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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. 

Until…

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. 

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Climbing A Mountain of Laundry

How many years I have done the laundry! First just mine and Richard’s. It was a mole hill then. It was a domestic romantic endeavor. I was doing this man’s laundry. I was nurturing and taking care of him. It was such a pleasure to give of myself this way.  Way back then. 

Then it was laundry for 3. I was still in such a state of bliss, that I used cloth diapers and washed them myself. Richard was supportive of me staying home, in spite of the fact that we had no money, at times, putting groceries on a credit card. I was so thankful I did not have to leave my baby with some stranger and go to work. Laundry? It wasn’t even a second thought. It was a privilege. 

Then it was laundry for 4. Then 5. Then 6. The years ticked away.  Laundry overwhelmed me. I dreaded, resented and sometimes just avoided that pile of laundry. It would follow me into my dreams.  It would pile up until we were in a state of emergency over socks, clean underwear or the favorite outfit needed for school that day. 

Richard and I divided the work of family in the most efficient way we could. He built a career and earned the money. I took care of the home and the kids. 

This work was 24/7, for both of us. The work of building and nurturing a family. The work of building income to support that family. There was now a mountain of work where a mole hill had been. A mountain of bills, boo boos, groceries, meals, bath times, bedtimes, school tuition and yes, laundry. 

It is hard to take care of others without time for yourself and each other. Disappointments build up. Resentment creeps in. Climbing that mountain sometimes seemed impossible. Richard and I dubbed those struggles for little pieces of sanity as “fighting over scraps”. We would bicker over the unfairness of it all. I was angry when he was home sitting down for 5 minutes when I was slaving away with dinner, bedtime and…laundry. He was resentful when I was having fun at the pool, lying in the sun with the kids on a summer day while he was stuck behind a desk. 

I am sitting here right now avoiding a mountain of laundry before me. 


Richard is sitting quietly enjoying a book. The old resentment still tries to take over. The old tape in my head tries to play the “it’s not fair” tune. 

But a softening has happened for me while climbing over 21 years of dirty laundry. 21 years Richard and I have been sticking it out, having each other’s back, holding each other afloat, and even tearing each other down. I am far enough up that mountain now that I have a different view. 

I see how hard we have BOTH worked. I see how much we have both sacrificed and, I see how much we have both gained from this division of labor. I see our 4 little start ups beginning to spin off into their own amazing futures.  I see how hard we still both work. I see we still have so much laundry ahead.  I see we are getting older. 

So as I sit here facing a mountain of laundry with an old tape playing, I drown it out with a new tune. Instead of thinking “how unfair for him to sit by while I do all the laundry”, I think how thankful I am to have this nice house, nice laundry, nice washer and dryer. It leads me to other gratitude. 

I feel gratitude for the few minutes of rest Richard can take to recover from a grueling work week. I am grateful I am to be able to focus on nurturing my family. I am grateful Richard is successful and smart and healthy. I am filled with gratitude that my children are well and safe and loved so deeply by both of us. 

Now, as a daily practice I gratitude my mountain of laundry back into just a small mole hill.  Each little dirty piece of clothing piled up into a mountain of blessings to count.  

Blessings I need to get folded so I can go to bed 🙂 

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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

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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…

 

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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:

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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.

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