Posts Tagged With: helping others

Sometimes

Sometimes I worry. I worry that my children aren’t eating enough vegetables. I worry that I will never get caught up on laundry. I worry when my son’s bus is 15 minutes late dropping him off from school, that he will pick his nose in public, that he will never be the best at reading. I worry that my boys will spout off embarrassing family secrets to their teacher or classmates, that they sometimes forget to brush their teeth after breakfast. I worry that my boys will never find nice girls, or that they will find them too soon.

I worry because I’m a mom, and that seems to be my job.

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Sometimes I read the news paper and I worry. I see news about wars, scary things. I see sadness and despair. I worry about the future my children will have.

Then I see articles online. Other parents worrying too. They write about their concerns and their thoughts, their values, only to have it thrown back in their face by other worrying parents.

I see people fighting, spewing hate at each other over social media. Aren’t we all wanting the same thing? One might want to teach their daughter to respect her body and protect her from lustful boyish eyes. The other might wish to teach her daughter that her body isn’t something to be objectified, that she isn’t responsible for the inappropriate thoughts of others. Both well-intentioned, both wanting what is best. I see moms, women I respect, bashing each other for differing opinions on vaccines. Both arguing the same underlying cause: the health and safety of our children. But the passion of the argument and disdain for each other is thick. Such disgust on both sides, both sided by people I love.

It makes me sad.

Aren’t we all on the same team? Aren’t we all just worried parents? Aren’t our goals, our hopes, our passions, to raise good, kind children in a scary world? A world where some are killed for what they choose to or not to wear. Where health is a matter of whether or not they will have anything to eat that day or clean water to drink.

In a country where we are blessed with the opportunity to express ourselves, to make choices based on our beliefs and feelings, I feel like maybe sometimes we should put differences and arguments aside and realize we are so blessed. Many are not as fortunate as we are. Maybe it’s time we helped each other out, lifted each other up, and supported each other in the things we can agree upon.

Maybe, as worried moms, here’s somewhere we can start:

  • Teach our children to be kind and compassionate. Example is the greatest teacher.
  • Create a home that welcomes others–particularly our children’s friends who may not get love and care anywhere else.
  • Fortify your marriage–a union based on mutual respect, kind gestures and words, and understanding.
  • Help our children recognize their potential. Build them up, not break them down.
  • Allow our children to experience consequences. Help them to realize the gravity of their decisions now so that they will recognize them later when the stakes are so much higher.
  • Spend real time with our families.
  • Teach our children that their worth isn’t found in the mirror, their closets, wallets, brains, or friends. Definitely not in the number of heads they turn. That no one, no matter what, should be objectified for any reason.

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Let’s support each other along this path, because as parents, we need all the help we can get. It’s scary out there, and there’s so much we cannot do alone. We owe it to our kids and their future.

And when we have realized all we have, maybe we can find ways to reach out to those who do not have the freedoms we seem to be taking for granted: the right to express ourselves through speech, through dress, through decisions of what is best for our children. Theirs is the real fight worth fighting. And maybe when we work together, instead of hating, we can make a difference.

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Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

You can Create

“I wanna be a Brontosaurus!” “Mom, can I be a train conductor?” Thank goodness for pinterest, I thought to myself. A vague memory from the year before of me venting to my husband after all the Halloween festivities were over, “Next year we BUY the costumes!” floated back to my mind. I brushed it off, like I do every year. Eh, last year was different, and it really wasn’t THAT bad, was it? M, dressed up as the “Red Barron” even won the costume contest. That had to have been worth something. The hours and hours of work to create a plane out of cardboard boxes and duct tape resulted in one exhausted mom, three tuckered out kids, and a $5 coupon to the ice cream shop for winning grand prize. Totally worth it.

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We scoured pinterest for a couple minutes, and soon they’d decided on pirates. No, lions. Firefighters? Cowboys!! Cowboys. It was settled. R and N would be cowboys, M would be the horse, Dad would be the bad guy, and mom would be the “Damsel in distress?” I offered. “No, Mom. You can be the cactus.” Ok, the cactus. The cowboys we found in our closets, and the horse head we paper mached half of a milk jug and painted brown with a mess of yarn hot glued to the top.

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I threw myself on our couch and sat back to admire our work. Then, like every year, the thought came back. “Why do I go through this every single October? It would be easier, cheaper, and loads faster to just go buy them.” And then words from one of my favorite talks came to my mind.

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.

Everyone can create. You don’t need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.

Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty…”

It seemed silly, really. I’m just creating Halloween costumes, I’m not generating amazing pieces of art for the world to enjoy. I’m not serenading visitors with beautiful melodies flowing from my fingers or my voice.

You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.

What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. So what if the eggs are greasy or the toast is burned? Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.”

Creating is an inherent trait we received from the greatest Creator of all. Whether it is Halloween costumes, happy homes, loving children, meals for our family, or lovely paint strokes on a canvas. We often get down on ourselves and feel like we don’t measure up. But even when our contributions seem small, when our works fall short of a masterpiece, they still make a difference. And we must keep trying.

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Peggy is older and lives in a small house all on her own. Chances are you have never heard of her. I only met her a handful of times, but her story of creation will forever be with me. Gram would visit her often, helping with grocery shopping, housework, and whatever else she needed. That’s how her story became a part of my life. You see, she is completely blind. She was diagnosed with MS and has suffered for years from the effects, but that never slows her down. Even with her loss of eyesight, she continues to bake bread for those in her small town. Gram would often get phone calls from Peggy asking her to deliver a loaf of bread to this family or that, one having just returned from the hospital with a new baby, another simply needing a friendly gesture. Her bread doesn’t always look perfect, but her creations bless the lives of all who receive it. It’s a simple act of love that she shares with others. A few weeks after Gram passed away, we received a note in the mail. It was from Peggy, someone we vaguely knew. The writing was slanted and some words went over the others. She so kindly sent her sympathy and expressed her love for the amazing woman we all would so dearly miss. That simple note was not written with beautiful penmanship. It was difficult to make out the words as they jumbled together. But that card touched us so deeply.

If you still feel incapable of creating, start small. Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it…”

In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but the number of prayers we answer may be of even greater importance. Let us open our eyes and see the heavy hearts, notice the loneliness and despair; let us feel the silent prayers of others around us, and let us be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to answer those prayers.”

YOU are an artist. You can create masterpieces, you can touch lives. Maybe you don’t feel like your medium is a paintbrush, a hammer, a keyboard, a cooking spoon, or the ivory keys of a piano. Start with a smile, and go from there. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect, if it doesn’t measure up to that of others. Even if our Red Barron hadn’t won the costume contest last year, it would have still been worth the time we spent together duct taping, cutting, and painting, laughing, working, and talking. Don’t allow yourself to feel like your contributions are small. Even if your efforts only touch one, that one is worth it. Even if that one is simply you.

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All quotes taken from a talk given by Dieter F. Uchtdorf (Happiness, Your Heritage October 2008)

A really great 2 minute video!! Please watch: Create

 

Categories: Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

My Parents are Moving to Malaysia for 18 Months, and Why I’m OK With It

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From Soccer games to cross country meets, late night papers to guitar lessons, my parents have always been my biggest fans. I could see them in the stands cheering, they were at my side when I needed someone to edit my papers. They were a phone call away when I was in a different state attending college and needed to hear a friendly voice. They were there to hold my boys when each came into the world.

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So when they told us of their decision to put their life on hold and serve a mission for our church, I knew loving and supporting them in their endeavours was the least I could do.

Early in July our entire family sat around a picnic table. Our annual camping trip is something we look forward to every year, but this time the air was thick with excitement and curiosity. For years my parents had planned, prepared, wondered about, and sacrificed for that moment, and here it was. The next two years of their lives waiting inside a large, white envelope. My parents opened the seal carefully and pulled out a thick packet. With a deep breath, my dad read.

You are hearby called to serve as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Singapore Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months…”

(Choosing to serve a mission for our church typically means that you could serve anywhere in the world, and you don’t know beforehand where that may be.)

Singapore? My guess had been Arizona. Maybe Virginia. Canada was my wild guess, you know, something really out there. But Singapore? We were all shocked. Dad was holding the paper, and I could see his hand shaking. They might as well have been asked to fly to Mars. For 18 months they would live a 24 hour flight away, in an entirely different place than they had ever experienced. I call my mom frequently for questions about laundry and recipes, advice, and emotional support. Not only would they be gone for the next 18 months of their lives, but mine and my children’s –their grandchildren that they adore– as well. I immediately felt the pain I knew would come. I knew then more than ever I would miss them more than words.

But I felt peace.

In that moment I knew that this was right. They would be OK. I would be OK!

It has been a lifetime in the making. My parents are some of the purest examples of service I have ever seen. At the age of four I can vividly remember going to the nursing home up the road. I think her name was Mrs. Brooks, and her room smelled like old perfume and cats. She was wrinkly and sat in a wheelchair, and as we walked up the hall to her door, my mom would always whisper in my ear to remember to give her a hug when we walked in. I’d sit on her lap while my parents visited. It meant the world to her, and that was enough reason for my parents to keep going back. Their service has never been limited to visiting. It often includes manual labor, financial assistance, emotional help, and meals. Just a couple weeks ago my dad and a close friend of his spent two days (or more) helping a family in need with a plumbing issue, requiring digging, walking through sewage, and intensive labor. My parents’ devotion to their neighbors and the community has never been about being noticed or recognized, their service is simply an act of love.

The Singapore Mission includes parts of Malaysia, which we recently learned is where they will be, speaking some Malay, helping where needed. I truly believe they are needed in Malaysia. That they will serve the people there with just as much love and compassion as they have those in our small town for so many years.

My children might not get to play at the park or swim at the pool with their grandparents for 18 months, but they will get to see them sacrifice for something great. They will witness the devotion and love that my parents have for their Father in Heaven not just in word, but also in deed. My parents will serve and learn and grow, and share with us their experiences. The legacy of faith will be something that we, as a family, will always cherish. They will be in our thoughts and prayers more than ever before. What they will leave behind is something more powerful than we could express in words. It might not make much sense to the casual observer, but THAT is why I feel peace.

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My parents will be boarding a plane next week, and while I will be praying for them, thinking of them, missing them, and wondering if there’s any way in the world we could fly the five of us the long 24 hours to see them, I will be thankful for their great example to my children and to myself of a lifetime of service and love.

Waiting for their Uncle to get off the plane after serving a two-year LDS mission in Mexico.

Waiting for their Uncle to get off the plane after serving a two-year LDS mission in Mexico.

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Beauty of Sharing

Our house is under quarantine today. Between the coughs, sneezes, boogers, and wheezes, I made the executive decision that today we rest. I figure it all began about like this…

R, at school: “Hey Timmy! Can I borrow your pencil?”
Friend Timmy (which is, actually, a fictional school mate and really no one in particular): “Sure! Aaa-aa-aa-choooo!” –hands R a snotty pencil.
R: “Gee, thanks, Timmy! Let me just stick it in my mouth while I grab a piece of paper.”

Yes, we all thank you, Timmy. All because of you so graciously sharing your snotty pencil, our entire family is infected with this miserable bug.

My kids are pros at sharing their germs. I can’t think of a time when a cold or flu bug has not made a run through our entire family. I can’t say that I’m exactly thrilled about this, but I do have to say that it makes me happy that they are fantastic at sharing other things besides germs as well.

…All three share a room. I know, it’s crazy. But it works! However, that typically means at 5am our day often starts like this, “Psst, R, are you awake? HEY R… R!! Wake up! It’s morning!!!!!!!”
…They are fantastic at sharing peas, broccoli, mushrooms, and carrots (go figure, right?).
…T.V. Time, is, well, shared. Either that, or Mom chooses, and that typically means some girly show. “Nooo!!! Ok, ok, we can watch M’s show, just anything but THAT!”
…Toys are usually shared relatively well, cookies some of the time, and crayons almost always.

As parents we constantly drill into our kids the importance of sharing. At the park, at friends’ houses, when friends come to visit…the sharing never ends. But why? Why do we feel this need to teach our kids to be giving with others? Frankly, I would have been fine if Timmy would have refused to share his pencil.

A year ago our area was hit with a horrible flood. The rain came for days and days and never seemed to stop. Roads closed, bridges washed away, and canyon roads crumbled into the torrent below. Houses filled with mud or completely washed away as rivers changed their direction and spilled over their banks. The news was filled with heart-breaking stories of families being separated, homes being lost, and even lives being swept away. Tragedy beyond comprehension.

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Even Our *little* stream close by turned into a torrential river during the flood. Luckily, nothing could reach our house. Unfortunately not all of our neighbors were able to say the same.

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But among the disaster came stories of sharing. People came out of the woodwork to give of their talents, time, energy, monetary assets, and love. Neighbors came together and really showed what it meant to be a neighbor. Regardless of religion, race, political preference, or any sort of differences, people worked side by side, sharing all they had.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” –Fred Rogers

The kindness of others was truly inspiring, amazing, and incredible those long, rainy days, and for many, many days following.

We were so thrilled when the sun finally came out!

As difficult as it is for our children to share toys, rooms, treats, and time, This is why I think we do it. Because eventually, as adults, we hope they will be good neighbors. That they will bring their shovels, buckets, and wheelbarrows to help a friend. Or more importantly, a stranger. That they will be willing to put together a bag of clothes, a warm meal, or lend a shoulder to cry on.

So for now, as my boys and I share our box of tissues, chicken noodle soup, and sit on the couch today, I will be thankful that my kids are learning to give. I’ll be happy that Timmy’s mother is teaching him as well. I’ll be glad that this world is full of helping hands in a planet where disaster, sadness and despiration are all too often well-known. And most of all, I’ll look forward to the day when my boys can share their time, talents, monetary assets, and love with those in need around them.

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Categories: Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Our Most Precious Commodity (a thank you to teachers everywhere)

Nine months ago I held my little five-year-old’s hand and led him up the stairs to a new phase of life. I squeezed it tight and held my breath, because secretly I was just as nervous as he was. His Thomas the Train backpack bounced full of glue, crayons and erasers with each step. Was he really old enough for this? He suddenly seemed so small! Was ready for this? I certainly didn’t feel like it. I gave him one last long hug and watched as he disappeared behind the kindergarten door. Books lined the wall, the letters of his name already  printed across the desk on a colorful tag. I left him that day as a shy, timid, scared little boy without anyone he knew and in an entirely new world he’d never experienced.

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As I waited by that same kindergarten door nine months later, I could hear that little five-year-old voice chatting with his friends about the spider trap they’d made on the playground and how today would be the lucky day that they’d get something good (they had bated it with some nice, fat, dead flies they’d found, so of course they had high hopes! Oh, the joys of having boys). I could hear his teacher calling them to the rug for last minute directions before they walked out the door for the summer. The walls that had over the past nine months been covered in pictures and stories written and illustrated by those young and aspiring authors and artists were now bare. As we walked to the car I held that same boy’s hand, but he wasn’t the same little one I’d kissed goodbye months before. He’d grown. He’d made friends, learned how to read,  found confidence, bravery, and strength. Something magical happened in those nine short months.

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As we walked to the car, we passed the buses full of students anxious to get home and celebrate the beginning of their three-month break. The sidewalk was filled with teachers waving and jumping at the children they’d just spent the last school year thinking about, planning for, stressing over, helping, teaching, and loving. Hands waved back from inside the buses, and, I admit, I got a bit teary-eyed as I looked on. I cried because THIS was the magic I witnessed every day for the past nine months. A teacher that cared. Who saw my shy, quiet, timid boy as so much more, and helped him find his confidence, unleash his creativity, and fed his desire to learn. But she didn’t do it just for my son, she did it for all that walked through her welcoming kindergarten doors each week. Each one came out of her class that final day as more than a first-grader. They walked with friends, a backpack full of stories, journals, pictures, and crafts, minds brimming with knowledge, a hunger to learn, tenacity, spunk, and spirit. Can you really put a number on that?

Each year we send our most precious commodity behind those brick walls. We expect them to walk out each day loved, mentally nourished, disciplined, and emotionally cared for. We expect them to succeed, to grow, and to learn life skills. Teachers may have summers off, weekends to rejuvenate, fall, winter and spring break to relax, but for nine months they dedicate their lives to our most precious commodity. They think about them tirelessly. They spend many sleepless nights fretting over lesson plans, grading papers, furthering their own knowledge in order to meet the ever-changing needs of the classroom, and just plain worrying about our kids (probably this more than anything else!). For nine months we trust our loved ones in their care, and they know it. Time and time again they rise to the occasion, often without the help and support of those that should be backing them every step of the way.

I’m sure we can all look back on our years within those classroom walls and think of at least one teacher that touched our lives. That changed us for the better, that believed in us, trusted us, read to us, taught us and loved us. Are they not heroes? Did they not leave this world a better place by the hundreds of little humans they taught? For my son, his teacher changed his short, little life. She gave him the wonderful gift of a love for learning. She boosted his self-confidence, helped him see his potential, and gave him a solid foundation that will benefit him for years to come. She put up with his five-year-old goofiness and that of his classmates (which, I can testify, can be a bit overwhelming at times!). I can’t thank her enough for all of her efforts on behalf of my child.

Teachers are simply amazing. Our children are the future, and they, along with parents, are shaping them, molding them, and loving them into what they must become. Is there a more important work than that? To all those that educate and love our children, thank you. You do so much for so little. You really and truly are heroes.

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I owe a thanks to good old Pinterest for the apple idea (craftgawker.com), but the rest were different things that represented highlights from R’s year with his awesome teacher. I thought it turned out kinda cute! Gummy worms=learning about worms, packets of flower seeds=growing plants, balls=motion, granola bars=snack time, monkey stickers=recess, chocolate balls=shapes, Pete The Cat Old MacDonald book=field trip to the farm, plastic fish=learning about fish.

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What teacher has touched your life and helped you become who you are today?

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Maiden Spring Voyage

We usually don’t make a huge deal of birthdays. A cake, family, maybe a couple presents, nothing big. So when my birthday came on one particular year, I hadn’t expected much. I certainly hadn’t expected to celebrate at my husband’s bedside in the ER.

The real story actually begins years before, right after we got married. My husband had taken a sailing class in college and had fallen in love with it all. Getting a sail boat was constantly on his mind, like a thorn in his side that wouldn’t go away until he felt that water spraying his face. The problem was that we were poor college students and had no time. When we graduated, moved, and started making some money, the problem was no place to keep a sail boat. When we bought our first home, I insisted that before he took the plunge, I needed a car to drive (we had one car that he took to work, meaning I walked EVERYWHERE). Finally I ran out of excuses and he was able to fill his dream. He searched and searched and in early November ( well past sailing season) he found his “second love.” It was small, yellow, and old. Perfect in every way for his sailor’s heart.

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We soon found that November was an awful time to buy a boat. Besides one daring sail in early December, it sat in our driveway teasing and taunting him every time he left for work. It called to him as he pulled in at night. He was in torment waiting those long, winter months for his chance at that maiden spring voyage.

Mid-march can hardly be considered dead of winter, but it’s not exactly spring, let alone summer, either. Despite my worry, he decided it was finally time. Anything I said couldn’t dissuade this anxious sailor. The water was beckoning him. My family was in town visiting for my birthday. We’d planned to have a little picnic at the lake (despite the chilly spring breeze) where my husband and brother-in-law would take our little yellow boat out. They left early that morning, long before the rest of us were up and about. My husband was like a little boy, giddy with anticipation even while scraping frost from the hull before they launched. My awesome brother-in-law was a good sport to go along with his antics. We followed a couple hours behind with food and kids in tow. I have to admit it was exciting to see the white sails and the little boat skimming across the water at the end of the lake as we pulled up. The breeze was just right, and the day, though a bit chilly, was proving to be a beautiful one.

We stood and watched, admiring the smooth jibes and tacks for maybe fifteen minutes, then out of nowhere came a giant gust of wind. We stood frozen, horrified as the little boat toppled to one side, the sails dipping into the water. “Oh no. They’re going in!” Grandpa shouted. It seemed like slow motion as we watched the contents of the boat dump into the lake and the mast disappear. Climbing up on the hull and rocking on the keel, they were able to flip the boat back over. It wasn’t more than a minute later that another gust came. Soaked and exhausted, we watched as they manoeuvred the boat back up for a second time. The third followed just seconds later. At this point all of us on shore were feeling a little panicked. No other boats appeared to be out (who in their right mind goes sailing on a cold, gusty, march morning?), and the rangers were nowhere to be found. My husband and brother-in-law, far from the dock, were hanging onto the centreboard and clinging to the mast. Half of their bodies were dangling in the freezing water, obviously well out of much-needed energy to right the boat for a third time. We were clueless as to what we should do, but something needed to be done, and fast.

Right at that pivotal moment a fishing boat came out of nowhere. It must have been hiding at the other end of the lake, because as far as we could tell my husband and brother-in-law had been the lone sailors that morning. Pulling up next to them, the fishermen grabbed hold to their numb arms and dragged them aboard their little boat. The men carefully tied a rope onto the forward pulpit under the water and slowly motored to the dock. Relief would be an understatement as to how we all felt. My sister and I rushed home to get blankets. We knew they would desperately need something, and we had nothing. We collected as many as we could find and were rushing back toward the lake when my phone rang. It was my mom. “They’re headed to the hospital. They couldn’t walk or even feel their legs. When we tried to talk to them they were acting, I don’t know, delusional. Grandpa is driving them to the emergency room right now.” I almost felt sick. “I TOLD him I’d thought it was a bad idea! I knew something like this would happen. Couldn’t he just listen ONCE?!” I admit, I was a little mad, and so was my sister. Then R, only 2 at the time, came on the phone. “Mommy?” His little voice was shaky and scared. “Daddy and Uncle A fell in the water! They go to the hos-tibal. Daddy at the hos-tibal, mommy! Daddy gonna be ok?” A chunk welled up in my throat. “Yes, he’s going to be ok. We’re almost there, R. We’ll get you and we’ll go check on Daddy.”

The ER is not the most exciting place to spend your birthday. It was cold, sterile, and depressing as we walked through the halls to where our sailors lay being treated for hypothermia. I couldn’t decide whether to be angry or sympathetic when the nurse showed me into his room. Whether to slug his arm or give him a hug. At the last minute my sympathetic side won over. He looked so pathetic wrapped in all those blankets and IVs running through his arms. For 3 hours we waited for their temperatures to rise, and finally we were able to go home.

All of us have recounted that spring maiden voyage time and time again, recalling the life lessons that birthday “celebration” taught us. Be prepared. Listen to your wife (one of my favorites 🙂 ). Be patient. Be wise. Forgive always. Don’t take out a new sail boat as a novice sailor without wet suits on a cold day in March. With your brother-in-law. On your wife’s birthday. Ever again.

Out of all the lessons we learned, probably one of the biggest was taught by the fishermen. Out of nowhere they crossed the entire lake to save two goofy guys. They had no idea what the situation was, how bad the sailors were in need, or if anyone else would come along. They stopped their fishing, were perceptive enough to see that my family was in danger, and didn’t wait for another person to step in. What if they’d hesitated? What if they’d decided it was the ranger’s job to save that boat? What if…? That day they were heroes. That day they saved two lives. That day they taught all of us the importance of helping others. Not when it’s easy, not when it’s convenient, even when it’s someone else’s responsibility.

We may not need to rush to the aid of a sinking boat, but we often need to give someone a hand. We often need to open a door, offer a smile, make a call, do an extra job, or send a note. And often it isn’t our responsibility. But ours or not, it needs to be done, and what better person than you? If you don’t, then it’s possible no one else will. Two lives could have been lost that day in that cold, spring water. But because of two fishermen who took the time to notice and to act, my two-year-old boy was comforted by his daddy’s warm arms in the “hos-tibal.” One of the best birthday presents a mother could ask for.

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Categories: Life Lessons, Marriage, Motherhood, Sailing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lessons Learned in a 5K

I should start this story explaining that I’m not really a runner. If I were to make such a claim it would be an insult to my amazing friends who really are. I admire their dedication, stamina, and abilities so much and would love to be considered one of them. I try to run once or twice a week and I actually really enjoy it, but a real life, distance-tracking, medal-winning, marathon-training runner I am not.

Despite my being a “just for fun” runner, a couple years ago one of my real runner friends talked me into signing up for a 5K. We trained every morning for weeks until the big day. My adrenaline was pumping as I scanned the crowd of racers that morning. My friend and I took our places behind the start and nervously bounced up and down. The gun fired and the race had begun. back in high school I ran cross country, so I vaguely remembered the drill. Pace yourself. Start strong, but don’t wear yourself out the first mile. Keep your mind focused. I fell into the line of racers and tried to think about the pancake breakfast waiting at the finish line.

It felt great to be out on a crisp, spring morning hearing nothing but the steady breath of runners all around. During the second mile I caught up to a small group of fellow racers. They were decked out in fancy running shoes, fanny packs with water, and those “real runner” spandex shorts. They seemed to be pretty serious about this racing business. As we rounded a corner an 8, maybe 10-year-old boy sporting a number 67 on his race bib Came into view. His arms were pumping, head bobbing, and eyes straight ahead. He was determined. With each step, however, his legs looked more and more like jello and his course less straight. as we gained on him, those runners just ahead of me became visually agitated at this young boy for taking up so much of the trail with his awkward form. “Ugh. ExCUSE me!” I heard one lady breathe as she slipped past the boy. Another man yelled, “YOU need to learn to stay in your own lane!” As the two racers continued on, I overheard them say to each other, “Someone needs to teach that kid some running etiquette!” I’m sure the boy heard. His pace became just a little slower, his head hung a little more. But he raced on. My heart hurt for the boy. A part of me nagged to go give those big bullies a piece of my mind. Maybe even trip them and race on (I know, I know. That would have been really mean!). But they were three, maybe four times his age! The extra two seconds it took them to navigate around him didn’t loose them any gold medal… they were going the same pace as me for Pete’s sake. So his legs were all over the trail. He was only 10 years old (if that) and had just run two miles! I can think of a hundred things a 10-year-old boy could be doing at 7:00 on a Saturday morning. Sleeping. Watching cartoons. Playing video games. But he wasn’t. He was running a race. He was pushing himself, working hard, doing something worth being proud of. And despite the negative comments from others who should be encouraging a budding runner, he ran on.

I didn’t listen to that nagging desire partly because I’m a bit of a chicken when it comes to confrontation with mean, angry people and partly because my legs were a bit jello-y too and didn’t feel much up to sprinting to catch up. Looking back I wish I would have been more bold. A few minutes later another runner passed the boy. Instead of more condescending snares, the man slowed as he approached number 67. “Great job, kid. You’re on your last mile! Hang in there. Try to keep your form. You can do it!” and off he ran. that seemed to lighten the boy’s load just a bit. His speed picked up, his form became more straight, and his determination was back. I passed him a few seconds after and breathlessly sputtered, “Almost there! Good Job!”

As I rounded the last corner and sprinted the 100 yards to the finish, I heard my boys’ little voices cheering me on. Those boys that I’ve tried so hard to help them know that they are capable. That they can work hard and finish strong. That if they want to do great things, all they have to do is put their mind to it. During those short 3.1 miles I was reminded that this life is full of people ready to take you down at every turn. To tell you you’re not good enough. That you aren’t doing it right and are just in the way. That day I understood first-hand that I can’t just teach my kids that they have the ability to work hard and finish strong…I have to teach them to work hard and finish strong EVEN (or maybe especially) when others tell them they can’t. When those runners passed the boy and criticized his efforts, he kept running. He could have walked. He could have sat down and cried. He could have said, “Wow, I’m going home to play video games. this running gig is NOT for me.” But he didn’t. He ran his jello-y awkward legs to the finish. Something worth being proud of, no matter what the other runners said. I hope that my boys can take criticism and learn from it, but not let the negativity define them. And more than anything, I hope that as they get into positions of trust, that they can be the ones to tell others who look up to them, “Good job, kid. you’re on your last mile. keep your form. You can do it!”

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Nightmare at the Grocery Store

I like to think that I’m not alone in having a horror story like this. The grocery store can take on a feel of a house of terror when you have little “helpers,” and this trip wasn’t any different from others. I’d put off grocery shopping as long as I possibly could, and once the milk and butter had run completely out I couldn’t hold off the foreboding trip any longer. Did I mention that my husband was out of town and had been for over a week? I had no choice. Couldn’t even wait to go until 10:00 that night when I could shop in peace.

I dreaded it every week (or every other week if I could help it). I took a deep breath as we pulled into the parking lot next the cart exchange. “Here we go, you two,” I sighed to my two “helpers.” The trip started out well enough. We made it through the produce without any incident, and on to the meat isles. It really wasn’t until trying to decide on peanut butter that all Hades broke loose. One arm hanging out of the car cart… an arm and a leg… a head…a boy on top of the car… a boy upside down in my arms… another sprinting to the penny horse… then the screaming. That’s the part that sends panic into a mom’s mind. The screaming announcing to the King Soopers world that their mom is a monster. Good thing I only had a couple things left to grab. We raced down the frozen isles to find the final items while the entire store looked on. If you’ve never been there as a mom, it’s a humiliating, humbling experience. By this time I had two screaming children held like two sacks of potatoes pushing the cart with one foot (you have to admit that takes some skill!). Ok, so it maybe wasn’t that bad, but when you’re in the midst of a meltdown in the middle of King Soopers, it can feel a bit like that. Of course when your children decide to fall apart in public, the checkout lines are longer than Splash Mountain at Disneyland. the thoughts of leaving right then crossed my mind, but the idea of all that work (and nothing to eat at home) was too much to sacrifice. So I took my place and tried to avoid the glares of “what a horrible mother you are! Can’t you control your children?” and tried to do just that.

Hard to believe that this adorable face could cause such mayhem, huh? Don't be fooled! But most of the time he's pretty darn cute. :)

Hard to believe that this adorable face could cause such mayhem, huh? Don’t be fooled! It’s a good thing most of the time he’s pretty darn cute. 🙂

Just then a sweet lady in front of me said something I hope that all moms in a nightmare like this can hear at least once. “Oh, honey. Why don’t you just go ahead of me? What sweet boys you have. I remember those days. You go right ahead!” I could have hugged that darling woman a hundred times. “Thank you so much! That is so nice of you!” I smiled and pushed my loaded cart past hers. That simple act would have been enough to impress upon my mind the importance of not being so judgemental and being kind. But she went on. “You know what? Here’s $20. Why don’t you take those two kids out for lunch? I have grandchildren that are about that age. I love to take them to lunch, and they love it too.” I tried to decline, but she was persistent. I thanked her again and again as she helped me push my cart and I carried my exhausted, hungry, grumpy 1-year-old to the car.

I did just what that grandma told me to do: I took my kids out to eat with the $20 she so graciously gave me, just not that very day. While so many others looked on with disgust, that sweet lady came to my rescue. On the drive home I vowed to be that person who doesn’t look on with abhorrence or even pity, but to take action and help. It’s not easy to do, and certainly not my personality. And I know I can still try much, much harder. But I want my boys to know the importance of taking action, helping others, and not being judgemental.

I’m so glad that there are wonderful people out there that don’t treat you like a second-class citizen because your otherwise darling son decides to test your parenting at a very inconvenient moment. And in case you’re wondering, we still have yet to make it through the frozen foods without havoc, but we’re getting better.

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Making the World A Better Place

A few mornings ago while I was at King Soopers getting groceries with my two young children, I was reminded of a valuable life lesson. It was around 8 a.m., and I was just pulling my two boys out of their car seats when a car pulled up and out came a familiar face. Not familiar because I know him personally, but familiar because for the past three years that I’ve shopped at Target in our town I, and probably every other shopper and employee, have been treated by him as if an old friend. I can’t think of a kinder person I’ve ever met.

That morning he jumped out of his car and began pulling two carts out of his old Subaru. When he saw me close by, he smiled and said, “Hi there! Can you believe that I found this cart all the way by the GMC dealership? And this Safeway one was down by McDonald’s.” As he pushed the cart to the holder, I responded, “Well it’s sure good of you to bring them all the way back!” In all sincerity he said, “Just trying to do my part to make our world a better place.” Then referring to the Safeway cart, “Better get this one home.” With that he drove away.

No other witnesses to this simple act of kindness but my two sons and me. Next thing I knew I was pushing my way through the busy aisles of the grocery store. I couldn’t believe the contrast I felt from my exchange with the gentleman in the parking lot as I looked at the other shoppers. Most were completely consumed with themselves pushing their way down the aisle. Not a glance up from their own lives, let alone a friendly good morning.

What was most ironic to me was in many of the carts were reusable bags, organic foods and “green” products, all to “make our world a better place.” I couldn’t help but wonder who was making a bigger difference and doing their part. While “going green” and buying organic are wonderful things to do, is it not just as important to share a smile, help out our neighbors or treat others with kindness and respect?

As I teach my own children about our world and how we can take care of it, I hope I can help them to understand that being kind and considerate of others, even when there’s no recognition, is one of the most wonderful secrets to “doing our part to make our world a better place.”

A few years ago I wrote this story and submitted it to our local paper. Here’s a link:

http://www.timescall.com/opinion/letterstotheeditor/ci_20918029/st-vrain-valley-voices-making-world-better-place?IADID=Search-www.timescall.com-www.timescall.com

 
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