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Living in the Light

   Wow, what a little sunshine can do for the soul, literally and figuratively.  Lauren and I had such a wonderful time in Arizona.  It was surprising the things that gave us the most joy on the trip.  We loved tracking things down in the car.  I am passing on my map reading skills to her.  My brother gave me a hard time about the low budget car we rented without a navigation system.  But, since I am not working and we just finished a huge remodeling job, a clown car was a good choice for our rental car.  It was kind of like riding one of the amusement park cars at Legoland.  But, why would I need a navigation system?  I found Maricopa by heading in that direction with some good navigational points and when we needed to head to Scottsdale, I found camelback mountain and maneuvered through the streets of Phoenix towards it. After all, I am the daughter of an pilot and the wife of a navigator.  It was time Lo got her wings.  She was my co-pilot and navigator.  She started to get the hang of it.  This was my job when we moved across the country every year or two in the pursuit of our next destination.  It felt good to pass on some familial gifts.  Lo added her generation's gift and found GPS on my phone to locate a JambaJuice.  Lauren has an affinity for fresh orange juice and was so delighted to find one on our trip.  What was funny is that we pulled into a strip mall on the border of Phoenix and Scottsdale to try to figure out where JambaJuice was. We looked up where we pulled in and saw a JambaJuice sign.  You would have thought we won the lottery.  The juice did taste better since we had to try so hard to find it.  We also got advice from my cousin to go to mass at St Patrick's in Scottsdale because it was by her home.  Oh my!  What a cool coicidence.  My friend, Kim, had mentioned her mother-in-law, Fran Root, belonged there and was so inspired by their mass.  So, we went.  We were late and the parking lot was full.  If I had to guess, there were 1,000 people there.  It might be like guessing the number of M&Ms in a jar, but that would be my guess.  We sat behind the band, complete with professional microphones and a very cool kid bongo player.  I turned my cell phone on and taped the music because it was awe-inspiring.  I don't know if I should have done that, but I couldn't help it.  The mass was an hour and a half.  Lo liked it and we decided we will have to come back.  We then went to my cousin's house.  I had so much fun connecting with her.  She was that relative of mine that I spent the most time with as a kid.  She was closest in age, but just enough older that I thought she was very cool.  Lauren loves her.  Juli has some things in common with Lauren and I that made her seem dreamy to Lauren.  She loves dogs...even naughty ones.  Lauren loved her lab, Chloe, and loved her naughty beagle, Rusty.  Rusty is kind of notorious and the stories of his clever mischief made Lauren laugh.  She liked to tell her Dad about him when we returned.  Lauren loves the way Juli decorates and couldn't wait to come home and find a neat tray to put her perfume on just like Juli.  I was glad that Lauren had some time on this trip to hang with my family.  As a military family, that hasn't happened as much as we would have liked.  Since my brother moved from Hawaii to Phoenix this year, it was easier to see him.  It was nice also to have some concentrated time with my cousin.  It made me remember some really good times growing up.  It also made me remember how much I admired her and still do.  I think it made sense to Lauren why I liked her so much.
     Lauren and I also spent a couple of days doing things that we love best:  we got out in nature a bit, we toured Taliesin West (Frank Lloyd Wright home in Scottsdale), lounged around the pool and the fire at night.  We stayed at the Arizona Biltmore.  The old world charm captured us and we really relaxed.  We were happy to find out that Jonathan and Phil enjoyed skiing in Winter Park just as much as we liked Scottsdale.  We played at the pool and then sat around their big fire outside at night and looked at the stars and the backdrop of the desert mountains.
     Our trip was perfect timing.  I am a wimp.  I cannot handle the Nebraska winters.  The sunny 78 degree weather warmed me up enough to finish out the winter in Omaha with a good attitude.  I went back ready to tackle some things I hadn't been dealing all of us.  But, I went to mass and my favorite priest just happened to give a homily that helped.  He talked about choosing to live in the light of Christ.  Ok, if you don't believe....just think about the light. I think the poor me thing had hit a bit too hard in December and I had lost the energy to rebuild our life.  I know that doesn't make sense-Lo is doing well.  But, I was trying to figure out how to get excited about putting our house together and figure out how to go back to work.  What am I going to do?  Many issues were actually weighing down on me.  I have been so worried about having Lauren get her life back, I was trying too hard.  I wanted her to have her exact life back.  I wanted Jonathan to be doing all that he is expected to do and of course, Phil needed to fill in the gaps of all my needs and expectations to heal the open wounds.  My expectations were getting me down.  So, do I lower my expectations?  Actually, what I realized is that I shouldn't have these expectations of other people.  I finally realized I needed to change myself.  That is the hardest dang thing to do, especially when you have to eat a lot of humble pie to do it.  But, our life and our way of coping as we knew it before has changed.  My ways of doing things were not working.  I realized I had so much change as a kid and it made me a strong individual.  But, it made me worry that my children had to suffer through so much change and heartache like I did, so I tried to fix everything for them and worry too much.  I wanted to protect them from the hurt that I grew up with and that was making me weak as a parent.  That hurt is actually what has made me the strongest.  It was exactly what made me know how to cope with the stress and be resilient when my family needed me most.  I thought I could just pass on my wisdom and my resilience to my kids.  How foolish that was.  That is where I needed to change.  I needed to quit worrying and give that up.  I also needed to realize that hurt is part of life and to quit protecting them from it so much.  I was taking away their experience that was so necessary for them to grow and feel confident in their own ablities.  I realized this in a couple of simple experiences.  I didn't handle Lauren's broken arms as well as she did.  Granted she was in a lot of pain and she felt disappointed.  But, she moved on.  She dealt with the pain and cried and felt bad.  She dealt with the disappointment of not getting to play volleyball by cheering on her friends and saying she felt bad, but had hope to play again.  But, she also found some things to fill in the gap.  When her volleyball friends were busy, she began to make some new friends.  She decided to do speech.  She was so excited about it and had decided to do a duet with a friend.  I was glad she chose this friend, because like Jonathan, Lo is shy.  I was worried speech was going to be a disapointment and it might be.  But, she went to the meeting and this one friend chose to work with someone else.  I was worried, but Lauren chose a new friend to work with and was so fired up about it.  So, I let it go, too.  I realized I dwelled too much on my kids' disappointments and tried to fix too much for them.  I am learning to back off and shut up.  I am learning to just be present with them and encourage them.  This is hard for me.  I am such a cheerleader.  Encouragement has different meanings for the likes of me.  I need to whittle that encouragement down some.  Enough said...I guess my point is that as parents we struggle so much trying to create the perfect life for our kids.  But, if it becomes our struggle we take their life away. 
     I miss my dad every single day.  What I miss most about him was his quiet presence.  It was like the warm glow of the sun and lit your soul from within.  I think that is what Fr. Weeder was talking about.  My dad was Christ to me and lit up my soul, by quietly nudging me to be my best self.  That is what I want to be to my kids.  They have such incredible gifts, I need to trust that they will find the right path.  But, I need to allow them to stumble along the way.  Leukemia took that trust away for a while.  I think it is time to find it again.  Damn, winter though, it is harder to feel that light, when the polar vortex does its beeswax.
     Lauren's arms are out of her splints.  She gets to return to volleyball on Valentine's Day.  I hope her team lets her play for the last month of volleyball.  She is excited.  She is also excited about speech.  School is going better too since she can write out her own work. 
     Jonathan is doing ok.  Prep is kind of kicking his rear end as it does to many freshman.  But, he is figuring it out along the way also.  He is excited about his spring lacrosse season and has started to train with the team.  He is going to continue tennis a couple of nights a week.  He still plays guitar.  I think he had so much fun skiing that he is in a slump this week.  He can't figure out why he can't just ski all the time.  Why does he have to go to school?  He is so bright and loves the life of adventure.  So, instead of worrying he will end up being a ski bum (our family's downfall-the love of adventure and leisure), I will imagine he has the makings of the next Warren Miller or Steve Jobs.  I can definitely see Jonathan sleeping in a van in Sun Valley.....
     I had a couple of people ask for copies of the speech I gave at St Robert's about Hope.  I am going to download it on the next CaringBridge.  I need to read it again.  I was feeling it strong in December.  I am glad I wasn't asked to give the speech in January. 
      Oh man, I forgot to pick Lauren up from teaching Sunday School.  Thank goodness I have a good friend that picked her up and fed her pancakes too.  I am so thankful my kids live in this community of good people that will feed you pancakes and take you home when you have a dingy mom.