Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

React or Respond?

Lenten Reflections #30

I love NPR, but some mornings on the way to work I listen to podcasts. Some are about self-care, organization, or ultra-athletes. Others chip away at answers about parenting, teenagers, or DIY hacks. Every now and then I’ll listen to whatever Google picks for me, because we all know Google knows us better than most.

One morning I got hooked on a podcast (per Google) about the art of breathing. Seems simple right? Inhale, exhale.

The interview I listened to was with Dr. Andrew Huberman who is a neuroscientist and professor at the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Huberman has developed what I call a ‘breathing bento box’ of exercises.

Huberman says with these breathing techniques, the brain and the nervous system can buddy up and help us manage our emotional stress. Although the reason for our stress has changed over the years, (thanks 2020!), our responses and reactions have remained the same.

When I look back on my knee-jerk reactions now, I realize I should have just taken a breath. 

—Fred Durst, Limp Bizkit

Reacting and responding are like heads and tails on a nickle, same shape and weight but appear very different.

Reacting is quick and mentally driven. Reactions occur when a stimulus or event sticks its foot out and trips us causing physical or emotional actions to follow. Do we fight or flee? Freeze or scream? When we react, our unconscious mind takes over and many times leads to regret later.

On the other hand, a response is slow and crafty. It uses data from the conscious and unconscious mind and often results in a morally logical solution. A response looks at the big picture, considers everyone’s feelings and aligns with your core values.

The ability to respond to stressful situations 100% of the time is impossible. As humans, we have natural reactions when we feel hurt or threatened. In an effort to move toward more mindful and calm responses, here are a few breathing techniques Dr. Huberman suggests:

The Extended Sigh **HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**
Double Inhale then Exhale. Do this – Inhale, then inhale again, then exhale with your nose or mouth and empty all of the air.
Do it a few times or more. This will help calm your body and mind give you added alertness.


Nasal Breathing:

This allows you to get rid of carbon dioxide and enhances memory and learning. In moments of stress, push the carbon dioxide out by taking a long exhale (nasal exhales are even better). Correctly managing carbon dioxide will minimize our stress responses.


Box breathing:

Inhale for 3 seconds. Hold for 3 seconds. Exhale for 3 seconds. Hold breath for 3 seconds. This technique will help regulate the ratio of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Our reaction or response to a situation is up to us. In the world today, we could use a lot more level-headed, calm, think-of-others approach to the way we do things. If you’re in a situation and you’re not feeling like you’ll make the right decision on how to react or respond, stop…breathe…and THEN decide which path you’ll traverse.


“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”

Hans Selye

On Faith and Fitness: Breeeeeath in fresh air outside today on a walk. Exhale.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Will you be the linchpin?

linchpin or locking pin

Step aside velcro, glue, duct tape and 3M strips, the linchpin is here to hold it all together with a wise and unique approach to work.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of linchpin is

1: a locking pin inserted crosswise (as through the end of an axle or shaft) 2: one that serves to hold together parts or elements that exist or function as a unit.

Seth Godin defines a Linchpin as an employee in an organization who is indispensable. An employee who has crafted their job into a role that touts them as unique and valuable.

Lately, linchpins can be found in cubicles and classrooms – start-ups and Starbucks. They invent, connect people, lead, clear up chaos, and bring their own dance moves.

Will you be the linchpin? The cog? The compliant employee? The boss? Your own boss? Go with your gut, but do work that matters and do it well.

As Godin writes, “Every day I meet people who have so much to give but have been bullied enough or frightened enough to hold it back. It’s time to stop complying with the system and draw your own map. You have brilliance in you, your contribution is essential, and the art you create is precious. Only you can do it, and you must.”

On Faith and Fitness – Celebrate you. Build, play and dance.

Writer Neil Gaiman Quotes
Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Self Reliance

Lenten Reflection #28

Back in the 8th grade, our oldest son had an assignment to read Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson. We read and re-read, questioned, lost our way, circled back and finally landed like a bird on suet – dizzy from the flight, but well-nourished.

As I re-read Self-Reliance, I thought of the teenagers today. Home, at school, barely passing, ready to graduate, all just hoping to make it to May. Emerson’s words encourage a quest to find our best selves even when we feel like we are we are all flitting around like fire flies in a mason jar furiously bumping into walls, hoping our light still shines when we are released.

He says:

Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.”

Most teenagers are in a mad dash to figure out who they are, where they are going and who they should become. Their vernacular is peppered with words like non-binary and dismorphia, and phrases like “how I present” or “gender fluid”. The grammar behind pronouns is revisited, questioned and celebrated…”he/him, she/her, they/them”.

Emerson goes on to say,

Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”

Some days we are as misunderstood as a fitted sheet. Corners never fitting well because the sheet is horizontal when needing to be vertical and no matter how hard we tug and pull, it just doesn’t fit.

Isn’t being completely understood overrated? We scour our souls every day for the best version of ourselves and as long as we remain self-reliant, and strong, I’ll bet we’ll get there.

On Faith and Fitness:

Please plank for 30 seconds. It’s hard, but so worth it. Say a good prayer during the hold and then repeat 5 times.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

The olden days (last year)

Lenten Reflections #27


Yesterday was like the olden days (one year ago). My husband and I dashed home from work, went to our son’s tennis match, then to our youngest’s baseball game. Bottom of the third inning, I slid out, and picked up my daughter for her Senior “End-of-swim-season awards ceremony”. Three back-to-back activities, three talented and busy kids, and three groups of parents, grandparents, friends, and kids I hadn’t seen in months.

Following a full year of distancing, masking, virtual school and limited sports,

It felt like an oxygen mask had dropped down to resuscitate me as we swapped stories of our children’s triumphs and tumbles and our own precious and prickly moments. This ‘Parenting CPR’ rejuvenated my spirit after not seeing families I would typically laugh and commiserate with at least once per week.

Upon leaving the quick celebration, we took group photos where masked faces with young, bright eyes stared back at us full of emotional and physical exhaustion from home schooling and so much hope that their “olden days” would return sooner than later. We all gave brave side hugs, and said good night.

“See you at graduation!” said one Dad. Just a few more months and we’ll have made it through this.


E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

–Anne Lamott

On Faith and Fitness:

Perhaps placing our own oxygen masks on first will help us support others and help them find the breath they desperately need.

Breathe.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Once the teenage years hit, there’s no pause button

Lenten Reflections #25

Throwback Thursday! Here’s one of my favorite posts, enjoy!

It wasn’t long ago when I could still pick up Zavier, our youngest. He’d nestle his head in the cozy crook of my neck and we’d sway back and forth savoring the moment.

Then one sunny day after picking him up from baseball practice, I looked into the rearview mirror and there it was…adolescence.

Oh, you’ll know it when you see it.

It looks a lot like the top of a teenager’s head. Yes, all I could see in that little rectangular reflection was a blue screen shining up at my son’s face and the curved top of a baseball cap.

Where was my little guy who would yell out the make and model of every car that passed and guessed how long it would take for every light to turn green? Why wasn’t he singing “Down by the Bay” loudly or recounting his practice play by play?

He was changing by the minute. One second we’re holding hands coming from the bus stop talking about recess triumphs and the next he can’t wait to start weight lifting class and drive to high school with his brother and sister. Ugh.

Honestly, Zavier is a teenager who is quite independent. But he’s still just a kid. I mean, out of habit (and my keen sense of smell), I still have to remind him showering is not optional. And like a broken record, I futilely encourage flossing and turning clothes right side out. Luckily his love of play supersedes all. He still asks me to be his quarterback, play Yahtzee and read together…I’ll hold onto those moments as long as possible.

Yet time just ticks by without even asking. So as I file the snuggly moments away in my heart, I remind myself to make every minute count. Zavier and I may see nose to nose now, but I still get my hugs — that’s usually when I whisper…”time to shower”. 

Here’s a great blurb I found from The Center for Resilient Leadership. I love the way it describes adolescence:

Adolescence is a period of transformation, not unlike a chrysalis changing into a butterfly. If you have never seen this process, it can be painstakingly difficult to watch. The butterfly gradually breaks free of his cocoon, pulling and pushing, stretching and contracting for what seems like an eternity before he finally emerges. If a benevolent onlooker decides to help the process along, the butterfly will likely die, because it is only through the struggle of metamorphosis that he gains the strength to survive on his own.

On Faith and Fitness – go to church with a friend or your family…or a walk.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Enjoy the view and celebrate our similarities

Lenten Reflections #24

After driving 20 miles through winding roads in Georgia en route to a baseball game I thought about what gives a community its heartbeat, keeps its blood flowing, and oxygen pumping. As I looked out the window, each glance told me I could be in “Anywhere USA”.

Here’s what we saw:

Subdivisions were stacked up like dominoes, smells of fried anything wafted through parking lots and the occasional farm peppered with cows and horses blurred my peripheral.

Plazas lined the streets, some with businesses boarded up due to COVID, others with “Grand Opening” signs and lights.

Dollar Stores loaded with inventory and full parking lots, too many banks, steeples topping churches with their saying things like “Don’t let six strong men take you to church”. Kroger and Publix vying for customers, a gas station where a guy was manually changing the sign from $2.60/gallon to $2.80, and a Chic-fil-a drive thru lines circling their store with one woman mowing the lawn out front because that’s what their employees do, but never on a Sunday.

As I drive behind a big truck, a sun-faded VOTE TRUMP bumper sticker stares back at me and I strain to see what the small print says under the plea. “Does it say Pick your feelings?” I ask my son, “No, Mama” he says in a teenage wow-you’re-blind kind of way, “It says a bad word.” I squint a little more…”Ohhhhh, I see it now.” On the next road where we turn, a “Black Lives Matter” sign sits on a healthy, green lawn and

I’m reminded how diverse and vocal our homes, cars, trucks, and t-shirts have become.

Then I digress and applaud the homeowners in my head for not choosing Bermuda grass that resembles bits of hay on dirt this time of year.

I then ponder the souls behind the walls of the local Wal-Mart working to pay for their next dinner for 5 or 6 or maybe 1, or the teen-age boy learning to change the oil of his truck on the side driveway that he helped lay.

Then we pass a small trailer park where kids dash off a crowded school bus, stuffing masks in their pockets, ready to jump rope, take the laundry off the line or read their coveted library books.

With 10 miles to go, the topography transposes into large homes with basketball nets and multiple cars in driveways. Ornate subdivision names like “Willow Lake” or “Equestrian Estates” sit nestled in multi-colored stone walls.

I see a mom pumping gas at the local Chevron — probably feeling like an Uber driver shuttling kids from school to practice and home only to repeat it the next day.  

The familiar green and white logo of Starbucks catches my eye and I’m sure in the drive through line there’s a teenager worried about grades or boys or college wait lists or the SAT.

At Dunkin Donuts I can picture a teacher treating herself to coffee before work this morning, pleased she had time to stop. 

Sitting in a spin class behind the local gym doors there’s probably an older gentleman wearing the same red shirt he wears every Monday to the gym at 5:45 a.m., because that’s his routine and it makes him happy.

Sanitizing baskets at Publix we pass, there is likely a newly employed high school student who chose to do virtual school and save money for the truck he thinks he so desperately needs.

After almost an hour drive I suddenly realized NPR was playing quietly telling us about the state of our nation, but didn’t care much as my son and I simply chatted about that precious present that slips by so quickly.

As we finally wound our way through this microcosm of the world, we parked in the school lot. Baseball players poured out of their parents cars while others loaded onto a bus to go to another game on our side of town. I wondered if the players and coaches would take a minute to look up from their phones and see the similarities we share. Because whether it’s 20 miles or 2,000 – the steps we take in our world aren’t that different than our neighbor’s.

Much like our bodies –age, exhaustion and abuse take a toll on a city, town, or neighborhood. But it takes the people, students, parents, kids, and the entire community to resuscitate it every day with kindness, hope, and laughter. The brick and mortar gives us a place to hang our hats, but the world can’t go on without the sentiments behind the walls.

An empty room is but a vessel waiting to be filled with laughter and sadness, pain and joy.

On Faith and Fitness:

On your next drive, carefully look out the windows and enjoy the view. Then park far away from your destination so you can get a good walk in for the day.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Coaching with kindness – GA Tech wins ACC

“Kindness Superhero”
GA TECH Coach Josh Pastner

Saturday night when I sat down to jot some thoughts down and watch/listen to the television, I thought maybe we’d catch up on The Flash a witty superhero series whose speedy protagonist spends his day doing the right thing and saving all in need. Or maybe we’d sit through New Girl, a well-written romantic comedy full of hilarious moments. Instead we flipped over to a basketball game…ah, sports, the true reason we still have cable…and thank goodness we do because the game we watched, was the ACC Tournament championship between Georgia Tech and Florida state.

It was a big deal.

While half-watching and mainly listening, I stopped typing when I heard a clip of Georgia Tech Head Coach – and ever-positive – Josh Pastner’s outgoing voicemail being played on national TV:

Life is short. We spend so much time sweating the small stuff. Worrying, wishing, wanting, waiting for something bigger…instead of focusing on the simple blessings that surround us every day. Life is so fragile. And it takes a single moment to change everything you take for granted. Focus on what’s important and be grateful. Live your life with no regrets. I’m not in right now, but if you leave your name and telephone number clearly, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Have a great day, a positive day, and a day filled with gratitude.”

Josh Pastner – GA Tech Basketball Coach

The discussion of Pastner’s unflappable, optimistic character continued and the announcers said that in year unmatched by any other, it was obvious Coach Pastner’s focus was on gratitude, teamwork, and mindset.

In just those few recorded sentences, it was as if Josh Pastner was sending out a press release to the world…or anyone who called…to let them know he was in their corner…that life is good and gratitude is guiding. His words were sincere, hopeful and kind and harnessed me for a minute. This line especially:

We spend so much time sweating the small stuff.

I thought about earlier in the day when I was bathing the dogs and the moment they stop, look at the world and shake off the excess water weighing them down.

This soggy memory made me think of the minutia that weighs us down: the unmade beds, homework, eating too many carbs, working too much or not enough, playing time in high school sports, the list goes on and on. Perhaps if we focus on what we’re grateful for and shake all our worries away like Lola is shaking off the bath water, perhaps little droplets of joy will surround us.

Pastner’s motivating monologue is what we all needed to hear – in fact, in an interview after the game, when asked about his outgoing message, he said a lot of people call him hoping he doesn’t pick up, just so they can hear the message.

Georgia Tech went on to defeat Florida State 80-75 and win the ACC championship, securing an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, a title they have not seen since 1993.

After this win, Pastner, in true character went on to thank and praise the FSU coach, players, his own team, and said he loves them all. When asked about his faith he said, “Everything is a gift…it’s a blessing. I recognize that. I don’t believe God is rooting for winning or losing. Sometimes you have opportunities in life, but you’ve got to give the good Lord the credit.”

An incredibly likable, self-depracting guy, Pastner talked about how he pays little attention to the fact that his shoes are old or he hasn’t cut his hair in months – maybe even a good luck charm he ponders. “It might be cool to be me because I’m so uncool.”

True. He is cool.

Turns out watching the Georgia Tech Basketball game was the perfect combination of superhero and wit. I’ll always think of Coach Pastner as “The Kindness Superhero, making the world a better place one phone call at a time.”

On Faith and Fitness –

Time to plant flowers if you’re in the south, if not, walk yourself, your dogs, your neighbor. Just walk and tell someone you love them.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Let kindness be what guides you

Lenten Reflections #22

This poem reveals what kindness truly is in those moments we rise above fear, rage and loss.

Kindness

Naomi Shihab Nye – 1952-

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

On Faith and Fitness

Say a Rosary and run/walk at least one mile.

Please be kind.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Things I never thought my kids would say…

“I’ll walk the dogs again!”

In this COVID world, we’ve all incorporated new lingo into our day. Words like social distance, unprecedented, re-imagined, and masking. In the confines of our little home throughout the last year our kids have also thrown out a few lines I never thought I’d hear them say (without prompting). Some of these are from the beginning of the pandemic, yet still apply.

I’m going to walk the dogs.

I’ve never had this much work.

I want to go back to school.

Teachers REALLY ARE helpful

I am SO tired of looking at my phone.

Can I make tortillas/waffles/pancakes? (many, many carbs)

Quiet! I’m studying for Chemistry.

I just finished a Physics lab on ZOOM.

I’m going to practice my scales on my saxophone.

I just finished organizing all of my socks…I found every match.

I’m going to go clean the bathroom.

I’ll wash if you dry the dishes. (we pretended the dishwasher was broken)

Mass is at 10:00 on Sunday, let’s meet in the living room.

I just reorganized my closet.

I’ll make dinner.

I started a project that’s due in two weeks.

As exhausting as this pandemic has been, our kids have been quite resilient and have stuck together. Pushing each other (more like relentlessly poking) to get the work done and get up the next day and do it again. 

Over the last year, COVID has pitched us some mean curve balls…but now we’re ready. As each four-seamed ball is tossed at us, we’re ready for the break. We’re masked, vaccinated, prepped for the test, stocked with paper products, and can measure six-feet with barely a glance. 

On faith and fitness…

Do some cathartic cleaning and tackle that sock drawer. Find all the matches and say some Our Father’s while you work. Sing Amazing Grace if you actually find every match!