Posts Tagged With: Kindness

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

A Little More

The hostess slipped two menus off the desk. “Right this way, please.” I smiled to myself as we passed by the high chairs. That’s right, two. No high chairs for us. No crayons, no kiddie menus no over-priced macaroni, no bibs. Just a table for two. I could count on one hand the times in the last three years my husband and I had been out on a true, blue, honest-to-goodness date. You know, not the ones that involve doing dishes together after the kids are asleep then watching the much-anticipated episode of Downton Abbey. An actual date!

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That day I had spent crunching numbers. My husband had spent the day attempting to do his work while making dozens of phone calls to the county. Our septic system has been on the fritz since we moved in, and that week’s batch of laundry seemed to have done it in. Like all unexpected expenses, I can’t say we were any too thrilled about this rather large project, nor the amount it would cost. Financially we would be just fine, but it certainly wouldn’t be convenient. I could think of dozens of ways I’d prefer to spend our savings, but so goes life.

We dropped the boys off at our friends’ house for a fun pizza and movie night and continued our conversation of worries in the car. Spending money on dinner seemed a little silly considering our newest rather large expense looming in the near future, but we had planned it all week, and this was an outing that we rarely had a chance to take.

We settled in the booth and vowed to not talk any more about that blasted septic system and just enjoy our night away. Instead, our conversation turned to our kids (what else?) and then to the kindness people have shown us and how we want to be more like them. From our friends offering to watch our kids for the night, to grandparents and aunts and uncles who do so much, to the small acts of service we’ve witnessed over the years. As we were getting ready to leave, the waitress came to our table. “Would you like any dessert?” We shook our heads and thanked her. “Well, you are all set to go. That couple over there paid for your tab. Yes, all of it. You can just go when you are ready.” I turned away hoping the waitress didn’t see the tears welling up in my eyes. The two generous people were slipping their jackets on and briskly walking to the door before we could catch them. I had read about things like that in the paper, but to actually be the recipient touched me to the core.

Out of all the couples sitting in that restaurant, why had they chosen us? They didn’t know about our unexpected septic system expense or that we rarely got a chance to go out as a couple. They didn’t hear our conversation about selfless kindness, but they gave us yet another example of goodness to add to our list.

A little more. It’s amazing what a difference a small act of kindness can make. It doesn’t have to be money. Share a little more smiles, be a little more patient, say a little more kind words, listen a little more closely. Give a little more love, offer a little more help, be a little more conscientious. A little more. That’s all it would take, just a little more every day. We have no idea what story is hidden in each person. We don’t know what they are experiencing. Why not show them, give them, just a little more? I’m grateful for wonderful examples of kindness I have so often witnessed. To that kind couple who slipped away at the restaurant on Friday night before we could offer our thanks, your kindness warmed my heart.

This is one of my favorite little clips on kindness. I hope you can take a second and watch it!

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

By Small and Simple Things

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One of my favorite Christmas traditions every year (and possibly one of yours too!) is curling up on the couch with family and watching It’s a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart in pure 1946 black-and-white splendor. At the end of the movie when the credits are rolling, tears are being wiped away from every eye in the room, I always wonder what it would be like to have George Bailey’s wish…to see what the world would be like without me. What difference has my simple, small life really made?

George Bailey: [George hears a train whistle] There she blows. You know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are?

Uncle Billy: Uh huh. Breakfast is served; lunch is served; dinner…

George Bailey: No no no no. Anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.

No doubt about it, It’s a Wonderful Life is a Christmas classic, a beloved movie in many, many homes. And maybe that’s because we all have a bit of George Bailey in us. We all want to do BIG things. We want to explore the world, make our mark, leave it for the better. We want to be good at something, known for something, have people remember our names after we have gone. And so often we feel like the whistle blows, the plane starts up it’s motor, the anchor is hoisted, and we’re left watching from the station. But I wonder if we realize, just as George Bailey had the opportunity to find out, no matter how insignificant, how small and simple our lives feel at times, we are making differences. Our lives are intertwined into so many others. We make ripples, and even the smallest ones touch more than we could ever imagine.

Clarence: Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

I wonder if we could all see, if only we could know what we have done. If only we knew…

I think who I have become is ultimately a collection of small moments I have shared with others.

I think who I have become is ultimately a collection of small moments I have shared with others.

If only Mrs. Chamberlain knew. An awkward tom-boy with a hideous bowl cut and no self-esteem was completely changed in her third-grade class. If only she knew how many elementary ed professors read about how every child deserves to have a teacher like her, who gives them a chance, believes in them, and loves them.

If only Regina, the owner and boss of the best family-owned burger joint around, knew. Those who have worked for her over the years would all agree she taught us far more than how to make a killer Ladybug shake or count back change. She taught us about being kind, giving people a chance, and serving others with a smile. Always. She taught us to truly care about others and think more of them than of ourselves.

Yeah, we lost almost every game. We weren’t the best in the league, but we loved soccer. We loved it because we had amazing coaches. Their pep talks when the score board read 5-0 might have seemed to fall on deaf ears, but their encouragement went far. To this day we are all changed because they taught us to love the game, to be a team, to have fun and be good sports…even if we could never seem to get the ball in the net.

If only friends from long ago knew. If only they could feel the way their simple messages, phone calls, letters, have made me feel on a bad day. If only they realized how much their friendship has meant to me over these many, many years.

If only the kind lady at the grocery store realized how far-reaching the effects of her simple gesture of allowing us to go ahead of her at the checkout counter meant. Not just to the hungry, crying baby and the exhausted mother, but countless others who I have shared her story with. I want to be her someday when I don’t have the anxious kids in tow.

If only…if only Mrs. M knew how scared my son was to start the first grade. How he didn’t like to read, how he despised writing. How he has blossomed and reads every night, writes stories on the bus, and talks about her at every meal. She is his hero. She is MY hero.

He’s only the custodian, but Mr. Mike creates ripples. The kids love him. The way he teases them in the lunch room making each one giggle with delight. He makes a difference. Every single day. They will remember that forever. If only he knew.

If only each one of us could know.

Each day, each moment, our small actions touch others. Sometimes in very big ways when we don’t even know it. We may never do really big, grand things. We may never have an audience of millions, have stadiums or buildings named after us, or have our photo on the cover of magazines or in books. We may never be the best. But life really is wonderful, and you and me, all of us, even in our small and simple ways, make a difference.

Clarence: You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?

Categories: Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 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

Love Is Not a Jar of Peanut Butter

My grandparents raised seven children. Five girls, two boys. The perfect number for a baseball team. I’m sure if you were to ask them they’d tell you that life was a bit crazy back then. A bit crazy, a bit chaotic, but wonderful all at the same time. I love to hear their stories. One of my absolute favorite that Grandpa tells is of how the whole family, all nine of them, would pack into their little station wagon and go for a drive. When they’d come to a stop, the driver next to them would gape at the old station wagon with wide eyes. Grandpa could see their minds start to turn as they counted all the little blonde heads. one, two, three…little hands in the back seats would then shoot up holding the number seven next to the window, saving them the headache of trying to get a proper calculation. Then slowly the driver would pull away as fourteen eyes stared back.

Every time I go to the grocery store I hear the same phrase at least three times, if not a dozen. “Boy, you sure have your hands full!” It’s not that it bothers me, it really doesn’t. I’ve even caught myself saying the same thing to other moms and dads. I can only imagine the comments my grandma got when she braved the grocery store with her seven.

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The scary thing about going from two to three is that your thrown from a comfortable one-on-one defense into zone. It’s six little, quick, curious hands versus four. All those well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) grocery shoppers are totally right. We have our hands full. Our nights non-stop, our cars packed, our heads racing, our emotions on edge, our days unpredictable, and our laundry never-ending. What those grocery shoppers may or may not know is that nothing in this world could make us go back. A friend of mine always responds with a smile and says, “Yep. Full hands and a full heart.”

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No, I don’t mind the never ending barrage of having full hands. What does get to me just a bit is the people who like to make comments to the effect that having more than one or two means you won’t love them all as much. Like love is a jar of peanut butter that can only be spread so thin. I hope I would never make the assumption that someone who has fewer children loves their children less, just as I hope others don’t assume the same of our family. Love should never be given in quantity, whether it’s given to one or twenty one. When my third son was born, I can assure you I never once told my older two, “I’m sorry boys, I can’t hug you today. I’ve given all my love to the baby. Come back in the morning when I’ve found some more.” Love is not a finite number, and limiting it as such would make this world such a sad, sad place.

“Love is not a thing, it is not lost when given. You can offer your love completely to hundreds of people and still retain the same love you had originally.”
― Leo Buscaglia

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As parents I feel like sometimes we tend to look at other moms and dads and compare. If they do anything different from what we do or what we would like to do, we think they’re wrong. One child or seven children are neither necessarily indicators of a less loving, caring family. No child is the same, no circumstance has a single fix-all solution. Families all function differently, and that’s ok!

When we moved to the country, we weighed the pros and cons. We made lists on what it would mean for our children and for us and what it would mean for our family’s future. When we took the plunge, we ultimately did it for our children. We did it so that they could grow up hiking in their back yard, fishing, sailing, and watching wildlife out their bedroom window. We did it so that they could learn the value of hard work and helping the family and helping others. We did it for all the open space to run around in and get muddy. We made the decision weighing heavily on our love for our children.

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Others might find the city way of life suits their family better. Out of love for their children they might move within walking distance to schools, pools, little league practice, and in a neighborhood full of kids. Barbecues on summer Saturday nights, kids riding bikes and roller blading down the sidewalks, and picnicing every day at a park across the street.

Two very different lives, two very different families. Neither more right than the other, both parents doing what they feel is best for their children and their families. Doing it out of love.

When I sit at the table at my grandparents’ house eating a chicken salad sandwich and listening to the crazy stories of the good old days with a house full of girls and a couple boys, I wonder how on earth they survived. I wonder if they ever got a wink of sleep, if they could even count the number of band aids they went through, if they had even a second to themselves. I wonder how on earth they did it. But NEVER ever have I wondered if they loved all their kids, because I know they did. Just as I love my three, just as others love their one. I’m sure they made decisions different from what I make with my little family, but no doubt they weighed the pros and cons and decided what was best for them and their seven.

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We all make different decisions, have different values and dreams for our children. But for the most part those decisions are made out of love and with the best of intentions. Thank goodness love isn’t like peanut butter, that no child is the same, and that families can do what they feel is best for them under their circumstances. Thank goodness we can appreciate different parenting and respect other’s decisions even when they’re different from our own. Let’s try to do less assuming and remember we’re doing the best we can. It’s totally ok to disagree, but let’s choose to love, because there’s no limit to that.

Categories: Motherhood | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 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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