A little bird told me…

So I was trying to get on the road for a trip. Subtracting myself from all the details of my house, husband and children is a complicated process. I try to set a deadline for leaving and then have to reset it several times before I actually finish cleaning the kitchen, emptying the refrigerator, taking out the trash, packing the car etc. I just have to leave everything in Good order. It is a mom thing.

So you can imagine my delight when I was actually ready to walk out the door at exactly 1 pm. The original time I said I wanted to leave to miss the Friday traffic.

All I had to do was take the dog out to pee one last time and get in the car and leave. I puffed up feeling pleased with myself.

So I took Lucy out through the garage and let her do her thing. I came back in to put her up and turned around to leave and just as I was about to walk out the open door, a little bird flew in my house!

What the hell!! Seriously? It is 1:02 pm. How can this be? A bird??

What can I do? I have an innocent little creature flying around my house bumping into windows trying to find its way out.

So Lucy and I spent the next half an hour trying everything we could think of to free this little bird. It involved ladders and brooms and fans and opening every window and door. We tried sweet talk as if this little bird understood English. Funny enough, Lucy didn’t bark once. She seemed to know that would scare the little thing further into the rafters of my two story living room. She did use her herding instincts to help me. She and I would just come from each side and try to shoo it and sweet talk it toward the opening.

Finally, the little bird perched on an open windowsill and calmly flew off. I swear it looked at me and nodded like, “ok you can leave now”.

I rushed around closing windows and doors before any other wild creature could fly in.

Whew! Only 27 minutes past my deadline.

Now as I traveled down the highway, about an hour and a half into my trip, traffic came to a complete stop. On I-20 this is never a good sign.

As it turns out, there was a 3 car accident that involved a tractor trailer, a U-haul and a sedan. By the looks of the fire trucks, police and paramedics present, not only was it a bad one, but I missed being involved by about 30 min.

Almost the exact amount of extra time it took me to leave my house because of a little bird.

I looked up at the big sky mystery and said, “wow, thanks”.

Now I am turning 50 this year and you might say it is time for me to grow up and stop this magical thinking.

But I would say to you that I choose to live in a magical, supernatural, spiritual, loving existence. I know the difference between my world and the bigger population of the depressed and the miserable. Since I do have a choice. In fact it is probably the only thing I can really choose. I choose to be in my amazing technicolor world.

I choose to believe that nature is full of loving kindness and giving me support along the way. I choose to believe that I don’t know what I am being protected from when things don’t go my way. I choose to believe that nature communicates with me. All the time. I choose to believe nature and God communicate with all of us but most people don’t know how to hear it.

Sometimes I get validation of this that is hard to ignore. Like being protected from an accident that would at the very least ruined my weekend and at the very worst been a tragedy.

And do you know how I know this to be true??

A little bird told me. 🙂

(Doug this is for you. ❤️ For missing me. I am back.)


Playground bullies 

During a trip to Asheville NC this weekend, we went apple picking.  Golden Delicious, Rome, Black Arkansas and Fuji are a few of the perfect round shades of green to deep red that are weighing down my trunk as we head home.  

Of course we had to stop at the many attractions that flank these beautiful apple orchards, such as the corn maze 

After getting good and lost, back tracking, walking in circles and having our sense of direction generally turned upside down, we stumbled onto a grand playground that could have been a throw back to my childhood.  Home made swings, a giant mountain of hay with tunnels, a large trampoline and climbing ropes.  In other words, lots of risk and danger :))

Kids were running, climbing and jumping  around in utter bliss. 

What prompted this post was what happened on the tunnel swing. 

There were about 10 children of all ages on this attraction.  I was doing what I love best, observing children at play.  

I know that if you give children the freedom to engage in risky play together they handle it quite responsibly, but it is still such a pleasure to watch it first hand. Without knowing each other’s names there was expert cooperation without any one  boss. They took turns pushing and riding without any conversation about it. The older children kept checking in with younger children to see if they needed to slow down or get off. Younger children were watching how the older ones did things and then tried to emulate them.   They ran this swing like a well oiled machine, not the accident waiting to happen, it could have been.  There are many businesses, organizations and adult groups that could learn from this kind of team work. 


An older woman carried over a small child about 3 years old. He did not walk over on his own. He was not drawn to this swing by his own volition. Probably because it was developmentally beyond his risk taking interest. Yet, she placed him on and proceeded to take over pushing the swing. The other children were quiet and let her take the lead as you would expect of respectful children. She began to push. The other children followed her lead to help her. The small child began to lean. She kept pushing. Then he leaned some more. The woman told him to hold on, still pushing. We all looked at each other knowing what was imminent. The child had a look of fear on his face. Then boom. Sure enough he fell off the swing. 😦 

Now the woman gasped and ran over to pick him up. What she said next did not surprise me one single bit. 

Woman scolding, “You children are pushing it too hard! You shouldn’t be doing that. You are pushing it too hard for little kids! That is why they are going to get hurt!” 

Me, “Actually I disagree. They have been doing a very responsible job of working this swing”

The woman huffed off with her crying grandchild in her arms. 

I reassured the children that they were working hard to be kind to each other and play together. This was not their fault. 

If I could speak to this woman I would advise her to let her grandson pick his own interests to follow on the playground. If and only if, he wanted to ride this swing then he would have been better off with these children helping him. They would have helped him, communicated to make sure he was comfortable and stopped way before he fell all the way off. Having said that, if he had fallen off he would have been helped up and learned a few things about balance and swinging along with a bit of dirt. 

Why do adults show so little respect for children?  Their interests, instincts and abilities? Maybe because we can. 

I have been learning to stand back a little and give children the respect of their own way when appropriate. What I have been given when I do that is the gift of my  greatest teachers. 

After this incident, another boy came over to the swing and began to play. He said, “you know that woman who picked up that child? She is a teacher at my school and she is really mean.”  

Out of the mouths of babes. Enough said. 


Mother’s Day 2014

One year later, I take a look back.

Not The Maid

Mother’s Day has always been something of a disappointment to me.  Never able to live up to it’s Hallmark image.  My husband and children never able to really do enough to mark it special.  I, never able to do enough to mark it special for my mother, mother in law, sister, grandmothers.  All of this, measured by my own dissatisfied harsh internal judgment and measuring stick.  I have listened to friends lament how it fell short for them.  Their husbands or parents or children not able or willing to do what it takes to really honor the sacrifice and work it takes to be a mother.  Or the opposite.  I have listened to other mothers brag about how perfectly their families celebrated them, and felt pretty depressed about how my own marked the day.

Until now.

I think I finally ‘GET’ Mother’s Day.  Sad that it took facing illness and…

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Zeke’s rendition of The Green Goblin


This weekend I was reading my favorite magazine: Running Times, and the cover story features a masters marathoner named Sheri Piers.  She is 41 years old, and last April was the top American at the Boston Marathon coming in 10th overall, finishing in 2:41:55 in 80 degree heat.  She is a major stud.

As I read it, I felt inspired, proud of what a woman our age can do, and a wee bit jealous.  Maybe that is one of my dreams!  Now that is hard to admit, because I am basically a beginning runner and have only run a marathon distance one time.  And that time was 5:40 and some seconds!  So who am I kidding?  But I think our dreams are those things that we are almost embarrassed to admit to others.  They sound so far fetched.   Isn’t that the definition of dreams?  I had to admit to myself that her accomplishments with running are something I DO dream about.  One of my dreams.  I actually have quite a few.  In fact, I am gonna go out on a limb and list them as they stand at the moment:

l.  To be an elite marathon runner.  Maybe even triathlon athlete.  Maybe even Iron Man Triathlon athlete!

2.  To write a “best-seller” about something (haven’t got the something yet)

3.  To be a Dr. of Chinese Medicine.  Trained in acupuncture and herbal remedies, as well as,  how to grow them myself.

Now, I am imagining you holding your sides, you are laughing so hard right now.  That is ok.  Life is looooong.   You gotta dream in order to do.  And the way I see it, I am just getting started.  😉

My challenge is this:  How do I get there?

I began to wonder, “How do these women do it?”  “How do they accomplish so much with the same amount of hours in a day that I am given?”   Not just Sheri Piers, but other women in my life as well.  The rock stars (not literally) that are always getting amazing things done in the world.   I always feel tired when I am talking to them about what they accomplish in a day.

How do they do it?  I obviously don’t have the answer to that, but I have a hypothesis:  WILLPOWER

I don’t think they have more hours in a day.  I actually don’t even think they have that much more willpower than me.  I think they have figured out how to harness and direct their willpower MUCH better than me.

The book, “The Willpower Instinct: How Self -Control Works, Why It Matters and What Can You Do To Get More of It” by Kelly McGonigal talks about this very thing.  Yes, you can increase your willpower by simple day to day practice in self discipline.  But too much discipline is counter productive and there is a ceiling at some point.

So maybe it is a matter of looking at WHERE you spend your willpower.  I know for a fact, that these women are not spending precious willpower on laundry, cleaning toilets, grocery shopping, fixing the leaky sink, and over functioning for their kids.  Maybe some of them are not even spending enough willpower on their kids and marriages.  Like I said, there are only 24 hours in a day no matter who you are.

I, on the other hand, am spending quite a bit of precious willpower on that kind of stuff.  Because of the previous post about too many sick kids, I splurged and had someone clean my house this weekend from top to bottom.  I can’t do that regularly right now, but WOW! I was amazed at the amount of willpower it freed up for me.  Enough to get my exercise going again, go skating with my kids, and even think up this post.

So is there any wiggle room?  I mean we have to eat, the toilets have to get cleaned, the bills have to be paid.   I am not willing to let my kids and marriage go to hell in a hand basket.   But…

I began to think about that over functioning for the kids part.  I absolutely recognize my need to be needed.  My kids have cooperated and sacrificed their ability to do for themselves, just so I would feel important and central in their lives.  But… now that is starting to keep me from doing some of the really cool stuff I want to do!  And frankly, I am just getting tired of over functioning for them.

So I am starting with a simple goal:

Set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. (I already get up at 5 a.m. to coddle and over function for my kids) five out of seven days.  Get up and LEAVE the house to go exercise/train and shower.  Let Richard over function a little bit and take over the morning routine.  My guess is, he will suck at over functioning for our kids and they will become much more independent, self-sufficient creatures.  (although maybe not so happy about it to begin with)

And I will add to and free up some willpower that was being horribly misused.  Who knows what is possible!  Stay tuned…



Thankfully surprised when you least expect it

I love to read and i love to people watch.  Flying to NC recently I was able to do both!

I was reading a book on Thankfulness and Prayer by my favorite author right now:  Brother David Steindl-Rast.   I remember the main point that day was that one of the first steps towards gratefulness is the willingness to be surprised.  It is easy to be surprised by things like rainbows and the grand canyon.  But are we able to be open to the surprise of smaller ordinary things around us every day?  Or are we willing to be surprised by people that we have made up our minds about?

My flight attendant that day was a handsome man about my age.  He caught my attention because I was wondering what his story was.  Wasn’t that a difficult way to make a living with a family?  All that traveling?  Then I noticed he was not wearing a wedding ring.   Ok well maybe he is divorced or never married in the first place.  Then I heard him talking about his daughter.

Look it is not flattering to admit this, but what the heck.  I was systematically making judgements about him by what I saw on the surface.  I thought he must be a really shallow guy who is not committed to his family.  I know it does not make me look so good, but I am just admitting my private thought process.

Surprise!!  I love how God sends you humbling little lessons like that.

As I heard more of his story I was even more humbled and surprised.   Below is the video about him and his daughter.   A great love story.  A beautiful soul in this single dad.   The lesson:   Great love is all around us.    People can wonderfully surprise you with it.

Just watch:


The Notebook

She was a green composition book.  Noah’s freshman Hebrew notebook to be exact.  There were still a lot of blank pages,  and those folders in the middle to stick things that you want to remember.   August 2011, I was searching for something to keep track of it all when I found her.

I have intended to keep a journal or diary many times but never seemed to follow through.  I started diaries as a kid, only to write a few entries and then find it months or years later under my bed.  I tried to keep a book of the cute things the kids said, but kept forgetting to write them down.  I was supposed to journal my meditations when taking a Mussar class with Richard but couldn’t remember to meditate much less journal about it.  The notebook was different…

17 months ago, I just needed to keep track of it all.  I was 42 and learning how to do something I never thought possible.  Every day was monumental and new.  I was so proud of my progress.   I just had to write it down.  I was learning how to run.  Sounds simple or silly maybe, but I never ever thought I could.   So I went scrounging around the house for a notebook and there she was, waiting for me.

Before I knew it, that damned notebook went everywhere with me.    I would drag her anywhere, in front of anybody.  No shame.  A security blankie of sorts.  Reassuring me that every step was there in writing.  I was really doing it and I had proof.

She has kept track of 17 months of my life.   She contains every mile I have run.  1135 to be exact.  Every single workout.  Including a total of 3285 push-ups, 28 hrs of swimming laps, and 296 minutes of holding plank!  She recorded a marathon run and a marathon missed. She includes my first and only Official race.   A  year and a half of intense change and growth.  Weight lost, muscle built,  hard work done, self worth restored.   She holds stories written along the way.   Lists of goals, dreams, marathon training programs, articles and every other relevant piece of info over the past year and a half.  Oh yeah, and Noah’s freshman Hebrew notes (which are a constant reminder there is much I do NOT  know).

I filled in her last blank page on New Years Day.

I went hunting for another notebook this morning, but nothing seems to be able to fill the shoes of the old green girl.  I have come to the  conclusion that intending to journal is not the correct approach.   Rather, finding something…a practice of some kind, that means SO much to you that you are willing to drag around an old green (used) notebook to keep track of it is the better way.   Somewhere along the way she stopped being old and green and used and became something sacred.    A witness to the journey.

Phillip Booth writes, “How you get there, is where you will arrive”.

One day at a time.  Little victories adding up.  Self compassion for the roadblocks and potholes.  Belief in the ability to progress and change.  Hope that it makes a difference.

And another notebook to ride shotgun.


Standing on the High Dive

When I was in graduate school, there were some moms in my program who had spent decades out of the work force raising their children and were trying to find their way back to paying work.  They seemed really OLD.  I remember being really glad that I was not in their shoes.  They were really nice but had a certain anxious intensity about them.

That was yesterday.  There is just no way that could have been 20 years ago.

I left the work force in the fall of 1996 to raise my kids.  I have not had a paying job in 16 years!  Now, as my oldest is applying to colleges and my baby is in school several hours a day, I am looking to rejoin the workforce.   How could this have happened?  I have become those women.

The only thing I can think of to describe what I am going through, is how I felt when I got up on the high dive for the first time as a kid.  It is a combination of terror mixed with excitement/anticipation.

I decided to stay home and raise my kids because I wanted to really focus on doing one thing right.  There are books out now about “willpower”.  How we only have so much of it.  The myth that you can do it all…well, is most definitely a myth.  I am terrified of taking on more than I already have in my present role, and somehow doing nothing well.  It makes me feel sick to my stomach to think about not being able to be there for my kids if they needed me.  I am afraid I am not “enough” to pull off working mom.

On the other hand, there is an excitement brewing about making space for something that is mine.  The pleasure of getting paid.  The hope of having something of value to add to the outside world.  I already took a dive off the low diving board by taking on running.  I forced my family to make space for something of mine.  And you know how that works.  Once you dive into unknown water you start to get brave.  You look at the high dive and think, “I can do that.”

Of course, it looks a lot safer from the ground.  Now that I am standing on the edge looking down I am paralyzed.  There is a good chance that Richard might climb up behind me and push me in.  The weight of financial responsibility for 6 people on a 100% sales commission job is getting heavy for him.  If that doesn’t happen, I might just stand there paralyzed for who knows how long.  I am not sure how it will play out.   But I have a feeling this is the scariest part.  Usually when you finally work up the courage to jump off the high dive you enjoy the ride.


Chicago Marathon 2012

I did not run the Chicago Marathon.

I signed up to run the Chicago Marathon.  I trained for it.  I dreamed about it.  It was the day after my 44th birthday.  I had built it up to be a kick ass initiation into my 44th year on this planet.  My husband and kids would be cheering me on in my second race ever.  It was my first official marathon, but second marathon distance in the short period of 14 months of running…EVER.    To top it off, my teacher and mentor, whom I adore, was running also.  Ahead of me for sure, but a cool shared experience to celebrate a year of hard work together.

But when race day came, I was on the sidelines cheering on the other runners.

My knee had been acting up during training, then became an injury during the 20 mile “dress rehearsal” a month before the marathon.  There was some debate about whether this would be able to heal enough to run the marathon.  I met with a doc, a physical therapist, and my teacher/chiropractor.  I made the decision to sit it out.

I couldn’t write about it because I was in the middle of a “shame storm”. (As Brene Brown would say in her book “Daring Greatly”)  First, I was beating myself up for the beginner’s mistakes I had made.  Such as, switching to new shoes so close to the race.  Changing my running strategy in the 20 mile run.  Not STOPPING when the pain began (pretty much mile 1 that day).  My grit was overruling my common sense.  These things cost me the race.

Second, I was struggling with my decision to sit out the race.  There was that little mean voice inside us all that likes to kick us when we are down.  It was saying, “What a wimp!  You are just afraid.  You could do it if you were tough enough.  You are too much of a loser to overcome your fears and live bravely.  You defeated yourself because you knew you couldn’t do it in the first place.  Everybody sees you are really a fake.”  I know that is so mean right?  It is hard to believe we will say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to anyone else.

I viewed it as a big fat failure.

Then time went by.  (Big healer of lots of things)  I began to do physical therapy and my knee began to heal.

I got to see Brene Brown speak on shame and vulnerability.  She talked about the tight rope we walk between basing our self-image on what other people think v/s not caring what anyone thinks.  She talked about creating a very small list of the people in your life whose opinion matters.  These are people who don’t just love you in spite of your weakness and vulnerabilities, but because of them.  I began thinking about my small list of people.  I realized that NONE of them saw this as the failure I thought it was.  I started to listen to what they had to say instead of that mean voice I was using on myself.   I realized that I was holding this one race up as the measuring stick for success in running.  I wasn’t giving myself any credit for all that I HAD accomplished over the past year.  Running has totally changed my life…FOR THE BETTER.  Even the humbling experience of disappointment and missing out was character development in its own way.

Some more time went by.  I was able to run again.  This time I balanced it more with core training and swimming.   I started to see my body become stronger even though I was not doing the same volume of mileage.  I even began to get a little faster.

Then I began reading “Running with the Mind of Meditation” by Sakyong Mipham.  He talks about the idea in meditation that “with aggression, you may accomplish some things, but with gentleness, you can accomplish all things.  The word gentleness …is associated with wisdom and power because it is considered the antidote to aggression.  Gentleness is like water-it will eventually reach its goal.  Aggression is like fire-it is quick and then it is gone.” He then goes on to say, “Applying gentleness to running keeps our mind from becoming totally critical or getting into other extreme states.  Gentleness allows us to keep our eye on the prize without getting infatuated and without losing heart.”


So that is what finally moved me to sit down and write about this marathon that wasn’t.  I was definitely very aggressive with myself.  I can see the value and benefit of a gentler approach.  I agree wholeheartedly with his take on gentleness with yourself in running.  Actually I think it applies to most things in my life.

The gentler I am with my kids, the gentler they are with themselves and each other.

The gentler I am with my husband, the gentler and kinder he is back to me.

The gentle approach of Cranial Sacral Therapy that I am learning appeals to me.  The idea being that sometimes the harder you push; the harder the push back.  Being gentle can be just the thing that slips past our resistance to change, healing, progress and invites us to move forward.

I didn’t run the Chicago Marathon 2012.  But I am ok with that now.  Ok enough to finally write about it.  There will be another chance if I want it.  What I have learned will help me be a more experienced and wiser runner.  I am still moving forward and becoming stronger and kinder.  Kinder to myself and those around me.


Practicing Gratitude

My mother-in-law shared a video with me by Brother David Steindl-Rast:

I watch it every day.

We have a gratefulness practice in our house with the kids.  At dinner time every night we go around the table and say 3 things we are grateful for that day.  Some days we encourage someone having a hard day by saying, “Dig deep”.  But even then, we are all able to come up with 3 things.  Even if those 3 things are:

1. I am alive

2. This day is almost over

3. I never have to go through this day again

Usually though, it is very fun and meaningful.  Even Zeke is able to come up with good stuff.  (That is an entirely different post for another day)

It’s funny about this Brother Steindl-Rast.  Richard and I were led to him from different places at the same time.  I love it when that happens.  He is a Benedictine Monk who has spent his life focusing on teaching gratitude as a “practice”.  We don’t just feel gratitude or receive gratitude.  We have to work for it.  We have to work AT it.

My 3 things tonight were:

1. my swim

2. time one on one with Hannah

3. my family

Not bad.

Then as I was putting the kids to bed, I thought a little more and decided I wanted to change my 3 things for today.  Dinner is over, and pretty much everyone is asleep (except Noah who is burning the midnight oil and too busy for this sort of introspection at the moment). So here I am.  And here they are:

1. I am thankful that hotdogs and baked beans are good enough

2. I am thankful that I am truly loved by some really exceptional people.

3. I am thankful that I have the luxury to “be there” for my family for whatever they need, whenever they need it.

This is significant because I have fought hard to get to this point.  To feel like I am “enough” and what I accomplish in a day is “enough”.    I am not saying I am here to stay.  Remember it is a practice.  But I got here today.  It was a good day.

(I will write about NOT running the marathon another day…let’s not ruin the moment)