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            There is a picture of a woman jogging on my desktop background. To those of you that know me, this is an obvious sign that I’m breaking down. Because, for one, it’s athletic. And two, it’s jogging. Women shouldn’t jog. It goes against our anatomical make-up. Too many things bounce and jiggle and smack us in the face if we try. It’s just not natural.

            But I chose this picture as my background because, for one, my computer crashed and I lost all that was near and dear to me (electronically speaking). Did I back up to the magical world of clouds and boxes? Of course not. I mean, I thought I did… but did you know those things get full and stop backing things up automatically? I didn’t know that.

            I digress.

            I chose this jogger as my picture, not just because my computer crashed and I lost all my other pictures that were on Windows 8, sending me into the bizarre land of Windows 10 (that makers of which are obviously trying to push this God-forsaken sport onto us)… but I chose this picture because the woman was jogging on the beach. And the beach – its sand and soothing waves – is my safe place. It’s my womb. It’s the place I wish to crawl into and rest until all is right with the world again.

            Life has been busy, as it always is. But it’s been extra busy with computers crashing and car batteries dying, preparing to build a house, books coming out and opening a homeless shelter the same week of Thanksgiving (because who does that!!!). Life has been busy, so much so that I didn’t allow myself to prepare for my children and their RAD. It was almost as if, because I had forgotten the holiday was coming, that I my children would also magically forget or something.

            But let me assure you, they didn’t.

            In true RAD form, my children rose to the occasion like Gladiators. They wore their armor and prepped for battle while I mindlessly went about my errands and craziness, completely unprepared for the fight. Sitting here now, I feel ashamed of myself for getting so busy that I neglected to remember the tell-tale signs. I let my guard down and am now paying the price.

            Between the two of them in a few days’ time, we had sexual advances, horrific disrespect to women, a near flooding of the basement because someone took the washer apart, my beautiful Willow Tree collectible items were colored on (and not by the toddler), and an entire melted candle was poured down our drain.

            You guys, it’s been 3 days and we still can’t use our tubs, sinks, or toilets! My house smells like a sewer and, no matter how many times I tell these little people NOT to flush the toilets, they just keep on flushing them, sending them to near-overflowing. Mind you, these same children NEVER flush a toilet to save their lives. But not this week… This week, they are freaking toilet-flushing machines!

            We literally drove to our church to poop today. All of us. We just sat there and waited till we all had to go. Because that’s what parents of RAD children get to do in their “free time”.

            So, to break up the fun of waiting for the bowels to move, I decided to collect more items for the shelter our church opened this week. A house was being torn down and there was furniture that needed to be salvaged. I traipsed in with 2 RADs and a toddler before realizing that we had, in fact, entered a crack house.

            Awesome.

            My kids dove into the plunder like pirates looking for buried treasure, while I took the razor blade off the two-year-old who had found it atop the mirror stained with special white powder marks on the kitchen counter. And when my almost 9-year-old asked if she could keep the pretty vase for her room, I hadn’t the heart to tell her that it wasn’t actually a vase at all but something that we could get arrested for owning. It was when my oldest stuck his hand into a bag filled with urine-soaked items that I decided I was totally not going to win the mother of the year award (again, dang it!).

            We salvaged what we could safely clean and took it to the shelter. I answered no less than 3 trillion questions about nothing important, and the toddler developed a fever and runny nose… he probably got a case of second-hand drug use from the crack house. I’m watching for signs of withdrawal as we speak.

            And after we went back to the church to “finish our deeds”, we finally arrived back home. And these children couldn’t believe that I was exhausted. How dare I not play with them on a Monday during business hours. How dare I not entertain them and watch movies and celebrate the holiday weekend with them instead of working. How dare I not allow them to make play dates when they’ve acted like complete fools for the better part of a week.

            And all I could do was sit and stare at the woman jogging on my computer screen. I knew in real life that her boobs must be killing her, but I wanted nothing more than to be her in that moment. I’d trade sore nips for a battered heart any day of the week. It also occurred to me that running is about small victories – counting down the mile markers, keeping track of breaths and strides, staying focused on just the next step.

            My kids, although complete terrors this week, didn’t lie about their behaviors – they took ownership. They didn’t fight their consequences, they accepted them. They still can’t tell me why and I still have no idea what will make them stop, but there were small victories nevertheless.

           Today, as I sat there crying to a near-stranger, I realized that now is the time to count my breaths and strides – to focus on just the moment that is in front of me. My body may hurt and my mind may scream against all that is happening, but there is a sea of beauty all around, just waiting to be noticed. And whereas I may not have a physical beach to calm my frantic soul, I know that, breath by breath and stride by stride, peace is mine for the taking.

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