Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Identity Crisis

***Quick caveat- I wrote this over a month ago, but for some reason never got around to publishing it.  Oh Mommyhood...

Apparently every 4 years or so I feel the need to do something drastic, so I take it out on my hair.  I had a pretty good reason this time as Arella's little fingers were getting so intertwined in my curls it was hard to get her untangled sometimes.  Plus my molting season has apparently begun, and I clogged up the drain and the vacuum cleaner with my shedded remnants.  Classy, I know.

Since I discovered my freshman year in high school that my hair wasn't just frizzy, it had turned curly, I've loved it.  In college a few times I felt I needed a change in my life, so I took began to take it out on my hair- dyeing it, bleaching it (really bad decision!), chopping it.  I really wanted to shave it at one point, but I think that would've made my mom cry, so I left that to GI Jane.  Apparently, my hair had become my outlet.

My hair had gotten really long going into the 2004 Olympics, so following the Games, I chopped it big time again and donated 12 inches to Locks of Love.  I guess I forgot to cut my hair for the next few years, because it got really long again going into the 2008 Olympics.  So of course, following the Games I chopped it again, donated 8 inches to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths.  This time around I had about 8 inches again and let Visible Changes donate it.

When my hairstylist chopped off that braid, I immediately felt a weight lifted off my shoulders- one less hassle to deal with!  Welcome to Mommyhood, hair style included.  I felt so good walking out of there, but then I got home and just wasn't happy with the "do."  I didn't really care so much because it is WAY easier right now, but sometimes it makes me feel like I'm going through an awkward stage again.  Can't we leave that back in junior high?!

It really started to bother me that my hair style bothered me so much.  I never seem to like it when I cut it short, but yet I get tired of it long and always chop it.  So why don't I like it short?  I began to dwell on this, certain I could get to the bottom of this big stupid hair crisis mystery.  Then a light bulb showed up over my head.

I like my hair, and I like the way it looks long. This is the way people know me, this is the way I see myself.  With it cut short, it's like I'm having a little identity crisis.  The way I identify myself and they way others identify me, is often by my hair.  It sounds a little silly to write on here for all the world to see, but if I'm being honest, my identity is a little bit wrapped up in the way I look, in my hair.  It's a feature people always notice and give me compliments on.  It's a feature that I'm usually pretty content with.  And I just went a got rid of it.

It's made me realize that maybe I let myself wrap my identity in my hair a bit too much.  And that's not the only thing I've let myself be defined by- diving is my other biggie.  It's no secret I've always loved diving and had some pretty amazing experiences through diving, but I have let it define my life a bit.  Now, I'm not saying these are bad things.  We have talents and passions that very much define our path in life, but it's easy to let even good things take over too much of our life and begin to define who we are and not just the route we're taking.

What I've realized through my mini identity crisis this week, is that I've let many things in this world (including my appearance) define who I am.  When those things are taken away, I feel lost, abandoned, exposed.  But they are just things in this world that I'm clinging to way too tightly!  I'm learning once again to let the things of this world go.

"Do not let your adorning be external- the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing- but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."  1 Peter 3:3-4

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Here I Am

Over the last few years I have found myself with the same prayer on my heart:

"Here I am, send me."

In my heart I have longed to see what God has had planned for me.  But when I get these tugs in my heart to "go", I suddenly doubt it must be from God and make up every excuse I can think of and try to rationalize my way out of it.  Why don't I blindly trust Him? 

I look at my daughter and she trusts and depends so completely and fully on me.  She knows I will always be there to meet her needs, or even just hold her when she doesn't feel good.  Why don't I depend and trust God like that?  Why do I think twice and second guess Him?  He created me, knows every tiny detail of me, He loves me, provides for me and will never leave me.  So why don't I trust Him the way a little baby trusts her parents? 

Things don't have to make sense to me.  I can't worry about what others will say or think. I need to stop questioning and second guessing and I need to start trusting.

"If You say go, I will go
If You say wait, I will wait
If You say step out on the water
and they say it can't be done
I will fix my eyes on You and I will come

Your ways are higher than our ways
And the plans that You have laid
Are good and true
If You call us to the fire
You will not withdraw Your hand
We'll gaze into the flames and look for You"

Austin WETS Banquet

Two weeks ago we took a little trip up to Austin for the annual WETS banquet.  It was Arella's first road trip (she did awesome), and it was a great time to catch up with old Texas teammates, coaches and friends!

A nice little family picture

The Erwin Award winners

Vera & I with our UT coach Matt Scoggin

A very cool cow with Texas Hall of Famers painted on it by the amazing Robert Hurst.
 On our way home we got stuck in traffic after a car was rear ended off the road.  It started a fire and with the super dry Texas weather and the winds kicking up, it spread fast.  Fortunately everyone seemed to be okay.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Real Hope

Today marks 1 year til the 2012 London Olympic Games.  I also just learned early this morning that a beloved Olympic Silver Medalist, Jeret "Speedy" Peterson took his life the other night. 

This is a powerful and painful reminder to me how big and important things can appear to me, and how easily I can get caught up in them.  I'm a dreamer, a big dreamer, and I'm always striving for something.  That in itself is a good thing, as usually those dreams and passions are something that God places on my heart and wants me doing.  But even when I'm striving for something "good," my focus can get distorted, placing way too much importance on that goal or dream, where it becomes the center of my life and the thing by which I measure everything else.  Then suddenly without even knowing it, I realize that this great and wonderful dream has now become the idol which I am overly focused on, it's the center of my life, it's what I'm worshiping.

But a gold medal, a fancy diploma, a cushy bank account, fame, fitting in... these things aren't lasting, they're fleeting.  Gold medals tarnish, the ribbons unravel; it doesn't erase your past or your problems or magically change your character.  Diplomas are just papers saying you've spent X amount of time studying from a book; it doesn't mean you are now wise or know how to truly live.  Money comes and goes and often creates more problems and more emptiness inside as you realize the things you buy will never fully satisfy you.  Fame lasts for that quick 15 minutes and then people forget and cease to care about you; it's lust not real love.  Fitting in and people pleasing is only trying to mash yourself into a box that you may not fit; it doesn't allow you to be your unique self and to understand how to give and receive true affection and love.

All these things are not "bad" things but when we are consumed by them, they are idols we are placing in our lives.  They are all temporary, they will all fade away in the end.  But the One who truly deserves and is worthy of our worship, offers a relationship that is eternal and has far greater reward than anything this world can offer.  He will not leave you thirsting for more.  He will not leave you longing for the next best thing.  He will not cease to love you.  He will never leave you.  He will, however, provide for you.  He will walk with you through the storm.  He will fill your emptiness with a very true, very real and everlasting and loving relationship.

You don't have to clean yourself up to come to Him.  As a matter of fact, He says you can't earn it, it's a gift.  "For by grace you have been saved through faith,and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."  (Ephesians 2:8-9)  No matter what you've done or where you've been, He loves you and desires a relationship with you.  His is the way, the truth and the life.  He is Jesus, and the hope we have in Him is eternal and will never ever fade away.

Monday, July 25, 2011

When it rains....

This past week has brought our first steady rains in quite some time.  The Woodlands is usually lush and green with flowers everywhere, pretty much the tropical part of Texas.  But 15 inches behind in our annual rainfall has left this area brown and dried up with people hiding in their AC filled homes this summer including on July 4th which for the first time that I can remember has not ended with a bang due to fire fears.  With the rain this week, I was thankful that my yard is beginning to look green again, but I was also reminded of a few very special days in my life.

I've always loved rain and big storms, there's just something so awesome, scary and calming about them all at the same time.  Maybe it's the intensity with which they come and hit, or perhaps it's that part of you that just wants to snuggle under a blanket with a good book listening to the rain, or the fun moments when you're caught out in it and it makes you giggle and want to step in a puddle.  And it's kind of cool that three of the most important and memorable days of my life happened on dark and stormy days.

On September 24, 2000 in Sydney, Australia, as I headed to the Olympic venue nervous and excited for my final five dives, the ones that would end up catapulting me to the top of the podium, I stared out the bus windows watching the rain start to fall.  As I walked down the long corridor between the pool and a wall of windows, I watched the rain come down harder, even a little sideways.  I remember smiling, thinking, "These conditions are just perfect."  And they were.

Two years later on September 7th, I was supposed to have a beautiful, much dreamed of outdoor wedding.  But a few days prior we started tracking Tropical Storm Fay that was headed right for us, like a last minute uninvited guest.  Fortunately the night before the wedding, an available room inside opened up for us to use.  This room happened to be all windows on two sides over looking a pretty lake.  I had the joy of being married nice and dry inside with the view of a lovely rain outside.

As we were counting down the days in May until our little bundle of joy came, it was really hot and dry and drought conditions were already apparent.  I remember telling Eriek one day that I wouldn't be surprised at all if it rained the day Arella was born, it just seemed right.  Well, she showed up two weeks early on May 11th, one of the only rainy days we've had this year.

There's just something about those rainy days.  Maybe I just have a thing for water.  But I think it's more of a reminder for me of God's promises. 

Back in the day people were running amok, doing whatever they pleased, totally corrupted and full of violence.  God saw that their wickedness was great and that every intent of their heart was evil, except for Noah who pleased God.  So God decided to destroy every living thing (except those on the ark with Noah) with a great flood. After the rain stopped and the flood waters receded, God made a sign, the rainbow, to mark a covenant that He would never again use a flood to destroy the earth.  So when we see the rainbow it is for God and for us to remember His covenant.

Dolly Parton has a great quote, "The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you've gotta put up with the rain."  I think that is why I love rain and storms so much, for the hope that follows it.  Not every rain storm promises a great event in my life and not every great event will happen on a rainy day.  But we all go through the storms of life and sometimes just feel like we're drowning.  If we can look forward with hope and excitement for the rainbow to come, it makes putting up with the rain a lot easier.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Arella's Room

Many of you know I started working on Arella's room back in February, and I have yet to post pics. Well, I finally took pictures and had a few minutes to get them on my computer

Everything is hand painted except the verse on the wall is a vinyl sticker.  I'm tickled every time we change Arella's diaper because she loves to stare at her little monkey and even reaches out for it and smiles at it!  That makes all the time and effort worth it!!!  Enjoy...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Let the Games Begin

I've had all of these absolutely brilliant ideas to write about on my blog, but as you can see it's been a month since my last entry.  As any mom knows, these moments of wisdom and insight come at the most convenient times to write them down, like while driving in the car, or nursing a baby, or on the really rare occasion you get the chance to take a shower. 

I feel like this past week has given me a fresh start.  We discovered Arella has reflux and her medicine has helped in a huge way this past week and a half.  So my previously upset and in pain baby is back to her happy little self, and this mommy now has a new sense of calm and peace.  Last Saturday my husband watched Arella so I could go do Piyo at the gym.  It kicked my butt and I was sore all over- one of the best feelings in the world to me!  So that jump started me to get back into shape, and now I look forward to doing a little physical activity every day.  And of course, my mom gave me this card that just hits the nail on the head:

I laughed so hard at this because it's so accurate!  But it's also really made me think about a few things.  Obviously things have changed for me in a big way.  I have always been an on-the-go kinda gal and an athlete constantly working out.  Now, there might be several days in a row where the closest I get to leaving the house is opening the garage door to throw the trash out and I glance at my car.  I was a good girl and didn't work out at all until the doctor cleared me.  Six weeks has to be the longest I've ever not done some kind of workout!

I knew these things would happen, I was ready for the change and had an idea of what would be coming.  And I have to say, I'm absolutely LOVING having so much time with my daughter- priceless!  But what keeps crossing my mind now, is what's next? Where will this road lead me?  What does God have in store?

It's scary for me not to be planning out the next four year cycle of my life like I've been accustomed to.  However, it's also freeing and invigorating to be on a new winding path.  And today I will find my contentment staring into these beautiful bright blue eyes God has blessed us with.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Mommy Musings

Just some random thoughts from a brand new mommy.
  • For the first time in many months I can look down and see my feet, and boy do I need to take a chainsaw to my toenails!
  • I have only patted my stomach once referring to Arella then realized she's not in there any more.
  • My once little cute innie belly button looks more like a cavernous hideout for bad guys as my belly is shrinking back to normal size.
  • I have never had to pre-plan bathroom trips before.
  • A shower is now a rare treat instead of a daily necessity.
  • I used to plan my life in 4 year blocks of time between Olympiads; now I plan in 3 hour blocks around feedings.
  •  Sleeping in spurts leaves me feeling like I'm in a state of eternal jet lag, but no cool new destination. However the view of my baby is breathtaking!
  • I'm the kind of person that doesn't sit still very well, but my daughter has trained me to sit and stay for hours on end and just stare at her.
  • I always wanted an iPhone because I thought they were really cool and you could check email on them.  Now I have one and the only functions I use are an app to keep track of diaper changes & breastfeeding and texting pictures of Arella to her Daddy while he works.
  • I'm pretty smitten with this little girl of mine, and it breaks my heart when she cries and I can't figure out what's wrong.  Sometimes I just cry with her.
  • So far she's a very happy baby and her accidental smiles and silly faces absolutely melt me!
  • I never thought I would be so entertained by diaper changes.
  • I think my wrist surgeries really helped me prepare for parenthood.  I am very efficient at left handed typing and can do almost any domestic chore with my left arm only.  That right arm works very well as a cradle even though my wrist doesn't bend much any more.
  • I was worried about how the dogs would react to the baby.  Sam thinks she's a squeaky toy that smells good, and Charlie just wants to be near her most of the time.
  • It's amazing how an hour and a half round trip to the doctor's office can be a much needed and exciting outing, and then cause me to sleep most of the afternoon.
  • Even though my baby is on the smaller side, I keep looking at her and can't figure out how she was ever inside of me.
  • It's amazing how you can go from just another person to Mommy literally overnight.  
  • I have been waiting for this for so long, after nearly 2 weeks, I'm still amazed it has already happened.
  • I find it a bit funny that we're taking Arella for her 2 week check-up tomorrow, on her due date.
  • I knew Eriek was excited to have a baby, too, and he's so good with kids, but he's taken the Daddy thing to a whole new level.  He is the most amazing and supportive Daddy- I love you Honey!
  • I could keep writing these little tidbits all day, but I have to go stare at my sweet little angel while she sleeps.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

She's Finally Here

The moment we have been waiting for came upon us before we even knew what happened.  Two weeks before her due date, she just couldn't stand it any longer, she had to come meet us.  I'm glad she was as excited to meet us as we were to meet her!

Arella Joy was born on May 11, 2011 at 9:11am weighing in at 6 lbs. 10 oz. and 20 inches long.  She's small but mighty, and (stealing from Mary Poppins) she's practically perfect in every way.  We are absolutely in love with her and captivated by her presence.  I cry pretty much every few hours because I'm so full of joy and awestruck wonder that she's actually here in my arms.

It's just starting to sink in that she's for real and here to stay, and I'm realizing it's already been a week.  Oh time, please stop stealing my daughter from me!  I am thoroughly enjoying every single moment as I'm finally a Mommy.  Thank you Lord for answering my prayers when You didn't have to, You didn't need to, You simply wanted to.  I am so unworthy, and so forever thankful for this most amazing blessing!  Glory to God!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Race

In sports you have to believe in something before you will ever see it become reality.  In sports you have to discipline yourself, training hard for hours, day in and day out for years to even attempt to accomplish a daring feat. In sports you have to keep your eye on the prize because it's the motivation to keep you persevering through trials and tribulations.  In sports you have to have your head in the game every day at every practice so you continue to build on what you have learned before, so your limits become stretched and your ability grows beyond them.  On the biggest stages in sports, desire, determination and perseverance will always win over talent alone.  In sports, champions are often made after many failed attempts- that means they got back up again after a defeat.  In sports, becoming a champion doesn't happen by standing on the top of the podium.  You become a champion during the pursuit.

Life is really no different.  The biggest problem in life is we have our eyes focused on the wrong prize.  We're usually in pursuit of things we think are worth while like gold medals, diplomas, money, fame... the list goes on.  While none of those things are bad things, they are all only temporary.  Gold medals represent quite an accomplishment, but they will always tarnish and the ribbon will eventually begin to unravel.  Diplomas show you have put a lot of time into studying, but not living. Money can solve many issues, but it also leads to unnecessary spending and distraction from what is truly important.  While sometimes people can use fame to help bring awareness to certain wonderful things, fame in and of itself is basically idol worship.  While there are truly wonderful people in the world, we are people and we all fall short of perfection.  We will all stumble and mess up at times; people were not made to be worshipped but to worship.

There is only One who will never fail us or change or forsake us.  There is only One worthy of our worship and praise.  There is only One who can teach us how to truly live.  And there is only One who can actually save us from ourselves and our final destination.  He is not temporary or a fading icon.  He is Jesus- the One who conquered death to save us.  He is the One we run the race for.  Life eternal with Jesus is the ultimate prize.  That is where our focus in life needs to be so we run the race of life with desire and passion because we know Who we're running for and why we're running. 

Now watch the race below with this in mind.  This is not just any race, but one where a girl in a very important race with a team depending on her falls flat on her face in front of her own home crowd.  But it's what happens after that we need to pay attention to.  This video is not about the race.  It's about Who the race is being run for.  Let us run like this everyday in our lives for Christ.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jonah- As Told by Stuffed Animals

Eriek had to come up with a big final project for his class this semester.  He decided to get creative this time and make a children's book of Jonah using our stuffed animals as the main cast.  He wrote a script out and then started envisioning what pictures he needed.

We live in The Woodlands, TX and there's this area called the Waterway that just fit the bill for this little endeavor.  He wanted the Pavilion (where all the concerts are held) to be the big city of Nineveh, and there's plenty of water, boats and trees around it to capture the rest of the story.  All-in-all, it was the perfect setting. 

What I liked most about this project was that I was able to be of some help and spend time with Eriek while he worked on the project, instead of him being stuck on the computer writing for days and days on his own while I barely get to see him.  Basically, I was the Puppet Master, arranging the characters as he described what he wanted for that part of the story.

Here I am setting up the Ninevites outside of their city as Eriek gets the framing for the shot set up.

As you can see though, these guys were tricky as they didn't want to stand on their own.  We propped twigs under their feet and that helped until the wind kept blowing them over!  Eriek finally got a great shot in between gusts...

Nice evil Ninevites, huh?  They are happy little Beijing mascots plus a little Kuwait bear :)  Then we moved on to the boat scenes.  Jonah is the bird because his name means dove (foolish bird).  The Athens mascots are the mariners.  The people at the boat house were nice enough to let us use a kayak for our photo shoot!

Jonah being thrown overboard is one of my favorite pics!  We used a wire hanger and I was dangling him over the water and we photoshopped it out :)

And, of course, the whale spitting up Jonah on the shore near Nineveh.  (The whale was the mascot from the Montreal World Championships.)

And one of the last pictures was Jonah writing his story in the Bible.

There were many more pics, but I don't want to steal Eriek's work of art!  It was just so much fun to do, and I think it would be a great project to do with your kids!  Not only is it a lot of fun to take your silly stuffed animals and make them act out scenes in the Bible, but you get to know the story you're acting out much better and deeper.

Even if you don't have kids, be your own kid!  I encourage you to try it with a friend- you'll laugh so hard while doing it, then you'll have pictures to look back on and smile at.  And you'll probably get to know God a little more in the process.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Daddy's Pregnant?!

So last night was our first "Prepared Childbirth" class at the hospital.  One of the highlights was Eriek getting chosen to wear the "empathy" vest.  The instructor first put a thick strap around his chest after he let his air out so he couldn't breathe very well.  Then she had him place a weighted patch right above his belt so when he put the vest on it would put pressure on his bladder.  Then she put the vest on which contained a 5 lbs. weighted pendulum that moved plus two 7 lbs. lead balls that also moved around (like a baby does).  There was also quite a bit of fluid in the vest.

 I think it gave him a good idea for a few brief minutes of what it's like being pregnant.  He did after all perform the classic pregnant lady sit into a chair.  I was very impressed.

See, it's almost like the real thing...  but for about 5 minutes instead of 9 months, and no actual pushing the baby out.

Friday, April 8, 2011

New Favorite Toy

So my belly has become a funny little fascination in the past few months.  With Arella growing everyday in there, I have more and more to jiggle around and play with- and she plays with me sometimes!  Eriek just laughs when I dance around bouncing my baby belly all over the place, but it has been quite the source for entertainment.

Although I now have a tendency that around the house I'll hike my shirt up letting my belly hang all out because darn it, it's just more comfortable that way.

However, I've noticed that in doing so, I'm resembling old Chinese men...

Hmmm....  not so cool...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Austin Fun

Sorry this is long overdue!  A couple of weekends ago, women's swimming and diving NCAA's were in Austin, so Eriek and I decided that would be a perfect final get-a-way for us before baby Arella comes.  So for our final weekend as a couple, all we could talk about, of course, was the baby :)  A fun surprise was the restaurant right by our hotel is called Baby A's and then right across the street we found a Zoe's Kitchen.  (Zoe is what we've named our baby we're adopting from China, still a few years away).  So we felt like both of our baby girls were represented that weekend!
We stayed at Embassy Suites and they not only have the most amazing hot breakfast, but they have this really cool pond with swans and giant koi fish!  This definitely made us feel like we were on vacation!
One of the things I really wanted to do while we were there was try and get some good maternity pics.  Austin is so scenic and beautiful, I was just hoping to find the right spot and get one or two good shots.  Eriek did an amazing job as photographer giving me about 30 shots I just love!  Here are some of my favs:

Of course taking pictures around Lake Travis works up an appetite, so we just had to stop for lunch at the infamous Oasis!  They have built this place up so much since my last visit that it's becoming a big tourist attraction, but it still has that magical view...
And I found the lovely diving statue, which always makes this place feel a little more like home.

And one final picture to leave you with.  Austin, although more liberal than the rest of Texas, is located in Texas, and you know we like to cling to our guns here in this great state.
So this is why you "Don't Mess With Texas."