A New Decade Begins…

As 2019 turned to 2020, I read many posts by people recapping their decade. I have been feeling a bit meh this holiday season and frankly, didn’t feel like I had much to recap. But as I thought about it more, this has really been a decade of growth and change for me.

As the decade began, I was very active in church as a youth leader. That was my niche and, in many ways, my identity, and it had been for many years. I didn’t grow up in the church and had only come to it in my late twenties but I dove in to serving with my whole heart.

I was settled in a nice duplex that I had lived in longer than I had lived anywhere besides my childhood home. I was rooted.

But I was restless.

I meandered from job to job every few years, usually because of threats of layoffs. It was my goal to never get laid off but instead find something new before that happened. Looking back, I guess this was simply fear driving me – because while it wouldn’t be great, I know now that I’d survive.

I went on my first international missions trip to Romania and came back changed. My heart was broken for the gypsy children we met. I can still see them as vividly today as then, dirty and neglected and so in need of love and care. The image of toddlers covered in filth with no pants or even a diaper, clamoring for our attention while the gypsy “king” of the camp – in clean clothes, very overweight – stood nearby, quietly trying to sell young girls to the youth pastor we were traveling with.

I remember coming home and telling a friend how desperately I wanted to return. Very gently, he reminded me that there were children here who needed me as well.  I didn’t know what that would eventually mean, and wouldn’t for a few more years.

It was after that trip and some changes in church leadership that I started to feel discontent. I had already left one church due to issues with leadership and still felt the sting of that. I started to see things differently. I was no longer okay with the status quo of the megachurch setting. It came to a head one year on Easter, when my church was highlighted in the local paper for having pretty cakes on display. Meanwhile, my former youth pastor was handing out Easter meals from the back of a rental truck in the city to those in need.

I was also feeling discontent rise in my job. Our company was sold and the executives all headed off to new lives, leaving the others to adjust. It seemed like another layoff was in the offing, so I started looking and landed a position at the University of Virginia.  I’d never left my home state – not for college; not for grad school. It seemed like a crazy idea but then…why not?

I spent three years there and to say it was not what I expected was an understatement. But it was time of great introspection and growth for me, and I wouldn’t trade that.

It was there, too, that I finally connected with what my friend had said to me after I returned from Romania – there were kids here, too, that needed me. In what originally was an effort to meet new people, I found my calling as a Court Appointed Special Advocate. After 30+ hours of intensive training, I was a CASA – the voice for children in foster care who otherwise had none. My first case was complex and I learned so much, not only about the foster care system and the children I worked with, but about myself.

Not in my timing but in the best, I connected with two folks from my hometown who just happened to have an opening in their department. A few months later, I moved back to PA and started life anew in a place I hadn’t lived since I was 18.  I reconnected with old friends and made new ones, and met the man I love. We’ve been through a lot in our time together, but again – I wouldn’t change it.

I’ve lost people and pets that I loved so dearly in this decade. But I also gained some, including the pup that I’ve always wanted in my life. He’s a handful, for sure, but not a day goes by that he doesn’t bring a smile to my face.

I don’t know what this next decade holds. I don’t even know what next week will bring. But I’m encouraged when I look back. It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes, that fits and feels so right for here and now:

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

~ Martin Luther King, Jr.


New Year, Who Dis?

It’s hard to believe that I’ve written this blog off and on since 2005…and mostly off in recent years. I spent a good amount of time this morning trying to decide if I should simply delete everything and start over…but I came around to the thought that perhaps there is something of value herein that needs to stay. What that is, exactly, I don’t know.

I have many things to write about and I’m not sure why I feel apprehensive about doing so. I want to write about my work as a court appointed special advocate, being a voice for children in the foster care system. I want to write about my pets who bring me such joy (and often aggravation – can you say 83 lb golden retriever lab puppy? OY!) I want to write about relationships and balance and heartbreak and frustration. I want to write about challenges and fear and anxiety. I want to write about success and happiness and, more importantly, contentment. I want to write about books and food and crafts and projects. I want to write about things that I know I can never publish here – though I really wish I could.

I want to write.


Growing Pains

I was a tall girl. Very tall – as in, in a sixth grade photo, I’m in the back but literally learning forward so it doesn’t look like I am TOWERING over everyone. (I was totally towering and leaning forward just looks silly, for the record.) One of the things that came along with my height (and subsequently, scoliosis) was the lovely feeling of growing pains. There were days when I just hurt and the only diagnosis the doctors could come up with was that it was simply due to growing pains. They were unpleasant but apparently just something to be dealt with in life.

Eventually, my physical growth stopped. But the proverbially growing pains never did. I think back on all the things in my life that led to an emotional growth “spurt” – dealing with scoliosis and surgery; losing a friend right after high school graduation in a car wreck; going away to college two weeks later not knowing which way was up and who I was or wanted to be. Ups and downs through college; entering the workforce with no idea how I was going to make it. Taking on jobs and relationships I had no business being in. The list goes on and on.

I say all the time that I am loving my 40s. There is still drama but my ability to deal is different. I don’t get as worked up about things as I might have. I’m more willing to embrace differences of opinion and change that I didn’t cause or really desire. And yet, I find myself entering another season of what I hope is growth. I feel like I’m looking around again, as I did many times before, trying to find my way, and trying to find those things that make a difference to me. Life really is too short. And there are things I’ve been saying I wanted for my life and in my life…that now seems as good a time as any to look for. Stay tuned…

It’s Time

Actually, it is well past time. I find it funny that I posted something similar about 13 months ago. I tell myself constantly that I need to write, even if no one reads it. Even if it is nothing of any significance. It’s a muscle that needs to be flexed again and brought back into some sort of shape – and like many things, I’ve let it fall into a puddle of lazy.

I’m in the middle of a life change. I just took a job working from home and I’m trying to rewire my brain and work my world around this. I’m starting to let go of some of the stress I’ve carried in me for a while but it’s not as easy or black and white as one would expect. I think it will take time. There’s some healing that needs to happen and some work I need to do to find my peace. It’s a weird place to be, right now, honestly. But I’m aware of it – as I am generally very hyper-aware of such things – so I’ve got that going for me.

Can I guarantee stimulating content? Can I guarantee I’ll write anything you want to read? Can I guarantee I’ll continue writing? No, probably not. But all you can do in life is try and try again.

And so…

Welcoming the Solstice

It has been a rough few weeks and, honestly, the end isn’t in sight. We lost my aunt in mid-November, to be followed by her husband of 60 years a mere three weeks later. Another uncle is now bedridden and another is in a sudden and rapid decline into what we can only guess is a form of dementia. All of this is coupled with a blossoming new relationship in my life that brings me a great deal of joy…which has me, for the first time in a long while, looking forward to the holiday season.

Life is crazy that way, isn’t it?

And today marks the official winter solstice. Friends invited me to join them for a solstice event this evening. As I understand it, you bring with you the weight of that which has been heavy upon you in the last year and that you want to get rid of for the coming year. This can be symbolized by a stick with words placed on it and cast into a fire.

All in all, quite an appealing idea. I wouldn’t by any means categorize this as a bad year in my life. In fact, in a lot of ways, it’s been simply great. But there have also been more than a few curveballs, more than a heartbreak or two. While I am where I want to be geographically, I’m disappointed that I’m not where I want to be in other ways – and there are definitely some areas I’d like to cast into the fire and be rid of before the onset of a new year, a clean slate:

Anxiety has dogged me. It’s always been there, honestly, but 2015 was the year I gave it a name and worked hard to take its power. I haven’t won yet but neither has it. And it won’t.

Financial worries hang over me all the time. I’m simply not good with money but this was the year that I worked hard and focused my attention on getting my financial house in order. I’m not there yet but I can see some light. It’s the idea of abundance, my word of the year in 2014, that I’ve gone back to time and time again to refocus.

Heartache for those in my life who are struggling, who are facing some really, really tough things – losing a loved one, facing unemployment, dealing with serious medical issues, divorcing and so many other hard things. Not to say that I haven’t had my share as well but my empathetic nature causes my heart to break just as much for those around me.

Perhaps I’ll fashion my own little solstice ceremony and cast these things into the proverbial fire, letting the lengthening days usher in the not only a new year but a renewed sense of focus.

Everyone is Fighting a Hard Battle

I’m a planner.

It’s not only my vocation; it is how I work my life. It’s how I juggle all the balls, how I keep the ducks in a row, how I keep myself afloat (and sometimes others, as well.)

It’s been a source of much teasing over the years, and often extra work piled on me – since I’m considered the "planner" in most situations. I like to know what is happening, when, and how. I like to be prepared for whatever may come and to be at the ready to help those who aren’t…as prepared.

It’s not that I don’t like to be spontaneous. I actually crave spontaneity and a less controlled life. It’s just not an easy place for me to get to…or stay. I learned a lot in the last few years about the benefit of not being controlled by the overriding culture of busyness; of rest and simply being present in whatever situation I was in or with whatever I was dealing with. And knowing, through it, I’d be ok. Yet the pull of planning and scheduling (and overscheduling, if I’m honest) and just doing, is strong.

Interestingly, I’m learning that this isn’t just how I was made, as I’d always thought. It’s a protective mechanism, one likely long ingrained into my being. It’s a way of establishing a measure of control in a chaotic world, of maintaining an uneasy equilibrium in a tilt-a-whirl life. More than that, it’s a way to appease and abate the ripples of anxiety I’ve only recently come to acknowledge as a part of my life…before they push past the walls and bubble up.

Who knew? Yet it makes perfect sense. In creating order, in planning, in preparation, I can allay my fears. I can counteract the what ifs. I can calm the waves and keep my head above water. And I can protect myself from the unknown.

But is that the best way to really live life? As with everything, it’s likely about balance…and change…and growth…and sometimes dipping your toe in the water, just to see.

Do Over

Remember when you were a kid playing kickball and you’d miss the ball? Immediately, before you even had a second thought, you’d holler, “DO OVER!” so as not to lose out on your turn…or simply lose. For the most part, no one balked; they knew they’d need one themselves soon or later  – and knew you’d let them have it.

In real life, though, do overs are few and far between. Yet I feel like this summer has been a do over for me. I’ve moved back to the area where I grew up, after a long time away. I focused a lot of energy on making up for lost time (and lost fun from my two summers in Virginia), and on reestablishing relationships…and making new ones.

It’s funny how you work so diligently to change and grow but yet find yourself falling right back into old patterns, fears and insecurities so easily. It’s a battle to relearn how to open the heart and trust; to remember that the outcomes of the past don’t have to dictate today’s.

It’s hard and beautiful, all at the same time…and I’m going to bet, like most things that are, it will be worth it in the end.

Ya Win Some…

I’m part of a six-week Change Challenge group this summer. My goal, silly as it may seem, is to get up earlier for work. Over the years, I have mastered the five minute shower and the two minute blow dry. I can get up and be out of the house in less than 45 minutes. While I know this is quite a feat, it’s not one that leaves me feeling relaxed and ready for my day. Plus, I am always struggling to make it work on time, which is not terribly cool when you are the new kid in the office.

As we began week three of the challenge today, I got up. Today was the first day I didn’t struggle. My new-fangled alarm clock that is supposed to simulate the sunrise did it’s trick. I got up and got ready; I even had time to make myself a hot breakfast and read my devotional. I got to work on time…only to sit at my desk and have my back suddenly stage a revolt on me. As with most of my pain issues, it came up out of the blue for no real reason. I’ve been popping ibuprofen and vitamins like they are candy and even schlepped to a very sad little pharmacy for some analgesic cream to help me make it through the day.

It’s a Murphy’s Law kind of thing, yet I’ve worked hard to not be a Murphy’s Law kind of person. And so I’m hanging onto my win this morning and trying to get through the day as gently as possible.

Hither and Yon, Hither and Yon

Last week was one of those crazy weeks: get up early to run hither and yon, work all day, run hither and yon some more. I also lost a night’s sleep to a little mouse who didn’t realize my home was not the best place to hang out. (He’s since been relocated to greener pastures, though I cannot guarantee that his compadres aren’t still on the premises.) All of this, coupled with a cat who needed minor surgery yesterday and fights like a rabid badger when you try to pill her, has made for a very tired and slightly cranky Tricia.

I know I need to cut myself some slack. I’m working full-time and doing two freelance/part-time gigs on the side plus still settling in from my move. But there is such a huge part of me that just thinks everything should have fallen into place by now, a whole eight weeks later…not so much, apparently. This is not to say that I am not so darned grateful and happy to be here – because I SO very much am, every moment of every day. I just crave routine and balance.

I’ll get there. Right?