitantly I stepped on the scale.  I did a double take at the numbers before me.  This can't be right.  The Dreaded Scale had budged.  I had lost 5 pounds.   The strep throat had made it difficult to eat helping me lose 5 pounds in the process.  The revelation the weight could come off gave me a grin so wide the nurse asked me if I was ok.

The big question I faced now became "What am I going to do to keep it off?".  With two young boys and my husband and I both working full time, where in the world would I find time to exercise?  What would I even do?  Thinking back to my high school days, I thought of PE class and track.  It had been 16 years since I had done either.  SIXTEEN. 

I had zero exercise equipment, but I think I had acceptable shoes somewhere in the house.  I dug into my closet and found an old tattered pair of tennis shoes.  This is a miracle in itself as there was no logical explanation as to why I even had the pair.  

Set My Alarm Clock for WHAT TIME?

Since I work outside of our home, my family time is crucially important to me.  I could not take time away from my young boys to exercise.  My only option was getting up before anyone else was awake. 

This is not natural.  I love sleep.

Making the decision to run around our block once, and having no idea how long it would take me, I set the alarm for 15 minutes earlier than normal.  I was now getting up at 6:00 am.  THIS IS INSANE.

One Block, Two Block, Three Block, Four

My first run in 16 years was around the block; a distance of less than 3/4 a mile and it took me 10 minutes.  I broke no speed records and had no fan fare.  No one saw me and I was relieved.  I had no idea what I was doing and I was not a real runner.    I was only an overweight mom whose single goal being to keep off that blasted 5 pounds. 

The next day I did it again.   And again.  And again.

A week later I decided to go a little bit further.  And then a little bit further.  The first day I ran an entire mile evoked strong feelings of accomplishment.  Never before in my adult life had I been as proud of myself as I was in that moment. 

Still, no one saw me running.  Fear gripped me knowing if anyone saw me running, they would surely laugh at me as I was not a real runner.    I didn't have real running clothes or real running shoes or even look like a real runner.  My sweats were old, my shoes older and I was overweight.

A Look In The Mirror

At the track, as I passed this overweight woman who refused to look at me, my heart twinged in memory.   It was as if I peeled back time and was looking at my former self.  I wanted to hug her and tell her I - yes, I, a complete stranger - was incredibly proud of her.  I wanted to tell her she was a real runner and to run tall and proud of all she was accomplishing.  Showing up at the track screamed loudly of her inner strength and determination; guts I never had in my beginning.

More than anything I wanted her to know the hard work is worth it.  The weight comes off.  The mornings become your favorite quiet time of the day.  The running brings tears of joy and tears of pain because it is the hardest thing you've physically ever done.  Running helps you deal with the death of your mom.  One day you'll realize how many years you wasted feeling bad because you had no idea how good the good feels.

Coming around the third bend of the track, she was in my sights again. I moved 3 lanes over to be in the lane next to her.  Her eyes were intently staring at the ground directly in front of her; looking neither ahead, left or right.  I came up next to her and quietly said, "You are doing great.  Keep up the good work."  My words startled her and she snapped her head in my direction.  Before pulling away from her,  I gave her a thumbs up. 

There was no mistaking the look on her face.  The corners of her mouth began to form the biggest of smiles.   

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Staring At the Wall

Surprisingly, the hallways held no smell.  It had been years, decades really, since I had stepped inside a home designed to assist those who need care.

Growing up, we lived blocks away from the town's only nursing home.  Often as a child as I rode my bike down that road I would see someone sitting by their window looking out at the world just beyond their reach.  I would always wave; sometimes I park my bike, enter in and visit these strangers I knew through only a smile and a wave.  Pulling that big door open the smell would be the first thing greeting me; smells of life and the dying.  Today however, there was no smell.

Pale colored walls showed signs of  wear and tear from those hanging onto their independence.  Corners dinged from wheelchairs and black scuff marks marred the walls from a wheel of an errant push.   A very well-fed cat curls up under a settee and sleeps.

A man watches me intently from his wheelchair perched outside his door.  I smile.  He does not; his only movement are his eyes as they watch me walk toward - and then away - from him.  I scan the room number signs looking for Room 6125.

Sunlight streams in through a large glass window at the end of a short carpeted hallway.  A wheelchair is turned to face the wall.  Sitting in the wheelchair is a woman well into her twilight years.  White curly hair replaces what I image the darkened color of her youth.  Frailty seeps through her being.  I am struck by the loneliness and sadness awash on her face.

Unaware I am near, she stares at the pictures of yesteryear tacked onto the wall.  Do the pictures belong to her?  Are these living memories of a time long ago?  I can not tell.  Nothing breaks her gaze upon those pictures.

Without ever knowing, she has touched my heart.  Once she was a woman of strength, youth and vitality.  She has seen a world war and endured the Great Depression.  I wonder if she was an athlete as a young woman or if, like me, waited until well into her 30s to become one.  Is her heart content or does she long for the day when her body could keep up with her?

Her gaze upon that wall haunts the vibrancy of my own life.  I make the realization I have taken much for granted.  At 45 I could be half her age; yet it's becoming clearer to me to be mid-life is my own choosing.  Time may slowly take my youth, but life's enthusiasm is mine.

A beautiful woman looking upon pictures of years ago; snapshots of darker hair, wrinkle free skin, and standing tall.  Chances are I won't see her again yet she is all I think of as I bend down and lace up my running shoes.

It's a good day to go for a run.