Starting Over

IMG_20170605_132750_502{He’s pretty sure he still fits in the infant car seat}

In a few weeks we welcome our daughter and transition from a family of three to four. A double stroller sits in the box waiting to be assembled and loaded into the SUV we bought to make room for two car seats instead of one.

Life already seems busy and full and I try to imagine what it will be like adding a newborn to the mix.

I’m excited. And I’m scared.

But I’m not scared about the right things —well, at least not the things I expected to be. I’m not afraid of labor —I know it will hurt and it will be a rough day but it’ll end with holding my baby on the other side.

I’m not afraid of sleepless nights —they’re still rather sleepless as it is and I know the bleary eyed haze of the first few months won’t last forever.

IMG_20170605_133102_598What I’m afraid of is being left behind.

I’m afraid of starting over with a newborn while most of my friends move forward with older kids.

This has been a consistent problem throughout my adult life —this being at a different stage at a different time than most of the people I’m closest to. Right now I stand in the middle with half my friends not having children and the other half with children already in school and decidedly out of the baby/toddler days.

Many of the women around me, even the ones who previously stayed at home, are going back to work as their children are more independent and spend their days at school or other activities rather than constantly at their side.

I like seeing these women find themselves again outside of their children and watching them pursue work and interests they’re excited about beyond the home.

IMG_20170605_132924_571But I’d be lying if I didn’t say it stings a little to watch everyone around me move onto the next step in life while I’m still years away from much beyond newborns and toddler tantrums.

Now I know this is a choice —I choose to stay home with my babies and even being able to make that choice is certainly a privilege. I could find someone to watch my kids while I go back to work but it’s important to me to be home with them for these first few years and we have the freedom to make that choice so that is what I do.

IMG_20170605_133234_951{Just the three of us a little longer}

But just because you believe something is right or best for your family doesn’t make it easy. Nor does it make it any easier to set aside your other hopes and dreams for a time while you focus on something else instead.

I know the day will come, and probably much sooner than it feels like right now, when my babies are taking off to school rather than crying at my ankles about something r.i.d.i.c.u.l.o.u.s. while I try to make dinner. This is but a chapter in the journey and a chapter I will probably often look back at and long for after it’s closed and done.

But today, today just weeks before I begin all over again with a brand new baby, I’m learning the importance of speaking truth to my heart and mind when the temptation is to dwell on fear or being left out while everyone around me moves on.

IMG_20170605_133412_231I need the truth that I’m doing what I’m doing for a reason —this whole making babies and staying home thing —it matters and it matters enough to put other opportunities on hold for a time.

I need the truth that God sees and cares about the life he’s given me and the work I do even if it feels silent and invisible.

I need the truth that babies and children are important —soulful and eternal —and it’s my privilege to influence and shape their tiny souls for a time on their journey back to God and all he desires for them.

I need the truth that life is made up of seasons and this chapter of babies and toddlers is just that —a chapter in the full story I will tell with this life I’ve been given.

I need the truth that God is walking beside me —when I’m tired, discouraged, feeling left out or left behind —God is there and will give me strength and love for each new day until all my days melt into his eternity.

I need the truth that my identity is found in Christ and who he says that I am —not what other people think of me, not what the world thinks of me and the work I do but in Christ and Christ alone. He is enough and I am enough in him.

I need the truth.

I need to daily strengthen my heart and mind with true thoughts to guard against the temptation to believe all the lies swirling around me that would pull me down and leave me defeated.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

When Motherhood Isn’t Your Thing

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I always knew I wanted to stay home and raise a family. Before Darren and I ever decided to marry, I told him what I wanted to do and he agreed–someday, when the time was right, I would leave the workplace and stay home. And that’s exactly what I did–after 6 years of marriage, work, home buying, and traveling, we decided it was time to start a family and whole-heartedly welcomed a baby into our lives.

I loved the first year at home–though of course, at times, it was very hard and was a huge adjustment from my former office job. That first year was just me and Roman most of the time as Darren was working, going to school, and remodeling our house. From sun up to sundown (and plenty of times throughout the night) Roman was in my arms or at my side. I was zeroed in that first year, present and focused on enjoying my baby boy before he was no longer a tiny little thing in my arms. I am proud of that first year and have very few regrets about how I spent my time with our son.

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But this year, with a now 18 month old toddler, things have been different. I’m struggling. No, I’m drowning. I’m starting to realize that the baby stage was my happy place but this whole toddler stage just isn’t my jam. Roman is a wild, busy little thing and we are both going a little batty being stuck inside during these long winter months. He’s bored and I’m bored and we’re both driving each other crazy.

Truth be told, I want to put him in daycare and go back to work. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that but I’m just surprised to find myself feeling this way after so many years of wanting to start a family and stay home.

Maybe I’m just tired, discouraged, or disillusioned. Maybe it will pass as things often do.

Or maybe motherhood isn’t my thing and it turns out I’m really not all that good at the one thing I spent my whole life preparing for.

I don’t know.

I know Roman isn’t going to daycare because it makes no sense for me to go back to work right now. By the time I settle into a job and know what I’m doing, I’ll be pregnant again. That’s just where I’m at in life right now. I want more children and I want to stay home with each child for at least the first year and you can’t just hop in and out of work at your own leisure. So for right now, my life is at home.

I don’t have a problem with committing my life to home for as long as this is where I need to be. I’m just struggling to figure out how to make this whole home all day every day with a cranky toddler thing work in such a way that there’s some peace and happiness in our lives again.

I want to be a good mom, not the cranky, frustrated one I’ve become of late. But how do I reconcile who I am and how I’m struggling with patient, loving parenting and a happy, healthy home?

Beats me.

If you have answers, I’m all ears.

I’m sorry this isn’t my usual “life is beautiful and magical” type post but I’m just not there right now. This isn’t a mommy blog but I’m knee-deep in motherhood and struggling to find my voice in this space as I once did. I miss writing and photographing and I’m determined to get back to it. But in the meantime, this is where I’m at, this is why I’m absent, and until I can come back with something nice to say, I’m not coming back at all :]

Time.

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I have thought a lot about time lately, mostly because it always feels like it’s getting away from me. I’m young and if I get to live a full life, I have plenty of time left. I know that and yet I feel a little panicked every time I look at what day or month it is and wonder how we got here so quickly. Summer, for instance, is over. Um, not okay with me, not that anybody asked but seriously, what the heck? I thought summer just started and all of a sudden everyone I know is posting back-to-school pictures of their kids on Facebook. A little girl I used to babysit put a picture up today of her first day in college…so now I feel old and summer is still over. Awesome.

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I keep thinking its July and then I look at my day planner and realize for the 19th time now that it’s August and that August is fast melting into September. Normally I rush through summer trying to get to fall. I love the cooler weather, the pumpkin lattes, the boots and sweaters. But this year I just can’t get there mentally. I want time to stand still for a moment so I can catch my breath and get my head around it.

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Darren gave me a watch for my birthday last year; I had pointed it out to him in a catalog and then on my birthday he took me to the jewelry counter where the lady working pulled it out and gave it to me all wrapped up and ready for my birthday. I squealed; I do that when I’m happy. I’ve worn that watch a lot this year, especially in Europe when we didn’t have our cell phones to check the time and we were always keeping track of the minutes and the train schedule. I look at it in church when I’m thinking about lunch instead of the sermon and I look at it a lot at work…waiting, waiting for the minutes to tick-tock past five.

It feels strange to me to wear time on my arm like that, to watch the thin little second hand tick along beat by beat as the seconds of my life pass on and on. It feels a little bit like taking my pulse or listening to the beating and rhythm of my heart. Tick tock. Tick tock. It terrifies me, watching my life go by like that.

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Right now time feels like water swirling down the drain and I’m caught and drowning in the waves. I keep wondering what this is all about; why do I feel like time is marching over me instead of tick-tocking along with me? Why am I drowning?

We are busy for sure. This morning on the way to work Darren and I kept listing off things we need to get done. I finally pulled out a notebook and starting writing things down and the list ended up being two pages long. We work all day, we run errands, we eat quickly and late, we try to get a few things done around the house, we watch a little TV and then collapse in bed before we have to get up and do it all again. We run and run but somehow I feel in our haste that I’m running out of time…or at least misusing the time I’ve been given. It nags me, this anxiousness about what I’m doing with what I’ve been given and what I should be doing better instead.

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This post has no resolution really, because I have no answers. These are just my thoughts, my fears, the things I’m working through and trying to get a handle on.

This is time—marching, marching by.

The Hard Work of Creating

Creativity is hard work. It’s one thing to be inspired; it’s another thing entirely to be productive. I find myself lately full of ideas backed by zero action. What’s holding me back?

  • Laziness and procrastination
  • Fear of failing or being misunderstood
  • Getting bogged down by distractions
  • Making excuses about not having enough time or not having enough to say
  • Waiting for the perfect set of circumstances to start instead of just starting where I am

It’s nice to sit around thinking pretty thoughts but it’s also very nearly useless if I never actually birth those thoughts into some form of creative reality.

Sometimes the most important thing I can do is…start. I can stop thinking about what I want and start creating it. I can stop wishing things were different and change them. I can type the first word. I can take the first step. I can begin where I am with what I have.

Creativity is a hard and a beautiful thing; but it’s worth the beauty and it’s worth the work.

So let’s get started.

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” Michelangelo

The Cat Was Right

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Every day at work I sit at my desk looking at the computer. I sit until I can’t hold still anymore. I fidget and stretch. I slide down in my chair and back up. I lean forward against my desk and lean back into my chair.

I’ve never been very good at sitting still.

After a while I can’t take it anymore so I walk over to the window in the office and stare outside at the vehicles zipping by on I-391. I’ve watched all the seasons come and go through that glass. The summer green burns into the oranges and yellows of autumn. The leaves fall and the flakes fly. Spring pounds the glass with rain and the leaves timidly come back. I always want to go outside and feel the weather on my skin. I like it best when the weather is just so and we can leave both the heat and the air conditioning off and let the breeze come dancing in through the open window. But those times are few and I get in trouble all summer long for turning off the air conditioner so I can hear the wind and the cars go by outside.

I’m thankful for my job, truly, but I am not cut out for office work, not at all. Like I said, I’m not good at sitting still. I’m always so tired when I get home from work. I feel like all the life has been sucked out of me and I always wonder how a person can get so tired from just sitting in a chair all day. But it wears you out, it wears you down, these four walls.

When we were in Europe, we had family come stay at our house to watch our cat. The cat likes to go outside; he walks around the yard smelling the flowers and chases butterflies. He’s buddies with the cat next door and the two of them run the streets and try to act like tough lions instead of domestic little ginger toms.

I worried about that crazy cat the whole time we were overseas because that’s just how I am. I have no idea how I’ll ever fall asleep when I have children—I’ll worry so much.

We got back from our trip late at night after a very rough flight and lots of delays. We were jet lagged and exhausted. But I didn’t care because we were almost home and I wanted to squeeze that crazy cat that I had spent so much time worrying about.

But we found out on the drive home that the cat had run away a week before and hadn’t been seen since. That tore me up; I love that little guy. We looked all over and couldn’t find him anywhere. We put up missing signs and waited and prayed that he would turn up. I was sick worrying about what might have happened to him. And then, late one night, a neighbor called and said Mr. Katniss was at their house {eating their spare rib dinner, mind you}. I couldn’t believe it; I was afraid to believe it in case they were wrong. Darren jumped in the car and went to bring him home. I can’t explain the joy and relief when he walked in the front door with that little guy in his arms.

For a long time after that we kept the cat inside because we didn’t want to risk anything happening to him.

He hated it inside. He would meow at the door and meow at the windows. He would behave very badly and was ripping the whole house to pieces. He broke all the blinds {okay, I broke a couple of them} and was being a terrible little menace. He would get so mad he would wrap around my legs and chew on my ankles and the two of us were getting very tired of each other. We started calling him Tiny T…short for tiny terrorist. I kept telling him we were just trying to keep him safe and happy, that he belonged inside and we couldn’t bear him running away again. But he wouldn’t listen. He was miserable…and so were we.

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So we decided to try something different; we decided to let him go back outside. It scares us of course, because anything could happen. But you know what? The cat is his happy, healthy self again. He goes outside all day long and comes sauntering back in for dinner every night. I hear his little meow in the kitchen and know he’s decided to come home to us again. He climbs up in my lap on the couch and lets me pet him and love on him and he falls asleep happy instead of terrorizing everybody.

The thing is, he belongs outside. Even though it scares us because we love him and want him safe, we have to do what’s best and that means not locking him up. He’s meant to be wild and free…it’s the only way he can be happy.

I understand how he feels. I understand because I spend a lot of time looking outside through the glass. We work to have money to have things but the work and the money keep me inside away from the things that matter most to me. And watching the cat makes me wonder if I’m making a mistake with myself and the time I’ve been given.

Maybe the cat is right about smelling the flowers and chasing the butterflies, maybe he’s got life all figured out.

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Be Like the Bird

Sometimes I’m afraid to embrace change. Even if I’m not happy with the way things are, I’m afraid a change might leave me even more unhappy so I just leave things alone instead. But change and discomfort is often the road to growth and renewal. Sometimes we have to release our iron grasp on what we have to open our hands up, empty and ready, to something different and new.

I look back at my life, at the times when I let go of one thing and took hold of another, and I see how those times of risk and change helped me grow and move forward. And I think too that even if something hadn’t worked out the way I hoped, I still would likely have regretted not taking the chance more than I would have regretted the potential failure.

Right now I find myself in a holding pattern, afraid to move, afraid to try, afraid to speak—and it isn’t like me to be so paralyzed by fear. Why am I so afraid to move forward, to change, to speak? I don’t know.

I find this blog stands before me a frightful blank canvas and I’m so cautious to put up words, to speak my heart and open my soul in this space as I once did. I’m trying to face the fear, to say the words, to put myself out here once again.

I’ve hidden behind pictures and fluff but I thank you for your patience as I find my way back to the words, to the heart and soul of this space.

“Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.” Victor Hugo

Don’t Look Back

Sometimes I look back at who I was a year ago or five years ago and I’m embarrassed by some of the things I said or did. The advent of social media doesn’t help either because now if my memory fails me, Facebook and even this blog will be here to remind me of my less than stellar self. Super.

Sometimes I want to gather up everyone who knew me before right now and apologize for all the stupid thing I ever said or did. I feel this urgency to explain to people that I’m different now, that I’m sorry and I’ve changed.

This is great except I’ll probably look back ten years from now at the person I am today and want to apologize all over again.

You see, if I’m moving in the right direction then hopefully I’m always growing and changing from who I am today into a more loving, mature person tomorrow. That’s a good thing. The bad thing is looking back and remembering who I was at a different place in the story. But what I’m trying to remember is this: There’s no need to be ashamed of who you were yesterday if you are becoming a better person today.

Yes, I’m sorry for some of the things I said or did in the past and I do hope people know that. But at the same time I’m glad to be aware of what I did wrong because hopefully that means I’ve learned and grown and am not still making the same mistakes today.

So don’t be ashamed of who you were; be proud of who you are becoming. If you can’t be proud of who you are becoming, then worry about that instead of the past.

“…But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

Learning to Need Other People

For the last four years I have lived in Massachusetts—a thousand miles from my family, friends, and the place where I grew up—1,367 miles to be exact. I love it and I hate it here and it seems the divide in my heart spans wider and wider each year.

New England is beautiful and filled with culture and history. There is always something new to see and do. I love being close to the ocean and the mountains and all the beautiful old cities. I love living close to Darren’s brother and his family. I love the friends I have made here. But I miss my family and my home. I miss the Midwest prairies and lazy afternoons spent with family doing nothing but just being together.

Truth be told, and it isn’t easy for me to say, I am very lonely here. I’m lonely without my family and friends and that place called home—nothing fills that void in my heart because nothing and no one else can.

This week I thought a lot about being lonely. Probably because it was Thanksgiving and we were up with all of Darren’s family for the holiday and I was missing being with my family.

I thought about why I am so lonely here even after four years. I thought about why I haven’t built more friendships and community. Why am I so alone in this place even after all this time?

In thinking through all these things, I realized something about myself. I realized I don’t ever want to need other people. I already knew I’m hard to get to know—I’ve been told that many times. But I never realized the reason I’m so hard to get to know is because I don’t want to need other people or let them in. I don’t want to be vulnerable. I don’t want to look like I’m not all put together. I don’t want to look like I need help with anything or need to learn anything. I want to be in control and be fine all by myself.

Only I’m not.

I’m lonely. And I’m tired. And I’m tired of being alone and trying to look like I don’t need any help.

I need friendship, I need community, I need other people to help me find my way and grow.

I think about when Darren and I start a family and the thought of raising children in this place by myself scares me. I won’t have my mom. I won’t have my grandma or my sister-in-laws (except for the one wonderful sister-in-law I do have here on Darren’s side). I don’t know anything about babies or children. I don’t know when they’re supposed to eat or sleep or how to tell when they’re sick. And I don’t want to figure any of these things out by myself. I want—and need–friendship and community. I need moms and mentors who can help me learn the things I don’t know.

I need other people.

Like it or not, I’m not all put together and I can’t do everything on my own. And if I keep chasing people away by pretending that I’m fine by myself, then I will never be able to build the friendships and community I need.

So I’m learning.

I’m learning to let people in. Learning to admit that I am tired, and lonely, and I need other people.

I have this quiet prayer in my heart right now—that God would give me moms and mentors and that I would have the humility to accept their love and help when they come.

Because I need help, and I need people, and I’m tired of pretending I can do all of this on my own.

Confidence and Insecurity

I struggle a lot with insecurity. I worry about how I look and what people think of me. I’ve been thinking about why I feel so insecure and care so much about other people’s opinions. What I realized was pretty simple: I worry and feel insecure because I’m filled with pride.

Here’s the pattern I see:

{1} I’m filled with pride so I worry about what other people think of me.

{2} Because I worry about what other people think of me, I feel like I need to look and act a certain way to be good enough.

{3} To look that certain way I spend too much time, thought, and money on clothing and my physical appearance.

{4} Then I end up comparing myself to other people to see if I’m good enough.

{5} If I don’t feel good enough, I get jealous and competitive and try to outdo other people.

{6} If I compare myself to someone and decide I’m actually more attractive or talented than they are, then my heart is filled with pride and an I’m-better-than-you attitude.

{7} Because I’m worried about what people will think of me, I hide behind silence. I’m afraid if I start talking I’ll say something stupid and people won’t like me. I only say what’s safe. I only write what’s safe. I don’t really let people in or share my heart.

When I base my value on the opinions of other people, I end up feeling like I’ll never be good enough. I’ll never be as smart, funny, or talented as that other writer or as thin and put together as that other girl.

I tell myself if I could just have that outfit, or more friends, or a more popular blog—then I will be good enough. Then I will be confident and satisfied. Then I can be the person I’m supposed to be.

But these are all lies I tell myself.

Because the problem isn’t my outfit or personality or anything else about who I am.

My problem is in what I look to for security.

If I’m looking to myself or to other people I will never find satisfaction or peace in my heart. My heart will only ever be filled with pride and jealousy.

The problem isn’t who I am. The problem isn’t who I’m not. The problem is when I try to find myself in anything but God.

Donald Miller said,

“None of us are here by accident. We were born because God loves to create. And He was pleased when you were born.”

He’s right. And if I could just believe he’s right then maybe I could finally have peace in my heart about who I am. Because who I am is exactly who God wanted me to be.

I’m not perfect, but I’m complete in Christ.

I’m not the outfit I’m wearing or how much I weigh. I’m not the number of friends I have or the amount of money I make.

I’m a part of God’s creation, a chapter (or line) in his story. The story isn’t about me and I’m not the author. This is his story and I’m here only to play a part.

God has a plan for me and a part he wants me to play in his narrative. It would be a sad waste to spend my whole life trying to tell a story about myself instead of him.

It would be a sad waste to worry more about what people think about me than what they know about my God.

It would be a sad waste to spend all my time and thought trying to be the prettiest girl in the room so people will look at and admire me rather than helping others look at and admire my God.

What a waste of words to write only the safe things that will make people like me rather than the scary things that might point someone to something so much better than anything I can offer.

What a waste to spend my life silent and insecure because all I think about is the story I’m telling rather than the greater narrative in which I play a part.

As long as I look to myself and the opinions of others, I will remain proud and insecure. But if I will look to Christ and find my small place in his great narrative, then I can live with the confidence and security I need to accomplish all I am meant to do in this life.

Summer Days and Life Lessons

Earlier this week Darren and I went to the beach with our friends, Victor and Olga. V and O are in love with a beach in Rhode Island that Darren and I had never seen. So we all loaded in our cars and took of to see this spot we’ve heard so much about. A few minutes out from the beach we parked and climbed into Victor’s boat for the rest of the trip out to their spot.

I’m so glad they decided to share this place with us because it’s honestly the prettiest beach front I’ve seen in New England. I was completely mesmerized the whole day. As soon as we were on shore, I was busy walking along the water gathering shells and rocks and I even found a crab claw I plan on terrorizing Darren with.

{Such a happy couple}

{Earthy treasures from the sea}

There was bright green sea weed floating around and lots of the rocks had taken on the same lime green color—so of course I filled my pockets with them to haul back home and scatter around my house. Every time we go to the beach I look for little earthy treasures to take home and decorate with. My living room is filled with mason jars full of sand and shells from all over. There’s also a whole birch tree in my living room, because yes, I drag those indoors too :]

{I drug the tree in the house by myself and cut it in half on the kitchen floor with a hack saw…wahaha}

Darren sometimes forbids me from bringing any more nature indoors and I always smile like I’m listening and fill my pockets anyway. I think he doesn’t mind in the end because he’s always showing off our jars of sea treasure when we have company and telling everyone about the adventures that went along with each bit of nature we’ve brought back home.

Once we unloaded all our stuff from the boat and settled in on the beach, the boys decided to take the boat back out on the ocean exploring. Olga and I opted for staying on the beach with the kids and away from the wild ocean waves—we know too well by now how those boys like to drive the boat like it’s a water rocket.

{The boys}

The kids took off for the sand and waves and were quickly busy digging holes and building sand castles by the sea.

{The kids + Victor digging in the sand}

Victor and Olga are Russian. They have three children; the oldest is in school and speaks English perfectly. Their daughter hasn’t started school yet and only speaks Russian. And then there’s the baby who speaks, well, baby. They also have a little boy from the Ukraine staying with them for the summer and he only speaks Ukrainian. So there were three children playing together prattling off in three different languages and yet they understood each other perfectly. Childhood is simply a language all its own.

{All the world is magic when you are five years old}

Olga and I settled into camping chairs in the sand with our legs and arms stretched out hoping for a kiss from the sun.

Just me and Olga.

Olga scares me a little bit because she’s very pretty and put together. She always wears nice clothes and has her hair done. She even smells good…how ridiculous is that? I always walk away from my time with her feeling like a frump and loser who needs to get her life together. It’s not Olga’s fault I feel this way either. She’s very nice and doesn’t do anything to make me feel bad. It’s my own jealousy and insecurity that leaves me feeling this way and not anything she needs to change. I share this because I knew going into our little beach trip that I wouldn’t have any fun if I let my feelings about O intimidate me. I decided this time I wanted things to be different. I wanted to relax and give O a chance instead of putting her in a little box of perfection she may not herself want to be in.

On the boat ride over to the beach I kept glancing over at her. She looked lovely. Her outfit was cute. Her hair wasn’t attacking her in the wind like mine was. I wanted to push her off the boat. No I didn’t…well, I sort of did :] But I decided I was going to do my best to open up and get to know her better that day. Usually I clam up and try to play it cool so she won’t figure out how not together my life is. But I knew I was being fake and frivolous and it was time to get past fear and insecurity. So after the boys left we started chatting…just our usual small talk at first. But then I started asking her questions and she asked me questions too. I thought I would be miserable trying to talk to her and open up but before I knew it the sun was dipping behind the sandy hills and were wrapping up in sweaters to stay warm. Olga told me about her life. She told me about some of the things that are bothering her and things that aren’t going right. She would stop sometimes, struggling to think of a word in English or how to communicate an idea from Russian to English. She told me I’m the only person she ever really speaks to in English and she feels silly when she can’t think of a word. I couldn’t believe Olga ever felt silly in front of me. I told her I forget words in English too and it’s the only language I speak :]

{Beautiful Olga}

I learned a lot about O that day and I learned a lot about myself too. I learned that as perfect as Olga looks and seems, she is a girl just like me. A girl with a heart that can be broken, feelings that get hurt, and fears that follow her just like me. I learned that I don’t need to try to be like Olga to have my life put together. I just need to be who I am, as imperfect as that may be. If I wear things because Olga wears them or say things because Olga says them, I’m not more like her, I’m just less like me. I cheat myself by thinking imitation will bring me any closer to who I should be. The truth is, Olga and I are very different people. We grew up in different countries and even in America, take part in very different cultures. She is six years older than me and the mother of three children. We are in very different places in life. How can I expect to know and be all that she is when we are so different in the very fibers that make us who we are? I realized that day, as we snacked on fresh fruit and treats from the Russian grocer, that my fears and insecurities are just that—fear and insecurity. There is nothing wrong with me and there is nothing unattainable about Olga; we are just different people. I’m glad I gave O a chance because I left the beach that day with a great sense of peace and confidence. Instead of feeling unattractive and inadequate, I left feeling inspired. Inspired to be the person I’m meant to be. Inspired to learn from the things I admire in Olga, not to merely mimic them. Inspired to grow and change…into myself, not into someone else.

{This is who I am, no one else}

The boys came back with the last rays of light and soon we were all marching off to get ice cream together. We sat on a wall with our ice cream watching the boats bobble on the water. There was a cannon like BOOM and people screamed; I laughed. Laughter is a nervous reaction for me. I have a feeling when the ol’ apocalypse gets here I’ll be laying on the ground giggling while everyone else runs for their lives. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism :] Victor said they do that BOOM to let everyone know it’s sunset. Olga joked about how we should probably know it’s sunset without a cannon going off and we all laughed. Of course she’s funny too…maybe I’ll push her off the boat on the way back home :]

It was a lovely day of sand and sunshine…and a life lesson or two as well. I’m thankful.

We left after dark. The black water looked like pools of ink as we glided over it. I wanted to dip my quill in it and write you a story, this story.