It was fantastic really. I mean really. I posted a few pictures on my Instagram page, if you'd like to see. For the most part though, the time away almost feels as if it didn't happen, like it really was just a memory or an imagined event. An event that I'm so thankful to God for.

I read, I ate, I slept and ultimately, I relaxed. I was at peace, settled. Me.

Not technically a sabbatical, probably more of a vacation. I need to put a dent into my usually harried, crazed schedule to take time to reflect on who I am before God. What did I find, you wonder? I found that I am far too serious in this life. That I don't laugh enough or recognize that I am truly loved by a few people - enough people - for who I am and that they are sincere in that love even if sometimes they hurt me (or when I hurt them). That it doesn't detract from value or worth but only highlights the need to talk about the choices made. I truly recommend that women (and men) take the time for this. Please also read the "Bookworm" page of my blog and read my mini-review about the Marriage Sabbatical. 

I realize that returning to my "regular life" will include challenges and strife (and good things too) and that I will need to prepare myself for how I will respond. This came over me like a ton of avalanching bricks while driving from my vacation spot back home. I became a bit saddened and heavy hearted. I had spent time thinking about these moments, preparing for them. I still can't explain it. Even with some wonderful things happening since I've been home, I have moved from room to room or around the city in my car with tears back behind my eyes and a heavy heart. I have been in constant prayer but it hasn't released yet and I haven't figured out why. 

As promised though, I would like to share my dreams. A little about my approach first. 

I thought of myself being back at the cabin this time next year and what I'd like to be able to sit on the porch of the cabin and reflect on having experienced. I'm not approaching so much like a checklist with specific road maps for how to get there but instead overarching things I hope that God will allow. This approach is called "Understanding by Design" (UbD) or "Backwards Design" and is helpful in thinking about the end result and allowing that to dictate my planning. I'm posting them so that I can hopefully share progress in these areas and you even now have permission to ask me how its going from time to time; I'd appreciate that. And, well, I am really wanting to be more and more vulnerable in the posts that I share. So, without further ado...

This is what I hope to see my life look like next year at this time:
  • I have been faithful to God and in His Word every single day 
  • I am in a healthy, safe, intimate, trusting, authentic marriage with Mark
  • I am trusting of God and of myself and am more confident about God's will and living it out, as a result of that trust
  • I have lived within my means paying my bills and saving over $1K 
  • I have laughed almost daily and have experienced fewer bouts of depression; true joy flows from me
  • I have been instrumental in the baptism of two women
  • I have been hired to work in an education role that fits my strengths
  • I am back at Walnut Ridge for a week
  • I am closer to my immediate and extended family due to my outreach
  • I have lived as a victor not as a victim 
  • I have started a bucket list of 50 things I hope to experience before dying
  • I blog from an authentic place and find freedom in it
  • I have been physically active at least once a week all year round
  • I have been positively impacted the opening of the Fisher House, Milwaukee
  • I have ensured freedom for Dylan to grieve the death of his dad
  • I have helped my child learn the value of money and his responsibility with it
  • I have read 30 books this year


On another note, I've also updated my reading challenge - I read A LOT this week. Heavenly!



 
 
First, let me say that I am a fan of taking a sabbatical from my life. Slowing down, taking in the world that I'm usually too busy to take in or to appreciate. It's been only three days since I left my home in route to my Cabin Life and I'm sold.

The drive to get to the cabin was stunning. Living in the suburbs, I forget that Wisconsin has such a beautiful landscape. Rolling green hills and with the right soundtrack (more on that another time) I've really enjoyed being able to take it in. It's the kind of thing that makes me proud to be an American and at the same time realize how small I am in this big ole world. And I love that feeling, because I know how big my God is. How He has his eye on me and enjoys for and with me how my heart skips when I turn another corner and see more of His natural beauty. It makes my heart quicken and I smile and think I experience a bit of true joy. My own little adventures, just the two of us. 

Putting behind me what others would think about a married mother going off into the wilderness (what it feels like when one must drive 45 minutes one way to reach a Starbucks) for 5 nights, 5 days all by herself. The place is adorable and quaint. A round-log cabin built by the couple who run it in the mid-80s, it is now the place I believe I must return to once a year in order to reconnect deeply; with myself. Mostly couples rent the cabin and reading their visitor log book, one could slip into a bout of depression about the lack of people who escape to this slice of heaven on their own. By themselves. Alone. 

Call me crazy, and people do, but that is very much a part of the appeal for me. I like being alone, I'm no longer afraid of what God will show me about myself or my thoughts or my strengths and hopes, failures, mistakes and dreams when I'm alone. It makes me walk taller and think more clearly and sometimes even laugh out loud. This is probably the biggest stressor in my life, not what life brings and how challenging it sometimes is but that I prioritize too much what other people think about how I should respond to this life that I'm living, this life that keeps coming at me. 

I'm working on it. Crawling out from under it. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't want to hear what other people have to say to me, I just so desperately want to disarm the power that I've allowed it to have over me. I'm sure that it's one of Satan's greatest tactics with me. "Don't be your best girl. Step into the background and do only as you're told and live in other people's hopes and dreams for you rather than have, express and live in your own," he whispers. 

No more says me. 

No.more.

I've spent some time jotting down what I dream of my life looking like next year this time. If I'm blessed to be able to return to my cabin life again next summer, approximately a year from now, would I be living boldly in Jesus and especially in the dreams I'm dreaming with God. Yes, right? That's the only answer because I have faith.

There are so many promises that God gives to me. And He constantly provides. Even when there is so much that I don't have in front of me that I long for. It's THE trick for me. How to live boldly, excited, joy-filled, peacefully and trusting in God when so much of what I see doesn't look like what I hope for and desire. 

I've taken so many photos since my vacation began, some I've shared on my Instagram and Twitter pages, but so many are keepsakes for me to remember this trip and mindset. Stopping myself in the moments, pulling over on the side of the road to take photos and revel in the beauty and later my own. It's so exciting, freeing - and I don't even know what this year will look like. I've officially released the expectations in favor of flaming the hope in my desires and dreams. 

I'll share them at the end of the week. They are not a checklist, but rather a poem, kind of. However they're read, it will be a reflection of my heart.

If you're wondering if you can or should take a few days and give yourself a little time-out from the whirlwind of your life, my recommendation is that you do whatever it takes. If you don't spend uninterrupted time with God for at least one whole day every now and again, how do you really know who you are? And if you don't really know yourself, the way that He sees you, then how do you really KNOW you? Really.

I know that I need to return the suburbs and am excited to do so with this renewed view on my life, full of gratitude for what is working and going well and even some of the things that are not. I will work to ensure that I have mini-hiatuses (places in my home, city and schedule) to re-visit my dreams and be sure that I'm still connected to God and the woman I believe He's developing me into. 

  • Here are some things that I've experienced in just the first two and half days:
  • Sleeping with the windows open, the country air is so clean and perfect - even though a rooster weighs in early in the morning and throughout most of the day
  • The sounds of nature are really relaxing
  • Dance party for one, just like in the girly movies (Think "Holiday" with Cameron Diaz)
  • Amazing views 
  • I need not watch scary movies that take place in the woods, ever again, seriously
  • Clarity in my quiet times with God, He is speaking and it's not fuzzy, I can hear what I believe He wants me to hear (the good and not necessarily easy)
  • My natural self, studying her - little make-up, noticing my gray hairs and wrinkles and accepting this lovely woman
  • Driving in the country, it's just beautiful - like being in a car commercial on the open country road - there was NO traffic
  • And driving with the right soundtrack, totally enjoying almost all of Rihanna's Loud Album and a couple of Usher's songs that reach right into my heart's desires about love, intimacy and trust (shocker considering some of his songs) - I enjoy belting out the lyrics I think I know at the top of my lungs
  • The biggest and my favorite realization - that I really like myself

Next time, I'll post about my dreams for the 2013 - 2014 year. 



 
 
If I had one extra hour in the day... I would only read page turners. It's like the countdown clock from the show 24. It's so exciting and you need to know what happened but you resent the clock, you just.want.more.time.

I wish my name... was actually Gigi. I think it would be easier to be upbeat with this name. I might actually skip from place to place.

I think anything chevron is... associated with military uniforms. Particularly the "chevron game" which was played by my first husband when he was a higher ranking Marine than his "guys". They would want to complain or make a recommendation about training and he would invite them to cover their chevrons (they had less) he would cover his (he had more) and then count, 1-2-3, drop your hands covering the chevrons and he would win. I think I play a less subtle version of this being a mom. 

My last nightmare... wow, I haven't had one in a long time. This is huge because I had the same nightmare for about three years was around being separated from my child and not being able to get to him. 

Sometimes... I struggle with bouts of depression.

My last meal on earth would be... the Cobb Salad from Sundara Inn & Spa

I would much rather... get foot fungus than make small talk

Mayonnaise... is only good for making tuna fish sandwiches. Wait, it's also good for smothering lice in a child's hair. 

10 years ago, I didn't think...I would really turn 40. And have gray hairs. And still not know what I "want to be when I grow up."

Selfishly... I screen all of my calls because I don't really like talking on the telephone. 

My favorite show on TV right now... is Suits. A show about lawyers who never go to court, who quote great movies/television shows and dress very fashionably, yup.

And, George Zimmerman...will be held accountable by God for what he did. 

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See the link-up here
 
 
I'm less embarrassed to admit my need for the scriptures. Coming out of a dark bout of depression, I see how powerful it is for me to be able to read and see how connected I am to Him.

"But me he caught - reached all the way from sky to sea; he pulled me out of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning. They hit me when I was down, but God stuck by me. He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved - surprised to be loved." Psalm 18: 16 - 19 (The Message)

I thank God for this visual - and truth - as it could not better describe where I feel I am in my need for His perfect love.
 
 
I'm in it. All up in my feelings...

I'm FEELING like the world is against me.

I'm FEELING like I can't do anything right.

I'm FEELING like I'm being picked on by life.

I'm FEELING like a drama queen - I pulled the muscles in my back and thought I was having a heart attack. Seriously, 4:10 in the morning, sobbing uncontrollably, afraid to call and wake anyone out of fear for crying wolf and alienating myself any further.

I'm FEELING as if I'm nothing but a wretched, pathetic person.

I'm FEELING lonely though I requested the separation and sent my child on a two-week vacation to his grandparents' home.

It seems that when I speak that I'm not heard or that what I say is not valued.

I don't know how to move forward on my path and wants and fall back on trusting what others say.

A bout of depression has crept in and I see it and am trying to fight it with my weakened self.

I am so thankful for friends that help me recognize that I'm under attack. Who remind me that this is just what it is, my feelings - nothing wrong with 'em but what I do with them is what is important. I was tempted to wait to post until I could be more chipper, more upbeat, more joy-filled but I'm also trying to be more real in this outlet, to express more of my vulnerability, to get it out. And now, to fill up with the truth. God's word. 

Jeremiah 29:11  - Romans 5:5 - Ephesians 5:1 - I Peter 3:18 - 1 John 3:1 - 1 John 4: 8 - 12, 16 

Now, to cling to it rather than my feelings...
 
 
PictureMy pile for the challenge.
I am pumped for this challenge!

I have been reading a lot of professional books for my work in education and I appreciate the opportunity to keep my mind sharp as it pertains to my field but too much of it can take me back to grad school and that's not where I want to constantly be. 

I keep a mini-book diary of sorts up to date on the "Bookworm" section of my blog. I will track my completed reads from this challenge on that link so please check back every now and again and see how I'm doing and what I think about what I'm reading. I am always excited about recommendations (and gifts - wink, wink) for future reads, but they will go straight to my shelf as this girl will not be buying more than two books* in order to complete this challenge.

By the way, while I like rules and points and WINNING, I do not expect that I will be amongst the first five to finish this challenge and be in the running to win. However, my ultimate goal is to complete this challenge and side benefits are to include the expansion of my reading horizons, decreasing my time watching television and Netflix re-runs and to, well, to relax and enjoy reading for fun; it's going to help to dent selections from my personal library too.  While reading the books will be entertaining and interesting in itself, going through what I already own and making my selections was very fun. 

I am already thankful to Megan over at Semi-Charmed Kind of Life for developing this challenge. If you're up for it, go over to her blog, link-up and prepare to get your read on.

Rules:
  • The challenge will run from July 1, 2013, to September 30, 2013. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on July 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on September 30 will count.
  • No re-reads (unless specifically stated)! I want you to experience new books with this challenge.
  • Each book must be at least 200 pages long. Audiobooks are fine, as long as the print versions meet the page requirements.
  • A book can only be used for one category. If you want to switch the category later, that's fine, just be sure to account for that in your point total.
  • The highest possible total is 200 points, and the first five people who finish the challenge will win a featured/guest post on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life. Good luck!

The Challenge:
5 points: Freebie! Read any book you'd like, as long as it follows the above rules. :)
Hunger Games, (Suzanne Collins) - 374 pages (completed 7/21)

5:  Read a book that is less than 150 pages long. (Yes, this is an exception to the general rules! You're welcome haha.) 
A Raisin in the Sun (Lorraine Hansberry)

10: Read a book with a color in the title. 
A Yellow Raft in Blue Water (Michael Dorris)

10: Read a book that is not the first in its series. (And yes, it must be in a series.)
Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins) - 390 pages (completed 7/23)

15: Read a book it seems everyone but you has read! 
Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins) - 391 pages - (completed 7/24)

15: Read a banned book. (For consistency's sake, the book must be found on one of these lists. See the links in the first paragraph for book lists.)
The Color Purple (Alice Walker)

20: Read a book written by a celebrity. This can be a memoir or a fiction book published by someone who was already famous by another means (e.g. James Franco).
The Measure of a Man (Sidney Poitier)
 
20: Read a non-fiction book that is not a memoir. It can be pure non-fiction or narrative non-fiction. 
The Christ Centered Marriage (Charles Mylander)

20: Read a book that takes place in a state you have never been in. 
The Hour I First Believed (Wally Lamb) - Colorado & Connecticut

25: Read a book that is at least 400 pages long. 
Postcards from Last Summer (Roz Bailey) - 474 pages (completed 7/5)

25: Read a book with a main character who shares my first name. It can include versions of your name or nicknames, this one just seems like a no-brainer for me.
I am Regina (Sally M. Keehn)*

30: Read a book written by an author who was born in the same year as you.
Adored (Tilly Bagshawe)* 1973 - 548 pages (completed 7/6)
It was her or Stephanie Meyer and I just don't think I'm ready for the Twilight series
 
You're welcome to join me but be sure to let me know you're in so that we can cheer one another on. Feel free to follow the tweets about the challenge at #SCSBC13. Even if you don't join the challenge, you may be able to help a reader find what they're looking for.

 
 
We had a great time at today's parade. We took our chairs to our friends' home yesterday and they held down the fort at 6:00 a.m. this morning so that we were on the curb but still in front of their house with access to indoor plumbing (sweet, right?). It was a lot of fun to sit and watch the very, young children enjoy things that have become so "old and mundane" to us adults. And it was a great opportunity to be entertained in a (sort of) free way - can you say tax dollars - with friends, in beautiful weather.

I am more lighthearted at this parade than the Memorial Day Parade we attend every year, but I think that there are still some basic "rules of etiquette" for folks to consider when attending this family friendly outing.

1. Once the parade begins, keep your child out of the street. There is no need to cause trauma to be associated with this holiday or parades in general because you think it's cute for your child to be several feet from the curb while the parade is going on. 

2. The parade should be full of entries, but when you have half dressed women performing Samba dancing (which I have nothing against) for...an....Independence...Day...celebration, I'm confused. And then frustrated that the men in my life are exposed to half clothed women, voluptuous women. Come on, it's on television and almost everywhere else they look - can we take two hours off?!?

3. A subpoint to number two but strong enough to stand on its own... Can gymnasts, cheerleaders, the dance team, the pom pom squad not perform their routines in more modest outfits? Why is it "cute" when a 4 year old is exposed with super short shorts up her backside but "sexy" when it's a grown woman? How about we just not? Some clothing regulations could help our girls shift their focus from what they look like to how hard they've worked and the talent/performance they are sharing.

4. Once you are done walking in the center of the road and being the center of attention for however many miles you walked, marched and paraded to the end, you should walk BEHIND the onlookers who are still enjoying the "acts" they have not yet seen. I understand you're heading back to your own family or to your car, but really?!?. 

5. Make sure you have enough candy for the ENTIRE route. Teach a class, do a mini-training, tell people how much to have and when they ought to throw it. Sitting at or near the end ought not be punishment for the kiddos we bring to the parade - they are just as cute as the ones you saw at the beginning.

6. People doing new and exciting things are fun for a parade. Just watching you roll down the road in your convertible, not so much. I do like Mustang Convertibles by the way, but a float or something pulled behind would be better. Let me just state here that I do not understand why news reporters/weathermen are considered parade worthy.

7. I like the 4th of July, but I do think it's kind of weird that we celebrate our rebellion and hard headedness with so much fanfare. A little more humility America. We can celebrate other great things about our nation, can't we? I guess I'm just saying, if we're going to bring so many people together in beautiful weather with such intense focus for two hours, shouldn't we be a bit more purposeful in what we share, what we show about our great nation and teach our kids?

8. Clean up after yourselves. They throw candy, you allow your child to eat the candy and throw the wrapper on the ground just because it's Independence Day? Come on folks, we're a community - let's do our part. And also this principle can be used at your place of work, in your home and just in general. Once it's a habit, you may find you actually enjoy it.

9. Even if you don't like the governor and how he operates, your children are watching - show some respect.

10. When the American Flag passes you by - please, stand up. Not a perfect nation with a "clean" history (no country can say this) but you are afforded some liberties that many around the world would be grateful to experience, even for one day. Do us all a favor, be thankful for it, it comes at a price.
 
 
I've actually considered quitting so many times, I've changed my mind so much and have felt apathetic about the lack of depth that I've shared that I've become almost reluctant to continue. 

Then I question my motives. I mean, which bloggers go out into the blogosphere without a desire to develop some sort of following and say really pertinent, powerful things? I'll admit it, I want you to read what I have to say and be a bit wowed by it. Then, I think - that's why I'm not totally into it lately because I'm trying to please you. Something I've promised myself I wouldn't continue to do.

Alas, I will just write and share this. Oh and this really actually happened.

So, I coordinated my last wedding on Sunday. I had already decided and shared with the bride at our last planning meeting that this was the last one and that I was pleased that I was able to give of my time and energy in this way for the lovely couple. I was prepared for the crazy but was sort of dreading it too. I wasn't prepared this time. Usually, I thrive on handling this level of detail and being the one in charge and directing and delegating a small army of volunteers, but I did not experience the same charge in preparing for this opportunity to serve but plowed forward. 

Here's the lynchpin - the groom's mother said she wasn't coming to the wedding. Her name was not on the program, she had not been a topic of conversation for several weeks leading up to the date, so I checked her right on out of my party planning mind; I had enough other details to deal with.

Hindsight is always, well most often 20 - 20 and perhaps I don't feel like I have clear vision on this event yet because I'm still sore and in shock but there is a bit more clarity. I should have asked more questions, I ought to have pried a bit more and definitely, absolutely and without a doubt should have uttered the following words, "What would you like for me to do if your mother shows up to your wedding?"

Long story shortened...

  • Mother of groom (I don't know her) decides she is going to push through to the room where the bridal party is sequestered for pictures and in order for us to clear the church. 
  • I attempt to introduce myself to this stranger to buy time to assess the concerns.
  • Mother of groom decides to curse me out and push past me
  • I think it's wise to stay in stride with mother of groom
  • Mother of groom raises her elbow to hit me in the face
  • But thinks twice about it
  • Instead grabs a huge hunk of my hair at the back (no weave, thank you) and tosses me like a rag doll
  • Woman I've not had a proper introduction to tosses me into my friend
  • My friend falls and hits her kneecap into the concrete floor
  • Before getting back to my feet, I find myself humiliated by the fact that for even 3 short (long) seconds my feet were above my head
  • I dialed 911


More profanity, more physical assaults. Ambulance, police, lots of witnesses and still a reception needs to be underway. I chose not to press charges until I speak with the newlyweds and I will not waste typing strokes to speculate as to why this all went down but rather share with you how I've felt since Sunday.

Punished. Angry. Shocked. Unprotected. Sad. Sore. Confused.

If you don't know this about me, I'm a vice-principal in an elementary school in Milwaukee. It's rough. And I truly felt like and actually at one point said, "I'm at work." I've had similar intense situations at work but was not mentally prepared to mirror them at something like this. I go to church with the couple and work with the groom and yet somehow with the touching on the topic of his mother, I neglected to think that something like this could happen in a room full of Christians. I mean, I've coordinated four other weddings and had nothing even remotely close to this happen. I am angry because I didn't feel protected and I'm still trying to flesh out why. Men stepped up and she was as aggressive with a couple of them as she was with me, but still somehow it felt personal. 

Also, I felt punished. Punished because I pushed on. Later many told me that they would have wanted to shut it down in fear that the mother would return to reek havoc on the reception. I was having none of that. Though there were many hugs and there were no physical injuries (one man has a huge scratch on his face, the other woman had to go to the hospital and is wearing a brace) on me, I was hurting and struggling not to cry. And there has been little follow up with me about how I'm doing and I wonder if it's because I held it together and pushed through to completion. I don't want people to fawn over me, but it almost seems like there's no room to be looked after if you're "strong" or willing to live out perseverance. 

I know my feelings are just feelings. Valid yes, but I can not live in them - and I won't. I'm still sore and expect that with more rest and self care, I will be back to my 40 year old self in no time. I will be okay on the outside and inside but right now am just plain struggling and...blogging about it.