Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Shortly after starting first grade, Sophie came home and declared she wanted to be a school librarian. The librarian at her school in Logan, Utah had made a wonderfully positive influence on our daughter by simply sharing her own love of books. It also helped that the teachers and other staff members of the school were constantly talking about the books they read, were reading and looked forward to reading. Books were obviously valued. For the next 4 years Sophie would visit her school library every week, sometimes more than once, and she would come home with books that ranged in subjects as great as Sophie's interests.
When we moved to Jackson, Michigan in 2006 I was a bit disappointed to realize Sophie's new school did not have an appointed librarian. It was and is a wonderful school and there are parents and staff members who volunteer to keep the library going, so children may still check out books. It takes a village. However, I still think it conveys a message to our children, and not a positive message, when schools do not have a school librarian. For those who need data, there is research to support the claim that students in schools with librarians perform better on tests which measure reading ability.
The reality is that schools have cut school librarian positions due to cuts in funding. This is a very, very sad reality and it is demonstrative of that which we value in our society. Cuts in other areas: school nurses, social workers, paraprofessionals, art teachers, also negatively affect our students. Some schools opt to keep nurses, some have kept librarians; much of the decisions are based on what the community deems important.
SO! Here's the good news... The superintendent of Jackson Public Schools does see the value in school librarians and is looking for ways to fund the return of school librarians, but of course he has just a few other things on his plate. If you are reading this and have any ideas of how to fund the return of librarians in the schools, please, please leave a comment or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to see our libraries thriving again under the direction of persons whose own love of books is so contagious it affects our children?
A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up children without surrounding them with books.... Children learn to read being in the presence of books.
— Horace MANN
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Ron Paul spoke of working in San Antonio (a city in which I lived, though only a year), and the fact that nearby churches often helped those in need. This seems like a great thing, but I wonder why it is that so many people who are willing to give money to their churches are unwilling to give money to help everyone in their country.
I understand that by giving to one's church, people feel they have a say in where their money is distributed. I also understand that the money goes toward pastors' salaries, church building upkeep, etc. I know that many churches house wonderful programs to benefit all members of their communities: free meals, shelters, clothing programs, meetings for those with addictions and more. These are great things.
What I don't understand is why the resistance to give to programs that can help all members of our society, regardless of religious affiliation? How can we not want all persons to receive health care? How can we not understand that not every person is born under equal circumstances? Ok, what I really find baffling (so please explain it to me) is having a belief in Jesus Christ as the savior, but feeling only certain people should be allowed access to adequate care. If Jesus lived today, he would probably be uninsured and told to stop being so darn lazy and spend less time philosophizing and more time actually working!
So go ahead and give to your church, choose where some of your money goes, but also give to your society so that all persons may be taken care of, because I'm pretty sure that's what the message of Jesus Christ was all about.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
On our drive to Colorado from Logan, Utah the A-S family listened to one of my favorite albums, (ok, we have the cd, but it will always be an album to me) "Free to Be You and Me." Many references have been made to this production and its influence upon our generation, because it reinforced for us, from an early age, that men and women are equal. Girls and boys could want and have dolls, women and men could drive taxis and Atalanta was no princess of the past, waiting in her tower to be rescued by some man, she was the master of her own destiny.
As we listened and sang along with the cd I thought about what would be added to a modern day version: Mommies Can Marry Mommies and Daddies Can Marry Daddies. Ah, wouldn't that be wonderful! Just as we learned as children that "maybe the problem is in trying to tell just what someone is by what she does well," our children could learn that there is no problem in marrying the person you love based on the person, not just their sex. Afterall, if Marlo Thomas and Alan Alda were right in their touted observations that there really are no differences between boys and girls, then why would a person's sex alone determine who they fall in love with? Wouldn't assuming that men should only marry women and women should only marry men actually negate the message of the soundtrack of our youth?
If there were a land in which we were all free to be you and me, wouldn't that include the freedom to marry the person we choose? Right now there is no freedom in this area, because freedom does not exist at all if only certain people can choose, while others cannot. Why, as a generation who embraced the message of equality between the sexes, are we not forcing the message of equality in marriage?
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Ah, yes, the citizens of Finland support the wonderful education system in their country, they are participants, they expect teachers to be professionals and they treat them as such. How are teachers commonly viewed in our own country?
If your child attends a public school in the United States, can you even imagine 3 teachers in their classroom as shown in Finland? A teacher designated to help struggling students? Amazing.
I pulled up this article to research Finland's school system a bit more: http://www.finland.fi/Public/default.aspx?contentid=162937&nodeid=41807&culture=en-US and what struck me is the time of day students get out, between 12 pm and 2 pm. They are not spending crazy, long hours at school in a formal learning environment. If you read the article, you will see the attendants are available at the playground after school, since most parents do work full-time. Children are still being children, playing, engaging, enthusiastic about the process of learning.
Is this Utopia? Obviously not, because it is happening, it is real, it can be done. Come on United States, admit you have a system that is severely lacking, throw up your hands, look to Finland and make our education system better for our children right now!
Saturday, July 9, 2011
My brain is dead - I have no words to accurately convey my love for the movie Chocolat. I saw it when it first came out in the theaters and I remember leaving feeling completely inspired - and desiring really good chocolates.
Sophie watched it for the first time yesterday and we talked about the role an outsider can play in a community in which certain roles and rules are very clearly established. We didn't intend to be as nomadic as we've been, in fact, Steve didn't want his child to move around as much as he did as a kid, but that's how it goes and fortunately, Sophie has adopted a great attitude about it, saying, "I have friends in Utah and I have friends here!" (Friends in Texas and Ann Arbor, too!)
So here we are, outsiders in a community in which I was told one has to live 25 years before they can say they are "from" it. I've been an outsider before and I realize that, like the main character in Chocolat, I kind of like being the outsider, it gives one a lot of leeway. At this stage in my life though, I am tired of moving and setting up a new home, so I think we'll just have to be outsiders here for 24 years, then maybe we'll move on....
Saturday, July 2, 2011
So, I'm watching the second season of Lost and it's all about this hatch thing that they have found on the island. If you don't know the premise of Lost, here it is: plane crashes on island, some 40+ people survive the crash and live on the island and bunches of odd things happen. Ok, so they find this hatch and in the hatch is this man who has been living there for 3 years, pushing "the button" every 108 minutes to prevent an explosion to the island, because he was told, quite convincingly, that is what would happen. After he is discovered, the computer crashes and doom prevails. But really, seriously, pushing a button ensures their survival? They aren't taking any risks, they quickly get the guy who fixes computers, already the masses believe. Only one man, the leader of the crash survivors, points out the nonsense of this practice and yet, even he can't resist pushing the button as the clock ticks down, mere seconds away from...well, from who knows what, because it doesn't happen (maybe it does in a later season, feel free to tell me if you know...).
Of course this made me think of religion - what doesn't - and the practices we do, just in case. Whenever I get on an airplane, even days before, I pray, pray and pray...and I look for signs. There was the one time the kid with the Book of Mormon stood up from his seat, looking very focused and I was certain he was leaving the plane after a premonition, so I got up, too. Uh no, he was just moving to another seat. On another flight I found comfort when the Jesuit student, who reminded me he was not a priest, was on my flight and seemed to be at ease. Better had he been a full-fledged priest, but I'll take what I can get.
At other times I've lit candles, chanted mantras, fingered the mala, and yes, even genuflected (much to my Catholic-raised husband's chagrin), because it can't hurt, right? Just like pressing that button every 108 minutes can't hurt. I mean, lack of sleep, paranoia, senseless fears...those are all better things than what could happen if you don't follow through! If you don't follow through you could burn...FOREVER!!! What's giving up a few minutes in this life to ensure, well, first to ensure more of this life, but also to ensure safety in the next life? Sign me up.
Here's the thing: if you didn't know about the button, didn't know about the praying and the fasting and the bowing to the east and what could happen if you didn't do those things, where would you be? What about those people who perform the rituals but still suffer...were they not performing them correctly or with as much oomph? Certainly performing the rituals does not insure we are safe from the boogie man, whatever that may be to you, because plane crashes do happen, with no survivors and the odds are that many people were praying.
Some people say they find peace in performing the rituals and I say there's nothing wrong with that, except when we attach so much to the performance that we stop using commonsense or when we look down upon others for not performing the rituals and miss the bigger picture - that they can still be really awesome human beings who've cracked the code and don't need the rituals. Some people have waited out the 108 minutes and found that life goes along about the same, that what makes sense is what is real.
So, what is up with these rituals? Do we perform the rituals because we really believe performing them gives us an in, or do we do it to give our lives purpose? I get the latter reason, but truth be told, I do it for the former reason. Yep, I would be pushing the button.
Friday, July 1, 2011
We delivered popsicles to some wonderful young people working on a house in Parma, Michigan! A friend of mine from Facebook - a wonderful woman I've never met in person - told me her brother was in Jackson with a group, helping to restore buildings in the area. Jackson? My Jackson??! How very cool! I told the family about it and we decided we had to take them a treat to thank them for their hard work and so I could meet the brother of this person, since I have yet to meet her.
Meeting these kids refreshed my soul, because there they were, working on the house of a complete stranger, having spent money to travel to this location, just because. The group was super nice and it did my heart a ton of good to witness the generosity and goodness of other humans. Let's hope some of it rubs off :)
There is a lot of goodness in the world, in this world - a lot of great people, kind people, people who are making the world better for those they don't even know. Those young people yesterday were doing something obviously good for the owners of the houses receiving work, but they also did me a lot of good...so a huge thank you to them!
Monday, June 27, 2011
I did take Percy out by himself today though, because I can see how the dogs each need their special time (this is what parents of multiple human children do too, right?). Who was crying when I took Percy...Winston! Percy was perfectly happy, but Winston was distressed. I'm sure the tables will be turned when I take Winston for his time. Percy and I worked on some of his behavior and went for a short walk. When I returned Percy to the crew there was just way too much excitement and some dominance demonstrating from Winston. A few minutes later Winston was still too excited to sit, but Lucy and Percy were cuddled together. Earlier this morning I caught Percy and Winston cuddling - Winston with his head on Percy's back. There's a lot of love in that little trio.
So in my quest to take advice/criticism with a grain of salt, and to listen to my own intuition, I feel good about today's efforts. Percy, Winston and Lucy have their own funky relationships and instead of trying to fix them, I'm going to give them each some time away from the others, but also let them work things out on their own.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Jada, our kitty, was first and in typical Jada fashion, she acted very upset and inconvenienced about the whole thing. After receiving her vaccine she turned her body away from us and positioned herself so she was facing the wall. When we brought her home she ran off and wouldn't grace us with her presence until she determined we were forgiven. Jada was easiest only because she's the lightest of the animals, but her attitude stinks.
Next was Lucy, who couldn't have made us prouder! She sat when offered a treat and took her vaccines and blood draw like a champ. I often describe Lucy as stubborn and unpredictable, but yesterday she was compliant and gentle. We did talk with the veterinarian and vet tech about Lucy's behavior around small children, which makes us nervous, because it looks like she wants to take them down. We were assured that this is normal behavior for a dog. Small children often know no boundaries and to a dog, that is very discomforting. It also seems that all that hugging I love to do with Lucy might not be her favorite thing in the world. WHAT?! The two humans in my family are not big huggers, now this? I'm going to go ahead and order that inflatable doll.
We saved the beasts, I mean best, for last. Percy and Winston were warmly greeted by another pet owner in the waiting room who commented on their dignified names. Oh yeah, my boys are dignified, so dignified that the garbage can had to be removed from the exam room because they couldn't get their faces out of it! Winston got his blood drawn and took his vaccines ok once we removed him from the same room as Percy, but the emphasis is on "ok." Winston, don't you know I tell everyone that you are the good dog?
Here comes the tough part, Percy. We suspected Percy had some vision loss and we were told by his vet in Utah that it was probably so, based on his behavior. This vet expanded on that and talked about Percy's attachment to Winston and his inappropriate behavior around other dogs. Percy does not look away when another dog makes eye contact, instead he stares straight ahead, because he can't help it. It seems Percy was born with the vision problem, but we have exacerbated things by keeping him so close to Winston. I felt like the bad parent, oh the shame...but wait, didn't they see how great Lucy was? Oh yeah, we got Lucy when she was 2 years old, the boys we've had from day 1, so there is nobody else to blame for their issues. We always found the boys' togetherness endearing, but it seems it might also be problematic.
I am not one to take criticism well and to me this was criticism. I take it very personally and can dwell on it for a very, very long time. However, I am trying to be a stronger person (trying, trying, trying) and see that one negative assessment does not mean I suck completely as a person (this is what I generally think). I am also learning that dwelling on the problem doesn't solve the problem, but this is tough when you are obsessive and prone to ruminating. Also, I took this criticism and applied it to my parenting skills of my human child and man, did that cause a downer. So I did what works for me and watched Kramer vs. Kramer, laughing at the scene in which Dustin Hoffman's character says, "I hate you, too" to his child after a spat over ice cream. Later in the film, in the courtroom, battling for custody, Hoffman points out that he's not perfect, but he's been a constant in his son's life. If you are present as a parent, you make mistakes, but if you keep showing up with good intentions, I think that fact overrides the damage you've done. We've got some work cut out for us, but we're present, we show up and that right there is half the battle.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Some observations I made while on our trip:
- Fangboner is a very odd name for a road.
- The rest stops in Pennsylvania have gotten a lot better and I knew I was "home" when I saw those Tastykakes on display at one of the stops.
- I'm glad I calculated enough cash for the toll roads - and why are the tolls so high in Pennsylvania?
- Being with family can be tricky. Sometimes there is drama, unpleasant history, unmet expectations and favoritism, but I am happy to say I felt none of that this time around. Maybe it's because we're all getting older and more mature and realizing that life's far too short to gripe and groan and it really doesn't do much good anyway.
- Having late night conversations with my sisters is an experience that can be topped by few others. Add the sugar cookies and peanut butter pie and it moves even further up the ladder.
- It's very cool to have a family member, who is not related by blood, take an interest in your child's interests. Sophie had a great time visiting local graveyards with her uncle and cousins - yes, my daughter loves graveyards and scary folklore and validation that it is cool from her uncle made her feel very special.
- It can still be odd to realize that your siblings - the ones who basically tortured you growing up (and nope, I never took part in the torturing aspect), are parents. We are all very different in many ways, which means we parent differently, and yet we all have very kind and interesting children. It reassures me that there is not just one way to successfully parent a child.
- The Book Barn in Chester County, PA is the coolest bookstore I have ever been to. If you visit, be sure to ask to see Bird, the residing dog. He is absolutely adorable.
- My former high school has been completely renovated and looks to be about 4 times the size it once was. The middle school looks exactly the same.
- Spending Father's Day with my dad, something I have not done in far too long, was very special. I love that he wanted to go to Pat's Pizzeria - we are not a family of high-falutin' tastes and fancy desires. Togetherness is the key element.
- For you Robin - I still find the fascination with Breyer Horses baffling and seeing them all lined up did cause me just a wee bit of angst. I was wishing there was a door nearby I could slam, just to see what would happen :)
- I was nearing the tolls exiting PA, getting ready to pay the huge fee and the GPS unit told me to go left, so I did and I bypassed the tolls. I left Pennsylvania without paying a dime. Should I be concerned? I asked the toll booth operator about it in Ohio and she kindly reminded me that she does not work for the state of Pennsylvania and didn't know anything about it. Oh.
- Coming home - to a place you still don't quite consider your home (we've now lived in Jackson 10 months...), is nice. Having your husband beaming and yes, a sparkling bathroom, is REALLY nice. Right now I am counting my blessings.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
The trailer gives a very dark impression of the life of restriction and obedience the boys were forced to live on the compound, before their brave escape. They were withheld from the larger world, presumably to keep them from questioning the authorities in their own community. There is a scene in which 2 boys are in a Catholic Church and one asks the other (I'm paraphrasing), "Catholics believe in Jesus?" This depicts the sheltered existence they led, but this is not unique to just kids from a polygamist compound. Many kids are raised well-versed in the beliefs of their parents (religious and otherwise), but not knowledgeable in the ways of others. Part of why we do this is because it is what we know, but there is also that part that doesn't want to expose our child to the other ways of the world, thinking that by shielding them, we are somehow eliminating those ways as options.
I started thinking about this in regard to boys in mainstream Mormon society and the 2-year mission. As a person who lived in Utah for 12 years, I definitely saw the advantage given to those men who served their missions. I also saw how boys, from a very young age, were raised to assume they would go on a mission. In Utah this appears easy to do - such a high proportion of boys go on a mission that Sophie was prompted to ask Steve where he served his mission after living in Utah only a few months (Steve's response was that THIS was his mission, our life in Utah...take that as you will). It's nearly such a given that a boy will serve a mission at the age of 19 that it leads me to wonder, what alternatives are given to boys who opt not to serve a mission? Do parents even talk about that while their sons are growing up? Is there any ostracizing of those boys who do not serve missions?
I'm not sending this out to invite attack of this practice - many religions have rites of passage members are expected to meet. I'm interested in how this practice is viewed by my friends who have experienced it. I also realize that as parents we often lay out only one path we expect our child to follow - we do this because we see it as the best path for them. We worry that by even entertaining alternatives, we are giving our children permission to stray from the path, but should that be our fear? Or should we fear that our children will follow the path, out of a sense of obligation and perhaps risk lying to themselves along the way.
Friday, June 10, 2011
To those opposed, please understand that the reality is that students who are gay are part of a minority and minorities need to be protected. I recently read a blurb in a national magazine that stated there are far fewer people who are gay in our country than most people think. Some people put the estimate at 25%, but those Americans who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is really at 3.8%.
Of course there is the argument that being gay is a choice. Oy. Another book has been published in 2011, Gay, Straight and the Reason Why, by Simon LeVay, that evaluates research showing the biological differences between people who are heterosexual and people who are homosexual. I think it's been made pretty clear that one does not choose their sexuality. One's sexuality is comparable to one's race - and schools have chapters celebrating racial differences: Latinos in Action, Black Student Union, Asian Student Association, which offer students the opportunity to spread awareness and understanding, while receiving support from their peers.
One parent is quoted in the paper as saying about the GSA, "They shouldn’t get to push it down other students’ necks," but isn't heterosexuality pushed down their necks all the time? As my friend, Tom McMillen-Oakley, wrote in his response to the article, "I would like to point out to the student (wanting to start a heterosexual group) that they already have many opportunities and venues for support, an option not always enjoyed by LGBT youth." Again, I compare it to race. We have months designated to the historical efforts of minority racial groups, because the majority of the time is spent learning about the efforts of the white people in our country.
I often tell people that one reason I am so glad to have lived in Utah (aside from its beauty) is that it gave me the chance to be a minority. I remember leaving a job interview after being told that I would not be hired because I was not part of the majority. I was angry - not because I didn't get the job, but because this person felt he had the right to make me feel less than I was, since he had the support of the majority. It's a pretty comfortable place to be - surrounded by those of like mind, reinforcing the belief that your way of life is normal and everyone else is wrong. I suggest if you are in that position, you branch out of your comfort zone a wee bit.
I do not know what it is like to be gay and I am pretty sure I inadvertently perpetuate the idea that heterosexuality is normal. It does me good to hear of groups such as the GSA, to help me realize that there is a need to accept and protect others. I love that my daughter can attend a high school that has a group educating everyone that homosexuality is normal. The more exposure we get to that fact, the better off we will all be and perhaps one day there won't be a need for a GSA, but until that time I say rock on enlightened students of Columbia High School!
Friday, June 3, 2011
- Be Impeccable With Your Word.
- Don't Take Anything Personally.
- Don't Make Assumptions.
- Always Do Your Best.
I'm only on #2 in the book, but really, as stated in the book, if you can follow #1, you will find a world of difference.
Oh, how hard it is to follow #1! Why is it so hard for humans to refrain from gossip, hurtful words and hateful language?
Saturday, May 28, 2011
We were going to sign Soph up for a camp at the local nature center, but when she seemed less than enthusiastic about it, possibly due to the 8:30 a.m. start time, I decided to skip it. I'll take Soph to the nature center and peruse some web sites for cool crafts we can do. We'll invite friends over for unstructured fun. We'll hit the lakes when it's super hot. We'll try to save some money by not signing up for camp.
What's everyone else doing with their kids this summer? Do both parents work? Is one home, but still looking for something to keep the kids occupied? I'm all for summer camp and Soph has always loved it, but this year we're going to skip it and just go with the unstructured flow.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Walking around, and outside, my house this morning, I stumbled upon a few of my favorite things:
1) I just received these flowers for my birthday yesterday. I absolutely love flowers! I am horrible at maintaining them, so I will appreciate these while they last. The best thing about them was the enthusiasm in which they were given.
2) Sophie's daisy boots! She wanted a different pair of boots, but they didn't have them in her size so she settled for these. I love them! Daisies are my favorite flower and to me, rain boots just signify a good time splashing in puddles, wading in water, getting messy!
3) This is a batik Sophie did in an art class with my good friend, Brooke (also responsible for favorite thing #4). Sophie loves snakes and many of her pictures have snakes in them. This piece won Honorable Mention in an art show in Utah as well.
4) Brooke (see #3), made this doll and it's just lovely. Handmade things are the best!
What are some of your favorite things in your home?
Friday, May 20, 2011
Emily: Oh, Mama, look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, fourteen years have gone by. I'm dead. You're a grandmother, Mama! Wally's dead, too. His appendix burst on a camping trip to North Conway. We felt just terrible about it - don't you remember? But, just for a moment now we're all together. Mama, just for a moment we're happy. Let's really look at one another!...I can't. I can't go on.It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another. I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back -- up the hill -- to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover's Corners....Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking....and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths....and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth,you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every,every minute?
Stage Manager: No. (pause) The saints and poets, maybe they do some.
Emily: I'm ready to go back.
For my birthday I wish to live more like the saints and poets and less like the frenzied folk.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
“And so she woke up
Woke up from where she was lyin’ still.
Said I gotta do something
About where we’re goin’.
Step on a fast train
Step out of the driving rain, maybe
Run from the darkness in the night.
Singing ah, ah la la la de day
Ah la la la de day….
She’s running to stand still…”
I have an addiction, obsession, whatever you want to call it, love for running. I have not been running long, not years, not months; 3 weeks and 2 days to be exact. Can you become addicted to something so quickly and is it the running I am addicted to or something else?
My running journey started one year ago, when I left the YMCA. I left because my 3rd child, who was 18 months old at the time, hated the babysitting there and I was paying too much for my twice monthly visits. I left with the hope that I would exercise at home, take walks around the block with my children and dogs, turn on an exercise DVD, or clean a little more, that’s exercise, right? I need exercise, it’s good for me, gets that heart pumping, keeps that blood sugar in range (important for an insulin dependent diabetic), possibly extend my quality and quantity of life. I kept telling myself these things, yet the right exercise was nowhere to be found. I will admit, I am a bit picky.
Finally, I found it. I read a post from Heather regarding the running program she had used when she started running. It seemed rather simple: walk for 6 minutes, jog for 1, repeat 3 times, do 3 sessions in 1 week and follow plans for the next 7 weeks, gradually increasing running time. I really didn’t look past week 2; did I think I wouldn’t last that long or did I refuse to see that eventually you would be running more than walking? I had a new goal, I was going to run and work toward a 5K. Only problem was, it was mid January, too late for a New Year’s resolution and too darn cold for me to drag myself out of the warm covers.
Good news. A friend of mine found a gym that I could join with her for three months and pay sixty dollars. I did the math, twenty dollars a month, if I go five times a month, that’s four dollars a workout or better yet, ten times at two dollars, I could do that. By the time the membership was up it would be May, perfect weather to start running. I signed on the dotted line on a Saturday, by Monday the place was closed due to not paying rent. I took this as a sign, possibly, some higher being really did not want me to exercise (I know, that thought seems really silly, but the excuses I will come up with). I stored my brand new shoes in the closet.
Time passed, I decided to not listen to the higher being and begin working out at home. I received Zumba for the Wii at Christmas time. It was time to give it a try. I shook my hips, got in the groove and worked up a sweat. I figured I could wake up early and do this, or, Zumba while my two year old napped. It all went sour when my six year old decided it was fun to wake up early and watch mom do Zumba. I really did not want an audience and there was no reasoning with my son. He would sit at the top of the steps and repeatedly ask, “Are you done, how much longer?” “Can I try the Zumba belt?” Ugh, this workout was exhausting and not in a good way. I had to think of a new plan. What is this, plan C,D,E? I don’t know, I lost track.
I decided to go ahead and begin the running program on Sunday, March 13th, the start of Daylight Savings Time. I must inform you; I am not a morning person and love my sleep. You guessed it, I slept right through that alarm. Fine, I decided to push back the date to March 20th. Give my body time to acclimate to DST and, spring starts in the evening, how appropriate to spend time outside. That day came and went and still no motivational talks were enough. April first, no fooling, it’s a Friday, but who said I had to start on a Sunday. Unfortunately, I slept in and missed my run time, again.
This was getting serious. Why wasn’t I doing this? The benefits are bountiful - better health, more energy to play with the kids, etc., but I kept thinking - instead of running, I could be folding laundry, picking up around the house, writing sweet notes for my kids to find in their lunches. When did this happen, that I dropped so low on the ladder, there was no time for myself? I know I should make time, I told my neighbors and friends that they should make time for themselves and it would have a positive effect in many areas of their lives, yet I could not do it for myself. I came up with excuses, I need more time, more money, the kids need me, my husband needs me, you name it, I used it. That was it, no more excuses, I need this. My kids, my husband, my dogs may not need this, but I do. I need to do this for myself and for no one else.
April 30th, I reread the program, walk 6, jog one, repeat three times. I dust off the sneakers, charge the iPod and attach the earplugs. I am ready for tomorrow, Sunday, May 1st, run day. I am awake for the eleven o’clock news that evening (which is unusual, I am usually far into dreamland by that time) where I see a story on two people in their seventies, who have been running for at least thirty years. The one has even survived cancer and continues to run. After that, I know I have no acceptable excuses. I will wake up early the next morning and make that day one of my 8 week program.
To keep myself motivated, I decide to email my progress to a friend. It doesn’t have to be a long, detailed email; it can be short and sweet, just letting her know I did it today. The responses from my friend keep me going, they are positive replies, the kind a paid, personal trainer might give you. But this is better, it is love and encouragement from someone who knows me.
Each day I walk/run, I feel better, not just physically but emotionally. Thirty minutes, four times a week I am with me and only me. I have uninterrupted thoughts, I listen to the sound of my feet hitting the pavement, the quick beats of my heart and the feel of my abdominal muscles keeping me upright. I imagine I am a horse running gracefully, no race and thankfully, no jockey on my back. I love it, I love myself and yes, this selfishness is making me a better person all around. Every day I run, I run away from home, for a little bit, but I always return feeling refreshed and better about myself. I have taken the time to meet my needs. These runs give me time to remind myself of all the good things I have. I don’t think about the negative or all that I have to do or should be doing. I am so focused on the good, it’s what keeps me going and makes it so addicting. I am proud of my body and feel fortunate to have this complex, functioning machine, I do not want to take it for granted.
Today, driving my daughter to school, she says, “Mom, tomorrow, wake me up at six, I want to run with you.” I practically have a heart attack. That time, is my time, I refuse to share it, is it really too much to ask for thirty minutes all to myself? Realizing, her school is one mile away and there is no time for a lengthy explanation, I calmly reply, “Oh no, you never wake a sleeping child. Sleep is very important at your age. It helps your body and your brain to grow. We can run together in the evening.” She buys it for now and I keep the me time written in ink on my calendar.
Addicted to running? I don’t know, I think I may be addicted to the me time. I love being with my thoughts and knowing I am taking care of myself in more ways than one, it’s multitasking, something we are all trying to succeed at. Another bonus, I love nature and I get to enjoy it at its best, early in the morning, when my small town is peaceful, yet bustling with wildlife. So, if you try to reach me through text, email or phone between 6 and 7am, I’m busy, I have a date with me.
“Walk out, into the sunburst street
Sing your heart out, sing my heart out
I’ve found grace inside a sound
I found grace, it’s all that I found
And I can breathe…”
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
I am not a Christian anymore, but I really like the language of that last statement. To me it means getting rid of our man-made prejudices and ideas of what people should be doing. Just the idea of submitting joyfully, it makes me smile.
I feel too much of religion is about judging one another, I know it is not suppose to be, but it is what I see too often by people who claim to be religious. There is no way that an all-loving god would want that. I see this as one step toward eliminating judgments we make of one another based on our interpretations of the Bible - and as I've said before, I do not think one should take certain portions of the Bible literally, but then feel justified in interpreting other portions.
Way to go, Presbytery!
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Sophie gave me the very best Mother's Day gift in the world the other day when she told me, "I love myself!" She often tells me she loves me, which makes my heart soar, but hearing that she loves herself...that makes me feel really, really good.
My own mother taught me about loving others, giving of oneself to make the world a bit brighter for another. I was about 9 years old when I went to a nursing home with her to play the piano for the residents. I got up, played a few notes, realized I didn't know the rest of the song, and promptly went back to my seat. I was so humiliated, but people came up to me and told me how beautifully I'd played. Ah, service didn't have to be perfect, it just had to be done!
Loving others and loving oneself, not always easy tasks in which to achieve success, but I will try. Thank you to the woman who mothered me and the child who made me a mother.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
I first saw Tim (whose birth certificate reads, "Timmy") when I was 18, fresh to Logan, UT, about to embark on my college adventure. He was a cashier at the local grocery store and I always picked his line. He was gorgeous and happy and made ringing up your groceries seem like his favorite thing to do in the whole world - he did this for everyone. Like many, I had a bit of a crush on Tim - I don't think you could know Tim and not have a bit of a crush on him.
Tim became part of my life in a way that many friends do, weaving in and out during its days and years. He was always there and knowing he was somewhere in this world just made my life a bit easier. I didn't always know exactly what he was up to, but when we reconnected, as it is with good friends, it was like no time had passed.
Just before Tim died, we got together one last time. My daughter was very into the local folklore of a place called The Nunnery. Tim had been a caretaker of The Nunnery for a few years and he agreed to meet with Soph and tell her his stories. We met at Einstein Brothers, over coffee and chocolate milk, and he did for Sophie what he did for so many, he made her feel like she was the most important person in the world at that very moment.
I don't know what Tim died of, I don't know how his last hours were spent and really, I guess those things don't matter. I'll always hear that laugh - it just pulled from you your own laughter and made you feel really glad to be in that moment. At his funeral were people from all walks of life and it reinforced for me that Tim didn't see people in categories, he saw people...saw them, something so many of us fail to do, even with those standing right in front of us. Ah Tim, you were somethin'.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
On Sunday Soph and I had a puzzle-off. We timed each other to see who could put the U.S. puzzle together faster. Soph is quite good at getting those states in their places and it's fun to point out the states she's been to - 22 total, with hopes of many more. She commented on wanting to go to Alaska, where her Aunt Jen lives, and I hope that she will someday have that opportunity.
We are living somewhere in the middle of our families, which can be really cool, but there are times I wish we had family nearby. I moved away from my family when I was 18, 3 days after graduating from high school, and I haven't lived near them since. There are times I fantasize about being close enough to get together with my siblings on a whim, or having Sunday dinners together, but it's not my reality. In Logan we lived close enough to Steve's parents to visit on long weekends and we spent every holiday with them, so not having that now is hard. We're adapting to our new situation.
I'd love to hear from both sides: living near family and living away. I can see the pros and cons to both, but as an adult, I've only had the experience of living away. Did you move closer to family once you had children? Did you have a family member move closer to you because they needed help?
Family provides that unconditional love no matter where they are and I am fortunate to have loving family members residing under the same roof, as well as spread across the country. We can't always be together when we want to be, but we know, without a doubt, that if we did need them, they'd show up and sometimes, it's so good to be needed.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Ok, maybe a 5K in a few weeks isn't totally absurd. I ran 2.34 miles today and felt like I could've kept going, but since I'm trying to get back into a routine of running, not just 1 great run, I made myself stop. I love this site: http://www.mapmyrun.com/my_home/ for motivating me, too.
One thing I love about running is that while I am running I think about little else but the actual run. For the time I'm pounding the pavement, my worries cease. I have a goal, I have to push myself, I can only focus on the next step. Running is my escape from my problems, but I like to think it is a healthy escape and it allows me to view my problems more reasonably when I do return to them.
I see from the poll that a few people have not run a 5K, but would like to. Yay! I'd love to start a support group, to motivate one another and perhaps develop a little 5K of our own to celebrate. I love the idea of readers from other places going out on the same day to run a 5K. 8 weeks from now would put us at the July 4th mark and what a great way to celebrate. If you think you want to do the running program from the last post, or whatever program you choose, and attempt a 5K, let me know!
*Today's photo is from a little jaunt we took yesterday. It is the one and only LDS Church in Jackson and at 4:00 in the afternoon there was not a car in the parking lot. Steve commented on this, because in Utah the churches are busy all day and into the evening on Sundays. Such variety in this country in which we live.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
There is another 5K coming up at the middle school, the day after my birthday. I am thinking of entering the running portion, but I feel nervous. I ran a 5K before we left Utah and loved it, but it was just for fun, no medals, no awards. Oh what the heck, I need to push myself a bit again and it goes to a good cause.
The running program I followed last year that absolutely worked (I followed it religiously!):
Guess I better lace up and head out there!
Saturday, April 30, 2011
My dear friend, Sia, who lives in Greece, recently sent a message to me with this sentiment: Nothing is all that important and at the same time it all matters to each and every one of us.
At this time in my life I feel a bit of sadness, longing and regret, but I continue to get up each morning, go to work, laugh with my students, listen to my daughter's account of her day, feed the dogs, start the dishwasher, pay the bills, make the dentist appointments, time my runs, email my friends, photograph the birds' eggs, read the poetry, shower, sign the permission slips, shop for a birthday present, attend the play, sweep the floor, lean in to view the artwork, encourage the music lessons, sign up to volunteer, locate the missing bank statement, return the library books, thank my husband, pour the coffee, hold the child. None of these things alone is important, but together these things make a life. (I'm pretty sure that sentiment is stolen from a book, a movie or something, but I'm also pretty sure I didn't quote it exactly...)
Sometimes things happen in our lives that cause us to reevaluate our situation, to question if what we're doing matters or if we can even continue performing the daily tasks when we feel our energy has been depleted. How do we find the strength to keep going? We don't find the strength - the strength comes if we keep going. Socrates, another person from Greece, is credited with saying, "The unexamined life is not worth living." I agree, but the view from which we examine it can be cloudy, tainted and blurred and if we examine it too long, it can look downright dreadful. When looking at your life, see who is affected by the life you lead. Does what you do make a better life for one person, just one? If so, then it is a life that matters, examined or not.
So, I will continue to perform the daily tasks that I perform, while wondering when this sadness will cease and chances are, as a new norm is created by performing my daily tasks, contentment will follow.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
I stopped to talk to another newbie to Jackson, to ask her if she was struggling as much as I was, 'cause you know, it can't possibly be me, it must be Jackson, and if I could get confirmation on that, I would feel so much better! We chatted for a few minutes and I felt validated - not that it was Jackson, but that moving is hard and we are living in a depressed time with the economy doing so poorly, the loss of jobs, a giving up of hope and caring. As I left that conversation I was greeted by a friend who said she had something for me...and truth be told, I love gifts (especially since I'm not suppose to be buying things for myself as noted in the previous post).
The gift I was given is the book: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Oh yes! I have wanted to read this book for a very long time, but always hesitated when faced with the possibility of purchasing it. How did this new friend of mine know I needed it RIGHT NOW! How did that happen? I don't know, but I love that it did.
I'm barely into the book, but there is a quote before Chapter One, from John Lennon: Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see. It is from the song Strawberry Fields, one of my favorites and as it was fresh in my mind this morning, I snuggled with my daughter and whispered the words to her. Understanding. It does not come from being the loudest. It does not come for jumping to conclusions. It does not come from assumptions. Understanding comes when we live our lives with our eyes wide open, our hearts wide open and our minds wide open. This is a lesson I so needed to be reminded of...right now.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Coincidentally, on Friday as well, I was told about a blog in which a woman writes of her decision to not purchase anything new or not needed for a year. http://angelabarton.com/2008/12/less-than-a-week-until-i-take-the-oath/. The person telling me said she was 4 days into her own non-purchasing project and I said I would give it a try (TRY!). Saying this caused little heart palpitations, because I am not good at following through with these types of projects, but a little fear and trepidation can be good for the soul - and great material for a blog.
When I got home and again glanced at the quote from Buddha (I never know if it should be THE Buddha or just Buddha...) I thought of the connection between his words and this new project. I initially took Buddha's words to mean a letting go of expectations, of others and oneself, but I also know that Buddhism teaches a letting go of dependency on physical objects. We do not own the objects, they own us. When we cease depending on stuff to make us happy, we are left with ourselves and holy non-consumerism, that can be frightening!
I am really unsure about this project. I am lazy and able to justify purchases easily (it helps the economy!). Right now I am thinking, "Shoot! I have to get stuff for Easter! My Oprah magazine renewal form came in the mail! I have a $10 coupon from Borders!" Deep breath. I said I would try this. I am letting go of the expectation that I will alter my habits completely overnight. Maybe today I will resist purchasing one unneeded thing. Maybe I will develop a new practice: Baby Steps Toward Buddhism.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
In the article, Pemberton writes of her fascination with the Mormon religion and although she has Mormon family members, she is not Mormon. Jennifer, I can kick that up a notch: I don't even have any Mormon family members, that I know of - although with the baptism of the dead bit, maybe now I do. Both Pemberton and I lived in heavily Mormon populated areas, and both of us, upon leaving those areas and returning to the "real world," couldn't shake the fascination.
The article definitely interested me because of the Mormon bit, but what really caused me to pause was this line Pemberton wrote about abandoning her own Christian beliefs during college, "The world became too big for my childhood belief system." I also abandoned the beliefs of my childhood when I entered college, because I left the comforts of my own family and their beliefs and went 2000 miles away to Logan, Utah. I was, for the first time in my life, in the minority. I was a Christian when I moved to Utah, but I wasn't Mormon and that second point made all the difference. It put me in a position in which I'd never been before, and I was pretty angry. If these people, who felt I wasn't good enough to enter their temples and who felt I didn't accept the truth, believed in God then maybe it was time for me to separate myself even further - so I started denouncing my belief in God, publicly.
It wasn't that I actually didn't believe in God, but I talked about religion and beliefs as if there were the possibility that God didn't exist. As I delved into philosophy classes that dealt with religion and myth, I also became exposed to the idea of the Bible as stories of symbolism, not stories of actual events. This was a new concept for me and it made so much more sense than Jesus being born to an actual virgin or literally rising from the dead. I embraced these ideas and felt myself drifting further and further away from the island of Christianity on which I'd been raised. I got so far off the island, in fact, that when I did want to return to it later, I just couldn't swim that far.
During college I also met people from other countries and other cultures (yep, in Utah!) and started to think about the selfishness of my childhood religion, that only Christians have the truth and will be saved. What about the really nice people I met who didn't believe in Christ, but had beliefs stemming from teachings long before anyone even heard of Jesus Christ? I was suppose to believe they were wrong? How egocentric! Also, what if I had been born in say, some middle eastern country? Would I have been raised a Christian? Probably not. I started to see religion as more of a sociological formula than truth. What solidified this view for me was the conversations I had with many people, of many religions, who had never strayed from the religion in which they were raised. Do we believe in a religion because it is true or because it has been hammered into our head and viewed through the actions of our society that it is true?
In her article, Pemberton writes of her grandmother's worry that Aunt Ruth, a Mormon in the clan, goes to hell after she dies. The grandmother is in tears, feeling there is no more they can do to save this woman's soul. I gave up on the idea of hell a long time ago - I'm not sure I ever really believed in it. I do know that, according to many religions, my actions have secured me a place in hell, so I just fall back to a line from a song I've always liked, "All the best people are burning down in hell..." "Now Heather", some of my friends would kindly ask, "Why would you want to hang with people who have committed atrocities and are suffering eternally?" Well, because of the alternative, which I see as hanging with a bunch of people who worship a God who allows for their fellow human beings to suffer eternally. That's just nuts!
Admittedly, my fascination with the Mormons has waned a bit the last few weeks. I gave up reading The Book of Mormon and I've realized that there are aspects of Mormonism I think are wonderful, but there are aspects I just can't swallow. I also feel this way about Christianity. Religion must serve some sort of purpose, because a whole bunch of people subscribe to it, but why do they choose one religion over another? And why can't people believe in an all-loving, all-knowing God without following the rules that are so obviously man-made? What is the appeal of belonging to a religion that states that your fellow human beings, who do not belong to the same religion, are wrong? It just seems too elitist and exclusive to me and if it is those things, then how can belonging to them be serving a God who created all of us?
Sunday, April 10, 2011
Just two days ago I spoke with my friend from that period in my life (the friend with whom I saw the movie) and although we only speak every few years, it is always as if little time has passed. She was my best friend after my family moved from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania and though we drifted apart in high school, we come together every few years to touch base, usually when something monumental has happened in our lives. I have other friends in my life, those I've made since leaving home at 18, friends made at various stages in my life, friends I see day-to-day, but it is this friendship formed at the age of 12 that has been sustained.
Our family is hoping for and planning a trip from Utah back to Michigan this summer with one of Sophie's friends (the friend has family near Michigan). Sophie and her friend are nearing 12 and I want for them this one adventure that I hope will create memories that will forever connect them. I don't think I ever would have done this pre-move from Utah, but I see these things differently now. What might have been seen as too difficult to coordinate now seems like a necessity and after watching Stand By Me, I see its need even more.
I also want to plan my own trip, with the women I was friends with at the age of 12. We've all expressed an interest in this, but I think we need to make it really happen. I want a chance to escape back to a time when we were all seemingly without worries, though I think bringing all our current issues along with us will cement us even more to one another. When you are 12 you cannot fathom ever becoming an adult, a mother, a spouse, a homeowner. You have no idea what those things entail and how they will change you, or how a part of you will forever stay the way it is when you were 12. When I was 12, life was just beginning to involve worries, fears and inhibitions that affected my future relationships. These women knew me when we thought anything was possible and now after some years of experience, I know that anything is possible.
I also know that, as stated in the film when the boys depart from their adventure and it is mentioned that 2 characters drifted away during the boys' youth, "It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of our lives, like busboys in a restaurant." We are fortunate to have the friends we have right at this moment and we are fortunate to have friends from our past. Any friend, at any time, is a gift.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Many people comment on how quiet my daughter is and how she doesn't like to be hugged and oh, how shy she is (I know people don't mean anything bad about the word shy, but it really is an annoying word, because so many people use it without really knowing if the person is actually shy or gasp - if they just don't want to talk to you!). I think Sophie is perfect - just the way she is.
She's a kid who observes...EVERYTHING. When she was in preschool we use to joke that she would be happier on the other side of the one-way mirror, where she could watch the children play. We use to pull up to playgrounds in the neighborhood and Soph would sigh and say, "Let's go somewhere else, there are kids here." Thought in my head? "Um yeah, kids and playgrounds usually go together." We now joke about this, because that was Soph at that age and later she became the kid who didn't want to go anywhere unless she could bring a friend or there were going to be kids at the event.
Soph did have a few good friends in Ann Arbor - the boys she played tornado with at preschool and a neighbor, Eun. When we moved to San Antonio Soph had a few more friends - the brothers in our neighborhood who liked to play with Soph on the big rocks down the road and a couple school friends. At the age of 6 Soph had to make another move (and just to take away any guessing, there's another one coming up...) to Logan, UT, where I was certain she would never make any friends, because everyone told us how the Mormons don't let their kids play with the non-Mormon kids. Well, those people were wrong!
Utah is where Soph really hit the friendship lottery. She had a friend over nearly every day - a variety, too. Kids from the neighborhood, kids from school and kids whose parents we knew - all great kids with very active imaginations, like Soph. They hunted for aliens, played in the tent in our yard, drew a spaceship in Soph's room and tried to sell their artwork on our street corner. Good times. A few friends were really good friends - these kids frequented our house more than the others and they were the kids we took with us on outings or who spent the night.
So when we told Soph we were moving, again, it was very hard and sad for our girl. She is quiet. She is deliberate in what she says in front of others. She is not the kid to walk into a room and announce, "Look at me! I'm here!" She did not want to be the new kid again, she did not want to leave her comfort zone, she did not want to say good-bye.
We had a going away party for Soph and her friends - a neat mix of kids who are important to our daughter and who didn't necessarily play with each other on a regular basis, but who all came out to bid adieu to our kid and to have one last hurrah! It was wonderful.
We've now been in Jackson 7 months and Soph told me the other day she's still sad not to have a best friend. (Darn it all, I'm crying as I write this...) Here's the thing I want Sophie to know - forever -
What you have done - being the new kid again, seeking out a person to hang out with at recess or strolling the playground alone - those are tough things. Some adults will never have to be in that situation, they'll always know someone wherever they go. What makes me so proud of you is that you put yourself out there and keep trying. I'm sorry you had to leave your very good friends behind and I'm so glad you stay in touch with them and have playdates using Skype - that is so cool! I still think you will meet a very good friend here, not someone who will replace your other very good friends, but someone who will be added to the wonderful bouquet of people you know and love. Hang in there, Soph and keep doing what you're doing.
On the selfish side, Soph, I'm enjoying this time I get with you - time after school and on weekends, when we go for walks, play games, work on homework or drive around Jackson. In about 7 years you'll be off on your greatest adventure and all these experiences you've had will make you stronger. My hope is that you know you can go anywhere and create your own happiness - it is not outside of you, it is within you, though the truth is, Sophie, that you bring so much happiness to my life - and although you are my child, you are outside of me. I feel sad that you had to leave behind your good friends, but I know of sadness and I know it doesn't last forever if you make the choice to keep trying and I see you making that choice every day. Soph, you rock.
I try to always ask Soph if it is ok to post about her - because her life is her life, not mine. She said it was ok.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
I think of that role, the friend's mom, and what it means. Sometimes we're just the chauffeur, sometimes we're the annoying presence checking in - especially when it's too quiet, sometimes we're the audience when a play needs to be performed with just a cast of 2, sometimes we don't receive more than a few mumbled, awkward words before our child takes the friend off to the nether regions of the house.
Sometimes we get to be a bit more, because as important as our child is to us, so are these people our child has invited into their life. If your child has a best friend or a really close friend, you will get to know the friend as they frequent your house, and you will embrace them as an extended family member. They're important to your child, so they become important to you.
Here's a thank you to Mrs. Ciliberti, for putting up with my adolescent antics and making me feel at home every time I visited. I only hope I can give the kind of welcome to Soph's friends that she gave to me - the kind that said, "Leave your worries at the door. Those in this house accept you just as you are."
Sunday, March 20, 2011
I wonder how others in the LDS Church have dealt with the scientific research versus their religious teachings in the area of homosexuality. When I hear that people are committing suicide because they feel ashamed and wrong for their sexuality it bothers me. There has to be a change in this area.