Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's all in the Timing...

I like to say I'm an optimist, but I’m not sure if that’s true.  When life is going really well, I have this nagging feeling that something is bound to go wrong soon.  Life can’t stay this good – the law of averages just doesn’t allow it.  I think I also feel this way because I’ve had it rough in the past and I’m afraid that all the wonderful things in my life now are bound to slip through my fingers; it’s almost as though I feel as though I can’t get a hold on all this happiness.  For a while, before I meant my husband, I was used to things not working out in my favor.  I never had enough money and was always working two or three jobs to make ends meet.  I was unlucky in love, and disappointed by people I cared about, let down by friends.  My family was far away and I felt isolated from them.  I think I was used to life being that way so that I was just beginning to expect it to stay that way.  I felt like God was too far away for me to reach.

Then one winter night in early 2006, I walked into a Hollywood Video in Fresno, CA, and was assisted by a tall guy behind the counter with polite mannerisms and a nice smile.  I walked out of there that night and I’m sure I thought I would never see him again.  When we reconnected a month or two later, by chance, I still had no idea that meeting him would change my life as completely as it did.  It wasn’t that I suddenly had enough money or was surrounded by friends I could count on.  My family wasn’t closer.  But I know that my heavenly father sent me this man who would eventually be my husband.  I had no idea at the time, but I know our “chance” meeting was orchestrated by my God who knows so much better than I what I need and provides it for me.  Love, when it is right, brings out the best in you.  It changes your perspective.  It makes the future brighter. 

John Lennon once said “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.”   When I was in high school, I had that along with other clever quotes taped up in my locker, but I don’t think I really understood it when I was 16.  Now, as I am older and have lived a lot more of life, I know the reality. 

I moved to California to gain state residency so that I could get financial aid for the college I wanted to go to.  I ended up I Fresno because my grandparents live here and they let me live with them for a few months while I got my feet under me.  When I still didn’t get the aid I needed to go to the school I wanted, I was devastated.  I stayed in Fresno “temporarily” and two years later I met my husband.  Now this is my home.  I have a job I enjoy, friends, a house, a dog, and a whole new family.  I am blessed, and yet I am always amazed how it all worked out.  I never would have chosen this path, and yet I am thankful in hindsight that my plans did not work out.  I know that God’s plan for me is so much better than what I would have chosen for myself.

So, now as I sit here on this beautiful May morning, with the California sun shining down on me, I fight the feeling that life is too good to be true.  I know that life is not easy and we will have trials and problems in the future.  But at this moment I am just thankful for all the wonderful things in my life, and most of all, the peace I have now that I never had before.  God’s timing is perfect, especially when it is not our timing!

Saturday, January 21, 2012


I am an addict.  I think if we are honest, we all are.  Our addictions just vary in what they are and how strong their holds on us are.  We all have something we go to when life gets tough, and there are always times when life gets tough.  Ok, I'm not a big drinker, I've never smoked or done drugs, I don't like to gamble.  But I have my own vices.  Before I met my husband, I was a bit of a relationship junkie.  Instead of dealing with emotions and situations that are hard to deal with on my own, I tended to rely on whatever relationship I was in to try to fill the void and make me feel better.  Not surprisingly, relying on another person to make me happy did not usually end well.  Sometimes I think having control in relationships and in life is a way that we Type As try to find fulfillment.  The fact of the matter is that life is not something that can always be controlled, and as I have learned (and still am learning), trying to feed my addiction to control tends to make me (and often the people in my life) unhappy. 

I have several other addictions that I like to escape to when life gets tough.  I have a small addiction to prime time soaps - specifically Desparate Housewives and the like.  Not intelligent television by any means, but the drama of their lives makes me feel like my own problems are small and insignificant in comparison.  I have other addictions, among them cleaning and nagging my husband about cleaning (the control freak rears her ugly head), Ben & Jerry's raspberry cheesecake ice cream, Chinese food, and long hot showers.

Another addiction I have is the one that actually often helps me avoid the other addictions, and not feel too guily when I do indulge in them.  I am addicted to running.  I have found that running is a healthy outlet for my inner control freak.  Setting goals for myself and striving to meet them, whether that be how many miles I run or how fast I go, allows me to channel that focused part of myself into something constructive and healthy. 

The other side of the coin is that running is a release of control.  When I run, I lose myself in the music in my headphones and the thoughts in my head.  When I find myself busy throughout the day, I find the only time I take sometimes to pray is when I run.  I talk to God, I write stories in my head, I give into the creative side of my brain that so often doesn't have an outlet in my other daily activities. 

When I tell people that I'm a runner, I usually get a response asking what I've won or what level I hope to compete at.  I am not a competitive runner.  I will never cross a finish line first or set a race record.  If anything, I compete against myself to be better than I was. 

I run for completely different reasons.  I run to stay sane.  I run because it provides balance in my life.  I run because it gives me perspective.  Any problem that seemed large before my run always seemed smaller afterwards.   Sometimes I run away from the stresses of my job, or the criticism of others.  Sometimes I run to lose myself in muscle aches and sweat.  There is something healing about the tight calves and sore heals of the first mile and the painless steady rhythm that comes after it.  I run to feel alive and physical.  I run to get out of the house and to get vitamin D from the sun and to exercise my dog.  I run to participate in races where I will be surrounded by strangers that I have an instead kinship with.  I run to fight gravity, and age, and to look good for my husband.  Sometimes I run to relax.  It's usually between a glass of wine and a run to unwind, and I figure the second option is the healthier one.  When I don't run, I'm more crabby, I don't sleep as well, and I am definitely more tightly wound.

Addiction may be a dirty word in our society, but I'm here to say there is one addiction I'm not trying to kick, and I don't plan to for the next thirty or forty years.  That's the other great thing about running - it is one of few athletic endeavors with no age limit.  Go to any race and you will see runners in their sixties, seventies, even eighties!  Many runners actually peak in their competitive performance in their thirties.  So, the way I see it, the best is yet to come.   I have many, many more miles ahead of me. Bring on the addiction.(-:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Giving Thanks

It's strikes me that Thanksgiving is the forgotten holiday.  I feel as though every year Thanksgiving fades a little more into the background as Christmas preparations steal the limelight before we've even eaten all our Halloween candy.  Not that I don't look forward to the Christmas season, because I look forward to Christmas all year.  But I also think Thanksgiving has an important part to play in our yearly holiday season, and I'm not talking about Black Friday shopping, football, or having turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.  Not that I don't love those things, because I do.  I'm the first to admit that it's all to easy to get caught up in those things or forget the whole reason we have a holiday that literally means Giving Thanks.  I meant to write this post on Thanksgiving Day, but I admit, I was too busy eating turkey, watching football, and planning my Black Friday Shopping.  (-;

But perhaps it's better that I write about what I am thankful for today, a few days after Thanksgiving, because I need to be reminded to count my blessings year round, not just on the day that's set aside for it. 

I am blessed, and I know it.  I have a loving family I was born into, and one I married into.  I am especially thankful this year for my husband's family because this is my first holiday season that I have been an "official" member of their family.  I have lived away from my immediate family for years, but I always get especially homesick for them around this time of year, and Jimmy's family have really been my adopted family for the last five years.  They have accepted and loved me as their own, and I know I am a lucky girl to have in-laws like that.

Of course none of that would be possible if I hadn't walked into Hollywood Video six years ago, and I'm so thankful that I met the man of my dreams that night.  I had no idea at the time, but God orchestrated our lives so that we would meet at the right time, and I will be eternally thankful for that.  I have a husband who is my best friend and I am so excited for the next fifty years we get to experience as an adventure together.

In this economy, I would be remiss if I did not say how thankful I am to have a job that not only pays my bills, but I also enjoy going to each day.  I have the nicest group of coworkers and a wonderfully supportive boss, and a job that can be both challenging and rewarding.  This combination is not as common as we would like to think, so I know I am so blessed to have my job.

I could go on and on.  I have loyal and kind friends.  We have a lovely little condo that my husband graciously let me decorate, a  fun-loving puppy, and so much more.

So, friends, if this post doesn't inspire you to make your own list of all the ways you are blessed, then shame on you.  Because not only should Thanksgiving be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of each November, but the other 364 days of the year too.  Let's call every day Thanksgiving, and then maybe the day won't just mean turkey and football anymore. (-;

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Life Lessons from a Dog

On May 21, the day before I turned twenty-five (again, wink, wink), my husband and I drove out to Madera and picked out a nine-week-old lab puppy.  We knew we wanted a female yellow lab and had already decided on the name Cadence. When we met her, with her pretty green eyes, big floppy ears, and the way she seemed to bounce instead of walk, the name fit her perfectly.

My family always had dogs growing up, and my roommates had them in the house I lived in before I got married.  However, it's been a while since I've had a dog that was truly "mine."  Now that I do, and I spend a considerable amount of time training, walking, running, and playing with this puppy, I am reminded of how much animals can really teach us about life.  A dog's perspective of life is refreshing - most of the time she seems thrilled simply to be alive.  It's as though every part of life is a fascinating adventure to her.

When we first got Cadence, we let her sleep on the floor in our room.  Sometime between 4 and 5am each morning, we would get woken up - often by chewing noises or panting, sometimes a crash (uh oh), but usually by a little brown nose right in our faces, and a pink tongue licking our faces as Cadence strained to reach the top of the bed standing on her hind legs.  Her entire demeanor seemed to say "Guys!  It's a new day!  Come on, wake up!  It's time to play!"  All we wanted to do was keep sleeping and avoid the day ahead for a couple more hours, but she couldn't wait to tackle it head-on! 

She absolutely loves life.  Going for a run is an adventure all to itself - so much to see, so much to smell!  I am constantly reminded that though she's just a member of the canine species, she is in at least one way more wise than I.  As is the tendency for us people, I tend to focus on all I don't have.  Little Cadence reminds me that life is a gift.  She isn't concerned with money, possessions, appearance, or ego.  She loves the simple things in life - a ball to chase, a nap, water to play in, a belly rub, a tasty bone, a word of praise from her master.  These things are all she needs to be content.  And even when you take all of that away, somehow she is still just happy to be alive.

A couple days ago I came home from a mentally exhausting day at work, wishing I had more hours in the day, more money in the bank, a car with air conditioning, a cleaner house...the usual grievances.  And then I saw my dog.   She got spayed last week, so she has painful stitches down her middle and a swollen belly.  She can't run, jump, or be in water (everything she loves) for two weeks after the surgery.  To top it all off, she has to wear an Elizabethan collar cone around her neck to keep her from licking or biting her stitches.  This makes it hard for her to do basic things that she usually does like hold a bone in her paws while she chews it.  And she keeps knocking into things and accidentally hitting things when she walks around because she's not used to having something around her head that takes up so much space.  It's pretty pitiful.  If I were her, I'd be hating life. 

Yet, none of this seemed to bother her as she bounced over to me and lay her (cone) head against my leg.  And suddenly I felt very silly for allowing any kind of complaint to occupy my mind.  Who was I to wallow in self pity when this little creature was still content just to be alive and with me?  She could do nothing but lie on the ground wearing a lampshade and yet still she had a big puppy grin and her face and a wagging tail.

So my dog is somehow teaching me a life lesson - to count my blessings (and there are many!) and not the things that I don't like about my life.  The funny thing is, that when I start to count my blessings instead of my complaints, I find that I have so many more to fit in the first category.  I guess Cadence really is on to something.

Philippians 2:14-16
 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure,children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Changes, changes...

I haven't blogged in a few months.  Those of you who are close to me know that a lot has been going on in my life.  I spent the end of January, February, and March moving my belongings (You never truly realize how much junk you have until you have to move it all!) into our new condo.  I have lived in a total of 12 houses, two apartments, and one dorm in my life (so far!) so I think I am an experienced mover.  It's a pain.  Hopefully Jimmy and I will be in this condo for awhile.  We fell in love with this place when we first saw it on New Years Eve ane I fell so blessed to make it our first home as a married couple.  Yes, I said "married."  More about that later. (-:  I have always lived with a lot of other people - my parents, brothers, and a loooonnng list of roommates, but this is the first time having my "own" home.  Decorating has been a blast, and somewhat of an addiction for me.

So I haven't been logging as many miles these days with going to school and then in the beginning of March I found out that I had gotten a promotion to ECOE.  (Bank lingo - basically I take supervisor calls and assist bank branch associates with trouble shooting, bank policy and procedure, etc instead of taking frontline customer service calls.)  I was really concerned about applying for the promotion and almost didn't apply for it because it required six weeks of intense training starting March 14, and I was supposed to have a week of vacation prior to our March 26 wedding, not to mention that Jimmy and I had already booked our honeymoon for spring break, also during that period.  But my boss basically gave me a kick in the pants and told me to apply anyway.  She has always encouraged me and believed in my abilities.  I knew that these oppurtunities only come along once in awhile, so I applied and hoped for there would be some way to have my cake and eat it to.  I had my phone interview and in person interview, and then got the call from the recruiter...they wanted me.  I brought up my plans, and the recruiter was wonderful in expressing Bank of America's desire to work with their employees.  She said they had picked me for a reason and proceeded to jump through half a dozen hoops for me.  Amazingly, they had two training classes, so by joining the second class for the second portion of training I'm still able to go on our honeymoon. (We leave for Hawaii on Monday - so excited!)  So far I'm loving the challenge and extra brainwork required in my new position.

As for the wedding I just took one day off for the wedding, the day before.  I was surrounded by amazing people who helped me and it all just worked out beautifully.  Three of my five bridesmaids are married women and you know it wasn't these girls' first rodeos!  Somehow, with all the behind-the-scenes details, they made everything go off without a hitch on The Day.  Even the rain held off, just long enough for the outdoor ceremony and pictures.   I took my sweet dad's arm and went down that aisle, declared my undying love for my best friend in front of all the people I love and then partied the night away!  It was the perfect day.

So now for the real adventure...married life!  I get to add WIFE to my list of hats, and I am convinced God created me for this role along with the others.  I plan to live up to that as best I can, though I think I have it easy because I get to partner in the life with a man who is easy-going, forgiving, sweet, and without a fail can always make me at least smile and often laugh.  I have no doubt that he is exactly who God planned for me to marry, long before I had any idea there was a red-haired boy growing up in Fresno, California, who would one day steal my heart.

But that story is just beginning.  To be continued...

Monday, January 17, 2011

World Vision and Venice Beach

I collected 13.1 more miles yesterday morning.  I ran the World Vision Half Marathon in Santa Monica.  World Vision is an incredible organization that gives us a chance to make a difference in the lives of children in third world countries around the world.  I first learned about World Vision as a child because my parents would support a child.  For twenty dollars a month, it is possible to actually pay for an entire month of a child's food (I don't know about your grocery shopping, but twenty bucks wouldn't even get me through a week here) and education.  I remember as a child reading the hand-written notes that our little boy in Ethiopia would send us, thanking us for giving him the chance to learn about Jesus and meeting his medical needs.  I don't mean this as a plug for the organization, but if you ever feel a pull to make more of a difference in the world, why not start with one needy child?

Running along the boardwalk and Venice Boulevard with thousands of other runners, I was again reminded of one of the things I love about running - the sense of community I instantly feel with people I have never met before.  Something about putting in the work and dedication to prepare for, and the perseverance to finish a sporting event like this  bonds us all together.  I can't tell you how many times I heard my name cheered for from other runners along the route (my name was on my bib, or tag, that I wore pinned to my shirt) and surprisingly, even from the homeless people lined up along the side of the road, all their belongings in stacks or shopping carts beside them.  Seeing these people, with so much less than I have, content to cheer for a stranger running by touched my heart. 

Afterwards, exhausted and with tight leg muscles and blisters, we walked down the beach, by the shops selling "medical marijuana" (wouldn't it be "medicinal"?), henna tatoos and the real thing, beaded bracelets and artwork, I watched the people around me.  There were people from all walks of life, young and old.  The exhausted runners like myself, making their way to their cars to drive back to their middle-class lifestyles, volunteers who worked the charity event, tourists and vacationers playing volleyball on the beach, surfers, the hippie-types selling their art, the drugged-out and the mentally ill transients, and those who live that lifesyle by choice.  Sometimes it's good to get out of my corner of the world and see other parts of it. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Women in My Life (and there are many of them!)

In a society where we see women tearing each other down and seeing each other as competition instead of allies, I want to take a moment to thank the many women in my life. 

To start, I must begin with my mother, Sandy Smith, who did so much more than bring me into this world.  She is an amazing, strong women who has been through so much in her life and made so many sacrifices for my three brothers and I.  She is an inspiration, demonstrating to me that hard work and determination make so many things possible.  She went back to school for her bachelors and then her masters degrees with four young children at home, all the while demonstrating to me what it really means to "stand by her man" in her marriage.  Though we are both strong-willed and butted heads frequently as I was growing up, and I spent the majority of my adolescence rolling my eyes in her direction, she put it up with my selfishness and attitude, demostrated what an mother's unconditional love really means, and we came out the stronger for it.

Then there's HER mother, my grandma, Bettie Bramer.  She's a God-fearing woman who has always had her priorities right where they should be.  She's a nurturer who loves caring for her family, and she let me live with her for four months when I first moved to California and was just getting out on my own.

My friends are all unique and special to me each for different reasons.  Elizabeth Thomas is always there to talk through problems and analyze all aspects of a scenario.  Janelle Penner is such a nuturing person who loves to take care of the people in her life.  Bekah Gonzales has seen me through all kinds of hard times and stood by me and can still laugh about it.   Katie Perano-Frieson is who is a ray of sunlight in my life.  When I get to see Katie, not just my day, but my week, is better.  My manager at work, Rocio Arroyo, who believed in me before I believed in my own abilities.  Her encouragement and belief in my potential is a large reason for any career success I have.  Laycee Alvarez is the kind of friend who will stop whatever she's doing to help me.  There are so many other women who have enriched my life in many different ways - My high school friends like Kristi Veis and Esther Brown, college roommates Gretchen Tillstrom and Anya Tronson.  I am also so thankful for my future sisters-in-law, Jill and Kara Blanks and Johanna Mott, and future mother-in-law, Babs Blanks, who have helped make me feel like part of their family.

I often tell my fiance that he's so lucky because many of his closest friends are people he's known since childhood.  When we stand up at our wedding this March, the guys standing next to him are people he's known for years.  My life has been more transient, and the women standing by me in March are primarily people that have come along later in my life.  But I am realizing that having the chance to meet so many different women who have all touched my life in different ways is its own blessing. 

.  So here's to the women in my life - may you be double-blessed for the blessings you have been to me.