Sunday, April 22, 2018

I'm Gonna Win

Anyone with a 3 year old knows that sometimes it's a challenge to get out the door in the morning.  My 3 year old is no different.  She's a firecracker most of the time but the 100 feet or so from the car to the front door of "play group" take ridiculously long to cover.  So, I've developed a little game we play to move things along.  I did it with the other two when they were in daycare and it generally works. As I'm unbuckling her from the car, I confidently assert that I'm going to win.  "No!" she says.  "I'm gonna win!"  She hops down from the car and sprints to the front door, all the while, we both are declaring ourselves to be the eventual winner. 

She always wins.  Always.  But of course, I win too because we make it to the door without tears or me having to carry her.  There's nothing monumental about this game.  It's fun, it works, we're happy. 

Now, I've made no secret about my shoes.  I married a tall man.  The only flat shoes I own are for running.  Every shoe has a heel.  Some are 2 inches, some are 6 with a platform.  I love my shoes.  I wear them without shame and yes, sometimes I fall.  One day last week, I was wearing a gorgeous pair of Jessica Simpson 4-inch pumps that perfectly matched my purple top.  They're BEAUTIFUL and yes, I wear them all day.  That  morning, as I assured my little girl of my impending victory, she looked at me, hopped down from the car and said "I'm gonna win.  You can't run in those shoes."  And she was right.  I didn't even fake trying that day--I was too busy laughing.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Easy on the Climber

Some women look at my life and ask me how I do it.  How do I raise 3 daughters (mostly) by myself?  How do I get up so early every day?  How do I work a full time job?  How do I have so much energy (it’s the coffee)?  How do you find time to read so much during the week?  The truth is I just do it.  My dad told me once that people afford what they want to and I think he was right.  He was talking about me getting a new car.  I really needed one but the payments were pretty high.  I’d just gotten a job in Kansas City and now had rent and food and a whole lot of other stuff.  But I needed a new car.  He was right—I found a way to afford it.  And I did.  I ate a lot of ramen noodles, but I was never late on a payment.

I think the same is true for time.  We make time for what we want to make time for.  It’s important to me to run every day so I get up early to fit it in before my kids are up.  It’s important to me to read a lot (reading is like a drug—I just can’t stay away) so I find interesting ways to fit it in.  I read while I run.  I read while I walk.  I read while I drive (audio books!).  I read while I’m drying my hair, while I get dressed, while I do the dishes, during commercials.  I always have books with me.  It’s kind of ridiculous.  It’s important to me to do my job well so I work when I need do.  It’s important to me to have time with my girls, so we bake together.  We watch silly TV shows together.  We sing songs at the top of our lungs in the car.

Life would be a lot easier if Nick were home.  If he had a 9-5 like me (ok, so it’s an 8-4:30 but you get the idea), he could help with after school activities.  He could be responsible for dinner once in a while (ok, no).  I could do the grocery shopping alone or he could do it for me (also no).  He could take the car in for an oil change or be responsible for making sure that dental appointments were scheduled or stay home with the kids on a snow day.  To be fair, he does do those things…when he’s home.  But his schedule is so unpredictable.  When he’s home, he does the laundry, cleaning, after school activities, eye doctor appointments and anything else that needs doing.  But we never know when he’ll be home.  And it sure would be nice to know.  Maybe we could plan an evening out.  Maybe I could attend an evening event for work without having to make sure a babysitter was on hand “just in case”.

Life is chaotic to be sure.  It’s busy, it’s challenging, it’s hard.  But I wouldn’t change a thing.  Why?  Because I have an amazing husband.  And he gave me 3 amazing children.  Our life is an adventure.  In the spring of 1998, I made an impassioned plea to God.  I asked the Almighty to give him to me.  And you know what?  He said yes.  It’s the greatest gift I’ve ever received and I will do everything I can to take care of it.  And he is a gift. 

Just last week he told me a story that reminded me how absolutely spectacular he is.  He managed to surprise me by coming home for 36 hours in the middle of his training just for my birthday.  On his way back to Houston, there was a family flying on his flight—standby.  Mom and daughter got space on the plane but Dad didn’t make it.  My husband volunteered to give up his comfy seat in economy plus and ride up front with the crew so that this man could be on the plane with his family.  He’s an amazing man and I’m so proud to be his wife. 

The truth is, not every woman is up for the job.  It takes a strong gal to hack it as Nick Olson’s wife.  She has to be willing to live life like this.  Only the strongest of women can handle the work, the stress, the demands.  Only the strongest of women can turn his head and keep him coming home.  And I can do it.  I DO do it.  I qualify for the position.  No one looks at Mt. Everest and shames it into flattening out.  No one says to it “you should be easier on the people who climb you.  You should take care to have less snow, less storms, a less steep climb.”  No—but when someone makes it to the top, we applaud them.  We say well done.  We marvel at their accomplishment.  Well, this life is my Mt. Everest and I’m climbing all the way to the top.  I don’t wish it were easier.  I don’t wish it were different.  I’m digging in and climbing up up up!  I embrace the challenge.  I’m up to the task.  And when this life is over, I’ll thank God in person for answering my prayer and giving me the man of my dreams.

Worry

I'm reading Come Thirsty by Max Lucado (yes, again--it's a great book).  It's funny, his books always sound like they're about one thing and end up giving me a sense of being really about something else...or a bunch of something elses.  But I read them over and over--one day, it will all sink in, right?

I was listening to the audio version in the car yesterday and he started talking about worrying and how pointless it is.  He said that 40% of what we worry about never happens.  30% is about things in our past that we can't change.  12% is about what others think of us that can't be controlled.  10% is about our health (which is made worse when we worry) and 8% is about real stuff that we can do something about.  So, 92% of worrying is useless.  Worrying adds nothing to our life (MT 6:27) and doing it shows that we don't trust God (MT 6:28-30).

For the record, I completely agree.  But I still do it.  He's right--most of what I worry about won't happen and the rest is about health.  I used to worry about loosing our house.  Not because we were in any imminent danger of it, but all around us in Arizona, houses were for sale because people lost them, not because they wanted to move.  We lived in one such house.  I was very aware that we might have been living in someone else's dream home--and they lost it.

Working with (or rather, for) so many sick kids, I worry often about every pain or ache in my children.  I've heard too many stories about a simple growing pain that ended up in sarcoma or a headache that was really brain cancer.  Nothing anyone did caused those tragedies but they happened--unexpectedly.

When I was job hunting I worried what might happen if it took too long to find one and we found ourselves out of money.  Don't get me started on airplane and car wrecks.  So far, none of it has happened.  But I still worry.

Max says it shows we don't trust God (actually Matthew says that) but I'm not sure I completely agree.  I don't worry that God is incapable of preventing these things or even getting me through them if they happen.  I worry about what He'll ask me to go through.  I can survive anything if He decides it should be so.  But I don't want to survive these things.  I want to avoid them.

I suppose he is right in that worrying won't help.  If God will ask me to bury a child or a husband or live homeless and penniless, I will.  Not because I want to but because He ultimately decides and I have no way around it.  I don't worry that He can't see me through or even that He can't make sure it doesn't happen.  I worry that He won't.  And for whatever reason--some lesson I must learn, some sign he must show someone, something my children must see.  I don't know.  I won't ever claim to know His motives beyond love and salvation (which I don't always understand).  But I do know what I have survived.

I've survived the devastating pain of loving someone who doesn't love you back.  I've survived a physical attack.  I've survived childbirth (3 times!), car accidents, job loss, illness, miscarriage, and (so far) parenting three girls mostly by myself (with lots of long-distance help from my husband), and  a whole lot of other stuff that's way too personal to put out in the cosmos.  These are things other people worry about that never happen to them.  These are my 8% and mostly, I don't worry about it.  Because He did get me through...and I barely even noticed the pain in the moment or the lesson after was so clear I was thankful to have experienced the pain if it meant learning the lesson.

But I still worry.  What will He ask of me next? 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Camping

I'm always optimistic about camping.  I love the idea of disconnecting for the weekend.  I love the thought of slowing down, enjoying nature, exploring the outdoors.  Mostly I love the fire.  The satisfaction of building it, of stoking it, bringing it to life and watching it consume log after log.  Cooking over it is fun too.  It makes me nostalgic for my days in the Girl Scouts.  We camped a lot and I always loved the romance of it.  Sleeping outside (sort of), foraging for wood (in addition to what we brought with us), being one with nature (ok, not really, but you get the idea).

The girls love it too and for all of the same reasons (maybe not so much the fire or the being disconnected).  We camped a few times in Phoenix and had many disasters, including Iris's first camping trip which ended maybe six hours after it started but that's for another post.  It was harder there because you couldn't reserve a space and the drive to where the cooler weather was made it an all or nothing attempt.  We turned back more than once because there were no vacancies.  Pennsylvania's numerous state parks fortunately are not first come first serve and we've found a few favorite places among the camp sites.

This past weekend, we went with a family cabin.  This was our second cabin camping in the last three years and I'd forgotten just how perfect these cabins were for our family.  They're spacious--two bedrooms a kitchen/living room and a full bath.  Porch, fire ring, driveway and TONS of space to explore.  The only downside (and I do mean the only one) is that the beds are horribly uncomfortable.  But it's camping, right?  You're not supposed to expect luxury.

I was especially excited to go this weekend to get some serious reading in.  I've been behind in my reading and wanted to catch up.  But my Friday afternoon changed that plan, much to my dismay.  We'd been working on a big grant proposal to a big foundation--big.  BIG!  One of the largest we've asked for.  It was a huge feather in our cap just to be invited to submit.  I got the draft on Friday and it just wasn't ready.  It wasn't compelling.  It didn't tell the story.  It wasn't "wow!".  And if we were going to get this funding, I knew it needed to be all of those things.  But it was due Monday.  And I was camping this weekend. 

The option not to camp simply wasn't there.  We were going.  It was paid for.  I certainly wasn't going to ask Nick to go alone with the girls.  No, I'd simply have to carve out some of that coveted reading time and set it aside for serious grant proposal writing.  Ugh.  I hate grants.  HATE them.  The only fundraising I hate more than grants is events.  It's strange, I realize that someone like me who loves to write hates grant proposal writing.  But I do.  I think it's because they ask deep questions and give you ridiculously limited space in which to answer.  Tell me your entire life story in one tweet.  GO! 

On top of that, I didn't really feel especially qualified to write this grant--I still feel new here and haven't been exposed to all of our programs.  Plus, I really don't want to be a bull in a china shop and re-write the things that have been working just fine and risk funding just because I think I could write things better.

But this proposal seriously needed some help.  So, I would camp and I would write.  Humph.

Our drive to the park on Friday evening took longer than we expected (as usual) and when we got there, it was dark and cold so we opted for hot dogs cooked inside.  Sacrilege, I know but everyone was exhausted and excited to be in the cabin.  We had an energetic Olson family dance party after dinner and then it was off to bed for one and all. 

Those beds. They really are awful.  Being a queen size was bad enough (Nick and I are used to the California king, not to mention most nights we sleep in different states) but it was just hard.  No pillow top.  No mattress pad.  Again, camping, I get it but I did not have a restful sleep.  I woke up at 2am hoping it was 5am.  That never happens. 

I forced myself to stay in bed until 4.  I dozed off a few more times but not wanting to toss and turn, I got up, closed the bedroom doors for everyone and headed to the kitchen to rummage through the camping food bin in search of my brand new camping French press.  What's a morning without coffee?

As I waited for the water to boil I pulled out my bag of projects and spread out on the kitchen table.  I had my notebooks, my planner, my Storytelling for Grant Writers book and the dreaded proposal.  I picked it up and read the first question:

"Describe the youth development program—connect design and impact (qualifications of staff; structure; youth leadership; impact)"

I didn't read the draft answer, but instead thought.  And then, the words came.  (I'm gonna get metaphorical here, so just bear with me.)  They flowed like a gurgling creek and then rushed like raging river.  They poured out in abundance like an Arizona monsoon.  Word after word, sentence after sentence. 

I was interrupted by the sound of the boiling water in my coffee pot and stopped to reflect.  It was better.  It was good.  It was fundable!  I brewed a cup of coffee and read the next question, again, not reading the drafted answer.  As I continued to write well into the 6:00 hour I realized I did know our programs.  I was qualified to write this.  And write it I did!  I was on FIRE!  I wrote and wrote and wrote until the children woke up and destroyed all peace and serenity but by then I had gotten through most of the questions.  And it was only Saturday morning! 

I put the proposal aside for the rest of the weekend, feeling accomplished and satisfied with my work.  I still had plenty of time for reading and plenty of coffee to get me through the rough nights of sleeping.  When we left on Sunday, I decided that I should be allowed to write this trip off as an unreimbursed business expense and declared that whenever I have a proposal to write, I shall retreat to the wilderness and once again find my muse in the nearby streams and trees, which will no doubt be waiting for me when next we return.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

January

January.

2018

Another year.  Another fresh start.  I really love New Year’s.  I love the purge.  I love the beginning.  What I don’t love is January.  

January.  

It’s awful.  Especially in Philadelphia.  It’s like a Phoenix April—not the worst month but rather, a painful, depressing reminder that things will get worse.  It’s cold.  Frigid in fact.  The temperature has dipped below 30 degrees and promises to remain there for at least a week, hovering occasionally in the 40s and then back down.  We did get one day of 60 but it was just a tease.  There’s more snow than I’d care for in the forecast and that’s just the next fifteen days.  And then, comes February.  The shortest long month in the calendar.

I’ve become a weather wimp.  The dessert and the west coast have made me soft.  I may have never acclimated to the Arizona heat but I have most definitely not acclimated to the depressing east coast winters.  They are horrid. 

I want to live in a place that’s perpetually fall.  Autumn—now, there’s a season!  Everyone looks forward to it.  Everyone—it brings cool, temperate weather.  Pretty landscapes and of course, the fall holidays.  I’ve lived in perpetual spring (San Diego).  But where is perpetual fall?  When that place shows up, I’ll be home. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Madrid Starbucks

March 13, 2017
9:45 PM
I was on my own for dinner tonight.  Our Business Policy paper is due Friday and I have been tasked with the final edits.  We leave for Germany tomorrow and I am hoping to get some time with the team on the plane so we can tie up loose ends, make final edits and still have time to finish up our individual papers.
I went to The Good Burger when I was FINALLY hungry again.  After our insane lunch, I wasn’t sure it would ever happen.  It was definitely a step up from Burger King that first night, but I’ve had enough authentic food that I don’t feel guilty just getting something quick.  It saved me from yet another night of shopping of places that could be found in the King of Prussia Mall and I easily avoided the drunk fest that I’m convinced is happening with some of my classmates—it’s just not my thing.  I told myself I’d go to bed early, but here it is just after 10 and I’m still wide awake. 
We leave for Germany tomorrow and I’m sad to leave Spain.  I’ve always looked forward to this part of the trip more than Germany, though I’m not sure why other than maybe the weather.  It’s been crazy windy here lately but still very warm.  Hopefully the wind will die down enough for a nice run tomorrow morning.

March 14, 2017
7:15 AM
I was able to get in a brief run this morning—just to the Starbucks (that opens earlier) and then a walk back to the hotel.  This wind is absolutely NUTS.  It kept me awake last night.  I’ve been taking a Tylenol PM just to help me fall and say asleep, hoping to get on the right time zone.  It will probably happen just as we’re heading home. 

When I walked into the Starbucks, I was greeted by the same barista that I saw yesterday as she was cleaning the glass on the front door.  I greeted her with the customary “hola!” and she smiled and then said something to the barista behind the counter.  He said hello to me and then repeated my drink back to me. 

“Venti cafĂ© mocha with skinny milk?”  I’d never heard of skinny milk before, but assuming it meant non-fat, I smiled and said yes.  I was absolutely thrilled that they knew my order.  Thinking back on my study of Starbucks last semester, though, I shouldn’t be shocked at all.  This was, after all, the Starbuck’s Experience. 

“You want soft coffee?”  he asked me.  I had no idea what soft coffee was and I gave him a quizzical look.  He paused for a moment.  “Um, soft coffee, strong coffee.”  His last words were robust.  Now I get it.


“Oh, strong coffee, definitely.”  He made my drink and I walked back to the hotel.  I think that was my favorite Spain moment, maybe because it felt so much like home.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sunday Morning

March 12, 2017
7:25 AM, Madrid


After a fairly restful night, I’m up and ready for coffee.  I’m going for a short run to the Starbucks…except it doesn’t open for another hour!  What’s a gal gotta do to get a cup of coffee in the AM around here?  This is the first hotel since the Waldorf where I haven’t had a coffee pot in my room.  Hopefully the hotel breakfast will do, though those tiny cups are never enough.

Breakfast did not disappoint.  It was a buffet, but none like I’d ever seen.  Meats and cheeses, fruits and some kind of yogurt-like substance, pastries, bread and fresh eggs if you wanted them.  And the coffee!  I have decided that I do like Spanish coffee!  It’s thick and rich but not bitter.  I’m re-thinking my earlier impressions of Spain.  We’ll see how long it lasts.  Off to Mass—I haven’t been in years but the words and the ritual never really leave you.

Church today was beautiful.  The shortest Mass I’ve ever been to but still beautiful.  It’s been decades since I’ve attended Mass as a Catholic, though, every Mass since then has been easy to follow along as the perfect impostor.  Today, however, I felt quite lost.  I had no idea what was happening.  I could pick out words here and there and at one point, I thought I recognized The Lord’s Prayer but then, later in the Mass, I realized it was too early and felt slightly foolish for reciting it in English anyway. 
I tried to use the time to pray and reflect.  It occurred to me, as I sat staring at the face of God, that over here, all the way in Spain, He still hears me.  I was also struck by the visual implication of seeing the body of Christ on the cross.  In my own faith, we do not display the body—only the cross, because we celebrate the risen Lord.  But I thought that the Catholic faith had done something profound when displaying the body of Christ.  How differently would I feel about my sins if I had to face Christ every Sunday?  To see him there, dying for me every Sunday.  I must see it more and appreciate it more.  If I did, I might remember better the sacrifice made and come to terms with the fact that He loved us more than anyone else ever could and He so cared for my soul that He died for it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Madrid

As part of my EMBA, our cohort went on an international residency to Madrid and Munich.  It was such an adventure.  As part of my assignment and course requirements, I kept a journal.  Some of it is dreadfully boring but I did want to share a few snippets.  I hope you enjoy.

March 11, 2016
8:46 PM, Madrid

I’m certain I could never live in Spain.  At least not in Madrid.  I’m lying in bed, fighting to stay awake to adjust my body clock after a very long two days of travel and touring.  I’m not the only member of the team who opted to spend the evening alone but we are few.  I’m not one for late nights.  Always a morning person, I hope to be up tomorrow by 6am—and that’s sleeping in!
What threw me most today was the lateness to which people start an evening.  Restaurants aren’t open until 8pm.  Most of the group went to a bar and then out to dinner.  After these long days, I knew I wouldn’t last and would be looking for an excuse to leave and come back to the hotel.  I’d only be a downer for the rest of the group and would end up walking back to the hotel alone, which isn’t safe.  I opted for fast food—shameless for my first night in Europe.  There was a Burger King just a few blocks from the hotel.  I walked over and noticed a Starbucks very close by.  On my way back, burger and Coke in hand, I checked to see what time they opened.  8:30am!  This is not good. 

As I turn in and hope for a good night’s sleep, I’m missing home and my family.  Leaving on an adventure is easy, but going home will be too.