Tag Archives: love

Turning Fifty

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It’s the eve of my 50th birthday. Fifty years ago back in 1967, my mom was nine months pregnant, ready to burst. Tonight she is in as assisted living facility, wishing to feel better. Her parents, my grandparents, have been gone for years. Her sister, her ex-husband and boyfriends, all gone. Fifty years ago, I was an innocent baby, waiting to begin my life in the crazy era of the Vietnam War. Now, I’m a middle aged, not so innocent, twice divorced, single mom of two, sitting at home alone, wondering how much longer I get to be here. Will I get another five, ten, or fifty years? What is my number? I’d like another fifty. That would be so great. I could see my sons grow older like I am now. God, I hope so.  I could help more teens graduate, write more books, go on more trips, experience more joy, maybe fall in love for real and have it last for the years I have left, learn and read more. There’s so much to do still. Will I get to do it?

Can I slow down the clock please?

The first fifty seemed to fly by.  Seems like yesterday I was pretending to be Wonder Woman in the front yard, spinning around then catching bad guys.  Now there’s an wwactual movie about her. Damn! (That sure took a long time.) Wasn’t it just a few years ago I was in love with my high school boyfriend, hoping we’d get married one day. No, it wasn’t. More like over thirty years ago, but who’s counting? I know it’s been years, but it doesn’t feel like it.  All those memories are alive in me. I can see myself in those moments, being me, living, doing my life. I see the same thing in my mom. She talks about the memories of her youth while she pushes her walker. Her body is old, but her being is not.

Getting older is good, considering the alternative, but it’s also weird and terrifying.

50All these moments of who you are bring you to this big day, your birthday, and take you farther from your youth and closer to the end, but it’s amazing to have another birthday. I’m so lucky. I know it. So many people aren’t having birthdays anymore. My best friend’s last birthday was her thirty-first. I miss her so. She and I would have done something special to celebrate the milestones, but she’s not here. I guess that’s the sad part of birthdays – missing those who aren’t here to celebrate with us. Not only missing those who passed, but those living who have left our lives.  People who we love but aren’t with anymore. Birthdays make me think a lot about those who are not in my world anymore. We are supposed to celebrate and be surrounded by people who love us, but the truth is that doesn’t happen for lots of us. Maybe that is the lingering sadness that haunts me. Or maybe it’s just exhaustion from all the stress that fifty years brings.  Or maybe it’s not being where I think I should be in life. I don’t know.

50pI remember when I was a kid, looking at my aunts and uncles and thinking they were old. They were in their twenties and thirties. To me they seemed old. Now I’m older than they were when I thought they were old. That’s weird. I’m in a new place. I’m the one who should know stuff. Old people should know stuff – have it figured out, right? That’s a lot of pressure. When you reach the other half of your life (you hope you still have half to go), there’s the pressure of reflection on what you’ve accomplished. Is this where the young version of me thought she’d be? I don’t think so, but then again, I don’t remember thinking this far ahead. Regardless, I am where I’m at. I can’t change how my life is when I wake up on my fiftieth. I’ve done my best. I wish somethings were different, but I think we all do.  Being dissatisfied helps motivate us, but it can also be damn depressing.501

I’m turning fifty tomorrow and well, I don’t have it all figured out and I don’t have all that I wanted to have by the time I was fifty.  That’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s my truth. I could list all the things that are not the way I think they should be, but that would be ridiculous because everything is as it should be.  I live and work where I’m supposed to. I weigh and look like I’m supposed to. The relationships that I wanted to last didn’t, like they were supposed to and it’s okay. It all just has to be okay.  I’m turning fifty. Yay, I made it! Oh crap, I hope I still can do all I want to do. Time is ticking.

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Intentional Friend

By Darbie Andrews

Making friends came easy until I reached my forties. In my younger years, it happened so effortlessly through work, school, and activities. I always had friends nearby who I’d see sad1on a regular basis. All that changed when I moved away from everyone, divorced, became a single mom, and started a new job. My closest friends lived five hundred miles away during one of the most painful times of my life. Talk about lonely. I desperately needed and wanted to find new friends, but struggled with how to go about it since I never had to make such a conscious effort in my earlier years.

I ventured out to the gym.

The first time I saw her I had no idea we’d become friends. I noticed her for many reasons. Unlike me in the back of the room in all black, she wore all matching, bright colored Zumba clothes and she stood in the front row of class. Her ability to follow all of the Zumba instructor’s choreography with ease impressed me. Many of the people in the class knew her and they hugged before class. This woman had style, friends, courage, and great dance moves. With my self-esteem in the toilet from the battles of divorce, I didn’t see us as potential friends.

A few months after I first began going to Zumba, we ran into each other in the locker room. She complimented me on my dancing. Shocked that she noticed me at all, I felt my face turn five shades of red. That’s the beauty of exercise rooms covered in mirrors, no one can really hide. We had a short conversation about upcoming classes and we introduced ourselves. From that point on, we greeted each other before every class – the beginnings of a friendship with Stephanie.

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Then one day she took the stage as a Zumba instructor. Wfullsizerender3ow, I thought to myself, how did she do that? Her courage to move from being a participant to a leader intrigued me. I started moving closer to the front of the class and talking to her more about being an instructor. We seemed so different in many ways, but seeing her make this leap of faith helped my confidence grow enough that I became inspired to become an instructor as well.

We chatted about choreography, songs, class size, mistakes we made while leading dances, and anything Zumba. She became a Zumba friend.  I greatly appreciated what we shared, but we weren’t friends outside of Zumba until one day she did somethin10371341_10205379343183963_2529482028241788670_og that no one else has ever has done. She took out her planner and asked me, “When can we do lunch?”  I stood there staring at her with my mouth open for a while before I grabbed my planner and we found a date to meet.

The first time we had lunch together, I realized how amazing it feels to be in a friendship with someone who intentionally seeks to connect with you.  It felt profoundly different than my friendships of the past because it didn’t step1just happen. She made sure it happened. Her passion for connection made me feel special. I felt honored by her attention to our potential as friends.

We’ve filled our planner with many other lunch dates over the years and become close friends. She has supported me through painful dating fiascos and day to day challenges, but the most beautiful thing she’s done is shown me the power of true friendship and the beautiful heart of a devoted Christian. Stephanie loves deeply and much of that love comes from her devotion to Christ.

Called to teach Zumba for God, Stephanie brings her love for others to every class she leads and the people feel it. The genuineness of her caring for others brings people into her life that want love and acceptance. I’m sure that’s why our paths crossed. I stayed in a bad relationship and she prayed for God to show me what I needed to get out and it happened. She stood by me and helped me stay strong through the break up. Stephanie knows my struggles with the Christian church and she has never preached to me. Her love for God shines through her actions.  She lives in love. step

I could go on and on about the many wonderful things Stephanie has done for me and many other friends, but this one occasion speaks volumes. On one of our recent lunch dates, I told her how all of the people I meet and know are devout Christians. She listened. I told her again how I don’t like church. She listened. I told her how I went to this church coffee shop and felt somewhat comfortable talking to the youth pastor about a mentoring program. She listened. I told her that I might go to a service there someday. She took out her planner and said, “I will go with you. When you want to go?” Again, my mouth dropped open. There she sat, ready to go to a church, other than her own, to help me make that step, that very uncomfortable step. She didn’t want me to go alone. My eyes filled with tears.

I would not have gone to church if Stephanie hadn’t offered to go with me. She did what no other person had ever done…again. People have invited me to their churches a

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Church!

 

nd I’ve gone, but Stephanie brought it to another level. She and her husband sat there with me. She’s that friend. She’s the one who will go above and beyond. As I sat there in this church, totally uncomfortable, I looked over at her and my discomfort lifted a little. When the pastor went on about the struggles of dating and how people often short change themselves, tears poured down my face. I looked at Stephanie. I knew she knew that message was meant for me. After the sermon, she said, “God definitely called you here today.”

I’m not sure about what God calls me to do or not, but I am sure that my prayer to find new friends has been answered. To have friends nearby improves my life on so many levels, but what I appreciate more than anything is the lesson of being intentional. Being treated like I’m important and my friendship is important sends a beam of love into my heart and I want to do the same for others. The message of “I want to know you” is powerful. It’s what we all need and deserve to hear because it communicates that we are valuable.

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In these times of full schedules, it’s easy to go months or years without making time for those we love or for potential new friends. We are often caught up in stuff and forget to express how much we value the people in our lives, but it’s a simple fix. Be intentional. Pull out your calendar and pick a date. Make it that important. We all deserve to feel that important. Thank you Stephanie for wanting to know me. I’m so happy to know you. We need to get our next date on the planner.

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The first Zumbathon we participated in together!

Equine Learning – Overcoming Obstacles

Equine Learning

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Sometimes, if we’re lucky or if we ask, the universe brings us people whose arms are open and full of love.

It all began a few months ago when Joni walked into Salisbury High School to talk to me about duplicating an equine learning program that we had several years ago. She had been working together with the woman I used to work with and really wanted teens to come to her ranch like they had before at Day Star Ranch. Excited about the new opportunity, I visited her ranch one Saturday afternoon with my two sons. The minute we arrived, I knew we would be working together in the future. The warmth and positive energy of Joni and her ranch made us want to return soon and that we did.

This week we completed our second adventure with Joni and her three horses, Cali, Dusty, and Regina. Fifteen students, a colleague, and I arrived at her ranch in Cottonwood, CA and were greeted with enthusiasm, smiles and hugs by Joni, her sister Liz, Jim and two other adult volunteers. It felt like we’d arrived home for the holidays. Their faces lit up and they couldn’t wait to take the group picture and give everyone a name tag so we could start the fun. For three hours we enjoyed an amazing opportunity to bask in the love and support created by a generous human heart, her horses, and equine learning activities.

First, we sat on bales of hay and discussed horse safety. Then, Jim asked the students to consider what obstacles they faced in life. After a short discussion, the students broke up into three groups of five students rotated through three different activities. One group worked on the fence line, boundaries. Another observed the group in the arena that had the task of connecting with the horses, building an obstacle, and moving the horses through the obstacle without talking or touching the horses. They could use anything in the arena to accomplish this goal.

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Three horses gave the students the challenge of the day. They moved slowly or not at all as students walked a long side them and tried to get them to move. Sometimes a student would connect with a horse and it would walk a small distance, but not through the obstacle. Sometimes three students would gather around or in front of one horse and try to get it to move while the other two stood near the other horses. All three groups of teens followed the rules of the activity and never gave up. Although they all didn’t manage to move all of the horses through the obstacle that they created, they kept trying. No one stormed out of the arena in frustration. No one sat down in defeat. Every one of them stood by a horse and tried. Their success was in their resiliency; their willingness to keep on keeping on.

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In the end, the facilitators coached the last group on how to move the horses and modify the obstacle for greater success. They created a pathway along the fence of the arena that the horses could pass through easily. They moved as a unit behind the horses and clapped their hands and put their arms up in the air to herd all three horses through the path. Success required thinking outside the box, combined energy, and teamwork.

Afterwards, the students had a chance to reflect and share their feelings and thoughts about the experience. Some felt frustration. Some realized that working as a team would have helped. Some had ideas for solving the problem, but didn’t feel confident to try them. They were asked to relate the experience to obstacles in their lives. The activity with the horses was a metaphor for the huge obstacles that life can throw at us. IMG_1627[1]

We discussed how, at times, we need to ask for help to accomplish our goals or resolve a problem and that’s okay. Or maybe we need to step back from the problem and look at it from another angle and approach in in another way. A student shared how the activity was difficult and how things in life can be difficult too. Watching the group move the horses in the end showed us that whatever the problem, we have to exert some energy to challenge the situation. It took combined energy to move the horses. Often it takes the combined energy of friends and family to help us get through challenges. And sometimes obstacles are there for the pure reason of teaching us a lesson. Whatever the obstacle, we can learn. Like one student said, “I learned ten ways not to move a horse.”

A morning at the ranch with three horses and some very loving, thoughtful, and generous adults gave the students so much more than they bargained for. They didn’t just pet horses and fix fence. They challenged themselves in new ways, reflected, grew, and much more. They learned about themselves and their classmates and took away some life lessons that will hopefully help them as they face obstacles in life. When they climbed into the vans and we headed out, several of them asked, “When will we do this again?”

Joni asked me the same thing before we left. The dates are set. No obstacles in the way of making this new equine learning adventure continue!

The One and Only

The One and Only

By Darbie Andrews   Image

I want to tell you about the most magnificent person in my life. This person made me feel a love that I didn’t know existed. My heart grew the day I met him. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m a stronger, more ambitious, and happier person because of him. He is the one and only, Dakota, my oldest son.

His entrance into my life began before his birth. It happened the day the doctor put the warm ultrasound gel over my small belly for the three month check-up.  I squeezed my husband’s hand, hoping this time would be different. We watched the black and white squiggly images changing on the screen. We could see our baby, but we wanted to hear him.  The doctor’s hand stopped moving, “Shhh,” he said. I lifted my head, hoping that would help me hear the sound that I should have heard two years ago. Nothing. I couldn’t go through that again I thought.

“Is everything okay?” I asked.

“Relax,” the doctor said.

“I’ll try,” I took a deep breath.

“Listen.”

I let my tears fall, silently. I didn’t want to drown out the beautiful sound with my crying.

My baby had a heartbeat.

When we left the doctor’s office that day, we practically skipped to our car. We looked down at my belly several times and smiled. I wrapped my arms around myself and squeezed real tight, hoping my baby would feel the hug.  I kissed my hand then placed it on my belly. The sound of his heartbeat sang in my head. A love filled my heart like no other.

My love for him grew during the next six months as I watched my belly expand and felt him move around inside of me. The blessing of being pregnant made me grateful for every element of the process.  The weight gain, the nausea, the swelling of my feet…everything was perfect. I was so lucky to have each and every experience. I spent as much time as I could reading about every detail of his growth. I entertained people with my news, “Guess what? This week his fingernails are forming. Isn’t that amazing?” I felt like I had the winning lottery ticket and I just wanted to tell everyone all about it.

His due date fell on the day I graduated with my Master’s Degree, but all nine pounds and two ounces came into the world a week later, four days before my thirty-eighth birthday. His arrival came after many hours of labor then an emergency caesarian section. When the doctor finally held him up so I could see him, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There he was, perfect and beautiful. I’d never seen anything as amazing as him in my entire life. I thought my heart was going to pop out of my chest.Image

During the next three months of maternity leave from teaching the second grade, I spent every day with my son, caring for him, staring at him, holding him, rocking him, singing to him, feeding him. I didn’t want to do anything else. Just looking at him made me happy.  Nothing gave me the same satisfaction and contentment as caring for Dakota. Tearing myself away from him to return to work hurt in a way I’d never experienced.  Every day it felt like I’d left part of my heart behind.

I’d rush home as fast as I can to see him and I still do. I don’t want to miss a second of his life. From his first words, “butda, butda,” to his birthdays, sports events, and report cards, I record it all. Watching him explore the world around him and grow is my greatest joy. The memories are endless and priceless. Dakota has brought a delight into my life beyond compare.Image

He is almost ten years old and I Imagecan’t believe it. His curious mind still drives him as it did during the toddler years.  I never have to worry about how he’s doing in school because he always does his best. Since Kindergarten, he’s excelled. He seeks out information and consumes novels, sometimes one a day, but one of the best parts of my son is his caring heart. How other people feel is important to him. He never wants to do anything to hurt anyone and always wants to do what is right.

Life has thrown Dakota a curve ball with the divorce of his parents four years ago, but he’s resilient.  He lives in two homes and thrives in two homes. His intelligence and desire to do the right thing keep him on the correct path. He enjoys many privileges, but appreciates what he has and this is so evident in his willingness to share with others. Dakota has had two foster brothers and with each of them he gave of himself and of his things.

ImageThe most beautiful example is how he helped his younger brother, Dominic, learn to speak. When Dominic first came to live with us at the age two and a half, he only spoke five words. He called Dakota, “dah” because he couldn’t pronounce his name. I couldn’t believe my ears one night when Dakota decided to read to Dominic and work with him on pronouncing certain words in the book. He praised him for his attempts at saying each word. I attribute much of Dominic’s rapid improvement in speaking to Dakota’s hard work, love, and patience. He could get Dominic to try to speak better than anyone else. Within six months of living with us, Dominic exited out of all of his speech and play therapy programs. I’m so proud of both of them.

Having the opportunity to give birth to a baby and raise a child is the one of the best prizes a human can win.  I didn’t understand it until it happened to me. Seeing his hopeful eyes every day, knowing that his life and happiness depend on me gives me the one and only feeling that changes people, that feeling of pure unconditional love. We all want and deserve it, but we don’t always experience it.  I do everything I can to make sure he feels my unconditional love every day. He’s Imagemy one and only Dakota and he’s inspired me to live better and love deeper. Being his mother has expanded my capacity to love and to have another one and only, Dominic. Dakota still teaches him and always will. He shows him how to build with Legos, throw footballs, shoot basketballs, and listen to directions. When I watch my two sons playing together, I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world. No lottery ticket could top this!