The Secret Second Chance.

And so it begins…

Tom and his team are currently caravaning across the country, literally driving from coast to coast. From California to Carolina, the five-day, almost 3,000 mile trek has started. In a week, he will be in our apartment, and in another week, so will I.

My Farewell Tour, as I’ve taken to calling it, started on Friday with dinner with my godmother. Saturday was dinner and drinks with my good friends from college, and Sunday was dinner and the theater with my mother. This week, my birthday week, is already packed full of lunch and dinner engagements. My days are filled with a crazy work schedule, attempting to prepare for the move and a job role transition, while my evenings are packed with friends and family, visits to my Gram, cleaning, and re-packing and loading boxes.

All at once, and all too quickly, it seems, the time has come for me to leave. I’ve spent almost six months apart from my husband, living with my parents and without all my worldly goods, and in mere days it’s all over. It’s such a strange sensation. In 11 short days, I will be on this journey {Olympics or Bust!}. Something that has been so abstract for so long is now here, tangible, and…real life.

We are so fortunate and lucky to be part of this movement. To say that my husband is part of the first professional team of Olympic lifters is unbelievable. We’ve never really had an opportunity to say no to any of this. How do you turn down the dream of a lifetime?

Ironically, we’ve done it once before. Correction: My husband turned it down once before. A few years ago, I was battling a health issue that was, and still is, pretty unbelievable to think of. I was slowly losing my vision, and my doctor, one of the best in the country, couldn’t figure out why. My case was written up and presented to the best doctors in our area, then in the nation, and then at a world conference, and no one had any answers. No one could say what is was, when it would stop, or if I’d be able to see when it was all over. And then my husband got a call from a two-time Olympic medalist, offering him an opportunity to train full-time at his gym in Arizona. He said no. He knew he needed to stay by my side, help me fight, and be my eyes when I didn’t have them.

This is why I can’t say no to any of this. California? Sure. Carolina? Let’s do it. Timbuktu? I’m sure I’d say yes. When someone gives up their dream for you, and they get a second chance, you take it. You grab it, you hug it, you hold it tight, and you make it happen.

Slowly, my condition stabilized. I no longer notice what I can’t see, and I have a new normal. But it’s not physical for me any more. However cloudy my daily life may look, my vision has never been more clear: the next 8 years of our life will be chasing down this dream, and along the way, I look forward to laughter, adventures, memories, and new friendships.

Here’s to second chances, starting over, and saying yes.

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Carolina in My Mind.

Well, I believe the proverbial cat is out of the bag…

I am not moving to California.

{I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.}

So, here’s the story. I was in California a few weeks ago to find an apartment. On Monday, Tom and I found the perfect apartment. It was across the street from our new favorite microbrewery, had granite countertops, a fireplace, and was even $100 under budget. And on Tuesday, I flew back to Chicago. Tuesday evening, the following text conversation transpired between my husband and I.

“We need to talk. There’s some big stuff going down.”

“Wow. That’s never good. With who?”

“With what, you mean. The team.”

“What about the team? Wait, let me guess…Murphy’s Law. We just found our apartment, so that means the team is moving right? LOL.”

“…”

“Seriously?”

And that, folks, is how my life turned upside down in 30 seconds. I don’t have the time or energy to go into the politics of the move, but what I can/will say is that this has the potential to be a very good opportunity for us. We’ll be settling in South Carolina, near Charlotte, NC. This move really allows Tom the ability to concentrate 100% on training and not feel the pull of working another job. Luckily, I can pick up and work from wherever I have an internet connection and a phone, so other than the timezone, the “move” really isn’t inconvenient.

But, I am sad to not be moving to California. I was really, really looking forward to it. I had already found {and met, and loved!} a writing group out there, I had found an alumni organization to join…it seemed that everything was falling into place.

And then just as the glitter settled, dusting our eyelashes and shoulders, everything was shook up. Not only could we not talk about this {huge, mega} change in our lives, we had days to figure out where we were going to live and how we were going to get there. We wrestled with how and when to tell our family and friends, while still keeping quiet like we were asked. While I pored over rental listings and online photos trying to find something that didn’t remind me of a scene from Slumdog Millionaire, Tom began to quietly contemplate severing ties with the new alliances, clients, and teams he had lifted with, worked with, and coached. The more I thought about it, the more terrified I became.

I’m going to be a Yank. I’m not going to be any good in the South. I’m probably going to hate it. There’s nothing for me out there. From big, beautiful, thriving San Francisco to a small town in South Carolina…I don’t even like sweet tea.

It’s all been an adjustment, and a really hard one at that. Maybe even harder than the initial “Oh my gosh, I’m moving far away!” I don’t do change well, and that might be a slight understatement. I also don’t do well in situations where I have a decided lack of control. And with this…not knowing the area, not knowing when Tom will move, not knowing when I could or should move, partially as a result of the very sad, hard situation with my Grandmother…it’s just all been really, really tough.

So our adventure takes another {U}turn. We’re turning our moving truck East, learning how to make sweet tea, and trying to build the future American record holder. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn to love the South and get a novel or two published.

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Profuse Apologies.

Tap tap tap…is this thing on? Anyone out there?

If you’ve stayed with me this long, I owe you an apology. I’m sorry, readers. I’ve become that blogger. You know, the blogger that up and disappears, and then comes back and says “I have a personal situation going on and I can’t explain it right now.”

Well, I’ve been gone because I’ve had a lot going on, most of which I can’t talk about. Some of it will come out soon, some of it isn’t fit for public consumption, and, well, some of it I can explain now.

So for starters, let me finally confide in you what I can. I referenced it here, and a few other places, but the truth is that my sweet grandmother is dying of cancer. She’s been battling this for quite some time, and in the past two months, it’s become aggressive and she made the choice to go on hospice.

In spite of all that has been awful and emotionally draining about this situation, it has been so heartwarming to see my family come together in such a steadfast way. The tenderness that everyone has exhibited: the thoughtfulness of bringing over her favorite foods or making her her favorite drink, the way her children and grandchildren dote on her and make sure she never has a want for anything, collecting pictures of her to display for her loved ones, the dignity they have provided her in some very, very tough situations, the compassion and just plain wonderfulness of everyone who cares for her…

I hope when my time comes, I can carry myself with her quiet strength. And if or when I need to take care of my parents or my husbands’ parents the way my aunts, uncles and parents have taken care of my grandmother, I hope I have half the grace that they’ve shown.

In a word, it is all so humbling.

With her passing imminent and my move inching closer {21 days, officially!}, grief has been striking me when I least expect it. A professed non-crier, I sobbed in my husbands’ arms on Saturday, and again yesterday morning. I made the all-too-familiar drive home from the airport with an empty passenger seat, and cried for a five-mile stretch. It’s overwhelming to think about this move…something we’ve planned for, hoped for, been excited for…but it’s here all too quickly, and I don’t know if I’m ready.

A new chapter is beginning. Stay tuned, and I’ll explain more later…

Writer, Officially.

Apologies for the longer than normal absence. Life has been crazy…dare I say, crazier than it has ever been before. Between family issues, personal things that don’t always get the blog treatment, and that tiny thing called work that sucks up the bulk of my week, I’ve been wiped out and, shockingly, wordless. But not for long, mind you.

In fact, words are becoming a running theme in my life. I believe very strongly that the wrong words uttered by someone trusted and loved can cut like glass. Sometimes the glass shatters, and you find tiny, sharp shards embedded in your heart for a long time. That’s where I was when I wrote this. I found myself re-examining old wounds that I thought were free of debris and healed.

Words, as I’m finding, aren’t only things that are said to me. Words are my language, my birthright. It took a long time for me to accept it, and I still am, I guess. I’ve spent the last eight years of my life trying to figure out “what I should be when I grow up.” Nothing ever seemed right, so I chose to become an English major. When I graduated college, fairly directionless in the big business world, I quickly settled into copywriting. Between the major writing stints, I’ve blogged, freelanced, edited, and even wrote two {unfinished} novels. Ironic that someone who spends her life writing would deny the fact that her path lies in writing, isn’t it?

I’ve heard people quip that what you spent your time doing when you were little is what you should be doing as an adult. Those who built things should be engineers or construction workers, those who taught their little sisters or Barbies should be teachers, those who patched up the wounds on their favorite stuffed bear should be a nurse. I read {so much so that my mother would take away my books as punishment} and wrote. My little sister and I would craft plays and short stories about our dolls. We had a whole binder filled with messy sheets of loose leaf paper filled with my pencilled writing…”The Adventures of Katie & Tina.”

I guess I just always assumed that writing was never my destiny — it couldn’t become a career, it couldn’t even just be a hobby. It’s merely something I do during the day until I figure out what I want to do, and I do it in the evening to blow off steam. {Yes, again, as I write it, I want to smack myself for not discovering this earlier.} But now that I’ve realized my true love…that deep, soulful love that you can see sparkle in my eyes…is writing, I much more committed into moving forward with it, wherever it leads me.

So this brings me to forty-eight hours from now, when my “career” as a writer will be forever changed. As part of the transition of living in California, where I know fewer than eight people, I’ve joined a writer’s group. And this group convenes this week when I’ll be visiting. They’re hosting a writer’s critique, and I intend to participate. For as scared as I was when I made this blog public, I am doubly terrified of letting people read my fiction. But sitting in my laptop bag, perched by the door, are copies of an excerpt from my first novel {working title 134 Reasons}. There is only one person in this world besides myself who has read anything from these novels, and that honor belongs to my snooping husband who grabbed my computer when I wasn’t around, and claimed he was so riveted that he sat there and read my chick-lit draft for almost twenty minutes.

We shall see how this experience goes. If I’m feeling empowered, I might release a chapter here and {impatiently} await feedback. If I’m feeling crushed, I guarantee you’ll all be the first to know. Heck, I’ll probably write three more blog entries on it. After all, I’m a writer, aren’t I?

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Battle Wounds.

Everyone’s been asked some form of this question: “Where were you when…

…President Kennedy was assassinated?
…the planes hit the World Trade Center?
…your spouse asked you to marry them?”

All of us can recall these heart-stopping moments; the personal, the emotional, the patriotic. I can remember very clearly both times I found out my husband was going into emergency surgery. {Never a good idea to try to continue your yoga class after that phone call, folks. All the meditation in the world can’t help you.} I remember where I was, down to every single detail, when I found out my niece had passed away. {Bleachers of my high school pool; I knew something wasn’t right when my mom missed my first home swim meet that season.} I remember with crystal clarity the moment Tom received the phone call officially inviting him to California {2 am, CST, the night before Christmas Eve.}

I think in the moments of uncertainty, when your world is rocked and your bones are jarred, there are two types of people: those who look forward and do their best to right themselves, and those that sink into the spinning with self-pity.

Out of many of these moments, even the ones that bring despair and heart-wrenching grief, there is always something positive to recognize. Disorder and chaos can birth some of the greatest joys, failure and rejection can raise the fiercest of passions, pain can breed appreciation and gratitude.

This blog is me, whole and unabridged, unfiltered and raw. My emotions live here, snaking across the page in black and white, a constant reminder of what I feel and how deep I feel it. In “real life,” however, I have a bit of a reputation as an ice queen, someone who is quick to numb themselves from the situation, coolly and brusquely plowing through a problem. The reality is that despite my appearance, I observe, feel, embed, and over think every detail of a situation, from the words that were uttered to the tone that shrouded it, and everything in-between. I replay scenes in my head, a Nancy Drew hunting for meaning behind words and actions. I watch conversations unfold in my mind over and over, analyzing and over-analyzing, until I’m so wired that I’m exhausted and can sleep for eight hours uninterrupted. Tonight, I am fired up. Tonight, the ice queen is not here. Tonight, I am feeling the hot burn of painful memories, ripped open with new weapons.

Tonight, I will vividly remember for years to come, just like I remember that night in December of 2008, and the sunny afternoon in April 2007. To you, they might mean nothing. To me, they were everything, and I have the scars to prove it.

Please choose to be the person that looks for the silver lining. Please choose your words carefully. They could mean the world to someone, and you might not even know it.

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Deliriously Happy.

When I set out to craft a post, I usually leave the title for last. Somewhere along the way, my brain finds something poignant to represent my story, and I usually know instantly what that is once I type the last sentence. Today, I knew what the title was going to be before I typed a single word into the body of the post.

In the continuing saga of sad events in our lives, alluded to here and here, the phone rang again in the dead of the night, announcing that another life has been lost. This man has been mentioned as one of the nicest there was, supporting my husband’s team physically, mentally, financially, and every other way possible. In the short time my husband knew him, he became a mentor and a hero, the embodiment of all Tom wants to be when he grows up. As with my friend’s death earlier this year, the abruptness rocks your foundation. You call your loved ones because you need to hear their voices, you drive a little slower, you take the time to taste and smell your coffee and not gulp it down in a mad rush. Life suddenly feels heavier, the gravity pulling your mind back into the present, encouraging you to feel every ounce of your being.

In the face of pain, loneliness and change, I have decided to be happy. Personal struggles have been shelved and reframed, knowing there is only one acceptable outlook in my life right now. There will still be heartbreak and grief in my life, but the goal is to make sure it is fleeting. Instead of dwelling, I am choosing to replace it with gratitude and love.

When I miss him, I remind myself that I’m lucky enough to have him in this world with me.

When the pressure of the move threatens to break me, I remember that my husband is one of the few that has the chance to chase his biggest dream.

When the stress of work envelops me, I remind myself that I’m lucky to have a career that I enjoy that provides me with income, benefits, satisfaction, and a work-life balance that I’ve always wanted.

When I try to look at something and my vision loss prevents me from doing so, I blink, refocus, and silently say “thanks” for the ability to have received the medical care I needed to preserve the rest of my eyesight.

When I pay the bills, instead of cursing, I remember how lucky I am to have the money in my bank account to do so. {I also remember the faces of the homeless men and women that I met when I visited my sister who works at a shelter in California. Her stories remind all of us that we are blessed and lucky to have what we do, no matter how often we think it’s not enough.}

Life is not easy, nor is it always pleasant on the surface. But if you work at it, you can distill a pattern of beauty that surpasses what the eye can see. It will speak to your heart, and joy will begin to bloom, spreading quickly and warmly throughout your body. I hope that this post serves as a turning point, becoming the gateway to positive posts and banning the negative. Realism and honesty is always accepted if not encouraged, but I can no longer allow myself to dwell in the glum and melancholy.

For Jim and Kristyn, and all those that we hold dear, we owe it to them to be the best of ourselves, to choose the path of delirious joy, overzealous passion, and abundant love.

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Blinders.

There’s a common adage that death comes in threes. I’m not sure if this is applicable to just death, and if the number three is right, but it certainly seems that problems beget problems, and darkness stays longer than light. My heart is so heavy and sad for so many I know that are struggling right now. Just as I begin to make sense of a horrific story I’ve heard, my phone buzzes, alerting me to the next crisis. I almost don’t want to answer it anymore.

I’m big on self-preservation. If I don’t want to be sad, I won’t read certain news stories that I know will affect me. I purposely avoid television shows I’m sure I’d love, because I don’t want to fight the battle against being hooked. For as much as I tend to worry, I just don’t let my mind go to some dark places. In the same vein, sometimes I feel like Tom and I are immune to the stress that is our current and future lifestyle. I’ve always convinced myself {and listened as others told me} that there was something special between us…something strong and unbreakable.

I don’t think that having these blinders on is always the smartest choice, but I do think it allows me to plod forward in scary situations without being spooked. Semi-educated ignorance can be bliss. There are a lot of unknowns about our life paths right now that could cause disaster. Professional athletes in small sports aren’t well-compensated, if compensated if at all. My husband is in a situation that allows him some income as he trains, but it’s nothing compared to his salaried teaching and coaching jobs that he left behind. The dynamics of having one person chase their dreams at {quite literally} the expense of the other isn’t easy to navigate. Then there’s the move…the nerve-wracking journey to box up 1,400 square feet of possessions and two energized dogs and move them 2,200 miles into a 650 square foot shoebox. Time to find a new doctor, a new dentist, a new veterinarian, a new Sunday morning breakfast spot. And then there’s the injuries…the invisible monster that haunts practices. Is the soreness temporary, or is something worse going on? What’s lurking in the future? Will it all disappear tomorrow, dreams ripped to shreds like torn muscles? There are battles with ego, temptation, insecurity, power, teammates, sleep, guilt…

While the world seems to crash down around us, we cling to each other. We look straight ahead.

Don’t look at the wreckage, or you’ll get nervous. One foot in front of the other, that’s it, keep going. Don’t look back. Don’t listen to the crying behind you, it’ll only make it worse.

Are you scared? Me too.

Heated.

So here’s a new one for you, internet world.

This weekend hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe it’s all the, well, for lack of a more eloquent word, crap in my life right now, or maybe it’s just reality hitting me a few months late. The last week would have been one of the most celebrated weeks in our house…Off Week. As a college coach, my husband worked every evening and every weekend, often leaving me to fend for myself at family parties, events with friends, and general weekend life. But Off Week, the short, sweet period of time that he had no practices or meets was MY week. I knew he’d be home every evening by 5, like a “normal person,” and the weekends were mine to plan. Sometimes we’d go downtown, sometimes we’d do nothing, sometimes we’d spend hours at the forest preserve hiking a new trail with our dogs.

On Saturday, I realized it was Off Week. And then I got irrationally angry. I’m not really ashamed to admit this, either. I feel like I’ve been a brave solider for a long time now, and as a friend put it earlier, I’m due for a meltdown. I felt it all start to bubble inside, a bitter acid of hatred brewing in my stomach, spreading through my veins and flushing color in my cheeks.

I hate California. I hate weightlifting. I hate it all. This is no fair. This is MY WEEK, and they stole him.

When he was an athlete in college, I used to half-heartedly joke that he had two women in his life…myself and track. Weightlifting has become his new mistress…the one he spends his days with, the one that brings him the greatest frustrations and the greatest joys, the one who he thinks about while he lays in bed at night. He would do anything for weightlifting. {He’d do anything for me, too, but that’s not the point of this.}

Since we’re being honest and raw, I’ll also admit that it’s not easy to be number two in your spouse’s life. He and I have had this conversation many times, but to no avail. In order to be the best, to be the greatest, there can be no distractions, no second guesses. In the split second that he hesitates to choose between myself and weightlifting, someone else will swoop in and become better. It’s tough, and it’s no fun. I can’t sugarcoat that, not for you, dear readers, and not for myself. I’m not a martyr, either. I lack patience and sensitivity, and at times, the will to understand. It’s easier for me to stick my fingers in my ears and throw a mega-tantrum.

In the end it comes down to an ultimatum: would I rather be selfish and have a passionless man all to myself, or would I rather share a great man with fire and determination?

In the distance, this seems like an easy choice. In the cyclone of emotions, the torrent of an Irish temper mixed with the fire of an Italian mouth, I often choose the former. But when I stop yelling and drop my hands to my sides, I know which option I need to choose. What option I WANT to choose.

On our wedding day, we opted to perform a simple yet poignant ceremony called a handfasting ceremony. The concept is simple: we were asked a few questions, answered with honesty, and our hands were bound with silky ribbons to remind us of the committment we chose to make. It was the questions that made us fall in love with this, and they still ring true.

Beth, will you share his dreams? Yes.
Tom, will you share her dreams? Yes.
Will you dream together to create new realities and hopes? We will
Tom, will you cause her anger? Yes.
Is that your intent? No.
Beth, will you cause him anger? Yes.?
Is that your intent? No.
Will you take the heat of anger and use it to temper the strength of this union? We will.

We entered this realistically, and the span of miles between us doesn’t change this. Makes it more difficult, maybe…but it doesn’t alter the vows we so enthusiastically and honestly made. So tonight, I will temper my anger and hatred, for it reminds me of how fierce my love is for him, and that is a blessing in this dark period of my life.

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Tequila, Salt, Lime.

It’s amazing how resilient a person can be…how in the face of pain, fear, disease, loneliness, one can have a remarkable attitude. How after a tough life, one that didn’t always offer the comforts that so many of us are blessed with, a person can carry on with grace and dignity.

The difficult situation I referenced in my last post continues, and the prognosis is bleak. To respect those close to me involved, all I will say is that someone I love deeply is very sick, and the ending we all feared is becoming reality. And though we’ve thought it was a possibility and no one attempted to sugarcoat the truth, it’s still a difficult thing to hear, to process, and to acknowledge.

I’ve written hundreds of words about what a jumble my mind is right now, but none of it seems right to publish. The rantings of a crazy woman, it seems. The sleepless nights, the dark circles under my eyes, the fog that’s settling over my brain has gripped my wrists and is typing to you today. A million thoughts racing through my brain, the negative thoughts encircling the positive, bullying them and chasing them out. I believe the technical term for this is “going through a funk.”

But the sweet chaser of this bitter whiskey is that I’m lucky enough to have a caring family, a loving and emotionally-supportive husband, and friends I can call on anytime. And maybe that won’t change this outcome, but it certainly helps ease the stinging pain that burns my throat and makes my eyes well up with tears.

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Muzak.

There was a time, back in my foolish years, that I didn’t appreciate the music of The Beatles.

What? I know. I can hardly stand being friends with myself. {Sarcasm.}

But now, now I appreciate it. I don’t just love it, I get it in a way I didn’t then. I understand the themes, and they’re applicable to my life.

At my {our?} wedding, I wanted non-traditional music. Don’t get me wrong, I love the classics, and have a special place in my heart for Pachelbel’s Canon in D, but I wanted the songs that played to reflect the joy and the happiness of the occasion. If you haven’t figured this out, I don’t do tradition for tradition’s sake. The song we kissed to and then floated down that petal-strewn aisle was “All You Need is Love.” And at that moment, that’s all we really did need. Now, thousands of miles apart and living out of a suitcase, sometimes that’s all it feels like we have.

Music plays to my soul in a similar way that writing does; they both feed it, nourish it, revive it. A song can instantly snap me out of a funk, or place me in one. Yesterday, after a few  particularly difficult hours, I drove my car down the expressway, the windows down to get out the smell of hospital that had permeated my clothes, the music cranked up to drown out the wind and the negative thoughts in my head.

There’s something pretty nasty in my life right now, and no easy fix for it. It’s going to be a sad road, and facing it without my husband by my side is something I don’t even want to think about. And, I don’t know, maybe love won’t be enough to get us all through. Maybe it will. But step by step, minute by minute, we wait, we pray to whatever deity we believe in, and we go on, for life does not stand still.

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

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