coping, running

Some Thoughts on Breathing

As a part of our New Year’s celebration we all came up with 3 words to focus on this year.  Mine were:  faith, connect, and BREATHE

I know every one breathes.  But as I have been focusing on these words, I find there is a depth to breathing that I didn’t realize.

I am coming to believe that our emotional journey; is linked to our spiritual journey; is linked to our physical journey.  Many people don’t link them together.  For instance, most therapists really focus on the emotional journey.   I know people who go to therapy for everything.   Most religious leaders focus on the spiritual journey.  We all know people who use religion for everything.  Fitness Centers, work out programs and personal trainers primarily focus on the physical journey.  Certainly there is benefit in developing one at a time.  Sometimes we need to really target one specific area of ourselves.

It is not so easy to truly integrate all three areas.  I think many people are like me, and they target all the areas simultaneously, without being able to weave them together.  At one time, I thought the emotional journey was the most important.  I got a masters in Marriage and Family Therapy when I was 22.  I just knew that if I could figure out how to have the best marriage and family, then I would have the secret to the universe.  That was all I needed to get there.  WRONG!

I  have always been conscious of my physical journey.  I always attempted to stay healthy and fit.  I thought it was about having a low heart rate, living longer and looking good in your jeans…..WRONG!

I definitely got tricked into thinking that religion was all I needed to find my way on the spiritual journey. You want more spirituality?  Just plug in more religion!……..WRONG!

I was very conscientious.  I worked all the right formulas and did all the right equations!  I still ended up as a 40 year old, flabby, burned out, broken down mom of 4 with a marriage on the rocks.  How could this happen?  I worked out!  I had converted (twice) to Judaism!  I moved my family to an orthodox community!  I had a masters in Marriage and Family Therapy for pete’s sake!  I did everything right!  …………WRONG AGAIN!!

I wasn’t really connecting the dots.  I hadn’t found a way to address body/mind/spirit together to get a fuller picture of what was holding me back.

We talk about breathing all the time.  It seems to be linked to one’s perspective and state of mind.

“breathe easy”

“take a breather”



Big deep breathing is positive and linked to someone who is healthy, relaxed and happy.  Someone who doesn’t know how to “breathe” is seen as anxious and high strung.  As I have begun to focus on this word, I realize how much I am NOT breathing.   Every time I feel overwhelmed and suffocated by my life, I find I am holding my breath, or just taking small shallow breaths.  I am physically suffocating as I am emotionally suffocating.  If I am thinking about God at those times, it is basically “Where the hell are you?”

Learning to run has led me to learning to breathe.    As I have tackled the physical challenges, I have had to face the emotional challenges.  Things that had been buried so deep that I didn’t even know I was suffering from them.  They took on a 3-D characteristic that made them impossible to ignore.  (Not that I have ever been accused of denial).  I couldn’t grow physically until I was willing to grow emotionally.   As I faced the physical and emotional challenges, I had to then examine my spiritual framework to see where it was stunting my progress.  It sounds kind of complicated but really it just came down to hanging on to myself while I focused on breathing.

So, more and more I am looking at my life as a body/mind/spirit journey.  Each part is linked to the other.  Each area of growth has to include the others.   Running has become much more than just a work out.  I am physically increasing my lung capacity by running.  Yet, I am now aware of the carry over into the other areas.   I “breathe” a little easier with my husband and children.  I have more patience and perspective with them.  I feel claustrophobic and suffocated less.  This has significantly raised the “happiness factor” in my marriage and my family.  Sometimes, my life does feel like it is crashing down around me (usually Friday afternoon).   I now try to “breathe” and not panic.  I have adopted the motto:  As long as I can still breathe, I can do it.

In Genesis, when God created Adam and Eve, he “breathed” life into them.  He put his breathe inside of them.   When I am running, about the only thing I CAN focus on is breathing.  I get to a deep quiet place inside myself.  That is where I seem to find God waiting for me.  This is where I find myself waiting for me.  Hopefully I am finding the piece of God inside of me that IS me.  And this is probably what actually saves me.  This is what keeps me coming back for more.

coping, Micah, Zeke

A blessing or a cursing?

I do believe in the possibility that ADHD is over diagnosed these days.   Yet, I also believe in the possibility that when we were growing up there might have been some kids that fell through the cracks.  Richard would be one of them.  He is slightly impulsive and speed (a pot of coffee) calms him and puts him to sleep.  This is not news to anyone who knows us very well.

What everyone might not know is that one of the side effects of his impulsiveness is:  cursing.

Now this drives Micah completely and utterly insane.  She has tried everything she can think of to get him to stop.  The first strategy was to charge him 5 dollars for every curse word.   This failed.  Not only does he refuse to pay the huge tab he has made for himself, but he is not the “money manager” in this marriage.  So I finally explained to her that she is basically punishing me for his misbehavior.  Not that Richard wouldn’t try to blame it on me anyway.   Everything ultimately comes back to me somehow.  Then she tried to charge him 5 minutes of playing a game with her for every curse word.  This worked a little better, except that he is also slightly competitive.   So the games ended up as punishment for Micah!!!      I think she has resigned herself (as the rest of us have) that cursing is just a part of the Shaffer household.   Most of us understand that certain words are for Dad and certain words are for us.  Except Zeke.

Zeke is getting in the car and accidentally dumps his lunch box and back pack all over the ground.

Me:  oops

Zeke:  (in his matter of fact teaching voice)  Mom, that is when you are spossed to say  G-d dammit.

Me:  no baby just your Dad.  We say oops.

Zeke:  No mom, the hims say G-d dammit.

All I can say is that my children can never claim that growing up in this family is boring.  In that way, I choose to see this as a blessing, not a cursing.  After all, no trouble: no story


poop in the park

You know I have become quite proud of my veteran mom status, and have been a little too proud of how light I am able to travel.  You know;.. you smile condescendingly at those first-time mom’s who carry around everything but the kitchen sink.  Yet, today I think I might have gone out the door a little “too light”.  

My independent 2-year old who is in the middle of potty training, insisted on wearing her “big girl underwear” out to breakfast; just the two of us.  Hmm.   OK, well, I did make sure that there were pull-ups in the car, and I do actually keep a potty in my trunk.  But I walked out the door without a phone (a little foreshadowing).   And, I did not even check to see if there were wipes in the car much less in my purse.  No, I travel light remember? 

Well, got through breakfast with no problems.  Then stopped at the park to continue that great one-on-one time together.  Love that “good mom” feeling.  Having such a good time……  Then Hannah stopped and looked at me with that “I have a big poo poo” face.  

Me:  Hannah, do you have to go potty?

Hannah:   Mommy, I feel much better…

Oh, no this is not good.  I take a deep breath as I realize that the next 15 minutes of my life are going to be really stinky! 

I know that poop is the big topic of all parents of toddlers, and you are saying what is the big deal.  And this is certainly not the messiest of my poop experiences.  But I am almost 40!  And I have been dealing with poop for the last 12 of those 40 years!  And frankly, I am TIRED of getting poop on my hands!!!!  And I have AT LEAST 3 more years of poop to deal with!

So, I took a breath and just got through it.   I picked up that baby and carried her (quickly) to the car.  We took off those poopy underwear and sat her little tushy on the potty in the trunk, while I looked in the car for something clean to wipe her down with.  This is the one time I was truly grateful that my kids treat our car like a dumping ground.  I was able to locate an old cup of water, and a leftover paper towel from G-d knows what.  And we just dealt with that poop.  And then, to prove to myself that it really was okay, I put all the poopy stuff into the potty, closed the lid, put on a pull-up (on Hannah not on me) and went back to the park.  And I lived through it.  Until next time…………..


big girl underwear and Crocs

Well, I am learning that a 3rd child is determined to grow up as fast as she can.  Hannah is only one, and absolutely does not accept this fact.  When I look at her struggling desperately to keep up with her older sister and brother, the phrase, “no man left behind” always seems to buzz in my ears. 

I have given in to potty training a 22-month-old child only because her will is bigger than mine right now.   She was driving her older sister crazy by pulling her diaper off, going in Micah’s closet, and putting on her underwear.   So I was hopeful.  I went to Target and loaded up on “big girl underwear” and pull ups.  Well, she was on to the pull-ups.  No Way, Jose!  They are not “big girl underwear”.   Training underwear?  Not falling for that one either.  The only thing that will do is:  Dora The Explorer and Little Pony. 

What I have learned about these cute little brands of “big girl underwear” is how LITTLE pee and poop they hold!  Hell, they come off DRY after accidents.  Lots of motivation to wear the underwear, and not so much to actually go in the potty.  So far, I think we have peed in every store I go on a regular basis, both cars, all over the yard, and in every room of our house (especially the ones with carpet).  So I, in response, have resorted to every form of bribery known to man; including but not limited to;… chocolate, stickers, and a potty that plays music when you go.      Oh yeah, and switching them out for pull-ups once that sweet angel has fallen asleep at night!

The second thing I gave into was Crocs.  This is not my idea of a supportive toddler shoe, but at least now, she has them in her own size, and her sister got hers back.  Walking to the park takes 3 times as long because she can’t keep them on.  Running is not an option…..  Falling down? ……. twice as much.  But who am I to judge happiness, right? 

Now Hannah is a genius talker, but the “r” sound is not in her repertoire as of yet.  Especially with the pacifier in her mouth.  So Crocs comes out…… cocks. 

You can imagine her father’s face (and heart rate) the first time his sweet innocent baby girl said, “Daddy I like cocks”.        (and truly she talks to him about her “cocks”  much more than to me). 

“Daddy I need my cocks” ; “Daddy I can’t find my cocks”;  “Daddy where did my cocks go?”  “DADDY I WANT MY COCKS!!!!”

I can’t decide if all of this is designed to keep me young?  or age me at the speed of light?   


Pancakes are better than therapy

First day back to school/work after a holiday weekend…  Never a smooth transition.   All five of us have to leave the house (together in one car) by 7:00 to begin the round of drop-offs.  Noah gets dropped off first at his bus, then Richard at his train, then Micah at her school, leaving Hannah and I to go home and finish waking up. 

Well, by 6:30 am Micah and Hannah are still out cold.   In 30 minutes I have to get Hannah up, sweet talked out of her diaper to use the potty, then into her big girl underpants and clothes, fed breakfast, and somehow stuffed into her car seat.  I have to get Micah through 14 changes of outfits, breakfast, teeth brushed, hair brushed (our biggest fight of every day) and lunch made.  Needless to say, getting some clothes on myself is always a good idea.  Noah (thank heavens) is able to fend for himself at this point.  In fact, he is ready and waiting at the door each morning at 7:01 repeating his mantra; “If I miss my bus, I am not going to school”.  Richard can dress himself but is somehow always the last one to get in the car.

6:45 and the girls are sitting up in bed, but no progress on the goals at hand.  I am starting to panic.  Maybe Richard can drive himself to the train, dropping off Noah in the process and buy me a little time.   I check with him;……nada.  Okay, just stay calm. 

6:50….I hear Micah and Hannah screaming at each other.  I run to check it out, and they are fighting over a book that Micah has no time for, and Hannah isn’t capable of reading.  I think this is the point at which I lose my patience.  I put Hannah in time-out for hitting her sister.  This leads to more screaming and Micah coming to her rescue, to break her out of bondage.  This leads to me losing my cool and telling Micah in a very firm and nasty voice to get her little butt dressed!  This leads to Hannah screaming louder and Micah huddled on the floor in fetal position crying that “I don’t love her and she is not going to school”.   And guess what……..It is now 7:05!     

7:10 …Noah is by the door getting slightly agitated, Richard is still showering, Micah and Hannah are huddled together crying hysterically because “mommy is so mean” (am I missing something here?) and I am still in my pajamas!   I am faced with a choice.   I can become the evil witch out of the depths of hell and actually get everyone to their destination on time, albeit a little emotionally challenged for that day,  or………I can just take a breath and regroup.   I had to pray really hard for a few minutes to make the right choice.  And let me say; it was a toss up for those few minutes which way I was going to go.   But I remembered, that I had actually promised my children, in writing, a few years ago that the evil witch was gone forever.  And I am deeply thankful that I made the right choice and stuffed the evil witch back into her hole.

7:25.  We are all dressed and in the car.  No one is crying or ripping their hair out.  No one is screaming or threatening to run away.  Noah is whining a little about missing his bus, but I am assuring him that I will run over any one (including little old ladies) that gets in my way, to make that bus.  I promised Micah that if she and Hannah could make themselves presentable and be in the car in 5 minutes, we would get rid of everyone else and just go to the pancake house.  It is first grade for G-d’s sake!  Was it really worth years of psychotherapy for my offspring, to get Micah there at 8:00 sharp?  Noah made his bus, Richard made his train, and Micah, Hannah, and I regrouped over pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream.   Sometimes, life happens and you just have to take a breath and say “the heck with it”, let’s go to the pancake house.