Tag Archives: family

School Crossing

school crossing

I hear the coffee maker de-calcifying, as I sit in my living room, drinking a second pot. Even with the gurgles and steam blasts emanating from the kitchen, the only other sound I hear is that of our labrador’s too-long nails, clacking on the floor as he searches for the kids.

A certain energy seems to have been packed up with their school books and taken out in rucksacks.

My kids have never been to a brick & mortar school before–not in their entire lives. And now, they make the daily trek to a place where they’re expected to learn in a completely different language.

They HAD to go to school somewhere–that was evident. But they did have the choice. They could go to the US or stay in Germany.

They chose Germany.

So, I walked them over on the first day of school and handed over the reins to people I’d never met.

Having been a homeschooling Mom for 12 years, I thought this would be tougher to do. I thought I would have tears or sadness. But honestly, it was a relief.

The teachers were friendly, the principal helpful and the students, as I would hear later, were friendly and curious about these American kids who’d just been woven into this tightly-knit Franconian world.

As I walked home alone from the school, I felt happy and excited for my kids.

I was so proud of them.

Proud that they saw German school not as an impossibility but merely a challenge.

While they were gone (for a whole 2.5 hours); I distracted myself with some deep cleaning and brownie-baking; as baked goods seemed a first-day-of-schoolish sort of thing.

When the bustle and energy returned to the house, I heard story after story about teachers and students and books and language and food…

My youngest even walked home with a new friend, and though there was a limited mutual vocabulary, these two had become buddies on day one.

I was relieved.

Sometimes you charge forward, not knowing if you’ll wave your flag on the hilltop, or if you’ll have to retreat and regroup, and figure out where the hell you are on the map.

But for this day; for this hour; for this very moment, my kids have won a significant battle that will change the course of their histories.

And I am damn proud of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Honest Thoughts of an Estranged Wife

signmom

I woke up wide awake at 02:00.

I’d had a bad dream.

In it, the children’s father walked back into our lives, and we all went back to who we were before the separation.

I was angry.

So angry, that I woke up crying, as the hateful “Why’s?” swarmed in with their biting stings.

I was angry with myself for ever having loved him. Angry with ‘him’ for not loving me back. Angry that I wasted time not being myself, and now I have to figure out WHO I am. Angry that after all the hell and pain, I still have to rely on ‘him’ to pay bills.

I don’t regret staying home to raise the kids.

I DO regret not keeping my foot firmly in some kind of door–even a small one, wedged open just enough to let me breathe some fresh air.

Then the answer came to me.

Toughen up.

It is what it is, so deal with it. 

Be THANKFUL that he left.

Because I finally feel alive again. I even feel happy.

Stressed, yes.

Busy, yes.

Scared, often.

But content. Satisfied.

For SUCH a long time, I felt like I was waiting for life to begin.

Now life has rushed upon me with a vengeance–it has 20 years of lost time to make up for.

I feel a lot of emotions.

But the important point is that I FEEL.

This is a hard time. But it’s not even a chapter title in the book of my life–it’s just a plot point to make the story more compelling.

And who knows the twists and turns that will unfold in this narrative?

We’ll just have to keep turning the pages, one at a time.

Because after all the anger and pain, I finally have a story to tell.

And it’s mine.

 


Different is Good

bw fountain

My birthday is perilously close to Mother’s Day, which means I only get one cake. On the bright side, the kids never forget my birthday because every store window reminds them to get something for their Mom.

This year had a different feel to it; and when things have been pretty much the same for twenty years, (to quote Groundhog day): “Different is good.”

My birthday landed on a Thursday–a non-Crossfit day–which meant no birthday burpees for me. Instead, I took the kids to Wurzburg to my favorite Thai food place and afterwards for the best coffee (at a nondescript little hole in the wall) and ice cream in Germany. Interestingly, both places are run by Italians. I’m thankful they brought their beans and gelato north of the Alps.

The difference this year was that there was no spouse to take pictures of me with the kids. It was a strange feeling.

As we walked through the palace garden, it was hard to watch couples strolling along holding hands, or to see a kid riding on his dad’s shoulders. You start to ask “Why can’t we have that?”

Why do I only have a strong espresso in my hand where fingers should be laced?

But questions that don’t have answers only set you down the road to self-pity–not a good place to go.

It’s far more productive to be thankful: for the unique individuals I call my offspring; for the laughter; for the coffee; for the ability to walk and run and lift heavy.

I’m even thankful for the trials because they are forcing me to become the person I want to be.

But I don’t want you to get the wrong impression: my life is not The Notebook (which, for the record, I only saw once and could not stand it).

My life comes with tears that work my abs and moments where I have to pull the car over because my sweet little family is unraveling in the rear view mirror.

I have come to understand that my life ‘before’ wasn’t life at all–it was existence. I did not have some incredibly amazing passionate marriage in which my partner suddenly had medical problems, and I, as the ever-loving, patient wife would care for him and see him through. The hard reality is that things had been messed up for a long time; and I though I wanted things to be better, I was smart enough to have already begun the long journey towards independence, well before the medical problems complicated matters.

I AM a Taurus, which means when something isn’t working,  you either fix it perfectly or smash it all to hell and start over.

That stubbornness, a quality I had loved about myself,  had been covered with twenty years of dust before Crossfit came along to clean house.

I’m thankful it did.

I’m starting to figure out what kind of person I really am–even though I sometimes don’t like what I see. I want to be like ‘good’ people–you know, the ones who always seem happy.

My kids are feeling this too. My youngest and I were talking about how ‘different’ we feel these days–and how it’s almost painful to be around ‘good’ families. I guess part of this whole process is discovering the joy of being a family exactly like ours: figuring out how WE roll and not comparing ourselves to others and sure as hell not WANTING to be like other families.

Our scars show that we’ve been actively engaged in life, not merely witnessing it from a protective bubble.

Different is scary.

But different can be good.

So, we press on, move forward, and scrawl out the first word of the first chapter of this new life. 

 

 

 

 


Strong Enough to Move a Deep Freezer

moving day

CrossfitterMama working hard

I used to think phrases like “find your inner strength” were kind of…well…cheesy. Like something that should be written on a gym bag. However, over the past four days I’ve discovered something about myself: I am strong enough to move a deep freezer.

Sure I had help from my teenage son. Okay, he did most of the lifting on that one. But I did manage to scrape it against the stairwell in such a way that left a nice gash in it, which we will fondly remember whenever we reach for the pineapple-coconut Haagen Dazs.

Moving an entire household is a pain in the ass (and the legs, and the arms, and the hands); and when it is just you and your teenage son, it can be outright comical. And tragic.

Alas poor washing machine, I knew him well Horatio. 

(The washing machine was left behind due to…((ahem)) technical difficulties removing it from the water supply).

When I first realized that as the adult in charge, I was responsible for the entire move (and I wasn’t willing or able to part with the 1,800 euro quoted by the movers, who may or may not have criminal records) I was a little intimidated. My facebook messages that day to certain friends would probably be rated R for foul language and adult emotional themes (if there is such a thing).

Basically, I wanted to pack our bags (the children, dogs and I) and run away. But after a few words of wisdom and re-direction from friends, I knew that I HAD to do this move. I also knew that if I could run 6 marathons and NEVER, EVER willingly set my kettle bells down during a WOD, I had the inner strength (stubbornness, as my mom says) to do this move.

We did it, my son and I, with support from friends. But the heavy lifting was all us. And I am damned proud of my son. In fact, I’m proud of all my kids, and the way they rose to the challenge, pulled together to make this happen. It truly bonded the kids and I and marks a shift in the family dynamic.

This whole ordeal has shown me one, single, important, life-changing thing.

I am strong.

This might not be a revelation to some of you. But for me, this is something that has shaken me to the core. For years I have imbibed the message that we are weak. And when we are weak, God can make us strong.

I still believe this is true to a certain extent.

But I also believe that sometimes you just need to suck it up. God doesn’t want to hear you crying anymore about how weak you are. Maybe God just wants you to pick your ass off the floor and go move something heavy.

If I had to label myself a year ago, I would have called myself a “Conservative Christian Homeschool Mom.”

These days, I am peeling back those labels to find the real person underneath.

Labels have so much wrapped up with them–mostly the ideas of other people. And if you don’t measure up to their ideals, then something is wrong with you. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of people wanting what I can’t give. I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I also want to be myself, even if it means showing my ugly side once in a while.

I would love to live a life where I felt comfortable being myself. Where I could say what I wanted without fear. For years I have played a role that wasn’t true to that person I am on the inside. I AM a people-pleaser. And the problem is that as a people-pleaser, you often find yourself miserable.

And the (erroneous) theology that has blanketed me for so long told me that if God wants me to be miserable, then I had to accept it and BE miserable my whole miserable life and trust that He would reward me later.

I don’t believe that anymore.

Not that I will just run out and do every selfish thing that pleases me, but I have learned that my happiness IS important. It IS a treasure that needs to be guarded, because people will try to take it from you.

Sometimes we cannot control circumstances, but things like misery and happiness are choices we make.

And now I know, at heart-level, that if I am strong enough to move a deep freeze, refrigerator, couches, a dryer (sans washer), untold numbers of books (I AM a lit major), and five bedrooms worth of furniture, I am strong enough seek, guard and protect happiness in my life.

It will be a fight.

But I will win.

And I hope the same for you.

YOUR happiness matters.

Grab it tightly, and never, ever let it go.


Pure Unadulterated Stress: How to Cope

BOL barbell

I was standing amidst a pile of rubble and cardboard boxes, which once was my room, when I realized my son had an orthodontist appointment that day. Like a good mom, I checked the time five minutes before I thought we were supposed to leave, when SURPRISE, I had already missed the appointment.

When I called, the receptionist said we could reschedule for 15:30. We walk in at 15:15, and they look at me like I’m crazy and then tell me I was SUPPOSED to have been there at 10:30 (zehn and funfzehn sound remarkably similar when you can never hear on the phone to begin with, usually because of kids and dogs disturbing the peace, but mostly because I just can’t frigging hear on the telephone; and when you are second-language impaired).

We reschedule.

I revert to speaking English because my brain has completely SHUT DOWN. Even when she used short, slow words to help me, I could not process them. It was like she was speaking yet a third language.

The receptionist, who is now somehow speaking English (and I hope that I am as well) patiently works out everything I’ve messed up (including making arrangements for my son to see a dentist?!! before the next orthodontist appointment), pins the note to my overcoat, puts a lunch-pail in my grubby little hand, and shuttles me to the bus stop.

Just kidding on that last part, but the attitude was the same–plus it might’ve helped.

Food. My son needed food. But I was still trying to work out appointments and replaying conversations in my head in German. Should I have said this? Should I have said that? HOW do you say this or that??? Do I have time to make it to Crossfit? Ugh! Brain overload!

Meanwhile, my kids were home taking screws out of furniture to prep for the move and my husband was at the doctor having vials of blood drawn to test for scary diseases.

There were more stress layers flaking from this day than paint on a midwestern farmhouse.

*author is not responsible for the accuracy of metaphorical language.
*In fact, the author is not certain her metaphors are even making sense at this point.
*author does not care.

My son and I went for Chinese food, and over a plate of chicken fried rice, I regained my senses (somewhat).

I always used to say that stress is a reaction. But sometimes, it builds up to where your brain simply shuts down.

Usually, Crossfit helps me to relieve this kind of stress, but of course with the move, I hadn’t been to the box in three days. Despite the fact that I’ve been lifting boxes and carrying furniture downstairs, the lack of WODing has taken its toll.

I don’t know exactly how Crossfit works its magic. It seems so simple: lift something heavy. But how does lifting something heavy clear your mind? I can’t answer this. I only know it works. It’s my form of meditation. I come away relaxed, focused, de-stressed, and a little high from endorphins, or whatever chemicals wake up in my brain.

Plus there’s the added benefit of multiple hugs from my friends and the occasional emo purge while we stretch.

I’ve got a lot on my mind this week. What if my husband’s tests come back badly? Does it suddenly change all of our marital problems? What if they can’t diagnose anything, and he just goes on feeling crappy all the time? What if I forget another appointment? How will I get my old house cleaned out by the end of the month? Will my couch fit down the staircase at the new place? What about my daughter’s birthday? Or my anniversary? Do you still celebrate when you’re barely communicating? Do I post a ‘happy 20 years, darling’ on facebook, because that’s what people expect? Or do I say, ‘i hope we make it to 21’? What if he has cancer? 

Fears.

Stress.

Negativity.

I need to let it go.

Crossfit is the master reset button.

So, instead of packing more boxes today, I’m taking a time out.

I need to think about nothing but the steel in my hand, so I can loosen the grip stress has on me.

It’s time to let go.


Crossfit is More than a Workout, It’s a Family

BOL group photo

I read this interesting post recently about why Crossfitters don’t really care what people think about the sport, and some of the comments are rather heated.

If you Crossfit, you will get what Lisbeth Darish is saying. If you don’t Crossfit, you may end up leaving angry comments on her blog.

Non-fitters tend to think that Crossfit is just another exercise program. And if they think that way (as Darish points out), it doesn’t really matter to us.

Honestly, it’s better to let some people go work their biceps.

Crossfit is a large, crazy, diverse family. But as in any functional family, there goes with it a healthy sense of pride.

In this kind of family, kids ALWAYS think their family is the best. Parents ALWAYS love their children (even if they have to use some discipline from time to time). Grandparents ALWAYS adore the new arrivals. Sure, there might be some sibling rivalry and a cousin you think is weird, but it is STILL family. 

When you see the faces of your brothers or sisters through the window of a coffee shop, and they turn to wave you in, you automatically have that sense of belonging that fills your soul.

Better yet is meeting a second cousin from a place thousands of miles away. Neither of you have a language in common–you don’t even know each other’s names, and yet, it doesn’t matter–you still have that bond.

Crossfit (at least, as far as I’ve seen) transcends race, gender, socioeconomics, sexual orientation, nationalities, languages, religions, shoe types, hair colors, tattoos, star bellies…the list could go on.

I’ve never felt more at home in a place than I have at Crossfit. There is no gym, no health club, no school, no church that can beat the camaraderie I’ve experienced, which is why, as Darish said, “We don’t care.”

It’s not that we don’t care about the point critics are trying to make, it’s just that my grandma can push-press their grandma, and that makes ours better.

We know what our family can do.

I have some friends and family members who (*gasp) do not Crossfit. But they see what it’s done for me, and therefore, they love it too.

They are like the best friends who stay at your house every weekend. They love your family and so you unofficially adopt them.

But whether you’re a best friend of Crossfit or a member of the group, you will understand that the criticisms don’t matter: we have the coolest, best, most awesome family in the world.

And nothing anyone says can change that.


Crossfit: Addiction or Therapy

doc

I used to wait until my husband left for work to sneak out to Crossfit.

I would give him a few minutes head start, if I could spare them, and pray he wouldn’t forget something and come back, which, awkwardly happened a couple of times: gym bag slung over my arm, minimal shoes on my feet, keys in hand, I stood there, poised for the door while he grabbed whatever he had forgotten and asked, “Are you going somewhere?”

“I thought I’d take the morning class today. It’s been too muddy for running, and I need to work out.”

That would go one of two ways, but it always ended with me going to Crossfit.

I knew I needed it.

I often joke about Crossfit being my addiction. I crave it more than chocolate, and without it, I start to have withdrawal. But when I was compared to an alcoholic in one unseemly tirade, I wondered if it was true: did I have a problem?

Addictions are as much a part of my family makeup as our distinguished upper lips and ample posteriors, so it was entirely possible I had slipped into some kind of dependent behavior unawares.

Naturally, because this bothered me so much, I turned to our trusted friend Wikipedia, who told me:

“Classic hallmarks of addiction include impaired control over substances or behavior, preoccupation with substance or behavior, continued use despite consequences, and denial.”

That’s cutting a little too close to my kettle bells.

However, an addiction is clearly something that has adverse consequences, and Crossfit, like a good lover, has only been kind to me.

Crossfit challenges me, makes me stronger both physically and mentally, and keeps me from curling up in the fetal position while uncontrollably weeping.

That sounds more like therapy to me, which WiKi defines as: therapeutic interaction or treatment contracted between a trained professional and a client, patient, family, couple, or group.

Can someone be addicted to therapy?

Of course, I could be in denial about my alleged addiction, but I don’t really care. I would NOT want to go back to the person I was before Crossfit, and nobody wants to see me OFF Crossfit.

I’d be in nice clinic somewhere trying to cut my lunch with a plastic spoon.

I had wondered, however, if Crossfit was a home wrecker. I mean, things seemed pretty smooth before I started making trouble.

But there’s really no such thing as a home wrecker. If the foundation is weak, the slightest weight will cause the whole thing to collapse, while a strong foundation can weather anything.

For now, my life is about getting stronger and finding out what I’m really made of. I need to be strong and stable for this family I love so much. And if that means Mommy goes to Crossfit (again. and again. and yet again.) that’s what HAS to be done, for everyone’s own good.

Crossfit is my therapy, not my addiction.

And right now, Crossfit is better than any drug a doctor could prescribe.

It’s even better than chocolate. 

I guess that’s something else to work out in therapy.