Juxtaposition

I should probably be sleeping right now, as we have to leave tomorrow morning for Farmer City. I haven’t been there in awhile. When Aaron was living in Champaign, I’d usually stop there on my way even though it was only 100 miles from Pekin to Champaign to drive by my great-grandmother’s house and also to get a drink at the gas station. A couple years ago on our way to Champaign, Aaron and I stopped at the cemetery there.

I have been so happy and thankful to be home with family. I miss Aaron, of course, as we haven’t seen each other (in person) since the end of May. However, he’s being as supportive as he can be from 1500 miles away. I love that man with my whole heart and then some.

Life is such a ride. There’s so much juxtaposition of happy and sad, grief and joy. You can be laughing your ass off in one minute about a memory and then be bawling your eyes out the next. I’m starting to remember more things as my memory’s being jogged by being with others. You never know which memory will trigger what emotion.

These past couple evenings we’ve been sitting on the patio just visiting. Tonight I helped Mom get dinner ready (steaks, stuffed mushrooms and baked potatoes, good ole comfort food!), went and ran 5 miles, showered and then ate EVERYTHING on my plate. It was delicious. After dinner we cleaned up and Tim, Leah and I walked down to get ice cream. For a little while you forget why you’re all together. Then you look up from whatever joke you were just laughing about and see tears streaming down a red face.

It just happens. You let it happen, comfort each other, and keep going, and in a few minutes everyone’s okay again. I’ve been in “Big Sister Mode”. I don’t want anyone to think I’m not grieving, because I am. Monday through Wednesday were just  plain awful while I was still in Texas, alone. By alone, I mean with no family. Now that I’m here, I have a normal appetite and am sleeping like a rock. In most ways I feel better, some sort of whole.

I tell my sisters to take care of themselves and that it’s okay to grieve and that really, you just have to let yourself be sad and not beat yourself up about it. The only way you can get through anything like this with a sense of self afterwards is if you accept your own way of dealing with grief.

I cried with Emily tonight as we remembered that Grandpa loved to eat vanilla ice cream with a spoonful (or two) of peanut butter and sometimes Hershey’s syrup. He was never skimpy in his dishing out of ice cream. I remember eating that on the farm. He stopped eating like that after his heart surgery several years ago. (They still had ice cream in their freezer from time to time, especially when there was a pie somewhere in the house.)

I’m in some sort of denial of what all will be happening tomorrow and Monday. I think we all are in some extent. It’s going to be rough, and a lot of us are going to be in new territory. I pray for strength for all of us, especially so we can be strong for Grammie.

Juxtaposition. Gravestones against a beautiful blue skies and green wavy cornfields. A new life growing and an old life passing away. Memories remembered and memories made.

There is nothing new under the sun. Nothing takes God by surprise; He already knew all of this before the creation of the world. Sometimes things happen for no other reason other than it was just that time.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot, 
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiates 3:1-8

Preparations

Today I’m anxious and excited. Anxious because of the unknown. Excited to see family, even under such horrible circumstances. I’ve never lost a close family member before. Other members of my family have, but I personally haven’t. I shared in their sorrow when my uncle died, when my great-grandma died, when my mom’s dad died. But it’s nothing like this.

I’ve lost my appetite, and I haven’t been sleeping well. My mind just won’t turn off. I’m hungry, sure, but nothing sounds good except for ice cream and cookie dough. :rolls eyes: Goooooo figure. Let’s just say this isn’t a great diet plan, mmkay? I stayed up until 12:30 last night doing laundry, getting things packed… even before I purchased my plane ticket around midnight I just intuitively started packing. I knew I couldn’t stay here until Sunday… I’m going crazy.

The house is clean and ready for my husband’s arrival. Thank God for people who help out. My parents helped pay for my ticket. I found a lady who does boarding out of her home and has rescue dogs of her own. She has no qualms whatsoever about Missy and her potential behavior. Jess and/or her husband are going to meet Aaron at the airport on Saturday to give him his keys. I will be leaving the car at the airport but he doesn’t have keys and there’s no way I’m leaving the car unlocked with keys in it! My boss is being more than accommodating about me missing a week and a half of work.

Laundry is done, dishes are done, bathrooms are *somewhat* clean. I know Aaron really doesn’t care, but I do. Cleaning is therapy for me and let’s just say I did a lot of that last night. The last two days were really rough emotionally, and I know it’s not over.

I’m also anxious because I’m taking these two classes for a certificate that won’t even transfer to my Illinois teaching certificate (the classes are in Indiana). One of the classes has four units due next Thursday. My prof is unwilling to give me an extension past July 1st. Well, guess what, I’m not going home to sit in front of a computer and do homework. I’m going home for no other reason other than to attend these services and spend time with my family, and my Grammie.

I’m excited to see my family, my parents, my sister Emily, and my sister Leah who’s pregnant and has her first appointment tomorrow. I’m excited to meet my cousin’s new son. It’s so like life, like God, isn’t it?, to overlap death and life like this. I’m excited to see Aaron’s family and my friends, if there’s time. I’m excited to see Aaron when I get back next Sunday. I miss him.

Sometimes I’m in a raging calm, super efficient and level-headed. Sometimes I’m crying my eyes out and cussing up a storm. A STORM. That’s grief. Everyone experiences it differently. Something that I’m super proud of is that I know what my limits are. I’m ready to withdraw from this class if I need to. Maybe some would see that as giving up, but I don’t. I weigh my options and see what’s really important. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that grad school hasn’t worked out for me yet. I keep trying and trying to make it work, and maybe it’s not supposed to. I am totally fine with that, and that’s just not the current circumstances talking.

Adrenaline allows you to do things you didn’t think you could. In less than two days, I’ve made all necessary arrangements, cleaned the house, packed, and speaking of packing I think I’ve remembered everything without a list, and without having to check a bag.

Wish me safe travels; by this time tomorrow I will be connecting in Chicago and on my way to Peoria. I have running clothes packed… maybe that’s a little hopeful, but it’s therapy.

Robert Allen Little :: February 8, 1928 – June 18, 2012

I will be heading home soon for my grandfather’s funeral. You always think you have more time, one last phone conversation, one last visit. However, despite the fact that I’m 1500 miles away, I have absolutely no regrets. This still seems so unreal…. I can’t wait to be with my family. I have comfort knowing that he is with Jesus.

at my high school graduation
my all-time favorite pic of my dad and grandpa before our wedding
taking pictures when we cut the cake

I am blessed that I’ve had so many years with him, and that really in the past 10 years or so, since I could drive, I made an effort to get close to him. He taught me how to knit and crochet, he leaves a legacy of genealogy and handicrafts. He was a son, father, husband, grandfather, Korean War vet, farmer, banker, Prius-driver, great-grandfather, brother. He lived through an almost-heart attack and bypass surgery, surgery to remove cancer on one of his kidneys…. he had a pacemaker that we called his “Energizer Bunny” because you couldn’t have Grandpa without him being ornery, and to be ornery he had to have energy!

Memories don’t discriminate chronologically… I remember the farmhouse, going there in the summers, playing in the green grass, watching the corn and beans against a blue Illinois sky. Watching and listening to the train. Riding on the little tractor down the lane and he let me steer. John Deere to the core. Picking wildflowers on an after-dinner walk to give to Grammie. Attending their 50th anniversary party and vow renewal. He and my Grammie were the first ones we told when Aaron was going to join the Army. His Class A’s (they were tiny!), his stories of being a tank commander, seeing a map of North Korea he’s kept for all these years. He and Grammie greeting us at the airport in Bloomington when we came back from Honduras. He and Grammie helping me to see Aaron off to Korea.

The way he fidgeted with something at the kitchen table while we visited (I do the same thing). Attending Grammie’s baptism. Taking me out for Chinese and almost missing the train to Chicago.

I smell the strange mix of cedar and cigarette smoke of the farmhouse. I’ve had so many dreams about that farmhouse. The freshly-mowed grass, taste the homemade applesauce from the apple trees. Their iced tea is always the best. I try to make it the same way Grammie does and it’s just not the same. Playing cards on the patio in the summer while drinking said iced tea. Honking twice and waving as you leave the drive.

More than ever, I’m proud to be a Little girl.

Run Streak Week 1

Ok, dudes. I’ve been streaking every single day this week. Sounds like fun, right?

I love this Runner’s World Run Streak challenge.. run at least one mile every day starting Memorial Day and ending July 4th. I signed up for a 5K on July 4th before I knew I’d be doing the streak.

I ran 21 miles this week. During marathon training, that was an average week, if not a bit on the low side. However, I haven’t ran that many miles in a week since Bataan… and at Bataan I only ran 8 out of 26.2. So yeah. I’d say this is good! I’ve been trying not to sabotage my good athletic efforts with horrible eating habits. I’ve been tracking my  food and not doing too badly. According to SparkPeople, I’ve burned more than my prescribed calories for the week, which was 2250. I burned closer to 2400!

Monday (Memorial Day): 5 miles with Aaron on post for wear blue : run to remember.

Tuesday: 3 miles on a paved trail before the sun came up over the mountains. I call that nirvana.

Wednesday: 800m repeats with Jess… oy. That was tough. My goal was to keep my pace while running above 9:00 min/mi.

Thursday: 1 mile with Missy around the neighborhood.

Friday: 2-miler with Missy around the neighborhood. This dog likes running! She always has a smile on her face after we get home. Or maybe that’s just because it’s as hot as an oven outside and she’s trying to get cool. haha.

Saturday: 5-mile canyon run. I hadn’t run the canyon in AGES. Well, a few months. I’m proud of myself for getting my arse out there and doing a “long” run by myself and in the morning! I absolutely LOVE coming down that mountain! It’s around 900 ft of pure bliss on the descent. At one point I glanced at the Garmin and saw 7:30 as my pace… whoa. Just whoa. I NEVER run that fast. Except when I’m a human bullet coming down a mountain…. I ran in the Minimus, too, which means my calves are sore today! Overall I LOVE the “minimalist” shoe. It’s comfortable and more natural feeling. Whenever I run in my Brooks (don’t shoot me.. I know they’re old!) they feel so heavy. Once I wear out the Minimus, I might go for a pair of Merrell Road Gloves….

Sunday (today): One mile around the neighborhood with Missy. It’s a win-win for us… I get in my Run Streak and Missy gets in a little more exercise. Makes my life easier all the way around.

I’m so thankful to have my running mojo back! Lately I’ve been really pining for some corn fields, country roads, and GREEN…. not to mention all my old running routes. It’s funny, whenever I’m in that last mile of a run, or last half mile, or even last .1 mile, I still imagine myself running on University in Peoria. It wasn’t the prettiest sight, the run back to my apartment, but I did it so often and achieved so much on that mundane route that I remember it very well. 🙂

I tell ya what, I’m gonna run like a freakin’ BEAST in the Morton Pumpkin Festival 10K in September… if I can get it together mentally to run at 4,000 ft in 90 degree weather, I can run anywhere!

Almost a year

July 8th will be a year since we moved to El Paso. I can’t believe everything that’s transpired in a year….

We rented our first house. It still doesn’t feel 100% like home. Maybe it’s because the furniture doesn’t match, or that the carpet is an awful poop brown color. Maybe we’re just still settling in. I’m glad we decided to not go with an apartment. While I’d prefer to live on the west side or even in NM, this house’ll do for awhile. [[JULY]]

We found Harvest! I love being a part of such a vibrant and diverse body of believers. We found a small group and it’s been a godsend! [[JULY]]

We bought our first car with cash money. Straight up. We ended up owning Aaron’s first car, and we own mine now, but the Honda we have now was our first automobile purchase sans financing. Of course… we have put some cash into it… [[AUGUST]]

We bought our first washer/dryer set, on Craigslist. I love that site. [[AUGUST]]

Our nephew was born! [[OCTOBER]]

We started teaching the junior high students at church. It was tough at first, earning their trust, but we really enjoy this age and our funny conversations with them. [[OCTOBER]]

We ran our first half-marathon.  [[JANUARY]]

We went “home” and spent two whole weeks together with no work. I’m visiting again in September for Megan’s wedding and needless to say I’ve had a hankering for corn fields and thunderstorms! Sometimes I get so homesick it hurts. I know, I know, I said I’d love living far away for once, in a new place. Yes, it’s great, but I have a love/hate relationship with El Paso. One day I’m cursing the heat and dust and the next I’m enamored by the mountains and sunsets. [[FEBRUARY]]

We adopted Missy. She’s taught us patience, perseverance, and unconditional love. She’s a great companion when Aaron’s gone, though a cover-stealer. (Guess I know what it feels like now!) I’m more of a dog person than I ever imagined. [[MARCH]]

We did Bataan. One word: Epic. [[MARCH]]

I’ve worked two different jobs, in two different states. In the four years since I graduated Bradley, I’ve had five jobs. Hellloooooo resume killer. I never would have expected that from myself, but you know what? I’m happy where I’m at now and for once not going crazy perusing school district websites and indeed.com. I haven’t felt that way since Midland. I really loved my job at Tremont, but it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be there longer than last summer. [[MARCH/APRIL]]

My littlest sister got married! [[APRIL]]

I started some grad classes. I’m glad I didn’t commit to a full Master’s degree; I’ve learned just from the few weeks I’ve been taking these ESL/linguistics classes that I have no interest in becoming an expert in linguistics. I mean, what purpose does it serve? Sure, I learn some grammar, and stuff, but  how does that really help people? These 12 hours of grad-level courses will be enough for me, I think, and help me in a future career. [[MAY]]

Well, this hasn’t happened yet, but MY BESTIE IS COMING TO VISIT!!!! Yay! My first visitor! My first real chance to show the Midwest that El Paso doesn’t suck (usually)! [[JUNE]]

So…. who knows what this next year will hold? I’ve learned to just let go of any worry about when/if we’ll move somewhere else. It could definitely happen, but no telling when. There are days when I want to get out of here so badly, and others where I wish we could stay until 2016, and some days, beyond that.

I’d say this year has been more good things than bad, for sure. I have to say the best part is the “we…..” 🙂