Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Could Save Your Life

Yep, that's right. I could potentially save a life one day because I'm officially CPR certified, hee hee.

My company offered a CPR/AED training class the other day and I decided to check it out. It was pretty interesting! I have to say, it was definitely a mixture of creepy and cool to practice on the mannequins. It felt very real doing compressions and that was a little unsettling, honestly. Call me stupid but one thing I didn't know about CPR was that you often break the person's ribs while doing it. Yeah, I guess I could have thought far enough into the pressure you're exerting but...I didn't. Also on that note, you'd think that would mean it would be a guarantee to break a child's ribs for sure but nope! Since their bones are still growing, they're actually a bit more bendable so there's less risk for breakage. Fun fact for a Thursday!

I surely hope I'm never in a position where CPR is needed, but it would be pretty awesome if I could potentially help save a life. Wow, because of work, I've become a notary and I'm CPR certified?! Man, the sky really is the limit. :P

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Henry: Angel...?

Do you believe in angels? I've asked myself this plenty of times before. I actually do believe in them but not in a 'wings and halo' kind of way. I've just had "unexplainable" instances happen to me over the years that have made me believe that there could possibly really be angels walking among us. I know how weird that sounds, trust me. :P However, bear with me while I share something with you.

Clearly, my post below is pretty raw and sad. But, there's a silver lining. I had been out very late on Saturday night for the first time in a while and, on the way home, I got pretty upset. Allison had shared a ride uptown and gotten out with me on my street to walk me home. I actually stopped for a second to get myself together and, while doing so, a guy came walking by who stopped and asked if I was ok. Allison said yes, thanked him, and we assumed that was that. He asked again and, when I looked up at him, he saw I'd been crying and he simply goes anything that could ever make you feel this bad just isn't worth even feeling this bad. It was such a simple yet crystal clear thing to say. He then proceeds to tell us that we're coming with him to his apartment and that we were going to listen to music, talk, and get my mind off whatever was bothering me.

Interjection (yes, you can interject things with yourself I decided) - I know how insane this sounds and how he could be a rapist or serial killer or any other horrible thing you can imagine. However, and this ties into my point that I'll get to, I felt something completely peaceful about him. I felt like something in my gut was saying it was ok and that I should proceed. Allison felt exactly the same way and it was a rather overwhelming sense of protection.

So, we went. He brought us inside, opened beers for us that he had just bought, and sits down at his piano. He looks over at me, says this song is just for you tonight, and proceeds to play and sing Joe Cocker's 'you are so beautiful'. I honestly wasn't sure what the heck to do with myself at that moment. On a completely irrelevant and superficial side note, he was extremely good looking so that part of him playing and singing wasn't lost on me. ;) Anyway, after he played, the three of us sat and talked for a good hour and a half about everything under the sun.

When we realized it was 4:30am, we told him we had to leave and he got up to walk us out. At that point, we realized we didn't even know each other's names. He told us he was Henry. I had to ask him why he did any of what he did for me/us that night and he responded again so simply. He just said that people need people. He said sometimes goodness and faith in people has to be what drives you in the hope that one day it will come back around in the way that it should. With that, he gave me a hug and he walked off. In the two seconds it took for me to cross the street to my apartment, I looked back for him and he was gone.

Now, I pose the question again. Do you believe in angels? I can tell you in that moment I certainly did. I have no clue if I'm right or wrong but I know this - the sense I got about him and the way I felt was nothing short of spiritual. So, whether or not I was inches away from becoming a murder victim or not, I believe what he said and that he was a good man. If anything, he left me a good story to tell. Better yet, he left me alive to tell it. ;) Sometimes, you just have to believe in something bigger.

Here's to you, Henry. Thank you for what you did.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dig Deep(er)

Merriam-Webster defines pain as a basic bodily sensation induced by a noxious stimulus, received by naked nerve endings, characterized by physical discomfort such as pricking, throbbing, or aching. Though this definition explains physical pain, isn’t it really the most relevant way to describe heartache? You have something/someone that hurts you, you take it in to process it, and you are left with a throbbing ache that is often crippling. For me, heartache at times as been far more debilitating than anything physical that has happened to me thus far.

This past weekend, I experienced pain that leveled me. The kind of pain that causes you to question all the faith you’ve had, all the changes you’ve made. The kind of pain where you feel like you’re suffocating with each breath you try to take. I think in recent months I’ve been incredibly strong and focused. I’ve been walking along, breathing in and out, and taking each day as it comes with grace and confidence. I’ve embraced the simple goodness and joys in life that are new with each day and I’ve managed my painful moments with clarity and strength. I’ve not succumbed to those moments, I’ve risen above them. Well, I am still human. I still have moments of failure or stumbling. Though I try hard, I can’t possibly escape moments of crippling pain even when I do my best to keep perspective. I don’t feel the need to go into detail about what happened, I just feel lead to write and to get some thoughts out of my head.

My favorite local musician, Robbie Gil (whom I actually saw over the weekend, too!), wrote a song called ‘paint by numbers’ and the lyrics are something that have floated in the background of life for me for some time. He says:

I'm gonna paint by numbers
Just put one foot in front of the other
And it's gonna hurt like hell for so long
I'll go ahead and pretend that I'm alright
Yeah, I'll go out and I'll fight the good fight
But one thing I know for sure is this that life goes on
Even after you're gone

I find what he says here to be a perfectly painted scenario of how you take each day to “put one foot in front of the other” and keep moving. I think it’s an ironic parallel that pain can be crippling or paralyzing which is the ultimate hindrance of moving forward. You don’t hear people say “it hurts so much I just want to keep moving”. No, you hear people say things like “it hurts so much I feel like collapsing”. In life, the only true constant is change. We’re guaranteed to be tested, challenged, put through the fire. We’re almost certain to encounter situations that bring pain in some form and it’s all about how we handle it and keep moving. I don’t believe we’re meant to stand still in life. I believe we are called to constantly forge ahead and allow pain to grow us.

For any of you that might be feeling what I am right now, I can only say this - have faith. Persevere. Look ahead, not behind. Move forward. Keep. Going. There is a season for every moment and a time to feel pain. There is a time to soar and a time to fall. Without the falling, you can never deeply appreciate the soaring and that is where reality and truth lay.

It’s going to take me a little time to find my way back to the path I’ve been walking. I know that and I moreso respect the process. Life isn’t about ignoring the pain, it’s about feeling it so that it moves you. I just hope that whoever out there that might be experiencing what I am can know that they are not alone. My brother wrote me after I shared my heavy heart with him yesterday and these words are helping my heartache today:

Seasons are different than patterns. Seasons are inevitable, just like in nature. Death, dryness and grayness leads to beauty, sunshine and new growth. And, so it goes.

Yes, indeed. And, so it goes.

And, so I continue to go as well down the path of healing even with all of its detours and stumbling blocks. Father god, may this be a season of your refining growth. May my pain challenge me to dig deep, even deeper than I already have, and stand tall.

This, too, shall pass.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Apple Crisp Fall Kickoff Day

It blows my mind that summer is over. It's a good thing that Fall is my favorite season or else I might be really sad to say goodbye to summer! I was looking back at some old posts earlier and I'm happy about what a different feel is in the air for me this year. I also got pumped up about putting my cute little banner and decorations up. I'm so cheesy, I swear.

Usually, the start of football season is the way I kick off Fall but, thanks to Camille's adorable mom, that got changed up this year. Camille's parents live in Petaluma and they have gorgeous land complete with chickens and everything. They also have apple trees which is so awesome! Her mom decided to pick some fresh apples and ship them to Camille as a surprise. Things like this get me so excited! Since there were so many apples, we decided to have a "hello to Fall" baking day. :)

Camille and I went over to Allison's apartment yesterday and decided that apple crisp with oat topping would be our treat of choice. Of course, we got all girly about how cute the apples were. We eventually did manage to get to work:
We wouldn't be us if something ridiculous didn't happen during the course of the day, though. Camille got a little oat happy and somehow managed to make the container explode:
Hahahaha, oooops! We cracked up over that for a while and then it was back to work again. Butter and cinnamon, mmm:
While it was baking, we got a surprise visit from Scott who promptly demanded a piece "whether it's done or not". That's Scott for you! :P We told him not to have an appletude, hahaha. It was pretty darn torturous sitting around while we smelled it baking, though. It smelled like Fall and comfort and we got excited all over again. We are such girls! An hour later, it was done and the finished product was SO good:
It was such a fun day spending time together doing something different. Now, we all feel like we can officially welcome Fall and say farewell to summer. We already have plenty more ideas of what we can bake next, hooray! :)

Side note, a huge happy birthday to my wonderful Erica. I love you, friend!

Friday, September 17, 2010

One Year "Anniversary"

It's no surprise to anyone who really knows me that I'm a serious planner and organizer. My calendar is what I live by. Yep, I'm one of "those" people. I'm also usually always the one in my group of friends, and even family sometimes, who organizes outings and get-togethers. I enjoy this aspect of my personality especially because I've learned how to become more spontaneous in life while maintaining the label of 'planner', too. I think it's kinda neat to have both personality traits.

Anyway, part of this trait is that I remember dates very well. I'll remember the exact day something happened from years ago and I dunno whether that's weird or great. Well, today happens to be exactly one year since Tom and I broke up. I haven't written about Tom in a very long time because it has been part of my healing process to completely separate my life totally from him. The people who know me the most and who have kept up with me along the way know what a battle my heart has been through. It's been a long road for me and one that has been laced with a complete mixture of joy and pain. I wrote a lot in the beginning about my decisions to seek counseling and to break down my life so that I could begin to rebuild it. At times, I didn't really know that I'd have the strength to keep going. I really felt that beaten down.

Over this past year, so many things in my life have changed that it's almost as though I'm not even me anymore. What I mean is really that the person I used to be is so far gone from who I am now. As time went by, I actually struggled with changing. Not just the part with it being hard (and believe me, it has been grueling), but I realized that part of changing means giving up parts of yourself that you've grown to realize are your crutch. Things like going out and drinking all the time or doing drugs or filling your life with every other thing that makes you not have to take a good, hard look at yourself. Things that prevent you from being alone with your own demons and issues and fears. Things that, from the outside, seem clear that you "should" give up in order to be healthy yet things that have become your only friend and your twisted comfort. I only ever knew how to live this way because it's what I did from the time I was 18 years old on. Patterns and addictions of my severity aren't broken without deep, painful, consistent work.

I'm not writing today to go into detail about all the pain I've been through. I do find it very important to maintain a serious awareness of it, but I never want the past, even the good hard work I've done in starting a 'new' life, to be present in my future. There's just no reason for that. Instead, I write today because I reflect on one year ago and what that evening of talking with Tom represented for me. I reflect on the complete unknown that I'd be facing as our relationship ended. I know plenty of people break up and move on and yes, that has even happened for me. However, at that point a year ago, my whole self and identity was in my relationship with Tom and I had no clue how to imagine life without him. I had no idea who I was without him. Little did I know that our choice to end our relationship would be the key to unlocking the door to serious renewal. I could never even imagine what beauty would lie ahead buried under the layers of pain that would slowly get peeled back. I am astounded by the promises that are delivered when you're able to choose faith over despair.

I got home last night, opened a beer, and stared at the spot Tom and I sat in while we talked a year ago. Though I've known this stuff for a while, I reflected on and realized that it's ok to let go and that it's alright to move on. I realized that closing the door on hope for the two of us to get back together is ok and that I'm not doing something wrong. I realized that letting Tom go is what has let god in to restore who I am as a woman, friend, sister, daughter - it is what has allowed me to even be willing to change. These are very emotional and private feelings I share here today but that's just it, friends. That's the change, you know? The ability I have to allow myself to be open and free is the whole reason I can even write this entry here today.

Will I ever not wish that Tom made the choice to re-introduce himself to me now? No. There will always be a part of me that wishes he'd have a desire to get to know me now. I'll never understand why he operated the way he did with me, but I can't do anything about that and I can't control anything in this life other than my choice to move on. I know that there's a big world out there and that I'm a rare woman in it. The simplicity of knowing what I am worth, what I have to offer, and who I have become is what keeps me grounded and at peace. It is now enough for me to look at myself in the mirror, finally know who I really am, and believe the truth that it actually is someone else's loss to be without me. Above all, I'll forever be deeply thankful for Tom's helping hand in pushing me forward. What a blessing he has been to me, both in my past and now for my future.

So, I celebrate this one year "anniversary" with a sense of pride that outweighs the bit of pain that still lingers. How apt these words are that I leave you with from my devotion this morning:

Faltering Steps

Show us thy way, oh Lord, and let us walk in thy path.

You are doing so. This is the way. The way of uncertain future and faltering steps. It is MY way. Put all fear of the future aside. Know that you will be led. Know that you will be shown. I have promised.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The BEST Day of My Life

I know people toss around phrases like "that was the BEST day of my life" all the time but I think it's often an exaggeration . Well, in my case this time, it's NOT.

This past Saturday, I went skydiving for the first time and the entire day was simply incredible. I woke up that morning to a gorgeous day without a cloud in the sky. I've been ecstatic about going for a couple of months now and, being that you can't jump if the weather is bad,  I was SO excited that the day was that perfect. I met our crew at Scott's apartment and we all hopped in the car to be on our merry way. We played loud music, sang along, pumped each other up...I think we just did what we could to push away any nerves. Speaking solely for myself, how I felt was just so weird. I wasn't nervous or scared at all. Not one single bit. I kept waiting for nerves to set in but I simply felt excited! I dunno, maybe I'm that at peace with life that I just didn't feel afraid...? :P

We got to Skydive Long Island around 11:30am and I just died at how beautiful it was out there. Everything was so green and lush! Anyway, we did all our paperwork and then it was time to get harnessed up. I loved it because all the guys there are just so cool (and 99% of them were HOT which didn't hurt!) and it makes you feel like YOU'RE so cool for being there. Once you're in your harness, you just wait around for whatever instructor you're assigned to and then you're taken to the plane asap after. Look at those cool kids:
As I'm waiting, I watched everyone else get their dude and have the rundown of what happens, etc, yet nobody comes for me. Next thing I know, the plane pulls up and our group is called. Um, I still didn't have an instructor. Out of nowhere, this dude runs up and yells, "Yo, you Valerie?" and I'm like, "Yeah!" and he goes, "Awesome, I'm Wayne. Let's do this!" and proceeds to grab me and head to the plane. I could only laugh because I  literally had no instruction as to what to do. He told me he'd "brief me on the plane". Yep, no time to waste:
Let's just pause and talk about the plane for a second. Two words: duct tape. Yep, that plane was about as solid and secure as a paper airplane and it felt damn close to being one when we got up in air. I still can't believe we were packed in that thing. I was almost certain the plane would go down before we did, hee hee:
Back to the jump. I'm sitting there still not scared and wondering why the heck I wasn't. I finally just embraced it and realized that maybe I just have bigger balls than I thought, ha! I mean, I didn't even have goggles until I asked Wayne about it after take-off. We all agreed that this haphazard nonsense couldn't have happened to anyone else in the group because they might have literally freaked out. I trusted good ol' Wayne though and, next thing you know, it was our turn. Scott jumped first and it was INSANE watching that. I got so incredibly psyched up by it, though! The only really scary part to me is that I did sort of a seated jump where I was sitting on the edge with my legs dangling out. It was seriously intense but then BAM, out of the plane we went:
I swear, I could post a million photos. Absolutely unreal!

Unless you decide to ever go skydiving yourself, there's no way to really describe how incredible it is. You just feel so empowered and happy. It's the kind of happiness where you really could die right then and there and know you were on top of the world. I've been so blessed to have several moments in my life that rank up close to those feelings but nothing can compare to this. You realize that you just did something that tons of people out there really never could do. It's almost spiritual. So, this is why I CAN say without exaggeration that Saturday was the best day of my life. Wayne, you better believe I'll be back to see you soon:
The rest of the afternoon was absolutely perfect, too. We were way too pumped up to sit in the car so we decided to check out a wine tasting that we'd seen signs for on the way. I LOVE doing stuff like that, especially with some of my very favorite people (did you notice we made t-shirts? :P):
You couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day either:
The couple who owned the vineyard were just wonderful. We also fell in love with their sweet dog, Teddy, and contemplated stealing him:
We couldn't stop talking about how were feeling and how happy we all were. We drank our homemade wine in the sun and reflected on how lucky we are to be able to do something like that. It really is kind of a bonding thing, as well. We stayed at the vineyard for quite a while and then went back to Ed's apartment to sit on the roof, drink more wine, and soak up the awesomeness of our day. :) We all now have a reason to think back on September 11th with joy and not sadness, too. That's awesome in and of itself.  

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day in Atlanta

I'm so lucky. No, I'm so blessed. I'm blessed by the incredible people that I get to call my friends and my family. I'm blessed by the way they brighten my life and I'm blessed by the support, encouragement, and love that they consistently put forth towards me. This whole life we lead is completely about perspective and about remembering exactly how much we have to be thankful for. These thoughts are things I've actually reflected on daily for a few months now. I've tried really hard to remain humble and so grateful for the smallest joys that I experience. I'm not patting myself on the back by any means, I'm simply in a place in life where I happen to find perspective to be extremely important. We're all allowed bad days but honestly...? The good should seriously outweigh the bad since so often we actually can choose to think that way. Lucky for me, I have lots and lots of good in my life which makes things just a little easier sometimes. ;)

On that note, I had yet another tremendous visit home for Labor Day weekend. I had originally planned to head out to Portland but, due to dad's heart procedure earlier this summer, I felt a big tug in my heart to go home instead. I just really wanted to spend quality time with he and mom. Allison and I both found a cheap flight and we took two extra days off work which was perfect. The entire visit was just full of laughter, fun, love - it really was awesome.

A huge highlight was meeting sweet baby James and visiting with the Larkin family. I can hardly stand how cute he is:
There's also adorable (nearly 1 1/2 year old!) Gia who is so darling and brilliant. She talked the whole day, showed us her books, ate all her veggies...I just adore her:
After visiting at Erica's, we were so excited to surprise Mom with a belated birthday dinner at Dogwood in Atlanta. It's actually a tradition of mine to do a dinner for Mom instead of a gift. It's more about the time spent and experience together which is clearly something Allison enjoys, as well. It was a beautiful night out too which made it even better:
Holy crap, was dinner delicious. Listen up, GA friends...GO and definitely get the grits flight to share! We had a terrific evening together, talking all about Mom's memories of being younger and just things that we never really talk about. I feel like I got to know Mom in a whole new way which was so special. That woman means the world to me so it was a very memorable evening together.

Come Saturday, we had a huge cookout at my parents' for all the friends. I really centered this trip around being at home this time but there's no way I could miss seeing my dear friends. Mom and Dad love the idea of having people over too so it was just so fun for everyone:
I'll tell you right now as a side note that I have truly fallen in love with the Maddox family below. Yes, the whole family and not just sweet little Woods. They are absolute salt of the earth, incredible people. They are an example of love lived out:
For extra fun, a bunch of us decided to go to the good ol' Marietta square for beers after the cookout. It is so funny to grow up in only one house and in one town your whole life. To do things as an adult there feels so funny sometimes, especially when it's something like having beers. :P It's also funny when a piece of your very ancient past decides to make its way into your present:
I haven't seen Patrick in about 8 years so that was pretty wild. I'll just leave it at that. ;)

Overall, the visit was really needed for me. I have been swamped recently, both at work and personally, and I really appreciated the time away. I already feel like I've been thrown right back into chaos being back in New York but you know what? I'm embracing the insanity. All I know is I love my life and this weekend away was the tiniest glimpse into why. I haven't even scratched the surface. ;)

Next up? SKYDIVING in just two days. Next up after that (if I survive)? Giants season opener. I cannot freaking wait...