To my little girl.

We had names for you both.

One of you was going to be Dagny Elayne, the first name after Dagny Taggart of Atlas Shrugged, a real go-getter with a kickass personality; the second name was after a character in your daddy’s all time favorite book series, Wheel of Time. To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of Dagny when your father suggested it. But over several years, it grew on me. Together your names would mean “new light”. Perfect, I thought. Leah Beth gave me a little pair of pink linen shorts with a bow at the waist and told me, “These are for little Dagny” because she knew that that was going to be your name. I don’t have those shorts anymore.

At your great-grandmother’s funeral, I decided then that I wanted to change your name to Eleanor Jane, after her. Your daddy didn’t even mind – he loved her too. I always loved old, classic names. This is one thing I agreed with your Mimi on – someday, a little girl was going to grow up and be a professional or doctor or something with a nameplate outside her office, or have her name read at a graduation ceremony, so she should have a really strong name. I totally agreed with that. I thought it would be so poetic, if a little tragic, if I had conceived you the same month your Grammie Jane passed away – I saw it as her spirit living on. She would have been so happy.

I saw you in my dreams. I don’t remember seeing your face in every dream, but I knew that you had bright blue eyes, just like mine. My whole life they’ve been my claim to fame (ha) and I wanted to pass them to you. I know with these eyes you’d be an honest, caring, compassionate child. I saw your long brown hair, a few inches above your waist, a rich brown like your daddy’s. All I ever imagined is that my daughter would have more beautiful hair than I ever did, thick and unwieldy. And now my hair’s going gray. My theory is that we tried so long to have you that all the stress started making my hair gray.

When you grew to be a little girl, I was going to make sure I read you all of my favorite books. And I’d read these to your brother too – Goodnight, Moon; Are You My Mother?; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; Little House on the Prairie; A Wrinkle in Time – we’d sit on your little bed under a fuzzy blanket and read by the lamp next to your bed. You’d be curious and not be able to wait until the next day to read a new chapter. You’d be a bookworm, just like your daddy, and have shelves and shelves full of books.

Your father and I always discussed how important it was for kids to try lots of new things. We wanted to make sure you stayed physically healthy and meet new friends, so we would have loved for you to join a local tee-ball team, or do karate, or participate in an community art class. We’d also want you to be involved in something musical – not because we were going to be overbearing parents, but because we both were musically inclined and wanted you to enjoy music as well. Maybe your little hands would have graced a violin, or clutched drumsticks. Maybe you would have sung in a choir or had a solo. Maybe you would have been able to just play any song you hear, and not be like me where I can’t memorize anything. I never would have been mad about you innocently plinking away on the piano that was your great-great-grandmother’s if you had wanted to.

I was so enamored with you as a little girl. To be honest, I never pictured you being older than 4 or 5. I never pictured your wedding (if you wanted to get married), or your children (if you wanted to be a mother). I never pictured you talking back to me as a tween. I only pictured the sweet memories we would have had. I would have been kinder and more patient than your Mimi. I would have let you keep your hair long when you were little, if you wanted to.

I would have taught you how to spell and write before you entered kindergarten. I was unsure about putting you in preschool or pre-kindergarten, because you know, I am a teacher and would have made sure you were ready. I kept aprons for you to help me cook in the kitchen – and I wouldn’t have gotten mad at you for spilling something on the clean floor.

I had a dream one time where I saw you, face to face, and you, Dagny (Eleanor), were just the sweetest little girl. I told you in my dream as I held you close to hug you and pick you up, “I wanted you so badly. We both wanted you so much.” That’s it. That’s all we said. I woke up on my side of the bed with your daddy asleep next to me, and cried silently into my pillow. I don’t know if he knows this. But I cried.

I also wanted to give you my maiden name as a middle name. I didn’t want to hyphenate it though. I liked how your name looked written out – Dagny Elayne (or Eleanor Jane) – and I was going to call you Dag for short.

And now I have to say goodbye before I even get to say hello. It’s a cruel world out there, sweetheart, and even though I was a good little girl, and then a (mostly) good teenager, and then became a good responsible woman, I still never got to welcome you into our life. Dagny, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s how life is. You don’t get to pick and choose – sometimes you have to deal with whatever comes.

But Dagny Elayne, I have to let you go. I’m sorry. Mommy is sorry. Daddy is sorry. Mommy has to let you go and let your spirit be free.

Home from my US tour

The past three weeks have been a blur. They’ve been a mix of grief, celebration, family time, traveling, sightseeing, and lots of time on a plane.

First, I went to Illinois for my grandmother’s funeral, which I posted about. Then, I came home to a full house with Aaron’s brother and his family, who flew in from Chicago. We had a fabulous time. This was the first time they visited us, and we loved having focused time with just their family. We went to Washington, DC, and saw so many things that I had already seen, but had a new or different meaning. I actually didn’t take a lot of pictures for either my trip to IL or Bruce and Katie’s trip here; I was still taking a step back with my Lenten commitment to decrease time on social media and therefore didn’t have my phone out 24/7.

In DC, we saw all that we could see along the National Mall, including the White House! I hadn’t visited DC since I was 16, and since it was the summer right after 9/11, a lot was inaccessible. We visited Arlington National Cemetery, as well, and visited graves of friends who had passed away while on active duty. Arlington is always a humbling place that takes your breath away. The next day we visited the National Zoo, where they have a baby panda.

We saw some sights closer to home, including Havre de Grace (only 5 miles away from our house!) and downtown Baltimore. Needless to say, we ate tons of crab in all its forms: crab cakes, crab dip, and I even had a fried soft-shell crab sandwich at a roadside shack off of Route 22.

On Good Friday, I flew out to Seattle from Philadelphia on a nonstop flight. I stayed with my sister Emily and her husband for a week. This was the trip that had been planned the longest. Historically, Emily and I have spent one week per year together, and in the past she’s usually visited me in El Paso. Of course when she moved to Seattle, I knew I had to see her this time.

The morning after I got there, Emily dropped me off at the Snohomish Centennial Trail, and she did yoga while I did my long run. Sunday we went to a local Methodist church for Easter service and then headed to Pike Place Market in Seattle. Many businesses were closed, but we still managed to have a great time.

Monday and Tuesday were spent in Portland by way of Amtrak. We explored the city mostly on foot, and rode the bus occasionally. We used AirBnB to book our room, and I loved the experience of actually staying in someone’s house. We hit up Powell’s Books (of course!) and a couple yarn shops. We ate great pizza and had gourmet ice cream. We literally ran into Deschutes Brewery, which we didn’t realize was on our walk back to the train station.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent mostly in Snohomish. We went wine tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle and had lunch in Woodinville. We did laundry, and as with my sister(s) in any mundane activity, it was fun. We hiked in Wallace Falls State Park, and it was gorgeous. We ended the day with dinner in downtown Snohomish at a Mexican restaurant right on the river.

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Wallace Falls State Park, Gold Bar, WA

March was a whirl of a month, and I am glad to be home and get back in our normal routine. The ‘new’ normal of eating dinner together, not being apart for months on end, and having the ability to plan things more than a month in advance. I’ll take it.

 

March 23 | Grief

Grief

How appropriate that today’s word is ‘grief.’ I took a little hiatus from my daily posts (but not from Bible reading) because life got a little topsy-turvy after my grandmother died two weeks ago today. I went to Illinois for the funeral and time with family and then when I got back, we had family from my husband’s side visit for the week. They left this morning, so before I travel out to Seattle to see one of my sisters, I have a couple days to regroup and gather thoughts (and do laundry).

My grandmother Jane was a lovely lady. I know this, and my family knows this, but what I found out by standing in the receiving line at the visitation is that everyone who knew her knows this. For almost two hours I introduced (and re-introduced) myself as ‘the oldest granddaughter Elizabeth’ to people who played cards with her and my grandpa, people who attended to church with her, people who cooked with her in the church kitchen, people who worked their land, and I’m pretty sure that her entire floor of the retirement home came to pay their respects. I wish I could have recorded all the nice things people said about her in that line.

Her full name was Eleanor Jane, but she always went by Jane. Eleanor and Jane mean respectively ‘bright shining one’ and ‘God’s gracious gift,’ and let me tell you, she embodied her name. My husband and I had our children’s names picked out for years, but I told him the day of the funeral that if we ever had a girl, we would name her Eleanor Jane in place of the name we’d picked out. He said he wouldn’t even argue with that. I lightheartedly told him that was a good decision.

My grandmother left an amazing legacy of faith that was quietly and steadfastly lived out. During the memorial service the pastor read her statement of faith that she wrote in a Bible study class, and in it she said that when she was a young girl, she went to church when she could, with family members, with the neighbors. She loved to be in church. She always encouraged my faith, and I tried to go to church with her when I was in town, especially after my grandfather passed away.

She didn’t suffer. I’m happy for that. I’m also overjoyed for her present victory, but so overwhelmed at times with grief that this world (and I) lost a bright, loving, giving soul. God gave her an earthly vessel for 87 years. That, coupled with heartache, loss, and joy, makes for a long full life. I can only hope to come close to that.

I’m grieving still. My family is grieving. My dad has now lost both of his parents. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. It’s especially hard when I want to call her to tell her about our recent visit with family, or about my upcoming trip to the West Coast. My heart aches when I realize that I can no longer speak with her.

But I don’t think I’ve ever understood our eternal destiny in Jesus more until she passed. I have never had such a sense of the truth and power of the Resurrection, nor have I ever had such a concrete moment in life attached to the Lenten season.

The message at church this past Sunday talked about how disciples suffer with Jesus. Our pastor, just hours before church began, lost his brother to a long battle with cancer. In the midst of that, he spoke about how we can’t have light without darkness. We can’t have the true and full joy of the Resurrection on Sunday without the tragic and sometimes infuriating events of this holy week. The timing of all these events is not happenstance; it’s the mysterious workings of God, perhaps to remind us where we’ve come from and where we’re going, and what our purpose is while we’re here. There is darkness, death, grief, and sin in this world. But Jesus has already overcome it. We can have freedom and resurrection with Him.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

My Grammie and me

On the plane I try not to cry so I clench my teeth

Seeing the flat land of my birth below fills me with grief

I know that this is real, this passing on

I know that her soul like a bird has flown

On this cusp of spring when the earth soon will bloom

For all of the stories of love and affection, I would never have room

With warm coffee in hand I watch her face so fair

As she tells me stories, and I’m content to sit with her there

And of my rich history, now of this I do know

Of the generations of people who came before me, long ago

Throughout my life I see the pain and loss she endures

But praise God, there comes a day when peace and rest are now hers

This day we celebrate a life fully lived

We take comfort in the fact that she gave all there was to give

With one last breath her soul gives a heart cry

Now under the wings of an eagle, with our Lord she now flies

–for Eleanor Jane Rhoades Little, 1928-2016–

grammie and grandpa 1966
Grandpa and Grammie, 1966
grammie and me 1988
Grammie and me, July 1988
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Grandpa, me, Dad, Mom, Grammie, June 2008

During my running in central Illinois, I had some great ideas for blogs. And then I forgot them. Maybe the extensive sunshine and 60-degree highs I came back to in Texas have something to do with it.

I had a great visit home. For the first time I just took things one day at a time and didn’t plan out everything before the plane even hit the ground. I got to see all my nieces and nephews (we have six total now) and witnessed my sister’s baby make progress in walking. For three weeks straight, if you count when my aunt came to visit, I’ve been around people 24/7, unless I was driving somewhere or running. Honestly, it’s kind of lonely being back in my house now, but I’ll pick up my dog tomorrow from boarding.

I’m pretty sure I saw every kind of precipitation there can be within the two weeks I was in the Midwest. Rain, snow, drizzle, mist (yes, that’s a thing), freezing rain… I’m not even sure they have all those words down here. It snowed before I arrived, and then in true Illinois style it melted away two days later. I got out of O’Hare just in time yesterday since it snowed again.

January and February have historically been my least favorite months going on years now. For the time I lived in Illinois, these months meant cold, dreary, gray days for weeks. The spring semester is actually a little longer than the fall, and the first quarter of the new year always feels like forever. Being in the Southwest for the past few new years has definitely helped with the abundant sunshine and spring-like temps.

Deployment is mostly done, and we have a tentative date. But who am I kidding? Every date thus far has been tentative and it seems there’s always fine print. We’ve just let ourselves get excited though, because this has been rough. We’ll take all the excitement we can get. I hope to have my husband back by spring break. Please, Jesus, PLEASE.

So, I have a few numbers for 2013. It was an…. interesting…. year. It’s like the second book in a series… it provides a bridge from the old to the new, and can be kind of boring at times, but it’s necessary all the same.

600+ miles run. Until August, I wasn’t too particular about tracking every mile I ran. I had a good running year, and felt like I grew a lot as a runner. I worked past a lot of mental blocks in order to succeed physically, and that means a lot.

17 ESL students taught. This was a highlight of 2013 for me. And I’ll have about 17 more students this coming semester.

7 months of deployment. From May to December, we completed the majority of this time apart.

4.0 achieved. 30 hours of my grad degree are completed One class and my thesis to finish and I’m DONE!

3 visitors. Both of my sisters (plus baby) and my aunt came to visit. I’m thankful; it helps give something to look forward to.

2 trips. Colorado and Illinois. Both were great.

1 nephew born. My sweet nephew Benjamin. I love that kid.

2014 has potential. We’ll see what it has to offer.

My only resolution? To spend more than a third of the year in the same geographic location as my husband. 😉

A Very Beth Thanksgiving

As I reflect on the Thanksgivings I’ve had since getting married in 2008, I’ve realized that we’ve had exactly one tradition: no tradition. And I kind of like it.

Thanksgiving 2008: I honestly don’t remember what we did, but I know we (my husband and I) spent it with our families. This was pre-layoff, pre-Army, pre-moving. Little did we know how much life would change….

Thanksgiving 2009: Aaron was in training in Arizona, and I flew out to Phoenix to spend the weekend with him. We stayed at this resort Thanksgiving night and had the dinner the hotel offered. It was awesome. We spent the rest of the weekend at a cheaper place, haha. One night at that place was enough for our bank account!

Thanksgiving 2010: Aaron was in Korea, and it was the first set of holidays we spent apart. I spent the day with my family and his, and I remember Skyping with him in my in-laws’ living room.

Thanksgiving 2011: This was our first Thanksgiving just he and I, and it was our first here in Texas. We had signed up for the Turkey Trot, but we decided to skip it to make a huge meal with all the fixins, including my first turkey. We had leftovers for dayyyzzzz.

Thanksgiving 2012: Aaron had just returned from an exercise overseas, so we were so happy to be together. We did the Turkey Trot in the morning (now one of my absolutely favorite things to do every year), and then stayed downtown for the parade. Later we spent the day with dear friends Alvin and Lacey and Lacey’s family just a few miles from our house. It was nice.

Thanksgiving 2013: This is what I have dubbed A Very Beth Thanksgiving. Even before Aaron deployed in the spring, I knew who I’d spend Thanksgiving with, my “adopted” family here in Texas. It was 24 hours of crazy fun. Wednesday night I went to a friend’s house and had a delicious ham dinner with friends from our college/20-somethings small group. Then, early Thursday morning Leah Beth, her oldest son, and I went downtown to run the YMCA Turkey Trot.

race2013

I had my sights set on running a new 5K PR this year, but after I took a little over a week off because I was sick last week, I wasn’t sure how I’d do. I was shooting for 26:30, but I’ll take this! My previous official 5K time was 27:33. I’ve taken nearly 6 minutes off my 5K time since my first 5K in 2010 where I had a time of 32:17. I really think though that if I’m consistent with speed and hill work I can improve even more. I also was hoping to see Farrah of Fairy Healthy Life and we ran into each other!

I PR'd! 26:49 official time!!
I PR’d! 26:49 official time!!

After the race, Leah Beth, Nolan and I were freeeezing from being sweaty. We headed back to their house, destinkified (yes, it’s a word) and finished up dinner. We did not cook our own turkey; instead, we ordered a smoked turkey breast from Rudy’s Texas BBQ. We had a slightly unconventional menu, including fruit salad, cranberry walnut salad, Texas potatoes, corn casserole, Hawaiian rolls (um, duh), apple pie, and Mississippi Mud. I have to say, this is the first holiday where I have not overindulged!

So, we had Leah Beth and her family; me, Elizabeth; and my “Mexican twin,” also Elizabeth, for dinner. We call each other “twin” because even though we have different cultures and first languages, it is freaky how many things we have in common. Seriously freaky. I just love having wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ! We truly are a family away from family.

Elizabeth, Leah Beth, Elizabeth (me)
me, Carson, Elizabeth
me, Carson, Elizabeth

Do not be deceived; our day wasn’t over after dinner. We watched Elf, which I am ashamed to admit that I had never seen. Elizabeth left and Leah Beth and I left to work a shift as “friends and family” at Old Navy. We worked together at a table giving cards to people who had received wristbands as they walked in for a chance to win a million. Most people were really nice and even offered to share a portion of their winnings with us, and we also of course had a couple interesting characters. After our shift was over, we shopped at Old Navy (50% off!) and then went to Target expecting it to be pretty busy. However, since the sales had started so early, at 1 AM it wasn’t busy at all. It was probably the calmest Target experience I’d had here.

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Working at Old Navy

We got home roughly at about 2 AM and we crashed. Hard. I’d been up for almost 24 hours because silly me, I had caffeine late Wednesday night and couldn’t stay asleep. The Very Beth Thanksgiving was undoubtedly a Thanksgiving to remember!

As you can imagine, it’s difficult to be half a world away from your spouse anyway, let alone during the holidays. But I’m thankful for a family who’s adopted me as their own (I’m Aunt Biff in that house ;)). Not every military wife with a deployed spouse has that. Several times this week when I thought about how many people I know here who love me and would help me out at any time, I became teary-eyed and felt overwhelmed with gratefulness.

Now the countdown is on for the end of the semester. Monday begins the last week of classes, and then we have finals and then I’m DONE until the third week in January. My favorite aunt comes to visit soon, and then we spend the weekend together here before flying back to Illinois together. Both of my sisters have come to visit me this year at different times, but my family hasn’t been together in one place since last Christmas. A year is a long time to go between visits!

I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving!

Busy.

We are in the fifth week of the semester already. This week has been crazy! It’s not that things I do are particularly challenging; it’s that every couple hours I’m starting something different. I practically live in Liberal Arts building. But I love this program. This week I taught a class in preparation to teach it as an instructor in the fall (in Texas you have to have 18 hours to teach college level). It was great. I love that I know what I’m good at, and I love that what I’m good at is also something I enjoy. I just hope I’m not shooting myself in the foot when I graduate and going back out into a sucky teaching field. Also, who knows where we’ll be stationed in a year and a half.

Lent is underway, and one thing I was thinking of giving up was social media; however, I don’t think that’s necessary! I’m not on nearly as much as I was, and it’s been a welcome change. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to be “all in”… and I am, out of both desire and necessity.

Spring break commences in only three short weeks, and my sister Emily is coming to visit! I’m so excited to give her a little tour of the Southwest. A few places we will visit are Mesilla, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and of course different places in El Paso. Hopefully the weather will be good and not too windy. You know what they say around here, Febrero loco y marzo otro poco. Let’s hope the wind is poco.

I’ve been sick this week too, but I motivated mentally to run more, so I hope it will translate to the physical realm! My next post should be introducing to my new nephew, who is delaying his arrival into the world (my sister Leah was due three days ago!). Little stinker. 😉