Welcome home

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Who actually meets their spouse through a website peddled by a grey haired grandfatherly gentlemen who promises true love if you’ll just fill out an endless questionnaire?  Me.  Matched on Halloween, we’ll label it a treat, and one year later in a grand spectacle that would rival a Cirque de Soleil performance, we walked down the aisle amongst 250 of our closest family and friends.  A worship band and a Native American soloist for the ceremony.  Folklorico dancers, Mariachis and a DJ for the reception.  A good time was had by all.

A honeymoon up the California Coast was in order with a long stop in San Francisco, one of my previous temporary homes where I had left my heart.   On the trip back a conversation of how difficult it would be to go back to real life after such a great escape.  Then I also may have mentioned that I thought we should offer to adopt my new bride’s great-niece.  Pause for effect.  She agreed.  Pause for panic.   A few phone calls ensued as we drove, each confirming what our hearts had somehow already known long before our heads.  Were we crazy?  At least one of us was certifiable.  We were about to embark on a wild ride that neither of us could have foreseen.

One of the best things about a wedding is opening all the gifts.  The day after arriving back from the honeymoon we headed to the parental units house where the loot had been buried pending our return.  Wrapping paper flew and champagne flowed.  At some point amidst the celebration I asked my mother if she was excited about being a grandmother some day.  She beamed.  I asked how she would feel about it being very, very soon.  I don’t want to say that the brief glance she shot back at my wife and I was momentarily accusatory or judgmental, but I’m not going to say it wasn’t.  After assuring them that Julie was in fact not pregnant, the details of our possible adventure were shared.  My dad shotgunned an entire glass of champagne.  Mom look bewildered.  By the way, we need a few thousand dollars for a lawyer to get things rolling if you could get out the checkbook.  After the smelling salts were found and the initial shock wore off, the unconditional love and support that I had always known and relied upon arrived without hesitation.

I’m a Southern California native.  They don’t teach you geography there.  I had no knowledge of any location in the US east of Texas, except for New York because I had been there once and it was a cool city.  Rest assured I had no idea where in the hell Kentucky was on a map, nor had any reason to go there previously in my life.  Yet there I was on a plane three weeks after my marriage, my destination was a place called Wilmore.  Sounded fake, and it almost is…according to some.  My wife had arrived several days before me and I really didn’t know what was ahead of me over the next two days.  It seemed frivolous to try and guess.  The next two days are somewhat of a blur, although some moments do remain etched in my mind.  One of them is walking in to see the most beautiful little bald eight month old girl I had ever laid eyes on holding on to a coffee table to stand up and giving me a grin ear to ear, proud of her accomplishment with an imp in her eye.

After two days of events that demand their own short story, it was time for me, my wife, and this baby girl to board a plane to Los Angeles.  The court documents gave us permission, her birth parents did the same, but what about our own heads?  Too late now, the engines roared and we ascended.  I remember sitting holding her in my window seat, feeding her a bottle that Julie had just mixed.  As she gulped it down I looked over at my exhausted bride and now brand new mother.  We locked tired and scared eyes, smiled, and then started to laugh. Maybe it was pure exhaustion.  Maybe it was the unspoken understanding that only we could be in this very situation on this very day on this very plane.  Probably both.   I think I said something to the effect of, “what are we doing?”.  As we gathered up the amazingly unnecessary amount of items we had dragged on to the plane, a woman from across the aisle leaned in to comment on what a beautiful baby girl we had.   She was right.

For some the beginning of their family story is marked by their first date, their engagement, wedding, or moving into their first home.  For us, I think our beginning was walking into the baggage claim area at LAX for the first time as a new family and hugging my teary-eyed sister who could only get out the words, “welcome home”.

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Author: Michael Martinez

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The end

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August 21, 2014 will forever be engraved on my heart. It’s not a holiday, or any of my four children’s birthdays, it’s not my wedding anniversary, or a Federal holiday. As a matter of fact it’s just an ordinary end of the summer day for most. In my life, however, it was an ending.

For the better part of 18 of my 37 years on this planet, I’ve been a Mommy. Diapers, creatively presented meals, play dates and birthday parties with coordinating invitations, decorations, and perfectly frosted cakes have been my specialty. I would almost go so far as to call myself a mommy ninja. I know all things, hear all things and fix all things that fall under the jurisdiction of my home without anyone even noticing I’m there.  Also, ninja black is a sliming color.  I can truly say the whole of my adult existence has been maintaining carefully placed, intruder repelling boundaries around four little humans. Four little humans who upon entering this world, each took large pieces of my heart and placed them within themselves forever.

So when on August 21, 2014, one of them finished unpacking her last box, hugged her Father, brothers, sister and I goodbye and closed the door to her dorm room behind us, my whole world seemed to be one big “ The End”. I felt an ache that I couldn’t put into words.  What we had just done made absolutely no sense to me. It was contrary to my 18 years of mommy ninja training. You never leave a man behind or unattended, you just don’t. Even though my nest would still be full for quite some time with my 3 other children, I somehow felt a hollowness wash over me in what felt like 15 foot waves as we drove off of the campus. The car ride home was fraught with pouting, tears, a short tantrum and some complaints about being hungry, but the kids actually did really well and sat quietly in the back seat until I was able to compose myself.   This ending was so hard.

Over the next few days I tried to cope with the idea that one of the biggest parts of my life was done. My baby was out in the world and there were no more boundaries or fixing of scraped knees that I could set or make better for her. I had to somehow try to let go. Now as a mother, one of the cardinal rules you learn the day your baby is put into your arms is, “You NEVER let go”. It’s like a bad scene from Titanic where instead of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio gracefully standing on the back of the ship with the wind in their hair pretending to fly, it’s you and your child in the same spot except you’re clawing and grabbing at them to get them down because they actually believe they can fly off of the back of the boat and you need to get a coat on them because it’s too windy out.

Daily I would obsessively check every electronic device in my possession for a text message, email, direct message, anything at all from my girl. The first week she was away was hard for both of us. She was homesick, I was sick because she wasn’t home, we were both a bit of a mess and I was ok with that.  It renewed my hope that my job was secure, she still needed me. Then as the weeks went by, I got fewer calls and messages, and when I did hear from her, it wasn’t about how she missed us or was sad, it was about all of the fun and exciting things she was doing, the people, specifically boys, that she had met, and how much she loved living in the dorms.  I was so torn.  She was living out everything that her Father and I had prayed her college experience would be. But she was doing it without me or my help.  I thought to myself how unfair it was that my mommy job had to end for her to have her beginning.  That’s when the light bulb went off, I finally got it. My job as mommy to this beautiful, precocious, tenacious, amazing little girl had come to an end, but it was going to be ok because the end of that job became the beginning of my new job as mother and friend to this beautiful, tenacious, intelligent, amazing young woman.

I was finally able to apply the notion that all new beginnings in life have to commence with the ending of something else to my baby girl going off to college and growing up. In life what we know best is “The End”. It’s how bedtime stories, movies, cartoons, and all good things all wind up, right?.  I remember as a little girl dying to know what happened to Cinderella after she married the prince. The end and happily ever after couldn’t be it, it drove me crazy!  What was next for them? Where did they live, how many children did they have, did she ever get another pair of shoes, because glass slippers couldn’t be all that comfortable.  There were too many questions, things left open for me for it to just to be the end.

So what I learned to do through this seeming ending I was going through with my daughter was to change my perspective. Ask the same questions I had about Cinderella when I was a little girl, what’s next?  Rather than dwelling on what I felt I had lost to the ending, rather than letting in overwhelm me and hollow me out, I decided to look toward what I had and would gain from the beginning. What new adventures would I get to experience, what new things would I learn and be able to share stories about?  What was my next? So from now on all of the stories I tell will not finish with “The End”, they will finish with, “The Beginning”.


 

Author: Roge Rupp

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Desperately seeking new

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It’s a little bit amazing (and maybe a little frightening) how tempting the urge to walk away is sometimes. To close my front door firmly behind me, take one step after another, and push the pavement beneath my feet until it is unfamiliar.

Start over. New friends. New family. New job. New life.

It’s not that my life is so bad. It’s quite lovely, actually. I am a thirty-something, single girl with the kind of family that loves each other enough to fight through things together, friends that love me beyond my introverted neglect, and a job that pours favor on me well beyond my merit.

No, it’s not that life is bad. It’s that my brain and my heart get tired. Tired of working through another conflict, examining another doubt, planning out another budget, facing another confrontation, weighing another huge decision, grieving another loved one lost. My mind, once a playroom to explore dimensions worlds away and investigate the meaning of time and reality, these days seems a hoarder’s storage closet at best. My heart, once delighted to house hope and joy for those I love, now sits heavy with the weight of their pain and grief. There are days I find myself avoiding both my heart and my head for fear of what might fall in on me when I open the door.  I’d rather find a new beginning with an empty room.

I’ve learned, after reaching this point repeatedly, that my desperate clamoring for a new beginning is a sure sign of this one truth: I am incapable of clearing the clutter and starting over on my own. And that truth begs this truth: I don’t have to.

So I say, “Lord, can we try this again? Can we empty out this mess that crowds You out and closes me in? Are You strong enough for the heavy lifting of these boxes of heartache? Can You find a place to put this fear of what’s ahead? Do You have space where I could just get away from all of this and start fresh?”

And He says, “Yep.”

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV)

Start over. New mercies.

Now, I remember. I don’t need new friends, or a new family, or a new job. What I need is new mercies.

Sure, there are times that the clutter is so deep, I forget there’s hope for any different. Sometimes I go days on end, too embarrassed at the mess I’ve made to bring myself to ask for His help. But the reality is, whether I acknowledge Him or not, He’s there, mop and broom in hand, waiting for me to just let Him do what He does. Not because I’m a dreadful ruin that can never live up to His standards. Not because He is sighing in disapproval at the fact that my heart and head grime up so quickly. Nope. It’s because my God loves me, and He knows how desperately I need a new beginning. So He just gives me one. Every day. (What will I do with this one?)

Forget all that – It is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19, NLT)

 


Author: Loisa Wright

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Front porch beginnings

porch 1It all started with the purchase of a patio set. You see, I decided last year that I wanted to make more of the square footage of my house, and I realized that a good portion of that was actually on my porch. I live in Southern California. The weather is beautiful 90% of the year. Why was I wasting all of my time sitting inside my house when I was home? My little 2-bedroom, 1-bath bungalow didn’t even have a dining room. Sure, there was a little breakfast nook off of the kitchen, but I mostly used that space as an office anyway. Plus, it could be kind of fun to have an eating area outside.

Thus began my search. I hopped on Craigslist and looked at what was available in my area. I found an adorable little round table and 4 chairs that was just the ticket. And the seller even let me negotiate the price. Within a few days, I had acquired my new patio set for the bargain price of $75. Not too shabby! When I posted this photo on Facebook, a friend of mine, who is an antique dealer, asked, “Do you know what you have there?” Turns out I had found a very sought after vintage set, and he offered me $400 for it. I turned him down. The fact that it was worth a lot more than I paid for it just made it all the more special of a find. There was no way I was going to give it up.

porch 2I posted these photos over the next week. After I had my first guest, a Facebook friend jokingly suggested that my porch needed a hashtag. What happened over the following weeks was truly incredible. I started getting all sorts of comments on my posts from friends who wanted THEIR turn. Before I knew it, #wendysporch had kind of become a “thing.” I had people I barely KNEW asking to join me on my porch. Friends that I hadn’t seen in 20 years wanted to reconnect. A dear friend who lives in England even made a visit. My aunt said, “I want to be on #wendysporch, and I want to be on Facebook. It’s on my bucket list.”

I didn’t plan on it. But once I started hosting 2 and 3 times a week, I realized that I’d better come up with a better way of doing things or I was going to go BROKE with all I was spending on groceries. So that’s when I decided to start what I call “Porch Parties” and there are 3 requirements of each guest.

  1. You express desire to come.
  2. You bring food and/or drink to share.
  3. You get to be yourself.

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My main desire was to create a space for community to flourish; to give a place to tell stories, to laugh, to cry if needed, to offer encouragement to each other, but most importantly to help people feel known and valued. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that we’ve also shared some pretty amazing meals together! It’s been a little over a year since I started hosting gatherings on my porch and, as of today, I have had 68 Porch Parties. I just counted. Oh! And that same Facebook friend, who suggested my porch needed a hashtag, made me this adorable guest book. It won’t be long before it’s completely filled.

porch 4Some beginnings require a lot of thought and planning, knowing that there is always the risk of failure. And you sign up for a class, say ‘yes’ to a new relationship, or make a big move to a different city. But other beginnings happen more organically. Some seeds get planted by a bird that drops them as he flies by, and it rains a little, and next thing you know some beautiful little flower starts to grow. And then you realize you should care for the little life of that plant, and you get some fertilizer and water it, and pull the weeds. But it looks a little lonely, so you make a trip to the Garden Supply and come home with a bunch of other flowers to plant around it. Next thing you know, you’ve got yourself a charming little garden. However, you know that its existence wasn’t all of your doing. That Someone knew you were the right person to cultivate that growth, because you needed its beauty as much as it needed yours.

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Author: Wendy Hinkle

A new beginning every 2 years

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I am a traveling gypsy. In my 39 years, I have lived in 12 states and 2 countries.

Most of my moves brought an air of excitement and anticipation. New jobs, new homes and new adventures filled me up with a sense of freedom.

I find myself confident, independent and edgy due to my adaptation skills; like a new age hobo, riding the rails.

My outlook on relocating has become turbulent since having children. Loading up my two seater Honda with a couple backpacks and a cardboard box containing t-shirts, potato chips and mixed tapes is now a thing of the past. The freedom of the open road and my nonchalant attitude towards clean restrooms and seedy truck stops has been traded for plotting, planning and prayers.

Making a road trip with 3 kids and 3 dogs is something I dread. I do my best, as a mother and leader of my troop, to refrain from vocalizing my concerns in front of the kids. I put on a big smile, talk up the new location and tap into my pioneering spirit.

As a military family serving our country, we receive “orders” every 2-3 years and prepare our next big move. I am the queen of positive mantras and inspirational quotes. My six year old now holds her breath waiting for us to unfold the map and highlight our new assignment. She always says, “That place sounds lovely”, bless her heart, her optimism isn’t always contagious.

I repeat the, “bloom where you are planted” saying with every chirp of our cuckoo clock, as we unload boxes in our new place. The clock is a staple for us, the first thing we unwrap and display w with each new abode. It lets us know we are officially “home”.

I research and visit schools, circle the town square looking for locally owned coffee shops and register with the spouses club and mom groups in the area.

I put my best foot forward and try not to talk too fast or too loud when approaching our new neighbors. Even after 12 moves, I cannot control my nerves or silence my anxiety.

We spend months visiting churches yet always seem to feel most comfortable worshipping at the tiny chapels on base.

We have been In Oklahoma for 2 years now. We have made several new friends, found peace behind the gates of our base housing and practiced our tornado drills, which include a quick shuffle to the shelter beneath our garage. We are comfortable and settled.

Our new orders should arrive by Christmas. We will once again prepare for a “new beginning”, somewhere on the globe.

I will do my best to once again chalk it up as an adventure, yet birthing my last baby here, watching my children blossom at their one room school house and fostering some of the best friendships I’ve ever had will take a new mantra, a military mantra that should help: Don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened.

I may need that embossed on a shirt or placed on my bumper, to make it through this next move. We have 10-15 more years of this; maybe a tattoo would work best.

Wish us luck.


Author: Heather Podnar

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Start by doing what’s necessary

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Beginning a new chapter of life…with summer squash

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I turned 40 last February. It wasn’t as traumatic as I expected. In part because on my special day my son delighted in telling everyone that I was 50—and he continues to do so on a fairly regular basis. (I look pretty good for 50.)

In my 40th year, I have come to accept several truths about myself. One, I’m lazy. Daily exercise? Meh. I should, but lack any kind of motivation. Daily chores? I do something everyday, but the dishes are never fully done and there’s always unfolded clean laundry in my bedroom. Yes, I work 40 hours a week and I’m tired when I get home. But most of the time the mess doesn’t really bother me. Two, I dislike vegetables. If it’s green and leafy, count me out.

Flying in the face of truth number two, I chose to begin a healthier chapter in my life this spring by joining my local CSA (community supported agriculture) program. I joined a whole, previously unknown to me, sub-culture of fresh, organic produce. I can now pick kale, kohlrabi and chard out of a lineup.

This changed my life in some unexpected ways.

It’s turned my son into a lachanophobe (yes, there is word for “fear of vegetables”). He had a nightmare that our refrigerator exploded from the force of the strange, green produce. He told my mother-in-law the reason I don’t play video games with him is I’m busy washing vegetables. He calls me Vegetable Girl, and “vegetable” is said with most derogatory inflection possible. But I’ve succeeded in getting him to eat some greens (raw, no salad dressing) and carrots (also raw). He’ll scarf these down first, to get them “out of the way of the good food.”

The first few weeks of the CSA when we got nothing but different kinds of lettuce, braising greens, kale, and spinach were tiresome. How much roughage does one person really need? But when the greens gave way to other veggies, honestly, I missed them. And so did my husband. I’ve been blessed that he’s done the bulk of the cooking over the years. He’s naturally gifted, doesn’t ever follow a recipe and is a genius with charcoal and fire. I know, I’m spoiled.

Much to my surprise, the weekly influx of produce got me cooking recipes from Pinterest. You know, those recipes I pinned last year that looked interesting but I never truly intended to attempt. Now, I look for new vegetable dishes. I’ve willingly made multiple batches of kohlrabi slaw. I’m starting to enjoy cooking.

I can’t say that I’m radically healthier than I was before, but I feel better. Could making crustless vegetable quiche actually be a stress release? It might just be.

And I might just be growing into my “true self,” as I wash all of this summer squash.


Author: Alicia Gregory

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The beginning of understanding

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I made a terrible realization the other day. I was watching a video with my kids that showed one of the planes crashing into the twin towers on 9/11. The kids had never seen this before. There were lots of questions about why, how, did people die etc. I realized that this event that was so impactful to me, that brings tears to my eyes just to think about, is completely outside of their frame of reference.

It struck me in that moment that my kids don’t actually know me. They know portions of me of course. The mommy parts. The mom who cooks dinner and monitors school work. The mom who snuggles at bedtime. They know some of my flaws too like the irritable mommy who arrives after good mommy gets too tired at night.

But they don’t really know me. They know bits of stories. They have looked at pictures. But they don’t actually know all about me. So far in their lives they know what they care about. They aren’t interested right now in my favorite music or stories about where I have been. Getting to know another person is a difficult, time-consuming process and in the end except for a few people, we still only know slivers of each other’s lives.

Around the world right now, as is usual, there are dramatic events unfolding. Riots and protests. War and power struggles. Groups of people are throwing angry words, hateful actions and bombs at each other each declaring the other to somehow be less worthy, valuable or even less human because of their religion, gender and even just the color of their skin.

If my own children don’t really know who I am, how can I know who these people are across a city, state or world away from me?

In watching that video with my kids I realized that I have to be intentional about sharing more of who I am with my kids so that they can actually know me as a person and not just as a mommy. I don’t know any other way of coming to know a person than to share stories. Knowing another person requires time and energy. It requires the willingness to both share and listen to one another.

When my husband and I were engaged and getting ready to be married in just another week or two, the two of us went out to dinner together. It was a simple, late night quick bite at a diner. The pressure of planning a wedding and organizing all the details of moving, combining our homes and managing family expectations were wearing on both of us. As I sat across the table from him, I suddenly had a moment of utter panic. I was rearranging my entire life, moving an hour away from my beloved home in Los Angeles, leaving my best friend and the life I had built there to be with a man I had known less than a year. I had an overwhelming sense of panic that there must be some mistake. We had rushed into the decision and it couldn’t possibly be right. He didn’t even know who I was. I thought of all the stories of my life that he didn’t know. I was already thirty years old and had lived a lot of life without him as a part of it and it frightened me to realize that I was committing my life to someone who only knew portions of those stories. I went home that night feeling panicked. Rapid thoughts flew through my head of postponing or something, but I knew it wasn’t an option. It was cold feet.

I finally made a realization later that night. I realized that life only unfolds in time. There is no way to rush coming to know someone fully and deeply. That can only take place over meandering months and years as stories jump out in conversation and life experiences take place together. While momentary high stress experiences can create a sense of intimacy, it is only the unfolding of story over time that creates the true knowing of another person.

I went ahead and put my cold feet into my dress shoes two weeks later and went to our wedding. I showed up that day and have kept showing up every day since then. And now nine years later, the story has unfolded and continues to unfold.

Now I know with my children the story will unfold as well. They know me in ways that no one else does as well and as they mature they will grow to know me as a person as well as their mother.

My hope in beginning this new website is that by sharing our stories and listening to one another, we can begin to understand a wider and deeper breath of human experience because hearing stories allows us to begin to know one another. Understanding allows us to find common space to connect. By valuing the sacred life stories of others, we validate our own humanity and create the space for peace and connection to grow.


Author: Julie Martinez

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Tomorrow Beginnings launches!

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Beginnings Launches October 1

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