Living in the suburbs, where honestly – people pretty much drive down the driveway to get their mail, I have had some of the strangest and funniest reactions when people have found out I’ve walked places.  When Ben and I were first married, we lived 3 blocks from North Central College where I worked, and co-workers would always ask incredulously “You WALKED to work?” as if I’d just run a marathon despite the fact that they knew where I lived.

And when I lived 2 blocks away from the middle school I taught at, I constantly had teacher-friends insisting on driving me to or from school because they felt bad that I had to walk even though I never complained about walking (I liked it!).  I know they were just being thoughtful and kind, but it sometimes seemed like they were actually uncomfortable thinking of someone walking a few short blocks.

One of the few persons I know who is able to drive but prefers to walk a lot is my sister-in-law, who grew up in Europe where walking was a part of daily life.  She’s the only person who used to brave the 1.5 mile walk to the Plainfield library with our kids and me back when we were at our old house.

I’m hoping that with the rise in emerging urban design movements like “new urbanism” and sites such as walkscore.com, community planners will build more suburban neighborhoods within walking distance to more places (some friends were recently laughing sadly when they saw that their house has a “walkscore” of 3!)

But even if there’s only one place (i.e. a park, friend’s house, drugstore, etc.) to walk to where you currently live, here are ten reasons to walk instead of drive there:

1.  Better for the environment (What’s that you say?  You drive a Prius?  Believe it or not, your legs leave an even tinier footprint on this earth than even your Prius!  Preaching to my husband here…)

2.  Save money (gas, wear and tear….. it all adds up in this economy!)

3.  Good Exercise (and, unlike the treadmill in your basement, the scenery actually changes!)

4.  Fresh Air for Your Kids (Being a busy mom, it’s sometimes tough to fit in outside playtime, so if you’re walking somewhere AND they’re getting fresh air, win-win!)

5.  More face-to-face interaction for the kids (mine face each other in the wagon and play games– yeah I know this can backfire occasionally, but that just teaches them conflict management!)

6.  Nature vs. Screen-time inside a car (Okay, so I know not all people who cart their kids around all day in the car have built-in dvd players, but I tend to resort to handing my kids my iPhone way less when we’re outside than when we’re in the car.)

7.  Time with Friends (Most families these days aren’t able to all fit in a car together on the way to outings, but if you make plans to walk somewhere w/ a friend– whether to the park, farmer’s market, or another neighbor’s house, you have time to chat in person while you walk!)

8.  Opportunities to meet new people (you can’t tell me that a wagon decked out like a princess float is not a conversation-starter!)

9.  Give your town/neighborhood a friendly look (there’s nothing that says “hey, this is a safe and fun place to be” more than people out walking, especially with kids.)

10.  No chance of getting a speeding ticket (I love to brag that I’ve never gotten pulled over!)

BONUS REASON: Less Stress (Okay, this one may be the most debatable because it’s situational and could be stressful if you’re late walking somewhere important and it takes 3 times as long, HOWEVER, everyone I know who commutes to work comments on how stressful it can be…..just think of road rage and not having to deal with other annoying drivers!)

NOTE:  Yes, I live in the United States and realize that very few people live in areas where they can walk to all the places they need to go in the course of a day.  But I have also lived in the ‘burbs long enough to see a lot of missed walking opportunities.  How many people live in the exact same neighborhood as friends but end up driving to play dates at their neighbors’ houses I know, I know — they may have somewhere to be right after the play date.  If you’re one of those people, maybe try adjusting your schedule to leave a little earlier or later once in awhile.  Your body, pocketbook, earth, kids, mind, etc. will thank you!

Here’s a glimpse of how the girls and I wheel around town in all seasons:

Yup, this is our version of a double stroller– it keeps us moving nice and slow, and people have a lot of grace for us since it’s clearly a challenging task! Looking into used sit-and-stand strollers on craigslist…..

To keep out the rain and hot sun, this roof does the job!

For cold and windy weather, there’s nothing like a fleece blanket! (note: last year I carted the kids to a friends house on a sled in the snow….looking into a sleigh or double-intertube this year!

This netting (formerly Lucy’s fancy princess canopy that collected too much dust over her bed!) is perfect for keeping out all kinds of bugs during mosquito season!

For those perfect, convertible-worthy days where the sun isn’t too hot and the wind is a breezy bliss! (2 or 3 days out of the year in Chicago!)

me speaking at The Orchard last weekend– an opportunity I never would have had if I hadn’t started writing regularly

It seems like I’ve been talking to a lot of people who feel down lately.  Some of the down feelings are

circumstantial, but for most of the people, it’s more of a disillusionment with the way their everyday lives are going.

And because I’ve definitely been there, it is causing me to analyze some of my “joy” data– and I’m not talking about my name here….. what brings joy into my life on an everyday basis?  (and this is beyond all those easy answers like God and children….)

For me, it’s words.  I remember loving the feeling of stringing them together as a kid…. that pure delight even in kindergarten when I wrote, “The Rose Girl” and had some vague sense that I had created something.

And maybe my first love of words had something to do with the fact that pictures were sometimes hard to see, and how the words describing them made them visible to me.  My toddler has a lot of first words books where I point to the  picture and she tells me what it is, and honestly thank goodness for the large, bolded words below each picture because I have trouble deciphering what most of them are even though she recognizes most of them right away.

I think it’s human tendency to withdraw from some of the things we really enjoy doing in life when we’re down.  I know I withdraw from writing when I’m feeling depressed (hence the lack of entries over the winter!)

Yet as I write daily– whether I intend to ever share it with anyone or not– it makes me wish that I had forced myself to do it over the winter because I feel like the days build on each other and increases my daily joy exponentially.

it sometimes takes effort, contemplation and soul-searching to sit down and do the thing that feeds us– or even figure out what it is.  But when it is found– whether it be yoga, art, long walks– whatever– give it a prominent place in your life.  Challenge yourself in whatever it is, and ignore messages clouding your brain that tell you it’s a waste of time.

For years I didn’t really write much because I didn’t think it would ever lead to a “career” or financial gain.  And honestly it may never end up putting a dime in my pocket, but I’d pay a whole lot of money to feel as alive as I do when I create with words.  I am so grateful for my amazing twin sister who had the idea to start this blog.  It has been my free therapy, my place to be honest, my place to grow and the place where my soul figures out it is satisfied.

I know I’m hovering on the cheesy side again, but I’m writing this for the people in my life who are down right now.  Because they have soul food in their lives that they aren’t eating.

Usually these soul food type of activities don’t come skipping along at just the most opportune times.  They usually arrive in the middle of the inconvenient times.  Like right now when I’m supposed to be scoring essays, for example.  I score state tests for Pearson from home to help pay bills (and with how slow I am at scoring, I barely make minimum wage, but my philosophy is that something is better than nothing!)

Many of my writing ideas enter my mind while I am scoring exams, which is completely frustrating because I have a quota to meet, and when I stop to write, I really lose time and money.  But when I don’t grab those moments of inspiration, they tend to disappear.  So lately, when I feel the inspiration to write, I stop whatever I am doing and just roll with it because I know it’s something that will keep building….. the more I am in the habit of dropping everything to do it, the easier it will be and the more joy I’ll get out of it, and the fuller my soul will feel.

And anyone I know who actually continuously practices the things that feed their soul end up heading in a life direction that they feel alive in.

My husband, for example, is a singer/songwriter, and for years he struggled to find his “niche” of listeners.  I worked as his booking agent, we hired a publicist and were determined for him to someday make a living as a full-time singer/songwriter.  After several years of late-night shows that didn’t really pay, I got really frustrated.  Why wasn’t this career happening?  But my husband kept plugging away writing and  performing, and at times I couldn’t understand why.

Then in 2010 he was asked to do a Christmas show in Aurora, and we argued about whether he should do it because we would be sacrificing a lot of fun plans and even a weekend trip with family, for him to do this show that involved late-night rehearsals, performances spanning over two weekends and little pay.

At some point I remember my husband making the point that ended the argument: “Joy, with my busy job and our family commitments, this is my one opportunity each year to connect with other local musicians and to put music first”

And it was at that performance that he met his current boss, who hired him one month later to do his dream job.  He now writes and plays music full time, like we had always hoped he would be able to do, and simply from continuing to do the thing that makes him feel alive even when it wasn’t convenient and didn’t pay.

I’m not suggesting that we will all end up with careers doing these soul food activities, but if we open up spaces in our days to do them and place them above all those nagging things like money and organizing the closets, we just might start to breathe easy again.

For as lovely as words can look on a screen, life can really blur them all together when you’re trying to live them out.

I hosted a Mother’s Day brunch at my house today for some of my extended family, which was filled with sunshine, great food and beautiful people.  It was also filled with crap.  Literally.

I won’t get graphic or anything, but I do want to share a little piece of this scenario to give you an idea of how very challenging it can be to place relationships and people first.  I have a family member who is developmentally disabled and sometimes has bathroom issues.  Well, let’s just say that today he had major bathroom issues.  In both our bathrooms.  And on the new bathroom rug.  And even on the freshly-painted walls, discovered by my poor husband hours later.

When I first walked from the outside fresh air into our house and caught a whiff of this accident, my gag reflex went off, and I stepped right back out.  Another family member graciously helped him clean everything up, though further setbacks and clean-ups seemed to continue for quite awhile.  I found myself feeling disgusted and frustrated that this was all happening on Mother’s Day.  And I found that I acted less than gracious and spoke in irritated tones.

As my family members were leaving, I told a couple of them about my blogpost on placing people first and how I couldn’t even post it because I felt like such a hypocrite acting like I care way more about people than my house but then feeling like I wanted everyone to just go away when it got messy.  They smiled with understanding and joked that they wouldn’t tell anyone.  I thanked my helpful uncle for all his clean-up work dealing with the other family member’s mess, to which he replied, “all small stuff”.  And really, in the grand scheme of things, it is, and I know that as a whole.

And I tried to remind myself of that as my husband and I continued to do some aftermath clean-up later.

But the house still smelled like you-know-what, and I just wanted the nice scent of my Mother’s Day bouquet to fill the house as it had before the brunch.

Since we had to be at another gathering, we decided to just open up all the windows, and even left our front doors leading to the screened-in porch open in hopes that it would air out while we were gone.

And it did.

When we walked through the door this evening, the faint smell of cleaning supplies drifted,but mostly just the aroma of evening spring air filled the house.  And it reminded me that sometimes all it takes is a few open windows.  And there are windows I forget to open all the time.  Not just in my house, but in my life.

I know I’m hovering on cheesy here, but it’s true.  I remember to open the windows of all my thoughts, ideals, and insights to the world as I write this blog, but sometimes I forget to open the windows of acceptance to my own family members.  Yes, I don’t have to love some of the things they do, and there are definitely boundaries I need to set with certain people who choose not to work on their issues, but there’s usually room for more kindness and acceptance even when setting boundaries.

For example, this particular family members was mentally capable of taking some medication that could have prevented these accidents today but chose not to, and he also chose to eat food that he knows upset his stomach, and because of that, he will not be asked to the next gathering at my house.  But at the same time, I didn’t even take the time to say goodbye to him today.  I could have still hugged him good-bye and shown love despite my frustration.

I think in order to place people first in our lives, we need to challenge ourselves in the ways that we think about others and act toward them, especially with the difficult people.

There are always more windows that can be opened.  And always more fresh air we can let in.

 

I want to freeze time.  To capture the light blonde and brown tendrils that fly all wispy as my daughters dance around the kitchen putting on “dinner entertainment” for daddy . He eats and laughs, more amused by these two under 4 ft. tall than he probably ever imagined he’d be.  I want to put their little sing-song voices in my leftover packing boxes with heavy packing tape so that they will never escape me.  I want these little years– the ones when they want to play all day – and beg me to stop doing laundry so they can just be with me for 5 minutes — to last.

As I was trudging up the stairs exhausted the other night, I tried to recap in my mind all the things I had accomplished during the day.  I became a little agitated because I couldn’t think of many things I had crossed off my growing to-do list.  But then I remembered the important 2 hours I’d spent crawling on colored carpet squares.

The girls and I had gone with Ben to the church where he works because I was meeting some friends there, and since we needed to wait for his meetings to end before leaving, we spent the whole day there.

We went into the K-5 room which has these fun, colorful carpet circles and began inventing all different kinds of games.  I was a chomping alligator in hot lava while they were toads hopping from circle to circle.  I was the leader of a secret “flower” club up on the little play balcony.  We were robots that could only jump to certain colored islands.

We ran and laughed and played till we were slap-happy with fatigue.  And while those 2 hours of fun were clearly not on my list of things that really needed to get done, I went to bed feeling satisfied that night.

I’ve noticed that since living in a walkable area and having the ability to run a lot more of the errands during the day, my days are sometimes packed.  I also took on a part-time job scoring essays from home this month, so the to-do lists seem to be multiplying.

I ended up needing to create a separate list of things entitled “important things”, and I try to make sure that even if some of the things on my regular to-do lists don’t get accomplished, I at least do the important things each week.

Most of the important things involve people, and one of those is my 82-year-old grandmother who lives  3 blocks away and recently was told to stop driving.  This a little more difficult for her because she doesn’t have the strength of a 33-year-old to walk all over town like I do.  So one of the new “important things” on my list each week is to take the girls to visit her– not out of obligation or anything, but because I value time with her and know it helps lighten her day at a difficult time in her life.

Sometimes this means grabbing a 45-minute window of time, leaving the kitchen a mess or a chore undone, to go spend time with her. And while I wasn’t raised to be okay leaving a mess, I think sometimes in order to put people first in our lives– not our houses or material things– it’s necessary.  Obviously, there comes a time when things really do need to get cleaned up, and I don’t want us living in a disgusting mess or anything, but loosening our reigns on how perfect the house should look at all times can open up space for our relationships to grow.

When I’m 82-years old like my grandma, I hope that my phrase of satisfaction reads something like this:  “My life is full because I put first things first in my life.  I put relationships and people in front of my stuff.” as opposed to, “Wow, I have had a perfectly clean house for the past 82 years– how full and satisfying life is.”

So this post used to end right here, and there was no “part 1” in the title.  That was a week ago when I thought that this was the easiest, simplest concept in the world…… when  sunny strolls to grandma’s house trumped dirty dishes in the sink (okay, they still totally do, only I’ve realized that sometimes extra complications arise that challenge our ideals…. and that’s why there’s a part 2, so stay tuned if you can relate!)

 

It’s been a rough few months.  Our entire family took turns suffering from everything from the stomach flu to pneumonia, I went through a miscarriage and bad reaction to anesthesia, and we moved from my in-laws’ house (where we lived for 8 months.) in the middle of it all.  Oh, and did I mention that my husband is in ministry? . . . And given that this all was happening right before Easter, his schedule was pretty crazy.

So this move — though it occurred at a difficult time — was a move forward.  If you’re wondering how this relates to RP, I’ll give you a little of the back-story on why we chose to Continue reading

Whether you’re celebrating the birth of Christ or not, there’s no mistaking that Christmas is near.  My husband is the Creative Arts Director at The Orchard Community, and today’s message was fittingly on Advent and the Incarnation.  After my husband led music, he slipped in the seat beside me so that we could listen to the sermon together.  As part of his message, our lead pastor, Scott Hodge, did an art critique of sorts and (therefore) was showing examples of various artwork up on the screen as he spoke. I found his words on the Incarnation fascinating and intriguing and was intently listening and glancing up at the screen when suddenly my husband leaned over and said “You do see the artist painting on that large canvas at the far left side of the stage, right?”
“Huh?”
Despite the fact that we were sitting on the far left side of the room, the large canvas and artist had been completely out of my vision.  It just took a slight turn of my head and some brief scanning for me to see the artist, Stephen Signa, actually an old friend of ours, painting this incredible abstract masterpiece:

Once Stephen and the canvas were within my sight, I was entranced by the creativity that was unfolding, but I also had to stifle my laughter.  Not at the art, but at the sheer fact that this painting (yes, spotlight and all!) was taking place right in front of me for quite some time, and how I almost missed it entirely.  Honestly, if Ben hadn’t pointed it out, he probably would have mentioned the painting after church and received a blank stare from me (definitely reminds me of the awesome RP analogy someone passed on to me that I’ve mentioned in a prior post– RP is seeing a tiny piece of paper across the room but tripping over an elephant on the way to pick it up!)

When the laughter in my head finally contained itself, a question popped in:  how many paintings in the periphery of life do I miss?  RP or not, how many do we all miss?

Turn your head slightly today.  Scan your eyes till you see it.  Allow someone to lean over and point it out to you.  Seek beauty that isn’t obvious, and find wonder in a Season that may have become stale to the eyes after waiting in too many lines at Target or staring at too many “have-to-buys” on Amazon.

(and if you want to be intrigued anew about art or Advent, check out Scott Hodge’s 12/03/11 message on The Orchard’s podcast… it should be up sometime this week)

It might seem as though Joy and I are just going to ponder our upcoming treatment for the next couple weeks.  But fear not, loyal readers – I’ve decided to post about something other than pre-treatment jitters.  As part of my goal to focus on the present, I’ve been taking the time to do some of the things I really enjoy in life – baking, cooking, reading, yoga, and hiking.  This last one might be surprising given A. I am a girly-girl, and B. I have RP.  Despite these two facts, I still enjoy a good hike.

This weekend was full of sunny crisp fall weather – the kind that makes you want to put on a cozy scarf and head outdoors.  My husband and I decided to take our 2 year-old daughter and little black shi tsu hiking on some nearby trails.  We live up in the mountains where amazing hiking trails are literally in our backyard.  This weekend, we decided to drive up Icicle Road and look for some new trails that we’ve never explored.  Just the 5 minute drive up the Icicle made me feel relaxed yet energized by the array of colorful trees and clear blue sky.

We first stopped at an unmarked path, Torrey parked the car at the side of the road, and I quickly made note of the HUGE drop off just a few feet outside my passenger door.  As we climbed the dirt path, weaving in and out of shrubbery and over-growth, my heart soared with the feeling that only good old-fashioned exercise and fresh mountain air can bring.  I absolutely love hiking with Torrey (hubby) because he doesn’t hover over me and gives me the space I need to hike at the pace that is right for me.  He typically leads the way, holding Cora’s hand, turning every once in a while to call out, “There’s a lot of branches hanging down up here, so watch your head”, or “Careful of this large log coming up”.  He doesn’t hold my hand or watch skeptically to see if I’m going to miss a step.  He fully trusts in my ability to hike using the aid of a walking stick he found for me in the woods.  I refer to it as my “makeshift cane”.

Hiking up the trail is actually the easy part for me because there’s enough contrast for me to follow the trail.  The way down is the most challenging part of the hike because my depth perception is not good, and it’s harder for me to find where I need to step next.  This is the part of the hike that I use my walking stick as a cane – moving it quickly from side to side to “feel” my way down the trail.  Torrey and Cora typically hike at a faster pace than me on the way down, but that doesn’t bother me.  I actually kind of like it because once they get to the bottom, Torrey holds Cora up so that she can watch me hike down, encouraging me with lots of cuteness, “C’mon mama – good job, mama!”

After the first trail, we stopped to take a few roadside pics and then drove further up the road to a trail called “Fourth of July”, which seemed fitting for me because hiking gives me a nice sense of independence.  This trail was a bit steeper than the first one, but the view at the top made the climb well worth it.

I am hand-writing this post.  Joy gave me the idea as a way to rest my eyes from the computer before typing the final draft.  I feel so old-fashioned and can hardly believe I still know cursive.  It’s nice, and has really nothing to do with what I’m going to blog about, but just wanted to share my enjoyment in the dying art of penmanship.

As I sit here in my cozy backyard reflecting upon our first dozen posts and subsequent comments, I am surprised by some of the feedback.  The responses from fellow VIPs (thanks for the snazzy acronym, sis) has been what we had hoped it would be and more.  It’s the excitement and support from our friends and family that has surprised me a bit, which is not to say that I haven’t felt their support before.  I guess receiving it all at once feels different.  But what surprises me the most is how encouraged I feel just from knowing that my loved ones are taking time out of their busy lives to learn about RP.

Joy and I have spent so much time/energy talking to each other about RP over the years that we often haven’t realized how little our friends and family know about it.  Prior to this blog, I had been of the mindset that if someone has questions or wants to know how I’m feeling about RP, they would approach me.  And there are quite a few that have done so.  But I’ve recently learned that not everyone feels they can openly talk about it – perhaps due to something I’ve said verbally or non-verbally.  And that is disappointing to me.  I want to be approachable, I want to be an open book.  Sometimes that is easier said than done.  Sometimes I feel so “exposed” when I talk about my vision.  I feel as though I am revealing this broken piece of myself,  But just because something is painful or uncomfortable to talk about doesn’t mean that it should be avoided altogether.

My hand is starting to cramp up, so I better wrap this up.  If you have RP, you may be surprised to find that the more you share with friends and family, the more encouraged you feel.  If you have a loved one with RP, find an appropriate time and place to approach them with your questions, concerns, words of encouragement, etc.

Taking an interest in what others are thinking and doing is often a much more powerful form of encouragement than praise – Robert Martin