Thursday, May 31, 2007

Childhood Innocence... Sliver by Sliver

My oldest, Greyson, just attended his last day of preschool (he’ll be going to Kindergarten in the Fall). His class had a little graduation program on Wednesday, and then in honor of the last day of school, Friday was dubbed “Water Day.” The kids were told to come dressed in their swimming suits, with plenty of sunscreen applied ahead of time, and to bring a towel. We also had a small gift for his teacher, who, incidentally, also happens to be my mother.

In our usual morning rush, we quickly grabbed our stuff and piled in the car when it was time to go. Twenty minutes later, we pulled up in the driveway, alongside two other preschooler’s cars. As he was unbuckling his seat belt, and I was gathering up his stuff, I said to him, “Grey, would you rather put Grandma’s gift in your backpack, and carry your towel; or put the towel in your backpack and carry the gift?” Right as I said this, Ben popped out of the SUV parked just next to us, carrying only a towel. Noticing this, and then quickly scanning to see if anyone else had emerged from neighboring vehicles, Grey said to me, “Mom, no one else has a backpack…. I don’t want to take mine in either.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, “I think you’ll have a couple of projects from off the bulletin board to take home today, and a backpack would be a good place to put them to keep them all together.”

A slight hesitation on his part, and then, spotting Taylor and Elizabeth emerge both carrying backpacks, responded, “Well, OK. I guess I changed my mind. I want to put my towel in my backpack.” So, I walked him inside, kissed him goodbye, and that was that….for him.

For me, however, it was a little different story… Now granted, choosing to take or not take your backpack to the last day of preschool is certainly a fleeting choice. But it’s what fueled his decision – whether or not the other kids were taking their backpacks – that got me thinking. It was the first time I had ever witnessed such an outward display of this kind of unspoken peer pressure influence on him and I felt just the tiniest part of my heart breaking a little bit. Sure, wanting to fit in and be like your friends is certainly part of a natural developmental progression. And after all, how can he go on to become the caring and compassionate person I hope he will be, if he can’t first learn to look beyond himself and notice what’s happening with others. But at the same time, I can’t help feeling just a little sad that a small sliver of his childhood innocence – the part that enables him to just be free and not care about what others think – is quickly fading away.

My children are growing up much faster than I am ready for them to be….

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I Am Not A Runner

I had one goal in mind when I went to the gym this morning: Run 5-6 miles in 50-60 minutes.
I only had a limited amount of time to workout, and I knew I had to run at least 5 miles in order to be on track for my 20-25 mile minimum this week.
For some, my goal would have been easily achievable. But for me, it was a challenge. Attainable, yes, but a challenge all the same.
I am not a runner.
I am a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a neighbor, a sister and a volunteer. I am many things, but, I am not a runner.
I am not fast and I certainly can’t run forever. In fact, running makes me really tired! The only thing I have going for me is that I try to exercise consistently. My routine is this: I run consistently, and then I consistently eat too much junk!
An athlete in high school, I enjoyed the physical competition of the game and I was driven to succeed. But high school was a long time ago and I don’t think of myself as overly competitive with others now. I just have high expectations for myself...expectations which span all of the many roles I attempt to fill.

I looked around and saw that the #12 treadmill was available. (Incidentally, this has become my treadmill of choice because 12 is Greg’s favorite number. It reminds me of him and inspires me to work harder.)
The guy next to me looked to be running at a decent clip, so I hopped on. I figured that I could easily match, if not exceed, his pace.
Granted, I knew nothing about this guy. He was a complete stranger to me. With a towel over his instrument panel, I had no idea whether he’d been running for 30 seconds or 30 minutes. I didn’t know his incline or his speed. The only thing I figured out (rather quickly) was that if I tried to maintain his pace for my 50-60 minutes at my incline – I would likely pass out!
You know that “mind over matter,” thing? It doesn’t work. I tried to will my shoelaces to come untied, but a single knot has never held so well!

All my life I’ve been taught to “Stand a little taller,” “Be a little better,” “Set Goals,” “Work hard and never give up,” “Discipline yourself,” “Don’t settle.”
But at the same time, I’ve also been taught, “To everything there is a season,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) and I’ve read many times that, “it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.”
How to reconcile these teachings? How to strike a balance between working hard and not pushing so much that we get totally overwhelmed?

At 18:27 into my workout, the guy on the #11 treadmill slowed down. I determined to maintain my pace ‘till he quit. After all, people don’t cool down forever.
Thankfully, he stopped and got off.
Whew! I could ease up a bit.
Or so I thought.
Just as I was about to lower my incline and speed, out of the corner of my eye, I perceived a guy watching me. He was two treadmills down, and the unspoken protocol of the gym is that you don’t interrupt someone’s workout, nor do you stare at them.
So, although I didn’t look, I concluded that it was Doug, a friend from church.
Oh great,” I thought – so much for easing up!
A military guy, I was certain that Doug had to maintain a certain level of fitness. I was also quite certain that he’d never given birth to four children; but that was simply an excuse. I had to keep going.
As if that wasn’t enough, “Tattoo Man” got on the first row of treadmills, right in front of me. A “gym rat,” I’ve watched him work out many times. Although he doesn’t run endlessly, he puts the machine on the highest incline and does a full out sprint for several minutes. Despite the tattoos, and the short duration, it’s an impressive workout nonetheless.
And then, my MP3 player started blasting:

Been running so long, I’ve nearly lost all track of time.
In every direction, I couldn’t see the warning signs.
I must be losing it, ‘cause my mind plays tricks on me.
It looks so easy, but you know, looks sometimes deceive.

Been running so fast, right from the starting line.
No more connections, I don’t need any more advice…

Head over heels, why should I go?
Can’t stop myself, out of control.
Head over heels, no time to think.
It’s like the whole world's out of sync.

Been running so hard, what I need is to unwind.
The voice of reason, is one I left so far behind.

Finally, a distraction, one whose message did not go unnoticed:
Stop comparing myself to and competing with everyone else.

I ventured a quick glance over my shoulder. My “friend” was winding down. And yes, as you probably guessed: It wasn’t Doug at all…just another total stranger working out on a Tuesday morning.
Tattoo Man had finished his sprint as well.

I decreased my incline. After all, my dead body sprawled on the gym floor wasn’t going to inspire anyone’s workout.

I quit thinking of everyone else and settled in to “me.”

Not-so-amazingly, I achieved my goal: 6 miles, 57:17.
In fact, I exceeded it.
Too bad I'll likely have a headache today as a result.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

It’s All About the Amenities….

For birthday celebrations in our family, on even-numbered years the kids get to have a birthday party with friends; on odd-numbered years we do something fun with the family…. My middle child, Brock, just turned three. One of his birthday gifts was his very own sleeping bag, so for his fun family activity, he wanted to go camping.

Now, I’m a girl who likes adventure… I remember camping (I’m talking about real camping here – no cabins with beds, or bathrooms with running water, etc.) with my own family in my youth, going with church members to girls’ camp each summer of my high school years, camping in college (in several feet of snow once, no less), camping with my husband before we had children, camping once when our oldest was a baby….. And that’s about the time our family camping experiences came to a screeching halt!

Maybe it was that I was just starting out my pregnancy with Brock, and was very frequently feeling nauseated…. Maybe it was having to pack the entire house for only one weekend away (as is often the case when traveling with a baby or small child)…..Maybe it was having a toddler still in diapers just agile enough to find and encrust himself in every single speck of dirt within a 5 mile radius (and having nothing more than wet wipes to try to clean off with)…. Maybe it was the unbelievably insane number of yellow jacket bees that had apparently chosen to overtake Yankee Meadows, UT and swarm anything even resembling a life form over Labor Day weekend that year… Or maybe it was a combination of all of the above, but suffice it to say – that was a truly MISERABLE camping trip, and for some reason, I just haven’t had a real strong desire to go camping again since….

But, a three year old with a new sleeping bag has to try it out, so camping we did…in our own backyard. Talk about the best of both worlds! We pitched the tent, ate outside, roasted marshmallows over the fire pit and dined on late-night s’mores – the whole camping experience for my kids – with a running faucet and flushing toilet just through the back door. And other than dragging the tent and camping equipment from the garage, I didn’t have to pack a single thing! It’s all about the amenities… With kids, that’s my kind of camping!