Friday, July 11, 2014

Beauty from ashes

I couldn't handle watching the video on my screen. I could only handle about five seconds of one of our town's beloved play areas going up in flames. Even with the barrage of carnage we see on a regular basis, I couldn't handle seeing the playground engulfed in flames. It felt like violence against children and against my own family. That park had become part of our history.

The park where I took my 21 month old each day after we first moved to Watseka. It was within walking distance for a very pregnant mama with plenty of appropriately sized equipment.

The park where both of my kids learned to climb and hang and slide.

The park where I was dubbed the grumpy old troll and had to guard the bridge while Dora and Boots tried to cross.

The park where I first started to meet with other moms and kids for play dates.

The park that was the first place Watseka first started to feel like home.

And now it stands broken and charred.

My kids' reactions were mainly saddness. With tears in his eyes my five year old asked, "Mom, why would someone burn that park? Maybe they didn't like the yellow park...but some kids really like the yellow park." My reaction was one of anger...and saddness...and a feeling that I was ready to run away. When things get tough and my "fight or flight" mechanism kicks in, I'm a flight kind of girl. I don't like dealing with conflict and messiness. I am 100% honest when I say my gut reaction to such circumstances is to do everything I can to preserve my own comfort. Even if it means packing up the truck and moving to Beverly. (Hills that is. Hollywood. Movie stars.)

But my second reaction was much more productive. "How can we help make this park a safe place for children and families?" And popping up in conversations and facebook posts in the area was much of the same sentiment. First anger and saddness, but from it is emerging a desire to rebuild and reclaim. Not to run away to greener pastures, but to join together and restore.

Today I saw blackened play equipment not safe for use. But I can imagine a day down the road when the equipment is replaced with the help of community members coming together to say this space is important. And those feelings of despair will replaced with hope.

Beauty from ashes.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wouldn't trade it

If we're honest, we all grew up with some strange misconceptions about what it meant to be successful. One of my biggest misconceptions: my success would be determined by the distance I was able to live and/or travel from my hometown. Meaning, if I had to fly home for a wedding, I had reached the pinnacle of greatness.

In December 2001 I had graduated college and had started my life as an adult about 600 miles away from my hometown. My sister, the one who got the good looks, was getting married in May. I had a goal. I wanted to not only fly in for the wedding, thus showing my arrival into greatness, but I also wanted to transform from the overweight sister with a personality to someone slimmer and hotter to add to my plane ride distance success.

May 2002 arrived, and I was anything but thin. And anything but hot. And for some reason I had decided to get an unfortunately short haircut that did not flatter my face at all. Sigh. I was still going to be the sister with personality that did a good job of reading scripture at the wedding and apologizing for all of my sisterly meanness at the reception, but I was not hot. And I also realized that a plane ride in no way correlated to success. Thus I was still plain old me.

But if a genie happened to appear and offer me thinness in place of that weekend, I wouldn't trade it. Not because it was one of the biggest days in my sister's life, but because the whole weekend was filled with memories that didn't depend on me looking perfect. The above picture was taken the day after the wedding, when much of the groom's family was involved in various pranks including moving the new couple's bedroom into their living room. I would not have traded the laughs and memories for a smaller dress size.

I'm not saying people that are thin or beautiful don't have any fun. But I think we often equate looking perfect with more fulfillment and fun. We think if only I was a size (or two or three) smaller, then I would have a good time in social situations. In reality, our most meaningful moments seldom have anything to do with our appearance.

This is my challenge for you. Find a photograph of a memorable time when you look less than your best. Think Walmart-on-a-Saturday-night bad. Would you trade that moment for a perfect appearance? Appreciate the significance of the experience and the insignificance of your hairstyle or waistline. Maybe even throw it out there for #tbt.

My fellow bridesmaid in the picture above? She's getting hitched this weekend. I had set a goal to lose weight and "tone up" before her big day. And once again I find myself anything but thin. In the past, I've dreaded or even skipped events because I didn't feel that I looked good enough. But this weekend I'm going with full anticipation that I wouldn't trade this weekend for the 10 pounds I wanted to lose.