In the Middle

When I was in high school, I once told my closest friends that I was going to find new friends.  Not because they were mean or bad friends, but because I was tired of being around people so much prettier.  They weren’t just pretty- they were talented and intelligent and caring.  I was all those things on a much less scale- not ugly, not dumb, not without talent, but being in the middle bothered me.   I was {mostly} joking about finding new friends, but the feelings remained.

As an adult, I don’t usually consider dropping friends over their awesomeness, but I do still struggle with the feeling of never quite measuring up.  I feel like I’m really good at a lot of things, but great at none, and spend way too much time being discouraged by the people around me instead of encouraged.  Instead of focusing on what I’m doing, I judge my success on those around me and how they’re doing- and I just keep falling into the middle.

That warped way of thinking was stronger than ever the past few weeks.  I’m

part of a group of terribly talented people, all working on pursuing a dream.  The dreams and talents are different, but it’s a group of people really making things happen.  But I’m so busy looking around at all they are accomplishing, and letting myself get down over what I’m not.

It took me a few weeks of wallowing in my ‘not measuring up’ to see the reality.  My path is not the same as theirs- my challenges and goals are not the same- my successes won’t be the same.  I’ve been cheering for them all along- never anything but thrilled for them- but busy being sad for me.    But I’m back.  Redefining goals and success based on what God has planned for me- not by what God has planned for those around me.

Am I the only one who needs to refocus back on God wants for me?  How are you doing at measuring success by what you’re meant to be and do, not by the world around you?  I’d love to hear.

I’m not in the middle of anything but my own story.

In the Middle of My Story

In the Middle of My Story

Nice

You are already all smart people who get this when I forget it.  So yes, I know this doesn’t apply to everyone.

But I do.  I do forget.

I forget that doing something nice for someone really is doing something for me.

I forget that doing one small thing to make someone smile does the same for me, even when I’m not going to get anything out of it, and they won’t even know I did it.

I’m struggling through envy and self-doubt and am throwing a bit of a pity party for myself right now.  I’ll either snap out of it and tell you about it soon, or not snap out of it and tell you about it so I can at least laugh at myself soon.

But through all that struggle, I had the opportunity to do something fairly small for someone, and almost chose not to.  Why?  Because of said pity party and feeling like things never turn out, why give to others who already have so much good happening for them, when is it my turn, blah blah blah blah blah.  Yes, fully aware I am a whiny brat.  Working on that.

But I did it.

And as I did it, I remembered that there really is much joy in being the one who can give something.  There really is as much in the giving as the getting.  It probably does me more good than it does them.  And I’m grateful for the chance to do it.

So yeah, let’s be real here.  I’m not over the whiny pity party.  But I’m trying, and I’m a step closer than I was yesterday.

In case you need the reminder (though I imagine everyone reading this to be much bigger and more mature people than me), it’s true.  Giving is {almost} as awesome as receiving.

nice

 

 

Why I Love College Football

This weekend kicks off college football, and I couldn’t be happier.

A few lot of years ago, I was starting college at the University of Florida, without a clue about football.  My parents weren’t football fans, and my high school won 2 games in 3 years, so it just wasn’t something I knew about.

But I quickly learned.  I was dating a guy who loved the Gators and taught me a great deal, and had a good friend who was born with Orange & Blue blood.  So I went from not knowing what ‘1st and 10’ meant, to being able to recap players and plays, better than most I knew.  The boyfriend was proud.  I even spent a few seasons working with a team of girls helping with recruiting, and was able to see parts of the facilities that most never do, as well as meet high school boys who would go on to become great players with big careers.

I learned about more than just X’s and O’s, and learned about the strong history, the players and coaches backgrounds, and knew I was cheering for more than just a University, but for people who were living their dreams.

I love it all.  I love college football, and especially my Gators.

In the years since college, I’ve grown to appreciate those stories of triumph even more.  And today, I’ll be watching to see who becomes a legend, who writes a page in our history book- who makes the dream happen.  I won’t just be cheering for the hard hits, spiral passes and touchdowns, but I’ll be cheering especially loud for these two players, who have stories worth sharing.  They’ll remind you that today is about more than a score.

#20, Marcus Maye, takes the field today honoring another #20 from years past who drowned just before his first season, and never did run on the field on game day.  He carries with him the heart and support of the mother who didn’t get to watch her son, James McGriff, play.  His story will touch you. 

#37, Mark Herndon, went to bed hungry most nights last season.  He was a walk-on to the Gator team, who came from a family that struggles financially and couldn’t send money to their son.  Not being on scholarship meant not even being able to eat with the team, so Ramen was his meal of choice.  He worked hard.  He went hungry.  It was worth it to pursue his dreams.  And this week, he earned a scholarship, which means he’ll now be able to focus on school and football, not on where his next meal comes from.  I’ll be cheering for him today.  And I’ll be sharing his story with my boys, who need reminders that dreams don’t come easy, but can be achieved. 

These are the reasons that College Football season is the best season of all.  The history, the dreams, the battle.  I love it all.

Go Gators!

 

anita

Caution: Expect Delays

Several days ago a sign popped up on the road out of our neighborhood that advised us of delays this week.  This road just happens to be the only way in and out of the area, the only way to our school, and just happened to be the first week of school for the county on the other half of the road, with their school one block off it.  But even with the sign, I thought that the planners would surely minimize disruption under those circumstances.

I was wrong.

Monday morning as I rode my bike with Drew, about an hour before we leave for work and school, I realized that it may have been a bigger endeavor than I thought.  The dozens of people gathered at the end of the road waiting were a bad sign.  But still, there was nothing blocked, no equipment that looked like it would tear a road up, all was clear.

An hour later, I pulled out and realized that they weren’t kidding.  One lane of the two lane road was blocked, half of that lane was torn up, and the backup coming my direction (towards the school) was so bad, that I had to wait 10 minutes until they let us out.

I was not nice.  No one heard me, but I did more than grumble.

It wasn’t until later that I laughed a little bit.  I laughed because they had warned me.  I laughed because I hadn’t heeded the warning.  But mostly, I laughed because “Expect Delays” is a common theme of my life right now, and yet I still haven’t adjusted.  As a matter of fact, the grumbling gets louder and nastier, with each delay I face.  The delays are usually expected, always a pain, but also usually worse than they warned or I thought.

But no matter what I do, I’m not going to get there any faster.  Sometimes, delays just happen.

How do you cope when you see a sign somewhere in your life, on a road, at work or in a dream you’re working towards that says

Caution:  Expect Delays

Maybe you have some tips for me.  {seriously, tips anyone?!}

I should have believed them

I should have believed them

 

Full Circle & Remembering

Six years ago, Drew was four and Austin had been missing for almost two months.  On a Saturday in August, we held an awareness event at The Church at Argyle (our home church), hoping to get his face out to the community and gather volunteers to help with our upcoming search.

During the event, I walked Drew across the street to sign up for T-ball.  It felt odd, planning for something fun that had nothing to do with finding Austin, but had everything to do with keeping our family life balanced.  I wasn’t going to let Drew miss out on something we’d been looking forward to for years.

I also thought that by the time T-ball started, we would have found Austin and “real” life would resume.

Six years later, we are spending a Saturday in August very similarly.  Ben was signed up for T-ball.  And I’m brainstorming on things for our next awareness event and looking for help for our next search.

I can’t figure out if we’ve come full circle, stood in place or moved forward to a new place that just looks eerily like where we were six years ago.

Despite the voices in my head that say we’ve made no progress, I know that isn’t true.

I know that in six years we’ve not had success in finding Austin, which is why our next awareness event is the CUE “On the Road to Remember” Missing Persons National Tour  where Austin is being featured as the Tour Honoree.  They select someone who is either a cold case, or hasn’t had the attention needed to help bring them home.  This is something we couldn’t have imagined on that Saturday in August six years ago.  We thought we’d find him.  We didn’t think he’d ever be considered for this, so it’s bittersweet.

But it’s true, he is a cold case.

I don’t believe that this honor will help us find him, but it will bring some attention to other cases in our area and for that we are very grateful.  We’ve made progress not in his case, but through our work with other families.  For my mom, that means spending her days training or searching for others missing loved ones (she’s in South Carolina doing that now).  For me, that means sharing our story here, and helping families with other difficulties find Hope in whatever they face.  For my kids, that means living life.  Playing T-ball and baseball, starting school, being kids.

If you’re anywhere near Jacksonville, we hope you’ll come support all the families of missing persons in October, when the Road Tour stops here, and we all stop to remember.  We’ll be sharing details very soon.

Family & Friends Gathered in 2007

 

Losing Cherish- And a Guide to Teaching Our Kids to be Safe

I had the chance to share this very important post on another site today (though it was written weeks ago)- it’s one I feel so strongly about, and hope that you’ll read and share.  It’s originally posted on Time’s Up Blog and I invite you to visit there to read more.  Though more than a month has past since this tragedy, we can’t forget.

________________________________________________________

Losing Cherish- And a Guide to Teaching Our Kids to be Safe

 

by Anita Davis Sullivan

Saturday, June 22nd, I think you could hear our corner of Florida wail. It wasn’t the first time that something tragic has happened, but it was fresh and raw. Many of awoke that Saturday morning to reports of the abduction of 8 year old Cherish Perrywinkle the previous night. Shortly after, we learned that Donald Smith, the prime suspect, had been arrested during a traffic stop, with no sign of Cherish. And a very short time later, we learned that the body of 8 year old Cherish had been found, near the Walmart she was abducted from.

Within moments, there were questions. Why had the mother allowed the child to go with a man they had known for just a few hours? Why had the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office not alerted the public sooner that there was a child abduction? Why did the FDLE not notify the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which would have prompted the phone alerts for the Amber Alert?  Why had Donald Smith seemingly fallen through the cracks and not been treated as a Sexually Violent Predator as recommended by the Department of Children and Families 11 years ago?

I don’t know. No one has the answers yet.

And though I pray they come, and that other children may be saved by what our community learns through this tragic event, my focus quickly turned to how we can help those here now. I heard from parents who sat and talked with their children about ‘Stranger Danger’ or watched them ever closer this weekend. I heard from one mother who had the heartbreaking job of telling her 8 year old daughter that her good friend Cherish was forever gone.

And though we must teach our children, I fear that we teach them the wrong things too often. The real danger is not in strangers- even Cherish was taken and killed by someone who gained her mother’s trust, albeit in a few short hours. But it’s estimated that less than 5% of attacks on children are by a stranger.

We must focus on teaching our children what is appropriate behavior, and how to trust their instincts.

June 26, 2013 marked the six year anniversary of the day that my brother, Michael “Austin” Davis went missing from Jacksonville, Florida. He was an adult, and most likely wasn’t abducted. But from this experience sometimes comes a need to protect my children even more. To make sure that our family doesn’t lose another. So I do teach them, not to be afraid, but to:

  • Know what kind of touching is appropriate and inappropriate, and that it’s okay to say “No!” and get away from anything that makes them uncomfortable.
  • Know who we consider safe grownups are. These are the people in our circle that they should be able to trust. But always reminding them, that it’s okay to say “No!” to even these people if they’re uncomfortable.
  • Know that they never have to protect us. If someone threatens us if they don’t do what the person says, they don’t have to do it.
  • Get permission to go anywhere, and stay in groups.
  • Never help an adult without our permission. It can be a trick.

In six years of missing my brother, we’ve also had to deal with the question of how much to tell our oldest, who celebrated his 4th birthday just two days before his Uncle Austin went missing. No matter if it’s a lost family member or a lost friend, children grieve and need help doing so.

Here are my tips on helping your child through a time of loss:

  • Let them see your emotions.
  • It’s okay for them to know you’re sad, as it let’s them know it’s okay for them to be sad too.
  • Encourage them to share memories of their loved one.
  • Create a scrapbook or box of memories that they can look through and remember their loved one. Allow them to participate in adding to it. For example, my son has a great memory of my brother taking him fishing. I’d forgotten about it, but he hasn’t.
  • Communicate with caregivers.
  • Let teachers or caregivers know that your child may experience out of the norm behaviors as they cope with this. Let your child know they can talk to these adults in their lives about what they’re feeling.
  • Share stories with your kids.
  • Tell stories about the lost loved one as your kids grow, reminding them how much the person loved them, or would have loved seeing them grow. Keep them alive in the heart of the family, giving your kids a feeling of roots and love. My sons have limited family in their lives, but I always want them to know the love of family.
  • Be honest on a level they can understand.
  • When my brother was first missing, we didn’t know what to tell our son. We didn’t want to lie, but we don’t really know the truth. We don’t know where he is. We’ve come to realize that it’s okay to say “we don’t know but we won’t give up until we do” and keep the brutal details from him (like that we believe he killed himself). As he’s gotten older, we’ve added more details but always the truth as he could understand and cope with it.

There are no simple answers on how to keep your kids safe, or how to help them through a loss like this. Just as there are no easy answers on why this tragedy happened.

But on this anniversary of my brother’s disappearance, I do know that I can help educate parents, who truly just want to keep their kids safe.

Rest in peace Cherish. You will not be forgotten.

Throw Narrow

Back in high school, I was a Diver.  That was after years of injuries left me unable to continue in my original love, Gymnastics.  Tumbling in air with much less impact on my sore joints was perfect.  {Though the story of the time I landed flat on my back 8 times in a row when I just couldn’t get a dive still makes me cringe.}

A board and water is a lot different from the floor though, and I had a lot to learn.  One of my first lessons on a type of dive I hadn’t done before, an Inward, included the direction to “throw an arrow.”  It came along with hand gestures- starting with the arms above the head, and slicing them down to come together in front of you, making a V.  So it made sense.  The end of an arrow is a V shape.  So I worked on throwing an arrow.  I got pretty good at it.

Until one day I repeated the words back to my coach, and got a laugh.  Apparently, he was saying “throw narrow” all along.  You see, when you throw narrow, you can jump straight up and still have the force of your arm movement push you out just enough to clear the board.  You focus your effort on that narrow space, and you have success.  If you throw wide and jump straight, you’re likely to hit the board.

It’s been years since I’ve been on a diving board, but the story came back to me yesterday as I thought about my focus.  I’ve been jumping straight- meaning, I’ve had great effort and intent.  But I haven’t narrowed my focus.  I’m throwing all I can into all there is, without the focus needed to stop banging my head on the board.

Throw Narrow.

I’ve already decided to give up a few small things I’m doing, and am considering what else I can do to narrow my focus.

I’ve also realized that for me, throwing narrow means focusing on reaching women.  My story of struggling through the loss of my brother, my husband’s chronic illness, and juggling motherhood and work will best be told if I focus narrow, where I can best be used and heard.  I didn’t really like that message I was hearing from God- after all, I have always had stronger relationships with guys (something to do with my sarcastic self I guess).  But God used a few things this week to show me where my narrow is.

Two of those things are these simple interviews I shared on other sites in the past week.  They forced me to stop and really think through some questions that are simple, but have tough answers.

Journey for Earth

Blog Formatting

“You don’t have to make it big.  You have to make it matter.”  – Jon Acuff

What could matter more in your life if you had a more narrow focus?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

 

My "fabulous" artwork

My “fabulous” artwork

Baby Got Back- So Many Questions

This week I’m attending a meeting with my company, with lots of presentations, many discussions, and a few performances. During a team building event one night, we were split into teams for a cooking challenge. On top of cooking, we needed to perform a skit/song/cheer of some sort. Cooking is not my first love (not my 20th), though luckily for all, we were assigned to salad duty. But writing a funny song? Now you’re in my wheelhouse. I wrote a parody of ‘Baby Got Back’ and our team performed it, with another woman and I taking the lead. We quickly earned the nickname, “the rap girls.” It was funny.

Till the next morning. “The Rap Girls” were called up at 8am in a meeting, and asked to repeat the performance.

Seriously, I rapped ‘Baby Got Back’ at 8am in a meeting.  My husband would be so proud.

After that loveliness, we listened to a speaker who specializes in helping salespeople increase their skills.  I’m not a salesperson, and really don’t want to be, so I thought I might tune out.  But it turns out, that his biggest tip is one we should all hear.

Ask questions.  Listen.  Learn.

My first question was why in the world I agreed to rap.  But sometimes you have to get uncomfortable and take risks.  But more importantly, it did have me stop and think about how I go about life.  I don’t ask enough questions, and certainly don’t listen enough.

You can’t know how to help people if you don’t ask questions to get to know them and their needs.

So let me ask you…

What’s going on in your life today?

That’s a great place to start.

Baby Got Back

Brave Women

I want to whine today.  My back hurts, my foot hurts, I’m tired, I have too much to do and too little time.  My son is in the Bahamas, with a tropical storm expected before he leaves.  I’m traveling all next week for work, when I’d really like a vacation.  (and yes, that was all kind of whiny)

But, you know what?

My friend was diagnosed with Lymphoma yesterday, and talks with an Oncologist for the first time today.  She is younger than me.  She has young kids.  She has a husband, and a job, and a life, and plans for next week and next month and next year.  But she’s taking a detour.  Today, she’s learning what the plan is, and for the next several months it will be about the fight.  She’s only had about 12 hours to process it.  And she’s cried.  But she’s strong and she knows she’ll beat it.  And have no question- I also believe she’ll kick it’s ass.  But today?  Today sucks.  Big time.

And then there is this.

The three young women who were held captive for years in Ohio, and were just freed two months ago (read my original post about it here) have released the video statement below.  They are showing us that you can walk through hell and not just make it out alive, but do it “with a smile on my face.”  Take 2 minutes and watch.  They are the face of hope.

So today, I will whine {less} and hopefully we can be inspired together by these brave women. 

All four of them, including my friend.

 

 

Meditation for Beginners

Meditation is an art, a long-standing practice that originated with someone very wise I’m sure. The ability to center one’s self, to breathe deeply and live fully in the moment is a skill that takes practice. I have visions of mastering this art, and being able to simply be still. Not just my body, but also my mind. To pray fully focused on my intent, to write fully focused on what I’m trying to convey, or to even play with my boys without wondering how quickly I can jump to the next thing.

If you arrived here hoping to find an expert, you’re so out of luck. I was tortured this morning with about 20 minutes of time in a dark room, in a fairly comfortable position, with therapy treatments happening on my back. 20 minutes with no phone, no books, no voices, no distractions. Just me and God time. Or it could have been me and me time. But instead it was me and God time for about 30 seconds at a time, broken up by moments of lost train of thoughts, knees begging to be cracked, a phone buzzing to be checked, before I’d come back to my prayer. I should be enjoying these moments of quiet, with nothing to do but heal and be still.

Instead, I’m searching for a book that must exist, Meditation for Beginners (or Dummies).

In the meantime, here are some things I’m trying, to help me find if there’s a hope for me in this mess of a mind.

– Accepting that for 20 minutes, three times a week, my only activity is being still.
– Putting the phone down more. I won’t likely ever be the person that forgets where their phone is for a day. It’s too much a part of my job and my goals with writing. But I can give my kids my full attention for more than 30 seconds at a time and just be there. (I wish this one wasn’t so hard)
– Just write. Many times I have too many thoughts and ideas flying around and can’t seem to get organized and settled enough to share them. I’m pushing myself to just start writing, and worry about editing later. It’s okay if it’s a mess.

 meditation

The biggest challenge of being still is the thoughts that come that you’d rather not face. Just a week or so away from the 6th anniversary of the last day we saw Austin, thoughts of him come often. Which lead to thoughts of our search and the lack of progress, which lead to thoughts of hopelessness. I wish that thoughts of Austin could ever just be the good memories, but I’m not sure that’s possible. So I don’t welcome the good memories as much either, because they turn into painful ones.

Thankfully, the painful thoughts usually turn to thoughts of hope and images of what the day will look like when we finally know. I still believe that it will be another painful time, one of grieving or more questions, because no matter the result there will be that. But I know who will be standing by our side, who will help shine Hope into the darkness, and know that God will use people like us to keep shining it for others.

But my best chance of shining that light is if I can be present and put all my energy into one thing for those moments I have. So, if you know of a book like Meditation for Beginners, or Meditation for Dummies, let me know!