Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Watch him take the shot

Lenten Reflections #22

In fifth grade, I was unstoppable on the monkey bars. My favorite trick was the “cherry drop”. It was risky and exhilarating, and I did it close to a zillion times. Here’s how it works. Pull yourself up to the bar. Sit and balance on the top, point your hands straight out in front of you, fall backward, hook knees to bar, flip body over and land in front of the monkey bar. That’s a cherry drop.

Of course, the thought of doing it now scares the heck out of me, but the feeling of doing something like that when your nine…that stuff that sticks with you.

The best part was, I had someone to watch me land the flip. Someone who took time to be there. Someone who listened when I said, “Look!”

Today in backyards, schools, and playgrounds the words “Watch this!” bounce through the air carrying the excitement kids get when they have tried something so many times they HAVE TO have a witness to watch them succeed. At least one set of eyes to see their accomplishment.

I’m not saying respond to their every request to look, but…

what if…they finally drew the perfect rainbow, the colors are in order and they even found the wishy-washy indigo color?  Stop and take a minute to look at it.

what if…they want to tell you a story about the baseball game when they finally hit the ball off the tee and ran like crazy to first base. Stop and listen.

what if…they found a rock on the playground and it’s the perfect shape of a heart and they HAVE to show you. Stop and admire their find.

It’s about not getting steamrolled by the day-to-day craziness of life and simply watching your child play. Even though our kids are a little older, there are still insane bike jumps to watch, swim dives to marvel, and trick shots I’m summoned to watch.

If I’m not paying attention, inevitably I turn my head and see my son’s eyes peering at me through the window waiting. Luckily, if I miss it there is always an instant replay, either spoken or delivered in slow motion. Much like in most sports these days, the replay counts for inattentive parents.

Maybe it’s a three-point shot or a monkey bar miracle but some kid somewhere is pining for their moment to be seen.

So right now. Just stop. Stop swiping and texting, streaming or tweeting, cooking or cleaning. Just stop and watch him take the shot. Watch the look on his face when he does it. Watch him keep trying when he doesn’t. Watch now because too soon he’ll stop asking.

Spiritual workout: Read the Beatitudes aloud. Digest the words and live them.

Workout: Happy Spring! Go for a walk today and if you have a pull-up bar, hang on it and stretch your body. Start with a 10-second hang and then work your way up to one minute.

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Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

What keeps you buoyant?

Lenten Blog #21

I’ve always had a step stool in my kitchen. It gives me the extra inches I need to reach the platters I love and the waffle iron tucked way back in the top cabinet. If the stool is missing I use the “throw my leg onto the countertop” method push up with my knee and kneel to reach whatever is needed. It’s just a boost, a lift, some leverage to help me reach higher.

Somedays I need a virtual stepping stool. Words. Someone else’s message to grant me the strength to push through the discussions about dicey teenage days, judgy attitudes (sometimes mine) or the pain we all feel and hide deep inside. 

So I find a quote, a podcast, an NPR story…maybe a TED talk, a song, a book or a prayer (lots of prayers) to bring me buoyancy. Keep me afloat when I feel I’m circling the drain. Ground me when I’m griping and not grateful.

So I will share some of the gems I’ve found in some of my posts. Here is one by Brené Brown who is a rock star researcher-storyteller who has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame.

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May you all own your stories and enjoy every minute writing and sharing them with those you love.

Spiritual Workout: Find your quiet place and pray for peace. Emotional and Mental.

Workout: For goodness sake, try Pilates! Now that’s peaceful.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Little Leaguers lean on each other “Come on kid!”

Lenten Blog #20

Throwback Thursday…Originally posted on March 29, 2018

In honor of Opening Day(s) everywhere…I am reposting a blog I wrote last year during baseball season and Lent.

All the stars were aligned for a baseball game tonight. The weather was ideal, the parking lot was nearly empty and unriddled with invented parking spaces, parents had their multi-cup-holding chairs set up, and the kids were spirited and ready.

While standing behind the backstop, I spoke to an elderly woman who said, “Oh, that must be your son.” Perhaps she heard me shout things like, “wait for your pitch, good cut,” you get the idea. Or maybe it was because I had a camera pointed directly at him. “Yes, it is” I responded. “My grandson is next to bat” she continued. We chatted further about how fortunate she feels to be able to watch the games and see her grandson. I added how I love hanging out near the dugout where I can hear conversations boys have about pitchers, snacks, and “lit” pro players. She said she wondered if the kids enjoyed the games as much as we did.

While we sat, we could hear one player in the dugout bellowing out textbook baseball chatter, “COME ON KID, you’ve got this, you’re going to do great kid, wait for your pitch kid.” The encouragement was nonstop and straight from the heart. The same player hollered inspirational words from center field to my son as he pitched. Slowly all the boys began chanting, and it was as if the players were virtually boosting each other on their shoulders with positive baseball jargon. As the game went on, there were errors, strikeouts, base hits, doubles, and fly balls. But with each play, the sentiment remained positive, and I couldn’t help but think the credit should go to the cheering player whose curly-hair hoisted his cap high on his head, much like his enthusiasm.

At the bottom of the last inning, I walked over to say goodbye to the sweet grandmother I met earlier. As a base hit brought our team ahead by three points, she admitted, “I can’t believe I get butterflies like the boys.” “Me too.” I agreed, telling her my heart rate zooms when the excitement builds for anything my kids do. Before she rolled her wheelchair away, she smiled and said, “You know, we’re both good moms.” “Thank you,” I replied, touched I had my own cheerleader. After all, moms need to raise each other up as well.

Honestly, the best part of baseball is watching the boys put their thoughts aside, play ball, endure each run and out, and lean on each other for support. Personally, I wish the curly-headed player would yell out to me each morning, “Come on kid, we can do this life thing kid, we got this kid!!”

Dig Deep: Especially when you get to the point of mental fatigue, keep your thoughts positive and do a steady state exercise (walk, run, swim, etc.) for at least 20 minutes.

Lenten Challenge: Model optimism with your families. Pray for positive words to lead you in conversation.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, siblings

PAPER AIRPLANES TAUGHT MY KIDS TO FAIL

Lenten Reflections #19

Paper airplanes taught my kids to fail.

The folding. The flying. The fixing.

After each failed flight I taught them to tweak it. Adjust it. Change it.

To try again.

They used paper clips, tape, rubber bands, light paper, heavy paper, newspaper, tissue paper.

The INTENTION was to make the plane fly.

If it didn’t work, they made another plane.

They learned there’s no guarantee for success.

Sure it was small. But they tested, they measured.

They learned what each fold was for and why they made it.

No score was being kept.

They learned what uncertainty and failure felt like and danced with it.

They were invested in finding the flight.

They learned the worst that could happen was it wouldn’t work.

They still tweaked and fixed.

They learned when you care enough you will fail and fail and fail again.

It’s their airplane. Their crash. Their landing. 

But they were curious and hungry.

Let them fold. Let them fail.

Let them create. 

After all…

The person who invented the ship also invented the shipwreck.

 

Spiritual Workout: Pray for the families of the Parkland students.

Workout: Over spring break, pack your tennis shoes and always, ALWAYS walk when you travel. You’ll see the beauty of cities from a new perspective.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Other, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

A running partner to remember

LENTEN BLOG #18

For about ten years, I was faithful to one running partner.

Misty, a Labrador/Chow mix arrived on my Washington, DC doorstep one snowy day in the middle of February. I took her to the veterinarian, placed signs around the neighborhood and called the local Humane Society to find out if anyone had lost a black puppy about 4 months old. After receiving no response, Misty had found her home. As she grew, we covered many miles as best friends and running partners.

Over the years, we ran through Rock Creek Park, circled numerous neighborhoods, and maneuvered the National Mall and DC’s bustling 16th street. We dodged bikes, crossed busy streets and waved at fellow runners.

It was our time. My time to exhale from the day. Misty’s time to listen. Running has a way of adjusting the focus of life’s lens, making the world seem more crisp, more profound, more accessible.

Some days Misty would squeeze sprints in as she dashed after squirrels or chipmunks.  She ran with a purpose and always pushed me (or pulled me) to keep up. Although her sniffing breaks broke our stride, Misty and I were never aiming to set our PR together.

We just ran, because running brings a healthy void. A place where our mental oversized baggage (which never fits in the overhead bin) somehow becomes lighter with each step.

When I was expecting our daughter, I was initially hesitant to run with such precious cargo, but after reading about the benefits of exercise during pregnancy, I knew running would continue to be a priority in my life. So for six months, our baby, Misty and I enjoyed running together. As my energy waned and stomach grew, our runs turned to walks. 

Then I became a mom. A mom to a beautiful, loving baby.  When she smiled her eyes twinkled, nose wrinkled and chin dimpled. “She’s going to be a runner,” I thought. She’d have a good laugh at that today. 

I continued to run. Misty and I ran on Saturdays when she would stop to sniff a mystery spot or sprint towards a squirrel. My daughter and I ran at home, kind of. I ran on the treadmill while she rested in her crib or sat in her bouncy chair.  She watched her musical mobile, which I managed to keep going, by jumping off the treadmill every 4 minutes or so to rewind it.

I said it was a long time ago.

Since then, my husband slows his pace and joins me for a run and at least one of our boys runs the traditional Thanksgiving 5K or 10K with me. Our sweet dogs have found their “inner Misty” as I call it and they pull me along on runs as well. My daughter, now a strong swimmer, makes amazing signs, cheers us on, and laughs way too hard when I ask her to run with me. 

Misty has been gone for years now and I miss her dearly. But I’ve never stopped running and pray I’ll always have the drive, strength, knees and sweet Misty memories to help me RUN ON.

Spiritual Workout: Pray for those who can’t run or walk and count your blessings.

Workout: Find a friend or dog to walk or run with. It’s cathartic. 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Go ahead, roll the window down…

LENTEN BLOG #17

It’s amazing what you see when you look up from your blue screen…

Our children’s sporting events have taken us to baseball fields, swimming facilities, cross country courses, soccer fields and mountain bike trails all over the state. As we drive, I frequently remind the kids to take in their surroundings, identify landmarks, and appreciate the landscape. Really, all I do is holler, “Look out the window!”

The other day as I drove my son to his baseball game, we chatted about the rise and fall of our NCAA brackets, whether we had packed enough Goldfish Crackers, and his latest science test.

I pointed out a sprawling patch of daffodils dripping gold over the side of the highway, a splintered billboard with faded lettering, and a well-preserved one-room schoolhouse which stood with solidity and character smack in the middle of a cemetery. “Yep,” he said, as I pointed out each one, “I saw it last time we drove here.” He continued, “Yeah when we passed the school house I wondered why it was in the middle of a cemetery.” We made a chicken and the egg reference and continued to the field.

I was happy he saw the world in real time rather than through a screen.

On our family road trips in the ’70s and ’80s, I sat in the off-kilter center seat of our big white station wagon. The middle spot between Mom and Dad which even with just a lap belt felt safe because of my seatmates. I was in charge of the little tiny Kleenex box on the dashboard and securing the trash bag on the lighter.

As we traveled from New Mexico to Arizona, Las Vegas, Disneyland, the Grand Canyon or wherever we could, we’d sing, and play car games. Trips were always peppered with bickering as expected with four girls, so in pinch, mom or dad would hit the On the fly parenting button and come up with contests. My favorite was, “The first person to see a deer will get an ice cream cone!” 

As we peered out our windows, searching for the deer, we were treated with scenes of bison, prairie dogs, elk, and antelope. Our vision focused more on the topography and less on the confines of the station wagon, even though we had the roomy way, way back. Ultimately, we all got ice cream.

As they say, technology is a blessing and a curse. (“they” might be my mom)

Today it’s tricky to teach children to yank out the headphones and lift their gaze. Perhaps we peered out of our car windows more growing up because we didn’t have anything to look down to.

Bottom line: our lives are going to zoom by whether we’re ready or not, so while you can roll the window down, let the wind hit you in the face and soak up your surroundings.

Spiritual Workout: 5-minute meditation. Clear your mind. Just 5 minutes.

Workout of the Day:

On your next drive, find a new trail to hike, walk or run.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Trump. Defined.

Lenten Blog #16

I love words, research, and storytelling.

When I was a kid, finding definitions involved a physical and mental investment.

During homework, if we said, “Mom! What’s a _________?” Before we could even get the word out, mom, a fierce believer in fostering independence in each of us, would holler, “Look it up!”. Then the work began.

Finding the definition meant we had to get up from studying and lug the Big-Red-Webster-Dictionary to the kitchen table. Then we’d have to recall our dictionary skills and how to use the guide words at the top and flip through the thinnest paper ever invented to find the word. Researching was a workout too. It meant poring through our Big-Brown-Encyclopedias. They were like a tangible Google with gold letters on the spine and significant GIRTH.

Today, I can ask Google, Alexa or Siri facts and definitions, or I can sit and physically type words into the computer (exhausting. Ha.)

This week I was intrigued by certain verbiage which crept into the news. Although not complicated or extraneous, the words seemed to intertwine in an odd and sad way.

Words like bullying, prisoner of war, president, disparaging and Trump.

According to a story on NPR’s Morning Edition, Among False Claims, Trump Attacked McCain For Failing Veterans,Trump spoke about Senator McCain,

“I gave him [McCain] the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve…I don’t care about this. I didn’t get [a] thank you. That’s OK. We sent him on the way, but I wasn’t a fan of John McCain.”

In response to this statement, Georgia’s Johnny Isakson, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee told Georgia Public Broadcasting,

“It’s deplorable what he said — it will be deplorable seven months from now, if he says it again, and I will continue to speak out…We’re all Americans. There aren’t Democratic casualties and Republican casualties on the battle field there are American casualties and we should never reduce the service that people give to this country.”

It broke my heart hearing such harsh words toward Senator McCain who passed away August 25, 2018. After all, he was a son, father, husband, soldier, public servant, prisoner of war and ultimately an American hero.

Unfortunately, when it comes to choosing words, our new normal seems to give the President carte blanche, no matter how cruel.

Our kids are teenagers now and very aware of the words they hear at school, in songs, on the internet, on the bus, and on the news. They are old enough to decide how they want to communicate and the words they will choose.

They always say the single lesson learned from our current president is what NOT to say. 

Instead, as a family, we’ve decided to stay the course and share words like mercy, grace, and empathy. These are the words that matter. The words to live by and teach our children. 

After listening to a podcast with my son about aspiring 2020 presidential candidates, he eloquently stated, “We need a change, someone who gets it. Something entirely new. A new voice.”

Now those are words worth listening to…

By the way, Here’s Trump. Defined.

According to vocabulary.com.

To trump is to outrank or defeat someone or something, often in a highly public way. … Originally trump implied a deceptive form of victory involving cheating, but that sense has been largely lost, though it’s still around in the term trumped up, meaning something that’s been falsely made up.

Spiritual Journey: Pray you always choose the right words.

Workout: I’m going for a run, the sun is finally out. Get outside!

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Hit the squirrel…

I didn’t hit the squirrel. Here’s what happened.

A few days ago I was reminded of the Seinfeld Episode where George explains the unspoken agreement between drivers and pigeons.

Car (to the pigeons): Here I come.

Pigeon: Here comes a car, I’m going to move.

So if pigeons have an accord with drivers, surely the birds mentioned the deal to the squirrels.

Today’s blog is much like a Seinfeld episode – a blog about nothing. But what’s life without a lot of nothing mixed in with the stuff we take too seriously? Anyway, I love telling stories and you just might relate.

I was driving to pick up my daughter at swim practice and a squirrel darted into the road. I’m driving a RED car so you would think he would see it coming (no, I don’t know if they see color). Once in the middle, the squirrel decided to sit in squirrel prayer position and have a snack! As I drove closer, I began reasoning with it, which then turned into yelling through the closed windows AT the squirrel. He was definitely not listening.

I came to a SEMI-screeching halt (I’m a pokey driver) and stopped immediately in front of him. Glancing in the rearview mirror, I was relieved I didn’t cause a mini-van pile up in my attempt to save a life. Still, in no hurry, the squirrel dusted himself off, packed up his leftovers and casually strolled away. Kind of like those deliberately sluggish pedestrians who, unlike most chickens, seem to have NO reason to get to the other side.

Anyway, I gave a brave squirrel one more life, when in fact…

I was supposed to hit the squirrel.

HERE’S WHY:

Earlier in the year, my daughter and I took a Defensive Driving Course where the students were taught to maneuver around cones, drive in rainy conditions (it conveniently rained the whole day) and really feel the Anti-lock brake system in our car. In the parking lot, she was a natural. I was a wreck.

One of the main lessons they instilled in the student drivers was when an animal runs in the road, never. ever. swerve. Always “HIT THE SQUIRREL”.

During class, a street scene was set up to give the students a stopping point as they were directed to “floor it” toward the barricade.

Cones were set up to represent squirrels and trashcans were people. Once the driver is close, they follow the cue of the instructor who swings his hands to one side or the other. The student is directed to lock the steering wheel in that direction, step COMPLETELY on the brake, and NOT HIT anything unless it’s the squirrel. They stressed, “Someone could rear-end you if you were only thinking of the squirrel.” As always, the instructor followed up with a heartbreaking story about a car that swerved to miss a puppy, hit another car and the puppy was the only survivor.” Geez.

About 20 virtual squirrels were killed that day. I missed mine (they had parents try too) only because I illegally used my brakes prior to the stop. The “you messed up and used your brakes” oversized red flag was waved noting my mistake.

Deep down I know it’s better to power through an animal when driving and unfortunately so does the soul of the raccoon who stared me down as I drove my parents 1998 Buick over it. We were returning from the Grand Canyon and I assured the kids I DID NOT hit it.

Then I went to confession.

For some reason, the squirrel needed another chance. Most days, we all do.

When I arrived at swim, Cora got in the car and I said, “I didn’t hit the squirrel”.

“YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO HIT THE SQUIRREL!”

Once again, I was corrected by my 16-year-old. And once again, she was right. Darn it.

Spiritual journey: Say a prayer to St. Francis, the Patron Saint of Animals – pray for all animals. Pray, they realize the side of the street they are on is really the best choice.

Workout: When you walk or run today, watch for fast drivers. Not everyone stops for squirrels OR runners. Be safe.

 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets, siblings

Heaven can wait

After a recent move from Washington, DC and church shopping for a good year, we finally settled on St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. It was cozy, diverse and close to home.

Following a Saturday evening mass, we discussed the homily with the kids on the drive home. It was a mediocre effort to summon thoughts from our children and see if anything other then the weekly pew fight was absorbed.

The sermon was very straightforward, essentially about going to heaven, practicing repentance and doing the right thing. At one point, Father Michael asked the congregation to raise their hands if they wanted to go to heaven.

I looked down one side of the pew and saw our eldest daughter and son with their waving hands straight up in the air, then glanced at our 5-year-old, Zavier whose tiny digits were tucked away under his legs, eyes staring at me shaking his head adamantly.

His brother and sister, in their loud church whispers, glared at him and with disappointed voices uttered, “ZAVIER! You HAVE to raise your hand!” He readjusted his hands under his legs, sat up straight and stared up at the altar.

On the drive home, more curious than concerned, I asked the question again with the long drawn out vowel sounds kids love. “Sooooo, WHOOOO wants to go to heaven?” Dexter who is 7 and Cora, 8 both entrenched in Catechism hollered, “I do”, with zeal in their voices.

Zavier again shook his head, and in his outside voice said, “NOPE, I DON’T want to go to heaven.”  With her well-trained third grade “you’re such a dummy” tone, Cora yelled, “YOU DON’T?!”  

Zavier took a look around the van at all of us and finally announced, “No. I don’t want to go to heaven, ’cause I just don’t want to move AGAIN!”

That said, we all breathed a sigh of relief, gave our compassionate “we get it” nods and drove home. Logical thinking for a little guy. I mean, we all love the thought of eternal happiness but moving really is exhausting.

Mind and body workout – Meditate for 5 minutes. Pray for those who have moved to heaven, may they know how profoundly they are missed. 

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness, Parenting/Running/Pets

Why all kids need their thing…

LENTEN REFLECTION #13

Today at work, I walked with a first grader to the classroom. The tousled-hair blonde with sweet, aqua eyes looked down at his untied sneakers and uttered, “I still don’t know how to tie my shoes…I mean, I just don’t have time, you know (dramatic pause) now that I play baseball.” He caught my eye to make sure I fully grasped the play ball part. I gave him an understanding, “I KNOOOW, you’ve got a lot to do!” response and he gave me the kid nod that said, “finally, someone gets it.”

Clearly, he was a busy guy. Way too busy to mess with shoe strings and all that tying. Baseball was his priority now and talking about it made him beam. He wanted to share who he was and by letting me know he was a baseball player, he was pleased with himself and satisfied I heard it from him first.

We all need our thing. Something that drives us. Something that makes us jump out of bed and start the day with a spark. Does it define who we are? Maybe. It certainly tells more of our story. And kids? Kids really need their “thing”. Kids need to get out and experience. Whether in an organized sport or class or just playing with friends on the playground. They need opportunities for socializing and developing who they are and what they love.

Growing up for me in the sports world, it was soccer or soccer. As the fourth of four girls, you just follow the pack and my sister who is closest in age to me was a soccer player, therefore, so was I. We had two practices a week, ate dinner together and always went to each other’s games toting sliced oranges and water.

Nowadays, there are so many choices for kids. From soccer to fencing, mountain biking to curling. Practices for us end as late as 9:00 pm. Some nights, dinners are eaten at different times, homework sits on the back burner simmering patiently and Justin and I feel like we are constantly driving somewhere.

Thank God. Thank God they found something they care about and enjoy.

Naturally, over the years our kids have dabbled in a lot to find out what makes them tick. In the process, we’ve had: acoustic guitars, bass guitars, ukeleles, soccer cleats, keyboards, lacrosse goals, baking tools, chorus, piano music, gymnastics, basketball high tops, hockey pucks, baseball gloves, frisbee golf goals, shuttlecocks, tennis rackets, catcher’s gear, football helmets, swim goggles, orienteering shoes, toe shoes, tap shoes, ballet shoes, running shoes, metal cleats, turf cleats, unicycles, mountain bikes, skateboards, Ripsticks, bows, arrows, quivers, fishing rods, dart boards, ping pong balls,  and more I may have forgotten.

I certainly am not complaining. I am so grateful they have WANTED to try so many things and happy we’ve been able to afford them the chance. They’ve settled on (but are not limited to) swimming, baseball and mountain biking plus cello, saxophone, and trumpet…a well-rounded crew.

So let them try. Let them fail. Let them know they have to give it more than a week. Tell them to power through the whole season because there is a team or group depending on them and life is about teamwork and persevering.

I know we’re busy, but as I say, it’s a good busy. It’s a time where we can relish in our children’s successes, see them win, lose, fall, get up and be there just in case they need us or a Bandaid.

My first-grade friend who is simply too busy to bother with tying shoes figured out what makes him happy as all kids should.

Spiritual Workout: Go to confession –

Confession flashback! Remember when we would state all of our sins and at the end, were taught to say, “I am sorry for all my sins and those I MAY have forgotten? Was that a confession loophole?

Workout: play with your kids today, they will LOVE it.