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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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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.

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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.”

hmmm…

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.

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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)

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Saugatuck Sukkot

Ok now this is the way to enjoy the holiday that puts you at the mercy of Mother Nature!
Saugatuck house
We packed up our little minivan with food and kids and took this party to Saugatuck MI! This was our favorite part of our “home away from home”.

We played on the beautiful Oval Beach… and spent time racing each other up Bald Head Mountain by day…(Hannah kicked butt by the way! She was unstoppable!!)

Noah tamed the mountain
Then we relaxed by the fire and ate amazing, delicious meals on the grill by night.


This night was roasted potatoes, heirloom salad, grilled skirt steak. We took full advantage of the local farmers in the area and all their great home grown vegetables. The kids had a blast.

Ok, maybe some more than others!

After dinner, the family walked down 2 blocks into town for home made treats and ice-cream.

We slept good 🙂

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12 miles to turn a corner

Training for a marathon is harder than I thought it would be. Getting a wild hare and going out in the woods to run 26.5 miles after only running 12 is one thing. Kind of like having your first child. You have NO idea what you are doing and view it very romantically. The second time around, you know just what you are getting yourself into. I remember finding out I was pregnant the second time and thinking “Holy Crap” I am not sure I can do this again.

Lately, I have been having the same “HOLY CRAP” kind of doubt about this marathon thing. These long runs are HARD!!! I am exhausted!! I actually fell asleep at the playground yesterday. On the sidewalk, face down. I am not kidding. Thank God Richard was there to make sure no one stole a kid or something. I knew I had to run 12 miles this morning. Get this: 12 miles as a RECOVERY run! I just didn’t think I would be able to recover enough to do the “recovery” run.

My knee has been killing me. I have been having visions of knee replacement surgery. Myself as a bent over little old lady with a walker,..or the worst: having to amputate the damn thing. I was starting to think this whole thing was a bad idea. At the very least, I was justifying why I needed to skip my long run this week. I mean it was a recovery week. Didn’t that mean total rest was an option??

My alarm went off at 5, and I hit the snooze. My alarm went off at 6, and I hit the snooze again. I think the last time I felt this tired was when I was pregnant with Zeke and still nursing Hannah. Richard said, “Don’t worry, you need the sleep”.

I finally dragged myself out of bed at 8 and figured I would hate myself if I didn’t at least make an attempt to do my run. Someone once told me that the only run I will regret is the one I didn’t do.

So I did.

I put on a new pair of running shoes. (Who doesn’t love a new pair of shoes) I got focused. And I ran.

Then I turned a corner. Somewhere along the way it turned into one of my best runs. 12 miles in 2 hrs flat. One of my best times. My knee actually got better as I ran! I finished feeling a million times better than before I started.

I went home feeling elated. I also felt hopeful. Hopeful that maybe I can face down this 26 miles after all. Maybe I can do this thing!

And I am not even feeling that toenail that I lost along the way. Ok that is a lie. It is throbbing like hell as I am writing this. The more honest answer is, losing a toenail was well worth the knowledge that even when I don’t think I have anything left, I can get out there and kick ass.

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