Category Archives: Uncategorized

Country Mouse

If you know me (present day), you know I’m happiest in either the mountains or the country.  This is ironic given that I fought long and hard to escape my upbringing in a very rural, small town in western Pennsylvania.  Growing up, I couldn’t wait to escape the country.  My dream was to live in New York City, due in part to the influence of the classic Doris Day, Rock Hudson movies Lover Come Back and Pillow Talk, both of which take place in NYC.  As a young girl, I fantasized of living and working in a big city, like Doris Day’s character, Jan, did.  

As I’ve grown up and older, however, I’ve grown to appreciate a slower paced, quieter lifestyle–especially parenting a young child again.  There’s much to be said about the peace and solitude that’s part and parcel of immersing yourself in the expanse of nature.  At one time I found a modicum of this peace and solitude on the beach and in the ocean.  That no longer appeals to me, however.  In fact, I now find the changing tides and raging waves deeply unsettling for reasons I can’t fully explain.  Perhaps this is due, at least in part, to who I was when I sought to live near the ocean.  I was a very unsettled person, seeking and searching to find meaning in life, when I migrated southward fifteen years ago.  Now that I’ve discovered who I am to some degree, the inherent by-product is peace and tranquility–both of which I experience in a pastoral setting.  

For the next two weeks I will be in my happy place, in the Rocky Mountains.  Thanks to Airbnb, I scored a cute little home nestled at the foothills of the Flatirons.  This morning while munchkin is yet sleeping, I’m sipping coffee on the deck while my man is swinging in a hammock, and I can honestly say I’ve never been happier or more at peace.  Oh, and the temperature is a lovely 64 degrees.  The mountains were calling, and I answered.  


Seven Years

He defends the cause of the fatherless… ~Deuteronomy 10:18

Jackson Hall 3

It will be seven years tomorrow since Greg and I took Jackson into our arms and hearts as our son. It stands to reason that April is an emotional month for me. I do a lot of soul searching and reminiscing in the weeks preceding and following April 13th. This morning, in the shower, I was having an imaginary conversation with God. I was imagining how our lives would’ve turned out if God would’ve come to me seven years ago and said something to the following effect. Meeting Jax

My daughter, I know you and Greg are on board with the adoption seed I’ve planted in your hearts, but let’s talk a little bit about what it’s going to be like for you. What if becoming parents to this very special little boy I have for you, costs you relationships with friends and family members, as well as costing a lot of time and money—not only up front, but down the road because of medical care and therapies. Will you be okay with this? What if becoming this little one’s parents causes you to wring your hands and lay awake at night with a heart full of worry for the day ahead as well as for his future. Will you be okay with this?

I can’t speak for my husband, but I can tell you a conversation like this with God prior to boarding a plane to Ethiopia would’ve given me great pause. I’m pretty darn certain I was far too full of myself, far too wrapped up in life, and far too uncertain of my capabilities to have yielded to such a plan. And this is precisely why God does not make us privy to the details of all He has in store for our lives. He knows what we’re capable of, despite our being so uncertain of ourselves. And He knows we may turn tail and run if He were to paint the whole picture for us ahead of time.

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I can promise you from experience, however, your life will be so very rich if you step out in faith and let God have his way with your heart and your life. God knows you. Just as He knew us, our hearts, our inmost being, He knows you and your heart and the great things you’re capable of. I perish the thought of a life without Jackson. He enriches our lives in so many ways. And you can rest assured; God has equally wonderful plans in store for you. Trust Him!

Jax Halpat

Thank you, God, for knowing us so much better than we know ourselves. Thank you for this beautiful life you’ve blessed us with.   Thank you, for allowing us to be mom and dad to this precious boy of yours.

There is no friendship, no love, like that of the parent for the child. ~Henry Ward Beecher

A Look Back 

One of the things I enjoy most about Facebook is the Memories notification feature.   The following photo was yesterday’s memory from March 22, 2014.

  
Two years ago… Not much has changed, yet everything has changed. These days I definitely prefer two wheels to four. All day, every day. Concrete vs. trails? No contest.  Give me a trail and the smell of nature and feeling of unending freedom every and any day.  Challenge the self?  Absolutely.  That, thank you Lord, remains a constant. 

“Maybe life isn’t about avoiding the bruises. Maybe it’s about collecting the scars to prove we showed up for it.” ~Author Unknown

Untrammeled

Early last year, my husband walked into a local bike shop in search of a new bike for our son. Having given up his training wheels the previous month, and having outgrown his 20” Specialized Hot Rock, Jackson needed a new bike. Greg found a suitable bike and called me to bring Jackson over for sizing and to purchase it, if appropriate. I arrived at the store within ten minutes, looked at the bike and agreed it was the bike for Jackson. I told the salesman to ring it up, only to be asked to come back the following day, as the store would be closing soon. All the while, the store’s owner looked glaringly on with nary an acknowledgement, with arms crossed, not 15 feet away.

Irritated by an utter lack of consideration and the absence of customer service, Greg and I went to another local bike shop the following morning. We found not only a bike for Jackson, but also bikes for ourselves, too. That was February 24, 2015, and our lives haven’t been the same since.

Our family has experienced so much excitement, adventure and achievement throughout the past year. We quickly became bored with pedaling around sedate trails, and graduated to single track mountain biking. Of course, with this transition came new bikes—actually several new bikes, as our individual skill levels increased.   Biking has taken the place of dinners out, weekend getaways, daytrips, shopping trips, manicures/pedicures and everything in between. Dare I say, as a trade off, our quality of overall life has increased exponentially? There is much to be said for a family sharing an interest. This past weekend, my husband and I took first place in a local co-ed, two-person endurance challenge—a feat that required incredible teamwork. Four days later and we’re still reveling in our combined accomplishment and talking about what it took to pull off this victory—not from the standpoint of gloating, but from the perspective of unified teamwork and jobs well done.

Much like my  skateboarding adventures a few years ago, biking tests my mettle and pushes me beyond my comfort zone and oftentimes, physical limits.   And also like skateboarding, when I’m on the bike I’m not thinking about anything else. I’m purely and unequivocally living in the moment.   With the myriad distractions life has to offer, there’s beauty and peace in this experience.TT Flow

Perhaps the greatest by-product of this passion is the people we’ve met and friends we’ve made. To say we’ve met the nicest people isn’t hyperbole; it’s fact. I don’t know if I should attribute it to like-minded folks sharing a passion, or if we’re just a bunch of folks hopped up on fresh air and endorphins. Whatever the case, the folks we meet are genuine, happy, encouraging and uplifting people. They tend to be salt of the earth ladies and gents—some with small(er) children like us—who are eager to take a lap with you, talk bikes and components, and share stories of epic rides and trips, and dreams for said bikes, components, rides and trips.

Oh, and the bike store experience I very purposefully opened with? I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Early on, we were experiencing continued mechanical difficulties with a bike. A Google search directed us to a bike store in West Palm—Bike America. After speaking to a gentleman by the name of “Mike Jenison,” we decided to pay them a visit. Not only did Mike steer us in the right direction, his customer service was outstanding.   And, I don’t know if it was Mike’s charming personality, stellar customer service or what, but our first bicycle upgrades happened soon thereafter. Mike and his entire crew—Drew, Bolivar and Tom—have become not only our trusted equipment advisors, but friends and cheerleaders as well. If we hadn’t been turned away from the first store we visited, we wouldn’t have had the need to seek out another shop.   You know the saying—you don’t know how good an experience actually is unless you’ve had a comparably bad experience by which to make a comparison. And I’m sorry, but I can’t not mention Julie Roberts’ character’s famous Pretty Woman quote: “Big mistake. Big. Huge.” Yeah. Indeed it was.

When I say the past year has been quite a ride, I mean it in every literal sense of the word.New Year

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” ~ Susan B. Anthony

Happy Special Birthday

Today, a very special woman is celebrating a very special birthday.  Today, we’re celebrating my mother’s 85th birthday.  

 My mother, one of the toughest women I know, was born in Cowen, West Virginia, in 1931, during The Great Depression.  A coal miner’s daughter in every sense of the term, my mother has endured more than her fair share of hardship and heartache over the course of her lifetime.  But she has persevered.  
  
 
My mother and I have butted heads countless times over the years.  That’s what happens when you raise strong, independent daughters.  I asked her earlier this week, at what age did I finally stop being unlovable.  (It’s fair to say I was a challenge to parent.)   Without hesitation, my mother replied, “I always loved you.  I just put up with it and kept on.”  Her response took me by surprise and speaks volumes about a mother’s love.  Here’s wishing the happiest of birthdays to not only a wonderful mother, but a grandmother who’s an angel on earth to her grandchildren.  Love wins.  Always.    

     
    

A daughter is a mother’s gender partner, her closest ally in the family confederacy, an extension of her self.  And mothers are their daughters’ role model, their biological and emotional roadmap, the arbiter of all their relationships. ~Victoria Secunda

   
 

Rule Breaker

If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun. ~Katharine Hepburn

Having the time of my life.

Forty-nine years, 346 days. That’s how old I am as I draft this post. I will be 50 years old at the end of this month. This is a monumental birthday for me. It has certainly given me pause to think. I think about the fact that I’m now in the last half of life. I spend a great deal of time thinking about the fact that I’m (soon to be) 50 with a five year old with developmental challenges—and worry greatly about being here wholly, completely and physically for him as he grows up. I think about the fact that I’m not as sharp (in any respect) as I used to be. I think about the fact that my husband and I will most likely have to work every day we’re above ground in order to maintain life, as we know it. Please don’t misunderstand me. These are not regrets. They’re merely realities—realities you don’t think about at 20, 30 or probably even 40. (At least I didn’t.) But 50? Well that’s a whole other ballgame.

There is another side to the coin though. In addition to concerns I have about life, I also spend a great deal of time reflecting on how richly I’ve been blessed throughout my life. I didn’t always see it that way. I had many, many struggles as a young adult. I carried a lot of bitterness, disappointment and regret around. But I’m so thankful God has lifted those burdens from my shoulders. Grace covers a lifetime of heartache, and I am eternally grateful to Him for that.

Yet another byproduct of turning 50 is permission I’ve given myself to live a little—for me. As the majority of wives and mothers do, I’ve spent a good deal of my life living to care for others. We inherently put the needs of others above our own. I know I do. And I’m more than okay with that. I’m grateful to have a family who needs me. However, wives and mothers also need to feed our own spiritual and emotional selves. The last five years have been very challenging, and at times draining. That’s the nature of the beast. But I’ve recently found something I enjoy immeasurably. Skateboarding. Yes, you read that correctly. Skateboarding.

Greg and I initially bought boards in February so we could accompany Jackson to the skate park. Jackson has always loved to ride his scooter—something that required me to run alongside him—neck-and-neck, for safety’s sake. I was OVERJOYED (let me say that again—OVERJOYED!) to learn he could ride his scooter at the local skate park, as it was getting more difficult for me to keep up with him. (See paragraph one RE: lack of sharpness.) I thought the skate park would afford me the opportunity to put my feet up and relax while Jackson rode his scooter. Boy was I wrong!

Greg and I quickly learned how much fun it is to skateboard. We bought boards and started to skate ourselves. Then we bought new boards because we learned that our original boards were for “cruising.” Cruising? We wanted to skate!  We didn’t want to just putter around the park. We wanted to skate ramps and bowls! We wanted to drop in! And so we did. And you know what? We’ve been having the time of our lives! Literally. We go to the skate park as often as we can. Jackson rides his scooter and Greg and I skate. We encourage each other, watch each other’s progress and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. It is truly a family affair.

I recently treated myself to lessons for my upcoming birthday. I scheduled seven lessons with a young man named Tommy who works at our local skate park. Unfortunately, our final lesson was rained out. (I was deeply saddened.) Tommy was a saint. A saint! He could’ve taken one look at this middle-aged mother and begged off. But he didn’t. And I am so grateful for that. Not only is Tommy a great instructor; he’s truly a great person. (Tommy, your folks got it right.) My life is richer for the six hours I spent with this young man. I was drawn out of my comfort level every minute we were together. He had me skating switch/fakie at heights and speeds WAY above my comfort zone. And equally death-defying—Tommy had me dropping in independently by the end of our time together.

Here’s a video of my first independent drop in.

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I took a few spills, which were never Tommy’s doing. I simply didn’t know what to do with myself post maneuver. But I got up and kept going.

Overestimated my abilities to fakie a steep ramp, post drop in.

Overestimated my abilities to fakie a steep ramp, post drop in.

I learned so much from Tommy, not only about skateboarding, but also about myself. I learned that even at fifty I’m still as curious and tenacious as I was at 20, 30 and 40. But more importantly, I’m more intuitive and open to correction and instruction than I was at those ages. My life is so much richer for those six short hours. I’m so thankful I took that step and that time for myself. Contusions aside, I have a newfound appreciation for this body God has created, a deeper love for skating, a greater gratitude for my tenacity, and a new friend I hold dear to my heart. Thank you, Tommy, for letting me fly.

At work, pre-lesson.

At work, pre-lesson.

Sweaty! Tommy and me apres lesson (and first independent drop in).

 

A Phenomenal Woman Indeed

An Evening with Maya Angelou

I can’t believe she’s gone.  Maya Angelou was such a strong presence—a force—someone you expected to walk this earth forever.   For me, her words were a life changer.  For millions more, her advocacy for social reform made her a game changer.

I was fortunate to witness a presentation by Dr. Angelou at Westminster College’s Orr Auditorium in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.  The presentation took place on a rainy night in March of 1995—a very pivotal time in my life.

For me personally, the 90s brought with them a deep restlessness and unquenchable search to find out who I was.  Becoming a mother at 17 stripped away a very necessary period of self-discovery.  Circumstances demanded I assume a role when I hadn’t a clue as to who I was as a person.  I hadn’t so much as discovered my likes and dislikes or interests, let alone determined what I wanted to be when I “grew up.”  It was during this time that I discovered the force (and fierceness) of Maya Angelou.  Her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, ignited a fire within me.  The strength and fortitude with which she weathered a traumatic childhood spoke to my heart before settling deep into my soul.  Her words allowed me to see that I was not to be defined by my circumstances.  I voraciously devoured her subsequent books:  Gather Together in My Name, Singin’ & Swingin’ & Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, And Still I Rise, The Heart of a Woman, All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes.  I couldn’t read them fast enough.  Her books caused people to explore what it means to be human.  They made me explore what it means to be a woman.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.

~Maya Angelou, “On The Pulse Of Morning”

I lost my mind when I learned Dr. Angelou would be giving a presentation following a ceremony in which she would receive an honorary degree from Westminster.   And she did not disappoint.  Dr. Angelou’s voice was rich and deep.  Her strength permeated the venue.  Almost twenty years later I remember it as if it were yesterday.  But then again, why should I be surprised?   Maya Angelou had a grace and warmth that touched everyone.  She was of course, “a woman / Phenomenally.”

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

~Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman”