On Running

dsc_0613-2I started training for a 10K a month ago because my sisters asked me to run one with them. But now I’m running because I’m hooked. Turns out I love the oxygen blasts, the racing blood, the endorphin breaker waves after. I like how my legs are firming up and how I sleep better at night. I like the extra time outdoors, too, since I suffer from SAD this time of year.

But also, I hurt.

I don’t mean in an I’ve-sustained-an-injury kind of way. More of a someone-whipped-me-with-a-baseball-bat-while-I-was-in-a-coma-but-now-I’m-awake-again-and-have-to-live thing.

If someone were to look at the search history on my laptop, they might find:

Normal to hurt all over after running?

Groin pain common new runners?

Running bad for knees?

Old running

39-year-old women running for the first time. Bad?

But I already know I’ll keep running no matter what because I’ve decided it’s worth it. The good, ultimately, far outweighs the bad, even though I feel achy almost every dang day.

I’m reminded that running is a lot like life–especially the life of faith. It’s hard and painful, sometimes for long periods of time, but there are good things in store for those who persevere. So often we need people to keep pace beside us to remind us that better times are ahead, especially when our lungs burn with exhaustion.

In the end, I want to be like Paul, who said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

I want to run and not give up.

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Of Goals and GIFs

In the wee hours of the morning, I dreamed a recurring scene:  I was supposed to write a magazine article about parents setting goals in front of their children so they can show them how to do it in their own lives.  I planned to use the (somewhat silly) example of growing out my hair–as my daughter watched me doggedly struggle through bad hair days and awkward seasons–until I got my hair the way I wanted it.

FullSizeRenderMy sisters and me (left), playing around with our mother’s monstrous stash of wigs.

So far, so good. (?)

But in my dream, every time I wrote a couple of paragraphs, the computer screen ate them and I was left with nothing.  Then I grabbed a notebook and rewrote them, but I couldn’t read my own handwriting.  Back to the computer.

The clock kept ticking, and I was aware that I had fifteen minutes until my article was due.  This scenario replayed itself in my dream like a wretched little GIF until I woke up, cranky and stressed.

After the kids and I ate breakfast and fed the dogs, I headed to my bedroom to write.  I told them that I needed some time to work because I’ve given myself a deadline to finish a first draft of my second novel before I leave the country next week (it doesn’t look like I’ll meet this goal, but I’ll probably come close).

I still felt the cloud of that anxious dream hanging over me and I wondered if my kids will think I’m crazy someday.  But then I consoled myself with this thought:  They’re seeing me work towards little and big goals every day, and, crazy or not, I’m showing them how to keep going.

I tell myself that’s got to count for something.

Moral of the story:  Don’t use over-the-counter sleep aids unless you’re prepared to dream in GIFs .

Life Cycle

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I was young a few days ago, and there were things I didn’t know, so the soil under my

feet felt especially warm

and smelled like hope.  And this richness lined my mind with its fragrant crumbles,

made me believe that there are things worth saying, and that

there is some way

of saying them.

I’m not young today (this is how things go),

and the dirt isn’t black

anymore, but medium brown,

and we are both leached.

And I do wonder, now, if there’s any point in speaking fragile things

when the sun is high and

mid-life and

killing like this.

But I am not old yet,

and there are still things I don’t know.

On Catching Fish With Your Bare Hands

As a writer who educates three middle-schoolers at home, I have little time to stare at a blank screen in the mornings.  If the words don’t come when I need them to, if I can’t get things down in the early quiet, I feel the Pop Rocks of Panic start to fizz somewhere under my left lung.

Because, for me, the words I write are proof of life, as melodramatic as that surely sounds.  I don’t make actual things for a living, like some people do (if you don’t count that one season when I made three human beings in 32 months).  In fact, most of the work I do in a day’s time seems to evaporate into the ether with no real proof that I did it.

Except for the words.  This morning they won’t come, and my breathing’s a little shallow.

Writing is a lot like homeschooling, which, in turn, is a lot like trying to catch fish with your bare hands.  You keep grabbing moments, waiting, calming your breath, lunging again (don’t be so clumsy this time), repeating the whole thing–while trying to forget about how ridiculous you must look.

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When I don’t catch any fish right away (write any words worth keeping, or successfully explain, say, certain biological concepts), I have to trust that it’s the trying, the not-quitting, that equals success, at least in the short run.  Even if it seems like nothing is happening at the moment.

So, yes, the cursor is blinking, and the kids have knocked on my bedroom door, signalling that it’s onward and upward.

But it’s OK.  I’ll bide my time.

I’ve noticed that fish often come when you’re looking the other way.

Whatever Wednesday

A little spot of inspiration with your morning coffee?  I’ve yet to come across a song that sums up my marriage–a lot of people’s marriages–like this one.  I love it.  Just something to make you smile this morning because I plan to spend the day playing with the kids and humming this song to myself until they beg me to stop.

Dancing in the Minefields

Teach Your Child To Fail

Failure.  We hate it.  It’s bad enough when we experience it, but when it happens to our kids, it’s truly painful.  But there are two ways to fail.  The first leads to withdrawal, hurt pride, and giving up.  The second leads to success in the long run.   This kind is called failing forward and it leads to true learning.  Instead of quitting in the face of defeat it means getting back up, reassessing, and trying again.  The difference between the two types of failure is enormous and can change the trajectory a person’s life.

Failure itself is inevitable, of course, if one attempts to grow and learn.  Most great inventors, creatives, and history makers fail hundreds of times in their attempts to change the world before they ever see success.  But what separates them from those who grow discouraged and give up (aside from special intelligence, timing, or talent) is their ability to fail forward—to inch toward their goals, even as they land on their backsides again and again.

We want this kind of grit for ourselves.  Perhaps even more than that, we want to nurture it in our kids because we sense it will help them to achieve what they’re meant to do.  But how can we help them when it seems like some people are just born more resilient than others?

As usual, it starts with us.

We moms must teach our kids that failure is not the enemy.  We must convince them that it is a teacher that shows us what didn’t work and gives us hints as to what will.  There are things we can do to pave the way for failing forward in our kids.

·      We must manage our expectations.  When our kids try something new, do we expect them to “get it right” after a couple of tries?  Do we secretly hope that they make us look good when they play the piano? Do we experience a rush of irritation when our child stands up to give a speech in the local co-op, one we helped him practice many times in the last week, and he stammers, forgets whole sections, and says silly things? (Guilty as charged).  If we want to encourage proper risk-taking in our kids, we homeschool moms must let go of the results of their efforts.  We must divorce our sense of self-worth from the outcome of those attempts.  This is easier said than done, certainly, but it is imperative.  A child who is afraid to make mistakes (and disappoint Mom) is a child who will not try new things.

·       We must prepare our reaction to our child’s failure before it happens.  Sometimes it catches us off guard when our kids fail and we don’t always say what we ought to say.  Those moments after the sting of defeat are crucial ones for our kids and they are often looking to us to know how to feel about them.  We can decide, in advance, how we will handle those times, even creating a script for ourselves.  We might say, “I saw the effort you put into that car you made.  And even though it fell apart, I am so proud of how hard you worked on it.  That kind of focus will take you far.  Keep trying because I know you can do it.”  Knowing what we will say before our child fails will help us to respond in an encouraging way.

·      We must allow our kids to see us fail.  Um, ouch.  No one likes to fail.  But grown-ups like to fail least of all.  We all do, however, and it’s important to be honest with our kids when we try something and it doesn’t work.  We could say, “You know, I interviewed for that position and I didn’t get it.  I’m disappointed but I won’t let that stop me.  I’m going to keep trying and trust that the right job will come my way.”  Or in my case, “I’m still working on my book, and there’s lots I have to scrap.  I’m tired just thinking about it.  But it means a lot to me, so I’m going to take a break and try again—even though I don’t feel like it right now.”  We think these kinds of conversations don’t make much of an impact on our kids, but they do.  Our kids are always listening.

·      We must be honest about fearThis is getting into the weeds, I know.  But why do people not try new things?  Because they don’t want to mess up.  Why don’t they want to mess up?  Because they are afraid—afraid to look stupid or like losers.  But decisions that are fear-based are often not good ones.  There are sensible reasons to be afraid of some risk-taking, of course.  Nine times out ten, however, we hold ourselves back from trying new things or embracing new opportunities because we are scared, not because we are prudent.  And guess what?  Our kids pick up the unspoken message that to “play it safe” and “be like everyone else” is the way to avoid failure.  As they grow, they inherit our fears, adding some of their own, until they lose the ability to step out in faith in a variety of ways.  We need to show our kids that while fear in the face of failure is normal, it will not be the deciding factor in our choices.  This starts with asking ourselves in what ways we are “stuck” or afraid.  For me, it means praying and asking the Lord to show me where I’m allowing fear to control my decisions.  We need to be honest with our kids when we’re afraid of trying something new, and then we need to try it anyway.

We teach our kids how to go potty and how to tie their shoes when they are little.  Later we teach them math and biology.  But one of the best lessons we can teach, a lesson that will last a lifetime, is how to fail and to keep moving forward.