A life of character…

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I am not sure if any of my readers have heard of the football player Brandon Burlsworth. Without knowing the details of Brandon’s personal life, he might not seem like that big of a deal in the grand NFL scheme of things. Most of my football friends and family, whom I’ve asked, had no clue who this amazing kid was. It sounds a little cliche to say that, now that I am aware of Brandon, my life will never be the same. It has been a couple of weeks since I screened Greater with my 17-year-old daughter Gen, and I can honestly say we reference Brandon or compare our own motivations and actions to bits of the film on an almost daily basis.

Chris Severio got the opportunity to play Brandon in the up and coming film Greater. Chris himself says that actors often wait a long time to play a role as meaty and meaningful as the role of Brandon. Though I plan to talk more one day next week, about the film itself, today I want to touch on the character of Brandon. I’m also going to share some quotes on the character of Brandon, written by Chris Severio, along the way.

From an outsiders perspective, Brandon had a dream football experience, but he had this because he believed he could and then he was willing to work hard for it. I don’t mean to come down hard on this current youth-to-young adult generation but the spirit of hard work and earning your way seems to be lost on the majority of them. As an “old grown up”, (I turned 40 this year) it comes across as geriatric nagging when I talk about it, but most adults seem to get it.

Brandon never let anyone convince him that he couldn’t. This idea is misconstrued a lot of the time, by people using that as a reason to make self-centered or poor choices. I need to point out that isn’t what I mean. I mean simply put, Brandon had a goal and he worked really hard for it, maybe more than hard. Even when the people around him thought it was a lost cause, he still worked for it. From Chris, Brandon was not the most physically gifted athlete. He struggled with being overweight, wasn’t naturally graceful, was a pretty unlikely candidate to be a college football All-American and then drafted into the NFL. He was able to do it all because he refused to listen to those who doubted him or his abilities. He always believed in himself, knew that through hard work and dedication, he could be anything he wanted to be. The only thing standing between you and your dreams is how passionately you’re willing to produce them.

Brandon dedicated his entire life and the things that he did to bigger than himself. As Chris says, It’s no coincidence the film of Brandon’s life is called GREATER. As a Christian, he believed he was called to be a man of integrity and honor off the field as well as on – he dedicated himself, first and foremost, to God.  Your faith can strengthen you, and like Brandon you can choose to be a role model on and off the field.

He believed in others and this way of living motivated other people to do great things too. He lived a life of putting others before himself, even when it wasn’t comfortable. As Chris states, Brandon Burlsworth was a giver. He didn’t just play football, or live his life, focused exclusively on his wants. He made others’ needs a top priority – family, teammates, friends and fans. As he dug in deep to reach his potential as an athlete and a man, he encouraged and supported those who were taking that same journey alongside him. Brandon didn’t just make himself better; he made others better, too, because he was intentional about finding ways to help them.

Here’s a clip from the film GreaterThe story of Brandon is a moving one. When one looks at the dreams he had, the drive he had to make them real, and the many ways this one person’s life has changed to many others, is almost unfathomable and so unbelieving motivational. At the end of the day it isn’t because he was great in his sport, which he was. It isn’t because he was an unlikely hero, or because he had such a powerful success story. The legacy of Brandon lives on and on because of his character. As an avid reader and writer, I am addicted to highlighting. I love to highlight things written which really stand out and stir me. If films could be highlighted, this entire movie would be orange and neon yellow and brought to you by BIC. 

I have a couple of Jerseys to give away, in honor of the film. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment on the blog or FB post! Good luck!

Hello, August…

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I’ve been back in Michigan for a little over two months and after moving, and moving, and sitting on the brink of moving again, I’m finally starting to find a normal feeling. Everything still feels fragile and a bit surreal, but I’m attempting to move forward-one foot in front of the other- and here’s my hopes for this month we call August.

Home~

upcycling a serving tray

Being inside less and outside more

downsizing to a capsule wardrobe

experimenting more with essential oils

 

Health~

get back to a good work-out routine

swim, swim, swim

yoga, at least once a week

bike rides

Savor~

quality time with my husband and kids (when possible)

me time

evening walks

reading, poolside

Connect~

counseling

handwritten letters

remembering birthdays

attending a book club

going on a photography adventure

Kitchen~

focussing on fresh & locally sourced meals

loads & loads of sun tea

grilled fish with fresh herbs

scones with lemon curd & Devonshire cream

homemade ice cream

Read~

Present Over Perfect

Kisses from Katie

Where’d you go, Bernadette

The Jesus Centered Life

Watching~

Season 7 of the Good Wife

Season 3 of Parks & Rec

Suicide Squad

Ben Hur

What I learned… {July edition}

IMG_1214July was a big month and, while jumping back into this post sharing adventure, I wanted to focus on the things I’m taking away from this month, and the profound moments and lessons I’ll try to remember always…

  • No matter how many births you are able to witness or share in, nothing will be more indescribable than witnessing your daughter’s.
  • holding my newborn grandson, fresh-faced and new to this world, was world shattering.
  • it is never too late to fulfill a promise.
  • sitting down and reading a book in a genre you wouldn’t normally ready can be well needed.
  • Just because you have a beautiful pool doesn’t mean you’ll use it. (this point needs to be rectified.)
  • Korean TV shows are better watched with someone.
  • Sometimes it’s the simplest things, like sitting in bed at the end of the day, and watching an episode of Parks and Rec with someone you love that make the harder moments worth it.
  • Water is everything. Clean water. Good water. Pressure water. I am beyond blessed.
  • writing and receiving letters is the absolute best thing ever.
  • A lesson I’ll continue to learn, and learn and learn: life truly does begin at the end of my comfort zone.
  • making lasagna on a 98 degree day, with no AC is maybe not the wisest choice.
  • My daily quiet time does not have to abide by an agenda, which always led to guilt if I couldn’t quite do it all. It’s about taking the time to be still and know, listen, speak then and learn.
  • July is a rough month for the AC to break…
  • Micro visits from loved ones are better than distance. Stay grateful.
  • Simple isn’t always better.
  • My favorite cd of all time really DOES sound better on vinyl.
  • The Ghostbusters remake really was awesome.
  • How to make Devonshire creme. (and how it tastes awesome on fresh-baked scones with lemon curd.)

What did life teach you this month???

Then & Now…

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I know an amazing man who I look up to. I am not alone in this, as there are literally many in the world who value this man’s opinions and perspective. I could get into an entire post about him, and why, but I won’t. I think, periodically, about the different advice I’ve heard him speak over the years. Most recently I’ve been recalling a talk he once gave about New Years Eve and personal reflection.

Reflection… It’s hard to not reflect on what my life looked like a year ago, in contrast to today. I would imagine the idea behind this reflection exercise is one of encouragement, and probably at any other point in my life, had I done this, I would be feeling some. Today though, right now, I can not.

This time last year I was renovating a house I loved, with my husband (whom I also loved). Our youngest was getting ready to begin her Junior year of high school and our older daughter was a newlywed. Believe me when I say that I have no disillusions of a perfect or filtered life, I know it wasn’t perfect but I also know that I was present and grateful. I loved Saturday brunches, day dates, inside jokes, bantering, having someone who held me at the end of the day, etc. I knew there was a weakening of my husband’s presence in our marriage but, at that time, I still believed his promise of valuing me and loving me before anyone else. Having been abandoned by every significant relationship in my life, he had earned my trust and faith that he would never dispose of me. Though, deep inside, I still felt disposable and ugly, I believed him when he said I was not and that he could never be without me and that he found me beautiful.

I had a mother. Was she perfect? No. The majority of time, in fact, she was incredibly verbally abusive and cruel. I still, however, had a mother. I could still pick up the phone and call my mother to placate the defeaning truth that I was without a family.

I had an exciting vision of what I wanted, as both a writer and in my career. I had direction and drive, though to be honest, I was feeling a little numb due to house repairs, the significant debt that was accruing due to our fixer upper’s unimagined needs, and the impending arrival of my mother to live in our house. I had a husband who, though he was not a reader, was supportive and believed in my writing. We also, together, had a little podcast with a pretty solid little following.

I was straddling the fine line, then, between the benefits of my mother living with us, and the negatives. The benefits? She could live out the rest of her days without the sadness and stress she’d been under; I could eradicate her worries; My daughters could have a more regular presence of extended family thus increasing the quality of their lives as well as my mom’s; we could maybe actually have some chance at having some resemblance of an in person relationship. I tried to see the glass as half full, I guess. The negatives were crowded, but the three largest were her verbal abuse and treatment of me, how she could possibly emotionally wound my daughter and her overwhelming pessimism. I mean, wasn’t it my responsibility to take her in, even if she had never identified with any sense of responsibility around being my mother?

Today? Today things look very different. Predominately, every day I am well aware of the reality that I am disposable to my husband. I am not his choice, nor am I someone he could see himself fighting for. I have no confidence in my dream/passion for being a writer. My youngest was deeply wounded by my mother, and then by us as our marriage failed, and by me as I failed her as a mother. Her life changed exponentially and I am faced, every day, with the effects and consequences of that which have shaped her immeasurably… I have no relationship with my mother, despite the proximity in which we live. (It is the least amount of miles separating us, since I was twelve.) It is a small apartment without any of my belongings in which I live, in a town where I have no friends. And while I still find myself filled with gratitude and awe, I also walk through every day with the weighted burden of the hurt and damage I am responsible for, all that I’ve lost and can not get back, and my own worthlessness in this place.

As a woman and I person I know that I have value and worth. This is the one positive. I did not know this last year, at this time. I could not feel this or identify with its reality. As a mother, daughter or wife, however, I do not. I had wrapped myself up in my wifehood and motherhood before. I existed in them and they were my world. Beyond that, I believed some in myself and the mediocre talent I had for writing. Now? Now I do not really exist within my motherhood or marriage, but I also do not exist outside of it. I have no faith in my writing and I also know, at 40, if it were up to me to support myself, I would starve to death in complete destitute-homelessness…

What has changed between last year’s today and this one? Everything. Everything has changed. I have changed. I once grasped a hope and lighthearted something in conversations about tomorrow or the future that I simply cannot fathom now. As with a child learning about Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, I feel deceived about life, love and commitment. I have finally come to realize that I will never be THAT PERSON. Not to anyone. I have really wonderful friends who care about me and have been awesome sources of support, but what I have ached for is more than that. It is that feeling of belonging to someone who will not let you go. I have been let go so often that I’ve finally realized that being held on to is not in my life plan. This is said with so much less woe-is-me and more in the tune of ok then, I get it, so now what?

In so many ways I have lost everything. Not the majority of my friends, but certainly everything I thought I was. I have gained too. My sense of self-worth. My willingness to fight for myself, even if no one else found me worthy. This is a good thing, a beautiful and courageous thing. Unfortunately it doesn’t pay the rent or keep bread on the table. It also does not bridge the gap between my possessions and myself. (Sidenote: anyone have a few grand lying around that they don’t need? Ha…)

Most mornings I wake up, overwhelmed by the heavy awareness that I no longer know how to feel hopeful or navigate a day. I am battle weary and ache from head to toe. Still I move forward. I try. I listen, I am open to learn. That’s the best I’ve got. This time last year, I’m not sure I did those things…

Originally…

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The separation between Chw and I found me really transparent as I journeyed through that season. It is a time, in my life, that I will always be scarred by and forever altered. It’s ironic because we have been divorced before, but that time period was a cake walk compared to the heart-carnage of those seven months. Even now, there are days when I awake and am confronted with every single one of my worst nightmares become reality. On those days it takes everything in my power to get out of bed and function. I truly am but a shell of someone else…

A few days ago Gen and I were talking about love & marriage… She is fascinated by the fact that I knew I would marry her dad the second I met him, and then, decades later my older daughter met her now-husband and had the same certainty. Trying to explain to a dramatically romantic 17-year-old that this wasn’t something we dreamed up and willed to happen, is difficult. In both cases, mine and my daughter, I’m pretty sure weren’t fixating on anything, but instead just filled with a knowledge that this person was the one we’d marry.

In all honesty, it’s that very fact which made both my divorce and this separation hard to swallow. It’s an interesting story, to my daughter (and to me too) so I thought I’d share it with you…

When I was barely fifteen, I had a pretty traumatic break-up. It wasn’t that this boy was the love of my life as much as the fact that a relationship so intimate should not have occurred in the first place. I was young, I was damaged and this only served to wound me more. It was after the recovery began that I sat down and made a list. I simply prayed that God would show me the best features for my husband, because at that point I was beyond terrified of loving anyone else, for fear of the hurt…

My list included a lot of things that I found attractive or appealing. It also had a few things that I couldn’t quite explain, regarding their existence on my list. Time passed and I began dating someone whom inhabited very few of the things on my list, but I cared so deeply for him that I didn’t care. Looking back with this sort of adult reflection I realize this person was actually my first love. The first heartbreak had hurt, but it wasn’t about love as much as lust, codependency and an unhealthy need for someone to want me. This other relationship was love. It was that quintessential coming of age sort of experience that formed a vital part of me. The heartbreak eight months later was searing but bearable because I’d grown up some. I understood more. Also, my heart was being ripped to shreds in other ways so that goodbye took a back burner to life.

It was roughly two and a half months after that bus-station goodbye kiss that I found myself flooded with the knowledge that I was going to go to college in a few short weeks, where I would meet my husband. I was seventeen. Believe me when I say that, at my now 40 years of age (and the mother of a 17-year-old) this whole truth makes me a little nauseous. Also, the fact that I was not secretive about this sudden assurance and that every adult in my life responded with “that’s great!” really blows my mind…

During freshman orientation I scanned the new arrivals and sank upon the realization that my husband was not in the room. I just knew the second I saw him, that I would know. I already knew the majority of the upper class-men and knew he was none of them, so I volunteered to work the retreat weekend instead of camping with my school. What was the point of going if my husband wasn’t going to be there and I could earn a few bucks back in town.

I KNOW… I shake my head, as a parent, whenever this topic comes up.

So, Tuesday (post labor day camping as a college) I’m sitting with a friend in a chapel assembly. The speaker encouraged us to “mingle” with people around us, and that’s when this guy sitting directly in front of me turns around and smiles, says hi, compliments my necklace, says hi to my friend (as if they know each other!) and then goes back to his front facing seat. It all happened so fast that it took me a few seconds to comprehend the odd certainty rushing through me. That boy was my husband. I quickly ask my friend and she shares that they got to know each other AT THE RETREAT… I mean, what the heck?

After chapel I tap him on the shoulder, introduce myself and ask him why he missed orientation. He answers about being a late arrival and then tells me his name.

Let me take this moment to share a few fun facts leading up to this introduction…

  • his foreign exchange student BFF had played baseball at the group home I lived in, AND I had talked to him.
  • his girl BFF is someone I had met at camp and saw at all of the youth events where our youth groups both attended. We were cordial, but mostly I was pretty enamored by her because she was beautiful and friendly and I was a sheltered group home kid who didn’t see a lot of either. In fact at one event, at her church, I remember telling my own BFF “I bet her and I are roommates one day!”
  • his ex-girlfriend was a couple of years ahead of me at the same college. her roommate, freshman year, was my very good friend. When I would sleep over, the ex-gf would go home and I would sleep in her bed, where the wall was plastered with pictures of her “ex that she still loved.” My husband…
  • And this is Gen’s favorite detail: that spring we went to the same concert, and were in the SAME section.

Ok. So I get his name and immediately ask if he knows my recent ex, because they share the same last name. He didn’t, but it turns out that the majority of his paternal family (whom he had only recently met) lived in the same area my ex was from.

It was an instant friendship. (fun fact: His roommate ended up dating my roommate and they also married and are some of our dearest friends.) We palled around and did everything together. It wasn’t long into our friendship before I told him we were going to get married. This is where I have to point out a few things:

  • I wasn’t attracted to him. I don’t know why, he is attractive. I wasn’t attracted to anyone.
  • he was unlike anyone I had ever dated or been interested in.
  • he could be really annoying.
  • our sense of humors fell short of meeting in the middle, most of the time.
  • we only had one thing in common, life/future vision wise: we both wanted to be a stable home and love for kids who needed that.
  • he loved hip hop dancing and rap music, the two things I detested.
  • he hated to read. (though not on my list, I had spent so much time reading with my ex that I believed my marriage would involve books significantly.)
  • he did not enjoy debates, or deep discussions at all- something that I thrived on.
  • He didn’t really have a family. I didn’t either and so I really ached for one.
  • my long forgotten list was found 7 days after we met, and as time proved- he embodied every single attribute.

Though I didn’t, at first, understand why it was him, it didn’t take long for me to be so grateful it was. This girl who had been waiting for a family and completion eventually let the guard down and found it in him.

I don’t know why I knew, or how. I just know that there were dozens upon dozens of things, in those early days, that only confirmed it. And that vision we agreed on, that became our family. For twenty-three years we’ve been a home to many who needed one, but the best of these were our three kids.

(fun fact #2: His female BFF and I did end up living together for a short period of time. We never really became friends, though for a while I thought we had, but how I’d known that would happen I never quite knew.)