In thirteen weeks, I climbed 8,125 stairs, from the underground parking to my classroom on floor four. Not that I’m counting.
Okay, I am.
125 per day. 6 flights. 5 mornings per week. 13 weeks. Somedays more.
My phone keeps track— 13 flights on Friday, 12 on Thursday, 10 on Wednesday, 11 on Tuesday, 7 on Monday.
Each time, my thighs burn, my heart pounds, I breathe hard— but easier through 13 weeks. I’ve lost a pound or 2— okay 8, depending on when I weigh. Not that I’m counting.
Okay, I am. Blessings have a way of hiding until you look.
I count more around the school Steps and blessings and such great kids.
I don’t know the girl in the t-shirt that says, “Nice is the new cool.” But I smile, as does she. Then my student greets me, “What up, Mrs. Byers?” Her good energy spreads like fire. I overhear another say, “Today— is gonna be amazing.” He catches my eye, and his flicker. I nod and hope mine spark, too, a torch to pass on.
There’s often time in my day for extra steps. Time— another blessing.
Music swells in the stairwells a flute trio, a vocal solo. My heart responds, drawn by the pulse of art and life.
One flight down, Dancers in leotards perfect techniques at the barre. And I— stroll a little straighter, arabesque if only in my head, held a little higher, past the studios, past the tune of piano, down another flight to the art gallery to contemplate lines and images, color and messages.
There are days I descend two extra flights exit the building, walk a few city blocks for lunch and fresh air before ascending the stairs
back to floor four, somedays to the fifth, where rehearsals ensue
and my heart beats to the Mariachi, vocal, and orchestral excerpts.
In a small practice room with an open door, my student sits before a harp. “I didn’t know you play harp,” I say.
“I don’t usually tell," says she, and I leave her to her secret and take the stairs back to my classroom and prepare for my last class of Week Thirteen, not to mention Thanksgiving.
It’s not like I hear a booming voice in the sky saying, “Crystal? Hello!” But God has a way of showing up. Like, over and over.
Once when I was fifteen or sixteen, I happened to have a severe earache while at church, my little non-denominational church in my little Oklahoma hometown. Pastor Charlie stopped mid-sermon and said, “God has laid it on my heart that there is someone here in pain. Someone with an earache. I’m going to stop and pray.” And so he prayed from the pulpit and returned to his message while I sat in the congregation awestruck. Believe me or not, my pain subsided 100%.
Then when I was twenty-one, I packed my bags with my mother’s help and loaded Drew into his car seat. I drove out of Colorado and left my young husband and the Rocky Mountains in my rearview mirror. I prayed along the way. “God, I don’t know what to do. Please. Send me a sign,” I said. It wasn’t long before Kody drove to Oklahoma to see me and Drew. Time apart had served us well. We had a happy family reunion for three. A month later when I missed my period, I took the positive pregnancy test as my sign. Thirty-one years later on a Friday night, we sit on adjacent couches. Our toes connect on the ottoman, and we smile at each other while the Astros play on TV.
God and I have been tight through the years—and sometimes not. Sort of like me and Kody. My mother once told me, “There’s a fine line between love and hate.” I’m stubborn when it comes to conforming. I tend to hold grudges when life doesn’t go my way. At times, I stick to the mantra—I can choose hope (through God) or despair, and who would choose despair? Then suddenly, I find myself despairing.
This past week, one of my students asked if she could use my room on Thursday at lunch for a meeting. Their regular meeting spot, or maybe their sponsor, wasn’t available this week. “No problem,” I said. I’m not sure I even asked what kind of meeting.
When Thursday lunch arrived, I grabbed my sad little sandwich from the refrigerator in the teacher’s lounge and returned to my classroom where a small group of some of my favorite students sat in a circle of desks. One of them read Philippians 4:6-7. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I sat at my desk on the opposite side of the room. I might have had some tears in my eyes. This scripture was one of my mother’s favorites. I wonder how many letters she wrote me that included this verse. Was my mother speaking? Or God? I believe they’re in cahoots.
The students took turns discussing the meaning of the words.
One said, “Whatever you’re going through, His peace is greater than your anxiety.”
Another one said, “I just know that we’re all struggling with grades and college applications, and God’s going to get us through it.” There was a pause. “We’re not going to do this on our own. God’s going to get us through it.”
And with these words, I felt convicted. How often do I try to rely on my own devices? That’s a rhetorical question.
Confession time. I struggle with alcohol. I like wine. I like bourbon, vodka, and tequila. I like the relaxation that comes from a drink or two and the comedy that ensues after three or four. According to my oncologist, daily drinking is alcohol abuse. She had the nerve to write that in my charts. Alcohol abuse. The American Cancer Society says, “It’s best not to drink alcohol” and recommends that women “who choose to drink should limit their intake to 1 drink a day.” One?! I swear, I’ve Googled this more than once hoping I’ll find a different answer. Anyway, I’m trying to make healthier choices. From the end of August to the end of September, I did great. I was practically alcohol free, but I was pretty bitter about it, and I mean, downright angry. Notice all the I’s. I. I. I. I. I. I…twelve. Then came October, and I fell off the proverbial wagon. I can’t do this on my own. The mouths of babes confirm it.
So—Thursday after school, I drove home and slipped into some leggings and a long t-shirt and my tennis shoes and went for a walk instead of pouring myself a drink. It was a gorgeous fall evening, and my steps fell to the beat of my music. YouTube picked a song for me. I swear, I think it was God again.
All it takes is a step,
then another and another,
until momentum takes over
and propels you forward.
The steps we don’t take
are the ones we regret.
Just take the step.
Don’t worry or fret.
Our paths, like our steps,
always lead to the next.
Billions of us on journeys
with paths that intersect
Plan all you want.
At some point you’ll see
what happens in life
might be destiny.
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” (Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III, L. 140-141).
Cassius in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III, L. 140-141
The day was February 1st, and I needed a kick in the pants. I decided I was the one to do it. Inspired by my friend Dwight’s Less Is Now Challenge, I figured the first of the month was a good day to start. My own guidelines go like this: SELL, DONATE, RECYCLE, TRASH. I just don’t have the energy to sell. Two questions guide my decisions: Do I love it? Do I use it?
Day 1 — get rid of one thing
Day 2 — get rid of two things
Day 3 — get rid of three things
And so on for thirty days. If my math is correct, week one’s removal adds up to 28, and the entire purge ends up eliminating 453 items.
In my entry way closet, I had a small box started with 8 items to donate. In January, I helped my daughter Lauren move and ended up with some of her laundry, which equaled 11 things. In my car, I still had 3 trash bags of her clothes to donate (I didn’t count what was inside, but I counted the bags) and 2 patio chairs that I didn’t care to keep. From my own closet, I pulled 3 dresses, 2 pairs of shoes, and 1 pair of jeans. In the pantry, I found 23 dog items I no longer needed. In the garage, I found a box of flooded books, numbering 13, and recycled. And on Monday, I made a trip to the Goodwill donation site closest to home and left everything except what will go back to Lauren. From there I drove to the post office and mailed four envelopes and counted that, too. I started my gathering last Sunday, and on Monday 70 items vacated my house. That felt awesome, and I’m ahead of schedule.
And on February 1st, I went for a walk, two miles or so. As I did on February 2nd and the 3rd and the 4th and today is young. Also I started February 1st with a devotional from a book I haven’t finished. This year I thought I would try. I’ve kept it going all week. How is that for a kick in the pants?
On April 1, I stumbled across a blog post that centered on the A-Z blogging challenge. I had just spent the previous two weeks at home vegging on the couch and mindlessly scrolling past all of the corona virus jokes and advice and fearmongering on facebook, and I realized that I needed something productive to occupy my time lest I go cuckoo.
I published my first ever blog post on September 12, 2017 and tapped out 13 posts total in 2017, 30 in 2018, and 35 in 2019. 78 total posts heading into 2020, and this post makes 25 so far for the year. In the beginning I posted at least twice a month and last year more like three times a month. How many times have I tapped that cranberry-colored Publish button (does it change colors? I swear I thought it was blue), and said to myself, I’ll never be able to write anything again. That’s where the challenge came in. I wondered. Could I really write something remotely interesting every day? How much would the blog grow?
Shortly after I committed to the writing challenge, I walked back to my bedroom and stepped on the scale. Yikes! That number scared me worse than Covid-19. I wondered. If I walked at least thirty minutes a day for the next month, how many pounds could I lose? How much would my ass shrink?
So the writing and walking became part of my recent routine. After thirteen posts this month, it should come as no surprise that my viewer numbers on Word Press are at an all-time personal high. If only I could say my weight was at an all-time healthy-adult low. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was my body. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the numbers, but more than anything, the progress is good.