Sunday, September 7, 2014

Running...and Hills

We've been doing a lot of running in the last few weeks. And so this morning, my thoughts are tied to the those runs:

Leesburg Early Runs:

Our feet strike the brick sidewalks. In the early morning hours the quaint streets are empty and quiet. Everything seems to still be sleeping, even the white-columned court house, Lightfoot's restaurant, and colonial houses with their lazy front porches. The hanging baskets of petunias, their petals bright pink and deep purple, breath perfume into the morning air.

We reach Ida Lee park. A mist covers the rolling hills - like a blanket snug in the corners, tucking in the meadows. Our shoes become damp from the morning dew on the soft grass. We are knee deep in the midst as we forge our way across the open field.

And I count my blessings with each step. I'm not sure I completely appreciated the beauty, the calm, and the scenery of Virginia as much before living in Jakarta. The contrast is so polar, so complete, I can hardly believe both places can exist on the same planet. And yet they do. And both places are a part of me.

Madi's first Cross Country Run:

For years I saw the Loudoun Valley High School cross country team training on the roads and trails around Hamilton and Purcellville. So it was with mixed emotions I dropped Madi at her first cross country practice. How could she be old enough for high school? Wasn't it yesterday I was pushing her in a stroller with my friend, Jodi Harris, in College Park, Maryland - trying to keep her entertained with fruit snacks and primary songs? And yet, here she is. A Valley Viking runner.

Her first race was at the beautiful Great Meadow in The Plains, VA.  Oh the beauty!

It was hot and humid. So humid, it felt like we were wading through thick water. But her three years in Jakarta paid off. This was weather typical of Jakarta, and she'd spent the past three years playing soccer and running in the tropical conditions.

Watching my daughter race was quite exciting and surprisingly emotional. I wanted to throw-up at the starting gun because I felt so nervous for her! Then watching all her hard work pay off as she moved her way through the 100 runners to 10th place. Then fight her way to finish 4th. Oh wow. Such a joyous moment!

Here she is working hard during one of many uphill battles.

Which gets me to my final thought today.


Elise and I talked about hills during one of our morning runs. Having just reached the top of a particularly steep hill, I said something like, "Ugh! That was a doozie!" (Yes, I use dated words like "doozie").

Then Elise said, "But oh the downhill sure feels good!"

It's true. I don't think I really appreciate the downhill until I've had to climb a killer hill. Certainly this holds true for literal walks or runs. But maybe more importantly, this holds true in the spiritual and emotional hills I face in life. I'm not sure I would appreciate clean air so much if I'd never lived in Jakarta. I know I would never have appreciated grocery stores (Target, Costco, Wegmans) if I hadn't had the struggle of shopping in Indonesia. And certainly, I would not have appreciated the good in my life if I hadn't faced struggles and challenges.

Our battles aren't over. My family is currently facing some hills. And as we fight, battle, sweat, cry, and work our way up those hills, I know we will become stronger. And those down hills, when we reach them, will feel oh so good.

Here's to running in Virginia! And here's to climbing the hills!


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Back to School

After three glorious months of summer (saying goodbye to Jakarta, repatriating ourselves here in America, and visiting family and friends), the first day of school arrived!

It's hard to explain what happens to my heart on the first day of school. I enjoy summer so much with my children - I love the luxury of time when we can do lazy mornings and crazy adventures. I love relaxing under the shade trees, long road trips (St. George and NYC!), frequent trips to Dairy Queen (love the SMORE blizzard!) I feel sad knowing I won't see my children as much during the day. But of course, I'm also happy for them too - I know they'll have challenges and successes that come from attending school, making friends, and trying new things. And of course as I watch them work through their anxieties, my heart hurts for them too.

There was a lot of reminiscing about Jakarta International School yesterday. All of my children miss the JIS campus - the tropical trees and open spaces. They miss their friends and their teachers.

I bounced between feeling like a therapist and a life coach throughout the morning. "How are you doing?" "You CAN do this!" "Smile and be kind." Lots of hugs. An extra fervent family prayer.

Here are my favorite images of the day:

Lunch box line up! 
(Notice Charlotte's Monster High lunch box - her prized possession!)
When Charlotte saw the bus come down the street she started giggling. Her excitement bubbled until we were all laughing. So, there were no tears from me this year. Charlotte was just too happy to board the yellow school bus with her big brother and sister that I was simply happy for her.

Sisters! Both at new schools. Elise starts as a 7th grader at Blueridge Middle School and Madi starts as a 9th grader at Loudoun Valley High School. (Yes - no glasses, Madi got contacts this summer!)

I snapped this last picture as I dropped Madi off at Valley. Notice how they rolled out the red carpet to the school this school!

I think my favorite part of the first day of school was just watching my children be a support system for each other. They buoyed each other up. Comforted each other when the tears threaten to come. And cheered each other on. 

How I will miss them during the 8 hours each day!