Friday, July 31, 2009

Disclaimer: Teenagers

Ok, time for a disclaimer. In my last post, I talked about seeing my life through my children's eyes. Perhaps I should have warned you. . .this only works with children. Don't do this with teenagers!

Yes, I didn't mention it (poetic license) but my three older kids Ammon 14, Caleb 13, and Vienna 10, were there Letterboxing the other day as well. If I had looked at the day through their eyes, my reflections would have been very different.

Take Ammon, a young teen, but a teenager all the same. Through his eyes, I would get, "Mom, why are you so-o-o slow? Man, I climbed Mt. St. Helen's with the Scouts faster than you are doing this 4 miles. But, I guess you can't help it, cause you are so-o-o old."

When I told him about my biking goals, he laughed and he didn't even try to hide it the way my husband does!

Caleb has a quick wit and I don't dare ponder what he might have been thinking.

Vienna is sweet, but brutally honest and she's not even a teenager yet! Recently we were trying to explain to my husband why he should not be the "pitch man" for his gardening invention that he is ready to launch. Caleb said, "Let Vienna explain." When she came in from another room, we told her the goal of the conversation. She thought for a moment and then grabbed a pillow from a nearby chair. It was a serviceable, but plain pillow. She said, "Daddy, this is you." She then grabbed a pillow from another chair, this one very elegant, in a satin type material, and said, "This is what you need for your video." Ouch!

So, you see what I mean? Don't try this at home, and if you do. . .don't say I didn't warn you!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Through the eyes of a child

Steven R. Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote that one should "begin with the end in mind". He said, something to the effect of, think about your funeral and what you would like people to say about you and work to make that happen. The funeral idea is. . .is. . . well, do I really need to explain? It's too close to home, enough said.

I prefer to imagine my life through my children's eyes. What will they remember about their childhood, which I have a large role in shaping.

Lately as I return from my bike rides, my youngest, Peter, who is three, greets me at the door. "Hat! Hat!" He says reaching out to me with a smile. Then I take off my bike helmet and put it on his head. He loves hats so he is thrilled. I am thrilled because I love the idea that he might remember me, with a bit of pride, as some sort of an athlete, something I never before imagined for myself.

Yesterday we went Letterboxing, Peter and next to youngest, Brigham, who is seven, happily ran up and down the trail. I imagined the whole experience through their eyes. Not just the wonder of the forest, but the joy of family time.

Along the trail, there was a plaque with this quote, "I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. . .what business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods." Henry David Thoreau

Experiencing the woods with a child, keeps you in the woods in spirit.

One trail we followed had a lot of tree roots to step over. Peter was having a hard time managing that and fell several times. He is tough, independant child though, so he would just get up and go again. If he stops for cuddles, I look for blood. This is why I was so touched by an incident that happened later. Brigham got caught by a branch and hurt his leg. It was minor, but Brigham wasn't convinced yet that it was minor, so he was sitting on the trail pondering his "owie". Peter ran over to him, squatted down in that adorable way three-year-olds do and looked at the leg, and then gave Brigham a big hug. Awww, precious.

These things are magical to me, because my own childhood memories are complicated. My parents loved me and did their best, but their parenting efforts were limited by their alcoholism. As you can imagine, the alcohol taints everything. Seeing my own children have such a happy and relatively carefree childhood is very healing for me.

Getting back to looking at my life through my children's eyes, there are times when I look through their eyes and cringe. I see myself tired and grumpy and I think, "oh, I hope THIS is not what they remember!" Of course, that kind of thinking reminds me to take a "mom time-out". There is a fine line between correction/discipline and cranky mom. I try not to cross that line too often. Sometimes I see myself very busy and realize I need to stop and take time for them. Yesterday was one of those days. We put the packing aside (we're moving, but just a couple miles from where we live now), and went "out to play".

Thoreau had it right, not just about the woods. Life can be stressful and hectic. Quite often, my life feels more like zipping down a freeway than a peaceful walk in the woods. But as Thoreau said I am alarmed when it happens that I have passed another week of my life without getting there in spirit because I was too caught up in the day to day details to see the big picture, or the things that matter. What business have I living day to day without appreciating the wonders that are here, the fantastic little people that share my life, my adoring husband, my God, my job which is both trying and rewarding.

Seeing my life through my children's eyes, helps me be here everyday "in spirit".

Friday, July 24, 2009

You Gotta Believe

It is funny how the most profound things can come to you and then seem so simple that you laugh at yourself for not seeing it sooner. I had one of those moments of mirth filled enlightenment yesterday on my bike.

I was riding along (it was a great ride, by the way!), and thinking about how much I love riding my bike and well, you know me...dissecting why that is. I don't know why I dissect ideas either, it is like breathing. I do it naturally without choosing to. So I was pondering bike riding, about the wind blowing on me, about the freedom, the amazing sense of being young, and all the things cycling people love I guess. Then bam! It hit me.

I love it because I believe. I believe that this could lead to a thinner, fitter me. And that new me could ride farther and longer.

You are probably thinking, "well, duh, Leslie!" The amazing thing, though, is that for a long time I really did not believe I could lose weight. I was sort of like an alcoholic who says, "I can stop drinking anytime I want," but they don't try because somewhere deep inside they don't really believe they can. "All you have to do is eat right and exercise," I used to think. And yet I didn't do those things because I didn't believe that I could.

You have to first believe that a thing is possible before you can begin the journey to attain it. So simple, and yet profound. The idea is not completely new to me. I am profoundly religious, if you will, and therefore faith or believing has been a part of my life for a long time. Somehow though, I had not expanded that idea outside of the church walls, figuratively speaking.

I imagine that you are reading this and thinking, "But Leslie that is so simple."

Yes, it seems that way on the surface, but look inside yourself. What are your unrealized dreams? What goals do you want to accomplish but haven't started yet? What part of yourself is waiting for you to believe?

And most importantly, what will it take to help you believe and begin to accomplish those goals and dreams?

Sometimes the journey is the best part of the trip. I started riding the bike because I thought it could help me lose weight if only I could stick with it. Biking has changed me though and now I don't ride to lose weight, I want to lose weight so I can ride, stronger and farther.

I blog because I love to write. I have always loved writing and for years have dreamed of writing a book. I don't know if I will ever be published, but I do know that my blog has brought me a lot of joy. I love writing it. I love that all of you read it, especially when you keep coming back. Thank you for coming back, your reading is like a gift to me.

What about you? Dare to believe in yourself in your goals and dreams, in your potential. Give yourself permission to fail, the journey is valuable, but believe that you could succeed! You have probably already achieved many goals in your life. Believe and accomplish some more! I believe in you!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Living, breathing flesh. . .Count Time

I've been thinking that I should finish my book, Everything I Needed to Know about Parenting, I Learned in Prison. So, here is another excerpt for you (to help motivate me).

Comments: complimentary or constructive are more than welcome!!!

Living, Breathing Flesh. . .Count Time

Count time is what it sounds like...the time we check to see if all the inmates are "present and accounted for". Kind of like the "roll-call" we remember from school. During count time all movement stops. Inmates are sent to their cells. Yes, I used to tell grown men to "go to their rooms!"

When inmates are checked at night while they sleep, we, officers, are taught to look for "living, breathing flesh". As you might have guessed, this is has evolved due to problems in the past such as inmates leaving stuffed pillows under their covers. Inmates are not very happy when a guard opens their door and awakens them because they couldn't see them breathing, but such is life in prison.

Parents instinctively know about checking for "living, breathing flesh". From the time we bring that first babe into our home we can't stop checking the sleeping baby so make sure he or she is still breathing!!! My oldest is almost 14 and I admit I still check in on him when he is asleep. It's just what moms do!

Count time is similar to parenting in another way. Almost every time we get in the car I look in the rearview mirror, "one, two, three, four, five, OK we can go." I had heard stories of moms forgetting their children at the store or the laundry mat. Once waited for a mom to return after she left one of her children at an activity we both attended. I never wanted this to happen to me. And yet, it seems it is inevitable!

One day we were visiting with my friend, Charice, and her family at their home. On impulse we decided to go to another house around the corner to pick something up and then return. Charice and her kids, and I and my kids (or so I thought) piled into her van and drove around the block. I hadn't seen Charice for quite sometime because she lives in a different state, so I was really absorbed in our conversation while she got the things together we had come for. Then it hit me! One of my children was missing. Oh my stars! How could I have left one of my children behind at a home that was unfamiliar to him?! Charice assured me that he would be fine. There were adults to care for him and children to play with. Still I was on tenter hooks until we returned to the other house. When we got there I expected to him to melt in a puddle of tears, and I would have to apologize with many hugs and kisses, but he hadn't even noticed we were gone. Makes you feel so indispensible as a parent. . .

Unfortunately that wasn't the last time that happened either. Another time we were at a Church Christmas party and we had sat down to eat when my husband asked me where one of our children was (ironically it was the same child! Poor kid!). I was mortified, not only had I not noticed that he was missing, but I had no idea where he was. Fortunately, my daughter, who is a little mom, said, "I know where he is." He was with Santa. Oh yeah, I remember now, I told him he could get in line to see Santa.

One, two, three, four, five...I need to keep working on that one.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Fitness World's Best Kept Secret

I have a new love in my life. Don't worry, my husband knows and he is supportive. My new love is bike riding!

How did this happen? Well, in May, one of my co-workers, Sara, announced that May was Bicycling Month. She tried to encourage us all to form a team and commute to work. I thought it sounded great...only a few small obstacles: I live 20 miles from where I work, I haven't ridden a bicycle for over 20 years, and I'm more than 20 lbs overweight...a lot more. But hey, it wouldn't be the first time I dreamed a dream that was a little out of my reach! While I was not able to partipate in commuting to work (I'm not certain but I don't think Sara got any takers), I couldn't stop thinking about it.

My husband and I have an "electric assist" bike that we bought for him to commute to work (7 miles). He was doing great, riding it every day, rain or shine! But then, he crashed and broke a rib! Well, we think he broke a rib, "Jonh Wayne" refused to go to the doctor. (He's mostly recovered now!) So the bike sat there waiting. . .I could swear it was calling to me every time I walked by. How could I resist? I got on the bike one day and immediately fell in love! Selene Yeager explains so well what I feel when I am on the bike.

"The simple act of swinging your leg over a bike and pedaling away delivers nearly instant freedom. Feeling free from all the no-fun stuff of being an adult. The crushing responsibilities. The bills. The worries over the kids. The worries over aging parents. The worries over too many worries go out the window when you're on your bike. Nothing brings back that buried youthful exuberance like riding a bike. Nothing. Ride regularly and you never have to feel like an over-burdened adult again." Selene Yeager, Every Woman's Guide to Cycling

Of course, I don't ride to work, but I ride! And the most amazing thing has happened, I find myself looking for "excuses" to ride! Do I need anything at the store? Do I need to go to the post office? the library? I have discovered the perfect excuse to ride's exercise! Wow! If you had told me a month ago that I would look for excuses to exercise simply because I love it, I would not have believed it. And yet, here I am. Another "excuse", if I get one of my boys to go with me (which I love, but they merely tolerate) it's bonding!

All this and there is still more: cycling is easy on the joints. I think cycling is one of the fitness world's best kept secrets (or perhaps, like Sara, they have been trying to tell us all along, but we weren't listening.)

Another fringe benefit of riding is stress relief. One of the main contributing factors to my being overweight is that I turn to food when I am stressed. So imagine my surprise when I was feeling stressed and annoyed the other day and the first thing that came to my mind was not chocolate, but "I need to go for a ride." I had the strongest instinct that a good hard ride would help me release the frustration I was feeling and relax.

I know what you are thinking and yes, bike riding is not without its hazards.

"The sound of a car door opening in front of you is similar to the sound of a gun being cocked." Amy Webster

Car doors opening, storm drains, railroad tracks are all potential hazards for cyclists, so when I can't ride, I read books (like Every Woman's Guide to Cycling by Selene Yeager) to help me learn some of these dangers and hopefully avoid them.

After one week and 50 miles, I have another "out-of-reach dream". It seems a bit unrealistic right now, but I'm hoping someday it won't be. I want to do some cross-country cycling. I have some specific goals, but I won't elaborate on them...I have already endured my families teasing about that. Suffice it to say I have big dreams (and I don't think that is a bad thing).

Why cross-country? Well I have always liked traveling and seeing different places. Cross-country cycling would simply combine two of my great loves. Ernest Hemingway understood this:

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle." ~Ernest Hemingway

I'm almost done here, but before I end.... thanks to the Quote Garden . . .where I found all these great quotes.

For all you girly girls, check out this blog written by two girls that "ride in style".

Here's a thought to ponder while you are riding your bike (or driving your car, if you must!)

Consider a man riding a bicycle. Whoever he is, we can say three things about him. We know he got on the bicycle and started to move. We know that at some point he will stop and get off. Most important of all, we know that if at any point between the beginning and the end of his journey he stops moving and does not get off the bicycle he will fall off it. That is a metaphor for the journey through life of any living thing, and I think of any society of living things. ~William Golding