This amateur runner needed a village to find my way.

Being a mom of two little rascals having an inspirational thought is challenging and down right impossible. Every now and then God speaks louder then the short ones in my home are yelling. As I’m reading about the importance of slogans in the program from the Grapevine (AA’s meeting in print) I hear loud and clear that I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to running. I know how to hike. Took a lot of patience and explaining from my husband mostly but I got it and now love it.

So when I am thinking about running I realize the first place to start is shoes. Humbled to have to ask someone who appears to know more about it then me I tapped in to a friend. Got clear direction, go to the experts. So I went to the shoe store and talked to a young lady who im sure was at least 10 years younger then me. Her head was shaved and I’m 100% positive she has never had a baby. However I have been taught to “look for similarities and not the differences.”

Thus was the begining of our short friendship. She knew WAY! more then me about running. I was glad to listen to her feed back and input. She did have some questions for me though.

What kind of runner am I? she asked, I’m the kind that goes faster then when I’m walking.

Do you have a heavy healed stride? If you mean does my feet touch the ground and then leave it? Then yes.

Are you a distance runner? If by distance you mean when my coaching app says run and I run and then says stop then yeah I’m a distance runner.

As it came time to make a choice for shoes I picked the ones that make me feel like an 80 year old man. But they are so comfortable. My husband has reassured me they do not look like old man shoes.

So what do i take from all this? Ask the question, tap in to the resource of people who appear to know more then you do and look for the similarities and not the differences. My new friend at the shoe store was helpful and had a lot of guidance. Because I was raised in the program to listen I did. I wish I would have taken her picture so I can show you just how different we are from each other and yet how many similarities we have.

I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. I wore my new shoes around the house. I took a picture of them. I feel proud. This my friends is what they call an estimable act. If I want something different I need to do something different.

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Goodbye says it all.

I have seen first hand and experienced it in my own life. People in recovery have an incredible attachment to there pets. Maybe its because we spend most of our lives only having the ability to care for an animal because people are to complicated. Animals teach us about unconditional love. Unconditional forgiveness. Living in the moment is something they do best. They have a relentless ability to be joyful. I have sat in meetings and cried listening to stories. Today I have one of my own.

I was 16 and the people’s dog down the road had puppies. My brother and I took one. We named her Roxy. I was at the end of my drinking. I spent a lot of time angry and alone. I would come home at night to find her on the back porch. I can not tell you how many nights I spent being kept warm from her, more then I care to imagine.

In February of 2001 I went to treatment. Not really having a relationship with anyone but her naturally she was the only one I cared about. I was very alone. She was the first emotional connection I had that I was truly invested in. In therapy they talk about the importance of closure. Goodbye letters are popular and helpful. Here is mine:

Dear Roxy,

You are the best and sweetest soul I know. I know that because to put up with someone like me at the beginning of your life, you had to be. You were faithful and made it easy to be your owner. You were the first dog I had that I got to make right all my mistakes with animals growing up.

There was never a doubt in my mind that at night when I would stumble in the door you were not going to be there. You slept on my pillow like a person and was a pain in the ass because there was never enough room for me. You kept me company at the end of my drinking. A risky thing to do being how belligerent I was at the time. At a time when I was alone not knowing whether I would wake up or not or could carry on any more and I believe you were the angel sent to add some kind of hope for me at the end.

I went to treatment and all I cared about was how my dog was. Not my parents who just put there only daughter in treatment 30 miles away. Or my friends who didn’t really know what to do with me either. But you were the only thing that I knew what to do with.

After getting sober you were the one that showed me how to give grace. How to push into someone when all they want to do is curled up in a ball and hide from the world you would come to my side, lay on my feet, flip your head backwards and just look at me. And you did that over and over day after day until I finally would start to live in the world again. Patience, tolerance, forgiveness. The things I never knew I wanted you gave with out speaking a word.

At the end of your life I’m not surprised that you made it abundantly clear it was time. You job on earth was done. I choose to believe that you are in heaven today with you pal Nike (a miniature Docksin we used to have) chasing balls, fighting over who gets the bigger bed but finally peaceful and at rest.

Goodbye old friend. Thank you for the time we did share. you helped this drunk find her way back to humanity again in only the way a dog could.

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I thought I knew how this would all play out, I was so wrong!

I never knew that the loss of my baby daughter would give me the strength to endure the loss of my relationship with my brother. I realized the other day that God sent me through that unbelievably hard situation to gain tools for this current painful loss. I have come to believe that each painful experience breeds strength stored in the cells of my very existence to be able to walk through the next thing.

I had no idea that I would ever imagine that the kid I grew up with would be someone I would not be able to drop inside jokes to any more or run random movie quotes by and have an entire conversation based on that movie. However that’s what future predictions and expectations will do for me though. I get completely blindsided by a sudden change in my well laid plans. I realized that today as I was praying in my car.

A frequent occurrence for me is I get met with reality vs fantasy, I get confronted with this idea that I made-up in my head as a kid about what things are going to look like. Usually based on tv shows or movies where everything comes together in the end and everyone loves each other again. Happened for me about having babies, husbands and all kinds of other things. This time it happened with my sibling relationships.

My life was supposed to look like the Norman Rockwell pictures. big family meals. Everyone is there. All smiling.

Never in my mind did I ever think that I would not be in relationship with my siblings. People change over time. Even siblings. They change and move away from what they grew up knowing and so did I. I know today that there is a reason for everything and even though something happens near me it dosen’t mean it has to be my lesson to learn directly.

Do I trust God? This is the question that made me think of something different then my anger. Yes I do. Do I want him to makes sense of my current situation? Hell ya I do! Will he? Maybe not. Sometimes situations happen that cause my boat to rock but its not my storm causing the unsettling waters. There are days when I think about the things I would say to my brother if I saw him. They usually are not nice. That’s OK. The first thought is free everything after that is my responsibility to keep in check. That is grief though. It is messy and unpredictable. I have enough wherewithal to know I would have to make amends for my behavior and if nothing else that has saved me a lot of heart ache.

Life is what ever its going to look like. If I would stay off the results committee I think my brain would be much more relaxed. Unfortunately I have no way of knowing what new concept I need to adjust my thinking on until I’m in the middle of trying to understand why I’m unable to let go of something. That is why they say “everything I have ever let go of has claw marks all over it.”

I’m a work in progress and so are my relationships. God knows what He is doing. If there is nothing else I can take from this experience is that God is the one on the throne, in good times and bad, not me.

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Today is the day we lost our little girl

creativecreations2014:

in honor of infant loss awareness month

Originally posted on lifebetweentheturns:

Today I woke up with an ache in my gut. I wasn’t sure why.  Until I looked at the date. Then I knew.

Today was the day Danica Grace Bell “went to be with God” as the Doctor said. I remember laying in bed. It was hot and Abe was in the woods with his brother Jonah. I woke up in the night, which isn’t abnormal because when Abe is away I don’t sleep well. But on this night I woke up an felt different and I remember thinking I wonder if she was gone. Can’t explain it. I just felt, different.

At the time and having been walking through this experience in what felt like a worst nightmare in slow motion for the last 34 weeks I think of few times in my life that felt so heavy and intentional.

When I pull the pregnancy test from the bathroom…

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Dreams do come true.

Some days I can not believe my life is mine. My family and I just got back from a trip to Southern California that was paired with my oldest sons 5 year birthday. There was a lot about that trip that was pretty surreal.

The last time my husband and I were down there we were celebrating our honeymoon. Fast forward 10 years and here we are sitting in the stands waiting for Shamu show to start and I look at my kids and my husband and I start crying because I can not believe I’m sitting here after everything he and I have been through.

The last 10 years has been full of shoot to the stars joy and also the darkest part of my soul sadness.

There has been life and death.

Financial hardship and broken hearts.

Dreams have come true and goals achieved.

When I got sober and I sat in my first meeting I had no idea what my future held. All I knew is I wanted the pain to stop. I wanted the ache in my soul to ease up a bit and if I would have settled for that I would have sold my self short. So much more was awaiting me. I had to do the work to get there though. I had to love hard, push through, trust the process and stay still long enough to have a feeling or two.

When I was out there drinking and partying I was always chasing this feeling, that “someday” feeling. Well it happened for me. That “someday” feeling was sitting in the moment, watching the excitement wash over my boys faces. I had no idea that this, this pause in the human go where the divine slips in, that feeling that cant be given in words but only experienced to know fully what I mean. I had no idea that that buzz is what I chased in booze, guys, other peoples approval, romantic novels anything that I could throw in to that deep hole inside. I had no idea that it was being in that next indicated step.

There is a part in a book that talks about surrender. It talks about that only until we fully surrender that we would be able to build a foundation that a happy and purposeful life can be built on.

I know i have a happy life today despite that real that happens. I’m not trying to give an image here that this trip was all happy and fun because lets face it I was in 100 degree weather, at a theme park with 2 kids and a husband who hates crowds. We fought, we cried, we connected, we yelled, had tantrums and we lost a kid twice. The spiritual part of it all is no matter how hard it got I didn’t want anybody’s life but my own. I mean sure i compared my self to others but at the end of the day I didn’t want to sleep next to any one else.

I didn’t want to have breakfast or switch with anyone else.

It was hard and I didn’t want anybody else hard.

I wanted mine.

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Today is the day we lost our little girl

Today I woke up with an ache in my gut. I wasn’t sure why.  Until I looked at the date. Then I knew.

Today was the day Danica Grace Bell “went to be with God” as the Doctor said. I remember laying in bed. It was hot and Abe was in the woods with his brother Jonah. I woke up in the night, which isn’t abnormal because when Abe is away I don’t sleep well. But on this night I woke up an felt different and I remember thinking I wonder if she was gone. Can’t explain it. I just felt, different.

At the time and having been walking through this experience in what felt like a worst nightmare in slow motion for the last 34 weeks I think of few times in my life that felt so heavy and intentional.

When I pull the pregnancy test from the bathroom I think the first words out of my mouth were “holy shit!” and then Abe and I hugged and he went to work. Being pregnancy was always very hard on my body. I was not really a happy pregnant person. I was in pain a lot. I was sick a lot. I was hormonal.

The day we were to find out the sex of the baby was the day everything changed. I was in the ultrasound chair and I remember the tech being very cautious about what was happening. She got up eventually after 45 mins of measuring and noting different things. And the Dr coming in doing some of the same things. Finally the Doctor said “im sorry im sure you are wondering what it happening and we needed to be sure. There are some problems with the baby.”

SLAM! the wind gone from my lungs. The walls closed in on my brain. I wasn’t all that sure what was happening. There was something wrong with the baby and there was nothing I could do. Through a series of tests we found out that she had a very rare chromosome disorder call Tryplodi. It is where the baby has 3 full sets of chromosomes.

There was so much that happened emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally for me in the loosing and lose of a baby. It deepen me in a way I wasnt all that sure I needed deepening.  I was sitting in a meeting the next day and shared about what was happening. A lady spoke after me and said “Ashley everyone of Gods kids needs a parent. and this one choose you” And in that moment sitting in the small room surrounded by people that loved me I knew. Right then, I knew this is one of those “… great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the great fact for us” Alcoholics Anonymous Pg 164. I had always thought of the word great as happy. I had no idea that it was also meant in other ways.

For me today I realize I lived. I lived through that kind of full body ache that comes from deep with in the soul where me and God meet. Everything I had walked through up to that moment equip me with the ability to walk through that. It took everything I had to not run screaming from the room. My husband Abram was the same. I think we both had things that left by our selves would not have walked through as well or connected. We both had things the other needed. My son Nathan I think was one thing that kept us both grounded. He was 2 at the time and needed lots of love and he got it.

I’m grateful I get to be a sober parent that has a God and depth about my soul today that I can not imagine living without. Im blessed beyond belief to have two beautiful boys and a daughter in heaven. Her life task was to fight for us down here and she needed us to get her there. And we did. I don’t feel cheated. I trust that no matter what happened then that Gods on the job. I think I’m quicker to thinking my kids are going to die unusually early because of that situation. Dear GOD i hope not. But that is every parents nightmare. So i know I’m not alone.

My name is Ashley, I have lost a baby and I stayed sober and present through the whole entire thing. I regret nothing from that time in my life. I’m blessed to have gotten to be an excellent momma to three babies. And I give my self permission that not everyone deserves to have such tender information. “do not cast your pearls before swine” the bible says some where and I don’t unless the moment has felt right.

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This was the last trip we took with us as a whole family. Redwoods National Park. God Bless her and I look to see her in heaven some day.

Entitlement is sneaky

Recently I have made a decision to take a break from Facebook on my phone. The last time I did this was because I couldn’t stand all the political adds coming through. Today I just took a look at my kids and decided they are more important then all the endless amounts of news feed stories.

Being a stay at home mom and having an addictive personality sometimes doesn’t serve me very well. When ever I sit down out comes my phone and swipe away. My strong willed 17month old has taken to walking up and grabbing my hand, smacking my phone out of the way and pulling me to what ever he would like me to go or see.

Which got me thinking about what kinds of things have changed sense I put down the news feed?
First off my house is not any more clean, damn it! We do not have fancy meals. My dogs are not walked any more then they were before. What has changed? Its subtle.
My youngest son David is very strong willed. He will no doubt be a strong powerful force in the world. Today he is a force to be reckoned with. Sense putting down my phone his tantrums are less? I’m less reactive to them. Strange, maybe? Maybe not.
My oldest son is more engaged with me and his brother. Sure he stills gets angry when his 4 foot high tower is knocked over in 2.9 seconds. But we talk it out. And now I hear him repeating to him self, “its ok it can always be rebuilt”
There are many many other things I’m sure that have changed. This post is not meant to add guilt, shame or ever try an get you to put your phone down. We as human beings do not need anymore of that shit in our lives. This post is to call out my own entitlement. Its the same pattern I used when I was drinking. I am so ………. fill in the blank, I DESERVE this. That kind of language gets me in trouble every time. But that was my thinking, kids go away I need a break. I need rest. I need this that or the other thing. That principle is so so so true. I DO need those things.
When I was in therapy a few years ago my therapist would talk to me all the time about being. She said you can be busy and be at the same time, I’m thinking that’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard. She continued, She said its whats driving the boat. I agree with that today. I read this morning
Meditations for women who do to much By Anne Wilson Schaef
Aug, 19 Its not what I do, its the way I do it, that will get me in the end.
There is was again, whats driving the boat? I have been so entitled about my “I deserve this” crap that I really wasn’t resting to begin with I was nursing resentments, perfecting my judgments and manifesting more areas of guilt. So, if you want something different you have to DO something different. ACTION changes me not thinking or saying again and again.
Facebook crack is a front to whats underneath. What was/is driving the boat? lack of being, one of my core things I run up against all the time. I’m more prone to injury this way, more prone to not being able to remember things and much more prone to heaping shame and guilt on to my self about everything. I don’t let things go easily because I’m not fully connected to the process anyway. How do I change that? Its easy. STOP, CONNECT, BREATH. I used to do this meditation that only took a couple minuets where I would put my feet flat to the floor, my eyes closed and my hand on my abdomen. And with every breath I would envision roots growing from my feet into the floor. And the more I breathed the deeper and deeper they went. I would do that until I couldn’t stand it any more or I felt better.

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Being a stay at home mom I can not unplug completely. I was not meant to live my life independently from my people. I was meant to live it interdependently, meaning keeping a healthy balance of YOU and ME in my life. Saving Facebook time for the morning and evening when my babies are sleeping. I’m still texting and calling people because I need that connection. Being alone with me all day and two kids, not a good situation. It was never meant to be that way any way.

Emotional sobriety: flaunt it if you got it

On Friday nights my husband and I go to our home group meeting. Usually my brain is so over loaded that it’s just nice to not have someone pulling on my pants or crying at my feet. I’m listening to the sharing and my husband takes a turn and out of his mouth falls “I’m not going to apologize for having a good life.” It was one of those moments that I didn’t realize I needed to hear those words until that very moment. The gap in the human go where the divine slips in I think I have heard before.

 

I think about it in concept of I’m not going to apologize for living an out loud life either. I live out loud. I talk about sex, fights I have with my husband, insanity with my kids and simply my crazy ass self. It has taken a ton of work to get me to this place but as my sponsor told me this morning I choose wisdom. I choose to seek the deeper reason why I want to slam my head in a car door rather than to answer another why question. Or why I laugh as my kid is throwing him self to the ground yet another time. Or why I say out loud for people to hear do not punch your 16 month old in the face for punching me in the nose. Any one that knows me knows I would never hit my kid. Good on ya if you have never thought that. I have. And I’m not going to apologize for being real. Thoughts don’t hurt people, actions do. If I don’t talk about my thoughts they turn into actions.

 

I believe that I get the chance to re-parent my inner kid as my children age. When my kids don’t listen, punch me, break stuff, take stuff and for the 112th time they dump tippsy-cup of chocolate milk in to the dog water I get the chance to re-do some of the damaged parts of me. Be the parent I wanted when I was little. I don’t do it well all the time and that doesn’t make me a bad mom.

 

I ask my self and have friends (who’s children survived there parenting) ask me “what’s hooking you?” I get the chance to go deeper and choose wisdom. Why do I do the things I do? Well I have gotten clear about several things about me but they usually come down to a few core reasons.

 

One: I think I know what is best. The old adage mom knows best. I disagree with that. Who am I to attempt to deny my son the opportunity to learn about gravity if I’m always catching him? My husband and I play through some times when we are at the park, how many feet do you think that drop is? We usually conclude it’s going to hurt when they fall but not death. 70% of the time they never fall. I embrace the belief that my kids have a life to live and experience that they need to grow through that are vital to them becoming men. I do my very best to stay out of the way because they have a God and I’m not it is what it really comes down to.

Two: I’m not enough, there is not enough time and I don’t have a right to be. The biggest thing for me that I struggle with and thanks to conscious parenting I have rewired a lot of screwed up shit in my brain is I don’t have a right to be, where I am and doing what I’m doing because you disagree with me. There was a time in my life I would have sold my soul if it meant you would agree with me. In the re-parenting my inner kid world there are plenty of chances to re-wire my thoughts.

Three: I always want to do it right. Errks me to even say based on the last paragraph but it is true. I want to get it right every time. I want the home run every time I’m up to bat and that’s just not possible. I was meeting with an old sponsor a while back and I said to her “why do I always have to screw things up?” her response was priceless “because Ashley if we got it right all the time and didn’t go from extreme to extreme and swing that pendulum we never get to experience the lessons that lay in the middle”

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I don’t apologize for having a good life. I don’t apologize for living it out loud either. I crave connection, I crave relationships, I crave other seekers. Being a seeker has served me well and its also kept me up at night. There are assets in my defects and defects in my assets. Living a life of clean and sober living I work very hard on the emotional sobriety. I seek, I ask and I dig. No freak out moment with my kids is by accident. I don’t spend all my waking hours oozing over all my mistakes but it is something I think on and a topic I cover when talking with other seekers because after all raising kids isn’t all fun and games and happenstance it’s a way to grow deeper, softer and have a chance to learn my life is good no matter how bad the day went if I lay my head down sober my kids have the chance to have a sober mom the next morning and I have a chance to apply what I learned yesterday to today. Thank God for sober living and living out loud.

Loss of a child, a faith renewed

In 2011 my husband and I lost a baby at 32 weeks and 3 days gestation. Her name was Danica. She had a chromosome disorder called Triploidy. My heart breaks when I think of her but not like it used to. Time heals many wounds. She was born at the end of August and I wrote this a couple weeks later.

Some days when things are hard I forget that this kind of strength still runs with in me, I believe that God reminds me along the way that peace can exist amongst chaos. I’m grateful that with a lot of grief work this pain is not as big. My heart still skips a beat when I am asked how many kids I have or someone mentions about if we are going to try for a girl. I love my two boys to pieces and I miss my daughter, through the gift of a ton of personal work both a true and I do not feel guilty about it.

Familiar seas on uncharted waters

September 13, 2011 at 3:41pm

I sat down at my journal the other day and usually God speaks to me through impressions I get or thoughts that come and what occurred to me is that I have never been here before. I am in uncharted waters. I have no insights, no impressions no word pictures. There is just this deep ache in side my heart and soul that I cannot describe in words.

Today I hurt, the last line I wrote in my journal. I hurt. I hurt for my daughter that won’t get to play with her brother in the back yard. I hurt for Abe who wont get to teach Danica how a lady is to be treated. I hurt for me who wont get to have special tea times with my little girl. I hurt. I believe Danica is in heaven somewhere basking in the sun light of God. That she is safe from harm and is standing guard for us in a way that only an angel can.

I have had countless conversations with people who have given me as a parent the thing that I wish most for my kids. I wish for my kids to make a mark on this world, to pack as much in to the stream of life as they can. Teach others, learn them selves and find joy in there days on this earth. Danica was here in the womb for 32 weeks and 3 days. What she has caused to flow from humanity is beyond my ability to comprehend. I don’t know the far reaching’s of what she has done and what she has done through us but Gods on the job because amazing things have come to pass for Abe and I and countless others.

It is humbling for me to hear people say things to me like “you are so strong, I’m not sure I could have done what you have done it must have taken such courage to do what you did.” The part that is hard for me to take in is that this is just the way we do things in our house. Together. I wouldn’t have done in any other way. In AA the first tradition is about unity. With out that there is nothing. Unity in the good times and in the hard times. It is a blessing from God that that has been in our home. That’s what we strive for, not perfect at but that is what we strive for and in this journey so far we have nailed it. :-) Thanks to the prayers of the people that have walked with us on this journey and our desire to be together.

Today it is God who gives me strength. I’m not strong enough to make it through this. I reached a breaking point in the hospital and realized that true strength is moving when you can and saying enough when you cant. Strength isn’t “manning up” its not holding it together or doing it all, strength is what’s driving the boat to make those things happen. Strength in the doing and the giving up. As the paradox states, you have to surrender to win. So today I say I’m good because I hurt. I’m happy because I’m crying when I need to. I’m peaceful because I’m a mess and can’t think straight some times.

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This is taken the day my husband and I went to spread her ashes. Its taken from Spray park, Mt Rainer National park. An eagle was flying over and a bear was just up the meadow.

Thank God that I may not know where I’m going but at least I know for sure where I have been and in that I can trust that path that I can not see for someday I will look back and see not just my foot prints but another as well.

Sunset at the pass where her ashes were to be laid. My husband was backpack with his brother one ridge over. This photo was taken on the day they think her heart stopped in the womb.

Sunset at the pass where her ashes were to be laid. My husband was backpacking with his brother one ridge over. This photo was taken on the day the Doctors estimate her heart stopped in the womb.

 

Out of the ashes a Phoenix is born

A few months ago I was in the middle of a storm that wasn’t mine. I did not know at the time that it wasn’t mine because my husband and I were the subjects of the storm. What I know today, after relentless prayer for the people involved and countless hours of processing with safe people is that other peoples reactions are about them, no matter what the content of the situation is. The situation that was intended to draw strong lines in the sand and paint me in a bad light has made me stronger and more committed to my cause of right and powerful living. As the saying goes, “when your going through hell keep on going.” (Winston Churchill) As much as I wanted to make the situation I was in about me the truth is it wasn’t. Some significant relationships were lost and I grieve the loss of them today but out of the ashes of a burned down relationship a Phoenix is born.

A much respected definition of courage I cling to is being afraid and doing it any way. Living a life out loud is bound to catch a few people the wrong way and threaten them in ways that was not intended. However, what the fear misses when containing someone that lives out loud, is the freedom it gives those who are held in bondage by the shame of something others do and don’t talk about.

Why we don’t talk about anger is beyond me. Maybe it brings up old feelings from the past. Which makes sense to me being that I didn’t see much healthy anger when i was growing up. It was either sad or rage. I preferred to take the rage because sad looked weak to me. What I know is a happy balance between all four primary emotions, sad, mad, glad, scared is the place that I find the most stability in my heart. Going through the fire storm I did a few months ago has forced me to live and love harder. I press in to life and live scandalously. At least I’m trying to. I’m terrified to push in to this dream of mine to publish my thoughts publicly. But as a fire needs wind to grow I can not expect anything to happen with out taking risks.

I love symbolism. The Phoenix is something that I can identify with, especially coming out of the situation I am walking through. Trial by fire. There are things that happen in my life that hurt like hell and they bring out a rage in me that is primal in nature. I have not let it owned me though. Its strong and powerful and its energy needed to be channeled in a healthy way and I’m doing that, some days better then others, none the less I am pushing through the fear and pain of failure and waiting on my God in the ashes sober and willing.

 

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